My great-grandmother (pictured) emigrated to America from Canada with her family in 1858.Â Were it not for Ancestry.com I would never have known that she even existed, nor would I have found my uncle’s surviving widow living on the island of Orcas in the state of Washington.Â
I had been searching for my father’s brother in vain for nearly fifty years when suddenly there he was in the World War II enlistment records which prompted me to check the Social Security Death Index.Â He had died only two years prior to my finally learning of his whereabouts.Â Using a reverse telephone lookup on the internet, I found that his widow was still living and took a chance on contacting her.Â
Just recently my wife and I flew up to Seattle, then took a ferry to one of the most beautiful places I had ever been:Â Orcas Island in the San Juan’s.Â During our visit, my Aunt (by marriage) brought out several photographs.Â Among them was this one which simply had “Thomas Deeds’ mother” written on the back.Â I knew immediately from my research that this was, indeed, my grandfather’s mother and no one had even known her name or that she was Canadian born until I came along.Â My aunt also had a picture of my grandfather, Thomas, which I had never seen.Â
I also learned that my Uncle had been married before and had one daughter.Â Other than my own children and grandchildren, the cousin is my only living blood relation.Â The irony of this whole situation is that my oldest daughter had been living just a ferry boat ride from my uncle for the past eleven years.
Ancestry.comÂ has recently updatedÂ a collection of approximately 2.8 million marriages recorded in Ontario, Canada between 1857 and 1922. The indexes contained in this collection were created by two agencies-Ancestry and the Genealogical Research Library in Brampton, Ontario. (Click on the image to see a sample record from 1916.) The following list is a breakdown of the records included in this database and who created the index to them. Continue reading →
If you havenâ€™t already, go through your files on an ancestor and begin an inventory of the records you have found for him or her. You can easily create your own custom form in a spreadsheet or word processor, including all applicable census years (federal, state, and otherwise), vital records, directories (list years), probate records, church records, correspondence, printed sources, online databases, obituaries, tax and voting lists, court records, military records, immigration and naturalization records, and anything else you have collected. Check for what’s missing and formulate a plan to fill in those blanks!
Nowadays, when we need to know where to find a business, organization, or even individuals, we hop online and pull up an online directory or search engine. In the pre-Internet days, we used telephone directories, and in pre-telephone days there were city directories. Ancestry.com added 1,003 directories from various locations to its collections last week and in light of these new resources, I thought this week would be a good time to talk a little about directory research.
I truly believe that city directories are among the most underestimated record groups. Although the entries are brief, the pieces of information that are included can be pivotal in our research. They can take us back and give us a year-by-year snapshot of where our ancestors were, how they earned a living, and often much more if you read between the lines. Continue reading →
Itâ€™s important to research every member in your ancestorsâ€™ families. I cringe when I hear a family historian say that they didnâ€™t trace their great-grandmotherâ€™s two sisters because neither of them married or probably had no children. They might be missing some of the greatest tidbits of their family history and even the old family Bible or scrapbook. I would guess that some of you readers are todayâ€™s single sibling and are caring for the older generation or live in the old family home.
The Last Child at Home
Unmarried relatives may have been the last of the siblings to leave the family home or may have been the one to stay and take care of Mom after Dad passed away. Often, they continue to live in the house after Mom is gone. This might be the sibling who ended up with the family pictures, Dadâ€™s letters from the Spanish-American War, Momâ€™s old address book, or that family Bible. Without such a connection to unmarried collateral relatives, I would never have seen the picture of my great-grandmother Betsy and the two sisters who also left Sweden and settled in the Midwest. Continue reading →
A scheduling conflict a few weeks ago left me with two hours and nothing to do. Nothing. No e-mail, no Internet, no phone. Just blank paper and a pencil. I thought I was going to get nothing done. I could not have been more wrong.
A column idea had been on the back burner for some time. I began outlining the article in a way I had not done in years: on paper. Before long the outlining had disintegrated into actual paragraphs and before I knew it the article I had struggled on was finally drafted. The draft was followed by two written out tips for the Ancestry Weekly Journal newsletter and blog. No computer was in sight.
I then wrote down a research problem I had been struggling with for some time. Summarizing what I could remember, research ideas were outlined. Since an Internet connection was not to be had, instant follow-up at a website was not possible. I kept listing research options, spelling variants, possible misconceptions, assumptions, all without being able to do any actual “searching.” Before it was time to go, I had done the same thing for two other “brick walls.” The drawback was I might not have remembered something correctly, but now I would have to go back and review my research and look. I made real progress on three lines without being on the computer or connected to the Internet.
Constant access to the world makes it tempting to search, search, search. Sometimes we need to think, think, think. Consider spending your next few genealogy hours offline and not “researching.” Spend it thinking, remembering, and brainstorming. You may be surprised how much you find out while you’re “offline.”
Check Under Middle Names
Recently in looking for another non-related family in the 1910 census, I finally found my grandparents, father, and uncles! No wonder I hadn’t been able to find them initially. The family was listed under my grandfather’s middle name. There they were–the whole family with the last name Elwood instead of Reitenbaugh!
I can hear the census taker asking my grandfather what his name was and the reply being â€œJoseph Elwood.â€ Any dummy knew that the census taker had stopped at the Reitenbaugh household. Wasn’t that obvious?
This is probably only one story out of thousands about the ‘hazards’ of finding our ancestors in the census records. I have done the same detail as you suggested for finding family in the 1840 and prior census records. It is tricky to say the least and too often there is more than one household that seems to be a match. I guess that’s what makes genealogy fascinating–the mystery, the search, and the discovery.
Doris Wills Continue reading →
The year was 1857 and the world was on shaky ground as major earthquakes struck Naples, in what is now Italy, killing over 12,000 people, and Fort Tejon, California which was estimated at 7.9 on the Richter scale, but with only two known fatalities.