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Friday, January 29, 2010

Searching for German ancestors pre 1800

Linda's Question:
May I ask, how best to search for an ancestor from Germany or Prussia before 1800's.

Olive Tree Answer: Dear Linda: The best place to start learning about German genealogy is at

There are many how-tos, valuable maps, gazetteers, explanations of the political boundaries at different historical periods.

A warning, though. One which holds true for doing research in any country other than the one you are in: Get everything you can in your own country first. You will need precise dates and locations. Do not expect to be able to find country-wide vital record indices, do not expect helpful resources akin to the SSDI, and do not expect records (or websites) to be in English.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Name Changes - Myth or Fact?

Barbara asked
I hope you can help me with this one. My Great Uncle was Charles Gebhardt born in 1879 in Manhattan, New York. His parents are Friedrick and Annie Gebhardt. Charles was an accountant and when the anti-German sentiment was heating up before WW I he legally changed his last name to something like Gerrard. Is there a way to access the court records for this? I can't find a Charles Gerrard in the SSDI or 1920/30 censuses. Charles is first listed in 1880 census, born in August 1879. I also have him in the 1900 census. Friederick may be his middle name and Americanized as Frank since that's the way they listed his father in 1900.

OLIVE TREE ANSWER: Dear Barbara, I found a man who may be your Charles but there are discrepancies with what you have told me.

He is in the WW1 Draft Registrations on If it is your Charles, he is still using the Gebhardt surname. I also found the same man in the WW2 records, still using the Gebhardt name. He is also born in Germany, not New York. Here is what I found, I will leave it to you to figure out if this is the man you seek.

WW1 Draft Registrations

Charles Frank Gebhardt born 4 Aug 1879 (alien) registered Sept 12 1918. He is a Bartender at the Astor Hotel in Manhattan.

c/o J--- [can't read it] Stumpf
310 E. 57th St New York

U.S. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942

Name: Charles Frank Gebhardt
Birth Date: 4 Aug 1879
Birth Place: Frankfort
Residence: Queens, New York
Race: White
Roll: WWII_2371409

signs as "Frank" and says Helen LaCaz knows his address

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Don't Put all your Genealogy Eggs in One Basket!

Donald's Question:
Hiram Walker was born in Tennessee in 1807 and married Judah George in 1827. According to the 1880 Census his father, Alexander Walker, was born in Ireland and his mother was born in Pennsylvania. Since the Walkers were early Methodist, I beleive they came from Ultser to Philadelphia about 1780-1800. I can't find them on any of the 1810 or 1820 Censuses or on any ships list. Any assistance would be appreciated!

Olive Tree Answer: Donald - Unless you have other sources which confirm Hiram's father's birth in Ireland, I would hesitate to embark on a research tour of Ulster resources based on one census entry.

What do we know about Hiram's father? We know that he (or at least his wife) was in Tennessee in 1807.

When did Hiram die? Do you have his obituary or his death certificate? I assume that you have documentation which provided the father's name as Alexander.

I hope that you have done all the usual checking: followed other Walkers born in Tennessee living near Hiram, searched Tennessee Grantor/grantee indices, consulted TSL newspaper index, found any Walkers born in Tennessee which are of a similar age, (e.g. have you looked at the 1850 Census on for Polly Walker and her family? Polly born in Pennsylvania, her children state father was born in Virginia; three daughters Ann, Alcy, and Mary Walker White lived long enough to find death certificates for them).

You may want to have a look at the Ancestor Death Record Finder for more help with alternate ideas for death records other than obituaries or death certificates.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Looking for genealogy records for Mauritius

Jill asked
I am trying to find some information about an ancestor who was born in Pamplemousses Mauritius. I have very little information other than Marie Josephine Victorine Broughton Born: 19 Jul 1848
Died: 7 Jun 1910 in Adelaide in South Australia

Marie married James Osborne who was No 2451 in the Fifth Fusiliers – he enlisted 29 November 1846 Fought in the Crimean war 1853 – 1856 wounded in the leg. Transferred to Mauritius discharged from army 1857 born Carbrooke Norfolk Oct 1824 d.19 january 1910. South Australia

James was a batchelor when he married Anne Marie Bridgeman nee Larke on 15th July 1858 was a widower when he married Marie Josephine Victorine on 6 Feb 1869.
worked as Policeman on Mauritius till shot in the back by another policeman.(pvt O'Shanessy) Took Job as lighthouse keeper ot Cannonier Point Till 1881 then travelled by ship the Baque Coorong to Port Adelaide Australia. They had five children born in Mauritius and three born in South Australia

It is highly likely that Marie was the descendant of a slave. I am hoping for some ideas as to where to start researching in Mauritius

OLIVE TREE ANSWER: Dear Jill, This is a new area for me (Mauritius) but I'm always eager to learn more about different locations and their genealogy resources.

You may already be aware of this, but in case you are not - the National Library of Australia has information on various holdings when you search for Mauritius - Genealogy

Also, a search of the FamilySearch Library Catalogue for Mauritius brings up a list of their microfilmed records.

Have you found the death certificate for Marie? Sometimes there is information on parents. What about her marriage certificate? Was their a church record? That will often provide names of parents of both bride and groom.

With 8 children born to the couple, you may want to trace each child and their descendants. Often one branch of a family has information that another does not have! For instance you may find a descendant who has a family bible or original documents or even family lore. Family lore can be very helpful as you can use it as a working theory to prove or disprove.

What about naming patterns? Do you know the names of James' parents? Do they repeat in his children? If they do and if they are used in the first or second boy/girl, then you might theorize that Marie's parents are also honoured in the first or second boy/girl. To explain a bit more clearly, let's say that James and Marie name their first son John. Second son is Anthony. First daughter is Elizabeth and second daughter is Anna. If you know that James' parents were John and Anna, you can theorize that Marie's parents may well be Anthony and Elizabeth. It's a working theory, one you would research to prove or disprove.

Please let me know how you get on with this puzzle, I'm very intrigued.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Establishing a Genealogy Theory is Good but you must prove or disprove it!

Robin's Question (edited by me for space)
For many months I have tried to track down the parents of my gg grandmother.

Joseph Dougan Born: 1840, , Spencer, Indiana Died: 3 October 1865 of diesease at a hospital in Pine Bluff Ark while serving for the 1st Calvery, 28th Reg Company F for the Indiana Volunteers under the service of Captin James A. Pine.

1. Where is Joseph Dougan Burried?
2. Who are his parents?
3. Any other sibilings?

The Pension Papers state that he enlisted on Jan 4, 1864 in Company F Commanded by Cpt, James A Pine in the 28th Reg, of the Indiana Volunteers of the 1st Indiana Calv, in the war of 1861 and died of disease at Pine Bluff Ark on 3 October 1865

The Marriage Certificate that I have states that Joseph and Nancy married on 12 April 1860 in Spencer Co., Indiana

After the death of Nancy's first husband, she remarried to Marcus Lafayette Goodmon
Nancy and Joseph only had one child before his death.
Amanda Elizabeth Dougan Born: 22 March 1844 in Nashville, Davidson, TN Died: 5 May 1949 om Sherman, Grayson, TX

Olive Tree Answer Hello Robin. I think your information about Amanda, the daughter of Nancy and Joseph, is mis-typed. She cannot have been born in 1844 as that is when her mother Nancy was born. Nancy and Joseph married in 1860, perhaps you meant Amanda was born in 1864?

In any case, I believe your best method of finding out more about Joseph is to follow these suggestions:

1. Send for his military files from NARA (National Archives and Records Administration). You sent me information from online Civil War records and noted that the data does not match. There is a very good chance that more than one man named Joseph Dougan have been put together when they should be separate. Sending for your Joseph's files should solve the discrepancy problems.

2. Look for cemeteries that are in Pine Bluff Arkansas and write to them to ask if Joseph Dougan is buried there. Have you been to the Pine Bluff Library website?

3. Search the Pine Bluff Obituary Index: The index to the Pine Bluff Commercial, Pine Bluff Graphic, Pine Bluff News, Pine Bluff Dispatch, Pine Bluff Press-Eagle, Negro Spokesman, Jefferson Republican, Weekly Echo, and White Hall Journal. Contains over 266,500 entries from 1866 to present day.

4. Have you carefully checked the 1850 census for your Joseph? Be creative with his surname - you may find it as Dugan, Duggan, Dugen, Dogan, Dougan and so on.

I use the census records on but Footnote,comicon also has many online.

I had a quick look and found a 9 year old Joseph Dugan living in Ward, Randolph County Indiana in 1850 with parents and siblings. Since the age is right to be your ancestor, I'd check 1860 and see if this Joseph Dugan is still around or if he might be the man you want. In other words, your Joseph in 1860 is married and living with Nancy in Luce Spencer County. Is the "other" Joseph to be found? If yes then they are not the same man. If no, there is a chance they might be one individual and you will have to do more research to prove or disprove this.

5. Look at the names of Nancy's parents - if her mother is either Amanda or Elizabeth (the names given to Nancy's daughter by Joseph), then there is a good chance that Joseph's mother has the other name given to the daughter. This could provide a working theory for you to try to find the parents and Joseph in 1850 IF it turns out that the Joseph I found is not your ancestor.

6. YOu say you have Joseph and Nancy's marriage certificate. Are there any witnesses named? They may be family members and you may have a clue to other members of Joseph's family. I would take another look at that certificate and make sure you have not overlooked an important find.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

African American Genealogy - Finding that elusive ancestor

Tracey asked this question:
I am researching my Mackey family(african american) from Lancaster, South Carolina. I have located my great grandfather- Alex Mackey- which led me to his father- Peter Mackey( b. 1852) and Mother Charlotte Truesdale( b. 1854)I am having great difficulty locating birth/death information on either of them nor am I having success locating information on some of their children- I have located them in the 1880 and 1900 census. I have located their son Jack Mackey( b. 1874) and his children in the 1910 and 1920 census but can't find individual information n the children.

1874 Jack - m. Roselle(11 children and 1 grandchild))
1877 George
1881 Cally- m. Jon Steward(4 children)
1881 Lottie
1883 Cora
1885 Maggie
1887 Alexander( this is my great grandfather)
1888 Laura- m. burl Blackmon(5 children)
1890 Hester
1982 Jessie

I want to know who the slave owners were as well as who Peters father and mother were as well as Charlotte

Olive Tree Answer: Dear Tracey - I had so much fun with your query! This is the kind of challenge I enjoy. African-American research can be difficult, and once you reach the point where an ancestor was a slave, it is very frustrating to trace back further.

I did some searching on your behalf, which is not really the purpose of this blog, but being fascinated by your question, I could not help myself! I believe I have found Charlotte's parents and siblings, her year of death, and your ancestor Peter after 1900.

But first let me walk you through my suggestions:

Sometimes when faced with a stumbling block, it is a good idea to go back to what you have already found. For instance, you found your family in the 1880 and 1900 census records. You should go back to the 1880 census and see who was living nearby. I like to check at least one page before and after the page where my ancestors were living (as well as the page they are on). Look for others with the same surname. They may be related because often families lived near each other.

Also note the children's names and ages (which you have done) so that you can search in the previous census (in this case it would be 1870) under the children's names if you are unable to find the family using the parents' names.

Another suggestion is that you make full use of the new wild card search capabilities if you are searching the genealogy records. . Using this method you will be able to search for TR*D* for example, which will pick up Truesdale and variant spellings such as Trusdell, Truesdel, Truesdell, Trusdale.

The example I gave will not pick up misindexed spellings such as Truswell or Fransdale which are two actual examples of how I found some of the family indexed in later census years. To find those badly mistranscribed or misindexed spellings you may have to leave the surname out of your search and only search under a first name and an approximate year of birth. You will have to play around and try different techiques.

Remember too that often our ancestors had no idea how old they were or when their birthday was. So don't put too much weight on discrepancies in ages given in records such as census or marriage. Be sure you allow several years on either side of an estimated birth year, when searching for your ancestors.

Keeping all this in mind, I went to the 1880 census on I know it is free on FamilySearch but I like to use Ancestry. Checking the image for the page that Peter and Charlotte Mackey are on, I saw that a few doors away was the family of Robert Truesdale, age 55, a farm labourer born in South Carolina. With him was his wife Ann age 60 and several children ranging in age from 3 to 40. It is unlikely that the 3 year old is Ann's but we must remember that her age may be incorrect. In any case, my immediate thought was that Robert and Ann are strong candidates to be Charlotte's parents.

I call this a working theory. So my next step is to prove or disprove my theory! I want to find Robert and Ann in the 1870 census. With any luck your Charlotte will still be living with her parents and may be found with them.

This is where another little tip comes in handy - if you are unable to find an individual using the search engine, remove some of your fields (first name, surname, age, etc). Allow for such things as first name badly misindexed or only an initial being used, by not putting in a first name. Or search for a child instead of a parent. Since I know from the 1880 census that there are 4 children of Robert and Ann who were alive in that 1870 census, I can search under their names if my search for Robert fails. Which it does. Why? Because he is noted only with his initial (R) and surname.

Long story short, I found Robert and Ann and 6 children ranging in age from 4 to 24 living in Pleasant Hill, Lancaster County South Carolina. With them was their 11 year old daughter CHARLOTTE There are many Truesdale families living nearby including one that is white. Since black slaves often took the surname of their owners, you may want to start noting all the white Truesdale families in the area where your Charlotte or her parents lived.

As an aside, I also found some Mackey individuals who were black and one who was white, living in Gills Creek in 1870. I'd start looking at some of those Mackey families with your Peter in mind.

Next, have a look in the 1860 slave census records. The slaves' names are not listed but they do give gender and ages, so you can start making a list of possibilities for your Charlotte and Peter. For instance, a check of the 1860 slave schedule for Lancaster County South Carolina shows 3 slave owners named Truesdel - James R., Rebecca and Mary A. You could see if the ages and genders of their listed slaves fits with Robert, his wife Ann and the children found in the 1870 and 1880 census. It would not be proof positive that one of those listed was the slave owner of your Charlotte but it may turn into another working theory.

Because I was having so much fun working on your query, I had a look in census records after 1900. I found a man I believe is your Peter Mackey in 1910. He is living in Pleasant Hill which fits with the locations your ancestors lived in. He is 54, a black farmer and has been married twice. He is married to Julia and says he has been married 9 years. If he is your Peter, this means that your Charlotte, his first wife, died after the 1900 census was taken and before 1901. Another working theory for you to prove or disprove.

A Peter Mackey of the right age and race is found as a widower in the 1920 census. For this one I used the FamilySearch pilot site It may not be your Peter but you should take a close look at this record. Lending some validity to this being your Peter is the 1916 death record I found for a Julia Mackey living in Gills Creek with informant Peter Mackey

The FamilySearch website has some South Carolina death records which you may want to search. also has South Carolina death records. Look for Peter, Charlotte, Robert, Ann and all the children of Robert and Ann, as well as the children of Peter and Charlotte.You may find for example that Ann Truesdale's maiden name is given on a death record of one her children.

There's an intiguing death of a Peter Mackey in 1933 in Gills Creek with a Jack Mackey as informant. Given that your Peter's eldest child was a son Jack, I find this quite interesting! The age given at death is 72 which gives an estimated year of birth of 1861 but I would not eliminate him as your Peter. Remember that the information on a death record is only as reliable as the informant providing it! Peter's father's name is given on this record so you might want to investigate further.

I also found some other convincing evidence that this is your Peter's death. In the 1930 census for Gills Creek, there is a Peter Mackey (misindexed as Markey, do you see why those wildcards are so important? A search under MACKEY would not find him. A search under M*K*Y will find him!) age 70 living with his grandson James Stewart. You stated that Peter's daughter callie married a Jon Stewart. Also, one of Peter's neighbours is none other than Limus (or Linus) Truesdale, who was one of the sons of Robert and Ann (and thus quite likely the brother of Peter's wife Charlotte).

So, I think I've given you lots to think about and hopefully lots more to research and find! Don't give up, just check every detail of every person in the families you seek - siblings, aunts, uncles and so on. Don't overlook anyone, you never know what hidden clue will be waiting for you!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Genealogy Research Needs Sources, not Guesses

Jane's Question:
I am trying to trace the birth place of John Chesterman approx 1793? I believe he was born in Reading, Berkshire but for some reason he went to live in the Isle of Man. While in IOM he married Sophia Christian and had many children, of whom I am descendant. I know when he died and that he was in Castle Rushen jail for debt when he died. His birth details are still a mystery and no one seems to be able to help in my search.

I have tried many many sites for geneology and different forums but still we cannot find his birth.Someone told me that they thought he changed his name from Thomas to John, but still no trace of a Thomas either. Any idea's would be greatly appreciated.

OLIVE TREE ANSWER: Dear Jane, It seems from reading your query that you have relied heavily on hearsay and vague information from others, without sources. You also say that you have tried to find John's birthplace but you haven't told me where you looked.

Often we will find ourselves with no one to ask about an ancestor. Finding details on an individual requires the usual research - birth, marriage and death certificates, census records, newspapers for obituaries or notices, land records, court records and so on.

Since your John Chesterman was born circa 1793 you will need church records for his birth or baptism. Have you been to the Reading Berkshire website to see what is available for the 1790s? I believe that manyt Berkshire Parish Registers have had their baptisms and marriages extracted into the International Genealogical Index (IGI) which can be found at the Family History Library site. Be creative in your spelling of his surname!

Because there is very likely more than one man named John Chesterman, you will have to use other clues (such as the naming pattern of his children) to theorize which might be the correct man. Look at the parents' names - see if they are repeated in John's children's names. It isn't proof positive but it gives you an educated theory to go on.

Be very careful looking for a Thomas when you have found him in records as John. You may indeed find a man named Thomas Chesterman but unless you have more proof that he is one and the same as your John, you are just making wild guesses. It is fine to theorize that ancestor A is the son or daughter of Individual B. But you must look for sources to either prove or disprove that theory! Otherwise you are just guessing.

Take a peek at this article, you may find it helpful "Genealogy Without Sources is Mythology!"

If all else fails, you might want to trace each of John's children, not just your own line. Perhaps you will find mention of grandparents (John's parents) or another clue in records for the children.

The best advice I can give you is to leave no stone unturned! Be diligent, go slow, and search all family members and all resources available to find John's parentage.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Finding a Jewish ancestor

Dan's Question:
My wife’s great grandfather’s last years and his death are somewhat of a mystery. I hope you can assist. He was Louis Rubenstein.
While I have some specific dates about him in Chicago, here’s the jist.
He lived with his wife Henrietta Pearlstein in Chicago, raising four children.
She died in childbirth with the last child, he placed a couple into an orphanage in Cleveland, and tried raising the older two. He retrieved the two in the orphanage “with his new wife” around 1882. And, that’s the last we heard of him.

The family believes that he and his new wife moved to New York City and died in a Jewish home for the elderly there around 1920, or so.I’d like your advice in one major area now: find his re-marriage and new wife’s info; and also where/when did he die.

I’m eager to access the various Homes-for-the-elderly’s resident records, around 1920. How can I do this, and what recommendation do you have??

Olive Tree Answer:
Dear Dan - Unfortunately, there are no readily available records of Homes for the Elderly. There being no Medicare, no Social Security, no federal programs for the elderly, official documents are not to be found. Additionally, there were few assisted-living facilities: most folks simply moved in with their children.

You will have to rely upon traditional research avenues to find Louis and his new family.

The Illinois State archives has pre-1900 marriages online. If he married in Illinois you can obtain the marriage information. You will have to spend some time there, as the Search function is precise: no soundex, no miracode.

Likewise the information for the death of Henrietta may be found there (if she died in Illinois, it is possible that they moved after April 1880 census).

Have you looked at City Directories for Chicago and Cleveland? There must have been a reason for him to have chosen a Cleveland orphanage. Both Footnote,comicon and have City Directories.

Follow the known children. Obtain their census, marriage, death records. When you find a birthdate for Maurice, you will (presumably) have an approximate date for Henrietta's death. I use the census records on but Footnote,comicon also has many online. You may find other sites that have the census records you need.

Louis and his new wife may be living with one of those children; and if his new wife was younger than he, they could have more children. And the data collected on those kids will supply a maiden name for the second wife.

It will be quite a challenge to find the correct Louis Rubenstein in 1920 NYC census if you do not have additional information at hand. Can I assume you have consulted Jewish Gen for help with Jewish genealogy records such as Senior Homes?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Use of John versus James

Nick & Carol asked:
Did men use the name John for the name James in the late 1800's and early 1900's? I am finding that the man I am researching was James when born, but using John on draft registraion, census, and marriage records

Olive Tree Answer: Hello Nick/Carol: The use of John for the given name James is not a standard exchange. James can be found as Jacob in the 17th and 18th centuries, and John can be found as Jack in the 20th century.

It is very possible that your ancestor had both names as a first and middle name - John James or James John. It is common to see first and middle names used interchangeably throughout a man's life (or a woman). It makes our research much more of a challenge!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Finding a Canadian Naturalization Record

Arnold's Question (edited):
I can not find the Naturalization Records for my Great Aunt Becky (Pesse) and Great Uncle Isidore (Yitzhak) Yetnikoff, who lived in Montreal, Quebec Canada after they each immigrated to Canada separately and were married in 1914.

Becky (Pesse Meyerowitz) was born in Jacobstadt, Russia on July 23, 1889. She left Russia in September of 1907. My great aunt is listed in both the Hamburg and Ellis Island passenger ship records. My great aunt and uncle were married in 1914 in Montreal. Becky remained in Canada the remainder of her life and died in 1982 at 92 years of age.

My Great Uncle Isidore Yetnikoff was born in Yetaterinslav, Ukraine in April of 1892. He came to Canada with his parents Beryl and Leah (Vashevnikov) Yetnikoff and their 6 European born children, between 1902 and 1906. I do not know the name of the ship, or the port that they entered Canada. I presume that Isidore and Becky became Naturalized Canadian Citizens sometime after their marriage in 1914. Isidore passed away in Montreal in 1974. I would appreciate if you could help me break through this brick wall.

Olive Tree Answer: Hello Arnold, it seems you have done quite a bit of research on your great aunt and uncle. One thing that you might be overlooking is that they may never have naturalized. Naturalization was optional, not mandatory.

However, if you have not already done so, you may want to take a look at the Canadian Naturalization Records website.

You may be in luck because Citizenship and Immigration Canada holds records of naturalization and citizenship from 1854. The originals of records dated between 1854 and 1917 have been destroyed. However a nominal card index survives. It provides information compiled at the time of naturalization, such as present and former place of residence, former nationality, occupation, date of certification, name and location of the responsible court. The index rarely contains any other genealogical information.

You can also search The Canadian Naturalization databases which contain references to people who applied for and received status as naturalized Canadians from 1915 to 1932. A new Version of the Canadian Naturalization 1915-1932 Database became available as of July 22, 2009, held at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). It now includes the names of 206,731 individuals who applied for and received status as naturalized Canadians from 1915 to 1932. It is searchable online. I am having trouble connecting to it this morning, but you can use the link provided at the Canadian Naturalization Records website.

Don't overlook the 1940 Registration File. This resulted from the compulsory registration of all persons, 16 years of age or older, in the period from 1940 to 1946. This is another way to find an ancestor in that time period. This is a Census Substitute, not a naturalization record. However the forms did ask if the person was naturalized, and if so, what year and what place they naturlalized in. The forms also ask the year of immigration to Canada if not born in Canada.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Finding an Ancestor in pre 1715 New York

Ken asked:
I have been unable to locate information on the arrival and parents of Peter Zeluff/Zeliff since his first apparent appearance on the Staten Island Militia records of 1715. His name is believed to found there spelled "Cielof". He marries Blandina Van Pelt on the island about 1723. Her Mother was a Borgardus and a descendant of Nicassicus DeSille. He does not seem to be from the Palatinate, although records don't confirm or disaffirm this. He simply appears on Staten Island and would likely have been about 16 when he enrolls in the militia, his name is above Peter Van Pelt, his future father in law on this rolls. I have run into a brick wall. It is tantalizing to think he is of the Uzille family, but the existing records that I have seen don't support this connection. What do I need to do to expand my search ?

Olive Tree Answer: Hello Ken, I know how frustrating searching early New York and New Netherland ancestors can be. However I can't give you suggestions for expanding your search as you have not told me what sources you have used! So I would have to suggest the usual - check the early church records, check land records, check court records (there are excellent early court documents available), check early census records (there is a 1706 census for example).

What I suggest is that you look at the children of this couple. You seem to have good knowledge of Blandina Van Pelt's ancestors. So check the naming pattern of the children. Do they name any of their children after Blandina's parents? If they do, and if they are one of the first two male or female babies born to the couple, you can theorize that the other male and female names (within the first two born) might be Peter's parents' names. Remember, this is just a theory, but it's based on common naming practices wherein the first two female children are named for the grandmothers, and the first two male children for the grandfathers.

Next, have a look at baptismal sponsors (assuming you can find the baptisms of Peter and Blandina's children). Relatives and family friends were most often used. So I would research every sponsor named in the church records and find out exactly how/if they are related to Peter and Blandina. You may get lucky and find a relative of Peter's.

If you do not find a relative of Peter's, then you are possibly looking at a young man who came to New York (New Netherland) as an orphan or as an adventurer who left his family and struck out on his own. Perhaps Peter was in trouble in his homeland and left to escape jail or for financial reasons. But take the best case scenario first and check on those baptismal sponsors and Peter & Blandina's naming of their children.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Finding outbound ships passenger lists from USA

Don & Theresa asked:
Are they any shipping records available on the internet on people that return to Europe from the Port of New York during the years 1920- 1928.

Olive Tree Answer: Neither USA nor Canada kept outbound shipping lists. However you can look for INBOUND ships passenger lists for your port(s) of interest.

See Ships Passenger Lists for more help and ideas. Also check the Archives of whatever country you believe your ancestor sailed to. You will be able to find out if that county has inbound lists and if so, what is available and where they are held.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Writing a Good Genealogy Query (revisited)

Bob asked:
I have been using Ancestry and did pretty good. My father was Robert Ernest Legg married to Clara Jane Bryhl. His Father was Guy Ellsworth Legg married to Carrie Belle Coomer. His father was William A. Legg married to Louisa Fleming. His father was Alexander Legg married to Clarrissa Allen. This as far as I got with the Legg's. I would appreciate all the help I can get.

Olive Tree Answer: Dear Bob, I'm afraid you've neglected 2 of the very important 3 "W"s needed when asking for help.

You've given me WHO but not the WHERE and WHEN. So I don't know if your family was located in Canada, USA, England, Germany or ... another country.

I also don't know dates. Even approximate dates would be helpful. So not knowing how old YOU are, I can't guestimate years for your parents, grandparents and so on. You could be 20 or you could be 80, as an example. That would make a huge difference as to years of birth of your ancestors.

So all I can advise you to do is to keep searching and tracing your ancestors backwards (as you have done). Look for birth, marriage and death records. Look for census records.

You may want to look at Writing a Good Query or the tutorial called Good Query, Bad Query for help and suggestions to make your genealogy queries the best they can be.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Where to find records of Dutch Church in Brooklyn New York 1600s

Barbara's Question:
I need to verify baptismal records from the Brooklyn church for around 1659, where can I find those records online?

Olive Tree Answer: Hello Barbara. The first records in existence from the Old First Dutch Reformed Church of Brookyn New York begin in 1660.

The first baptism is recorded 31 October 1660 for Helena, daugher of Adam Brouwer and Magdaleen Jacobs.

The first marriage recorded is 31 Oct. 1660 for Sigismund Lucas and Getruijd Buldering.

These records have been published in New York Historical Manuscripts Dutch.

I'm afraid you're out of luck for the year 1659 and the first 10 months of 1660! See New Netherland section of Olive Tree Genealogy for more help with these early church records.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Jamaican Research Queries

Kwame's Question:
I found you on Twitter. I'm doing genealogical research on Jamaica. I'm looking for my great grandparents. I need some help.

Olive Tree Answer: Hello Kwame, I would be happy to help you with your Jamaican research. There have not been many discussions at Olive Tree Genealogy about Jamaica, and I am eager to start one.

But West Indies research is not a simple process. And the answers will, like most genealogical answers, depend upon the 3 W's. When your family was there, What religion were they, Where did they come from (e.g. England).

And your query should include Who they are (their names), and What you have already done.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Searching for ancestors in New Jersey

Frank's Question:
I'm looking for parents of Eliza Conklin, 1808-1849, m. Simeon Ackerman- children Caroline 1829, James '31, Josephine '33, Elizabeth '35, Ann '36 (my ancestor), Cornelia '38, Rachel '39, Wilson '42, John '43, William '46, infant son '49.

They were married in Ponds Church, Oakland, NJ 22 Sep 1827, which makes me think she may come from there. Ponds Church burned later in the 1800's, so no record there. I called the church- Simeon is buried there, but Eliza doesn't seem to be (I talked to the cemetery caretaker).

James and Elizabeth are Simeon's parents, Cornelia is his grandmother's name, but none of the other names can I find in his family.

Olive Tree Answer: Hi Frank. You might try getting Eliza's death certificate. New Jersey archives has death certificates available from May 1848. The link will take you to an online Death Request form.

See the 1850 Mortality schedule - there is an Eliza Ackerman age 41, who died Franklin, Bergen County in November of 1849 (and an Eliza Ackerman age some months, who died in May 1850). I use the census records on but Footnote,comicon also has many online.

And look for Bergen County records for a copy of the marriage license. There may be a Conklin witness present. You might want to consult Ancestor Marriage Record Finder for more ideas on where to hunt for an elusive marriage

You did not say where you lived, but if you live in or near New Jersey, (or near a major library) look at the "New Jersey Archives" set. This is not a brick building, it is a multi-volume set of books, "Documents Relating to the Colonial, Revolutionary and Post-Revolutionary History of the State of New Jersey" The first series has about forty books, the second series about ten. I have not accessed the third series, and I cannot remember how many books there were. Some of the volumes are indexed, and there are (by different authors) published indices to these volumes as well.

Look for Conklin wills which mention Ackerman heirs (and vice versa). And if you find such, order the estate records from New Jersey Archives, (the brick building).

Friday, January 8, 2010

Finding a Marriage Record in Oklahoma

Juanita's Question:
My gr grandmother was first married in Ohio in 1875, later moving to Iowa where her husband died in early 1882. I lost track of her after that until recently when I found her on the 1910 Creek Co. Oklahoma census, town of Sapulpa, with a new husband. She indicated they'd been married 8 years. They were not Indian.

I'm trying to find a record of this marriage which I suspect occurred in Indian Territory. Can anyone give me a clue about where to look? I checked the District Court in Muskogee OK which I understand is the repository of marriages for Creek Co. before Statehood (1907) but was advised they had no record.

Her name: Clara (Stidger) HAMPTON. Her 2nd husband, according to the census, James TOLE. I know nothing more about him, except I found both Clara and James Tole died in Kansas City MO. I have copies of their death certificates, but need date and place of their marriage.

Olive Tree Answer: Dear Juanita - You have done your homework as far as Oklahoma is concerned, but we need to take a step back. An awful lot can happen in 18 years.

It is important that we find Clara (and James) in the 1900 census. There is nothing which decrees that, because they are in Creek County in 1910, that they were married there eight years previously. Clara may have been living with a brother or sister or an inlaw. Check for those siblings of hers, and her first husband's. I use the census records on but Footnote,comicon also has many online.

You might find James in the 1900 census and via city directories. Just remember that the directory information is up to a year old, there being no laser printers or corner Office Max stores about.

You did not mention her first husband: I will assume that he was not receiving a Civil War pension. If he had been, check to see if there was a widow's pension. (There will be addresses for Clara if she had applied.) has Civil War Pensions online. Also check Footnote,comicon for their military records.

While you are following her siblings and those of Mr. Hampton, look for obituaries or social notes for them in local newspapers for those years 1882 - 1910 where Clara is "missing." There might be a mention of "and sister Clara Hampton of Battle Creek Michigan" or "Mrs. Kleidinghopper held a tea for her sister, Mrs. Clara Hampton of Dallas." Your best newspaper resource is probably or

Lastly, you may want to refer to my Ancestor Marriage Record Finder for more ideas on where to hunt for that elusive record.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How to Find the Port of Departure on a Ships Passenger List

Sharon asked
I'm interested in finding out what port of departure my
great grandparents came from when they came to America in
March, 1888. They left Alsace Lorraine--Cologne, France
(at that time) and port of arrival was on March 17, 1888 in
Castle Garden.

AskOlive Answer: Sharon, if you have the passenger list for your ancestors, all you need to do is go to the first page of the list (manifest). That page shows details - Captain's name, date of departure, port of departure and so on. I use for their complete ships passenger lists but you may have access elsewhere.

Just as a little correction to your query - Castle Garden was not a "PORT". It was a processing station for immigrants used between 1855 and 1890 for ships sailing into the port of New York.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy Belated Birthday to AskOliveTree!

On Jan 3rd, AskOliveTree Blog was one year old. In that year, I have answered 247 questions from genealogy researchers. Phew! I hope my answers were helpful.

I know there are 365 days in a year but I had surgery and was hospitalized for some of those, then recovering and unable to sit at the computer for almost a month. So all in all, I'm pretty happy with my record!

Answering one query each day is almost impossible, so this year (2010) my more realistic goal is to respond to 5 queries each week. Can I do it? 5x52=260. I almost made it last year!

I do have more surgery looming on the horizon. Two, actually. The next one is March 1, 2010 and I don't know what the recovery period is for that one. But I'm still going to try to answer at least 5 queries each week, so wish me luck! And send your challenges, puzzles and brick walls to

Using Google to Find Unknown Places

Robert asked
I have been doing research on my Swedish ancestors, and common places I see they are from are Sanna and Stodene. I cannot locate these areas; could you please tell me what county/counties they are in?

Olive Tree Answer: Robert, I'm not sure where you've been looking but I did a Google search for Stodene and found that it is a populated place in Varmland in Sweden.

This link provides you with nearby places and the latitude and longitude so you can find it on a map. I'll leave you to find Sanna using the same method I did but here's a little hint -- if you read the list of "Places near Stodene" on the page at the URL above, you will find Sanna... and a link to read about it.

The moral of this answer is "Never underestimate the power of an online search engine. Or a good map"

Monday, January 4, 2010

Newspapers are a great genealogy resource!

Karen's Question:
I am trying to locate the birthplace of my gg grandfather, August Frederick Bredow/Bradow.

August was born in Germany (probably the Berlin area) in Feb. of 1855. He died in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania on March 6, 1922. According to both the 1910 and 1920 censuses, he immigrated in 1882 and was naturalized in 1887, as was his wife, Anna Scheeler.

Here is my research for his residence (or possible residence) after emigrating:

1883 - wife Anna's sister is born in Maryland. According to censuses, there are Scheelers in Talbot County, Cumberland and Baltimore.

1889 - August and Anna married, according to 1910 and 1920 censuses, location unknown.

1889/1890 - August Bradow is listed in the Youngstown Ohio city Directory as a scale maker working for the Forsyth Scale Company, 378 Summit Ave. Forsythe Scale Company is not listed in a 1902 directory, so perhaps that explains his move to Pennsylvania.

1890 and 1893 - sons Frederick and John are born in Ohio.

1898 - daughter Martha born in Pennsylvania, probably Bellefonte.

1900 census - August Brads/Brado living in Bellefonte on S. Spring St. He probably worked for the Standard Scale and Supply Company, which relocated to Beaver Falls in 1903. He was working for Standard Scale when he died in 1922.

1905 - August Bradow listed in the Beaver Falls city directory.

1910 and 1920 censuses show the family living in Beaver Falls.

Family history claims that August entered the United States through one of the Great Lakes ports, though I haven't been able to find anything to substantiate that.

Any guidance you can give would be greatly appreciated.

Olive Tree Answer: Dear Karen, It helps us to understand the travels of our ancestors when we look at maps: Youngstown and Beaver Falls are quite near each other, and of course, both are located close to Cleveland and Erie ports.

Have you obtained the death information for August and Anna?

The process of finding naturalization records is not an easy one: seekers of citizenship could have applied at any court during the process, and those who moved about may have their various papers scattered over several states. But the effort is occasionally worth it.
Footnote has a Western PA Naturalization index online.

Footnote.comicon has Naturalization Records online. Also see website for free Naturalization Records and other citizenship papers

Have you followed up on sons Frederick and John? Some records of theirs may give exact birthplace. That location should lead you to church records: and occasionally, church records offer surprising informatin about where parishioners were baptised, married, or what church they transferred from.

Look at local newspapers: in Youngstown and especially Beaver Falls. There may have been birth announcements, announcements of the marriages of the sons, and obituaries of August and Anna. You may also be fortunate and find mention of in-laws or family visiting the Bradow household. has many newspapers. You can also Search Obituaries in

The Youngstown/Mahoning County Public Library has a card index for the Youngstown Vindicator (which covers the relevant years).

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Finding the shtetl where an ancestor came from

MR asked
I am trying to locate the shtetl my grandmother, Fannie (Fanny) Cohen Yudien (Yudin) came from.

Fannie was born February 12,1893 and according to family information, she came to the U.S. when she was about 5 years old from Russia/Poland. Her father's name was Morris and her mother's name is unknown. Her stepmother's name was Jennie (Chainie/Shayne/Jenney) Meyerson.

According to (April 22) 1910 US Federal Census Records (for Morris F. Cohen): Fannie (they have her listed as Frances, but I think the census taker must have confused her with my grandfather's stepchildren because "Fannie" is listed as only 6, (but my grandmother was born in 1893) and I know this Census was taken after my grandfather's second marriage to Jenny (it says, "M2" indicating second marriage, married for "0" years) and "Fannie" not "Frances" was about 17 years old. The 6 year old must have been Jennie's child from her first marriage. [I saw her in 1920 Census Report as Fanny Meyerson]). They listed Fannie (my grandmother) as coming in 1899 from Russia, "Pol" (Poland?) was crossed out. Evidently Morris re-married some time between 1909-10.

According to 1920 US Federal Census Records (for Morris Cohen): Her father, Morris Cohen, came from Russia in 1895. (If Fannie arrived in 1899, did she come with her mother a few years after her father emigrated?)

According to the 1930 US Federal Census (for Sam and Fannie Yudien): Fannie was born in Poland. Because of the discrepancy of point of origin--Russia or Poland, I assume the shtetl was near the Polish/Russian border of the time (late 1800's).

According to my grandfather, Sam Yudien's, Petition For Naturalization in 1918, Fannie was born in "Ustalenky, Russia" (is this a shetl or a region/province?). I assume that this location was written phonetically because I can't find this location. On, in searching for shtetls, I found similar names (at least similar to my American ear!): Ust'Tsilenskiy Rayon (region of Republic of Komki, Russia, 825.8 miles from Moskow) and Ustye-Zelenoye (in the Ukraine). I used a text-to-speech reader, Expressivo online to listen to the pronunciation. However, neither of these locations are near the Polish border.

So, my questions: 1. How do I find the real shetl and how do I find a family that has a very common last name (Cohen) in the Russian Empire?

2. How do I locate the ship Fannie/Morris arrived on? I have gone into the immigration/ships listings found on, but there are so many Morris Cohen's, and I couldn't find anything that would match the criteria for Fannie (or Fannie) Cohen. (as an additional note, besides Meyer and Clara (born in U.S.), my grandmother had a full brother, Charlie Cohen, probably born in Russia also).

Olive Tree Answer:

The last sentence was the most important. No matter how impartial we strive to be, it is a fact that it is far easier to trace men than women.

I suggest you follow the brother Charles. Or whatever his original first name was. You may want to read my post "Finding an Ancestor Who Disappears

Find the 1900 census for the Morris Cohen family. This may be crucial as Morris' first wife may be there. If she is, then you can work on the assumption that she died in NY, and look for her death information. I use the census records on but Footnote,comicon also has many online.

You should also look for Morris' second marriage license. Occasionally, people did fill in their actual birthplaces.

Did Morris or Charles apply for naturalizations? Footnote.comicon has Naturalization Records online. Also see website for free Naturalization Records and other citizenship papers

And do not assume a birthplace of Russia or Poland or anything in between until you have exhausted all other avenues of research. Reigns and realms and borders changed; names of countries changed; people supplied whatever answer to the census-taker they thought expedient.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Using Naturalization Records to find Ancestors

Bill's Question:
I have yet to find any of my ancestors through the many lists in Olive Tree. The most elusive at this time are my great grandparents, Michael and Mary McDermott.

Michael and Mary came over, according to the 1910 census, in 1881. They were married in Haslingden, Lancashire, England on 25 April 1881. In the 1881 census in Hapton, Lancashire, England, Michael is living alone in a rooming house of some kind. My assumption is that the census is just prior to the wedding.

In the 1900 and 1920 census, they indicate they came over in 1882. Their first child, John Aloysius McDermott, was born 23 May 1882 in Chicago, Illinois. So, sometime between 25 April 1881 and 23 May 1882 they came over to the US.

I have checked ships to the US from England both on Olive Tree and Ancestry to no avail. Someone said they may have come through Canada. I have yet to find them there either. In addition, I have checked the Castle Garden website. The Ellis Island site would do me no good since the dates do not coincide with the beginning of Ellis Island.

I do find Michael McDermotts coming from England to the US, but none with a Mary. Conversely, I also find many Mary McDermotts on many ships, but none with a Michael. Also, many times the ages do not line up. I know that ages can be misleading, but if I could find one list with both on them that would be great.

I am not sure where to go from here.

Olive Tree Answer: Dear Bill.
Our ancestors do not always make things easy for us; often times, members of the family traveled here at different times. And they may have travelled by different routes. You may never find your Michael and Mary travelling together.

However, you are fortunate that your family was in Chicago. There are many resources for you to turn to.

Michael indicates that he was naturalized; his application may give more details on his emigration date. And if he was naturalized before 1892, the Chicago Voter Registration files will supply details which will assist in finding the exact date of naturalization. Footnote.comicon has Naturalization Records online. Also see website for free Naturalization Records and other citizenship papers

Friday, January 1, 2010

Finding a Passenger List for a Ship

Angus' Question (edited for brevity)
My father spent 7 years in the merchant navy on this ship "Alstron(m)" during 1920 to 1930.I have some data on a "Alstron" furnished by Llyods of course, and even crew lists for the even years, yet he William (Bill) Elliott, was not listed.I have not been privy to the data on the odd years, because it is housed in the Archives in England, maybe you can help. I have a picture (postcard), depicting the crew of the "Alstron" which shows four men in a group shot in the deck of said ship. Question is was there a ship " Alstrom" as well as a "Alston".Am I looking at the wrong Manifests.

Olive Tree Answer:
Dear Angus, If you are asking about merchant ships, I suggest you go look at

If you want information from the National Archives, go back to their website and check again: they add more and more data online every year.

There is a research guide available: Merchant Seamen: Log Books, Agreements and Crew Lists after 1861 - Domestic Records Information 91

You will need to hire a local researcher to look through these records for you.

If you wanted to find William Elliot on a passenger list, you needed to supply some information about William: what country was he from and when was he born.

There are passenger lists available for inward to England, and outward from England; when merchant ships also carried passengers, crews were listed. Inbound lists are online at; outbound lists are at and at