Genealogy Blog

What to do With Thousands of Graves

17 Mar 2014

Genealogists are used to reading all sorts of horrific stories about the damage the march of time does to our history. Every time we turn around, there is another story of town records being destroyed, cemeteries being plowed over, and other damage. Many of these stories end up in our weekly roundup of news published on Fridays.  How nice, then, to see a story with a different kind of ending. A few weeks back, we included a story from Missippi about grave discoveries. Now comes more information.

The Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum was opened on January 8, 1855, in Jackson. During the Civil War, General Sherman took over the institution. After the war, African-Americans started being admitted. In 1900 the Asylum was renamed the Mississippi State Insane Hospital, and in 1930 it was replaced by the Mississippi State Hospital.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center was founded in 1955 in the state capitol of Jackson, and located on the former site of the asylum. Since that time, during various construction projects, the UMMC has discovered unmarked graves on the site. In each case, they carefully relocated the remains to the official cemetery area of the site.

In the 1990s, 66 coffins were discovered during a road improvement project. The UMMC partnered with the Cobb Institute for Archaeology at Mississippi State University to document the graves and relocate them to the cemetery.

Archaeologists have learned much. Most were interred with no personal items. They were buried without clothes, sometimes in shrouds and sometimes not. All of this indicates the bodies being linked to the asylum. They have been dated to the 1920s, relatively late in the history of the institution.

Recently, however, during surveys for a major expansion to the facility, workers discovered more burials. More than they originally conceived. Using ground-penetrating radar, more than 1,000 burials were found on the southern end of the property, and the same number of burials on the northern side.

It would cost millions of dollars to relocate that many remains, so the UMMC has placed their expansion on hold for the moment. But the archaeological research continues. And genealogists are now getting into the game, wondering what might have happened to relatives at the asylum. Working together, they are trying to identify remains and what happened to the inmate, often too poor for their families to claim them after death.

No matter the reasons, it is heartening to see a large institution working to preserve history. You can read more about the story at CNN in University is Digging into Mississippi’s Past with a Long Forgotten Graveyard or visit the Mississippi State Asylum Cemetery Project.

Mississippi State Asylum Cemetery Project

News Stories and Blog Posts for Genealogists, March 14, 2014

14 Mar 2014

Another week has come and gone. This week brings us a wide mix of stories. We find out about a World War II soldier’s reunion, a website for researching Irish ancestry, DNA testing, ways to use Facebook, and your favorite fonts. I hope you find them as interesting as I do.

Former Hudson, Massachusetts, police chief Alfred T. Cabral recently had a long-awaited reunion. In January 1944 he was one of the participants in the amphibious assault on Anzio, Italy. During the assault, under intense fire, he lost his dog tags. An Italian man walking along the beach found the tag and turned it over to the American cemetery last December. It was recently returned to him at a ceremony in Worcester, seventy years after the attack. You can read more of the story, and discover what he plans to do with the dog tag, in Veteran Proudly Reclaims His Dog Tag — 70 Years Later.

Donna Moughty  recently posted about John Grenham’s website, hosted at the Irish Times (a post she made from a cruise ship in the Caribbean). Although not a fan of pay-per-view websites, Donna explains the value of one part of this site. Find out more in Irish Ancestors Website.

Understanding DNA can be complicated. Judy G. Russell, the Legal Genealogist, often discusses it on her blog. This week she have a very important discussion about autosomal DNA testing. She explains what it is, and why you need to expand your testing to maximize your results. Read more in Sibling Rivalry: Maximizing Autosomal Matches.

Paula Stuart-Warren discusses a wide variety of topics on her blog, Paula’s Genealogical Eclectica. This week she had an interesting comment about Facebook. Many people use it to keep track of their friends and what is going on in each others’ lives. But there are other ways to use it. And Paula talks about some of them, and gives you some Facebook pages you might find interesting if you have Minnesota research. Read about it in Facebook Has Helpful Pages You May Not Know About.


Font HIstory


Finally this week comes an innocuous but interesting story from the Huffington Post. We use our computers for so much nowadays. One of the nice things we can do with our digital writing is to use the different fonts available. But have you ever wondered where those fonts came from? Think that Times New Roman originated with the New York Times? Think again! Find out the answer to this, and others, in The Incredible Histories of Your Favorite Fonts.

Open Access to Mocavo Gold Until Sunday at Midnight

13 Mar 2014

Over the past few months, we received so much positive feedback about our free access weekends that we decided to do it again!

Back by popular demand, all Mocavo Basic members can now access all of the premium Mocavo Gold features for free until Sunday at Midnight. This means you can search our entire collection to your heart’s content, upload your tree to receive new discovery alerts, download and print any document you find, and much more!

Start Searching Now


Need some extra help using Mocavo Gold?

If you would like to get the most out of our Mocavo Gold Open Access Weekend, check out these easy-to-follow guides!

Read the Mocavo Gold Search Tutorial

Watch a Short Video About Mocavo Gold Faceted Search

Trouble Accessing Mocavo Gold? Check Out These Quick Tips

These premium search features are generally available to Mocavo Gold members. If you decide that you enjoy the premium features of Mocavo Gold, consider joining our revolution and becoming a part of the Mocavo Gold community.

We wish you a successful weekend full of discoveries!

Having Trouble Taking Advantage of our Mocavo Gold Universal Search Free Access Weekend?

13 Mar 2014

We want to make sure that no one misses out on a free Mocavo Gold access weekend! So here are some troubleshooting ideas for you!

You must have a Mocavo Basic account and be logged in to participate in the free Mocavo Gold access weekend.

  • To create an account, please visit and simply enter an email address and password. Signing up for a Mocavo Basic (Free) account allows you to create a profile where you can upload family trees and family history documents and photos as well as connect with other members, get help from Mocavo Support, and get emails on genealogy tips and Mocavo updates.
  • If you already have a Mocavo Basic account, you can sign in by visiting and click the sign in button on the top right corner of your computer screen. Simply enter your email address and password and you’ll be on your way to a weekend full of discoveries.

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2. If you already are logged in to your Mocavo Basic account and still cannot access Mocavo Gold features, there could be a caching issue.

If you need to reset your password, follow these easy steps:

  • Click the sign in link at the top right hand side of your screen
  • Click on the “forgot my password link”
  • Enter your email, click submit, and password reset instructions will appear in your email shortly
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If you’re still having difficulties, please do not hesitate to email our support team at We are always happy to help!

Mocavo Gold Search in 5 Easy Steps

13 Mar 2014

Mocavo Gold makes it easy to search for your ancestors, share your discoveries, and preserve your family history for future generations to enjoy. This step-by-step guide will walk you through getting the most out of your Mocavo Gold search experience.

1. On the Mocavo menu bar, click search.

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2. Fill out the Mocavo Gold search form

Our simple search form allows you to enter your ancestor’s first name, last name, and any relevant keywords. If you are not exactly sure what you’re looking for, keep your search as broad as possible. Once you fill in the search fields, click the green search button to reveal your results.

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The most relevant results will display first. If you do not get any relevant results on your first attempt, try broadening your search by only entering an ancestor’s first and last name, then use our faceted search filters to narrow down your results.

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3. Narrow down your results with faceted search filters

Take advantage of our filtering options on the left side of the screen.

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You can filter by record category, date, and location.

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For example, let’s say you only want to look at birth records. First click on the section entitled “Birth, Marriage, Death.”

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Then, you can filter your results even further by clicking on the category entitled “Birth.” Accordingly, your search results list will only display records categorized as birth records. You can select multiple search filters at once.

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Still not sure about how to use faceted search?
Check out our 1 minute tutorial here.

4. View more results on your page

If you want to view more results on each page, simply click on 10, 25, or 50 results per page

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In your list of results, you will see a document preview, which gives you a sneak-peek at where your ancestor’s name is found in the document.

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Once you click on a search result, you will be redirected to either a website, a record index page, or a high-definition image of the record. Your search keywords will be highlighted in the document, so you can easily scan the record for relevant information.

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5. Print, share, or download documents

You can easily share documents you find with family members and friends through social media or email. Simply click on any of the mediums under “share discovery” and share away!

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Printing or downloading a document or image is easy! Simply click on the corresponding green button at the top of the page.

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If you have any other questions about the Mocavo Gold search experience, please do not hesitate to contact our support team at We would be happy to help!

Having trouble accessing Mocavo Gold features during our free access weekend? Check out this blog post for some handy troubleshooting tips.

Who Moved My Ancestor?

13 Mar 2014

During our school days in the United States, we learn about the early settlements of Europeans in North America. After the American Revolution period, we learn about the concept of “Manifest Destiny” — the concept that Americans were destined to settle the continent of North America from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific.

Families moved westward to settle new lands. The frontier was constantly moving further and further westward, with settlers moving in behind it, until it hit the Pacific Coast. As genealogists, we spend our time tracing our ancestors backwards, from the west to the east.

As you are tracing your ancestors back across the country, it is important to be aware of what was happening at that point in history in the area in which they were living, and how the geopolitical divisions were changing. As areas became more thickly settled, new geopolitical subdivisions were established.

In the west and central parts of the country, new townships were initially created whole from newly settled areas. The same goes for counties, and even states. As time went on, and more settlers moved into an area, counties would be subdivided to make it easier to manage the affairs of the county. It also made it easier for individuals living further away to be closer to a county seat. In the early-settled areas of the country, it is not uncommon to see new towns created from existing ones.

Why is this important? Because your ancestors may leave records in each of these jurisdictions. Knowing how the boundaries changed around them is important to being able to research properly. Be careful of other twists as well.

As an example, let us look at one of my uncle’s ancestors, Zenas Eaton. Zenas was born in the town of Reading, Massachusetts, 23 September 1797, eldest son of Jacob and Rebecca (Holmes) Eaton. He was a regular working-class man, plying the trade of a cordwainer (shoemaker). He married at the town of South Reading 19 April 1825 Lois Smith and had five children with her. He died there 4 September 1860, days shy of his sixty-third birthday. His children resided at South Reading and at Wakefield, Massachusetts.

Now, on initial review, it might appear that the family lived in three different places. In reality, they lived in the same place. In 1812, the town of South Reading was created from the First Parish of the town of Reading. In 1868, however, the town, petitioned the General Court to change the name to Wakefield, after local manufacturer and town benefactor Cyrus Wakefield.


United States Grow


The Washington Post recently posted slideshow graphic showing the creation of the various states throughout the country. This image illustrates the issue on a grander scale. You can see it in Watch the United States Grow Before Your Eyes. You can also see how country boundaries changed at the Atlas of Historical Boundaries from the Newbury Library in Chicago.

Have You Written Your Obituary Yet?

12 Mar 2014

Last week Walter George Bruhl, Jr., of Newark and Dewey Beach, Delaware, passed away. What is so interesting about that? Well, apparently, a lot. After his death, Walter’s family discovered an obituary he had written for himself, which they had published as his formal obituary.

Clearly Walter had a wonderful sense of humor. The obituary starts by saying that “Walter George Jr of Newark and Dewey Beach DE is a dead person, he is no more, he is bereft of life, he is deceased, he has wrung down the curtain and gone to join the choir invisible, he has expired and gone to meet his maker. . . Walt was preceded in death by his tonsils and adenoids in 1935, a spinal disc in 1974, a large piece of his thyroid gland in 1988, and his prostate on March 27th 2000.”

“There will be no viewing since his wife refuses to honor his request to have him standing in the corner of the room with a glass of Jack Daniels in his hand so that he would appear natural to visitors.”

Clearly this man enjoyed life, and will be missed terribly. But the important thing is that he took control. He didn’t wait and let someone else sum up his life. He let us know what was important to him, and communicated dit quite effectively.

As genealogists we deal with obituaries all the time. From simple death notices to lengthy paragraphs, obituaries are extremely helpful to the family historian. They can confirm dates of death as well as dates and places of burial. But most importantly, they are a way of getting a glimpse into our ancestors’ lives. It is the information in obituaries that can help us understand more about our ancestors beyond the day they were born, married, or died.  We can learn about their leisure activities, family members, residences, schooling, and more.


Obituary of Jesse Brown, "Boston Herald" August 16, 1910.

Obituary of Jesse Brown, “Boston Herald” August 16, 1910.


We should all take a lesson from Walt. Take the time to write your own obituary. Having something written in your own voice will speak volumes to your descendants. It will also show them which of your many activities in life are the ones that you consider to be most important.

When making our preparations for our end of life, including place of burial, funeral home, etc., all too often we don’t think about our own obituaries — even we genealogists. So, sometime soon, sit yourself down and write yourself an obituary. Write about what means the most to you. And what you want to be remembered for. Don’t let others make those decisions for you. And don’t wait until you are sick to do it. By then, you may not want to think about it much. And once you have written it, be certain to put it with other important information for your family so they know it is there before it is needed.

Walt’s grandson is on Reddit and he posted the obituary there for all to enjoy. It was a sad thing, but brings healing to his family to see how it is being enjoyed. Viralnova did a story on it where you can also read the entire obituary, and see some pictures of Walt and his family. Walt ended his obituary in a great way, and I leave you with his words:

“Everyone who remember him is asked to celebrate Walt’s life in their own way, raising a glass of their favorite drink in his memory would be quite appropriate. Instead of flowers, Walt would hope that you will do an unexpected and unsolicited act of kindness for some poor unfortunate soul in his name.”

Interested in this topic? Take this week’s poll to let us know what you think!

A Life Saved by Papers in his Pocket: WWI Stories Revealed

11 Mar 2014

2014 marks the centenary of the start of World War I. In one of my news roundups last month, I discussed Paul Milner’s blog post about the Operation War Diary project, a cooperative venture of The National Archives and the Imperial War Museum.

After the announcement, BBC news asked its readers to share the stories of their families. They were quite surprised at the wide variety of materials submitted to them. From letters to diaries and photographs to oral histories, they received a tremendous amount of contributions. They recently published some of these materials in World War One: Family Stories Uncovered.




Germaine Louise Wall from Kent had “armfuls of stuff that had been in her bedroom 60-odd years.” Her father-in-law, John Wall, was injured in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. His life was saved by papers and documents he was carrying in his breast pocket. Germaine saved those documents, which show the damage.

Back in the 1970s, WWI soldier Edmund Mellor  sat down to discuss his wartime experiences with his grandson, Andrew Wadsworth. Andrew recorded the conversation, which has been stored on cassette tapes since then.  At one point, he discusses an attack he participated in after mines were exploded under the German lines. “They were ready for us with machine-guns and whatnaot. But luckily, for me at any rate, I wasn’t wounded in any way.”

In a related project, the Imperial War Museum (IWM) is creating Lives of the First World War. This websites is being built to be an interactive experience for individuals to share the stories of more than eight million men and women from across the British Isles and throughout the British Empire who served in the armed forces during the war.

The IWM has partnered with DC Thomson Family History (the parent company of on the project. Just a few other participating groups include:

  • Auckland War Memorial Museum
  • The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
  • Llibary and Archives Canada
  • The National Archives
  • National Archives of Australia
  • National Archives of Ireland

There is a brief, introductory video about the project at the Lives of the First World War website. There is also a list of frequently asked questions that explain more about the project, which hopes to launch soon.

Remembering these important stories is a valiant project. The last of that generation is now gone, and it is up to us to preserve their memories. Read more, and think about how you can participate in the projects.

Have any of your ancestors ever been featured on the silver screen?

08 Mar 2014

We asked and you answered! Last week we asked, “Have any of your ancestors ever been featured on the silver screen.”

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An exciting eleven percent of our community members have had their ancestors’ stories shared in either feature films or documentaries. A few weeks ago, our Chief Genealogist Michael J. Leclerc wrote an interesting article about the importance of using documentaries to help add context to the lives of your ancestors. In his own words: “documentaries don’t get nearly the press they deserve. They are often thought of as slow and boring. But many of them tell interesting stories very well. You might find stories of the places your ancestors lived, or the activities they might have been involved in. You might even get lucky enough to have a documentary made about an ancestor. Try going to to find a film that might be helpful to you.” Although 87% of our members have not seen any of their ancestors in a feature film or documentary, it’s important to remember that although they may not have had a staring role, you can still learn a lot about what life could have been like for them.

450+ New Record Indexes Added in One Day

07 Mar 2014

Our pursuit to bring all of the world’s historical content online free forever is growing even stronger. Today alone, we are adding more than 450 new record indexes in addition to the 1,000 databases that we usually launch every day. These indexes include 25 million names from a variety of countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Start Making Discoveries Now

View New Collections

New Must-Search Collections

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Since October, we have added more than 150,000 databases to our existing collection, revealed revolutionary technologies (including handwriting recognition, transcription, and photo detection tools) and worked with organizations to digitize offline collections – all with the ambition to help our community make more discoveries than ever.

Join our revolution and upgrade to Mocavo Gold knowing that every dollar you spend supports our mission to bring all of the world’s historical content online for free. With Mocavo Gold, you enjoy exclusive access to advanced and automated tools that will help you make discoveries faster.