Finding Records, Getting Started in Family History, Memories, Online Family History


I’m lucky because I get the opportunity to work with other people interested in family history quite frequently.  I had that opportunity just this morning.  I met with a lady who’s a little older than I am.  She’s had some health challenges and wants to make sure she leaves a legacy for her family.

She told me about her grandfather, who came to the US from Germany right before WWII.  She’s one of the last people in her family to have known him, to have heard his stories.  She decided that she was going to write down those stories for her children.

I shared with her one of my favorite FamilySearch features, Memories.


Memories allows you to preserve and share photos, stories, documents, audio and video.  It also has a search feature, so that others can find images which have been preserved by distant relatives.

Another lady I’ve been working with used to work at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  Over the years, she’s written incredible articles about her ancestors.  She’s been uploading them as memories.  Now her extended family can partake in her detailed accounts of those who’ve gone before.

I’ve uploaded records for my family too.  Here’s a will for Joseph Boxwell, a Revolutionary War soldier.  Memories even has its own search page, so you can search for memories others have shared.  For unique names like Boxwell or Lantzy, many of the memories are of my relatives.

Try searching4ancestors at FamilySearch’s memories section.  You never know what you’ll find!


Family History Forms, Getting Started in Family History

Keeping Organized at the Start

To keep track of the information I uncover as I search for a specific ancestor, I use a First Information Sheet, like this one from the BBC.

first_information_sheet copy

This is great form for jotting down everything you know about a person, and then keeping a record of what you learn.

You know more than you think you do.  Start with yourself.  Talk to others in your family and ask for their memories of family members.  You might even find someone to recruit on your family history journey.

Oral family history stories aren’t always 100% accurate, but they may have clues to get you started searching4ancestors…

Case Study, Family Search, Finding Records, Genealogy Records Online, Getting Started in Family History

A Case Study in Getting Started in Family History Part 2

As mentioned in Part One of this case study, I found a news clipping and the 1940 Census for Ann Johnson Earnest, I now know that

Ann Johnson Earnest, the daughter of Malcolm Johnson, was born about 1903 in Connecticut.  Her husband, Albert Earnest, was born about 1902 in Connecticut and he’s a machinist in an ammunition factory.

I googled ammunition factory and the place they lived and I find a Remington Arms factory.  Right now, I’m not going to follow up on that clue…but it is a clue that I can follow up on so I make a note on the information sheet.  But my goal is to find out how my Aunts are related.

Since I have the most information on Ann Johnson Earnest, I now want to find her on a census as a child with her father, Malcolm.  She was in Connecticut in 1940, and she was born in Connecticut in 1903…so I’m going to check the 1910 Connecticut census.  She should be about 7 and hopefully living with her father, Malcolm.

So I go to the main search page for the 1910 Census on FamilySearch and put in all known information.


I hit enter and…


The first one looks like a perfect match.  Now…looks like a perfect match and is the same person are two different things.  Because we’re talking 1900s America, I should be able to information which matches and corroborates the results.  Ann’s birth, marriage and death certificates (you’ll see that written BMD on many genealogy sites) will help me know if this census is an exact match.  But for now, we’re going with this as the match.

We’ll learn more about Ann’s parents on the next searching4ancestors…

Case Study, Getting Started in Family History

Getting Started in Family History: A Case Study Part 1

I’ve been doing family history since I was in college, so sometimes I forget what it’s like to start from zero.  So this morning, that’s exactly what I did.

When we start family history, we collect up everything we’ve been told and everything we know.  Personally, I use a piece of paper to sketch out the information as I find it.  That’s really Step One.

I’d always heard that 2 of my aunts-by-marriage on my mom’s side are cousins.  I know their maiden names and their husbands’ names (since they’re my mom’s brothers).  And I know they’ve lived in Connecticut for as long as I’ve been alive (about 50 years).

Step Two: This morning I woke up wanting to see how my two aunts are related…that’s my research objective.

Step Three:  Search for low hanging fruit

I did a newspaper search and found a 50th year anniversary for Mr. and Mrs. Albert Earnest of Connecticut.  Mrs. Earnest, Nan, made the best Swedish pancakes.  She lived with my Aunt and Uncle for as long as I can remember.  The news article had her maiden name, Ann Johnson, and her father’s name, Malcolm Johnson.

Step Four:  Take all known information and search the most appropriate record for the information, location and time that fits the known information.

I went to search the 1940 Census to find my Aunt with Nan and her husband on the 1940 Census.

From the 1940 Census, I learn that Nan, Ann Johnson Earnest, was born in about 1903 in Connecticut.  Albert Earnest, her husband,  was born about 1902 in Connecticut.  (The 1940 Census also tells me who gave the Census Taker the information by marking the person with an X inside a circle.)  In the image below, you can see that Margaret Oppell, Anna O Earnest and Violet M Stevens each gave the information for their homes.


In quick review, I jotted down everything I knew and then went to sources from the area they resided and tried to find records for the entire family group.  Once I did, I added to the known information so I could take the next research step in searching4ancestors…

Genealogy Records Online, Military Records

US WWI Draft Cards … David O’Connell

The World War I was a life changing event.  We felt the impact less here in the US; but still, millions of young men registered for the draft.  Not all draft cards are the same format, but each one is a family history treasure trove.  If you had a draft-aged ancestor, chances are there’s a draft card with his signature.

Family lore had it that one of my mother’s uncles died in WWI.  That’s what I started with.  When I found my Grandmother on the Census, I noticed she had an older brother named David.  So I began searching for a David O’Connell in Washington, DC and found this draft card.


I had a pretty firm notion this was the same David because:
1.  The name matched the Census records I had for him.
2.  The age was about right, and the month was an exact match for the 1900 Census.
3.  His birth location matched Census data.
4.  The address matched a location for this family from the census and the Washington, D.C. City Directories.

Those are enough corroborating pieces of information, that I feel ok connecting this record to my David O’Connell.


What did I learn from this Draft Card?

I learned his full name, as I only had a middle initial from the Census.
I learned David was literate from his signature.
I learned that he was a horseman for the British Government.
I have his place of employment, although I will confess to not having been able to connect it to anything.

This is the backside of the card…


The back gives me insight into his physical appearance.  I learn that he has varicose veins.  I see that he registered in DC.

I could use the information on this card to find out who registered at the same time.  Maybe he went with a brother (his was too young), or a cousin, or a friend.

Interested in seeing if there’s a WWI Draft Card for one of your ancestors?  You can search the database by clicking this link.  This is a US database.

Draft cards, like any other record, give us the snapshot of a moment in our ancestors lives.  But just like with photographs, it’s better to have an entire album than a single picture.

So off I went to the newspapers searching for more information on Great Uncle David.

The next part of that story on another searching4ancestors post…

European Family History, Online Family History

Swedish Family History



The Family History Library and FamilySearch are offering two webinars on Swedish research this week.

Using Swedish Household Exams and Parish Registers parts 1 and 2 are offered March 31st

You can access the webinar through this link:

This is a wiki article explaining what’s covered in the Swedish Household Exams

And this is a wiki article explaining what’s covered in the Swedish Parish Registers (I think)

I don’t know a thing about Swedish research, but the Family History Library offers webinars every month.  And this is the next one!

If you can’t make it to the webinar, but you’d like to learn more about Swedish research, you can check out the this Guide to Swedish Research.

Best of luck searching4ancestors!

Online Family History

Searchable Newspapers at the Library of Congress

I’m currently taking a free genealogy class through The University of Strathclyde.  It is offered through FutureLearn.  And it amazing!

One of the great features of the course is that learners are encouraged to teach each other through message boards.  I’ve been doing Family History for almost 30 years, and I’m blown away by how much I have learned over the past 2 weeks.

One of my fellow students, a retired lady from DC who worked in the Archives, shared a link to the Library of Congress’ Newspaper Archives.

I have a subscription to a pay site.  I’m very frugal, but my husband suggested I do it in search of information about my father.  The pay site is a little sneaky with the cost, which I do not appreciate…at all!  So when I heard about the Chronicling America through the LoC, I was excited to try it.  10 minutes later, I’ve learned a lot about my Great Uncle, Theodore Ringler.


Theodore and his brother (my Great Grandfather), Sylvester, ended up in an Civil War Orphan’s home.  I’ve had a terrible time finding out anything about Theodore.  I have his birthdate from the Civil War Pension file…and I’ve found him on 1 Census record.  That’s it.  From Chronicling America, I now have hints that he served during the Spanish-American War.  I also found this German language newspaper article about him!

The article answer a 20 year search to confirm or eliminate the family lore that Theodore drowned in a canal.  Ends up, he did die by drowning.  And thanks to this news article, I now know the location and date of death.

Not bad for 10 minutes trying a new resource.

I am excited to explore Chronicling America further as I go searching4ancestors!