Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wisdom Wednesday - 8870 Formula Every Time

Exact Dates with Subtraction

Basic math can help even genealogist.  Let’s take a walk through the cemetery armed with only a birth date, and without your beloved calculator. And VOILA, you finally find Mrs. Ancestor’s tombstone!  Mrs. Ancestor’s grave marker (or death record) reveals important information.  She died at 83y, 11m,29d on 28 March 1901 (I’ve found my share of these types of etchings).[1]
Very basic math would place Mrs. Ancestor birth year as 1818 (1901 minus 83years).  But we have more information on Mrs. Ancestor now.  Ignoring the reason her loved ones declared it important to put 83y 11m 29d on her tombstone; this added information has helped me break a few cases. Armed with the 8870 formula, I can determine an exact birth date.

Let’s use the 8870 formula on the spot, at the tombstone, without a calculator to quickly derive at the answer.  There’s no need to count backwards. This method can also be used to verify the accuracy of your birth data, or may create questions if the birth year you have the one calculated by the 8870 formula is correct.

Apply the Formula*
Tombstone Facts on Mrs. Ancestor
Died:                                       March 28, 1901 
Age on Tombstone:                 83y 11m 29d
Birth date:                               unknown

Death              19010328        March 28, 1901
Age                 -  831129         83y 11m 29d
                      -       8870         Constant – 8870 Formula 
Birth date        18170329         March 29, 1817

There are times that you will get answers that don't work out perfectly.  For example you may get 13 months or 58 days.  If this is the case, base the answer on 12 months, 30 day  (i.e. 13 = 1 more year; whereas 58 days needs one more month and 28 days (58-30 =28 days).

More Information
If you do not wish to do this by hand, there are handy dandy calculators on the computer.  Try the Tombstone Calculator at Ancestor Search.  The Board for Certification of Genealogists webpage provides many examples and an explanation of the nuances.                 

This method has been used by genealogists for years.  Now you have the secret formula.

Accurate, Accessible Answers

[1] This is an example: I filled in the days with 29, to avoid the complication of nuances.  Tombstone does not read 29d.  Read the BCG nuances to learn how to calculate a birthdate without the days. 
*This example has been simplified. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - Dating Tombstones

Let’s Review the Basics
Sandstone Grave Marker
 When walking the cemetery finding Mr. Ancestor, an unmarked grave in the cemetery plot can still lead to hints. For one, don’t forget to note the material of the tombstone, especially of unmarked grave.  This detailed information can be helpful when trying to distinguish generations in families that reuse names.  Such was the case with the five sons of Oney Martin and Alford Martin.  The eldest son was Alford, as were two grandsons and one great-grandson.  None had readable dates on their tombstones. 

I have also used this method to determine when the marker was placed on the grave.  This may provide hints to erroneous dates, especially, when a marker is placed years after the ancestor’s demise. When the material of the tombstone does not match the death date of the deceased, it is important to take note.

Headstone, Tombstone, or Grave Marker?
“The terms headstone, tombstone, grave marker and gravestone are used synonymously. But it wasn’t always that way. At one time, tombstones and gravestones were actually different things. The terms tombstone and headstone were originally used to describe the stone lid of a coffin, while a ‘gravestone’ was the marker that was placed on top of the gravesite.”[1]

Matching Dates/Eras with Tombstone Materials
The following information has been reprinted for genealogists periodically. I most recently saw it in an archived copy of the Harper County Connections (Kansas) genealogy periodical.[2]

Sandstone or brownstone (a type of sandstone) was often used in Colonial America.  Brownstone deteriorated quickly.
Slate material or fieldstone.  Pioneers used wood slates, but few exist due to natural decomposition.
Limestone and marble (a re-crystallized form of limestone, but quite expensive) dissolve slowly due to the mild acid of rainwater.  These flat topped hard marble inscriptions become less readable over time. Although 1830-1849 is the most common period marble and limestone tombstones may be seen, this date may be extended from 1780-1930.
rounded or pointed soft marble with cursive inscriptions. 
1850s -present
Masonic four sided-stones
pylons, columns and exotic style monuments
sand-cast zinc monuments or “white bronze” was marketed as a more durable and less expensive material than marble.
granite most common

Can’t Make Out the Date?
Try using a 75 watt black light bulb (in any lamp) and cast the light directly on the written message.

Accurate, Accessible Answers

[1] Headstones and Memorials, A Short History of the Granite Headstone.;  Online access 22 Jun 2010
[2] Harper County Connections, “Bits N’ Pieces” (original source note “from the Michigan USGenWeb page).

Friday, June 18, 2010

French Genealogy Blog

 Researching Ancestors from France?

The educational and informative French Genealogy Blog, authored by professional genealogist Anne Morddel, encourages readers to research French Heritage. As Morddel lives in France, she is able to also keep her readers up to date on any Fédération Française de Généalogie policy changes that may affect online genealogical research as she did in her post "Bad News."

Like most Professional Genealogists, I prefer going directly to the source and reading the information in the native language, so I appreciate Morddel’s close attention to providing the necessary links.[1] For those who do not consider themselves as Francophone researchers, Morddel’s English translations will be much appreciated.

About French Records
If you are searching for your French ancestry, you are in luck. I would rate the France genealogical records as being excellent after 1789 - 1910; great after mid 1600s; and fair between 1334 and mid 1600s.[2]

Where to Find More Information
A thorough“Beginner’s Guide to Researching Your French Ancestry” may be found at the About.Com:Genealogy website. This website goes into depth on “Where are the Records?” and “Where to Start?” What the reader will find most helpful is the breakdown and historical facts of each record type, i.e. births, census, etc.

Portals to France
The Library of Congress "Portals to the World" website is bookmarked on my work computer. It lists about six “go to” resources on its “Genealogy: France” page. Each of these sites are populated with links and pages that the France researcher will cherish. Cyndi’s List has a large selection of help websites for France research in English.

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, Accessible Answers

[1] See author’s "Experience and Qualifications"
[2] French records are held as private records for 100 years.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Confederate Ancestors Fed Up

Missing in 1870 Census, Found in 1880?

The civil war ripped Confederates of their land, possessions, and slaves. They no longer felt safe and were discontent with the Reconstruction and changes in their way of living. They felt as “outsiders” in their own country.

Up to twenty thousand southerners left the United States between 1865-1885, for a 30 to 60 day passage and new life in Brazil.[1] Most of these exiles were from Alabama, Texas, and South Carolina. However, 12 of the southern states were represented in Brazil. It is estimated that many of these expatriates, returned to the United States, the others and their descendants became Confederados.[2]

For Genealogists – Descendants of Confederates
Your ancestor may have decided to leave the USA for a few years, or indefinitely, after the Civil War. Children birth places and names may be the first clue. Local newspapers are also a good source. Ship records and Brazilian immigration records may also assist.[3]

Why Brazil?
In spite of pleas from Gen Robert E. Lee to not leave the south, the disenchanted Confederates answered the call of Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil. Pedro offered land grants and transport assistance. Land was offered at 22 cents an acre, with four years credit and the expatriates successfully farmed and planted cotton.[4] A big attraction of Brazil was that slavery was not abolished until 1888.

Confederado Communities?
The Confederates settled in São Paulo and Paraná provinces in the American colonies of Americana, Campinas, Juquiá, New Texas and Xiririca. There were also colonies in Espírito Santo and Santarém. The Baptists/Protestant Campo cemetery, for the Confederados is located outside Santa Barbara do Oeste. Campo is the meeting place for festivals and is usually filled with fried chicken, cornbread and southern cuisine. The largest, “Festa Confederado,” raises awareness of the Confederados every April and the Confederate flag is proudly flying on the 4th of July celebration.

Although the Confederados were in a Catholic dominant country, their communities survived around the English speaking Protestant churches. English was spoken with a southern drawl as late as the 1950’s.[5] And, the descendents of the Confederate colonists still call themselves Confederados.

Even though the original settlers were not accustomed to the racially mixed families and the large population of Brazilian free coloreds The present day Confederados have embraced the Brazilian culture,. Whereas, early settlers did not intermarry with the Brazilians, due to their racial mix, present day descendents of the Confederados reside in all provinces of Brazil, and they freely intermarry.[6]

Why Return to the USA?
There were diseases like malaria and smallpox that drove many colonists to return to America. In addition, not all of the soil was good for farming, and Brazil abolished slavery in 1888. There was also civil unrest in 1932.

Ex-slaves Went Too?
It was not too uncommon for a freed-slave to travel to Brazil in order to upgrade his “colored” status. Although slavery was still legal in Brazil for 23 years after emancipation in the USA, free coloreds in Brazil were given many more opportunities than those given to the ex-slaves during the Reconstruction Era.[7]

For More Information
A full bibliography and overview is given in Confederados: South Goes South: American Perspectives on Southern Immigrants to Brazil by Ernest R. Rheaume is online.

Accurate, Accessible Answers
[1] “30-60 day passage” reported in Brasil: migrações internacionais e identidad. Online access 15 June 2010. Although there are no accurate numbers of those who left, in 1872 the most accurate data records approximately 4,000 exiles. The numbers range between 3 thousand and 20 thousand. Some historians believe the numbers were intentionally lowered as to not cause a mass exodus. Movimento de passageiros norte-americanos no porto do Rio de Janeiro; 1865-1890, autor and researcher Betty Antunes de Oliveira, (a descendent of a Confederado) documented up to 20 thousand colonists in Brazil.
[2] It is estimated that up to 60% of the exiles returned to the USA.
[3] The Confederados often moved in religious and community groups. The Brasil: migrações internacionais e identidad identifies the number of Americans who landed on the shores of Brazil in 1867.
[4] The Confederados: Forgotten Descendants of the Confederate States of America
[5] Brazil, No promised land for Confederates:; Preserving the Culture:; online access 15 Jun 2010
[7] Black people in Brazil who had white ancestry were not considered “black.” In 1976, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (BGE) reported a classification system whereby the citizens were able to identity themselves using skin color; and, there were 134 terms.The Brazil reader: history, culture, politics. Levine, Robert M. and Crocitti, John J; online access Google Books; pgs. 386-390. Racial Classifications in Latin America; Online access, 15 June, 2010.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wyandotte County Kansas, Records

Naturalization and Immigration

Wyandotte Couty Courthouse, Kansas City, Kansas

Finally made headway with the Wyandotte County Courthouse in Kansas City, Kansas. a3Genealogy now has access to the original Naturalization and Immigration ledgers at the courthouse for clients.

Must Preserve the Records
As researchers we all want historical records and ledgers to be preserved. But, we also need these historical documents to be accessible, even if it is in digital format or microform. Not all records have been microfilmed or digitized. Yet, like many county courthouses, Wyandotte County has enforced a rule that the public can no longer directly handle the ledgers. I can understand this, as I have seen the results of years of mishandling these valuable documents.

In order to preserve the books, an appointed volunteer from the Wyandotte County Unified Government pulls requests periodically. Although this solution works in theory, in reality it has been less than acceptable for many reasons:

  1. Hired researchers and professional genealogists want to ensure quality and completeness if not by doing the researcher themselves, then by a reputable peer.

  2. It is frustrating requesting a Naturalization Petition Record and only receiving the Declaration (even though the Petition was in the adjacent book.

  3. Professional genealogists and hired researchers need proper citations, and a log/report/review reporting which books were searched (positive or negative)

  4. Hired researchers/professionals are often working under a time agreement.

Why Hire a Researcher When the Service is Free?
A full understanding of the ever changing immigration and naturalization provisions as they were implemented in the county, the state, and at the Federal level and an understanding of the workings of the County and District Court systems allows the researcher to thoroughly search within all the relevant records. Plus, the client deserves (and has paid for) a properly documented final report with the relevant documents or information on a negative search.

The Solution
The Wyandotte County Courthouse has agreed that along with their current system of pulling records, a3Genealogy may also have access to the original records as needed for those who need professional services.

Kathleen Brandt

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Don’t Be A Poor Reporter

And Don't Censor the Facts

As genealogists we are researchers, detectives, and reporters of the facts. We should let the readers have the facts and fill them in as we can.  It is also our duty to update the readers with relevant information. It’s no different than what we want from a news report.
Michael Tutera (victim
Matthew T. Hendrix
Here in Kansas City this past week a prominent father, Michael Tutera, 49 years old, married to Sonya, was murdered inside his gated community.  The Kansas City Star wrote at least four articles on the murder, to which a seventeen year old primary suspect, Matthew T. Hendrix, (identified earlier that day by the victim), is said to have confessed the motive was robbery.

Troy Davis
Hendrix, the young 17 year old white college student, claims he was waiting for the gunmen outside the home at the time of the murder.  Hendrix was arrested along with one of the alleged shooters, Troy Davis, a 22 year old African American male.[1]  There is no evidence that Troy was a college student.

This Is Not A Murder Blog
But Let’s s Analyze The Facts, Shall We? 

Like news reporters we are responsible of getting accurate data to our readers within a time frame.  So, I imposed a 30 minute time frame to find more information. Beginning with a yearning to make sense of this murder, I began with a few questions:
  • How did these suspects enter the gated community? 
  • Why would this 49 year old wealthy man be able to identify a 17 year old kid? 
  • Why would the 17 year old UMKC college student know the 22 year old alleged shooter?
  • At 1:00am, the time of the murder, why was Tutera the only one in the home?
Even though the KC Star failed to mention these tidbits in their reports, I found that the answers were readily available.
  • Michael Tutera’s estranged wife (no mention of estranged in any article) had previously been arrested for assaulting him and was given a 90 day suspended sentence.  She was not living in the home.
  • In 2009, Tutera and wife Sonya, who had purchased Richard Bloch’s (of H & R Block) mansion defaulted on the mortgage, which led to a bank foreclosure and demolition. The home's destruction angered historic preservationists.  In addition the bank is suing for about $270,000 still owed from the transactions.
  • In 2009, Michael Tutera sold his 17.62% ownership interest in the parent company of Central Bank of Kansas City, which has $177.5 million in assets, for about $3 million.[2]  This led to a family division where in the end Tutera sued his mother, sister and brother for “fraud”. A motion hearing had been set for this upcoming July.
  • Although Hendrix did not live in the gated community, he was son of one of Sonya’s best friend. [3]
  • Tutera was being sued by his homeowners association for almost a year's worth of dues.[4] This has resulted in an action filed Wednesday in Jackson County seeking eviction from his home.[5]
Murder Conclusion
Q. Now why did I have to read through a dozen articles, reports, documents, etc., to find this information? 
A. One source did not provide me with a full picture.

I am not qualified to come to conclusions (even though I have my ideas.)  My job is not to skew evidence, but as a reporter I should provide the facts, and give the reader accurate and complete data, and provide them with the “social history” or “climate” of the event.   

News or Headlines?
As genealogists we should be giving our readers “news.” Headlines are just not enough for our readers.  Headliners are teasers, but the meat is in the news.  News should include social history or at least background information. And, never leave out relevant information. 

Accurate, Accessible Answers


Friday, June 4, 2010

WPA Projects

Works Progress (Project) Administration

YouTube: WPA

In catching up with my back logged reading I landed on the a Tangled Tree post entitled WPA – Documenting the home of Reuben Nance, 11 April 2010 which used the Works Project Administration of Virginia Historical Inventory (WPA).

What wonderful resource for researchers! T. Casteel of Tangled Trees reminds us of this gem tucked away at the State and Federal level. Across the country The WPA Historical Records Survey collected indexes of historical records. These included indexes of everything from cemeteries to music periodicals.

What was the WPA?

The Works Progress Administration was ordered as part of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935 (April). It was designed to generate public jobs for the unemployed of which more than 3.4 million people were hired by 1936. Although this relief effort was more costly, with a price tag up to $11 billion, than a direct relief payment, the idea of the bill was “Give a man a dole, and you save his body and destr9oy his spirit. Give him a job and you save both body and spirit.” [Harry Lloyd Hopkins]

WPA was renamed the Works Projects Administration in 1939. By 1941, the war efforts absorbed many of the American workers; and by June of 1943, WPA was no longer needed.

Although most states historical collections and archives holds the WPA inventories and collections, there are also the records held at the National Archives. The National Archives houses the Records of the Work Projects Administration (WPA) in Record Group (RG) 69.

Records within the NARA range from the more commonly known Division of Engineering and Construction (RG 69.4.4) to the less referenced records of the Art Music, Theater and Writers Projects beginning with RG 69.5.2. to RG 69.5.5.

State Records and Inventories
WPA Workers Protest 

Many states have created their own historical inventory, as that referenced in the Tangled Tree post. It appears that T. Casteel used the Library of Virginia – Virginia Historical Inventory to locate information on her Nance ancestry.

In Missouri, a similar collection may be found within the Western Historical Manuscript Collection – Columbia: US Works Project Administration, Historical Records Survey, Missouri 1935 – 1942.  This collection, part of the Federal Writers Project of the WPA, holds 817 rolls of microfilm, and can be viewed in Columbia, or at the University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC) campus.

Other States
Like Virginia and Missouri, every state or region has records of their WPA inventories, indices, and collections. Most locations of these records can be found by using a simple internet search.

Accurate, Accessible Answers

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Native American Research and Resources

The American Indian Experience Website
Mickey Free and Youngest Daughter [4]
One in about five request is for Native American research.  However, researchers do not always know where to begin.  I usually suggest The American Indian Experience (AIE) website, where there is “a full-text digital resource exploring the histories and contemporary cultures of the indigenous peoples of the United States.”[1]  This online library offers references regarding arts and media, business and labor, civil rights, culture and more in the form of images, reference materials (titles), primary sources, timelines, and maps.

Images and Titles
The image index allows the researcher to search by categories to obtain a thumbnail of a relevant photo.  The added feature is that the source of the image and the accompanying text may be accessed by a click on the image.  In researching information on Mickey Free, I was able to obtain an image and found additional background information on him when I was directly connected to The Encyclopedia of Native American Biography: Six Hundred Life Stories of Important People from Powhatan to Wilma Mankiller  This resource led me to historical information on Mickey Free, the Pinalino Apache descendant.

The Title List  is populated with 140 reference titles.  It is amongst this collection that I found a reference to The End of the Idyll [2] the “Negro Fort” where the black slaves of Florida began collaborating with the American Indians as early as 1687. 

Primary Source Index
Many researchers enjoy perusing the Primary Source Index where you may research a native Indian tribe by name; or search for information by topic or era.  You can also do a subject search by an individual’s surname for a quote or epigraph.  It is here that I found a quote from the chief of the Blackfeet Confederacy:
What is life? It is the flashes of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the winter time. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset. (As Long as the Rivers Shall Flow, War Resisters League, 1974.) [3]
 Timeline and Historical References
As genealogists and family historians we know that social history helps tell the stories of our ancestors.  Finding information and clues of the American Indian social history based on time periods can easily be accessed through the Timeline feature of The American Indian experience website.  This timeline is subdivided by education, laws and legislation, wars and conflicts, etc., for easy research.

Landmark Documents and Maps
Early maps of tribes, current reservations, and exploration and settlements can be found using the website’s Landmark Documents feature. 

This website is a must when researching Native American ancestry and history.

Accurate, Accessible Answers

[1] The American Indian Experience website:; accessed 1 Jun 2010
[2] Anderson, Robert L. ‘The End of an Idyll.” Florida Historical Quarterly 42, no. 1 (July 1963): 35–47. The American Indian Experience website; accessed 1 Jun 2010
[3] The American Indian Experience website:; accessed 1 Jun 2010.  It is not clear if the credit to quote should be given to Crowfoot or Ceowfoot.
[4] Mickey Free and Youngest Daughter;  The American Indian Experience website:; accessed 1 Jun 2010.