New Ancestry Search Beta in the Works

Ancestry____logo.bmpI was just browsing the Ancestry blog and noticed that Kendall has posted an item about some changes in the works for the Ancestry search. There is a link to a mini-tour of some of the updates and they will be inviting people to beta test the new changes in the near future. During that time you’ll be able to switch back and forth between the current search and the new functionality and they are anxious to hear your feedback. If you’re interested in learning more, you can read Kendall’s post here.

A Little Help From Our Friends: Can you help us date this photograph?

Walker ladies, Washington County, TennesseeI received this photograph with the request from Janelle for help pinning down the time frame in which it was taken. Can you help? Post your thoughts in the comments section below. Click on the image to enlarge it.

This picture was found in some of my Walker cousin files.  I have looked at several pictures of ladies and reviewed which families had five daughters. They all have familiar faces but what exactly is the time frame? I need all the help I can to figure out which Walker family they are. Washington County, Tennessee is where they lived. This is only one of several photographs I have to solve.

Thanks for any tips,
Janelle Morrow Walker Warden


Weekly Planner: Create a Search Cheat Sheet

When we’re searching databases for those hard-to-find ancestors, we often find ourselves rotating in any number of variations for that surname, and it’s easy to lose track. Create a list of surname variations, along with their Soundex codes. Keep the list by your computer; then, just go down the list. You’ll get a more complete search than just by entering names at random.

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Was Your Ancestor a Joiner? by Mary Penner

Vocabulary quiz–choose the correct definition for the word “joiner.”

a. A misnomer for a woodworking tool properly spelled and pronounced “jointer.”
b. An occupation related to woodworking or carpentry.
c. A person who habitually joins clubs and organizations.
d. All of the above.

The correct answer is “d.” Family historians will occasionally encounter an ancestor whose occupation was listed as a “joiner” on a census record. In this case, it’s safe to assume that he was a professional carpenter rather than a professional club member.
However, your research would be more productive possibly if he spent his time at club meetings rather than hammering nails. You see, ancestors who joined clubs left paper trails, which are far better for your research than sawdust trails.

What Kind of Clubs?
Clubs, organizations, and secret (and not so secret) societies have been around ever since people began to notice that they had things in common. Could there have been a cavemen artist’s guild? Fortunately, you won’t need to trace your ancestors back that far before you find your own family joiner. There was no shortage of clubs your ancestors could to belong to.

Clubs related to occupations were popular. There were clubs for farmers, railroad men, and merchants. There were religious and military clubs, fraternal and political clubs, and ethnic and hobby clubs. And clubs that were local, statewide, and international. Continue reading

The Baby Was Thick and Fat: Clues in 1880s Letters to Nebraska

by Michael John Neill 

Local gossip. Worries about money. News about the children. The content of the letters is not all that extraordinary. But when they are written by your relative in 1887, they take on additional significance.

A cousin sent me digital copies of three letters written by my ancestor Lina Ufkes in the late 1880s. Like any record, they need to be fit into my ancestor’s life. And they need to be analyzed for additional clues.

Written to Whom?
It would have been easier if Lina had specifically named the letter’s recipients, but the greeting on each letter is “Dear brother-in-law and sister”–no specific salutation. To determine the likely recipients, I had to look at the families of both the writer and her husband. Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: Keep Supplies Handy, from Juliana Smith

As an organizationally-challenged individual, I have to take extra steps to keep my research in order. In one section of my desk I keep extra supplies so that they are within easy reach. These include:

  • Protective archival plastic sleeves so that when I obtain or print out a record, I can easily slip it into a sleeve right away and insert it in the three-ring binder I have for that family. (No more loose pages just stuffed in that binder.)
  • Post-It notes so that I can jot a quick note to myself that lets me know where I left off when every-day life interrupts my research time.
  • Post-It flags that allow me to bookmark pages and paragraphs in books or documents that are important to my research.
  • Blank census forms for transcribing the census enumerations I find for family members. Transcribing helps me to better look at each clue in the record and also reminds me to date the find.
  • Research Log/To-Do List. I use my to-do list as a research log. When I identify a record that needs to be searched or requested, I enter it into a research calendar. Later when I actually process the request, I can go back and fill in the date and results. This not only helps me to easily get started when I find a few minutes to do some research, but it also serves as a record of the sources I’ve checked. Ancestry has blank research calendars online that can serve this purpose and I keep a stack readily available. You can find links to many blank charts and forms in the Ancestry Learning Center Getting Started section.

What supplies do you like to keep handy to keep your research rolling and to keep clutter at bay? Share your tips in the Comments section below.

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Your Quick Tips, 25 February 2008

The Musical Picture
As I look for ancestral information, I find that a lot of my family played musical instruments in bands, church groups, or just in family circles. Pictures sometimes show them with a prized tuba and in a band uniform. My grandfather posed in his prized uniform with his tuba from his long stint of playing with the Peoria Municipal Band. My mother played in an all girls dance band in the early thirties and I love the picture of her and her five pals on a WPA float, playing “Sweet Sue” through the streets of Peoria, Illinois. Another grandfather played a banjo that survived until the Santa Barbara fire of the 1970s.

If your family was musical, pull their stories together for a musical picture.

Marilyn Walker Continue reading

The Year Was 1930

The year was 1930 and the world was sliding into a depression. In the U.S., unemployment rose from 3.3 percent in 1929 to 8.9 percent in 1930. Things would only get worse when prices rose as a consequence of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. The protectionist tariff had a negative impact worldwide as international trade declined. 744 banks failed in the first ten months of 1930. For those who had money in those banks, it was gone forever. There was no deposit insurance at that time.

One of the most lucrative industries of the time was an illegal one. The Eighteenth Amendment banning the manufacture and sale of alcohol was still in effect, but many Americans were in defiance of Prohibition. Liquor was smuggled into the country, and those who could afford it continued to drink, fueling organized crime machines. Home brew and moonshine were in abundance, but bootleg liquor was could be dangerous. Blindness, nerve damage, and death could result from drinking tainted moonshine.

Some Americans began mixing a Jamaican ginger extract with their drinks. Known as “Jake,” it was relatively inexpensive and contained nearly 70 percent alcohol. In 1930, manufacturers diluted it with an industrial chemical–an additive that made it toxic. An outbreak of “Jake paralysis” or “Jake foot” broke out, afflicting an estimated 50,000 people with partial paralysis, mainly in the feet and legs.

The U.S. population at the time of the 1930 census was 123,202,624 with 56.1 percent of the population living in urban areas, versus 43.9 percent in rural areas. Of the nearly 30 million families enumerated, roughly 40 percent (12 million) owned radio sets, and many of those sets began tuning in to The Shadow when it premiered on 31 July 1930.

Also in 1930, Betty Boop made her first appearance in Dizzy Dishes, and the first Looney Tunes cartoon, Sinkin’ in the Bathtub starring Bosko and Honey was released.

The food industry was about to be transformed when in 1930, Birds Eye frozen foods began appearing in eighteen stores in Springfield, Massachusetts, and by 1934 frozen food was available nationwide.

Another notable culinary innovation of 1930 continues to be a staple in lunchboxes–the Hostess Twinkie.

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