Blog » Amy Johnson Crow The official blog of Tue, 19 Aug 2014 21:12:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Survey Says: Our Genealogists Share Their Favorite Cemeteries Tue, 19 Aug 2014 21:12:28 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> Asking some genealogists to name their favorite cemetery is sort of like asking a parent to name their favorite child. Yet that’s exactly what I did to some of the people I work with. (No, I wasn’t trying to put them on the spot!) I’m fairly obsessed with cemeteries and was curious as to some of their favorites. Here’s what they told me.

Anne Gillespie Mitchell has a fondness for Stonewall Jackson Cemetery in Lexington, Virginia. It’s easy to understand why. She has five generations of ancestors buried there. “My great-grandparents had a house that was right next to the property for years and my grandfather played there. And then there’s the historical significance since Stonewall himself is buried there.”

Calvary Cemetery. Photo by Lou Szucs.

Calvary Cemetery. Photo by Lou Szucs.

Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, New York is Lou Szucs’ favorite. She told me that there have been more than 3 million burials there since the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York opened it in 1848 and is said to have more interments there than any other cemetery in the United States. Some of Lou’s earliest immigrant ancestors are buried there.  (There’s also the added bonus of the view of Manhattan.)

Paul Rawlins’ favorite is Lewiston City Cemetery in Lewiston, Utah. “I have three generations of family there, and my parents already have their headstone in place (no rush, Mom and Dad). But I think the real connection with the place was forged with the living people I spent time with there—my grandmother, aunts, uncle, parents and brothers—every year growing up. It feels like a sort of family home.” (Paul has written before about his family traditions and remembrances in this cemetery.)

Another New York favorite is Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn, which is Juliana Szucs Smith’s favorite. “We got our first view of Thomas Howley’s headstone on Find A Grave. The small simple stone had his name, date of death and an important detail—Fireman, USS Ft. Jackson. That clue led me to a 123-page Civil War pension application that I found on He had enlisted using his mother’s maiden name, so he didn’t appear in searches of pension indexes. When we were in New York a few years ago, we got to visit the cemetery in person. We have a ton of family there so it was great to revisit gravesites we hadn’t been to in years, and for the first time see Thomas’ stone in person.”


My favorite? I can’t narrow it to a single cemetery, so I’m going to take artistic license with my part of this article and name a few of them.

Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis is large (the third-largest non-government cemetery in the U.S.). It is the final resting place for everyone from presidents (Benjamin Harrison) to notorious felons (John Dillinger). The rich (Eli Lilly of Lilly Pharmaceuticals) and the poor (countless “unnamed” graves) are all buried here. (If you go, be sure to visit James Whitcomb Riley’s grave at the top of Crown Hill. The view of the Indianapolis skyline is incredible from there.)

I’ve been to countless cemeteries, including dozens of military cemeteries, including Arlington National Cemetery, which is an incredibly moving place. But even after seeing all of those, I was not prepared for what I felt at the American Cemetery at Normandy. I had the privilege of visiting there in June, just a few days after the 70th anniversary of D-Day. As I walked up the path to the cemetery, I thought I was ready to see it. But seeing row after row after row of markers – and realizing that they died in short time of each other – was nearly overwhelming. (Note: You can find records of those buried at Normandy and other American military cemeteries overseas in the new collection U.S., Headstone and Interment Records for U.S. Military Cemeteries on Foreign Soil, 1942-1949.)

American Cemetery at Normandy. Photo by Amy Crow, June 2014.

American Cemetery at Normandy. Photo by Amy Crow, June 2014.

Olivet Cemetery, Perry County, Ohio. Photo by Amy Crow.

Olivet Cemetery, Perry County, Ohio. Photo by Amy Crow.


But for all of the grand cemeteries I’ve visited and liked – and I’ve liked them all! – perhaps my favorite cemetery is Olivet Cemetery in Perry County, Ohio. It’s a small cemetery in the rolling hills of southeastern Ohio and is where three generations of my ancestors are buried. Walking there in the quiet countryside, I can almost hear my ancestors.

What are some of your favorite cemeteries?


]]> 5
What We Are Reading: August 15 Edition Fri, 15 Aug 2014 15:24:50 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> It’s hard to believe, but the schools in my area started classes this week. I remember when I was in school, it was unusual to start before Labor Day. (Now get off my lawn!) The kids shouldn’t be the only ones reading. We should all join in the fun!

Cincinnati Union Station

Cincinnati Union Station

Here are some of the things that we were reading this week:

Is Your Lost Family Bible on Fold3 in a Pension File?” by Jim Long, on LongBranch Genealogy. Jim found pages from his ancestor’s family Bible in a War of 1812 pension file. Not a transcript – the actual pages! (And it’s another reason to help out the Preserve the Pensions project!)

Lessons Learned from Photographing 1000 Tombstones,” by Lynn Palermo, on The Armchair Genealogist. Lynn learned a lot while working on a photo project at her local cemetery and shares tips about photography and tombstone research.

Our Cincinnati Union Terminal,” by Cheri Daniels, on Journeys Past. Cheri takes us through her family’s close history with Cincinnati’s beautiful Union Terminal. What are some of the places that your ancestors are closely tied to?

The Stories We Need to Read,” by Angela Y. Walton-Raji, on My Ancestor’s Name. Angela shows how reading historical fiction can give us insight into the lives and situations of our ancestors. She also has some recommendations for good books.

]]> 2
What We Are Reading: August 8 Edition Fri, 08 Aug 2014 18:59:23 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> Willie Cohen, 1210 So. 6th St., 8 years of age, newsboy, attends John Hay School. Was selling papers at Phila. & Reading Terminal 10:30 A.M. Monday June 13th, Said it was Jewish Holiday. Max Rafalovizht, 1300 So. 6th St, 8 years old, attends John Hay School, was selling papers at Phila. & Reading Terminal, June 13th, 1910. Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From Library of Congress Photo Collection, 1840-2000.

Willie Cohen, 1210 So. 6th St., 8 years of age, newsboy, attends John Hay School. Was selling papers at Phila. & Reading Terminal 10:30 A.M. Monday June 13th, Said it was Jewish Holiday. Max Rafalovizht, 1300 So. 6th St, 8 years old, attends John Hay School, was selling papers at Phila. & Reading Terminal, June 13th, 1910. Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From Library of Congress Photo Collection, 1840-2000.

It’s the dog days of summer. Sounds like the perfect time to grab a cool drink, find a shady spot, and do some reading. If you have an Internet connection in that shady spot, check out some of the things we’ve been reading this week. (And if you don’t have wifi out there, go back inside in the air conditioning and read them there!)

Damn the Torpedoes! The Battle of Mobile Bay,” by Craig L. Symonds, on Civil War Trust. This week was the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Mobile Bay, during which Rear Admiral David Farragut, forcing his fleet into the Confederate-controlled bay, issued the command “Damn the torpedoes…  full speed!”

Finding Time to Write,” by Amber Lanier Nagle, on Amber Lanier Nagle. You know you’re supposed to be writing your family stories, but you don’t seem to have the time. Amber has some ideas on how you can find the time.

Remembrance and Reflection as First World War Sacrifices are Recalled,” by Carline Davies, Patrick Wintour, and Richard Norton-Taylor, on The Guardian. This week was the 100th anniversary of Great Britain entering World War I. Read about some of the commemoration events.

Remembrance: Charlie Payne’s Letter to ‘My Darling Boys’ 23 August 1917,” by Chris Payne, on Chris Payne’s Blog. Charlie Payne, Chris Payne’s grandfather, was in the British Expeditionary Force and wrote this moving letter to his four sons before he went into battle.

Taking a Constitutional,” by Judy G. Russell, on The Legal Genealogist. Judy shares resources for finding early state constitutions and colonial charters — great resources for understanding the records that we use in our research.

William H. Cackley (1783-1860) of Pocahontas County, VA, Lieutenant, Virginia Militia, War of 1812,” by Susan McNelley, on Tracings by SAM. (Note: this is a PDF.) Susan shows the incredible amount of information you can find in War of 1812 pension files. (By the way, have you heard about the Preserve the Pensions project, which is working to digitize those great records?)

]]> 1
The White Glove Debate Continued: What’s Up With the Purple Gloves? Thu, 07 Aug 2014 17:43:27 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> If you saw the recent episode of Who Do You Think You Are? featuring Rachel and Kayleen McAdams, you might have noticed them wearing some special accessories. When they visited the Archives of Ontario, they had to don purple gloves when handling a map of land grants in Ontario. So, what’s up with the those?

Dr. Jane Errington with Rachel and Kayleen McAdams at the Archives of Ontario

Dr. Jane Errington with Rachel and Kayleen McAdams at the Archives of Ontario

The purple gloves weren’t intended as a fashion statement. Some archives use nitrile gloves instead of white cotton gloves for handling materials that could be harmed by the oil on your fingers. Nitrile gloves allow for better feeling and often fit better than cotton gloves. This helps reduce the chance of inadvertently tearing or creasing the document when you’re handling it. Nitrile gloves are also disposable, which means that they aren’t holding the dirt and grime from previous research sessions.

You might be wondering about latex gloves. Some people have allergic reactions to latex. Nitrile gloves have gained popularity over latex for that reason.

White gloves, nitrile gloves, bare hands – which is it?! As researchers, it comes down to this: Always have clean hands (even with gloves), use common sense, and follow the rules of whatever archive you are in.

]]> 1
What We Are Reading: August 1 Edition Fri, 01 Aug 2014 13:52:00 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> children with book

What does a Civil War descendant, Coca Cola signs, and the Great Lakes have in common? It’s just some of what we’ve been reading this week.


Bitter Sweet Memories, the History of a Family Home,” by Carol, on Reflections from the Fence. The selling of the family home brought back a lot of memories of the things that had happened there. What about the history in the house where you grew up?


Civil War Quick Tip: Really? I Was Fascinated By This Guy’s Story,” by Cindy Freed, on Genealogy Circle. Cindy discovered a Civil War descendant who discovered a link between his grandmother’s attitudes and his Civil War ancestor.


Coca Cola’s Restoration of ‘Ghost Murals’ in Appalachia,” by Lauren C. Steele, on Appalachian History. The sides of buildings used to double as painted billboards. The advertisements are fading away, taking history with them. Coca Cola has started a project to restore some of these historic “ghost murals.”


Even Airplane Crashes Have a Silver Lining,” by David C. J., on Mid-Continent Public Library Genealogy Blog. When we think of finding wreckage in Lake Michigan, we usually think of ships. Turns out, there are a lot of airplanes down there, too — and they are a wealth of aviation history.


History of the Great Lakes States is a website with links to online books, articles, and maps for the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

]]> 3
Behind the Scenes: ProGenealogists Joseph Shumway Tue, 29 Jul 2014 14:03:23 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> joseph-shumwayMany people wonder how to get the youngsters in the family interested in genealogy. Joseph Shumway’s grandmother figured it out. When Joseph was 12, she invited him over so he could help her learn her new genealogy software.

“I was always the kid who enjoyed listening to the family stories,” Joseph recently told me. But working with that software and helping his grandmother enter the names is what really got him thinking about it and sparked an interest in learning more about his ancestors.

Joseph is an Accredited Genealogist and is a researcher at ProGenealogists. You might think that with such an early start, he always intended to be a professional genealogist.  “When I was younger, I never knew you could be a professional,” he said. As he became more experienced, people hired him. His clientele grew to the point where he needed to decide whether to pursue genealogy as a career or to follow the path he originally intended. “With the encouragement and support of my mentors, I chose genealogy.”

Joseph enjoys digging deep into challenging research problems. For that reason, African American research is his favorite. A lack of records certainly makes it challenging, but ultimately the most rewarding. “The smallest piece of new information can mean the most” in the research, he told me.

You never know what you’re going to turn up when you begin a research project, whether it’s for a client or for something like Who Do You Think You Are? (one of several television shows on which Joseph has been a contributor).  One of his favorite discoveries involved a project that started with a man who lived in South Carolina with an aunt. The goal was to identify the man’s parents, who were believed to have been from England. Joseph found the connection to England – and to a group of three sisters who were passing themselves off as Tudor heiresses to scam wealthy men.

For those who are getting started climbing their family tree, Joseph advises not to jump too far ahead too quickly. “Talk to everyone who is still living. Get their stories and find out all you can from them.” While it’s tempting to gloss over this, Joseph assures that it is a crucial step.

In case you’re wondering, yes, he does get asked regularly if he’s related to Gordon Shumway of Alf fame. (“Though people are sometimes surprised that I actually remember the show!”) As for the actual relationship between Joseph and Gordon, all he would tell me was “We’re proud to have the family name out there.”


]]> 2
The White Glove Debate Mon, 28 Jul 2014 14:19:21 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> Besides death and taxes, there is a third certainty of life: Have someone on television handle an old document without wearing white gloves and you will hear shocked people all across social media. Slightly less certain are the comments of those who are shocked when someone does wear white gloves when handling a document.

Welcome to the White Glove Debate.

When I was in library school, the white gloves question came up in all of my archive classes. The professors and the visiting archivists all had the same answer: Don’t wear gloves unless you’re handling photographs or a material that could be harmed by fingerprints. The gloves could do more harm than good.

How could gloves hurt paper? Gloves reduce your sense of touch. Simply put, you’re clumsier when you wear gloves. You stand a greater chance of ripping or creasing the paper because you cannot feel the paper and you’ve lost fine dexterity.

I have a family Bible that was printed in 1882. The front cover is missing and several pages in the back have come loose and are frayed. Though I own a pair of white gloves, I don’t wear them when handling this Bible because I wouldn’t be able to feel how one of those pages is behaving when I touch it. It would be way too easy to break off more of the edges.

Blackstone family Bible, published in 1882. In the possession of Amy Crow.

Blackstone family Bible, published in 1882. In the possession of Amy Crow.

The use of gloves in archives is not a centuries-old tradition. In their article “Misperceptions About White Gloves” (International Preservation News, December 2005), Cathleen A. Baker and Randy Silverman report that using white gloves with documents didn’t become popular until the 1990s. Baker and Silverman propose that it came about as the number of archival material catalogs grew. Others, such as Grace Pritchard-Woods, believe that it has grown from the popularity of history. “It could also be said that gloves contribute toward our experience of the past by building a sense of anticipation and occasion when we view historical material,” she proposes.

A Move Away from White Gloves

More and more archives are moving away from requiring white gloves for some of their archival material. The National Archives and Record Administration (US), the Library of Congress, The National Archives (UK), and the British Library are just some of the major repositories that allow researchers to handle some documents without gloves.

A Word About Photographs

One area where there is little, if any, debate is when handling photographs, negatives, and film. Fingerprints on those items can do irreparable harm. Gloves (either the “traditional” cotton or the newer nitrile gloves) should always be worn when handling those items.

Follow the Rules and Use Common Sense

No matter what archive you’re in, follow their rules. If they say to use gloves, use gloves. If they say that you can handle that collection of 19th century letters without gloves, use some common sense. Wash your hands first and handle the documents gently.

I had the opportunity to visit the OCLC archives and hold Melville Dewey’s personal copy of the first edition of his decimal classification, complete with his notes for the second edition. Yes, the book that first outlined the Dewey Decimal System. I was in library geek heaven. As I held it (without gloves), my primary thought was, “Don’t drool on it.” Gloves would not have protected the book from that!

]]> 9
Special Delivery: Postmasters in the Family Tree Sat, 26 Jul 2014 14:14:18 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> postage-stampHappy Birthday to the U.S. Postal Service! (We would have sent them a card, but we couldn’t find one for a 239th birthday.)

One great thing about having an ancestor who held a government job such as postmaster is that it creates a paper trail. A postmaster (which is the correct term for both males and females) has to be appointed to that position.  That appointment needs to be recorded somewhere.  For the period from 1832 to 1971, that “somewhere” was the Post Office Department. Those records were sent to the National Archives and Records Administration and are available in the U.S., Appointments of U.S. Postmasters, 1832-1971 collection on

Postmaster is an interesting occupation to have in the family tree. Besides being a job with records associated with it, it spans both urban and rural ancestors. (If there’s a post office, it needs a postmaster.) Also, beginning during the Civil War, there are a large number of women who were postmasters. It’s a rare glimpse into work outside the home for females of the time. It is estimated that 10 per cent of the postmasters in the U.S. at the close of the 19th century were female.

During the Civil War, the position of postmaster was a political appointment that was sometimes given to the widow of a Civil War soldier. These appointments were given both as a token of recognition of his service, but also to provide income for the widow and any children. After the war, many post offices in the former Confederate states had female postmasters due to the requirement that federal appointees not have voluntarily taken up arms against the United States. (In other words, Confederate veterans need not apply.)

Be sure the look at the image of the actual record. Some records contain notes. Also, you will be able to estimate how long a person was the postmaster by comparing their appointment date with that of the next postmaster. (The actual time in the position would have been shorter, as the appointment process itself took some time.) Keep in mind that the U.S. Post Office did not maintain the post offices in the southern states during the Civil War; therefore, there will be a gap in the postmaster appointments in those states.

You can also learn a lot by browsing by location. The records are arranged by state and then by county. If you browse through a county, you can see when post offices were discontinued or when a name changed. Browsing through Emmet County, Michigan, we see that sometime after 4 June 1877, the Little Traverse post office was renamed Harbor Springs and that the Mossville post office was discontinued 4 March 1878.

emmet-county-postmasters Other Resources:


]]> 6
What We Are Reading: July 25 Edition Fri, 25 Jul 2014 21:06:19 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> I’ve always been an avid reader. I enjoy seeing things from a different perspective or digging deeper into a subject that’s new to me. That’s what the articles we’ve read this week do. (Plus, there’s some inspiration to do some writing of your own!)


Census Sunday: William Wallace Greene Jr Counted Twice on 1930 Census,” by Colleen Greene, on Colleen and Jeff’s Roots. Someone on the census twice? It happens. Colleen explains her theory on why her husband’s grandfather is listed in two different states just four days apart. It’s important to consider context.

Cite Your Sources,” by Kris Stewart, on My Link to the Past. You’ve heard the advice about citing your sources before, but probably never from a pug pup. (Oh, and Kris’s advice is spot on.)

Part I, Women in Prison and Prison Records,” by Kathleen Brandt, on a3Genealogy. Kathleen gives background about women in prison in Missouri and sources for Missouri prison records. (Spoiler alert: there are details about the Cynthia Nixon episode of Who Do You Think You Are?)

Terence A. Coyne: An Office of Strategic Services’ Art Looting Investigation Unit Monuments Man,” by Dr. Greg Bradsher, on The Text Message, the blog of the processing and reference archivists at the National Archives and Records Administration. This is the latest installment in a series on the real-life Monument Men, beyond the few who were depicted in the movie.

The Texas State Genealogical Society is sponsoring a writing competition. Get moving — the deadline is September 15th.


]]> 1
Dear Census Taker: Read the Instructions Mon, 21 Jul 2014 15:46:11 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> Dear Census Taker:

I would have addressed this as “Dear Enumerator,” but was concerned that you had not yet read the instructions that have been given to you and, thus, might be unfamiliar with that term. Those instructions are why I am writing to you today. Following these instructions will generate much joy for the descendants of those you record. Failure to follow these directions will, conversely, cause those descendants to curse your name, research you, discover where you are buried, and spit upon your grave. You do not want this to happen.

It is important to understand that words have meaning and that the columns as they are outlined are to be filled in using certain guidelines. You are filling in the 1860 census. You might have noticed column 14: “Whether deaf and dumb, blind, insane, idiotic, pauper, or convict.” While in your day-to-day activities, you perhaps have referred to a neighbor as being “an idiot” due to a quirk in his behavior, please follow the instructions. Record someone as insane if he “once possessed mental faculties which have become impaired,” whereas idiocy should be recorded for “persons who have never possessed vigorous mental faculties, but from their birth had manifested aberration.” Similarly, do not record someone as deaf merely due to hardness of hearing from old age. Deafness should be recorded if the person was “born deaf or who lost the faculty of hearing before acquiring the use of speech.”


(Please be advised, we are going to change this in the 1870 census to refer to “idiotic” as “based on the common consent of the neighborhood.”)

Regarding the valuation of real estate and personal estate (columns 8 and 9). For real estate, use the value as given by the head of the family. For personal estate, consider all property that is not real estate that comprises a person’s personal wealth, including “bonds, mortgages, notes, slaves, live stock, plate, jewels, or furniture.”

If you have taken censuses in the past, please note that these instructions are, in many cases, different than what you have had before. Owing to the changing nature of census questions, they will likely change in the future.

Our gratitude in advance for reading and following the census instructions.


The Census Bureau

P.S.: If you obtain access to a time machine, go to the year 2014 and find something called a “computer.” From this device, go onto “the Internet.” There you will find full instructions given to enumerators from the United States Census Bureau and the Minnesota Population Center, University of Minnesota. This will greatly aid your understanding of terms used in the various censuses.

]]> 8