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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Deciphering Challenging Handwriting in Genealogy Records

This question came from Allison

Are you able to decipher this Place of Residence from an Army Record?

 Olive Tree Genealogy response: Without seeing the entire page or pages to compare letter formations and without knowing the country of origin of the original record, I can only give my best "guess". I believe the entry might be "Chelsea and Essex" 

This is a good time and place to explain that when you are trying to decipher challenging handwriting there are a few simple methods you should use.

1. Compare other words and letters in the record. For example in this case, how does the scribe make an upper case "C" - is it the same as the word I believe is Chelsea? What about upper case "E"? How does he write a double "s" (ss) Does it look like the word I think is Essex? You may have to look a few pages ahead or before to get a good overall comparison of letter formations used.

Read the rest of my tips and tricks at

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Verifying a Loyalist Ancestor

Sandy asked "Looking for anyone related to Peter Wyckoff (1765-1797) who married Catherine Plato (1769-1856). Her second marriage was to John Clendenning (1760-). Want to prove Loyalist ties for these two. Their son Peter (1794-1881) married Abigail Gilbert (1790-1834) daughter of Isaac Gilbert UE (1742-1822)."

My answer:

 There are 8 results for John Clendenning (and variant spellings) in the Upper Canada Land Petitions online database. 

To find out how to use the index information to view the actual petition(s) online, see Searching Ontario Canada Land Records, eh? 

You will also want to obtain the petition for Catherine Clendennan to see if it is Catherine Plato.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Verify For Yourself By Viewing the Original Record

Jenny asked "Looking for parents of my 3rd great grandfather Samuel(or Lemuel, or Randall) Goss b. abt 1798 NY. 

What I have: wife Grace Fenton b.29 Feb 1808 in N. Gwillumbury, York Co., Ontario, Canada. MARRIAGE DATE UNKNOWN ? 

 Samuel Goss emigration Aug. 29, 1829 N. Gwillumbury, York Co., Ontario, Canada. Son Thomas Randall Goss b.18 Dec. 1830 in N. Gwillumbury, York Co., Ontario, Canada. Thomas's Death record has father Randall. One marriage record father Samuel, another marriage record father Lemuel. 

Son: John Fenton Goss b. Sept. 1831 or 1835 NY marriage record to 2nd wife Emma Stephens, states father; Samuel Goss. 1860 census Lewiston, Niagara, New York, USA: GOSS, John, Abigail, John 29, Abigail 36, Clara E. 5, Ann E. 2, Allice 6/12 & Lemuel Goss 61 NY."

1829 Naturalization Record for Lemuel Goss
My answer: It's important to remember that the death record with the name "Randall" was not given by Thomas himself. Therefore, depending who the informant was, it may not be correct. The marriage records however are far more likely to be accurate, if we assume that Thomas himself provided the info. Also "S" and "L" are very often confused in old handwriting. So if you have only seen a transcribed or indexed record and not the original, it may be that there is only ONE name being recorded (either Samuel OR Lemuel) and not two

Being curious, I brought up the two images for both of Thomas' marriages (on Ancestry) They both give his father as "Lemuel". It is very clear on both images

I next found the record and image for that 1829 immigration. It is LEMUEL Goss's Naturalization record, not his year of immigration. He no doubt immigrated some time before he naturalized. He lives in N. Gwillimbury as you said and the date is what you had. The difference is that the name on the image is LEMUEL, not Samuel. So you have three good primary records now that provide his name - Lemuel, not Samuel.

It's always important to verify indexes or transcriptions of records by viewing the actual record yourself. In this case you can see that there were several mis-transcriptions of Lemuel to Samuel.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Don't Be Sidetracked by Online Family Trees Before Obtaining Basic Records

John asked this question:

" I've been seeking information on the parents of my great, great grandfather, John Barry. There, I've run into a brick wall. My information is from a family Bible record that goes back to 1810. John Barry married Johanna Harrington on 23 Feb. 1840 in Ireland. Witnesses were Daniel Harrington and Patrick Barry. The report identified the Diocesan Area as Cork & Ross and the Parochial Area as Durris (Muintervara). I know John and Johanna (I've found two spellings for her first name) had one child in Ireland who survived the trip to Canada in 1846. Family legend claims two children died aboard ship and were buried at sea. I've been told that local parish records in Cork prior to 1820 have been destroyed so I cannot pursue more on Patrick or Mary. Any ideas? I have found some possible death records on that I can't authenticate. What might I try now?  John Barry, 1810-1880, married Johanna(?) Harrington, 1815-1883, on 23 Feb. 1840"

In response to a question I posed, John stated that he had found about 15 family trees on Ancestry but they had lots of incorrect information. 

1871 Census Caradoc Twp, Middlesex Co. Ontario
My response:

You can confirm that family lore by visiting the census records. I had a quick look on and found John and Johanna in Caradoc, Middlesex County in 1871. Living next door were John Harrington and wife Jane and family. John Harrington and Johanna are quite possibly siblings. 

In the 1861 Agricultural census John Barry and John Harrington are shown sharing (50 acres each) Lot 1 Conc. 8 in Caradoc. In 1881 Michael Barry, Johanna Barry and James Barry live next door to John Harrington and family. No doubt  John Barry died between 1871 and 1881.

You need to get the images for all these records and study the neighbours, occupations of individuals etc. For eg John Barry and John Harrington are noted as farmers - that means they likely bought land and your next step would be to check the CLRI *and* the Abstract Indexes to Deeds for more information on their land purchases! For help with the CLRI and the AI to D, see

The death certificate of a daughter of John Harrington and Jane gives Jane's maiden name as Barry. It looks like siblings married siblings.  It seems you have a lot of records available to help you put these families together and learn more about them

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Start with Census and Vital Registrations

Patricia asked this question "I am in search of Archie Angle who lived near Moulton Station in the early 1920'2 he was married to Lucretia Putnam, who is my grandmother's sister we have been the library in Dunnville and to the town records in Cayuga nothing turned up we would like to know his date of birth, date of death and where he is buried please"

First3 Results for search of Archie Angle in Ontario 1900-1950
My answer:   

Patricia - If you go to and search for Archie Angle living in Ontario 1900-1950 you will find his birth (with parents' names), and several census records with spouse Lucretia. There's a lot there for Archie and it will take you back a few generations. Follow the onlne census records and the birth, marriage and death records.

As an example Archie is found as a single man in the 1901 census (with his parents Archie & Lucretia) You can also find his father's death with parents' names, also his father and mother's marriage- so you can jump back 3 generations very quickly and easily. 


Monday, August 11, 2014

When Family Lore Leads You Astray

TWISS family on Ship Peruvian September 1888
Olive Tree Genealogy had an interesting question from Shannah about her grandfather.  My findings point out the need to take family lore with a grain of salt and don't accept it as gospel. 

Here is Shannah's email:

I have been trying to find out where my Grfa., TWISS, William James, had "landed" for over ten years, to no avail, from Cty. Cork, Ireland to New York, USA..  He was a mere 17 year old, at the time.  

The story I was told was that it was my Grfa. who had left Cork, Ireland, from Sept. to December of 1887 (I believe these are the months) on the Barque Julia, from Edinburough to Cork and to New York.  This particular Barque was a ship of supplies and the Captain was a friend of my Gr-Grpars., TWISS, Francis Edward Day, Sr..  It was my Grfa. who had suggested that he, himself, come out to Canada, first and they allowed it but he must go with someone they knew.  It was only a few days' trip and have researched into several ports along the eastern coast to no avail.  When he had landed, he had stayed with friends of his pars., (never knew who they were) Francis Edward Day and Ellen THOMPSON, in New York for a while then travelled up into BINBROOK, Wentworth Cty., Ontario, Canada to stay with our cousins/family there while his own pars. arrived through Montreal, Quebec, Canada in the following springtime.
First I made a mental summary of the important statements in Shannah's email:

1. William James Twiss born ca 1870 Ireland immigrated to N. America on the ship Julia in 1887
2. William's parents Francis Edward Day & Ellen Twiss sailed to Montreal Quebec in spring of 1888

Making a mental note of these statements  does not mean I accepted them as fact. It was obvious they were family lore passed on through the generations.

Curious about what I found for Shannah? The rest of the story is at

Friday, May 16, 2014

Clues You Can Find in a Census Record

Bonnie recently asked Olive Tree Genealogy this question about her ancestors:

I have recently found my Grandmother listed on the 1901 Ontario Census in the township of Wroxeter in Huron County.  She was born on August 5, 1899.  Her parents were George J Harris and Agnes J Harris born Jan 3, 1875 and Sept 21, 1877 respectively.  I was hoping to find where George and Agnes were born, and when their families emigrated and from where?  We know very little about the Harris side of the family so I was very excited to see this much!
Dear Bonnie - It is easy to overlook clues that are in a record. For instance ONE census record can often provide a great many new facts and clues to work on. 


First let me show you some important facts I think you may have overlooked on that 1901 census. A look at the online image shows that George was born in Ontario and his wife Agnes in the USA. Agnes gives her year of immigration from America to Canada as 1881.

This means you can search the Ontario birth registrations to find who George's parents were. You also know that it is quite likely George and Agnes were married in Ontario so I'd start looking at Ontario marriage records. This should give you both sets of parents' names for the bride and the groom.

Secondly, Wroxeter is not the township where the couple lived. It is a village in Howick Township, Huron County.  The census images clearly indicates Wroxeter Village and a quick search online reveals the township it is in.

Continue reading at

Clues You Can Find in a Census Record!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Help Finding a Van Slyke from New York

Help With a Van Slyke from New York
Bill asked Olive Tree Genealogy for help.
I believe that my family could be a descendent of the Vanslyke  Family . My Great grandmother was Edith Vanslyke and she did in 1900 giving birth to my grandmother. They were from the Rome, itica area. Edith  Married Franklin Henry Batchelor (Bathcheller). Name change. Also From Rome N.Y. If there is  any correlation to this  I would appricate anyinfomation that you may have or pictures if that is the case.
Although I have written 3 books on the Van Slyke family, I do not have Edith in my database as she is not far enough back in time. My books start in the early 17th century and end in the early to mid 19th century.

But I decided to have a quick look on Ancestry to see if I could find a bit more on Bill's great grandmother Edith Van Slyke. The 1900 census for the Bronx New York reveals her name was Edith M. Van Slyke and she was born ca February 1864 in New York. [ . 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004]

Edith and Franklin were married circa 1883 so she should be found in the 1880 and 1870 census records. Since I had her death year I looked on FindAGrave and found her burial in Rome, Oneida County New York. She is listed as Edith Marie Van Slyke, daughter of Elias E. and Mary Van Slyke.

More searches of the online census records reveal a 16 year old Edith M. Van Slyke daughter of Elias E and Mary in the 1880 census for Rome, Oneida County New York.

Following Elias Van Slyke, born ca 1838 in New York, we find him with his parents Sylvanus Van Slyke and Maria living in Whitestown Oneida New York in 1850 and Rome New York in 1860. Sylvanus was born ca 1813 and in the 1850, 1860, and 1870 census he is recorded as a shoemaker born in New York. However the 1880 census puts his place of birth as Pennsylvania.

This should be enough to jump start Bill in his quest. Hopefully we can link Edith to either Cornelis Van Slyke who arrived in New Netherland (present day New York) on De Eendracht in 1634 or his nephew Willem Van Slyke who sailed to New Netherland on De Trouw in 1660. I am lucky enough to be descended from both Cornelis and his nephew.

My books on the Van Slyke family are available as:

The Van Slyke Family in America: A Genealogy of Cornelise Antonissen Van Slyke, 1604-1676 and his Mohawk Wife Ots-Toch , including the story of Jacques Hertel, 1603-1651, Father of Ots-Toch and Interpreter to Samuel de Champlain REVISED EDITION published 2010. 287 pages. 8.5x11, coil bound.  

New Netherland Settlers: Willem Pieterse Van Slyke aka Neef - A genealogy to five generations of the descendants of Willem Pieterse Van Slyke who settled in New Netherland (New York) in 1660. published 2005. 198 pages. 8.5x11, coil bound.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

How to Find Someone after Arrival USA 1903

An email from a Norwegian researcher arrived today in Olive Tree Genealogy's mailbox

My name is Silje . I need some help to find the family of my husbands great great grandfather. He left Norway in 1903 true Liverpool UK and came to port of New York, USA 10 of september 1903 with a ship called Aurenia. His name at the records I found at Ellis Island was Theodor Olson he is born in 1870 in Norway. The ships manifest says that he was going to St Paul but I dont know. The family never heard from him. He left a wife and 3 children in Norway. Hope to find some relatives who migth have some info about him.

 Silje - since Theodor arrived in America in 1903 you should look for him in the 1910, 1920, 1930 and 1940 census records. These are all freely available at FamilySearch

 The ships manifest shows that he is heading to his brother-in-law so I would also look for him in the census records. As a side note it appears the ship name is Aurania in case you are referring to it in future.