Weekly Planner: Start a Preservation Project

JulianaDo your loved ones know the significance of items you would like preserved for posterity? Are they aware that that bundle of yellowed letters you have stashed away are letters your grandfather wrote? Or that that those crumbly old recipes sticking out of that cookbook belonged to your great-grandmother? Do they know that the stack of postcards in the closet contain correspondence from a special uncle and that your favorite aunt made the as a wedding gift? Take the time to not only make sure these items are preserved in a safe environment, but also that their significance is noted so that it won’t end up in the trash or on the table at a yard sale some day.

When You Assume, by Juliana Smith

Juliana is out battling a nasty cold, so this week we are bringing you a little blast from the past in the form of an article from 2000.

“When you assume . . ..” Whenever I hear that phrase, I flash back to The Odd Couple episode where Felix Unger is in front of the courtroom with a chalkboard warning of the dangers that come “when you assume.” And while assumptions in family history won’t necessarily make or break any court cases like it did for Oscar and Felix, it can waste a lot of precious research time by taking you down roads that just don’t need to be traveled. Time and money can be wasted in researching the wrong records, in the wrong place, or even the wrong person.

Often we form our opinions without even realizing we are doing it. So, here are a few things to think about.

This one is a biggie! No one wants to waste time investigating someone else’s ancestor. But it can easily happen, particularly when you are dealing with common names. In these cases, it is best to collect as much information as possible on each. By creating a profile for your ancestor and others with the same name, you may be able to separate yours from the pack. More information on this can be found in these articles:

Separating Men of the Same Name,
by Patricia Law Hatcher

Searching for Catherine Kelly in a Sea of Kellys,
by Juliana Smith

Assuming ethnicity can lead to big problems when you attempt to research overseas, which can make for a very expensive error. But this is an easy mistake to make.

You may have formed an opinion, without realizing it, based on your ancestor’s surname, but often surnames were changed—either Americanized to help the family “fit in” better in their new homeland or sometimes to avoid discrimination. My great-grandfather, John Mekalski, couldn’t get a job for a time because Polish people were being discriminated against. Because he spoke fluent German, he changed his name to Wagner for a little while in order to find work. He was not alone in this. In some cases, the name may never have been changed back.

You may have also seen a place of origin on immigration records, like passenger lists. This may only reflect the port a person sailed from immediately before coming to this country, not taking into account that it was only a stopover on their journey. If the record you have lists Liverpool, Bremen, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Le Havre, or any of the other larger European emigration ports, it may be that your ancestor was not necessarily from there, but traveled to the port before sailing from it. Continue reading

Agricultural Schedules of the Census, 1840-80, by Laura Szucs Pfeiffer

An excerpt from Hidden Sources: Family History in Unlikely Places, by Laura Szucs Pfeiffer 

Agricultural schedules have a variety of uses but are little known and rarely used. This set of records can be used to fill gaps when land and tax records are missing or incomplete; distinguish between people with the same names; document land holdings of ancestors with suitable follow-up in deeds, mortgages, tax rolls, and probate inventories; verify and document black sharecroppers and white overseers who may not appear in other records; and identify free black men and their property holdings, while tracing their movements and economic growth.

The schedules for 1890 were destroyed by fire and those for 1900 and 1910 were destroyed by congressional order. The remaining schedules were deposited among a variety of state and university archives by the National Archives and Records Service. Most are not indexed, and most had not been microfilmed until recently, when the National Archives asked that copies be returned for historical research.

Selected Readings:

Davidson, Katherine, H., and Charlotte M. Ashby, comps., Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Bureau of the Census, Preliminary Inventory 161. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Service, 1964.

Meyerink, Kory L., ed. Printed Source: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records, Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1998.

Szucs, Loretto Dennis and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, eds., The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy. Rev. ed. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 2006

Websites of Interest:

Ancestry.com–Newly posted this week:
U.S. Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850-1880
(South Carolina, browseable only)

National Archives and Records Administration
Non-population schedules description

Tips from the Pros: In Their Own Words, from Juliana Smith

Julia.jpgI am fortunate that my mother taped several interviews with my grandmother before she died. Several years ago, I transcribed one of those interviews and over the holidays I found the transcription very helpful. I was creating a family history book with MyCanvas for my grandmother’s sister who is now ninety-six years old. Her mother died when she was very young so she doesn’t remember her well.

In that taped interview, my grandmother had talked about her mother:

“She was very good to us. She never went anywhere–nor did my father–never went anywhere without bringing us a bag of candy and hugging us and kissing us. And our mother loved flowers, oh, did she love flowers. And she loved oleanders, and as a surprise, my father got her and on the porch we had two wash tubs, like this, and one pink and one white oleander. And my father says when they stopped blooming that something’s going to happen. . . And when they stopped blooming, my mother died.”

I included that quote (and another quote about her father) in the book.

If you have family interviews with stories or descriptions of family members, be sure to include them in your family history. They will give future generations a first-person look at your ancestors.

Click on the image to enlarge the page I created.

Your Quick Tips, 19 January 2009

Today is Tomorrow’s History
Being the family historian, I am immediately thrilled when I find something written by my ancestors—a card, a letter, a note to the milkman; even a shopping list takes on added proportions, because it gives me an insight into their lives.

I have been concerned for some time now, that in the age of e-mails, computers, and e-cards, my descendants won’t have the same benefits, so this year I decided to take matters into my own hands. Having five married children and sixteen young grandchildren, I asked each family if, instead of a purchased Christmas gift, they would give me a potted [condensed] history of their lives over the past year. I told them they could do it in any form they wished, it could be done by one member of the family, as a project by the grandchildren, just whatever they were comfortable with.

Christmas came and I can honestly say I have never been so thrilled with the gifts I received. Some had made scrapbook pages of special events. Some had written a month by month run down and included photos. One was excerpts from her diary, and another had included pictures drawn by each of the children. Still another had copied and laminated school awards and prizes. Every one of the projects was special and unique.

As they all read each other’s projects there were lots of oohs and ahs and, “you didn’t tell me that.” Everyone enjoyed it so much that we’ve decided it’s to be a regular Christmas event and this is one family historian who is a lot happier knowing that our tomorrow’s history will not be lost.

Mary Rogers
Wedderburn, Australia Continue reading

The Year Was 1824

The year was 1824 and an early winter in Russia spelled disaster. An ice jam that formed on the Neva River near St. Petersburg in November broke loose after a warm spell unleashing a flood of icy water into that city. An estimated 10,000 lives were lost in the frigid waters, as was much of the city’s rich cultural heritage. Even the czar’s palace was damaged.

In Edinburgh, Scotland, a series of devastating fires in previous years led to the formation of the Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service, the first municipal fire brigade in the UK. That brigade would be put to the test in its first year when a series of fires broke out near the center of Edinburgh. Ten people were killed and an estimated 500 families were left homeless.

Formerly known as New Holland, the British Penal colony formally adopted the name of Australia.

In Canada, with a lack of roads and trails, waterways provided the most efficient mode of transportation. However, the barrier posed by Niagara Falls made the passage between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie difficult. To get around it, a canal was proposed and in 1824 work began on the first Welland Canal. It opened for business five years later. 

In the U.S., the election of 1824 saw four men of the same party running for president—John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and William Henry Crawford. After a campaign filled with mudslinging, Andrew Jackson came out ahead in the popular vote, but because no candidate won the majority in the Electoral College, the selection of the president was turned over to the House of Representatives. The three candidates with the most electoral votes were up for consideration–Adams, Jackson, and Crawford. The fourth, Henry Clay, happened to be the Speaker of the House and there were rumors of a deal that would sway the election in exchange for Clay getting the appointment to Secretary of State. The House only took one ballot to select Adams as president, and when he tapped Clay as Secretary of State, many were outraged. The cry of a “Corrupt Bargain” would be heard throughout the next four years until the election of 1828 when Andrew Jackson would prevail.

Photo Corner, 19 January 2009

20090119Cravey.jpgContributed by Rachel Turner
This is a photo of my great-great-grandmother Francis “Fanny” Susan Cravey Turner. The photo was taken in Turnerville, Alabama, probably in the late 1800s to early 1900s.

 Click on an image to enlarge it.

20090119Vincent.jpgContributed by Janet A. Keen, San Antonio, Texas
This is picture of my father, Vincent E. Anderson, 1919-2004. He was a pilot in the Pacific during WWII and the Korean War. Flying remained a love his entire life and he passed that love on to both of his sons. His oldest son, Vincent “Craig” Anderson, was also an Air Force pilot and was tragically killed in Vietnam in 1972. His youngest son, who is still living, flies to this day.