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Monday, August 11, 2014

When Family Lore Leads You Astray

TWISS family on Ship Peruvian September 1888
Olive Tree Genealogy had an interesting question from Shannah about her grandfather.  My findings point out the need to take family lore with a grain of salt and don't accept it as gospel. 

Here is Shannah's email:

I have been trying to find out where my Grfa., TWISS, William James, had "landed" for over ten years, to no avail, from Cty. Cork, Ireland to New York, USA..  He was a mere 17 year old, at the time.  

The story I was told was that it was my Grfa. who had left Cork, Ireland, from Sept. to December of 1887 (I believe these are the months) on the Barque Julia, from Edinburough to Cork and to New York.  This particular Barque was a ship of supplies and the Captain was a friend of my Gr-Grpars., TWISS, Francis Edward Day, Sr..  It was my Grfa. who had suggested that he, himself, come out to Canada, first and they allowed it but he must go with someone they knew.  It was only a few days' trip and have researched into several ports along the eastern coast to no avail.  When he had landed, he had stayed with friends of his pars., (never knew who they were) Francis Edward Day and Ellen THOMPSON, in New York for a while then travelled up into BINBROOK, Wentworth Cty., Ontario, Canada to stay with our cousins/family there while his own pars. arrived through Montreal, Quebec, Canada in the following springtime.
First I made a mental summary of the important statements in Shannah's email:

1. William James Twiss born ca 1870 Ireland immigrated to N. America on the ship Julia in 1887
2. William's parents Francis Edward Day & Ellen Twiss sailed to Montreal Quebec in spring of 1888

Making a mental note of these statements  does not mean I accepted them as fact. It was obvious they were family lore passed on through the generations.

Curious about what I found for Shannah? The rest of the story is at

Friday, May 16, 2014

Clues You Can Find in a Census Record

Bonnie recently asked Olive Tree Genealogy this question about her ancestors:

I have recently found my Grandmother listed on the 1901 Ontario Census in the township of Wroxeter in Huron County.  She was born on August 5, 1899.  Her parents were George J Harris and Agnes J Harris born Jan 3, 1875 and Sept 21, 1877 respectively.  I was hoping to find where George and Agnes were born, and when their families emigrated and from where?  We know very little about the Harris side of the family so I was very excited to see this much!
Dear Bonnie - It is easy to overlook clues that are in a record. For instance ONE census record can often provide a great many new facts and clues to work on. 


First let me show you some important facts I think you may have overlooked on that 1901 census. A look at the online image shows that George was born in Ontario and his wife Agnes in the USA. Agnes gives her year of immigration from America to Canada as 1881.

This means you can search the Ontario birth registrations to find who George's parents were. You also know that it is quite likely George and Agnes were married in Ontario so I'd start looking at Ontario marriage records. This should give you both sets of parents' names for the bride and the groom.

Secondly, Wroxeter is not the township where the couple lived. It is a village in Howick Township, Huron County.  The census images clearly indicates Wroxeter Village and a quick search online reveals the township it is in.

Continue reading at

Clues You Can Find in a Census Record!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Help Finding a Van Slyke from New York

Help With a Van Slyke from New York
Bill asked Olive Tree Genealogy for help.
I believe that my family could be a descendent of the Vanslyke  Family . My Great grandmother was Edith Vanslyke and she did in 1900 giving birth to my grandmother. They were from the Rome, itica area. Edith  Married Franklin Henry Batchelor (Bathcheller). Name change. Also From Rome N.Y. If there is  any correlation to this  I would appricate anyinfomation that you may have or pictures if that is the case.
Although I have written 3 books on the Van Slyke family, I do not have Edith in my database as she is not far enough back in time. My books start in the early 17th century and end in the early to mid 19th century.

But I decided to have a quick look on Ancestry to see if I could find a bit more on Bill's great grandmother Edith Van Slyke. The 1900 census for the Bronx New York reveals her name was Edith M. Van Slyke and she was born ca February 1864 in New York. [ . 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004]

Edith and Franklin were married circa 1883 so she should be found in the 1880 and 1870 census records. Since I had her death year I looked on FindAGrave and found her burial in Rome, Oneida County New York. She is listed as Edith Marie Van Slyke, daughter of Elias E. and Mary Van Slyke.

More searches of the online census records reveal a 16 year old Edith M. Van Slyke daughter of Elias E and Mary in the 1880 census for Rome, Oneida County New York.

Following Elias Van Slyke, born ca 1838 in New York, we find him with his parents Sylvanus Van Slyke and Maria living in Whitestown Oneida New York in 1850 and Rome New York in 1860. Sylvanus was born ca 1813 and in the 1850, 1860, and 1870 census he is recorded as a shoemaker born in New York. However the 1880 census puts his place of birth as Pennsylvania.

This should be enough to jump start Bill in his quest. Hopefully we can link Edith to either Cornelis Van Slyke who arrived in New Netherland (present day New York) on De Eendracht in 1634 or his nephew Willem Van Slyke who sailed to New Netherland on De Trouw in 1660. I am lucky enough to be descended from both Cornelis and his nephew.

My books on the Van Slyke family are available as:

The Van Slyke Family in America: A Genealogy of Cornelise Antonissen Van Slyke, 1604-1676 and his Mohawk Wife Ots-Toch , including the story of Jacques Hertel, 1603-1651, Father of Ots-Toch and Interpreter to Samuel de Champlain REVISED EDITION published 2010. 287 pages. 8.5x11, coil bound.  

New Netherland Settlers: Willem Pieterse Van Slyke aka Neef - A genealogy to five generations of the descendants of Willem Pieterse Van Slyke who settled in New Netherland (New York) in 1660. published 2005. 198 pages. 8.5x11, coil bound.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

How to Find Someone after Arrival USA 1903

An email from a Norwegian researcher arrived today in Olive Tree Genealogy's mailbox

My name is Silje . I need some help to find the family of my husbands great great grandfather. He left Norway in 1903 true Liverpool UK and came to port of New York, USA 10 of september 1903 with a ship called Aurenia. His name at the records I found at Ellis Island was Theodor Olson he is born in 1870 in Norway. The ships manifest says that he was going to St Paul but I dont know. The family never heard from him. He left a wife and 3 children in Norway. Hope to find some relatives who migth have some info about him.

 Silje - since Theodor arrived in America in 1903 you should look for him in the 1910, 1920, 1930 and 1940 census records. These are all freely available at FamilySearch

 The ships manifest shows that he is heading to his brother-in-law so I would also look for him in the census records. As a side note it appears the ship name is Aurania in case you are referring to it in future.

Friday, July 26, 2013

So Many Clues You Can Follow to Find an Ancestor's Immigration in USA or Canada

So Many Clues You Can Follow to Find an Ancestor's Immigration in USA or CanadaOlive Tree Genealogy received a request from a reader (Hillary M.)

Because my answer covers so many generic research suggestions I thought it might be helpful to post it here. I have edited the query as follows:
Dear Olive Tree,

I need assistance locating immigration/migration records for my gr-gr-grandfather Henry Arthur Bolton and my gr-gr-grandmother Emily Meyrick.

The problem is, I don't know exactly when Henry immigrated to Canada from England, or when he migrated from Canada to the United States.  In the US census records his immigration date changes; 1900 census states 1875, 1910 census states 1871, 1920 census states 1872.

What I do know is he married Emily Jane Meyrick on October 14 1886 is Worcester Massachusetts.  His marriage record states his parents names as George and Elizabeth.  At the time of his marriage his age is listed as 25. 

He died in Massachusetts May 14, 1942 (My grandmother was 19 years old)
Hello Hillary - The first thing that jumps out at me in your query is that immigration date for Henry. That date does not likely refer to his immigration to Canada but rather into the USA. So if he was first in Canada for a period of time, the year he crossed the border to USA is almost certainly what is being referred to. (immigration years 1871, 1872, 1875)

Continue reading  So Many Clues You Can Follow to Find an Ancestor's Immigration in USA or Canada

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Evaluate Your Sources When Finding Conflicting Information

Evaluate Your Sources When Finding Conflicting Information
Dawn asked Olive Tree Genealogy about her great-grandmother:

I live in the states and I am having an issues with the 1911 Canadian  census.  My great grandmother Mary Ann Lavallee was born of Joseph Nazaire Lavalle and Delia Desautels. The 1911 census has him born Feb of 1872  but all info from other sources has him born in 1870. We think the census might be incorrect with his bday listed as Feb 1872. We also can find no records of marriage for Delia and Nazaire here in the states.

Ask Olive Tree Answer:

Census records are often incorrect but  we should not reject what is found in a census record without further proof. Remember that we do not know three things - WHO gave the answers to the census taker,  HOW the census taker worded his question, and WHAT the level of understanding was of the person providing answers.

You mention that "all info from other sources" shows your ancestor born in 1870 but you do not tell me what those sources are. You should look at those sources and determine how accurate they might be, in other words, how much weight should you assign to them as "good" sources.

Unless the source involves the individual him/herself providing answers, that source is questionable. A death record for example, contains information given by others. It might be accurate, but it also might be completely wrong. A marriage record would have information provided by the individual so it is far more believable.

You should always evaluate your sources when you uncover conflicting information. This will allow you to determine the most reliable source. 

But if you know your great-grandmother's parents, why not hunt for a church baptismal or birth registration for her? That will give an accurate date of birth. Or are you hunting for her father's date of birth? Your query does not make it clear.

As for a marriage record for Delia and Nazaire, you neglected to tell me where in Canada they lived or were born. And Canada is the second biggest country in the world, so without knowing a more exact location (province/County, town or township or...) I cannot direct you to marriage records.

It also depends on their religion, that is, what church did they attend and are there records available for that church in the necessary time period. Depending on the province, there may be civil registration records available.

So my advice is to search for the location where your ancestors lived and find out what records are available for that location.

Credits: "Figure Sitting With Question Mark" by Master isolated images on

Monday, January 7, 2013

How to Find a Professional Genealogist

Patti sent a query to Olive Tree Genealogy. Because of privacy concerns on my part, I'm editing out the details of the person Patti is looking for. Her main question can be easily answered.

I am doing family tree research and am looking for xxx born xxx 1936, Ontario County, Ontario Canada. Sc ottish/German Descent.
Went to University of xxx. Served with the xx in xx.
His mother and Father were both dead by the time he was 28.
I am having trouble finding a genealogist who works in Ontario specifically.
Thank you for any help you can give me!

All you need do is visit the APG (Association of Professional Genealogists) website and click on "Chapters" at the bottom of the page.

Then scroll down until you see "Ontario" and click on the link provided to go to the Ontario Chapter of the APG. Click on "Members" and you will see very long list of Genealogists who specialize in Ontario research.  For your convenience here is the direct link

You could have approached this in a different way - by joining and writing to the Ontario Mailing List on Rootsweb.