Wednesday, May 28, 2014

WOW: Mapping Migration Routes

I've tried to get started on this concept a couple of times, but haven't carried it through to fruition.

Take a look at where each branch of your family started out in the States/Colonies and where they ended up. Try to map out the route(s) they took across county.

Some things to consider:

1) What were the major routes taken by "pioneers" at the time your family moved. Did major rivers come into play? What overland trails were available to them? Did they have to travel by sea to get from, say, the East coast to California?

2) What cities and towns were common stops for travelers?

3) What method of transportation would your people most likely have used at the time? flatboat, walking, horseback, wagon, steamboat, railroad......

4) Did they travel with allied families, neighbors, common religious groups or alone? Chances are a group of families traveled together, so look for familiar surnames as your families move across country.

5) If all else fails, simply map your family from town to town as they moved. You may not get the exact route taken, but may be able to come close. Major modern highways may have followed closely the routes taken by your ancestors.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend

Item #1: If you didn't stop to reflect on the sacrifices made by your ancestors who served in the military over the weekend, take time to do it now.

Item #2: My girlfriend and I spent the weekend in Pittsburgh. We took in Fallingwater [house built by Frank Lloyd Wright], Fort Ligonier, Fort Pitt, the Duquesne Incline and the Strip in downtown, plus a couple of random stops along the way.

We passed by or visited several places tied to my ancestral heritage. Wheeling, WV - where John W. Simmons spent his final years; Canonsburg, PA - where John W. Simmons ran a tavern;  Uniontown, PA - near where John Faucett resided from about 1770 - 1797 [roughly] before heading down the Ohio; Fort Pitt - John Faucett spent time there off and on during his Rev War service.

A fun weekend!!

Monday, May 19, 2014

SLIG 2015

I received sad news today. Problem Solving is going on hiatus for the 2015 Salt Lake Institute. Hopefully, it will be brought back in 2016. Declining attendance over the past few was the primary culprit.

I now have about two weeks to pick a replacement course!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

WOW: Family Lore

Everyone has them! Family stories passed down from generation to generation as gospel. Here are a few suggestions on including them in your family history.
(1) When you interview family members, record the conversation or take very good notes. Also have your questions ready in advance. You may need to prep them a bit... "What happened when great-grandma.....?

(2) Verify as many historical details in the story as possible. See what does and doesn't fit, then double-check the details.

(3) If you have questions about some of the details in the story, conduct a second interview. If another family member is aware of the story, interview them to see what matches and what doesn't.

(4) Put together your version of the family lore based on interviews and your own research.

Now comes the tough part! If your research blows the family tales to shreds, what do you do? Do you blindside the relative who related the story by announcing the story is impossible or unlikely? Do you take your findings to that family member and discuss them? Is that relative going to be receptive to another version of the story? Will he/she be a "that is what I was told and that's the way it happened!" type?

If the latter is the case, do you risk a rift in the family? Do you wait until said relative has passed on to publish the story? Will the outcome of the story upset the family?

It's in your hands!

Fortunately, my biggest family story that took a few hits was readily accepted by my uncle, who initially related the story.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

WOW: Revisiting Your Files

Could you have that long needed marriage, death, or other tidbit of information tucked away in your files and not realize it? Quite possibly!

For some time, I was trying to find the marriage of James Prall, son of Isaac R. & Ann Bethia [Rhodes] Prall & brother to my gggf Hugh M. Prall. There was some confusion with the census for 1860. An assumption was made that the Ann E. Jones listed in the Prall household was James' wife & that the Anna who followed James on the list was his sister.

 It was proven that Ann E. Jones was the sister of James. [marriage record located] Still, James' wife was missing. She just about had to be the Anna from the 1860 census.

I was flipping through one of my miscellaneous Prall material files one day and pulled out a collection of papers on the "Prowell and Prall Familes of New Jersey." There was more Prowell data than Prall. Lo and behold, in a list of marriages was one for James Prall to Anna Maria Hengst on 15 September 1865 at the ME Church in Wrightsville, York Co., PA. I must have had that file for 5 or 6 years and looked through it a half dozen times or more. Yet, there was that elusive marriage staring me in the face!

Every now and then dig through a family file, notebook, folder or whatever and study each record. Maybe that piece of information you've been looking for has been there all along. A new look-see might be all it takes to find what you need!

Monday, May 12, 2014

WOW: Research Trips

For me, the biggest problem on a research trip is narrowing down my 'to do' list. The last ten years I was teaching, summer vacations were generally a combo of genealogical research and sight-seeing. The genealogy portion of the trip involved researching all of the families in that vicinity. A trip to Jessamine and Madison counties in Kentucky would involve researching six or seven families. That could be a daunting task when you only have a couple of days set aside for research.

Early trips to Salt Lake City usually covered maybe three days to a week. If I had 3 families to research, I did three. If I had ten families to research, I did ten. All of the families were addressed, just not as thoroughly as they should have been. All trips were fairly successful, but were they as successful as they could have been.

Attending the Salt Lake Institute in 2001 really helped me organize my trips. The idea behind SLIG's Problem Solving Track was one week, one problem. Being able to focus on one research topic and outlining it in advance really helped. We have to submit a summary with goals, a research report, research log [sources], timeline and map for the project. The project focus is simple, "Who were the parents of Henry Bream of Fairfax Co., VA?" I reserve the Saturday after SLIG for other research.

So, here are some suggestions for your onsite research trips:
(1) Make a list of repositories you intend to visit. Note each facility's hours, fees and the like.
(2) If the repository has an online catalog, check it for the families you intend to research. Make a list of the books, films, manuscripts, etc. that you want to view.
(3) Make a list of your research goals for each family you are researching.
(4) Take a copy of your current research with you. Make sure you have a list of sources consulted.
(5) Take a break from your research to visit local museums and historical sites to get a feel for the area.
(6) Write a research report/journal on the trip. Add to it each day that you conduct research. That helps you keep track of what you have or haven't accomplished.
(7) Keep notes on what you need to follow-up on. Maybe it will be a return trip, e-mail or letter.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

WOW: Census Records Ain't Perfect!

Census records [federal and state - where available] can be a major asset to your research. But, like with any other record proceed with caution - there could be errors. Yes, really!

The 1850-1940 censuses are the most help, since they give the names of all household members. 1850-70 offer names, ages, birthplace, occupation and a scattering of other features. Relationship to the head of the household begins in 1880, as does showing the parents' birthplaces, and new data appears in each census. You have to be more vigilant with the 1790-1840 schedules.

The reliability of information depends on the informant. Did the head of the household give the info? Was it one of the children? A senile senior? A neighbor familiar with the family? Who?

Was the census taker reliable? How good was his hand writing? Was there a tavern along the enumeration route? :)-

Watch out for:
1] Ages. People fib about how old they are. Some may not have been sure. If your ancestor [1850-80] goes from 10-18-27-42 - hope they got squared away by 1900 or that you find a birth record!

2] 1850-70: Be careful on the identity of everyone in the household. There may be wives of sons in the group. Don't assume the 1st female is a much younger spouse, although she could be a 2nd or 3rd wife. Step-children may be under their step-father's name rather than their own. Birthplaces are not always correct.

3] 1900 offers the month and year of birth for each person. Verify, if possible. Either the month, year or both could be in error.

4] Double-check all information against other available censuses to see if they match. My g-g-grandmother came to America on three different dates!

5] Make sure that the Joe Schmo listed in the 1860 census for Wazoo Co., MS is your Joe Schmo! If your guy was in Michigan in 1850 and 1870 and Wyoming in 1880, what are the odds he was in Mississippi in 1860? Just because the name and age work, doesn't mean it is the right person!!

6] Your family may have been missed altogether. [Alien abduction, hiding from the law,whatever] My James and Mary Ann [Jones] Crail are missing in 1840, 1850, 1860 and 1870. Mary shows up as a widow in 1880. Sons Sylvester, John and Aaron appear in 1860 and beyond after they have married.

Remember, nearly all of the 1890 federal census is missing. Some states were lost for certain years. Check the list of states for each enumeration to see what is and isn't available. If the state has a manufacturing or agricultural census [1850-80], check it out. Also, some states have slaves schedules available. Many states had their own census every 10 years on the 5 [1885, 1895, 1925, etc.], these can be a big help as well.

Oh yeah, check for different spelling variations, no matter that the family has "always spelled the name that way"!!!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

WOW: City Directories - Tweeners for the1880-1900 Gap

The vast majority of the 1890 US Federal census is forever lost. How do you track your family from 1880 through 1900? If your ancestors lived in an urban area or in a county that published a suburban or rural directory, you have a way! The city directory and its rarer suburban/rural counterpart allows you to follow your family in lieu of the 1890 census. Many directories began in the 1860s [often earlier] continued well into the age of telephone books. If your family lived in a metropolitan area for 30-40 years, you could learn a lot about your city dwellers.

What can you find in the directory?
  • name of resident
  • occupation - could be general [mechanic*] or specific [blacksmith]
  • residential address and, in some cases, employment address
  • if the home was rented or owned
  • if a widow, the late spouse's name is given - Ann [wid. Henry]
What clues can you find in the directory?
  • when your ancestor arrived in town [1st entry]
  • when the ancestor moved on [last entry]
  • when the ancestor died [wife appears as 'wid.'; final entry if unmarried or widowed] (allow for widow remarrying!)
  • siblings or relatives - folks living at same address
  • movement - multiple residences over 5-6 period may mean rent was cheaper at new houses
Neat features:
  • street maps
  • advertisements - you might find one for your ancestor's business
  • street listings - with family residing at each address [might help with finding married daughters]
  •  other lists for government offices, organizations, professions, etc.
  • Once you find your person, backtrack a few years in case they were missed
  • After the ancestor vanishes from the directory, check ahead a few years in case the person was missed
  • You may find the entire family listed! [Rare, but possible.]
  • Tidbits of info may be offered. I found one entry that said so-and-so returned to Ireland. Another stated the person died about the time of publication.
  • Just like in the census, people were missed every now and then. Widen your search a few years to be sure they weren't overlooked.
  • Occupational terms may fluctuate a bit. If your guy was a carpenter, he could be listed as a mechanic, laborer or some other general term for the job.
*mechanic = person who works with his/her hands [carpenter, smith, sawyer, etc.]

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

WOW: Genealogies & Family Histories

Be very careful when relying on genealogies and family histories. They can help you break through a brick wall or build one for you!

Some situations that you may run into:

(1) Some of the books written in that 1880-1920 range [even a little later] can be poorly documented. They can be filled with unconfirmed family lore that the author has taken as gospel. The books may even be a complete train wreck. Make sure you check the "facts" with more current data. Try to verify the family lore using other sources.

"Train wrecks"? "The Descendants of Robert Lockwood" by Frederick A. Holden & E. Dunbar Lockwood in 1889 assigned the American Lockwood line to the immigrant Robert. The authors all but ignored his brother Edmund. Noted genealogist Donald Lines Jacobus debunked the  Lockwood Genealogy, but a whole lot of us beginners didn't know that. In 1978, Harriet Woodbridge Hodge wrote "Some Descendants of Edmund Lockwood." You see, Edmund was the progenitor of the vast majority of the Lockwoods. The five generations of my family listed in Holden & Lockwood became six in Hodge. The only common ancestors were Anna Lockwood and James St. John, the last couple in each list.

(2) If the family info is sketchy or questionable, rely on what you can cross-check. For example, a question came up from another researcher about the St. John lineage. Was my Samuel St. John the son of Mathias II or Mathias III? Orline Alexander St. John's work on the St. John family had relied on a lot of early data passed down and used in the book. St. John did include many will and deed references. It was the deed references that became crucial. Using death dates for Mathiases I, II & III, as well as estimating the year each reached majority, it was possible to tell where Samuel [to my satisfaction] fit in the family. St. John had him as son of Mathias III, I believe he was the son of Mathias II. Additional sources helped support that view.

(3) Check the facts, the sources, and the interpretation of both. This applies to a book written in 1888 or 2008. In one genealogy, my 3rd and 4th generations of Pralls were a mess. Wills, estate settlements and Bounty Land Warrant files were used to piece together those generations. Two children were not named in Mary Whittaker Prall's will [Edward and Cornelius]. Edward, based on his BLW file was assigned several children. Cornelius became two people. He died in 1813, but the estate wasn't settled until 1819. Cornelius also married three times. So each was assigned several children. Brother Benjamin did not fare well either. Once the dust settled, Edward [who witnessed his mother's will] and Cornelius [who had already received his share of the estate] were proven to belong to Mary and Aaron Prall. Edward never married, nor did he have any children. Cornelius became one guy with three wives and a slew of kids. Those kids assigned Edward were nieces, nephews and siblings. All this was from a 1990 book.

(4) Fraudulent genealogies: Back in the 1800s some folks wanted to be related to nobility or the truly famous. There were "genealogists" who could do that for you! Playing fast and loose with the facts, tweaking a date here and there, and making your ancestor fit nicely into a royal/famous line was their specialty. For a price, of course! Gustave Anjou and Horatio Gates Somerby were two of the most noted creators of genealogical fabrication. Beware of their works!

As always, verify the information and check the sources!

Monday, May 5, 2014

WOW: Spelling Variations

No matter what any of your more senior relatives have told you, your surname "hasn't always been spelled that way"!

(1) Illiterate ancestors: Many of our ancestors couldn't read or write. How could they know how to spell their surname? The early records may have a variety of spellings. The first literate generation may have used none of those. [Fossitt, Fossett, Facett, Fositt, etc. became Faucett.]

(2) Name changes: Some folks tweaked the spelling of their surnames. Prefixes were dropped to make the name "more American." Suffixes may have been dropped for the same reason. Some folks translated the European name to English. Others added a letter or subtracted a letter at the end [Smythe became Smyth.] Still others completely changed their names; some more than once.

(3) Indexing: Census enumerators may have misspelled a surname. In that case, the name may not show up when you search or [Crousore indexed as Crown.] The indexer may have made a transcription error.

(4) Other records: Clerks and other officials frequently wrote what they heard. That opens the door for all sorts of possibilities concerning regional or local dialects, poor listeners, etc. You also have transcription errors [a for o, m = nn, etc.] The possibilities are endless! Don't forget some folks had  poor handwriting!

(5) Sibling rivalries: Every now and then you have siblings who change the spelling or settle on a variation. This goes along with #2 above. Seth Mahurin dropped the "Ma" while one of his brothers didn't. The Prall bothers who settled in Hunterdon Co., NJ during the 1730s decided on "Prall," but their brother who settled in Bucks Co., PA opted for "Praul."

There's always the possibility of a spelling variation. Think inside, outside and beyond the box. Get creative. My Cawby research turned up about 60 spelling variations. Another Cawby researcher found over 100.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Words of Wisdom?

As president of the Prall Family Association, I am asked to contribute my "words of wisdom" [WOW] for each quarterly Prall Family Newsletter. Basically, I offer accolades for some of the articles, comment on some research, toss out an item about one of my Prall ancestors, that sort of thing.

I thought I'd try a few WOW on research techniques, things to look out for while researching, that sort of thing. Nothing profound, but hopefully useful.

(1) OK, the obvious first - CITE YOUR SOURCES. Without the citations, the information becomes useless to other researchers. You may know where you got it; let others know!

(2) Online family trees: Be they on Ancestry, FamilySearch, Wikitree, RootsWeb, a personal site, or elsewhere, use them with caution. Far too many trees are undocumented, or cite other undocumented trees as their sources. They may latch onto a person with that surname who fits the family tree chronologically, but is unrelated. Watch out for the 15 children who share 9 names. [2 Marys, 2 Freds, 2 Anns, 3 Samuels, etc.] That could be a red flag. [A child who dies young may have his/her named given to a sibling born after his/her death - that is common. 3 Marys born in 1779 is not.]

If the tree is documented, check the sources. Someone may have used a marriage record for a person with the correct name, but is off geographically [lived in Cincinnati, married in Atlanta, never left Ohio], or two people with the same name in the same county blended into one person [Kevin Riley, b. 1846, m. 1897 to Sally Simms, with 8 kids. That's a 51 year gap for Kevin, not to mention that last kid b. 1916 when KR was 70. What about that Riley who married Edith Burns in 1870 and the guy born in 1877? Who fits where the best?] Satisfy yourself that the tree you are using has the data correct.

In my own family, Jacob Crousore was shown with wife Anny Ice, Annie I. Ice or similar variations. That stood until I found Jacob's marriage in Clinton Co., OH to Ama Jemima Smith. Census records indexed her as Anna, Annie, etc. The 'm' in Ama consistently looked like an 'n.' Where 'Ice' came from, I don't know. I looked over Ice surnames, no Annie in the 1800s in OH or IN. 25 trees on Ancestry had Annie Ice as Jacob's wife. I notified several of the posters. 2-3 made the correction, one combined the names and the others let it ride.