FamHist Blog

Family History Research Hints and Tips

Georgia, Ohio, Texas and Washington Death Records

I’ve spent quite a few hours on FamilySearch labs over the past few weeks gathering death records to add to the sourcing of records in my databases.  see http://www.familysearchlabs.org

If you haven’t visited the site for a while, you will document be surprised at the list of titles that have been indexed by volunteers over the past year or so.

There are new vital records postings for Norway, Cheshire, England as well as death records for Georgia, Ohio, Texas, Washington and West Virginia.

Looking for Vital records in the Czech Republic, France and Spain?  You may find what you are seeking in the Diocese records that have been completed in each of these countries.

U.S. state census records, federal census records, the 1930 Mexican census and other similar records are there at your fingertips too.

Ellis Island passenger records, Vermont land records and U.S. World War II Draft Registration Cards are waiting for your review. 

The cost to view all of these records?  ZERO.  You just have to have a valid e-mail address to log in.

The ‘moral’ cost to use this library?  Join in with the thousands of volunteers worldwide and help index records that will be posted on the site.

Go to the FamilySearch Indexing site and sign up.  You’ll enjoy completing a small batch of records at night while you listen to your favorite 1930’s movie or other forms of onscreen entertainment.

Becoming a volunteer indexer is a great way to both Pay It Forward and reap the benefits of the indexing yourself.  Everyone wins.

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24 April 2008 Posted by | Research Tips | Leave a comment

I Saw A Man Engraving…

The batteries in my camera died while I was taking photos of headstones recently. I heard another vehicle park near me while replacing the batteries and looked to see if it someone I knew. It was just a MAV (mother’s assault vehicle or mini-van to most of you) with a small trailer behind it.

The driver was obviously reading something on a clipboard, so I went back to work on my photo project rather than stopping to say hello.

Twenty minutes later I heard a compressor start running and looked up to see the man sitting on the lawn taping a template to the blank side of a headstone that I’d photographed earlier. Engraving headstone

The lawn was missing on that side of the stone and it was evident that a burial had recently occurred there.

The sandblasting dust was soon visible but within a short period of time all was quiet again in that hollowed place. The basic facts about a person had been etched in stone and the engraver was gone.

I stopped by the stone on the way back to my vehicle to read the new information. The name was listed along with birth and death dates. The basic facts told me little about the man they described. However, some new additional script was more reveling.

In flowing prose below the dates, new text said “Beloved and Devoted Husband”. It was a counterbalance to the text under the wife’s name which read ‘Beloved and Darling Wife’. New to both sides of the stone were the words “Grandpa” and “Grandma”.

Who had created the phrases listed on the headstone? Obviously, the husband was responsible for the phrase below his wife’s name, but who was responsible for the phrase below his name? It could have been his children or grandchildren, but I had the distinct impression that the words had been given as instruction to children by their mother to be included on their father’s side of the stone after he had passed.

A story is now written in stone for their descendant to read as they visit the graves of their deceased loved ones. Grandma and grandpa loved each other. They were beloved, devoted and darling. It is a legacy as precious as gold to their children and descendants.

I love to walk through cemeteries and read the inscriptions on the markers. Histories of families, towns, areas are often pieced together as I move from stone to stone.

Today, we see many new headstones with photos of the deceased embedded or engraved in the stone along with pictures of their occupation, hobbies or interests in life. In days gone by the images usually reflected symbols of faith in the resurrection, warnings of death and even amusing phrases.

My favorite engravings have only been on the scene for a dozen or so years in my experience. The back side of upright stones show the pedigree charts of the individuals memorialized on the front side. Now what genealogist wouldn’t love to see that information?

In essence, the charts say, “read about me on the other side, but here’s how I fit into the fabric of my family. I was in “this’ family in this place at this time.”

Memorial Day is coming soon. Don’t forget to take your camera with you while you visit the burial locations of your own families and friends. Take photos for your own ancestral records and take a few more and post them on Find-a-grave and Footnote as a Pay-It-Forward gesture.

Also, take a few minutes to walk around and read the stories written in stone while you are there. Once you’ve done so, you’ll never see the cemetery in the same way again. The familiar sight of engraved names and dates will be enhanced with stories, expressions and history. You’ll become a part of that community of wonderful people because their stories will continue on in your heart and mind.

If you are like me, in every subsequent visit to the cemetery, you’ll take just a little more time to stop by and say ‘hi’ to some of your new friends or at least clean the dust and lawn clippings off of their markers just to show your respect. Friends do that for each other.

20 April 2008 Posted by | Cemetery Records | 1 Comment

I Met A Veteran Today

The weather was warm and the sun was bright in the hours before the next spring storm rolled into the valley.

I decided to spend a few hours taking photos of headstones and posting them on Find-a-grave and Footnote taking advantage of a Pay-It-Forward opportunity.  

Sometimes you just have to walk away from a complex problem at work for a while and do something different to give your perspective a chance to reset and re-look at the problem through a different window.

I noted that many of the headstones included notations of military service and that the death date on many of them corresponded with the years of respective military conflicts and wars. AF Cemetery Veterans Memorial 1JPG

There were considerably more headstones showing military service that I would have guessed.

I briefly stopped and looked at the VFW and City Memorial to Veterans when I entered the cemetery, but could now see that I needed to go back to it and read comments and names etched in granite with more reverence and in greater depth.

Standing by the memorial was an older gentleman out for his daily walk.  Dressed in tan chino’s, a red jacket and cap, he stood reading the names on the World War II memorial. 

Walking up to him I said "hello" and said that I too was going to take the time to read the names listed on the memorial in front of us.  

After a moment, I asked if he was as veteran too and received a nod.  "Do you know any of the men listed here?"  Another nod.

He pointed to a name and then motioned that the man had saved his life.  When he turned to look at me, tears were in his eyes and on his cheeks. 

My respect for the ‘names’ on the memorial grew even deeper in those few seconds as I felt the impact that his wordless communication had conveyed.

He never did speak to me, whether he no longer could due to his health or because of the emotion he felt.  He turned and slowly continued on his walk and left me staring at his receding red jacket deep in thought.

Memorial Day is quickly approaching.  Don’t forget to honor our Veterans this year.  Teach your family about their sacrifices when they served their country and protected the freedoms that much of the world enjoys today.

Take photos of the headstones of your loved ones and those of some of the veterans buried near them and share them with the world this year.  Post them along with their stories where we can all find and read them.

Let us not forget any of them.

15 April 2008 Posted by | Research Tips | Leave a comment

Research Party

Tonight 60 young folks from our area gathered together in a family history research party. They were looking for any of their ancestors who were pioneers in the western U.S. or who came to America in ‘interesting’ ways.

That doesn’t sound much different than any of us does it?

We are all searching for our ancestors and know that most of them had very interesting stories in their lives if we can just find them.

Tonight, four of us ‘old salts’ scrambled from person to person answering questions and offering suggestions to aid in their search. The questions, the ‘wahoos’ associated with finds and the intuitive research thought processes of these young folks were impressive.row_laptops

When they saw the LAN server setting on the floor hooked to tables of laptops and terminals, their first reaction was, “Hey, we are playing computer games tonight!”. That wasn’t correct, but it did provide a setting that most of them were used to and comfortable in.

I’d earlier created a website with a sixty or so family history research links on the home page for their quick reference, and with one glance at its listings and a few words of instruction, they were hot on the trail of their family.

Many pioneers were found, both those who traveled across the American west in wagons and handcart companies as well as those who were crammed into the compressed spaces aboard passenger ships dating from 1620 to recent days.

None of the keyboards melted. The DSL connection at our remote location staggered a few times, but was able to serve the load.

I couldn’t honestly say that the four us us ‘aides’ were equally bushy tailed by the end of the research ‘party’ though. We scurried. We hurried. We tried to hear amidst the din of excitement, questions, chatting and clicking of keyboards during the entire event. Our responses ranged from “try any spelling of the name” to “how did you do that?” “Teach me!”

Yes, the shift was long enough for us ‘aides’ but way too short for the participants. They’d tasted the excitement of putting on their ‘Sherlock hats’ in the quest to find their ancestors. Almost all were infected with the research ‘bug’ and it will continue with them to some extent from this point in time on.

Once they made a ‘find’ and saw their ancestors name and learned a little about their lives, the ‘hook’ was set.

You can fight it. You can try to ignore it. But in the end, you’ll give in and follow where it takes you and it will lead you back to finding your roots.

It feels good being a witness to this particular infection. Tired, but good.

9 April 2008 Posted by | Research Tips | | Leave a comment

Town History Books

I first started looking for second great grandma Mary Farrar in 1966, knowing very little about her other than her possible name. She was born on the far northern border of New Hampshire in the 1820’s to Seth and Azubah Chandler Tirrill.

My mother found one of my fathers cousins in California by mailing letters to everyone in and around Calaveras county with our surname asking if they were related. We had relatives!

You see, my grandfather left Calaveras county as a teen and never returned home. Two of his sisters visited he and grandmother once before he died at the age of 37 and the verbally passed down memory was the only information we had about his parents family.

No knowledge. Who were our people? We only had the few memories and a couple names that my grandmother had jotted down in an old book.

The letters from our California cousin were a godsend. She had become the ‘historian’ for her generation and although her records were somewhat sparse, she had names, places, dates and lots of stories about our ancestry that were pregnant with clues.

My mother started the search first and because I was attending college, working full time and dating my future wife was of little help in the quest. She made a little headway but found many brick walls that severely impeded progress.

A few years passed and I took up the quest. Surely, I could find information about Mary Tirrill Farrar’s lineage. I’d learned to navigate large college libraries and had sort of grown up doing research in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

Eventually, the wall started to crumble and I found my Tirrill lineage, but still only knew Mary’s birth year and place. She was still a mystery to me.

One Friday night after going to dinner with our friends, I convinced them to stop at the college library, ostensiblyTirrill Mary Adith Farrar headstone 2 so I could teach our friend how to find and use the genealogy collect there for her own research, but in reality, so I could look through the books, one more time.

Our friend quickly found books about her family and I left them engrossed reading them while I dragged my finger across the spines of the books while walking up and down the aisle. A systemic search method? No, but I’d learned to listen to other promptings when I’d tried everything I else.

Click. Click. Click. Wait! What was that? A book called “History of the Town of Bristol, Grafton County, New Hampshire. Volume II – Genealogies”. Taking the book off the shelf, I sat down in the aisle to peruse its pages.

Bristol, New Hampshire is about 120 miles south of where grandma Mary grew up, so what was I doing other than being a genealogy geek reading a book that only others of my ilk could love?

Chandler! The Chandler family was listed in the book. Mary’s mother was a Chandler. Abiel Chandler? That was Azubah Chandler’s fathers name. Turning the page, I found him listed as a married man. His children’s names were listed too.

Quickly scanning down the page, I found Azubah who married Seth Tirrill. Immediately below them was listed their oldest child, Mary Adrith Tirrill, b. Stewartstown; m. Thos Farrar, d. Walworth Wis. Four children.!!

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing after all the years of searching. A clue. Maybe even the truth about what happened to grandma Mary Adrith Tirrill Farrar.

The hard won clues gathered through years of research started to come together. Mary had apparently left Stewartstown, New Hampshire and traveled south for some reason. She met a young recent immigrant from England named Thomas Farrar and they married. They had four children! I knew of only two, my great grandmother, Helen Mary Farrar Drew and her sister Julia.

Two years passed as I continued searching for any information about Mary’s death date and Helen’s birth records with no success. Once again, out of clues or ideas, I was dragging my finger across the spines of the books at the Family History Library. Click, click. I stopped at a volume with a yellow binding. The 1850 federal census of Lexington County, South Carolina? Give me a break….. But I’d learned to listen to the feelings and sat down with the book not knowing what would turn up.

Farrar, John, his wife and children were listed. Living with them were Thomas and “Edith” Farrar. He born in England. She born in New Hampshire. Edith! She was obviously using her middle name. Adrith = Edith. Score!

They had their first child, grandma Helen, in May 1851 and apparently left South Carolina looking for better economic opportunity.

Twenty years later, the Walworth County Genealogical Society inventoried the Brick Church Cemetery located a few miles northwest of Walworth and published a book listing all the burials in it.

I happened to be in the Family History Library the day it was put on the shelves as a new purchase. It was almost time for the library to close and as is my want, I often end the day walking through the aisles of books. Click. Click. The Brick Church Cemetery book almost leapt into my hands.

There they were. There was grandma Mary, her son, Thomas Jr., her mother-in-law, Elizabeth and her husband Thomas? Wait. What? Thomas went to California and took his two daughters with him. He wasn’t buried there.

I wrote an email to the Walworth Genealogical Society and asked if anyone would go take photos of the headstones for me. I needed to read the inscriptions for myself.

A note came back the next day saying that if I would pay for the gas, this fine lady would take digital photos and send them to me.

I couldn’t write a check fast enough. A week later, I was looking at the photo of grandma Mary’s headstone. She died as a fairly young woman in Nov. 1857. Her son died as a young child in May 1857. Her mother-in-law died in July 1857. The headstones stood adjacent to each other. A nephew’s stone was two spaces to the right. The empty space was in the name of Grandpa Thomas Farrar.

No wonder he left the area. He lost most of his loved ones in a matter of months.

Finally! I had found them, 35 years after I started looking for them in earnest, all because of a book about the genealogies of residents in a town 120 miles south of where I expected to find information or clues.

When you think you’ve exhausted every possible avenue of research, don’t forget to look through books of towns in the area. These town history books were commonly written in the second half of the 1800’s and early 1900’s and are wonderful resources. You too may find GOLD in them.

If all else fails, walking down aisles of historical books dragging a finger may not hurt too! Click. Click.

6 April 2008 Posted by | Cemetery Records, Town Histories | , | Leave a comment