For many families, there’s a disaster preparedness plan in place in the terrible event that a fire or natural event strikes. Important everyday documents and valuables such as passports, stock documents, and jewelry may be safely ensconced in a fireproof safe. Your most valuable possessions are likely covered by your homeowner’s insurance or specialized policies. But your genealogical information could be damaged or lost in the event of a tragedy. Not only does that information represent important links to the past, but it also is the culmination of untold hours and even years of research, travel, and careful curation of information. Here are three tips to help you create a preservation and disaster protection plan for your genealogical information and family heirlooms.
So much genealogical evidence is captured through complex paper trails. One of the most important aspects of this can be pictures, including older pictures and rare images that may represent the only photograph of a specific ancestor. Other important documents might include copies of out of print books, documentation such as birth and death records, and handwritten interview notes. Your best defense against losing any materials is a proactive approach: digitize everything.
By creating digital copies of documents and photographs, you’ll be protected if any kind of emergency occurs. They’re also easier to share with interested relatives, organize, and publish your findings if that’s among your goals. Once you digitize, look for a reliable storage option that provides a back-up of your files. For example, consider using a remote cloud backup service or an external hard-drive to make a copy of your digital content.
Use smart storage techniques
When choosing the location to store your photographs and other precious family belongings, start by choosing acid free preservation boxes. Consider adding a desiccant package to any boxes storing delicate documents, which helps remove condensation or moisture that can accumulate. Another important consideration is where in your home to store these items. The best choice is somewhere that’s climate controlled and less subject to extremes of temperature, flooding, or other issues. This essentially removes areas such as your basement or attic. Instead, we recommend an interior closet without windows, ideally stored on a shelf that’s above floor level to prevent flood damage and curious children or pets. A water and fire protected box or safe will give you peace of mind.
Your genealogical records are the culmination of significant effort and potential investment. Developing a plan to make sure that your hard work is preserved and protected from natural disasters is a critical component of an ongoing genealogical project. Invest the time now to consider storage, back-ups, and protecting rare family items – you won’t regret it!
Whether it’s a meticulously prepared Daughters of the American Revolution application or an enlistment record that transports you across the decades with descriptive details, military records are an important source of information in genealogical research. Military records help us understand when and where our ancestors fought and served, what wars they were part of, and whether they dedicated time to national security during times of peace. There are numerous types of military records that researchers encounter: draft accounts, muster rolls, detailed service records, pension documents, bounties, cemetery records and veteran’s profiles. Here’s a closer look at how to interpret military records and how they can inform your genealogical search.
Navigating military paperwork
One of the advantages of conducting genealogical research with military records is that most militias across time and countries have been well-organized. Military service can be one of the richest sources of written details about the life and times of a specific ancestor. This is true whether your ancestor served in a distant navy or army, or more recently in branches like the Air Force and National Guard. It’s important to remember that military paperwork typically relates to different points in the service lifecycle:
- Enlistment records: Records for new sailors and soldiers are often excellent, offering details such as the name, date of entry, location that the person joined, and biographical and descriptive details. These records can include draft cards during periods of compulsory service.
- Muster Rolls: Muster rolls provide lists of individuals who served in a particular unit, including details of such as names and ages. Muster rolls go back hundreds of years, and can be an important record of service prior to the Civil War.
- Ongoing service records: These records can relate to location and dates of service, the base your ancestor was stationed at or the ship your ancestor served aboard, or specific details related to honors he or she received.
- Draft and war records: Draft records typically refer to compulsory service for males between the ages of 18 and 35. In some cases, much older individuals also signed up under the draft. Different collections offer searchable draft records for Canada and the US (currently available via Ancestry.com).
- Bounty land records: Some soldiers received bounty land grants in exchange for service during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. There were also a number of other land grants filed prior to 1855.
- Prison and hospital records: If something extraordinary happened during your ancestor’s service, there may be prison or hospital records to supplement their files. Prison and trial records can advise you if they were accused or convicted of a crime. Hospital records detail the nature of injuries and treatment.
- Discharge and pension records: These types of records relate to how and when your ancestor left the service. They may also offer important insights into life after the military. Possible post-service records include honorable and dishonorable discharges, pension records, veterans support, and military burial details.
Accessing Military Records
If you’re currently researching an ancestor that you know served in the military, accessing these records can greatly expedite your research. But if you don’t have personal experience with finding and reviewing military records, it can be a challenge to know where to get started. What follows is a list of several different options to launch your search.
The National Archives: The National Archives stores records in two repositories, one in Washington DC and the other in St. Louis, Missouri. Their website outlines the procedures for visiting the archives and obtaining copies of specific records.
Ancestry.com: Ancestry.com has digitized a significant portion of America’s military records prior to WWII. These include WWI draft cards and WWII draft cards. They also have collections of foreign national service records available.
Taking pride in your family’s military service and uncovering the details is one of the pleasures of genealogy. There’s a vast world of military records that can help fill in important gaps in your family narrative. If you need assistance locating and interpreting military records in your genealogical search, contact us today for a personalized consultation to find out how working with a professional genealogist can help.
With Patrick’s Day coming later this month and inspiring Irish pride around the world, many people become curious about their Irish roots. Whether you’ve found an O’Shaughnessy somewhere in your family tree or simply have family lore about Celtic royal ties or family that escaped the Great Famine, learning more about your Irish ancestors is a great way to celebrate this time of year. But researching ancestors in Ireland and abroad can present some special challenges. Here are five strategies and resources that can help streamline your search.
Remember the concept of chain migration: Chain migration refers to the phenomena that often, a family or group of individuals would immigrate to the United States together. As they got established with places to live and jobs, members of their extended family, friends, and people from their community would often follow. There were strong trends – at least initially – for new immigrants to live with people that they knew or settle nearby. If you’re struggling to find details on a specific ancestor but know that they traveled with a sibling, parent, or friend, researching the people they knew may give you valuable insights into how and where they lived, worked, and traveled.
Review documentation you may have on hand: One of the best places to start with your search for more detail about Irish ancestors is by looking through existing family papers. A family Bible may include names and dates of births and marriages. Letters, postcards, and other forms of correspondence with relatives back in Ireland may offer important clues on names and geographic information. Pinpointing the town or village, or even simply the parish that an ancestor emigrated from will help you focus your search and make it easier to find important records.
Work to find birth names: For many immigrants traveling to the United States with names that were considered difficult to pronounce, spellings were changed upon arrival. Therefore, what started as O’Conaill may have changed to O’Connell, Connell, O’Connall, Conill, Cannell, or Connull (note: these were just a few versions that turned up for this particular surname during a recent search). You may find references in documents where spellings vary slightly. Different variations of one name may be used for the same person. Depending on your ancestor’s literacy level, it may be difficult to find a definitive confirmation of spelling; they themselves may have used different spellings at different times. The best way to work around this is to explore different spellings as part of your records searches, and provide notations in your research on any alternate spellings used for your ancestor or other members of his or her family.
Focus on immigration records: Irish immigration peaked at the time of the Great Famine, with good reason. However, ship’s records and passenger lists may have been skimpy with details. This is doubly true if your ancestors traveled steerage (i.e. the cheapest way to make the Atlantic crossing). If you’re having trouble locating your ancestor on an Irish to America vessel, remember that many people crossed to Canada and then traveled south into the United States as it was often cheaper. It may also be helpful to cross-check immigration records via the US Census. Often, if a place of birth was listed as somewhere other than the United States, the census will note the year of immigration. This can help narrow down your records search.
Use Irish specialty collections: There are a number of collections that are available which focus exclusively on Irish genealogy that can supplement your search. Some of these are free, and others paid. While not a comprehensive list, these resources can help you get started or break through a particularly challenging research problem.
The National Archives of Ireland offers an extensive collection of historical and genealogical resources available for search.
Origins.net is a specialized service for tracing British and Irish ancestors. The subscription services offers a Wills Index and the best online version available of Griffiths Valuation.
Roots Ireland is an initiative of the Irish Family History Foundation, an Irish non-for-profit dedicated to genealogy, offering a searchable records index and digitized versions of original source materials.
Finding your Irish ancestors can be a rewarding project to undertake in connection with St. Patrick’s Day. If you’re struggling to make progress or want assistance from an Irish genealogical specialist, contact Price & Associates today to set up a personalized consultation.
One of the genealogist’s unique challenges comes in the form of tracking down female ancestors. In earlier times when record keeping was spotty at best, many records of major events were incomplete. Women didn’t often vote, hold jobs, own property, or perform other activities that would routinely generate a paper trail before the early 20th century. This wasn’t always the case, and many times researchers will find that women’s information was more complete. But it’s a common enough challenge that comes up in genealogical work that we decided to explore it more. What’s a family history researcher to do when they’re working on tracking down a female ancestor and the data is limited?
Understand the context
Prior to the early to mid-1900s, women’s identities were often very intertwined with those of their husbands, fathers, and sons. By law, in many places, women were not allowed to vote, hold property, or work outside the home. Even when it was allowed, female independence was a somewhat isolated event. Further, men of the times were in charge of writing the histories and keeping track of the information that was recorded. These things combined to create the situation where records on some female ancestors either don’t exist or don’t contain basic information that researchers are seeking. It’s led some genealogists to call women our “invisible ancestors.” Today, this context is both sad to reflect on and frustrating from a research perspective. But it’s also the reality, and genealogists have developed several creative ways of learning more about female ancestors. Here’s a closer look at some of the tricks of the trade.
Look at the marriage records
Marriage records are an important source of your female ancestors’ maiden name. Typically, this information would be recorded on the marriage license. It would also be preserved on church or government records announcing the marriage, recording the marriage, and performing the marriage. Genealogists consult records as diverse as family bibles, wedding licenses, church registers, banns, and marriage applications that could be held at the town, county, or provincial level (depending on the country). Once a researcher has obtained a marriage record, there are several pieces of important information that can be gleaned. These include the bride’s maiden name, her parent’s names, place of birth, the date of the marriage, and the location that the wedding was performed. Each of these clues helps fill important gaps in the genealogical picture. Divorce records can also provide similar information where applicable.
Another valuable location for records about female ancestors are cemetery records. A gravestone is often one of the most concrete records that an individual has left behind of his or her life. Cemetery records often list some information, and a visit to the cemetery in question can provide additional perspective. The insights gleaned range from inscriptions to the quality of the stone to the proximity of the burial in relation to other individuals. You can also get secondary confirmation of names, birth and date death, spouse’s name, and even parental status (e.g. from inscriptions such as “beloved mother”). It’s important to remember that cemetery records have variable reliability, depending upon who has reported the information that’s been inscribed.
Government census records
A government census record is another avenue to pursue. Government census records may not list your ancestor’s maiden name, but may provide important context clues to her life. For example, it may list her spouse, children, age, the value of their estate, if she worked outside the home, her basic levels of education, and more. Tracing a female ancestor across the decades of her life through the census can give an idea of how her life unfolded. When you find an ancestor in the census, take a detailed copy of the information on that page and surrounding pages. Information about neighbors and other household members can be important clues to the bigger picture.
In some areas, women owned property independently or in common with a husband. She may have received a dowry from her father when she married, or a dower from her husband’s estate when he passed on. Women may be mentioned in wills, or have wills of their own. Baptism records for a woman or her children; probate details related to inheritance; church attendance rolls; military service and pension records; jail records; and obituaries and other newspaper clippings are additional sources of information that should be examined.
Tracking down details on a missing female ancestor can be a challenge. Following the usual paper trails may not be enough. But a persistent researcher is likely to find evidence of maiden names, birth and death dates, and other details if they’re willing to be creative about finding new sources of information. If you’re interested in professional assistance locating information about a female ancestor or anyone in your family history, contact Price & Associates today to arrange a personal consultation.
The Role of DNA in Genealogy
Within the last five years, a number of services have come on the market that are changing the relationship between DNA and genealogy. Traditionally, family history research was restricted to what written documents could tell us. But new services can give additional insights into the web of connections that make up our genealogical stories. Here’s a closer look at the different tests on the market, and how they can add to your quest to learn more about your family history.
How DNA testing works for genealogical research
DNA testing for genealogical research tests a subject’s DNA and compares specific segments of that DNA to comparative samples. The results are then compared to other living individuals’ DNA, as well as to specific ethnic group results. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, DNA tests can give you a wide range of genealogical insights. It’s important to know, however, that this testing is different than genetic testing for diseases or medical risks. These services focus specifically on helping answer questions such as whether you are descended from or related to a specific person, or if your genetic makeup includes similarities to populations from Switzerland or the Cherokee Nation.
The testing process
If you’re not familiar with DNA testing, the process is fairly simple. In most instances, once you purchase the service a DNA kit will be mailed to you. Many include a simple swab, similar to a Q-tip, that’s rubbed against the inside of your cheek. The swabs are then placed in a sterile tube and mailed back to the lab. Other services may use methods such as spit cups and mouthwash.
Samples are tested when they arrive at the laboratory. In terms of privacy concerns, some labs keep samples on file for future testing. Others dispose of samples after a set period of time. All labs will destroy samples at a customer’s request, and most reputable services have a standard process for making that request.
What is being tested
There are three types of genetic tests that are currently available for use in genealogical research. These include autosomal testing, mitochondrial DNA testing, and Y-chromosome testing. Without getting too technical, each type of testing yields a unique set of information. Autosomal testing is most frequently used in ethnic testing. These products will return a result that suggests your ancestors were of Italian, English, and Scottish descent, for example. Mitochondrial DNA goes deeper, testing the DNA that’s been passed along from mother to child. It can be conducted on a man or a woman, and show specific biological relationships through a common female ancestor, as well as information about geographic origins. Y-chromosome testing can only be conducted on males, and gives insight into a family’s paternal lineage. Understanding the underlying processes is useful because it can assist you in choosing the right testing product for your needs.
The kinds of genealogical questions DNA can help answer
Haplogroup research: National Geographic pioneered a project that uses matrilineal DNA to take a closer look at the early origins of specific groups, called Haplogroups. Through extensive research, it is believed that this DNA information can provide insights into the migration patterns of your earliest ancestors from Africa or the Middle East through Europe or other regions. If your interests extend to ancient history, the results can be intriguing.
Ethnicity: For many people whose families have been in the United States or Canada for an extended period of time, their ethnic makeup is murky at best. One individual may find that his or her ancestry includes people from the British Isles, Scandinavia, Latin America, Asia, and Native American tribes. Whether you’re trying to confirm family lore of a Wampanoag ancestor or just get a better picture of your ancestry, tests that offer insight into your ethnicity can be both fun and interesting to explore.
Living relative connections: Many of the specific tests on the market are designed with one function in mind: to help give you an idea if you’re related to a specific person. For example, if your DNA research leads you to the conclusion that a specific person might be an ancestor but the details are unclear, DNA testing can help. By comparing your results with a known descendent of theirs, you can usually definitively answer the question. DNA tests can be an important tool in resolving this kind of issue, and adding additional verification to what the paper records indicate.
Community-based genealogy: As genealogy sites have become more popular, a trend has arisen of community-based genealogy. As a field, genealogists tend to be a helpful bunch. Two people pursuing the same line can often share information, confirm suspicions, and open up new fields of inquiry. Sites with a community function often show whether you have genetic relatives that are also in the system and give you the opportunity to connect.
If you’re interested in learning more about DNA testing for genealogy, the following is a list of companies offering these services. It’s not comprehensive and we have a clear preference for Family Tree DNA.
The decision of whether to use your DNA in your genealogical projects is highly personal. Many have privacy or personal concerns that lead them to not participate. Others find that the tests, which usually cost at least $100 to complete, may be unaffordable. That’s a completely acceptable decision, and good old-fashioned genealogical detective work can help you answer the same questions. But for people that are curious, there are a number of tools on the market that you can explore and get a different perspective on the unique blend of ancestors that make up your family history. Contact Price & Associates today for assistance with your most pressing genealogical questions.