Monday, October 31, 2011

The Public Administrator Did It!

Conservatorship and Guardianship Records
Scanned Using Flip-Pal
A letter tucked in funeral records gave me the clue that Helen died incapable of handling her own affairs.

Hidden Clue?
Copy to Andrew Wysowatchy, PA

Her death certificate from the Nursing Home shared that she had fallen and broken her hip, but this does not usually require a Public Administrator to manage one's financial affairs.

It is important for family researchers to understand the role of those who legally assisted our ancestors in order to prevent valuable clues to go unnoticed, since this seemingly small hint may be the window to opening or closing our ancestor's life story.

So when I realized that the letter in Helen's funeral file was penned by a well-known Colorado Public Administrator, I quickly changed my course of research, altered my Research Plan, and tried my luck at researching in a close state.  I've told you before, there are many ways to skin a cat, and when it comes to closed states like Colorado, the researcher must be creative, especially when notes like the following are received:
Thank you for your request. Due to the case type, we are not allowed to release information on cases regarding mental health issues. In addition, we cannot verify if we had a case matching a name either. These cases are sealed and protected from the public.
Thank you
xxxxxxxx -Speacilist/Deputy Registrar
Denver Probate Court
1437 Bannock Street
Denver, CO 80202
Hint: Once you mention that your ancestor's court records were due to mental incompetence, you may not get a lot of help from the Court staff in a closed state.

Step One
Know the laws of the state.  So besides tracking down the archived court records, it will behoove any researcher to have a basic understanding of the state's rules and implementations of such jobs as public administer, conservator, and guardianship. This will guide the researcher on "next steps."

Basic Terms
Keep in mind that the laws of each state are uniquely implemented, but as I have mentioned before, signatures of letters/correspondence carry a lot of weight.  In this case it implied Helen was mentally incompetent to manage her own healthy pension $2500.00/month by 1965. She had worked for Standard Oil Vacuum in China from 1919-1938.  And disappeared from the radar from 1939 to her death in 1965.

Public Administrator
Public Administrators, appointed by the court, may be responsible for decisions regarding medical consents, educational/habilitation plans, finances and general health of those entrusted to the office of the Probate Court.  The Probate Court may also appoint a Public Administrator as to represent deceased estates. Fees for the Public Administrator's services are paid by the ward's estate in accordance state's statute. Two important responsibilities of the Public Administrator are Guardianship and Conservatorship.

Guardianship refers to monitoring the physical well being of a ward and conservatorship refers to the financial administration of the ward's assets.   The Public Administrator must report annually to the Probate Court on the financial and physical well being of each ward (person). Remember guardianship may apply to adults (elder care) or child. Again, know your state's rule. 

Conservator. The conservator is a court appointed "custodian of property." It often has restricted power of duties. Conservatorship records are often closed since it may indicate that your ancestor was "unable to effectively receive and evaluate information or make or communicate decisions to such an extent that the individual lacks the ability to satisfy essential requirements for physical health, safety, or self-care, even with appropriate and reasonably available technological assistance.”  In other words, mentally incompetent. Fees are paid from the "ward or subject's" finances. In this case Helen's pension, paid for her conservator fees.

Hint: If your ancestor fell under the protection of the Public Administrator, you may also want to check "Small Estates as well as  Probate. Records."

Researching Within Privacy
A letter from the court explained that information on the ward would not be released, nor would they admit or deny "if the records exists. " So what is a researcher to do? Work backwards from death. 

Beginning with the last known residence, a Nursing Home that was identified on the death certificate, records were found from various sources to illuminate the last part of  Helen's life story.  The funeral home, held additional information, and the Public Administrator's office held additional information.  An unpopular record, Helen's employment pension, also held vital information to piece together her years of confinement.

Other Places To Research
  • Be sure to check for Sheriff and Public Administrator Record books of the county.
  • Some earlier papers recorded Public Administrator involvement in the newspapers. Here's an index of the 1883 Probates of the Public Administrator of the City and county of San Francisco from the San Francisco Examiner, I found online.
  • Remember these records may not be held with the other Probate and Estate records, so don't forget to gently inquire.

Kathleen Brandt

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Good Source for World War I Overseas Research

A sample of AEF veteran names and assigned duties
American Expeditonary Forces (AEF)
If you are researching the American Expeditonary Forces (AEF) Air Service for WWI, then you probably already know of the Gorrell's History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917-1919 collection. If you aren't familiar with Gorrell's History visit (formerly The AEF Air Service was responsible for the employment of AEF aviation units that included observation balloons as well as airplanes and this extensive historical collection holds many treasures for the family researcher.

"WWI was the first war in which air power was a strategic force." And for this reason, Maj. Gen. Mason Patrick, Chief of the Air Service, instructed Col. Edgar S. Gorrell, Assistant Chief of Staff of the Air Service, to gather all information that would "assist in establishing Army aeronautics on a sound basis for the future." The AEF maintained an air service from 1917 to its demobilization and return to the United States the summer of 1919 resulting in a 282 bound collection of historical narratives, reports, photographs, administrative and technical documents, and tactical activities of the Air Service in the American Expeditionary Forces. pg 162
Women Workers in the AEF
We are mostly familiar with the AEF female nurses, but what about the other 6000 women who served with the AEF forces? Jennifer D. Keene author of World War I outlines the roles of Army female civilian volunteers and clerical staff workers, as well as highlighting the roll those who enlisted as yeomen and marines in Naval and Marine Corp Reserves. In the Women Support Staff Roles section (pg 188) Keene discusses many other roles women played in the AEF. 

Genealogical Interest (extracted from
There are rosters, photographs of personnel, and even obituaries of pilots killed in action ensconced amongst the lengthy historical narratives, copies of administrative and operations. Even  reports by downed American aviators who were prisoners of war are can be found along with AEF copies of the newspapers.

Beginning Research
The Gorrell's History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917-1919
NARA microfilm publication may be found in the 58 rolls of Record Group 120 or you may wish to do the online search.  

A good place to begin your research is to become familiar with the holdings. The descriptive pamphlet for Gorrell's History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917-1919, Publication M990, provided by the National Archives will help the researcher focus their search.

Table of Content
Take a gander at the rich holdings in this collection:  Series A: Early History and General Organization of the AEF Air Service and Series B: Air Service Activities With the French, British, Series C: Tactical Units and Italians; Series D: Tactical History;  E: Squadron Histories; Series F: Balloon Section;  Series G: Photographic Section; Series H: Mechanics Regiments; Series I: Paris Headquarters and Supply Section; Series J: Training; Series K: Technical Section; Series L: Miscellaneous Sections of the Air Service (included AEF newspapers); Series N: First Army Material (Some documentation included in these volumes duplicates documentation included in the volumes of series C and E); Series O: Weekly [Statistical] Reports; Series P: Third Army; Series Q: Air Service Liquidation; Series R: Investigation of Damage Done by Allied Bombing.

Kathleen Brandt

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Generational Research Game

Distinguish Common Names
My hubby would like to delve into more depth on his lineage. Pretty hodgepodge European on mother's side, but his father's (and hubby's interest) is Irish. Problem in searching is seems all of the Irish who came over had the same names. HaHa how do you know which one is right?  Yvette
Analyze, Analyze, Analyze
Perhaps a3Gen really stands for Analyze, Analyze, Analyze genealogy documents, data and information! At least that's what I thought when Yvette sent me the above inquiry (part of a longer email). Not to simplify the issue, but truly, this is where your analytical and research skills should shine.  You want to start with the most recent generation and work yourself backwards. And, the following suggestions only work if you take the time with each generation.

Let the Games Begin
The true purpose of this "game" is to eliminate the contestants who should not be in your family tree.

  • The goal is to identify who's the last Michael McCabe standing!
  • The winner gets a full scale scrutiny.  Of course there may be 2-5 still standing at this point.

It helps to know a few documents that can lead you to your answer.  The key however, is to not limit yourself to one generation.  To unravel this puzzle, you must open your circle and not only follow immediate family members but also associates.  Then with a organizational chart, you slowly start matching family units.

Eliminate The Obvious
First we  narrow common name ancestors by age, residence and careers. Familiar family names also helps (but usually they are the culprit). Census records may reveal when they came to the USA, let's not forget that hint.

Secondly we start pulling documents.  At this point we have no idea which Michael McCabe is the right one, but at least they are all about the same age, from the same region, and are all sheep butchers and all came to USA in with a couple of years of 1896 (let's leave room for reporting errors).

Of course we still don't know which Mike, Michael, and Mikal is the right one.  And we've only narrowed it to 23 possibles (or may 67?). Not really a working number, so we use a few more parameter.  If you are lucky, all parents will reveal Mary and Joseph (or whomever; but remember you must leave allowance for nicknames. Plus given names like Mary and Joseph in our Irish research is of little help.).

Thirdly, let's do a neighbor/community analysis. Remember to find the one, we look at 100. So since immigrants usually migrated with family and friends, we use this fact to our advantage. 

A Dozen Records
Next Step (officially #4):  Pull the following documents for parents, spouses, children, siblings. This generational information will at least help you eliminate possible family units that are not related or are cousin, not your direct line. 
  1. Census Records: residence, occupation, birth place, age
  2. Birth Records: parents data and birth place
  3. Death Records: parents names and spouses are listed as well as vital dates are provided
  4. Military Service Records: birth date, enlistment place/residence, beneficiary and next of kin, last pay vouchers may show the location of where a veteran will live after service
  5. Employment Records: beneficiary and spouse information, residence and vital records to include birth date
  6. Obituary: family members listed, residence, birth data, career, service records
  7. Cemetery/Funeral Records:  family information in funeral programs, veteran record information, residence, and informant names
  8. Wills/Probate: gives children and spouse names, maybe even grandchildren or great grandchildren 
  9. Land Records and Maps: an analysis of land records may in reveal spouse information and other family members. 
  10. County/Town Histories: an often overlooked resource, but should be reviewed for family information
  11. Immigration Records: remember to note if they were going to be residing with a family member. This has been the final clue for me several times.
  12.  Naturalization records.  Remember witnesses can also be your key.
 There are so many more records that can help, but the goal is to gather data and organize it into family units.

Let's do crafts. 
Get a large board, or wall (ok the computer will work, but not quite as fun), and arrange people in family units. Now remember you are only going one generation at a time, and everything must align with the generation you are working with.  Then one step at a time you will end on the other side of the pond.

Yes, it's time consuming, but at a3Genealogy we call it the Generational Research Game.

Kathleen Brandt

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Library of Congress Holdings

5 Boxes of the Eversman/DeSayn Collection
Collections for Genealogists
Insurance Papers for Violins
As genealogists we know the Library of Congress (LOC) houses a wealth of historical records, documents, maps (and more) in its 3 buildings and off-site storage facilities.  At 838 miles of shelves, it's the largest library in the world housing "33 million books and printed materials, as well as more than 113 million maps, manuscripts, photographs, films, audio and video recordings, prints and drawings, and other special collections."  But as a genealogist are you one of the annual 1.7 million plus readers or visitors? While in the DC area genealogists researching at the National Archives, DAR and other repositories, bypass the LOC.  Granted, you need time! But you may be surprised at your findings.

The collections are indescribable. Sure there's the Digital Collection "digitized photographs, manuscripts, maps, sound recordings, motion pictures, and books, as well as "born digital" materials such as Web sites." But, what about the textural collections?

Performing Arts Reading Room

At a3Genealogy we schedule 2 visits a year for client research at the LOC.  This year we visited the Map Collection for a thorough Napa County research project, and the Performing Arts Reading Room  to research in the Music Division. 
Note from John Philip Sousa in
 Eversman/DeSayn Collection

Elena DeSayn, a Russian violinist was one of our research projects. We were able to go through 5 boxes of the Elena Desayn/Alice Eversman Collection  and uncovered notes from John Philip Sousa, Eleanor Roosevelt, white house invitations from President Taft, Truman and Roosevelt, and accolades from countless conductors and music critics.  Even photos of DeSayn's violins and their value was provided on copies of the insurance policies.  And let's not discard the countless pieces of sheet music and a copy of her unique violin teaching methods.

Historical Trivia
Who is in charge of the Library of Congress? The Library is directed by the Librarian of Congress, who is appointed by the president of the United States and confirmed by a vote of the Senate. Since the Library's founding in 1800, there have been 13 Librarians of Congress, including the incumbent, James H. Billington, who was sworn in on September 14, 1987.

Three Buildings?
Most are familiar with the Great Hall in the Thomas Jefferson Building (1897).  But also there's the JohnAdams Building completed in 1939 and James Madison Memorial Building (1980). To boot, my last research visit, left me waiting for transporting a collection from LandoverMaryland to the Music Reading Room.

Kathleen Brandt