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<October 2014>

More Links

# Wednesday, October 29, 2014
"Finding Your Roots": Tracing African-American Slave Ancestors
Posted by Diane

Last night's "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr." focused on the challenge of tracing African-American ancestors before slavery in the family trees of actress Angela Bassett, political adviser Valerie Bowman Jarrett and rapper Nas.

One reason I was especially interested in this topic is that we're planning an article on tracing enslaved ancestors for the January/February 2014 Family Tree Magazine. Gates' research team used the same strategy our experts recommend to identify potential slaveowners, whose records can shed light on who their slaves were: Compare an African-American family's 1870 census listing—the first census to list the former slaves by name—to the 1860 census for the same area, looking for white families there with the former slaves' surname. This is based on the fact that freed slaves often took the surnames of their most recent owners, usually stayed in the same area, and sometimes even worked for the same family.

Although the strategy worked for all three of Gates' guests, it doesn't always. A freed person could take any name he or she wanted. This is a great episode, though, for seeing what types of records might contain details on the enslaved.

Here are some highlights for each guest:
  • Angela Bassett: Bassett's great-grandfather William Henry Bassett was born into slavery and later became a preacher. His death certificate mysteriously gave his father's last name as Ingram. Researchers found an Elizabeth Ingram who was a neighbor of William's parents, George and Jinney, in the 1870 census. Researching Ingram's family, they discovered her father-in-law had bequeathed Bassett's great-great-grandparents to his children. They had grown up on the same plantation. Sometime between the age of 3 and 14, their son William Henry was sold to the Bassetts.
  • Valerie Bowman Jarrett: Jarrett's great-grandfather Robert Robinson Taylor, born in 1868, was the first African-American to graduate from MIT, and he later became a professional architect. He wrote a letter claiming that his father, Henry, was a slave who had a white father. A passage Booker T. Washington wrote stated that Henry was given unusual freedom. He received a sum of money when he finally became free.

    In another of Jarrett's lines, her great-great-grandfather Victor Rochon was among the first black men elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1888. Victor was named in the 1850 census, meaning he was free. Slaveowner Pierre Rochon had filed manumission papers to free Victor's mother (likely his mistress) and her children.
  • Nas: Nas' great-grandparents had the same last name, Little, and so did their parents. Five generations of his family tree had couples in which both had the Little surname. Researchers learned that generations of a white Little family in North Carolina had owned generations of Nas' family, all of whom took the name. One of the slaveowners, Benjamin Little, actually kept detailed records of how much cotton Nas' ancestor picked each day, a very rare glimpse into an enslaved ancestor's life.

    In court records, researchers also uncovered a receipt for the purchase of Nas' third-great-grandmother, Pocahontas Little. You can see Nas' interactive family tree here.
Watch the full episode featuring Nas, Angela Bassett and Valerie Bowman Jarrett, on the "Finding Your Roots" website.

You'll find our Jump Start Your African-American Genealogy Value Pack and other African-American genealogy books, videos and downloads in

African-American roots | Celebrity Roots | Genealogy TV
Wednesday, October 29, 2014 3:47:53 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
33 Types of Old County Court Records to Search for Your Ancestors
Posted by Diane

County courthouses are full of obscure and informative old records about long-ago residents of an area, and sometimes it takes a lot of digging to find them.

Family Tree University's upcoming Court Records 101 course can help you dig in the right places to find the genealogy records you need. Depending on the time and place your ancestor lived, you might find these types of records at his or her county courthouse:
  • adoption records
  • bastardy cases
  • civil records
  • coroners’ files
  • criminal case files
  • custody papers
  • deeds
  • divorce case files
  • estate inventories
  • guardianship papers
  • indenture contracts
  • insanity/commitment orders
  • jury lists
  • justice of the peace records
  • licenses
  • livestock brands and marks
  • manumissions
  • marriage bonds, licenses and certificates
  • military discharges
  • minute books
  • mortgages and leases
  • name changes
  • naturalizations
  • oaths of allegiance
  • permits
  • prenuptial agreements
  • probate files
  • property foreclosures
  • registers of births or deaths
  • tax records
  • voter registrations
  • wills
  • wolf-scalp bounties 
If you can't go to the courthouse yourself to look for these, you could send a written request if you have the volume and page number of the record you need. If not, FamilySearch may have the record on microfilm (find instructions for borrowing Family History Library microfilm here) or if you're lucky, digitized online.

To find digitized court records for your ancestral county or town on, go to the page listing all Historical Record Collections (you also can get here by clicking the Browse All Published Collections link on the record Search page). Use the filters on the left to choose United States, then the state.

Look for the name of the county or town in the collection titles, such as " Ohio, Jefferson County Court Records, 1797-1947" or" Ohio, Hamilton County Records, 1791-1994" ("court" doesn't necessarily appear in the name). Many of these collections aren't yet indexed, so you'll need to browse through the records rather than search by name. 

Remember that just because it isn't on microfilm or digitized online, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Often the most-used records are filmed or digitized, while more-obscure records aren't.

In some states, old county records are sent to the state archives. A visit to the court's website or a call before you visit should tell you if this is the case. (My call ahead to a county courthouse saved me a trip when I was looking for my third-great-grandparents' divorce records.)

Family Tree University's Court Records 101 course gives you in-depth, expert guidance for finding and researching in old court records about your ancestors. The next session starts Monday, November 3—see a syllabus and get registered here.

court records | Family Tree University | FamilySearch | Research Tips
Wednesday, October 29, 2014 2:13:27 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, October 27, 2014
Finding the Baseball Fever in My Family History: Ade Thoss & the Covington Blue Sox
Posted by Diane

One of this summer's genealogy highlights for me was discovering that in 1913, my great-great-granduncle (brother of my great-great-grandfather) Adolph "Ade" Frank Thoss was a professional baseball player for a local team, the Covington (Ky.) Blue Sox.

I have to be honest—I'd never heard of the Blue Sox. But I probably should have. There's even a mural honoring the team on the city's Ohio riverfront.

The Sox were part of baseball's Federal League, an "outlaw" league started in 1913 (no "legal" leagues were allowed to establish a team so close to the Cincinnati Reds, right across the river).

The Federal League played its first season starting in May, 1913. Ade Thoss, who'd played in 1909 and 1910 in the Bluegrass minor league for the Richmond (Ky) Pioneers, was the only local boy on the Sox. Covington quickly built a new ballpark (the tiniest professional ballpark ever built) and threw a parade before the home opener, May 9, when Ade started in right field.

Faces and Places database, Kenton County (Ky.) Public Library

I'd come across the name Thoss (no first name) several times among baseball scores while searching local newspapers, and I had a feeling this had to be a relative. I didn't investigated further, as I was always searching for some other Thoss. But I finally started putting it together when I came across an article in a Richmond, Ky., newspaper mentioning "Mrs. Ad. Thoss, of Covington" sick at the home of her father, "Mr. S. Q. Royce."

I turned my attention to the Adolph Thoss and Jane Royce on my tree, and Ade's page came up when I ran a Google search. The birth and death dates there matched my tree, helping to confirm it was the right Adolph.

And I know genealogists don't accept physical resemblance in a proof argument, but in this baseball card of Ade when he was on the Blue Grass League's Richmond (Ky.) Pioneers in 1909, he totally looks like my Thoss relatives:

American Tobacco Co., University of Louisville Margaret M. Bridwell Art Library

Researching the Covington Blue Sox, I learned there just happened to be a local filmmaker doing a documentary about the team and it would premiere at the library in a few weeks. My mom (Ade's great-grandniece) and I went to see the film, "Our True Blues: The Story of the Covington Blue Sox" (you can watch it on YouTube), for our birthdays, and it was the coolest thing to see our relative called out for hitting a single to drive in the first run on opening day. 

But it turned out that Covington couldn't support a professional baseball team. A string of rainouts worked against them, too. Less than two months after opening day, the Sox moved to Kansas City and became the Packers. Ade Thoss seems to have stayed behind. The next time I find him playing ball is in 1922, when the Blue Grass League's Winchester Dodgers brought back some old-timers.

The Federal League didn't survive beyond 1915, when owners from the other leagues bought out half of its owners.

Ade's part in this area's sports history is a fun chapter to add to my family tree. Did your ancestors play baseball, football, basketball or another sport? The October 2006 Family Tree Magazine has a guide to resources and records that can help you trace athletic ancestors, whether professional, semipro, in school or recreational.

Genealogy fun | Newspapers | Research Tips
Monday, October 27, 2014 2:37:45 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, October 24, 2014
Genealogy News Corral: Oct. 20-14
Posted by Diane

  • FamilySearch has announced that Donny Osmond will be the Saturday keynote speaker at the 2015 RootsTech conference, taking place Feb. 12-14, 2015, in Salt Lake City (the 2015 Federation of Genealogical Societies conference will be help in conjunction with RootsTech). You already knew the Osmond family is musical, but you might not have known they're also into genealogy. You can learn all about the family's history on the Osmond Family Organization website.
For those not attending the RootsTech/FGS conference: In past years, FamilySearch has broadcast keynote (and other) RootsTech sessions online. We'll keep you updated on those details as we receive them.
  • Family Tree Magazine Podcast producer Lisa Louise Cooke and contributing editor Sunny Jane Morton have teamed up to launch the free Genealogy Gems Book Club. The virtual, no-commitment club will feature a different family history-related book every three months. Genealogy Gems Podcasts (free and premium versions) will feature book-related content, including an exclusive interview with the author of each book during that third month. Learn more about the book club and see the first featured book on the Genealogy Gems website.
  • The Federation of Genealogical Societies has released its election results for officers beginning their terms Jan. 1, 2015. D. Joshua Taylor (who you know from the series "Genealogy Roadshow," as well as Family Tree University webinars including Top 25 Tricks for Finding Your Colonial Ancestors) was elected president for a second term. Six board members were elected or re-elected, as well—you can see them named on the FGS Voice blog. Congratulations to all!

Friday, October 24, 2014 1:06:46 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
How to Find the New German Genealogy Civil Registration Records on
Posted by Diane

Subscription genealogy site just added 31 new databases for researching German ancestors. The 11.7 million records cover civil registrations (government birth, marriage and death records) for various places in Germany, dating between 1874 and 1950. There's no single link to search just these 31 collections, so you could do a few things:
  • Searching one database at a time is your best bet if you know it covers the area in Germany where your family lived. Go to the card catalog and use the filters on the left: Under Filter by Collection, narrow the database list to Birth, Marriage and Death Records; and under Filter by Location; narrow by Europe, then by Germany.

    Then at the top of the list, use the Sort By dropdown menu to choose Date Added, and the new German databases rise to the top of the list. Click a title to search that collection.

  • You also can view a list of all German birth, marriage and death records by going to the Search All Records page and scrolling down to Explore by Location. Click the Europe tab, then click Germany. Under Germany Birth, Marriage & Death, you'll see a few databses listed; if you click the "View other" link at the end of that short list, you'll see all the German birth, marriage and death records. This list is arranged by record count, though, and you can't sort it in other ways.
  • If you want to search all the German civil registration records at once, run a global search for your German ancestor from the Search All Records page. (At the bottom of the search form, make sure the box for Historical Records is checked.)

    Then narrow your results  on the left: In the Collection dropdown menu, choose Germany and click the green Update button. Next, under the All Categories heading, choose Birth, Marriage & Death.
    If you still have too many results, look at the top of your results list, click the Categories tab and choose the database titles that most relate to your search.

For more search strategies, see our book Unofficial Guide to

My third-great-grandfather Joseph Ladenkötter was born in 1814 in Rheine, Steinfurt, Germany. Rheine is not among the areas covered with this records addition, but I thought I might find a relative who was born, married or died elsewhere.

I searched on the surname Ladenk*tter (with the asterisk wildcard to pick up both Ladenkotter and Ladenkoetter), and found a 1911 marriage record for Auguste Gertrud Ladenkötter (it looks like her birth surname was different, so she may have been a widow) and Wilhelm August Friedrich. The records are in German, of course.

German Genealogy Records

The Ladenkötter surname is pretty unusual, so I suspect that Auguste Gertrud was married to one of my relatives before she married Wilhelm. (I see the record mentions Rheine.) My next step is figuring out what the record says, which should help me find out if my hunch is correct.

Are you researching Germans? Visit to find out more about our German Genealogy Premium Collection. It contains six terrific research tools, including the Family Tree German Genealogy Guide and the German Genealogy Cheat Sheet (which will be the first thing I get out when I'm ready to start on the marriage record). | German roots | Research Tips
Friday, October 24, 2014 12:30:07 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, October 22, 2014
"Finding Your Roots" Traces Celebrity Chefs' Italian, Mexican and Chinese Immigrant Ancestors
Posted by Diane

Last night's "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr." on PBS focused on the immigrant ancestors of celebrity chefs of different ethnic—and culinary—backgrounds: Tom Colicchio (Italian), Aarón Sánchez (Mexican) and Ming Tsai (Chinese).

I don't have family heritage in these places, but I think this already interesting show would be even more interesting if you're researching in any of these areas.

I appreciated how this show detailed various motivations for immigrants to leave their homelands, and explained how some would travel back and forth between home and the United States before finally settling here. This was quite common, especially for men, who would come to earn money to take to their families back home. More than half of all Italian immigrants in the early 20th century, Gates said, were "birds of passage."

Here are some highlights of this episode:
  • Tom Colicchio's great-great-grandfather traveled to America in 1901, returned to Italy, then came back in 1906 and went home again in 1911. He was pressed into service in the Italian army in World War I, and finally brought his family to settle in the United States in 1947. The show described the burgeoning population, harsh taxes, crime and an earthquake that propelled Colicchio's family to leave their picturesque town of Vallarta.
  • Aarón Sánchez's great-great-grandfather was a prominent rancher in Mexico who lost everything he had and fled to the United States during the Mexican Revolution. He later was able to get his cattle back. Sánchez's third-great-grandfather, born in Spain in 1822, was the military commander Hilario Gabilondo. In 1857, Gabilondo ordered the deaths of about 70 filibusters (Americans attempting to seize land in Mexico) in an expedition led by former California state senator Henry Crabb. Read more about filibustering here.
The show's researchers traced Sanchez's ancestors in Spain back to his sixth-great-grandfather in the early 1700s. A DNA test revealed Sanchez has nearly 25 percent American Indian ancestry (the equivalent of having an Indian grandparent) and 3.7 percent African-American ancestry. 
  • Ming Tsai's grandfather was a comptroller of a university in China when Japan invaded before World War II. He was sent to a prison in Japan, where he was tortured and contracted typhus; he nearly died. He was able to return to his work after the war, but the Cultural Revolution, during which millions of intellectuals and "bourgeois" were persecuted and killed, forced him to flee.
Many historical relics were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, including steles, or carved stone tablets recording families. The Ming family stele was the only one remaining in their town. It led researchers records at the Shanghai public library (probably jiapu, or books recording paternal family lineage) that allowed them to trace his ancestry all the way back to his 116th-great-grandfather in the 27th century BC.
In trying to find out more about steles, I came across the House of Chinn website, about Chinese genealogy research and the author's own family. You might find it helpful if you're researching ancestors in China. You also can search a surname index to jiapu on subscription website
Each chef's cuisine is inspired by the foods of his ancestors; each recalled delicious meals with parents and grandparents. As the holidays approach, it's good to remember that food is a great way to introduce family members to their ancestors. You might even say that the way to a nongenealogist's heart is through his or her stomach.
You can watch this episode of "Finding Your Roots" online, at the show's website.

Asian roots | Celebrity Roots | Genealogy TV | Hispanic Roots | Italian roots
Wednesday, October 22, 2014 10:36:08 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, October 20, 2014
Call for Old Family Photos: Family Tree Magazine Seeks Ancestral Cover Model for 15th Anniversary Issue
Posted by Diane

We're getting pretty excited for Family Tree Magazine's big 15th anniversary issue in January 2015, and we'd love to put your ancestor on the cover!

Email us your ancestral photo before midnight on Friday, Oct. 31. We'll choose one photo to appear on our January/February 2015 cover, and other photos may appear with articles inside the magazine.

Here's how to submit:
  • Scan your old family photo at high resolution (300 dpi or greater). Old family photos of ancestors and relatives are fine, but no living folks, please. If you have a few favorite photos, it's fine to send more than one.
  • Include information you know about the photo, such as the name of the person or people shown, their relationship to you, when the picture was taken, etc. Also include your name, email address and phone number.
If we choose your photo, we'll contact you and get your mailing address to send you a copy of the issue.

By sending your photo, you affirm that you're the owner of the image, and you give us permission to use it on the cover or in the interior of Family Tree Magazine. We also may use it in other print or electronic media.

Remember to submit before midnight on Oct. 31!

Family Tree Magazine articles | Photos
Monday, October 20, 2014 1:07:11 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Free Immigration Records on Through Oct. 23
Posted by Diane is offering free access to its immigration records collection
from now through Oct. 23 at midnight ET.

The promotion highlights this week's episode of "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr." which sponsors. Watch chefs Aarón Sánchez, Tom Colicchio and Ming Tsai learn about their immigrant ancestors Tuesday night at 8 ET/7 CT.

Click here to start searching immigration records.

You'll need to register for a free account with (or log in to your existing account) to see full search results.

I gave the offer a try, and I'm relatively certain that this is the passenger record for my third-great-grandfather Franz Edward Thoss, showing his arrival at the port of New York, Feb. 10, 1837, on the Tiber, which left from Bremen.

This is for my great-granduncle, Ralph E. Thoss, coming back from World War II on the Vulcania, which arrived Nov. 10, 1945, from Le Havre, France. (Here's a neat website about the "cigarette camps" through which WWII troops moved when arriving and departing the port of Le Havre. Ralph was at Camp Phillip Morris.)

For more help using in your genealogy search, check out our Unofficial Guide to book. | immigration records
Monday, October 20, 2014 12:34:52 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Thursday, October 16, 2014
Enter Our Family History Month Sweepstakes: You Could Win a Genealogy Shopping Spree!
Posted by Diane

Happy Family History Month! To help you get started celebrating and discovering your family's history, we're giving you a chance (or chances—see below) to win a $100 gift card to

The winner of Family Tree Magazine's Family History Month Sweepstakes can choose from hundreds of genealogy how-to guides, books, CDs, video classes and more in
Click here to enter the Family History Month Sweepstakes before midnight Eastern on Oct. 30, 2014.  (You'll find the official rules here.)

You can get extra chances to win, too: After you submit your entry, you'll receive a unique link to share with friends. For each person who clicks your link and then enters the sweepstakes, you'll receive an additional two chances to win.

Good luck!

Genealogy fun | Sales
Thursday, October 16, 2014 11:15:55 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, October 15, 2014
5 Websites for Norwegian Genealogy
Posted by Diane

If you have ancestors in Norway, their old records might be in Norwegian, Danish or Swedish. Their parish name might refer to a village, a fork in the road or the largest town in the area.

Scandinavia, 1831. Published by D. Lizars, Edinburgh.
David Rumsey Map Collection

Scandinavian genealogy expert Diana Crisman Smith is very familiar with these Norwegian research challenges, and she'll help you get around them in our Norwegian Genealogy Crash Course webinar, coming up on Thursday, Oct. 30.

Here, Diana gives you a sneak peek at the webinar by sharing some of her favorite online resources for Norwegian genealogy:
  • The National Archival Services of Norway, which has record indexes and transcriptions, along with some digital images. You'll also find interesting articles such as Norwegian Emigration to America 1825-1939.
  • Norway-Heritage: Hands Across the Sea, with searchable indexes and helpful explanationd for understanding Norwegian names.
  • Norwegian Genealogical Society (Norsk Slektshistorisk Forening, or NSF) website, which lets you search an online index of its publication
  •, which in addition to online genealogy records, has abundant information in its research wiki.
  • Ancestry & History (Slekt & Historie), a site all about the authors' personal research, along with historical information and links to more than 100 additional resources.
In the Norwegian Genealogy Crash Course webinar, Diana will show you how to use these and other resources, and give you details about the most important Norwegian genealogy records, how to find those records, and tips for reading the records.

As always, anyone who registers for the webinar receives a PDF handout of the webinar slides, as well as access to view the webinar again as often as desired.

Learn more about the Norwegian Genealogy Crash Course webinar in

Genealogy Web Sites | International Genealogy | Research Tips | Webinars
Wednesday, October 15, 2014 11:03:52 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]