Weekly Planner: Preserve Your Family’s Patriotic Memories

Szucs girls at 4 July Parade 1971_edited-1.bmpOn 3 July, John Adams penned these words to his wife, Abigail:

“The Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha in the history of America…I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary festival…. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews [sic], Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other, from this Time forward forever more.”

He refers to 2 July as the day when a resolution by Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia, was passed; work to finalize the Declaration of Independence was underway. He was off by a couple days on the “Pomp and Parade” thing, as we now celebrate the signing of the final version of the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July. But throughout the years, Americans have gathered to celebrate this historic event with family, friends, and community. Do you have a Fourth of July tradition? What are your memories of the holiday from your childhood? Perhaps you even have photographs of yourself and/or family members that you could chronicle. Take some time to record your family’s patriotism, traditions, your memories, and your thoughts on the holiday.

For more history of the holiday, see the following article from Forbes.com:
The American Dream: The History of the Fourth of July, by Mark Lewis

(Photo: Juliana and her sisters at a 4th of July parade—many, many moons ago!)

Using Ancestry: U.S. Indian Census Schedules, 1885-1940, by Paula Stuart Warren, CG

Indian Census-Mescalero April 1930.bmpSince 1790, federal census enumerators came around to count the population only every ten years. If you have Indian ancestry, and if your family stayed connected to a tribe that was under U.S. government supervision, there may be more census records to check for your family. Indians were not always listed on regular federal censuses, even when the instructions said otherwise.

Contrast that to the annual (well, almost annual) censuses of Indians with a connection to a specific Department of Indian Affairs (DIA) jurisdiction. (Today the DIA is known as the BIA, Bureau of Indian Affairs.) These jurisdictions may have been a reservation, clan, band, rancheria, school, agency, hospital, or other entity, and at times, these designations were used interchangeably. Indian censuses as found on National Archives and Records Administration microfilm publication M595 (692 rolls!) spanning 1885-1940 were posted at Ancestry on June 25th and offer wonderful pictures of Indian families.

What These Census Records May Tell You
The Indian censuses can tell you Indian name, English name, age, gender, relationships, residence, tribe, blood degree, birth date, death date, maiden name, parents’ names, and allotment or annuity ID numbers. As with all things governmental, the number of columns to be filled in changed over time and generally additional information was required each year. Starting Indian census research with the 1930s and 1940s enumerations will give more complete information on the individuals and families. (Several years in the 1930s only have supplemental censuses–just a listing of births and deaths since the last full census, or of persons missed in the previous census.) Continue reading

Freedom Took a Long Time, by George G. Morgan

George Washington Crossing the Delaware (image from the Library of Congress Historic Photo Collection at Ancestry.com)Independence Day is a grand occasion for United States citizens. Each July 4th, we commemorate the patriotism of men and women who fought and struggled under often impossible situations for freedom from oppressive English rule. However, July 4th is merely one day in the long history of the flight for our independence. That date in history marks the signature of the Declaration of Independence.

Genealogists who have studied United States history know that July 4th is neither the beginning nor the end of the American Revolutionary War. It was, of course, an important milestone in communications between the colonists and King George III. However, it also served as a statement of the colonists’ final frustration with a long series of unfair governmental restrictions, taxation, punitive treatment, and military attacks.

It is important to recognize that freedom did not come easily, nor did it come quickly. In fact, there was a period of thirteen years between the first military engagements at Lexington and Concord (on 19 April 1775) and the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788. The war itself lasted until the Treaty of Paris was signed on 3 September 1783, in which Britain accepted the independence of the thirteen colonies but retained the West Indies and the Canadian colonies. (You can view an image of the original treaty at the National Archives website.) Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: One Man’s Highway… from Michael John Neill

You can read the language and know the meaning of every word, but do you really understand the question or the concept? Sometimes misinterpreting is easier than you think.

During a recent conversation with a relative, we were discussing the proximity of my home to our children’s school. Our rural locale means the trip is a good distance, essentially from the western end of the district to somewhat east of center. The relative asked, “How do you cross the highway?” I thought he was kidding and I nearly jokingly replied, “We stop at the intersection with the county blacktop. We look both ways. If there is no oncoming traffic, we cross the highway.”

I then realized he did not mean the state highway a few miles from our home. Instead he meant the interstate, which runs parallel to the state highway, has few overpasses in our area and requires a seven-mile drive to an on-ramp. I then gave a more appropriate answer and avoided making a fool of myself.

Have you ever read something in a document and thought you knew what it meant? Are you certain? Could something be reasonably interpreted in a different way? Is there a word that might have more than one connotation or meaning? And when your ancestor answered a question for a census taker or a county clerk was he sure of what the questioner meant or did he answer a “different” question–the question he thought he heard? That’s something to think about when those answers vary from one enumeration or record to another.

Remember, one man’s highway is another man’s interstate. Your ancestor might have given the answer to the question he thought he heard, not the one written on the document.

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Your Quick Tips, 02 July 2007

Check Previous and Following Pages
When searching census records, be sure to look at previous and following pages. There may be a parent, sibling, or child who lived across the street from the ancestor you are researching. But if census taker went down one side of the street and back up the other side, someone who actually lived across the street would show up on a different page.

Alice Holtin
Henderson, TN

More Good Books
Loved the bit about the inspiring books! In writing my book about my Smith family, I’m constantly in search of good social histories of various areas where the family settled.

Some of my favorites include:

  • There Stands Old Rock, by Thomas Walterman (About Civil War soldiers from Rock County, Wisconsin; we had two in our family.) 
  • Burdett Prairie Trails, ed. Jean Clark, Marie Dillenbeck, and Merle Thacker. Burdett History Book Committee (A history of Burdett, Alberta, Canada)
  • Landmarks of Tompkins County, by John Selkreg (Tompkins County, N.Y.)

You can’t write about what you don’t know. I read these books to help me learn more about the places and their characteristics. Then I visit the location, and read the book again with a fresh eye. Once I’ve made the trip I can see the descriptions perfectly based on my own experiences.

Laini Giles Continue reading

The Year Was 1783

Flags, uniforms, currency and arms of the American Revolution / H.A. Ogden. (From the LOC Photo Collection at Ancestry.com)The year was 1783 and the American Revolution had come to an end. Hostilities had ended earlier in the year with a declaration by Britain in February, and the U.S. in April. The Treaty of Paris was negotiated on the American side by Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay, and by David Hartley representing Great Britain. It provided for American independence from Britain, established borders for the new country, provided fishing rights for Americans around Nova Scotia, and addressed the issues of settlement with British Loyalists, whose property had been confiscated.

Many of these Loyalists (also called “Tories” or “Royalists”) took refuge in Canada. In July 1783, a claims commission was established to help get Loyalists back on their feet. It’s estimated that 100,000 British supporters made their way to Canada to begin a new life, although not all of them stayed.

Tragedy struck southern Italy, when an earthquake destroyed Calabria and nearby areas and killing an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 people. The Edinburgh Advertiser (Edinburgh, Scotland) of 18 March 1783 describes the disaster through an extract of a letter from Naples:

“On the 5th of this month, several shocks of earthquakes were felt in Cabria Ultra, and in Sicily, which lasted near twelve hours; but on the two following days the shocks were more violent, and made most dreadful havock [sic] throughout Calabria, where 320 villages and hamlets are entirely destroyed. The towns of Palma and Seminaria are no more. The Episcopal city of Geracia is destroyed, and the Princess of Grimaldi was buried in the ruins, among many others. The town of Sylla is also swallowed up, and the prince of that name, in attempting to escape in a boat, was drowned. The place where Pizzo stood is no longer to be found. Of the archiepiscopal city of Reggio, universally famed for its trade and riches, and situate opposite Messina, scarce a vestige remains to remind mankind of its ancient splendour. The river Pietra is become entirely dry. The full particulars of this most dreadful disaster are not yet come to hand; all we can learn from Messina at present is, that the town is almost entirely destroyed and the country around much damaged, but Calabria has suffered most. This dreadful earthquake was accompanied with a most violent storm of thunder, lightning, and rain, together with almost total darkness; and those who have escaped with their lives, are reduced to the greatest misery, in want of clothes, victuals, and houses…” Continue reading

Photo Corner

07-02-07 Grace Eleanor and Lacy Thrower Jr.bmpContributed by Louise Thrower
This is my grandmother, Grace Louise Foster Thrower, with my father, Lacy M. Thrower Jr. (born May 1920), and his sister Eleanor Virginia Thrower.

Click on the images to enlarge them.

Christian Prange and Annina (Mewes) PrangeContributed by James L. Prange
This is a wedding photo of my great-grandparents, Christian Prange and Annina (Mewes) Prange, taken in 1882. He was born in Indiana and she was born in Germany. They are buried in Crocketts Bluff, Arkansas.

Fun With Geography! U.S. County Land Ownership Atlases, c. 1864-1918

Lower Towamensing Township, Carbon County, Pennsylvania, 1875This week Ancestry posted a database of U.S. County Land Ownership Atlases, c. 1864-1918 and today I had a little time to explore it.

I located an atlas for Carbon County, Pennsylvania, where my mother-in-law’s family hails from and in it was able to locate a township map for Lower Towamensing Township, that listed many of her family names. (Click on the image to enlarge it.) Although I knew this branch of his family was almost exclusively in this area, it was neat to see the proximity of the families, where schools and store were, etc.

I took things a step further and plugged Lower Towamensing into Google maps. Using features that were found on both maps (e.g., Jonesville and Little Gap), I was able to determine approximately where his ancestors lived on the Google map. Using the satellite view, I could see what the terrain was like.

You can browse the collection by state using the links at the bottom of the database page, or search by state, county, town or keyword. A few suggestions:

  • Either browse down by state or start your search wide by only selecting a state so you can see what’s available in the area and how the title is listed.
  • Know county boundaries for the time period in which the map was created.
  • Browse through the entire atlas. There are typically maps available with different scales (e.g. county wide, township only, etc.) and you may find that a combination of several different maps gives you the best view.
  • Be sure to get both sides of the page. Most atlases I’ve seen here have the map split between the two pages, so check either the page before, or the page after to see the whole picture.
  • Look for a table of contents to guide you. With the Carbon County book, I saw in the table of contents (image 2 of 52) that Lower Towamensing was on “pages 74 and 75.” Although the pages of the book and the image numbers don’t correspond, since this was one of the highest page numbers listed in the TOC, I skipped to the last image and worked my way backward. The Lower Towamensing images were on images 46 and 47 so this was a time-saver.

Hope you enjoy these maps as much as I did!