Photo Corner, 16 February 2009

20090216Hennessy.bmpContributed by Tom Hennessy, Desoto, Texas
This is a picture of my grandmother, Freda Becker, born 1891. The photo was taken in Cincinnati around 1897. When my grandmother was about nine, just after 1900, the family moved to New Jersey.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

20090216Saundra.bmpContributed by Saundra Robert
This is a picture of my grandmother, Mary Trcka Duba and her twin daughters Frances and Rose. The photo was taken in 1902 in St. Louis, Missouri. Grandmother was born in 1859 in Olsovice, Bohemia. My mother, Frances, on the left, died in 2001.

New Webinar: Making a Breakthrough in your African American Research

Making a Breakthrough in your African American Research,
presented by Marjorie Sholes
Tuesday, February 24, 2009, 9 PM EDT
African American research poses unique challenges. That’s why and Wal-art have partnered up to present a free, one-hour webinar on researching your black roots. African American research specialist Marjorie Sholes will take you step-by-step through the process she used to trace one of her own ancestors, showing you the tips and tricks she discovered along the way. In particular, she’ll focus on how to identify slave owners to unlock the history of your slave ancestors. You’ll also learn what resources are available on and elsewhere to aid in your research.

Click here to register for this webinar or to view past webinars on a wide range of topics in the Ancestry Learning Center.

Gretna Green Marriage Records Added to World Archives Project…and More

World Archives.bmpJust in time for Valentine’s Day, Ancestry has added Gretna Green, Scotland, Marriage Registers, 1795-1895 to its World Archives Project to be indexed. This portion of the Gretna Green Collection is made up from a significant portion of the Lang Collection. The collection of marriage records were conducted by self appointed ministers at the border toll booths along the few roads into Scotland. Couples wanting to marry without parental consent, or those who didn’t want to marry in a church often traveled to Gretna Green where only the consent of the persons marrying was required by Scottish law. There are approximately 25,000 names in the original registers. The difficulty rating is advanced for most of the records; however, some records may be more difficult due to relative illegibility.

Below is a list of all of the collections currently being indexed (along with the percent completed) include:

  • Southern California Naturalization Indexes – 31%
  • Historic Postcards – US (Batch 4) – 75% 
  • England, Newspaper Index Cards (Andrews) – 30% 
  • Gretna Green, Scotland, Marriage Registers, 1795-1895 – 19% 
  • New York Naturalization Indexes – 31% 
  • New England Naturalization Indexes – 67% 
  • Illinois Naturalization Indexes – 10% 
  • N. California Naturalization Indexes – 2% 
  • NYC Naturalization Indexes – 14% 
  • Slave Manifests Filed at New Orleans, Louisiana, 1807-1860 – 3% 
  • Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, Piemonte, Italia: Registri di Matrimonio e Morte, 1866-1937 (Italy: Marriage and Death Records) – 2% 
  • Sydney and New South Wales, Sands Street Index, 1861-1930 – 5% 
  • Ontario, Canada Marriages Registers by Clergy 1896 – 1948 – 15%

Click here if you’d like to learn more about the World Archives Project or if you’d like to join the community of keyers.

To learn more, check out the free webinar that was held on the World Archives Project in the Learning Center webinar archive. There is also an article on Reading Old Handwriting  in the Help section of, that is useful both in keying for the World Archive Project and in reading the handwriting we’re faced with in our research.

Ancestry Marks Lincoln Bicentennial with Launch of Five New Databases Featuring Millions of New Civil War Era Records

Ancestry____logo.bmpWorld’s Leading Online Family History Resource Adds More Than 4 Million New Records to Its Civil War Collection, Including More Than 20,000 Letters Written to and from Lincoln

PROVO, UTAH – Feb. 12, 2009 –, the world’s largest online resource for family history, announced today it will commemorate the 200th birthday of one of the nation’s greatest Presidents – Abraham Lincoln – with the addition of five new databases to its Civil War Collection. This historically significant collection includes unique content such as photographs, handwritten letters, slave manifests and pension applications, and spans the days of slavery to the Civil War and through Reconstruction. The new databases will make millions of important Civil War era records easily searchable alongside other records already available at, creating the largest online collection of Civil War documents, containing more than 12 million names.

Among the five new databases, The Abraham Lincoln Papers is an incredible collection of more than 20,000 documents – most from the 1850s through Lincoln’s presidential years – which include drafts of speeches and the Emancipation Proclamation, incoming and outgoing correspondence and notes, and printed material. The Abraham Lincoln Papers Collection will be searchable for free on  

“We’re very proud to be adding these amazing Civil War era historical materials to our already robust Civil War Collection,” said Gary Gibb, Vice President for U.S. Content for “As the 200th birthday of one of our nation’s greatest Presidents approaches, we thought it was the perfect time to add these databases to our site and to help individuals discover their family members who lived during a time of such dramatic change in America.”

The Civil War Collection is part of’s U.S. Military Collection, which includes more than 100 million names from the 1600s through Vietnam. The five new Civil War era databases now available on include:

  • Abraham Lincoln Papers (from the Library of Congress) – a collection of more than 20,000 letters written to and from President Lincoln, as well as drafts of speeches. The collection includes a letter from Mary Lincoln, Lincoln’s wife, who chides him for not responding promptly to her letters and requests a check for $100. Other documents include a draft of Lincoln’s speech from 1863 condemning slavery and a letter from May 11, 1863 written by Ellie B. Reno, niece of Brig. Gen. Jesse Reno – who had disguised herself as a male to fight in the Union Army – asking him, “…iff [sic] I can remain in your Service…” These letters can be searched for free on
  • New Orleans Slave Manifests, 1807-1860 – includes images of ship manifests transporting more than 30,000 slaves en route to New Orleans from the upper Southern states. It offers insights into the lives of these men and women, who were likely being moved to the lower Southern states to provide labor for the booming cotton industry. The manifests will be transcribed by a global community of family history enthusiasts through’s World Archives Project in the coming months.
  • Confederate Pension Applications from Georgia – more than 60,000 records documenting pension applications filed in Georgia from Confederate soldiers and their widows. As part of the application process, applicants answered a series of questions about themselves and signed the document, resulting in a wealth of personal information.
  • Confederate Applications for Presidential Pardons – a collection containing more than 15,000 records of former Confederate soldiers and government officials requesting Presidential pardons.
  • U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles – contains more than 4.2 million records and profiles about nearly every officer and soldier who fought in the Civil War. Many of the records include actual photographs of the individuals.

Over the next two years, will add millions more historical records from the Civil War period to its Web site, as the country approaches the sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary of that historic conflict. The five new Civil War databases are now available online as part of’s Civil War Collection. Continue reading

RootsTelevision Contest

RootsTelevision has announced the “In Search of Our Roots” Contest. Entering is super-easy. Just leave a comment on the Og Blog post here. The winner will receive an autographed copy of the just released, In Search of Our Roots, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The book retraces the steps taken in researching the family histories of Oprah Winfrey and Quincy Jones, as they were featured in the PBS Series African American Lives.

Weekly Planner: Preserve a Romantic Family Story

heart.bmpDid your spouse, father, or grandfather propose marriage in a romantic location or in a unique way? Is there a funny story of how grandpa finally won grandma’s heart? Or vice versa? How did you meet your sweetheart? These are the stories that typically can’t be found in records. Take a few moments to document them so that future generations will know the story too. Have a happy Valentine’s Day!

Finding Family in Religious Service, by Juliana Smith

Last weekend, I got a note from Sandra in Florida. She was looking for her grandfather’s cousin, who was a Catholic nun in the Pittsburgh area, but she didn’t have a lot of information to work with. Since I’ve had a little experience in tracing nuns (we have three in our family tree), I thought I’d give it a shot. But before I could dive into the search, I got an e-mail from a very happy Sandra who had found her grand-aunt in the 1910 census.

Many people have family members who served in religious communities. Learning something about their lives can greatly enrich family histories and lead to other important clues, but finding them in records can present a unique challenge. Questions like Sandra’s come in with surprising frequency, so today, I thought I’d share a few tips for locating individuals who served in religious communities.

Try Census Records
Finding clergy in the census can be a tricky business. A search of the 1930 U.S. census turned up nearly 800 people with the first name “Pastor.” Further searches turned up people with first names listed as Reverend, Rabbi, Father, Sister, and Mother. In many of these entries, no given name is listed, as in Rabbi Zien of Duluth, Minnesota, or Reverend Perry of Little Rock, Arkansas. In some cases the title is included as a middle name, as is the case with John Father Harnett of San Francisco, California.

Sandra found success in doing some creative searching for “Sister Rita” and the location of Pittsburgh. She eventually found her living with the Sisters of Divine Providence in Pittsburgh with Mother Therese listed as the “head of household.” Continue reading

More Census Search Tips

Mr in the census.bmpIn the previous article, we talked about finding clergy in the census by using titles in place of a given name. This can also be a solution for lay people. Search for Mr. or Mrs. and you’ll turn up plenty of hits. (Click on the image to see an example from the 1930 census for Boston, Massachusetts.) And the town doctor could be listed with Dr. as his first name. Dr. and Mrs. Cooneery of Chicago, Illinois, are a good example of this situation. Here are some more tips for census searching.

Search for Initials
Sometimes the census taker decided that listing an initial was enough. In searching for my Kelly ancestors in New York City, I was repeatedly frustrated in my attempts to locate one family—until I left out the given name. When I saw the results I noticed an abundance of initials in place of given names. Once I entered the appropriate initial, I found the family I was searching for—with every family member listed with only an initial.

Leave Out the Name
While it might seem a long shot, sometimes the best way to search is without a name. If you know where your ancestor lived, try leaving out the name entirely and use other facts you have to narrow your search. For example, I know my grandparents were living in Parma, Ohio, in 1930 and had been recently married. By entering my grandmother’s birth year, birthplace of Ohio, residence of Parma, Ohio, and relationship to head of household (wife), she comes up as the thirteenth record on the list of results for that search.

Search for Siblings
Try searching for various siblings. While your direct ancestor’s entry may be hard to read or transcribed incorrectly, the sibling’s entry may be correct. I was helping my uncle find his parents in 1930. The last name was mangled, so I entered his brother’s given name, specified the county, and added in the given names of his father and mother. Even though all three had common given names (Charles, Henry, and Mary) those names, relationships, and the county were enough to allow me to find them. Continue reading