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Weekly Planner: Preservation Checkup

Summer is a time of extreme temperatures and extremes are the last thing we want for our family history records, heirlooms, and memorabilia. Check your precious stashes of family history and make sure that they are in a stable environment and are not showing signs of damage by extreme temperatures and other hazards. Periodic checkups can help you to stop deterioration before it’s too late.

Hunt Down Your Family Politicians, by Mary Penner

Political Cartoon from the Library of Congress Photo Collection at AncestryWill Rogers said, “There’s no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you.” No doubt about it–political shenanigans provide an abundance of joke material for humorists and late-night comedians. And, if you have politicians in your family tree, they can also provide plenty of genealogical material.

Aside from entertainers, politicians probably enjoy talking or writing about themselves more than any other group. Can you begin to count the number of memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies written by or about politicians? All of this self-promotion and public scrutiny results in a lucrative historical track record for genealogists.

When researching family politicians, start at the top and look for a connection to a president. If your family has American roots dating back to the eighteenth century, there’s a good chance you might be distantly or directly related to a president. The population was small in those days and concentrated in a tight geographical area. It wasn’t that hard for someone in your family to marry into a family that eventually produced a president.

Presidents in your family tree are a real bonus because their genealogies have all been traced. Only forty-two men have been president (Grover Cleveland was elected for two non-consecutive terms), and several of them came from the same families, so it’s not too hard to scan presidential genealogies hunting for a common ancestor. I, for example, share an ancestor with John Tyler, the tenth president. I know you’ve never heard of John Tyler, but, he really was a president.  Continue reading

Using Ancestry: Going International, by Juliana Smith

Using any new set of records can be challenging, but when you begin crossing borders and venturing into other countries, it can be even more so. Last week Ancestry announced the launch of sites in France and Italy. With the announcement I heard from quite a few people with questions about the new sites. With that in mind, this week I thought we’d go over some basics, and I’ll share some tips for getting the most from the new sites.

Individuals with World Deluxe memberships through,, or any other Ancestry portal can access the new data on these sites. You can check your subscription or upgrade to World Deluxe by logging in to Ancestry and then clicking on My Account in the upper right corner of the screen. The next page will tell you what subscription you have and how to upgrade.

Accessing Through Your “Home” Portal
When the site went up, I’m sorry that I neglected to mention an important point. All of this data is available to you through your home portal, that is, the site you have subscribed through. The,, and other ethnic portals are geared towards users in those countries, with subscription options in local currency, and obviously are in the home country’s native language.

However, you can access all of the databases for those sites through your home site. Just click on the Search tab and the select the appropriate region in the lower left corner of that page, followed by the country of your choice. Accessing the databases in this manner will allow you to browse the database titles that are available and read the descriptions in your native language.

You can log in to the European portal sites and search through them as well, allowing you to weed out unwanted hits from databases from your home country. If you open a window in each, you can even bounce back and forth to look up database descriptions in English, for example, while searching through the Italian website. Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: Garage Sale Genealogy, from George G. Morgan

If you’re a garage or yard sale junkie, or like to attend flea markets, don’t overlook the boxes of old books you find there. Sometimes you can find excellent bargains on items that can be particularly helpful to your research. These include:

  • Maps and atlases that can provide previous names of towns and places that no longer exist.
  • Foreign language translation dictionaries that you may be able to use while translating your ancestors’ letters and diaries.
  • Old local, county, state, regional, and national histories.
  • Old city directories and telephone books.
  • Old medical dictionaries.
  • Military histories and other books of local historical interest that may contain information about your own ancestors.

Dusty items like these are often of little interest to others and can usually be purchased very cheap. Be on the lookout for these tools that can help your genealogy research.

Let us know what treasures you’ve found at a local garage sale in the comments section below.

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Your Quick Tips, 09 July 2007

British Research Tips
When using British census records, if the person or family of interest is listed at the very top or very bottom of the page do not forget to look at the previous/next page of the census where you may find more family members.

In addition, when you select a British census year on Ancestry, if you scroll to the bottom of the page, you can access geographically, first by county then by village. So if you cannot find someone in a given year try looking at the place they lived ten years before/after, and you may get lucky. This access also gives you the enumeration district description which can help to locate the place where someone lived.

Under “Villages” you will find some “pseudo villages” (e.g., extra parochial–“isolated residences outside of any parish”), lighthouses, Royal Navy, and vessels. If the main census shows a wife but no head of household, maybe he was at sea.

Lastly, when using the BMD Partial Index (links below) do not forget the quarter indicates only that the record was entered into the Register for that quarter. The actual event may have taken place one or two quarters earlier. I have even found one where it appears to have been registered before the event! Presumably there was a backlog and a card was placed in the wrong pile!
Alan W. Wright

BMD Indexes

The Year Was 1777

Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge/painting by Dunsmore. The year was 1777 and the American Revolution was underway. The British now occupied New York and in the spring began a campaign to take Philadelphia, a feat which they would accomplish in September. 

Earlier that year, General George Washington had made history with the first inoculation of American Troops as he called for his men in their winter headquarters that year at Morristown, New Jersey, to be immunized. In the experimental treatment, live smallpox was applied to the skin, causing painful lesions and blisters. The inoculation was successful as both the sick rate and death rate from smallpox dropped significantly.

A major turning point in the war came that year with the defeat of General John Burgoyne and his army at Saratoga, New York. The Americans were led by General Horatio Gates and one of the most noted heroes of the battle was none other than Brigadier General Benedict Arnold.

Another highlight for the Americans was marked in 1777 with the arrival of the Marquis de Lafayette (and if all the family tall tales are true, with a rather large contingent of family historians’ ancestors). Upon arrival he befriended General George Washington, and he spent that first winter in America with Washington’s troops in brutal conditions at Valley Forge.

At Valley Forge that winter, about eighteen miles from Philadelphia, approximately 2,000 American soldiers would perish without a shot being fired. Short of food, clothing, blankets, and other vital supplies, the American troops were plagued by disease, but continued to train under the leadership of Prussian Baron Friedrich von Steuben. The surviving troops came out of the winter ordeal, well trained and ready to take on the British again. 

Image from Library of Congress Photo Collection at Ancestry. Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge/painting by Dunsmore.

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Photo Corner

Axel Bernhard Soderling, born 22 March 1881 in Finland Contributed by Tom Mattsen, Finland
This is a picture of my grandmother’s brother, Axel Bernhard Soderling. He was born 22 March 1881 in Finland (an independent part of Russia at that time) at Hitis, a small village in the south archipelago, ten miles west of Helsinki. He traveled to Astoria, Oregon, on 2 August 1902. My mother claims that he died in Skotchland about 1907. The picture was taken in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

James Douglas Contributed by George N. Williams
This is a picture of a portrait of my great-great-grandfather, James Douglas “Bluejeans” Williams, painted while he was Governor of Indiana, 1877-80. He was nicknamed “Bluejeans” because of the denim suits he proudly wore that his wife Nancy made. He was a farmer by trade and was kidded about his suits before being elected governor, which helped him in his run for office.

Photo Corner: The Alvig Family

Alvig familyThe Alvig family, about 1925. The matriarch is Anna Endresen Alvig, daughter of the heroine, Guri Endresen, who saved the settlers near her farm during the Sioux uprising of 1862. A monument is dedicated to Guri. Anna was a young baby and Guri hid with her in the family root cellar while her father, Lars Endresen and brother were killed by the Indians. Guri took baby Anna in a wagon, picking up the injured and warning the other settlers of the uprising. A book was written about Guri and there are numerous articles written in the history books about this courageous woman.

Bev Carlson
Brooklyn Park, Minnesota

Click on the image to enlarge it.