Remember the Sears Catalog? It’s on Ancestry.com

Sears Catalog Fall 1960, Cover. Digital image from Ancestry.com. Historic Catalogs of Sears, Roebuck and Co., 1896-1993 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: Sears Roebuck Catalogs 1896–1993. Vol.102–228 K. Chicago, Illinois: Sears, Roebuck and Co.

Back in “the day,” American consumers window-shopped by mail with the Sears catalog. From 1888-1993, the Sears catalog stocked millions of American households and fed the Christmas lists of men, women and children.

Wouldn’t pages from the Sears catalog make a lively addition to your family history posts, pins, pages and  conversations? Ancestry.com thinks so, too! They’ve digitized the catalogs and they’re keyword-searchable here. (Just a word of advice: browse a certain issue or search for a specific product. A keyword search for “bicycle” brings up over 5000 results through the OCR technology used to find matches.)

According to this brief history, the Sears catalog first launched as a mailer for watches and jewelry in 1888. “The time was right for mail order merchandise,” says the article. “Fueled by the Homestead Act of 1862, America’s westward expansion followed the growth of the railroads. The postal system aided the mail order business by permitting the classification of mail order publications as aids in the dissemination of knowledge entitling these catalogs the postage rate of one cent per pound. The advent of Rural Free Delivery in 1896 also made distribution of the catalog economical.”

Here’s one more blast from the American consumer past: Sears kit houses. Have you heard of these? You used to be able to order pre-fabricated homes from Sears. You could customize one of many standard sets of plans, and all the materials would be pre-cut and delivered to your home, “some assembly required,” so to speak. Learn more about Sears kit houses and see images of several designs (1908-1940) here. Did your family ever live in a kit house? Tell us about it on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page!

We Dig These Gems: New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gemsEvery Friday, we highlight new genealogy records online. Scan these posts for content that may include your ancestors. Use these records to inspire your search for similar records elsewhere. Always check our Google tips at the end of each list: they are custom-crafted each week to give YOU one more tool in your genealogy toolbox.

This week: European and U.S. Jewish records; Mexico civil registrations; New York City vital records and New York state censuses and naturalizations.

JEWISH RECORDS. In the first quarter of 2015, nearly 70,000 records have been added to databases at JewishGen.org. These are free  to search and include records from Poland (for the towns of Danzig, Lwow, Lublin, Sidelce, Volhynia and Krakow); Lithuania (vital records, passports,  revision lists and tax records); the United Kingdom (the Jews’ Free School Admission Register, Spitalfields, 1856-1907) and the United States (obituaries for Boston and Cleveland).

MEXICO CIVIL REGISTRATIONS. More than 400,000 indexed records have been added to civil registrations for the state of Luis Potosi, Mexico. Records include “births, marriages, deaths, indexes and other records created by civil registration offices” and are searchable for free at FamilySearch.

NEW YORK CITY VITAL RECORDS. Indexes to New York City births (1878-1909), marriages (1866-1937) and deaths (1862-1948) are new and free for everyone to search on Ancestry. Click here to reach a New York research page on Ancestry that links to these indexes.

NEW YORK STATE CENSUSES AND NATURALIZATIONS. The New York state censuses for 1855 and 1875 (for most counties) are now available online to subscribers at Ancestry. According to the census collection description, “The state took a census every ten years from 1825 through 1875, another in 1892, and then every ten years again from 1905 to 1925. State censuses like these are useful because they fall in between federal census years and provide an interim look at a population.” New York naturalization records (1799-1847) and intents to naturalize (or “first papers,” 1825-1871) are also available online.

NEW ZEALAND PROBATE RECORDS. Nearly 800,000 images from Archives New Zealand (1843-1998) have been added to an existing FamilySearch collection (which is at least partly indexed). Privacy restrictions apply to probates issued during the past 50 years. These records contain names of testator, witnesses and heirs; death and record date; occupation; guardians and executor; relationships; residences and an estate inventory.

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Google tip of the week: Some genealogical records and indexes are created on a city or municipal level rather than–or  in addition to–a county, province or state level. When Google searching for vital and other records like burials and city directories, include the name of a city in your searches. Learn more about Googling your genealogy in Lisa Louise Cooke’s The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox. The 2nd edition, newly published in 2015, is fully revised and updated with the best Google has to offer–which is a LOT.

Family History at Home – Find it, identify it, share it!

Family history can, and should be found around our own homes. Your house is a great place to look for clues as well as the ideal place to display what you’ve already found! In this free genealogy live webinar Lisa Louise Cooke will show you how. 

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 65

In Elevenses with Lisa episode 65 Lisa Louise Cooke will:

  • explore our homes for family history
  • see if we can’t unlock some mysteries, and
  • look at some fun and creative ways to incorporate family history into our homes!

Episode 65 Show Notes

family history around your house

Watch episode 65

Home is where the heart is and it’s certainly where the family history is. If you’ve found an interesting piece of family history around your home tell us about in the Comments section below so we can all get more ideas of what to look for.

What To Do with the Family China Nobody Wants

Author Robbie Shell wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal called The Family Heirlooms That Our Children Don’t Want Lifelong possessions look very different when we start trying to pass them on.

She wrote about being retired and becoming a grandmother. “The new baby (my first grandchild) and new house ignited one of my long-awaited projects—excavating crawl spaces and basement corners on a hunt for possessions to pass on to the next two generations. It’s easy to predict how this played out. My son and his wife turned down many more items than they accepted. Much of what I had hoped to “upsize” to them stayed in my basement and attic. What wasn’t easy to predict, however, was how complicated this seemingly simple transaction could be. It involved multiple perspectives, across multiple generations. It showed how possessions, when held up to the light, often lose the very qualities that prompted us to set them aside. And, in my case, it offered a glimpse of a future that I’ve thought about—and looked forward to—for years.”

She proceeds to describe how she went through items in the house, offering them up to her son and daughter-in-law. She got replies like:

  • Too ornate
  • No Shelf space now, maybe later,

“They did give thumbs-up to desk lamps, guest sheets and towels, a few kitchen items and one folding chair, among other things—utilitarian items with no stories or expectations attached.”

It’s an interesting dilemma I hadn’t thought about when I was carefully collecting and saving things over the past few decades: that being attached to the story behind the item was key to valuing it. We’re attached. They aren’t.

Then of course if enough years and even generations go by, we develop an interest in family history and can’t believe our good fortune to unearth such a treasure.

“Then there was the collection of unrelated items I now saw in a different light—those whose stories matter only to me: the child’s battered wooden rocking chair from the porch of my grandparents’ summer house; a faded, inscribed photograph of my father as a young man standing next to his own father, whom I never met; and the small tarnished music box with a twirling ballerina on top that was a gift from my godfather when I was young enough to still dream about being a dancer.

These things will stay with me here in the home where I have lived for decades.

Unless…

One day a young girl visiting her grandparents comes upon the music box. She picks it up and turns the key that starts the music playing. “Grandma,” she says, “what’s this? Can I have it?” “It’s yours,” I say, my heart skipping a beat. “It always has been. You had only to ask.”

I’ve inherited a lot of sets of dishes, and I have three grown daughters, and so far there aren’t any takers. My friend Kim recently proposed the idea of taking a class to learn how to make mosaic stepping stones for the garden. I can’t think of a better way to downsize some of this china!

what to do with old china plates

making mosaic tile stepping stones with my besties

So during last week’s live show (and you’ll find the link to the video replay here on YouTube in the video description below or go to genealogygems.com and click Elevenses in the menu to go to episode 64) I asked if any of you have family china:

  • Ann Baker​: Inherited? No, but we have some wedding china from our wedding 52 years ago that our kids absolutely don’t want. I’m putting it in the will that they must keep them. Or I’ll haunt them.
  • Barbara Dawes: ​Wedding gift from my grandmother was my set of sterling silver – do I take it with me?
  • Anne Renwick​: And yes, I have LOADS of old china!
  • Karen de Bruyne: ​had to give lots of grandparents old china away earlier this year, I kept one cup and saucer
  • Louise Booth:  3 or 4 sets — I’ve lost track!
mosaic tile stepping stone

mosaic tile stepping stone

China Plate Mosaic Stepping Stone Supply List (the links below are affiliate links. We will be compensated if you make a purchase. Thank you for using them and supporting this free show):

  • Concrete stepping stone from the local garden or hardware store
  • At least 2-3 large dinner plates or several smaller sizes. Strive for flatter plates.
  • Masonry cutters – ABN Glass & Ceramic Tile Nippers, Premium Carbide Cutting Wheels and Comfort Grip Handle 
  • Gryphon Gryphette Glass Grinder (optional)
  • Thin set
  • Tile Grout
  • Grout Sealer (about 1/3 cup applied to the grout with a small paintbrush.)
  • 2-3 popsicle sticks
  • Small cheap paint brush
  • Toothpick
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic gloves

China Plate Mosaic Stepping Stone Instructions:

  • Cut the plates up into piece 1-2” in size. Toss the pieces that aren’t fairly flat (like the raised rim that the plate sits on.)
  • Arrange them as desired on the concrete stepping stone. Place them as close as possible while leaving room for the grout. You don’t want large grout lines that might crack later.
  • Using the popsicle stick, apply a coat of mastic to the back of each piece. Cover the entire back evenly and press the piece back in place.
  • Clean up the grout lines so that no mastic sits higher than the plate pieces or clogs the grout line spaces.
  • Let drive 24 hours.
  • Mix the grout – use water sparingly and leave extra grout in case it gets too wet.
  • Let the grout stand or slake for 5 minutes.
  • Wearing the gloves and using a popsicle stick, fill all the grout lines completely and smoothly.
  • Follow package directions for set-up time and then buff it clean.
  • Allow to dry 24 hours.
  • With a small paintbrush apply the sealer to the grout lines and let dry.

Grandma’s Kitchen Utensils Wall Display

Do you remember spending time in your grandmother’s kitchen? I sure do. My maternal Grandma would take us out to the fields to pick fruits and vegetables and she canned a lot of it to preserve it for winter, keeping it in an old wooden pie safe in her garage.

I inherited many of her trusty kitchen utensils. I’ve hung on to them for years in a cardboard box, dragging them with me as we moved around the country. I’ve always wanted to display them but shelf and counter space is always so limited and precious. I needed a way to get them up on the wall and I finally found it.

When I was out shopping at an antique store I came across an old wire basket. It caught my eye because it wasn’t round. It’s rectangular shape turns into a hand display shelf when it’s turned on it’s side. Being wire, it’s not only easy to hand (place the bottom of the basket against the way and secure over a few good nails or hooks), but it’s the perfect canvas for displaying your utensils. Items can be placed on the “shelf” portion, and wired onto it from all directions. The nearly invisible wire means all you see is the beautiful patina of these old kitchen work horses – flour sifters, peelers, mashers, blenders, funnels and more!

Let’s hear from you: In the comments section tell us what your favorite family kitchen utensil is and who it originally belong to.

Watch Elevenses with Lisa episode 27 on using Google Lens for genealogy. 

Music Box: Name that Tune!

Now we’re going to start off with a little family history mystery that Sharon emailed me about

She writes: “I’m a long time listener and I’m loving Elevenses with Lisa! After watching Beginning German Genealogy, I remembered that my friend, Tera Fey, had shared a unique music box with me, hoping I could identify the tune. Tera had been given the music box by her grandmother, Cora (Cornelia?) DeWein, who had been given the music box by her grandmother from Germany. Tera remembers that the top used to have a crest attached to it but doesn’t remember what it looked like. I was hoping you could share the tune with your many listeners and perhaps someone could “Name That Tune”. Many thanks for the work you do and that you share with us.”

How fun! OK we’ve had success playing Name that Tune before on my Genealogy Gems Podcast so you’ve come to the right place Sharon!

So, here’s my research plan on Tera’s music box. The first thing I did after receiving her email was to put it out on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page asking for help a few months ago.

While I waited for an answer I ran a Google search on the audio, and if you ever need to identify music you can do this too.

How to search for music using the Google search app:

  • Open the app and tap the microphone
  • Say “what’s this song?” or tap the “Search a song” button. 
  • Hum or sing the song for about 10-15 seconds.
  • This works in English on iOS, and in more than 20 languages on Android, as well as Google Assistant.
  • You’ll get suggested matching results or the response “Try Again”

In this case, we didn’t get a match.

Back on the Facebook post front, my daughter Lacey actually was the  one who identified it as a Thorens Music Box, which are Swiss made. She said “Looks like 30-36 note? There would have been a card attached to the inside with the list of tunes. Looking at others for sale on eBay show similar boxes with their songs listed. Could listen to those songs to see if they match?” This is a good strategy. 

A great place to listen to the songs available with a particular brand of music box is YouTube. I listened to several and although I didn’t hear a matching tune, there are many videos available naming the songs this box played, so it might be worth a more comprehensive search of Thorens Music Box. 

Now it’s your turn. Let’s see if anyone out there knows the name of this song.

If you do, and you’re here watching live, post the title in the Live Chat. If you’re watching the video replay, go down to the Comments section and leave a comment. Let’s see if we can help Sharon  and Tera out!

Help Send the Madden Family Tablecloth Back Home

I bought this tablecloth about 5 years ago on ebay.com. It’s covered in embroidered handprints with names and birthdates. Since it’s the “Madden Family Branch” I would guess that those listed without last names are Maddens. Associated surnames are Egge and Arrants. Although a color key to the generations sewn into the corner of the tablecloth, there were other colors in the embroidery, so the “generation” distinctions aren’t hard and fast. I’ve also grouped families together where they appear to be a unit.  If you think you know which family this is and have a contact for them today, email here. 

1st Generation (pink)

  • Bill Arrants June 6, 1899
  • Het Jan. 19, 1915
  • Aileen Sept 1, 1910

Possible Family Unit:

  • Jim Martin Sept. 26, 1934
  • Joanie (?) Martin May 17, 1934
  • Julie (?) Kay Martin March(?) 1969 (Yellow)
  • Orval July 14, 1919
  • Sig March 8, 1909
  • Melba Feb 26, 1905
  • Bob Sept 21, 1919
  • Tom July 27, 1910 or 1918
  • Edwin Egge May 5, 1910
  • Francie Sept 22, 1905

2nd Generation (blue)

  • Diann “Cookie” Aug 24, 1944
  • Dennis W. July 13, 1949
  • Jack August 12, 1925

Possible Family Unit:

  • Gene Oct. 23, 1936
  • Joann Egge (?) Jan. 22, 1938
  • Gerry Egge March 5, 1965
  • Bob (?) Suh 10, 1942
  • Jo March 15, 1925 (?)
  • Bobbie Sue March 26, 1949

Possible Family Unit:

  • Ed March 31, 1947
  • Marsha (?) Oct. 18, 1946
  • Sarah March 26, 1969
  • Edwin Egge May 5, 1910
  • Sheridan L Nov 4, 1943
  • Larry H May 12, 1956
  • Darin Egge Feb. 13, 1962
  • Bob Jr. July 22, 1953
  • Patty July 17, 1934
  • Harry March 20, 1928

3rd Generation (red)

Possible Family Unit:

  • Loretta K Sept 28, 1941
  • Bob K March 12, 1940
  • LeAnna K June 9, 1962
  • Johnny K. Sept. 24, 1959
  • Wayne Feb 11, 1907
  • Edward (?) Aug 13, 1903

4th Generation (Yellow)

Madden family tablecloth

Can you help find the family?

Learn more about how to find family history on ebay. Listen to Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 16 – Tips for Finding Family History Related Items on eBay

Resources

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Find Your Ancestors in the Scotland Census Now at FamilySearch

Is that the sound of bagpipes? It might be, because the Scotland 1901 Census is now available at FamilySearch! Learn more about what you’ll find in this collection and get top tips from a Scottish genealogy expert on how to find your ancestors is in Scottish records. Then we head over to Central and South America for exciting new and updated genealogy collections for the Bahamas, Panama, and Brazil.

new genealogy records Scottish Scotland Census

Scotland Census Now at FamilySearch

Does your family tree have roots in Scotland? You’re in luck! You can now search for your tartan-clad ancestors for free at FamilySearch! The Scotland Census, 1901 contains almost 4.5 million records for those living in Scotland on Sunday March 31, 1901.

“These records are comprised of Enumeration forms that were distributed to all households before the census night and the complete forms were collected the next day by the enumerators. Included in this series are returns from ships of the Royal Navy at sea and in ports abroad.

Click here to search these records at FamilySearch now.

This collection is also available on Findmypast. If you have a subscription to Findmypast, you can access the 1901 census that includes Scotland, England, and Wales. Click here to search at Findmypast.

UPDATE: The original FamilySearch press release contained incorrect information about the source of the 1901 census records. Visit the National Records of Scotland website here for more information about the 1901 census.

According to the National Records of Scotland website, they hold records of the census of the population of Scotland for 1841 and every tenth year thereafter (with the exception of the wartime year of 1941 when no census was taken) and of the sample census of 1966.  Census records are closed for 100 years under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.”

3 Strategies for Finding an Ancestor in Scottish Records

If your love of tartan, bagpipes, and kilts equals your love of family history research, you are likely hoping to find an ancestor who was born in Scotland. Or perhaps nothing would surprise you more than to find a Scottish ancestor. In either case, the next step is to find this ancestor in Scottish records.

As with all immigrants, the first step to finding them in their homeland is to research their lives extensively in America before searching for them in Scottish records. Scottish genealogy expert Amanda Epperson, PhD joins us here on Genealogy Gems to share some of her top strategies to help you find your ancestors in Scottish records. Click here to read more!

New Genealogy Records for the Bahamas

Findmypast has been making major strides in expanding its collection to include rare and underrepresented records. The newest addition is the Bahamas Birth Index 1850-1891. Discover your Bahamian ancestors in this online index of registered births from the British Crown Colony of The Bahamas.

Birth records are essential to expanding your family tree. There are tens of thousands of records in this collection, giving information not only about relatives born in the Bahamas but also their parents. Click to search the Bahamas Birth Index 1850-1891.

Panama Records Indexes

Three new indexes containing just under half a million vital records from the Republic of Panama have recently joined Findmypast’s growing collections of international records. There are now four collections for Panama:

These new additions consist of baptisms, marriages and deaths spanning the years 1750 to 1950 and will generate hints on Findmypast family trees. (Learn more about Findmypast’s new tree hinting feature by clicking here.)

Brazil Civil Registrations

FamilySearch has a new genealogy collection for South America: Brazil, São Paulo, Civil Registration, 1925-1995. Boasting nearly 2 million records, this data set includes births, marriages, deaths, and indexes created by various civil registration offices in the state of São Paulo. Some of these records have been indexed and are searchable as part of this collection. Additional images and indexed records will be published as they become available.

These records are in Portuguese so you may want to take a look at these resources for help with these records:

You can search the index or view the images or both. Before using this collection it is helpful to know your ancestor’s given name and surname, identifying information such as residence, and estimated marriage or birth year.

Bring genealogy records to life with Google Earth!

Genealogists love making discoveries in records, but the excitement of documents doesn’t exactly translate to the non-genealogists in your family. Capture your family’s imagination by telling their family history story with Google Earth. See how easy it is to turn the genealogical information you’ve collected into compelling multi-media stories. These tours will help everyone in your family appreciate your genealogical research and protect as a legacy for generations to come. Enjoy!

About the Author: Lisa Louise Cooke is the producer and host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, an online genealogy audio show and app. She is the author of the books The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Mobile Genealogy, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, and the Google Earth for Genealogy video series, and an international keynote speaker.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

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