Marriage Records Video and Ancestry Day in Philadelphia, Pa.
Our ancestors got married and we get the gift. Marriage records can include details that can spur our research back in time, but even beyond the names and dates, our ancestors’ weddings marked a big turning point in their lives. I often wonder about their stories. How did they meet? What kind of wedding did they have? Who stood up in their wedding? I know the answers and have some great stories for some of my close ancestors, but for others, their big day remains a mystery—and I love a good mystery.
Ancestry Day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 3 March 2012 In the video, I mentioned Ancestry Day in Philadelphia, where we’ll be teaming up with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania with a full day of workshops to help you jumpstart your family history. You can learn more and register for the conference here.
Marissa Tomei’s journey into the past on last night’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? (Fridays 8/7c on NBC) centered on the untimely death of her great-grandfather. At the start, he was little more than a name in the family tree and the subject of speculation—of the shadiest type. But his reputation got a makeover once Tomei dug into his story.
That’s the wonderful part about going beyond a name on a family tree—digging into the story brings people to life. And adding off-the-beaten-path resources like newspapers, which helped Tomei get the real story of her great-grandfather’s murder and its aftermath, makes the truth that much more vivid.
My first research experience with newspapers was also one of the first real research trips I took with my mother. We went to the Chicago Public Library, where we spent hours scrolling through microfilms of old newspapers, looking for mentions of her client’s ancestors. Although I was supposed to be searching for an obituary, I kept calling my mother over to see my exciting discoveries. Unfortunately they were not about her client; they were just interesting articles from the era we were researching.
I’ve never lost that fascination with old newspapers and still enjoy trolling through the pages of dailies and weeklies from places where my ancestors lived—and pretty much anywhere else.
Historical newspapers offer a firsthand look into the times and places our ancestors inhabited. And that glimpse into bygone eras often provides insights that can’t be found elsewhere. You’ll find the Ancestry.com newspapers collection through the Search tab. Click on it and look for Stories & Publications on the right side. Then use these search tips to find your family in the news.
· Specify “Exact.” Restricting your search to “exact” can help narrow the results. For names, click the Use Default Settings links below the name fields and select the appropriate restrictions. For keywords, click the Exact box following the keyword field.
· To narrow your search to a particular time frame, enter a date in the year field under Publication Info. You can click the Exact Only box, but also allow a little wiggle room by entering +/- 1, 2, 5 or 10 years (e.g., a search for a publication date of 1850 with +/- 10 years will search newspapers for 1840–1860).
· If you want to search for a phrase, put it in quotes. This tells Ancestry.com to look for that exact phrase—for example, “California emigration”—rather than pages that mention California in one article and emigration from Sweden in another.
· Search beyond your ancestor’s stomping grounds. Like they do today, newspapers often picked up stories from places across the country. Try searching the entire collection for a place name (town or county) instead of a person.
Make some time to search or browse newspapers from the era of your ancestors. Bookmark your “favorites,” and when you find a few spare minutes, curl up with the laptop and take a quick trip through the past with some real pages of history. And be sure to add them to your family tree, in case you ever have the needs to unravel a family mystery, too. You’ll find information about doing just that at www.ancestry.com/wdytya. Ancestry.com is a sponsor of the Who Do You Think You Are?.
Don't miss Marisa Tomei on tonight's "Who Do You Think You Are?"
On this week’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? award-winning actress Marisa Tomei searches for the truth behind her great-grandfather’s rumored murder. Learn what she uncovers and how getting a look at the big picture changes an entire generation’s view of one hardworking man in the family tree. Ancestry.com is a sponsor of Who Do You Think You Are?, which airs Friday nights at 8/7c on NBC. And join Ancestry.com throughout the season at www.ancestry.com/wdytya for advice, tips and more to help discover more about your own family’s history.
The year 1865 found many African American Civil War veterans and ex-slaves with a little money in their pockets and there was a need for an institution where they could start a savings account. The Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company (often referred to as the Freedman’s Bank) was incorporated on 03 March 1865 to meet that need. Unfortunately mismanagement and fraud led to the failure of that institution in 1874 wiping out the savings of many African Americans. While some were eventually able to recover about two-thirds of their savings, many never got any of their money back.
The signature registers of the Freedman’s Bank were preserved and eventually wound up in the National Archives, and in 2005, Ancestry.com indexed these records and made the index and images available to members. For purposes of identification, these registers asked personal questions of the account holder and as a result, many contain a goldmine of information regarding family structure. Names of spouses, children, parents, siblings, and even aunts and uncles can be found on the signature registers. Other information may include physical description, place of birth, residences, occupation, employer, and some earlier records will even include the names of former slave owners—a critical piece of information for tracing a slave beyond the Civil War. Here’s a sample record from Louisiana, 1867 (image 3).
Ask Ancestry Anne: Was my ancestor in Andersonville Prison?
Question: My great grandfather served in the Civil War and was a prisoner at Andersonville. However, I am unable to find him when I search the archives using his name and Andersonville. His name was John Aziza Jones born April 22, 1840 died May 10, 1941. Can you help?
Answer: First, I looked for John in the 1930 census – it’s the most recent one available and it lists if a man is a veteran and of which war. I found John living with his son Clifford in Filmore, Allegany County, New York. You don’t see many Civil War Veterans still alive in 1930, so this in itself is a very interesting find.
This same census record shows that John is widowed and was first married at the age of 22, so around 1862. It also indicates he was born in New York as were his parents and that he lives with his son, who rents a house for $15 per month, owns a radio set and works as a bookkeeper in a produce company. Any of this detail could come in handy later.
But since it’s John’s time in Andersonville that I’m interested in, I go to the New York state place page to see what is available in the New York Military records.
I first search U.S., Union Soldiers Compiled Service Records, 1861-1865 and discover way too many John Jones to make any sense of. I move on to New York, Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts, 1861-1900. The first record is for John A. Jones born in 1840 in Allegany, New York. It all looks very promising.
Based on the middle name, I believe this is the right John Jones. And the remarks on this card are great:
Promoted to Srg’t Jan 17 1863 – missing in action since April 20, 1864 at battle of Plymouth N. C. paroled prisoner confined at Andersonville GA
I would suspect that he was captured in April 1864 in Plymouth, North Carolina, and released sometime before 13 June 1865 when he left the organization. And it appears that he was in Andersonville near the end of the war.
I found his pension card, in our Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861 – 1934.
We wanted to know who had been putting flowers on my husband’s granduncle’s grave. We first tried to contact the person by putting a note on some silk flowers and leaving it at the gravesite, but we received no response. On Memorial Day we decided we would wait at the grave to see if the person would arrive. Then we discovered we were too late – she had already been there and gone.
We made some inquiries at the nursing home in town, asking the head nurse if there was anyone who was living there who had lived in the town around the time of the granduncle’s death. Sure enough, we were led to a woman who remembered the family. Her daughter, in fact, was a friend of the daughter of the deceased.
We went directly to the town where the deceased man’s daughter lived, some 40-50 miles from the cemetery, and found her. It turned out that she was the one who had been putting flowers on the grave every year.
For several years after that, we would go to visit the daughter, pick her up and take her to the cemetery. My husband planted the flowers for her and we did the same for a great-grandfather’s grave, which was also in that same cemetery.
What delightful memories we have of those trips. And it’s thrilling to think that a tip from a nursing home led us to a relative we never knew existed before.
Twists of fate in the family tree on Who Do You Think You Are?
When you start down a road in your family’s history, you never know whose paths may have crossed in the past. Actor Martin Sheen found that out on the first episode of this season of Who Do You Think You Are?. In a mind-bending twist of fate, he learned that a great-great-great-great-grandfather on his grandmother’s side and a great-great-great-great-grandmother on his grandfather’s side had a surprising and unpleasant association 150 years before his grandparents married and connected these two branches into one family. (BTW, you can catch the episode online at www.nbc.com.)
As interesting as it was, if you think about it, it’s shouldn’t be too surprising that branches of your family tree occasionally cross before they connect. In my own files, I have a newspaper clipping about the wedding of a Brooklyn, New York, politician’s daughter. The clipping not only describes the wedding in great detail but also lists all of the guests—and this was no small affair. The guest list was rife with politicians, including ex-president Grover Cleveland and his wife, the governor, a senator, and several congressmen. The father of the bride was no slouch either; he was well-known in political circles as the “Boss” of Brooklyn.
Two of my relatives were also there, and some thirty years later, their grandchildren would marry. While it’s no bombshell like the one dropped on Martin Sheen, it’s a good reminder that your ancestors were part of a community in which their lives intertwined. My two relatives at that wedding were both on the police force, one the ex-commissioner, and the other a patrolman who had worked his way up to become a captain. So they may easily have known each other through their work and shared some mutual friends.
Learning about the people your ancestor interacted with can really bring your family history to life. Start a list of your ancestor’s associates—people whose names appear as sponsors, in-laws, witnesses, business partners, members of a religious community, or even just neighbors. Then hop on Ancestry.com and see what you can turn up on them. Check census records, directories, and historical newspapers for mentions.
As you learn more about them, you’ll get to know your ancestor’s community. If that’s not enough inspiration, keep in mind that immigrants and families often traveled and settled with people they knew. Tracing the origins of your ancestor’s friends and neighbors may lead you to your own ancestor’s roots.
And of course, don’t overlook a direct ancestor’s siblings. Martin Sheen uncovered two compelling stories about two different uncles who shared some of the same political passion. You never know what stories are waiting just off your direct line.
So, now you’ve heard my story. What’s yours? Have you found a connection in your family tree that had you raising an eyebrow or shouting for someone to come take a look at this? Or maybe an inspiring story about your ancestor’s sibling? Please share it in the comments, or email it to me at email@example.com.
Sometimes you find a historical record that just leaves you speechless. Ed Cardinal shared a link with me this week that took me to one such record. It’s posted on a website called Letters of Note: Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience. The document is a letter written by a former slave to his master in response to a request from said master to return to work for him. As we mark the start of Black History Month, this find is particularly timely and I’m going to let it speak for itself. You really want to read this entire letter. And thanks to Ed for sharing it with us! Click here to read “To My Old Master” on Letters of Note.
I finally decided to get busy and put some family pictures into my tree on Ancestry.com. I found a box shoved way back on a shelf that was labeled as pictures from my mother’s side. It turned out to be a treasure trove, because my mother and her mother had taken the time to write on each and every one of them who was who. I was finally able to piece together how certain people we had visited when I was a little girl, were related to me. In addition, I found a link to a side of the family that has been hard to fill in. I found one photo of a young man, obviously it was his high school graduation picture. On the back side was written the information that filled in many of the blanks regarding this side of the family, describing who he was, and who his grandmother was. Doing the arithmetic showed that this young man had to have been born in 1912 in Cleveland, so I searched the census records and sure enough, there he was along with many of the people I had been searching for. I had no idea we had ancestors from Cleveland. My grandmother is long deceased, and my mother is not doing well. So I am very grateful for the time they took to write information on those photos, and for the resources available from Ancestry.com that allowed me to update that side of my family tree.
Although I have used Ancestry.com for my family research, my most recent usage has been in conjunction with a local history research project. In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia from 1850-1858 nearly 2000 Irish immigrants workers and families labored to complete the Blue Ridge Railroad over the mountains. A small local group has been working for several years to document these Irish immigrants and tell their stories. Ancestry.com has proved to be invaluable in the search. We find the Irish in the 1850 census in Albemarle County, Va., but by 1860 they have almost all disappeared. By following the railroad and the census, we have found that many moved with the railroad work. Most of our stories stop there. The research group, Clann Mhor, is very interested in hearing from any family members who might have had Irish relatives who worked on the Blue Ridge Railroad or the Virginia Central Railroad from 1850-1858. For more information on our research and to contact us, please go to www.clannmhor.org.
Ancestry.com has spent the past fifteen years developing search technology that can help you find your ancestors in its vast collections. Here are five tips that will help you make the most of that technology.
1. Start with Three When you’re searching on Ancestry.com, there are two search form options—basic and advanced. You can toggle between the two by clicking Show Advanced and Hide Advanced in the upper right corner of the search box. (Don’t be afraid of Advanced even if you’re new to family history; it just means more options and that’s a good thing.) You’ll notice on the basic search form, the top fields are bolded—the fields for names, a place your ancestor lived, and an estimated birth year. We’ve found that these three pieces of information typically bring the most success when you’re getting started on a search. Regardless of what form you use, start with those three pieces of information. If you find you’re getting too many hits with those three things, add a piece of information to help whittle it down—for example, a birthplace. When you’re choosing what details to add, think about what details you know about your ancestor that are most likely to show up in records (and be indexed). Rotate various pieces of information in and out until you hit on a good combination.
2. Create a Profile Once you’ve located a record (or records!) for your ancestor, print it out and start gathering clues. The details you find in each record, can help you to formulate new searches, and will also help you to identify him or her in other records. Use a word processor or a pad of paper to create a profile that includes pieces of information like the following:
Names of family members (parents, siblings, spouse, and children)
Birth date and place (even an estimated date can help)
Parents’ birthplaces (listed in census records 1880-1930
Immigration date (check the 1900-1930 censuses for this detail)
Known residences (look at the headings of censuses, and beginning in 1880, look for street addresses)
Related surnames (e.g., in-laws, neighbors, business associates, sponsors and witnesses at religious events, etc.)
Death date and place
Don’t worry if you don’t have all of them right away. In short, any little detail, you can find about your ancestor can be added to his or her profile. As you gather more details and target your searches based on what you learn, you’ll see that profile growing, and you’ll have a much better understanding of that person and that part of your family story.
3. Use Name Filters Names can be a stumbling point, but the search technology used by Ancestry.com can help. Because we know our ancestor’s names aren’t always spelled the way we expect them to be in records, Ancestry.com employs search technology to not only search for exact matches, but also similar names. You can adjust those settings when you use the Advanced search form by clicking on the link below the name fields that says, Use default settings. The default setting is to include several variant possibilities, but you can manually adjust them to shake up the results you’re seeing.
4. Wildcards If you know your ancestor’s name was spelled in several different ways, you might want to try wildcards to help cover all the variants. Here are the rules for wildcards on Ancestry.com
An asterisk (*) matches zero or more characters.
A question mark (?) matches one character (but there has to be one character there).
The first OR last letter of the name can be a wildcard, but not both.
Names must contain at least three non-wildcard characters.
So, for example, John* would pick up John, Johns, or Johnson. Sm?th would return results for Smith or Smyth. Ann? would find Anne or Anna, but not Ann. Make a list of all the variants you know of for your ancestor’s name and create a list of wildcard solutions that will cover those variants.
5. Get Closer When you’re searching from the main search form on the home page or through the form on the Search tab, you’re searching through 8 billion records in more than 30,000 collections. There are census records, vital records (birth, marriage and deaths), immigration records, military collections, and so much more. Because these records come in so many different shapes and sizes, sometimes it’s helpful to get closer to the collections you think your ancestor may be found in and search it directly.
Look at the profile you created for your ancestor and look at what details you’re missing. Think about what types of records might include that information. Then check and see what resources Ancestry.com has that might help. A great way to canvass the collections available for the location your ancestor lived is through our Place Pages. To access a Place Page, click on the Search tab and scroll down to the map in the lower left corner of the page. Select a state from the map (or some other area of the world from the tabs above the map), and you’ll be taken to a page that summarized the collections that are available for that place.
Another great place to locate collections of interest is the Card Catalog. Similar to a card catalog you’d find in a library, you will be searching for collections rather than people. You can search the catalog by title or keyword. Searching by title will only search for your term(s) in the title of the database, whereas searching by keyword will also search for your term(s) in the extended description of that database, so a that search would typically bring back more results.
Another way to explore the Card Catalog is to use the filters below the search field. You can apply filters for a geographic location, and then perhaps narrow your search by selecting a particular collection (e.g., Immigration and Emigration; Birth, Marriages & Deaths; Stories, Memories & Histories; etc.). Date filters let you specify a particular decade or century so you’re not looking for your twentieth century ancestor in colonial records.
Have Fun! There are many ways to approach a search for your ancestor. Experiment and have fun with it. You never know what you’ll find until you start searching.
A number of years ago, I was working on my husband’s family, made more difficult by the fact that his grandfather had been married three times, and had children with each wife. My husband’s father’s oldest half-brother had been born in 1888 in Illinois but moved to Valentine, Nebraska, where he died in 1937. The family had long ago lost contact with him or his family.
I had no idea whether he had any living descendants or not, so I found the address for the Valentine newspaper online, and sent a letter to the editor. I explained that I was trying to find relatives of this person, who had once owned an auto dealership there. The very afternoon that the paper came out, I had a phone call from a great-granddaughter of the person I was researching. She told me of all the relatives, and from then on I had constant contact with them. I still maintain contact with one of them.
In addition to that, a couple of weeks after my letter appeared in the Valentine paper, I had a letter from a man living in Amarillo, Texas. He still took his hometown paper, and had seen my letter. He had grown up in Valentine, and told me of going to the auto dealership with his father, as a small boy, and things he remembered about this long lost relative.
So sometimes something as simple as a letter to the editor can bring about dramatic results.
My Mom always got excited every time I found a new relative or ancestor, so I decided to display the family tree at her funeral wake last summer, soon after she turned 90. The night before the wake I printed an all-in-one tree, which was at least 12 feet long. It took a few hours to tape 50+ the pages together so it was logical and readable. It was displayed on two long tables at the funeral home, and soon I noticed relatives looking for their names. I always try to include at least two or three generations of spouses and in-laws, and it was fun to see them find their names too. I even included a boyfriend and a girlfriend of two of our kids, and will connect them to the tree at two weddings this year.
Relatives started writing on the tree, adding more information about spouses, and making spelling and other corrections. The wife of one cousin made a BIG correction. She told me the story of how her dad found out in his 60s or 70s that the man he thought was his father, and who died before he was born, was not his biological father. When he applied for a passport they couldn’t find his birth certificate. His older siblings finally gave him the name of his birth father, who had never married his mother. The birth father’s name was on the certificate, along with her Dad’s real surname. Her dad was so angry that he broke all contact with his half-siblings. No this cousin’s wife is trying to make contact with her first cousins not seen for years.
I’m hoping our kids will agree to let me display the tree at their weddings this year.
This past holiday weekend, I went to Charleston, South Carolina to visit with some family. Charleston is an amazing city, almost a living museum. The preservation laws do not allow for buildings to be torn down, so the city has a lot of history everywhere you turn.
I took a tour and my guide was a very charming native of South Carolina, named Randy Lee Hill. He was quite knowledgeable and entertaining; one of our stops was St. Philips Episcopal church. The church was first built in 1680, and is the burial site of Charles Pinckney, who was one of the signers of the Constitution and Edward Rutledge, who signed the Declaration of Independence.
Also buried there, in the West Church yard across the street from the church, is John C Calhoun, a much revered statesman of South Carolina. During the Civil War his body was moved to the East Church Yard near the chapel because it was feared that Federal troops might desecrate it. Federal troops never did, and John C. Calhoun was returned to the West Church yard sometime later.
But why was he originally buried in the West Church yard and not church side? Because he was not a native born Charlestonian. Only native born Charlestonians were buried church side. Not even John C Calhoun who was much admired by South Carolinians was buried there.
So what does that mean from a genealogy point of view? If you know which side of the cemetery your ancestor was buried, you’d know if they were born in Charleston. Which of course, is valuable information. Knowing your history is not only interesting, it can answer a few genealogical questions at the same time!
Ask Ancestry Anne: A few genealogy resolutions for 2012
OK, it’s the middle of January, and I’ve pretty much blown all of my personal New Year’s resolutions. It never takes long with me!
So I’ll make some new ones for my genealogy research and see if I can be more successful there. And I shall be most interested to hear what your genealogy resolutions are as well.
Resolution #1: Try new ways of searching. It is so easy to get into a rut. Maybe you always start your searches from trees. Or from data collection pages. But if you do the same thing all the time, you might be missing something. When you are searching for something on a specific ancestor, you might want to start from:
Search Records from a tree page; this gathers everything you know about the person and searches with that information
Search from the home page or search page; try a minimal search with just names, birth year and birth location
Try searching with all of the exact filters set
Experiment with name filters and find which ones you feel most comfortable starting with
Start on Group page such as census or military. You will find them under the drop down for Search
Start on a data collection page and do a surname search.
Check the Card Catalog, set the sort order to Date Updated or Date Added and see what might be new and interesting
Make sure you check the place pages for the state you are researching (see the map at the bottom of the search page) and see what Ancestry.com has available.
Do a google search. Type first name, surname, state and the word genealogy into the search box and see what happens. Maybe nothing, but what if you do find something?
Start with Ancestry.com, we do have the largest collection of genealogy records and trees, but there are other sites. Make sure you exhaust every possibility.
Resolution #2: Aggressively pursue new theories and hunches. When I am not sure something is right, say someone’s parents, I have started creating a new tree, set it to private, and start testing my theory. Can I find records and possibly other trees to support my idea? And if it works, I sync the tree down to Family Tree Maker 2012 and then merge into my main tree. That way I don’t enter suspect information into my main tree until I feel good about.
Resolution #3: Communicate more. If you don’t ask, you won’t know. Places to look for those distant cousins:
Your message box on Ancestry.com. Somebody may already be trying to talk to you.
Look for other people who have your family lines in their trees and send them a message. Maybe if you pool your information you will find the right answer.
Add updates and corrections to transcriptions on records. Maybe somebody will see that you know something and reach out to you. And if someone has already done it, send them a note.
Check the message boards, both for locality and surname. And if you don’t find anything, post what you are looking for. Make sure you include everything you know.
Search for web pages about counties and surnames that you are researching and see if there is a comments section, or send an email to the owner of the site.
Resolution #4: Educate yourself. There are a lot of resources available on our site as well as other places that will help you know more about how to find your ancestors. There are many conferences and genealogical societies that can also help you learn more.
Check out Ancestry.com’s learning center and see if there is anything about what you are currently researching.
Check out Ancestry.com’s wiki and learn about the state and counties you are researching.
Watch a facebook presentation from Ancestry.com (subscribe to our facebook page) or check them out on our livestream page. Fifteen minutes spent with an expert may give you new ideas on how to research your Native American ancestor’s or get more out of the 1840 census.
Attend a conference. Rootstech (Salt Lake City), NGS (Cincinatti), FGS (Birmingham) and SoCal (Burbank) are the biggies, but there lots of smaller ones that might be closer. Hearing someone talk about a subject, might give you a new idea on what to try. And we will be livestreaming classes from the major conferences, so you don’t even have to leave home.
Read a book. You might be amazed at how many genealogy books your local library has or google books. And they don’t cost anything.
Read blogs. Lots of people write out this hobby of ours. Geneabloggers is a good resource to jfind blogs.
Looking over my list, I think I might do a better job of keeping this resolutions. J
Let me know what your resolutions are, I’m always looking for new ways to get better at this.
The year was 1871 and as the year opened in Europe, the city of Paris was under siege and defeat was approaching for the French in the Franco-Prussian War. The siege ended January 28, ten days after the formation of the German Empire, with the King of Prussia becoming the first German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm I. The German government later that year became embroiled in a conflict with the Roman Catholic Church in what was known as Kulturkampf.
In the United States, U.S. Grant was President, and was in fact re-elected in November. In April, he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1871, also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act. Formed in 1866, in the wake of the Civil War, the Klan had been terrorizing African Americans, carpetbaggers (Northerners who went south during Reconstruction, typically for personal gain), and scalawags (Southerners who supported Reconstruction efforts). The legislation did not expand on civil rights, but rather allowed the government more power to act against these types of terrorist organizations (More information on this and other “Enforcement Acts” can be found at PBS.org.)
In New York City, the reign of William Marcy Tweed was ending as the "Boss" of New York’s Tammany Hall political machine. As Commissioner of Public Works for the city, he and his cronies fleeced the city and controlled city contracts. Exposed by the newspapers, and targeted by Thomas Nast, Tweed was arrested in New York on October 27.
Following a Midwest summer drought and a September in which less than an inch of rain fell, dry southwest winds blew into Chicago with temperatures for the first week in October ranging for the most part in the 70s and 80s. These dry conditions made the city of Chicago, a city built largely of wood, ripe for disaster. The first week had already seen many serious fires, and on Sunday, October 8, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 began in the barn behind Patrick O’Leary’s home at 137 (now 558 West) De Koven Street. The fire burned an area four and three-quarter miles long and around a mile wide, including the city’s central business district and nearly 100,000 people were left homeless.
The Chicago fire was actually one of four fires that were sparked that night near Lake Michigan. Fires in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, and Holland and Manistee, Michigan also flared and spread quickly due to high winds. It is estimated that the Peshtigo fire killed as many as 2,500 people ranking it as the deadliest fire in U.S. history.
Ask Ancestry Anne: Is my great grandfather a Native American?
Question: I was told that my great grandfather was part native american. I don’t know what my great grand father’s name is or if this is true. He lived in Palestine, Tx.
Answer: Start with what you know, and work your way back. Is this your maternal or paternal great grandfather? Start researching his child and try and find who the man was. Gather every bit of information you can on your grandparent and his/her brothers and sisters. You never know which one may have a document that will lead you to the answer.
Also, Crista Cowan, aka The Barefoot Genealogist, has done a great facebook talk on researching your Native American history. Once you know your great grandfather’s name and a few more details, she has some great pointers for you to follow.
Ask Ancestry Anne: What do I do with conflicting dates?
Question: I’d like any advice you can give on criteria to consider which source citation to accept when several offer conflicting facts. It’s a general question, but my specific example is my gr-gr grandfather John Thomas. Here is what I have to select from as his birth year. None of these sources state a specific date, all are calculated from another event (e.g., death or census date).
County death record: 1828
1870 and 1875 census: 1815
1880 census: 1824
1885 census: 1821
1895 census: 1823
After using 1815 for years, I have recently changed and set the gravestone date as the preferred date and labeling the rest as alternate dates, but I’m starting to question that.
Any advice is appreciated.
Answer: To start with you may never know. His birth date seems to be all over the place in these documents. In some he and his wife Honora are the same age, sometimes John is older and sometimes John is older.
With a census, you never know who reported the information. It could be a neighbor, or a child who just was guessing or it may be the person in question. But maybe it was to their advantage to be older or younger at the time due to a pension or some other reason.
I saw the entry in the Drouin records but, there is no age listed. So no help that I could figure out there.
The tombstone implies 1820. The last Minnesota census, implies that he was born in 1823 and that he was 72 in 1895. On his tombstone it says he was 76 in 1896. I suspect two different people gave that information.
Other places to look:
Immigration records. He appears he immigrated from Ireland to Canada to the US. Maybe you can find something there.
Actual marriage record. Maybe his age is listed there.
Look carefully at his children’s ages. Do they vary from census to census? Is there one that looks like somebody got the ages right? Maybe that is his correct age.
Because of the wide variation, I’m not sure you are ever going to feel 100% confident unless you can find a birth record, which may be a challenge in Ireland.
I don’t think it is a bad thing to go with the tombstone as your default. You would assume that whoever had that inscribed wanted it to be correct.
A distant cousin connected with me because of a query I posted on a message board. He had several pictures that he emailed to me, one of which was of my great-grandmother’s wedding picture with her second husband. He has the original pictures and he scanned them with the original cardboard frame.
I am so grateful that he did not crop out the frame, because on the corner of the frame in faded lettering was the name and the city of the studio where the picture was taken. I called him to thank him for the pictures and I asked him where the marriage took place. He did not know but thought it was probably in Wisconsin or Minnesota because they were both from Minnesota and they had ties to Wisconsin. I had always thought the same thing.
As we were talking I looked closer at the scanned picture and saw the studio information which listed its location as Spokane. We talked about that clue and as I was talking I went to the Washington State Digital Archives website and it took me less than three minutes to find the image of the marriage record. Neither of us had thought to look in Washington State. The marriage record listed the bride under her previously married name and it listed the parents of both the bride and groom, the place of birth of the bride and groom and each of the parents. It also gave the middle names of both the bride and groom. (I had not known her middle name before.) Given the location for the wedding, I was able to use Google Maps to see a picture of the Lutheran Church where they married and the parsonage where the minister lived.
Moral of the story, don’t crop out the clues in your pictures or on their frames.
Along with Crista Cowan, you know her as the Barefoot Genealogist, I will be teaching a class 5 new Things to Try at Ancestry.com on Feb 3rd at 1:45 in room 155.
You might think about attending What does it take to get a good result? The inner-workings of the Ancestry.com search engine which will be taught by John Bacus at 3pm on February 3rd at 3:00 in room 255F.
These will also be livestreamed if you can’t be at the conference, stay tuned for details.
We will also be do short demos with question and answer sessions in our booth. Check the booth to get times and subjects. I will be working the booth at least half the day on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.
Ask Ancestry Anne: Children mysteriously appearing
Question: While researching my family at the turn of the century, I’ve come across an interesting discrepancy. I’ve found my great-great-grandparents in both the 1900 and 1910 censuses, but the 1910 census includes three teenage sons who were not included on the 1900 census. I can think of several theories as to why this might be—they might be orphaned nephews taken in by their aunt and uncle, for example, or the young boys were living with a nearby relative in 1900 for some reason—but I’m at a loss as to how to begin working through this problem. How should I approach this mystery?
Answer: I’ve run across a few census records like this, and they do present some interesting problems, don’t they?
Does the 1910 record list them as “sons” or is it some other relationship?
Here are some ideas for what to do next:
In the 1910 census, in columns 10 and 11, it lists the number of children the woman in the household has had and how many are living. Does it add up to include these children?
The 1900 census lists the same thing in columns 11 and 12. Do these numbers match what they should in 1910? Do the numbers match the 1910?
Can you find birth, marriage or death records for these new children? Some vital records will list the parents. However, remember the further away a record is from the actual event, the less accurate the information may be.
Check the brothers and sisters of the parents in this family; specifically in 1900 census. Do you see names that might match these children? Did the brother/sister die in the period between 1900/1910. If you get desperate, you might try cousins as well. Neighbors in 1900 might be another way to go.
Are there adoption records for that area in that time period?
Try searching the 1900 census in that specific town or county with the age of the child and just the first name entered. Do you find anyone that might be the right person? (It’s a long shot.)
Look at the WWII draft registration cards; they might mention a parent.
Search for obituaries and or wills for the parents. Are the children listed? Maybe their status is referenced.
Are any of these children living with these parents in the 1920 census? What is the relationship to the head of the household?
This is a tough one; but somewhere the answer is out there.
Ask Ancestry Anne: How do I know what records I can find for my ancestor?
Question: How do I know what records I can find for my ancestor?
Answer: When searching for information on your ancestors in the US, it is important to remember that each state recorded information differently, and the way they record information and what they recorded tended to change over time.
The first page gives you a brief history of the state.
On the right hand side, you’ll see a list of pages specific to different types of records:
One of the most common questions I get is, “Why can’t I find a birth record, or marriage record for my ancestor?” Well, it may not exist. Make sure you check out the Vital Records to see when certain events wererecorded.
If you look at the Kentucky Vital Records page, you’ll discover that vitals were sporadically recorded over time. So if you can’t find that birth record that should exist for your ancestor in 1881, it maybe because it wasn’t recorded.
The list on the right hand side, gives you a good overview of other types of records you may want to find.
Sometimes we forget to go beyond the census and vital records. Land, Probate, and Court records can have a wealth of details about dates as well as interesting information about what our ancestor’s were upto.
Question: What does the letters WFT mean, I see them next to death dates on ancestry public family trees.
Answer: I admit it, I had to do a little looking to find this one. World Family Tree was a product created by Broderbund and sold on CD’s which had family trees on it. They would estimate dates for vital events and mark them as WFT est.
Question: I have found my husband’s great-great-grandfather in the 1850, 1860 and 1870 censuses in Virginia. But because the 1840 census only lists head of household – and because I don’t know his father’s name – I am stuck. My great-great-great-grandfather is George Johnston; he was born July 13, 1805 in Prince William County, Virginia. He died on March 8, 1874 in Page County, Virginia. So far I haven’t been able to find a marriage record that would give parents’ names. What should my next step be?
— Anna Marie Johnston
Answer: I think I found your George Johnston in the 1850 census, in Shenandoah, Virginia. (If this isn’t your George, he’ll work as our example. J)
You’ll notice that there are two children, a 16-year-old and a 19-year old, listed living in the household. I would guess that George and Sarah may have been married around 1830, so George is probably in the 1840 census as well, although finding him may be a little tricky if he’s not the head of his household.
You’re right – finding a marriage certificate could help quite a bit. And it’s possible that you will be able to find one; however in the time period you are probably looking at, parents were not often included unless the people getting married were not of age. But if you can’t you may want to try to locate a death certificate instead. Ancestry.com has a great collection of these for Virginia.
Other routes you may want to pursue include:
Locate a Sons of the American Revolution membership packet for a family member of George or Sarah. George may not be related to a revolutionary war soldier but it is always worth a try. And it is a goldmine if you find the right one.
2. Focus on the children. It’s easier to find info the closer it is to present day. Take George and Sarah’s 1850 census and follow their children forward, locating marriage and death certificates for them, too. Any of these may hold clues that will help you find George’s marriage certificate or another useful document.
Search for Sarah. Finding her death certificate may give you her maiden name. Use this info to locate her parents in earlier censuses, before she was marriage to George. You may find that a family with her maiden name lived very close to a family of Johnstons that match the specs of George’s family (see more about this below).
Note that if you do find a marriage certificate for George and Sarah, it may lead you to the earliest census record you’ll find him listed in by name. If, however, he was married in 1830 AFTER the census was taken, you may still be searching for him and for Sarah using their parents’ name instead.
Regardless, the marriage certificate should include the name of a county – use that in the 1830 or 1820 census to search for all Johnstons (and Johnsons since I imagine the name is recorded both ways) in that county. Identify all the matching households that have a male child in 1820 that might have been born around 1805. The 1820 census has a column for males between 10 and 15, and one for males between 16 and 18. Do the same with Sarah’s maiden name, if provided, and see if you can create a match.
With the holidays in full swing, and Christmas only a day away, I’m sure everyone is preparing their home for a festive holiday, or possibly traveling to spend time with friends and family afar. Either way, the holidays are a time when we think of family, how important they are in our to us, and cherish the time we get to spend with everyone.
At Ancestry.com, we want to wish you and your family a Happy Holidays, and want to let you know that in 2012, we have some really exciting releases coming, including the countdown to the 1940 U.S. Federal Census. Both the images and indexes to the 1940 U.S. Federal Census will be made free to search, browse, and explore in the United States when this important collection commences streaming onto the website in mid-April 2012.
When complete, more than 3.8 million original document images containing 130 million plus records will be available to search by more than 45 fields, including name, gender, race, street address, county and state. It will be Ancestry.com’s most comprehensively indexed set of historical records to date.
Ancestry.com is committing to make the 1940 Census free from release through to the end of 2013, and by doing so hopes to help more people get started exploring their family history. As this census will be the most recent to be made publicly available, it represents the best chance for those new to family history to make that all-important first discovery.
And we also know that you might have some last minute shopping that needs to get done, and we want to help you give the gift of family this year. You don’t have to be the jolly guy in red to be a master gift giver. Just get someone special an Ancestry.com Gift Membership, and you’ll give them something truly magical – a way to discover their family story. They’re easy to give and easy to use. The lucky person who receives a Gift Membership can do all this and more.
Start a family tree with a few facts and grow it with help from Ancestry.com Hints.
Find answers in billions of historical records from the U.S. or the world.
Easily add new discoveries to a family tree and share them online.
Discover even more in millions of member-submitted family trees, stories and photos.
Get your gift-giving started and click here to send your gift membership. And remember, everyone has a family. Even Santa. Watch our recent interview with Santa to learn more:
I had searched the UK records, without success, for the marriage of my great grandfather Samuel Drew to Jane Harris. My father, uncle, aunt could throw no light on the matter. Great grandfather’s stepmother had written in the family “register” that “Samuel Drew left for a ferran land 7th April 1867”. The ship leaving that day for America was the North American, and on the passenger list were “Samuel Drew, 22, Miner” and “Jane Drew, 21, Spinster”. Why did she travel as a spinster if she was already married? Aha! She wasn’t. Eventually, Ancestry made the Maine marriage records available for viewing, and there they were. Married 26 June 1867 by a Justice of the Peace (JM Heath) in Portland, Maine.
So, they had eloped and traveled to the New World as brother and sister, a fact hidden from their descendants until just recently.
— story submitted by Ancestry member Geoff Drew. By the way, Geoff would love to find the couple leaving America for England (with 5 children) in 1885. Post a comment through the link above if you happen to discover it!
I thought you might like to know of my ‘discovery’ of a ‘missing’ brother (James Babington) of my Irish great grandfather George Babington (1826-1901) thanks to this James Babington’s dealings with the Victoria, Australia bush-ranger Ned Kelly. The story in my Babington family is that my great grandfather George and a brother named James had planned to go to Australia in about the mid 19th century. The lads mother, a Mary Levens in family lore, was not happy with the prospect of ‘losing’ two sons so George stayed in Ireland (in 1885 George and his family went to Canada) and James went to Australia. No one in the current family knew what had happened to this James Babington, let alone if he had made it to Australia. A few years ago I posted an inquiry to the Australia General message board at Ancestry about this ‘missing’ James Babington, never expecting to receive a reply. About a year after posting my inquiry concerning James Babington I received a reply that helped me ‘find’ the missing James Babington. The person who responded asked if I was aware of a Victoria, Australia Police Sergeant James Babington included in a book entitled “The Ned Kelly Encyclopaedia”. When my correspondent at Ancestry said this book included the following I knew I had found the ‘missing’ James Babington: “BABINGTON, JAMES 1832/3/3-1881 … James Babington was born in County Monaghan, the son of John Babington and Mary (nee Levens).”. The reason why this James Babington is included in this book on Ned Kelly is because the only existing letter in Ned Kelly’s own hand is 28 July 1870 letter to Victoria Police Sergeant James Babington. Thanks to my post at Ancestry concerning James Babington I have discovered more about what happened to James Babington, his wife, and children in Australia. It turns out James Babington was no doubt lost to the current generation of my family in Ireland, Canada, and in the USA because none of James Babington’s children in Australia married or had children. I have published an account of my finding the ‘missing’ James Babington in Australia in an issue of the magazine IRISH ROOTS about three years ago.
I’ve being searching for my ancestors now for 31 years, and with the help of Ancestry. the past 4-5 years. A cousin in Moline IL found me searching the family in the US and Can. She never knew what she was in for. Here in Belgium most people get back in history to Napoleon years, then it stops. Well I did got a little bit further. My root father and here mothers line of the family,was married in 1625 In Bruges, Belgium
Adrianus Fools X Anna De Pape he was 30 years old. so that puts him born in 1595. Now if that was not enough she asked on here fathers side to have a look over here in Belgium, because that whas where he came from. She had a Frank Goossens, and no community here could find him.. He was born Franciscus.. so the story continued. And a friend found his three also back to the 1600… That is what Ancestry could do for people searching people…
Thanks Toby for the 2012 version and all the US updates. Werner Vols
Someone posted my great grandfather’s death certificate on ancestry.com a couple of months ago. I have been to Arkansas and Baton Rouge trying to find information on him after he divorced my great grandmother in 1904. Still not sure if he had other descendents but this is great info!
I never knew exactly when my paternal grandparents were married. All I had ever seen was 1906 in San Francisco, CA. I knew that my dad had been born 7/15/1907 in San Francisco, CA, but never had a birth certificate for him.
Last year my sons got my husband and I round trip tickets and a weeks accomodations in San Francisco for my 65th birthday. We went this past April and I started searching for any information I could find. First I went in search of my dad’s birth certificate, but I had no luck. I wasn’t too surprised because during that time many children were born at home and not in a hospital and frequently the births were not recorded. I had that happen on my mom, so I didn’t think too much of it when I didn’t find dads. Next I started looking for a marriage license for my grandparents. I searched in 1906 and found nothing, so I looked for brides since my maiden name starts with an M and that is the most common start for a last name. Lo and behold, I found it, but not in 1906 as I thought. They were married on my birthday (June 13th), but in 1907, not 1906. I guess that is why my grandmother would never say exactly when they were married. It was not in either her or his obituary. I’m sure she must have taken a lot of grief over that as it was not very common in those days. I wonder what she must have thought when I was born all those years later on the date of her wedding, but she couldn’t say a word.
I look forward to seeing her again one day and tell her I know the truth, but perhaps she already knows.