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Tuesday, 18 March 2014
Genealogy Tips for Tracing Female Ancestors
Posted by Diane
March is Women's History
Month, so it seems a good time to share tips and facts from Legal Genealogist Judy
G. Russell's "Female Ancestors and the Law" chat for our
Family Tree University Virtual Genealogy Conference last month.
You can get in-depth advice on researching women in your family in
Female Ancestors Family Tree University course, which starts
Monday, March 24. We also have a Discover
Your Female Ancestors value pack with an Independent Study
version of that course, plus a video class, a cheat sheet and
- Judy opened the chat with this interesting tidbit: Under common law, a girl could be betrothed
at age 7. She was entitled to dower at age 9. She couldn’t
choose a guardian until she was 14 or serve as executrix until
17, and wasn’t of full age until 21. But she could be married
off at age 12.
- A married woman was called a feme
covert, which literally means a woman hidden behind the
identity of her husband.
- Judy recommended Black's
Law Dictionary as a good resource for finding out
what laws governed women's lives in the places your ancestors
lived. It was first published in 1891, and you can see the 2nd edition,
published in 1910, for free here. Look for printed
editions at large libraries and law libraries.
- A widowed woman would have to be named guardian of her own
children in a probate court, or the court might name a male
relative to look after the children's inherited property (even
if they still lived with their mother).
- An underage woman usually had to have a male guardian's
permission to marry. Look for a record with the couple's
- Early divorces often had to be approved by state legislatures;
look for these records in legislative records (usually at a
- Prenuptial agreements, often found with deeds or court
records, weren't uncommon, even early on.
- Land records are excellent for researching
women. A husband had to sell land, even if the wife had
inherited it from her father, but the wife had to sign off on
it. That's called her "dower" right (not to be confused with a
dowry), and it was intended to provide some means of support
for a woman whose husband had died.
- "Property" transfers of slaves,
usually in chancery or equity courts, also can be a source of
information on female heirs.
- Chat participants have had luck finding maiden names in
children's birth, marriage and death records; and in male
ancestors' wills. Several said that
sons in their families received the mother's maiden name as a
I also wanted to share this
post from the New York History Blog, about a New York law, in
effect until March 20, 1860, that kept
married women from having any legal control over money they
- One chatter reminded us not to assume that someone listed by
initials in a record (such as M.A. Smith) is male.
where you can find out about our Fall 2014 Virtual Genealogy
Conference, happening Sept. 19-21.
Female ancestors | Research Tips | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales
Tuesday, 18 March 2014 15:31:53 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Monday, 25 March 2013
Genealogy Records for "Hearing" Your Revolutionary War Ancestors' Voices
Posted by Diane
Did your ancestors fight in or witness the Revolutionary War
firsthand? Family Tree Magazine contributing editor Maureen
A. Taylor shares the records she's found especially helpful in doing
research for her forthcoming documentary "Revolutionary Voices: A Last
Muster Film," a project with award-winning documentary producers Verissima Productions:
- Diaries and letters: This is Eleazer Blake, an
apprentice in a wheelwright shop in Rindge, NH, who kept a
In his diary, he mentions the Battle of Lexington and
Concord as well as details of his everyday life. These statements
let you relive parts of his life. Though your Revolutionary
War-era ancestor may not have been a diarist, the writings of his
contemporaries will help you understand the tense times he lived
- Pension applications: While some men exaggerated their
wartime exploits in their Revolutionary War pension
applications, other documents make for painful reading. James
Allen Jr. of Maine applied for a pension several times, but
lacked proof of his service. Allen’s brother submitted a
deposition with a plea on his brother’s behalf: “I have no doubt
my brother served in the Army of the Revolution as he has always
stated to me, and I know that he has for the last 20 years or
more been trying to obtain a pension.” (The November
2008 Family Tree Magazine has online resources for
pension and other military records, as does our Family Tree
University course US
Military Records: Trace Your Ancestor's Service.)
Don't forget about women of the Revolutionary era: They left behind personal writings, pension documents and memoirs
as well. The stories of their lives as daughters, wives and widows
can also be found in materials left by their fathers, brothers and
Tree Magazine's Ultimate Tracing Female Ancestors Collection
can help you learn more about the women in your family tree.)
- Memoirs: Seneca chief Chainbreaker, also known as
Gov. Blacksnake or Tash-won-ne-ah, dictated his life story
to a neighbor, relating how he served for the British in the
bloody Battle of Oriskany in New York. George Avery wrote in his
memoir that being taken prisoner at Royalton, Vt., in 1780 was a
turning point. “I felt the evil of my life and the Divine
Justice of Providence.” Use WorldCat,
which includes the
National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (1986 and
later), to help you find published and unpublished memoirs in
You can hear more life stories about the Revolutionary War
generation by following Maureen's Revolutionary Voices: A Last
Muster Film project. Find
out how you can help make the film happen here.
Female ancestors | Military records | Research Tips | Social History
Monday, 25 March 2013 08:23:48 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Tuesday, 12 February 2013
I think I've got it!, or, Cluster Genealogy Works!
Posted by Diane
A couple of weeks ago, I posted about my
third-great-grandmother's hard-to-read maiden name in her divorce
case file from 1879 to 1881. Many of you offered suggestions
for searching for her family in the 1850 and 1860 censuses—thank
I tried those searches and I kept examining the case file for clues
... and I'm 98 percent sure I have the maiden name! It shows that cluster
genealogy works. Here's how it happened.
I saw this in my third-great-grandmother Mary Frost's testimony:
Her oldest child—my great-great-grandfather—George, stayed with
Mary's sister (unnamed here) and worked for the sister's husband, George Hartke, in his
I searched for George Hartke on Ancestry.com and found this in an 1878 city
directory for Covington, Ky.:
I then found his family in the 1880 census, under "Harke":
My great-great-grandfather is listed in the household as "nephew."
Interestingly, he's double-enumerated in his mother's household in
I turned my focus to George Hartke's wife and Mary Frost's
sister, Elizabeth. Death records often name parents, especially in
the 20th century (Mary's doesn't, though), so I looked for
Elizabeth's. Lo and behold:
Let's take a closer look:
Elizabeth's Oct. 22, 1931, death certificate reports her parents as
Henry Wolking and "Eliz." Evers, both born in Germany. I did some more census searching and believe the
informant, "Mrs. Henry Harke," is Elizabeth's daughter-in-law.
I still haven't found the Wolkings for sure in 1850 and 1860
census records. My best candidate so far is this Wolkins family in 1850:
The father's name doesn't match, which isn't great but also isn't a
deal breaker—he could've gone by his middle name or the census
taker could've talked to a neighbor, or Mrs. Henry Harke could have been wrong on the death certificate. This family does have a Mary,
Tilda (the divorce records refer to Mary's sister Matilda) and Lizzie of the right ages.
Learn more about how to use cluster genealogy in your research from
our on-demand webinar, Using
Cluster and Collateral Searches to Beat Brick Walls, presented
by Thomas MacEntee. It's available in ShopFamilyTree.com.
Originally posted at the Genealogy Insider blog.
Ancestry.com | census records | Female ancestors | Research Tips | Webinars
Tuesday, 12 February 2013 11:48:11 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Tuesday, 05 February 2013
Tabloid Divorces Have Nothing on These Ancestors
Posted by Diane
week I promised to tell you how I got my
third-great-grandparents’ divorce record.
It went on my genealogy to-do list after a random search of
historical newspaper website GenealogyBank resulted
in newspaper notices when my third-great-grandmother filed for
divorce in 1879 (below), and again when the divorce was granted
two years later.
You know when you think something is going to be a big ordeal so
you procrastinate, then when you finally get the ball rolling it
turns out to be a piece of cake and you wish you did it ages ago?
I had checked FamilySearch.org,
Ancestry.com and USGenWeb to see if I could get digital or
microfilmed copies. Nope. So I thought I’d have to figure out
which of the two county courthouses to go to, find time to make
the trip, get a babysitter, search out the records, and so on.
When I started planning a visit and called the courthouse (after
first checking online for info on old records), the nice lady
there said, “Oh, we don’t keep records that far back,” at which
point I may have made strange choking sounds. Then she continued,
“You’ll have to call the state archives in Frankfort.”
I checked the Kentucky
State Archives’ website and learned it does have divorce
records from the time and place I needed, and you can print
a request form to fill out and
send with a $15 fee. Easy peasy.
A few days later, I had an email from a state archivist. The file
was 103 pages(!) and I’d need to send an additional fee for copies
of the whole thing.
When I called to pay over the phone, I asked the archivist what’s
typically in a historical divorce file, just to make sure I wouldn’t be
ordering a bunch of blank pages. She flipped through and said it
looked pretty meaty, with lots of depositions. “We’ll get this
copied today and sent out tomorrow,” she said.
After a few days impatient days, The Big Envelope was in my
mailbox. The first page had this on it:
I spread out the pages on the counter, squinting at the
handwriting and trying to glean all the clues I could—such
as my third-great-grandmother's maiden name—while protecting
them from my 2-year-old's applesauce splatters.
"Meaty" is an accurate description. So far I've found all the
makings of a tabloid-worthy divorce: accusations of cruelty and
mental instability (along with a physician's testimony about my
ancestor's "cycles"—I guess doctor-patient confidentiality was
still in the future), custody fights, and insinuations of an improper relationship between my
third-great-grandmother and a younger man.
I'm still going over the papers and I'll blog more later about
genealogical clues I discover (that way I can call it work).
Thinking about researching your ancestors' court records? Click here for FamilyTreeMagazine.com tips on finding the right courthouse.
Then check out our courthouse research guide digital download, available in ShopFamilyTree.com.
Depending on the type of court records you're looking for, you'll also find in-depth help in our Using Guardianship Records in Genealogical Research video class with Marian Pierre-Louis and our Using Criminal Court Records on-demand webinar with Judy G. Russell.
court records | Female ancestors | Libraries and Archives | Research Tips
Tuesday, 05 February 2013 09:11:39 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Monday, 28 January 2013
I Found the Maiden Name—But What Is It??
Posted by Diane
So I finally got my hands on a copy of the
divorce case for my my third-great-grandparents, Thomas and Mary Frost (more later about how I got it). As I hoped, it has
her maiden name!
There's just one problem—I can't read it, exactly:
Alanis Morrisette would call this situation ironic.
I searched Ancestry.com for Mary Wol*am (the wildcard * can stand in
for more than one letter). Some of the possibilities are Wollam,
Wolam, Wolham, Woldham, Woltam and Wolfram.
I even found an 1850 census record for a Wollam family living in
Ohio with a Mary of the right age, born about 1840. But this family
has no Matilda, one of Mary's sisters, who gives her name but not
her age in a deposition for the divorce case. The same family (I
think) in later censuses doesn't have a Matilda, either, and is no
longer in Ohio. (My third-great-grandparents married in Cincinnati
I can't find a family in the census that fits Wolham, my first
thought when I read the name. And no luck yet in my search for a
Wol-something-am (or a Frost) marriage record.
I've looked through the rest of the 103-page file for another
maiden-name mention and can't find one, though the writing is
really hard to make out in places. I need to spend some quality time
with the document.
Are you searching for a female ancestor's maiden name? Check out our
new Family Tree University course Finding
Female Ancestors (I'm planning to!), which starts this
week—it's open for registration through Friday. You'll get help
developing a research strategy for female ancestors, teasing out
maiden names and more.
the link to learn more about the Finding Female Ancestors course.
court records | Female ancestors
Monday, 28 January 2013 12:30:21 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Wednesday, 05 September 2012
Finding Female Ancestors, Searching Online and More: Tips From Virtual Genealogy Conference Experts
Posted by Diane
We're holding live, free Facebook and Twitter chats with our Family
Tree University Virtual Genealogy Conference expert presenters to
give you sneak peeks at the genealogy tips you'll get from this
online family history conference.
We've got three chats to
- Today, Wednesday, Sept. 5, at 4:30 p.m. ET, join our Tweet-up on
Twitter with Gena Philibert-Ortega, who'll be talking about social history and tracing immigrants (we'll be
using hashtag #FTUVC).
Remember to translate the chat times into your time zone. You
don't have to be a Facebook or Twitter member to see the chats, but
you must be a member to post a question.
- Stop by our
Facebook page Thursday, Sept. 13, at 1 p.m. ET to get
Rick Crume's advice on tracking down ancestors in UK civil
registration records and Ireland's Griffith's Valuation.
The chats we've already had are chock-full of research help! Here's where to find them:
Tree University Fall 2012 Virtual Genealogy Conference,
taking place online Sept. 14-16, gives you access to 15 video
classes, live chats, our exclusive conference message board, and
our virtual exhibit hall (where you can win prizes by being part
of our exhibitor scavenger hunt).
learn more, visit FamilyTreeUniversity.com. (Pssst!:
You can save $50 on conference registration with coupon code
Family Tree University | Female ancestors | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites | immigration records | Research Tips | Social History | Social Networking
Wednesday, 05 September 2012 12:34:13 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
Finding Females and Cramming Canadian Genealogy
Posted by Tyler
In this guest post, Presenter Lisa A. Alzo breaks down her sessions on Canadian immigration records and tracking down evasive female ancestors at the Family Tree University’s Fall 2012 Virtual Genealogy Conference:
Secrets to Tracing Female Ancestors
When I started my genealogy research over 22 years ago, I began with a female ancestor: my maternal grandmother. This was before the Internet and without the luxury of FamilySearch, the Ellis Island Database or Ancestry.com. Nothing like starting out with a challenge! But I used the information available to me—family documents, interviews, church records, court documents and microfilm—as well as made trips to the library and visited the places she had lived. I was thus able to learn the details of her life, which I chronicled in my book Three Slovak Women. In my Virtual Conference session, “Secrets for Tracing Female Ancestors”, I will reveal my secrets for locating and using online and offline resources, and will share other tips and tricks you’ll need to find the elusive women in your family tree!
Canadian Immigration Records
As a child, my family would visit my father’s cousin in Ontario, Canada. At the time I fleetingly wondered why he lived so far away, but never questioned it until I became a genealogist and began tracking down clues about my Alzo ancestors. Curiosity led me to investigate sources in Canada, with some very interesting and surprising results! If you have ancestors who immigrated to Canada (or even think it’s a possibility), then join me for the session Canadian Immigration Records, where I’ll walk you through the basics of searching in the Great White North. You’ll learn about websites, databases and printed resources to help you locate passenger lists, border crossings and other immigration records, as well as search secrets to draw your ancestors out of hiding!
Learn more about the Fall Virtual Conference.
Canadian roots | Family Tree University | Female ancestors | French Canadian roots
Wednesday, 29 August 2012 15:45:13 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, 27 July 2012
Genealogy News Corral, July 23-27
Posted by Diane
- I wanted to point you to the Ancestry
Insider's interesting post about indexing errors on 1940 census
websites. The Ancestry Insider has seen more user complaints
about Ancestry.com's index than FamilySearch's, and I'd have to echo
that observation (mostly in blog comments and on Facebook). His post
includes Ancestry.com's answers to questions about its indexing
and auditing processes, and the index augmentation that helps
users find records despite indexing difficulties.
- This fall, the National Archives
will open its new New York City location in Lower Manhattan, in the
Alexander Hamilton US Custom House at One Bowling Green (the former
facility was on Varick Street in Greenwich Village). The new
location will expand the facilitiy's usefulness for research and
education, with a welcome center, research center, learning center
for school groups, exhibition space and public programs area. Read
more about the new location here.
- Military records subscription site Fold3 has released a new
collection of Navy
Casualty Reports, 1776-1941, documenting deaths of US Navy
personnel in wartime and in accidents outside of war.
reports include records of those who were killed, injured, wounded,
diseased or imprisoned, but most report only deaths.The records
include four titles: Deaths Due to Enemy Action (includes deaths
during the Civil War aboard the Cincinnati and in Andersonville
prison, and more), Drowning Casualties (1885-1939), Lost and Wrecked
Ships, Explosions and Steam Casualties (1801-1941), and Ordnance
Accidents, Aviation Accidents, and Miscellaneous Records. This
collection is currently free to search.
Ancestry.com | census records | Female ancestors | Fold3 | Genealogy books | Military records | NARA
Friday, 27 July 2012 14:36:03 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Monday, 16 July 2012
Finding Female Ancestors, Cloud Back-ups and Going to the Library: Tips From Our Online Genealogy Records Workshop
Posted by Diane
Participants in last week's How to
Research in Genealogy Records online workshop shared tips and
asked questions in daily chats about everything from researching
in libraries to backing up genealogy data.
Just for you, I smuggled out a bunch of tips on finding women ancestors, backing up your data in the cloud and preparing for a library research trip:
Finding female ancestors
For a hard-to-find female ancestor, go sideways by researching her children, husband, siblings and
Family Tree Magazine editor Allison Dolan
DeBartolo Carmack's advice from way back in our April 2001 issue:
Elizabeth Fox-Genovese said that the 'history of women cannot be
written without attention to women's relations with men in
general and with 'their' men in particular, nor without
attention to the other women of their society.' ... Those who successfully find the maiden
names and parents' names of female ancestors aren't focusing
their research efforts on just the woman in question."
Allison also shared her favorite
websites about women's history and genealogy:
Backing up your computer "in the cloud"
Online community editor Tyler Moss and Sunday chatters exchanged
ideas for cloud back-ups. He uses Dropbox, which offers 2GB of
free storeage plus more if you can get others to join the service.
Subscriptions start at 100GB for $9.99 per
To use Carbonite,
you pay a subscription fee (starting at $59
per year per computer) to have your computer automatically sync
with your backup on the cloud.
is a backup service that lets you start with a free 5GB account.
Google has some
storage options starting with 5GB of free space.
Tyler also shared this
on cloud storage systems from tech site Gizmodo.
Preparing for library research
In the chat I facilitated on genealogy research at
libraries and archives, folks shared what they bring with them to the
change for copiers, $1s or $5s in case I need to buy copy cards, a flash drive
for saving digital images if the library is
so equipped, notepad, pen, a snack (to be consumed
where permitted), catalog printouts for materials I want and any necessary
family tree info.
Others recommend a personal scanner or phone with a camera, laptop, sweater and sticky notes. Tyler even comes
prepared for long research sessions with a chair cushion.
Some libraries don't permit scanners, cameras, sticky notes or other items, so check the website or call ahead.
We were all impressed with one chatter's description of her master
genealogy to-do list: She keeps a spreadsheet with columns for
... and more. She can easily sort the list by library
name and priority. I need to try this!
- title of the item needed
- holding library
- catalog number
- format (book, microfilm, etc.)
- priority level
(high, medium, low)
Fall 2012 Virtual Conference
You, too, can take online genealogy classes from experts and be part of exclusive chats and message board discussions with other researchers—it'll all be part of Family Tree University’s Fall 2012 Virtual Conference, Sept. 14-16.
Learn more about the Virtual Conference on FamilyTreeUniversity.com.
Female ancestors | Libraries and Archives | Research Tips | Tech Advice
Monday, 16 July 2012 15:34:38 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, 08 May 2012
Ancestry.com Adds WWII Cadet Nursing Corps Records
Posted by Diane
Ancestry.com has added more than 300,000 WWII
Cadet Nursing Corps Card Files
dating from 1942 to 1948.
The United States Public Health Service supervised the Cadet Nurse
Corps Program to train nurses during the war. The records name more
than 124,000 women between the ages of 17 and 35 who participated in
the program. Eighty-five percent of all nursing students in the
United States were a part of the Cadet Nursing Corps. (Read
more about the Cadet Nurse Corps program here.)
The Corps was non-discriminatory; members included
American Indians, African-Americans and even displaced Japanese
The records include corps membership cards. Different versions were in
use over the time period, but usually include at least the name of the
cadet, serial number, name of the nursing school or hospital, address
of the school, and dates attended.
You can search this collection at Ancestry.com/nursing.
Looking for a WWI Red Cross Army Nurse? Get research tips on FamilyTreeMagazine.com.
Ancestry.com | Female ancestors | Military records
Tuesday, 08 May 2012 13:16:42 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Thursday, 08 March 2012
Tips for Finding Female Ancestors
Posted by Diane
March is Women’s History Month, so let's seize the opportunity to talk about finding women ancestors. Learning their maiden names can be a big problem, especially when you're researching before the era of consistent vital records.
For me, birth and death records, when they're available, have been a source of maiden names. Carefully examining census records also has helped: In two cases, I've found a female ancestor's elderly mother or father living in the daughter's household.
Here's a roundup of free FamilyTreeMagazine.com articles that focus on finding women ancestors:
You'll discover more research strategies and details of our female ancestors' lives with the tools in our Women's History Month Value Pack, specially priced at $29.99 (a 59 percent discount) in March.
Female ancestors | Research Tips | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales
Thursday, 08 March 2012 10:06:06 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Thursday, 05 May 2011
Resources for Finding Your Female Ancestors
Posted by Diane
Happy Mother's Day to the moms out there and those on my family tree, including my great-grandma (here in the early 30s, holding one of her little ones) and my grandma (the little girl with her hands folded in front of her).
One of your biggest brick walls, you tell us, is finding the women in your family tree. That’s because historical records tend to name men more often, and women generally changed their names when they married (though those from some cultures, such as Italians, usually used their maiden names on official records).
This Mother’s Day, we want to help you learn more about your female ancestors’ lives. These free articles on FamilyTreeMagazine.com give tips and resources to aid your search:
And here are some resources for finding female ancestors from ShopFamilyTree.com:
Remember: Order anything from ShopFamilyTree.com and get FREE our "Memories of Mom" digital download from the forthcoming book My Life & Times by Sunny Jane Morton (available October 2011). This offer ends Monday, May 9.
Thursday, 05 May 2011 09:39:28 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Thursday, 28 April 2011
Ideas for Mom on Mother's Day
Posted by Diane
I have Anna Marie Jarvis to thank for my upcoming breakfast in bed this Mother's Day (my first as a mom). She established the day in 1908 with backing from Philadelphia merchant John Wanamaker. The state of West Virginia declared the holiday in 1910, and the rest of the states followed suit.
Mother’s Day is coming right up on May 8, so I’ve been dreaming up gift ideas a family history-minded mom might go for. Here are some I’ve come up with:
Framed photo: If you have one of those three- or four- (or more) generation photos of moms in your family, that would be perfect. Or a picture of you and your mom. Or maybe find pictures of you, your mom and her mom at about the same age, and frame them together.
Photo gifts: Use a digital photo and a website such as Shutterfly or Snapfish to create anything from coffee mugs to mousepads.
Family Tree: Create a decorative family tree with photos. You can use your genealogy software to do this, or download a decorative tree from a site such as FamilySearch, then print and fill it out. Several sites let you fill out a tree online and either print it for free or order a professionally printed version. Here’s our roundup of sites for generating or ordering a decorative family tree.
Family history or memoir book: Try the fill-in book Family Tree Legacies or Grandma’s Memories, which has prompts to help mom share her life stories.
Mom advice: Books such as 150 Tips and Tricks for New Moms, All About Mom or A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers might have just the advice or inspiration a mom in your life needs.
Genealogy helps: You can find all kinds of items at ShopFamilyTree.com to help mom discover her roots. If you're not sure where to start, try a State Research Collection for a state she’s searching in, or our Organize Your Genealogy Life! CD to help her keep her research shipshape.
How are you honoring your mom this year?
Female ancestors | Genealogy fun
Thursday, 28 April 2011 16:37:48 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, 01 March 2011
Celebrate Women's History Month By Finding Female Ancestors
Posted by jamie
March marks National Women's History Month, a celebration of the often overlooked contributions women have made to history. The month evolved from National Women's History Week, established in 1978 by the Education Task Force of Sonoma County, Calif., to coincide with International Women’s Day.
In 1981, Congress issued a joint resolution supporting Women’s History Week. In 1987, the National Women’s History Project
petitioned Congress to expand the celebration to the entire month of
March. Since then, the National Women’s History Month resolution has
been approved every year with bipartisan support in both the House and
Celebrate Women's History Month by researching your female ancestors. Here are a few of our online resources:
Tuesday, 01 March 2011 12:12:14 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Tuesday, 22 February 2011
"Who Do You Think You Are?" Episode 3 Recap
Posted by jamie
Spoiler Alert: If you don't already know what happened during Rosie O'Donnell's episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” you are about to find out.
Rosie O'Donnell often asked her grandmother about a specific photo hanging in her house, but her grandmother was tight lipped about the woman. O'Donnell knew she was somehow related to her, but didn't know much beyond that. So she began her "Who Do You Think You Are?" journey by researching the mystery woman.
She starts looking in the 1900 census, finding her great-grandparents Michael and Ellen Murtha. The census indicates Michael was born in French Canada and his parents were born in Ireland. O'Donnell steps back father to the 1880, but shows Michael living in Brooklyn with a different woman — his first wife Anna.
This leads O'Donnell to Manhattan, where she finds the death certificate for Anna Murtaugh, a variation of the Murtha surname. The cause of death is listed as an explosion of an oil lamp. O'Donnell searches neighborhood newspapers for write-ups about the incident, discovering Anna was holding her infant daughter during the explosion.
Catholic church baptismal records revealed Anna's daughter to be Elizabeth Murtha, who lived through the accident and eventually had many children and grandchildren. Tracing the line forward, O'Donnell is reunited with Elizabeth's grandchildren, her second cousins. They confirm that the mysterious photo is Elizabeth's mother Anna.
After solving that mystery, she travels to Quebec to search parish records for Anna's husband and O'Donnell's great-grandfather Michael Murtha, listed as Michael Murtaugh in baptismal records. Michael's parents are listed as Andrew Murtaugh and Anne Doyle. O'Donnell searches a local newspaper to find the obituary for Anne, which lists her birthplace as Kildare, Ireland. For more on searching newspapers, see our Finding You Family in Old Newspapers on-demand webinar.
O'Donnell then heads to Ireland to find out more about the Murtaughs. Many people emigrated from Ireland at the height of the potato feminine, and Andrew and Anne were among them.
Searching Poor Law Union minute books for a mention of the family, O'Donnell discovers two men sponsored the Murtaughs passage to Canada. The Poor Law Union only provided assisted immigration for severely impoverished families during the feminine. To qualify for assisted immigration, a family would have to live in a work house for at least a year. For more on tracing your Irish roots, see our Irish heritage research guide.
"WDYTYA" airs Fridays at 8pm EST on NBC. Check the Genealogy Insider
blog for a brief recap of each episode, and post a comment to be entered
to win in our Discover Who You Are sweepstakes!
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Church records | Female ancestors | Newspapers
Tuesday, 22 February 2011 10:48:38 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Thursday, 19 August 2010
Happy 90th to the 19th Amendment!
Posted by Diane
Yesterday was the 90th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment to the US constitution. I’m especially partial to this one because it granted women the right to vote, declaring “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
Tennessee, where we are right now for the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference, is the state whose General Assembly passed the suffrage amendment by one vote Aug. 18, 1920. By becoming the 36th state to ratify the amendment, Tennessee assured the approval of the three-fourths of the states—the final requirement necessary for ratification.
Assemblyman Henry T. Burn from McMinn County provided the tie-breaking vote. He originally planned to vote against the 19th amendment, but a letter from his mother changed his mind.
“I notice some of the speeches against," she wrote. "They were bitter. I have been watching to see how you stood, but have not noticed anything yet. Don't forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. [Carrie Chapman] Catt put the "rat" in ratification.”
The next day, Burn told the Assembly that he changed his vote because "a good boy always does what his mother asks him to do."
Read about the long struggle for women’s suffrage and the passage of the 19th amendment on these sites:
Female ancestors | Social History
Thursday, 19 August 2010 21:28:10 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Thursday, 12 August 2010
Genealogy Q&A From Our Ask the Editors Webinar
Posted by Diane
Thanks to everyone who attended last night's free “Ask the Editors” webinar! We had a blast, and we hope to do it again.
I wanted to share the questions attendees asked—and our answers, of course, enhanced with links to resources we mentioned and a few new ones. But first, because Allison, Grace, Lindsay and I started the webinar with an introduction, blog readers can “meet” most of us on our FamilyTreeMagazine.com staff page. Get to know Lindsay here. And now for the main event:
Q. How would I find a 1905 death certificate from Mexico?
A. Civil registrations in Mexico (akin to vital records in the United States) started in the mid- to late-1860s, though records may not be complete. In most cases, records were kept on the municipio level and you can request copies from the local civil registry (addresses are in FamilySearch’s Mexico research outline). Older records may have been transferred to a local or state archive.
Before writing, see if the record is in an online index or on microfilm. Many Mexican death records are indexed on the FamilySearch Record Search Pilot Site. Search the Family History Library online catalog for microfilmed civil registration records or indexes, as well.
You’ll find more advice in our Mexico Research Guide digital download, available from ShopFamilyTree.com.
Q. I can't find my ancestor’s birthplace. Different censuses give different locations, and I don’t know his parents’ names. Where should I look?
A. It’s not unusual for a person’s birthplace to be inconsistent from one census to the next. The trick is to go beyond census records. Many sources will give a place of birth, so continue researching the person in any record you can get your hands on. Bibles, baptismal records, newspaper birth announcements, military records, passports, naturalizations and death records are a few sources that often name a person’s birthplace.
See which places are mentioned most often, and focus there. You may find online birth indexes such as those for Arizona, Minnesota, Missouri or South Dakota. Websites such as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch often have vital records indexes, too.
Get in-depth information and online search demos in our recorded webinar Vital Records: Researching Your US Ancestors' Births, Marriages and Deaths, available from ShopFamilyTree.com.
Q. How do you trace a child named Jane Doe who was a foundling, and was adopted?
A. Adoptions weren’t always formalized in courts—sometimes a relative or neighbor would take in the child. For a formalized adoption, look into guardianship records (court records of hearings to determine who would care for a minor). Also look for an amended birth certificate, changed to reflect the child’s adoptive rather than biological parents.
Another good resource is newspapers. Finding an abandoned child would be a newsworthy event and may have received press coverage and follow-up articles. Also see the resources in our adoption toolkit and the “Early Adopters” article in the February 2007 Family Tree Magazine (available as a digital issue).
Q. How do you find a grave site when the cemetery doesn’t know where the stone is?
A. Try looking in the cemetery for plots of relatives and those of the same last name, since family members are often buried together. Also search for burial indexes, many of which were created years ago—perhaps before the cemetery lost track of the burial record or the stone was overgrown. In the 1930s and early ‘40s, the Works Progress Administration indexed cemeteries in many communities; you’ll find a free WPA cemetery database at Access Genealogy and printed indexes at public libraries and the Family History Library. The Daughters of the American Revolution also has collected cemetery and other records for years.
A webinar attendee suggested the researcher look for burial permits, which many counties would issue before a grave could be dug, as well as funeral home records. Just this week, I got a letter from a reader who found a permit that a deceased’s relative's second husband had obtained to have the remains moved to his own family plot.
Q. Several of my lines have “daughtered out.” What is your advice for researching women?
A. Our female ancestors just don’t show up in as many records as our male ancestors did, so sometimes you get to a point where you can’t trace a family line back past a woman. Allison emphasized the importance of not focusing just on the female ancestor, but also researching her husband, children, siblings, parents and neighbors. Records of these people may lead you to a maiden name and other information about the woman. Because people often married those who lived nearby, researching the husband’s family may lead to records of interactions, such as land transactions, with your female ancestor’s family.
See our list of records that often reveal details about female ancestors.
Q. What will increase my chances of success in your photo calls?
A. As Allison explained in the webinar, which photos end up in the magazine or another project is partly luck, for example, say we need a wintry photo for a January calendar page, and you’ve sent in a photo of kids sled-riding on a snowy day. Or sometimes a project calls for a vertical or horizontal orientation.
Another thing we look for is a photo with a clear focal point to draw the viewer’s eye. “Compelling” is a good word to describe a photo that makes someone want to pick it up and look at it longer. (We’re always happy when someone picks up the magazine!) Pleasant, open expressions on faces (we know outright smiles are rare in old pictures), a steady gaze, or cute kids are often compelling. Photos with unusual or surprising subject matter also can be compelling.
If we’ll be reprinting the photo at a relatively small size, we’ll want to make sure viewers can still easily discern the subject matter in the pictures (in this respect, photos of large groups of people might be at a disadvantage). But we hope you’ll upload your photos to our Flickr pools regardless—we love seeing them, as do others.
Cemeteries | census records | Female ancestors | International Genealogy | Photos | Vital Records
Thursday, 12 August 2010 15:30:10 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Thursday, 08 October 2009
Genealogist Finds Michelle Obama's Slave Ancestor
Posted by Grace
Family Tree Magazine contributor Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak and The New York Times have uncovered documents revealing first lady Michelle Obama's great-great-great-grandmother, a slave named Melvinia. Through probate records, photographs and local histories, the sleuths have pieced together a picture of the life of Melvinia, who labored on farms in Georgia and South Carolina, and her first son, Dolphus—Obama's great-great-grandfather—who became a carpenter and owned his own business in Birmingham, Ala.
The story is absolutely fascinating. You can learn more about it in The New York Times, in ABC's news report, and make sure you watch the below video from Roots Television.
Monday, 16 March 2009
Friday, 13 March 2009
Can You Guess This All-American Girls League Player?
Posted by Diane
Yesterday, a woman who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League
(AAGPBL) stopped in the store where my husband works.
They got to talking, and she signed a baseball card for him, which he gave to me.
The AAGPBL started in 1943 in Chicago to keep ballparks in business, as young men (and potential fan favorites) were being drafted into the military. Cities in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin had teams. Players wore skirted uniforms and, in the first few years, attended charm school at night.
Before I show you this player’s card, can you guess who she is?
She signed in 1948 with the Springfield Sallies, left briefly, then returned in 1951 to the Fort Wayne Daisies. She was the winning pitcher against the Rockford Peaches to give the Daisies their first pennant in 1952. Bonus hint: She’s in this Sallies team photo
and this Daisies photo
Click Comments to make a guess. I'll post the card on Monday.
Was your relative in the AAGPBL? Start your search at the league Web site
, try local newspapers and check the Northern Indiana Center for History
Female ancestors | Research Tips | Social History
Friday, 13 March 2009 07:32:24 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)