Viewing Tip

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

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Confusion About Canadian Loyalists Answered

Jim asked an interesting question about an Irish ancestor being a Loyalist

I have Canadian roots in 1850-1869 area of Kingston Ontario Canada, and I am
wondering if they were survivors on a coffin ship, (mine were on the ill
fated Hannah that struck a ice reef and sank) and they have lived in the
Brewers Mills area of Rideau Canal.  MY question is "did they have to become
loyalists" when they got off the ship?  Seeing they were catholic, survived
the "Potatoe Famine" and more than likely hated England? Being a loyalist
did they have a better time of it in Canada than the regular people that
lived there?
OLIVE TREE GENEALOGY ANSWER: Jim - to be a Loyalist a person had to meet certain criteria including:

* Reside in the American Colonies before the American Revolution
* Joined the British Forces before 1783
* Suffered loss of property, goods or life

As you can see, your man did not fit any of these. Besides, no individual "had" to become a Loyalist. A loyalist was someone living in the American Colonies who remained loyal to the King of England and did not participate in the Rebellion on the American side.

If what you are really asking is "Did he have to become a citizen of Canada" the answer is -  Canada was not "Canada" at that time. It was still a British colony until 1867.  

The Canadian Citizenship Act began on 1 January 1947. From 1763 to that date, people born in the provinces and colonies of British North America were all British subjects. Taking the oath of allegiance meant becoming a British subject. Thus immigrants from Great Britain and the Commonwealth (England, Ireland, Wales or Scotland) did not have to be naturalized

It is most likely that, being Catholic and Irish, your ancestors had a rough time of it. There was a great deal of discrimination against the Irish at that time, and being Irish Catholic was in a sense a double whammy. 

But you could find some details by consulting the census to see what kind of home they had - a shanty, a log cabin, a stone house, including how many storeys. You could also consult land records to see if they owned land. There are ways to flesh out the bare bones of names and dates. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

How to Find an Ancestor Who Disappears in Canada after 1861

Alexa Genealogy has a challenging question about an ancestor's cousin who disappeared after leaving England for Canada circa 1867. I  edited her question to provide readers with the basic facts and assumptions of the individuals she asked about.

Elizabeth Young was my Great Grandma's lst Cousin. She was documented as born in Bretby, Derbyshire abt June, 1845, and definitely christened there on 15 JUL 1845 - with parents PHOEBE AND ABRAM YOUNG; probably 6 weeks old -because she was 5 in the next census ( n 1851 they guessed born in 1846 - but we know she was born in 1845).

 She was living there, age 5, in the English 1851 census with her parents and family, living on Hoofy Farm, Hartshorne.

 She was boarding at school, as a Trainee Teacher  age 15, in the 1861 English census, in Stapenhill, Derbyshire;

Elizabeth Young left for Canada to marry her sweetheart, JOHN BOND!  (the year?) (1870 +-5).He was also from Derbyshire, England

John Bond and Elizabeth Young were married, for sure, on the quayside, beside the emigrant ship. (Date?) I suspect about 1867. Or a bit later.

I DON'T KNOW WHAT SHIP. I DONT KNOW WHAT DATE. I DON'T KNOW WHAT SHORE. It could have been Nova Scotia, or it could have been Quebec

She married, I'm sure whe would have had children. Why can't I find her on the Passenger Lists? Why can't I find a Marriage Certificate? Why can't I even find them in a census after?

In my searches, I found one John Bond, age 29, born in England, C of E, a widower, with 2 tiny girls, living in central Montreal, Quebec, in the 1871 census. A merchant. This could be him.
Hello Alexa - That is indeed a challenging research question!

First: You will want to consult the Bibliotheque et Archives Nationales du Quebec (National Archives of Quebec), specifically the Montreal Centre. There the indexes of births, marriages and deaths of non-Catholics in the Québec City area (1790-1875) and in the Montréal area (1760-1899), available on microfiche and microfilm, and the index of births, marriages and deaths of Catholics in the city of Montréal (1642-1899), available on microfilm.

If you are correct that your Elizabeth married in the arrival port then the marriage might be found here. Of course if the ship landed in Nova Scotia you will have to consult records for that province. You're in luck because Marriage Registrations for Nova Scotia 1864-1935 are indexed online at NovaScotiaGenealogy

Second: Look for a death for your Elizabeth in Quebec and Ontario. The problem is that Ontario did not require vital registrations until 1869 so if she died before that year you will have a challenge to find her. Before 1869 you must look for church records so that means knowing where she lived and what religion she was.

Third: Ships passenger lists to Canada did not have to be kept before 1865. So if your Elizabeth sailed before that date it is very possible that there is no surviving passenger list for her. There are passenger lists online from 1865 on both and at Library & Archives Canada However The early ships lists are very difficult to read and it may be that your Elizabeth's name is badly mangled and misindexed. It may be that it is entirely unreadable so you may have to scroll page by page reading the passenger lists for yourself. You might be able to spot her name by recognizing some other fact such as her age or place of origin.

For alternate ships passenger lists in these early years see Filling in the Gaps  There are shipping company records, emigration officer records, Poor Law Union correspondence and many other records that provide information on an immigrant arriving in Canada in those years.

Fourth: Many early census records for Canada are missing or incomplete. Since you seem to have no information about John Bond (his date of birth etc) *and* you are not sure if Elizabeth died before 1871, it will be difficult for you to determine which, if any, are the correct man.

The only advice I can give you here is to use the search engines and use wildcards. Be creative in your searches. For example perhaps the family is listed under BUND, BAND, BONDD, BONDE or any other variant spelling and misspelling of the surname. Perhaps John is listed only under his initial J. or perhaps he used his middle name or a nickname. Try other possibilities!

Fifth: You mention a possibility for John in the 1871 Quebec census. My advice is to follow this family - look for the marriages for the two daughters and see who they say their mother is. Look for a death in Quebec of John. You have some good clues and avenues of research left to explore.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Using Wildcards to Break Down a Brick Wall

Roxanne asked about her great grandfather's arrival in Canada and naturalization date:
I am looking for informationon my great grandfather.  He came over to Canada about* 1913 on a ship.  I'm not sure from which port but he came from Sweden to Ontario.  He started out in Kenora, Ont.  On the ship were two or three of his children and his wife:
Albin Franz Danielson (my great-grandfather)and Charlotte (Wohlin), along with Sonia, Siren and Donald their children. (All the children are under 5).  I can not seem to locate a passenger's list anywhere to find out where in Sweden they came from.  Or when they became citizens of Canada.  I do know that Charlotte his wife died in Kenora, Ontario in 1917 and my great-grandfather died in Eagle River, Ontario 1970.  I've looked at many different passenger lists but still could not find them.
ASK OLIVE TREE RESPONSE: Hi Roxanne. I don't usually do lookups or research on this blog. Instead I try to direct genealogists towards locations to find the records they want or to offer ideas on where/how they might search next.

However your question intrigued me! I wondered why you had not found Albin on a ships passenger lists, since passenger lists to Canada after 1865 are online on and at Library & Archives Canada. So I headed to to have a look.

They have the complete set of ships passenger lists to Canada from 1865. I figured it might be the spelling of the names and that perhaps you weren't aware you could use wildcards. That brings me to another point I wanted to make - when you are struggling with a brick wall ancestor, find out WHAT records are available for your needs and WHERE they are kept!

Tip #1: Use Wildcards!

So I started with wildcards and did a search for DANIELS*N. That allows for e, o, i or any number of other substitutions for the *

With this method I found  someone I thought was your Albin travelling to Kenora Ontario in May 1911 on board the Lake Manitoba. I wasn't 100% sure it was the right man but then I found Albin's wife and children arriving later with the notation that Charlotte was headed to her husband in Kenora. Bingo. Albin came first and Charlotte and the children followed in August 1911 on board Empress of Ireland. You can find the passenger lists online and enjoy reading all the details.

Charlotte,  28, was with two children (not 3) named Sonya age 3 and Albin aged 1 1/2. Could Albin Jr be Sorin? Albin was with a man named Axel Adolph Danielson but I can't read his age with certainty. I'm wondering if he was related - a brother perhaps? There is a notation beside Albin's name which you will want to follow up "Continental Bonus Allowed"

It didn't take long and that is why it's important to use wildcards in searches to allow for mis-spellings, mangled readings of surnames and other errors.

Tip #2: Be prepared for errors and inconsistencies when comparing records to family lore/memories

Also you're going to have to be very creative with the wildcard searches because I found the marriage of your Albin to Olga Anderson in 1918 in Kenora. But he is recorded as "DONALDSON". He's a farmer, widower, living in Eagle River born in Sweden and with parents "D. Danielson"  and "Brita Crautch" This also was found on Ancestry.

Interestingly a birth registration for his son Carl Donald in Kenora in 1912 shows Albin as "Frans Albin Danielson" but a death registration for another son (unnamed) who was born and died in Dec 1916 records him as "Albin Donaldson" We know it is your ancestor from his wife's name in that record - "Charlotte Wallis" So either he called himself Donaldson/Danielson interchangeably or the clerks doing the recording misunderstood what he was saying.

Tip #3: Finding Naturalization Records

Remember you want to find out WHAT records are available and WHERE they are kept. So for naturalization records I went to, clicked on Canada and then used the link there to go to the LAC (Library &Archives Canada) searchable index for Naturalization records 1915-1936.

Another bingo! Your great grandfather is found there as Frans Albin Danielson. His two minor children Sonya and Soren are also naturalizing with him so you will want to send for the full record. You can do so by reading how to do this on the LAC website.

And that's all there was to it. If I were you I would now search Swedish records for Frans Albin/Albin Frans and his parents, as well as the Axel Adolph Danielson he was travelling with in 1911. I'd also search records after 1911 for Axel to see if there's a family connection to your Albin. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Canadian Citizenship Records 1950s

Yolanda asked about lists of Canadian citizens in 1959:
I am looking for some help as I do not know where to start.  I am looking for a list of people who became Canadian citizens in 1959.

Please advise as to where I might find these records...
Hello Yolanda - You won't find such a list. Canada has strict privacy laws. The most recent Canadian public census is 1911. Compare that to the United States whose most recent public census is 1930 (with 1940 being made public in a year)

If you are looking for one specific individual, you may be able to access that information (depending on your relationship to the person and a few other factors) See website for the answers. Choose Canada Naturalization Records. Good luck.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Finding an Ancestor in 1851 Agricultural Census Canada

Susan had a question about the 1851 Agricultural Census for Ontario Canada
I recieved an answer from you on May 24, 2011 about John Edmondson. Thank you! I have another question. I can't seem to get to the 1851 agricultural census. Every time I try all I get is the regular 1851 census.

Hi Susan -

Go to

Type in your ancestor's name as John edm*ds*n (using the wildcards allows for mispellings)

Keyword: Perth

Collection Priority: Only Canadian Records

Choose CENSUS when the results are shown. 

See the two hits for 1851 census? The first is the personal census, the second is the Agricultural census

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hiding in Plain Sight

Nicole wrote to me last year with a query that began with
According to the family and the SSDI my great grandfather Stanley Albert Gorleski was born 4/19/1900 in Pennsylvania USA (no county of birth found yet) - he lived in Westmoreland County, PA for the majority of his adult life; well that's all the family ever knew...

Nicole went on to say she could find nothing on Stanley in any census records except for a possibility in 1920 but in the wrong part of Pennsylvania and this Stanley was 10 instead of the expected 20 years old. We exchanged another email where I asked for more details. Nicole provided a bit more including this

Ella & Stanley spent their married life in New Kensington, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania

I set Nicole's email aside, with good intentions to work on it. But I forgot and it fell to the bottom of my pile of requests. Well, one year later Nicole wrote - a very lovely, polite and gentle email in which she asked if I perhaps had forgotten about her or more likely couldn't answer her question and that was why she never saw it on my Ask Olive Tree blog.

Yes, I said one year. Nicole waited an entire year then wrote to me again. But she didn't demand and she didn't chastise me. I wish everyone would take a lesson from Nicole! I get a lot of angry, demanding emails and all that accomplishes is my blood pressure rises and I delete the question. As my grandmother used to say "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" and Nicole is a great example of that adage.

I was so impressed with her letter that I decided to forgo my usual advice and suggestions for pointing researchers in what is hopefully the right direction. Instead I set about researching Nicole's Stanley Gorleski. Many hours later and with one of the most challenging research puzzles I've ever tackled, I'm pleased to say I have found the family. Because it was such a challenge (poor Nicole, no wonder nothing was found!) I am writing up how I found them, where I found them and the difficulties I had to overcome. I hope this will help other genealogists.

Polish & Other Non-North American Names

One thing I've learned is that Polish names  are often very badly mangled both in transcribing and in recording. Often the immigrant had a thick accent or spoke very little English,  so the census taker or clerk could only record what he heard. So the original record can be different from the name as the researcher knows it. That meant that Gorleski could be very different in the records - such as Gorlesky, Gorlewski, or any other variant. And that's not taking into account transcriber error - the person indexing the records may have had trouble reading the handwriting.

Using Wildcards

So I like to begin with wildcard searches. Since I'm going to focus on census records on, I'm going to start my search using Stan* Go*l*sk* as the first and last name (that will find variations in the surname as well as first name Stanley such as Stanly or Stanislau or Stanislaw... I can't assume that his name as Nicole knew it was his baptismal name)  

Even though Nicole stated Stanley was born in Pennsylvania I'm not restricting my search with a birth location, just a date of birth (1900) plus/minus 2 years. I'm using Pennsylvania in the keyword field as I only want results that include the word Pennsylvania, either as place of residence or birth.

Possible Family in 1920 Census - a Working Theory Begins

My best result was a hit in 1920 census in New Kensington, Westmoreland Pennsylvania  for a  Stanley Gorlewski aged 19, born Pennsylvania. I had a gut feeling this was Nicole's ancestor (Do you get those feelings? I do and I run with them as a working theory while I work to prove or disprove it) so I noted the parents and siblings and details to try to find the family in 1910 and earlier.

Briefly the father was Joseph Gorlewski, age 50 born Poland/Russia (that is how it was recorded), immigration year 1885, not naturalized (as proven by notation AL in the column). Mother Anna age 50 same location of birth, immigration year not known. That was interesting as it may indicate they did not immigrate together. Just something to jot down and keep in mind as I search.

Children were all born in Pennsylvania, another interesting fact as it may mean that Joseph and Anna married in USA. Just another thought to jot down. They were John, 29; Gust 26 (I jotted a note that this could be short for Gustave or Gustaf); Mary 21; Stanley 19, Joseph 19; Esther 17 and Martha 14.  Since nothing jumped out in 1900 or 1910 for the search I'd done for Stan* Go*l*sk* I knew I had to either conduct a less restrictive search or use more wildcards in the surname or search for the parents or another child.

I've got way more clues now but searching under the parents' names turned up nothing that seemed solid. Searching for Stanley was not successful either. At least it wasn't apparent to me that any of the hits I got were for him.xx

Success in 1900 Census when search parameters widened

Bingo! One of the hits for 1900 was for a Golefskey family living in Allegheny Pennsylvania. Parents were Joseph, 35 born Poland and Antonia 30 born Germany as well as children John, 8; Gustav  age 5; Mary 1 and little Stanley 1 month. Dad stated his immigration year was 1888, mom said hers was 1890 and they were married in 1891. This looked really promising as the children matched the 1920 family where expected. And little Stanley's birth was listed as April 1900 which also fit with Nicole's known date of birth for her ancestor.

What added more weight to this being the correct family was that I had earlier found that John, the older brother,  was born in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Feb. 17, 1892. And Pittsburgh is in Allegheny. (The miscellaneous records I found for John were his WW1 Draft Registration, his WW2 records, and his burial in St. Mary's Cemetery, Lower Burrell, Westmoreland)

1910 Census Badly Messed Up

But I still could not find the family in 1910.  That's when I decided to search for Gust, the son who was 5 in 1900 and 26 in the 1920 census. I opted to use this in the name fields: Gus* G*l*sk*  I wanted to widen my search to  possible surname mangling. The only hit that seemed even remotely possible was for a Gustave Godleski age 16 born Pennsylvania, living in Pittsburgh, but the index said his father was John not Joseph. On a hunch I checked the actual image.

Wow, what an indexing mess! John who was listed as the father in the index was actually John, age 18, the oldest brother of siblings Gustave 16; Mary 12; Stanley 10; Joseph 8; Anastasia 6 and Martha 4. They were at the top of the census page so that meant their parents were on the previous page. Sure enough parents were listed as Joseph Godleski 42 born Russia and wife Antonia 40 born Germany. They said they'd been married 19 years so that fit nicely with what I'd found on the other census records.

Census Year 1930 Turns Up More Clues

I decided to hunt for the family in 1930 and using John this time I found the family where expected - New Kensington. This time they consisted of Antoinette Gorlewski age 58, a widow, born Germany, immigrated in 1890, not naturalized, with sons John 38 and Joseph 28.


Don't get me wrong. This was a very frustrating and time-consuming search. I didn't just quickly think of how and where to search, then bingo there the family was. I had many many search results that didn't help at all. I had to keep trying various methods of searching - no last name, no date of birth, no location, and so on. I've tried to summarize the successes in this blog post but genealogists need to realize there were many many failures along the way!

Thankfully I'm pretty stubborn because last night I gave up. I'd only found Stanley in 1920 and was frustrated by my inability to find anyone but his brother John in any other records (including census). But after a good night's sleep I woke up this morning with an "aha!" moment in my head. I figured there were dozens of other methods I could use to find this family wherever they were hiding.

What Did I Learn From the Census? And What Can Nicole Do With This Information?

1. The family surname was recorded as Gorleski, Gorlewski, Golefsky and Godleski. So Nicole will need to use wildcards or creative searching to search for more information

2. Stanley's mother's name was recorded as Anna, Antonia and Antoinette. Wildcards needed for further searching!

3. It appears that Joseph and Anna came over separately so look for Joseph alone or perhaps with sibings or cousins or parents in ships passenger lists 1888 plus/minus 2 years.

4. It appears Joseph and Anna married in USA (possibly in Pennsylvania) so look for their marrage in 1891 plus/minus 1 year

5. All the children were born in Pennsylvania, and John the eldest was most likely born in Pittsburgh in February 1892. Look for his birth record to find out Anna's maiden name

6. Joseph died between the 1920 and 1930 census. There is a good chance he died and is buried in New Kensington. Look for a death record and a grave.

7. We have months and years of birth for both the parents and the children from the 1900 census. Perhaps birth records for all the children can be found

I think this is enough to give Nicole something to keep her busy for a very long time! I really enjoyed this challenge as it forced me to step outside my usual methods of searching. It also forced me to do a lot of studying and analyzing of every bit of information I found, going step by step very slowly as I developed a working theory of the family. I love that!  So thanks, Nicole!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Finding an Ancestor in Canadian WW2 Records

Janet asked about a Home Child and WW2 Canadian records
I am trying find out what happened to a family member who came to Canada as a home child. The information I have is:

Name, Walter Micheal Green, born England 1911,
Sent to Canada 1924, at age 13 by the Catholic Church orphanage, Coventry,England, arrived at Quebec and sent to Ontario
Lived at 62 North St, Goderich, Ontario before marriage
Married Mary Alice Thibodeau in 1944, in Chatham, NB, she was born at Palmer Rd, PEI, to Jacques and Ida Marie Thibodeau of Palmer Rd, PEI

I have't found any records of him since 1944 and I also wonder if he joined the Canadian Air Force because his last address was 2 miles from the temporary base near Goderich and he married in 1944 in Chatham near another base . Do you know if I can find persons listed in the second WW. I have searched casualties already, also cemeteries and other death records and looked for birth records for any children they may have had.

Ask Olive Tree Genealogy response: Janet, It's a shame your ancestor didn't arrive in Canada as part of Barnardo's Homes. Their records are available on request. For the Catholic Church Orphanage you might want to try to find out if their records exist and if they are open to descendants. I suggest you try Young Immigrants to Canada and see if you can find the orphanage that sent over your ancestor.

However to find your ancestor during WW2 you can request a search of the Canadian records. Just go to Library & Archives Canada and follow their instructions for ordering a search.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Figuring Out Manifest Markings on Ships Passenger Lists

Kristen had a great question
I am looking for some help on my great-grandfather Guy Reginald Austen Bolam.

He was born in 1900 in England, traveled back and forth between the US and England much of his life, and died in the US in 1970. His father was William Austen Bolam (AKA Austin Bolam or Cecil Austen Bolam) who was born in England around 1871 and died in 1955 in Florida. We are unsure of who his mother was.

My specific question is regarding the passenger record for his August 20, 1921 arrival in New York at Ellis Island on the ship "Aquitania." There are several notations on his and his wife Helen's entry in the original ship manifest, including those in the Head Tax column and several other places. Could you tell me what these notations mean? (I found this ship's manifest on

Also, it is listed on this same ship's manifest that he previously entered the country in 1905 and 1921. While I have found an entry in 1919 (which I assume to be the stated 1921 entry), I cannot find the 1905 arrival. Do you have any suggestions?

Ask Olive Tree Genealogy Response: Kristen you've done some good researching and analyzing of the records you found for your great grandfather. Manifest markings are difficult.

You might want to check the glossary on Jewish Gen as it shows two of the markings beside your great grandpa's name:

C.L. = Certificate of Landing
USC = United States Citizen

A certificate of landing was pretty much the same as a Certificate of Arrival and was noted on passenger manifests after 1926 as part of the naturalization process.

I'm afraid I don't know what the numbers 3/24099-EF refer to  but I'm willing to bet it's a case file reference of some sort.

Tips for finding the 1905 voyage referred to are probably ones you already know:

* Use wildcards such as B*l*m* for Bolam and variants
* Don't use a first name
* Use a date of birth plus/minus 5 years
* Don't use any names, just use place of birth and date plus 1905 as year of arrival

Just keep playing around with a less and less restrictive search to widen the possibilities. Oh and don't forget that it's possible he arrived at a port city other than New York.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lots of New York Genealogy Info Found With Wide-spread Search

Tracy asked a question about finding her husband's grandfather
My husband’s grandfather died in Brooklyn NY in approx. 1942 and his grandmother grew up in a catholic orphanage. I have his grandmothers name and DOB and DOD. I am trying to find her information and his too if possible. They are not coming up on census from that time. Where would you suggest I go next?

I had to write and ask Tracy for more details such as names and dates of birth and death. She then sent the following:
His name was Frank or Francis Cannon I do not know his DOB but he died in Brooklyn NY area around 1942

Her name was Elizabeth Veronica McCarthy Cannon Fitzpatrick. DOB 4.27.1903 in Brooklyn NY

Her parents passed away from TB and she and her sister who was appox. 5 years older were placed in a Catholic orphanage. Never found her sister again, parents believed to have come from Ireland.

They had one son, Francis Harold Cannon
Ask Olive Tree Genealogy reply:

Tracy, I am not sure where you have checked but has many New York vitals on line. A quick check there found the marriage of Francis P. Cannon and Elizabeth McCarthy on 2 Feb. 1926 in Manhattan.

Now you can send for their marriage certificate and find out their ages, their fathers' names (perhaps their mothers' too, I am not familiar with what info is on a 1926 New York Certificate)

You should check birth records there too as there is a good possibility for the birth of your Elizabeth. 

Because I was intrigued by your query, I also had a quick look in census records on and found a gal I am pretty sure is your Elizabeth McCarthy in the New York Catholic Protectory in 1910. It was in  the Bronx. Little Elizabeth is 7 years old.

The New York Catholic Protectory for females was run by the Sisters of Charity and apparently its records survive. A google search for this agency led me to Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness

You will need to visit the site personally as they like you to read their list of requirements before making a request. Then go to the New York section, then look for BRONX and then "New York Catholic Protectory and Lincolndale-how to locate the children's records of 1880-1938." The volunteer attached to this lookup is listed and her email address is available. Simply write to her and ask how you can access these records.

The records have been microfilmed and are available but you will need the instructions on how to obtain them. 

I think you are going to have a lot of fun now! Please do keep us informed here on the Ask Olive Tree Blog - just write a comment when the Marriage Certificate arrives, I know I am curious now!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A great great great grandpa by any other name...

Eleanor asked about standard listing for relationships that are greats:

Can you help me with what to call a great, great, great, great, great grandfather without listing all the greats? Would he be my 4th great grandfather or 5th grandfather? Or neither?

Normally you count the number of "greats" in the relationship and change that to a number. So your great great great-grandfather would be your 3rd great-grandfather. Or 3rd great grandfather (no hyphen) Some people write it as 3x great-grandfather.

Sometimes I cheat and write g-g-g-grandfather. :-)

No matter what convention you choose you must leave the "great" in before "Grandfather" or others reading will not know what you mean.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Daniel asked about church records in 18th Century England
Where are birth death and marriage records from the 17th century from
Sundridge Parish Kent or any Kentish parish for that matter kept? The churchis St. Mary's in Sundridge near Seven Oaks and they simply will or cannot not answer my question.
ASK OLIVE TREE GENEALOGY ANSWER: Daniel, in my research in English records, I've found church records back to the 1500s. Many have been filmed by the Mormon Church so you might want to check their online catalogue at They may also have the records you want online.

Those that have not been filmed are usually still kept by the local parish or church. My mother went to Kent to search in Lenham church records which have not been microfilmed but are at the local church.

You can also check Bishop's Transcripts for the church you need. Have you consulted the National Archives for the UK? Or the Centre for Kentish Studies? The Centre for Kentish Studies is the Headquarters for the Kent Archives service. It holds manuscript and printed records for the county of Kent. I am pretty sure it holds the original parish records for Sundridge churches, but I can't search the site right now as it is temporarily unavailable.

A quick check of FamilySearch online catalogue shows they have 26 sets of records for Sundridge Kent. One is a set of microfiche "The parish registers of Sundridge, Kent, 1562-1812: Baptisms, marriages and burials, 1562-1812"

Another is the Bishop's transcripts "Baptisms, 1813-1839, 1888-1904; Burials, 1813-1839, 1888-1903; Marriages, 1813-1837" on microfilm

And more...  the actual parish records for "Baptisms, marriages, burials, 1562-1655 (Includes list of churchwardens, 1689-1704.) Baptisms, marriages, burials, 1653-1710 Baptisms, burials, marriages, 1710-1753 Baptisms, burials, 1754-1808; marriage, 1754 Births and baptisms, burials, 1809-1812. Baptisms, 1813-1893. Marriages, 1754-1921. Burials, 1813-1903. Banns, 1814-1901." I think that should keep you busy for awhile. Just go their catalogue and search, then copy the full information regarding film numbers etc.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Always Check a Dictionary!

Brian asked about a "Champion of England"
In my family research I have come across some family lore that states that one of my ancestors was a "champion of England". I have not been able to find a reference to this anywhere on the internet and was wondering if anyone has heard of it or would know where I can look. I had been told it is several different things, but feel like until I see it in writing I cannot fully believe it. Some place that lists a description and registry would be ideal.

OLIVE TREE GENEALOGY ANSWER: Brian, a quick search on Google for the phrase "Champion of England" turned up the following definitions:

a hereditary official at British coronations, representing the king (King's Champion) or the queen (Queen's Champion) who is being crowned, and having originally the function of challenging to mortal combat any person disputing the right of the new sovereign to rule.

Source: Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Copyright © 1997, by Random House, Inc., on Infoplease.

Read more: Champion of England: meaning and definitions —


A person whose office it is to ride up Westminster Hall on a Coronation Day, and challenge any one who disputes the right of succession. The office was established by William the Conqueror

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Resolving Census Discrepancies

Cathy asked about an ancestor in early Ontario and how to figure out which family different individuals belong to

I am really stumped. My brick wall is James Cumming b. Jan 15/18 1830 Ontario, according to censuses. He died May 22, 901 in Norwood, Asphodel, Peterborouigh Co., Ontario, CAN. He was married to Joyce Reynolds on Dec 26 1853 in Asphodel. Joyce's family lived next to James in 1861 Census of Asphodel. [Email edited for brevity]

1861 Census of is hard to tell, but at either James house or Jesse's house, is an Elizabeth Cumming b.1838. She seems to be the key. In 1851 Brighton, Northumberland, there is a James and Mary Cumming. They have a number of children, including a James(1831) and an Elizabeth(1837). This seems great. But in 1861, patriarch James also has daughter Elizabeth with him. So, she would have been enumerated twice? Once in Brighton with her father, once in Norwood, Asphodel with her brother? [Email edited for brevity]

The problem that I have is that James lists his father as having been born in Scotland in 1891, whereas the James Cumming Brighton 1851 has himself born in the USA. [Email edited for brevity]

ASK OLIVE TREE GENEALOGY RESPONSE: Dear Cathy: Thank you for sending a nice detailed email query. It always helps me to have names, dates, locations and some idea of what you've already done to solve your genealogical puzzle.

I must confess that I did get a bit overwhelmed half-way through your email as it was quite lengthy and I think you got excited as you were writing it. :-) It started out with a very clear explanation of the confusion but at the half-way mark it did get a wee bit jumbled. I know it's not easy to write a query like that!

This is not meant as a criticism; I hope you will take it as a bit of advice to perhaps read over any query and make sure that you've clearly identified each person to whom you refer. Remind your reader who you are talking about and how they fit into the family you are researching.

In any case I was very intrigued with your query and I can see that you've done a good analysis of the records you found. My apologies for editing your query and leaving off the last several paragraphs but I decided to respond to the questions I can answer without further scratching of my head.

Let's go back to your statement "1861 Census of is hard to tell, but at either James house or Jesse's house, is an Elizabeth Cumming b.1838." Here is how you determine which individuals belong to which family groups in the 1861 census. If you look at the image you will see that columns 14 and 15 have numbers beside some of the names of individuals.

These columns show
Col 14. Residents: Members of Family, M
Col 15. Residents: Members of Family, F

Beside the name of the head of the household are the numbers of individuals living in the home. If you check that image for Jesse (by the way this is where I'd have liked it if you had included Jesse's surname of Reynolds so that I didn't have to keep looking back to see who Jesse was) you'll see that the numbers of residents who are family members is 5 males and 3 females for a total of 8. Counting Jesse as 1, and continuing down the page to 8 you can see that Elizabeth Cummings is #8. That means she lives with Jesse Reynolds and is considered a family member. Columns 16 and 17 are for numbers of non-family members.

Your first question is answered - Elizabeth Cummings is living with Jesse Reynolds.

If you visit you will find a helpful list of questions asked on all Canadian census records.

Your next question was "But in 1861, patriarch James also has daughter Elizabeth with him. So, she would have been enumerated twice? Once in Brighton with her father, once in Norwood, Asphodel with her brother?"

Again, it would have really helped me to have the surnames added so that I didn't have to look back in your email to figure out who "patriarch James" was. When you used the phrase "her father" and "her brother" it would have been really helpful if you'd added their names "her father James Cumming" and "her brother James Cumming Jr" Anything to help me distinguish the family members. Remember the person you're asking for help isn't familiar with the family.

Please note I'm using "Jr" to distinguish between the two James Cummings even though you have not definitively proven they are father and son.

But let's clear up some of the confusion - first, Elizabeth Cumming was not with her brother James Cumming in 1861. She was with Jesse Reynolds who was her brother James Cumming's father-in-law by virtue of his wife Joyce Reynolds.

Why would she be enumerated twice? If Elizabeth was a servant in Jesse Reynolds' home it is quite possible her parents gave her name to the census taker as a family member. Remember the census takers didn't count heads. They didn't verify that everyone named was actually physically in the house. We don't know who talked to the census taker the day the census was taken. Perhaps James Cumming's wife didn't understand the question. Perhaps James himself gave the information and wasn't in the mood to waste time.

So yes, James and his wife could understandably tell the census taker that daughter Elizabeth lived there. In fact we don't know if Elizabeth was a servant in Jesse Reynold's house. Perhaps she was just visiting her brother James Cumming Jr and there was more room in Jesse's house than in James. Bottom line: It is not unusual to find a person enumerated twice.

The last question is about places of birth given in census records. You say that James Cumming Jr says his dad was born in Scotland, but in an earlier census James Cumming Sr says he was born in USA. So this makes you question if you have the right father for your James Cumming Jr.

Census records are notorious for being wrong. Ages can be out by 10 or more years in different census years. Individuals give the wrong place of birth for their parents or even themselves. We have to remember that we don't know who gave the details to the census taker. Was it even a family member? Was it the next door neighbour? A young child? Because we don't know the original source we shouldn't accept the census as absolute truth nor should we use it to prove or disprove an individual's fit into a specific family without more proof.

I hope these answers help you in your genealogy challenge and I hope you don't mind that I used your email to illustrate how confusing a query can be for the person trying to assist. Your email was very well written and had lots of needed details so my harping about suggested additions are just small details that I hope did not offend you in any way.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Write a Good Query and Check All Genealogy Resources!

Carney asked about genealogical information in various Upper Canada records:
i have an ancestor, hill carney, yeoman, from, oxford , sussex county, new jersey, he was a member of upper hardwick presbyterian church, and a loyalist, he arrived upper canada, 1794, was granted E.U. L., status, 1797, and acrown land patent of 400 acres. hill carney was a family member of john rosbrugh's family, but may have preceeded him to upper canada. i wish to know if any genealogical information is usually contained in these records, as i believe he died in upper canada.
ASK OLIVE TREE GENEALOGY RESPONSE: Hello Carney - Before I answer your question, I hope you will take a couple of suggestions about writing a query. You've used commas extensively in your query but they aren't necessary and they interfere with reading your question. It's a good idea to proof-read your query before you send it and make sure it's easy on the eyes of the person you are asking for help. You also neglected to put any spaces after all your periods and commas. That made reading your query more difficult.

Now for your question. I'm a believer in "leave no genealogical stone unturned" That means I find and read every single genealogical record I can get my hands on. I urge you to do the same. You have no way of knowing what genealogical information might be found in one record. For example the Upper Canada Land Petitions can hold a wealth of genealogical detail, or they can hold very little. Since your ancestor was a Loyalist he is almost sure to be found in these records.

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has an online database, Index to Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865). Why not have a look to see if your ancestor is found, then check the full record. Before you search this index, how sure are you that your ancestor's name was Hill Carney? I ask because there is a record for a Will Carney in the UCLP Index. Perhaps the index is incorrect? I suspect these are the same individual.

There are many genealogy records for Upper Canada and Loyalists that you can (and should!) check.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Is This MY Great Great Grandma?

Richard's genealogy question is about a discrepancy for his great-great grandmother:
My great great grandma was born in Sept 1854, she came to the US in 1860. She was married in 1873. Up to that point there is no problem, after that period there is. From the 1880 census onward she has a completely different middle name from her birth record. She even named her children this name, and I am extremely confused. I have been doing genealogy for a long time but never encountered this and it concerns me. Is this possible and what would be the reason why she doesn't use her real middle name? Could someone have told her the wrong middle name? She came here as child and she probably never saw her birth record from England, why would she need to if she was here as a child? So I am thinking that her stepmother told her wrong (her mother died or they were divorced, and I can't find her...that is a mystery for another day!). Her dad was there so why wouldn't he get it right? Do you think I need to ask myself if I have the right person (everything fits except that middle name!)? Thank you very much for your kind assistance, it is greatly appreciated!
ASK OLIVE TREE GENEALOGY response: Hi Richard. You have quite a challenge and interesting discrepancy on your hands. You haven't told me what steps you've taken to prove this is the right ancestor. So I need to ask you but first let me call the woman whose birth record you have "A" and the woman in the census from 1880 on "B"

1. Have you found a marriage record for Great Great Grandmother "A" whose birth record you have?

2. Have you checked to be sure that great great grandpa didn't marry TWO women with the same first name but different middle names? In other words perhaps "A" is NOT the same woman as "B" who you say gave her children that different middle name... Perhaps "A" died between 1873 and 1880, and grandpa remarried to "B"

3. Have you looked for an obit for "B"? Perhaps her maiden name is given and that will prove or DISprove if she is the same woman as "A"

4. Have you checked the marriages of all the children of great great grandpa? They should give their mother's maiden name and again that will allow you to see if "A" and "B" are the same person

You asked me why a woman would not use her "real" middle name - assuming that "A" and "B" are the same person and that she decided to use a different middle name, what could be the reasons? (by the way what ARE the two names she used??)

- perhaps she didn't like her middle name
- perhaps she didn't know it and as you suggested, perhaps her step mom told her it was something else
- don't get too hung up on "why didn't her father set her straight" because sometimes men do not know their children's birth dates and it would not surprise me if a middle name wasn't known.
- since you didn't tell me the two different names (I am extremely curious!!) is it possible that one is a nickname or variaton of the other? For example Delia and Bridget are the same name. Helena/Magdelena/Lena are interchangeable too. There are many names like that.

So please do comment or write to me privately and tell me the middle names used, maybe I can help further.

Friday, May 27, 2011

When Asking for Help, Provide Needed Information

Ching asked a question about his (her?) grandfather

Hi, I wonder if you could help me find my grandfather in my father's side, I don't know how to start because my father didn't got a chance to meet him since birth, No one even wants to tell my grandpa's name. I don't know what to do now. Can you give me some solutions? thank you! response:

Dear Ching - You've given me a generic question so I can only give you a brief generic answer.

You have not told me a location (where did your father or grandfather live? USA? Canada? China? Australia? Germany? .... or.....)

You have not given me a year or approximate year (or even century!). Since I have no idea how old YOU are, I can't being to estimate a year of birth for your grandfather. For example, if you are 20, and your dad was 20 when you were born, and your grandpa 20 when your dad was born, that takes us back to an estimated birth year of 1950 or so. So, one necessary fact in any query is LOCATION

Provide a continent, a state, a province, a parish, a city or town name - something to allow the person to guide you. All countries hold different genealogy records at different times and in different repositories

But if you are 50 and your dad was 30 and your grandpa 30 we start getting estimated birth years for grandpa of circa 1900! See the difference? And of course I have no way of knowing anyone's ages when their son/daughter was born. Another necessary fact in a query is YEAR

Always give some kind of estimate in a query, such as "My grandfather was born around 1910"

So jumping back to your question. You will have to start looking for birth and marriage records. Find your dad's birth record or his marriage record. That should give his father's name (depending what country you are searching in, and the time period!)

Perhaps there are available census records, depending on your dad's year of birth. And where he was born and lived.

Talk to family members - aunts, uncles, cousins, anyone you can find, and ask questions.

One other suggestion when asking for help - it's best to follow instructions on the website as to where to write for the help you want. You posted your query as a comment on another blog post. But at the top of every page on my blog it explains that you must send your query to ASKOLIVE@GMAIL.COM

Normally I delete queries that are posted as comments. I made an exception with yours because I hope you will take my suggestions, rewrite your query with the needed details, and resubmit to the correct email address.

I'd love to help you if I can

Monday, May 23, 2011

Looking For a Scottish Ancestor

Judy asked about James Galloway from Scotland
am looking for immigration records on James H Galloway. The middle name is either Herbert or Hubbard. According to the 1880 US census it states he immigrated in 1898 and was naturalized in 1904. We know thes may or may notbe accurate. I do know in 1907 he married Laura Hanfelder in Madison County, Granite City, IL and they lived there until 1920 where he shows up in Decatur, Macon Co., IL and lived there until his death in 1942. I have not been able to find him in 1900. The story is he immigrated from Glasgow, Scotland; that his parents died when he was a baby and his grandfather adopted him. The grandfather was a ships's captain and took James with him and tutored him on the ships. This is just a story. We do know that his mother's name was Mary White (maiden name I presume).James was approximately age 23 when he came to US. Can you help?

ASK OLIVE TREE RESPONSE: Dear Judy, I'm going to assume you made a typo when you said that the 1880 census gave James' immigration as 1898 and naturalization in 1904. Obviously if he immigrated in 1898 he isn't on the 1880 census, nor could that census predict his future years of immigration and naturalization.

But in any case, if you pop over to FamilySearch and search their Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916-1947, you'll find James' death in 1942.

The image is not available but here is the search result information

Name: James H. Galloway
Death Date: 06 Oct 1942
Death Place: Decatur, Macon County, Illinois
Age: 68
Birth Date: 13 Jul 1874
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland
Father: James Galloway
Father's Birth Place: Scotland
Mother: Mary White
Mother's Birth Place: Scotland
Occupation: Plant Supt.-Staley bMfg.Co.
Residence: Decatur, Macon County, Illinois
Spouse: Laura Hanfelder
Burial Date: 09 Oct 1942
Burial Place: Decatur, Macon County, Illinois
Cemetery: Fairlawn
Digital Folder Number: 4008600
Image Number: 1357
Film Number: 1851787
Volume/Page/Certificate Number: 3956

Now you have his exact date of birth and parents' names. Scottish records are very good and I'm quite sure a search of Scotland's People would turn up much more on this family.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Missing Person Means a Missing PIece of the Genealogy Puzzle

Michelle asked about her father
I have searched and searched and searched and searched till im all out of ability and resources to look. father, yes...THAT close to me, is a man I cant seem to find any (if any) inforation on ANYWHERE. I come close, but because the middle name is spelled different, I don’t think its him.

his name:Robert Alan Manning (the one I find is: Robert Allen Manning)

born: sometime in the 1930s ? the other: 1931. my mom was born in 1935, and he was older than her, so hed be 1934 or before that.

married? I don’t know when to my mother (if ever)? the other: has no family so-to-speak of listed beyond mothers name when married: Gay Joanne Suiter

now, heres the tricky part:
my dad was married to at least 3 women and divorced from none of them

1 was in utah, they had 3 sons
2 was in california and had a daughter/moms name was either linda or cheryl, daughter was the oppsite name cheryl or linda
3 my mom, and me

and that’s ALL the wives I know up to me, pretty sure there were others beyond me.

on my birth certificate he lists his birthplace as: Hong Kong. my mom said he was born in San Francisco. he also listed his job as: Movie Director, he was some kind of maintenance man/janitor person

so, knowing he has a lying past...has made it hard. he supposedly has a half brother named: jesse/Jessie/jessy. his mother was supposed to have married allot of men during my fahters growing up years.his father was supposed to have killed himself in texas (date unknown)

he was in the guessing after 1938-1952? if he entered at 18.

how can I even know anything about this family tree when I cant even complete the 1st leaf? id be so appreciative if you could help me and find some resolve or a small clue even..

ASK OLIVE TREE RESPONSE: Michelle, you have a lot to figure out and I am sure it's been very frustrating for you. I don't usually give advice for finding a person who might still be living (as your dad might be) because people who disappear usually don't want to be found. But your query captured my interest so I'd like to try to give you some ideas for more reesarch.

I saw another post you made online and it gave a bit more detail so I'll be referring to that as well as what you wrote to me. You mentioned that your parents were together for 2 years but you don't seem sure if they were legally married.

My first step would be to talk to your mother if she is still alive and if it won't upset her. If they were married you may be able to get a copy of the licence which should give your father's name and hopefully his parents' names. Pay close attention to any witness names as they may be relatives. Ask her who came to the wedding.

Also, ask your mom what she remembers during the time they were together - who did they hang around with? His friends? His family? Ask for names, even if they are not related. You may have better luck tracking a friend than trying to immediately find your dad.

Where did he work while they were together? Ask your mom. You might be able to find out more about him through his workplace.

Find out if he ever got mail from a relative - maybe your mother can remember who it was from or what city it was mailed from. Basically you are trying to get clues and details from anything your mom can remember from that time period.

What about your father's parents? Did your grandparents know about you? Did they ever visit? The more you talk to your mom the more she is probably going to remember.

Have you talked to your mom's family - sisters, brothers, cousins? They may know something, some little detail that will help you in your search.

If he told the truth on your birth certificate about being born in Hong Kong, then there should be a ships passenger list for his arrival in the USA. It would be interesting to know why your mom is so sure he was born in San Francisco. Perhaps he told her something of his childhood or teen years which would help you trace him.

Have you checked newspapers to see if there is anything for Robert Allan Manning? You may want to try I would not be concerned with the spelling of Allan. It could be Alan, or Allen and still be the same man.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Finding an Ancestor in Ontario before 1858

Susan asked a question about ancestors in St. Mary's Perth County Ontario

My family is the John Edmondson and Mary Ann Oddy. They lived in St Mary's, Blanchard twp. Perth County from 1837'ish. Had 9 children Sarah 1842,Alice 1844, Elizabeth 1845, Annie 1848, William 1849,Thomas 1851, Ruth 1854, James 1857 and John 1858. I am looking for info of any kind.
Susan, I hope you saw my response to another St. Mary's ancestor query. The information about the St. Mary's Museum, the CLRI which is an index to early land records, and early tax and assessment records may be helpful

Also, you should check the online 1851 census for your names. I had a quick look and I see that they lived in a log shanty. That's a very poor and very temporary home, so either they had not been in that location very long or they were quite impoverished. You can see this information on the second page of the 1851 census. Don't overlook that facing page as it tells you things such as who was in school, who was absent when the census was taken, and more. I see that their eldest child is listed as being in school but also noted as being absent.

Interestingly the names recorded in 1851 don't quite agree with your list above. John and Mary Ann are the parents but children in order of birth are William? R., Margaret, Sarah J., Alice, Elizabeth, Ann and what looks like Willin (possibly William which would mean the first child has a different first name than I was able to decipher)

Lucky you, your John is also on the 1851 Agricultural Census for St. Mary's. This will show you his exact land location, how many acres he owned, how many were cultivated, what he had planted, livestock he owned and so on. For more details on the 1851 Agricultural Census see my blog post Finding Ancestors on 1851 Agricultural Census Canada

There is a second adult Edmonson living with him or right next door but I am unable to easily decipher the first name. I'll leave it to you to have that fun! Another fun fact for you to consider is that a William Oddy shows as living very near your ancestor in the Agricultural Census.

I see that a Leonard Edmonson, age 66 is living beside (or possibly in the same house) as your John Edmonson in 1861 census. It may be Leonard whose name I could not decipher in the 1851 Agricultural Census. No doubt he is a relative, perhaps a father or uncle. Again, the Gods of Genealogy are on your side, as your John is found online in the 1861 Agricultural Census

Back to Leonard - he's in the 1851 Personal Census for St. Mary's with his wife Elizabeth. And nearby is William Oddy with family. You'll definitely want to check those individuals out.

I neglected to suggest to Sharon (the other St Mary's query) that she should have a look in the Church Records for St. Mary's but this is something you may want to do. The Edmonson's religion is noted in all the census records so you can have a hunt for the church in St. Mary's that they might have attended.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Ancestor Enlists with Two Names in CEF

Debbie asked a question about an ancestor in the CEF (Canadian Expeditionary Force) in WW1

i found a record for a olvar william david bates..except he is listed as muxlow instead of bates.. muxlow is his mothers maiden name and the year of birth is off by two years which makes him 16 when enlisted. My question is how was it possible for him to enlist in 1915 under his mothers maiden name was he was registered in the birth records and on the 1901 census as bates plus he would have been 16. I am baffled

Debbie - I'm pretty sure you meant Orval, not Olvar as your ancestor's first name.

Your first step would be to compare the two sets of attestion papers which you can do on or on the LAC website.

MUXLOW Orval William. Regimental Number 136227 (on
Name: Orval William Muxlow
Birth: Petrolia Ontario
Father: Lazarus Muxlow
Next of Kin Residence: Calgary Alberta
Date of birth: Dec. 12, 1896
Occupation: Teamster
Marital Status: Single
Date: Sept. 8, 1915
Place where Signed Up: Toronto Ontario

Muxlow - back
Age 18 years 9 months
Height: 5' 7 1/4 inches
Scar under left eye, tip of 3rd finger left hand missing
Blue eyes, brown hair
Church of England

In the MUXLOW attestation papers there is a note at the top "Struck off - illegally absent" "Struck off" usually means the soldier has gone AWOL and so has been removed from (struck off) the regiment rolls. You would probably learn more if you order the full file for him. He may have run off when he realized he was going to be sent to the Young Soldier's Battalion for underage boys who lied on their enlistment papers.

BATES, Orval William David. Regimental Number 802072 (not found on but indexed on LAC website) 

You will have to send for BOTH files as the Attestation Papers are one page only. The full file if it has survived will have more information and will allow you to compare the two men.

I suggest that your Orval enlisted under his real name of MUXLOW and lied about his age. He was found out and may have run off (AWOL). If he waited 2 more years until he was of age, he may have been afraid to give his real name as he'd gone AWOL under it. So he used his mom's maiden name of BATES.

Please keep us informed as I'm very curious now!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Finding the Connection to an Established Family Line

Matthew wrote to ask about the Van Slyke family

My moms side of the family is related to Cornelise Antonissen Van Slyke. I can't seem to find out where they marry into that part of the family. My great grandmother would talk about Mohican ancestry and this part of our family. Her maiden name was Lois May Cox and became Lois Snow. Her husband was Harry E. Snow. Her fathers name was George W. Cox and it is hard to find out who her mother was. I believe her mothers maiden name was Baxter. It was in Erie, Pennsylvania and she was born about 1912. I was just wondering if you have any info on the cox family marrying into the Van Slyke side.

ASK OLIVE TREE RESPONDS: Hi Matthew - As you know, the Van Slyke family is near and dear to me. In fact I've written three books on the family. Two are about Cornelis Van Slyke and his Mohawk wife Ots-Toch, as well as their descendants, while the third is about Cornelis' nephew Willem and his descendants.

However I find no mention of COX marrying into the family in my records. So you will have to go about this the old-fashioned way. That means starting with Lois Cox and going back one generation at a time until you either find the link or you prove it didn't happen.

Since it's a Van Slyke query I was really interested in helping you link to the family so I checked census records on It wasn't too difficult to find Lois and her parents in 1920, and to keep going back every ten years to 1910, 1900, etc. tracing her COX lineage.

The problem is finding the maiden names of spouses. To do that you will need to look for marriage records. Some may be online but many will have to be looked for offline, meaning repositories, libraries, archives and state or county government offices.

You could also look for maiden names of spouses in the birth records of children but again you may have to extend your search to offline resources.

Let me give you a brief outline of what I found:

1920 Census Girard, Erie Pennsylvania: 7 year old Lois M. Cox with parents George W. 46 born Pennsylvania, both parents born Pennsylvania. Wife Ida M. 36 born Pennsylvania, both parents born Pennsylvania

1910 Census Girard, Erie Pennsylvania. 36 year old George W. Cox born PA now says his dad born New York and mother PA with wife Ida M. 28 birth and parents birth locaation same as 1920

1900 Census Girard, Erie Pennsylvania. George Cox born June 1874 Pennsylvania with parents William Cox 52, born New York. father born England, mother born Wales. NOTE that if this is correct for William's parents, this is not the Van Slyke link. Wife Nancy born New York, father Connecticut, mother New York. NOTE that Nancy could be the Van Slyke link - you need to find her maiden name or her mother's maiden name.

1880 Census Girard, Erie Pennsylvania confirms the birth places of William Cox and his wife Nancy as well as their parents

I would look for the birth of George Cox in June 1874 in Pennsylvania. You need to know his mother's maiden name. A search of the WW1 Draft Cards on reveals George's full date of birth as 30 June 1874. Pennsylvania birth certificates prior to 1906 can be accessed through the courthouse in the county where the person was born.

You could also hunt for the marriage of William and Nancy. The 1900 census reveals they married in 1874. Of course each census that I listed above has more detail such as occupation and other children's names so you could look for George's siblings' birth records if his fails to turn up. Don't overlook tracing George's wife Ida to find her surname - for she may be the Van Slyke connection your family spoke of.

This may not help you figure out your Van Slyke connection, but your George W. Cox is found enlisting in the Pennsylvania National Guard 27 November 1899. You'll want to have a look as the card provides a nice description of him plus his unit.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Scotland to Ontario to Michigan - Finding an Elusive Ancestor

Sharon asked about an ancestor from St. Mary's Ontario which is where my husband's ancestors are from:

My 3 great grandfather, Andrew Ross, has been a brick wall for as long as I have been addicted to genealogy. I know he was born 9 Nov 1807 in Scotland,"came to Canada" before he ended up in Macomb Co, Michigan by 1843.

I had found a book source saying he "he came from Inverness";the writer was NOT a genealogist. I found several errors in the book. Recently, I found another source (family Bible) saying Andrew had been born in Edinburgh; his wife, Jane Mac Donald in Glasgow.

They had several children "born in Canada"(1834,36,38). The Bible has a record of one son,Andrew ,Jr as being "Born in St. Mary's, Ontario 1 Dec 1840."

The next child was my 3 great grandfather George Alexander Ross born in Macomb Co, Michigan 23 Apr 1843.Do you have ANY suggestion as to where I could begin to look for this family?
ASK OLIVE TREE RESPONSE: Sharon, I noted with interest your reference to St. Mary's Ontario. My husband's paternal and maternal ancestry is from this town. It was settled in 1841 and originally called Little Falls.

Since your ancestors were not there for long, your best bet is most likely the St. Mary's Museum. Contact them and ask for any information they have on your ancestors.

There may be early tax or assessment records for your ancestors. There may be land records. The Museum may not have these specific records so you will also want to consult the Archives of Ontario website to see what genealogy records exist pre 1843 for St. Mary's.

Don't overlook the Perth County GenWeb in your search. I see that Andrew was a farmer in Michigan. I'd check the CLRI for his name. If he was the first owner of land owned by the Crown it will be listed.

Have you checked Michigan death records on FamilySearch? There is an Andrew Ross born ca 1808 in Scotland who died in 1884 in Macomb Michigan. His parents names are given so if that is your ancestor you have another lead. Did his wife Jane die and did Andrew remarry? I ask because there is an Andrew Ross, widower, marrying in Macomb in 1868.

I'd also check Scotlands People if I were you. It's a fee based website but well worth the money if you have Scottish ancestry!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

NARA Fire of 1973?

Sue asked a very good question about a fire at NARA in 1973.  I do not know the answer, but am doing something a little different today on AskOliveTree by posting Sue's question anyway! I'm hoping one of my readers might have some advice for Sue. Please post any suggestions or advice in the comment section for Sue to read.

We are searching for information on a deceased relative who served in the Army in the 40s. First in WW2, then in peace time. We've submitted paperwork to the NARA to do a military records search. We were able to find his army serial number and submitted that with our request. Sadly, the response today saying that the records were lost in the fire of 1973. Right now this appears to be a brick wall. Wondering if you've encountered this problem and have any suggestions of where to look next. We're interested in trying to piece together his military history.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Looking for an Ancestor in Italy

Carol asked a question about genealogy research in Italy

 I am unable to find records from Italy.  I am new to geneology and don't know how to continue.  I know the village from where my ancesters come from and I know last names.  How do I continue my research.  My ancesters are Ponzis and Pandolfis and were born in Campotosto, Italy in late 1800s.
 Dear Carol - I am not an expert in Italian genealogy research but I would start with FamilySearch catalogue online to see what Italian records they may have microfilmed or digitized.

Being curious I did a quick search for Compostoto Italy on FamilySearch and found they have the Civil Registrations starting very early!  You are looking for Campotosto (L'Aquila).

You may want to visit Italian GenWeb for a list of addresses for Compostoto

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Finding a Burial or Death Record in Ontario Canada

Walter wrote with a  lengthy outline of his family (from England to New York and on to Ontario Canada) and he asked several questions. I'm going to extract one small portion of his email and respond to that question. I will respond to his other questions at a later date:

Mary Manns(Hutchens) died on 12 October 1862 at age 40 and is buried in Bayfield (Public) Cemetery in HU-3241-B. The CFA listing shows her "Manns, Mary West". The West's and Manns were neighbors I am told and Mary was buried in their plot or section. Fredric Manns, her husband is buried in the same Cemetery and apparently in the same section according to OCFA records. I would like to know the Address of the Cemetery in order to communicate with them. I want to find out the date of Frederik's death and if he is buried next to or near Mary

ASK OLIVE TREE ANSWER:  Dear Walter, When you searched OCFA (Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid) online for your ancestors, you overlooked something helpful. The Ref. you quoted above (HU-3241-B) is very important. Let me explain what it tells you.

The opening page is at 

Look down that first page until you see the following text

Once you have located an ancestor in OCFA and know the Reference number, you are ready to contact the contributing organization for more information.


A new page loads. Using the FIND feature on your browser, hunt for HU (the start of your Ref number for Mary Mann's burial)

You will next see
"For REFERENCE FIELD numbers beginning with "HU-", write to..."

Bingo! There's the address for Huron Co. Ontario Genealogical Society Branch. Write to them with Mary and Frederik's details and request a lookup.

If you are intent on skipping the Huron Co. branch OGS and writing directly to the Cemetery, just Google it or order the microfilmed records via ILL (InterLibraryLoan) to read through it. Have you checked the Huron Co. GenWeb site to see what is online?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Finding an Ancestor on Ships Passenger Lists circa 1846

Mary Lou asked about a ships passenger list circa 1846.

I have searched for many years for name of ship my g-grandfather Joseph Ecabert, age 28, farmer, came over on. He was from Switzerland. His passport was dated March 23, 1846. There was a cousin Joseph who came with brother Ignace in April 1847 and some have confused him with my Joseph. I don't know where he left from nor where he landed. I first found him in New Albany, Floyd County, Indiana in 1850.

Mary Lou - My first question is how you know that "cousin" Joseph is not your Joseph? I"m not saying you are wrong, but wondering if you have proof they are not the same man. Did you trace "cousin" Joseph to prove he was in a different place or with a different family at the same time as your Joseph?

Let's assume you have proof they are not the same person. With a surname like Ecabert you need to be very creative when searching. Use wildcards if possible. For example on you can search for e*b*rt and that would pick up many variant spellings

Have you allowed a year or two past the date you have for his passport application? He may have arrived much later than you think.

Don't forget he might have come in via Canada and if he did you are probably out of luck as ships passenger lists to Canada did not have to archived until 1865.

Look for naturalization records if he naturalized. Some census years will give you that information. For example the 1870 census will show you if he was a citizen of the USA. If yes, you know he was naturalized.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Border Crossings Between USA & Canada - What Exists

Lorene asked a question about Border Crossings between Canada and USA
My question is Boarder crossings Canada to Michigan, USA.My Great-Gr Father Robert R. Fields Born in Canada abt 1848 [were abts unknown] Crossed over Lake Erie to Michigan and married Laura Normandy Morse on Nov 21,1872 Macomb County, Michigan, USA. After fathering 5 Children he left Michigan with out his Family and crossed back to Canada. Last child born was 1882. Question would he need some sort of ID ? Boarder Crossing or Passport? If so were would you suggest to search.

Lorene, the short answer is "NO". In April 1908, the Canadian government began recording the names of immigrants crossing into the country from the U.S. Border Crossing Records from U.S. to Canada exiat for these years. From Canada to U.S. Border Crossing Records exist for the years 1895-1956.

The Border Crossing Records are found on

Sadly you are out of luck as no form of ID was required before those years. It was an open border and folks crossed over as they wished.

However since your ancestor was born about 1848 in "Canada" you can search for him in the 1851 census. A word of caution - Canada is the second largest country in the world. You MUST find out a more specific place of birth - a province at the very minimum or you will not be able to find him.

What do census records say for his birth place? Canada English? Canada French? Upper Canada? (UC) Lower Canada? (LC) Canada West? (CW) Canada East? (CE) These are all indicators of provinces.

Quebec = CE, LC, usually Canada French
Ontario = CW, UC, usually Canada English

Friday, March 18, 2011

FInding an Ancestor on a Canadian Ships Passenger List after 1865

William asked about a Canadian Ships Passenger List

I am searching for the name of the passenger ship on which my mother Maria Drobka and her companion Demiyr Hryhirczuk both of Bulovina Ukraine departed from Hamburg, Bremen or Antwerp and arrived in a Canadian port of Halifax, St.John or Montreal in 1907.

Hi William - You are in luck because incoming Canadian Ships Passenger Lists have been indexed and are online at

They are also online at Library & Archives Canada but they are not indexed on that site so you would have to search page by page for your ancestor's name.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Abbreviations in Dutch Genealogy Records Defined

Virginia asked a very good question about genealogy abbreviations.

Reading your lineage of the Post family and the Pane-Joyce Genealogy for the same family I find the abbreviations "ym" and "yd" that do not seem to mean "year married" or "year died". What do these mean? I am new to finding my family's history and haven't found where these abbreviations are defined. Thank you for taking the time to help this "newbie".

Virginia - Excellent question. I neglected to give a link to where these Dutch church abbreviations are explained.

Please see Translations of Words in Dutch Church Records for y.m, y.d and other commonly used abbreviations

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Narrowing Genealogical Possibilities

Jan asked a question about an orphaned ancestor

I'm trying to identify the birth parents of my ancestor Charlotte Weeks who was five years old when her parents were killed in a horse carriage accident in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. She was born on 3 August 1868, so the year of the accident was either 1873 or 1974 if my mother's memory serves her right. I checked some Peterborough death incidents online from that period but couldn't find that particular one. Weeks/Weekes is not her birth surname, but the surname of her adoptive parents. Short of going to Peterborough Public Library myself to research the obits in the paper, how can I find out the identity of the mother and father who were killed?
 ASK OLIVE TREE answer: Hi Jan, what a challenge! I do have some suggestions that might help in your quest. It's all about compiling lists of possibilities and then finding ways to narrrow that list.

1. Have you checked 1871 census for Ontario? Charlotte should be found with her parents. I'd check the census and make a list of *all* girls named Charlotte living in the right place of the right age to be yours. Then I'd check Ontario death registrationsto see if any of the parents of the Charlottes you found died in 1873-1874. I'd also check the 1881 census to see which of the 1871 Charlottes you found are still with parents. You can narrow your list down quite a bit to probably a handful of possibilities left

2. Have you written to Peterborough Public Library to see if you can pay to have obits searched for the time period you need?

3. Who did Charlotte say her parents were on her marriage record?

4. I had a peek at the 1881 census when Charlotte was living with the Weeks family. A good clue there - her ethnic origin is given as Scottish. So quite possibly she was baptised in a Presbyterian church. Also the Weeks were rather elderly to be adopting such a young child. Is there a chance they were relatives - perhaps even grandparents? I'd check them out very carefully.

5. Check local church records for her birth (see #4 above) since if she was born in 1868 she was a year too early for Ontario birth registrations

6. Check Peterborough cemeteries for a man and wife who died on or near the same day in 1873 or 1874.

7. Check Ontario death registations by searching in the Peterborough area month by month. You're looking for two people with same last name, man and woman, who died on the same day or close to the same day.

Most of the suggestions I've given you can be searched at

Saturday, January 29, 2011

French, Dutch or Something Else!!

Josie asked an interesting question about a surname origin.

Hi Josie - Often when we're stumped on finding an ancestor outside of N. America, we want to find out the surname origin, thinking we can find the elusive ancestor that way. But that honestly isn't much help.
looking for help with the translation of the above name. I have an ancestor who was born in the Netherlands supposedly in Vorden, (Gelderland) in 1827. I think his father was Hubert. His name in Australia was Samuel De La Cour but I can’t get any response on Genlias for that spelling. Do you happen to know if the name needs to be translated and to what. It looks French to me.

Let's say that your Samuel's surname is French. How does that help you? You have no idea if his father was the first ancestor born in France, or his grandfather, or great-grandfather, or...

In other words, Samuel's surname might very well have its roots in France but you have no idea how many years back!

I agree that "de la.." makes us assume it is French but not necessarily. "cour" could be a variation of the French word for run, or it could me a phonetic misrepresentation of "coeur" which is French for "heart" But again, it could have an entirely different ethnic origin!

It is always best to simply go one step at a time. Start with Samuel and work backwards, one ancestor at a time. Find out where they were born, when they lived there, and so on. Just keep plugging away with census, church records, vital registrations - the usual.

Don't get too hung up on spelling. Names were often recorded phonetically if a clerk mis-heard the name. So your surname might be Delacour, De La Cour, De La Coeur or any other variant.

If your Samuel is the Samuel De La Cour who married in Victoria Australia in 1856 to Margaret Gordon Steel, why not send for his marriage record? Surely it will have his parents' names, and possibly more details that will help you.

If this is your Samuel, his death is recorded in 1870 in Bendigo Australia and again, you can send for his death record for more information. His widow Margaret died in Bendigo in 1874, perhaps there are even obituaries to be found.

I spent about 15 minutes looking for Samuel on and Trove Newspapers. You should also check CoraWeb for ships' passenger lists.

Also you mentioned there was no record of your Samuel's surname (De La Cour) on Genlias. There is. But you must follow their instructions for searching, and use ONLY the last bit "Cour"! You will find many De La Cour and La Cour individuals using this method.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Finding a Ship Ireland to Canada 1822

Bill wrote with a challenging question about a ship arriving in Canada in 1822

I'm trying to find information on the passage that my great, great grandfather John Worthington had with his family. He sailed from Dublin, Ireland on 11 April 1822 and arrived in Québec on 23 Jun 1822 with his wife Mary (Dagge) and son Edward Dagge W. and daughter Mary W. I don't know the name of the ship. I'd also love to confirm that they lived in Dunleckney, co. Carlow.

I found the above in notes of my grandfather and in a biography of Edward Dagge Worthington that was published in The Canadian Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of Eminent and Self-made Men, American Biographical Publishing Company, 1882, p. 103. I have some information on their life in Quebec where John was a shoemaker, but nothing regarding their travel from Ireland to Canada.
Hi Bill,

First let me say how lucky you are to have found such details on your ancestors. The time period you are looking in is very challenging, as ships passenger lists to Canada were not archived until 1865.

There are substitutes such as finding an immigrant's passage up the St. Lawrence River on a steamship. Sue Swiggum of is busy extracting these records and also newspaper notices of ship arrivals.

You may want to check her page for 1822 arrivals and see if any of the ships listed fit with your details as to date of departure or arrival.

If that is not successful I suggest you visit Filling in the Gaps which is a page of links to ALL online projects bringing these early substitute ships passenger records online. You will find links to JJ Cooke Shipping Records, Immigration Agent Records and more.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Correction from a Reader re Age of Majority

My good friend Howard Swain very kindly sent this email to me regarding an earlier post I made about the Dutch age of majority in New Netherland

I appreciate both Barbara and Howard catching my error and responding with an answer with sources!

I think you are mistaken when you said "The Dutch age of majority was 21...".

I think Barbara was correct that it was 25 based on Roman-Dutch law. I do not have a primary source for this, but instead I refer you to this article:

"The Paternity of Aert Theunissen Middagh: A suggestion;

The Ancestry of Theunis Gysbertszen Bogaert: A Caveat"

by Cameron Allen in TAG vol. 36, no. 3 (July 1960), pp 129 - 136. (TAG up through vol. 48 is now available to members online at the NEHGS(now American Ancestors) website.)

Among other things, the above article also deals with the situation in which the date at which a young man acquired property was known, and they wanted to determine what that would say about his age.

It turns out that, "Roman-Dutch Law permitted a child of whatever age to acquire land." (p. 133) He cites for this: Robert Warden Lee,An Introduction to Roman-Dutch Law, 1953, 5th ed., p. 47.

The article also on p. 133 mentions that the age of majority was 25, citing Lee, p. 43.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Free BDM Gives Researcher the Answer

Here's a question about a 1940s English marriage that is very easily answered.

hi my name is...marie. i would be graeful if you could help in anyway.i am searching for my granfathers birthday or members of his family.everything i have tried gives me 0.but i search marriages in uk,and there he his.anyway i have no livithatng relative who can help me;you are my last hope; his name is charles pluquet, he came from belgium ,i think he was born on or around 1920,he married my gan ln or about 1941 in stockton on tees north riding and had one child (my mother) marie astrid in 1942 and they seperated 2 years later.that is all i know thank you, p.s my gran was called Alice milburn who later married john prosser,

Hello Marie - I guess you are not familiar with the Free BMD website. Free BMD carry transcriptions of the Civil Registration index of births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales

A quick search and bingo, Charles and Alice's marriage popped up.

Mar 1941 Distict: Cleveland (Yorkshire) Volume: 9d Page: 1089

Using the Date, volume and page number as found on Free BMD you can now order their marriage certificate. There you will find Charles' age, occupation and father's name (perhaps his mother's name as well) plus more info on Alice and other details such as witnesses, who may be relatives.

For help with ordering the marriage certificate, see Ordering English Certificates of Birth, Marriage or Death online

Friday, January 14, 2011

Finding an Ancestor in Belgium

I received several queries from a woman, let's call her Ms. X. In this one she wants to know how to find an ancestor from Belgium.

Her question:
I need your help deaperatley, I have  tried every web site to trace my grandfather (charles pluquet.from begium) it seems as though he did,nt exsist no body as heard of the name let alone him,I have even tried to find out if the name is dutch but no luck could you please tell me were to look next,thank you so much
Dear Ms. X: My husband's great grandfather Achilles De Meuleunaere was born in Belgium and his ancestry goes quite far back in that country.

The Belgium records are extraordinary. Using the microfilmed church records beginning with Achilles' birth in 1884, we were able to find his parents' names. From there we searched back, one person and one event at a time.

We found marriages, deaths and baptisms quite easily. Although the records are in various languages other than English, it is not too difficult to pick out a name - provided you are familiar with reading old handwriting!

Being diligent and carefully looking for each ancestor's church records as we searched back from Achilles, we were able to prove his lineage back to 1779. At some point we would like to research further but we simply ran out of time. We also researched the spousal lines with great success.

Some of the records are in Latin. Some are in French. Some are in Dutch. Some are in a language very similar to Dutch. It depends on the time period you are searching in and the location. So you must go slowly and not be discouraged by the changes in language as you search the records.

If you get back far enough to the time when the French occupied the country, you will see a change in how dates are recorded. From 1793-1805 the French Republican Calendar was in use. Believe me when I first encountered it in the church records in Belgium I was completely lost! But I was able to find a research guide which explained how the calendar worked and what each month name meant.

The twelve months of the French Republican calendar were based on the natural events of the seasons of the year. They don't correspond to the standard months of January through December so you must go slowly and be sure you understand when each event you find occured.

I suggest you begin at  Belgium Roots then have a look at the online FamilySearch catalogue to see what records have been microfilmed for the location and time period you need.