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.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Lucy Blanchard Tombstone and Civil War Records

Photograph from
On Saturday, the tombstone of Lucy J. Blanchard was unveiled at Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse. Lucy was a nurse during the Civil War. Upon her death in 1911 she was buried but did not get a tombstone. For more information on Lucy, please visit this page.

Are you researching people who were involved in the Civil War? We can help! Some examples of sources we have are:

In the library, you can use our Civil War database. This database indexes Onondaga County soldiers and sailors incluing regiment information. The records are from a database compiled by the late Robert Nostrant. Explanation of codes can be found by entering the word [codes] in the NAME field. (23,485 records)
View Syracuse newspaper articles on the Civil War and obituaries on, available at home with a library card through our database page. We also have these Syracuse newspapers on microfilm in the department.
Not sure if your ancestor was a veteran? Check the 1890 Union Veterans and Widows of Union Veterans of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps on (in library only). Additionally, the 1910 census asked if the person had served in the Union or Confederate Army or Navy. You can view the 1910 census records on or (in library only) or on microfilm in the department. also has a tremendous amount of Civil War collections you can search. For further information, view the listing here.
We also have books on Civil War genealogical research, both in the Department and on the third floor of the library in non-fiction. To search the catalog, go here.
What records have you had success with while searching your Civil War ancestors?

Technology for the Genealogist

The Central New York Genealogical Society held a program Saturday on new technology for genealogists. Here are a few more technologies you may be interested in:

eBook Readers. Whether Sony, Nook, Kindle or iPad, you can do more than just download genealogy books, you can use it to assist in your research. These devises all allow the user to upload pdf documents. Most genealogy programs all you to save your charts as a pdf. By uploading this to your eReader, you will have all your research with you in a compact, easy to carry device.
QR Codes. Quick Response codes are small bar codes that are scanned by a smart phone camera, decoded by a reader on your phone and then take you to a URL or show you text. In genealogy these can be useful in a multitude of ways, such as allowing other genealogists to see your blog or surname interests from your business card. Additionally, Timeless Footsteps has just created a QR code you affix to a tombstone, allowing others to learn more about the person buried there. This business card sized plaque will allow others to see photographs, life stories and find connections to other researchers. It even connects the person to information on FamilySearch and Ancestry. FOr further QR code information, view Thomas MacEntee's posts.
GPS. Not the genealogical proof standard, but global positioning system. GPS mapping technology is currently being used to help genealogists find cemeteries and grave sites. By having an exact coordinate, it is much easier to find the location of a grave site than by wandering up and down rows of tomb stones, particularly if your ancestor does not have a stone. A helpful guide to GPS mapping, written by Michael T. Booth, is located here.
RootsTech. If you are interested in not only learning more about the combining of genealogy and technology, but also helping to drive it, a new conference is being held in February in Salt Lake City. RootsTech is going to look at current and emerging technologies and how they can help genealogists.
What technologies do you use for your research? Which would you like to use?

Create Your Medical Family Tree

Did everyone see the Post Standard article yesterday titled "How to create your medical family tree"? Tomorrow, Thanksgiving, is National Family History Day and the article recommends talking with your relatives about their health history.

By getting three generations of history, you can see trends that may be important to you and your descendents. Diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease can, but do not always, run in the family. You should discuss what you have found with your doctor. In order to make talking with your doctor easier, the Sugeon General has created My Family Health Portrait, an easy to use site that will generate reports for you, for free. You can save the information to your computer or on Microsoft's Health Vault. For a list of questions, view the bottom of the article or print this guide.

Have you prepared a health history? Why or why not?

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...