Tips from the Pros: Bad Weather is Good for Family History

from Sherry Irvine, CG, FSA Scotsnowstorm.jpg
Old timers here on Vancouver Island can recall nothing like it. This past month the weather has been breaking records. Winds have toppled trees, rainfall has been torrential, or the snow has piled up, wet and deep. Many thousands have been without electricity for long periods.

Shortly before the power failed I was reading the Ancestry Weekly Journal. “The Year Was 1806” included the story of the violent storm in Scotland that killed twenty-one sailors on board a vessel from Stotfield on the Moray Firth. Stotfield is one of three villages in the town of Lossiemouth and all were in the parish of Drainie, county of Elginshire (later called Morayshire). Burial registers exist for 1806 and could be checked; perhaps bodies were recovered and buried there.

The fishing tragedy indicates two ways that weather comes into genealogical research. The most obvious is stumbling across the story in your background reading. The other way is not so apparent–a clue in the records.

When reading church burial registers do you look around? I look at how many died in the month or year of the death of an ancestor and then go forward and back to see if this appears to be an average number. Sometimes it isn’t, and I want to know why.

Have you lost an ancestor? He popped up somewhere and you have no idea where he came from or what made him move. It could have been the weather.

Accounts of local history are good sources for weather. Search the Web by place using the town or county name. Read diaries and early travel books such as Daniel Defoe’s “Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain.” This book and many others can be found at the Vision of Britain site. There are many books of local history in the Family History Library. Also, take a tip from the Ancestry Weekly Journal and look for contemporary newspapers.

Not only can bad weather help your research, it offers an opportunity. My neighborhood lost power one day, mid-afternoon. There was enough daylight for me to start tidying my office; I had been navigating about the piles of paper for weeks. I filled a large bag for the recycling and as the light faded felt like I had a clear head as well as a tidy office.

Make the most of bad weather!

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Your Quick Tips, 22 January 2007

Locating Missing Correspondents
I “lost” two women I’ve corresponded with over the years. When I sent them cards at Christmas, I never received a response. They had always sent me a card with great news, so I entered a query concerning their whereabouts on the USGenWeb site in the county in which they lived. I inquired if anyone out there knew of these ladies and I received responses concerning both. Someone responded that one relative had passed away and another person let me know that the other lady was in a nursing home. She sent me her address and we stopped to visit her on drive back to Oregon from Florida where we are snow birds. I was able to find out what happened to my missing correspondents thanks to the USGenWeb and a couple angels that took the time to reply to my query.

Susan Laubengayer
Punta Gorda, Florida, and Klamath Falls, Oregon

Organizing Electronic Photographs
One of my projects over the last few years was scanning all the family photos and slides, especially the ones from generations past– boxes and boxes of them. I labeled each photograph with the year and the names of people.

Then, of course, the challenge was organizing them. My method is: for the immediate family, since I have scads of photos, I made a subdirectory for each decade. I also made subdirectories for groups of relatives (Follansbee Cousins, Poore Cousins–using the term cousin loosely). I made subdirectories for any other major category as it seemed desirable (e.g., Maps, West Newbury Historical, Vacations-Maine, etc.).
I can always move the photos around or duplicate them in more than one subdirectory. This makes it easy to make a CD of pictures for a specific group. My Poore relatives may not care about my husband’s Follansbee family pictures. My children, who are grown, each have a CD of all the pictures. Now, if disaster strikes, there are copies in lots of places for me to retrieve.

Sue Follansbee

Post All Related Surnames
Out of sheer frustration more than good sense, I have had great luck finding new leads (and a whole new side to the family tree) by posting not just my direct line surnames on mailing lists and message boards, but by also including the surnames of spouses. The experience has made me think much more “out of the box” with my research.
Ruth McKenzie

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If you have a suggestion you would like to share with other researchers, send it to: . Thanks to all of this week’s contributors!

Quick Tips may be reprinted, with credit to the submitter, in other Ancestry publications, so if you do not want your tip included in a publication other than the “Ancestry Weekly Journal,” please state so clearly in your message.

The Year was 1896

The year was 1896, and it marked the return of the ancient Olympic Games to Athens, Greece, and was the first of the modern Olympic games. Participants came from fourteen countries, including the United States, Greece, Germany, France, Great Britain, Hungary, Austria, Australia, Denmark, Switzerland, and a mixed team. American, James Connolly won the first medal in the triple jump. Greece won the most medals with a total of forty-six; the U.S. was next in the medal count with twenty. The anthem used for those Olympic Games, by Spyros Samaras and Kostis Palamas was revived in 1960 and is now the official anthem of the Games.

In musical news, a quartet of women helped to save Oscar Hammerstein from the brink of financial ruin at the expense of audiences’ ears. The Cherry Sisters, four women from Iowa, were hired by him to perform in his Olympia Music Hall in New York after touring Iowa to produce-hurling audiences.
The critics had not been kind either. The New York Times called them “Four Freaks from Iowa” and reported that, “They presented a spectacle more pitiable than amusing.” However, the Progress Review (LaPorte City, Iowa), of 19 December 1896 reported that, “Their New York engagement was a successful one from a financial point of view. The Cherry’s [sic] were paid $100 a week and it is said that Hammerstein the owner of the theatre cleared $10,000 on the engagement.” Continue reading

Photo Corner

William Rusch (1881-1958), and was taken ca. 1900 in ChicagoContributed by Judy Rosen
This photograph is of my grandfather, William Rusch (1881-1958), and was taken ca. 1900 in Chicago.

Click on the image to enlarge it. 

Lindsey Anderson Brady, born in Lincoln, Kentucky, in 1811Contributed by Don Brady
This is a photograph of my great-great-grandfather, Lindsey Anderson Brady, born in Lincoln, Kentucky, in 1811. His son, my great-grandfather, Marion Brady, was born in Calloway, Kentucky, in 1834.

New at Ancestry

Posted This Week:

Family History Seminar, Provo City Library at Academy Square, 3 March 2007

Provo City Library at Academy Square
550 North University Avenue, Provo, Utah

Seminar Topics:

  • Writing a Page-Turning Autobiography/Biography
  • Finding Your LDS Ancestors
  • Making the Most of Your Resources
  • Using the Computer to Locate Family History Resources
  • Using the Computer to Locate Original Records
  • What’s New on the Internet for Family History

Seminar begins 9:30 am and concludes at 5:00 pm
Seminar registration fee: $50.00
Limited registration!

See website for registration details:

Family History Seminar, P.O. Box 7160, University Station, Provo, UT 84602

FAQ: Making Corrections to Data and Reporting Errors

One of the questions I hear often through e-mail or on the blog is “How do I correct my ancestor’s information on Ancestry?”  To enable users to correct erroneous information found on the site, Ancestry provides a Comments and Corrections feature. This could include transcription errors, the addition of birth or maiden names (e.g., if a known name change has occurred), nicknames (to increase search options that will locate this record), name variations (if these occur for records), and incorrect originals (i.e., the original record is incorrect).

To add a comment or correction:

  1. Click on the Comments and Corrections link from the individual’s record page
  2. Click the Add an Alternate Name link on the next page
  3. Enter information in the First Name and Last Name fields
  4. For the Reason, indicate any of those previously indicated
  5. Provide a brief but helpful explanation of the information you enter
  6. Click the Submit Correction button

Once it’s live, people searching for your ancestor will be able to find them using the alternate spelling you have provided. You can find answers to many more questions like this in the Ancestry Knowledge Base. In addition to the library of FAQs, there are also tabs where you can get Live Support via chat (Monday – Friday:  09:00 AM – 07:00 PM EST) or Email Ancestry Support.

Weekly Planner: Review Collaterals

Make some time to look at the known siblings and cousins of your direct ancestors. When your research takes you back to times and places where few or no records were created or survive, you may find clues in the records of these other family members that can get you over these hurdles. Track their movements through directories and census records and follow up with other records, some of which may include direct references to your ancestors.

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