Researching to write a family history narrative

Dale Spaulding discovered remarkable stories when he was researching his family for over 30 years. But he got a little worried that these really uniquely American stories were going to be lost to time if he didn’t do something about it. Maybe you have some of those same fears. It was his determination to preserve that family history that was really the driving force behind why he sat down and wrote a book about it. It’s called Fortitude, Preserving 400 years of an American Family’s Faith, Patriotism, Grit, and Determination. (This affiliate link helps support this free content.)

Dale joins me to share how he went about getting started researching his family tree to prepare to write his narrative. He also shares what motivates him to keep on researching. 

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Show Notes

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What is a Family History Narrative

  • Creative Nonfiction
  • More than Genealogy Names/Dates
  • Stories about your Ancestor’s Lives
  • Begin with Dramatic Event (Leaving the Old Country)
  • Project Entails Exhaustive Research
  • The Why? Legacy to Pass to My Descendants

Getting Started in Research

  • Nail Down the Genealogy Data
  • Caution on Ancestry.com
  • FindaGrave.com
  • Seek Corroborative Record Evidence
  • Meticulous Documentation – Source Notes (Watch Source Citation for Genealogy)
  • Become a Student of History

Research Tips

About Dale Spaulding

Dale R. Spaulding is a lifelong student of history. He’s discovered remarkable stories of his family’s long and rich past during thirty-plus years of research. Concerned that these uniquely American stories would be lost to time, he was determined to preserve them for generations to follow – one of the reasons he authored Fortitude: Preserving 400 Years of an American Family’s Faith, Patriotism, Grit and Determination.

Dale Spaulding, Author of Fortitude

Dale Spaulding, Author of Fortitude

During his career, Dale navigated the oceans and seas of the world in his twenty-two years of service in the U.S. Navy retiring as a Lieutenant Commander. Following the Navy, he was a software quality engineer and technical fellow at The Boeing Company. Dale then served as director of a national church planting organization.

Dale is a graduate of Auburn University and the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. Now retired, Dale and his wife Nancy reside in Virginia and they have two sons and four grandchildren. He is passionate about his faith, his family and his country.

Visit Dales website: https://dalespaulding.com

Resources

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Stay tuned for upcoming videos on Dale’s writing process. 

More Videos & Show Notes:

 

Newspapers and Obituaries for Genealogy – Episode 282 (Audio Podcast)

SHOW NOTES: In our first segment, Lisa Louise Cooke and her guest Jenny Ashcraft from Newspapers.com discuss how to use newspapers to fill in the missing stories in your ancestors’ lives. Jenny shares strategic tips on finding unique information many researchers miss. 

In the second segment of this episode, Shannon Combs-Bennett, the author of the article A Genealogist’s Guide to Finding and Using Historical Obituaries published in Family Tree Magazine, covers everything you need to know about obituaries including: 

  • the important backstory on obituaries,
  • what obituaries can tell you about your ancestors,
  • where you can find obituaries, both online and offline,
  • and strategies you can use when obituaries aren’t where you expected to find them.

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Show Notes and Videos

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Resources

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Resources

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Thousands of Irish Genealogy Records New This Week!

 If you’re looking for Irish ancestors, you’ll be delighted by all the new Irish record collections added this week! Also in this week’s new and updated record collections are court records and newspapers for Australia, parish records and more for England, millions of new Dutch records, South African probate records, and digitized newspapers across the United States. 

Irish genealogy records

Irish Genealogy: Thousands of New Records

If you have ancestors from Ireland who received an army pension between 1724 and 1924, you’ll want to explore Fold3’s new collection of Royal Hospital Kilmainham Pensioner Discharge Documents. This collection is made up of certificates of pensioners of the Royal Kilmainham Hospital in Ireland. According to the collection: “For each record, details given include, where available: a brief description of the pensioner together with age, place of birth, particulars of service and the reason for discharge.”

New this week at Findmypast are Dublin Electoral Rolls. This new collection contains more than 427,000 transcripts and pertains to eligible voters located in the city of Dublin between 1908 and 1915. (FYI: You can also search Dublin City Electoral Lists 1908-1915 and other records for free from the Dublin City Council’s Civil Records webpage.)

Lastly, Irish records got a big update over at the Irish Genealogical Research Society (IGRS): 5,000 records have been added to IGRS’s Early Irish Birth, Marriage, and Death Indexes. This brings their total number of names to almost 260,000. From the announcement: “This particular update draws from a range material: surviving 19th century census records; marriage licence indexes; pre-1922 abstracts from exchequer and chancery court records; memorial inscriptions; biographical notices from newspapers; a large number of long forgotten published works on particular families and places; and memorials from Ireland’s Registry of Deeds.”

New Resources for Australia

A fascinating new free website, Tracing London Convicts in Britain & Australia, 1780-1925 allows “genealogists and family historians to discover the fate of ancestors convicted of crimes and transported overseas.” This new website allows you to search millions of records from around fifty data sets, relating to the lives of 90,000 convicts from the Old Bailey. Pictured right: Lydia Lloyd, a Victorian era convict. (Image: The National Archives UK ref. PCOM4/71/6 (image 00001))

From the State Library of New South Wales Australia: The Lone Hand (1907-1921) newspaper has been digitized and made available through Trove. “Modelled on the London Strand and founded by J.F. Archibald and Frank Fox, The Lone Hand was a monthly magazine of literature and poetry, with illustrations by significant Australian artists of the time.”

England: Parish & Court Records

Ancestry.com has two new collections this week for England. Staffordshire Extracted Church of England Parish Records, 1538-1839 includes records for baptisms/christenings, burials, marriages, tombstone inscriptions, obituaries, tax lists, wills, and other miscellaneous types of records for Staffordshire, England. Also included are some records from non-conformist churches. Extracted Parish and Court Records, 1399-1795 is a collection of historical parish registers throughout England.

Also new for England, TheGenealogist has added over 1.1 million individuals to its Sussex County parish record collection. This update includes 717,000 baptisms, 213,000 marriages, and 208,000 burials.

Over at Newspapers.com, The Atlas newspaper has now been digitized. The London area paper operated from 1826 to 1869, and comprised a mixture of national and international social and political news, along with literary, theater, and music reviews. Another new newspaper available online is The Worthington Herald, from 1920-1959 in Worthington, West Sussex, England.

Millions of Dutch Records

FamilySearch has recently published millions of Dutch records (51 million to be exact) from the Netherlands, making it easier than ever to trace your Dutch roots. These new records have increased FamilySearch’s collection of Dutch names from 4,074,736 to over 55 million. From the collection description: “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.” Click here to search the collection.

South Africa Probate Records

New at FamilySearch: South Africa, Cape Province, Probate Records of the Master of the High Court, 1834-1989. This impressive collection is comprised of over 155,000 indexed records and 1.1 million digitized images! The original records are located in the Cape Archives Depot, Cape Town.

United States Newspapers

California. The Cal Poly University student newspaper has been digitized in honor of their 100 year celebration. 75,000 pages from 7,138 issues are now fully searchable online, thanks to optical character recognition (OCR) technology. Click here to explore the database.

North Carolina. Saint Mary’s Student School NewspaperThe Belles, is now online. Dating back to 1936 through 1995, the paper gives a good look into the viewpoint of North Carolina teen women over a 60 year period.

New Mexico. Now available at Newspapers.com is the Albuquerque Journalwith issues dating back to 1882. Almost 2 million pages are available to browse by date.

How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers

There’s a wealth of information about your ancestors in newspapers! Lisa’s book, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, provides you with a foolproof research process for discovering them, and is stuffed with everything you need for genealogical success. Available in both print and ebook formats, you’ll get step-by-step instructions, worksheets, tons of free online resources, case studies, and more!

Disclosure: This post 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!

Adoption Research Success: “I Continued His Quest to Find His Birth Mother:”

Searching for birth parents? This adoption research success story involved several proven techniques: mapping DNA matches, research legwork–and years of patient determination.

Adoption Research Inspiration

This inspiring letter about adoption research came to me from Liz:

“Dear Lisa,

Thank you for your part in a major milestone of my genealogy research! You motivated me, educated me, and shared many wonderful resources throughout hours and hours of your podcasts. After listening to you talk with Diahan Southard a few times, it finally dawned on me that I should contact her to help me better understand DNA and its impact on my research.

Here’s the “story” as it unfolded for me.

During much of the last 30+ years my brother-in-law, Chuck, searched constantly for his birth mother. Chuck maintained hope that information he requested from the state of Michigan or newly available electronic adoption records might give him enough clues to help him find his mother. Six or seven years ago, Chuck was disabled by a stroke and a few years following the stroke vascular dementia robbed him of his ability to continue the search for his mother. In January 2015, we were able to get Chuck (despite the dementia) to spit in the test tube and provide a DNA sample. Little did we know he would be dead by Thanksgiving. As I wrote Chuck’s obituary, I realized I could offer one other piece of assistance to Chuck’s widow and children. I offered to continue his quest to find his birth mother.”

Then Liz outlined the steps she took to carry on the search:

“After gathering the limited detail we had (birth date, location, possible mother’s name and age) I began my research in earnest. Ultimately I:

  • created a “proposed” family tree for Chuck based on Chuck’s birth mother’s surname and his birth location,
  • reviewed Chuck’s DNA matches and
  • began to narrow down the family tree.

I used Diahan Southard’s website tutorials as the foundation for my analysis, put together a PowerPoint presentation with my research and theory and presented the information to her in a video conference. She found no fault in my logic and helped me plan my next steps: the search for Chuck’s birth father.”

Eventually, the paper trail and the genetic research came together to tell a story:

“Last week my niece finally received the adoption records from the state of Michigan, eighty-six years after Chuck was born, over twenty years after Chuck first requested them and almost a year after his daughter requested the records. I am impatiently awaiting my copy! What I do know so far:

  • Postcard of Harper Hospital, MI, posted on RootsWeb (click to view).

    My research (thanks to you and Diahan and DNA) accurately determined the identity of Chuck’s mother.

  • She had a very difficult young life and died of TB—tuberculosis – when she was just 25 years old in 1939.
  • Chuck’s mother became pregnant with Chuck while a ward of the state and an Inmate at a girls school.
  • Chuck’s mother became pregnant during a time when the school “farmed out” Inmates to Harper Hospital to work as nurses’ aides.
  • Both Chuck’s mother and her sister checked on Chuck after turning him over to the state, both in an attempt to get him back and to learn how he was doing.

It was heartwarming to learn that Chuck actually had a birth family who cared about him! I wish he had known!”

WOW, what an incredible story! Congratulations to Liz on such thorough and persistent research. I feel very sure that Chuck knows that not only did he have a birth family that cared, but also a wonderful sister-in-law (although I would guess he well aware of that even before he passed.)

I’m also thrilled that Genealogy Gems was able to play some part in Chuck and Liz’s story.

Get Ready for Adoption Research Success

Are you looking for someone’s birth parents? Get started with the DNA strategies Liz used:

  • Take a DNA test from a company such as AncestryDNA, which has an enormous database of testers and family trees. Click here to learn more about your DNA testing options.
  • Map your DNA test results using Google Earth and/or, if you test with AncestryDNA, the site’s tool within an individual DNA match view for identifying locations you have in common on your tree. Click here to learn more about using Google Earth for genealogy by watching my free full-length video class on using Google Earth for genealogy.
  • Share your DNA results on other websites (such as Gedmatch) to increase your chances of finding matches.

To access Diahan’s great video tutorials on her site that Liz used, click here— as a Genealogy Gems reader you’ll get a great discount on them.

Along with DNA evidence, create the best paper trail possible, as Liz did. Scour all available records and follow up on all possible leads for any information about the birth parents. In this instance, Liz needed to rely on records created by or about institutions, such as the hospital and state girls’ school. Genealogy Gems Premium members will find tips for finding and using these records in my newest Premium video tutorial, Institutional Records. (If you’re not a member yet, click here to learn more. )

Sources in our cover image for this post include this photograph of a pregnant woman and a postcard found on the Harper Hospital (Detroit, MI) hospital webpage at RootsWeb. Click to view full citation information.

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