Ancestry Blog » Amy Johnson Crow The official blog of Ancestry Sat, 25 Oct 2014 13:00:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What We Are Reading: October 24th Edition Fri, 24 Oct 2014 14:28:20 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> Genealogy happy dances can be brought on by breaking through a brick wall. They can also happen when we find a little nugget of information – an insight, a story – that we weren’t expecting.

Many of the things we’ve been reading this week have been around those little stories, whether they were tales of ancestors or of ourselves. (And when it comes to the stories of ourselves, you are recording your own stories, right? If you’re stuck for some ideas, check out our Throwback Thursday topics for some inspiration.)

Here’s some of what we’ve been reading this week:

He Married the Girl Who Brought the Eggs,” by Brenda Joyce Jerome, on Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog. The story of this sweet romance was in the local newspaper. (Not only is it a tender tale, but it’s a good reminder that newspapers have more than obituaries!)

Glamour and Grieving: How the Victorians Dressed for Death,” by Allyssia Alleyne, on CNN Style. Be sure to click through the slideshow; the photos and their captions give insights into what our ancestors might have wore while grieving and why they felt obliged to wear it.

Broken Wings: Finding George Remus,” by Cheri Daniels, on Journeys Past. A bootlegger, prison time, a murdered wife (that didn’t have anything to do with the murdered wife), a lost fortune – is it any wonder the wings on his tombstone are missing?!

At Home in a Cemetery,” by MissPeggy (Peggy Lauritzen), on Always Anxiously Engaged. It’s a tale of two trips to a cemetery, a broken foot, and a snake. What could possibly go wrong?

Find-A-Grave Community Day 2014, Part 1: Fernwood Cemetery,” by Tim Graham, on Photo Restorations by Tim G. Tim took part in the Find A Grave Community Day on October 18. In this post, he shares some of the photos he took, memorials he created, and why he’s looking forward to the next meetup. (We’re looking forward to that, too!)

Previous “What We Are Reading” Posts:

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Research in the Keystone State: New Pennsylvania Research Guide Fri, 17 Oct 2014 14:20:36 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> independence-hall

Independence Hall, Philadelphia. Photo by Amy Crow.

There is so much to explore in Pennsylvania, both in the state’s history and in our own family histories. I’ve been doing Pennsylvania research for a long, long time and I’m amazed at how there is always something new to discover. Did you know these five things:

  1. Pennsylvania was the first state to abolish slavery.
  2. Oil might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Pennsylvania, but the first successful oil well was dug in 1859 near Titusville. (The American Chemical Society has a booklet all about the early oil industry in Pennsylvania.)
  3. Philadelphia had the highest death toll of any U.S. city during the 1918 influenza pandemic. More than 11,000 people died there.
  4. Anthracite coal wasn’t used for fuel until 1808. Even then, it was only experimental.
  5. Yuengling, based in Pottsville, was established in 1829 and is the oldest brewery in the United States. Just think – you could be drinking the same beer as your ancestors!

If you have Pennsylvania ancestors – and lots of us do! – check out our new Pennsylvania State Research Guide, with a general history of the state, a timeline, and lots of resources for you to explore.

For those of you without Keystone State ancestors, it’s alright. Head over to the Learning Center where we have guides for almost every other state. (The series will be completed soon!)

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Taking Clues From Your Ancestor’s Ethnicity Wed, 08 Oct 2014 14:35:29 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> Discovering the origins of our immigrant ancestors is the reason many of us pursue genealogy. There is a desire to pinpoint that ancestral home. When it comes to immigrants, we often think of naturalization records and passenger lists, but it could be that the ethnicity itself holds keys to further our research.

Language and Ethnicity

Part of the list of newspapers in the 1872 Cincinnati, Ohio city directory

Part of the list of newspapers in the 1872 Cincinnati, Ohio city directory

Language has a way of binding people together like few other things can.  Consider the churches in many towns today. You might see the same denomination having services in any number of languages. Churches in my area regularly have services in Spanish, Korean, Russian, and Vietnamese. Our ancestors were the same way.

Lancaster, Ohio had fewer than 5,000 people living there in 1840 and had a long-established Lutheran church. But in 1843, a second Lutheran congregation began. The two congregations for a time shared a building and held services on alternate Sundays. Why? Ethnicity. English members of St. Peter’s formed a separate congregation; German members kept theirs. After three years, the English members built their own church (First English Lutheran), which was less than two blocks away.

Your ancestors may not have gone to the church closest to them if it served a different ethnic group. Knowing which churches served which ethnic communities can help you find those valuable baptism, marriage, and death records. Look in city directories and county histories to sort them out.

Language plays out in other areas, including newspapers. In the mid- to late-1800s, it wasn’t unusual for a city in the U.S. to have multiple newspapers and not all of them in English. (In some cities, the circulation of German-language newspapers was actually higher than that of English-language papers.) The 1872 city directory for Cincinnati lists almost 4 dozen newspapers, including several in German.

If you’re not finding obituaries or news about your ancestor in the “regular” newspaper, ask yourself if that ancestor had a strong ethnic identity, such as an immigrant or first-generation American. His or her news might appear in a foreign-language newspaper even if the same announcement isn’t found in an English counterpart.

Ethnicity and Neighborhoods

My ancestor John Johnson was enumerated in 1850 in Bloom Township, Morgan County, Ohio. His place of birth is listed as Upper Canada, and his naturalization records were no more specific. Considering that Upper Canada represents approximately the southern half of the present-day province of Ontario and that Johnson is an excruciatingly common surname, it’s not enough information to start digging into Canadian records.

When emigrants like John Johnson left their homelands for America, they would often be followed by family and neighbors who would also be followed by family and neighbors. The result of this chain migration were communities of people from the same small section of a homeland who congregated together in new neighborhoods in America. This is good to know because, as a family historian, when you want to solve a location problem for your own ancestor, you may be able to find clues within the neighborhood.

When you look at the census records of an ancestor’s neighborhood, pay attention to your ancestor’s neighbors. What were their names? Where were they born? When did they immigrate to America? Take this information and extend your search for the neighbors’ naturalization records, passenger lists, church records, and death records and obituaries. You may find that rather than just seeing an Irish neighborhood, you’re looking at clusters of immigrants from Tuam or Ennis. And, armed with this information, you can look for your ancestor in those specific areas across the pond.

When it comes to researching our ancestors, we tend to think of events. But sometimes, it’s something about the person himself that is a clue. Ethnicity can be a clue that leads to whole new ways of looking at (and looking for) his records.

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What We Are Reading: October 3rd Edition Fri, 03 Oct 2014 14:17:37 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> In many ways, family history is about finding what has been lost. The relationships, the stories, the struggles – the people who lived it knew those things, but that knowledge got lost somewhere between them and us.

What we try to do now is to rediscover what they knew. We dig into the records and evaluate what we’ve found, all to piece together the clues that they left for us. These articles that we read this week have all tried to do just that.

Alive Inside: The Movie and My Mother,” by Annette Januzzi Wick, on These Darn Writing Shoes. Annette talks about the role of music in unlocking the memories trapped in the minds of people with dementia.

Eureka! … Not,” by Lisa Y. Henderson, on Scuffalong: Genealogy. Lisa discovered a new family member in a city directory… or did she?

Simon (1809-1904) Wilcox and Lydia Sharp/Sharpf (1810-1893) Wilcox – In Which I Disagree With the Book of Wilcox,” by Jo Henn, on Climbing My Family Tree. Sometimes we think that someone else has already made our discoveries for us. Jo took a step back and decided that in one case, they really hadn’t.

When Things Work Out Just Right,” by Kathryn Lake Hogan, on Looking 4 Ancestors. Kathryn shares a different kind of reunion story.

Why I Add All of My Research to My Ancestry Member Tree,” by Randy Seaver, on Genea-Musings. Randy shows us that it’s not just knowledge that can be lost; it can also be something tangible.

What have you been reading this week? Let us know in the comments below.

"Children looking at picture books at school, Santa Clara, Utah." From the Library of Congress Photo Collection, 1840-2000.

“Children looking at picture books at school, Santa Clara, Utah.” From the Library of Congress Photo Collection, 1840-2000.

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What We Are Reading: September 26th Edition Fri, 26 Sep 2014 15:48:04 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> ebook-and-booksFall is officially here! (For those of you in the southern hemisphere: Spring is officially here!) Cooler temperatures and shorter days make it a great time to curl up with some good reading. Oh, who am I kidding – it’s always a great time for reading!

Here’s some of what we’ve been reading this week:

Coffee in the Civil War,” by Ashley Webb, on Emerging Civil War. Think your morning cup of coffee is important? Read what it meant to Civil War soldiers.

Disease in the Civil War,” by Family Sleuther, on Family Sleuther. Civil War pension files can contain a wealth of information, including about the diseases that the men contracted while in the service.

How and When Did World War II Officially Become World War II?” by Dr. Greg Bradsher, on The Text Message. Spoiler: It wasn’t when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

Sentimental Sunday: Roaring Twenties Graduation Photo,” by Marian Burk Wood, on Climbing My Family Tree. The photo of Marian’s grandmother is one of the neatest graduations photos I’ve seen in a long time.

6 Things Every Writer Needs,” by Mom (Kassie Ritman), on Maybe Someone Should Write That Down. Though not specific to genealogy, all of us can pick up some tips for writing about our ancestors.

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What We Are Reading: September 19th Edition Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:39:52 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> Migrating ancestors, deciphering legalese, and an usual death involving a cow. It’s just some of what we were reading this week.

Ancestors on the Move,” by B. Rogers, on When I Was 69. B. considers the reasons that our ancestors moved.

Extracting Data From a Biographical Sketch – Part 1,” by Wendy Littrell, on All My Branches Genealogy. Wendy gives some practical advice on how to keep track of who is whom when you’re reading those long and flowery biographies in old county histories.

Genealogy Tip: Trouble Transcribing? Google the Legal Boilerplate,” by Tim Graham, on Photo Restorations By Tim G. Do you have a hard-to-read document with standard legal wording on it? Help yourself by using Google (or whatever your favorite search engine is) to find what the boilerplate says. The personal names, of course, are up to you to figure out!

Humphrey Atherson’s Quaker Curse?” by Pam Carter, on My Maine Ancestry. Was Humphrey Atherson’s unusual death divine retribution for his persecution of Quakers?

Unusual Regional Words,” by Kirsty Gray, on Family Wise Ltd. Not only are some phrases unusual, but they may also be specific to one region.

"Working Girls of all Nationalities Making the Best of the Spare Evening Hours. Boston 1915 Exhibit. Location: Boston, Massachusetts." Library of Congress Photo Collection, 1840-2000.

“Working Girls of all Nationalities Making the Best of the Spare Evening Hours. Boston 1915 Exhibit. Location: Boston, Massachusetts.” Library of Congress Photo Collection, 1840-2000.

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Talk Like a Pirate and Improve Your Research Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:25:07 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> pirate-ship-flagIt’s Talk Like a Pirate Day – that day when people get in touch with their inner pirate and pepper their sentences with words like “Arrrrrr,” “avast,” and “bilge rat.” (It’s a good day when you can work “bilge rat” into friendly conversation.) Facebook even has a language setting for “English (Pirate).” Don’t want to go that far? Maybe a basic tutorial on key phrases will get you through the day.

For all of the silliness that is Talk Like a Pirate Day (TLAPD), there is something about it that can help us with our genealogy. No, it’s not some newly-uncovered pirate manifest. It’s how we talk. Part of the fun on TLAPD is talking outside our normal way.  What if we did that with the names that we’re researching?

We tend to have a way of “hearing” words when we read them. But what if how we hear that word or that surname isn’t how our ancestors pronounced it – or how someone else heard it?

One of the surnames I research is Daubenmeyer. It’s easy to pick out a few variant spellings – Daubenmeier, Dobenmeyer, Daubenmyer, etc. But what if we pronounce it like they might have, with a strong German accent? We could easily lose the second syllable – and it becomes Daubmeyer. That D at the beginning? It sounds a lot like a T; suddenly you have Taubmeyer. I have seen these variations as well.

Place names are also something that you should play around with. There’s a town in Ohio named “Piqua.” When you read that word, did you “hear” it with a short “A” (pick-wah) or with a long “A” (pick-way)? Although we pronounce it with a short A today, it started out with a long “A.” That might not seem like a big deal until you find a record that says your family was living in “Pickway, Ohio.” Is that a misspelling of the town of Piqua (in northwest Ohio) or the county of Pickaway, which is in the south-central part of the state? You could be putting them in the wrong place if you don’t consider how pronunciation can cause these variant spellings.

So let’s celebrate TLAPD not by greeting everyone with “Ahoy!” or drinking grog. (Who really wants to drink grog, anyway?) Instead, let’s celebrate by playing with our words and seeing what new words or new spellings we can come up with. It might help you consider names and places you hadn’t thought of before.



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Happy Birthday to Lots of You! Tue, 16 Sep 2014 14:19:01 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> Happy birthday! If your birthday is September 16, chances are you know someone else with the same birthday as you. It is the most common birthday in the United States for those born between 1973 and 1999. (If you’re a visual data/infographic geek like I am, check out the heat map that Andy Kriebel put together based on data by the New York Times.)

Not only is September 16 the most common birthday, but September has the top 11 most common birthdays. (In order, September 16, 9, 23, 17, 22, 24, 21, 15, 10, 18, and 25.) So why the popularity in September birthdays? One theory: the holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. (I’ll leave it up to you to figure out why that might play into it.)

My dad and my niece just missed sharing a birthday, but the occasionally share their cake.

My dad and my niece just missed sharing a birthday, but they occasionally share their cake.

This got me thinking about the clusters of birthdays in my family. My dad and my aunt (Dad’s sister) share the same birthday – September 9. No, they’re not twins; they were born three years apart. (And they have a brother between them!) My niece missed their birthday by just 10 hours. Two pairs of my first cousins share birthdays (two on August 21 and two September 6). My son and my oldest sister have the same birthday. In a weird twist, my daughter was born on my brother-in-law’s birthday.  (I hope my other sister and brother-in-law don’t feel left out.)

Expanding the family a little bit and there are a ton of November birthdays in my family. (Let’s hear it for us Scorpios!) Once, my grandma mused aloud, “I wonder why there are so many November birthdays.” My dad, ever the quick one, replied, “Because February is a darn cold month.” Grandma was rather scandalized by that observation.

How about you? What clusters of birthdays exist in your family?

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What We Are Reading: September 12th Edition Fri, 12 Sep 2014 18:26:57 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> Sometimes what we read in a week follows a theme. There are those weeks when everyone seems to be writing about the same thing — or maybe subconsciously we’re just noticing the same subjects. That definitely wasn’t the case this week! In the past few days, everything from ancestors who were former slaves to non-paternity events to unusual libraries caught our eye. We hope you enjoy this eclectic mix!

Bristow Harris or Was It Bristoe, Brister or Bristol?” by Andrea Kelleher, on How Did I Get Here? My Amazing Genealogy Journey. No matter his first name, Andrea is proud of her 3rd great-grandfather who was a former slave. She used city directories to recreate his later life.

Can We Stop Calling Grandma a Whore?” by Kerry Scott, on Clue Wagon. Kerry reminds us that when it comes to non-paternity events in our tree, we usually won’t know the “why” of what happened.

Handwritten Bird’s Means So Much More,” by Simon Bird, on The Branches of My Tree. We treasure those records that our ancestors wrote. What are we leaving for our descendants?

The Many Lives of an Old Railroad Car,” by Laurie Thompson, on Anne T. Kent California Room Community Newsletter (Marin County Free Library). We’ve heard of bookmobiles, but a library branch in a railroad car? This was a new one for us!

A Soldier Boy’s Creed,” by Schalene Dagutis, on Tangled Roots and Trees. Schalene’s tribute to Julius Franklin Collins who died in World War I is not only beautiful, it also serves as a reminder that newspapers have so much more than obituaries.

photo of brothers reading a book-fifties


What are you reading this week? Share in the comments below for others to enjoy as well.


Previous “What We Are Reading” posts: 




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What We Are Reading: September 5 Edition Fri, 05 Sep 2014 21:03:22 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> Student Holding Old BooksThere were several lessons to be learned at the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference last week. Among them: Write it down! Whether it’s writing about why you think that particular person is your third-great-grandfather or writing a timeline to organize your research, writing is crucial to everything we do in family history. It helps us in our research – and it also makes for good reading for others!

Here’s what we’ve been reading this week:

The 200th Birthday of Sir George-Étienne Cartier, a Prominent Father of Confederation” on Library and Archives Canada Blog. Informative article about Cartier and his role in Canadian confederation.

Cemeteries Share Tales of Lafayette’s Rich History,” by Kathy Matter, on Lafayette Journal & Courier. Mark Griffin has studied the cemeteries of Tippecanoe County, Indiana and shares some of the things those cemeteries can teach about local history.

Family Reunion Book Awesomeness” on thegenealogygirl. She shares how she put together a small book for her family reunion. The result? Big hit! Could be a good idea for the upcoming holiday season.

In-depth Review of a Record Leads to a Genealogy Solution,” by Lorine McGinnis Schulze, on Olive Tree Genealogy Blog. Lorine shows how learning more about the source itself can help you get more out of a record and even break down a brick wall.

Labor Day in Photos,” by Wendy Littrell, on All My Branches. Have you thought about the occupations your ancestors had?

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