FamHist Blog

Family History Research Hints and Tips

Lost In Google Books

I’ve delved into Google Books since the first day they appeared on the web.   Knowing that the collection grows continually, I set aside time every month to cruise the byways of the site looking for new attractions and new rare book shops.  Window shopping never fails to result in a ‘sale’ during these excursions.   I find titles and subjects related to my genealogy research that I would never know about without this great research tool.gbooks

Much of this long Thanksgiving weekend was spent reading the books on one monitor while I entered data in my database on a second monitor.

Yes, there were plenty of normal holiday busyness activities that could have occupied my time, but while others were out running into each other trying to find bargains, I enjoyed the greatest bargain around … reading the pages of books I couldn’t afford and probably wouldn’t travel to find.  No bumping.  No traffic.  No co$t.

Life is good.

I’ve added over 2,000 additional sources to my data in the past two days from the Massachusetts vital records books on Google.  I’ve added over 500 new cousins names and information from historical records this weekend too.   My family history knowledgebase has expanded measurably.

If you haven’t taken the time to make your own tour through the site for a while, put it on your schedule.  You may want to ask ‘Santa’ for some uninterrupted time to enjoy your own Google Books journey.

However you arrange for time to make your visit, don’t hesitate to make it happen.

Just go to  books.google.com to start your journey with a keyword search.  Stretch your smile muscles and kiss the hours goodbye.

I find a comfortable pair of P.J.’s to be the best attire for my own forays into Google Books Land.  I think you’ll find a similar attire works best for you too.

Thanks Google!   Merry Christmas to all the elves toiling away in your notoriously wonderful facilities who bring so much joy to so many.

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30 November 2008 Posted by | Research Tips | | Leave a comment

I’ll Surround Them

I started looking for my ancestor, Thomas Farrar, in 1968 thinking that finding him and his lineage couldn’t be that hard.  That attitude was repeatedly slapped down .. hard .. over the next 36 years.  brickwall

You know the story in some form because you undoubtedly have ‘brick walls’ on your own pedigree chart.   We ram at the walls over time, sometimes with a feather-light touch and at other times with a carefully planned massive assault.  

Time goes by and we … Touch. 

Yep, the wall is still there.  Eventually, with a shoulder down, a research plan in our case and loaded with small change, small bills and a feisty attitude, we charge off to the family history library intent on busting through the wall “this time”.   Surely, it is weakened after all of the force and finesse we’ve used on it over the years.   That baby is coming down!

Well, sometimes we are lucky and it really does fall, but usually, we just get a bruise where our mind and shoulder hit the wall.

Discouraged?   Yep.  Sure that we’ll never find our lineage on that branch?   Yep again.  Sometimes, it seems like it is going to be impossible so we shelve that branch of research knowing it will probably see the light of day again….. sometime….

A couple of years ago, I finally found Thomas listed as a passenger on a ship that arrived in New York on 3 Jul 1847.  He traveled to America from London with his brother, sister-in-law and their children.   The passenger records were finally transcribed and indexed and I Found Him!   Their surname is listed as “Fanin” on one index and as “Farren” in another, but it is him.  SailShip

Most of us think of Ellis Island when looking for our immigrant ancestors, but Ellis Island didn’t fully start to function until 1892.   Thomas arrived in 1847 … way too early for Ellis Island records.  

I knew that the records of the earlier immigration center of Castle Garden were being posted on line, so I looked for him there.  After fifty or so searches for every surname spelling variation I could think of his record was on my screen…. “Thomas Fanin”.

Thomas and his wife are listed in the 1850 census in Lexington County, South Carolina living with his brother and sister-in-law’s family, so I had a list of names to look for.

The first name of the “Fanin’s” on the passenger list matched those listed in the census.  It was Thomas alright.   Fortunately, his sister-in-law had a unique first name …..   “Selina”.   Of course, it isn’t listed as Selina on the Castle Garden site, but rather as “Gelena” Fanin.  Using that hit, I looked at the rest of the passenger names on the ship with her and there they were….  Alfred, Gelena, John, Sarah, Thomas and William “Fanin”.   They matched the names in the census record.

Great!  Progress.  A ship passenger record that showed he was from England.   I’d finally been able to ‘hop the pond’.   There weren’t many Farrar’s in England in the early 1840’s were there?   As it turns out, yes, there are a LOT.

More trips to the family history library produced more information about Thomas in an achingly slow process.  

I found Thomas and John’s naturalization papers in the court records of Walworth County, Wisconsin.   

The headstones for his wife, son and mother in the Brick Church Cemetery in Walworth County were found thanks to the efforts of The Walworth Historical Society who had recently published graveyard records for that cemetery. 

One of the wonderful ladies in that group took photos of the Farrar headstones for me.  The photos coupled with the cemetery records told me much about the family.  Thomas’ mother was named Elizabeth.   Her tombstone says she was the wife of Eli. 

Finally, something besides the surname ‘Farrar’ to look for in England. 

Time has passed and now, six years later, I’m still looking for Eli and Elizabeth and their family in church and government records but haven’t found them.

So, I’m back making a plan and executing it.   I’ve done everything I know how to do in the research department other than one thing and I’m doing that now. 

I found Selina’s obituary in a library in Missouri.   It said she was born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire.  Sure enough, I found a marriage record for she and John Farrar in Huddersfield.  

Were there any Farrar’s living in Huddersfield and the surround area?  I guess the better question is “did any one living there have a different surname?”

There are far more Farrar’s than any other common surname in the area.   I think I’ve found the ancestral home for my Farrar family.

None of my known ancestors are listed in the 1841 British census but since the above hints are all I have to work with, I’m going to surround all of the Farrar’s in Yorkshire in the 1841 census by creating a record for each of them. 

Over time, with lots of reports and by peering in different ‘windows’ at the data, hopefully I’ll see a pattern emerge and will be able to identify some uncles families.  From that pattern, I’ll be able to find more about my ancestors in church and government records and hopefully track my direct lineage farther.

So far, I’ve entered 1200 Farrar’s in my 1841 census database.  I only have another 12,000 or so to go.  Nothing to it.  Just time and typing.

I’m going to Surround Them and then Sift Them.   Hopefully, I’ll Find Them, but if not, I won’t quit searching. 

Since there are a LOT of Farrar’s in England, there is no reason to run out of research opportunities for that family.

I suspect you have similar opportunities to continue your own Brick Wall research.

22 November 2008 Posted by | Passenger Records, Research Tips | Leave a comment

My Friend – David Burgess – A Short Life

The other day, Roger Bell, President of Footnote told me about one of his friends who died at age eleven.

Tonight I remembered his story and thought about my own friend, David Burgess, who was killed along with his mother in anBurgess_accident_sm auto accident when he and I were five.

My memories of his last two hours of life haven’t dimmed much in the intervening  years.

His hand waving out of the car window as they drove away…   I can still see his hand waving…

He would be dead in just a few more minutes.

I found the old newspaper clippings that I’d cut from the Salt Lake Tribune the day after the accident and used them in a  Footnote page about David’s last day on earth.

The story from my perspective would have gone to the grave with me until Roger’s comments triggered  memories of my friend, David Burgess ……..  and now, thanks to Footnote, the story is recorded for others.  Click here to read it.

I hope his siblings find it one day.

How many memories, photos and old newspaper clippings do you have stored away that need to be recorded and shared before it is too late?

Jot them down.  Put them on your blog, on your website, on Footnote or in a binder that you donate to a library.

Someone, sometime, will be extremely appreciative of your thoughtfulness.  Gifts of this nature are worth more than gold.  If you’ve ever been the recipient of one of these “gifts”, you know that it is true.

It’s all just part of “Pay-It-Forward” …  Right?

15 November 2008 Posted by | Research Tips | , | Leave a comment