Genealogy Sprouts at the Michigan State Library

The Michigan State Library will be sponsoring a day camp for children on Friday, August 10. Open to children ages nine to twelve, the “Genealogy Sprouts” will be assisted by genealogy librarians with research in online resources and in library collections.

Kudos to the Michigan State Library for sponsoring what looks like a wonderful program! Here’s hoping other states take notice and sponsor similar programs.

For more information, see the press release on the Michigan state website.

New at Ancestry

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Weekly Planner: Restock with Back-to-School Sales

Whether you have school-age children or not, those back-to-school sales can mean big savings. Office supplies are a must when it comes to keeping a family history organized, and when I’m off on a research trip, one of my best friends is my spiral notebook. This week I got ten spiral notebooks for $1 and two packages of twenty-four pens for $1. Pencils, all types of paper, binders, file folders, organizers and countless other supplies that can help you with your research are marked down drastically at this time of year. Stock up now and you’ll find over the course of the year that you’ll not only have what you need to stay organized, but you’ll have saved a bundle!

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Using Ancestry: The Value of Gazetteers, by George G. Morgan

Lippincott's Gazetteer (cover page -- was the last time you looked for a town or village in an atlas and couldn’t find it? I do it more times than I’d like, but there can be any number of reasons. First, I could have misspelled the name of the place. Second, I could be looking in an atlas for the wrong location (county, province, shire, etc.). Third, the location may not exist any longer, or it may exist under another name!

I spent a long time trying to locate the place in North Carolina from which my grandmother posted a letter in 1901. It was maddening! There was no such place, as far as I could tell EVER! Finally, I located a United States Post Office microfilm from NARA and found that there really was such a place as Shiva, North Carolina; it was a freight office/post office in a country store in Iredell County.

My hometown is listed on page 1,089 in Lippincott’s Gazetteer of the World, 1913, a new database at It states:

“Madison, a banking-post village of Rockingham Co., N.C., on the Dan River, at the mouth of the Mayo, about 36 miles WSW. of Danville, Va., on the Southern and Western Rs. [Railroads] Pop. in 1900: 813.”

You can still find that town in contemporary atlases and gazetteers. Continue reading

Did Your Ancestors Go on Holidays? by Sherry Irvine, CG, FSA Scot

General view from cascade, Dawlish England It’s July and many people are on holiday. We all expect to have a summer break but unless our ancestors were better off, holidays were impossible and even short excursions were unlikely. Change came slowly and it was a long time before the laboring classes enjoyed holidays or weekend breaks. There needed to be three things: shorter working hours, cheap transportation, and some guaranteed days off.

The wealthy have always enjoyed travel; the Grand Tour of Europe was undertaken by most wealthy young Englishmen, a way to acquire the knowledge of art and antiquities that was more or less required of them. As the middle class in England grew, so the interest in travel spread amongst the population and many spots, especially the Lake District and seaside towns, became popular.

The Lake District was popular because artists like J.M.W. Turner had painted it and Wordsworth had written poetry about it. Seaside towns were good for one’s health as well as beautiful–economical too. A widowed ancestor of mine, forced to live on a more limited income went to Dawlish in Devon in 1826. Here is what the topographer Samuel Lewis said about Dawlish in 1831:

It was an inconsiderable fishing town prior to 1790, about which time the salubrity of its air, the pleasantness of its situation, and the beauty of its environs, made it the resort of invalids, for whose accommodation preparations were progressively made, in proportion to the increase of the visitors, and it is now a fashionable watering-place.
(Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 1831) Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: “‘Official’ Doesn’t Always Mean Accurate,” from Michael John Neill

Remember that “official” does not always mean accurate. My grandmother’s 1910 birth certificate (which I believe to be accurate) provides a different place of birth for her than those given on her marriage license and death certificate. One would give more credence to the birth certificate as in this case it is the most contemporary record of her birth in existence.

Delayed birth certificates, while official documents, can still be incorrect. In some instances, these documents were filled out by a mother who provided the wrong date of birth for her child. In this case my “proof” that it was wrong consisted of the fact that the date was different from the one listed on the christening record and the fact that the mother apparently mixed up this daughter’s date of birth with that of another child.

Even investigators can make mistakes. A postal investigator looking into a relative in 1900 indicated that the relative was born in Kansas. Virtually every other available document on the relative in question indicated he was born in Illinois. The investigator reasonably concluded the relative was born where he had lived since he was approximately ten years old.

It always pays to obtain multiple sources whenever possible and to compare. One document can easily be wrong and lead you down the wrong research path.

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Your Quick Tips, 30 July 2007

Ladies’ Indispensable Assistant
I recently came across a book that is amusing, interesting, and informative all at the same time. Last year my wife and I arrived early at a local charity dinner theater. The hostess directed us to a waiting area with a couch and a coffee table with a few books on it. My wife picked up a small black bound book and began flipping through the pages. It took only a page or two for her to realize that this was a find. The book she picked up was a reprint of the Ladies’ Indispensable Assistant, Being a Companion for the Sister, Mother and Wife, originally published in 1852.

The section entitled “Family Physician” is a list of information, cures, and treatments for a plethora of sicknesses or maladies that might befall a family in the mid-1800s.

For example,

“Dropsy of the Head. Take considerable blood from the temples by leeches, give powerful cathartics, shave the head and apply to it ice in bladders, apply mustard to the feet and inside of the thighs, and make the diet light, mostly of barley. This is about all that can be done.”

We also have decided that flannel must be a cure-all for most ailments because it says many times to clothe the child in flannel as part of the treatment.

There is also information on “Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen,” recipes, and other important instructions.

Though we did receive a chuckle, this book is a look back at how far medicine and home health care has come (or maybe not). Either way it is an eye opener as to the thinking and ideas in the 1800s. Reprints and be found on Amazon or eBay but there are some original copies out there if you’re into collecting antiques.

Randy Bonds Continue reading

The Year Was 1854

Crimean War, Sevastopol, Ukraine, 1853-56The year was 1854 and Britain, France, Turkey, and Sardinia were involved in the Crimean War against Russia. Years of disputes over lands in the Middle East and religious differences were major factors in the cause of the war that would last into 1856. In addition to the hardships of war, in November a terrible storm struck creating miserable conditions for the soldiers. 

Back in London, the fight was against cholera as more than 500 people died from the dreaded disease. Containment is credited to Dr. John Snow who ascertained that water from a pump on Broad Street was the cause by mapping the location of the victims and determining that they had all ingested water from that pump. He convinced officials to remove the handle of the pump forcing the community to go elsewhere for their water and thus put an end to the spread of the disease. 

Disaster struck in Gateshead and Newcastle, England, in October as a warehouse fire and explosion killed 225 people. An account of the fire is available at the GENUKI website, as is a list of the victims. Continue reading

Photo Corner

George D. Tucker, died in the Confederate Hospital, Austin, Texas, December 1900Contributed by Sandra Wortham
This is a picture of my great-great grandfather, George D. Tucker, who died in the Confederate Hospital, Austin, Texas, December 1900; per census reports he was born in Mississippi or Alabama and birth year 1822-31 per various documents.

Click on the images to enlarge them.

Celeste Tonidandel, and her grandmother, Luisa Santoro Guido, ca. 1906 in ChicagoContributed by Kit Brunck
This is a photo of my grandmother, Celeste Tonidandel, at about age eight, and her grandmother, Luisa Santoro Guido, taken about 1906 in Chicago.