Ancestry Blog » Juliana Szucs The official blog of Ancestry Thu, 30 Oct 2014 20:02:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Bring Your Ancestors to Life: Adding Context with Unique Ancestry Collections Thu, 30 Oct 2014 17:40:45 +0000 Juliana Szucs Read more]]> Looking at a pedigree chart can be somewhat uninspiring to family members who haven’t yet been bitten with the genealogy bug. We know that those names and dates carry stories, but to really do them justice we need to add context. There are some fantastic resources available on Ancestry that can help us do just that. Here are a few collections you may want to check out.

New York City, Ellis Island Oral Histories, 1892-1976 – Beginning in 1973, the Ellis Island Oral History Program collected more than 2,000 first-hand oral histories documenting the immigrant experience. This collection is, in short, addictive. The immigrants discuss everything from everyday life in their country of origin to reasons for coming to America. Learn about the journey to America, how the family made their way to their port of departure, what it was like on board the ship, what happened at the processing station at Ellis Island, and the immigrant’s adjustment to life in the U.S. You’ll come away with a real feel for what turn of the century immigrants went through.

Historic Catalogs of Sears, Roebuck and Co., 1896-1993 – Compiled from the iconic department store’s printed mailer, this collection includes catalogs starting in 1896. Beginning with mail-order goods the company followed the railroad in America’s westward expansion, providing a wide variety of goods to customers across the country. Even residents in remote rural areas could now see the latest conveniences and current fashions. These catalogs offer us a unique peek into the times.

Sears, Roebuck and Co. Catalog from Spring 1906

Sears, Roebuck and Co. Catalog from Spring 1906

The catalogs can also be used to estimate the dates on old photographs based on clothing styles.

Sears, Roebuck and Co. Catalog from Fall 1915

Sears, Roebuck and Co. Catalog from Fall 1915

The Gentleman’s Magazine Library, 1731-1868 – In publication from 1731 until 1907, this monthly periodical was distributed throughout the English-speaking world and covered a wide variety of topics in essays, biographies, articles, illustrations, poetry, reports, and historical passages. Sections of the collection cover the various counties in England, and others cover manners, customs and superstitions. In parts of Worcestershire and Shropshire it was considered unlucky to “meet a squinting woman, unless you talk to her, which breaks the charm.” Other situations considered unlucky include being one of a party of thirteen at Christmas, having crickets in the house, and to have a female come into your house the first thing on New Year’s morning. “So generally does this absurdity prevail, that in many towns, young lads make a ‘good thing of it’ by selling their services to go round and enter houses first that morning.”

Want to know about your ancestor’s village? The Gentleman’s Magazine Library has you covered. Here’s an example of what you could find.

From "The Gentleman's Magazine Library, 1731-1868," Kent and Lancashire.

From “The Gentleman’s Magazine Library, 1731-1868,” Kent and Lancashire.

Local Histories

Local histories contain valuable gems of information for family history researchers, regardless of whether the family lived in the city or in a rural area. But these resources are often overlooked. And even if they aren’t entirely ignored, we may find ourselves just checking the index for surnames of interest.

Browsing A History of the City of Brooklyn by Henry R. Stiles (1867-70), you’ll find information about epidemics, political and legislative events, celebrations, incorporations, explosions, fires, the organization of clubs, and much more. There is talk of school fairs and the date when water was first piped into the area. One section chronicles the mobilization of troops for the Civil War and includes details of the efforts of the community to support the families of volunteers during their absence.

Local and county histories often include valuable information about the various institutions in a particular area. Churches, orphanages, charitable institutions, schools, hospitals and dispensaries, cultural institutions, cemeteries, businesses, and methods of available transportation are frequently discussed in great detail.

Ancestry has thousands of local histories online, but they’re best searched directly or, better yet, browsed. To see what’s available for the places your ancestors lived, click on the Search tab, and choose a state from the map in the lower left corner. The Stories, Memories & Histories section is located at the bottom of the list. In addition to state histories, be sure to see what’s available on the local level by selecting a county from the box on the right.

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Immigration to and Migration Within the U.S. in the 1900s Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:17:17 +0000 Juliana Szucs Read more]]> OkiesThe wave of immigration that started in the 1880s continued into the 20th century. Immigration peaked in the first decade of the 20th century with more than 9.2 million immigrants coming into the U.S. in those ten years. With many of the immigrants coming from southern and eastern Europe, there was a push to control the numbers of immigrants coming into the country. More questions were asked of passengers. Polygamists were to be excluded and, following President McKinley’s assassination, political radicals as well. The Dillingham Commission was tasked in 1907 to compile statistics and report on immigration into the U.S.; its findings prompted legislation that drastically reduced the number of aliens allowed into the U.S.

In 1917, illiterates, persons of “psychopathic inferiority,” men and women entering for immoral purposes, alcoholics, stowaways, and vagrants were added to the exclusion list. The Emergency Immigration Act of 1921 capped the number of immigrants from a particular country to 3% of the number of people from that country who were living in the U.S. in 1910. The Quota Act of 1924 restricted immigration further, lowering that limit to 2% of the people from a particular country who were here in 1890. This all but slammed the door on immigration for people from southern and eastern Europe. During this period, you may find immigrants from these areas traveling to northern or western ports to leave Europe or coming in through Canada. These quotas remained in place until 1965 when they were replaced with quotas for the Eastern and Western Hemisphere and finally in 1978, replaced with a worldwide quota of 290,000.

Birds of Passage

Not all of the immigrants coming to the U.S. at the turn of the century intended to stay. Many Italians and Eastern Europeans only intended to work until they could save enough money to purchase land or make a better life for themselves back at home. Many of these immigrants, known as “Birds of Passage,” made multiple trips back and forth from their homeland. Often the men came first, eventually bringing part or all of their family on later trips.  Some returned to their homeland to stay, while others eventually made a new home in the U.S.


Below is a timeline of some of the important immigration waves and migrations of the 20th century.

1903-1906 – Russian pogroms prompted many Russian Jews to immigrate to the U.S. As cities like New York struggled to cope with the influx, the Galveston Movement encouraged Jews to immigrate through the port of Galveston.

1907 – In the early 20th century, Japanese immigrants came to California in large numbers, spurring anti-Japanese and Asian sentiment throughout the state. The U.S. and Japanese governments agreed in 1907 to deny passports to laborers going directly from Japan to the United States. In 1913, the California passed the Alien Land Law, which declared Japanese, as “aliens ineligible for citizenship,” unable to own agricultural land in the state. Some individuals circumvented these laws by having their American-born children become the owners of the estate.

1910 – The Mexican Revolution sent thousands to the United States seeking employment. Many found employment in the Southwest where there was a labor shortage. In 1911, to encourage immigration, the U.S. exempted Mexicans from immigrant head taxes. The welcome mat was rolled up, however, with the start of the Great Depression.

1914–18 – World War I put an end to the large-scale immigration to the U.S. from Europe.

1916-1970 – The Great Migration was a large-scale relocation of an estimated 6 million African Americans from rural areas in the South to the larger industrial cities in the North. It began in 1916, in part as the need for industrial labor increased with World War I.

1919 – The Big Red Scare came in the wake of the Russian Revolution as the fear of communism grew. Thousands of aliens were seized in the Palmer raids; hundreds were deported.


1920s – The rapid growth of the automobile industry in the 1920s changed the way America lived and traveled. The ability to drive to jobs in the city accelerated the growth of suburbs. With more than 23 million registered drivers on the road by the end of the decade, there was also a need for more roads – a need that would be met over time and give the population even greater mobility.


1929-1941 – The Great Depression forced many Americans to leave their homes in search of work. Some families moved in with relatives to combine incomes and save money. Transients hopped trains and hitchhiked across the country looking for opportunities. Young people who didn’t want to burden their parents were often found among the transients. Tent cities and shantytowns, often referred to as “Hoovervilles” after President Herbert Hoover, sprang up in and around cities. The drought and severe dust storms of the 1930s also prompted migration within the U.S. during the Dust Bowl years. It’s estimated that 3.5 million people left their homes in the Great Plains, many of whom migrated to California.

1930s – The stock market crash and the Great Depression prompted demands for further immigration reductions. There was rigorous enforcement of a prohibition against the admission of persons liable to be public charges. Immigrants to the U.S. faced discrimination and the quotas put in place meant that many Jews fleeing Europe with Hitler’s rise to power were turned away. Mexicans who had been welcomed in previous decades were encouraged to return to Mexico and, in some cases, deported. Some Americans of Mexican descent were forcibly sent to Mexico even though they had been born in the U.S. It’s estimated that 500,000 Mexicans were removed during the 1930s. Mexican immigrants were welcomed back once again when the need for labor increased as America entered World War II.

1933 – The Tennessee River Valley was in many places prone to flooding and was hard-hit economically during the Depression years. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was established in 1933 with the goals of alleviating flooding problems, generating affordable electricity, facilitating better river navigation, manufacturing fertilizer, and bolstering the local economies. While there were many benefits, thousands of people, cemeteries, and other institutions need to be relocated from places that were to be flooded to make way for the dams and hydroelectric power plants that were to be built. Case histories and surveys of those who were in the path of the projects as well as cemetery relocation records are available on Ancestry.

1933-1942 – During the time the Civilian Conservation Corps was in existence, approximately 2.5 million men aged 18 to 25 moved through more than 1,500 camps, working on reforestation, building roads and trails in national parks, and working on other conservation projects.

1934 – Filipino immigration was restricted to an annual quota of 50 by the Philippine Independence Act.

1940 – The Alien Registration Act, also known as the Smith Act, called for registration and fingerprinting of all aliens age 14 and older within or entering the U.S (54 Stat. 1137). Approximately 5.5 million aliens were registered.


1942 – Japanese Americans were removed from their homes and moved to detention camps.

1942 – Through the Bracero Program, Mexican laborers were strongly encouraged to come to the United States to ease the shortage of farm workers brought on by World War II.

1943 – Legislation provided for the importation of agricultural workers from North, South, and Central America, Canada, and the Caribbean—the basis of the “Bracero Program.”

1943 – The Chinese exclusion laws of the 1880s were repealed.

1945 – Thousands of Puerto Ricans emigrated to escape poverty. Many settled in New York. The wave of immigration peaked in the 1950s and continued into the 1960s. By then 1 million Puerto Ricans had made their way into the United States.

1946 – The War Brides Act facilitated the immigration of foreign-born wives, fiancé(e)s, husbands, and children of U.S. armed forces personnel.

1948 – The Displaced Persons Act, the first U.S. policy for admitting persons fleeing persecution, allowed 400,000 refugees from World War II to enter the United States during a four-year period.

1950 – The Internal Security Act increased grounds for exclusion and deportation of subversives. All aliens were required to report their addresses annually.

1950s and 1960s – The number of Cuban refugees immigrating to America to escape the oppressive regimes of Fulgencio Batista and Fidel Castro grew. By 1962 more than 200,000 immigrants had come to America and several later migrations brought hundreds of thousands more. As more and more refugees attempted to flee Cuba by dangerous means, by the end of the 20th century, both countries agreed to return refugees to Cuba.

1952 – The Immigration and Naturalization Act brought into one comprehensive statute the multiple laws which governed immigration and naturalization to date: reaffirmed the national origins quota system; limited immigration from the Eastern Hemisphere while leaving the Western Hemisphere unrestricted; established preferences for skilled workers and relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens; tightened security and screening standards and procedures; and lowered the age requirement for naturalization to 18 years (66 Stat. 163). The Immigration and Naturalization Act extended token immigration quotas to Asian countries.

1953-56 – The Refugee Relief Act admitted more than 200,000 refugees beyond existing quotas. It allowed entry into the U.S. for refugees fleeing communism in Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, and other communist countries. Visas were granted to some 5,000 Hungarians after the 1956 revolt. President Eisenhower invited 30,000 more to come on a parole basis.

1954 – Ellis Island closed.

1965 Highway system

1956 – The National Interstate and Defense Highways Act was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and authorized the construction of 41,000 miles of interstate highways that connected existing interstate toll roads. The higher speed highway system enabled greater mobility of the population, allowing people to relocate further from workplaces and families, while still being a relatively short drive away.

1962 – The  United States granted special permission for the admission of refugees from Hong Kong.

1964 – The 1942 Bracero Accord ends, but many of the contractors continued to hire Mexican workers.

1965 – Congress amended the immigration law (effective 1968): The National Origins Quota System was abolished, but the principle of numerical restriction remained by establishing 170,000 hemispheric and 20,000 per-country ceilings and a seven-category preference system (favoring close relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens, those with needed occupational skills, and refugees) for the Eastern Hemisphere and a separate 120,000 ceiling for the Western Hemisphere was maintained (79 Stat. 911).

1970 – The Immigration Act of 1965 was amended by President Nixon, further liberalizing admission to the United States.

1976 – The 20,000-per-country immigration ceilings and the system of preference system for Western Hemisphere countries was applied, and separate hemispheric ceilings were maintained.

1978 –The separate ceilings for Eastern and Western Hemisphere immigration were combined into one worldwide limit of 290,000.

1979 – Congress appropriated more than $334 million for the rescue and resettlement of Vietnamese “boat people.”

1980 – The so-called “Freedom Flotilla” of Cuban refugees came to the United States.


Note: Portions of this timeline are excerpted from They Became Americans: Finding Naturalization Records and Ethnic Origins, by Loretto Dennis Szucs, FUGA.

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Tips for Finding Your Ancestors in German Civil Registration Records on Ancestry Mon, 27 Oct 2014 14:17:28 +0000 Juliana Szucs Read more]]> 20141023Dresden

Dresden, Germany

Ancestry has just launched more than 11.7 million new German records, the majority of which are birth, marriage, and death records. Initially, registrations of births, marriages, and deaths were kept by religious denominations, but a civil registry modeled on the French system was implemented on 1 October 1874 in Prussian provinces, and throughout the German Empire on 1 January 1876. Here are some tips to help you get the most from these new civil registration records.

Determine Your Ancestor’s Place of Origin in Germany

You’re going to have an edge if you know where in Germany your ancestors lived. While you can search all of the new German collections through this page, being able to zero in on a location will make your search more effective. Search extensively in U.S. records for places of origin that will help you to determine where to focus your search in the German records. You may find locations in naturalization records (typically only post-1906), passports, passenger lists (post-1890s), World War I and II draft registrations, obituaries, and vital records here in the U.S.

If the family was here in the U.S. by 1880, the enumerator instructions for that year’s census state that if the birthplace was Germany, the enumerator was to specify the State, as Prussia, Baden, Bavaria, Wurtemberg, Hesse-Darmstadt, etc.

Note, these new collections are not all-inclusive for Germany but do include many locations around the country. To see what birth, marriage, and death collections are available for various locations in Germany, click here. Below is a summary of the collections that were added.


Get to Know the Whole Family

The more you know about the family, the easier it will be to correctly identify your ancestor in the records. For example, if you don’t know the parents’ names, but know the names and ages of siblings, it may help prove you have the right record when the parents’ names on your ancestor’s birth match those of their siblings. In marriage records, often you’ll find family listed as witnesses to the marriage as well, again providing supporting evidence that you have the correct record.

Familiarize Yourself with German Names

Obviously, your ancestor’s German records will be in German and your ancestor will be going by the German version of his given name. The German Research Center on Ancestry has a list of German given names that you can reference. is another good resource. Note that sometimes you may find diminutives listed as well (e.g., Max for Maximilian, Willy or Willi for Wilhelm, etc.), so keep that in mind as you search. Wildcards can help in that respect (e.g., Max* or Wil*).

Surnames may be different than the names you’re used to seeing here in the U.S. as well. During both World Wars, there was a backlash against Germans and your family may have anglicized their name around that time. This guide to Finding Your German Ancestors on Ancestry has some tips for zeroing in on your ancestor’s surname.


Interpret the Entire Record

Once you’ve identified your ancestor’s record, you’ll want to glean every detail. To help you get the most from these records, we’ve created a guide with sample records that can help you translate the information found in these records. Beyond the details that have been indexed, you’ll also find important information like occupation, religion, names of witnesses, and more.

You can download the free guide here.

Creative Searching

Get creative with your searches by getting familiar with what fields are indexed. For example, try a search for just a surname in the name fields of birth records, and add the names of one or both parents in the fields for Family Members to return records of all the children born to that couple.


Need More Guidance?

Our German Research Center has some very helpful tools, like this PDF with German alphabet samples and this guide to symbols you may find in German records. There are also word lists and record samples from other German collections.

For more tips on research your German ancestry, download the free PDF Finding Your German Ancestors on Ancestry.

Best of luck with your searches!

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Happy 350th New Jersey! New State Research Guide for the Garden State Fri, 24 Oct 2014 21:53:53 +0000 Juliana Szucs Read more]]> HessianThis year marks 350 years since New Jersey’s birth as an English colony. To celebrate, our gift to you is the latest in our series of state research guides on the Garden State. Here are five things you might not know about New Jersey.

1. Between 1674 and 1702, New Jersey was divided politically between East Jersey and West Jersey, although proprietors of East and West Jersey continued to control first sales of land beyond 1702. They were reunited in 1702 and shared a governor with New York until 1738 when they parted ways and New Jersey got its own governor.

2. New Jersey played a central role in the American Revolution, with nearly 300 significant engagements fought within the state, including battles at Trenton, Princeton, and Monmouth. New Jersey was divided in loyalty and many loyalists fled the state for Canada and England.

3. The state constitution of New Jersey initially granted suffrage to all residents, including unmarried and widowed women, but legislation in 1807 restricted it to free white males.

4. A series of canals and railroads built in New Jersey in the 1820s and 1830s helped facilitate the transportation of coal from Pennsylvania mines to the burgeoning industrial centers in New Jersey and New York City.

5. In 1916, a munitions depot on Black Tom Island exploded after a series of fires were set. The explosion destroyed ammunition bound for Britain and France, shattered windows in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and caused $100,000 damage to the Statue of Liberty. Fortunately it killed fewer than ten people.  Years later, it was determined that German agents were behind the explosion.

Want to learn more about the fascinating history of the Garden State and the records that will help you discover your family’s ties to that history? Check out our New Jersey State Research Guide.

We now have guides available for 39 states and Puerto Rico. See the entire list here.

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Throwback Thursday: Fun in the Water Thu, 23 Oct 2014 14:40:43 +0000 Juliana Szucs Read more]]> July 1970This past weekend was pool closing weekend. When we bought this house 12 years ago, it came with the pool and while my daughter enjoyed it, I think I’ve been the one who has spent the most time in it. I’ve loved the water since I was little and although we never had a large pool growing up, we did have many little ones like this one. And we loved them no matter how small. Note that awesome slide. It actually came with a one-step ladder. Not sure why that was necessary, but we thought it was super-cool.

When we didn’t have pools, we still played in the water. We made games of running through the sprinkler, and for a while we had a slip ‘n’ slide. If you’re not familiar with slip ‘n’ slides, they were long strips of plastic that you attach to the hose so the water would create a fountain over the plastic runway. You would get a running start and hurl yourself down the slippery plastic surface. I loved that thing. Problem is, when you hurl yourself repeatedly onto a hard surface you tend to break a few blood vessels. I remember having bruises all over my stomach one year.

When we went on family vacations, the high point was the hotel pools along the way. Visiting cousins with pools was an extra bonus. And trips to the East Coast meant swimming in the Atlantic Ocean where we could ride the waves into the shore.

What about you, what memories of the water do you have? How did you stay cool in the summer? Share your stories with us, and more importantly share them with your family.


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Throwback Thursday: Music Thu, 16 Oct 2014 14:59:34 +0000 Juliana Szucs Read more]]> Detail shot of a record playerGrowing up in the 60s and 70s, we were exposed to many different kinds of music – some good, some not-so-much. I can remember listening to my transistor radio at night trying to get the antenna in that perfect spot to get good reception. When I bought my first album and spent $7 on it (Elton John’s Greatest Hits) my mom wasn’t thrilled. I remember her telling me that I wouldn’t listen to that album ten years later. She was right. Ten years later I was listening to it on an 8-track tape (usually with a matchbook shoved under it to keep it from “slipping”).

I think the first song I really liked was by the Monkees. My neighbor had the 45 and I borrowed it and listened to it over and over. My sisters and I had a pretty big collection of 45s. Lots of Beach Boys, Jackson 5, and Chicago. When Bobby Sherman came out with Julie, Do You Love Me I liked it for about 5 minutes. Then my sisters and cousins figured out that if they plugged the record player into the outlet that was controlled by the light switch, they could serenade me with it every time I walked into my bedroom and flipped on the switch. It got old really fast.

When I was in junior high, my big night out was roller-skating in the church gymnasium. They played lots of music and that’s where I first heard Stairway to Heaven. That was always a “couples skate” and I remember being completely thrilled when a guy finally asked me to skate to that song. Can’t remember the guy, but still remember the song.

As we got older, our tastes changed and while my sisters leaned more toward metal, I was more into country-rock, like the Outlaws, Marshall Tucker, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. But we still had some bands that we all liked. When my mom went to work at the National Archives, I remember how we would blast Rush’s 2112 on the large console stereo in the living room. We may have played a role in the demise of that stereo.

What about you? What kind of music did you listen to growing up? What memories do particular songs evoke? Share your favorite songs with us, and more importantly, share those memories with your family.

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Do You Have a Search Strategy? Tue, 14 Oct 2014 21:04:51 +0000 Juliana Szucs Read more]]> While global searches on Ancestry—whether in a search form, from your tree, or from Family Tree Maker—are great for capturing some censuses, and many other records where lots of detail has been indexed, sometimes you need to dig a little deeper to uncover new records. It’s important to remember that a global search on Ancestry searches 14 billion records, in collections that are very diverse. While it’s an efficient search for many collections, some records just don’t rise to the surface.  If you’re relying strictly on Hints and global searches to find your ancestors, you may be missing out on some exciting discoveries.

Beyond Global Searches

In some cases, it’s better to search on a category level. For example, say you’re looking for your immigrant ancestor’s arrival. If you go to the Search tab and select Immigration & Travel from the box on the right side of the page, you can search from there and you will be restricting your search to immigration, travel and citizenship records. Not only are you ruling out billions of other records that aren’t relevant to what you’re searching for, you’re using a search form that is tailored to the types of information that we find in these types of records. You can narrow your search further by focusing on only passenger lists, by limiting your search to those records in that sub-category. (That said, for the U.S. you may want to check the sub-category of Border Crossings & Passports as well, to see if your ancestor came in via Canada or Mexico. At certain points in time, it was cheaper to travel to Canada first and then go to the U.S.)


You should also consider searching collections directly. This is the most powerful way to search in most cases. You’re searching a much smaller subset of records and you can tailor your search to the fields that have been indexed.

Focusing on What You’re Missing

The first step in forming a search strategy is to determine what you’re missing. Look over your ancestor’s profile in their online tree or at what you have gathered in your files. Are there gaps? Have you found them in every census? What are you trying to learn about them? Once you’ve got a target in mind, it’s time to explore what collections are available that can provide the information you’re seeking. There are two ways to do that on Ancestry.

The first is the Card Catalog. You can search the Card Catalog for a collection by title or keyword. (Title searches look for the terms in the title; keyword searches look for the terms in both the title and collection description.) You can also filter the collections by category, geographic location (country, state, and county levels), and time frame.

Another way to explore what records are available on Ancestry is to Explore by Location. Go to the Search tab and scroll down to the map at the bottom of the page. This map will default to the country your membership is through, but you can browse what’s available for other countries using the tabs above the map.


Searching Directly

So by now, hopefully you’ve found a collection of interest. Before you dive in to search, take a moment to read the collection description. The collection description will give you source information and, often, details that will help you with your search. It will also tell you if there are gaps in the coverage. For example, the Indiana Marriage Collection, 1800-1941 has records that span 141 years, but that coverage is not available for every county. There is a table at the bottom of the page that lists what years are available for each county.

There is also something to be said for doing a trial search if you’re not having any luck. See how the records are formatted and what is indexed. There may be some clues there that will help you tweak your search. Try a search for Smith or some other common surname that you think will be in the collection. Here’s an example from the Ancestry collection of Ireland, Select Catholic Birth and Baptism Registers, 1763-1912.


This sampling of Smith baptisms has a mix of English given names, Latin given names, and abbreviations. Knowing this, it might be a good idea to search with just the root of the given name and a wild card (for example, Pat* for Patrick, Patricius, Patricii, or Patricium; Tho* for Thomas, Thos, or Thomam, etc.)

Another takeaway from this collection is that parents’ names are indexed. Searching for variants of the parents’ names and only the surname in the top field, you may find the records of multiple children born to those parents. Just keep in mind that there may be variations in the way the parents’ names are recorded as well.


We’ve compiled a guide to these search strategies that you can download here in our Learning Center. Happy Searching!

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Free Genealogist’s Toolkit to Power Your Family History Research Fri, 10 Oct 2014 14:56:15 +0000 Juliana Szucs Read more]]> Sepia Toned Image Of A ToolkitAt Ancestry, we know that researching and telling your family story is a craft. And every craftsperson needs a good set of tools. We’re committed to bringing you the best educational resources and research tools possible. Whether it’s a blank census form, research guides, how-to videos, or a community where you can ask questions and share your successes, we’ve got you covered.

For Family History Month, we compiled some of the many resources Ancestry offers for free into a convenient PDF that you can save to your desktop. Now all your favorite tools are just a click away. Click here to download our Ancestry Genealogy Toolkit.

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Throwback Thursday: Bumps, Bruises, and Other Childhood Injuries Thu, 09 Oct 2014 14:18:20 +0000 Juliana Szucs Read more]]> Julie7thGradeAs last week’s Throwback Thursday (TBT) post revealed with my curling iron accident, I am not the world’s most graceful person. While my sister’s seemed to get through childhood with relatively few injuries, I seemed to get more than my fair share of jammed fingers, sprained ankles, skinned knees, and stitches. Nothing major mind you, I was blessed in the grand scheme of things, but yeah, I’m a klutz.

The earliest instance of stitches I remember was in about first grade. We made these awesome cardboard kites in school and I figured I’d try to fly it in the living room. As I ran in circles trying to keep it aloft, I got dizzy, tripped and my lip met the corner of the coffee table. The coffee table won that encounter.

I was always spraining my ankles too. Once it happened when I was on vacation in Texas and I jumped off a brick porch that was higher than it appeared. You’d think I’d have learned a lesson, but I repeated that injury playing hide ‘n’ go seek with some neighborhood kids. Only this time, I jumped from the roof of a shed. In hindsight, I should have just let them find me – then climbed down the fence I used to get up there, but no, I decided to be brave and jump off the other side. I told my mother I tripped on the back steps, so please don’t tell on me.

I was always jamming my fingers playing softball too, so splinted fingers were commonplace. Once though, an injury to my fingers wasn’t all my fault. We had a trap door to the crawlspace that was pretty heavy. It was on hinges and we had a solid chest of drawers in the closet off to the side. We’d open a drawer to prop the crawl space door open and we used to store stuff down there. When I was in seventh grade, we were moving to a new house and while my parents were off at an event at my dad’s work, my grandparents had my sisters and I bring boxes up from the crawl space to help out. I had my head down but was holding on to the space by the hinges when my grandmother, not realizing the significance of the drawer that was pulled out, decided to close it so I wouldn’t bump my head. Ouch. Broke two fingers that time, but I got out of all the rest of the moving duties.

That crawl space was the bane of my existence. It was open one day when I came back from school and not looking, I stepped forward into the closet to hang up my school uniform and scored a nice big bruise as I landed in the crawl space.

What about you? What bumps and bruises did you sustain as a child? Share your childhood stories with us, and more importantly, share them with your family.

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The Great Chicago Fire and Our Latest Free State Research Guide – Illinois! Wed, 08 Oct 2014 20:21:19 +0000 Juliana Szucs Read more]]> ChicagoFireFollowing a Midwest summer drought and a September in which less than an inch of rain fell, dry southwest winds blew into the Chicago area with temperatures for the first week in October of 1871 ranging for the most part in the 70s and 80s. These dry conditions made the city of Chicago, a city built largely of wood, ripe for disaster. That week had already seen many serious fires, and on Sunday, October 8, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 began in the barn behind Patrick O’Leary’s home at 137 (now 558 West) De Koven Street.

The fire burned an area four and three-quarter miles long and around a mile wide, including the city’s central business district. The fire killed an estimated 300 people and nearly 100,000 people were left homeless.

But the city, like the rest of the state, had that Midwestern grit and determination, and it was soon rebuilt, bigger and better than ever. (And a bit more fire-proof. In 1872, an ordinance was passed outlawing wooden buildings in downtown Chicago.)

So to honor that grit and determination, we chose today to release our latest research guide on the great state of Illinois.

Download the guide.

Don’t have family in Illinois? Perhaps we have your state covered as well. You can see the states we currently have available in the Ancestry Learning Center.  If it’s not there now, it’s coming soon!

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