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Saturday, May 30, 2009

How to find an ancestor on a ship's passenger list to Australia

Hi Carol, May I gently suggest that you get rid of your ALL CAPS and type in normal size text when writing to others? It's very difficult to read a post in all caps.

For me personally it puts quite a strain on my eyes as I suffer from Cogan's Dystrophy, which is a disease that affects the cornea. On bad days I have very blurred vision and it is quite difficult for me to read. Also in the Internet world, ALL CAPS is considered shouting.

Now for your question. I do have a few ancestors who went to Australia from England to live for several years. So I have searched for ships passenger lists and the site I recommend is Cora Num's Immigration into Australia: Online Indexes and Passenger Lists Web Sites for Genealogists - An Australian gateway site for tracing your family history

Cora has an exhaustive collection of links to Australian Ships Passenger Lists, along with a nice explanation with each describing what you can at each site. It's a great starting point. Good luck!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Finding out if an ancestor is African American or Native American

Genevieve asked
I want to know how to go about locating birth records of an ancestor that was born on a reservation. I learned from oral history that my GG Grandfather, Peter Sweet(s) was born on a reservation in Larue, Kentucky on Dec. 25, 1844. From the 2 pictures that I have of him, he looks to be Indian, but he’s listed as black on the census. Are there any records available before 1800’s other than the Dawes Rolls?

Olive Tree Answer: Genevieve, I found your question very interesting. It got me thinking about being led astray in our genealogy searching. Many of our ancestors have an appearance we think of as native in old photographs. I believe it is because farmers were out in the sun without protection and their skin became quite leathered and bronzed, giving a native-like appearance. As well, the lives that women and men lived were often quite strenuous and difficult, and individuals appeared much older and gaunt than we are used to seeing now. In my family tree we have a few individuals who you would swear have native heritage but they don't. So I would not personally put too much faith in those photos you have of Peter as being indicative of his ethnicity. And remember too that family lore is often a mixture of truth and fable, based on confusion or mis-remembering.

So I had a look in the various census records on for your Peter, and found that in 1870 he is listed as Mulatto as are his wife Eliza and children. In 1880, 1900 & 1920 he is listed as Black (as are his wife Hannah and children). In 1910 he is listed as Mulatto and in 1930 he is listed as "Negro" Since he almost consistently claims his race as black (or mixed) I would not be quick to dismiss that. I did not immediately find Peter in 1850 or 1860 and did not have more time to spend hunting, but I am curious how he is listed (and where) in those census years.

Because your question was so interesting to me, I did some more genealogy sleuthing and turned up Peter's Death Certificate (among other documents!) in which the informant, his son William, states Peter is black.

Peter's death took place in Appleton, St. Clair Co. Missouri in 1931 and the certificate image can be viewed online at Missouri Digital Heritage

Peeter [sic] Sweets, Black. age 91 b Kentucky. Married to Hannah Sutton. Father Owen Ray, mother Mehala Bell both born Kentucky. Informant W H Sweets of Lewis Iowa

Other Sweets death records I found on this site were:

* Hannah Sweets' death is also there in St. Clair Missouri in June 1944. Listed as "negro", widow. father Peeter Tutt [sic], mother's name not known
* William H. Sweets (Peter's son), of Lewis Ohio died Oct 1954 St Clair Missouri. His death record states he is Colored. Father Peter Sweets, mother Eliza Horn.
* Alonzo Sweets b June 1, 1867 died in May 1944 . He is listed as "coloured" father Peter, mother Eliza
* Nova R. Sweets b. March 1890 son of Peter Sweets & Hannah Sutton, race given as "coloured". He died in 1955 (he is no doubt the son listed as Enovious P/R in the census records)
* Theodore Lee Sweets, the grandson of Peter through his son Alonzo, is listed as coloured on his death certificate (information given by his wife Helen)

Alonzo Sweet's marriage record, found online on Missouri Marriage Records, 1805-2002 states that he is "coloured"

If this were my ancestor, I'd be looking at the amount of evidence pointing to black heritage, not Indian. And I would begin a diligent search of every one of Peter's children by both his wives (Eliza Horn and Hannah Sutton). Searching the children may turn up more documented evidence of Peter's birth and racial origins. Look for marriage records, death records, obituaries, court documents, census records and so on. Did any of Peter's children ever list themselves as Indian on any record? That is what you want to determine. Given that Peter appears to have had at least 18 children by his two wives, this will be quite a job but what fun you will have!

It is really important to not limit your genealogy research to just your direct ancestors. Search siblings as you never know what you will find for one sibling that you cannot find for another - such as names of parents, racial origin, locations of birth and so on.

If you did not have Peter's parents' names previously, armed with the death certificate information you can embark on a search for Owen Ray and wife Mehala. This brings up an intriguing thought though - was Peter's father Owen Ray Sweet, or Owen Ray? The death registration simply has Owen Ray but is Ray the surname or his middle name? This may seem far-fetched to you, but I'm only suggesting you keep an open mind as you search.

Gather the facts and document them carefully, then consider all the evidence - and how much weight you should give to each record you find. In other words do you believe a census record or a birth record over family lore? Over impressions of a photograph? Consider the information source of each record. Was it the individual himself who provided the information? Is it contemporary or written long after the event? In other words how good or reliable is your source?

You may find I Found My Great Great Grandfather Online -- Now What!!??? (Verifying Records Found On Webpages) helpful to you. Don't forget too that you may need to search OFFline as well as on.

Looking for Owen Sweets in Kentucky tuned up only one man in 1840, 1850, 1860 and 1870 census - and he is listed as white in all those records. Your Peter is not with him unless he (Peter) had another name which he used interchangeably with Peter. I became quite fascinated by your puzzle and I hope that what I found and what I have suggested as your next steps will be helpful to you

Postscript: Having already found so much and thoroughly enjoying your puzzle, I could not let it rest and decided to have a look for Peter's children. One of Peter's children was Nathaniel Sweets born about 1902 in Missouri. A google search for Nathaniel brought up a very interesting 1970 interview with a Nathaniel Sweets, prominent black leader in St. Louis Missouri. In it Nathaniel mentions he is the youngest of 17 children. I was fairly sure this was Nathaniel, son of Peter and Hannah, but there was no proof in the interview. So I continued my hunt and there it was.

In the online book Dictionary of Missouri Biographies, you will find a bio of Nathaniel Sweets "youngest of 17 children born to freed slaves Pete and Hanna Sweets". I urge you to read the interview and biography as it is most interesting! Nathaniel was quite famous in the African-American community and there is a great deal written about him. Now you can have the fun of finding out everything you can about Nathaniel and his family and siblings

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Determing Average Number of Descendants

Dianne asked
In studying a certain ancestor of mine, I determined the need to know the following: How many others have this same man as their ancestor? Or how many descendents on average would one ancestor have after nine generations?
Dianne, it is impossible to calculate an average number of descendants. Let me give you some examples of the difficulties in working out such a mathematical result:

1) We have no way of knowing how many children each generation will have
2) We have no way of knowing how many of the children in each generation live to adulthood
3) We have no way of knowing how many of the children in each generation married and had children or conversely how many lived to adulthood and did not marry and have children.
4) Not every person in each generation will have the same number of children

So how do you determine what numbers you will use for your calculation? Answer: You can't.

Putting it another way, let's assume that Ancestor A has 4 children - B, C, D & E. (of course he could have had 1, or 6 or 12 or..... do you see the difficulty already and we are only at Generation 1)

If each of Ancestor A's 4 children had 4 children that is 16 people in Generation 2

What if Ancestor A's 4 children had 10 children each? That is 40 people in Generation 2!

What if Ancestor A's 4 children only had 1 child each - then we only have 4 people in Generation 2.

What if Child B had 4 children and Child C had 2 children while Child D had 8 and Child E had 10? Now you have 24 people in Generation 2.

And so we are in trouble right at the start. With each succesive generation you cannot assume that each person had the same number of children! And the more generations you use (you wanted 9) the more variable the numbers become.

Now, if you chose to say "I am going to assume that each generation had 4 children. How do I determine how many descendants this makes after 9 generations" then, you can do that by simply mulitplying 4x4x4x4 and so on, 9 times. The answer then is 262,144 descendants.

But to show you the huge difference depending what number of children you decide to use, if you chose to assume that each generation only had 2 children, your result after 9 generations would be 512.

I hope I've convinced you that it is impossible to determine an average number of descendants for one person.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Placing Stones on Graves - Where did the Custom Start

Vince asked
This probably isn't a challenging puzzler for you, but a while back I read in one of your articles about leaving a polished stone on gravesites. Can you tell me about this tradition and where it came from?
Hi Vince,

It's a good question! Placing stones on cemetery tombstones is mainly a Jewish custom. When the tradition started, grave monuments were mounds of stones. Visitors added stones to the mound to show we are never finished building the monument to the deceased. Many people place stones simply to show they visited the gravesite.

Some people believe that placing a stone is simply a way of saying "here lie the remains of a person worth remembering". And the pebble or stone lets others know that someone did come and remember.

You might enjoy reading Rabbi Jonathan Maltzman relating the story of the Tradition of Why Stones are Placed on the Grave which gives an entirely different explanation!

We are not Jewish but I brought a basket of polished stones for those attending my mother and father's Memorial Service to leave on the monument if they wanted to. I did this because I like the idea of taking a quiet moment to reflect on the departed, to place a stone to show you were there and that you remember the deceased.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

FInding out if your ancestor was a Home Child

Jean asked
I would like to know whether my Grandfather christened John William Handford but also known as William Handford (Handord) went to Canada from England around 1900 as a Home child born in 1880.

Hello Jean - Between 1869 and the early 1930s, over 100,000 children were sent to Canada from Great Britain during the child emigration movement. You can search the online database for Home Children (1869-1930) to see if your grandfather is on any of the lists that have been transcribed.

You can also search database of Ships Passenger Lists to Canada 1865-1935 to see if he appears on those lists.

You might also want to visit the website The British Home Children

Also you can search the 1901 and 1911 census records for Canada to see if your grandfather's name is found. These are indexed at and with images of the actual pages held at Library & Archives Canada (LAC).

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Guest Genealogist Brenda Dougall Merriman Answers the Question Is a Crown Patent worth Obtaining?

Jill asked
"My question is about crown patents. I have been told that the information on a crown patent is no better than the information available in other sources, and each patent costs over $30 so it's not really worth the money."

Our Guest Genealogist Brenda Dougall Merriman answers:

Applying for a copy of a Crown patent (the Crown Land Registry is an agency of the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources) means you must provide the name of the patentee, the precise location of the property (township, concession, lot) and the date of the patent. Therefore if you already have that information, chances are you won't learn anything "new" in genealogical terms. On the other hand, many family historians want to collect copies of as much relevant material as they can about their ancestors. Patents are usually over-sized papers, issued in the name of the reigning monarch.

In fine print, they describe the rights of the patent-holder and the "conditions, limitations and restrictions" under which it issued, such as the erection of a building in the early patents when land itself was free. Later patents when Crown land was being sold, will show the purchase price---one fact that may be available elsewhere but perhaps not as accessible. In my experience, people like to order this document for its historical value, often to show the official original title. You can see that it would have great significance for properties held in the same family for many generations, or owners of century farms.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Guest Genealogist - Brenda Dougall Merriman

Ask Olive Tree Genealogy a Question is very pleased to announce that tomorrow's question will be answered by our first Guest Genealogist on this blog - Brenda Dougall Merriman. Brenda has generously given of her time to respond to a question on Ontario Land Records. I am honoured to have Brenda's expertise for this question and I hope I might persuade her to take on a few more challenging questions in the future!

Since 1979 Brenda has been certified by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (Washington DC) and later served six years as a BCG trustee. In 1996 she founded the group that became the Ontario Chapter, Association of Professional Genealogists (OCAPG). After years of client research, speaking engagements and working with the National Institute for Genealogical Studies, Brenda now concentrates on writing, some continued work with the Jackman Foundation-sponsored Petworth Emigration project/website and volunteering with OCAPG.

Brenda has written the following excellent genealogy books.

United Empire Loyalists: A Guide to Researching Loyalist Ancestors in Upper Canada (Campbellville, ON: Global Heritage Press, 2006).

Winner of the 2008 NGS Award for Excellence: Genealogical Methods and Sources, this book published by Global Heritage Press is a long-needed guide to the records and context for researching Loyalist ancestors in the province that became Ontario. It not only assists the beginner, but also those who encounter stumbling blocks as they assemble applications to the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada. Merriman explains what a Loyalist is, then goes on to discuss the background and the contemporary sources it produced. A chapter of case studies provides examples of methodology and problem-solving. This is an essential guide for everyone researching Loyalist heritage. Global Heritage Press publishes both a hard cover and a coil bound edition.

The National Genealogical Society (NGS) 2008 Award of Excellence: Genealogical Methods and Sources is
"Presented to an individual or nonprofit organization for a specific, significant single contribution in the form of a book, an article, or a series of articles published during the past three years that discusses genealogical methods and sources and serves to foster scholarship and/or otherwise advances or promotes excellence in genealogy."

The 2008 NGS awards were announced at their annual banquet on Friday 15 May 2009. Read more about this prestigious award at Brenda's Blog

Brenda is also the author of Genealogy in Ontario: Searching the Records, 4th ed. (2008) and About Genealogical Standards of Evidence, 3rd ed. (2008) both published by the Ontario Genealogical Society.

Thank you Brenda for giving your time to respond to tomorrow's question!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Searching an Elusive Ancestor in Ontario after 1929

Adrian asked
I seem to be stuck in a loop where I can't find out anything about my ancestor James Henry Kirk - such as when he died - until I have prrof that he's dead! As his elder brother made 88 (in 1979) it is possible that he hasn't been dead for twenty years, but as no-one seems to remember him much after the mid-1950s he could have died at any time in about a thirty year period.He lived in the Windsor Ontario area and is first found there in 1929. Can you help?

Olive Tree Answer: Hi Adrian, I edited your original email question but I can see that you have done some really in-depth research on your ancestor. Since Canadian records are hard to access after 1920 or so, due to privacy laws, and 1911 is the last available census, you will have to be quite creative in your search methods.

Here are some ideas for you.

1. Phone books. Great way to find folks. When their name disappears from the phone book they likely moved or died. If you find a widow in the next year's phone book you have your answer re death.

2. City directories. Same as phone books.

3. Abstract Indexes to Deeds. Did he own a house? Own land? If yes, get the Abstract Indexes to Deeds for that piece of property. Find out when he sold it -- with luck it will be shown as a transfer on his death and that gives you a death date.

4. Current Newspapers! Write to the Windsor paper - to the editor. Explain your plight (You are in England), and who you are looking for (briefly) Ask him to run your "looking for anyone who remembers xxx last heard of in Windsor in 19xx..." Give a very brief rundown of dates and names, and plead your case eloquently.

4. Newspapers of the time. Get hold of some 1929 and 1930s papers from Windsor, and start reading. Are any indexed? Check out Windsor and what they have

5. Tax records. He must have paid taxes. Are there any available in Windsor area?

6. Cemetery records. Did he die in Windsor? If yes, write to every funeral home and ask if they have burial records for him.

7. National Registration File of 1940. This is a great census substitute and I just talked about it yesterday, so please read What is the National Registration File of 1940

8. Start a search for his death records Death Registrations after 1934 are held by the Office of the Registrar General. You can order a 5 year search of the records for your man.


Office of the Registrar General
189 Red River Road
P.O. Box 4600
Thunder Bay, Ontario
Canada P7B 6L8

Tel: 416-325-8305
1-800-461-2156 (toll-free in Ontario)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What is the National Registration File of 1940

Jason asked
"I've heard something about a National Registration in Canada in 1940. Would my ancestors be listed and how do I get hold of the info?"
Olive Tree Answer: Great question Jason! The National Registration File of 1940 is a good census substitute.

This was the registration of all people 16 years of age or olde, from 1940 to 1946. There is a great deal of information on this Registration.

Statistics Canada holds these records and for a fee they will search on your behalf. See the explanation with a link to an online order form

Questions asked on the form sent to households were:

date of birth
conjugal status
country of birth (persons registered and parents only)
racial origin
general health
class of occupation
occupation or craft
employment status
work experience by type
mechanical or other abilities
latent skills
wartime circumstances
previous military service

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Finding an English Birth Record in Bishop's Transcripts or other Records

Vesta asked
My ancestor Frederick George Rumble Olley was born in Norwich, Norfolk, England abt 1829. I found him on the 1841 census, 12 yrs old living with his parents Edward Olley and Sarah Rumble who were married in Mar 1830 in Norwich. A copy of his parent's marriage certificate reveals that neither of them were married before. He worked for the railroad for 55 years which I had checked for personnel records for possible birth information to no avail.. There is no copy of his birth record in the Norfolk parish records. He died Mar 19, 1912 age 83, claiming he was a native of Norwich (according to his obit). He was married twice and both marriage certificates just have his father's name on it, no mother's name. As he gets older, the names "George Rumble" are added on official documents eg. censuses, marriage and death certificates. My question is there any way I can find an birthdate for this fellow?

Hello Vesta, An intriguing puzzle! I am curious about your comment that ....There is no copy of his birth record in the Norfolk parish records... It sounds from that statement that you have checked every single set of church records for the entire county of Norfolk. If that is the case, you may wish to check the Parish Chest records.

A quick look at the FamilySearch catalogue shows over 2 dozen sets of records from the Parish Chests. Have you also checked the Bishop's Transcripts?

If you have not checked every single set of church records for all of Norfolk, then I suggest you look at parishes which are near Norwich. It may be that your Frederick was born in another parish and baptised there, but moved as an infant to Norwich. If that were the case he would probably always say that he was born in Norwich.

As for his obit, don't forget that it was probably written by a family member after his death and not by him beforehand. So they would only write what they think is correct. And family members can be very wrong! My husband's grandfather's obit, written by his daughter, gave the incorrect husband for her sister! Just something for you to think about....

Friday, May 15, 2009

Finding a Death at Sea

Terry asked
We are looking for an Uncle who apparently died at sea. He came from the Village of Nahorinka, County of Buchach in Austria on his way to Alberta, Canada. His name was Mihailo or MacHako Martyniuk or Martymek or something similar. He was travelling with his Mother Maria and younger sister Barbara or Varvara Martyniuk. The spelling varies. He was born in 1907 we think, but it could be as late 1910. We believe the family arrived in Canada around 1913 or 1914. The father Hryhory or Harry was already in Canada. Can you help us. I have search and as you can tell I come up with variess spelling and discrepancies in years. Our living family member states that he was born in 1907 by the name of Mihailo Martyniuk and died at sea before the family landed in Canada in 1914. Any help would be appreciated.

Hello Terry, I did take a quick peek in the 1916 census for Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba which is online on I needed to know the dates of birth for your Mihailo's sibling and parents. Because you can't always trust family memories, you can use the 1916 census as a guide to immigration dates. Barbara was born ca 1909 in Austria, and her next youngest Anna was born ca 1914 in Canada. So you know that between 1909-1914 (give or take a year on either side), the mother and her children came to Canada. Yes, she gives 1912 as her immigration year, but that is often mis-remembered.

Your next step would be to find the family on a ships' passenger list. The names of all passengers were recorded at the port of departure so if Mihail travelled with them, he will be on the list. If he died at sea, his name will be recorded on the passenger manifest - either with a notation beside his name on the list, or on the last page of the full manifest.

As you have learned, the names can be recorded in a dizzying variety of ways! First there is the phonetic representation. Then you have the aspect of human error when the lists were indexed! So you must be very creative and use wildcards if you are searching online. has Canadian passenger lists if you think they came in to a Canadian port. They also have ships to New York and other popular ports in USA and there is a chance the family took that route to get to their final destination. So you have a bit of a search ahead of you!

Remember too that on you can search using only ages and years of immigration, you do not need to put in any names. You can also search by first names only, there are many options. My advice: don't be too restrictive in your searches.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Answering Question about Photos of People on Postcards from England

Diane asked:
I have a picture that was taken in England I am guessing around the late 1890's or early 1900's. We have been told it is of my husband's great grandmother. On the back of the picture it has postcard written on it. I am wondering if they made postcards out of personal photos to send to family on other countries.

Hi Diane. How wonderful that you have this photo! Yes, it was quite common for photos to be imprinted as a postcard in England during that time period. I have several postcards with photos of my English great grandmothers and my great grandpa's brother, which they sent to their grandchildren in Canada.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How to Create a Family History Book

Joan asked
I am at a point where I now feel I have enough to publish my family's history. I am only looking to have something made up that I can give to family members, nothing fancy. I was thinking of a scrapbooking software program that would allow me to design interesting pages, something I don't think the family history software programs allow as well (or do they?) I prefer a software program rather than an online service. Could you recommend a program that would me to digitally create a nice family history book?

Hi Joan. Congratulations! What a great feeling to be at the point where you are ready to compile and publish a nice family history book. I actually use a software program that allows me to create a scrapbook type book. I love it and have created several.

I can insert graphics or text quickly and easily. I can resize and crop or edit photos right in the program rather than ahead of time. I can stack the photos, partially covering one with another to give it that scrapbook type look and feel. I can change fonts on text, put borders around it and so on. You can see a sample page from a book I created with this program at From England to Arkell: The story of two pioneer settlers, Lewis & Thomas King who left Suffolk England for the Wilds of Upper Canada in 1831

The bad news on this is that the program I use (Microsoft Picture It! Publishing Gold 2001) is very old and I don't know if there is a newer version! I will have to leave that to you to find out. Perhaps readers of this blog will have their own favourites. I'd like to update mine and look forward to hearing reader recommendations.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How to Find Descendants of Ancestor's Siblings

Martin asked
I have been researching my Grandfather Edward WILSON's (born 1890 in Halifax, West Yorkshire, UK) past history for some time now. I have a record of his entry into New York from Glasgow, Scotland 6 November 15, 1915 on SS California: soon after his arrival he must have moved to Canada. I also have his marriage records in York County, Ontario to Jessie FISHER 6 July 1916 and Nellie BIRCHENALL (my grandmother) 2 June 1920 (this is a story in itself)! I discovered that his brother Newman Joseph WILSON and sister Miranda Ida WILSON also emigrated to and were married in Canada (Newman to Delma TEYON 11 May 1921 Lennox and Addington and Miranda to Robert George BIRD 3 Apr 1919 in York). Edward's family returned to the UK 27 March 1932 from St John, New Brunswick, Canada. My question to all this is were there any descendants from Newman's or Miranda's marriages and are any of them alive?

Hello Martin, It looks like you have gathered some good information on your family in Ontario. My advice if you are seeking descendants, is to post queries on the appropriate mailing lists and message boards. You may want to join the Ontario Mailing List (I'm the list admininstrator) and post your query there. Also try county mailing lists for Ontario. You could join CAN-ONT-YORK and CAN-ON-LENNOX-ADDINGTON mailing lists.

I would also check for any online Family Trees on If you find one, you can contact the submitter to exchange information. I have had some of my best leads by making contact with other descendants of my lines. And since Ontario records are hard to access after the 1911 census, you might find posting queries and checking family trees your best resource.

There is one other resource that might be very helpful to you and that is the National Registration File 1940-1946 You can read about this census substitute and use the link found on to submit an application

Monday, May 11, 2009

Finding records in Kentucky pre 1800

Linda asks
I woud like to know if records of 1797 still exist. I just found an ancestor by the name of BUTLER, PERCE born in Kentucky of Irish parents
names unknown @ present That far back of 212 years, does anthing still exist? How would I find the parents & or their names?

Olive Tree Answer: Hi Linda. I wasn't sure if you were asking if records for Kentucky exist pre 1797 or if it is records in Ireland you want. So I'll go with Kentucky since your Perce Butler's parents must have lived there at some point (since he was born there). The first thing I would do is visit the Kentucky GenWeb and find out what records exist for whatever county your ancestors were in. For example there are many early church records for various counties. An 1800 census exists for some parts of Kentucky so you may want to check that out too. Have you checked the 1790, 1795, 1810 and later census records for Kentucky?

Have you checked the online catalogue for the FamilySearch site to find out what Kentucky records they have on microfilm? There are quite a few early court records, and that is only the tip of the iceberg. I'm sure that with a little digging you will find many early records that may be helpful to you in your search.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Finding out what F stands for in 1851 Canadian Census

Brenda asked:
What does "F" stand for in the 1851 Canada census? Someone told me it meant my ancestors were French. I am pretty sure they were from Ontario and were not French, so I'm confused!
Olive Tree Answer: Brenda, it can be very confusing when you don't know what symbols or abbreviations represent. So it's always a good idea to try to find out. If you go to you will find lists of questions and instructions for enumerators, for the varous Canadian census records.

Enumerator instructions for 1851 census included the following

In Canada East and West every person who sojourned in the house on the night of Sunday, 11 January 1851, as well as individuals who usually lived at the house, but were absent on that night, were to be enumerated. The following questions were asked by enumerators:

Birthplace (Those born of Canadian parents were denoted with an F)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Using Certificate of Arrivals to Find an Ancestor's Immigration

Bruce asked
My grandfather's brother says on his Declaration of
Intention that he arrived in the port of New York on or around Nov 1, 1906 on the ship "Russia" leaving from Libau. I have had no luck finding his ship manifest via, or the Steven Morse search aids based on this information or by his name.

Olive Tree Answer: Hello Bruce - You're in luck because after September 1906, a naturalization Petition had to be verified by authorities to an actual immigration (passenger list) record. So somewhere, there is a petition for your ancestor which will have a verified ship name and date of arrival.

There should also be a Certificate of Arrival (also verified). See for help. Choose USA thenhen choose the state of interest and read the specifics for that state. Also, both Footnote.comiconand have naturalization records online. Good luck!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Understanding Dit Names

Patrick asked:
My ancestor was Abraham Crevier dit Saint Jean. What does dit mean in his name?

Olive Tree Answer: A dit name is a nickname of sorts. It does not always signify a place of origin. It can be occupational or based on a personal characteristic. Dit names are like a legal alias and when searching records for an ancestor with a dit name, you have to look under his surname, his dit name or a combination of both.

The dit name was in very common use in New France where colonists used Dit names to distinguish among inviduals with the same or similiar names. For example one of my New France ancestors was Simeon LeRoy. His dit name was Audy and he is recorded as Simeon LeRoy dit Audy, plus many variants.

For more information, see Dit Names

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What's the Difference Between a Loyalist and a Tory?

Sheri asked "What's the difference between a Loyalist and a Tory? My ggggrandpa was called a Tory in New York but recently someone told me that meant he was a Loyalist in Canada. is that true?"
Olive Tree Answer: Hi Sheri. In the strictest sense, a Loyalist is someone who is loyal to their allegiance, especially during troubled times. If your ancestor was on the British side (that is, loyal to the King of England) during the American Revolution, he was a Loyalist. Tory was another name used in the Colonies for a Loyalist. They were only referred to as Loyalists in Canada.

See Loyalist Genealogy & History for more information

Friday, May 1, 2009

Finding an Ancestor's Death

Marilyn asked
I am trying to locate the death record for my great aunt. Anne Maria Levy was born September 7, 1877 in Eganville, Ontario, Canada – daughter of Edward Levy and Bridget Sheridan. Her family moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada around 1900 and I have baptismal records for two of her sister’s children where she is mentioned as a sponsor – these records are in 1904 and 1905. Her mother died in 1909 and she is not listed as a survivor, I don’t know if this is a misprint or if she died between 1905 and 1909. She had a sister Margaret Levy who married a Charles O’Neil and they moved to Lowell, Massachusetts in the U.S. and in Margaret’s obituary she is not mentioned either. I know a lot of family members have been missed in obituaries so I can’t be sure that she died in the time frame I mentioned. I have checked Manitoba, Ontario, and Massachusetts death records for as far as they go and have found nothing. Would you have any suggestions??

Olive Tree Answer: Hello Marilyn. I agree that not finding Anne in the obituaries is not absolute proof that she wasn't alive. She may have married and/or been estranged from the family.

Have you looked for Anne or her family in the 1906 census for Manitoba? There is some glitch in the search engine specifically for this census and no matter what one searches under, you get zero results. Searching in the generic search engine on the Ancestry Home Page for Ann* Lev* (using wildcards) in Manitoba, you get 14 hits for the 1906 census but when I click to see the list, I get "Your Search for Ann* Lev* returned no matches". So perhaps by the time you read this post the search will be back up and running. 1916 census is also available.

Re finding her death, have you read the Ancestor Death Record Finder for suggestions and ideas of places to find a death record?