Archive for December, 2012

December 24th, 2012

Adding Aunts and Uncles to Your Family Tree Chart

Adding aunts and uncles to a Family Tree Chart can prove both difficult and confusing.  There is a simple solution however, and the key is to choose the correct type of Family Tree Chart.

Once you’ve collected all of the information on your family, it’s time to place your relatives in your family tree chart. Most people find it easy to begin, placing themselves, their parents, and grandparents in the chart, but get confused when it’s time to add aunt’s uncles, and cousin’s. Often they find there is no room to insert them and become frustrated. Many people give up at this stage, but there is no need to. Actually there is a very simple procedure for placing extended relatives in your family tree chart.

Use a Descendants Family Tree Chart

One problem many beginning genealogists have when it comes to adding aunts and uncles to a family tree is finding room for them in their already “completed” chart. The problem originates with using the wrong type of chart to begin with. Most people begin with what is known as a Pedigree chart, the most basic and well-known type of family tree format. The problem is that a pedigree chart provides no room for extended family, and is only useful for recording direct descendants of a single bloodline. This type of chart is also for a single person, beginning with them, their parents, grandparents, and so on. It extends outwards through the generations to gradually include ancestors.

The secret to placing extended relatives in your family tree is to use a Descendants chart. A Descendants family tree chart begins with the oldest known ancestor, and descends inwards towards the individual. The secret to successfully charting a Descendants family tree is to complete all of your research first, or at least as much as you can. There may always be one or two missing links, but this is easily overcome by leaving a space or two to add new descendants as you discover them. Once you’ve done as much research as you can and collected enough information for three or four generations or more, you can begin filling in your Descendants family tree.

How to Fill in Your Descendants Family Tree Chart

You begin your Descendants family tree with the oldest known relative you have. Place their name at the top of the page. If they have a spouse, place the name of the spouse to the right if it’s a female, to the left if it’s a male and connect the two with a horizontal line. Next you will add their children. This is done by extending a vertical line down from the center of the horizontal line connecting the couple above. At the end of the vertical line you then make another horizontal line extending outwards. From this horizontal line you will draw a vertical line downwards for each child. The eldest will be on the left, the youngest on the right.

If any of the children has a spouse, you place the spouse next to them, on the right if male, left if female, and connect them with a horizontal line. Don’t connect any spouse with the horizontal line connecting the siblings however, as this will give the impression that a brother and sister married. Next you will draw a vertical line downwards from any of the siblings and their spouses, and again at the end draw a horizontal line with vertical lines from that horizontal one to include any children they had. You will complete this procedure as you work downwards from your descendants family tree chart until you reach the last generation.

If you wish to try this out with some free online genealogy software, you can do so at Family Echo. You simply insert the names of parents, then their siblings and spouses if they have any. The software will then construct a family tree that will clearly demonstrate how yours should look. If you haven’t yet completed your ancestry research, use our free family tree resources to do so. If you have completed your research and are ready to begin composing your family tree chart, you can use one of our Free Printable Blank Family Tree Templates to get started now.

Read the rest of this entry »

December 17th, 2012

The Ongoing Importance of Ellis Island

Ellis Island officials estimate that approximately one in three Americans have ancestors who immigrated through the Ellis Islandsystem. There are however over two hundred million immigrants who arrived prior to and after Ellis island began operating or finally closed its doors. Because of this the Ellis Island Foundation is busily transforming itself into a more comprehensive National Museum of Immigration. Ellis Island falls under the authority of the National Park Service who is intent on publishing the fuller story of American immigration. The important family history research facility equips visitors with the latest multimedia and computer technology, printed matter, and professional help with investigating immigration histories and genealogical exploration and documentation.

The Foundation has dedicated twenty million dollars to the development of the museum, much of which is already open to the general public and those searching ancestors.  Over twenty thousand square feet of former office space is being utilized to house the new museum and its resources which tell the story of immigration intoAmerica dating from the sixteenth century to present day. The first phase opened in the fall of 2011, and covers the period from 1550 to the time whenEllis Island began its operation as an immigration center. The next phase will focus on the period beginning in 1924, and will hopefully open towards the end of 2012. This era represents a time when strict limitations were placed on foreign entry intoAmerica, and during this periodEllis Island served mainly as a detention center, especially during the immediate period after the Second World War. At that time the official opening of the museum will be celebrated with a formal ceremony.

What You’ll Find at the National Museum of Immigration

The exhibition space of the main building has been improved to include a digital database of immigrant photographs, searchable by name, which can be used to identify immigrant ancestors. The images are housed in an animated flag – red, white and blue – and as such the collection is entitled the Flag of Faces. The American Immigrant Wall of Honor is another popular attraction of the museum. Overlooking the New York Skyline and the statue if Liberty, it contains over seven hundred thousand names of immigrants, and as such is the longest wall of names in the world. The Family Immigration Center is designed specifically with genealogists in mind, and is where you can access the valuable passenger lists in which you might find your ancestor.

In the more than three decades thatEllis Islandoperated as an immigration center, around twelve million people passed through its gates. The arrival records of over twenty five million individuals have been digitized and are searchable online, making it an important genealogy resource that should never be taken for granted. The National Museum of Immigration is especially appreciated, as at some point during genealogical research one needs to understand a bit about the historical background of their ancestors. The museum makes this especially possible, and does so with aplomb and professionalism.

A Note on Searching Ellis Island Records Online

When you are searching passenger records at Ellis Islandthe following general concepts will help you to become familiar with using the index. If you understand how the index was created, it will be easier for you to search it. In the case of the Ellis Islandindex, records were transcribed from microfilm into the electronic database. This was all done by volunteers, and like any transcription process is prone to human error. The Ellis Island Foundation however has taken great steps to ensure the accuracy of their digital index. Keep in mind that misspelling may have also occurred in the original document, and even if spotted by a transcriber, instructions from the foundation were to preserve the integrity of the original document. Therefore, a misspelling on an original would be entered in the database the same way. Keep an eye out for misspellings such as Jhon for John or Willaim for William. They do occur, and the job of spotting such clues is left to individual researchers.

Read the rest of this entry »

December 10th, 2012

What’s in a Name? How to Get Around Surname Misspellings in Census Records

It can be very frustrating searching census records and finding no correct entry for the person you seek. This can also be one of the hardest problems for a genealogist to solve. Patronymic names – a name based on that of a person’s father or grandfather such as Richards and Richardson – are very prone to spelling errors, and these types of name are notoriously unreliable. Other mistakes can be the result of human error. Consider the case of an enumerator encountering a person with an unfamiliar accent and its accompanying pronunciations. He might spell a name as he hears it rather than as it should be. Then there comes the transcription errors. Data entry staff may misread an enumerator’s handwriting, and consequently it enters the database with the wrong spelling. These are the most common errors encountered when searching for names in the census, so how does a researcher get around them?

Keep an Open Mind and Play the Wildcard

In my own personal research I’ve come to find that it pays to keep an open mind about surname spellings in census reports, and sometimes it pays off handsomely. Of course considering every possible spelling variant of a name would be a long and tedious process, and then there is still no guarantee that there is a spelling error you haven’t considered. The various databases I have used in the past have mostly incorporated some sort of option for finding variants in a single search. You are probably familiar with Soundex, which is one of them, but another I have found very useful is the Wildcard option.

The “wildcard” is a special character that you can use to stand for any letter, including no letter at all. In most cases it is the asterisk (*). The beauty of the wildcard is in its simplicity. By using it you can search for variations in surname spellings where the last letter is different such as in: Brook, Brooks, and Brooke. You can search for all three names by using Brook*, though the results will include names like Brooker or Brookbank as well. It can also be substituted for a vowel in the middle of a name. For instance Rothw*ll finds both Rothwell and Rothwall

Wildcards are especially useful for dealing with transcription errors as they allow you to avoid the letters that have been wrongly entered. There is of course the disadvantage that you may miss stranger or less common misspellings as it relies on your ability to imagine what variants may exist for a particular name. Another limitation is that many of the online indexes don’t allow you to use wildcards at the beginning of a field, though the Irish National Archives site and Scotland’s People are exceptions.

This is unfortunate as with Victorian spellings that is usually where the errors occur, especially with the elaborate Victorian initials. You also need to enter at least three characters before the wildcard, so although you might be able to use Alcr*ft to find Alcraft and Alcroft, you would need to conduct a separate search to find other variants such as Aldcroft or Allcraft. In addition to being a tool for finding name variations though, wildcards can also be used in deciphering place name spelling variations, a valuable tool when searching for birthplaces.

A Note about Forename Variations 

Forenames have their own unique set of problems, but there are basically three main reasons you won’t fins a particular forename. They are:

  • The person being enumerated uses their middle name as their first, and so gave their middle name to the enumerator
  • The enumerator recorded a nickname such as Bill instead of William
  • The name was abbreviated to an initial such as W or Wm, for William

Most of the databases recognize these possibilities and take steps to combat them. They don’t all use the same methods however, so you will need to consult their help section to see if they provide that information. Most of the large websites automatically return a wide range of first name spelling variations, though that can be overridden by choosing exact match if it is their default setting. Always check your initial results to see what variations you captured, and of course you can use the wildcard option. This will not catch any shortened or abbreviated forms of first names or nicknames though.

Hopefully these tips will help you to find your ancestor if their name has been misspelt. Once you do locate them, you can record their data in one of our specialized Free Downloadable Census Forms. They are easy to read and work with, fully comprehensive, and will assist you in recording your data in a professional organized manner so that you can present your family history in a clear, concise, professional way.

Read the rest of this entry »

December 3rd, 2012

Irish Directories to Enhance your Ancestor Hunt

So many of us have Irish ancestors, yet because of the many Irish records that have been lost or destroyed over the years, it can be difficult to trace our Irish family line. As such, those tracing their Irish ancestry must often look to secondary sources and alternative records to trace their ancestry. One such option is directories. When you have a general knowledge of where your Irish ancestors lived, city and county directories from the area may help. They can at least confirm if your ancestor lived in a place, and in some cases may provide more information than you might expect.

Like the telephone books of today, the city directories of our forefathers contained basic details about the people who lived in a particular area. These areas inIrelandare generally divided into towns, districts, cities and counties, and typically the directory from an area will at least identify a head of household and an address. Some directories included further information such as the names and ages of other occupants, along with the occupations of any who were employed.

Recently I came across some rare publications that I thought I would share with you. They are excellent resources for researchers of Irish ancestry, particularly those tracing relatives inCountyLouth, the area around Dundalk, and theDublinandLeinsterareas. Each is a valuable resource in its own right, and well worth investing in if you’re searching Irish ancestors. Below you’ll find a short review of each and a summary of what information you will find within.

Pigot’s Commercial Directory of Ireland, 1824, Leinster & Dublin Sections

This commercial directory is one of the earliest ever published in the Emerald Isle. It is quite comprehensive, and includes details of over 200 hundred urban hubs from around the country. It is organized first by province and then town, and contains details of individuals such as; every principal office holder, tradesmen, professionals, and gentry. It also lists every known establishment and organization in those areas at the time including; schools, churches, hotels, public institutions, and even local pubs. Accompanying that data is a description of every province and town in the directory, and is a very rare publication that would be well suited for any serious researcher’s personal armoury.

Tempest’s Jubilee Annual 1909

Directories of the Dundalkarea have been published by the Tempest group since the middle of the nineteenth century. Dundalk is the county town of CountyLouth, situated near the border with Northern Ireland. The Tempest’s Jubilee Annual was a once-off special edition of their regular directory which has been published every year since 1861. It celebrates the 50th anniversary of the companies operation, and as such includes a wealth of additional information that won’t be found anywhere else. As a highlight, it looks back on fifty years ofDundalk’s history, and captures the essence of the city in a series of articles that discuss religious issues and growth, educational developments, the establishment of rail services and local sports.

Of particular interest to family historians will be the biographies of over one hundred and twenty prominent citizens of Dundalk and other areas aroundCountyLouth, many of them accompanied by portraits of the person. There is also a comprehensive business and services directory covering all of Louth, as well as other towns such asDrogheda, Blackrock, Dunleer, and Newry in the north. The most detail is provided forDundalkthough, and provides detailed histories of both the town and surrounding county areas. If you’re a statistics person this directory won’t disappoint. There are over two thousand additional individuals listed with their personal information, making this an essential resource for researching the areas covered.

Bassett’s Louth Guide & Directory 1886

As you can see by the title, this is an even older publication, and is considered one of the most valuable resources for published for nineteenth century Louth. It is both a guide to the county and a directory, and includes details such as the names, addresses and occupations of over ten thousand residents of the area at that time. There is also a full colour map of 1886 Louth, a superb additional resource for genealogists.

As a guide the publication details the history, social structure, economy and geology of the area. The directory includes information on every town and village in the county, as well as the names and details of its prominent citizens such as those who held political office, professionals, merchants and tradesmen. Additionally there is an alphabetical listing of farmers and others who were not designated as having a particular trade.

Each village and town is described in detail, and a commentary is provided on its social structure, history, religion, and basic character of the area. Drogheda andDundalklife is especially illuminated, and additionally over fifty towns from outside the area are given a brief description. At the end of the book is an index containing place names, a list of county and local markets and fairs, and as a bonus there is a collection of historical commercial ads.

As I previously mentioned, these are rare and especially valuable resources of Irish ancestry. A Google search of any will however return a variety of places where they may be purchased online. You may also wish to check with a local historical or genealogical society or a local or national library where you may be able to access them for free. They are a great alternative to missing Irish records such as census records, and especially make a great gift for the researcher in your life. You may even wish to schedule a holiday in Ireland and search your ancestry for free in the County Louth Library!

Read the rest of this entry »

 Page 1 of 1  1