Ancestry Blog » In The Community The official blog of Ancestry Mon, 27 Apr 2015 02:52:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Greatest Funeral in the History of the United States Tue, 21 Apr 2015 16:21:51 +0000 Crista Cowan Read more]]> In the early morning hours of April 15th, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln died due to a fatal gunshot wound received the night before at Ford’s Theater. Later that morning, an honor guard arrived at the Petersen Boarding House, where Lincoln was taken to be treated. There, six young men picked up the body of the President, in a temporary coffin, and carried him to the White House. A cavalry unit and eight military leaders, walking bareheaded, completed the procession.

Lincoln's Funeral Procession on Pennsylvania Avenue (photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Lincoln’s Funeral Procession on Pennsylvania Avenue (photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

At the White House, Lincoln’s body was laid in state in the East Room where it was guarded day and night by members of the military. On the afternoon of April 19th, a great procession of military units accompanied an ornate hearse bearing the President’s body from the White House, down Pennsylvania Avenue to the U.S. Capitol building. Hundreds of thousands of people came into Washington D.C. to witness the procession. They lined the route and, it is said, “despite the enormous crowd, the silence was profound.” The following morning the Rotunda was opened to the public for a viewing.

At 7:00 am on April 21st, 150 years ago today, another procession accompanied the body as it was moved from the Capitol to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Depot. There, at 8:00 am, with more than 10,000 witnesses, the Lincoln Funeral Train pulled out of the station. Over the next twelve days the train, consisting of nine cars, passed through hundreds of communities in seven states, never topping a speed of 20 miles per hour.

The Presidential Car, like Air Force One today, was designed for the president's transportation needs. It was never used before it was converted into a funeral car to carry the bodies of President Abraham Lincoln and his son, William, to Springfield, Illinois for burial (photo credit:  Library of Congress Photo Collection on

The Presidential Car, like Air Force One today, was designed for the president’s transportation needs. It was never used before it was converted into a funeral car to carry the bodies of President Abraham Lincoln and his son, William, to Springfield, Illinois for burial.
(photo credit: Library of Congress Photo Collection on

The Lincoln Funeral Train followed the same route, in reverse, as the Inaugural Train route that had brought the President to Washington D.C. in 1861. The loss of this revered man threw the entire nation into mourning. The mood along the route, and throughout the nation, was in stark contrast to the celebratory mood of the previous weeks as the four year Civil War had drawn to a close. Around the country, cities and towns were draped in black.

In twelve major cities along the way, Lincoln’s body was removed from the train and placed in a statehouse or hall for public viewing and formal funerals. More than a million people viewed Lincoln’s body during the trip and millions more paid tribute, standing at attention as the train rolled through their communities on its journey to President Lincoln’s final resting place in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois.

The 2015 Lincoln Funeral Train Route and Dates

The 2015 Lincoln Funeral Train Route and Dates

Today, The 2015 Lincoln Funeral Train, in conjunction with The Historic Railroad Equipment Association and the National Park Service, will begin a twelve day re-enactment of the route taken 150 years ago. Programs are planned in the major cities along the route, featuring a Lincoln actor who will share some of the inspiring words of our nation’s 16th president. Visit their website to learn how you can participate.

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Member Spotlight UK & Ireland: Mysteries solved and relatives discovered using Ancestry Fri, 17 Apr 2015 17:00:23 +0000 Brian Gallagher Read more]]> Many of us have been fortunate to know our grandparents. For those of us that did not, we often learn about their lives from our own parents. What if you never knew your grandparents and your parents had never known them either? With his first child on the way, Danny McClure wanted to learn more about his ancestry, and his grandmother in particular. We asked Danny about his family history research.

What was your inspiration in researching your family history?

My inspiration for getting started with my research was the pending arrival of our first child Ciara in 2010. Actually, our main tree is named after her on Ancestry. It was always something I had wanted to do. It was only when my wife and I were expecting Ciara that it really made me think about my family history.

I had always thought that I was a melting pot of really different ancestors and this proved to be somewhat correct. With every person I find or come across I learn something different. They might not be kings or great revolutionaries, but each person had a different job, location and story. There were new discoveries with almost every turn. My children are my inspiration to continue my research into my ancestors.

When you were getting started, what was the most important question you were trying to answer?

If I am honest, there was one burning question and it’s not as far back as you would think. I never knew my grandmother. Who was my grandmother? My mother had spent time in two different orphanages for the first 7 or 8 years of her life. Her mother had passed away when she was just 4-months old and my mother was the youngest of six children. I had heard all sorts of stories over the years. One story claimed that Grandma was found on the doorstep of a brewery abandoned by her parents who were refugees from Eastern Europe. Other stories said that Grandma had died from slipping through thin ice and drowning. The latter did turn out to be somewhat true, but the abandonment story was a million miles from the truth. I found two newspaper articles about Grandma’s death, which helped separate fact from fiction. I also found her death certificate and other documents which pointed to her origins.

The most amazing discovery actually found me, when a lady named Linda contacted me via Ancestry. Her mother, Eileen (my grandma’s first cousin), is my mom’s godmother. They all emigrated to Australia in the 1960s from Manchester and had not seen my mother since then. This all culminated in my mom and I having a Skype call with Linda and Eileen, during which I  learned a lot about my grandmother, most of which neither Mom nor I knew. Over what was a very emotional but amazing hour-long conversation, my mother learned of her mother’s love of singing, pride of dress and elegant speaking voice. I guess you could say my one burning question got answered.


How many years have you been working on your family tree?
I have been working on my family tree since my wife was expecting our first child, a little over 5 years in total. I worked at it intensely over the first couple of years but we now have three children so my time spent on genealogy has been less frequent. I expect to devote more time to it when my children are a little older.

Finding photographs of my ancestors spurs me on. This is my grandmother Vera Cartmell as a baby. The inset is a photo from when she was around 30-years old, just two years before she died.

What has been the biggest mystery or brick wall you’ve encountered or are currently working on solving?
My biggest block has been my great-grandfather Robert Cartmell. I have a good idea and am fairly sure on all of my great-great-grandparents except Robert’s parents. I have found a few possibilities  through marriage certificates and I know his father’s name is George, but nothing seems to fit. Hitting a brick wall has made me more resolute than ever to continue my research.

Did you have any surprises in your family tree? If so, what were they?
There were some surprises along the way. Most surrounded my grandma and her family. My great-grandmother and her siblings ran a pub, which I tracked down early this year. I visited the pub  recently and it was a more emotional experience than I thought it would be. Most of my surprises have come from finding over 100 new relatives all across the globe, including contacting my own godfather for the first time since my baptism!

What were the reactions of your family members when you shared the information you discovered?
The reaction I received from my family was a mixture of disbelief, pride, amazement and emotion. In particular, with regard to my grandmother’s life story. I have been pleasantly surprised and humbled by some of the reactions. However, a couple of family members have rejected the information, preferring to believe the information that has been passed on through the family orally, even though I have proved it to be incorrect. I can understand this. Although I have been on an amazing journey of discovery, the journey that my mother and her siblings have been on is a far more emotionally challenging one. Sometimes it can be easier to hold onto to whatever truth makes your memories easier to live with.

My advice to anyone setting off on this journey of discovery is to keep digging, as there will never be a day when you can find no more. It helps you to understand who you are and to appreciate the obstacles and the challenges that your ancestors overcame to leave the path free for you. It is a wonderful and surreal moment when you see the name of your 7th great-grandfather and think, “I wouldn’t be here if it was not for him.”

Have an Ancestry member success story? Share it with us by visiting and you may be featured in a future member spotlight. 

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“Cyndi’s List” Founder, Cyndi Ingle Shares Her Favorite Resources Tue, 07 Apr 2015 20:47:00 +0000 Jessica Murray Read more]]> One of the greatest resources that has been available to family historians for nearly two decades is Cyndi’s List, a comprehensive and categorized list of genealogical resources from across the web. More than 300,000 of them to be exact.

As a veteran researcher, Cyndi shares what she thinks are the most overlooked but often the most fascinating collections and where they can be found. Tune in here:


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Member Spotlight: Family Folklore Proven True with AncestryDNA Fri, 03 Apr 2015 20:00:53 +0000 Jessica Murray Read more]]> Most families have interesting stories handed down over the generations. Ancestry member Heidi had heard stories of a baby given up for adoption at birth because the child’s father, her cousin, and the mother were young. She learned her aunt, the baby’s grandmother, had been searching for the child for years, but had little to no information to work with so her efforts always resulted in dead ends. Until, AncestryDNA.

Heidi received a message via Ancestry’s messaging center that made her quite curious. She shares the story with us below:

What was your inspiration in researching your family history?

Heidi: My inspiration to start researching my family history was the fact that I do not have any children of my own and really felt like I wanted to leave my mark on the world. I also enjoy a good mystery and there is nothing more satisfying than solving a family tree mystery.

How would you describe your level of personal family history knowledge before getting started on Ancestry?

Heidi: Before joining Ancestry, I had a very basic knowledge of my family tree. My maternal grandfather had done a lot of research back in the 1970s and I had access to his notebook and pictures. My paternal side was more of a mystery for sure!

How many years have you been working on your family tree? 

Heidi: I have been working on my personal tree for over 5 years.

What has been the biggest mystery or brick wall you’ve encountered or are currently working on solving? 

Heidi: The mystery and most exciting story to come out of my research is still unfolding. I had taken the AncestryDNA test, but never had any matches closer than 4-6th cousins. It was always fun to connect with distant relatives.

One day, about a month ago, I had a message from someone who said my DNA was showing up as a 1st or 2nd cousin match! Her name was not a name I had ever heard before in my family. We started corresponding and figured out that she must be related somehow on my paternal side. She was adopted as a baby in 1965 and while she knew she was adopted, she had no information at all on her birth parents. We collaborated via email and phone calls, talking late into the night, excited to find where this news would take us. She said she just wanted to let her birth family know that she had a wonderful life and to try to find any medical information since she has children.

I contacted several of my late father’s living siblings to see if any of them knew of a baby being born and given up for adoption. The information I received was that one of my 1st cousins had fathered a child when he and the birth mother were 17 years old and that the mother’s family made her give the baby up. The baby’s father was killed in a terrible motorcycle accident when he was 24 years old. My aunt had also passed away. We could not find the name of the mother. Several relatives were sure it was one person, others were sure it was a different woman, and we actually have three viable possible mothers at the moment. Two of the three possible mothers are now deceased. My “new cousin,” Anne has just this week submitted a request to have her birth records released. So now we wait!

What were the reactions of your family members when you shared the information you discovered?

Heidi: Everyone in my family is so excited to hear how the story of “the baby” turns out and to get to know our newest relative. This is one of the most exciting things to ever happen to me!!

We are pleased to see Heidi and her new cousin Anne explore this path together and wish them all the best as they continue to unravel this mystery.


Have an Ancestry member success story? Share it with us by visiting and you may be featured in a future member spotlight. 


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Ode to Lou Szucs: Ancestry’s Employee Number One Retires Tue, 31 Mar 2015 11:36:37 +0000 Kristie Wells Read more]]> Lou Szucs

Lou Szucs, photo credit: Trish Szucs St

We knew this day would come. In fact, we even knew the date it would happen. But this morning it finally sunk in … Loretto Dennis (“Lou”) Szucs is officially retiring today.

I am filled with mixed emotions as while I am thrilled for her to be able to spend more time with her family, her wise counsel and incredible spirit will be missed.

Lou ‘officially’ joined Ancestry in 1992 as employee number one, and to say she has been through a few changes would be a massive understatement. She has also worn many hats over the last 23 years, but none seem better suited than that of Vice President of Community Relations. As a widely-respected and beloved member of the genealogy community, Lou has represented Ancestry at conferences and inside genealogical societies, including holding a seat on several boards. She is a trusted voice in the community and a wonderful community advocate.

There have been several memorable moments with Lou, but I think the first time I met her was my favorite. I had been with the company for just over two months and decided to attend the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference (FGS) taking place in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Upon arrival, I went straight to the Ancestry booth on the show floor. Everyone was pretty busy, so I stood by the side, waiting for a break so I could introduce myself. Lou walked up to me and asked if I needed help. I explained who I was, she immediately hugged me and welcomed me to the show. She then proceeded to introduce me to everyone else there. That is Lou. Always there to help you, connect you or guide you.

After the introductions, I looked closely at Lou’s badge and was floored by all the ribbons she had. If ever there was a picture that could show just how involved in the genealogy community she is, this is it (knowing this is only a small subset of the programs she is involved in).


Lou Szucs conference badge. The collection of ribbons is called a ‘beard’ in the genealogy community.

Lou is an accomplished author – penning several books, including The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogya genealogical staple found in the home of most serious genealogists. She is invited to speak at conferences and societies and her tutorials are always entertaining and informative as she is a natural born storyteller. She has been a guiding light to 1000s of people, helping them walk down the right genealogical path. Lou believes her friends are your friends and she is willing to connect you to anyone in her contact list. Her passion for family history is infectious and she has inspired many of us to dig deep into our own stories. To top it all off, Lou is incredibly sweet. Sugary, but in a tasty, just enough to keep you wired way, not the generating cavities kind of way.

Lou’s mentorship and guidance is something cherished by many of us here. Her contribution to the field cannot be overstated, and we have been proud and grateful for her representation of Ancestry.

Please join us in thanking Lou for her decades of service to Ancestry and in wishing her all the best in her retirement.

All I ask is even with all her newly found ‘free time’ that she leaves some Kelly’s for her daughter Juliana to find in their family tree. (you are welcome Juliana) :)


We would love to hear your Lou stories and ask that you either share them in the comments below or share your own blog or social post using the #LoveYouLou hashtag.  



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How Mary Tedesco of “Genealogy Roadshow” Discovered Family History Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:44:07 +0000 Jessica Murray Read more]]> We have loved tuning in to Mary Tedesco, researcher on the latest season of “Genealogy Roadshow” on PBS, so we were thrilled to have had the opportunity to interview her.

Mary, founder of Origins Italy shares how she was first introduced to family history, and it starts with a shared login. And while we recognize the humor in that, it’s not recommended for privacy reasons.

Mary went on to note how people can participate in the next season of “Genealogy Roadshow.” Tune in to learn how:

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Save Family Photos: Inspiring Budding Family Historians Through Photographs Tue, 17 Mar 2015 13:00:24 +0000 Jessica Murray Read more]]> Following her grandfather’s passing, Rachel LaCour-Niesen was given photographs that spanned several generations of her family. As she started to uncover the emotional and beautiful stories of her relatives, she quickly discovered a new found passion for family history.

Anxious to share those stories with extended family and friends, she established Save Family Photos, with the mission to “…save family stories, one photo at a time.” Originally, what started as an Instagram page to feature family photographs and stories has quickly caught fire and attracted thousands of photo entries from budding family historians across the globe.

Save Family Photos

Honor an ancestor’s legacy. Share a unique family story. Capture your family history in some way. We applaud Rachel for  her efforts and inspiring so many new family historians in this unique way.

Listen to Rachel share more about her passion project and the Save Family Photos community by tuning in to the video below:

Check out the beautiful family photographs and meaningful stories by following Save Family Photos site and @SaveFamilyPhotos on Instagram. Of course, you’re also invited to share your vintage family photographs by using the #savefamilyphotos hashtag on Instagram.

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Ancestry Takes on the 2015 Epic Ski Challenge Fri, 13 Feb 2015 14:00:22 +0000 Ancestry Team Read more]]> 2015 Ski Challenge
The Ancestry family is heating things up this winter and combining our passion for charitable work with some friendly competition.

Our Chief Technology Officer, Scott Sorensen, challenged a few people within the Ancestry family to participate in the 2015 Epic Ski Challenge, a multi-round competition presented by Vail Resorts to raise awareness and resources for charities serving Colorado and Utah.

The Colorado vs. Utah interstate challenge rewards the highest earning team with $400,000 to benefit a charity of their choice. By skiing the various Vail resort properties and sharing their support, Team Ancestry earns points to hopefully achieve the top prize for our selected charity - Primary Children’s, one of the best children’s hospitals in the western United States, located in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Team Ancestry on the Slopes

Team Ancestry on the Slopes

Between now and April 8th, you may see us tweeting and posting on Facebook to help build awareness and points for Team Ancestry using “#TeamAncestry #EpicSkiChallenge” hashtags.

You’re invited to help us share the love for this great organization and of course, support Team Ancestry!

Follow a few of our competitors on their social media channels to track their Epic Ski Challenge journey:

Scott Sorensen: Instagram and Twitter

Paul MacKay: Twitter 

Barry Watts: Instagram and Twitter

Doug Barlow: Instagram and Twitter

Eric Zimmerman: Instagram

Connect with Primary Children’s on Twitter and Facebook.

Happy skiing!!

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Member Spotlight: Newly Discovered Connection to the Boleyn Family Fri, 06 Feb 2015 14:35:44 +0000 Jessica Murray Read more]]> We always love hearing of member success stories, and in 2015 we’ve made it a priority to share more of them. We look forward to bringing you member stories that we hope will inspire you and give you ideas that you can implement in your research.

Portrait of Mary Boleyn

Portrait of Mary Boleyn

Ty Francis is one of our biggest fans, so we asked him to share his story with us.

What was your inspiration in researching your family history?

Francis: The birth of my daughter. I wanted to give her a fuller family history from both sides of her family.

How would you describe the level of your personal family history knowledge before getting started in your research?

Francis: Pretty good. I had a ton of birth certificates and pictures, and I knew that a few of my family had peerages, so finding some information would be fairly easy. Filling in the gaps was a bit more difficult.

When you were getting started, what was the most important question you were trying to answer?

Francis: My wife’s side of the family was somewhat disjointed, and there were questions about the ancestry of my father’s side of the family (more specifically his father’s side), so a good solid foundation to build on was essential. Ancestry gave me the tools to do this. I used it to verify the lineages and connections, where prior to that, links were inconclusive and wrapped up in family apocrypha.

Did you have any surprises in your family tree? If so, what were they?

Francis: Oh my, yes. Some good and some justs plain surprises. I always knew we had some aristocracy in my family (my side), but had conflicting stories. Turned out that my 13th great-grandmother was Mary Boleyn, the sister of English queen consort Anne Boleyn and a member of the Boleyn family, who enjoyed considerable influence during the reign of King Henry VIII of England. That was very exciting. I also learned that on another strand, we are related to William Crispin – a companion of William the Conqueror who conquered England in 1066.

The more significant surprises were that my paternal grandfather was not Dutch, as we originally thought.  (He was adopted by a Dutchman.)  In fact, he was of Indian descent. To better understand this and support this information, we used the AncestryDNA test, which revealed 8% of my DNA being of South Asian descent.

Another interesting result was finding out that my maternal grandfather had Norwegian heritage. While he was from Wales, his grandfather was from Norway. This prompted me to go to Wales where I found pictures of the ship that my great-great-grandfather took to Wales from Norway.

What were the reactions of your family members when you shared the information you discovered?

Francis: My uncle (on my father’s side) always thought that there was a connection with India, and this was confirmed. There were so many inconsistencies throughout my childhood in regards to my father’s family roots, and the Dutch story never had enough “meat to its bones,” so this finally put the myth to rest.

It prompted my wife to do a DNA test too, which was more straightforward. She shows a clear Polish/Eastern Europe and Italian split. That was good to reinforce what we already knew. Now my daughter has a pretty solid map of her heritage. There is still a lot to do, and I plan to dedicate a lot more time on Ancestry. I’m encouraging my family to start using it as well. The more people we have investigating our family, the better the results we are likely to get.


To learn more about Mary Boleyn’s history, visit this link.

Ty did a lot of research in our UK collections. Enjoy free access to our UK collections until February 8, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. ET. 

Have an Ancestry member success story? Share it with us by visiting and you may be featured in a future member spotlight. 

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What We Are Reading: December 19th Edition Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:37:29 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more]]> Much like the mixed bag of gifts that Santa carries, we’ve been reading a mix of topics this week. One thing that they have in common is that each of them makes us think about the sources we’re using and the stories we’re telling (or not telling).

Denise Hibsch Richmond shows how newspapers can tell us so much more than just births, marriages, and deaths. See how in “Henry M. Kendall, Orange Juice in His Blood” on Denise Digs Roots.

Writing is one of the best ways to find holes in your research. Kessara found that out when she was putting together a post for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. She checked one more fact… and discovered that the woman she thought was her ancestor really wasn’t. Find out what happened and learn about Kessara’s former ancestor in “Abigail Tucker – Revolutionary Wife & Mother” on Of Loons and Lady Slippers.

You’ve probably thought about sharing research with others as a way to collaborate and find out more about your ancestors. Have you thought about sharing as a way to backup and preserve your research? Larry Naukum shows how it works in “Share and Share Alike” on The In-Depth Genealogist.

Vera Marie Badertscher’s mother went through a lot in her life and she recorded many of her stories, from the house that burned down to the Great Flood of 1913. Vera shares those stories and more in “Harriette Anderson, Fire, Flood, Relocation” on Ancestors in Aprons. Are you recording the stories of your life?

"After a visit of old Santa Claus," from the Library of Congress Photo Collection, 1840-2000.

“After a visit of old Santa Claus,” from the Library of Congress Photo Collection, 1840-2000.

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