Monday, February 27, 2017

Tuesday's Tip: Free or Fee Genealogy, Part 2

Birth, marriage, death records really are vital records, since they have vital details for genealogical research. But they're not the only records I feel are vital for my Genealogy Go-Over and for ongoing discoveries about ancestors in my family tree.

Naturalization papers are a treasure trove of info, really important when I don't know someone's home town or birth date, and of course the names of witnesses can be the icing on the cake. When an ancestor is in my direct line, I usually do my best to get his or her naturalization, even if I have to pay for it, so I can double-check against other documents in my possession. Still, ordering from NARA takes time, not just money.

My favorite free source is Family Search, and even if I have to order a low-cost microfilm of naturalizations, it's a bargain and doesn't take much time. Many naturalizations are currently available through my Ancestry subscription, but not all. I used to have Fold3 access, which put many naturalizations at my finger tips.

Since many of my ancestors (maybe yours too) came through Ellis Island or Castle Garden and stayed in the New York/New Jersey area, I use Italiangen.org to see what naturalization documents are available before I make up my mind about paying.

Naturalizations in other countries aren't as easy to obtain from a distance. I was elated to discover last year that my great-uncle Abraham Berk's naturalization file could be requested from the Canadian authorities for the princely sum of $5 . . . until I realized that only Canadian residents could make the request. May I say how lucky I am that a friendly genealogy blogger in Canada graciously volunteered to place the order? Only a few weeks later, she scanned and sent me pages and pages of fascinating details from his file, including the document shown here, confirming his home town and other key details. Wow.

BONUS: After sharing my previous post on this subject with the Genealogy Do-Over community on Facebook, commenters there and on my blog offered more ideas about ways to save money on vital records and other genealogical documents. Here are some of their ideas:

  • Check to see if there's a Facebook genealogy page for the locality where your ancestor was living or born/married/died. A volunteer might know of a local source for the document you're seeking or be willing to get it for you.
  • Consider a "road trip" to get multiple documents from local authorities, if feasible.
  • Check with the local genealogical society or historical society about whether some documents are in their files. (It works: I've saved some money this way, paying the local society for photocopies and a small donation.)
  • Do a thorough online search--some places have put parish records and census records online, for example.
  • Request help from the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness folks, paying for copies etc.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Thrifty Thursday: Free or Fee Genealogy?

During my Genealogy Go-Over, I'm carefully checking what I know and don't know, looking at my evidence, and filling in the gaps by obtaining vital records and other documents.

Since money doesn't happen to grow on my family tree, I have to pick and choose what I will pay for. Fee or free genealogy? It's not always a straightforward decision.

Increasingly, documents that I purchased even a year or two ago are showing up on free genealogy sites like Family Search and on fee-based genealogy sites like Ancestry.


A case in point is the above marriage document for hubby's grandparents, Brice Larimer McClure and Floyda Mabel Steiner. I sent a check to buy a copy two years ago, when doing the original "Do-Over" program. I considered it to be a good investment because it revealed that Grandma Floyda had been married once before. That sent me to the newspaper archives to learn more...and I fleshed out this ancestor's life a bit.

Since that time, more Ohio vital records have been made available through Family Search. And in fact, the very clear image above is not from the copy I purchased but the free version available on Family Search.


I'm still collecting documents for my Go-Over. Being a long-time Ancestry subscriber, I always check there first. But if it's not on Ancestry, where would it be? Here's my thought process on deciding what to pay for (and I'd be interested in yours, readers).

In general:
  1. Try Family Search. Best free site to start looking for most documents! Two years ago, this license wasn't available through a Family Search name/date search. I checked the wiki to see what documents are available from the time and place. I learned from the Wyandot county part of the Ohio wiki that marriage documents weren't always filed as required by law before 1908. I knew Grandma Floyda was married in 1903. I called the county clerk first and she kindly checked in the database. Once I knew the document was available, I was almost ready to send money but first I checked a few more sites.
  2. Try Cyndi's List. This will point to fee-based and free sites that might have a document or information. I looked at "Ohio" but no luck with a Wyandot county site for a freebie on Floyda's marriage or divorce docs.
  3. Try Linkpendium.com. This will tell me whether some other local source might be holding certain documents. In this case, no luck on holdings that would include Grandma Floyda's marriage or divorce paperwork for free.
In the end, I decided to spend the money for Grandma Floyda's marriage document. I had no way of knowing when or if Family Search would have that document available, either online or via microfilm.

Now, with Reclaim the Records, there are more ways to obtain documents than even a couple of years ago.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Lara Diamond's "Jewish Genealogical Research in Ukraine"

Lara Diamond gave a dynamic talk today, hosted by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Connecticut, about how to research Jewish ancestors in Ukraine. She writes the blog Lara's Jewnology and is an expert in tracing Jewish roots.

Luckily, I arrived early and snagged one of the last empty seats. My Schwartz ancestors lived in Ungvar, Hungary (now Uzhhorod, Ukraine), and I wanted to hear Lara's tips. I came away with lots of great ideas!

Although I've explored JewishGen's Sub-Carpathian SIG, which is loaded with detailed documents, Lara also mentioned other sites I haven't yet checked, including:
Thank you to Lara and to the JGSCT for a wonderful afternoon.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Meet NERGC Speaker Jennifer Zinck, Expert on DNA Results



Jennifer Zinck
DNA is one of the most talked-about topics in genealogy these days—and expert Jennifer Zinck is diving into the details of DNA results during two NERGC workshops. As a researcher, writer, and speaker who specializes in the intersection of traditional and genetic genealogy, Jennifer frequently makes presentations on topics including beginner and intermediate genealogy, genetic genealogy, using DNA for unknown parentage, and technology for genealogy. She serves as the President of the Connecticut Professional Genealogists Council, is a member of the Genetic Genealogy Standards Committee, and participates in professional organizations including ISOGG and the Association of Professional Genealogists.

At NERGC, Jennifer will be conducting two hands-on workshops about DNA results and a presentation about online research. The first DNA workshop is on Wednesday, April 26, from 6 - 8 pm, and the second (already sold out) takes place on Thursday, April 27, from 9 – 11 am. Titled “After the Test: Exploring AncestryDNA Results,” the workshop is designed to help participants make sense of their results, use third-party tools to turn DNA into a powerful tool for genealogy, and plan to contact DNA matches. 

Jennifer is also presenting “Tools and Techniques for Finding Family Online” on Saturday, April 29, from 3:15 – 4:15 pm. This will be a hands-on program in the technology classroom, guiding participants through people-finder websites, databases, searches, and social media for locating individuals. Jennifer will be at the DNA Special Interest Group meeting on Thursday evening, starting at 7:15 pm, if you want to chat further!And don't forget--the deadline for early-bird registration savings is February 28th.

1. What tools and discoveries keep your genealogical journey exciting, day after day?

I am always excited to meet new cousins. There is something about connecting with others who share some of the same roots that fascinates me. I think the most exciting documents are typically found hiding in manuscript collections. These records add interest and excitement to the stories of our ancestors and can often break down brick walls.  

2. What have you learned about researching family history that you wish you had known when you first began doing genealogy?

Cite your sources and write as you go! I have learned these two lessons the hard way, with many thanks to Elissa Powell and Barbara Mathews. By writing as I go along, I often surprise myself about the details I have been able to glean from a particular document. Take the time to really evaluate each piece of information included in each source and you will be amazed at the problems you can solve.

3. If you had an hour of time travel to visit with anyone on your family tree (past, present, or even future), who would you pick, and why?

I think about this difficult question often. Most of the time I would visit with my maternal grandmother but sometimes I choose her mother's mother's mother, Lois Chalker Walston. Lois was probably born in 1804 in Guilford, Connecticut and I don't know much about her life before she married her husband in 1831. After 15 years of searching, last year I was finally able to identify her mother thanks to a manuscript in Dr. Alvan Talcott's collection of papers at the New Haven Museum. I would like to know more about her life as a child and if she had any relationships with her Chalker or Benton grandparents.

4. Who is your most surprising, inspiring, pitiable, or endearing ancestor?

Each and every ancestor is equally inspiring to me. Without any one of them, I would not be here.

5. What are the top things you want attendees to remember from your NERGC workshop about DNA results?

Have patience and be open-minded and flexible. Genetic genealogy is a new and rapidly-evolving field. What you think you know today may not be the case tomorrow! DNA results are not the easiest to learn to work with but keep at it and the pieces will all eventually fall into place.

6. What is your game plan for getting the most out of the NERGC conference?

I have looked through the lectures in the schedule and there is an amazing line-up. I prioritized the sessions that I would like to attend and planned my volunteer time accordingly. I am the chairperson of the Ancestor Roadshow in addition to presenting a lecture and two workshop sessions so I will have plenty to keep me occupied throughout the conference. Thursday night, I have invited Blaine Bettinger and Diahan Southard to co-host the DNA Special Interest Group with me, so that is sure to be a blast. I will be hosting a DNA table topic at the NEAPG Luncheon on Friday. I always make sure that I allocate mealtimes and some evenings to visit with friends, both old and new. That's one of the best parts of NERGC!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Treasure Chest Tuesday: Valentines in the Family

For Valentine's Day, a selection of valentines sent to ancestors on both sides of the family.

At right, the inside of the first valentine sent by my Dad (Harold Burk, 1909-1978) to my Mom (Daisy Schwartz, 1919-1981), in 1946.

They were engaged on New Year's Eve and had to wait to set a wedding date because of the housing shortage after WWII, with Dad and so many other GIs returning from the service and settling down.

At left, a holiday postcard from hubby's family. This was sent by Nellie (Rachel Ellen) Wood Kirby (1864-1954) in Chicago to her young nephew, Wallis W. Wood (1905-1957) in Cleveland, around 1910ish.

I also have to include a different postcard sent by Aunt Nellie to her nephew Wally, shown at right.

Happy Lincoln's birthday!




Saturday, February 11, 2017

Surname Saturday: Mary Slatter, Melancholy and Demented?

Last month, I wrote about discovering in the Banstead Asylum records a woman named Mary Slatter who was possibly my husband's great-great-grandmother. I was doing a Genealogy Go-Over and learned that more records had become available, so I dove in.

The only way to find out more was to see these records in person, since they're not available in any other format. My wonderful cousin Anna in London was kind enough to visit the London Metropolitan Archives, where she read the admission and discharge registers.

If this was indeed Mary Shehen Slatter, her life was even sadder than the family could have imagined. Get out your hanky. Here's what the records say:
  • Mary was admitted to Banstead Asylum on September 28, 1877, at age 40. (This is within a year or two of the age I would expect her to have been at that point.) She was married, the wife of a laborer, and she was from Whitechapel (these facts fit exactly with the Mary Slatter I'm trying to find).
  • Mary's "previous place of abode" was--oh, dear--Colney Hatch Asylum. In other words, she was institutionalized before she even got to Banstead. Colney was notorious, another place to hold paupers, originally meant to be more humane but then resorting to straight jackets and other restraints. Wait, there's more.
  • Mary's form of mental disorder was characterized as "Melancholy and demented." 
  • Mary's cause of insanity was described as "Misfortune and destitution."
  • The duration of Mary's previous attacks of insanity was 3 years, 4 months.
  • Mary died young of phthisis--meaning tuberculosis--on April 19, 1889, at age 52.
Now my cousin is going to view the Colney Hatch records in person to try to learn more about whether this is indeed our Mary Shehen Slatter.

From what I know about hubby's g-g-grandmother, this could very well be her sad fate. The family was chronically impoverished, I have confirmed from the records and from later comments made by Mary's children as adults.


Mary's first-born child, Thomas John Slatter, didn't live to the age of 11. He was born in 1860 (see him in the 1861 UK census excerpt here, with the Slatter family listed in Whitechapel) and he died sometime before the 1871 UK census. * Was this why Mary was first institutionalized?

I hope the Colney Hatch records will give me more insight into Mary's life. Also, I've sent for Mary Slatter's death cert to see what it says. UPDATE: Mary's death cert is a single line in a ledger. It says "date of death is April 19, 1889; place: "Middlesex Lunatic Asylum, Banstead; female, age 52, wife of a labourer, Whitechapel; cause of death is phthisis." No place of burial mentioned, no maiden name. Since the Mary I'm seeking was the wife of a labourer in Whitechapel, the death cert supports my theory but doesn't prove that Mary Slatter in Banstead was Mary Shehen Slatter, hubby's g-g-grandma.

* Elizabeth, in a comment below, notes that Thomas seems to be alive and living with his grandparents in the 1871 census. Thanks to her help, I have clues to dig deeper!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tombstone Tuesday: Joseph Rinehart and Margaret Shanklin

Hubby's great-great-grandfather was Joseph W. Rinehart (1806-1888) and his great-great-grandmother was Margaret Shanklin (or Shankland or Shank, 1807-1873).

These Rineharts are buried in Oceola Cemetery #1, a cemetery that isn't the easiest to locate without precise directions for Crawford County, Ohio. Hubby and I went there a few years ago to photograph their graves and research their lives. It turns out they are the only Rineharts in that cemetery, although other Rineharts that belong to the same family are buried not far away.

There are still so many unanswered questions. What was Joseph's middle name? What was Margaret's real maiden name? Most important, where in Europe did the Rinehart and Shanklin families leave to come to America in the 1700s?

Joseph was reportedly born in Pennsylvania--where? His parents' names are a mystery (father's first name, I don't know; mother's first name was Elizabeth but maiden name unknown). Margaret was reportedly born in Delaware--where? And what were her parents' names? Still researching...

By 1834, they were married and living in Ashland county, OH, where the first child was born. Later, they moved to Crawford county, OH. In all, Joseph and Margaret had 6 children that I know of: Elizabeth Jane, Joseph Charles, Hugh, Mary Elizabeth, Sarah, and Nancy.

On Tombstone Tuesday, I'm remembering them by submitting edits to link the family on Find A Grave.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Meet NERGC Speaker Janeen Bjork, Expert on Newspaper Research


Extra! Extra! Janeen Bjork has combined her 30 years of experience as a television researcher and presenter with her love of family history. Her methodology for locating hard-to-find newspaper items was developed as she uncovered 130 widely-varying accounts of the 1894 murder-suicide that left one of her great-great-grandfathers dead in Syracuse, New York. Her popular "Newspapers for Genealogy" classes, workshops, and presentations in CT, NY and MA, have helped many others research their families over the years.

Janeen will share her tips and tricks at NERGC on Saturday, April 29th, from 3:15 – 4:15 pm, during her presentation “Using Newspapers to Track Your Family, Character by Character.” She’ll discuss the technology that allows newspapers to be scanned and indexed, offer her Top 10 Tips for searching digitized newspapers, and share her favorite online newspaper resources. Look for her upcoming classes and presentations at JaneensList.com/Events, https://twitter.com/JaneensList, and
https://www.facebook.com/janeen.bjork.3. You can get to know her notorious great-great-grandfather on the social media accounts she manages in his name (https://twitter.com/WilliamStrutz and https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009395213740).

1.      What first attracted you to genealogy, and what keeps it fresh and fascinating every day?

My sister-in-law sat me down in front of her computer on Thanksgiving Day, 2011 and said, “This is Ancestry.com. You’re doing this for your niece and nephew.” She added that she had been working on her family tree for over four years, and her two children, who share my surname, wanted to know where the Bjorks were. I had a professional background in research (you could say research is in my DNA) and in a matter of days, I found second cousins who had been doing genealogy for two or three decades, and who were looking for me. I’d like to say we’ve been doing “Genealogy on steroids” ever since. And there were many octogenarians and nonagenarians in both my ancestral lines who were happy to let me pick their brains, scan their photos and documents, and swab their cheeks for DNA.

As for fresh and fascinating every day, I am energized by opportunities to pass on what I have learned. It’s gratifying to be told that someone who heard me speak about my online newspaper methodology broke through a brick wall. And it’s a kick when new family items come my way. In late 2016 my sister and my father were both cleaning out old boxes and came up with photos of my maternal grandmother’s parents, WWII ration books and a postcard written during the war. Taking my own advice during the holidays, I looked for family members in newspapers beyond the areas where they lived and  found a photo of my mother's brother Al Quadrini and two other Navy SeaBees on the front page (above the fold!) of the Oxnard Press Courier in 1954 when they dug ditches for a California Boys Club. Stories about my brother Bob Bjork appeared in several distant New York newspapers when his 1978 high school basketball team went to the state championship finals.

2.      Who is your most exotic, challenging, exciting, admirable, despicable, or enigmatic ancestor?
 

That’s easy: My great-great-grandfather William Strutz. He was arrested in June 1893 on a charge of assault in the third degree on his wife. He was the first murder victim in Syracuse in almost a year when his former best friend, Henry Vogler, who believed William had been seeing Henry’s wife, shot William and then killed himself in July 1894. Both the Associated Press and United Press picked up the story, and to date I’ve found 130 accounts of the tragedy. Two German language papers had the story as well, one in Syracuse, where a major German celebration was happening and where there was time for local gossip to embellish the story before the weekly published, and one in Baltimore where an editor changed their names to Wilhelm and Heinrich.

There is a relative who is a close second to William that I could call exciting. It was my father’s Aunt Dorothea, a thrice-married flapper. Her picture appeared in the paper multiple times, for her achievements as a captain and pitcher for a "Girls" softball team sponsored by the Syracuse Journal in the 1930s, as well as for a suicide attempt at 17 and a near drowning in a swim meet at 18. She died at age 86 in San Diego, California.

3.      What are your favorite tools for researching family history?


I am a big booster of newspapers for genealogy. My first eight-week Intermediate Genealogy class spent six weeks looking at online newspaper sites. Obituaries are the most obvious places to start when researching ancestors. But there are often stories leading up to or following the death that are full of details. Obituaries and death certificates will tell you that someone died in a vehicular accident, but a newspaper story may tell you who they were with, where they were going, and what they were doing at the time.

My second favorite tool is DNA testing. I’ve gotten 10 family members to agree to test (only one is a generation behind me, most are my parents’ generation) and to appear in various databases. While we have yet to break through a brick wall, we have found some distant cousins we wouldn’t have met any other way.

4.      What’s the number one thing you want attendees to remember from your NERGC presentation about using newspapers to research family history?


The importance of keyword searches. Names can be misspelled, or altered by a hyphen or by optical character recognition. Fuzzy search and Boolean queries have helped me unearth many hidden items. So go ahead and try different spellings and strategies.

5.      What is your game plan for getting the most out of NERGC?
 

While I always create a game plan for Genealogy conferences, and intend to take advantage of the many sessions and workshops, I also like to improvise. Conferences are fabulous networking opportunities. I made a connection with James M. Beidler at the 2016 New York State Family History Conference. Jim specializes in newspaper research (as well as German and Pennsylvania research) and he has asked me to contribute the William Strutz story to his upcoming book, The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide.

6.      What is your greatest genealogical regret?


My maternal grandmother and I spent three weeks in the ancestral hometown in 1983 and I was introduced to about 55 close Italian relatives. Since then I have been the family ambassador, accompanying other American family members and writing the letters and emails to my many Italian cousins.

In 2014, in preparation for a family reunion, I decided it was time to visit the records office in Arpino, Italy. It was my personal "Under The Tuscan Sun," as I heard "no" (it's the same word in Italian) more times that morning than I had in any morning in my life. With the help of a cousin and someone from My Italian Family (run by Bianca Ottone from New Hope, PA), I spent the afternoon in the two churches of the town and found my family first appeared in the records in the 1500s, with a slightly different name. A church custodian told me there was a man in town who had researched my family and other Arpino families. I left without asking for that man's contact information. Big mistake. I learned last year that he had died and his nephews hadn't valued the work. He had used the church records to track all the early families, recording his trees on the backs of calendar pages. Another genealogy lesson learned the hard way.