Saturday, February 26, 2022

Bite-Sized Ancestor Bios on Find a Grave--Sometime Soon?

One of my passions is to keep family history alive for the sake of future generations and for future researchers. After years of research, I'm sharing what I know now by posting bite-sized ancestor biographies on multiple websites. 

This is part of the PASS process described in my updated book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past (available on Amazon, in the book store at American, and in the book store at the Newberry Library).

Lots of copies keep stuff safe

At top, the bite-sized bio I wrote about my husband's maternal grandfather, Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970). After sharing within the family, I've posted this on Family Search, My Heritage, and WikiTree. The idea is to share this ancestor's story widely, in public, so those who come after can learn more about his life. 

I'm applying the LOCKSS principle--the concept that "lots of copies keep stuff safe." With lots of copies, it's less likely that genealogical and biographical information will be forgotten or lost or otherwise become inaccessible as time goes on.

Not yet on Find a Grave 

For the past year, I've been trying--unsuccessfully--to have this ancestor's bio posted to the memorial page on Find a Grave. 

Find a Grave is free, it's worldwide in scope, and it's another suitable place to share info about ancestors.

Image at right shows how the memorial page currently looks. Notice that I took the photo of Brice's grave and posted it years ago. 

The brief bio currently on the page was not written by me. It's not just incomplete, it's inaccurate.

I've posted other ancestral bios on Find a Grave, both on memorial pages that I manage and through the courtesy of non-relatives who manage my ancestors' pages. However, I haven't yet been able to get Brice's posted. 

Following Find a Grave's policies

Beginning in January of 2021, I submitted edits multiple times to the current manager of this memorial. Repeatedly. To date, I've had no response. I see the current manager has more than 440,000 memorials, and that person's profile mentions how much time it takes to plow through edits and requests for transfer.

Still, 13 months seems way too long to wait for edits to be posted or a transfer to be completed (with a click). I've even explained to the current manager, at least once, that Brice and Floyda are my husband's maternal grandparents. 

According to Find a Grave's policies, someone who manages a memorial page that is NOT of their ancestor is supposed to transfer to a relative, upon request. You can read those policies here

Now I'm giving Find a Grave an opportunity to stop the 13-month logjam and expedite the transfer of Brice's and Floyda's pages to me. I wrote the support folks, as Find a Grave says to do, and briefly explained why I want to manage those memorial pages and how I've attempted to have accurate bios posted for months, to no avail. 

(March 8 update: No response yet) (March 21 update: Find a Grave said, in a tweet: "We are processing a large backlog at this time. We apologize in advance for a delay in response; we are responding as soon as we can. Thank you for your patience while we process the mail we have received. Please know we are giving each request our full attention."

March 29 update: Partial success!! Find a Grave made me the manager of my Dad's memorial. Now I'm hoping they'll transfer hubby's grandparents in just as timely a manner. TY to Find a Grave.

My goal is to keep alive the memory of these ancestors, not just for descendants but also for other genealogical researchers. And I don't give up easily! Readers, I'll keep you posted about what happens. 

Friday, February 25, 2022

RootsTech Begins on March 3

In just a few days, RootsTech Connect 2022 will get underway. Are you registered and ready? Have you seen the RootsTech Facebook page with exciting announcements about famous keynoters and more?

A virtual cornucopia of genealogical education and inspiration, RootsTech will showcase more than 1,500 classes and streaming sessions, available to view for FREE. Experts will present classes on everything from documenting family history and interpreting DNA results to sharing family heritage in the kitchen and finding ancestors in old newspapers. You can already look at class descriptions and download handouts in advance!

The Expo Hall will also open on March 3, a wonderful opportunity to engage with genealogy companies and hear about new products and features. 

I'm looking forward to polishing my skills and discovering new tools that will help me do a better job of identifying ancestors, understanding their stories, and recording their lives for the sake of future generations.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

My Interview with Marie Cappart - RootsTech 2022 Speaker

Professional historian and genealogist Marie Cappart is a well-known speaker and the author of the best-selling Guide to Genealogy in Belgium

Based in Brussels, she serves as country manager for MyHeritage in Belgium and has expertise in a wide range of genealogical and historical topics, including World War I and World War II. 

Marie is also a media consultant for genealogy and history, a columnist for the Revue Française de Généalogie (France's number 1 genealogy magazine), and a proud RootsTech ambassador for years. 

Here's my interview with Marie, who returns to RootsTech Connect in 2022 with three engaging talks for family historians.

Question 1: How does your background in history help you when researching and writing about ancestors who lived and died many generations in the past?

Marie: I see it as a symbiosis: The two disciplines are so interconnected. I so much regret that European academics don't see the connection as much as Anglo-Saxons do because both parties would learn so much from each other.

I start with a good perspective of events, timelines and possible events that could have happened to our ancestors or could have triggered a change in their lives. I also have a good overview of the different relevant sources and can work my way through national archives in a quite natural way. This "zoom in-zoom out" approach is also surely helpful to think of all the relevant historical sources that can be used for a genealogical research so I'm very lucky to have those two backgrounds to rely on.

Question 2: Please share your top tips for combining DNA and traditional genealogy research to correct and expand a family tree.

Marie: One of my top tips is consider DNA as a (biological) source, and cross it with archives, documentation, and oral histories. Think outside the box: If you hit a brick wall, maybe one of the key elements to the solution (names/dates/places) is not right, or not entirely right, or has been distorted over time or when transmitted orally. 

When combining DNA and genealogy research, don’t be afraid to dive into other family trees, regardless of the possible lack of connection at first. Often, at least in Europe, people are wary of researching someone they don't know, let alone someone who's still alive. The privacy regulations also make it more difficult, but not impossible, to access direct birth, marriage, and death information. People shouldn't be afraid to work those trees out to see if it makes sense to them along the way. 

Of course, there's a need for privacy regulations but some sources can be useful to overcome those difficulties and reconstruct trees with people who at first seem to be "strangers" but turn out to be genetic relatives. Both approaches are very important and equally valuable. Amongst other things, DNA needs family history to construct the trees of DNA matches and family history needs genetics to prove/disprove connections. Genealogy alone is like an old school puzzle and now with DNA, it's tridimensional and even more fun even if it is challenging.

Question 3. Have you confirmed or disproved a family story you heard about your ancestors? 

Marie: Yes, I have disproved a family legend that was running around the family. My grandmother always told me we were descended from a rich noble Italian family. It turned out that my 3x grandfather born in 1816 was in fact an abandoned child. The period makes me think that the "father" could be a fleeing soldier but of course nothing is proven at this point. 

The civil registration office custom at the time was to use antique Italian or Greek related surnames to name foundlings. My ancestor was given an Italian-sounding surname. The child before him was a Nero and the one after Cupido so I guess we were lucky he was named Tigilin (“an aide to Nero”). Those children rarely made it out of infancy. Now, more than a century later, the story has evolved over the time to give it a more dignified touch but my research set the record straight. I suspect my percentage of Italian DNA is related to that line.

Question 4. What will you be speaking about at RootsTech?

Marie: This year, I'm giving three lectures, one on Belgian immigrants to the United States, one on family food heritage, and one in French about how to do research on Belgian-language and French-language online newspapers websites. I'm also giving a talk as a Country Manager for MyHeritage.

One subject that I've been wanting to cover for a long time was cooking heritage and how family recipes are passed from one generation to another. I'm not really a foodie--I'd rather spend time on genealogy than cooking in the kitchen and have my nose in books rather than putting on an apron--but I really like old personal cookbooks as sources of how people lived, what they were eating on a daily basis or for any special events. 

Food is a key part of any culture and it's fascinating to see how it's been passed on, from old notebooks--my favorites--to the social media content of today. The pandemic has given a lot of people more time to spend in the kitchen, and of course the natural go-to recipes are the ones that were in the family for generations. These were often passed down from mothers to daughters or daughters-in-law with some additions or changes to the recipes. Sometimes these recipes were considered secrets to be carefully guarded.

Question 5. How do you plan to get the most out of the virtual RootsTech experience in 2022?

Marie: By not sleeping much? Joke aside, as much as I miss the on-site event, I found out that I could enjoy some lectures much more for my personal learning which is a bit more complicated to do on-site. I also really appreciate that the content is made available for months after the conference so we can catch up or replay if we choose. But nothing will ever beat the Salt Palace atmosphere and face-to-face conversations with genealogists. RootsTech is always the moment where the big players announce brand new features so I'm really excited to witness that. 

One tip that I always give, regardless of the show being online or on-site, is to know that you won't be able to take it all so it's very important to make your own list of what you want to see first, or of what is more relevant to your interests. 

Another tip: Pick a lecture that you wouldn't typically pick. It's a great way to learn new things and learn about other cultures, or archives, or stories—choose something out of the usual categories you go to and out of your comfort zone.

Question 6: How you are using cooking to share your heritage with your family?

Marie: What I like to do when cooking a family recipe (whether one from my mum or her mum) is to give a bit of historical context to it. My mum was born in England during World War II and my grandmother would pick up local recipes and sometimes adjust them with local ingredients if something wasn’t available.

I'm still making her recipes from England as well as cooking foods traditional to my husband's family, descended in part from Dutch ancestors. Whenever I cook those recipes, it's always a great opportunity to tell a story about our ancestors or keep the family updated with the latest research/discovery without them even noticing or being bored the way they could be if food wasn't involved ;) Remember how our mothers would hide greens in something we liked so that we would eat it without knowing? Well, recipes are a bit like that for family history!

I also love to celebrate our heritage through food on special occasions. Food is a great medium to do that, especially baking. For my wedding, the cake was created to honor our English, French, Belgian and Dutch roots all in one cake. It really had a special meaning to me. In addition, Christmas is a time when family cooking traditions play an important role, and my household is no exception. 

The best part of being a "passer" of this culinary heritage is not only to keep our ancestors alive through our plates but also to create new family culinary traditions. During lockdown, a lot of people discovered their kitchen with brand new eyes and it was the perfect occasion to study, and try, family recipes, away from the day-to-day rush. Of course, famous chefs, who are often so quick to stage their own family recipes, also had to reinvent themselves. But other public figures, not necessarily in the cooking world, did so as well. 

One example I really like is the one of Danny Wood (NKOTB) who saw an opportunity during the pandemic to set up a show he's been thinking about doing for quite a while. Although not a chef, he likes to cook for his family. Often he makes recipes from his mother or shows what he’s baking for his grandchildren, capturing the cooking experience on a YouTube channel aptly named "The Wood Works."

I find this example striking because he’s not a renowned and super skilled chef in the most professional kitchen with the latest sponsored utensils. He’s a public figure simply sharing his enjoyment of passing on family kitchen traditions, or inventing/trying new family recipes and entertaining his audience at the same time. Danny Wood takes great pleasure into demonstrating his cooking skills and it shows. Even more importantly, he likes to share the family history behind the recipe and invites his guests to do the same. 

These days, all kinds of people use social media to pass on family recipes by creating posts, stories, videos, Instagram Reels and TikTok videos, and more. Every time a long-ago ancestor is mentioned in a family recipe story or post, it's genealogy in the making. It's a real challenge to think of a way to preserve these newer methods of communicating family recipes for the sake of generations to come. The field is open for the future to determine how to preserve and pass on those newer transmissions ;) 

*To connect with Marie Cappart: 

Twitter: @histfamilles

Facebook:  Marie Cappart or page Histoires de Familles

Instagram: Marie Cappart

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Celebrating a Twin Birthday with Lollipops and Pinwheels

Happy birthday to us! Today is another twin birthday. 🎂🎂

Maybe my beloved Sis and I will celebrate with lollipops and pinwheels?!

Saturday, February 19, 2022

1950 US Census Prep: Using ED Maps and Descriptions

A good number of my ancestors lived in New York City--many in the Bronx, some in Queens, some in Brooklyn, a few in Manhattan, but none in Staten Island. 

As I get ready to find them in the 1950 US Census when the records are released in April, I'm finding I have to dig even deeper to determine the specific Enumeration District for a few of these Big Apple residents. This holds true for other big cities, by the way, as I've discovered searching for Cleveland ancestors.

Details matter

Here's a mini case study featuring ED maps and ED descriptions. My cousins lived at 3706 72d Street in Queens, New York. But studying the map, I see that the borough of Queens also has 72d Avenue, 72d Avenue Ext, 72d Crescent, 72d Drive, 72d Lane, 72d Place, and 72d Road. 

So my first step was to be sure I entered the correct street name when using the nifty Unified Census ED Finder by Steve Morse and Joel Weintraub. 

With only the street name/number, there were too many potential Enumeration Districts for me to browse. As the site directs, I next looked at the Google map and entered a cross street (Broadway) and a back street (37th Avenue) for the block where these cousins lived. 

These two additional details narrowed the number of EDs to three. I couldn't enter a fourth cross or back street, because my cousins lived on a triangular city block. 

Go to the NARA map

My next step was to look at the National Archives map for the three EDs that were around the address. The Steve Morse site has an easy one-step process to go to the maps. Be sure you set the year to 1950. 

Once I located the map for this section of Queens, I enlarged it to read the street names. I found my cousins' address was at a location numbered as block 12 on the NARA ED map (at top). 

The little white star on image above is where my cousins lived in 1950. But the orange lines delineating the districts didn't show me precisely which ED my cousin lived in. What now?

Read the NARA map description

To further narrow the number of EDs, I clicked on the link to read the transcription of each district in turn. The description for 41-598 wasn't as close to the address as the descriptions for 41-608 and 41-880, shown here:

It wasn't enough to glance at the boundary descriptions, because 72d Street, 37th Avenue, and Broadway are listed on both ED 41-608 and ED 41-880.

I looked more closely at the specific blocks included within each ED. Remember, the NARA map at top shows that the address is on block 12.

Block 12 is described as being within ED 41-608. So on April 1st, I'll be looking for my cousins in this single ED!

For more about the 1950 US Census release, see my summary page here. To learn more about the US National Archives ED maps and other maps of interest to genealogists, see here.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Great Cousin Bait: Ancestor Landing Pages

It's been nine years since I first created ancestor landing pages along the top of my genealogy blog, an idea I got from Caroline M. Pointer

I use these landing pages to summarize what I've learned about each ancestor or ancestral family, including images plus links to specific blog posts I've written about that ancestor or family. As I discover more details and write new posts, I add the links to the corresponding ancestor landing pages.

Just as important, ancestor landing pages are incredible cousin bait! When relatives search online for one of their ancestors, they often see my ancestor landing pages in their search results. With a click, they land on the landing page, read about the ancestor(s), and can connect with me via my blog's "contact me" widget. 

Thanks to landing pages, I've heard from dozens of farflung cousins who have landed on my landing pages. What a joy to get acquainted or reacquanted and exchange stories and photos!

By far the most popular ancestor landing page is the one devoted to my husband's McClure ancestors from Donegal. Even when most readers don't turn out to be related to this branch of the McClure family tree, they can get fresh ideas for researching their McClure ancestors by checking the resource links on this landing page or getting in touch with me.

Other genealogy bloggers have created different formats for their ancestor landing pages. For instance, Randy Seaver calls his "Randy's Genealogy," with links to his family trees plus more. Gail Dever calls hers "My Ancestors' Stories," linking to stories she has written about particular ancestors. Sandra Sue Pittman McPeak labels each landing page by surname

Different formats, same goal: to tell the ancestors' stories AND to serve as cousin bait!

"Landed" is the week 7 genealogy prompt in Amy Johnson Crow's 2022 edition of #52 Ancestors.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

In the US, Top 10 Given Names in 1940 and 1950

In the United States, Social Security tracks the most popular given names for children born in each decade. Above, the most popular names for babies born in 2020.

Although some of the 2020 names are familiar from my family tree, I expect to find many more of the names popular in the 1940s and 1950s as I search for ancestors in the U.S. Census for 1950, being released on April 1.

According to the Social Security database, the top 10 given names for girls in the 1950s were:

  1. Mary
  2. Linda
  3. Patricia
  4. Susan
  5. Deborah
  6. Barbara
  7. Debra
  8. Karen
  9. Nancy
  10. Donna
The top 10 given names for boys in the 1950s were:

  1. James
  2. Michael
  3. Robert
  4. John
  5. David
  6. William
  7. Richard
  8. Thomas
  9. Mark
  10. Charles 

Interestingly, top given names from the 1940s were not very different. I will definitely find most of these names as I search for ancestors in the 1950 US Census.

According to Social Security, the top 10 given names for girls in the 1940s were:

  1. Mary
  2. Linda
  3. Barbara
  4. Patricia
  5. Carol
  6. Sandra
  7. Nancy
  8. Sharon
  9. Judith
  10. Susan

The top 10 given names for boys in the 1940s were:

  1. James
  2. Robert
  3. John
  4. William
  5. Richard
  6. David
  7. Charles 
  8. Thomas
  9. Michael
  10. Ronald
For more about the release of the 1950 US Census, please see my summary page here.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

1950 US Census Project: FAN Club

My friend Paul, president of a local genealogy club, suggested a 1950 US Census project that sounds like fun as well as a great way to learn more about ancestors' FAN club (friends, associates, neighbors). 

After April 1, when the US Census is made public, we can not only search for ancestors, but look at who lived nearby. Whether we find each ancestor using the basic surname search or do homework to browse (as in this example) the proper Enumeration District, we can then click through each page in the ED to spot familiar names, addresses, ages, birthplace details, and much more.

Hello neighbor

This is a more deliberate effort to actively search out FAN club members. I usually look at the page before and after where my ancestor is in the ED, hoping to find other relatives or familiar names. But Paul's idea is to proactively search out FAN club names we already know as well as investigating the entire ED where an ancestor lives, looking for FAN club members we might not know or expect to find there.

Because my parents lived in a large apartment building in the Bronx, New York, I'll be browsing that ED to look at their neighbors. This 1950 US Census will also tell me more about my father's family, because his widowed mother, unmarried brother, and married sister lived in the same apartment building. 

Seeing who else was in each apartment, and reading about their background will help me understand family dynamics at that time. There may even be people who were temporarily visiting on Census Day--if I'm lucky, possibly a cousin or an aunt or someone's mother-in-law. Plus I'll be browsing for names of people on the block or around the corner that I remember my parents mentioning in conversation.

Friend, neighbor, in-law?

I'm lucky to have my mother's 1953ish address book with names, street addresses, and phone numbers of family and neighbors. I don't recognize every name, but some might be distant relatives and some might be in-laws. I'll be watching for them in the Census to clarify potential family connections.

Similarly, the 1950 Census will enable me to learn more about the names in my late father-in-law's diaries. He mentioned people who I suspect were friends and neighbors in Cleveland Heights. I'll search for them, see where they lived, how close their residence was to the Wood residence, and whether there are any fresh clues to relationships (business or personal). 

Paul will be searching for the surnames of kids he remembers from his early childhood. The outcome will be a map of his neighborhood, with relatives and FAN club members marked by location.

Will you be working on a 1950 US Census FAN club project?

Friday, February 11, 2022

Love the Valentine, Puzzled By the Spelling

This is a lovely, still colorful Valentine's Day postal greeting sent to my husband's ancestor in Cleveland, Ohio on February 12, 1912. 

That's 110 years ago tomorrow.

It was signed by the recipient's Aunt Nellie Wood Kirby and Uncle Arthur Kirby, who lived in Chicago, Illinois.

Nellie repeatedly used the wrong spelling for her young nephew's given name. This mistake puzzles me, since the boy was the son of her favorite brother. 

I saw the incorrect spelling on every single one of her penny postcards to this nephew. There were a lot of cards: She sent greetings for Christmas, New Year's, birthdays, Easter, and more, for at least a decade.

Wallace or Wallis?

As shown in the image at bottom, the postcard is addressed to "Wallace W. Wood." His name was actually "Wallis W. Wood."

This was a common error, repeated by more than one Census enumerator over the years. The ancestor's official documents (birth, marriage, death, military) reflect the correct spelling of Wallis. I've checked! 

Naming patterns as clues

Family naming patterns can be helpful but not definitive in evaluating online family trees. Since I'm married to another Wallis in this family, I'm very familiar with the naming patterns in his tree and the supporting documentation. That's how I know that Wallace is completely incorrect and Wallis is absolutely correct.

Over and over again, I see the incorrect spelling for this ancestor on other people's online trees. That's an extra-gigantic warning sign to BEWARE. Of course I always view online trees as possible clues and not fact, but I really steer clear when the tree owner hasn't taken the time to view and attach official documents reflecting the correctly named spelling of ancestors. 

Research and cite your sources! But don't necessarily trust names in the family's correspondence, as Nellie's Valentine demonstrates ;)

My post is part of the fun February Genealogy Blog Party about love stories. In this case, it's the Valentine I really love!

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Mapping Mme Jennie Farkas in the 1950 US Census

With the public release of the 1950 U.S. Census coming soon on April 1, I'm  figuring out where each ancestor lived in or around the year 1950 and then translating the street address into an Enumeration District, with the help of maps.

Why a map when there will be a surname index?

A rudimentary surname index will be available when NARA releases the 1950 US Census digitally on April 1st. Family Search and Ancestry and others are working to index the records, as well. 

However, these initial indexes are unlikely to be complete or accurate, despite all the technology and attention they will represent. 

So I'll want to identify the Enumeration District in which each ancestor lived. That will enable me to browse the ED records to locate my ancestors if they don't pop up in surname search results. 

Great Aunt Jennie, the dressmaker 

Today I'm mapping great aunt Jennie Katz Farkas (1886-1974), the husband of my maternal great uncle Alex Farkas (1885-1948)--he was my maternal grandma's older brother. 

With Alex's death cert in hand, I know exactly where in New York City they were living in 1948. But as a widow, would Jennie be living in the same place?

I searched the 1949 directory for Manhattan, hoping to find Jennie on her own. There she was at the same address as in 1948 (see image at top). I was surprised but not flabbergasted to see her listed as Farkas, Jennie Mme

All of my Farkas cousins know the story that Jennie was a peerless professional dressmaker with an expert eye for detail. She could study a high-fashion photo in Vogue and then recreate the dress on her own. She was renowned within the family for making beautiful gowns for her sisters-in-law when they married (and for bridesmaids and matrons of honor, as well). 

I was aware she had a thriving business in dressmaking, but I didn't realize she called herself "Mademoiselle Jennie Farkas" for professional reasons. Um, she was born in Hungary! Still, she appears as Mme Jennie Farkas in Manhattan city directories throughout the 1940s. What an interesting detail to add to her story.

Mapping Jennie's Enumeration District

To map Jennie's ED, I went to the Unified 1950 Census ED Finder developed by Steve Morse and Joel Weintraub. If you haven't already bookmarked their page, add it to your list of key sites as you prep for the 1950 Census release! 

I used the easy drop-down menus to enter Jennie's 1949 address (a proxy for her 1950 address), as shown on the image directly above. This was a busy, crowded Manhattan area, and I was careful to choose 80th Street West. (FYI: An address on the East would be in a different ED. This east/west situation is a factor in many cities and towns, as is north/south, so pay close attention to these details in your own searches.) 

With only the street address entered, there would too many EDs to browse--see the listing at bottom of the above image. I needed to further narrow the number of EDs by selecting cross streets and back streets. On the ED Finder page, "See Google Map" is the place to click to see the map. 

 I clicked to view the map and found her address indicated by the red marker. It was easy to spot the three cross/back streets (I circled them above). 

One by one, I entered the cross/back streets into the ED Finder with the convenient drop-down menus to guide me. 

As the image below indicates, checking the map and having the four street boundaries surrounding Jennie's address allowed me to narrow down the number of EDs to only one: 31-803. That's the ED I'll browse on April 1st if Jennie doesn't show up using the surname index for the 1950 US Census.

"Maps" is this week's genealogy prompt in Amy Johnson Crow's yearlong #52Ancestors challenge. 

Lisa Gorrell kindly sent a link to the NARA map for Jennie's ED, which is one of many hundreds of EDs in Manhattan. Jennie's ED is way at top left of the image at left. 

Thanks, Lisa!

For more about the 1950 US Census and prepping for its release, please see my summary page here.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Are Family Historians Just Nosy?

My genie friend Paul Chiddicks (@chiddickstree) kicked off a thought-provoking Twitter conversation this week when he asked this question about documenting family history:

I have discovered a number of people recently that were married and never had children, when writing a narrative how do you approach the subject with compassion, sensitivity and no way of knowing why?

Paul is known for going beyond names, dates, and places in his genealogy. He tries to flesh out his ancestors with more detail and background on their stories, which is why he raised this question.

In the end, he tweeted that he would follow the suggestion of Derek and use this wording in his family history:

No children were found during this research - Simple, factual, sensitive, to the point and leaves the door open if needed.

How can we know why?

As a result of Paul's conversation on Twitter, I thought back to the couples in my family tree who had no children that I know of. Also I thought about the unmarried aunts and uncles and cousins in my tree--unmarried, so far as I know.

If we never knew these ancestors personally and no relatives living today knew them personally, is it possible to answer "why" in an intelligent way? 

Or would we be speculating, with the benefit of hindsight and through the lens of today's perspective in the absence of any documentation? 

Is an explanation even needed? 

Well, being a family historian, I guess I'm nosy. I always try to consider "why" an ancestor did something--left the old country, got married at an unexpected place or time, left a spouse, left a child, and so on. 

Family dynamics are affected by decisions like these, and I wish I could know "why." That's what I believe Paul was getting at with his question about married couples who have no children that he could find through research.

Will anyone care in the future?

The family historian for my Mom's side has spoken with me privately about sensitive "family stories" not able to be confirmed by a paper trail. I'm not telling any of the stories here, but one is exactly what Paul would want to know about couples on his family tree ;)

I talked with my sister about how to approach these topics. Here's what she said: 

Is it anybody else's business why some ancestor had no children or never married or got divorced? Would telling the reason (if passed down as a "family story") add anything important to the understanding of those ancestors today? Will anyone today or in the future actually care? And since none of this is provable, why bring it up? 

She and I don't have the same answers to her questions. However, we definitely agree that writing the stories down and putting them in my genealogy files is a good way to ensure that they aren't entirely lost...and will be available to my heirs in the future. 

I'll seal them in an envelope and mark them "sensitive family stories" and indicate the origin of each story, emphasizing that there is no way to know the truth today.

Perhaps my nosiness about family stories might be of interest to a future generation?! I won't be here to tell the story, but my notes will reveal what I was told, clearly marked as a "story" and not as fact.

Friday, February 4, 2022

Branching Out to Look Up and Link Ancestors

Part of my genealogical routine is after I look up ancestors on Ancestry, Family Search, and other sites, I link them to siblings, spouses, and children on Find a Grave. 

The process of looking up ancestors and branching out to their extended families has led me to new information and even new-to-me sources.

New to me: Canadian Headstones

Yesterday when I looked up one of my husband's Canadian ancestors on Ancestry, I noticed a different database show up with clues to burial place/dates.

Shown here is the results page from Ancestry informing me that this Slatter gravestone can be viewed on CanadianHeadstones. I clicked to view the picture and the transcription, and I compared the details with what I know about that family. Eureka--a good match from a resource I'd never before used. Of course I'm going to be plugging in other ancestor names to search for more headstones in Canada. But first...

Search and link

After saving this result to all three of the Slatter ancestors mentioned in the gravestone transcription, I looked for these ancestors in my virtual cemeteries on Find a Grave. I expected to find Glynn Edward Slatter (1906-1974), my hubby's cousin through his maternal grandmother, Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925). 

Glynn wasn't in my virtual cemetery of Wood and Slatter ancestors, because his memorial page on Find a Grave was added only last month. I quickly added him.

Next, I searched out the memorial for Glynn's wife, Kathryn Eileen Matthewson Slatter (also created only last month!) and submitted an edit to link the two as spouses.

My search of the same cemetery on Find a Grave turned up no memorial for Glynn and Kathryn's son David. He was, however, clearly listed on the photo of their gravestone on CanadianHeadstones. 

Based on that info, I created a page for David and then linked him to his parents. All are in my virtual cemetery. And all are now available to the world on Find a Grave, linked by relationship.

"Branching out" is this week's #Genealogy #52Ancestors prompt from Amy Johnson Crow. 


Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Fleshing Out Ancestors Based on Military Records

Reading through the detailed British and Canadian military records available for my hubby's great uncle, Henry Arthur Slatter (1866-1942), I found lots of non-military details that helped build a picture of the boy, the man, and his family. Physical descriptions, health and dental details, but also clues to major turning points in his life.

Born in the gritty Whitechapel section of London, Henry and two of his older brothers were preteens when they were put into a training program designed to give pauper boys the skills to serve in the military or at least have a trade. All three flourished in the program, becoming accomplished musicians well suited to the military life. After they grew up and continued their military careers, they all left England to become well-known bandmasters in Canada.

From poverty to bandmaster

Reading the records, it was clear Henry lied about his age to join the military. Both the official birth index and his baptism record show a birth year of 1866. Yet somehow Henry was recorded as being 17 (instead of 15) years old in the 1881 UK Census, where he was a private in the 7th Fusiliers. 

In 1884, he added two years to his actual age and enlisted as a 20-year-old when he joined the Grenadier Guards. Those records were lengthy!

One son died young

As shown at top in an excerpt from the pension pages in the file, Henry and his wife, Alice Winter Good (1864-1914), had four children...but unfortunately, one child is crossed out in the listing, with a notation about his early death.

I had previously found little William Matthew Slatter's birth, but not his death. Now Henry's military record gave me a death date for this young son, as well. 

After serving in the Grenadier Guards and earning a pension, Henry moved his family to Vancouver. In 1912 Henry was serving as bandmaster for the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders. Then World War I began and more tragedy struck Henry's family.

On Christmas Day of 1914, Henry's wife Alice died. Their son Arthur Albert Slatter (1887-1917) was killed in action with the London Regiment of the 20th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, during fierce fighting in Europe (his name is now on the Arras Memorial in France). 

Second marriage details

The military files note that Henry enlisted in the WWI Canadian Expeditionary Forces, serving in England with the 1st Canadian Reserve Battalion.

Shown above is part of a page from his thick WWI CEF file. On November 14, 1918, the CO granted permission for Henry to remarry. He was 52 at the time.

Also in the file is a detailed card showing the bride as Kathleen Barnes, an "English widow" and the groom as an "English widower." They were married on December 2, 1918, in Christ Church, Brighton, Sussex, and the card even includes witness names. 

Wonderful genealogical details but also good for me to see that he was not alone. According to the military examiners, Henry Arthur Slatter was generally healthy, did not have any medical complaints (although he did have poor eyesight), and didn't look his age. Reading their comments gave me more of a sense of the human being, not just the military man.

No wonder I scour every page of every military record in search of details that add to my knowledge of an ancestor's life beyond the service.