The Year Was 1868

The year was 1868 and in the U.S. Andrew Johnson was serving the last year of his presidential term following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. It was a turbulent year with the country still bitterly torn and struggling with issues left by the Civil War in an era known as The Reconstruction. Pitted against Congress, Johnson was impeached on eleven counts by the House for firing the Secretary of War, but was later acquitted by the Senate. For a more in depth look at Reconstruction and the political events of 1868, see The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson website, which includes excerpts from periodicals of the day.

In November of 1868, the Union General Ulysses S. Grant won the presidential election. Americans continued to move westward and in 1868 Wyoming Territory was organized from parts of Dakota, Utah and Idaho Territories. The young territorial government would go on to make history the following year when it became the first in the world to pass legislation allowing women the right to vote. Continue reading

Photo Corner: Fred William Wheeler and Grace Hortense Brown; and Margaret Emily Morris Crebbs

Fred William Wheeler and Grace Horstense BrownContributed by Duane W. Wheeler, Murrieta, California
Duane’s father and mother; Fred William Wheeler and Grace Horstense Brown, Wedding Picture taken on 26 November 1913.

Click on the image to enlarge the photograph.

Margaret Emily Morris Crebbs, born abt. 1835 Contributed by Marcia Kremer, St. Paul, Minnesota
Marcia’s third great-grandmother, Margaret Emily Morris Crebbs, born abt. 1835 in Baltimore, Maryland, to Augustine Larpenteur and Samuel Morris. Margaret Emily married John Frederick Crebbs on 24 July 1856, at the St. Paul Cathedral, St. Paul, Ramsey, Minnesota. Bishop Cretin officiated at the marriage ceremony. She and John went back to Baltimore where John died in 1869. Margaret Emily brought her two young daughters to St. Paul after John’s death and lived in St. Paul until she died 1 April 1907.

Annie Moore Updates and Roots Television

Many of you know Megan Smolenyak from her columns in the Ancestry Weekly Journal and here on this blog, but did you know she also has her own blog?  She has several items of interest that have been posted lately, so if you haven’t visited lately, you might want to take a peek.

She is continuing her search for Annie Moore of Ellis Island fame, and recently reports that she is closing in on the real family, and there’s also a quick, but intriguing mention about Roots Television. 

You can check out all the posts on Megan’s Roots World.

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Seeking Descendants of Clark Smith

Below is a message I received below from a reader regarding the remains of Clark Smith. I’m hoping there’s someone out there who can help solve this mystery!

A small cemetery was recently discovered in an area of North Aurora, Illinois that was scheduled to be turned into a subdivision in the future.  Long time residents had remembered seeing three tombstones in there in the mid-1900’s, so the State Historical Society enlisted archaeologists at the University of Illinois to excavate the area, and so far they have found 12 coffins!  One resident remembers a tombstone saying “Clark Smith, Co. H. Illinois Infantry, 1831-1867.”  Local researchers have identified a Clark Smith, who died in 1867 and did indeed serve in the Civil War.  His probate records show his widow paid for a metal coffin from the estate.  Sure enough, the first coffin excavated was metal!  So we feel confident we have found Clark—but have no idea who the other 11 were.  The archaeologists said they are probably all pre-1870 because they are “made to fit” coffins.  The majority are believed to be children due to the size of the coffins.

I have occasionally seen a column in your newsletters about trying to return family Bibles or photos to the proper descendants.  I wonder if you or your staff could help locate a descendant of Clark Smith and/or help identify the others who were buried there.  A local researcher was able to track down two descendants, but lost the trail in around 1999.  We are so close!  Please let me know if this is something you may be able to help with and I can provide additional information.  We are hoping to contact descendants before a decision is made where to relocate the bodies.

Debbie Buchanan
Montgomery, Illinois Adding 300 Titles to Online Database Collections is pleased to announce that they have begun adding more than 300 family history titles to their database collection. The scanned books cover the topics of vital records, immigration, military, histories, biographies, and more from the early 1600s to the 1900s.  Below are a select few of the titles that are already available for searching:

You can more of what has been added on the list of recently added databases on


Quote for Today

Irish Tombstone“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”
~ Frederick Koenig

Weekly Planner: Phone a Family Member

This week, think about family members who you haven’t spoken to in awhile. You don’t have to have a prepared interview or agenda–just call to say hi. Share a memory with them and let the conversation take its course. You may pick up a few research clues, or you may just have a nice chat. It’s a win-win situation.

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Using SSDI Blues

by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak

I did something today that I’ve been dreading. I finally got the courage to search for my mother’s name in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). And yes, she’s in there, although she passed away only about ten weeks ago.

It still doesn’t truly register. I thought it would be a few more decades before Mom would appear in this resource that I use on a daily basis without any thought–without any thought of what it really means. Each one of those millions of entries meant the world to someone.

There’s a part of me that’s convinced the entry is for someone else–especially because hers is so full of red herrings. Unless you actually knew her, her SSDI listing would send you off on a wild goose chase. And for that reason, I thought it might make a good example of how we sometimes read too much into the details we find in the SSDI. Continue reading

The Source

by Michael John Neill

At more than 950 pages, it is impossible to completely review this tome in one short column.

The Source is intended to be “A Guidebook to American Genealogy.” It certainly lives up to that description. Read it, memorize it, and your research will never be the same. Even if memorization is beyond your abilities (and it certainly is beyond mine), reading The Source should be on your list of genealogical “to do” items.

The Source works well as a reference or something to be read front to back. A basic working knowledge of genealogy is helpful to get the most out of it (and to appreciate its scope without being overwhelmed). I have often used earlier versions of The Source to refresh myself on a certain topic when necessary. Continue reading