Have you considered writing your family history? Many others have, and it may seem like a daunting prospect. Imagining all the people in your family tree, perhaps hundreds of them, and deciding who to write about and who to omit is a real conundrum.
Even if you don’t plan to write a family history, as a genealogist you are still interested in understanding your ancestors and their family members’ lives in context. It’s important to place them in their environment and to understand that environment during the years through which they lived. We certainly do this by collecting all types of records. Census records are important because they place a person in a particular location at a specific point in time. You can see a list of other people in the same residence and neighbors on either side of them. Naturally, you can expand your understanding of that area by seeking out and studying local histories of various types. Continue reading →
Obtaining more sources is not necessarily the answer to every brick wall problem. There are times where the sledgehammer to break them down comes in two pieces: one in our head and the other in our files of data we have already obtained. When I’m stuck on a problem, I find it helpful to completely transcribe all the documents I have already obtained, paying close attention to every word and making certain to learn the definition of any words with which I am not familiar.
Writing up my problem as if I were explaining it to a fellow researcher is an excellent way to determine if there are gaps in our own research that we have inadvertently continued to overlook. If we put our information together so that someone unfamiliar with the family could understand it, we find gaps in our research (either in our sources or in our methods) that are the real root of our brick wall.
Finally, talking about our problem may be just the ticket to getting past those obstacles. At a recent conference I was using my Irish family as an example of how to document a migration chain, tracking the family from Ireland to Canada to Illinois to Kansas over a thirty-year period. As I was giving the lecture it dawned on me that the family member who went to Kansas died without any children and without any nieces or nephews (his siblings all had no children of their own). The census indicates he owned real estate. His estate (which I never bothered to locate) might mention the descendants of his grandparents’ siblings which could potentially break my Irish brick wall. In this case, talking about my problem caused an idea to pop into my head.
When we transcribe documents, write up our problems, or talk about our brick walls, we increase the chance that something “clicks” that was not evident when we silently read our materials.
Click here for a printer friendly version of this article.
Correspondence in Newspapers My father, who was in France in World War I, wrote a letter to his father on 24 November 1918, which began: “You know this is the day all of us boys are supposed to write our fathers a letter and tell of our trip to France.” In it, he details the entire trip from Camp Beauregard, Louisiana, to St. Remain, France, and all points in between where he had been, even mentioning the name of the ship he was on for the trip over; a ship which had been the Kaiser’s private vessel before it was taken by the U. S. government. Although the letter itself has long disappeared, my grandfather took the letter to the local newspaper, where it was published in its entirety, and I have a copy of the published letter. Others just might be so fortunate as to find something in a newspaper that their ancestor wrote home.
The year was 1908 and it was an Olympic year. The Games of the IV Olympiad were held in London, England, with twenty-two nations sending thirty-seven women and 1,971 men to compete in 110 events. Perhaps the most memorable event of the games was when Italian marathon runner, Dorando Pietri, became disoriented and collapsed several times at the end of the race. Officials eventually helped him across the finish line, and although he was later disqualified, his determination earned him a place in history.
The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, became the site of the first long-distance radio message in 1908, thanks to the efforts of Captain Gustave Ferrie. His efforts became invaluable a few years later when World War I broke out.
People were beginning to look upward in New York City too. Owned by the Singer (sewing machine) Company, the Singer BuildingÂ was completed in May 1908. Until the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower was completed in 1909, it was the tallest building in the world at 612 feet. Continue reading →
Contributed by Paul Reeves Hand-drawn sketch of Mrs. G. G. Reeves of Ben Hill County, Ga., as drawn by her son, Amos L. Reeves, who had a natural talent for drawing, which he only pursued in idle moments as a pastime. Note on back of sketch reads: “This is the way I remember Mother – A.L. Reeves.” Mrs. Reeves was my paternal grandmother.
Contributed by L.K. Evans, League City, Texas Herbert Emory and Jessie Adella (Smith) Krug. They were my great-grandparents on my mother’s side of the family. Their wedding photo was taken sometime in 1895. It was taken in Watsontown, near where they lived in White Deer, Union Co., Pennsylvania, where their seven children were born. This is near Williamsport, Lycoming Co., Pennsylvania, where her father’s side of the family is from.
More than 100 Million Names on All Readily Available U.S. Passenger Lists from 1820 â€“ 1960; Includes the Complete Ellis Island Collection, as well as Records from Over 100 Other U.S. Ports of Arrival
PROVO, UTAH â€“ November 9, 2006 â€“ Ancestry.com, the worldâ€™s largest online family history resource, today announced that it has added to its online service all readily available U.S. passenger lists from 1820 to 1960. An estimated 85 percent of Americans have an immigrant ancestor included in the passenger list collection which covers the height of American immigration, making Ancestry.com the only source for the largest compilation of passenger list records available and fully searchable online. To commemorate the launch of the collection, Ancestry.com is offering completely free access to its entire Immigration Collection through the end of November. The passenger list collection, which took more than three years to digitize and transcribe, celebrates the courage, hopes, fears and memories of more than 100 million passengers. Continue reading →
Among the large collection of databases that Ancestry.com posted last week was the 1851 Census of Canada. Canada Deluxe and World DeluxeÂ members can now search this census or browse it by location.Â
The 1851 censusÂ was the first enumeration taken after the rush of immigrants fleeing the Irish famine arrived in Canada and includes 2.3 million names.Â Because of this time frame it is a particularly helpful database for Canadians of Irish ancestry, and will also be of interest to Americans with Irish backgrounds. At the time, it was often cheaper to sail to Canada than to the U.S., so many Irish Americans descend from immigrants who came to the U.S. by way of Canada.