Cold Case files are as common in genealogy as they are in criminal investigations. So it seemed a no brainer to me that family historians could incorporate some of the same techniques that cold case investigators use. And that is how my presentation How to Reopen and Work a Genealogical Cold Case was born.
I recently brought this exciting hour to the folks at the Williamson County Texas Genealogical Society and they embraced it with open arms. Eyes were lighting up, and there was excitement in the air at the prospect of pulling some of those dusty old brick walls off their genealogical office shelves. I warned the group that they would be blaming for a sleepless night that night as they burned the midnight oil putting the tips to work. And as always, I encourage them to let me in on their successes by dropping me an email. I never cease to be amazed at what my wonderful audiences accomplishes!
An email from Teresa Hankins of Round Rock, TX landed in my inbox the very next morning, and her message was inspiring:
“I attended your lecture on Genealogical Cold Cases at the Williamson County Genealogical Society’s meeting just last night. It was late when I got home, but I wanted to check out some of your suggestions on cracking hard cases. I was particularly interested in Google Books, as I had just recently discovered it, but hadn’t used it much.
The Case: My 2nd great-grandfather, Joshua, was too young to serve in American Civil War, but he had nine brothers who did serve. These brothers are what first prompted my interest in genealogy, and I’ve spent untold hours reconstructing their movements and histories.
One of the most poignant stories is that of David, the youngest of the nine. He couldn’t have been more than 17 years old when he joined the Union regiment. He was wounded at the Battle of Lone Jack, discharged, and then married Margaret, a young lady from a neighboring farm. They had one child, named Thomas, and then David was murdered by bushwhackers. His young bride remarried and had two more children before she, too, passed away at a young age. My unsolvable case was with Thomas, son of David and Margaret, who seemed to vanish from history. He lost his father when he was an infant, his mother when he was about 12, and I wanted to know what happened to him!
Like all good genealogists, I was only going to research a little before going to bed. I wanted to play around on Google Books and see how the searches worked. I typed in a few key words that were unsuccessful before settling on a group of books based on Benton County, Missouri, which is where most of my ancestors in this line resided. I was just clicking on a book and searching for the surname, not looking for anything in particular. I only wanted to see what would come up and how the search engine worked. The next thing I know, I am looking at a record from the Supreme Court of Missouri, regarding some sort of land dispute. There are all the names involved, Thomas, his two half siblings, another family that I know are neighbors and relatives! I now know the month and year that Thomas died. I know that he sold some land one of his uncles. He was living there among family and friends, and though he, too, died young, at least I know what happened! This has opened up a cold case, and now it is on fire with new leads. I can’t wait to see what else I can dig up on Google Books!
Thank you for all the useful information you shared. I learned so much. I can’t wait to try out your other suggestions. You said to send you an email if we cracked a cold case, and that is what I’m doing. Have a blessed day!”
Well, I feel blessed every time I hear from my fabulous students / listeners / readers! I’m a lucky girl!
And I received one more blessing in Round Rock: At long last I finally got to meet my cousin Carolyn. You “met” Carolyn on the free Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast episodes about contacting living relatives (see below for links.) Carolyn and I have been collaborating online for nearly ten years on our family history (her mother is my Grandmother’s sister) but we never had the opportunity to meet in person until now. She’s as sweet and warm as she is on the phone – it’s not wonder she has such great success reaching out to family relations.
It’s wonderful to hear from folks about how they have benefited from something I’ve shared, but I could write volumes on the blessings I’ve received in this job that I love.
Heritage Quilts Video with Carolyn: featuring a quilt in our family. Each block features one of our female ancestors.
Episode 14: How to Contact Long-Lost Relatives
Connecting with someone who knows about our ancestors can really boost our research results—and even create new relationships among living kin. But it’s not always easy to send that first email or make that first call. In this episode, we chat with my cousin, Carolyn Ender, who has mastered the art of “genealogical cold calling” by conducting hundreds of telephone interviews. She has a knack for quickly connecting with folks she doesn’t know over the telephone in ways that put them at ease and bring to light the information that she’s looking for.
Episode 15: More Tips for Contacting Distant Relatives
In this episode we talk more about “genealogical cold calling” with my cousin, Carolyn Ender, who has conducted hundreds of telephone interviews. Relationships are key to genealogical success and by following 14 genealogical cold calling strategies you will find your research relationships multiplying.
A one hour video of Lisa’s class on Genealogical Cold Cases is part of Genealogy Gems Premium Membership. Click here to become a Member.
The Genealogy Gems Podcast Episodes
2011 Season Six
Episode 101 Listen & Show Notes
Tons of great gems in the news, and learn all about becoming a certified genealogist from Alvie Davidson.
Episode 102 Listen & Show Notes
Genealogy Gems News, Updating your Podcast iGoogle Gadget, Research Strategies and an interview with Kendall Wilcox, Executive Producer of The Generations Project about the new Season 2.
Episode 103 Listen & Show Notes
Genealogy Gems News, “Cemetery Justice,” the New Google Books, the New Google Earth Version 6.0 for Genealogy.
Episode 104 Listen & Show Notes
Genealogy and Technology Converge. Interview with professional genealogist Kory Meyerink on the 50 most popular family history websites. Geo-Tagging photos with Chris Bair.
Episode 105 Listen & Show Notes
Interview with Josh Taylor of the New England Historic Genealogical Society on RootsTech. Tips for getting the most out of a conference, NARA videos, and free RootsMagic webinars.
Episode 106 Listen & Show Notes
Lisa shares her experience at the Who Do You Think You Are? Live show held recently in London, as well as some her own Cooke ancestry sleuthing. Interview with New Zealand genealogist Jan Gow on how to create your own family history resource library.
Episode 107 Listen & Show Notes
Free Webinars, the 1911 Scotland Census, Fraternal Organizations, and Dick Eastman joins Lisa to talk about Cloud Computing and Computer Security.
Episode 108 Listen & Show Notes
Census Tips and Tricks with Jason Harrison of FamilySearch. Also how to cite sources from Wikipedia, Lisa finds a newspaper article for a listener, and where to start in looking for Germany records.
Episode 109 Listen & Show Notes
The Civil War 150th Anniversary with Mike Litterst of the National Parks Service. Also, the new Jamboree apps, free upcoming webinars, and a tale of a military heros bible finding its way home again.
Episode 110 Listen & Show Notes
Divorce Research: Little White Lies at the Turn of the Century, free webinar, and special guest Maureen Taylor The Photo Detective from the Who Do You Think You Are? Live event in London.
Episode 111 Listen & Show Notes
Military Records: How to find Invalid and Pension files, New Mexican records, and special guest Roger Kershaw of the National Archives UK gives the back ground on the British Home Children from his book New Lives For Old.
Episode 112 Listen & Show Notes
Helping kids embrace family history at the Genealogy Jamboree.
Episode 113 Listen & Show Notes
Family History Writing with author John Paul Godges.
Episode 114 Listen & Show Notes
Online Security, Records Roundup, Genealogy Blogging with Becky Jamison.
Episode 115 Listen & Show Notes
How to Travel to Your Ancestor’s Homeland.
Episode 116 Listen & Show Notes
The Genealogy Gems Podcast recorded live at the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree. Special guests: Allison Stacy, Publisher of Family Tree Magazine, and Certified Graphologist Paula Sassi.
Episode 117 Listen & Show Notes
Find out if you should be using “Flourish” in your genealogy research with my guest DearMYRTLE.
Episode 118 Listen & Show Notes
PERSI, Grandmas and Grandpas and Free Transcription Software.
Episode 119 Listen & Show Notes
Prepare for Family History Christmas Gifts, Listener’s Grandparent Terms of Endearment, and 1000Memories.
Episode 120 Listen & Show Notes
Part 1 of Lisa interview with Washington Post editor Steve Luxenberg, author of the riveting true-story book Annie’s Ghost.
Here’s our weekly roundup of new genealogy records online. Which ones mention your ancestors? Think Australian, British, Czech, German, Irish and the U.S. (Illinois, New Jersey and Texas).
AUSTRALIA IMMIGRATION. A new collection of passenger lists for Victoria, Australia (1852-1924) is now browsable for free on FamilySearch.org.
BRITISH MILITARY. Findmypast.com has released over 900,000 Royal Navy and Royal Marine service and pension records (1704-1919). Transcripts and images may divulge personal details along with the particulars of a person’s military service, next of kin, payment and more.
CZECHOSLOVAKIA HOLOCAUST. A new database of selected Holocaust records for Prague, Czechoslovakia (1939-1945) is available at Ancestry.com, as is an update to a companion database of Czech Holocaust records for the same time period, both from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
ENGLAND – SURREY. Ancestry.com has posted various new records collections for Sutton, Surrey, England: Church of England vital records spanning 1538-1812; more Church of England births and baptisms (1813-1915), marriages and banns (1754-1940) and deaths and burials (1813-1985); tax collection rate books (1783-1914) and electoral registers (1931-1970).
GERMANY – HESSE CIVIL REGISTRATIONS. Nearly 300,000 indexed names have been added to a free online collection of civil registrations for Frankfurt, Hesse, Germany (1811-1814, 1833-1928).
IRELAND CHURCH. The initial phase of a fantastic new collection of Irish Quaker church records has been published at Findmypast.com. Over 1.3 million Irish Quaker records are there now, including births, marriages, deaths, school and migration records, many dating back to the mid-1600s.
UK VITAL EVENTS. Ancestry.com has added new collections of UK births, marriages and deaths recorded in far-flung places or unusual settings: at sea (1844-1890); with the Army and Navy (1730-1960); and as registered by British consulates (1810-1968).
US – ILLINOIS BIRTHS. About 160,000 indexed names have been added to a collection of Cook County, Illinois birth certificates (1871-1940). Cook County includes the city of Chicago.
US – NEW JERSEY MARRIAGES. Over 100,000 names are newly-indexed in a free online collection of New Jersey marriage records (dating to 1670!) at FamilySearch.org.
US – TEXAS IMMIGRATION. About 860,000 indexed names have been added to a free existing database of Laredo, Texas passenger arrival manifests (1903-1955) at FamilySearch.org.
There are literally millions of new genealogy records online every week. It’s hard to keep up, so will you help us spread the word? Thanks for sharing this list on your favorite social media site.