February 13, 2016

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.

Two Mysterious Deaths in the Family! Time to Use Google for Genealogy

magnify_custom_text_15168The mysterious deaths of a father and son present a perfect opportunity for using Google for genealogy.

Recently I heard from Lydia, who has just started listening to my podcasts. She asked a great question that Google can help answer:

“I have two relatives, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather, who died under conditions where an inquest was conducted. I wrote to the county clerk’s office in Joplin, MO. They were only able to send me the “bill” for both inquests, stating they had no other information. What I want to know, what they didn’t answer, was are they the ones to ask for the inquest report? If it still exists who would have it?”

She shared their names (both Esterline) and details about their deaths and I just couldn’t help myself: I had to Google them myself. There’s nothing like a couple of mysterious deaths–two generations in a row!–to pique my curiosity.

Here’s the path I took and take-home tips to offer anyone looking for genealogical records:

google for genealogy quote1) A Google search for: coroner’s inquest 1928 Missouri delivered the Coroner’s Inquest database at the Missouri Digital Heritage archive. From there, you discover that you can request copies of records by emailing the citation for the record you want to the Missouri State Archives at archref@sos.mo.gov. According to the instructions, “The record will be located, the number of pages counted, and you will be notified by email of the cost of the copies. Upon receipt of a check, the copies will be made and mailed to you. There may also be additional notations in the record about other locations where the files can be accessed.” Interestingly, when I searched for her two relatives, I didn’t find them, but there was a file for a woman with the same surname: Esterline. It’s worth seeing if she’s related somehow.

2) I was suspicious about no other Esterlines coming up in the database, so I tried a search in the Archives on Joplin and Jasper to see if other cases from that town or county come up in the results, and they don’t. Further digging reveals: “The Coroner’s Inquest Database project is ongoing; additional counties will be added to the database as completed.” However, it would be very worthwhile to contact them by email and inquire as to where this county is in the queue and where the physical files are now. Another result in that same Google search reveals which counties the Archive currently does have: includes Andrew, Cape Girardeau, Clinton, Cole, Greene, Pemiscot, Perry, St. Charles, St. Francois, St. Louis, and Stoddard (coverage varies by county).

3) After searching a single database on a website like Missouri Digital Heritage, I always look for a global search page, where I can search all databases on the site at once. Missouri Digital Heritage has one here. A search on Esterline brings up not only death certificates (which you probably already have) but city directory entries, newspapers and more.

4) I always recommend that genealogists get to know their record sources. Again, through my Google search I discovered The Laws of Missouri Relating to Inquests and Coroners (1945). This may provide some further insight. And the FamilySearch Wiki is always invaluable. Here’s the page on Missouri Vital Records and it states that “original records are available on microfilm at the Missouri State Archives.”

5) I pretty much always do a quick search specifically at Google Books since they have over 25 million books. I searched Ben Esterline and the first result was a listing in the Annual Report of the Bureau of the Mines (1932) (the year he died!): “FATAL ACCIDENTS— LEAD AND ZINC MINES Ben Esterline, prospector.” The book is not fully digitized in Google Books, but click “Libraries that have it” and you’ll be taken to the card catalog listing in WorldCat which will show you where you can obtain it.

Genealogists Google Toolbox 2nd edition coverI’m telling you, Google is the most powerful, flexible, furthest-reaching free genealogy search engine out there—and it’s right at our fingertips! But you do need to learn how to use it effectively, or you could find yourself wading through 87,400 results for an ancestor like “Ben Esterline.” Instead, learn the strategies I teach in The Google’s Genealogist Toolbox. This second edition–new in 2015–is fully updated and loaded with  techniques and examples on search strategies and tools that help you use Google for genealogy (and everything else in your life!). Click here to order your copy and you’ll start Google searching much smarter, much sooner.

More Gems on Google for Genealogy

7 Free Search Strategies Every Genealogist Should Use

Google Keyword Search Tips

How to Make Google Cache Pay Off in Your Genealogy Research

 

Is that Memory Real? Understanding Relatives with Dementia and Memory Loss

"Old Memories," by H. Bullock Webster, 1881, via Wikimedia Commons. Click to view image.

“Old Memories,” by H. Bullock Webster, 1881, via Wikimedia Commons. Click to view image.

When a loved one suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s, it can be difficult to gather their memories–or to understand how “real” the memories are. Lisa gathered some great advice from an expert!

Many of us have (or will have) loved ones who Alzheimer’s or dementia and memory loss. When they start to become memory-impaired, can we still gather and preserve any of their memories?

Lisa Louise Cooke posed this question in a special interview with Kathy Hawkins, a therapist and Master Trainer with Timeslips Creative Storytelling. Kathy explains that it depends on how advanced their condition is. Meanwhile, we can definitely do some things to improve the experience of asking memory-impaired loved ones about the past. For example:

  • When asking questions about the past, don’t use the phrase, “Do you remember?”Ask instead questions like “who, what, where,”….etc. People may shut down when they feel like they’re being given a memory test. So don’t put that kind of pressure on them.
  • Your tone of voice and overall approach are so important. Don’t be sing-songy or condescending. Treat them like an adult.
  • The emotional integrity of someone’s story is still often intact, even with memory-impairment. Meaning, the emotion attached to a memory or a person will likely be real. But the chronology or details may get confused with other similar events that were also true. Whenever possible, verify facts (especially dates) with other sources.
  • Don’t make every conversation (or even most of them) about what they remember (or don’t). Be interested in who they are now: their thoughts and creativity.

Kathy Hawkins head shotYou can listen to Lisa’s entire interview with Kathy Hawkins in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 186. Kathy also shared some information about the organization she works with, Timeslips Creative Storytelling. Click here to see a pdf with some creative storytelling and arts materials created by TimeSlips.

More Family Memories Tips from Genealogy Gems

How to Interview Your Family. Listen to a free interview with an expert in the Family History:Genealogy Made Easy step-by-step podcast series.

Publish a Q&A with a Relative (Transcribed Oral History Interview)

How to Reconstruct Early Childhood Memories and Stories

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

missing parentsThis Gems listener just can’t find her grandmother’s parents. It may be time to apply two powerful approaches to solving this mystery.

Recently we shared 6 sources that may name an ancestor’s parents. Afterward, I got a follow-up email from Lynn, who is still stumped:

“I read these [suggestions] but none of these were of any help with finding records on my grandmother[‘s parents]. The Social Security record didn’t list her father; as far as I can find there are no birth records for her where she claims she was born. Her father’s name isn’t on her death record because mom didn’t know what her grandfather’s name was. And her mom & ‘grandmother’ disappear from the Detroit city directory about the time she would have been born. They only show up again two years later for her grandmother and five years later for her mother. I put her ‘grandmother’ in quotes because that may be a sham: my grandmother’s mom worked for the other lady as a live-in servant.”

Lynn sounds a little discouraged! When typical record  sources don’t reveal what we want to know, it’s often time to try two more advanced approaches: cluster research and DNA.

Applying Cluster Research to “Missing Parents”

I’m guessing Lynn has already beaten the bushes for ANY other records on grandma’s mom, especially marriage and divorce records. But I’m wondering whether she’s looked for other records about the woman grandma’s mom worked for. I don’t know the exact timing, but there was a huge migration to Detroit in the early 1900s. These two ladies could have been from anywhere. Chances are good they were from the same place, though. She’s definitely a “person of interest” to research. Records about this employer/grandma may lead to clues about her grandma’s own origins. So a first step may be for Lynn to research where the employer/grandma was born, and see if grandma’s family name shows up in the same place.

cluster collateral research classThat concept is called cluster research, where you try to recognize little migratory groups and use other members of the group to learn more about your own ancestor of primary interest. It’s a concept I talk with Gems Editor Sunny Morton about in the November 2015 Family Tree Magazine podcast, which I host. Sunny teaches this concept in-depth in a class called Cluster and Collateral Research 101. That class would be really helpful to someone who wants to learn how to harness this powerful approach to not-so-simple genealogy research mysteries.

DNA for “Missing Parents”

getting started dna guideThe other avenue that it may be time for Lynn to try is DNA testing. Depending on which test she takes, her results may lead to common relatives on either side of her grandmother’s mother’s family. For example, if grandma had a full-blooded brother (which may be impossible to know for sure), a DNA test on one of his male descendants may point to the identity of the unknown grandma’s dad.

I recommended to Lynn that she look at the “Getting Started” DNA quick reference guide in the Genealogy Gems shop. It’s an inexpensive and helpful way to start off on the right foot in using DNA for genealogy. The guide will help you decide which tests to take and where to take them. Then, come back to our entire series of DNA guides written by our resident DNA expert, Diahan Southard. They will walk you confidently through the next steps in your genetic genealogy journey.

How to Get Started Using DNA for Family History Research

More Skills You Can Use to Solve Genealogy Mysteries

Try These Two Powerful Tools for Finding Genealogy Records OnlineTry These Two Powerful Tools for Finding Genealogy Records

Advanced Google Search Strategies for Adoptees in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode #128 (Premium website membership required)

“Help! Why Is My Ancestor Listed Twice in the Census?”

Celebrating 1000 Genealogy Blog Posts: #7 in the Top 10 Countdown

n Genealogy Coundown #7The Social Security Applications and Claims Index was one of 2015’s most important new online resources for U.S. researchers (keep reading to see the other). No wonder it made the #7 spot on this week’s Top 10 genealogy blog post countdown!

This summer, Ancestry.com quietly released a major addition to its U.S. record resources. We already rely on the Social Security Death Index to help us find 20th-century relatives. But so many of us have lamented at how limited is the info in that index, and how expensive to order the original application when there’s no guarantee we’ll find the person’s parents names (which are requested on the form).

U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims IndexI’m guessing that’s why Lisa’s post on Ancestry’s new Social Security Applications and Claims Index made the #7 spot on our genealogy blog countdown this week! This enriched index adds parents’ names and more to millions of SSDI indexed entries. Click here to read more about it and search the index.

Want to read about another top database for U.S. researchers that was recently released? Click here!

 

Don’t forget about our countdown prize this week! Click here to see all Top 10 blog posts–and share that post on your Facebook page by THIS Friday (November 20, 2015). Use the hashtag #genealogygems, and you’ll be entered in a contest to win my Pain Free Family History Writing Project video course download, kindly donated by our friends at Family Tree University. You’re welcome to add any comments on your “shared” post, like which Genealogy Gems blog post has most inspired you or helped your research. That feedback helps us bring you more posts you’ll love.

media_icon_like_400_wht_9163Ready, set, SHARE! And thank YOU for helping us celebrate our 1000th blog post here at Genealogy Gems.

 

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 129

GG Premium 129Get inspired in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 129! You’ll hear about church records and YouTube for genealogy, locating hard-to-find records and–even better–locating ancestors’ parents.

How many ways can you think of to find family history? Lisa Louise Cooke can think of a lot–and she packs as many of them as possible into the newly-published Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode #129.

In this members-only podcast, Lisa starts off with a rundown of some great new genealogy records online. I particularly enjoyed the back story she shares on the 1939 Register recently released by Findmypast for England and Wales.

Then Lisa tackles a tough two-part question that a listener sent in. We follow along with this listener’s progress in trying to track down an elusive record type. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t pan out. (Sound familiar?) So then it’s back to the drawing board with some follow-up Genealogy Gems advice and great feedback from yet another listener! I love how this show segment shows the inside process of multi-step research problems.

Family History and Genealogy on YouTubeA segment on YouTube for family history follows. Lisa is so great at figuring out how to use everyday technologies and online resources for family history, and YouTube is no exception. I admit I was a bit skeptical the first time I read about searching YouTube for ancestors in Lisa’s book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, but I have since found some amazing things on YouTube. Don’t miss these tips!

sabrina Riley Genealogy Gems Podcast Church RecordsTwo guests join the show today. First is an exclusive Gems interview with Sabrina Riley, a Library Director at Union College. Sabrina oversees an archive of Seventh-Day Adventist church records and gives us great tips on using these (and other denominational records) for genealogy.

Then Diahan Southard chimes in with an insightful DNA commentary on when our DNA circles don’t necessarily result in family connections.

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership and PodcastWhat a great lineup! If you’re a Genealogy Gems Premium website member, sign in and then click here and start listening. If you’re not, click here to learn more about the benefits of Genealogy Gems Premium membership. Listening to this exclusive podcast episode is just ONE of MANY benefits you’ll receive for an entire year!

6 Sources that May Name Your Ancestors’ Parents

Ancestors ParentsHave you reached a dead end on one branch of your family tree–you can’t find the parents’ names? Check out these sources for finding ancestors’ parents.

Recently Genealogy Gems podcast listener Trisha wrote in with this question about finding marriage license applications online. She hoped the original application would name the groom’s parents. Unfortunately, her search for the applications came up dry. So, she asked, “Are there other documents that would have his parents names listed on them?”

Here’s a brainstorm for Trisha and everyone else who is looking for an ancestor’s parents’ names (and aren’t we all!).

6 Record Sources that May Name Your Ancestors’ Parents

1. Civil birth records. I’ll list this first, because civil birth records may exist, depending on the time period and place. But in the U.S. they are sparse before the Civil War and unreliably available until the early 1900s. So before a point, birth records–which will almost always name at least one parent–are not a strong answer. Learn more about civil birth records in my free Family History Made Easy podcast episode #25.

2. Marriage license applications. Trisha’s idea to look for a marriage license application was a good one. They often do mention parents’ names. But they don’t always exist: either a separate application form was never filled out, or it didn’t survive. Learn more about the different kinds of marriage documents that may exist in the Family History Made Easy podcast episode #24.

How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers3. Obituaries. Obituaries or death notices are more frequently found for ancestors who died in the late 1800s or later. Thanks to digitized newspapers, it’s getting SO much easier to find ancestors’ obituaries in old newspapers. My book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers is packed with practical tips and inspiring stories for discovering your family’s names in newsprint. Millions of newly-indexed obituaries are on FamilySearch (viewable at GenealogyBank). Get inspired with this list of 12 Things You Can Learn from Obituaries!

4. Social Security Applications (U.S.). In the U.S., millions of residents have applied for Social Security numbers and benefits since the 1930s. These applications request parents’ names. There are still some privacy restrictions on these, and the applications themselves are pricey to order (they start at $27). But recently a fabulous new database came online at Ancestry that includes millions of parents’ names not previously included in public databases. I blogged about it here. Learn more about Social Security applications (and see what one looked like) in the show notes for my free Family History Made Easy podcast episode #4.

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast5. Baptismal records. Many churches recorded children’s births and/or the baptisms of infants and young children. These generally name one or both parents. Millions of church records have come online in recent years. Learn more about birth and baptism records created by churches in the Family History Made Easy Podcast Episode #26. Click these links to read more about baptismal records in Quebec and Ireland.

6. Siblings’ records. If you know the name of an ancestor’s sibling, look for that sibling’s records. I know of one case in which an ancestor appeared on a census living next door to a possible parent. Younger children were still in the household. A search for one of those younger children’s delayed birth record revealed that the neighbor WAS his older sister: she signed an affidavit stating the facts of the child’s birth.

Thanks for sharing this list with anyone you know who wants to find their ancestors’ parents!

missing birth recordMore Genealogy Gems on Finding Your Ancestors in Old Records

Missing Birth Record? Here’s What You Can Do to Track it Down
Try These 2 Powerful Tools for Finding Genealogy Records Online

Finding Ancestors in Courthouse Records: Research Tips
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