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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Finding Information on an Adopted Ancestor

My great grandmother was adopted. We have a certificate from the Wartburg Orphans Farm School saying that she was born February 4, 1905 in Brooklyn. Her name was Emma Pearl Meyer (Meyer is the adopted name). Is there anyway of finding out her nationality. Are there records from this orphanage?
from Tabitha
OLIVE TREE ANSWER: Tabitha, there may be records of that orphanage. I would write to them directly (if they still exist) and ask for any details they can provide.

Also see the online catalogue of to check if they have microfilm records for that orphanage.

Have you checked Brooklyn Births (Vital Statistics) for the birth of a child on the specific day and year you have for Emma? I would not overlook this as a possible way to find her and her parents.

Last but not least, I'd check the online census records for 1910, 1920 and 1930 to see what is said about Emma. I like for Census records but you may have another favourite site for USA Census.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Proving Statements in Obituaries

Question from Marguerite :
Would you by any chance know any information about the great grandfather of General Lew Wallace?

I have transcripts of obits for my 3 great grandfather, James Madison Wallace (b. 1810 Huntington Co, Pennsylvania, d. 1889, Loudoun Co, Virginia), son of William Wallace m. Bethia Steel. They both state that James Madison Wallace is a first cousin of General Lew Wallace. The one in VA states "their fathers were brothers" but this phrase is omitted in the PA obit.

Can you fill in any information? I suspect that the father of "my" James is the brother of the grandfather of Lew. Is there any way this can be proven?

OLIVE TREE ANSWER: Hi Marguerite - to prove (or DISprove) that these men were brothers, you will need to find reference to each of them with parents. So you will need birth or baptism records, or marriage records or census records when they are still at home with their parents. Census is not going to work for you given the years of birth. So that leaves marriages and births or baptisms.

You may want to have a look at Ancestor Birth Record Finder and Ancestor Marriage Record Finder for ideas on where to look for hard-to-find birth or marriage records.

You could also hunt for obituaries for both men - General Lew Wallace and the father of your James (William) but don't forget that an obituary was not written by the individual him/herself. Therefore it is only as reliable as the person who submitted it - and they may or may not know the facts.

Last but certainly not least, hunt for a biography of Lew Wallace and obtain more information on his parents and siblings. I had a quick search online and found dozens of bios. One states that

General Lewis Wallace, known for most of his life as “Lew,” was born in Brookville,Indiana, on April 10, 1827. He was the second of four sons born to David and Esther Test Wallace.

It goes on to say that one son, John, died at a young age. So that leaves 2 brothers for Lew and you will want to find out if one was named William. If the answer is "yes" is it YOUR William? Should be a fun time for you!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Use Census Records and Newspapers to Learn about an Ancestor's Life

Stephen asked
I am looking for any information that you might have about Jessie Robbins Belmont (1864-1935). I am trying to piece together information about this women whom I don’t know much about. I know her father came from the Bronx New York and his name was Daniel Robbins. Her mother is a total mystery to me ? I know she married Perry Belmont on April 18th 1899. But I know very little (which I would love to know) about her upbringing, and young life. I also would love to know about her older life as a women while she was married in New York and living in Washington DC. I do also know that she spent the last 20 years of her life alone in Paris Francis and dieded in the fall of 1935. Having pictures is a must either by themselves on in the articles that you might send to me. Thank you and I hope you can find me something on this women

OLIVE TREE ANSWER: Stephen, you're in luck because the census records will give you information on Jessie's early life. She should be in 1870 with her parents and 1880 possibly still with her parents. You will be able to find out if she had siblings too.

You could then trace backwards - to 1860 - using her parents' names and birth years and locations. Keep going back as far as you can with census and organize her family group (siblings, parents, grandparents etc)

I like for census but you may have another site you prefer or access at a library.

Have you consulted newspapers for stories of her life? She may be there, or not, it's hit and miss.

Photos are another thing entirely. The only way you will find photos is if you are lucky enough to see any in a newspaper article, or by connecting with other descendants. Perhaps some will have photographs of her.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


K.I.S.S. = Keep it Simple, Sweetie

The image you see below is from a very nice woman.

She's written me before for help.

I like her.

I try to help when I can.

But her last email came in the fonts you see below, and there were 7 paragraphs of those fonts, each paragraph about the size of the one below.

"Big deal, what's the problem?" I hear you asking yourself.

The problem is simple. When you ask someone for help, you should make their life easy not difficult. The easier you make it for them to help you, the more likely you are to get a response.

Keeping it simple = Making it easy.

The best way to keep things simple and make it easy for others to help you is:

* 1. Make your query concise but provide needed details (dates, names, locations).

* 2. Write a query that is easy on the eyes. That means NO FANCY FONTS!! Not everyone has perfect vision. Not everyone can read page after page of fancy fonts.

Those are the two most important "rules" to follow when asking for help.

In the case of the query sent to me in those dreadful fonts - and I say dreadful because they hurt my eyes - I cannot read it. So as much as I like the woman who sent it, it's going in my trash.

Yes, I could copy it and paste it in WORD and change the fonts so that I can see them but why should I have to? Remember the person doing the asking is not supposed to make more work for the person helping!

So the very lovely lady who wrote me using these fonts - please don't be offended that I used your query as an example. I clipped out names so no one would know it was you. I apologize for using your email but it was a good example!

I get many queries in elaborate fonts. I get queries written in coloured fonts (often quite light) on coloured background. I get queries that ramble on for pages. I get queries that have no punctuation. I get queries that don't space out their sentences into paragraphs with nice white spaces between.

I don't respond to those queries. Many times I can't read them! They are too hard on my eyes. Remember not everyone has perfect vision. I don't.

I have very bad eyesight and I use a monitor that is 24 inches wide to make things larger. I also have an eye condition that makes it painful for me to read online or off. And forget light colours on light backgrounds, you may as well write in invisible ink!

The reading I do (queries, website work etc) has to be as painfree as possible.

Remember - K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, sweetie)

And a personal note to the woman who wrote this query above - please resend it in non fancy fonts and I'll be happy to help!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Finding a Birth at Sea

Shirley asked
How can I trace an ancestor's birth if he were "born at sea" in 1830? I think the ship MAY have been from Germany or Ireland and arrived in (possibly) Philadelphia in that year.

I know he went on to marry Catherine Leonard. They lived and died in Pennsylvania (both died in 1855...coincidence or tragedy? They had a son named Samuel K. Linard sometimes shown as Saml Linard, Samuel H. Linard who was born May 9, 1852 in Madison twp, Perry County, Pennsylvania

OLIVE TREE ANSWER: Hi Shirley - if your ancestor were born on board a ship, his name or a record of the birth of an infant would almost certainly be found on the ship manifest.

You're in luck since Pennsylvania archived ships passenger lists as early as 1800. I would begin searching for his parents on ships passenger lists to America (don't limit your search to Pennsylvania)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Lost & Found WW2 Dog Tags Still Not Home

We have one happy family with the return of Randall Packard's lost WW2 dog tags to his daughter in Nebraska.

I wonder if we can make another family happy? Stanley Thompson's dog tags from WW2 have still not made it home.

our wonderful readers found Randall's wife, son, daughter and grandchildren. I know they can do the same for Stanley.