Showing posts with label Genealogy Go-Over. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Genealogy Go-Over. Show all posts

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.)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Genealogy, Free or Fee, Pt 6: Message Boards for Gen Do-Over

Surname and locality message boards for genealogy are free, readily searchable, and easy to use. Back in the day, we all used them for genealogy. Now, if you're doing a genealogy go-over or genealogy do-over, remember to go back and check message boards again.

Sure, they seem so last century compared with Facebook genealogy groups and other social media tools. But they can be helpful, especially if you're trying to connect with a cousin or researcher who posted a query at some point in the past.

During a Do-Over or Go-Over, use message boards to search, not necessarily to post queries. Look for clues and connections that weren't there last time you searched, or were posted since you last searched.

I found my husband's genealogist-second cousin through a message board years ago. He was trying to locate descendants of hubby's great-grandfather, Thomas Haskell Wood. I was looking for Thomas Haskell Wood's ancestors. We had complementary information and I was the lucky beneficiary of his 30 years of research, including ancestors on the Mayflower and even earlier! (Thanks again, Cousin L.) 

This encouraged me to keep searching. As this screen shot taken today indicates, some queries are still being posted on Rootsweb message boards, for example. The vast majority are from years earlier. But keep in mind--even old queries include details like names and dates, which always come in handy, even if the researchers are no longer active on the message board. Or you may get lucky and, like me, connect with cousins through the message board.

Message boards are free and worth searching for surnames and locations. If you've ever posted, be sure to keep your email address current just in case a distant relative answers your query. If you want to post a message-board query, summarize what you already know in the post and be clear about what you want to know (follow the tips on my post here.)

Do-over or go-over, social media is so much quicker for new queries, because this is where most family researchers now flock. Use the search bar on Facebook (or check Katherine Willson's definitive listing of FB genealogy groups) to find genealogy pages and click to join, then post or answer. Good luck!

NOTE: All my Genealogy--Free or Fee posts are listed and linked in the landing page along my header here.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Military Monday: Is This Dad's WWII Jacket?

This morning I woke up to an unexpected surprise, in the form of an email from a gentleman in New England. He wrote:
"I recently bought an old military field coat with the name H.D. Burk and B4446 written in it. Some basic research tells me it's from a Harold Burk who was born in 1909 and enlisted in the Army in 1942. A quick Google search also returned a link to your blog...Does this sound like the correct Harold Burk?"
My Dad, Harold Burk (1909-1978), enlisted in the U.S. Army at Camp Upton, NY on March 7, 1942, 75 years ago this week. I took out Dad's dog tags and sure enough, the number matched!

I wrote back to say "yes," this sounds like Dad. The handprinted name looks like his writing, and I felt a pang just looking at it. I asked how this gentleman, Mr. G, went about researching the jacket. He sent me to the WWII US Army Enlistment website, which contains info on nearly 9 million people.

At left is the search box from the site, where I did what Mr. G did--I entered the laundry number (part of Dad's serial number) and his surname. Up popped a few details about Dad's enlistment. I had already documented his service, using his discharge papers, among other sources, but now I have another resource to try when researching other ancestors who served in WWII, thanks to Mr. G.

(Try it for any of your ancestors who served in WWII! Even if you don't have a serial number or laundry number, go ahead and fill in other details on the search form, then weed through the results.)

My Dad served in Europe with the 3163d Signal Service Company, as a clerk, and spent April of 1945 in Paris after the liberation. He's the serviceman on the right in this photo at a bistro.

Mr. G gave me more info about the jacket: It's an M-1943 Field Coat, which became standard for the Army during the war, especially for soldiers in colder climates. How my Dad's survived all these years, and in such great shape, I can't imagine.

What a wave of emotion seeing Dad's WWII jacket and handprinted name, and knowing that the collector, Mr. G, wanted to find out more about the man who wore it seven decades in the past.

I'm grateful to Mr. G for getting in touch, especially as this fits in nicely with my Genealogy Go-Over, reexamining documents and artifacts with an eye toward telling more stories about my ancestors. Thanks to Mr. G for permission to post his photos of Dad's jacket!

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.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Almost Wordless Wednesday: The Many Names of Barney Markell

Barney Markell was a man of many names. Above, his gravestone in Riverside Cemetery, New Jersey, showing that he died 73 years ago today.

As part of my Genealogy Go-Over, I'm reexamining the details I've gathered about ancestors. Now it's Barney's turn.
  • The translation of his Hebrew name is: Binyamin Yitzchock Henoch, son of R' Alchonon Avraham. Knowing his father's name helped to connect him with his brothers (by seeing their gravestones and other documents).
  • On his petition for naturalization, his name is shown as "Banna Markell." 
  • On his declaration of intention, his name is shown as "Bena Markell."
  • On his first marriage license, his name is shown as "Berna Markell."
  • On his second marriage license, 19 years after the first marriage, his name is shown as "Barney H. Markell."
  • On his WWI draft card, his name is shown as "Banna Henry Markell." 
  • No WWII draft card found yet...but I've also seen his name as "Barnhart Markell."
I've written before about the Markell branch of my family tree, including here and here (among other posts), and expect more posts as I continue double-checking my research.

RIP, Barney Markell, father-in-law of a matchmaker aunt who brought my parents together for their first date.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Gen Go-Over: Eyes on the Prize

Yesterday, my cousin (found through genealogy, of course) said something profound that applies to this year's Genealogy Go-Over. My cousin is a brilliant businesswoman and has keen insight into people. When she talks, I listen.

She was talking about a friend who played golf very, very well. This man was a perfectionist. When he was in a tournament, he would agonize over every swing and analyze every shot afterward, going over and over what he should have done and how he could improve.

While this gentleman was trying to perfect each shot, his competitors were playing golf. And winning. His obsession with perfecting technique derailed his ability to win.

My cousin's point: Keep your eyes on the prize. She was reminding me not to miss seeing the forest by being distracted by all the trees. Every tree is important (just like every ancestor is important) but the big picture is equally important. Stepping back to see the big picture is every bit as vital as checking, sourcing, and documenting every last detail.

One of my goals is to find out about ancestors who are known only by name, like Rachel Shuham and Jonah Jacobs, who were my paternal 2d great-grandparents from Lithuania. We know Jonah died some time before Rachel and their two children and grandchildren came to New York City in the 1880s. Lots more to learn there!

So for me, the Genealogy Go-Over is really about carefully reviewing what I know and using that info, plus new cousin connections, new techniques, and new data, to move ever closer to the prize of understanding who my ancestors were, where (exactly) they were from, and whether we have other cousins out there, still to be found!

I'm awaiting DNA results from Ancestry that I hope will offer a window into a different family story, one about my maternal grandfather's background. The story is about the various tribes that conquered Hungary hundreds of years before grandpa Tivador Schwartz was born in Ungvar. The tribes raped and pillaged their way across the landscape, and supposedly some of that tribal blood found its way into my grandpa's bloodline generations back. Will my DNA results reveal any trace of the conquering tribes? Waiting to see.