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<April 2015>

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# Wednesday, April 01, 2015
Working on My Last-Name Problem: When Genealogy Records Disagree
Posted by Diane

I was doing a casual online search in the Northern Kentucky Newspaper Index when the name "Kolbeck, Theresa Seeger" jumped out and smacked me in the face. It was among a list of deaths announced in the Feb. 23, 1937, Kentucky Post.

The Theory
Recently, I learned that a Teresa was the sister of my immigrant great-great-grandfather Heinrich Arnold Seeger (spelled Seger in Germany). Kolbeck is the maiden name of Heinrich's and Teresa's mother, and it's the surname of seemingly every other person in their birthplace of Steinfeld, Germany (at least according to the church records I viewed at the Family History Library in February).

Could Theresa Seeger Kolbeck be Heinrich Arnold's sister, who married a possible cousin and settled in the United States near her brother? Here's what I've discovered so far in researching this question:

1. Mary Theresa (Seeger) Kolbeck 2. Maria Teresia Seger
Feb. 18, 1849, Germany Feb. 15, 1849, Steinfeld, Germany
Herman Henry Kolbeck (probably before date of immigration)
1873 (probably May 16)
Feb. 22, 1937 unknown

The death certificate for Theresa No. 1, which asks for parents' names, should've helped clear it up. But the informant, Mrs. Ben Schlarman (Theresa's daughter Mary, born about 1884), didn't know their names:

The Last-Name Problem
But then something made me question whether Seeger is even Theresa's correct maiden name:

This passage is from a profile of George Heuer, husband of Theresa's daughter Elizabeth, in the biographical section of History of Kentucky, vol. 3 (available on Google Books). It says that Theresa's maiden and married names were both Kolbeck. The writer takes care to point out that Elizabeth's parents weren't related before marriage.

But Mrs. Virginia Eilers, the Heuers' daughter born in 1908 (and not mentioned in the above bio), believed that Seeger was the right maiden name. That's the name she supplied on the 1946 death certificate of her mother and the 1947 death certificate of her aunt, the aforementioned Mrs. Ben Schlarman:


What to Believe?
So which should I believe? The death certificates of Theresa's daughters, for whom the informant was a granddaughter (who also might've provided the information for the death announcement indexed in the database where I first found Theresa No. 1)?

A death record is a primary source—created at the time of the event by a person who witnessed it—but it's usually a secondary source for the deceased's parents' names. The informant wouldn't have firsthand knowledge of those names (unless a parent was the informant, such as on a child's death certificate).

Or should I go with the biography in History of Kentucky, by William Elsey Connelley and E. M. Coulter, Ph.D., edited by Judge Charles Kerr, published in 1922 by the American Historical Society? This is a secondary source, compiled well after the reported events by those without firsthand knowledge.

Biographical collections are known for their potential for inaccuracy: Families might exaggerate their relatives' accomplishments or provide mistaken information, which could become further distorted in editing.  (Maybe Theresa read the published bio and said, "No, no, no! I said my mother's last name was the same as my husband's.") 

My Answer
I won't believe any of these records for now, and I'll keep looking for the parents of Theresa No. 1 and the spouse and later life events of Teresa No. 2.

I should get the full death announcement from the Kentucky Post, and rent the microfilm of Steinfeld's church records to look for a marriage for Teresa No. 2. The Northern Kentucky Genealogy Index lists the baptisms of several children of Theresa and Herman Kolbeck, so I can go to the library to view the church records on microfilm.

  If you're trying to solve a genealogy question like this one, we'll help you create a step-by-step research plan with our Road Map to Your Roots guide.

The Family Tree Problem Solver: Tried and True Tactics for Tracing Elusive Ancestors is another great source of strategies and examples for answering tough genealogy questions.

FamilySearch | Genealogy books | German roots | Research Tips
Wednesday, April 01, 2015 9:32:52 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, March 30, 2015
"Who Do You Think You Are?": Sean Hayes Discovers His Irish Family History
Posted by Diane

Get a recap of actor Sean Hayes' search for his Irish roots—as well as tips about the records he discovered along the way—from this "Who Do You Think You Are?" recap by guest blogger Sunny Jane Morton:

I lost count of how many times Sean Hayes’ jaw dropped during last night’s episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?" After a certain point, he just had to laugh as he learned more of the sad twists and turns in his family history.
His story starts close to home, with a father who dropped out of his own life. Hayes wondered what led his father to that decision. Research confirms old gossip that his father was placed in an orphanage as a child, after Hayes’ grandmother had hip surgery and his grandfather disappeared from the picture.
Chicago documents trace Hayes' grandfather as a young man to a slum known to house men who were down on their luck. Medical records were a surprising and interesting find; these often are either lost or privacy-protected. They hint at alcoholism and estrangement from his family. The grandfather’s story ends with a death certificate at age 40. But it gives his father’s name, and the story continues back in time.
Hayes gets to open the original naturalization books for his great-grandfather Patrick Hayes, Jr., which lead to more records overseas: Irish prison ledgers. The free has a searchable index of Irish Prison Registers, 1790-1924. If you're using the site at a FamilySearch Center (or if you're a member of the LDS church with a Findmypast login), you also click to see the record image for free. You also can search these Irish prison registers and  and view record images with a subscription to

Here he finds Great-grandpa Hayes jailed a few times. One conviction was eyebrow-raising: Patrick Jr. and his brother were jointly prosecuted for attacking their father, Patrick Sr. The final jail sentence ended just before the younger Patrick hopped a ship to the United States.
The story of Patrick Sr., Sean Hayes' great-great-grandfather, is spelled out in a long list of convictions over a 50-year span. During a period of relative calm, Patrick Sr. married and started a family. But a persistent streak of drunk-and-disorderlies follows in the wake of his wife’s death, when Patrick Jr. was about 10 years old.
“There's definitely a cycle,” Hayes concludes of fatherly behavior patterns in his family. “It doesn’t excuse their behavior, but you kind of understand why. You have to have compassion.”

Got Irish roots like Sean? Pick up a copy of the excellent guide Tracing Your Irish Ancestors by John Grenham, available in

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | UK and Irish roots
Monday, March 30, 2015 9:07:35 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, March 23, 2015
8 Simple Tips for Genealogy Source Citations
Posted by Diane

Citing sources of genealogy information can be a confusing process: How do you know what information to cite, what details to include in the citation, and where to keep all your citations so they'll stay paired with the fact you're citing and the record where you found that fact?

So during Family Tree University's Virtual Conference a couple of weekends ago, I was looking forward to the Source Citations Made Easy live chat. It did not disappoint. Moderator Shannon Combs-Bennett and our participants shared source citation tips I found especially helpful—so I wanted to pass them on to with you.
  • Cite any piece of information or fact you use in your research, whether it's in the form of a family tree, story, book, etc. Each name, date, place and relationship should be labeled with where you learned that information.
  • Several participants fessed up to gathering source details about a newly discovered record, then crafting a citation later, when time allows. Here's one way to speed up the citation-writing process: Make a list of sources you use most frequently, such as a particular microfilm or online record collection. Take a piece of information (such as an ancestor's birthdate) you found in each source and write a citation for it. Copy these citations into a document to use as templates for your future research. Our Genealogy Source Citation Cheat Sheet has a bunch of ready-made templates you can use.
  • You can link your citation to the accompanying record in several ways. Many of our chat participants use more than one of these methods:
    • the source citation system of your genealogy software and/or online family tree (look for the May/June 2015 Family Tree Magazine, which will include a helpful article with steps for citing sources in genealogy software)
    • a sources or research log spreadsheet (you can include a column for a link to the document image file on your computer)
    • in your online tree, in the image notes when you attach a document image to a person
    • in Evernote (upload the image file as a note, and add the citation in the note text)
    • on the document itself. If it's a digital image, you could use photo-editing software, the "Add a text box" feature in Adobe Reader (for a PDF), or an app for adding text to photos (here's a list of apps for adding text to photos, though haven't tried them)
  • You can note the reliability and provenance of a source when you create a citation in your genealogy software, and/or set up a column for this in your source citations spreadsheet. In a family history narrative, when you cite information, the citation can include a description of the source and its provenance.
  • It's fine to start with the citations automatically provided on many genealogical websites, but check that they contain all the necessary information about the source. If one website obtained its index or digitized record images created by another website, your citation will reflect that.
  • In addition to Evidence Explained, gather these resources for using and citing genealogy sources:
    • Genealogy Standards, 50th Anniversary Edition, by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (Turner Publishing)
    • Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W Jones (National Genealogical Society)
    • "General Information Leaflet 17: Citing Records in the National Archives of the United States" by the National Archives and Records Administration (download from here)

  • If you haven't been great about citing sources, start now. Make a goal to review your earlier research a little at a time, creating citations as you go. The more you work with genealogy source citations, the more natural it becomes.

Research Tips
Monday, March 23, 2015 1:28:20 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
"Who Do You Think You Are?" Angie Harmon Traces American Revolution Roots
Posted by Diane

Follow along as "Who Do You Think You Are?" correspondent Sunny Jane Morton recaps last night's episode, featuring actor Angie Harmon's hunt for her Revolutionary roots.

Last night’s "Who Do You Think You Are?" is the first show this season to stay in the United States. But I didn’t miss the exotic eye-candy of foreign vistas. I loved the quintessentially American tale that led into a little-known and surprising episode in US military history.
Celebrity guest Angie Harmon explored the story of her fifth-great grandfather, German immigrant Michael Harmon. She was surprised to learn how he got to come to America in 1772: as an indentured servant whose labor was sold to the highest bidder to pay off his passage. He finished out his term of service as an enlisted man in the 4th Pennsylvania regiment. Along with thousands of fellow troops, he suffered through winter quarters at Valley Forge under Gen. George Washington’s command.
The actor was feeling pretty proud of her ancestor until she learned that his regiment mutinied a few years later. Fortunately she looked for a little more historical context before she judged her ancestor too harshly. The troops had lived for months on few provisions and little of the pay that was owed them and. “Every man has his breaking point,” she decided. They weren’t disloyal, just fed up, a conclusion that seemed supported by the regiment’s rejection of a British offer to buy their loyalty.
Several great record examples appeared as we learned more about Michael Harmon: indenture records, regimental histories, a military pay slip, tax records and a will. Examining the will, Angie Harmon becomes noticeably excited as she finds the name of Michael’s wife and seven children. An entire family reconstructed in a single document: genealogical paydirt.
Wills are usually available in probate court (also called chancery court or orphans court) records for the county where the will was filed. FamilySearch has many counties’ probate records on microfilm; try searching the online catalog for the name of the county and then looking for a probate heading. If the film is digitized on, the catalog will link you to that film. If it’s not on microfilm or digitized, you can write to the courthouse (if you know the date the will was filed or have a file number, information that might available in an index published by the local genealogical society) or visit in person. has some tips here for finding your ancestors' wills.
Angie Harmon brings along her three young daughters on a visit to the ancestral farm in the rolling green hills of Kentucky. The last reveal is the current owner: a cousin, Michael Harmon, 220 years after the first Michael Harmon:

If you’ve got deep US roots, some of the record sets that proved helpful to Harmon’s research could help yours, too. Enlist the aid of military records with our US Military Records independent study course. You’ll learn about different kinds of records created over time, including service, pension, bounty land and draft records. Then get up to speed on tax records, estate files and other county-level records in our Courthouse Research Crash Course OnDemand Webinar.

Next week's "Who Do You Think You Are?" features actor Sean Hayes and his Irish family history. Tune in Sunday, March 29 at 10/9 Central.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots | court records | Military records
Monday, March 23, 2015 8:08:42 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, March 20, 2015
"Who Do You Think You Are?": Angie Harmon To Trace Her American Revolution Roots
Posted by Diane

After a whirlwind trip to Germany last week, this Sunday's "Who Do You Think You Are?" stays close to home as actor Angie Harmon traces her indentured servant fifth-great-grandfather, Michael Harmon.

He served in the Revolutionary War at Valley Forge, mutinied in protest of the lack of pay, food and clothing; and eventually became a landowner in Kentucky. At the end of the show, Angie Harmon brings her daughters to visit that land and meets the cousin who owns it today.

The show airs Sunday, March 22, at 10 ET/9 Central on TLC.

You can get a sneak peek at the Angie Harmon "WDYTYA?" episode on the show's website. Come back here on Monday for our "WDYTYA?" recap.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Celebrity Roots
Friday, March 20, 2015 9:06:55 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
Genealogy News Corral: March 16-20
Posted by Diane

  • The New England Historic Genealogical Society has updated its quarterly journal with a new design and a broader editorial focus. The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, appearing this week in its 673rd issue, now features a full-color cover with a contents listing and a modernized interior design. The supplemental American Ancestors Journal will be integrated into the Register to give it a national and international scope, while still retaining an emphasis on New England, New York State, and out-migrations from New England.
  • Saturday, March 28, the Civil War Trust will hold its 19th annual Park Day, when volunteers gather to clean up historic battlefield sites across the country. This is the first year the cleanup effort will include both Civil War and Revolutionary War sites. Details such as event times and registration procedures vary by the cleanup site. To participate in Park Day, find a site near you on this list

Civil War | FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies
Friday, March 20, 2015 8:29:05 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, March 18, 2015 Launches Genealogy Website for Searching Irish Newspapers
Posted by Tyler has introduced a new Irish genealogy research site called, which contains searchable digitized pages from 63 newspapers published in Ireland.

The papers come from the Irish Newspaper Archives website, but offers them with a much more user-friendly interface and search. works much like (another site, with mostly US content): You can enter a name or other search terms, then narrow your results to the most relevant dates, places and newspaper titles. You can run a search without subscribing, and the snippet views of your search results often provide enough context to tell whether a particular result might be relevant to your family history (and whether it's worth subscribing). lists its digitized papers here. Use this listing to get an idea whether the site could be useful to you: Choose your ancestral Irish county from the filters on the left to see papers published there and dates covered.

My family rumored to be from County Cork, for example, immigrated to the United States during the 1840s, but the papers published in Cork begin in the late 1800s. Of course, the papers would be a good way to research family who remained in Ireland, if I knew their names. I would first need to identify whom to search for and where they lived. is a separate subscription from, $19.99 per month or $99.99 per year (both auto-renew).

Note that if you have a subscription, you have access to that site's content from 16 newspapers published in Ireland. Some of it overlaps what's on When I ran a search, clicked on a match and entered my email address to begin the registration process, the site reminded me that I already have access to that paper on | Newspapers | UK and Irish roots
Wednesday, March 18, 2015 3:56:23 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Finding the Irish in My Family Tree
Posted by Diane

Happy St. Patrick's Day to you!

I was trying to explain to my four-year-old this morning in the car that his fourth-great-grandparents, Edward Norris and and Elizabeth Butler, came from a country called Ireland. After observing that Elizabeth's name has a potty word in it, he asked where they lived and wished he could meet them.

Me, too, buddy.
I'm still in the US-records-gathering phase with this family. Oral tradition says they came from County Cork, but I haven't found records stating anything beyond "Ireland." That and their common names are slowing down my search.

Edward and Elizabeth had at least eight children. Their son, also named Edward, is my great-great-grandfather. Another son, James, was a Cincinnati firefighter during the 1900 and 1910 censuses. This had become the country's first full-time professional department in 1853, and was the source of innovations such as the first practical fire engine, powered by steam.

Although I couldn't find statistics, Irish immigrants often dominated police and fire departments in large US cities. Many departments today have Emerald societies that demonstrate their members' pride in their Irish heritage. (Here's an interesting New York Times article about the Irish brogue in police and fire departments.)

James' youngest son, Raymond, followed in his father's footsteps to join the fire department in 1916, according to a Cincinnati Enquirer article.  Ray received a leave of absence to enlist in World War I. The Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the World War, 1917-18 says he was discharged a private first class in March 1919.

Cincinnati Enquirer, Jan. 18, 1920, p. 14

Back home, Ray joined the fire department's Engine Company 42. On Jan. 17, 1920, his company responded to a fire at the Newton Tea & Spice Co. Ray was in a group of men spraying water from a bridge ramp overlooking the building when an explosion sent a brick wall crashing down on them. Ray was found laying over the hose, one of four men killed. Fourteen others were critically injured.

James, as a former firefighter, probably knew what he might see when he went to identify his son's body at the city morgue.

Morgue records, volume 15, certificate 196 : Norris, Ray, 1920-01-17

One day, when my kids are a little older, I'll share this piece of our family's proud Irish heritage with them.

If you have Irish roots, you'll want to keep an eye on the National Library of Ireland's plans to post Irish Catholic Church records free online (starting this summer).

On, find four tips for tracing Irish roots as well as advice for finding an Irish place of origin. You also might like our Irish Genealogy Cheat Sheet or Irish Genealogy Crash Course webinar, both available in

UK and Irish roots
Tuesday, March 17, 2015 8:46:19 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Monday, March 16, 2015
Trace Irish Ancestors in Poverty Relief Loan Records on Findmypast
Posted by Diane

Subscription site Findmypast recently added Poverty Relief Loan Fund records to its Irish record collections. These records document loans that local committees provided to the "industrious poor." They contain nearly 700,000 personal names from counties Clare, Cork, Galway, Kerry, Leitrim, Limerick, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo and Tipperary, giving age, occupation, fiscal history, and sometimes more.

The collection ranges from 1821 to 1874, with most records dating from 1824 to 1846. They include the Irish Famine era, 1845 to 1852, when many of our Irish relatives would've been most in need of assistance.

The records include follow-up information on the borrowers, who might've emigrated, been punished for nonpayment, or died of starvation or disease (so, maybe not the collection you want to research if you're already having a bad day).

See this Findmypast blog post for tips on using the Poverty Relief Loan Fund records, as well as an example of tracing a borrower from County Mayo, Joseph Cannon, on his loan application (shown above) and ledger entries.

Findmypast subscribers can search the Ireland, Poverty Relief Loans 1821-1874 database here (where you'll also find much more information about this record set), or browse the records here.

For tips on searching for ancestors in Findmypast, look for our Findmypast Web Guide download in

findmypast | UK and Irish roots
Monday, March 16, 2015 3:36:18 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
"Who Do You Think You Are?": Josh Groban Explores His German Roots
Posted by Diane

This post is brought to us by guest blogger and our "Who Do You Think You Are?" special correspondent, Sunny Jane Morton:

Josh Groban didn’t sing his way through last night’s episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?" But the multiplatinum singer still commanded center stage as he pursued the story of a distant grandfather, eight generations back.
The story starts with a widow and her children arriving in Pennsylvania in the late 1600s, according to the Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. This resource, searchable on and in print at many large libraries, is helpful for tracing early immigrants. The index transcribes information from a variety of resources, such as emigration lists and genealogical journals.

Groban followed the trail of the missing husband, his eighth-great-grandfather, back to Germany. Here he discovered that Johann Zimmermann was an educated Lutheran church deacon, astronomer and singing instructor. It was easy to see how pleased Josh was to hold a music textbook from which Johann would have taught.
Then Johann’s story turned sad. He observed Halley’s Comet in the night sky, which he thought forecast doom for a corrupt Lutheran church. He published this opinion under a pseudonym, but was found out and got in big trouble with the church court. He pleaded to keep his job, mentioning his "heavily pregnant" wife in a letter to the duke. With each German document or book he viewed, Groban also received a neatly typed English translation.

Desperate to hold onto his beliefs without causing his family more suffering, he headed for Quaker Pennsylvania. He didn’t make it, but they did. (Here's some behind-the-scenes, cutting-room-floor info on Johann's burial site in Rotterdam.)
In the episode, Groban took a whirlwind tour of German church and university archives, where he paged through 17th-century books and held documents written by his ancestor. He stood in the courtyard of Johann’s university dormitory. He climbed to the belfry where Johann may have stood to examine the night sky.
It was clear Groban wasn’t sure what to make of his ancestor’s radical opinions. Many genealogists can relate to having ancestors whose value systems differ markedly from our own. He didn’t try too hard to judge the distant past by today’s standards. Instead, he looked at other indicators of the man’s character, like his willingness to sacrifice for his beliefs and his desire to take good care of his family.
Until his "WDYTYA?" appearance, Groban had no idea he had German roots—a heritage he shares with around 50 million Americans. German-Americans played a major role in populating the United States and constitute the largest single ethnic group in the United States today.
If you're tracing German ancestors (and you aren’t a celebrity guest on "WDYTYA?"), check our popular  Family Tree German Genealogy Guide by James M. Beidler. It has advice on discovering where in Germany your immigrant ancestor came from, as well as on researching in the records of Germany. Our German Genealogy Cheat Sheet is a handy quick reference, with a German alphabet guide to help you read old records, a word list and more.
» Sunny Jane Morton

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | | Celebrity Roots | German roots
Monday, March 16, 2015 9:18:05 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]