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Tuesday, 30 June 2015
Search for Early New England Ancestors FREE in NEHGS' Great Migration Databases
Posted by Diane
In honor of the United States' July Fourth holiday, the New England
Historic Genealogical Society is offering a week
of free access to its Great Migration online databases at
AmericanAncestors.org starting July 1. You'll need to set up a free guest
registration with the site.
Rejoice if your ancestors were among the first Europeans to settle
in New England: The Great Migration Study Project, sponsored by
NEHGS and directed by Robert
Charles Anderson, traces
the 20,000 Europeans who crossed the Atlantic
from 1620 to 1640.
(The term "Great Migration" also is used to
describe another migration, the African-American
migration from the South in the early- to mid-20th century.)
The nine searchable Great Migration databases include:
- The Great Migration Begins: This database gives
details on settlers in New England in 1633 and earlier. This is roughly 15 percent of the Great Migration immigrants.
- The Great Migration Newsletter: This database
contains comprises volumes 1 through 20 of the "Great Migration
Newsletter," published between 1990 and 2011. Each newsletter
includes articles, book reviews, and details on useful records
or one of the towns settled during the Great Migration.
NEHGS' Great Migration databases are free to search from Wednesday,
July 1, through July 8. Click
here to sign up for a free guest registration to
AmericanAncestors.org, then start searching.
- The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England,
1634-1635, Vols. I-VII (A-Y): Up to 2,500 people
immigrated in 1634 and again in 1635. These seven databases
cover surnames starting with letters A through Y, and provide
information such as the family or individual's name, place of
origin, date and ship of arrival, and the earliest known record
naming the person or family. Search results link to a sketch about the person or family from the Great Migration book
You can read
more here about the Great Migration Study Project, including
about the books and databases this research has produced. The project is scheduled for completion in 2016. Learn here about
the migration itself and the types of records researchers
NEHGS resources are invaluable for researching your early New
England roots. These and other records are covered in the guidebook
Your Colonial New England Ancestors by Patricia Law
Hatcher and our Top
25 Tips for Finding Your Colonial Ancestors on-demand
webinar with D. Joshua Taylor.
Genealogy Web Sites | immigration records
Tuesday, 30 June 2015 08:57:22 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, 26 June 2015
"Who Do You Think You Are?" Returns for a Summer 2015 Season
Posted by Diane
This is a nice surprise: "Who
Do You Think You Are?" is returning for a summer season on TLC
starting Sunday, July 26 at 9/8 central. Famous folks whose
ancestries we'll learn about include:
- Tom Bergeron,
host of "Dancing With the Stars" and "America's Funniest Home
Videos." He'll go all the way back to his 10th-great-grandmother and
his family's migration to North America.
- Bryan Cranston,
the actor who played the dad on "Malcolm in the Middle" and is
Walter White on "Breaking Bad." Update: TLC's original announcement hinted at Cranston's discovery of an
"unfortunate pattern amongst the men" in his family, but the show's publicist sent an update that the episode will focus on the actor's Civil War roots.
- Ginnifer Goodwin,
Mary Margaret/Snow White on "Once Upon a Time." She learns
more about her paternal great-grandparents, whom her father
doesn't know much about.
Shed Media and Is or Isn't Entertainment produce "Who Do You Think
You Are?" for TLC, and sponsor Ancestry.com provides research on the
celebrity guests' ancestors. (You'll learn the "Who Do You Think You
Are?" genealogy researchers' secrets in Family Tree Magazine's upcoming Summer 2015 Discover
Your Roots guide—I'll share the link as soon as the guide
becomes available in ShopFamilyTree.com.)
- Alfre Woodard,
television actor in "The Last Ship" and "State of Affairs" and
film actor in 12 Years a Slave. She follows her paternal side
and explores where her surname came from. She's also the first
African-American on the series in a few seasons—I think since Jerome
Betis in 2012, when the show was still on NBC.
The next season of "Who Do You Think You Are?" starts July 26. You
clips from past seasons on the show's website.
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Genealogy TV
Friday, 26 June 2015 09:39:45 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Thursday, 25 June 2015
PBS Postpones "Finding Your Roots" Due to Ben Affleck's "Improper" Influence
Posted by Diane
PBS has decided to postpone future seasons of the Henry Louis Gates
documentary genealogy series "Finding Your Roots" after determining
that celebrity guest Ben Affleck improperly influenced producers to
leave out a reference to his slave-owning ancestors. PBS also
concluded that Gates should have informed the network "of Mr. Affleck’s efforts to affect program content."
The network wants producers to hire another fact-checker and
independent genealogist before airing the third season, and won't
commit to a fourth season
"until we are satisfied that the editorial standards of the series
have been successfully raised to a level in which we can have
confidence." The episode profiling Affleck's ancestry will no longer
hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment uncovered emails
between Gates and Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton, made
public in April, in which the two discussed Affleck's request
to remove a segment mentioning that his ancestors were slave owners.
Both "Finding Your Roots" and TLC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" have identified slave owning ancestors of other celebrities.
PBS launched an internal review after the emails were made public.
Gates said that producers decided to omit Affleck's slave ancestors
after determining that other relatives were more interesting. Affleck
posted on Facebook that he was embarrassed by his family's
slave-owning past, but that Gates ultimately determined the
episode's content. (The show also said Affleck's mother was
a Freedom Rider in 1964 during the Civil Rights movement, a
claim she has said isn't true.)
The episode was the subject of much discussion in the genealogy
community and beyond, raising issues including America's ability to
deal with its slaveholding past, the editorial integrity of Gates'
research team and the veracity of historical documentaries and
reality series in general.
New York Times article has a good overview of the events. This
Variety article has more details on the internal review.
Thursday, 25 June 2015 09:56:53 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, 24 June 2015
Google for Genealogy: Finding Ancestral Inventions With Patent Search
Posted by Diane
Our upcoming Google
for Genealogy Family Tree University online course shows you
how to use Google search tricks and free resources to research your
family history. For example, have you searched for your surnames in
This search engine indexes patents and patent applications from
the United States
Patent and Trademark Office back to 1790, and the European Patent Office and World
Intellectual Property Organization back to 1978.
You might not
think there's an inventor in your family tree, but people applied
for patents on all kinds of innovations, from an alarm clock that
hangs above the sleeper and falls on his face if he doesn't
wake up (Patent
No. 256,265, April 11, 1882) to a screen attachment for
ladies' bicycles to hide their feet and ankles from view
No. 557,488, March 31, 1896).
My first cousin five times removed Ben Teipel of Covington,
Ky., was a wingshooter (I apologize if this isn't the right term for
a practitioner of the sport of wingshooting) and an employee of the
Ligowsky Clay Pigeon Co. Newspapers reported on his
performance in competitions, and one (when he was committed
to an asylum shortly before his death) called him the "ex-champion
wing shot of the world."
Ben patented a few devices for use with clay
target pigeons. This is an illustration of his Target Trap, Patent
No. 329,974, issued Nov. 10, 1885:
A much more recent relative's name is on the patent application
for this Positioning Assembly for Valve Closure Members:
My dad, a mechanical engineer, is named as the inventor on the
patent, issued Nov. 25, 1975.
You can keyword-search the patents' text (indexed
by optical character recognition software) the same way you'd do
any Google search. The Advanced
Patent Search makes it easy to add the patent number, filing
or issue date (with a range) and/or other search terms. I entered my family surnames in the Inventor field, and
to narrow results, I added a place in the "With all of
the words" box.
for Genealogy online course runs Monday, June 29, to Monday,
July 24, and covers Search, Books, Translate, Google+, Drive and
a course program at FamilyTreeUniversity.com.
Family Tree University | Research Tips
Wednesday, 24 June 2015 15:51:24 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
New Heredis 2015 Genealogy Software Offers Major Updates for Windows and Mac
Posted by Diane
Heredis genealogy software has released a major upgrade with Heredis
2015 for Windows or Mac users.
New features include:
- Online searching: From a person's profile, launch
searches of online collections in archives and libraries
(Heredis suggests which ones to search based on information in
your tree). Automatically capture details from online finds and
save them to your tree. to search according to
- Images: A new photo tool allows you to identify people
in images uploaded to Heredis, and if a person isn't in your
tree yet, add him or her directly from the photo tool. You also
can capture images of ancestors' signatures from records, edit
record images and photos uploaded to Heredis, and create
and share slideshows and online albums (shown above).
- Data entry: You can enter an event (such as a census
appearance) once and easily apply it to the rest of the family
as needed, instead of entering that same event for each person
named in a record.
Learn more about the new features in Heredis 2015 and see
screenshots for the Windows
version here and the Mac
- Mapping: View interactive maps showing where your
ancestors lived and scroll their geographical migrations by
place or time period.
Windows users can upgrade for $19.99, or purchase the complete
version for $29.99. Mac users can purchase version 2015 for
$24.99 until July 12, when the price goes up to $49.99.
Heredis also has a free app for
the iPad/iPhone that lets you view your tree and add or delete
individuals, and is working on an Android version.
You can see reviews of previous Heredis versions and other genealogy
programs in Family
Tree Magazine's Online Genealogy Software Guide.
Wednesday, 24 June 2015 14:21:02 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, 23 June 2015
FamilySearch Launches Project to Index Freedmen's Bureau Records
Posted by Diane
FamilySearch on Friday announced a new initiative to index
records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, also known as the Freedmen's Bureau.
This agency was set up after
the Civil War to assist former slaves with food, housing, education,
medical care, employment and legal needs. The bureau also documented marriages
performed during slavery and helped displaced white Southerners.
This work created records such as labor contracts (such as the one
above for freedman John Ramsey and his wife), court documents,
marriage registers, correspondence, applications for aid, complaint
reports and more.
For many formerly enslaved people, their
interaction with the Freedmen's Bureau was the first time they were
named in official records—making Freedmen's Bureau records an
important resource for tracing African-American ancestors.
FamilySearch, along with the National
Archives and Records Administration, the Smithsonian National Museum of
African American History and Culture, the Afro-American Historical and
Genealogical Society, and the California African American
Museum, has launched the Freedmen's Bureau Project
to mobilize volunteer indexers. They'll view digitized images of
Freedmen's Bureau records and extract names and other details,
creating a searchable index that will be free on FamilySearch.org.
can sign up as an indexer for the Freedmen's Bureau Project here.
On FamilySearch.org, you already can view the digitized records for
Freedmen's Bureau offices in 14 Southern states and Washington, DC,
as well as records of bureau headquarters and hospitals. Find them
by going to the
FamilySearch collection list and typing freedmen in
the Filter by Collection Name box at top left. But as yet only a few
of FamilySearch's Freedmen's Bureau collections are indexed. As the
Freedmen's Bureau Project gains momentum, look for more of these
records to become searchable.
Can't wait? Ancestry.com
subscribers can search digitized and indexed records for
Freedmen's Bureau field offices in five states plus New
Orleans and Washington, DC, as well as headquarters records related
to six states.
If you're not a member or those don't cover the places your ancestors
lived, use the Mapping
the Freedmen's Bureau tool to find digitized or microfilmed
records for bureau offices in your ancestors' locales. Find more on
Freedmen's Bureau records and other resources for tracing enslaved
ancestors in our Slave
Ancestors Research Guide.
FamilySearch announced the project on Juneteenth, the
commemoration of the end of slavery that takes place on June 19.
African-American roots | FamilySearch | Research Tips
Tuesday, 23 June 2015 10:54:20 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, 17 June 2015
Beginner Genealogy Tips: Where to Look for Great Ancestor Stories
Posted by Diane
One of my favorite aspects of genealogy is finding a good story.
Maybe an ancestor took part in an historical event, clawed his way
to economic success, survived an arduous migration or even committed
a crime. The kinds of things you might see on an episode of "Who Do
You Think You Are?"
If you're getting started in genealogy, you might think there's no
excitement in your family tree—but there probably is if you look for
it. These are some of the best family story sources (and I'll tell you where they've led me to juicy family
- Newspapers: Probably like many of you, I never thought my family was
particularly newsworthy. But I've found news items including a
brief mention of a small kitchen fire in my
third-great-grandfather's home, reports on my Federal
League baseball player relative's performance on the
field, a very complimentary profile of my grandfather after his graduation from an
orphanage, and a sordid tale of another
third-great-grandfather's stabbing during a fight over a woman
(one day I'll blog about that guy).
Digitized newspaper sites include the free Chronicling America
and subscription-based GenealogyBank
and Newspapers.com. Visit
your library or state archive to scroll local papers on
- Military pension applications:
I haven't yet had the pleasure of paging through a family
member's military pension papers, but in our "What's
in a Civil War Pension File?" video class, military
records expert Diana Crisman Smith explains how you could
find correspondence about military service, documentation of marriage,
written testimony about wounds received, photos and more.
Subscription site Ancestry.com
have indexes and some record images for Revolutionary War,
War of 1812, Mexican War and Civil
War pensions. Some of the record images are on
Ancestry.com's sister site Fold3,
which requires an additional subscription
(your library or local FamilySearch
Center may offer free use of Ancestry.com and
- Family papers: Diaries, letters, postcards, scrapbooks,
photos, baby books and other passed-down items from trunks,
closets and attics hold "everyday life" details and stories you
won't find anywhere else. Go through your house (and your
relatives' houses, if they'll let you) for these home sources
and examine them for clues. Once your relatives start to see you
as "the family historian," these types of items—which many
people don't necessarily want to store, but don't want to throw
out either—may very well come knocking on your door. Advice for
digitally archiving and preserving these sources is in the book
To Archive Family Keepsakes by Denise Levenick.
- Histories: I've found profiles
of relatives (including yet another third great-grandfather) and a
story about a tornado hitting a relative's farm (a
journalist was having dinner with the family when it
happened). These secondary sources may contain errors
because they're usually based on recollections and were
edited for print, but they're full of research clues.
Local and county histories are often digitized on
Google Books (here's
a step-by-step Google Books tutorial you can download
from ShopFamilyTree.com and start using right away),
(some FamilySearch digitized books are accessible only
from a FamilySearch Center) or your library's website.
Find print versions through WorldCat and
Your basic census records offer clues such as
school attendance (1850-on), the value of his
property or home (1850-1870 and 1940), whether the
household included slaves (1790-1860); how many
children a woman had and how many were still living
(1900 and 1910); and whether any household members
had visual, hearing or other impairments
(1840-1910). Don't overlook these columns, which may prompt you to dig for the story behind the number. Free
sites with census records include FamilySearch.org
(some search results link to record images on
subscription sites) and Mocavo.com;
Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com
also have census records and images.
federal censuses also were accompanied by special schedules for
certain populations, such as "Defective,
Delinquent" classes (1880) and owners of
industry/manufacturing businesses (1810-1820, few of which
survive, and 1850-1880). Many of these records are on
Ancestry.com | census records | court records | FamilySearch | Libraries and Archives | Military records | MyHeritage | Newspapers | Research Tips | saving and sharing family history
Wednesday, 17 June 2015 11:06:43 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, 12 June 2015
Thursday, 11 June 2015
10 Ways to Leverage Evernote for Your Genealogy Research
Posted by Diane
After every Family Tree Magazine issue closes, we have byproducts, mostly digital but some on paper: lineups, manuscripts, edited manuscripts, photos, illustrations, emails, contracts, invoices, proofs, storyboards (showing what’s on each page of the issue), and so on. All these pieces can make a mess.
Genealogy researches also produces byproducts. You have notes, papers, books, lists, websites, record images, family photos, heirlooms, stories, spreadsheets, correspondence and more. How do you keep all these disparate materials organized and easy to find again?
The free Evernote software is the answer lots of genealogists swear by. If you need an organizational solution and you’ve never used Evernote—or you’ve never used it for genealogy—take a look at our Evernote for Genealogy Bootcamp, happening June 22-29. Participants will explore these and other ways to leverage Evernote for genealogy research:
- Take notes while researching or attending a genealogy lecture, and tag your notes with surnames, subjects, ancestral places, record types, etc. Retrieve the notes you want with a keyword search or by using the tags you’ve assigned.
- Keep lists of surname variations or books you need, and set up a correspondence log or genealogy to-do list. You can set a reminder so a particular note rises to the top of your notes at a predetermined time.
- Set up a research plan for a genealogy problem (here's how).
- Forward emailed genealogy correspondence to Evernote, and messages turn into notes with the email subject line as the note’s title.
- Use the Evernote web clipper to save records from genealogy websites or portions of family history websites (helpful because websites can change and disappear, taking the information you need with them).
- At the library, use your smartphone camera to take photos of records you’re viewing on the microfilm reader or in bound volumes. Save the images to notes in Evernote, and add source information to the notes.
- Let Evernote's optical character recognition software index digitized documents so they're searchable.
- Use the Skitch app to annotate record images and photos in Evernote (you could send your cousin a version of an old photo identified with captions right on the image).
- Share notebooks with others to collaborate on your genealogy.
- Access your notes, images and to-do list from your desktop computer, laptop, tablet computer or smartphone.
The Evernote for Genealogy Bootcamp online workshop gives you an all-access pass to six video classes about techniques for using Evernote as a genealogy research tool (the videos are yours to download and watch whenever you want). You'll also get guidance from Evernote expert Kerry Scott and chat with fellow participants via the conference message board.
You can see the workshop program and get registered at FamilyTree University.com.
Family Tree University | Research Tips
Thursday, 11 June 2015 09:17:44 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, 09 June 2015
A Census Search Trick for Hard-to-Find Ancestors
Posted by Diane
Last week, I
mentioned that I couldn't find my Norris family in the 1870 census,
despite searching every which way for my third-great-grandfather
Edward Norris and other members of the household.
I spoke too soon. That night I went home and tried a strategy we
often recommend in Family
Tree Magazine, including in our US
Census Workbook (available
in ShopFamilyTree.com): Find a neighbor, then browse. And it worked.
One way to browse census records is to figure out which census
enumeration district (ED) the person lived in, then page
through schedules covering that ED. But the right ED isn't always the easiest
to find. This strategy worked better for me:
1. I looked in city directories for my ancestor's address in 1870,
or as close to 1870 as I could get. The Public
Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Virtual Library has
1870 Williams' Cincinnati Directory (as well as many
other years) for free. Here he is (misnamed Edwin), at 368 Broadway,
the same address where he died in 1890.
2. Now to find a neighbor to search for in the census. The
city directory was a PDF on the library website. I hit
command-F to bring up the Find window and typed 368 Broadway.
Here's a neighbor, Caroline Niehouse:
3. I searched the 1870 census for the neighbor. I got only
four results, one of which was Caroline "Nichaus." Here's her
4. I started browsing the census pages—and then stopped. When
I moved up the page, my ancestor's household was just above
Caroline's. I recognized the first names and Edward's occupation,
The enumerator's handwriting is lovely, but I don't
think I ever would've read "Norris" from this:
The family is indexed as "Nalas." I added an annotation with the correct name in Ancestry.com,
so it'll be easier to find. "Nalas" family
members probably were included in my results when I was searching
for names, but Irish Edwards, Elizabeths and Catherines being quite common, I had a ton of results and didn't click on these particular matches.
If you ever do need to find a census ED, One Step Web Pages by Stephen P. Morse has tools to help you find EDs for 1880 through 1940, plus 1870 in New York. (Scroll down to the Census section.) You'll need to know the house number and street, and it helps to know cross streets.
census records | Research Tips
Tuesday, 09 June 2015 17:06:56 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Thursday, 04 June 2015
Your Key to Saving 40% on Genealogy How-to Books, Cheat Sheets & More
Posted by Diane
If you've had your eye on a genealogy how-to book, cheat sheet,
video or article download in ShopFamilyTree.com
It's time to pounce.
With our Friends & Family Sale, going on now through Sunday,
June 7, in ShopFamilyTree.com,
you'll save 40 percent on your purchase when you enter discount code
FFSUMMER40 at checkout.
You could pick up Denise Levenick's new book How
to Archive Family Photos or preorder the Unofficial
Guide to FamilySearch.org. You may find the German
Genealogy Cheat Sheet as handy as I have, or need
a little help from Blaine Bettinger Using
DNA To Solve Family Mysteries.
You even could get our 15
Years of Family Tree Magazine DVD, normally $99.99, for just
$60. Then you could keyword-search every Family Tree
Magazine issue back to vol. 1, No. 1, in
January 2000, and click to read the expert advice. You could finally
clear some shelves—a thin DVD takes up a lot less space than
15 years of magazines (ask your genealogical society or
library if they could use those back issues).
There are a few exclusions to the sale: magazine subscriptions, live
webinar registrations (but on-demand webinars do get the
discount), and products that ship directly from a third-party
In review: Great genealogy stuff. 40 percent off. ShopFamilyTree.com.
Discount code FFSUMMER40. Ends this Sunday, June 7.
shopping (and saving) here!
Thursday, 04 June 2015 12:05:30 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Search 40,000 Bible Records Free in the DAR's Genealogical Research System
Posted by Diane
The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) has
added a new resource to its Genealogical Research System (the online
indexes that let you search for Patriots and other ancestors named
in DAR member applications). Now you also can name-search
40,000 (and growing) records and transcriptions from family Bibles.
Most of the records come from DAR Genealogical Research Committee
(GRC) Reports. Here's a sample of search results:
You'll get a description of the Bible with the name you searched
highlighted; life dates or a birth, marriage or death year for the
person; and source information about the GRC report that provided
If the GRC report contained multiple names from the same
Bible page, you'll be able to click a page number to see the other
names from that page. You also can click to search for the GRC
report in the DAR online library catalog.
GRCs collected a range of genealogical data, and you may find
relatives in the database even if your family wasn't around during the
American Revolution. My Seeger search resulted in people
born from 1842 to 1850 (no relatives, unfortunately). In the results shown above, Norris Cotton and his wife were born in 1913 and 1916, respectively.
The Genealogical Research System is free to search. To order a copy
of a report containing your relative's name, you can use the DAR Library's
here to search DAR's new Bible records index.
Free Databases | Genealogy societies | Genealogy Web Sites | Research Tips
Thursday, 04 June 2015 09:46:39 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, 03 June 2015
What Genealogy Records Might You Find in a Courthouse?
Posted by Diane
If you're trying to figure out a genealogy problem or trace an
elusive ancestor, the answer might be in court records. Court
records are so varied, and organized in different ways in different places, and usually unindexed, that they can be hard to find and
Research Premium collection has the guidance you need to find
these and other types of courthouse records:
- Early vital records: Counties often stored birth and
death registers at the courthouse before states took over vital
- Probate records: Wills, estate inventories, settlement
papers, guardianship appointments and more
- Deeds: contracts transferring ownership of land and
sometimes property (including enslaved humans)
- Tax lists: registers of those who payed property, poll
and other taxes
- Naturalization records: before 1906, immigrants could
file for naturalization with any court—local, state or federal
- Case files: testimony, evidence, subpoenas and other
records relevant to civil or criminal court cases
- Dockets: schedule of the court's hearings
- Minutes: a brief record of the actions for the court
for each day
- Manumissions: documents freeling slaves
- Orders: record of cases heard and judgments to be
- Military discharge records: many returning
servicemembers would file their discharge records with the
county courthouse, a potential substitute if your ancestor's service
records were destroyed in the 1973
fire at the National Personnel Records Center
Sometimes you can find these records digitized (though rarely
searchable) on courthouse websites or FamilySearch.org.
FamilySearch has microfilmed court records for many counties (run a place search
of the catalog here); you can rent the microfilm for viewing
at your local
FamilySearch Center. You may need to send a request or visit
the courthouse, which—if you're allowed to search the records
yourself—can lead to unexpected finds hidden away in files and bound
- Licenses: such as for businesses, medical practitioners
or dog owners
Research Premium collection includes on-demand webinars, the Family
Tree Sourcebook e-book and other downloads to help you find
use genealogy records from the courthouse. It includes advice you'll
need for visiting and navigating your ancestral county courthouse,
which can be a somewhat initimidating proposition (as
I learned a couple of years ago). Take
a look at what's in the Courthouse Research Premium collection
today in ShopFamilyTree.com.
court records | Research Tips | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales
Wednesday, 03 June 2015 14:34:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, 02 June 2015
Confessing a Genealogy Mistake
Posted by Diane
I was trying to make the research mistake I'm about
to confess seem less odious because, well, I don't want you to hold
it against Family
Tree Magazine, but then I realized that's counter to my
point that anyone can make a mistake. Conflicting records
contributed to my error, but so did I, by relying on others'
research including (gasp!) information found in an online tree. Here
My third-great-grandfather Edward Norris was an Irish immigrant and
a stonecutter in Cincinnati. I had him born in 1827, based on his
age of 33 in the 1860 census. He was 40 in the 1880 census, but
that would make him only 10 was he was married May 22, 1850 (the
date on his digitized marriage license, restored after a
Cincinnati courthouse fire in 1884 destroyed the original),
and 13 when his first child was born in 1853. I can't find the family's 1870 census record.
His death date in my family tree for years was Feb. 15, 1911. That's
the date my late aunt recorded back before online genealogy took
off. It's in the burial index of St. Joseph "New" cemetery, where
his wife and several children are buried.
An image of the corresponding burial card (not shown), which I found in a distant
cousin's online tree, gives Edward's death and burial dates, age,
and his late residence in the City Infirmary (his wife died in
This Edward Norris died at age 78, putting his birth in 1833.
(This would have him married at 17, and age 20 when his first child
I busied myself with other research, but eventually it dawned on me
that I couldn't find Edward in the 1900 or 1910 census, or any city
directories after 1890. Nor could I find an official death record or
an obituary. A death in Ohio in 1911 should appear in city
registers or a state death certificate (these
begin in 1908 in Ohio), or both.
Then I found this in the Cincinnati Enquirer, March 12,
The death announcement reads "Suddenly, Edward Norris, Sr., at his
late residence, 368 Broadway. High mass at St. Xavier Church,
Thursday morning, March 13, at 7:45."
His address is 368 Broadway in the 1880 census and in this 1889 city
directory (digitized in the Cincinnati library's Virtual Library):
A county death register (digitized
as part of this collection on FamilySearch.org) also gives this address. The death date is March 12, 1890, when Edward was 56
(so, born in 1834):
The cause, "congestion of brain," is a swelling that could've
resulted from the accidental fall referred to in this index card,
created years ago from city death registers:
A fall is consistent with the "suddenly" description in the
newspaper announcement. The death date is March 10 (not 12).
The burial place is St. Joseph Old, another cemetery (Edward
isn't in that cemetery's online index, though I've heard from other
local researchers the index is incomplete. Looks like a visit is in
I'm pretty confident I was wrong all those years about when Edward
died. In hindsight, the 1911 burial card has no family names or
address to help identify him. The card may have been for another
Edward Norris, a common name, although I can't find a death record for that person. I wonder if someone recorded the wrong date on the
burial card (though mistaking 1890 for 1911 is hard to imagine). So
there's still a mystery.
In our video
class 12 Ways to Diagnose (and Treat) Errors in your Research,
available in ShopFamilyTree.com, you'll learn ways to
recognize and treat such errors. Takeaways from my experience
- Always seek the original record, and then evaluate the
information that potentially identifies it as your ancestor's
- Know how you arrived at each "fact" about your ancestor. If
you got there with help from another person's research, examine
how that person came to the conclusion he or she reached. Citing
sources is an important part of this process.
- Look for multiple records about the same event, and pay
attention to the little alarms that go off in your head when
records don't match up.
Libraries and Archives | Research Tips | Videos | Vital Records
Tuesday, 02 June 2015 09:29:01 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)