28 June 2013

Upfront Mini Bytes -- NYC, Newspapers, Photos, SF, Federal Land Patents, Native Americans, and more


You may search for past editions by entering “Upfront with NGS” “Mini Bytes” into your favorite search engine or use this Google search link.

Do you have questions, suggestions for future posts, or comments?  Please post a comment or send an e-mail to UpFront@ngsgenealogy.org.

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Hart Island is NYC’s Public Burial Ground and the Department of Correction has created a database of Hart Island Burial Records. You can search on name, age, date of death, place of death (e.g., which hospital), etc.
                                                                                              
Though we always hope that our Revolutionary War soldier filed a pension or had a nice and detailed service record, unfortunately, that just isn’t always the case.  Tom Kemp recently posted on the GenealogyBank.com blog about using newspapers, etc., as a way of Piecing Together the Clues about a Revolutionary War Soldier.

Photos, photos, photos – they do speak volumes!  We get so used to seeing landmarks fully completed as they have been in our lifetime.  And yet, they were once under construction.  Check out Photos of Famous Landmarks While They Were Still Under Construction to see some neat photos.  Maybe your ancestors worked on these projects?

Do you live in San Francisco (CA) or did your ancestors?  There is a website called History of SF Place Names that is fun to explore.  You can search on a street name or you can browse the  map and click on a highlighted street or landmark and a window will pop up with some details. Click on “read more” and you will be taken to a relevant Wikipedia page.

Digital Preservation isn’t just for libraries and archives.  We also generate and collect a lot of digital content in the course of our genealogy research.  Learn about Fifty Digital Preservation Activities You Can Do as published on the Library of Congress’s blog The Signal: Digital Preservation.

If your ancestor obtained land through a Federal Land Patent, it can be fun and frustrating to correlate that land description (meridian, township, and range) to determine exactly where that land would be on a modern map.  On her blog Roots, Branches, and a Few Nuts, Beverly McGowan Norman has posted Finding the Old Homestead where she takes you step-by-step through the process of using your ancestor’s original land patent to eventually plotting it on Google Earth.

Did you know that Native Americans served in the War of 1812? Apparently in upper New York, the Oneida and Seneca had tribal members who participated.  Read Native Americans in the War of 1812, which is posted on the Preserve the Pensions (a project to enable the digitization of the War of 1812 Pensions) blog. Read more about Oneida involvement here or watch this video (War of 1812 – Oneida’s Part). [note to self: image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oneida_people]

It used to be that if your family was involved in a “trade,” frequently several generations of ancestors were employed in that same trade (basket making was big in my Lancashire family in the 19th and early 20th centuries).  Nowadays that is not the case.  In fact, research shows that many children deliberately choose a different trade. Read Following the family’s trade now the exception on scotsman.com to learn more about this change.  Obviously, some of the change is due to job obsolescense. How might this impact future genealogists?


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27 June 2013

Petitions – do you make use of them in your genealogy research?

The source for this petition is the NC General Assembly Records (GASR), Apr-May 1783, Box 1, Folder: Misc Petitions at the NC archives (Raleigh, NC)
Image taken & copyrighted by Diane L Richard, www.mosaicrpm.com
People often think of petitions as just “a list of names.”  They are so much more!  They are very interesting lists of names. 
  • Did your ancestor sign a petition to request a new county be formed?  If so, you know where he was living when. 
  • Did your ancestor protest the building of a mill near him?  If so, you know something about where he lived. 
  • Was your ancestor a Quaker and petitioned that slaves be freed?  If so, you know his religious affiliation and something of his beliefs.
  • Did your ancestor sign any kind of petition?  Then you probably have his original signature!

The source for this petition is the NC General Assembly Records (GASR), Apr-May 1783, Box 1, Folder: Misc Petitions at the NC archives (RaleighNC)
Image taken & copyrighted by Diane L Richard, www.mosaicrpm.com
Petitions tell us so much about our ancestors and what was important to them.  They also provide us context on neighbors and neighborhoods.  They also provide us with an original signature for our ancestor!  When doing 18th and earlier research – it can be very challenging to find anything “original” to do with our ancestors and so such a signature can be quite special.

Some posts/resources about petitions and their use in genealogy research:



What is the neatest petition that you have come across?

Did finding your ancestor on a petition result in a major break through in your research?




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copyright © National Genealogical Society, 3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204-4370. http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.
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26 June 2013

Starting tomorrow ... Free Access to Irish Birth, Marriage and Death Records 27-30 June at Findmypast



Many have Irish roots.  Historically it was quite challenging to research those roots without taking a trip to Ireland (though, a trip to Ireland does sound quite fun!).

The last few years has seen an explosion in what Irish records we can research from the comfort of our home!

As stated on the findmypast.com site ...

On June 30 1922, during the Irish Civil War, the Public Records Office of Ireland, located at the historic Four Courts in Dublin, was severely damaged by fire resulting in the loss of a huge number of records.

But all is not lost! Irish family history is not only one of the most perplexing to research it also one of the most rewarding. There are so many fascinating stories to be told from the records that survive and that’s why millions continue to search for their Irish ancestors.

... Get started on your Irish family history today by searching our Birth, Marriage and Death records FREE.

Starting tomorrow and for the next few days you can freely access the findmypast Irish Birth, Marriage and Death Records.


Did you find your Irish ancestors? What did you learn?




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copyright © National Genealogical Society, 3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204-4370. http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.
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Past Imperfect -- Smithsonian Blog with the tagline, History with all the interesting bits left in


When I was growing up, my family was a member of the Smithsonian.  Though we lived in CT, every few years we would take a trip to DC and visit the museums.  I mostly remember three things about those trips – eating in the fancy red brick building, no food trucks, and having to park miles away and my dad and I invariably being sent off to retrieve the car to pick up my mom and sisters.  Unfortunately, my memories of the museums themselves are bit more vague.

What I also remember is that every month we would get the Smithsonian Magazine.  I could sit on my bed and travel the world just by turning its pages.

In this modern age, the Smithsonian footprint has expanded to include so much more including a blog titled Past Imperfect.  I first found out about this blog via a post titled The Civil War: 8 Strange and Obscure Facts You Didn’t Know.

This is a great blog to feed the inner historian that resides in all genealogists!

What other history blogs do you like to read?





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copyright © National Genealogical Society, 3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204-4370. http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.
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Republication of UpFront articles is permitted and encouraged for non-commercial purposes without express permission from NGS. Please drop us a note telling us where and when you are using the article. Express written permission is required if you wish to republish UpFront articles for commercial purposes. You may send a request for express written permission to UpFront@ngsgenealogy.org. All republished articles may not be edited or reworded and must contain the copyright statement found at the bottom of each UpFront article.
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25 June 2013

Forbidden Forebears: Finding the GLBT Ancestors in Your Family

source: http://www.visittucson.org/about/glbt/

Michael J Leclerc wrote an excellent article for the Mocavo blog titled Forbidden Forebears: Finding the GLBT Ancestors in Your Family. He did so to recognize that June is celebrated internationally as Pride Month for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people.

In the course of my research for clients, I have come across some of the same “clues.”  I remember one male moving to Florida later in his life and all of a sudden in the census he was listed with a (male) “partner” and they were a gardener and actor. I will admit that it took me awhile to figure out what the story was.  If I had read Michael’s article – I would have figured it all out a bit quicker!

As Michael says, look at his suggestions as clues.  Just because someone might “fit” doesn’t mean that they were GLBT and it is worth considering.

Throughout history many individuals have had to subvert “who” they are due to persecution – religious, ethnic, sexual orientation, etc – and, that just makes our work as a genealogy researcher more challenging.  The stories of everyone need to be told ...

Here are a few posts about the overlap of GLBT and Genealogy Research:



Do you have GLBT individuals in your tree?  Besides “personal knowledge” what resources led you to identify them as such? Please tell us about your GLBT ancestors – their stories have probably been hidden for too long.

Are you aware of other posts about the overlap of GLBT and Genealogy Research?  If so, please do share.

Know of another historically persecuted group who are hard to research?  If so, let us know and we’ll do a future post.



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copyright © National Genealogical Society, 3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204-4370. http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.
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Republication of UpFront articles is permitted and encouraged for non-commercial purposes without express permission from NGS. Please drop us a note telling us where and when you are using the article. Express written permission is required if you wish to republish UpFront articles for commercial purposes. You may send a request for express written permission to UpFront@ngsgenealogy.org. All republished articles may not be edited or reworded and must contain the copyright statement found at the bottom of each UpFront article.
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24 June 2013

Can't We Just Get Along? History and Genealogy Need to Join Up ...


Creative Commons, Attribution 2.0 Generic,  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I originally read the article Can't We Just Get Along? History and Genealogy Need to Join Up by Scott Phillips when it was first published in January and it was like he had sat in on some conversations that we’ve held here in Raleigh (NC).

Every time I do genealogy research, I learn some history.  Every bit of history I learn explains what people did and better helps me identify what records to look into that might have relevance.  I can’t imagine doing genealogical research without understanding history and history wouldn’t have happened without people.  They are inextricably intertwined!

That said, though many communities have joint genealogical & historical societies, many communities, including the one where I live have “separate” genealogical and historical societies.  Though we understand that historical context tells us why they were separately established, does that context still have relevance today?  With often shrinking pools of volunteers and money and a clear synergy between these topics, does it make sense to have more genealogical & historical or historical & genealogical societies than stand-alone ones?

What do you think? Is this an artificial divide whose demise should be imminent?  Or, is their greater value to reinforcing the differences between the two disciplines?





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copyright © National Genealogical Society, 3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204-4370. http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.
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Republication of UpFront articles is permitted and encouraged for non-commercial purposes without express permission from NGS. Please drop us a note telling us where and when you are using the article. Express written permission is required if you wish to republish UpFront articles for commercial purposes. You may send a request for express written permission to UpFront@ngsgenealogy.org. All republished articles may not be edited or reworded and must contain the copyright statement found at the bottom of each UpFront article.
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21 June 2013

Mastering Genealogical Proof with Thomas W. Jones on The Forget-Me-Not Hour radio show


Host Jane E. Wilcox welcomed Dr. Thomas W. Jones, author of the recently released book Mastering Genealogical Proof, on Wednesday, June 19. Tom discussed what genealogical proof is and why we need it. He explained how the book can help all genealogists -- from novices to professionals – in their quest to correctly identify their ancestors. Find the show on demand at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/janeewilcox/2013/06/20/mastering-genealogical-proof-with-thomas-w-jones.

Find the book at the National Genealogical Society online store at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/mastering_genealogical_proof.

Thomas W. Jones has been the co-editor of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly since 2002. He is past APG board member, BCG trustee, and president and teaches at BU, IGHR, and SLIG. With over forty years of research and teaching experience, he frequently lectures, teaches, and writes about genealogical methodology.





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copyright © National Genealogical Society, 3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204-4370. http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.
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Republication of UpFront articles is permitted and encouraged for non-commercial purposes without express permission from NGS. Please drop us a note telling us where and when you are using the article. Express written permission is required if you wish to republish UpFront articles for commercial purposes. You may send a request for express written permission to UpFront@ngsgenealogy.org. All republished articles may not be edited or reworded and must contain the copyright statement found at the bottom of each UpFront article.
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20 June 2013

British, Scottish & Irish Records -- More & More Just Keep Becoming Available

Source: John Pinkerton [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3A1818_Pinkerton_Map_of_the_British_Isles_(England%2C_Scotland%2C_Ireland)_-_Geographicus_-_BritishIsles-pinkerton-1818.jpg 

Since my mom’s side is 100% English – well, there is the one lone Scotsman in the family – I am always on the look out for British records.  And, I’ll tell you a secret – I have reason to believe that our Scotsman’s ancestors were probably Irish.  Not just Irish -- Catholic Irish.  As is often said, my mom would roll in her grave hearing that; she is the person who on St. Patrick’s day made a point of wearing orange!

And, enough about my family ... let’s look at some recent news (or sometimes “news” to me) about newly available records from across the pond from England, Scotland and Ireland.


Do you know of some other “new” British Isles resources that your fellow family historians would want to know about?


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copyright © National Genealogical Society, 3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204-4370. http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.
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Republication of UpFront articles is permitted and encouraged for non-commercial purposes without express permission from NGS. Please drop us a note telling us where and when you are using the article. Express written permission is required if you wish to republish UpFront articles for commercial purposes. You may send a request for express written permission to UpFront@ngsgenealogy.org. All republished articles may not be edited or reworded and must contain the copyright statement found at the bottom of each UpFront article.
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19 June 2013

Capture Your Family History on Video This Summer

Source: JSHawkins, http://www.flickr.com/photos/everypassingminute/4203341190
Used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

I don’t know about you and my summer has already been incredibly busy with family-oriented events – a graduation, family from out of town, mother’s day, father’s day, an anniversary and a wedding have kept me busy for the past month.  Though I didn’t take any video, I did take a lot of photos!  I have always loved to capture images of the family as we do “stuff.”

Though I didn’t take advantage, yet, of some scheduled family events to video tape members of the family, this doesn’t mean you should follow suit!  I came across a neat article, Capture Your Family History on Video This Summer which talks about some basic “how to” elements.  The most important thing the author notes is “don’t wait.” Too many of do wait and our loved ones are no longer here for us to interview.  For example, my children have never heard my mother’s voice – I do have a few minutes of video of her, though there is no sound.

Pictures (and video) can say a thousand words ...

Do you have plans to do some video taped interviews this summer? 
Do you have any tips to share with those planning on doing some videotaping?





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copyright © National Genealogical Society, 3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204-4370. http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.
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Republication of UpFront articles is permitted and encouraged for non-commercial purposes without express permission from NGS. Please drop us a note telling us where and when you are using the article. Express written permission is required if you wish to republish UpFront articles for commercial purposes. You may send a request for express written permission to UpFront@ngsgenealogy.org. All republished articles may not be edited or reworded and must contain the copyright statement found at the bottom of each UpFront article.
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18 June 2013

Birth Dates Suggest What Wars an Ancestor May Have Fought In!

Family Tree Magazine posted this infographic on its Facebook (FB) page and asked readers to share it.  I am happy to do this.  It’s a great image summarizing what wars an ancestor may have served in based on his birth-date.  Additionally, it reminds of some of the lesser known conflicts that we don’t always consider.  Service paperwork and especially pension paperwork can contain so many juicy clues!


Did this infographic inspire you to check for service for one of your ancestors?  Were you successful?

Do you know of other infographics like this that would be invaluable to your fellow genealogy researchers?





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copyright © National Genealogical Society, 3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204-4370. http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.
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Republication of UpFront articles is permitted and encouraged for non-commercial purposes without express permission from NGS. Please drop us a note telling us where and when you are using the article. Express written permission is required if you wish to republish UpFront articles for commercial purposes. You may send a request for express written permission to UpFront@ngsgenealogy.org. All republished articles may not be edited or reworded and must contain the copyright statement found at the bottom of each UpFront article.
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17 June 2013

How Genealogy Research Can Save Your Life



Before becoming a celebrity blogger I worked as a private detective (I suppose “celebrity” is a relative term here). I’d say that most people probably associate PIs with fedoras and pin-stripe suits, black and white movies, cynical ex-cops nursing a whiskey in their low-rent dives, varied political intrigues and automatics in shoulder-holsters. The reality is- people probably don’t think that’s what it’s about nowadays.

This is unfortunate, because private investigating is pretty much exactly like it’s portrayed in old movies and dime novels- I’ve become very good at dry, wry one-liners and wear a lot of pomade. Plus, I’m not sure if I ever returned to my dimly lit office on the wrong side of the tracks without some mysterious, leggy blonde dressed in black, “grieving” over her mysteriously dead, wealthy husband and packing a little pistol in her garter belt.

As this is the case, I never really thought of applying the processes of the PI biz to preventative health awareness (unless it was protecting my health from some punk hoodlum looking to give me a severe case of lead poisoning, see…). However, that was before the importance of understanding the risks posed by hereditary illnesses hit very close to home.

My experience with genealogy and health began with the loss of an aunt to ovarian cancer. My mother is a microbiologist and in the course of some research following her sister’s death ran across the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations. The BRCA mutation is passed down the matrilineal line and those affected are at a considerably higher risk of developing certain types of cancer. The greatest risk is to women- significantly increasing the chances of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer. It’s been the subject of increased popularity (“infamy” might be a better term) recently with Angelina Jolie’s decision to undergo a prophylactic double mastectomy after discovering that she had the BRCA mutation.

When my mom found out about the BRCA mutation, a practicable test still hadn’t been developed. She kept it in mind, however, and although she didn’t get preemptive surgeries, she made a point of getting check-ups more frequently than she would have otherwise. It was thanks to one of these check-ups that the ovarian cancer she eventually developed was caught at Stage III rather than Stage IV.

Stage III ovarian cancer is a bad diagnosis, no question, and her prognosis wasn’t great: a 20% chance she’d survive four years with the odds decreasing every year after. I’m proud and relieved to report, however, that my mom, due in no small part both to her BRCA-mutation awareness and being perhaps the toughest person I know, is now going strong in year ten and is looking forward to an approaching remission that will very likely last two years or more. Had she been less vigilant, undertaken fewer checkups and the cancer had been caught at stage IV, this would almost certainly be a very different account.

In general, one of the most effective preventative health measures is understanding the health history of your family. If you don’t have a fairly solid understanding of your familial health issues on both sides of your family- don’t be afraid to ask. People generally and understandably shy away from asking others, even family members, details of their medical histories. It’s been my experience, however, that if you explain the purpose of your inquiry, people are impressively forthcoming. It helps that you’re not necessarily prying into the particulars of someone’s current health situation but rather looking for a broader picture of causes of death and illness.

Obviously you should ask about and pay attention to the incidence of ailments like cancer; diabetes; a high prevalence of strokes and/or heart trouble often associated with high blood pressure, increased cholesterol, heart attacks occurring in younger family members, etc. It probably also goes without saying that especial scrutiny should be paid to clusters of disease. The BRCA mutation, for instance, leaves both men and women more susceptible to certain cancers. If there is an occurrence of breast and/or ovarian cancer (particularly on your mother’s side), accompanied by prostate and even breast cancer in the men, get tested for the BRCA. It might not be a bad plan to get tested if there’s even a single occurrence of those.

Don’t neglect to ask after the less well known hereditary disorders including: cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell anemia (if you’re black or have black ancestry), Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, hemophilia or other clotting disorders, hyper- or hypoglycemia, Familial combined hyperlipidemia and Familial hypercholesterolemia, any of the muscular dystrophy variations, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), Huntington’s disorder, and so on. Pay attention to which side of the family these genetic issues are occurring on as well. If one of those listed or another hereditary disease is revealed by your inquiries, research it to find out the likelihood it will be (or has been) passed down to your children. Look into preventative steps that can be taken to lessen or mitigate the risks.

In some cases, if the risk is sufficient, genetic predispositions can even influence whether or not you choose to have (or have more) kids. I’m friends with one couple that decided against having children because of shared genetic risk factors and have since happily adopted. While these articles can have the opposite of their intended effect: engendering dread and anxiety rather than encouraging education, finding this stuff out now can help you avoid a great deal of future pain.

As a closing note, though, after my mother’s diagnosis and the verification of the BRCA mutation I got tested and was found negative. It was a relief, although it’s not the sort of thing for which a positive test would have meant despair- just greater conscientiousness and a better excuse to incorporate more preventative life choices. Since then, I’ve also been more aware of my health in general while suffering from less free-floating anxiety about the state of my health. It’s a condition I highly recommend.

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About the author:

Colter Brian is a former private investigator/photographer and now a freelance writer.  When he writes, he contributes to sites such as http://www.onlinesearches.com.  Some of Colter's hobbies include spending time in the outdoors and perfecting his pasta recipes for his toughest critics; namely his two children.



Editor’s Note: Recent Upfront with NGS post regarding Genealogy + Health are:




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