Thursday, May 28, 2015

Are These Really My Ancestors

It will happen to everyone at some point. You are going to find some people who seem like they might be your ancestors but then again, they might not be. How are you going to deal with this?

The one thing you are not going to do is assume anything and you are also not going to add them into your family tree and call them your ancestors. They need to go in a separate area where they will no doubt have quite a bit of company as time goes on. 

Primary sources are the only true way to verify that people really are our ancestor but often when we get back several generations, there are not going to be any primary sources. Do two secondary sources make a primary source? I hate to say it but that depends. It depends how reliable the secondary sources are and how well they pass the proof test and how many of them there are.

Does the ancestor in question have a child of the name of your last known verified ancestor?  That is a pretty good indicator. Are they living in the same area as the last known ancestor? Again that is pretty indicative. Are there any other families with the same last name anywhere nearby?  If the answer is yes then the whole question becomes a lot more cloudy. 

Depending on the time period and the location, you will need to go looking for other options. You need to eliminate some of the possible ancestors. There is no perfect answer to this problem and every case will be different. You are going to have to think outside the box and look for the hints that can send you in the correct direction. 

One last note, never assume anything. We all know what that leads to!!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Review on Friday: Interviewing Relatives

Don't put off doing this. Older family members don't live forever and they lose their memories. Once this source is gone, it is gone forever. 

Now that you have all your forms ready and your steno pad and possibly even a recorder, it is time  start talking to family members.

I personally like to start with the oldest living member. This may be grandparents, great-grandparents or great aunts or uncles. If you are like me the oldest member you will find is a cousin of our parent or grandparent.

In some cases, finding someone to interview can be an issue and not everyone may be will to talk with you. I got a very cold reception from one of my fathers cousins but I kept looking and found two others who were very happy to talk to me.

Ask them about their grandparents, family stories, anyone visiting they remember.  You may learn about family in other cities,  family secrets and a whole lot more. Be sure to leave the door open for further visits so that as you find facts you can talk to them about what you have found.

Ask questions but mostly listen and build a relationship. You want them to become a part of your search so be sure to bring copies of anything you have already. Ask if they have pictures of any ancestors or if they know who in the family may have pictures.

But most of all remember, nothing is a fact until you have some sort of document to prove it. It might be a good idea to buy a hand held scanner so that you can copy anything they might have. I now own one but didn't in the beginning.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Using your genealogy buddies

Most of us who do genealogy on a regular basis have a genealogy buddy. If you are really lucky, you have several. This can be a cousin, a spouse, a friend or maybe someone you met at the local genealogy library. It doesn't matter where you met them, what is important is that you use them. 

All of us get to a point where we area discouraged and ready to give up. We have brick walls that seem insurmountable. Before you decided to give up, ask your genealogy buddy to take a look at your research. 

I know, you are thinking what can they see or know that I don't see or know. You may be pleasantly surprised. All of us have different methodology and thought processes. Be open to hearing what they have to say. You may think you know more, you may really know more but what you want here is a fresh perspective. 

As a matter of fact, I recommend swapping genealogies for a week. You work on theirs and they on yours. Who knows, it certainly can't hurt and getting a fresh set of eyes to look at your old problems may help you break down that wall.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Review on Friday: Brothers Keeper Genealogy Program

I have personally been using Brothers Keeper for years, many years I have never had any problems with it at all. It is free to use and download but it is worth paying for the CD and the book. It is not expensive and it makes it easier to answer any questions you may have. I have also gotten some of the upgrades over the years but since I prefer to keep it simple, I have not worried about adding every update that has come along. 

There are many other genealogy programs you can choose. At some point you will probably want to invest in one and since you can try this one for free, it is a good option. Here is a link to BKs website.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Genealogy research in Roanoke County, Virginia

If you have ancestors who came from southwestern Virginia or any states to the west, Roanoke may be some somewhere that you will want to visit in your travel research travels. Your first stop should be the Roanoke Public Library's Virginia Room. It is the best source in the area for genealogy research in the area. According to their website, the Virginia Room has the most extensive holdings for family history research in western Virginia, including thousands of family history books and files, county records and a growing collection of materials for African American family history research.

Another place to go is the Watts Library Research Center at the History Museum of Western Virginia. I talked to the librarian while I was there and she recommended going first to Virginia Room and then coming to the Watts. What they do have which is amazing is a collection of maps of Virginia counties that they sell. These maps have the names the original land grantees and where their land was. I was very impressed with these maps and just what gold mine they could be for genealogist. They are for sale on the Internet from the museum shop.  The library is open Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon, or by appointment. Calling beforehand is strongly recommended. Contact Linda Steele at 540.224.1207

Monday, May 11, 2015

Irish Genealogy Conference

Ulster Historical Foundation

Telling, since 1956, the story of the people of Ulster

Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, 4-10 October 2015

Due to the popularity of our original event (scheduled for September 2015) the Foundation is pleased to announce details of a second family history conference to be held 4-10 October 2015.
Given that places at the September conference sold out fast, and due to the many expressions of interest in an additional event, the Foundation is delighted to be repeating the Tracing your Irish Ancestors programme in October 2015.

Join us in October for our autumn family history conference to learn about the dramatic history of Ulster and the lives of your Irish ancestors. The Foundation has many years’ experience in hosting family history events and Tracing Your Irish Ancestors promises to be a truly memorable week (

Whether you are an experienced genealogist and have previously visited our shores or are new to Irish family history, our expert genealogists will be on hand to guide you at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and the archives in Dublin, including the National Archives, the Registry of Deeds and the RCB Library.

To uncover the history of this place, the extensive programme of tours throughout the week will take you through rolling countryside to sites of international renown from the Giant’s Causeway and Dunluce Castle on County Antrim’s wild Atlantic coast to the archaeological wonder which is Newgrange in the tranquil Boyne Valley, to the haunting Kilmainham Gaol and Trinity College Dublin with its Old Library and the Book of Kells Exhibition – a ‘must see’ for any visitor to Dublin.

Assisted personal research, talks, tours and sightseeing are all part of the eclectic, friendly and fun mix of Tracing Your Irish Ancestors. Join us for the journey. We will be delighted to see you.
If you have any queries, please email: 

Ulster Historical Foundation

Information obtained via Roots Ireland

Friday, May 8, 2015

Review on Friday: Basic Genealogy Forms

As you begin to collect data about your family, you will want to be able to look at it in an organized format. In order to do this, you can put the information into a genealogy program and it will produce the printable forms for you or you can print out empty forms and as you find information, you can fill the forms in.

The basic form for recording your genealogy information is the pedigree chart. This particular chart is a five generation chart. You will be in the first spot. Your father will be to the right upper and your mother to the right lower. The same will be done with each set of parents.
When you have filled in all the lines, you will then make a new pedigree chart for 16 great-great grandparents. Unless you are French Canadian, it will take you a long time to fill in all of this information so you wont need more pedigree charts for a while.

Another form you will need from the beginning is a family group sheet. Ancestry offers a variety of forms that you can download for free.

With a family group sheet you will be able to add all the children for a specific set of parents. For instance, your grandparents. You will add all of their children including your parent and all the dates and information that you have.

You can do with these two basic forms as you begin your research. Later we will discuss census forms.

Print out a stack of family group sheets and a few pedigree charts just in case and you will be ready to begin your research.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Adding Meat to a Bare Bones Genealogy

Genealogy is a hobby that brings a great deal of enjoyment to many people. Researching your roots can become one of the most satisfying and frustrating endeavors in the world. When you first start to look for your ancestors what you end up with are a lot of names and dates. The next step is to make these ancestors come to life. Knowing when they were born and died doesn't tell you much about your ancestors as people. Their choice of spouse tells you a little bit but if you want to know more, where do you go to look for that information? Here are a few hints of places to begin to look.


Wills are fascinating documents. Beyond just dividing up the property of the individual they give you a look at family dynamics. What you will also find is an inventory of the possessions of your ancestors. This is very interesting information. Did they own books? Chances are then they knew how to read. Was one of the possessions a bible? Then most likely they were religious. Some wills give great descriptions of homes that no longer exist. Some of the possession may give a hint as to the occupation of the ancestor. What will come as a surprise is the small amount of clothing and personal items that most of your ancestors lived with.

Town Directory 

Town directories are little gems. They contain an amazing amount of information about the head of the household and in more current ones about any member of the family who is employed. Not only does it give you the address of your ancestor but their occupation and employer. You can then check out the employer in the directory to find out some information about them. 

World War I Draft Registration Card

These cards are amazing and if you have never looked up your relatives you will be delighted with what you will find. What you will get on these cards are things like eye and hair color. In the days before colored photographs existed it is wonderful to know that your grandfathers eyes are described as gray or hazel and hair as light brown. How tall your grandfather’s brother was. These are facts you may not be able to get anywhere else. 

Social Security Death Index
Once you have found your ancestor on the index you can then order the card that was filled out when your ancestors registered for social security. This gives a lot of information including place of birth in detail in case this is something you are looking for. You can also get their application for a Social Security number which tells you what their occupation was at that one point in time and where they lived. 


Today's deeds don't contain a lot of information but in days gone by they had much more information that would be of interest to a genealogist. In the days before the census and in the rural areas especially of the south, deeds are sometimes the only way to trace the movement of your ancestors. 

Tax Rolls

Once you know where your ancestor was living, a trip to the town hall or county record office can give you a wealth of information through the tax records. Do you want to know what your ancestor owned; it will be listed because the tax collector needed to know in order to determine the amount of tax they owed. Where else could you get the information that your great great grandfather had two horses, three cows and five goats?

Local Newspapers 

You can find a great deal of information in local newspapers. Did you know that your great grandmother went to visit her cousin Sarah in New York City for a month is April 1890? That is the sort of information that you will find in the social news. You don't have to belong to the richest families in town either. You will be amazed at what was considered social news a hundred or more years ago.


It was the fashion in days past to keep a diary and many people did. It is a lucky family who finds that one of their ancestors kept a diary. Don't assume your family doesn't have a diary, it may be that a distant cousin is in possession of one that will shed a great deal of light on the daily life of your ancestors.

Town Histories

Many towns, cities and villages have a written history going back hundreds of years. If you know where your ancestor lived, especially in Colonial America, it is possible you will find mention in the town records, militia rolls and records of court cases. Many New England towns have these histories. Check the Internet for local historical societies, you never know where you ancestors will be mentioned.

Notarial Records

If you happen to have ancestors who are French Canadian and lived in the Province of Quebec you are going to have access to lots of personal information. Notaries were used for all legal processes. If there was a land purchase, a boundary dispute or a marriage contract these records are there for you to read. It gives an amazing amount of personal information.


Finding letters written by your ancestors is a real treasure. You may not know the people they are talking about but the little details of life that may be shared are priceless.


Old family pictures can tell you wonderful stories about your family. Were they taken in a studio or in a home? Is it a picture with a man in a uniform or a man sitting in a chair with a woman close behind him? These have a story of their own to tell.

These are just a few of the ways to add meat to the bare bones of your ancestors. Every genealogist will find additional ways by searching whatever records are available. Every genealogist wants to get to know their ancestors as real people, not just as a number on your family tree.