July 7, 2015

When Family Moves Far From Home

When Family Moves Far From Home
Yesterday was an emotional day for me. My son and his family left to move almost 1400 miles away. They won't be back for at least 3 years. The journey is too difficult for me physically, and with 4 young children it would be costly for them to come home, so it will be a long time before I see them again. 

My own sadness paled when I started to think about our ancestors who made such journeys - some even further away - in the days before we had the Internet, Skype, Facetime, Facebook and all manner of instant communication.

Suddenly I understood the anguish that my great-grandmother must have felt when 5 of her 6 grown children left England in the first decade of the 20th century to settle in Canada and Australia. I put myself in her place and shuddered to think of how she felt, knowing she would quite likely not see for many years, if at all. She did make two trips to Canada to visit over the space of 30 years but how dreadful it would have been to not see her grandchildren grow up or hear her own children's voices over those years.

And in earlier years, such as when my ancestors left Ireland in 1846 to escape the Famine Years, it must have been heart-breaking to see their children and grandchildren sail off to N. America, knowing they would never see them again. 

As we said our goodbyes yesterday, we were all dry-eyed until my 10 year old grandson hugged me, would not let go, and began to sob. I felt my heart breaking and I started crying too. My daughter-in-law wiped away tears and we all had one last hug. My grandchildren's little hands waved out the car window as they drove down our driveway. 

I take comfort in knowing that they are only a moment away by phone or the internet. I am also happy for them as they begin a new adventure. But my heart goes out to my long-dead ancestors who must have grieved for years for their children so far from home.

July 6, 2015

If you have Illiinois ancestors check out the Chicago Tribune Archives in Beta (Free)

If you have Illiinois ancestors check out the Chicago Tribune Archives in Beta (Free)The Chicago Tribune archives are online and searchable from 1849 to 1991. This is a Beta Version and for now it's free. 

However when the beta is over, researchers will need to sign up for a digitalPLUS membership (details here) for full access to the archives.

Thanks to Gail Dever for posting the link to this newspaper database.

July 5, 2015

Nursing Sister Phillips WW1 Album: 24R Newspaper Clipping

This Photo Archive consists of a small autograph album (6.5" by 5.25") kept by Constance (Connie) Philips as a memento of her time serving as a nurse during World War One. 

The majority of the photos and items are from 1915, when she served as a nurse in France and Britain. 

The album and all photographs, postcards, and other ephemera contained in the album belong to Karin Armstrong and may not be copied or republished without her written permission. The images will be published on Olive Tree Genealogy with permission.

Each image has been designated an "R" for Recto or a "V" for Verso plus an album page number. Recto is the right-hand side page of a bound book while Verso is the left-hand side page.

I will be posting the entire album and my additional research on the individuals identified in Connie's album over the coming months so please check back frequently to view these historic photos. The easiest way to see what has been published is to click on the topic "Nursing Sister WW1 Photos" in the vertical menu bar on the right side of your screen. You can also click on that phrase at the bottom of this post.

July 4, 2015

What's Your Opinion? Terrible Act of Disrespect or Excusable?

At least 150 grave markers used as flooring (Photo credit WPRI)
I don't want to say too much about this because I'm curious how others feel. 

It horrified me when I read the headline, but then I read the full story and his explanation, and felt a bit more charitable towards this guy. (A bit.....not a lot......)

Read the story then let me know your opinion!

Cemetery Worker Used Veterans’ Headstones As Flooring

July 3, 2015

Was Great Grandpa's Name Changed at Ellis Island?

Was Great Grandpa's Name Changed at Ellis Island?
 "My great-grandpa's name was changed at Ellis Island!" How often have we genealogists heard this statement? But do you realize that is not true? There is not one shred of evidence to support the claim that officials changed names when an immigrant arrived at Ellis Island. 

Officials not only did not have the time to start assigning new names to incoming passengers, they also did not have the authority to do so.  Check how many ships were arriving daily and how many passengers on average were on each one... then think about the lineups of immigrants waiting to be cleared. Think about the math - the sheer numbers of immigrants arriving during certain years. There was not time for officials to do more than process each immigrant as quickly as possible.

Sometimes immigrants used incorrect names such as the surname of a stepfather rather than the biological father, or a name the family had adopted for other reasons. Sometimes it was deliberate and an immigrant arrived under the name of someone else. Those arrival names were often changed by the immigrants themselves later in life.

One of the most common reason that your ancestor's name on the manifest does not match the surname your father and grandfather have used, is that it was a name unfamiliar to English speaking clerks, and was entered phonetically in other documents, such as census records.

Sometimes an immigrant chose to "Americanize" their surname themselves and simply began using their new name a year or so after settling in America.

When an immigrant's new name no longer matched that shown on their official immigration record such as a ship's passenger list, he or she might face difficulties voting, in legal proceedings, or naturalization. Below are some sample letters representing typical cases of immigrants who made their own decisions to change their surnames.

How Diamond became Cohen…  
How Kohnovalsky became Cohn…  
How Bahash became Amber…  
How Shukowsky became Zakotsky…  
How Asszony became Miazaroz…
 An excellent article on this topic called "American Names / Declaring Independence" can be found at Immigrant Name Changes

July 2, 2015

Children's Fashions in Civil War Era Photographs

CDVs (Cartes de Visite) arrived in the United States around 1859, on the eve of the Civil War (1861-1865). Demand for CDVs was high, as soldiers and their loved ones sought an affordable image of remembrance. Special photo albums were designed especially for cartes-de-visite.
Several years ago while prowling through a local antique store, I came upon a gorgeous leather photo album full of beautiful old portraits.  Most of the photos were identified with names in elaborate old handwriting and that also caught my eye. Holding a CDV in your hand is like holding a window to the past and I couldn’t walk away from that album. I wanted a better glimpse through that window.  That was the start of my collection of Civil War Era Photograph Albums. You can see many of them on my Lost Faces website. 

Children’s portraits of this time period  intrigue me, as during the Civil War era they were dressed as miniature adults. Young girls were dressed as miniature adults. Very young girls wore skirts and petticoats that were mid‐calf with pantaloons at ankle length. In 1862 three year old Mary Mermod wore a shorter scoop necked dress with pantaloons just below her knees.
Mary Mermod 1862. Private Collection L. Massey

In 1863 little Fanny Towne wore a scooped neckline which was no doubt identical to her mother’s evening or formal gown.

Fanny Towne July 1863. Private Collection L. Massey

As girls grew older and developed a bust, skirts and petticoats became ankle length or
longer, and pantaloons became shorter. The sisters Emily and Susie Fryer in 1863 have longer skirts and their pantaloons barely show.

Emily & Susie Fryer 1863. Private Collection L. Massey
Other clues for dating these lovely old photos is hairstyles. Young girls wore their hair in similar fashion to their mothers. Notice how these young girls have their hair parted in the middle (just as their mothers would have had) and at the height of the Civil War, had long ringlets added.

Don't Miss the Independence Day Special on DNA Kits!

AncestryDNA is celebrating Independence Day by offering a 20% discount on AncestryDNA. Don't miss this special offer. 

If you haven't tested your DNA yet, or Grandma's or Auntie Helen, now's your chance!

What can DNA tell you? You can learn your ethnicity. It can connect you to cousins you never knew about. Family secrets are often revealed as they were for my husband's and my families. 

My husband discovered that his great grandfather was not really his great grandfather! Instead it was another man. DNA confirmed family rumours on that one. You can read all about that shocker at DNA Gave My Husband a Completely Different Great Grandfather and DNA Results Leave us Gob-Smacked! 

What did I learn? That one of my sons had a first cousin no one ever knew about. I haven't blogged about that as I have not asked permission of the new cousin yet. But in any case, run, do not walk to AncestryDNA to order your kit! The discount will run from July 2-July 6

Please celebrate by spreading the word!

July 1, 2015

Happy Birthday Canada!

Canada Day is a celebration for everyone even though some are working today and taking the holiday on another day. It's still a celebration – whether you’re enjoying fireworks, outdoor concerts or fun with friends and family.  

What are you doing on Canada Day? I'm spending time with my son and his family before they move to Colorado. We'll barbeque and laze around the pool for the day. 

For Canada Day events from the Government of Canada, see
Celebrating Canada Day from coast to coast to coast on July 1, 2015! Come back soon for more information and follow on Twitter at #CanadaDay.

June 30, 2015

It's Not Just Loyalists! (A Misleading Title on Ancestry)

Recently I poked around a database record set on Ancestry.com. The title is UK, American Loyalist Claims 1776-1835. In the description given by Ancestry we read that "Records in this database relate to Loyalist claims and cases heard by the American Loyalist Claims Commission."

There is more detail given in the description but every sentence stresses that this database provides names and details of Loyalists, those who fled the Colonies during and after the Revolutionary War 1775-1783. However this is incorrect! Badly incorrect.

The records are divided into Series I (AO12) and Series II (AO13). 

Yes there are some Loyalist claims and documents in this set of records. But a very quick look in Series II (AO 13) reveals that in the section titled "American-Loyalist Claims Series II (140) Miscellaneous 1801-1835", we find Claims for Losses in Upper Canada after the War of 1812. 

These claims for losses were not filed by Loyalists but by ordinary citizens who suffered at the hands of the Americans or the Indians during that War. This specific (and valuable!) list of those filing claims is dated May 1824 and begins on image 15 of 228. It ends on image 49 at claimant number 2054.

It's an invaluable database but sadly not many researchers will find it since it is not listed correctly on Ancestry.com. And for those who do stumble on it by searching and finding an ancestor's name, they are almost certain to think that finding that name in this database means that their ancestor was a Loyalist. 

Please don't be fooled. When searching a large database, be sure to scroll back to the start of the specific section your ancestor's name is on. Look for the title of that specific set of records so that you know what you have found and can provide an accurate and correct source for the information.