Friday, September 30, 2011

Finding Holes in Your Research

Anna Charlotta was NOT Alma Charlotta  
Hidden Data in Your Collection

I suggest to beginners to collect their data, but don’t just pull document after document to prove your ancestor’s existence without understanding what the data is telling you. What is your ancestor’s story? It is written between the lines, hidden within one word, or in one obscure date.

I recently pulled no less than 30 pages of Swedish records on a Samuelsson family that I was following. I copied birth, marriage, household examinations and death records for a period of about 50 years. Then, I paused!

Write That Report
The best way to analyze your data is to write about it. Begin writing for yourself or your client, not when the project is finished - since it will never be finished – but when you believe you have sufficient data to tell a story. Then, you will find your holes, which will keep you focused toward finding “the rest of the story.”

Analyzing Data
With magnifying glass in hand, I realized that my Samulesson’s marriage record revealed that he was a soldier in the Swedish military and had served in both France and England. It was buried between his homeplace and date and marriage date. Just “aft. sold P. France, Lon England”meaning formerly soldier. . Why not find out what was going on in the 1850’s in Sweden that would warrant such a service?

I mistakenly assumed two children as being one: Anna Charlotta and Alma Charlotta (Samuelsdotter). But in analyzing church records and various household examinations, it was clear that these were two different daughters born within two years of each other. With this knowledge, I was able to find the death record of Anna Charlotta and her losing battle with smallpox. She was born and gone, before her sister Alma ever entered this world but who was given Charlotta as her baptismal name also. With the quality of the microfilm copies on Genline, it was easy to mistake Alma for Anna and not realize that they were two individuals not one. But, by reviewing all the documentation, the one household examination with Anna’s birth date was uncovered. Was smallpox in an epidemic stage in Sweden in 1860?

By analyzing data, you not only can prove a hypothesis, you are able to uncover social history and culture and make your story more interesting. Sure the dates are useful, but it’s the story we are after.

Happy researching and analyzing. Hoping you uncover your story!

Kathleen Brandt

Originally printed 9 Sept, 2009, Are You Analyzing Your Data?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ancestors Who Joined Missions

American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCM)
Our ancestors, including women, were not as boring as the picture we paint. Some joined the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, as early as 1810 and traveled as far as Africa and China to meet the mission to "spread [of] the gospel in Heathen lands."

By 1910, the ABCM was operating 102 missions with over 600 staff in Africa: Angola, Zulus of South Africa and Rhodesia; four different regions in China; the "Papal lands" of Mexico; and many other countries. Earlier dedicated workers built missions to serve the Cherokees of Tennessee and Pawnee Tribe of Nebraska, for example; and built indigenous Hawaiian missions.

Researching ABCM Staff 
Genealogists and family researchers will want to rifle through the voluminous letters that have been salvaged, indexed and made available on microfilm. There are even folios accounting for the missionaries from the field. Although the ABCM had a Congregationalist base, it was made up of an inter-denominational society, including Methodist, Presbyterian and Reformed churches.

How Ancestor's Served 
ABCM maintained at least ten medical missionaries to include medical dispensaries and hospitals, and facilitated over 450 boarding schools for both boys and girls, and colleges for native students.

Women in the Mission 
Woman's Boards of Missions were organized in 1868 to promote work with women in the mission field. The originals are held at the Houghton Library of Harvard University. By 1890 sixteen female agents served in twenty-eight missionaries.

Recently, while researching a North Dakota Norwegian immigrant who disappeared in 1918, it was proven she traveled to China for the ABCM. The 18 year old was easily traced from the time she was processed in Ellis Island in 1906 to her completion of business school and her first job in North Dakota. But by 1919, all traces of Helen disappeared, until her found passport revealed China and Japan as her destination to fulfill her American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions employment. I found pages of my subject's correspondence on a local copy of the microfilm collection held at the University of Kansas, Lawrence.

Not Just Americans 
London Missionary Society and the Netherlands Missionary Society also served in far away lands (i.e. China). There were also at least four ordained native ministers and over one hundred (100) native workers who worked under the ABCM.

For More Information
For local collections, visit the WorldCat catalog offered by your public library.

Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions: Missionary Index  

Congregational Library, American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Missionary Memoirs. Papers, Records 1804-1964, bulk dates

American Board of commissioners for Foreign Missions

Kathleen Brandt

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mexican Family Research

El Quinto Censo General de Población y Vivienda 1930 
1930 México Census
With reaching 40 million Americans of Mexican origin in the US, there has been an increased interest in Mexican American and Mexican family research.  But, until now it has been a struggle to research south of the boarder.  With the recent release of 1930 Mexico Census however, Mexican family researchers have been given a wealth of information.

Great place to start!
The 1930 Mexico National Census, covering 90 percent of the population, is the most comprehensive genealogically rich Mexican census available online. On 16 Sept,  announced the addition of the 1930 Mexico National Census (El Quinto Censo General de Población y Vivienda 1930, México), a collection of over 13 million records to it's searchable database.

For more information
CNN Mexico's 1930 Census Revealed, a mine of data for 32 million Americans 24 Sep 2011, 1930 Mexico CensusEl Quinto Censo General de Población y Vivienda 1930, México 

Kathleen Brandt

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Was Your Ancestor Lynched?

5 Tips to Researching Lynched Victims and Mobs?
An African American victim of a 1928 lynching. From Library of Congress
Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Many of us end up researching victims of those who were lynched or murdered by mobs. Today's executions or yesterday's lynches and other killings, leaves descendants, like that of Troy Davis (executed victim in Georgia on 21 Sept, 2011) with a series of court papers, prison records and newspaper articles to 
uncover their ancestor's past. It reminds us that our ancestor's are not just "cold dates"; that our family search "is not only discovering a history but also uncovering a human journey" even when that journey illuminates an ugly part of our country's history and the blemished life story of our ancestor. (See What is Genealogy?)

History of US Lynchings
There are not clear statistics of the US lynchings prior to 1882. However, during the Civil War, the Reconstruction Era, and up to the depression era at least 4743 people were lynched according to newspaper accounts, court records and church records. Perhaps the tension of the Civil War brought this activity into popularity, or the fear of losing power, or the anger toward sympathetics and abolitionists, but US lynchings affected every southern state. The open lands of the new frontier, even California, was not spared. Matter of fact, all but Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont recorded lynches.

Although over 90% of the victims were African American, there were also white victims, mostly transplants from the northern states. The majority of the victims in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi were carried out by lynch mobs. Of course Florida, the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Kentucky also had notable numbers. Lynching victims were not limited to men. A woman in California was lynched as early as 1851.

Name Search
A comprehensive listing of lynched victims is not available. However, the following will get you started:

Internet Search: The Finding Josephine blog post "Was My Ancestor Lynched?" lists several places to look for names.

If you are searching for your ancestor’s possible involvement in a lynch mob or information on an ancestor’s demise, you may wish to begin with a simple internet search. There are many reprints or news articles with names, and histories.

Five Strategies for Finding Your Lynched Ancestor
1. Historical American Lynching: One of the better search sites for names, states and reason for being lynched is the Historical American Lynching (HAL) Data Collection Project. You must download the HAL Excel File, but you may search by name or state. This information is based on the NAACP Lynching Records that can be located at Tuskegee University.

2. Collections: Check with a local college/university collection. Be sure to ask the check the catalog of dissertations and search under the popular keywords. These dissertations may not be in the normal library catalog. A doctoral thesis, of let’s say within sociology, may take a more personal social approach analyzing activities using names and citing court records. In 2008 the University of Washington name 3000 known US lynch victims collected as a research project. This list of names is available.

Maria Delongoria wrote a dissertation, Stranger Fruit: The Lynching of Black Women, where she lists names of “Black Female Lynching Victims” between 1886-1957 on pages 160-164.

3. The Laws: Check to see if any anti-lynching laws were put into place, or special sentences. By reviewing these hearings, you may find the reason why a new law was implemented, and you may even find your ancestor’s name attached to it. I usually start with a database like Lexis Nexis for these types of legal searches.You may find the names of those incited lynch mobs, as well as victims.

4. Local Newspapers: Local black newspapers kept relatively good records of lynching activities in their area. Rural black news may be reported by the largest town’s paper, but this news was often carried by word of mouth, so I suggest double checking the accuracy. Church news, like the Star Zion of the AME Zion church, also reported these activities.

5. Lynch Mobs: If your lynched ancestor was a white sympathetic, or part of a lynch mob, be sure to check the Democratic paper. Remember the Democratic party was labeled rebels and Republican were considered progressive Most southern towns had both a Democratic and a Republican paper; (their views can be easily identified). Those involved in lynch mobs were often hailed as heroes in the Democrat's paper. 

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers

Originally printed 27 May 2010, Five Strategies to Finding Lynch Victims, in response to the blog post Was My Ancestor Lynched?, by Dionne Ford. The Billie Holiday’s song Strange Fruit [1] is also linked on her blog post. Like the lyrics of this song, Dionne's post on the Finding Josephine blog and the subsequent comments, remind us that this too, albeit ugly, is a part of our history.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Three (3) Questions Rule

Expanding Your Research
In each class, workshop and presentation I encourage genealogists and family historians to create a minimum of three questions for each document/evidence/newspaper clip, etc. they touch. In a recent presentation, I was asked to give an example.  The idea is: each document leads you to not only answers, but your next set of questions.

 Here is an example (a reprint from 2010) from a one sentence newspaper article. This lengthy sentence gives us a plethora of clues, hints and information. So many more keywords, questions and research ideas could come from this one sentence, but let's start with a few.

"Colored Man Held to Answer
        As an aftermath of the recent melee which took place in the Dunbar club, a society of colored men of Tonopah, Dewitt Morris was bound over under $5000 bonds to appear begore [sic] the grand jury on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon, it being alleged that he shot his brother, Schuyler Morris, in the leg during the heat of excitement.” Nevada State Journal, Reno, 11/12/1915

Key Words
Before we ever get to the reason Dewitt was so excited he shot his brother, this one sentence article needs to be dissected. To put it briefly, this sentence gives us a peek at Tonopah and its “colored” community in 1915. Let’s not make the mistake of stereotyping or over generalizing, but there are tons of researchable topics in this one sentence. Let’s just review some of the key words:
  1. There was a melee, which indicates there might have been an opposing side to the “society” or they were attacking one another.
  2. There was a Dunbar Club. Who owned it? Who frequented it? Was it the known meeting place for “melees.”
  3. There was a “society of colored men of Tonopah.” Was membership based on social standing? Were they recognized by the community and periodically mentioned in the paper?
  4. Tonopah in 1915 must have had a way of sustaining “social clubs.” What industry or resources were in the area? Was this common behavior for Tonopah’s citizens?

"Colored" Men of Tonopah

Melee Madness
The melee madness was summarized in an 118 page court document. Dewitt (Dee) Morris owned the Pullman Saloon (with a piano player) and he also owned other rental property. The shooting occurred at the open house “masquerade ball” of a new rival “joint” called the Dunbar Literary Club where supposedly the U.S. State Senator was going to attend. Membership was .50¢ per month. Fighting began over a blackjack misdeal, at the masquerade ball, and there was excessive drinking. The newspaper heading was misleading, since the court order was due to Dee hitting another fellow over the head with the gun resulting in its accidental discharge. Schuyler was shot, but was expected to recover.

Dee’s obituary in 1944 fills in a bit more. Tonopah was a “silver ore” town when he arrived as a “pioneer Negro resident.” He belonged to the Masonic lodge and owned another saloon in Tonopah at the time of his death. Even a photo was given. 

The Rest of the Story
Discovering some of this background information, or as Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story,” helps us to unravel the social environment of Tonopah in 1915 by giving us a glimpse of the lifestyle of some of the people. This allows the researcher to write not just events, but also circumstances, giving life to our ancestor’s stories. There’s so much more to learn about Tonopah and the life of Dewitt, and by investigating keywords on each document, the researcher can create a clearer picture.

Why not give life to your ancestor’s stories?

Kathleen Brandt

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Did Your Ancestor Provide Services to a President?

Finding A Presidential Connection
George Washington Papers, LOC
Those on a President's political staff or even on the household staff were not the only one's who served the Presidents.  There were favored dressmakers, barbers, and other skilled persons who were documented in newspaper articles, presidential papers, journals and diaries. Have you checked for your ancestor?

One of the a3genealogy brainstorming games we play to bring down colonial and Revolutionary war era brick walls is entitled "6 Generations of George Washington." How was this ancestor associated with Washington? But a relationship can often be highlighted with our ancestor's and any era-specific President, especially if your ancestor resided in the same region, state, or community. Of course, sometimes, the relationship can be quite obscure, subjective, and unfounded and best kept as a game. 

Where to Start - Crossed Paths
Of course not all of our ancestor's were favored tailors, barbers, or vitners of a President, but many researchers overlook the possibility.  A good place to start is by creating a timeline: could paths have crossed?

William Florville - A Barber
Young Abe and William Florville crossed paaths in a wooded area. This chance meeting created a life long relationship. Even President Lincoln had to control his thick head of curls and needed to groom his beard and the barber Billy was just the person for the job.

William Florville (Fleurville), a free-Haitian, was Lincoln's barber for 24 years.  Florville's Barbershop was a "loitering" spot for Lincoln and other political members.

Springfield, IL Street Plaque
More information on Willaim Florville and President Lincoln can be found at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library (Illinois Preservation Society). Other ancestral discoveries may be made among the stacks at the various Presidential libraries. You may find correspondence and confirm ancestral relations associated with a President.

Political Movements and Campaigns
Be sure to create a timeline of your ancestor's residence during Presidential elections.  The local newspapers are usually a-buzz on activities of local political parties and Presidential supports.  War time elections produced a surge of local interests pieces in the newspapers, many naming citizens by name.

In Rutherford, NC, much was found on J.B. Carson, the editor of the Rutherford Star, a leader in the Civil War era Republican party.  As much was written on the Democratic leader, Randolph Shotwell in the Western Vindicator of  Rutherford.  But the news did not stop there.  The Rutherford Star and the Western Vindicator used their white-space as warfare.

Over the 1864-1868 period, articles were splattered regarding those involved in the  Lincoln party as well as Lincoln's opponents of the Democratic party, even naming  active and supportive members of the Ku Klux Klan who pledged their allegiance to the party.  Perhaps your ancestor was one of the infamous arrested in the KKK raid of 1869.

A Political Campaign
The Abraham Lincoln Council Union League of America (ALCULA) followers, like Wiley (Tobe) Morris, led committees in towns across America to gain supports even in the south.  In the Rutherford Star, a list of organizers led me to locating ancestor's and extended family members thought to have left the area. 

African Americans and Presidential Service
Like Florville other African Americans also played a role serving presidents allowing researchers to discover unknown information on their ancestors.  In a recent visit to Springfield Illinois I discovered the Elizabeth Keckley who contributed to the life of Mary Todd Lincoln (exhibit at The Lincoln Museum and Library). 

The National Archives featured the dress maker Ann Lowe, "who had designed gowns for the matrons of high society families" including that of Jacqueline Bouvier.
E. Keckley, LOC

Elizabeth Keckley - A DressMaker
Mary (Todd) Lincoln, a socialite and southern belle, surely needed dresses designed, tailored, and made for conversation.  Her dressmaker and confidant through the years was Elizabeth Keckley, African American.  More can be leard from the Documenting the American South Series.

Ann Lowe - A Dress Maker
Jacqueline Bouvier’s ivory 50 yards of ivory silk taffeta silk wedding gown was draped and designed by Ann Lowe, an African-American dress-maker born in Grayton, Alabama required and took more than two months to make.

Hope you find a Presidential Connection
Kathleen Brandt

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Connect to FGS 2011 Media Center

(click link to page)
Sept. 7-10

Eastern European Research

Immigrant Ancestor Research
Map from Eastern Europe Travel website 
The Map of Eastern Europe reminds us that there are ethnic groups and countries we are familiar with, i.e. Poland, Czech, Hungary, Croatia, Lithuania.  But there are also clusters of culturally and ethnically unknown people and countries, i.e. Carpatho -Rusyn, Moldova, and Banat. These faintly known ethnic groups also migrated to America.  So where do you go to research?

Recently I attended the FGS2011 seminar Demystifying Eastern European Research with Lisa Alzo, author of Best Online Resources For East European Genealogy on the website who gave us a few great tips. 1) Join a genealogy society that concentrates in your research area. For a listing of ethnic genealogical societies, do a basic google search 2) Conduct as much research as possible stateside prior to doing in-country research. Like all ethnicmgenealogy, you need to pinpoint immigrant's villa/township of origin.  3) Consider hiring an in country researcher (for translation assistance and due to their familiarity with records), or one familiar with your ethnic group and associated records.

Apply Genealogical Principles and Tools
Surely these same tips should be applied to Italian (Greek, Spanish etc.) ancestors. But, for some of us, just knowing that less familiar ethnic genealogical societies exist is a good place to start.  Alzo suggested the Federation of East European Family History Societies (FEEFHS) website as a good place to begin your research.

Just for kicks, I also visited the Family Search Wiki website to see if they had any reference to Banat.  True enough, there was information: So, again I would say this is typical immigrant ancestor research and I would reference many of the traditional sources like Family Search Wiki, and Cyndi's List.

So Why Is it Different?
Basic genealogical research principles apply, so how hard can it be?  This is what I can tell you... wars, language, scattered records, and violent boundary changes are a few headache producing issues, not to mention some restricted releases of documents, and of course the expected number of destroyed documents.  This is not to say that your research can't be done; yet, patience and perseverance is the key. Know that Eastern European research should not be done in a vacuum.  As Alzo suggested, enroll other researchers; join an ethnic society; and perhaps solicit others to assist (perhaps for-hire researchers).

Should You Hire A Professional Researcher?
At a3Genealogy we will never discourage a family researcher from digging into records, and conducting their own family, but, if you aren't sure if you need to hire a professional, here is a good indication. If you think Rusyn is Russian misspelled, you may wish to hire a researcher (like Alzo) for assistance.  If you are allergic to map plotting, border changes, or if country name changes make your head explode, these too are indications that perhaps hiring a researcher (or consultant) may be the answer. 

Good luck on you Eastern European research.
Kathleen Brandt

Friday, September 9, 2011

Religion Influencing Genealogy

Using Religious Migratory Paths to Follow Ancestors
Mennonites in the Vistula Delta and river valley (Northern Poland)
Bethel College,

There are so many patterns of migration that we follow as family researchers: migration patterns due to wars, due to famine, due to plagues and epidemics, but what about politics and religion.  Politics and religion have always had a reciprocal causality effect, where the events in religion (or history) are either a result of ancestors' action; or ancestors' actions are the result of a religion, political or historical event.  By determining your ancestor's religion, you may be able to trace the family to a particular country.  You may even be able to develop a migratory route of immigrants, especially if they followed an expected path following religious persecution or in search for religious freedom.

Where Are the Records?
Did your ancestors come from the Netherlands before arriving in the New World, Plymouth, in 1620 instead of a direct route from England? Perhpas you should be researching Pilgrim migratory paths. It has been confirmed that the Pilgrims had a 12 year stop-over in the Netherlands.  Does this explains why you cannot find the British records expected?

In the FGS (Federations of Genealogical Societies) session "Religious Migration History and Genealogy, David Ditts, AG of the Family Search Track gave a detailed outline of religious impacts and migrations to the New World.  Using religious history and timeline references of early American history, genealogists have a useful tool to tracing an immigrant ancestors.  

Narrow Ancestor's Settlement in New World
So. Baptist, Congregationalist, Puritan/Pilgrims
Often researchers use religious migrations to narrow ancestor's settlements.  Recently I followed a Southern Baptist family.  As expected this Texas family was located in Baptist records in Pennsylvania, and in earlier Congregationalists records after the Puritan and Pilgrims merged. This is the expected religious evolution of traditional Southern Baptist families. Knowing that most Baptists followers were early Congregationalist allowed me to follow this religious family back to Europe. Ditts mentions that there were more than 575,000 Congregationalist in 1775, like the Congregational Church of Connecticut. The New England Historical Society and other new England genealogical societies hold many diaries, letters and reports of these church records. 

History of Huguenots
Much is written on the Huguenots and Moravians, but many fail to understand their religious evolution.  In the New World, early Huguenots settled many towns. It's not well known that many Huguenots that left France about 1562, moved to Germany (Netherlands or England) and later settled Jacksonville, FL (1562-1565).  For more information visit National Huguenots Society.

Following a Presbyterian ancestor of the Appalachian, a family researcher may be able to trace his Scottish or Irish roots.  In 1775, there were an excess of 310,000 Presbyterians according to Ditts. For my family we found the John Morris, Irish family in Rutherford, NC. 

Catholic Ancestry
We easily make and association of Spanish or French Catholics, but did you know Maryland can boast the largest settlement of early English Catholics (1634)?  I have located records at the Maryland State Historical Society.  Perhaps your ancestor can be found in these early settlement records.  For more information visit Family Search Wiki, England Nonconformist Church Records.  

Kathleen Brandt

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Help - African American Families, Too

The Strader's from Kansas
In the early 60's when the nation was in racial turmoil, the Strader family moved to Kansas City. This family was from central Kansas, Amish territory in Buhler, Kansas (Reno County), originally from Comanche County when the family moved in 1894; and Lyons, Kansas (Rice County) also late 1890's.

There was one African Family in both towns (Buhler and Lyons).  These African American families settled in Reno and Rice and Comanche County Kansas in the late 1800's.  Their children attended the all white schools, worked in the communities and participated in the town activities. So by 1960, there were 3 generations of African Americans who had lived in these white communities. But the young families chose to move to Wichita, Kansas City or any larger city for work and marriage.

Back to the Strader's
The Strader's did fairly well in Kansas City. As teachers, they were able to have a nanny, cleaning woman, and a laundry woman and milkman.

Mama Nina assisted with the 4 children. Mama Nina, a Mexican descendent, had a strong accent, spoke broken English, but also contributed to the children being bilingual. She worked in the home 5 days a week and was primarily hired to take care of the 6 week old son, Rhett. She was employed by the family for over 12 years, even though some times there were calls of her being fired like when she scorched the good work shirts, or when the children asked for pork chops to be prepared for lunch instead of the planned tuna fish salad. Mama Nina complied, and dinner was slim that night.

Before Mama Nina, there was Pat, the woman who was fired for bringing her little brother to work, there was cousin Janice who worked for the family while in Emporia for the summers, and there were others.

There was the laundry woman who charged $5.00 a basket to press laundry.  The basket was dropped off in the morning and ready for pick up after work.

Ms Geneva was the house keeper. She was an African American woman from Texas, that all the children were afraid of. She would wrap a scarf on her head, squint her eyes, and mumble in a southern dialect that was incomprehensible to scared children. She worked without conversation and dared the children (with her eyes) to walk on her freshly vacuumed carpet or touch the toothbrush-cleaned light switches.

There was Milkman Ken who knew the children changed the orders as soon as their parents left the house, but delivered the chocolate milk and other treats anyway. When discovered, this was one more close call for Mama Nina's employment. She knew the  milkman orders were being changed.

Summer for the Strader's
Mother and Father were teachers, and summers were dedicated to furthering education. So in the summers the Strader's closed up the Kansas City house, and moved to Emporia for the summer months. Emporia Kansas was the home of Emporia State Teacher's College (later Emporia State University). The children would leave the summer house every morning to attend camps, piano lessons, and summer schools while the parents worked toward post graduate degrees.

But the rewards were great. Right before school started in the fall, there was always the family-loved seven to fourteen day vacations. Each year there was a new destination with, of course, an educational and historical undertone.

This is My African American Family
Perhaps I should mention the Strader's were an African American family, (maiden name: Kathleen Strader). Plenty of African Americans had domestic help for children and chores.

Recently I read The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. But I wonder how the story would read if it written about the help hired in black American families. Was the struggle different? Were the expectations different? If not the racial struggle in the 60's were there others that polarized the community? I can only reflect on my own childhood. My parents had their share of "help."

Perhaps this is a topic to be analyzed and discovered by future generations, those a bit further removed.

Kathleen Strader Brandt

Should Genealogists Care About Voter Registers?

Don't Pass Over Voter Registers 
California Voter Register 
As genealogists we have favorite records -  the records we go to immediately when looking for our ancestors.  For some that may be census records, for others military records.  But, few researchers claim voter registers as their favorite set of records. But why not? These records can really move along your family research. Here are just a few ways I've used these records to solve mysteries.

Is Your Ancestor On the Voters List?
Voting rights have historically been reserved for citizens, but privileges comes with a plethora of law changes. Knowing the laws will help.
  • For example in 1867 ex-slaves were added to the voter registrations. In 1920 women were extended the privilege to vote thanks to the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
  • If you are researching in Europe, you will find that typically only land-owners were added to voter rolls.
  • Another note of importance -  not all registered to vote, often because they never naturalized. Many of our immigrant ancestors never became naturalized citizens, but their country-born children were eligible to vote. 
Uses of Voter Registration
Separate Common Named Ancestors
When researching common named ancestors, family historians can not afford to overlook voter registration records (when available).  Identifying ancestors by age, nativity and occupation, I use voter registers to create a preliminary snap shot of an ancestor's residence. You must pair your ancestor's name with other distinctions: age, occupation, country of nativity (may simply state the country of Kentucky) to separate common named ancestors (especially if the name is repeated within families). Some voter registrations list physical descriptions: height, unique marks, etc.

Voter Registers and Land Claims
What good is a land deed, if you don't know which Moses owned it?  Sometimes, the deed itself will note Sr. or Jr. or a wife's name to assist the researcher, but what if these distinctions are omitted? My Moses was born in 1804, his youngest son 1848 and a grandson, a descendant of an older son, born in 1855, was also named Moses. It did not help that generations of this family died intestate (without a will). Using voter registrations coupled with the census records, tax records, deeds and probates, this active migratory family was traced making it easier to determine the owner of various land plats based on dates and county of residence.

Where Was Your Ancestor Naturalized?
It's not enough to know that your ancestor was naturalized. To obtain records, you may need to identify the specific court  (not all were naturalized in Federal Courts even after 1906).  You may find the court of naturalization listed on the voter register. 

Where to Find Voter Register Records
After an online state and county search, turn to the State Archives or State Historical Society to retrieve any salvaged records like that at the Colorado State Archives. Of course these records may be found at a local level.

For More Information

Kathleen Brandt, 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Civil War Speaker Series

Kathleen Brandt
Audience: All levels of researchers may benefit (Beg, Interm, Adv)
For More Information:; 816-729-5995Location

Civil War Series
CW101: 10 Best Bets to Civil War Research
CW102: Finding the Elusive Civil War Ancestor
CW103: African Americans Served Too
CW104: Civil War POW Records
CW101: 10 Best Bets to Civil War Research 
If your family lived in the United States in the 1860s, chances are you're related to someone who served in the Civil War. Perhaps your great- or great-great-grandfather was among the 2.1 million men mustered in the Union Army or the 800,000 to 900,000 men who were on the Confederate side. Or maybe a great-aunt served as a scout, nurse or spy. She may even have been among the several hundred females who, disguised as men, actually fought on the ground.

The Civil War touched the life of every citizen. The Union enlisted nearly 180,000 black soldiers. African Americans also served with Confederate forces as laborers and servants — and a handful even served as soldiers at the end of the war. Native Americans were involved in the western theater for the Union and defended Southern lands with the Confederacy.  Many records to uncover your Civil War veteran are overlooked.

This PowerPoint presentation provides the researcher with tips, hints and hidden resources to uncover Union and Confederate Soldiers, and women who served or supported troops. It also discusses why your ancestor may not have served.  Handouts will be available.
CW102: Finding the Elusive Civil War Ancestor
Many family researchers have given up on finding information on their civil war era ancestor.  Perhaps, they can’t find any record verifying that they ever served in the Civil.  Or maybe they can’t understand why their perfectly aged ancestor didn’t serve in the war.  Or were your ancestors in one of the five Confederate dominate states – the CarolinasVirginiaMississippi, and Alabama – where many records were lost? You may wish to extend your search to the Provost Marshal Records and Adjutant General Office records.

This PowerPoint presentation guides the researcher through revealing NARA Civil War records.  Various Provost Marshal and other records held at the NARA will be discussed, as well as State held records. Handouts will be available.
CW103: African Americans Served Too
African Americans served in both the Union and Confederate armies. Some served by choice, some as substitutes for a slave master, or as part of an emancipation agreement. Of course there were also the Free-coloreds and runaway slaves.

Over 180,000 African Americans comprising 163 units served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and many more African Americans served in the Union Navy.  African Americans were being recruited for the United States Colored Troops as early as 1863;  many were granted veteran pensions.  By the end of the war, the Confederate armies also made allowance for African American recruits. Final burial places, POW camps, State and Federal records may lead the researcher to their African American Civil War veteran.

This PowerPoint guided workshop presents the researcher with a compilation of resources, links and repositories to uncover their African American Civil War veterans. Historical and political impact of the African American soldier is also discussed. Handouts will be available.
 CW104: Civil War POW Records
It's impossible to research the Civil War era, without reviewing POW records. There were more than 160 prisons holding 647,000 prisoners captured during the Civil War. Many were paroled in the field, but 215,000 Confederate soldiers (and citizens) were held in Union prisons; 26,000 died while being held.  Of the 195,000 Union soldiers (and citizens) held in Confederate prisons, 30,000 died while imprisoned.  Although some records were destroyed and burials places removed, many records have survived and may be used to locate your Civil War veteran. These records confirm burials, prisoner's exchanges, escapes and more.

This PowerPoint presentation gives the researcher an overview of the most notorious Union and Confederate POW camps, and lesser known camps in various states. Helpful resources to POW Civil War research will be provided. Handouts will be available.
Kathleen Brandt is a Professional International Genealogist and Consultant and is a published freelance writer for genealogy magazines and columns. She is also the author of the a3Genealogy educational and skill building blog that explores various cultural and ethnic folk life, traditions, history, and genealogy research tips. Utilizing twenty years as an international corporate executive and five years of teaching college level Spanish, French and English writing courses, Kathleen offers workshops and lectures to the genealogy community and is a consultant for various corporate historical, cultural, and genealogy projects. As a multilingual speaker, she translates Spanish, French, and Italian records and has experience researching German, Swedish and Hellenic records. Celebrated clients: NBC, Who Do You Think You Are? Season 2 and Season 3 (2011-2012); featured on Tim McGraw episode; and PBS- Finding Your Roots. Visit website:

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Speaker Series for Genealogists

2013 Offerings for Corporations, Genealogists and Schools

Due to high demand, Kathleen Brandt and a3Genealogy will continue offering ourses, workshops and lectures for the 2013 Speaker Series.

Speaker Series for Corporations.  Kathleen Brandt incorporates 20 years of international business dedicated to "implementing new business strategies" with an inspiring presentation to discovering the Pioneer in you. As an Executive for top-tier corporations she encourages and motivates her audiences to find new roads and discovering that You Are A Pioneer!©   

You Are A Pioneer!©

  • Ruts Seen Ahead
  • In Anticipation of Open Territories: Preparing To See The Elephant
  • Building Settlements; Not Settling
  • Join the Wagon Train: Transforming Your Travels to Future Adventures
  • The Path of a Pioneer 
For more information contact Kathleen Brandt,, 816-729-5995.  
Speaker Series for Genealogists.  Kathleen Brandt, a successful Professional International Genealogist and Consultant and published freelance writer for genealogy magazines and columns, presents a speaker series to beginning and intermediate genealogists, as well as for those who wish to pursue genealogy as a career.  (May be tailored as a course, workshop or keynote speaker)

  • Leaping Over Brickwalls: 10 Tips to Fast Forward.  We don't always have years to research and develop interesting ancestral stories, so the key is to partner your sleuthing skills with effective genealogy research tips to fast forward your research.
  • Saving Alice: Have you noticed when you speak of long ago ancestors your family friends seem disinterested. This workshop offers 10 fun ways to keep your audience enthused and your ancestors alive. 
  •  How We Were Freed - From Indentured Servants to Slavery. Prior to the Civil War there were free coloreds, ex-slaves and indentured servants who secured their freedom. This workshop outlines 5 ways to freedom.
  • Military Records Were Destroyed? What To Do: Steps to Reconstructing Your Veteran's File. Between 16 to 18 million military service files, including those for WWI and WWII, were destroyed by the 1973 St. National Personnel Records Center fire.  However, this loss should not discourage researchers from uncovering an ancestor's military experience.
  • War of 1812 Records: 10 Places to Search. Although pivotal in the history of America, the War of 1812, often called the "Second War for Independence" is mostly forgotten. But understanding this "battle for borders" may guide you to your 1812 Soldier and family. Ten (10) tips to researching your War of 1812 ancestor will be presented.
  •  Civil War Series (for details of following workshops use link)CW101: 10 Best Bets to Civil War Research
    CW102: Finding the Elusive Civil War Ancestor
    CW103: African Americans Served Too
    CW104: Civil War POW Records
Speaker Series for Schools. The Ancestry and Academics©  workshops create a learning community between genealogy and history, English, computer, math, art and writing subjects. For more information visit Case of Grandview High School Grandview, MO.

Popular Offering
  • How We Were Freed - From Indentured Servants to Slavery for the Classroom. 
  • Beginning Research Database. A great place to start your genealogy! This course will give an overview of HeritageQuest online database to research your ancestor. HeritageQuest may be accessed from home, using your library card.

All workshops, courses and lecturers may be tailored for your needs.  Contact Kathleen Brandt,, 816-729-5995 for questions and scheduling.

Don't Truncate Your Ancestor's Story

George C. Yount and Yountville, CA
If all you did was read the plaque, you would think George C. Yount was "the true embodiment of all the finest qualities of an advancing civilization" blending with the existing primitive culture." But who is George C Yount. Was he really flawless in his relationships with family and friends? What role did his family play?

George C. Yount
He is given credit for the establishment of Napa County, founded Yountville and Rutherford California with a 11,887 acre land grant for Rancho Caymus in 1836. The California Historical Society Quarterly, 1923, reported that Yount was "a representative American pioneer, soldier, hunter, trapper, overlander, and frontiersman, who became the first settler and agriculturist in Napa Valley, and in his later days a venerable patriarch... 

Did He Forget?
Sounds fabulous...that is until you research the Yount Family Papers, 1830-1945. The history books, plaques and data don't mention that he "wilfully [sic] deserted and absented himself" from his wife Eliza, and son Robert, and daughters Francis and Elizabeth Yount.[1] He left wife, and children at home in Missouri while crossing the country and establishing Napa.  

Early Divorces
George Calvert Yount married Eliza Wilds in 1818 in Howard CO MO. After fathering the children he left Missouri around 1826, deserting his family. In 1830, Eliza was granted a divorce. Copies of the papers are held at the Berkley Bancroft Library.

California Landmark
Inscription. George Calvert Yount (1794-1865) was the first United States citizen to be ceded a Spanish land grant in Napa Valley (1836). Skilled hunter, frontiersman, craftsman and farmer, he was the true embodiment of all the finest qualities of an advancing civilization blending with the existing primitive culture. Friend to all, this kindly host of Caymus Rancho, encouraged sturdy American pioneers to establish ranches in this area, which was well populated before the Gold Rush.

Plaque placed by the California State Park Commission in cooperation with George C. Yount Parlor No.322, Native Daughters of the Golden West, Colonel Nelson Holderman Parlor No.316, Native Sons of the Golden West, and the Yountville Cemetery Association, October 18, 1959.

That's Not the End of the Story
As genealogists we often end the story too early.  Eliza remarried. George C. Yount sent for his grown children.  His daughters (and son in law) joined him in California, but his son never forgave him for deserting the family.  Of course by this time, many years had passed, but any historian of this family would be remiss if they failed to tale this episode of the story. George too remarried. 

For More Information 
George C. Yount and his chronicles of the West comprising extracts from his "Memoirs" and from the Orange Clark "Narrative." Edited by Charles L. Camp. Published 1966 by Old West Pub. Co. in Denver. 

[1] Final Divorce Decree Chancery vs George Yount

Friday, September 2, 2011

Slave Database from Virginia Historical Society

Unknown No Longer: A Database of Virginia Slave Names
The best part of family research is that it is a work in progress.  Daily, new collections, searchable databases, and even unknown papers are found, and made accessible to researchers.  Seldom however, do genealogists get assistance researching their slave ancestors in a searchable, accessible database.  But the Virginia Historical Society of Richmond VA launched and is consistently updating a slave database: Unknown No Longer: A Database of Virginia Slave Names

It's not enough to say, my ancestors were slaves, or my ancestors were slave-owners.  The digitized documents of Unknown No Longer will allow researchers to uncover a more complex ancestral story than that told by census records. This tool should be one more stop in your slave ancestry research.

"Since its founding in 1831, the VHS has collected unpublished manuscripts, a collection that now numbers more than 8 million processed items." From VHS website
The Unknown No Longer Database is free of charge. Keep in mind, where there were slaves there were slave owners. This database will also allow researchers of slave-owning families to gain more information on their family history.  As of today, there are approximately 1600 names in the database, 300 are slave-owners.  

Researchers may wish to use this database even if the slaves were removed to other states "... our collections contain plantation records, for example, kept by Virginians who moved to other states, taking their slaves with them."

Kathleen Brandt