Making the Cemetery Rounds

Aha! Seminarsby George G. Morgan

Cemeteries can differ from location to location, depending on the geographical area, the population of the surrounding communities, ethnic and religious affiliations, and the purpose of the cemetery. For example, a church cemetery will be very different from a military cemetery in purpose, types of records maintained, physical layout, and the types of markers or monuments.

Before visiting a cemetery for genealogical research, try to determine what type of cemetery it is. You can sometimes accomplish this by searching for a website on the Internet for the cemetery itself, or the municipality or organization responsible for maintaining the facility. You may find information about cemeteries in an area by visiting the USGenWeb Project sites for states and counties () or for different countries at the WorldGenWeb Project site. Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: Contacting Funeral Home Directors

from Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak 

Thinking of approaching a funeral home director for help with your roots?  Not all are keen on genealogists (and some have privacy policies), but many are very helpful.  Try calling first to learn the basics – whether they respond to requests, what details are needed to conduct a search (their records might be organized by name or date, and they often have a card or computer file that leads them to more detailed records – a multi-step process for them), and any fees that might be involved.  Then follow up with a letter as instructed – and be specific about what you’d like.  It used to be common practice for funeral homes to place obituaries, so some have family fact sheets on the deceased, but they’re not apt to send a copy unless you request it.  At a minimum, ask for the cemetery involved, names of survivors, and the person who paid for the funeral.

Be patient, as some long-established homes may store older records in a basement or even offsite.  And don’t give up if the funeral home you seek no longer exists.  Try calling a couple of the other local funeral homes, as well as cemeteries and libraries in the area, to see what might have happened to their records.  The files you want may well be in the possession of a former competitor (mergers are common) or at the local historical or genealogical society. 

Finally, be nice!  Remember, another genealogist might want to contact the same funeral home director, so send a thank you note to let them know their assistance is appreciated.

Megan's websiteTo contact Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak or learn more about her upcoming speaking engagements, visit and  

Your Quick Tips

Seek Out Local Seniors

I agree with the Tipster about checking with local historical societies for information.  In many smaller towns, however, there is no organized society. I’ve discovered that no matter how tiny the town, there will be a place serving lunch for senior residents.

I’ve met some wonderful people who are delighted to welcome a visitor who is interested in their community.  Believe me, they know the local history, can tell you exactly where the old cemeteries are located (and who has the burial records stored at home).  They recall buildings, homes, and schools that are no longer present, and can relate anecdotes that don’t always make it into books.  Twice I’ve even discovered a distant kin!

Be sure first to introduce yourself to the senior center staff.  This is not only a courtesy but inevitably the staff hostess will take you straight to the senior who has the informal title of “Local Historian!”  Remember that the “magic hour” for meeting everyone is lunchtime!

Elaine Sunde

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The Year Was 1924

In the U.S., Calvin Coolidge was serving as president after the death of President Warren G. Harding and was re-elected in November.  Congress declared Native American Indians U.S. Citizens through the passage of the Indian Citizenship Act, although Native Americans were not allowed to vote in some states until 1948.

In these early days of radio, radio stations were popping up and broadcasting across the country. Calvin Coolidge became the first President to broadcast over the radio from the White House. Further, eighteen radio stations hooked up in September with General John J. Pershing and other military officials in a demonstration of how radio can be used in the event of an emergency to communicate important information across the country in the National Defense Test Day Broadcast.

In March, people in the U.S. were flocking to the theatres to see Douglas Fairbanks’ silent picture, The Thief of Bagdad. Popular songs included, California, Here I Come (Al Jolson), Rhapsody in Blue (George Gershwin and Paul Whiteman), and It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo’ (Wendell Hall).

As for economics, $100 was the equivalent of $1,160.82 in today’s dollars. What could you get for your money? A quart of milk would cost you about $0.14, a loaf of bread or a pound of sugar ran around $0.09, eggs were $0.48 per dozen, coffee about $0.43 a pound, and if you wanted a nice sirloin, it would run about $0.40 per pound. 

So, how much did those new-fangled radios cost?  A few years earlier, in 1921, factory-made radios could cost more than $2,000 in today’s dollars, but in 1922 the National Bureau of Standards released a circular that sold for five cents and told how to build a crystal radio set and soon newspapers picked up on the story and the information spread quickly. The circular stated that the cost of materials needed was typically under $10.  

Yes, radios were all the rage, as you can see from this 1924 newspaper clipping from the “Appleton Post Crescent,” 12 April 1924. (Those who don’t have access to the Historical Newspaper Collection, can view the clipping by clicking on the image to enlarge it.)

Photo Corner

Esther Myra Andrews, Dungog, NSW, AustraliaJohn Basil Yelton, 1861 <-- Contributed by Lydia Avaline Yelton,  Lydia's great-grandfather, John Basil Yelton in Uniform, 1861


Contributed by: Dawn Geddes, Sydney, Australia.–>
Dawn’s paternal grandmother, Esther Myra Andrews (nee Muddle),
born 03 August 1912 in Dungog, NSW, Australia

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Photo Corner, Crahan children, Pittsford, Vermont, ca. 1913

Crahan children, Pittsford, Vermont, ca. 1913 Today’s photograph:

I am enclosing a photograph of my mother and siblings. It was taken at Pittsford, Vermont, ca. 1913.  They are the children of Mary Anne (Mollie) Ward and William Crahan.  Mollie was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1879.  William was born in Pittsford, Vermont in 1851.  His family originated in Wilkinstown, Co. Meath, Ireland.  Back row, left to right:  John William,  Anne Josephine, (my mother).  Front row, twins: Sarah Monica on the left and Mary Catherine on the right.

Barbara Sheperd
Derby, Vermont

Josh Hanna: High priest of the latter-day genealogists

The lanky Josh HannaThis article appeared in The Guardian, one of the largest daily newspapers in the UK. Josh Hanna heads the site.

Josh Hanna: High priest of the latter-day genealogists

A fascination with his own family history led this New Englander from Silicon Valley to a British website

Jane Martinson
Friday April 14, 2006
The Guardian

Enjoying pride of place in Josh Hanna’s office is a document marking his eureka moment. The head of the family history website has a framed copy of a 100-year-old slip that marks his maternal great-grandfather’s arrival in the United States.

[Read the entire text of this article online at The Guardian.]

Photo Corner: Edward Lambe portrait, ca. 1838-39

Edward Lambe (portrait), ca. 1838-39Here’s today’s portrait:

Attached is a submission for your Photo Corner. The subject is Edward Lambe (b 1831 in England). Edward was my great-great-grandfather. The portrait was painted by his father, William Lambe, around 1838/9. William was a Freemason and Edward was allowed to attend school. He is dressed in his school uniform. The family came to America in 1850 and settled in DuPage County, Illinois.

Thank you,

Sarah Pronold Poker

If you have a special photo or image that you’d like to share, please send it to  We’ll post a new one every weekday and two in Monday’s Ancestry Weekly Journal.

Local Arkansas Library is the Recipient of a “Significant Donation”

Local researchers in Bentonville, Arkansas, will soon have more materials to use in their search for their ancestors thanks to what’s being called a “significant donation” from the from the Northwest Arkansas Genealogical Society. The records include census records, death notices and unique books and will be available at the new public library on Main Street. More about this can be found in the local paper, The Morning News.

Book and Movie Club: Rise to Rebellion and other books by Jeff Shaara

 Here’s today’s book club review. If you have a book or movie you’d like to add, send it to and we’ll post them with the title in the headline.

One of the most interesting “historical fiction” books I read recently was Rise to Rebellion, by Jeff Shaara.  It covered the events from about 1760 to July 1776 that shaped the American Revolution.  Each chapter focused on one of the important players-John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Gage, George Washington, etc.  It’s one thing to learn in history class about people and battles, but to “hear” the words and thoughts (often using historical letters or memoirs) of the protagonists is fascinating to me.  I have a much better understanding of the times, the leaders and the events leading up to the War than before.
Shaara’s sequel, called The Glorious Cause, is on my reading table now.  It continues from 1776 to the end of hostilities in 1781.
He has also written several books on the American Civil War, Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure, and I saw another book about the Mexican-American War on the shelf at the library today.  All of these are on my reading list now.

Randy Seaver, Chula Vista CA

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