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Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Posted by Diane
What advice can you offer on genealogy in Belgium? My husband’s family came from there, and I would like to know where I can go to find information—no one even knows when or how the family got from Belgium to the United States. All I’ve found so far is it was in the late 1800s.
Based on the problem you’ve described, it sounds as though you really should be focusing on researching the family in the United States rather than Belgium. In order to cross the pond, you first have to pinpoint the Belgian immigrant.
So first, you’ll have to learn who the immigrant was, when he came to America, and the specific town he came from. To do that, you’ll need to thoroughly trace each generation of the family in America, starting with your husband.
You might try asking your husband’s relatives if they know any family stories that might provide additional clues, or if they have any family papers that could contain leads—a naturalization record or a family Bible, for example.
A good next step would be searching federal census records for each generation of your husband’s family: Beginning in 1850, censuses list each person’s place of birth. So if a family member did in fact immigrate during the late 1800s, census records should indicate that. Later censuses even tell you parents’ birthplaces.
If your husband’s ancestor became a citizen in the late 19th or early 20th century, his naturalization documents will likely tell you the town where he last lived in Belgium. Obituaries often provide clues, too.
Your best bet is to check every source you can about each previous generation, as you never know where a lead is going to turn up. That includes records about the siblings of your husband’s ancestors: Maybe your husband’s forebear didn’t apply for citizenship, for example, but his brother did. (See our feature on naturalization records in the May 2008
I’d also recommend you look to Belgian genealogy organizations and networks, such as the Belgian Roots Project
, for help. Since immigrants tended to settle in the same places as their countrymen and leave their homeland for the same reasons, these groups could provide historical and social context to help guide your search. You may also be able to connect with cousins through these organizations’ queries and databases. Browse our online Belgian Toolkit
to find more resources and Web sites.
By following all these leads, you should be able to find clues to your husband’s Belgian ancestry—just don’t try to cross the pond prematurely.
Belgian roots | immigration | international research | naturalization
Wednesday, January 30, 2008 5:51:55 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Finding Birth Dates and Parents' Names
Posted by Diane
My great-great-grandfather Edwin Lemon was born in Chester County, Penn., in 1818. This is all I can find about him. How do I find his parent's names and the month and day of his birth?A
When you boil it down, finding parents’ names is what genealogy research is all about. Make sure you've taken the basic steps to talk to family, search for home sources, and research your more-recent Lemon ancestors.
You don’t say how you know Lemon’s birthplace is Chester County. Family stories and even later records identifying birthplaces sometimes turn out to be wrong. Look into Chester County history and see if boundary changes could have affected where you should look for records on Edwin.
Assuming Chester County is the right place, you’re not likely to find a vital record from 1818, and unfortunately, no magical record is guaranteed to give you the information you need. Instead, search for records on all the members of the Lemon family and create a timeline of their locations and dates. Eventually the clues will add up to answers. Here are some records to search for:
- Baptismal and other religious records. Lutheran, Reformed, Quaker, Moravian and Roman Catholic were common denominations in Pennsylvania. Check the Family History Library (FHL) online catalog for microfilmed records from churches in Chester County. (Run a place search on the county, then click the church records heading.)
- Tax records. Everyone had to pay taxes, so search for Lemons in Chester County tax records (alson on FHL microfilm) when your ancestors lived there.
For more ideas, you'll want to use the Pennsylvania State Archives genealogical records guides
. Here, you can see the types of county records available
and what the archives has on microfilm for each county
. As one of the three original counties William Penn created in 1682, Chester County is the subject of a lot of microfilm.
For more helps researching Pennsylvania ancestors, see the February 2007 Family Tree Magazine
Pennsylvania State Research Guide.
birth/death records | court records | genealogy basics
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 8:44:45 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Saving Old Family Newsletters
Posted by Diane
My aunt found several copies of our family newsletter dating back to 1959 in an old suitcase. It appears they were run off on a duplicating machine because the typed part is somewhat smeared blue ink. The paper feels like carbon paper.
Any ideas or suggestions on how to preserve these and make the pages more readable? A.
Your newsletters may have been copied on a spirit duplicator
(also called a Ditto machine) or a mimeograph machine
, both popular in schools and churches until modern photocopiers took over in the 1960s and 1970s.
These machines produced copies from a waxed master, resulting in less-than-sharp print quality—letters that bleed; o
s and a
s that look like solid circles.
You can enhance your newsletters’ readability by scanning them and using photo-editing software (which comes with most scanners) to increase the contrast of the scan and remove stray marks. Try placing a plain white sheet behind the newsletter when you scan it.
If you don’t have a scanner, try a photocopier that lets you adjust contrast—a copy shop can help with this. Make sure your final photocopies are on acid-free paper (see below for suppliers), which is much slower to yellow and deteriorate than regular copy paper.
As far as preserving the originals, they’re undoubtedly on paper that contains acid. Place the newsletters in an archival file folder separated by sheets of buffer paper (which has a low pH level to help neutralize the acids in your newsletters), and put the folder in an acid-free envelope or box.
For even more protection, treat your newsletters with an acid-neutralizing spray such as Archival Mist. Test a small area first to make sure the ink won’t run.
Acid-free paper, archival folders, buffer paper, acid-neutralizing spray and other supplies are available at many scrapbooking stores and through online retailers such as Archival Methods
and Light Impressions
Store the original newsletters away from sunlight and protect them from extremes in temperature and humidity—a closet in the living area of your home is best. To prevent wear and tear, use your digital or paper copies for reference.
Preserving Heirlooms and Photos
Wednesday, January 09, 2008 4:28:51 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
The Skinny on Scanners
Posted by Allison
I’m in the process of digitizing my family photos, and I have to wonder: Does the type of scanner or software really matter? I am not correcting any of them; they’re going in “as is” because 98 percent are in excellent shape.A
Of course, the companies manufacturing such gizmos like to play up the benefits of their products’ features—and it’s true that a $500 scanner can do things a $100 scanner can’t. But for genealogists, it’s kind of like choosing between a Ford or a Rolls Royce: Although the Rolls offers lots of bells and whistles, you'd probably opt for the cheaper Ford if all you really care about is getting from point A to point B.
We recommend family historians scan photographic prints at 300 to 600 dpi for archival purposes. (If you plan to enlarge any far beyond their original size, however, you’ll probably need to scan those at a higher resolution.) Today, flatbed scanners in the $80 to $100 range offer 1,200-dpi or higher optical resolution—more than enough for the type of scanning you’re doing.
If you have a lot of photos to scan, you might want to pay a little extra to get a model with a document feeder or other convenience features. Old photos, which often have cardboard backings, won't work with feeders, though. So you'd have to skip the feeder anyway if you're working with heritage photos.
(Note that slides and negatives require a scanner built for that purpose—rather than a regular flatbed—to get the best results. Such models have high resolutions and correspondingly high price tags.)
Likewise, you’ll probably find that the photo-editing and -organizing software that came with your scanner or computer will work fine for your needs. Once you’ve had an opportunity to get familiar with the program’s setup, you might decide you want to “step up” to another program that has additional features or an interface better-suited to your working style. Adobe’s $100 Photoshop Elements
is one popular choice—but you certainly don’t need to shell out $650 for the professional Photoshop
program, which is loaded with fancy features you’ll probably never need.
Preserving Heirlooms and Photos | computers
Tuesday, December 18, 2007 11:56:23 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Posted by Allison
I have Family Tree Maker 2008
software, and I can't figure out how to print a basic family group sheet that includes all my facts. Can you help?A
For this answer, we'll turn to Family Tree Magazine
contributing editor Rick Crume, who reviewed Family Tree Maker 2008 in our March 2008 issue. Crume says "you need to tinker a lot with the settings" to get a decent family group sheet—but you can do it following these steps:
- Click on the link to the Publish workspace at the top of the screen.
- Use the mini-family tree at the top of the screen to select a parent in the family or click the file folder icon to search the Index of Individuals.
- Under Publication Types, select Relationship Reports and click on the Family Group Sheet.
- Click on the Detail tab.
- Click on the Items to Include button (with the green arrow).
- Hit the + button to add facts, click Select All and hit OK.
- Uncheck “Include only preferred facts” and “Include blank facts” and check OK. (Whew!)
Here’s a hint about pedigree charts: The default font size in four-generation charts is too large (10-point), so many place names get omitted. Reducing the font size for facts to 8 may help. (You could also remove “in” from the facts, but that process is even more convoluted.)
Wednesday, December 12, 2007 10:31:54 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Monday, December 10, 2007
Posted by Allison
I wanted to use a Web site such as Kodak
say, "You hereby grant to PhotoWorks, Inc. non-exclusive, royalty-free license to use, publish, copy, modify, transmit, display and distribute your Content for the purpose of delivering the Service and warrant that you have a right to grant such a license. In addition, you warrant that all moral rights in any Content and uploaded materials have been waived and do hereby waive any such moral rights." I feel that if I use the service of one of these companies, I’ve already paid it for the service, therefore it does not--and should not--have any rights to my photos. Why do these companies think they should be able to do this?A
1) The first key phrase is "for the purpose of delivering the service." In order to produce your calendar, put your photos on a CD, create an album, or make whatever product you've ordered, the company of course has to digitally reproduce, possibly edit and print your photo. Therefore, you'll be required to legally grant the company the right to use your photo. You're only giving the company the right to create the product you asked it to, nothing else.
2) You grant this right "non-exclusively"--meaning that you also can extend your rights to anyone or any other company you wish.
3) The statement "[you] warrant that you have a right to grant such a license" is also important: It's an acknowledgment that you actually have the copyright or permission to use the photos you upload. This statement protects the company against legal action if a customer reproduces photographs illegally. For example, say you get your kid's picture taken at Olan Mills, then you scan one of the photos and upload it to PhotoWorks so you can order a product. That's a violation of copyright law, because professional photo studios almost always copyright their work (that way, you have to buy the photos from that studio). It would be impossible for PhotoWorks or any such site to vet all the photos its users upload. By PhotoWorks' inclusion of this statement, Olan Mills (in this example) couldn't sue PhotoWorks if PhotoWorks' users were reproducing Olan Mills' copyrighted photographs without the studio’s permission.
4) "Moral rights" has nothing to do with morality, but with the copyright holder's right to attribution and to the integrity of the work (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_rights). Again, in my not-legal opinion, by "waiving moral" rights, you're waiving your right to have a "credit line" on a PhotoWorks products and allowing the company to "change" the image by affixing it to a coffee mug etc.
Preserving Heirlooms and Photos | Web tips | copyright
Monday, December 10, 2007 5:00:43 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Family Tree- and Photo-Sharing Web Sites
Posted by Diane
We received this question via our MySpace page
: I’ve heard about Web sites that will host pictures to give my family its own sharing place of current pictures of our kids (considering we're all over the United States). Do any of these also have a genealogical chart you can fill in?A
It sounds like you could use a family-oriented social networking Web site. Many of these sites let you upload photos, build a family tree online (you may even be able to upload a GEDOCM to cut down on data entry), create profile pages for family members and even add important dates to calendars.
Usually, you can opt to keep your family’s pages private by giving everyone a password, and you can also grant certain people editing privileges.
You’re in luck! The January 2008 Family Tree Magazine
(now on newsstands and at FamilyTreeMagazine.com
) has an overview of genealogy social networking sites. Here are some family-photo sharing sites that also let you create a genealogy chart:Amiglia
offers basic tree-building (when our reviewer checked, you couldn’t enter places or events besides birth and death), photo- and video-sharing. There’s a free trial period; after that, the site costs $49.95 per year.Geni
is a graphically cool site where you can upload photos and add a calendar and a family tree (with dates and places of birth and death, but not baptisms and burials). Our reviewer found navigation easy, and the site is free.Ancestry.com Member Trees
is also free, but after you add a tree, you’ll see “shaky leaves” that indicate Ancestry.com’s subscription-only databases may have records on your ancestors. Member Trees lets you add photos and video clips with searchable descriptions, and create a book using Ancestry Press.MyHeritage
offers an easy way to type information into a tree, or a more-elaborate, downloadable Family Tree Builder. You also can upload photos. The free Basic plan limits storage space; you also can choose a paid plan for $2.95 to $9.95 per month.
If your family’s on Facebook, relatives can upload a program called Family Tree to their profiles and use it to create a pedigree chart. See the Genealogy Insider blog for more information
With the capabilities of Web 2.0, these sites are updated frequently and new social networking sites are popping up all the time. If the whole family will be using the site, let other people weigh in on which you choose.
Readers: Which family social networking sites would you recommend? Any tips for families that use a site? Click Comment to post here, or add your two cents to our Web Watch Forum
Preserving Heirlooms and Photos | Web tips
Tuesday, November 20, 2007 4:59:36 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Posted by Allison
Both of my grandfathers were born in Spain and left in the late 1800s or early 1900s. I know where and when they were born, but would like to find a ship’s manifest of their journey from Spain to Cuba, and information on earlier generations. I visited a Web site you recommended in the September 2007
issue (“Record Highs and Lows”), but it’s in Spanish—with no English version—so I couldn’t use it. Is there another way to research Spanish immigrant relatives? A Web site that’s helpful to us Americanos
You’ve run into one of the key challenges of research in the old country: the language barrier. Although some countries have Web sites with information in English, most of their resources—and more important, their records—naturally are going to be in the native tongue.
That doesn’t mean you have to become fluent in Spanish to trace your overseas roots. But you will want to brush up on some basics, especially family history-related terms. Many foreign genealogical records are formulaic enough that you usually can decipher them with knowledge of key words such as birth, marriage, death, mother, father, etc., and a translation dictionary. For starters, try the Family History Library’s (FHL) helpful Spanish Genealogical Word List
And of course, the Internet isn’t the only place to look for records of your Spanish ancestors. The FHL has microfilmed numerous Spanish documents. Find ones relevant to your family tree by searching the online catalog
for the town, municipality or province where your ancestors lived and the port they emigrated from. Knowing where your grandfathers were born gives you a head start on tracing earlier generations—you already know where to focus your search.
You also can write to archives and record offices in Spain for records. See our how-to guide to researching in Spain and Portugal (in the June 2004 Family Tree Magazine
) for guidance on where to write, and consult the FHL’s Spanish Letter-Writing Guide
for help composing your correspondence in Spanish (you’re more likely to get a response that way).
Some other resources you might find helpful: GenForum’s Spain message board
, where you can pick the brains of other genealogists researching there, and books
by Hispanic genealogy expert George R. Ryskamp. The Society of Hispanic Historical and Ancestral Research has a good list of Web links
to explore. Consider joining a Hispanic genealogical society in your area to take advantage of its resources and members’ knowledge.
Hispanic roots | immigration | international research
Thursday, November 08, 2007 5:59:47 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Monday, October 22, 2007
Shipwrecked Passenger Lists
Posted by Diane
I can't find a passenger list for the 1738 voyage of the Princess Augusta
, which sailed from Rotterdam, Holland, and wrecked in December of that year on Block Island, RI. What happens to passenger lists of ships that never reach their final destination?A
Passenger lists weren’t common until after 1820, when the United States passed a law requiring them, so it's likely one didn’t exist in the first place. After 1820, lists were created at the port of departure as passengers obtained tickets. The lists traveled with the captain to the arrival port, where immigration officials matched up names on the list with passengers coming off the boat. If the ship went under, the list probably did, too. (For help finding other records of pre-1820 passengers, see the July 2007 Family Tree Magazine
and the Web Extra
You may be able to learn something about who was on the Princess Augusta
, though. The wreck is the basis for John Greenleaf Whittier's poem called The Palatine
(so-called because the ship carried many people from the Palatinate region), published in The Atlantic Monthly
According to a Boston-based news site
, surviving Princess Augusta
crew members testified in a deposition that during the voyage, “provisions were scarce, half the crew had died, and others were hobbled by the extreme cold.” After the ship ran aground in a snowstorm, its captain, Andrew Brook, encouraged those on board to take what they could.
The deposition was reprinted in 1939 by E.L. Freeman Co. The short book is called Depositions of officers of the Palatine ship "Princess Augusta": wrecked on Block Island, 27th December, 1738 and which was apparently the "Palatine" of Whittier's poem
. You can find it at large libraries (try to borrow it through interlibrary loan of yours doesn’t have it).
You also may find more information in articles such as "The Emigration Season of 1738—Year of the Destroying Angels,"
in The Report, A Journal of German-American History
, volume 40 (1986), from the Society of the History of the Germans in Maryland
grew out of the incident. According to one, Block Island residents nursed rescued passengers back to health; the second says islanders lured the ship onto the shoals with false lights for the purpose of pillaging it, then set it afire. Supposedly, apparitions of a burning Princess Augusta haunt the island today.
Monday, October 22, 2007 3:06:13 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Monday, October 15, 2007
Who uses Hebrew dates?
Posted by Grace
While exploring a Jewish cemetery in Cincinnati recently I noticed much variation among the inscriptions on tombstones. Is there a particular date when families started using Gregorian dates rather than Hebrew dates on graves?
A Schelly Talalay Dardashti, whose blog, Tracing the Tribe, is a formidable source for researching Jewish roots, says the choice to use secular or Hebrew dates depends on a few things: historical period, location, and the family's affiliation and level of religious observance.
"In ancient days in Europe, dates would have been only in Hebrew, with the year written using the Hebrew alphabet characters for the numbers. In some cemeteries today, you may find only the secular dates," she says. "In the great pre-Holocaust Jewish communities throughout Europe, most old sections of Jewish cemeteries will show Hebrew-only inscriptions, while newer sections may have secular dates. It was a personal choice even though custom and tradition indicated the use of Hebrew."
Today, some assimilated families might feel the Hebrew date is not important, as the family isn't religious. In isolated areas, there may be no masons who can properly carve Hebrew inscriptions. "Using Hebrew dates means the family understands the Jewish calendar and what one must do on the anniversary of the individual's death," she says. "Synagogue observances, prayers, candles at home and visits to cemetery according to the Hebrew calendar date of death."
Cincinnati was the hotbed of German Reform Judaism in America—it's the home of the Hebrew Union College, which ordains Reform Jewish clergy. The German Jews who settled there were very assimilated, Talalay Dardashti says.
The deceased individual might have left instructions to do things one way or the other, but the children may decide if left with no instructions, she says. But when it comes down to it, picking a style of dates is a personal choice unless cemetery regulations stipulate them.
For more resources on Jewish heritage, check out Family Tree Magazine's August 2006 issue.
To easily convert Hebrew dates, you can use Steve Morse's Jewish Calendar Conversions in One Step and tombstone decipherer. JewishGen.org has a great tutorial on reading Hebrew tombstones here.
Want to share your own pictures from your cemetery visits? Come on over to the Cemetery Central Forum.
Monday, October 15, 2007 3:45:16 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)