Genealogy Blog

History and Genealogy Blogs for Genealogists, May 31, 2013

31 May 2013

Following are some recent posts from history and genealogy blogs. I want to share them with you, and hope that you find them interesting and informative.

The Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania blog had some very interesting news last week. Philadelphia historian Terry Buckalew has identified the burial ground of the Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, one of the first African-American churches in the country. It now lies under a public playground, and he is working with the Philadelphia Historical Commission to get it placed on the register of historic places. Read more in Uncovering a Historic African American Burial Ground in Philadelphia.

The Legal Genealogist wrote about an interesting probate term this week. I had never heard of the term “acquittance” before. Apparently, it can occur in several different types of records. She uses an example from a 1918 flu epidemic victim in Delaware to explain what it means in The Acquittance.

J.L. Bell had a very interesting three-part series recently. He addressed the issue of what happened to the British soldiers killed at the North Bridge during the Battle of Lexington and Concord. The three posts, British Corpses at the North Bridge, Burying the Bodies at the North Bridge, and “Very barbarously broke his scull and let out his brains” tell a very interesting story.

Huffington Post Science writer Stephanie Pappas wrote an update to the Richard III story of this past February. Archaeologists studying the burial site have published a paper of their findings. It is the first paper to be published after the discovery was announced. The grave was very different from others in the area, and illuminated a great deal about what happened. Read the details in Richard III Skeleton: English Found to Have Been Buried Hastily, In Oddly-Shaped Grave.


Fairy Coffins


Finally, another mystery from the past. More than 175 years ago, a group of boys out playing discovered seventeen “fairy coffins.” The coffins were three or four inches long, filled with miniature clothed figures. Historians have identified the exact place where they were found, and have posited a theory behind their creation, linking it to an infamous murder spree. Find out more in Past Imperfect: Edinburgh’s Mysterious Miniature Coffins from the Smithsonian.

A Wrinkle in Time: A Simple Tool for Problem Solving

30 May 2013

A wrinkle in time (and I’m not talking about the Madeleine L’Engle classic) can be a problem, but it can just as frequently be a problem solver. Often we make presumptions that all of the evidence we find is accurate and correct. Unfortunately, when examining the entire body of evidence, things start to fall apart. We might think that complex tools and analysis are necessary, but sometimes turning to the simple things can be the best.


Wrinkle in Time


Timelines can be an incredibly valuable research tool. Sometimes the thought of creating a timeline can spread fear. Researchers think back to their school days when timelines consisted of creating complex timelines listing large numbers of historical significant dates and events. It is not always necessary to create such complex instruments for your research.

The most basic and simplest of timelines can be created by simply listing, in chronological order all of the events which you have for an individual or couple. Start with the earliest known event, such as person’s date and place of birth, and move forward in time to the latest event you have.

Make a complete list without stopping. Often you will find conflicting information, and will be tempted to stop and analyze it. My suggestion is that you not stop. Put everything down in a single list. Then go back to examine it. If you stop at every conflict, it may make it more difficult for you to see patterns emerge.

Once you have everything written down, start looking for problems and things that set off alarm bells. For example, if a man is younger than the age of fifteen at marriage, perhaps it is not the person you are looking for. The same can be said for a woman giving birth after the age of fifty. While that may happen nowadays, it is only with the aid of science and technology that did not exist in earlier generations.

Look for patterns that may appear. For example, you may notice several births less than a year apart that would initially seem to belong to the same parents. Or you may notice a large gap in the births of children that may indicate a second marriage, possibly to a woman with the same first name as the first wife. Looking at everything together may make it easier to untangle the intermingled families.

Gaps in time can raise questions in other areas as well. If you notice that a couple sells all of their land, then appears to buy new land after a long stretch of time, it should raise a question. Perhaps a second couple with the same or similar names moved into town. The two families may or may not even be related. But the gap should be noted for further research. This may also explain why you have problems with the same couple appearing to be in two places at the same time.

As you look at the timeline, you can start to pull out the pieces that don’t fit. You can also see the gaps in information that may cause you serious problems. Then you can create a research plan for moving forward. It may also solve some of the bigger problems that you have.

Three Tips for an Alternative to Genealogy Summer Travel

29 May 2013

Last weekend we celebrated Memorial Day here in the U.S. For Americans, this means the official start of the summer season. This is one of the biggest travel times of the year. Many genealogists use this time to visit ancestral homes and cemeteries, stopping to do ancestry research in repositories in the area as well.

Unfortunately, it is not always possible to do this kind of travel. Work schedules, family obligations, illness, and economic issues can often interfere with our ability to travel great distances. So, here are a few ideas for doing a summer “genealogy trip” without leaving your home.

1. Travel and Tourism Websites

National and local tourism boards often maintain detailed websites with a great deal of information. Travel agency websites and others dedicated to travel can have similar information. Because these websites are trying to attract visitors, they provide a great deal of information on locations, with many links to additional information.

You might find images of the towns and villages where your ancestors lived. You also might find maps of the areas. Many of them will provide histories of the area, in varying degrees of detail. Some of them might list addresses for local points of interest. These can include repositories, such as city/town halls, libraries, archives, etc. Some tourism boards, recognizing the importance of genealogy tourism, have special sections on their websites dedicated just to genealogy. Discover Ireland is one example of this.

2. Google Maps/Google Earth

If you know where your ancestors lived, Google Ear and Google Maps can give you an idea of what the area looks like today. If you are fortunate enough to have street addresses, you even get to see the buildings where they lived. One thing you must be careful of, however, is making assumptions.

Time rolls on, and municipalities continue to shrink and grow. Buildings are town down and new ones are put up. Roads are re-routed. Small roads can become major thoroughfares. Roads can also be renumbered. Even the names of towns can change. My maternal grandmother was born in the village of St. Norbert d’Arthabaska in 1914 is today known as Norbertville.


Parish church at Norbertville (St. Norbert d'Arthabaska) where the author's grandmother was baptized in 1914. From Google Maps.

Parish church at Norbertville (St. Norbert d’Arthabaska) where the author’s grandmother was baptized in 1914. From Google Maps.


Don’t assume that a street address from the past is in the same location now. Don’t be fooled by modern buildings that look like older buildings. Further research will be necessary. But you can get clues and see what the general area looks like.

This is particularly helpful when researching ancestors who migrated from one location to another. Google Maps and Google Earth allow you to see the physical barriers that might have impacted their migration route. Large bodies of water, hills and mountains, gorges and valleys, and more all had a great effect on the direction people took when moving for place to place, and can help explain why they might have gone hundreds of miles out of the way.

3. Photosharing Websites

Over the last few years a huge number of websites have popped up that allow you to share your images over the internet. Instagram is the largest of these, with more than 100 million monthly users. Flickr, Pinterest, Snapfish, and more are also very popular.

You can use these website to find images of places where your ancestors lived. In addition to modern photographs, many people upload older images from their personal collections. You also might find older, out-of-copyright images as well. Wikipedia has a large list of photosharing websites.


Just because you can’t get away this year doesn’t  mean you can’t do some “virtual travelling.” You may be surprised and quite thrilled at what you find. And you can use it to plan for next year’s trip!

Seven Decades Later, Dead Soldier’s Sweetheart Finds Diary in Museum

28 May 2013

Yesterday in America we celebrated Memorial Day, a day of remembrance for those who lost their lives while serving in the armed forces.  Probably no one had as amazing a remembrance as 90-year-old Laurie Mae (Davis) Burlingame of Mooresville, Indiana.

Recently, Laurie Mae travelled to New Orleans. She wanted to visit the National World War II Museum there. She was going to see a display commemorating her high-school sweetheart. And she got the surprise of her life.


WWII Soldier Diary


Laurie Mae and Thomas “Cotton” Jones were members of the Class of 1941 at Winslow High School in Winslow, Indiana. They dated throughout high school, and went to the prom together. Like many young men of the time, Cotton went into the army. He gave Laurie May his class ring, and she gave him a diary to keep.

He made his first entry while stationed at Camp Elliott in San Diego. He described the diary as “my life history of my days in the U.S. Marine Corps … And most of all my love for Laura Mae for whom my heart is completely filled. So if you all get a chance please return it to her. I (am) writing this as my last life request.” He often wrote about receiving letter from Laurie Mae and her parents. His last entry told of winning $200 at craps, and wondering if he could wire some of the money back home to Laurie Mae.

Cotton was a private and a machine gunner. On September 17, 1944, he was involved in a major assault on Peleliu, Palau, when a Japanese sniper shot him dead. He was among more than 1,700 U.S. casualties in a 2 ½ month assault.

In 1945 Laurie Mae got married. She never received the diary. Upon learning that Cotton’s nephew, Robert Hunt, was donating some of Cotton’s effects to the museum, she donated his class ring and some photographs as well.

A few weeks ago, Laurie Mae went with a tour group to visit the museum to see the display. Expecting some mementos and photographs, She couldn’t believe when she saw the diary. After Cotton’s death, it had gone to his sister. It then passed on to his nephew a few years later. Robert was afraid to send the diary Laurie Mae, fearing it might harm her marriage.

Curator Eric Rivet, upon hearing the story, allowed Laurie Mae to get a closer look at the diary. Using white gloves for protection, she was able to page through the diary, which still held a large picture of her on the back cover. After she returned home, the museum digitized the diary and sent her a copy of it.

What a remarkable day she must have had. It was a first for the museum, as well. As far as they know, nobody else has arrived to find themselves in one of the displays at the museum. The story has had extensive coverage in U.S. newspapers, but the story in the U.K.’s Daily Mail has the largest number of images and video of the story.

Blog Posts for Genealogists, May 24, 2013

24 May 2013

Following are some recent genealogy blog posts that I enjoyed reading. I would like to share them with you; I believe you will find them interesting and informative.

Kirk Woosley Patton is a native Kentuckian, and runs Fincastle Ancestry Research. In his blog recently he wrote about the Appalachian Mountains. Kirk discusses a very important point that many researchers forget: geography is important. The Appalachians proved a formidable barrier to western migration.

The Catholic Gene blog is run by a group of researchers involved in researching Catholic ancestors. Denise Levenick wrote a post on The Books They Leave Behind: Preserving Family Bibles and Religious Books. It is a great primer on how to take care of old family books. Perhaps her most significant observation: “Avoid storing books or other family keepsakes in basements, garages or attics where extreme temperature and humidity changes can cause permanent damage.”

Richard Phillips wrote a great post last week on the Civil War Emancipation blog.  One hundred fifty years ago, the Confederate Congress passed the Confederate Retaliatory Act. The act reinforced an earlier proclamation by Jefferson Davis that black Union soldiers would be denied the usual protections of prisoners, and white officers of such regiments would be charged under state laws with inciting servile insurrection.


Daily Genealogy Transcriber


My friend Michael John Neill writes several blogs. One of my favorites is the Daily Genealogy Transcriber. Each day he provides small handwriting samples to help people practice reading old records.  This week, his Who is Buying and Selling? Post is a great example of how you need to understand the rules of writing in the time period in order to read the words properly.

Finally, this week wraps up with a post by Randy Seaver. On Monday he talked about an extremely significant collection of records that was just released by FamilySearch. Those with New England ancestors were excited this week to learn of the release of land records from all 14 counties in Massachusetts. The database is not yet searchable, so Randy walks you through the process of accessing the materials in Massachusetts Land Records, 1620 – 1986, Available on FamilySearch—Digital Microfilm.

Mononcle Eloi: The Ultimate Sacrifice

23 May 2013

As this week comes to a close, in America we are preparing to celebrate Memorial Day. It is a day where we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country in the armed forces. I’m sure a lot of you have discovered ancestors who served in the armed forces during your genealogy search. Last year I wrote about my grandfather’s cousin, Albert Leclerc, who died at the age of 19 in World War II. This year, I would like to share the story of my maternal grandfather’s uncle, Eloi Morin.

My great-grandfather, Anselme Morin, was the eldest son of Onésime  Morin and his second wife, Céline Pelletier of the small town of Saint Calixte de Kilkenny, in the mountainous region north of the Saint Lawrence River across from Montreal.  Mononcle Eloi (mononcle is French for uncle) was born there September 10, 1887, the eighth of Onésime and Céline’s eleven children, and their youngest son.


Eloi Morin as a young man, from the collection of the author. Used with permission.

Eloi Morin as a young man, from the collection of the author. Used with permission.


Shortly before the turn of the century, the family moved to the mill village of North Grosvenordale in the town of Thompson, Windham County, Connecticut. Eloi was fourteen years old when his parents died only months apart in 1902. Eloi and the others worked in the cotton mills in Thompson.

He was living in the village of Taftsville in the town of Norwich in 1917 and working in the Ponomah Mills when he registered for the draft in World War I. He was described as medium height and build, with brown eyes and light brown hair. He was thirty years old, single, and living with another single man.

Although a British subject, Eloi enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army, and was assigned to the 116th Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division. This division was known as the “Blue and Gray,” because it was based out of Virginia and contained men from states on both sides of the Civil War. Eloi’s unit was sent to Europe in the summer of 1918.

They immediately were involved in heavy action in France. In September they were part of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. During the offensive, the 116th saw massive casualties. One of the casualties was Mononcle Eloi, who died On October 21. He is buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in Romagne, France. The cemetery holds the largest number of American military dead in Europe, 14,246. The vast majority of these are victims of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.


Eloi Morin Gravestone


My grandfather, Theodore Edward Morin was the twelfth of Anselme’s thirteen children. Throughout my ancestry search, I discovered that he was born in North Grosvernordale on March 23, 1915. Eloi served as godfather for his nephew. When he enlisted, Eloi named my grandfather Eddie as his beneficiary. Because Eddie was a minor, the funds were held in trust by the court.

My great-grandfather died in 1920 at the age of 44, leaving his widow with thirteen children. Records in North Grosvenordale show that that she repeatedly petitioned the court for some of the money, which she used to help feed her family. The majority of the money, however, came to my grandfather when he turned twenty-one.

Theodore Edward Morin married Marie Cèa Yvette Ruel at St. Matthieu’s church in Central Falls, Rhode Island, on August 10, 1933, when they were both eighteen years old. They worked in the mills there. Three years later, they received the money from the trust. They used it to buy a small farmhouse in the town of Cumberland, which was more rural, so that their children wouldn’t have to grow up in the city.

There was an archway between the hallway and the living room of my grandparents’ house. My grandparents hung a portrait of Mononcle Eloi, dressed in his military uniform, on the wall in their living room. My grandfather died in December 1969. My grandmother kept the portrait up, and it was still hanging their when my grandmother died, almost half a century after my grandparents bought the house. She never forgot that it was Eloi’s generosity that allowed she and Eddie to raise their family in the country, rather than the city. This year on Memorial Day, I will pause to remember the dramatic difference this man made in my mother’s family.

The First Steamship to Cross the Atlantic

22 May 2013

Many Americans and Canadians are descended from those who immigrated here in great waves during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. These people crowded into the steerage decks in the bowels of steamships, escaping poverty and looking for opportunity in a new world. But the age of steamship travel was actually ushered in decades before the mass transportation that began with a race between the Washington and Britannia in 1847.


S.S. Savannah

S.S. Savannah


Robert Fulton’s first steamboat voyage took place in 1807. Captain Moses Rogers took note of this. In 1818, the Savannah was being built in New York when Rogers convinced the shipping firm of Scarbrough and Isaacs from Savannah, Georgia, to purchase her. He persuaded the company to convert her from a sailing packet to a steamship to make the first transatlantic steamship service.

In addition to her rigging, she was outfitted with a steam engine and paddle wheels. The wheels’ paddles were made with chains instead of bars to hold the paddles. In that way, they wheels could be removed from the water and stored on deck when not in use. Savannah was not a large ship, and could not carry enough fuel to run on steam power for the entire trip. She was designed for the engine to carry the ship along when the winds died, and sailing ships were left immobile in the water.

Savannah was outfitted with sixteen staterooms. Each stateroom had two births, allowing her to carry up to thirty-two passengers. Quarters for women and men were separated. There were three fully-furnished salons for the passengers. Her accommodations were considered quite luxurious for a packet ship.

She made her initial trial in New York harbor on March 22, 1819. She cruised for two hours, testing her engines also. On March 28, 1819, she set sail for her home port of Savannah, Georgia. She reached port on April 6, having used the steam engine for 4.5 hours of the trip. On May 11, President James Madison, on a tour of arsenals and fortifications along the coast, took a tour on Savannah. Her maiden voyage was set for May 20, but was delayed when one of her crew, arriving back to the ship drunk, fell off the gangplank and drowned.

There was great fear among the public about the ship. In New York, she was called a “steam coffin,” and Captain Rogers had to go to Connecticut to outfit her with a crew. In Georgia, the fear continued. No merchants were willing to place cargo on what they considered to be such a risky venture. And no passengers were willing to risk their lives on the voyage. Sadly, she left on her maiden voyage on May 24 with only her crew aboard.

On her voyage she passed numerous vessels. More than one of the ships, seeing smoke on the horizon, gave chase thinking that it was a vessel on fire. None were able to overtake the ship. On June 18, she was stuck off the coast of Cork, having previously used all of her fuel and with no wind to carry her. Hundreds of boats of all sizes sailed out to meet her. On June 20 she made her way into Liverpool harbor.

During her European stay, she visited Sweden and Russia as well, where the Prince of Sweden and Norway and the Emperor of Russia visited her. She remained in Europe for three months, departing for home on September 29. After being away more than six months, she arrived back home on November 30, 1819.

Unfortunately, a massive fire swept through the city of Savannah in January 1820, and the ship’s owners were forced to sell her. Her new owner removed the engine and sold it. She then went into service as a packet ship running between Savannah and New York. Unfortunately, she ran aground on Long Island on November 5, 1821, and was broken up.

This week marks the 194th anniversary of Savannah historic voyage. In her short life, she proved that it was possible to cross the ocean in a steamship. Unfortunately it was not yet economical because of the amount of fuel a steam engine required. In addition, the public was fearful of going out on the open sea in a steamship. It would take almost three more decades for these issues to be resolved and for commercial steamship travel to become viable.

Preserve the Pensions To Give Away Research Trips

21 May 2013

The Preserve The Pensions Project has announced that it is running a Genealogy Road Trip Contest. The Project is looking to generate more support for the project.

Preserve the Pensions is a joint venture of the National Archives and Records Administration, the Federation of Genealogical Societies, and The project was started last year to commemorate the Bicentennial of the start of the War of 1812.


Preserve the Pensions


The Project is working to digitize the pension files for those who served in the War of 1812, which are among the most-requested items at the National Archives. The goal is to digitize 180,000 files, creating 7.2 million images. These records will then be made available online to the public for free. At this point, more than 586,000 images have been created. The images are being uploaded incrementally as they are being created.

This week they are giving away $2,800 worth of prizes, including two genealogy research trips. The trips are to either the Family History Library in Salt Lake City or the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The prizes include one week’s accommodation, a $200 meal card, and a $50 copy card for the repository.

You can enter the contest by liking the Project’s Facebook page, or by subscribing to the e-newsletter.

It costs $0.45 to digitize each page. has generously agreed to cover the costs of 50% of the digitizing. With this gift, a donation of $45 will cover the costs of digitizing 200 images. Every penny counts, and all images will always be available for free to the public, so consider making a donation. As an added incentive, if you donate between now and August, you will be entered into a drawing to win a beautiful handmade quilt.

The Last Angel of Bataan: Celebrating an American Hero

18 May 2013

Every day we lose another member of the Greatest Generation — those who fought in ways large and small to defend freedom in the world during World War II. There are many stories and heroes that came from the war, and too many of them have been forgotten, especially those involving women. One of those, Mildred (Dalton) Manning, died at the age of 98 in March. She was the last surviving member of a brave group of women, the Angels of Bataan and Corregidor.

After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, they turned their attention to the Philippines. The United States had large bases there. U.S. Army and Navy nurses were stationed at Stanberg General Hospital in Manila, as well as other hospitals nearby. A few weeks later, at the start of the Battle of the Phillippines, 88 nurses escaped from Manila to Bataan and Corregidor. Eleven Navy nurses were captured and sent to a Japanese internment camp at Santo Tomas.

Many of the nurses who escaped were assigned to hospitals in Bataan. For four months, they tended patients in open-air wards in the middle of the oppressive jungle. Over the course of the next four months, they administered to 6,000 patients, dealing not only with wounds and injuries but malaria, dysentery and more.

In April 1942, as Bataan was about to fall, those nurses were ordered to the island fortress at Corregidor. There, hospital wards were located in tunnels under the fortress. On April 29, a small group of army nurses were evacuated. The last remaining navy nurse and some more army nurses were evacuated by submarine four days later.

On May 6, Corregidor fell to the Japanese, and the 66 remaining nurses were captured. On July 2, they were sent to Santo Tomas. The internment camp was located on the campus of the University of Santo Tomas. U.S. Army Captain Maude C. Davison, age 57, took charge of the nurses. She insisted that they wear their uniforms and maintained regular duty schedules the entire time they were prisoners.

In May 1943, the navy nurses were transferred to the Los Baños camp, where they became known as “the sacred eleven.” The nurses remained prisoners for two and a half years. Their rations at the camp dwindled over time. By the end of 1944 they were on a diet of 960 calories a day. Then the civilian Japanese government turned control of the camp over to the Imperial Japanese Army. The army reduced it even further to 700 calories per day.

On February 3, 1945, more than four years after the nurses evacuated Manila, Santo Tomas was finally liberated by General Douglas MacArthur’s forces. Three weeks later, Los Baños was also liberated. The women, on average, had lost 30% of their body weight during their imprisonment.  But through it all, the 77 brave women persevered and all of them survived.


Some of the Angels of Bataan being evacuated after the liberation of the internment camp at Santo Tomas.

Some of the Angels of Bataan being evacuated after the liberation of the internment camp at Santo Tomas.


During the course of the war, their story had been used to promote recruitment and war bonds sales. By the end of the war, almost 60,000 women volunteered as nurses, more than half of whom also volunteered and served in active combat zones. Sixteen were killed in service. One of the escapees wrote a book, and three movies were made about their story: Cry ‘Havoc’ (MGM, 1943), So Proudly We Hail! (Paramount, 1943), and They were Expendable (MGM, 1945).

These women were the first large group of American women in active combat. They remain the largest group of American women ever taken captive and imprisoned in wartime. There is a shrine to those who served at Bataan and Corregidor at Mount Samai, and a bronze plaque  was dedicated there in 1980:

TO THE ANGELSIn honor of the valiant American military women who gave so much of themselves in the early days of World War II. They provided care and comfort to the gallant defenders of Bataan and Corregidor. They lived on a starvation diet, shared the bombing, strafing, sniping, sickness and disease while working endless hours of heartbreaking duty. These nurses always had a smile, a tender touch and a kind word for their patients. They truly earned the name—THE ANGELS OF BATAAN AND CORREGIDOR.

Mildren Manning was the of these brave, selfless women to survive. After her release, she was promoted to lieutenant. She toured the country promoting the sale of war bonds. It was on this tour that she met the man who would become her husband. In a notice of her death that appeared in the March 25 issue of Time magazine, she is quoted as having once said “I have never been bitter. If I could survive that, I could survive anything.”

This week we would like to know what, if any, Western states you have any interest in

18 May 2013

We asked and you answered! Last week we asked which, if any, Western states you have any interest in. Don’t forget to check out our bi-monthly newsletter or Facebook page to take the next poll and see how you compare with your fellow genealogists.