Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Funeral Records, What A Find

Do you have holes in your family tree?  As you fill in the family tree, you may get lucky and find more family history hidden in the funeral record.  There is a good deal of information on cemetery headstones.  I found the headstone of my great grandfather.  (I didn't really find it, my cousin found it and posted it on our family web site)  If you get a picture of the headstone, you are in luck.  Most of us walk away thankful for what we have.  However, dig a little deeper, while you are there, and look at the possibilities.  I find my great great grand fathers name and my great great grandmothers maiden name.  This is huge information.  My great grandfather was from Ireland.  This opened up a new avenue of research.  Cause of death Apoplexy.  This is not much help.  In early 1900 apoplexy had a lot of meanings.  I you lost consciousness and then died suddenly they called it apoplexy.  It could have been a heart attack,  ruptured cerebral aneurysms, an aortic aneurysm may have been the case with this one.  Many in my family suffer from aortic aneurysms.  Some funeral records that I have found even tell you how long the person was sick.  The occupation is even interesting.  My grand father was a stonecutter.  John E Farrell was his father in law.  He may have worked with him at some point, maybe even learned the trade from him.  The family story is becoming more clear with every bit of information that we find.  This one document filled a lot of holes.  

Monday, April 25, 2011

Kevins Story, Part 4

Family history is made daily.  Take a look at your family tree, look back just one or two generations.  Three generations back they lived on farms and grew there own food.  There world may have been confined to two or three square miles.

The first television was introduced at the 1939 world’s fair.  RCA was petitioning the Government to allocate room for 13 channels to transmit television pictures into the home.  That was kind of silly because who could afford $500.00 for one of those picture boxes.  By the 1950's RCA had what they wanted, except channel one was taken back for local government broadcasts.  What’s this got to do with Maggie, you ask.

After graduation in 1950 what work was available?  You could go to college, if your family had a lot of money, you could be a waitress, maybe a librarian.  A woman’s role was to get married and raise a family.  They would look forward to Friday night and spend most of the week getting ready for the dance.  Sitting around the radio turned into sitting around the TV every night.  Baseball games never looked so good.  That opened a whole new industry repairing the picture boxes.  Maggie got a job keeping books for a small television and radio repair shop.  The commute was excellent, the TV shop was located directly below her apartment.  Maggie did not own a car.  Not much need, she didn’t know how to drive.  Winterport came by it’s name for good reason.

To be continued . . .

Friday, April 22, 2011

Kevin’s Hurdles “A Better Story” Part 2

I’m driving, I’m am so happy that I may have found him.  I pull into the parking lot.  Walk to the office.  “Oh, we are so glad you came to visit.  I have been out to the site personally and I think you were correct.  I can’ wait for you to see what we have found”

This is a huge place.  This amazing lady puts me into one of those electric carts and off we go.  As we drive up to the area where my brother is laid to rest, it is beautiful.  There is a huge old oak tree.  And below the gigantic oak is a thousand very small grave markers.  As I start walking, I notice each soul was only with us for a very short time.  Some for a week, but most only for a day.  As I got closer it was clear to see which site belonged to my little brother.  The little guy I never met, never got to torment,   These amazing people had spent the morning working around my brothers plot.  It was manicured to perfection.  It was clear that all the trimming had been done by hand.  To honor a little one that had passed over fifty years ago in such a loving and tender way is beyond the words I can write.

A lost brother is found.  History has been restored.  Yes these memories are painful to remember in our lifetime, but we need to save them, we need to honor them.  Matson Matthew would have turned 50 this past March.  He missed an awesome life.  So we take the time to ensure that those that follow us will know of the little boy with red hair, that made it only three days, was not forgotten.

I can highly recommend All Souls Cemetery and Mausoleum in Long Beach California.  I can’t thank them enough.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Kevin’s Hurdles “A Better Story”

This story starts a couple years back.  Maybe fifty years back.  I remember Mom and Dad coming home.  They must have been gone.  They had there coats on.  There were a few people in the house and I was laying on the floor watching Gunsmoke.  I turn around and see everyone standing in the kitchen.  Not much exciting going on there, back to Gunsmoke.  I always wore my cowboy hat when Gunsmoke was on.

A few years later I remember Mom talking with someone about Matson.  I leaned my right ear closer to the kitchen table thinking maybe my grandad was coming for a visit.  Nothing better in life that watching my grandad do the dishes.  He smoked Chesterfield’s that did not have a filter on them.  He never took that cigarette out of his mouth the whole time he was doing dishes.  The ash would get longer, longer, longer, and finally it would drop on the clean dishes.  I don’t need to spell out the words that followed.  Better than TV.  But, they were not talking about grandad, they were talking about a little boy, born with a full head of red hair and how his intestines had not formed properly.  At eleven pounds and ten ounces you would think he would have all the right parts?  Mom continues the explanation.  They had operated on him but the little guy just wasn’t destined for this world.

Fast forward 49 years and big brother has hit another hurdle.  I had a first name, a last name, parents names, age, but I could not find my littler brother.  As you do your research, you are going to run into hurdles.  Aunts and Uncles didn’t even know about the little guy much less where he could be buried.  I am planning a trip that will take me right past Los Angeles.  Where do I start?  I printed out a list of every cemetery in Los Angeles County.  We lived in Wilmington a the time so I got google earth on one computer and mapquest on the other.  I started closest to Wilmington and worked my way out.

Some cemeteries have a list of those people buried on the grounds.  Others do not.  I searched everything I could on line.  Then I started calling.  I can not believe how fantastic each person was that answered the phone.  They were all so helpful.  I eliminated the first two cemeteries with one phone call to each.  Three of the cemeteries would have to research there records and call me back.  They each called me back, but no little brother.  I put calls into two more cemeteries and then I got a call from back from one.  “What was your brothers name?”  Matson.  “I’m so sorry, but we don’t have him here.”  “What was your Dad’s name?”  “We have a contract with your Dad for about that same time but the name is Matthew not Matson” That is him, I can not believe it, his middle name started with an M and his other grandad’s name was Matthew.  They must have messed up the names????  Would it be okay if I came down to see?

“Please come”

Kevin's Hurdles

Most likely starting your family tree was the hardest part.  Now that you have started thinking about it and putting the pieces together, you may find some hurdles to overcome.  I am still trying to overcome one of my own.

I have an uncle that got lost.  Lost?  I guess, I really don’t know.  Neither does anyone else in the family.  One day 40 years ago he told his mom he was going to take a motorcycle trip to maybe Canada for a few days.  No one has seen or heard from him since.

I started looking two years ago, picked it up a year later, and again yesterday.  I spent 4 hours trying every trick I have learned and got to the same place I stopped at before.  The sad part is that he had a wife and a son.  He was married a short time and we do not even have there names.  Do you have a lost family member?  Maybe some family members don’t want to be found.

Do we give up?  You would think after finding thousands of family members I would be able to drop this one.  I am going to put this one back on the bottom of the pile and it will work it’s way to the top in another year.  Hurdle or brick wall, they are meant to climb and go over.  Just a matter of time.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Kevins Story, Part 3

Maggie’s world in the 1940's was probably full of war.  America needed hope but that was taken over by rage at our attackers.  That gave focus to life in America.  From rationing, to scrap drives to collect steel, rubber, and what ever they needed for the troops.  They still sat around the radio, but they listened to news of the war and not as much baseball.

It is real important to understand how hard life was in America.  American’s came from somewhere then.  Your family was from Italy or Poland, maybe Germany or England.  You were Jewish, Catholic, or of some faith.  You knew your roots.  You were proud of your heritage, your country, your town, and your team.  Dad wore the pants in the family.  He didn’t give too many atta boys.  You knew were you stood and if you messed up, you knew it was going to be bad.   You tried to avoid trouble if you could but, knew that you had better tell the truth when asked or it was going to be much worst.  Talk about family values, no they didn’t talk about anything.  If it had to do with boys and girls, you better learn the facts from a friend because you weren’t going to learn it at home.  Unless you made a mistake.  And then it still wasn’t talked about.

As Maggie became a teenager and the war started to wind down it was a great time to be alive.  American’s had jobs, they had hope, and manufacturing revolution fueled by war innovations was about to explode.  The advancements in medicine like Penicillin changed everything in the 1940's.  Note: The first electronic computer was made in the 1940's and it wasn’t called a PC.  It was called ENIAC and weighted 30 tons.  http://ei.cs.vt.edu/~history/ENIAC.Richey.HTML .

To be continued . . .

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ellis Island

I found a good article written by Laura about Ellis Island on the footnote blog.  I did not realize that Ellis Island didn't open until January 1st 1892.  There is so much information available for those ancestors that came through Ellis Island.  Unfortunately, none of mine did.  Laura writes that twelve million immigrants did arrive via Ellis Island over the course of six decades.  Was yours one of them?

Consider other ports of entry.  I found a few on the east coast.

Bath, Maine, 1825 - 1867
Belfast, Maine, 1820 - 1851

We think of the United States as 1776 forward.  What if your ancestors were here before that?  One that I researched was William Dyer.  He arrived in the new world in June 1629 at the port of Boston.

Heirloom or Junk

What is an heirloom.  When I got married twenty years ago we found ourselves integrating family, friends, and stuff.  If you have two houses full of stuff and you have to fit it all into one bucket, what do you do?  So we went about making some really tough decisions.  We decided to keep all the family and friends.

I asked, “Are you bringing all three cats?”  With my three cats and two dogs I wasn’t sure they were all going to make it.  They did!  She said, “Your dishes are all chipped, maybe we should just use mine.”   I asked, “ What should we do with your bedroom set”.  She said, “I can’t possibly get rid of any of those pieces”.  I asked, “Do you want to put the area rugs over the carpeting like that?”  She said, “That couch is an antique”.  I asked, “Can I keep my favorite chair?”  She said, “Most of the things I am bringing are heirlooms, your stuff is just junk.”

I didn’t like hearing that at all.  I loved my chair.  So what if the cats had clawed it up a bit.  A man has the right to be comfortable in his own chair.  I wonder what happened to that chair?  Between you and I, what did I know about heirlooms or what was of value?  I had no idea what might even be of sentimental value. As you research your family history, take the time to inventory the things you would like to pass down.  Go do it now!  (Not if your driving, wait till you get home.)  Open you favorite word processing program and make a list of the items that may possibly have value.  Take a picture and put it on the same page.  List where it came from, the date, any story behind the piece, who you want it to go to, and anything else you can remember.  Email the file to yourself and another family member in case your computer crashes.

I need to put in a plug for another one of my favorite tools in my tool box.  Family Tree Magazine.  After opening my big mouth and told you what to do about heirlooms, I thought that it would be better to organize the mess as you go.  I thought I would look to see if they have any recommendations.  They have a form for that, http://www.familytreemagazine.com/upload/images/pdf/artifact.pdf.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Stork

The stork could have come to the house in our ancestors days.  Your Mom could have been in a family way or expecting.  Today we don’t need a stork because babies come by magic through the front door.  Mom’s get driven away and come back from the store with a baby.  They could have picked one out that wasn’t so loud.

Searching for records about stork visits may not be as simple as the if the baby shows up at the front door.  There is a difference between types of records and maybe there is no record at all.  What if your grandfather was born on the farm?  My bio-dad was born on the farm and there was no record.  However, he did qualify for social security.  But you need a birth certificate to get a social security card?  In other countries it could be even harder to find records, we have it easy in America.  A record of live birth is a way for a person to get a social security card if they do not have a birth certificate.  You typically need to have an idea where you were born and someone standing beside you to vouch for you.  In my case my brother went with my bio-dad to the recorders office and said “this has always been my Dad”.  If only the stork keep records our job would be easier.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Before we go to far in cataloging our family history, we should consider surnames.  Surname is sometimes called family name but most think of last name.  As we go back in history we find that last names were not always used.  When you are doing research before the thirteen hundreds last names may be associated with a town, or an area of land.

Consider if your name is Jim Smith.   You look up everything you can find on the Smith family name.  When you are done you have 100 pages of things to read about the Smith family.  Did you forget about your mothers family?  Back to the computer and look up everything you can find on the Jones family.  How about your grand parents?  Great grand parents?

As you can see it can grow very fast.  Every generation back almost doubles the amount of surnames.  I made the mistake of trying to keep track of all the surnames in my family.  It became a full time job.  At fourteen generations back I quit.

Many family historians start at a point in history and work there way forward.  The Smith family in America.  As we work back to find our history, search for the real treasure chest, a family history story written about the families history after arriving in America.  I recently came across one at freepages.  While doing research about your family history, if you find a new surname, take a trip to the site. http://freepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/directory/genealogy.html

Monday, April 11, 2011

Kevin’s Ancestry Story, Part 2

To understand Kevin’s ancestry story, you have to realize what happened to Maggie.  Maybe this should be renamed “Maggie’s story as told by Kevin”.  But really this is a story about family history.  About heritage and the search for the facts.  Do you know your story?  Are you sure?  What if?  I knew my story for 54 years and then it changed.  Do you like change?  Let’s leave the jury out about the change thing.  At the end you can decide.  I already know.

America in the 1930's was somewhat like 2009.  A bust of the stock market, no jobs, income down 40%, and little to eat for many Americans.  Maine may be a long way from the heartland of America, but they felt the hard times also.  Survival was the name of the game.  (Can’t you hear Lena Horne or Billie Holiday music in the background?)  At that time the Government wanted to let the free market find it’s way, but as the 1940's approached the Government took over and worked to regulate our way out of the mess.  Social security, unions, employee rights, a fair wage for a fair days work.  Back in Maine a preteen didn’t think about those things.  They were more concerned with playing games, listening to the Boston Red Socks on the radio.  Dom DiMaggio and Ted Williams were household names in the North East.  Christmas morning may have brought you a new present under the tree.  New meant, hand made out of something else, but you would have loved it.

To be continued . . .

Friday, April 8, 2011

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness

If you have slammed into a stone wall and can not find a way over, do you give up?  Most of us give up so don’t feel bad.  A year goes by and you find yourself back at the same stone wall and you don’t want to give up this time.  If you could just fly to the other side of the country and spend a day or two doing some research you might be able to solve the riddle.

What if you could get a little help from a friend?  Well, Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness helps you find a friend if you have no other options.  They have volunteers standing by that may be able to help solve that riddle.

The site is free but they do accept donations at http://www.raogk.org/support.html if you are able to give.  To find there site go to http://www.raogk.org/index.html.  If you would like to volunteer, they are accepting applications.

What a fantastic act of random kindness.  Thank you.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Website Recommendation - Access Genealogy

Website:  http://www.accessgenealogy.com/
Type:        Research
Cost:        Free
Look:       7
Ease:       9
Speed:     Fast

Access genealogy is a site for the researcher. If you are looking for records in the United States this is a good place to start. After 10 years as a free service they are still free. This site measures close to the top and I always seem to rate other sites in comparison to it.

The first look at the site is clean and easy to use. There are ads running on the site, but they are clean and not annoying. The only way they can keep the site free is when you support them by using there advertisers.

What is available?
Native American records
Genealogy records
State records

Under the hook look gets way better. On the right side select a state. This is the meat behind the site. They list places for free information and provide links. They also list information available on other search engines and provide links. They even provide links to sites that are by subscription. This is a web site (tool box) that I would pay for.

Things I most like: If the site does not have what your looking for it may give you links to other sites that may be able to help you. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Things I don’t like: Some of the links don’t always work. I guess it’s the nature of the beast.
Overall recommendation: Highly Recommend

Monday, April 4, 2011

Kevin's Ancestry Story, Part 1

A long story.

It did take a long time (55 years) for the story to develop.  The story started 55 years ago or, the story started two years ago, in what I call ancestry years.  Ancestry years is how long it took someone to figure out what the real story was.  I’m not going to change the names to protect the innocent or guilty.  Facts are what is important in ancestry talk.  Note: when you are doing your research, try to get the real facts.  If the family members are still with us, get there permission to put the real facts down in a public place.  So the story starts in 1954.  There was this girl.  That’s not correct, start over.  There was this young woman all of 23 years old.  She was a beautiful long auburn haired five foot two and eyes of blue.  Let’s call her Maggie.

Maggie was born appropriately on Christmas day in 1930.  Her Mom died when she was 7 and typically that would mess some people up for life.  Maybe it made her stronger?  That’s what they say in the movies.  She grew up being tormented by three older brothers.  That’s probably what made her stronger.  Just like any normal girl growing up in the thirties in Maine, she lived a hard but awesome life.  In a town of hundreds there was only one school.  On her first day of school she walked into the front door to attend the first grade and walked out the same door on her last day of the twelfth grade.

To be continued . . .   Feel free to follow along at ancestrybykevin.blogspot.com

Try A Different Spelling

Names are not always spelled correctly.  About as good as my spelling.  I was doing research on the Wotton surname.  I restricted my searching to "Wotton" so I would only get the correct person.  The problem with is that it could be spelled wrong.  The name sounds like Waaton the way most pronounce it.  Can you imagine when they came to America and attempted to tell the Government official the name was Waaton.  He says "how you spellin' that?".  They may not have been able to read or write.  So the Government official spells it Waton.  If you hit a brick wall, try different spellings to see if anything pops up.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Paid vs Free Research Sites

Is anything really free?  Many things are free in life including family history research sites.  Sometimes free is not so free and many times more frustrating than it's worth.  If you are following along, I plan to take on the free claims one at a time and let you know just how free they are.  My goal is to review one site each week.  I plan on starting with the big ones first.  Then I want to investigate sites around the world.

Paid sites make your life much easier.  So, if you are in a hurry, or you have deep pockets, I will recommend some of my favorites.  Many of the paid sites are linked together.  The records are available no matter which site you subscribe to.

I will attempt to catalog the different types of sites also.  Each site specializes in or is better at one thing or another.  So if you are planning on spending money for a sites tools, you may want to wait around awhile and get some suggestions.

If you are on a limited budget, there is an amazing amount of information available.  You just have to know where to find it.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Genealogy

Some folks just have to have a book.  If you are one of those, you want to bend over the corners, like the smell of the new book, this is a good tool to have on your shelf.  

The original book by Christine Rose and Kay Germain Ingalls is available used.  A 2nd edition published in 2006 is also available.  If you have to have a copy on your iPad, there is an eBook version available.  Under $20.00.

The Generations Project

There is a new show on TV.  Every week they are going to follow real people as they search for there family history.  

You can find the new show on BYUtv.  Check your local listings for times and dates.  For more information visit www.byutv.org.  The first show of the new season.

  • Airdate: March 29, 2011
  • Xander and Carrie, whose twin boys were saved from a genetic disease by an anonymous bone-marrow donor, set out to test the relationship between genetic and genealogical ancestry while searching for the disease in their own family histories.