Saturday, December 25, 2010

Researching in Northern Illinois Counties

Everyone Didn’t Go to Chicago or Springfield
 Many of us have found ancestors in Chicago, Cook County.  Immigrant workers and emancipated slaves flocked there for work.  More privileged ancestors settled there to establish businesses and to capitalize on its central location.  But research n the neighboring rural counties and other parts of Illinois is not mentioned often, even though they too have a past full of activities, struggles, and successes.  These smaller rural counties are filled with valuable resources for family search if your family happened there.

It would behoove the researcher looking for a missing ancestor, to forsake  a failed Cook County search and widen their research efforts to  neighboring northern or central counties.

Widening Your Search
I often take state county maps and divide it into three to four sections. For Illinois it is north, upper-central, lower-central and lower counties. I found wonderful information on my “subject” in Winnebago (Rockford), Ogle, Kane, and Dekalb counties. Townships in these counties were often established by German settlers often from the upper northeast colonies.

Importance of County/Township Histories
One of the first things I do when searching for early settlers is research the history of the county and peruse the list of townships.  History books of the counties may mention your family name and their significance to the settlement of a county or township.  Since many neighbors traveled together, be sure to take note of neighbors.  You may find the whole immigrant community moved to a neighboring county in subsequent census record searches. This may reveal a political issue, an epidemic, or other social history of your ancestors.

Every Illinoisan didn’t get off a ship, and go straight to Chicago. I found my subject in Chicago in early 1900’s, but to pinpoint when they migrated to Illinois was rather challenging, until I opened up my research to the surrounding counties. The idea is to expand your research. 

I got the clue needed from the county formation information provided on FamilyHistory 101 ( which showed an extreme amount of activities in these northern counties in 1836.  I found my “subject” in Winnebago, Ogle, Kane, and Dekalb counties, after narrowing the possibilities based on the information given on how a county was formed.  For example:
Kane County was created on January 16, 1836 (Laws, 1836, p. 273) and was formed from unorganized land (La Salle County ) and Cook County. Present area, or parts of it, formerly included in: LaSalle County (1835–1836) , Putnam County (1825–1835) , Fulton County (1823–1825) , Pike County (1821–1823) , Clark County (1819–1821) , Crawford County (1816–1819) , Edwards County (1815–1816) , Madison County (1812–1815) , St. Clair County (1801–1812) and Knox, Northwest Territory (1790–1801).
My family county search led me to Rockford IL, Winnebago County, where I found a wealth of information within the Winnebago County records. These records are readily available on the Winnebago County website which gives direct links to online historical records of birth, death and marriage records:

Local Library Assistance
With the help of the librarians, I was able to obtain copies of obituaries at a reasonable research rate.  A good example is the $15.00/hour fee for research at the Rockford IL Public Library, (Winnebago County).  The librarian quickly located and sent obituary clippings from the newspapers (Rockford Register and Rockford Morning Star), marriage records, and cemetery records. In hours time I received a lot of information from a bookworm who is as dedicated to research as I am.  Thanks Jean!

Happy researching this Holiday Season and remember someone had to establish those other counties in Illinois!

Accurate, Accessible Answers

Friday, December 3, 2010

South Carolina Research

Some of My Favorite South Carolina Resources
from Greta's Genealogy Blog

Have you ever wondered where to start, or have you been stuck doing South Carolina research?  Greta Koehl of Greta's Genealogy Blog was kind enough to share a full list of website links that may help the South Carolina researcher. The post Some of My Favorite South Carolina Resources is chocked full of links to get the SC researcher started, or moving again!

Tips From Greta
A great tip from this posts, is how Greta compiles and organizes her lists or online resources. It's simple, but yet so very clever and a true time saver. She simply copies her bookmarks (which she clearly has saved with relevant titles) and places them in a Word Document. Wouldn't this little tip keep "some of us" from having that "I wish I could find that website I used that one time" moment!

Another great tip: even though visiting a repository is ideal, Greta reminds us "a lot of preparatory research [can be] done through these websites," prior to your on-site visit. I agree with Greta! Why waste valuable time on site, when you can do some of the work before visiting your favorite county?  Plus, you will be so much better prepared for an "on-site" trip.

Although many of the links provided on Some of My Favorite South Carolina Resources covers Anderson and Greenville Counties, Greta also provides us with other great places to start like the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.  We are reminded that "There are a number of documents held at SCDAH that appear on searchable (by name and location) indices or even have scanned images you can bring up on the website."

One of my favorites is Greta's recommendation to researchers that the BYU Ancestor's: Resource Guide is not only out there for South Carolina, but for all of the states.

Thanks to Greta's organization and blog post we have a great start with our South Carolina research.
Accurate, Accessible Answers

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Genealogy Is Global!

Statistics Point International
Question: What does Russia, United States, Lebanon, and Netherlands have in common?  Answer: Visitors to a3Genealogy blogsite were tracked from these countries.

Any genealogist, or family historian blogger knows the importance of visitors to their site - especially since many visitors are silent (feel free to leave comments). Curiosity of where readers reside, which posts trigger the most interest, and the referring sites and traffic source can be satisfied through a standard statistics counter like that offered by Blogger (In Draft).[1]

As an educational blog, a3Genealogy posts answers to readers, clients, and researchers’ questions.  The theory is:“you aren’t the only one with that question.”  This was proven with the reader requested post “Researching in Mississippi?” It was quite popular according to the stats presented.
An interesting result of this week’s end-of-the year analysis of a3Genealogy Blogger stats resulted in creating a separate search label just for Native American researchers,  and closely watching Medical Genealogy/Health trends as the interest increases.  

Knowing that the readers have silently spoken through hard fast numbers, encourages a3Genealogy to analyze these stats.  A bi-annual analysis is needed to watch for trends and audience patterns. But, mostly it is proof that visitors are going to the site. This is probably as good as it gets.  Did they read the posts?  Are they repeat visitors? Have you created a successful brand?  These questions are not answered through the Blogger standard stat overview.  But paired with other tools, a blogger is able to get a fair snap shot of their niche market, and popular post topics.

The international reader is essential to a3Genealogy and it is good to know that So. Korea, Iraq, and Slovenia visitors have joined the visitors from the United Kingdom, Canada and France.[2] 

Keep the topic suggestions coming from every corner of the world!

Accurate, Accessible Answers

[1] I access the Stat information through Dashboard on Blogger.
[2] Statiscal analysis must be applied to account for spams and unintentional traffic.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Searching for Delaware Native Indians

Where Did They Go?

Algonquians of the East Coast
The Delaware Indians derived from the Delaware River, and originally occupied the state of New Jersey. In general the Delaware Indians moved from New Jersey to Ohio and then they were pushed west of the Mississippi in the 1820’s.

Many Delawares renounced their Native American citizenship as early as 1795.  They, (and other Ohio native American tribes), surrendered most of their Ohio lands with the signing of the Treaty of Greeneville in 1795; and the remaining lands in 1829 when the United States forced the Delawares to relinquish all lands in Ohio and move west of the Mississippi River.

Using Census Records
1860 - The 1860 federal decennial census did not enumerate Native Americans, unless the families renounced their “tribal rule.”  If families were enumerated that would indicate that they were taxed in that community and not a part of a tribal life at the time of the census enumeration. 

Native Americans not living on a reservation or on designated Indian lands in 1860 were identified, often as white, for tax purposes on the census record.

1870 - On the 1870 census there was a specific indicator used to designate American Indians. 

The Delaware Indians were absorbed by the Cherokees (one of the Five Civilized Tribes). Others Delaware Indians who lived in the Cherokee territory may have participated in the “open land runs” or staked and purchased land, or married an Indian Citizen.

1880 - The Dawes Severalty Act, 5 October 1894, provided 160 acres to be given individually to each Native American family, and to slaves of the Five Civilized Tribes.  Many of the Delaware/Cherokee Natives claimed this land, since persons who were authenticated in the 1880 Cherokee Nation citizenship, or earlier, were eligible for these benefits.

It May Be Unlikely
It was unlikely for Native Americans of the Delaware tribe to:
  • not claim their land and government rights as they merged with other Native Americans to include the Cherokee Indians
  • be a part of the Ohio Militia or Iowa Militia, as these groups were formed to fight the American Indians
  • be enumerated as white citizens in the census prior to 1880.  According to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) website “few American Indians were included in the Federal census.” This resulted in them not being identified or enumerated between 1790 and 1840. [1]  
However, all of these sources, although unlikely, should still be checked closely, as well as the Native American rolls listed below.

1.      Dawes Final Roll
2.      Drennen Roll
3.      Reservation Roll (Arkansas Lands)
4.      1896 Census Application
5.      1880 Cherokee Census
6.      Guion Miller Roll
7.      Baker Roll
8.      Kern Clifton Rolls

Accurate, Accessible Answers

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Trends, Tehcniques, Technologies and Touching Visuals!

The Greatest of These: Touching Visuals!
FamilySearch Website
A true Professional Genealogists is in a constant learning state: newest trends, techniques and technologies.  But we also practice the forth T – touching! At any given conference you are thrust into workshops highlighting the new trends – emerging fields of interest like medical genealogy; and introductions to the newest and greatest societies, associations, and text; as well as peer-work.  New techniques to include researching references and updates to professional citing are plenty.  And of course “clouds” of technologies swarm the conference halls.  But with all the black and white, where is the grey?  The grey that lights up our sense of “touching” – making genealogy so real and personal - is that emphasized?  The grey of the past that makes it today’s reality?

The “Celebration of Family History” videos were overwhelmingly touching.  Matter of fact, I venture to say, that these videos reminded each present that our work as family historians and genealogists is not just of trends, techniques and technologies, but of a past that has made a bit of our present shadowed with the grey of the past.

The following videos are reminders to thread your family tapestry from the past to the present.  
Woven Generations
Woven Generations so dearly gives us the emotional ties that our immigrant ancestors had left behind. Connecting us through their voyage “from there to here.”

Letters from Estonia
Letters from Estonia gives us the taste of a forced separation of loved ones due to wars, and conflicts.  But, the touching story also allows us seek a healing bond by reuniting with the fragile family ties of the past.

Finding Emma

Finding Emma is not just another story of leprosy and a leprosy colony. It’s about the suffering of those who were afflicted, the heart break that affected generations, the unanswered questions that fell on the Kalaupapa (Hawaii) colony, probably not unlike others, but quite personal to the researcher who finds exile stories in their past.

Clan McCloud

Clan McCloud gives us the power of how learning and knowledge of our ancestors can bring the family together.  And this blessing was hailed and promoted through a child’s interest in the Great Highland Bagpipe.

Each of these videos somehow had a direct relation to my endless searches for clients and my research on my own family. It didn’t matter that my ancestors were not from Estonia neither did they have to suffer in an exiled colony. And in spite of the gratitude I feel towards my brothers for never picking up the bagpipe (we endured enough family damage with brother Todd’s clarinet lessons and brother Rhett’s constant drumming- and believe me basement music rooms are not far enough buried underground),  our family was united through music and performances.  Of course, early immigrant ancestors have united our family through reunions, and new friendships, even though I envision their travels to be far different from that depicted in Woven Generation.

The common thread in each of these stories is how our “ancestral learnings” connect each of us to the past in a rather peculiar, unique and precious way, each event making up a bit of our present self. 
Giving thanks to FamilySearch for making these videos available.

Accurate, Accessible Answers

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Medical Genealogy

When Genealogists and Geneticists Meet! 
Staying abreast of the trends in genealogy can be daunting, but is definitely necessary for the serious family historian or professional genealogist.  I attended a wonderful informative seminar Red Flags in Your Medical Family History,” hosted at the Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, MO.  The presenters, Debra Collins, MS, CGC and Julie Broski were from the University of Kansas Medical Center, in Kansas City. 

Although I have a rudimentary understanding of the topic, I walked away with a few vital pointers.

Why Now?
The Surgeon General, in cooperation with other agencies, has launched the Surgeon General's Family History Initiative to encourage all American families to learn more about their family health history.  Thanksgiving has been declared National Family History Day, allowing for updates and information to be shared at an annual family gathering.

What is Medical Genealogy?
Medical Genealogy, Genetics for Genealogists, and Family Health History are all names we hear when referencing tracing and documenting one’s family medical patterns.  It is  not just the application of genetics applied to traditional genealogy; therefore, I prefer the term “Medical Genealogy” as I believe this keeps the family historian focused.  (How many geneticists do you know who are genealogists or family historians?).”

“Medical Genealogy is the practice of tracing and recording family health patterns that are unique to your family (hopefully to include three generations) in order for the family practitioner to analyze.
Defined by Kathleen Brandt - a3Genealogy,
 Not an official definition. 

Although genealogists and family historians are quite talented, we don’t want to cross the lines of diagnosing based on family history, or predicting life spans or early deaths based on information and patterns.  No excuses…even if the evidence points to this, doesn’t mean you will be memorializing Uncle Charlie on his 58th birthday. Our job is to recognize patterns and document them.

As a community, we can begin by gathering family data and creating a helpful family health tree. 

What is a Family Health Tree?
The Surgeon General website has provided Access the My Family Health Portrait Web Tool, that “helps users organize family history information and then print it out for presentation to their family doctor.” 
However, I prefer an At-a-Glance Medical Tree.  Once you’ve gathered your data/information, by following the symbols that are defined (or add some of your own), this tree can be a breeze, and useful to the entire family.
Where to Find Data/Information? 
  • The Information needed to complete a “family health tree” is probably in your files.  Take a close look at the cause of death on death certificates or obituaries.
  • Review medical records - we often get a copy of veteran medical records.
  • Take note of patterns: premature deaths, infertility patterns in women, birth defect patterns (I have seen some noted on census records), sibling patterns of illnesses, etc. 
The Goal
In the end you should have a tree completed like the one above.  I personally think it will be a work in progress, but it can be useful and your family and doctor will appreciate the work. 

Happy National Family History Day!

Kathleen Brandt

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Five Steps Closer to Your Greek Ancestor

Looking Hellenic

Looking for your Greek ancestors may be a challenge due to religious persecutions, migrations, wars, and more wars.  Oh, and let’s not leave out the name changing thing that happens on the long voyage from the homeland to America.  Although the voyage seems to encourage this bit of creativity, sometimes the American soil empowers our ancestors to live as pull-a-name-out-of-the-hat kind of people; making it practically impossible to trace them.  But don’t give up until you have looked in every crevice for hints and records. 

Basic Records Needed
Let’s pick up after you have gone back as far as you are willing to research and you have the “basic records” in hand.    Basics would include: census records, obituaries, death certificates, military records, birth, baptism, and death records of children Now, it’s time to start your Hellenic Dig. 

Remember the 1920 and 1930 census records give you hints on immigration and naturalization.  Please note I didn’t say they were accurate, but let’s start there for our excavating of Hellenic records.   

Why Hellenic and not Greek?
Hellenic - pertaining to, or characteristic of the ancient Greeks or their language, culture, thought, etc., esp. before the time of Alexander the Great.  Of course after Alexander the Great things changed, but the old culture is still considered Hellenic (purist!).  Keep in mind that you are searching all things Greek/Hellenic.

Next Steps

1.  Immigration -  Passenger Ship Records
The Ellis Island Foundation online database (free) is a great place to start.  But don’t limit yourself.  Be sure to widen your search to include Greek neighbors that may have traveled with your ancestors (census records may hold a clue).  And, be certain to use spelling variations.  Don’t forget the Castle of Gardens passenger records also. 

2.  Naturalization Papers
The ideal thing would be to find passenger records, and go straight to the Declaration of Intent and Naturalization records.  Voila, you have all the information you need on your ancestor’s Hellenic background. Final naturalization papers may also hold the Oath of Allegiance with their legal name change, along with family and birth information.  Then off to Greece you go. 

Back to reality. Your ancestor may have never been naturalized, they may have assumed a new last name using the pull-a-name-out-of-the-hat method, or they may have traveled under an alias name for some unknown reason.

Your ancestor may have recorded as having a Turkey, Asia Minor, or Serbian birth, even though they were Greek.  (This is another blog on history of the region).  They may have adopted their baptism date as a birth date; and then again, they may not have known their birth date, so it varied with the stages if the moon.  Cynical yes, but you get the point.  So in our realistic world, you may need to complete a few more steps before coming back to this one. 

3.  Social Security Application
Social security applications may or may not help.  But if nothing else, these applications often can verify parents names, birth places (a big key), and even an address which may guide you to parishioners information or local Hellenic Society for further assistance.  There are so many hints buried in this forgotten genealogical treasure.

4.  Voters Registration Application
I often hear that pulling voter’s registration applications are a waste of time and sometimes money.  But actually, this may be of more assistance than you think when looking for an immigrant. 

Know that if your ancestor was a registered voter, he was also a citizen of the USA.  Often their immigration and naturalization information is embedded on the application.  This may be necessary, to get to the actual Naturalization petition. 

5.  Passport Applications
It used to be easier to get copies of passport applications, but with all of the heighten security, the USCIS (formerly INS) takes a while to fulfill requests.  But it’s worth the wait, if your ancestor ever applied for a passport.

Passport applications may be the link to the naturalization number of your ancestor, or state restrictions, if an alien.  Be sure to scour every line and entry of this form.  It may be the key to #2-Naturalization Papers. 

For more Information

Happy Hellenic Searching!
Kathleen Brandt

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

“But, It Doesn’t Follow Logic!”

Reviewing the Laws
1819 Virginia Laws/Codes
When an ancestor doesn’t do the expected, or it appears that at best they made a decision that seems truly insane, perhaps a look at the laws for this time period is a good idea.  The answers to some of the insanity may be buried in legislation books. 

Genealogists and family historians should never complete the story without the facts.  And a few minutes reviewing the laws of the time, especially in America history from the Colonial Period up to the Reconstruction era may explain it all. 

Did You Know In Colonial…?
  • 1683 Pennsylvania: a law united Pennsylvania with the lower counties (Delaware) and allowed for naturalizing the Swedes. All freemen were made citizens and all Christians were freemen, except servants and convicts. A similar law was repealed in Virginia and baptism no longer exempted you from slavery.
  • 1670 North Carolina: marriages were few before 1670, so our ancestors may not be in the church records.  Why? Only ministers of the Church of England were entitled to perform the rite of marriage before 1670, and few visited or settled in Carolina.  As a result, An Act Concerning Marriages (1669) was ratified by the Assembly of Albemarle to perform marriage ceremonies.
  • 1700 Massachusetts: June a law passed ordering Roman Catholic priests to leave the colony within three months, upon penalty of life imprisonment or execution. New York passed a similar law.
 Can’t Find Naturalization Records
  • Between 1855 and 1922 the law stated that an alien woman became a citizen automatically if she married a native-born or naturalized citizen. 
  • After 1922, a married woman alien had to obtain naturalization on her own. 
  •  Former black slaves were made citizens by the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1868.
  • Expedited naturalization proceedings have been available to aliens who are Army veterans, since 1862; Navy veterans, since 1894; and wartime enlistees, since 1918.
  • Statutes during World War I and the permitted naturalization proceedings to take place abroad.  This law was also instated during the Korean War.   
Free-Colored (Creole) Ancestor Missing
Free coloreds were not created equal in the Gulf South.  Free Coloreds classified as Creoles were granted more privileges and rights than other free coloreds in the south.  This encouraged fair skinned coloreds (not all mulattoes) with an aire of an “uppity” class to blend in and migrate to Alabama and Florida.  However, these rights were soon ripped and your free-colored ancestors may have been on the move again.
  • 1833 Alabama recognized “Creoles of Color” and granted them advantages not otherwise afforded by “free coloreds.” This could explain why a free-colored ancestor would have migrated to Alabama.  One advantage was education privileges that “colored children” were not granted. Free Creoles' rights were stripped beginning in 1840, and enforced by 1850.
  • 1857 Pensacola Florida Free Creoles voluntarily exiled to Tampico due to local legislation that stripped them of their “civil” rights."
Can’t Find Your Native American Ancestors in Virginia 
  • 1850 Amherst County Native Americans were classified as “black free inhabitants” or “white” based on the racial community where they lived.  This also led to interracial family units for subsequent generations, no longer “Indian.”
  • 1880 to 1900 the Native Americans in Amherst County were forced by law in 1705 to be called "mulatto" and then called "black" in 1900, erasing records of “Indian”

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Can’t Find Records? Use Formation Maps

Chasing Counties
My Virginia Genealogy

 The most frustrating, hair pulling genealogy research issue is not being able to find records, that “should be there.”  But the question to ask is: Has every portal been opened, no matter how small or how far? 

The first step of preparing for your research is educating yourself on the area.  When was the state/county formed? From which counties or territories was the area created? And, what was going on politically that may have affected records for your time period? 

Keep in mind, just because a county changed, or a new one was created, doesn’t mean the records migrated. 

County Formation Maps
Let’s take a simple state –Virginia, not so simple when it comes to finding genealogical records. Have you seen the Virginia County Formation Maps? If you don’t research the map changes for the span of years you are researching, you probably have not opened a portal or two.  This could explain your missing ancestor’s records. (Note:  these county formation maps are available for all the states, and are interactive with notes online).

Chasing Your State and County Records 
Boutetourt County in Virginia, for example, is one challenging area. Botetourt was nothing more than a open territory (see image above) created from Augusta in 1769.  In 1772, part of Botetourt was given to Fincastle.  In 1777, part of Botetourt was given to Greenbrier.  Later, Fincastle was split, Greenbrier was divided, and so forth. So where did your ancestor’s records land?

Like counties, boundaries of states were transformed through history. Kansas gave some of its boundaries to Colorado supposedly because they didn’t want the gold found within their boundaries; Missouri extended its already large state by acquiring the Platte Purchase in 1836; and Virginia split in 1863 creating West Virginia.

And let’s not forget the western state of Idaho that was treated like an unwanted burden.  First it was part of the Oregon Territory; then divided between the Washington Territory and Oregon Territory.  Then when Oregon became a state, what would become Idaho was attached to Washington. With the discovery of gold, a lot of politics and being bounced around, Idaho finally became its own territory in 1863.  Whew, and that was the short version.

The goal here is to verify the surrounding states and counties, political reasons that may have influenced the moving of your records and open new portals to find those records that you need.

Accurate, Accessible Answers

Friday, October 8, 2010

Know Your Local History

200 Years on Troost Exhibit

The Kansas City Public Central Library sponsored the “200 Years On Troost” exhibit from August 14 – October 17, 2010.  This exhibit chronicled “the history of Kansas City’s Troost Avenue from its beginning as a 365-acre slave plantation to its emergence as a business hub in the early 1900 to the sense of community that exists there today.”

Sure these sorts of exhibits can often be scant in details, but if you read for the clues you can find a wealth of knowledge or at least questions, that once answered, may lead you a bit closer to your ancestor.

Deciphering This Exhibit
Native Americans Research?
  • Looking for Osage Nation ancestors?  Have you tried the records around Rich Hill, Missouri?
  • What was the migratory path of the Osage Nation? 
African American Research?
  • Why were your ancestors in Kansas City on the 1870 census? Be sure to check their addresses.  This could be the clue to a slave master.
Affluent Research?
  • Have you wondered how your ancestors owned KC’s prime real estate? The history of an area often reveals information of its affluent citizens.
Newspaper Research
  • What were the biases and opinions of the local newspaper editors?  This clue can lead you to the social history of an area.  I suggest researchers delve into the developers’ and editors’ ideas and backgrounds. These community leaders set the tone for a region. 
  • Did the research on your ancestor’s compared to the local social norm of the time, reveal them to be rebels, or operate contrary to the local prescribed standards?

Uprooting Clues
200 Years On Troost

Troost Ave
According to the 200 Years On Troost exhibit, Troost Ave was originally the hunting trail and path to the Missouri River used by the Osage Nation. The Osage Nation was misplaced from their ancestral village “Places of Many Swans” near Rich Hill, MO.

Between 1830 -1839 over 75 thousand eastern Native Americans were relocated to south west of the Mississippi River.   So from this exhibit, we know that for a short while, at least, the Osage Nation citizens were in the Kansas City area. Most would assume they migrated from the east directly to the other side of the Mississippi River. 

Prominent Citizen Benoit Troost
The extinguished Benoit Troost, a dutch doctor, purchased part of Gabriel Prudhomme’s estate in 1846.  The Troost estate stretched from present day Broadway to Troost Ave., and as far north as the Missouri River to Indiana Ave.  Although this seems irrelevant, narrowing land plots is very handy with genealogical research. Did your ancestor live on this plot?

The Dr. who also was significant in establishing Kansas City’s first newspaper, the Kansas City Public Ledger in 1850, also assisted in developing the Kansas Hannibal and St. Jo (Joseph) Railroad in 1855 that serviced Kansas City to Cameron, Missouri.  He and his wife had eight (8) slaves. 

What was the condition of the slaves? Did he breed them? Did they work on his railroad? Did Troost use his newspaper to further any local causes? Did his ideas affect your ancestors?

Kansas City Father Gabriel Prudhomme
As mentioned before, Benoit Troost purchased part of Gabriel Prudhomme’s estate.  The fact that Prudhomme was even mentione in this exhibit sparked interest to his importance. A bit of research, led me to more of KC’s history.

Kansas City, Mo emerged from the farmland of Gabriel Prudhomme.  This farmland was the original KC.  However, seven years after Prudhomme’s death in 1838, fourteen investors purchased his estate.  The Prudhomme farm was 257 acres, and also had a rock ledge from which he operated a ferry. In November of 1831, within a few months of owning this farm, Prudhomme was killed in a barroom fight.

Editor Notes: Father David Paisius Altschul began researching Troost Avenue more than 25 years ago and ultimately decided to document its history in the exhibit 200 Years on Troost. Know that one hour exhibits can lead to hours of research, and an abundance of knowledge.

Happy researching.
Accurate, Accessible Answers

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ex-Slave Alias

Civil War Surname Changes for Slaves

 Sherri, a genealogist and friend from Topeka, inspired me today to repost this. One of her African American ancestors, who lived during the civil war era, has a military headstone but yet no records have been located to support his military participation.

Now there are many reasons for this, and it is impossible to list or address all of them.  But three of the top ones are listed below:
  • The headstone was placed in error, or by descendants based on family stories. This is a common.   Even in Lyons Kansas my grandfather has a permanent WWI placard placed on his "resting place." Yet, he didn't serve one day in the military due to a physical deformity. 
  • Records are harder to obtain for African American soldiers who served with Confederate troops, and for ex-slaves prior to the Civil War. But might I add, not impossible.
  • Many African Americans served under alias names (or changed their names) after serving, making tracing them more difficult. 
During the Civil War
Alias surnames and new given names were actually adopted, especially for slaves during the Civil War.  The common belief is that the "surname" of slaves changed with new slave masters, but this actually should be taken as a possibility, but not a rule.  During the Civil War, slaves were often substituted to serve for their master or an arrangement was made for them to serve for another.  This was common practice for southerners to meet a requirement of military service and they could do it with as little as the promise of freedom upon return.  If an agreement was made by the slave-master to "rent" out a slave to do military service for another often the slave used the surname for whom they were fighting during their military service of the Civil War. Sometimes, this was a temporary name change.  As in the case of Nelson Strader, discussed below, many returned to their former master's name after the war. This was all possible because after the Civil War ex-slaves could choose whatever name they wanted.  

After the Civil War
Willis Mills became Willis Cox, Nelson Mason became Nelson Strader and Minor Wair (Weir) became Minor Underwood. What do they all have in common? They were ex-slaves. And, besides legal marriages, legitimacy of children, and access to land titles, after the Civil War ex-slaves were allowed to choose their own surnames.

It is thought that slaves held on to their slave master names, but actually only about fifteen percent did so. The others chose surnames of a previous slave master or the surname of a famous person. Often slave children separated from their parents may have, after emancipation, taken the surname of a parent’s master, as did Wills (Mills) Cox.

(Written in lead: "...I used to belong to Mills as a slave and after I was discharged my father belong to Cox. I drop the name of Mills and taken Cox after my father name. I use Mills only in pension affairs because Mills is on the record and Cox is now my Citizen name...")

Even other’s were purchased for the purpose to fight in the Civil War and were promised freedom after their service. Many of them adopted the surname of their emancipator, or as did Nelson (Mason) Strader who returned to the surname of his former master upon completion of his Civil War duties.
Nelson Strader fought for Mr. Mason, arranged by his master. (last para: "I was never married to the soldier only by slavery custom. I belonged to Fielding Vaughn of Green Co. Ky and my husband Nelson Strader belonged to Lewis Strader also of Gren Co. Ky. Both of our masters are now dead.")

And, others just chose a surname that they liked, as did Minor (Wair/Weir) Underwood. Minor was purchased by William Weir to take fight in his stead, and upon completion of the agreement and the end of the civil war, he embraced the name Underwood once he arrived in Kansas with the Exodusters. His original slave master was not Underwood, nor was he ever owned by an Underwood.

The details of an ex-slave's name change are most often found in Civil War pension records.

Kathleen Brandt
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Friday, September 17, 2010

Separate Maintenance or Divorce Records

Our Ancestor’s Dissolution of Marriage

Our ancestors did not always live in marital bliss. Legal separations and divorces, although not common, were available. Since legal separations and divorces were Court ordered they give us extensive genealogical data.

Genealogy Data from Records
Besides the names of the couple and date of marriage and divorce, you may also find the couple’s birth dates as well as names and births of children. These records may also provide detailed reasons for divorce and property owned, revealing the life-style of your ancestors. 

Where to Find Early Divorce Records
In Colonial America these records may be found in the early books of Judgments and Decrees. Know however due to the legal difficulties and restrictions of obtaining a divorce, it is possible that your ancestor’s remained married, but legally lived separately by posting newspaper advertisements. Newspaper announcements to dissolve a marriage were also accepted as a form of legal separation in Colonial America.  

Divorces from Medieval Europe to Colonial America
If we consider the social norms for women during Medieval Europe we first understand that, in general, married woman did not have a separate legal existence from her husband. And although a bit more liberal, this basic accepted social norm was carried to Colonial America.

Divorces were not easily obtained through the Court systems due to the many restrictions; and, Church declarations of your eternal demise discouraged the practice. Filing for divorce wasn’t even available in all of the Colonial states prior to the Revolutionary War.

Prior to 1747, adultery was the only official reason for a separation or divorce, in those states that allowed it. And, it was really only available for the privileged. Even then, the couple was often still legally married and could not remarry, since they were granted a “divorce a mensa et thoro.” 

What is “Divorce a Mensa et Thoro?”
“Divorce a mensa et thoro” actually means “divorce from bed and board.” Today we would call it a legal separation, but we have lost the historical advantages of it. The “divorce a mensa et thoro” legally allowed the couple to live separately but their marriage was still in tack in the eyes of the church. Surely community rumors said otherwise, but by law they were still legally married.

The “divorce a mensa et thoro” allowed the couple to meet all the church requirements and therefore they could be blessed and buried with the “Saints.” The divorce ( a sinner) was not allowed to be interred in the Church cemetery, since they “couldn’t inherit the kingdom of God” anyway.

There was also a stigma for children if their parents were divorced, so this too was avoided if you just lived separately under a separate maintenance agreement. If a child was born after the separation, a Church baptism was still possible, since the child was “legitimate.” Avoiding the wife’s embarrassment of being destitute, the husband was still responsible for the life style of his wife and children, albeit across town.

“Divorce a mensa et thoro” or marital separation, existed in Rhode Island as early as the mid-seventeenth century. 

After the Revolutionary War
If adultery cruelty, abuse, or abandonment could be proven a couple could dissolve their marriage more readily after the American Revolution, even though grounds for divorce remained limited until 1798.

By the early nineteenth century, divorces were granted in almost every state. However, legal divorces still carried restrictions. Generally, in the case of adultery or cruelty, only the innocent party was legally freed to remarry. This is equal to the divorces we have today.

These early divorces ("divorce a vinculo") did not necessarily allow the guilty party to remarry, except upon the death of the innocent party. To avoid this, many of the guilty (mostly men) left the community and left their past behind them, remarrying freely.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Don’t Forget Foundling Hospital Records

A Foundling Hospital Then is Not as Now!

Built in 1198, the original 'foundling wheel' was a rotating platform that allowed women to leave their babies without being seen. It was installed outside Santo Spirito Hospital near the Vatican on orders from Pope Innocent III.

We all can remember unwed mother records, orphan train and orphan home records, and adoption records, but did you remember to check the local Foundling Hospital Records? 

What Is A Foundling Hospital?
Foundling hospitals were welcoming institutions for abandoned infants and children. In the USA, the Civil War conflicts catapulted the need for Foundling Homes.

More recently foundling asylums gave shelter to orphans, but originally the activity of foundling hospitals was confined almost exclusively to rescuing and caring for infants who had been deliberately abandoned by their living parents (usually a mother). Today we often call them “safe houses” where mother’s can legally abandon their children anonymously.

Foundling Hospital Records
Records of Foundling Hospitals can have a wealth of knowledge for the genealogist. Foundling records may reveal a mother’s name; however, it is not uncommon for a father to admit a child (especially if illegitimate) to a Foundling institution, keeping the mother anonymous.

Foundling hospitals often baptized their charges, as did the New York Foundling Hospital which baptized their children as Catholics. They would then put then in Catholic homes, even if they entered the Foundling institution as Jewish or non-Catholic.

By knowing a Foundling institution’s practices, further information may be located in associated records. For example, knowing the NY Foundling Hospital, which opened 11 October 1969 as the Foundling Asylum of the Sisters of Charity baptized their children as Catholics. Further information may be found by researching the area or parishes baptism records.

European Foundling Hospitals
These “hospitals” are well documented in Europe prior to the 12th century. During the 13th century foundling hospitals were established in Rome, and at Eimbeck in Germany. The magnificent foundling hospital in Florence, called at present spe-dale degli innocenti, was founded about 1310. Similarly institutions were established in Paris as early as 1302, and in Venice in 1380. The hospital at Nuremberg was founded in 1331 and made it obligatory on the children to refund the expense of their education. The hospital of the Holy Ghost at Marseilles in France was the first to adopt the revolving box where the children could be conveyed into the building without any possibility of those who brought them being seen.[1]

In France in the 1700’s it is said that one third of all children were abandoned. Foundling Hospitals were one product of the great wave of England philanthropic activity of the eighteenth century. According to the Foundling Museum in England, the first home purposely for abandoned children in Britain was established by Royal Charter in 1739.

African-American Foundlings
Added to the tension of the Civil War, The Colored Foundling Home of New York City was burned down in the 1863 race riot of NY.

As an aftermath of WWI, African American soldiers and German Fraeuleins (women) and Hausfrauen (wives) created over 800 mulatto illegitimate off-springs (mischlinge or bastard). As the soldiers were relocated, these German mothers often abandoned the children leaving them at Foundling Homes to follow their lovers. As German citizens, these children were often sterilized or not being of pure race were put into labor camps during WWII.

Other Popular Foundling Hospitals
Pennsylvania: Roselia Foundling Asylum and Maternity Hospital was established June 16, 1891 and closed 1971. Records may be located at the Sisters of Charity, DePaul Center, Mt. Thor Road, Greensburg, PA 15601 ; 412-836-0406

Missouri: Bethesda’s Foundling Home in St. Louis originally admitted foundlings in 1892 at their Soulard Mansion building. Record information may be found at the 1920 St. Louis Census – Bethesda Foundling Home Transcription Project:

Happy Researching!

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[1] ] European Founding Hospital History: Chest of Books website;; accessed 23 August 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Researching in Mississippi?

Mississippi Gulf Coast

Note proximity of Jackson and Harrison Counties

Biloxi Bay is home to many of our rich histories even as early as the late 1600s.  There’s Biloxi, of course, and a couple miles east sits Ocean Springs, “The City of Discovery,” and Pascagoula and west there’s Gulfport.  Although a relatively small area, it holds a plethora of records; probably more records than a researcher has time to scour in one visit, especially sine they are scattered throughout the region.

Preparing for a Visit
When taking genealogy trips, I usually do all the legwork at home.  Why waste precious time? Here are a few pointers:  Let’s say we want to concentrate on deeds and wills in Jackson County, Mississippi, the home of Ocean Springs and Pascagoula. We need to know the record keeping history of Jackson County, Mississippi. We learn immediately that the courthouse was plagued with fires, four of them, the latest being 1875.  That is not good news, but let’s not despair!

1)      First check the Family History Library (FHL) Catalog, to learn what is on “loan-able” microfilm.  Never waste time on a genealogy trip staring into a microfilm screen when you can do that for a month at a time at your neighborhood Family History Center, an approved genealogy library or a State Archive for only $5.50.  The only catch is that it may take a couple of weeks to receive the microfilms.  Remember, you can only borrow microfilms not books, so take note of the Format entry in the catalog. 

For our region, the FHL has land and property records, between 1854-1924.  But, it also has indexes between 1888-1893, and 1895-1896.  So if you are looking for records prior to 1854, an onsite visit to the Biloxi Bay area may be your best bet.  As far as indexes are concern, no need in ordering those if you are already going to visit.  The court ledgers should have an alphabetical index in the front of the book, or some form of cross-reference.

If you are doing slave research, be sure to research the slave master’s records.  You may find your ancestor listed in inventory lists, wills, deeds, etc.  Slaves were not only sold, but hired and shared between settlers.  They were also considered inherited property, so don’t forget the records of the offspring’s of the slave master.  Slaves may also have named their previous slave master in a law suit, usually after the civil war and only for character building, but not so common in Mississippi.

Wills -- 1876-1925
Records of Administration -- 1874-1890
Marriages -- 1837-1919
Marriages-White- Vol 1&2-1875-1883
Deeds (Vol 5-8) 1879-1888
Tax Rolls --1819-1846

2)      My next stop is always to the local Genealogical Society website.  Why?  Sometimes, they guide me directly to the repositories I need.  Keeping the theme of Jackson County, Mississippi why not try the Ocean Springs Genealogical Society website.

Here you can go to “Research Links” and identify microfilms that the FHL does not have; such as the Wills for 1876-1925; and Deeds from 1879-1888.  Although I’m still not impressed, since Ocean Springs was settled around 1699 and incorporated in 1892, I take note. 

The most thrilling of all of this is the tax rolls of 1819-1846. By analyzing tax rolls, I can often find out quite a bit about my ancestor: who were the neighbors, did they own land, etc.  However, if you are doing slave research, these records are usually of no value to you.  But be sure to become familiar with the tax rolls.

A curious point - the Jackson County marriages are divided as Marriages 1837-1919 and Marriages-White 1875-1883.  Perhaps free-coloreds and ex slaves after 1864 are listed here.  Worth looking in the index for a name.

3)      As I mentioned before, I’m still not impressed, so where else to spend those few days while in Jackson County, Mississippi?  Why not visit the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH).  website. I’m an advocate that you become familiar with the website catalog reviewing County and District digital holdings, as well as online collections, prior to your local visit. 

Keeping our example of Jackson County, Mississippi, I tested the Online Catalog, “County Records on Microfilm.” and found once again that most everything – deed books, estate records, etc. - has only been preserved from 1872.  This is not unusual, as the state archives’ holdings are only copies of what is held in the local jurisdictions, but in this case it does not appear that there have been any efforts to reconstruct records. 
So What Now?  More Places to Research

A Bit of Local Geography  - Based on a quick reading, it appears Mississippi became a state in 1817, and the major mode of transportation was via water. There are groupings of holdings at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History cataloged as the Biloxi District and the Gulfport District.  Although the Biloxi District Court and Will records begin in 1868 (pretty late), the Gulfport District dates back to 1841. 

Yes, I know the Gulfport District is in Harrison County, but it is adjacent to Jackson County.  So, now the questions are how and when did the county lines historically change?  A little more research is needed here, so why not check a State Formation Map?  Jackson County was established in 1812, but in 1841 the western part became Harrison County.

Historical Newspapers - Although I wouldn’t spend too much time searching old newspapers on microfilms, especially if they can be ordered from the state archives or through the FHL and reviewed at your home location, I would recommend you become aware of the politics and newspapers of the time.  The MDAH has a comprehensive holding of Historical Newspapers

Note to African American researchers, you may wish to go through church newspapers such as the Star of Zion, AME Zion.  Check for a local African American History Museum.

Special Collections
Public Libraries - Remember to go to the public library in town, which may have a collection of local historical papers or books.  Usually you can get assistance by calling the research librarians in advance. For African American researchers check for any Republican biased papers before 1900, they were more sympathetic to African American news.

University Collections - One last pointer: don’t forget the local university holdings.  They are unused goldmines.  Again, in this region, I would suggest African American researchers to be mindful of the local Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), even if they are located a few hours away.  Call in advance and become familiar with their holdings for your specific interest.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

All Slave Research is NOT the Same

Researching A New England Slave From The 1600s

First record of slavery
Official end of slavery
Actual end of slavery
Percent black 1790
Percent black 1860
   Chart: Slavery in the North, Douglas Harper, 2003; online

I received a message today from a reader who had a problem that all researchers of slaves would love to have.  She ran into a brick wall on her slave ancestor from the 1600s!  The 1600s?  That means, I suspect, she got through the Civil War, and backed up past the Revolutionary War, and was able to trace an ancestor to the 1600s! She even knew the slave master’s name.  What?  How?

This ancestor was from the Northeast.  Of course, like all of us, she wanted to continue her search using a comprehensive slave database.  Well, there are several slave databases scattered about, but none are comprehensive.  So what is a researcher of slaves to do?

You start researching and delving into the slave master’s records, and you begin to hone your analytical skills.  Yes, you should have paid attention in school.  For starters, pull the slave master’s will, deeds, and other relevant property records (that may include land records).  Why? These records most often named the slave by name (usually by first name, but may have a second name/surname if previously owned).  Slaves were valuable property and to be inherited in many cases.  There were even serious court fights over the ownership of a slave and the off-springs of slaves. 

Don’t forget to peek around the New England Historical Society in Boston for slave master records, even if your person wasn’t from Massachusetts. This repository holds a surprising amount of resources.

Now the analytical part! 1600 New England slave trafficking had a different flavor than that in the south. Just look at the chart above. Sure it too was part of the Atlantic Slave Trade, but practices and customs were different. Many slaves during this time were brought over with the masters, or purchased right off the ship, even though some did come from the south. So be sure to become familiar with where the slave master originated and lived (England, Portugal, etc).  Be familiar with customary practices of transporting and selling slaves for that area.  

By the Revolutionary War, slavery was practically wiped out in the US north east.

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