Friday, July 29, 2011

Revolutionary War Era Artifacts

A Few Items from the Claude and Inez Harkins Freedom Collection 

Artifacts, Documents and Artwork
Midwest Genealogy Center, Independence, MO.

Genealogists and historians rarely get the chance to see, observe, and process true Revolutionary War era relics. We have seen photos, have read about them, and have a fundamental understanding of what our ancestors used and valued during this time in history. But the Claude and Inez Harkins Freedom Collection of Revolutionary War-era, that includes artifacts, documents, and artwork, presents a bit of history and sharing in our ancestor's story. The current Roots of a Nation exhibit is being displayed at the Midwest Genealogy Center, Independence, MO., (until August 11, 2011) sponsored by the Mid-Continent Public Library.

The Exhibit
There are too many items to enumerate, but I have my favorites: a shoe buckle that was presented to Washington as a gift for his first inaugural. The variety of flags to include four documented 18th-century, 13 star flags, one of which belonged to Pierre L’Enfant, the architect of Washington, D.C, are also a public favorite.  The collection also includes Jennie Brownscomb's painting, “Examining the Flag”, depicting Betsy Ross presenting the completed “stars and stripes.  But it was the  impressive 1777 engraved powder horn of the Philadelphia Harbor during the celebration of the first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence that caught my eye.

What is a Powder Horn?

"During the American Revolutionary War, the powder horn was essential equipment for the soldier who used a firearm. The rifleman carried his firelock, hunting pouch, and a horn to carry gunpowder. Hunters and militia used powder horns. They were usually made from cow or ox horn.

Owners often incised initials, names, portraits, patterns, scenes and maps onto the horn to make them their very own. Engraved scenes often provide us with an immediate and vivid connection to events in the soldier's life."

More Information
The Roots of a Nation Exhibit
Free to the public
Midwest Genealogy Center, Independence, MO
Ends August 21, 2011

Hope to see you at the Exhibit!
Kathleen Brandt

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Divorce Records Aid Genealogy Research

Understanding the Legal Jargon
As with any research project, sometimes it's easier to find information from a backdoor.  So, when I couldn't find a marriage record quickly, I turned to the divorce records. (The wife's second marriage record indicated "divorce.") Surely the divorce record would provide the date of marriage and where it took place. But so much more was located. 

The 6 page legal document included not just the marriage date and place, the details of the divorce were outlined to include the reason: wife committed adultery;  the name of the paramour; place of residence; place of work; and, dates and places of rendezvous': "in the home" and "in the wood near the home.

My Wife Is An Infant!
I gave a second glance at the sentence that declared the wife as an infant.  What?!? Historically, infancy was defined as under the age of 21.  In this case, the wife married at 16 years old and was still in infancy at the time of her divorce - 19 years old.
The libellant [husband]...respectively shows to the Court that [the wife], is an infant. [1]
The document further explains that the husband served as the guardian but for the purpose of divorce proceedings, he asked that the court appoint a "guardian ad litem for said infant."

From the Bond of Marriage
It's not often you see A.V.M  (A Vinculo Matrimoni: translated from the bond of marriage) front and center on a divorce petition.  But when adultery was involved, a divorce, A.V. M., often followed. This is seen frequently in Pennsylvania and New York. 

Grounds for Divorce A.V.M.
  • adultery
  • canonical disabilities - where either party is unable to consummate the marriage
  • impotence
  • polygamy
  • desertion
  • if a spouse is imprisoned for life (NY) 
 Where's the Proof?
10. the respondent did, during the month of December, 1926, and at divers other times since, in the home of the libellant ..., while the libellant was absent at work, and in a wood near the home of the libellant  on the 6th day of April, 1928 and at divers other times and places which the libellant is unable to state, with ...[paramour] commit adultery in violation of her marriage vows and the laws of this Commonwealth. [1]

With the description above, there's no question why the divorce A.V.M. was granted. 

Importance of A.V. M.
Further reading of the divorce papers explains the importance of A Vinculo Matrimoni. Today the term "absolute divorce" is used, granting the party the right to remarry.
Historically, the guilty spouse could not marry the lover when adultery was declared.  Subsequent marriages were allowed, but not to the lover.  Plus, in many cases, the marriage was annulled as if it never happened.
12.  the libellant further prays that a decree may be given by your Honorable Court for the separating of said [wife],respondent, from the society, company and fellowship of  [husband], libellant, from the bonds of if they had never been married, and as if she, the [wife]...were naturally dead.  [1]

[1] "Libel in Divorce A. V. M." May Term 1928. Court of Common Pleas of Washington, Pennsylvania. From the County of Washington Office of the Prothonotary, Washington Courthouse, Washington, PA; in author's file.

Kathleen Brandt

Sunday, July 17, 2011

5 Generation Morris Family Quilt

The 9-Block Family Quilt, 5 Generations 
1838 - 2011
Quilted by Kathleen Brandt, 2011
The Morris Family Quilt of Life
Have you ever looked at your ancestors for inspiration? How did they do it? How did they handle the seemingly abrupt changes in their lives? The answer lies in their life stories. Through the snapshot of my Ancestral Quilt, The Quilt of Life,  I found a familiar pattern. The pattern that proves that my life is not that much different than theirs so long ago. 

Let's retract a bit of ancestral history!
In 1855 my ancestors were established blacksmiths and owned land in Rutherford County, NC. They were surrounded by family, friends, and customers.  By 1861 the Civil War disrupts their lives.

Events of the Reformation Era forced them to move, find new land, and start anew.  Reestablishing their lives was paramount, this time in western Tennessee.  There, new land was purchased, new jobs were had, and new friends were made.  But change was on the horizon.

We find the Morris ancestors in Coldwater, Kansas in 1884. The mass exit from the south, the expansion of the railroad, and political uprisings inspired this move to towns that weren't even settled well.  But, land was abundant as were opportunities; unfortunately, so were diseases and the nationwide economic depression: The Panic of 1893. 

By the 1900 census, confirmed by newspaper articles, we find our ancestor in the Indian Territory of Oklahoma. 

Telling our ancestor's story is telling our story of life changes, perseverance and successes.  It appears this pattern of settling, uprooting, and reestablishing a comfortable life was never ending.  Is this any different from what we do today when we choose to (or have to) face change? This Ancestral Quilt is just a snapshot of the life, family and migratory pattern that connects the Morris' of yesteryear to today.

The 9-Block Family Quilt, 
Quilted by Kathleen Brandt, 2011 

Note: all blocks are not shown in detail to protect the living.

Row 1: GG Grandpa Tobe, 1838 ((mulatto); From Tobe to Me (6 Generation); 5 of 11 children of Tobe
Row 2:G-Grandpa Thomas, 1873; Family Migration Path; Children of Thomas


Row 3:Grandpa Cecil, 1905 (wife Kathleen), and other living 5th and 6th generations

 Note: all blocks are not shown in detail to protect the living. 

Kathleen Brandt of a3Genealogy began blogging 17 July 2008. This blog post is to honor the ancestors that inspired the first blog: A Living By Writing, Traveling and Genealogy. A salute to our 3 year blogiversary and future posts.

Thanks for sharing with us!

Kathleen Brandt

Friday, July 15, 2011

Civilian Conservation Corps Records

History of the 1930-1940's
Recently, I read an historical-rich piece posted on the website: Civilian Conservation Corps: Records From the Great Depression Era penned by Diane L. Richards. It's funny how we are often so busy as researchers to stop and investigate how records become necessary.  What was the impetus of such a collection?  Diane gives us a great historical background of the CCC collection held at the NARA. Knowledge on the making of records increases our effectiveness as family researchers. 

Different Experiences; Same Collection 
In 2009, I posted Civilian Personnel Records at the NARA. The idea was to inform readers that the CCC resource was waiting to be tapped. I was on a quest to locate records of a Doctor that served on the Sioux Indian reservation. Like Diane's experience, I spent a while copying page after page of records. They included a photo, names of Russian parents, job promotions, and even his resignation letter. Information on his migration was embedded as well as other places he resided. 

I was ecstatic to find a client's ancestor within the CCC files, but surprised that a Federal government Indian reservations project was included.  This job fell under the Department of Interior. Perhaps the element of surprise was from lack of processing the purpose of the CCC. But either way, the more researchers share their experiences with these records, the more it proves their versatility. 

Be sure to become familiar with these records and enjoy the free Learn From Expert series on the website.

Kathleen Brandt

(Disclosure: I was not paid for this article, but I am an author for the in various capacities to include Learn: Expert Articles.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Land Plats and Family History

Family Maps of Boone County;
1st ed., Boyd, GregoryAlan, 1960
Land Plat Section Numbers Had Purpose
Email Question: I stumbled on a genealogy land oddity.  My ancestor homesteaded section 16 of his township.  The big question is who owned this land, and how did my ancestor get it? 
(Note: not complete quote from the email).

Let's give a bit of background of land surveys. In 1779, Thomas Jefferson suggested that every county in Virginia be divided into 5-6 mile squares in order to support school efforts.  In 1784 public land surveys were added which lead us to the 36 mile parcels of 640 acres or "Sections" of today.

The Land Ordinance of 1785 established the method needed to divide and sale public lands.  By 1785 lands northwest to of the Ohio River and west of the Mississippi river were all divided into 6 miles square townships. The 1785 Ordinance also included Section 16 of each Township be set aside for maintenance of public schools.  This is to suggest that each township include a 640 acre School Land parcel, Section 16.

Why Section 16?
Section 16 falls somewhere in the middle of each township.

Tracing Landownership of Section 16
As in this case, the ancestor at one time actually owned Section 16. She asks: So the big question is who owned the land [...]and how did my ancestor get it? 

No time-frame was provided, but here are a few hints to begin your Section 16 or any land plat search for lands set-aside.  

If your ancestor owned the land before the ordinance, begin with deeds, patents, wills, etc. But if he got it after the ordinance, you may wish to brush up on the states' laws.  Some states bonded out land during the wars.  This is often seen during the Civil War where many towns were desecrated. And although the lands had been previously surveyed, upon return to familiar towns or settlements of open lands, people "homesteaded" or squatted in Section 16 lands. This practice was not foreign during the War of 1812 either.

Another reasonable answer: border changes. As town and state borders changed there was a blur as to the validity of previously surveyed lands. Re-surveying records may differ from the originals.

Next Steps
These 3 suggestions may lead you to answers when researching Section 16 lands that were set aside for schools.
1) Determine year of acquisition by ancestor and  review community history of city and state. Was this town devastated by a war or natural disaster and forced to be re-settled or resurveyed?
2) Go back to the deed book. Deed books may tell you how an ancestor acquired the land but you may have to go back (or forward) several generations.
3) Analyze plat maps and county formation maps to determine county and border changes.

For More Information
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) "Our Record Keeping History" is a great place to find more information.

Kathleen Brandt

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Using Census Records

1910 Census Instructions

Why We Need to Understand
Last Tuesday a client asked me unscramble her family research. There were conflicting dates, names, ages, occupations, etc.  The culprit...her census record interpretations and analysis from 1850 - 1930. 

Accurate analysis and conflict resolutions are key to properly identifying your ancestor and creating their life story. Once we pull various census records to identify family units and rectify dates, we can further utilize these enumerations to assist in creating a family snapshot.

But Beware
Certified Genealogist Sharon Tate Moody penned an Take care when relying on census records for the Tampa Bay Online 10 July 2011 that outlines the pitfalls of poor census analysis of occupations. Was your 1880 ancestor John Morris the blacksmith, or John Morris the teamster?  We often follow occupations to distinguish or link persons with common names.

1-2-3 Census Records: The Basics
In the a3Genealogy Workshop: 1-2-3 Census Records the Basics© I cover the following:

1) Understand the forms.
Family researchers often fail to consider the background and purpose of each census. There are purposeful changes from one census form to the next. Each carry distinct emphasis that can be uncovered through the census taker's directions.  Explicit instructions were given.

2) Understand the answers.
Answers carried a heavy load. They may have reflected a social influence or just a lack of understanding a question. Why might your ancestor be marked as naturalized in 1910, but recorded as an alien in 1920? The researcher should not just cast aside this discrepancy.

The language of yesteryear must also be taken into account.  A teamster of today is not a teamster of oxen and animals of yesterday.  Sharon Moody gives a great example of a mechanic.

3) Rectify discrepancies.
Census records are a great launching point for your research. But with its error-filled enumerations, genealogists must expect discrepancies.  Using Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) the researcher must support and provide sound reasoning for their final determination.  Uncle Joe could not have been born in 3 different years. 

Happy Genealogy Week
Kathleen Brandt

Thursday, July 7, 2011

African American Revolutionary War Soldiers

Freedom, Rights, and Independence Day
In 2011 Americans of all colors, race and religion are free to join in the festivities of the 4th of July.  Not to dampen the spirit, but we can't forget that in 1776 slavery was a welcomed institution even while the words freedom and rights were widespread. Colonies fought against the British forces in the Revolutionary War, 1775-1783, for such freedoms and rights that were not extended to slaves for another 80 plus years. 

African American Revolutionary Soldiers
In some states, like North Carolina,  free-coloreds were allowed to serve as soldiers, others as laborers.  Slaves, too, served as substitutes for white men.  In exchange they were most often promised their freedom, as was my ancestor, Ned Griffin.

Ned Griffin
An Act for Enfranchising Ned Griffin, Late the Property of William Kitchen.

[An Act for Enfranchising Ned Griffin, Late the Property of William Kitchen Colonial Records. Acts of the North Carolina General Assembly, 1784 April 19, 1784 - June 03, 1784
; Volume 24, Pages 543 - 649.]
I. Whereas, Ned Griffin, late the property of William Kitchen, of Edgecomb county, was promised the full enjoyments of his liberty, on condition that he, the said Ned Griffin, should faithfully serve as a soldier in the continental line of this State for and during the term of twelve months; and whereas the said Ned Griffin did faithfully on his part perform the condition, and whereas it is just and reasonable that the said Ned Griffin should receive the reward promised for the services which he performed;
II. Be it therefore Enacted by the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina, and it is hereby Enacted by the authority of the same, That the said Ned Griffin, late the property of William Kitchen, shall forever hereafter be in every respect declared to be a freeman; and he shall be, and he is hereby enfranchised and forever delivered and discharged from the yoke of slavery; any law, usage or custom to the contrary thereof in anywise notwithstanding.
As many as 10% of the Continental Army soldiers were African Americans. Ancestor Ned Griffin, served in The Battle of Guilford Courthouse, March 15, 1781. The following history is available on the History from the National Park Service, Guilford Courthouse website.

Ned Griffin, a “Man of mixed Blood,” served as William Kitchen’s substitute in the North Carolina Militia.  William Kitchen deserted the army prior to the battle of Guilford Courthouse and purchased Griffin to serve in his place.
Hiring a substitute was a common practice for those who could afford it. In this case, Kitchen promised
Griffin his freedom upon return. Griffin fulfilled his service (it is believed to have been at the battle of
Guilford Courthouse), but Kitchen instead sold him back again into slavery [upon his return].
In April 1784
Griffin petitioned the North Carolina General Assembly for his freedom based on Kitchen’s “promise.”  The assembly acted quickly and enacted legislation that freed and enfranchised Ned Griffin and declared him “forever delivered and discharged from the yoke of slavery.”

The Slave and the Fourth of July
In July 1852 Frederick Douglass, a former slave and a leader in the Abolitionist Movement was invited by the Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society of Rochester, New York to speak at the Independence Day celebration. Millions of Americans of African descent were yet trapped in the tyranny of slavery decades after the Revolutionary War. Douglass delivered his Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro speech as planned. First paying tribute to the United States, to Jefferson, to the Founders, to the Declaration of Independence, he then shared his "What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?" famous oration. This excerpt well explains not only what Ned Griffin endured for years after the serving in the Revolutionary War, but the pains of his fellow plantation mates, not yet free. Douglass speaks on the limited celebration of Independence Day:
I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony.
Kathleen Brandt

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Don't Wait for the 1940 Census

Did Your Ancestor Complete the 1940 Alien Registration?
As I am unable to use my client file, this is a copy of a Sample Registration on the NARA Website.
Family historians and genealogists can't wait for the 1940 census which will be released in April, 2012, just a few months away! But what if you can get a jump start on the 1940 research of your ancestor?  Are you familiar with the 1940 Alien Registration forms, the result of the Alien Registration Act of 1940, that resulted in over five million registration
forms submitted? 

The Purpose and Process of the 1940 Alien Registration? 
Do not confuse the 1940 Alien Registration with the Enemy with the Enemy Alien Registration Affidavits from the WWI era (1917-1921). This Registration form was designed to take "inventory" of the country's resources.

The KC National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) newsletter of July 2011 states the process best.
The registration process included a questionnaire form and a requirement that fingerprints be taken at the time of registration (certain exclusions applied for diplomats, employees of foreign governments, and children under the age of (14).

The Alien Registration Form contained fifteen questions including when and where the subject was born, when and where they entered the United States, a physical description, and inquiries about employment, organization memberships, prior military service, and attempts to obtain naturalization in the U.S. As  Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) received the forms, an Alien Registration Number was assigned (ex. A12 345 678) and an Alien Registration Receipt Card containing this number was mailed to each registrant as proof of  alien status. For additional information, visit the NARA website:

Genealogical Tool
The Alien Registration forms may contain a photograph of your ancestor (alien). Their residence in non-census years, and country of origin may be included in the Alien file. Plus, family historians may find copies of foreign birth certificates (some translated) and foreign marriage licenses. Other data that may be found on the Alien Registration forms are Alien Registration number, alias names, date of entry, parent's names, as well as the alien's naturalization information of the foreign born.

Locating the Forms
There were over 5 million Alien Registration Forms submitted in 1940. The National Archives maintains more than 350,000 of the A-Files of aliens who were born 1909 and prior. These files may be located in Record Group 85, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

These documents have not been digitized, but OPA or ARC may be used to narrow down your ancestor's alien number by an inquiry of name, date of birth or country.

However, not all of the A-Files have been accessioned to the NARA. The USCIS maintains all active and inactive A-Files that have not yet been transferred to the NARA. Researchers may also wish to go through the Genealogy Program of The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)  office to locate an ancestor's Alien File.

Author's Note
When working through the USCIS Genealogy Program, expect a lengthy delay in receiving documents. This program recently streamlined this program, and has made changes to its previous procedures.  I found the 45 day process of yesteryear, to take 90 days plus to complete a recent transaction.  But Voila! the documents have been received, with the genealogical treasures needed to close a client's case.

Another great resource for genealogy research!
Kathleen Brandt

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Coat of Arms and Family Research

A Great Tool to Unscramble Historical Mysteries
Unfortunately, family historians often fail to familiarize themselves with heraldic records and repositories. However, this is a valuable tool especially for early colonial researchers. Recently I penned Coats of Arms and Family Research for, an online genealogy magazine, to give a quick primer on the value of heraldic records as a tool for family research.  Of course, we are not referring to the local shopping center's "kiosk coat of arms" or "souvenirs" but an authentic, timely-registered coat of arms. 

Relevance of Coat of Arms
Legitimate coats of arms are inherently full of genealogical data. By decoding the coat of arms, genealogists versed in the history of the twelfth to seventeenth centuries, can determine ethnic origin, class status, and social history of an ancestor using heraldic records and repositories.  Most often I use heraldic records to distinguish families with common surnames, purge parasites from colonial genealogical trees, or to determine parentage, as well as home place and region.  

In Europe, paternal coat of arms were used for proper identification from 1250 and 1500.  But from 1500 - 1750, on both sides of the ocean, a coat of arms was used as a status symbol, designating rank, landownership, wealth or fame. So, a legitimate coat of arms may assist in connecting an immigrant ancestor to his European origin.   

Where to Begin
Of course the family researcher will want to become familiar with heraldic terms, regulations, customs and designs. A great place to start...
1) Read Coats of Arms and Family Research  published on the website.
2)  Research heraldic authority records, registrations and petitions to discover information on an arm-bearing ancestor
Happy Heraldic Hunting
Kathleen Brandt