Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Finding Records Online - Looking in Places You May Never Have Thought Of

Hey there, long time no see. I have been busy again. I camped with the Boy Scouts on a Navy base last week. I didn't know that so many cargo ships came into port at night and we were right under the flight path for the helicopters. This week we had our Cub Scout pinewood derby. We finally were able to purchase a new aluminum track. It took us all night Monday to put together and then all night Tuesday for the Cubs to race. They had a lot of fun.

Now, since I have some free time this evening I decided to get back to my blog. While I was sitting here trying to figure out what my blog would be about tonight, my wife asked me to help her find a copy of The Lovelace Family and Its Connections from the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 1921. She ran across this article as a source while researching her Todd family in early colonial Virginia (She is descended from Captain Thomas Todd [1619-1675]). She happened to find a listing for the article in JSTOR ( which is an online database of journals. Many libraries and some government agencies have access to this database, otherwise it will cost $10 per article to print. In the past, I have been able to use JSTOR to find agricultural journals from the 1800's which helped in my genealogy research. Several older historical and genealogical journals are also included in this collection.

Another useful online database is ProQuest ( ProQuest  is also a database that you may be able to access from your local library. One of my favorite collections in ProQuest is their historical newspaper collection. Yes, I know that Newspaper Archives and several other sites also have newspapers online but those are also subscription sites and they may not be available in your local library. I have been able to access the archives of the Atlanta Constitution while researching my wife's Coker lines.

Another site that you may have used but forgotten is the FamilySearch Library ( Some of the records indexed here are already in digital format and can be viewed online. I have been able to find copies of the county histories for Auglaize County, Ohio, where both my wife's family and mine originated.

By the way, just to let you know, I was not able to get the article from JSTOR because I forgot my University passwords and my DOI passwords and it has been removed from my DOD access. I guess I will have to get those passwords fixed before next semester when I start teaching again. So I went to my old faithful backup, Google Books and found the article right off the bat and was able to download it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday - Weekly Genealogy Blogging Prompt #3

Participate in weekly blog themes: Tombstone Tuesday, Wordless Wednesday, etc. Many genealogy bloggers post photos of grave stones on Tombstone Tuesday or a photo worth 1,000 silent words on Wordless Wednesday. Participate in these informal events or invent your own.

A couple posts ago I wrote an article about Fannie Harris. You may remember, she was the one with the alligators in her picture. Well, today I want to write a little bit about her sister, my wife's 2nd great grandmother, Willie Mae Harris.

The gravestone to the right is about the only real record we have of her. What is so special about this picture is that everyone has told us that she was buried in an unmarked grave and there was no headstone. Well, I guess this picture proves them wrong.

The inscription states "Willie Harris wife of Andrew J Phares, born Nov 17 1862, died Dec 22 1909". This gravestone is located at Evergreen Cemetery in Jacksonville, Florida.

I really enjoy visiting cemeteries. Each time I go to a cemetery to find the resting place of my ancestors I try to take pictures of as many headstones as possible. There are two reasons for this. First, many of the cemeteries I visit are small town cemeteries and eventually you may find that a large number of the people located there are related. If you only took pictures of the stones marking the relatives you knew at the time you visited you would have to return later to get the ones you missed. The second reason is that these pictures may be useful to people who do not live in the area and would not be able to easily travel to gather this information. I try to submit all the photos that I take to various databases on the internet.

Since this post is focusing on tombstones I thought I would add a discussion of where you can find virtual graveyards online.

One of my favorite cemetery websites is Find-A-Grave ( This site has over 29 million grave records indexed by name, location and cemetery. Each of these records is contributed by a volunteer who has visited the gravesites. I have provided hundreds of photographs for the area of Auglaize and Mercer County, Ohio. All of the pictures that are provided have to be reduced in size to less than 250K so you will have to process your pictures before you send them in.

Another site that I have enjoyed using in the past is the Virtual Cemetery ( I used to use this site quite a bit in the past but have not used it much since Ancestry bought them out. ( contains thousands of transcriptions of cemetery records and tombstone inscriptions, from cemeteries in the USA, Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries.

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs maintains the National Veterans Gravesite Locator database ( This site allows you to search for burial locations of veterans and their family members in VA National Cemeteries, state veterans cemeteries, various other military and Department of Interior cemeteries, and for veterans buried in private cemeteries when the grave is marked with a government grave marker. However, the site does not have information available for burials prior to 1997.

The American Battle Monuments Commission ( is another site that lists the graves of veterans. However, this site lists those that were interred outside the US or those that were listed as missing in action. The site has several databases pertaining to specific conflicts. These searchable databases are World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Mexican War, Civil War, and the Spanish-American War.

D' provides the United States Cemeteries Database ( This site links to other websites that have indexes of individual cemeteries. You can search a list of cemeteries for each state to see if the one you are looking for is online.

Many states have their own gravesite webpages. The one I use most often is the Ohio Gravestone Project ( This site allows you to view cemeteries by county and provides images of the gravestones that have been contributed.

There are many more websites that provide easy access to graveyard information. Try a few of the ones that I mentioned and see if you can find some of your own and make sure to contribute the headstones that you have collected. Happy hunting.

Monday, January 19, 2009

This Day In History

What world stopping events have you lived through? One of my wife's earliest childhood memories is the funeral for JFK. A memory that stands out to me is the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle. We are getting ready for an historical first tomorrow. These historical events are easy to find but how do we find out the trivial events in someone's life, those events that even they may have forgotten over the years. Have you ever wondered what life was like when your grandmother was born, what a house cost when she got married, what the top song was in 1950? This type of trivia is sometimes fun to look at. For example, the top TV shows the year I was born included Star Trek, Laugh-In and The Monkees and gas was $0.34 per gallon. 

In honor of the historic events tomorrow I decided to discuss some websites that highlight the historical as well as trivial events in our lives.

The first site is the dMarie Time Capsule ( This site is searchable by date and includes items beginning in 1800. The earlier years are pretty spotty and may include events of the year instead of the month, week or day. More recent dates include much more information such as top songs, plays, books, TV shows as well as the headlines and costs of daily items such as gas, milk, homes, stamps and bread. I like to use this site when developing a personal biography of an ancestor.

Another good site is HyperHistory ( This site focuses in on sets of years and presents the top events in fields such as science, culture, religion, people, politics and books over the last 3000 years. The events are color coded so you can see what category it fits in. It covers both US and world events. 

The last site I will discuss tonight is BrainyHistory ( This site lets you search history in several ways. You can select a day in history, for example January 20, and see what happend on that day over history, you can also see famous births and deaths on that given day. Another way to search is by year. This method gives you a chronology of events during a given year beginning in 1AD.

I am sure everyone will now go to their birthdate and see what was happening. Have fun and see what you can remember.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Scanning Old Photos

When was the last time you used a film camera? I believe that most of us today take digital pictures. We tend to take digital photography for granted. We can take the picture and within a short time we post them to websites such as Picasa, flickr, Facebook, or any number of other sites. We also e-mail copies to friends, send copies on CD, print them with portable printers before we leave, or send them via camera phones to all our friends. But I bet everyone of us still has boxes or books full of pictures and slides. We need to do something with these photos to make them more useful in our research and to make sure that they can be shared with the family. 

I bet most of you have a scanner sitting on your desk. I have gone through at least a dozen scanners over the last few years. My wife and I used to have our own business scanning other people's pictures. That worked well during the mid 1990's when scanning and printing technology was more expensive. We had scanners for slides, scanners for photos and scanners for large format images. At that time the scanners were stand alone flatbed scanners. Today many of the scanners are integrated into multifunction printers. 

Let's discuss some basics of scanning. When you are shopping for a scanner they always brag about how high their resolution is (dpi). Some will claim 1200, 2400, 4800, 6200 or more dpi. Bigger is better, right? Not in all cases. Truthfully, you will probably never use more that 300 dpi when scanning. You may use 600 dpi if you want to edit small areas or a few pixels at a time but then you are working with a very large size picture and it may bog down your computer processor. For web publishing 100 to 150 dpi are usually sufficient.

Another common question is what format should I save the picture in. There are dozens of possible formats given as options. Each one has a specific purpose. I generally use two different formats depending on the purpose of the picture. TIF files have great detail but they take up more storage space. JPG files look nice and take up less space but they also have less detail. If you are editing the picture I would keep it in TIF format. If you want to e-mail it or post it to the web change it to JPG.

Why would you want to scan all your pictures? The first reason is to preserve a copy of the picture. This picture was a tin-type. We don't know who the boy is yet. If you look closely you will see several cracks in the picture. We scanned the picture and put it back in the book it come from. Within a few weeks the picture had totally disintegrated into a pile of small flakes. The digital copy is all that remains of this picture now. Additionally, pictures in old adhesive photo albums are susceptible to chemical deterioration and will change color over time. Scanning allows you the opportunity to preserve them and adjust their colors to make them look more like the original photograph. 

Another reason to scan your photos is to correct any imperfections. Over time pictures discolor, get water stains, crack, bend or rip. We have had to replace many body parts on the photos we worked on. Sometimes people have wanted to modify history in different ways. We have added people to family photos and deleted people from photos. If Uncle Jim wasn't at the last holiday get together we could add him to the picture and if Aunt Jane's ex-husband was in a picture we could erase him. Generally, I don't recommend changing your genealogy related photos in this way though. But you might want to restore the missing parts.

Notice the missing corner and water stains on the photo to the left. With some fairly inexpensive graphics software you can make the picture look almost like the day it was taken. We were able to add the missing foot by taking his brother's foot and enlarging it to more closely fit his dimensions.

Another technique that I use often is to scan the entire page of pictures at once. That way you can go in, crop out the pictures one by one and save them individually. It is much quicker than lining up the scanner each time and scanning one picture at a time. Also, you eliminate the potential for damaging the photos when you take them off the adhesive backed album pages.

Scanning entire photo albums may be time consuming but just think how happy everyone will be when you hand them a CD with all of great grandma Bessie's pictures. Have fun and scan away.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cabinet of Curiosities Blog Carnival - Family Artifacts

Show and tell for grown ups, Cabinet of Curiosities is a celebration of the oddities and marvels of natural history, anthropology, archaeology and historic interest that reside in our personal collections. Tell us the stories behind the historical or religious relics, artifacts, mementos, talismans, specimens and ephemera in your steamer trunks, sock drawers and dusty fireplace mantles. Anything that is a conversation piece is fair game for a good storyteller. What's in your attic? Remember, this is show and tell, not merely a bazarre of the bizarre. It's just an old lump of flattened lead unless you can tell us - engagingly - that this was the Minnie Ball that shattered the stock of your ancestor's Enfield at the otherwise unremarkable Battle of Bean's Station back in December of 1863. So what have you got, and what's the story?

Family artifacts and memorabilia are wonderful things. Many of us have items that have been passed down across the generations. A friend of mine has his family’s original bible from the 1770’s. My wife has a necklace that was given to her great grandmother on her wedding day. My family artifact is not in my possession but it is still in the family. This artifact was the original steamer trunk that my 3rd great grandfather Justice Wyse and his family carried over from Germany in 1854. Having this trunk in the family makes you realize that many immigrants had very little when they came to the United States. So I decided to learn more about what their voyage was like.

You may wonder where to start when doing your research on immigrants. Well that depends on when your family immigrated. In my case, since they immigrated in the 1850’s I used the database at Castle Garden ( If your family immigrated in 1892 or more recently, you might try the database at Ellis Island (

Castle Garden, today known as Castle Clinton National Monument, is the major landmark within The Battery, the 23 acre waterfront park at the tip of Manhattan. From 1855 to 1890, the Castle was America's first official immigration center, a pioneering collaboration of New York State and New York City.

Of the 10 million immigrants who entered through Castle Garden, most were German (3,425,000) and Irish (2,541,000). The rest, in descending numerical order, were English, Swedish, Italian, Scottish, Russian, Norwegian, Swiss, French, Hungarian, Danish, Austrian, Dutch, Bohemian, Welsh, Belgian, Spanish, Polish, Chinese, Portuguese, Greek, Turkish, and Australian, plus 162,173 from “other countries.”

Once I found the immigration records I was able to track down the ship they immigrated on. If you want to research more on immigrant ships you could visit The Shiplist at

This picture is of the ship William Tapscott. This is the ship that the Wyse family took in their migration from Europe to the U.S. during March/April 1854. The average travel time for this voyage was about 31 days but could have taken over 45 days depending on weather. The William Tapscott was one of the finest ships of its time. It was one of the largest full-rigged ships built in Maine during the 1850's.

I was able to find more information about what a voyage on this vessel would have been like by looking in the published diaries in the BYU Digital Collection (

The ship had three decks. The passengers slept on the two lower decks. The second deck was entered through a trap-door hatchway. On each side of the deck, there were numbered cabins. Each cabin contained sleeping “berths”. Each cabin also had light from a large porthole covered with very thick blue glass. Two long tables ran down the middle of this deck. Benches, fastened to the floor, bordered these tables. When the sea wasn’t rough, the porthole window could be left open.

The bottom deck was entered by a trap-door hatchway on the second deck. Like the deck above, there were cabins with berths around the sides. There weren’t any portholes on this deck. For light, there were lanterns. It was very dark. It was described by a passenger on this deck as “… so dark that you could not see for awhile till your eyes got accustomed to the gloom.”

There was a cooking gallery for the common use of all passengers. In the center of the cooking gallery was a very large stove, about 10 feet square. Around this stove was space for passengers to stand and hold onto their pans as they cooked. The toilet closet was a large hole with a bar to sit on. A passenger described the closet as “…The only place I was frightened was when we had to go to the closet, there was just a straight stick across and of course you could see the ocean. How I did cling to my little sister when she was on that bar, for it was a large enough place to let a grown person down, let alone children.”

After plying the oceans for about forty years the William Tapscott was lost in the English Channel in 1888. The figurehead from the ship was salvaged and is now on display at the Bude-Stratton Museum in Cornwall, England. So, as my final step in researching this history, I contacted the Bude-Stratton Museum and was able to get pictures of the artifacts, including the figurehead, that were salvaged from the shipwreck.

Starting with just the one artifact, an old steamer trunk, I have now gained a much more in depth understanding of the trials that the early immigrants had to endure to come to our great country.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Weekly Genealogy Blogging Prompt #2

Week #2: Participate in carnivals. A blog carnival is a showcase of bloggers’ posts on a given topic. Genealogy bloggers LOVE carnivals because there’s something for everyone. To learn about when these showcase-type events are happening, read others’ genealogy blogs. Someone’s always talking about a carnival.

It took me awhile to get to this blog assignment. I had a hard time finding a carnival that I wanted to blog about but finally chose the theme "Winter Wonderland". Since we live in Florida and my wife's family has been in the Southern states since Jamestown I figured that this would be a challenge. I searched through all of our old photographs, most of which were from Florida and finally found one that represents Florida in the winter.

Here it is, a Christmas tree and the family's first radio! Based on where this picture was in the photo album it was probably taken during Christmas 1930. The previous picture was dated 1930 and the next one was 1931.

Florida is known for its mild winters and the next picture shows just how mild our climate is. This picture was taken December 27, 1929. Notice the top is down on the car.

My wife's family came to Florida in the 1850's and settled in an area they later named Yalaha in central Florida. Supposedly, Yalaha means "yellow orange" in the native Seminole language. Her family was among the first to import the orange stock into Florida. They made a good business growing oranges and asparagus ferns as is testified by several articles in the Florida Agricultural Journal during the 1890's. Additionally the captured small alligators and shipped them to Jacksonville to sell to the tourists during the 1920's.

Just to let everyone know, it does get cold in Florida. We have finally dropped out of the 70's and it is only 47 today. Hope everyone enjoys their winter and keeps warm.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Finding Records Online - Louisiana

Another week has gone by without an insightful post from me. I need to stop volunteering for so many things. Last night I worked at the Family History Center and did Cub Scouts. Today I did a job fair for students at the Academy of Coastal and Environmental Studies. Last week I did a TV spot for our local Arboretum. All this and working a regular job or two. At least I can tell those people who claim not to have enough time to do family history research that they are not nearly as busy as me ;-)

Now on to the blog for today. I am continuing my listing of state records websites. Today I move on to Louisiana. This one is a little difficult for me since I have not done any research here and therefore have not used the online databases as much as some of the others.

Louisiana has several records indexes online. All of these sites require you to order the actual record for $2 to $5 per copy so you want to make sure you have the right one before ordering.

The first site is the Louisiana State Archives which can be found online at Once on the site you will want to check under the Research Library tab to see what records are available. This site has indexes for passenger manifests, confederate pension applications and vital records. The vital records include deaths (1911-1956) with some areas such as Orleans Parish having some death notices back to 1804. Additionally, you can find Orleans Parish birth records (1819-1907) with some records back to 1790 and Orleans Parish marriage records (1870-1957) with some records back to 1831.

Some additional sites for vital records online include the New Orleans Daily Picayune Death Index which covers the years 1837-1857 and 1870. This index can be found at The New Orleans Justice of the Peace Marriage Records for 1846-1880 can be found at The New Orleans Daily Picayune Marriage Index for 1837-1857 can be found at

As you can tell, the availability of online records outside New Orleans is pretty sparce at this time. If you have any sites that you have used to find Louisiana records online please pass them along.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Finding Records Online - Kentucky

I am back to my listing of web sites offering free access to records within a state. Today I will be discussing some of the databases available for Kentucky.

One of the databases available for northern Kentucky is hosted by the Kenton County Public Library. This site is located at Many of the records focus on Kenton County and the area around Covington, Kentucky and include cemetery, church, Civil War, census, birth and death records. If your families ever lived in this area of Kentucky this is a great resource.

A good source for death (1911-1992), marriage (1973-1993) and divorce (1973-1993) records is the Kentucky Vital Records Index located at Another death index database can be found on the Rootsweb website at This database includes an index of almost 3 million names between 1911-2000. If you want to see the actual death certificates you can find them at 

The Kentucky Land Office has a variety of land grant databases on their web page at This site includes some really great databases including digital copies of the Revolutionary War Warrants prior to 1792, West of Tennesee River Military Patents, Virginia and Kentucky Patents, and several others. These land grant databases include copies of the grants, surveys and other documents supporting land claims.

The Kentucky Cemetery Catalog can be found at This database includes hundreds of thousands of names from cemeteries across Kentucky. All of the information was gathered by volunteers.

The Kentuckiana Digital Library has links to several collections at  These collections include newspapers, books, images, maps, oral histories, manuscripts and journals. The newspaper archives is a little cumbersome to navigate but once you get through the links you can see the actual pages of the paper with your search term highlighted.

Well, I hope these databases help in your search for relatives from Kentucky.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Weekly Genealogy Blogging Prompt #1

The Weekly Genealogy Blogging Prompt #1 at Facebook has suggested the following blog "Upload your favorite picture and talk about it on your blog. Answer the who/what/when/where/why of the subject matter and explain why it is your favorite."

As with all records, it is always a good idea to ocassionally look back at your photo collection to see if there are any new clues that we might have missed in the past.

These are pictures of my wife's 2nd great grand aunt, Fannie Harris. Fannie had two sisters, Willie Mae and Grace Harris. Both of her sisters died about 1909. These pictures were probably taken sometime around the turn of the century. The first picture shows Fannie riding an alligator. If you haven't guessed yet, the picture was taken in Florida (see the cabbage palms in the background). This picture is typical of the pictures we have of Fannie. Most of them show her with alligators. I am not really sure why she has the alligators in her pictures but it does exemplify 
her strong will and independence. This woman was married twice, one of her husbands was a limo driver and she ran a hotel in Jacksonville, Florida. The hotel was called Hotel Adams and it still stands but today it is more of a flop house located adjacent to the Greyhound bus station. We have had a real difficult time finding records for this family. We believe that her father came to Florida to fight during the Seminole Wars and they settled in a small town called Yalaha in central Florida. The town was named by her brother-in-law's father. Yalaha sits on Lake Harris which was named for her grandfather who surveyed the lake. We have not found any census records with the family listed. The only records we have found so far are city directories from the late 1880's. The difficulty of finding records for this family make the pictures that we do have all the more precious.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Years!

1-1-2009 - It seems like just a few weeks ago we were celebrating the beginning of 2008. As we get older the years seem to get shorter and we never seem to be able to keep all of our resolutions we make each year. So, knowing this, what have I resolved to do?

This year I resolve to do better on FamilySearch Indexing. I have been slacking on this in the past and have only completed 3350 records since it first started. I read the news about Alta Mesa Stake in Mesa, Arizona completing over 4 million records last year. That is a huge accomplishment. We need to make sure everyone we know is doing something to help the cause of indexing. It doesn't take much time to complete one set of records each week. If we all did just one set of records (approximately 25-50 names) each week, each one of us would complete 1300-2600 records each year.  Those of us who have more time can easily double this number.

This year I resolve to do better keeping my journal. Journals are an important record of our times and will help our descendents understand what our lives were like. Just think how useful it would be to you to have a copy of a journal written by your great grandparents. I do try to keep up with mine but it is hit and miss. Sometimes I go for a week writing every day. Other times it is 3 or 4 weeks between entries. I have only been keeping my journal since July 9, 2006 and it is currently only 72 typed pages.

This year I resolve to exercise regularly. While doing my family medical history (see my blog for December 22, 2008 for ideas) I discovered that the cause of death of many of my ancestors is listed as of cerebral hemorrhages, diabetes, heart disease and various cancers. Many of these diseases can be prevented by being more physically fit. We bought a treadmill for Christmas and I have been using it several times each week. I have already noticed that my belts fit a notch or two smaller.

Sometimes the worst thing to do is be over ambitious in your resolutions. I took a look at my suggested resolutions for last year. The following are what I put in my January 2008 Family History Newsletter as examples of what we can do in the new year -

1) To organize and label all your photographs.
• For the techies—scan all of your photographs, label them and create backup copies stored in a safe location.

2) Rededicate yourself to writing in your journal.
• Techies, why don’t you use that new video camera that you got for Christmas to begin creating a video journal.

3) To keep up with the new genealogy resources and attend a genealogy class. It is not enough now to just know all of the research techniques to find records in the court house. The internet is bringing us new ways to research on a daily basis. Learn how to effectively use these new websites.

4) Find sources for everyone in at least one direct line of ancestors.

5) Dedicate a few hours per week or a whole day each month to work on my family research.

6) Keep track of correspondence.
• Techies, make sure you have replied to all of the e-mails and file them away in folders for future reference.

7) Get organized. Look through that pile of papers and see what you may have forgotten about.

8) Genealogy is more than names and dates. Find out about the lives of your ancestors.

9) Put your research to good use. Share it with others.

10) Volunteer to help others. Make your time in the Family History Center a productive time. Help others by joining with sites such as Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (

I hope everyone had a good 2008 and wish everyone a great 2009! Only 364 more days until 2010.