Blog » Paul Rawlins The official blog of Tue, 23 Sep 2014 02:09:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Remembering Cemetery Day Mon, 26 May 2014 20:54:03 +0000 Paul Rawlins Read more]]> I was only two when my grandfather died, so I never knew him. But I know his grave. I’ve visited it probably every year since he died. I know I’ve been there practically every year I can remember, even the year my brothers had to stay home with chicken pox. Memorial Day in Lewiston is a funny thing. I see relations I don’t see any other time of year, and the whole town turns out at the cemetery. My grandma’s there, and she used to talk for hours when I was little, back when hours were longer. My dad sees old school buddies. And we go grave to grave, trying to make sense of who is related to whom and how.

Only my grandma knows it all. She could probably tell you something about everybody in the cemetery, or at least their families. And all day I hear stories about the people I came from. I know I’ll wish I remembered these stories someday. They’re supposed to be a part of me somehow—whether I know them or not.


We start on the east side of the graveyard, at my grandpa’s grave. We have roses from our yard, and there’s columbine from out front of my grandma’s house in a glass jar. My aunts have a nice store-bought arrangement and a wreath in fall colors. Somebody else has left lilacs.

The wind’s blowing, and if even it weren’t now, it would be, so we anchor everything down with little shepherd’s crooks bent from hanger wire. They’re always too long or too short, and the ground’s always hard. But we finish, and everything stays up.

Then we start the loop. We pass a row of faded white stones along the east side for children who died in Decembers and Januaries. Dad says a Rawlins might have been the first newborn in Lewiston, but it was too cold, and the parents wintered in a warmer house in Richmond.

My aunt points out the grave of one of my uncle’s best friends. She tells me someone in the family had a fit about his grave being so close to his mother’s—I don’t know why. And he was a tall boy, she says, and he should have a flag. He was killed in Vietnam, stepped on a Claymore mine. It was one of those things—the point man got through.

We stop by the grave of Mom’s dance teacher. This is new; she’s never mentioned it. Barbara Monroe. A beautiful lady. Handsome husband. She died in 1968, the year my youngest brother was born. I’ve seen a picture of my mother sitting out front of the old house on Liberty Avenue, her ball grown spread around her on the lawn like a pond. Barbara Monroe wasn’t living in Lewiston when she taught my mother how to dance. My mother isn’t from northern Utah, but everybody knows somebody from Cache Valley.

Maybe that’s what my dad means when he calls it God’s country. It’s some kind of Eden, a source. Dad insists on being buried here. He comes as close to looking forward to it as you can without being morbid. He talks about being buried under a tree for shade. My mom says he’ll have to have his heavy cotton sheets or he’ll be complaining about the cold. Maybe a reading lamp. He says he’ll come back and haunt us if we leave him in the city cemetery down in Ogden. Too much traffic, too noisy.

Most of the direct family is over to the west, with Harvey M. and Margaret Elzirah, my great-great-grandparents. There’s Jasper Alfonzo and Cora Mae Burbank, Dad’s grandparents. And a string of small cement squares. They’re numbered, and they sink and get lost in the grass along the roadside most of the year. They mark babies’ graves, babies my great-uncles lost. They don’t have headstones, only these little numbers, but every year my aunts hunt up the graves. They tug back overgrown grass and talk about whose child each was and how they died.

Ruth is here, too. For years Ruth’s grave always got a little metal basket of flowers, but the silver was starting to show through under the paint, and this year my aunts have a new arrangement. They never miss her grave, though nobody here ever even saw her, not even my grandma. Ruth was my grandpa’s baby sister. She died on Armistice Day, “while the rest of the world was celebrating,” my grandma tells me.

We make our way back to the car, gathering up stray members of the family, finishing the loop. “I know more people here than I know alive,” my aunt says. I guess time will do that to you.

*     *     *

My grandma’s gone, too, now—I wrote those words more than 20 years ago. But I’ve been to that same graveyard and walked that same loop almost every year since. I know a few more people there myself, now. We make a few more stops. It’s my nieces and nephews who tote the flowers and listen to the stories. I’ve learned that you need to hear those stories more than once, need to walk that loop again and again, if you’re going to learn what they have to teach you. You don’t do it in a day. It takes a lifetime.

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Profile: Private Sarah “Lyons” Wakeman Tue, 18 Mar 2014 22:38:53 +0000 Paul Rawlins Read more]]> “I am as independent as a hog on the ice. If it is God’s will for me to fall in the field of battle, it is my will to go and never return home.”

That quote comes from a letter Private Lyons Wakeman of the 153rd New York Infantry wrote to family back home in Afton, New York. The family didn’t know Private Wakeman as “Lyons,” however.  They knew her as Sarah Rosetta.

Here’s the Wakeman family at home in the 1860 census.

Wakeman family 1860 census


In 1862, Sarah made a career move, assuming a man’s name and dress to get work on a canal boat. But with the state paying a bounty for enlistment, there was more money to be made as Union soldier. So on 30 August 1862, Sarah signed up under the name Lyons Wakeman.

Lyon boatman


Private Wakeman is described as being five feet tall with blue eyes and light brown hair. Sarah lied about her age, saying she was 21. A Dr. Snow, the examining surgeon, certified that he had “carefully examined the above named Volunteer, agreeable to the General Regulations of the Army, and that, in my opinion, he is free from all bodily defects and mental infirmity which would, in any way, disqualify him from performing the duties of a solider.” He obviously didn’t examine that carefully. Or maybe he believed in gender equality himself and enjoyed the irony of signing the document.

Lyon enlistment


In any case, Lyons enlisted for three years and saw duties that ranged from standing guard in Washington, D.C., to battle during the Red River Campaign.

Lyons didn’t survive the war. Private Wakeman died in New Orleans, Louisiana, of dysentery, or “chronic diarrhea” as the record puts it.

Lyons death


In one register of deaths of U.S. volunteers, Private Wakeman appears as the last entry on the page.

Lyon registers deaths volunteers


Sarah took her secret to the grave, and Private Wakeman is buried in Chalmette National Cemetery in Louisiana.

Lyons Chalmette Nat Cem LA headstone


Private Wakeman’s letters came to light in the 20th century and have been collected in the book An Uncommon Soldier, by Lauren Cook Burgess. And Lyons isn’t the only woman to be found in Civil War records. Whether they went to be with a husband, for money, for adventure, or out of patriotism, the fact is, they went. They faced the same dangers and deprivations, and some, like Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, would pay the same high price.


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New Content: Nor Cals, Seadogs and Swedes Sun, 02 Mar 2014 16:06:46 +0000 Paul Rawlins Read more]]> Last week brought records from eight counties and the Portuguese Union of California to the site in California, Death and Burial Records from Select Counties, 1873–1987.


cali death and burial select county


Residents of Canada’s Atlantic Coast inhabit the Newfoundland, Canada, Index of Birth, Marriage & Death Notices from Newspapers, 1810–1890, and Canada, Seafarers of the Atlantic Provinces, 1860–1899, databases.

Newfoundland BMDs


Finally, an update to Sweden, Indexed Birth Records, 1870-1941, adds 1.7 million records from the 1870s.

Happy searching!




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New Content: Medicos, Taxpayers and Railroaders Wed, 12 Feb 2014 22:44:59 +0000 Paul Rawlins Read more]]> Was there a doctor—or midwife—in the family?

The New Zealand, Registers of Medical Practitioners and Nurses, 1873, 1882–1933, database lists all sorts of state-approved medical practitioners.

NZ med


Meanwhile, back in England, the West Yorkshire, England, Tax Valuation, 1910, itemized (as it were) more than half a million residents for tax purposes.  Rhode Island, Vital Extracts, 1636–1899, features almost three centuries of birth, marriage, and death details.

RI extracts


Plus we’ve added another 2.3 million records to the California, Railroad Employment Records, 1862–1950, database of payrolls, seniority lists, and blacklists.

cali rr

And we all know which list we’re hoping to find a relative on.


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New Content: Indexes for Oregon and Swedish Church Records Tue, 28 Jan 2014 21:16:10 +0000 Paul Rawlins Read more]]> Last week featured some welcome additions to existing databases. Ancestry World Archives Project volunteers provided indexes for two collections that had been image only up until now:

Marion County, Oregon, Marriage Records, 1849-1900, and Marion County, Oregon, Census, 1895.

marion or census


We also added another 99,094 records to Sweden, Church Records, 1500-1941, which isn’t an insignificant number. It just gets a little dwarfed by the 20 million records already there.

sweden church

Happy searching!

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New Content That’s Not (All) New York Wed, 22 Jan 2014 20:58:05 +0000 Paul Rawlins Read more]]> We did launch a few collections over the past week that weren’t all about New York…


The U.S., Dutch Church Records from Selected States, 1660–1926, database includes some records from Pennsylvania and New Jersey…as well as New York.

dutch church


New Mexico and Texas, Select United Methodist Church Records, 1870–1970, are a long way from the Big Apple.

new mexico methodists


So are New Zealand, City & Area Directories, 1866–1955, which can include names, street addresses, and occupations.

Makes you hope they never stop printing phone books, doesn’t it?




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Now Available on New York City Vital Records Thu, 16 Jan 2014 17:31:24 +0000 Paul Rawlins Read more]]> Did you hear the news out of New York?

We have teamed up with the New York City Department of Records/Municipal Archives to bring indexes to more than 10 million New York City birth, marriage, and death records for the years 1866–1948.Statue of Liberty

You can search the indexes free from a new landing page at, where you’ll find other new releases as well, including the 1855 and 1875 New York state censuses.

Just how important was New York to U.S. immigration? Of the 5.4 million people who arrived in the U.S. between 1820 and 1860, more than two-thirds entered via New York. By the 1890s, New York’s share had eclipsed four-fifths. Even today, 36 percent of New York City’s population was born outside of the United States, down only 4 percent from 100 years ago. This means a wedding or death certificate from New York can often provide the first documentation for a family or ancestor in America.

You’ll also find a link to our latest state research guide—for New York—on the page. This guide walks you through records and family history resources available for New York and tells you where to find them, both on- and offline. A timeline of New York events to help you understand the history that surrounded your ancestors’ lives.

So feel free to start spreadin’ the news: New York, New York.

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New Content: Pennsylvania Card Indexes, U.S. Dutch Reformed Church Records and Warsaw Jews Wed, 15 Jan 2014 20:45:20 +0000 Paul Rawlins Read more]]> Founded in 1824, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania is one of the oldest historical societies in the U.S. It’s home to an extensive collection of genealogical scrapbooks, research folders, and other related materials, and the new Pennsylvania, Card Indexes to Genealogical Scrapbooks and Research Folders database is your guide to that collection.




Germany, Warsaw Jews Who Survived WWII, 1948, lists 5,680 Warsaw Jews who survived the Holocaust and were living in various displaced persons camps and towns in Germany in 1948. Finally, the first installment in the U.S., Dutch Reformed Church Records from Selected States, 1660-1926, database includes records from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.


dutch church


Happy hunting.




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New Content: New York, Georgia, London Tue, 07 Jan 2014 19:40:07 +0000 Paul Rawlins Read more]]> Did you ever dream of visiting New York ? If you can’t make it there in person, maybe these seven New York collections will help you get a feel for the city:


New York, Sales of Loyalist Land, 1762-1830

New York, Alien Depositions of Intent to Become U.S. Citizens, 1825-1871

ny declaraion


New York, Naturalization Papers, 1799-1847

New York, Spanish-American War Military and Naval Service Records, 1898-1902

New York, Mexican Punitive Campaign Muster Rolls for National Guard, 1916-1917

mex puni


New York, War of 1812 Payroll Abstracts for New York State Militia, 1812-1815

New York, Grand Army of the Republic Records, 1866-1931



Further south, you’ll find Georgia, Marriage Records from Select Counties, 1828-1978. Or look to the east for London, England, Selected Rate Books, 1684-1907.

london rates



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New Content: Vets, Criminals, Immigrants, and Engineers Thu, 28 Nov 2013 00:40:57 +0000 Paul Rawlins Read more]]> It’s been a good week for new content, a little something to be thankful for as you get ready for the holiday.

Pennsylvania offered veterans bonus compensation claimed by men in the Pennsylvania, Veteran Compensation Applications, WWII, 1950, database.

You’ll find more than 1,100 sketches of immigrants or immigrant families in New England, The Great Migration and The Great Migration Begins, 1620–1635.

U.S., Album of Criminals, 1906, includes mug shots, aliases, and criminal records of more than 200 men and women.



You can find Gene Roddenberry, Mary Kay Ash or Ben Hogan in Texas, Birth Certificates, 1903–1932.

ben hogan tx birth


JFK, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Jack Ruby are a few of the historic names in Texas, Death Certificates, 1903–1982.

UK, Civil Engineer Lists, 1818–1930, features admission and member lists from the Institution of Civil Engineers in the UK.

You’ll find plenty of updates, too. Look for 1.6 million new records for the years 1930–1941 in Sweden, Indexed Birth Records, 1880–1941.

New South Wales, Australia, Certificates of Freedom, 1810–1814, 1827–1867, has almost 13,000 new records, with another 3,000 added to New South Wales, Australia, Certificates of Naturalization, 1849-1903.

 freedom cert

Finally, the important Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934, added 291,000 new people getting on the boat.


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