Dealing With Document Disappointments – My Duers Do It Again!

I have blogged extensively about my mysterious Duer family that I connect with DNAwise but can’t prove a firm document relationship between son Thomas, who died in 1829 and his purported father, John, who died in 1831.  Thomas’ family lived next to John in Trumbull County, Ohio but none of Thomas’ children were mentioned in John’s will.  John’s will only mentioned 1 grandchild and named all of his other living children.  The 1 grandchild was the son of his deceased daughter and was easily recognizable by his last name, Hazen.

I’ve theorized that none of Thomas’ children were named because Thomas had already been given an “inheritance” of land adjoining John’s.  I also thought John might have been slightly put off by Thomas’ widow, Hannah, quickly remarrying another neighbor who was a widower, James Preston.  That marriage didn’t seem to last as both Hannah and James can be found in 1840 living with their adult children.

The land that Thomas lived on remained with one of his son’s until the mid-1800’s when he sold it to what I believe would have been a cousin who had come to own John’s property.  Of course, there was nothing to show the connection between the two listed in the deed transaction so I can’t prove that relationship, either.

I’ve been told repeatedly to give up the search but I will admit I’m obsessed with this line.  So, every few months, I recheck to see if any new records are uploaded, a new DNA match can be found that might hold the key in their basement or attic, or a donation is made to an archive in the areas the family lived where someone drops off records that will be the proof I need.

Yes, I already have DNA proof.  There have been several descendants of John’s children who have tested and we all relate but I want a document!  Or do I?

Last month, I found 2 documents online that gave me promise.  I was hoping they would lead me to the smoking gun record; this is what I discovered posted on Ancestry with no citation:

Although I found this posting just two days after it was done, when I reached out to the poster, her response was she couldn’t remember where she found it and would get back with me.  I love her dearly because she wrote back the next day and said she found it from another Ancestry poster named John Shivers.  She though it came from Revolutionary War Patriots from Ohio.  She gave me a link to an archive in Ohio but they didn’t have it.

I found a John Shivers on Ancestry and emailed him but he hadn’t been online in over a year so I wasn’t hopeful I would get a response.  I wasn’t even sure he was the John Shivers that originally posted it as I couldn’t access the private tree.  

Then I reached out to a colleague in my locale who is a member of the Trumbull County Genealogical Society to see if he could check the membership roster and give me contact info for John Shivers.  There was no info but he sent me a new member who was interested in the Duers.  I emailed them but the email address wasn’t working.

I then searched Worldcat and Google for the title but only found a SAR pdf that wouldn’t open.  

Going to the national SAR website, I found no new info; the Ancestor # 150827 is the number assigned by that organization so I decided to reach out to the Mahoning County, Ohio Chapter hoping that they might have a file with the relationship I was seeking that wasn’t submitted to national.  

The local chapter’s website is under construction.  Their Facebook page has no contact info.  I reached out to a Trumbull County local who had given me info several years ago – she had tripped over Thomas’ fallen gravestone when she was conducting a cemetery clean up and loves to kid me that he almost killed her.  She found two email addresses for local SAR members.

I emailed both.  One never responded.  The other said he’s no longer in that area so isn’t a member but he kindly forwarded my query to the current president.  The president said the chapter reactivated 4 years ago and has no old files in their possession (who knows what happened to that stuff!?)  so he forwarded my email to the organization’s state genealogist.  That gentleman gave me the heartbreaking news – the real citation is from Roster of Revolutionary War soldiers buried in Ohio. Wilbur R. Branthoover, compiler. Veterans Affairs, Ohio. Reprinted by OHSDAR. 1929.

The SAR doesn’t even use it any longer because the info has been found to be incorrect.  That is true – my John Duer who is buried in Ohio served in New Jersey and not Pennsylvania, that was my John’s cousin also named John.  

So, another dead end here.  Then I found another posting that stated that Thomas had been in the War of 1812.  That was news to me as I had checked online and in the National Archives and could never find him involved in that conflict.  The posting had a citation (hurray!) and when I followed up this is what I found:

It was a John Duer and not Thomas that served.  Someone had misindexed and then hadn’t checked the original source.  And the John named to have served in the War of 1812 was my John’s grandson but not descended from Thomas.  You have to laugh at this – I discovered the mistake on November 2, 2019, 107 years to the day that this cousin John left the service.  

Yes, I’m deeply disappointed that the newly found leads led to nothing but I’m not giving up.  Several people have told me that I’m never going to find what I’m looking for but I don’t agree.  I’m thinking boots on the ground might be my next action.  Unfortunately, that will have to wait a while.  

In the meantime, I’m moving on to other lines.  Oh, Duers, why doth disappoint me so?

Reuniting the Lost and Found

A few weeks ago I blogged about the very worthy Field of Honor database project in the Netherlands that memorializes fallen World War 2 soldiers. Strangely, as I was writing that article, I was contacted by an Ancestry.com member who I first connected with last spring about her DNA.

One of her parents was adopted and she was trying to see if we were related as I had placed information from the same geographical area she was researching on my Ancestry.com tree for the same surnamed individual. There were other coincidences – they had the same occupation, religion, place where they immigrated from and where they immigrated to about the same time (early 1900’s). We were thinking they were related but after comparing our DNA results, they weren’t blood relations.

The Ancestry member had received an email from another member who was contacted by someone in the Netherlands who found World War 2 dog tags using a metal detector and wanted to send them to family. I was contacted since we had the same surname – Koss – as the found tags who once belonged to Joseph E. Koss who died in 1944 in Holland.

I reached out to the memorial owner at Findagrave.com but he was not a relative. If you are a family member of a Joseph Koss please email me (see contact me page) and I will happily connect you so you can get the tags.

I’ve blogged in the past about scammers and I’ve read about fake dog tags being sold in Viet Nam but this does not smell like a scam to me but to keep my readers safe – I’ll play middleman for you. Using a metal detector and finding a lost object is typical in my world as that’s one of my husband’s hobbies and he has found and returned lost articles for people for years.

Funny how I’ve been contacted by folks living in the Netherlands twice in the past few weeks – maybe that’s where I should go visit next!

Cuban Genealogy

As I mentioned in my previous blog article, last summer I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful island of Cuba.  At the time, I didn’t realize how fortunate I was since travel has now recently been rescinded.  In my opinion, that’s a shame.  I do understand it’s a political decision although I do not agree that we should not be on speaking terms with a neighbor.  Cuba is only 90 miles from our nation and populated with people who are family to many of our citizens.  Genealogywise, this separation saddens me. 

I have not previously blogged about my trip because it was for pleasure only.  I longed to go there since I was three years old; my parents used to watch I Love Lucy and although Lucy’s fake crying set me off, I was enchanted with Desi’s accent and musical skills. My mother told me he was from Cuba and in my preschool mind, everyone on the island – an island, no less – now that added to the mystique! – was as talented as Desi.  Someday, I was sure to visit.

Unfortunately, as I grew up, our countries grew apart.  Sure, I spent every Wednesday at 10 AM hiding under my desk at school under the false pretense of being protected from a nuclear blast that was certain to hit the Chicago area from the disagreement but I still longed to go there.  (As a side note, I realized how stupid the idea of these drills were one June morning after school had just closed for the summer.  I was sitting on the back porch swing of my grandparent’s home reading a Nancy Drew mystery when the air raid siren blasted.  On that beautiful late spring day it occurred to me that if a real nuclear event happened, I’d not likely have the protection of my school desk.  I only lived one block from my elementary school, I could even see my first grade classroom’s windows from my bedroom, and I felt quite safe on the swing at home.  I went inside and asked my grandmother what she did when the siren went off and she said she ignored it.  My immigrant grandmother was a wise woman and I decided she was correct; hiding under a desk wasn’t going to spare my life.  That was the day I started questioning authority.)

Fast forward to last year when a family member decided to take a continuing education course on a cruise ship sailing from my area.  I eagerly agreed to go even though we’d only be in the city of Havana for about 8 hours.  I scheduled an almost all-day tour for several reasons; the primary being I wanted to hear about the island from a native’s standpoint and not from my country’s.  I also knew that like other Caribbean nations, Cuba operates on its own time so if I wanted to go to the fort, for example, it might just be closed at the time of my arrival even though it’s supposed to be open.  (You live in Florida long enough and you get used to this concept but I understand it’s maddening if you aren’t used to it.) I figured a tour group would know what was open so I didn’t waste time.  I also wanted to insure safety as my Spanish stinks and I’ve been known to say things that was not what I intended.  I definitely did not want to be an ugly American. 

I’m going to spare you my travelogue of that day and get to why I’m writing about Cuba now – this is what you need to know if you are of Cuban ancestry and unfortunately, didn’t go when you could to research your family.  Although it will be more difficult now, it’s still doable with some work arounds. 

Do not beat yourself up because you missed the chance.  I once had lunch with a Russian genealogist who told me he had difficulty obtaining records back when his country was an ally.  One morning on a visit to an archive he was told the records he sought weren’t available.  He told a Cuban colleague and later that day, the colleague went to the same repository and came out with the records the Russian had requested.  If you’ve been into genealogy for any length of time you probably had a similar situation like this happen to you.  Get a different government employee and you get a different answer. Sure, prejudice could have been involved but I’m sticking to the first scenario as it’s happened to me.

I am no expert in Cuban genealogy although living in my area, I have friends and colleagues of Cuban descent who have shared how they have gotten the information they needed.  My visit confirmed what they have told me.  Here’s my advice, which is mostly commonsense genealogy practices:

·         Make sure you get all the information you can about your ancestors’ FULL names and location before beginning so you aren’t contacting the wrong archives and wasting time. By full name, I mean the hyphenated Hispanic name.  You don’t have to have the complete name but the more you have the better. (For example, Pablo Picasso’s complete name was Pablo Diego Jose Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Maria de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santisima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso.  If you only had Pablo Ruiz y Picasso that’s fine).

·         If you don’t write well in Spanish, hire a translator.  Although most people I encountered spoke English well, that doesn’t mean they read it well so you’ll increase your chances of getting the information you request by clearly communicating in their first language.  Don’t rely on online translators; you want to be clear in the Cuban dialect so hire someone.

·         Be patient, like I said earlier, Caribbean time is not the same as U.S. time so you may have to wait a LONG TIME for a response.  Include a self-addressed stamped envelope to increase your chances of success. How long will you wait?  According to my guide, months.  This was regarding my question about obtaining cemetery records to the main cemetery in Havana pictured above.  As it is still being used, going through old records is not considered important and the request will be filled when burials slow down.  No telling when that would be; there was funeral mass in the chapel when we were visiting. (Here’s another aside – if you’ve been following me for years and realize that every time I go on vacation I end up at a cemetery you are correct.  I can’t explain it – I just do!)

·         It is not recommendable to go online and hire a genealogist.  First, there isn’t a lot of trust between our countries which filters down to individual interactions. There is also the economic impact of the most recent decision that clouds the situation.  Looking at the list on the Association of Professional Genealogists you will not find one genealogist who resides in Cuba so I advise you to not find someone online who says they’re going to help you.  If you have no family members in Cuba you can contact to go and obtain the document you seek, contact the CubanGenealogy Club of Miami who can guide you. (I have attended one of their workshops and was impressed)

·       Be prepared to be disappointed as most buildings in the country are not air conditioned so time, humidity, and flooding are just some of the issues that affect the document’s condition, especially in the rural areas.  It would have been nice if the Vatican had copies of the church records, since the country was predominantly Roman Catholic but that’s not the case.  (Come to think of it, it would have been nice if the Vatican had copies of my needed Croatian records that aren’t on Familysearch so know this isn’t just a Cuban records problem.)

·         IMPORTANT CAVEAT – don’t bother trying to get property records.  Why?  My guide mentioned that there was a concern that Americans were going to try to reclaim the property that their ancestors left behind.  I assured her that was not what was the motive is in obtaining property records from a genealogical standpoint.  My family member had witnessed this comment and reminded me last month that one of the new U.S. decisions was to support reclaiming property.  Personally, I just don’t understand that – I’ve got family that fled lots of wars and rebellions across the globe and I’d never go after their former farms and homes.  If a dear reader would like to help me understand the logic in suing for what was abandoned, please comment.  I see this as the large impediment of obtaining genealogical records.  

If the recommendations above are overwhelming, realize the information you seek may not even be available in Cuba.  Cuba was a Spanish colony until 1898 so you’re only looking for Cuban records between 1898 and whenever your family arrived in the U.S.  Many of the Spanish records are in Spain. Personally, I’d start there.

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.

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!