Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Preserving South African History
For the true Genealogists in you, I know you have at least been wondering where would a country like South Africa turn to for an account of its history? The answer…depends on your ancestral heritage.
It should surprise no one that there is a 1) Genealogical Society of South Africa. Yes, you will find information on gravestones, a collection of 2) Family Bibles with genealogical information, and early 3) Church Registers and Baptisms (1745 - 1912). Like FindaGrave.com and BillionGraves.com, you will be pleased to know volunteers have added over a half a million gravestone photos to the 4) Gravestones in South Africa project.
Researchers of historical topics of South Africa will find an impressive collection also at the 5) National Archives of South Africa (NASA) website, which provides searchable finding aids for various topics. Here are a few of the databases of interest.
What about the Slave History?
Slavery existed in South Africa from 1653, Cape Town, until 1834 when it was abolished. (Yes, before the USA - it was under the British Empire nonetheless). This only granted ex slaves a life of forced indentured servants under their former slave owners. The “mandatory” apprenticeship of indentured servants did not end until about 1840. So where are these records? What more is available? Where would the“Nelson Mandela” family find information on his family history.
There are resources to searching South African genealogists. Websites (many searchable, or at minimum with a finding aid) can be found to cover every thing from 6) British 1820 Settlers to South Africa to the 7) Jewish South African SIG and database. There's the 8) University College, London database to assist descendants of slave owners trace their ancestors' involvement in the Mauritus, and Cape Colony slave trade. But what about the enslaved? Or indigenous Khoikhoi, as for true history of South Africa?
Suggestions for Enslaved Research?
Of course oral family history is essential, but there’s more, at least for Mauritians. Researchers may wish to visit the Nelson Mandela Centre for 9) African Culture Slave Database to learn more of their Mauritian slave history.
Others are joining the 10) Cape Coloured DNA Ancestry Project, that began in 2007, tracing their ancestry to the south African slave trade.
Accurate, Accessible Answers
Posted by Kathleen Brandt at 8:36 PM
Monday, December 2, 2013
|Photo: Babies Buried at Hart|
We know "Potter’s Field" as land set aside for burials in unmarked graves; often paupers and the poor and indigents' burials. But, “potter’s field” actually originates from the Bible- the Gospel of Matthew. When Judas Iscariot was overcome with remorse for accepting the thirty pieces of silver to betray Jesus, he returned the coins to the temple. However, the priests would not accept the thirty pieces of silver, deeming it “blood money.” Instead the silver was used to buy land to bury the poor and foreigners. The purchased land had once been owned by a pot-maker, so it was known henceforth as “potter’s field.” (For a longer version visit: The World Detective.)
Where to Find Records
Although it would not be feasible to name all of the nation’s Potter’s Field burial record locations, here are a few frequently referenced Potter's Field record holdings:
- New Orleans Public Library's Louisiana Division & City Archives. "Potter's Field" Records, 1842-1843 . [Filed under call number mf LMC430 1838-1841]
- Hart Island,
NY. Don’t be fooled by the location name. This New
York City owned Potter’s Field has a rich history beginning in 1868. Be sure to
visit the Searchable Database. In New York, Washington Square Park was once also a potter’s
field. To learn of the earlier New York City Potter’s Field visit the Frequently
At a3Genealogy, we find that we are called to research Hart Island burials frequently; especially for children. Here is a disturbing, yet informative article: What We Found At Hart Island, The Largest Mass Grave Site In the US. For more recent burials, visit The Hart IslandProject: New York City public burials 1980-2008
3 Tips to Locating Ancestral Burial Place
- Begin with A Local Search. The local Potter’s Field was the answers to not only the burying the poor and unclaimed remains, but also to epidemic deaths, prisoner burials and for those not permitted to be buried on the church grounds. The smallest of towns seem to have a Potter’s Field. Often land was set aside adjacent to a City Cemetery for indigent burials. Such is the case with Hutchison, KS, Eastside Cemetery.
Tip: Begin with the last known residence of your ancestor and check the area for Potter’s Field. At a3Genealogy we begin with a 200 mile radius (especially in rural areas), but know our Kansas ancestors have been located in Chicago; and our North Carolina ancestors interred in New York.
- Learn About the Record Collection. Like many historical collections, Potter’s Field records may not be complete. Even the NYC Hart Island records are missing two volumes of infant burial records, spanning 1977 to 1981. So be sure to understand the shortcomings of the records and collections.
Historical cemetery names have changed and often the burial sites have been moved or expanded. Here’s an example from the Kansas City Times, 23 March 1972 account of Potter's Field:
In 1911, the Union Cemetery of Kansas City closed their Potter's Field. In May 1911, the new Potter's Field opened at the Municipal Farms and was known as Leeds Cemetery…” “Grave sites were marked with a metal stake that had the name of the deceased written on paper and held under a piece of glass. A few of the stakes can be found, but no names or marked grave sites have survived. All that remains is rough, hilly land covered by trees and scrub. This was known as Section #1 and had burials from 1911-1934. Section # 2 was opened in 1934 and had burials until 1965. This section was on the west side of I-435 while Section #1 was on the east side of I-435. The address for section #2 is 6900 Coalmine Road. It was the area where the police firing range is now located. The graves in Section #2 were marked with cement cylinders with numbers on them and each burial was given a number. Some of these remain in place.
- Research Historical Context: Were Ethnic Burials Allowed? Evergreen Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in Los Angeles, parceled land for indigent burials as early as 1877. This ethnically segregated cemetery held designated sections for Armenians, Japanese, Chinese, early white settlers, and a large section of Mexican graves, and acreage for indigent persons was set aside. Evergreen Cemetery historically allowed African-Americans to be buried at the cemetery also.
Ownership of the indigent cemetery passed from the City to the County of Los Angeles in 1917 - 1924. In 1924 Los Angeles chose to cremate the remains of their lost and abandoned and built a crematorium: Boyle Heights. We have located a listings of Boyle Heights burials, void of in-depth genealogical information.
The Jewish Cemetery Mt. Zion, Los Angeles, was created as a cemetery for the Jewish indigent between 1916 and 1919. There are over 6800 burials at Mt. Zion. Researchers can find the indexed listings on JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry(JOWBR). The Hebrew name may be provided.
With a little digging, may you unearth your ancestor!
Accurate, accessible answers
Posted by Kathleen Brandt at 1:04 AM
Sunday, December 1, 2013
|You Can Order One|
Visit the 23andMe site to learn more on the product.
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Your name will be entered into a drawing. (Must meet all requirements by 5:00pm Dec 22). Winner will be confirmed Dec 23rd. Just in time for the holidays.
Posted by Kathleen Brandt at 12:04 PM
Monday, November 11, 2013
Veteran's Day Includes All Wars
Most of us know the 1919 history of Armistice Day. We may also know that 11 Nov 1938 it became a Federal Holiday to recognize and honor WWI veterans. The recognition of American soldiers was extended to “American veterans of all wars.” 1 June 1954 thanks to President Eisenhower. So that would include the early wars. Early war veterans were most often recognized locally way before Armistice Day, especially in small towns across America.
Using City Directories
Local researchers may find their veteran ancestor featured in newspapers, local town histories, and even in city directories. Families were sometimes elevated to “local celebrity status.”
In 1888 the Des Moines City Directory noted its Sons of Veterans and highlighted officers of the Iowa Prisoners of War Associations way before the 1919 Armistice Day and decades before the official 8 Oct 1954 Veterans Day Proclamation.
The 1892 City Directory not only lists the Sons of Veterans information but also the Union Veteran’s Union (Civil War).
Posted by Kathleen Brandt at 6:30 AM
Saturday, November 9, 2013
Hildebrand Gurlitt and Forensic Genealogy
Few are as fortunate as those researching Hildebrand Gurlitt, his family, the Gurlitt Gallery and his business operations. If you have been following the news, Hidebrand Gurlitt is probably a household name. He was an art dealer before, during, and after the war. Recently his art collection - some acquired legally, other looted pieces, or hidden to keep safe - valued at over $1.3 billion dollars was discovered in his son Cornelius Gurlitt’s Munich flat. Hildebrand died 9 Nov 1956. The art included Nazi confiscated pieces and many classics. There was a copper engraving of a crucifixion scene by Albrecht Dürer from the 16th century. For a good briefing on the news visit The Economist.
What few realize is that Gurlitt was thoroughly questioned by the Unites States, France and other world governments, so post-War documents - lists of art pieces, and correspondence between he and various agencies - is in abundance. The correspondence included lists of his inventory which identified works of Picasso, Degas, Chagall, Matisse. All of these collector favorites passed through the Gurlitt Gallery.
In 1945, when Hildebrand Gurlitt was being questioned for his art dealings, young Cornelius was only 12 years old and sibling Renate, 10. But it was Cornelius who became the custodian (legal or not) of the art.
Genealogy of Hildebrand Gurlitt
The genealogy and official biography of Dr. Hildebrand Gurlitt is outlined for us in his 10 page Oath dated 10 Jun 1945. Gurlitt included in his Oath a “full and complete declaration” of his art, as required by the post-war investigation. The Office of Military Government, U.S. Zone (Germany) (OMGUS) were attempting to return the original pieces to their rightful owners. Visit a3Genealogy Hildebrand Gurllitt Oath and Genealogy page for his full declaration dated 10 Jun 1945..
The family history Gurlitt provided to OMGUS spanned several generations and provides researchers substantial information.
What’s Next? Forensic Genealogy
Uncovering the art pieces is only the first step of the long process of returning the valuable art pieces to their rightful owners and families. Who were the owners, who are the heirs? What is the fate of these wonderful pieces of history? These are some of the looming questions.
There are many post-war letters salvaged in governmental records in France, the US, and other countries requesting their art to be returned; therefore, owner’s names can be verified for some pieces. Sometimes addressed envelopes were salvaged in the various post war collections providing clues of residence for the heir researcher. Gurlitt also kept accurate records for pieces that were legally acquired, and provided accounts of the Gallery pieces to the post-war investigators of various countries.
However, time will seem to stand still, as lawyers, forensic genealogist specialists, private investigators, and others, research to locate families and heirs.
Note: In the US, the Gurlitt Investigation information, documents and records are held at the National Archives and Records Administration; much is in the Ardelia Hall Collection.
Researcher, Forensic Genealogist
Private Investigator, MO Lic #2012006814
Posted by Kathleen Brandt at 2:24 PM
Friday, November 8, 2013
What Types of Tax Lists?
There were poll tax, real property tax (land), and personal property tax (slaves, cattle, horses). And let’s not forget the tithing states, like Virginia; and early quit-rent taxes paid by landowners before Revolutionary War in Colonial America. Again these can be analyzed.
In Virginia the 1790 and 1800 census schedules were lost (ever wonder how that happened?), but tithable men were enumerated. Tithable monies were important to pay for the maintenance of the local churches and parishes. It was through a tithable Virginia list that we located Tim McGraw’s ancestor Isaac Chrisman in VA.
Since tax lists were created annually, with a bit analysis, the researcher can…
- Narrow birth years of males (when are they initially named on the tax lists). Know your states’ laws for the year as to when a male (son) must be listed individually and not enumerated with the father.
- Differentiate men of the same names. .
- Track families that were not landowners. If they were not landowners, researchers rarely find a probate or will.
In addition to substituting census records, we find that tax lists are especially useful when paired with pre-1850 census records.
A great article on analyzing tax lists and the possibilities of solving research problems is provided on the FamilySearch.org Wiki: Kentucky Tax Records. Even if you aren’t researching in Kentucky, this article is helpful. Here’s a small excerpt:
A study of tax lists across time would reveal which of the three men named John Jones owned land. The land could be identified by location and tract. The acquisition and disposal of the land can be tracked for each man. With this knowledge, deeds and land grants can be checked. Deeds may reveal the wife’s name. This may now have helped pinpoint which John Jones married Sintha Smith. John Jones’ relationship to the other Jones men in the neighborhood can then be studied.
Where to Begin
Here are three key points to tax lists analysis:
|Virginia Early Laws|
- Know the law of the county/state of interest
- Also, stay mindful of the state and county map formations. As noted, Kentucky and West Virginia were in present day Virginia in 1783.
- Obtain copies of the original lists. Transcribed copies may not be exact: are the names in order as recorded?, typos?, etc. Researchers may find copies of original records on line, on subscribed websites, or order the microfilm copy from the Family History Library (FHL). Be creative when using keywords on the FHL. A recent search for “tithable” led us to the following title: The 1787 census of Virginia : an accounting of the name of every white male tithable over 21 years, the number of white males between 16 & 21years, the number of slaves over 16 & those under 16 years, together with alisting of their horses, cattle & carriages, and also the names of all persons to whom ordinary licenses and physician's licenses were issued. This title was used in lieu of “1787 Tax Lists of Virginia.” (Note: to activate link, login may be necessary)
For More Information (and Case Studies)
|Tennessee Early Tax (ancestry.com)|
- Early Tax List Records for Tennessee, 1783-1895, may be digitized on ancestry.com. This database collection includes 71 Tennessee counties. Originals of Tennessee salvaged tax lists may be found at the State Library and Archive.
- Visit Library of Virginia: Colonial Tithables
- A collection of free scanned microfilm Virginia Tax Lists - early City Tax Lists, County Tax Lists, and Colonial Lists - may be found at the Binns Genealogy website.
- Tax Lists (1792-1840) An Overlooked Resource for Kentucky History and Land Title
Mississippi County Tax Rolls, 1818-1902. Recently the a3Genealogy researchers were able to use these tax rolls to identify the correct slaveholder and slave family.
Accurate, accessible answers
Posted by Kathleen Brandt at 2:07 AM
Saturday, October 12, 2013
|Sally Grimes, daughter of Gabriel Winston|
Kinships Named: Parents and Maiden Names
As family researchers and genealogists, one of our common brick-walls is a result of the lack of resources to confirm kinships. Familiar relationships, parents’ names, maiden names are all needed to complete family units, but what happens when we’ve exhausted all the normal resources - census, wills/probates, deeds, vital records, church records…etc.? Well, hopefully the researcher has not overlooked Chancery Records when they are available.
What are Chancery Court Records?
Chancery Court records hold a wealth of genealogical information. Although not necessarily a part of every states’ historical legal system, when available it will behoove the researcher to take more than a cursory glance at these genealogical-rich documents. Researchers will find personal testimonies that include family relationships. In some states (i.e. Virginia, Tennessee, etc) chancery court records are available from the early 18th century through early 1900’s. In Virginia alone there are over 233,000 multi-paged cases. More on Virginia Chancery Courts can be found at this informative piece on ancestry.com.
What is Next Friend?
Of course the key to understanding any court record relies on period vocabulary. In the Chancery Court record of Sally Grimes of Hanover County, VA vs. Joseph Grimes, Sally’s father Gabriel Winston is identified as both “father” and “next friend.”
A next friend can be considered the person who represents and speaks on behalf of the plaintiff. The next friend may be a parent, a guardian, an older sibling , etc. By no means should the researcher assume it is a parent or even a relationship. We have uncovered many next friends proven not to be of blood relation. In many cases the next friend is identified, removing the tempting guessing game and solidly identifying kinships. This is most useful, when also looking for a maiden name.
Accurate, accessible answers
Posted by Kathleen Brandt at 12:18 AM