Tips from the Pros: Remember Time, Place, and What is “Obvious,”

from Michael John Neill 

Some clues can be overlooked if the family historian fails to keep the historical perspective in mind. The January 1888 obituary of Frances Trautvetter mentions three people attending her funeral, listing the town in which they live.

This may not appear to be a significant clue. However, when one considers the approximately thirty-mile distance these three people would have traveled to attend the funeral and the likely condition of Illinois roads in the month of January, a stronger clue emerges. These three individuals are people who need to be researched; they weren’t just out for a winter drive. Traveling that distance in the middle of winter was not done without just cause and there likely is some connection between Francis and the three out-of-town people at her funeral. Of course the newspaper does not make mention of any relationship.  

Why? Most likely because everyone who knew Francis already knew why the people from out of town were attending. Newspaper space was at a premium; the newspaper was not going to print what everyone already knew–those kinds of things are not news.

Remember to fit your ancestor’s actions (and the actions of others) into a historical perspective. If the action was unusual or would have required a great deal of effort for the time period, check it out. It is worth remembering that what we consider unusual by today’s standards might not have been so unusual one or two hundred years ago. Learn about the region, the time period, and your ancestor’s social and economic class and ethnic group before reaching any conclusions about “unusual” behavior.

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Your Quick Tips, 11 December 2006

Background Pictures
When our grandchildren were with us at Thanksgiving, I got out some of my father’s pictures, taken seventy to eighty years ago. Fortunately many of them had barns, fields, and livestock in the background, which helped me tell about our family history. The lesson for today is: Take not only pictures of faces, but also of buildings, land, animals, etc.

Roy L. Howard
Chattanooga, Tennessee Continue reading

The Year Was 1806

Napoleon.jpgThe year was 1806 and Europe was embroiled in the Napoleonic wars. Prussia, concerned with France’s growing power in the German states, entered the conflict, allied with Britain and Russia. Napoleon quickly defeated the Prussians, forcing King Frederick William III into exile in Russia. French forces went on to occupy Berlin and by the end of November had entered Poland and captured Warsaw. On 21 November, Napoleon issued the Berlin Decree, threatening seizure of any and all ships en route to or from Great Britain. Britain retaliated with a similar order in January of 1807.

During the Napoleonic Wars, Britain was in great need of seamen, and with mercenaries from the German and Prussian states unavailable now, they turned to more desperate measures. British ships routinely stopped American merchant ships under the guise of seeking out deserters from British ships, but sailors unable to prove American birth were impressed into service in the British Navy. The dispute over this practice would be a motivating factor for the War of 1812.

With trade to Europe restricted, America had turned its sights westward to explore its newly acquired territories. The Lewis and Clark Expedition began their journey home from the Pacific in March and reached St. Louis on 23 September. Continue reading

Photo Corner

Mary Chenoweth, the day she married William Robison Bales, 28 October 1908 Contributed by Cinda Justice
Mary Chenoweth, my grandmother, in her wedding outfit the day she married William Robison Bales, 28 October 1908 in Columbus, Ohio.

Click on the image to enlarge the photograph.

Jane Frances (Wybrant) Flynn, North Platte, Lincoln County, NebraskaContributed by Gretchen Flynn, Norco, California
(Formerly of North Platte, Nebraska)
This is a photo taken about 1900 of my great-grandmother Jane Frances (Wybrant) Flynn. The photo was taken in North Platte, Lincoln County, Nebraska, where she moved to in 1881. Jane Frances Wybrant was born 1814 in Sheeanamore, County Wicklow, Ireland. She died 16 July 1901 in North Platte and is buried in the North Platte Cemetery.

National Institute on Genealogical Research, 15-21 July 2007

The National Institute on Genealogical Research (N.I.G.R.), at the National Archives in Washington D.C. and College Park, Maryland, is an intensive program offering on-site examination of federal records. Designed for experienced researchers, it is not an introduction to genealogy.

The 2007 program focuses on commonly used immigration, military, land, cartographic, African American, and non-population census records. Complementing those core lectures will be presentations on lesser-known federal records useful to family historians. One day at Archives II in College Park, Maryland, and optional evening sessions at the Library of Congress and the DAR library are included.

Enrollment is limited. Application brochures will be mailed in February 2007. The class fills very quickly. Tuition is $350 for applications postmarked on, or before, 15 May 2007, or $400 thereafter. Scholarships are available. For more information about the 2007 program, or to obtain an application brochure, see the institute’s Web site at and add your name to the mail list; or e-mail; or write to NIGR, P.O. Box 724, Lanham, MD 20703-0724.

GENCLASS Offers Online Genealogy Classes

I received the following this week from GenClass and thought some of you who enjoyed the MyFamily classes would be interested to know that several of the instructors have started their own online classes:

People around the world are catching the genealogy bug, but many just don’t know where or how to start. Are you one of them?

The experienced GENCLASS instructors want to help you, step by step, learn what records are available, how to access available resources and search the Internet.

All instructors have previously taught specialized classes for to thousands of satisfied students from North America and around the world. Considered the “best kept secret” in the genealogical world, those classes helped many begin their searches and make great discoveries.

Current classes include Scottish, Eastern European basic/intermediate, Native American, Jewish basic/Internet, Lost Family & Friends, Write Your Family History, Great Lakes Research and Adoption Investigation.

If there’s a class you’d like but its not listed, let GENCLASS know.

Each four-week class includes a detailed course curriculum, online class meetings and more, for the low price of $29.95.

For more information, available classes, instructors’ bios and student comments, go to and sign up today, as demand is sure to be high, and  the maximum numbers of students per class are limited.


Ancestry/RootsWeb Message Board Updates

RW Message Boards.jpgThe following announcement was posted to the Ancestry and RootsWeb message boards: 

The Ancestry and RootsWeb message boards were updated yesterday. While these updates did not include all of the features advertised last summer, you will notice significant improvements to the look of the boards, particularly on the thread and message displays. For instance, you can now choose to view more threads per page (up to 50), and you have a choice of viewing each thread in “Thread” or “Flat” view. Threads are now listed in order of “last post”. This means that threads with the most recent replies (or new threads) are displayed at the top of the list making it easy to quickly locate the newest messages.

Other changes you should be aware of include:

  • “My Notifications” is now called “My Alerts.” 
  • “Links & Announcements” is now called “Board Information.”
  • The “Community Guidelines” have replaced the “Board Rules.”
  • Registration is also now required for all message board posts to help reduce spam and enable message authors to keep their contact information current.

Important: If you have posted a message to the boards in the past using a “Post Name” and “Post Email,” they have now been replaced by your account user name and email on all of your posts.  This is part of our effort to make it easier for you to update your own contact information. Continue reading

New at Ancestry

Posted This Week

Weekly Planner: Identify Holiday Heirlooms

ornaments.jpgDuring the holiday season, as you’re pulling out those holiday decorations and serving pieces, take a few minutes to record the origins and significance of your heirloom and “special memory” pieces. Was that beautiful ornament made by a favorite aunt or a young child? Did that gravy boat once adorn great-grandmother’s table? Was that tablecloth hand-embroidered by Grandma? Or perhaps that centerpiece was from the first year you were married. Take photos of these precious heirlooms, and create a holiday book noting their significance. Include family stories and traditions to complete the album. Preserving your family’s holiday heritage in this manner will help to ensure that heirlooms and traditions are preserved for generations to come.

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