(Free Video Class) Google Earth Helps Genealogist Find Family Business

Gail Rogers in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada recently shared how my presentation on using Google Earth for genealogy helped her find her way to the site of an old family business–and the place where her ancestor died. She’s given me permission to share it with you. I hope you find it as inspiring as I do!

“Just last week, I received an 1879 death certificate for my great-great-great-grandmother.  She ran The Castle Inn in Stafford, Staffordshire, England after the death of her husband in 1863.  To my sorrow and horror, I learned that she hanged herself probably within the establishment where she also lived!

“When I shared this with a group of English and Australian cousins who are also researching this family, one of them sent me a link to a 1960s photo of The Castle Inn, shortly before its demolition:

“Then I remembered your presentation about pinpointing your ancestor’s home in San Francisco.  I’ve had several “family history” maps with icons that I’ve been working on for the past five years at Google Maps, so I went to the one for my Staffordshire ancestors, clicked on my icon for Eastgate Street in Stafford, and used the Street View to wander down the street, looking for the outline of the roofs, as you did with your old family photo. (You can view a video of my Google Earth for Genealogy class for free here on my website that demonstrates this technique.)

“I soon spotted the outline at the extreme left of the photo, “turned around” (virtually) and wham!  There were the double Elizabethan-style timber-framed gables, just as they appeared in the older photo!”Family business photo 2

Gail, I was so glad to read that this helped you. I’ve gotten so much great feedback on that particular example of how to use powerful Google Earth (and Google Maps) tools to find important family landmarks.

The Genealogist's Google Toolbox Third edition Lisa Louise Cooke

Available in the Genealogy Gems Store

Behind the Scenes at WDYTYA on TLC

WDYTYA STarsIf you’re like me, you were happy to see the return of Who Do You Think You Are? to our TV lineup this past summer. You might have thought to yourself as you watched, “They make it look so easy! I wonder how long it took them to find that record?”

Well there have been some great articles written by the researchers behind the scenes at WDYTYA? For example, this post tells how it took more than 1000 hours of research for Cindy Crawford’s one-hour episode.

“It took months to research Cindy’s tree,” says the post at ProGenealogists, Ancestry’s official research arm. “Only the records that were essential stepping stones could be included in her story, and a few important steps we took along the way didn’t make the final cut.”

A post on Matthew Broderick’s episode, which aired in 2010, introduces us to using military records to find our family history. Matthew appeared in the 1989 Civil War film “Glory” but his great-great-grandfather experienced the real thing: he died while serving as a Union soldier. Other episodes bring up other episodes in the history of the world: Lisa Kudrow’s past includes the horrors of the Holocaust,  Rosie O’Donnell’s covers the experience of a poor family in an Irish workhouse that was able to escape to Canada; Emmitt Smith’s probes the dark depths of African-American slavery. The post on Emmitt is a particularly detailed account of how this family was found.

You can click on similar posts relating to other WDYTYA guests, both past and present: Chris O’Donnell, Zooey Deschanel, Chelsea Handler, Christina Applegate, Kelly Clarkson, Tim McGraw, Vanessa Williams, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lisa Kudrow, Brooke Shields, and Susan Sarandon.

If you haven’t tuned in to WDYTYA yet, check it out on TLC on Tuesdays at 9pmEST. Or learn more about it and watch episodes at TLC’s website.

Tech Tool for Discovering What Your Speech Reveals About Your Heritage

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How you speak can reveal much about your heritage.

If you’ve ever lived in or visited the U.S. or Canada, you already know we don’t all speak English the same way. But did you know that we actually speak eight different major dialects in North America?

The website North American English Dialects has put those dialects on the map. In fact, it even traces their origins and spread: 2 dialects from the west and 6 from the east, reflecting the way the English language originally spread across the continent.

Creator Rick Aschmann notes how we say our “r’s”, the 19 vowel sounds we use, and all those other great tiny variations that go into our Southern drawl or “broad-A” Boston-speak. Aschmann is just doing this project for fun, but he takes his map pretty seriously. He even asks anyone with a “native accent” to upload a sound file of themselves speaking.

Dialect MapIt’s fun to look at this map and think about how our American or Canadian buy pain medication uk ancestors may have pronounced things differently than we do (or the same, depending on how far we’ve wandered). If your families have migrated within the past 50 to 100 years, click on some of the sound samples from your old stomping grounds and see if you catch some familiar cadences or phrases.

A Huffington Post writer says he could look at this map for hours and not get bored, and I agree! It’s complicated–there are lots of color codes and lines and such–but our speech is complicated, too. Some cities or small regions need their own enlarged maps to show neighborhood-level differences.

You can learn more about how our speech reveals our heritage and family history by listening to my interview with Dr. Robert Leonard Ph.D., Forensic Linguist in Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 89. Dr. Leonard has been featured on the TV series Forensic Files and has a fascinating personal history as well.

Genealogy Tips: Find Ancestors in Tax Records

It’s time to pay taxes in the United States! Tax RecordsIs it any consolation that our ancestors paid them, too? Here’s a brief history of U.S. federal taxation and tips on where to find tax records for the U.S. and the U.K.

History of Tax Records

According to the National Archives (U.S.), the Civil War prompted the first national income tax, a flat 3% on incomes over $800. (See an image of the 16th Amendment and the first 1040 form here.)

The Supreme Court halted a later attempt by Congress to levy another income tax, saying it was unconstitutional.

In 1913 the 16th Amendment granted that power. Even then, only 1% of the population paid income taxes because most folks met the exemptions and deductions. Tax rates varied from 1% to 6%–wouldn’t we love to see those rates now!

Where to Find Tax Records

Ancestry.com has indexed images of U.S. federal tax assessment lists from the Civil War period (and beyond, for some territories).

Here’s a sample image from Arkansas:

Arkansas tax record 1867

Of course, the U.S. federal income tax is just one type. Taxes have been levied on real estate, personal property and income by local, regional and national governments throughout the world.

Some tax records can be found online at the largest genealogy websites. 

Here are examples of tax records that can be found at Ancestry:

  • tax records from London (1692-1932);
  • the U.S. states of Pennsylvania, Tennessee, New York, Ohio, Georgia and Texas;
  • and many from Scotland, Ireland, Canada and Russia (there’s more: see a full list and descriptions here).

FamilySearch.org hosts over a million records each of U.S. state tax records from Ohio and Texas.

FindMyPast hosts a wealth of U.K. tax records, from local rate books to Cheshire land taxes and even the Northamptonshire Hearth Tax of 1674.

In addition to genealogy websites, here in the U.S., look for original real estate and personal property taxpayer lists in county courthouses or state archives.

It’s also a good idea to consult genealogical or historical organizations and guides. A Google search for “tax records genealogy Virginia” brings up great results from the Library of Virginia and Binns Genealogy. And here’s a search tip: Use the keyword “genealogy” so historical records will pop up. Without that term, you’re going to get results that talk about paying taxes today.

If you still haven’t found the tax records you are looking for, there are two more excellent resources available for finding out what else might be available within a particular jurisdiction.

The first is the FamilySearch Wiki. From the home page you can drill down using the map, or try a search in the search box. Search for the jurisdiction and the keyword tax. Click through to the page for that jurisdiction. Typically you will find a table of contents that includes links to the section of the page covering various topics. Look for a link to tax, taxes, tax records, or taxation. They will list known sources for tax records in that area. 

tax records at the familysearch wiki

Tax records at the familysearch wiki

The second resource for finding out what else might be available is the free USGenWeb site. Like the FamilySearch Wiki, it’s organized by location / jurisdiction. Drill down to the place and then look for the section listing the known records for that area and look for tax related links. 

find tax records at usgenweb

Find information about tax records at USGenWeb

Why It’s Worth Finding Tax Records

I’ll leave you with this tantalizing list of data gathered in the Calhoun County, Georgia tax list of 1873. It enumerates whites, children, the blind/deaf/dumb, dentists, auctioneers, and those who have ten-pin alleys, pool tables and skating rinks. Then, real estate is assessed in detail. Finally, each person’s amount of money, investments, merchandise, household furniture, and investment in manufacturing is assessed.

As you can see, it can pay you big to invest time in looking for your ancestor’s tax records! Just make sure that if you’re here in the U.S., you’ve got your own taxes out of the way before you go searching for someone else’s.

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