Friday, July 12, 2024

Southern Militia Ancestors Hiding in the Bush


The Militia - A Forgotten Resource to Solving Brickwalls
How can we forget the center? In the Bush Family episode of Hittin' the Bricks with Kathleen we cover with our guest Bonnie the importance of tying land deeds to the Cherokee Removal Act military service in Indiana and Missouri. If you are overlooking these records in researching your ancestors from Ohio, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin, you may be overlooking exactly what you need. 

I mean really, was there ever a time when the military or militia did not exist in America's history? Wars, conflicts, or "Indian Removal" (1795-1846) records, such as the Cherokee Removal efforts, often undertaken by the military or the state militia, hold the ties needed to break through our brickwall. Remember, even in the midwestern states of Indiana, Illinois and Missouri, land grants were issued to those who served in the militia.

We know the state militias joined the federal troops in efforts to remove the Cherokee from their ancestral lands. Militias were not granted land explicitly as payment for their services, but the broader context of land redistribution and economic gain was a significant motivating factor the removal of the Cherokee people. Just know, it’s possible that the state or federal government offered lands as part of a larger strategy to populate and develop the western territories following the removal of the Cherokee and other tribes. This would align with the broader goals of westward expansion and consolidation of U.S. territory during the 19th century.

Brickwall? Where Else to Look?
Keep in mind that early guard units merged with the states' milita. These records can be located at the State level. 
Land Applications
National Archives Catalog: Land Patents, 1789 - 2012
Eastern States Land Patents

Although the land patents 1789 - 2012 Eastern States are not yet avaialable online, they are located in RG 49:Records of the Bureau of Land Management. Here is a great place to start Indian Bounty Land Applications

Land Lotteries and Distribution
In states like Georgia, land that was formerly occupied by the Cherokee was redistributed through land lotteries. These lotteries allowed citizens, including militia members, to acquire parcels of land at little or no cost. This redistribution of land served as an indirect reward for those who supported or participated in the removal process.

New Jersey National Guard records
If all else fails, contact the Adjutant Generals' office. They can guide researchers to the archived records.

Kathleen Brandt

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Court Record Hierarchy for Research

By scouring county and state court cases, and court appeals family researchers may have luck with their brickwall project. Using Indiana as an example, here's a basic hierarchy to the court systems. Each state though has it's nuances.  Listen in to the case of Benjamin!

Need an example? Listen in to a brickwall case using court records. 

5 Answers via Court Cases
Here are recent brickwalls annihilated using court records dating from 1797 in Delaware to a more recent 19th century Indiana death:
  1. A wrongful death (often caused by company/railroad neglect), providing a death date and details of the incident.
  2. Names of a family unit that can be used to unscramble common names.
  3. Immigration, settlement and estate details most often come to the forefront when discussing land and property cases.
  4. Unearthing your colonial ancestors.
  5. Slave research holes and slave holder names (and sometimes slave parent names), manumission dates, etc.  The Delaware Reports that reviewed cases decided through appeals proffer answers (and questions) of the fate of a few slaves.
Where are the Court and Legal Records?
Let's take a look at Indiana, but know that every state has the same types of record groups. Just know that some states have court records with other names: Prothonotary, Court of Common Pleas, Chancery, etc. 

3 Tips for Genealogy Travel
1) Remember some state repositories are closed Mondays or Saturdays. 
2) Some repositories require appointments. Set those up in advance
3) Scour online catalogs and digitized materials early. Send your repository archivist/librarian your wish list in advance. They can often have records pulled in advance. 
4) Assign your repositores and sites you wish to visit a Tier Level. Tier 1: must go to, Tier 2, Any recommendation provided while on site, or if Tier 1 was a bust, quality research spots to support your genealogical questions, etc. Tier 3: what can you visit off hours (cemeteries, public libraries that close late, etc. 

For example, if I were to go off to Indiana (which I am this summer), I've organize a few essential repositories to visit. I have three areas within abt 60 minutes fo hotel that I will be visiting: Marion County (Indianpolis); and Delaware County (Muncie), and maybe Hendricks County.

Marion County - Indianapolis

Indiana State Archives and Records Administration. Open Mondays.  Request in advance so docs can already be pulled. If you work with an archivist, get the their name. Networking is great. Most of the information is in boxes, and some documents may be cheaper to pay for them to send to you in advance of your trip. State Archives and Records have state and federal records. Make an appt for the reading room in advance. You'd hate to be on your trip and unable to visit a Tier 1, because you forgot to make an appointment.

Indiana State Library has mostly books, but may have references on Tier 2 or Tier 3 sites that can guide you. They do cover the whole state! They are open Mondays. They also have some special collections, and microfilm collection.  If possible, access microfilms from home. You may have to visit a familysearch library to access many of Indiana court records.

Indiana State Historical SocietyClosed Mondays. They have mostly personal papers and manuscripts. 

Delaware County - Muncie
Muncie Carnegie Public Library. They have the Delaware County court records (circuit, recorder, probate and divorces); not state records.

Genealogical Society of Marion County For full access know that man genealogical societies are supported by paying members. Non-paying visitors can access a limited number of resources.  Just keep in mind, if they can assist you, be sure to support their efforts.  

Delaware County Genealogical Society This collection is located in the Delaware County District Library; Open only Thurs and Sat. with limited hours. They may have county resources that others do not have, like the Delaware Gazette and other Delaware newspapers

Don’t Overlook the Following
Although most court records and cases can be located in the local courts, state archives or state historical societies, you will want to expand your court case search to the following:
·         Google Search. A simple google search may yield answers to your ancestors' (or his heirs') court cases.  We were able to find answers using the Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of Judicature of the State of Indiana, for details of a railroad accidental death. This case also provided proof of (sibling) orphans, and grandparents’ names, taking our research back one more generation.  For this search we gathered hints, but not details, from the newspaper: The Indianapolis Journal.
·         National Archives, County Record Group 21 (RG21). Records of District Courts of the United States: If the researcher is looking for a trial court for federal jurisdiction, begin your search with RG21 (Record Group).  Remember these records are housed by regional National Archives. Here is an idea of what can be found at the National Archives at Chicago.

Kathleen Brandt

Friday, June 21, 2024

A Gem: Southern Claims Commission Case Files

I would be remiss if I did not share a favorite presentation of a3Genealogy entitled Claim It! which highlights the Southern Claims Commission Case Files. I also wanted to provide a few updates, for example, I learned recently, many did not know there was a Master Index on

That should get you started.  But you will want to really scour the archives.  By the way, just because your ancestor did not make a claim, or mentioned in the index, does not mean he (or she) is not mentioned in the neighbors' claims. I have a tendency of reading quite a few claims in the community to unscramble relationships. 

Why Research Southern Claims Commission Case Files?

This record collection can lead the family researcher / genealogists to uncover more on their ancestors, as it holds a wealth of historical information on the community, kinships, and proof of applicants’ claims.


Plantation conditions

Vital records

Location of residence(s)

War service

Property ownership

Name changes


Slave ownership: often with names

Slave loyalty 

 Making a Claim: Who, What, When, Where & How  

Q: Who could make a claim?  And, Who did it? 

A: Union Loyalists / Supporters. This included property owners during the Civil War, former slaves and free born coloreds.  Basically, if it was your ancestors’ property, and they allowed for the Union Army/Navy to use their property, and can prove it, many filed a claim. There were 22, 298 claims and about 220,000 witnesses.  Witness may have been a slave or ‘free-colored.” 

QWhat could be claimed?
       A: Property. This was a property Reimbursement procedure put in place.

Q: When could the union loyalists/supporters make the claim?
     A: 1871-1873

 Q: Where (or Which) states were eligible?
       A: 12 southern state

     Q. How to make a claim?
     A: With proof and most often witnesses. Researchers will find proof in the form of a petition accompanied by testimonies; depositions of witnesses and reports penned by special agents.

 Slaveholder, Ex-Slave, Free Coloreds

As mentioned, the claims were based on reimbursement for the Union to use property (horse, mule, food from storage, slave, etc. But, the claims were a bit different to prove 1) ownership 2) proof of value.

 Slaveholder had to provide proof of …

  • Being an abolitionist or union supporter
  • Owning a plantation and having a loss
  • Claimant information to prove kinships
  • Places of residences
  • Wills and probates if pertinent to the claim (ownership)

 Free- Coloreds had to provide proof of …

  • Legally manumitted: manumission papers proof
  • War Service
  • Proof of kinship, inheritance

Slave: Ex slaves could also claim but had to prove...

  • Slaveholder information
  • War Service (contraband)
  • Name Changes
  • Property Ownership

Where are the Records
These records have been digitized on and The originals and microfilmed versions are held in NARA Record Group 217 for the approved / settled claims.  For more information read NARA Southern Commission Case Files and Approved Case Files, 1871 - 1880 

Disallowed (failed to prove), and barred claims (often because they did not meet the deadline of 3 Mar 1873), can be found in RG233, House of Representatives or at Fold3 partially digitized. (We've had 100% success of uncovering the counties for our clients on Fold3.  But some county records may notbe included here and only located at NARA. 

Slave Compensation Claims

Although this will require a separate blog, let’s not confuse the Southern Claims Commission Case Files with the Slave Compensation Claims which was compensation for loss of slave’s free labor.

Slave Compensation Claims allowed loyal slaveholders in the Boarder States, think Kentucky, Missouri, Delaware, Maryland (and some neighboring states), to be compensated for permitting their slaves to enlist in the Union efforts ($300); or were drafted ($100).

More to come on Slave Compensation Claims.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Military Records Lost in Fire? Let's Reconstruct Them!

 All Is Not Lost. What Are the Next Steps

The July 12, 1973 fire at the St. Louis National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) destroyed approximately 80% of Army personnel records from 1 Nov 1912 to 1 Jan 1960; and, 75% of the Air Force records from 25 Sep 1947 to 1 Jan 1964. In all, between 16 to 18 million military service files, including those for WWI and WWII, were destroyed. However, this loss should not discourage researchers from uncovering an ancestor's military experience.

With a bit of perseverance and legwork family researchers can rebuild an ancestor's military service history using alternative sources. The result may be confirmation of military service dates, troop activities, discharge data, a list of awards and decorations, and perhaps even a peek at your veteran's medical information.

Getting Started
To begin the process of reconstructing your veteran's military experience, first gather vital information, such as birth date and place of birth, as well as death date and social security number (if applicable). Your veteran's unique service number may also be needed. Through the use of ledgers from enlistment stations and service number indexes, the NPRC can usually determine your ancestor's service number.

This information will be used to complete the Request Pertaining to Military Records, Standard Form 180 (SF-180) Military Record Requests Using Standard Form 180 (SF-180) .

With the help of state and federal agencies, the NPRC has been diligently reconstructing veteran personnel files. Fire damaged records are stored in a climate-controlled area and treated for mold by NPRC preservationists' technicians. It is possible that your veteran's entire service file was salvaged, or has been partially restored or reconstructed. When received, the NPRC will use the SF-180 form to retrieve available documents or may inform the researcher that the veteran's file is in the process of being reconstructed.

Useful Resources
Upon discharge, each veteran is presented with papers that outline their military service including unit information, rank, dates of service and discharge. These discharge papers, now referred to as Report of Separation (DD214), may list date and place of entry into active duty and home address at time of entry. It provides any battles and campaigns that the veteran participated in, as well as decorations, medals, citations and campaign awards. It also lists service outside Continental US specifying the destination, date of departure and arrival. The reason for separation and the home address after separation is also included. For more information on DD214 reference About Military Service Records and Official Military Personnel Files .

Copies of discharge papers were stored in the veteran's personnel file and few were saved after the 1973 fire. Although it is possible to locate copies of the originals held by employers, funeral homes, or within the Adjutant General records, most likely the researcher will have to use Last Pay Vouchers, Veteran Affairs (VA records), Passport Applications, and naturalization records as alternate sources to finding vital information held on the DD214. Reconstructing this information is the key to rebuilding your ancestor's military service file.

Last Pay Voucher


A collection of 19 million final pay vouchers is available and may be used as a primary source for reconstructing military service records lost in the 1973 fire. Often the SF-180 response to a researcher's inquiry will verify the existence of a veteran's Last Pay Voucher. If available, the NPRC will provide ordering instructions (usually a fee of $20.00) for the researcher to obtain a pay voucher. Even this lone record can reveal a military footprint of your ancestor's service history.

Although this last pay voucher may appear to be a sheet of scribbles and numbers, a keen eye may uncover some interesting hints. If the service number was not known prior, it can usually be found on the voucher. Place and date of enlistment, along with rank, company and regiment may be named. The discharged date and any information where the veteran was stationed will be specified. Itemized payments allocated for overseas service will also be itemized on the final pay voucher.

If the veteran received any decorations - medals or ribbons - this too will be listed and replacement medals and ribbons may be ordered. For ordering information visit Military Awards and Decorations.

Be sure to note if travel pay was granted. Where the veteran chose to reside upon discharge is normally noted with the travel pay allocation. This information may assist the researcher in locating a copy of the DD214 held at the state's Adjutant General's office.Adjutant General Records

The Adjutant General, appointed by the state Governor (except for Vermont, Washington, D.C., and South Carolina), is the state's senior military officer and "de facto" commander. The Adjutant General's office has historically held military records for the state. Upon discharge, veterans were instructed to register their military service with the local VA offices. This information was filed with the state Adjutant General's office. If the military discharge was registered, the Adjutant General's Office may hold copies of the original separation or DD214 papers.

To solicit a copy of your veteran's DD214 from the Adjutant General's Office you may need to submit the SF-180 form. Due to archival space, Adjutant General's archived records, up to WWII, may be held at the State Historical Society or within the State Archives.Department of Veterans Affairs (VA Records)

Many of the veteran service records were on loan to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) prior to the fire, leaving them intact. If the veteran or beneficiary filed a claim before July 1973, the VA may have information. If the VA claim was made after 1973, the veteran had to prove military service, so the VA office may already have a partially reconstructed personnel file and may be able to aide the researcher in locating claim files.


While searching for a veteran's file, the VA was able to determine which Veteran's Record Center was holding the record I needed. In this case it was the VA Records Center in Dayton, OH. The file revealed an unknown medical condition to the family, plus, a medical discharge letter explaining the "Certificate of Disability for Discharge."

Local VA offices may also be of assistance. To verify VA information call toll free number at 1-800-827-1000.Medical-Related Alternate Records

In 1988, a collection of computer tapes containing ten million hospital/treatment facility admission records was transferred to the NPRC. To initiate a search of Medical-Related Alternate Records complete Form 13055, Request for Information Needed to Reconstruct Medical Data, PDF here . This is the most comprehensive collection to reconstruct military medical records.Death Certificate/Funeral Records

Funeral records and death certificates should be checked for additional veteran's information. These records may hold copies of separation papers or the DD214. Death certificates may specifically list injuries or illnesses caused during military service. For burial benefits, additional veteran information may even be scribbled in the margin.Morning Report

When reconstructing a veteran's service record, information on troop activities, actions, and daily routines can be helpful. This can be found in daily Morning Reports. Army Morning Reports are available at the NPRC for 1 November 1912 to 1974. Air Force Morning reports are available from September 1947 to June 30, 1966. For detailed information on availability see Morning Reports and Unit Rosters.

Morning Reports are available on microfilm and are not indexed by individuals. They list activities such as promotions or demotions, those killed, wounded or missing in action. Service personnel being assigned to a unit, or leaving a unit; and those going to a hospital for treatment are also specified by name.

In order to access a Morning Report, the veteran's exact unit of assignment must be known including division/regiment and company name that can be obtained from the Final Pay Voucher, Separation Papers or VA information.

Other Helpful Sources
Local newspapers clippings may be used to fill in the missing pieces. Area newspapers often reported on those wounded during military service. They also may give additional genealogical information (i.e. a parent's name). Be sure to also check with hometown military museums as they often chronicled local veteran's military service.

Regiment associations or alumni group records, books, and diaries may provide additional troop activities. These records often list veterans by name.

Two resources often forgotten when rebuilding ancestral military service are naturalization and passport applications. Naturalization papers may have military service data, especially if your immigrant ancestor was naturalized while serving in WWI or WWII.

While researching a veteran recently, I found extensive military information on a passport application, specifying the veteran's WWI service in France, complete with dates of overseas service and where the veteran was stationed!

Recreating the Complete Picture Piece by Piece
By compiling the information recorded on Last Pay Vouchers and Adjutant General Records, the researcher will begin to rebuild an ancestor's DD214 data. A thorough analysis of information provided by VA records and death and funeral records, and a bit of midnight oil, will be able to recreate a detailed look into your veterans' service experience.

More Information
Be sure to listen to Lori, of Redbird Research, on the Researching Military Records: Meet Expert Lori episode of Hittin' the Bricks with Kathleen Podcast. She offers more ideas.

Kathleen Brandt 

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

June 2024 Newsletter

 Privy Examination 

A Privy Examination: 16 - 20th centuries
A separate "private" examination to confirm that the sell of "her" property was not due to coercion or pressure from her husband. The law required the Judge or Justice of Peace to obtain, and note, the married woman's consent as a step in signing the legal document.

Her Pride

What is the Meaning of "Lesbian"
Pride Month led me to ask "What does "lesbian mean?" Which led me to wonder how long has the word lesbian been used to describe relationships. Well, the word "lesbian" has its roots in ancient Greek culture and literature, specifically linked to the life and works of Sappho and the island of Lesbos from c. 630-570 BCE. Evolved from the association with Sappho and her works, the term "lesbian" began to be used in the late 19th century to refer to female homosexuality. 

History and historical documents and writings tell us alternative lifestyles have always existed. And, as genealogists, it's hard to be blind to the records that reveal our ancestors' secrets.  I've written about some of my non-traditional unions already. The relationship of Elena DeSayn and Alice Eversman was revealed through IRS tax records awaiting me at the Library of Congress. Read Library of Congress Holdings. 

6 Tips to Start Your Research
  1. Read: Was Grandma a Feminist? shhh... Her Secret Life? Many women were feminists. But, it is here that we often uncover names and associates. But more research is required to understand your female ancestors. There have always been advocates, and those who wanted freedom  to speak, financial anonymity, sexual choices, and to buck against the cultural construct. 
  2. Divorce Records: I was able to uncover spousal accusations, with names in divorce records.
  3. Asylum records: Yes, "unnatural" relationships could have caused an ancestor to be institutionalized
  4. University Special Collections. I've had great success here but stay tuned. Will be posting a full blog and will add the link here once completed. 
  5. Newspapers and Journals: The Feminist movement was well covered across America. It is here where many uncover their ancestors names. However, one must not assume an ancestor was a lesbian due to their involvment. Some were fighting for rights and many had support of her husbands. But, further research may provide more information on the organization, there parites (sometimes rumored), or their boldness.
  6. "Boston Marriage" keyword. This keyword is a big hint that your ancestor had a non-traditional marriage. The relationship may have been platonic, or a "sympathetic union.Or, it may have been their preferred life-time mate in which many would say they were lesbians
St. Louis Globe - Democrat, 1894, pg 27

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AI: Make It Work For You
We heard you.  You wanted proof. It's easy. Let us show you how to use FamilySearch Experimental AI.

Step 1: Log in using your free accout.

Step 2. Go to the home page by clicking on the Family Search logo on the upper left-hand coner. 


Step 3.  Scroll down to the far right bottom of the page and find VIEW EXPERIMENTS. Keep in mind it is in beta, so the image placements may change, but the wording has so far been the same. 

Step 4.  In the middle of the top row, you will see this image with Expand your search with Full Text. And Go to Experiment. 
Feel free to try all the buttons, but this is the one you were asking about after the last podcast. 

Step 5. Start Your Search using Keywords. Trying to find relationships?

This gave 5545 returns. With both names in quotes it translates just find ever occurence of Thomas Baird and/or Polly Baird. This would allow me to gather places, timeframes, names, etc.  But it's AI, I can narrow that if I need to.

Now the Search Tips give you little to work with, but here are a few suggestions. 

Are you needing to narrow your search? In my wide search, I learned there are several Thomas Bairds and several Polly Bairds in Ohio. I need the correct 1) Polly Baird 2) I need to confirm her relationship with Thomas, 2) I need her to be married or widowed to a Samuel Thompson.  Of, course there are times when we have to widen our search. For example, Wonder how many Thomas and Polly Bairds there are in Ohio?But I want only documents that have both names in it and the bonus if S. Thompson is also named in the same document.  You can put all three in your search, but for our purpose (and my need to narrow down one step at a time), I'm showing yu how I do it. 

So, I add the "+" sign before each person of interest with the "quotes.. This translates to I want all the occurences of these names in the "same" document. 

Wow!That gave only two documents with them together and both documents are in Hamilton Ohio. That was a big lead for me. I wasn't sure where they had moved to/from. 

Big Bonus
These documents answered all my questions. It not only named Polly, it confirmed Thomas was her father and Samuel was her husband. 
Oh...and I learned the cause of my confusion

Polly Baird was the daugther of Thomas Baird by his first wife, Jane Kilgore, the daughter of Charles Kilgore of County Knox, Indiana Territory. Here's a link to the document:
Now do you see why I love this AI program?

A Bit More Under ther Umbrella: 
Looking for a One Stop Shop? 
Have watched our HTB YouTube 1 Minute Shorts?
Help our Fund Grow:

Kathleen Brandt & The Board of Tracing Ancestors

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

The Genealogy NewsLetter: May 2024

Did You Know?

It's Free, We Just Want You To Follow Us
Subscribe for a MyHeritage $300 value
Every month one new subscriber to  is randomly
chosen to receive this $300.00 value MyHeritage Complete Package.
You must subscribe at the  to qualify.

Looking for the best DNA Kit Deals
Look no further than post the best prices. Check here often.
If you use the this link to purchase, proceed from each kit are donated to - a not for profit, 501c3 Charity Organization for underserved communities. is 100% volunteer based. However, your donations pay for infrastrure (domain, website, etc) and educational materials expenses.

Have You Done This Yet? 1 DNA kit, 3 company results!
Perhaps you didn't know that if you have paid for one DNA kit from ancestryDNA, MyHeritageDNA, 23andMe, FamilyFinder of FamilyTreeDNA or LivingDNA you can share those results for free on other DNA testing sites. So you pay for one, but can get up to 3 free sets of results, 3 re-analysis of ethnicity regions/data, 3 sets of new cousins to analyze.

It's easy.
>Set up a free account on the new site
>Download the DNA Raw Data (DNA Data) from your paid kit to your computer. Don't open it, just download.
Need help finding RawData?ancestryDNA
FamilyFinder, of FamilyTreeDNA

Upload your DNA Raw Data (DNA Data) from your paid kit to other sites following one of the instructions below. Why not? It's Easy and free.

Upload to LivingDNA (strong in European connections)

Note: You cannot upload to or 23andme, but you can use their Raw data to upload to myHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA and LivingDNA. As I mentioned, until we learn about the future of 23andMe, a3Genealogy is no longer recommending that OTC (Over the Counter) DNA testing kit. If you have already tested there, you do not want to lose your 23andMe data, so download your Raw Data to your desktop or a safe space.

A Few Featured Slave Descendant Podcast Titles
Thanks to the Kansas Afro-American Genealogical Society, we are featuring the following podcasts. The following were mentioned in the KAAHGS session of 7 May 2024. Just go to the site to access these titles:
> Genealogy in Black and White
> Identifying Native Americans: The Mysteries of the Tyeskey Lineage
> Ships & Plantations - Kansas Ancestor McKinney

Yes, We Have a HTB YouTube Channel

Since we are primarily a podcast, most of our Hittin' the Bricks youtube uploads are just a convenient way to listen to the podcast. Not all of the episodes have been loaded, but that should be completed by May 2024. Know that there are a few YouTube gems where you will have video of John interviewing Kathleen.

10Million Names - Be A Part Of the Project
There are at least 44 million descendants of enslaved individuals living today, but slavery separated families, erased names, and obscured facts. The 10 Million Names Project, launched by American Ancestors and its partners in 2023, aims to connect the family stories of these descendants to the 10 million men, women, and children of African descent who were enslaved in the U.S. prior to emancipation and to restore their names to history.

Because we believe in education and community work the a3Genealogy blog, Hittin' the Bricks with Kathleen are now partners under the TracingAncestors 501c, not-for-profit organization. I know you'll believe in our goals too. This 501c3 organization is dedicated to serving women, schools & underserved communities. We are a 100% volunteer organization, but we do need assistance with costs: domain, website, software, educational events, etc. I hope you will share this donation opportunity.  Every dollar helps.

Kathleen Brandt & The Board of Tracing Ancestors