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# Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Belgian Waffling
Posted by Diane

Q 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.

A
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 issue.)

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)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Finding Birth Dates and Parents' Names
Posted by Diane

Q 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)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Saving Old Family Newsletters
Posted by Diane

Q. 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; os and as 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)  #  Comments [0]