Where there's a will...there's a glimpse into every day life: the will of Edward Haase part II

Recently I wrote about the will of my 3x great-grandfather Edward Haase, which revealed the existence of an illegitimate son. In it, he left money to the boy's mother to care for him and to provide for his schooling and upbringing. Because the money was designated for this express purpose, the boy's mother, Catherine Graham, had to provide an accounting of the money she spent on her son, and it's a really interesting glimpse into the every day life of raising (or being) an 11 year old boy in 1920...

There's the usual clothing items - a winter coat in January, a bathing suit in August. Just like now, Catherine had to take her son to the doctor, and she had to pay the bill. But the accounting reveals other interesting details about her son's life at that time - in June of 1920 he joined the Boy Scouts, and he had to buy him a uniform, a canteen, a knapsack, a knife, and all the other little knick knacks a Scout would need (any parent nowadays who has a kid in a sport or activity can relate to the long list of items you need to buy so your kid can participate!)

That August the boy went to Boy Scout camp, and he also started playing baseball. He must have spent a lot of time riding his bicycle because in September, it needed to be repaired. In June of 1921, he made his First Communion, and his mother bought him a new suit. That September, at the age of 12, Catherine enrolled him in a military boarding school in Ossining, New York. He came home for Thanksgiving, and that winter, he went ice skating. 

There's nothing extraordinary in this list of activities and items bought for them. They're all extremely ordinary. But most of us, in our day to day lives, live in the ordinary, not the extraordinary, and to see a mother and son nearly 100 years ago engaging in the ordinary day to day activities and shopping that we do today with our families, humanizes our ancestors and helps connect us to the past. 

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My blog turned 10 years old this year!

This past month, on January 16, 2018, marked 10 years since I started my genealogy blog, which feels a bit surreal and yet pretty amazing. I've learned and shared so much over this past decade, but am still knee-deep in family mysteries, brick walls, and new discoveries...the journey never ends! I've met new cousins, both close and distant, and built a community with them of exchanging family tree info and just getting to know each other as well. I've gotten married, had two children, and moved to another state...I've lost loved ones, but watched as the next generation of my family has blossomed and grown. I look forward to continuing this adventure in the next decade, to see what more I learn, who else I discover, and how the practice of genealogy develops, through the use of science and technology, the release and availability of new records and databases, and the involvement of more people sharing their photos, documents and oral histories...it's an exhilarating ride to be on!

For anyone who wasn't here when I started who might be interested in how this blogging adventure began, here's a link to my very first blog post:

Becoming Nancy Drew

Where there's a will...there's important family info: the will of Edward Haase.

My 3x great grandmother, Eva Meinberg Haase, died Sept. 11, 1919. Eleven days later, her husband Edward Haase, my 3x great grandfather, wrote a will containing some interesting information, information I believe he had kept secret from his wife, since he didn't put it in writing till after she had passed. In fact, this info made me unsure that this will even belonged to MY Edward Haase till I saw my 2x great grandfather mentioned as a beneficiary and executor of the will. The secret info that was revealed? My 3x great grandfather had a second family, an illegitimate son, something I NEVER knew until I read this will. I imagine Eva never knew, and I wonder how much my 2x great grandfather, Gus Haase, knew, or if he found out when his father died just two months later on Nov. 25, 1919 that he had a 10 year old half-brother, Edward George Haase.

So in the second item in the will, Edward Sr. left $15,000 to be used for the support and education of an Edward George Haase, born January 15, 1909. The will does not explicitly say that Edward is his son, but Edward is NOT one of his any known nephews, and the only other people named as beneficiaries are his one known son, Gus, and Edward's siblings. $15,000 in 1919 is the equivalent of more than $200,000 today, and a lot of money to leave randomly to someone who just happens to have the same last name as you...In genealogy, we rely on compelling evidence to make a case. But we also rely on experience and educated guesses to carry us through until we find the evidence that proves or disproves a theory about a family member. I believe Edward the younger was my Edward's illegitimate son.

The third item of the will leaves money to a variety of people, all relatives, except for the very first person, Catharine Graham, to whom Edward leaves $5,000. Catharine Graham was also appointed the guardian of Edward the younger in terms of the inheritance Edward the elder left him. A search of census records reveals that Catharine Graham was also Edward the younger's mother.

Wills and probate records are some of my favorite sources of family history documentation - they can be RICH with details about family relationships, the financial status and physical holdings of an individual, and, as it turns out, family secrets as well.

Edward Haase will excerpt.JPG

February babies: Happy birthday to two of my grandparents

My maternal grandfather, Dick Raynor, would have been 104 years old yesterday. He was born Feb. 1, 1914. My paternal grandmother, Helen Stutzmann Gorry, would be celebrating her 86th birthday next week - she was born Feb. 10, 1932. Happy birthday to two of my grandparents, both February babies. Love and miss you both.

 

Dick Raynor joined the Navy in November 1943.

Dick Raynor joined the Navy in November 1943.

My grandfather on his wedding day in 1946.

My grandfather on his wedding day in 1946.

Birth announcement for Helen Stutzmann in the Feb. 19, 1932 Ridgewood Times - she weighed five and a half pounds.

Birth announcement for Helen Stutzmann in the Feb. 19, 1932 Ridgewood Times - she weighed five and a half pounds.

My grandmother as a little girl.

My grandmother as a little girl.

William Golder's Memories of Aunt Beckie and Uncle Jacob Raynor

Sometimes there are people who get lost of family trees - children who died young or in infancy, people who grew up but never married, usually those without direct descendants trying to find them. Lately I've been trying to find and record the young children who have been lost on my tree, but today while doing some research on Fulton History's newspaper archive website, I came across a piece in the Nassau Daily Review Star from January 20, 1941 by William Golder, reminiscing about his Aunt Beckie Raynor, a spinster, and Uncle Jacob Raynor, a bachelor. Well, William is my first cousin, 4x removed (his mother is the sister of my 3x great-grandmother) so Beckie and Jacob are my aunt and uncle, too. I've known for years about Beckie and Jacob, as the spinster sister and brother of my 4x great-grandfather, James Washington Raynor - I've always known Beckie as Rebecca, though, like her mother - never knew she had a nickname! I've always known next to nothing about Jacob, and the big thing I knew Rebecca for was having an incredibly detailed will outlining her many nieces and nephews, their spouses, and where they lived - basically your dream will, if you're a family historian. But William's memories of Beckie and Jacob shed tons of light on them as people - she enjoyed the company of the young people in town, reading their fortunes in tea leaves. Jacob was eccentric, enjoyed reading about astronomy, grew grape vines, and loved to look at the stars with his telescope. This is an amazing part of genealogy, not just discovering a person, but discovering who they were.

Websites I used for this research:
Old Fulton New York Postcards: www.fultonhistory.com

Raynor memories.JPG

Never give up, never surrender...how I knocked down a brick wall after 15 years

Galaxy Quest sure had it right.

My 3x great-grandmother, Mathilda Rau, was your standard brick wall. She did in 1880 at the age of 35 from bilious fever. Her parents' names are not on her death certificate. She was an immigrant - I have her on a passenger list manifest from 1871 that lists her place of origin as Wurttemburg, nothing more specific. She was pretty much a blank slate - a name and a couple of dates. That's all I knew. My only shot at getting past this brick wall, to putting her in a place, and placing her in a family, was to find her marriage record. She was unmarried when she came to New York, listed right next to Friedrich Stutzmann, the man who would become her husband, so I was pretty sure they were married in New York, but no matter what search I did - first names only, last names only, first initials, boolean, soundex, birth dates, no birth dates - I always turned up empty handed. They were nowhere to be found.

I research my family tree in cycles. I'll do one branch till I've exhausted all my information and evidence, then move on to the next. If new info and records become available for a certain person or line, I'll head that way, or I'll revisit a line I haven't done in awhile in the hopes that new information will have become available. You never know. Just because there was nothing when you started doesn't mean new records, or new people researching their own trees, haven't popped up...ALWAYS go back again. Always. And so that's what I did with Mathilda. I had recently broken through a brick wall on another German line of mine, one I thought was destined to remain a dead end, and so I decided to give Mathilda another go. And this time it worked.

I found Friedrich and Mathilda indexed in the New York marriage records as Frederick Stulzmann and Mathilda Prau. Prau was never going to come up in a boolean or soundex search! I received the marriage certificate from the New York City Municipal Archives just before Christmas...Best. Christmas. Present. EVER. Suddenly, I had the name of Mathilda's hometown, Obergriesheim in Wurttemburg, and the names of her parents, Joseph Michael Rau and Walpurga Hartman (isn't her mom's name just the most German name??) and I also had her signature! I love signatures...they really humanize the names in our trees. Unfortunately, the area in Germany where she comes from has no records online; so I'm going to have to wait, or do some real world research, see if I can find some microfilms, visit some libraries. For now, this family remains a brick wall...but a brick wall with possibility. I know what church books to look for, what municipality to check civil records...Mathilda is no longer alone (I know she was married with children, but my great-great grandfather was only 5 when she died and her husband went on to remarry two more times, so she always felt very alone and left behind to me...) But she now has parents. She has a town in which she grew up. She has two younger sisters that she played with as a child and bossed around as they got older.

For now, I move on to the next line on my tree. But I can't wait to come back to Mathilda.

Websites I used for this research:

Ancestry
Family Search
Italian Genealogy Group: www.italiangen.org
NYC Municipal Archives: http://www1.nyc.gov/site/records/historical-records/vital-records.page

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen - discovering my Danish roots

I come from pretty standard Irish-German-English stock, so I've long been intrigued by my lone outlier line, the Bergs of Copenhagen, Denmark. My 3x great-grandfather, Peter Hansen Berg, was born there in 1824. I had the names of his parents - Hans Pedersen and Ane Margarethe Christensdatter, that a distant cousin had discovered, but other than that, I knew nothing. The Bergs remained an exotic (to me, anyway) mystery.

But as often the case with my research, my best discoveries, my most interesting and enlightening discoveries, occur when I get off the index, get off of Ancestry, and jump head first into the records. There are SO many records available, on both Ancestry and FamilySearch, that are unindexed and they are a virtual treasure trove of information...but the search without an index can be time-consuming as you go record by record, page by page, for possibly 1000s of pages...complicated by having to decipher handwriting in a language you don't understand. It's maddening. It's exhilarating.

So that's what I did. I did a Google search and discovered that there are at least two websites that have Danish census records online, both transcribed and actual images, and unlike U.S. census records which become less helpful prior to 1850, Danish records list whole families backward through the late 1700s. I had to learn to recognize important genealogical words in Danish - father, mother, baptism, marriage, death, the usual. Anytime you do family research, it's handy to keep a little cheat sheet of these words in the language of the records you're looking into - some important info might get lost, such as parents' occupation or other little notes, but you can often figure out the general gist of an entry with these key words, proper names, dates, and place names. I also jumped into Danish vital records, mostly unindexed, on FamilySearch and Ancestry. I started getting used to following the patronymic naming system, which is extremely helpful in finding a person's father and children, but not necessarily helpful in grouping a person to their spouse. So while I had often done earlier searches for Peter Hansen Berg, I ended up looking for Peder Hansen, and found him. I found his baptismal record and his Lutheran confirmation record. I found the birth and death of many of his siblings, and I found his family in several Danish census records. I discovered that the family didn't live in Copenhagen city, but from two small towns just southwest of the city, which made it easy to find the family in early census records, when the populations of those towns were under 1,000.

Ishoj, Copenhagen, Denmark - one of the places my family comes from. From:http://www.visitvestegnen.dk/ishoej-havn-gdk620905

Ishoj, Copenhagen, Denmark - one of the places my family comes from. From:http://www.visitvestegnen.dk/ishoej-havn-gdk620905

It was a major breakthrough what has been an enduring brick wall for me. I found my 4x great grandparents' marriage and death records. I found my 5x great-grandparents, Peder Pedersen and Birthe Christensdatter, both working in a household as 20 year old servants in 1787...maybe that's where they met. I found my 6x great-grandparents, Christen Pedersen and Cidse Pedersdatter, born in the 1730s. I have no idea what was going on in Danish history from the 1730s to the 1860s, when my last living direct ancestor still over there finally died, but I want to find out. I knew nothing about this branch of my family tree. And now I have so much to learn...I can't wait to get started!

Websites I used in this research:

Ancestry.com
FamilySearch.org
The Danish Demographic Database: http://www.ddd.dda.dk/kiplink_en.htm
Danish Family Search: https://www.danishfamilysearch.com/census/

We're the millers: finding family occupations (the Meinbergs, millers of Heppenheim)

After you've found out the when and where of a family member's birth and death, one of the easier facts to fill in in between (not always, but a lot of times, yes) is occupation (for men anyway, although it's always interesting to see women's occupations throughout history. But it can tell you a lot - it can give you an idea of whether a place was urban or rural; it can give you an idea of what a person's father might have done for a living, as some children followed in their father's footsteps; it can give you an idea of what was driving the local economy; it can give you an idea if or why your family moved, if they were working in an industry that eventually collapsed or became obsolete.

So I always get excited when I find out a new ancestor occupation, and I recently did, about my Meinberg family in Heppenheim. Eva Meinberg Haase, my third-great grandmother, was born in New York City in 1861; her father, John Meinberg, was an immigrant from Heppenheim in Hesse. I know nothing about him personally - he's one of my ghost ancestors I'm still chasing - but I know about his family, and they both apparently came from a long line of millers in Heppenheim. They were *the* millers apparently, and the title of the article I found is "Once one of the richest families in the city."

http://www.morgenweb.de/region/bergstrasser-anzeiger/heppenheim/1.2066323

 

There were at least 14 millers in the family over 8 generations and they were, obviously, very successful at it. It appears that at some point, the milling business passed to another branch of the Meinbergs, not my Meinbergs, which is perhaps why my branch ended up in America, if they hadn't inherited the lucrative family business. I have no idea what John ended up doing in America instead. But it was interesting to see this article, not written as a genealogy article, but written by someone interested in history, specifically German history and the history of mills, focusing on my family - my 9th great-grandparents, Johann Meinberg and Eva Farrenkopf, are mentioned in the article. In fact, that's how I found the story. Lesson number two today - never underestimate the power of a well-phrased Google search, as well as the power of Google translate!!

 

http://www.morgenweb.de/region/bergstrasser-anzeiger/heppenheim/1.2066323

When genealogy is heartbreaking...

There's a lot of fun and excitement that comes with tracing your family tree - discovering new ancestors, new cousins, new facts, new vital records...it can get the adrenaline pumping, for sure!

But it's not always like that. Sometimes researching your family history can be heartbreaking. I think, for example, of confirming my great-great aunt's death in the General Slocum steamboat disaster...and then to compound the tragedy of it all, discovering that she had a one year old son who died with her. I have a one year old son, so maybe that's why it particularly hit home for me, but I cried for a day after finding that out. This is when genealogy is heartbreaking.

I think about all the people researching their African-American lineage who almost without fail will reach that unbreakable Civil War brick wall, because their ancestors were slaves and no vital records were kept of them - if they were named at all, it can probably be found in transfer of property records. This is when genealogy is heartbreaking.

Recently, I was researching Eastern European Jewish genealogy for a client. As you can imagine, this can be another difficult task, as Eastern European and Russian Jews have their own brick wall, usually somewhere in the early to mid-2oth century, because those records were destroyed, whole villages were destroyed, and millions of Jewish people were killed in the Holocaust. This particular client knew he had family who had died in concentration camps, and I've worked with clients before where it was understood without explicitly coming up that they had lost family in the Holocaust, but this was the first time I worked to document some of those relatives who had been lost. Sisters, brothers, parents, in-laws - people whose birth records I had just discovered, whose marriage records I had just seen, snapshots of happy days, joyous moments in their lives, quickly followed by confirmation that yes, this one was sent to Auschwitz where she was killed, this one was sent to Russia where he was killed...this is when genealogy is heartbreaking.

It's heartbreaking because genealogy is not just pieces of paper with names and dates - those pieces of paper represent real people, like ourselves, who lived and laughed and loved. Tracing our family trees can be exciting and it can be heartbreaking, because life can be exciting and it can be heartbreaking, and that's what makes genealogy something so special and something I love.

Thought of the day: birthdays and birth records

I was just going through my vital records for my family tree recently, looking at all the birth certificates I have, thinking about how I had evidence of an exact birthday for so many of these people. My train of thought then led to how those same people on those records would list their age as one thing in one census, only 8 years older in a census 10 years later, 11 years older again in another census 10 years after that... a lot of our ancestors didn't know when their birthday was. Maybe the month, maybe the day, not always the year. A lot of times, they were just guestimating. Maybe their birthday was recorded somewhere in a family Bible, but chances were, they didn't have a copy of their birth certificate. But I do. They didn't know when their own birthday was...but I do, because I have access to their birth records. They didn't have their birth record in their own lifetime, but 100 years later, 200 years later, 300 years later I do... Isn't that crazy?

Anyway, happy weekend everybody...have fun and be safe!

Technology & Genealogy: Catholic Cemeteries of Brooklyn's "Locate A Loved One"

Just discovered this today!

Oh, I could go on and on about all the advantages of doing family history research in the information technology age, but here's an example: while looking into my Enright ancestors, I discovered that Catholic Cemeteries of the Diocese of Brooklyn have a "Locate a Loved One" search engine. Now, this one won't tell you what cemetery your ancestor is buried in - BUT, let's say you know when and where your great-grandmother died, and that she's buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn, you could put her in and find the location of her grave. Maybe you don't know when your great-grandfather died, but you assume he is not only buried in the same cemetery but in the same plot as your great-grandmother, so you put in his name, and cross reference plot locations - voila! Hopefully you can find out when HE died, and then order his death certificate (this is what I just did, and plan to do...sooo excited!)

Another perk of this search engine that maybe isn't at the forefront of people's mind but is just such another important service, is that this simplifies finding the location of your family member's grave or your family's plot in a cemetery, making visiting it so much easier. I have had a lot of luck visiting cemeteries and encountering helpful employees who look up my family's information and hand me a map with the grave location circled. But sometimes I show up and the office is closed - either it's lunchtime, or after hours, or the weekend. And sometimes they've been busy and I've had to wait a bit (which I don't mind, but my young children do!) Now, you can get that information ahead of time - this website has a map of the cemetery on it, with all the sections labeled. And it looks like they have an app that you can download to help locate your ancestors on the go...

For me, this kind of technology is invaluable. I think it's going to open new doors for research but even just for visiting our family members who have passed, which is part of this genealogy journey that I really enjoy. So if you don't have ancestors buried in Brooklyn, see if your local cemetery/diocese has a website like this, and let me know if you found it helpful!

Happy 9 year blogiversary to me!

Nine years??? How is that even possible?

Nine years ago today I started this blogging journey. I had been doing family history research for years prior to that but that was my first attempt to document my journey, both my successes and frustrations - this was both to help others, so they could see what I was doing and what I was going through, and to help myself, a way to kind of think out loud, figure out where I'd been, what steps I might need to do next, and maybe think outside the box. It was also my first attempt to reach out to others, not only to help others but to get help FROM others...what could you think of or see that I couldn't? And I was trying to connect to cousins...and I did! I found and met so many new cousins, some of whom weren't looking for the family tree information I had, and so many more of whom were an amazing wealth of family history information that I needed...and I'd like to think that some of them even became friends along the way!

In these past nine years, I've changed jobs, gotten married and had children, and this blog and digging into the past has oftentimes taken a back seat to real life...but it continues to be something I really enjoy and even as my blogging has become less frequent, I hope that this time next year I'm still here, celebrating my 10 year blogiversary!

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day everyone! In honor of MLK, I found a quote we can all look to as genealogists, family historians, and, well, human beings.

Christmas Flood of 1717

In addition to learning the facts about our ancestors, it's important to learn about the times and places in which they lived. It is nothing but helpful to try to put our family into context - sometimes, it will help you decipher the motivations of why they might have moved from one place to another; it can help you figure out what language they might have spoken or what religion they might have practiced, both of which can be clues to where there might be records about their lives; it can give you clues to what their occupations might have been; at the very least, it can give you an idea of what their daily lives might have been like, or what might have been some big events and upheavals they dealt with.

In the course of researching my Tiedemann family - my immigrant ancestor and 3rd great grandmother, Meta Tiedemann, was born in Mittelstenahe, Hanover, Germany - I discovered that they hailed from all over the German state of Lower Saxony (which, strangely enough, is in the northern part of Germany), in particular the more northern coastal areas near the cities of Bremen and Bremerhaven - Mittelstenahe is 42 km east of the coastal city of Bremerhaven, at the mouth of the Weser river; it is 41 km south of the coastal city of Cuxhaven, at the mouth of the Elbe River, smack dab in the middle of the Elbe-Weser Triangle. Other cities in the vicinity my family came from include Lamstedt, Stinstedt, Osterholz and Hackemuhlen. While researching these branches of my tree, I learned that a terrible natural disaster hit the region: the Christmas Flood of 1717, or  or Die Weihnachtsflut vom 24. Dezember 1717 in German. My 8th great-grandparents were living in the area in 1717.

According to Wikipedia, the Christmas Flood of 1717 was the result of a northwesterly storm, which hit the coast area of the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia on Christmas night of 1717. 

In total, approximately 14,000 people drowned. The whole region is flat and low-lying, which is why the flood was so devastating. It was the last large storm flood in the north of the Netherlands. Floodwaters reached towns 21 km inland. Many villages near the sea were devastated entirely. The local communities had to cope with population loss, economic decline and poverty. No area of the coast between the Netherlands and Denmark was spared. Everywhere dyke breaches were followed by wide flooding of the flat country. Between Tønder in Slesvig and Emden in East Frisia about 9,000 people drowned - this is right in the area of where my family lived. Cattle were lost, houses were washed away and the damage to dykes was immense. Many survivors waited months to learn the fate of missing family members, and some never found out what happened to them. The coldness of winter didn't help the situation of those who survived, and another flood hit two months later.

The family members I know of did not live right on the coast, but they lived along the rivers that led to the coast. Were they affected by this devastating flood? Did they come from towns closer to the coast, where they might have still had family? Did they travel to these coastal areas for business? Did they see the devastation firsthand, and if not, what did they think when they first learned of it via word of mouth, maybe months later? Did it affect the economy of the region? Travel and trade out of ports along the damaged coastline, the loss of crops and livestock, all must have taken a toll on the entire region.

My Tiedemanns and adjacent family lines remained in Lower Saxony for years and generations afterward, so whatever personal loss or setbacks from the flood must not have been lasting. It's just interesting from a historical perspective to learn about these events that for the most part, just fade away into the ether, unless you have some personal tie or connection to it.

In the course of your family history research, have you come across any events - natural disasters, political uprisings, epidemics, etc. - that occurred where your family was living that might have affected them personally? I'd love to hear about it!

Unknown - Copper Engraving Abbildung der fast übernatürlich-hohen Wasserflut am H(eiligen) Christ-Tag 1717 und am 25. Hornung (= Februar)

Sources:

Wikipedia, Christmas Flood of 1717. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_Flood_of_1717

Christmas traditions

First off, happy New Year to all my readers! But since we're still technically in the 12 days of Christmas, here's a quick Christmas post...

Christmas time always brings out the German heritage in me...as a kid, we always had a pickle ornament hanging on our tree that our parents hid and my siblings and I had to find it. It's an old German tradition and it was always a fun part of Christmas day, trying to find the pickle. Sometimes the person who finds it is supposed to get an extra present, or get to open an extra present, or supposed to get good luck in the coming year...in my house, we got to lord it over our siblings that we were the "winner." I come from a family that has been in the United States for so long that we don't have a lot of Old World traditions that have been handed down or that we practice, so I always enjoyed this little piece of my German ancestry.

I actually bought a pickle ornament this year and I had my husband and 3 year old daughter look for it. He found it right away...she couldn't find it even though it was right in front of her face. It was still fun, though, and I look forward to carrying forward this German tradition and passing down to my children something from my own childhood, and from our German family history.

What Christmas traditions do you and your family have that come from your cultural or ethnic background?

Can you find the pickle ornament in the Christmas tree??

Who Are My Ancestors?: A 'Genealogy for Beginners' Guide

Have you been asking yourself “how to find my ancestors?” Discovering how to find your ancestors in our modern world can seem like a daunting task. With access to so much information at our fingertips, vaguely searching online without a strategy can leave you unenthused or overwhelmed in an ocean of information. On the other hand, successfully researching your lineage can be a deeply rich and gratifying learning experience, fostering a new-found appreciation and pride in your family roots, or at the very least, provide you with a great story. Whatever your reasons for discovering your family history, knowing where to look and how makes all the difference. If you’re new to researching genealogy and want to find out the answer to the question “who are my ancestors?,” check out my genealogy for beginner’s guide:

 

1) Determine what you know and what you don’t

Organizing what you already know may seem trivial at first but I guarantee you’ll be thanking yourself later when things get more involved. To begin, try jotting down what you know about your family history, starting with yourself, your parents, each of their parents and each of your parents' parents and so on, going back as far as you can. Make sure to write down their names and any alternate spellings of their names or any nicknames they used as well as those of their siblings.

Next, you’re going to want to add the towns where they lived and were born, and all of the dates – births, deaths, marriages, etc. - that you can.  This should generate a whole list of questions for you to investigate.

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t stress! Many answers may be awaiting at your fingertips in family records such as birth and death certificates, deeds, in a family Bible, or in notations on the backs of old photographs. Search and record any information you find. Gather what you can and don’t fret too much over what you can’t. Right now, you’re just setting up the skeleton of your project which you’ll be fleshing out as you move on. Remember, determining what you don’t know will give you a good idea of your information needs as you move on to the investigative phase next!

Got all that? Let’s review your initial steps on how to find your ancestors:

 

1) Briefly jot down the family history you know of in this order. Yourself > Parents > Grandparents > Great Grandparents > (as far back as you can)

2) Add any alternate spellings, nicknames that you know for them and their siblings.

3) Add the towns where they were born and where they lived.

4) Gather and take note of any family records in your possession: birth and death certificates, family bibles, old photos, and so on.

 

 

2) Interview and Fill in the Gaps

Your next step will probably be the most important and enjoyable one. Discuss your project with your family members, especially the older ones! Ask them to help you fill in the gaps in your information, but also invite them to share any stories they know about your ancestors. When and how did they immigrate? What did they do for a living? Was life hard or easy for them when they came to America? Did any of them serve in the military?  Was anyone ever mentioned in a newspaper? Be patient, don’t interrupt, listen carefully, and take plenty of notes.

 

In short, here’s what you should do in phase two of genealogy for beginners:

 

          1) Take time to contact or meet with your family members (ideally the older ones)

2) Ask the appropriate questions to meet your information needs and invite them to tell any stories that might pertain to your family lineage.

3) Be an active listener!

4) Take plenty of notes!

 

3) Conducting your online investigation

This is where the hard work begins! This is where you’ll verify the data you have already collected, as well as learn more about your ancestors. Subscription-based services like Ancestry.com compile billions of public records into a single, easy-to-navigate web platform to make searching across numerous kinds of record types simpler, and many public libraries make Ancestry.com available to their patrons to use in libraries free of charge.  There are also free-to-use from home platforms that combine multiple kinds of public records, like familysearch.org. At FamilySearch, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has compiled census records, records of births, deaths, and marriages, military records, and immigration records of billions of people all over the globe.  When you begin searching the name of an ancestor there, you may be surprised to see hundreds of records of individuals having the same or a similar name.  However, the information you already gathered in steps one and two should make it easy for you to pick out your relative.  Some other useful sites for filling in and verifying details of your family history are: https://www.archives.gov/research/alic/reference/state-archives.html, http://stevemorse.org/ and online newspaper archives.

 

Here’s a rundown of the steps you’ll take in the investigation phase of your ancestry research:

 

1) Go to an online database such as familysearch.org and enter your family names and other key identifying information.

2) Record what you find and note where you found it.

3) Repeat with other family names.

4) Check online newspapers to verify family stories.

If you get stuck – if you find you cannot retrieve a piece of information you need to answer the question “Who are my ancestors?” on your own – by all means, get help! Try contacting a genealogical society or local history organization for assistance. Your local library may be able to help you find one.  You could also make an appointment with a municipal or state archive or office of public records to continue your research there in person.  Each archive has its own public access policy. And of course, don't hesitate to shoot me an e-mail at megorry@gmail.com or contact me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/heritageandvino/) or Twitter (marygenealogy) with any questions you have, and I'll see how I can help; that's why I'm here! :)

 

 

        4) Bringing it all together!

 

As a final step, you will of course want to compile a family history and perhaps summarize your information in a family tree or pedigree chart.  You can easily find tools online to help you compile one as you go along; otherwise, you can use computer software such as Excel to make one.  Use whatever method seems most creative and enjoyable for you and, above all, have fun!

 

 

 

        Sources:

·                 “Ancestors: Research Records.” Ancestors: Research Records, BYU Broadcasting, www.byub.org/ancestors/records/.

·                 Morton, Sunny Jane. “25 Best Genealogy Websites for Beginners.” Familytreemagazine.com, Family Tree, 11 Nov. 2016, www.familytreemagaqzine.com/article/25-best-genealogy-websites-for-beginners.

·                 Powell, Kimberly. “How to Explore Your Family Tree Online for Free at FamilySearch!” About.com Parenting, 26 Jan. 2016, genealogy.about.com/od/free_genealogy/a/familysearch.htm.

·                 Powell, Kimberly. “Ten Steps to Finding Your Ancestors.” About.com, genealogy.about.com/cs/research/a/process.htm.

·                 Stone, Monica. “Tips for Researching Your Genealogy.” Idiot's Guides, Alpha Books, www.idiotsguides.com/education/research/tips-for-researching-your-genealogy/.

 

Wordless Wednesday - Generations

Well, almost wordless...this is a picture I took last night of my children snuggled in bed together under an afghan made by my great-grandmother (so their great-great grandmother) Ellen Casey Cronin, and given to me by my grandmother (so their great-grandmother) Mary Cronin Raynor at my baby shower in 2013. I don't know exactly when it was made but if my great-grandmother died in the 1970s in her 70s, it was probably made sometime in the 1950s-1960s, making it about 50 years old. My daughter met my grandmother; my son never did. I love that they are connected to two earlier generations (one of whom I never met either, my great-grandmother) through something made and touched by their hands.

What I'm grateful for this Thanksgiving....

(From a family history standpoint, that is)

I'm grateful for my family. Well, that's from the standpoint of just being a person, I guess. But this is my son's first Thanksgiving, and our first Thanksgiving as a family of four. I'm grateful for my hardworking husband who still makes time for living room TV date nights with me and for horsing around with the kids (sometimes literally, when they pretend he's a horse...) and I'm grateful for my kids, who fight and cry and drive me crazy but then hug each other and give me kisses and play with each other and are best friends.

I'm grateful for the many, many genealogy volunteers and family historians using their valuable time to index records for websites like FamilySearch, websites that are free (and so I'm also grateful for websites like FamilySearch).

I'm grateful for organizations like Reclaim the Records, that are fighting the good fight to make genealogy records that haven't been available, available, even when it means going to court....and then posting those records online, again, for free.

I'm grateful for all the family historians out there, reaching out to each other, trying to make those cousin connections, sharing their knowledge and their documents and helping each other out. I'm grateful to those people just beginning their family history research, who know next to nothing, but are reaching out for help, because you're extending those family connections, helping our personal family trees and our global family trees to grow.

Whether your family is your blood family, the family that raised you or the family of friends who you chose, love them and enjoy them this holiday season and always.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

In Remembrance of Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day in the United States. Today we remember and thank all the men and women who served their country as members of the armed forces...thank you for all your sacrifices on behalf of the rest of us, and thank you to all your families for their sacrifices as well. A special thank you to the veterans in my family tree, in particular Charles Haase, my 4th great-grandfather, who served in the Army during the Civil War, and Dick Raynor, my grandfather, who served in the Navy during World War II.

Clifford "Dick" Raynor served in the Pacific Theater with the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Charles Haase was discharged from the Army in June of 1865 at the end of the the Civil War.

For anyone who has military veterans in their family trees, all military records are free at Findmypast through Sunday, Nov. 13 in commemoration of Veterans Day.