Ancestry Blog http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm Thu, 18 Dec 2014 20:45:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.2 If Walls Could Talk: Your Home Might Be Hiding Historical Clueshttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/12/11/if-walls-could-talk-your-home-might-be-hiding-historical-clues/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/12/11/if-walls-could-talk-your-home-might-be-hiding-historical-clues/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 23:09:36 +0000 Ancestry Team http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=6511 Whether you live in a sprawling mansion, a quaint cottage or a modern split-level, your home is historic — it has a story to tell, no matter its age. The story of the people who owned the home or its land before you can be an interesting one to uncover. Upstairs, Downstairs. Before you delve… Read more

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Historical homes

The famous “Painted Ladies” homes in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of CasparGirl on Flickr.

Whether you live in a sprawling mansion, a quaint cottage or a modern split-level, your home is historic — it has a story to tell, no matter its age. The story of the people who owned the home or its land before you can be an interesting one to uncover.

Upstairs, Downstairs. Before you delve into documents, look around the house — the structure itself may yield more clues about its former inhabitants than you expect. Elaborate woodwork may point to an original owner who was a carpenter. A servant’s staircase could indicate that the family had live-in help, while a sink in the attic could mean they took in boarders. And a suspiciously missing panel of stained glass could point to a resident’s childhood baseball mishap.

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Yes In-Deed. Your property deed is the next step to finding out more about the history of your house. Use the most recent deed number to do a search at your local recorder of deeds office and page back through the decades, noting names of previous owners. This search can also give you an idea of when your home was built and whether there were additional outbuildings on the property. Today’s patio may have been yesterday’s garage, or the neighbor’s lot could once have been part of your property.

Expand the Family Tree. You can then use Ancestry.com to explore your list of previous property owners. Create a family tree for each owner, or simply browse available records. U.S. Census data can often tell you the profession, nationality, marital status, and number of children for prior occupants of your home. These records can also tell you whether the family had live-in household help and who the neighbors were.

Your Ancestry.com search can lead you to military draft cards, ship passenger lists and immigration records. This information will help you construct a more vivid picture of the individuals who once walked your halls, climbed your stairs and cooked in your kitchen.

Go Local. Armed with this information, you can then use local resources, such as newspaper archives, city directories and image repositories, to further investigate your former occupants.

You may very well end up with a veritable orchard of family trees, all originating in your humble abode.

—Melanie Linn Gutowski

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Fox 13 Tampa’s John Wilson Finds a Grandfather on Both Sides of the Civil Warhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/12/11/fox-13-tampas-john-wilson-finds-a-grandfather-on-both-sides-of-the-civil-war/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/12/11/fox-13-tampas-john-wilson-finds-a-grandfather-on-both-sides-of-the-civil-war/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 17:12:19 +0000 Paul Rawlins http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=6444 John Wilson of Fox 13 News, Tampa, knew next to nothing about his great-grandfather Alfred Wilson. Even his 96-year-old aunt, Opal Mullins, knew only that Alfred had served in the Civil War. So neither was prepared for the shock when Ancestry.com genealogy experts uncovered exactly what Albert was up to during this turbulent period of… Read more

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John Wilson at Fox 13John Wilson of Fox 13 News, Tampa, knew next to nothing about his great-grandfather Alfred Wilson. Even his 96-year-old aunt, Opal Mullins, knew only that Alfred had served in the Civil War. So neither was prepared for the shock when Ancestry.com genealogy experts uncovered exactly what Albert was up to during this turbulent period of American history.

John learned that Alfred Wilson lived in North Carolina and enlisted in the 33rd North Carolina Confederate Regiment, but after only four months, he was hospitalized in Winder Hospital for over a year—which could have been a death sentence, considering the typical conditions in hospitals at the time.

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But what happened to Alfred once he left the hospital was the most shocking discovery of all. Rather than returning to his regiment, Alfred went AWOL. He deserted, but he didn’t return home. He travelled to Knoxville, Tennessee, re-enlist, but this time to fight for the Union Army. Alfred Wilson was a turncoat.

“Now I know why [my family] didn’t talk about him,” remarked a stunned John Wilson as he absorbed the news.

While fighting for the Union army, Alfred took a bullet in his shoulder that doctors were unable to remove in surgery. Until the end of the war, Alfred guarded Union supply lines. After the war ended, Alfred married Nancy, a woman twenty years his junior. Surprisingly enough, Nancy’s father and brothers had all fought for the Confederates.

But there was one more surprise waiting for John Wilson. It turned out that Alfred, the man nobody seemed to know, had been buried only a mile away from the Wilson family home, in a grave lost under weeds and overgrowth.

These insights into Alfred’s life have opened the floodgates of previously inaccessible family information. The Wilsons have discovered long lost cousins and have connected with other Ancestry.com users to help fill in the other gaps in their family tree.

For the Wilson family, finding Alfred wasn’t the end of a journey. Alfred was only the beginning.

Follow John’s journey, or start your own on Ancestry.

—Connie Ray

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Popular Toys in History: What Your Ancestors Played Withhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/12/10/popular-toys-in-history-what-your-ancestors-played-with/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/12/10/popular-toys-in-history-what-your-ancestors-played-with/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 03:48:52 +0000 Ancestry Team http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=6496 Toys haven’t always been a part of childhood. It was only during the Victorian era that families began viewing play time as central to a child’s development. Paired with industrialization, that meant the invention of many new and exciting toys, with some more enduringly popular than others. The Sears-Roebuck catalogs archived on Ancestry.com offer a… Read more

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popular toys in history

A tea party circa 1913. (Courtesy of William Creswell)

Toys haven’t always been a part of childhood. It was only during the Victorian era that families began viewing play time as central to a child’s development. Paired with industrialization, that meant the invention of many new and exciting toys, with some more enduringly popular than others. The Sears-Roebuck catalogs archived on Ancestry.com offer a glimpse at what kept your grandparents and great-grandparents entertained.

1860s: War Toys

Toy drums

A Sears-Roebuck Catalog from 1901.

The Civil War excited the imagination of children across the country, which the nascent toy industry exploited. Manufacturers marketed colorful Zouave regiment uniforms, dolls, and toy muskets. Hearing stories of young drummer boys leading troops into battle, kids clamored for toy drums and bugles. The instruments stayed popular well into the 20th century.

1870s: Zoetrope Reel

Zoetrope Reel

An 1899 image of a zoetrope reel. (Courtesy of Internet Archive Book Images)

If your family had this optical toy in the nursery, you were a very popular kid. Patented by Milton Bradley in 1867, the machine created the illusion of movement by spinning still drawings inside a drum. The zoetrope was the first hint that children would one day become addicted to animation.

1880s: Magic Lantern

A catalog listing from 1905.

Though they had been around for many years, magic lanterns really caught on as a Victorian parlor amusement in the 1880s. Hand-painted slides in wood frames slipped into a machine and could be projected onto a blank wall. Toward the end of the 19th century, manufacturers began marketing the lanterns to children. Slide shows could be entertaining or educational, as a tool to teach geography and history. Children also liked giving presentations themselves.

1890s: Dolls

1900 catalog.

Sears-Roebuck catalogs at the turn of the century are filled with dolls, doll costumes, tiny furniture, plush strollers — even doll hammocks. According to an 1895 article in the New York Times, dolls were the staple of the toy trade, with consumers spending $2 million on them annually! (That’s about $55 million today.) They were primarily made in Germany and sold at low cost by street vendors. The article notes that girls preferred blond dolls to brunettes and liked them in fancy clothes.

1900s: Teddy Bears

1907 catalog.

In 1902, President Teddy Roosevelt went hunting, wanting to see a bear. But when his friends caught one and tied it up, Roosevelt declined to shoot it, believing it unsportsmanlike. The bear was later killed anyway, but word of his merciful gesture got out and was made into a cartoon that showed Roosevelt with the bear. After hearing the story, two immigrants in Brooklyn made a stuffed bear and displayed it in their store window. Suddenly, everyone wanted one and a craze began. The Sears-Roebuck catalogs of the time hawked many varieties of teddy bears, including ones of imported plush that made a noise when squeezed. “These bears are the most sensible and serviceable toys ever put before the public,” read a 1907 catalog. “Not a fad or campaign article, but something which has come to stay on merit alone.”

1910s: Electric Trains

1911 catalog.

American manufacturers began incorporating electricity into toys at the beginning of the 20th century. This fueled the country’s growing toy industry, which was also aided by the decline of German industries during World War I. Classic German trains were run by winding up a box. New American sets had a third rail, battery, and a switch. As the Sears-Roebuck catalog put it, that equaled “more fun to the dollar than any mechanical toy ever sold.”

1920s: Chemistry Sets

1920 catalog.

With an increasing emphasis on child development, educational toys grew popular in the 1920s. The A.C. Gilbert Company was a pioneer in the field, introducing its chemistry set in 1923. Containing alcohol, chemicals, copper plates, and glassware, the kits were intended to — literally — spark boys’ interest in a chemistry career. There were instructions for magic tricks and, OK, some toxins like sodium cyanide. Sure, there was a risk of explosions, but that was part of the fun.

1930s: Buck Rogers Rocket Pistol

1934 catalog.

Introduced in 1934, the Buck Rogers pistol was the first ray gun ever made. It was modeled on the one carried by a popular radio and comic book character Buck Rogers, a World War I vet who is exposed to radioactive gas and spends 500 years in suspended animation. He wakes as a superhero with a futuristic weapon. Making a pleasing zapping sound, the gun came out in several versions over the decades and was often sold alongside other Buck paraphernalia, like an outfit, helmet, or holster.

1940s: Slinky

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The famous Slinky. (Courtesy of Roger McLassus)

Richard James invented the Slinky by accident in 1943. A mechanical engineer, James knocked a new sensitive spring from a shelf and noticed that it seemed to walk instead of fall. It became a hit two Christmases later when he demonstrated it in a Philadelphia department store. Millions of Slinkys later, it’s still a popular toy.

—Rebecca Dalzell

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The House on Mulberry Street and Clues to Irish Rootshttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/12/02/the-house-on-mulberry-street-and-clues-to-irish-roots/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/12/02/the-house-on-mulberry-street-and-clues-to-irish-roots/#comments Tue, 02 Dec 2014 17:41:25 +0000 wexon http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=6419 I’ve located my maternal great-grandparents, John and Margaret Ellen (Cunningham) Haffey in Wayne County, Ohio in the 1880 census. I’m trying to locate their births in Ireland. I have their death records, but they didn’t list a specific Irish birthplace. I have found a record in the New York Emigrant Savings Bank for a John… Read more

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I’ve located my maternal great-grandparents, John and Margaret Ellen (Cunningham) Haffey in Wayne County, Ohio in the 1880 census. I’m trying to locate their births in Ireland. I have their death records, but they didn’t list a specific Irish birthplace. I have found a record in the New York Emigrant Savings Bank for a John Haffey and James Cunningham; either could access the account. ~ Sandra H.

___________

Dear Sandra,

We’ve found that one of the strongest motivations for a person’s desire to reconstruct their family’s tree is the desire to discover where their ancestors once lived, especially before they migrated to the United States, whether that be in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, or Asia. Finding the names of our ancestors, of course, is the necessary first step; but then finding where those ancestors hailed from can be just as exciting.

Why? Because there’s something deeply reassuring about being able to point to a map and say, “This is where my people came from.” Geography “roots” or centers us in the world, just as surely as identifying the names of “our people” does. But finding where our ancestors once lived can be quite a challenge, even when we know their names and birth or death dates. And this is especially difficult with our Irish ancestors. We both have some personal experience with this since we both are descended from Irish ancestors.

Discovering an ancestor’s elusive Irish birthplace really is a big deal for genealogists. On what we might think of as “the scale of genealogical difficulty,” tracing Irish roots is right there near the top of the list. The search can be extraordinarily challenging, but the payoff can be so very exhilarating! One key to solving this mystery is keeping people you are searching for in context. What does that mean? Well, who were your ancestor’s neighbors, and who–according to records–did they keep associating with? Whose names keep popping up near theirs? Taking account of the names of your ancestor’s neighbors and friends can yield amazing results.

In 1880, John, Margaret, and their family were living in Pike Station, Wayne County, Ohio. The census shows that their daughter, Ella, was born in Ireland around 1860 and their son, Edward, was born in Ireland around 1862. Daughter Maggie was born in New York around 1866, and children William, Mary A., John Jr., and Catherine were all born in Ohio. Keeping the whole family in mind will be important as we move through the family’s paper trail.

Emigrant Savings Bank

The Emigrant Savings Bank was founded in 1850 by the Irish Emigrant Society and became a safe place for Irish immigrants to save their money. They invented an ingenious system of using biographical information to tell the difference between people with the same names, such as the various James Cunninghams or John Haffeys, who kept accounts at the bank. (We would cringe because of privacy issues if anyone did this today, but it sure makes it handy for researching Irish ancestors!)

You were definitely on the right track exploring the records of the Emigrant Savings Bank, which can be a gold mine of data for tracing Irish ancestry. And in your case, we are pleased to say, you’ve struck gold! It turns out that the bank had four accounts that stood out for John Haffey, each of which offered us more clues about your family’s origins.

In 1862, a man named James Cunningham, “for John Haffey,” opened account number 32881. The bank’s record for this account says that John was born in 1828 in County Donegal and was married to Margaret Cunningham, with two children Ella and Edward. (We should note that this birth year is off from the one recorded in the 1880 census, but it is consistent with that listed in the 1870 census. This often happens, so no worries about that!) Having John’s wife’s name and the name of their two children gives us confidence that this is the correct John Haffey; account 32881 was definitely opened by the John Haffey we’re looking for.

What else can we learn from this bank record? Well, the person named James Cunningham, who opened the account on behalf of John Haffey, was living at 233 Mulberry Street. This turns out to be a key piece of information. (Mulberry Street is located in the section of Manhattan known as “Little Italy” today.)

Back in 1855, James Cunningham of 233 Mulberry Street had opened account number 8691 “in trust for John Haffey.” Incredibly, this record is a treasure trove of information about John! It states that John was from Minnarock [sic], in the parish of Killaghtee, County Donegal; he arrived in the United States in September 1852 on a ship named [either?] “George Green” or “James Nesbith” from Liverpool; his father, Ned Haffey, is dead; his mother, Ellen Carr, is living in Ireland; and he’s single.

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A detail from the Emigrant Savings Bank Test Books at Ancestry.com showing biographical information about John Haffey.

James Cunningham of 233 Mulberry Street also opened account 10040 in 1855; it is noted that it is the same as account 8691. In 1857, John Haffey and P. Cunningham of 233 Mulberry Street opened account 15009; it, too, is the same as account 8691. So now we know that accounts 8691, 10040, and 15009 all pertain to the same people.

(Unfortunately, the record for account 32881 (the one where we’re sure it’s our John) doesn’t state that it is the same as account 8691 (the one where we learn John’s hometown and parents.) There’s just an incomplete note “Is same as.” (Would it have killed them to list the account number?!) But the fact that James Cunningham and/or John Haffey was living at 233 Mulberry Street in these four accounts is a strong indication that we are talking about the same people.)

Other Places to Explore

Okay, now that you have this information, where do you search next? It’s tempting to explore church records in “Minnarock” (probably Meenabrock) and grab onto any mention of John Haffey. You’ll definitely want to explore those records, but you should get a fuller idea of your John Haffey’s identify first, so you’ll know if you have found the information about the right person. Remember, just because a name is the same doesn’t necessarily mean that the person whose records you’re examining is the person you are searching for!

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There are several other places that should be checked before crossing the pond to Ireland. Who are the Haffeys and Cunninghams living in the area around 233 Mulberry Street? City directories would give this information. Ancestry has severalNew York city directories for this time period. Search by surname, but also do a keyword search for “Mulberry,” to find people living on Mulberry Street to recreate the neighborhood. You will want to do this for the 1850s through the late 1860s, when John and Margaret moved to Ohio.

You should also keep an eye out for the other passengers who arrived in this country on the same ship with John. We didn’t find him in 1852, but we did find him in 1854 on the “James Nesmith” (not Nesbitt, as listed in the bank record), with an approximate birth year of 1829 (consistent with the bank record and the 1870 census).

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Detail of the passenger list of the James Nesbit, arriving in New York 28 August 1854, showing John Haffy, age 25, a laborer from Ireland.

 

It’s a good idea to focus on the areas where you know your ancestors were living, but also where they died. In this case, we know John and Margaret ended up in Ohio. According to Find A Grave, John, Margaret, and their daughter Catherine (Kathryn) are buried in St. Vincents Catholic Cemetery in Akron, Summit County, Ohio. The cemetery records could hold clues about John and Margaret’s origins. Further, you should explore the records of St. Vincent Catholic Church. You should search for your ancestor’s obituaries, both in “regular” newspapers and religious newspapers.

Baptismal records can be another source of useful information. People usually name relatives or close friends as their childrens’ godparents. The baptism records for John and Margaret’s children could hold clues. St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Wooster as well as St. Vincent in Akron would be good places to start looking.

It might come as a surprise to us today, but people “back in the day” typically didn’t move all by themselves. Neighbors often turn out to be related. Who are the Irish neighbors around John and Margaret in 1870 and 1880? Who else lived on Mulberry Street in New York when John lived there?

Learning as much as you can about John and Margaret in Ohio and New York will help you to establish a better context for them when looking at possible records back in Ireland. Whether you’re looking at records in Meenabrock or elsewhere in County Donegal, you will want to keep in mind the other people who you’ve identified as being associated with John and Margaret in the United States. Good luck!

Do you have a mystery in your own family tree? Or have you wondered what family history discoveries you could make with a DNA test? Send Henry Louis Gates, Jr and his team of Ancestry experts your question at ask@ancestry.com.

Henry GatesBy Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University

Anne Gillespie Mitchell By Anne Gillespie Mitchell
Genealogist and senior product manager at Ancestry.com


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Cate Blanchett, Johnny Depp, and Carey Mulligan: What These Stars’ Surnames Really Meanhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/12/02/cate-blanchett-johnny-depp-and-carey-mulligan-what-these-stars-surnames-really-mean/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/12/02/cate-blanchett-johnny-depp-and-carey-mulligan-what-these-stars-surnames-really-mean/#comments Tue, 02 Dec 2014 17:15:27 +0000 Paul Rawlins http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=6393 Sometimes a name just sticks. I have a 93-year-old friend named Scoop. His parents didn’t actually name him Scoop. In fact, I don’t know what they named him because everybody calls him Scoop. I thought he might have been a newspaper man back in the day, but the real story is he used to slide… Read more

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Sometimes a name just sticks.

I have a 93-year-old friend named Scoop. His parents didn’t actually name him Scoop. In fact, I don’t know what they named him because everybody calls him Scoop. I thought he might have been a newspaper man back in the day, but the real story is he used to slide around on the snow in a big scoop shovel when he was a little kid. So he’s been Scoop for a long, long time.

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He certainly could have done worse—a man everybody called “Muck” comes to mind—but the fact is, some of today’s big stars are lugging around nicknames that have been in the family for generations. In fact, they’re old as the family name itself.

Surnames are a fairly recent invention that came about as populations grew and people needed more than just a first name to tell one John or William or Mary from another. Most European surnames come from just a few sources: patronymics based on the father’s name, an occupation, a reference to where a person lived, or, in some cases, some stand-out trait or characteristic a person had. They were small (Little) or had a ruddy complexion hair (Redd) or maybe a prominent nose (Hawk).

Some of today’s stars got their family names this way. You can decide if the name still fits.

Cate Blanchett’s last name is a derivative of blanc, meaning white. It could have once referred to a fair-haired or fair-skinned child, or, according to some sources, perhaps one of Scandinavian stock. (And in the age of the Vikings, that wasn’t always a compliment.) But it seems pretty fitting for Lady Galadriel.

Russell Crowe’s last name is a variant spelling of the word crow, which, of course refers to a noisy, intelligent, black bird, though it’s anybody’s guess how the oldest Crowe came by the nickname. (Maybe he was a member of the Night’s Watch?)

Johnny Depp has joked that his surname means “idiot” in German. It could be translated as “fool” or “dolt” or “twit” as well.  But it also has a history of being a nickname for a joker or comedian. Or how about Natalie “Sleepyhead” Dormer? Dormer comes from the French dormeur, which means “sleeper” and might have been attached to a heavy sleeper or maybe a lazy sluggard.

Maybe Matt Damon wasn’t such as reach for the role of Jason Bourne, when you consider his last name comes from the Greek daman, which means “to kill.” Jack Gleeson’s name, on the other hand, comes from the Gaelic glas, meaning “green,” in the sense of inexperienced, which may fit his character on Game of Thrones, the cruel and juvenile King Joffrey, but Gleeson’s already an old hand on the screen (he’s been acting since age 8).

While Carey Mulligan has made a name for herself—and news—with her cropped hairstyles, she hasn’t gone as far as her original namesake yet: her last name traces its roots back to the Gaelic maol, meaning “bald” or “tonsured.” Chris Pratt, on the other hand, probably descends from someone known as a trickster or for his cunning—maybe even a magician. Or maybe he’s one himself: he transformed himself from Parks and Rec’s loveable and dumpy Andy Dwyer into Star Lord and intergalactic stud Peter Quill for Guardians of the Galaxy. That’s not a bad trick at all.

Want to find out what your own surname means? Try the surname widget at Ancestry—it’s free.

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Go West, Young Man — No, Go South: Great American Migrationshttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/11/20/go-west-young-man-no-go-south-great-american-migrations/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/11/20/go-west-young-man-no-go-south-great-american-migrations/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 22:23:53 +0000 Ancestry Team http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=6401 As a country founded by immigrants, the desire to seek out new lands of opportunity is a quintessentially American trait. It’s no surprise, then, that expanding into 50 states required not only immigrants from other countries but also migration on the part of the nation’s citizens. Understanding when, how, and why people migrated from one… Read more

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Great American migrations

[Photo credit: Shutterstock]

As a country founded by immigrants, the desire to seek out new lands of opportunity is a quintessentially American trait. It’s no surprise, then, that expanding into 50 states required not only immigrants from other countries but also migration on the part of the nation’s citizens.

Understanding when, how, and why people migrated from one region to another can be key to unlocking the mysteries of your family tree on Ancestry.com.

Opportunity Knocks

The best-known American migrations are economic ones, all about seizing opportunity. During the 19th century, the rise of industry prompted a general migration from rural to urban areas, though even the untamed West had its appeal. The California gold rush of 1849 drew thousands of prospectors and businesspeople to the Pacific at a time before cross-country railroad travel was possible.

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Laws such as the Homestead Act of 1862 served as incentives for Northeasterners to venture west into the wilderness and claim land at no cost. Laura Ingalls Wilder is perhaps the best known participant in this migration, which she chronicled in her Little House series of books. Later, the Oregon Trail, beginning in Independence, MO, drew migrants even further west with the promise of economic opportunity.

Also in the 1860s, the “Great Migration” was taking place. After the Civil War, millions of free blacks traveled north to take jobs in the booming industries there, especially in the Factory Belt stretching from Chicago to Philadelphia.

Seeking Survival

Times of prosperity aren’t permanent, and recessions and depressions have also been responsible for migrations. The 1930s Dust Bowl on the Great Plains spurred thousands of migrants to seek work in California, a journey chronicled by John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath.

Similarly, the decline of the domestic steel industry and its companion, American manufacturing, caused a sharp migration out of Rust Belt states such as Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Michigan from the late 1970s through the 1990s.

Leaving a Way of Life

Unfortunately, not all migrations were voluntary. Native Americans are perhaps the most prominent group affected by forced migrations, such as those that followed the passing of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This law saw members of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole, and other tribes move from their homes in the country’s Southeastern territories into land west of the Mississippi River. This migration was dubbed the Trail of Tears for the number of casualties sustained by members of the nations affected.

Seeking Freedom

Some migrants, like the pilgrims of the Mayflower, sought religious freedom. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as Mormons, experienced persecution in their original home, upstate New York. Joseph Smith, the religion’s founder, moved his group to Ohio, Missouri, and then Illinois over the course of about 15 years. Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, led the Mormon community to Utah in 1847, where they were able to establish the permanent religious home that exists today.

Today’s Migrations

After World War II, the exponential growth of the birthrate fueled the expansion of suburban areas and a gradual movement away from the urban areas that had once been so enticing. We can actively witness the reversal of that migration, as the recent recession has driven more of the population into walkable cities and towns.

While young people continue to flock to major metropolitan areas such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, “hipster” migrations to smaller cities such as Portland, Oregon, and Austin, Texas, are fueling a new kind of growth. And as the Baby Boomers who fueled the expansion of the suburbs two generations ago are now retiring, all roads seem to lead south to the sun and sand.

Examining Ancestry.com records may lead you to patterns in your own family’s migrations that echo those of the larger population. Your family tree may have branches all over the country, and some of these migration stories could tell you why.

—Melanie Linn Gutowski

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You Look Marvelous: Sears & Roebuck and the High Cost of (Historical) Beautyhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/11/20/you-look-marvelous-sears-roebuck-and-the-high-cost-of-historical-beauty/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/11/20/you-look-marvelous-sears-roebuck-and-the-high-cost-of-historical-beauty/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 22:01:12 +0000 Ancestry Team http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=6400 One hundred years from now, will our great-great-grandchildren be laughing at our wrinkle creams, hair dryers, and Botox? Probably. But that’s not going to stop us from enjoying a laugh or two at the expense of our own ancestors’ attempts to achieve their contemporary standards of beauty. Ancestry has a collection of Sears and Roebuck… Read more

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One hundred years from now, will our great-great-grandchildren be laughing at our wrinkle creams, hair dryers, and Botox? Probably. But that’s not going to stop us from enjoying a laugh or two at the expense of our own ancestors’ attempts to achieve their contemporary standards of beauty.

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Ancestry has a collection of Sears and Roebuck catalogs from 1896 to 1993 that show us how much our ideas of how to attain “perfect” skin, hair, and body have changed. From the ridiculous to the dangerous, the hopeful to the silly, here are some of our favorite health and beauty products offered through the decades:

Maison Rivieres’ Ninou del Enclos, from Spring 1896

This “world-famed” cream will “remove all traces of freckles,” which, the catalog assumes you agree, are “excessively disfiguring and annoying — more so because they invariably take possession of the otherwise prettiest complexions.” This was the first large catalog, and though it lacked exciting pictures and illustrations, it does have a great testimonial about Maison Rivieres products from a Doctor Erasmus Wilson, who assures customers that their preparations are “absolutely harmless.”

Dr. Rose’s Arsenous Complexion Tabules, from Spring 1906

“Perfectly harmless” says the listing for these little pills, which, yes, supposedly contained arsenic to help attain “a clear, dainty, transparent and altogether beautiful complexion.” Yep, women liked being pale so much, they were willing to poison themselves for it!

Magic Flesh Builder and Cupper, Spring 1906

Now that you’re dying from arsenic poisoning, you need to liven up your flesh a little with this suction cup thingy! The picture gives us no indication of how big this “entirely new and scientific invention” is or how exactly to apply it to the face and body for a “plump” and wrinkle-free figure.

Princess Hair Tonic, Fall 1914

Hair tonic was a pretty standard offering through the years, but we really wanted to celebrate this ad’s excessive honesty: “When the hair is dead nothing on earth can bring it back to life; we therefore make no impossible claims, but we do say that, in the opinion of our chemists, Princess Hair Tonic is one of the best hair tonics manufactured.” Well, if your own chemists say so…

Chin Strap and Head Band, Fall 1936

We hope you’re only supposed to wear this remedy for sagging chins at night. And what a relief — it can be laundered!

Miss Lorraine de Barker … at Your Service, Fall 1936

Sears must have realized they were offering so many miracles, their customers needed some help choosing what to buy, so they offered up the services of the Sears Beauty Advisor. Just mail her a description of your skin tone and coloring, and she’d write you back with personalized words of wisdom for free.

“Dark Eyes” Eyelash and Eyebrow Darkener, Spring 1946

Keep your eyelashes and brows “bewitchingly” dark by dying them at home. We have not yet confirmed if there was an increased incidence of temporary blindness in 1946.

Cold Wave Permanents, Spring 1946

Many of us who lived through the ’80s and ’90s will attest that this was a terrible, terrible invention that we hope future generations to not fall prey to. Also bad: The idea that perms are “Great for little girls too!”

Esoterica, Fall 1955

Nothing new to the cream here — it’s about “breaking up masses of pigment” for clear, paler skin — but the name is just…unparalleled.

Hipswing, Spring 1969

With the 1970s just around the corner, housewives could get a bit of swinging action with this little exercise device made of “high-impact plastic” on ball bearings to work out “waist, buttocks, hips and legs in minutes.” Far out?

Portable, Plug-in Steam Bath, Spring 1977

Does this one look like a coffin to anyone else? Or the beginning of an awful CSI episode? The good news is, there’s no plumbing required. Just add water, plug in, and cook yourself. All in the name of beauty!

Have you ever found products like these hidden in your grandmother’s attic? Check out all these products, Grandma, and more with a free trial on Ancestry.

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10 Rare English Surnames About to Go Extincthttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/11/05/10-rare-english-surnames-about-to-go-extinct/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/11/05/10-rare-english-surnames-about-to-go-extinct/#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2014 22:58:57 +0000 Ancestry Team http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=6363 Did you know that surnames can go extinct just like species do? Think about it: do you know anyone these days named Chaucer? One historical reason for surnames becoming extinct was World War I. Often, men who were friends and neighbors served together; when there were mass casualties, a village or town might lose a… Read more

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10 rare english surnames

[Photo credit: Shutterstock]

Did you know that surnames can go extinct just like species do? Think about it: do you know anyone these days named Chaucer?

One historical reason for surnames becoming extinct was World War I. Often, men who were friends and neighbors served together; when there were mass casualties, a village or town might lose a whole generation of their men. Because names at that time were often specific to an area, a name could be almost completely eliminated.

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There are less drastic reasons for a surname’s disappearance as well. Sometimes, a name is changed over time, or a male line may simply die out.

Since 1901, about 200,000 names have disappeared altogether from England and Wales, according to a study conducted by Ancestry.co.uk.

These include

  • Chips
  • Hatman
  • Temples
  • Raynott
  • Woodbead
  • Nithercott
  • Rummage
  • Southwark
  • Harred
  • Jarsdel

Hundreds of other English surnames are “endangered” — so rare that fewer than 50 people in England and Wales have them — and many more may be extinct within a couple more generations. These include

  1. Pober
  2. Mirren
  3. Febland
  4. Nighy
  5. Grader
  6. Bonneville
  7. Gruger
  8. Carla
  9. Fernard
  10. Portendorfer

Actress Helen Mirren, whose name is on that list, was born with the last name Mironoff, which her Russian father Anglicized to Mirren. Actors Hugh Bonneville and Bill Nighy also have endangered surnames.

Names that are dying out the fastest these days, as compared to the 1901 UK census, include the surname William, which in 1901 was the 374th-most common surname. In that year, one in every 1,000 people had the surname William; now, not 1 in 50,000 people in the UK does, a 97 percent decreased in prevalence. Other names dying out in the UK include:

  • Cohen (-42%)
  • Ashworth (-39%)
  • Sutcliffe (-36%)
  • Clegg (-34%)
  • Butterworth (-34%)
  • Crowther (-34%)
  • Kershaw (-34%)
  • Brook (-34%)
  • Greenwood (-32%)
  • Haigh (-31%)
  • Pratt (-31%)
  • Nuttal (-30%)
  • Ingham (-30%)
  • Ogden (-30%)

More people researching their roots today has led to an interest in preserving rare surnames, and as a result, more people are using hyphenated surnames in England. In 1901, “double-barreled names” were used only by the upper class, and just 1 in 50,000 people had one. Today, 1 in 50 people has a hyphenated surname, and almost half of them say it’s to preserve a family surname.

—Leslie Lang

Get the story behind your surname at Ancestry. Start a free trial today.

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Johnson: A History of the Popular American Surnamehttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/11/05/johnson-a-history-of-the-popular-american-surname/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/11/05/johnson-a-history-of-the-popular-american-surname/#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2014 19:54:19 +0000 Ancestry Team http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=6362 The English surname Johnson is a patronymic, meaning the name was originally derived from a father’s name. When people started adopting last names, the first Johnson was the son of a man named John. What’s thought to be the earliest recorded use of Johnson as a surname — spelled Jonessone — was in England in… Read more

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Johnson

[Photo credit: Library of Congress]

The English surname Johnson is a patronymic, meaning the name was originally derived from a father’s name. When people started adopting last names, the first Johnson was the son of a man named John. What’s thought to be the earliest recorded use of Johnson as a surname — spelled Jonessone — was in England in 1287. The given name John itself derives from the Latin name Johannes, meaning “Jehovah has favored.”

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Johnson is a common surname, the second-most popular on both the 1999 and 2000 U.S. censuses. In 2000, there were 1,857,160 Johnsons in the U.S., behind only the Smiths (2.3 million). In the UK, it’s the 10th-most common name.

In the 1840s, more American families with the name Johnson were concentrated in New York and Ohio than anywhere else in the country. Some lived elsewhere in the east, with a few in the Midwest. By the 1920s, the most Johnson families, per the census, were in New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, and Texas.

Data from the 1891 England and Wales census shows most Johnson families in the north, in Yorkshire and Lancashire. In Scotland, the Johnsons were particularly prominent in the Shetland Islands — this was the case in the censuses of 1841, 1861, 1881, and 1901.

Ancestry.com has millions of birth, immigration, census, voter, military, and other historical documents for folks named Johnson.Visit and we’ll help you narrow down your Johnson ancestry search.

—Leslie Lang

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Finding Your Roots on PBShttp://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/10/30/finding-your-roots-on-pbs/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/2014/10/30/finding-your-roots-on-pbs/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 20:45:52 +0000 wexon http://blogs.ancestry.com/cm/?p=6335 Have you seen the PBS show, Finding Your Roots? If you haven’t then you are missing out on how Henry Louis Gates Jr. takes each celebrity on a journey in discovering the stories of those who came before them and the connection they have to them today. You will see how traditional research and DNA… Read more

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skip gates

Have you seen the PBS show, Finding Your Roots? If you haven’t then you are missing out on how Henry Louis Gates Jr. takes each celebrity on a journey in discovering the stories of those who came before them and the connection they have to them today. You will see how traditional research and DNA can be used to help unlock the mysteries of their past and change their perspective on the future. It’s not too late to get caught up. See which celebrity is in each episode and watch all of them here.

 

Episode 1

In Search of My Father: Stephen King, Gloria Reuben, Courtney Vance

Episode 2

Born Champions: Derek Jeter, Billie Jean King, Rebecca Lobo

 Episode 3

American Storytellers: Ken Burns, Anderson Cooper, Anna Deavere Smith

Episode 4

Roots of Freedom: Ben Affleck, Khandi Alexander, Ben Jealous

Episode 5

The Melting Pot: Tom Colicchio, Aaron Sanchez, Ming Tsai

Episode 6

We Come From People: Angela Bassett, Valerie Jarrett, Nas

Episode 7

Our People, Our Traditions: Carole King, Tony Kushner, Alan Dershowitz

One of my favorites to watch was, ‘Roots of Freedom’.  Watching Ben Jealous discover how his 3rd great grandfather did a very brave thing to protect his family brought tears to his eyes photo 2as he realizes the impact that had on their story. Khandi discoveries truly where her roots come from and Ben Affleck finds out that he has an ancestor that fought in the Revolutionary War and is related to his friend Matt Damon. It was powerful to watch the connection that each one of them had with the stories that were shared. At the end of the episode, because each guest took a DNA test the results were revealed to show where in the world their ancestors came from. Every episode is interesting to watch as we see the guests learn more about themselves by going back into their family history and discovering the people and places that came before them.

Catch the last three episodes on PBS, Tuesday evenings. Watch how the story unfolds for each celebrity in discovering something new about their past.

Click here to get your DNA test before the DNA special episode 10 airing on Nov 25th, ‘Decoding Our Past Through DNA’.

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