Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Mysterious Samuel Halls Jnr.

Well, I knew something was strange about Samuel Halls. I now have the first inklings of what might be going on. I found a story in the Chicago Tribune dated Feb 5th, 1912. The story headline reads:

Accused of Farm Swindle.
Samuel Halls Arrested on Charge of Mis-
using Money Given Him for
Canteloupe Scheme

The story then goes on to say that he was charged embezzling $6,128, and that he was released on $6,000 bail.

Happily I have contacts in Chicago who will try and track down what happened with the police and in the courts. Perhaps it will shed light on why his wife and son moved to the other side of the United States.

Stay tuned.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Mysterious Samuel Halls and his More Mysterious Son Samuel Halls

The family of Samuel Halls is one of the most interesting, if not the most interesting, branch of the family that I have found.

Samuel Snr. was an observer for the British government during the American Civil War. He lived a long time, 85 years. His brothers were well known in the area where they all lived. And then this is where it starts to get odd. I have only found one reference to him in the local papers, besides his obituary, and that is a brief mention of him being an MC for the local Orange Lodge. I cannot find any marriage record for him and his wife. I cannot find any death record or place of burial for his wife. He died in the local House of Refuge (a combination of old age home and home for the unwell). His Ontario death record lists his nationality as Irish! He had no will, or at least none that I could find.

For the most part his children moved to the United States, in and around Chicago. His son Samuel Jnr. became a mover in high society in Chicago, living in the right neighbourhoods, being socially active. He was a highly successful builder. Sometime between 1910 and 1920 it all came apart. He appears to have been estranged from his wife and children. The 1920 census lists both of them, each claiming to be widowed. She was in Portland living with their son Allen Samuel Halls, he was in Chicago, apparently living in an apartment or boarding house. He died in 1930 in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Samuel has a will, but it has been misfiled, so like his father, we have no record of the final disposition of his effects.

There are no pictures that I have been able to find of either Samuel Snr. or Samuel Jnr.

All in all, very frustrating. Why can I not find pictures? How likely is it that the wills of both father and son would be un-findable? What happened to Samuel Jnr. that made it all fall apart? Why would Samuel Jnr. and his wife and son be estranged from each other? If Samuel and his wife were estranged from each other, why are they buried next to each other in Chicago?

Lots of questions and no answers. Stay tuned for more.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Reflections on Annie Halls and Emma Tanton

A few days ago I found a picture from North Dakota that has Annie Halls, and (probably) her brother Philip Halls in it. I had been to the Digital Horizons site before and not found anything, but this time, poof! There is was. It was a group picture of ND pioneers taken back in July of 1939 during a picnic. To be honest, they all look rather wilted by the heat.

On the other side of the world, 29 years prior to that picnic in the summer of 1939 is a picture of Emma Tanton, widow of Samuel Halls. In this case it is a stone laying ceremony for the local Baptist manse in Dolton, Devon. The picture appears to be taken on a cool day, and there are leaves on the trees and bushes. In so many ways the complete opposite of the North Dakota picture. A secular vs religious gathering. Warm vs cold. England vs America. Sunset of empire vs dawn of empire.

It leads one to reflect on the lives of Annie and Emma. Both pictures are taken not long before the World Wars. Annie lived to know that the Allies had won both wars, but Emma died in January of 1918 while issue was still in doubt. Emma had the added burden of fearing for the life of a child. She never knew if William James Halls survived the Great War, though I know he did. Annie never married or had children, though she took in at least two foster children/orphans. One of them may have fought in the WWI, but I can't find him.

I wonder if they knew of each other, and what they might have thought of their respective lives if they did. I suspect there was some contact between the families, for long involved genealogical reasons I won't get into here. They were both, in their ways, successful. Most likely they were well thought of by their communities. Certainly they lived very different lives. Emma lead a life that was secure, as far as I can tell from my place 100 year later. She did all the things a good English middle class woman should have done. Married, had children, supported her church. Her husband Samuel appears to have done much the same. Married, had children, supported his church. He followed in his father's and grandfather's footsteps, becoming a mason and builder, and generally supporting English society.

Annie did not follow a life path like that of Emma, or her cousin Samuel. She left her home in Ontario about 1900 and went to North Dakota. In Ontario she could have married, had children, and lead a quiet, comfortable life, with minimal hardship. Instead she chose to leave for an area that was still largely unsettled. She became a farmer, and never married or had children. One wonders why she made the choices she did, what she thought of the world she lived to see. She was born before airplanes, and lived to see men go into space.

In the end, I suppose I will always wonder. The chances of finding letters that give me insight into their personalities are small. On the other hand, Charlotte Halls has a letter posted to the Canadian Letters and Images Project, so there is always hope.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Health Records

I came across this site about a week ago called My Family Health Portrait. It is provided by the Surgeon General of the United States, and, as you might guess by the name, it allows you to create a health history for your family. It is available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese(?). My only complaint is that it is an online tool, with no software to download that I could find.

It did get me thinking that creating a family health history is a good thing. We have no doubt all come across patterns of disease in our families (if you haven't you may not be looking hard enough). In my own particular family I have found three different things. The first is from personal experience - both my father and his father died of respiratory cancer. Seeing as they were both heavy smokers we can guess what the cause of that was.

I don't smoke.

The second is that my great uncle and one of his descendants both died from ALS.

The third goes all the way back to one of the earliest official records of my line, Philip Halls death certificate from 1846, which states that he died from apoplexy. Now apoplexy, as used in the mid 1800's usually meant a sudden and catastrophic death from some sort of internal cause, for example a heart attack or a stroke. In the case of Philip I strongly suspect his apoplexy was actually a massive stroke. The reason I suspect it is because his grandson Samuel Pollard Halls also died from a stroke. Sadly, Samuel did not die as quickly as his grandfather. He lingered for a month after his stroke before dying.

Recent studies have indicated that knowing the medical history of both sides of your family is a very good idea. For example, it has been found that the risk of breast cancer on the father's side affects the risk of breast cancer in the daughter, which was not thought to be the case.

So don't ignore those little snippets of information. Find out what various family members died of, and if possible find out at what age they were first diagnosed with the condition that they had. Knowing this might allow you, or your children, or other family members, to avoid the same fate.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What to do With Spicy Stories

So I have a number of stories about family members, things that illuminate the personalities of the people in question. I also have reflections on what they were like based on those stories, or what I know of their lives. My problem is that the stories and reflections are not always exactly flattering.

We all have relatives that were drunks, wife beaters, petty (or not so petty) criminals, and so on. My experience is that most family stories don't focus on the unsavoury part of the people, they focus on the good things, and yet isn't the bad stuff part of what are ancestors were?

There is also the issue of what other relatives may think of what I have written. We aren't supposed to speak ill of the dead, but do I(we) really want one dimensional always nice, kind understanding people, when they might not have been nice, kind people. To a certain extent we can view our ancestors through the lens of the time they lived in. In other words, were they good people, or at least no worse than average, according to the understanding of the time?

So what to do? Try to make ancestors out to be better than they were, or present them as real people, warts and all?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Some Interesting Links

Just a few links that I found out about through Geneanet.

The first is the Domesday on a map, from the National Archives of England. Meeth, Dolton, and Beaford show up, among others, but there is no Merton, or St Giles in the Wood.

The second is UK History Photo Finder, pictures from the 1920's -1940's.

The last is an article about a digitization project for aerial photos of Britain. You can sign up for updates at aerofilms@english-heritage.org.uk. It may be called Britain from Above, but the name was not directly stated.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Old Devon Accents

My ancestry, well half of it, can be traced back to Devon.

At one point I had a discussion with one of my family contacts about why an ancestor, Samuel Halls, would be assigned an Irish ancestry in census and death records, when we knew he was from England. That lead us to speculate about what kind of an accent that our ancestors would have had. I guessed that Samuel and his brothers had an accent that sounded Irish to the untutored ear of the late 1800's and early 1900's.

Since then I have found sound recordings of Devon residents born in the late 1800's, and books describing the accent written in the 1800's. The recordings were made in the late 1950's and early 1960's, so I suspect that what we are hearing is echoes of the old Devon accents, flattened out after most of a lifetime of exposure to radio and later tv. I have listened to the recordings, and the accents change every once in a while when the speaker talks. At times the accent seems to become stronger, and then it fades to something closer, but not identical to, a modern "english" accent. There are, to me, echoes of an Irish lilt, but they are not strong. Perhaps to an outsider, coming amongst native Devonians (Devonites?) at the time (1800's) that accent may have sounded Irish. And of course, Samuel Halls had spent almost 65 years in Canada before he died, so who knows how his accent would have sounded when he died in 1906, compared to when he came over in the 1842?

Historically, from what I understand of the history of the area, it would be possible to have some sort of Celtic/Gaelic language influence on the English dialect of Devon. Geographically Devon is bounded on the west by Cornwall, on the northwest and west across the water are Wales and Ireland, to the south is Brittany. Only to the east are there english speaking areas, Somerset and Dorset, all the other areas mentioned speak (or spoke) a language from the Gaelic group of languages.

If you are interested, here are the books on Devon accents:

The Peasant Speech of Devon, by Sarah Hewett published in 1892. You can download/read it at http://www.archive.org/details/peasantspeechofd00hewe.

Jim and Nell: A Dramatic Poem in the Dialect of North Devon, published 1867. It can be download/read it at http://www.archive.org/details/jimnelldramaticp00lond.

The last is A Dialogue in the Devonshire Dialect, published in 1837, but compiled sometime in the mid 1700's! It can be read/downloaded at http://www.archive.org/details/dialogueindevons00palmrich.

The sound files can be found at the Survey of English Dialects which opens up the page that contains Devon. Check for the birthdate of the speaker once you open a link. Alternately you can start at the Archival Sounds Homepage of the British Library.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

So You've Decided to Visit a Cemetery

So You've Decided to Visit a Cemetery. Congratulations. No doubt you're all aquiver with anticipation of what you will find, expecting all sorts of good things. Not so fast! Before you go there are a few things you should do, or seriously consider doing, and/or bring.
  1. A camera
    • if you are sufficiently skilled bring UV and infra-red filters. I have never tried it but I suspect it would help to read some of the more eroded inscriptions.
  2. A soft paint brush.
  3. A plastic trowel.
  4. Some sort of probe, e.g. a hand held weed digger.
    • be extremely careful with this. I only recommend it to help you locate ground level markers that are overgrown or sunken and if they are made of granite. If you suspect marble then use the plastic trowel and fingers to uncover the marker.
  5. A spray bottle with lots of water both for cleaning, and to increase the contrast of carved and uncarved areas.
  6. Paper and pen for notes (or your choice of handheld device).
  7. Insect repellent.
  8. If you are going to a cemetery that may not be well maintained then clippers for grass/small branches can help.
  9. A GPS unit to mark exactly where your gravestones are so that you or other people can find the same headstone again.
Some things you should never do:
  1. Never clean a headstone of attached moss or lichen. Marble is especially fragile, and taking off the moss/lichen can remove bits (large or small) of marble too.
  2. Never re-attempt to assemble a headstone, you may chip the edges or otherwise damage it.
  3. Don't use wire brushes to clean off loose dirt or debris.
  4. Don't use any cleaner other than water. Even vinegar is an acid and can etch stone. Houshold cleaners and some soaps are worse.
  5. Never use sand to clean any headstone.
  6. Do not pry a headstone out of the ground, if there are hairline cracks, they can suddenly become less hairline, much to your regret.
When all is said and done, do no harm to the graveyard and headstones in it. If in doubt leave the headstone alone until you can find a willing archaeologist or conservator to help you.

You're all ready now. Have fun!

Reflections on Graveyards

If you are reading this, it is likely that you are interested in genealogy and family history, and that means that you have visited more than your fair share of graveyards.

Graveyards are a wonderful place to find information that is not otherwise easily discovered. If the person you are looking for died less than 75 years ago (at least in Ontario) you can ususally find a date of death, which in turn can lead to the obituary/death notice in the local paper, which can lead to the names of other family members, in-laws, etc. Often you will find family plots with the children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other in-laws all buried in close proximity.

Even information that is not there can be of assistance. Consider a headstone that has birth and death dates of the husband on it, but not that of the wife, or only the birth date of the wife, but not a death date, even if the wife must clearly be dead by now.

The assistance one can get at a graveyard varies wildly. Many rural cemeteries have no office, and the boards are not easy to contact. Cemeteries that are defunct or abandoned, whether rural or urban, almost never have assistance of any description. In the case of Ontario you can use the OCFA, or the OGS Ontario Cemetery Ancestor Search, but they do not cover every cemetery in the province, and rely on volunteers to transcribe microfilms of old records, which brings in a whole new area for errors to be made. The best bet for rural cemeteries is to simply wander among the gravestones until you find what you are looking for.

Urban cemeteries usually have offices, but the quality and hours of service vary wildly. I know of one group of cemeteries in Toronto where the operating company has decided that none of the offices will be open on weekends. Their records are also completely paper based. They are a 9 to 5 operation. The staff are not exactly the friendliest people in the world either. All in all my dealings with them have had a slight air of the surreal. Contrast that to another major cemetery group in Toronto where the records are computerized, the staff are friendly and helpful, and they have office hours at their sites on the weekends.

Many cemeteries, especially in rural areas, but also some in the cities, are in very bad condition. Headstones toppled through vandalism or neglect, botched restorations of headstones (Never, ever use iron/steel pins to put a headstone together again), encroaching vegetation. Old marble headstones are especially vulnerable to the elements and mistreatment.

If you do visit cemeteries, take pictures of the headstones, and then share them. There are many sites that allow you to upload or submit headstone photos: the CanadaGenWeb Cemetery Project, FindaGrave, Northern Ontario Canada Gravemarker Gallery, and the Gravestone Photographic Resource Project.

In the end, graveyards are both a source of joy and sadness for both family members, and for genealogists. Joy for finding the relationships, dates, and relatives you never knew, and sadness in the realization that someday we will all be there, with only a stone to mark our place, and sometimes not even that.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Surprises in Old Records

I was looking at the Canadian military service records of my great uncle recently. In it you found the sorts of things you would expect. Copies of telegrams, medical records, information about what units he was with and where he was posted.

Sadly, my great uncle died in WWII in Italy, near Rimini, on Sept 16, 1944. When a soldier dies large amounts of paperwork are generated, letters of condolence, telegrams, death benefits, and multiple lists of personal effects. In the case of Pip (my great-uncle) there must have been at least 5 copies of Pip's personal effects, both typed and handwritten. There were telegrams letting his family know that the box was coming, there were records tracking where they were sent, and there was a packing slip for the box of personal effects, and this is where I found my surprise.

Amongst Pip's personal effects were letters. By itself that is no surprise. There were two or three to his mother, and two from girlfriends in England. Once again, no surprise.

The letters from the girlfriends in England were destroyed.

For me, that was a surprise. Why were they destroyed? What was in them? I have had a few relatives suggest that they contained place and unit information and that the letters were destroyed by censors. But the letters were apparently from his girlfriends, not to, so they already passed the censors, so why destroy them? The only thing I can think of is that one or both of them may have revealed that the girlfriend(s) were pregnant, or that she had a child of his.

Pip's father (Frederick William Halls) was a socially prominent figure in Toronto in the 1930's and 40's. Anyone who new anything about Toronto society would have known that he was religious, in all the right clubs, and heavily involved in charitable work. The revelation of a grandchild born out of wedlock would have been quite damaging to his reputation. It is quite possible that whoever destroyed the letters (or ordered them destroyed) knew Fred, and decided to spare him the scandal. Even if my scandal hypothesis is incorrect, given the general attitudes towards children out of wedlock in the 40's, and the military views towards children out of wedlock, perhaps it was simply decided to destroy the letters to spare the family and the military the inconvenience of dealing with a child born out of wedlock.

By now, any child would be about 67 years old. Most likely the child was born in Sussex, because that was where most Canadian troops were based while in England. Given that Pip arrived in England in late Spetember of 1942 and shipped out of England in June of 1943, any child would have been born no later than March of 1944.

There were pictures included in Pip's personal effects. The packing slip did not indicate that any of them were destroyed. I wonder if Fred and Kate were surprised to find an unknown young woman, posssibly holding an infant, amongst the pictures they received?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Why Do Genealogy

I often wonder why we do genealogy. When you think about it, what purpose does it serve? I suppose it all depends on how you look at it.

One could argue that genealogy is essentially pointless. The dead are the dead, and nothing we do can ever bring them back. No amount of wishing will bring back those relatives we find most fascinating, or the family keepsakes that were mentioned in letters or articles, or seen in pictures, and are now lost through mischance or neglect.

And yet we continue to do genealogy. Why?

From a practical point of view, genealogy can tell us about diseases that run in families. In my family tree Samuel Pollard Halls (died 1900) and his grandfather Philip (died 1846) both appear to have died from strokes. More recently William Tanton Halls (died 1940) died from Lou Gehrig's Disease as has one of his grandchildren.

In some of us it can fulfill that psychological need to know where we come from, and perhaps by extension, tell us where we are going, or at least are descendants.

In some, it is a need to be remembered themselves. To give the younger generation a feeling for what our own life and times were like, what our own likes and dislikes, loves and losses were, so that we will not be just names on a page like so many that we have recorded.

For others it may be knowing whther or not we are better or worse than our ancestors. We can measure ourselves against their yardstick and determine if we would measure up to their abilities, their successes.

There is the thrill of the chase. The detective work that requires hours of sitting in front of microfilm readers to find a record. Of manipulating the online database so that it not only spits out the answer you want, but the answer you need, no matter how good or bad. Of taking a group of seemingly unrelated clues and putting them together in a pattern that leads you to new and unsuspected places. And the challenges of figuring out who someone is, like one of mine - Catherine Halls, who married John Dawson in Lambeth, Ontario in 1871. I still don't know how, but she must be related.

Finally, the fierce joy one feels when you find the picture of the relative who must have a picture somewhere, the story that makes what was just a name a person, or the record that pulls all the threads together. Intertwined with the thrill of the chase is the sheer intellectual rigour of the detective work.

There are other reasons to do genealogy I am sure, but I bet most of us fall into one or more of the categories above.

In the end, I find there is a certain sadness in genealogy. Perhaps it is digging through musty records, or all the graveyards we visit, or the contemplation of the dead, knowing that someday, we will be the record, or the gravestone, or the picture that is brought into the light by some descendant of ours, who will feel that fierce joy that we have all felt on discovery of the mysterious. Or perhaps knowing there might be no light for us.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bated Breath - Part 3b

Foiled again.

The probate records from Huron County finally arrived this past week. There was a significant amount of material on Mary Anne Halls who died intestate, James Halls, and John Halls.

There was nothing on Samuel Halls. I am left with two options - he disposed of all of his personal property before he died, or the will was contested and as a result it took much longer than normal to probate it. This all deepens the mystery around Samuel. He apparently has no will. The will of his son Samuel Jr. has been misfiled. It is in Illinois somewhere in the Cook or McHenry County records, but with it being misfiled, who knows where? The coincidence is rather odd - father and son, both with the same name, and no findable will for either? It stretches the bounds of credulity, at least for me.

Further, Samuel is not mentioned in the wills of his brothers James or John. I know from the will of Maria Sewell (sister-in-law) that Samuel's two daughters were written out in codicils. What happenned? Estrangement between Samuel and his brothers? But what? Conversion to Roman Catholicism would suffice. I know by great grandfather took his religion very seriously, and I James and John did if their donations to the British and Foreign Bible Society are any indication. But other things could have caused it too.

All in all very frustrating, and very mysterious. I suppose I will have to look at land records to see what became of his property, when it was sold and who it was sold to.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bated Breath - Part 3a

You're probably thinking, "Why 3a"? Well, today I got the call that my remaining ordered microfilms had arrived for probate records and wills. Unfortunately, I will not be able to get to the local Family History Center until next Wednesday or Thursday to find out what is in them. Tomorrow is Canada Day. My wife is off the day after Canada Day. Then it is the weekend. And so on.

What I most want to find is the probate records for Samuel Halls. Will they be in the rolls that came in today? If they aren't is there anything else to do? What might I find in the records that would be interesting? Will Samuel's will be included in the probate records? I am on tenterhooks with the suspense.

Stay tuned for Part 3b coming next week

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Spelling, Transcription, and Phonetics

So you've decided to research your family tree. Congratulations. You figure you're all set. You know the names of your grandparents, and even the maiden name of your great grandmother. What could go wrong?

You type the name of your ancestor into the search box, hit enter and suddenly you realize it might not be quite that simple as you see the 15,000 hits generated. And this is the easy part. The hard part is finding your ancestor when the name has been misspelled.

So what are the problems you face searching for your surname. Well, consistency of spelling for one. If a name can be spelled multiple ways phonetically, then it will be, and the problem is exacerbated (that's my $10 word for the day) if you happen to have a foreign name. Another issue is simple misspellings because the immigration clerk was tired after a long day, the children are crying, the typewriters are pounding, and there was a thunderstorm banging away while the clrek was filling in the forms. Alternately the clerk couldn't spell terribly and only had the job because of family connections, or... I'm sure you get the spelling point. If you are looking at transcribed records that were originally hand written then you add a whole other layer for errors to happen, because the origianl clerk may have made a mistake, and then the transcriber writes what they think the original clerk wrote. Heaven help us if the transcription is done by one person and then typed into the database by another.

So what can you do to solve some of these issues? Soundex searches help, but soundex has some real issues for example Lee and Leigh both have different codes even though they are pronounced identically. For an excellent article on soundex issues go here.

Just to give you an idea of what can happen to a name that seems simple lets look at Halls. First we'll just do basic misspellings based on phonetics or dropping the "s":


Now we will move on to errors by clerks due to noise, or whatever:

Now my favourite, transcription errors from hand written originals:

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. In the second and third tables I have not bothered to remove the "s" from the last name, so you can effectively double the number of ways that the name Halls can be spelled incorrectly. In the examples above there are at least 100 ways to misspell/mistranscribe Halls, and the list is not exhaustive. I don't mean to get down on transcribers, they do a lot of hard work from sources that are very difficult to read for a number of reasons, but sometimes you have to wonder what drugs some transcribers were on.

You also run into the occasional problem where the database you are searching has the first name as the last name, and vice-versa.

You'd think that other than what is mentioned above, Halls isn't a bad name to try to track, most names will have similar issues with spelling and it is not terribly common. True, it is not common, but when the default practice of a search engine, even Google, is to treat the "s" on the last name like it isn't there, and then throw in every community center, church hall, residence hall, town hall, site that mentions a certain Christmas song, hall's with an apostrophe, and a certain brand of cough candy, you come up with approximately 33.5 million hits on Google.

It could be worse
. Smith gets 412 million hits on Google.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bated Breath - Part 2

Well, the first three films (of eight) that I ordered came in to the local Family History Society. Two reels are hand written copies of the wills and letters of administration for Huron County from the early 1900's. I found information for John, James, Philip T., and Mary Ann Andrew Halls... and nothing for Samuel Snr. - again. The third reel is probate records, and it contained the material for Philip T Halls.

Philip appears to have died without a will. There is a letter of administration in the first two reels, and then a multipage probate document in the third reel. His wife Agnes gave the administration of the estate over to her brother. The major interest is the point that there is some sort of agreement between the brother and a judge where they appear to owe the judge several thousand dollars. I am not quite sure what is going on, not enough familiarity with probate.

The wills/letters are well written, and well microfilmed, but the writing is very difficult to read, so the transcription process is very slow. I will have to go back and get better copies for myself to make the transcription process easier.

So now I wait for the probate records for the same time period. What I really hope to find there is probate records for Samuel Halls Snr. The man lead a very private life. Or perhaps mysterious would be more accurate.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bated Breath

Well, perhaps not bated breath, but definitely with some anticipation. I ordered microfilms of a number of wills about two weeks ago, and I am quite interested in the contents of them.

Most especially I want to see the will of Samuel Halls who died in 1906. He has always been something of a cipher, and only recently has something of his life started to become apparent. I discovered his obituary a few weeks ago, and it mentioned that he had been an observer for the British during the American Civil War. Somewhere out there I suspect there is a picture of him with other British observers.

The other wills are for Samuel's brothers, James and John, a nephew, and James' widow.

If nothing else genealogy teaches patience.

Thoughts on Sources

There are a lot of companies that you find on the web that offer to sell you old books, or other genealogical information. You may want to think twice before you buy any old books or access to indices to use as sources for genealogy.

For example, a major American source is The Brewster Genealogy. You can buy Volume 1 from Amazon for about $40.00. Or you could go to The Internet Archive, and
download a .pdf of the book for free. There are lots of other books that are useful for genealogy. For example The Compendium of History and Biography of North Dakota, or Commemorative Biographical Record of the County of York, Ontario.

In Canada a major source for Ontario is a series of County Atlases published between 1870 and 1880. Your local library may have the local atlas, but otherwise they can be hard to find. Try
The Canadian County Atlas Digital Project. There is also the Library and Archives of Canada which has a significant amount of searchable census data online. There is also Automated Genealogy for the 1851, 1901, 1906, and 1911 Canadian Censuses, including a cross reference tool based on names for 1901 and 1911.
which has maps digitized and a search for names too. If you want
If you are looking for BMD information from England you can use FreeBMD which has transcribed most of the entries. It doesn't give all the information you find on the actual certificate, but it allows you to search them easily, for free. There is also FreeREG, which is transcriptions of baptisms, marriages, and deaths from Parish Registers in England. It is not as large as FreeBMD, but it is growing, and more entries are added on a regular basis.

Google does not always search inside databases, for example states and provinces that have BMD information online. BMD information from these sources does not show up in your searches. Just remember, the certificates you may order will cost you, but the searches and basic information are free.

There is a lot available for free on the internet, and a little extra digging can save a lot of money. Here are some useful genealogical search tips

  1. Use quotation marks. That gives you an exact match on the name you are looking for, eg "john smith"
  2. Use minus sign to exclude a word or phrase
  3. Misspell names, either phonetically, by common hearing errors, e.g. Alva may become Alvin, Harry may be Harold or Henry, or by mistaken transcription e.g. Halls becomes Hallo, Hales, Kalls, Hollo, etc.
  4. Search for surname/first name not just first name/surname
    1. don't forget to use contractions or middle names too, e.g. saml for samuel.
  5. Don't forget online databases that Google doesn't search
    1. various national and provincial/state bmd indices
    2. cemetery databases such as Find-a-Grave, or Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid (OCFA)
    3. online national, or state/provincial archives
    4. Google News Archive - try the advanced search
    5. Local university archives
    6. Local genealogical and historical societies. Remember that the local university archives, genealogical and historical societies will often do limited research on specific simple search requests. That was how I got the picture of Samuel Pollard Halls.
The above isn't exhaustive, but it should be enough to get you started.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Music to do Genealogy By

This is just a list of songs that seem suitable for doing genealogy, with commentary about each. As I come across other songs I'll add them. Feel free to suggest songs, too.
  1. Dire Straits - On Every Street. The song itself is about somebody trying to track the identity of a suicide victim, but, for me, the feel of the song makes it work, especially the lines "There's got to be a record of you some place/ You've got to be on somebody's books/ The lowdown, the picture of your face..."
  2. Toy Matinee - We Always Come Home. Just a song about family. The quirks of family members, the old homestead, and the comfort of knowing where you are from, and where you will end up.
  3. Level 42 - Running in the Family. A boppy little song about how parents are doomed to see their kids make the same mistakes they did, but not depressing, just a "that's how life is" song.
  4. Neil Diamond - He's not Heavy (He's my Brother). Personally, I detest this song. It gets in my head, and I need brain bleach to get it out. Yuck.
  5. The Rankin Family - Rise Again. A thoughtful song about children and how we are echoes of our parents.
  6. Genesis - You're No Son of Mine. The title says it all, sad and bitter. A reality none of us likes to think about in our family trees.
  7. Mike and the Mechanics - The Living Years. All about the regret of the things we never say to our parents, that perhaps we should, and the hope that maybe we can do better with our children.
  8. The Cranberries - Ode to My Family.  I think mostly about hoping for approval and notice from your parents.