Weekly Planner: Start a Summer Reading List

Often our brick walls stem from not fully understanding the conditions in which our ancestors lived and the events that shaped their lives. Reading social histories, biographies, and other historical books–even well researched historical fiction–can sometimes help you over those walls. Check your local library, WorldCat, local bookstores, and online bookstores like the Ancestry Store for publications that will offer you some insight into the lives and times of your brick wall ancestors. Then find a nice spot to curl up for some great summer reading!

Locating Churches in the United States, by George G. Morgan

Some of the best evidence of our ancestors’ vital dates and locations can be found in church records. This is especially true of the time periods before state, county, and local governments began complying with legislation to issue birth and death certificates. These records are also essential in cases in which government-produced records have been lost or destroyed.

One of the challenges of researching church records is that sometimes the churches have disappeared. For whatever reason, the church to which you thought your ancestral family belonged just cannot be found. Let’s discuss some possible reasons for “lost” churches and strategies to help you locate them and their records.

What Happened to the Church?
There are many reasons why you might not be able to find a church. First and foremost, be certain you are researching in the right place and are using the correct name and denomination. In Rockingham County, North Carolina, there are two Chapel Hill Churches (unrelated to the town of Chapel Hill in another county), three Mount Herman Churches, and two New Hope Churches, among others. Churches with the same name can also be different denominations, as I found when I located a Baptist church and a Methodist in the same county, both known by the name of Bushy Creek Church. (You might need to research both if you aren’t sure of your ancestors’ religious affiliation.)

The church may have changed its name, merged with another church, or split into multiple congregations. In some situations, the church may have dissolved entirely. Worse yet, the church may have been destroyed by some natural disaster and simply was not rebuilt. In these cases, you may need to trace the “genealogy” of the churches themselves. Continue reading

Time and Transportation, by D.G. Fulford

Pop Dyer with his car_edited-1.bmpMy family–my former husband, our daughter, and myself–moved from our home town, Columbus, Ohio, to Los Angeles, California almost thirty years ago.  We came home for two weeks that first summer, and my dad gave me his old camera because he had gotten a new one.  I experimented with this somewhat complicated camera and, in doing so, decided that my vacation pictures would have a theme. I didn’t realize I was recording history; I was just taking individual photographs of all my friends and family standing beside their cars.

I ran across these pictures the other day, stuck in a small, ribboned album which proved to be a treasure trove of time and transportation.  My mother by her wood-sided station wagon; my artist friend Terry– now my librarian–leans on the back of his green VW Bug. 

My Great Aunts, Violet and Rosina, having driven over together, wear summer white. (They are gone now, as is my father.) My friend Lynn, with a bumper-sticker on her car touting the Columbus Zoo. We just had dinner together last night!

Everyone is younger, but everyone is there, outside smiling on a Columbus summer day. The twins, Amy and Barbara, and the maroon Chevrolet. My father, proud and strong and tan with his Chrysler Le Baron.  The hose is out and he’s wearing his bathing suit.  He was washing his car.
The vibrancy of life is there.  As James Taylor would say, “sunny days we thought would never end.”  The makes and models of the cars mark the moment.  The friends and family mark the life.

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D.G. Fulford is the bestselling author of the classic To Our Children’s Children: Preserving Family Histories for Generations to Come, which she wrote with her brother, Bob Greene; Designated Daughter: The Bonus Years with Mom, written with her mother, Phyllis Greene, and her latest, Things I’d Love You to Know: A Journal for Mothers and Daughters. She is also cofounder of therememberingsite.org that helps people tell their life story.

Tips from the Pros: You’ve Had DNA Tests. Now What?

from George G. Morgan 
Having your Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA tested is a first step towards using a new toolkit in your genealogical research. It’s something new, just as using the Internet was twelve to fifteen years ago. Don’t be overwhelmed.

Dr. Blaine Bettinger, also known as the “Genetic Genealogist,” is there to help you learn how to use your test results and apply them to your research. His blog helps translate a scientific topic into understandable terminology for “the rest of us.” He also has produced a 28-page book PDF file titled “I Have the Results of My Genetic Genealogy Test, Now What?” that helps those of us who are just beginning our genetic quest understand it all. The file is available at the Genetic Genealogist blog. His explanation is one of the best and most understandable for the layman. You will want to add this to your reading list if you are exploring your genetic genealogical connections.

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Your Quick Tips, 12 May 2008

Prison Records
I heard stories about my great-great-grandfather making moonshine so strong it burned blue. He was a rough man, but also a hard worker. After learning that he and his wife got a divorce around 1936, I checked with the Minnesota Historical Society for the divorce case file. The case had approximate dates for a prison sentence and location. 

The Minnesota Historical Society helped out again. This time they had found his prison case file–approximately fifty pages, all for twenty cents a page and the cost of shipping. What a goldmine of information for less than fifteen dollars. It included information on his prison sentence in Leavenworth, Kansas, for the “manufacturing and sale of liquor” in 1930, a complete physical exam, a list of letters received and written, a list of family members (including wife, children, and siblings). Oh, and his picture. 

Prison case files can be priceless. Have a shady character in your family? Maybe they made moonshine and bootlegged during Prohibition days too.

I love family history–even the not so pretty stuff.

Mindy McLane
Rexburg, Idaho Continue reading

The Year Was 1885

The year was 1885 and the flow of settlers to western Canada increased greatly with the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

And in Canada’s North-West Territories there were rumblings of a rebellion. In what is now Saskatchewan and Alberta, three groups had grievances with the Canadian government in Ottawa. The Metis, descendants of fur traders and indigenous peoples, were concerned about legal claim to their land; white settlers were waiting for official property titles necessary to secure loans and felt their interests weren’t represented; and the starving First Nations peoples who had been promised farming equipment and aid were angry that treaties weren’t being observed.

The rebellion, which would only last for two months, was led by Louis Riel, a Metis who had fought for the rights of Manitoba residents during the Red River uprising in 1869-70. He formed a provisional government and armed forces. These forces clashed with government troops at Duck Lake and although the Metis claimed this first victory, the rebellion was subdued by the end of May, and Louis Riel was arrested and hung for treason. 

In the United States, anti-Chinese sentiment was on the rise following the California gold rush, which had brought more than 100,000 Chinese to American shores. In September of 1885, violence erupted. In a Union Pacific Coal Mine in Rock Springs, Wyoming, there was a dispute over who had the right to work in a particularly rich area of the mine. Paid by the ton, white workers rioted, burning the Chinese quarter of town, and killing twenty-eight Chinese miners. The perpetrators were never prosecuted and Army troops had to be called in to protect those Chinese who wished to return to their homes.

In Chicago, Sarah E. Goode, a former slave, became the first African American woman to be awarded a patent from the U.S. government for her design of a “cabinet bed.” Her invention could be used as a cabinet by day, but opened into a bed for sleeping.

In June of 1885 the U.S. received a package–actually two hundred and fourteen packages. In them was the Statue of Liberty, waiting to be assembled on Bedloe’s Island. The statue would be unveiled in late October of 1886.

Great strides were made in the field of medicine in 1885, when Louis Pasteur successfully treated Joseph Meister for rabies with his new vaccine.

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Photo Corner

Rev W.R. Bossard, then of Telluride, Colorado and Edward Theodore Price, then of Tampa, Florida 1909Contributed by Carroll Straus, San Juan Capistrano, California
This photo is the Rev W.R. Bossard, then of Telluride, Colorado and Edward Theodore Price, then of Tampa, Florida, aged two, ca. 1909. I am the daughter of the boy and am perhaps a descendant of the discoverer of the Rosetta Stone who was a Bouchard/Boussard.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Lucas Harvey Kendall II, my father Lucas Harvey Kendall III, Helen Turley Kendall, Boston, 1901Contributed by Roberta Kendall
This was taken in Boston in 1901. From left to right are my grandfather, Lucas Harvey Kendall II, my father Lucas Harvey Kendall III, and my grandmother Helen Turley Kendall.

Mental Floss Article: 10 of the Most Common Place Names in the U.S.

Here’s a good reminder to always record the complete place name in our family history records from the Mental Floss blog. I am so glad my ancestors aren’t from Washington, Wisconsin!

BTW, I got my husband, my mother-in-law, and my father a subscription to Mental Floss magazine last year and we are all enjoying it. Check out their blog for a taste of what is in the magazine. If you’re a trivia buff like I am, I think you’ll enjoy it.

Have a great weekend!


New Ancestry Search Beta Now Available to Everyone

Ancestry____logo.bmpBack in February I wrote that a new Ancestry Search was in early “mini-beta” stage. The beta is now an option available to all users and the Ancestry search team is anxious to hear your thoughts. You can access the new search preview by going to the Search tab and then clicking the Try It link in the upper right corner of the page. (Don’t worry, if you decide you want to switch back to the old search, there will be a link in that same spot that will take you back whenever you want.)

In addition to improvements in finding the best possible matches, here are some other features you’ll find:

  • Hover preview. When you hover over a search result, you’ll see a preview window open with more details so that you don’t have to click on every item.
  • Image snapshots. When you are working with newspapers, you’ll see thumbnail images of the search terms as they appear in the document, again saving you from having to click through on irrelevant items. Thumbnail images are also available on photo search results.
  • Refine search box. The box to refine your search has now been moved to the left side of the page, so you don’t have to scroll down to the bottom of the page. For searches of the entire site, there is also a box below the refine search box that allows you to narrow your search by category.
  • Exact Match Options. Specify whether you want all terms to match exactly, only particular fields, or go for the closest matches.
  • Card Catalog. Browse titles in the card catalog with the ability to filter by category, location, and/or date simultaneously, and then sort the results alphabetically, by the date the database was added or last updated, by popularity, and by size.

Click here to check out the new search beta. To submit feedback to the search team, click on the Feedback link in the upper right corner of the page.

50 Million Holocaust Records Now Open to Public

Last November 50 million documents from the Holocaust held by the International Tracing Service (ITS) were opened to public access. Now Jewish family historians are finding the answers to questions that they thought would never be answered. An article on the collection and a trip by forty Jewish genealogists to survey and do research in the collection is online at Yahoo! News.