Category Archives: Genealogy Blog Party

June 2022 Genealogy Blog Party: My Earliest Direct Ancestral Line Marriage

The theme this month of Elizabeth O’Neal’s June Genealogy Blog Party on Heart of the Family is all about weddings.

I had to think about this topic for a while, as I distinctly remember checking to see if June was a popular month for weddings in my family and it seems it wasn’t.

There are three weddings in my close family that took place in June, but for privacy reasons, I won’t be writing about them.

I did share a post from 2019 on the Genealogy Blog Party link up that explained weddings customs of the Carpatho-Rusyns of Eastern Europe.

However, I really prefer to write a new, unique post to share at the blog party.

Since I rarely write much about some of the earliest ancestors in my family tree, I manually scrolled through the list of married couples in my RootsMagic software.

Having some very early New England lines which have been traced back into England well into the 1400s, I focused on identifying the earliest couple in my direct line with a proven marriage date.

The winners are: John Belgrave and Joanna Strutt, who married on 22 September 1560 in Glemsford, Suffolk, England.

I feel very comfortable with the accuracy of this information as articles have been published in several articles about the family in both The American Genealogist and The Register.

Glemsford is a small village with an ancient history. It is first mentioned before the conquest or William the Conqueror in 1066, as the village was recorded in lands granted by Edward the Confessor in 1051!

In 1086, the Domesday Book records 40 houses with 35 villagers and five enslaved persons.  The village sat on 12 acres of meadow and had its own mill and a church. At this time in history, the church would have been Roman Catholic. By the turn of the 21st century, the village population had grown to 3,700 people.

The parish Church of St. Mary dates back to the early 1300s, which means that today’s church would be the very same church in which my ancestors married in 1560.

Of course, in the intervening years, not long before John Belgrave and Joanna Strutt married, Henry VIII abolished the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church of England was established.

In the 1500s, marriages always, by law, took place in a church. Banns were announced for three Sundays preceding the marriage so that anyone who had an objection to the upcoming nuptials had a chance to voice his concern.

Women had little say in who they married, as marriages were often arranged by the parents of the bride and groom. Marrying for love was considered to be quite foolish!

The bride wore a dress of any color – white wedding dresses didn’t come into vogue until the 1800s. A garland of flowers was placed on the bride’s head; the ring finger was thought to have a vein that lead directly to the heart – the reason why today, we still have a ‘ring finger.’

After the minister married the couple, there would be a celebration. How elaborate it was depended on the wealth of the parents.

Brides also brought dowry, whether in food, animals or money depended again on the wealth of her parents, who also paid for the wedding events.

After marriage, a woman was considered to be the property of her husband with no legal rights of her own unless widowed.

By the 17th century and the beginning of the Great Migration to New England, much of Suffolk, England was strongly Puritan in its religious beliefs and a number of families emigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

With this background foundation, John Belgrave’s and Joanna Strutt’s lives can be viewed with some social context.

John Belgrave’s parentage is unproven, but he was born c1535, possibly in the village of Leverington, Cambridgeshire, England, about 50 miles away.

Joanna Strutt’s parentage is established through the will of her father, John Strutt, who wrote his will on 16 April 1591. It was proved in the Archdeaconry Court of Sudbury less than one month later on 12 May 1591. He lived in the village of Glemsford. Joanna’s mother predeceased her father, who married (2) Juliann Scott in 1578. However, her name was Catherine (MNU).

Joanna Strutt was buried on 14 August 1577 in Leverington, Cambridgeshire, England. Given that she was buried about six weeks after the birth of her 8th child, she may have died from childbirth complications.

The children were baptized at St. Leonard’s Church, Leverington, which was built in the 1200s.


1. Thomasine, baptized 1 February 1562; in father’s will; died after 26 July 1616, probably Stansted, Suffolk, England
2. Elizabeth, baptized 16 February 1563; in father’s will
3. Catherine, baptized 31 March 1566; in father’s will
4. Thomas, baptized 13 December 1567; in father’s will
5. Abraham, baptized 27 December 1569; in father’s will
6. George, baptized 31 August 1571; in father’s will
7. Barbara, baptized 12 June 1575; buried 4 May 1576, Leverington
8. Barbara, baptized 27 June 1577; died 17 September 1589

Her husband John married (2) Elizabeth Fairfax on 22 October 1578 in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, England and had four more children with her. However, only one of those four children, Jacob, born c1586, was still living in 1591.

John Belgrave wrote his will on 3 February 1590/91 and it was proved on 11 March 1590/91 at the Consistory of Ely. He was literate enough to sign his name.

My line of descent with Generation 4 being a double descent:

1. John Belgrave & Joanna Strutt
2. Edward Frost & Thomasine Belgrave, married 26 July 1585, Glemsford
3. Henry Rice & Elizabeth Frost, married 27 November 1605, Glemsford
4. John Moore & Elizabeth Rice, married 27 November 1633, Little Gaddesden, Hertfordshire, England AND John Maynard & Mary Rice, married 16 June 1646, Sudbury, Middlesex, Massachusetts
5. Joseph Moore & Lydia Maynard, married c1668, probably Massachusetts
6. Joseph Moore & Elizabeth Cleveland, married c1697, probably Massachusetts
7. John Woodward & Saphira Moore, married 1 August 1721, Sudbury, Middlesex, Massachusetts
8. Robert Wilson & Mary Woodward, married 22 February 1759, Sudbury, Middlesex, Massachusetts
9. Robert Wilson & Dorothy (Dolly) Holmes, married May 1790, Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada
10. Benjamin Parker & Maria Wilson, married 12 April 1812, Campobello Island, new Brunswick, Canada
11. Daniel Adams & Sarah Ann Parker, married 15 September 1836, Deer island, New Brunswick, Canada
12. Calvin Segee Adams & Nellie F. Tarbox, married 1 February 1878, Calais, Washington, Maine
13. Charles Edwin Adams & Annie Maude Stuart, married 21 September 1898, Worcester, Worcester, Massachusetts
14. Vernon Tarbox Adams & Hazel Ethel Coleman, married 19 July 1920, Calais, Washington, Maine
15. George Michael Sabo & Doris Priscilla Adams, married 6 June 1947, Hackensack, Bergen, New Jersey
16. Me!

It’s quite amazing to me to have a documented marriage all the way back in 1560. If not for my English ancestors in the habit of writing wills and having the luck to have the church registers still surviving, the exact dates these events took place would be lost to time.






May Day! May Day! Genealogy Blog Party: May 2022

With the arrival of May comes the monthly genealogy blog party challenge issued by Elizabeth O’Neal on Heart of the Family.

As Elizabeth points out, May brings to mind several events, such as May Day, celebrating the arrival of spring, May Day that honors workers and the May Day call issued as a distress signal.

She suggests a number of topics for the May genealogy party:

  • Stories of ancestors facing adversity
  • Suggestions for how to write about tragic events
  • Disastrous weather events in history
  • Illness, endemics, and pandemics, including COVID-19
  • Medical treatments
  • Wars and invasions, including current events
  • Famine
  • Ancestor injuries and deaths
  • May Day celebrations
  • International Workers’ Day/Labour Day
  • Other holidays and celebrations held in May

In spite of all these subjects, I had a difficult time coming up with today’s story.  I like to write something new for the genealogy blog party and I’ve written about many of the above topics in the past.

However, I don’t write much about myself so I’ve decided to share my own May Day! (as in distress signal) accident.

In December 1963, my family left my beloved Passaic, New Jersey and moved to Wayne, a town about 10 miles northwest of Passaic.

Our backyard was huge, mostly grass on a slope with several areas where trees and flowers were planted. I turned 12 years old that spring and was “appointed” (not particularly willingly) as my dad’s garden helper.

I remember that April Saturday morning being a really nice spring day. My father hadn’t cut the grass yet that weekend and it was several inches tall. I decided if I was going to have to work outside, I’d go barefoot and enjoy myself.

My job was to rake the garden corner on the back right side of the yard.

I was quite surprised to look at the property online and see that much of the yard is unchanged. We had a row of hedges all along the sidewalk, no fence. The main difference in the corner is that a second smaller tree has been planted on the right. Given the size of the tree on the left, I’m quite sure that same tree was in the yard when we lived there.

Today, there is ground cover below the trees, but back in 1964, it was dirt and flowers.

My job that day was to rake out any leaves and debris and then loosen up the dirt to get it ready for mulch.

To accomplish this task, I used both a regular leaf rake and a heavy metal rake, that looked like this:

After a busy morning and a lunch break, I was back outside working and again went barefoot. I was pretty much done with getting out the debris and had moved on to raking the dirt with the metal rake.

For whatever long forgotten reason, I set the rake down, with the prongs facing upward and did something – maybe get a trash barrel or took a bathroom break – and then got back to work.

I walked up the slope towards that tree and, where the red arrow is in the yard image above, I stepped on that metal rake and collapsed in pain.

I stepped down so hard that I had two full punctures wounds in the bottom of my right foot and a third prong grazed the outer portion of my foot.

I hadn’t seen the rake because the grass was so tall!

I was immediately in tears and called for Dad to help me. He came running over, scooped me up in this arms and put me in the car. Our family doctors’ shared practice was less than two miles away and, back in those days, some doctors still had Saturday hours.

When we arrived, Dad again scooped me run and ran into the waiting room. My foot was bleeding a lot and the nurse took me in right away.

About an hour later, Dr. Irmiere was finished stitching up my foot. A pair of crutches appeared and I hobbled back out to the car.

I was immediately sent up to rest in bed with my foot propped high under some pillows. I remember it hurting a lot that evening, but felt a lot better by the next morning.

In spite of feeling better, I was told to remain off my feet for a couple of days so I missed school. By the time I could get around easily with the crutches, I did go to school, but instead of having a sore foot, I had very sore arms. Crutches definitely were not any fun!

From my May Day! call experience, I learned two very important lessons.

  1. Don’t go barefoot in the backyard.
  2. Be sure to stand the gardening tools upright against the fence or a tree and face the dangerous portion of the tool away from me.

For many years after, damp weather made my foot ache. That hasn’t happened for a long time, perhaps because I live in the much drier Southwest.

I didn’t want to post any gross photos, so this is a cropped image of my foot at the arch. It’s very difficult to see anything, but the right arrow is pointing to a spot that, if you look very carefully, is whiter than the rest of my skin. There is a second, smaller scar where the left arrow is pointing.

Although they are hard to see, I can still immediately feel both places where those prongs went into my foot. Ouch!



April 2022 Genealogy Blog Party: Tips for Successful Research in the 1950s & Beyond

This week has been one of great excitement for genealogists across the United States, as we reached a new 72-year marker on 1 April 2022  and the 1950 census was released to the public.

1950 is a milestone of sorts, as it marks the beginning of the second half of the 20th century – or the modern age of genealogy research.

Many genealogists are well versed in researching ancestors in the early 1900s, the 1800s and even in earlier centuries.

However, for those who have little experience researching much more recent families, a different set of research skills will likely be necessary.

How Does 20th Century Research Differ from Early Centuries?

There are some positives about the availability of 20th century resources, but there are also quite a few negatives, which will require workarounds in order to experience genealogical success.

First, let’s look at the positives:

1. An explosion of official local, county, state and federal government records
2. Greater likelihood of locating privately held family records
2. Greater likelihood of contact with living family members who can share knowledge
4. Access to local newspaper archives
5. Known location of religious records
6. Existence of school records

On the surface, this list of resources looks fabulous! So many more people were literate, bought and sold real estate, had family events mentioned in local newspapers (obituaries were published for free by many papers!) and families kept many more sentimental mementos.

However, there are a couple of huge downsides to modern research.

The negatives:

  1. Privacy Issues
  2. Lack of government resources to retrieve and copy documents

While the negatives list is very short, they create two very effective stumbling blocks for genealogists.

There are millions of Americans enumerated in the 1950 census who are living today. With the advent of the Internet Age, society – and government officials – have begun to institute policies and laws to protect people’s privacy.

Access to vital records is often restricted to the individual named in a record or close, direct family members or to those with a significant legal need to obtain birth, marriage and/or death certificates. Some government agencies have even placed year restrictions which must pass before access is permitted – as much as 100 years!

As the decades passed in the latter portion of the century, individuals became much more inclined to privatize family items like probates, turning instead to options like trusts.

If the deceased did leave a will, county clerks may well tell a researcher that they need to hire a professional to retrieve the file, making it a costly venture.

Accessing land records can be just as expensive if they haven’t been filmed/digitized. I requested two land deeds in two different states, knowing exact years – 1922 and 1935 – and, in both cases, I was told to hire a title company! (I passed on that choice!)

Some counties are beginning to offer online digital images of land records, but those databases usually don’t include pre-21st century records.

Two factors have influenced the amount of information in published obituaries, which have gradually shrunk in length since 1950.

First – Today, obituaries are not published for free and can be quite costly, depending on length as price is determined by the number of words. Some families opt to not have any obituary published, sharing only details of funeral/burial services.

Second – Between burglaries committed when families were attending funerals and, later, a need to protect the privacy of survivors, obituaries no longer contain the rich details of those published mid-century and earlier.

Nowadays, they tend to be quite short – perhaps only the person’s name, age, town residence and funeral details are published. Children might be named only by first name (no married name for daughters) with no place of residence mentioned. Wives’ maiden names might be omitted.

While obituaries may still be very helpful in fleshing out details of a person’s life, they are rarely the treasure trove of information as in past years.

Teachers create lengthy files on their students as they progress from kindergarten through 12th grade. However, upon graduation, a student’s records are moved to inactive records. Because of storage issues and a lack of funds to digitize those school files, many districts have adopted a formal policy of destroying records more than ten years old.

Church records, although plentiful, are often impossible to access without the consent of the minister or priest. Some churches may claim privacy issues, while other church offices don’t have the staff or inclination to drag out the old church registers.

Tips for Successful Genealogical Research in the 20th-21st Centuries

What does all this mean for your own family history research? It’s a bit of a mixed bag.

When researching a family from the 1950s, think outside the box and try lots of strategies. Make use of technology to find workarounds.

Recently, I helped my high school 50 Year Reunion Committee to track down classmates with whom they had lost touch. The strategies in my genealogy toolbox will work as well for 1950s family as for 2020s families.

1. Begin with the 1950 census. Identify family members and begin building their FAN (Friends/Associates/Neighbors) club. Access earlier censuses for the same person/family to add details to his/her life timeline.
2. Check FamilySearch for deeds/probates that have been digitized. If you are really lucky, your family will have lived in one of a handful of localities for which FamilySearch has filmed well into the 20th century. If you are not that lucky, check with family members to see if anyone has land deeds, copies of court records or wills of deceased family members in their possession.
3. Search for a person of interest by entering name, place and birth year to see if any hits come up. I tried searching for a Sharon Peterson, a friend and classmate who moved away when we were in the 4th grade. I put in the town where she moved plus her name and birth year. Up came her high school yearbook photo!
4. Search FamilySearch using the same search criteria as for Ancestry. Different results usually come up for the same person and it provides a new detail or two.
5. Search MyHeritage, same as in #3 and #4. This site is especially strong with immigration records, of which international travel is part. I’ve found passport images for family members.
6. City directories had become the local telephone books by the 1950s. Depending on the town you are seeking, many can be found on Ancestry and a few other subscription websites. However, if you have specific names and a short range of years, try the town library. Ask to speak to the Reference Librarian and request a look up.
7. Local newspapers published news of school plays, patriotic events, church activities, Girl and Boy Scout meetings, accidents, hospitalizations, local sports, births, graduations and much more, in addition to obituaries. Even the want ads can add life details. I found an ad I placed in the newspaper in 1964 to sell my outgrown bicycle. Fun stuff!
8. Church histories and records – Many religious organizations have published histories. Some can be purchased online; others can be found in local libraries. If you haven’t had success obtaining baptismal, marriage or burial records from a local parish, be prepared to offer to make a contribution to the organization ( $25 might be an incentive) and also be prepared to beg – nicely.
9. Use social media available online today to find living people, such Facebook, Instagram, etc. Warning – Many have become disenchanted with social media. FB used to be one of my first stops looking for living people. Not so much anymore as I am finding fewer and fewer people there.
10. Use public information databases, e.g. FamilyTreeNow, SpyFly, People Finder, Spokeo, Veripages. A place of residence, at least a state and more if a name is common, needs to be included for any chance of success. An exact year is often needed because there will be a number of hits for persons born, say, in 1951, 1952, and 1953. If you have only a name, there might be too many hits for you to determine if your person of interest is even listed. Be aware that many of the telephone numbers and email addresses are outdated on these databases. Many offer a pay-for-the-record service, which I’ve NEVER done. I only search what is free.
11. Find free online obituaries by searching “First Name Surname” (in quotes) plus “obituary” (in quotes). Omit the year unless you are certain when a person died or if you are trying to locate survivors. I found many a missing classmate because they were mentioned in a parent’s or sibling’s obituary.
12. If you discover new details about a person, like a sibling’s name or parents’ names, go back to Ancestry, FamilySearch, MyHeritage, etc. and search for the siblings/parents. That may uncover new resources & connections to your person of interest.

To be honest, finding living or those who recently lived is like rolling the dice. Some families have enough online bread crumbs to pick up their relatives’ trails, while others seem to fly way below the internet radar.  The 1980s seems to be the most difficult decade in terms of finding records and people. It’s a bit too modern for many record formats popular in previous decades, but it’s also a tiny bit too early for many records to have made it into online databases and websites.

I’ve found some people in less than 5 minutes, but other times,  it has taken hours to narrow down the focus to two or three possibilities.

In spite of modern day research challenges, it is possible to learn a lot about our 20th century families. The strategies outlined above will increase the chance of success.