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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Missing 1st and 2nd Class Passenger Names 1897-1903

Debbi asked about an ancestor on a ship arriving in New York
Hi. I  searched the New York arrival for the October 14 1899 Palatia ship passenger list and didn't find my family. I know they were on board this ship, why are they not listed?

and have not survived

That means that the names of passengers in 1st or 2nd class will not be on microfilmed ships passenger lists, or in the Ellis Island online database.

There are some exceptions but if you can't find an ancestor and you have proof he/she was on board a certain ship, this anomoly during this brief time period may explain those missing names.

Please see Ellis Island Missing (Cabin) Manifests, 1897-1903  for more information.

ASK OLIVE TREE ANSWER: Dear Debbi - From  about June 15th 1897 until approximately March or April 1903, the lists for first class and second class passengers were not collected at Ellis Island

Monday, August 30, 2010

Certificate of Legation

David's question is one of three he submitted about his grandfather (whose name David did not share)

In March of 1891, he was issued a "Certificate of Legation from the United States, to the German Empire" (I have this document) My take on this, is this document guaranteed his safe travel BACK to Germany and return as a United States citizen. Is this a correct assumption on this document?.
ASK OLIVE TREE response: Dear David - I personally have never seen such a Certificate. I would have to see the original document to provide a response. What agency issued it? What exactly does the document say?

It would also help to know where you obtained this document - that is, what set of records? Or is it an original document in your possession?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Immigration Years on Documents Can Be Wrong!

Gina's question is a challenging one:
I am an Australian with a grandfather who came here in 1922 from USA. I have been searching for over 15 years (before computers)for his birth certificate. The only details I have are his alien registration in 1939, his marriage certificate in 1929 - and that's it.

Through these documents I have searched, and searched and found nothing. It seems what he stated may not have been fact.
His name was "Russell McDonald Cartwright" ? born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1906. He stated his fathers name was Russell Cartwright & mothers name was Anita McDonald. I haven't found these 2 names together anywhere. Russell does not appear to be in the Texas archives. The 2nd name McDonald, doesn't appear anywhere with his 1st and last name. He came on a ship called the "Canadian Highland" in 1922. I don't find a trace of that ship docking in Australia at all? I have no clue where it originated as I was hoping backtracking could help.

I am floundering - I don't know where to turn - Can you help??
 ASK OLIVE TREE response: Dear Gina, Have you seen this record for your ancestor which is on the Australian National Archives website?

Russell Cartwright (Includes Photograph of Subject) - Nationality:American - Arrived Brisbane per Canadian Highlander, 14 May 1922 Born 14 june 1906 Ft Worth TX

The scanned document is online if you have not seen it.

However, the date of immigration is often mis-remembered, and it may not be accurately given by Russell. I would search a year or two on either side of 1922. The same is true of the ship name. Russell may have mis-remembered it.

You should search the 1910 and 1920 census records for USA. I like for census records but you may be able to find them elsewhere.

I think you need to widen your search, keeping in mind the point you made that Russell may not have told the truth OR that he may not have known! It is also possible that he was an illegitimate birth or that he did not grow up with his parents.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Recording Name Changes in a Genealogy Program

Barbara's question concerns listing names properly
How do you list birth name changed to Legal name? My birth name was Riley but Bradford was the name of my stepfather and the name I have used all of my life.
ASK OLIVE TREE RESPONSE: Dear Barbara, Can I assume you are talking about how to enter your name information in your genealogy program?

If so, then you have a few options. You can enter yourself with your birth name and list an AKA (also known as). You can enter the details in the notes section that applies to you.

If you prefer you could enter yourself with the name you've commonly used, and explain your birth name and details around your name changes in the Notes section.

It's really up to you!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Searching for a Loyalist Ancestor

Rosemary asked about her Loyalist ancestor:

I am looking for the connection in the US for William Osterhout, who was my 4th ggfather. He was a private in Butler's Rangers. When he arrived in Niagara after the Revolutionary war, he married Elizabeth Pickard, whose father and uncle were also in Butler's Rangers. They had 10 children! I have found lots of info on the Pickards, but I am not sure where William came from. I am assuming New York State but there are many Osterhouts and many Williams or Wilhelms.

I'm happy you sent this to me because three of my ancestors were Loyalists who fought in Butler's Rangers. So I have a pretty good idea of how I can direct you to find out more details about William Osterhout.

Searching for more on a Loyalist ancestor is complicated and can be a lengthy process. The early Ontario records are held in different locations and are sparse. But don't despair, just keep digging!

The very first thing you should do is obtain all the Upper Canada Land Petitions for William. Be careful to search under spellings such as OOSTERHOUT, OOSTERHAUT and so on.Obtain them all, because you have no way of knowing what tidbits of information will be found in those petitions.

For example my Isaac Vollick's petition contained an affidavit from his commanding officer in Butler's Rangers telling how Isaac's wife Mary and 10 small chldren had been forced from their home in northern New York by those opposed to the British. The detail was of course fascinating to me but best of all it gave a precise location for where the family lived before 1796! I also found mention that Isaac had been jailed in Albany several times during the first years of the American Revolution - another plus having that location which led me to his baptism record

For help with the UCLP (Upper Canada Land Petitions) have a look at the information and instructions found at this link.

Something to keep in mind is that Loyalist units were almost always mustered in one geographic location and the men in them knew each other well, being friends and neighbours. Butler's Rangers was mustered by Col. John Butler in New York and consisting of Mohawk Indians and men from New York. So almost certainly your William was originally from New York.

You should also have a look at the advice and information on Loyalists found at this link. When seeking details of a loyalist ancestor it's very important to understand the process they went through to become a Loyalist and find all records that might exist documenting their hardships. These records often contain gems of genealogical information such as origins.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Available Census Records Question

Shirley's question was about census records

Why do the available census records stop in 1930?

ASK OLIVE TREE answer: Different countries have different privacy laws and these dictate when census records can be viewed by the general public.

I assume you are asking about American census records. Because of a 72-year privacy law, the 1940 USA census will not be available for public inspection until April 1, 2012.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Questions asked on Naturalization Documents

Jim asked about Naturalization Records.
Is there any one record/form from a Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee naturalization of 1888 that would include the applicants parents names?
ASK OLIVE TREE response:

Dear Jim,

Parents' names was not a required question on Naturalization documents. See Naturalization Records in the USA for an example of documents in various years.

To find parents' names your best bet is a marriage record, an obituary, a death record or birth/baptism of the individual.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Don't overlook information on original sources!

Disownya1 asked about a record he/she found:
I found the declaration #639 and declaration page 211 on Francesco Vartuli under Declaration of Intent for Naturalization: New York County: 1907-1924. I can't find what is in the file, only those numbers. What can I do with those numbers? Order online? Go to New York and do a physical search?
ASK OLIVE TREE answer: Well Disownya1, you sent me on a bit of a chase! You neglected to tell me *where* you found this indexed information so I had a hunt.

Why did I need to know where you found it?

Because 99.9% of all databases, whether online or in a book or on microfilm, have an EXPLANATION with the data which explains where the database came from, what's contained in it and where to obtain the full details!

This is very important. Without that information you are in the dark as to how and where to obtain the full record. So I'm always surprised by how many researchers overlook it. It might be at the beginning of a book or microfilm, or at the end. With an online database you must look to see where it is displayed on the website.

So I went on a hunt and I found that you searched Index to Declaration of Intent for Naturalization: New York County, 1907-1924 on . This is what I needed to know - the location where you found the entry. Then I simply read what was on the page on the website and your question was answered.

So go back to the website. Search for your name of interest again. When you see the search results you will also see a paragraph or two that begins with

Source Information: Index to Declaration of Intent for Naturalization: New York County, 1907-1924 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2003.

Original data: New York State Supreme Court. Declarations of Intention filed in New York County, 1907-1924. County Clerk's Office, New York County, New York.

This database is an index to Declarations of Intentions for Naturalization for New York County, New York, U.S.A. from 1907 to 1924.....
Keep reading - you will see a clickable link "Learn More..."

By clicking on that link you will find out exactly what information the original records contain.

But how do you get those records? Well, if it were me, I'd write and request them from the Original Data source given with the explanation. It tells you exactly where the originals are kept.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Finding a Death at Sea

Maureen's question is about deaths on board a ship.
How can I find out if my Great Grandmother was on an immigration ship in 1887 and buried at sea?
OLIVE TREE ANSWER: Dear Maureen - there are two parts to your question. First, to find out if your great grandmother was on board a ship in 1887, you must consult the ships' passenger list.

You didn't say where the ship was sailing to so I can't give you specific help, but has many of the ships passenger lists to USA and Canada indexed and online. You might also check Ships Passenger Lists on Olive Tree Genealogy.

Deaths at sea were recorded on the passenger manifest. So again you need to find the ships' passenger list. You may find the death notation beside the passenger name or you may find it listed on the last page of the manifest.

Whether or not the individual was buried at sea will depend on where the ship was at the time of death. For example my great-great grandmother Sarah (Elvery) Stead died on board ship en route from England to Australia in 1867.

However the ship was either in or very near Sydney Harbour at the time of her death, so Sarah was buried in a cemetery in Sydney. Had they been in the middle of the ocean, I suspect she'd have been buried at sea.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Finding Texas Naturalization Records Before 1930

Tonya, from the County Clerk's office in McKinney Texas had an interesting question for me about naturalization records before 1930
I am trying to find out who kept local naturalization records in Texas prior to 1930. We do not have those records in our archive (County Clerk) and the District Clerk has said they don’t have anything either. Do you know who else may have kept those records? The Texas State Archives have indicated they should be local. Can you help?
ASK OLIVE TREE response: Dear Tonya,

You didn't provide me with a start year for the records you are interested in. 1906 is a cut-off date and you will need to check either PRE 1906 or POST 1906 for your answer.

I'll assume POST 1906 but before 1930 for the purpose of this blog. BCIS naturalization certificate files (C-Files) include a duplicate copy of all naturalization records after September 26, 1906. C-Files include all US naturalizations from all States and Territories, and from all courts (Federal, State, and local).

Most C-Files from 1906 to 1956 are on microfilm, with the remainder in paper form, and BCIS has an index to those that have been filmed. They are available with a Freedom of Information/Privacy Act request to BCIS Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

See for more info and al ink to a FOI page

Friday, August 20, 2010

Finding an Early Ontario Ancestor's Birth Records

John's question was about birth records in Ontario before 1860:
I am researching my family in the UK and have found two ancestors apparently born in London, Canada West. They are :-

Hannah Olivant born about between 1854 and 1857 and John Olivant born between 1856 and 1858. (From UK census information). Parents Isaac Olivant and Ann Olivant.

Is it possible that their baptism records have survived and if so could you advise me on the best place to look for them?
ASK OLIVE TREE Answer: Dear John, Canada West became Ontario but Ontario did not begin civil registration until 1860 [sorry this is a typo, the year was 1869!]. That means you must search church records for your ancestors' baptism.

The next problem however is to determine IF the necessary church records exist! Your first step is to note your ancestors' religion, then find the relevant churches for London Ontario that have surviving records.

Next you need to know what District London was in for the years you need. Canada West was divided into 20 Districts and within those Districts were various counties. See the linked teext for Canada West to determine the district and county name that you need.

Having armed yourself with the needed facts (religon, district and county name) you can have a look to see what church records exist between the years 1854 and 1858

You might check the Ontario Archives and London Public Library for help with finding available Church Records

You should also have a look at the Ancestor Birth Record Finder for ideas on other places to search.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wives Were Considered Special Cases for Naturalization Records

David asked 3 questions about naturalization and citizenship records. He tells me he's never had a definitive answer to any of the three. Here is one of them with my response.

"My grandfather married my grandmother, in Brooklyn, NY on Feb. 1892. She too immigrated, and was from the former German Province of Posen.(today Poland

I have never been able to find any ship manifests listing her, but my main question, is, since my grandfather was naturalized in 1890, did she receive 'automatic' citizenship as a result of his naturalization?"
Olive Tree Answer: Dear David, I'm answering one of your 3 questions today as it is a very quick and easy one to respond to. A visit to Special Cases on my website will provide you with the definitive answer you've been looking for.

Scroll down the page to the brief section titled WIVES.

I will answer your other questions too in a future blog post.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Outbound Ships Passenger Lists

Shannon's question involved outbound ships passenger lists from USA.

I'm looking for incoming ships lists for Naples, Italy and Palermo, Italy between 1910 and 1914. Port of departure is New York City.

Do you know if this records exist? Or if there are outbound USA ship records between 1910 and 1914?
ASK OLIVE TREE RESPONSE: Hi Shannon. That's a good question and it's an easy question to answer. Neither USA nor Canada kept any outgoing ships passenger lists.

That means you need to check the incoming port of arrival to see what ships passenger lists (if any) survive and are accessible for your time frame.

So you will need to check for incoming lists in Italy 1910-1914. I'd try their state archives. This site has a list of them.

You might find reference to passengers in local newspapers. There is project to list outbound Ships Passenger lists from the actual ship papers given to passengers which you may want to check.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Searching Border Crossing Records for an Ancestor

Hazel's question involved Canadian research.
You are my last hope in finding details of my gt uncle george. I have very little to go on:

George murray 1885 Crimond Aberdeenshire Scotland. Parents were George and Isabella Murray. In the 1901 census aged 15 he was an apprentice printer living in Fraserburgh Aberdeenshire Scotland

The only other information I have is that he emigrated to Canada, I think Montreal Quebec. Also my sister thought that he had died in Canada in the late 1950s , had never married, but before she could tell me where she found this information from, she died.

Gt uncle George is the only relative that I am missing in my family tree. CAN YOU HELP PLEASE
ASK OLIVE TREE RESPONSE: Dear Hazel - Your first step should be to look for Uncle George in the online 1911 Canadian Census. You can use Automated Genealogy or A quck look showed two very nice candidates - both immigrated in 1910. One is in Ontario, the other in British Columbia

Next, have you checked the online Border Crossing Records? I had a quick look and am pretty sure I found your Uncle going between USA and Canada. These Border Crossing Records are online on

Don't forget to search the online Ships Passenger Lists to Canada for your Uncle's arrival! Use or check the links to other online Canadian Ships Passenger Lists projects at Filling in the Gaps - Canadian Ships Passenger Lists.

Get details from these records first, and that will help you narrow your search to a specific location in Canada.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Finding American Naturalization Records circa 1955

Angela asked about naturalization records:
My father, Norman MacGregor Post and mother, Jane Irene Coulter Post, moved to the Williamsport, PA from Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1944. They became naturalized around 1955, having lived in Basking Ridge, New Jersey from 1948 until their deaths, his in 1977 and hers in 1999.

I remember that they had naturalization papers because they always carried them with them when we traveled to Canada in the summers to visit family relatives. After my mother's death in 1999, the papers disappeared.

I am hoping to benefit from the revised Canadian law that allows first generation Americans to recover Canadian citizenship through their parents. I need my father's (or mother's) naturalization certificate to show they were Canadian citizens when I was born in 1953. Family lore suggests that they became naturalized in 1955.

Can you help me locate a copy of his naturalization certificate.
OLIVE TREE ANSWER: Angela - A visit to the website will probably answer your questions.

Basically BCIS naturalization certificate files (C-Files) include a duplicate copy of all naturalization records after September 26, 1906. C-Files include all US naturalizations from all States and Territories, and from all courts (Federal, State, and local). C-Files contain a copy of the Declaration of Intention to become a US Citizen (to 1952), Petition for Naturalization, and Certificate of Naturalization.

The C-Files are microfilmed (and indexed) so if your parents naturalized before 1956 you should be able to find them.

The records are available with a Freedom of Information/Privacy Act request to BCIS Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Go directly to Naturalizations in USA after 1906 for full details and to read what to do if they naturalized after 1956.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Searching for Naturalization Records

 Robert's question was about Naturalization records:
NAT records of Stanislaus/Stanley/Charles Regeleski c. 1892 to 1899

NARA and the State of New Jersey ( Middlesex County Archives) report they DO NOT have a record for this Subject during this time period. The Surname could have been: Regeliski; Rogalski; Regielski and evenRegilski.

The 'court of record' could have been located in the State of New Jersey or New York. Not much to go on -right ? Thought you may have some input regarding NAT records. Thanks anyway..
OLIVE TREE RESPONSE: Dear Robert, First things first. You haven't said how you know that Stanley naturalized. Did you find information on his citizenship in census records? If not, that would be your first step - to verify that he did indeed naturalize. I'd visit the website and read what census records have citizenship information. (Hint: 1870, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930 all have various details) Remember, it is a voluntary act, Naturalization is not required

 If you have found that Stanley indicated he did indeed naturalize, then you will want to read about finding Naturalization Records before 1906. Before 1906, the declaration of intent generally contains more genealogically useful information than the petition. Petitions before 1906 usually show only a name, former allegiance, and date of naturalization. The declaration may include the exact date of immigration into the United States.

Lastly, have you found a ships' passenger list for your ancestor?  These are steps I would follow to find his naturalization records IF they exist.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tracing an Illegitimate Ancestor

Dave sent a question about tracing an illegitimate ancestor
I'm tracing an ancestor name Lancelot Hardy who was born in 1796 in Yorkshire, England.  I've found his birth record in the IGI and only a mother is listed.  I obtained a copy of the original record through the LDS church and he is listed as a 'bastard' and only the mother's name is given.  So my question to you is, in a case like this, is there any hope of being able to trace the father?  What steps, if any could I take?
ASK OLIVE TREE RESPONSE: Dave, that's a great question and one which many researchers will find impacts on their genealogy lines.

My own great-great grandmother was baptised in a church in England as Georgiana the daughter of the widow Hannah Golding. No father's name was mentioned but I thought it would be pretty easy to find Hannah's deceased husband Mr. Golding. It was, but what I found was that he'd died four years before my Georgiana's birth! So I was in the same boat you are - how to find an illegitimate child's father's name.

I find it helps to try to put ourselves in our ancestor's shoes. So think about the cirucmstances. What are the possibilities?

1. Lancelot's mother did not know who the father was (a child of rape or prostitution or any number of other circumstances) If this is the case you're out of luck

2. Lancelot's mother knew the father's name but never told anyone else. Again you are out of luck unless she kept a diary or noted it in a family bible and you can find it

3. Lancelot's mother knew the father's name and had some kind of ongoing or non-combatant relationship with him and told the child. More on this in a moment

4. Lancelot's mother knew the father's name and told family or friends. You may be in luck as one of them may have told someone else and you may be able to find out that name through family stories passed down in your branch or another branch

Let's talk about #3. As I was gathering more documents on my Georgiana Golding, I acquired her official marriage registration. Lo and behold her father was named on it as George Norris. What a stroke of luck! Apparently Georgiana's mother wanted her daughter to know her father's name and perhaps even had a long-standing relationship of some kind with him. In any case armed with that one tidbit of very important information, I have been able to find Georgiana's father George Norris and trace him back several generations.

You are probably asking how I could possibly know I have the correct George Norris. Luckily this all happened in a very tiny village called Lenham in the 1840s. George was their next door neighbour for over 30 years. He never married. Some of his relatives were witnesses at various marriages and baptisms of Georgiana's children. So while I haven't got 100% proof, I have enough circumstantial pieces of evidence to satisfy me that I have the correct man.

Another illegitmate ancestor of mine had no father named at her birth in Suffolk England in the 1790s. However I found Bastardy Examination papers for her which gave the father's name and residence. If you are not family with Bastardy Examination records this might be a very good source for you.

Local parishes did not want to be financially responsible for an illegitimate child born in their parish, so a woman who was pregnant or had given birth would be examined (questioned) by a midwife or other authorities. The father's name would be noted and both parents would be ordered to pay so much money per month for the child's upkeep.  You can read a bit about my search for Removal Orders and Bastardy Orders if you are interested

So don't give up your search. You may still find that bit of information you need

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Find Clues and Follow Them to Find Ancestors!

jeanne asked about her ancestor
I am trying to search my father's family tree and the only information I have is my great-father, William Rymell (Buffalo, NY). My father says that our ancestors before William's parents came over from Ireland (possibly through England). The last name may have been spelled differently such as Rimel? Can you help?

You didn't provide me with details I needed to help you. I don't know when your William was born. I don't know where. I don't know his wife's name. Any or all of those details would allow me to direct you to resources.

However, I'll walk through a list of what you can do IF your William is the William married to Ada and living in Buffalo in the 1930 census. If he's not, you will have to apply my advice below to your specific situation.

William married to Ada was born ca 1886 in Pennsylvania. He says his parents were both born in Pennsylvania. His middle initial is "A". He says he was 18 when he married. This gives a year of marriage ca 1904.

These are great clues. You can now look for him in 1900, 1910, and 1920. See what other details emerge. With any luck he will be with his parents in that 1900 census.

You can look for a marriage record ca 1904. Perhaps it will provide his parents' names and allow you to search back further.

He is also found in the SSDI (Social Security Death Index) with a date of birth 1 Mar 1886. This is another great clue, it allows you to hunt for a birth certificate and find out his parents' names.

A search in 1920 census shows his father Thomas H Rymell [sic] living with him. Thomas is 60, born Pennsylvania. More clues to follow (year of birth) Thomas gives his father and mother's places of birth so there are more clues. His father was born England according to this census.

His father must have arrived in USA before 1860 as that is the approximate year of birth for Thomas. Find the family in the 1860 and 1870 census. Find out when they immigrated. Search ships passenger lists for Thomas' father. See if Thomas' father naturalized. Lots of clues here!

Again, if this is not your William, just follow the same procedure I did. Find records, read them carefully, think about the clues and follow up on them. That's a sure fire way to find out more about your ancestors and your family tree.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Dictionary Can Be Your Best Friend

Marlene asked the following question: 
I was searching tax lists for Berks county Pennsylvania for the year 1785 and at the end of each township was a list of inmates and list of single men. I thought a inmate was a single man. What is the difference?
ASK OLIVE TREE ANSWER: Marlene, any dictionary (offline or online using a Search Engine) will provide you with a generic definition of the word "inmate".

However in this case, more specifically, an inmate is a resident in some type of institution - usually a prison or an orphanage or an asylum/hospital of some sort. It has nothing to do with marital status

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Finding Brooklyn Church Records

Barbara asked
Where Can I find Brooklyn church records (not Flatbush etc.)
Olive Tree Answer: Dear Barbara - You haven't specified what year(s) or what denomination you want for Brooklyn Church Records. has Brooklyn, New York Catholic Church Marriage Records, 1839-1900 online.

Baptisms from 1660-1710 and Marriages from 1660-1696 in the Reformed Dutch Church of Brooklyn exist. Try  as they have some miscellaneous Brooklyn records online

Here is a nice little list for you as well at

Many of the Brooklyn Church Records are available in microfilm from Family History Library. See the list at FamilySearch