Sunday, October 28, 2012

Brick Walls- Family Seperations

If you think families separating is a new thing check your history. The things that effect the family situation today occurred in a different time period in the same way. When you have tracked a family and suddenly they are not all together make sure to find the reason why. Ruling out death in the family results in checking out the other possibilities. Husbands and wives did not get along in earlier times as well. It was not fashionable to go through the court process prior to 1900. For many it was a matter of heading off to the corner store and not coming back. Ironically the newspaper is a excellent place to find this kind of information. This would fall more under tabloid journalism. Papers would cover stories that sold papers. Recently I was doing a search on a family in Detroit, MI that the father had separated in the early part of the 20th century. The primary document were the court records that were found and filed by the wife. She was looking for spousal support for the children. The amazing thing for me was that there were stories in the paper on the incident. The story in the family is that the father had moved far away. From the newspaper articles I was able to learn that he had only moved a short distance away to Port Huron, Michigan. The father lived a very colorful life and was good at getting himself in the paper for all the wrong reasons. Another source in the Catholic church is to look for the annulment papers that were filed to dissolve the marriage. These records are kept at the diocese level. Divorce was a big taboo in the church and as often the reason that a family member would be buried in the Protestant cemetery and not the Catholic one. Make sure to pay attention to all the clues. These records and events offer valuable insight to our families lives.Brick

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Brick Walls Land Deeds

The use of deeds is a very common document that is overlooked by most amateur genealogist. Land deeds provide important clues for both location and relationships. When you are attempting to identify when a person arrived in a particular location or left a particular area land deeds play a important part in this search. The vast majority of the population prior to 1900 were farmers. This would mean the purchase of land. Further you go back the higher likely hood that land was purchased. Identifying the date of departure and arrival in a area is important to creating a timeline of our ancestors life events. It is also a important document when you are attempting to establish First Family status for a family unit in a particular area. It was common for people to purchase land from people they know. This could be a friend that had lived close to them in the location they were in prior or a family member. Be sure to identify the potential relationship between your ancestor and the person they were buying the land from. Pay attention to the origins of the person selling the land. Did they continue living in the area after they sold the land? Do they share a common surname? Who were their neighbors? Make sure to look at people that shared the same surname purchasing land in the same area during the period of time your ancestor may have located. When looking at where they sold land check for others selling around the same time period and see if they show up in the new location. Please let me know your success with this process. It is a wonderful tool for breaking down those brick walls.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Don't forget the collateral lines- Brickwalls

Don't fall into the trap of wearing blinders when doing research and only focusing on our direct family lineage. The trail may run cold with our own direct line, but a sibling may have a rich paper trail that helps us identify our lineage. When I first started doing my family research I started my search with my mothers family line of Stevens. I was able to trace the line very quickly back three generations, but I was stuck on Seymour. In the early stages of learning genealogy I was always concerned with my direct family line and did not pay attention to the collateral lines. Seymour would be a brick wall for me for almost thirty years. Understand that I began my genealogy journey when I was thirteen. One day I decided to take a look at the line again to break the Seymour brick wall. I knew very little about his family other than his migration pattern from his birth in Massachusetts to his death in Fairfield, Huron, Ohio. The time period was early nineteenth century and did not have a very large paper trail. The one thing I did know was that he had a brother named Paul who lived by him in Huron County. Reviewing census records the two brothers were always close together. They bought and sold land together. There was a lot of crossing of paths for these two. I knew they had come from Monroe, Ashtabula, Ohio in the 1820's. When I searched the census and tax records Seymour and Paul were right next to each other in this county. The connection was very strong. There were many Stevens in this county and they lived in very close proximity to each other. Now to eliminate the suspects. My first search was in the Probate records for the county. It was here that I hit pay dirt. There was a Paul that died in the 1830's that had another Paul that was his executor. I had noticed the elder Paul in tax records next to my Paul and Seymour. When reading the will it mentioned Paul Jr and Seymour both listed as living in Huron County Ohio as his sons. There were also letters in the file back and forth from Paul Jr that were post marked at Fairfield, Huron, Ohio. The amazing part for me was able to trace Paul Sr back to when his family came to American in the 1630's. Did I mention to he was a Revolutionary War solider. The sad part was it only took thirty years. Always look at those that are around your family. Especially those that share the same name. Understand their possible relationship to your ancestor. Don't fall into the trap of wearing blinders.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Why do we do the things we do? Brickwalls

It is interesting to look back at the many family traditions about our family to identify clues of our families heritage. All families have specific traditions that have been handed down or shared over the years that we may not understand. Recipes and holiday traditions are just a few that come to mind. Families have the tradition of food. There are reasons that families serve foods that have specific food traditions that point to the families ethnic origin. In my own family my wife's grandmother on her father's side made most of her dishes around her Polish heritage. The serving of blood soup and kielbasa dinners was a tradition that was enjoyed by all. On my Mom's side of the family the Irish dish of Corn beef and cabbage was a popular dish. My grandfather always served his beer at room temperature and kept it by his chair. He told me this was the tradition of his English roots. Yuck! Holidays are a time for families to share these mysterious traditions that no one understands why, but knows we have always done it that way. In my wife's family her father is big into Christmas and one of his traditions is for the kids to locate the pickle ornament on the Christmas tree. The child that finds it gets a special gift. This was a tradition with German families at Christmas time. Think back on the many things our families do. Determine if they may offer clues to your families ethnic origins.