Are You Sure That Is How to Spell Your Ancestor’s Name?

Portraits of my Starbird ancestors hang on our wall on the landing at the top of the staircase. Over the years I have chained the family back from Martha Jane (Starbird) Richmond (1836-1905) to Robert Starbird (1782- ) to Moses Starbird (1743-1815) to John Starbird (1701-1753) to Thomas Starbird (1660-1723).

photo of the Starbird family

Photo: Starbird family. Source: Thomas Jay Kemp.

All of them lived in Dover, New Hampshire, at some time in their lives, and by the 19th century several of the Starbird lines were living in Gray, Maine.

Looking in the deep Historical Newspaper Archives of GenealogyBank, I can quickly find multiple Starbird articles from across centuries of American history.

Enter Last Name

For example, here is a probate notice regarding Catharine Starbird, widow of Moses Starbird, published in 1838.

article about a probate proceeding involving Catharine Starbird, Portland Weekly Advertiser newspaper article 1 May 1838

Portland Weekly Advertiser (Portland, Maine), 1 May 1838, page 1

Here is an article about John Starbird (1742-1802), who served in the Continental Army. Both he and his brother (my ancestor) Moses Starbird (1743-1815) fought at Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War.

article about John Starbird, Massachusetts Spy newspaper article 30 December 1779

Massachusetts Spy (Worcester, Massachusetts), 30 December 1779, page 3

So far so good.

Their name was “Starbird” and I am finding “Starbird” articles in the old newspapers.
Good. This is straightforward.

FamilySearch recently added to their site the “England and Wales, Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008.” Great—an index to all of the births in England. I thought: let me search there to see if I can determine where in England the Starbird family came from.

This should be easy family tree research.

Bang.

screenshot of a search on FamilySearch for the surname "Starbird"

Source: FamilySearch

What? There was only one “Starbird” birth in all of England, going all the way back to 1837?

How could that be?

Looking deeper into GenealogyBank, I found this old obituary notice.

obituary for John Starboard, Weekly Eastern Argus newspaper article 26 April 1805

Weekly Eastern Argus (Portland, Maine), 26 April 1805, page

This is for a son of John “Starboard” from Gray, Maine.
Oh—that’s it.
The name could have been spelled “Starbird” or “Starboard.”

When I think of it—I pronounce both words exactly the same way.

Enter Last Name

So—let’s do a quick double-check in the FamilySearch index to British birth records with this new spelling.

This time the search results were zero.

Zero “Starboard” births and only one “Starbird” birth—what is going on here?

I can find a ton of “Starbird” references in America but none in Britain.
Is there another spelling of the surname?

I have seen where some genealogists have suggested that Thomas Starbird (1660-1723) of Dover, New Hampshire, was the son of Edward Starbuck (1604-1690) who was also from Dover.

Would Thomas really have changed his name from Starbuck to Starbird?

Alfred A. Starbird, author of Genealogy of the Starbird-Starbard Family (Burlington, Vermont: The Lane Press), looked at this—especially since another Starbird historian said that Thomas Starbird had changed his name from Starbuck—but concluded “nothing has been found to support this claim.”

The title of his book gives us another variant spelling of this surname: “Starbard.” So, I tried that spelling in the FamilySearch—again zero references.

So—what about the spelling “Starbuck”?
I repeated the search, and that spelling produced over 5,000 English birth records.

Is it that simple—Thomas simply changed his name from Starbuck to Starbird?
Would that be a logical name change?
Is there another explanation?

Have any of our readers found a record proving who the parents of Thomas Starbird (1660-1723) of Dover, New Hampshire, were? If so, I would like to know.

Do you know any current men named Starbird or Starbuck who are willing to take a DNA test? That might be the only way we find the answer to this question.

What say you?

I’d be interested in your comments.

Related Ancestor Name Research Articles:

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Oklahoma Archives: 55 Newspapers for Genealogy Research

Yesterday was the 107th anniversary of Oklahoma’s statehood: on 16 November 1907 the Union admitted its 46th state when Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory combined to form the new state of Oklahoma. Residents throughout the state celebrated with wild jubilation and a “red letter” campaign.

As explained in an article published by the Hobart Daily Republican (Hobart, Oklahoma) on 16 November 1907:

The commercial bodies and immigration organizations of the state have assisted in making this a “red letter day” in fact as well as in name by printing thousands of red letters announcing the resources and opportunities of the new commonwealth. These have been distributed all over the state and are being mailed by Oklahomans today to their relatives and friends in other states.

photo of the Ouachita Mountains in southeastern Oklahoma

Photo: Ouachita Mountains in southeastern Oklahoma. Credit: Okiefromokla; Wikipedia.

Also, did you know that the name of the state originated from a Muskogean Indian word? “Oklahoma” comes from the Choctaw words “oklah homma,” which means “red people.” Many Indian tribes including Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole reside in Oklahoma today because Oklahoma was designated by the U.S. government as “Indian territory” in the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

If you are researching your ancestry from Oklahoma, you will want to use GenealogyBank’s online Oklahoma newspaper archives: 55 titles to help you search your family history in the “Sooner State,” providing coverage from 1871 to Today. There are more than 2.8 million newspaper articles and records in our online OK archives! Oklahoma is particularly rich in Native American newspapers given the state’s history, which resulted in one of our nation’s largest populations of American Indian people.

Dig deep into the online archives and search for obituaries and other news articles about your ancestors in these recent and historical OK newspapers online. Our Oklahoma newspapers are divided into two collections: Historical Newspapers (complete paper) and Recent Obituaries (obituaries only).

Search Oklahoma Newspaper Archives (1871 – 1923)

Search Oklahoma Recent Obituaries (1982 – Current)

Here is our complete list of online Oklahoma newspapers in the archives. Each newspaper title in this list is an active link that will take you directly to that paper’s search page, where you can begin searching for your ancestors by surnames, dates, keywords and more. The OK newspaper titles are listed alphabetically by city.

City Title Date Range Collection
Ada Ada Evening News 10/29/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Altus Altus Times 1/14/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Alva Alva Review-Courier 9/5/2000 – Current Recent Obituaries
Antlers Antlers American 10/14/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Ardmore Daily Ardmoreite 12/1/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bartlesville Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise 10/18/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Bethany Bethany Tribune 12/7/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Chickasha Express Star 3/31/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Claremore Claremore Daily Progress 7/3/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Duncan Duncan Banner 4/26/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Durant Durant Daily Democrat 5/29/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Edmond Edmond Sun 10/24/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Enid Enid News and Eagle 8/1/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Fairland American 10/4/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Frederick Frederick Press-Leader 12/3/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
Grove Grove Sun 2/25/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Guymon Guymon Daily Herald 5/30/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Hobart Hobart Daily Republican 1/4/1907 – 6/30/1920 Newspaper Archives
Hobart Hobart Weekly Chief 7/2/1908 – 12/31/1908 Newspaper Archives
Hobart Hobart Democrat 1/10/1908 – 7/1/1909 Newspaper Archives
Langston Langston City Herald 11/14/1891 – 3/30/1893 Newspaper Archives
Lawton Lawton Constitution 10/1/2006 – Current Recent Obituaries
McAlester McAlester News-Capital & Democrat 12/4/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Miami Miami District Daily News 8/19/1917 – 1/31/1923 Newspaper Archives
Miami Miami Record-Herald 7/28/1899 – 10/9/1903 Newspaper Archives
Miami Miami Weekly Herald 9/23/1899 – 11/20/1903 Newspaper Archives
Miami Miami News-Record 12/3/1999 – Current Recent Obituaries
Midwest City Midwest City Sun 7/10/2008 – Current Recent Obituaries
Moore American 1/3/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Muskogee Muskogee Daily Phoenix and Times-Democrat 2/18/2004 – Current Recent Obituaries
Norman Norman Transcript 9/19/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Nowata Nowata Star 10/3/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Oklahoma City Daily Oklahoman 1/25/1898 – 12/31/1913 Newspaper Archives
Oklahoma City Guide 10/6/1898 – 8/1/1903 Newspaper Archives
Oklahoma City Oklahoman 11/1/1982 – Current Recent Obituaries
Oklahoma City Oklahoman, The: Web Edition Articles 12/14/2013 – Current Recent Obituaries
Pauls Valley Pauls Valley Daily Democrat 9/8/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Pawhuska Pawhuska Journal-Capital 10/17/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Perry Perry Republican 1/1/1914 – 12/28/1922 Newspaper Archives
Perry Noble County Sentinel 10/3/1901 – 9/1/1904 Newspaper Archives
Perry Perry Daily Journal 12/4/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Poteau Poteau Daily News & Sun 7/29/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Pryor Daily Times 12/26/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Shawnee Shawnee News-Star 10/2/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Stillwater Stillwater News Press 9/11/2007 – Current Recent Obituaries
Tahlequah Cherokee Advocate 4/29/1871 – 7/3/1897 Newspaper Archives
Tahlequah Tahlequah Daily Press 12/29/2005 – Current Recent Obituaries
Tulsa Tulsa World 1/1/1911 – 12/31/1922 Newspaper Archives
Tulsa Tulsa World 1/1/1989 – Current Recent Obituaries
Tulsa Native American Times 10/27/2009 – Current Recent Obituaries
Tuttle Tuttle Times 3/29/2006 – 1/27/2010 Recent Obituaries
Vinita Vinita Daily Journal 11/10/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Waurika Waurika News Democrat 2/11/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries
Weatherford Weatherford Daily News 11/27/2012 – Current Recent Obituaries
Woodward Woodward News 4/26/2010 – Current Recent Obituaries

You can either print or create a PDF version of this Blog post by simply clicking on the green “Print/PDF” button below. The PDF version makes it easy to save this post onto your desktop or portable device for quick reference—all the Oklahoma newspaper links will be live.

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Mayflower Pilgrim Thomas Rogers: Are You a Descendant?

Joseph Atwood Ordway (1852-1904) is a descendant of Mayflower passenger Thomas Rogers—and he thought so much of that genealogical fact, it was included in his obituary.

Death of Joseph A. Ordway, Springfield Republican newspaper article 6 May 1904

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 6 May 1904, page 12

This is a detailed obituary that gives us a lot of family history information about Joseph:

  • His date and place of birth: 12 May 1852 in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States
  • His date and place of death: 5 May 1904 in Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts, United States
  • One of his brothers was “the late” General Albert Ordway (1843-1897) who served in the Civil War.
  • He was survived by his wife: Carrie L. Ordway
  • He had two sisters: Mary Emma Ordway (1849- ) and Annie Freeman Ordway (1857- ) who became Mrs. Charles E. Folsom (Charles Edward Folsom, Jr., 1855-1926)
  • He had one surviving brother: Frank Foster Ordway (1862- )

Obituaries give good core research information for genealogists.

Enter Last Name

I particularly like that Joseph’s obituary mentioned he was a Mayflower descendant. I am also a descendant of the Pilgrim Thomas Rogers.

Knowing that enables me to start with Joseph Atwood Ordway and trace his lineage back to his Mayflower ancestor.

This is a quick way to speed up your genealogy research and ensure that all of your cousins are found and documented in the family history.

Related Mayflower Ancestry Articles & Resources:

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Your Top Genealogy Challenges & Frustrations

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog post, Mary shares some of the responses her social media friends gave when she asked the question: “Just what frustrates everyone about genealogy?”

Earlier this year, the GenealogyBank blog published my article “Why Do You Love Genealogy?” The responses were engaging and it was clear that there is a world of genealogy addicts out there. So I decided to query my social media friends again: Just what frustrates everyone about genealogy?

The responses were enlightening and immediate—over 200 responses about the ups and downs of genealogy. Surprisingly, there weren’t as many frustrations about barking up the wrong tree as I imagined. Most were about brick walls, dead-ends, missing information, and how people share or misreport genealogy.

I couldn’t include them all, so have picked some of the more enlightening answers to share. They are grouped by topic and the initials indicate the name of the respondent.

Enter Last Name










Brick Walls & Dead Ends

  • 30+ years of researching and I still have the same 3 brick walls! – G.W.

genealogy comment: "30+ years of researching and I still have the same 3 brick walls!"

  • Both (brick walls and dead-ends). – S.A.
  • Definitely both!!! – K.B.
  • Brick wall! – J.H.S.
  • Brick walls, [ancestors] missing from a census, obituary without parents’ names, no death record, obituary that says so-and-so died yesterday and no more, disappearing from all records…to name a few. But none of it deters the obsession. – D.B.
  • Dead ends. – D.G., J.S., M.M., N.S., T.L.M. & V.S.F.
  • Dead ends! People who seem to have appeared out of nowhere. One in particular is Aldenderfer, a name contrived from German meaning “high” or “small” village. So, people from the altendoerf were from the small village: small villages = altendoerfers. So, how do I find the small village in Germany for someone who arrived in the middle 1700s? – V.G.E.
  • I’d swear [Elizabeth] didn’t exist except that she managed to be on 2 censuses after she married. – L.H.
  • For me it’s dead ends, and the fact that conducting a reasonably exhaustive search just seems never to be done, and with so many zillions of places to look. – B.C.
    (My response) “I think the key word is reasonable, although most of us don’t like to stop until we find what we are looking for!”
  • For me, it is the dead ends. My great grandparents had to have had parents and perhaps siblings. Where are you? I’m looking for you! Sigh. – S.E.

genealogy comment: "Where are you? I'm looking for you!" -- Said by every genealogist to their missing ancestors!

  • I’m frustrated with a dead end, although all of the above answers are good answers, too! My great grandma supposedly came to the U.S. from Ireland in 1890 but didn’t marry ’til 1908. There is no record of her in the U.S. for those 18 years…or before that in Ireland. I am beginning to think she has something to hide. My mother describes her as a secretive woman. This is my brick wall. I’m happy to listen to any other theories! I’ve accused her of just about everything! – S.W.P.
  • Keep looking and the dead ends remain… – H.T.
  • Mom’s Grandfather didn’t leave a paper trail to track him. – J.K.
  • My experience has been one brick wall after another. So frustrating! – A.R.
  • I think that feeling of “I’ll find something…just keep looking for it” has kept me looking…so instead of giving it a rest, I keep hitting my own head into the brick wall. – T.L.M.

Locations & Websites That Stymie Researchers

  • Distance. If I could be in those other courthouses and libraries a few hundred miles [away] or across the ocean. – A.G.
  • KY TN AR – H.H.P.
  • Regarding U.S.A., lack of access to needed files and nationwide lack of ability to visit most states to find answers. – J.E.G.
  • Not being able to find a town of origin. – D.H.
  • Researching in New Jersey. – M.P.C.
  • Sites that claim you can search records for free…but you have to pay to actually see the records. – P. L.
  • The difficulty of obtaining records that I know exist because they’re far away or only available in an archive or library that can’t or won’t digitize or do research. – A.G.
  • Venezuela. – M.M.
  • When I absolutely know someone was born and lived in a place but there is no record at all, that’s so frustrating! – L.B.W.

Ancestors’ Names

  • All the common names used over and over again! – K.L.
  • Common names drive me crazy. Go look for a John White from Indiana who served in the Civil War. Or what should be uncommon names like McFetridge that are spelled 600 different ways and sometimes 3 or 4 [ways] on the same document. – B.N.
  • Dealing with [common] surnames…that have SO many branches that are not connected, at least that can be proven! I could have added just about every comment here ahead of me! So frustrating sometimes, but so fun to search and rewarding when you do find something useful! – D.K.B.

genealogy comment: "My biggest genealogy challenge are the many endless generations with the same names!"

  • 7 or 8 different spellings for one person’s first and last names. I can’t find his records in any immigration site. I think he came over in a rowboat. – E.J.K.
  • My two greatest brick walls: [both] shown in only two census records and then poof! – D.R.
  • Endless gens with the same 3 names: William, Robert, and James. – H.H.P.
  • Family using fake names. – I.R.D.
  • Good common names are my nemesis: John Smith, etc. – N.G.
  • I had 2 [men of the same name] born within a few years of each other in the same area. First cousins. I have 5 [others with the same name], of course they are all related to each other and some with close birthdates. And finally, 13 [with the same exact name] all related to each other. Headache keeping them straight! – G.S.O.
  • I have 5 gens with the same two names and each gen had several sons…ALL with the same 3 names. – H.H.P.
  • Last names. One of them is Son and one of the first names is Abraham. Pop that name in Google and you’ll have enough biblical references to keep you busy sorting through until the Second Coming. – D.H.R.
  • Mine are the brick walls AND the same names within the same branch of family. I know it was [a] tradition to name them after relatives, but my god it is murder trying to figure out which John goes with which Mary or Polly. – C.W.W.
  • My biggest frustration is finding a record with the right name/info that is reasonably and plausibly my ancestor, but not being able to verify it with certainty! – K.F.
  • My frustration is that my last name is [common]! – M.Y.
  • Researching a common name of a brick wall family. – D.L.C.
  • My granddad, great granddad and great great granddad are all named William Smith. – G.W.O.
  • I have Smiths too. – D.R.
  • My line, William, has 5 sons, 1 named William, like him. The 5 sons had boys – each named 1 son William (after their Grandfather). Those boys had sons – each named a son William…and it goes on and on and on. – M.O.S.
  • My nightmare is trying to find my Grandma. She was born in Mexico under one name but used a combination of the 2 here in the states. – S.V.
  • Same here, dead ends, and duplicate names! – L.B.W.
  • The names [are common ones] from Ireland. Do you have any idea how many of them there are? And they all have a father named Patrick and a mother named Mary. Argh. – M.C.
  • The same names in the same era, especially with surnames I once thought were weird or unusual. – A.F.
  • My Dad’s last name [is common]…my Mother’s maiden name is Smith. But then, it does make for interesting research! – M.Y.
  • Try working in the 13th century; all men are William and all wives name their daughters
    after themselves and there aren’t last names yet! – P.J.

Other Genealogy Frustrations

  • Cost of these [genealogy] programs…$119 for data search. – A.P.
  • For me it’s the organizing. I’m so focused on finding and saving items that I have to force myself to stop researching and make some organizing sense of it all. – L.T.
  • Organizing. – J.J.
  • What frustrates me most about genealogy? Unlabeled photos! – I.R.

Records (Census)

  • Lack of info…The missing 1890 census. – I.R.D.
  • Yes, the 1890 census. – G.G.T.
  • Oh yes, the missing 1890 census, I was swearing at it earlier today. Also the destroyed Irish Census and other Irish records. I’m finally “across the pond” and am hitting dead ends because of that fire. – S. C.
  • Illiterate people writing down census info. I’ve got some names from NC I can’t even figure out [because of] how they are spelled. Batrass = Beatrice. – D.R.
  • I have to agree with you there too. I couldn’t locate one branch of my husband’s Perry family. I stumbled across them looking for someone else. The census taker had the name listed as Harry. WOW! – C.W.W.
  • Here’s a fun one: I spent ages pulling my hair out trying to find my Grandmother on the 1930 Census, she was 6 years old, there was the whole rest of the family where was she??? Finally I gave up and ordered a copy of her birth certificate, found out she was born in 1933. (She died in ’92, btw.) – S.C.
  • That sounds like you were there for my most recent search on [my] family in Canada. – B.C.

Records (Deciphering)

  • Illegible handwriting drives me insane. Conflicting information is my other pet peeve. – P.R.C.
  • Inability to read a document is frustrating. – T.K.
  • Records that sort-of match up, but not enough to know whether it’s actually the same person. I’ve got relatives that, through the censuses, have a 5- or 6-year span of birth years. – M.H.
  • I like deciphering the old script, inverting a photostat of an aging parish register. I will not let a challenge defeat my research. – A.D.

genealogy comment: "Genealogists do not like to let challenges defeat their research!"

Records & Family Trees (errors, missing and otherwise)

  • All the “winkie winkie” looks between county clerks when they say records were burned. I really think lots of county courthouses just cleaned house and burned them out back. – N.G.
  • Another whammy is when you hit the mother-load of items (cards with names) inside a box wrapped with the memorial book for your great grandfather. But your great grandmother threw away the envelopes for all those cards. The cards that only have first names or last names, some of which appear to be related. – I.R.
  • As it is, because of a fire in ’73, there isn’t much there, but they say he was born [elsewhere], which is the closest I have gotten to his place of birth. – G.W.O.
  • It’s the dumb errors. – M.F.
  • Just to make things more interesting, my granddad lied about both his age and place of birth. If I [hadn’t] stumbled upon his discharge papers, I would never have been able to find any of his military papers. – G.W.O.
  • Knowing that people have sold photos and family bibles to the highest bidder to be used in a craft project. – H.T.
  • My “worst” brick wall is so bad, largely in part to one person making an error on an online tree and then everyone else copying it. So, I guess poor research is my biggest frustration. – S.C.
  • My Great Grandfather’s sibs; I just want pictures! – D.R.
  • One surname is Bryan. Why oh why does everyone want a T on the end??? – D.R.
  • The assumptions people make with no documentation! – K.C.B.

Relatives & Researchers

  • A small gripe…some folks know I do genealogy, and they call and ask about grandma and great grandma. Two days later they call and I think they want more info, but no: my little bit of info, [plus] the Internet, and they say they have the family tree all done now. They spent about a week on it. I’ve been on this quest years…many, many years. – A.G.
  • All the lies that have been told over the years…there’s a never-ending supply. – K.L.
  • Ignore the “lies” or error in research; do your own research, without any preconceived notions. – A.D.

genealogy comment: "Genealogists: do your own research, without any preconceived notions based on the research of others!"

  • Family members that don’t tell you the truth, but [instead] their version of it. – J.B.
  • For me [it] is when I make a connection and people dispute it. – L.J.S.
  • For me it’s fictitious pedigrees others have made using people with the same name or making up lineage to obtain property. – J.E.
  • It’s the fellow “researchers” who won’t reply when you reach out to them with no more intent than to just say “hello, we may be related and pursuing the same goals.” – D.R.
  • My cousin did the same to me, refused to let me know when my great-grandmother died, and my mother has continued to remind me for 34 years [that] I was at the beach and missed the funeral! – S.S.
  • My frustration button is pushed when I send someone all the info and docs and they publish it without any mention of who actually did the research, and then they get treated like a god and won’t acknowledge any of his mistakes…argh. – R.L.
  • Credit where credit is due. – T.K.
  • When someone with a private tree copies info that you have worked very hard to obtain, and when you try to ask them to share their info you hear nothing from them. – M.D.
  • People that don’t share. – M.M.
  • People who don’t share after you have graciously shared with them. – L.M.
  • Relatives that won’t talk or SHARE!!! – L.N.B.
  • Uncooperative family members that refuse to give you information. – C.R.
  • When newly-discovered family members ask for heritage items but can never seem to share with you. – H.P.M.
  • When people deliberately withhold information from you just because they can. – T.J.

Sources (or lack thereof!)

  • Here’s one: newspapers or other articles that are clipped out and no “source” information attached…no date, no city/state, no publication name. I am happy to go find them again…but man, needle in a haystack! Now, [for] every newspaper article I find, I save the full page from the website. – S.C.
  • Posted trees/pedigrees with no valid documentation. – B.E.

Time & Money (not enough hours in the day)

  • For me it’s two things: finding the time to research, and finding the focus. I start with one person, find others who are interesting and leap around. – C.M.N.
  • For me it is my inability to be able to devote enough time at one sitting. I work full-time and have a family so I rarely get more than a couple hours at a time. – R.T.F.
  • Many years and hoops [to jump through] and, yes, the costs. – D.S.B.
  • Not enough time to get it all done, and money to travel for searches. – B.J.A.

Wishing They’d Asked…

  • Not asking my relatives when they were younger about family history; now they’re all gone. – L.B.W. (My response:) “You are so right about that. If we could only ask a few more questions, we’d all be happy!”
  • Not having asked my relatives questions before they died because I wasn’t interested at the time! – G.G.T.
  • Not having my grandparents and parents around to share it with. – L.C.
  • It makes you question the information that you have. In my case it’s my paternal grandmother and her entire line. All I have is a handwritten piece of paper that my Dad apparently wrote (I was a teenager when he died and I had no idea until after his death that it even existed). – T.L.M.
  • Totally agree, 3 of [my] Grandparents died before I was smart enough to realize I should ask and record the answers. My remaining Grandma gets grilled every visit, tape recorder on! Although, the tall tales some of my relatives passed along are sometimes more frustrating than not having information from them. – S.C.

A Few Last Remarks!

  • What is reasonable to a perfectionist and genealogist? And I would wager that most of us that consider ourselves even amateur genealogists are raging perfectionists. – B.C.

genealogy comment: "I would wager that most genealogists are raging perfectionists!"

  • My greatest gift was my maternal grandmother who lived to 102 and knew everyone’s business in her country neighborhood. We were related to most of them! She loved to tell all about them. I sure miss her. – N.G.
  • The greatest frustration in this, my remaining years, is the disinterest in [our] ancestors of those who share my ancestry. It’s a risk. – T.K.
  • I’ve been hunting for the 20th century death of a family member for almost a year. Got it today – I’m smiling! – A.D.
  • What frustrates me about genealogy? ALL OF THE ABOVE! – D.R.

Got any more genealogy challenges or frustrations to add? Share them with us in the comments.

Related Articles:

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How to Standardize Your Geographic Locations

You’ve been working on your family history for years and have gathered a lot of information.

You keep careful notes and are consistent in putting down full bibliographic citations so that others may quickly know where you found each of your facts.

But—how are you adding the places of birth, marriage or death for your ancestors?

Photo showing the view of Elm Street in Manchester, New Hampshire, looking south

Photo: View of Elm Street in Manchester, New Hampshire, looking south. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Here’s a tip: write out the complete geographic location for each event.

Instead of writing:
Manchester, NH

You want to render it as:
Manchester, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, United States

Also acceptable:
Manchester, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, United States

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What you want to avoid are abbreviations, because they can often be misunderstood.

For example: which state has the abbreviation AR?
Is that Arizona? Arkansas? No, it can’t be Arkansas—isn’t that AK?

Actually, Arizona is AZ, Arkansas is AR and Alaska is AK.

It’s easy to know if you use those geo location abbreviations often, but when we don’t we often have to look the abbreviation up to get it right.

Over the history of the United States, abbreviations have not always been consistent. People used any abbreviation that seemed correct to them. Newspapers often used an unconventional abbreviation, such as Con for Connecticut. We’re not accustomed to that today—but it must have been acceptable over a century ago.

The accepted style for writing geographic locations is to not use abbreviations and to include the name of the county and of the country. Use the corresponding geographical jurisdictions when documenting places in other countries.

You never want to simply enter the name of the town.

For example, don’t just use: Haverhill.

You understand where that is.
Many of your family lived there—but will other relatives know where that is?
What if your relative now lives across the country—will they recognize where Haverhill is?

Is that Haverhill, Essex, Massachusetts, United States—or, not far away, Haverhill, Grafton, New Hampshire, United States?

Why include the name of the country?
Now that genealogy has gone global, it is customary to include the name of the country to make the entries more precise.

When genealogists are less familiar with the geography, having it spelled out is helpful.

For example:
Sydney (or)
Sydney, Cumberland, New South Wales

Most of us would instantly recognize this is in Australia, but could it be misunderstood as somehow being part of Wales?

Enter it as:
Sydney, Cumberland, New South Wales, Australia—then there is no misunderstanding.

Make your family history crystal clear.

Use the town, county, state and country to describe all of the localities in your family history.

Let’s be consistent in all of our records and leave a clear record that everyone will easily understand.

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Salvatore Buchetto’s Obituary Celebrates His Well-Lived Life

Obituaries often celebrate lives well lived—but rarely with the enthusiasm this recent obituary does.

obituary for Salvatore Buchetto, Advocate newspaper article 17 October 2014

Advocate (Stamford, Connecticut), 17 October 2014

You’ll want to read the full copy of this one. Click here: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/stamfordadvocate/obituary.aspx?n=salvatore-buchetto&pid=172835303&fhid=11211#sthash.f8Roq5Qv.dpuf

His obituary states: “Sal measured out at 73 1/2 inches, and a bouncing 232 pounds, 9 ounces.”

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After reading a few lines from Salvatore’s obituary, you quickly realize that he was someone very special to many people.

His newspaper obituary reports:

For 39 years, an eccentric, electric force of nature in the Stamford Public Schools, beloved by classes and respected by peers, teaching science at Burdick and Cloonan Middle Schools. His performance in front of the blackboard was the stuff of legend, often extending out of the classroom to capture the imagination of students and fellow teachers. A Mad Scientist and Arm Wrestling Champion on the school stage, he was famous for memorable experiments that combined sports cars and mannequins; leaf-blowers and popsicle stick houses; a bed of nails and school principals; and rooftops and egg drops.

Sal Buchetto was a father, a grandfather, a very popular teacher—and a childhood friend of mine. His family lived just behind our house. We called him “Chuck.” There was a gang of 3-5 of us. We’d cut through his yard, go across the street, cut through another yard, then through the woods, get through a hole in the fence, then through another yard and down through that street—and on to school.

We were everywhere—building forts, afterschool sports and tracking the moons of Jupiter on our telescopes. I still have that telescope; I don’t think I’ve used it for over 50 years.

One day his Mom had us over for dinner.
She served pasta, on huge plates.
She filled the plate.

I thought: this is great—a huge amount of food.
She asked if we wanted more, so I said: yes.
She filled the plate again.
Wow. Two helpings, each about the size of the serving bowl we’d get at home.
Great—what a meal.

But wait—there’s more.
She then brought out the main course.
More? I was already stuffed.
Wasn’t the pasta the main course?

Well, no.
Out came the chicken, then there was another main course—a third course? Sausage, more meat, salad…an endless stream of food.
Then dessert.

Wow.

The Buchettos had a living room that no one was allowed to enter—except THAT day.
All of the furniture was white.
The couches were covered in plastic.
It was like a museum, but that day his Mom let us go in—and there it was: their brand new color TV!

Wow—television in color. How good was that!
We watched Bonanza—yeah, a little grainy—but it was in color.
What would they think of next?

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Here’s a transcription of Salvatore Buchetto’s obituary:

Buchetto, Salvatore R.

“Salvatore Robert Buchetto lived, larger than life, from October 12, 1948 through October 15, 2014. For 39 years, he was an eccentric, electric force of nature in the Stamford Public Schools, beloved by classes and respected by peers, teaching science at Burdick and Cloonan Middle Schools. His performance in front of the blackboard was the stuff of legend, often extending out of the classroom to capture the imagination of students and fellow teachers. A Mad Scientist and Arm Wrestling Champion on the school stage, he was famous for memorable experiments that combined sports cars and mannequins; leaf-blowers and popsicle stick houses; a bed of nails and school principals; and rooftops and egg drops.

“The son of Peter and Ann Buchetto, Sal was born in and grew up in Stamford. He graduated from Southern Connecticut University with a BS in Science, and followed that up by earning two Masters in education, one each from Southern Connecticut University and the University of Bridgeport. After retiring from Stamford schools, Sal would return to both his universities, schooling the next generation of teachers in his Graduate Education Classes. His marathon, free-form sessions left his audience on the edge of their seat — hesitant to take a bathroom break for fear of missing a single educational, entertaining word of his considerable experience and unique techniques.

“He is survived by family who were ever amazed and energized by his vitality: his wife Toni, daughter Kamera Dukes and granddaughter Michaela Dukes; and good family friend Abraham Davis; Sal’s sister Vita Chichester and her sons and their families: Dan, Jenn and Lucas; Keith, Tracy, Sammi and Lia; Peter, Jessica, Max, Nicole and Zack; nephew Mark Servidio and his family; sister in law Rita Orgera and her children: Ryan, Alexis and Kendall; sister-and-brother-in-law Aly and Dan McNamara, and their children and families: Tyler, Casey, Brian and Zoe; and Sara, Kyle and Cole; brother-in-law Bill Ruedaman; and sister-in-law Kim Orgera, her daughter Tessa and her children: Chance, Yancy and Dylan. Sal now joins his son Kris in heaven. Sal was also predeceased by his brother in law Daniel Chichester, Sr.; his sister Rachel and brother-in-law Babe Servidio; his brother Peter Buchetto; and brother in law Bo Orgera.

“Devoted to a malfunctioning series of TR-6 autos, Sal single-handedly supported the used parts industry for that model over the years. An accomplished photographer, his “Photography by Salvatore” business captured the romance of hundreds of newly wedded couples. He supported Native American causes through his visits to state casinos, and was widely-read through his frequent contributions to the Stamford Advocate editorial page on a wide variety of serious and satirical topics. In tribute to Sal, it’s rumored that big screen TVs across the state will be dimmed to half-brightness, and take-out cups of coffee will be served only half full. (It is expected that profits at County TV, Best Buy, Dunkin Donuts and Donut Delight will drop significantly.) Sal was a long time member of Grace Evangelical Church on Courtland Avenue, and loved Jesus.

“There will be a visitation at Cloonan Middle School auditorium this Sunday, October 19th, from 2 to 4 PM. A memorial service will immediately follow from 4 to 5:15 PM, conducted by Pastor Scott Taylor. The family requests those attending to dress in festive red, white and blue.

“Mr. Buchetto’s dynamic, unmatchable influence lives on through the countless students whose lives he inspired over 4 decades. Sal measured out at 73 1/2 inches, and a bouncing 232 pounds, 9 ounces. To leave an online condolence please visit www.leopgallagherstamford.com

Obituaries in newspapers provide us with rich genealogical information, personal stories and life details like no other source.

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Odd & Hilarious Names: You Responded with Your Funniest Finds

Last week, we posed this question to our GenealogyBank friends on Facebook: “What’s the funniest name or surname you’ve ever come across?”

Well, your responses were wonderful: 98 of you have commented so far sharing your funniest name finds! We enjoyed some laughs reading these names so much that we decided to compile them into one list to give everyone a chuckle. Some of these people’s names seem too outlandish or funny to be real—but, time and again, you appended messages swearing that this is “really, truly” a name you’ve encountered in your family history research.

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Here is that list of funny names—and thank you all, readers, for sharing these crazy names with us. The parents of these people clearly had a sense of humor! If anyone reading this has more funny names to contribute, please join in on the fun by posting them in the comments section below or on Facebook. (Keep the names family-friendly, please.)

And we couldn’t leave without contributing one hilarious name we encountered while doing research in this 1799 Massachusetts newspaper. Joseph Maxfeld ran an ad announcing the dissolution of his partnership—with a man named Preserved Fish!

ad announcing the dissolution of the firm Fish and Maxfeld, Columbian Courier newspaper advertisement, 1 May 1799

Columbian Courier (New Bedford, Massachusetts), 1 May 1799, page 1

Here’s the list of odd and funny names you shared:

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Do You Celebrate Birthday Traditions Like Your Ancestors Did?

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog post, Mary searches old newspapers to find stories about birthday traditions celebrated by our ancestors.

Chances are you celebrate some of your birthday traditions the way your ancestors did—and not just extravagant gatherings with cakes, balloons and presents. Many cultures have unique and fun ways to commemorate a birthday.

photo of a Chinese birthday party

Photo: Chinese birthday party. Source: Library of Congress.

Birthday Traditions

This list of birthday traditions came from the following websites:

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Birthday traditions around the world:

  • Do you pull one’s earlobes for each year of one’s life? Then you might come from Argentina.
  • Does your family host barbeques with fairy bread for the children? Then you may have Australian roots.
  • Is a one-year-old surrounded with toys and watched to see which one is picked first? In China, the selection is said to represent a future life pursuit. The child typically receives gifts with tigers which are said to protect children, and noodles are served at lunch.
  • Do you receive a cake shaped like a man? Then perhaps you are connected to Denmark.
  • Is a girl’s 15th birthday celebrated with a waltz, 14 young dancing couples and a new pair of shoes from her father? This is reported to be a tradition in Ecuador.
  • How about a wooden wreath placed on a table with candles representing your age during a Geburtstagsparty (birthday party)? This is common in Germany.
  • In many Hispanic cultures there are fiestas, complete with traditional food and piñatas filled with candy. Guests take turns trying to break it open with a stick while blindfolded.
  • The Irish are known to tip a child upside down and bump him/her gently on the floor.
  • In Jordan, many make a wish while cutting the cake with the wrong side of the knife.
  • In parts of Russia, pies are baked with greetings carved into the crust.
  • In Vietnam, a birthday is called a tet, and it is said that many celebrate them on New Year’s Day rather than on the actual birthday.

This boy celebrated his third birthday with a piñata.

article about Tony Perez's birthday party, Prensa newspaper article 12 October 1945

Prensa (San Antonio, Texas), 12 October 1945, page 2

Birthdays of Leaders, Presidents & Royalty in the News

Early reports in newspapers focus more on celebrations of leaders and royalty than ordinary citizens. The birthdays of presidents, and in particular George Washington, were frequently observed with parades and special dinners. At least one party was held at a tavern in his honor. This 1782 newspaper article notes that the entertainment for Washington’s birthday was elegant, and the whole festivity was conducted with exquisite propriety and decorum. One can almost imagine the toasts said in his name!

article about a celebration for George Washington's birthday, Massachusetts Spy newspaper article 21 February 1782

Massachusetts Spy (Worcester, Massachusetts), 21 February 1782, page 2

This earlier article from 1711 notes a special present for the Prince of Prussia’s mother—she was to receive a thousand ducats annually “on the Birth-day of the young Prince.”

article about the birthday of Frederick William, Boston News-Letter newspaper article 21 May 1711

Boston News-Letter (Boston, Massachusetts), 21 May 1711, page 2

This is one of my favorite birthday announcements. In 1820 the Emperor of Russia issued an imperial Ukase abolishing all the war taxes that had been imposed eight years earlier.

article about the Emperor of Russia's birthday, Arkansas Weekly Gazette newspaper article 20 May 1820

Arkansas Weekly Gazette (Little Rock, Arkansas), 20 May 1820, page 3

Researching Birthdays of Our Ancestors

Although GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives search page doesn’t have a specific category for birthdays, you can be successful by searching for ancestors in other ways. A fun way is to research a celebration in the Photos & Illustrations category.

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If you get lucky, you’ll find a photo of a child or adult and a description of the birthday festivities. Try entering your ancestor’s name and then include “birthday” in the keyword field.

Many accounts, including this one for Miss Cora Van Fleet’s 17th birthday party, include a list of attendees.

article about Cora Van Fleet's birthday, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 1 November 1914

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 1 November 1914, page 21

Since early newspapers rarely described birthdays for ordinary citizens, also try searching for descriptions of parties within news article stories. Although this account from 1833 was entirely from the author’s imagination, one can appreciate the frivolity and excitement one might feel from receiving a birthday party invitation delivered by sleigh.

article about Aura's birthday, Salem Gazette newspaper article 15 October 1833

Salem Gazette (Salem, Massachusetts), 15 October 1833, page 1

Coming of Age Parties

If your ancestors celebrated a coming of age party, such as a quinceanera (15th birthday party for Mexican females) or Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah (Jewish parties typically at age 12 or 13), you may find accounts in the papers, including Henry Sahlein’s from 1863.

article about Henry Sahlein's barmitzvah, Jewish Messenger newspaper article 16 January 1863

Jewish Messenger (New York, New York), 16 January 1863, page 21

And finally, I’ll leave you with this happy image, to remind us all how much fun birthday parties can be!

photo of Norma Horydczak and friends at her 8th-year birthday party

Photo: Norma Horydczak and friends at her 8th-year birthday party. Source: Library of Congress.

Do you have a special tradition to celebrate birthdays in your family? If so, please share it with us in the comments section.

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Remembering the Young: Children’s Death Records in the News

I was reading this old newspaper and noticed that obituary after obituary was for young children.

children's obituaries, Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics newspaper article 28 August 1875

Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), 28 August 1875, page 3

So many reports of very young children dying early deaths in this old newspaper article:

  • Martha Banks, aged 1 year, 11 months and 2 days
  • Arthur Lincoln Vaughan, aged 6 months and 12 days
  • Caroline E. Hein, aged 11 months and 13 days

August 1875 was clearly a brutal month for children and their families in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

It is so tragic that their lives ended at such a young age.

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It would be easy for this information to be lost, leaving these children’s short lives forgotten. It’s comforting to know that I can find these death records in GenealogyBank, knowing that these youngest members of the family will not be lost to the family history we are compiling—that their lives, though painfully short, are permanently recorded in the family tree.

Because newspaper editors were so good about including their age in years, months and days, it is easy to compute their dates of birth from the information contained in the death records.

Make every effort to find and document every person in your family tree.

We can do this.

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Filling In My Family Tree with Stories in Old Newspapers

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this blog post, Scott shares some of the family stories he’s learned by searching through old newspapers—stories that help him get to know his ancestors better than just the names and dates on a family tree.

Everyone who enjoys working on their family history knows that nothing enhances your family tree and attracts more family to your work than the stories you weave together in your research! My family tree is full of interesting stories—and I am always on the lookout for more of them to add to our family history every opportunity I get. One of the best places I have found for discovering these stories is in historical newspapers—and GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives are my “go to” source for those newspapers.

GenealogyBank’s newspapers have given me some of the biggest leads in my genealogy work, as well as having added real sparkle to, and interest in, our family tree.

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My Great Grandfather the Union Man

It was a newspaper discovery that really helped me break down the brick wall that was my maternal great grandfather, Joseph K. Vicha. My breakthrough genealogical find was this 1896 newspaper article that stated: “J. K. Vicha of the Clothing Salesmen’s union was nominated and elected by acclamation.” With this tidbit of knowledge that my great grandfather had been the president of the Central Labor Union, I was able to begin following his career through the years.

article about Joseph Vicha being elected president of the Central Labor Union, Plain Dealer newspaper article 9 January 1896

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 9 January 1896, page 3

It was then with particular interest that I read an article from the same date but published in a different Cleveland newspaper, titled “Peanut Reform. How the Central Labor Union Regards the School Bank.” It seems that with my great grandfather as president, the Central Labor Union was protesting the establishment of savings accounts at public schools…something that I well remember from my own younger school days. I guess he must not have been successful in his protest on this matter!

article about the Central Labor Union protesting the establishment of savings accounts at public schools, Cleveland Leader newspaper article 9 January 1896

Cleveland Leader (Cleveland, Ohio), 9 January 1896, page 8

My Mother’s First Engagement

Another fascinating fact I found concerned my own mother. While I was looking for any possible newspaper articles regarding her marriage to my dad, I happened to find this 1942 article. It was a brief story regarding an engagement announcement made by my grandmother for my mother, Laverne Evenden. However, I quickly noticed it was to a man she never ended up marrying. What a fun family find! Plus it brought a great opportunity for me to hear the whole story of what happened from my mom later on.

engagement notice for Laverne Evenden and Lincoln Christensen, Plain Dealer newspaper article 4 January 1942

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 4 January 1942, page 50

My Cousin & Minnie

Of course one of my all-time favorite story finds in the newspaper for my family tree—as regular readers of this blog have heard me talk about before—was the story of one of my cousins, Joseph Kapl, who as a zookeeper was almost trampled to death by the “loveable” Minnie the elephant!

article about zookeeper Joseph Kapl and Minnie the elephant, Plain Dealer newspaper article 23 March 1915

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 23 March 1915, page 4

The West Side “Dean”

In one instance I was able to find, in an obituary, wonderful details about the life of another of my ancestors, Dr. J. J. Kotershall. While I am accustomed to finding worthwhile genealogical information in obituaries, Dr. Kotershall’s held some real gems. His 1945 obituary explained that he was “instrumental in bringing to Cleveland the city’s first X-ray units in 1903.” It also reported: “Born in Cleveland of Bohemian parentage, Dr. Kotershall had spent the major part of his practice among the Bohemian, Slavic, Polish, and German groups on the West Side.” The old news article even listed where he attended college and conducted his internship. It was a real gold mine.

obituary for Dr. Joseph Kotershall, Plain Dealer newspaper article 11 December 1945

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 11 December 1945, page 6

Pictures of the Pretty Twins

On another occasion I was working on a branch of our family tree that included two sisters, Josephine and Florence. I had the feeling they might be twins since their births were listed as the same on the 1920 U.S. Census. Then I discovered a 1937 article with the headline “Twins Choose Dissimilar Careers.” This old newspaper article confirmed my suspicion that the sisters were indeed twins, plus it featured photographs of the twins as well—and provided a very complete review of their formative years. The best, however, might have been the fact that it also listed their parents and home address.

article about the twins Florence and Josephine Kotershall, Plain Dealer newspaper article 7 June 1937

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 7 June 1937, page 3

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A Genuine Country Fair

In addition to our ancestors’ stories that we can find in newspapers, there are also those stories we can discover that add to our understanding of places and events in our own lives. For instance, as a youngster I remember when the week of the county fair was something that my buddies and I looked forward to all year long. The rides, the midway, the games, the booths, the animals, and naturally the food! In just a few minutes of searching in the newspapers I found an 1896 article showing that the fair began as the “West Cuyahoga County Fair” and was advertised in the newspaper back then as “a genuine country fair.”

article about the West Cuyahoga County Fair in Ohio, Plain Dealer newspaper article 16 September 1896

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 16 September 1896, page 10

As this 1927 newspaper advertisement shows, it is evident that the fair had become “the” fair since it was billed as simply the “Cuyahoga County Fair” complete with horse racing and the King’s Rodeo.

ad for the Cuyahoga County Fair in Ohio, Plain Dealer newspaper advertisement 28 August 1927

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 28 August 1927, page 10

It was even more fun when I came across a 1967 news article. Oh, how that one brought back memories! My best boyhood friend Matt and I would marvel at the sideshow barkers while we tried to make up our minds as to which show we would spend some of our hard-earned paper route money to see! Those were the days!

article about the sideshow barkers at the Cuyahoga County Fair in Ohio, Plain Dealer newspaper article 18 August 1967

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 18 August 1967, page 8

Over and over, newspapers provide us with key leads, great stories, and many details about the times of both our own lives and our ancestors.

What are some of your favorite stories you have found in the newspapers as you work on your genealogy and family history? I’d love to hear them so please leave a comment!

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