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# Monday, 22 October 2007
Shipwrecked Passenger Lists
Posted by Diane

Q 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 in 1867.

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.

Two legends 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, 22 October 2007 15:06:13 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 15 October 2007
Who uses Hebrew dates?
Posted by Grace

Q 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. 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, 15 October 2007 15:45:16 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, 05 October 2007
Tracking down Contact Information
Posted by Grace

Q I want to contact a person who posted on a genealogy message board a few years ago, but the e-mails bounce back. How can I get in touch with this person?

A It happens all too often: A Web search for an ancestor turns up a nugget of information on a message board, but when you try to contact the person—no dice. First, check out the poster's user profile. If it includes a personal Web site, visit to look for updated contact information. If you're not that lucky, look next for a full name in the profile or the original posting.

You can then search for the name in an online directory such as Yahoo! People Search or Switchboard. Doing a Google search for the name may turn up some contact information as well, though this will be more helpful if you're looking for a Heidi Kryschek-Horowitz than if you're scouting a Steve Smith.

Another tactic is to search Google for the person's message board username—people often use the same ID on different sites. GenieFreak293 may show up with more-recent activity on other forums.

You can take this as a lesson in genealogical karma. Whenever you get a new e-mail address, always update your contact information on all the Web sites where you've posted queries. Or sign up for a free, Web-based e-mail account at Gmail or Yahoo! to use just for genealogy correspondence—then you'll never need to change your e-mail address.

black sheep ancestors | Web tips
Friday, 05 October 2007 17:06:07 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]