23 April 2008

I Think That I Have Found My Ellusive Ancestor!

So, you found someone with the right name, in the right time period, in approximately the right area, this must be, absolutely has to be the missing ancestor. Not so fast! You must marry or bury this individual to determine if it is really your ancestor.

Hunt through the records. Check church records, civil records, census records and anything else available to you. Find this person. Did he/she stay in this village? Did he/she leave the village to work else where? Can you find enough information to support your theory concerning relationship? Who were their neighbors in census records or land records? Is a member of the extended family living in the household during a census enumeration?

If you cannot find them in the village of birth, how can you be certain that you have the right person? Did they name their children after other members of the family? Is the occupation the same as the father's occupation? Did they take their children back home to be christened? Were they buried in their home town? Is this person named in a will or a land transaction? How about pension applications?

It takes a lot of work to reasonably prove a relationship for a difficult research problem. Sometimes we have to admit defeat and move on to another family or individual. Just don't give up to quickly--search all available records. And remember to find sufficient evidence to support your claim before you celebrate your success.

20 March 2008

So Just How Do I Get Started?

Q. I keep feeling prompted to start my husband's genealogy and so today I sat down to look stuff up and to acquaint myself with New Family Search. My husband has names 5 generations back, but did not do their work. so obviously I would have tons of questions - any tips on how best to get started?

A. Let me be blunt. Don't start with New Family Search (nFS)! I suggest that you start by downloading PAF (Personal Ancestral File 5.2) from the old Family Search web site. This is a data management program available at no cost. Check nFS to find out if any part of your pedigree in found in that program. Remember, you can view only the living direct line relatives, or descendents, of your own pedigree in nFS.

After you download PAF (or you can borrow a hard copy from your local Family History Center), start entering your information. Start with your own family--you, your husband, and children. Then extend back one generation. Enter your parents, siblings, then your husband's parents and siblings. Then go back one more generation--you get the picture. [Of course, if you are starting from scratch, start collecting information. Collect birth certificates, death certificates, obituaries, marriage certificates, military records, old Bibles with handwritten records, family books, journals, and of course, information from living relatives.]

If you want to concentrate your efforts on your husband's family, just continue back one generation at a time until you finish entering all of your data in the PAF database. This will take time, so don't get discouraged. Just set aside a little time each day, or at least a little time once a week--Sunday afternoon works for many people.

This database will allow you to see your information in an organized fashion. You can look at an individual family, or at a pedigree chart. You can also print family group records and pedigree charts as well as reports that will help you identify possible problems in your records.

When you are ready, make a backup file of your record--click "File" and select "backup" and save this to a jump drive. Take your jump drive to your local Family History Center and the Consultants will gladly help you evaluate your data and determine what your next step should be.

If you live in an area with access to New Family Search (nFS), you will need to check that program to find your ancestors. Combine duplicate individuals that you find listed in nFS, correct information, then make a GEDCOM file (this format will allow you to move information between genealogy programs) of individuals who are in your PAF files but NOT found in nFS. GEDCOM these individuals into nFS and proceed to check again for duplicate individuals--it is your responsibility to combine duplicate individuals. Be aware that you can spend MANY hours fixing problems before you can move forward if your family has a large pedigree in nFS.

The GEDCOM process can only be used to move information from PAF or another genealogical database into nFS, not the other way around. To add information found in nFS to your PAF files, you will need to enter it manually, one name at a time. We hope that this will change in the future.

Contact your local Family History Center if you need assistance after you combine duplicate individuals and add additional family members. They will assist you with the rest of the process.

Good Luck in your efforts. I will attempt to answer any additional questions, or help you with problems. Ask N. for my cell number or e-mail address if you want to talk about specific challenges.

29 February 2008

Oh Oh! I Think We Have a Problem: The Dilemma of Same Name Individuals

I was sitting with a client the other night, when suddenly I noticed a big problem in her pedigree. We were in the process of establishing a link with a distant cousin, when I noticed that we had two individuals by the same name. These two men appeared in the 1850 Census living in adjacent counties. They shared the same name, John, and each had a son named Jesse, who was 7 or 8 years old. The questions become, which Jesse is the correct Jesse, and how do the two Johns connect? (The cousin assures my client that they a very closely related, sharing multiple family lines.)

Few vital records are available in this time period in America, so I turned to the census records. I searched for both families in every census where they appeared, solving the first question easily. Each father, John, lived in the same county where I first found them in 1850. One son, Jesse, stayed in the same county and town as his father. In the 1880 census, father and son were living next to each other. Looking at the names of grandsons proved convincing evidence that the cousin's ancestor, Jesse, was not the brother of my client's ancestor as was believed.

The second question remains unanswered at this time. It is obvious that the relationship between the two families goes back at least one more generation as none of my client's ancestor's brothers had a son named John. Hopefully, a little more research in family records will prove the relationship between these families.

Mixing generations is another common problem associated with same name individuals. Sons listed as their mother's spouse, a brother listed as the child of another brother, etc. Careful attention to dates and places is needed to prevent the mixing of individuals and generations. Analyze your records for similar errors.

22 February 2008

How Can I Help You?

Do you need advice, or can you offer advice? If so post your question--someone may have an answer. I am willing to post information from you.
Do you need a quick look-up from a parish register? If the parish is located near Aston Rowant, Oxfordshire, I may have the fiche.
Do you also have an interest in John Loader, born about 1718, and living in Aston Rowant? I can tell you what I have searched in my efforts to locate his parents which could save you hours of research.
Are you interested in the Quartermain family of Lewknor? I can forward my extracted list of baptisms, marriages and burials from about 1740-1810. I also have lists of Britnell's, Croxford's, Dutton's, Filbee's and Floyd's from Chinnor, Crowell, Lewknor, Sydenham, and Thame.
I am happy to share what I have, and willing to negotiate for more extensive needs.

21 February 2008

My Favorite British Research Aids

Aside from the Vital Record’s Index, Census records, and the International Genealogical Index (IGI), my favorite research aids include the following books (listed in no particular order):

1) The Victoria History of the Counties of England, edited by R. B. Pugh.
This multi-volume collection provides information on the cities, towns, villages and hamlets of the counties of England. Some volumes include historical village maps, photographs, architectural information about the local church and manor house, prominent people (including the vicars, local gentry, and other notables), and agricultural and manufacturing practices of the area. (I own just one volume of this set.)

2) Some Special Studies in Genealogy, edited by Chas. A. Bernau.
A friend gave me this tiny reference book published in 1908. It is full of little gems of knowledge about the different record types of value to the genealogist. The archives and payment fees are out of date, but the rest of the information in as current today as it was 100 years ago.

3) Child’s History of England, by Charles Dickens.
This charming history starts with the Romans and concludes with the year 1887. Here is a little sample:
“With the exception of occasional troubles with the Welsh and with the French, the rest of the King Henry’s reign was quiet enough. But, the King was far from happy, and probably was troubled in his conscience by knowing that he had usurped the crown, and had occasioned the death of his miserable cousin.” (Dickens, p. 175)

4) Nineteenth-Century Britain: A Very Short Introduction, by Christopher Harvie & H.C.G Matthews. Very short indeed, this volume is 177 pages including the index, but here you will find politics, religion, wars, economics, and people of the 19th century.

5) Ancestral Trails: The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History, by Mark D. Herber. If you want to know about a topic, you will find it in this volume. He discusses record types, and archives. There are even illustrations in this great book.

6) Genealogical Research in England and Wales, volumes 1-3, by David E. Gardner and Frank Smith. I am lucky indeed to own all three volumes. The last volume includes paleography lessons, and a guide to Latin names and terms commonly found in Wills and church records.

7) The Phillimore Atlas & Index of Parish Registers, edited by Cecil R. Humphery-Smith.
This is my all time favorite research aid. This book has pre-1832 county maps which show the parish bounderies. It also includes an index of parish registers--the time period covered by the registers, their availability, the civil registration district of each parish, if marriages were indexed by Boyd's or Pallot's, and the time period of the registers included in the IGI. It is almost impossible to do British research without this book. This book was well worth every penny that I spent to aquire it!

12 February 2008

Francis Britnell's Will and the Dossett Children

In 1718, Francis Brudnell (Britnell), christened 11 Aug. 1631 at Chinnor, Oxfordshire, England, wrote a Will naming his living children and grandchildren. He named them as follows:
Francis, his son, and grandchildren:
Francis, and Francis’ daughter Mary

Thomas, his son, and grandchildren:

William, his son, who was deceased, and grandchild:

His grandchildren, no parent named:
Richard Dossett
Mary Dossett
James Dossett

Although he named his son, William who was deceased, he failed to give us the name of the parent of the Dossett children.

Elizabeth, christened 16 Dec. 1656 at Chinnor, is the only identified daughter of Francis and his wife, Susannah. We assume that she is the parent of the Dossett children listed in the Will. However, no marriage is found in Chinnor or nearby Radnage, Buckingham. The Britnell families lived at Spriggs Alley on the south end of Chinnor Parish. Radnage is the nearest parish to Spriggs Alley (also known in earlier records as Alliver or Ollivers Alley).

An IGI search located marriages for two Elizabeths who married Dossetts in the surrounding area. John Dossett married Eliz. Cossendon, 27 Dec 1679 at Princes Risborough, Buckingham. The second couple was Thomas Dossett who married Eliz. at Bledlow, Buckingham.

Thomas and Elizabeth, maiden name unknown, were the parents of Elizabeth, c. 1694; Ann, c. 1695; Robert, c. 1700; John, c. 1704; Ralph, c. 1707; and Martin, c. 1709. All were christened at Bledlow.

An IGI search of children born to John and Elizabeth Dossett in Oxfordshire or Buckingham located seven potential candidates christened in Radnage. They are: Elizabeth [listed as Dorsett], c. 1662; Edward, c. 1664; Susanna, c. 1684; Francis, c. 1685; Richard, c. 1687; Susannah, c. 1689; Mary, c. 1692; James, c. 1694.

The first couple, Thomas and Elizabeth, can be eliminated. The names of the children do not match those given in the Will. Also, Elizabeth Britnell was born in 1657—making her a little old to be the mother of these children.

The second couple, John and Eliz. Cossendon, are obviously not the right couple, but are they the parents of the children christened in Radnage? The first two children christened in Radnage were born too early to be the children of Elizabeth Britnell or Eliz. Cossendon, but the other six children could be Elizabeth Britnell’s or the John and Eliz. Cossendon Dossett’s who married in Princes Risborough.

The names of three of the children match those found in the Will and Francis and Susannah are the names of Elizabeth Britnell’s parents.

So, was Elizabeth Britnell married to a John Dossett? Are the children christened at Radnage her children? Further research is needed to locate a marriage record if it exists. What do you know about this family?

30 January 2008

FreeBMD and the Unsolved Case of Ann Loader

Several years ago, I was reading a brief history of a branch of the Loader family. The history stated that Ann Loader, born 19 April 1825 at Kingston, Oxfordshire, immigrated to the United States in 1855 with her son, William Loader. According to the history, she was the widow of Charles Loder. The writer stated that no one had successfully located the marriage of Ann Loader to Charles Loder. What a challenge for a genealogist!

All births, marriages, and deaths were registered with the government beginning in 1837 in Britain. Indexes to the British Civil Registration records are available on microfiche, however, the British researcher now has access to a searchable index through the website, freebmd.rootsweb.com. The index provides the year the event was registered, the quarter—March, June, September, and December of the event, the district, volume and page number of the registered information. With this information, a certificate of the event can be ordered. The certificate provides the names of the individuals involved in the event, address, exact date of the event, and the name of the person who registered the event. This information varies depending on the type of event.

I quickly logged on to freebmd and proceeded to conduct a search for Charles Loder or Loader in the Thame registration district. I found no entry for a groom of that name in the appropriate time period.

Next, I searched for Ann Loader or Loder in Thame. An entry was found for Ann Loader married in December quarter of 1846, registered at Thame. I clicked on the page number to see the name of others recorded on that page—this will usually show the groom, however the names often appear randomly, not consecutively. There was no Charles Loder/Loader.

I ordered the certificate to find the name of the groom. After several weeks, I received the certificate from England. There was Ann Loader, the daughter of James, from Aston Rowant, married 19 Nov. 1846 at Aston Rowant to James Coleman.

Further, I searched for the birth of William and located his birth. I sent for that certificate and discovered that Ann Loader Coleman gave birth to a son, William Loader Coleman, 4 Oct. 1849 at Ewelme, Oxfordshire. No father was listed on the certificate.

In the 1851 census of Aston Rowant, I located Ann Coleman, a married lacemaker, and her son, William Coleman. James Coleman was not listed, nor was Ann listed as a widow.

What a mystery. Ann was clearly married to James Coleman, her son was named William Loader Coleman, but no father was recorded on the birth certificate. No member of the Loader family recorded any information concerning this first marriage of their sister, Ann. Why did Ann drop the name of Coleman when she immigrated in 1855? Why did William Loader (Coleman) believe that his father was Charles Loder? Some mysteries just cannot be solved.

28 January 2008

More Skeletons: Jail and Prision Records

A recent reader posed the following question: "Do you know how I can find out whether my grandfather served time in a federal prision? There are some years none of us can account for in the 1920s-30s, and we have reason to believe he may have been in jail. Is this a matter of public record? How can we access the information, if so?

Access to records found in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) is limited to law enforcement agencies. However, your ancestor pre-dates that agency. For Federal Prisions, you should contact the Bureau of Prisons, 320 First St. N.W., Washington, DC 20534. Be sure to state your relationship and interest in the individual as well as his birth and death dates. If that agency is unable to assist you, consider contacting the agency specific to the region where your ancestor lived. For the Western Region, the address is 7950 Dublin Blvd., 3rd floor, Dublin, CA 94568.

Local criminal case files are available to the public. They may be found on the state or county level. Check with the state archives of the appropriate state--you may be able to do this on-line. You should also consider searching the local newspaper archives for information.

For additional Federal Prision regional address, consult your local public library or Family History Center for a copy of "The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy," edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking. This valuable resource book includes addresses for federal agencies and institutions, military agencies, and state and local agencies. (All of this information comes from "The Source" as cited above.)

21 January 2008

English Paleography

Genealogy research requires many different skills including the ability to read old documents. Several web sites offer excelent tutorials in reading Old English handwriting. My favorites are the paleography course offered on the Cambridge University web site and Beginners Palaeography available through The National Archives (TNA).

The Cambridge course is available at www.english.cam.ad.uk/ceres/ehoc. Select "course lessons" and practice transcribing Old English documents. The document appears on the upper half of a split screen, your transcription on the lower half. When you finish, you check your work by comparing your transcription with an accurate transcription.

Access the course available through TNA at www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography (note the unusual spelling of paleography). Select "Gam - ducking stool" for a little fun checking your skills with a game similar to hangman. A single word appears on the screen for you to transcribe. If you transcribe the word incorrectly, a little figure moves closer to the surface of the water. Enough errors and the figure is ducked and the game is over.

I hope you will find these websites useful in improving your skills as a paleographer.

09 January 2008

Parent Search and the International Genealogical Index

If you haven’t discovered the wonders of a “parent search” to locate missing children in the International Genealogical Index© (IGI) you should. This search can locate missing children in extracted records or patron submitted records. I used this method to find the children of Abel Loder.

All family records indicated that Abel Loder (b. 1791) married Sarah Legge, in 1813 at Adderbury, Oxfordshire, England. They had one child, George, christened in 1817 at Aston Rowant, Oxfordshire, England, home parish of Abel. There was no other information on this family.

A search of the Aston Rowant parish records revealed a christening record for Abel in 1791 and a christening record for a son, George in 1817. There were no burials or additional christenings for Abel and his wife, Sarah. With a four year gap between the marriage and the only known child, I suspected that additional children were christened in other parishes.

A first child was commonly christened in the mother’s home parish. I went to the Adderbury parish records to look for christening entries for this couple, but without success. Next I searched the parish chapelries. While searching the records of the Chapelry of Bodicot, I located an entry for a son, John christened in 1813. No other entries were found.

I next searched the IGI using the “parent search” method. I quickly located entries for a son, Henry, born 1820 in London; a daughter, Louisa, born 1825 in London; a second daughter, Ann, born 1827 in London; and a third daughter, Sarah, born in London in 1829. The last three children were christened at All Souls Church, Marylebone. No child was located born between 1820 and 1825.

I searched the All Souls records and located a marriage for Abel Loder to Jane Thorpe in December of 1829. The microfilm record of the marriage indicated that Abel was a widower. Evidently Sarah died shortly after the birth of her daughter, Sarah in July of 1829. No burial record was found for Sarah.

Another “parent search” of the IGI located the following children born to Abel Loder and his wife Jane. A son, George, born 1834 in London, a daughter Maria and another son, William, christened in 1837 in London. No other entries were located for this family.

Abel’s death certificate recorded that he died 4 February 1858 in Clerkenwell. His daughter, Maria was the informant.

So how do you perform a “parent search?” First select the “Search” tab in familysearch.org. Next, select “International Genealogical Index©”. After the screen changes, enter the names of the parents in the parent fields. You must have the father given and surname, but need only the mother’s given name (if her name is common, add her surname). You will also need to select a region. I select the country, but only include the County if I am sure that the family never lived in another county. The search results will include all children born to couples with those names. Consider the location of the christenings to narrow the list down to those who might belong to your family. If the record is an extraction of a parish record or Bishop’s Transcript, the Batch number will start with a “C,” marriage records start with an “M.” Once you have a Batch number, you can click on the Batch number and search the extracted records by surname.

Good luck, as you discover the marvels of a “parent search” of the IGI.

03 January 2008

Skeletons in the Closet and Other Family Secrets

Several years ago, I was verifying family records to complete a class assignment. I began to search county marriage records, to locate the marriage of my maternal grandparents. My records indicated that they were married, 11 December 1919 in Provo, Utah, Utah, but a careful search of the county records for that date produced no results. I began to search a month before and after the recorded date, but found no listing for the two individuals. My mother suggested that I should check Juab county records, but again no entry was located for this marriage.

I was intrigued by this mystery. A quick check of the 1920 census for Eureka and Goshen located both of my grandparents. My grandfather was living in Eureka with a younger brother. Grandfather was listed as a single male. My grandmother was living in Goshen with her parents and was also marked as single. Census records are often faulty, but it would be very unusual to find the same error in two individuals located in two towns. Another phone call to my mother produced the following response, “Oh, Mother must have been visiting her parents.” I didn’t believe a word.

So, according to available records, they were not married in 1919, and were in fact, single in January 1920 when the Federal census was taken. Back in the library, I pulled the marriage records for Utah County and began a careful search for the months following the date of the census enumeration. Finally, I found the entry for the marriage dated, 11 March 1920.

So, why the deception? It seems that the first child was born in September 1920, only six months after the wedding. Did Mother know that her parents were not married in December? I believe so. The dates on the marriage certificate have been changed—the handwriting just does not match. Clearly, a family secret perceived by some as a bona fide skeleton. So, who changed the dates on the certificate?