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Did You Turn the Page?

Tuesday April 15, 2014

You've found your ancestor's name in an online database, and better yet you can even view the actual digitized record, possibly packed with more details than you were hoping to discover. It's so easy to stop right there and celebrate! Yet, no matter where you find that "ah ha!" clue to your ancestor, take a deep breath and calm yourself down long enough to turn the page. Browse the index at the back of the book. Turn over that marriage record and look at the back. Click the "previous" and "next" buttons to view additional pages in an online record collection. Flip to the beginning and end of the record set to learn more about the records, or view addendums.

Just because your answer isn't found in alphabetical or chronological order doesn't mean it's not there. And finding an answer doesn't mean there isn't even more to see. Here are just a few of many, many examples where turning the page, whether physically or virtually, may yield additional information on your ancestors. Read More...

Researching French-Canadian Ancestors

Tuesday April 15, 2014

Even if you can't read French, tracing French-Canadian and Acadian ancestors can be easier than many people expect due to the excellent record keeping of the Roman Catholic Church in Canada and the remarkable level of French-Canadian records preservation. Generally, all you need to begin a search are the names of the couple married in Quebec, or the Maritime Provinces of Canada (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island), and parts of Maine (U.S.), and an approximate marriage date. From there you can often extend the family line back many generations, in some cases to the village or parish of origin in France. It's also not uncommon to find ancestors in the border states such as Vermont and New Hampshire living in the United States, but marrying or baptizing children in Canada...or just moving back and forth across the border.
Researching French-Canadian Ancestors

Using DNA to Solve Adoption Mysteries

Tuesday April 1, 2014

DNA adoption. Photo by Getty Images/Cultura/Liam NorrisStories of DNA being used to help solve an adoption mystery have been in the news quite a bit in recent months, inspiring many adoptees to look into using DNA as a tool in their adoption search. Case in point, a recent article by Erin Alberty in the Salt Lake City Tribune tells the heartwarming story of two parents and the son they gave away for adoption almost 50 years ago recently reuniting because they both happened to have their DNA tested with AncestryDNA. Ken Drake took the test out of curiosity about his ethnicity, while Richard Larsen, the biological uncle of Ken Drake, received the test as a Christmas present from one of his daughters. Both families were surprised but excited when the DNA test turned up a "close match" between the two men.

Now before you adoptees out there get your hopes up, most DNA searches aren't quite this easy. As a matter of fact, this wasn't exactly a search at all --- more luck than anything. However, some of you will get lucky and may find a close biological family member has also tested. The rest of you still have hope as well, as genetic genealogists and adoption groups have worked hard to formulate tools and methodologies for using DNA to help connect adoptees with their birth families. It can be an interesting, but emotional ride, and you may find you happen to match some genealogists out there who--like me--don't mind taking out a few hours to investigate our shared matches and what that might tell you about your biological family. If you don't have the time or interest in learning how to use the technology yourself, you can hire a genetic genealogy expert who specializes in this type of research.

All of those who are not adopted benefit as well, as these same methodologies and tools can be applied to any number of our own tough genealogical mysteries...

Learn how in Using DNA in Your Adoption Search.

Exploring Sanborn & Other Fire Insurance Maps Online

Monday March 31, 2014

Noblestown, PA, Train Depot, c. 1908Fire insurance maps, produced by Sanborn® and a number of other companies, are large-scale historical city/town maps that document the size and shape of buildings, locations of windows and doors, and construction materials, as well as street names, and property boundaries. Dating back to the mid-1800's, fire insurance maps were originally created to assist fire insurance agents in assessing potential fire risk, and setting insurance premiums, therefore they also include details such as the direction of prevailing winds, fire department locations and equipment, and the location of fire hydrants and other water supplies.

While big cities were a large target for fire insurance plans, small towns were mapped more frequently than you might expect. In many cases, fire insurance maps document structures and even towns that no longer exist. The small village of Noblestown, Pennsylvania, falls into this category.Downham Real Photo Post Card RPPC, c. 1908 The location where this small community once bustled around booming oil wells and coal mines is now occupied by forest, a few homes and churches, and the trail head on Mill Street where I often begin bike rides on my local rail trail--a crushed limestone trail that follows the path of the former Panhandle Division--Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago (P.C.C.) & St Louis--of the Pennsylvania Railroad.  If not for old maps, histories, and photographs like the one depicted here, I would never know that a railroad station, two hotels, several general and feed stores, and multiple railroad tracks existed in the spot less than a century ago. Read More...

Timeline of Major U.S. Immigration & Citizenship Laws

Monday March 31, 2014

From the Naturalization Act of 1790 through the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, a large number of laws placed restrictions on naturalization and immigration in and to the United States. A knowledge of the laws that regulated immigration and citizenship is important for understanding the conditions under which your ancestors may have been granted or lost their citizenship, or records which may have been created based on their alien or citizenship status.

This Timeline of Major U.S. Immigration & Citizenship Laws is not exhaustive, and does not include all acts that temporarily extended the provisions of earlier acts, or affected a small segment of the population.

Related Content:
Timeline of Major U.S. Public Land Acts
United States Statutes at Large: A Researcher's Guide


The Second (or Third or...) Wife

Monday March 31, 2014

One of my favorite female ancestors, Henrietta Meares, left little behind to mark her time on this earth. She was the second of three wives of Mack Crisp in Edgecombe County, North Carolina, but only for a short time. Henrietta died of typhoid fever at the tender age of 24, along with a new infant child, only a few short years after her marriage. She left behind two children, born before vital records were enacted in North Carolina, along with several step-children from Mack's previous marriage. She wasn't really married long enough to end up mentioned in land and court records. Her tombstone only reads "Henrietta, wife of M. M. Crisp."

Despite few records, Henrietta was easy to identify as a second wife. I was lucky in that regard. I had her first name (although not her maiden name) from my great grandmother (her daughter). She married in 1897 and the county has a record of that marriage. She died in 1901 so she appears with her husband, daughter, and step-children in the 1900 U.S. federal census. She is buried in the Crisp family cemetery among other Crisp family members, although her husband is buried elsewhere - and her tombstone gives her dates of birth and death.

Whenever you uncover a wife's name in your research, it is prudent to question whether she was the only wife - not all are as easy to identify and document as Henrietta. The wife that you have discovered may or may not be the mother of any or all of your ancestor's children. This is especially true in the time before census records listed family members by name, or identified family relationships.

Census records, especially, are full of clues to a potential second (or third) marriage: Read More...

French Actes d'Etat Civil — How to Find & Use Them Online

Monday March 31, 2014

Civil registration of births, deaths, and marriages in France began in 1792. Because these records cover the entire population, are easily accessible and indexed, and include people of all denominations, they are a vital resource for French genealogy research. The information presented varies by locality and time period, but often includes the individual's date and place of birth and the names of the parents and/or spouse.

One additional bonus of French civil records, is that birth records often include what is known as "margin entries," which can lead to additional records. From 1897, these margin entries will often include marriage information (date and location). Divorces are generally noted from 1939, deaths from 1945, and legal separations from 1958.

The best part of French civil registration records in my opinion, however, is that so many of them are now available online. Records of civil registration are typically held in registries in local mairie (town hall), with copies deposited each year with the local magistrate's court. Records over 100 years old are placed in the Archives Départementales (series E) and are available for public consultation. It is possible to obtain access to the more recent records, but they are not usually not available online due to privacy restrictions, and you will generally be required to prove, through the use of birth certificates, your direct descent from the person in question. Many Departmental Archives have placed portions of their holdings online, often beginning with the actes d'etat civils. Unfortunately, online access to the indexes and digital images has been restricted to 120 years by the Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés (CNIL).

So how to find and access them?

Finding Female Ancestors in the Newspaper

Tuesday March 25, 2014

<i>The Indiana Gazette</i>, Indiana, Pennsylvania, 27 June 1940, page 13, col. 2It isn't a notice of birth, death, or marriage, but this brief newspaper notice under the heading "Miscellaneous" includes the maiden names of two Pennsylvania women from personal notices posted by their respective "abandoned" husbands--Effie Adamson Burkett, wife of James Burkett, and Annie Holmes Shultz, wife of W. R. Shultz.1 And this is just one of many great examples of the types of information we can learn about our female ancestors in old newspaper notices. Search for them in society columns, school and church news, lists of letters left at the post office, and in just about every other area of the newspaper. Their maiden name might be gleaned from Read More...

Live Streamed Lectures from the National Genealogical Society Conference

Tuesday March 11, 2014

The National Genealogical Society will live stream 10 selected lectures from the 2014 Family History Conference in Richmond, Va. for individuals unable to attend the conference in person. These sessions are available for paid registrants in two tracks of five lectures each, which includes both access to the live streamed event, plus three months of unlimited access to the recorded sessions.

Track One: Records and Research Techniques includes sessions by Elizabeth Shown Mills, Tom Jones, Pam Sayre, Sharon Tate Moody and Michael Hait.

Track Two:  Virginia Resources and Migration Patterns features lectures by David Rencher, Craig Scott, Mark Lowe, Barbara Vines Little, and Vic Dunn.

Live Stream registration is also available for those planning to attend the conference in person, allowing you to view other sessions in person at the conference, and then view these recorded sessions later from home. Pricing is $65 for one track and $115 for both tracks for NGS members, and $80/$145 for non-members. The registration deadline is set for 30 April 2014, so don't wait until the last minute! Learn more at Live Streaming at #NGS2014GEN.

More: 2014 Genealogy Education Calendar

Online Postgraduate Degree & Certificate Programs in Family History

Tuesday March 4, 2014

Photo: Getty Images / Blake LittleI was very pleased to be able to attend the Who Do You Think You Are? Live family history event in London last month as president of the Association of Professional Genealogists. The best part was meeting so many genealogists from countries around the world, and exchanging ideas and perspectives on genealogy as a professional discipline. In the UK, family history has finally started to make inroads into the hallowed halls of academia, but not without a lot of hard work on the part of many dedicated genealogists. For more on this topic, see QuickLesson 18: Genealogy? In the Academic World? Seriously? by Elizabeth Shown Mills and Leveraging Genealogy as an Academic Discipline by Arnon Hershkovitz.

For genealogists worldwide looking for the authority that an academic program can bring to their family history education, online postgraduate programs at Dundee University in Scotland and Strathclyde University in England offer the opportunity for a achieving a certificate or Postgraduate diploma in Family and Local History from the comfort of home:


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