May 29, 2016

Census Research Tip: Why Look at the Same Thing Twice

census research tipWhen may it pay off to look at the same records or indexes twice? When you can compare them on different genealogy websites. Here’s an example for this census research tip.

You’ve probably noticed that some record sets are available online at multiple websites. At each site, the images and indexes you find may be a little different. Online tools for viewing and searching at each site may also be different.

For example, a digitized image may be faded, dark, blurry, blotchy, cut off, or otherwise unreadable on one website but clearer on another site. Here are two images from the first few lines of the 1880 U.S. Federal Census taken in Bay Minette, Baldwin, Alabama. The first image comes from HeritageQuest Online (available at public libraries) and the second is from Ancestry.com. See the difference?

Alabama census image HeritageQuest census research tip

alabama census image ancestry census research tip

As you can see, depending on which line you’re reading, one image may be clearer than another.

Here’s another census research tip: The online tools available at each site are different, too. At HeritageQuest Online, you can view the image at original size, 200% or 400%, and you can look at the image as a negative, which sometimes helps faded text stand out a little more. Ancestry.com lets you zoom in and out, magnify specific areas, and rotate the image or view it in mirror form (in case you’re trying to read backward text bleeding through from the other side).

HeritageQuest Online improvesMore Gems for Online Genealogy Research

HeritageQuest Online Gets Better with Ancestry’s Support

4 Tips for Getting the Most out of Ancestry.com

Genealogy Gems Premium podcast episode 125: HeritageQuest Online, Ancestry Library edition and other great genealogy resources at the public library (Available only to Genealogy Gems Premium website members)

 

YDNA for Genealogy: 3 Scenarios When YDNA is Useful


YDNANot sure how to use YDNA for genealogy? Check out these 3 common reasons to test–or have a male relative do so.

The Y chromosome DNA test, more affectionately referred to as the YDNA test, is the darling of the DNA testing industry. (At least, I think so.) In fact, of the three kinds of DNA tests, the YDNA is my favorite. It has several excellent qualities that make it useful in many genealogical scenarios, but let’s look at three.

Use YDNA for Genealogy When…

1. You Have a Missing Father

Now all of us should be able to identify with this genealogical problem. Every line in your family history has this problem. Any ancestor whose father is currently unknown falls in this category.

And YDNA can help.

The specific quality of YDNA that makes it so attractive in this case is its faithfulness in passing down its record generation after generation, without fail, without changing, from one man to the next. That means that any living male today has the same (or very similar) YDNA as every male in his direct paternal line, back 8, 10, 12+ generations. Therefore every man’s YDNA is the clue that could lead you to discover that missing father. Usually what it takes is a match in the YDNA database with another descendant of your common ancestor. Ideally, this person knows something that you don’t about that missing father, and the two of you can work together to verify and extend your family history.

2. Your Relative is worried about Privacy

While DNA testing has certainly entered a season of relative acceptance among genealogists, there are still many skeptics who wonder what the eventual ramifications of having your DNA tested might bring. While this is a subject that certainly deserves some attention, the YDNA is actually the easiest test to sell to a nervous relative. The very qualities that make YDNA testing valuable, namely that every male descendant of a given ancestor will have the same YDNA, make it equally impossible to identify any particular individual uniquely. This means that the YDNA record that is created when a man takes a YDNA test cannot ever be traced back to him alone. That same record could have easily come from his brother, or 1st, or 5th cousin.

Similarly, the YDNA test results do not have a link to your health. The regions that are tested are generally parts that are not useful for determining any kind of personal health or trait information.

3. You Have a Surname Mix-up

One of the best applications of YDNA for genealogy comes when trying to disentangle the relationships of various men living in close proximity with other men of the same or similar surname. Having descendants of these men test their YDNA is like traveling back in time and conducting personal interviews of each of these men. It’s like saying, “Excuse me, Mr. Moffat? Is this neighbor of yours, Mr. Moffit, your uncle?” Wouldn’t you give anything for a chance to have that conversation? Well, YDNA testing gets you almost there. You might not be able to determine if they are uncle and nephew, but you will at least know if they are kin.

The bonus quality of YDNA is that it is only offered at one testing company, Family Tree DNA. So you don’t even have to decide where to be tested. Your biggest decision will be in determining what level of testing to choose. If your budget allows, you can go with the 67 marker YDNA test. But the 37 marker test is also a very good choice, and you can always upgrade to more markers at a later date without submitting a new sample.

So what are you waiting for? If you have your own YDNA, go out and start the testing process. If you have been blessed instead with two X chromosomes, send this article over to your favorite male relative and let him know that he holds a very old, very valuable record in his DNA and you want to help him make use of it.

Using DNA for Genealogy Ancestry Family Tree DNA GuidesIf this post gets you antsy to test some “Y,” I recommend you check out two of my DNA quick guides: Y Chromosome DNA for Genealogists and Understanding Family Tree DNA. Or learn more from me at YourDNAGuide.com.

3 Tips for Finding WWI Ancestors and Their Stories

WWI ancestorsHow did World War I affect your family’s lives? Start your search with these 3 tips for finding WWI ancestors. 

Our current Genealogy Gems Book Club title takes place at the outset of WWI. The Summer Before the War: A Novel
by Helen Simonson has endearing characters who experience fairly light-hearted dramas–and then they are plunged into war.

Through their eyes, readers begin to understand that those who lived through ‘the Great War’ experienced something totally unprecedented. There had never been such a massive loss of life and devastation.

1. Ask family what they know. Ask all living relatives what they know about ancestors’ involvement in World War I. Listen for stories about anyone who may have served in the military, dodged military service, took care of things on the homefront, lost their own lives or loved ones or lived in an area affected by the war. Ask about any old documents, photos or letters that may survive.

There are lots of ways to ask your relatives these questions. Poll everyone at your next family gathering or reunion. Use Facebook (click here for some great tips) or other social media. Connect with other tree owners who have documented ancestors of WWI interest (see step 2, below) through communication tools provided at sites such as Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com and FamilySearch.org.

2. Identify ancestors affected by WWI. Look for families and individuals who were alive between 1914 and 1918. Where did they live? Was it an active war zone?  Research local histories and maps to determine how their city–or even neighborhood or property–was affected. Scan death dates on your family tree–did anyone living in a war zone die during that time period?

Were they in a country that sent troops to war? If so, look for soldiers on your tree. The age of those who served in World War I varied. In general, look for men born between 1880 and 1900 who were alive in 1914. Again, look for death dates during the war.

3. Search military records on genealogy websites. Fold3.com’s WWI landing page is the place to start for WWI ancestors in the U.S., since it specializes in military records (you may be able to access it from your home library). Ancestry.com users can go to this landing page to search all WWI records from the U.S. and here to search U.K. records. Findmypast.com users can search WWI records here, including an extensive collection of British military records but also others from around the world. If you’re searching U.S. records, remember that draft registrations are not records of military service.

If you’re looking for a country or region not represented in these online collections, start Googling! Google search phrases such as “Germany WWI genealogy” will bring up results like these. (Click here to watch free video tutorials about Google searching for genealogy records.) You may discover new databases online or records collections you could access through archives or libraries.

How to Find Your Family History in NewspapersThese tips are just to get you started. As you discover records, you’ll have a better sense for the stories of your WWI ancestors. Then you can start chasing those stories in newspapers, local histories and other sources. Turn to a book like Lisa Louise Cooke’s How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers to learn sleuthing skills you’ll need for searching out your WWI family stories in the news.

More WWI Genealogy Gems for You

WWI photos, World War I photographs, WWI ancestors

British volunteers for “Kitchener’s Army” waiting for their pay in the churchyard of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London. August 1914. Wikimedia Commons Image

Europeana World War I Digital Archive

5 Ways to Discover Your Family History in WWI

More Great Books to Read, Including Orange Lilies, a WWI-era Novella in the Forensic Genealogist series by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

4 Ways to Power Up Your Courthouse Research Skillls

courthouse researchThese 4 tips for courthouse research will help you get the most out of your searches for U.S. courthouse records.

Finding your family history in a county courthouse can be a real thrill. But courthouses can be a little…overwhelming. Confusing. Intimidating. And frustrating, if you feel like you’re wasting the little bit of time you have there. So check out these four tips for getting the most out of your next trip to the courthouse–and check out a GREAT deal below on an ultimate courthouse research how-to kit.

1. Know what questions you hope to answer.

What specifically do you hope to learn at the courthouse? Examples of answers you want might be: “I want to identify every child this couple had, I want to determine which years they lived here, I want to know more about land they owned, I want to confirm vital events for these three people, I heard there was a scandal and I want to know if there are court records.” These are the kinds of questions you might successfully research at a courthouse.

2. Learn what resources exist to answer those questions.

Several different kinds of courthouse records can answer our genealogical questions: vital records, deeds, tax records, and wills, probate or estate records, tax or plat maps, road and survey books and more.

Dig around on county offices websites to see what records are at the courthouse. Watch for mention of or links to older records that may no longer be in the offices. Also, Google the name of the county and the word “archives” and see if there is an official archive. After you’ve done some online research, call the appropriate county office (Recorder, Probate, etc) with your remaining questions. Like, what vital or property records exist for a certain time period, or are there delayed birth records, etc.

3. Read up on using complicated record types before you go.

Usually we are pressed for time when we’re researching on-site. Don’t waste that time learning what grantor and grantee indexes are, the differences between different types of deeds, or what a letter of administration is. Learn these ahead of time.

The best way to do that is with some focused tutorials and classes. You can teach yourself what various types of documents look like by browsing them on your favorite genealogy website or by indexing (click here to read about different indexing opportunities). But these self-guided record tours won’t teach you the ins and outs of working with and understanding these records.

courthouse research collectionThe best value we’ve found for courthouse research education is the multimedia kit Courthouse Research Premium Collection. I developed the 4-lesson independent study course, a quick overview article and an on-demand webinar “crash course.” The kit also comes with an on-demand webinar on criminal court records by Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist (who recently appeared on the free Genealogy Gems podcast) and an e-book copy of The Family Tree Sourcebook, with information on records from every single county in the U.S.

4. Learn what you can on the spot.

Once you find something with your ancestor’s name on it at the courthouse, of course you’ll be thrilled! Don’t just make a copy and tuck it away. Try to digest and interpret what it tells you. Follow up whatever you learn in that document, because maybe it brings up another question you can answer while you’re still there. This is another reason it pays to be prepared before you head to the courthouse–so again, learn all you can before you go.

thank you for sharingThanks for sharing these practical tips with your genealogy friends and on your society Facebook pages. It’s easy, it’s free and you may help someone else learn a much-needed skill! YOU are a gem!

How to Search for Your Ancestors’ Other Children or Spouses: Genealogy Research Strategy

how to find ancestors missing childrenThe records we find don’t always mention every child or spouse of an ancestor. Use this genealogy research strategy to find “missing relatives.”

In the recent Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 133, I had the opportunity to chat with the wonderful Peggy Lauritzen, AG, about strategies for finding female ancestors. Peggy mentioned using “Parent Search” at FamilySearch.org to find dozens of previously-unknown children born to her ancestors. It’s a terrific strategy that you can start using right away.

Here’s a quick step-by-step tutorial for using “Parent Search” at FamilySearch.org. You can adapt this strategy for searching for additional spouses or other family members.

1. Go to FamilySearch.org and click Search, then Records. Or go directly to the main search page at https://familysearch.org/search/
2. In the main Search box, leave the name of the deceased ancestor blank.Scroll down to where it says “Search with a Relationship.” Click parents.
3. Enter the name of at least one parent.
4. Click “Search.”

Here’s what that search screen will look like:

Parent search on FamilySearch

It works just as slick in Ancestry. Here’s an example of searching only on the parent’s names:

ancestry parent search

 

And here are the results:

ancestry parent search results

Premium 133You can catch the entire conversation with Peggy Lauritzen, AG–including another great genealogy research strategy for finding female ancestors in records if you’re a Genealogy Gems Premium Member. Just click on the episode link above. Not a member yet? Don’t miss out on any more great search strategies like this! Click here to learn more Genealogy Gems Premium website membership’s one low annual fee–and the hundreds of hours of use-them-now tips and inspiring stories you’ll get during that year!

More Gems for Finding Your Missing Ancestors (and their Records)

Ancestors Parents6 Sources That May Name Your Ancestors’ Parents

The Case of the Missing Parents Continues: 2 Powerful Research Strategies

Look for Missing Parents in Catholic Church Records

When to Do an mtDNA Test for Genealogy

mtdna when to testShould you be doing an mtDNA test for genealogy? Should you have a female relative tested? Here are 3 scenarios in which you should.

DNA testing is becoming more and more integrated into our traditional genealogical research. Over 1.5 million people have completed some form of autosomal DNA test, testifying that the idea has finally taken root and now is almost a commonplace notion.

However, with widespread success of autosomal DNA testing at companies like Ancestry DNA (click and use code for free shipping through March 31, 2016: FREESHIPDNA) and 23andMe, the two other kinds of DNA tests are often overlooked. The Y chromosome DNA test, or yDNA, traces a direct paternal line. The mitochondrial DNA test, or mtDNA, traces a direct maternal line. Both are offered by Family Tree DNA. Is there a place for these tests among your genealogical research?

I say yes! One of the biggest limitations of autosomal DNA testing is that it cannot reliably reach back past the fourth or fifth generation in your pedigree. But both yDNA and mtDNA can.

Let’s focus on mtDNA. Remember, mtDNA is directly maternally inherited, meaning that you have the same mtDNA as your mother and all of your siblings. It is the same mtDNA as your maternal grandmother, and her mother, and so on, for ten generations or more.

When and how would you use mtDNA testing?

1. You need to grab your mtDNA before it’s gone

You have an ailing great aunt, or you yourself are one of the last remaining carriers of your mother’s mtDNA.

Having your mtDNA tested first and foremost creates a record of your direct maternal line. Just as you would obtain a birth certificate or marriage license for your ancestor to see what other important genealogical information it might contain, having a record of your mtDNA is an important part of documenting your maternal line.

2. Unknown ethnicity

You have a female ancestor whose ethnicity is unknown. Perhaps you think she is Native American or African American.

Along with your mtDNA profile, which helps you make connections with others, taking an mtDNA test gives you a haplogroup, or a deep ancestral group. There are different haplogroups for different world regions and populations. Sometimes knowing your haplogroup can help either confirm or dispel a family rumor about the heritage of a particular ancestor. Though for most it will just verify what you already know, like confirming that your maternal line is from western Europe.

3. Unknown origins

In 1873, aliens must have deposited your female ancestor in Virginia.

If you have tried every other avenue to discover your ancestor’s origins, and currently your best theory of her origins revolves around extraterrestrial beings, you can try mtDNA testing.

The results of the testing will provide you with a list of individuals who may share direct maternal line ancestry with you, and therefore might be related to this mystery ancestor. However, that shared ancestor could be as recent as 1873, or as distant as dates that require the post nominal “BC.” So, it is more or less a shot in the dark. But hey, if you don’t shoot, you will definitely miss!

In general, mtDNA testing should not be the first test you turn to when seeking out your ancestors. But it does have its place in your genealogical toolbox, so don’t be afraid to pull it out once in a while.

Genealogy DNA Quick Reference Guides Cheat Sheets To get started, I recommend my Mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA for Genealogists quick guide. It covers the basics of mtDNA testing and more on how to use it in your family history research. If you’re looking for more help with using DNA in genealogy, consider my entire series of DNA quick reference guides or come find me at YourDNAGuide.com.

3 Strategies for Finding Catholic Church Records

finding ancestors in Catholic church recordsLook for ancestors’ parents in Catholic church records. Here’s a success story and 3 tips for finding Catholic parish records you need in the U.S.

Not too long ago, Lisa shared these 6 suggestions for finding an ancestor’s parents. Kathie V. wrote back to Lisa almost immediately: “Here is a 7th way to find parents.  I found my grandparents’ church marriage record, in which it listed their parents by name & WHERE THEY WERE BORN!

Kathie went on to say that the Catholic records were from St. Stanislaus parish in Buffalo, NY. Though Kathie grew up in that area, she’s since moved around the world, and has found it difficult and expensive to research family from back home. Finding the church records was tough, she says: she started by writing to every Catholic parish in Buffalo, “with varying results.”wedding photo

Eventually Kathie found this this church marriage record on a film ordered from the Family History Library many years ago. (Click here to learn more about using Family History Library resources wherever you are.) It’s for her grandparents, Stanislawa Zdrojewska and Konstantyn Schultz, shown in the beautiful  wedding photo here that Kathie sent us. The record is tough to read but it shows several columns packed with the names, dates and locations she most wanted  to find.

Once Kathie located the right church, she was able to get much more than just this marriage record. She found baptismal records in another book. “I also was able to get burial information on some few relatives by writing the parish, which has its own cemetery.”

3 Tips for Finding Catholic Parish Records in the U.S.

(You may also be able to use these tips to find Catholic parish records in other countries.)

1. Start with existing parishes. Catholic parishes generally keep their own sacramental records. Use this Parish Locator link to locate existing parishes near your ancestor’s home (enter a ZIP code). Contact the parish and ask how old it is, whether it has its own records and whether they can send you copies.

2. Contact Catholic archives regarding closed parishes. If a parish closes, its records are supposed to be sent to  a diocesan or archdiocesan archive. Click here to find a directory of diocesan and archdiocesan offices and contact their archivist. Ask what now-closed parishes existed in that neighborhood and time and whether they have the sacramental records.

3. Look for ethnic and national parishes. By the late 1800s and early 1900s, Catholics from many countries had come to the U.S.: Irish, Italian, Polish and others. Many desperately wanted to worship and socialize in their own language at church. As a result, Catholic parishes began to be organized based on language or national origin. Look for a parish in your ancestor’s town with the right ethnic background or contact a diocesan archivist to see whether there were any.

More Gems on Finding Family History in Church Records

Evangelical Lutheran Church Records Now Online

Here’s Why Quebec Church Records are a Great Place to Look for Ancestors

Irish Catholic Parish Registers Now Online

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 131 Now Available

Premium podcast 131The new Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 131 is now available for Genealogy Gems Premium members

Genealogy Gems Premium Website Members can now log in and listen to Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 131. It’s packed with news and tips aimed at making you a better genealogist now.

My personal favorite is Lisa’s quick-but-deep tutorial on the difference between searching in indexes versus searching in unstructured data in digital books and newspapers on genealogy websites. I love that kind of “a-ha” insight!

More highlights from this episode include:

  • Judy Russell chats about genealogy cruising
  • News about Findmypast and Mocavo integration, War of 1812 pension records FREE on Fold3, new records from around the world and BIG upcoming conferences (RootsTech 2016 and NGS)
  • Finding family history on ebay and an Evernote tip from a listener
  • The NEW Genealogy Gems Book Club featured title: why we picked this tasty treat
  • Your DNA Guide’s explanation of variety in a family’s ethnic percentage DNA results

genealogists guide to dropbox premium class.JPG

Premium Spotlight: Dropbox On-Demand Video Class

Ass a Genealogy Gems Premium member we want to help you get the the most out of your annual membership. Remember, it includes Lisa’s full archive of on-demand video classes. Here’s one: “The Genealogist’s Guide to Dropbox.”

Dropbox is a free and subscription cloud-based service that allows you to sync all types of files among all your computing devices. It’s ideal for files that you want easy access to from mobile devices or for files you want to keep in a shared place for others to access, too. In this 30-minute video Lisa explains Dropbox and how to use it for genealogy.

Not a Genealogy Gems Premium Website Member yet?  Click here to learn more.

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership

 

4 Steps for Using Google Earth for Genealogy

Use Google Earth for genealogy to find long-lost family locations on modern maps. Here’s how!how to map the past with google earth for genealogy

It can be very surprising to discover that you lived somewhere that you never knew you lived. That was the case for Professional genealogist Alvie Davidson, who recently wrote to me. He’d done some fantastic sleuthing on his own recent family history, and discovered that his family had lived in Huntsville, Alabama when he was a toddler. “This is the first I have even known they lived in Madison County, AL.” But he was not sure about how to use Google Earth to help him locate the family addresses he’d discovered.

“I have learned from the U S Government that my parents lived at (three) different addresses in Huntsville, Madison County, AL when I was a toddler in 1944….I never knew we lived in Huntsville but I learned my mother worked for munitions productions during World War II at Redstone Arsenal. She worked several months toward the end of 1944 and had to quit due to onset of pregnancy. We moved to Florida shortly after she left employment at Redstone Arsenal because we show up on the 1945 Florida State Census.”

Alvie sent me three family addresses. Then he asked for some step-by-step help instructions on how to put Google Earth to work to identify their location today.

4 Steps to Revealing More with Google Earth

1. Search each address in Google Earth. Enter the address in the search box in the upper left corner of Google Earth. If you get a hit, mark it with a placemark (clicking the button that looks like a push pin in Google Earth’s toolbar) and name it. In this case I found two of the three street addresses.

Click map to see source citation.

Click map to see source citation.

2. Locate a map of the area for the appropriate time period. With a little Google searching, I found the 1940 census enumeration map for Huntsville at the National Archives website. Here’s what that map looks like. (Image right) I then went in search of each of the three addresses on the map.

In this case, I conducted a block-by-block search of the 1940 enumeration district map for the missing address: 110 Winston Street. Unfortunately, not all the street names were clearly legible on this particular map, and I was unable to locate it.

You can learn more about locating enumeration district maps in my article How to Find Enumeration District Maps.

Genealogy Gems Premium Members: log in and watch my Premium video 5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps featuring instruction for locating and using enumeration district maps.

3. Overlay and georeference the enumeration district map in Google Earth to compare the past to the present. Georeference just means to match up known landmarks on the historic map with physical locations on the modern-day map, thereby allowing you to match the two maps up together. By so doing, I was able to locate on the enumeration district map the modern-day locations of the two addresses that I found using Google Earth.

georeference historic map overlay in Google Earth

There are businesses in both locations today. Below right is a screen shot showing the current location of one of those addresses. Clearly no longer the old family home.Alvie Google Earth for genealogy problem

4. Dig deeper for addresses that have changed. As I mentioned previously, I searched for the 110 Winston Street address in Google Earth with no result. If that happens to you, remove the house number and run a second search on the street name alone. Numbers can change, but it is important to verify whether the street still exists today.

In this case, Google Earth did not locate a Winston Street in Huntsville, AL. Knowing that errors and typos can happen to the best of us, I ran a quick Google search for Huntsville, AL city directories, and verified that indeed Winston Street did exist at that time in history. So, at some point between 1940 and today, the name appears to have been changed.

I headed back to Google and ran the following search query:

“winston street” “huntsville alabama”

The quotation marks tell Google that each exact phrase must appear in all search results. The phrases will appear in bold in the snippet descriptions of each result.

google search

The result above caught my eye because it mentions the “Winston Street Branch Library.” Even when street names change, buildings named for those streets often don’t. However, in this case, the website discusses the history of the library, and the Winston Street Elementary School.  According to the website, the library “became a part of the Huntsville Public Library (now Huntsville-Madison County Public Library) in 1943. In 1947, the branch was renamed the Dulcina DeBerry Library.” Perhaps the street was renamed at that time as well.

Genealogy Gems Premium Members: Sign in and watch the Ultimate Google Search Strategies video class to learn more.

Jumping back into Google Earth I entered “Winston Street Branch Library” in the search box, and was immediately taken to the location, which is just south of the other two known addresses! At this point I would recommend to Alvie, who is a Genealogy Gems Premium Member, to watch my video class Best Websites for Finding Historical Maps to track down additional maps from the time frame that may have Winston Street clearly marked on the map.

Once I identified this landmark, I then marked the location with a placemark. You can turn off the 1940 enumeration district map overlay by unchecking the box next to it in the Places Panel. Doing this revealed the location on the modern day map. Finally, I headed to the Layers panel and clicked the box next to the “Roads” overlay to reveal the modern day street names.

street names

You can use this technique when you have more success than I did in finding an old address on an old map. Overlay the map, position a placemark on the location, and then turn the overlay off. With one click of the Roads layer you can now see the current street name for the old location you found on the map overlay.

Further digging online did deliver additional maps from the era and area:

google earth for genealogy

 

We all have locations in our family history that have given way over time to new buildings and parking lots. By using the power of Google Earth, Google search, and historic maps, they don’t have to be lost forever.

Get Started with Google Earth for Genealogy

Google Earth for Genealogy and Toolbox bundleFREE video: Get Started with Google Earth for Genealogy

Google Bundle! The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox Second Edition PLUS  learn how to create your own historical map overlays in my Google Earth for Genealogy 2-video CD set.

Use Google Earth to Plot Your DNA Matches

 

 

Military Bounty Land: Can You Claim Your Ancestor’s Share?

military bounty land claimCan a descendant claim an ancestor’s unused military bounty land award? Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, takes on this question in the newest episode of the free Genealogy Gems podcast.

“We have a copy of our great-great-grandfather’s [bounty land] warrant from the War of 1812. This has never been redeemed. I expect that the time for redeeming has long since expired but can’t find confirmation of this anywhere. Do you know for sure?”

What a great question from Robert in Covington, Louisiana! Here’s a little back story:

What is military bounty land?

From colonial times through 1855, cash-poor governments in the US (or future US) often paid soldiers in land for their service. It was a win-win proposition: many colonists and settlers wanted to own land. The Governments claimed more land than they could survey. It was in the best interest of both parties (though not any native residents) to fill up that land.

The lands that were awarded are called military bounty lands. They were awarded by colonial, state and federal governments. Virginia handed out land as far back as the 1600s. Service in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Mexican War often generated bounty land awards. (Click here to read a more detailed article I wrote about US military bounty land awards.)

Veterans (or their heirs) had to apply for bounty lands. If they qualified, they were issued warrants (like coupons) that were redeemable for a certain amount of property. Many veterans sold their warrants. Others redeemed them for specific parcels of land (for which they received patents, like deeds). Applications may contain a bounty of genealogical data: the names of applicants (veterans and/or heirs), their residence and age at the time of the application and the veteran’s military service details.

Can I Claim My Ancestor’s Military Bounty Land Award?

With this question, Robert sent us “a copy of a re-issue by the Commissioner of Pensions dated 1917. From the wording on the note the Commissioner scribbled on the copy he sent, it appears he hand copied the information on file onto a blank certificate and certified the copy.” He’s blanked out some identifying information but here it is:

military bounty land expired compressed

Judy RussellThis question is fascinating and complicated. For answers and a little more context, Lisa called on Judy Russell, AKA The Legal Genealogist, who gives her response in the most recent episode of The Genealogy Gems Podcast. Judy says the key is to research the law forward in time: When did the law take effect? What changes were made during its lifetime? When did it expire? Was it ever revived? If so, when did any extensions expire?

GGP 187One of her favorite websites for researching the history of US laws is the Library of Congress’ A Century of Law Making for a New Nation. Click here to listen to Judy’s interview (it’s FREE!) for more tips on researching old laws, more information on military bounty lands–and her answer to Robert’s question.

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