Sometimes You Just Have to Pay for a Record

Not everything in life is free. Genealogy can be expensive, however, IMHO, it has become much less expensive than at any time in the past. Folks who don’t want to spend money on a subscription can use the library edition of Ancestry.com at their local library. Sure, it’s not the same as an individual subscription but it suffices for the hobbyist. Familysearch.org is free to anyone who create an account. There are lots of records available for no cost online but we are far from the day when everything is available on the web.

Last weekend, my local genealogy society offered it’s family help day. Seven of us spent the afternoon assisting interested folks in overcoming their brick wall. Maybe because it was such a beautiful spring day, our turnout was much lower than usual. I only assisted 2 people all afternoon.

The first woman I assisted had a lengthy handwritten letter written in the 1960’s that contained EXACT QUOTES purportedly said by a Revolutionary War patriot. We talked about kernels of truth in family lore and how it was unlikely that the letter writer had firsthand knowledge of a conversation that occurred nearly 200 years earlier.

Since the woman wanted her granddaughter to join the DAR, I went to their nifty ancestor search and lo and behold, there were several women who had joined based on the named individual. She was delighted. I provided her with the contact information for a local chapter that assists interested people at a nearby library. I then explained what she would need to bring them – her granddaughter’s birth certificate, her daughter’s and her birth and marriage record, and back to whoever the last connection to the DAR member was. She was reluctant to have to pay for any vitals. Unfortunately, there just is no way around that.

The next inquirer had done extensive research and I was pleased that he had brought it with him. He had three needed items – a probate record, a naturalization record and a marriage record. He knew where and how to obtain the documents that were not online. He just felt it was unfair to pay a New York City church $50.00 for the marriage record, the District of Columbia court for the probate record and the US Federal government for the naturalization record. He inquired how he could find a back door for the records. There isn’t one. The owner of the records sets the price based on how they value the record or the cost they believe they incur for someone to go in the archives and retrieve it. He was not happy to hear that. I suggested he prioritize which ones he wanted to obtain and pay based on his need. I also recommended he ask family to give him those records for his birthday, Father’s Day and other holidays. He laughed. Truly, family never knows what to give those interested in genealogy. I’m sure they’d be happy to help in giving a gift that is truly meaningful.

Both of these folks did not have a brick wall; they had a reluctance to spend money on a needed record. Sometimes, you just have to pay to get what you need.

More Nickname Identification Help

Hit a brickwall because of a family pet name? Nicknames are sometimes the reason why we can’t make progress on our family trees. I’ve written previously about matching nicknames to legal names – see Knocking Down Nicknames.

Recently, Niyi at Findnicknames.com asked me to let you know about the site’s Nickname Generator, which consists of a database of various nicknames. I’d like the site to create historical nicknames, such as Mary – Molly, but it is a fun place to go if you’re in need of a little help in creating a new millennial moniker. Enjoy!

Santa Genealogists – Beneficial Tips from the Jolly Old Elf


Genealogists need to take a tip from Santa Claus – we should be “making a list and checking it twice!” No, not to find out who’s naughty or nice, although that does make family history interesting and more entertaining to pass on to relatives. The list making and checking is critical, especially when you acquire information from someone else. Here’s what recently happened to me…
Through this blog, I made contact with a second cousin I had never met. He put me in contact with several other cousins and we all shared info on a brick wall ancestor to see if putting our heads together could resolve the dead end.
Three of us live far away from where the ancestor had resided; one of us lives within reasonable driving distance. That individual had gone to the courthouse and pulled the probate records years ago. As I reviewed the paperwork making a list of all that we had discovered, it struck me that our common ancestor would have been left an orphan. I decided to go on FamilySearch.org to see if records were available for the area as the driving distance cousin, with family commitments and the approaching holidays, couldn’t find the time to make another visit.
I must have been a good genealogist this year as oh, what a wonderful early present I found! The probate file was now online and contained the guardianship information. The file was 40 pages – the cousin had only 3 pages. I’m not sure if the courthouse employee only copied the last 3 pages or my cousin only had cash for those pages but the entire packet was a gem for me because I discovered my 3rd great grandfather in another line was the appraiser. His signature was all over the documents.
Lesson learned – ALWAYS go back to the source to see if the information is accurate and complete. By my making a list of what records we had found, I was able to identify other places to check. We haven’t climbed over that brick wall yet but we’re getting closer!
Have a wonderful holiday – I’ll be writing again after New Year’s Day.

Amazing Info Found – The Net As a Beginning Tool

Life has returned to semi-normal after the recent hurricanes. By semi, I mean the county still hasn’t collected the debris, milk and gas aren’t available everywhere and several parks remain closed due to damage. When our power was out for several days, I limited my internet usage to conserve my cell phone battery. It wasn’t until I went to clean my spam filter for my website, Genealogyatheart, that I discovered a message from a distant cousin. He had discovered my site and our connection through our great grandfather by simply Googling the last name.
I replied to his comment and he included one of his nieces on our messages. Between the 3 of us, family puzzles began to be solved quickly. In the past week, I discovered that my paternal grandparents had hosted a small family reunion at their farm in the 1960’s. My parent’s divorce was finalized by that time so my mom knew nothing of the event. Without my cousins input, I wouldn’t have known about it, either.
That got my brain going about unidentified people on an old movie I had inherited from my father. Hubby and I have had all our 8 mm films and VHS tapes professionally saved to a DVD. (Side note: If you think your VHS tapes aren’t so old they need to be saved, think again. The oldest VHS tape from 1984 was fading away while some of the 1950 movies looked as good as new). The DVD contains still photos of some of the movies so hubby took those of the mystery people, along with another CD we had made of all the old family photos we had scanned years ago, and sent them off to both cousins for help in identifying these unknown folks.
We’re fairly certain that the picture above is of my grandmother, Lola, and her older brother, Stanley. Why? I have the photo and they have the photo. They are descended from Stanley and it was in their box of photos of his family. My step mother had placed all the old photos in one box so I was never sure who any of my unlabeled people were. Were they a Leininger, Landfair, Kuhn, Kable, Kettering, Bollenbacher, Adams or Duer? I had tried the old Google Picassa facial recognition feature and it helped somewhat but I didn’t have enough identified photos to have it match effectively.
These cousins sent me a few other photos electronically over the past week to see if it would help but Picassa is no longer supported by Google and it kept freezing so no answers there! I’m hopeful they’ll be able to match some of the photos on the CD to photos in their box so at least we can categorize by surname.
The cousin who initially contacted me stated their tale is that the family originated from Ireland and not Bavaria as my line recalled. I tend to believe them for several reasons. I’ve had another family member misidentified’s country of origin as Germany instead of being born in the U.S. Maria Duer Kuhn’s death certificate states she was born in Germany but she was born in Ohio. Her son was the informant. Her husband was the one born in Germany. It seems like my Great British ancestors assumed the German culture of those they married in Ohio. Additional support for their story is that my DNA has a much higher likelihood of Great Britain then it does of German. Further, Landfair is not a German surname. When I questioned that years ago I was told that it probably had been changed from Lamphere. Could be but no proof of that was ever discovered.
One of the cousins also has a copy of my great grandfather’s funeral program which she will send me. I’ve blogged about him previously – he’s the gentleman who “accidentally fell from a platform” and there was a followup investigation a few months after his death resulting in additional paperwork after the death certificate. The lesson there was make sure you get the complete records you request.
This gets me to the point of today’s blog – there remains A LOT of additional information about your ancestors out there – in attics, basements and the brains of the living who recall the unrecorded stories past down. The internet can help you get to those that hold the key you need but alone, the internet is not enough. Reach out to long lost family and you just might discover the info you seek. Happy Hunting!

Genealogy Throw Back Idea That Worked!


I definitely went old school genealogy this week and like back in the day, it worked! I’m still heavily researching my Duer lines and after meeting someone from Trumbull County, Ohio at a local genealogy meeting a few months ago, decided I should join from afar, the Trumbull County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogy Society.

On Tuesday I received the first newsletter in the mail and I was listed on the first page, along with other new members. In the back of the newsletter was a list of surnames that members were researching. No one was looking for Byrds and Duers but there were several who were researching Morrisons.

Now Morrison is way too common of a last name so I wasn’t counting on finding much for John and Eleanor (Jackson) Morrison but leaving no stone unturned, promptly emailed two of the three individuals listed. I’m going to have to go really primitive with the third person – no email address was provided but there was an address and a snail mail letter has to be sent.

I received email responses within hours and both were researching the same line! Serendipitously, one individual lives very close to me and mentioned th
at she recognized my name as she has followed my online trees for some time. It definitely is a small world! The other individual was a descendant of my Jane Morrison’s sister, Nancy, and she provided me information I previously did not have. I was not aware that Nancy had remarried after her first husband’s death which explains why I did not have a death date for her.

I don’t often blindly send emails anymore so I’m really glad I used this approach. Give it a try!

New Irish Records Finding Aid

Do you have Irish roots? If so, you need to know about a wonderful document that was released last month. The List of Church of Ireland Parish Register that was once an in-house document compiled by the Public Records Office of Ireland is now updated and available to the general public for free.

I especially love the “Comment” section, key and the color coding which makes finding what you need and where it’s located easier. This 96 page pdf may be just what you need to discover your Irish lines’ baptism, marriage and burial records. ádh mór!

Saturday Serendipity


I’ve blogged often about my mysterious Duer family who left scarce records behind. Last Saturday I attended a local genealogy workshop hosted by Thomas MacEntee. While he was in Chicago and we were in Florida, my serendipitous encounter happened regarding Trumbull County, Ohio.
About once a month since August, out of the blue, some small item shows up which gives me a clearer picture of the family. The first weird event occurred in August when I made a call to a reluctant Trumbull County Clerk asking for help in locating cemetery records. When she told me I wasn’t going to find anything she actually meant she wasn’t going to look, as access to the original books were restricted to the general public. I told her the connections I’ve made on this line and how family history has seemed to repeat (see my blog Circular Migration Patterns – How History Repeats Itself). She was hooked and agreed to try to find the cemetery records, though she warned me I might not hear back for weeks. I laughed and told her I bet she turns to the exact page I needed. Ten minutes later she called to say my prediction was correct and she was spooked! Unable to place the book on the copy machine which was down, the clerk used her smart phone to take pictures of the page and then texted them to me.
During the hurricanes in September, I tried to locate a deed from 1805. Another Trumbull County employee told me that they were no longer available. I told her a little about the family and within an hour, I was on the phone with a retired genealogist who used to be president of the local history society. When the employee had called her with the name I was searching, Thomas Duer, the genealogist said, “Oh, I must speak with this woman as Thomas almost killed me once.” She explained that his tombstone had toppled and she had tripped over it during a cemetery cleanup several years ago. She had a photo of the stone that I had been searching for but her computer died and she had no backup. With a large personal library, she looked up the Duers and Byrds in every resource she had. That’s when I discovered that Thomas’ family had been left out of his father John’s will.
In October, I discovered who was Hazen, who had been named in John’s will. I had tried to find a newspaper obituary the previous month for him but they weren’t available. By the end of October, they were. Turned out Hazen was a grandson of John’s, the son of one of John’s deceased daughters. As I pondered why one grandson was named and not others who were descended from deceased son Thomas, I hoped for another wonderful find.
That discovery arrived unexpectedly right before Thanksgiving when I checked an unsourced tree on MyHeritage. Thomas’ wife, Hannah, was named as the wife of John Preston. Using FamilySearch, I found the marriage record; the reason I had never found it before was because Hannah’s married last name, Duer, had been indexed as Dure. That was odd as I originally had the surname as Dure from information I had received from a second cousin in the 1990’s. I only discovered the Duer name in 2010 when a family researcher contacted me via email. I was never able to find out how he connected with me as he died a few weeks after we began corresponding. But back to Hannah, she and John Preston had married just a few months after her first husband’s father-in-law had died and she and her children had been left out of the will.
I didn’t research much in December due to the holidays. My last words to my husband as I left for the genealogy meeting last Saturday were in jest; I hoped I make another awesome Duer find. The workshop was on finding the living so I really didn’t expect it to be useful for my Duer’s as the family relocated by 1860.
I arrived early to the meeting because I knew traffic would be fierce with the college championship games being held in the city. The parking garage line was long and when I finally got up to the ticket machine, it was empty. There was a line of cars behind me so I couldn’t back out but I couldn’t go forward, either, as the gate was down. I got out of the car and told the woman behind me I’d call security. Like the old fashion game of telephone, the message was passed from car to car.
Soon security arrived with tickets but the machine had jammed and then the gate was stuck. By now, it was pouring down rain as a cold front was coming through. I considered going home. A few minutes later the gate was open and I had a parking space. Because of the strong wind, I decided to just run into the auditorium as the umbrella would have been useless.
Dripping wet, I signed in and found a seat as the attendees were having a discussion about their brick walls. I wasn’t really paying attention when I caught the words of the woman in front of me “where do I look for divorce records?” No one replied so I asked in what location. “Ohio,” she said. I asked if she had used the Wiki on FamilySearch as I had found divorce records in several Ohio counties through the Common Plea records. She thanked me and another attendee asked a question. I went back to looking at my emails on my phone when a gentleman came up to me and asked where I was researching in Ohio. I told him Trumbull and Mercer Counties for my Duers. He said, “I was born and raised in Trumbull County.” My heart started thumping. “Oh my goodness,” I thought, “I was just kidding this morning when I said I hoped to find some Duer info.” We exchanged email addresses and yes, he also has a personal library of Trumbull County information which he has graciously shared with me in the past week. He also volunteered to have a friend of his go to the cemetery and take a picture of Thomas’ grave as soon as the snow melts. I’m hoping that’s my March Miracle!
This gentleman also explained to me why most of the records are not available. Several years ago there was a sewage leak in the basement of the building where the records were housed and most were destroyed. I can add this disaster to my burned courthouses, gas explosions and ripped out pages!
So, on that blustery Saturday I discovered a living knowledgeable individual from the area I was researching at a workshop on finding living people. That turned out not to be one of the methods but it certainly worked for me!

Knocking Down Nicknames


Knock, Knock
Who’s there?
Al
Al who?
Al give you a kiss if you help me break through this brick wall!

Yes, that is truly a dumb knock-knock joke but it makes me think of what I’d do if I was able to identify some folks by their given names.

Who’s Al? Is he Alvin, Albert, Alfie, Alexander, Alexa, Alfred or someone else entirely? Although Al typically is a male name, I’ve known a female that used it.

Why do we even use nicknames? Wickipedia states hypocoristic, a synonym of nickname, is an “affection between those in love or with a close emotional bond, compared with a term of endearment.”

I completely understand the use of endearments but nicknames cross over into the public realm and for genealogists, can be a nightmare! I speak for myself; Lori is my nickname. Why my parents didn’t place that name on my birth certificate I don’t understand. I asked! The response was, “I don’t know.” Geez. My formal name wasn’t a family name so there was no reason they couldn’t have. My mom said she was going to name me Patty, after her friend, but when I arrived I didn’t look like a Patty and my birth certificate name just came to her. Wonderful! She never could explain to me what a Patty looked like.

I seriously considered even getting my name legally changed a few years ago when government requirements tightened and I had difficulty proving who I was as none of my legal documents matched. Hubby goes by a nickname, too, but his official records all used the same name so he had no problem. He has successfully kept his nickname out of public records.

My problem began before I was out of diapers – my parents applied for a social security card for me using my nickname. I had no problem obtaining work (or paying social security all my working life!) under that name until 10 years ago when the laws changed for license renewal. To beat the system, I had to add “aka” on my bank accounts, mortgage and credit cards and place my birth certificate name on my official records. I’m so paranoid about being identified correctly that when I did my burial pre-planning a few months ago I made sure I included my given and nickname on the document. Problem was, my name is too long so I had to use whiteout and try again. Nothing like a genealogist messing up their own record!

Even though we took great pains to name our children so they wouldn’t have the nickname dilemma, nicknames are now back in vogue. Did you know there are online generators to help you select your own nickname? Who knew! Reasons for giving yourself a nickname are because you think your birth name is boring, there are too many people with your given name in your social group and you’re being confused, your name is too long or it’s difficult to pronounce. Some folks are even changing their names as they begin a new life experience. I can only imagine how much fun this will be for future genealogists to correctly identify individuals!

On the flip side, these sites could help you in figuring out the birth name of your brick wall person. Check these out if you’re stuck identifying someone in your family tree:

1001+ Cool Nicknames
The Origins of 10 Nicknames
Common Nicknames
800+ Nicknames
Nicknames for Boys
Vintage Nicknames for Girls