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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Wildcards are Your Friend

Hillary asked about Henry Bolton. I had to edit the email as it was very well written but too long for this blog:

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)

What my Grandmother has told me is Henry immigrated to Canada with an older brother.  Upon arrival in Canada the brothers parted ways and never saw each other again.  The name of the older brother is not known.  In the US census records his immigration date changes; 1900 census states 1875, 1910 census states 1871, 1920 census states 1872. 
Prussian June 1869 Liverpool to Quebec
Hillary, I may have found your Henry. Searching Ancestry using wildcards (B*lt*n) to compensate for variant spellings I found a ships passenger list for the Prussian, arriving in Quebec in June 1869 with the following family:

George Boulton [sic] 48, farmer
Mrs. [sic] 46, wife
John James, 14 son
Henry 11 child
Arthur 5 child

You might be able to find this family in the 1870 American or 1871 Canadian Census. I would have a good hunt for all of the individuals on this passenger list to try to verify this is your Henry or eliminate him as your Great-Great-grandfather.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Don't Overlook FamilySearch in your Genealogy Hunt

Bonnie asked about her Grandmother

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!

Marriage Registration 1898 Wellington Co. Ontario
Bonnie - A look at that 1901 census gives you more clues. For example George is recorded as George Jr leading me to suspect that his father might also be called George. He is Presbyterian so you can have a look for Presbyterian churches in the area where you might find births, marriages or burials for the family.

You should also check the online Ontario Vital Registrations for the births of George and Agnes and their marriage.  In fact a very quick visit to FamilySearch and their marriage registration of 1898 pops up.

George is recorded as born 1875 in Wroxeter to George Harris and Elizabeth Stewart. Agnes is recorded as born in California in to John Burns & Margaret Oliver.  George's birth record is also found on FamilySearch

Look for Agnes in the 1880 Census for California - she is found with her parents and siblings in Vallejo, Solano, California

Armed with these new findings you should be able to trace the families further back in time.  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Look for Siblings Obituaries for Info on an Ancestor

Deloris asked about her grandfather.
My maternal grandfather, John Russell Horne, b Nov 1877 in Reach, Ontario, Canada emigrated to Kittson, MN, USA in circa 1892 and disappeared from Hallock, MN, USA sometime in 1905 or very early 1906.  Can not find any evidence of his being in the USA after that date so am thinking he returned to his home territory but have been unable to find any information on him.  Any help you can give me will be greatly appreciated!
 Well Deloris you sent me scrambling to find out what state MN refers to. It's easy to assume that everyone knows what you know, but the person you're asking for help might not know anything about USA state abbreviations. Like me. I'm Canadian eh.....

Okay so I now know it is Minnesota. I would check Minnesota newspapers for an obituary and death records. I will warn you about an entry for your grandfather on FindAGrave that might lead to confusion. His name comes up as being in a cemetery and there is a nice biography of him plus a death year of 1910. At first I thought I'd found his death and grave but nope. He is not buried there and there is no marker for him. So unless the person who put the memorial online has a source for that death year of 1910 you can't trust that information.

I see that in 1920 his wife is recorded as a widow in the Minnesota census but even that cannot be trusted as factual. She may have lied to avoid a stigma of being a deserted or divorced wife. 

If he were my ancestor I would search for obituaries for all his siblings in hopes he is mentioned as being either alive or dead.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Finding Meaning in Alphabet Soup

Kevin asked for help reading and understanding a record

My wife's grandfather Carl Gastone Casattas was born 26 Oct 1894 in San Francisco, California, and died 9 Sept 1970 in Santa Cruz, California.  In between he resided for a long time in Oakland, Alameda, California.

Imagine the surprise when we found the attached Index Card in the Civil War Pension file at NARA.  NARA was surprised too!  They said it did not belong and had no idea what it was doing there.

Can you tell us what is says and what it means?  We can find no record of him having military service.

Kevin - All I could find was this reference to C.A.C. being a Common Access Card, the standard identification for active duty uniformed service personnel, Selected Reserve, DoD civilian employees, and eligible contractor personnel.

I see in the 1930 census that Carl was employed by the US Army as a clerk so I suspect the record above has something to do with that. He no doubt needed an Employee ID Card and that may have been the C.A.C. mentioned in the top record. In 1920 he is listed as clerk working for the Government in the Navy Yard in San Francisco.

I think we've solved your mystery. Carl was a civilian employee in a Government/Military organization and as such needed an ID Card. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Google is Your Friend

Clara asked:

Do you know where I might find a copy of the book "History of Wellington County" by J. Hutchinson?  It is mentioned in "The Scottish Pioneers of Upper Canada, 1784-1855 by Lucille H. Campey as a source.

Sure thing. A Google Search for the book gave me the answer to your question. You can purchase a copy of The History of Wellington County on

There is a cheaper copy (half the price!) available  here

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Land Records Can Be Very Helpful in Genealogy Research

Stanley asked for help with his Vrooman ancestry

I am looking for information on Vroomans that do not go through New York, My history says that my ancestors were 7 brothers that came over from Holland to Canada (not a lot to go on)

However I have traced my 2nd Great Grandfather back to Charles Vrooman b 26 Dec 1804 in Canada West, d 2 Jun 1894 in Fremont, Sanilac, Michigan; married to Esther Hoyt b 1823 New Brunswick, Canada, d 1883 Fremont, Sanilac, Michigan

I also know that Charles; mother, Elizabeth was living with him and Esther in 1961 [sic] census, and that Elizabeth's birthplace is noted as New Brunswick, and that she was born around 1789

However, I am not convinced by the argument that this is the same Elizabeth that is married to Adam Vrooman Jr and that her last name is McCowan with the sons David and James as has been put forth by various genealogist and on various forms.

My main reason for not thinking Adam is my Charles father is that the Michigan death index
for Charles Vroman states that Charles parents are William and Eliza.

I however have not been able to get past my 2 brick walls of William's father, mother and decedents, or Eliza's maiden name and parents
1851 Census Nissouri West, Middlesex Co. Ontario
Stanley - the first question that comes to  my mind is how you are so certain your Vrooman ancestors did not go through New York to arrive in Canada? Your family lore of 7 brothers arriving may be quite wrong or slightly confused. Family lore is often incorrect, memories fade over time and it's like the childhood game of "Telephone". By the time the last person gets the message started by the first person, it is jumbled. So I would keep an open mind. Go with the known and methodically dig backwards.

Re Charles' death certificate, remember that death certificates can also be incorrect. The information on them was not given by the deceased and may have been given by a family member who didn't know the answer (but thought they did) or by a family doctor. You do not know how accurate that information is. 

I took a quick look and found the following information:

1851 Census Nissouri West, Middlesex Ontario shows Charles Vrooman, 44 born Canada, a farmer with wife Ester born New Brunswick, age 29 and son Isaac Hoyt Vrooman age 1 born Canada. Also living with them are Benjamin Hoyt, 71 born USA and wife Elenor 63 born Nova Scotia. Going to the second page of this census page, we see that this is one family living in one home (a log home). I suggest you will find that Benjamin and Elenor Hoyt are the parents of Ester.

1861 Census Nissouri West, Middlesex Ontario shows Charles, 53 born Canada West (present day Ontario), his wife Ester, 37 and children Alexander 10, Hoyt 8, John 8, Arthur 6, Elenor 4, Gertrude 2 and 72 year old Elizabeth born New Brunswick, a widow.

1881 Census Caradoc, Middlesex Ontario shows Charles age 73 and Ester 57 living with their son Hoyt

Looking for Elizabeth Vrooman born New Brunswick in earlier census records (1851) does lead to Adam and Elizabeth Vrooman in Haldimand County but you have no way of knowing if this is your Elizabeth or not. My suggestion is you search more obscure records such as Upper Canada Land Petitions, Land Board Records and CLRI. I note that Charles is listed as a farmer in the census records so finding his land records may prove very helpful as you may find he was given land by a parent.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Getting Through the Confusing Maze of Variant Names and Spelling

Christine has confusion with the varied spelling of her ancestor's name - recorded variously as Grumbley, Grambley, Grumley, Grimley, Bromley, Grumly

I have been searching for my 2nd great grandfather Philip Richard Grumbley b: abt 1823 in Ireland.  My great grandfather’s obituary spelled his last name as Grambley but survived by a brother named Grumbley.  I can document the wife Rosa with Philip Richard Grumley and their children in  the 1880 Harmony Township, Clark County, Ohio census.  I found the family listed in 1870 as Grimley in Harmony Township, Clark County, Ohio.  In the 1860 census they are listed as Bromley in Green Township, Clark County, Ohio.  The church marriage records from the diocese list them in 1853 as Philipium Grumly and Rosea Hockett and shows them married in Springfield, Ohio at St Raphael’s Church.  I found marriage records for two of the daughters as late as 1887 in South Charleston, Ohio at St Charles Borromeo Parish.  Try as I might, I can not find a death record for either Rosa nor Philip Grumbley.  I have not found anything that tells me other than Ireland and I am not at all sure how their name was really spelled!  I have been a member of ancestry since it’s beginning and I have used, findagrave and the Clark County Heritage Center Library.  No luck……… Can you help?

Christine - Normally when there is such a jump from a surname starting with "G" to "B" as in that 1860 census, the usual reason is that the original record has been mis-transcribed. In this case, it has not. The image clearly shows Brumley. So how does this happen? Say the two names out loud. They sound rather similar, especially if mumbled, said with an accent or by a child. Remember we do not know who gave information when the census taker came around - was it a neighbour, a child? Did the person giving the information have a strong accent? This family was from Ireland and I can well imagine a clerk could easily confuse the sound of Grumley for Brumley. I'd discard that as a variant of the surname.

As for the other variations, remember that spelling was not standardized in the 19th century. People spelled words as they sounded (phonetically) and many individuals could not read or write. You can get more help with an article I wrote called  5 Tips to Help You Navigate the Confusing Maze of Surname Variations

Finding a place of origin in Ireland can be a challenge. One of the tricks I use is to trace the children and find their marriage and death records. Sometimes you get lucky and a county of origin is given. Also look for obituaries of the parents and all the children. Since you found church records for the family you know what religion they were. This can help you narrow the search in Ireland. I see they were Catholic so you might want to search the new online Catholic Parish Registers for Ireland. You might first want to read my blog post 10 Steps to Searching the Irish Catholic Parish Records When You Only Know a County of Origin. 

The tips will work even without you knowing a county of origin but hopefully you can narrow that down by finding those all-important death records.