Sometimes, it takes a village to solve a genealogy mystery. Thanks to all for sharing their ideas regarding identifying my mystery man, Anton “Tony” Kos, who is buried next to my great grandfather Josip “Joseph” Kos in Gary, Indiana. An extra special thanks to research librarian Marilyn in Lake County, Indiana, who went above and beyond my request for Tony’s obit.
Since the rainy season has officially begun in Florida this morning, I’m planning on spending the weekend further researching Tony and Joseph’s relationship, if any.
Here’s some great ideas that genealogists recommended:
People did not always stay in one place for long. That’s especially true for laborers who went wherever work was available. Joseph arrived in New York, traveled to Detroit, Michigan where he got a job with the railroads, relocated to Pennsylvania and followed the lines to California and then back to Chicago, Illinois where he lived in Pullman housing with his wife and children he sent for years later. When the work ended in digging ditches, he moved to Gary, Indiana to work for U.S. Steel. My Tony could be anywhere in the US at any time.
Linda reminded me that immigration was not a one way route – people came and went across the pond. My grandparents ended up married because they crossed paths in Chicago. Grandpa Ivan “John” Kos was a second cousin to Joseph Kos. John emigrated with his brother, Stephen. Stephen had a wife and child remaining in Austria-Hungary and had come previously to work but returned to the old country. When money became tight again, he opted to return and brought John with him. When the railroad job ended in California, Stephen decided to return to Austria-Hungary while John took work in Chicago. This means that Tony may have moved back and forth, too.
Marilyn pointed out that people often relocated together. I know that’s a duh but rechecking immigration lists might be helpful in determining other’s with the same surname or surnames of related families I’ve previously identified. For example, when Joseph emigrated he came with a Franjs and Embro. Embro went with Joseph to Detroit while Franjs went to Pennsylvania. I’m not sure who Embro and Franjs were in relation to Joseph other than they were listed together and all came from Austria-Hungary in January 1910. Tracing Franjs and Embro may be beneficial in determining Joseph and Tony’s relationship.
City Directory dates are not the date the data was accumulated. Back in the day, the information for a City Directory was compiled by workers going door to door across the city. Then it was published, perhaps the following year. So the 1918 City Directory most likely had entries that were from 1917. Since there is no way to know the exact date when a particular entry was recorded, there’s no way to be certain in years between censuses when a family actually resided at the listed residence.
Sometimes the answer is not where you think so I may just need to broaden the search back to the old country. Unfortunately, Familysearch.org does not have the Roman Catholic parish records for the village by people came from so I may need to contact a genealogist in Croatia to shed light on the family.
Next week, I’ll be on the road so there will be no blog post. Happy Hunting!
I’ve been researching a mystery man, Anton “Tony” Kos, who was buried in 1934 next to my great grandfather, Joseph Koss, in Oak Hill Cemetery in Gary, Indiana. You can see from the above pic I took in December 2001 how close the stones are compared to the next stone to the right. Looks to me like the plot was one.
I never got a straight answer regarding how Tony and Joseph are related, if at all. I’d love to find out if they were related, which I strongly think is possible, and why my mother and grandmother refused to verify that.
Here’s what I know…I used to accompany my mom and grandma to the family cemetery around Memorial Day to tend to the graves. We’d always go to the old part of the cemetery first, to clip the grass around the gravestone of my great grandfather, Joseph Kos[s] who died in 1919 during the Spanish flu pandemic. When I was old enough to read, I noticed that next to his grave was an Anton Kos. I knew the family name was originally spelled with one “s” but I had never heard of Anton so I asked how he was related and never got an answer. I recall my mother just looking at my grandmother and my grandmother looking down and continuing to tidy up her father’s grave. So, as only a small child will do, I asked again. I never got a straight answer. I tried several other times over the years and got various answers; that Kos is a very common Croatian name like Smith is in Great Britain. That didn’t tell me if Tony was related. It also didn’t explain why I never saw another grave in the cemetery with the original spelling of the surname. When I asked about that, I got, “I don’t know why.” as a response. (There actually is another Kos, John, who died in 1934 buried in the cemetery but as a child, I had never seen that grave.)
I tentatively placed Anton as a sibling of my great grandfather Joseph. Joseph was born in 1875 and Anton, in 1879. I had called the cemetery in 2012 to ask who purchased Anton’s plot and was told that no one did because the cemetery records don’t have an Anton Kos. I told the clerk I knew where he was buried, immediately south of my great grandfather. They insisted no one was buried there. Looking at the records, I understand what happened. Anton is listed as Tony in cemetery records, even though Anton is chiseled on his tombstone. Tony was what was recorded on his death certificate and the cemetery must have listed him under that name. My great grandfather’s tombstone has his Americanized name, Joseph Kos and not his birth name, Josip Kos so there was another possible clue that my family was involved. These folks Americanized as soon as they arrived in 1910.
As an adult, I can see another family trait that gives credence to a relationship; my family plans for their deaths. I could see that they would have purchased two plots when my great grandfather died in 1919 expecting that his wife would be buried next to him. But she lived on until 1966. I’m thinking when a family member who was in need of the plot died, the family buried him instead. My family always helped out a relative in need, be it sending care packages back across the pond, fronting them money or taking them into their home for awhile. My grandparents had purchased a larger plot in the newer section of the cemetery that was the intended burial site for them and my great grandmother. It is also where I buried my mother’s cremains.
After we tidied the old section (but we never touched Anton’s stone, which is interesting), we’d move to the new section to trim the grass around the Koss stone. No one was yet buried there but my forward thinking grandparents had enough sense to purchase the stone while they were still employed. (And thanks, mom, for taking care of your end of life stuff prior to your death. Hope our kids appreciate we did the same – yes, you can already find me on Find-A-Grave.)
So getting no where with the cemetery, I decided to try to research Anton Anthony Tony to find a connection.
From Ancestry.com, you can see his death certificate below:
No help with his parents info but it does say he was born in “Yugo Slavia” just like Joseph Koss. He also died of lung issues, just like Joseph. Joseph’s whole family had lung issues, hmm. Not a smoking gun but certainly gives one pause to consider a relationship as they all died young. He also was a laborer in a steel mill, though not the same one where Joseph worked. Granted, most immigrants at the time were laborers and steel mills offered good wages.
I have never been able to find Tony in any census – having checked 1920-1940 under Anton, Anthony and Tony Kos, Koss and Ross (as my own people have been enumerated as).
There is another mystery – who was Steve Sesta who provided the death certificate info? I’ve never heard of him.
The death certificate gives me a clue to look at the address where Tony was living when he died, 35 East 39th Street, Gary, Indiana.
So here’s a tip – I want to use the 1940 census to find who was living at Tony’s address. It could take quite some time using Ancestry.com because I would need to click on every enumeration area and Gary was a large city so there are many. To save time, I used the National Archives site (just Google 1940 U.S. Federal Census enumeration map and you’ll be taken directly to it or use my link).
Since I grew up in the city, I know the layout of the street and avenue names, which saved me time. If you are researching an area you aren’t familiar with, simply use Google earth to get a better idea. In my case, I knew that streets ran north and south, avenues ran east and west. Street names west of Broadway used the president’s names in order (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, no repeat of Adams, etc.) and east of Broadway used states’ names, in no particular order. So, I was looking for 39th Street and could eliminate all of the western side of Broadway simply by identifying if the first page of the census had a presidents name or not.
After going through 3 enumeration areas, I found the address:
The address was divided into two housing units, front and rear. Steve, who had provided the death certificate info, lived in the rear. That means Tony was living in the front but he wasn’t there in 1940. It also explains why there is no parent information for Tony, neighbor Steve did not know that information. (I know, you’re thinking I should check property records to see who owned the residence but the problem is most of Gary’s records were “lost” according to the Lake County, Indiana property appraiser’s office. I suspect they’re somewhere in Gary and just weren’t turned over to the county when the law changed but I don’t live anywhere close to be able to hunt around for them so that’s a dead end for me.)
The death certificate did state Tony had worked for 1 year as a laborer for Illinois Steel. He may have only arrived in the area in 1942, during World War II.
I checked immigration records but there are many Anton Kos’ who emigrated from Austria-Hungary/Yugoslavia so I’m unable to pinpoint one of them as my mystery man.
I know, from a recent DNA match with another relative, that during World War II, my Cvetkovic relatives were displaced to another part of what is now Croatia, due to mayhem in the area where the family originally resided in Velika Gorica. It certainly is possible that Tony had left the area because of the war and came to the U.S. to a place where family already resided.
Tony was survived by a wife, Anna, who was born in 1878. Perhaps she remarried as she is not listed in cemetery records by the last name Kos or Koss or like Tony, she wasn’t entered in the cemetery database correctly. Unfortunately, only 30% of the cemetery is listed on Find-A-Grave. There’s nothing on Billion Graves either.
Somehow, I have a maiden name for her as Smolkovic but I have no idea where I got that info. I also have a marriage date, but no place, and two children residing in Rhode Island. That info was obtained years ago before I carefully sourced (shame on me!). This is an area I need to further research.
I checked City Directories and there is only one Anthony in Gary but he was married to a Mary living on Filmore Street in Gary in 1918. He never appears in any other directory. My Kos line doesn’t arrive in Gary until 1919 so I suspect he wasn’t the my Tony. There is no Tony or Anton ever in any City Directory for Gary. I got his obituary thanks to the Ask-A-Librarian link on the Lake County library site but it provides basically no information other than he had died after a long illness, which disputes the information on the death certificate. Or, maybe not. Perhaps he suffered from lung problems for years but the incident that caused his death had been short.
There is no one in my family much older than me left who would know – definitely no one who was alive in 1943 that would remember. Decided I’d try the cemetery again since it’s recently been sold and maybe the new owners have done an inventory of grave sites. Sent an email on Sunday and haven’t gotten a response so will follow up with a phone call this week.
If that falls through, I’m going to attempt to check Baptism records for Velika Gorica to see if I can link Anton to Joseph’s parents. Unfortunately, they aren’t on Familysearch.org so I’ll have to email a genealogist in Croatia to do some digging.
Connecting Tony and Joseph would be awesome but I’ll most likely never get the story of why he was not discussed since dead men tell no tales!
Happy Memorial Weekend! Although I won’t be spending time caring for family members’ graves this weekend because no family member is buried close to where I currently reside, I have memories as a child of going to the grave sites of long dead relatives at this time of year. Grandma Koss would keep a small gardening kit in her car trunk so whenever she passed the cemetery during the warmer months of the year, she could tend to the graves. It contained gardening gloves, small grass clippers, a bakery paper bag to put weeds in, and a small spade to help dig up flowers and replant.
Last weekend I was reminded of a genealogical family mystery. My great grandfather, Josip “Joseph” Kos[s] died in 1919 in the Spanish flu epidemic. He was buried in the old part of Oak Hill Cemetery in Gary, Indiana. His gravestone, in Croatian, was next to a Tony Kos. I asked how we were related to Tony and I never got an answer.
Out of the blue last week, I received an email to my Ancestry account from a possible relative whose father had been orphaned in Pennsylvania in the 1930’s. Since both his parents died when he was young, the family has no stories. His father’s place of birth was in the same general area in Croatia that my Kos’ were from. I had placed him in my tree years ago in the hopes of locating a living relative who might have some knowledge. We’re awaiting DNA results to see if we match.
We all have genealogy mysteries but the most vexing are those that are fairly recent. I don’t know about you, but I tend to jump to a dramatic conclusion – must have been an out of wedlock birth, an against the then norms of society situation or a major disagreement that makes the information remain secret. Never dawned on me it could have been as simple as two early deaths of parents that had moved from the area and family lost touch with the remaining children.
Hopefully, I’ll soon have an answer to how the mysterious Tony was related to me and why the Pennsylvania branch of the family was disconnected. Now if I could just discover someone who knows how the Massachusetts branch lost touch I’d hit the trifecta.
If you are researching when your ancestors arrived in the U.S., it’s important to know what documents were available to show immigration status. Although it’s possible your forefathers didn’t become naturalized citizens, meaning they were granted citizenship, it’s wise to check records to gain family insights.
Before the break with Great Britain, immigrants to what is now the U.S. were considered subjects of the crown. In 1776, every man, woman and child, excluding Native Americans and African Americans, were granted “collective” citizenship. No documents exist to state that status, however. It was a right earned by merely being in the country at the time it separated from Great Britain.
Between 1776-1789, an immigrant who purchased land could become a citizen through denization. Check land records, if available. Citizens who became naturalized through denization, however, could not hold public office. An “oath of allegiance” was required to obtain voting rights and to hold a public office. Oaths were recorded in court records. Even if your relative did not seek naturalization, they were required by law to report to the nearest court and register that they were residing in the country. Check Report and Registry logs between 1798-1828.
Although the laws changed between 1790-1906, typically 3 steps must have been completed for an individual to be considered naturalized. After having a Declaration of Intention filed with the local court, a final petition 1-2 years later would need to be submitted in a court in the nearest town. You may have to check various towns as settlers could complete the paperwork where they currently resided. After the petition was accepted, a Certificate of Naturalization was provided by the local court.
Prior to 1906, immigration records were not as complete as in later years. Only the country of origin and not the city/town may have been listed as people were on the move. Typically, parent information was excluded but you may get lucky. For these later records, you will need to file a request with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Prepare for a long wait – I have had to wait over a year to obtain my grandparents paperwork but it was well worth it. The photo alone was a gem!
I have uploaded by DNA results to several sites and you could benefit from doing that, too. The reason is simple – think about why you tested with the company you chose. I tested with 23andMe because I wanted to find out the amount of Neandertal ancestry I carry and that feature wasn’t available through the other major sites (Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com).
Some folks may have selected a company based on pricing. Others may have received a kit as a gift. In the U.S., Ancestry.com commercials are everywhere but that’s not necessarily true in other parts of the world. You stand the greatest chance of maximizing your DNA results by uploading them to sites that accept results.
Last week, I received an email from MyHeritage.com that I have several new DNA matches. Typically, they are 3rd to 5th cousins that I’ve connected with in the past. This time, was different. Luckily, I recognized the surname as one of my maternal line’s great grandmothers of which I have scant information as she had died young in childbirth.
Immediately, I clicked on the “cousins” tree which only contained 10 entries, most of which was private but I could see the geographic region and I knew that this proved promising. I wrote the cousin an email and was happily surprised when he responded a few hours later. We wrote back and forth all week. The irony is that he lives just a little over 100 miles from the homestead but has no knowledge of the family. Why? His grandfather had relocated the family during World War II and never spoke to his children about the family’s history. The grandfather died a few years before the cousin I was corresponding with was born so he could never ask him directly. There is now only one elderly relative, in his 80’s remaining. He plans on taking my family stories to the elder. I’m anxiously awaiting his knowledge.
No telling what you might discover from connecting with a family member across the pond! DNA matching makes it easy and inexpensive.
Recently, my St. Patrick’s Day Ancestry.com special DNA deal results were returned. I had tested with Ancestry years ago prior to autosomal’s availability. When the price for autosomal dropped, I decided to test with two other companies to gain access to their testing population and opted to have my children test with Ancestry. I decided to purchase the Ancestry test because the price was right ($49.00), I wanted to go back one generation further than my children could do in search for my Morrison and Adams brick wall lines, and I wanted to play with Ancestry’s new DNA feature, Thru Lines, without having to wade through my husband’s side that my children inherited.
I’m pleased to connect with one Morrison and five Adams’ family members. Although this certainly doesn’t resolve my brick wall it does support the direction I was going in with my research. I suspected that my Edward Adams was the grandson of Sylvanus Adams of Sussex County, New Jersey but not being able to identify Edward’s father, I couldn’t prove it. My hunch was due to the interesting male name of Evi. After Edward died intestate in Perry County, Ohio in 1822, an Evi Adams living in the area served as administrator. Evi died a few years later and I never was able to find his father, either. Evi was about the same age as Edward so I surmised that they were either brothers or cousins. There were several Evi’s in Sylvanus Adams’ lines before and after him so I felt strongly that Edward’s brother/cousin must be related somehow. DNA seems to be showing that’s correct but I still haven’t found that one document that’s out there somewhere to prove it.
Although I’m pleased with the results I can understand how people who are new to genealogy and DNA give up after getting their results. I know that the ethnic percents are only as valid as the pool used to compare findings. In Ancestry’s case, I’m 51% German. I don’t know how that’s possible since I would have gotten half of my DNA from my mom, who was full blooded Croatian and half from my dad, who was a mix of German, Irish, English, Welsh and Scotts. Ancestry shows me with NO Irish, English Welsh or Scotts. According to Ancestry, I’m only 4% French. 23andMe had me as all French and no German.
I not only understand the pools from which the sample was compared differed, but the history of the areas. My dad’s people were from the Palatinate, the German-French area that experienced bloodshed for years and went back and forth between the two countries. So, am I French or German? I realize I’m a mix of both and I’m fine with that. If I didn’t understand how this works, though, I would be totally confused.
Recently Ancestry got into trouble with their latest DNA commercial. I believe their well loved commercial about the man trading his lederhosen in for a kilt should have been an eye opener. I’m thinking that man needs to test elsewhere to get a fuller picture of his ancestry.
I’ve blogged in the past about the weird finds that I make in locations that had no connection to the relative I was searching. I just had another strange occurrence.
Since I did a surname study, my public Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com trees contain all the Harbaughs in the U.S. Although they are not all my relatives, I’ve been fascinated with that family since my mother-in-law shared a 1947 book, Harbaugh History, by Cooprider and Cooprider, that contained the family story going back to the immigrant ancestor, Yost Harbaugh, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1720. I entered the information from the book, along with several older Harbaugh books that were published, into my trees in an attempt to connect all the Harbaughs. I did this pre-DNA so I still have the lines of 13 immigrants (Herbach/Harbo) I haven’t been able to connect. Since I have so many Harbaughs and my tree is well sourced, a genealogy hobbyist shared a find she had recently made.
The hobbyist had visited an annual flea marked outside of Gainesville, Florida one Saturday morning and met a newly retired former antique dealer who had sold his shop in Hagerstown, Maryland and relocated to a rural area of Florida. He decided to sell some of the items he had moved with him to his new home. One of those items was a photo of a woman (above) and in pencil on the back, was recorded Miss Rose Harbaugh. A clue to the location where the photo was taken was imprinted by the photographic studio on the front – Hagerstown, Maryland.
The hobbyist had grown up in Maryland and was familiar with the Harbaugh name. Like me, she is not a relation to the family. For some reason she can’t explain, the photo haunted her and she decided to purchase it. Once home, she went on Ancestry.com and found several trees that included a Rose Harbaugh. The family loves to re-use names – there’s a lot named George and Frederick. Although Rose wasn’t as widely used (I have identified 37), Rose was often given as a nickname. In the case of the woman in the photo above, that was what happened – she is really Rosina Elizabeth Harbaugh.
The hobbyist decided she liked the effort I had put into my tree and that it was public but she wanted to make sure that the photograph was returned to someone who would appreciate it’s uniqueness. It was unique in that no one seems to have a photo of Rosina posted. Also, Rose was noted to be a “Miss.” As a single woman in middle age with no children, it isn’t likely she will be remembered. The hobbyist wanted to find a person who understood the importance of preserving the photo. Just finding a well sourced tree wasn’t enough for the hobbyist so she decided to check me out online. She said her decision was finalized when she found my website and my genealogical affiliations.
After connecting with me, the hobbyist and I chatted by phone about our genealogical passions and within a week, the photo was in my mailbox.
Rose never visited Florida but her photo gets to retire there. The second daughter and sixth of nine children born to Jonathan and Elizabeth Stephey Harbaugh, Rose was born 15 Dec 1838 in Maryland.* At 22, she remained with her parents and siblings outside of Cavetown, Maryland where her father farmed. By 1870, the family had relocated to Ringgold, Maryland and Rose was employed as a domestic servant. After both her parents died in 1879, Rose moved in with her brother, Samuel, and his wife, finding employment as a store clerk. By 1900, Rose was living on her own; unfortunately, her employment status is unreadable in the 1900 US federal census. In 1910, Rose was working as a 71 year old dressmaker and living on her own. She died on 5 Dec 1917 in Smithsburg, Maryland and is buried in Smithsburg Cemetery.
Rose’s photo is a welcome addition to my Harbaugh collection. One hundred and one plus years after her death, Rose has found a new home thanks to Elaine May for her genealogical act of kindness.
*All information from Harbaugh History, US censuses and Find-A-Grave with full citations on my trees.
I am trying hard not to make this a rant so I’ll let you know up front that I’m very frustrated with many of the lineage societies’ directions and interpretations of what they consider acceptable.
In the past year, I’ve completed a number of society applications for clients and myself. It seems each time there is something a society had a problem with that I couldn’t see was an issue. In the past month alone, I’ve had to have lengthy discussions with their genealogist over several sticking points.
I could certainly understand if the problem was lack of a record for proof of relationship. I could also understand if it was because the person could not have been in two places at the same time; in other words, analysis of existing records couldn’t determine which John Smith was the John Smith who would be a qualifying ancestor. If the application directions were completely disregarded, I could also understand a rejection. I cannot understand the following:
Applying for membership that says “send proof of [military] service” and when more than one proof is sent, such as the enrollment application, pension application, 1890 veteran’s census, newspaper clippings, and family letters to two different organizations for two different U.S. wars and being told in one situation that the sources were “a little thin” and in the other, that a record that was housed at the National Personnel Records center were necessary. So, they never heard about the 1973 fire that destroyed the records they wanted? Makes you think twice of the level of genealogical understanding of the organization. How can a pension application, enlistment paperwork and veteran’s census be considered “a little thin?
Applying for a designated individual and then being told that the ancestor doesn’t qualify because he was a nobleman and not royalty. Had to initially laugh at that one because one of the sources for this disputed ancestor was titled, “The Interim King.” I was able to obtain qualification based on the nobleman’s wife’s father but for the life of me, I don’t understand the difference between a nobleman serving as king and someone who inherited it from his father. The individual who inherited the title came from a line that at one point had the first ruler. What made that person royal? I just don’t understand. The organization has yet to explain it to me.
Being told the application was being rejected because the year for sources was omitted. When I asked the application number that purportedly occurred I didn’t get a response. I always keep a copy and I couldn’t find anywhere where I missed a date. A week later I received an email that no further information was required. I understand people make mistakes but own up to it.
Being told that your application was accepted and two weeks later receiving an email stating that your application wasn’t accepted. Huh? In that situation, the membership chair had obtained a list from the genealogist and assumed that names placed on the list had all been verified but evidently that wasn’t the case; the list was for everyone who had submitted an application. I understand errors happen but you’d think that the board would all be on the same page.
I’m not knocking lineage societies. I think they serve a tremendous purpose. Not only is there fraternity and hopefully, camaraderie, the ideals and promotion of the area of history they represent is important. They are also a wonderful place to save genealogical information and honor our ancestors. That said, I really wish they would get their act together.
When I was a newbie genealogist I loved the hints that Ancestry.com provided. Now all of the online sites offer the same. I was surprised to recently hear that a colleague of mine still happily accepts every hint that is shown. Her reasoning was that she could always sort out later if something was amiss.
“Later” like in never is what I say. Here’s a perfect example of why you need to be careful of those hints:
The hint above flagged for my uncle, George Joseph Kos who did live in northern Indiana and was born in 1921. Family stories say that, although his attendance area high school was Lew Wallace in Gary, he somehow un-enrolled himself and re-enrolled in another high school at the urging of a football coach. Of course, his parents found out about it and my grandmother was livid with all parties – the zoned school who allowed a minor to remove himself, the new school and coach for enrolling him without permission and my uncle, well, for being my uncle. So, the hint looks legit.
My trusting colleague would have clicked “save” while I would have clicked “ignore” if I didn’t have time to check it out. Ignore is a way to really save the hint to look at later while getting the leaf to disappear.
Now I’m going to analyze if this is a correct document for my uncle so I click “Review” on the hint and this displays:
Wow, that does look legit. According to the family story, it was Roosevelt High School where he wanted to play football but he was 15 when that happened. I could rationalize that he was 15-16 years old during the 1936-1937 yearbook so the age is feasible. But Roosevelt High School was in Gary, not East Chicago, a nearby town. Could the towns boundaries have changed? We see that so often in genealogy. I’m still wary so I’d click view and this is what is displayed:
So, the Hint was really for a George KOSTIN not George Kos. This was not my uncle. Then I remember, there were two Roosevelt High Schools. Duh!
Hints are just that – hints – they are not guaranteed correct information. Use with caution.
Recently, I volunteered to provide free genealogy assistance through a local genealogy society to which I belong. I try to help twice a year – fall and spring – which is advertised throughout our county. Every time I attend, I learn something new about genealogy practices. Here’s my latest revelations:
1. Keep your email accounts current – My first “client” had gotten everyone in her family to test. That included her siblings, children and herself. She had a DNA question for me but she couldn’t readily access any of her accounts because she had used an old email address she no longer had. I recommended she contact the DNA test companies to update her records. But that led to the next problem:
2. Know where you did your DNA test and when – She recalled she had last tested with 23andMe but when we clicked “Forgot your password?”, it was sent to her current email The problem was that kit was for her daughter. She then recalled she had purchased the kit two Christmas’ ago intending to use it but gave it to her daughter instead. We tried FTDNA, but couldn’t get in because that was the older email account. She thought she had used Ancestry.com for her sister but it turned out those were her results. Clicking around used up a good deal of time we could have spent analyzing the results. I shared how I save my info; I use Excel to keep a list of the Kit numbers, date the test was ordered, who the test was for and the company that was used. On a second tab, I record contact information from others after the results are returned. This way, I avoid duplication of effort.
3. Try, Try Again – Last fall I assisted a woman trying to find an obituary from the mid-1950’s. Her grandmother had been active in the community where she resided but she couldn’t find the obit in the nearest big city newspaper. I had recommended she contact a research librarian to find out the names of newspapers that were publishing at the time in that location and where the microfilm of those papers were held. She said, “I called and someone said they’d get back with me but nobody did.” Here’s a lesson we all need to heed, don’t think that call is going to happen now, months later. Call again. Ask to be connected with the Reference Desk. If a few days pass with no results, email. I love the Ask-A-Librarian online contact. Not only do you have a record that you made the request, it saves you a phone call and having to spell out the surname while the librarian is trying to take notes.
4. Two Heads Are Better Than One – I love paper but I don’t love having to sort through a ream and a half of every item ever discovered on a brick wall ancestor. In other words, be organized. If the information had been presented in time line order, we could have gotten through it much more expeditiously. The woman used the method of last found information was placed on top. I recommended she sort the information on a table by the year that the record was created. Sure, the immigration paperwork completed when the ancestor was in their mid 30’s had the date and place of birth but keeping the documents in created age order helps to determine the accuracy of the information found. She told me her method drove her uncle nuts but she was so into the hunt for records she didn’t like to take the time to organize them. I recommended she get with her genealogy buddy, the uncle, and see if he was more adept at organization. Then, they could put their heads together and make a timeline on paper (she hates software programs) to find holes. This approach also helps in finding information that was out there that you initially glossed over because you focused on something else. For example, she had the ship manifest so she knew where the ship sailed from. She also had a birth location from the immigration record. She had scant information between the birth and the immigration. I recommended reading the history of the area at the time the ancestor was born to determine if the family had relocated soon after (hint, it was probably the potato famine). If she wasn’t interested in that type of research, her partner could do it and then they could discuss where she could research further.
5. Know What You Want to Know – Your research question is imperative. “I want to know everything about my great grandfather” is not a question. You might be able to eventually get to the point where you know a lot about your great grandfather but to do so, you’ve got to start with a name or a place and a time from which to build. If you start small, you don’t get overwhelmed and quit. INMHO, that’s why people give up on genealogy. It is a practice in patience, analysis, and sometimes, dumb luck. You can control two of the three components. My recommendation for this individual was to focus on one area of a person’s life, like their career, and see what you can find. Then move to why that individual held that job. Perhaps there was indentured or apprenticed paperwork. Maybe the great grandfather or another relative was in the same line of work. Here’s an example I shared; my husband comes from a long line of carpenters. The original carpenter, however, didn’t build homes. He was a ship’s carpenter. That would have been a modern job when ships provided the largest means of transportation. His son was a ship’s carpenter early on in his career but switched as he aged to building homes. That man’s son moved farther inland and continued with the trade. That original research question could disclose a wealth of family information over generations. It pays to be specific about what you’re looking for.