Showing posts with label Genealogy Free or Fee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Genealogy Free or Fee. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Genealogy--Free or Fee: Detailed NYC Marriage Records Worth Paying For

If you have ancestors who were married in New York City starting in 1908, I recommend that you click on the index records obtained by Reclaim the Records and crack open your piggy bank. Yes, there's a $15 fee--but you'll get first-hand info provided by your ancestors, invaluable for a Genealogy Do-Over or Go-Over. (NOTE: These index books are now on Ancestry. You still have to mail away for the actual records.)

Thanks to Reclaim the Records, you'll know to request all three documents in the file: (1) marriage license, (2) application for license, and (3) affidavit. I showed step-by-step how to do the research in my original post about obtaining these documents for my parents' marriage. These days, there's a much longer wait--up to 8 weeks--because so many people are submitting requests. But eventually your SASE will land in your mailbox. Then the fun begins.

Yesterday, I received the documents for great-aunt Mary Schwartz and her husband, Edward Wirtschafter. Their daughter told me that the couple eloped on Christmas Eve of 1913, getting married at City Hall without first telling the family.

Here's their affidavit, which must be completed to receive a marriage license. Edward and Mary signed this themselves (my cousin and I have seen their signatures before).

Also, judging by Edward's handwriting, he may have filled out the form for both bride and groom. (I know from the handwriting on my parents' form that my father filled out both sides of the form, so Edward could very well have done the same.)



Note the faint stamp "Duplicate" at top and bottom of the affidavit? A clue as to why I got the unexpected bonus of one extra document: A paper signed by the rabbi who married Mary and Edward on December 28. One of the witnesses was the bride's oldest brother in America, Sam Schwartz.

So the couple married in a civil ceremony and then married again four days later in a religious ceremony, with at least one family member present. This adds a new dimension to the "elopement" story, a new dimension that wasn't in the original family story.

In all, my $15 investment either revealed or confirmed places of birth, parents' names for bride and groom, home addresses, occupations, etc. Plus I now know that Mary's brother stood up for her at the religious ceremony. I got my money's worth on this set of records!

For more posts in my series Genealogy, Free or Fee, see this summary.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Genealogy, Free or Fee: Search for Clues in Family Hands

Some of the best free sources of clues to elusive ancestors are in the hands of your family. Several times during my Genealogy Go-Over, I've smashed brick walls because of something that was in the possession of a cousin--a letter/envelope, an address book, a photo, a funeral notice--that pointed me in the direction of solving the mystery.

Today's "free or fee" tip is a reminder to ask siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles (plus, of course, grandparents, if they're alive!) to look for photos and documents. Something as seemingly insignificant as an address book or a letter in an envelope can be an incredible source of information to confirm a name or reveal a relationship. Even if we've asked before, we should ask again.

For example, Mom's address book (unearthed barely a week ago) has proven to be an absolute gold mine of clues to elusive ancestors. It turned up in a box in the attic of a relative, filed with lots of other things from decades ago. This address book was one of two clues I used yesterday to demolish yet another brick wall in my father's Burk family.

A Burk cousin very kindly let me see a handwritten letter to his mother from "Aunt Jenny Salkowitz" in Lakeland, Florida. Wait, the name and return address looked familiar. Yes, they matched a name and address in Mom's address book. So who, exactly, were Aunt Jenny and her husband Paul?

Five years ago, I noticed a "Jenny Birk" living with Grandpa Isaac Burk's in-laws in the 1910 Census. After that, no trace of her. Now I suspected that "Aunt Jenny" was actually Jenny Burk or Birk, sister to my Grandpa Isaac Burk. How to prove it?

Using the Census, I found Jenny and Paul Salkowitz in New York City from 1920 through 1940. At one point, this couple was living in the same apartment building as Isaac Burk's in-laws--the same building where "Jenny Birk" lived as a boarder in 1910! So far, so good.

What about Jenny Salkowitz's maiden name? I tried the free ItalianGen.org site, and there I found "Jenie Burk" in the bride's index for 1919. Clicking to see the groom's name, I found "Paul Salkofsky." Names were close enough, and the marriage year fit what they told the Census takers. (Remember, we have to be creative and flexible about names and dates when searching.)

I plugged this info into Family Search, and up popped a transcribed summary of their marriage record, showing that Jennie Burk's father was Elias Burk (the name of Isaac Burk's father). Quicker than you can say, "Jackpot," I sent $15 to the NYC Municipal Archives to request the three-page marriage application, affidavit, and license with much more detail.

So the proof will cost me $15 but the rest of the research was free--and it all began with Mom's address book and a letter held by my cousin for more than 50 years. The clues were in family hands all along! I just needed to get the clues into my hands.

This is part of my ongoing series, Genealogy, Free or Fee. Links to other entries are here.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tuesday's Tip: Genealogy Free or Fee, Extra! Extra! Free Newspaper Sites



When you need a genealogical clue (name or date or relationship), maybe you don't need to actually pay for a record. Consider searching for your ancestor in one of the free newspaper sites. You might get lucky, as I have (more than once) during my Genealogy Go-Over.

For example, here is the headline from a newspaper story about my father's Markell cousin and his bride. Danny and May were at my parents' wedding in 1946 and my parents probably attended the Markell wedding the following year. This marriage announcement, found via the free news site Fulton History, included details about the bride's and groom's families.

Go ahead and try searching for your ancestors in one of these free newspaper sites. You might find a birth announcement, marriage announcement, obituary, social news, or other item that the editors thought was newsworthy. If the state or locality you seek isn't covered by one of these sites, try doing an online search for "state AND newspaper archive" or "city AND newspaper archive" or a similar phrase to locate other possibilities.
  • Fulton History is a free site with many thousands of newspapers scanned in from New York and beyond. The image here shows page one of 11 pages filled with newspaper names/dates, if you want to browse by location and time period. Or use the search function to find surnames by place (my search for "Markell and New Rochelle" is an example). More papers are being added week by week to this excellent and entirely free site.
  • Chronicling America is a free site from the Library of Congress, a database of nearly 12 million newspaper pages available from across the country (see image at top for an excerpt). The collection is not comprehensive, but with more than 2000 papers represented, you may find one that will help you learn more about your ancestors.
  • University of Illinois Library listing of historical newspapers available online shows which are free and which are not. Check out this long list of links, which includes international as well as U.S. newspaper archives.
  • Wikipedia has a list of online newspaper archives, both U.S. and international, both free and free. I've clicked on some of these and not all the links work, but it might point you in the direction of a collection that will be useful.
  • Check your local library or state library, which very likely has access to one or more newspaper archives and databases. The Connecticut State Library, for example, has a finding aid that shows what it owns and where the files are. This library is digitizing newspapers from around the state and adding them to the Chronicling America database. Maybe your state library is doing something similar and making the files available free with your local library card (or with a state library card)?
  • West Georgia Historic Newspapers (a library link shared by Michelle G. Taggart of A Southern Sleuth) has a number of papers from 1843-1942. She's had good luck with these papers. If you have Georgia ancestors, this might be a good resource for you.
  • Looking for Texas newspapers? Try the Texas Digital Newspaper Program, a tip from Harold Henderson.
  • And be sure to check Ancestor Hunt's ever-expanding list of state-by-state free newspaper sites.
For more "Genealogy, Free or Fee" ideas, see my summary page.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Tuesday's Tip: Genealogy, Free or Fee--Ask for Help

Floyda Mabel Steiner McClure
One of the mysteries of my husband's family is when and where his grandma, Floyda Steiner McClure (1878-1948) was divorced from her first husband, Aaron Franklin Gottfried. This first marriage (119 years ago, in 1898) was kept quiet because divorce was so unusual in those days.

In fact, I only learned about the first marriage because Floyda disclosed it on her marriage license for her second marriage, to hubby's grandpa Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970). Two years ago, a social media genealogy buddy recommended that I call the Wyandot county courts and ask for help. Without a date, however, I was told it would take time to locate the records, unless I could come in person.

Today I was working on my Genealogy Go-Over and posted again on an Ohio FB gen page, asking for ideas. Folks urged me to call the probate court one more time. I did, giving a succinct description of what I wanted and asked for their help, explaining that I needed the info for genealogy, not for legal purposes.

Probate said they didn't have anything, but Clerk of Courts might have the divorce info. They sent my call over, and I spoke with a lovely lady who took down the names and possible dates and asked me to call back in 15 minutes. I set the timer and tried to be patient until callback time.

Eureka! She found Floyda's entire divorce file, which was settled during the April Term of 1901. At 10 cents per page plus postage, I won't pay more than $3 to solve this long-standing genealogical mystery. That qualifies as almost free, wouldn't you say? UPDATE: RESULTS OF DIVORCE DECREE ARE BELOW!

As part of my Genealogy, Free or Fee series, I urge you to ask for help! Who to ask: Check the Family Search wiki to see what department might have the relevant record. I couldn't find enough detail for locating divorce decrees from 1901ish, so I had to keep looking for someone to ask. Ask in Facebook genealogy groups, or try calling the courthouse or archives directly with your question.

Be polite, be patient, and offer to mail a check or money order with SASE, to keep things simple for the nice people in the records department or wherever. Respect the time of the people on the other end. They don't need to hear our long family history sagas. Most are genuinely happy to help solve mysteries if we come to the point about what we're seeking and give them enough info to find the records or files. Just ask for help.

For more in this series of Genealogy, Free or Fee, check the summary page here.

UPDATE! According to the dozen pages of legal documents sent by the court, Floyda initiated the divorce in early 1901, alleging extreme cruelty by her husband. She requested and was granted $215 in alimony as a lump sum in May, 1901. In today's dollars, that would be worth $5,921. Floyda won back the right to use her maiden name and she ultimately remarried in 1903, to Brice Larimer McClure. Floyda and Brice are my hubby's maternal grandparents.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Motivation Monday: Genealogy, Free or Fee--Part 8, Why I Paid

The persistent folks over at Reclaim the Records have opened the flood gates on records that most mortals don't know about and can't easily access. Thanks to them, I have a new insight into family history during my Genealogy Go-Over. And yes, I decided to pay.

In planning family research strategy, I think certain documents must be in my possession. I have a few documents proving my parents' marriage, plus their wedding album. What I didn't have was three pages of documents that all New York City brides and grooms had to fill out in applying for a license to marry. Those documents are covered by the indexes obtained, with a lot of effort, by Reclaim the Records and now posted on Archive.org.

Although I didn't know exactly what the three pages would look like, I knew one key fact: Both bride and groom personally provided the information--meaning it's all first-hand data. That was the clincher: I decided that the $15 fee was worthwhile.

So I browsed the links to year-by-year NYC marriage indexes on Archive.org. Once I found the right year (1946), here's how I proceeded:
  • Which county in NYC? I chose Bronx, because that's where the bride lived (I didn't know for sure where the groom lived at that point--needed a clue!).
  • Clicked on the Bronx index.
  • Checked the left-hand column, grooms in alphabetical order, and looked for the correct month.
  • My father's surname, Burk, was listed on a page marked "Aug-Dec" (see image).
  • Hi, Dad! Found his name, copied the number and date.
  • Followed the easy instructions on the bottom of the index intro, such as this one
  • Happily wrote a check for $15 plus included SASE. And in my letter describing what I was requesting, I included a sentence that Reclaim the Records suggested: "I was made aware of this information through the not-for-profit group Reclaim The Records, and their work to put genealogical data online for free public use."
Less than two weeks later, I had my parents' affadavit (see at right), license, and certificate. Now I was looking at my father's very own handwriting. He listed his address as the same apartment building where his mother, brother, and sister lived. I had suspected but couldn't prove till now that Dad moved in with his mother and brother after he returned from WWII. More proof of the close-knit nature of the Burk family!

Money well spent, IMHO, to confirm with first-hand data what my parents said about their occupations, their parents, place of birth of parents, etc. Plus both Mom & Dad signed their names, a poignant touch for me.

Now I'm waiting for my maternal grandparents' documents to arrive. Maybe there will be some surprises! If not, the money is a good investment in getting first-hand data from key documents in my direct line.

For more Genealogy, Free or Fee posts, see my summary page.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Tuesday's Tip, Genealogy: Free or Fee, part 7--Redo Your Searches (Again)

Doing my Gen Go-Over, I've been rechecking dates, places, and relationships on my tree and my hubby's tree.

I can't check every ancestor every week or even every month, but I redo searches of my direct line (and my husband's) at least every year just in case.

In many cases, I find new data has been posted since my last search. More than once, I've broken down a brick wall by retracing my steps and redoing my searches, no matter that I'd used the same sites and strategy a year earlier.

Among the free sites, I usually begin with Family Search and Find a Grave, because so many new records are posted on these sites, week after week. Also, I'm on a mission to link my ancestors on F-A-G so others will be aware of the parent-child-spouse relationships.

Recently I redid a search on Find A Grave for my husband's McClure family. Up popped this memorial for great-great-aunt Adaline. The kind volunteer who posted the memorial did his own research to uncover her obit and explain her name. Having these details gave me new clues to trace the McClure family's spread from Ohio to Michigan. (Of course, I submitted an "edit" for relationship linking to parents.)

After finding Adaline on F-A-G, I looked to the left of that screen and clicked to "Find all Cooks" in the same cemetery and county. That's where I located Adaline's husband's first family, all linked to each other but not to Adaline (until I submitted the edit).

As an Ancestry subscriber, I redid the search there too and immediately, a few new hints popped up for Adaline and her husband. It's like priming the pump: You can get the hint system working in your favor by browsing the "dormant" parts of your tree every now and then.

In addition to sites mentioned in parts 1-6 of this series, here are more sites to try during a Do-Over or Go-Over. Admittedly, searches sometimes wind up on a paid site, but you still may learn enough from previews to continue the search on other sites if you're not a subscriber. Good luck!
  • Family Tree Magazine's 25 Best Genealogy Websites for Beginners is a mix of free and fee. From this list, one site I particularly like is Chronicling America, with free access to newspapers from 25 states. 
  • Family History Daily's 50 Free Genealogy Sites includes must-see megasites like Cyndi's List plus more targeted sites like Fulton History, which allows searching through New York-area newspapers. Fulton History has yielded news and social items for several folks in my trees.
  • The US government has a page of genealogy links to sites like state archives listed on the National Archives page. Worth a look - click around to see what states you want to search.
  • Don't forget Steve Morse, and his one-step webpage links for searching Ellis Island and Castle Garden, state and federal records, and much, much more. (This site alerts you when the results of one-step searches lead to fee-based sites, by the way.)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tuesday's Tip: Genealogy, Free or Fee, Part 5: Ask the Historian

A lot of genealogical treasures are not online. But local historians may be able to help you solve a mystery or two, at little or no cost (often, just the cost of copies and postage).

Case in point: My husband's Bentley ancestors lived in upstate NY. I need to connect his 3d great-grandfather, William Tyler Bentley (1795-1873), with a specific town and then trace further back.

I believe I have him in the 1830 census in Sandy Creek, Oswego county, NY. But is this the right guy? I searched for Sandy Creek and the website above popped up. Take a look at what the wonderful local historian, Charlene Cole, has at her fingertips:
I called her, she checked her records, and then she emailed me some documents from her surname files, contributed by a long-time researcher who was also tracking down the same Bentley family. By getting in touch with this other Bentley researcher, we were able to put more pieces of the puzzle together.

So Tuesday's Tip is: Try a web search for the town or county where an ancestor lived, and you may be lucky enough to locate the local historian who knows where the treasures are buried. Even if you don't locate the actual information you need, you will likely get a clue on how to proceed or the name of others who are in search of the same surname.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Tuesday's Tip: Free or Fee Genealogy, Part 4--Learn to Record-Strip

Do you record-strip?

Record-strip is a term used by the historians on a recent Backstory podcast about American history. They were referring to the practice of gleaning as much info as possible from each document and using those insights to develop a more nuanced view of an individual in historical context.

There's a difference between collecting documents for genealogy and actually record-stripping them. And doing a Genealogy Do-Over is forcing me to go back and reexamine my collection.

Years ago, when I was taking my first baby steps in genealogy, I was given a checklist of personal sources to use in researching my ancestors. Many were documents that an ancestor would have during the course of his or her life and many were documents to be obtained from authorities (for a fee) or to be created in the course of my research.

You can see an excellent checklist of suggested sources (free and fee) on Family Search. And these checklists are extremely valuable!

But as a baby genealogist, I didn't really know how to use the list. I enthusiastically set off in search of these documents and checked off each item for each ancestor, as you can see on the actual list excerpt here.

In other words, I was playing genealogy bingo, acquiring or creating the documents without understanding exactly why. When a document wasn't readily available, I thought about who in the family might have it or how I might acquire it, free or fee.

It didn't take long for me to realize that the point wasn't to acquire as many of those items as possible and check them off when I filed them away.

I didn't have the terminology or experience then, but now I can say the point is to record-strip the documents for specific details. What can each document tell me about my ancestor?


For example, "library cards" are on the list. What can those records show, apart from a love of learning or books? Maybe a nickname, maybe a clue to a neighborhood I didn't know my ancestor lived in. What about "funeral home receipts"? A hint about who had the money to pay for a certain ancestor's funeral, or the name of "next of kin" being a relative I didn't know about . . . you get the idea.

Before I can determine what is worth paying for, I need to step back and think: What will that record tell me? Do I have the info on another document or can I get it fairly easily from another source? Is the info "nice to know" or truly "need to know"?

So Tuesday's Tip is: Learn to record-strip each document and get full value from it, don't just play genealogy bingo.