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Wednesday, 08 August 2007
How to Find Civil War Records in State Archives
Posted by Diane
I have my ancestors’ Civil War service records from the National Archives and Records Administration
. Do military records offered by some states contain different information? I’m wondering whether it’s worthwhile to check those records, too. A
State archives’ Civil War collections often differ greatly from the Compiled Military Service Records (CMSRs) and pension files
available from NARA.
States may hold soldiers' letters, regimental histories, Civil War-era newspapers, Grand Army of the Republic post records, veterans' cemetery indexes, soldiers' home records and more. (Archives of formerly Confederate states also have pension records. Those aren’t at NARA because the federal government didn’t pay Confederate soldiers’ pensions
For example, the Ohio archives
has correspondence to the state’s governor and adjutant general dating from 1859 through 1862 (series 147, volume 42). In May and June, 1862, Col. John W. Fuller and Maj. Z.S. Spaulding of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry 27th Regiment wrote Adjutant General C.W. Hill, describing their encampment and recommending various promotions.
Since state Civil War collections are so varied, I can’t say whether the information would be different from what’s in your ancestors’ CMSRs. But even if the state record doesn't have previously unknown details, You'll have new evidence of your ancestor's presence at the place and time the record was created.
If my ancestor were in the Ohio 27th, I’d want to know whether his commanding officers had anything to say about him, and where he was in June, 1862. (You can browse abstracts of these letters, as well an index to Ohio prisoners at Andersonville and a guide to Civil War-related primary source collections, on the archives’ Web site
Start by searching your ancestral state archives' online catalog for Civil War-era materials related to your ancestor, his regiment, or the county and town where he lived. Likely, you won’t know from the catalog listing whether the source mentions your ancestor, so you may have to visit the archives or contact an archivist for help.
You might be able to save yourself the trip by borrowing materials through interlibrary loan, ordering photocopies of documents or seeing if the Family History Library
has microfilmed copies (which you can rent through a Family History Center
Check local historical society and university libraries for Civil War collections, too.
And learn nine steps to researching your Civil War ancestors in the July 2007 Family Tree Magazine
. You can get bonus information and links to additional resources
—including those at the state level—on our Web site.
Wednesday, 08 August 2007 14:55:51 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Friday, 27 July 2007
Learning Your Ethnic Heritage Through DNA
Posted by Diane
What's the best source for DNA testing for all ethnic groups?A
It sounds like you’re looking for a DNA test that shows your ethnic heritage, rather than whether you’re related to someone. Several types of tests accomplish this to some degree. Biogeographical tests
Tests such as DNA Print Genomics’ AncestryByDNA
evaluate autosomal DNA, which makes up all your genetic material except for what’s on the XX and XY chromosomes.
AncestryByDNA looks for markers that are characteristic of various groups to estimate your percentages of heritage from four populations: Native American, East Asian, Sub-Saharan African (areas south of the Sahara Desert) and Indo-European (Europe, Middle East, North Africa, Western Asia). The EuroDNA 1 and 2 tests further break down Indo-European heritage.
These tests won’t tell you what country your ancestors came from. Also, there’s a margin of error—most show that in the form of a bar graph with your most likely percentages along with other possible percentages.Haplogroup tests
Most genetic genealogy laboratories, such as Oxford Ancestry
, can test your mitochondrial DNA and assign you to a haplogroup—the genetic group your ancient ancestors (10,000 to 60,000 years ago) belonged to. The haplogroup R1b, for example, is common to Western Europeans.
That’s great to know, but not super-helpful for genealogical purposes because records identifying your ancestors don’t go back 10,000 years. Also, haplogroup information comes from a small section of your tree because you get your mitochondrial DNA from your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s (I could go on) mother.Population comparison tests
Some companies test your DNA and compare certain markers to proprietary databases of DNA results from various populations. You get a report showing which populations your DNA most closely matched. DNAConsulting
’s DNA Fingerprint test, for example, compares your sample to a database called Omnipop. You get a list of strongest and "medium-strong" matches, and people with European heritage can get a list of likely country matches.African Ancestry
performs similar comparisons to its database of DNA from African tribes.
Keep in mind the accuracy of these tests is limited by the DNA samples in the comparison database. Not all the world’s diverse populations have been sampled, so your best match may not be a close match at all.
And due to migrations of populations and national boundaries, your DNA could be similar to that of a modern resident of a particular country, but not to that area’s historical population. Since these DNA databases are growing, though, a good match may pop up down the road.
The best genetic genealogy company for you depends on what you want to know, and what you think your ethnicity is (since different companies’ comparison databases may be stronger in different areas). Genetic genealogy experts recognize DNA science is in its infancy, and urge you to back up test results with traditional research. So if a test shows you have DNA markers consistent with American Indians, you wouldn’t consider those results ironclad until you find genealogical records of American Indian ancestors.
For our layperson’s guide to using DNA in your genealogy research, along with DNA testing company contact information, see the October 2006 Family Tree Magazine
Friday, 27 July 2007 14:17:35 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Tuesday, 17 July 2007
Kids' School Projects: Interviewing a Grandparent
Posted by Diane
My daughter has to interview her grandparents for a school project. Do you have any suggestions for questions she can ask?A
Not only do assignments such as this one bring families closer, they’re also a great way for kids (and their parents!) to learn about their family history and history in general.
Scott Kelly, who conducts oral histories through his company Oral Family Histories
, offers these questions to get you started:
- When and where were you born?
- What were your parents’ names?
- What is your happiest memory of your father? Your mother?
- What is the most important lesson your parents taught you?
- What are the names of your grandparents?
- What is your happiest memory of your grandfather? Grandmother?
- Where did you grow up?
- What did you do for fun as a child?
- How did you like school?
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
- Tell me about your first date.
- How did you meet Grandma/Grandpa?
- Tell me about the day my mom/dad was born.
- What advice would you give to new parents?
- What jobs have you had?
- What are your strongest memories from your time in the military?
- What would be your recipe for happiness?
You and your daughter can edit the list together based on the length of the interview, what your daughter wants to ask about, and any
project requirements (for example, her teacher may want her to focus on a particular
topic such as military service).
Your daughter may want to jot down significant historical events that occurred during her grandparents’ lives, such as the Great Depression or the day President Kennedy was assassinated. Then she can ask about them with a question such as, “What’s your most vivid memory of growing up during the Great Depression?”
If she’s been learning about the Great Depression in school, she’ll see how it affected everyday people and maybe even find herself an answer to that perennial question, “Why do we have to learn this?”
She also might be interested in how her grandparents’ childhoods compare to her own: Did they have similar hobbies? What chores did they have to do around the house? How did they like their brothers and sisters?
Kelly suggests interviewers use a question list as a guide, not a rigid framework. It’s OK if the conversation leads your daughter to ask questions not on the list, or her grandparents to tell stories not related to a particular question. Looking at old family photos may spark her grandparents' memories, too. (Find more oral history interviewing tips on FamilyTreeMagazine.com
Make sure you record the interview for posterity (and in case your daughter needs it for a report) using a digital voice recorder or a videocamera (get pro’s tips for filming interviews in the October 2006 Family Tree Magazine
If filling in a family tree chart is part of the homework, use the free downloadable forms on FamilyTreeMagazine.com
. Your daughter's grandparents would probably love to see the finished project.
Oral history interviews | Preserving Heirlooms and Photos
Tuesday, 17 July 2007 17:13:28 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Monday, 09 July 2007
Converting Your Genealogy Files From PC to Mac
Posted by Diane
I’ve used Family Tree Maker software for several years on my PC. Now I’m switching over to a Mac. What software can I get that will let my data transfer to the new computer without having to buy new software and re-enter everything?A
Since Family Tree Maker software doesn't come in a Mac-compatible version, you'll need to either download software that lets you run Windows programs on a Mac, or you can get Mac-compatible software.
If your Mac runs on the OSX Tiger operating system, you can download a beta program called Boot Camp 1.3
that lets you install and run Windows alongside OSX Tiger. Then you can install and use Family Tree Maker on your Mac. (Macs with the soon-to-be-released OSX Leopard will come with Boot Camp.)
In that case, you can avoid retyping everything by using the Family Tree Maker on your PC to backup your family file, then installing that version of the program on your Mac and restoring the backup file. Follow the instructions in Family Tree Maker’s Help Center
to do this.
If you want to buy new, Mac-compatible genealogy software, learn about your options at MacGenealogy
. You still won’t have to retype everything. Transfer your data by exporting a GEDCOM from Family Tree Maker and importing it into the new program.
Family Tree Maker GEDCOMS don't save links to images and multimedia, though, so you'll have to re-link all those on your new computer. (A new version of Family Tree Maker comes out in August—maybe its owner, The Generations Network
, will have pity on us and fix this.)
In either case, you might want to keep the old computer around until you can compare the two databases and make sure everything transferred correctly.
Monday, 09 July 2007 17:08:11 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Wednesday, 04 July 2007
July 4th Quiz Answers
Posted by Diane
Here are the correct answers for the quick Fourth of July quiz linked
in the July 3, 2008, Family Tree Magazine
E-mail Update newsletter. (We back-dated this post so it wouldn't appear on the blog's front page—we're sneaky like that.)
Quick—if you just stumbled upon this post, click here to test your knowledge
. When did most Continental Congressional delegates sign the Declaration of Independence?Aug. 2
. The only person to sign July 4 was John Hancock. Most delegates signed the declaration Aug. 2, 1776, and some delegates weren’t present and had to wait even longer. New delegates also were allowed to sign later.2
. How many delegates eventually signed the declaration?
(Learn more about the signers on the National Archives and Records Administration Web site
. The original, handwritten Declaration of Independence survives.False.
The original, document has never been found. The oldest surviving copies are 25 Dunlap Broadsides, copies printer John Dunlap made the night of July 4, 1776.
July 19, 1776, Congress ordered an engrossed (neatly handwritten on parchment) copy, which the delegated signed. The National Archives has this document, now badly faded
. In 1823, John Quincy Adams had printer William J. Stone make an engraving of the document, which is the one shown below and most often reproduced today.4
. How many lanterns were hung in the steeple of the Old North Church, April 18, 1775?Two
. Paul Revere told three Boston patriots to hang two lanterns in the steeple, which warned those across the Charles River in Charlestown that the British were arriving by sea.5
. Which other guy rode around the same night as Paul Revere, warning colonists that the British were coming?Both Dawes and Prescott
. William Dawes rode separately from Boston, Mass., to Lexington to tell John Hancock and John Adams they were in danger of arrest by British soldiers marching into the countryside. He and Paul Revere met there and both rode toward Concord; Samuel Prescott joined them along the way. The men were stopped by British soldiers and split up, after which Dawes’ horse bucked him and he had to walk back to Lexington. Revere was detained and escorted back to Lexington.
Prescott is the only one of the three to reach Concord, and he kept going to warn others. Paul Revere is the one who made the history books, perhaps because his name worked best in Longfellow’s poem
Wednesday, 04 July 2007 15:46:47 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Tuesday, 26 June 2007
This Land is Whose Land?
Posted by Allison
One of my coworkers told me she’d bought a farm and turned it into a winery, but was having trouble tracing how ownership has changed hands over the years. Any advice?A
In most counties, you can research recent land transfers on the county auditor's or property assessor's Web site. Before that, research deeds, which record land sales between individuals.
“You’ll find deeds in county courthouses, except in New England states, when they’re typically in town halls,” writes Sharon DeBartolo Carmack in her August 2006 Family Tree Magazine
article on land records. “Clerks generally recorded copies in huge ledger books, including an index with each volume.”
Each book usually has two types of indexes: grantors (sellers) and grantees (purchasers). You’re working back from the most recent known owner, so you’ll probably want to consult grantee indexes.
The Salt Lake City-based Family History Library
(FHL) has microfilmed many counties’ deed records. To see if that includes the records you need, run a place search of its online catalog
for the county, then look for a “land and property” heading. You can borrow FHL microfilm through your local Family History Center. If only the index is filmed, use the volume and page number given and request the original deed from the courthouse.
Once you get back to early settlement in the area, you’ll look for an original land purchase from a Colonial proprietor (in a state-land state) or the US government (in a public-land state).
In a state-land state, these records are with the state archives or historical society. In public-land states, you’d look for land patents and related records at the National Archives and Records Administration (read the archives’ guide
). You can search most public-land sales at the Bureau of Land Management General Land Office Web site
Read county histories, too, for information on early settlers—look for them at the local library and historical society, or search online bookstores such as Amazon.com.
Tuesday, 26 June 2007 18:36:48 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Wednesday, 13 June 2007
Finding Your Ancestor in State Hospital Records
Posted by Diane
My grandmother died at the Cleveland State Hospital during the Flu Epidemic of 1918 after staying there two months. I’ve learned the hospital was torn down, but I could never find out where the records went. How can I get them?A
We received this question in response to a Family Tree Magazine E-mail Update newsletter editorial
about my search for my great-grandmother’s Cleveland (Ohio) State Hospital records. I’d learned from her death certificate that she died there.
To learn the whereabouts of the hospital records, I first did a Google
search on “Cleveland State Hospital”
and learned some history
. The hospital was once called the Newburgh Asylum and was demolished in 1977.
The Google search also led me to a Web page from the Case Western Reserve University archives
, which referred me to the Ohio Historical Society
for patient records. That made sense: Records of a state institution would probably be in that state's archives.
I searched the Ohio Historical Society library catalog
and found (after experimenting with various search terms) entries for patient admission and discharge books. The catalog listing labels these hospital records “restricted” and instructs you to call the archives for more information.
The public can’t access these records because patients named in them may have passed medical conditions to their descendants, who may be living. Instead, I submitted a research request and a $25 fee. A few weeks later, I received a transcription and photocopies of my ancestor’s entries in admission and discharge registers (the archivist had obscured other patients’ names in the photocopy).
A reader e-mailed us a suggestion to examine county court records, too, for documents related to commitment hearings. She’d obtained her great-uncle’s “Inquest of Lunacy 1884, the full medical certificate of the doctor's exam and the application of admission by the probate judge.” Write the court clerk or see if the Family History Library
has microfilmed the records, in which case you'd be able to borrow them for a fee through a branch Family History Center.
Wednesday, 13 June 2007 13:07:07 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Monday, 04 June 2007
In the News
Posted by Diane
I remember seeing as a child a clipped newspaper ad for a boxing match in which one of my ancestors (with a very distinctive surname) participated. Is there a way to track down old newspaper advertisements? I'm almost positive this was from a Chicago area newspaper, at least 75 years old, but beyond that I don't have much to work with.A
Newspaper research can be time-consuming because not many papers are indexed online—but what a thrill it would be to find this ad!
You’d need to narrow the possibilities for which newspaper this could be, then locate repositories or online databases that carry the newspapers you want to search for the time period in question. One way to do this is searching the Illinois Newspaper Project online directory
. Results show newspaper titles and years of publication; click the title to see repositories holding that publication.
If the papers you need are in a database such as NewsBank
or ProQuest Historical Newspapers
(available through many libraries), or GenealogyBank
(by subscription), you’re in luck: Such databases use optical character recognition to search both articles and advertisements.
If the newspapers you need aren’t in an online database, you’ll have to visit the holding library to view it on microfilm, or ask your library to request the film through interlibrary loan.
To reduce your microfilm scrolling time, narrow the time period when you think the ad ran as much as possible. Try doing a Google
search on terms such as Chicago boxing history. I came up with an interesting Encyclopedia of Chicago Web page
—looks like boxing was a popular pastime in the Windy City. Browse local history books, too: You could find mention of the match your ancestor fought.
You may already have done this, but ask your relatives if they remember when this boxing match happened. (You might as well ask if they have copies of the ad, too.)
The February 2007 Family Tree Magazine
has an article on finding and searching old newspapers—even those that aren’t indexed. Let us know if you find your ancestor's ad!
Monday, 04 June 2007 22:27:21 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Friday, 25 May 2007
It's Only Natural
Posted by Allison
Several branches of my family came to United States in the 1860s from Sweden and Germany and England—before Ellis Island. Were these people automatically made citizens or did they have to apply for naturalization? Where would one go to learn of this procedure?A
Any immigrant coming to the United States in the mid-1800s would have had to be naturalized to become a citizen. The process was twofold: First, the newcomer would have filed a declaration of intent for citizenship (referred to as “first papers”). After fulfilling the five-year residency requirement, he could then file his petition for naturalization. He had to sign these “final papers”—so if you can find that petition, you’ll have the added treat of seeing your ancestor’s John Hancock.
When male immigrants were naturalized, their children also automatically received citizenship. Between 1855 and 1922, their wives did, too.
The federal government standardized the naturalization process (including the paperwork) in 1906. Since your ancestors arrived before that, they could've filed for citizenship in any court—they might even have started the process in one location, then completed it in another. To cover all your bases, you’ll need to hunt for records at the local, county and state levels.
Start with a place search of the Family History Library catalog
for locations where your ancestors might have petitioned, and look under the naturalization heading to identify records available on microfilm. Next, check archives at all three levels. Some archives and other official stewards of naturalization records have posted indexes and documents online: See Joe Beine’s state-by-state directory of links
is also helpful.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services has copies of all post-1906 naturalization records. To request those, download and fill out form G-639
and mail it to US Citizenship and Immigration Serivces FOIA/PA, 111 Massachusetts Ave.,
Washington, DC 20529 (be sure to write “Freedom of Information Act Request” on the envelope).
Naturalization records can be a gateway to finding your ancestor’s passenger arrival list, as they often tell port and date of immigration (though the earlier the records, generally the less detail they contain). In fact, that’s how I confirmed the family story of my great-grandfather Henry Essel’s 1888 arrival through Philadelphia, enabling me to locate the ship manifest recording him and his family.
You can learn more about the naturalization process in They Became Americans
by Loretto Dennis Szucs (Ancestry, $19.95) and The Family Tree Guide To Finding Your Ellis Island Ancestors
by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack (Family Tree Books, $19.99). For Carmack’s 10-step guide to tracing immigrant ancestors, see our Yearbook 2003
issue. Library and Archives Canada
provides information on Canadian naturalizations.
immigration | naturalization
Friday, 25 May 2007 23:06:48 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Wednesday, 23 May 2007
Posted by Diane
Leslie Carlisle Grant was born about 1912 in Macon Co., NC. I last found him on the 1930 census in Miami, Dade Co., Fla., living near his sister Ethel Heinneman. Shortly after, he supposedly joined the Army. Coming home on leave from who knows where in 1931 or 1932, he supposedly drowned in New Orleans’ Lake Pontchartrain or the Gulf of Mexico. How can I find out where he was in the military, and what records show about him?
—from the FamilyTreeMagazine.com Brick Walls Forum
Unfortunately, military service records won’t help you, since the War Department didn’t compile service records for the Regular Army—men who served during peacetime. (For more, see archives.gov/genealogy/military
Leslie Grant’s death certificate should give his cause of death. If he indeed died in Louisiana, you can request the record from the Louisiana State Archives, which has instructions on its Web site
An unusual death might’ve led to an autopsy. According to the New Orleans Public Library Web site
, autopsy reports held there are “almost exclusively limited to crime-related deaths or to accidental deaths caused by some sort of violence (e.g., suicide, automobile accidents, drowning, etc.).”
Autopsy Reports, Proces Verbaux, 1905-1968 include the date and cause of death as well as other information from autopsies. Coroner’s Record Book Journals, 1905-1969, record all cases referred to the coroner.
“Seems like an event like that would have made the papers,” posted FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum
user Michele. “The current major newspaper is the Times-Picayune
.” It’s among the microfilmed holdings at the NOPL, which offers a newspaper listing by year
. See your February 2007 Family Tree Magazine
for newspaper research advice.
If you can’t visit the Crescent City, ask your librarian about requesting microfilmed records through interlibrary loan. Also research Ethel Heinemann, who may have left correspondence, funeral cards or other documents bearing clues about what happened to her brother.
Anyone have another suggestion? Click Comment to add it.
Wednesday, 23 May 2007 14:25:04 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)