National Day of Listening, 28 November 2008

StoryCrops.jpgAfter Maureen’s directory of articles ran in the 3 November 2008 Ancestry Weekly Journal (click here if you missed it), I received the following message from StoryCorps, a non-profit project whose mission is to honor and celebrate one another’s lives through listening. What a great way to kick off the holiday season!

I’m writing from StoryCorps to let you know we saw Maureen Taylor’s blog post from February 17, referenced again on November 2, mentioning StoryCorps as an inspiration for recording ancestry in audio format. It’s such a great connection: preserving family ancestry and the simple act of listening to each other.

I wanted to write to let you know about a new initiative we’re launching this year that might also appeal to your readers. StoryCorps is asking the whole country to set aside one hour on Friday, November 28th, the day after Thanksgiving, to record a conversation with a friend or loved one. We’re declaring this day the National Day of Listening. We just launched a website ( with more information and tips for a Do-it-Yourself style interview as well as a video walking through an interview. Since so many Americans aren’t able to make it to a StoryCorps recording booth, we’re making it easier for everyone to share this experience in their own homes.

Again, thank you for writing about StoryCorps on your blog. Please share the idea of National Day of Listening and these Do-it-Yourself tools with your readers, family, and friends, helping us make the experience of listening as an act of love even more accessible.

Thank you again,

Kathleen McCarthy
Marketing and Communications

Join StoryCorps in the National Day of Listening
November 28, 2008

New Ancestry Publication: Finding Granddad’s War

Granddads War.jpgArmed with a stack of photos and stories, author Jeffrey Badger sets out on a 10-year hunt to retrieve a past in Finding Granddad’s War.

(PROVO, Utah) 6 Nov. 2008—Growing up, Jeff Badger imagined that if he stared long enough at the pictures of Leo Kavanaugh as a WWII GI, they would tell him the story of the grandfather he never had the chance to know. When the pictures didn’t, Jeff decided to track down the men who could—the soldiers who had served with his grandfather in the 978th Engineer Maintenance Company.

Finding Granddad’s War is both the story of Jeff’s search and the stories of the men he found. Flattered by his interest, Jeff’s new “war buddies” confided in him, shared experiences they had never spoken of before, and sent Jeff hundreds of photographs taken in Europe and the Pacific. Sometimes the experience of talking was cathartic, sometimes not, but most of the men spoke on, whether they were discussing anti-Semitism within their own ranks, the unit’s one casualty in three years and two theaters of war, or robbing a German bank.

Finding Granddad’s War is filled with the firsthand accounts Jeff found so compelling, he expanded his search to Europe to track down sites and characters from the GIs’ past. Retracing his grandfather’s steps in Holland, Jeff unearthed memories from the days when the 978th occupied the town of Spekholzerheid, drinking in the barroom where his grandfather once boxed, and speaking with people who had posed for pictures fifty years before.

As his grandfather’s war buddies became his own, Jeff came to know the soldier, the hell-raiser, the friend, and the war they had known. Their voices, in concert with Jeff’s own, make Finding Granddad’s War an open-eyed, loving portrait of the “greatest generation”—from a grandson of WWII.

Finding Granddad’s War is a new title from Ancestry Publishing, the publishing arm of popular genealogical website Continue reading

New at Ancestry

Ancestry____logo1.gifPosted This Week

Weekly Planner: Research Military Units

Most of us can identify at least one family member in our family tree who served in the military. Have you researched his or her military service? Where were they stationed? Did they see active duty and if so, what engagements did the unit participate in? Look for their military unit history online and investigate the holdings of the archives of their service branch. Learning more about our ancestors military service is a great way to honor the veterans in our family this Veterans’ Day.

Honoring Those Who Serve, by Juliana Smith

WWI Love postcard.jpgThey called it “The Great War” and it was to be “The War to End All Wars.” Tomorrow will mark the ninetieth anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. There is no shortage of information on the war that ravaged much of Europe between 1914 and 1918 and dramatically changed the map. As with most wars, many books have been written, movies and mini-series made, and websites launched chronicling the conflict.

While these types of resources are undoubtedly helpful, they are often painted with too wide a brush to give you that close-up picture of the war on the ground. The most revealing insights into war are often written by the participants themselves. My first foray into the world of writing was an article based on a collection of letters that my mother had inherited that had been written by her uncle while he was fighting in World War I. Reading those letters and then learning more about the movements of his battalion, I got a much clearer perspective of both Edwin and his involvement in World War I.

Of course, not everyone has a notebook full of letters like we did. All too often correspondence, diaries, and first-person accounts are discarded or lost to the ravages of time. Even if you don’t have gems like these written by your own ancestors, by reading the surviving correspondence of your ancestors’ contemporaries, you can still get that glimpse into the conditions they endured in the trenches, on the field of battle, in camps or prisons, and wherever else the war took them.

With Veterans’ Day tomorrow, I thought that this week it would be appropriate to learn a little more about the service of the veterans in our family tree. Here are some places you can begin your search for first-person accounts.

As I went off in search of online resources for correspondence and the diaries of military personnel serving in various conflicts, I was thrilled with what I found. War Letters is a website that has posted letters from the Civil War and both World Wars–both images and transcripts.

The Valley of the Shadow website has made available letters and diaries from both sides of the Civil War. The site focuses on the lives of people Augusta County, Virginia, and Franklin County, Pennsylvania, with accounts from before, during, and after the war. 

A search of the Card Catalog at Ancestry for war letter turned up sixteen hits, and a subsequent search for war diary produced another fourteen.

General history sites may also have personal accounts posted. I found this page with memoirs and diaries on Continue reading

Research in Scotland, by Sherry Irvine, CG

Abbotsford, ScotlandI’ve decided that it is time to return to researching my Scottish lines. News about archives and libraries in Scotland are sparking my interest, and there is new material on the Web to keep me busy until I can actually make a trip.

My last research trip to Scotland was four years ago. In that time the resources online have expanded and I have been able to carry on with some of the work in my research plan from home. I use online resources in three ways:

(1) To search for ancestors in the major record groups (censuses, civil registration, baptisms and marriages in Church of Scotland registers, and testaments)

(2) To find information about records and for background to my research

(3) To search catalogues of archives and libraries—so I can plan future work in Scotland or find out what can be done using microfilm copies of records in the local LDS Family History Centre.

Websites I use most often are:

Scottish Archives Network

National Archives of Scotland

Angus Archives and other regional archives

Mitchell Library, Glasgow

Websites of family history societies

Destinations in Scotland
Three destinations top my list of places I want to visit on my next trip to Scotland. The first is the new facility for Angus Archives at the Hunter Library, Restenneth priory, just two miles outside Forfar. The location is adjacent to the ruined twelfth century Restenneth Priory, burial site of a son of Robert the Bruce. Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: Is a Wrong Original the Problem? from Michael John Neill

When indexes are created, indexers are instructed to record information exactly as it appears on the original record. Humans do occasionally err, but it is important to remember that the error could have been done by the informant or the clerk filling out the record.

A search of the World War I Draft Cards at Ancestry indicates that 10,893 individuals in the database were born in 1918. There has to be something amiss someplace. Registrants for this draft could not actually have been born in 1918. My unscientific study of some of these hits failed to locate one card that did not say the registrant was born in 1918.

How could this happen? There are many reasons, but obviously none of the men were actually claiming to be under the age of 1. Registering men for a draft when war might have appeared imminent could have lead to some distraction on the part of the registrars. After all, how many of us today have accidentally put the incorrect year on a check when writing one?

It is important to keep this in perspective. There were approximately 24 million registrants for this draft–10,893 only represents .045% of the total—a small percentage to be certain, but enough to consider if you can’t locate your ancestor when searching by year of birth.

When searching any database, consider that one of the pieces your ancestor gave could have been either given or recorded incorrectly. It will impact how he appears in the database. Try altering or omitting one search term at a time. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results even if his age is correct. 

Your Quick Tips, 10 November 2008

A Scrapbook History
After years of trinkets and tokens for Christmas from my children and grandchildren, I have now asked them to complete a scrapbook page of the highlights in their life for that year.
Each year I get a page of events from them. But little do they know, that they are writing their own history. It’s inexpensive and much more personal and means more to me than any “store-bought” gift.
It keeps a log of events in their lives from year to year and someday I hope my great-grandchildren will enjoy them!
Clara Leib
Valparaiso, Indiana Continue reading

Photo Corner

Jeremiah Joseph KirbyContributed by Steve Kirby, UK
This is a photo of my great-grandfather Jeremiah Joseph Kirby. He was born in New York City in 1864 but the birth was registered in Dalton, Massachusetts, his parents having travelled there from Dublin, Ireland, the year before. The family returned to Dublin a year later and eventually settled in London, England-a well travelled man.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Thomas Staton Brown and his sons, taken in 1869 in Arkansas. Clockwise from left: George Washington, Thomas Staton, Isaac Neely, James McCloud, and Marion.Contributed by Mark Jones
This is a photo of my great-great grandfather, Thomas Staton Brown and his sons, taken in 1869 in Arkansas. Clockwise from left: George Washington, Thomas Staton, Isaac Neely, James McCloud, and Marion.