Showing posts from 2018

Volunteer at a Family History Day

Yesterday was a beautiful crisp fall day (okay, that would be by Florida standards) and our county genealogy society's semi-annual community help day.  Ten of us volunteered to assist and we were busy for 6 hours with no break.  That's awesome!  Clearly there is a growing interest in genealogy and I met several people who shared delightful stories of their family and had burning questions needing answers.
If you contemplated becoming a volunteer at a genealogical event but feared you couldn't because you weren't a professional genealogist you're sadly mistaken. That old saying "Two heads are better than one" is a classic example of why you would be helpful.  Here's some tips for first time volunteers:
Be prepared as time is limited.  I always arrive early so my work area is ready.  My society furnishes plenty of extension cords but yours may not.  I bring my research baggie (see Research Tips), laptop with power cord, Kindle, and pad of paper.  Make s…

Ancestry Ghost Hints

It's October and my surroundings are beginning to look creepy with Halloween quickly approaching.  One thing that greatly disturbs me more than the skeletons and witches on every corner is my ghost hints.
If you aren't sure what I'm talking about, a ghost hint is the term used for those pesky hints that were once available and no longer are.  There are several reasons for their occurrence - an individual may have uploaded media and then removed it or made it private or Ancestry may have discontinued the database for the hint.
Every so often I go through the hints as sometimes I miss a new database that Ancestry has added and the hints can give me some information I may have missed.  The ghost hints, though, remain and give a false number of the hints that are available.  I've clipped below the grayed out hints that appear on my All Hints page:
As you can see above, there are 7 and all of them are records.  When I look at the hint counter, however, it shows…

Why Sharing Your DNA is Important

There has been much controversy lately regarding law enforcement's use of DNA results from public sites to solve crimes.  I've even had a Client who requested the removal of results due to media coverage.  Here's my top five reasons to keep your DNA public:

You're reconnecting with close family that may hold the key you otherwise wouldn't ever uncoverYou've gained collaborators who care about the line you're interested in learning more aboutYou gain health information that you otherwise wouldn't obtain so you can make better lifestyle changes, if needed, to enhance your quality of lifeBy sharing your information, you're being altruistic in helping othersYou're leaving a footprint for future genealogists I understand the cons.  No one likes to snitch on family but the real truth is that withholding your DNA results is not going to alter people who make poor choices need to make restitution for their actions.  The serial killers who have recently …

Lineage Society Application Tips

Most of my client work this past summer has been for assistance in joining a lineage society. The reasons for the interest varied; one elderly gentleman wanted to give memberships to grandchildren as holiday gifts, several had affiliating with an organization on their bucket list and decided the time was right to pursue membership, and a few wanted to memorialize an ancestor.

In most of the cases of the clients who contacted me, they didn't need much help.  They actually didn't need me at all which I told them.  Joining a lineage society is not difficult although some have more stringent requirements than others in validating the provided evidence. 

If you're thinking of joining, you will first need to establish a relationship from yourself to the ancestor who would qualify for the society.  That means, proving you're connected to your parent and your parent is connected to your grandparent and so on until you reach the qualifying ancestor.  For most people, obtaining…

Add Death Cleaning to Your Genealogical Toolbox

I'm sure my faithful readers are wondering why my posts have been scant lately.  The summer has just been a whirlwind!  Travel, family stuff and work have kept me away from this blog.  I'm happy to report that the past month I've been doing my own version of Swedish death cleaning. 
If you aren't sure you know what that is, check out this older NBC article.  I'm not planning on dying any time soon but the opportunity presented itself (pre death as an opportunity, hmmm) for me to unload many family treasures that have been held on to for generations and pass them along to a younger family member that is interested in them.  Hoorray! 
It's a mixed blessing seeing these items go.  Holding the old recipes cards of long deceased female family members in my hand always stirred in me that connection of past to present as I prepared a much loved family dish.  I'll miss that but I'm happy to know that not only the past and present are at play with this decision…

A Loss for Tampa Bay

The John F. Germany Public Library in Tampa, Florida holds one of the largest genealogical collections in the southeast United States.  I visit often and have always found the staff to be professional and helpful.  Last month, my visit there saddened me.
I planned to drop off some donated books and as it was thundering, decided to park in the adjoining parking garage.  It was mid-day and the lot was just about filled.  I thought I was lucky to find one of the few remaining spots on the top floor.  I took the elevator to the tube that joins the garage with the library.  When I approached the library doors I was shocked to find them boarded up.  I guessed that the facility was being renovated.  I walked a level down and then half way around the block to enter from the front.  Stopping at the information desk, I asked for the acquisition clerk who was expecting me.  "I'll have to take you up because the elevator needs a key for that floor," was the response.  I thought tha…

The U.S. - A Nation of Immigrants

Although my family lore claimed I had Native American blood, DNA has proven that the legend was not true.  I seldom (well, have never) written about current political issues as that is not the point of my blog.  That changes today.

If you reside in the United States, you have an ancestor who once emigrated here.  You're probably also a mutt like me - that great melting pot permitting people to marry due to love and not by ethnicity alone has created a wonderful mix of blended cultures, customs and genetics.

I'm blessed that my family has been here awhile.  My most recent immigrants were my maternal grandparents, John and Mary Kos[s] who naturalized in the 1940's.  My grandmother visited the Old Country nearly 50 years after she had emigrated here with her parents and was so thankful they had made the difficult journey in her childhood, she promptly kissed the soil when she arrived back in the states.  My grandfather had no desire to return, even for a short visit.


Free Genealogy Resources

Image has kept their promise and is continuing to work on restoring, which they now own.  Recently, an updated Rootsweb Wiki has become available and it's free!

Rootsweb is one of the original Wikis - places on the web that allows for collaboration in editing and structuring revolving around genealogy.  Back in the day, say circa 1999, I had several trees posted there and I reached out for help via the Message Boards.  I was rewarded with lots of suggestions, hints and occasionally, a tidbit of a genealogy gem that propelled me forward.

In its present form, links are provided to pages that provide important information about the  records  (Censuses, Immigration, Military, Vitals, Various Types), Societies, and Research (Town, County, State, African American, Jewish).   It's a wonderful place to gain an Ah ha moment and might just explain why you can't find Great Grandpa Ed in the 1900 U.S. Federal census. 

Two additional resources that are extremely v…

Another Duer Synchronicity

The universe has made some odd Duer connections for me lately and I just have to share!

For my new readers, I've been enamored with my Duer lines for the past several years after I received an out of the blue email from a Duer genealogist who informed me I had wrongly recorded the surname as Dure in my tree.  Edgar sent me an electronic version of his work which went back generations and within two weeks, he died.  The good news was that he got the information out before he passed; the bad news was I could never ask him questions or collaborate on further research with him.  The odd thing about that email was that it did not go through Ancestry but Edgar had somehow gotten my personal email.  I never learned how he tracked me down.  It also was received at a time I was extremely busy with family matters that strengthened the Duer connection.

The weirdest occurrence at the time I received the information was to discover one of my children had followed the same path as…

Another Family Story Shattered!

You know the feeling when you discover a long held belief isn't what you thought?!  Shocked, Saddened, Denying it, Attempting to disprove the new information - yep, those stages of grief.  But learning the truth is important and I know it can change my genealogy sleuthing to find what I really need to get a better understanding of the family.
I've written previously about one of my husband's great grandmothers, Mary "Mollie" O'Brien, who with her purported half sibling, ventured to New York City during the height of the Potato Famine from Ireland.   Cousins and I have surmised that Mollie and her sister must have been orphaned as Irish church and civil records show no trace of her parents after her Baptism in Limerick.  This would explain why she set out for a new life in a new land. Mollie worked as a maid in New York City and it was there she met Scotts immigrant, John Cook.  After a brief courtship, the couple "eloped" via Newark, New Jersey whe…

Hunting Down a Harbaugh

I was catching up on my reading last week when I came across an article in the May 2018 Smithsonian magazine mentioning a George Harbaugh, an oil magnate from Cleveland who was involved in an automobile accident with a streetcar in 1913.  This led to an engineer, James Hoge, inventing traffic lights.
Now when you do genealogy for awhile and you're reading for pleasure, surnames are certain to pop up from time to time and you just lose the drift of the story to think, "How is that person related to me?"  or  "Do I have that individual in my tree?"  I have entered every Harbaugh that I'm aware of in my Main Tree on and so I decided to try to hunt down this George Harbaugh and attach the citation.
I thought this would be a quickie find but it took a few minutes longer than I anticipated.  My first problem was that I have 132 George Harbaughs in my tree.  I tried to eliminate by location and death dates but it was still a lot to go …

Be Mindful of Address Changes

On the plane returning home from New Mexico, I sat next to a woman who had traced her paternal grandfather's side back to the 1200's in a Spanish village thanks to the church records and her ability to decipher old handwriting.  She mentioned that she had found several deeds belonging to her great grandparents but could not locate the residences as the numbering system had changed in the past 100 years.  Lucky for her, she met an elderly man who remembered the family and understood the new address system so she was able to identify where her grandfather and great grandfather were born. Taking into account address changes is an important point to remember as what you're looking at might not be what you think it was.

There are two websites available to help with situations like this. is a site using Google Street View with uploaded photos of what the area looked like from previous time periods.  You can assist this project by uploading old photos you may h…

Deciphering Directions and Finding Places from the Past

Last week when I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico and had a dickens of a time locating the Oldest House that I blogged about on Tuesday.  According to the map and online guides, the Oldest House was said to be NEXT TO the Church.  All I saw next to the Church was a pizza restaurant.
The church was locked so I tried to follow the sign on the government building next door that said "Visitor Info."  The sign had an arrow directing visitors to enter on the east or south entrance.  I walked down the street in the direction the sign had pointed.  There was no entrance on the street side so I suppose it was the  north or west side.  I turned at the intersection and again saw no entrance.  Okay, I was certain to find the way in when I reached the back.  I walked the entire length of the back side and still found no entrance.  Turning left, I finally located the door.  So what the sign meant was that there was one entrance and it was on the south east side. 
I asked the attendant for dir…

A Little Bit of Truth in All of Those Passed Down Stories

I love family legends even if they are tall tales.  Last week I trekked to New Mexico, where I have no family ties, and learned of a passed down legend that was quite interesting.  While visiting the Oldest House in Santa Fe, I heard the story of two elderly Native Americans who once lived in the dwelling.  Supposedly, they had made a love potion for a Spanish soldier, Juan Espinoza, and when it didn't give him the results he had wanted as his love had married another, he returned to seek his money back.  An argument ensued, he fell and was beheaded.  The ancient wooden casket in the home supposedly contains his body; over the years a plaster cast was enclosed to represent his missing head.
The next evening, on a ghost tour, the guide told his version of the story.  He believed the women were sisters and these witches had been threatened by the soldier.  As the soldier attacked one of the women, the other took out a saber and sliced off his head.  The women then dragged his body …

Memorial Day - Record Preservation

Memorial Day Weekend is here in the States!  As many reflect on their deceased loved ones I'm pondering those loved ones' records.  Why?  In my area, we're under the first Tropical Storm warning of the year (and Hurricane Season doesn't begin until June 1st) and a flood watch. 

Records loss happens to all of us.  That misplaced paper receipt to prove the warranty is still valid, the disappearing paper estimate that the roofer left or the W2 that you never received in the mail from a former company is frustrating.  We're fortunate that today there's technology to help us with work arounds to obtain the missing document.  Unfortunately, that's not the case with records of past generations.

You're probably tired of hearing the importance of preserving your acquired ancestral documents.  Backing up my data is as fun as going to the dentist.  Although I love my dentist and his staff, I don't love the dental experience.  I know that it's important to…

Stories from Sadness

Yesterday I attended a funeral for a woman I knew well but had never met.  Her daughter was a former Client and I had done much research on the deceased's grandmother.  I've never attended a Client's family member's funeral before and it was an interesting experience.  The Minister spoke about the importance of connections and he was so right in ways he didn't even know!

I should have thought of this years ago but somehow this escaped me until now.  In grief, a lot of memories are evoked that can explain or provide hints to better understanding of the individual and their place in the family.  During the Reflection phase of the memorial service, I was struck by a piece of info that the Client had never previously shared with me regarding the family residence years ago.  Since this was between census years in a rental in a place that didn't have a City Directory, I would have been hard pressed to find where they were living and why.  It had been a troubling tim…

To Your Health - Genealogywise!

I've blogged previously about by attempt to analyze my ancestor's health records to make lifestyle choices to keep me well (See Using Your Genealogical  Info to Make You Healthy).  This past week, has added a new feature that you can use to include your family's medical history.  It is purportedly private and secure, allowing you to keep all of the health records of the living and deceased in one place so you can download and print a checklist of the entered information to share with your physician.

To begin, you must first click that you have read the most lengthy Terms and Conditions I've ever seen.  The next page asks you if your siblings, parents, aunts/uncles and grandparents had any of 10 medical conditions, such as stroke, heart and various cancers.  For any condition selected, possible names from your tree are then provided for you to mark.  Warning:  If you have a big family in the past 3 generations, you're going to have a lot of clicking …

Food for Thought - A Good Read

I wanted to share a recent article in the New York Times, "The Historians vs The Genealogists" by John Sedgwick, who is a historian.  I was trained in the social sciences so I know that my genealogy work is influenced by my background, particularly in psychology, sociology and education.  I think that's one of the greatest benefits of genealogy as a second career; your past influences your analysis of your present research.  Collaborating with others makes the analysis even more powerful, especially if the background of the collaborators is diverse. 

Mother's Day Ideas

Mother's Day is just around the corner and I thought of some unique ideas that don't take a lot of time that mom would really value.  Lucky you, since you're into genealogy, you've got the information to share.

This idea I got from my church - they requested a brief (meaning less than 500 words) bio of a special mom.  Note the word special; that mom doesn't have to be by blood.  I really liked that concept.  So remember those special moms on Mother's Day, too!  Not sure who that could be?  Think family friend, neighbor, teacher, or perhaps, an older sister. that you looked to for guidance.  If they're no longer living, create a Find-A-Grave memorial page or donate to a cause they were passionate about.

Now back to the brief bio idea...this only takes a few minutes to write, print and frame.  Add a picture and get some input from siblings or grandchildren.  A personalized gift was always valued by my mom and I wish I had thought of this while she was still …

Sometimes You Just Have to Pay for a Record

Not everything in life is free.  Genealogy can be expensive, however, IMHO, it has become much less expensive than at any time in the past.  Folks who don't want to spend money on a subscription can use the library edition of at their local library.  Sure, it's not the same as an individual subscription but it suffices for the hobbyist. is free to anyone who create an account.  There are lots of records available for no cost online but we are far from the day when everything is available on the web.

Last weekend, my local genealogy society offered it's family help day.  Seven of us spent the afternoon assisting interested folks in overcoming their brick wall.  Maybe because it was such a beautiful spring day, our turnout was much lower than usual.  I only assisted 2 people all afternoon.
The first woman I assisted had a lengthy handwritten letter written in the 1960's that contained EXACT QUOTES purportedly said by a Revolutionary War pa…

DNA Has Changed My Habits...and not for the good, I'm afraid!

I just came to the realization that DNA has made me a lazy genealogist.  Here's why...

I have made public several trees that are quite large.  The reason for their size is because I once did surname studies - I tried to link all of the Leiningers, Harbaughs, Duers, Kos[s]s, Landfairs and Kuhns in the U.S. from an identified gateway ancestor.  I want contact from far flung relatives as I don't know these folks personally and needing closer relatives input, I made the trees public.

Due to the many places I've placed the trees online, their size, and my weekly blog posts, I get over 500 comments weekly.  Granted, many are spam, but quite a few are serious inquiries.

Before DNA, I would go to the tree mentioned, search for the name provided in the inquiry, review what citations I had and then respond.

Since DNA, I find myself instead responding with my own query - Have you had your DNA analyzed and if so, what provider did you use and what is your profile name?

Last evening, …

Genealogy Mysteries - The Unclaimed Dead

1 Anyone who has spent even a short amount of time in genealogy encounters missing ancestor information.  Although women are more often found in this category due to changing surnames when they wed or a lack of surviving documents due to limited citizenship rights, men, too, often simply disappear into thin air.

Lately, after seeing the Disney movie, Coco, and spending last month traipsing through the Central American jungles in search of Mayan remains, when I get back to my tree I'm more driven then ever to discover why and where my disappearing family went. That's my current research focus - I've identify 10 individuals with missing death dates/places and I'm on the hunt to narrow down information.

Unfortunately, the missing continues even today.  If you're interested, a volunteer organization of which I've blogged about previously, Unclaimed People, assists coroners in reunited the recently deceased with extended family.  The organization's motto, Every …

More Nickname Identification Help

Hit a brickwall because of a family pet name?  Nicknames are sometimes the reason why we can't make progress on our family trees.  I've written previously about matching nicknames to legal names - see Knocking Down Nicknames.  

Recently, Niyi  at asked me to let you know about the site's Nickname Generator, which consists of a database of  various nicknames.  I'd like the site to create historical nicknames, such as Mary - Molly, but it is a fun place to go if you're in need of a little help in creating a new millennial moniker. Enjoy!

Brit Speak

My DNA results showed I have much more Brit in me than I ever thought.  If you, too, had this finding and were surprised by your results, you might want to have fun with this BBC "quiz" Do You Have a Secret British Accent?

Apparently, mine is East Midlands.  I don't know if that's because I spent my youth in the northern U.S and the rest of my life in the south resulting in a blended accent.  In my travels, people can never identify where I originate.  Or, perhaps, I'm harboring deep down ancestral roots from the East Midlands where my family did originate in the Leicester region in the 1600's. 

Blimey, this is ace barmy! (Translation:  Wow, this is amazing crazy!)  So give it a try.

Marrying Your Half Sibling? It's Possible in this Brave New World!

Last week, I wrote about MyHeritage's backing of a study recently published in Science.  One of the questionable findings was that the number of cousin marriages decreased after 1875 due to changing societal norms.

After reading the recent article, Sonoma Teen Tyler Sievers Discovers 20 Half Siblings, my first thought was marrying a cousin wasn't such a bad thing when compared to possibly marrying a half sib (you didn't know was your half sib).  Sure, that's not what happened to Tyler but the possibility of that occurring is greater today than anytime in the past.  Tyler's (birth) father donated on both the east and west coast.  That means, he has a population of children on both sides of the U S and so far, only 20 have been identified.  It's not far fetched to believe that these children could meet and fall in love.  Their mom's selected the father based on information provided that they liked.  It's not a stretch to think that they would have other …

Shame on You, MyHeritage

Last week I blogged about MyHeritage's special free offer for assistance to adoptees who are interested in finding their birth families.  I was also pleased that in the past few days, MyHeritage announced several other improvements - their DNA Matches are now 1-to-many instead of 1-to-1 enabling more connections and if you are a member of the LDS faith, a new synch with  These innovations are positive and important to the genealogy community.

Unfortunately, their latest "scientific" data analysis that was recently published in Science, is hogwash.  You can read about it here and here.  I have several problems with the study:

"The tree is based on data assembled by roughly 3 million genealogy enthusiasts who have identified the familial relationships of more than 86 million individuals" the key word here being enthusiasts.  I'm enthusiastic about many things but that does not make my attempts at the arts, dance, cooking, etc. well done or a…

Adoptee? Here's A FREE Opportunity for You!

I received the following email this week and wanted to share it.  If you are an adoptee or knows someone who is that wants help in finding information about their birth family, then keep reading...

"MyHeritage is excited to announce a new pro bono initiative — DNA Quest — to help adoptees and their birth families reunite through DNA testing.

As part of DNA Quest, we are giving out 15,000 MyHeritage DNA kits — worth more than one million dollars — for free, with free shipping, to eligible participants.

MyHeritage has set up an advisory board of top experts in the fields of genetic genealogy and adoption to guide and support this initiative on a voluntary basis. The advisory board includes: CeCe Moore, founder of The DNA Detectives; Blaine Bettinger, The Genetic Genealogist; Richard Weiss of DNA Adoption; Richard Hill, DNA Testing Adviser; Katharine Tanya, founder of; Brianne Kirkpatrick, founder of Watershed DNA; Pamela Slaton, investigative genealogist; Leah Larkin, …