nara seal

I’m too busy watching the Free National Archives Online Genealogy Fair to Blog this week . You can use the following link then subscribe to their YouTube Channel and learn about the treasures you can find in the U.S. National Archives.. http://www.archives.gov/calendar/genealogy-fair/

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 2.25.28 PMWhile preparing to teach a class last week on Google Earth and Land, I revisited the BLM website  If you are searching for an ancestor in the US this site is worth a visit. See http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/

The site is free, [your tax dollars at work], and contains land patents, military bounty land warrants, and land grants as well as credit entries, mining and timber claims and homesteads, for the United States. Land patents give information about people who obtained the title to their land directly from the federal government.

Millions of land patents are available and include the years from 1788 to the 1960s. Patents show the name of the patentee, date, legal description of the land, patent number, and the land office that issued the patent. This information can be used to obtain land patent application papers. You can order the applications papers if you wish to get more information about an ancestor. The applications  may contain information about family members, where an ancestor resided previously, citizenship applications, Family Bible pages, marriage or death certificates, and affidavits.

I searched for Oliver Woodward in Ohio, whom I knew had received Bounty land for his Revolutionary War service. I found several records for land that he had  received, and when I opened the ‘related documents’  tab, I also found deeds for his sons Elihu and Oliver Jr., plus a deed for Mary Corner,  Oliver Jr.s  second wife. In addition, I found  two deeds  for William Corner, the father of Mary (Corner) (McGrath) Woodward.

Scroll down the page to reveal a map and the land description that includes, the Meridian, Section, Township and Range, with a map showing below. Check the land description box and your ancestor’s land will be placed on the map

I love land records for the wealth of information they can provide, and for their placement of a person on the earth in a specific place at a specific time. I recently helped index some early deeds from Rehoboth Massachusetts. I knew my family had lived in Rehoboth for nearly 200 years, but was delighted to find a deed signed by the town purchasers on the 28 June 1653. It was signed by 41 men and 8 of them were my direct ancestors.


In Family History we sometimes find ourselves unable to move our research back another generation. We often call this a ‘brick wall’. In order to deconstruct the wall, and achieve some success, we need to understand how the wall was built. Here are the most common reasons

  1. Not understanding there was probably at least one other person, if not more, with the same name as your ancestor, living in the same area. You need to understand the area your family came from and be familiar with why documents were created. [HINT: work with a timeline of your ancestor to help sort him from the others – they all had the same names.]
  2. Not having enough sources. You will need several sources to make valid conclusions – one or two is not usually sufficient. [HINT: Every event needs a date, a place and a source]
  3. You copied your family pedigree from another family member, and ‘assumed’ that it was correct. Copying means that dates, names and places can be transcribed in error, and if the people you copied from also copied their records from someone else, then the possible problems can duplicate quickly. Errors in previous research make a great brick wall.
  4. If the records don’t match what we already believe, we develop a theory of why they don’t, because we are unwilling to change our minds.
  5. Your family has told you that you come from a ‘famous historical figure’ so you try to make all of your research prove that point, and even jump a generation to get where you want to be.
  6. Relying on published genealogies. Forget for a moment that there were some early fraudulent genealogies published, from which many families have based their lineage. Just the fact that many online pedigrees are not sourced should make you suspicious.
  7. Failure to track your family through every possible census.
  8. Believing, without proving, the family legend.
  9. Failing to look at the people that surrounded your ancestor. If you are looking for a needle in a haystack, in this case your ancestor is the needle, to find him, you need to make the needle bigger. Look for siblings, children, in-laws- neighbors who were part of your ancestor’s circle.
  10. Failing to understand that your ancestor was probably normal, meaning they did the things that others in their area did. If the age for owning land was 21 – then your ancestor, most likely, didn’t own land until they were at least that age.
  11. Moving back in time too quickly. Our ancestor came from England so we start there. You need to start at your last FACT. That means an event that has been proven, and then locate where in England you need to look before upi leap across the pond.

I could add other reasons, but these are the most common. Use a timeline, make sure what you are finding fits into that timeline, and evaluate carefully if you want more success in your searches. Oh- I almost forgot, and yes I know I say this all the time– keep a research log.

cowboy sillouetFamily legends are fun to pass down, often they are true, sometime they have truth woven in them and then there are the other times.

My grandfather’s older sister was an early pioneer, who came across plains as a baby in 1848, or maybe not.

What we thought we knew: Norman Bliss and Elizabeth Ann [Betsey] (Bird) married in Nauvoo Illinois in 1846. They were driven out by mobs and fled with other Mormon Saints to Winter Quarters where their only child, a daughter Mary Ann Bliss was born. Norman and Elizabeth [Betsey] soon divorced. She married a man at Winter Quarters named George Bryant Gardner, with whom she had 3 more childre

The story goes that when Betsey divorced Norman in 1847-1848, she left Mary Ann, who was 18 months old for him to raise. As they crossed the plains, a lady by the name of Kalain took care of Mary Ann. When a rest was called Norman would go to the wagon and take Mary Ann in his arms and love on her and sing to her. When they camped for the night, he would take Mary Ann and his older son Orley with him until morning.” I always had a picture in my mind of my great-grandfather cradling his baby girl every evening as trekked west. It is a very sweet, sentimental tale with a problem. The documents don’t support the story. Mary Ann was not on that wagon train with Norman, and neither was anyone with a name that could possibly be the mysterious ‘Kalain’. See http://history.lds.org/overlandtravels/ for the wagon trains and passengers.

FACT: Norman and Orley came in 1848 with the second Brigham Young Company. Orley, who was around 7 or 8, drove a team and wagon, while his father drove a second team. There was no Mary Ann traveling with the company.

FACT: Mary Ann come west in 1850 with the Wilford Woodruff Company. Also in that Company was her mother Elizabeth [Betsey] Ann Gardner, her second husband George Bryant Gardner, and their daughter Emily. Mary Ann was 3 years old – quite young but not a baby.


FACT: Sometime after they arrived in Salt Lake, Betsey divorced George Bryant, married Kimball Hardy, and gave Mary Ann to her father Norman to raise.  Betsey then married a man named Kimball Hard. They lived in Salt Lake for a few years and then moved to California – not taking Mary Ann with them. See Salt Lake City 1856 Census.


Somehow the romance is gone from the story. No cowboy lovingly cradling and singing to his baby girl at the end of each day’s ride, and no woman on the wagon train taking caring of the baby, Mary Ann.


It is much more likely that after the divorce, since both Betsey and Norman were living in Winter Quarters, that he often saw his baby and held her and sang to her. However, it didn’t happen on the trail, and they did not come west together.


Many family stories have some truth in them. Unfortunately for this one the documents and reality don’t fit the tradition. Do your favorite family stories make sense? It doesn’t matter so much who is right, as it matters what is right.Try documenting them and find out, but be careful, I still have some family members that are not happy with what I found.




puritanI work on a transcription project for the NEHGS [New England Historical and Genealogical Society.] Our current project includes wills, deeds and town records from early Plymouth New England, basically the records of people who came on the Mayflower. I recently came across a very interesting record about my 10 great grandmother Elizabeth Warren.

Elizabeth was the wife of Richard Warren, who had come on the Mayflower. Elizabeth came in 1622 on the ship the “Anne”, and was widowed in 1627, leaving her with 7 children. The story now gets even more interesting. If you have heard that women didn’t have rights in early America, you have heard wrong. The original records prove this, and I have seen examples of women conducting business, buying and selling property, voting, leaving wills etc. In the case of Elizabeth, the Court ruled unanimously that Elizabeth should take the place of her husband Richard as an original Purchaser.

Elizabeth buys and sells property, and is included in the town records for some time.  In 1652 she deeded some of her property to her sons-in-law, and her oldest son Nathaniel wasn’t happy. Generally, under English law Nathaniel, as oldest son, would inherit his father’s property, with 1/3 going to his mother during her life, and her 1/3 passing to him upon her death. The fact that she was made an Purchaser in the place of her deceased husband, gave her the same rights as any man in the Colony at the time.

Nathaniel, and his mother-in-law, Jane Collyer, went to court to force her to stop disbursing the property. The court sided with Elizabeth and continued to give her total control over her property. The information was included in the town records, which were witnessed and signed by several men including William Bradford, and Myles Standish.  The town records gives the following.

“ by reason whereof many great and sad Differences (sic)  were like to arise between the p[a]rties above said [Nathaniel Warren and Jane Collyer] and that the said Mistress Warren and her other children to who she had Deposed some part of her lands to their  Discontent [meaning the discontent of Nathaniel and Jane]. . .  lastly, the said Nathaniel Warren shall for ever cease all other or further claims suites questions or any molestations or disturbances at any time hereafter concerning the premises but that his said mother, and all her children or any other to whom she hath any way dispensed any lands or shall hereafter (sic) do the same”

In a nutshell -leave Elizabeth Warren alone. The town court decided, again, that Elizabeth had the right to do what she wanted to her property and Nathaniel should quit being a pest and leave her alone. Nathaniel, who had already been deeded some of the property,  was left to inherit his remaining share after his mother died. In the mean time she could sell and do business as she wanted to. Elizabeth continued to do as pleased, and she outlived Nathaniel by 6 years. Go to the original records if you can, and you will learn real history.

Just Sayin’

In my Grandpa Leo Finlinson’s barn hung a hand written sign that read “Fear of Failure is Fatal to success” In my family, growing up,  there was a saying for every occasion. My Grandma Lydia Finlinson was especially witty. If you came into her house unhappy, she would say “don’t go into a molt” [she raised chickens].  If you were angry you could expect her to quip “go scratch your mad spot.” If you were a bit sassy with her, you were told “you need to know which side your bread is buttered on”.  Our family has actually collected pages of her sayings. The following are a few of the ones I find myself repeating to my own family.

  • A little flattery now and then makes husbands out of single men.
  • Every mother think her ducks are geese.
  • You can dance all night but you have to pay the fiddler [translation – you can stay out as late as you want, but you still have to get up early in the morning and do your chores].
  • Don’t cry over spilled milk – go milk another cow.
  • Keep your eyes wide open before marriage and half shut afterwards.
  • If you want to kill time, why not try working it to death.
  • If you will not when you may, when you will, you may have nay.
  • Whatever be thy fate today – Remember “This too shall pass away.”
  • The longest odds in the world are those against getting even.
  • When in doubt tell the truth.
  • A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.
  • A change is as good as a rest.
  • Necessity never made a good bargain.
  • He who goes a borrowing, goes a sorrowing.
  • A wise man changes his mind – a fool never does.
  • Always learn to undo that which you have done amiss.
  • Two heads are better than one – even if one is a cabbage head.
  • If you want to lose a friend, loan him some money.
  • It’s a long road that doesn’t have a turn in it.
  • You can’t buy yourself rich.

When I was young and I would leave the house to go with my friends my parents would call out “Remember who you are!”  I remember leaving a dance one evening when I was at college and the same advice was shouted to me above the crowd, I knew that my 2nd cousin was watching me leave. I sometimes would love to be able to trace some of these sayings back to see how many generations they have been passed down through. I call most of these Grandma Lydia Sayings, and give her credit in hopes that my grandchildren will know they had a very wise 3g grandmother.

Penelope Stout and her Indian rescuer.

Penelope Stout and her Indian rescuer.

Penelope Stout 1st Lady of Monmouth New Jersey 1622-1732

Penelope Stout 1st Lady of Monmouth New Jersey 1622-1732

Last week at a Genealogy Conference where I was presenting, I was able to obtain a Coin that had been minted in honor of an 8th great grandmother Penelope Stout. She is a heroine and the 1st Lady of Monmouth New Jersey. The really short story:

As newlyweds, Penelope and her husband were shipwrecked, around 1640, on the New Jersey shore along with a group of Dutch settlers headed for New Amsterdam [New York]. Her husband was either ill, or injured in the wreck, and the other settlers, who believed her husband would soon die, tried to persuade Penelope to leave him, as they concerned about Indians. Penelope wouldn’t leave her husband, and so the group left the young couple near the woods, and made their way to New Amsterdam. Soon after, Indians attacked the couple, and Penelope’s husband was killed, she was scalped, and cut across her stomach so that her intestines were exposed, and she was left to die. She managed to push her intestines back into her body with her now one good arm, and then crawled to a nearby hollow log where she survived for several days by eating substances from the log [probably fungi, grubs, and dew]. Some days later two other Indians found her and one took her to his village where she was nursed back to health. After living in the village for some time, she was returned to the New Amsterdam Colony where she met and married a Sea Captain by the name of Richard Stout. Penelope missed her ‘Indian Father’ and she and Richard moved and helped settle the town of Monmouth, New Jersey.  An incident later on allowed Penelope to save her Village from Indian attack thanks to a warning from her ‘Indian Father’.  For her loyalty to her dying husband, miraculous survival, and heroism in the saving of her village the coin was minted.

That got me wondering about my less well-known grandmothers. 8 generations, for me, takes me back into the 1600’s, the time period when a majority of my ancestors came to America. Because every generation doubles your number of direct ancestors, it possible for a person to have 512 direct great grandparents in just 8 generations.–Doing the math, that makes 256 grandmothers, assuming that no one married an even distant cousin, which did happen often.

Math aside, I have located 116 grandmothers in my 8th generation. Penelope is well known because of the trials that she overcame, and her bravery; however, each of my grandmothers has a story that is important in determining who I am.

It is said that a person dies twice, once when they die and are buried, and a second time when they are forgotten. Most people fade from memory in just 3 generations. That means that your great grand children will not know much about you – unless you leave your story for them. Write down your story. You can add it to FamilySearch FamilyTree, and because you are living no one will be able to see it until you are gone. Then start moving back through your generations and find the stories. Chances are that you will have some stories already added for you. Read those stories and share them with your children and grandchildren. You are who you are because of those who came before.


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