As children, my sister and I (now in our 60s) were told that our father had come to this country through a marriage with an American woman. They lived in New York and had a son. That’s all we knew. Our parents divorced when I was six and my sister was four and somewhere along the way I was told that our brother had been adopted by his new father and his last name was no longer Fischel. End of story…or so I thought.
I’ve always been interested in family history. When I began delving into my family’s history, though, I concentrated on my maternal side as I grew up with little interest in my father or his side of my story. After all, I didn’t know my older brother’s first or last name, his mother’s name, his adopted name, etc., so why even bother searching?
I created my tree on Ancestry.com under my husband’s account (Thomas Redfern) and dabbled in adding information until I retired a year ago. Then, I seriously began entering information and photographs.
Last November, my husband received an email through Ancestry.com from David Zubatsky, a genealogist in Pennsylvania who believed his friend, Jack Fischel, could be related to me. David provided Jack’s contact information as well as a detailed history. I was quite impressed with what I read and at 7:30 in the morning I called my sister to read her the email.
Her reaction - “What do you think this means?” was how I felt, too. I called Jack and left a voice mail. He called me back and asked if we could talk that evening. In the meantime, I emailed him a photo of my father with a very beautiful woman asking if he knew who she was.
When I answered the phone that evening Jack said, “Well, Sis, the photo clinches it. That woman is my mother and that picture is on my living room shelf.” Wow! My brother had found me at last.
Jack and my sister Marsha and I chatted over the phone for a few days. We “met” Jack and our new sister-in-law, Julie, for the first time via Skype the following Sunday.
Thanksgiving was close at hand and on Thanksgiving eve my children and grandchildren met their new Uncle and Aunt via Skype, and I met my new niece, her husband and my new grandniece and nephew.
On June 19, 2012 my sister and I flew to Landisville, Pennsylvania to meet our brother and his family in person. We spent three glorious days with Jack and Julie, met our nephew Josh, our niece Corrie and her family, and our new hero—David Zubatsky.
Thank you Ancestry.com for helping us find each other. This meeting would never have happened without this site. Now, we talk weekly, visit via Skype, and email on a regular basis. We plan to see each other again as soon as possible.
I am attaching a few photos of us at our meeting. I am the one Jack is pointing to in the photo Jack and Me.
Ask Ancestry Anne: Is Wilson really George's Father?
Question: I have found a possible connection to my great-grandfather, George W. Coulter (1857-1926) who died in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I have a lot of information that seems to link him to a man named Wilson George Coulter (1827-1881), who I believe, is his father.
I don’t have specific linking documentation, just a LOT of situations where they are found in the same locations at the same time. The suspected father of my ancestor traveled due to his being a preacher, and my great-grandfather is found in many of the same areas. For example, according to his death certificate, George was born in an obscure town, which is where the preacher was stationed at that time. My George had a child born in Lancaster, which is where the preacher died. Plus, a George Coulter with same occupation as mine is in the city directory for Lancaster on same street as preacher’s son, Peter Henry Coulter. It seems extremely unlikely that this is a mere coincidence. Should I add this to my tree even though I don’t have them living together. I am 99.9% sure they are family.
— Cynthia Coulter Marcinik
Answer: Short answer: No.
Let me first commend you for digging deep to find everything you can and then recognizing that you still don’t have anything that states outright that George W. is the son of Wilson George Coulter.
But what you are doing is using an excellent tactic for making that connection when you can’t find document proof — you’re looking for friends, neighbors and other relatives, all of whom could help you make a strong case that you’ve found the right person.
In 1870, the same Wilson Coulter is living in Medford, Burlington County, New Jersey, and you’ll notice in 1870, there is a George living in the household. But unfortunately, in the 1850, 1860, and 1870 census the relationship is not stated.
Yesterday we lost a comedic legend when Phyllis Diller died at the age of 95. I remember watching her on Bob Hope specials and on so many variety shows when I was growing up. The sight of that crazy hair and wardrobe never failed to bring a smile. And that awesome laugh. If you didn’t laugh at the joke she was telling (and that was rare), you laughed when she laughed. It was contagious.
She was born Phyllis Driver in Lima, Ohio to Perry and Ada Driver in 1917. Perry is listed as an insurance salesman in the 1920 census.
By the time she was almost seven, Phyllis Driver was already a rising star in Lima. Her mentions in the Lima News are numerous, for her musical talents playing the piano and saxophone.
After she married Sherwood Diller in 1939, the birth of her first child landed the proud mother back in the social pages of the Lima News in September 1940.
Phyllis went on to give birth to five more children, one of whom died just shy of two-weeks old. She and her family moved to California where she would begin her career in a San Francisco nightclub called the Purple Onion. This article tells of her double-life as a mother and comedienne.
From her nightclub days, she went on to become a star in movies, on Broadway, and even on two of her own television shows, all whilst appearing as a guest on many others. She periodically returned to her hometown of Lima to perform, including a 1973 musical performance with the Lima Symphony Orchestra that raised money for music scholarships at her alma mater. In return, Lima pulled out all the stops. Saturday and Sunday were declared Phyllis Diller days, and the Lima News ran a full-page story titled “This Was Your Life,” filled with reminiscences from local friends, former teachers, and even the doctor who delivered two of her children.
Phyllis Diller once said, “A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.” As I pored over the clippings and various records Phyllis left behind in Ohio, it became very clear that she spent a good portion of her life passing out those smiles that set everything straight. Thanks Phyllis.
If you want to take a trip down memory lane and see Phyllis combine her musical and comedic talents, I found this clip on YouTube from The Muppet Show. Enjoy!
For the past decade I have been researching my father’s side of the family, and knew particularly little about my 4th great-grandfather, Timothy Stokin, and his family.
The first break-through in our research came with finding Timothy and his family in Greenfield, Pennsylvania, in 1850. By 1860, they had moved to Merton, Wisconsin. Through those censuses we learned about Timothy and Adelia’s children who are not direct relatives of ours. We also learned that by 1880, the Stokins had settled in Pepin, Wisconsin.
The story of the Stokins gets more interesting at this point. In 1875, The New York Times ran a story about how Timothy and his wife were reunited with a daughter who was abducted as an infant while the family was living in Waukesha. Taken by a previous suitor, the daughter, Fannie, was taken to St. Louis where she was raised. Thanks to a ship captain on the Mississippi River, she ultimately ended up in the Durand and Menominee area in Wisconsin where a neighbor thought she bore an uncanny resemblance to the Stokins. In August 1875, the family was reunited after nearly 20 years.
Since finding this story through Ancestry.com, we have been able to learn more about Timothy’s service in the Civil War, and the death of one of their sons early in the war.
More importantly, we have reconnected with a number of relatives through Ancestry.com who have been able to share stories of what life was like for the Stokins in the late 1800s—including the fact that they worked the docks in Durand and Pepin Wisconsin and often took in new immigrants into their home because of their ability to speak German. We have a number of handwritten family histories about the Stokins, as a result.
Thanks to a more recent connection, we also now have the portrait below. According to another article found on Ancestry.com we were able to determine that this photo is a style called crayon portraits. In this case, we have an original photo, so know that this was created in a studio based on that original. It is a similar style to about a half a dozen other portraits of relatives who lived in Wisconsin around the same time.
In 1962 when I was twelve years old I found an old photo album in an antique shop while traveling with my mother and father from Ohio to New Hampshire during a summer vacation. As my parents had always instilled the love of photography and history, I was drawn to and fell in love with this leather-bound treasure. I am grateful that my parents admired my interest and allowed me to purchase this antique family album, so long ago. The original archivist, Sarah Bugbee Yates, had labeled the photos very well (an act that I appreciate even more today than I did when I was twelve). There are thirty individuals, photographed between the years of 1861 -1878 within in this gem.
Entrusted with this one of a kind cache, I used to daydream that someday I would be able to present these photographs to a descendant, who would hold them dear, but I was never quite sure as a child how I would go about doing this. So I kept the leather album safe from harm and would peruse it every now and then wondering about the stories behind the pictures. I always decided when moving or going through my possessions not to let it go—not just yet.
Over the past year and half I have been using Ancestry.com to document my own families’ genealogies and have been impressed with the opportunities to share photos and information with others. This week while on vacation, I took a break and began scanning and entering the photos from this album.
I created a tree on Ancestry.com with the information in the album and in records I found. I found it fascinating to follow this family back in time as they had moved across the country from Connecticut to New York, Ohio, California, Alaska, and even South America. Their ancestors arrived prior to the Revolutionary War and their migration across the country is an amazing tribute to the American spirit. It is no wonder with all of the mobility that this album was “lost” from the family.
It appears that the photo album was created and kept by Sarah Bugbee (Mrs. Lucia H. Yates), who was born in 1804 and died in 1884. Her photo is on page three of the album next to a photo labeled: Lucia Halen Yates, who I discovered on Ancestry.com was born in 1804 and died in 1862. Sarah is pictured all in black and interestingly is holding a frame that contains perhaps the photo of her husband who passed during the time period of the Civil War on 13 March 1862. I am still curious as to the circumstances of his death—a story that perhaps can unfold through further research. Sarah, who lived twenty years after the death of her husband, must have treasured his memory and those of her loved ones. She undoubtedly was able to hold them close to her heart in this small, leather-bound, clasped album.
It was my wish as a twelve year old and remains so now, after saving this album for fifty years, to find the families of those pictured so they might be cherished by their descendants, near and far. I remembering being in a quandary when I was young, as to how I would choose who would be given the album, if I was ever able to locate the families, a task that was also beyond my comprehension.
With the wonders of the internet and the technology provided by Ancestry.com, I realized that my childhood wish could come true. I, thanks to your service, do not have to decide who amongst the extensive list of relatives would receive the album. It is now dispersed for members to view. They will be able to so easily add these 150 year old photos to their own family archives.
I have waited fifty years to see if the family members who use Ancestry.com are able to locate the photos I posted and in turn be grateful to Sarah Yates for her superb documentation and love of family. Tonight it finally happened thanks to your “Recent Member Connect” service. A member from Fort Worth, wrote a message to me that reads as follows:
"Thank you for the photographs you uploaded. There are several members of my family that you located in the book. What a great find, and again I appreciate your efforts to place them on Ancestry so that history may be passed down!"
My Childhood wish has come true! Thank you for giving us the technology to virtually take this album to the rightful descendants. From the information from the tree I created, I hope to travel to Darien Center, N.Y. in the near future to donate the album to their historical society or special collections library. As an educator, I believe that knowledge is of great value, but the willingness and ability to share it with others is priceless.
Ask Ancestry Anne: Three Andrew Blankinships. How Do I Choose?
Hi Anne, I’ve run into a brick wall on researching my great grandfather, Andrew Blankinship. We have very little information about him…parents and siblings are unknown. Here is the information we do have:
1) Born in Ohio, believed to be around Cleveland. I had entered parents I found on my tree, but later deleted them as I found 3 sets of parents who had a child named Andrew around 1845 in Ohio. All were born in/around Aid, Lawrence, Ohio. Parents I found were: Madison & Delila; Beverly & Malvna; & Wesley & Hanna. Also, my father always told us we have Native Americans in our ancestry & I’m wondering it could have been the Blankinships as they are such a mystery. We have searched census records.
2) Andrew fought in the Civil War, believed for the Confederate Army. He was wounded during his active duty. Selia drew a pension after the death of Andrew. A record was found in “1890 Civil War Veterans” as follows: ”Blankingship, Andrew; Ho-95-1; Pvt H Co, 1st US Inf; Sep 27 62 to Jun 29 65; McKinnon PO.”
3) Andrew Blankinship and Selia Caroline Cathey were married 08/03/1871 in Stewart Co, TN by J.B. Lune, J.P. & had 11 children. Selia belonged to the Methodist Church & Andrew belonged to none.
4) Andrew & Selia moved to Napier, TN around 1889, when my grandmother, Fannie, was 5 years old. Andrew worked at the coal pits in McKinnon TN & also Napier, Tn. Andrew died of a heart attack at Napier, TN and Selia died of pneumonia. They are buried at Napier Lake Cemetery in Tenn.
5) Andrew & Selia owned a home in McKinnon, TN, but rented when they moved to Napier, Tn.
Let’s start with a review of some of what you have told me.
According to Find-a-Grave, Andrew Blankinship was born February 23, 1845 and died on January 22, 1895. Selia Carolyn Blankinship nee Cathey was born April 18, 1834 and died on July 17, 1901.
In the Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861 – 1934, we find Andrew Blankinship with his widow Selia Blankinship listed:
Andrew fought with the West Virginia Ninth Infantry and the West Virginia First Veterans Infantry. He was a Union soldier, not a Confederate soldier. You may want to consider the applications from NARA (both the Invalid and the Widow application) may hold some clues to his parents or other relatives.
You’ll notice that Selia filed for a widow’s application on February 25, 1895. Given that we believe Andrew died on January 22, 1895, this fits.
You found 3 Andrew Blankinship’s in Ohio (all in Lawrence County, Ohio) in the 1860 census. This is a reasonable guess that one of them is your Andrew.
The Andrew who enlisted in 1862 did so in Pt Pleasant, Virginia (now West Virginia):
Aid, Ohio is about 34 miles away from Point Pleasant. This is a reasonable distant to travel to enlist. I found no other likely candidates in Ohio in 1860 and 1850, so these seem to be a reasonable group to focus on.
I think we can rule out William and Hannah. The Andrew living with them in 1860, is also living with Hannah in 1870 and 1880.
In 1870, we find 5 Andrew Blankinships in the US:
We ruled out The Andrew living in Ohio in 1870. The Andrews who are both born in Virginia and are living in Virginia in 1870 do not seem likely candidates.
Montgomery County is adjacent to Stewart County, where your Andrew’s bride to be lives. Giles County is quite a distance away. Also, if you look at that census image the Andrew in Giles County is stated to be born in Alabama.
Andrew and Selia were married in 1871 in Steward County. I searched for Andrew in Stewart County in 1870, and could not find him there but I did find an Andrew in neighboring Montgomery County who may be your Andrew:
He is the correct age, he is a Collier which is someone who worked in a Coal Mine, which was Andrew’s occupation in later years and he was born in Ohio. This is hardly definitive proof, but the best guess is the Andrew living in Montgomery County in 1870.
But is he the son of James and Margaret or Beverly and Lovina?
Here is what I recommend:
Check the names of Andrew and Selia’s children and compare to the names of James and Margaret’s children and then Beverly and Lovina’s. Are there similarities?
1940 Census Update—All States and Territories Now Indexed and Searchable!
That does it. As we told you this morning, you can now search for your relatives from any state in the just-completed index to the 1940 census on Ancestry.com. We took the latest state indexes for a test drive and here’s who we found.
Christopher Lloyd In the hit movie Back to the Future, we see “Doc Brown” as he was in 1955. Now we can travel back in time and catch a glimpse of actor Christopher Lloyd in 1940. A one-year-old, he was living in Stamford, Fairfield Co., Connecticut, with his parents, sister Adele, and several servants.
Ernest Hemingway Ernest Hemingway was enumerated with his wife Pauline in 1940 at his famous home at 907 Whitehead on Key West, Monroe Co., Florida. It was not to be for long. That year he divorced Pauline, married the famous war correspondent, Martha Gellhorn, and moved to Cuba.
Charlton Heston Although he was born John Charles Carter in 1923, by the time of the 1940 census, at age 16, John was already going by Charlton Heston—a combination of his mother’s maiden name and his step-father’s last name.
Kim Novak Model and actress, Kim Novak, was born Marilyn Pauline Novak in 1933, and in 1940, she’s living in Chicago at 1910 Springfield Avenue. Her dad worked as a clerk for a “steam railway,” earning $1,060 in 1939.
Quincy Delight Jones, Jr. When Rashida Jones was featured on Who Do You Think You Are? this past season, we learned a bit about her mother’s side of the family. Now we can learn a little about her dad, music producer Quincy Jones. At age seven, he was living with his parents and brother on Chicago’s South Side, at 3548 Prairie Avenue. His father was employed in construction as a carpenter.
Antoine Dominique “Fats” Domino Jr. R&B legend Antoine “Fats” Domino was only twelve in 1940. His family was living next door to Harrison Verrett, a relative who is credited with helping him learn to play.
Elvis Presley “The King” was five years old and living in rural Lee County, Mississippi, where his father, Vernon, worked as a carpenter on a sanitary project and mom, Gladys, was a seamstress.
Morgan Freeman Morgan Freeman’s family moved around quite a bit when he was young, but the 1940 census found him living at 3412 Vernon Avenue in Chicago, Cook Co., Illinois. His father’s relationship to the head of household is listed as “partner,” which is a common notation you’ll find on the 1940 census. The enumerators were instructed that, “if two or more persons who are not related by blood or marriage share a common dwelling unit as partners, write head for one and partner for the other or others.” Here on the heels of the Great Depression, it’s not surprising to find friends pooling resources and sharing a residence.
Jack Nicholson Jack Nicholson was raised by his grandparents as their own child. In 1940, his is living in Neptune, Monmouth Co., New Jersey with grandmother, Ethel, listed as the head of household. His mother, June and Jack list their relationship to her as daughter and son, respectively. Ethel worked as a beautician and June was working as an exhibition dancer for a theatrical agency.
Willie Hugh Nelson In 1940, Willie Nelson and his sister Bobbie were living in Hill County, Texas, with their widowed grandmother. They are listed as “son” and “daughter.” Bobbie began playing piano in her brother’s band in the 1970s and continues to tour with him.
Andy Griffith The late Andy Griffith is living with his parents in Mount Airy, Surry Co., North Carolina, a place that is reminiscent of the setting for his famous Andy Griffith Show. The town embraces that link and is home to the Andy Griffith museum. It is still home to the original “Snappy Lunch” diner, and the town hosts “Mayberry Days” every September. (Yes, there is also a Floyd’s Barber shop now.)
Don Knotts Andy’s co-star Don Knotts, was living with his widowed mother, and brother in the town where he was born, Morgantown, Monongalia Co., West Virginia. His brother had earned $300 in the past year working as a laborer in school construction.
Charles Hardin “Buddy” Holley April 8, 1940. “That’ll be the day” that the census taker came to call at the Holley household, where Ella P. gave the details (indicated with the x in a circle after her name) on her son Charles H., who would someday be known to the world as rock and roll legend, Buddy Holly.
John McCain In 1940, Senator John McCain’s family was still living in the Panama Canal Zone where he had been born in 1936, and where his father was a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy.
1940 U.S. Census: 50 States, 134 Million Names, 1 Index
Today is all about numbers. The first is 100, as in 100 percent of the 1940 U.S. Federal Census is now indexed. That means all 50 states are available to search to your heart’s content. Our indexing came up with 134,395,545 people counted. Most reports on the 1940 census give the U.S. population as 132 million and change, so you may be wondering where the extra 2 million people came from.
Two words: Puerto Rico. OK, and Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Panama Canal Zone. They were all included in the 1940 U.S. census and add another 2.1 million or so records to the final count.
The Oldest American(s) We came up with a tie for the oldest person in the census: Mary Dilworth of Oxford, Mississippi,
and Cándido Vega Y Torres of Guayama, Puerto Rico, both listed their ages as 119.
We identified 35,646,274 heads of household, for an average household size of 3.7 people. The average age of the respondent who talked with the enumerator was 43. Where Did They All Come From? It’s probably not difficult to guess the number one state reported as birthplace on the census, but a couple of the other nine might surprise you. Here they are in order:
Amongst foreign-born folks, the top five reported birth countries were
So, What’s Your Name? We can also tell you the top 10 male and female names on the 1940 census: John William James Robert Joseph George Charles Frank Edward Richard Mary Anna Helen Margaret Elizabeth Dorothy Ruth Marie Rose Alice If you need proof, just stroll down this street in Butler, PA:
The top five surnames in the 1940 census were
Who Do You Want to Find? But the most important number in the 1940 U.S. Census might be 1. That one date you’ve been waiting to find. That one relative you hadn’t been able to locate until now. That one discovery that opens up a dozen more. One more question, one more record, one last look… So dig in and enjoy. After all, it’s 10 years before we get another one.
1940 Census Indexing at Ancestry.com Now 70% Complete
Last night Ancestry.com posted images from twelve more states, bringing the total to 37 states and the District of Columbia. With 70% of the images now indexed, you’re chances are better than ever for finding family. Newly added is Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Utah. (Search all 37 states here.)
Take a look at some of the notable names we found in this release.
Chuck Norris You don’t enumerate Chuck Norris; he enumerates you. OK, so that’s probably not true. Since Carlos Ray “Chuck” Norris was only 0/12 of a year old, he probably wasn’t wielding a pen, a sword, or any other weapon. But by 1950, we bet he was already kicking some butt and taking names.
Walter Cronkite Walter Cronkite was already reporting the news in 1940, working as a newspaper writer for a news service in Kansas City, Missouri. And that’s the way it is April 2, 1940.
Tom Brokaw Another award-winning newscaster was just getting his start in life. Thomas J. Brokaw is listed as a “permanent guest” in a hotel in Bristol, Day Co., South Dakota, age 1/12 of a year. We’re glad he decided to venture away from that hotel so that he could bring us the news in a career that has spanned five decades.
Johnny Cash The “man in black” was just a boy age eight when the census taker came to call in 1940. His dad earned $140 a year as a laborer in a public school to support his wife and five children, and reported additional income, probably from the farm they lived on.
Jack Lemmon Jack Lemmon (John Uhler Lemmon III) was no grumpy old man in 1940. He was only 15 and is enumerated with his parents. His father made more than $5,000 that year as a retail and wholesale salesman in the flower industry.
Leonard Nimoy As Spock, Leonard Nimoy once said, “Insufficient facts always invite danger.” We can’t tell whether it was insufficient facts or just poor recording that led the enumerator to not only list Leonard’s last name as Mimony, but to also list him as female and the “granddaughter” of the head of household (his mother Dora’s father). While not exactly dangerous, it did make it harder to locate him.
Angie Dickinson Angeline Brown, age eight, living in Edgeley, LaMoure Co., North Dakota, would not stay there for long. In 1942 the family would move to Burbank, California and Angeline would go on to become the movie and TV star that most of us know as Angie Dickinson.
Glen Campbell The “Rhinestone Cowboy” was living on Bills Delight Road, in Saline, Pike County, Arkansas in 1940, the seventh son of Wesley and Carrie Campbell. His father, a farmer, reported working 60 hours during the week of March 24-30 of that year.
Harry S. Truman The 33rd president of the United States was a senator in 1940, five years before being elected to the country’s highest office. He’s living in the house at 219 N. Delaware St. in Independence, Missouri—a house built by his wife Bess’ grandfather. This was the Truman family home when they weren’t living in Washington, D.C. His census record indicates that he had four years of high school. He is the only 20th century president that didn’t get a college degree.
1850 U.S. Census, COUNTY_NAME County, STATE_NAME, population schedule, CITY_OR_DISTRICT, p. XXX (stamped/penned), dwelling DDD, family FFF, person or people; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com accessed : DATE); digital images, citing NARA microfilm publication, M432, roll RRR.
1860 US Census
1860 U.S. Census, COUNTY_NAME County, STATE_NAME, population schedule, CITY_OR_DISTRICT, p. XXX (stamped/penned), dwelling DDD, family FFF, PERSON; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com accessed : DATE); digital images, citing NARA microfilm publication, M653, roll RRR.
1870 US Census
1870 U.S. Census, COUNTY_NAME County, STATE_NAME, population schedule, CITY_OR_DISTRICT, p. XXX (stamped/penned), dwelling DDD, family FFF, PERSON; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com accessed : DATE); digital images, citing NARA microfilm publication, M593, roll RRR.
1880 US Census
1880 U.S. Census, COUNTY_NAME County, STATE_NAME, population schedule, CITY_OR_DISTRICT, enumeration district ENUM_DISTRICT, p. XXX (stamped/penned), dwelling DDD, family FFF, PERSON; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com accessed : DATE); digital images, citing NARA microfilm publication, T9, roll RRR.
Example: Gillespie Family Bible, The Holy Bible, (New York, American Bible Society, 1857), “Family Records, Births”, p840; privately held by Anne Gillespie Mitchell, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] California, 2012. The sons of Tarlton and Mahala Gillespie are listed with their birth dates; it appears that they were all written at one time and are date April 20 1860.
Example: “Virginia Marriages, 1740-1850,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 Jul 2012), entry for Jeremiah Gillespie and Mary E Gillespie, 21 Nov 1848, Amherst, Virginia; citing Dodd, Jordan R., et al.. Early American Marriages: Virginia to 1850. Bountiful, UT, USA: Precision Indexing Publishers.
Ancestry.com Adds 1940 Census Indexes for 15 States
Last night Ancestry.com released its largest batch of indexes to the 1940 census yet. The addition of fifteen new states puts the Ancestry.com index at 55% complete. Indexes are now available for these twenty-six states:
Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Who will you find today? Here are some notable names that we found in the newly added states.
Liberace Wladziu Valentino Liberace is still using his first name in the 1940 census, though he’s Anglicized it to Walter. Later that year, he’ll head off to New York, but in April he was still living at home in Milwaukee with his family—including his mother, Francis. He made $300 the year before working as a musician. Bet that total has a few more digits on the 1950 census.
William Sylvester Harley and Arthur Davidson It’s hog heaven for G.I.s when famed motorcycle company Harley-Davidson produces more than 60,000 motorcycles for the troops during WWII. (A third of those went to Russian soldiers—after they joined our side.)
Orville Redenbacher According to the census, Orville Redenbacher and his wife, Corinne, have moved from Terra Haute, where they were living in 1935, to Patoka, Indiana. Orville developed his first hybrid popcorn strains in 4H, but it will be another 25 years before he and business partner Charles Bowman perfect the hybrid popcorn that will make him famous.
Hank Williams Country music legend Hank (Hiram) Williams was living with his mother, sister, and two lodgers in Montgomery, Alabama, in April 1940. Lillian, Hank’s mother, ran a boarding house to help support the family while Hank’s father was hospitalized for years in Louisiana.
Martin Luther King Jr. In 1940, Martin Luther King Jr. is sharing the house with a brother, a sister, a grandmother, an aunt, and a lodger. He hasn’t started skipping grades yet in school, but he has already changed his name from Michael to Martin. His father, a pastor, made $2,500 the previous year.
Clark Gable and Carole Lombard “Ma” and “Pa” (as they called each other) Gable settled down on their ranch in Encino, California, after their 1939 wedding.
Dorothy Marie Hofert (David Letterman’s mom) Dorothy is two years away from marrying Harry Joseph Letterman, seven from becoming mother to her famous son, David, and fifty-four from her first gig as correspondent at the 1994 Winter Olympics
Nelle Harper Lee Did you ever wonder where Nelle Harper Lee got her ideas for To Kill a Mockingbird? The 1940 census lists her as the daughter of Francis [Finch] and Amasa Lee, who in 1940 was working as a lawyer in private practice. At 13, a precocious Nelle is already in high school.
Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron Hammerin’ Hank is six years old in the 1940 census, and his little brother Tommie is seven months. Tommie and Hank share the record for most home runs by a pair of siblings in the Majors—though they didn’t exactly share and share alike: Hank had 755, Tommie 13.
Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell Marsh Margaret Mitchell Marsh lists her occupation as a writer doing “private work,” though she claims no salary or wages for the previous year. On her way to selling two million copies of Gone with the Wind, after the movie came out in 1939, she and husband John R. Marsh probably got on just fine on the $5,000+ wages he reported from his work as advertising manager for a power company.
Henry Ford and John DeLorean Back to the future. In 1940, Michigan was home to both auto industry founding father Henry Ford and futuristic innovator John DeLorean in 1940.
Dorothy Lamour Dorothy Lamour was lighting up screens with the recent release of The Road to Singapore with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. On the home front, she apparently had moved in with her mother and stepfather after her 1939 divorce. (Five lines down on the census page you’ll find her neighbor Boris Karloff.)
Bob Hope Was Bob trying to go incognito by using his real given name Leslie (misspelled as Lesley) Hope on the 1940 census?
Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby And apparently “Bing” was good enough for the rest of the world, but nor for Uncle Sam, who recorded Harry L. Crosby and family at 10500 Camarillo Street.
Warren Buffet Apparently the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree. Nine-year-old Warren Buffet’s father lists his occupation as the proprietor of a bond investment business on the 1940 census.
Bob Gibson Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson, the last of seven children, is living with his mother and brothers and sisters in Omaha. Gibson would give up his spot with the legendary Harlem Globetrotters to play even more legendary baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Johnny Carson The Carsons moved from Iowa to Nebraska when Johnny was eight. About the time the census was taken, Johnny started working as an amateur magician—the Great Carsoni—but he records no income for 1939.
Dorothy Gale She’s a little too young, and not an orphan, but the 1940 census for Kansas does include a Dorothy Gale.
Salvatore “Sonny” Bono Before his family made the move to sunny California, Salvatore “Sonny” Bono lived in Detroit, where his father working on the assembly line in an auto plant and his mother owned a beauty parlor.
Francis Ford Coppola Census as prophet? Francis Ford Coppola’s biography says he was born in Detroit—which is where he is living in 1940. But the census says the one-year-old was born in New York—which is where he would grow up.
Hunter S. Thompson Godfather of Gonzo journalism Hunter S. Thompson was living in Kentucky with his father, a veteran of the World War according to the supplemental details provided at the bottom of the page. There was no “1” at the end of World War yet. Too bad some things change.
Dennis Lee Hopper Easy riding Dennis Hopper is living with his parents in the home of his maternal grandparents, William L. and Nellie Davis, where they were apparently living in 1935 as well. Grandpa is a farmer, while Dennis’s father manages a grocery store.
Carl Hilding “Doc” Serverinsen Doc got the nickname “Little Doc” after his father, who was a dentist in private practice in Oregon according to the 1940 census.
Alan B. Shepard The 1940 census didn’t report on sports or hobbies, so there is no indication of whether the moon’s most famous golfer had started working on his swing yet.
William West Anderson Apparently tired of Gotham, Batman was hanging out in Walla Walla during the 1940 census. Or at least that’s where you’ll find his alter ego Adam West (living incognito as 11-year-old Billy West Anderson).
Marty Robbins Martin David Robinson hasn’t shortened his name to Marty Robbins and started singing gunfighter ballads quite yet. In a couple of years, he’ll join the Navy; in 1953, he’ll join the Grand Ole Opry.
Barry Goldwater Before Barry M. Goldwater became a senator and then a presidential candidate, he was president and manager of the family’s retail department store. The business is apparently doing well enough to allow for three live-in servants: a cook, a house man, and a nurse.
Florence Henderson Judging from Florence Henderson’s 1940 census record, the role of Carol Brady wasn’t much of a stretch. She’s the youngest of nine children still living at home.
James Earl “Jimmy” Carter Brother William (Billy) is only three. Father is a farmer—possibly also a manager. H-2 for Jimmy’s highest grade at the time.
Rosalynn Smith [Carter] And here’s his future wife, Rosalynn Smith. Her father, a mechanic at an auto garage, died later that year.
Jimmy Hoffa We found Jimmy Hoffa—in 1940. He’s at home in Detroit with wife, Josephine, and daughter, Barbara.
Question: My father died when I was 9 years old and I never knew my father’s father. My father’s birth name was EASTON ROLLY PAGE. I have no idea what my grandfather’s name is. I have two different dates my father was born and he died on February 10, 1948 in San Francisco, CA and is buried in a military cemetery, I believe, in San Bruno, CA. I was told he was born on August 30, 1901 or 1904. So I’m confused and would very much like to trace my ancestors, but don’t have a clue. He was married before he married my mother and his 1st wife had, i believe 4 children. He had 2 or 3 girls and one son named Donald Page who was born around 1920-1924.So if you could possibly track some of my family, I’d be ecstatic just knowing they are still alive. Thank you so much.
Daniel Rolly Page
Answer: I’m sorry for your loss at such a young age. I have been able to find some information on your family.
It tells us that he was born on August 31, 1903 in Kansas and that his father’s surname was Page and his mother’s maiden name was Singleton.
I also found him in the U.S. Veterans Gravesites, ca. 1776-2006data collection.which reports his birth date as August 31, 1901. It tells us his Service start date was June 5, 1920, that he was a Corporal in the Army during WWII and that he is buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery which is in San Bruno, California.
Birth years often vary from document to document, and if the 1903 date from the death index is correct, it may be that he lied about his age to get into the military. He would have only been 17 in 1920.
With this information, I start working backwards through the census records. In 1930, Easton was living with his wife Lucille, who he married around 1923, and their four children, Eileen, Norma, Donald, and Anita. They were living in Los Angeles, California with Lucille’s parents, Henry and Emma Ahlers. Easton was working as a Spring Coiler in a Furniture Factory.
In 1920, Easton is living with his parents, James and Hettie Page in Newbury, Wabaunsee County, Kansas. His father is a Carpenter in the Locomotive industry and they owned their own farm.
In 1915, Easton is living with his parents, J. W. and Hettie and his older sister Orpha who is school teacher. Orpha was born in Arkansas eight years before Easton; so the family moved to Kansas sometime before Easton’s birth. (Note: on the Kansas State Census, make sure you look at the page after the name page for all the information.)
In 1910, Easton was living in McFarland in the Newberry Township, Wabaunsee County, Kansas. He is living with his parents James W. and Hettie D. Page and his sister Orpha M. Hettie had six children, but only two, Orpha and Easton were living in 1910. James was a Carpenter working for a Railroad Car Repair company. James and Hettie married about 1894.
In 1900, living in Lincoln, Madison County, Arkansas, James and Hettie had been married for six years. They had had 4 children, but only Arthur was living. They were also living with Hettie’s younger sister, Viola Singleton.
So to recap, we know that Easton married Lucille Ahlers, sometime between 1920 and 1930. Given that Eileen, the oldest child, was born in 1924; they were most likely married around 1922 or 1923. They had four children by 1930. Finding Easton in 1940 would be the next logical step in determining how many children. It appears that Donald Ralph Page died on February 26, 1998 in Riverside, California, according the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). I could not find marriage records or death records for any of the three girls.
Easton’s parents were most likely James Page and Hettie Singleton. They were married around 1894, probably in Arkansas. They had at least six children of whom two, Orpha and Easton, lived to adulthood. Arthur is the only name we’ve seen as one of the four who died early.
There is still a lot of searching left to do; hopefully this gets you started.
Your Story: Mystery, Intrigue and Our 2 Millionth Subscriber
First thing Yvonne Ochletree did with her subscription to Ancestry.com was search for her father. Then she turned to the real family mystery – and discovered a record of her grandmother’s never-discussed childhood.
“I was lying awake one night and put on a show called Coast to Coast and they had a commercial on for Ancestry.com. I heard I could go on for two weeks to try it,” says Yvonne. “There had always been this mystery as to who my grandmother’s father was. And I thought maybe I should find out.”
So between the commercial and a nudge from her daughter, Yvonne figured she had nothing to lose. She gave the site a whirl.
That move gave Yvonne her own mark in the family history world, too – it made her the 2 millionth subscriber to Ancestry.com. And she quickly started finding answers.
“I’m very lucky,” Yvonne says. But it’s more than luck – Yvonne adds to her success with research savvy and a curiosity that dates back to when she was 17 and paid a visit to her grandmother in England.
“I said, ‘Look, Granny, I never really knew who your dad was. You mentioned your mom but you never really talked about your dad.’” But Yvonne’s grandmother offered up no secrets. She kept mum.
That silence just fueled the fire. “I had to keep pursuing it,” says Yvonne, who knew that her grandmother was born out of wedlock. So years later, she finally dug in on Ancestry.com. “Long story short, I started finding out things. I have not found out who [my great-grandfather] is, but I’m coming pretty close to it.”
So far, Yvonne has uncovered an impressive record trail for her grandmother – she has names, places and dates and is using them all to discover more. Plus, there’s an intriguing side note: Yvonne learned in a census record that her great-grandmother was working as a servant in the home of a wealthy couple. Could her grandmother’s father be a fellow servant? Or maybe the homeowner himself?
Yvonne has also connected with other Ancestry.com members, sending notes and receiving information in return. She searches the site and uses Hints, which she likens to the yellow brick road, to help build her tree. “I tap on all of them and they open up,” she says.
And she’s made a personal connection between her own life today and her grandmother’s: “[My grandmother] was a teacher and an artist, just like me.” Which, of course, leads Yvonne to another question: “Where did the money come so that my grandmother could go to a very nice school?”
Suffice it to say, Yvonne isn’t stopping anytime soon. “I’m nosy and I’m relentless. I am going to find more. And I will get to the bottom of this.”
My heart fell this morning when I heard the news that the beloved actor, Andy Griffith, had passed. Through the cold Chicago winters, and hot summers as well, my sisters and I would park in front of the TV when the The Andy Griffith Show would come on. Decades later, I remember telling my daughter to turn off the TV to get to sleep for school as she begged for one more half hour because Andy was on. I usually gave her that half hour.
The Andy Griffith Show had a kind of timeless humor. For a brief time we are transported to that little town in North Carolina, where the characters welcome us to a simpler time. We can be guaranteed a few laughs and the world rights itself in a half hour. Is it any wonder we’re still drawn to it? The series incorporated many of Andy Griffith’s memories of his home town of Mount Airy, North Carolina. That’s where we find Andy living with his parents, Carl and Geneva Griffith in the 1930 and 1940 U.S. federal censuses.
Like his character, he came from humble roots. His father worked in a furniture factory, as a laborer in 1930 and band saw operator in 1940. His salary of $850 per year was enough that the family owned their home at 197 Haymore Street in Mount Airy.
By 1940, Andy’s six years in school had already eclipsed the education levels of both of his parents, and he would go on to finish high school in Mount Airy. Five days before his eighteenth birthday, on 2 June 1944, he registered for the World War II draft.
Having just graduated from high school at the time of the draft, he doesn’t have a job at the time, but soon he was off to college where he was active in music and drama. His yearbook shows he was president of the Men’s Glee Club in 1947 at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
His education and talent in music, comedy and drama paid dividends that will benefit generations to come. Andy Griffith made us feel like he was our next door neighbor and we could sit down with him and forget about the troubles in the world. His legacy is the smile that comes to our lips we recall a more innocent time – a time when humor was less about shock value and more about uplifting our spirits.
1940 Census Indexes for Six More States—CO, OH, PA, TN, VT, and VA
This week Ancestry.com launched 1940 census indexes for six more states—Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia. Who are you looking for and what stories will you discover? Here are some well-known names that we’ve run across.
Tina Turner While the unincorporated town of Nutbush doesn’t really have “city limits” as the name of the famous Tina Turner song might imply, it’s nonetheless where we find her in 1940 listed as Anna Bullocks, age 5/12. (You can find Nutbush in Civil District 11 on this enumeration map.)
Jack Nicklaus Only three months old in April of 1940, the “Golden Bear” was more likely to have been playing with Teddy bears than golf clubs, but we found the future golf pro, Jack Nicklaus living with his parents, Louis “Charlie” Nicklaus and Helen, in Columbus, Ohio.
Arnold Palmer Jack Nicklaus’ rival, Arnold Palmer, was probably already getting golf tips from his dad, Milfred “Deacon” Palmer, whose occupation is listed in 1940 as “pro green[s] keeper” in a country club.
Shirley MacLaine and Warren Beatty The only roles brother and sister Shirley [MacLaine] and [Henry] Warren Beaty were prepping for in 1940 were those of kindergartner and preschooler. They probably got a lot of help from dad, whose occupation was that of “principal-teacher” in a public school.
Bill Cosby In 1940, Bill Cosby is living with his parents and younger brother, James, and lodgers Ernest and Bertha Fletcher. Ernest is probably his uncle, Ernie Fletcher, who he refers to in his book I Am what I Ate— and I’m Frightened!!! And Other Digressions from the Doctor of Comedy. The North Philadelphia neighborhood where he’s living would in later years become the backdrop for the stories that were featured on his hit series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.
Grace Kelly In 1940, years before becoming an award-winning actress and Princess of Monaco, ten-year old Grace Kelly was living in Philadelphia with her father, John “Jack” Kelly, owner of a construction business, mother Margaret, two sisters and a brother. Florence Merkel, personal secretary, is living in the household as well. Princess Grace returned to Philadelphia in 1966 to attend Florence’s funeral. (Want to learn more about the Kelly’s? Grace’s dad was chosen to answer the supplemental questions at the bottom of the schedule.)
Doris Day Although only sixteen at the time of the 1940 census, Doris Kappelhoff’s mother gave her age in the census as eighteen. By this time Doris had begun singing professionally on the radio and in local bands, although her occupation in the census is listed simply as “new worker.” She’s living in Cincinnati, Ohio with her mother, Alma and brother, Paul.
Phil Donahue The future talk show host and media mogul’s 1940 census record shows the five-year-old Phil Donahue living with his parents in Cleveland, Ohio, where his father, Phillip, is working as a furniture salesman, earning $2,200 per year.
Paul Newman We found Paul L. Newman living with his brother and parents, Arthur and Theresa in Shaker Heights, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland), where he was attending Shaker Heights High School at the time. A few years later he was serving in the Pacific theater of World War II and in 1945 was serving as an Aviation Radioman, Third Class aboard the USS Hollandia about 500 miles from Japan when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
Tim Conway An avid horseracing fan, comedian Thomas [Tim] Conway may have come about his love of horses at an early age. In the 1940 census, his father’s occupation is listed as “horseman, country estate.”
In the last five years I have seen more than half the states in our nation, plus 22 countries and counting. In that time, I have bounced from one hotel to the next with everything I own packed tightly inside two 25” pieces of luggage.
My downtime has been spent with family in New England, visiting good friends all over the United States and visiting my boyfriend in Australia. Even when I am not working, I somehow manage to stay on the road. Through all of this, there are times where I have taken the technology to travel and stay connected for granted, and there are other times where I’ve been completely amazed by how far we have come. With every generation’s advances in technology our planet continues to get smaller and more connected.
The first time I remember being completely blown away by our progress was while talking to my great-grandmother’s cousin. My great-grandmother passed away when I was only four years-old. Through my genealogy work I was able to track down her cousin, Albertine, about 10 years ago.
I remember her surprised look when I explained to her who I was, and I will never forget her response when I told her it only took me two hours to drive to Vermont from New Hampshire: “It only took you two hours?! It used to take us three days by horse!”
In those days you didn’t just hop in a car. There were no short visits, no phone calls, texts or emails. They would send out letters announcing their visit with the intention of staying a week or more after traveling for days by horse or foot.
Today, having to rely on a horse, and not having a car, is unimaginable. Then again, it was only six short years ago that traveling the world – never mind dating a man who lives in another country – also seemed unimaginable. It all seemed so impossible and, just a few generations ago, it would have been.
Now, as I write this, I’m waiting to board a plane in Australia to head home to the United States. I will have woken on one side of the planet, and will be climbing into bed on the other side – all on the same day!
All around me people talk, some complaining about the long flight ahead. I will admit, the idea of a 14-hour flight stuck in coach isn’t my idea of a good time. But five generations ago, my second great-grandparents boarded boats in Europe that were headed for America. Following two weeks at sea in cramped quarters, they finally reached their destinations.
If Albertine was surprised by my two-hour drive, how would those great-grandparents respond to my 14-hour flight across the globe? Then again, how would my ancestors from the Mayflower react to my great-grandparents’ “short” two-weeks at sea?
Yes, I had relatives on the Mayflower! Setting sail from Plymouth, England, on Sept. 6, 1620, it took the ship a total of two months to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Two months! There were a total of 102 passengers packed into cramped, cold and damp living quarters. Most found themselves seasick and some passengers died due to illnesses. At least one man was lucky enough to be rescued after being thrown overboard by rough waters.
As a female, I am most amazed by the pregnant women who made the voyage, one of whom gave birth on the ship. Through all of this, the passengers of the Mayflower wondered if they would even make it to the shores of America due to damage that was done to the ship from storms.
They spent two months at sea, and here we are, in our coach seats being served food and drinks. We’re flying in a relatively safe, large metal object and we are complaining about a 14-hour trip from Australia to America.
Once I land Los Angeles, I will be spending the next three weeks looking for an apartment. For me, leaving everything I know in New England is both exciting and scary. In some ways it’s a fresh start; the first time in my whole life where I will be completely responsible for myself and I am excited about it.
However, I still can’t quite shake the fear of leaving what is familiar, and the guilt that hangs over me about leaving my family. What if this move turns out horribly? What if something happens back home and I’m not there? Can I handle being that far from my family? I am willing to bet these same fears and questions haunted my ancestors from the time they packed their bags until years after they settled in New England.
Taking into consideration the day-to-day challenges they continued to face as soon as they touched land, I feel a bit foolish. Once my ancestors made the voyage from Europe to America, that was it. Those who were lucky enough to make the trip alive found themselves in a foreign land having only the limited possessions they brought with them. Chances are they would never see the friends and family they left behind again, and their only communication would be through an occasional handwritten letter.
Today, people regularly move from state to state and I continue to meet many who have moved from country to country. Although we may experience the same fears, we have options. If we are missing home, we can jump in a car, catch a bus, hop on a train or book a flight. While missing our family and friends in-between trips, we have the luxury of making a phone call or sending out a text message.
Not enough? Then there’s always the convenience that comes with the Internet from emails, video chat and social networking sites that allow us to post and read regular status updates or share pictures.
From the days of uncharted lands to the days where you can look up any location on the globe by satellite, I have absolutely no idea where life is going to take me. I may decide to stay in California. I could eventually head back to the east coast or maybe even find myself living outside of the country.
Wherever I am, I hope to always be thankful for how far we have come, and make use of everything we have available to stay connected with my family and friends. As I now sit here on my flight, I also can’t help but wonder what stories I will someday share with my grandchildren that, to them, will seem unimaginable.
Question: Could you clarify what I am seeing below on the census from 1920 Federal Census? Under the Amund’s name there is another name bracketed: [ Armand Amundson]
First question - what do bracketted information refer to normally? Under Spouses’ name there are 2 names: Amelia Amundson and in brackets [Francis Vail]
Second question - Does the bracketted reference to Francis Vail mean he is married twice?
Third question - does he have children by 2 marriages?
If I click into the children listed with the last name of Vail, they also reference Amund Amundson as the father.
Is the typed record a misrepresentation of the census recording? Please explain how we read this.
— Deborah Holmes
Answer: Deborah, this is a great set of questions, as well as a great demonstration of why you must always look at the original record if you can. Always.
Indexes are not meant to be accurate letter by letter transcriptions; they are meant to be finding aids to the image. We strive to make them as accurate as possible, but with 10 billion records on the site, it’s not possible.
Now to the questions:
First Question: What do the bracketed names mean:
When you see a second name underneath the original name without a pencil next to it, as in the case of Armand Amundson, it means that we have upload two separate indices for the data collection, and the names differ. Since either may be right, we put them both in. And exact search for either Amund Amundson or Armand Amundson would uncover this record.
Second Question: Why are their two separate wives listed? Now this is odd. Polygamy was never legal in Iowa, so it would be strange to have this identified in the 1920 census. Let’s look at the image.
There are some odd things going on here with the dwelling and household numbers. It appears that when these records were indexed, the indexer decided that dwelling 6 household 6 and dwelling 6 household 7 had been crossed out and all the Vails were part of the 5 5 household of Amund Amundson. Also note that BL Vail is entered quite oddly for a census record.
Since everyone in this household is indexed as being part of dwelling 5, and household 5, and there is only one head of household listed, our algorithms attach both wives to the head of household.
I suspect that there is something different going on here. The marks through the sixes are not meant to mark them out, but for some other reason. I think the Bryan family, who are listed as dwelling 6, household 8 are associated with the Vail family. I do not have a theory on why there is not entry for dwelling 6, household 6.
But I do believe that the Amundsens and the Vails were living in separate households and that Francis Vail is most likely the wife of B L Vail. I do not believe from reading this image that she is the wife of Amund Amundsen.
Third Question: Since there is only one marriage, then there are no children by the second marriage.
Bottom line: Always look at the image before you add information to your family tree. The index information is a finding guide. The image holds the actual information as it is recorded.
Thank you Ancestry! After 50+ years of knowing my siblings names, but not knowing where they lived or how to get in touch with them we finally connected. Someone was getting info from my tree. It happened several times so I looked at their tree and there I found my sister that I had never seen. After many conversations by e-mail and phone, we finally met for the first time on June 12, 2012. Everything was just GREAT.
Ask Ancestry Anne: How to Customize Your Google Searches
As you know, the 1940 US Census is free to anyone that registers to Ancestry.com and this has allowed us to make this information more available through channels such as Google. Everyone who appears in the 1940 census, all 132 million plus will have their own page that you can find through a Google search.
With a few tricks you can find these pages and other information that people have posted on various blogs and websites that might be interesting and help you further your research.
Let’s say you are looking for a George Smith that you knew had lived on East 6th Street in New York in the 1940’s. You might try:
Notice that i typed in east 6th in double quotes. This tells the search engine that I want the phrase “east 6th” on the web page.
This produces the results:
And clicking on the George Smith link, gives us:
Let’s say now you are curious who else lived on East 6th Street in 1940. Who were George’s neighbors?
Let’s try looking for pages with the phrases:
east 6th street
new york new york
This gives us a list of people on the 1940 census that we can investigate.
Now the 1940 census pages are convenient but these techniques can be used for other things in a Google search.
Let’s try looking for George Smith who was born in New York and on pages that have Genealogy theme.
I want pages that have either “george smith” OR “smith george” and then add in the phrase “new york” and the word genealogy:
Check out Google’s Advanced Search Page to find out more tricks to help you narrow down your web searches. Let me know if you find anything interesting or come up with a new technique.
This month marks the 50thanniversary of one of the most mysterious prison breaks in history. On June 11, 1962, four men - Frank Morris, brothers John and Clarence Anglin and Allen West - took part in what became known as The Great Escape from Alcatraz. Having had the chance to work at “The Rock,” I can’t help but remember my amazement at the lengths they went to escape, as well as remember the experiences I had there while roaming the halls, hunting for spirits of criminals who were believed to still haunt the grounds.
Originally, Alcatraz was built as a military fortification for the purpose of protecting the San Francisco Bay. During the Civil War it doubled as a military fort as well as a military prison where they jailed confederate soldiers and sympathizers. Following the Civil War, actions were taken to update Alcatraz’s outdated defenses until they decided to switch gears, turning the fort strictly into a military prison. Alcatraz was considered the perfect location for a prison due to the isolation created by the cold waters of the bay and its strong, hazardous currents.
My fascination with Alcatraz came with my personal interest in studying true crime, and from my love as a kid for the movie “Murder in the First.” Alcatraz served as a federal prison from 1933 to 1963, and was used to hold the worst of the worst. If you caused enough problems at other prisons, or repeatedly tried to escape, you would eventually find yourself at the inescapable jail. Mickey Cohen, Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud aka “The Birdman, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and - a familiar face from Boston - James “Whitey” Bulger were just some of the notorious residents here.
In the years it served as a federal prison there were a total of 14 escape attempts made by 36 men. While I was on the island I was surprised to learn that of those 36, 23 were caught, six were shot and killed, and two drowned.
But there were five men listed as missing.
Since there was never any evidence found that any of these men made it to shore, they were assumed to have drowned and washed out to sea in the strong currents. Three of these five missing men took part in The Great Escape. Today, people still wonder if Frank, John and Clarence did indeed drown or if they were successful in their escape.
Frank Morris had a record that included drug possession and armed robbery. However, what landed him in Alcatraz were the several attempts he had made to escape several other prisons. It was during Frank’s stay at an Atlanta prison that he met brothers John and Clarence Anglin. The Anglin brothers were bank robbers who, like Frank, were transferred there after several attempts to escape other prisons. The fourth man involved in The Great Escape was Allen West. Allen had met John at a Florida prison, and was in Alcatraz serving his second term.
Together these four men carried out their fairly hilarious and creative attempt at freedom. Using crudely made hand tools out of objects they secretly lifted from around the jail, they spent months making everything they needed for their escape. The men took turns digging through their individual cell’s ventilation system, made rafts and life preservers out of 50 raincoats and glue, while using soap and toilet paper to make paper machete dummies they painted to look lifelike (they even went so far as adding hair they got from the prison barbershop). It was basically one big arts-and-crafts party made up of hardened criminals.
Once the boys were done with their cutting, pasting and finger painting, Frank, John and Clarence squeezed through the hole in the wall of their cell. Allen was left behind since he failed to finish digging in time. Once inside the prison walls they climbed 30 feet of plumbing before reaching the roof. They then secretly made their way across the roof to climb another 50 feet down the outside wall of the prison. Once outside, they planned to use their handmade raft and life preservers to get to the mainland. By the time Allen finally broke through the wall of his cell and climbed to the roof, Frank, John and Clarence were gone leaving him no choice but to return to his cell.
Over the years there have been many books, movies and documentaries that revolved around The Great Escape. In the end they all had their own theories as to what may have happened to Frank, John and Clarence. But again, no bodies were ever found. However several items were recovered from the water and the shores of nearby Angel Island, which just added to the speculation.
My visit to Alcatraz was due to the paranormal claims that now surround the island. People reported experiences that included noises of crying, moaning and sounds of a banjo (that was believed to played by a ghostly Al Capone); cold spots and sightings of prisoner apparitions and military personnel were also reported. One of the craziest claims was of a prisoner who told a guard he was being killed by a creature with glowing red eyes in his cell. The following morning that same prisoner was found strangled to death in his cell.
While there, I did have a few strange experiences, however what unsettled me the most had nothing to do with the paranormal. In the early morning hours I stood in one of the cells that looked out over the bay. The whole prison was cold and dark - an experience shared by many of the prison’s former occupants. The only sounds in the prison were carried over the bay from the city. I could hear people laughing, cars beeping and live music playing. I could even see faint headlights pass in the distance. I remember thinking, “talk about a daily reminder that life is going on with out you …” It was actually a pretty horrible, lonely feeling.
These men that were locked up at Alcatraz probably deserved their punishment, but I can’t blame them for wanting to get out.
For anyone captivated by Alcatraz and their extreme efforts, the question will always remain: Were three of them successful?
Ask Ancestry Anne: Search Tip #19: First or Last Name Searches
This particular technique is most useful on a single data collection, and if it is a large one you might want to limit it to a specific place.
Let’s say you’ve looked for your ancestor Joshua Chamberlain and you just cannot find him. Enter all of your data and then omit the first name and search. This will help you find candidates that might be him but have really poorly transcribed first names. Then you can enter the first name and enter the last name. Same idea.
You can also try this if you are looking for a wife and you don’t know her maiden name. This will give you a list of candidates that might possibly be here.
Ask Ancestry Anne: Search Tip #18 - Read the Search Form
Sometimes it is best to start searching form the search form for a specific data collection. The form tells you what has been indexed which is critical in understanding what to enter.
Take for example the US Federal Census 1850 search form:
Relationships are indexed, because they are explicitly stated, so you can’t use that as a search strategy.
On a census form, if you enter a county and stage from our type ahead for places and then choose exact, you will limit all of your searches to that county. Or you can choose adjacent county if you are not finding who you are looking for.
Also, you can set other fields to exact to limit your searches as well. By looking at the form, you understand what is actually indexed and this will help you choose what is appropriate to use as parameters in your search.
Ask Ancestry Anne: Search Tip #15 - Category Searches
Sure it’s nice to a long list of all the possible records we have for the person you are searching for. But sometimes you want to know what data collections we think your person is in. This is where you want to use Category Search. Let’s say you are looking for my ancestor Tarlton Gillespie:
To flip this to category search, in the upper right hand corner, where it says “Sorted by relevance” change that to “Summarized by category”:
And then you will see the results list by category and data collection:
This is a sticky feature, so once you set it, it will stay this way. This is a great way to find specific records and see possible collections. Any of the other features I’ve talked about also apply. Don’t want UK records? Set to US only.
Ask Ancestry Anne: Search Tip #14 – Limit Your Scope
We have records from many countries, but sometimes you just want one. Or maybe you just want to see historical record or stories &publications. Here is a quick fix for that.
At the bottom of the advanced search form, you will see a box labeled Collection Priority:
Change “All Collections” to the country or record type you are after. Then check the “Show only records from these collections” and then do your search. And we will only show you records from that country.
Underneath Collection Priority you will see Restrict To
You have four categories to choose from:
Stories & publications
Photos & maps
Choose 1 or 4 or any combination, but you must choose at least one.
Beware of “sticky” options
These features are what we call “sticky” because they stick until you change them. To make them stick, set whatever your options you want and then do a search. Next search, these options will be the same, until you reset and search.
Just remember, if you are looking for Photos and none come up, check your options. You may have set them and forgotten what you’ve set.
Who can you find in the 1940 U.S. Federal Census? Here are just a handful of recognizable names we’ve already discovered in New York and Washington DC:
New York Katherine Hepburn “The Great Kate” was in New York acting in the stage version of The Philadelphia Story, which had closed its year-long run at the Shubert Theater just a few days before the census was taken. She wouldn’t be in New York for long though, as she needed to be back in Hollywood where the movie version of The Philadelphia Story began filming in July of that year. John D. Rockefeller Jr. The philanthropist and iconic businessman had driven “The Last Rivet” in the final original building in Rockefeller Center the previous year and was basking in the success of his now-thriving “city within a city.”
Billie [Elnora] Holiday Born Eleanora Harris, Billie lists her occupation as a singer in a night club, and is living with her mother, Sadie, and friend and fellow musician, Irene Wilson.
Al Jolson Scroll down the page to find David Selznick, producer of the 1940 Academy Award winning movie, Gone with the Wind. Both are guests at the Sherry Netherland Hotel.
Bert Lahr Probably enjoying some of the fruits of his recent success as “the Cowardly Lion” in The Wizard of Oz, actor Bert Lahr was enumerated staying the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
Cole Porter At home in his apartment at the Waldorf Astoria, Cole Porter’s lists his last residence as Paris, France. Following a fall from a horse that broke both of his legs in 1937, he was suffering from chronic pain that would plague him for the rest of his life, but he continued to work, writing several songs for the 1940 film Broadway Melody of 1940, including I’ve Got My Eyes on You and Begin the Beguine.
Washington DC J. Edgar Hoover Living alone at 413 Seward Square in Washington, D.C., Hoover, the FBI director, had been leading the bureau (formerly the Bureau of Investigation) since he was appointed director in 1924 by Calvin Coolidge, and he would continue in that role until his death in 1972.
Marvin Gaye The census taker arrived at the Gay family residence on Marvin’s first birthday April 2, where Marvin was enumerated along with his father Marvin Sr., who was a preacher, his mom, Alberta, and one brother and one sister.
My Italian grandfather, Lou Ventura, was the easiest of my four grandparents to find in the 1930 census.
My other family lines had name changes, missing years, countries and hometowns I could never pronounce and that didn’t seem to remain the same over the course of any two decades. They had elusive documents I could never find, immigration dates and spouses that were always in flux.
Lou, though, was easy. It only took me two years to find him (I’m at seven years and counting on another grandparent). The delay was caused by a simple spelling error of the census taker in 1930.
In the five years since my discovery of Lou in 1930, I’ve also found his naturalization record, which included his birth date, when and where he and his first wife married, his hometown, an old photo, and his signature, which I recognized from birthday cards he’d sent when I was a kid. And I found his address, which led me to a current photo of the apartment house in which my mom was born, a place even she wasn’t aware of.
I totally knew everything about this guy. Except for why he wasn’t showing up in New York in 1940.
New York, New York – it’s a wonderful town.
There are benefits to having family that spent time in a large city like New York. You can easily learn more about New York via history books (try to find something written about the town I live in now — it’s all of 1,000 people, as large as it’s ever been). And you’re always just an e-mail, message board or phone call away from someone else who is researching the same ethnic group in the same community.
In this case, I found a coworker who was doing a bit of New York research herself. I told her I was sure Lou must have been living in New Jersey or working as a merchant marine in 1940. That’ when this coworker offered her help. I sent her a few details about Lou and waited for her to confirm he wasn’t there.
But she didn’t. Instead, she had the nerve to find him for me. And when I looked at his 1940 census record, I realized that Lou, once again, had fallen victim to a census taker who couldn’t spell his name.
I learned a lot from that record – Lou was living as a lodger on West 30th Street, he was still married, although the scratch marks make me wonder how accurate this is. I learned he had three years of high school, was working on the electric railroad, which I assume means streetcars.
But mostly I learned that I should have learned my lesson from 1930. I should have thought to change a few of the vowels in Lou’s last name.
Ask Ancestry Anne: Finding Grandma's Family in Brooklyn
Question: My grandmother, Jenny Golub, came to America in approximately the 1890s from Russia. She settled in Brooklyn, New York. I know she had many relatives but we lost touch with most of them. How can I find them? There are several Golubs throughout America and I wonder if any are related to me. Mother, Selma Golub Briskin, was born 5/8/17, although somehow this was changed to 1924 – I found her original birth certificate. — Robert Briskin, M.D.
Answer: I found Jennie living with her husband Jacob in Brooklyn in 1920. They have two children—Alex, born around 1915 and Selma, born around 1918. Jacob and Jennie are not citizens yet, as their naturalization status is listed as AL (alien). Jacob came into the country in 1908 and Jenny in 1901.
In 1930, they’re living in Brooklyn as well, with Alex, Selma and another Aida who was born in 1923. According to this census they have both been naturalized. Also, it reports that Jacob was 24 when they were married and Jenny was 25. They were married most likely in New York in 1913.
The Italian Genealogy Group has a database of marriage records for the New York City area. A quick search for Jacob Golub turned up a 1912 marriage to Jennie Abramowitz. You’ll want to request the full record to get all the details from the record. Names of witnesses may be helpful in identifying other relatives and it should include her parents’ names. The search page for the groom index provides a link to a printable form to order that record.
Searching 1910 for Jennie Abramowitz shows Jennie is living with father, Abraham, and her mother who is either Gussi or Gusni. Jenny’s working in a clothing factory and Abraham is a dealer in woolen rags. Her arrival date in the U.S. is given as 1902.
Going back to the 1920 census, Jennie states her arrival date is 1901. But in reviewing, there’s something even more revealing. In the same building live Abram and Goldie Abrahowitz. The last name is slightly off and the ages are definitely off from the 1910 entry, but their proximity makes it very interesting.
You’ll need to gather more evidence to definitively link Jennie with Abram and other family members, but fortunately there are a lot of records for this era that can help you link family members together. Here are some suggestions.
Check for passenger arrival records for this time period. Records from the early 1900s will typically state where the immigrant is from, as well as who they’re going to meet—often a family member. I found a Jeina Abrahamowitz, occupation tailor, going to meet her brother Isaac Abrahamowitz at 1229 Myrtle in Brooklyn. Again, you’ll want more evidence to support the theory that this is Jennie, but I would definitely put a pin in it while you look for more records.
Check the collection of U.S. City Directories for Brooklyn directory listings for Abramowitz and variations. Note addresses and occupation. You may be able to find family clusters through shared/nearby addresses and occupation could be a clue to family businesses that also link relatives.
Be a collector of addresses. Assemble addresses from directories, census records, passenger lists and anything else that includes that important piece of information. Plotting addresses on a map you may see groups of Abramowitz family members living in close proximity. Recent immigrants typically settled near other family members and friends from the old country.
Naturalization records could also provide links to other relatives since immigrants often asked other family members to act as witnesses in their petitions.
Ask Ancestry Anne: Search Tip #12 - Location Filters
This is my favorite search filter. Sure it may never have occurred to you to have a favorite, but I find this one incredibly useful.
When you are in search form and you start typing in a location, you will see our type ahead suggest a list of places for you.
Choose from this list. This allows us to quickly identify everything we know about that place. Once you’ve picked the place, you can then click on “Use Default Settings” underneath.
If you choose “Restrict to this place exactly” the place you’ve identified must match exactly. So if you entered, Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA, and checked Restrict to this place exactly, you will not get matches for just Cook County, Illinois, USA.
If you choose County, then you will get matches for both the city and just the county. And if you don’t find your person in those locations, you might try expanding to county/adjacent counties. You don’t need to know what they are or if they crossed state lines, we know, and we will search them.
If you just choose state and have Chicago, Cook, Illinois as your location, we will match those locations that are in Chicago first, but as long as the state is Illinois is in the location, it matches.
Give this one a spin. By adjusting this you can expand and contract your searches easily to locate those elusive records.
Search Tips 1 - 10 Have all been about where to search for information. Let’s change our tactics a little bit and examine ways to improve your searching when you’ve found a place to search.
If you are on Ancestry.com, make use of name filters when you do a search. We have over 10 Billion records and making sure you narrow your search results down to a reasonable amount, is probably a good idea.
First you will need to be on advanced search. (IMHO, you should always use advanced search.) It’s in the upper right corner of the search form.
Underneath the name boxes on the form, you’ll see “Use Default Settings” which loosely translates into anything close or in the case of first names, if everything else matches, this doesn’t have to. If that is what you are after, leave it.
First Name Filters
If you click on link under First & Middle Name(s) you will be presented with a list of options:
You can choose a variety of options here.
Restrict to exact : returns only records with what you’ve typed in. Be sure you are asking for what you want.
Phonetic : if it sounds the same or close, we will return it. Catherine and Katherine.
Similar meanings : William, Will, Bill, Billy and Wm all stand for some sort of William. This matches them all.
Initials : For those pesky records where the record keeper decided an initial was just enough.
Last Name Filters
Last name filters have similar options:
Restrict to exact : returns only records with what you’ve typed in. Be sure you are asking for what you want.
Soundex: This is really in here for historical reasons. It is a algorithm used to compress last names to a series of similar sounds. For more, you can read the Soundex entry on Wikipedia
Phonetic : if it sounds the same or close, we will return it. Smyth and Smith
Ask Ancestry Anne: Search Tip #10 - It's a Big Web Out There
The internet is a big place, and while I firmly believe that Ancestry.com is the best place to start and store your finds, make sure you look everywhere. Here are few suggestions. Feel free to add other ideas as comments.
The OneWorldTree data collection gathers a lot of member trees together and creates an approximation of a master tree. We do not update this anymore, so it is a static data collection, but there are some goodies in there that you may not know about.
Here is what to do.
Start on the OneWorldTree search form. I’m going to search for one of my ancestors: Robert Howard Cash.
Which gives me a bunch of results:
I click through on a likely one, and I come to a summary for that person. But what I’ve looking for can be found in the listing of all the probable trees containing Robert. The link is highlighted by the red arrow.
I click through and I see the listing. The little books, means there are sources attached. The little papers means that there are documents attached. This is where the treasure hunt is revealed. You just never know what someone has attached.
I click through and this time I find something quite useful: Robert Howard Cash’s will which someone has taken the time to transcribe and upload.
Sometimes you come up with nothing. Sometimes you find a lovely little treasure. If you don’t look, you don’t know.
Ancestry.com or Rootsweb message boards can be one of those often forgotten but very useful places to find distant cousins who are searching for the same ancestors you are or those who are knowledgeable about a certain place or time.
You can find the link to our message boards in the header:
From there, you will go to the main dashboard where you can search for specific surname, location or topic:
Let’s say I’m looking for information on my Gillespie relatives. I entered Gillespie into the search box and find:
I can then search within that board by typing in another name and checking the Board only box:
This will then display all the messages with that phrase or name:
And if you don’t find what you are looking for, post a message with as much information as you know in both the surname and the county message board asking for information. Be sure to include Names, Relationships and any dates you might have. You never know who might be reading that will have some information for you.
Don’t let the name fool you, this is ready for prime time. You can read more at our original post on City Directories.
But don’t give up even if you don’t find what you are looking for with a search. Check out browse on the right hand side. Here I’m looking for a City Directory around the 1940 time frame so I can map where my grandparents would have lived:
Look for the state and then the city, and see if we have any years that you might be interested in.
If you mouse over the Search tab in the header, you’ll see a list of options with Card Catalog at the bottom:
On the top left, you’ll find the Title and Keyword(s) search boxes. Typing a word into the Title box searches just the title, which is what you will see in our listings. If you enter a word into the Keyword(s) box, we will search both the Title and the Description. Note: You can use wildcards in your searches. You might try using Passenger* to match both Passenger and Passengers.
Below the search boxes, you’ll see the filters.
You can filter by collection type, location, dates and language and you can use them in any combination.
If you choose North Carolina as a location, we will show you any data collection that includes records for North Carolina. This is different than the listing on the North Carolina Place Page which lists data collections which have data ONLY about North Carolina. A different way to slice and dice.
You can also sort data collections:
The sorts are:
Popularity: How often this collection is used by the Ancestry.com membership
Database Title: Alphabetical listing
Date Updated: the last day we added or changed the data collection
Date Added: the day we added this data collection to the list, most recent first
Record Count: the number of records in the data collection
So if I wanted to know what was most recently added for North Carolina, I would set my location filter to North Carolina and I would set the sort order to Date Added:
And to see the actual dates that data collections were added and updated I need to mouse over the title:
You’ll notice that we’ve broken the data collections up by categories:
This can help you identify if we specific census enumerations specific to that state, and will lay out what Vitals we have. And if you are in the mood to document those military careers you’ll know where to start.
Stories, Memories and Histories may help you discover some colorful tales about what was like in the era your ancestors live.
We didn’t stop at the state level. If you look at the area on the right under the map, you will see the list of counties that we have information on as well.
If I click on Lincoln, I’ll see the 28 collections Ancestry.com has on Lincoln County:
You just never know where your going to find that piece of information that will help you break down the brick wall!
I hope you’ll join me and several of my Ancestry.com colleagues for three days of free online classes.
Wednesday, 23 May 2012, 8 PM ET Ancestry.com Searches: A Behind the Scenes Look John Bacus
(Note: This class was last night but will be archived soon in the Learning Center. John gave a very good presentation on some of the inner workings of Ancestry.com search and some great tips.)
Learn how search at Ancestry.com works AND get an inside view of tricks you’ll need to take full advantage of its power. John Bacus, Ancestry.com Search Product Manager, walks you through the tech side and presents you with plenty of tips, advice and even a few workarounds—all of which will help you make your next search at Ancestry.com more effective, productive, and better than ever.
John is a Principal Product Manager at Ancestry.com, where he is responsible for the core search features of the site, such as search forms and search results. Prior to his time at Ancestry.com, he held search-related product management roles at AltaVista and eBay. John’s interest in genealogy was first piqued with the family history his grandparents put together when he was a child, and has enjoyed validating and building upon the research they did with two curious minds, some spare time, and a motor home.
Thursday, 24 May 2012, 3 PM ET Common Surnames: Finding Your Smith Juliana Smith
Despite his common moniker, your ancestor was unique. Get the tools and tips you need to find your ancestors with common surnames in this free one-hour class with Juliana Smith. In this class you’ll learn how to craft the best search on Ancestry.com, and how to save your findings in a way that makes it easy to pick your family out of the crowd.
Juliana has been working for Ancestry.com for just shy of 14 years and began her family history journey trolling through microfilms at the tender age of 11 with her mother. She is a certificate holder in the Boston University Genealogical Research program, and wrote the “Computers and Technology” chapter of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Her favorite part of family history is discovering the stories in the records of her ancestors.
Thursday, 25 May 2012, 1 PM ET Forward thinking: Tracing the children of your ancestors. And their children… Crista Cowan
Are you stuck in your march back through time identifying ancestors? Turn around. Revitalize your research. Rekindle your desire to continue with some success. Descendancy research utilizes much of the same methodology as ancestral research but can lead to a whole new way of looking at your genealogy. Often it can lead to discovery of cousins who have missing pieces of the puzzle needed to complete your picture of common ancestors.
Crista Cowan has been doing genealogy since she was a child and has been an Ancestry.com employee since 2004. Known as the Barefoot Genealogist, Crista brings her passion for family history into her presentations and provides common sense solutions for the challenges we face in the search for our ancestors.
Ask-Ancestry-Anne: Favorite Search Tip #1 - Shaky Leaves
Search Tip #1: Have Ancestry.com do the work for you
Ancestry.com won’t find everything that’s out there, but if someone can deliver records about ancestors to you, why not take advantage of it? That leaves you more time to understand the record and then find more!
In the header, you’ll see the hint notification leaf:
If you click on it, we will show your most recent hints:
You can determine which trees you see in hint preferences (it’s in the blue area):
In your hint preferences you can determine which trees you want to see hints from as well as if you want to see Member Tree hints:
If you click on the See all at the bottom, this will take you to the all hints page for a specific tree and you can pick and choose what hint you want to start with.
And as usual, you can find your shaky leaves on your tree.
My mother, born outside Boston in 1897 would on occasion refer to her cousin Julia, and what a world traveler she was. Thru Ancestry.com, I have connected to two of my cousins, sisters, who were able to help me fill in the story of our Julia. Using their recollections and Ancestry.com tools, the story of Julia, who never married and never had a child, is none-the-less revealed and woven into our family history.
At age 42, in 1942, Julia was living at home with her parents in a Boston suburb. She was a ‘stenographer’ at a law firm in Boston. Seeing her chance for adventure and service to her country, Julie bravely joined the U.S. Army Women’s Air Corps in 1942. It was not just “Rosie the Riveters” whose lives were so changed by the War. Our Julie shows up at the Yalta Conference in the Crimea in 1945. She is an ‘official recorder,’ putting her stenography skills to good use. Because she must be in close proximity, I’m sure the scent of Winston Churchill’s cigar smoke could be detected on her uniform. I just love this research! Thanks Ancestry.com for developing these wonderful tools that bring our families together and into focus.
Just recently I received my AncestryDNA kit results and I can honestly say I was pretty shocked by them. For the most part, on my father’s side, my family has been in this country since the Mayflower - or came on ships that followed soon after. Others came down through Canada from Nova Scotia. Everything I knew about my Dad’s side of the family brought me back to England and Scotland. My mother’s side is a bit different since the majority of her family only goes back in the United States a few generations. Most of her family came over from Ireland in the 1800s, with the exception of her grandfather who came over from Italy with his family in 1909.
Knowing all of this I asked myself, “How much can the test really tell me?” Through all that I have found on my own, I figured my ethnicity would mainly originate on the British Isles with a small percentage of Italian. That was not the case.
What were my results?
According to my DNA, I am 53% Scandinavian, 37% Southern European, 8% British Isles and there was a small 2% that was marked “Uncertain.” I was confused.
Scandinavian? Where the hell did that come from? What I thought would be my largest ethnic percentage ended up ranking third?
The results made me question what else I could learn about my family through my results and AncestryDNA. To get a better understanding, I took a look at how the test worked.
AncestryDNA uses a new DNA technology called autosomal testing. The main differences between this new technology and previous tests used are that autosomal testing examines a much larger portion of your DNA and it covers both the maternal and paternal sides of your family. Previous tests only cover one or the other and a significantly smaller portion of your DNA. So, with the help of expert population geneticists and molecular biologists, autosomal testing gives us genealogy nuts a bigger and more complete picture of our family in one DNA test.
Not only was I surprised by how convenient and easy it was to take this test, I am now excited by the other features AncestryDNA offers to make further use of my results. With my results, I got a list of matches that show me other AncestryDNA users who I may be related to based on our DNA.
With a subscription to Ancestry.com, you are able to reach out to that match and work together to figure out your common link. To make the search easier, the site even provides you and your match with a list of shared surnames from your trees. I have already reached out to one of my matches and I’m excited to start working with him to learn more about my family! Another feature I love is their interactive map, which pinpoints places of birth for everyone you have entered on your tree. It is pretty fascinating when you can see where all of your known ancestors had to travel from for you to be here. It has also made me more curious to find out the reasons behind their moves.
Now that I have my results, and have gone through all the features and have a better understanding of how the test works, I’ve learned to look at the bigger picture. All this time I had viewed my ethnicity as based strictly off of the countries my family came to the United States from, without putting much thought into where their ancestors originated. Being marked 53% Scandinavian by my DNA, I realize that my family tree will eventually lead me back to Norway, Sweden or Denmark.
Taking the history of those locations into account, this possibly brings my family back to Viking times. Vikings were known as merchants, explorers and feared as violent pillagers by coastal towns. Being well-traveled explorers, their adventures took them to nearby England, Ireland and Scotland as well as several other far off lands to establish villages. Knowing this, I am now able to see how Scandinavian descent may have dominated my results.
I can honestly say I am very happy with my decision to try AncestryDNA and am excited to see where this new information takes me! Not only has it given me some insight to my family’s past it is giving me the ability to reach out to others who may share it. The best part is that over time, my list of matches will only continue to grow as more people take the test. Who knows, after taking the AncestryDNA test you could find yourself trading family notes with a long lost cousin and ghost hunter.
Contributed by Kris Williams, Genealogist & star of SyFy’s Ghost Hunters International