Making the Most of Your Research Trip – Part 5

Originally published on on 24 Aug 2016.

I’ve been blogging about my recent research trip to Franklin County, Pennsylvania.  My last post told about a cemetery where reinternments of the family I was researching were placed.  I had discovered that the cemetery did not have original records from the first burial site – only derivatives – and that the records that that were available most likely were not accurate as one individual was mentioned in church records but not in the cemetery records.  I was hoping to find the original cemetery records for Union Cemetery so I decided I would drive back to Chambersburg and check out the Franklin County Historical Museum and Library to see what information I could find.

I had tried to make contact via email and phone several times in the past few months with this archive but no one ever returned my query regarding whether or not they had City Directories for Waynesboro from the mid to late 1800’s.

On the way, I passed another cemetery and I recalled that the brother of the family I was researching was buried there.  Hmmm, could this be the final resting place of the parents I was looking for?  I pulled in and made a plan.  The cemetery was small.  Actually, there were two cemeteries adjacent to each other.  The first was very tiny and had a chain link fence around it.  It was close to a brick building that had no name but was too big to be an office.  It was locked.  The second cemetery started on the other side of the chain link and was being mowed by a woman on a riding lawn mower.  She had on head phones so she couldn’t hear me.  There was a second brick building that I assumed was a church.  It, too, was locked.  I could hear someone inside vacuuming.  Besides me, there were only 2 vehicles in the parking lot – a truck with a window open and a car.

I had a copy of the Find-A-Grave page for the family interred so I knew what I was looking for but it didn’t have coordinates.  The family was not on Billion Graves.  I walked to the woman mowing and she stopped to chat.  She told me that the Reverend was in the church and I needed to speak with him for records.  She informed me that she was responsible for mowing the larger cemetery and that the smaller, enclosed one was owned by a different church.  She was not familiar with the markers as she was just hired to cut the grass.  Looking at my Find-A-Grave picture, however, she pointed out that the stones I was looking for most likely were towards the road I had pulled off of as she could see the enclosed cemetery and the building in the background.  Good point!

I went back to the church and knocked again and again but the Reverend could not hear me.  I decided to find the stones and using the hint in the background, quickly gained perspective and found the family.  Some of the stones were unreadable.  My goodness, have stones in this area deteriorated since the memorials were placed online!  I took a lot of pictures.

What I found most interesting were 2 things.  First, the end stone had a family name of Pentz on a large marker.  I have no idea how that family is related to the people buried there.  There were no other Pentz’s in the row, either.  Very weird!  Next odd thing was the empty space that looked like it could hold 3 graves between the Pentz marker and the start of the family I was seeking.  The area looked depressed – no stones – but sunken somewhat.  Hmm.

I went back to the car and took out a notebook. I wrote a brief note to the Reverend, including my name and cell number and requested he contact me about cemetery records for the family.  I had included the couple’s name and dates.  I left the note on the seat of his car because he left the window open!).  On to Chambersburg…

Well, not exactly.  On the way I found another Church of the Brethren and decided to make a detour to ask the office staff if they knew the name of the German Baptist Church that had once been between Waynesboro and Gettysburg.  I wanted this information as the sister of my Generation 1 wife had supposedly been married at that church.  I was hoping to see if I could find a marriage certificate that may firm up where the sister had been born in Maryland as I was stuck on going backwards with that line for my own personal interest.  The office staff had no idea and couldn’t direct me to anyone that might know.  Oh, well. (I have the sister’s death certificate, cemetery record and diary – they all say she was born in Maryland but not specifically where.  No obit or will, either.)

Made it to the museum about 11 AM and got a wonderful parking space outside:

This was the former jail so the door is extremely heavy.  No one around but I saw a sign that showed the library was upstairs.  I was met by a wonderfully kind volunteer who had lived in the area her whole life.  I love finding people like this!  The library was very small – 2 rooms.  She didn’t charge me for research, either, which I greatly appreciate.  She suggested we look in a book of Franklin County Cemetery inscriptions that was written in the 1970’s.  The people I was seeking weren’t listed. I wasn’t surprised, my people are always elusive.  The volunteer was certain that the compiler had done a marvelous job and included everything she had seen.  Perhaps, but it’s the unseen I needed. Like the unreadable grave stone in Green Hill or the possible sunken stones in the second cemetery where I had stopped.

There was no voting records, city directories, educational records, or road orders.  I guess no one had ever asked about road orders – the family had been wagon makers so I thought maybe they also were in charge of the roads.  I have had that happen with another line on Long Island about the same time and thought I’d give it a shot.

We looked at the donated genealogies and although there was some information on related lines, it was nothing new. Actually, it had been lifted from the text that had given me the missing sibling name I was trying to find at the cemetery.  I was going in circles!

She suggested I contact a volunteer librarian at the Chambersburg library who had once worked at the Alexander Hamilton Library for information about the possibility of Union Cemetery records being housed there but not noted in the holdings.  She pointed out the window to the library next door.

Awesome, wouldn’t have to move the car!  Except, the library is closed for renovation and somehow the volunteer didn’t know that.  Walked around the barricades (on the wrong side, of course) and saw the new temporary location address.  Back to the car and gps!

A few minutes later I arrived at the library.  The lady I needed to see wasn’t there.  Big shock, there!  She wouldn’t be back for several days.  I left her a note with my email address.  I also asked for hers and emailed her when I returned home. She never responded.

No one else there had any knowledge of the area’s history.  Time for lunch!

I had 2 half days left in the area and wanted to make the best use of what little there was left to see.  Over lunch, I decided I would go back to Waynesboro and stop at their historical museum, visit any antique stores I might find open and go back to the library to see if the volunteer genealogist had shown up.  I could accomplish all that in the afternoon and would just leave earlier than I had anticipated the following day.  Little did I know what was about to happen!

Pursuing Genealogy on a Shoestring Budget – Association Memberships

Originally published on on 29 May 2016.

Genealogy is expensive!  There’s costs for membership to associations and online databases, travel, research supplies, vital records, mailing, and conferences.  When doing our taxes earlier this year the reality of the expenses hit me.  When I received an email recently from a reader who mentioned how the costs were pinching her lifestyle I decided to investigate ways to save.

I’m open to suggestions so please readers, comments are welcome on ways you’ve found to be frugal! The focus today is on association dues because one of the benefits of belonging to a group is discounts on related items.

Most likely your local and state association’s yearly membership dues are reasonable.  I believe it’s important to support your local group, if you can afford to do so.  My local group costs $17.00 annually and provides a weekly email of free classes offered and genealogy tips.  If the cost is prohibitive for you, speak with the group about ways you can take part without paying dues. Volunteering at events, assisting with the newsletter or transcribing local records may all be needed and appreciated more than the amount of the annual dues. It can’t hurt to ask!

My state society costs $25.00 per year.  I have access to a monthly free webinar, archived journal and newsletters, and access to a members only forum where I can post questions or ask for help with lookups. There are also occasionally special offers; the current being Fold3 for half price ($49.95). Adding the cost to join the state society with the Fold3 discounted membership is less than the cost for Fold3’s regular price, however, Fold3 offers discount premium memberships all the time so that alone would not be a reason to join the state association.  For me, the webinars and journal are well worth the price of $25.00.

Regional societies offer specialization and if you’re looking to cut costs this may be where to do it. For example, I do a lot of research in the midwest, mostly Indiana-Ohio-Illinois.  There are many local societies and historical groups in the areas that I mine for records, along with larger groups, such as the Ohio Genealogical Society, which costs $35.00 a year.  I tend to not join these groups because I don’t live close enough to benefit from the local events they offer. Before you join, check out the groups website and contact members for their advice on where to find what you’re looking for.  I have found the majority are knowledgeable and willing to share their expertise. If there is a record you need that is in their holding, discuss the cost involved for you to receive a copy.  I try to pay it forward by also sending them the information that I have collected at the end of my project.  This allows their resources to grow and benefits the whole group.  If you find that the society won’t assist you unless you become a member, contact the local library instead by emailing through the Ask-a-librarian link.  For a quick look up, direction in which to research, or knowledge of where a record may be housed these folks are the best and it’s free!

If you research in primarily the New York or New England area you may want to join the New England Historic and Genealogical Society (NEHGS) and the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (NYG&B).  NEGHS is $89.95 annually; I love their quarterly magazine, journal (The Register), weekly e-newsletter and using their library for free.  I find their database powerful, too.  I’ve attended two of their workshops in the past six months (one in Boston and one in Florida) and weren’t all that impressed, though.  They also have an Ask-a-genealogist service that’s free but I’ve never used it so I can’t attest to how it works.  I have asked for help in person and found some of the genealogists to be extremely helpful.  I’m trying to limit my book collection so I haven’t taken advantage of the 10% discount on what they publish. If you’re going to save check your local public library.  Mine has access to the database and the journals so I really don’t need to pay for this membership but having the resources at home is worth it for me.

NYG&B is $70.00 per year and offers a quarterly journal (The Register) and review of genealogy news (The New York Researcher), monthly e-newsletter, free FindMyPast US-Canada subscription, access to records in special collections, and discounts on other promotions.  My library does not have copies of The Register but another library in my area does. If my budget needed to shrink, I’d cut this and read the superb journal in the library.

National societies have many benefits of membership.  The National Genealogical Society (NGS) is a bargain at $65.00 a year.  Members receive access to free online courses, a quarterly journal, (NGS Quarterly) and magazine (NGS Magazine), digital monthly newsletter, and access to Bible records, ancestry charts sent in by members, and a marriage and death notice database from early American newspapers. They also offer some partnership discounts.  There are additional fees to attend conferences, however, members receive a discount.  I, personally, would not cut out belonging to this group.

I realize the hobbyist is not going to join the Association of Professional Genealogists as a professional member for $100.00 a year.  A subscriber only member price is available for $45.00 annually and provides a paper copy of the Quarterly journal.  If you’re a professional, though, this organization is well worth the cost; the members only listserv alone is an extremely valuable resource, along with professional development webinars, conferences and discounts, such as a 25% off a JSTOR pass, 10% off Legacy Family Tree software and webinars, $20.00 for Rootsmagic and book, and 10% off BYU online certificate in genealogy program tuition.  There’s more deals then I listed but subcribers only do not have access to them.  So unless you’re going pro, you won’t have a cost savings here.

The Board for Certification of Genealogist (BCG) has a free website that is of value to everyone interested in genealogy, whether you want to become certified or not.  The free Springboard blog is informative regarding methodology, links are given to educational programs so you can continue to grow and the skillbuilding and sample work sample areas are important for all levels of genealogists. Most importantly, The Standards are a must and only $6.99 for a Kindle edition.

Notice I haven’t mentioned lineage society memberships?  That’s because the application fees and membership dues vary.  With all the added costs, such as luncheons, travel to events, and highly encouraged donations for philanthropy, if you’re on a budget it’s best to avoid them.  Their members may volunteer to help newbies though, so you might want to check that out.  Some groups, like the Daughters of the American Revolution have very helpful information for free online to everyone.

Here’s the rounded cost if you’ve joined all – $407.00.  On a fixed income, my recommendations are paying for your state and NGS membership and definitely purchasing a copy of  The Standards if you don’t have one already – that cost is less than $100.00 a year.

Next time we’ll explore cutting costs for online databases.

A New Genealogy Society – What Fun!

Originally published on on 11 Oct 2015.

My sister-in-law called me last week and wanted to know if she was Scotch-Irish. I laughed and told her she was of Scottish and Irish heritage.  I then explained that the term Scotch-Irish is derogatory and only used in the U.S.

She was happy to find out that she was indeed Scottish as a new genealogy society is being established in the city where she lives and she wants to join with her friends.  The first organizational meeting is today so she doesn’t have a membership application to complete or much information on the requirements.

I looked at a similar organization and, knowing that I’m going to be extremely busy with my day job and trying to get my genealogy certification portfolio put together, I told her I’d pull the records for her as an early Christmas present.

Oh what fun it was to review my older research notes on one of my favorite couples on my husband’s side!  I really wish I could have met these folks as they are just endearing to me with their spunk, love and acceptance of each other’s differences.

John Cooke was born in  Whees, Stirlingshire Scotland about 1827.  I have him with his family in the 1841 and 1851 census in Scotland.  I’ve never been able to locate an emigration record but he must have come to New York City shortly after 1851 as he married Mary “Mollie” O’Brien in 1854 in Newark, New Jersey.  Mary was born in 1835 in Limerick, Ireland and thanks to the Irish records now available online, I have her Roman Catholic Baptism record.  Of course, it is on the right side towards the bottom of the page that is most difficult to read!  Mollie and her step-sister, Ellen, emigrated in February 1853 as domestic servants with another girl from her parish.  This was during the potato famine and there is no records of land ownership by Mollie’s parents so times must have been tough.  Coming to a new country at 18 years of age with nothing takes spunk!

Newark, New Jersey, being just across the river from New York City, was the perfect place to elope and take the train to Chicago.  I don’t know for fact that Mollie and John eloped but it’s awfully odd that there were no traditional wedding banns posted, which was a common Roman Catholic tradition. Also strange is that step-sis Ellen wasn’t the witness.  It appears that two unrelated parishioners did that job.  The birth information that was given at the church doesn’t quite match reality, either.  With no relatives around to question, John shaved off a few years, making him the same age as Mollie.

The couple remained together until John’s death in 1889.  Mollie lived until 1903 and never remarried. I believe they truly loved one another and their respect goes way beyond what a lot of folks can’t do even today.  The couple made an arrangement prior to their marriage – all female children would be raised Roman Catholic and all male children would be raised Protestant.  I’m not sure how Mollie got the Roman Catholic Church to agree to this since the rule was if you were married in the church you were agreeing to raise ALL of your children in the faith.  I also have to give John credit for marrying Mollie in her church and giving 50-50 in regards to the children.  I’m really impressed this agreement was made 160 years ago and both parties kept their word.  With integrity, they didn’t need a written pre-nuptial

The couple had 3 children – 2 Protestant boys and 1 Catholic girl.  I’ve been in contact with the girls descendants and they are all Catholic to this day.  All of the boys descendants I’ve been in contact with continue to be Protestant except for one and that was due to marrying a Catholic girl (me).

Interestingly, when John died he was buried in the Protestant cemetery, Calvary, in Cook County, Illinois.  Mary’s death certificate noted that she was going to be interred in Calvary, too, but she wasn’t.  She was buried in Queen of Peace Roman Catholic Cemetery instead.  After 15 years of being apart the children decided the couple needed to be together so John was re-interred next to Mollie. Unfortunately, there was no stone.  I assume because the cost of re-interment was considerable at the time.  I wish I could afford to put a stone there cause this is a true love story that needs to be long remembered.