Playing Hide and Seek with Records from Burned Counties

Playing Hide and Seek with Records from Burned Counties

If you need to find a marriage record in Jackson County, Mississippi dated 02 November 1828, where do you look?  You look in the Wayne County, Georgia probate records of course!   

Catherine Sheffield married her first husband Ignatius Grantham in Wayne County, Georgia on 09 October 1810.[1] Ignatius was a bit of a scoundrel so Catherine filed for divorce in 1825 in the Marion County, Mississippi Chancery Court.[2] They had been living apart for some time because Ignatius is enumerated by himself in 1820.[3] Of interest is that Catherine’s soon to be second husband William Seaman was listed as her “next friend” in the court papers and acted as her representative.

Back in Wayne County, Georgia, Catherine’s father West Sheffield died leaving behind an informative estate file. Catherine’s now second husband William was getting some serious payouts from the estate and not only is there an affidavit from Catherine Seaman attesting that she is in fact the daughter of West Sheffield there is a marriage record from Jackson County, Mississippi copied into the Wayne County, Georgia book proving that William is Catherine’s husband.[4]

William C. Seaman had married Catherine (Sheffield) Grantham on 02 November 1828 in Jackson County, Mississippi but the Jackson County courthouse in Scranton (now part of Pascagoula) burned in 1875. The papers that were in the safe (deeds and money) were spared but the marriage records were not.[5] If William and Catherine’s marriage record had not been copied into West Sheffield’s estate papers there would have been no record of it.

Seamon-Grantham marriage 1828
(click image to enlarge)

Here is another example of finding records from a burned county in an odd place. On 8 November 1851, Silas Simmons applied for bounty land based on his service in the War of 1812.[6]  In the bounty land file there were Perry County, Mississippi court documents dated 01 November 1851, 24 January 1853, 18 April 1855 and 31 January 1856. Silas and a few witnesses had to appear in court to prove that he was in fact the same Silas Simmons that fought in the 10&20 Consolidated Louisiana Militia before he could be awarded his bounty land warrant. Silas also assigned (sold) his warrant to someone else and then applied for another 40 acres. So what is so special about all of this? The Perry County Courthouse burned on 14 November 1877 with a complete records loss.[7]  These court documents shouldn’t even exist. If I had merely looked at the land records on the Bureau of Land Management website and not ordered the actual bounty land file I would have never discovered this.  I have included one of the documents below.

Silas Simmons affidavit 1855
(click image to enlarge)

 

If you have ancestors that lived in burned counties be sure to check for documents in all the places that your ancestor lived. And don't forget to order the original documents instead of relying on the digitized records.

What amazing finds have you found for your ancestors? Tell us in the comments.


                 [1] Wayne County, Georgia, Marriage Book 1809-1869: 8, Grantham-Sheffield, 1810; Probate Court, Jesup.

                [2] Mississippi High Court of Errors and Appeals, Drawer no. 65, Case no. 15, Catherine Grantham vs. Ignatius Grantham, 21 February 1825; Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson. The case was originally filed in Marion County.

                [3] 1820 U.S. census, Jackson County, Mississippi population schedule, p. 45 (penned), line 15, Ignatius Grantham; citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M33, roll 58. 

                [4] "Georgia Probate Records, 1742-1990," digital images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 24 March 2017), West Sheffield estate, 1831-1833, Wayne County Court of Ordinary, Wills & Estates Records 1824-1855, p. 199-205.

                [5] "Burning of the Scranton Court House," New Orleans Times, 02 March 1875, p. 4, col. 4; digital images, GenealogyBank (http://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 24 March 2017). 

                [6] Silas Simmons (Pvt. 10&20 Consolidated Louisiana Militia, War of 1812), bounty land warrant file 64098 (Act of 1855, 40 acres); Military Bounty Land Warrants and Related Papers; Records of the Bureau of Land Management, Record Group 49; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

                [7]  Martha F. Clark, Perry County, Mississippi Clerk of the Circuit Court to Michele Simmons Lewis, e-mail, 10 Jan 2012, “Courthouse Records,” Lewis Research Files; privately held by Lewis, Harlem, Georgia, 2012.

 Michele Simmons Lewis, CG is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News.  You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.

Certified Genealogist is a registered trademark and the designation CG is a service mark of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by Board certificants who meet competency standards.


3 Ways to Get Records from Foreign Archives

3 Ways to Get Records from Foreign Archives

Genealogy research in Central and Eastern Europe has come a long way in the past decade. It used to be that locating a church or civil registration record required much effort and long waiting times. Your options for accessing records were: 1) traveling to perform onsite research in archives, 2) spending a fortune to hire a professional to do the research for you, 3) writing a letter and hoping the registrar’s office or priest would understand and answer your questions or 4) hoping records for your ancestral village were included among those microfilmed by The Genealogical Society of Utah and made available through the Family History Library.

Today, the landscape for researchers has changed, and there are more options for tracking down grandma’s baptismal document or great-grandpa’s Austrian military service record.  Here are three ways to get the records you need from foreign archives.

  1. Start with FamilySearch. FamilySearch.org has a growing collection of church and civil registration records from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and other localities. First, check out the Digital Collections. From the FamilySearch home page, click the magnifying glass labeled Search, then click “Browse All Published Collections.” Choose Continental Europe and scroll to find the country you’re searching for (e.g., Slovakia). You can also type an ancestor’s name in the search boxes on the left-hand side, click on a map for a location, or if you know the name of the specific collection, start typing the first few letters of the name in the Collection title box; matching choices (such as Slovak, Church and Synagogue Books, 1592–1910) will pop up underneath.

    Be sure to read the directions! When you get to the collection’s page, read the description carefully to understand what exactly is included. Click the “Learn More” button to access related FamilySearch Wiki articles on a particular collection or topic. Make sure you sign up for a free FamilySearch account and follow the FamilySearch Blog or subscribe to the FamilySearch newsletter to receive notifications whenever the collections are added or updated.

    In addition, you will want to check the FamilySearch Catalog for microfilms you can view if you plan a visit to the Family History Library, or you can hire a researcher to view them on your behalf (Starting September 1, 2017, FamilySearch will discontinue its microfilm distribution services, which mean you will no longer have the option to order and view films at a Family History Center. Read more about it on the FamilySearch Blog). Start with a Place search to see if there are any church or civil registration records available. Although most localities will turn up this way, not all villages or towns had a church or synagogue for each religion. Often residents would need to travel to the nearest neighboring village. Once you find the location, click to see the microfilm catalog title, and you will be able to determine if the content is digitized and available. On the catalog title, under Format and next to the microfilm number, you will find a magnifying glass icon (indicating the microfilm is at least partially indexed), a camera icon (indicating the microfilm is digitized), and a film icon (indicating you will need to order the film). You can also search the catalog by keyword, subject, or film number (if known).

   FHL-Film-Note

Fenscakcropped
 This cropped muster roll page from the Varannó military district of Hungary, now Vranov, Czechoslovakia,  shows the 1873 entry (second row) for Mihály Fencsák, from Póssa, Slovakia.  Details include parents’ first names, height and chest size, religion, and “weak returned” as the decision of the committee for induction or transfer. The image can be browsed online at FamilySearch.org.

 

  1. Archival Websites. A number of archives have put some of their records online. The Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia, and Latvia, for example.  You can use the FamilySearch Wiki for each country and click the blue "Online Records" button to see a table with a list of online records. You can also use Google, or another search engine to search for an archive, or consult websites for ethnic genealogical societies such as the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International, the Polish Genealogical Society International, East European Genealogical Society, or the Foundation for East European Family History Studies. Once you locate an archival portal, check for an English interface (look for the word “English” or the American flag symbol), and look first for any finding aids or help sections. Some sites require you to set up a free account.
  1. Commercial Websites and Other Online Portals.  Those researching in Western European countries often find good coverage of church and civil registration records on subscription sites such as Findmypast.com or Ancestry.com, as well as other dedicated websites. However, those with Central and Eastern European roots often have to look a bit harder to find these records, but online collections do exist. For example, the JewishGen website has a large collection of databases and resources including the Jewish Records Indexing Poland project, and several Eastern European Special Interest Groups. Those with Czech Roots will want to explore Portafontium. For Polish researchers, the Poznan Projectand Geneteka are good resources. Facebook groups can also be helpful (groups exist for many ethnicities).

Finally, remember that not all records are online—and some areas are not yet included—so in many instances, you’ll still need to consult the FamilySearch Catalog for microfilmed records, contact churches or archives, or consult with a researcher based in that country for hard-to-get records and translation assistance. Professional firms can give you a quote. You can also check with an ethnic genealogical society, or ask for recommendations on social media. But the good news is that getting copies of your ancestor’s records from foreign archives and repositories is not as difficult as it once was 10 or 15 years ago, and more records are being digitized and indexed all the time. You should make it a habit to periodically check FamilySearch, archival sites and other sources for new and updated content.

For more tips on researching your Eastern European Ancestors watch these webinars in the Legacy library.

Lisa A. Alzo, M.F.A. is a freelance writer, instructor and internationally recognized lecturer specializing in Eastern European genealogy, writing your family history, and finding female and immigrant ancestors.  She is the author of 10 books, including The Family Tree Polish, Czech and Slovak Genealogy Guide, and the award-winning Three Slovak Women.  Lisa is a frequent speaker for Legacy Family Tree Webinars, and blogs at The Accidental Genealogist. She can be reached at http://www.lisaalzo.com.

 


Find Your Family Online in Digital Books

Find Your Family Online in Digital Books

Is a book about your family out there somewhere, just waiting to be discovered? You may be able to find one without ever leaving the comfort of your home! Digital books are all over the Internet, and many are free to use. Here are the best places to look for digital books about genealogy.

Google Books

Launched in 2004 as "Google Print," Google Books now contains over 25 million scanned book titles. A Google Books search works just like a regular web search: type in your search criteria, and if a book with matching content is available, it will appear in your search results. If a book is out of copyright, or the publisher has given permission, you will be able to see a preview of the book, and in some cases, the entire book. Copyrighted books are only available in "snippet view," however, links to where you can buy or borrow the book from a library are also provided. With a free Google account, you can add the books you’ve found to your personal library for later reference.

Internet Archive

The appropriately-named Internet Archive began in 1996 with the goal of archiving the Internet, but the project soon expanded into providing digital versions of other published works. Today, the Internet Archive contains over 12 million freely downloadable books and texts, as well as 550,000 modern ebooks that may be borrowed by anyone with a free account. You can expect to find family, county and local histories, census records, and even contemporary genealogy how-to books. Most books are offered in several different formats, including DAISY files for the print-disabled.

HathiTrust Digital Library

HathiTrust (pronounced "haw tea") is a partnership of several academic and research institutions offering a collection of over 15 million titles from libraries around the world. Books that are uncopyrightable (i.e., some government works) or in the public domain can be searched and viewed in their entirety, as well as downloaded in PDF format. Books that are still in copyright are considered "limited," cannot be viewed, but can be searched, allowing you to decide whether or not to obtain a physical copy of the book from another source. 

FamilySearch

The Family History Books collection at FamilySearch contains more than 325,000 digitized genealogy and family history publications from the archives of family history libraries such as the Allen County Public Library and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Included in the collection are family histories, county and local histories, genealogy magazines and how-to books, gazetteers, and medieval histories and pedigrees. While some books are only viewable at a Family History Center, many can be viewed from – and downloaded to – your home computer.

MyHeritage: Compilation of Published Sources

One of MyHeritage's best-kept secrets is their repository of digitized books. All are free to access, and you don't even need to log in with a free account! The site currently hosts 84,206,892 pages from 447,870 sources, including "thousands of published books ranging from family, local and military histories, city and county directories, school, university and hospital reports, church and congregational minutes and much more." All records include images of the book's pages, as well as an OCR text transcription. If you have a MyHeritage account, you can save records directly to a person in your tree. You can also print or download individual pages, although it does not appear possible to download entire books at this time.  To learn more about the digital books at MyHeritage watch the free Legacy webinar - Book Matching Technology at MyHeritage.

BONUS: Genealogy Gophers

Despite the funny name, Genealogy Gophers offers access to more than 80,000 digitized "family histories, regional and local histories, genealogy magazines, how-to books, gazetteers, newsletters, and medieval histories." Digitized books are provided through a partnership with FamilySearch, Archive.org, and other free book sources on the Internet. What makes Genealogy Gophers different from the other sites is their search technology, developed specifically for "identifying real people named in genealogy books." In other words, your searches are more likely to return useful results. Having performed searches on all of the sites listed in this post, I can honestly say that I found Genealogy Gopher's results to be surprisingly different than what I received on any of the partner sites. They are definitely worth a try!

 

Elizabeth O’Neal is a freelance writer, educator, and web developer. An avid genealogist for three decades, Elizabeth writes the blog My Descendant’s Ancestors, where she shares family stories, technology and methodology tips, and hosts the monthly "Genealogy Blog Party."


Five Fun Summer Projects for Genealogists

Thanks to Lisa Alzo for this guest blog post.

Summer is officially here (in the Northern Hemisphere the summer solstice officially arrived June 21 at 12:24 A.M. EDT.), and my mind is racing with ideas on how to make the most of my genealogy time without the stress of the usual work deadlines and travel obligations. If you are looking for some fun ways to move forward with your family history, here are five suggestions.

Summer Genealogy Projects

  1. Create a Genealogy Vision Board. Looking to make progress on a particular family line? Break down a longstanding brick wall? Perhaps you want to plan a research trip or dream about possible travel to your ancestral homeland? Is there a conference or institute you would like to attend this year?  One way to keep track of all your genealogy goals or aspirations is to set up a vision board. Many folks do this by cutting out pictures from magazines and pinning them on poster board or a cork board. But you can also do this virtually either with Pinterest, or by using a cloud-based program such as Trello, which happens to be my favorite project management tool. If you are not familiar with Trello, you can learn more from my recent blog post, “5 Ways to Use Trello for Genealogy and Family History,” or by watching the Legacy webinar, “Your Whiteboard in the Cloud: Trello for Genealogists.” Get tips from other users by joining the Trello for Genealogy and Family History Facebook group.
  1. Set up a Genealogy Bullet Journal. Once you have your “vision board,” you will need a way to keep track of daily or weekly tasks, such as online database searches, contacting relatives, or requesting documents from archives. Popular in time management circles, Bullet journaling is a trend that has been gaining some traction in the genealogy community. While your bullet journal can be basic or fancy (it is totally up to you), all you really need to get started is a notebook or journal and a pen. You can read blog posts about bullet journaling by genealogists such as Kathryn Lake Hogan, “How to Bullet Journal for Genealogy,” DearMyrtle, “Setting Up My Bullet Journal - Part 1,” and Midge Frazel, “Bullet Journaling Video List: Video Presentations of Interest to Genealogists, Planners and Bullet Journaling.” There is also a Bullet Journaling Genealogy Facebook group,
  1. Attend School by the Pool. Grab your laptop or tablet, find your favorite lounge chair and learn while you soak up some sun (or enjoy the shade). Take advantage of the many Legacy Family Tree Webinars (watch them live for free), or become a paid subscriber for unlimited access to these as well as archived webinars in the webinar library (now up to 549 classes of genealogy education, 754 hours of genealogy instruction ,2532 pages of instructors' handouts). Whether you want to learn about methodology, technology, or DNA, you can easily build your own summer school curriculum.
  2. Scan Family Photographs. What genealogist doesn’t have boxes of family photographs to sort, scan and share? For the past month, I have been sorting through what seems like an endless collection myself. So, when I learned that my colleague and friend, Denise Levenick, was hosting a Genealogy Scan Along on her website, The Family Curator, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to begin my own photo scanning project. Denise calls it a "virtual scanning bee." For four weeks, participants will each work on a scanning project to create a family history photo book. Denise will offer guidance through tutorials and tips (and participants can connect via the Genealogy Scan Along Facebook group. Don’t miss this opportunity!
  3. Jumpstart that Family History Writing Project. If writing a family history is on your “to-do” list, then why not    take some small steps now to get started? You don’t have to be finished with your research to begin writing. A good way to  get those creative juices flowing is through a Storyboard—a visual outline of your story. One of my favorite tools to use for this task is Scrivener.  If you are not familiar with this writing and project management tool, check out my five-part Legacy Family Tree Webinars series on using Scrivener, as well as my Storyboard Your Family History webinar.         

The above ideas are enough to keep you busy throughout the summer and easy ways to have fun with your family history. Remember, as Geoff Rasmussen says, “Life is short. Do Genealogy First!” 

Lisa A. Alzo, M.F.A. is a freelance writer, instructor and internationally recognized lecturer specializing in Eastern European genealogy, writing your family history, and finding female and immigrant ancestors.  She is the author of 10 books, and hundreds of magazine articles.  Lisa is a frequent speaker for Legacy Family Tree Webinars, and blogs at  The Accidental Genealogist. She can be reached at http://www.lisaalzo.com.


California Digital Collections to Help You Strike Genealogy Gold

California Digital Collections to Help You Strike Genealogy Gold

As one researcher lamented to me a while back, "California does not give up her secrets easily." That said, there are some excellent California resources. Try these California digital collections and maybe one of them will lead you to strike genealogy gold!

California Digital Newspaper Collection (CDNC) - If you are looking for newspapers from the State of California, then the CDNC is the place to look. This collection contains more than 200,000 issues comprising 2,102,902 pages and 17,536,359 articles from “significant historical California newspapers” published from 1846 to the present. These include the very first California newspaper, the Californian, as well as the first daily California newspaper, the Daily Alta California. You will also find issues from several current California newspapers that are part of a project to preserve and provide access to contemporary papers. While the site is - and will remain - free to search and browse, you might want to consider becoming a premium user, which will help support the CDNC financially, as well as to give you access to bonus features such as high-resolution images, saving of search histories, seeing your recently viewed articles, and saving articles to private lists. And don’t forget to “pay it forward” by correcting OCR mistakes you’ve found; future researchers will thank you!

Online Archive of California - This collection provides free public access to “detailed descriptions of primary resource collections maintained by more than 200 contributing institutions including libraries, special collections, archives, historical societies, and museums throughout California and collections maintained by the 10 University of California (UC) campuses.” You will find more than 20,000 online collection guides which you can use to browse, locate resources, view selected items digitally, or learn how to gain access to the physical objects. The OAC currently contains more than 220,000 digital images and documents.

Calisphere - Visited a million times a year by undergraduates, K-12 students, teachers, professors, genealogists, artists, and other curious people, Calisphere is a project of the University of California Libraries, providing free access to “unique and historically important artifacts.” The collection contains over 875,000 photographs, documents, letters, artwork, diaries, oral histories, films, advertisements, musical recordings, and more, covering California’s pre-Columbian era through the present day. You can browse collections such as the “Holocaust Living History Workshop” or the “1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire Digital Collection,” or visit unique exhibitions such as “Everyday Life and People: The Gold Rush Era, 1848-1865.” Be sure to check out the historic photos!

Early California Population Project - Developed by the Huntington Library, the ECPP provides free and public access to all of the information contained in California’s historic mission registers, providing a wealth of information on the Native Americans, soldiers, and early settlers of Alta California. The project contains records of more than 101,000 baptisms, 27,000 marriages, and 71,000 burials performed in California between 1769 and 1850, and includes records from 21 of the California missions, as well as the Los Angeles Plaza Church, and the Santa Barbara Presidio.

The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco - This multimedia site offers resources pertaining to historic events in the San Francisco Bay area, such as the 1849 California Gold Rush and the history of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. Of particular interest are records pertaining to “San Francisco’s Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906,” which includes photographs, the first-ever list of those “Who Perished” in this tragedy, and the “Great Register 1906 List of Dead and Survivors.” Records from a few contemporary events are also available, such as the “1989 San Francisco Earthquake” and “The Oakland-Berkeley Hills Fire of 1991,” considered “the worst fire involving loss of life and property” since the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906.

SFgenealogy - Another useful site for researching your northern California ancestors, SFgenealogy offers free access to genealogical and historical information for San Francisco, the San Francisco Bay Area, and the State of California. Originally created as a niche for San Francisco genealogy, the site has expanded to neighboring northern California counties, as well as Spanish genealogy and California early history. The site was recognized by Family Tree Magazine as one of the “Best State Websites” from 2011 to 2014.

California GenWeb Project - No list of California genealogy websites would be complete without including the California GenWeb Project. Established in 1996 by "a group of genealogists who shared a desire to create online centers for genealogical research," the USGenWeb Project websites are created and maintained entirely by volunteers. The California GenWeb includes links to information on the California missions, maps, the California Biography Project, and links to individual county sites.

Have you found any useful resources for California genealogy research? Please share them in the comments!

Do you have California ancestors? The California series will help you find them!

 

Elizabeth O’Neal is a freelance writer, educator, and web developer. An avid genealogist for three decades, Elizabeth writes the blog My Descendant’s Ancestors, where she shares family stories, technology and methodology tips, and hosts the monthly "Genealogy Blog Party."

 


The 3-D Super Powers of Eastern European Genealogists

The 3-D Super Powers of  Eastern European Genealogists

Are you lost trying to find your Eastern European ancestors? Do perplexing surnames, confusing geography and records written in unfamiliar languages challenge you at every turn? Don’t despair. You can channel some research superpowers to conquer your research roadblocks.

  1. Detect. Genealogists often compare themselves to detectives. We follow clues in about our family to make sense of the past. Determining the immigrant’s original name and learning the specific name of the ancestral town or village are the two most essential pieces for success. To do this you must check ALL available resources on this side of the ocean first. While many records are online through sites such as Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org, you also must be prepared to check microfilm, books, and other sources. It is also necessary to understand the time period and consider geography. For example, when your ancestors departed their homeland, was the area under the Austro-Hungarian, German, or Russian Empire? Did they arrive post-World War I or post-World War II? Did the town names change depending on who was in charge?

    Detect. Decode. Decipher. Eastern European Genealogy

  2. Decode. During the research process, you will likely hit a number of brick walls—those seemingly unsolvable research problems that wherever you look there appear to be no answers. One issue is with the complex surnames for which spelling can be problematic and often leads to incorrect indexing. Sites such as Behind the Name can help, or you can perform a Google search for websites specific to your ethnic group. Be aware of name changes after the immigrant settled in North America. (Names were not changed at Ellis Island—that's a myth. Read about immigrant name changes in this article by Marian Smith). Learn naming practices and patterns to help figure out which Maria or Mihaly is your ancestor. To take account of border changes, consult maps, atlases, gazetteers (geographical dictionaries), books, websites, and town and village histories. Browse the FamilySearch Wiki by country for links to print and online resources. When you are ready to search across the ocean, you will want to see which archives have records online. Start with the free digitized collections at FamilySearch. Another excellent resource is the JewishGen In some instances you may wish to hire a professional researcher based in the country you are researching to pull records from civil archives and other repositories with more restrictive access. Ethnic genealogical societies such as the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International and the Polish Genealogical Society of America, or even fellow genealogists may provide recommendations. If you can manage it, a heritage trip to your ancestral town or village, and local archives can often turn up previously unknown information not yet available online, not to mention the potential for meeting long lost cousins.

  3. Decipher. Many new researchers are dismayed when they locate records for their ancestors, but can’t read them because they are written in German, Hungarian, Latin, Polish, Russian or other unfamiliar alphabets or scripts. While you don’t necessarily need to be fluent in a foreign language to read great-grandma’s baptismal record, you will need to become familiar with keywords and phrases, especially common genealogy terms in the language used to record the information. You can start by watching some language tutorials available for free in the FamilySearch Learning Center, or on YouTube. Online or print dictionaries, books, and FamilySearch Word Lists can also help. Using an online translation tool such as Google Translate is another option, but beware that such tools are usually best for short words or small blocks of text. The accuracy of the translation may be questionable and often local or regional dialects are not taken into account. To ensure a proper translation, you could post a short query to Facebook (Try Genealogy Translations on Facebook or just do a search for Polish, Czech, Hungarian, etc.), or hire a professional translator.

 

For more tips, tools, and resources, watch Lisa's bonus webinar on "Survival Skills for Eastern European Genealogists,” available to subscribers in the Legacy Family Tree Webinars Library.

Don’t Give Up

Just as a superhero never surrenders, neither should you. Yes, tracking down elusive Eastern European ancestors can be a daunting task. There is no “Easy Button.” But remember that genealogy is one part skill, one part persistence, and one part serendipity. New record sets are being released all the time, so keep checking websites for new or updated content. Channel your powers to detect, decode, and decipher and start solving your family history mysteries.


Lisa A. Alzo, M.F.A. is a freelance writer, instructor and internationally recognized lecturer specializing in Eastern European genealogy, writing your family history, and finding female and immigrant ancestors.  She is the author of 10 books, including The Family Tree Polish, Czech and Slovak Genealogy Guide, and the award-winning Three Slovak Women.  Lisa is a frequent speaker for Legacy Family Tree Webinars, and blogs at The Accidental Genealogist. She can be reached at http://www.lisaalzo.com.

 


5 Ways to Use Trello for Genealogy and Family History

Thanks to guest blogger, Lisa Alzo, for this post.

Have you ever wished for a whiteboard in the cloud where you could generate ideas, organize your research tasks, or storyboard your family history writing?

Then, say “Hello” to Trello—a free project management tool to help you streamline your genealogy projects, tackle your "to-do" lists, and improve your workflow. I have been a fan of Trello for several years to organize my work and personal research projects. In this post, I will share with you five ways to use Trello specifically for genealogy and family history.

Trello graphic

Getting Started
The first step is to set up a free Trello account at https://trello.com.  Once you have registered, you will be taken to the Trello “Welcome Board.”  You will see a brief tutorial that will bring you quickly up to speed on Trello’s system of boards, lists, and cards. Trello’s customizable notecards enable you to view any project in a single glance, share it for easy collaboration, and set it up to sync on multiple devices to take your work with you wherever you go. It is like having your own virtual whiteboard.

Trello for Genealogy and Family History

The uses for Trello are endless—from collecting and organizing ideas to setting up group projects with multiple collaborators.  There is no limit to how many boards you can create. Below are five easy ways you can begin using Trello immediately for genealogy and family history.

1. Create a research plan. Trello provides a way to visually organize your genealogy research tasks.  Create a board for each main surname you are researching. Then create three lists for “To Do,” “Doing,” and “Done.” Other lists could include a specific research task (e.g. “Check FamilySearch,” “Correspondence” or “Source Citations.”   You can also add due dates, checklists, comments, attach files, and set reminders. Other board suggestions include a cemetery board to organize the family gravestones you photograph, or a “mystery photographs” board for those unidentified pictures you come across. Becky Jamison, who blogs about her family history research on the Grace and Glory Blog, is an avid Trello user and has recorded a video with some great ideas for project boards.

2. Storyboard writing projects. One of my personal favorite uses of Trello is to outline and storyboard writing projects. I create boards for articles I am working on, book projects, and family history profiles. Since I can attach an image to each card, this is an excellent way to create a visual storyboard for each writing task. I also like to use the available Power-Ups—a way of incorporating additional features and integrations that are adaptable to your project needs. Enabling Power-Ups on boards allows you to access important information from other apps such as Calendar, Dropbox, Google Drive and others (Read more about them in the Trello User Guide). Free accounts get one free Power-Up per board. My favorite Power-Up to use is the one for Evernote because it helps me to bring over my research materials (notes, saved web pages, etc.) into Trello.

3. Outline and plan blog posts. If you blog about your genealogy research, Trello is a great tool for managing your editorial calendar. For my blog, The Accidental Genealogist, I usually start a blog post outline in Evernote and then attach it to a card to expand the idea. If you write your posts using Google Docs, you can start a draft with Google Drive directly from Trello and compose the article. You can also attach a Drive folder to the card to access the image assets for the post. Using due dates can help with meeting deadlines.

4. Create a travel itinerary. Whenever I travel to a genealogy conference or go on a research trip, I use Trello to build a board for it. I actually save a blank board as a template and then I can customize it for each trip. I make lists for airline and hotel reservations, daily schedules. For conferences, I also create lists for registration information, syllabus files, presentations, and expenses (I can attach images of my receipts right from Evernote). When the trip or conference is over, I can simply remove that board so that it is no longer in my active board list, but I can always go back to refer to it at a later date.

5. Collaborate on research, writing, or other group projects. Trello is the perfect tool for collaboration. You can add members to specific boards (they will need a free account). This is a good option if you are working with another family member to research a specific branch on your family tree, if you have a co-author for a book project, or for members of a genealogical society. If you are a fan of Mondays with Myrt or the other Google Hangouts co-hosted by Dear Myrtle and “Cousin Russ” (Worthington), they use Trello as their planning tool.

Be sure to download the free Trello app to all your mobile devices (you can even work offline and sync your boards later). There is a small learning curve, so start with a small board and then add more features as you need them. If you are a FamilyTreeWebinars.com subscriber, check out my webinar “Your Whiteboard in the Cloud: Trello for Genealogists” for more tips and project ideas.


Land records prove parentage - again!

I can almost remember the day when I thought land records weren't all that important. I'm so glad that was decades ago and is a distant memory. And with what I discovered today, it reinforces the fact that land records must never be overlooked in our genealogical research.

This 1778 deed, in which Jeremiah Brown and two of his sons sold land to Simeon Potter, was crucial in proving that Jeremiah was my Nathan Brown's father. Marian Pierre-Louis discovered and explained its use in this webinar.

Brown  Jeremiah to Potter  Simeon - deed - 20 Mar 1778
     Bristol County, Massachusetts, Land Records, 1620-1986, 59: 239, Jeremiah Brown, Samuel Miller Brown and Jeremiah Brown to Simeon Potter, deed, 20 Mar 1778; digital images, FamilySearch.org, FamilySearch.org (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 27 Apr 2017)

We did not know it then, but this very same deed, just today, solidified the theory that this Jeremiah Brown's father was Esek Brown. Yet nowhere in the deed did it mention Esek.

Today I located a 1759 deed where a Jeremiah Brown was given land by his father, Esek Brown.

"I Esek Brown of Swansey...to my son Jeremiah Brown...."

Brown  Esek to Brown  Jeremiah - 1759 deed
Bristol County, Massachusetts, Land Records, 1620-1986, 44: 286, Esek Brown to Jeremiah Brown, deed, 14 Sep 1759; digital images, FamilySearch.org, FamilySearch.org (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 27 Apr 2017)

Was this my Jeremiah Brown? If so, then I've now confirmed that his father is Esek Brown. But this could easily be a different Jeremiah Brown. Comparing the 1759 deed with the 1778 deed answers the question.

I first thought to plot the land boundaries and comparing their shapes, but my DeedMapper 4.2 software hadn't yet arrived in the mailbox. So, I created a table in Microsoft Word to compare the key details of each deed.

Land

Remarkably, although the deeds were written about twenty years apart, they both describe the same land. The land Jeremiah was selling in 1778 was the same land that he was given - by his father Esek - in 1759.

Who was my Jeremiah's father? Esek Brown - the land records prove this.

By the way...the mail just arrived. Guess what was in it? My DeedMapper 4.2 software. Today just keeps getting better and better.

To learn more about land records, visit www.FamilyTreeWebinars.com/land.


Your Migration Secret Weapon - the New York State Census

  CoveredWagon

Those of us with westward migrating ancestors know how difficult it can be to trace people from their destination to their point of origin and vice versa. Even harder is finding the short stops along the way.

Many genealogists have learned to use the United States Federal Census as a clue to migration. By looking at the birth location of children in a migrating family, we can often determine some of the stops a family made on their journey westward. The only challenge is that the Federal Census is only enumerated every 10 years. That's a big gap!

New York's Role in Migration

New York played a big role in the lives of migrating families. Families who originated in New England often passed through New York, often stopping there for a few years before moving on. New York residents as well joined the migration west heading to Ohio and beyond.

The Trouble with New York

The challenge for many researchers is that the trail goes cold in New York. Vital records for most towns in New York state didn't start until the 1870s or later. If you have New England ancestors traveling west this come as a cold shock when you're used to vital records going back to the 1600s. Researching in New York is frustrating to say the least.

Your New Secret Weapon

All is not lost! You were on the right track when you used the U.S. Federal Census. While we may not have the advantage of New York vital records we do have the New York State Census.

The New York State Census was taken for the years 1825, 1835, 1845, 1855, 1865, 1875, 1892, 1905, 1915 and 1925. Not all counties in New York have extant records for all years but for 1855-1905 the coverage is very good
with the exception of a few counties.

Each of the census years asks for different information, of varying value to genealogists. It's the 1855, 1865 and 1875 censuses that I want to bring your attention to. These three censuses asked for the county of birth. If
your ancestors are making stops within New York before moving on, this information is invaluable in tracing their steps.

In addition, the three censuses indicate if a person owned land and the 1855 census mentions the “years resident in the town or city”.

An Example in Action

One of my "challenging" families is David Allen, his wife Mariah and their five kids. Between a common surname, transcription errors and migration I was fit to be tied tracking down this family.

Then I found them in the 1855 New York State Census. The family was living in Volney, Fulton City, Oswego County, New York. David was listed as being born Jefferson County, New York according to the 1855 census. His wife Mariah (no maiden name yet discovered) was also born in Jefferson County about 1823. Their first child Henry was born about 1844 also in Jefferson County.

The 1855 New York State Census showing the David Allen family. Please note the image has been altered to show the headers directly above the family listing. Ancestry.com
The 1855 New York State Census showing the David Allen family. Please note the image has been altered to show the headers directly above the family listing. Ancestry.com

The next child, Elizabeth, only one year younger that Henry, was born in Lewis County. A second daughter, Eleanor, was also born in Lewis County about 1849. The last child, Charles, only 11 months old was born in Oswego County.

This tells me I can place the family in Jefferson County, New York at least up until 1844. They are in Lewis County from about 1845 to no later than 1854. They arrive in Oswego County in time for Charles’ birth around 1854.

But there’s another clue. Column 13 – “Years resident in this city or town” – shows that the Allens have been in Volney, Fulton City for 2 years thus changing their likely arrival date in Oswego County to 1853. Column 20 – “Owners of land” – indicates that the Allen family did not own any land.

This one census helped to clear up where the family started and where they stopped along the way in New York on the travel west. It gave me new locations to search for new records. By 1860 the family had moved on the Manlius, LaSalle County, Illinois.

If your family traveled west during the mid-nineteenth century be sure to check the 1855, 1865 and 1875 New York State censuses (available on Ancestry.com) to find the clues to solving their migration mysteries.

Unfortunately the Allen family remains a bit of a mystery for me. In the 1880 US Federal Census I find a David Allen, Maria Allen and son Charles Allen of appropriate ages in Faribault, Rice County, Minnesota. But I also find in a different 1880 census a John Slocumb, Elizabeth Slocumb and a widowed Maria Allen living in Port Huron, St. Clair County, Michigan. A Michigan marriage record indicates that a Libbie Maria Allen born in Lewis County, New York married John Slocumb in 1877. It will take a bit more digging to determine which is my Allen family!

For help researching your New York ancestors see our New York series by expert Jane Wilcox in the Legacy library!

 

Marian Pierre-Louis is the Social Media Marketing Manager for Legacy Family Tree. She is also a speaker, writer and the host of The Genealogy Professional podcast. Check out her webinars in the Legacy library.

 

 


A Simple Tip to Bust Genealogy Brick Walls

A Simple Tip to Bust Genealogy Brick Walls

I was recently reminded of a simple yet effective tip for bringing down brick walls.

Yesterday one of my DNA matches contacted me suggesting that we might be connected through the Bair family. That got my attention because the Bairs are one of my brick walls.

Before I go any further, let me tell you that I am an ancestral DNA addict! Not because I think that there is a magic DNA bullet that is going to bring down my brick walls, rather because it might provide the simplest hint that I hadn't seen before. That hint, combined with good old fashioned genealogy research is what solves mysteries.

My new cousin shared her online Ancestry tree with me so that I could see where we might connect. She had already taken a look at my tree. She pointed out that "My Bair's were in Tuscarawas Co., OH, for a time, and Anna Bonfield that you have in your tree died in Tuscarawas Co." She continued, "I would think based on shared DNA our match would be a good ways back, so we just mightn't find it, but it still would be interesting to see if your Bair's relate to the Tuscarawas Bair's."

Anna Bonfield is not a Bair so at first I discounted that. Too hasty, of course! Anna is married to a Bair - my third great grandfather, Jesse Bair.

I decided to look at the information I had on Jesse Bair. Jesse Bair was born 11 Nov 1814 in Adams County, Pennsylvania. Further scanning of his life showed locations such as Stark County, Ohio; St. Louis, Missouri; and St. Clair, Illinois. Jesse's adult life is pretty clear to me but his parents and roots in Pennsylvania are a mystery.

His wife's death in Tuscarawas, Ohio was nagging at me.

So I went to my Legacy database and did a search for all individuals whose death place or birth place contained Tuscarawas. I didn't bother with listing towns or a state because Tuscarawas is such a unique name. I then selected Create List. 

Searching Legacy Family Tree for individuals in Tuscarawas County


The results brought up, as expected, Anna Bonfield, but also her son James K.P. Bair. A quick peek at his profile showed that he was born in Dover, Tuscarawas, Ohio. I was so focused on my ancestors that I forgot to look at collateral relatives! James is the brother of my second great grandmother, Anna Elizabeth Bair (1850-1881). James' birth places my ancestors right in the same location as the ancestors  of my new distant cousin. Her Jonas Bair married and raised children in Tuscarawas, Ohio for twenty years before heading further west. It places him in the town of Dover exactly at the time my Jesse Bair was there.

James K.P. Bair was born in Tuscarawas County Ohio.
Surprise! James K.P. Bair was born in Tuscarawas County Ohio.


What was my big mistake when researching my Bair brick wall? Not checking each location for other families of the same name!

A quick search in the 1850 census for Tuscarawas County, Ohio revealed over 150 Bairs! I'm only concerned with the oldest generation from Pennsylvania so I narrowed down my search to those born in Pennsylvania.  That brought 26 Bairs to my attention ranging in birth dates from 1791 to 1828. That date range means there's potential that Jesse's father could be hiding in plain sight in Tuscarawas County!

I haven't brought down my brick wall yet. My next task is good old fashioned genealogy research. I need to recreate the Bair families in Tuscarawas County. Yes, it will be a lot of work but if it helps me find parents or siblings for Jesse Bair then it will be worth it!

For more brick wall tips check out "Ten Brick Wall Tips for Beginners" in the Legacy library.

 

Marian Pierre-Louis is the Social Media Marketing Manager for Legacy Family Tree. She is also a speaker, writer and the host of The Genealogy Professional podcast. Check out her webinars in the Legacy library.

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