Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

While taxes have been a source of frustration from the beginning of our history, they have, nevertheless, been ever present and we can take advantage of them as a genealogical resource.

The earliest detailed tax record that I’m familiar with is found in the “Doomsday Book” which was an inventory requested in 1086 by William the Conqueror. After invading England, he wanted to know what he owned so he could collect the taxes.  It contains records for 13,418 settlements in England. You can find more information by visiting www.domesdaybook.co.uk.

Another well know tax collection record is the” Griffith’s Primary Valuation”. It identifies taxable property in Ireland from 1840-1864, and is extremely valuable for those with Irish ancestry because it lists the land owner and any tenants. Visit FamilySearch.org, or Ancestry.com [card catalog] or the National Archives of Ireland

People taxed were usually, but not exclusively, males, heads of household, and over 21. They were most often landowners. These lists also provided a way for the government to track men who were eligible to vote and serve in the military. Females, who were heads of households, are also included. Some states had taxes on other types of personal property, so you will need to check the state you are looking in for the exact tax laws for your time period.

Sometimes “luxuries” were taxed. Great Britain, for example, in 1795 had a tax on powder used to powder the wigs that were worn, and also had a bi-annual “hearth tax.” Each fireplace in a home was taxed, and you will also see taxes on the number of windows a home had. The comparative wealth and standing of an ancestor in his community can be seen by his “wig powder tax” and how many fireplaces or windows he had. In New England taxes were raised by towns to maintain roads, pay school teachers, and pay the community minister.  A man with more children attending school would pay a larger school tax. Luxury items such as a clock, a watch or a wagon may also cause a person to appear in a tax list. People are not as likely to be left out of tax list, whereas they may be missed in a census.

While these lists will not give you complete family information, going through them for consecutive years can give you valuable clues. For example, if a man appears on the tax rolls in an area for several years in a row and then disappears, we might assume that he possibly moved or died during the past year. This leads us to other possible records, such as a deed if he sold land, or probate records if he died. If he is suddenly gone and his wife then appears chances are good that he died, though there are, of course, other possibilities. If one of his known sons suddenly appears on the tax list, he probably came of age, which was generally 21, and had some land or property of his own. Looking over a period of time, you may see a man’s sons, in order of age, appear on the tax rolls when they come of age.

Some states kept better tax records than others, but if you come to a place in your research where you are stumped, tax records may give you a clue.   You will need to understand the laws governing tax collection for the state you are researching.  You can contact the state or write to a county or town clerk in the area your ancestor lived. The best place to start would be the FamilySearch Wiki.

In summary, tax records put an ancestor on the ground in a particular spot at a given date. They give you clues to the amount of land an ancestor owned, and by looking at neighbors you can often find how they stood in the community. Put the information you find in a timeline of your ancestor and you will begin to understand more about them.

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Roots Tech 2021 is going to be virtual and free. If you aren’t familiar with RootsTech, it is the largest Genealogy and Technology Conference there is. In past years you had to go to Salt Lake City, pay for the conference and probably a hotel room, and food. BTW it is usually cold in Salt Lake City in February. This year all classes, speakers, and vendors will be free and online from the comfort of your home. Once you register you can view any event or class for up to a year. Also:

  • While RootsTech is live February 25-27, all the content will be on demand for up to a year.
  • This year RootsTech is Global. and will be available in 11 languages, with translation tools if you happen to need a class from a teacher who doesn’t normally speak English. Classes will cover family history research in many countries.
  • The classes will only be about 20 minutes long, and you can return and view them again if you need to. This gives you time to take notes and to implement anything you have learned before learning something new.
  • There will be hundreds classes covering everything from Beginning Family History, to adding Memories on FamilySearch, to understand DNA.
  • There will be classes for youth and teens.
  • There will be chat/video sessions available.
  • Vendors you can access include, Ancestry, FindMyPast, MyHeritage, DNA, and more
  • Once registered you will be able to view [on your familytree mobile app] a tool similar to Relatives Around me called “Find Relatives at RootsTech” that will let you connect with family members that you may or may not know. You will need a FamilySearch account for this feature.

To sign up go to RootsTech.org [use the link or Google Roots Tech 2021]

You should sign up even if you aren’t available during the February dates, and your registration gives you access for a year. Once registered you will be given more information and updates as they become available.

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Are you one of the 10 million Americans, or the 35 million people worldwide who descend from Mayflower Passengers? This year, 2020 is the 400th Anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower so it is a good year to find out.

The Pilgrims sailed to America under a Charter from King James, and under that Charter they were to join the people who had already settled in Jamestown. However, they were blown off course and landed of the coast of what is now Massachusetts. They decided that since they didn’t have a Charter to settle where they landed, they would write their own rules for how they would govern their colony

The Mayflower Compact was important because it was the first document to establish self-government in the New World. It remained active until 1691 when Plymouth Colony became part of Massachusetts Bay Colony.

That said, these Pilgrims were important to the ultimate founding of America. There are a couple of ways you can find out if you have an ancestor that came on the Mayflower.

  1. If you have a free FamilySearch account and you have a tree in FamilySearch, you can go to a site called relativefinder.org. Sign in with your family search user name and password. On the left side of the screen you will see a number of special groups that you can check out. Click on the one that says Mayflower and it will pull up any Mayflower Passengers to whom you are related. If you click on one of the passenger’s names, you will be able to pull up a chart that gives your lineage back to that person.
  2. Again from FamilySearch, you can sign in an go to Search>Research Wiki> and search for Mayflower Passenger List. The list of passengers will come up and you can click on any person that you know, or suspect may be related to you. This will bring up that person’s profile page, and if you click on the ‘view relationship’ tab on the top right of the screen, you will be given your relationship to that person – if there is a relationship.
  3. Also free is mayflower.americanancestors.org. This site will help you find a relationship to a Mayflower Passenger. If you are not related to someone who sailed with them, you can still click on any name of a passenger to pull up information about that person, and lots of fun facts to share, [virtually of course] with your family during this Thanksgiving Season. 

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There are lots of great US Census Records. Starting in 1850, and for every 10 years thereafter a census, or population
record was taken for, hopefully, every household in the United States. The census listed household members, their sex, their ages, their places of birth and other information that the Federal and State Governments needed to plan for future needs.

One of my favorite censuses is the one taken in 1900. In addition to the usual questions that the census taker would ask, such as each person’s sex, color or race, and if each person in the household is single, married, widowed, or divorced or where their parents were born, they added some additional questions

These additional questions can be very helpful. One question was ‘how many years have you been married.” This question allows you to go back in time and look for a marriage record.

Two other questions were asked of the mother which were “how may children have you had” and “how many are still living?” Last week I was researching a family that I knew had 2 children. One died as an infant and one as a young adult. Looking at the 1900 census for the parents the mother reported that she had given birth to 7 children and 0 were living. Suddenly I knew that I had 5 missing children. This is not the first time I have found evidence of missing children by looking at the 1900 census.

Because that census also told me how long the parents had been married, and where each of them had been born, I knew where to look and the time period in which to look for the missing children.

To get the most out of the census, you will want to look at the image – don’t rely on the indexes.  Always, always look at the image, and read every line. You will also find out where the parents of your ancestors were born, and if your ancestor immigrated the year that happened because it is included on that census.

You can find the 1900 census free on familysearch.org, or archive.org, or you can use your library card to access Heritage Quest. Go to your public library site and search their databases. Also if you have a subscription, you can also find the 1900 census on ancestry.com  

Even if you think you know all about your family, you may find some surprises If you can find them in 1900 census

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Damage Control

I first wrote an article similar to this in 2004 Damage Congtrol
when I was writing a genealogy newspaper column, and the area in Arizona where we lived was threatened by flooding. Yes, there can be flooding in Arizona. I also wrote a blog again a couple of years ago talking about it – but today, with fires burning all around the area we live in, it seems it might be a good time to re-evaluate how to store and save your family history.

The best and most certain way to make sure your family history survives is to share it. Once upon a time, I got a new computer. This was the first time I had changed computers. I made a back up of every file on my computer. When I restored my files to my new computer I found that one was missing. The file I was looking for was a 64 page transcribed journal of one of my great-great-grandfather. Remember, this was the old days. Today I would have scanned the journal, but in that period of time I went through the entire journal and typed every word, and now it was gone. Lucky for me I had shared the file with my brother, and he sent me a copy of the file.

Today I would still share it with my brother, but I would also share it on familysearch.org and ancestry.com, where I have my family tree posted. FamilySearch has a long history of filming [now digitizing] and preserving records, complements of their Granite Mountian Vault. They also share their collection free of charge. I’m referring you to my previous blog, Saving Your Family History, for other ideas to keep your records safe.

Since many are grounded at home, now might be a good time to evaluate how you are protecting the collection of family records you have. While you cannot prevent bad things from happening to your precious family history you can share what you have so that these records can be viewed by generations to come, and possibly even by you.

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   best maskThese were things I already knew, but had not focused on, as there was so much else going on. But I have had some fun things happen, genealogically speaking, during the Shutdown.

  • I found a new cousin on the Isle of Wight. As I more closely focused on my social network, I went to the Isle of Wight Facebook Group that I had joined, and I made a comment; my soon to be new-found cousin made a comment on my comment, and we are now working together on our family tree. Social Networking can be amazing.
  • I have found children that were previously not added to my family on familysearch.org, and they were fun to find.  I took some time to organize and make sense of sources that were already added to family members in my tree, and found some children that had not been added. I ordered a number of birth certificates from England, and now there are some new additions to our family.
  • Consultant Planner: I have known about the Consultant Planner on FamilySearch, but with the need to work in relative isolation, I have needed to use it and been able to help people with their family history roadblocks totally from my home.
  • Teaching Classes: I have been able to both teach and take classes without driving to the FamilySearch Center, through a  zoom link that our FS Center obtained.
  • New Free Record Sites: By checking out some of the overseas archives that I have used in the past, I discovered that a number of them are currently offering free content because of the pandemic.
  • Newly Indexed Records: I discovered that a collection of records that I wanted had been added to FamilySearch because of the Indexing program. This was a wonderful find for me. So, in searching the current records waiting for indexing, I found 3 collections that I really need to have finished—so I’m taking some time each day to work on them. When you give back, you also receive

Lots of positive things have come out of this shutdown and I’m sure we will come out at the other end of this much wiser, and probably more rested.

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Signatures . . .

My father never wrote anything, except numbers when Bliss_Ferron Lane 1935he was helping me as a child with my math. He didn’t even sign checks, so when I found his signature, first on his draft registration and a couple of days ago on his Hinckley High School Student Body card I was so happy. For some time I have collected signatures. Someday they will hopefully be part of a quilt or a giant wall hanging I have been planning.

This unusual hobby started accidentally while I was researching for a client and I came across the signature of my 4 gg father Asael Smith. Asael was the town clerk and had added his own family history to the town record, and signed his name. I was thrilled, and also hooked

While mostly I find signatures of males, I do have my mother’s beautiful signature, and my grandmother Lydia’s. My earliest female signature so far is in the early 1600s. It belongs to my 9gg mother, Anne Dudley Bradstreet. My earliest male signature is also in the 1600s.

Just in case you are interested – here are some records where you can find how your ancestor signed their name.

  • Letter’s [obviously]
  • Marriage licenses
  • Draft or Military Registrations
  • Land sales
  • Wills

A number of my early ancestors were ministers, so they signed papers for others as they were involved in christenings, marriages, and burials. If your ancestor owned a business, you might find their handwriting on ledgers, licenses, account books, or guild/trade records.

I love to find the handwriting of my ancestors. Each signature is unique, and a part of the person who penned it. When I find them, I know that they could write, I know how they wrote, and that the document I’m looking at once was a part of their life. What can I say, I’m a Genealogist and I get excited about weird things.

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GirlsIf the FamilySearch Center were not still closed, I would be teaching a class this week on Finding Women’s Names. While I can’t give the entire class in a blog article,  I may be able to give you a few clues if you are trying to locate the maiden name of one of your female ancestors. It can be so frustrating to find your ancestor only to have her identified as Mrs. David Shepherd. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a birth or marriage record, where can you look for a woman’s maiden name?

  • Death Certificate. These are mostly found after 1900, but while she would be listed under her married name, her parents may be mentioned in the record. If they are not identified, then look on the certificate for where your ancestor was buried. You can visit the cemetery either online or in person. If her maiden name is not on her headstone, check to see who is buried near her. These are generally family members. You can also locate the actual burial records through the cemetery sexton, or the person responsible for burials. There is usually more information in the burial records than will fit on a headstone.
  • Obituaries. A woman’s parents may be named. If they are not named, look for the names of any brothers to identify her maiden name. You will also want to look for obituaries and death records for those people named in her obituary. Read all documents carefully.
  • Online Trees. Someone may already have solved your problem – but be very, very careful, and only use trees that have good sources and documents attached.
  • Census. If you find your ancestor in 1880 with her husband and listed with his name, where was she in 1870 or 1850. If the census states that the family stayed in the same area, you can search for her by her first name. It isn’t as hard as it sounds. I found Mary Jane (?) Johnson in Whitehall NY on the 1855 State census. She said she had always lived in the area, so I did a search for just Mary Jane. I found her listed as Mary Jane Kibbe, living a couple of doors down from her future husband. A check for the will of her father Moses gave me the names of all of his children and their spouses, including Mary Jane.
  • Land Records. This may depend on the country your ancestors lived in, but in the United States and England, a wife owned 1/3 dower rights to any of her husband’s property. If he wanted to sell his land, his wife would need to be interviewed and give her consent in order to ‘clear the title’. While you may not always get the maiden name, you will get her first name, and the land description, which can be looked at in context with neighbors’ lands, where you can often find family.
  • Naming Patterns of children. Yes, everyone has the same name; however, you may find names that are generally thought of as surnames among her children. These should be checked carefully. Amanda and Allen Joseph Stout gave all of her 14 children as one of each one’s name the name ‘Fisk’. My g-grandmother was named Lydia Mariah Fisk Stout. Guess what her mother’s maiden name was?


While we could talk about the Social Security Death Index and DNA and a host of other records, I’ll save those for another day.

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There are more ways to connect socially while working on family history in this digital age than I can cover in two blogs, Linkso I’ll just cover a few more.

Twitter – yes twitter. It is a great place to get quick information from genealogists and archivists. It is now 260 characters or less, usually, with genealogist it is less because they are most likely going to point you to their latest blog, webpage update, upcoming conference or free record collection. Regarding Twitter, I’m mostly a follower but have found it to be helpful. Example:

  • Caroline Pointer, who I follow, posted a couple of weeks ago that British History Online is making all primary research content free, and then she added the link.
  • David Allen Lamber announced a Twitter Chat happening tomorrow on how to do Family History from home.
  • Get a Free Twitter account, search for family history or genealogy, and follow those you are interested in.
  • Don’t know how to use Twitter? – go to YouTube and search for videos on Twitter. March 25 blog.

Instagram – I know you thought it was just for you to see those instant photos of your family. Not only can you share your family history with those who follow you, but you can sponsor or attend an InstaMeet. One you might like to attend is #familysearchlive, held every Tuesday and Thursday at 11am and 4pm MDT. [It is also held on Facebook every Wednesday at 4PM MDT]

FamilySearch Communities. This is sort of a ‘clearing house’ for locating family history communities. Go to familysearch.org and sign in to your free account. Search and go to Research Wiki, the last item on the drop-down list. Type in the name of the area you are researching and click on the top item that comes up and it will have your location followed by the word “genealogy.” Open that link. As you view the page click on the button that says “Ask The Community.”

  • You will be taken to a page that you need to drill down on. You will see three columns. One for FamilySearch Communities, one for FamilySearch Facebook Groups, and one for Misc. Groups/Pages.
  • You will need to drill- down by country, and possibly state, but then you will be given links to ‘Communities’ of other researchers that can help you.
  • Last week I posted in an Isle of Man Community, and not only got an answer to my question, but learned that the Isle of Man newspapers were being made available free and the link to the website was given.

The FamilySearch Communities and the FamilySearch Facebook Groups are monitored by FamilySearch volunteers, and are watched closely for content.

As we stay home in “Quarantine” think of it as a reprieve, a time to focus on your family history without many interruptions. This can be a time of learning, and of great productivity.

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Social Networking In a world that was still working, I would be teaching a class this week on Social Networking for Family History. So here it is.

The benefits of social networking can be tremendous, especially now when many of us have been asked to stay at home for health reasons.

  • You can connect with people you might never meet under normal circumstances.
  • You can find with people who are related to you or who come from the same area as your ancestors – and they can find and connect with you.

I’m only going to cover a couple of options today but will talk about several more in my next blog. The first one is Facebook. If you are not on Facebook or are concerned about using it here are a couple of tips.

  1. When you get your free Facebook account make sure your settings are giving you the privacy you want.
  2. Not everyone who wants to be your friend on Facebook needs to be your friend on Facebook. Keep your friend list small so you know who you are connecting with – and who can connect with you.
  3. Do Not Give out your phone number, email or address to anyone until you are certain of who they are.
  4. Be careful about clicking online links on Facebook pages, or in any emails you receive.
  5. Be careful about online polls. While it might be fun to find out what your Cowgirl name is, remember these polls are mostly phishing to find out your interests so they can target advertising.

Facebook has been extremely helpful for me as I worked on my Family History.  When my cousin and I were trying to find as many cousins as we could to put together for a Family Reunion, I set up a Facebook page for the ‘William Theobald Descendants’, with 3 members and it now has 160. We use the site to:

  • Post family photos and we often get help identifying old family photos.
  • Send out and plan for Family Reunions.
  • Post obituaries and gather and post histories and other family information.
  • We have one member who is very good at restoring old family photos, and he will touch up any old faded pictures for us.
  • We also use it to ask questions of other cousins about the family to help further our research.

Search to see if someone has already added a page for one of your ancestors; many of mine had been added. When you find one you are interested in, ask to join the page. You can start your own page if you wish. 

The second great Facebook help comes from Family History Pages. Search for the locality your ancestors came from, and again ask to join any site you find that might be helpful. These are good places to ask about others researching your particular surname and to share facts.

  1. Denmark Genealogy Page has connected me with others’ research in Denmark, and I have been able to post handwritten notes, in Danish of course, which others have then translated. While Google translate does well with typed documents -handwritten documents need someone who can read the language
  2. Connecticut Genealogy connected me with others researching in Connecticut and gave me quick answers to where I might look for missing records.
  3. “Isle of Wight Family History” has site members who currently live on the Isle of Wight, and have not only connected me with others researching my family surname but also have inside information about where to locate obscure records.

Another overlooked site for Family History is Pinterest. If you are new to Pinterest, you will need to create a free profile. Then search for either “genealogy” or “family history.” You will find genealogists, many professionals, who have posted helps on how to preserve your records, how to organize your collection, and how to identify and organize photos, forms for success, and even ideas for family reunions, etc. Click on a post photo, such as, “Free Forms for Genealogy” or “10 Genealogy Tech Tools,” and you will access the actual post. You can follow any posters that you feel can be helpful to you.

There is too much about Social Networking for one Blog – so this will continue next week

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