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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
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.
Watch the full episode featuring Nas, Angela Bassett and
Valerie Bowman Jarrett, on the "Finding Your Roots" website.
- 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.
You'll find our Jump Start Your African-American Genealogy Value Pack and other African-American genealogy books, videos and downloads in ShopFamilyTree.com.
African-American roots | Celebrity Roots | Genealogy TV
Wednesday, October 29, 2014 3:47:53 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
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
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
instructions for borrowing Family History Library microfilm here)
or if you're lucky, digitized online.
- adoption records
- bastardy cases
- civil records
- coroners’ files
- criminal case files
- custody papers
- divorce case files
- estate inventories
- guardianship papers
- indenture contracts
- insanity/commitment orders
- jury lists
- justice of the peace records
- livestock brands and marks
- marriage bonds, licenses and certificates
- military discharges
- minute books
- mortgages and leases
- name changes
- oaths of allegiance
- prenuptial agreements
- probate files
- property foreclosures
- registers of births or deaths
- tax records
- voter registrations
- wolf-scalp bounties
To find digitized court records for your ancestral county or town on
FamilySearch.org, 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 "
Jefferson County Court Records, 1797-1947" or"
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.)
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)
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.
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.
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,
BaseballReference.com 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:
Tobacco Co., University of Louisville Margaret M. Bridwell Art
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)
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
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.
Friday, October 24, 2014 1:06:46 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
How to Find the New German Genealogy Civil Registration Records on Ancestry.com
Posted by Diane
Subscription genealogy site Ancestry.com
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:
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
- 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 Ancestry.com Search
All Records page. (At the bottom of the search form, make
sure the box for Historical Records is checked.)
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 Ancestry.com search strategies, see our book Unofficial
Guide to Ancestry.com.
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.
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 ShopFamilyTree.com 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).
Ancestry.com | German roots | Research Tips
Friday, October 24, 2014 12:30:07 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
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 Ancestry.com.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.
can watch this episode of "Finding Your Roots" online, at the
Asian roots | Celebrity Roots | Genealogy TV | Hispanic Roots | Italian roots
Wednesday, October 22, 2014 10:36:08 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
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!
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.
If we choose
your photo, we'll contact you and get your mailing address to send
you a copy of the issue.
- 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.
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)
Free Immigration Records on Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com sponsors. Watch chefs Aarón Sánchez, Tom Colicchio and Ming Tsai learn about
their immigrant ancestors Tuesday night at 8 ET/7 CT.
here to start searching Ancestry.com immigration records.
You'll need to register for a free account with Ancestry.com (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.)
more help using Ancestry.com in your genealogy search, check out
our Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com book.
Ancestry.com | immigration records
Monday, October 20, 2014 12:34:52 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
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 ShopFamilyTree.com.
here to enter the Family History Month Sweepstakes before
midnight Eastern on Oct. 30, 2014. (You'll find the official
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.
Genealogy fun | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales
Thursday, October 16, 2014 11:15:55 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
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.
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.
Here, Diana gives you a sneak peek at the webinar by sharing some of
her favorite online resources for Norwegian genealogy:
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.
- 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
- Norway-Heritage: Hands
Across the Sea, with searchable indexes and helpful
explanationd for understanding Norwegian names.
Genealogical Society (Norsk Slektshistorisk Forening, or
NSF) website, which lets you search an online index of its
- FamilySearch.org, which
in addition to online genealogy records, has abundant
information in its research
& History (Slekt & Historie), a site all about the
authors' personal research, along with historical information
and links to more than 100 additional resources.
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.
more about the Norwegian Genealogy Crash Course webinar in ShopFamilyTree.com.
Genealogy Web Sites | International Genealogy | Research Tips | Webinars
Wednesday, October 15, 2014 11:03:52 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)