Viewing Tip

If you see a large "X" at the top right of Ask Olive Tree Genealogy blog, click on the "X" to close it. Closing the "X" will give you the best viewing experience and allow you to leave a comment on a blog post

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Searching male relatives to find a female ancestor

Ti'ms Question:
My 3rd great grandmother, Eliza Ann Leeson came to Canada from Ireland to settle in Wolford/Kitley Township, Leeds/Grenville County, Ontario. Family trees indicate she was born abt 1816. She married John Kinch.

Samuel Leeson signed a marriage bond on behalf of his sister Elizabeth. The bond was for 200 pounds, a very sizeable sum, not what most farmers would be able to afford. Samuel’s signature shows that he had excellent penmanship, an indication that Samuel had been well educated.

The Leesons first appeared in 1832 of Wolford Township, Grenville County, Ontario. Samuel, Joseph and Richard were listed as heads of households living on the same lot. The census also indicated that their households contained a total of 2 males under 16, 7 males over 16 and 4 females over 16. It seems safe to assume that only Joseph and Samuel were married at this time. This appears to indicate that the Leeson family was composed of seven brothers, two sisters, two wives and two young sons. Or alternatively, six brothers, two sisters, two wives, one husband and two young sons.

Richard indicated in the 1842 census that he had come to Canada in 1832. Joseph’s son Woodman was born in 1831 in Ireland , also indicating that Joseph Leeson did not come to Canada until 1832.

On the 7 Jun 1832, Samuel Leeson petitioned the Rev. Corporation for Superintending and Managing the Clergy Reserves in Upper Canada for the right to purchase W1/2 of Lot 29 Con 3 in Wolford. His petition indicated the property was currently vacant and that it was a clergy reserve. In 1840, Samuel was given the right to purchase the property.

In 1842, Joseph, Samuel, Brice and Winfield were still living as neighbours in Wolford on Lot 29, Con 3. Richard had married and was now living in Kitley, just down the road. By 1849, Brice had moved to Seymour and then later onto Cardiff . By 1851, Winfield had moved to Wisconsin. Joseph and Samuel remained in Wolford until their deaths

One of the stories that other descendants have is that 8 children made the trip with their parents. The father died on ship, the mother died shortly after landing in Quebec. My question is how do I find out (If I can) who Eliza's parents were. I'm at a roadblock which I have no idea where to go from here.

Olive Tree Answer:
Dear Tim - What a lot of information you have on Eliza's family! You have proven one brother - Samuel. You don't say how you know that Richard and Joseph are also brothers, but if you are correct (i.e., if you have proof they are all siblings of Eliza) then you are in luck. Often it is quite difficult to trace a female ancestor and when we have such a stumbling block, we should turn to the males. In this case you have 3 brothers to trace.

I would look for the brother's obituaries, their death registrations and marriage records for clues as to their parents' names. It would be wonderful if you found a ships passenger list for the whole family but your time period is a challenging one, for Canadian ships manifests did not have to be archived until 1865. However, many lists did survive, and as well, there are other substitute records one can use, such as passage for immigrants down the St. Lawrence to their final destination, or Emigrant Agents' Records and even Shipping Company Records.

It looks like you need early 1830s records and these online projects may be of help. You can check the St. Lawrence Steamboat Co. Passenger Records 1819-1836 at

The Hawke Papers, letterbooks of Chief Emigrant Agent Anthony B. Hawke are available at the Archives of Ontario. They cover the years 1831 to 1892. See the searchable database for years 1865 - 1883 at For the earlier years you must consult the microfilm. There are also Alms House Admission Foreigners & Nativity Records with Ships Names 1819 - 1840 online. It includes individuals who had sailed into Canada first then ended up in New York

If you are looking for Irish ancestors, you may want to search the online database Immigrants at Grosse-Île at You can also request a lookup in Index of Passengers Who Emigrated to Canada between 1817 and 1849.

There is also Irish Canadian Emigration Records, 1823-1849 available on This database contains various records and reports of Canadian emigration agents James Allison and A.J. Buchanan.

You may also want to consult the list of online projects (and links to them) at Filling in the Gaps in Ships Passenger Lists to Canada Look for the 2 column chart near the top of the page, and read carefully to find what is available before 1865 (on the left side of the chart)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Verify Genealogy Records fournd online

Debra's Question:
Maybe you can help me . I found some information about Daniel Hilgenberg on the Hillenburg Blog.
It said that some of Daniels sons had married Cherokee girls.Know i have been searching for awhile.and I`m a member of, and I have all of daniels Kids and who they married and their kids .But when i read the Blog article ,It got me thinking ,That some of his sons had married Cherokee girls and during the time of the " Trail of Tears " that some of the Hillenburgs where sent on the trail of tears .and that this persons Gr grand father would visit his relatives out in Oklahoma . Know the person that wrote this is ( samuel Hillenburg ,the father of Daniel Hillenburg ) . Then also is said on my mother side her grmother Carrie (Simmerman) Pruett , always said that she was part Indian .But i`m having trouble finding it too!

Olive Tree Answer: Hi Debra. It's really important to verify information you find online. Unless the blog where you found the details on your ancestor Daniel Hilgenberg or Hillenburg has sources, you need to write and ask where the author got his information. There's an article you might like to read, called Genealogy Without Sources is Mythology! and another one that I think will help called I Found My Great Great Grandfather Online -- Now What!!???

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Expand your Searches to find an Ancestor

Barbara asked about Charles Gebhardt born in 1879 in Manhattan, New York to parents Friedrick and Annie Gebhardt. She had quite a few interesting and challenging questions about a possible name change, census records etc, and at the end of her email, as a PS she wrote
PS--I have the Naturalization papers for Friederick Karl Gebhardt. He says he came to the US in 1872 but I can't find him. His wife had a child in Germany about that time but the last three children were born in NY.

Olive Tree Answer: Dear Barbara, I spent some time on your questions but will respond to those another time. Right now I want to answer your question about Friederick arriving in USA 1872. Search engines are wonderful genealogy tools but they offer more options besides searching on a full name and exact dates.

For example, if I'm using the Search engine to look for ships passenger lists, I'm using wildcards! So FRIEDERICK becomes FRI* (the asterisk replaces letters). I would also try FRE* in case the name was mis-transcribed. Gebhardt can be mistranscribed or spelled incorrectly so I'm using GEB* (you have to have 3 letters on Ancestry before you can use the wildcard feature)

For year of arrival, I always allow a couple of years on either side of what I believe the year is. People forget, they can be out by a year or two. So I"m going to search for FRI* GEB* arriving between 1870 and 1874

Bingo! Up came this hit

Name:Friedr Gebhard
Arrival Date:15 Jun 1872
Estimated Birth Year:abt 1824
Port of Departure:Hamburg, Germany
Destination:United States of America
Place of Origin:Germany
Ship Name:Allemannia

A peek at the image reveals Friederick, his wife Anna and 3 children. Friederick's name is recorded as Friedr. His surname has no "t" on the end. The two boys have only their first initial recorded - G. for one boy and A. for the other. This is a really good example of other search techniques I've talked about previously - leaving off the names and looking under years of birth, locations or other known facts. You might be interested in reading O Where O Where Has My Ancestor Gone? which has some examples of actual searches and how to work around the dreaded "NOT FOUND".

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Finding Mexican-American War Records

Cornelia's Question (one of several)
Johannes Weyrauch b. abt 1785 d. 1848 of Centre Co., Pennsylvania is said to have fought in the Mexican-American war, I'd like to find any record of that.

Olive Tree Answer: Dear Cornelia, Johannes would have been a bit old to fight in the Mexican American War (1846-1848) but you can consult American Military Genealogy & History: Mexican War 1846-1848 to find out what records exist. Also, you can consult the online Surnames S-Z: Pennsylvania Soldiers in the War with Mexico, 1846-1847 for your ancestor's name

Monday, October 26, 2009

Be creative in your Genealogy search techniques

Howard's Question:
I need help making out a name That might be misspelled in The 1910 Census for Salem (Rockingham County) New Hampshire. There appears a Listing For a John HOSELLIN and wife Celista and family for that year. However I can't find that family name in any earlier or later census for New Hampshire. My guess is that this has been misspelled and garbled in The handwriting. Are there any guesses or records of how this name was meant to be written? Since this
family had resided there for generations. Thanks for any advice.

Olive Tree Answer: Hi Howard, When you are stuck reading a very garbled name, and are trying to find the family in earlier records, here is what I do:

First I make sure I have viewed the image to see if I can read the handwriting any better than the indexer/transcriber did. If not, I search for the family in earlier census *but* I do not use the surname!

So in your case, when you go to that 1910 census you see some great clues - approximate years of birth for John and Celista, plus locations. You also get a list of children and a grandchild and daughter-in-law, with approximate years of birth and locations.

I looked at the image on and it is very hard to read.

If I were you, I would pick either John or his wife Celista or one of the easier to read names of their children - and search for them in 1900 census. You won't find the children any earlier, as the first birth year is 1888 and the 1890 census is mostly missing.

I did find the family in the 1900 census records by using my no surname search. I tried John with wife Celista but that didn't pan out. I tried Celista born in Massachusetts 1851 plus/minus 2 years but again no hits. So I went to the children. I started with Alonzo but nothing, tried Pearl and again nothing. I had narrowed my search to New Hampshire since the children were all born in that state. But when I got nowhere, I opened my search to all of USA.

Once again I used a child's name, I opted for looking for Pearl born 1889 +/-2, in New Hampshire, with a father John. Bingo - there is the family living in Haverill City, Essex Co. Massachusetts. Father is recorded as John Haseltine, mother Celesta (note the variant spelling of her first name). There are many children so you should have some fun ahead of you.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Throwing Out the Baby With the Bathwater?

Chris' Question:
are there any resources for building web based genealogies that are NOT LDS related? I just want to build and research my ancestry without having to use tools built for a specific religio-political purpose

Olive Tree Answer: Hello Chris. My grandmother used to tell me "Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater". I'm not sure why you care what the religion or political philosophies are of a provider of genealogy data, but be aware that the LDS are rapidly bringing primary records online for all to use freely. Their pilot Family Search project is amazing in the amount of data provided (Census, Vital Stats etc), and there are no restrictions on researchers, nor any political or religious overtones on the website.

However, your question was about non-LDS resources online. There are thousands! There are many websites devoted to publishing free genealogy data. A few that come quickly to mind are the GenWeb sites which are world wide. You have not told me what country you need data for - Canada? USA? Russia? Europe? England? Scotland? Germany? ....... and so I cannot direct you to a specific GenWeb site but you can search online for any of them.

Depending what information you wish - cemeteries, ships passenger lists, vital statistics - there are individually run websites that offer these records for free. There are local archives for various states within the USA (such as Michigan's Death Records online) or country wide archives such as the Library & Archives for Canada which offer hundres of primary records free. I can't direct you to all of them so you will have to go on a hunt.

Of course my own website (and family of websites!) offers free data for a variety of records, but especially ships passenger lists on Olive Tree Genealogy, naturalization & passport records on Naturalization Records website, Death records on Ancestors At Rest (and much more)

Then there are the fee-based websites such as
Footnote,comicon,,, Scotland's People, and many more!

So Chris, if you are determined to throw out the baby with the bathwater and not use the incredible genealogy records freely provided by the LDS church, you will still find many online, both free and fee-based, that can help you in your search for ancestors.

You might want to start your hunt at Cyndi's List or Linkpendium which are websites devoted to categorizing and providing links to online resources. Another very good site to use to help is Live Roots. These can all be accessed by using an online search engine and searching for those terms.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Writing a Good Genealogy Query

Sallie's Question:
my great grandfather william myfrey spencer sometimes went by the names william and sometimes by myfrey. is there anything i can do to locate the information i want on him. sometimes my searches find nothing about him in the census. i found a copy of his death certificate, and his name was spelled william mifra.

Olive Tree Answer:
Dear Sallie - I chose your question to illustrate how important it is to provide details when writing a query. You have not given me any dates (When was William born? When did he die?), locations (did William live in USA? Canada? Germany? England? where??) or helpful details such as spouse's name, children's names.

Beyond forgetting to give me information I need to help you, you didn't tell me exactly what you want to find out! Are you looking for his birth record? His marriage record? His wife's name? His parents? Or something else?

There is help to write a good genealogy query at Good Query Bad Query

If you would like to provide me with details as outlined above, I will be happy to try to help you in your quest

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Finding parents of brothers born early 1820s Pennsylvania

James' Question:
I have searched for brothers Joseph Gordon b. 1823 ?? Pennsylvania, and Harrison Gordon b.1827 ?? Pennsylvania. My first location of them was Baughman Twp., Wayne Co., Ohio 1850. I have traced them after that, but have never found a sign of them before that.

AskOlive Answer:
Hello James - When it is difficult to trace an ancestor backwards, there are other methods you can use. One is to search forward, which you have done, making sure to develop all the children of each of the brothers. Look for obituaries of every descendant. Look for death records to find out if there are any clues provided as to parents or grandparents' birth locations or names.

Another method is to develop theories based on clues. Then work to prove or disprove those theories. The theories can be very helpful as they offer ideas for further research. For example, look for the children's names of each of the brothers. (make sure they are in birth order). IF you know their wives and who the parents of each wife was, look for naming patterns. For example if Brother "A" married Suzy and Suzy's parents are known to be Robert and Elizabeth, and if Suzy named her first 4 children Robert, Catherine, Elizabeth and Joseph, you might want to consider that there is a very good chance that Joseph and Catherine are the names of her husband's parents! So that would be a theory that you could work on. You would then look for a couple with those names in Pennsylvania in 1850 and earlier.

Since you have two brothers to work with, your odds are better, and what luck if you happen to find that both brothers named children with names that could be the paternal grandparents (parents of the brothers).

You can also look on the census records you already found - check each one to see who the neighbours were. It is possible that the brothers had a married sister living near, or an uncle or aunt or some other relative. Look for patterns - do you find the same people living near them in each census?

Also take a look at church baptisms or marriages or burials or death records. Who were the witnesses, sponsors or informants? See if the brothers ever used the same people at these events, for if they did, chances are that it could be a relative. You may have to trace the witnesses back to find out how they fit into the tree (if they fit at all!)

Those are just a few ideas for you, I hope they help

Monday, October 19, 2009

Help Finding a Michigan Marriage

Don's Question:
I am interested in finding the marriage of my great grandfather, Christian Schulz to Amelia Maedel Bernier (Barney)..
I know that Amelia's first husbend, Pierre Bernier, died in April of 1860 in St. Clair Co., Michigan.
I also know that Edward Schulz, the eldest son of Christian and Emilie Schulz was born March 17, 1863 in St Clair Co., Michigan.
The 1910 Census states that the marriage of Christian to Emilia was the second marriage for both of them.I have searched Michigan marriages to no avail. Any suggestions?

AskOlive Answer: Hello Don

Michigan Marriages on Family Search start 1868. 1851-1875 is available on some counties on St. Clair is not one of them. However Dibean Database for St Clair Co. shows the marriage of

Bernier Pierre to Emilie Dorethea Madle 22 DEC 1855

You may want to try local churches. Go to St Clair Co. MI Genweb
and chose CHURCHES from left side bar to get a list. You may also need to try neighbouring counties other than St. Clair.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

How to find Birthplace of an ancestor born circa 1835 Ireland

Blaine's Question:
I have spent over ten years on this one. My great great grandfather John O'Connell was born in Ireland in 1825 and, per his marriage record, was the son of Jeremiah O'Connell & Bridget. He emigrated (per his obituary) to Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1846 and, by 1850 was living in Andover MA. In February,1850 he married Mary Horan of Buttevant, Co. Cork in Lawrence, MA . He and Mary lived in Andover until their deaths in 1896. John had a wheelwright shop. Family lore indicates that he may have come from Limerick along with four brothers each of whom "went his own way." John did not serve in the Civil War.

I have all the census records for John and Mary from 1850 through 1880. I have their marriage record and their death records. The 1865 state census shows that he was naturalized. The 1870 federal census shows he was a male "citizen". He was listed on Andover's voting records in 1877 and 1884. I have contacted the Massachusetts Judicial Archives as well as every Essex County, Massachusetts court that I can think of. I have also tried the National Archives. asking if there is a record of his naturalization. I've found nothing.

Can you offer any suggestions on how to proceed further with the search for a naturalization record or some other record that might identify his actual place of birth? Thank you very much for your thoughtfulness.

AskOlive Answer:
Hello Blaine, You will need to know if John was Catholic or non-Catholic, as different records exist in Ireland for each religion. I would pay a visit to Ireland GenWeb for more help. As for naturalization records, since you know that in 1870 he indicated he was a citizen of the USA, there should be some papers for him. However it is unlikely they will give the detail you want but you may be lucky. See an example of an 1832 naturalization document versus an 1880. The very early one gives a specific place of birth, the later one gives only country of birth. Since you are looking somewhere between 1850ish and 1865 you may or may not find what you need.

You may want to check for free Massachusetts naturalizations but don't miss and their Naturalization Recordsicon from NARA

You may also need to check neighbouring counties or states in case John naturalized elsewhere.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Finding a Marriage Record in Passport Applicatons

Bon's Question:
I am trying to trace a marriage certificate for
Eugene Joseph McHugh Born New York 24th May 1899 Died 1970 Bar harbor New York .

Spouse Ivy Myrtle Biffin Born May1902 Southampton England Died 1977 Massapeque park New York.

One Daughter Maguerite Harriet McHugh Born 1922 Southampton England.

I have the passenger list for the liner SS Saxonia arriving in Ellis Island in Oct 1922 her and her baby daughter sailed to America on. It was in her married name of McHugh also her Passport No:124056.

I have use Mormon web site An American site called Public Record, Find my past . I have drawn a blank on them all.

Was a Marriage certificate needed to apply for a passport in those day or would she have just changed her name to Mchugh?

Hello Bon, A good place to look for marriages that took place in England is Free BMD. If you find the marriage you seek in their online index, you can then order the marriage certificate from GRO (General Register Office for England and Wales). See Ordering English Certificates of Birth, Marriage or Death online on OliveTreeGenealogy Blog for help with the ordering process

In your case however you may want to look for Ivy's passport application. You might be surprised at the amount of detail found in passport applications. There are many online for free and also on pay sites. has Passportsicon, as does

Being curious I had a peek and found Ivy's passport application online on
. In it she provides her exact date and place of marriage, and we learn that what you thought was her arrival in America in October 1922 was in fact her return from a trip to England to visit her mother in March 1922. She had been living in New York since 1920! Her passport also provides her exact date of arrival (her original immigration, not her return from trips back to England) and the name of the ship she sailed on.

Once you have consulted the passport application for that ship name and date you can check for Ivy's immigration voyage. You might also want to obtain the ships passenger list for Ivy's outbound voyage from New York to England in 1922. Ships passenger lists are found on

Back to her marriage - armed with the date and location of her marriage you will be able to send for her marriage certificate if you want it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How to find records for Waterford Ireland

Ann's question:
My ggggrandfather is listed by the family in the 1850 Md. USA census as being from Ireland........On an old piece of paper in the family archives is a pencil notation "Waterford".....I have tried to get info from Genuki, but there does not seem to ba any re Waterford.......Can you help?

AskOlive Answer: Hello Ann, The GenUKI page for Waterford Ireland is found here. You may want to check the Ireland GenWeb site for Waterford for further help

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Looking for the Westerland Voyage 1893

Michael's Question:
I just recently found a naturalization paper for Charles Michael Weber. He was born in Luxembourg, Luxembourg in August 1874. He came to the New York, New York on 14 January 1893 from Antwerp, Belgium on board the Westernland. I have looked in several websites including and I have not been able to find the ship’s passenger list to verify that he and possibly his father were truly on board. I am looking for the Westerland’s passenger list for that voyage. Can you give me any help?

AskOlive Answer:
Hello Michael, Be careful using a date of arrival found on a naturalization document unless it has been verified.
An immigrant who arrived after June 29, 1906 could not naturalize until the government located their immigration record (a passenger list). Petitions (not the Declarations) after 1906 have information that has been verified and matched to an immigration record. In fact a a certification
of the immigrant's arrival record was a required part of the process

Since Charles arrived circa 1893, his papers will not have a verification certificate and thus you may want to allow a few years on either side of any date given. I would search from 1891-1895 for Charles' arrival.

For help with naturalization records see USA Naturalization Records

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Finding Michigan or Canadian Birth Records

Marilynn's Question:
How can I find birth records from Michigan or Canada? I'm looking for records from 1821 to 1850.I have only the names of the people I am looking for. I would appreciate any tips.

AskOlive Answer: Hello Marilyn, Canada is a huge country, and every province and territory started keeping vital registrations at different time periods. You must narrow your search to (at the minimum!) a province or territory before you can find what records exist and where they are kept. For example Ontario did not start their Vital Registrations until 1869 and before that time period genealogists must check for church records. Depending on what county in Ontario ancestors lived, different church records have survived. See Canadian Genealogy for more help with finding Canadian genealogy records.

As for Michigan, the State of Michigan vital records office has records of births, deaths, and marriages that occurred in Michigan and were filed with the state as early as 1867. I would check the Michigan GenWeb site for the county of interest to you to find out what is available for the time period you need.

Also you may want to check out this Ancestor Birth Record Finder for more help

Friday, October 9, 2009

Finding Ancestors Who Immigrated via Canada to USA

Norma's Question:
I have been searching for the entry of my family. My grandfather came from
Solingen, Germany in approx 1884, and I understand his sister Emma, brother
Charles and maybe their father immigrated. I
cannot find the date of enter, passenger lists. The earliest date I have
found was 1894 when my grand-father married for the first time. I don't
know if they immigrated through Canada or not. Where do I look if I want to
find if they immigrated through Canada?

AskOlive Answer: Hello Norma

The National Archives of Canada (NAC) holds immigration records from 1865 to 1935.
Library and Archives Canada has digitized passenger lists for 1865 to 1935 as part of their new Moving Here, Staying Here
online exhibition

They're available as Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1922 As well, has these passenger lists indexed and linked to the actual images.

If you don't find what you are looking for, you may want to try Ships Passenger Lists to Canada 1865-1930