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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.