Arches at Glendalough 2009

Sunday, November 27, 2011

flea market finds

Last week  my husband and I visited the local flea market. A huge site, it is bustling in the summer and slow in the winter. The weather, a comfortable 65 degrees, made it an ideal day to walk the market.

A few years back we visited the same market. Browsing through a covered stall I found someone's genealogy research that was picked apart. Several items were from the Civil War era and included soldiers' letters. The remainder of the genealogy collection was divided into 6 binders which included cemetery photos from Philadelphia and card stock family group sheets. Although I couldn't purchase the letters (the vendor was selling some of them for $50 a piece!) I manage to purchase the six binders for $20. Later I read the binders and donated them-2 to the Burlington County Community College and  four to the Genealogical Society of PA. I can't remember the family names off the top of my head but they were placed in localities where the person had researched family members.

So on this sunny Saturday we returned to look. We hadn't been there in years-probably the day I found those binders- and decided to spend some time walking around. I found a pair of salt shakers for my sister and a Fenway Park postcard for my niece. We went to the last building to browse and was about to leave when I saw a small memorandum book. At first glance I wasn't certain whether or not to pick it up. But the tattered cover compelled me to browse through it. Immediately I recognized the genealogical value of it... a list of names and notations. I asked the woman how much for it. She asked $15 and I countered with $10 which she took. Her comment to me, "It's a fun book to look at. I think you were the only other person besides me who appreciates it."

What an understatement! I took it home and began to read it carefully. It contained a list of men who were hospitalized between February 1918 and June 1918...the tail end of World War 1. I have begun to transcribe it and will keep you up to date with the progress. I spent time this weekend researching the men listed on the first four pages and found some of them. It is written in several hands compelling me to believe that it may be from an army hospital from the West. Several men are listed on the 1920 US Census in Texas and the 1917 Draft.

At my husband's suggestion I will photograph the book so I don't damage it further. It will make it easier to transcribe and to toogle between screens. I don't know yet how I will share the information but plan to contact the larger genealogical societies for suggestions.

Stay tuned!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New clues to old reasearch

Yes! I've have not blogged as much as I wanted to this year.But I'm hoping to remedy that!

One of the most exciting things to happen these last few months has to be new clues to past research. Recently I was able to connect with a second cousin. His grandmother was the younger sister to my gr-grandmother. I tried in vain to find and contact him for 25 years but met with no success. Ironically his sister and my sister worked together for years! They never knew they were related! (My sister piped up afterwards that she felt that there was something familiar about his sister!) From pictures to stories he was able to contribute to my research tremendously. I never knew my grandmother-she died four years before I was born. I feel as if he has pushed aside a curtain and allowed me to peer into a window of my family heritage that I previously glimpsed through. We hope to meet each other in 2012 when we both return home for a visit next summer.

Another great find was a book titled, Swamp Yankee From Mystic. I picked it up at a used book store with the intention of giving it to my daughter's friend because her family was also from Connecticut. When I showed it to her friend, I happen to open to a page where the author's father purchased an old house. Lo and behold it was my ancestor's house! I was able to connect with the author's son who sent me pictures of the house! Ironically, again, I had just met him in September when I gave a talk to the historical group of which he is president.

My friend Audrey always tells me that when the ancestors want to be found they will let you know. Hmmm...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I've been trying to blog since April. My life as teacher is the craziest from May through June. But for some strange reason I'm finding July to be that way too. I've had so many ideas to blog during this time...from reviewing old notes, filing your genealogy, and discovering new sources of information have been themes I've been wanting to share. Here are my thoughts on the three...

Reviewing old notes...I'm a huge fan of reviewing what you have. Sometimes putting something away and forgetting about it will help you look at it with a new perspective. I find that when I prepare to teach a class on genealogy and I pull out an example of something I'd like to share, I see new ideas to research. Often it is as I'm pointing something out to newbies that I think to myself, "Hey I need to check that out!" or "Did I followup on that?" Lots of times these new clues help further my research and in directions that never occurred to me.

Filing...I'm a big fan of archival sleeves. Anything I find on the family I put into archival sleeves and then file it in the notebook. Unfortunately this past year I've had too many finds and  (gasp!) didn't file it away. While I spent time on Sunday looking for a single piece of paper I did encourage myself to file my things. As a result my "file pile" is down. I am nearly finished. I find that if I file 10-20 things for one half hour per day, my file pile disappears pretty quickly.

New sources of information...While helping someone recently research Civil War documents, I found myself looking at old law books for the state where I live. Although I'm a transplant to this state, looking and examining old law books here has opened my eyes to new sources of information. Some of the things I have discovered are petitions to the state to help widows and children; (This is great if you know your ancestors were poor and needed financial assistance!) Civil War enlistment/bounty dollars and who they were paid to; (I found that CT has some of them listed in their town records; NJ had some listed in both the law books and assembly books) and rights of way for the railroad and highways. (At first you may not think that is not helpful. But think about the possibilities...are there other papers hidden away at the archives or land records that people signed off on?)

Rethink your genealogy and maybe you, too, will discover something new!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

1940 Census part 2

I know, I know! I'm still raving about the conference and the 1940 Census. What is there to say about it? More and more!

Constance Potter wrote an article on the 1940 about the new questions on the 1940 census. Her article was included in the 2010 winter issue of Prologue found on the NARA site. It is a great read for this census.

One set of questions enumerators asked concerned the type of home you lived in. It included information about the number of bedrooms, the number of baths, if it had running water, how it was made, and if you had a radio. Sadly this part of the census was destroyed.

Another set of questions asked were about infant children. Yes, they were destroyed too.

The detailed questions asked in this census are extremely useful. Questions about the highest grade you attained educational and what type of work you do were asked. Information about immigrants and whether or not you were receiving a railroad or social security pension were asked. The best question of all is where you were living on April 1, 1935. I wonder if my gr-gr-grandmother will show up on this. She died in November of 1939 and was living on April 1, 1935. It would be interesting if her information was supplied! You never know!

Be on the lookout for more information about the 1940 Census!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

1940 Census

I'm home again and digesting all the great knowledge from NERGC. As mentioned yesterday, the 1940 US Census talk was awesome! But what I didn't say yesterday was all the cool information you will find in 357 days.

The 1940 census will go live on April 2, 2012. There is no microfilm copy and the only place to view it is on (Can we anticipate a system crash on that day? Remember when and went live? I shake in my boots thinking about it! Time will tell!)

There isn't an index either. So how is one expected to find the information in this census? City directories! If you know where your family lived in 1930, you could try using the enumeration district from the 1930 enumeration. It may or may not work. By using the city directory, you discover where and on what street your family lived on. Once you have that information, you can look for the ward. Once you have the ward, then you can find the enumeration district.

Enumeration districts are the districts the Census Bureau used to divide cities and towns into smaller parts. An enumerator was assigned to the district and collected the data for that district.

Information about enumeration districts can be found on the site. They also recommend Steve Morse's site- (Hint: is the rock and roll star; is our genealogy star.)

I don't know the trick for a rural location. You may have to go line by line. In the eastern states, like CT and NJ, some of the smaller towns were picked up by the larger cities or may have their own individual directories. But I can't be certain for other states.

Another cool thing about the census is that at certain lines, there was a box in the column next to the person enumerated. That box let the enumerator know that additional questions were to be asked. If the person was under the age of 14, the questions may have been answered by the person giving the information. Over the age 14, that person had to answer the additional questions. Some of the questions asked included where and when their parents were born. This is a great boon for those of us who find  a country like"Ireland" listed for all the records your ancestor produced. No longer are they to put just the country's name-they had to include the exact location. Does this mean these rules were followed to a T? We have 357 days to find out.

And one more cool thing about the enumaration...for the first time you know exactly who is answering the questions!

There's a lot more to share about this census. I'll post more information soon about it. Tick-tock...357 days to go!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

My head is full!

Can my head be crammed with any more information? What a fabulous conference!
Today I saw Mel again and still learned even more about the vast genealogy information out there. Mel stressed that there is so much in college/universities collections that you never know what you will find.

Did you know that up to 1921 all of the birth, marriage, and deaths in Ireland and northern Irelnad were together? It makes sense now that I know about the Easter uprising in 1922. It was at that point when the six counties in northern Ireland began collecting the information separately from the other 26 counties in free Ireland.

And then there was the 1940 Census. If you go to NARA there is an offical countdown to when the census will be available. Go to and look for the 1940 census. The good news is that it will be online at NARA on this day. The bad news is that there is no index or microfilm copy. I would recommend that once you find your relatives, make a hard copy because you never know. The best discovery was that there are two places on the pages where they asked more information of the person on that line. It could be a potential gold mine of information.

I will digest the knowledge I gained and post more information as I remember it.

Whoo! Whoo! I love NERGC!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mill workers in New England? My socks are knocked off!

Wow! My socks were knocked off today! NERGC continues to give genealogists great talks.

This morning I learned about why we of French Canadian descent should know our family history...230 years of families marrying families. My husband said I had a family tree in a circle...he was right about that! Regardless this morning's speaker discussed health reasons that are predominant in French Canadian families. The concentration of so many families in a locale have gotten geneticists on both sides of the US/Canadian border hopping. Many diseases have been passed down from the original founders to all of us with French Canadian ancestry. I'm bringing my handout with me to the doctor's office.

The best talk by far was Mel Wolfgang's talk on the mill workers. Wow! The sources he spoke of are not ones that genealogists use. Sources such as labor reports, industry and specialty publications, and child labor reports are just a few of the sources that can yield genealogical information.

Another genealogist that also speaks on industry related reports is Tim Pinnick. I heard hiim speak in Indiana where he talked about using the industry reports to track down ancestors. Both Mel and Tim have found a niche in genealogy that we should all should stop and consider!

Forget my socks…the bunny slippers are coming out! I’ll be burning up the Internet scouring Cyndi’s List and special collections to track down my mill workers!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

New England Regional Genealogy Conference...oh my!

I love genealogy conferences! I try to attend one yearly or plan a visit for a national conference every other year. One of the best regional conferences around is the New England Regional Genealogical Conference. The conference began in the 1990s and has grown over the years. The conference focuses on the six New England States and the ethnic groups that make New England...well, New England. This year's conference is in Springfield, Massachusetts, the home of Dr. Seuss and Yankee Candle Company.

One of the best features of the conference is the Librarian/Teacher Day. Sure, it is for teachers and librarians. But it also gives great information for genealogy use too!

For example the first talk was about the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield, MA. At first you wouldn't think it wouldn't apply to you or your research. Look again. Yes, their focus is the Pittsfield area. But did you know they collect records for all six New England states and New York state? They don't collect for NYC but have acquired a lot of great information for the remainder of the state. They house the Melville Collection (Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick in Pittsfield.) Shaker Collection, and the Shays Rebellion Papers. Their updated facilities includes scanning and data entry work stations and microfilm collections that can be viewed and stored digitally.

The next talk was by the curator at the Sharon, CT Historical Society. Here's an example of an organization making the most of their resources.  The society's website and creative use of their space has made it a valuable tool for the community, townsfolk, teachers, students, and genealogists to utilize their collections.

With the anniversary of the Civil War beginning this week the next speaker used the internet and genealogy tools to get kids interested in history. From books, maps, and  other resources, she showed how genealogy could be included in a local history project for school or scouts.

The new and updated site has a great tool for teachers called, "DocsTeach." From original documents and images to interactive tools for teachers and students, this is an awesome place to check out primary sources.

Two big pieces of  information I heard today was the closing of the NARA branch in Pittsfield, MA and the new interface of the Sanborn Maps by Proquest. With the government budget cuts, Pittsfield will be closing their reading room at the end of September. The staff at Pittsfield has great following among genealogists and will be missed.

Proquest demonstrated the new look for the library edition of and showed off their interface of Google Maps with the Sanborn Maps. Little did we know that we were the first to see this feature incorporated with their historic maps. They announced that this feature will be available later this summer for their historic maps collection too.

Day one is over! I can't wait to see what the rest of the conference will bring!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Still Dancing a Month Later

My friends from OCGS were excited about Google News and learning that a Camden newspaper was online. It got me thinking about how I search and how I use this database with great results. Monday night I was scrolling through the newspapers list ( and saw a Philadelphia newspaper that I hadn't heard about before. Playing around with different search words, I was surprised to find an article about my husband's gr-grandmother from 1908.

The list of newspapers is overwhelming. I've found newspapers from the area where my Fr-Canadian ancestors lived. I've also found a list of Irish newspapers published here in North Amercia that carried articles on Irish folk from all over the world. Best of all having the hometown newspaper at my fingertips has led to more stories about the family.

So how do I find these great articles?

First I use the archives advance search feature. (As I mentioned in an earlier post, it is archaic to find!) The best way to get to this search feature is to go to It differs from the standard search feature in that you can put in the name of the newspaper and search for names within that newspaper's editions.  It doesn't find all the names I'm searching for but it is a great beginning.

Once I have exhausted the possibilities, I next try adding names in the other boxes. These would be names that family was associated with or married into. Trading these names in the main search box leds to different results!  

Another great feature that Google news has is browsing by date. If my grandmother's obituary isn't appearing where it should I check to see if that issue of the newspaper was scanned and posted. I found my gr-gr-grandparent's divorce record this way. It hadn't showed up in the searches I tried but was sitting on the front page on the date that the event occured.

And when in doubt, try searching by just the first name or just the last name. My gr-grandfather didn't appear in the searches under "Frank" but "Prank." It seems that there was a typo in the newspaper and his name did come up once I changed the "F" to a "P."

Have fun searching!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Genealogy Happy Dance

Many of my genealogy friends agree...we have to do the genealogy happy dance whenever we find a new lead/discover/document. Everytime we find it, we are usually jumping for joy. Do you remember the Christmas special where Charlie Brown is waiting for the "crew" of his Christmas play only to find them dancing? That's what my genealogy happy dances look like!

Seriously, I spent a few moments at the library today discussing with the librarians the newest genealogy databases. Have you seen them? I am consonantly amazed at the information out there!

The best advice I can give about genealogy databases is to always look at the page before and the page after.

Today I discovered that my gr-granduncle died in Kobe, Japan. Had I not checked the page before and after, I would have missed the leter sent by the US Department State to the local newspaper in Connecticut.  But the best part was that there was also a listing for his son who died in 1935. I was able to find a wealth of information about my "cousin" including his Russian wife's name and the cemetery where the family was buried...just by looking at the pages before and after. In addition there was a letter from my gr-grandaunt asking for more information about the cousin's death and how she saw his obit in the local newspaper...the same newspaper that listed his dad's death 21 years earlier. Of course Google has the newspaper online but not those editions. Regardless,I hit the genealogy jackpot today!

Genealogy databases never ceases to amaze me. I can't wait to see what is next!