Ahh, beach season is upon us. Most of you might put aside your family history research while you hit the sand at the lake or seashore. I say it’s the time to rest, relax, and plan your colder-weather genealogical research.
I found the perfect book to accompany you in a comfy lounge chair – Generation by Generation: A Modern Approach to the Basics of Genealogy by Drew Smith (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2023). Drew is a librarian at the University of South Florida and who better to help you with your family research than an expert in books?
Generation by Generation was designed as the book that Drew wished he had when he began his family history journey. Unlike other beginner genealogy books, this one starts with the basics to prepare you to begin your research and then moves to what primary record sets are available for you to use to find sources from your generation backward in time. I do appreciate the emphasis on beginning with oneself which newbies so often skip in their search for far-flung ancestors. Too often, they realize that they were mistaken and that the folks they had researched aren’t their forebears. Drew’s approach is straightforward and helps to ensure accurate results and organized records.
Throughout the text, the importance of record analysis is stressed without the worry that one is not doing genealogy correctly. Personally, I have met too many beginners who were so concerned about not recording a citation perfectly that they omitted the information entirely. Drew removes the anxiety while encouraging the reader to be cautious regarding spelling variations, different people with the same name in the same place/time, and inconsistency in records. The explanation of the basics of DNA is so well written that I shared it with family members whose eyes often glaze over when I’m talking about autosomal. Now they understand!
I agree that “the best thing that a genealogical researcher can do is to be comfortable with change. You’ll always be learning something new.” This is exactly how this advanced researcher views the information found in this beginner book. I learned that the United States Board on Geographic Names (BGN), which standardizes the place names within our country, has schools as one of their categories on their searchable site. I never thought of looking there and will include that information in an upcoming presentation I will be giving this month.
No spoiler alert here but I also learned a more efficient technique when using WorldCat to search for family genealogies. Who knew? Apparently Drew and if you purchase the book, you will, too.
For a beginner book, there is very little I would have added as the work is concise and nonintimidating for a novice. One item I would have added is regarding PERSI; I highly recommend contacting the publisher of a journal, magazine, or newsletter if you cannot find a local copy and before you request a copy for pay through the Allen County Public Library (ACPL). I research often at ACPL and those folks are wonderful and overworked. I know they would appreciate it if you exhausted all avenues first to find a copy before contacting them.
I highly recommend obtaining a copy of Generation by Generation, regardless of your skill level. As Drew stated, “Your role, as a genealogist, is to tell the real story about your ancestors, and by following these research steps, you’ll have the best chance of discovering the real facts of their lives.” Amen!
The link was sent to me by Carla Mans who is involved with the Fields of Honor, a non-profit in the Netherlands. Check out their memorial pages and if you have a photo of a serviceman to contribute, please share it with the organization.
Last month I attended a Findagrave presentation by a local volunteer, Chuck Johnson. I have been a member of Findagrave for over 14 years and have blogged about hints using the site in the past. I learned from Chuck, about an option I didn’t know was available and might be helpful to you.
After logging on to your free account at Findagrave.com, click on “Cemeteries” on the ribbon. On the new page, shown above, look at the middle right side and you’ll see a link called “My Virtual Cemeteries.” I never noticed that link, nor the one above it, “Favorite Cemeteries.”
When I lived in Florida I often volunteered for this organization to fulfill photo requests for individuals who wanted to see a tombstone picture but lived too far or were unable for health reasons to visit the cemetery and take a photo. I haven’t yet done that in Indiana and learned from Chuck that there are a number of volunteers in my new locale who have been fulfilling photo requests.
If you are a volunteer, you may be interested in adding the cemeteries which you frequently visit for photos under the link “Favorite Cemeteries.” You’ll save time that way when you need to access the cemetery info.
What I found most fascinating about Chuck’s talk was the option to create your own virtual cemetery. Why would you do that? Like me, you probably have relatives buried in a number of different cemeteries in several states and countries. By using the My Virtual Cemeteries link, you can create a cemetery for each of your ancestral lines, thus, connecting your family memorials in one location. For example, my Duer line goes from Devonshire, England to Bucks, Pennsylvania, to Sussex, New Jersey, to Trumbull, Ohio, to Mercer, Ohio. By creating a virtual Duer Family Cemetery Line – I could have the individual Duer memorials for those who are buried in those locations listed together so I can readily access their information without having to remember their assigned Findagrave number, how their names were entered in the database, or where they were buried.
Initially, I wasn’t sure this was a great idea as I didn’t want to confuse other users who might come upon my virtual cemetery and think it was an in-person burial location. Chuck emailed me after the lecture that the virtual option can be either public or private, sort of like Ancestry.com does with family trees.
This leads me to another reason why you might want to use this feature . . . it costs to have an Ancestry.com subscription and I’m not sure, after I’m deceased, my adult children would pay to continue accessing all of the information I have placed in my tree there. Sure, I have it also saved to RootsMagic, however, as I’ve blogged about, the software updates have been problematic and the version I’d be using at my death might not be available for my future family to be able to open. I also save to Legacy Family Tree; I haven’t blogged about their issues but since they were bought by MyHeritage.com, I’ve been unable to update that software.
Findagrave is now owned by Ancestry but it has remained free to use. I have no crystal ball to know if it will always be free but I’m fairly confident that Ancestry realizes they have a cash cow with the Findagrave website – lots of volunteers putting info there that Ancestry links to their other paying site. So, Ancestry.com is getting a lot of info for free and then charging others for the work that the volunteers did.
I’m sure you’re thinking, “Wish I had thought of that!” but you can cash in by using the Findagrave feature on a memorial you control by putting information in the bio section. If you don’t have memorial control, you can click on “Suggest Edits” and hope the owner agrees to your suggestions. You can also contact the memorial creator and ask that they turn the rights to the memorial over to you. If they don’t respond, contact Findagrave. I have personally known of a couple who died and had created memorials for some of my family. Findagrave turned the memorials over to a cousin who was closely related to the memorials created by the deceased volunteers.
Once you have updated the bio info on Findagrave and you’ve created a My Virtual Cemetery, you have the genealogical information for a line available to you for free. This means your family can also access it by 1) creating a free account on Findagrave and you giving them access to your created cemetery or 2) you making your created cemetery public so they can just go to Findagrave.com and view the information.
Sure, you could do this for free on FamilySearch.org, however, your information may be changed as it is a world tree so everyone has access to making changes that you might not agree with.
Also, keep in mind that Ancestry.com will be charging others to use your bio information. Personally, that does not bother me as I make my tree on Ancestry.com public. You may have another opinion, however.
A special thanks to Eckhart Public Library and Chuck Johnson for providing information on this Findagrave feature.
Today’s blog is the last in my Croatian series and it adds to the family stories I have previously written about. My maternal grandmother, Mary Koss, was a dramatic storyteller. As a child, I loved her tales of the old country. As I aged, I wondered about the content and began researching for facts. Boots on the ground enabled me to check out the truth in ways I could never do online.
The picture above is of a typical Croatian nobleman house from the beginning of the 19th century. This one was built in 1806. The family business was housed on the first floor with the family living on the second floor. The homes typically were furnished with artwork, porcelain collections, a stove for heating, and a piano. We always had a piano which my mother hated taking lessons, porcelain knickknacks, and art. I never thought of my family as owning those items in the old country as nothing was brought with them to the U.S. The families entertained often and a sign noted that guests of this home, constructed by Petar Modić, were the Kusević and Pogledić families. Those names were of interest to me as my grandparents had friends in the U.S. with those surnames and I knew they had been from nearby villages in Croatia. And yes, my grandparents entertained often. I had no idea, that all these families had been considered noblemen nor that the families had been acquainted for more than a hundred years before their emigration. I was also surprised to learn how much land those titled people, known as PL, owned. Dr. Antonić’s dissertation was on land deeds from the 1200s in the area so our next visit was to the castle my grandmother recalled our family protecting.
Due to earthquake damage, we couldn’t get up close to Castle Turopolje. I was astounded to discover how close the site was to my ancestor’s villages. Running downhill from their homes through the woods would not have taken more than ten minutes. Like in my grandmother’s story, the castle had a moat which you can see is now weed-filled. This castle is a replica, built in the 1900s, of the one that stood in the same location where my relatives defended against the Turks. You can read my blog about the original event here.
Another surprise was the discovery that not only my Kos line but my Grdenić line was also titled PL. How I missed that information as a kid is beyond me! Unfortunately, the volume with the Kos information was missing from the Croatian National Archive and I’m awaiting a copy from another organization.
My grandmother’s paternal side, the Kos family, originated in Dubranec. You can see the forest area where they were granted privilege by the king to hunt for their bravery in defending the castle. Just around the bend, the village of 99 homes begins.
I’m using a Google Maps photo of my maternal side’s ancestral home, built before 1861 as noted in that census. For privacy reasons, I am not showing a current photo as the house has had some changes. I had no family pictures of it and in my mind, I had always thought it would have been a wooden structure, much like Turopolje Manor. I have no idea when the stucco was added over the original wood but many homes began that custom by the mid-1800s. The residences to the right and left had been bricked. My grandmother had her home in Gary, Indiana bricked during the Depression; perhaps she did that because the neighbors had done so in Croatia. All three homes, along with a parking lot and a medical facility, were once the Kos family farm. The family-owned much more land and as the family grew over the years, lots became subdivided to include more dwellings. This I discovered at the Croatian State Archives. My family always had a kitchen garden when I was growing up so I wasn’t surprised to see that there was space for one. My grandmother had mentioned a garden, too. The building is no longer in the family. It had been turned into a tavern but the owner recently died so we could not go inside to visit. There are no Kos’ left in Dubranec according to the neighbor on the left side and Mr. Hrvoj, a distant cousin of mine, who happened to walk down the street.
Around several more turns up the mountain, we found ourselves in my maternal great-grandmother’s ancestral home, the Grdenić’s. The village is small and consists of a few farms. It looks as I thought a village from the 1800s would:
There are no Grdenić’s left in Jerebic according to the farmer who came out to see who was visiting. It is a working farm with roosters walking freely. Although the house now has electricity, running water, and plumbing, it did not when my great-grandmother lived there. The well is no longer used but I can imagine my two times great grandmother drawing water from it:
My grandmother’s middle name was Violet and I was surprised to see all the wild violets that grew around the house.
Records in the archive stated that the family was known for their fine vineyard. I should have known the family grew grapes as I have blogged about their winemaking during Prohibition yet I never thought about that custom coming with them to the new country. I have the family recipes and one of my kids still follows them. Sometimes the hints are right in front of us yet we fail to recognize them. My husband and I laughed when we heard about the vineyards as we have always had a grape arbor and we had just planted grapes a few days before we left for Croatia.
Next, we went back down the mountain to Dubranec to visit Our Lady of the Snows Roman Catholic Church which is a 5-minute walk from my Kos’ family home:
The church was badly damaged in the 2020 earthquake and is off-limits. The priest lives in the village but we were unable to locate him. Here is my original family legend about Our Lady of the Snows.
I was hoping to find gravestones for the missing vital information that former leader Josip Tito had destroyed but unfortunately, the cemetery only contains newer graves. Dr. Antonić explained that the Croatian custom is to pay annually for the grave upkeep and if payment is not made, after some time, the remains are removed and stored in a combined gravesite. I couldn’t find that location and will have to contact the parish priest for more details.
The former article mentioned a mysterious pilgrimage site that was identified by genealogist Lidija Sambunjak. We were on our way to Marija Bistrica:
My great-grandmother Anna Grdenić Koss, according to my Great Aunt Barbara, went on a pilgrimage to this site. I had a postcard that was written to my mother when my Aunt Anne Marie and Aunt Barbara visited Croatia in the 1980s. Unfortunately, the name of the site wasn’t written on the postcard. I blogged about solving the mystery recently. I believe Anna made the pilgrimage after losing her first two children at birth. I have records for one of the two, one may have been a miscarriage. I suspect Anna was praying for a child to survive and that occurred after the pilgrimage with my grandmother, Mary. Anna would go on to have three more children, Joseph and Barbara, who survived to adulthood, and Dorothea, who I can find no record of that died as a child. The distance to this church from the villages is an hour by car over steep mountain roads. I know that my female ancestors were strong women but this journey would not have been easy. We did see pilgrims hiking to the church and it reminded me that once, long ago, Anna was one of them. Like most of Croatia due to the earthquake, the church is under construction but we were able to go inside.
Boots on the ground research enabled me to walk in my ancestor’s footsteps. It was an emotional journey that added richness to the family stories that were told to me as a child. I am fortunate to have connected with such knowledgeable women in Croatia who helped me gain insight into my family’s history. This was a trip of a lifetime that I will carry with me forever.
My last two blogs have focused on tips for researching your emigrant’s native archives and planning an excursion to visit your ancestor’s hometown. In both situations, tech will enhance your trip. Here are my recommendations for how to prepare:
Check with the archive to see what tech is permitted – I was encouraged to bring a thumb drive to transfer records found on the archive’s computer. The thumb drive had to be clean of any data. I could bring a laptop in but could not use it to search the archive’s records. I chose to leave the laptop in my hotel room as I wasn’t sure how secure the area where I would be researching would be. If I had to get up to request more records, I wasn’t confident it would be wise to leave a laptop unattended. Turns out that wouldn’t have been problematic but I tend to err on the side of caution. I was also permitted to bring a cell phone but I had to mute it. I could bring a camera and use it on records that were 75 years or younger. Older records were recorded on the thumb drive. Every archive is different so check the website before you go and send a query if the directive isn’t clear.
Have a plan to back up your tech – There is nothing worse than returning home and finding out that your thumb drive didn’t save or your phone didn’t upload or your camera battery died and no pictures were taken. Don’t wait until you’re home to back up! My plan was to predominately use my phone as I can back up to Dropbox by using an archive or hotel wifi. The bus I traveled on even had wifi so I would upload to Dropbox frequently. I had a digital camera with me in case something happened to my phone – several years ago I had climbed to the top of a Mayan Temple in Mexico and upon looking down, realized that the klutz I am might not make it without breaking a leg. I put my phone in my back pocket, sat down on the top step, and scooted all the way to the bottom. Duh! The phone was broken but I thanked the gods as somehow, the pictures had all been uploaded to Google Photos. Not sure how that happened as there was no cell service in the remote area we were in but I was really glad it happened.
Be prepared for tech to mess up – I’ve blogged about why I stopped using Google Photos to upload which is why I now use Dropbox. I’m not sure why or how Google Photos turned itself back on but two days before I departed for Croatia I went on a local scavenger hunt which involved taking photos of various landmarks and uploading them to an App. I suspect when I downloaded the App it reactivated Google Photos as I found that they had been saved to Google. On the third day of my trip, I got a Gmail warning that I was out of space. Of course, Google wanted me to purchase more space. I ignored the warning and continued to take photos. I didn’t have time to troubleshoot and emails did continue to come in even though I hit the threshold. As a quick fix, I deleted everything in trash and spam which gave me just a bit of space. On my last day, I received an email that 122 photos did not upload to Google Photos, which was fine with me as I never wanted them to go there anyway. When I got home I looked at Google Photos and found the clip I posted at the top – I have no idea why Google Photos duplicated over 100 times that one photo. When I uploaded to Dropbox it didn’t do that. Removing the duplicates would have given me ample space. Tech is awesome when it works but awful when it doesn’t. Be prepared for anything to happen.
Sharing photos – I wasn’t the only one on the trip taking photos. My husband used his phone as did many others who were also on our group tour. I had difficulty with a video of my husband doing a hat dance as a waiter kept walking in front of me. No worries, another group member was filming her husband so she shared her video with me via email. One night we stayed in a brand-new hotel in a village that has no inhabitants as the 1991 war had destroyed most of the homes. Two members of the group had gone exploring and taken some somber photos of bullet holes in buildings. My husband wanted one of the pics so it was shared. Do a quick check of your photos each night. If there is something you wanted but missed, you might have another opportunity before you leave the location or you can ask a fellow traveler to share with you.
Back up when you get home – Dropbox, or whatever you use, is lovely but make sure you back up the backup. I also save to a portable hard drive. If the internet is down I can still access whatever I need.
Last week I provided recommendations on best practices for using archives in other countries. This week I’m focusing on making the most when visiting your ancestor’s hometowns.
I always wanted to walk in the village my maternal grandmother had told me about when I was young. She had described the neighborhood church with its cemetery, a family garden, and her maternal side living in the next village.
My grandmother, Mary, emigrated with her mother, Anna, and younger brother, Joseph, in July 1913 when she was 12 years old. She would become a teen a week after arriving in the U.S. My great-grandfather had come 3 years earlier and settled in Chicago after crisscrossing the country working for the Pullman Company.
I had photos of the apartment where they lived in Chicago and the houses they rented and bought in Gary, Indiana, but I had no visual of the home she resided in as a child. Grandma had returned to visit Croatia in the summer of 1960 with her singing group, Preradovic. I have a picture of her with two village women, unnamed, who she said were cousins. Truthfully, Grandma called everyone cousins and she was probably correct as the village in which she was born had only 349 people in 2011. Her mother’s ancestral village, Jerebic, only had 41 people in 2011. If they weren’t cousins, they were called kum or kuma (godfather or godmother). Definitely supports the importance of Elizabeth Shown Mills’ FAN Club! With such small numbers, everyone was connected.
There were 99 houses in town, which one was Grandma’s? For that, I turned to a genealogical report written by Sanja Frigan for my second cousin in 2008. Sanja had gone to the local church and spoke with the priest who shared records. I was able to identify the location as house number 40. This was confirmed through the only FamilySearch.org Dubranec record for my grandmother – her baptism record shows the family living in house number 40. Through the Association of Professional Genealogists, I contacted fellow genealogistLidija Sambunjak to discover if house numbers were altered since the church record was made in 1900. I highly recommend contacting a local genealogist, historian, or archaeologist as they know details of communities that aren’t available online. Lidija was able to find the new house number. She also found a record that showed the home had been built by 1861 when a census had been taken. Lidija also discovered the home was now a tavern so there was a strong possibility I could go inside and even eat in the location my grandmother had taken her first bites of food!
Getting to Dubranec was an issue; it was outside the city limits of Zagreb so no bus was available. I could Uber/taxi but I didn’t want to just get dropped off. I needed a driver who could take me to all the places I wanted to see, wait while I explored for a bit, and answer questions that might arise from what I was seeing. I was not comfortable with renting a car as I was unfamiliar with the area and there were avalanche and flash flood warnings – not something I wanted to tackle on my own. Plus, I don’t speak Croatian well and a translator would be helpful.
Lidija recommended a colleague, Nikolina Antonić, who was a historian and archaeologist. We agreed on a price for the day and in our email exchanges, she shared with me her dissertation which just happened to be in the area my family resided. Finding a knowledgeable professional might take some time so start looking as soon as you book your trip.
I shared with Nikolina my family stories regarding defending a castle, building a church, going on a pilgrimage, and being titled a nobleman. Her dissertation was about the land records for the area beginning in the 1200s so she was an expert with location and history.
Nikolina met us at our hotel at 9 AM sharp. After reading her dissertation I had questions about how my family fit into the culture of those times. Her answers helped me put the records I had found the day before into perspective. Our first stop was a recreated home that would have been typical of a noble family. Although we couldn’t go inside, we were able to walk the grounds, peer in the windows and my husband found pottery shards in the freshly turned garden. Nikolina identified them as the late 1800s. A few days later we toured a castle in Bled and in the museum was an identical pottery piece labeled the late 1800s. It helped me imagine that my two times great-grandparents likely used a similar jug.
Our next stop was a recreated castle where my family tale says we fought off Turkish invaders. I’ll be writing more about this next week.
As we climbed the mountain through a forest I could visualize my ancestors hunting in the woods. It was breathtakingly beautiful – spring green leaves budding on the trees, a deep blue sky with puffy white clouds – a picture postcard.
The village Dubranec was larger than I expected. From the land records discovered the previous day I knew where some of my family’s property began and ended. The lots have been subdivided over the years and now, many more buildings were housed on what was once farmland. I was disappointed to find the home where my grandmother was born that had been turned into a tavern closed. A man walking down the street informed us that the owner had recently died. The picture at the top was from Google; the building has changed somewhat and for privacy, I am not displaying the photo I took.
Next, we went to the village Jerebeic where my great-grandmother’s family was from. It was about a 5-minute drive further up the mountain. The village was exactly what I had envisioned – all old wooden buildings. The well, unused now, was still there, roosters still roamed the yard, and hay was stored in the barn. I was surprised to learn that my family had been known for their vineyards and some very old plants still produced grapes. Which great grandfather had planted them I don’t know but I still have the recipes. We spoke to the farm’s present owner who knew it had once been owned by the Grdenic family. He kindly let me take photos.
Back down the mountain, our next stop was Our Lady of the Snows Roman Catholic Church. The earthquake had damaged the structure so we could not go inside. I was shocked to see the cemetery intact and with just a few older stones. I learned that rental needs to be paid annually and when it is not received, after a time, the body is dug up, the bones collected, and placed in a group grave. Nikolina was not sure what happened to the old tombstones. The beautiful day had turned rainy and with thunder and lightning overhead, we did not stay long among the graves. I plan on writing to the current priest to obtain more information.
We then drove miles to visit Marija Bistrica, a pilgrimage site. On our way, we saw a group of pilgrims with walking sticks making their way to the church high on a mountaintop. I’ll write more about my great-grandmother’s reason for the pilgrimage next week. I was amazed to see how far she walked over such difficult terrain. I know I come from a strong line of females but this discovery really surprised me.
It was time to return to our hotel as our Gate1 tour was meeting that evening. I will never forget this emotional experience and I believe I would not have gained such insight into my family’s background had it not been for Nikolina’s expertise.
If you are planning an excursion to your ancestor’s home turf, do your research first, then check out transportation options, and hire a guide who is familiar with the area’s history. Although most people in Europe speak English, if you are going to a rural area it is best if you have someone who can translate for you. Don’t forget your camera or phone charger!
Next week I’ll be giving you some tech tips for your ancestral experience.
It was time for me to cross the pond to search for family information. You might, like me, have reached that place in your research.
My maternal line is all Croatian and when I began my genealogical journey over 50 years ago, I thought I knew everything there was about those lines. I was so wrong!
Over the years, I interviewed my maternal grandmother, mother, and one of my aunts. I wrote down the stories they told, made sure the people in the photos they left behind were identified, and diligently added their U.S. made records in genealogical software programs. When DNA came along I tried to connect with family that had scattered across the world – Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Great Britain, Australia, and throughout the U.S. I visited the FamilySearch Library twice hoping that records from the small villages outside of Zagreb would be available. Only one currently is and last month I was informed that there were no new films that would be available to search anytime soon. If I wanted more I had to do boots on the ground.
In January I discovered a Gate1 tour with a special price for Croatia as the country began accepting Euros in 2023. My husband and I booked a 10-day tour and decided to extend it by two days so I could research my family in an archive and visit their villages. I have researched cemeteries in the Caribbean, South America, and Central America but I have never before researched in an archive outside of the U.S.
Here are my recommendations if you are planning a genealogical journey abroad:
Identify the area where your ancestor resided – Check immigration, census, vital records, obituaries, and family member recollections. Mugbooks and family genealogies may also be helpful. You need to know where they were and under what flag when they lived there to discover where records are housed. My family lived for generations in what is now Croatia but at the time they were there, it was under Austria-Hungary. Step 2 will help you figure out where some of the records reside and who ruled the land at the time your ancestors lived there.
Use FamilySearch.org Wiki– After logging in, click on the ribbon “Search” and then “Research Wiki.” Either enter your location in the search box or click on the map. My villages are not an option so I selected the biggest city to the villages of Dubranec and Jerebic which was the capital, Zagreb. The information provided will give you some knowledge of what records are available and where. Look at any records for the country that are online, even if they are not for your desired location. Often the headings will be similar so you can familiarize yourself with what the information will look like. I took headings from the only document available for Dubranec (1895-1900 baptisms) and transferred them to an Excel doc. Under the Croatian headings, I wrote the translation. I then filled in all the info I knew for each individual. This way, when I entered the archive, I had the child’s name in the correct category, along with a time frame (the birthdate), and the parents’ names. I knew ahead of time what lines to scan to find what I needed. I also had the info in chronological order which speeded up the research as the microfilm is by years.
Check out archive websites – Don’t worry that you don’t speak or read the language, most websites are easily translated into English. Look at the top and bottom of the home page for a translation button. Every archive has different rules and regulations. Knowing what is required ahead of time will save you grief. Things to think about – Do they accept credit cards or cash only? Can you take photos? Do you have to make a reservation? Can you bring a laptop?
Book your trip – Some folks like to be independent and others like a canned tour. I prefer a little of both. There are many tour companies online and deciding which can be daunting. Look at ratings, talk with family and friends, and read the fine print. I highly recommend hiring knowledgeable locals to assist you in the archives. I used the Association of Professional Genealogists website, of which I am a member, to find a genealogist. Via email, she advised me what archive I needed to visit and which record sets would be helpful to search. She accompanied me to the archive, stepped me through the process to obtain a pass, and sat nearby so I could get clarification and translation. I had trained my husband on using the one available FamilySearch film so we were able to go through all the record sets in one day. And for my long-time readers, you know weird things happen to me when I do boots on the ground! Also in the archive the day I was there was another genealogist who my second cousin had hired 16 years ago. Her report had been on records housed in the village church which has since been damaged by an earthquake. Those records are no longer available and I’m so thankful to have that report. It was a confirmation of names and dates I was given verbally and allowed me to delve further into the records housed by the state.
Remain calm and flexible – Traveling today is not as easy as it once was. I had hoped to spend a day and a half in the Croatian State Archives but because Lufthansa was incompetent (I’ll spare you how rude they were in Munich) our flight was delayed 5 hours. By the time I reached the hotel, the archive was an hour from closing. In hindsight, I was jet lagged so I wasn’t in the best of shape to research in a new place with a language I wasn’t proficient in. Still, I was disappointed that I lost valuable time. Go with the attitude that you are grateful for finding something instead of thinking you must find everything. I was astounded to discover that my family owned so many plots of land. I would need many more days to go to the courthouse to pull all the deed records. A volume I needed for information on the nobility of my Kos family was missing so another archive needs to be contacted to obtain that record. I also learned that military officer records are housed out of the country. For now, I’m content with what I did discover and can plan to either go back in the future or hire a genealogist to pull the records for me.
Next week I’ll write my recommendations about visiting your family’s ancestral home.
Back in November, I visited a local cemetery to pay my respects to my husband’s Great Half Uncle, William O. Johnson. When we arrived we couldn’t get into the mausoleum as the door was locked. There was no sign on the door that provided the hours it was open.
There was no cemetery office and we were the only ones in the cemetery so we went home, disappointed. I immediately went online to Findagrave.com to discover how I could connect with a cemetery trustee.
What I found was a transcription from Dorothy A. Ditmars History of DeKalb County Cemeteries (1924) that states “…The present manager of this cemetery is Mr. L. Gengler, an attornery (sic) of Garrett, Indiana).”
The next paragraph transcribes a “printed page (source unknown)” that John Martin Smith had in his private files that stated, “Lots are mowed by Oliver Maurer, who has been employed as caretaker since 1954.”
I looked for another site that contained more recent info and found that every other site had copied the same information. Luckily, a newspaper article appeared in the Garrett Clipper on 23 June 2020 about a new Columbarium that was being installed in the cemetery close to the mausoleum. The article mentioned contacting the nearby Roman Catholic Church for information on purchasing lots and niches.
I emailed the church office and a week and a half later hadn’t gotten a response. I thought they might be busy as it was nearing Christmas. I decided to go to my local genealogy library to research some street names in the city and while there, mentioned I couldn’t get into the mausoleum. The librarian was working on a county cemetery project and had just finished with the cemetery I was interested in minutes before I entered. She handed me the book of copies of lot purchases. I found several for the family I was interested in, the Blairs, but none of the Johnsons, which were the ones I needed. Then it hit me, the records for the mausoleum were missing from the book.
I know this sounds unbelievable but for my long-time readers, you know weird things happen to me whenever I do boots-on-the-ground research – a woman came into the library asking for a book of newspaper articles from 25 years ago. While the librarian retrieved it, the woman and I spoke and she just happened to be the reporter who had written the story in 2020. She encouraged me to call the church office and not rely on waiting for a response from their email system. She also gave me the answers to my street names questions that I hadn’t been able to find on maps in the library.
I called the parish office as soon as I got home and was told that the clerical staff would check with the priest and call me back. The next day I got a returned phone call but no answers. The church runs the cemetery but not the mausoleum. They don’t know who is responsible for that. They have no key and didn’t know it was locked. They were going to check with the caretaker, Dave, for further info.
I asked if there were mixed burials in the mausoleum; by mixed I mean people of various faiths as the original intent when the cemetery was laid out in 1897 was to have a section for Roman Catholics and a section for “others.” Having spent so many years in the South I was used to the separation in cemeteries by race but hadn’t come across much by religious affiliation. I was told that the church doesn’t have the mausoleum records, and no one knows where they are or how many spaces are unsold there. The clerical person said she knew families buried in the mausoleum who were of differing faiths.
Not surprisingly, the church has yet to call me back to tell me what the caretaker said about how we could access the mausoleum. On Valentine’s, I went to a genealogy lecture locally and was speaking with a woman who said she knew who had the mausoleum books but had no idea how one accessed entry into it. She said she’d get back to me. Still waiting, sigh!
Genealogy is such a study of patience but also one of perseverance. At the last DeKalb County Genealogy Society meeting I asked if anyone knew where the records might be housed. No one did but one of the members happens to be the caretaker for a nearby cemetery’s mausoleum. The key he has happens to open the mausoleum I’m seeking to enter. We’re planning to get together soon so my husband and I can pay our respects.
I still intend to hunt down those missing records and that’s on my agenda for May.
I will be taking a break from blogging for the next two weeks while my husband and I go on a genealogical adventure. I’ll surprise you with the details when I write again on April 29th.
It’s been several years since I’ve gone to Salt Lake City to research at the library, formerly known as Family History Library. My previous blog on what to do can be found here, however, much has changed so here are my recommendations if you plan to go.
Due to Rootstech, there were no classes offered the week I went but typically, there are classes available for free. Check out the calendar on their website.
The library has had a makeover. Gone are the genealogies on the first floor – they have all been scanned and are available online. In their space is a large area for newbies to learn about their relationship to the famous and where you can bring up your FamilySearch tree to have printed in poster size. I was told by two employees that I could print from a tree other than FamilySearch but when I handed over my thumb drive they couldn’t get my downloaded Ancestry.com tree to work with their system. I didn’t want my FamilySearch tree printed as my mom’s side is incomplete on there and my dad’s side is constantly changing, not always correctly. I keep removing a source for a man who died in the 1700s, someone keeps adding he served in the Civil War. Makes me crazy!
Also on the first floor is a very large break room with lots of vending machines. The contents range from water, milk, and soda to burritos, breakfast sandwiches, and typical snacks like granola bars and chips. Problem is that the machines don’t always work. I had bought a bottle of water (reasonably priced at .85) one day and the next day it wouldn’t take my charge card or coins. I was super thirsty so I had to go out in the rain to the mall as the restaurant on the corner is closed. The volunteer at the desk told me that the machines often don’t work. Wish they had posted a sign as I wasted time.
The international floors have been flipped. I had several books I couldn’t find and neither could the assistants at the research desk. I don’t know if they were lost, misfiled, or taken to be scanned. I looked for the same books every day for the 5 days I was there so it wasn’t like someone was using them for the day. There is also a reference section (shown above) adjacent to the wall of the new Medieval section so look there, too, if you can’t find the book in the stacks. The books are out of order so look carefully.
It’s also wise to check the Library Catalog and not the General Catalog before you leave home – they are not the same. The General Catalog lists all resources available; don’t waste your time looking at items you can view from home. The Library Catalog provides resources that are available in the library. Some of the books on the shelves have been scanned and are available online now but many have not. Found the note above at one of the scanners. I didn’t need a book from storage but know not everything is readily available. The catalogs will help you determine if you have to put in a special request. Keep in mind, though, that the catalogs aren’t updated. I found the reference below and was surprised that there were still CDs being used. I went to the 2nd floor to inquire about it and was told the item was no longer available, even though it is showing that it is.
The best upgrade is on the 3rd floor – the scanners are a dream! They have several and I used one every day I was there. No more taking pics with my phone and having to then clean out Google Photos. Bring a thumb drive and if you forget, they will give you one for free on the first floor. The thumb drive connects to an adaptor and not directly into the computer. You can see it in the picture below on the left top of the keyboard.
Another upgrade I’m not so wild about is that I previously recommended not bringing your laptop because they have so many desktops available. I counted only 19 on the 3rd floor. I don’t know how many they previously had but I believe it was more as by mid-day, there are none available. Now the desktop situation has changed. You don’t just have a desktop, you also have two monitors for each desktop (see top photo). That’s wonderful and my setup at home but I really don’t need three screens in the library. Two would have been adequate; one for your tree and one for whatever you’re looking up online. Really, why would you need to look at the microfilm, too, that’s available at home? I make a list of just what is not available – books that aren’t scanned and aren’t close to my home and film that I can’t access at home. So still, be prepared and know what you need before you go.
My biggest disappointment was what I thought would be a great idea – the online help request. The specialist that comes is not always a specialist or there isn’t one available and they don’t tell you that. On Monday I was told to ask late Tuesday afternoon for an Ohio specialist. On Tuesday afternoon I placed a request at 4 pm. At 4:10 a specialist came and told me she was signing out but someone would be with me in 15 minutes. By 4:45 when no one arrived I put in another request, thinking that she must have taken me out of the system. Five minutes later a person from the desk asked me why I had made 2 requests and I explained. I only realized that both requests were open once I hit enter for the 2nd request (see below). Once you make a request you can’t cancel it. I had wasted 45 minutes sitting in one location as I feared if I got up to look for books the specialist would think I left and cross me off the list. I told the desk lady I would be finding books and to please tell the specialist if I’m away from the desk to wait a minute. By 6 PM no one had arrived so I went to the desk and was then told that there were no specialists and wouldn’t be so go to another floor. I went to the 2nd floor and signed in for help again. About 15 minutes later a woman came to tell me the specialists were busy and it would be another 15 minutes. I remarked I’d been waiting since 4. She said she’d find someone for me. A few minutes later she returned and said I had only been signed in for 15 minutes. Yes, I had, on that floor, but it had been 2 hours plus on floor 3. About 15 minutes later the specialist arrived who was supposed to know all about Ohio. She asked me why I wanted to prove the relationship and I told her it was for a DAR ap. She replied that she had quit DAR 3 times and I shouldn’t bother. A woman sitting at the next computer overheard and joined the conversation. She asked me for what proof I had and when I gave it to her, she said she would contact her AG friend for me. Never heard from the friend. After my return, as I blogged about last week, I found the info on my own.
My last suggestion is to get there at opening (9 AM) as people seemed to be more helpful in the morning. You’ll also be one of the first to find your needed books and you’ll get a computer. Take a break at about 1 as the lines are down in the food court in the mall and then return to the library. Happy Hunting!
Last week I went to FamilySearch Library in Salt Lake City, Utah with one main goal – to prove that John Duer (Circa 1803 PA-1885 IN) was the son of Thomas Duer (1775 NJ – 1829 OH). I’ll blog next week about researching in the renovated library but for now, this story is just unbelievable!
I have long wanted to prove that I am a descendant of Patriot John Duer (1748 NJ – 1831 OH). I’ve written two analyses on indirect evidence linking Patriot John to his oldest son, Thomas, who died intestate, and Thomas’s son, John, who was of age when his father died and therefore, not named in probate.
Early on in my research, I was advised to check land records and I did. The problem was that some early deeds for Trumbull County, Ohio are missing. Both Patriot John and Thomas lived next to each other from 1809 until Thomas’s untimely death at age 54 in 1829. Since Thomas died before his father he was not named in his will, however, one of Thomas’s daughter’s husbands was named in Patriot John’s will as receiving land. All of the rest of Patriot John’s children were noted in the will. He had one other child who had predeceased him; for that child, the grandson was named as receiving cash.
In Salt Lake City I was looking at volumes written by Henry Baldwin in the mid-1800s. I found the information I needed to prove that Thomas was the son of Patriot John. The books didn’t help, though, by showing Patriot John’s grandson, John, was Thomas’s son.
I asked several AGs and research specialists for ideas. I had looked for records that included Bibles, Presbyterian Church, cemeteries, obits, probate, wills, deeds, tax records, court records, identifying census tic marks, journals for pioneers/circuit riders, genealogy society records, mug books, and contacting people who had online family trees. One AG recommended checking Masonic Lodge records as he noted that many Presbyterian farmers were members.
FamilySearch has New York Masonic records but not Ohio so I reached out to the Public Library of Youngstown, Ohio, and was referred to Warren County Public Library. I sent an email request noting I was looking to prove a relationship through Masonic records.
The following day I received a wonderful reply – no Mason records but someone once left 4 pages of typed research notes on the family in the surname files. The librarian scanned them for me. Those notes were undated, the library had no idea who had left them or when. I had contacted the library for various help over the years and no one had ever mentioned these 4 pages of notes.
I figured the Masonic records were a long shot but I admit, I was initially disappointed when I looked at the notes. I began reviewing the attachments and on page 3, almost fell out of my chair. The individual who had left the information had abstracted deeds. I had seen every deed at FamilySearch.org but one. The one that was not listed in the index was the one that had named the wife of Thomas and all their children, shown above. It neatly sold land that was mentioned in Patriot John’s will to another of Thomas’s children. The husband of that child sold the land to the named son of Thomas.
I had looked page by page at early deed books but stopped at the end of 1832 as that was when the estates were finalized. I used indexes going forward. This one transaction wasn’t indexed. The land was sold in 1832 but not recorded until 1833.
It never dawned on me to go page by page for the following year AFTER the estates were closed. I could have solved this problem years ago if only I hadn’t relied on the index and remembered that deeds are not always recorded when they were made. Lessons learned!
I finally found the tombstone of my 3rd great-grandfather, John Duer, in Kessler Cemetery, Mercer County, Ohio! Last Saturday my husband suggested we drive to Ohio to check out the cemetery in the hopes of finding John’s gravestone.
I’ve blogged many times in the past about my Duer family and the frustration of not being able to find where John was buried. I had probate from Adams County, Indiana so I knew John’s date of death but have never found an obituary and the probate didn’t disclose a burial location.
No memorial was ever made on Findagrave or Billion Graves.
When I lived in Florida my resources were sparse and I didn’t find the information when I went to Salt Lake City in 2015. I contacted organizations in both Adams, Indiana, and Mercer, Ohio but nothing was found. Sue Thomas, a trustee of Kessler Cemetery had sent me records for rows 1-7 and there was a John Duer, but it was the son of the man I was looking for. I wasn’t aware at the time that the records were incomplete.
Fast forward to June 2022 when my husband and I visited the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the 2nd largest genealogy library in the country. I didn’t really think we’d find John’s burial location as the 1st largest genealogy library in the US didn’t have it. I was shocked when I handed my husband a book of Mercer County cemetery inscriptions and he found an entry for Kessler Cemetery, row 15, on the last page of the book that noted “John Duer – unreadable.”
As soon as we had settled into our new home winter hit and I had to wait for spring before I could resume my quest to find John’s burial site. Last Saturday, the snow had melted, the sky was blue and the sun was shining. I had a meeting to attend in the morning so when I arrived home the last thing on my mind was John’s tombstone but my husband thought it was a good day to go look.
The cemetery is in a rural location in Ohio so we had to use coordinates to find it. It is accessible from a county road and surrounded by a field. There is a farmhouse visible to the north and a rooster doing his singing the entire time we spent there.
There are 331 memorials on Findagrave and it’s noted that the cemetery is 92% photographed. Of course, John was one of the 8%! This man left behind a few records so it is fitting.
As soon as my husband turned into the unpaved U-shaped drive I was ecstatic. I immediately spotted my 2nd great-grandparent’s tombstone and another of my 3rd great-grandparent’s tombstones. There were Kables, Kuhns, Bollenbachers, and Duers as far as the eye could see.
I’ve certainly visited many cemeteries over my genealogical career but I have never visited a small family cemetery that belonged to my family. There are no words to describe the feeling of knowing that everyone in this location was my kin. Best of all, I knew their stories. Seeing, touching, and walking among the stones made them real. The documents, stories, and photos I’ve amassed were connected to the individuals lying right below where I stood.
Even my husband got excited, shouting “Look, there’s a Kable, oh, there’s a Kuhn, there’s another Kuhn.” He had heard me speak of these people for over 50 years and now, he too, felt they had become real.
He parked in the field and the hunt was on. It was obvious the older stones were on the south side of the drive so we began there. Several were completely unreadable. I knew from the book that John was buried in row 15 but it was difficult to determine where the rows began as the graves were not dug in lines beginning at the same point. From the records that Sue Thomas had sent me I could tell that Row 1 was where the newest graves were placed. Even counting from there was difficult.
Cold and frustrated, I said aloud, “John Duer, Come on. I’ve been searching for you for years and I’m tired of this. Where are you.” I turned and looked down and there was the stone pictured above. Standing back from and just at an angle, the late afternoon sunlight clearly showed John and 1885, his death year. The rest of the stone was unreadable. Yes, I did thank him!
I was disappointed that I couldn’t read the entirety of the stone as nowhere is John’s birthdate recorded. It appears that it could be calculated from the stone but no longer. My husband, laid upon the grave to get as close a look as possible as the stone is tilted downward.
My husband is not interested in genealogy so his actions spoke volumes to me about how much he understands my passion. Think about this, the ground was damp, it was freezing, and he was lying on my 3rd great-grandfather’s grave to get a better look at me. I told my kids if that isn’t love I don’t know what is.
I had one more mission which was to find his first wife, Jane’s grave. I’ve blogged before about the possible error on her stone giving a death date as 1866. John had married again in December 1864 and had a child with his second wife by 1866. No divorce document has been found. He wasn’t likely a polygamist as he was raised as a Presbyterian. Lastly, Jane’s grave states she was the wife of John Duer. If they had divorced she wouldn’t have been his wife. Interestingly, when his second wife died, she too has the “wife of John Duer” on her stone. He must have been something!
We couldn’t find Jane anywhere and a stiff wind began to blow so we went back to the car to look up Findagrave to see if we could identify background stones to help us find Jane. We then realized we had no cell service. Yep, this cemetery is remote. Husband stuck his phone out of the window and finally, we got a signal. Although there are two photos on Findagrave only one would display and it was the closeup with little info in the background. We got out and looked again.
I was standing catty-corner from John’s grave and my husband was in the last row before the field, about 3 rows from me. John was considered in row 13 and Jane was in row 14 but there was a large space where I was standing with no stones so I turned and immediately was facing Jane. What had happened was Jane’s top stone portion had come loose and it looked like someone had turned it 90 degrees so it was now facing John’s row. In 2007 when the Findagrave photo was taken, the stone was facing south as John’s was. When I was reading stones in row 15 I thought Jane’s stone was just another stone that had become illegible. Instead, I was looking at the back of her stone. I was beyond euphoric at finding her final resting place.
Although I certainly never met her in person, I know that she was a strong woman who used a small inheritance from her father to purchase land in Killibuck, Holmes, Ohio so she could take her garden produce to town to sell. I love her entrepreneurial spirit, unusual for a woman in the 1840s. She lost several children, one as a child, several to the Civil War, and one to a mental illness. The family moved from eastern Ohio to mid-Ohio and finally to the border with Indiana. It must have been difficult leaving her family behind as they moved west.
I’ll be doing many more cemetery visits as the weather warms as I expect you will, too. Don’t give up your search! Your ancestor is out there just waiting to be found.