Is lack of time or lack of cooperation getting in the way of you capturing memories? Your descendants are depending on you to pass down the family’s history. Genealogy Gems readers and listeners share their creative solutions to the age old challenge of capturing the future’s history today!
Recently I wrote a post called Remembering Dad with a Family History Interview Video. In that post I shared the video I made of my husband Bill’s interview about his father. I’ve been delighted to hear from so many of you Genealogy Gems readers about your own interview strategies for gleaning stories and memories from loved ones.
Sharon C. wrote to explain her creative approach to interviewing her mom:
As my mother grew older (she lived to be almost 94), her vision got very bad. So, I bought her a large screen T.V. Then, I attached my video camera to the T.V. and a microphone to her from my camera, and we went through her old photo albums, with my camera on the photos, but the photos projected to her on the large screen T.V. We then talked about the photos and I asked her questions about the people, but she saw the picture on her T.V. Her narrative and the pictures were recorded on my video. Voila!!! her pictures, her voice, her details, on the camera and she didn’t even realize that it was being recorded. She thought she was just discussing the pictures from the album. At one point, her two brothers were present and I was able to get their input as well, at the same time.
Patricia D. shares how she captures her husband’s stories without having to find time to do it in their busy schedule:
Lisa, I enjoyed your article about trying to interview your husband, who is shy about being interviewed. My husband and I found a painless way to do an interview. When we are traveling he gets sleepy if no one is talking to him, so I decided interviewing him in an informal way about events in his life would serve two purposes. He wouldn’t get sleepy, and I would get information about his life story.
I take my iPad when we’re traveling and as I ask him questions I type his responses into Pages (app). Usually one question leads to another, so we seldom run out of information. He enjoys reminiscing about the past, and I enjoy hearing it, since he seldom mentions it without being prodded.
When we get home I polish up what I have written and transfer it to my computer. I store it in a folder labeled ‘Don’s life.’ Eventually we will have enough to write the story of his life, with lots of pictures. And it’s completely painless.
This is a wonderful, creative way to capture stories and spend time with family!
Curt S. is not only capturing his stories for his family, but he’s also brightening the lives of others:
Hi Lisa, I love the story about a lady interviewing her husband while driving to keep him awake and to share his life stories. I too came up with a neat way to share my life story. Every year at Christmas time when my family gathers together I seem to always be asked to tell one of my stories, as I have a lot of stories, mostly very funny stories. Even at my former work my boss and co-workers would ask me to tell certain stories again.
So, it dawned on me that I needed to find a way to tell these stories so that I could leave a legacy to my kids and their descendants. We are always suggesting to others that they interview their living ancestors while they have the chance. So why not tell your own story.
To motivate myself to tell my stories, I created a blog, in which I tell one of my stories approx, once every other week. Then after I publish the blog story, I copy and paste into my Legacy 9 software, into the story feature, which then puts the story in chronological order that later can be published in a book format.
So here is the address to my blog. If you go there you will see the kind of stories I am telling. I have identified over two years worth of stories so far that I can share on my blog.
When it comes to family history, there is definitely an element of methodology – but that doesn’t mean there can’t also be creativity! Everyone’s family is different, and what works for some may not work for others. So don’t be afraid to put your own spin on research ideas, and customize them to work for you. Thank you to everyone who submitted their strategies, and I hope you’ve got at least one new idea to try out!
Family History Writing Resource
The Story of My Life workbook, written by our very own Sunny Morton, makes it easy to record your memories, and the memories of your loved ones. Simply follow the prompts to preserve memories from your entire life.
African-American county slave records are just one of two new collections to broaden your genealogy research. Also this week, records pertaining to the elite group of Masons in North Carolina, naturalization records from Michigan, and church records from New York. Lastly, take a look at the new records available for Northamptonshire, England!
United States – Pennsylvania – African-American County Slave Records
This new database from Ancestry titled Pennsylvania, County Slave Records, 1780-1834 is a great find. This collection contains records pertaining to slaves and free persons from Adams, Bedford, Bucks, Centre, Cumberland, Fayette, Lancaster, and Washington counties, as well as Lancaster City. The types of records include: petitions to keep slaves past the age of twenty-eight, records of “negro” and “mulatto” children, as well as birth and residence registers. Various other records, such as apprenticeship records, bills of sale, and manumissions also occasionally appear.
– the slave’s name (typically only a given name)
– description (e.g., Negro woman, negro man, etc.)
– birth date
– occasionally, the name of a mother
United States – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Finding Family After Slavery
This unique project by Villanova University and Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia will make classified ads of the past easily accessible. The goal of “Last Seen: Finding Family After Slavery” is to make accessible an online database of snapshots from history, which hold names of former slaves, owners, traders, plantation locations, and relatives gone missing.
So far, project researchers have uploaded and transcribed 1,000 ads published in six newspapers from 1863 to 1902. These newspapers include: the South Carolina Leader in Charleston, the Colored Citizen in Cincinnati, the Free Man’s Press in Galveston, the Black Republican in New Orleans, the Colored Tennessean in Nashville, and the Christian Recorder, the official publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church denomination published at Mother Bethel.
Screenshot from The Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina website.
The list is organized by name of lodge and includes the member’s rank, date and place of death, and where he was buried. This may particularly helpful to those researchers who have not been able to locate a death or burial record, or were not able to locate an obituary.
Materials include registers, membership certificates, minutes of meetings, church financial records, lists of seminary students and teachers. Though the records will vary due to the lengthy time span they cover, you may find:
places where an event (baptism, marriage, death, burial, etc.) took place
United States – Marriages
Over 54,000 records covering more than 1,800 counties have been added to Findmypast’s collection of United States Marriages including substantial updates from Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, and Tennessee. Released in partnership with FamilySearch international, these new additions mark the latest phase of efforts to create the single largest online collection of U.S. marriage records in history.
Each record includes a transcript and image of the original documents that list marriage date, names of the bride and groom, birthplace, birth date, age, residence as well as fathers’ and mothers’ names. The entire collection now contains over 168 million records and continues to grow.
This collection contains images of soundex cards to naturalization petitions. A guide to using a soundex appears at the beginning of most of the image ranges within this collection and corresponds with NARA publication M1917: Index Cards to Naturalization Petitions for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, Detroit, 1907-1995. For additional information on soundex indexes see the wiki article, Soundex.
The records usually include the following information:
Full name of citizen (sometimes a name change is indicated)
Name of court
United Kingdom – Northamptonshire – Baptisms
Findmypast offers more great finds in the collection titled Northamptonshire Baptisms. This collection contains over 14,000 transcripts of original baptism records and covers 34 parishes across the East Midlands county. These records cover the years 1559 through 1901.
The level of detail found each transcript will vary, but most will include names, baptism date, baptism place, the names of both parent’s, document reference, page, and entry number. Remember, these are transcripts only and do not contain an image of the original document.
United Kingdom – Northamptonshire – Hospital Admissions
The collection at Findmypast titled Northamptonshire, Northampton General Hospital Admissions 1774-1846 consists of over 126,000 transcripts of original admission registers held by the Northamptonshire record office. These transcripts will allow you to discover whether your ancestors were admitted to the hospital, when they were admitted, why they were admitted, and the year they were discharged. Most records will also reveal the nature of ailment and the outcome of their treatment.
Even if you haven’t found any African-Americans on your family tree, the challenges and rewards of African-American genealogical research are both fascinating and moving to learn about. And, learn other tips and tricks for genealogy research by listening to our archived free podcasts.
A local genealogist used these strategies to help identify old photos taken on holiday in England by an Australian family. Read more about her savvy tips below and view the free video on using Google image search by Lisa Louise Cooke.
The photos in the article belonged to an Australian family. They included a series of images taken in the 1930s while the party was on holiday along the Great British coast. A partly-legible name and address on a picture postcard in the group provided a clue.
A few of the article’s readers responded with assistance. One of these readers was Sandra, who volunteers with the Kirkheaton Family History Group. Her answer was featured in a follow-up article (“Mystery SOLVED!”). We reached out to Sandra ourselves, to see if she would share the research strategies she used to identify these old photos. Very generously, she did!
Sandra Stocks, left, with Ann from Canada. Their grandfathers were cousins; they met via Ancestry.com and Ann visited England. They met up at The Croppers Arms pub, where a mutual ancestor was a 19th-century landlord. Photo courtesy of Sandra Stocks.
1. Look closely at the photo for any identifying names or words. Sandra begins by saying, “Although the name on the postcard looked like Mr. J. Stogley, when I looked on the newspaper’s website there were other photographs, one which showed the name P. Hogley, Druggist, above a shop window.” (Don’t see anything? Skip to step 4, below.)
2. Use any names or places you identify to consult historical records for that place and time. Sandra continues, “I then searched on Ancestry.co.uk for Joseph Hogley, which, being an unusual name, was easy to find…In the 1911 English census he was living with his wife at the address on the postcard, so I knew I had the right chap. I then searched for him in [an] earlier census and found his family, and his brother Percy Hogley, a druggist, the writer of the postcard.”
3. Follow up in other historical records to identify additional relatives–and possible subjects in the photos. Sandra most often consults birth, marriage, and death records on Ancestry.co.uk and Findmypast.co.uk. “Not everybody wants to pay for a subscription,” she acknowledges, so she also recommends FreeBMD.org.uk “which allows you to search births, marriages, and deaths in England and Wales. A quick search of births for Hogley between 1850 and 1932 would have given me the births of Joseph and Percy Hogley in Huddersfield in 1875 and 1877, respectively. I used FreeBMD to discover that Joseph and his wife had a son, Bernard Thomas Hogley, in 1913 and Bernard married in 1945.”
4. If the photos have no identifying names or places, go straight to those who might recognize them: the locals. Lastly, Sandra shares, “There is a great family history forum where I could have posted a photograph and within a very short time somebody would have told me an approximate year when the picture was taken. The website is RootsChat.com and they also have pages for each English and Welsh county where local people are more than happy to help with genealogy queries.”
More on How-to Identify Old Photos
Unidentified old photos exist in nearly everyone’s family history holdings. Pull those old photos out and discover what else you can discern using these additional tips in Lisa Louise Cooke’s free video titled “How to Google Image Search to Identify Old Photos Using a Smartphone & Tablet.” By learning how to match the images you have to other images on the web, you may find some great new clues for your genealogy! This trick works great for distinct or well-known images, such as a location, or perhaps an important person in your family tree. Give it a try!
Genealogy for adoptees can be a difficult journey. A train ticket from 1856 and one of our most popular Genealogy Gems Book Club titles helped one woman solve an adoption family mystery. Here’s her story.
Ben Brooksbank [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Adoption Mystery: Solved
I recently read an article that I just had to share! Julia Park Tracey’s two-times great grandfather, William Lozier, was adopted. She wanted to trace his family history. Her only clue was the receipt for a train fare from New York’s Home for the Friendless to Oberlin, Ohio that William had. The ticket cost $7.50 and was dated 1856.
With a little bit of easy math, Julia realized that William would have been a three-year old at the time. Can you imagine? Julia was intrigued by the finding, but didn’t think much more about it until she read Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. This piqued her curiosity about Williams’s story and she started researching. What she found was an astonishing story of family struggling to stay together during the hardships of 19th century life.
Along her research journey, Julia learned that William’s mother was widowed in upstate New York in 1848. Consequently, the woman lost the family farm and needed to give up her two oldest boys to an orphanage. She managed to hold on to her oldest daughter and baby William while she worked as a seamstress. Sadly, she still couldn’t make ends meet and ended up placing her last two children in an orphanage as well.
Julia explains in the article: “Martha was undaunted; she worked and saved, and eventually wrote to ask for her children back. The orphanage did not respond. In those days, a child’s moral and spiritual welfare were tantamount, and a single mother was seen as not fit to parent. Nevertheless, she found her way to her daughter, and at least one of her middle sons, if not both. Martha lived the rest of her life with her married daughter and her grandchildren. She died between 1900 and 1910, [but] she never saw nor heard of what had happened to Will.”
With these new pieces of information, Julia was able to trace the line back through time and generations. She even learned a little more about her unexpected DNA results! I am sure it was very satisfying to finally piece together the story of the old train ticket and William’s family story. Even the smallest clues like the old train ticket can lead to long-forgotten stories that add to our family history tapestry. Genealogy is all about persistence, and much like a detective, the smallest piece of evidence can make all the difference!
More on Genealogy for Adoptees
If you’ve been a Premium member for a while, you’ll recall Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. It was one of our first Genealogy Gems Book Club selections—and based on feedback from you, it’s been one of our most popular choices. If you haven’t listened to Premium episode 121 which includes our interview with Christina, I encourage you to go back and listen. In that conversation, you’ll learn about the history of the orphan train riders in the U.S. and Canada and how the author researched it.