Happy 4th of July

The 4th of July, is a federal holiday commemorating the 1776 signing of the Declaration of Independence.  The signing of this document declared the British colonies a new nation and affirmed our independence from the British Empire. The area that is now the United States was founded by Christopher Columbus in 1492.   The settlement of Jamestown {in current day Virginia} was first began in 1607 and the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620.  The new settlers had times of peace and strife with the Native Americans before erupting in the seven yearlong French Indian War beginning in 1754. By 1775 tensions with the British Empire had reached an all-time high due to over taxation and other issues.  The Boston Tea Party in December 1773 only served to heighten these tensions that eventually led to war.  The Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, with John Hancock stating he wanted King George to read his signature without his spectacles. Many of the signers of the declaration did not sign on July 4th, but as late as August 2, 1776. The Revolutionary War raged on until September 3, 1783. Commander of the Continental Army George Washington was unanimously elected the first President of the United States in 1789. In 1791, Independence Day was first used.  However, it was almost a century later before the day became a holiday....

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Genealogy Friday: What is the Difference between Immigration vs. Emigration

So we’ve seen immigration and emigration. We know that both are when you leave one country or area and move to another.   However, what is the difference? Immigration is when a person leaves the area for another area.  S/he is the immigrant from Germany to the new world, for example. The dictionary definition is “Immigration is the movement of people into a country to which they are not native in order to settle there, especially as permanent residents or future citizens.” Emigration is when a person arrives in a new area and is beginning a new life.  {Such as arriving at Ellis Island}.  S/he is the Scottish emigrant to Virginia, for example. The definition says, “Emigration is the act of leaving one’s native country with the intent to settle elsewhere.”  An emigrant is a person that has arrived from his or her native country or region to a different country or region. How do you remember the difference between immigrant and...

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Genealogy Friday: How Cluster Genealogy Can Break Brick walls

You’ve heard the term cluster genealogy.  However, what is it? Cluster genealogy is researching extended family groups and neighbors in the area.  Why is it important? Brick walls can be broken down and other information revealed by researching other family groups. When I first began genealogy over twenty years ago, I had no interest in cluster genealogy.  I wanted to find my ancestors and trace as far back as possible. Then I hit brick walls and wanted to learn more.  By doing cluster genealogy I’ve learned so much more about my family and their dynamics, make up, interest, family life, neighbors, concerns, origins, etc. than I would have had I not decided to begin researching the clusters in the family line. What have you learned from cluster...

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Genealogy Friday: 9 Tips for Cemetery Hopping

I’ve shared before about cemetery hopping, however recently I didn’t even listen to my own advice. In the process I learned a few more lessons I want to share: Have good walking shoes—you may be there for a while Have others go with you—this is safer and will make searching go faster Know who you are looking for, but also have an idea of other families of importance in the area that may have married into your family. Figure out the distance between the cemeteries you need to visit beforehand. Water is always a great asset—both for drinking and hydration; as well as to wipe off old stones Take a cloth to gently wipe off old stones Do not use whip cream, shaving cream or chalk on the stones because they can lead to erosion and damage. {These have all been popular methods in the past.  Instead to paper for a grave rubbing.} A grave rubbing may help hard to read stones be read Have plenty of memory on your camera for pictures. What are some things you do when going cemetery...

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Genealogy Friday: 7 Tips to Planning for a Research Trip

Last summer, when I took a research trip I thought I had all of the information I needed. However, throughout the course of the trip I realized I didn’t. Part of this was because I’d never been to the area before, so I was unsure of how close or far certain cities were from one another. Other things such as checking for everyone at certain cemeteries became an issue. So what did I learn from this? In essence, have your ducks in a row before you go on a research trip. Take the time to research the area. Learn as much as you can about the history and distance of places in the area where you are going. Know exactly what information you need {land records, wills, family histories, census records, graves, etc}. It helps to know what you already have or what records you can obtain online {such as census records and military records} Who are you researching? {name, dates, types of records, etc} Where are you going for research? {library, cemetery, court house, etc} Do you know anyone in the area that can be of assistance? What other families married into this group to research? Realize that everything will take longer than you anticipate. So plan your time accordingly, as best as possible. Bonus—What equipment do you need to take with you? {camera, hand held scanner, laptop,...

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Genealogy Friday: Writing Family History Stories for children

We’ve discussed turning a family story into an artistic piece of writing. However, what about children’s stories? I’ve uncovered some family legends and histories that I thought would make great children’s story. So how do I determine if it is appropriate for children? They had a great lesson or point to teach. The story was short and could be told in a few hundred words. The story was interesting enough for children. The story could be expanded into a teaching tool. You can imagine the pictures or graphics that accompany the story. To write a strong story, take some writing classes and join a critique group to learn the basics. However, briefly let me remind you: Grab the reader’s interest from the very beginning Don’t let the middle of the story sag or become to weighted down End on a strong note Again, learning the art of writing is a big help in writing these stories. How can you bring the past to life through children’s writing?...

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Genealogy Friday: Turning a family story into a novel

Do you have an interesting family story? Do you have the knack for telling or writing a good story? I have always been interested in the journey my ancestors took from SC to MO around 1815. This invokes questions such as: Why did they go? How did they travel? What were the obstacles? I began to think that this might make a great story. I decided what family stories I wanted to involve?  There are several involving traveling by wagon train in the 1850s.  I decided to use these stories, but not at the end that they happened much later and the characters involved were characters I made up {in certain instances}. So I began to do the research to answer the above questions.   I had to go back and also research the history of that early 19th Century and the areas they were traveling from and to. Then I began to determine what I wanted to cover in my story. I don’t know a lot about my ancestors as far as their personality and interest {other than they loved music and reading}. I was able to fall back on my knowledge as a writer to begin to evolve the characters and make characterizations.  I had to make them real people and bring them to life.  However, I also know that I’m taking a creative license in this process....

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Genealogy Friday: Tracing Your Coat of Arms

Did someone in your family have a Coat of Arms? What is a Coat of Arms?       The distinctive heraldic bearings or shield of a person, family, corporation, or country {According to Dictionary.com} How do you find your Coat of Arms?    Many websites offer searches and plaques of the surname coat of arms today.                 Heraldry books can be found in local libraries that have Coat of Arms Many people use Coat of Arms for their family name.  However, there is no coat of arms for a family. Proving an ancestor had a right to bear arms will include a large amount of genealogical research. Heraldry became established in the later part of the 12th Century.  The first arms were the sign of greater nobility.  However, within a century of being introduced lesser nobility.  The College of Arms is responsible for controlling, granting and confirming arms.  The Official Registers of the College include the arms granted or confirmed from the 15th Century until present day in English and Welsh families. Arms and the proper insignia are only granted by the Kings of Arms in England.  Other countries such as Ireland, Scotland, Australia, and Sweden have an equivalent office. A proper Coat of Arms can only be passed down to a legitimate son.  When a new son inherits a coat of arms, the arms is changed to reflect the...

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Genealogy Friday: Tracing meaning of Surname

So you want to know what your surname means? Today, this is much easier than in the past.  You can Google “McKee family name meaning” and the results will pop up.  The name means son of Aodha.  The word Aodha is a Gaelic word for fire.  There are numerous websites that will provide this information. Different regions of the world have various ways of using surnames.  I’m primarily focusing on the use of surnames throughout Britain, Europe and North America in this article. However, some countries use the surname first before the personal name.  Other cultures use the surname as part of the last person’s personal name. You can also check your local library for books on meanings of surnames. So when did surnames began? They began around the 13th and 14th Centuries in Britain and soon spread to other areas.  However, some regions did not adopt the use of them until as late as the 17th Century. China probably has the longest history of using surnames, which is believed to date back to 2852 BC. Most surnames were created from: personal characteristics {Brown, Young, Long, Short} names of parents {Johnson=son of John} location or geographical features {Windsor, London, Hill, Wood, Lake, Stone, Fields, etc.} occupation {Smith, Cooper, Page, Mason, Wright, Baker, Farmer, etc} Remember, unless you have a very unusual surname, not everyone with the same surname is...

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Genealogy Friday: Where Did My Ancestors Come From?

      Have you wondered where your ancestors came from? Maybe you grew up on stories of their trip overseas?  Or maybe you have no idea where they came from? So, how do you determine their place of origin? What records should you check if your ancestor was an immigrant? Several ways include: Check immigration records—Ellis Island was a huge port for immigrants in the late 19th and Early 20th Centuries Check birthplace listed on Census Records Check ship manifesto Look in family histories Inquire of older family member Check the birth place on a death certificate or obituary Research the name and history of the ship {if known} Look at the area where your ancestor settled {is it primarily Irish, German, Italian} What is the first document in the United States {if that’s the country emigrated to}? This may be a starting place for when they first arrived. Create a timeline of known facts. Then work backwards to fill in the missing pieces. Search for other family members that may have emigrated with them {children, spouse, parents, siblings} Search family records such as the Family Bible, letters to the home country, etc. Bonus—DNA testing will most likely tell you the area your family is from What tips have you used to find your ancestral...

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Genealogy Friday: Am I Related to Famous People?

My interest in family history began at the age of twelve.  A distant relative was doing the family history on one of our lines and determined we were related to Davy Crockett.  {His 2nd wife, Elizabeth Patton Crockett, was the sister to my 4x-Great-Grandfather, George Patton}. From that point on I was interested in my family roots and heritage.  Several years later, I began researching my other family lines. So what do you do if you’re related to a famous person? Learn all you can of his/her life—both the good and bad Know the facts Decide to either embrace the fact or distant yourself Realize that you can’t force a family connection if there isn’t one {for instance you really want to be related to George Washington. He had no children.  You can’t make yourself a descendant.} Understand that more than likely you’re not the only person related to this person. Learn from the person and the lessons s/he left Don’t lie about the relationship Determine how s/he affected the lives of your direct ancestors and others in the family Be proud of your heritage What famous people are you related...

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Genealogy Friday: The Clan System

If you’ve researched any Scottish family history you may have heard of the clan? So what is a clan?  In essence, it’s a family group.  Some clans also have septs.  This is a smaller family group within a larger family group. For instance my McKee family is a sept of the McKay clan. Where did they live? Most of the clans lived in the Scottish Highlands. So why is this important?  What did the clans do?  Before the Highland Clearances in the 18th and 19th Centuries, the clan took care of themselves.  Many clans lived together on family land in the area.   The head of the family was known as the Chieftain or Chief of the family.  He was the head of the family and his word was law.     As with royalty, the clan had a hierarchy.  The Highland Clearances saw the end of the clan system {for the most part}.  In essence, crofters {those that worked the land for rent} were run off of their land in order to raise sheep or sell the land for profit.  Many families immigrated to America, moved to larger cities or starved to death.  These were violent times and some land owners were downright cruel in their treatment of their crofters. Today, the clans are more of a society group for the most part {especially in America}. Although it is easy...

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Genealogy Friday: Who Were Census Takers?

When searching census records we know that there are always errors in these records. But, who were the census takers? Census takers are American citizens that have been trained to take the census. In the 18th and 19th century, these workers had to travel by foot or horse to reach their jurisdiction. Some census takers were more literate than others.  Often they would write a name the way they heard it, even if that was not the correct spelling.  {We’ve all seen this when researching census records}. Census takers also had to attempt to understand those that were providing the information.  With a mixture of cultures, this could be challenging at times.  This is particularly the case if the census taker is Scottish and trying to understand a German speaking.  There may be a break down or confusion over words and meanings. So when searching census records we have a lot to thank these early information collectors for.  They worked through less than ideal situations to provide information that we take for granted due to the ease of accessibility. Yes, we may be frustrated at the misspellings, misinformation or missed family but we can also be thankful that we have this brief glimpse into our ancestor’s life and thank the census taker for taking the time to gather this information. What are some interesting errors you’ve found in census...

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Genealogy Friday: 5 Artistic Forms of Story Telling

I’ve shared points on turning family history into a children’s story or novel in a writing form. However, what if you’re not a writer?  Maybe you’re an artist? There are numerous other ways to tell family history stories. Artist—can draw the story. For example, a story of hiding out in a cave and attempting to stay warm while a blizzard falls outside.  This would be a very visual story to draw or paint. This can be anything from a portrait to a picture depicting a story to a scene of an area is significant. Dance—dancers are storytellers {look at Swan Lake or The Nutcracker}. Telling a story of fleeing from a dramatic experience through dance is an idea. Drama—this has numerous possibilities from one historical re-enactor to a whole ensemble piece. A number of stories in a variety of ways can be told. Music—the story can be sung or music can be used to heighten the moments of action. Think of the ways everything from opera to country music is used to tell a story. Crafts—there are numerous crafting ideas for quilting to scrapbooking to learning a new skill {such as soap or candle making} to needlepoint to woodworking or glass etching to jewelry making and so forth. Each of these can be used in a unique and interesting way to share your family history with your loved ones....

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Genealogy Friday: 16 Questions when Printing Family Histories

      I’ve shared the benefits of printed family histories, but what if you are printing a family history. What are some aspects of this endeavor you may want to keep in mind? Is my family interested What format is the family interested in? {Printed, CD, digial} What can my family afford? Have I verified all of my facts? Am I including proper documentation and sources? Do I need help in completing this endeavor? –these are often huge projects that take anywhere from several people to a committee. Have I contacted everyone I need to contact? Am I taking my time to put together a worthwhile project?—I would rather take longer to put the project together than to rush through it and have a haphazard endeavor. Is this a project my family will cherish? Have I included everyone? Have I handled delicate situations with tact? Am I being truthful about our family? Have I included the history of the family or ancestors? Do I want to include pictures? How much more will this costs? Have I made sure I’m not just copying information from the internet without double checking for verification? Are there any copyright infringements I need to worry about? What other lessons have you learned from printing your family...

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Genealogy Friday: 9 Reasons to Check Out Printed Family Histories

Printed family histories are a great place to start when you’re stuck. Many families have printed their family histories over the years.  Some provide more detail and sources than others. However, these can be a great resource. They may even help you to break a brick wall. So why use printed family histories: Family stories you may have never heard before For cluster genealogy To find missing relatives To go back farther in your line To discover what other researchers have done. Double check their sources, but this can save you a lot of time. To discover sources you never knew were available For family pictures you’ve never seen To discover the history of the family or clan To connect with other researchers on this line How have printed family histories helped your genealogical journey? Click here for my articles on the Positives and Negatives of Printed Family...

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Genealogy Friday: Pros and Cons of DNA

Last week, I shared the story of how DNA had proven that President Harding did indeed have a love child. DNA has revolutionized our world in the last decade.  Criminals are able to prove either their innocence or guilt with the use of DNA. So how does DNA affect genealogy? Well many of us have the test done to determine what our heritage might be.  Ancestry.com is currently running a commercial where the “actor” thought he had German heritage but discovered he’s actually of Scottish descent. Archeologists and researchers have used DNA to determine the bones of King Richard III and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family. DNA has also helped to find stolen children, prove links with royalty and solve historical mysteries. One example is  Anna Anderson’s claim that she was Anastasia, daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, was proven a lie with the help of DNA. Yet, DNA can be both an asset and detriment to families. These test can be used to break through brick walls.  With the ability of locating others that have closely matching test, we can find that missing link to work through those brick walls. For an additional fee, we can directly trace back our Y {paternal} or mtDNA {maternal} back for generations. However, with this advance in technology there are some families that may be hurt.  Families that have held...

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Genealogy Friday: How DNA uncovered a lie

History is full of speculation of who the father might be?  Then again we may hear questions, such as did “he” really farther that child. President Harding had been rumored to be the father of a child for almost a century.  Everyone in the Harding family vehemently denied this accusation. The mother of the child was adamant in her accusation.  She even had proof of their relationship.  However, the Harding family made life difficult for her and did all they could to discredit her. Recently I read an article on this family drama.  DNA has proven that President Harding was indeed the father of this child. What other myths and mysteries might DNA burst in the...

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