The Year Was 1770

boston massacre.bmpThe year was 1770 and tensions that had been building in the American colonies erupted on the evening of 5 March with the Boston Massacre. Much of the tension had been brought on by the enforcement of the Townshend Acts in 1767. These acts imposed a tax on imported paper, lead, paint, glass, and tea, and suspended the New York Assembly for not complying with the Quartering Acts of 1765.

Although there was hostility on both sides on the night of the massacre, engravings of the incident immediately began being circulated that helped stir up American anger towards the British. Eventually the British captain, Thomas Preston, and eight other soldiers, were tried for the deaths of five Americans, including its most famous victim, Crispus Attucks, an African American who would become the first casualty of the American Revolution. 

Future American President, John Adams, was among the lawyers on the defense team for the soldiers. All but two of the soldiers were acquitted and they had their charges reduced to manslaughter under a medieval relic called “benefit of clergy” that allowed them to escape the death penalty. Continue reading

Photo Corner, 21 July 2008

Alma Pearl Alexander, 1901Contributed by Joe Patterson
In 1901, when Alma Pearl Alexander was five years old, an itinerant photographer took this picture in Lockhart, Texas. He preferred to pose little girls holding a flower in their hands, but there wasn’t a blossom to be found in town. This was cotton-growing country at the time, so he placed a cotton boll in her hand. He promised to paint a flower over the cotton boll in the final picture. Her descendants are happy that he never did!

Click on an image to enlarge it.

20080721AgnesMcCann.bmpContributed by Philippa Taylor, Eymet, France
My grandmother Agnes Clarke (nee McCann), who was known as “The Belle of Bootle.” She was born in 1884 and this picture was taken about 1904 in Liverpool.

Photo Corner: Ilford Amateur Operatic Society


 I received this interesting photograph from Lesley Hayward in Herefordshire, England. Thanks for sharing Lesley! Click on the image to enlarge it.

This is a photo of Nellie Hilda Self [far left] and next to her Joseph William Yates Fish in a show together before their wedding in 1903.  They were members of the Ilford [UK] Amateur Operatic Society and performed many times together in Gilbert and Sullivan Operetta’s.  It is where they met. 

Nellie was the grand-daughter of James Meadows Sr., the artist. Several of her uncles also became well-known artists–James Edward M., Edwin Louis M., and Arthur Joseph M.  She is the daughter of their sister Frances Ameleia Self [née Meadows].
I hope you will include this interesting photo in the Journal.
Lesley Hayward
Herefordshire, England

Midwestern Roots 2008 Conference: Early Registration Deadline Looming

The July 25 early registration deadline for Midwestern Roots 2008: Family History and Genealogy Conference is fast approaching. Sponsored by the Indiana Historical Society, the conference will take place Aug. 15-16, 2008, at the Indianapolis Marriott East, located at 7202 East 21st St. in Indianapolis. Many pre-conference activities will take place at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, located at 450 W. Ohio St. in downtown Indianapolis.

Midwestern Roots will feature more than 30 presentations from some of the nation’s leading experts, covering topics ranging from DNA and genealogy to technology and methodology. The opening session of the conference will be led by James Madison, the Thomas and Kathryn Miller Professor of History at Indiana University (Bloomington), who will illuminate the importance and use of wartime letters for family history by relating stories from his new book Slinging Doughnuts for the Boys: An American Woman in World War II.

Another featured presenter will be Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, Chief Family Historian and North American spokesperson for Other notable national speakers appearing at Midwestern Roots include Dick Eastman, Roberta Estes, Charles F. Kerchner, David Lifferth, Stephen Morse, Christine Rose, Beau Sharbrough and Curt Witcher. Continue reading Search Enhancements Webinar, July 30th

Ancestry____logo1.bmpCome learn about all of the features available in the new search. Here’s your chance to hear from Kendall Hulet, search product manager, as he demonstrates all of the tools in’s new search – now available on the site.

Among the features he will showcase include:

  • Record Previews
  • Image Snapshots
  • Refined Searches
  • Type-ahead Tools
  • Global Searches
  • Advanced Searches
  • Filters
  • Keyword Searches

There will be a 20-minute Q&A session afterward.  (Free registration is required.) Click here to register.  

New at Ancestry

Ancestry____logo.bmpPosted This Week 

Weekly Planner: Make a List

During busy summer months, it is easy for our research to get off track. Files that were stashed when family came to visit may still be waiting in the closet to be filed properly. Information that got pulled out to share with family at reunions, or that got left out during a late night research session may be cluttering your workspace. Whatever your organization problem is, take steps this week to remedy it. Start with a list of what needs to be done. Then schedule a few minutes each night to check something off your list. If your filing pile has gotten too large, break it into smaller files by surname first. Then file a surname every night until you’re up to date. While you’re at it, keep a pad of paper and pen handy to jot down the research ideas and to-do items that will undoubtedly come from your filing exercise. Those next steps you find will make it well worth your effort!

Ancestors Who Lied About Their Age, by Juliana Smith

census taker.bmpSometimes I think my ancestors had psychic powers. I feel like they knew that someday I would be searching for them in the records they created, and that it would be fun for them to throw me a curve ball–or ten. Perhaps they thought it would be a good “character building exercise.” To them, let me just say, “I am not amused.”

I’ve been doing a little work on my Tobin family line and of the three family members for whom I have a good collection of census and other records, each of them routinely gave ages that conflicted with those in other records. For three of the five family members, birth years vary with a span of anywhere between seven and ten years. Interestingly, the mom of the family seems to age more than ten years with every census, while her sons, Peter and George, seem to age less with each enumeration.

So how do we reconcile these differences when we are trying to prove that the individual we found is one and the same as the person we’ve located in other records? And how do we determine how old the individuals really were? Here are some things I have found helpful:

Create a Chart
First, I like to create a chart that lists each record I have on the person, the age he/she gave, and an estimated year of birth based on that age. Here’s a chart I created for Peter Tobin:

Peter Tobin
1841 Passenger Arrival, age 16, born 1825
1850 U.S. Federal Census, age 20 = born 1830
1860 U.S. Federal Census, age 28 = born 1832
1870 U.S. Federal Census, age 38 = born 1832
1880 U.S. Federal Census, age 50 = born 1830
1893 Death certificate, age 68 = born 1825 Continue reading

Don’t Ignore Early Census Records, by Mary Penner

I knew that Sarah Gum married Stephen Mills in 1847. The 1850 census record for Stephen and Sarah showed five children aged six to sixteen with the surname Gum. Clearly, a Gum man lurked in Sarah’s past.

But, no marriage record existed in that county between a man with the last name Gum and a woman named Sarah. Meanwhile, I noted that a sixteen-year-old with the surname Mills also resided in the household in 1850, which suggested that Stephen had likely been married before, too. Again, I couldn’t find a marriage record in that county for Stephen and his presumed first wife.

So, I turned my attention to the 1840 census. Aha. There was Stephen Mills, and guess who lived right next door? Jesse Gum. Now I was getting somewhere.

More digging revealed that not only were Stephen and Jesse neighbors, they were also brothers-in-law. Their first wives, Mary and Sarah, were sisters. So, the widower Stephen married his wife’s sister. But, that’s another story. The story here is that the 1840 census set me on the right track. 

Family historians rely heavily on census records to open all kinds of ancestral doors. But, too often we slam the door shut on census records prior to 1850. The 1850 and all subsequent census years include the names and ages of everyone in the household–very handy. Continue reading