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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Family History Month: Auntie Dorothy in "With Love, Jane"

My aunt Dorothy Schwartz (1919-2001) was a WAC in WWII, as I've written before. She enlisted on September 11, 1942, the only female member of the family to serve in the military. She finally returned from overseas postings three years after enlisting.

During my Gen Go-Over, I've been searching newspapers for mentions of my ancestors, including Auntie Dorothy. Eureka!

I discovered my aunt's name at the end of a book review printed in The New York Times on Sunday, November 18, 1945. Her letter home was included in a compilation of letters written by 37 female service members. The volume, edited by Alma Lutz, is titled: "With Love, Jane." I've requested that my local library obtain this via inter-library loan so I can see the letter in its entirety.

The brief quote from Dorothy's letter, as excerpted in this book review, reads:
"There is no advantage in war except what the individual makes for himself. In the army we lose eccentricities, prejudices, pettiness, because they cannot survive in the face of matter-of-fact and non-luxurious living." - Sgt. Dorothy H. Schwartz, WAC

Friday, October 13, 2017

Family History Month: Hyper-Local Research on Linkpendium

Another of my favorite free genealogy research sites is Linkpendium. This is the place to look for hyper-local family information, accessed via the millions of links listed on this site. I've clicked on this site a lot during my Genealogy Go-Over.

For best results, don't search using the box at top of the page. Instead, browse by locality (state, county, city/town) where your ancestor lived (or worked) and click to see what records or information are available.

The locality links will lead you to other sources, including Family Search, Ancestry, libraries, local genealogical societies, etc.. Dig deep enough, and you'll get all kinds of ideas and clues.


For example, the links at left were found deep in the Bronx, New York listings. These lead to photos and postcards of Bronx people and places. Wonderful background to help me imagine the area where my parents and grandparents lived decades ago.

Some links do lead to fee-based sites, as indicated by the green dollar sign. Everything else is free unless noted!

Go ahead, click to Linkpendium and see where its hyper-local links lead you during Family History Month.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Family History Month: Using My Library Card for Genealogy


Whether I visit in person or log in at midnight from home, my library card has been an "open sesame" for family history research. I can't count how many times a library database or librarian has come to the rescue to help solve a genealogical mystery during my Genealogy Go-Over.

For everyday research, I love the convenience of accessing Heritage Quest from home with my local library's card, and I know many libraries also offer local or national newspaper databases for remote access. But I also have to look beyond my local library, because my research stretches across the country and across national borders.

Above, the Connecticut State Library allows in-state residents who have a state library card (separate from a local library card) to access the New York Times historical database stretching back to the 1800s, among other newspaper databases available for free, from home. This is handy because local libraries don't always have access to these databases. Thanks to this New York Times database, I've found birth, marriage, and death notices for ancestors, as well as mentions of ancestors' business dealings.

Looking for more info to understand my Ellis Island immigrant ancestors, I've browsed the New York Public Library's Digital Collections for old photos and old maps. Non-residents can apply for a NYPL card (for a fee) and access databases in their jammies, whether they're in Portland, Maine or Portland, Oregon. The Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne also offers non-resident library cards.

So see what your local and state libraries have to offer, and think about other library cards to expand your research access.

For more "free or fee" genealogy tips, see my posts here.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Military Monday: Ask the Archivist About Ancestors in the Military

Earlier this year, as part of my Genealogy Go-Over, I contacted the Archivist of the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders museum in Vancouver, asking for information about the military career of hubby's great uncle, Henry Arthur Slatter (1866-1942). This strategy--ask a historian or an archivist--is one of my Genealogy, Free or Fee tips that has paid off several times, yielding details and clues to further my family history research.

Bandmaster H.A. Slatter served with the 72nd on and off from 1911 through 1925. By the way, this was after his earlier service with the British military, including the Grenadier Guards. (All three Slatter brothers were military bandmasters and served both in England and in Canada.)

The archivist provided a few details about this bandmaster's career in Vancouver, and he has been keeping his eyes open for photos. Today, he sent me a link to the Vancouver Archives, where the above photo is stored. The caption says that the unnamed military band is playing during a 1918 wartime parade in downtown Vancouver (specifically, the 100 block of East Hastings).

Although neither the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders nor Bandmaster H.A. Slatter are identified or referenced, the eagle-eyed archivist recognized the unit's uniforms and caps right away. He says that the band's conductor (sitting with his back to the camera at the front of the vehicle) could very well be the great uncle we are researching. And I agree, given the physical similarity between the conductor in this photo and other photos I've seen of his bandmaster brothers.

Without the help of the archivist, I never would have found this photo, because the 72nd Seaforth is not mentioned in any of the captioning data.

So go ahead, ask a historian or archivist--these professionals really know their way around the archives and can help us learn more about our ancestors!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Junk or Joy? Think of Future Generations!

Lots of wisdom in a recent Washington Post article titled: "Just because an item doesn't spark joy, doesn't mean you should toss it."

So many people are following the fad for saving only possessions that spark "joy" (based on best-selling author Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up). But this doesn't mean throwing out family history along with the family china that none of the kids or grandkids wants right now. UPDATE: Today's New York Times has a similar article, focusing on how many downsizers are coping with younger relatives' disinterest in having the family china, furniture, etc.

The author of the Washington Post article says that "passing down at least some of those possessions creates an important connection between generations and has a vital part in a family’s history." Her advice: save a few select things rather than everything. "Choose things that have special meaning — a serving dish that you used every Thanksgiving, old family photos . . . "

That's why the "chickie pitcher" shown at top is still in the family, while the magazine shown at right is not.

This pitcher, passed down in the Wood family, was part of holiday meals for as my hubby can remember (and that's a long way back). His mother, Marian McClure Wood, would put it out along with coffee and dessert on Thanksgiving and other occasions. We've continued the tradition in our family!

The Workbasket magazine, however, is a different kind of keepsake. My mother, Daisy Schwartz Burk, was an avid needleworker and subscribed to this magazine for at least a decade. But as part of my Genealogy Go-Over and in the pantheon of heirlooms, the four issues held by the family for 50 years have a very low priority.

Rather than relegate these good condition magazines to the flea market or recycle bin, I found them a new home: the Missouri History Museum, which collects magazines issued by Missouri-based publishers. The museum lacked the particular issues I was offering, and was especially pleased that the address labels were still attached.

I signed a deed of gift (similar to the one shown here) and donated all four issues, along with a brief paragraph describing my mother and her love of needlework. It gives me joy to know that Mom's name will forever be attached to magazines preserved and held in the museum archives. (May I suggest: For more ideas about how to sort your genealogical collection and the possibilities of donating artifacts, please see my book Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.)

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Sorting Saturday: Happily Testing RootsMagic

During the IAJGS Conference last week, I had the opportunity to learn more about gen software that actually, for real, synchs with Ancestry, including downloading media (such as photos and documents attached to individuals).

Yes, I do have an existing gen program, but it's got every bell and whistle on the planet except synching, which wasn't available four years ago when I bought that old software.

Meanwhile, during my Genealogy Go-Over, I've been building my Ancestry trees and "sharing trees" with close cousins, so I have access to their names/photos/documents. I like the convenience of adding somebody else's photo of great uncle Moe to my Ancestry tree with one click. I'm accustomed to the Ancestry interface and navigating the site in search of more clues.

Now I wanted to be able to download all of that to my Mac with no rigamarole. So I plunked down cash to buy RootsMagic 7 at the conference special price last week.

Success! Granted, the interface doesn't look at all fancy (see an excerpt, above). Still, it gets the job done, has useful features that help me manage my people and trees, and it's fairly user-friendly.

Best of all, my attachments were easily downloaded along with every tree (see the purple oval marking the "media" tab). I can browse them, open, do whatever I want. Yay!

By the way, trees that were "shared" with me by other Ancestry users could also be downloaded by RootsMagic. That was a bonus I didn't expect.

I'm still testing all the features, and I'm very happy so far with the experience. Simply being able to vacuum up all my Ancestry trees to have on my home Mac forever was worth the money, no matter what else I use the software for.

Going forward, I'll continue to build my trees using Ancestry, and then synch using RootsMagic. It's just easier for me, it allows cousins to immediately see the latest info I've gathered, and I gain peace of mind that my Ancestry data will be duplicated on my own Mac.

Of course, I've also backed up the RootsMagic trees on an external hard drive for extra security. Can't have too many backups!

Update: After nearly 3 weeks of use, I'm still delighted at the ability to quickly and conveniently synch with Ancestry trees. After each synch I can view all changes to each tree in RootsMagic if I choose, a handy feature. Still need to test reporting mechanisms. More on that soon.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Mystery Monday: How Can I Find the Elusive Nellie Block?

Great aunt Nellie Block, late 1940s
Nellie Block (abt 1878-1950) is my elusive great aunt, the older sister of my paternal grandpa, Isaac Burk (1882-1943).

The first time I spotted Nellie was in Isaac's 1904 border crossing from Canada to US, when he said he was going "to sister Nellie Block, 1956 3rd Ave., corner 107th St." The address was familiar, because Isaac's future bride and her family lived in that apartment building!

In the 1905 NY Census, Nellie (a furmaker) is living as a boarder with a family on Henry Street. She's still single, and boarding with a different family on Henry Street in the 1910 US Census (occ: operator, furs).

The paper trail nearly ends there for Nellie. So far, I haven't found her in the 1915 NY census, 1920 US census, 1925 NY census, 1930 US census, or 1940 US census.

I know Nellie received an invitation to a UK cousin's wedding in 1934, because it was passed down in the family. Alas, no envelope with address. Did she go? No one knows.

Nellie is wearing a corsage and a smile at my parent's wedding in 1946. That's how I can date the photo at top, because Nellie looked very much the same at the wedding as she does here.

The final record I found for Nellie is her death notice from the New York Times, paid for by the family. It states: "Block--Nellie, devoted sister of Abraham Birk, Meyer Berg, Max Birk, Jennie Salkowitz, and the late Isidore [sic] Birk. Services Sun, 12:30 pm, Gutterman's, Bway at 66 St."

Nellie Block died on Christmas Eve, 1950. I haven't yet found her burial place, and can't yet get a copy of her death cert from New York (too recent).

Where in the world was Nellie Block hiding between 1910 and 1950? My next steps, part of my Genealogy Go-Over:
  • Use Heritage Quest and Family Search, plugging in different spellings of her name to search US and NY Census records. Each site transcribes and indexes a little differently, so I may have some luck with this approach. Will also look for naturalization papers, if any.
  • Do a more thorough search of Social Security applications. If she was working, and remained single, surely she filed for retirement benefits, right? 
  • Check NY marriage records, just in case she married at some point. By 1934, however, when she received the wedding invitation, her name was still Block and she was about 56 years old. I suspect she didn't ever marry, since her death notice is "Block."
  • Recheck Find a Grave (so far, I haven't found her there) and all the NY/NJ cemeteries where my NY-area paternal ancestors were buried. My really quick first check was unsuccessful, so now I have to do another check to be sure.
  • Any other ideas? 
UPDATE: I searched census and naturalization via Family Search, no luck (yet). Also did a search on the easy-to-search 1940 NYC directories on NY Public Library site, borough by borough, but no luck. In addition, I checked Italiangen.org for naturalizations, but no luck. And I redid my Soc Sec search via Ancestry for claims and application, no luck. Darn.

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 and Family Search. You still have to mail away for the actual records, well worth the money.)

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.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Genealogy, Free or Fee: Checklist for Ancestor Resources

What do you or your family have in your hands that will further your genealogical research? During my nine years of blogging, I've told stories of using all sorts of everyday records and artifacts to identify ancestors, understand relationships, locate cousins, and fill out my family tree with more than just names and dates.

This checklist is a starting point for thinking creatively about resources you or your family may have that will help you further your genealogical research. Especially if you're participating in the Genealogy Do-Over (or, like me, a Gen Go-Over), I hope this checklist will spark some ideas.

It's not for BINGO. When I was a beginner, I thought the goal was to check off as many items as possible. Nope. The real goal is to think creatively about detail-rich sources that make sense for our research.

Not all of these sources are available in every family. Not all will have valuable details that can add to our knowledge of ancestors. But you may get lucky! And if the items are already in your family's possession, they're free. Can't beat that price.

Here are only a few examples of using some of the everyday resources on this checklist to advance genealogy research. I wish you luck in your research!
  • "Address books" -- within the past week, I used Mom's address book to tear down the brick wall that has long surrounded my paternal grandfather's siblings.
  • "Baby books" -- my husband's baby book enabled me to fine-tune death dates of some older relatives and learn more about relationships by seeing who gave what baby gift and when.
  • "Diaries" -- my late dad-in-law's diaries are sometimes more accurate in pinpointing birth and death dates than gravestones. His entries also helped me identify elusive cousins.
  • "Letters and postcards" -- hubby's family's postcards showed where and when his grandparents and father lived during the early 1900s, and the signatures told me who was in touch with which relatives (and when). Also, letters written to/from my paternal aunt helped me crack the case on my grandfather Isaac's sister.
Note: Other Genealogy, Free or Fee posts are available here.

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.