Thursday, April 28, 2022

Digitally Donate Your Genealogy?


Although not everything is online, I really appreciate being able to access digitized photos, letters, postcards, and documents when researching my family tree.

In fact, some museums, libraries, historical societies, and other institutions welcome the digital donation of old photos and printed items. This is a great way to share family history without physically letting go of the actual items.

Above, a screen grab from the online Case Western Reserve Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. The photo is one of several digitally donated by my husband's family, along with names, dates, and places. 

These digital images now accompany the online history of the Cleveland Heights Youth Theater. Pictured here is a rehearsal of a 1950s children's TV show that was broadcast from downtown Cleveland. 

By donating these digital images, the family is helping others learn more about the youth theater and the key role it played in the lives of participants.

Do you have photos, documents, postcards, printed genealogies, or other items from the past that might be of interest to an institution if digitally donated? Think of this as another way to share your family's history!


For more about preserving family history for the future, please see my concise guide, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Finding Tiny Bits of Family History in Old Negatives

My late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood (1903-1986), was a lifelong photography buff, leaving behind hundreds of negatives, photos, and slides. Starting at the age of 14, he photographed his family, his home, his travels, and more.

As I reorganize Ed's collection in preparation for storing in archival albums, I'm  scanning some of the negatives he never printed. 

Turn negatives into photos

There are a number of apps that will do this (see Elizabeth Swanay O’Neal's Heart of the Family post here). 

Or do scan the negative, then invert the image using photo software (as I showed in my blog post here).

Once the negative is displayed electronically as a positive, it's much easier to enlarge and figure out who or what was photographed. Otherwise, the family history might remain trapped on the negative--which may deteriorate before too long.

Enlarge and look for clues

The photo at top, from a negative I scanned and inverted, was taken about 1919 by Ed Wood. It was sandwiched between photos of his brothers, which were dated that year (this particular negative had no date). 

Enlarged on the screen, a clue stood out. Reflected in the mirror is the headboard of a bed. My husband and I recognized its distinctive shape instantly, because one almost exactly like it was part of the Wood family's household for decades. Perhaps Ed's father, a busy carpenter and builder, made the headboards for the family? 

With this clue in mind, I strongly believe we're looking at the bedroom of my husband's grandparents--the parents of the teenaged photographer who snapped the photo circa 1919. 

My hubby noticed that there's no doorknob on the door, only an old-fashioned latch that lifts, with a bolt for locking. I'm charmed by the wallpaper and the fabric covering the shelf, plus the graceful chair--a glimpse of how these ancestors lived.

By turning negatives into viewable photos and enlarging the images, it's easier to notice and share clues like these--tiny insights into the family's past. 


For more ideas about preserving the family's past for the sake of future generations, please see my recently updated book (available in print or as an ebook), Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Monday, April 25, 2022

1950 US Census: Formats For Citing Your Source

Now that I'm downloading 1950 US Census records from the US National Archives to attach to ancestors on my family trees, I'm thinking about how to document my source for these key records. In general, there are several acceptable citation formats, as summarized by the U.S. Census Bureau

Here are two possibilities updated for the 1950 Census in particular.

Citation example following suggestion of Elizabeth Shown Mills

Genealogy expert Elizabeth Shown Mills has citation suggestions on the Facebook page for her best-selling book, Evidence Explained, and on her own Facebook page, both original posts dated April 1. 

Following her recommendation, here's to cite the three-person family of Louis Woolf, which begins on line 5 and ends on line 7 of the Census excerpt shown above. 

1950 U.S. Census, Westchester County, NY, New Rochelle, ED 67-43, sheet 9, household 105, lines 7-9 (Louis Woolf family); U.S. National Archives, 1950 Census ( 

Note that the street address isn't needed, nor are the names of other people in the family, because all of that is covered by the household number and line numbers.

Citation example following suggestion of Claire Kluskens

Claire Kluskens, Genealogical Projects Archivist for the U.S. National Archives, suggests a slightly different format for citing this Census as a genealogical source. You can see her suggestion on the History Hub here.

Following her recommendation, here's how to cite the same three-person family of Louis Woolf.

Louis Woolf family, Lines 7-9, Sheet 9, Enumeration District 67-43, New Rochelle, Westchester County, New York; Seventeenth Census of the United States, 1950; Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census; National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC, downloaded from on April 23, 2022.

Citation example following Ancestry's format

Above, how Ancestry cited the 1950 US Census as the source of a different record I just attached to my family tree. Note that the citation includes year, record group, residence date, and the town, county, state. I can edit this citation on my Ancestry tree to add more specifics (family name, ED, sheet number, HH number, line numbers, etc.). As it stands, I would need those extra details to retrace my research path.

IMHO: Short, sweet, and practical 

My personal plan is to adapt the formal citation formats. Short, sweet, and to the point will work best for my personal purposes.

As long as I provide specifics, I believe others will be able to retrace my steps and see what I saw about an ancestor in the 1950 Census, at any time in the future. 

Here's my concise but detailed version of the citation, neither formal nor official by any means.

1950 U.S. Census, New Rochelle, Westchester County, NY, ED 67-43, sheet 9, household 105, lines 7-9 (Louis Woolf family).

This is my preference, for personal use, and it may not work for everyone. 

IMHO, the key elements of documenting a source are shown in my abbreviated version, for my personal use: I cited the 1950 US Census, providing the town, county, state, ED, sheet number, household number, and line numbers, plus head of household and family name. 

"Document" is this week's #52Ancestors prompt from Amy Johnson Crow.

Friday, April 22, 2022

1950 US Census: Seeking Big-City Ancestors on NARA site?


Having located nearly all of the closer ancestors I wanted to find in the 1950 US Census, I'm branching out to more distant ancestors.

At left, my search on the US National Archives site for someone living on East 141st Street in Cleveland, which is ED 92-945. 

Searching quickly only for Cuyahoga County, Ohio, ED 92-945, I was surprised to see "No Records Found" as shown here on the results page. 

Simply choosing the state/county and entering a specific ED is not enough to find ancestors living in big cities! 

Look for big city in NARA drop-down menu

NARA's drop-down menu for county does have a city/state choice of Cleveland, Cuyahoga. I didn't choose that option initially, but I quickly figured out how to improve my search.

Once I redid my search, and chose the city along with the county and the ED, the correct population schedules showed up in the results.

I checked with several experienced researchers and they confirm that if the city is one of the choices on the drop-down menu for county, be sure to select the city. 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Two Volumes of "Scots-Irish Links" by David Dobson


My husband's family tree includes the McClure family from Donegal but originally from Isle of Skye, ancestors who are known as Scots-Irish. 

So when the Genealogical Publishing Company kindly sent me a review copy of the two volumes that make up David Dobson's latest work, I was delighted to take a look. 

Disclaimer: Although I received this publication for free, please note that the opinions in this post are entirely my own.

Consolidated index is handy

Scots-Irish Links, Consolidated Edition, consists of two volumes, each more than 900 pages, reprints of carefully-researched works that were previously published. If you have an intense interest in Scots-Irish genealogy, and need to consult surname-based research going back hundreds of years, these pricey volumes might be worth the investment.

What makes them particularly useful is that each volume contains a consolidated index. Instead of having to look up names in more than a dozen briefer books researched by Dobson in earlier years, today the reader can flip through a single index at the end of each volume.

Searching for McClure names in County Donegal, I found a listing for Robert McClure, as well as a listing for John McClure. 

These clear, concise entries told me not just surname and given name but also the location and the year, along with an abbreviated reference I could follow back to the source.

More about sources 

Dobson provides a listing of "references" indicating the meaning of the abbreviated citations in each volume (see sample here). 

As a researcher based in New England, I'm not familiar with most of these sources. It's been a good learning experience to follow up--especially considering that I hope to discover other Scots-Irish ancestors from my husband's family tree in some of these sources!

Scots-Irish Links by David Dobson is available as a two-volume set or individually priced. See the Genealogical Publishing website for more information about contents and pricing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Elusive Ancestors Hiding in the 1950 US Census

The positives: I've had very good success finding many ancestors in the recently released 1950 US Census. 

The negatives: Some folks remain stubbornly elusive. 

No 1950ish address

The top reason I haven't found a particular ancestor is because I have no 1950ish address. Even if I have a 1940s address, some of these people moved frequently.  Remember, it was a time of great mobility in America and there was also an acute housing shortage in many regions.

Where's wounded WWI vet Frank Maurice Jacobs (1896-1974), my 1c2r? I'd hoped he was still living in the residential Hotel Tudor in New York City, which was his 1942 address while working in the advertising industry. Nope, he didn't show up when I browsed the many dozens of pages for that Enumeration District. With no 1950 address, he could be anywhere in Manhattan (or possibly an outer borough, although I doubt it). When full indexing is complete for New York, I'll do a deep search for him by given name, middle initial, and birthplace, with possibly other search twists.

No longer living on own

Another reason I haven't found an older ancestor is because he or she moved into a retirement home or was living with an adult child whose address I don't yet know.

This might very well be the case with hubby's great aunt Nellie (Rachel Ellen) Wood Kirby (1864-1954), who has been elusive, as I wrote a few days ago. In the 1940 Census, Nellie was in a Chicago apartment. When she died in 1954, she was in a nursing home. I've browsed the Census for both Enumeration Districts and she turned up in neither place. She's on the back burner until full indexing for Illinois is ready and I can search by name and birthplace and/or other search parameters.

Wood, Smith: common names

Let's face it: Wood, my husband's surname, isn't exactly unique. His uncle John A. Wood (1908-1980) is a tough case, since I don't yet have a clue which state, let alone which county, he might have been in. I know his 1951 address when he got married--but he wasn't there in 1950 when I looked! He's on the back burner until full indexing for Indiana and nearby states has been completed. Then I can search for him with his middle initial and birthplace and/or other search parameters.

Similarly, my great aunt Sarah Mahler married a man named Sam Smith and they moved to California during the 1940s. Sam never used a middle initial. When full indexing is ready, I'll search for a household with Sam, Sarah, and one of their children, or use some other creative strategy--they can run but they can't hide. 

Searching by name, initial, birthplace, and/or other fields (like age) might turn my negatives into more positive results!

PS: Try searching state, county, surname on NARA IF not a big city

Before the Census is fully indexed for all states by those big genealogy sites, try searching state, county, and surname on the US National Archives 1950 Census page. That's only if your target ancestor was NOT in a big city.

I wanted to find my hubby's grandfather Brice L. McClure, who wasn't where the family remembered him living in 1950. After a variety of searches that went nowhere, I tried looking where he and his late wife had lived when she died in 1948--in a town in Wyandot county, Ohio. 

Success! He was living in that very same house, about to sell it and move out of the county. But not yet. So even before the big genealogy sites finish indexing bit states, try the NARA site because its indexing is fair enough to find someone, even with creative spelling.

"Negatives" - Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors theme for week 16.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Happy Easter Photo from 1913


Alas, I never met my late mom-in-law, Marian Jane McClure Wood (1909-1983). She was the beloved only child of Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970) and Floyda Mabel Steiner McClure (1878-1948). 

Here she is, all dolled up for Easter, in a 1913 photo that I've colorized using My Heritage's photo enhancement tools. What an adorable face (made clearer by My Heritage)! 

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Penny Postcards from Easter of 1914


In April of 1914, my hubby's uncle Wallis W. Wood (1905-1957) received two colorful Easter postcards. 

He lived in Cleveland, Ohio and received penny postal greetings for every conceivable holiday, sent by his Wood and Slatter relatives.

Shown at left is the postcard from his aunt, "Nellie" Wood Kirby (1864-1954) and her husband, Arthur Kirby (1860-1939). 

Nellie was an older sister of Wallis's father, James Edgar Wood (1871-1939).


Although I've tried to find Nellie in the 1950 US Census, I haven't yet succeeded. I checked the 1949 Chicago directory (online for free at the Library of Congress) and didn't see her name listed under Kirby. 

Nellie was living in a nursing home when she died, and I haven't found her there in the 1950 Census, nor at the address where she lived in 1945, according to the city directory. I'll keep looking!

Here's a pretty postcard sent to Wallis by his aunt Ada Mary Ann Slatter Baker (1868-1947), who lived in Toledo, Ohio when she mailed this card.

By 1920, Ada and her husband, James Sills Baker (1866-1937) were living in Cleveland and most likely visited with Wallis and his family quite often.

Ada was the older sister of Wallis's mother, Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925). 

Now 108 years later, these postcards live on in the Wood family's collection!

Friday, April 15, 2022

Honor Roll Project: WWI Memorial in Oxford, CT


One hundred and five years after the United States entered World War I to fight on the side of the Allies, I visited the war memorial in Oxford, Connecticut, to photograph and transcribe the names for Heather Wilkinson Rojo's Honor Roll Project. This honors their service and makes the names searchable for descendants.

Mounted on a boulder and visible from a winding state road, the memorial says:

Erected in honor of those from Oxford who served their country
in the World War, 1917-1919

Albert E. Arnold 

Maurice C. Barry

Carl Benson 

Frank W. Carlson 

Ole S. Christensen 

Albert G. Dahinden 

Ralph E. Davis 

Thomas F. Derry 

Alfred S. Donahue 

Henry D. Field 

Albert H. Graf 

Albert G. Hansen 

William R. Houlihan 

Reid P. Hubbell 

Frederick Knapp 

Maurice Levy 

Samuel Levy 

Arthur Lundin 

Frank D. Marshall 

*Thomas Marshall 

Clarence McConnie 

Walter J. Mitchell 

Albert J. Mitchell 

*Homer Olmsted 

Edgar C. Palmer 

Frederick W. Pfeiffer 

Clarence F. Roberts 

Herbert Roberts 

Ben Salvesen 

Chauncey B. Sanford 

Clifford H. Smith 

Herman Sonnenstuhl 

August J. Tilquist 

Frank Trevelin 

John H. Townsend 

James F. Townsend 

Edward N. Williams

* = Lost their lives in World War I

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Add a Transcription to Improve NARA's 1950 Census Index

Waiting for the big genealogy sites to index the entire 1950 US Census, I've been using the US National Archives site to locate my ancestors in that Census. Thankfully, NARA released a preliminary name index along with the images of the Census sheets, allowing for both name search and browsing. 

I've been most successful in locating ancestors when I try my search by inputting the state, county, Enumeration District, and surname of head of household.

Searching for Carrie

Above, results of my search for hubby's great aunt in ED 88-26 of Wyandot County, Ohio. Her name was Carrie E. Traxler. My search was for Traxler Carrie because the automated systems transcribed what they "read" on each line, and head of household was listed Surname Given

NARA's system can match on creative spelling, and the first result was the ancestor I wanted--even though the transcription wasn't perfect. Her name was NOT Traller Carriee, as the system read the enumerator's handwriting. But it's close!

Adding a transcription

NARA welcomes the public's assistance in adding correct transcriptions. It will accept both transcriptions that correct what the automated system says AND transcriptions that correct what the enumerator wrote. Note that this will not alter the actual Census in any way. It will improve the search system so others can find ancestors on the NARA 1950 Census site.

After I made a note of the line number where my husband's great aunt appears, here's how I added a transcription to correct her name as transcribed by the automated system.

First, I clicked the button to "Help Us Transcribe Names" and entered my email. NARA sent me a six-digit verification code, which I entered so I could begin my transcription. 

Next, I used the NARA drop-down menu to indicate line number...which took me to a blank of the screen shown above. I typed "Traxler" for last name, "Carrie" for first name, and "E" for middle name--all of which are shown in cursive handwriting on the Census form, but not accurately read by the automated system.

Other family members with same surname in same HH?

After submitting a transcription, NARA said thank you and invited me to "Add a transcription to the next line."

If Carrie Traxler's household included a husband or child or anyone with same surname directly below her name, I would click to add their surname.

This is a key step for families that share a surname and were enumerated in the same household. I didn't do it for Carrie, but I did do it for many other ancestors who had folks with same surname in that HH. 

Otherwise, the search system can't find these people by their full names. Remember, they would have been enumerated with a dash for surname, followed by a given name. My transcription replaces the dash with the actual surname.

"How do you spell that?" is the #52Ancestors prompt by Amy Johnson Crow for week #15.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

1950 US Census: Check Out Family Members in NARA's Index


Oh, I'm doing the genealogy happy dance! I've been finding lots of ancestors in the 1950 US Census on the US National Archives site. 

The index isn't perfect, but it works surprisingly well. Do check it out!

At a minimum, search by city and state, then enter the head of household's name in this order: Surname Given. 

Ideally, first input city, state, and Enumeration District, let the ED load, and then enter the HH head's name.

In 90% of my searches, the NARA results show me the exact page where my ancestor has been enumerated. 

If not, I then look carefully at the index summary for the top result before moving on. 

Shown above are the extracted names for a Census page in Jackson, Michigan. My search was for Farkas Fred (Surname, Given).

Two names are in bold in this search result. The first is FREDE (not my guy). The second is FARKAS. But wait, who's this Arthur Farkas? Um...

Before I rejected this result, I checked out the names of other people in that household and hooray! This is the correct family. It was recorded on a call-back sheet (meaning the family wasn't home when enumerator originally visited) and all the other names in the household are correct, as is the occupation of the head of household. 

My guess: neighbors supplied as much information as they could remember. They just didn't remember this ancestor's first name correctly. Everything else matches. Did I learn anything new? Well, the address was different from what I expected. And my search technique turned up the ancestors I wanted to locate. All I had to do was check it out thoroughly before moving to the next result.

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

Monday, April 4, 2022

1950 US Census: Read the Notes!


Enumerators sometimes wrote notes on the 1950 US Census. The notes section may be near top, middle, or bottom of the page, depending on which version of the questionnaire was being used.

In most cases, the notes mentioned where a missing resident might be enumerated elsewhere in that ED (sheet number, line number). At least two of my ancestors, living in big city apartments, weren't home on the first call--and were never actually interviewed. The notes said something like "Superintendent provided information after 4 calls." 

Enumerators occasionally noted that they had left income forms for residents to fill out and return confidentially. Others noted the presence of more than one apartment at a dwelling or the fact that an address was a vacant dwelling.

You just never know what little details you'll learn if you read the notes! Some interesting notes I've found so far:

  • "Line 26--Person just arrived from Canada. Sister-in-law supplied information and couldn't tell former occupation."
  • "Lines 6-8 - Respondent vague on answers--couldn't remember ages."
  • "Line __, serial no. 80. Rent of $40.00 is out of reason, about $15.00 should be right."
  • "I left [Census] line for a locked gate and then I got information from neighbors."
  • "Person is in reserve Navy."
  • "Information given by daughter staying there while parents are away."
  • "Line 1 is a female even though name is William T."
  • "On vacation, don't know when she will be home."
I'm delighted to participate in this month's Genealogy Blog Party by going back to the 1950s!

Sunday, April 3, 2022

1950 US Census: What Works?

Trying to find my ancestors in the 1950 US Census, I settled on a number of techniques that work well.

  • For best results, locate the ancestor's Enumeration District. Don't know the ED but have an address? Use Ancestry's 1950 Census District Finder tool (link is on the home page). It's the fastest way to transform a street address into an ED. It also takes you to the ED maps in case you want to look for landmarks. Read Ancestry's explanation here.
  • Using NARA's search interface, enter the location (state/county). Then add the ED. Read the description of the ED. In example above, I'm showing ED 60-36 for Maury County, TN. The ED description matches where I wanted to search.
  • Add head of house as surname given name. In example above, this would be Hanes Bernard (his name is Bernard Hanes, but listing in Census is by surname first).
  • This should narrow your search to a single ED and the correct page, as shown at top. Even though the automated indexing didn't correctly transcribe the given name, it did make the find for me.
What if this doesn't work? Remove the name and only search for the ED. Then browse the ED, page by page, to find your ancestor. I had to do this in more than one instance, but having the correct ED meant I browsed perhaps a dozen pages in.

Why isn't my ancestor shown in the right place?

Lots of people weren't home when the enumerator visited. April 1st was a Saturday in 1950 and some folks were out! 

If the person wasn't home, the enumerator would usually note on that address line, sending you to "sheet 71, line 3" or something similar to find the person who would ordinarily be at that address. Always check pages at the end of the ED. 

Starting with sheet 71, enumerators listed people who they interviewed on a subsequent visit. I've seen as many as 10 additional pages for callbacks in a single large ED.  Check the end of every ED if you don't find your ancestor where expected.

Download the page

Download the Census page showing your ancestor so you can study it further and even upload to your family tree. To do this, look at top right corner of the image of that page in the ED (see above example). Click on the three vertical dots and then click on the word download. 

Once the page downloads, rename that page so you know what it is. In this case, I named the file Hanes_Bernard_1950Census.jpg. Then I put it into a dedicated 1950 US Census folder on my desktop. Later, I'll copy it into my "Hanes" genealogy folder and upload it to my various family trees.

Happy hunting! I'm still looking for more ancestors and then will widen my search for FAN club members. 

PS: Here's what blogger Amanda Pape suggests: "If the ED that Ancestry's 1950 Census District Finder tool turns out to be the wrong ED (and that has happened to me a lot, particularly in large cities like Houston and Chicago), then use the Steve Morse tools (that you've blogged about before). I've also had some luck, when the Ancestry ED is wrong, just searching by state, county (or city/county), and just the surname (if unique enough) or the HOH surname & first name combo. I'll usually try that first before moving on to Steve Morse."