Whether it is an important record of one of your ancestors, a photograph or a map, choose an item, get out a magnifying glass (if necessary), and examine closely all of the details you see. Ponder the significance of everything you see. The season and background of an old photograph taken at a particular event, the name of a witness on a document, an address, or nearby features (natural or manmade) in the neighborhood in which your ancestors lived, all of these things could provide helpful clues to help you learn more about your ancestors.
Not everyone has an oral tradition of stories, a collection of old letters or a well-traveled Bible. In other words, many of you may not be aware of the strands of relationships across North America, the Atlantic Ocean or in areas of the British Isles.
Even knowledge of family contacts may not be enough. I have known about closely-maintained connections to England among some of my paternal ancestors for a long time. It was collateral relations who were said to have made trips back, but looking to see whether anyone was caught in a census was not a high priority before online indexes and images. It was too much work on the off-chance that some member of the family was listed with some other connection in a census that came along only once every ten years.
Online census indexes have changed that, in particular the collection at Ancestry.com which now includes some or all of the returns from the U.S., England, Wales, and Canada. In addition, understanding the wider horizons of your ancestors can enrich your family history; I recommend taking the initiative and looking for people who are â€œhidingâ€ in unexpected places. Following are three suggestions: Continue reading →
As I gazed out at my yard a few weeks ago, the tasks at hand seemed insurmountable. Through windows in need of spring cleaning, I saw gardens that needed to be cleared, prepared for planting, and mulched. The lawn was a mess and the mower needed a spring tune-up. The garage? Well, letâ€™s not go there!
â€œBut I have no time,â€ I rationalized. Finally, my conscience got the best of me. Instead of looking at the big picture, I looked at the front garden and decided that was where I would start. I dragged my poor recovering husband on a jaunt through the local home improvement store as I gathered bags and bags of manure and mulch. He wasnâ€™t too thrilled, but that simple act had me inspired. From that step, I went on to clear, not only the front, but much of the back and am proud to be able to display some of my gardens in the photos you see in the blog each week.
Too often I feel the same way with my family history. After being away from it for a quite a while recently, it too seemed insurmountable. Although Iâ€™m still struggling a bit with the new schedule and tasks, today I made time for it. Like my efforts in the garden, the momentum is carrying me through more than I thought I could accomplish in one day. Hereâ€™s how I got the ball rolling. Continue reading →
If your ancestor was married more than once, there is the opportunity to learn even more about your ancestor through the records of those other marriages. Those other spouses may not be your ancestor, but those other records may provide additional information on your direct lineage. Ignoring those records may cause your brick walls to remain standing even longer.
Archibald Kile’s first marriage was in Ohio in the 1840s; all his descendants are from his first marriage. Records of his two subsequent marriages were particularly helpful as they took place when better records were being kept. Archibald entered the bonds of holy matrimony twice well after reaching his sixtieth birthday and records of these marriages provided his place of birth and the names of his parents. This was significant information for a man born in the 1810s whose death certificate in the 1890s is minimally informative.
My own ancestor Barbara Haase was married four times between 1847 and 1884. Records during this time period are typically uninformative. However her 1859 marriage record mentions her age and the name of her previous husband, something I was not expecting to see in the record. Looking at all her marriage records paid off.
If your ancestor stepped up to the marriage plate more than once, take a look. There may be more information there than you think.
From Kansas to Canada
Land was available to anyone who was willing to homestead in Alberta, Canada beginning about 1905 and my paternal grandparents and great-grandparents left Kansas in 1910 to claim land and make a fresh start farming wheat there. Many other family members went with them. Most of them returned to the United States by 1924. If you are having trouble finding family in the U.S. census during this period, you may find them in Canada. There is a Library and Archives Canada website that provides land descriptions for those who obtained final homestead patents between 1870 and 1930, but it does not include the names of those who, for any reason, did not complete the homesteading process. Visit the Alberta Genealogical Society websiteÂ if you are interested in obtaining copies of a homestead file.
The Ellis Island Immigration Center was officially dedicated on New Yearâ€™s Day in 1892. On that day, a fifteen-year-old Irish girl, Annie Moore, from County Cork, was the first person processed at Ellis Island. She arrived on the SS Nevada and was presented with a ten-dollar gold piece. This first station would last only five years. A fire destroyed the pine frame buildings in 1897 and the receiving station reopened in 1900.
By the time Ellis Island closed in 1954, more than 16 million immigrants passed through this gateway. Nearly half the current population of the United States is directly related to immigrants who passed through this gateway to liberty. Continue reading →
Here’s another mystery photo. Can you help Barbara fill in the missing information?
On the back of the picture it says ‘Annie Hardy b. 1838 …. Married Thomas G***d. The rest of the writing is too smeared to readÂ The picture I have is not the original. It is a modern copy. I know that because it has ‘kodak’ watermark on the back. We do have a Harding line and a Groat line and I’m thinking she fits in there somewhere, but we just don’t know where. I would be absolutely thrilled if someone could positively identify her for us.