Using Ancestry: The Passports Database, by Michael John Neill

The recently released database of U.S. Passport Applications at was exciting news to genealogists. Frankly, I only had three relatives I thought I might find in the database and unfortunately none of them were located. However, when I began experimenting with search terms and names, I located quite a few family members I had never thought to look for. This week we look at some search strategies in this exciting new database.

The Importance of Family
It is important to remember that the database index used to search these passport applications is not an every-name index. The names that are a part of the database are the name of the applicant and possibly the spouse or the father. (Not every application listed the spouse and/or father.) Names of children (if traveling with the applicant) may also be included on the application, but they are not searchable.

Additionally, some applications have names of witnesses or individuals providing testimony for the applicant–also potential relatives. Other applications may have a name and an address of where the passport should be sent, not necessarily the applicant’s permanent address. All of these names could be additional clues and their presence reinforces the importance of searching for extended family members in this database.

The 1905 application of John Goldenstein from New Mexico is a case in point. Witness, L. U. Albers, indicates he has known Goldenstein for sixteen years, since approximately 1889. Goldenstein says he immigrated in May of 1889 and lived for a time in Nebraska and New Mexico. Albers knowledge of Goldenstein for sixteen years suggests that he also spent time in Nebraska. Goldenstein’s passport is to be sent to him in care of Mrs. T. M. Ehmen in Sterling, Nebraska, not to his actual address. Most likely he was stopping in Nebraska on his way overseas. It turns out that Goldenstein, Albers, and Ehmen were all related to one another, but those relationships are not stated in the application. Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: Genealogy for Kids–“The Great Roots Pursuit,” from George G. Morgan

Getting young people interested in family history can be a rewarding enterprise for the entire family. The Genealogy Today website has announced a new junior version of its site called “The Great Roots Pursuit,” written by Deanna Corbeil. In her monthly column, Deanna provides kid-safe and kid-friendly articles to get them interested and involved in the genealogy mysteries and searching for clues. Activities, news, a reference desk, and other features make this a fun site. You also can suggest topics or write an article yourself.

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Your Quick Tips, 14 January 2008

Using Google Maps for GPS Coordinates
There was a recent article on “Researching the Landscape” where photos were taken of the surrounding landscape where some family grew up or came from in the area (
I have been looking up places where there were villages or small towns on Google Maps and recording them as a website link. This actually gives the GPS coordinates for small plots of ground and even graveyards you can see. Many people are using GPS today in travel and other endeavors, and with these links, shared by blog or e-mail, they can travel to within a few yards of any given location. These can also be stored on the site for each family name in a “collection.”
Dr. Cohagan
Bentonville, AR Continue reading

The Year Was 1786

Shays RebellionThe year was 1786 and the American Revolution had been over for three years, but the new country was still on shaky legs. High land taxes, the return of war veterans to neglected farms with little or no money, and heavy debt left the fledgling nation in an economic depression. In New England, farmers, tired of seeing the property of family and friends sold off for fractions of their worth to pay off creditors and legal fees, were rebellious and civil war threatened the northeastern states.

In Massachusetts, the rebels, or “Regulators” as they called themselves, rallied around a thirty-nine-year-old farmer named Daniel Shays. A Revolutionary War hero, Shays and other veterans organized sympathizers into military units that were to march on the debtors’ courts, shutting them down. Politicians and merchants saw these actions as a threat to society and formed their own troops to stop Shays’ men and an early 1787 march on the government arsenal at Springfield, Massachusetts, marked the beginning of the end of the rebellion. While 200 rebels were eventually indicted on charges of treason, nearly all of them were reprieved.

Shays Rebellion was a significant point of discussion at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and led to support of the Virginia Plan of Union, which did a better job of balancing state and federal power, as well as power among the states.

Image: Proclamation by the State of Pennsylvania offering reward for Daniel Shays and three other rebellion ringleaders. Signed by Benjamin Franklin. From the Library of Congress Photo Collection at Ancestry. Click on the image to enlarge it.

In other political news, the Virginia legislature passed a piece of legislation called the Ordinance of Religious Freedom. Written by Thomas Jefferson, this legislation banned discrimination based on choice of religion and stated that no one could be forced to attend or support a church. The Ordinance of Religious Freedom would form the basis of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

In Pennsylvania, October saw several days of heavy rain that flooded the Susquehanna in what became known as the “The Great Pumpkin Flood.” The floodwaters carried a great number of pumpkins from upstream, hence the name.
On the Pacific coast, Franciscan missionaries from Spain had begun establishing a series of missions along the coastline, beginning in 1769. In 1786, the tenth mission at Santa Barbara was founded and it would be the only California mission from the era that remains in Franciscan control to the present.

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Photo Corner

Jacqueline Lorene Johnston (1918-2007) and Grayson Eugene Johnston (1916-2004)Contributed by Ann Rohleder Stephens
These adorable children are Jacqueline Lorene Johnston (1918-2007) and Grayson Eugene Johnston (1916-2004), my first cousins once removed. Their mother, Susie Dallas Rohleder Johnston and my grandfather, Andrew Hamilton Rohleder, were siblings. The picture was taken at Scotts Studio in Charlotte, North Carolina, in the early 1920s and made into a postcard.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Maurice Conde, who was born 17 July 1891 in Rapid River, Delta County, Michigan, and his brother, Elton Harold (Ted) Conde, born 8 June 1893, also in Rapid RiverContributed by Alice Conde Garner
This is a photograph of my dad, Maurice Conde, who was born 17 July 1891 in Rapid River, Delta County, Michigan, and his brother, Elton Harold (Ted) Conde, born 8 June 1893, also in Rapid River. The photo was taken ca. 1898.

Did Megan Marry Her Cousin?

Those of you who have been with us since the Ancestry Daily News days, may remember the story of how Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak got her second Smolenyak surname. For those of you who don’t know or remember, she’s created a video with the story on the RootsTelevision website on the DNA channel.

In it she also discusses the DNA testing she took prior to her marriage, so if you’re thinking about taking a DNA test, Megan explains some of the basics in an easy to understand way.

You can click through to her video from her blog at RootsTelevision.

Indiana Reports on the Value of Libraries

Yesterday I spotted an interesting article in our Sunday paper regarding a report commissioned by the Indiana State Library and prepared by the Indiana Business Research Center.  The report stated that,

The market value of Indiana public libraries’ circulation and other services came to $630 million in 2005… Those libraries had total operating expenses of $265.1 million, so that means Hoosiers are getting $2.38 in benefits for every dollar they invest in libraries.

The article went on to say that some libraries have an even greater return on investment.

Beyond these benefits it cited that,  

In addition to the market value of services provided, public library payrolls and their purchases of goods and services have an economic impact of $479 million, according to the Indiana Business Research Center report.

While the article is written with a business perspective, it does point out that while “only 19 percent of staff reported that had a special competency in business resources. About 28 percent said they had a special competency in genealogy.”

It was really nice to see that the value in our libraries is being recognized! The entire article is online at The Times website.

Weekly Planner: Work with Timelines

If you haven’t created a timeline for an ancestral family, take some time this week to create one. Assemble the records you have found chronologically and type summaries in a database in this order. Estimate dates based on the information you have and add the estimates in as well. Timelines are very helpful in placing your ancestor in a particular place and time and in noting inconsistencies. If you have already created timelines for your ancestors, do an audit and make sure they are current. And as an added bonus, the process of creating and updating these tools is a great way to jumpstart your research!

For more information on how to create a timeline, see our step-by-step instructions in the Ancestry Learning Center.

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