Thursday, October 29, 2015

French Canadian Genealogy You Are So Lucky

Yes you read that right, if you are French Canadian or have even a little French Canadian blood you should be thanking your lucky stars. Trust me when I tell you, this is one of the easiest nationalities to research and also one of the most exciting. 

Even though you probably think that you are French chances are, you have other nationalities mixed in. Quebec was as much of a melting pot as the United States and you may find that you have Swiss, Belgian, German, Irish, English, Native American, Portuguese and Polish in addition to your French routes. 

I am 25 percent French Canadian but in the 25 percent I have Swiss and English. In my Irish Canadian 25 percent I have German, French and Native American. To say that these distort my percentages is an understatement. 

The hardest thing for most Americans is getting back into Canada. Once your research has gotten back into Canada it can move quickly. You will look up your most recent Canadian ancestor by his or her last name and then you will look for the correct one by the spouse. (in the Blue Drouin) Once you find them, most of the time the records will have both sets of parents. And so it goes, in half an hour you can go three or four generations down the direct line.

Ancestry has purchased the rights to publish the Drouin records which are the records from 1621 to 1968. 
 Most French Canadian societies will have a set of the marriages in book form. Known as the Blue Drouin there is one set that is indexed by men and one set indexed by women. This is where most of us will start our research. 

If you have no society near you then you can use Ancestry however, it is harder because you are not looking at a nice index, you are looking at the original record and it is in French with often difficult handwriting. 

Knowing the the town or parish of your ancestors will of course be a help. If you have a society near you, they most likely will have a book for the parish where your family is from. It is always easier to search in a small book rather than the very large Blue Drouin. 

I will discuss French Canadian genealogy more in future posts.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Making Your Genealogy Portable

In the process of doing research, you are going to end up with a lot of notes, photos. forms and documents. Some of them will be digital, well these days all of them can be digital if you scan them and place them online or at least in your computer program or on Ancestry. However, I am still old fashioned and I keep paper records. 

I will tell you that my paper records survived our fire and helped me reconstruct my genealogy when my computer and backup were lost. It makes me a little paranoid. But while this is a valid reason for keeping paper records the main one is much simpler. Portability. 

When you are heading to a research facility it is nice to just have your note book with you. 

I use a loose leaf with clear plastic sheets and I have one for each of my grandparents. Their ancestors are in their book with copies of pictures and copies of all important document. I put the pedigree chart in the first slot with highlighted areas where I am missing information. So say I am missing the death of a 4th great grandmother you can look at this pedigree chart and at a glace see where I need to be working. 

This is just my way of doing things, you can certainly come up with your own. You can of course bring your tablet or computer which I see people doing but for me, I would rather just bring the notebook and not worry about protecting my property. I can't imagine anyone wanting to steal my loose leaf.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Genealogy Roadshow Review

Every day Americans now have a chance to have the assistance of professionals in answering some of their most difficult genealogical questions. The show goes to different cities and is very much like 'Who Do You Think You Are" except that you don't have to be a star to get on the show.

On the other hand, you need to have a history that is interesting for people to watch or you can be sure you won't make it onto the show. The Second Season of the show premiered of Tuesday January 13, 2015 in the city of New Orleans. In the weeks following the show was in St. Louis and in Philadelphia.

Three experts are available to help, Kenyatta D. Berry, Joshua Taylor and Mary Tedesco. Kenyatta is a great help to African/Black Americans who are trying to trace their roots. This can get very emotional especially when it leads back to slaves.

Check your local PBS station to find out when this show is being offered. If you are fascinated by genealogy and looking for tips to help you in your own search this show is interesting.

There is a application that needs to be filled out to be considered for the show. They ask a lot of questions and also want to know what you look like. Season 3 has already started filming and will be shown in Spring 2016. 

Now my review, much like Who Do You Think You Are, Genealogy Roadshow simplifies the process that goes into finding information. While most places you will research will welcome you, you are not going to be greeted by experts who will do all the work for you. You also may not find any famous or infamous people in your line.

Having said that, Genealogy Roadshow has plenty of entertainment value and if you can even get one idea from each show to help you in your own research then it is certainly worth watching. Just don't expect to have the amazing result that they get, it just isn't realistic even though it is "reality" TV. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Why Research Your Family Tree?

Everyone has a different reason for researching their family tree. It may just be curiosity about where your family is from or about the medical history of your family.  It may be that an assignment comes home from school and you need to answer some family questions. It might be that you want to verify a family story or join a group like the DAR or the Mayflower Society. Whatever your reason, get ready for a bumpy ride!!


School assignment

It may be that one of your children came home from school with the assignment to produce a family tree. If this is not something that you have ever really thought about it can seem quite overwhelming especially if you are not particularly close to your family. 

The first thing to do is to call the family genealogist, almost every family has one. In my family that is me and I get these types of call regularly from all sides of the family. 

Medical Genealogy

It may be a question posed by your  doctor about whether there is a history of the condition in your family that starts your search. A medical genealogy is a little different than a regular genealogy. You will be more interested in getting the death information than anything else. The kind of things you will want to know is what your ancestors died from and how old they were when they died. 

Once you get back 100 years or more you will need to learn some new medical terms because often conditions that we know now by one name were called something else in the past.

Applying for a foreign passport

There are foreign countries that allow you to have citizenship and apply for their passport, Irish and Italian are two that are quite common. You must prove that you are of their nationality within a certain number of generations. You will have to provide a genealogy included official documents to prove that you are eligible.

Becoming a member of a society

If one of your ancestors fought in the American Revolution, you can become a member of the DAR. This is just one of many societies that are prestigious enough that people are willing to do a lot of genealogical research to join. Another one that is heard quite often is the Descendants of the Mayflower or the Mayflower Society. 

To be able to trace your ancestry back to the Mayflower is quite an accomplishment and many famous Americans fit into this category. Don't worry if your roots are not that deep, there are many societies for immigrants from a variety of countries and cultures.


The main reason that most people research their family tree is to find out where their roots are. Some families have a very deep history that is spoken about and in other families it is a deep dark secret. 

Starting to research your family tree is an exciting hobby that can take years of hard work and is frankly never finished. The Internet has made research much easier than in the past and chances are if you start looking at genealogy websites you may just meet a family member you never knew you had who is searching the same family as you are.

Be forewarned, searching for your family tree can be addictive and it has been known to cause frustration, elation and amazement. You can never be completely sure what you will find, but whatever you find it will be your history and something that will help you to understand where you came from.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Don't Always Believe an Index

Have you ever checked an index and not found the person you were looking for?  It is a common enough occurrence. This can happen in the census, ship records and just about anywhere else where records have been indexed. Do you accept that your ancestor is not in that record based on the index? The answer is a resounding NO. 

Indexes are created by people. Mistakes happen. Names are misspelled, misread and just plain missed. It happens and much more often than you would like to think. Often these indexing projects are handled by people who may not be familiar with local names and spelling variations. I can think of several I have come across in recent research. 

Here are three examples from my own research. In the Irish parish records index on RootsIreland I could not find my ancestors. However, when I manually went through the parish records they were there. Moran had been written as Horan. In England, Ollard was written as Holland. In the 1940 census Dimingos was writes as Domingues. If I had not taken the time to look at the actually record not just the index, I would never have found them. 

Use an index as a guide but if someone isn't where they should be, take the next step and look at the original record. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Review on Friday: Having Fun with Your Genealogy

When you have been bitten by the genealogy bug, you may feel as if you are on your own. If you are lucky, you will hear about a family member or friend who shares your interest. 

At times, genealogy research can be a very lonely hobby. You spend hours alone on your computer or in a historical society leafing through dusty records looking for those elusive pieces of information. Not much fun to be had. 

How can you have fun with genealogy research? As a genealogist for over 30 years, I can tell you that one of the best ways to have fun with genealogy research is to have a research buddy.

If you are lucky enough to have a spouse or a sibling who shares your obsession, you will have a built in research buddy. If you need to take a road trip to go to an archive or a cemetery, you can make a day of it with your research buddy. Two sets of eyes are always better than one and by adding a lunch, dinner or tea time to your work day you are adding a lot of fun to the whole process. Sometimes we just don’t have a family member who shares our passion, then what?

A friend who is working on their genealogy can also become an accomplice. It is a little different when you are researching two different families. You will need to come up with places to research where both of you can find information. Another way to have fun with your genealogy research is to trade brick walls with a friend. You research theirs and they research yours. Sometimes another set of eyes is all you need to break down the wall.

Sometimes you will meet someone in your research, at the local library or town hall and you will strike up a conversation. You may have many common interests and perhaps over coffee you can pick each others brain for strategies and techniques you may not have thought of. Fun is where you find it!!

Go to a genealogy conference. This is a great way to not only have fun but to learn some new strategies. You will have the opportunity to hear some great speakers, to place your missing ancestors on the Queries Board and mix with the other genealogists. In New England, we have our conference every two years and the location changes states every time. The next conference will be held in Providence, Rhode Island in April 2015.

Travel to a location where you have roots. You can do this alone or with someone else. Walk in the footsteps of your ancestors. Visit the places that were important in their lives. Go to the local library and see if they have a genealogy room or local history room. You may be able to find out some little known information about your ancestors. You need to look beyond the obvious sources.

Towns have lots of records, town meetings, land records, tax rolls and school records. You can make this a fun day, weekend or even an entire vacation if you ancestors happen to have come from a faraway location.  

A genealogy shared is a genealogy that is fun. You may find your buddy in the most expected places; it may even be a relative you find on the Internet through a genealogy forum or on  There is no doubt that you will spend a lot of your genealogy research time alone grinding away. For a dedicated genealogist this is fun as well but not as much fun as sharing the frustrations, the rewards and the fascinating little bits that you will find in your quest. 

I met my third cousin Barbara on a genealogy forum about 15 years ago and we have become great friends and supporters and met in England. I met another 3rd cousin Chris on a forum and have visited with him in Victoria BC and two other 3rd cousins Roland and Sue met with us in Michigan where they both live, I introduced them to each other. Another 2nd cousin Marc met we me in Quebec City so as you see, your family may grow by leaps and bounds. I have met lots of other cousins too and even hosted a family reunion.

So while genealogy may be a solitary hobby, there are many ways to have fun while doing it.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Upcoming Activities of the Fairfax Genealogical Society

Upcoming Genealogy Events and Presentations
October and November 2015
Saturday, October 10, 9:00 a.m. at Clover Hill High School, 13301 Kelly Green Lane Midlothian, VA, J. Mark Lowe will present a series of lectures at the Genealogical Research Institute of Virginia Fall Conference. His presentations will include early census records, tax record, insolvent estate settlements and developing research plans. Information about the conference can be found on their web site at
Saturday, October 17, 1:00 p.m.
at the Daughters of the American Revolution Library, 1776 D St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20006, Maureen Taylor will speak about her work, The Last Muster Project, Volumes 1 & 2, a collection of rare nineteenth-century photographic images, and accompanying biographies of those pictured, of the Revolutionary War generation, assigning faces to and telling the stories of our nation's founding fathers and mothers. The event is free to the public. To register for the event you can call the DAR Library at 202-879-3287, or can register online at
Saturday, October 17, 9:30 a.m.
Charles Howard will speak on the subject of City Directories at the Washington DC Family History Library, 10000 Stoneybrook Dr, Kensington, MD. City directories can offer more than just an address and his presentation will demonstrate the many hidden clues found in this record collection.
Tuesday, October 20, 1:00 p.m. at Hollin Hall Senior Center, 1500 Shenandoah Ave., Alexandria, VA, Jim Bartlett will be the guest speaker at the Mount Vernon Genealogical Society. He will present an overview of the three types of DNA tests, the results and how to use them.
Thursday, October 22, 7:30 p.m. at the Kilmer Middle School Lecture Room, 8100 Wolftrap Road, Vienna, VA, Sharon MacInnes will present a program on Taxes: The Gift that Keeps on Giving…to Genealogists! Reviewing tax records can often provide a year-by-year snapshot of a family within a neighborhood, show the changing economic situation of the family, indicate when a son comes of age, and show when a taxpayer dies or moves.  Since taxes were levied as soon as the government realized there were enough people in a frontier area to generate more income than a tax collector was paid, these records often precede the 1790 census and allow you to reconstruct settlements as they established themselves. 
Saturday, October 24, 10:00 a.m. at the Dunn Loring Volunteer Fire Station, 2148 Gallows Road, Vienna, VA, Rebecca Koford will speak about How I Built My Own Brick Wall and the Sledgehammer of Experience. This lecture identifies ways that researchers have built their own "brick wall" through inexperience, lack of organization, and incorrect assumptions.
Saturday, November 7, 9:00 a.m. at the Dunn Loring Volunteer Fire Station, 2148 Gallows Road, Vienna, VA, Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist, will speak at the Fairfax Genealogical Society Fall Fair, making three presentations.
That First Trip to the Courthouse (9:00 a.m.)
If there is one home truth in genealogy research, it’s this: not everything is available online. Sooner or later, every genealogist has got to make that first trip to the courthouse to check out the original records available there. How to prepare for that trip, the rules of the road, what to expect, what to ask for and how to be sure you’ll be welcomed back the next time are explored in this lecture.
Dowered or Bound Out: Records of Widows and Orphans (10:30 a.m.)
Widows and orphans have always had a special place in the law. But it’s not always the place that 21st century researchers might expect. An orphan in the early days wasn’t a child whose parents had died, but rather a child whose father had died. The law didn’t care much about the mother. She was just the widow, entitled to her dower rights and generally not much more. Learn more about how the law treated widows and orphans, and what the records may tell us about them.
Finding the Law (1:30 p.m.)
Time and time again, we’re told as genealogists that we need to look at records in the context of the law at the time and in the place where the records were created. Easier said than done! With 50 states and the federal government all passing laws, how do we find the laws we need?
Registration for the fall fair is available both online and by mail. Registration before 10/15 includes a boxed lunch (sandwich, chips and drink). A vegetarian option is available; please indicate during registration. Registrations after this date will include lunch only if extras are available. The cost of this year's fair is:
•FxGS Member: $35.00
•Non-Members: $40.00
Late Registrants (After 10/15): $45.00
Tuesday, November 17, 1:00 p.m. at Hollin Hall Senior Center, 1500 Shenandoah Ave., Alexandria, VA, Craig Scott will speak on Researching Your World War I Ancestor. Craig’s presentation will focus on researching individual people, as well as their divisions in the Regular Army, National Guard, and National Army.
Thursday, November 19, 7:30 p.m. at the Kilmer Middle School Lecture Room, 8100 Wolftrap Road, Vienna, VA, Shannon Combs-Bennett will speak on the topic of Researching Naval History. The Naval History and Heritage Command has been an active archive for the US Navy for 200 years.  It has artifacts, documents, biographies, and other ephemera related to the US Navy.  Located at the Washington Navy Yard it has onsite research facilities and limited online records that cannot be found anywhere else. 
Saturday, November 21, 10:00 a.m. at the Dunn Loring Volunteer Fire Station, 2148 Gallows Road, Vienna, VA, Shannon Combs-Bennett will present a talk on Beyond the Obituary: Finding Death Sources. Death certificates and obituaries are the go-to for researchers, but what if you cannot find those. Learn where else to look for death dates and other death tid-bits for your ancestors in this presentation.
Saturday, November 21, 9:30 a.m.
Denise Nelson will speak on the subject of Precious Heirlooms, a Voice from the Past at the Washington DC Family History Library, 10000 Stoneybrook Dr, Kensington, MD. Items our ancestors treasured can tell us surprising facts about who they were, who they associated with, their status, their ethnicity, their surroundings and their personal thoughts.  Often neglected as a research tool, examining Gems and Jewelry owned by our ancestors provide us with a rather personal glimpse at our ancestors and their stories.