When "Late" Doesn't Mean Dead

When "Late" Doesn't Mean Dead

I introduced you to Ignatius Grantham in Playing Hide and Seek with Records from Burned Counties. Ignatius was a very interesting man so I did a followup post, Ignatius Grantham and the Land Entry Files. I want to go back to Ignatius and Catherine's 1825 divorce one last time because there is a term that was used in one of the documents that might confuse a researcher. 

“To the Sheriff of Hancock — County Greeting 
We Command you, that of the goods and chattels Lands
and Tenements of Wm C. Seaman for Catherine Grantham —
late of your county…” 
[emphasis mine]

late of your county sounds like Catherine is dead, especially since someone else, William Seaman, is acting on her behalf. In this case “late of your county” simply means that she used to live in Hancock County, Mississippi but no longer resides there.

Appellate court document
(click image to enlarge)

Mississippi High Court of Errors and Appeals, Drawer no. 65, Case no. 15, Catherine Grantham vs. Ignatius Grantham, 21 February 1825; Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson. 

When analyzing your own records be sure to check for words that might have multiple or historical meanings and then make sure you choose the correct contextual meaning. It could mean all the difference in how you interpret a document!

What kind of double meaning words have you come across in your research?

 

Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.

 


Midwestern State Censuses Provide Critical Information

Midwestern State Censuses Provide Critical Information

Often times, census records are a way in which a genealogist paints a virtual picture of a family unit over time. Federal censuses in the U.S. are taken every ten years and a lot can happen to a family in ten years. Deaths, births, divorce, and moves are just the tip of the iceberg. Follow along with me as I share how accessing state censuses across the Midwest provided critical information to answer what happened to the Lockwood family.

The Lockwood Family in the Federal Censuses

I first found Lewis Lockwood and Sabrina Robinson as the parents of Frank Ren Lockwood (born circa 1858) on a family group sheet passed down to me. According to the vague information, the family was from New York and consisted of three children, Lewellen, Fanny, and Frank. The story attached to the family group sheet indicated Lewis was a traveling clergyman and had moved the family from New York to Iowa. Sabrina had died and the children ended up living with family members. Further, only vital information for Frank was indicated on the family group sheet.

I quickly found who I thought was the “right” family in the 1860 U.S. Federal Census for Chicksaw County, Iowa. But there was a problem right out of the gate. Frank, his siblings, and his mother Sabrina all matched. But the head of household was Benjamin…not Lewis. Ironically, this Benjamin was a clergyman. Was this the right family?

BenjaminLockwood_BlogImage1
1860 US Census, Fredricksburg, Chickasaw, Iowa, population schedule, page 77, dwelling 653, family 565, Benjamin Lockwood; digital image, MyHeritage (www.myheritage.com : accessed 1 Nov 2017); citing NARA publication M653.

You’ll have to take my word for it, but yes, this was the right family. I continued my search in the 1870, 1880, and 1900 censuses to find the family again, but was never able to locate them. This 1860 census was the one-and-only federal census where the family appeared together. By 1870, the parents and Lewellen were nowhere to be found and Frank and Fanny were living in different homes just as was passed down in family tradition.

I was left with more questions than answers. Was their father’s name actually Benjamin? What happened to the father and mother? What happened to Lewellen? By using only federal census records, I could have never answered these questions, but by using state censuses, I was able to piece their story together.

Using State Censuses

Iowa took several state censuses. Some only listed the heads-of-household, but others named each person in the residence and asked each enumerated person who their parents were. Yes, you read that right! In 1925, the Iowa State Census asked every person who their parents were, including their mother’s maiden name.

I knew Frank grew up and lived out his life in Linn County, Iowa. I hoped he would appear in the 1925 state census and record his parents by name. That would answer my question about the father being named Benjamin or Lewis. I did a search for him in the 1925 Iowa State census. He was in Linn County and listed his parents as Lewis Lockwood and Sabrina Robinson. Just for fun, I decided to search for any person who had parents named Lewis Lockwood and Sabrina Robinson.

I found three! Frank, Llewellyn [Lewellen], and Louisa. At first, I thought Louisa might be Fanny found in the 1860 census. This Louisa was living in the home of Lewellen and marked as his sister. But, Louisa was born in about 1862 and could not have been Fanny. Not only had I learned Lewellen had lived, but this Louisa was a missing member of the family I didn’t even know existed!

Lockwood_BlogImage2
1925 Iowa State Census, Waverly, Bremer, Iowa, population schedule, house number 31, line 82 and 83, Louisa Lockwood; digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 Nov 2017); citing Microfilm of Iowa State Censuses, 1856, 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, 1925 as well various special censuses from 1836-1897 obtained from the State Historical Society of Iowa via Heritage Quest.

So, what happened to Fanny? I had last seen her in Linn County, Iowa in 1870. I found she had married and moved to Wisconsin. She appeared with her husband, Richard, and children in the 1900 U.S. census for Juneau County, Wisconsin, but by 1910 her little family was dispersed over several counties and residences and Richard was in Dane County listed as a widow.

Thankfully, Wisconsin also took state censuses. I found Fanny’s husband Richard Dearholt marked as a widow in the 1905 Wisconsin State Census. Though I have been unable to find Fanny’s exact death date as of yet, I have narrowed it down to between 1900 and 1905 and likely in Juneau County, Wisconsin.

The Conclusion

I have never been able to learn why Lewis was recorded as 'Benjamin' in the 1860 US Census. Further research indicated his given name was Lewis Rema Lockwood of Greene County, New York. Perhaps it was a clerical error on the part of the census taker...I guess we'll never know.

Having found Lewellen, Fanny, Frank, and Louisa in state censuses of Iowa and Wisconsin helped me to continue to follow them to their deaths. Without state censuses as a part of my research plan, I would have missed critical information. It was a lesson well learned. When available, state census records can fill in the missing decade and provide answers to your genealogy questions.

Learn more about census records from Amie's webinars in the Legacy library!

 

Amie Bowser Tennant has been passionate about genealogy and family history for the last 17 years. She was awarded the NGS Home Study Scholarship in 2011 and is currently "on the clock" for national certification. She has been very involved in the genealogical community over the years as she served as Recording Secretary for Miami County Historical and Genealogical Society [Miami, Ohio]; newsletter editor for Miami Meanderings; Lead Content Specialist at RootsBid.com; and a content creator for Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems. Today, Amie is The Genealogy Reporter teaching and reporting in the field of genealogy. Follow her blog at www.TheGenealogyReporter.com.


Interested in Becoming a Certified Genealogist?

Interested in Becoming a Certified Genealogist?

Many researchers ask the question, "How can I get certified?" Here is my short list of what you need to do to prepare yourself for certification through the Board for Certification of Genealogists. You will be submitting a portfolio of work which will be evaluated by three (or four) judges. 

  • Read The BCG Application Guide
    Everything you need to know about the process as well as what is required for the portfolio is in this free publication. You need to understand exactly what is required for each component. If you don’t follow the directions you will get seriously dinged, possibly to the point of instant failure.
  • Compare each section of your portfolio to the BCG Rubrics
    The Judges use the BCG rubrics to evaluate your portfolio so you need to make sure your portfolio passes each rubric before you submit it.  You are lucky to have the rubrics up front.
  • Pay attention to the Standards listed in each Rubric
    The BCG has listed each standard that applies to that rubric which you can look up in the Genealogy Standards manual.  This book is essential. When you look up the standard you will see expanded information. You should be familiar with ALL of the standards in this book but pay special attention to the ones listed in the rubrics.
  • Take advantage of the helps the BCG offers
    Visit BCG's Preparing for Certification page and Learning Center. You can follow the BCG News blog to keep up to date with the latest happenings. All applicants are automatically subscribed to OnBoard when they submit their preliminary application

    The BCG now contracts with Legacy Family Tree Webinars to host the BCG Webinars Series. You can register for these ahead of time and they are free to watch live and for 7 days after they have been archived. After that you will need a webinar subscription to view them. A benefit of having a webinar subscription is that you can go back and watch any of the webinars whenever you want and you will have access to the syllabuses. 
  • Read Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG
    The first two chapters are crucial to understand the why and how of citing your sources.
  • Be aware that no one can give you specific help/advice on your projects nor can anyone proofread your work 
    There is a special mailing list for those that are “on the clock” and you can get answers to procedural type questions there. As far as the portfolio work itself, you are on your own. No one can proofread your work before you submit it. You also can’t use any material that has been previously peer-reviewed such as a ProGen assignment. 
  • Proofreading is still important though
    When you are ready to submit your portfolio, set it aside for at least 24 hours (a week would be better) and then proofread it for the last time. I recommend reading it out loud. You are apt to catch something that you didn’t see before because when you read something over and over again you tend to skim. Grammar and punctuation are important as are good editing skills. More words doesn’t mean it’s a better report. Once you have done your final read through don’t start second guessing yourself and try to go back and “fix” things. There comes a point when you just need to let it go.

The BCG allows up to a year to complete your portfolio but they do allow you to extend if need be and many people do (I did). The certification process itself is a wonderful learning experience. 

 

Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.


The Online Trap

The Online Trap by Michele Lewis

Don't get caught in the trap of believing all the records you need are online.

David Ouimette, CG, FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, was able to provide the following information:

"FamilySearch is currently focused on publishing top-tier records as prioritized for each country. For most western nations, that translates to civil registration, church parish registers, census population schedules, and other related records we would all seek for first. There's also the matter of timeframe, as we might not target records too recent to access per existing privacy laws.

We estimate that FamilySearch has published over 7% of these record images (scoped for the top 80 countries and accessible time periods) in FamilySearch Historical Records, with many more (perhaps up to 15%) in the FamilySearch Catalog. This doesn't quite translate to a global statistic as some countries with massive population don't fit in the top 80."

And this is only the top-tier records and not every available record. There are other online repositories with additional records but the sum total of these records will not add a lot to the overall percentage when looking at the same groups of top-tier records. Since the concentration is on this top tier, there are records that are down the priority list that haven't been digitized and won't be for a long time.

I want you to think about that for a minute. Do you have a brick wall that you can’t break through? Maybe this is the reason. Online records are great and I love being able to sit back in my office and go click click click with my mouse but I also do old fashioned research at courthouses, archives, and libraries. I guess it might be easier for me because when I started out in 1991 I didn’t own a computer. It didn’t matter because there weren't any genealogical holdings online at that time. 100% of my research was done onsite, by telephone, or by snail mail. Some genealogists just starting out don’t know that there is whole 'nother world of records out there. I get many emails from people telling me they can’t find so and so and I ask them, "Did you check ___________?" Many times the thought hadn't even crossed their mind.

The trick is knowing what records are available for that specific location and time period and then knowing how to access them. There are many resources that can help you with this. Here are a just few books to give you an idea of the type of reference material out there that can guide you.

Breland, Claudia. Searching for Your Ancestors in Historic Newspapers. Gig Harbor, Wash.: Claudia Breland, 2014.

Darrow, Carol Cooke and Susan Winchester. The Genealogist's Guide to Researching Tax Records. Westminster, Md.: Heritage Books, 2007.

Eales, Anne Bruner and Robert M. Kvasnicka, editors. Genealogical Research in the National Archives of the United States. Third edition. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2000.

Eichholz, Alice, editor. RedBook: American State, County, and Town Sources. Third edition. Provo, Utah: 2004.

Hinckley, Kathleen W. Your Guide to the Federal Census for Genealogists, Researchers, and Family Historians. Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 2002.

Hone, E. Wade. Land and Property Research in the United States. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry Incorporated, 1997.

Meyerink, Kory L., editor. Printed Sources, A Guide to Published Genealogical Records. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry Incorporated, 1998.

Neagles, James C. U.S. Military Records: A Guide to Federal & State Sources, Colonial America to the Present. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry, 1998.

Rose, Christine. Courthouse Research for Family Historians, Your Guide to Genealogical Treasure. San Jose, Calif.: CR Publications, 2004.

Szuc, Loretto Dennis and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, editors. The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy. Third edition. Provo, Utah: Ancestry Publishing, 2006.

The Handybook for Genealogists. Tenth edition. Draper, Utah: Everton Publishers, 2002.

Another great resource is the FamilySearch Wiki. This is the first thing I check when I am working in an unfamiliar country, state, county, town, or record group. 

I talk to people all the time who are nervous about reaching out and making contact with repositories because they have never done so and don't know what the proper procedures/protocols are. There is no reason to feel this way. The telephone is your best tool. All you have to do is call them and tell them what you are looking for and they will tell you if they have what you need and what the procedure is to get it.

For example, let's say I have someone that I am pretty sure married in Marion County, Mississippi in about 1850. I have checked online and I can't find a marriage record for this couple. I would then call the Marion County Circuit Court (number found online) and ask them about the marriage record. They put me on hold for a few minutes while they go check their marriage books. They come back on the line and tell me that they have the record.  It will cost me fifty cents and I will need to send a self-addressed, stamped envelope. The clerk then gives me the mailing address and also provides me with the book and page number so that I can put that in my formal request letter to make it easier for them. Done.

Of course not all contacts with repositories will be this straightforward. There are some courthouses that are not this friendly or cooperative. You will learn which ones these are. A formal snail mail request might loosen them up a bit. Worst case scenario is that you might have to hire a local researcher to make a personal appearance to retrieve what you need. Most of the state archives require that you fill out a special form which are available online. You can still call them for more information though. Calling libraries that have genealogical holding is usually very fruitful. It is the nature of libraries and librarians to be helpful. 

One last piece of advice. Keep track of every effort and every contact you make when looking for records (research log). The last thing you want to do is duplicate your efforts because you don't remember that you already contacted a certain repository about that record and they have already told you that they don't have it. Your log will also let you know if it has been too long without a response which will alert you that it is time for a followup.

 

 

Michele Simmons Lewis, CG is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News.  You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.

Certified Genealogist is a registered trademark and the designation CG is a service mark of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by Board certificants who meet competency standards.


Starting Your Italian Research Journey

Starting Your Italian Research Journey

I won't pretend researching Italian and Sicilian ancestry is easy. It isn't, but if you do your ground work in much the same way as you build a house, from solid foundations you will be off to a good start.

So here are a few top tips to consider:

  • You will need to know the exact town your Italian or Sicilian ancestors came from
  • Track those with the same surname or those that hail from the same place.
  • Remember, in Italy women use their maiden name.
  • Understand the history, economic, political and social aspects of researching in Italy & Sicily
  • Understand the part that religion plays in the lives of your Italian ancestors
  • Explore whether your place has been the focus of a thesis or other work.
  • Become familiar with naming patterns - it is not fool proof but might help!

Before you start researching in earnest start reading and discovering the country; read books about the history and culture, explore the religious festivals. By doing these things you are building your research foundations. You are exploring your ancestor's country, their religion and what was important to them.

You probably know or have an idea of when your family entered the United States. Perhaps you have searched passenger lists but cannot find them. Here are a few more considerations:

  • Did they enter through Canada and travel down into the United States?
  • Look at the surname, is that the surname that left the homeland with? Yes, on occasions names changed in the new country. Play with the name. The sister of my grandmother, Rosanna Licata entered the US under her maiden name, despite being married to Giralomo Mancarella who was often recorded as Mangarella or Mancarelli. Explore the possibilities and record your positive and negative results.
  • Perhaps the passenger list has your ancestor but the place of residence is simply recorded as Italy. What now? Look at others on the vessel. Whilst it is not absolute, it was common for people to travel together from a town rather than travel alone. Perhaps there was a migration scheme and a number of people from the same town went together.
  • Once you have found them on the passenger list look to see who the person was they named as a contact. They are probably a relative or a friend of another relative. Remember Italians are all about family!

D7FB2F90-1E3A-4BEE-BB1C-1B47FC8B0A41image courtesy of Julie Goucher

If you read the post Pathway to My Sicilian Heritage you will see that I mention the place my family hailed from, a small place called Sutera in Caltanissetta. Sutera is a rural community which meant the pool of people that an individual could marry was pretty small. What I found is that the same surnames kept popping up as individuals married and upon researching further I would discover the same surnames appearing in my research. Ironically my maternal line does something very similar in England!  Marrying family members or marrying into the family of in laws meant that what assets there were could be retained within an extended family group. 

Over a decade ago I discovered that Sutera had been the focus of a thesis by an academic in the United States. I ordered the book and eventually it arrived. I also contacted the author and asked her for any insights and did she have any material that had not made it into the published works. She did and since then we have corresponded several times. Explore that possibility. While Sutera is not large, it has been included in a number of books. Explore every possibility.

The biggest challenge is the language unless of course you are fluent. I find researching my Sicilian ancestry takes me three times as long as my English research, but I also yield more information from records. FamilySearch has done a sterling job of getting records online, for some I cannot see the actual record, but a transcription. I can then search for the record on other sites and read it, using the established transcription as a way of checking and double checking my reading.  I have been reasonably lucky and between three sites I can often research and fill in the gaps.  

Important sites for Italian and Sicilian research include:

  • FamilySearch - and there is also some great material in the learning center.
  • Ancestry - this is linked to the Italia site, but I find also searching the complete Ancestry suite of sites especially helpful. I located a Licata relative in the US before I had actually any proof he had migrated because I searched by removing the surname completely and inserting Sutera. The relative was located because I specified Sutera, he was actually recorded as a Licala. 
  • Ancestors - Archives for Master Search - this is an amazing site and has material from 51 Italian state archives. It has many of the records that are on FamilySearch for Caltanissetta. 

Reach out to others that are either researching the same names or the same places or both. You never know where an email conversation will take you. Also consider a DNA test. Does a project exist? While surname DNA projects only exist at FamilyTree DNA (FTDNA) explore your options. Upload the results to Gedmatch. Italians are not especially interested in DNA, so it is not going to be a quick win, but test, because you never know!

Look for a naturalisation record. Sometimes they can be a font of information. The naturalisation record for Giralomo Mancarella confirmed that his wife, Rosanna died in New York in 1922, despite Rosanna death being recorded in Sutera. From that information I was able to send for her death certificate.

Here are a few of my favourite resources:

Good luck getting started!

Learn more about your European ancestors in the webinar Tracing Your European Ancestors.

 

Julie is the writer and developer of the successful "Book of Me, Written by You" program, which has been popular as a series of workshops delivered to both professionals and historians, in addition to undertaking research for some clients. Julie's book Tracing your European Ancestors is to be published in 2016 by Pen and Sword Books. When Julie is not working or researching her own ancestry she can be found reading, exploring the many National trust properties within the South of England or writing at her blog – Anglers Rest.

© Julie Goucher 2017


Ignatius Grantham and the Land Entry Files

Ignatius Grantham and the Land Entry Files

I told you a little bit about Ignatius Grantham in "Playing Hide and Seek with Records from Burned Counties." Since Ignatius was a cad I of course wanted to know more about him. On 08 January 1820 he claimed 401.72 acres in Jackson County, Mississippi. The Pascagoula River runs right through the middle so this was prime real estate. Ignatius didn’t hang on to it though. He assigned it to John Williams on 18 February 1820 and then Williams turned around and assigned it to Robert Carr Lane on 20 February 1820. Here is a map:

Ignatius Grantham's land
(click image to enlarge)

Screenshot taken from the Bureau of Land Management’s online Plat
Image files, Section 2, Township 4S, Range 7W, St. Stephens

I ordered  the land entry file from the National Archives and it is 47 pages long.[1] Over the years this piece of land had some title issues. Apparently after it was assigned the patent was never filed so it looked like Ignatius still owned it. What is interesting was a “motion for decree pro confesso” filed 11 August 1902 in the case of R. Roberts vs. Ignatius Grantham et als. [sic]. I had to look that up (thank you Black’s Law Dictionary). It means the defendant (Ignatius Grantham) had not answered the complaint so the court treated it as though he confessed to the charges. In that motion it states,

“That said Ignatus [sic] Grantham cannot be found in the State of Mississippi after diligent inquiry and complainant does not know and cannot ascertain or diligent inquiry of Ignatus Grantham is alive or dead, and if he left any heirs.”

This is kind of funny because in 1902 Ignatius would have been about 113 years old. I guess it was a legal thing that they had to do and they did mention possible heirs. 

This little tidbit was in the file too.  Talk about a seriously burned county! I knew about the fire in 1875 but I didn’t know it had burned two times prior to that.

Jackson Co burns multiple times
(click image to enlarge)


The moral of the story is, if you find a patent or warrant on the Bureau of Land Management’s website you need to order the land entry file to get the “rest of the story.” I will tell you that it is cheaper and faster if you have a local researcher pull the records for you at the National Archives than it is to order the records directly from them.

[1] Survey of 23 October 1827, Ignatius Grantham claim, Mississippi no, 135; Private Land Claim Files, 1789-1908; Record Group 49; Records of the Bureau of Land Management; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

 


What is Soundex and how it is still being used

Newcomers to genealogy are sometimes confused by the word soundex. Whereas those who have been researching for decades have likely memorized the soundex codes for each of their favorite ancestors' surnames. With the advent of every-name census indexes, soundex has been somewhat left behind.

A to Zax: A Comprehensive Dictionary for Genealogists & Historians by Barbara Jean Evans, defines soundex as:

A system of indexing surnames that sound alike. Consonants have certain values, vowels are ignored. The first letter of the name and three digits are used, e.g. Evans = E152. This system is used to index the 1880, 1900 and 1910 censuses and some states use the soundex code on drivers' licenses.

Now doesn't that sound exciting??? Evans is right - to be able to search the census records, we used to have to translate our ancestors' surnames into a soundex code. Manuals were written about how to do this.

Here are some coding rules:

1 - B P F V 
2 - C S K G J Q X Z
3 - D T
4 - L
5 - M N
6 - R

Do not code A, E, I, O, U, W, Y, and H.

Note that surname prefixes such as van, Von, Di, de, le, D', dela, or du are sometimesdisregarded in alphabetizing and in coding.

. . . many other little rules

Confused? You don't need to be. Computers have made this easier - even Legacy Family Tree has a built-in soundex code calculator.

So do we still use Soundex codes?

Not as much as we used to, but still - passenger lists, vital record indexes, and other record groups are still indexed/sorted by soundex code. For example, the Washington state death indexes are arranged this way. To search for my BROWN relatives, I need to know that B-650 is the right code, because all the Browns, and possibly even other surnames are grouped/indexed together.

Calculating this code is easy in Legacy:

  1. Click on the Tools tab.
  2. Click on Soundex Calculator.
  3. Type in the desired surname, and click Calculate Soundex Code.

Soundex

Locating other surnames with the same soundex code

Perhaps you are researching the Brown surname. Throughout your research, you've found and recorded several variants for the surname. Remembering all the variants is hard to do all the time. Legacy's Search Name List button on the Soundex Calculator will search all the surnames in your family file and give you a list of those surnames that also have the same soundex code as B-650.

Online databases

Even search engines at the big genealogy sites recognize the value of searching for similarly-sounding names.

MyHeritage

At www.myheritage.com/research, click on the Advanced Search link and then click on the Match Similar Names option to pull up this menu of choices:

Mh

FindMyPast

At https://search.findmypast.com/search-world-records add a checkmark next to Name Variants:

Fmp

Ancestry

At http://search.ancestry.com click on the "Exact" option below the surname:

Ancestry

FamilySearch

At https://www.familysearch.org/search, leave the checkmark box blank:

Fs

Clearly, each site has its own tools and vary from a checkmark to using the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex. Experiment with each of the settings in your searching and you may be surprised how your ancestors' names were spelled.

 


Pathway to My Sicilian Heritage

Researching my Sicilian heritage feels totally different than my English heritage. It is so much more than taking my heritage back generation after generation. It is about identity, culture, religion and history. Understanding the elements of the lives my ancestors led.

I have often given talks or written about my Sicilian heritage and genealogy and it was recently that I wanted a different image to accompany an article about my Orlando One-Name Study, which is registered with the Guild of One-Name Studies. On Facebook, there had been several genealogical bloggers that had used Scrabble boards to create something for their genealogical surnames. I was intrigued and located my childhood scrabble board.

I started by using the surname of Orlando as that was the key surname of the article. It also is the surname that launches my paternal ancestral research. I then added in the rest of my Sicilian surnames, having a few Scrabble tiles left over I added once again the surname of Orlando and the place where my Sicilian families can be found, linked together by ONS, short for One-Name Study.

Orlando Scrabble Board by Julie Goucher
Image courtesy of Julie Goucher

It was the moment when the Scrabble board was complete, the surnames slotted in and the place of my One-Place Study, Sutera in Sicily was added that something occurred to me. 

These were my people. And they were in this place. I printed out the picture. This Scrabble board for reasons I cannot explain speaks to me. Each of those surnames connects to me and they all focus on a small town in the Caltanissetta region of Sicily. Truly, it is a powerful image and I cannot explain why.

Researching in Italy and Sicily is not for the faint hearted. It is frustrating for a variety of reasons. When I first started the quest into my Sicilian heritage there was no internet. Everything was painstakingly researched at the place the family came from. There was no email. There were letters written with a pen and placed in an envelope with a stamp on. Those letters were perhaps responded to, if the local officials had time and could understand English. The best way was to write in Italian, but even that did not always yield a response.

I live in England and I know a branch of my Orlando family from Sutera migrated to the United States, along with thousands of others who left Italian shores in search of a better life. I examined passenger lists and located my Salvatore Orlando. He left Sutera in 1913, but there had been migrants to the United States from Sutera since the early 1900’s. The passenger lists were filled with surnames from the Scrabble board, Licata, Nola, Magro, Malosso and Orlando.

The quickest way to ensure that I did not revisit those early documents was to extract all the entries that listed Sutera as the place of origin or birth and to extract all Orlando references. Of course, at the time I was undertaking this process for efficiency, but I suddenly realised that I had two distinct and yet overlapping studies; a One-Place Study and a One-Name Study.

Orlando - Goucher - Sutera
Image courtesy of Julie Goucher

I am defined by so much more than the three circles shown here.

Of course, there are some people that were not tracked, simply because the passenger list gave the place of origin as Sicily or Italy.

We are now in the modern genealogical age. The internet has shrunk the world to the size of a matchbox and I am grateful that my research can be attained easier, although there is so much not online. Researching Italian and Sicilian heritage is just as slow, just as problematic but there are things we can do that will enable us to be better family historians with a better understanding of our ancestors. Exploring our ancestors in their time and in their place.

In 2007, I started to explore DNA and organised an Orlando DNA project at FamilyTreeDNA. Whilst the growth of the project has been slow I am pleased that the project exists and just recently I was contacted by someone who shares a match to the Amico family from Sutera with me.

If you have non-Anglo ancestry why not consider looking at your research from the point of view of a surname study or a one place study.  Try to look at the names and places as I did with my Scrabble activity. Find ways to connect with your ancestors. Learn more about the places they came from and you'll be on your way to understanding your heritage and bringing those surnames to life.

Have you researched your non-Anglo ancestors? Share your stories with me in the comments!

Learn more about your European ancestors in the webinar Tracing Your European Ancestors.

 

Julie is the writer and developer of the successful "Book of Me, Written by You" program, which has been popular as a series of workshops delivered to both professionals and historians, in addition to undertaking research for some clients. Julie's book Tracing your European Ancestors is to be published in 2016 by Pen and Sword Books. When Julie is not working or researching her own ancestry she can be found reading, exploring the many National trust properties within the South of England or writing at her blog – Anglers Rest.

© Julie Goucher 2017


Playing Hide and Seek with Records from Burned Counties

Playing Hide and Seek with Records from Burned Counties

If you need to find a marriage record in Jackson County, Mississippi dated 02 November 1828, where do you look?  You look in the Wayne County, Georgia probate records of course!   

Catherine Sheffield married her first husband Ignatius Grantham in Wayne County, Georgia on 09 October 1810.[1] Ignatius was a bit of a scoundrel so Catherine filed for divorce in 1825 in the Marion County, Mississippi Chancery Court.[2] They had been living apart for some time because Ignatius is enumerated by himself in 1820.[3] Of interest is that Catherine’s soon to be second husband William Seaman was listed as her “next friend” in the court papers and acted as her representative.

Back in Wayne County, Georgia, Catherine’s father West Sheffield died leaving behind an informative estate file. Catherine’s now second husband William was getting some serious payouts from the estate and not only is there an affidavit from Catherine Seaman attesting that she is in fact the daughter of West Sheffield there is a marriage record from Jackson County, Mississippi copied into the Wayne County, Georgia book proving that William is Catherine’s husband.[4]

William C. Seaman had married Catherine (Sheffield) Grantham on 02 November 1828 in Jackson County, Mississippi but the Jackson County courthouse in Scranton (now part of Pascagoula) burned in 1875. The papers that were in the safe (deeds and money) were spared but the marriage records were not.[5] If William and Catherine’s marriage record had not been copied into West Sheffield’s estate papers there would have been no record of it.

Seamon-Grantham marriage 1828
(click image to enlarge)

Here is another example of finding records from a burned county in an odd place. On 8 November 1851, Silas Simmons applied for bounty land based on his service in the War of 1812.[6]  In the bounty land file there were Perry County, Mississippi court documents dated 01 November 1851, 24 January 1853, 18 April 1855 and 31 January 1856. Silas and a few witnesses had to appear in court to prove that he was in fact the same Silas Simmons that fought in the 10&20 Consolidated Louisiana Militia before he could be awarded his bounty land warrant. Silas also assigned (sold) his warrant to someone else and then applied for another 40 acres. So what is so special about all of this? The Perry County Courthouse burned on 14 November 1877 with a complete records loss.[7]  These court documents shouldn’t even exist. If I had merely looked at the land records on the Bureau of Land Management website and not ordered the actual bounty land file I would have never discovered this.  I have included one of the documents below.

Silas Simmons affidavit 1855
(click image to enlarge)

 

If you have ancestors that lived in burned counties be sure to check for documents in all the places that your ancestor lived. And don't forget to order the original documents instead of relying on the digitized records.

What amazing finds have you found for your ancestors? Tell us in the comments.


                 [1] Wayne County, Georgia, Marriage Book 1809-1869: 8, Grantham-Sheffield, 1810; Probate Court, Jesup.

                [2] Mississippi High Court of Errors and Appeals, Drawer no. 65, Case no. 15, Catherine Grantham vs. Ignatius Grantham, 21 February 1825; Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson. The case was originally filed in Marion County.

                [3] 1820 U.S. census, Jackson County, Mississippi population schedule, p. 45 (penned), line 15, Ignatius Grantham; citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M33, roll 58. 

                [4] "Georgia Probate Records, 1742-1990," digital images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 24 March 2017), West Sheffield estate, 1831-1833, Wayne County Court of Ordinary, Wills & Estates Records 1824-1855, p. 199-205.

                [5] "Burning of the Scranton Court House," New Orleans Times, 02 March 1875, p. 4, col. 4; digital images, GenealogyBank (http://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 24 March 2017). 

                [6] Silas Simmons (Pvt. 10&20 Consolidated Louisiana Militia, War of 1812), bounty land warrant file 64098 (Act of 1855, 40 acres); Military Bounty Land Warrants and Related Papers; Records of the Bureau of Land Management, Record Group 49; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

                [7]  Martha F. Clark, Perry County, Mississippi Clerk of the Circuit Court to Michele Simmons Lewis, e-mail, 10 Jan 2012, “Courthouse Records,” Lewis Research Files; privately held by Lewis, Harlem, Georgia, 2012.

 Michele Simmons Lewis, CG is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News.  You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.

Certified Genealogist is a registered trademark and the designation CG is a service mark of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by Board certificants who meet competency standards.


3 Ways to Get Records from Foreign Archives

3 Ways to Get Records from Foreign Archives

Genealogy research in Central and Eastern Europe has come a long way in the past decade. It used to be that locating a church or civil registration record required much effort and long waiting times. Your options for accessing records were: 1) traveling to perform onsite research in archives, 2) spending a fortune to hire a professional to do the research for you, 3) writing a letter and hoping the registrar’s office or priest would understand and answer your questions or 4) hoping records for your ancestral village were included among those microfilmed by The Genealogical Society of Utah and made available through the Family History Library.

Today, the landscape for researchers has changed, and there are more options for tracking down grandma’s baptismal document or great-grandpa’s Austrian military service record.  Here are three ways to get the records you need from foreign archives.

  1. Start with FamilySearch. FamilySearch.org has a growing collection of church and civil registration records from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and other localities. First, check out the Digital Collections. From the FamilySearch home page, click the magnifying glass labeled Search, then click “Browse All Published Collections.” Choose Continental Europe and scroll to find the country you’re searching for (e.g., Slovakia). You can also type an ancestor’s name in the search boxes on the left-hand side, click on a map for a location, or if you know the name of the specific collection, start typing the first few letters of the name in the Collection title box; matching choices (such as Slovak, Church and Synagogue Books, 1592–1910) will pop up underneath.

    Be sure to read the directions! When you get to the collection’s page, read the description carefully to understand what exactly is included. Click the “Learn More” button to access related FamilySearch Wiki articles on a particular collection or topic. Make sure you sign up for a free FamilySearch account and follow the FamilySearch Blog or subscribe to the FamilySearch newsletter to receive notifications whenever the collections are added or updated.

    In addition, you will want to check the FamilySearch Catalog for microfilms you can view if you plan a visit to the Family History Library, or you can hire a researcher to view them on your behalf (Starting September 1, 2017, FamilySearch will discontinue its microfilm distribution services, which mean you will no longer have the option to order and view films at a Family History Center. Read more about it on the FamilySearch Blog). Start with a Place search to see if there are any church or civil registration records available. Although most localities will turn up this way, not all villages or towns had a church or synagogue for each religion. Often residents would need to travel to the nearest neighboring village. Once you find the location, click to see the microfilm catalog title, and you will be able to determine if the content is digitized and available. On the catalog title, under Format and next to the microfilm number, you will find a magnifying glass icon (indicating the microfilm is at least partially indexed), a camera icon (indicating the microfilm is digitized), and a film icon (indicating you will need to order the film). You can also search the catalog by keyword, subject, or film number (if known).

   FHL-Film-Note

Fenscakcropped
 This cropped muster roll page from the Varannó military district of Hungary, now Vranov, Czechoslovakia,  shows the 1873 entry (second row) for Mihály Fencsák, from Póssa, Slovakia.  Details include parents’ first names, height and chest size, religion, and “weak returned” as the decision of the committee for induction or transfer. The image can be browsed online at FamilySearch.org.

 

  1. Archival Websites. A number of archives have put some of their records online. The Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia, and Latvia, for example.  You can use the FamilySearch Wiki for each country and click the blue "Online Records" button to see a table with a list of online records. You can also use Google, or another search engine to search for an archive, or consult websites for ethnic genealogical societies such as the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International, the Polish Genealogical Society International, East European Genealogical Society, or the Foundation for East European Family History Studies. Once you locate an archival portal, check for an English interface (look for the word “English” or the American flag symbol), and look first for any finding aids or help sections. Some sites require you to set up a free account.
  1. Commercial Websites and Other Online Portals.  Those researching in Western European countries often find good coverage of church and civil registration records on subscription sites such as Findmypast.com or Ancestry.com, as well as other dedicated websites. However, those with Central and Eastern European roots often have to look a bit harder to find these records, but online collections do exist. For example, the JewishGen website has a large collection of databases and resources including the Jewish Records Indexing Poland project, and several Eastern European Special Interest Groups. Those with Czech Roots will want to explore Portafontium. For Polish researchers, the Poznan Projectand Geneteka are good resources. Facebook groups can also be helpful (groups exist for many ethnicities).

Finally, remember that not all records are online—and some areas are not yet included—so in many instances, you’ll still need to consult the FamilySearch Catalog for microfilmed records, contact churches or archives, or consult with a researcher based in that country for hard-to-get records and translation assistance. Professional firms can give you a quote. You can also check with an ethnic genealogical society, or ask for recommendations on social media. But the good news is that getting copies of your ancestor’s records from foreign archives and repositories is not as difficult as it once was 10 or 15 years ago, and more records are being digitized and indexed all the time. You should make it a habit to periodically check FamilySearch, archival sites and other sources for new and updated content.

For more tips on researching your Eastern European Ancestors watch these webinars in the Legacy library.

Lisa A. Alzo, M.F.A. is a freelance writer, instructor and internationally recognized lecturer specializing in Eastern European genealogy, writing your family history, and finding female and immigrant ancestors.  She is the author of 10 books, including The Family Tree Polish, Czech and Slovak Genealogy Guide, and the award-winning Three Slovak Women.  Lisa is a frequent speaker for Legacy Family Tree Webinars, and blogs at The Accidental Genealogist. She can be reached at http://www.lisaalzo.com.