Useful Research Reminders

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!

Using back door techniques to solve a genealogy mystery

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! 

Solving Broken Connections by Connecting With the Living

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.

Take Care With Those Hints!

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.

Simple Tips to Maximize Your Genealogy Research

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.

Happy Hunting!

My Tree Tags – Trying Out Ancestry.com’s New Feature

Two weekends ago I tried using My Tree Tags on Ancestry.com and I think you’ll like this new feature.  For years, I’ve wished that there was a way to flag my ancestors so I could create various lists of my folks.  This feature will do that and more.

To try it for yourself, click on Extras on the ribbon (it’s the last entry).  Then, click on My Tree Tags.  Notice it’s in Beta so it’s still being improved.  I had no problems with the feature so the IT Department must have worked the bugs out long before they made the Beta available to the general public.

I know, you’re thinking, “Why should I waste my time Beta testing when it isn’t a finished program?”  Simply because you still have time to provide your insights to make the program even better!  You have the option to give feedback using a short survey.

Once you click Enable you are good to go.  The first change you’ll notice is that the former search button for individuals is now called Tree Search.  When you click it, the Tree Search looks different then it did:

This threw me for a minute but it works the same  – just type in the individual you are trying to located in the search box and they’ll display as a drop down as they did before.

To use My Tree Tags, click Filters and it will display the tag choices:

Each Filter contains more items to explore.  I personally like the Custom filter as I created one I titled “Lineage” which allows me to identify the people I selected to join various lineage societies.  In the Custom feature, you can even write a description of what the title means to you so others, if your tree is public, can better understand your definition.  I’m thinking of identifying careers as I’d like to analyze those that followed a particular career path, such as teacher, minister, or farmer.

Once you’ve selected tags, they will display on the Facts page under your ancestor’s identifying information in white letters in a blue box:

Only 3 tags will show.  If more were selected a + and a number appears on the right; click to display the other tags that were selected:

Now here’s the awesome part – say you want to find all of your military people.  When you click on Military it will display all others in your tree that you’ve identified with the same tag:

For the life of me, I can’t figure out how the list is ordered; it’s not by alpha of last name or by dates.  It doesn’t seem to be by how I identified people, either.  

If you goof, it’s simple to correct an error.  The edit button is the pencil in the circle at the end of the tag.  Click it and change – add or delete – whatever you’d like.

IMHO, the best part is that you can identify if you are working on a line and making a hypothesis.  I became so frustrated with brick wall (another tag you can select) ancestors that I was then researching (currently researching is also a tag) that I stopped adding to my tree as I did the research because someone would copy the information and before I knew it, it had spread like a wildfire.  I’m hopeful that tagging will alert someone that the information is not verified yet.  

If you decide you don’t want to use the feature, go back to Extras on the ribbon and disable it.  You’re back to where you were.  

Identifying Tree Errors – A New Approach

My online family tree is aging and just like we humans need as we get older, regular check ups are important to maintain its vigor.  I think I just discovered a different approach to identify errors to keep my tree robust.

My first computerized tree was done on a TI99 home computer.  I had to insert a cartridge to view the genealogical program (which is now in my attic). In 1995,we had switched over to a desktop system and we were online thanks to AOL.  I downloaded PAF from FamilySearch.org and spent a few weekends transferring my info from the old software to the new.  I’ve been transferring that same tree as it grew ever since.

Around 1997, I created a tree on Rootsweb (now owned by Ancestry.com).  My old tree is frozen in cyberspace and I cringe at some of the errors I’m not able to correct.  I believe that’s the only tree I’ve got stuck in time.

Over the years I’ve transferred the root tree to various online sites – Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, MyHeritage.com, FindMyPast.com, Geneanet.com, WikiTree.com, and AmericanAncestors.  I’ve used Legacy Family Tree, RootsMagic, and Family Tree Maker software to help identify and correct errors.  Last weekend I found another source to fix mistakes in lines I haven’t looked at in years.

Geneanet.com allows you to view tree statistics, whether you’re a member or not.  Simply click the down arrow next to your tree’s name which accesses the menu.  Under the heading Family History, click Family Tree Statistics.  Although the number of people in your tree with the same first name is interesting, it’s not going to fix errors.  (As an aside, the largest number of my peeps are named John and Mary, just like my grandparents).  To find errors, click “The 20 who lived the longest.”  There I discovered I had an ancestor that lived over 500 years and he wasn’t named Methuselah.  Clearly, I had entered John Clark’s death date in error, typing 1918 for 1418. 

The next individual, Thomas Eaton, had lived for 311 years but not really.  He had been pruned once from his line so I deleted him.  He was just an unlinked soul lost in my tree. 

Now click “The 20 oldest persons still alive” and you’ll be able to identify folks you know have passed but you haven’t found their death date.  My oldest was Melba L. Jones born in 1899.  Using FindAGrave, I discovered she died 2 Jan 1993.  I like how this feature helps me keep my tree current on lines I don’t check often. 

I like that only 20 questionable individuals are provided at a time so it makes the task less onerous.  It’s still a pain to maintain trees at various sites so I’ve been keeping one current which is linked to my desktop and then every 6 months, update the others.  In the interim, when people find me at the other sites, I just redirect them to my always maintained tree.  

Now that I’ve Spring Cleaned my tree, I’m ready for more research.  Happy Hunting!

Ancestry.com New Features

I tried Ancestry.com’s new feature, Thru Lines, last weekend and I’m not impressed.  If you aren’t sure what it’s about, you can watch their brief video here.  What set me off was the comment “For a few short minutes and without doing any research, you can have a whole new network of ancestors and living relatives.”  Not in my opinion!  If only genealogy were so simple. 

Here’s the issue I have and which I wrote in my survey result to Ancestry – say everyone in your family believes that your shared Great Great Grandpa was John Smith Jr..  You all know this because it said so in an unsourced family book written in the 1940’s.  Some of your older relatives even remember the author and he was an honest, hard working genealogist.  He knew that John Smith Jr. was his Great Grandpa because his mom told him so and she never lied.  So there, it’s the truth and nothing but the truth.

Now along comes Ancestry’s Thru Lines and since everyone copied everyone else’s tree on Ancestry because it’s simple to do so, everyone has John Smith Jr.as their 2nd time Great Grandpa and now everyone’s DNA results PROVE it.  Except, it proves nothing at all.

All Thru Lines proves is that you are all related.  If everyone has a wrong name listed everyone with shared DNA will connect to that wrong name.  Perhaps John Smith Jr. was adopted.  All of the shared descendants are related to the adopted individual but not to John Smith Sr.  Thru Lines is going to give you other relatives you “might” be related to.  This just perpetuates the wrong information.

I tried it with one of my adult children’s DNA results and it connected to my husband’s grandmother.  Was that accurate?  Yes, because far flung family members have also tested and they connect to grandmother’s parents.  We also have the paper documentation of the relationship.  All Thru Lines did in this example was confirm what my documentation already showed. 

Two other features are in the works, New and Improved DNA Matches (I can only hope) and Tree Tags, which is something I’ve been wishing for a long long time.  Tree tags is adding info you’d like others to know, such as – “This is not a confirmed relationship.” I would absolutely love that.  I actually wanted a color coded option so I could make my confirmed relationships in green and my tentative ones in yellow or red.  I understand that some folks have difficulty with color so tagging is a nice alternative.  As soon as I’m able to test these features, I’ll blog my opinion. 

Three Resources You Might Not Have Tried Yet

Last weekend, my local genealogical society held their annual seminar with the main presenter being D. Johsua Taylor.  Josh mentioned 3 resources that I had never used so I’m passing the information along as they may be helpful in your researching.  

Warning – the first and last isn’t readily available so it might take you some time to find them in your locale.

Early American Imprints is a collection in two series of single page documents, such as advertisements, pamphlets and sermons, from 1690-1800 and 1801-1819.  There is a searchable database produced by Readex.  Unfortunately for me, there is no facility in my county that has access but I did email a library at my closest state university and discovered they do have it and allow the general public to view it.  I can’t wait to check it out!

Archive Grid, owned by OCLC, is like WorldCat and this free resource is available to you from home.  The beauty of Archive Grid is that you can obtain catalog descriptions from collections housed around the world, not just the U.S.  Through a key word search or by browsing a selected topic, who knows what genealogical gems you may uncover.  I’m thinking this might be a wonderful way to shed light on some of my brick wall ancestors who left little records behind.  

ArchiveFinder is similar to Archive Grid but is available only through libraries.  I haven’t found a local source yet and will ask my library consortium if they could fund it in the future.  Why I would like to check it out is because the database includes manuscript collections that I wouldn’t know are available without this resource.  Josh recommended asking your library if they are a part of C19 – libraryspeak for an index that libraries often subscribe to.  ArchiveFinder is available with a subscription to C19.  

GenealogyAtHeart Hint – keep a Word doc or spreadsheet on your computer of resources you want to search for at various archives so when you’re headed out the door on an errand, you have a list of what to check while you’re passing by that library.  Sure, I call or email the library if it’s urgent but often I come across a book I’d like to review for a possible connection to an ancestor I’m researching but the facility is closed at the time I discover it or I just don’t want to make the drive to the next county for just a look.  I actually print the lists and keep them in my car so if I happen to be going that way, I can stop in.  I record the call number (from WorldCat), the book title, the author, the publication year, and most importantly – the name of the ancestor I think it pertains to.  I can always look up the call number or title in the library but if I can’t remember who I’m looking up, it’s a waste of my time.  Don’t forget to remove the resource from the list on your computer when you get home.  Happy Hunting!

Here Today Gone Tomorrow, The Ever Changing Access to Online Records

Ahh, the balance of the universe!  Maybe it’s just me but I’ve noticed lately that the more that the web grows genealogy sources, the more sources I relied on in the past have disappeared.  I’m definitely not a doomsday prophet but I found my experiences yesterday as a wake up call to change some of my practices in the future. If I don’t I’ll be facing disaster someday. Here’s what happened…

I was going back over a line I hadn’t visited in five years.  When I do that, I start with my gateway ancestor, in this case, Mary Ann Hollingshead, and I recheck my saved sources.  I predominately use Ancestry.com so I click on the Gallery feature and look at the documents I previously uploaded.  Then I go to the hints area and look at all that I had saved as “Maybe” or “No.”  I always keep the hint setting on but my tree is so large I don’t have time or desire to check every hint that populates. Weekly, as part of my genealogy cleaning chores, I go through any hints that are shown over the previous seven days and just dismiss them.  They don’t really go away; they are saved under the individual that the system matched them to.  That’s a nice underused feature, I believe, as you can always go through them at your leisure to examine each one closely when you have the time.  

Next, I go back to Facts and check the citations that I had linked to the timeline.  For sources that I created from outside of Ancestry.com records, I always but the link so that I can easily review the information and note if anything has changed.  That’s where I noticed the first of the serious changes to the web.

I went to Francis Hollingshead and was checking the link I had made to FamilySearch.org for England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975.  I used to be able to see the actual page of the document but not any longer:

As you can see on the right side above, I must go to the Family History Center to view.  Now I wish I had saved every FamilySearch.org document I have ever found and that’s a lot!  It never dawned on me that the information would not be readily available from home.  All I could think of was Job 1:20 “…The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away…”.

I did notice that some of the documents were available through FindMyPast.com so I could (and will) go there to snip and save them to my Gallery but not all can be found that way, as the one above shows.  

As I went farther back on the Hollingshead line I discovered that British History Online now charges for many documents that once were available for free:

Back in the day, they asked for support through a donation but now they have Premium, Gold, 5-year Gold and 10-year Gold access.  What I was trying to reach was Gold level.  I only needed one document so it wasn’t worth it to me to purchase a subscription.  I had saved in my citation a transcript which is fine for my purposes but if I had known it would go away, I would have snipped and saved the original and transcribed under it.  Live and Learn!

Yes, I did try the Wayback Machine to see if I could gain access to these docs and the answer is unfortunately, no.  For the British History Online document, only once was it saved and that was in 2015 but you had to log in to access.  I tried my old log on but it no longer works.  

The next issue I discovered was of a document I had saved in my Gallery.  I had the page snipped but I had neglected to include the book’s title page.  No worries, I thought, as the link was for Internet Archives.  Of course, I happened to hit them just as they went down for maintenance so I couldn’t get the information I needed.  The book wasn’t available through any of the other online sources so this just required me to wait awhile to get what I needed.

It’s not just older documents that are no long accessible.  Google+, which ties to my Blogger account, is disappearing soon.  With it goes all of my former reader comments.  I’m glad that I save all of my posts to my genealogyatheart.com website so they will still be available but unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do about the comments.

Genealogy is definitely a practice in patience.  Sometimes it’s years before you find the record you seek or connect with a long lost relative that holds the key to discovering a generation back.  With organizational changes, patience needs to extend to how we save the documents we find at the time we make the discovery.  I’m fortunate that there were only a few records I wasn’t able to access in the 18 generations I checked.  I’m hopeful, going forward with the procedure changes I plan to implement in my practice, that won’t be an issue again.

UPDATE 23 Feb 2019:  I spoke today with a FamilySearch rep at a local genealogist conference I attended.  He stated that some of the records are no longer available from home due to copyright agreements with the holders of the original data.  He also stated, if you have found yourself having difficulty viewing some of the records online because they become fuzzy, simply record where you are then click out of the database and go back in.  When you restart go directly to the record you left off and it should be viewed clearly.  If not, you can report it.