I don’t have a lot to say today but this is one of my all time favorite meme’s and it’s appropriate only today! When one of my friend’s posted this on Facebook last year I laughed all day – and I did again today when it showed up in my memories. No disrespect to the Queen, not only is this funny I find her fashionable in this gorgeous pink suit.
I hope everyone who celebrates had a safe and Happy Fourth of July!
Lately I have seen many posts in my genealogy group asking how to start in genealogy. I’ll admit I was puzzled the first time I saw the comment. Surely they were farther ahead than they realized as they found the genealogy groups in Facebook, I’d been doing my family tree for a couple of years before I began using Facebook and Twitter for my search.
But then I began really thinking about it. How did I start? I know I’ve commented before and it was just a day in August and I googled “Family Tree” or something like that and FamilySearch.org came up, I registered and began.
I knew nothing of the one big tree. I did know that Ancestry looked interesting but my husband and I weren’t in a place for us economically for me to join. So I utilized the plethora of free sites out there (and believe it or not there is a lot you can do for free).
It also made me think of the presentation I did for my son’s Boy Scout troop a month or so ago. It was all about the basics and though I’ve probably discussed various things individually on this blog of mine so far – here is a list of how I would suggest someone begin their family history journey.
Start With You!
Everyone thinks that starting your family tree is so hard but it’s really easy, it begins with you! Write down your own vital statistics – when you were born, where you were born, the time (if you know it). Then you go on and write the same information about your father, your mother and then move onto your grandparents.
It’s best to have at least 7-people to begin to find your ancestors, you will have a slightly easier time if you have the information for 15.
If you don’t know some of the answers, ask someone who may know. By the time I began getting serious about my family tree, all of my grandparents had passed away. Luckily I had an assignment in sixth grade to work on my family tree. I really didn’t have to do much at that time, the goal was for us to get to another state or country. On my dad’s side my entire family goes back to Pennsylvania by his parents (and technically he was born in Indiana so there is always that), and on my mom’s side her paternal grandparents came over from England in 1913 (James Fairhurst) and 1915 (Phoebe Boone). I’d found out my information by asking my grandparents questions. My Grandma Blair (aka Anna Maria Morgart) gave me the information I needed about my paternal side (everyone else had already passed away), my mom gave me the information as she knew a lot about her maternal mother’s side of the family. My Grandfather Fairhurst was living with our family at the time and told me about how his parents came over (he is the one who told me that his mother was supposedly going to come over on the Titanic but wasn’t feeling well, only for me to realize later that the Titanic sank 2-years before she was going to set sail).
Family Group Charts
Once you have the basic information about your family members it’s best to fill out a family group chart. These can be found online for free. It is just a worksheet that you use to give all the details you have about your family. If there is a record you are missing, you will clearly see what it is and be able to research the information you need. Below is a sample page 1 of the Family Group Chart that comes with the Legacy Family Tree software.
Use Online Genealogy Databases
If your family is like mine, you aren’t going to get very far learning about your family history from asking questions. My dad has surprised me by being able to name as many people in photographs than I ever thought he would know, but there is a great deal about the members of his family that he is just as surprised about as me.
Once you get to your great-grandparents there is a very strong possibility that this is where you need to start finding information online about your family (which is why I suggest the 15 family members). FamilySearch.org is a free site but the one big fact you have to recognize is that the person must be dead in order to find any information about them. Occasionally you may find a marriage license because it could reference the parents who have passed away, but that is it.
I always recommend using FamilySearch.org in the beginning as some of the other sites can be expensive and if you are unsure of how dedicated you are going to be to a hobby, go the free route in the beginning. Yes there are a bunch of records that even the FamilySearch.org wiki is going to direct you to on Ancestry – but if you can, go to the library and use the Ancestry Library Edition for free (until you know for sure – you can normally get a good deal on a membership your first time).
Below is the “Search” page for FamilySearch.org that you can plop your person’s name in along with when they were born, died or even married. I normally begin being as vague as I can, I will put in their first and last name (with women I start with their maiden name, but if it is death information I may put in her married name), but I put in years only (I love how you can control the span of years on FamilySearch) and for place I will often put a state only, I believe you can put in the city and state, but if I’m off on the precise city it’s easier to be a bit vague (putting in United States may be a bit too vague).
Once you start using the genealogy databases (FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com, FindMyPast.com, and MyHeritage.com are the 4-big ones) you can start filling out the vital statistics you have already collected by adding census records, possibly marriage licenses, and even city directory pages. Census records and city directories both offer you addresses of where your people lived at a specific time.
Once you find the basic information you can go about finding the hard core records, such as wills, land documents, court records, possibly even church records. With this comes learning how to read handwriting which is another blog post in itself.
Why I Started Seriously Researching My Family
There are 2 main reasons why the third time was the charm for me with doing my genealogy. The first is that I was having a bad day almost 4 years ago and I was really missing my Grandma and I figured learning more about her and her family would allow me to feel closer to her. It worked, I only wish she knew all that I have found out. I also wish I had thought to ask more questions. I remember vaguely so many stories she shared but there are so many more questions I wish I’d asked – like how did my grandparents meet?
The second reason is that the internet provides you access to records to entice you for the search. You can’t do it all from the privacy of your own home, or even the local library, but you can do a great deal more than the patience those who have been working on their genealogy for decades did. The respect I have for those who have done this for so long, I salute them all.
Just remember, it may take a while to find specific information. Not everything can be found at the tip of your fingers. Document what you find as you find it! I know I may not have always wrote down where I found it (I did happen to find it again for citations in my Legacy Family Tree software) but I did download the copies of the census records and such and have them stored in an online filing system. I have a paper system made up but I find I really don’t use it much, but I should as I have copies of wills and land documents I obtained last July in Pennsylvania.
Eventually you may even come across brick walls (for example Andrew Blair and Suzanna Akers (???) for me, well, let’s not forget their son, George, too.
Genealogy is like a huge puzzle and it’s so exciting when you put all those pieces together. If you get stuck at a spot, just pick another person and work on finding out about them. In time you will find the all (or most) of the information you seek. Just learn patience.
One of the many types of records that can be beneficial for your genealogical search is court records. “Court records include information about adoption, debt, divorce, naturalization, lawsuits, guardianships and appointments. Probate records relate to the death of an ancestor and the distribution of their estate. These records often include wills, inventories, accounts, bonds, etc.” (from the PBS “Genealogy Roadshow” web page).
Why Court Records are Important
Court records are important on your family history journey because they inform you of family relationships, locations, land ownership, occupations, and descriptions of individuals. For those of African American heritage, court records are critical as they include slaves and slave relationships. Courthouses also can have the registration of free blacks as well as marriages and slave children (from “Genealogy Roadshow“).
Tips for a Successful Search
When going in search of court records it is best to have a plan. Below are some steps that will hopefully lead you to a successful trip to the county courthouse.
1. Have an Objective
Don’t go into a courthouse expecting to fly by the seat of your pants. You must have a clearly stated goal of what it is you are seeking when you visit so you are not wasting your time, or those who work at the Courthouse.
Information that you can find on your ancestors include:
Your ancestor could have been a juror, witness, victim, defendant or plaintiff in a civil or criminal court case
Divorce filings, separation or paternity claims
Tax records for personal property
All of the above were records that were at one time found at courthouses. Today there may be other places where you can find this information. Vital records, for example, might be found at county health departments, or older records may have been consolidated at the state capital (this is the situation for Ohio, birth certificates have no restrictions and can be accessed at our health department, however death certificates from 1908-1953 can be found on FamilySearch, 1954-1963 can be found at the Ohio History Connection, the state historical society, and you can purchase for $7.75 which includes tax; 1964-present are available at the health department of the county where the person died; birth certificates can be retrieved from anywhere in the state from 1908 to the present).
2. Do Research Before Leaving Your Home
When you are getting ready to do a courthouse visit, make sure you research where the records are before you go so you haven’t gone to the wrong place for the records you need. Most county courthouses have websites (or at least the counties do) and it will often tell you exactly where the records you need are located.
If the website is vague, call or even email the person you think lines up with what you are looking for and ask. I know last year when I went to Bedford County I had emailed someone in advance just to make sure I didn’t need an appointment before just showing up. I didn’t but they also told me (as I commented about how I was travelling from Ohio) that they had online access that I could also use for a fee. I was able to get a bunch of needed records about my ancestors that I could find there (and the ladies that work there were extremely friendly and helpful), but as I find other information for non-direct line ancestors, I keep a list so I can look those people up online.
But not everything may be in the courthouse, by calling in advance of when you’re going to be there, they may have records in a storage facility and by calling they could make sure what you are looking for is on-site for your visit.
Also, make sure you have done your due diligence with boundaries and where the information was located at the time you are looking for. Counties are formed all the time (well, not so much now but 150 years ago counties were still being formed within states). Make sure that information you are looking for is where you think it should be. I know in Pennsylvania Blair County was one of the latter counties to be formed in the south western portion of the state, so land and tax records of your ancestor in 1860 that is Blair County could be in Bedford County 20 years prior because Blair county was formed in 1846.
Lastly, make sure that some of your information is not already online with one of the subscription sites. As I mentioned before, Ohio death certificates can be found on FamilySearch from 1908-1953. Sometimes you have to go person by person because the transcribed name may not match up, but they are there (warning: they go in clumps via county and time of death in a year – so you may have a bunch of May deaths together and they are all arranged alphabetically by county, I would often just jump ahead every 25-50 names to get through counties I knew I did not need). Pennsylvania birth certificates from 1906-1910 and Pennsylvania Death Certificates from 1906-1967 can be found on Ancestry. Birth certificates from 1911-1914 can be purchased from the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission for $5 per certificate (I recently purchased my grandparents birth certificates in January of this year, my grandfather was born in 1912 and my grandmother in 1914).
3. Evaluating Your Finds
Remember, you are going to a courthouse to find court records and they will be riddled with legalese you may not understand. It may take a few readings to figure out the true meaning of the document, as well as figuring out the lingo of a hundred years ago. You may also have difficulty with penmanship, big words and bad writing can make for a big headache.
You will also want to make sure you record your findings, along with what you did not find. Sometimes this will be a clue as to where you can look next, or inserting it into a timeline may give you insight on why an event occurred (person moved, went to prison, etc.).
In so many ways genealogy can be a casual hobby but when you plan on heading to the courthouse you should make sure that you dress nicely (casual chic would work great here, if not in a more professional manner) and that you show respect to those working. Some of the people you will be dealing with are elected officials, but more importantly these people are helping you, so make sure you go out of your way to be grateful for what they are doing for you.
This might seem like an odd point but you are going to be messing with books and records that could be hundreds of years old. Even if they are copies, it can still be exciting to be working with these old records. Some may even have your person’s signature on them, and that could just be about as thrilling as it could be – especially if you are like me and find yourself having favorite relatives (I do).
Digging up information of any kind about your people is extremely satisfying. Enjoy the moment but make sure you stick to the plan you have laid out for yourself.
Like most people, I have a lot of ancestors that I can research over the 4-primary branches of my family tree. But are others of you out there like me, obsessed with your brick wall ancestors?
Whenever I read a book on genealogy, any time a new idea is brought to me as far as considering how to find people, the first thing I think of is can I use this new method to find more about Andrew?
Andrew is referencing Andrew Blair, born about 1812 in Pennsylvania and for whom I have no parents. He just shows up in my 1850 census with his wife and 2-children and I can’t find him before or after. His wife, Suzanna, also a brick wall, is born around 1826. And no other Ancestry trees have anything more than I do. Even my late cousin, Darlene, couldn’t find any parental information for Andrew or Suzanna.
Ways to Get Over the Brick Wall
There are many suggestions out there for overcoming a brick wall. Ancestry has 7-points to do to find the answers you seek.
State a clear research problem (specifying your problem succinctly)
Back-up a generation and review (do you know all there is to know about their children?
Use ALL the records (have you searched through all possible documents to find them?)
Create a timeline (this one is pretty self explanatory)
Account for inconsistencies (if records give you differing information, rationalize them)
Research the FAN club (friends, associates, neighbors)
Ask for help (hire a professional genealogist in the area where your ancestors lived)
FamilySearch is a bit more thorough with their suggestions for dealing with brick walls. They have 33 points that they spread out in 7 larger areas:
Start with the most likely records
Go from the known to the unknown
Focus on one question at a time
Look for alternate spellings and nicknames
Do not trust indexes
Do not trust copies selected by someone else
Make friends with librarians and archivists
Start with a well-documented family group record
Research logs – keep good research logs for each family
Document and organize as you go
Search worldwide indexes for your family name
Look for death documents
Local histories, biographies and genealogies
Advanced Research Strategies:
Draw a timeline
Organize, review and evaluate evidence
Use forms to create new brain connections and raise questions
Expand the Number of Sources Used:
Substitute record types
Use Wiki articles as a checklist
Try an exhaustive preliminary survey
Search more libraries and archives
Search Records of Kin, Neighbors and Associates:
Find your relatives children
Research neighbors and relatives
Use Logic, Deduction, Inference, and Inspiration:
Create a master research plan
Correlate and integrate records of neighbors
Study migration patterns
Try to disprove uncertain connections
Listen to your feelings
Continue Education and Follow-Up:
Get an education
Share and collaborate
Genealogy in Time, an online magazine, wrote about 50 different ideas to tackle your impossible to find ancestors, here are a few suggestions:
Search for maiden names
Use middle names as first names
Use naming conventions (such as the Victorian way of oldest son – father’s father, second son – mothers father, third son – father; oldest daughter – mothers mother; second daughter – father’s mother; third daughter – mother)
Search by Village – sometimes searching records by a small village will have a bad transcription pop out because they are only a few pages they may be easier to tackle)
Be aware of changing jurisdictions (boundaries for towns, counties, states were always changing)
Port of Entry
Cemeteries – where they are buried and who they are buried near
Family associations that are for your last name
Lastly, that is not listed anywhere above is using DNA. By taking a DNA test that provides you with cousin matches, you may find someone who you are related too and it could provide an answer to the question you seek.
So many ideas that you can use to try to knock down your brick wall, or at least chisel away at them a bit. I was reading in one of the Facebook Groups I belong to today that one lady had a brick wall that lasted 35 years. I asked her how joyful her happy dance was after finally crashing it down last year and she said she is still dancing. I guess it puts in reality how my 4-years is really nothing.
If you have found yourself trying to find unknown ancestors and you have an idea that was extremely useful for you but not listed, please share in the comments below. I would love to explore more ways to find Andrew and Suzanna.
Back in late November during a Black Friday Sale I purchased my registration for all 3 days of classes at the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference that was taking place at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio.
But of course, like so many other events, it was cancelled so here I sit, with my children, working from home instead of driving to Sandusky for a few days of family history fun.
So I’ve been thinking about what I can do to still give myself a conference experience.
I happen to have a subscription to Family Tree Webinars so I am able to watch as many webinars I want. But throughout this past April they’ve had a free webinar each day, and the Webinar Wednesdays are normally available for a week after it first airs for everyone to watch for free so you can utilize it for one of the days as well.
Check Out Some Podcasts
Podcasts are something I need to listen to more often. There are a variety of podcasts out there for you to enjoy for free. Here are some I’ve listened to and enjoy:
Generations Café by Amy Johnson Crow – these are fun to listen to and they tend to be on the shorter side, which I sometimes like. I don’t always have 90 minutes to spare to listen to a to longer ones in their entirety and these are just right.
The Genealogy Guys – I met George Morgan and Drew Smith at least year’s OGS Conference (and they were to be a part of the Meet & Greet last evening as part of the Genealogy Squad). They have lots of great information on their podcast.
Genealogy Gems – Lisa Louise Cooke always has an informative podcast on her website that is always filled with a variety of topics.
Extreme Genes – it’s America’s family history show! Hosted by Scott Fisher and David Allen Lambert, this successful podcast has topics pertaining to all sorts of areas to help you on your genealogical journey.
These are just a few that I’ve listed. If you Google “genealogy podcasts” you will get about 30 links that you can click on to see if anything flips your trigger, plus there are a bunch of articles that give you the “20 best genealogy podcasts” as well. I just gave you ones I knew existed and had checked out that were off the top of my head.
Read Some Books
Read! And it doesn’t have to be just genealogy based books (I’m presently reading the How to Do Everything Genealogy Fourth Edition by George G. Morgan – yes, same as mentioned above from the Genealogy Guys. It’s 480 pages and I’m loving it as it just gives me common sense suggestions that I may have overlooked as I have never read an intro book before). You can read books that relate to your relatives.
For example, I recently finished a book by John Fitzgerald called Dirty Mines and it went job by job on what coal miners did, beginning in the breakers for the young kids who could have been starting between the ages of 8 and 10 years old, to being an independent contractor as an actual full-fledge coal miner (they had to pay their helpers with the money they earned for each cart of coal). It was extremely enlightening as I really didn’t know much about what positions there were as you moved up the ladder. It also went into detail about the creation of the United Mine Workers and the Molly Maguires court cases where several men were executed for no other reason other than they were framed because everyone was in cahoots with the other – government, coal companies, judges. Several of my ancestors were coal miners, so this book was exactly what I was looking for to educate me a little more about this industry.
You can also read about the towns your family lived in, books relating to the historical happenings at a specific time of your ancestor, be it on a city, state, or country level. Sometimes international happenings can effect our people, too.
The same can be said for Civil War diaries. It may not be the diary of your ancestor, but it would still have similar details of what may have been going on with your relative.
Hang Out in Genealogy Facebook Groups
Lastly, to give me that true conference feel, going and posting questions or helping others with their family history journey will be the icing on the cake. By visiting some of the many family history groups I belong too on Facebook I should be able to get that wonderful vibe that I got last year about just communicating with others who have a love of this wonderful hobby (well, maybe obsession is a better word). If you have a Facebook account but haven’t checked out any of the genealogy group offerings, you are really missing out. It is so much fun to read of others’ tales of triumph and woe (well, maybe not fun for this, but there are some stories that definitely bring a tear to your eye).
A person’s family history journey is so special and unique, and being able to share it with others is wonderful. Not to mention the people in these groups are outstanding, I honestly we feel overall we are the friendliest of all the hobbies as we are always willing to lend a helping hand.
I will power through this and I’m sure I will find ways to successfully pass the time while I research my family members. Yesterday happened to be the 235th birthday of my 4th-great-grandfather and I realized I’d found and saved his information but hadn’t put any of it into my software program. So we are going to delve into Baltzer Morgart. He was born in 1785 and I know he ran the Morgart Tavern in Everett, Pennsylvania. I was able to see the building last summer (sadly, we knocked but no one was home to see if I could have gone inside). He died at the age of 68 in December 1853.
When researching your ancestors, do you have any stories to go along with each person? This tends to be the more difficult aspect of doing genealogy as it’s so easy to go on FamilySearch, Ancestry, Find My Past, or even MyHeritage and find out when and where they were born, where they lived throughout their lives and even when they died. But figuring out who they were is a bit more challenging.
One of the ways I have learned about my family members is using newspapers. There are a variety of options available for free and with subscriptions for you to find stories about your relatives.
Some historic newspapers are available for free (one of my favorite words). The most popular is Chronicling America ( https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/) which is a joint endeavor between the Library of Congress and National Endowment of the Humanities. It has newspapers from 1789-1963 that are digitized for your use.
Another free option may be available with your library card is Newspaper Archive Academic Library Edition (my library has this and can be accessed from my house, check out to see if your library has a newspaper database similar to this).
Newspapers.com is one of the larger subscription sites for newspapers available for genealogy. They are owned by Ancestry.com so if you have a tree there, it is easy to attach the articles. Some subscriptions of Ancestry now include Newspapers.com (I believe you are accessing the articles through Ancestry searches though). Newspapers.com has 2 levels of subscriptions, basic and Publishers Extra. Publisher’s Extra is the higher priced edition but seems to have most of the newspapers I truly needed to find information and obituaries on my people (primarily because of the Akron Beacon Journal – but there were some key newspapers for the different areas of Pennsylvania I needed as well).
GenealogyBank is another popular website who is also expanding out from just newspapers to adding census information and the like. They have a great blog that is emailed out monthly as well.
Things to Look For
If you are going to spend the money on a subscription site I highly recommend looking at what newspapers that are available and the published years they have. I’ll confess I accidentally signed up for a subscription site and it was of no use to me because the issues they had published didn’t really help me in my genealogical searches (for example they had the Bedford Gazette from 1854-1857 only, and I needed from 1870 on). Both Newspapers.com and GenealogyBank list what newspapers they have available and their years of publication that is available on their sites (Newspapers.com will also note which newspapers are available on their more expensive level, Publishers Extra).
All of the websites have ways to narrow your search by state, date, name to help bring to light the information you are seeking.
What Can You Find?
You may be lucky enough to find all kinds of interesting tidbits about your relatives when you do newspaper searches. They can range from everyday occurrences to being a bit on the juicy side (older newspapers use to have sections detailing who checked in to the local hotels, and just good old “gossip” sections).
Below is one of my favorites that I discovered on a free weekend of Newspapers.com last Spring that actually convinced me to purchase a subscription. It is an article from The Potter Enterprise from the Thursday, February 11, 1904 edition:
Orienta (Gustin) Warner is my 3rd-Great-Grandmother on my mother’s side. They have her daughter’s name mis-typed here, it’s listed as Nellie but her nickname was Nettie. Her name is Jeanette Warner and she is my 3rd-Great-Aunt. I am assuming the fatherless child is her son, Thomas who was born in 1904.
In keeping with the same family, here is another article from The Potter Enterprise from August 14, 1913 edition – this actually lists my 2nd-Great-Grandmother (Mazie Warner Dunbar) twice, and her daughter (Myrtle Dunbar) once.
I’ve also learned that using newspapers can give you the full story on tragedies in your family as well. On my dad’s side, my 2nd-Great-Uncle, Charles Peter Childers, had 2-children die in a house fire. Going off stories typed up on Ancestry it makes it seem that half of his 13 children died in this fire, but when reading the newspaper headlines (along with finding the death certificates) you know it was only 2-children, Eva Childers, age 9 (the article is incorrect and have her listed as age 11) and Ralph Childers, age 2. This article I found using the library website. The below clippings (they were on 2-pages of the newspaper) is from the March 27, 1939 edition of the Altoona Mirror:
When I found the following article from the Akron Beacon Journal about my grandfather, Harold Fairhurst, my aunt proceeded to add to the story about how my grandfather had won a year’s supply of Pepsi for his hole in one, which jogged my memory of my mom telling me the same. It is from Thursday, September 17, 1964 edition:
I continue to learn a lot about my family members by using newspapers. If nothing else, they are a wonderful source for obtaining obituaries so I am able to fill in the burial date and cemeteries in my genealogy program if I don’t have a death certificate.
If you have never taken the time to investigate your family in newspapers, I recommend checking it out. The weekend Newspapers.com was free last year was amazing me for me as I found so much interesting information. Now, if it could only make it easier to find George Blair in Blair County, PA, then I’d be set (FYI – anytime Blair for the County is mentioned I get a ding so when I searched just now there are 1,299,020 possibilities in Pennsylvania alone).
If you find or have found any interesting stories using newspapers, please share in the comments!
As most of the world is resigned to stay home and be in isolation, I finally have found my genealogy groove. And though I normally try to partake in Amy Johnson Crow’s fabulous challenge 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks, I find myself struggling with the recent week’s prompts. So I think I’ll focus on a specific surname in my family, and I’ve chosen the Warner’s (I suddenly have the Animaniac’s theme going through my head, if you have never watched this outstanding cartoon brought to us by Steven Spielberg you really should, I discovered it in college and it is one of the greatest animated shows ever, if I do say so myself). I figure this can be the first of many tributes to my Warner clan and could possibly get me to find out more about them.
Mazie Lorenia Warner
The last of my line of Warner’s was my great-great-grandmother Mazie Lorenia Warner. I know I’ve spoken of Mazie before because she is one of my favorite relatives on my mother’s side of the family. She was born on 21 July 1877 to Winfield Warner and his wife, Orienta Gustin in Potter County, Pennsylvania. She had 3-sisters: Cymanthia Lencretia, Jeanette, and Catherine “Cassie” Belle.
Mazie was one of my first successfully solved puzzles. Just getting her name correct was one of my first obstacles as every document I found seemed to be something different – Mazie, Magie, Daysa (still trying to figure that last one out), but then my mom clarified it all for me (she was going off memory as Mazie passed away 2 years before my mom was born).
Mazie married my great-great-grandfather, Arthur James Dunbar on 2 Jan 1894. To this marriage came 4-children with the 3-girls surviving: Myrtle Iona, Merle Winfield (he passed away at 8 months), Ina Mae and Mildred Laura (she is my great-grandmother).
On 18 Dec 1912 Arthur died of polio (adult onset). A few years later Mazie married a second time to Samuel Randol, in 1916 they moved to Ohio and this is how this portion of my family settled in Akron. Oddly enough the area of Akron where they settled is not far at all from where I live with my own family.
Mazie and Samuel had a son, Richard LeHoty, but he passed away when he was 5-months old.
Because my library (Akron Summit County Public Library) has digitized the local city directories, I have been able to follow where Mazie and Samuel lived from 1916 until Mazie passed away in 1945. Mazie has come across as a loving soul, always taking her daughters in when their marriages failed (or at least that is how I assume her to be as my own great-grandmother returned home more than once and Mazie even let her and her third husband live with them for a bit when they first got married while I assume they saved up for a house – I have nothing to confirm these stories because my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother have all passed).
At one point in time Samuel and Mazie ran a store on Howard Street, and I believe it was called SJ Randol’s according to the 1924 city directory, and back in the 1920’s Howard Street was the place to be. According to a lady my parents’ were guardian’s of, Clara Mueller, she claimed that you could find things at the shops on Howard Street that you couldn’t find anywhere else.
Samuel passed away on 16 Oct 1938 in Decatur, Illinois. He was a truck driver and wasn’t feeling well and passed away after he had been “ill for a week over a complication of diseases” according to the 17 Oct 1938 edition of the Decatur Herald. This made me sad to learn of Samuel’s death. The 1937 City Directory is the first where my great-grandmother, her husband and my grandmother finally moved into their own home, which gave Mazie and Samuel basically 1-2 years to finally enjoy life together.
Mazie continued to live alone until 1943 where she moved in to her old house which is where her daughter, Ina lived with her second husband, Ralph, and her daughter, Almeda. She passed away there on 19 May 1945.
I drive down Howard Street every day when I go to and from work and I look to the spot where the store stood that Mazie and Samuel ran. I look to the abandoned lot with just a very slight portion of a brick wall standing that would most likely been the back of their store, and wonder what it would have been like to know her, if she ever looks down on me and is happy to know that I am making sure my family doesn’t forget her and her legacy.
So I haven’t really done as much researching as I have wanted to do in my family history journey but this past week I spent some of my days creating an introduction to genealogy PowerPoint presentation for my son’s Boy Scout Troop.
It’s pretty basic as I’ve included what ancestors are, descendants, how you really only need 7 to 15 names to begin working on your family tree on the major online databases (FamilySearch, Ancestry or MyHeritage) and then detailed the items you need to seek: birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses and censuses to start out. Throw in examples of family group sheets, pedigree charts, a brief bit on land records, how everyone needs to search newspaper articles and a little bit of information about DNA and you have a 31 slide presentation all raring to go (unless of course I forgot some major point that I was suppose to include – which hubby is looking it over as I type this).
It was a fun endeavor as I got to show off my favorite documents in the presentation – Ralph Reed’s death certificate – I figured as part of ad-libbed anecdotes I’ll discuss my surprise in finding his at the library, my grandfather’s birth certificate where he was originally named Charley Wilmer but my grandmother opted to change it to Leroy at some point later in time (would love to know when that took place). For newspapers I included the article about why Ralph was executed and what his last meal was, and my grandfather Harold Fairhurst’s hole in one. I also included a 1910 Federal Census where several of the families on 1-sheet were all related – my great-grandparents lived near several of my great-grandmother’s brothers and sisters.
Tomorrow night I get to practice my presentation as I’ve never been on the speaking end of a conference call or using the meeting software. Fingers crossed it goes well. My son’s troop has decided to still meet electronically so they can still earn merit badges in this isolating time (my daughters troop has done the same).
I hope everyone is handling the isolation in their own way. Being an introvert I knew I’d somewhat excel at this – but even I’m missing people (I see people on my weekly trip to the grocery store but it’s not the same as I don’t really talk to people – it’s more sport now than shopping as you do your best to stay 6 feet apart).
Wishing everyone all the best in these trying times!
Are you like me, constantly looking at maps to see exactly where your family once roamed? I’m always using the below map on the FamilySearch Wiki to solve brick walls, wondering where my next further back batch of relatives would come from or lived in relation to others.
Just about all the relatives on my paternal side are found within the counties in the South-Western/Central portion of Pennsylvania. These counties would be Somerset, Bedford, Fulton, Cambria, Blair and Huntingdon counties. But not all of these counties have always existed, at one point I believe most of the region was Bedford County (which is why I chose Bedford to visit in July 2019).
Maps can be very helpful for locating where your ancestor’s records are kept. Records tend to stay with the county of when they were created. So if your family’s land is in what is now Blair County – since it was formed from Bedford County and Huntingdon County – if the records you seek are prior to 1846 – you will need to look in either Bedford or Huntingdon Counties.
An article on GenealogyBank.com by Gena Philibert-Ortega states, “Maps help you follow migration patterns, learn more about the place your ancestor lived, determine the location of cities that no longer exist, show changes in county boundaries, and verify land your ancestor owned.”
You may be lucky enough to find a map that even shows where your ancestors lived without your even plotting it. Below is a map that I photocopied out of the “County Atlas of Bedford Pennsylvania” and it shows the land where both my 2x-Great-Grandfather lived (G. Morgart) and my 3x-Great-Grandfather lived (A. Morgart). It turns out B. Hughes is a distant relative as well, and he married my 2x-Great-Grandmother when George Morgart passed away. I’m most likely related to the Ritchey’s as my aforementioned 2x-Great-Grandmother was Mary Ann Ritchey, and she had 2 brothers with the first name beginning with D.
According to Wikipedia, a gazetteer is “a geographical dictionary or directory used in conjunction with a map or atlas. It typically contains information concerning the geographical makeup, social statistics and physical features of a country, region, or continent”.
These books are essential as they normally list the names of places that may not even exist in an area anymore, which can be very important for finding information on your family. Gazetteers can also provide the history of an area, including photographs.
David Rumsey Map Collection
A great website to find historical maps is the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. The collection began about 30 years ago and includes over 150,000 maps spanning between the 16th through 21st centuries from across the world. The digitizations began in 1996 and include over 95,000 pieces. The real pieces are housed in the David Rumsey Map Center in Stanford library.
If you find yourself trying to purchase a ton of books to find the maps you need, you can always turn to mapping software for computers. These programs work by you typing in your location and then you can scroll through the years watching the boundaries change before your eyes, giving you the exact county within your state (if in the United States) of where your ancestor lived at a specific point in time. This makes it convenient so you know where to look for the records you seek (remember, records stay with the county).
Examples of these programs are AniMap, Family Atlas, or you can go the free route and use Google Earth. One of the nice features of using Google Earth is that it is programmed with some of the David Rumsey maps that you can overlay where your ancestors lived at various points in history, so you can walk where they walked, so to speak (please note you’ll have to download the software for your computer for the Rumsey maps to work, but don’t worry, it’s still free!).
Just Google It
One of the other functions I used for my more recent ancestors is simply putting the address of where my ancestors lived that I have found using City Directories in Google so I can see the homes where my family members once lived. More often than not the house is still standing (I will often refer to the real estate tax site for my county as well just to confirm when the house was built). By seeing what the house looks like in advance I am able to drive by and find it more easily.
My mother’s side of the family settled where I live around 1916 and a majority of her side of the family is still here. Because of where they originally made their home each day when I drive to work I pass where my great-great-grandmother and her husband had their store. And I found it using the City Directory to obtain the address and putting the address into Google.
In a Nutshell
Maps offer us so much information. They are visual so it can open up an entirely new world to your research. You can see how far apart relatives live. If you’re tackling a brick wall and you see someone far away from any other place they’ve lived it might have you question “Is this person mine?” as the migration patterns can become quite apparent once you begin plotting addresses.
I’ve always referred to maps in my search for my family history, but I am at the point I’m really going to start plotting out where they lived just to get a better idea of where their proximity to others so I can wrap my head around things.
If you have used maps please feel free to share your tips and what you use to visually track your relatives and get a feel for where they lived.
I’m presently taking a class on genealogy and one of the things they briefly went over in last week’s portion is mind mapping. I’ll be honest, I never really knew what mind mapping was, now I could sum it up to it being brainstorming on a piece of paper. But I decided to take a little more in-depth examination of mind mapping and how it can help you with your family history research.
What is Mind Mapping
Using the Wikipedia definition, a “mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information”. It’s hierarchal and shows relationships among the pieces of the whole. According to MindMapping.com, it’s a “highly effective way of getting information in and out of your brain” as it’s both creative and logical at the same time. Mind maps are illustrations of what you are thinking.
Which goes back to my original statement of it being like brainstorming on a piece of paper.
Characteristics of Mind Mapping
There are certain characteristics that each mind map must possess.
Each mind map has a main idea. It’s the theme of what your mind map is about.
These are the main ideas that branch off of your main idea that create connections.
These words or ideas that support or describe your main idea are summarized into keywords, no sentences allowed.
Lastly, you have less important ideas that aid in describing the keywords, and these branch off onto smaller lines, or twigs.
Creating Mind Maps
There are different ways to create mind maps. You can draw from hand (I apologize for my bad photo – somehow my paper got folded but something told me trying to re-write it wouldn’t work as I’d probably just mess it up and get totally frustrated).
Mind maps can also be made with computer software. Some of the software that you can use are the following: Coggle, Mindly, Draw.io, iMindMap, MindMup, MindMeister, Scapple, and SmartDraw to name just a few.
Using Your Mind Map
Mind mapping is a tool that helps make you a better thinker. When you come across a problem, even something that really has you stumped like a brick wall, write it down, all of it, you may just get pointed in the right direction on where to look next.
The one I did above is one of my brick walls, which actually leads to a bigger brick wall. George Washington Blair is the 4th child of my great-great-great-grandparents. I only have 1 death certificate listing my 3x-great-grandmothers name and I strongly feel that if I can find George Washington Blair’s death certificate, that maybe it will give me some insight on my 3x-great-grandparents.
A mind map isn’t going to solve your problems, but it will allow you to see your information in a logical flow and give you the opportunity to see what you still need to find, and then you can best decide where to go to seek your answers.