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Monday, July 26, 2010

Copyright Issues

Shirley asked an interesting (and important!) question about copyright regarding a letter she wants to submit to one of my websites Past Voices:

Hi, I would appreciate a bit more information on submitting a recently unearthed letter a great uncle wrote. Many family members want a copy of this. I would also like to put it online on your site. Are there copyright issues?
OLIVE TREE ANSWER: Shirley, I'm glad you asked this question. Copyright is so important and it's an issue that is often overlooked or violated without hesitation.

I am not an expert  in copyright laws but I believe that if your uncle is deceased and the letter is in your possession, you do not have to worry about copyright. Of course if your uncle is alive, he owns the copyright and should be consulted.

Out of respect for any living people who might be mentioned in his letter you should consult them to ask their permission for it being posted. You could also remove their names and identifying or personal information.

I am sure my readers will weigh in with their thoughts on copyright. You may wish to consult the proper copyright laws. You haven't said what country you live in, so here are a few of the copyright agencies for various countries




Saturday, July 24, 2010

Finding a Missing Grandmother after 1958

Brianne asked about her missing grandmother.
My grandmother left my mother's family around 1958 with a man other than my grandfather. Since then, we haven't been able to find anything about her. She was a French native and came over to the US in 1946 after she married my grandfather. We have been trying to find her for at least 20 years and there seems to be no sign of her anywhere, even her French family never heard from her. Wouldn't there be records of her naturalization or social security number somewhere? As far as I know, she never had a SS# before she left my grandfather. Also, I found her passenger list....does the application number mean anything? What would you suggest to try and find her?

OLIVE TREE ANSWER: Hello Brianne - I've edited out the details re your grandmother's name, her date of birth and the name of the man she ran off with. It was for privacy reasons, as there is a chance she is still alive. But let me go ahead and try to answer your query.

First, there might not have been any need for your grandmother to naturalize as she may have had automatic citizenship under her husband. See for more help and information on Naturalization in USA

Second, she might not have had a SSN, she may not have needed one.

Thirdly, it sounds as if you want to find her after she left her husband in 1958 so finding previous records wouldn't really be much help to you. Her passenger list application number won't help as she arrived in 1946, 12 years before she ran off.

Does your family have any clues at all? Rumours of a state or town/city where she went? What did the man she ran off with, do for work? I'd gather all the clues you can. Write them down. Talk to your mother and any aunts/uncles who might remember something.

Talk to your other grandparents, talk to any family members you can and ask for details - were they religious (maybe you can find a church they belonged to), did they have any passionate hobbies (maybe you can track them through clubs they might have joined)... etc.

But your quest might be a challenge because if your grandmother ran off and never contacted her children again, she may not have  wanted to be found. That means she may have taken great care to hide her whereabouts. She could have used any of 3 surnames - her maiden name, her married name or her boyfriend's name. All of this makes your quest a challenge.

Please do get back to AskOliveTree if you find any further clues that might help - even the age of her boyfriend would be helpful, or where he was born. All of these might lead you to his death or other record which in turn might lead to your grandmother.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Get Cracking and Find those Probate Records!

Kevin wrote to ask
My great-grandfather died a loner, in a nursing home, with no apparent heirs (long story). Are probate records worth pursuing in this case? Generally, are there cases where pursuing probate records is a waste of time?

Personally I have never left a known record unchecked. I advise researchers to not leave any stone unturned, no matter how remote the chance of learning something new.

You never know what you might find! Even if 99.9% of the type of record you seek have nothing new, it is not a waste of time to have a look. You never know what might be in that one record you are after.

For example, the Ontario Land Board records almost always have nothing of note other than a simple one line entry with date of purchase and name of purchaser. So nothing new is added to what the researcher already knows.

Because I search every record, I learned quite a bit from the Ontario Land Board records. Because my ancestor had much more than that typical one line entry. Beside his name and date of purchase was a lengthy comment which named his father and his brothers and gave more detail on their property holdings.

If I'd shrugged my shoulders and said "oh waste of time to check" I'd never have found that information

So my advice - get cracking and find those probate records!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

UPDATE: Reuniting a MIA American soldier's dog tags with family

Recently I was asked for help finding an American MIA from WW2 whose dog tags were found in Germany.

Alex in Germany wrote to tell me about his find for the serviceman Thomas J. Lillard of San Antonio Texas. I am thrilled to announce a happy ending to the story of the hunt for Thomas' family.

Please see We did it! Reuniting a MIA American soldier's dog tags with family for full details

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Photo of American Lieutenant MIA, Dog Tags Found

I'm adding this rather grainy photo from the San Antonio Light Newspaper dated May 26, 1946. It is the missing American Lieutenant T. J. Lilliard, whose dog tags were found by Alexander in Germany.

See the original query and readers' comments.

WW2 American Soldier's Dog Tags Found

Another Lost & Found WW2 Dog Tag for an American Soldier! Alexander wrote to say

i am from germany and found an american dog tag. The stamps are:

01319902 T42 43 0
1710 W.CRAIG PL.

Can you help me to know more about the person hows wearing this dog tag?

We had great success with our previous Dog Tags belonging to American Soldiers. Can we have a hunt for Thomas Lillard and his family? If you respond in the COMMENT section please don't post any information about living people. You may send that to me privately (

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Resolving Discrepancies in Census Records

Jenny asked
How do I know that someone I found on a census is the right ancestor? My g-grandpa is on one census 32 years old but the next shows him as 43 and the one after he's 50! How do I know if it's the same man?

Olive Tree Answer
Hi Jenny. It's a bit confusing I know but remember that when the census taker came around, he might get his information from a child in the house, or a next door neighbour. So there is often a discrepancy with ages from once census year to the next.

It also depends on the question asked. If they asked "How old are you now" there would be one answer. If they asked "How old will you be on your next birthday" it would be different.

Also many people did not know their year of birth so were not 100% sure of their age. My own 3rd great grandfather wrote a letter to his mother in the early 1800s asking her what year he was born!

Don't worry too much about age differences. There might be several years difference so in your case, you're lucky as it's not that far out.

The thing to do is check other facts - names of children, of the spouse, occupation, even the location. Do things "fit"? If so then chances are you have the right man.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Proving a Cherokee Ancestor

Caroline asked
Parents of my gggrandfather, Samuel Lowery. Married Mary Edna Cheney, perhaps in Arundel Parrish, MD. Married her sister went to NE AL with 2nd wife and family. Traveled with the Alldredge family --sister of M.E. and Rachel. Looking for Cherokee Indian Heritage.

Olive Tree Answer: Caroline, you didn't provide me with any dates. So all I can do is direct you to a generic page which has many links for Cherokee Genealogy covering many years: