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Friday, July 24, 2015

Why should eliminating the NHPRC concern us

Last week a draft bill was sent to the US House of Representatives which included a provision to National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).  Why am I talking about this?  Well, it will affect every single genealogist out there researching in US records.
eliminate the

The NHPRC was founded in 1934 and has several goals.  Mainly they promote the preservation of American documents important to our heritage.  Especially documents that relate to democracy, history and culture.  They give grants to many different organizations who fall within the auspices of their mission as well projects that document democracy.  The NHPRC also publishes many books and pamphlets about these documents and aide in the historical research of our country.  Check out this guide to what they do for more information.

Those grants have furthered our ability to have access to documents that may have otherwise never seen the light of day.  It has preserved literally thousands of collections through digitization and proper training for archivists on care and storage.  That has in turn allowed researchers and the public access to these records and smaller archives that would have otherwise never happened. 

So why was a provision put in this bill to end funding?  To help pay for the cleanup costs that will be incurred by the federal government due to the OPM security breach.  Now, before you go off on how that is a very important thing.  Trust me, I get that.  It affected my whole family too.  But, I feel strongly that cutting ALL funding to an organization that is dedicated to preserving our documentary heritage is wrong.  WRONG! 

Yes, I am impassioned.  Yes, I think you should be too. 

As of this morning, it was reported by the National Coalition for History (NHC) that the draft bill, sponsored by Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform (OGR) Committee, was pulled.  However, the committee will resume after Labor Day and it is likely that they may take another look at this bill again at that time.  This issue may still resurface.  You can keep up to date on the developing details through the NCH website.


I hope you see how anyone interested in continuing to preserve American historical documents should pay close attention to this ongoing story.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Family reunions and crying over pictures

This past weekend I made the pilgrimage to the annual reunion for my mother’s family.  The kids and I boarded a plane and met with many people whom I have not seen since I left Indiana almost a decade ago.  In fact, there were many there that I had never met before.

Usually our reunions are held near where our family originated in Southern Indiana.  Planners this year decided to mix it up a little bit.  Michigan is home to a large number of my mother’s cousins whose parents left Southern Indiana right before or during World War II.  My grandparents were among those in the family who left to find work in the factories and try to make something for themselves away from the corn fields of home. 

It was three days of activities, and I am very glad I drug my kids to each and every one.  For me, one of the more special gatherings of the trip was at my Great Aunt Teeney’s house.  She will turn 95 this fall and her husband was my grandmother’s baby brother.  Teeney is the last of that generation left.

I had never been to her home in Canton, Michigan but it was absolutely a stunning experience.  Her son-in-law gave us the grand tour because her house is like no other near there.  Built in 1936 it was a show house for what the unemployed skilled craftsman of the Detroit area could produce.  The plasterers and craftsmen, according to our tour guide, were starving in the streets and the gentleman who built the house thought a model home could help them find work. Each room was different with unique elaborate plaster work and leaded glass windows.  One room had spirals another diamonds.  The most amazing one was contained a vine of flowers that at one time were vivid purples, reds, and golds.

However, the real reason I went to the house was to hear stories and look at pictures.  Her three children, my boys, my dad and aunt Teeney sat in the living room going through album after album.  Sharing stories and looking at people from our family tree.  There were images I have here at my house which I can now identify thanks to this visit.  I was also able to take away my own copies of images that I had never seen before.

In particular, a copy of a group of women from my family.  Have you ever had a picture make you cry?  I had never, ever, had this experience until that morning.

On the first page of the first album we opened an image of 6 women and a baby looked up at me.  It was on the original cardboard backing and in extremely good shape.  I asked if they knew who the women were because I could identify my great-grandmother Armstrong easily but didn’t know the rest.  Aunt Teeney simply said “turn it over, the names are on the back.”  Well, I was elated!  I mean really, how many times can you think of where that actually happens with an older picture?

Flipping the card over my heart stopped at the first name, then skipped a beat at the second, then the tears started at the third.  You see the woman in the center holding the baby was my grandmother’s older sister Hope and her first child Charlie (dating the image to about 1931).  Hope and my grandmother married brothers making their children double cousins.  This image was the grandmothers and great grandmothers of the baby, the same as my mother.  My great grandmothers and 2nd great-grandmothers.  My kids 2nd and 3rd great-grandmothers.

I tried to keep it together, I really did.  The tears however, wouldn’t be held back and they silently streamed down my cheeks.  I had only seen 3 of the people (great grandma Armstrong, Hope and Charlie) in pictures before.  The others were all new faces to me.




Going left to right on the front row was the paternal grandmother of Charlie, Bertha Zeta Kelley Arvin.  Then Hope Armstrong Arvin holding Charlie Arvin.  Next to her was the maternal grandmother Ila Sanders Armstrong.  Standing behind them were Rose Ann Brothers Arvin, mother of the paternal grandfather to Charlie.  Next to her was Eliza Morris Kelley, mother to Bertha.  Then last was Mary Ellen Wildman Sanders, mother to Ila.

There were even more fantastic pictures after that with great stories to tell, but nothing, I mean nothing, could even come close to that first experience.  Now I completely understand why those people cry on genealogy television shows.  I had not had an experience to date where I had such a visceral connection to an image. 


Maybe it was because I knew them only through records and now I have faces to attach to them.  Maybe it was because they are kin and I could see my family in them.  Maybe I am just a sap, which, frankly, I am totally ok with too.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Did Thomas Pittard really marry sisters

1646 Map of Somerset
My mother-in-law visited recently and I had a lot of pleasure in showing her what I found over the
last year on Find My Past for her recent immigrant ancestry.  Her grandmother, Elizabeth Pittard, was born in Martock, Somerset, England.  Thanks to finds on FMP we not only broke down a wall but have a lead on a new possible line.

There is a family story, like there always is, that goes along with this ancestress.  Elizabeth’s mother died when she was very young.  The story passed down was that her father married her mother Ann’s sister, Jane, after her death.  Growing up the joke was that even though they were half siblings the children were really full siblings since their mothers were sisters.  Got that?

Well from her Grandmother Elizabeth’s wedding certificate I discovered her mother’s name was Ann Tatchell.  The name was confirmed with her certificate of marriage to Thomas Pittard which I ordered from the UK.  I was very excited, except that there was no father listed for Ann.  Questions began to percolate in my head.

To make matters worse, I also ordered Thomas Pittard’s death certificate from the state of New York.  His wife’s name was Jane Talwood.  I don’t know about you, but Tatchell and Talwood are not very similar. If these women were siblings, wouldn’t they have the same surname?  Once again, the maiden name was confirmed when I found their record of marriage on FMP listing Thomas Pittard as a widower and Jane Talwood as a spinster.  Yeah, the questions were now even bigger.

What the heck was going on here?!  At best these 2 women are ½ sisters.  Could the women have considered themselves sisters for some reason now unknown to us?  Most interesting, Jane has a father listed on her marriage record but Ann does not.  I did notice there was a Jane Tatchell listed as a witness on her marriage record.  Now, who is this woman?




While talking about my finds with a friend who does a lot of UK research I was informed that if there was no father listed it was more than likely that Ann was born out of wedlock.  Well, now I have a scandal and I have to keep digging!  It also got me thinking, could the mysterious Jane Tatchell be her mother.

In the UK, as in the US, sometimes the easiest way to trace people at first is through the Census Records.  I knew that Ann was born and married in the same general area according to all the records I had.  With that in mind I went back 10 years from her married Census Records (1871 contained Thomas, Ann and daughter Elizabeth) and found her on the 1861 census with a woman named Jane.  Jane Tatchell was listed as an unmarried head of house employed as a glove maker with 3 daughters Ann 11, Eliza 7 and Sarah 4. 

1861 England and Wales Census

Then I went back 10 more years.  Ann should be 1 in the 1851 census and maybe we can solve this riddle.  I find a Jane Tatchell in the same town and employed as a glove maker, the occupation listed from before.  However, there are other people now too.  18-year-old Jane is living in the household of John Tatchell, a 33 widower, who is listed as her father and a slew of siblings.  There is no Ann though, but maybe she has not been born yet.

1851 England and Wales Census


Things get a bit murkier when we follow this Jane forward in time.  In 1871 she is in the same town, with the same job and we find Eliza and Sarah 10 years older.  Jane is now listed as a widow and is still employed as a glove maker.  There are now a total of 4 children: Eliza 15, Sarah 13, Masen 8 and John 4.  What I found most interesting is that the children were born in different places in Somerset, Wales or Dorset.  Jane was not located on the 1881 census and, while I don’t have the document yet, I did find a Jane Tatchell listed on a death index from the 1st quarter of 1880 for the town she last lived.
1871 England and Wales Census

Now what do I do?  Was she a widow?  Was she a woman who had bad luck and loved the boys?  On a lark I looked to see if I could find a marriage record for her in the town she lived.  There was a Jane Tatchell listed in an index from 1858 marrying a Simeon Eglon.  However, I have no proof that was her.  There were also several Mary Janes and Eliza Janes who all married in that area.  I have a feeling there were Tatchells everywhere!


This little puzzle is just another reason why I need to make a trip overseas.  I wonder how much more I could find in person.  On that note, if you have any research ideas, thoughts or comments let me know.  I am not used to doing research for people in this location and at this point I need some help.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

All patriots should be identified and recognized


The end of June I joined thousands of women as they descend on the Daughters of the American Revolution headquarters in Washington, D.C.  It was time for the annual conference and as a local (well sort of if you consider the 1 ½ hour commute on I-95 and public transportation) I couldn’t miss the event. 

This year the Daughters were treated to an amazing, as always, presentation by D. Joshua Taylor at Friday night’s Celebrate America event.  The public was regaled with stories about his genealogy journey and his loving grandmother who helped him get to where he is today.  We learned about his connection to the DAR through his grandmother.  For those in the room who admired him already hearing about his DAR lineage made them swell with pride even more.

I interviewed Josh for the Congress
Online Committee
Josh is a fervent supporter of the DAR mission and its endeavors.  In fact, he wrote an incredible piece for the Huffington Post about us and our preservation accomplishments after the event.  You can read it here.

To be honest it is times like these that I am reminded why I love being a Daughter.  It is more than the hats, gloves, and ribbons.  The commitment to preservation, and as a genealogist, the commitment to quality research makes me swell with pride. 

I served as a Page for
the Conference
At the event the President General, Lynn Forney Young, told us all about what the organization was up to.  Did you know that the DAR has proved 144, 839 patriots?  Or how about that on average each month we verify 75 new ones?  There are still thousands of men, women, and children waiting to be verified and recognized as patriots of the American Revolution.  This 5-minute video was shown at the event describing our research into ALL who aided the American cause.

The DAR databases are wonderful already, but a new project was unveiled at the event which will add to the information you will be able to access.  With the aid of Daughter volunteers The Patriot Records Project will index names of patriots from a variety of sources starting with documents within the DAR and then going outside it to other repositories who cannot afford to do it on their own.

From the website:
The Patriot Records Project begun in the fall of 2014 will make finding and identifying Revolutionary War patriots in hard to search collections easier than ever.  The project will bring the exploits of the American patriots, who sacrificed so much, to life.  The project begins with the Continental Loan Books of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and New York.  The Continental Loan Books contain the names of men, women and businesses who helped to finance the War for Independence. Other collections scheduled to be indexed include the South Carolina Audited Accounts, New Jersey Revolutionary War Miscellaneous Records, North Carolina Audited Records and many, many more collections.

The Patriot Records Project index will be available as part of the DAR Genealogy Research System.  It is hoped this index will provide not only genealogists but also history students, researchers, scholars and teachers with a tool to assist in their study of the Revolutionary War period. The records span over 75 years, starting at the very beginning of the Revolutionary War through the last petitions for remuneration.”

I have already signed up to help index.  Yeah, I sure did.  I am confident that I can find a couple hours a week to help.  Even if that means I don’t sleep.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Find My Past Library Edition!

I have numerous friends who are librarians.  To be honest, they are among some of the best people to have as friends.  I mean really!  They know how to find stuff quickly and are always up for a good research trip.  Plus, libraries!  You can't go wrong visiting a library.

That is why I was so excited to find this little gem in my mailbox this morning from Find My Past.  I hope you will be just as excited as I was about this news.   It looks like it is a great opportunity for libraries and researchers to get to know this website even better.


Salt Lake City – June 25, 2015

Findmypast, a global leader in family history, announced today the official release of their product for libraries and organizations in the United States. The Findmypast Library Edition gives library access to billions of records from Findmypast’s wide array of collections from the United States, Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, and other areas of the world. Collection highlights include:
  • ·         Largest online collection of parish records from the United Kingdom
  • ·         Exclusive access to the new PERiodical Source Index (now with images)
  • ·         Most comprehensive Irish family history records in the world

Amongst the billions of records now available to library patrons is the new PERiodical Source Index (PERSI). PERSI, a popular tool used by genealogists, includes more than 2.5 million indexed entries from thousands of genealogical and local history publications. For the first time, images of articles have been included in the collection – with more being added on a regular basis.

“We are delighted to bring the best resource for British and Irish family history to America’s library market,” said Annelies van den Belt, CEO of Findmypast.

The Library Edition provides tools for patrons to work in tandem with a library’s subscription and at home. Individual user accounts allow patrons to build their own family tree, save records from the library’s subscription, and continue working on their family tree.  Library patrons will also have access to Findmypast’s Hints, which aids in the discovery of records from their own family tree.


Librarians can contact them for further information, pricing, and to start a free 90-day free trial of the product.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Discovery! is almost as good as Eureka!

For the last year I have been playing around once a month with the MyHeritage website.  I would do more, but OMG this year has been so hectic and way to fast pace. Really, it’s June already?!

Moving on.  One of the features I am growing to love more and more is the instant discovery icon.  While I am not brave enough to merge people straight into my tree from another member’s tree it is a great way to get hints on other lines.  The hints I have found have really been worthwhile, and helped to fill in details I didn’t have.

Oh, and yes, you read that right I don’t (anymore) merge people’s trees into mine.  No matter how good the tree looks I am leery, and cautious. One too many bad apples upset the apple cart you could say.  That, however, is another post.

But back to MyHeritage. 

This discovery feature can be accessed two ways: from your family tree or the main page under discoveries.  Simply click the “Discovery!” icon and it will take you to a series of pages to confirm this is your ancestor.  From there you can choose to add those people into your tree.






The new people are actually marked “new” so if you disagree with anyone added from the merge you can go delete them.  That is my one complaint, I wish there was a way to only add the people you want to from those discoveries into your tree.  From what I read and saw there is no way to do that.  It is all or nothing. 

Lucky for me, I have a more complete tree (remember from earlier posts, I am adding people as I find through the record matches only on this site) on my desktop.  From my home tree I can compare the data before I merge it, but you may not have that ability.  It’s a neat feature, so I encourage you to explore it.  You may love it!  I know I have found it interesting so I encourage you to go and explore a little!



Monday, June 8, 2015

Blankies, Free Time, Whiskey and Find My Past

Image courtesy of iosphere a
FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Now that I got your attention, it’s been one of those weeks around here.  Many of you know that I have an ongoing illness and last week was a bad.  Most days found me curled on the couch with my pillow, fuzzy blankie and a mindless movie.  On the days where my head was clear enough I did work on deadlines and do a bit of research.

Which brings us to Friday.  The first day in 5 that I was feeling good.  I took my laptop out on the back porch, sat with some tea and cruised the Find My Past website.

It hit me earlier that week that I had not done any personal family history research in months.  MONTHS!  I have been writing, lecturing and doing client work but really have not had any time to do anything on my or my husband’s trees.  Well, now that I was feeling better that was going to change.  I gave myself the weekend to play and have fun.

In the past I have found some really great items there for my husband’s family in Somerset.  Plus I discovered some great newspaper articles for my father’s family from his hometown.  This time, however, I was going to try a new feature.  Well a new to me feature, their family tree feature.

You can upload a tree or start from fresh and using their new hints (it is still in Beta) feature it will
show you matches from their documents and databases.  Yeah, I know, they and every other company have this ability.  I do try them all though hoping that one day I will find one that I love.  So, seeing as this is new, with a Beta version of some features, I was up for trying a new one and seeing where it could lead me.  What’s the worst that could happen? It should be fun!  Right?!

Yes, I did upload a tree.  Yes, I have a lazy streak in me.  Well, honestly I wanted to see how easy it would be.  I have the worst luck with uploading files.  I was pleasantly pleased that it went without a hitch and I had literally hundreds of viable hints with a few minutes.  So many hints, to real DOCUMENTS, that I deleted my tree.  Don’t freak on me.  It was just a tree.

Well, I thought to myself, if I can get that many so quickly why don’t I start with myself and then start building out like, well, you are supposed to do.  I wanted to see where these documents lead me.  That thought then lead me to the decision where I sat down on Saturday and just went for it.  It wasn’t until I entered our parents in the tree that I started to get any hints.  It surprised me, really, but made me a little happy that no hints popped up for the hubs or me.  Within 30 minutes I was 4 generations back on my father’s line with census, marriage, birth and death records.  Yeah, I couldn’t believe how fast it was going.

Then the whiskey came out.  Yes, genealogy research really is heightened by a good glass of whiskey.  Okay, it also helped with the cough and aches.

I only have a couple critiques.  I prefer a sideways pedigree chart and only a top to bottom pedigree chart when I am looking at a specific family.  Unfortunately the top down pedigree chart seems to be the default setting in the family tree page. I had to keep clicking back over to the “pedigree view” from the “family view” each time I finished looking at a document.


Also, the house icon with my family tree title does not take you to the home person for the tree like I thought it would.  From the hints page (or the person you are looking at page) it take you back to the family view for that person.  You have to re-navigate back down to the home person. 

While it shouldn’t be a big deal, it was annoying.  These things are still being worked through obviously so hopefully they will come along in future versions.  Unless I am completely missing the boat then hopefully someone will point this out to me!

So yeah, a productive weekend to say the least.  With summer just starting and the kids getting out of school I think we will have some fun genealogy lessons using Find My Past.  It should keep them busy for the next 10 weeks…right?