Ship Records for Genealogy: Newspapers & Passenger Lists

Every family historian wants to know the ship their ancestor came over on and the date that it arrived.

Along with Thanksgiving, tomorrow we’ll be celebrating the arrival of the Mayflower in 1620.

That trip took 66 days. Remarkably, when my ancestor William Kemp came to America 233 years later that trip still took a long time: 56 days.

Genealogists often can find the date and the name of the ship their ancestor came over on—but is there more to the story?
Is there a way to find out more details about our ancestors?

Yes—we can find the rest of the story and, importantly, pass it down in the family. We can find it in GenealogyBank’s 3 centuries of newspaper archives.

Stories from the Mayflower Voyage

In the case of the Pilgrims coming to America, the old newspapers fill in the story, reporting that the Mayflower voyage was very difficult. The Boston Herald tells us that “halfway across the ocean, the point of no return, the Mayflower ran into the first of ‘many fierce storms.’”

article about the Mayflower's cross-Atlantic trip in 1620, Boston Herald newspaper article 25 November 1970

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 25 November 1970, page 26

One violent storm at sea cracked and buckled the main beam. The news article reports that the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower were terrified. Luckily they had brought along nails, screws and other items for building homes in the New World, and were able to use a “great iron scrue” to “force the beam back into place.”

Enter Last Name

What about My Ancestor’s Story?

I have always wanted to know exactly when my ancestor William Kemp came to America, and I finally found that date and the name of the ship on the free Internet site CastleGarden.org.

William arrived in America on 21 October 1853, a passenger on the ship Benjamin Adams.

There it is in the ship passenger list: the name of the ship and the date of his arrival!
Done.

With this information, I did a search on FamilySearch and found confirmation.

screenshot of New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891

Source: FamilySearch “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1891” https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/275L-W4Z

screenshot of New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891, showing the listing for William Kemp

Source: FamilySearch “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1891” https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/275L-W4Z

But, Was There More to William’s Story?

The name of the ship and the arrival date are good to know, but I wanted to find out more about William’s story—and old newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, are a good resource for finding our ancestors’ stories.

Searching GenealogyBank by the name of the ship—not the name of my ancestor—I found this article in the American and Commercial Daily Advertiser reporting that the Benjamin Adams left Friday 26 March 1852 on its maiden voyage from Bath, Maine, to Baltimore, Maryland.

shipping news, American and Commercial Daily Advertiser newspaper article 1 April 1852

American and Commercial Daily Advertiser (Baltimore, Maryland), 1 April 1852, page 3

Advertisements for “the splendid ship Benjamin Adams” highlighted its comfortable accommodations of 6 to 8 cabins above deck and another 75 to 80 accommodations in steerage below deck.

article about the accomodations on the ship "Benjamin Adams," American and Commercial Daily Advertiser newspaper article 28 April 1852

American and Commercial Daily Advertiser (Baltimore, Maryland), 28 April 1852, page 1

Once William Kemp made his decision to emigrate he would have taken a steamship from Ireland to Liverpool, England, arriving at Clarence Dock along the Mersey River in Liverpool.

Liverpool has a series of docks along the banks of the Mersey River. It was one of the major hubs of immigration to America.

According to Liverpool and Emigration in the 19th and 20th Centuries, Information Sheet number 64:

By 1851 it had become the leading emigration port in Europe with 159,840 passengers sailing to North America, as opposed to the second port, Le Havre, [France] with 31,859.

This would have been the scene in mid-19th century Liverpool when William arrived to wait for his ship to America.

painting: “Liverpool Docks from Wapping,” 1870, by John Atkinson Grimshaw

Painting: “Liverpool Docks from Wapping,” 1870, by John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893). Source: original is at the Liverpool City Library, Liverpool, England.

The Preparation and Movement of Ships

Here is a newspaper article reporting that the ship Benjamin Adams had moved from the dock and into the Mersey River ready to head outbound—waiting to move up the river with the aid of a tugboat that will direct it safely to the open ocean.

shipping news, Portland Weekly Advertiser newspaper article 13 September 1853

Portland Weekly Advertiser (Portland, Maine), 13 September 1853, page 3

The big day arrived: the Benjamin Adams set sail on 24 August 1853 bound for New York City.

shipping news, Daily Atlas newspaper article 10 September 1853

Daily Atlas (Boston, Massachusetts), 10 September 1853, page 2

Ship Arrival Times

It was announced in the Weekly Herald newspaper that the Benjamin Adams arrived in New York City on 21 October 1853.
They made it.

shipping news, Weekly Herald newspaper article 22 October 1853

Weekly Herald (New York City, New York), 22 October 1853, page 344

News Stories of Trouble at Sea

Newspapers can tell us just how difficult the cross-Atlantic trip was for our ancestors. That Weekly Herald article gave more details on the trip. The voyage took 56 days with 620 passengers on board. The ship was hit by a storm, suffering major damage:

Sept. 10, while laying to under a close reefed topsail in a heavy gale from the NW, lost all three topgallant masts, closed reefed mizzen topsail, foresail, mainsail, stern boat, and received other damage.

The old news article also reported: “Had 15 deaths on the passage.”

A week later the Weekly Herald told us why so many had died.

Great Mortality in Emigrant Ships, Weekly Herald newspaper article 29 October 1853

Weekly Herald (Albany, New York), 29 October 1853, page 350

Cholera was killing passengers on ship after ship:

…it is pretty certain that the disease which carried them off was cholera, that fatal malady which is making such havoc among the shipping in Europe…The sickness on the Benjamin Adams was decidedly cholera.

Cholera was a major problem in England and Europe in the mid-1800s. In 1853-1854 it killed more than 31,000 people in London alone. It would be another year before the pioneering work of John Snow, M.D. (1813-1858) discovered the cause and cure for the repeated cholera epidemics.

The Albany Evening Journal had this report about the arrival of the Benjamin Adams.

article about the ship "Benjamin Adams," Albany Evening Journal newspaper article 22 October 1853

Albany Evening Journal (Albany, New York), 22 October 1853, page 2

Passenger Ship Routes

Wait—the Benjamin Adams arrived “from Syria” bringing “a Jerusalem plow and other articles from the Holy Land, for the Crystal Palace at New York”? Notice that it stopped in Boston, Massachusetts, before continuing on to New York City.

When was the ship in Syria?

Enter Last Name

Digging deeper into GenealogyBank’s old newspapers—there it is.

The ship was in Beirut on July 25th before going to Liverpool to pick up William Kemp and the other 619 passengers.

shipping news, Daily Atlas newspaper article 1 September 1853

Daily Atlas (Boston, Massachusetts), 1 September 1853, page 2

The Springfield Republican gave more details.

article about the ship "Benjamin Adams," Springfield Republican newspaper article 25 October 1853

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts), 25 October 1853, page 2

In addition to the “Arab plough,” the Benjamin Adams brought:

…canes from the banks of the Jordan, branches from the Mount of Olives and cedars of Lebanon, and husks that the “prodigal son” would have eaten if he had had them to eat.

Conclusion

When I began searching for the name of the ship and the date that William Kemp arrived in America, I only knew that William was born in Corradownan, County Cavan, Ireland. I did not know any additional details about William’s cross-Atlantic trip.

Thanks to CastleGarden.org and FamilySearch.org, I learned that he came over on the ship Benjamin Adams and that he arrived in New York City on 21 October 1853.

Those were the basic facts, but it took the old newspapers in GenealogyBank’s deep newspaper archives to fill in the rest of the story. These newspapers gave me the details of how dangerous the trip was, reported that it took an incredible 56 days, provided a description of the ship’s accommodations, and listed the interesting ancient relics it was bringing from Syria to the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations—the World’s Fair—held in 1853 in New York City.

Old documents give us the names, dates and places, but newspapers have the stories that give life to our ancestors and make their experiences memorable and unforgettable.

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Old Family Photos Reveal More about Our Family Stories

Here’s a tip for your family history research: Use old photos of your ancestors to generate family stories.

photo of John and Mary (Brown) Kemp

Photo: John and Mary (Brown) Kemp. Source: Kemp family records.

Start the Conversation

This past weekend I took this old family photo off the wall to scan it and add it to my family history collection online.

It shows my great-grandparents John and Mary (Brown) Kemp and was taken in the late 1930s. I asked my Dad what he could tell me about this old photo of my ancestors.

He described his grandparents and the old black and white photo—even where the bench was in the backyard in Stamford, Connecticut. He said that the gate on the left side of the photo opened up to Frank Street and added:

Behind the low bushes in the background is a driveway leading to their garage. I don’t know why they had a garage—my grandfather never owned a car. He rode a bicycle to work.

Wow—my great-grandparents never owned a car!
That seems odd in modern society.

Enter Last Name










My Dad went on:

On the right is one of the several cherry trees that were along the tall back fence that separated their property from the playground field of the Rogers Junior High School. When I walked over to visit my grandparents I would climb that fence and play with the kids in the playground.

Still looking for your old family photos? Be sure to check GenealogyBank’s “Search Photos” search page to find photos of your family.

Show those old photos of your ancestors to your relatives and see what additional family details and stories you discover.

Please write in and tell us what surprises you find out in your genealogy research.

Related Articles about Genealogy & Family Photos:

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Using Obituaries to Pay It Forward: Boomerang Effect

I am always looking at Kemps, wanting to know if they are related to me or not.

Since Kemp is a pretty rare surname, I like to pull recent “Kemp” obituaries and trace back their family line to see if the person is a relative of mine. If he is—terrific; I’ll add his line to my family tree. But if he’s not I am still glad I took the time since the more “Kemp” family trees I can plant, trace and put online, the faster I will have found and documented my family and at the same time made it easier for other Kemps to discover their family history.

It will take a while, but I’d like to think that I can organize and account for all Kemps—and by putting the genealogical information I find online, I am making a lasting contribution for further genealogy research, sort of creating an extended Kemp family forest.

Researching Further with Recent Obituaries

Here’s what I do.

I go to GenealogyBank’s Recent Newspaper Obituaries collection and pull a recent Kemp obituary to see which Kemp line that person belongs to.

For example, here is the obituary for Fred Benny Kemp, who died one week ago.

obituary for Fred Benny Kemp, Avenue News newspaper article 29 August 2014

Avenue News (Essex, Maryland), 29 August 2014

I took this recent Kemp obituary and plugged the information into my online family tree. Looking at the old newspapers, the census and similar sources, I quickly pulled together his family tree.

No, Fred Benny Kemp is not related to my Kemp line—but the tree is planted online so future family historians can build on the family tree I started.

Digging Deeper into the Kemp Story

But wait—there’s more.

Fred Benny Kemp was in World War II—a gunner on a B-24 Liberator bomber.

Hey—so was my Dad.

Maybe there is a connection after all.

Googling for more information, I found this video interview on YouTube uploaded by WBAL – Baltimore, Maryland, in 2012:

http://youtu.be/LLmG3dqBC5c

Here is the key quote:

In World War Two I flew a B-24 with the 450 Bomb Group, 722nd Bomb Squadron.

Hey—that sounds familiar.

I double checked, and my Dad was in the 450 Bomb Group—but in the 723rd Squadron. Both were stationed in Manduria, Italy.

Had their paths in life ever crossed?

Had they met each other?

Almost—but they didn’t meet.

According to the video interview, Fred Kemp’s B-24 left his air base in Manduria, Italy, on 25 February 1944, when he was shot down and remained a POW for the duration of the war. Since my Dad was transferred to Manduria four months later on 11 June 1944 they never met.

Search All Your Surname Obituaries

Using GenealogyBank’s obituaries to research “all” Kemps who have lived in America is a fun way to pay it forward and help other genealogists. It was also good to see that these two Kemps—though not related—had similar experiences in the war. If I hadn’t picked his obituary at random, I never would have learned the rest of this story.

Do you ever research your extended family tree using obituaries? If so, what nuggets have you found? Please share with us in the comments.

Related Obituary Research Articles & Video Tutorial:

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What Do You Plan to Do with Your Old Family Heirlooms?

Maybe you have an old cedar chest, or other large object, as one of your prized family heirlooms.

photo of a cedar chest

Source: Abernethy’s

We have an old chest that was owned by my grandmother, Adelaide Mildred (Wright) Kemp (1893-1949), and it was said that it had been passed down to her mother, Ida Estelle (Smith) Wright (1873-1963).

Now if the only family heirloom we had was one object, we might be able to handle that—but wait, there’s more.

Much more.

There are also old photos—large ones, framed—and dishware, glasses, books, and on and on.

What do you do when your home has become the designated family museum—and you start looking to the future wondering what will become of these treasured heirlooms?

Start by taking a photograph of each heirloom and upload that to your online family tree. Record which relative owned the object and tell the object’s story. What is it? Who owned it? And why is it important to the family?

That’s a start.

Enter Last Name










But, as you look to the future, what is your plan if other family members are not interested in these old heirlooms?

What is the best way to preserve these pieces of your family history?

What solutions do you have for heirloom preservation?

What is your plan?

Please share and give all of us the benefit of your best thinking on this.

Related Family History Preservation Articles:

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Family History Fact Finding: True Family Stories in Newspapers

GenealogyBank has really been great for finding the personal stories of each family member.

I have been systematically going through the old newspapers looking for my Revolutionary War ancestors, and the other day I decided to look for my more recent ancestors and cousins.

A quick search found this article.

article about an accident at the St. John Wood Working Company, Stamford Advocate newspaper article 12 November 1886

Stamford Advocate (Stamford, Connecticut), 12 November 1886, page 2

The historical newspaper article reports:

A young man named Kemp, employed at St. John, Hoyt & Co.’s planing mill, got his right arm badly injured by an accident on Tuesday last [9 November 1886]. It got caught in a dove-tailing machine, which lacerated the flesh and broke the bone. It is said the arm will be saved, though perhaps in a more or less disabled condition.

I recognized that this was my cousin George Andrew Kemp (1864-1935) even though the article did not give his full name.

Enter Last Name










illustration of the St. John Wood Working Company, Hardwood and Cabinet Department

Image: St. John Wood Working Company, Hardwood and Cabinet Department. Source: “Picturesque Stamford – 1892,” Stamford Historical Society.

Digging deeper I found this follow-up newspaper article.

article about an accident by George Kemp at the St. John Wood Working Company, Stamford Advocate newspaper article 18 February 1887

Stamford Advocate (Stamford, Connecticut), 18 February 1887, page 2

According to the 1800s news article:

George A. Kemp, who about three months ago had his arm badly lacerated, has through the surgical treatment of Drs. Hungerford and A. M. Hurlbutt, and under the skillful care of Dr. Geib, come out with a magnificent arm, with a new joint which will answer for an elbow. He is now able to resume his work at the same place—the St. John Wood-Working Co.

Confirmation.

Enter Last Name










Great—it was George Andrew Kemp, and the second article gave information about the surgical procedure and the physicians who performed it.

We have a family story that George had hurt his arm and was handicapped for the rest of his life.

Thanks to these articles in old newspapers, we have confirmation and more of the details of his personal story. We did not know that he was only 22 years old at the time of the accident, or that this handicap would last for the rest of his adult life.

Family history also tells us that while he was no longer able to work in the wood shop, the accident didn’t slow him down. He opened his own business and sold goods as a traveling salesman, delivering kerosene and doughnuts with his horse and wagon for the next 49 years. He died in 1935 at age 71 years of age.

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It’s OK to Plant Trees in Winter—Family Trees, That Is

Let’s make 2014 the Year of the Tree: family trees.

I encourage you to plant new family trees every month in this New Year.

photo of a frozen tree

Credit: Wikipedia

Like you, growing my family tree and documenting each person in it keeps me busy. More and more information is constantly going online for us to search and add to our family histories. For example, every week GenealogyBank adds millions of additional records including obituaries, birth notices, marriage announcements and other useful articles.

My family tree easily has over 20,000 different names. As I find obituaries for others with the same surnames I am working on, it is interesting for me to see if that person is related to my family.

In a typical day, I’ll pick an obituary for any random “Kemp” or “Varney” and trace back that person’s lineage, chaining through obituaries, marriage and engagement announcements, and the census records to see if they hook into my family tree.

I take that information and plant it on several of the online family tree sites, putting all of my research notes and links online. This makes it easy for me to navigate my sprouting forest of family trees so that I can quickly refer back to them.

In time I can see if any name on these growing sprouts is related to me or not. Having all of the information online also allows other researchers on the same family lines to collaborate by adding to and documenting these lines with sources and photographs. It is essential that we put everything we can online. I limit this to only the deceased members of my family tree, and do not put information about my living relatives online in order to protect their privacy.

Perhaps a certain “Kemp” I found is a relative or not. As I chain back in time the number of individuals and surnames double and double again and again. While this person might not be related to me at first glance, by looking deeper I might find that this person is a cousin through another side of the family tree.

This is especially true in smaller geographic areas. For example, I have found that today I am related to almost everyone that lived in pre-1820 eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire. While they were not all related at that time, adding in the generations over the past 200 years has multiplied the odds that there is now a direct relationship to all of them today on my family tree.

By taking the time to organize, document and sprout mini-family trees online, I increase the odds of my linking up all of my extended family members over time.

Play it forward and plant more family trees online throughout the year. It will benefit you and all of your genealogy colleagues.

Make 2014 the Year of the Tree.

DNA Testing & Genealogy: Is It Working for You?

Clearly DNA testing is revolutionizing 21st Century family history research.

DNA Testing Helps Orphan Find His Family

There are heartwarming stories about successful DNA tests—like that of 80-year-old Patrick J. Holland, who was raised in an orphanage and through DNA testing finally found his family.

Here is the full report on this touching family story, from CNN:

http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/us/2013/10/11/dnt-tx-dna-solves-mystery.wfaa.html

photo of a CNN report of 80-year-old Patrick J. Holland, who was raised in an orphanage and through DNA testing finally found his family

Credit: CNN

DAR Accepts DNA Test Results

Lynn Young, national president of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), has announced that the DAR is now accepting DNA test results as proof for women wanting to apply for membership.

For more details about the new DAR membership acceptance policy, see: http://youngblog.dar.org/dna-evidence-dar-applications-and-supplementals

photo of Lynn Young, president general of the Daughters of the American Revolution

Credit: DAR

The new acceptance program starts with a DAR member with a proven (well-documented), accepted membership. Next you need to get DNA test results from a male descendant in that line. Then, if someone is applying for DAR membership but cannot produce the paper trail documentation back to the Revolutionary War period, there is now a way for that person to still gain membership—if that person has a DNA match between male relatives in both lines. The DAR says that the DNA evidence from both lines demonstrates that the applicant is related to the already-accepted member, and the applicant can use that DNA evidence of the male relative in support of her application.

DNA Study of Spanish Jews

A new DNA study of the descendants of Spanish (Sephardic) Jews has shown that statistically all Jews alive today have at least one Sephardic Jewish ancestor. Read the new genealogical study on Spanish Jewish ancestry from Cornell University here: http://arxiv.org/abs/1310.1912

map showing migrations and settlements of the Spanish Jews

Credit: Wikipedia

European Jewish DNA Study

Another just-released Jewish DNA study shows that: “…the women who founded the Ashkenazi Jewish community of Europe were not from the Near East, as previously supposed, and reinforces the idea that many Jewish communities outside Israel were founded by single men who married and converted local women.” Read the complete New York Times (New York, New York), 8 October 2013, genealogy report here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/09/science/ashkenazi-origins-may-be-with-european-women-study-finds.html?_r=0

Genes Suggest European Women at Root of Ashkenazi Family Tree, New York Times newspaper article 8 October 2013

Credit: New York Times

Kemp Genealogy DNA Study

I am participating in a Kemp DNA study and it has changed our conclusions of our ancestral connections. The DNA test we’ve been participating in has shown that our County Cavan, Ireland, Kemp line is completely separate from the County Kent, England, Kemp line—which is the largest recorded Kemp family.

See the current Kemp DNA test results here:
http://www.familytreedna.com/public/Kemp/default.aspx?section=ycolorized

test results from a Kemp DNA study

Credit: FamilyTree DNA

Our Cavan Kemp descendants are all coded to R1a1. The English Kemp lines are all coded to R1b1, which appears similar but—the experts tell me—actually proves that the two Kemp lines are not related at all.

Interestingly, the German Kemp lines are coded to E, and the Scandinavian Kemp lines are coded to I.

The R1a1 marker has remained consistent with the Cavan Kemp descendants in the Canadian line: Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Ireland and here in the United States.

These DNA test findings changed our entire view of how “all” Kemp lines are or are not related.

Is DNA Testing Working for You?

Has a DNA study impacted your family history research? Has it changed your view of your family tree?

What are you finding?

What breakthroughs have you found from DNA testing?

Please share your experiences with DNA testing in the comments section.

What Can I Find in GenealogyBank about My Cousin Maid Marion?

No, I don’t mean Robin Hood’s love interest from the 16th century.

I’m referring to my cousin Marion Morgan Kemp (1862-1963) who owned villas in France, New York and Rome.

Years ago I contacted the authorities in Osmoy, France, where she died and received a copy of her death certificate.

photo of the death certificate for Marion Morgan Kemp (1862-1963)

Credit: Thomas Jay Kemp

Since Marion lived most of her life overseas, I wondered if I could find more details of her life in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

I quickly found many old newspaper articles about her that gave me a better sense of Marion’s social and civic activities. She not only hosted many events, but also during World War II—after the Allies retook Rome in June of 1944—she lent her personal villa for the use of President Roosevelt’s representative in Rome.

If you read the news article about the villa takeover carefully, you’ll see that her 60-room villa was highly sought after, causing “a scramble among high Allied officers who wanted it.” President Roosevelt’s personal representative, Myron Taylor, won the right to occupy her prized villa when he showed up with a personal letter from Marion—turns out they had known each other for many years.

collage of news articles about Marion Kemp, from GenealogyBank

Credit: GenealogyBank

Notice where the above three articles about Marion appeared:

  • “Mrs. Coolidge Honored,” Springfield Union (Springfield, Massachusetts), 14 August 1949, page 16.
  • “Sporting Tea in Stable,” Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 9 April 1905, page 8.
  • “Myron Taylor Wins Row over Mansion in Rome,” Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), 4 July 1944, page 3.

These are terrific articles, published in newspapers from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Not locations where I had expected to find more information about my ancestor, but pleasant surprises nonetheless.

I had almost limited my record search to only New York newspapers, since that is one of the cities where she owned a home—but I went with a full search of GenealogyBank. It’s a good thing I did— I otherwise wouldn’t have discovered the interesting news articles I found that gave me a glimpse into her life.

Genealogy Search Tip: Cast a wide net when searching newspapers and gather in all of the articles about your family. You never know what you might find out about your ancestors.

Watch Our Genealogy Tutorial Videos on YouTube

Did you know that we have a YouTube channel where you can watch hours of video that will help you do better genealogy research? Many of these in-depth genealogy videos are recordings of previous online webinars in which our expert in-house genealogist and Director of Genealogy Products Tom Kemp demonstrates how to find your ancestors using GenealogyBank. Discover the types of ancestry records that are in newspapers and how to gather the clues they contain to trace your family tree, and so much more, in our helpful genealogy tutorial videos.

screenshot of GenealogyBank genealogy tutorial videos on YouTube

Visit our genealogy videos page on YouTube to start watching now! While you are there make sure to subscribe to our channel by clicking the red “Subscribe” button in the right corner of the page because we will be adding many more videos soon. Enjoy and stay tuned!

Top Genealogy Websites, Pt. 6: Search Cemeteries Online

A few weeks ago I wrote about online cemetery records (See: Top Genealogy Websites, Pt. 3: Burial & Cemetery Records). In that article I wrote about the U.S. Veterans Administration’s Nationwide Gravesite Locator, Find-A-Grave, and BillionGraves.

Now I want to show how you can help your family history research by using information from these three websites: Find-A-Grave, GenealogyBank and Nationwide Gravesite Locator.

As shown in my earlier blog article, I gave Find-A-Grave a try by registering and adding the tombstone photo of my great-grandfather John Henry Kemp (1866-1944).

Registering with Find-A-Grave triggered a mini-avalanche of requests by family members and genealogists from around the country asking if I could take photos of their relatives’ tombstones at cemeteries in my local area. In the past week I’ve received almost 20 requests so far and they are still coming in: requests for me to take photos of gravestones in cemeteries all around my county.

Find-A-Grave has a “Request A Photo” feature that lets you ask nearby genealogists to take a photo of your target ancestor’s tombstone and post it to Find-A-Grave.

screenshot of the "Request A Photo" page from the website Find-A-Grave

Credit: Find-A-Grave

So I decided to give it a try and volunteered to be a gravesite photographer.

I received a request to photograph the tombstone of Daniel J. Clifford. They said that he was buried at the Connecticut State Veterans Cemetery in Middletown, Connecticut, in 1997.

First, I did a quick search on GenealogyBank and immediately pulled up Clifford’s obituary, giving me more details about him. He was 86 years old when he died and yes, he was buried in the Connecticut State Veterans Cemetery.

obituary for Daniel Clifford, Hartford Courant newspaper article 25 October 1997

Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut), 25 October 1997, page B3

Next, I searched Nationwide Gravesite Locator to get a quick summary of Clifford’s military service and burial site.

screenshot of record for Daniel Clifford from website Nationwide Gravesite Locator

Credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

It shows that he was a Tec 5 in the U.S. Army and served in WWII. It also tells us that he was buried in Section 81-G, Site 02 in the State Veterans Cemetery.

That is a great feature of the network of military cemeteries: service members are not buried randomly—they are buried in neat, orderly rows. With that section and site number it is easy to go directly to Daniel Clifford’s grave.

So—I headed out this morning to do just that. Armed with my iPad, I went to see if I could actually do this. As you drive into the cemetery you can see the small markers indicating the sections. There was Section 81-G.

Walking the rows I was able to quickly find tombstone 02 in Section 81-G. Notice that the stones have the location code engraved on the back of the tombstone.

photo of the rear of Daniel Clifford's tombstone

Credit: Thomas Jay Kemp

Simple.

Here is his gravestone.

photo of the front of Daniel Clifford's tombstone

Credit: Thomas Jay Kemp

Sharp, clear and easy to read.

Find-A-Grave, Nationwide Gravesite Locator and GenealogyBank are essential tools genealogists rely on to get details of the lives of every member of their family.

Now—another word. I took these tombstone photos for Find-A-Grave with my iPad.

Imagine that.

When I first looked at an iPad I could see no practical value in having one. I could do everything I needed with my laptop—why would I need this extra tool? I quickly found that its always-on Apple software lets me check e-mail anytime, without having to wait for the laptop to crank up.

Now I see that it can actually take photos. Good ones, too.

It was easy to work with. When using it at the cemetery I could easily see the tombstone in the full screen image. It was even easier to frame the photo and to take the picture.

Wow. That was simple.

I have been working on my family history for the past 50 years. There’s always something new to learn.

Last year I learned how to text, to keep in touch with the kids—and now I have an iPad.

Couple this technology with such core tools as Find-A-Grave, Nationwide Gravesite Locator and GenealogyBank, and it’s clearly “A Great Day for Genealogy!”

Read these other blog articles about top genealogy websites:

Top Genealogy Websites, Pt. 1: Google

Top Genealogy Websites, Pt. 2: Google Books & Internet Archive

Top Genealogy Websites, Pt. 3: Burial & Cemetery Records

Top Genealogy Websites, Pt. 4: BillionGraves Smartphone App for Finding Graves

Top Genealogy Websites, Pt. 5: State Vital Records in the U.S.