There is only a single Louise Mascarelly born in the 1853-1855 time frame listed in the online index of baptisms in Nice, France. Based on what I know of my 3rd great-grandmother, this must be her! If it were only that easy...
So who is Louise? My great, great-grandmother, Marguerite Mascarelly, is listed on her civil record of birth in Nice, France, as the daughter of Louise Mascarelly and père inconnu (unknown father). The information given about her mother, Louise, gave her age (dix neuf, 19) and place of birth (Nice, Alpes-Maritime, France). Further search of the birth records from that time period also turned up another possible sibling of Marguerite, a Louise Mascarelly born two years earlier in 1873 at the same address (11 Rue Prefecture), also to Louise Mascarelly and an unknown father. Both births were also attested to by the same midwife.
Since Nice is such a large city and also because it was a part of Italy (technically the Kingdom of Sardinia) for the time when Louise was born, I was happy to find an online index of Nice baptisms (1814-1860), and even happier to find a single index entry for a Louise Mascarelly in 1853. This was a year or so earlier than my target date based on the age of Louise (19) at the time of Marguerite's birth in 1875, but she also stated her age as 19 in 1873 upon the earlier birth of Louise (if indeed she is Marguerite's sister), so it could definitely fit. With only a single Louise Mascarelly born in the right time frame in Nice, I must have found my 3rd great grandmother's birth, right? Read More...
I guess you could say I was lucky in my early years of genealogy research because I was exposed to the value of land records right from the beginning. I cut my genealogical teeth researching ancestors in the southern U.S., where vital records of birth, death, and marriage aren't very common prior to 1900. Census records, which are now so easy to search online, were only available on microfilm. Gosh, I'm making myself sound old!
Anyway, back in the dark ages of my early genealogy years (lol!), deed record books at the local county courthouse, or the state archives (in the case of North Carolina), were just as easy to access and use as most other genealogical records at that time, so I was exposed early to the treasures these records can contain. Those of you who started researching after online records became more prevalent, or spend more time researching in urban areas, might find land records a bit more intimidating, however. Please don't! You're missing out on one of the most valuable record-types available for genealogical research; a potential source of information on family relationships, other locations in which your ancestor may have lived; and changes in family status. Yes, you can even use deed and other land records to research ancestors who never owned property themselves...
Each time you read a deed or other land record for your ancestor, ask yourself these 10 questions...you might be surprised at the answers you can uncover!
Looking for a special, but inexpensive holiday gift? Check out these step-by-step instructions for creating your own heirloom ornaments from family photos. Available in different sizes and shapes, and decorated in a variety of ways, glass ornaments are easily transformed into memories in miniature.
This past week my Dad while visiting with his mother (my grandmother) discovered a book titled Your Story: A Guided Interview Through Your Personal and Family History. While I gave that book to her probably almost a decade ago, it was still sitting untouched and empty of family stories. Why? Writing things down just doesn't work for everyone. The tape recorder and box of tapes I gave her were similarly unused, headed for the donation pile. My Dad, however, found the solution as he set up a video camera and had her open the book and read the questions and then tell him her answers. There are over two hours of video -- and they only got through page 4!
You hear it over and over, but it still can't be said enough. Your living relatives are the best place to begin your family tree research. If you're getting together with family over the holidays, take some time out to record a few of their memories. Ask grandpa about his wartime experiences. Ask grandma how to make some of those treasured family recipes. It doesn't have to be anything formal, such as a recorded interview. Just ask a few questions as you're all sitting around the table during dinner (try setting up a video camera in the corner to capture the dinner-time reminiscences), or get out a few of the old family photo albums. You might be surprised with the stories you hear! I've been asking my parents, grandparents and other family members questions for over 25 years, and I still learn something new every time we get together. So sit down and collect some family memories between now and the new year.
- Oral History Step by Step: Collecting & Recording Your Family History
- 10 Tips for Great Interview Stories
- 50 Questions to Ask Your Relatives
- 10 Memory Books for Recording Family History
I know some of you aren't lucky enough to have living grandparents or even parents to ask about your family history. Don't forget the aunts, cousins, even family friends! They each have stories to share as well. You can also learn a lot about your ancestors by reading stories and accounts of their contemporaries - neighbors, members of the same ethnic community, individuals who shared similar experiences (e.g. same Japanese-American internment camp), etc.
There is no better way to understand the history that you came from than through the words of the people who lived it first-hand. So make oral history a priority in your family history research! You don't want to have any regrets...
Do you have an ancestor who worked on the railroad? According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, over 1.2 million American railroad employees were covered by the Railroad Retirement system in 1939. In addition to those who worked as railroad engineers, signalmen, and ticket clerks, there were also the railroad workers who blasted and tunneled through miles of mountains, and hammered down thousands of miles of track.
Researching individuals associated with the railroads can often be difficult, especially for those who worked prior to the establishment of the Railroad Retirement Board in 1936. Railroad companies have merged and folded. Personnel records have rarely survived. Yet there is still a wealth of historical information available to help you better tell the story of your U.S. railroading ancestors, from accident reports to first-hand accounts.
I'm supremely confident that all of my ancestors are out there somewhere just waiting to be discovered. They didn't jump off of a spaceship. They weren't born as a full-grown adult. They didn't find the secret to time travel. I just haven't found them yet. At least that's what I keep telling myself...
But every now and then our ancestors were truly misplaced, such as in the case of the above "stranger found drowned" in the town of Shorne, Kent, England. I found him in the burial records of Shorne, courtesy of the Medway Archives which has digitized parish registers and other documents online from the Medway area of Kent, England. I guess that means the poor man was buried without anyone discovering who he was. I wonder if anyone missed him?
There are unknown babies out there as well. A lot of you probably have births in your family tree recorded as "father unknown." I do. I also discovered a few babies named "John" in those Medway parish records, who were baptized with no last name and identified as "a child found in this parish." It's not likely a genealogist will ever identify those little Johns' parents. And the person trying to figure out what happened to their 60-year-old ggg-grandfather after he disappeared from the census will probably never be able to connect him with the unidentified drowning victim. Not impossible. Nothing's impossible, I guess. But not likely.
Admitting to myself that there really is an ancestor I will likely never find makes me so sad, though. Like I'm planning their funeral... That's probably why I almost never admit it, and keep treating them like a brick wall ancestor. I just haven't found that secret brick yet. The one that if I push on it just the right way will bring that big, old honkin' wall tumbling down around me.
What is your biggest brick wall ancestor? Share your story and what you've tried to find him or her by clicking on "comments" below. You never know - maybe someone will be able to find that secret brick for you. If not, then we we'll all commiserate for you as we enjoy your tale.
I used to be the tech guru in our family, but now my 14-year-old son is the one generally keeping me up-to-date on the latest tech tools and gadgets. He's also a teenager on a budget, so a big fan of open-source (and free) software, from Google Slides for school projects, to GIMP for graphics editing, to the Ubuntu operating system. A lot of these free, open-source tools can be a wonderful alternative for genealogists--leaving more room in the budget for database subscriptions!
Almost 7 million digitized historic American newspapers are available for online research through Chronicling America, a free website of the U.S. Library of Congress. But while the simple search box can return a lot of interesting results, learning how to make good use of the site's advanced search and other features will uncover treasures you might otherwise have missed.
How often do we ask ourselves.... Was my ancestor old enough to have witnessed this document? To have purchased land? Joined the local militia? Married the girl next door? The answers to these and other such questions are often as simple as determining the laws in effect at that particular time and place (if your ancestor actually followed the letter of the law, of course!).
Although federal and state statutes and session laws, both current and historical, are fairly easy to access--and often can be found online, locating a specific statutory law in effect at a certain period and place can be a little difficult. This guide to Finding Historical U.S. Statutes Online walks you through the basic steps, using the example question "What was the minimum age for an 1855 marriage in North Carolina without parental consent?"
Have you ever wandered through a cemetery and wondered about the meanings of the designs carved on old gravestones? While we can only speculate what our ancestors were trying to tell us through their choice of tombstone art, you can explore the meanings and interpretation of tombstone symbols commonly agreed upon by gravestone scholars in this photo tour of tombstone symbols and engravings.