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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Finding Out if Ancestors were Jewish

Jenn S. asked for help with

My paternal 3rd great grandfather, Samuel Abraham(s) was born about 1806 according to the England 1841 Census.  I know I should either add or subtract 5 to that as they were know to round the number.

When Samuel and Mary Cockayne married there were no parents listed.  I contacted the church and verified that the parents were not listed.  Samuel died, I believe, 1849 in Nantwich, England and it was listed that his father was Marcus.  So if his father was Marcus, he did not follow the pattern which all families followed during that time by naming his first son the name of his father.  His children, that I know of, are as follows:  Lewis abt. 1831-1891, Samuel 1834-1836, Caroline abt. 1836-?, Charlotte abt. 1837-1902, George H. 1838-1840, Harriet abt. 1840, Mark Henry abt. 1842-? and Eliza abt. 1846-?.
Our name was change to Brahams. Also, we are not Jewish. Abrahams i commonly a Jewish name and there was a story told that the Abrahams were Jewish until one of the boys married a Christian and they were cast away from the family. Could that have been Samuel and is that why I can't find anything? So those are my things about Samuel.

Jenn - Naming patterns were not followed by all families as you stated in your query. Some families followed them but many did not. And I note that there was a child named Mark Henry  - Mark being a shortened form for Marcus.

A Charlotte and Catherine Abraham of the right ages can be found in the Hebrew Girls Boarding School, Palestine Place in 1851. They are in the census for that year for Tower Hamlet, St. John's, Bethnal Green, Middlesex England. So it seems there may be some truth to your family lore.

Also you might want to make note of the fact that some of the children are listed twice in the 1841 census - once with their parents Samuel and Mary, but also in Manchester with Mary Cockayne age 63 with daughters Eliza and Fanny as well as the Abraham children Lewis, Caroline and Charlotte. 

A quick search for a few of the children turned up Harriet's baptism - as Harriet Ellen Abrahams to Samuel and Mary on 29 Aug 1849 in Manchester. Her birth date is given as 18 Aug 1839 and Samuel is noted as a Commercial Traveller. He is not recorded as being deceased at that time although another record indicates he was buried 30 Jul 1849 in Nantwich. A second child named Eliza Cockayne was baptised the same day to Samuel and Mary (whose name is given as Mary Ann). Her birth was 1845.

If I were you I would search each of the children thoroughly - see who they married, when and where they died. Look for burial records, obituaries, church death records to gain more information on the family.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Sometimes You Must Use Pay-to-View Databases to Find an Ancestor Online

Jenn S. asked several questions. I chose this one to answer today
My 2nd great grandmother on my maternal side.  Elizabeth Power(s) is her name.  She married William Hinch(c)liffe in England and came to the US with him settling in Fall River, Massachusetts.  I have that she was born about 1821 and died somewhere between 1870 and 1880, as she is listed in the 1870 United States Census but William is listed as Widower in 1880.  I cannot find out anything about her prior to coming to the United States and I cannot find when she exactly died.  I have gone to the Fall River library and searched and saved their death notations and cannot find anything.  I have an indication in my tree, not sure where I got it, that lists Lawrence as her father's name.  I have nothing to verify that.  I can tell you that William and Elizabeth had 9 children, all in Fall River, that I know of.  Mary 1848-1849, Mary 1850-1908, Thomas 1852-1912, Jane 1856-1861, Elizabeth 1860-1918, Sarah 1860-?, Ruth 1860-1863, William 1861-1862 and Samuel (my 1st great grandfather) 1862-1927. 

Here is an early Christmas gift for you... William and Elizabeth were married in St. Peter's Catholic Church, Ashton under Lyne, Stayleybridge Cheshire on May 26, 1845. His parents are listed as Thomas and Mary Hinchcliffe, hers are Lawrence and Elizabeth Power. Source: Cheshire Non-conformist & Roman Catholic Registers (Marriages) on FindMyPast

It might help you to see who the witnesses were - Maria Power is one of them. See the last column on the right.

 Your next step might be to hunt for Elizabeth and her parents in the 1841 census. I would start with Cheshire and see what you can find. In fact a 20 year old Elizabeth Power with mother Elizabeth (no father in the household) shows up in Stockport Cheshire in 1841.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Assumptions Can Mislead you in Your Genealogy Research

Lisa asked:

I have my Grandfather’s birth certificate which was issued in 1965 (he was born in 1917), his name on the certificate is Leo John Roy.  All his Military ID is listed as Leo Napoleon Roy.  His Father’s name was Pierre and his Mother, Cecile.  I found them on the 1921 census,  however,  the names are listed as Pete and Elvina.  Childrens names (Leo, Bertha and Albert) are correct.  I cannot find any info apart from that census on anyone in the Roy family.  My Great Grandmother, Cecile is listed on a tomb in Manitoba as she later married a William McNabb.  I believe her maiden name was also McNabb but am unsure.  Her death date is not listed on the tomb.  I believe she was born on June 26, 1893. Pierre,  I believe was 1 year older.  My Grandparents (Leo and Minnie May) lived in Thunder Bay, ON but came from Manitoba.  I believe Cecile came from Manitoba also,  not too sure on Pierre (Pete).  Cecile also looks native in the few pictures I have.  Leo was born in Stonewall,  Manitoba and later lived in The Pas, Manitoba.  He joined the military in the early 1940’s and was based out of Winnipeg.  He was born on June 20, 1917 and died on January 12, 1967.  He was a hoisting engineer after his Military time.  

1921 Census Manitoba
Lisa - Let's go through your query one question at a time. First, in the 1921 census we do see Elvina. I suggest that is likely Cecile's middle name. You will want to look for records to verify this - her marriage, birth or death record perhaps.

Next, seeing Pierre listed as Pete in 1921 is not unusual since the French name Pierre is the English name Peter.

The tomb with Cecile's name on it but no death date suggests to me that the stone was erected before she died but she was never buried there.

As for Pierre and Cecile's ages, you can estimate their years of birth from the 1921 census but of course you will want to find them in earlier census records too. He is listed as 27 born Quebec and she is recorded as 26 born Manitoba. While Census records can be wrong, you do have a starting point for years of birth and locations. (which answers your question about where Cecile and Pierre were from). So you will want to search Manitoba birth and census records for Cecile, and Quebec records for Pierre.  You may want to visit the Manitoba Vital Registration site where you can search the online indexes.

A good clue may turn out to be the recording of little Albert's birth location as USA. I would try to find more on Albert.

Don't be misled by photos where an ancestor "looks native". She may very well be but in the 20th century and earlier, lives were difficult and women especially often had an aged appearance which could lead to an assumption of native heritage.

Understanding Relationship Terms

Barbara wanted to know about relationship terms.

Can you tell me which of the following ‘removed’ are the equivalent of  3rd great grandfather (e.g.) That is, is a 3rd great grandfather the same as Third removed?

Are the two terms used for different reasons or can either be used.
The following is from other notes but I’m still none the wiser. "When cousins descend from common ancestors by a different number of generations they are called "removed."
Once removed means there is a difference of one generation. Your mother's first cousin would be your first cousin, once removed. She is one generation younger than your grandparents and you are two generations younger than your grandparents.
Twice removed means that there is a two-generation difference. Your grandmother's first cousin would be your first cousin, twice removed because you are separated by two generations."

The short answer to your question is "No". The terms are quite different.

Since you have the correct definition of the terms "once removed" and "twice removed" but it's puzzling you, let me try to explain it a different way. You use the term "removed" when you are comparing two individuals to a common (shared) ancestor. So you need 3 people in the mix! "Removed" means the two individuals are a certain number of generations apart. 

Let's say you have a relative named Sally. Sally's father and your father are brothers. That makes you and Sally first cousins. 

Now let's say you have a child named Roger. Roger is also Sally's first cousin BUT he is one generation removed from her! That makes Sally and Roger first cousins once removed.

Your 3rd great-grandfather refers to a relationship between 2 people -you and your 3rd. great grandfather. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Ships Passenger Records To Canada are Available as Early as 1865

Henry wrote to ask

My great uncle who originated in Germany, born 1872 or 1874, appears in the UK 1901 census as Ferdinand Roks living in London. Within the family there was no mention of him but it was suggested that perhaps he went to Quebec, Since he doesn't appear in a later census, it could be reasonable to assume that he left London sometime after 1901. How do I research the shipping companies or ships records or even the Quebec immigration records to try to trace him, especially as might have changed the spelling of his name.

Ships passenger lists to Canada are available as early as 1865. You can search on, where the passenger names are indexed and linked to images, or you can use Library & Archives Canada (LAC). LAC however does not have a name index so you have to search by date or ship name.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

How to Decipher Old Handwriting

Derek wanted help with reading some challenging writing in an image

I have struggled with this image for a long time and asked many people for their suggestions for the middle name. This (No 260) is presumably the father of James Gray my illegitimate maternal gt gt grand father.His mother Catherine Gray (born 1808, Purton, Wiltshire) was a servant living in Edmonton, London at the time. The  1861 Census for Purton, Wiltshire says he was born in London. Any ideas would be appreciated.

 Derek - Unfortunately when trying to deciper challenging handwriting, one needs to see the full sheet and other sheets written by the same hand. That allows a good comparison of letter formations. Also it would help to know the column headings (not to read the handwriting but to look for other records that might solve the mystery)

It helps to enlarge the image in a graphic program (I use Picasa) or to trace it.  See Deciphering Challenging Handwriting for more tips. 

Guessing only, it seems to be "James --- Fosse son of"

I did a little investigating and found another record for the baptism of your James, but without the extra name

This is found in Lambeth St John the Evangelist Parish Registers Jan. 1828 on Ancestry.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Resolving Genealogy Discrepancies in Locations

Rory asked for clarification on a location:

I am reseaching a William Hanley. According to his obituary:

 " Mr. Hanley was born on May 4th 1857 at Buffalo Wellington County Ontario son of the late Richard and Elizabeth Hanley."

 The only village I can scare up is Buffalo Heights but that is in Peel Co. Any assistance is greatly appreciated.

I think rather than try to figure out what was meant by "Buffalo" you might be further ahead to search for the family in the 1851 census. Find out where they were living, then check 1861.

The census records for Canada are available on

I did a little bit of research and found the following which looks like a good fit for your family:

1861 Census Ellice Twp, Perth Co. Ontario
Richard Hanley, 31, farmer born Ireland
Elizabeth, 20, born Upper Canada
William, 3 born UC
Michael, 2 born UC
Ellen, 1 born UC

The marriage record for Michael provides his mother's name as Lizzie Tracey. "Michigan, Marriages, 1868-1925," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 08 Nov 2012), Michael J. Hanley and Hattie Payne, 21 May 1893.

The marriage of Ellen is found in 1878 Ellen Hanley, 19, born Stratford, living Peel Twp, daughter of Richard Hanley and Elizabeth Tracey married Jacob Wentz. Witness William Tracey of Peel Twp.

There is information on William found in the Boissevain and Morton Regional Library

Men of the Halifax Provisional Battalion crossing a stream
near Swift Current, Saskatchewan, 1885
Title: Hanley, William fonds. . Pages: One folder textual. . Abstract: Biographical information. Notes: Title based on content of fonds. Information taken from W. V. Udall's files (Editor of The Boissevain Recorder) received from Beckoning Hills R Revisited book committee. William Hanley (1854-19 ) was born in Wellington County,Ontario; arrived Brandon 1882. Homesteaded in Saskatchewan on 32-3-2; participated in 1885 Riel Rebellion. Married Lucy Hallady April 19, 1892 at Moosomin, Saskatchewan; took up residence in Boissevain 1895. He was a livestock dealer. Further accruals not expected. Subjects: Riel Rebellion, 1885. Location / Call number: Click on the location field to begin an inter-library loan transaction • Boissevain and Morton Regional - MBOM ;MBOM ;MG14/C192. (-553)

This site might prove helpful to you regarding the Riel Rebellion mention. 


  • Appendix II contains the list of 1, 704 men of the RED RIVER EXPEDITIONARY FORCE 1870-1877.
  • Appendix III contains the bounty warrants issued as a result of their service in the RED RIVER EXPEDITIONARY FORCE 1870-1877, as well as discharge date and location

1901 Census Boissevain (Village), Brandon, Manitoba
1911 Census Souris, Manitoba
1916 Census Broadway, Boissevain, Manitoba

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.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

New Netherland Research is Not Simple or Quick

Lois asked a rather convoluted question which does not have a simple answer. Because of the several questions Lois asked, i am going to intersperse my answers with her questions.

Q: After 200 years of historical accounts of the immigrants from the Netherlands, debate is still continuing when the surname Teunise/Teunisen is researched. My ancestor was Teunis Nyssen, who had  7 children based on baptism records, one (Cornelis) from guardianship record after his mother Phoebe Janse died. By 1660, when the 2nd generation started marriage and having children, the names of daughters were Teunis with an “e” added and sons with “en”. Historians and genealogists either made decisions which person had which “Teunis” father, so for the children of Teunis Nyssen, Denyse was added to the name “de Nys, or of Nys, as opposed to child of Teunis Bogaert. 

Is my assumption on the addition of the “e” and “en” correct?
A: The simple answer is "NO". The patronymic was formed by adding -se, -sen, or -szen. Daughters would very often have the ending -x or -dr. added. I suggest that what you are finding ("e" vs "en") is simply the way the name/patronymic was recorded by that specific clerk or individual. See Dutch Patronymics of the 1600s for more help. 

Also, if you have not seen my page on the DAMEN family of New Netherland I urge you to take a look.  As well as a brief expanation of the family origins, you will find several resources for you to use. You will definitely want the 4th one but you may find the others very helpful as well:

Q: The “Teunis” problem seems to have led to the following children  being attributed to Nyssen:   Hillegonde, Geertje, James, Joris and Teunis. So the second question relates to children naming  traditions.    First son after father’s father, 2nd mother’s father and 1st daughter after mother’s mother, 2nd after father’s mother...with exceptions.    A son Teunis for Nyssen is possible, but many records show him by age as 1st son, whereas he would be Dionys (name for Teunis’ father), 2nd son was Jan named for mother’s father.  
A:  You should never take naming traditions or customs as being set in stone. They might be observed by the couple but they might not be. One parent might be honoured by having a grandchild named after him/her but another might be on the "outs" with the family. A rich uncle or someone who could bestow favours on the couple might be the person honoured with a child's name. There may be a missing child which had the name of the missing parent. There are many reasons why naming patterns cannot be relied on!

Q: Is there any way to ID all the men named Teunis who would have been fathers between 1640 and 1670, so the “supposed children” could be linked to the correct parents?  If there is, how can it be communicated to people who have ancestry trees in various websites?  
A: You could certainly devote many years of research and study into an attempt to find all men named Teunis (or Antonis) who could have been fathers in that 30 year time span.  But if you were thinking of the entire area of New Netherland you would have quite a lifetime project ahead of you. Even if you found them all, determing which children belong to which father would quite likely take yet another lifetime, if indeed it could be done. 

Researching the Dutch in New Netherland is not an easy task. It requires years of study to understand naming patterns, customs, patronymics etc *and* to find the records to assist in the research. There are records that Dr. Gehring has been working on translating from the Dutch for over 25 years now! 

Photo credit: Stuart Miles on FreeDigital.Net

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Search all the Children not just your Direct Ancestor!

Pamela asked about naturalization records for her ancestor William Galbraith.

I’m wondering if you would help me locate naturalization records for William Galbraith. We have reason to believe that he came from Northern Ireland in 1830, that he was a resident of Rochester, New York in 1841, that he resided in Ohio between 1843-1852 and became a naturalized citizen in Ohio, that he died in Portage, Wisconsin.  He was married to Eliza Woods and had 7 children. Samuel is my husband's descendent. I’m looking to find out where he came from in Ireland and thought his naturalization record might show this info.
Olive Tree Genealogy responds: 


It is unlikely that this early Naturalization will show anything more than William being from Ireland.  

Before September 27, 1906, there was no US Naturalization Service, and the BCIS has no naturalization records dated before September 1906. Before the 1906 act, declarations of intention had no expiration date. 

Before 1906, the declaration of intent generally contains more genealogically useful information than the petition. Petitions before 1906 usually show only a name, former allegiance, and date of naturalization. The declaration may include the alien's exact date of immigration into the United States. 

To search Ohio records see

Since you hope to find his Irish origins, I'd hunt for the marriages and deaths of all his children. Sometimes a county in Ireland is provided on these documents. Also look for his marriage and death records. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Search Alternates to Ships Passenger Lists to Canada Before 1865

Barbara asked the following question about her great-grandmother Elizabeth Hayes, born 1841 in Newcastle, England

My great grandmother emigrated from Staffordshire England between 1851 and 1861. She was found in the 1851 of Staffordshire and I can’t find her in the 1861 of either England or Ontario.  I’ve spent years trying to find records of who she might have come from, the ship, and where she entered Canada.  In 1862 she was in Toronto and married my great grandfather in 1863 in Toronto. She was a witness to her Aunt’s marriage in 1862.
 Barbara - You have a challenge ahead of you. Before 1865 ships passenger list to Canada did not have to be archived. There are some lists but the challenge is finding them as they are few and far between. However there are substitute lists such as Shipping Company Records, Immigration Agent Records, St. Lawrence Steamship Records, etc. 

See Filling in the Gaps at for links to alternate records for pre 1865 immigration AND for details on any that are available only offline.

You may also wish to purchase the e-book which contains much more information than found in the links provided above

 Filling in the Gaps: Finding Pre-1865 Ships Passenger Lists to Canada on also available as Filling in the Gaps: Finding Pre-1865 Ships Passenger Lists to Canada  on

It is also available as
Filling in the Gaps: Finding Pre-1865 Ships Passenger Lists to Canada is available in paperback format on CreateSpace

Filling in the Gaps: Finding Pre-1865 Ships Passenger Lists to Canada Paperback version on

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Look for Obituaries & Death Records of Everyone in the Family

Diane asked for help with William Henry Leitch

Son of John E Leitch and Sarah Blagborough in Brantford, Ontario.  He is my grandfather.  I found reference to him in the 1924 Brantford City Directory, working as a salesman for Met Life Insurance.  After that……..nothing.  I know he and my G.mother separated shortly after that date……any suggestions on how I might find out what happened to him?  Have not been able to locate him in any local cemetery or find an obit or death record for him.  His sister emigrated to Mass, USA and I found her but he was not with her.

1953 Voter's List
I did a little digging and found William born ca 1887 and often going by his middle name of Henry in the records. In 1891 he is 4 years old in Brantford with his parents and sister Florence May. In 1901 he is a lodger in Brantford with his wife Nellie. In 1921 he and Nellie and their son Harold are still in Brantford.

In 1953 his wife Nellie is listed as a widow living in Brantford with their son Harold and a Mavis Leitch who I suspect is a daughter.

Nellie may have lied about her matrimonial status but it is also possible she was telling the truth. I would look for cemetery records in and around Brantford between 1924 and 1953. Also you might check newspapers for an obituary of either his sister in Massachusetts or William Henry himself. Try death records and obituaries of his children as well.

Could this be your Nellie Leitch celebrating her 90th birthday? Brantford Expositor Index:
Leitch Mrs Nellie 90th
Jul 16, 1980

Leitch Nellie 90th
Jul 26, 1980

Perhaps this is her death?

Jan 25, 1992

You can search for yourself at 

Obituaries and death records of all family members may prove to be very helpful

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Methodical Searching Pays Off!

Shannah wrote to ask Olive Tree Genealogy about her Great grandfather William James Twiss
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.
 Shannah - 

Here is what I found which does not seem to agree with your family lore. That is not unusual as family lore can be family myth and is often incorrect or confused.

Ed Twiss, age 40, farmer, his wife Ellen age 40 and three daughters Sarah
(20) Mildred (17) and Marcella (17) arrived 4 September 1888 at Halifax  on
board the steamer Peruvian. Their destination was noted as "Victoria BC"

Your ancestor is not with them on this journey.

The 1901 Census for British Columbia shows the family as Edward D. Twiss born 1839 Ontario, his wife Ellen born 1842 Ireland and two children - your ancestor William born 1872 Ireland and his sister Marcia born 1877 Ireland. Their year of immigration of Ellen and her children is given as 1889. 

We find Edward Day Twiss dying in July 1925 in British Columbia and his son William James dying in February 1953 in Vancouver British Columbia. His death registration found on FamilySearch indicates his date of birth as 11 November 1869, his father as Edward Day Twiss, his mother as Ellen Thomson and his wife as Sadie Jewell Brenton.

There are several death records on FamilySearch for your siblings of your William James Twiss: Mildred Jemima Twiss born 22 Sep 1868; Sarah Helena Nash Keen born 1866 in Kerry Ireland; Marcella Ellen Moodie born 22 Mar 1875 in Co. Kerry. Also William James Twiss marriage record 05 Jul 1906 shows he was born in Kerry, Ireland too. All these records come with images - how lucky is that!

I did find a few other items that might interest you - namely the marriage of William's father Edward to Ellen Thompson in Killarney Ireland. Her father is recorded as James Thompson. This might give you clues for more research in Killarney for the family.

 I found the birth of another son named Edward born 05 Sept 1872 in Ireland to Edward D. Twiss and his wife Ellen Thompson. Sarah Helena Twiss' birth was also found in the Irish birth records and her place of birth is recorded as Castle Island, Kerry Ireland. 

I am beginning to envy you all the records for your ancestors! And best of all here is your ancestor William James Twiss. A second birth record for William shows his place of birth as Annascall, Kerry Ireland. Now you have an exact date of birth and a location. Armed with this new information you have a lot of clues to help you in your search.

Summary of my findings:
Edward Day Twiss married Ellen Thomson/Thompson daughter of James in 1865 in Killarney, Kerry Ireland.  They immigrated to Canada 1888

* Sarah Helena Twiss  born 1866 in Castle Island, Kerry Ireland md 1 Nash m2 1893 B.C. John Keen, immigrated to Canada 1888
* Mildred Jemima Twiss born 1868 Castle Island, Kerry Ireland immigrated to Canada 1888
* William James Twiss born 1869 Annascall, Kerry Ireland md. 1906 B.C. Sadie Bointon
* Edward Twiss born 1872 Ireland
* Marcella Ellen Twiss  born 22 Mar 1875 in Kerry Ireland md. Walter Moodie
immigrated to Canada 1888

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Extend Your Search When You Find Discrepancies in Ancestor Records

Linda M. asked in an email titled "Naturilisation [sic] records for Canada for Leo Mason"

My siblings and I have been trying for years to research our paternal grandfathers birthplace. He was supposed to have been born in Germany but became a Canadian citizen and fought in the First World War with the CEF. We have applied to the Canadian government but because we do not live in Canada and my surname is not the same I have been unsuccessful. I would be grateful if you could advise me as to my options. I have been on their website but the database does not open.
Olive Tree Genealogy responds: Linda, I'm sure it was just a typo but the word should be "naturalization". The first thing you should do is check the online CEF (Canadian Expeditionary Force) database for World War 1 Soldiers.  Library and Archives Canada is busy digitizing all the personnel records but even if Leo's has not been completed you will still be able to view his Attestation form.

Because there were several Leo Mason names (and variants) on the CEF database I asked Linda for more details. She replied
His name was Leo William Mason birthday 5/8/1880. He married our grandmother Elizabeth Marion Newington on 4/4/1911 in Stonewall. He died in Vancouver on 26/5/1955. He remarried in 1932 without divorcing our grandmother who had returned to England with our father in 1922.
Linda added that she thought he put Ohio on his Attestation papers because he was afraid to put Germany. I am not sure I believe that but she needs to find other records for Leo (census, vital registrations, etc) to verify his country of birth.

Also an index to Naturalization Records from 1915 to 1951 are online and the full record (if a name is found in the index that is of interest) can be ordered. These records can be searched by name up to 1939.  See for the link

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Read Documents Carefully to be Sure You Understand What is Being Asked

Brenda recently wrote to AskOliveTree with this question:
My grandmother [Daisy McKean] was born in  Preston, Ontario [in 1912].  Her Ontario birth place is listed at a Hospital on Jacob Street.  Would you know the name of that hospital so I can update my records
This is a very good example of a slight misinterpretation of a document. I checked for Daisy's birth registration so that I could verify Brenda's statement "her birth place is listed AT A HOSPITAL ON JACOB STREET" (upper case mine for emphasis)

See if you can spot Brenda's misinterpretation of little Daisy's birth record below. It was an easy mistake to make.  It's  to read documents carefully. Read the instructions to the clerk/minister/whoever filling out the document. Read the small print on the document.

Daisy's birth registration shows the instructions to the left of the field where "Jacob Street" is written in.

In the spot where the place of the child's birth is to be recorded, we see "If in a hospital give its name" The clerk has entered "Jacob St." which would almost certainly indicate that Daisy's birth was not in a hospital but was instead a home birth.

It was most likely her parents' home on Jacob St. but we do not know that with certainty. Her grandmother was the informant and  genealogists must keep an open mind as to whose house the child was born in. Perhaps Grandma lived on Jacob St. and Daisy's mother went there to have her child.

I suggest looking at 1911 census and 1921 to see if the family was living on Jacob St. I would also check Voter's lists to see if the parents can be found there.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Finding an Ancestor in WW1 RAF Service Records Online

Finding an Ancestor in WW1 RAF Service Records Online
The Royal Air Force (RAF) was the world's first independent military air arm and by the end of the First World War it had become the largest.

Now you can search and download First World War service records of RAF officers. This database is of interest to Canadians whose ancestor may have enlisted in WW1 as a pilot. Canada did not have its own Air Force and any individual wishing to join the Air Force had to join the RAF. 

Approximately one-quarter of the aircrew in British Royal Air Force (RAF) squadrons were Canadian. A large RAF training establishment operated in Canada to produce new aircrew.

The collection contains records for over 99,000 individuals and is searchable by first name, last name and date of birth.

Searching the indexes is free but to obtain full details a small fee is charged by the National Archives UK. I tried this database with a generic search for my PEER ancestors. Because I search for all PEER individuals in North America, it's always of interest to me to see if one of them can be found in any new database online.

My search gave me two results for PEER. In order to view the scans of their service records I saw that it would cost me 3.50L for each man (that converts to $11.00 Canadian) The website stated each man's records consisted of 3 pages. I added both to my Shopping Cart and then made the purchase. This is what I love about ordering from the National Archives UK website - after entering my Credit Card details, I was given an immediate link to download the service records. The link is good for 28 days.

As is common with Military Service Records you never know what you're going to get. Some are full of information, others are not.

The Service Record I downloaded for Walter James Peer gave his name, date of birth, next-of-kin in Canada, address in Canada and place of employment. There wasn't much recorded in the section for his whereabouts throughout the War.

The second record for Harold Emerson Peer had a full page of entries for his movements throughout his time in the RAF but no date of birth, no next of kin and no location in Canada. For me that $11.00 was well worth it as I pursue my genealogy with the goal of obtaining as much detail as possible about every individual in my database.

One caveat - when the National Archives UK website states there are x number of pages in a set of records, be aware that the first page is a Title Page with no information on the person involved.