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  • Historic U.S. and Canada Atlases, 1591-2000
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Weekly Planner: Identify Holiday Heirlooms

Once a year we pull our holiday decorations from their boxes and make our house as festive as the season. My decorations have come from various places. Some are heirlooms passed down from my parents and grandparents, and some are special items that I’ve accumulated throughout the years for my family. As I unpack these items the memories flow over me, and I tell my daughter the stories behind some of the items. While this is a start, I should do better in recording these stories and the significance of each decoration–the beautiful ornaments that once hung on my grandmother’s tree, the ones with my name on them in glitter made by my Aunt Chula, the ceramic church we bought when I first got married, and even the little elf that we used to look for as kids. Sometimes he’d be hanging from the lamps in the hallway, and other times peeking from behind a canister; it was a lot of fun trying to find him each year. This week, take a look at the special holiday decorations you have and make a note of their significance so that it’s not lost on future generations.

Our Ancestors’ Health, by Juliana Smith

apothecary.bmpA couple weeks ago, I mentioned my Grandpa Pyburn in the article about the U.S. Passport Collection. As I followed up on researching that neglected family line, I found a passenger arrival record for him as he returned from Trinidad, which lies off the coast of Venezuela. When I shared it with my mom, she remarked that the record was from the time he spent working in South America–a trip on which he contracted malaria. I hadn’t heard this fact. She told me a story then that my Aunt Madelon had told her about visit him at his father’s house when he was ill; she could hear the bed rattle upstairs with the violent tremors that are symptomatic of the disease.

We don’t often think of this type of disease when it comes to our family history. When we hear about disease in the context of family history, it’s often in relation to our own health and of conditions that are hereditary. This is of course important and a great reason to investigate your family health history. In fact, it is so important that the Surgeon General here in the U.S. has a “Family History Initiative” online with tools to help you record a family health history that can be shared with your physician.

But although our family health history is perhaps the best reason to look into the health of our ancestors, it is not the only reason. Just as our own health impacts our lives and many of the decisions we make, the same held true for our ancestors. Continue reading

Saving Your Family Treasures: Four Destructive Habits, by Maureen Taylor

Some of the worst damage to our family photographs and documents occurs in the name of preservation. There are a lot more than four destructive habits that cause our family history treasures to deteriorate, but the ones listed here are commonly done by the most well-meaning genealogists.

There is no debate on what you should do before looking at photographs and documents. Wash your hands with soap and water then dry them completely. This removes the dirt and oils you could leave behind during handling. In some archives they make you wear cotton gloves and in others clean dry hands are enough. I prefer wearing gloves, because not only will protect your pictures from the naturally occurring oils present on your hands, but you won’t transfer surface grime from one photo or document to another. Try the white glove test with your pictures. You won’t believe how dirty documents and pictures get from hanging around for a hundred years! I always wash my gloves after wearing them.

If you don’t know where to buy some inexpensive supplies search “white cotton gloves” in an online search engine to locate vendors. I recently ordered a dozen for around $8.00. That’s enough so that you can give a pair to all the photographers and genealogists in your family. Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: Don’t Skip, from Michael John Neill

Skipping around can get you into trouble. And yet is so tempting to jump a few generations and get to the “fun stuff.” Recently I thought I had found my Ira Sargent. A “new” Ira was located in a state census and a little Web sleuthing combined with some census work had a potential name for the “new” Ira’s father. My half hour of research had reached a tenuous conclusion at best. At worst, I was dead wrong.

A website connected this “new” Ira’s father to several “Mayflower” passengers and numerous early immigrants to Massachusetts. I could easily spend hours working on these new pilgrim ancestors.
However, there are two problems.

First, I haven’t come close to reasonably proving “my” Ira is the same guy as the “new” Ira. And second, the connection between the “new” Ira and his father is weak as well. Before I research the distant ancestry of the “new” Ira’s father, I need to make the connections in these more recent generations more concrete.

I should not totally ignore the past of Ira’s father. There could be a clue there that could connect the families for which I am looking. But spending hours documenting ten generations of the father’s ancestry before I am reasonably certain he is the father is probably not the best use of my time and is not good methodology.

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Your Quick Tips, 17 December 2007

Church sketch.bmpDo Not Ignore the Bell Ringing

In English parish churches, a peal of bells would be (and still is) rung to mark the important events of the parish (e.g., weddings, wedding anniversaries, and funerals).

So when looking through parish records (usually held in the county records office) look for mentions of bell ringing in the church records; you may even find the Tower Captain’s records of the peals rung.

In my mother’s parish, a resident found these for the 1914-18 period:

  • A peal rung in 1914 to mark my great-uncle joining the army. (He rang one of the bells himself!)
  • Another muffled peal (with leather on the clapper to muffle the sound) in 1918 to mark the same uncle’s death in France.
  • One to mark the Golden Wedding of some other relatives. From this I soon found the entry for their wedding on Ancestry BMD.  

Alan Wright Continue reading

The Year Was 1895

Booker T. WashingtonThe year was 1895 and it marked the beginning of a very dry spell in Australia with a drought that would last until 1903.

In the UK and much of Europe the year was off to a cold start. In February a record cold temperature of -27.2C (about -17F) was recorded in Braemer. The cold continued for several weeks, industries were closed putting people out of work and many suffered from hypothermia.

That same February, New Orleans, Louisiana, also saw unusually wintry conditions as eight inches of snow blanketed the city.

On another snowy day in 1895, a group of men and their “horseless-carriages” gathered in Chicago for the first ever automobile race in America. The race took more than ten hours on a fifty-five mile course, averaging around seven miles per hour. Bicycle mechanic turned inventor, Frank Duryea won the $2,000 prize, sponsored by the Chicago Times-Herald.

In his “Atlanta Compromise” address at the Cotton States and International Exposition, Booker T. Washington appealed to whites and blacks in America to work together to do something about the poor social and economic conditions of blacks in the South.  

In Utah, strides were taken for women’s rights as suffrage was granted to women for the second time. It had originally been granted by the territorial legislature in 1870, but Congress revoked that right with the Edmunds-Tucker anti-polygamy Act in 1887. The Utah State Constitution restored women’s suffrage in Utah on 5 November 1895 with the provision that “the rights of citizens of the State of Utah to vote and hold office shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex.”

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Photo Corner

Albert D. Lamphier, Newark, New YorkContributed by Jack Lamphier, Rochester, New York
This is my father Albert D. Lamphier at about age six, in Newark, New York. He was born in 1907.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Margaret, Rose, and Amelia Kolinski, taken around 1920Contributed by Linda Kolinski
This photo is of three of my great-aunts–Margaret, Rose, and Amelia Kolinski, taken around 1920, probably in Standish, Arenac County, Michigan. The girls were obviously goofing around for the camera. Margaret has a pipe in her mouth while Rose and Amelia are wearing heels. No one knows who the young man in the background is.

Quiet Times on the Blog

holiday berries.bmpIt’s going to be a little quiet here on the blog over the next few weeks. I am taking some vacation time between December 20th and January 2nd and right now I’m hustling to get the Ancestry Weekly Journals for the 17th, 24th and 31st put together and ready to roll so that you won’t miss an issue.

In the meantime, I’d like to wish you and your loved ones a blessed and peaceful holiday season!



New Learning Center on the Horizon

New Learn Tab.bmpIf one of your resolutions for 2008 is going to be to further your genealogical education, Ancestry is going to give you a good head start! In the next few weeks you’ll find the Learning Tab has been completely overhauled with great new features like video tutorials, helpful articles that are now easier than ever to find, and links to put you in touch with fellow family historians in the community. You’ll still be able to find the archive of articles we’ve run in the newsletters, as well as articles from Ancestry Magazine. Click on the image to enlarge it and see how it looks so far.

We’ll continue to post Ancestry Weekly Journal articles there with printer friendly versions and ability to email articles to a friend. We’ll be in the Keep Learning section. (See the red arrow in the image–I know it’s kind of primitive, but I’m crunched for time this week. 😉 )

This week the transition began and articles from the current Learning Center are being migrated over to the new forum. Unfortunately, that means in the interim there won’t be printer friendly versions available for our columns. However, you can copy paste articles from the blog into a word processing document and edit out the comments if you like, and they can be printed that way. We’ll get them online once the new Learning Center is up and running.

Look for more on the new Learning Center here on the blog in the upcoming week.