New at Ancestry

Ancestry____logo.gifPosted This Week

Weekly Planner: Preserve Family Memories

This week as families gather to give thanks for our many blessings, many of us will be recording the moments with video and audio devices. It’s something that we’ve done for years, but as time goes by, it’s important to remember to transfer these preserved memories into a more current medium. There are services available that can help, and you can even do some conversions inexpensively yourself. I recently did a search for “audio cassette to MP3” to research ways I could convert an interview we recorded of my grandmother on a cassette. I found several articles on the subject, several of them referring to Audacity, a free audio editor. Whatever format you chose to record your memories, now is the time to create back up copies, preferably in multiple formats and stored in various places, so that if one copy is corrupted, others can survive so that future generations can share those wonderful memories. And don’t forget that you can even use your computer or phone to add audio files directly to your trees on Ancestry. Happy Thanksgiving!

Do you have a tip for converting old audio or video recordings? Please share it with us in the Comments section.

Track Down Your Western Trails Travelers, by Mary Penner

Wagon Train, Tombstone, Cochise Co., AZ.jpg150 pounds of flour–check. Twenty-five pounds of bacon–check. Fifteen pounds of coffee–check. Twenty-five pounds of sugar–check. Don’t forget the salt and pepper and throw in a couple of live beef cattle, too. That’s quite a grocery list, and that’s just for one person.

Those were the kinds of provisions pioneers packed into their wagons for the five-month-long trip from Missouri to Oregon or California.

During the nineteenth century, an estimated 500,000 people traveled across the western half of North America along the Oregon Trail. Some of them took the fork in the road over to California while thousands of others stuck to the trail until they reached Oregon. Most of the emigrants made the 2,000-mile trek between 1840 and 1870, many of them plodding the entire way on foot.

The first huge wagon train bound for Oregon rumbled out of Independence, Missouri, in 1843. With 1,000 people, 120 wagons, and 5,000 head of cattle, you can imagine the dust that crowd kicked up tromping across the Nebraska prairie. Many more wagon trains followed.

The Oregon and California Trails weren’t the only nineteenth century super-highways to the western lands. Other wayfarers ambled along the Santa Fe Trail, the Mormon Trail, the Montana Trail, the Cherokee Trail, and the Overland Trail–to name a few.

Just like Hansel and Gretel, ancestors who traveled on western trails dropped clue-crumbs to help you follow their migration paths. Continue reading

Pilgrim Ancestors, by Michael John Neill

My family never passed down any stories of Pilgrim forebears. Since 75 percent of my ancestors were mid-nineteenth-century immigrants, it’s not surprising. I never even gave any serious thought to having ancestors on the Mayflower. My genealogy research was not started out of any desire to have “famous” or “first” relatives, and in most cases I had difficulty getting back to the 1700s in my American lines much less the 1620s.

Regular readers of my columns may recall I have one set of great-great-grandparents who are my brick wall: Ira and Florence Ellen (Butler) Sargent. They and their two children first “appeared” in Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois in 1880–apparently dropped from a UFO. Documenting their existence before that point in time has been difficult at best. Ira was born in Canada about 1845; Florence Ellen was born in Missouri about 1856. The every-name index at Ancestry for the Iowa state censuses gave me a potential set of parents for Ira–Clark and Mary Dingman Sargent.

And therein lies my potential Mayflower connection–with emphasis on the word “potential.”

Online searching for Clark Sargent was performed in hopes of connecting him to my Ira. I found plenty on his ancestry, but little on his descendants. Several sites indicated he is probably descended from Mayflower passenger Isaac Allerton, through Isaac’s daughter, Remember. Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: The “Favorites” List, from Loretto Szucs and Juliana Smith

At Thanksgiving when our family gathers to count our many blessings and offer thanks, we have a tradition that adds to our family history. Everyone gets a questionnaire asking what he or she is thankful for and about his or her favorite things.

We ask for favorite movie, song, TV show, class in school, sport, hobby, video game, etc. Click here to see a copy of our list.

We all get a kick out of reading each others’ lists and when the day is over, copies are put in with our family history. It’s a lot of fun to go back and look at people’s favorites over the years and how they’ve changed–especially the kids.

Why not start your “favorites list” tradition this year? It’s a fun way to gather family history information and your family will never suspect a thing.

Feel free to add to our list in the comments below.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Juliana and Lou

Click through to the Learning Center for a printer-friendly copy of this list.


The “Favorites” List

  • Name
  • This date
  • Your current age
  • Address
  • City/State
  • Birthday
  • Birthplace
  • What are you most thankful for this year?
  • Favorite color
  • Favorite food
  • Foods that are definitely not your favorite
  • Favorite song or songs
  • Favorite band/musician or singer
  • Favorite book
  • Favorite television program
  • Favorite movie
  • Favorite movie star/celebrity
  • Favorite sport
  • Favorite subject in school
  • Favorite recess game
  • Favorite place I’ve been
  • Where I dream of going one day
  • Favorite hobby
  • Favorite pet
  • Favorite place to hang out
  • Favorite possession
  • Favorite hero/heroine (person I admire )
  • Favorite dream
  • The best thing I ever learned was…
  • Who were you named for (first name and/or middle name)?
  • Favorite vacation memory
  • Favorite bedtime story
  • What collections do you have?
  • To this day, what do you consider your most important achievement?
  • Name an important award or honor that you received.

Did we miss anything you think we should ask? Feel free to contribute to the list in the comments section below.

We’ve also added a better formatted version of this questionnaire to the Learning Center, but unfortunately, the printer-friendly function isn’t acting very “friendly.” (a.k.a., It’s busted.) But you can copy/paste it into a word processor, and then add or subtract questions, reformat, and customize it for your family. Click here to access our not-so-printer-friendly version. 😉

Happy Thanksgiving!
Juliana and Lou

Your Quick Tips, 24 November 2008

Searching for Marriages
When searching for a marriage, I often find entering too much info into a search can result in thousands of results to sort through. To avoid this, first, try entering only the couple’s surname and the wife’s maiden name; if you still have too many returns, add a location and/or date.
Similarly, if you want to find unknown siblings, use advanced search option and enter the surname and mother’s maiden name and location, I have found this particularly useful.
Peter Murphy Continue reading

The Year Was 1867

The year was 1867 and on July 1st, the Province of Canada, which consisted of Ontario and Quebec, united with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to form the Dominion of Canada, with Ottawa as its capital.

In 1867, hospitals were dirty, dangerous places. Those who survived excruciating surgeries would most likely die from subsequent infections. The general perception at the time was that exposing flesh to air was the cause of the infection, but when Louis Pasteur theorized that the infection was actually a form of decomposition, a British surgeon, Joseph Lister, took note. After noticing that surgical patients seemed to fare better in a cleaner environment (and following the work of Pasteur), he experimented with carbolic acid, applying it to bandages and then covering the wound. He discovered that the practice improved survival rates. In 1867, he made his finding public in the British medical journal “Lancet.” Unfortunately it would be decades before the medical community fully accepted the use of antiseptics in surgery.

In the U.S., yellow fever was a widely feared epidemic–and with good reason. In 1867, the disease claimed roughly 30 percent of the 1,000 or so residents of Corpus Christi, Texas. A New York Times article in 1870 reported a loss of 1,776 lives in New Orleans from the disease in 1867.When epidemics like yellow fever hit cities, often an exodus of citizens seeking to escape the scourge followed.

At the start of the year 1867, what is now the state of Alaska was in Russian hands. However, Russia had found that it was tough terrain to defend, and the hostile environment didn’t seem to offer much so it had been “shopping around.” U.S. Secretary of State, William Seward, worked out an agreement where the U.S. would pay Russia $7.2 million dollars (about two cents an acre) to acquire the territory. The deal met with a great deal of ridicule and Alaska was referred to as “Seward’s Folly” or “Seward’s Icebox.” Most folks changed their tune in the 1890s when gold was discovered in the Klondike area of Canada’s Yukon Territory. Miners flocked to Alaska and mining towns sprung up, many turning into major cities like Nome and Fairbanks. The discovery of oil, a thriving fishing industry, and income from tourism continue to prove the naysayers wrong.

The U.S. also admitted Nebraska as the thirty-seventh state in 1867. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 had taken the lands that had once been reserved for Native Americans and opened them up for settlement. The Homestead Act of 1862 offered 160 acres to settlers, with the requirement that they make improvements and live on the land for five years prior to taking ownership. Railroads were granted huge tracts of land, and they in turn built railroad lines and encouraged settlement by selling surrounding land at low costs to immigrants. Between the opening of the lands in 1854 and 1870, the population of Nebraska grew from 2,732 to 122,993 in 1870.

Photo Corner, 24 November 2008

Christian and Anna Christina (Sorensen) Sorensen Contributed by Lori Howard, Port Charlotte, Florida
This is a proof taken of my great-grandparents, Christian and Anna Christina (Sorensen) Sorensen. On the left is Christian’s sister, Maria (I believe). I believe the photo was taken in 1914, in front of the family home in Cranston, Rhode Island. These ancestors were born in Denmark and emigrated here in 1903. This print, believed to be a mourning photo, was taken from a glass negative found last summer (2007) in a relative’s basement, where it sat with hundreds of other photos for almost 100 years.

Click on an image to enlarge it. 

Oma Elizabeth Roark York (1880-1938), Odus William York (1878-1950) with their infant daughter, Gladys Marie YorkContributed by Deborah Bonas Kearney
This is a picture of my mom’s parents and her oldest sibling in 1901 taken in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Standing is my grandmother, Oma Elizabeth Roark York (1880-1938) and grandfather, Odus William York (1878-1950) with their infant daughter, Gladys Marie York on his lap. The family migrated from Harrison, Boone County, Arkansas, to Oklahoma shortly before this picture was taken in late 1901. Odus later ran for governor of Oklahoma Territory. Both Oma and Odus died in Los Angeles, California.

Ancestry Adds 1,100 U.S. City Directories with 50 Million Names

Brooklyn Directory 1880 - Edwin Dyer.jpgI just found one more thing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season! Ancestry has posted 1,100 U.S. city directories to its U.S. Deluxe Collection. This addition, with an estimated 50 million names, covers some large cities and I was thrilled to see some for New York City and Brooklyn. (I know what I’ll be doing tonight!) There are directories for quite a few large cities, as well as some smaller ones, with coverage typically from the 1880s through around 1900, which neatly bridges that gap left by the missing 1890 Census.

They are in fact part of the 1890 Census Substitute Collection at Ancestry and can be searched through the main landing page for that larger collection.

Click here to search the U.S. City Directories.

Click on the image to see a sample page from an 1880 directory of Brooklyn, New York.