Weekly Planner: Explore Your Ethnic Origins

Today will be filled with expressions of Irish ethnicity and heritage as those with Irish roots celebrate St. Patrick’s Day–along with many who are “adopted Irish” for a day! Regardless of where your roots lie, learning about your ethnic heritage can enrich your family history. Whether you’re Irish, German, Dutch, Italian, or Swahili, stop by a local library or surf the Net for information on the customs, recipes, celebrations, and the heritage of your ancestors.

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Using Ancestry: Surprises in Great-grandpa’s Naturalization, by Juliana Smith

Janos Szucs, declaration of intention, 1912This week I’m doing a little jig, and it’s not just in honor of St. Patty’s Day! I finally got a copy of my great-grandfather’s naturalization record and found some pretty cool stuff. (Click on the image to see his declaration of intention.)

Last week I mentioned closing up some holes in my Szucs family timeline. The family had been bouncing back and forth between Cleveland and the southeastern Ohio counties of Jeffersonville and Belmont so I wasn’t quite sure where to look for his naturalization record. I found the birth date and place of my grandfather’s sister in the Ohio Death Indexes at Ancestry and that spurred me into action. The death index gave Irene Szucs’s birth in Belmont County in 1913–just one year before her father had been naturalized, according to the 1920 U.S. Federal Census. It was time to focus the search for his naturalization on Belmont and nearby Jefferson counties.

Finding His Naturalization Record
So what were my options? According to They Became Americans: Finding Naturalization Records and Ethnic Origins,

“From 1790 until very recently, any individual could be naturalized in a federal court, although most people went to local courts. After 1906, the vast majority of naturalizations took place in federal courts, although some local courts continued to naturalize long after that date.”

Years ago, my mother had searched unsuccessfully for John’s naturalization in federal court records for Cuyahoga County, Ohio that are held in the National Archives-Great Lakes Region in Chicago.

This time I would look at local courts. I checked the Family History Library Catalog for both Belmont and Jefferson counties and found that the library had films of naturalizations for both counties for that time period. Mom and I decided that with neither of us planning a trip to Utah for a while, we would hire a researcher to check those films for us. The researcher from ProGenealogists.com quickly found the record and soon I was looking at John Szucs’s declaration of intention, petition, and naturalization record. Yeah!

John’s Place of Birth
So what goodies did I find? One of the first things I noticed was that this record listed his place of birth as Ozoreny, Hungary. All of the family stories and his passenger arrival records from New York in 1902 had told me that he was from Horka. Continue reading

Getting Started on Your Irish Family History Research, by Eileen M. Ó Dúill, CG

As we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, do you yearn to start the journey in search of your Irish ancestors? From the 1st of February, the feast day of Ireland’s female patron saint, Saint Bridget, until the March feast day of her more famous male counterpart, is the ideal time to make a start on your road to the “Island of Saints and Scholars.”

The ultimate goal for many people of Irish descent is to walk the land of the Irish immigrant from whom they are descended. Identifying the exact parish and, hopefully townland, where the ancestor was born is the key to finding your ancestral home. 

Many people are discouraged by the belief that Irish research is difficult due to the fact that “everything blew up.” It is true that many records were lost over the years and, most dramatically in the disastrous fire at the Four Courts in Dublin in June 1922.

It is also true that no civil records of birth, marriage, or death from 1864 to the present have been lost. Parish registers of baptism and marriage have been indexed in recent years on a county by county basis and are more accessible than ever before.

While census records are lacking for most of the nineteenth century, the census of 1901 and 1911 have been released to the public and within the next eighteen months will be available, free of charge, on the National Archives of Ireland website. Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: Check out Every Spouse, by Michael John Neill

Most of us have a few ancestors who had more than once spouse. Sometimes it can be tempting to ignore those “other” spouses of our ancestors– the ones from who we do not descend. However, this may only serve to hinder our research. Many times a subsequent spouse will be a sibling of the first spouse, or perhaps a former neighbor from the old country or the old neighborhood. I even have an uncle by marriage who after the death of his first wife married her niece, thus making his children half-siblings as well as first cousins once removed.

Also remember that records of your ancestor’s “other marriages” may provide more details on your ancestor than did his marriage to your ancestor, particularly if those other marriages took place much later than the first marriage, or in a location that kept better records.

I even have one ancestor where I descend from both their spouses. But that’s another quick tip!

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Your Quick Tips, 17 March 2008

Share Your Bible Collection with Historical Societies
I live in the state of Virginia and often make use of the resources of the Library of Virginia in person and online. Among the resources available are photographic copies of the family records sections of family Bibles. The Library does not explain the source for these copies on their website so I finally contacted them about this.

I had previously thought that they only posted family record information from Bibles which were part of their collection. It turns out that they can photograph your Bible for the records and return it to the family.

I would suggest to your readers that they contact their local historical societies and state libraries in an effort to share their family information. This would also act as a “backup” to an individual’s family information should anything happen to the original Bible.

Thanks for allowing me to make a suggestion,
Ed Miller Continue reading

The Year Was 1909

Bleriot AeroplaneThe year was 1909 and in the UK, the Old-Age Pension Act of 1908 began paying claimants. There were 837,831 people who filed claims in the first three months of the program, which offered public support to those over seventy years old who met specific qualifications. Individuals had to have been resident in the UK for the past twenty years, have an annual income under £31, and not disqualified because of “habitual failure to work,” criminal records, or being recipients of Poor Law relief.

Relief was also made possible for those working in the sweatshops of the day, known as the “sweating system.” In the sweating system, contracts were made with a middleman, who would then employ low-paid workers to complete the work in crowded and poor conditions. It was particularly prevalent in the garment industry at that time. The Trade Boards Act of 1909 established a minimum wage for workers in the sweating system.

Early in the morning of July 25th, a small glider made history as Frenchman, Louis Bleriot, became a pioneer in international flight with the first flight over the English Channel. He won a prize of $5,000 for this feat of aviation and was praised by Orville Wright in the U.S. (The photograph is the “Bleriot Aeroplane” from the Library of Congress Photo Collection at Ancestry. Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Following the famous first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903, the Wright brothers had continued their work in aviation.  In 1908, Orville had flown for more than an hour in a demonstration for the U.S. Army, and in 1909, they delivered the first military plane, designed to army specifications.

In June, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition opened in Seattle and while it was open, more than 3.7 million people came to see exhibits that included gold from Alaska, huge fruit displays from Hawaii, a telephone switchboard, a pair of six-foot-thick dice carved from timber, and even the “first display of clams ever shown at an exposition.” There were vaudeville shows and side shows like “Prince Albert, the Educated Horse,” and an upside-down house. An anthropological display of the Igorrotes who were native to the Philippines drew large crowds and there were also Eskimos from Siberia. A round “cyclorama” was built to host reenactments of the Battle of Gettysburg. The fair was successful in raising $63,000, which was donated to the Anti-Tuberculosis League and to the Seaman’s Institute.

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Photo Corner

Abraham G. Graham, aka Shotgun CollinsContributed by C.J. Harrelson Buckley and Dorris Wilkerson Grayson
My grandmother’s first cousin Abraham G. Graham was born on Mitchell Swamp, Horry County, South Carolina on his grandmother, Jane Conner Graham’s plantation. When he was eight years old he move in covered wagons with his parents, Hosea Aldeton and Martha Ann Graham (first cousins), five siblings and a slave family.

In his teen years shortly after the Civil War he got into trouble for rustling, jailed, escaped with the help of a friend and high-tailed it into Old Mexico. He became an outlaw and used aliases on the run like John Graham, John Collins, and Shotgun Collins. He met Wyatt Earp while riding shotgun messenger for Wells Fargo & Co. and they became life-long pals. He was a buffalo hunter, a loyal member of Billy the Kid’s gang, a member of the Dodge City Peace Commissioners, an Indian Scout for the U.S. Army Calvary during the Apache Chief Geronimo days, and a rancher in New Mexico.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Meisinger familyContributed by Mrs. John E. (Della M. Jaeger) Meisinger,  Mahnomen, Minnesota
In this photograph, the mother is Frances Stout Meisinger (born 24 Jul 1856, died 12 Apr 1915). The older girl is Georgia Meisinger Haggerty (born 05 Oct 1883, died 1960). The boy, my father-in law , is Charles E. Meisinger, born 16 oct 1887 in Ridgway, Pennsylvania, and died 01 Jun 1961. The baby is Marguerite F. Meisinger Rowlands. She was born in 1890. The picture was taken in St. Marys, Pennsylvania, ca. 1890.

Supplemental Chapters to The Official Guide to Ancestry.com Now Available for Download

Guide to Acom.bmpThe Official Guide to Ancestry.com is becoming an indispensable reference for both beginners and serious Ancestry.com users. However, just like you, here at Ancestry.com, we are always looking to add more names to our family tree—as well as new features to help you find who you’re looking for. And this can make it tough to keep up with all the changes on the site.

To help keep you up-to-date in between editions of the Guide, we are making chapters on new developments available via free PDF download. The first installment includes two chapters from author and expert, George Morgan. (Click on the links to download the PDF files.)

  • Updates and Enhancements—Add audio and video to
    your family trees, get your DNA tested, preview search results, and check out new military records, all at Ancestry.com.
  • AncestryPress—Turn your research into professionally
    printed and bound keepsakes for your family with just a click-click here and a click-click there.

Two more chapters will be available in the next week or so. They will cover:

  • DNA—Unlock the genealogical secrets of your genes.
  • The Learning Center—It’s new, improved, bigger, and
    better than ever.

Click here to buy a copy of The Official Guide to Ancestry.com.

RootsWeb to Move to Ancestry Domain

RW Logo copy.bmpThe following message was posted to the RootsWeb News Room today:

As you know, The Generations Network has hosted and funded the RootsWeb online community since June 2000, thereby maintaining RootsWeb as the world’s oldest and largest free genealogy website. TGN remains committed to this mission and believes that RootsWeb is an absolutely invaluable and complementary resource to Ancestry.com, our flagship commercial family history site. We believe in both services and want to see both communities prosper and grow.

As part of this goal, we have decided to “transplant” RootsWeb onto the Ancestry.com domain beginning next week. This move will not change the RootsWeb experience or alter the ease of navigation to or within RootsWeb. RootsWeb will remain a free online experience. What will be different is that the Web address for all RootsWeb pages will change from www.rootsweb.com to www.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Again, the RootsWeb experience is not changing.

The decision to host RootsWeb on Ancestry.com is being made for one primary reason: we believe that the users of each of our two main websites can be better served if they have access to the best services available on both. Simply stated, we want to introduce more Ancestry.com users to RootsWeb and vice versa.

Today, despite the fact that Ancestry.com and RootsWeb.com are the two most frequently visited family history sites on the Web, only 25 percent of visitors to Ancestry.com visited RootsWeb in January 2008, while only 20 percent of visitors to RootsWeb visited Ancestry.com (according to Comscore Media Metrix). We think we will serve our users best by doing a better job of letting them know what is available on both Ancestry.com and RootsWeb. Hosting RootsWeb on Ancestry.com is the first step towards making this happen, but we will absolutely look for more and better ways down the road to advance this goal.

Hosting RootsWeb on Ancestry.com will also make it easier for us to make changes and improvements to the RootsWeb experience in the future.

All old RootsWeb URLs will continue to work, whether they are bookmarks or favorites, links to or from a hosted page or URLs manually typed in your Internet browser. We will have a redirect in place so that all old URLs will automatically end up on the appropriate new RootsWeb URL. You will never need to update your old favorites or links unless you want to. We have worked to make the transition as seamless as possible for our users, and this change should have a minimal impact on your experience with the site.

RootsWeb will remain a free online experience dedicated to providing you with a place where our community can find their roots together. If you have questions regarding this change please email them to feedback@rootsweb.com.


Tim Sullivan
The Generations Network, Inc.