September 23, 2017

Articles by Sunny Morton

About Sunny

Sunny Morton is a genealogy writer whose work is read by thousands in magazines and online. As a Contributing Editor at Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems, she frequently posts on the news, but also loves to share quick research tips, reveal little-known resources or take genealogists for an exhilarating dive into deeper research topics and techniques. She's also the author of My Life & Times: A Guided Journal for Collecting Your Stories.

Solving Family History Mysteries in Roswell, NM: Genealogy Seminar with Lisa Louise Cooke

You’re invited to join Lisa Louise Cooke for a Roswell, NM genealogy seminar. “Solving Family History Mysteries with Lisa Louise Cooke” will be held on Saturday, October 21, 2o17 as the Wilson-Cobb History and Genealogy Library Annual Workshop. Please come! 

roswell NM genealogy Seminar

Roswell, NM Genealogy Seminar with Lisa Louise Cooke

The Wilson-Cobb Library in Roswell, New Mexico is hosting Lisa Louise Cooke for an exciting, informative all-day workshop that will help you solve your family history mysteries! Here’s what’s happening:

What: Solving Family History Mysteries with Lisa Louise Cooke
Where: Roswell Civic and Convention Center, 912 N Main St, Roswell, NM 88201
When: Saturday, October 21, 2017, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm (On-site registration opens at 8:30 am)
Hosted by: Wilson-Cobb History and Genealogy Library
Registration: Click here for more information and to register
Bonus: Snacks, beverages and a catered lunch will be served. (Donations gratefully accepted for lunch.)

If you haven’t registered ahead of time, plan to be there at 8:30 am for onsite registration. At 9:00, Lisa will start teaching the day’s class lineup:

Google Tools & Procedures for Solving Family History Mysteries. In this session, we will walk through the process, provide you with the tools, and wow your socks off with real-life examples of Googling success. You will leave this class inspired to revisit using Google for your online searches, and armed with the latest strategies to do so successfully. Not everything is online by any stretch, but even offline sources are more efficiently discovered and accessed when you start online. And the fastest and most effective way to locate online data, whether it resides on a university website or the blog of a distant cousin you’ve never met, is Google!

bust a brick wall by speaking Google's languageUpdate: Google! Everything New That You Need to Know for Genealogy. Google continues to evolve and change every day. In this session, Google Guru Lisa Louise Cooke will give you an update on the most recent Google changes. Then she will unleash advanced search strategies for genealogy that you probably aren’t using, but are ‘must-haves’ in order to get the best results possible. Here are tips and tricks you can put into practice right away.

How to Reopen and Work a Genealogical Cold Case. Become a genealogical detective in this vital session. You’ll learn to track ancestors like a criminal cold case detective, sniffing out holes in your research and getting missing information on the record with cutting edge technology.

Google Search Strategies for Common Surnames. Discover tips and tricks to find your ancestors with common surnames and surnames that double as common words in the English language with Google.  Learn how to weed out irrelevant search results to save time and get to what you want faster.  Then save and automate your searches to run for you! You’ll not only improve your searches, but also improve the chances that the information you post online will be found by other genealogists facilitating collaboration!

Don’t miss Lisa’s Google tips!

Solve more family history mysteries with Lisa Louise Cooke’s top-selling book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox (2nd edition). This “Google bible” for the genealogist tells you everything you need to know to master Google’s many powerful tools. Step-by-step instructions, clear illustrations and inspiring examples will teach you how to get the most out of Google searching (even for common surnames), Google Earth, Google Books, Google Scholar, Google Alerts, Google Translate and even YouTube.

Read these Google genealogy success stories:

An ancestor’s pen name identified–and 69 of his articles found–with Google Books

Two ancestors’ homes found on the National Historic Register with Google Searching

The Colored Farmers Alliance: Social history revealed with Google and Google Books

RootsTech 2018 Registration Is Open! First Look at 4 Full Days of Genealogy Fun

RootsTech 2018 registration is open! Travel plan alert: you won’t want to miss Wednesday, February 28, the new official opening day. Wednesday is all about technology, and it’s aimed at all of us (not just the techie crowd). We are a little bit giddy at the thought. Here’s our “first look” at what to expect for RootsTech 2018.

RootsTech 2018 registration

The buzz has already begun for RootsTech 2018! Here’s our synopsis of what’s going to be great about RootsTech 2018:

RootsTech 2018: “Connect. Belong”
Where: Salt Lake City, Utah
When: Wednesday, February 28 – Saturday, March 3, 2018
Hosted by: FamilySearch.org
Registration: Register online ASAP for early-bird pricing

RootsTech 2018: Don’t Miss Wednesday!

Technology day for everyone

Lisa Louise Cooke at RootsTech 2015

Big news: RootsTech 2018 will run for four full days! The dates to mark on your calendar are Wednesday, February 28 – Saturday, March 3. Don’t miss the first day! In the past, Wednesday technology sessions have been targeted at industry movers-and-shakers. This year, Wednesday is still all about technology, but the day’s events have been expanded and broadened for all audiences. There will be an opening General Keynote Session, a new Innovation Showcase, and classes that will appeal to all audiences.

The Innovation Showcase has replaced previous year’s competition. It looks more like a high-tech “show and tell” of even more of the best-and-brightest stars in family history technology. Companies from around the world–from small startups to large organizations–will have a shot at presenting their newest product or service on stage before a large online and in-person audience. The audience will select a “People’s Choice award” via live text voting. (Click here by October 15 to nominate a product or service.)

Wednesday Expo Hall Preview

Make plans to come say hello to us on Wednesday evening at the Expo Hall Preview from 6:00 – 8:00 pm. Genealogy Gems will be there with another ultimate Exhibitor Hall experience (click here to get an idea of what’s coming). The Expo Hall is a stunning, not-to-miss experience, whether you love the energy of the crowd, the glamorous displays, or the chance to talk one-on-one with people from your favorite genealogy companies and services.

RootsTech 2018 Registration: Plan Early for the Best Experience

In addition to what’s new, many great RootsTech traditions promise to continue this year: expect dazzling keynotes, over 300 official RootsTech classes, and world-class evening entertainment. (Click here to watch my 2017 “Genealogy Giants” RootsTech lecture or click here for the recently-released 2017 keynote by LaVar Burton.) More details about this year’s keynotes and performers will be announced in the coming months, so check back with us often. We are official RootsTech Ambassadors and we’ll have the inside scoop on all the latest information and updates.

RootsTech registration is now open! There are lots of registration options–from a free Family Discovery Day experience on Saturday to a budget-friendly “Getting Started” four-day pass ($69 early-bird price) to the full RootsTech Pass ($169 early-bird price). Click here for a comparison of what each pass offers. And here’s a tip from a RootsTech veteran: Make your hotel reservations early! Those downtown hotels fill up so quickly.

Going to RootsTech for the first time? Click here for a RootsTech Q&A with Lisa Louise Cooke.

Genealogy Gems Hard at Work

The Genealogy Gems team can’t wait to see you at RootsTech 2018!

Revitalize and Organize Your Genealogy: Colorado All-day Seminar with Lisa Louise Cooke

Do you want to revitalize your genealogy energy, boost your online research skills, and better organize your many family history discoveries? Join Lisa Louise Cooke at the “Reinvigorate Your Research” all-day seminar in Denver, Colorado, hosted by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Colorado.

Jewish genealogy society

Genealogists seem to face some universal challenges. Like, how to research online more effectively and efficiently. How to organize what you find (especially when discoveries are spread across various websites and in paper files). Knowing which technology tools to invest in, and how to master them. Genealogy and technology expert Lisa Louise Cooke can help you with all these challenges–in person, in fact, at this upcoming all-day event in Denver, Colorado.

Organize Your Genealogy, Revitalize Your Research

Here’s what you’ll want to know about this event:

What: “Reinvigorate Your Research with Lisa Louise Cooke:” Annual All-Day Seminar by JGSCO
Where: Jewish Community Center, Social Hall, 350 S. Dahlia St, Denver
When: Sunday, October 15, 9:00 am – 3:30 pm (doors open at 8:00 am for registration)
Hosted by: Jewish Genealogical Society of Colorado
Registration: Register online by October 9, 2017
BONUS: Cost of admission ($20 members/$35 nonmembers) includes continental-style breakfast, snacks, and a Kosher buffet-style lunch.

Lisa’s host, The Jewish Genealogical Society of Colorado, has chosen a fantastic lineup of Lisa’s lectures that really do hit on all those pain points we have. Here’s what classes you’ll get to enjoy all day on Sunday, October 15:

get-organized-Genealogy-Gems-Membership

How to Organize All this Genealogy Stuff! Save yourself future frustration and disappointment by putting a solid genealogy organizational plan in place for all the types of items that will be coming your way.

  • Organizing All This Paper! The Physical Items Organization System
  • Organizing All That Genealogical Data! The Family Tree Data Organization System
  • Organizing All These Digital Files! The Digital Organization System
  • Organizing All that Web Information! The Online Notetaking System

Google Search and Google Books: Tools for Every Day. Discover Google search tools and new ways for using them to solve the genealogical challenges you face. Learn the secrets of getting more than you ever imagined from the largest online collection of digitized books–Google Books. With 25 million books, many of which are digitized and fully searchable, Google Books should be the first place to which you turn as you climb your family tree. Learn how to make the most of this goldmine chock full of historical data with little-known techniques.

Time Travel with Google Earth. Get ready to experience old historic maps, genealogical records, images, and videos coming together to create stunning time travel experiences in the free Google Earth program. We’ll incorporate automated changing boundaries, and uncover historic maps that are built right into Google Earth. Tell time travel stories that will truly excite your non-genealogist relatives! You’ve never seen anything like this class!

Future Technology and Genealogy: 5 Strategies You Need. Envision your genealogy as technology speeds ahead into the future. There are five key strategies that you can employ right now that will make the ride easier and the results more exciting than ever. Discover the paradigm shift that will make it easy to find the right technology for your needs and learn how to capitalize on how technology is changing the flow of information.

Bring Lisa Home with You

Genealogy Gems - Family History Podcast and WebsiteI’m sorry if you’ll miss this event–Lisa’s seminar attendees always leave with a new list of strategies they can’t wait to try. (I’ve actually seen people sneak onto their devices during her presentations and start trying the apps, search strategies, and tools she’s talking about. It’s like they can’t wait after she shows them what’s possible.)

You can bring Lisa home with an annual Genealogy Gems Premium membership. Premium members have exclusive access to a packed archive of video classes–including a new class on Google Books and an entire series to help you organize your genealogy “stuff.” You also get ongoing tips and inspiration in her monthly Premium Podcast (and access to all past episodes). It’s the most affordable and consistently high-quality, tech-forward genealogy education around. And you can start trying her tips any time you like.

No More Late Fees! Check Out Free Genealogy Magazines and eBooks at Your Local Library

Your local library may offer free genealogy magazines and ebooks. Why choose them over print? So many reasons! No more late fees. Read on the go. Choose your font size. So go ahead: check out digital versions of that Genealogy Gems Book Club title you’ve been meaning to read, or the current issue of Family Tree Magazine. Here’s how.

genealogy library freebies

Here in the U.S., it’s my favorite time of year: back-to-school! The weather slowly cools. My children shake off summer’s mental lethargy. My own schedule resumes a more predictable, productive rhythm. And after months spent outdoors, I rediscover my local library. Top on my library list this fall: free genealogy ebooks and magazines I can check out on my mobile device. It’s on-the-go reading for my favorite hobby–with no searching under my bed when items come due to avoid those pesky late fees.

Free Genealogy eBooks and Magazines

Genealogy Gems Premium Member Autumn feels the same way about free genealogy gems at her local library. Here’s a letter she wrote to Lisa Louise Cooke:

“I’m really enjoying both the Premium and free podcasts. I also like the addition of the Genealogy Gems Book Club. I haven’t read all the books yet but am adding them all to my wishlist on Overdrive, a free app that allows you to check out digital books for free from your local library. They don’t have every book but they have many, many books including some from the book club. Most libraries have a lot of biographies and histories available through Overdrive for free that are of interest to genealogists as well. Some libraries are adding video to their Overdrive offerings too.

Many of these same libraries offer magazines free as well.  My library…use[s] Zinio, a magazine app. I only subscribe to a couple of magazines now because I can get so many for free through my library (not to mention keeping my home neater by not having them laying everywhere).”

genealogy book club family history readingIt makes me happy that Autumn is enjoying the Genealogy Gems Book Club. We hear from many avid readers who love browsing our list of mainstream fiction and nonfiction picks for family history lovers. As part of our book club, we interview every book club author, too–from beloved novelists like Fannie Flagg to acclaimed journalists, memoir writers, and historians who take their own unique approaches to family history themes. Hear excerpts of these interviews on the free Genealogy Gems Podcast; full interviews run on the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast, available by subscription.

Overdrive and Zinio

At Autumn’s recommendation, I started using Overdrive through my local library. I love it! I’ve listened to several digital audiobooks on the road and at the gym through Overdrive and have read several ebooks, too. (I’m always on the hunt for the next Genealogy Gems Book Club title.) The books just disappear at the end of the lending period (hence the “no late fees” bonus).

Genealogy Gems Service Manager Lacey Cooke loves Overdrive, too. She sent me these four reasons why:

1. Download for Offline Listening: “You can download the ebooks, audiobooks, magazines etc. to your device so that you can enjoy them offline (great for traveling). They’ll still disappear once your lending period expires, but having them available offline is awesome. You don’t have to worry about data charges or slow internet connections.

2. The Wishlist: Autumn briefly mentioned the Wishlist feature. I love this feature because it gives me somewhere to save book titles that I’m interested in reading at some point, but I’m not ready to check out just yet.

3. Bookmark/Syncing: You can bookmark a page, then pick up where you left off. If you have the Overdrive app on multiple devices, the app syncs. I can start reading on one device, and pick up on another right where I left off.

4. Format Adjustments: You can adjust the font style, size, and color to make it easier for you to read. I like to pick a nice, clean font in a big size so there’s no strain on my eyes.”

It’s worth noting that if you don’t already have a library card with your local library, you may be required to sign up in person to get a card, even if you only plan on using the Overdrive app to request items online. New releases or popular titles may have a wait list to check out the ebook or audiobook (especially if the library only possesses one copy). If you do have to place an ebook on hold, you will be notified via email when it becomes available to you, so if you don’t check your email regularly, keep that in mind when you place a hold. Each library system is different, so of course, your experience may vary.

Another helpful tip: not every library offers Overdrive ebook checkouts. But sometimes you can use another library’s Overdrive privileges. Autumn sent a link to these instructions on how to do so. (Thanks, Autumn!)

Autumn also mentioned the Zinio app. My library doesn’t offer Zinio yet, so I spent a little time on its public search portal. That doesn’t have a browsable genealogy category, and searches for the terms family history, genealogy and ancestry came up empty. But I did finally find these titles:

Lisa Louise Cooke, Genealogy Gems DNA expert Diahan Southard, and I are all frequent contributors to Family Tree Magazine, which we {heart} and recommend for its easy-reading research tips, hands-on tech and DNA tutorials, and the eye-candy layout. (Click here to subscribe personally, if you don’t want to read through a library app.)

More Free Genealogy Resources at Your Local Library

Of course, your local library may offer many additional free genealogy research and reading materials. Of tremendous value is access to Library editions of popular genealogy databases such as Ancestry, Findmypast, Fold3, and MyHeritage, along with institutional versions of historical newspaper databases. (Click here to learn more about the differences between the major genealogy websites.) Call your library or browse its website to see what resources may be available with your library card on site or even remotely from your own home or mobile device. And remember to watch for your library’s e-media options like those recommended by Autumn.

As a special shout-out to all the free genealogy resources at your library, Lisa Louise Cooke has granted free access for everyone to Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode #125. In this episode, Lisa has a full discussion about more free genealogy gems at public libraries with Cheryl McClellan. Cheryl is not only my awesome mom, she rocks professionally as the Geauga County, Ohio public library system staff genealogist!

This Premium episode is usually exclusively for Genealogy Gems Premium members. If you love it, and you’re not already a member, consider gifting yourself a “back to school” subscription. It’s the most fun, energizing, apply-it-now genealogy learning experience you may ever have.

Remembering 9-11, And Why You May Recall It So Clearly

Sixteen years ago, nearly 3,000 people died in events so horrific that the date itself has been seared into world memory: “9-11.” Today, we remember those who suffered on September 11, 2001. And we explain why many can recall that day with startling clarity: it’s a “flashbulb memory,” the kind that produces lasting, vivid impressions in our minds.

flash bulb memories

Remembering 9-11

Me with my new little baby Jeremy, a month after the September 2001 attacks.

Sixteen years ago today, I was sitting at my desk in a research office at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio when a co-worker informed me that airplane had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. Within minutes, someone had set up a television in our common area. So several of us were watching the news when another plane hit the second tower–and we realized this wasn’t a horrible mistake. It was an attack.

I responded instinctively, calling my husband at work and then my babysitter to check on my two-month old infant, Jeremy. As the general panic and confusion rose, I couldn’t think of anything but my baby. Before long, I left the office, swooped up my son from the babysitter’s house and fled the city. I drove toward my home in the suburbs, glancing up at the Cleveland skyline constantly, not knowing whether our city would also come under attack.

Gradually I learned, along with the rest of the world, about the full scope of the attack, the losses of thousands of lives and the heroism of those who helped others in harm’s way. I felt a little foolish for having seized little Jeremy and run when there was no actual danger to us. But that protective urge I felt was so powerful that I still remember it clearly, 16 years later, as my personal response to a day the world changed forever.

Why We Recall 9-11 So Vividly

Several years later, while researching the nature of our memories for the first edition of Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy, I learned about “flashbulb memories:”

“Flashbulb Memories are memories for the circumstances in which one first learned of a very surprising and consequential (or emotionally arousing) event. Hearing the news that President John Kennedy had been shot is the prototype case. Almost everyone can remember, with an almost perceptual clarity, where he was when he heard, what he was doing at the time, who told him, what was the immediate aftermath, how he felt about it, and also one or more totally idiosyncratic and often trivial concomitants.” -Roger Brown and James Kulk in Cognition (Vol 5, Issue 1, 1977, pages 73-99; quoted from this abstract online)

In other words, surprising and life-altering events can leave vivid and lasting impressions in our minds, like the bright flash of an old-fashioned camera flashbulb that captures a moment forever. Kennedy’s assassination and 9-11 are just two examples. What others come to mind for your own lifetime? For example, I recall with startling clarity the moment a teacher burst into my middle school classroom in 1986 to tell us that that Challenger shuttle had exploded in mid-air with school teacher Christa McAuliffe aboard. I recall other moments of personal significance with that kind of clarity, too. It doesn’t have to be a world-altering event to produce a flashbulb memory–just one that affects your world.

Write your memories down

Write Your Memories Before They Fade

Recently, I read that our flashbulb memories don’t remain as bright or crisp as the moment they were captured. Psychology Today reported a 10-year study of people’s memories of 9-11.

“All survey participants still had memories of how they found out about the event, who they were with, what they were doing, how they felt, the first person they talked to and what they were doing before finding out about the attack. That means that all of the survey participants had memories that would quality as a flashbulb memory. They were generally highly confident in the memory as well.

Despite their memory confidence, when the details of their memories were compared to the initial survey taken within 10 days of 9/11, there were significant inconsistencies. A year after the event, only about 2/3 of what people remembered was accurate.” – Art Markman, PhD (click here for full article)

Now, remembering even two-thirds of an event after a year has passed is quite good. And that accuracy remained strong for 10 years. The same report states, “By 10 years after 9/11, people were still about 60% accurate. Thus, although flashbulb memories are not like videos of the event, they are probably more accurate than memories for most events that took place 10 years before.”

What are your flashbulb memories? Write them down. Try to be as accurate as possible: return in your mind not to the last time you told that memory, but to the actual experience of it. Walk yourself through it slowly. Why? The Psychology Today article includes this warning: “If someone added an incorrect detail into their memory for the event, that misinformation was likely to be repeated in later accounts rather than corrected. This suggests that one reason why flashbulb memories remain so vivid for people is that they are recalled over time. Extra information that emerges when someone recalls a memory can get incorporated into that memory later.”

This is also an excellent reason to write down your memories as soon as possible after all important events in your life. Your recollections of even your most precious and positive events will fade. So if you want to keep hold of more than 60% of that once-in-a-lifetime trip you just took, write it down as soon as possible. Even if time has already passed, go ahead and write them down. Then use memory-jogging exercises to flesh them out, and do a little research to confirm hazy details. In my book, Story of My Life, I include these strategies along with hundreds of writing prompts to get your memories flowing. Note: Recalling particularly traumatic events may most safely and productively be done with the guidance of a professional counselor.

If you haven’t already done so, why not take some time today to write your own memories of a “flashbulb event” or another important memory in your life? You may learn something from doing so, as I did about the strength of my own maternal instincts on 9-11. Or you may simply find the walk down memory lane to be meaningful, full as it is with loved ones, lessons and life experiences.

Fort Worth Genealogical Society End of Summer Seminar this Weekend with Lisa Louise Cooke

Recharge your genealogy research at the Fort Worth Genealogical Society End of Summer Seminar this Saturday, September 9, 2017. Genealogy and technology expert Lisa Louise Cooke will help you to discover, organize and share your family history more effectively.

Fort Worth Seminar 2017

If you’re in or near Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, you’re invited to attend the Fort Worth Genealogical Society ‘s End of Summer Seminar this Saturday, September 9, 2017.

To celebrate their 60th anniversary, the Society has invited internationally-renowned genealogy and technology expert Lisa Louise Cooke for a full day of genealogy fun and inspiration. She’ll be presenting four sessions packed with simple yet powerful strategies, how-to’s and examples that will help you discover your family history more effectively online, organize what you learn, and share it with attention-getting style.

THIS SATURDAY: Fort Worth Genealogical Society Seminar Details

Here’s what’s happening:

What: 2017 End of Summer Seminar
Where: Trimble Tech High School, 1003 W. Cannon Street, Fort Worth, TX
When: Saturday, September 9, 2017, 8:45 am – 4:30 pm (doors open at 8:15 am for registration)
Hosted by: Fort Worth Genealogical Society

Lisa will be teaching some of her most empowering classes–the ones that give attendees immediate action items to help them take the next steps in their own genealogy research. Three of the four classes are entirely new in 2017. Here they are:

1. Google Books: The Tool You Should Use Every Day! Over 25 million digitized and searchable free books are at your fingertips with Google Books. Learn how to make the most of this goldmine chock full of historical data. (This was a BIG hit at Rootstech,)

2. Create a Free Google Earth Map Collection for Your Research. Learn how to find free digital maps for your ancestral locations, add them as permanent overlays to Google Earth, and then organize them into your personal map reference collection. You’ll learn best practices for keeping them organized and enriching your research.

3. Making Evernote Effortless. Learn the best strategies for making Evernote a breeze to use for your genealogy research. Shave time off your note-taking with quick keys, shortcuts, saved searches, search operators, Reminders, note sharing, source citation, and building Evernote into any browser you use (including mobile devices). (Evernote is one of the world’s top free organization tech tools: click here to learn more about it.)

4. 7 Awesome Apps that Eliminate Eye-Rolling! Eliminate your relative’s bored eye-rolling and captivate them with compelling stories and imagery! We’ll cover seven easy-to-use and free mobile apps that will help you tell your family history stories in a riveting way.

More Learning Opportunities with Lisa Louise Cooke

If you can’t make it this weekend, you can still get the benefit of Lisa’s expertise and inspiring teaching style.

First, head to her Seminar schedule to see if she’ll be headed to a town near you!

Then, check out her books and quick guides. They are packed with her signature approach to technology: she shares creative ideas and simple, step-by-step instructions for using powerful, mainstream and mostly free technologies for family history.

  • The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox (2nd edition) is a must-have for all family history researchers who work online (and that’s just about everyone). Find detailed instructions and explanations for making your Google searches more effective, along with entire chapters on using Google Earth, Google Books, Google Scholar, Google Alerts and even YouTube for genealogy.
  • The Evernote for Genealogists quick reference guide (available for Windows and Mac users) is a handy cheat sheet you’ll want to keep close at hand. It takes you from the “getting started” level quickly into navigating Evernote to maximize and organize your research note-taking.
  • Mobile Genealogy: How to Use Your Tablet and Smartphone for Family History Research will help you put your iPad, tablet and/or smartphone to work for your genealogy research. This expanded second edition of her original, groundbreaking book on mobile genealogy goes into greater depth with more apps and is loaded with tips and tricks that make your mobile device a genealogy powerhouse.

Do You Know Where Your Ancestors are Really From? A French-Canadian-Irish Genealogy Mystery

 

Read this genealogy mystery from a Canadian family with French and Irish roots. You’ll see the value of considering varied surname spellings, watching for other relatives in census records, using church records, and compiling clues from several sources to get a better picture of the past. 

genealogy mystery

Thanks to Carolyn Tolman, Project Manager at Legacy Tree Genealogists, for this guest post.

Recently we were contacted by a client who requested we begin researching her direct paternal ancestor. This ancestor was named John Lucy, of Ontario, Canada, and was of alleged Irish heritage. Our client explained that her father had recently died and that he would have loved to know the history of his name. She had been trying to trace the Lucy line herself and was not having success. Though she wished she had begun the research before he passed, she felt this was a way for her to honor her father’s life. She was also planning a trip to Ireland soon and hoped to visit her ancestral towns. She said “I would be so happy to just make the first connection back to the UK. That is what my father always wanted to know.”

Unraveling a genealogy mystery: Methodist or Catholic? Irish or French?

A survey of Canadian censuses between 1871 and 1901 established that John Lucy was born in Cumberland, Ontario in the early 1840s, and was Wesleyan Methodist by way of religion. However, neither John Lucy nor any of his children appeared in the Wesleyan Methodist baptism records in the Cumberland area. At this point, research temporarily halted as we had reached the end of a project.

In the meantime, the client located a Wesleyan Methodist marriage index entry for a John Lussiers and Ann Hannah who married in Cumberland on 22 August 1864, and she requested that we recommence researching the Lucy family. In the marriage record, John was reportedly born in Cumberland and was the son of “E[xe]brus and Delia Lussiers.” The name “E[xe]brus” was obviously a poor transcription of an unknown name, as we knew these marriage registers were the result of several subsequent handwritten copies. An immediate concern with correlating John Lucy and John Lussiers was the apparent French spelling of his surname. We knew from previous research that John Lucy’s ethnicity was consistently identified as Irish after 1871. However, learning this new possible spelling and ethnicity led us to recognize John in the 1861 census:

John Lucier enumerated in Cumberland, Ontario in 1861.

Fourteen-year-old John Lucier lived in the R.P. Lindsay household.[1] They lived in Cumberland – the same place John Lussiers listed in his marriage record. We were surprised to see that John Lucier was identified as Roman Catholic, unlikely for someone who would only three years later be married in a Wesleyan Methodist Church. Upon closer inspection, we developed a hypothesis that would explain the apparent conflict. John was listed as one of three non-family members in the household of a Church of Scotland minister. This young boy may have been taken in by Rev. Lindsay when his parents died or were otherwise unable to care for him. So, although John Lucier was a baptized Roman Catholic, he was living in a house where everyone else was a member of the Church of Scotland. He would have become familiar with and was probably following the Presbyterian tradition.

John may have had mixed ancestry, with his father having been French and his mother Irish. He may have then chosen to more closely identify with his Irish roots, particularly since his wife was Irish. To test this hypothesis, we turned to John Lucy’s children and found that they indeed frequently identified themselves as having French lineage. By analyzing the later records concerning two of John Lucy’s children, we gathered evidence that the family likely had both French and Irish heritage. This supported our hypothesis that John Lucy was also known as John Lussiers and that he married Ann Hannah in 1864.

The next chapter in this genealogy mystery: Finding John’s mother in the census

A search for John Lucy/Lussiers in the 1851 census did not yield any positive results, most likely because the surviving 1851 census is not complete, so we returned to the 1861 census for more clues. Interestingly, there were two Lucier families in 1861 in Cumberland. The families of Frances Lucier and Baptist Lucier appear next to each other in the census. Of note, Frances Lucier’s wife was named Adelaide and they had a daughter, Delia.[2] The similarity of Adelaide to John’s mother’s name – Delia – was compelling. Moving to French Catholic parish records, we discovered the baptismal record for a John Lucier, son of Francis Lucier and Adelaide Dirmont/Diamond, born in Cumberland on 30 August 1844 and baptized on 12 November 1844 at the parish St. Gregoire-de-Nazianze in Buckingham, which is just across the river from Cumberland.[3]

Baptismal record of John Lucier 12 November 1844 at the parish St. Gregoire-de-Nazianze.

The Catholic Church records of Quebec and some areas of Ontario are a fantastic collection. The French-Canadian church records served as civil registration records until the beginning of the twentieth century. Copies of all the church records were thus sent annually to the appropriate courthouse. In the 1940s, L’Institut Généalogique Drouin (The Drouin Genealogical Institute) microfilmed these records at courthouses across Quebec and in other areas with high French-Canadian populations. [Click here for a recent update on the Drouin Collection online, and click here for an article on Catholic church records in Quebec.]

In addition to this Drouin collection, an extensive, seven-volume genealogical reference was developed by Father Cyprien Tanguay in the late nineteenth century. The Genealogical Dictionary of Canadian Families from the Foundation of the Colony to the Present Day, also known as the Tanguay Collection, is considered one of the most comprehensive resources for French-Canadian genealogy. [Ancestry.com has indexed images of this collection.]

Using these excellent resources, we were quickly able to track John Lucy’s paternal line back 200 years to the immigrant ancestor, Jacques Lussier, son of Jacques and Marguerite (Darmine) Lussyé of St. Eustache, Paris, France, who married Catherine Clerice (also born in Paris) on 12 October 1671 at Notre Dame du Quebec, Quebec City, Quebec.

Our client was thrilled. Of her father, she said, “I know he would be ecstatic.” She continued, “I am so impressed with the level of work that you have done. That cannot have been easy at all but it looks like we made a breakthrough this time. That is so exciting.”

There is nothing more satisfying than breaking through genealogical brick walls and helping our clients realize their heritage, perhaps especially when it is different than the family always believed. Our client may not be able to visit the Lucy ancestral village in Ireland this summer, but they may now be considering adding a stop in Paris!

Now through October 31st, 2017 save $100 off 20+ hour genealogy research projects with code GEMS100Legacy Tree Genealogists, the recommended research partner of Genealogy Gems, has been providing full-service genealogical research for clients worldwide for more than 13 years. Their team of genealogists helps clients discover their roots and personal history through records, narratives, and DNA.

 

Notes

[1] 1861 Canada Census (population schedule), Cumberland, Russell, Ontario, ED 1, p. 12, [R.P.] Lindsay household, http://myheritage.com, subscription database, accessed January 2017.

[2] 1861 Canada Census (population schedule), Cumberland, Russell, Ontario, ED 1, p. 7, Francis Lucier household, http://myheritage.com, subscription database, accessed January 2017.

[3] Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968 (index and image), baptism of John Lucier, 10 November 1844, Buckingham and Grenville, Québec, http://ancestry.com, subscription database, accessed January 2017.

New U.S. Vital Records Online: Freedmen’s Bureau, Statewide Databases and More

Millions of U.S. vital records have recently been published online! These include updates to the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index; nationwide obituary, funeral home, and cemetery databases; Freedmen’s Bureau field office records; a new African American Center for Family History; and updates to vital records collections for CA, ID, LA, MI, NV, PA, SC, St. Croix, and WA. 

U.S. Vital Records new and updated

Scan this list of nationwide, regional, and statewide collections of vital records: which should you search for your U.S. ancestors? Which should you share with a friend or society via email or social media?

U.S. Vital Records: Nationwide Databases

Ancestry.com has updated three nationwide databases of vital events for the United States:

  • Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. Click here to learn more about this important collection, which takes the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) a step further by providing additional information on millions of names.
  • U.S. Obituary Collection, 1930-2017. “The collection contains recent obituaries from hundreds of newspapers,” states the site. “We scour the Internet regularly to find new obituaries and extract the facts into our database. Where available we include the original URL link to the source information. As the internet is a changing medium, links may stop working over time.”
  • U.S. Cemetery and Funeral Home Collection, 1847-2017. “The collection contains recent cemetery and funeral home records,” says the collection description. “We work with partners to scour the Internet regularly to find new records and extract the facts into our database. Where available we include the original URL link to the source information. As the internet is a changing medium, links may stop working over time.”

Across the South and African American Heritage

Ancestry.com subscribers may now also search a new database, U.S., Freedmen’s Bureau Records of Field Offices, 1863-1878. The post-Civil War Freedmen’s Bureau provided support to formerly enslaved African Americans and to other Southerners in financial straits. This database includes records from field offices that served Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, and the cities of New Orleans and Washington, D.C. It also includes records from the Adjutant General’s office relating to the Bureau’s work in Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and South Carolina. Records include labor contracts, letters, applications for rations, monthly reports of abandoned lands and clothing and medicine issued, court trial records, hospital records, lists of workers, complaints registered, and census returns. A related collection, U.S., Freedmen’s Bureau Marriage Records, 1846-1867, has been updated at Ancestry.com.

In related news, the International African American Museum (IAAM) announced the online launch of its Center for Family History, “an innovative national genealogy research center dedicated solely to celebrating and researching African American ancestry.” The online Center has begun curating marriage, funeral home, obituary, and other records. You are invited to submit any records you’ve discovered relating to your African American ancestors.

California and Nevada marriage records

Over 4.3 million new records have been added to Findmypast’s collection of U.S. marriage records for the states of California and Nevada. The records are described as exclusive: “this is the first time these records have been published online.”

Idaho marriage records

Ancestry.com has updated its collection of Idaho, Marriage Records, 1863-1966. “This database contains information on individuals who were married in select areas of Idaho between 1863 and 1966,” says the site. “Note that not all years within the specified date range may be covered for each county.” Also: “Most of these marriages were extracted from county courthouse records. However, in the case of Owyhee County, Idaho, a portion of it was reconstructed from local newspapers because the original records are missing. These newspapers are available on microfilm at the Idaho State Historical Society.”

Louisiana death records

Nearly 50,00 indexed names have been added to FamilySearch.org’s free database, Louisiana Deaths, 1850-1875, 1894-1960. According to the site, “The statewide records for all parishes cover 1911-1959 (coverage outside these dates for individual parishes vary). Death records from 1850-1875 are for Jefferson Parish only.”

Michigan death records

Ancestry.com has updated its database,Michigan, Death Records, 1897-1929.” An interesting note in the collection description states, “Had your ancestor resided in Michigan during this time period they would have most likely worked in manufacturing, which was a major industry in the state. Three major car manufacturing companies are located in Detroit and nearby Dearborn: Olds Motor Vehicle Company, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors. Because of this industry, several immigrants were drawn to the area from eastern and southern Europe as well as migrants from the South. Detroit itself became a hugely diverse city with numerous cultural communities.”

Pennsylvania Catholic baptisms, marriages, and burials

Findmypast.com has added new databases from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to its Roman Catholic Heritage Archive. These include:

  • Philadelphia Roman Catholic Parish Baptisms. Over 556,000 new records, which include name, date, and place of baptism and the names and residence of parents.
  • Philadelphia Roman Catholic Parish Marriages. Over 278,000 sacramental register entries. Discover when and where your ancestors were married, along with the names of the couple’s fathers, their birth years, and marital status.
  • Philadelphia Roman Catholic Parish Registers. Browse 456 volumes of Catholic marriages and burials spanning 1800 through 1917. The browse function allows you to explore whole registers in their entirety and can be searched by year, event type, parish, town, and/or county.

South Carolina marriages and deaths

Ancestry.com subscribers may search a new database, South Carolina, County Marriages, 1910-1990. “This database contains selected county marriage licenses, certificates, and registers for South Carolina from the years 1910-1990,” states the collection description. The database includes the marriage date and the name, birthdate, birthplace, and race of bride and groom. “Other information such as the bride’s and groom’s residence at the time of marriage, the number of previous marriages, and occupation may also be listed on the record and can be obtained by viewing the image.” A related Ancestry.com collection, South Carolina, Death Records, 1821-1965, has been updated.

St. Croix: The Enslaved and the Free

A new Ancestry.com database reveals more about life in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands: Slave and Free People Records, 1779-1921. “The diversity of records in this database reflects some of St. Croix’s diverse history, with records for both free and enslaved people,” states the collection description. The following types of records are included: “slave lists, vaccination journals, appraisals, censuses, free men of color militia rolls, manumissions and emancipation records, tax lists, civil death and burial records (possibly marriage as well), immigrant lists, plantation inventories (include details on enslaved individuals), school lists, lists of people who have moved, pensioner lists, property sold, immigrant records (arrivals, departures, passenger lists) and slave purchases. Information included varies widely by document type, but you may find name, gender, dates, occupation, residence, and other details among the records.”

Washington death records

FamilySearch.org has added over 1.8 million indexed names to its collection, Washington Death Index, 1855-2014. “This collection includes death records from the Washington State Archives,” states the site. “There is an index and images of deaths recorded with the state. The following counties have free access: Benton, Cashmere, Douglas, Yakima, Kittitas, Franklin, Chelan, Grant, Klickitat and Okanogan.”

Learn all about how to start cemetery research with the brand new book, The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide. Discover tools for locating tombstones, tips for traipsing through cemeteries, an at-a-glance guide to frequently used gravestone icons, and practical strategies for on-the-ground research.

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Free Genealogy Records from Around the World: Newly Online!

Free genealogy records, newly available online, may be able to take you around your ancestor’s world! This week’s record destinations include Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Dominican Republic, France, Italy, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Russia, and South Africa.

Civil registration records–key genealogical resources–from several countries are among the free new family history records online in recent days and weeks. But you’ll also find probate records, church records, military personnel records, and even a digital archive meant to preserve ancient aboriginal languages. Which might mention your ancestors?

Argentina

Over 100,000 indexed names have been added to FamilySearch’s free collection, Argentina, Entre Ríos, Catholic Church Records, 1764-1983. According to a collection description, it includes “baptisms, confirmations, marriages and burials for cities in the province of Entre Ríos.”

Australia

An exciting new Australian website houses a digital archive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language materials. It includes texts, audio, video, and ebooks about Australia’s First Nations languages. The hope of the site is to be a digital repository for gathering, preserving, and sharing materials that in effect preserve these languages and revitalize their use. The site managers will continue to work with partners to bring more content to the site. Click here to read more about the site’s launch, and click here to access it directly.

Belgium

Two free Belgian civil registration collections at FamilySearch.org have been updated:

Both of these collections are comprised of civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths from the Belgium National Archives, as well as marriage proclamations, marriage supplements, and some original indexes. Additional images will be added as they become available.

Brazil

Several free Brazilian genealogy records collections have been updated at FamilySearch.org. Among them are the following:

Bolivia

Over 300,000 indexed names have been added to FamilySearch.org’s enormous free collection of Bolivia Catholic Church Records, 1566-1996. The collection hosts over 1.5 million digitized images of Catholic Church records created by parishes in Bolivia. “These records include: baptisms, confirmations, marriages, pre-marriage investigations, deaths, indexes and other records. Some of these records have been indexed and are searchable as part of this collection. Additional indexed records will be published as they become available.”

Canada

Library and Archives Canada continues to update its free Personnel Records of the First World War database. So far, the database includes “digitized files for many individuals of the Canadian Expeditionary Force and the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and Newfoundland Forestry Corps (courtesy of the Rooms Provincial Archives).”

Newly digitized CEF files are added to the references every two weeks, states the collection’s landing page. To date, over 461,000 of an expected 640,000 files have been added. “Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order,” explains a blog post. “Please note that over the years, the content of some boxes has had to be moved and, you might find that the file you want, with a surname that is supposed to have been digitized, is now located in another box that has not yet been digitized.”

Chile

FamilySearch.org has updated its free collection, Chile Civil Registration, 1885-1903. These include “births, marriages, and deaths for various localities in Chile from 1885 to 1903. For a complete list of all the provincias and comunas included in this collection, see the Provinces of Chile – Civil Registration coverage table. Only records from a few localities have been indexed. More records and images will be added as they become available.” Need help reading these? FamilySearch suggests using this Spanish Genealogical Word List, which also links to other translation tools.

Dominican Republic

Over 175,00 indexed names have been added to FamilySearch’s free collection, Dominican Republic Civil Registration, 1801-2010. Spanning over 200 years, the collection includes images of births, marriages, and deaths as well as some divorces and indexes. “Some of these records have been indexed and are searchable as part of this collection,” states the collection description. “Additional images and indexed records will be published as they become available. These records were obtained from public access sources in the Dominican Republic.”

France

FamilySearch has updated its collection of indexed Catholic parish record images for Coutances et d’Avranche Diocese, 1533-1894. Baptisms, marriages, and burials are all included. “Parishes within this diocese are within the boundaries of the department of Manche,” states a collection description. “French commission for Informatics and Liberties (CNIL) does not allow publication of sensitive data below 150 years.”

Italy

FamilySearch continues to publish more Italian civil registration records! These are some of the latest:

Netherlands

Just shy of a million records have been added recently to FamilySearch’s free collection, Netherlands, Archival Indexes, Miscellaneous Records. “Archives around the Netherlands have contributed indexes which cover many record sources, such as civil registration, church records, emigration lists, military registers, and land and tax records,” says the collection description. “These records cover events like birth, marriage, death, burial, emigration and immigration, military enrollment and more. These indexes were originally collected, combined and published by OpenArchives.”

Nicaragua

There are now over two century’s worth of records in the free FamilySearch collection, Nicaragua Civil Registration, 1809-2013. It includes “births, marriages, deaths, and other records created by civil registration offices in various departments of Nicaragua.” Civil registration in Nicaragua didn’t begin until 1879, and it appears that most records in this collection date from that year or later.

Paraguay

Nearly 125,000 browse-only images have been added to FamilySearch.org’s free collection, Paraguay Miscellaneous Records, 1509-1977. According to the site, “These records include two complete collections: Sección Nueva Encuadernación (Rebinding Section) and Sección Propiedades y Testamentos (Properties and Wills Section). Copies of the original records are housed at the Archivo Nacional in Asunción, Paraguay. The “Propiedades y Testamentos” section can give a brief look at the personal wealth of clerics, economic bases of resident foreigners in Paraguay, or the fortunes of a given family over a period of time.”

Russia

FamilySearch.org has updated its free collection, Russia, Samara Church Books, 1779-1923.  It includes “images and partial index to records of births and baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials performed by priests of the Russian Orthodox Church in the province of Samara. These records were acquired from the state archive in that province.” Another brief statement in the collection description illustrates the incremental and ongoing nature of record additions to FamilySearch: “Currently this collection is 4% complete. Additional records will be added as they are completed.”

South Africa

Over 40,000 indexed records have been added to the free FamilySearch.org collection, South Africa, Transvaal, Probate Records from the Master of the Supreme Court, 1869-1958. The records are described simply as “probate records from the Master of the Supreme Court, Transvaal, South Africa. Original records are located in the Transvaal Archives Depot, Pretoria, Republic of South Africa.

Spotlight on probate records

court record researchProbate records detailed the final settling of our ancestors’ financial assets. They often contain rich genealogical information and interesting insights into a person’s life. They are among the many records you might find at courthouses and government archives. More U.S. probate records are coming online (click here to learn more), but even if you have to visit a courthouse yourself or hire someone to do it for you, it’s often worth it. Click here to read why.

Thanks for sharing this post with those who will want to know about these free genealogy records online!

How to Find Original Manuscripts with ArchiveGrid

Original manuscript records may reveal genealogical gems about your ancestors. Find these old records in archives around the country using this little-known, free online tool: ArchiveGrid.

archivegrid

Manuscript records such as old diaries, letters, vital record collections, military documents, church registers, store ledgers, school and even business records can be genealogical gems. But finding original manuscript collections in archives and libraries can be difficult. Which archive has it? What’s the collection called? How can you access it?

ArchiveGrid can help

A little-known free website can help you locate old documents and manuscript items available in over 1,500 different archival collections. It’s called ArchiveGrid, and it currently includes close to 5 million archival item entries!

ArchiveGrid is a companion website to WorldCat, the free online catalog of millions of library items from thousands of libraries. The difference is that ArchiveGrid focuses not on published items but (generally-speaking) on unpublished ones.

How to search ArchiveGrid

From the ArchiveGrid home page, you can do two types of searches:

Search for repositories in ArchiveGrid

ArchiveGrid website

Use the map view, shown above on the left side, to identify archival collections that are near your ancestors’ home. These archives may hold materials related to your ancestors’ communities. Hover over the red markers to see the names of institutions. Click on them to find contact information and search their collections.

Search for specific manuscript items in ArchiveGrid

1. In the search box in the upper right part of the ArchiveGrid home page, enter search terms related to the manuscript items you hope to find, such as berks county pennsylvania marriage records. Then click Search. You’ll see a list of search results, such as these:

2. Browse search results. If you need to narrow or broaden your results, you can scroll to the bottom of the search results page and click the options you want.

3. Click on items of interest to read more about them. Here’s what a typical ArchiveGrid catalog entry looks like:

The entry tells you more about the individual item. You may see when it was created, a physical description of it, who or what organization created it, and even brief historical background. You’ll see what repository holds it–and you can click under the name of that repository for its contact information. You may be able to order copies, visit to view the item in person, or hire a local researcher to do that for you.

As you can see, a sidebar to the right of this catalog entry says More Like This, with categories like people, places, groups, or topics. These links point to additional catalog items that are related in some way to the one you’re looking at—it’s something like browsing the stacks by topic at a library. (You can also sort all your search results this way from the main list of search results by clicking on Summary View.)

Now that the Family History Library is discontinuing its microfilm lending program, you may find yourself increasingly searching for original manuscript items that aren’t available online. And now that you know how to use ArchiveGrid, you may find yourself wanting to seek out these genealogical gems even more!

Learn More About Original Records

Learn more about finding and using original records from our new regular contributor on the Genealogy Gems podcasts: “The Archive Lady” Melissa Barker. Hear a full-length interview with her in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #205. Genealogy Gems Premium website members can hear even more from her on finding and using original records in the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode #149.

Photos used in the collage in this post are courtesy of Melissa Barker.