It just can’t be said enough. Make friends with an archivist. The archivists I know are a special breed – history geeks with a penchant for organizing things and a yen to ferret out obscure and unseen treasures. They have so many resources at their disposal, and their job is to share!
I am writing a family sketch on my great-grandparents, Tom and Mary (Ahern) Bradley for my ProGen study course. The Bradley’s settled in Tiburon, California just as Tom’s employer, the California Northwestern Railroad (later the Northwestern Pacific), moved its terminus there around 1890. Their children and grandchildren grew up in Tiburon. The Bradley family had many connections with this small town on San Francisco Bay.
I knew the Belvedere-Tiburon Landmark’s Society had some materials in their archive that my father and some of his siblings had donated, so I checked their catalog online and found a few items pertinent to my research, including a couple of oral histories. I reached out to the archivist, and boy, did I ever get lucky!
Dave Gotz emailed some documents and photographs including a transcript of an oral history interview with my great-aunt Miriam “Brownie” Bradley. He’s put a few more things in the mail to me. He’s answering questions that continue to pop into my mind, and now that he knows I exist, he’s even sending me cool materials from the Society’s collection – pictures and newspaper clippings that I didn’t even know existed. But he did. Because he’s an archivist!
The best treasure that arrived yesterday was a link to a video file of an oral history interview with my aunts Mary King and Sr. Bertha Kircher, recorded in October 1994. Mary died in 1996 and Bertha in 1999 but for half an hour yesterday I had these two dear women visiting with me in my living room telling me stories of Tiburon a century ago. Seeing them as I so fondly remember them, hearing their voices and unique ways of talking brought back a flood of my own childhood memories.
Make friends with an archivist. They’re waiting with a treasure for you!
Recently I found myself researching some relatives in a tiny village in County Durham, England. I’ve tracked my family of interest from the 1851 through the 1881 census and then they disappeared, likely taking their final rest in the local Catholic cemetery. I reached out via email to the parish, asking if the church had any cemetery records from the 1880s and 1890s. A deacon kindly wrote back that after a period of time has passed, his church sends its old registers for safekeeping to a regional archive.
But it seems the deacon did more than just point me to another repository. He also passed my email on to the secretary of the parish council, Jim McLean. And Jim and I are definitely kindred spirits. In the most delightful week of email exchanges, I’ve told Jim a bit about the family I’m researching and he’s provided countless details of local history and culture. “239 coal mines in Co. Durham have all disappeared.” “This area used to be called "LITTLE IRELAND" because of the number of people from Ireland who came here for work - usually in the coal mines or shipyards.”
Jim walked the cemetery for me looking for Grahams, but the earliest grave he found was from 1924, too late to be the people I seek. Apparently it is common in his locality for graves to be emptied after many years so that the land can be used again.
He’s helped me with local pronunciations – Leadgate’s initial vowel is a short “e” like the metal – and he even sent me pictures of the church (20 miles away from him) where my great-great grandmother’s sister was married in 1854. He looked through the archives for those parish records and found one of the two I was looking for. And just for fun he sent me some pictures of Old Hall in Wessington, the ancestral home of George Washington.
I may have been able to repay the favor in kind a bit today, locating a newspaper article about one of his relatives who died in California in 1874. Jim knew the date, but not the circumstances, and I’m excited for him to read the article and see the death record and 120 page probate file I found!
The last week of correspondence with my new-found friend has been delightful. I look forward to more. My advice to you? Ask a question. You just never know where it might lead.
Did you see it? My husband and I did and I was overwhelmed by just how wondrous it was. I remember seeing a partial eclipse as a kid with my shoebox viewer and ever since I have wanted to see the full-meal deal.
Knowing just how short a drive it would be for me to see it, I’ve had the August 2017 one on my calendar for 18 months, and I even made my husband block it out on his calendar – paper and phone! – so we’d be sure to be able to go. As the scary hype increased – there will be 75 kajillion people on the roads – no gas, no cell service, no air left to breathe – we wondered if we were doing the right thing. But I knew if I didn’t at least try, I’d be kicking myself for the rest of my life for having missed it.
So we outfitted ourselves with supplies for any emergency, (we’ll be eating granola bars for the next 27 years!), we left early, and we made it with plenty of time to spare. My “It’s a once in a lifetime experience, we’ve gotta do it” argument to my husband immediately turned into “When’s the next one?!” search. Um...I think we’re looking at a genealogy-cum-solar-viewing trip to Illinois 8 April 2024, honey.
The eclipse got me wondering about my ancestors. I remember my dad saying his mom reminisced often about seeing Halley’s comet in 1910 when she was in her early 20s. I had the 1986 one on my radar for 20 years, waiting and waiting for the spectacle, but sorry to say it was kind of a bust. I’m not sure I’ll be around to see the 2061 comet return– it may take a medical miracle, but who knows.
But did my ancestors ever get to see a solar eclipse? Were they as thrilled as I was? I found a set of maps on the NASA website and looked across several decades from 1800 or so, just to see what I could find. I think a few of them might have been as lucky as Mark and I were to see this incredible display of nature’s wonder.
I’m not positive, but I think my great-great grandfather, Peter Bradley might have been living in Pennsylvania in time for the 26 April 1827 annular eclipse. I know his brother was there, attending seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland at the time. Nine years later, on 15 May 1836, an eclipse passed over Northern Ireland where my Graham ancestors lived. They might have been able to see the whole show, and I imagine my other ancestors elsewhere on the Emerald Isle could have seen something pretty close to totality. 1854 saw another one – John and Mary Devlin Fields were in Boston at the time and may have seen the show. My Fruhauf ancestors in Illinois might have been the luckiest of all – residents in their neighborhood saw eclipses in October 1865 and August 1869. Wow!
One passed over Northern California on New Year’s Day 1889 – my grandma who so enjoyed the comet was barely two months old at the time, but I imagine her parents might have seen it. As far as I know about where my ancestors were living, that 1889 was likely the last total solar eclipse any of my forebears might have seen. I guess I got pretty lucky to live in the right place and time to be able to check that experience off my bucket list.
How about your ancestors – have you mapped them on the eclipse paths? Check out the maps at https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/solar.html. Scroll down about 2/3s of the way to see the link to the maps. Let me know about your ancestors in the comments below.
I love FamilySearch. I love FamilySearch more every day. The records I have been able to find for my family just in the last week have included an 1854 church marriage record from County Durham in England, 1855 and 1857 baptismal records for that couple’s son and daughter, an 1885 Champaign County, Illinois marriage record, a 1931 Pierce County, Washington death certificate and more. I found all those images, for free, in just minutes, all from the comfort of my living room. Every day, FamilySearch adds more images to their vast collection of digitized records, which any researcher, anywhere in the world, can access to learn more about their family.
Many of these collections are not searchable by name on FamilySearch, but there are ways to browse the collections of images to find what you want. For example in addition to the volumes of death certificates for the City of Los Angeles, FamilySearch has also digitized the indexes to those volumes. Search for a name in the index volume to find the certificate number, and then look in the film of death certificates to find the actual certificate.
But I want to caution you a bit about the indexes. Sometimes FamilySearch puts the index books in the wrong place. What do I mean? Here’s an example.
FamilySearch has a wonderful collection, “California, County Birth and Death Records, 1800-1994.” (https://familysearch.org/search/collection/2001287). If you look on the page, you will see search boxes, but when you read the description, you’ll see some limitations – “The name index for death records covers Stockton, Lodi and Manteca cities and San Benito and San Joaquin counties.” If you want records for other counties, scroll to the bottom of this page to where it says “Browse through 2,915,415 images.”
When you click on that link, you’ll see a list of counties and towns. Here’s a small portion of that list.
“Los Angeles, Long Beach,” “Los Angeles, Los Angeles,” and “Los Angeles, Pasadena” will link you to records for those three cities, while plain old “Los Angeles” will give you records for the County of Los Angeles.
On FamilySearch when you drill down and click on the “Los Angeles, Los Angeles” link. Over 700 links will appear, starting with links to Birth Certificates, then Death Certificates, then finally, at the bottom of the list are the Death Indexes.
Since these records appear under the title “Los Angeles, Los Angeles, they should be just for the City of Los Angeles. Should be. But this is where the researcher needs to beware.
Here’s just one selection from the titles of the indexes:
Look carefully and you will see some overlap. “Death index 1928-1929 vol 14, A-L” and the same for “…M-Z.” But the item immediately below that is “Death index 1928 vol 22, A-Z” and then “Death index 1929 vol 23, A-Z.” Same years. Why are they repeated, and why do they have different volume numbers?
Here’s what I see when I click on the 1928-1929 volume 14 item:
Image 1 of 308 shows the cover of the book, perhaps the most important image in that set. Because, although FamilySearch has placed this digitized item in the “Los Angeles, Los Angeles” section of records, it is NOT for the City of Los Angeles, it’s for LA County.
Here is image 5 of the “Death index 1928 vol 22, A-Z”:
You can see it says “Los Angeles City” on the spine of the book.
If you find a certificate number in Volume 14, the book for Los Angeles County, and then try to look for it in the City of Los Angeles death records for 1928, it won’t be there. You’ll find whosoever's LA city death certificate has that number.
Be sure to look at the image of the spine of the book of records you're to see what it covers before you go diving into the index!
And the second issue is that when you look at plain old Los Angeles County, you won’t see an index to the LA county death certificates… because FamilySearch has incorrectly placed the index for the county under the “Los Angeles, Los Angeles” title.
I have alerted FamilySearch to this issue and hopefully they will correct it soon. This is just one instance of digital images being put in an incorrect location on FamilySearch. I know that there are probably a few more. If you don’t see what you expect to see, dig a little deeper, look at the images of the book covers, and see if you can figure out where the image you’re looking for might be. With all the great documents FamilySearch give me, this researcher is OK with having to beware and dig a little deeper once in a while.
Counties across the country use different methods to index their deeds, probates, naturalizations and other records. They are generally based on some alphabetical combination. It may be as simple as using separate sections of the index book for each surname that begins with a particular letter. All the grantors whose surnames begin with “A” are listed in order of when they recorded the deed. Or it might be a more complicated arrangement using two or three letters in the surname, perhaps combined with the first letter of the given name.
FamilySearch continues to digitize more records, making available record images that are not searchable by name and can only be browsed. But if you know how to use these county level indexes, you should have no trouble locating your ancestor in these valuable records.
I’ve written before about the Graves Tabular Initial Index and a West Virginia will index. I’ve been working on a presentation on the ins and outs of indexes for the Lewis County Genealogical Society next month, so I thought I’d write about using another indexing scheme.
Most counties I have run across have a set of Grantor indexes listing people who sold (or otherwise transferred) property, along with a similar set of Grantee indexes for people who purchased property. But Belmont County, Ohio combines the two into one set of books. How does that work?
To start with, you need to know the surname and first name of the party you are interested in. You can access the deed indexes for Belmont at https://familysearch.org/search/catalog/247145. Across the top of each page in the Deed Index for Belmont is a chart. The first letter of the surnames are listed across the page, and beneath each of these letters are the 26 letters corresponding to the first letter of the given name. Next to each of these letters is a page number where you will find that Last Name/Given Name combination listed.
Here’s the chart shown at the top of all the left-hand pages in the books:
I should find any transactions for Peter Cilles on page 72.
And when I go to page 72, here’s what I see for Peter:
You can see that there are 2 columns with names. The index only applies to the first column. Between the two “Name” columns is a narrow strip with either “to” or “F” (for “From”) recorded. In the first entry, Peter Chilles et al are transferring property TO Jno. M. Korcher. In the third entry, P. R. Cook et al are acquiring property FROM Mary Smith et al. Looking to the right we can see the volumes and pages where we can find the actual deeds (and get some idea who theses “et al” others actually are.) The index also gives a very brief description of the property, showing the number of acres, the Section, Township and Range where the property is located and what the transfer price was.
In this case Peter Cilles is my person of interest, and I now have all the information I need to find his deed. If Jno Korcher was my guy, the letter table above would point me to find the corresponding entry in the same book on page 225.
The transaction with Peter Cilles is the third one down, but you can see that John Korcher acquired a number of pieces of property in Section 25 around that same time.
This kind of index is an efficient way to search. You can find all the transactions for your ancestor for a given time span, both buying and selling, all in the same book. Happy hunting!
Boy, wouldn’t you like to be able to find your great-grandparents marriage record? But you feel like you have no idea where to start. Just take it one step at a time, and wring every clue out of every document, even those clues that are hidden.
I’m searching for the marriage record of Joseph Lawson and his wife, Katherine Fay. They married in 1894, according to a history book about the maritime history of the Great Lakes. Though the 1890 US Federal census was destroyed, I’m fortunate that New York State took a census in 1892 and I’ve found likely candidates for both Joseph and Katherine in Buffalo.
But the big problem with that 1892 census is there are no addresses on it. If I knew what her address was in 1892, I’d have some idea where she likely went to church, which might give me a clue where she was married so I can get the parish register. But with no address on the census, and the young lady I’m looking at a servant girl who isn’t listed in a city directory, I’m kind of stuck.
Katie is listed Fourth Election District of the Sixth Ward. I could probably do some research to figure out what that is, but it may be a big area, and I still won’t know her address. But I can dig a little into Katie’s household.
The 1892 census in Buffalo doesn’t separate the households in any way. Katie is the third name down, then I see a different surname, and then a bunch of people named Dechert, which looks like a new household to me. So I just need to scroll up Katie’s household in the previous column to see if I can find someone who looks like the head of Katie’s household.
The household has clerks and laborers, a hostler and some others, but as I scroll up, I see Francis McSherry a hotel keeper. This looks like his household and the dozen or so names beneath his are boarders in his establishment.
And I know a man with a hotel is likely to be listed in a city directory.
393 Ellicott. I have an address for Francis, which give me an address for Katie. And using that same city directory I can see Joseph Lawson lived at 420 Fargo in Buffalo.
With that address it ought to be pretty easy to map the Catholic churches around their two addresses, and start looking for their marriage record.
Wring every clue out of your documents, even those hidden clues.
 Profile of Joseph Lawson from History of the Great Lakes,( http://www.maritimehistoryofthegreatlakes.ca/GreatLakes/Documents/HGL2/default.asp?ID=s683 – accessed 25 July 2017)
My title is one of those adages I remember my father saying in my childhood. Dad wasn’t teaching me genealogy, but that lesson definitely should be applied to using the census. What were the instructions for the census taker, anyway?
Every ten years, enumerators knocked on doors and asked questions of the inhabitants of the houses. They filled in the responses on a one-page form. Before they began their duties, they were trained and given voluminous instructions.
For example, the 194 instructions to the 1910 census fill 11 pages. Regarding nativity and mother tongue, instruction #123 states “If the person was born abroad, but of American parents, write in column 12 both the birthplace and Am. cit.-that is, American citizen. If the person was born at sea, write At sea.”
A 1930 instruction regarding occupations states “Builders and contractors-Only persons engaged principally in securing and supervising the carrying out of building or other construction contracts should be returned as builders or contractors. Craftsmen who usually work with their tools should be returned as carpenters, plasterers, etc., and not as contractors.”
For the 1850 census there’s a specific instruction for men of the cloth, “When the individual is a clergyman, insert the initials of the denomination to which he belongs before his profession - as Meth. for Methodist, R.C. for Roman Catholic, O.S.P. for Old School Presbyterian, or other appropriate initials, as the fact may be.” That little notation may help you find a church record when you research the name of the clergyman on your ancestor’s marriage record.
The enumerators were given detailed instructions as to just what sorts of responses were acceptable. If you want to understand what they wrote, you need to understand what they were allowed to write as a suitable answer. A wonderful website, IPUMS, the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, holds lists of all the census questions and instructions for the US Federal Census from 1850 through 2000 and beyond. You can find it at https://usa.ipums.org/usa/voliii/tEnumForm.shtml. It will provide answers to questions you never knew you had.
Before you look at any census, be sure to read the instructions!
“Miss Rosella Graham, daughter of A. D. Graham of El Verano, was run down by a team of horses Tuesday while riding a bicycle. She is still suffering for the effects of the injuries, which will not prove fatal.”
Thank goodness those injuries did not prove fatal. Rosella, was my great aunt, and I have fond childhood memories of all 4’11” of this little old lady. She joined the Bradley family when she married my grandmother’s brother, Hilary Bradley, in 1913. Rose died in 1985, somewhere in her mid- to late-90s. It’s not clear exactly how old she was, because when she married Hilary, she was at least a few years older than he. She didn’t want anyone to know, so she burned, buried or otherwise destroyed any evidence, lying about her age… until she hit 90, when it because something of a status symbol to have lived so long. By then she wanted to take full advantage of the respect accorded to such a venerable character and she raised her age by 2 (or 3) years between the birthday celebrations.
I’m visiting California for “The Bradley Picnic,” a reunion of the Bradley family. I came a few days early and my dear sister, Diane, who knows how passionate I am about my genealogy, offered to drop me off at the Santa Rosa library while she ran some errands. Talk about hog heaven! And scrolling through newspapers, I found the above article about the bicycle and the horses.
At our picnic yesterday, I mentioned it to Rose’s granddaughter and her husband, Mary and Len. Mary recalled the story, remembering seeing evidence of the injury years later, a “hole” in Rose’s thigh that never quite healed. The story as Mary recalled was that Rose was hit by a car, not a team of horses. Rose never placed any blame on the driver, saying it was her own fault for riding into the road right in front of the vehicle. But the cool part of the story was the identity of the driver. Not mentioned in the newspaper, but according to Rose (well Mary’s recollection of what Rose told her), it was none other than Jack London. Rose reported that Jack London had the first automobile in Sonoma.
After the party ended, I spent a little time trying to research this. Could it have been Jack London? He certainly was in town that week, and he loved his horses. The Press Democrat from 9 June 1905, reported that London had recently ridden from Sonoma to Santa Rosa to see his good friend, Luther Burbank. “Frequently during the last two or three months, Mr. London and Miss Kittredge have enjoyed horseback rides all over the Sonoma Valley and to Santa Rosa, Altruria and other places. Both are passionately fond of horseback riding.” A few years later he spoke about his Sonoma farm to a reporter for the Sacramento Union, “’I’ve the finest lot of horses over there you’d see anywhere… just see’ – he rolled up the sleeve of his right arm and proudly exhibited a rigid muscle – ‘got that from driving a four-horse team. I’ve sailed a bit in my time and done other hard work, but I never developed that muscle until I took to driving. It’s great.’”
I searched the newspapers to see if I could confirm a story about London owning an automobile but I found nothing. A man of his means could very well have had the first auto in the town. Maybe London was driving an auto and spooked a horse-drawn wagon causing the collision with Rosella. But it’s also clear London enjoyed driving a team of horses. So maybe Rose did collide with Jack. And knowing me, this is probably not the end of my research into this story. I’ll keep you posted.
I’m sure glad I found that article about Rose and the bicycle just in time for the Bradley picnic and the opportunity to hear a bit more about it from her granddaughter. Do you have a family story about a celebrity? Have you proved it or disproved it? Feel free to post a comment below and tell me your story.
 Petaluma Morning Courier, 3 June 1905, page 4, col. 3
 Press Democrat, 9 June 1905, page 7, col. 2
 “Jack London Fulfills His Youthful Vows With Sutter Fort Pilgrimage,” Sacramento Union, 9 December 1912, page 1 col 5 and page 3 col. 5
I recently presented “Censational Census Strategies” for Legacy Family Tree Webinars. In it, I mentioned the second enumeration to the 1870 census.
The 1870 census is purported to be the worst US census ever taken. There were enough people missed and enough errors that a second enumeration was ordered for a few large cities, including New York City. This second enumeration was taken in January of 1871. How can you find this second enumeration?
If you have an Ancestry.com subscription, you can do a search for the 1870 census. Once you get there, on the right side of the screen you will see "Browse this collection" and you can specify your state (NY) county (NY) and then use the dropdown for the town and you will see something like: “New York Ward 1 District 1,” then ”New York Ward 1 District 1 (2nd Enum).” You can then browse through the pages. However, you may not know the Enumeration District (ED.)
If you don’t have an Ancestry.com subscription, you may have access to HeritageQuest databases from home using your library card. This is one of the databases many libraries provide to their patrons, for free, from home. Look on your library’s website for something like “Research“ or “Databases” and then for a Genealogy or History category. Again, if you don’t know your ancestor’s ED, this might not be so useful.
I would suggest you just do a straight up name search for your ancestor, and try to find them on both enumerations. If you can only find them on one, pick 3 or 4 neighbors on that enumeration, and then look for them on the other enumeration, and see if you can't find your ancestor. Hope that helps!
When you’ve found your family on the census, do you look at the last page in their Enumeration District (ED)? Maybe you should.
When the census enumerator completed his rounds and had a list of every name in the district, often he had to make a copy. But what if he missed a name when rewriting the list? He might have listed all those missing names at the end of the ED.
You can get to these final pages of an ED on Ancestry by looking at image numbers. Here’s an image from an ED in San Bruno, San Mateo, California in 1940.
You can navigate to any image within this ED simply by typing the image number in the box at the bottom. You can see I’m on Image 54 or 55, so right near the end. Look carefully at this page, and you will see that the third and fourth columns, “House No.” and “Visited No.” are quite out of order. Almost everyone on this page “belonged” in a household which was enumerated on a previous page. Perhaps the enumerator forgot to write them down on his original list and had to “catch up” at the end.
If you are using FamilySearch for your census images, you also have an option to select a particular image in the set.
Some enumerators even used the last page of their counts to write some notes about what they encountered while performing their census duties.
Make sure to check the last pages for all the enumeration districts you look at. You just never know what you might see there!
For more census tips, check out my "Censational Census Strategies" webinar on Legacy Family Tree webinars, or look for the category "Census" here on my blog.
Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.