Category: THE SEARCH

tips tricks of building your family tree

Know What you Know

Know What You Know

One of my biggest pet peeves when researching my family tree is people (especially on Ancestry) who just click and call it good. Pretty soon someone else comes along and sees that information and assumes it is correct…without asking, …and they add it to their tree …and soon you have a lot of misinformation floating around out there and it’s all undocumented.

I’ve had it happen on my own tree. I’ve added a bit of info to research to my tree and next thing you know there are several other trees that have added it to their tree and assume it’s a fact.

I can not stress enough the importance of

sources and documentation.

I recently came a crossed a tree that had listed William M Green as the father of Robert Green. I sent them a message and asked them what their source was as from everything I have found… Robert Green’s father was born in Virginia and this William M Green was born in Tennessee. Hmm. My first clue that there might be a problem.

This person replied to me that she just clicked the green leaves and she just knew. She stated that she didn’t get into sourcing but that if I had a source that would prove differently she would change it. Well, I didn’t have a source, but I won’t add a family member without one.

My questions then would be…then how do you know?! There are literally HUNDREDS of William Greens to choose from.

The point is if you do not have some sort of documentation that that person is the right person, you are leading someone else down the wrong path. If you are serious about tracing your family you want to be sure you are tracing the RIGHT family and not someone else’s. I for one want my tree to be as accurate as possible, so be sure to prove your connection with documentation and collaboration.

 

COLLABORATION

Collaboration is an important part of the search. If someone has information I don’t, I always go to them and ask where or how they know what they know.

1. They might have found sources that you are unaware of

2. They could have a closer relationship to the family and have family information that you don’t

3. They may have access to family bibles and albums that could help you

Always go to the person that shared the information first and document what they tell you. If you don’t keep notes on the information that someone gives you…down the road when someone asks how you know what you know, you won’t remember. I save all the emails and correspondence I have with others when collaborating so that I can go back to the notes if I need to.

DNA has become a huge part of sourcing. If you get enough matches on people with the same line, you will start noticing a pattern in the trees. More and more the same names will start popping up which will be a big reason to follow their progress as it is most likely you will connect somewhere. Getting in touch with distant cousins could just lead you to the clue you have been looking for. One thing I love about cousins is…They are almost always willing to help you. When you have more than one dog on the scent you are more likely to find what you are looking for! (NO, I didn’t call you a dog!)

Most genealogist are eager to share and they want to know what you know as well. Two heads are better than one when it comes to investigating lineage. A simple” because I know” is not going to be sufficient for a true researcher, but someone who is just into clicking little green leaves will take it as a fact. .

TAKE NOTES

If you think you might be on the right track but are still in the process of researching a clue or a hint, put a comment or note on that person so that the next person that sees your tree will know that you haven’t yet proven it as a fact. Perhaps keep your tree private until you know the information is correct. I ALWAYS put a note in the comments if it’s a clue that has not yet been proven.

For example: while looking for the eleven children of Samuel Hays in Indiana, I added Alfred Hays as a son of his, as all the information seemed to add up to that, but I am not absolutely positive that he belongs in the family. I added him as a son, but I put a note on him stating that I had not yet proven this to be a fact and stated my reasons for believing that he was. The next person that comes along and sees this note…may just have some information to help prove or disprove it.

BE COURTEOUS

Be courteous when it comes to contacting people, and be polite. I can’t stress this enough!

I’ve found information that wasn’t correct and added it to my site without checking and then had people contact me …in not a nice way…to tell me it was incorrect. I simply answer them and tell them that I appreciate the information and thank them for letting me know. I don’t, argue with them or comment back rudely. What is the point in that? Simply thank them for the information and let it go. Seriously…you appreciate the information, correct? So a simple thank you is all that is needed. No need to take offense because they did. We are all human, we all make mistakes, simply correct the information provided, thank the person and move on.

You never know when down the road you might need to contact this person for more information and it’s best to stay on good terms. Personally, I’ve never quite understood the need for rudeness anyway. We are all just doing the best we can. So don’t get offended and don’t be offensive.

 

AS ALWAYS, Thanks for reading I hope you enjoyed it. If you have anything you would like to add…please leave me a comment, or just say howdy!

 

and Happy hunting

The Pierce Family Historian

 

UnIdentified Family Photos: Steps to become a detective

Become a detective

If you KNOW who this is please contact me!
Most likely a McCollum, Green, or Kopsa

If you’ve been at the search for long you have undoubtly collected boxes of pictures along the way. Most online history software lets you upload your pictures to the tree. Having a picture to put with your ancestors profile in the tree helps to bring them to life and gives you a feeling of knowing them just a little better. But what happens when someone forgot to put a name or date on the back of the photo? Now you get to spend hours trying to find who it is in that Photo and take to step to becaome a detective to unravel the mystery.

Finding historical photos is easier now than ever. Some of the same websites you’ve searched for genealogy information also have databases of old photos contributed by members—some of whom may be your distant cousins. Local historical societies, state archives and similar organizations, realize  the power of pictures and are placing digitized historical photos and illustrations in online collections. Photo-sharing sites encourage folks to post photos of all ages.

FACEBOOK

There are all kinds of groups geared towards genealogy on facebook, and they are easy to join. Just click the join button and answer a few questions and vola! There are groups that help restore the pictures, some for free. There are groups to help you in your searches. I have met many a cousin from the same family lines in these groups. There are groups where you can upload your pictures to ask for help in identifying ancestor and there are groups looking for family members of lost family photos. Actually, facebook has a group for just about anything these days.

“A photo is a window into the lives of your ancestors.”

There are several sites that have to do with identifying and finding lost photos. Most of your major genealogy sites have archives of photos shared by others. By doing a simple keyword search of the surname you are looking for might get you your desired result. Some also allow you to upload photos you many have to the site to share with others or find help in identifying photos that have lost their names.

Ancient Faces                                                           The National Archives

Dead Fred                                                                   The Library of Congress

Ancestry

Family Search

My Heritage

Digital Public Library of America

Denver Public Library

Flickr

The Ancestry Hunt

The Ancestry Hunt has a huge list of places to search right down to the state that your ancestor may have lived.

ALWAYS REMEMBER

Copyright Considerations for Using Online Images

Finding an online photo of your ancestor or his house is exciting especially if it’s someone you’ve been searching for for years, but pause before you drag it to your desktop or right-click to copy it. How you’re permitted to use it depends when the image was taken, who took it, and what repository now owns the physical image, but most genealogist are willing to share. I for one love to share my information but sometimes it is disheartening to see that it’s being shared in others trees with no mention of the one who originally shared it.
Most photos taken before 1923 are in the public domain, although a library or museum may own the original and license its use so be careful. When searching a repository’s image collection, look for information about usage or rights and reproductions. For example, many institutions allow you to download an image for research or personal use (such as to keep in your genealogy files or include in a family album), but require a licensing fee for publishing it (such as in a family history book or on a website). If you’re in doubt,  always write to the institution for to be sure. Always acknowledge the source of the image, even if there are no usage restrictions and give credit where credit is due.
Images taken by government agencies, such as the Farm Security Administration, are usually OK to use as you see fit; check the online image details for confirmation.
Practice courtesy and caution when you find an ancestral image someone has attached to his or her online family tree. Before you use the image in a book, on your blog or website, or elsewhere, contact the contributor for permission. Thank the person and credit him with source. But remember that the submitter may have gotten the photo somewhere else, possibly without regard for its source or copyright status. Try to find out where it came from, and alter your plans to use it if necessary.
  • Google gives you a photo search tool in Google Image Search. Type your search terms as you would for any web search, and Google will find images from web pages that contain those terms.
  • Don’t overlook old newspapers as another potential source of ancestor photos. A graduation announcement, profile article or obituary might have included a picture.
  • Browse street and building photos on websites such as HistoryPin and WhatWasThere, which let you look for images “pinned” to locations on a map. This is a really cool site that ties historical photos to google maps. I especially like this as I am not satisfied with just a name and date. I want to go where my ancestors have gone before me and visit the places they frequented. It give me a sense of belonging. Here you might find a picture of your ancestors house, or farm. It’s really cool. Check it out.

For more information on copyright and online photos, see the chart on the Cornell University website and study the Copyright category of the Legal Genealogist blog by Judy G. Russell.

 

Langdon’s List

Margaret Cain Family

 

Is an good place to find information about photographers which can help you in dating photo’s you may have questions about. They also offer for a fee a Comparison Service that might help you solve a mystery to an unidentified photo.

Tineye

Offers a reverse search for finding your ancestor. Upload an image and search the database for likely matches. TinEye constantly crawls the web and adds tens of millions of new images to the TinEye index every month Try it …it’s sorta cool.

ASK A COUSIN

If you have a photo you can’t identify or place…ask a cousin or family member. They might just know something you don’t or might have the same picture in their collection. Two heads are better than one when trying to solve a mystery. Recently I was updating my files and came across a folder of unidentifed pictures that I had not a clue as to where they belonged. I have a group on facebook of all my cousins and I posted the pictures there for help and was able to find several of them simply by sharing with cousins.

Youtube.com is a good place to find videos that will help you in restoring old photos and dating them as well. Pinrtest also is a good source for this.

 

I hope this gives ya a little insight in where to hunt!

As always Happy Hunting! and don’t forget to leave me a little comment! I love hearing from ya!

The Pierce Family Historian

 

 

A TRIP TO SALT LAKE: My History Search

Our Research Group

Last year my girlfriend and I decided to take a trip together to the Genealogy Library in Salt Lake to see if we could answer some of our dead end questions. I have to admit that I let Jan do all the planning though it was basically just signing up and sending in our money for our reservations with Family Search Researchers. I saved for over a year to be able to take this trip. It was a once in a lifetime dream come true for me. I had been to the Library before like years ago and didn’t have enough time to really do anything and had no clue as to what to do first. Now with the internet the game has changed and most of what you can do there you can do at home, however there are still records there that you will not be able to find online. Some records are stored on microfilm and the books that are in the library are some you will not yet find online, however, I was told while I was there that they are working on that. With joy in my heart I will share with you my history search.

I have never been a fan of Family Search as it just did not seem user friendly to me. I wasted a lot of time getting to dead ends there, so therefore I pretty much stick to the use of Ancestry.com. Family Search has most of the same records, though they have some that Ancestry does not and vice a versa.

My reservation was for Monday the 10th of September, and from my home in Kansas it was a 14 hour drive to Salt Lake, so I took off on the 8th and headed west. I stayed my first night in Laramie, Wyoming, at a Super 8…which was only 54.00 for the night. I do love the freedom of traveling alone! I made it to Salt Lake on the evening of the 9th where Jan was waiting for me, though my drive through the mountains gave warning that there was a problem with the brakes on my car. I was up and ready early on Monday morning. Registration and dinner wasn’t until 4. This gave me time to get my car into the shop and feel more confident about the safety of my vehicle before the end of the week when I would take off on the second half of my trip. (will write about that in my next post)

At 4 that afternoon, Jan and I went to the meeting room on the first floor of our hotel, signed in, and had a meet and greet with the other researchers in our groups.Some of them were on their 12th year with the group! I’m feeling a bit out of my league!  We were then escorted across the street to the Joseph Smith Memorial, where a wonderful meal had been prepared for us. After dinner we were introduced to our researchers who gave a little info on their expertise.  We were then excused to our own devices until 9 am on Tuesday when we would be given a little walk through of how to use the library and then onto the library where we would begin our search.

Jan and I used this free time to take a private tour of the Joseph Smith building which at one time had been the Hotel Utah, now named in memory of Joseph Smith,  the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement. It is located on the corner of Main Street and South Temple in Salt Lake City. It is an absolutely beautiful building with a great view from the upper levels. I highly recommend you take the time to see it if you ever get to Salt Lake. There is a restaurant on the first level and one on the top level. The restaurant on the upper level has a glass roof that actually opens up during special occasions.  It is one of the most ornate buildings I’ve ever experienced!

Tuesday morning came and my excitement grew.  I thought that I was going to FINALLY find Daniel Johnson,

Robert Green, and Samuel Hays!  I had this idea that I would give what information I had to the researchers and they would know exactly what to do and where to look for these dead ends of mine.  I was confident in my belief that by the end of the day the mystery to these aliens would be solved and I could spend the rest of the week searching for other information.

Jan and I, both having Irish Ancestors, decided that we would sit in on the Finding your Irish Ancestors Class before we started the search.

After the class we were encouraged to visit the researcher for help in the lower

level of the library if we were stumped.  We then headed up to the 3rd floor of the

library to get an hour of research in before we broke for lunch. I met with my researcher and explained to her that my first quest was to find Robert Green. She gave me a quick overview of how to use the Family Search site and several areas to look and went on to help the next person in line.

I sit there at that computer all morning punching in guesses and looking for clues to no avail. I am now suffering from a high level of anxiety over my frustration. At noon we broke for lunch and Jan and I went a crossed the street and walked through Temple Square to the building where they offer up a smorgasbord  of food at cost. The food was amazing and they had everything you could think of to pick from. The usual ‘my eyes are bigger than my stomach’ set in and we both ate too much.

We returned back to the library at 2 continued the search. By 3 in the afternoon I was done!!! Overwhelmed and getting NO WHERE really fast, and a headache setting in….I announced to Jan that I was going to go back to the room for a bit to regroup.

That evening we were taken on a tour of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Conference Center. I had little to no experience

with the Mormon faith other than letting the missionaries come in and talk with me when they came to the door, so was not at all in expectation of what we would find here.  We were greeted by a delightful guide who took us through the building and explained in detail what the building was used for and a bit of the history of  Salt Lake City.

The conference center is basically the main meeting place for events revolving around the LDS. It was HUGE! The 21,000-seat Conference Center replaced the traditional use of the nearby

Salt Lake Tabernacle, built in 1868, for semi-annual LDS Church general conferences and major church gatherings, devotionals, and other events. It is believed to be the largest theater-style auditorium ever built. The sound system was amazing!

Through out the building are commissioned works of art that mesmerize one. The color and the light in the paintings were so life like.  In the center is a large fountain and the  roof top is a garden all it’s own where you can

LDS Conference Center

see the city from above. Darkness fell on us before the tour was finished and it was just a short walk back to the room.

 

I approached Wednesday morning with new hope. Today was the day I was going to search for and FIND Daniel Johnson. I was going to let Robert Green rest for a bit and come back to him later. I made a new friend who was an expertin using the library and she gave me a bit of guidance. The researchers camearound every now and then to check on me and see how I was progressing,and then they were on there way to help someone else. Towards the end of thesearch day even they were getting upset with Daniel! How could there be no records of him ANYWHERE!!! At 5 o’clock Jan and I called it a day and went for a bite and then met the group foa tour of the gardens in Temple Square. Oh my goodness!

There was planted every kind of flower and plant one could imagine and the gardens are scattered with statues. Most of the planting is done by volunteer groups of children and there are thirty gardeners that tend the grounds.

Large flowered baskets hang from every pole. Simply amazing!

Thursday morning, a bit less enthusiastic but a little more familiar with the method…I set out on my search again for Robert. Another day to no avail. By now the researchers are starting to get nervous.

They don’t want you to go home with nothing. One took on Robert and one took on

Daniel and we spent the day searching every clue and scenario we could think of.

What if Robert Green wasn’t even his real name? Maybe he was in trouble somewhere

and just picked a name? How is it that he has no parents, no property, to record at

all to give us a clue. No obituary, no cemetery record, no gravestone.  NOTHING!  And Daniel was just as evasive with the exception that I was able to locate a few land records that could perhaps give me another place to look for clues.

We took rest that evening by sitting in on the practice of the Tabernacle Choir. If you aren’t familiar with them you should get acquainted. They were wonderful even in practice.

Friday the researchers didn’t come in until 2…so Jan and I went to the library for awhile in the morning and then took some time to walk the downtown mall area and have some lunch.  That afternoon I had three researchers team up with me and we worked until 5 to no avail. These guys are definitely aliens.  I was so tired when I got back to the room I laid down on the bed and fell asleep exhausted. It really hurts to use the brain that much.

Saturday came and went and I experienced more of the same. The researchers too were disappointed that we came up empty.

Through it all it was a wonderful trip and I so enjoyed it. I learned so much, had a wonderful week with one of my besties, and made some new friends along the way. Would I do it again? Probably not…as most of what I do I can do at home, but YES I would visit the library again. I felt in the end that I had done my due diligence as a professional wasn’t able to come up with as much as I had. I would however recommend the week to a new researcher that needs the extra help in their search. It was worth every penny in the end. 

Sunday morning I took off early and met one of my new found friends in Winnemucca, Nevada for an evening of drinks, dinner, and slots. The following morning I left early and made my way through the mountains of southern Oregon and found myself in Eugene at dusk where waiting for me was my son and his family. Hugs and kisses were abundant as were the laughs and giggles.

Thanks for taking the journey with me! AND if you know where Robert Green and Daniel Johnson are hiding…send me a clue! I’ve been hunting them for 40 years!

Please leave a comment if you enjoyed my trip as much as I did! Or if ya just want to say howdy!

As Always

Happy Hunting!

The Pierce Family Historian

Your Ancestor-Writing A Good Story

Now that you have collected all the information that you can find on your ancestor it’s time to put it all together and start writing a good story for them.

John and Alice Pierce Family Farm

I hope to give you some tips that will help you to write a profile for them that will bring them to life for others that will be searching for them and the descendants of the future.

ORGANIZE

Gather all the information that you have on your person. Your census, marriage licence,  obituaries, pictures, veteran documents, deeds, wills, pictures, letters….everything you have.

Lay it out in order and create a timeline for them, from their birth to their marriage, the birth of children, their death etc. Recreate their life in the best order that you possibly can.

Decide where you want to begin the journey. If you are missing information on their childhood you might want to start in the middle.

Putting your ideas on index cards might make it easier for you to organize your info.

Decide how long you want the bio to be. Do you want it short and to the point or do you want to write a book?

Set some goals for yourself to write at least so many words per day/week/ month. Do you have a deadline?

Use your sources.

ASK QUESTIONS

Think of the struggles, and trials, high points and low points and write them down.

What was life like during their life time. Did they live during the depression, what were the conditions? Were there illness, health problems, deaths in the family?

How did they live/work? What were the details of the kind of work they did? Did they get up early, go to bed late? Was it hard work? How did they get to work? Did they walk, ride a horse, drive?

What was happening in the area where they lived? What kind of house did they live in? Was it rented or owned?  How did they get the home?

What was happening in history? What was going on in the world and how did it affect them?

Write down the accomplishments they may have achieved.

Recreate the memories they left behind.

STAY FOCUSED

Do your best to tell your stories in the order that they happened. Write a little bit at a time. I’ve found that if I put it all down on paper first as I think of it, then go back and rearrange it in the order it should be helps.

Find a quiet time of the day when there are few distractions so that you can concentrate on your writing. Surround yourself with the memorabilia that will put you in the time and place that makes you think of that ancestor.

MAKE IT INTERESTING

Think about your own life and reflect on the memories that you have. Reflect on your own memories and use that as a guide as to what you might share about this person. What are some of the things you remember about growing up and put yourself into the life of your ancestor? Become them and think of what it was like for them. Tell their story. This person you are writing about is not just a name and date…a beginning and and end, they had a life filled with laughter, tears, love, heartache, joy and sorrow. Paint a picture of what their life was.

Go back and re read what you’ve written. Is it easy to read and descriptive? Is it interesting enough that it keeps the readers attention and the desire to read on? Is there information that is hard to follow? Cut out unnecessary words  and avoid long sentences that will make the reading hard to follow.

DESCRIBE THEIR PERSONALITY

Were they a happy person, a worrier, a drinker, a trickster, a teaser? Were they a serious person? Boisterous? Quiet? Loud? What made people think this about them? Bring them to life with your words.

THE CORE

What is your key point to your story? Is there anything especially interesting about this person that you want to focus on? For instance, were they a war hero? Is that your main focus? Or perhaps they raised 10 children?  You could focus on what it must have been like raising that many children, and what it took to do so. Maybe they were a womanizer and that is your main focus. Knowing your key point or core might make your writing a bit more focused.

USE TOOLS

Templates can be useful. If you are having a hard time knowing where to start perhaps a template could help you to get things organized  and give you a layout.

There also helpful books that will give you ideas and questions that might strike some interest and memories in your thinking.

A dictionary or thesaurus are two tools that no writer should be without. Keep your words simple and understandable. Write like you would be telling the story yourself.

EDIT

Go back and edit your work. Sometimes it’s a good idea to get some new eyes on the project. When you’ve read and re read it so many times…you often miss mistakes that are otherwise easily recognizable.  Ask for feed back and take it with a light heart. In the end…it’s your project…but be open to constructive criticism.

In conclusion I hope that gives you a place to start and some tips to make your writing experience just a little bit easier. As always is there is anything I can do to help in anyway don’t be afraid to leave me a comment below and ask. Do you have anything else you would like to add? Let me know that also!

Happy Hunting!

The Pierce Family Historian

Susan Holmes

 

 

LOOKING FOR CLUES- Your Research

When you first get started in your search for family you will most like be going off word of mouth from other family relation, but as you get deeper into your lineage you will begin looking for clues in every thing you come across. I’m going to show you a few ways to become a detective when you are looking for clues.

BRINGING OUT THE DETECTIVE

Looking through old family letters just might give you tons of clues. Here is an example of one I have read over and over. Each time a new clue seems to pop out at me. It’s probably one of the most favorite in my collection as there is so much to question, also a perfect example as to things to look for.

Not only is it interesting to read…it is full of things to consider.

  • How many questions come up for you as you read through this?
  • What stands out especially?
  • Where would you go from here?

 

 

LOOKING FOR CLUES

Now is the time for the questions to hit you. I’m going to point out to you some of the clues I have gotten from this letter.

First take a look at the heading.

Translated from German in 1933 by a Lutheran minister. Does this give us a clue that the person writing it or perhaps the family is Lutheran?

We received the original letter from my husband’s Uncle Pius Bloom. 

Would you search for Pius Bloom in Fostoria, Ohio?

Her husbands uncle? So who was her husband?

We know from this he was the Grandson of William Blum.

Where and when did the name change from Blum to Bloom?

The letter was written in 1854.  This gives us a timeline to look for.  Fremont? Is there a Fremont, Ohio?

The Dear Parents, brothers, and sisters is another clue as to whom the letter was to. He apparently still had brothers and sisters as well as his parents in Germany.  So we search for William’s parents and siblings to find our answers.

Who was brother “WILL”? Further down in the paragraph is the reference to Uncle Will! Another clue that there is a brother Will, and an Uncle Will.

We also learn from this paragraph that he traveled from New York to Erie. Could this be a clue as to where to start our search?

Who is this Inn Keeper? Is it a friend or relative? Should it be something investigated? The Inn Keeper is in Baden…another clue as to location.

Now on page two we see that they are to travel to New York and stay at the German Inn. Too bad we don’t know the location of that, but one might be able to find it by searching directories.  Wouldn’t we love to see the telegraph with the name of the ship and captain.  Did you know they would be able to cook on the ship? We see here that Wilhelm will be picking them up. Is this Uncle Will? Who is Friedrich Keller? A friend? a relative?

Here it says brother Wilhelm.  Brother of the Father?

AHH a clue to where Fremont is…Sandusky County.

Rosina? a wife, a sister, a neighbor, a relative?

Friedrich Keller”s address. Lets check that out with a search. Remember we are searching in the year 1854. What were the conditions at that time?

Now this last paragraph on page 2  gives us all kinds of info to wonder about.  Are these people friends? or family? Many times family married neighbors…it’s always something to check out, and it greatly adds to your story.

Here we have more names to query. In my search I find that Pius Bloom was the son of Charles A Bloom who married Elizabeth Danker, and Charles was the son of William Blum.  Also now we have information that Elizabeth  was employed by Jacob Taur in Buschenfingen.

SAVE THE LETTER!

So, you can see just from reading through an old letter how much information can be gained. SAVE the letters as you never know when you might want to go back and read them.

I scan all of my letters and put them in the gallery in my tree under the names of who wrote them, who they were written too, and if anyone is mentioned in the letter I save it there also. Then I put them in a plastic sleeve and store them in three ring binder with the authors info.

I hope this gives you a bit of insight into where to look for clues, and perhaps it will stir up a bit of the detective in you also! If it helped you at all please leave me a comment and I’m open always for questions!

Happy Hunting!

The Pierce Family Historian

Traveling for Adventure And Genealogy

Wow. You’ve started gathering information on your ancestors and all kinds of questions start popping up and you decide you want to take on traveling for adventure in exploring where they lived and learning more of the history of their origin.  Even traveling within the country can be quite an expense. I hope to share with you a few ways that you can cut your cost in your travel exploration.

Make A list

I have been putting together a travel plan for myself. My hope is to next year visit Germany. I have three family lines that originate in Germany, BLUM, MOSSINGER, and NUTSCH, so I am gathering information on the cities that I would like to visit and what I will want to explore while I am there. My traveling buddy is so understanding when it comes to my genealogy search that he has agreed to go with me but insisted that I know

where I want to go,

 what I want to see,

and who we plan to visit ahead of time.

Emmendingen

 

Basically I’m doing research to find the names of the cities and villages that I want to visit and making list of exactly what I want to see while I’m there. In my records I have quite a bit of information gathered on the area and I know what I want to visit when I get there. There will be of course things that you have not thought of until you get there so make sure to plan for enough time.

One thing especially, I was told by Great Uncle Martin after his visit, was that he ran out of time while visiting the church records or could have gotten back a lot farther. (He got back into the 1500s) Keep in mind how old your cities are that you are wanting to visit. Write out a list of all the people you want to explore information on while you are there.  Find out where you might find those records in advance and make arrangements ahead of time for your visit so you are sure you have an appointment if needed. You can find a bit of information on the German Church Books here.

KNOW YOUR HISTORY

Knowing a bit about the history of the area during the time your relatives lived there will be of great help to you also. I have been reading about the history of Germany for years but have been refreshing my memory so I will be prepared for the questions that I’m sure will come up. I also write down my questions when I think
of them in a notebook that I can take with me.  Even if I find the answers I’m sure there are going to be things I will want to see based on some of the questions. There are some great books on the subjects at Amazon books

Write out a list of all the people you want to explore information on while you are there. Make a spread sheet or fill out your pedigree charts with as much information as you know on them and keep notes of what it is you don’t know so you will have it handy to do your search.

Organize your family members into towns and groups so you don’t miss anything while you are in the area. Too many times I have found after I returned from a trip that there was more information available to me and I missed it. (I am NOT the ORGANIZED genealogist!) Yet, this realization causes you to make another trip! Nothing wrong with that RIGHT?!

In Germany

 

Do you know if you have  relatives there that you can visit? I know that my BLUM family line still has relatives in Germany so I am already building a relationship with them so that I might pay them a visit. Having relatives in the area that you are wanting to explore will make your visit to a new country a little less stressful. They will be able to guide you or even accompany you to areas that you would otherwise have to find on your own. Before my great uncles died, they made a tract back to Germany and were able to get around quite easily with the help of the relatives there. There was also a great reunion planned for them to get to know the younger generation that they had yet to meet. I so wanted to visit Germany when my sons were there in the service. Exploring the family history with them would have been such a wonderful experience and perhaps some of my addictive behavior would have rubbed off on them!

Language could be an obstacle. This might be something you might want to address in advance. Having one person that speaks your language could help tremdously.

Don’t forget your passport! 

Give yourself plenty of time to get your passport so if there are any problems you won’t feel the pressure. Several years ago my mom, my sister, and I planned a trip to Portugal and Mom had a bit of a glitch in getting her passport due to the fact she was born at home. I don’t recall what the procedure was exactly, but give yourself plenty of time.  If you don’t already have a passport, don’t fall for the online ads claiming they will help you. It isn’t that hard to do it yourself and you will save yourself the fee they charge for their “help”.

 

PLANNING YOUR BUDGET

We all know how expensive it is to do anything these days so plan your budget carefully. I have found that having a membership to a private travel platform will cut your traveling cost and your hotel cost in half.

Do a little comparison shopping and you will find awesome deals. The membership cost will more than pay for your savings.

 

I do hope this gives you some value. Please leave me a few comments and tell me where you are going to to.

Happy Hunting!

The Pierce Family Historian



THE TRAVELING GENEALOGIST: BEING PREPARED

Once you start finding information on you ancestors, you are going to become curious enough that you are going to want to visit the homes of their origins. You will want to walk the paths that they walked, and try to imagine the life they had there, the places they visited, the things they did and the memories they made. If their house is still standing you will want to walk the halls, and picture them there in their glory. You will want to map out the blueprint of the life they lead.  You won’t be able to help yourself, you will become a traveling genealogist.

When you start wandering in this journey, you are going to want to be prepared. I too many times have made a tract to the uncharted land being unprepared for what I would find. Some of my travels have been impromptu and I ran into information that I had no way to track. I want to share with you  some things to think about before you begin your journey. 

BEFORE YOU LEAVE

Some things you might want to be sure to have with you is your data. How in the world can you take that all with you? If it’s early in your search you may just have a 3 ring notebook with your pedigree charts in it. This will work fine, but if you are forty or fifty years into your research you probably have a tree that contains way too much information to carry with you.

With the wonderful technology of the online world it is a bit easier than it use to be. There are software programs, and apps that you can download to your lap tops, phones and ipads that can help you but you have to be in an area that has service. This would be fine for the library and courthouse but the cemeteries you will visit most likely will not offer up a connection. I would definitely put them in my bag to take with me though. You might want to take a camera, but your phone or ipad will most likely do. Make sure your batteries are charged, you have a note book and pen for all the notes you will take. (TAKE LOTS OF NOTES)

Personally, I have not found an app for the ipad or phone that I like. (I’m still looking and open to suggestions). If your tree is small they may work better for you. My tree is too big and they seem to take a long time to load and freeze up.  In this case it might be a good idea to “break” up your tree into smaller trees in order to use the app. (Something I have not yet done).

One thing I particularly like about the My Heritage software is that you can search by location. This is a great way to find all the people who have lived or are buried in a certain area. Everytime I do a survey for Ancestry.com I ask for this feature. Ancestry does have search all people feature, and you can put in a surname and it will bring everyone with that last name up, with their info so you can scroll through and see who is buried in the area, but it isn’t as nice as knowing all the people in that area as other surnames could  be in the area also .

FREE APPS

There are all kinds of tree apps available in the app store. My suggestion would be to try out a few and find one you like. I have tried Ancestry, Family Tree, but don’t really care for either. Like I said previously they are just a bit difficult to maneuver, but they would be handy for having your info available while traveling. Check out your app store and try a few and see what one might work for you.

 

CALL AHEAD 

Call ahead if at all possible. Often times I have arrived at my destination only to find that the library or court house was closed, or the person you wanted to visit wasn’t home. This is a big disappointment. Make sure the times on the website are correct. I showed up at the library a little before noon only to learn that they close at noon on a Saturday when the website said they were open until 4.

Of course there are going to be times when you don’t know who you want to talk to until you find them. I’ve gotten phone numbers of cousins that I wasn’t able to get ahold of on the phone while I was in town and had to leave empty handed.

VISIT THE LIBRARY

The Library is one of the best places to visit to find old newpaper clippings, obituaries, and information on the city, locations of cemeteries, etc. More and more libraries are becoming genealogy friendly. Some have a separate department just for such. Some will have a researcher there to help you and other smaller libraries you will be on your own. I have yet to visit one that has not had very helpful people there.

Do a little research before you leave and make sure you know where the library is, what time they are open, and if there is someone available to help you.  Once you’ve determined the repository and records you plan to research, it is definitely worth the time to call to make sure the records are available for research.

Most of your old newspapers will be on micro film. Once you get the hang of how to use it you will find all kinds of infomation. It is however time consuming so keep that in mind before you start and be sure to allow enough time. I found it very helpful to have someone with me. I would look up the information as to who and when, find the micro film, and have them search. It saved a lot of time and I came away with much more info.

VISIT THE COURTHOUSE

Visiting the courthouse is something I personally have not done. To be honest, it scares the hell out of me, but there is a treasure trove of information to be found there, from land deeds, to vital records, and wills.

Plan out what you want to find before you go. You will have less distractions and be able to stay more focused if you do. Call ahead and see if the records you are looking for are available. Due to fires and other catastrophes many records have been destroyed or moved to another repository. Many records have been preserved on micofilm.

LOCATE YOUR CEMETERIES

Find a Grave has many of the cemeteries you want to visit listed with the location. Look up your cemeteries before you go so that you don’t find yourself driving wanderously through the country only to find a corn field. The local courthouse or library may also have the information you need. If the cemetery isn’t a real big one, browse through the whole thing. Some cemeteries have a registry that will list the names of the people buried and the row and plot in which to find them. This is a big time saver, plus you can scan the registry and see if there are others in the cemetery that you might not have known about. Some of your bigger cemeteries have a caretakers office that keeps records and will help you locate the person you are searching.

HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The historical society or local genealogical society is a great place to visit, as well as your local museums. They often times will be able to give you all kinds of information you might not have found elsewhere. Always call ahead though as I have found that in your smaller rural areas they are generally managed by volunteers and are open by appointment only.

ALLOW ENOUGH TIME

Make sure to allow enough time, though no matter how diligent you are in your plans you will never feel like you have enough, and once you find something interesting you will want to dig for more! If you are not thousands of miles from your destination you can always easily return but generally this is not the case.

Dress appropriately as you will be doing a lot of walking and standing, so wear comfortable shoes, and don’t forget to take your bug spray for those cemetery searches or walks in the country if you discover a homestead.

Always be polite and respectful to those that are helping you. Try to avoid asking questions that do not relate to the search.

If you find some value in this post please leave me a comment and as always if I am able to help you in anyway please  let me know how I may be of service.

Happy Hunting!

 

 

10 BEST SOURCES WHEN LOOKING FOR FAMILY HISTORY

When looking for your family history documenting the sources for the information that you find on your family is VERY important. You absolutely want to take lots of notes when it comes to the information that you find in your search. I cannot stress that enough as I learned the hard way. When you change any information in your tree take a note of it and explain why you made that change. So many times I have found that I made changes to my information and then when I come back to it later can’t remember why I did so. Often times someone will challenge your information and you will want to be able to back it up.

If you are using a pedigree chart in the beginning be sure to write down where you found the information. Did someone share it with you? Write down who it was and how they would know. If you are using a program such as wikitree, they require sources and explainations for the changes you make.

As your tree grows you will soon have thousands of names in your tree and keeping track of all of them will become more difficult, but if you document your sources and changes  when you make them you will find it will be much easier.

 

So, where do you find the information? Today I’m going to be sharing with you  places that I like to  look for information that will often times open up a new lead for you.

CENSUS

Census reports are probably one of the most helpful resources you will find. They offer up much information such as where the family lived, approximate birth dates, family members, sometimes occupation, if they are married or widowed or divorced. ALWAYS  look at the document rather than than accepting it from a hint (if you are using a program such as ancestry).  Often times I will also look at the neighbors. Neighbors living near by could be family members that can help you to find a lead.  I have even gone back and checked out census reports when I have trouble locating a family member to see if they lived in the same area. Finding similar surnames could just be the clue you are looking for. If you don’t take the time to look at the document you may miss a lot of important information.

CEMETERIES

Cemeteries are one of my favorite places to look. My sister and I visited a cemetery in Iconium, Missouri where my grandmother was born and though I didn’t have my information with me at the time I walked through and took pictures of all the headstones of the surnames I could recall that were in my tree and was able to place dates on many ancestors missing information.

Often you will find family plots where members are buried close by.  You may have to walk through the whole cemetry to satisfiy your curiousity.

BIRTH AND DEATH RECORDS

Birth records are excellent sources. Birth records record the date of birth, the mothers maiden name, the father’s name and occupation, and the location.

Death records generally have an informate who is usually a relative, but not always. They also tell the cause of death, where the person was living when they died, if they were married, who the spouse is, and where the person is buried.

OLD NEWPAPERS

I love looking through old newspapers for information. I have found so many little bits of information that I would not have known about a person by doing so. Here you will find wedding annoucements, engagement annoucements,  obituairies, where they visited and oh so much more. It’s a bit time consuming scanning through old papers but it can be a relaxing past time and you will be surprised at the information you might find.

FAMILY ALBUMS

If you have not inherited a family album, perhaps your parents have, or one of their siblings has. Someone in the family is surely coveting one somewhere. I love the old pictures, and being able to put a face to a name makes them come alive to you. If you make copies don’t forget to identify it so that you will remember who it is.

I spent a whole day with my aunt, scanning, and collecting information, and I put it on a thumb drive without naming each file and when I got home I couldn’t remember who was who. BAD mistake! I thought I would remember but didn’t get to it right away and by the time I did had forgotten many of them.  I know so many people that have been given a box of photos after someone has passed and they have no clue as to who is in the picture. Document! Document! Document!

MILITARY RECORDS

Military records will sometimes tell you a bit about the persons appearance such as their skin color, their eye color, how much they weigh and their height as well as their date of birth, and where they lived when they enlisted.

RELATIVES

Relatives are often times very helpful in your search. Learn to ask lots of questions. Get the scoop on other family members through that one storyteller in the family. They may have access to photos and books that can get you a treasure of information. They may know of a book that someone else has published on the family that will help you out. Have them fill out a pedigree chart for you on each of their family members. Reunions are a great place to do this. Attend your family reunion and talk to the people you don’t know. Get phone numbers and addresses so you can go back and talk to them later.

THE LIBRARY

The library is full of information but it is time consuming. I have spent hours upon hours at the library in search. Some librarys actually have genealogy departments and someone that will help you in your search. I have even emailed or written the library to have information looked up for me and have had great success. I generally will send a monetary donation for the help, and some libraries will require a fee.

FAMILY TREES

When your tree matches another you may just have hit the jack pot! Someone else has already done the work for you. Before you start merging their information into your tree…take HEED…as sometimes they might not have done due diligence and the information could be incorrect. Too often I have found tress where someone just started clicking and didn’t check out the information or sources to subtansiate it. This can make a real mess for you. (Been there done that!) Sometimes it just takes that one hint to catapolt you back generations.

OBITUARIES

I feel like I’ve won the lottery if I find a good old fashion obituary. They have a goldmine of information,  including siblings, parents, spouses,  grandchildren, and even cousins, as well as the date of birth and death and place of burial. Today newspapers charge extra for the personal information to be printed so you might be disappointed in some of the newer obits. However, the older ones will almost follow the person through their life from birth to death giving you an over all story of the persons life.

 

These are just my top ten picks when looking for your family history. Letters, postcards, land grants, wills, social security indexes, message boards and forums, online searches such as Find a Grave, Wikitree, Family Search, Ancestry, and so many more, are just a few places to find you the clues you are looking for. I hope this helps get you off to a good start.

If I can in anyway be of help to you please let me know in the comments below, and if you have any questions, or thoughts on how I can be of service to you leave me a message.

Happy Hunting!

 

 

 

Good Conversation Starter Questions

One thing that you will want to learn to do as a family historian is to talk to people, and you will talk to a lot of them let me tell you. Getting them to talk is not always the easiest. I have found that talking to family members that are interested in the family history will talk to you much more readily and openly than those who are not. As a person that loves the subject I personally can not talk about it enough. Having some good conversation starter questions will help you when you visit your relatives and might just open them up to sharing more with you.

Having some handy questions in front of you sometimes can be of value. For example, my father would not talk at all! I would ask him a question and his answer was usually, “I don’t remember.” He would stop by the house in the mornings and have coffee with me and I would find a way to ask him one question every day. I was able to extract a bit of information from him that way. I asked him things like…

Do you remember who your first teacher was?

He did remember, and that lead to where did he go to school, did he walk or did someone take him?

Most people LIKE to talk about themselves. If you have some handy questions available to get them started you will be surprised at the information they will share. It’s my opinion that when getting someone to share with you no detail is unimportant when it comes to preserving the history of a loved one. Questions help recall things people have been through, places they gone, trials they’ve endured, etc. It helps you to get an idea of what kind of personality the person has, their character, and the life they have lived. The smallest details make up the richness of the life they have lived. Something as simple as remembering the house they grew up in or what the wallpaper looked like can set off a flood of memories and perhaps help you to extract more information that you can imagine.

Long lives yield many treasures, pictures, keepsakes, property, and savings. One precious legacy that is often lost are the memories of people, places, and things that are what makes up the lives of those who have gone before you. How many times have you found yourself in wonder about your ancestors lives? How they traveled, what kind of games they played as children, what kind of problems they had to work out, how did they get along with others, what were their main struggles with parenting? I know I myself have been “wonder woman” about each and every ancestor I research. Even my own parents, whom I lived with for 17 years…did I really know them? Now that they are gone I realize that I did not, and it’s too late to ask. My mother did keep sporadic journals from which I learned some things about her, however she did not go into a lot of detail so you still wonder what caused her to feel the way she did in some areas. I myself kept journals for years. I will admit the last 20 years or so I have not been as diligent about it. With the internet there are so many new ways to document your life and history.

Facebook for example. Sometimes I simply HATE what Facebook has become, but it also has given me a way to follow nieces, and nephews and watch their children grow up in a way that never was possible when I was raising my children. I’ve thought of deleteing my Facebook account, but then I consider all the lost pictures and history of the years I’ve been there. If I were to die tomorrow…my descendants have a history they can look back on. Is Facebook the best way to document your life? Absolutely not, but we do it without even knowing it in that space. When my mom died my sister-in-law thought it best to delete my mothers account as unused accounts lead to hackers and spammers, but I must admit, I regret that we have lost her history.

Here are some good conversation starter questions that you can use to get the most out of your interviews with relatives.

FACTS

You will absolutely want the facts.

Who where their parents?

Who were their grandparents?

Where were they born?

city, state, county, and hospital.

Where were they buried?

city, state, county, and hospital. and cemetery where they are buried.

What was the cause of death?

sometime this alone will generate a story.

What language did they speak?

If they were immigrants how did they travel?

What caused them to migrate?

Did they become citizens?

Who came with them?

Where did they settle?

Did they learn a new language?

Are they married, divorced, or widowed?

What maiden names are involved?

When were they married?

city, county, state, date, and kind of ceremony

What did they love about the person they married?

How did they know they were the “one”?

Where did they meet?

How many children did they have?

How many Grandkids?

What are their names?

How old are they?

be sure to get the facts on them if possible as dead people are easier to find than living ones.

What was their occupation?

What made them choose their occupation?

Were they happy with their decision?

What was their religion?

What made them choose that religion?

Did they grow up on a farm, in the city, or somewhere else?

Did they move?

Did they have a particularly important pet?

Where did they get their name?

Were they named after someone?

What kind of family traditions have been handed down?

Were you considered poor, rich, or middle class? Why?

Did you have to work for what you got or was it given to you?

Who handled the finances in the family?

Are their any family heirlooms that have been handed down?

Do you have any old family pictures to share?

You get the just of it. These questions generally will lead you to more and more questions and you will get to where they will come naturally to you after a while.Sometimes when interviewing it is good to have a video or recorder with you so that you don’t forget the stories that are told. Too many times I have wished afterwards that I had recorded my grandfather when he told his stories. I find it hard to remember them later, and you could never tell them in the same manner that he did.  I hope this helps you in your search!

Happy Hunting!

 

 

 

Research the Origin of your Surname

When  you first begin your family genealogy you might find it extremely helpful along the way if you first do a quick research for the origin of your surname. In your search you will be starting with yourself and working backwards and in doing so you will gain surnames for each generation as you go back, so having a little knowledge of surname origins can and will be a big help in your research.

Your last name is commonly referred to as your SURNAME. Your first name is referenced as your GIVEN name, and of course you have your MIDDLE name.  You will gain a surname for your mother’s maiden name, your grandmother’s maiden name and so on. A quick research of the origin of that name can tell you where you evolved from in a sense.

     Family tree research is one giant step backwards and one giant step forward—usually at the same time.

My maiden name is PIERCE.  Pierce is an English surname from  the established name Peter, which in medieval England was found as PIERS. Peter come from the Greek word “PETRO” which means “rock”. PIERS is the French version brought by the Normans in 1066 at the time of the Conquest.

From this bit of information I know that the name originated in England. Are all PIERCE’s English. NO! But it is a good assumption, and as to how far back one might have to go to get there is unknown to me at this point.  I merely had to go back to the 1600’s to find my George PIERCE that was born in England. I haven’t gone farther back than that to find if they had been somewhere else first. Family says there was some Irish in there somewhere.

There are as many as 16 versions of the PIERCE name,

PIERCE   PEARCE  PIERS  PEERS  PERES  PERSE  PEERZ                         

just to name a few.  Being able to recognize the variances you will more likely be able to spot a record that you might bypass otherwise, as in many census and military records you will find  have variations in spellings. There are several reasons for this.

  1. your ancestor may not have been able to read or write.
  2.  the census taker spelled it to their interpretation.
  3. the transcriber may not have been able to make out the name and took a wild guess.
  4.  generations back people weren’t as particular about a spelling as we are today. (probably because of the reasons mentioned above.)
  5. Immigrants often times changed the spelling or shortened their names in order to become more “American”.
  6. Many times immigrants did not know the English version and the immigration officer would record it incorrectly.
  7. It could be that the person giving the information didn’t know the correct spelling.
  8. Many of the records are sent over seas to India and such to be transcribed and it could just be a failure on their part to get it correct.

We are human. We make mistakes.

       “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.” —Mark Twain

Only four generations back in the PIERCE family tree we find that one half of the family changed their name to the spelling PEIRCE. We believe because the father, MOSES had two families and the second family wanted to associate separately from the first, but that is just and assumption.

While searching for my fourth great grandfather, Adam SHAVER I found several instances where variant spellings came to play. SHAFFER and SHAVEN just to name a couple.  So in searching records don’t overlook the possibility of finding lots of differences.

Surnames became necessary in the 13th century when governments introduced  personal taxation. They originated to help identify people. Centuries ago when the world was less populated people would be referred to has John, or Fredrick. Everyone knew their neighbors and friends, and where they lived, what their occupations were, etc., people did not so readily move, and families lived in close proximity to each other. Therefore, for example, if John had a son down the lane, he might be referred to as Johnson. This would be considered a patronymic name. In most regions and time periods, surnames were assumed based on descent from your male ancestor (generally the father). A matronymic surname would be that deriving from the mother. Use of the mother’s surname is usually due to some circumstance such as  illegitimacy,  inheritance etc., though in some regions culture dictated the use of the mother’s surname. Or perhaps, Joe made pottery. He could have earned the name Joe Potter. They call this an occupational name. I have lot’s of Miller’s in my family. A Miller was someone who ground grain, this is Mueller in German, therefore we also have Mueller’s in the family.  Get the picture?

  • “Genealogy: An account of one’s descent from an ancestor who did not particularly care to trace his own.” —Ambrose Bierce

In many countries, the use of hereditary surnames began with the nobility who often called themselves after their ancestral seats. It wasn’t until the 1500s that surnames became widely inherited and no longer referred to a person’s appearance, job, or place of residence. Perhaps the caveman method would have made it easier for us as genealogist had we had something to go by.  When searching for William Robert GREEN, it would sure be nice to have an occupation or dwelling to go off of if you have no other information. Believe me, I KNOW!

In conclusion, I highly recommend with each new surname you start with a little research.  A few moments to do a little study on the name and it’s origin and the different derivatives of the names and variations of spelling could save you a lot of time and headache down the road as you search. You will come across records that will make you shake your head in wonder.  A little more research and  you might just also learn a good little bit about that special ancestor before you even start your search. Knowing the origin of your name puts you just a little bit closer to who you are and where you came from and what has gone before you.

It’s a feeling only another family historian could explain.

Happy Hunting!

 

 

 

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