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  • U.S. Passport Applications, 1787-1925
  • Historic U.S. & Canada Atlases, 1591-2000
  • Major U.S. & Canada Newspaper Update
  • North Dakota State Census, 1915 & 1925
  • Southern Claims Commission Records
  • Stars and Stripes, Pacific Theater, 1942-1964

Weekly Planner: Five Questions about Your Favorites

In honor of Family History Month, your challenge is to answer five questions from each Weekly Planner topic–or make up five of your own. This week’s topic is favorites. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What is your favorite book and why?
  • What is your favorite movie and why?
  • Where is your favorite place in the world and why?
  • What is your favorite time of day? Are you a morning person, an afternoon person, or a night owl?
  • What is your favorite holiday?

Feel free to share your memories in the Comments section of the blog below or, if you have a blog, post a link to your responses. Your memory may help spark the memories of other readers who had similar experiences. For more interesting questions, see

Previous challenges:

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Using Ancestry: Census Searching Reminders, by Michael John Neill

A recent Tip from the Pros on missing people in the census reminded me that all of us have occasional difficulties finding someone in the census. This week we look at some common pitfalls that may cause us to overlook that relative.

~ Are You Looking in the Right Place?
Are you absolutely certain where your ancestors were living at the time of the 1920 census? If your ancestors were extremely migratory, they may be in an unexpected place. It is possible that they lived in a place for such a short time that living family members have no recollection of the residence. Even ancestors who tended to “stay put” may have lived in a different location for a short time. A move west to “greener pastures” that did not go well might have resulted in the family moving back home. And if the move was a bad experience, it might never have been talked about again.

~ Was She Still Living?
One computer workshop participant indicated he was having difficulty finding an ancestor in the 1880 census. He provided me her name, date and place of birth, and dates and places of marriage (including names of spouses). I tried a variety of approaches based on name variations, language issues, etc. No luck. He then indicated he had an obituary for the woman that he thought might help. It certainly did. The obituary indicated the ancestor had died in 1875.

~ Do You Know All the Name Variants?
Searching often requires looking for names besides the “right” one. Elizabeth may have been enumerated as Betty, Lizzie, or any of a number of alternate names based upon her first name. Names in the census could easily have been based upon middle names and if the researcher is unaware of the middle name, searching can be even more difficult. Consider making a list of all spelling variants for your surname, including variations based upon phonetics and handwriting. Also bear in mind that in some cases individuals were enumerated using only initials. Continue reading

Three Genealogical Exercises, by George G. Morgan

NY Cemetery_IMG.bmpThere are lots of skills associated with genealogical research. Some of these include locating evidence, analyzing it, translating language, reading old handwriting, understanding archaic words, and most of all reading between the lines to locate informational sources that can further your research.

There are three exercises that I use for honing my research skills, and they have nothing to do with my personal genealogical research. However, they contribute to my skills, make me look outside the confines of my own family research, and cause me to sharpen my knowledge of different record types, ethnic and religious origins, and much more. Let me share these with you.

Dissecting Obituaries
I present a popular seminar titled “Bits about Obits: Reading Between the Lines.” I usually read the obituaries in the local newspapers on a regular basis. No, I’m not morbid; I simply want to see what information is included. I’ll usually pick two or three at random; the names and sizes of the obituaries don’t matter. You may recall in school having to diagram sentences. For some of us, it was enlightening and greatly enjoyable; and for others it was torture. What I do is similar–I “dissect” the obituary.

First, I read the obituary in full. Next, I use a pencil to underscore individual pieces of information in the obituary that point to some resource that may or will be of genealogical value. The obvious items are name, gender, age, residence, life events, place where a funeral or memorial service is scheduled, names of officiating clergy, place of interment, and names of any survivors. Other information may include occupation, name of spouse(s), sibling(s), place of birth, life events, military service, church affiliation, occupation, and more.

I prepare a list that includes each and every one of these underlined clues. Underneath each one, I notate 1) what information that clue can provide; 2) what records might exist of the fact or clue; and 3) where the record(s) would be held. A typical short obituary usually has at least a dozen such clues to records. I then use telephone and city directories, the Internet, and other resources to determine the location that I would contact for more information. The exercise takes about thirty minutes or less for each obituary. However, it hones my skills for working objectively with my own family and ancestral obituaries. Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: Writing in the Third Person, by D.G. Fulford

pen and journal.bmpIf somewhere in your heart you think writing about yourself is braggadocio and puffery, self importance and sinful pride–all the Me, Myself and I of it–-try writing in the third person.

For example: He quit college to work and help out his family. He fell in love, got married, and went off to war. She was a dance instructor who always took jobs at the schools where her children would get the best education. From elementary school through college, they were able to drop their books in her office and visit during the day.

Or, pretend you’re writing a blurb for “TV Guide” describing this week’s episode. “Marcia falls in love with an island while on vacation and figures out a way to stay.”

It feels funny to put down a version of your life in an “as told by” fashion. But it’s another way of looking. New eyes.

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Your Quick Tips, 29 October 2007

Treasures from Goodwill
Goodwill Industries has an interesting website at; it is an online auction of a wide array of antiques/collectibles from Goodwill’s inventory of donated goods. When I looked at the website, there were some vintage photo albums and some great historical photos (which genealogical societies may be interested in purchasing for their archives). Also up for auction are some interesting and old cookie jars and china that may remind you of an ancestor or your own childhood. I came across this website when I was looking online for a list of the second hand/thrift stores in the state of Washington.
Denise Daubert
Ardrossan, Alberta, Canada Continue reading

The Year Was 1879

The year was 1879 and in Hungary it brought disaster, particularly in Szeged. Melting snows and rain had filled the Tisza and the Maros rivers beyond capacity and a little after midnight, 12 March 1879, a dyke burst and the city of Szeged was washed away in the deluge. 5,458 houses were destroyed leaving only 265, and the flood claimed 151 lives. Europe responded with benefits and other fundraisers to help rebuild the lost city.

In Africa, the Anglo-Zulu War began as the British tried to unite their colonies, the Boer republics, and other independent groups in Africa. Seeking to retain their independence, the Zulu kingdom, led by Cetshwayo kaMpande, was a threat to that goal and by late 1878 tensions were already rising. The war officially began 11 January 1878 and would last into July of 1879, ending with the Zulu defeat at Ulundi.

In America, recently freed African Americans living in the South were facing violence following the withdrawal of federal troops. Oppression and poverty eventually spurred a spontaneous mass migration of African Americans to Kansas. Known as “Exodusters,” some remained in Kansas, while others moved on further west. Although poverty remained a problem, for the most part they were better off than those who had remained in the South.

Back in New Jersey, Thomas Edison was working on plans to perfect the light bulb. Electric lights had been pioneered by several inventors, but in 1879 Edison hit on a combination that would stay lit for forty hours. He demonstrated that bulb on 31 December in Menlo Park, New Jersey.

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Photo Corner

Due to a mix-up in the newsletter of October 22, we featured the wrong photographs in the newsletter, but ran the correct images on the blog. This week I’m including all four images here on the blog to cover all the bases. My apologies to our submitters and to everyone for the error last week. I was doubling up on work so I could take a week of vacation time, and I confused which issue I was working on. (But I’m feeling much better now!) 😉  Here are the images for both weeks:

Contributed by Donna Tougas, Warwick, Rhode IslandCharles Aolph Thomas, 1849-1936
This is Charles Aolph Thomas, 1849-1936 (photo ca. 1879-85). He was a great-great-grandfather to my daughters, Wendy and Jenn Thomas. We call him Civil War Thomas. He lived in South Carolina and fought in the Civil War when he was about thirteen years old. Many years later, he moved north and raised a family in Rhode Island. He hung around the Veterans Hall with his friends so everyone knew he fought in the war. He passed away in 1936. At that time he was given a big “send off.” His casket was placed on a horse and buggy and paraded through town before the burial. It wasn’t until several weeks later that everyone realized he had fought for the South and not for the North! He had to be having a good laugh. 

Evelyn Gail Merriman (July 31, 1876 to Nov. 11, 1951)Contributed by Karen Schultze, Toms River, New Jersey
This is a photo of my great-grandmother, Evelyn Gail Merriman (July 31, 1876 to Nov. 11, 1951). She was born in Yonkers, New York and lived most of her life there. The last few years of her life she lived in Laurelton, New Jersey, (now known as Brick, New Jersey). She married George Allen Kimball, and they had four daughters, her daughter Ethel was my grandmother. This photo was taken around 1910-11.

Click on the images to enlarge them.

Contributed by Carol EssaryMary Harriet Carnay and Eugene Ross Walker, 15 September 1929 and maid-of-honor Annette Kunkel, and Mom's brother, Harry Carnay
This is the marriage of my mother and father, 15 September 1929. The bride and groom, Mary Harriet Carnay and Eugene Ross Walker stand on the left; my mother’s maid-of-honor and best friend, Annette Kunkel, and Mom’s brother, Harry Carnay are on the right. I still have the beautiful silk shawl my mother wears in that picture!

Glenn and Helen Meyers, 1931Contributed by Frazer Crane
These pictures are of my wife’s family, Glenn and Helen Meyers on their wedding day in 1931.

NEHGS and Announce New Membership Benefits as Part of Collaboration

Ancestry____logo1.bmpTwo Genealogy Industry Leaders Offer Special Pricing and New Member Benefits

Boston, MA & Provo, UT– October 22, 2007 – The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) and, part of The Generations Network, Inc., today announced the availability of special membership pricing that allows members of both organizations and those wishing to join to take advantage of some of the most important family history information available anywhere. Beginning Monday, October 22, special discounted pricing is open to NEHGS members, members and those interested in joining both.

Those interested in signing up for NEHGS and an U.S. Deluxe membership can now do so for the single price of $155.40, a combined savings of $75. This subscription provides annual memberships to both organizations and gives subscribers access to some of the most valuable and important genealogical research information anywhere. Current NEHGS members wishing to join, or members wishing to join NEHGS, can also do so for a special low price. In addition, as part of the agreement, will publish on its site indexes of the leading NEHGS publication, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register (1847-2002).

“We want this collaboration to give people an opportunity to engage in genealogy at a level that they maybe haven’t before,” said D. Brenton Simons, NEHGS President and CEO. “ is an extraordinary online resource and we are thrilled to be working with them on this. We hope this provides the groundwork for future opportunities.” Continue reading