Missed Opportunities, by Maureen Taylor

I’m a photo-oriented person which means one of my first rules is to never leave the house for a family event without a camera in hand.  Well, imagine my chagrin when I recently attended a wedding and found myself camera-less.  Yup!  I was so busy coordinating all the travel arrangements that I forgot to pack one. All I had on me was my camera phone.  I couldn’t even buy one because I didn’t realize my mistake until I was at the outdoor event.  Thankfully, Rachel, a twelve year old relative, heard me muttering about my lack of camera.  She leaned over and whispered in my ear that I could borrow her digital camera. 

However, she had an agenda, “The flower girl doesn’t want to carry the flowers so I might get to be the flower girl and I’d like some pictures, so can you take them?”  Ah ha!  Not only did she lend me her camera, but she outlined how I was to use it, admonished me not to waste the battery power, and gave me a shot list of must-have images.  It was great fun to let this budding photographer lead me around and tell me what to do! She worried constantly about battery life and the size of the memory card.  I agreed to her request but only if I could see the pictures later through a photo sharing site.  That was one thing she didn’t know how to do so I’m hoping to set up a tutorial later this week. 

The whole experience taught me a few things. First, it’s time for a new camera (again). Remember when you bought a film camera and it was your device for life. Well those days are gone. The average digital camera owner upgrades to take advantage of latest features. I’m about to join those ranks. Continue reading

My Family History Staycation, by Paula Stuart Warren, CG

Back in August, George Morgan wrote about genealogy “staycations.” Many people have taken staycations this year rather than the usual travel vacation. In case you are not familiar with the new buzz word, staycation means a vacation at home due to the family budget and the cost of travel.

My Dad recently turned 89 and my present to him was our own staycation of guided family history tours around the St. Paul and Minneapolis area to places where various family members lived over the years. Another part of the gift will be a tour to the various places he and my late Mother used to work. We didn’t even have to pack a suitcase for this staycation.

Locating the Addresses
We remembered some addresses of the homes we wanted to visit, and what the houses looked like. Others had to be looked up in city directories and censuses. Deciding where to go brought up many family stories, as did the actual driving trip.

At the Minnesota Historical Society I reviewed older city directories that list the head of the family with address and occupation (and sometimes the employer). Around 1930 the name of the wife was included. As children in the household went out to work or to college they were added to directory listings. In the World War I and II eras, I saw men in the family listed with a designation such as USA-meaning they were in the armed services. I made a list of the names and addresses to visit and have a reserve list for another tour.

I wanted some more detail on exactly when they were living at the addresses. Many of our families were renters and moved frequently. City directories were often compiled with information gathered before the year listed for that directory. Thus, the 1911 directory listing for an ancestor generally meant that they were living at that address in 1910. It is possible they had moved by 1911. If they stayed in one place for several years, it is easier to estimate the time span.

The Minnesota State Censuses
Ancestry has Minnesota state censuses online as part of the U.S. Collection. The 1895 and 1905 enumerations listed the address for each household in St. Paul. Checking the actual date of the enumeration, I was able to tell the address on that date. U.S. censuses
for 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930
also list the street address for St. Paul residents. Check the actual enumeration date at the top of the page to see what day and month your family was at the address. Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: They Went Home, from Michael John Neill

One good rule of thumb when an ancestor “disappears” at an older age is to look and see if they are living near any children who might have moved a distance away from the family home. One of my ancestors “disappeared” after her husband died in Indiana in 1861. The end result was that she moved further west, into Iowa to live with one of her children. As a matter of course, I always check near all the adult children of an ancestor to see if Grandma or Grandpa went to live with them as they got older.

But once in a while you’ll find one who moves back to where they used to live, even if they have no family left there.

Louis Demar came to Chicago, Illinois, from Clinton County, New York ca. 1905, probably looking for work. He seemed to evaporate after the 1920 census and could not be located in city directories or other records after the mid-1920s. Where was he? He had moved back to Clinton County, New York. There he was enumerated in the 1930 census and that is where he died a few years later in the mid-1930s.

George Trautvetter and family immigrated to the United States in 1853, settling in Illinois. In 1869, at the age of seventy-one years, he returned to Germany, leaving his family behind in America. The pastor writes in his burial entry in the church register that George returned “to live as a retiree.” He was not just making a short visit back home to see family.

Not everyone was happy in their new home, and sometimes instead of moving further west into new territory, they simply moved back to where they were from, where they possibly felt more comfortable.

So if someone disappears, consider the possibility that they went home, rather than seeking newer pastures somewhere else.

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The Year Was 1925

Benito MussoliniThe year was 1925 and three years after creating a fascist regime, Prime Minister Benito Mussolini seized dictatorial powers. “Il Duce” would rule Italy banning opposition parties and keeping strict controls over the news media.

Following World War I Germany was struggling to make reparations. While France was facing huge post-war debt. In 1923 France had invaded the Ruhr region of Germany (an industrial area that produced coal, steel, and iron) in an effort to extract reparations. The invasion cut off the area from surrounding regions and limited commerce, creating shortages. In 1925, under pressure from the U.S. and Britain, the French withdrew from the Ruhr region.

In Alaska, a diphtheria outbreak threatened the town of Nome. The town only has a small amount of the antitoxin needed and it was beyond expiration. The town’s doctor alerted the governor and U.S. Public Health service of the dangerous situation requesting additional supplies of antitoxin. Because it was January, Nome was all but cut off from the world. At that time, there were no planes available to fly into the frigid climes. A small amount of antitoxin was located in Anchorage–not enough to inoculate the entire town, but enough to slow the epidemic until more supplies could reach the area by ship. It was decided that it would be conveyed, first by railway to Nenana and then by a relay of twenty dog mushers and about one hundred and fifty sled dogs the remaining six hundred and seventy-four miles. They would complete the trip through brutal weather conditions in five and a half days making Balto, the lead dog in the last leg of the trip a national celebrity and saving the town of Nome and its surrounding communities from the epidemic.

Severe weather swept through three states in March of 1925 as the devastating “Tri-State Tornado” carved a two hundred and nineteen mile swath through Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. Six hundred and ninety-five people died in the storm and two thousand were injured, with the greatest damage in Illinois.

Another storm was brewing in Tennessee in 1925. Modernism was changing society. Women had earned the right to vote in 1920. It was the age of flappers and Jazz, and many Americans flouted Prohibition laws. But as some saw the pendulum swinging too far in that direction there was a pull back to more conservative values and Fundamentalists began to work to restore the values of previous eras.

By that year, legislation was pending in fifteen states banning the teaching of evolution in schools. In Tennessee, legislation passed in 1925 making it illegal to teach “any theory that denies the story of divine creation as taught by the Bible and to teach instead that man was descended from a lower order of animals.”

In the town of Dayton, Tennessee a young teacher named John Scopes who had used textbooks including Darwin’s theories of evolution was enlisted by the ACLU to challenge the new statute. William Jennings Bryan was chosen to lead the team for the prosecution, while Clarence Darrow led the case for the defense. The case, now widely referred to as “Scopes Monkey Trial,” received widespread coverage in the media. In fact, it was the first time a trial was broadcast over the radio.

A circus-like atmosphere took over the small town as the trial began, with refreshment stands, banners and signs, and even chimpanzees. Darrow called Bryan to the stand as an expert on the Bible, and proceeded with a withering interrogation. Darrow then called for an immediate verdict from the jury, preventing Bryan from delivering his closing speech. Scopes was found guilty and fined, but vowed to continue to fight the statue. That fine was later overturned because it was determined that any fine of more than fifty dollars should have been delivered by the jury rather than the judge, as was the case in the first trial. Bryan died five days after the trial, due to complications from diabetes. 

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Photo Corner, 13 October 2008

Robert & Elizabeth Walton taken in New York, 1852.Contributed by Jack Ricci
Attached is a photo of my great-great-grandparents, Robert and Elizabeth Walton taken in New York, 1852.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Hugh Phillips and Ella Uhland's wedding Contributed by Joan Phillips Eddy
This is my paternal grandparents, Hugh Phillips and Ella Uhland’s wedding photo taken 10 April 1901 and their attendants.

Free Webinar on the World Archives Project, 23 October 2008

World Archives.jpgAncestry.com Invites You to a Webinar on the World Archives Project, Its New Community Indexing Program

On Thursday, Oct. 23rd, at 8 pm EDT, Ancestry.com will be sponsoring a webinar on its new World Archives Project. Learn more about Ancestry.com’s new community indexing program that gives people around the world the opportunity to save historical records important to them. Register for the webinar here. (After you register you will receive an e-mail from ON24.com, the company that hosts the webinars. It will include the link and information necessary to access the webinar.)

Ancestry.com Reveals Who Would be King of America and Candidate Roots as Presidential Election Approaches

Ancestry____logo.bmpToday, Ancestry issued the following press release. Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak did the research for who would have been king. (With all that our friend Megan accomplishes, I think she must never sleep!) ;-)  Ancestry Magazine subscribers got to read about her research in the latest issue, and the article is now available online here.

What If America Had King Paul Instead Of President McCain or Obama?

What Family Ties Do Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin Have
in Key Election Battleground States and to Royalty?

PROVO, UTAH – Oct. 8, 2008 – If George Washington had been America’s king instead of its first president, an 82-year-old retired regional manager from San Antonio, Texas would be King of America today. As red and blue battleground states emerge in the upcoming presidential election, Americans may be interested to know that Senator Barack Obama has deep roots in Ohio or that Senator John McCain has family members from North Carolina on both sides of his family tree. And research into Governor Sarah Palin’s family history revealed she is the 10th cousin to Lady Diana Spencer, Britain’s beloved Princess Di, as well as a distant cousin to Franklin D. Roosevelt, one of the country’s most popular presidents.

As the country prepares to elect the 44th U.S. president, genealogy experts at Ancestry.com, the world’s largest online family history resource, researched answers to some interesting questions surrounding this year’s landmark presidential election. From the lineage of the first president, to the family roots of today’s presidential and vice presidential candidates, the findings may evoke an interesting debate.

King of America
Many Americans are fascinated by the British royal family – but what if America had its own Royal family? The experts at Ancestry.com asked, “Who would be sitting on America’s throne today if George Washington had become the king instead of the first U.S. president?” After countless hours of research to trace Washington’s family lineage, the following facts emerged to determine which of his descendents would likely be King of America today had the U.S. become a monarchy rather than a democracy in 1789: 

  • King George? – According to sources, Washington’s leadership during and after the Revolutionary War was held in such high esteem, there were those who suggested he become America’s first king.
  • Wading Through the Washingtons – George Washington had no children, so researching the descendants through all of his half- and full-siblings meant approximately 8,000 people could factor into the succession equation, with less than 200 of them bearing the Washington surname.
  • Would-be Royal – Since George Washington had an older half brother and a younger full brother, ultimately there were four possible succession paths. Two of the four paths, with male-only heirs, converge into one heir – Paul Emery Washington, 82, of San Antonio, Texas – making him the strongest candidate for king today. Paul Emery Washington also has a son, Bill, who he affectionately calls “Prince William.”
  • Valley Forge Connection – Paul Emery Washington was a regional manager at Certain-Teed Corp., a manufacturer and distributor of wholesale building materials for 40 years. The company was headquartered in Valley Forge, Pa., where coincidentally General Washington and his army camped during the difficult winter of 1778-79.

Battleground States
In every presidential election, certain U.S. states emerge as critical battleground states key to winning the White House. The experts at Ancestry.com researched the family history of the presidential and vice presidential candidates to learn which of the often referred to battleground states could claim the candidates as their own, with some surprising discoveries.

  • Senator John McCain – McCain has North Carolina roots on both sides of his family tree, extending to the mid 1700s. He is also connected to the state of Arkansas through his paternal grandmother, Katherine Vaulx, a teacher who was born in Arkansas. Katherine’s parents, James Vaulx and Margaret Garside, were long-time residents of Arkansas where James was a minister. Family members in his tree served in both the military and the financial sector: his father and grandfather both had careers in the U.S. Navy and great grandfather John S. McCain is documented in the 1900 U.S. Census as the treasurer of Carroll County, Mississippi.
  • Senator Barack Obama – Obama has deep roots in the state of Ohio that go back to 1850. Obama’s heritage can be traced back to Ireland, to the small towns of Moneygall and Shinrone in County Offaly, Ireland. Obama’s third great-grandfather, Falmouth Kearney, immigrated to the U.S. at age 19, landing in New York harbor on March 20, 1850 and then settling in Fayette County, Ohio among Irish relatives. In addition, Obama has roots extending into the swing states of Virginia, Indiana and Missouri.
  • Senator Joe Biden – Biden also has a strong Irish heritage; his ancestors arrived in the U.S. within six months of Obama’s Irish family. Both Obama’s and Biden’s Irish relatives were shoemakers by trade. Biden has deep Pennsylvania ties: Patrick and Catherine Blewett, Biden’s 2nd great-grandparents, settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania, around 1860, where Patrick worked as a surveyor and a civil engineer.
  • Governor Sarah Palin – Palin has roots in several battleground states, including Ohio, Minnesota and Virginia, however, most of her roots are planted in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Palin descends from three consecutive generations of Michael Sheerans, who originate in Ireland; her great-great-grandfather Sheeran ran a firm called Sheeran & Filler Bottling Company, which shipped products across the Northwest. According to published family and local histories – through a common ancestor, Rev. John Lothrop who arrived in Massachusetts colony in 1634 – Palin is a distant cousin to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who is touted in history as one of the country’s most popular presidents.  Gov. Palin is also a 10th cousin to Lady Diana Spencer, Britain’s beloved Princess Di, through common ancestors John Strong and Abigail Ford.

All in the Family
According to a recent independent survey from Ancestry.com, Americans would choose to be a member of the Obama family more than any of four other prominent political families.   When asked which family they would like to join most, 21 percent chose the Obamas, followed by 15 percent for the Palins and 15 percent for the Clintons, 14 percent for the McCains and 3 percent for the Biden family. Nearly one-third of Americans surveyed (30 percent), however, said they wouldn’t want to become a member of any of these political families.

“Most presidential elections bring up issues about where we’ve come from and where we’re headed as a nation, and this election year is no different,” said Megan Smolenyak, Chief Family Historian for Ancestry.com. “This is an ideal time for our family history experts to play historical what-ifs and conduct research to answer intriguing questions, as well as look into the family trees of our candidates to learn about where they come from and the ties they have in our great country.”

To learn more about how to start researching your family history, log on to Ancestry.com and sign up for a free two-week trial. It’s possible that a famous ancestor or past presidential or vice presidential candidate is in your family tree and waiting to be discovered. Continue reading

Summit County Ohio Court Receives Grant

Hundreds of thousands of historic records will be freely available online

Salt Lake City, Utah—Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, and the National Association of Government Archive and Records Administrators (NAGARA) announced on July 24, 2008, that Judge Bill Spicer and the Probate Division of the Summit County Common Pleas Court in Akron, Ohio, were awarded a 2008 grant for the digitization of Summit County marriage, birth, and death records. The court’s grant was one of only two awarded in 2008. This significant grant will make it possible for Summit County to digitally preserve and provide free online access to select historical documents.

The project targets 1840 to 1980 marriage records for over 550,000 individuals, birth records prior to 1908 for over 46,000 individuals, and death records prior to 1908 for over 22,000 individuals. A free, searchable name index linked to the digital images of the original records will be available to the public through the probate court’s Web site www.summitohioprobate.com and the grant partners’ sites.  

“As a result of the grant, our Website, which was chosen as one of the 10 best in the country by the National College of Probate Judges, will now have the added distinction of being a model for the state and country for accessing historical court records,” said Judge Spicer. “Not only will it improve access, but by reducing the need to see the often-fragile originals, it will make the court’s job of preserving hundreds of thousands of original records easier. The project is a far-sighted and important effort in preserving local history. On behalf of the court and the citizens of Summit County, I thank the project sponsors for selecting Summit County Probate Court as its 2008 grant recipient.”

This is the first year that this national grant was offered. It is sponsored by Ancestry.com and FamilySearch and administered by NAGARA. Under the grant, FamilySearch will digitize the original documents on-site in the Summit County courthouse by the end of 2008, and Ancestry.com will create an electronic index linked to the images. The entire project is scheduled for completion in 2009. The commercial value of the grant is estimated to be $150,000.00.  Continue reading