Tag Archives: Research Methods

Databases Come. . . And Databases Go. Do You Save to Your Computer?

I meet family history researchers all the time who proudly save all their documents and images to their online tree – but only to their online tree, which is housed on any of several large company websites. You know the companies I’m talking about.

I always ask them if they have a software program on their home computer or, if not, if they at least save all their genealogical discoveries on their own computers. The answer is invariably, “No.”

I can give you two excellent examples of record sets that I’ve used in the past and where they are now. If you have Maine roots, you might want to listen closely because one of the examples concerns Maine.

First, my husband’s Williams family branches spread all over the United States, but there are many many descendants who migrated to and remained in Tennessee.

I used to love the Tennessee State Archives because of its online vital records collection, specifically death records. I thankfully had browsed and saved whatever I could find before one day when I tried to search again and a notice appeared.

It stated that Tennessee residents can still view these records, but they have contracted with Ancestry, so for non-Tennessee residents, the record set is now behind a pay wall. At least they are still accessible for researchers everywhere.

Next example is Maine. The Maine State Archives housed an online collection of vital records. With my Maine roots, I loved finding this database.

Fast forward to 2015. The Maine.gov website guidelines on accessing vital records show restrictions that have been imposed during the last few years, and the vital records were no longer easily accessible.

However, I found a great database of Maine vital records covering the mid-1800s into the early 1900s. Where? On FamilySearch – in the collection Maine Vital Records 1670-1921.

For how long will this collection remain on FamilySearch? I have no idea, but I do know when their contract ends, with the new restrictions imposed by Maine law, these records – which often include images of the actual documents – will probably only be available behind a new pay wall – the Maine State Archives pay wall.

If you have Maine roots, I suggest that you start mining this database right now. Thomas MacEntee says it well – handle each find as if it were the only time you will have access to it. Save each new document and image to your computer as soon as you find it.

Databases come. . . and databases go.

It’s the Little Things – Pride of Ownership

Do you take pride in your genealogical accomplishments? I do.

Having 35+ years of research under my belt, I’ve seen many changed in the genealogical world. I have to admit that in the very, very early days, around 1980, it was quite thrilling to trace a line back a few generations and discover that someone had worked on the family and extended the ancestors back “X” number of generations.

I consider myself lucky, though, because my research at that point was strictly in New England and I very quickly learned about fraudulent pedigrees by people such as Gustave Anjou and sometimes false and/or incorrect family histories in volumes such as those by Frederick Virkus.

From that time forward, I have prided myself on using newly found information as clues to be investigated with sources to be checked to my own satisfaction.

With the age of the internet, I became even more cautious about information that I found online. I have a firm rule to which there are no exceptions. I never, ever import anyone’s family trees from anywhere. It is a lot easier to add new ancestors in by hand than it is to undo a mess of incorrect information.

Having researched my family through the decades, I have had more than a fair number of successes. While there are a few of what I would call spectacular successes, those which I would say bring me the most pride are the most recent successes. That’s because lines which are already taken back to early records leave fewer opportunities for new discoveries.

Sometimes, it’s the little things that bring on a proud moment. I could list five or ten huge genealogical successes I’ve experienced in the last several years. However, the one of which I am currently most proud is the simple discovery of parents of my Anders Molin.

If you follow my blog, then you are familiar with 5x great grandfather Anders Molin and his wife, Sara Brita Krook. In January of this year, I set two goals for myself regarding this family. I wanted to find the death date and place for Anders – I last have him 200 miles from home in Marstrand, Sweden in 1786 – and I wanted to find his baptismal record. I have no record identifying his age, but due to the fact that he became a master mason shortly after his 1776 marriage, it was likely that he was born in the late 1730’s or early 1740’s. Where? I had no idea, but the Marstrand records had a notation that he was a master mason from Ystad, Sweden, on the southern coast.

I am still plodding through over 200 probate court districts in Sweden looking for evidence of a time and place when Anders died.

However, success in finding his baptismal record came quickly in the second week of January. I am very proud of this find in spite of the fact that I had a clue with “Ystad.” It was equally possible that Anders had been born in and lived in a small town or village near Ystad, a city with trade guilds. I am also proud of this find because I was able to find it, on my own, and decipher his and his father’s names.

Take a look for yourself. Click to enlarge the image:

1739 Record from Ystad Sankt Petri Church

Not so easy, is it? I started reading baptismal records for Sankt Petri with year 1730 so it took a while. Have you found Anders’ (Andreas) name yet? There was a hint because the priest underlined the name of the baby, but it takes a little imagination to get “andreas” out of that scribble.


Now, have you found his father’s name? It is near the beginning of the entry:

“nils moline”

How about the name of his mother? That is even tougher because her first name was an old phonetic spelling and her surname was abbreviated. Her name was Helena Andersdatter:

“galana andersdat”

With age-related floaters in my eyes, my vision isn’t as sharp as it used to be. I think determination made up for some of my lack of acuity.

I was doing the happy dance as I shared this image with my Molin cousin in Sweden. Now, to find that probate record!


Tuesday’s Tip: Don’t Forget to Check for New Records that Connect to Old Research!

On Sunday, I wrote a bit about Minnie Mae Williams Brasher Horne, my husband Dave’s great grandmother. Minnie Mae died in 1945, before Dave was born so he never knew her, but his father, Ed, did. When I first got working on the family history, Ed shared details about his grandmother, along with some old photos of her. I followed up and filled in the basics about her, her two husbands and her two children. I also filled in what I could about Minnie’s own parents, stepmother, siblings and half-siblings, but there were a few missing  dates and dead ends on the family group sheets.

It’s been quite a while, years actually, since I spent a lot of time on this family. With over 15,000 people in two family trees – my own and Dave’s – I do circle back to take new looks, but the ancestors have to wait their turns because there are so many of them!

As I worked on yesterday’s post about Minnie’s life and sharing her obituary, I started checking for new records that might be found online. Not surprisingly, I can say that there are fewer empty branches today on these trees.

Basically, I used Ancestry and FamilySearch and was more than pleased with the results. Here are some of the new documents I found in just a couple of hours:

  1. I knew that Minnie’s second husband, Charlie Horne, was born about 1880 and died before her. I found:

World War I Draft Registration
Source: Ancestry

This World War I draft registration not only gave me Charlie’s date of birth – 20 December 1879 – I also learned that in 1918, the family was living in Alvin, Brazoria County, Texas, just south of Houston and not far from the Gulf of Mexico. I had had no idea that they ever lived there.

2. I had never been able to find Joseph Brasher, wife Minnie and daughter Pearl in the 1900 census. Joe was Minnie’s first husband. They married when she was 16, he was 20 and they divorced after not very many years. A new check online found:

Index to Texas Marriages
Source: FamilySearch

I had assumed, since Charlie and Minnie had only one son, Aulton Edward, born in 1910, that they probably married about 1907 or 1908, but I had no marriage record for them. Now I know they married much earlier than that – 2 October 1904 – and they married in Paris, Lamar County, Texas, about 40 miles north of Sulphur Springs, where Minnie had grown up and married Joe Brasher. I never knew they had any connection to Lamar County, either.

3. I knew that Aulton Edward Horne was born in 1910, but I had no birth record for him. Since the familv was enumerated in Plainview, Hale County, Texas, it seemed likely that Aulton was born there. I found:

Baby Boy Horne’s Birth Certificate
Source: FamilySearch

Although Aulton hadn’t yet been given his name, his birth was duly recorded in Plainview, Hale County. Interestingly, though, Aulton always claimed 10 March 1910 as his birth date, but this certificate says 12 March 1910. I wonder if the doctor filled this out several days and babies after Aulton’s birth and wrote in the wrong date? Minnie only had one other child and I don’t think she would have forgotten that her son was born on 10 March.

4. Minnie Mae had several siblings and half-siblings. Her full siblings were brothers James Benjamin, who lived and died in Hopkins County, and Levi, born about 1877 and died on 8 September 1879, also in Hopkins County. Minnie Mae also had a sister, Louella J., born about 1875 and enumerated with the family in 1880. After that, I could never pick up a trace of her. I found no marriage records for Louella, Ella or L.J. Williams who could possibly be her. She wasn’t buried at Connor Cemetery, where the rest of the family was buried. and I didn’t have any idea what her middle name might be.

While looking at the 1880 census as I worked on the obituary post, there was a link to Junnie, Jennie Hullen, Hullender, etc. in Kings Mountain, Cleveland County, North Carolina. I figured that was probably not related to Louella, but I checked it out. Her first and last name were spelled a myriad of different ways, as was that of her husband, Benjamin Ivason (Ivy) Hullender. However, an online death certificate named her father as John C. Williams and there were records connected to her showing a birth place in Texas and Arkansas. She was actually born in Arkansas. I also found:

Hullender-Williams Marriage, 1899
Source: FamilySearch

B.T. should probably be “B.I.” but the name was unusual enough that I looked in the 1900 census for them. In 1910, the oldest child, Mary, born about 1902, had a Texas birthplace listed. I found:

Hillender, Benjamin & Juna L.
Hopkins County, Texas
Source: Ancestry

Louella was Louella Junnie or Juna or Junia or Jennie Williams, which is why I couldn’t find her anywhere. The family moved back to North Carolina where Benjamin’s family lived and Jennie died there in 1937.

Jennie Williams Hullender, 1937 Death Certificate

5. There may be more to be found, but the last discovery thrilled me. I have never been able to find Joseph, Minnie and Pearl Brasher in the 1900 census. Pearl was born in February 1898 and I had hoped to be able to narrow the time frame in which Joe and Minnie separated and divorced. I know Pearl attended school in Hobart, Oklahoma in 1905, but had no idea if she still lived with both parents at that time.

Ben and Junnie/Jennie Hullender were living in Justice Precinct #5 in Hopkins County, Texas in 1900 and were found on image 43. I checked to see where Minnie’s father was living because I knew he was in the same precinct. John and family were on page 32. I started to scroll down looking for him when this caught my eye:

1900 Census of Hopkins County, TX, Image 32

Now I know why I couldn’t find the “B”rasher family. They are indexed as “Rrasher” and that is exactly how the name looks in the actual census record. In addition to that, the census enumerator wrote what looks lie “Jae” for Joseph and “Mennie” for Minnie. However, this mystery is solved.

I learned that Joe and Minnie divorced sometime between the 19 June 1900, the date of this census, and 2 October 1904, when Minnie married Charlie Horne.

The moral of the story here is to be sure to revisit your ancestral families. New records are becoming available every day and your ancestors will be in them.