Genealogy Blog

Blog Posts and News Stories for Genealogists, September 26, 2013

26 Sep 2014

This week’s genealogy news roundup includes  a new, major DNA project, cancer and family history, LDS members getting free access to databases, a review of genealogy apps, and a fun story about historical facts that sound bizarre but are actually true.

Dick Eastman announced a new DNA project that launched this week in Wales. CymruDNA Wales (Cymru is the name of the country in Welsh) is partnering with other organizations in a major study. The ultimate goal of the project is to answer the question to determine where the Welsh come from. Read more in New Welsh DNA Project is Announced.

Similarly the New York Times reported on a study of Ashkenazi Jewish women and breast cancer. A new study shows that even those who had no family history of the cancer tested positive for the genetic mutations that cause breast cancer. Most Jews in the United States are Ashkenazi, so this story has wide ramifications. Get the details in Study of Jewish Women Shows link to Cancer Without Family History.

Deseret News reported today on something we’ve heard about for awhile. FamilySearch has partnered with Ancestry, FindMyPast, and MyHeritage to digitize and index more content. As part of that work, LDS members will now receive free access to those websites, saving them almost $900 each year. Get more of the story in FamilySearch Provides LDS Members with Free Subscriptions to Commercial Family History Websites.


Randy Seaver Online Trees


Randy Seaver had an interesting piece on Geneamusings yesterday. He participated in a Google hangout with DearMyrtle on Wednesday. The group discussed genealogy software, online family trees, and apps.  Eight software programs, seven online tree providers, and seven mobile apps were discussed. Read more in Which Family Tree Programs Sync and Have Mobile Apps?

Finally this week, we wrap up with a rather fun story from BuzzFeed. Staffperson Mike Spohr wrote a piece awhile ago gathering interesting facts that may sound strange, but really happened. He curated stories from around the web, including how anthropologists believe that as many as 600,000 people were put to death for witchcraft in the Medieval Era; a Papal persecution of cats and how this led to the Bubonic Plague that killed almost a third of Europe’s population; and how the Austrian army attacked itself in 1788.  Read all of these stories and more in 51 Historical Facts That Sound Like Huge Lies but Are Actually True.

New Website for Ellis Island

23 Sep 2014

I remember the first time I ever saw the Statue of Liberty. It was the summer of 1986. The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation (SOLEIF) was formed by President Ronald Reagan in 1982. Lee Iacocca, head of Chrysler Corporation led an effort that raised $600 million for the repair and preservation of the Statue, Liberty Island, and the immigration facilities on Ellis Island.

The foundation spent four years renovating the statue. Architects and engineers worked with historians to develop the plans implemented by almost 1,000 laborers. Liberty’s torch was replaced, her insides strengthened, and new elevators were installed. Liberty Island was closed for four years while they conducted the restoration.

Liberty Weekend was held over the Fourth of July in 1986 to celebrate the reopening. Activities were held over four days. The largest flotilla of tall ships in modern times passed by to honor her in Operation Sail. The Closing Ceremonies were held on July 6 at Giants Stadium. A number of my friends performed in the Liberty Band, with representatives of colleges and universities around the country. Some of us went down to see the ceremonies in person. I had never seen such fesitivities. In addition to the band, we got to see Gene Kelly, Shirley Maclaine, Liza Minelli, Patti LaBelle, the Pointer Sisters, the Four Tops, and more. I didn’t get to visit Ellis Island that weekend (way too many people trying), but I did get to see her from the shore for the very first time. Even from the distance, she was quite imposing (I finally got to visit the statue in 1988, and paid a return visit on the Fourth of July this year).


Michael Leclerc visiting the Statue of Liberty July 4, 2014. (From the collection of the author. Used with permission.)

Michael Leclerc visiting the Statue of Liberty July 4, 2014. (From the collection of the author. Used with permission.)


Four years later, Ellis Island was reopened, and in 2001 a website was established that provided access to more than 51 million passenger arrival records. After more than a decade in service, the website itself is undergoing a renovation.  SOLEIF recently launched a beta version of the new website.

The new site is cleaner, and easier to navigate. You can search by passenger’s name or by ship. Results include a textual transcription of the manifest, an image of the original manifest, and information about the ship (including images of ships that docked here).  If you see mistakes in the way your ancestor’s name was indexed, you can request a correction to be made.

If you have an existing account on the old website, you will need to select a new password when you log in to the new site. Other than that, you should have no problems accessing the site.

Remember that this is a beta site, which means some things may not always be working. And other parts may change as they conduct tweaks. The good news is that OLEIF is actively soliciting feedback about the site, and welcomes your comments. Check out the new site at

George and Lizzie’s Long Journey Home

20 Sep 2014

This is a story of a nineteenth-century couple who travelled the country, and how they ended up in my living room on their way to reuniting with their family in Arizona.

George Sefton Crouse was born in Middleburg, Maryland, on March 12, 1862, eldest son of John Lewis Crouse and his wife Mary Margaret Sefton. John was a physician, and George spent his youth in Maryland and Washington, D.C.

He later moved to Ohio, where he married Elizabeth “Lizzie” Matilda Grimmer. She was born in Carthage (today a part of Cincinnati), Ohio, on May 26, 1863. She was a daughter of Andrew and Dorothea (Ludwig) Grimmer, who had immigrated from Germany.

They married in 1882 and the first few of their children were born there. By 1900 she had born 6 children, but only 3 remained alive. In the early 1890s they decided to make a great move and relocate the family to Montana. It may have had something to do with the economic depression that seized the country in 1893. About this time, they had their portraits taken. They were quite possibly made to give as keepsakes to family members being left behind.

By 1900 George was a food grocer in Great Falls. By 1910 he was working as a foreman at a smelter. But they owned their home free of a mortgage. George was just 56 years old when he passed away in Great Falls on October 12, 1918. Lizzie joined him on September 25, 1950, thirty-two years later. They are buried there together in the New Highland Cemetery.

So how did George and Lizzie end up in my living room? And why are they going to Arizona? It all started a visit to eBay. I was on a very specific mission looking for something. And along the way, I fell into the eBay trap. I clicked on one of the links that “might be something you might be interested in.”

There were two faces staring back at me. Clearly nineteenth-century charcoal portraits. And, they were identified, including the first, middle and last names of  what was likely a married couple (not 100% certain since on the woman’s portrait it provided only her maiden name. Knowing that there was a great likelihood they could end up gracing the wall of an Applebees or other restaurant, I bid on the portraits and won them. I asked the seller where she had obtained them, and she informed me that she found them at a Goodwill store.



George Sefton Crouse and Elizabeth Mathilda Grimmer (From the collection of the author, used with permission.)

George Sefton Crouse and Elizabeth Mathilda Grimmer (From the collection of the author, used with permission.)


I then started searching for descendants to whom I could return them. It did not take too long to piece together their three daughters and to find living descendants. Within days I actually found 2 men in their fifties, first cousins and descendants of George and Lizzie’s eldest daughter. I discovered that one of the cousins was a genealogist. He, clearly, would be the perfect person to return the portraits to.

John has a family tree online, and heads up a DNA study for his patrilineal line. Unfortunately, I was having difficulty obtaining current contact information for him. So I sent the word out to some of my friends who I thought might be able to help.

While waiting for their response, I asked my friend Maureen Taylor, the Photo Detective, to help me. I told her about finding the portraits on eBay. She responded with “eBay is like Las Vegas for genealogists.” I couldn’t agree more. Sparkly things everywhere and it is very difficult not to get sucked in!

Maureen looked at the portraits for me, and determined that the photograph from which they were made was likely taken in the early 1890s. There are characteristics from the 1880s present, but some of the details were not around until the 1890s. This fits in perfectly with the move to Montana, thus my assertion that the portraits were taken to give to family members remaining behind in Ohio.

In the meantime, my friends in the DNA genealogy pulled through and found current information for me. I was able to finally make contact with a descendant. The portraits are now on their way to Arizona, where John now lives, repatriating them to the family.

In the end, it cost me about $80 to purchase the portraits, have them shipped to me, and ship them to John. The biggest portion of this was the shipping because the portraits were so large. I did not ask for remuneration, but did ask if he would please consider making a donation in that amount or more to the Preserve the Pensions Project. So the next time you are at a Goodwill, or yard sale, or on eBay, take a look around. Perhaps there is something there that you can repatriate to descendants of the owners.

We Asked and You Answered! When did your ancestors immigrate to the United States?

20 Sep 2014

Last week we asked the Mocavo Community to share when their ancestors immigrated to the United States. Here is what you said!

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Blog Posts and News Stories for Genealogists September 19, 2014

19 Sep 2014

This week we have a variety of stories and sources for you.I hope you find them as interesting and informative as I do.

We start with a new book about he Civil War. The New York Times ran a preview of the full review that will appear this Sunday.  Laird Hunt has written Neverhome, a novel about a woman disguised as a man who fights for the Union in the Civl War. During his research, he discovered stories of ancestor Thomas Goatley Laird, who supposedly rode home from the war on the same horse he rode into the war with. He also discovered a box of family letters from that period. Read the preview in Civil War (and Family) History, and don’t forget to check the Times on Sunday for the full review.

Next we have another story about soldiers. Recently the cemetery in Yorktown, Indiana, held a cemetery to honor two soldiers buried there: one from the Revolutionary War and one from the War of 1812. Brothers Larry and Garry Applegate knew that there was an Applegate buried in the cemetery, but it was not until they heard of the ceremony that was about to happen that they did the research to confirm that yes, indeed, they were descended from War of 1812 veteran John Applegate. Read more in Family Finds Its History in Cemetery Ceremony.

The Legal Genealogist Judy G. Russell had an excellent piece this week about laws. Understanding the laws of the time and place in which you are researching is critical to properly identifying your ancestors. This week, Judy talks about the names of statutes, and how the popular name (such as the Homestead Act) are not necessarily the official name of the legislation, which may make it difficult for you to find it. Read more in Popularizing the Statutes.


Chromosome Mapper


Kitty Cooper writes a blog that focuses on genealogy and genetics, as well as gardening. Recently she wrote about how friends had created a wonderful illustration for a presentation on DNA. They used a chromosome mapper that Kitty created awhile back. The mapper shows where certain parts of your DNA comes from. Check out the chart in Using the Chromosome Mapper to Make a Four Generation Inheritance Picture, and you can see how you can make your own with her Ancestor Chromosome Mapper.

Finally, last week I reported that Canadian genealogist John D. Reid was conducting his Rockstar Genealogists survey again this year. This week he released the results. Congratulations to Judy G. Russell, Robert Estes, Janet Few, Steven C. Smyrl, Dick Eastman, and Shauna Hicks who led the packs in their individual categories. Find the full lists of the top ten for each category in this survey at Anglo-Celtic Connections.

5 Tips For Finding Your Ancestors’ Occupations

17 Sep 2014



One of the ways we can make our ancestors come to life is by identifying their occupations. There are a number of different ways you can find this information. One of the first sources that come to mind is directories, which often list occupations as well as addresses. Here are a few sources that perhaps you haven’t thought of, or that you might think of using in a different way.

1. Probate Records

Yes, when a person’s estate is entered into probate, the record usually records the occupation and place of residence with the name of the deceased. But sometimes it does not. And even if it does, you can still find more details about his occupation by examining the full record. Most especially, look for the inventory of the estate. The inventory will usually list all possessions, including those used for following one’s occupation. Examining the list of tools can help you to determine your ancestor’s occupation. You might even be able to discover more specifically what trade it was. For example, you might know what an ancestor was a smith, but was he a blacksmith, whitesmith, or goldsmith? Examining the tools may help you determine this.

2. Land Records

Once again, a person’s occupation is often listed at the start of the document. But other clues can lurk in land records. For example, look at the property being purchased. Is it farmland? Is it meadow that might be used to feed livestock? Are they are buildings on it? What types of buildings? Farms? Tenements? A forge? All of these can provide clues to the occupation of your ancestor.

3. Assessor’s Records

Tax records are a huge boon for genealogists, and very underutilized in many areas. Not only can they put an ancestor on the ground in a particular place and time, they can tell you a great deal more about the ancestor’s life. By looking at what types of taxes are being paid, you can often get clues to an ancestor’s occupation. Taxes for large amounts of livestock, for example, could be a clue that the ancestor was a farmer. Or there might be taxes for different kinds of manufactures.

4. Association/Organization Records

Many social organizations were created by members of professions. Members practiced the same, or similar occupations. Determining what organizations your ancestor belonged to may help you determine what occupation they followed. For example, The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry (commonly called “The Grange”) is a fraternal organization promoting “the economic and political well-being of the community and agriculture.” An ancestor who was a member of the Grange might have been a farmer, or any of a number of occupations involved in agriculture.

5. Local Histories

Many local histories mention any number of people involved in particular occupations. The odds are even greater of a mention if your ancestor was the sole practitioner of an occupation in the town where he lived, such as the village blacksmith. They are also a wonderful source for identifying the associations and organizations mentioned above that formed in the area where your ancestor lived.

Travel Back in Time to See What Life Was Like for Your Ancestors

16 Sep 2014

Family history is a rich subject that spans across many centuries. One of the most exciting parts of researching our ancestry is the ability to trace multiple lines as far back in time as possible. At Mocavo, you can access record collections and historical information that span the 1700s, 1800s, 1900s, 2000s, and more! Discover the rich history of your family’s past now.

Start Searching Now

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Using Indexes to Expand Your Research

13 Sep 2014

The twenty-first century has brought a boon to genealogists. Records are constantly being digitized and placed online. Because of the expense involved in digitizing records, however, it is a time-consuming process. In the meantime, many indexes are being made available online and these can be very helpful.

Many record sets were prepared with their own indexes from the get-go. We’ve all seen land, probate, and vital records with indexes at the back of each volume. Many agencies created cumulative indexes over time as well. And some created them as they went along. In Massachusetts, for example, the index to the statewide vital records was created in five-year increments starting all the way back in the 1850s.

Indexes can contain a wide variety of information. At a minimum, one usually finds the surname and the page number on which it appears. Sometimes you might get the given name as well as the surname.

If the index covers multiple volumes, you should see the volume letter or number as well as the page, and sometimes you will see a year (although years are often included in the title of multi-volume indexes). Records that include multiple parties, such as land records (which have both grantors and grantees or mortgagors and mortgagees, etc.), many have multiple sets of indexes.




Some indexes are in alphabetical order, usually by surname. Some, however, just group the names together by the first letter (i.e., all names starting with a letter A together, all with a letter B together, etc.). You will also find indexes that are simply in chronological order, or in order by page number. Multi-volume indexes are occasionally grouped by volume letter or number as well. They can appear with each volume subdivided as mentioned above, or the above groupings might be subdivided by volume letter or number.

Indexes can also contain a great deal more information. You might, for example, see the exact dates of transactions, or the date the transaction was registered. Vital records might include the names of parents and/or spouses. The names of the towns, villages, or townships where the event took place might also appear.

Images of indexes can sometimes help you find information that is hidden, with spelling variations that don’t always appear when you search for them. In addition, indexes are often available for modern time periods, where the records themselves are not available online. They even be closed to the public, and the indexes may be the only information you can access. In the worst of all scenarios, the actual records may be destroyed, and published indexes may be the only information that survives. A perfect example of this are those of Devonshire, England. Bombing in during World War II destroyed these records (among others) in 1942. Aside from some individual records abstracted before the bombing, the only surviving records are the published indexes.

News Stories and Blog Posts for Genealogists, September 12, 2014

12 Sep 2014

This week’s roundup of news stories covers a variety of topics, from the very serious to the more lighthearted. Discover how much money was raised at the FGS conference to preserve pensions from the War of 1812 and an effort to get Congress to award the Medal of Honor to a Civl War soldier, then comes a discussion of our approach to non-paternal events revealed by DNA. We end with a couple of more lighthearted pieces that discuss genealogy and music as well as a new map of the United States.

We start this week’s roundup with a follow up about the Preserve the Pensions walk in San Antonio. When the Legal Genealogist, Judy Russell, offered to have people who couldn’t attend the conference sponsor her walking, it was to help raise money for the Preserve the Pensions Project, working to digitize the War of 1812 pension files. The total at the moment — more than $20,000. With the matching contributions from FGS and, that’s worth almost $85,000. But they’re not finished yet. Read more in The Final Tally.

First Lieutenant ALonzo H. Chushing was a brash young man, fresh out of West Point. He was in command of an artillery brigade at the Battle of Gettysburg, and performed quite heroically. It ended with the ultimate sacrifice. Historians have been pushing for him to be awarded the Medal of Honor, but today it literally takes an act of Congress. Find out more in A Gettysburg Hero.

Kerry Scott writes the Clue Wagon blog, covering a wide variety of topics. This week she went on a well-deserved rant. She talks about the presumptions we make when DNA illuminates a “non-paternal event” in the family tree, and how wrong it is of us to do so. Excellent writing, and a good read in Can We Stop Calling Grandma a Whore?

We close with a couple of fun stories. First is an interesting piece that was published a few months ago in the Cornell Daily Sun. The Sun is a student-run newspaper at Cornell University. Contributor Henry Staley wrote a piece about a different kind of genealogy — the genealogy of music. He writes that “below I seek to show the degree to which the memorable pop musicians of the ’60s and ’70s were engaged in conversations with former thinkers or writers. I organize these conversations by thinker or movement.” Read more in On the Genealogy of Musicality.

Mental Floss has created an interesting new map. They took a map of the united states and redrew drew it.  The new map reflects fifty renamed states that are equal in population, although the geography is hardly of similar size. With names lik Menominee, Canaveral, and Shiprock, it is a very interesting map. Check it out in The U.S. Map Redrawn as 50 States with Equal Population.


New US Map


Vote in the 2014 Rockstar Genealogists Survey

11 Sep 2014

Rockstar Genealogists 2014

John D. Reid of Ottowa, Ontario, has once again started his Rockstar Genealogists survey. Since 2006 he has been writing the Canada’s Anglo-Celtic Connections Blog. He writes on a wide variety of topics of interest to those with Canadian or UKI roots.

For the past three years, John has run a Rockstar Genealogists poll. He solicits contributions from his readers to compile the initial list of nominees. The qualifications are:

“those who give ‘must attend’ presentations at family history conferences or as webinars. Who, when you see a new family history article or publication by that person, makes it a must buy. Who you hang on their every word on a blog, podcast or newsgroup, or follow avidly on Facebook or Twitter?”

Once again, I am quite honored to be one of the nominees. To be considered in the same company as Cyndi Ingle, Paul Milner, J. Mark Lowe, George Morgan, Drew Smith, and Curt Witcher, among others, is a tremendous privilege. It also includes noted genealogists from the UKI and such as Else Churchill, Bruce Durie, Fiona FitzSimmons, Michael Gandy, John Grenham, and John Titford.

One of the things I like about this contest is that it shows off many high-quality genealogists that you may or may not be aware of. Check out the list of nominees. Do you know every name? Can you identify what they do? Try looking for some of the individuals whose names are unfamiliar to you. If they write a blog, read some of their posts. Look for books they have authored or edited. Check their calendar to see if and when they are speaking near to you so you can attend one of their presentations. Explore your horizons.

Voting is going on over the next couple of days, and the results will be published next week. There are a couple of questions to answer for demographic purposes, and then you will see the list of nominees to vote on, presented in alphabetical order. You can see the list of names here, or go directly to voting here.

And thank you, once again, to John for running the survey. And thank you to his readers for the nomination. And congratulations to all whose names appear on the survey. Your very nomination proves that you are touching many people with your work.