Ancestry Blog » Contest The official blog of Ancestry Thu, 02 Jul 2015 19:42:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Tracking the Service of a World War I Veteran for our UK Branch Out Winner Sat, 24 Jan 2015 11:53:41 +0000 Brian Gallagher Read more]]>  


By Neil Holden, AncestryProGenealogists

Alan Small recently won our Branch Out Sweepstakes, and received 20 hours of research with AncestryProGenealogists. High on Alan’s list of interests were the experiences and movements of his grandfather, John James Collins, who served in the British military both before and during World War I. Our research provided detailed context for John’s service, and highlighted the value of a resource that is sometimes overlooked—military pension records.

John James Collins was born on 6 June 1876 in Walsall, Staffordshire, England, the son of Irish immigrants. He signed up for the British Army in 1895 and enlisted in the Royal Irish Regiment. He served through to 1908, and during that time was well-travelled. In 1898 John was stationed in Mhow, located in western India, then a part of the British Empire. He arrived shortly after Tirah Campaign, a military conflict against native tribes in northern India. However, John’s stay in Mhow was certainly not uneventful; in February 1900 a perilous fire broke out in the Commissariat stack-yard in Mhow, and the battalion took charge in putting it out. A regimental history states that the soldiers were commended for their “promptitude” and “zeal” in handling the danger.




John’s battalion was reassigned to South Africa in 1902 to assist with the ongoing Second Boer War, but the war ended just before the battalion arrived, meaning that John had again, fortunately, just missed out on a conflict. He was later sent back to India, spending time in Rawalpindi, now a city in Pakistan. However, he saw more than his fair share of warfare during World War I. After finishing his original term of service, John James Collins signed up for the military reserve, and was consequently activated in the summer of 1914. He was sent to front lines in 1915 and saw the worst of the war’s horrors at the town of Ypres in May 1915. John was among the soldiers who were incapacitated by the use of poison gas and sent back to Great Britain to recover, later serving the remainder of his time stationed in Ireland. In addition to being a victim of a gas attack, John also suffered from deafness as a result of shell concussion.




All of these details are outlined in the pension file that pertains to John’s service. Many of the men who survived World War I applied for a pension, although many such applications were rejected. These pension records are referred to as the “unburnt collection,” since they have largely survived and were not lost during World War II. Many of the “burnt collection,” the World War I service records, were lost, and so there is great value in learning whether or not a military ancestor applied for a pension. As Alan Small found out, they can provide a wealth of information about our ancestors’ lives.

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Drumroll, Please…The Winner of the October Branch Out Contest Is… Mon, 10 Nov 2014 22:21:17 +0000 Jessica Murray Read more]]> If you submitted an entry in the October round of our Branch Out contest, thank you! We received some truly amazing stories in thousands of entries from community members throughout the United States. We have randomly selected our October winner and that lucky person is… ACOM_BranchOut250x250_badge

Alison Marcoff of Boynton Beach, FL

Alison has successfully traced her ancestors back to early colonial days in America but she has a few “brick wall” ancestors that our ProGenealogist team will be helping her tackle. Since Alison has already taken the AncestryDNA test, she plans on giving the two AncestryDNA tests she won to her parents so she can see what their DNA can tell her about the family history.

We can’t wait to see what she discovers and we’ll be sure to provide a recap of her discoveries once the project is done.

Want a chance at winning a family history package? Stay tuned for details on our next contest that kicks off on December 1st!


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Adding 400 Years of Family to the Family Tree Sat, 08 Nov 2014 14:00:48 +0000 Ancestry Team Read more]]> By Katie Ledbetter, ProGenealogist

Tina Davis recently won our Branch Out Sweepstakes, and received 25 hours of AncestryProGenealogists research time. Tina wanted to learn more about her mother’s side of the family tree, specifically her Rickwood line. She was hoping to verify some information she had been given and to extend that part of her family tree a few generations. We quickly traced the Rickwoods from London where they had been for four generations, to the town of Ely in Cambridgeshire.

The Rickwoods in Ely were millers by trade, including Tina’s fifth great-grandfather, Henry Rickwood. Henry’s wife, Margaret Nichols Rickwood, (Tina’s fifth great-grandmother) was attacked during the famous 1816 Ely riots when the poor, unable to afford bread, lashed out at the millers who ground the flour. A group of men came to the Rickwood mill and demanded £50 from Margaret because her husband, Henry, wasn’t home at the time. A newspaper account of the riot stated that the men showed up at her door threatening to destroy the mill unless she gave them the money. Their leader, John Dennis, brandished a gun and the others carried pitchforks and clubs. Margaret had her son, William, run to get the banker to bring the money.

The group grew restless so she went with them up Bond Street to fetch the banker, a Mr. Edwards. He met up with them and denied the mob the money. One of the men hit him on the head and drew blood. He then arranged for three of the men, including John Dennis, to meet him at the Rickwood’s house to receive the money.  Both Margaret and William Rickwood testified before the Commission against John Dennis who was hanged!

Copy of the verdict condemning John Dennis to death, June 1816

Copy of the verdict condemning John Dennis to death, June 1816

As we looked for Tina’s sixth great-grandfather, Philip Rickwood, we couldn’t find his baptism record in Ely. In fact, it seemed as if Philip had appeared in Ely from thin air for there were no Rickwoods in the area at that time.

However, when we discovered the record for his 1769 marriage to Ann Fiske, this mystery was solved. The parish priest at Trinity Church in Ely went the extra mile and wrote that Henry was from Mildenhall, Suffolk. This was a bit unusual for the time. We looked in the Mildenhall parish registers and found Philip’s baptism on 9 January 1743!

Marriage record for Philip Rickwood and Ann Fiske, 1769

Marriage record for Philip Rickwood and Ann Fiske, 1769

Parish registers offer a wealth of information because England didn’t start registering vital events with the government until 1837. Before that, the churches recorded baptisms, marriages, and burials in their parish registers. It all started when Henry VIII left the Catholic Church and formed the Church of England. He sent out an order that the parishes keep all vital records.

In 1598, Queen Elizabeth decreed that two copies of every register be made; one copy for the parish and one for the diocese known as Bishop’s Transcripts or BTs. She also ordered the priests keep the records in parchment books instead of the flimsier paper scraps that they had been using.

Once Philip’s baptism was finally found, we were able to trace the Rickwood line in Suffolk back another five generations to Tina’s 11th great-grandparents, Richard Rickard and Grace Fflawner in 1612.

Marriage record for Richard Rickard and Grace Fflawner, 1612

Marriage record for Richard Rickard and Grace Fflawner, 1612 

From London to Cambridgeshire to Suffolk, over 400 years of family history was accounted for in this extremely successful block of research. We hope Tina is excited to finally be ‘introduced’ to these new branches of her Rickwood family tree.

Katie Ledbetter is part of the AncestryProGenealogists team.

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Branch Out Comes to the UK. Enter to Win the Ultimate Family History Package! Thu, 09 Oct 2014 19:50:26 +0000 Brian Gallagher Read more]]> ACOM_BranchOut250x250_badgeWe know you love your family history research. We also know how challenging it can be to break through brick walls, locate a missing ancestor or prove a family connection you have long suspected. Have you ever imagined yourself on an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?

While we can’t get you a spot on the next season, we can offer you the next best thing – access to the research team behind the US Who Do You Think You Are? show.

We have run our Branch Out competition in the US and many of you told us you would love the chance to enter. We have listened to our members and we are delighted to bring Branch Out  to the UK.

This is your opportunity to work one-on-one with the family history experts on our ProGenealogists team. So, what do you win? The Grand Prize winner, upon confirmation of eligibility, will receive the following prize package:

  • Twenty (20) hours of ProGenealogist research
  • One (1) Annual Worldwide subscription
  • One (1) Copy of Family Tree Maker software

So, if you’ve always wanted to receive expert help from our ProGenealogists team, enter the UK Branch Out contest by clicking here. After entering some basic information, let us know how far you have gotten on your own. We want to know what you’ve discovered and what you would hope to learn with the help of our expert research team.

The deadline for entries is Sunday, November 9th at 11:59:59 P.M., so sign up today! The winner will be selected and announced by the end of November so stay tuned for updates!   Entry is open to residents of the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) and is subject to our Official Rules.

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Enter For A Chance To Win Professional Research Assistance! Wed, 01 Oct 2014 02:24:21 +0000 Kristie Wells Read more]]> ACOM_BranchOut250x250_badgeJust getting started and need help building a research plan? Hit a brick wall on your great great grandfather? Have a family myth you would like to prove or disprove?

Then enter for your chance to win our Branch Out contest. The Grand Prize winner*, upon confirmation of eligibility, will receive the following prize package:


The Grand Prize package has an Approximate Retail Value of $2,496.


Simply complete the entry form making sure you provide a brief summary on what you would like assistance researching. If your name is selected, you will join previous winners Cheryle WarnbergHeidi HallStacey WoodleyCindy HillmanRobin Martin, and Tina Davis who have worked closely with our team to validate existing work and secured additional documentation and information to expand their family trees.

The deadline for entries is Friday, October 31st at 11:59:59 P.M. PT, so sign up today. The winner will be selected and announced in early November so stay tuned for updates.

Good luck!


* Entrants must be legal residents of the 50 United States (or the District of Columbia), who have the age of majority in his or her state of residence at the time of entry. Complete rules available here.



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And The Winner of the August Branch Out Contest is… Tue, 16 Sep 2014 15:03:54 +0000 Jessica Murray Read more]]> ACOM_BranchOut250x250_badge

We’d like to thank everyone who submitted entries in the August round of our Branch Out contest! We received thousands of submissions, which included some inspiring stories from our community.

We have randomly selected our August winner and that lucky person is…

Tina Davis from New Mexico!

Tina is most interested in tracing her grandfather who fought for England in WWII and became a prisoner of war. She has had difficulty finding records for him or his family, and we hope to provide some additional color to his life and story.

Tina will be working closely with our ProGenealogists team over the coming months and we’ll be sure to provide a recap of her discoveries once the project is done!


Want your chance at winning a family history package? Stay tuned for details on our next contest that kicks off on October 1st!



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Branch Out Contest Winner: Cindy Hillman Tue, 02 Sep 2014 18:38:48 +0000 Ancestry Team Read more]]> By Cheryl Coats and Lindsay Jackson

Cindy Hillman recently won our Branch Out sweepstakes, and received 20 hours of ProGenealogists research time. Initially, she wanted to see if her McKinley line connected to President William McKinley (who wouldn’t!) Unfortunately, we discovered that the only chance of those lines connecting would have occurred in Ireland in the 1700s, a time and place where record availability today is almost non-existent.

We then turned to a branch of Cindy’s father’s side of the tree: the Moore family. An search uncovered a compiled family history called Genealogy of the Stokes Family, which included Cindy’s 5th great-grandfather, John Moore of Burlington County, New Jersey. Compiled family histories are very helpful tools in learning more about a family, but should act as spring boards into original documents, not taken at face value by themselves.

The Stokes Genealogy said that the Moore family belonged to the Quaker faith. While searching for the Moore family in original records on, it quickly became evident that this was the case. The Quakers, or the Religious Society of Friends, were excellent record keepers. Quaker Meeting Records are indexed and available on Searching through these monthly meeting records, we confirmed the names and dates found in the compiled genealogy.

Some of the meetings the Moore family attended were in Evesham Township in Burlington County, New Jersey. The group met in this building.


One of the other databases we reviewed to learn more about the Moore family was the Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications. These don’t generally contain original records for Revolutionary War veterans, but they do contain information about the veteran’s military service and their descendants. We were surprised to find an application for John Moore.


It was a surprising find because Quakers commit to refrain from war and promote peace, however there were some who chose to participate in the Revolutionary War, risking their good standing in the Quaker faith. According to the membership application, John was one of these. He served as a private in the New Jersey Militia.

According to the Stokes family history, the first of the Moore line to immigrate to America was Benjamin Moore, who married Sarah Stokes. Benjamin and Sarah are Cindy’s 7th great-grandparents. In the section about Benjamin, it states that he was the largest land holder in New Jersey. The most exciting thing about researching the Moore family is that, with more work, it will be possible to look into the truth of this statement.

Generally, when researching early American or colonial ancestors, there are very few records available. However, because of the Moore family’s association with the Quakers and their penchant for record keeping, there was a lot to find! While we got Cindy started, there is still plenty for Cindy to discover. What’s more, fun details about their lives, such as if they served in the military and where they attended religious meetings, are waiting to be discovered.

Congrats to Cindy for winning the Branch Out Sweepstakes, and thank you to her for giving us the opportunity to research her fascinating family.

Cheryl Coats and Lindsay Jackson are part of the ProGenealogists team.

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Cabot Creamery Cooperative: Honoring Family Legacies Wed, 20 Aug 2014 15:58:10 +0000 Ancestry Team Read more]]> Family farms are the backbone of today’s food production throughout the world. In the United States many of these farms have been handed down in families from generation to generation. Each family farm is steeped in rich legacies and traditions, uniting time-honored values and a deep commitment to the land. The United Nations has declared 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming, not only to encourage the practices that feed the world, but also to honor the strong values that family farming imbues. has recently teamed up with Cabot Creamery, a cooperative of 1,200 dairy farm families in New York and New England, to promote their new Farmers’ Legacy Collection of cheddars. The Farmers’ Legacy Collection celebrates the families and farmers who own Cabot – farmers like Beth Kennett.

Herd Of Young Calves Drinking WaterBeth Kennett—known as Farmer Beth—and her family own Liberty Hill Farm, a 240-acre Cabot Cooperative dairy farm located in Rochester, Vermont. The farm has been passed down from generation to generation and is a true family affair. In addition to farming, Beth and her husband Bob opened their home as a bed and breakfast in order to help visitors understand the day-to-day life on a working dairy farm dedicated to sustainable farming practices.

Today, Liberty Hill Farm provides guests the amenities of a farm-stay vacation nestled within a green landscape. In addition to relaxing in beautiful surroundings and participating in farm activities, guests enjoy Beth’s home-cooked, farm-to-table meals from her own family recipes. Beth and Bob seek to promote a sustainable lifestyle, passing that message on to Liberty Hill Farm guests through the thoughtfully prepared meals and the experiences they provide.

A true pioneer in agritourism, Beth was presented with the prestigious Vermont Chamber of Commerce “Innkeeper of the Year” award in 2013.

The Kennetts are just one of the 1,200 farm families who own Cabot and who take pride in their contributions to the community and the values and traditions of their families.

To celebrate the farm families who own Cabot, they are hosting the Cabot Farmers’ Legacy Recipe Contest (entries close on September 5, 2014). Fans will have the opportunity to share their prized family recipes by incorporating one of the Cabot Farmers’ Legacy Collection cheddar cheeses for a chance to win a $5,000 cash prize in addition to a $5,000 donation to a volunteer organization of their choice. For more information on how to enter, visit for information and regular updates.

In addition to the Cabot Farmers’ Legacy Recipe Contest, Cabot Creamery is helping promote volunteerism throughout the country with the Farmers’ Gratitude Grille tour. The Gratitude Grille provides freshly prepared meals to participants at volunteer events around the country. At the events, volunteers are able to sign up for a free trial membership to promote the growth and knowledge of their own family history.

Join us and savor your family’s legacy today!

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Enter Our Branch Out Contest For Ultimate Family History Package Fri, 01 Aug 2014 14:29:15 +0000 Jessica Murray Read more]]> IACOM_BranchOut250x250_badget’s August 1st, which marks the next cycle of our Branch Out contest.

We launched the Branch Out program as a way to give Ancestry fans the opportunity to work one-on-one with family history experts on our ProGenealogists team.

Over the last year, we have had great success helping winners including Cheryle WarnbergHeidi HallStacey Woodley, and Cindy Hillman discover important family history they can share with generations for years to come.

So, what do you win?

The Grand Prize winner, upon confirmation of eligibility, will receive the following prize package:

The Grand Prize package has an Approximate Retail Value of $2,496.

So, if you’ve always wanted to receive expert help from our ProGenealogists team, enter the Branch Out contest by clicking here. After entering some basic information, share your family history story! We want to know what you’ve discovered and what you would hope to learn with the help of our expert research team.

The deadline for entries is Sunday, August 31st at 11:59:59 P.M. PT, so sign up today!  The winner will be selected and announced in early September so stay tuned for updates!

Good luck!

*This contest is open to legal residents of the 50 United States (or the District of Columbia) and you can read all the Official Rules here.

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Branching Out: Genealogy Success, Indirectly Wed, 04 Jun 2014 17:50:26 +0000 Paul Schmidt Read more]]> Our latest Branch Out winner, Cheryle Warnberg, already had a fantastic online family tree, but she wanted our team at ProGenealogists to find out more about the Kloskowski and Czayka families, including exactly where in Eastern Europe they originated.

Start With What You Know

Cheryle knew the names of her maternal grandparents, even though both of them had passed away before she was born. Her grandfather, Frank Paul Kloskowski (born 1884), was a native of Germany or Poland, and Cheryle knew that his parents were John Kloskowski and Veronica Czayka.

In order to access most records in Europe, one must already know the name of the town where the ancestor was born, or last resided, before immigrating. Cheryle had located the ship passenger list for when John Koslowski and his family arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1887. Unfortunately, their last place of residence was simply given as “Germany.” Along with Joh[ann], Veronica, and their son, Franz (Cheryle’s grandfather, age 3), three other young sons sailed with the family: Johann (age 4), Josef (age 2), and Anton (age 6 months).



The 1900 U.S. Federal Census entry for the family of “John Kloskowsky” showed that he, his wife, and their four oldest sons had been born in “Poland Ger[many].” It was evident from this that the family had come from that area of the old German Empire that later became the modern country of Poland. When Frank Kloskowski was born, much of the German Empire was composed of the Kingdom of Prussia, which extended from western and northern Germany, through northern Poland, and even to northwestern Russia. Prussia, in turn, was made up of fourteen provinces. Not even knowing which of the Prussian provinces the family came from, meant that research needed to continue in U.S. sources.



The Direct Line is Not Always the “Direct Route”

None of the records Cheryle had already found on her direct line had indicated from where in Germany (or Poland) they had originated. She made the effort to “branch out” in her research efforts, however, not only to learn about her direct ancestors, but also their immediate families. She found records for the siblings of her grandfather, Frank, including the World War I draft registrations for John, Joseph and Anthony, Frank’s other brothers, who also had been born overseas.

Men who registered for the draft during World War I filled out one of several forms, depending on the date they registered. Three of the Kloskowski boys filled out a form that only asked if the man was native born, or a naturalized U.S. citizen. It did not require entering an exact place of birth. When Anthony registered in June 1917, however, his World War I draft registration card asked that he list his place of birth. Anthony said that he was born in Lalkau, Germany.



Find the Record Collection

There is a village called Lalkau in what used to be the Prussian Province of Westpreussen (or West Prussia in English). Lalkau is now known as Lalkowy, Poland. We soon ascertained that Lalkau had its own Roman Catholic Church, and that the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, had microfilmed records for that parish beginning in 1762. They were searched for the Kloskowski family, and it turned out that they had indeed come from a village in this parish called Fronza (or Frąca in Polish). Johann Kloskowski and his wife, Veronica Czajka (the correct Polish spelling of the name) had married here, and all four of their sons were baptized in this church.

It was Cheryle’s attention to detail that allowed for this discovery to be made. In fact, Anthony’s draft registration may be one of the few places in which the family’s place of origin may be recorded. It is so important to “branch out” in your research when the desired information is not found in your direct line. It can mean the difference between failure and success.


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