Gene Notes

Some random and some not-so-random thoughts on family history.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Closing Out the Year

As the year winds down, I like to reflect on what I've accomplished over the past year genealogically. I usually have more control over my family research than any other part of my life.

One of my goals over the past two years was to integrate all the census records I've found over the years and either scan them or find the images online and save and link them to the proper families in my database. That backlog was finally cleared up in early November. It was a huge undertaking, and I am glad it is done. Er, maybe should do something about the forty new ones I've dumped saved in my census folder. I ended 2008 with 8011 images and I am close to 12000 now.

Another of my goals was to make sure I had every vital record in my possession scanned and linked. That project is complete.  Except for the nineteen death certficates I found this week.

Third, my genealogical program allows me to keep a To-Do list. I use this a lot. Mostly I use it to track for death certificates and for research facilities, such as the Allen County Public Library or the Lexington, Kentucky Public library.  Both these facilities are terrific and I usually have pages of research to do when I get a chance to visit either.  This year I was able to knock well over a hundred items off my lists.  Unfortunately, once I got home from these research trips, I added quite a few more items to the list.

I also have tried to keep my office organized. It is literally about the size of a narrow walk in closet, as the Wild Ones can attest. For the most part, I've kept it pretty neat, but it still needs work. Part of the problem is that my desktop is so small. And it fills up fast. Lateral surfaces tend to collect whatever I am working on.

Finally, I've tried to stay organized by actually filing stuff away. With the system I worked out when we moved in June of 2008, I've been able to actually find stuff I filed.

You never know what the year will bring, so even the smallest accomplishment should be celebrated. I hope you all have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Are you as easily distracted as I am? Sometimes it is a good thing and sometimes it is just, well, distracting.

Yesterday I was attempting to search for a Charles Isham in New York, born about 1824 and died before 1909. I was able to find him on the 1900 Census in Schoharie county, New York, which is where I expected him to be. Only the indexer (for Ancestry) has him listed as Charles QEHERU. 

Has anyone actually ever done indexing for Ancestry? Rumor has it they are using people from other countries. Other rumors are that they are using OCR (optical character recognition.) Personally, I think trained chimps could do a better job on indexing.

Oh, but I am getting distracted, again.  What I meant to say is that after finding Charles & his wife, Mary on the 1900 census, I went to the Old Fulton Postcards site to search for Charles Isham. I found lots of hits, but they weren't the right Charles Isham. I kept getting hits for Mary Lincoln and her husband Charles Isham. Lots of hits. This is Mary Lincoln, granddaughter of Abe and oldest daughter of Robert Lincoln. Normally, I would just ignore these hits, but since I have a connection to the Lincolns, I retrieved Mary Lincoln Isham's obituary and the announcement of their marriage. If you've ever had occasion to search for newspaper articles on this site, you will know that it can take a while for the site to display the search results.  When this happens, I try to open another tab in Internet Explorer and check out the genweb page or any other site that pops to mind to narrow down the search parameters.  Often I get distracted there too!

Now I think I should further distract myself and go hunting for Charles Isham, husband of Mary Lincoln, to see if I can find an obituary for him, since he predeceased her.

What was I working on again?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Beauty of Review

As I previously blogged, I am reviewing some information given to me thirteen years ago by another Percival researcher. I briefly looked at this information when I received it, and then promptly re-entered the job market. For the next ten years, I still worked on my family history, but this particular document sat as I worked on other family lines and even did research for other people. At the end of those ten years, which were spent as a library clerk in Michigan, DH and I set to work to prepare our house for sale, as our retirement goal was to get the hell heck out of Michigan. During those ten years, I accumulated a mass of information, such as census, excerpts from books, photographs, and those family histories shared with me by others. Unfortunately, any paper that was not already filed was relegated to a box.

By the time our house was placed on the market I had several boxes stacked in the closet in my office. Their next location was the garage of the rented condo here in Tennessee. Finally, they made it to our newly constructed house.

It soon became apparent that my 6 x 10 office was in need of more storage. I added a four drawer legal size cabinet to my existing 4 drawer letter size and a two drawer furniture style lateral cabinet. Once we made our move from condo to house, I began sorting through all the census records I had accumulated. One of my goals was to link an image of every census record I owned to the family which it belonged. That was a long and tedious process, and actually began my review of what I had and what was missing for each family.

Then, having set up my filing system, I got to work.  It's been over a year and a half since I started the census project, which is now complete. Having moved on to other research, I was ready to review again, hence the current review project.

The real beauty of this review, now 13 years later, is that so much more is available online  than it was when I first found the internet. While nothing beats researching on site in a courthouse or a cemetery, having access to census, vital records, cemetery records and county histories online is such a true bonus. It makes the subscriptions to Ancestry and Genealogy Bank so worthwhile.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Work in Progress

Years ago, when I first got connected to the internet, I began the exchange of information with other researchers following the James Percival line of Sandwich and Falmouth, Barnstable county, Massachusetts - Cape Cod.

One of the people that I corresponded with was Frank B. This man did a wonderful job on transcribing, editing and footnoting the diary of his ancestor, Benjamin Percival. I ended up purchasing the book in hard cover because I knew I would cherish it. Frank also put me in touch with the town historian of Sandwich, who took time time to drive us around Sandwich taking us to several cemeteries, and down the narrow private track to the house that Benjamin Percival moved from Falmouth to Sandwich and rebuilt on Hog Pond. I had never heard of anyone dismantling and rebuilding a house in 1782 before. I can't even imagine the difficulties. To this day, I can't think about Cape Cod without remembering that first wonderful trip and the kindness of a stranger.

Soon my sharing experiences began to expand to other branches of my family.
I can't mention sharing without thinking of my cousin, Mary Anne. Mary Anne and her husband Paul, were posted to Edinburgh, Scotland for a few years. I have never actually met Mary Anne, but she called me, I think on the recommendation of her aunt Helen, who was my dad's first cousin. Mary Anne went to the Public Records Office in Edinburgh and pulled records for me on a branch of the Maitland family I was working on. If someone offers, take them up on it!

I can't mention Mary Anne without mentioning her sister Martha. I've actually met Martha and was able to share some family history with her and she kindly let me borrow photos to take home and scan. And her husband, Greg, entertained the rest of the family with a nature hike while we did the family history thing.

Also high on my list of wonderful share experiences is the late Mary Oliphant Schwensen. She sent home a box of photos with my dad when he and mom visited with her and I gladly copied them and returned them. Finding her once we got to Richmond, Missouri was quite an adventure. She was hospitalized with a bad back a day or so before our visit. Fortunately, a neighbor called her daughter and her daughter sent us to the hospital for a visit as Mary would be upset to miss us.

Another person who was kind enough to share information on his Percival line was Randall H. We shared information on the early Percival lines, which I appreciate very much. I have to confess, I finally pulled the descendant report he emailed me back in 1996 out and am working on what he sent. See yesterday's post! I've finally progressed beyond page 8!

Claude T. of Lexington, Kentucky shared a photo of our mutual ancestor Dr. Joseph Graves Chinn. Actually it was a photo of a portrait of Dr. Chinn. Dr. Chinn was my great-great-great grandfather. This really has meant a lot to me, since it seems that on both sides of my family, we were the last to get any memorabilia.

Julia D. was kind enough to share family information, and photographs of her side of the Percival family. Her great-great grandfather and my great-great grandfather were brothers. There is a complicated family relationship between her side and my side, and it was fun to straighten out. We had a great time passing information back and forth.

I, in turn was more than willing to share whatever I found with others. In those early, non internet-savvy days, however, I was not as careful with sharing my information and was horrified to find someone had posted some of my work on the internet which included living people. Since then, I have tried to make clear that I don't expect to find my work on the internet and I certainly don't share information on living people anymore.

There are many more people who have shared with me and I with them.  Without this sharing, family history would be so boring.  I am sure I have not thanked these people enough, but they are remembered and appreciated every time I work on one of my lines.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

From One Piece of Paper or Review, Review, Review

I have been taking the time recently, to review some of my to-do files. One is an old register report sent to me in the 1990's, which I found again after we made the move form Michigan to Tennessee. It's amazing what a decent filing system will turn up!

When we moved, I had several boxes of unfiled paper to integrate into my filing system. One of the things I did at end of each surname was to add a folder for items that I have come across that:  a) Pertains to the family and needs to be added or expanded upon, or b) Has no readily apparent connection to the family but maybe with some work can be proved or disproved.

Once I got through integrating everything, I started slowly going through these folders when I had a free minute away from current projects or when the current project was boring me so much that I would pull a sheet of paper out of one these folders and just say, "Ok, I am going to prove or disprove this and get rid of one more piece of paper."

The beauty of this is that I don't have to work on this in any kind of order. Maybe I feel like working on the Bowman line, or the Chinn line or even the Zimmeth line.

So that brings me back to the last sheet I pulled out, which was actually 29 pages. I got to page 8 before it sidetracked re-directed me to the Tousey line. That was two days ago. I'm still on page 8 because I had to pull my copy of  "The Tousey Family of America" which led me to Genealogy Bank and Ancestry for obituaries and marriage announcements, Ancestry for census, and the USGenWeb. Then a quick check for records at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis (their burial index is online at: and Find-A-Grave for a search.

I've worked on these lines before, but it seems that periodically I find more. Or something that I overlooked before because I did not think it relevant, but now makes sense.

So when you are taking a breather or just trying to decide what to work on next, find your to-do folder and work on something you've put off, can't figure out, or is just waiting for you to enter it into your database. Maybe that proof you need will show up in a database or google search.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Favorite Places, Continued

The other day, I started a list of favorite free sites. Here are some more! Click on the link to get to the site.

Godfrey Library. No user name or password necessary for most of the sites, just click go. An extensive list of genealogical sites on the web. Some are "premium" and require membership, but for the most part, you can access for free. Arranged alphabetically by state. The left column shows all the new additions.

Google. Don't over look googling a name. Some results include obituaries, marriage announcements, news articles, county histories.

Minnesota Historical Society. The Minnesota Historical is online with birth and death records index. While copies may cost $, the index is free.

Your State Library. Many state libraries have local history collections, microfilm collections. Check your state archives for vital records. For instance, the Library of Michigan holds some great genealogical material. The State of Michigan Archives has naturalization papers, prison records, civil war records. Sometimes state libraries will have some indices online.

Heritage Quest. Some libraries have subscriptions to Heritage Quest and will let you access from home. You may need to make sure your library card is valid to do this.

Ancestry. Many libraries have access to Ancestry's Library edition. The caveat for this is you have to access from the library.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Thank You, Santa!

Christmas morning couldn't have been more perfect this year. Our older daughter who spent Christmas eve with us and stayed the night, rose early in order to serve a breakfast of fresh cinnamon rolls and hot coffee to her parents.

This was followed by us gathering around the tree to open our presents. My husband received a gift certificate for an oil change, my daughter an itunes gift card and I received a box of tombstone photos of all my relatives buried in the lower 48 states.

Next husband opened a digital tire gauge and daughter opened a gift certificate for a haircut. Our younger daughter called from 600 miles to the north saying she was sending me a folder of birth, death and marriage certificates for her dad's side of the family, knowing how much they would mean to me. She was also happy to report that she received notification of renewal of scholarship funds.

Our Christmas continued along these lines after a delicious dinner older daughter and I cooked and served. As we were opening the last of our gifts my father-in-law piped up that he remembered some key family information that we thought was lost forever.

And finally, while opening stocking stuffers, I discovered the place of marriage of my great-great grand parents in Germany and my great-great grandmother's real maiden name.

The real surprise was that while I slept, someone neatly filed all my miscellania, organized my photos by putting them in albums, carefully labelling and dating them. My genealogy data was all updated and backed up and books for all my direct lines were on their way to the printer. My genealogy and personal blogs were ready and waiting for final read through before posting. All pencils were sharpened, paper was neatly stacked and next year's Christmas cards ready for mailing.

Ah, the family historian's dream is a good one! I'm sure those who know me, know that I gave the dream away in the second sentence.

I hope you all had a blessed and merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Favorite Places

I love travelling and I love surfing - the web that is. Over the years I've come across a few great freebie genealogy gem sites. They are not in any kind of order, except how they come to my mind. Click on the link to go to the site.

Family Search Labs. This is a pilot site hosted by The LDS Family Search. It is a collection of records world-wide that the LDS is putting online. Some are just indices, others are indexed images of census, birth, marriage and death records, probate records, funeral home records. This site is free. I've gotten tons of good stuff from this site and I eagerly anticipate more additions.

Old Fulton New York Postcards. This site is so misnamed. It ought to be New York Newspapers, scrapbooks and other historical data or another ridiculously long name. If you have New York State research, this is a great site for obits, marriage announcements and miscellaneous stuff. The search engine is fairly sophisticated and the results are pdf images of whatever has been scanned. This site is free, but the webmaster will accept donations.

Find-A-Grave. I have been nicely surprised by this site. I've added records to the site. And photos. One of the great things about this site? Volunteers who will go to the cemetery and take pictures. Again, it is a free site, but you can "sponsor" a record which removes the ads.

Online Searchable Death Indexes for the USA. This is a great site. Some of the links it will take you to are pay sites, such as Ancestry, but there is a wealth of information on the linked sites. Some links will take you to GenWeb sites, others state archives sites. If you scroll almost to the bottom you will see a link to take you to marriage, divorce and other records.

Missouri Online Death Records 1910-1958 (for now.) It originally started out as images from 1910 to 1956. They've added 1957 and 1958 as the 50 year anniversary rolls round and I have great hopes of them continuing this database. Their search engine is pretty advanced once you click on the advanced search option. Best of all you can save and/or print the image for free. I have pulled hundreds of death certificates off this site. And if you click on the collections link at the top of the page, you will find links to other items in their digital collection. Some newspapers, photographs, coroner's reports. If you find information but not a digitized image, generally you can send them a $1 and they will send you a copy.

Seeking Michigan. An attempt by the Library of Michigan to digitize the death records not indexed by the LDS - 1897 to 1920 Death records. It is incomplete and there are serious issues with counties they say are complete. For instance, 1909 Iosco county has one record. Since I have two relatives that appear in the county records for that time frame, I would say there is a serious problem with it. With budget cuts and the dissolution of the Department of History, Arts and Libraries, I don't know if this project will ever achieve completion. But it is free and there are a lot of records. I found some real surprises on this site.

There are many more great free sites out there that I will cover in another post.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

This Isn't Misspelled - It's Just Wrong

I'm still working on the 1892 New York State Census and it appears that the collection is not yet complete over at Family Search Labs pilot site. For more information on what counties are included you can click here for a description of the database.

A couple days ago, I commented on misspellings in the census. Since I am presently working in New York's 1892 State Census, I will use this as an example.

Remember Michael Krushka* (should be Kruszka) in Buffalo in 1892? Well, here is a list of those enumerated with him.

1. Michael Krushka, age 37, born Germany, alien, occupation is laborer.
2. Josephine Krushka, age 37, born Germany, alien, no occupation is listed.
3. John Krushka, age 15, born Germany, alien, no occupation listed.
4. Michaeline Krushka, age 13, born Germany, alien, no occupation listed.
5. Joseph Krushka, age 10, born Germany, alien, no occupation.
6. Leonara Krushka, age 9, born Germany, alien, no occupation.
7. Valentine Krushka, age 4, born Germany, alien, no occupation.
8. Martin Krushka, age 1, born US, citizen, no occupation.

This is the first census in which this family appears. You might infer from this that Michael and Josephine are married and came to the US with 5 of their 6 children (at this point in time) from their home in Germany.

This first inference would be correct, Michael and Josephine are indeed married, but were married abt 1888. Therefore, the first four children are not Michael's, and are incorrectly listed as Krushka. Their real last name is Fryczynski (FUR-shinski). They were the children of Josephine's first marriage to Andrzej (Andrew) Fryczynski. Church records in Buffalo bear this out.

Finally, the family was from Poland, not Germany. Okay, they were from German Poland, but it was Poland, nevertheless. The fact that Poland was usurped by Germany is incidental to me. Also, the census taker was J. C. Knoll. I can just imagine him sounding out the last name of Kruszka and coming up with Krushka. Maybe the Kruszkas never got around to telling him the other children were named Fryczynski. Maybe they didn't want to get into the first marriage/second marriage stuff.

If I had been looking for Fryczynski - which I was - I wouldn't have found it by any means. Not with the name listed as Krushka. So in this case, be real creative to find that elusive ancestor.

*Husband's great grandfather.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Which Way Did They Go? or Location, Location, Location

No, they did not go for Faygo.

I was searching for a family the other day by the name of Juenker. It's a sort of unusual name, so I didn't think I'd have any trouble finding them on the 1892 New York State census on Family Search Labs pilot site.

So I filled out the search form with the last name Juenker, feeling pretty confident that if it were misspelled, FS would search for Junker also. Then I filled in the location with Erie, New York, United States.

I got zip, zilch, nada hits. I tried searching using the wife's name - Rosa, which is a lot less common than the head of household's name - John. Removed the last name. This is a scary thing because you often get PAGES of results. Then I tweaked the place to include Buffalo. Still no family.

Finally, the little light bulb in my head went on and I removed the Buffalo, Erie, New York, United States location and just let it search in New York. Bingo!!! There was John Juenker, wife R., son Joseph, daughter, R, etc. Living in Brooklyn, New York. The census take was a little weird using initials for only some of the people, but everything else matched. I had no idea they had moved to Brooklyn.

You have to keep an open mind when doing census searches. Absolutely!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Why You Can't Find That Family ... Or Spelling Doesn't Count.

I sometimes suspect that my family peeked out the windows to watch for the census taker so that they could avoid him/her.

After all, if they were enumerated, I should be able to find them, right? And they always spelled their name Zimmeth. Always. Forever.


It doesn't matter how they spelled it, it matters what the census taker wrote. Maybe that census taker didn't have an ear for a German accent.

In researching this Zimmeth family - that's how they spell it now - I've come across the following spellings:

1. Zimet or Zimmet
2. Fimmith
3. Gimmith
4. Zimoneth
5. Limit - ok, I think this was an index error, someone who was not familiar with circa 1850 handwriting. But it is still WRONG.
6. Simet or Simmet

And those are just the spellings in this country. The various spellings for the name in Alsace-Loraine are

7. Ziemet
8. Zimmet
9. Zimmeth

It makes searching for the family interesting. Challenging. Frustrating.

Fortunately, soundex searching will pick up most of the first grouping. Unfortunately you have to have a crystal ball to pick up Fimmith, Gimmeth, Limit and Simet. Actually those were found the old-fashioned way doing a line-by-line microfilm search.

So what do you do when you are on a site such as the Family Search Labs pilot site? You think creatively and go for that exact, close & partial match search. Sure it will bring up 5,600 search results, but chances are the people you are looking for are on the first couple of pages, provided you have burned incense and prayed to the genie gods. I personally hate using that search because it is disheartening to see the result: No exact matches and then see that you have 5,600 hits or 244 pages of hits on close and partial matches.

Today, though, after searching fruitlessly for the Tomasz Siekierski (pronounced Sikorski) family and the Michael Kruszka family, I finally found them under Thomas Sikorski and Michael Krushka, after resorting to the close and partial choice.

So next time you are looking for a family don't forget that soundex search, think creatively and even try it with an accent, so you can figure out what you think the census taker heard. Chances are they are there just waiting for you to find them.