“My life not availeth me in comparison to the liberty of the truth”
When I was 11 years old and in the 4th grade, I had a teacher who was obsessed with genealogy. She would regularly come in and tell my class about the new things she had found through her research. Eventually, as a graded project, she had us go home and start our own family tree. She gave us some pointers on how to get started and gave us two weeks to see what we could find. I still wonder if she had any idea the monster she created when she gave me that assignment.
Being as young as I was, I couldn’t drive to town halls and the internet wasn’t around like it is today. So, most of my research was done through phone calls and visits with my grandparents. During those conversations and visits, I learned about my great grandfather who was born in Italy and another who was born in Nova Scotia. I also learned that I came from a line of strong willed women. One of which, who’s story was so interesting, caught the attention of this history loving nerd and is responsible for my obsession with genealogy.
Mary Dyer was one of several women my grandmother (my Dad’s mother) had told me about. At the time, all she could tell me was Mary was hanged for being a witch in Boston. She was unable to tell me how we were related to her, however she said that her mother used to have a family bible that outlined the connection. She also told me that the tree Mary had been hanged from had been cut down and from it; plaques were made and given to descendants. My great grandmother had one of these plaques. However, when my great grandmother died, the bible and the plaque were two of several things that disappeared from her house. Due to my own curiosity and wanting to solve the puzzle for my grandmother; it then became my goal to track down my family’s connection to Mary Dyer.
Mary Dyer came over to Boston in the 1630’s from England with her husband William. Together they had several children and were very active within the small community. Along the way she made friends with another strong willed woman, Anne Hutchinson. Anne Hutchinson was known for holding her own religious meetings and had a good following. Since it was uncommon for women at that time, Anne became a target and was eventually banished to Rhode Island with her family. During that time, Mary had become a Quaker. Quakers were very unpopular in Boston which was lead by Puritans. Some of the local leaders disliked Mary and her religion so much, when she gave birth to a stillborn baby they spread rumors about it being badly deformed. They said that it had horns and scales and that it was obviously the outcome of her dealings with the devil. These leaders labeled her as a witch and decided to banish her from the city.
Although she was banished she returned to Boston to bring clothing and food to other imprisoned Quakers. When she was caught, they were going to have her hanged until her husband was able to get her released under the condition he swore they would never return to the city. Mary stayed away for a short time before returning to Boston again to support her Quaker friends. This would be the 3rd and final stand she would take against the city for her religion.
Mary was hanged June 1, 1660 on the Boston Common in front of a whole mob of people. She was then buried in an unmarked grave somewhere on the Common. Mary’s son Samuel eventually married Anne Hutchinson’s granddaughter, Anne Hutchinson and this is the line I descend from. Today a statue of both Mary Dyer and Anne Hutchinson stand in front of the Boston State House over looking the site of Mary’s hanging.
Having not grown up in a church, I did not understand dying for a religion. However, I did understand the importance of standing up for what you believe in and the importance of knowing right from wrong. Her refusal to back down, while others may have seen it as stubborn or foolish due to the consequences at the time, helped shape the country we know and love today.
Kris Williams - Lead Investigator from SyFy’s Ghost Hunters International
On last night’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? award-winning actress Helen Hunt uncovered the stories in her dad’s family tree. She knew little about his family; her dad’s mother died when he was just five years old. But Helen’s goal to unlock the past and share it with her own daughter persevered. First stop – census records that directed her to California and ultimately the Gold Rush, where Helen’s great-grandfather staked his claim. But the gold he found was a little more green as he built the foundation of a financial institution that still stands today.
And the inspiration kept coming. Next Helen traveled across the country to Maine to learn more about a great-great-grandmother. Following her through historical records, Helen discovered this powerful woman paved the way for women’s suffrage – even casting a ballot herself.
Ancestry.com is a sponsor of Who Do You Think You Are? airing Fridays at 8/7c on NBC. Watch Helen’s episode online here.
Every family tree is full of inspiration, yours included, even if your own family’s story never made it into a history book. You can rest assured that the sacrifices they made and the struggles they endured helped forge a more welcoming path for each of us. And the best part? Now you get to follow their trail, uncover their journeys and come face to face with history all over again.
Discovering that her great-grandmother was a leader in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union doesn’t sit well at first with award-winning actress Helen Hunt – until she traces this powerful female’s surprising impact on history. From groundbreaking roots in California to a women’s rights mover-and-shaker in Maine, it’s a story full of surprises. Watch it unfold on Friday night’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? at 8/7c on NBC, sponsored by Ancestry.com.
Who Do You Think You Are? follows some of today’s most beloved celebrities as they embark on personal journeys of discovery as their families’ histories are revealed. We all know a celebrity’s story is interesting, but what about your story?
Ancestry.com allows you to unlock so many magical moments in your family journey, and we want to allow you the mystique celebrities get to enjoy. Ancestry.com is offering you a chance to have your family story discovered and then unveiled for the world to see. We are giving away an Ancestry.com produced video that reveals your own amazing journey of family discovery, and will feature it on Ancestry.com this summer.
How do you enter? It’s easy!
Just submit a video telling us your family’s story on our Facebook entry page here:
With a lead from an 1860 slave schedule, I found the name of my family’s slaveholder. Later, I located an article the slaveholder’s 2nd great-granddaughter had written about her family. Reluctantly, I contacted her and identified myself as the 2nd great-granddaughter of a slave owned by her 2nd great grandfather and I’m glad I did. I sent her results of extensive research I had done on my family. She later contacted me and told me that her brother had my 2nd great-grandfather’s tombstone. It had been displaced from a cemetery due to flooding. Someone found it and gave it to her brother, thinking he was a family member. After learning the stone was my 2nd great-grandfather’s, her brother gave it to me. The caption on the stone reads: “Gabe Embry, Born June 30, 1837, Died Feb 28, 1887.” Members of my family and theirs later held a short memorial service and placed the stone in a family cemetery next to his grandson. It was the return of a treasure.
Dorothy A. Tuck
It’s getting closer. Only 25 more days until the 1940 census is released. So I’m busily trying to update my family tree, adding every address I know of to the ancestors who were alive in 1940. I’m feeling quite organized actually. I created a report using Family Tree Maker that lists family members who were alive in 1940.
The report’s really pretty simple to create. Under the Publish tab in Family Tree Maker (I’m using 2012, but these steps should still work in the most recent versions), click on Person Reports in the left panel and then select the Index of Individuals Report.
On the right side of the page, click on the button that says Individuals to Include.
Then from the dialog box that pops up Filter in anyone born before 1 Apr 1940. Then Filter out anyone who died before 1 Apr 1940. This gives me a list of people who were alive on the census date.
You may need to tweak your list, if for example, you have family who was living outside the U.S. at that time, or for people that snuck in because maybe you don’t have a death date for them, but that’s simple enough too. Just select those individuals on the report side (right) and click on Exclude.
Once you’ve got your list created, click on the save icon in the upper right corner. (It’s the last icon under the green bar that says Index of Individual Report Options.) Then just name your report and you can print it out.
I’m using mine as a check list and am gathering addresses on the people I need to find. So I’m anxious to hear your ideas. How are you preparing for the big day?
Is there any way that you can help me find out who the parents were for George Elmer Thomas? He was born November 18, 1863 and died December 27, 1955. He was married to Emma Adams in Burlington, NJ at the Methodist church (no help there on his marriage return). He lived in Buddtown, Burlington and Vincentown, New Jersey and he died at the Cranbury Nursing home in Cranbury, New Jersey.
I wanted to look at old school records from Vincentown to see if his parents registered him for school (no luck). The only thing I have is the 1880 census of him working on the farm of a Job Clevenger. It seems as if his life began at 17.
— Rosemary Thomas
I searched for a George Elmer Thomas in the 1870 census and found an Elmer Thomas born in 1862 in New Jersey.
You’ll notice that he is living in the household of Thomas Bellanger, who is living with a Martha Bellanger, relationship unknown. Also living at the house are Sallie Thomas and Annie Gates. Sallie is a domestic servant, and Annie and Elmer are living at home.
A search of the 1860 census in Burlington County shows no other likely candidates who can be George.
It’s interesting that both Annie and Elmer are listed as “at home” and not as servants. Were Sallie, Annie and Elmer related to Thomas? Sallie could be Elmer’s mother, but she would have been 17 when she had him and probably around 16 when she got married (if she married).
I could not find marriage records that included a likely candidate for Sallie in the early 1860s, and I can’t find a Sallie Thomas in the 1860 Burlington, New Jersey census. And there are too many Sallie/Sally/Susan’s in the 1860 census of that age to pick one that might be her per-marriage.
I’d suggest next that you investigate the four people living in the household that George Elmer lived in. If you can find marriage records for Burlington County in the 1860s you could try to track down Sallie to see if she is in there.
You may also consider contacting the Burlington County Historical Society. They may have additional suggestions on where you could locate birth and marriage information for that period.
I’m also guessing that some of our readers who are more familiar with New Jersey genealogy records than I am will have some suggestions.
Over the years my family had tried to find a record of the birth of my grandparents’ first child, who was born in England in the very early 1900s. The family story was that my grandmother, Anna, left Russia first with the opportunity to travel to England with a choir “to sing for the queen.” She jumped ship and stayed in England, where their first child was born. Grandpa Abraham left later, joined her in England (briefly, it turns out) and then was the first of the family to come to the U.S. in 1905. Grandma and their first child joined him here later, in 1906.
We were never very sure of the exact details or even whether the story was correct. We had a birth date for the first child, but could never find the record. Recently a kind and wise soul found her for me, not only confirming her birth, but also narrowing the window of time in which her mother came to England. Here’s the secret that was used to find the record:
The person found her by searching on the child’s FIRST NAME ONLY, and the birth year. It turns out that the family’s last name had been misspelled, very clearly and legibly on the original record. The last name, correctly spelled, is Schecter/Shechter, but in the record the “T” had been replaced by an “L.”
One of the many advantages of having a tree online at Ancestry.com or on Family Tree Maker or one of our downloadable apps is that you can take advantage of our hints. While you are away we are out searching for you.
And now we have a new way for you to access those hints: the All Hints Page
If you are on a tree view online, mouse over the find a person in your tree text box and choose List of all people
Then when you see the all people in your tree, click on “Hints”
You will now see your All Hints Page.
You can then click on Recent to see the latest hints we’ve found, or click on Records to see just the Record hints. Photos, Stories and Member Trees do pretty much what you expect.
Let’s say you’ve clicked on Record. You can then sort by Last Name, or First Name, or you can enter a name and filter that way as well.
Explore a little and then check back as we continue to make improvements.
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.
In today’s desktop education video, I talked a little about finding marriage records and some alternatives that may give you a little better look at your ancestor’s wedding. You can view it here on the Ancestry.com YouTube channel.
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.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
By Juliana Smith
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?.
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.