The delving into family history isn’t for the faint hearted, so if you are determined to search into the past you need to be prepared because what you find might Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 11.51.25 AMnot be exactly what you want to learn. While we might all like to be descended from Royalty or a President or a National Hero, it just isn’t possible. Most of us at some time, will find an ancestor that we may not want to shout about from the rooftops.

Depending on what your family moral values were, the black sheep ancestor may have been an actual criminal, or the first one in the family who didn’t attend college or who left home to join the circus. Some families aren’t anxious to talk about the miscreant or they may spin the story so that the ancestor who was a “close acquaintance of Wyatt Earp” was called that because he was arrested on more than one occasion by the famous law man.

It is important to put events into context. You need to take a look at the history of the area in the time period of your ancestor. Life was very different 100 or more years ago. A criminal who was hung or was shipped out of England on a prison ship bound for Australia may have been guilty of stealing bread to feed a starving family or simply disagreeing with the King.

The advantage of a “black sheep ancestor” is that they usually leave findable records, which are often found often in newspapers – sometimes in the headlines. While putting together a family for someone, I found a son who, when he and a cousin left their home town and went to the “city” decided to forge some checks. The fact that they were cousins was mentioned in the newspaper article detailing their crime spree – giving another clue to family.

Court records are also a good source. These are public records, and are found in the court house in the area where your ancestor lived. While early records may have been filmed, later court records may need to be searched in the locality where they were recorded. If you are distant from the location you need to search, try contacting a local historical society for advice on how to get the needed records. A website called Black Sheep Ancestors can give you additional clues about where you might search for records. It is www.blacksheepancestors.com

Remember, you can accept who your ancestors were and still not be proud of what they did. After all your ancestors may have some questions about you as a descendant, and those “errant” family members can actually be the most interesting. Accept the fact that your ancestors weren’t perfect and be glad that you finally have some ancestors who have documentation. Remember those traits that they used in an unacceptable way may be the traits that are strengths in your life.

I love music, all kinds of music, though my family thinks I’m stuck on Hard Rock. I usually have music playing while I’m working or researching. Today I thought I would go to the Internet Archive [archive.org], which is a website with “TONS” of free content and listen to a concert while I worked. I was surprised to see that the website has a new, updated look and has been revamped to make it easier to locate content.

This archive is an incredible resource for genealogists. It is a non-profit, free use library with millions of free books, movies, software, music and much more. Sections include Images from all over the world including collections of USGS maps, early maps of many countries, pictures from  museums, and from NASA including NASA eClips, and much more. Videos include Concerts, old Classic TV Shows, Vintage Cartoons, Silent Films  and of course many more. Music can be downloaded and has many genres from Grateful Dead, to and including music from the 30’s and 40″s, ie. Kate Smith. Concerts have content back to 1958.. Software allows you to locate and download software from their Open Source Collection .

Open Library has books from all over the world. The ebook section has over 250,000 titles and  allows you to borrow [free] ebooks for 2 weeks, up to 5 titles at a time. They come either in-browser, PDF or ePub. Open Library also will link you to World Cat [the World Library Catalog] to help you find books that you can borrow through inter-library loan.

The Text area is my favorite and includes a Microfilm Collection, the Project Gutenberg [free plain text versions of free books], and  Digital Collections from many libraries including The Allen County Library. Today I downloaded an early book about the Bliss Family, visited the digital content of the National Library of Scotland, went to the American Libraries and downloaded a book of clarinet etudes in PDF, a  book from the Wellesley College  Library called ‘Sketches of the British Reformers,” and I also borrowed 2 eBooks, Between Open Library and Internet archive you have access to over 8 million public domain eBooks.

I did all this while listening to a piano pice from the early 1900’s, some cylinder recordings [before mp3 there were vinyl records, and  before records there were cylinders.]  A free sign-in is available which allows you to save your favorites findings and also share them with  your friends.

I had thPaul Reveree opportunity to spend this past 4th of July week in Boston. For someone who has 24 [possibly 25] ancestors who served the Revolutionary cause, and who loves history – it was an exciting time. I don’t know the detailed stories, yet, of each ancestor who served, however, the ones I am familiar with make me very proud of the sacrifices they made for this country. I have one ancestor Wait Hopkins who was killed in the war, and another Richard Lyman who died relatively young because of the hardships he faced during the war.

If you had family who was in America around 1776, you may also have ancestors who served in this war, especially if they were in the New England area. You will want to look for an ancestor who was born between 1710 and 1765, and who was living in 1775-1776. Anyone meeting this criteria might be a Revolutionary War patriot. They may not have served directly in the militia, but may have given other service, such as provision of food, clothing, even encouragement. One of my ancestors, whose name was Adajonah Bidwell, gave his salary for 4 years to supply troops, and has a DAR Patriot number.

Once you have identified a possible qualifying ancestor, you will want to go to the DAR Patriot Database to find out if they have already been given an Patriot Number. Go to  http://bit.ly/1S6NNBX or you can Google the DAR website and look for their Library tab, and then select ‘Ancestor Search’.  If your ancestor is listed, it will give you a birth and death date along with place of birth and place of death. It will then outline the service they gave.

You won’t be able to go any further in their website without being a member, but this will give you a start. Then search again using Google. Enter your ancestor’s names, a range of dates (i.e. 1710…1800), and some of the keywords you found in their service record on the Patriot Index.

If you decide you want to join the DAR, you can use the Patriot number given on the website and look at my last Blog Post for information on the process of joining a lineage society.

Lineage Societieslineage chart

July, is a time when I reflect on the many things my ancestors did by coming to America, settling various areas, and defending the country, and leaving a great place for me to be born in and to live in. I have a great interest in preserving their histories and accomplishments for the benefit of others, mostly for my children and grandchildren. One way to help preserve their history is to join a lineage society.

Lineage or hereditary societies are organizations with membership limited to those who can prove they are descended from a qualifying ancestor.

These groups are many and varied, but most fall into categories like early settlers to an area, such with  the Mayflower Society, [limited to descendants of the group that came on the first crossing of the Mayflower] or the “First Families of Ohio” for those whose families were in Ohio before 31 December 1830. There are also many groups dedicated to specific military service such as the DAR [Daughters of the American Revolution] or, ethnic or religious groups such as the National Huguenot Society  or those who emigrated from certain areas such as the Germans from Russia. There are a multitude of these groups,  [see Cyndi’s Lists at http://www.cyndislist.com/ for a listing of lineage societies].

First however, your ancestor must qualify, and you will have to prove that you descend through that  ancestor.  You may find that a distant cousin has already done much of that work for you. I had a  cousin join the DAR using my 3 great grandfather, so I only need to prove that he was my ancestor.

The qualification process starts with you, and it must include more than a pedigree chart, or family legend. It must have actual proof. A history written about that ancestor will not be proof enough without documents to prove stated facts. You may be able to use county histories, bible records, and birth records, wills, land records, death records where they exist, tax records. While census records mat state relationships, they will need additional supporting evidence. To begin this process you would contact the organization itself and ask for their requirements.

With all the work involved why would you want to join? Because members must prove their lineage, these societies have files filled with valuable genealogical information, and as a member you will have access to them. These include multi-generational pedigrees, information gathered from family bibles, cemetery and death records, land, probate and military documents. Large societies often maintain their own libraries, and most publish periodic newsletters.

These groups also often publish books, histories and generally preserve records that otherwise might be lost. Their lineage books and histories are of great value not only to their members, but to others who are researching, and these records are generally easy to locate and many have been filmed. Another advantage in joining a group is that  your genealogy will be included with their records, making it easier for your descendants to locate this part of their family history.

While you are searching out your genealogy take a minute to at least think about what groups your ancestor may have been involved with and take a look at the records they have preserved, you may hit a proverbial gold mine.

Cool New App

A couple of weeks ago my son showed me a wonderful app called Word Lens which will translate text into a number of different languages by using the camera feature on your phone or iPad. When we tried to download it we found it was no longer available. Now the good news! Google has added Word Lens camera translation to its Google Translate App.

This free app is now available for your phone or iPad, and will translate from English to French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish and vice versa. More languages are coming You simply set your language and take a picture of a sign, menu, or a typed document. When you click on the scan button the scan if saved in the language you have chosen. The app alsoallow for real-time voice translation.  The app also also can provide a written translation of your speaking  into your language of choice. See  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZII2ksensw for a quick demo of the speach translation feature. You can also use this tools to speak to someone who speaks a different language than you.

The translate feature on the regular Google Translate has a microphone feature that allows you to speak your text and have it translated into any of 90 different languages, and allows you to see the written text and hear what you spoke in the language you have chosen. Google translate will also translate a website for you. These tools ffrom Google are helpful for travel as well as for understanding letters and documents, belonging to your ancestors, which may be written in a different language.

Paul BDYesterday a friend ask me if she needed to keep her old negatives,
since she has the photos. I told her what I would do – that is what you get
when you ask me a question. I always scan my old negatives, and any that family are willing to let me scan, as tiff files. Tiff files are large files, but once scanned I know I have something that won’t lose data, like a jpg might, and I can always save a copy as a jpg to share with family and friends. Then I still save the negatives in a file, possibly to never be looked at again. But that is just what I do.

Think of a jpg file as a photocopy. You can make a photocopy of a photocopy, and if you continue to do that you will eventually end up with a distorted copy. A tiff file is a more stable file, that you can use, copy and edit and still have a something that will allow you to print a large photo if you chose to. I have even been given jpg files that I save as tiffs in order to stop the loss of data from the picture.

After I explained this to her, she looked at me like, “why did I ask” and then said “Well, these are just pictures of the kids birthdays.” My reply, “wouldn’t you love to have a picture of your great-grandmother when she was a child at a birthday party?” Think into the future of your yet unknown descendants and use the wonderful technologies we have been given. While we don’t print pictures as much as we use to, we certainly save, share, and document our photos like we have never been able to do. [The above picture is of my brother Paul Bliss at a birthday party].

google earthGoogle Earth is a free mapping program that lets you travel the world, the oceans, and even outer space, all from your home. It is more than Google Maps as it allows you to see and overlay layers such as adding roads, rivers, and railroads, and historic maps to your earth view. The program can be downloaded free and will work on both PC and Mac operating systems.

I always want to see the land where my ancestors lived, I like to find the distance between the town they lived in and the town where other family members lived. If they lived close to a county or state border, they may have created records in that different place. The Kinner’s of Whitehall Township, New York,  sometimes married in the bordering state of Vermont, and as they also lived nearly on the border of Ft. Ann Township, they also created records in Ft. Ann.

I often find old plat maps that show the division of land with the name of each owner labeled on their property, and I sometime find old historic maps that identiy, each land owner in the area on their property. I save the map as a jpg. and then overlay it on Google Earth to show where that property would be in today’s world. Images can be adjusted so the scale of both the map and Google Earth are the same.

There are websites that will automatically overlay images onto Google Earth. The BLM [Bureau of Land Management ]Website at http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/search/ has early land records including bounty land, and has a Google Earth function built in. Historic Map Works, also has a built-in overlay function. If you set a free Google Earth sign-in you can save your searches, and revisit them without re-creating the search. From an old Missionary Journal, I was able to track the travels from town to town of an early missionary, and create a virtual tour of the towns he preached in, which was then sent to other family members. I recently found a KMZ  file online of the Scottish Clans showing where there Clan Lands were originally located. By overlaying it on Google Earth, I was able to find the areas of Scotland where my ancestors lived, and track their migration.

As a long time user and teacher of Google Earth, I was pleased to find that Google Earth Pro is also now free. While I can do most of what I want on Google Earth, Google Pro allows higher resolution printing, and has a spreadsheet that lets you  map multiple addresses at once. It also includes a movie maker which will allow you to create video presentations. You can also get an app to use Google Earth on your phone or tablet. Enjoy!


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