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.

union jackIf you are researching at all in the British Isles, you may want to check out British History Online, which has made its digital collection of primary and secondary sources free during the pandemic. This includes free access to all BHO content and it will remain free until 31 July 2020. This site houses records from England, Ireland, and Scotland and includes records from 1300 to 1800 AD.

If your ancestors came from the British Isles, now is the time to do a deep dive into this website, British History Online. Set a bookmark for this site as a reminder to explore it over the next few months. There are lots of websites free online at this time. If the British Isles isn’t one you are interested in – do a Google Search using your area of research and the word free.

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.

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

YouTubeA couple of weeks before being ‘grounded because of my advanced age’,  I taught at two family history conferences and spoke at a third one. Since there are no more conferences for a while, for most of us, many want to know how we get the training and help we need to continue our family history?  The answer is “YouTube.”  I’m not talking about “YouTube TV,” which I personally think is awesome. I’m talking about regular “YouTube,”  where you have thousands of experts on all sorts of topics, waiting to help you  – for FREE.

How to most effectively use “YouTube” – 4 simple steps:

  1. Go to “YouTube” and create a free account – HINT: if you have Gmail you already have an account for “YouTube.”
  2. Do a search using terms such as the following: family history, genealogy, organizing family records, census research, german genealogy, and the list goes on.
  3. When you find a video you like – watch it.
  4. If you really like the presenter click the ‘subscribe’ button and you will be notified when that presenter uploads a new video.

You will get advertisements, however, if you find the ads too annoying, or you end up using “YouTube” often you may want to pay a small monthly fee and have the advertising removed.


  • You can get the content you want when you want it.
  • You can pause the presentation when you need to, and take any notes you need to take.
  • You can replay and watch a video until you feel like you have learned what you need.

There are many “YouTube” presenters, but my personal favorites are:

  • Ancestry
  • The Barefoot Genealogist – Christa Cowen from Ancestry
  • FamilySearch
  • American Ancestors – has a monthly webinar from the New England Historical Society.
  • Lisa Louise Cooke -Genealogy Gems
  • RootsMagic TV
  • BYU Family History Library
  • FindMyPast
  • Dear Myrtle
  • The National Archives UK – has webinars

My husband will also tell you that there are a couple of quilting channels that I subscribe to where I can watch tutorials, and, of course,  Bon Jovi and Def Leppard- but that is just to keep my life in balance.

While you are staying home, you might as well be learning. You’re Welcome!


Julie NameCloudWould you like to know more about your surname? Ever wondered how many people share that name, and where they might live? Have you been curious about the town your ancestors came from— like when it was first established, and if people with your surname still live there? If so, I have an informative website for you. It is called forebears.io.

This website is free and you do not need to register to use it. It has a simple search on the home page where you can search by either a place or a surname.

When you enter a surname and search you should find:

  • The meaning of the name
  • How common your surname is worldwide.
  • A map showing how that surname is distributed by country.
  • Similar spellings of the name

The second search is by place. When you enter the name of a town, a drop-down box appears so you can scroll to the correct place name. This site has much more detailed information about places in England than it does for the United States. Once you have located your place, you should scroll down the page where you will first find links to records for that area. You will generally find a long list of records available for searching. If the site you are accessing requires a subscription, it will tell you that in the title. You can find jurisdictions [places where you can locate additional records], as well as the history of the town (especially in England) and, a gazetteer style description.

In the United States, your search may be more effective if you go first to the State then filter to smaller locations. In the US you are less likely to get a history of the town, but at the bottom of the search, you will find the distribution of names in the town. Even most small towns are represented.

You will find filters on the left of the page to help you navigate. Some features will also provide you with a copyable link that you can save to help you return to the page quickly.

I hope you find this website interesting, fun and helpful as you work on your family history.

cousinsOne of the things I do in my spare time. [permission to laugh] is to answer questions that come into FamilySearch as part of the Support Team. This week many of the questions I received could have been answered easily if the person had used the Help Feature on FamilySearch. Most of you may know that familysearch.org is a free site dedicated to building your family tree. As you build your tree you are bound to have questions. The following steps will give you the answer to many of those questions.
1. Go to familysearch.org and sign in.
2. In the upper right of any page on the site, you will see Help.
3. Click on Help and the top item is Help Center,
4. Once in the Help Center, you type the keys word of your question in the search field. This is very similar to Google Search.
5. You will find that your keywords have generated articles that can answer your question.
6. If your search didn’t provide the answers you hoped for then try another search with different words. Remember this is all free.
7. If you still find you need more help, you can ask a question of the Support Team by going to Help, then choosing ‘Contact Us’. You can do this on your computer, or on your smartphone, either through email, chat or the toll-free number provided.

Enjoy finding your ancestors.

The Digital Library has been on FamilySearch for some time. If you haven’t looked at it recently, or ever, you might want to see if your family is found in the family books located there.

This site has been updated and features:Family Books.jpg

  • Digital Books, many which are full-text searchable
  • Links to Affiliate Libraries, that hold Family History Books, Histories, etc.
  • Pages that have a digital page-turning feature
  • Some books have pages that can be downloaded, and/or printed.
  • Tools that allow you to adjust images and let you increase font size and contrast.
  • Family  Books – search for your surname
  • Historical books  – search for the area your family lived. For example -‘The Atlas of Otsego County New York’ contains surveys and maps with families identified on their property. I found where my family lived in proximity to other related families.
  • County and local histories, gazetteers, and medieval and royal pedigrees

If you don’t have a FamilySearch account, which is free, you will need to get one  [familysearch.org]. Sign-ins and start searching. The Digital Library is found on the FamilySearch home page by clicking on the ‘Search Tab’, and choosing ‘Books’, or you can type in  familysearch.org/library/books, on your browser

Some books are restricted by authors who will only allow one person access to the book, and if someone else is reading it you will have to wait until they close the book. Some books need to be read-only from a Family Search Center., however, most of the books I have located are available to the public, and many have been full-text searchable. Happy Searching!

ellis islandAt some point in your record gathering process, you will probably find yourself looking for immigration records. If your family immigrated between the years of 1892 and 1924 you will most likely be looking at the records of Ellis Island. Between those years 22 million people came to America, and over 100 million Americans can trace their ancestors through Ellis Island.

Not everyone immigrated through Ellis Island!  If your ancestor came before 1892 they couldn’t, and if they came after 1924 they may or may not have. You may discover that your ancestor arrived through Philadelphia, Baltimore, or one of the more than 90 ports of entry. Some immigrants came first to Canada and Mexico and then entered the United States through a border crossing, many of which have existing records. There were also other important processing ports located at Baltimore Harbor, San Francisco’s Angel Island and Galveston Texas. Castle Garden in New York was an important port before Ellis Island opened.

Database names come from the ships’ manifests, and include not only the names of any aliens, but U.S citizens who may have been traveling abroad, crew members, deportees (those who arrived and were denied access), and even those who literally “missed the boat.” If your ancestor’s name is listed, it can give their:

  • Age and sex
  • Occupation
  • If they could read or write
  • Native County
  • Last residence
  • Point of departure
  • Destination and more

Sometimes a notation appears to the right of the document stating that you can view the ship manifest online. Since families often bought passage at the same time, they are often listed next to each other, and a relative may appear on the next record.

If you know your ancestor came through Ellis Island, and you can’t locate them in the record, check other possible spellings. If your ancestor was illiterate, the clerk may have spelled it like it sounded to him, or a transcriber may have made an error. Also important to note is that the “American Immigrant Wall of Honor,” which is a part of the Ellis Island Museum, contains the names of any immigrant whose descendants want to honor them by paying a fee to record their name there. A name may appear on The Wall regardless of where or when a person immigrated. A good example is John Alden, whose name appears there, but who arrived on the Mayflower in 1620.

Names were not changed at Ellis Island! Though many names were obviously changed near the time of arrival, this didn’t occur because of a clerk at Ellis Island, or another port, despite all the wonderful stories you’ve heard. Immigration records were created at the point of departure and were recorded by an officer of the shipping company, who most often spoke the same language as the immigrant. Port clerks checked names of the new arrivals by using the original shipping company lists. Names that were changed, were changed by the immigrants after their arrival. This was done for many reasons, one of which was to make them sound more “American”.

Places to check for immigration records:

King Philip’s War in the 1600s until today, this nation has felt the need medals shotfor an organized military. Early military units were created by towns who enlisted men to protect their communities. As people enlisted, a record of their service was kept so that they could receive compensation.

After the Revolutionary War, military records began to be kept on a national level. The National Archives houses a card file, which has been filmed and was taken from local muster rolls. These are indexed by name, and by state. Because the newly formed United States had little money to pay for military service at this time, bounty land was given in lieu of pay and tracts of land were set aside, mostly in Ohio and Kentucky, for the purpose of compensation. Not all moved to their land, it was often sold, creating another record, and a clue to where your ancestor lived both before and after the war. See www.nara.gov.  That site’s research room also yielded information on my Uncle who was a POW in Germany during WWII and included the camp he was detained in, as well as the information on a cousin who was MIA during the Korean War.

In 1917, as World War I approached, the nation instituted a draft.  Three separate days were set aside and amazingly during those three days nearly 100 percent of eligible men registered. That meant over 24 million eligible citizens and aliens born between 1872 and 1900 filled out draft registration cards. These registrants were not all inducted or served in the military. Only a small percentage were actually called up, but this registration is a significant place to look for anyone who has male ancestors of military age during this time period, because of the sheer numbers of men that are recorded.

World War I Draft and World War II Draft Cards can be found online at www.ancestry.com., and free at familysearch.org. These databases are continually being added to, so keep checking if you don’t find the person you are looking for. The digitized image of the cards gives the individual’s full name, age, and home address, as well as date and place of birth, citizenship status, and occupation. They will tell you if the person was married and had any children less than 12 years of age. If a person was exempt from the draft that would be included in addition to a physical description, and a description of any disabilities. Each card is signed by the draftee so you will get their actual signature.

Records of Military Service can be important to the history and tradition of a family. They can pave the way for us to join a lineage society, and they foster patriotism and national pride which helps our families feel a responsibility to country and gratitude for ancestors who have served. Fortunately, there are lots of records and many ways to locate them. Happy Hunting.