Monday, August 13, 2012

RIP John Humphrey

A couple weeks ago I took the German Genealogy course at GRIP with John Humphrey. He was an amazing teacher, very kind and I learned a lot from him. Today I have learned of his passing via the GRIP page on Facebook. Rest in peace, John.

(Further information will be provided on the IGHR website on Wednesday. I will update with a link).

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wedding Wednesday: Angelo Fantacone & Angiolina Basile

2007-08-03 10.25.22

(Register #89)

My mother-in-law is a recent genealogy-addict, which is very exciting to me.  Yesterday we went to the Central Library’s Local History and Genealogy room to search the New York State Vital Records Index.  Amazingly, we found ever date we were looking for.  I then learned, after much confusion by clerks sending me every which way, that old marriage registers have been scanned in Syracuse and are available for free download in the basement of the County Clerk’s Office.  This makes up for the crazy amount of money they charged me for death records next door at the Bureau of Vital Statistics.

My mother-in-law’s maternal grandparents, Angelo Fantacone and Angiolina Basile were married in Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York 31 July 1905, which means we learned their wedding date on their 107th anniversary.  I love genealogy serendipity like thatSmile

According to the record, Angelo Fantagone [sic] was 24, a carpenter living in Syracuse (I think he was actually in Cortland at this time) but born in Italy.  His parents are Tomas Fantacone and Lodovica [possible sic for Ludovica] Libera and this is his first marriage.  No witness is listed.

Angiolina Basile was 18, living in Syracuse and also born in Italy.  Her parents are Michil [sic: Michale] and F. [Filomena] Fantagone [sic: Fantacone] and this is her first marriage.  The marriage was performed by Rev. Frank Morassi.

This record proves that I have the correct parents for Angiolina from passenger list records.  It also gives the me the names of Angelo’s parents!  Time to find the church Rev. Morassi worked at.  [Edited to add: Wikipedia for the win: St. Peter's Italian Church].

Monday, July 30, 2012

GRIP: Final Thoughts

Turquoise-banner-with-gray2-copyAfter a weekend to decompress from GRIP, I wanted to put my thoughts in order.

  • Are Institutes Worth the Cost and Time:  Beyond a doubt.  In fact, I can’t wait to go back next year and am contemplating adding SLIG to my January plans.  Institutes are a great way to look in depth at a topic that a typical lecture cannot do.  Cost-wise, GRIP is an amazing deal.  For under $700, I received one week of lectures, syllabus, room, board and an awesome polo shirt.  This is probably one of the best values available in genealogical education.
  • The Best Part of GRIP:  The people, just like at conferences.  I met so many interesting people in class, at meals and as a roommate.  The coursework is great, but the people you meet are even better.
  • What to do Next: Write research plans, order FHL microfilm and search the German newspapers of Buffalo.  I also want to practice reading Gothic Script.
  • Adding on a Research Trip: Always a great idea if you can do it.  Since I was driving past Eden, NY, where my Gress ancestors settled from Germany, I stopped by the library.  They had a three volume history of Eden which included a few pages on the German migration there (apparently, most came from the Alsace-Lorraine region) and on which churches the German immigrants went to.  I now have a much more specific list of churches to contact and great information for writing an immigrant profile.
  • Which Course Next Year:  Can I take them all?  Next year’s courses are:
    • Intermediate Genealogy: Tools for Digging Deeper with Paula Stewart-Warren
    • Skills for Proof with Dr. Thomas W. Jones
    • Bridging the 1780-1840 Gap: From New England to the Midwest with D. Joshua Taylor
    • Military Records: From Cradle to Grave with Craig R. Scott
    • Your Immigrant Ancestors’ Stories: Writing a Quality Narrative with John P. Colletta
    • Advanced Research Tools: Land Records with Rick and Pam Sayre
    As you can see, these are some fantastic courses!  I’m leaning toward the Immigrant Ancestor’s Stories or Land Records, but it is going to be a tough choice.  Hopefully, I will see you there!

Friday, July 27, 2012

GRIP Day 5: Back to Reality

Turquoise-banner-with-gray2-copyMy brain was pretty done after 12 hours of lectures and talking and learning yesterday.  It is amazing how much information I have learned in such a short time.  Today (Friday) I woke up ready to take in as much as possible on my last day here, which was a good thing, as the records discussed today should lead to much genealogical success. 

Our first lesson today was on the German records held at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.  These records, the Rasse und Siedlungs Hauptamt (RuSHA), were created in Germany by the SS in the 1930s and are full of Ahnentafel charts and other genealogical information.  These charts can go back to the 1600s in some cases, but always until ancestors born by 1800.  If you can find an ancestor or collateral relative, they will be tremendously useful to you.

I do not normally quote syllabus materials, as they are under copyright and one of the ways genealogists are able to make a living, but I feel that the following sentence about the SS records is important enough to break this rule; it is copyright of John T. Humphrey.  “These records, the activities associated with these records and the reasons for their creation demonstrate the role of genealogy in establishing racist policies during a tragic era in Germany and they serve as a warning for generations in other countries yet to be born.” 

I like to think that genealogists are less racist than others, as they see firsthand that everyone is connected/related, but as we can see, this is not always the case.  These records are useful for many genealogists, but when searching for them, remember why they were made and have a moment of silence for the victims of the policies that created them.

Our second lesson was on researching Germans in American repositories and libraries, particularly the Library of Congress.  The LoC has one of the largest German collections outside Germany.  By searching their catalog, you can find lineage books, information created by state societies and other books of interest to German genealogy, such as Marion Dexter Learned’s “Manuscript Materials Relating to American History in German State Archives.”  It is important to use both English and German spellings of items in order to see their full holdings.  In addition to the LoC, it is important to check the Family History Library, university libraries and public libraries.

Our day ended with certificates, goodbyes and long trips home.  Since one can never have to much genealogy, I am planning to stop in Eden, Erie, NY on my way to Buffalo to see what I can find on Joseph and Caroline Gress.

GRIP Day 4: So Many Sources, So Little Time

Today (Thursday) John said that genealogists have 3 jobs:

  1. To identify sources
  2. To find the information about your family in those sources
  3. Write up our findings (they are of no use in a notebook)

He made sure to give a multitude of sources for us to look for.  Whether church records from the seventeenth century, compilations, maps or online databases, I now have dozens of items to look for while looking for my ancestors across the pond.

We began the day looking at maps and gazetteers.  In German research, the Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs is the most important gazetteer in German research.  There is a “how to” book by Wendy K. Uncapher that is very useful.

Our second session was on sources of information in Germany.  Published sources from Germany are much more accessible than archives in Germany.  It is important to look for civil records (especially family registers for those from Württemberg), land records, and house books, among others.

After lunch we discussed how to find your ancestors in those published records.  Although there will always be transcription and translation errors, these are still great sources to use.  Make sure to check the US first, both the Family History Center and WorldCat, before heading to Germany to look for them.

Our last course was on finding German ancestors on the internet.  John said that the internet has revolutionized the way we go about researching.  One of the most important things to remember in searching is to use German key words as well as English.  You can also search through for more German language hits.

Our evening sessions began with a Q & A with the instructors.  My favorite line from the entire week was when Josh Taylor was discussing Who Do You Think You Are? and mentioned that he had told producers “I don’t do southern Indian princesses.”  An amusing line with an important point: every genealogist has a different area of expertise; one does not have to know everything.

Our second session was by the creator/director of the Photo Antiquities Museum in Pittsburg.  He went through the history of photography complete with examples that he passed around.  He was tremendously passionate about the subject, which made the presentation even better to watch.  I look forward to visiting his museum in the future.

Only 1 day left!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

GRIP Day 3: The Center of the Labyrinth

2012-07-25 19.40.17

Wednesday means we are halfway through the Institute, which is pretty hard to believe.  Our morning session was on the Pennsylvania Germans.  Although I do not have Pennsylvania ancestry, many of the records discussed would be useful to any research.  In the end, it is all about the research strategies and methodologies you use.  The second session continued this theme with case studies of immigrants to the area.

After some excellent discussion at lunch (where I met Karen of Karen’s Genealogy Oasis blog), we came back to “Finding Places of Origin in Germany.”  Although I have a few ancestral villages, I do not have them for most of my German immigrant ancestors.  John reiterated that whole family genealogy (aka cluster genealogy or FAN research) is tremendously important in these cases.  Newspapers, particularly German language newspapers, can be very useful in this.  Even if you have the obituary from an English language newspaper, which is often just a short death notice, find the obituary in the newspaper of their native language for more information.

Continuing to the last session of the day, we learned about “Typefaces: Published Sources and German-American Newspapers.”  Finding those newspapers mentioned above takes work, as does being able to read them.  After learning German Gothic script yesterday, learning Fraktur, which is the typeface German newspapers use, was much easier.  Since it is typed, it is always the same, plus, you can cheat with it using a word program with the typeface installed.  Newspapers can also be used to bring your family history to life through items such as society notices, weather and passenger ship advertisements.  The advertisements shown were fantastic.  Check out the Library of Congress Chronicling America site.

After class we went to work on our “homework” deciphering an obituary typed in Fraktur.  It is much easier to decipher with 4 sets of eyes and a little help from a paper dictionary and the Leo online dictionary.  Then came dinner with more lively discussion, followed by reading the BCG certification examples.  I know I can get to that level someday, but I am definitely not anywhere close yet!

A few of us then went to explore the grounds of the college.  First we hiked to the cemetery, which is lovely.  I will post on that Tuesday.  From there we went to the labyrinth, which according to the brochure is part of the Keams Spirituality Center.  Although I have always wanted to, I have never walked a labyrinth before.  What an amazing experience!  One which I plan to repeat in the future.  The image above is of the center of the labyrinth.  I have to say that I am much more a fan of this than corn mazes.  There is a distinct path; it may be long and winding, but eventually you reach the center.  You can then take that relaxation/reflection/knowledge and head out, onto other paths.  In many ways GRIP is like that path.  We are given a roadmap toward the knowledge, rather than having to wander around aimlessly.  We stay in the center of knowledge for a while and then head out on our own following the recommendations given.

Tomorrow we look at maps and gazetteers, explore sources of information in Germany, learn about published sources in the US and then find our German ancestors on the internet.  I see lots of note taking in my future!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

GRIP: Day 2

Turquoise-banner-with-gray2-copyAnother early start today (Tuesday) for breakfast and catching up online.  Our first session today was on German church records.  John discussed how church records brought the common man out of obscurity.  Prior to these, you can only research nobility or the winners of history.  With local parish records, every person has a name and a spot in the past.  These are the records that will help you put together families and the joining of families (through marriage).  They are the most important record group for German research.

After our church record introduction it was time to learn to read said records.  The Germans used Gothic script, which is what has kept me from ordering parish records from the villages I have identified as my ancestral home.  After a couple hours of reading words and paragraphs with his Gothic script font, I was a parish reading rock star.  Then came the copies of actual parish registers after lunch and it was like I had never seen these characters before.  As with anything, this will be a skill I learn in a slow and steady manner.  I intend to practice as much as possible on films from the FHL when I get back to Syracuse.

After dinner tonight, I purchased my pile of books which will make for some interesting reading for German research and narrative writing.  Then I headed to Rick and Pamela Boyer Sayre’s lecture on Google Earth for Genealogists: The Sequel.  This was one of the lectures I was not able to attend at the NGS conference, so it was nice to have a second chance.  I am amazed by all that you can create with Google Earth and all of the ways it can help in your research.  I have to admit that it is not a program I use frequently, but I will be ordering some introductory books on it when I get home.  The Sayre’s will be teaching a course on advanced land records at the 2013 GRIP which I am told is fantastic.  Deciding which course to take next year is going to be tough.

The lecture ended at 8:30 and after dropping off my belongings I took a walk around campus.  La Roche is a beautiful campus surrounded by the woods.  They have large statues of the Stations of the Cross that lead down a gravel path toward the woods which ends at a cemetery.  Since it was late, I did not make it all the way to the cemetery, but I plan on wandering around it tomorrow.  Only a genealogical institute would have attendees excited by a cemetery on the grounds.

Our lectures Wednesday will be the Pennsylvania Germans, finding places of origin in Germany and typefaces, published sources and German-American newspapers.  At night there is a public lecture on Pennsylvania Research, which I may not attend due to my lack of Pennsylvanian ancestry.  I do have a great-great uncle who randomly got married in Scranton, however, so maybe they can tell me why (he and his wife were from and living in Buffalo).

Get a GRIP on German Genealogy: Days 0-1


I arrived at the La Roche College campus Sunday afternoon for the inaugural Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburg where I am taking the German Genealogical Research track with John T. Humphrey.

After registration (where we received our course notebook and GRIP polo shirt) and unloading my car, we had a simple buffet dinner and a welcome to the institute.  Then it was back to the room to begin reading Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff, followed by an early bedtime.

Monday began with an early breakfast and then off to class.  We began with participant introductions and it was interesting to hear the variety of reasons people were taking the course.  We were then given an introduction of the course and a background of Germans in the US.  My biggest takeaways from the morning sessions was that genealogy is local, both in the US and in Germany and to find a document that your ancestor has signed, as it will give you their German surname.  This is a tactic that I imagine would work for any immigrant ancestor.

After lunch we were taught German language skills for genealogist and a primer on German history.  The language skills were similar to what I had learned in my German course in Hamburg.  The German history was interesting, particularly since it made me look at Germany differently, as Germany didn’t exist as a country in 1871.  He also said that jobs can be as important as surnames for German research, as they tended to be the same through the generations, even in the US.

After class ended, we had some downtime, then dinner and browsing through the books brought by Maia’s Books.  At 7:30, there was a public lecture by Pam Stone Eagleson on Telling the Tales: Writing the Family Narrative.  This was the type of lecture that you wish lasted longer than the one hour provided.  Pam showed her writing process, particularly how to add historical to your research to create a story.  After her workshop, I want to write, write, write (hence this blog post). 

Tomorrow will be church records and handwriting skills, which is rather daunting and one of the main reasons I took this course.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sodus Bay Lighthouse Museum


Image from the Sodus Bay Lighthouse Museum site

Yesterday, my husband surprised me with a trip to the Sodus Bay Lighthouse Museum, which is located in Sodus Bay, on Lake Ontario. The lighthouse was originally built in 1824, but had to be rebuilt in 1871.  It became a museum in 1984.

The museum showed this history of the lighthouse, talked about Sodus Bay in the War of 1812 (every building except one was burnt down by the British), and showed beach fashion over the past 150 years.  Included with admission is a guided tour and this was one of the best tour guides I have ever had.  After the tour we walked to the top of the lighthouse which gives a great view of Sodus Bay.  In the gift shop, I purchased a Lighthouse Passport and got my first stamp.  I'm looking forward to visiting other lighthouses in the future.

After out tour ended, we wandered around the grounds a bit and looked at Lake Ontario.  Unfortunately, it started to rain, so we were not able to explore as much as we had wanted.  We then drove around the town a bit and headed home, stopping at a farm stand along the way.

If you are in the area, I definitely recommend checking out the museum.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New York Indexed in 1940 Census at

New York is now indexed for the 1940 census at

From Ancetsry’s webpage about this: “From upstate to downtown, New York was a busy place in 1940. The 11th state was number one in population with 13 million people. The eyes of the world were watching, too, as the World’s Fair landed here in 1939, and planes were landing at the new LaGuardia Field. What were your Empire State relatives up to in 1940?”

I know how I’ll be spending my Wednesday!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tuesday’s Tip: A Rose by Any Other Name

Having a hard time finding a person in an index that you just know must be there?  For women, make sure you always check their maiden name (particularly in passenger lists) or Mrs. Husband’s Full Name.  For birth records, always try “male” or “female” last name, as many infants were not named prior to leaving the hospital.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Amanuensis Monday: Barbara Fleeman Probate (Part 1)

I have found many probate packets for my ancestors over the years, most all small, just a will and a few pages of information from the Surrogate’s Court.  One probate packet that surprised me was that of my 4th great-grandmother, Barbara (Griss) Fleeman, who died 1 October 1870.  At 37 pages long, this packet includes legal proceedings that occurred for 3 years after Barbara’s death.  Written mostly in not-always-easy-to-read longhand, I will be transcribing a couple pages a week over the next couple months.  Italics are used to differentiate handwritten items.  Items in brackets are asides written by me.

Barbara Fleeman Probate_0001Barbara Fleeman Probate_0002

Erie County, SS. - To Jacob Sumers + Henry A. Swartz

By virtue of the power and authority given to me, I do hereby appoint you appraisers of the personal property of Barbara Fleeman late of the City of Buffalo deceased.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereto set my hand and seal of office, this 12th day of June 1872.  [Signature Unreadable] Surrogate.

Erie County, SS. – I Jacob Somers and I, Henry A Swartz do solemnly swear that I will truly, honestly and impartially appraise the personal property of Barbara Fleeman deceased, which shall be exhibited to me, according to the best of my knowledge and ability.

Sworn to this 1st day of July 1872, before me} H A Swartz [Signature] Jacob Somers [Signature] Edward Edge [Signature] Commissioner of Deeds for Buffalo

STATE OF NEW YORK, Erie County.}SS. I, Adam Fleeman Administrator of Barbara Fleeman deceased, do swear that the following Inventory is in all respects just and true; that it contains a true statement of all the personal property of the said deceased which has come to my knowledge, and particularly of money, bank bills, and other circulating medium, belonging to the said deceased, and of all just claims of the said deceased against me, according to the best of my knowledge.

Sworn before me, this 1st day of July 1872} Adam Fleeman [Signature] Edward Edge [Signature] Com of Deeds for Buffalo

A True and Perfect Inventory of goods, chattels, and credits of Barbara Fleeman deceased, made on the 1 day of July 1872, by Adam Fleeman Administrator &c., of deceased, with the aid of Jacob Somers and H.A. Swartz appraisers, duly appointed by the Surrogate' of the Count of Erie,

Articles for the Widow and Minor Children, set apart without appraisal, pursuant to the Revised Statutes: None

[Page 2]

In addition to above, we do inventory, appraise and set apart for the use of the Widow and Minor Children of said deceased, the following articles of property, ($150 in amount,) pursuant to the Statute of 1842, viz: None

We further certify that upon inquiry we could not find any personally property to appraise

Adam Fleeman [Signature]

H A Swartz [Signature]

Jacob Somers [Signature]

Source: Erie, New York, Probate Files, 7035, Barbara Fleeman; Erie County Probate Court, Buffalo.

Motivational Monday: June

It is hard to believe we are at the halfway point of the year already.  After hearing Elizabeth Shown Mills speak at NGS, I am focusing the majority of my time putting sources into my updated RootsMagic database.  Although most items are sources in my Legacy database, not everything is and there is almost no document transcription or comments on the validity of the document/information.  As such, I am trying to create a main database that will include all of this information and have decided that RootsMagic 5 is the best program for this.


  • Main focus: Sophia Possehl research strategy
  • Secondary focus: Continue basic search for the husband’s family (Ancestry, FamilySearch, etc.)
  • Search for tombstones for my husband’s family in the Utica area


  • Put all Whitehead family sources into RootsMagic.  All sources must be fully documented, transcribed and with comments as needed.
  • Dedicate one shelf on our bookcase to my genealogy notebooks


  • Watch all RootsMagic webinars of interest
  • Read the 4 genealogy books I have out from the library
  • Continue reading and taking notes on the NGS syllabus
  • Attend 3 CLRC library/archives workshops


  • Post at least twice per week on this blog
  • Complete at least 3 Find-A-Grave cemetery requests

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: The Frisco Club, Buffalo

IMG_0006The Frisco Club, Buffalo, NY.  Marked are Elizabeth (Fink) Gress with her children Chester and May.  In the background are the words “Blackrock Market.”


“Lois – Grandma at the Frisco club, she help the boys – Chester, Walter + Howard.  they belonged to it + the mother’s always helped.  I was about 14 years old, thought you might like it.”  Assuming this was written by May, the photo is from  approximately 1904.

Photo scanned from original owned by my great Aunt Lois 25 May 2009.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day: Franklin Bowers

franklin bowers

In memorandum of my great uncle, Franklin Bowers, who gave his life in service for this country 9 July 1944 in Normandy, France, just 13 days before his 22 birthday. (He is the young man on the left).


Photograph and burial information courtesy of my Great Aunt Lois, 26 May 2009.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Research Plan: Where is Sophia's town of origin?


Sophia Gress

Sophia Possehl/Passel Gress is my 3rd great grandmother.  Here is my problem analysis and work plan, Elizabeth Shown Mills style, to find her town of origin in Germany.

Written by: Amanda E. Perrine (

Report to: Own Files

Date: 17 May 2012

Subject: Sophia Possehl/Passel's German town of origin

Question: What town in Germany was Sophia Possehl/Passel born in?

Known Facts

Information Source

She immigrated from Germany, arriving in NYC 16 Nov 1859.

1. Joh. Passel, farmer, 56, male.

2. Dorothea Passel, wife, 46, female.

3. Friedricke Passel, daughter, 19, female.

4. Joh. Passel, son, 16, male.

5. Sophie Passel, daughter, 14, female.

6. Carl Passel, son, 7, male.

7. Line Passel, daughter, 3, female.

database, ( : accessed 16 Jun 2009), Sophie Passel; citing Port of New York records.
Birth: 29 Jan 1849 in Germany. Death: 27 May 1928 in Buffalo, Erie, NY. In US 72 years [1856]. Father: John Possehl, born Germany. Mother: unknown, born Germany. Informant: Louisa Schultz, daughter. New York Department of Health, death certificate 3417 (1928), Sophia Gresz; New York State Department of Health, Albany.
Age: 23. Born: Prussia 1870 U.S. census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo, p. 154, dwelling 1119, family 1088, Joe Grass household; digital images, ( : accessed 15 Aug 2008); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M593, roll 935.
Age: 33. Born Mecklenburg. Parents born Mecklenburg. 1880 U.S. census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo, enumeration district (ED) 168, p. 215, dwelling 225, family 236, Joseph Gress household; digital images, ( : accessed 26 May 2004); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T9, roll 831.
Birth: Jan 1849 in Germany. Immigrated: 1865 1900 U.S. census, Erie, New York, population schedule, Buffalo, enumeration district (ED) 212, sheet 2A, p. 195 (stamped), dwelling 26, family 26, Sophia Gresz; digital images, ( : accessed Aug 2008); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll 1032; listed as Jan 1846.
Age: 63. Born: Germany. Immigrated: 1870. 1910 U.S. census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo, enumeration district (ED) 179, sheet 13B, dwelling 219, family 263, Sophia Gresz household; digital images, ( : accessed Aug 2008); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T624, roll 946.
Age: 73. Immigrated: 1858. Naturalized: 1881 1920 U.S. census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo, enumeration district (ED) 201, sheet 15B, dwelling 254, family 346, George Eddy household; digital images, ( : accessed Aug 2008); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T625, roll 1107.
Kin and Associates to be included in search:

Father: Joh. (b. ~1803)

Mother: Dorothea (b. ~1813)
Siblings: Friedricke (b. ~1840) Joh. (b. ~1843), Carl (b. ~1852), Line (female) (b. ~1856)

Spelling Variants:

  • Possehl
  • Passel
  • Persales
  • Pobehl
  • Pabel
  • Passehl
  • Pabehl

Research strategy

  1. Search for Sophia and her family in the 1860 census. Hopefully this will tell where they settled in the US. Note: Sophia's husband's family had settled in Eden, Erie Co., NY.
  2. Search for Sophia and family in the 1865 NY census
  3. Check the Mecklenburg census records on for possible matches of Sophia's parents.
  4. Trace parents and each sibling as much as possible. Include vital records, census records and obituaries for each.
  5. Search for church records in Buffalo and Eden, NY, as well as any other towns found to be associated with the Possehl's.
  6. Do basic internet search for the family, including
    1. Google
    2. FamilySearch
    3. Ancestry
    4. RootsWeb
  7. Ask Forest Lawn cemetery, Buffalo for their records for Sophia.
  8. Search for naturalization record of Joh. Possehl/Passel

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Loomis Family of Sangerfield, NY

I attended a presentation at the DeWitt Community Library on the Loomis Gang of Sangerfield, NY.  It was presented by Sue Greenhagen and Darothy DeAngelo, who are sisters, genealogists and historians, and whom I have heard before at their Oakwood Cemetery walks.
Although I tend to think I haven’t been in the central NY area for long, it has actually been about a third of my life.  In all that time, I had never heard of the family gang that lived in nearby Sangerfield.
In 1638 John Loomis and Mary White left England and settled in Windsor, CT.  They had 8 children and all were pillars of the community for many years.  Their fifth son Deacon John had a son named Sargent Daniel, who had a son Daniel, who had a son Daniel, who had a son Lieutenant Daniel, who in 1779 had a son, George Washington Loomis.  George was not such a model citizen and eventually moved to Sangerfield to escape the police.  Here he met Rhoda Mallett and had a large family.
The family was known for crimes such as stealing (mainly horses), passing counterfeit money, murder, arson, and general corruption.  My favorite story told today was how they would steel horses, sell them to the Union army, then steal them from the army to re-sell them to back to army.
In 1866 the end of the Loomis family came, with the family spreading throughout central NY.
It was interesting to learn more about the history of the area and to see the stories that can be told from genealogy research.  The genealogy of the Loomis family is available at  Apparently there is also a documentary on The Loomis Gang and a book by George W. Walter.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thrifty Thursday: Vital Record Purchases

Purchasing vital records can become an expensive proposition for genealogists, especially when you need them for FANs as well as your direct line.  One way I have found to decrease the cost is to go directly to the vital records office in the town or city the person was in when the event occurred.  I have saved $10 per record by doing this, which quickly adds up.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

NGS 2012: Final Recap


It is hard to believe that one week ago the NGS conference began.  This was the largest genealogy conference I have attended and I look forward to many, many more.  Here are my general thoughts on the conference and recommendations for the next one:

  • First of all, I ask attendees in the future to please be polite to each other.  I had doors slammed in my face because people were in too much of a hurry to wait 5 seconds and hold them open and the commotion surrounding full sessions, with people shoving, cutting in line past people waiting much longer and being just plain rude, is not necessary.  It’s just genealogy people.  If all else fails, I’ll give you the $12 to buy a recording to listen to later.  Also, remember to wear comfy shoes, bring a water bottle and snack bars, get enough sleep and take care of your biological processes in a timely manner.  These things will keep you in a much friendlier place.
  • In that same vein, please NGS, have Elizabeth Shown Mills give her presentations in the ball room or have a live streaming available.  I do not need to be in the same room with her, I could happily listen while watching the slides in another room.  I am told RootsTech does this type of thing well, maybe they could help.
  • Plan in advance which lectures you will attend and let the conference know so that they can plan the room size accordingly.  If you aren’t 100% sure, mark the option with the most well known speaker.
  • If staying in a hotel outside the city, check rush hour traffic ahead of time.  In Cincinnati, this tripled the amount of time it took to get from my hotel to the conference center.
  • Attend as many social events as possible.  As great as the sessions were, my favorite parts were talking with other genealogists, particularly bloggers, who are tremendously friendly and interesting.  Also, be involved in social media, as these also give you a chance to connect with other attendees.
  • Even though everyone who applied to be a official blogger got to be one, I still felt tremendously honored to get my badge sticker saying I was one.  I think the inclusiveness of official bloggers lately (such as the 1940 census project) make for a much better experience.  It allows people of all different levels and interests to participate, which gives everyone more information.  It also made me much more aware of what was going on, as I wanted to let everyone following #NGS2012 know.

My plans due to the conference:

  • Research reports!  Nearly every session I attended spoke of the importance of research reports for your own research.  This will help me with inferential evidence and to become a much better genealogist.
  • Search railroad records for my ancestors whom this applies to.
  • Read more case studies.  I have always skimmed my NGSQ and other genealogy journals for items of interest to me.  I now understand the importance of all case studies to help me become a better and more well-rounded genealogist.  Time to download the back issues.
  • Create a 5 year plan in relation to my genealogical skills, with the endgame being certification by 2017.
  • Start saving my pennies for 2013!  I am lucky enough to have a free place to stay and a lot of airline miles, which means more money available for extra activities like lunches and for buying more at the expoWinking smile
    What were your thoughts on the conference?  Will you be attending the next one?

Monday, May 14, 2012

NGS 2012: Final Day

2012_NGS_Official_Blogger_LogoIt is hard to believe how quickly Saturday came.  The three morning classes this day were the ones I had most been looking forward to. 

First, I went to Railroad Men and the Records They Left Behind by Patricia Walls Stamm.  My paternal grandfather, his father and his grandfather all worked for the railroad, as did others in his line, so I was looking forward to learning more about the records available for them.  What surprised me the most is that railroad papers traveled with the person in charge of them. You have to look everywhere to find out who currently holds the archives for a particular railroad.  Most railroads have historical societies which can also help with these records.

My second session was Research Reports for Ourselves:More than a Research Log Presented by Paula Stuart-Warren.  I think everyone was surprised by the packed house for this lecture.  It was quite apparent that I am not the only one who does not, as Ms. Stuart-Warren said, treat her work as well as I would a client.

My number one takeaway from this class is to follow the BCG report standards, using proper citations, for all research done.  This will ensure that both I and other researchers know what has been done and what needs to be done in the future.  This class led perfectly into my last session of the morning, Information Overload? Effective Project Planning, Research, Data Management & Analysis by Elizabeth Shown Mills.

This was the best class of the entire conference, in my opinion, and I highly recommend purchasing the CD recording.  The premise of the class was that when genealogical programs came into being, researchers stopped writing research reports and good research logs and instead just entered data into the program and stopped.  Actually, data entry should be the last thing we do, only after all research and analysis is complete.  For more information on what our reports should look like, look on the APG website.  While sitting through this class it was made crystal clear that I need to stop researching and re-enter all of my data into a research log and a genealogy program, making sure all events are caught, that the citations are perfect, that I am looking at FANs and that I am analyzing the data, including writing down further research plans.

After this class I made one more loop around the expo, where I met Katie Chapman, one of the creators of Geungle.  To begin with, Katie is tremendously sweet and very knowledgeable about organizing ones genealogy.  I am very excited for this site to come live in the next few months, as I feel it will be the type of genealogy “program” that will pull together all that Paula Stuart-Warren and Elizabeth Shown Mills spoke of, which helping genealogists collaborate in a much fuller way.

After this, my husband and I headed out of Cincinnati, skipping the afternoon sessions, as I had to work Sunday and it is a long trip back to Syracuse.  I had an amazing time at this conference and cannot wait to attend the 2013 conference in Las Vegas.  I am also hopeful that I will visit Cincinnati again soon, as there is much of the city I have left to explore.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

NGS 2012: Day 3, PM



My first session of the afternoon on Friday was Making the DNA Connection by John Pereira of  This was a discussion on Ancestry’s new DNA test.  It looks interesting, but I really need to do more research before making a DNA test purchase.  There is a waitlist for this test and it is available only to members of

My last session for today was Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion: Catholic Church Records by Dave Schroeder.  Having recently begun searching for my father’s side of the family and my husband’s mother’s family, Catholic Church records are going to be tremendously important.  I was pleasantly surprised by all of the information available on the records and that records are available beginning in the last 1800s.  Check with diocese archivists to see if records are available.  And remember, a small donation to the church never hurts.

After the session was over, we headed to dinner where I gave a brief beginning genealogy lesson to the server, who was interested in using the family history search as a bonding tool with her mom (she was college age).  I hope she decides to start this research.  After a full day of genealogy, I ended it with the latest episode of Who Do You Think You Are? and searching the British National Archives site for probate records.

NGS 2012 Day 3, AM

It was hard to believe on Friday morning that the conference was half-way done.  I had learned so much already and some of the sessions I had been looking forward to the most were over the next two days.
I began day 3 with Printed Legends and Missing Footnotes: Dissecting 19th and 20th Century Compiled Genealogies by D. Joshua Taylor.  Most genealogists come across a compiled genealogy which is unsourced.  Surprisingly, these are not always correctWinking smile  It is important to verify as much of the information as possible.  Additionally, remember that just because a like does not have a + next to it does not mean the line ends, they just did not have information on them, something I have found in my Perrine research.  My favorite tip from this lecture was to look for reviews of the book in its contemporary journals.  I had never thought of this.  This is a great lecture for purchase if you are wondering what to do with compiled genealogies about your family,
My second session was on Facial Recognition Software: Application for Genealogists? with Greg Kipper.  Kipper began by debunking what he called the “CSI effect.”  Despite what we see on TV, the technology is not currently there to identify people consistently with this software.  In the future, we can hope for improved technology that will be able to compare faces and make matches, which would be tremendously useful for unidentified family photos.
My last session of the morning was Documentation: The What, Why, and Where by Tom Jones.  I really liked how Dr. Jones made documentation so basic.  We need to have sources that allow yourself and others to find the information again.  Once you have the basics down, you can use books such as Evidence Explained (aff) to get into further detail.  This lecture would be especially useful to those new in genealogy, in properly sourcing your genealogy, or who get overwhelmed by Evidence Explained.
For the lunch break, my husband and I went to the Istanbul Café, which serrves wonderful Turkish food.  I highly recommend the cold appetizer sampler and any of the doner kebab meals.  From here we went to the Ohio Book Store which has a large genealogy, local history and US history section.  If you have local ancestry here, be sure to check out the balcony at this used book store.

Friday, May 11, 2012

NGS 2012: Day 2, PM


My afternoon on Thursday began with the Palatines to America luncheon feating Marianne S. Wokeck on “Framing Genealogy: How Family Research Enriches the Ways in Which We See the World".” (If anyone has a copy of the syllabus, please let me know, I was not able to snag one.)  I really enjoyed her talk, particularly the idea that how a person remembers a place changes based on age.  If you moved away at 8, everything in your mind will be bigger due to your small size.

After lunch, I headed to

German Marriage Laws and Customs by Warren Bittner.  I wish I could go to the Palatines to America conference to hear more from him.  This was a fascinating presentation, full of great photographs on the power point slides.

My key takeaways were on “stands” in German society (similar to an Indian caste), to look for word "dispensation" on a marriage record, because the diocese may have much more information on the couple trying to get married and that there was a time when religious ceremony and civil registration dates varied greatly, making everyone involved wonder when they were “officially” married.  This is an excellent presentation to purchase on CD due to the tremendous detail Bittner went into.

My last session was Assumptions: A Genealogical Slippery Slope by Claire Bettag.  This was a very useful lesson on how our assumptions can mean we do not do the best research.  She focused on the importance of collaborating many sources to go the truth.  Surprising to some, even official records can be wrong and they can be wrong on purpose, for reasons of the person it involves (the one often cited is a man lying about his age to go into the military early).  She also mentioned that rejected applications can contain the most information, similar to the dispensations I had learned about in the prior session.

After this session ended, I went to purchase some things from the BCG booth, then headed for dinner with my husband.  After getting lost on very pretty back roads in Kentucky, we found a great Mexican restaurant.  The rest of the night was spent zoning out to Big Bang Theory, Grey’s Anatomy and HGTV.

NGS 2012 Day 2: AM

NGS Official Blogger

Day 2 (Thursday) of the NGS conference began in a much nicer fashion than day 1: not much actual gridlock on the highway and I arrived in time for the first session, which was on BCG certification.  As this is on my 5 year plan, I thought I should get some basics.  I only stayed for the first half of the session (it ran through 2 session times), but learned a lot.  It is time to go through the manual with a fine tooth comb, up my research reports and work on friends research so that I can practice writing “client reports”.

After this, I headed to Indexes! Indexes! Indexes! How to Find People Who Don't Seem to Be There! with Elizabeth Shown Mills.  This was my first time seeing her speak and I was quite impressed by her presentation.  My favorite part was when she mentioned that “Cassell” can be indexed as “Cafell”, which I am hoping will help me with my Casell (but often spelled Cassel or Cassell) ancestors.

The best strategies she gave, in my opinion, was to use wildcards for vowels whenever possible and to consider ethnicity as a surname.  I never would have thought to look for Italian, Marco or German, Nicolas in my search, but if the person taking the information couldn’t understand or figure out the last name, they put it down like this, instead.  If you have had problems finding people in indexes (who hasn’t), I recommend purchasing this lecture CD.

I ended my morning by starting in a session, but by that 3rd hour of sitting, I had had enough, so I went to the expo to index the 1940 census and wander around.  I actually got so caught up in indexing (my favorite part was the indexer who put Long Island as a foreign country from the Bronx-indeed it sometimes seems like it is…), that I was a few minutes late to my lunch lecture.  I will write about this lecture and my afternoon sessions in the next post.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

NGS 2012 Day 1, Morning

NGS Official Blogger

I spent the first hour of the morning on the parking lot known at the I-75 trying to get to the opening session at 8am.  Sadly, I missed the beginning of this session, but luckily heard Patricia Van Shaik speak on the Cincinnati Panorama of 1848, a daguerreotype.  I can not even begin to tell you how much I love what the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County have done with this photo; in fact, this type of project is the reason I went to school for my MLS.  You can explore the photo from their website.  If all libraries offered sites like this, with photos and historical information, our genealogies would be so much richer (side note: if your library needs an MLS to do this, I’m available!)

At 9:30 the exhibit hall opened.  I went in about 5 minutes late, as I was sitting next to a set of doors they never opened.  My first trip around the the hall was cursory to look at books I may want, people I may want to speak with and to get badge ribbons.  I was able to talk to Chris Whitten from WikiTree for quite a while.  I realized I have been remiss in not blogging about this wonderful new site, which I will make up for later this week.

My first workshop was Family Tapestry: Integrating Proof Arguments by Jeanne Larzalere Bloom (click link to see my write-up).  Later, I went to the APG luncheon, which I will write a separate post on later this week.

Read about the second half of my day here.

NGS 2012 Day 1, Afternoon

NGS Official Blogger

After lunch Wednesday (which will receive it's own post later this week), I attended Fitting the Pieces Together: A Case Study in City Research by F. Warren Bittner, CG.  This was one of the best presentations I have ever seen.  Mr. Bittner is a wonderful presenter and his presentation was good for all levels of genealogists, in my opinion.  This is one I would recommend purchasing the CD for.

Bittner started with a basic overview of the genealogical proof standard and then put it into practice with a case study on his New York City ancestors.  The main takeaways from this lecture are that the address a family lived at in a city is one of the most important items you can have.  The second is that indirect evidence which comes from comparing documents tends to provide the best proof of identity.  Lastly, always make sure every statement you make is cited.  My favorite quote was that that when looking at  “complex evidence: Compare sources, resolve conflicts, must include a written proof summary. Otherwise, we doom the next generation to redo the research.”

The last workshop that I attended was

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury: The Evidence Presented Clearly Shows by Barbara Vines Little.  Little discussed the different types of proof summaries, list-style and narrative-style.  She said that the narrative-style tends to make a more convincing argument, as you can include more details.  The main takeaways from this lecture were that it is not enough to say that a record does not exist, you need to tell where you have looked for it and that these proof summaries, particularly if you use the narrative-style, become your written family history.

After the workshop ended, I sat in the NGS home-study course round table.  I did not stay long as this was for a more basic level than I was looking for.  I do highly recommend this course for beginner and intermediate genealogists.

Later that night there was a blogger meet-up at Champs in the Hyatt.  It was great to meet new bloggers and discuss the lectures people had went to.  I also met Jennifer Holik who has recently written a group of books on engaging the next generation of genealogists, some of which have lesson plans for every age level.  I looked through these briefly and am very impressed.  I plan on reading them and reviewing them on my blog as soon as possible.

Thank you for the great time out, ladies!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Family Tapestry: Integrating Proof Arguments

NGS Official Blogger

My first workshop on day 1 of the NGS conference was “Family Tapestry: Integrating Proof Arguments” by Jeanne Larzalere Bloom.  As you will notice, the majority of the lectures I am attending are on proof arguments and writing, and this was a wonderful introduction to both.

All genealogists should be writing proof arguments for every step of their research.  It is tremendously important to remember that the proof argument is not a final, written-in-stone document, but rather a statement of where you are in your research at this point in time.  Looking at it in this way makes writing proof arguments much less overwhelming that the grandiose essay I had in my mind.

Bloom discussed her adaption of the Toulmin Model for genealogy.  First, we need to start with the evidence found an exhaustive search.  We use this information to build a proof argument and, finally, a proof summary. 

It is important to remember that the entire point of a proof summary is to answer the research question you posed at the beginning of your research process.  Once the summary is written, people will want to tear it down, to find the holes in your argument; find those holes yourself, then go do the research to plug them.

FamilySearch Media/Bloggers Dinner

NGS Official Blogger

On Tuesday night FamilySearch sponsored a Media/Blogger dinner.  It’s not every day that you get to eat dinner with Paul Nauta of FamilySearch, the AncestryInsider, Leland Meitzler, Pam Schaffer, Sandra Benward and Denise & Scott Richmond (who I met on the Legacy Cruise in October).  I also met Ruth Blair, who shares my blogiversary and DearMyrtle said my business car was pretty (I can die happy now).

The main discussion was on the Community 1940 Census Project.  There are over 460 blog ambassadors for this program (including myself) and they are looking for more!  If you are interested and at the conference, there is a special offer where you can sign up and write a blog post and receive a very nice gift.

Over 101,000 people have volunteered as indexers and arbitrators, which is how 30% of the census has already been indexed.  This is likely the largest community indexing project and we can only hope to see more of these in the future.  Remember, if you index two batches while at the conference, you get a free t-shirt!

FamilySearch also told us that they have  collections from over 60 countries and over 1 billion indexed records.  I am most excited that they now have a contract with the Italian government to digitize and index for preservation purposes all civil records through 1940.  Having searched many of these records, I can say that having then online where you can zoom in and out and play with the coloring, will be tremendously helpful.

Thank you for such a wonderful experience FamilySearch!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

BCG Education Fund Workshop

NGS Official Blogger

The BCG Education Fund sponsored a full-day pre-conference workshop at the NGS conference today.  There were two parts, Dr. Thomas W. Jones on “Editing Your Own and Others’ Genealogical Writing” and Melinde Lutz Byrne on “Editor’s Ink: Writing for Genealogical Journals.”

For the pre-lunch session, I attended Dr. Jones’ lecture.  “Polishing is the greatest part of writing” according to Dr. Jones, it is also the hardest part.  When you begin writing you can start with anything: key terms, a description of what you want to say or full sentences.  If you cannot come up with anything to write, you probably should not be writing.  It is where you go from here, all the polishing, that is the difficult part.

I was amazed that as an NGS Quarterly editor, Dr. Jones routinely cuts 25-50% of the words sent to him.  The main rules for publication, after having interesting and well-done research, is to be concise, choose simple words and have a logical sequence.

After lunch, I attended Melinde Lutz Byrnes’ lecture, where she told us that “writing is thought.”  I learned that most journals have guidelines online that can help you decide if your publication should be submitted.

Prior to the conference Ms. Byrnes sent us a pdf of a rough draft journal article.  At nearly 30 pages long, this article was eventually cut down to 7 pages.  Our directions were to read the footnotes first, then the article, then turn each of the 90 paragraphs into 1 sentence and write 1 sentence that gives the overall theme of the article.

This will be the way I read every article in the future.  The footnotes give so much more information on the author and what you are about to read than I ever imagined.  This is apparently a tip from a well-known, long-term (and un-named) editor.  When an article is dense or confusing, turning each paragraph into a concise sentence makes it easier to understand.

These workshops made me more interested expanding my writing.  I am looking forward to combing my research for interesting and unique case studies that can be submitted to genealogical journals.

Planning for the NGS Conference

NGS Official Blogger

A hoard of genealogists is descending upon Cincinnati today to attend the 2012 National Genealogical Society Conference.  In order to make the most of your time, it is important to pre-plan your conference, or at least the first day.  Luckily, NGS has made a multitude of tools available to help in this planning.

  • Syllabus, Daily Schedule and Exhibitor Listing
    • The syllabus and daily schedule of events are available as PDF files on the NGS website for conference attendees.  By going through these, you can decide which lectures you want to attend during each time period.  Important items to keep in mind:
      • Is the speaker one you want to hear?
      • Is the topic important to your current level and interests as a genealogist?
      • Is the session being recorded?  If there are two sessions you are interested in and one is being records and the other isn’t, go to the one that isn’t and purchase the recording for the other.
      • Is the syllabus specific or general?  If the syllabus gives you a lot of information on a topic, including references for further research, you can go to a session with a more general syllabus that does not provide the information you need
    • Use exhibitor listing to make a list of “must see” booths.  By planning this now, you will make sure you do not go home having missed the one organization you wanted to see.
  • Mobile App
    • There is a mobile app available for every device.  Download this to look at daily news flashes, the daily schedule, maps, and even tweets and photos from the conference.  The best part of the app is the “My Schedule” piece where you can keep track of which sessions you are attending and where they are located.
  • Tips for First Time Attendees, Conference FAQs and What to Expect 
    • These documents will give you an overview of important information on the conference.
  • Social Media
    • Using these tools will help make your conference enjoyable and productive!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

NGS Conference Begins in 1 Week


In one week, the pre-conference workshops begin for the NGS Annual Conference in Cincinnati.  This will be my first national genealogy conference and I am very excited to be one of the official bloggers!  I will post daily about the workshops, lectures and special events I attend, as well as general information about the conference and Cincinnati.

Will you be at the conference?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

1940 Census: Maternal Grandmother

My main goal for the 1940 census was to find all of my grandparents, as this is the first time any of them were listed on a census record.

Last, but not least, is Grandparent number 4 (according to my pedigree chart), Marlyn Whitehead.  She was also the last one I found, which is pretty ironic considering she was the one I most wanted to find.  My Gramma Casell has been with me every step of the way on my genealogy journey and I was very excited to find her on a census and show it to her. 

She took a while to find as the address I had for her parents in 1943 from a SS-5 form was not where they were living in 1940.  After asking her for other recommendations (after all, she should totally know where she lived at age 4Winking smile), I learned that’s personal subscriptions have city directories that library subscriptions do not.  One 2 week trial later, I had an address: 87 Ullman, Buffalo, Erie Co., NY.  She is listed with her parents, William and Vera (Gress), her five sisters and her grandmother, Elizabeth (Fink) Gress.



1940 U.S. census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo, enumeration district (ED) 64-472, sheet 12B, dwelling 87, family 257, Wm. H. Whitehead household; digital images, National Archives and Records Administration, 1940 Census ( : accessed 3 Apr 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T627, roll 02837.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

1940 Census: Maternal Grandfather (aka He’s Everywhere)

My main goal for the 1940 census was to find all of my grandparents, as this is the first time any of them were listed on a census record.

Grandparent number 3 (according to my pedigree chart) and the third one I found (after failing at finding grandparent #4) is my maternal grandfather, Robert Casell.  He took a bit longer to find than he should have, as I had The Evangelical Lutheran St. John's Orphan Home where he lived as being on Mineral Springs Road in Buffalo, Erie Co., NY.  Turns out it was a town over, in West Seneca.  Once I had that knowledge he was tremendously easy to find, as the orphanage is written in the enumeration district descriptions.


He is listed as 9 years old, with his brothers Alfred and James.  Their sister Beatrice is located 2 sheets later as “Beatrice Cassel” (the list is broken down by male and female).

While talking to my mother and grandmother last night, they asked if I had found my great grandfather yet.  Since I had not looked, but was certain I could find it easily due to having the house address, I was on the search for Alfred Casell on South Division Street in Buffalo.


I was rather surprised when listed below Alfred were all four of his children!  I have read about other people finding their relatives in two or more places at once in the census, but I have never had this with my family (they were a stay-put kind of people), so this made me very excited.

How does this happen?  I know for a fact that my grandfather and his siblings were in the orphanage from 16 Oct 1939-26 Jun 1947, as I have the paperwork from the orphanage.  It is possible they were visiting home on 1 April 1940 (or the day the census taken arrived, if directions were not followed properly) and were therefore included in both.  According to the sheet, one of the people Alfred was renting space in the house to provided the information, so it is also possible that he did not understand the directions on the census or was unaware that the children had moved to an orphanage after their mother died.  They also may have been confused as to the permanent location of the children.  Either way, it is pretty cool to see my grandfather not once, but twice on the census.


1940 U.S. census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, West Seneca, enumeration district (ED) 15-179, sheet 6A, p. 2898 (stamped), dwelling St. John's Orphan Home, family (blank), Robert Casell; digital images, National Archives and Records Administration, 1940 Census ( : accessed 3 Apr 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T627, roll 02532.

1940 U.S. census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, West Seneca, enumeration district (ED) 15-179, sheet 7A, p. 2898 (stamped), dwelling St. John's Orphan Home, family (blank), Beatrice Cassel; digital images, National Archives and Records Administration, 1940 Census ( : accessed 3 Apr 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T627, roll 02532.

1940 U.S. census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo, enumeration district (ED) 64-60, sheet 15B, dwelling 469, family 240, Alfred M. Casell household; digital images, National Archives and Records Administration, 1940 Census ( : accessed 3 Apr 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T627, roll 02824.


Mrs. R. Donald Coppola and Miss Dorothy H. Dehn, C.G., editors, Records of St. John's Orphan Home 1865 - 1961 (Buffalo, New York: Abilgal Filmore Chapter, DAR, 1981), 20.

1940 Census: Paternal Grandmother

My main goal for the 1940 census was to find all of my grandparents, as this is the first time any of them were listed on a census record.

Grandparent number 2 (according to my pedigree chart), and the first that I found yesterday is my paternal grandmother, Agnes Nuwer.  She was 2 years old and living in a house of Westwood Road, Alden, Erie Co., NY, with her parents Albert and Edna (Roll), siblings Richard, Marilyn and Albert, Jr., and cousin Henry.  According to my Uncle Al, Henry was actually living with them as a paid farmhand, which shows why the earlier you become a genealogist the better, as I would have never known this otherwiseSmile

Nuwer_1940 Census

Three families before them, Albert’s parents, my great-great-grandparents, John and Anna (Zeapfel) Nuwer, are listed with their daughter Charlotte.


1940 U.S. census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Alden, enumeration district (ED) 15-2, sheet 1A, p. 115 (stamped), dwelling (blank), family 2, John Nuwer household; digital images, National Archives and Records Administration, 1940 Census ( : accessed 3 Apr 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T627, roll 02526. 

1940 U.S. census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Alden, enumeration district (ED) 15-2, sheet 1A, p. 115 (stamped), dwelling (blank), family 5, Albert Nuwer household; digital images, National Archives and Records Administration, 1940 Census ( : accessed 3 Apr 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T627, roll 02526. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

1940 Census: Paternal Grandfather

After not being able to look at any images of the 1940 census yesterday, I made a lot of progress today, finding all 4 of my grandparents!  The fastest way I found to search the images was to download the entire enumeration district and then flip through it in Windows Live Photo Gallery.

Grandparent number 1 (according to my pedigree chart), and the second found today, is my paternal grandfather, Theodore Acquard.  In 1940 he was 6 and living on a farm on Alleghany Rd. Bennington, Wyoming Co., NY.  He is listed with his parents, Florian and Stella (Karpinski), younger brothers Daniel and Ronald, grandfather Joseph Acquard and uncle Walter Acquard.  His name is misspelled as “Theadore”.


Source: 1940 U.S. census, Wyoming County, New York, population schedule, Bennington, enumeration district (ED) 61-8, sheet 7B, dwelling (blank), family 150, Florian Acquard household; digital images, National Archives and Records Administration, 1940 Census ( : accessed 3 Apr 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T627, roll 02816. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

1940 US Census Release Day

The 1940 US census was released this morning! My plan was to look for my easy to find grandparents before work and then focus on the harder to find ones this evening. Hahahah... The demand on the site meant that this was not possible, but I am hoping to be able to find everything tonight or tomorrow. Until then, I index!

Were you able to find your relatives on the 1940 census yet? Have you began helping with the indexing project?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Family History Day: Census Mortality Schedule

After attending Family History Day, I had a list of sources to look for.  At the top of this list was checking to see if any of my ancestors would have been listed on a census mortality schedule.  My 4th great grandfather, John George Zeapfel died 17 Oct 1879 in Lancaster, Erie County, NY.  Searching for him on Ancestry did not yield any results, but reading mortality schedule did:

This shows he died of consumption and that there was not a doctor present at the time of his death.  It also gives his birthplace (Alsace, France), occupation (retired farmer) and marital status (widow).  Since NY state did not have death certificates this early in most cases, this is the only place to find some of this information.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Family History Day: Sources for New York State Research

My last lecture of Family History Day was “Sources for New York State Research” by Christopher Challender Child.  As someone from Western New York, whose ancestors are also from Western New York, lectures like this can be disappointing, as they often focus only on New York City.  Luckily, Christopher covered records for the whole state.

NEHGS actually has a site specifically for those of us with NY ancestors:  This includes databases and articles specifically for New York.

State census records are some of the best things to look at for your NY ancestors, particularly since the 1892 state census is a wonderful substitute for the 1890 federal census.  There are also marriage and death records for June – July 1855 and 1865 located with the census of that year.

Other records he recommended were tax records, poor house records, and mug books.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

1940 US Census: Boarders in the Household

Less than two weeks until the release of the 1940 US census!  When searching census records, it is easy to just focus on family members and the other people living in a household.  After all, boarders were just people passing through, helping pay the mortgage, right?

While in some situations, you will see a boarder in a census one year and never see them in relation to your family again, sometimes boarders will actually be far more important to your research.  Here are a few examples from my family tree:

sophia gress 1910 censuc

In 1910, my 3rd great grandmother, Sophia (Passel) Gress, had been a widow for 11 years and all of her children were grown and living with their spouses, raising children of their own.  Sometime between 1900 and 1910 she had begun taking in boarders, and as of census day she had 6 young men renting space in her home.  One of these men, George Eddy, was a 28 year old house painter.  I like to picture Sophia telling her granddaughter Elsie about this kind, hard working, handsome young man living there, as by the 1920 census Sophia was living with George and Elsie Eddy and their 3 daughters (as well as a new boarder) as “grandmother-in-law”.

charles whitehead jr 1871 census

In 1871, Benjamin Hayman was listed as a lodger in the home of my 3rd great-grandparent’s Charles and Mary Ann Whitehead’s home.  Further research proved Benjamin to be Mary Ann’s older brother whom she named her firstborn son after.  Why was he listed as a lodger and not as brother-in-law?  Perhaps the census taken felt that lodger was a more appropriate relationship or he was not told that there was a blood relationship or he just assumed Benjamin was a lodger.

Have you ever researched the boarders listed in your families census records?  Did you find they were more than just someone passing through?


1871 census of England, Kent, Halstead civil parish, village of Halstead, folio 132, page 5, Charles Whitehead household; digital images, The Generations Network, Inc., ( : accessed 15 Aug 2008); citing PRO RG 10/921.

1910 U.S. census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo, enumeration district (ED) 179, sheet 13B, dwelling 219, family 263, Sophia household; digital images, ( : accessed Aug 2008); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T624, roll 946.

1920 U.S. census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo, enumeration district (ED) 201, sheet 15B, dwelling 254, family 346, George Eddy household; digital images, ( : accessed Aug 2008); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T625, roll 1107.

Family History Day: A Dozen Ways to Jumpstart Your Family History Project

The third class I went to for Family history day was also given by Lou Dennis Szucs.  This time she spoke on ways to jumpstart your family history project.

Often time, we feel stuck in our research as genealogists.  Maybe we hit a brick wall or we just don’t know where to turn next.  In these cases, Lou first recommends going back over what you have.  When was the last time you looked at all of your documents for information you may have missed or didn’t realize was important the first time around?  Even just writing the information out in a new way, such as a timeline, may give you a new idea.  Also, make sure you are looking at the witnesses, sponsors, neighbors and fellow passengers on those documents, as they can often give you clues about your family (or may even be your family!).  One of my favorite bloggers, Tina, has been doing this recently.  She is going through her entire document collection, cleaning up her database and posing about it on her blog Gen Wish List.  She has found a multitude of items and is only on the letter “L”.

It is also important to continually look for new sources.  This can be done by looking at new databases, going to your local library (or your ancestors local library), using sources new to you (in my case mortuary records and mortality census records), and checking out family history societies and museums.  Also remember that the 1940 US census will be released April 2nd!

Can you speak for 5 minutes on every place your people came from/lived?  I can’t either, but think it’s a great idea.  Writing up sketches of ancestral homelands is another great way to jumpstart your research.  Include the history of the area, maps, and things such as major occupations, churches, and organizations.  I also like the idea of writing sketches of organizations your ancestors belonged to, such as churches or fraternal organizations, and their employer, as this will give you more insight into their life.

You should also be writing up biographical sketches of your ancestors themselves.  This goes along with her first point of seeing what information you have.  Do not just put dates, but try to show their personality as well.  You can turn these sketches into your own personal mug book. 

Lastly, it is important that we network with others.  You can do this through genealogical organizations, on message boards, on a blog, Facebook, or using member trees.  The more ways you get your information out there, the more likely you will find others who are related or can help break that brick wall. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Family History Day: Hidden Treasures at

The second presentation I went to at Family History Day was “Hidden Treasures at” by Lou Dennis Szucs.  It was pretty cool to hear someone speak in person who’s books I have read.

The most important take-away from Lou’s presentation was to not use the search box on the front page of  While it will give you things such as census records and vital records, the smaller collections will not rank highly enough for you to find information on your family member.  Always go to the specific collection or to the correct county, state or country page to do your searches.

What are some of the hidden treasures at

  • Mortality Schedules for the 1850-1880 census
  • Seamen's Protection Certificates
  • US Veteran's Gravesites, 1795-2006
  • Homes for Disabled Soldiers
  • Returns from Military Posts
  • African-American and Jewish landing pages

Lou also discussed how important it is to browse the records, not just look at the page your ancestor is on, take the information, and go on to the next thing.  Back before the internet, every census record found required going through sheet after sheet of the census.  This often meant finding other families you were looking for and knowing more about the friends and neighbors who associated with your relatives.  Although no one would want to go back to that time, we still should be looking at the surrounding pages in a record and the header of each record.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Family History Day: Immigration Records on

On 17 March 2012, I attended the Family History Day sponsored by and the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Tarrytown, New York.

The first workshop I attended was “Coming to America: Finding Your Ancestor's Arrival Record on” by Juliana Szucs Smith.

Juliana discussed the differences in arrival records throughout the history of America.  Pre-1820 are the hardest to find, as manifests were not required and those that were created did not tend to survive.  One of her tips was to check works such as the Great Migration Project and old publications for abstracts of lists.

In 1820, passenger lists were required.  Although there is not a lot of information available on these forms, it is always exciting to see your ancestors name listed.  One of Juliana’s best tips for this era is to look at the end of passenger lists, where births and deaths that occurred on board are often located.

In the 1890s, manifests expanded to include information such as marital status, last residence, final destination, if they had been in the US before, name of relative they were joining, ethnic background, and the name & address of a relative in the old country.  These more recent lists can help your research tremendously.

It is also important to remember that not all immigrants came straight to the USA.  It was cheaper to travel to Canada or Mexico, so many people went through there first. has passenger lists and border crossing lists for these countries as well.

Just like today, it is possible that your ancestors went back to their homeland many times and will be found on a multitude of passenger lists (or border crossings).  Passports were also popular around the World Wars for those traveling back home so that they could easily get back to the US. has these, as well, and the best of these even have photographs attached.

For more information on immigration, check out the Oral History Project by Ellis Island,,, and books such as They Came in Ships, Forgotten Doors and Germans to America.

Back to Basic: July

July went quick! GRIP  went virtual! I attended (most) of the sessions in Documentation and then continued my citation work with my ProGen a...