Do you see the faces? How many ancestors can you find in this family tree puzzle?
Hint: people we’ve shown this to are reporting they can see from 8 to 11 faces.
Tell us how many faces you find!
Let me tell you about my cousin Ransom and the kindness of a stranger who returned his long-lost Bible and journals through a serendipitous chain of events.
Ransom Ferdinand Smith (1864-1940) lived in Woodstock, New Hampshire. He was a first cousin of my great-grandmother Frances Lila (Sawyer) Huse (1863-1958).
On Monday (Sept. 10th) I entered the details of Ransom F. Smith’s life on my family’s online tree site.
On Tuesday (Sept. 11th) I received this e-mail: “My search for Ransom F. Smith, married to Carrie and living in/around Grafton, N.H., from 1812-1922 led me to your family’s online tree. I acquired his Bible and 4 daily journals (3 small, 1 large) at an auction in MA about 30 years ago. They were in the bottom of a box lot of linens! If you are interested in having them, would you please email me.”
Imagine that—I put the family’s genealogy information online Monday. The very next day a woman is cleaning her house and unpacks a linen box she hadn’t looked at for 30 years. At the bottom of the box she finds a Bible and four journals, and tries to return them to the original owner’s family.
She Googled Ransom’s name…
Bingo—she found my online family genealogy page, contacted us, and mailed these priceless family records to us. Serendipity!
It’s a great day for genealogy
Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott reports a sad discovery when doing his family history research—finding a murder in his family tree.
Ever have one of those eerie experiences that make you just a little bit scared in your family history work? I did and it happened early in my genealogy research when I decided to visit the Woodland Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio. I had been wanting to visit this cemetery for some time as I have faint memories of visiting there with my family when I was a very young boy. Additionally, in my genealogy research, I have discovered that our family has more than 160 deceased family members resting eternally in Woodland Cemetery.
On this particular cemetery visit I was planning on paying my respects to my great grandfather’s sister, Theresa Sluka. As I arrived at her grave I not only found her gravestone, but I found a substantial family burial plot. I was madly clicking photos and writing down notes as to location, directions, etc., when one of the Sluka family gravestones caught my attention.
Up until that visit, I had never seen a gravestone that held portraits captured in porcelain. The small obelisk in front of me held not one portrait, but two. As I came closer, I realized that for the first time I was gazing at the likenesses of my cousins, Albert and Frank Sluka. Both looked remarkably young and then I noticed that Albert died at just 29 (1877-1907) and his brother, Frank, wearing a uniform of some sort in his portrait, died at only 33 (1878-1912).
It wasn’t an hour later that I was booting up my computer and digging into these two family members. Beginning with Albert, my first stop was at GenealogyBank.com and I was not disappointed. On the first page of search results there was an article from the front page of the Plain Dealer:
I felt as if the headline was screaming at me. I couldn’t believe what I was reading: “Policeman Dies in Street Fight. Is Stabbed Just Once, but Life Ebbs Away in Short Time.”
Only three blocks from the very cemetery where I had been standing only an hour earlier, my cousin, wearing his badge and working as a “Special Policeman,” was stabbed to death by a man he had bounced from a dancehall! The old newspaper article explained the crime scene and reported that his brother was a member of the Cleveland Police Department. My curiosity, being fully piqued at this point, kept me looking further.
Amidst the tragedy of this police murder story, I discovered in another newspaper article that the Cleveland Police did indeed get their man, who was a fellow by the name of Harry Fertel:
The news of Albert Sluka’s murder was carried in other newspapers in other states, such as this historical news article which appeared on the front page of an Indiana paper:
GenealogyBank.com was finding, and I was reading, news stories that covered the initial reports of the assault and crime, and explanations of the impact of the murder on my ancestors including this: “The aged father and mother of the dead policeman are brokenhearted. All day long they sat sobbing beside the casket in the little front room of their home at 5311 McBride Av., S.E…”
I was even learning about my great aunt trying to get her son’s killer sentenced to serve his time in the Penitentiary rather than the Ohio State Reformatory—which itself was none too nice, as revealed in the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption (the movie was filmed at the Ohio State Reformatory).
Ever since that first day of those discoveries about my cousin Albert and his murder, I have been further augmenting my knowledge of this family tragedy with information available from the coroner’s autopsy report, trial transcripts, jail records, and more.
The one thing I can tell you for certain is that reading those early newspaper articles sure beats any TV courtroom drama I have ever seen, because, as they say, “This Is Family.”
Throw a dart at a map and you’ll find a genealogy meeting pretty much every week of the year.
One of the key upcoming conferences is the 44th Annual Conference on Family History & Genealogy, held on the Brigham Young University campus in Provo, Utah. If you’d like to attend this year’s event here are the BYU conference details:
Conference Dates: July 31 to August 3, 2012
Phone number: 1-801-422-4853
The theme of this year’s genealogy conference will be “Strengthening the ties that bind families together through family history.” It will offer classes for genealogists of all skill levels.
Noncredit registration for the four-day family history event, including a CD syllabus, is $180. Family history consultants will receive a $25 discount on general conference registration. The for-credit cost for the conference (including two credits of History 481R—Family History-Directed Research—and a CD syllabus) is $440. To register, call 1-877-221-6716 or visit http://ce.byu.edu/cw/cwgen/
Key BYU Conference Speakers
These conference classes will explore: family trees, FamilySearch, international research, German research, youth and genealogy, computers and technology, and methodology.
Two hands-on workshops will be offered. A “German Gothic Handwriting Workshop,” taught by Warren Bittner, will be held from 9:45 a.m.–noon Tuesday. Participants will learn to decipher the German Gothic handwriting used on many genealogical records in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Scandinavia.
The second hands-on workshop, “Building a Genealogy Website” held on Tuesday from 1:30 to 5 p.m., will teach participants how to make their research available to the world by creating their own family history website using Google Sites. It will be taught by Rebecca Smith, Noel Coleman and Hannah Allan.
GenealogyWallCharts.com is offering conference attendees a free black-and-white fan chart of their family trees. To take advantage of this offer, order the chart online and then pick it up at the conference at no charge.
Men’s and women’s housing, which includes lunch each day of the genealogy conference, is available on the BYU campus for $100. Conference participants who are not staying in BYU campus housing can buy a $25 lunch card that covers hot lunches, a salad bar, drinks and dessert at the Morris Center each day of the conference.
It can be very difficult to find women in the early 19th Century – finding sources that actually give their names and genealogical details. It was common in the 19th century for genealogical sources to be brief and give only the basic information about a household in the census – or an entry in a birth register.
The 1800 – 1840 census – only named one person in the entire family – the head of the household – while that could have been a single woman who never married or was widowed – it was most often the husband. Most American’s men and women were not named in the census.
Birth and church registers often record brief information – with entries like:
1812 July 28. A son, to Walter Hickenlooper.
What was the son’s or the mother’s name?
So researchers become experts in tracking down records that give more information – that fill in the missing details of our family trees.
Genealogists write me all the time with their success stories in finding their elusive ancestors using GenealogyBank.
GenealogyBank is particularly strong on pre-1850 newspapers – with over 1,300 titles.
GenealogyBank has over 3,700 newspapers – that range from 1690 to today ….. you can find the details about women in GenealogyBank – information that is just not in the census and often not found in other early 19th century sources. Newspapers you just won’t find on other sites.
I have been working on my Brundage line and documenting all of the grandparents; aunts and cousins in Westchester, New York and the family members that have spread across the country.
I found this Brundage obituary notice (Hudson River (NY) Chronicle 8 Oct 1839) that illustrates the point –
In the 1820 Census – John Brundage is living in Bedford, NY – with his wife (unnamed) and family. By the 1840 census – neither one of them was listed. Why?
This obituary article tells us that John has died and that his “widow” – Rachael Brundage died on 26 Sep 1839 at age “about 44 years” – well before the 1840 census. I now knew what had happened to them.
Clue #1 – Name: Rachael Brundage: a widow of John Brundage; her age; her date & place of death
Clue #2 – Name of husband: John Brundage – and that he had predeceased her
In addition to the details about Rachael & John Brundage – the article has two other obituaries.
Look at the facts that we find about these women: Harriet Sutherland and Deborah Cornwell.
The article tells us that Harriet Sutherland died on 25 Sep 1839 at “Middle Patent” – (North Castle, NY) – the widow of John Sutherland. It gives her age as “aged about 46 years”.
Clue #1 – Name: Harriet Sutherland: a widow of John Sutherland; her age; her date & place of death
Clue #2 – Name of husband: John Sutherland- and that he had predeceased her
And in the third obituary in this article we learn that “Miss Deborah Cornwell, daughter of the late Jonathan Cornwell” died 6 Sep 1839 in Henrietta, Monroe County, NY at the “fiftieth year of her age” and that she was “formerly of New Castle (NY).”
Clue #1 – Name: Deborah Cornwell: a daughter of Jonathan Cornwell; her age; her date & place of death; that she formerly lived in New Castle, NY.
Clue #2 – Name of father: Jonathan Cornwell- and that he had predeceased her
It can be difficult to find a good woman in the early 19th century – but newspapers are a terrific source and GenealogyBank has more of them than you will find anywere else.
Click here and search GenealogyBank right now and see what you will find.