Sunday, May 31, 2009

Church Record Sunday: Mennonites in Mexico

Two English speaking religious groups looked towards Mexico for religious freedom in the early 19th century. Members of these original colonizers continue to live in these communities today. One group that colonized in Mexico was the Mormons the other is the Mennonites who started arriving in the 1920’s.

For more information about the Mennonites in Mexico consult the following links of articles and research materials:

The Mennonites: A Dutch Heritage in Mexico at

Mennonite Colonies in Mexico Accept Change Slowly at

Mennonites from Mexico Oral History Project,

Cuauhtemoc Mennonite Settlement (Chihuahua, Mexico)

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR)

Just as common experiences bring about social and fraternal organizations, the Union veterans of the American Civil War shared a common tie that led to the founding of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). April 6, 1866 in Illinois was the date of the founding of the first GAR post, a group that would eventually claim 400,000 members nationwide. Membership in the GAR did not just include the average foot soldier, five United States presidents; Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Harrison and McKinley, were included in its ranks. This fraternal organization eventually became a very strong political lobbying group. Their lobbying efforts focused on pension bills for Union veterans. This lobbying effort was so powerful that at least one president was defeated for re-election because of his lack of support for a piece of GAR legislation.

The Grand Army of the Republic ceased operations in 1956 but it’s work and it’s successor is the organization, The Sons of Union Veterans of the United States of America, Begun in 1881, it was founded by the GAR to continue the traditions of the GAR once that organization no longer was in operation. The organization’s website includes an online database where you can search for a civil war soldier’s grave through their National Graves Registration Database. A search for one of my in-law’s ancestors brought up his birth and death date, his unit, branch and state of enlistment, his rank, dates for his enlistment and discharge. A section entitled “miscellaneous notes” included his birth place and his cause of death. What cemetery he is buried in, including the lot number is also included in this description. Finally, the GAR post he belonged to and what grave markers are on his headstone are also included. Cemetery markers can be an important clue in identifying what organizations your ancestor belonged to. When looking at the headstone of a union soldier, see if the letters “GAR” are found on the headstone, this will identify him as a member.

The Library of Congress’, research guide, Fraternity, Charity, and Loyalty includes historical information about the GAR, state lists of GAR posts and bibliographical information on auxiliary camps to the GAR including the Women’s Relief Corps, Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, and Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. This guide is an important resource for learning more about the history and impact of this veteran’s organization.

The Grand Army of the Republic Museum and Library is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and you can access their website The Library does allow researchers access to their materials, which includes post records. A list of available post records can be found on their website. You can also write to the Library with a research request. A history of the GAR and other historical information, including a description of the GAR badge can be found on this website. This badge description can help you in identifying vintage photos of possible Union veterans in your family.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Protecting your Heirlooms: Adding a Codicil to your Will

A few days back I blogged about advice given by Dear Abby to a couple who had inherited a lot of their family heirlooms. Part of that advice included giving the items to a consignment shop or thrift store. To read this post see,

It is so important to make sure that after you pass your family heirlooms and genealogy will be given to someone who wants and will take care of it. For this reason you have to take some proactive stances. What do you do with your genealogy research, especially in cases where your children are not interested in your work?

One idea is to add a codicil to your will that protects your research. A cousin of mine passed away from cancer a few years back. Two years prior to her death, she asked if I would be the executor of her estate. She asked, and added to her will, that I take her genealogical research so that it not only would be taken care of but also would benefit other family members. It was so important to her that her work be protected that the day before she died, she asked me if I had taken her genealogy and put it in a safe place.

The following is a suggestion for adding a codicil to your will so that you can help insure that your genealogy research will be taken care of. I am not sure of the original author of this codicil, it has been reprinted several times in various genealogy society newsletters including my local society, the Yucaipa Valley Genealogy Society.

“To my spouse, children, guardian, administrator and/executor: Upon my death, it is requested that you DO NOT dispose of any of my genealogical records, both those prepared by me and those prepared by others which may be in my possession, including but not limited to books, files, notebooks or computer programs for a period of ____. During this time, you may find someone in my family who would like to take custody AND (1) to preserve my research, and (2) to continue researching my family history. Should you not find this person to accept these materials with the stipulation to continue my research, I would like for you to contact (this blank should have some historical or genealogical society’s name, address and phone number)_______________________. They will know how my collection should be handled. Please know that my genealogical research is very important to me, that it consumed a great deal of time, travel, money and effort on my part. Therefore, it is my desire that my research be preserved at ___________ and be allowed to be made available to other researches in the future.”

If you have a will drawn up by an attorney, consult him or her about adding this type of codicil to your will. I would also suggest that you take the time to identify the person that you want to take custody of your research and ask them if they would accept this responsibility. It is a lot of work to be an executor and it is much easier when the deceased has made these arrangements prior to their death. I would also suggest that in addition to files, book, and computer programs that you add “old pictures” to this codicil. Often when the family historian dies and has left a lot of “old” picture that are unidentified, those pictures get tossed because family members have no idea who the people are or their importance.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The End of an Era: The San Bernardino Valley Genealogy Society

Things are tough for everyone these days. This is as true for individuals as it is for genealogy societies. Today, I received a newsletter from the San Bernardino Valley Genealogical Society. Although they are not disbanding they are no longer holding meetings of any kind. They will continue to maintain their impressive and important collection, found at the California Room of the San Bernardino Public Library,

In their newsletter, the Frequent Flier it states:

“We are close to the middle of our fourth year under the Service Mode. We have so far accomplished this much. We have had a full roster of officers each year, all of whom,
after the first half of the first year, 2006 have well fulfilled their duties and responsibilities. Those who, in the beginning, did not, have left the organization and been

The library has been maintained, and, in parts, errors in filing have been corrected. Additional material has been added. Our proposal to respond to queries for minimal pay
has been done. We have earned enough to pay all our expenses and donate $1000 to the library with another $500 donation about to be made.

We celebrated our fiftieth anniversary with a major party which included well planned and designed exhibits of our Society’s work as well as examples of individual
accomplishments in Genealogy as well as handouts and refreshments.

A detailed inventory of our holdings has begun and is continuing until completed.
Programs have been available for each monthly meeting during this time but one, when an error in date ensued.

According to this record, we should be in fine shape, but we are not. Though we have more paid up members than the group which started this organization over 50 years ago,
our members neither attend nor communicate to the officers regarding their desires and needs for speakers, classes, discussions or whatever. We have been told by one of our
long time members that it is commonplace for members not to attend.

Under those circumstances it has been decided by those members who never miss a meeting that there will be no future meetings. The Organization will not disband. Those who have been active members will continue as in the past three and a half years, to maintain the library, complete the inventory, including detailed instructions for the use of our collection, respond to queries, donate to the library much appreciated funds and work on our own genealogies. The publishing of the Frequent Flier will be limited to four times a year. It will include the Treasurer’s report, progress reports regarding the inventory and any publication, additions to our members, if such should occur…”

And so a Society who has been around for over 50 years is gone.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Decoration Day

Decoration Day
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sleep, comrades, sleep and rest
On this Field of the Grounded Arms,
Where foes no more molest,
Nor sentry's shot alarms!

Ye have slept on the ground before,
And started to your feet
At the cannon's sudden roar,
Or the drum's redoubling beat.

But in this camp of Death
No sound your slumber breaks;
Here is no fevered breath,
No wound that bleeds and aches.

All is repose and peace,
Untrampled lies the sod;
The shouts of battle cease,
It is the Truce of God!

Rest, comrades, rest and sleep!
The thoughts of men shall be
As sentinels to keep
Your rest from danger free.

Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers;
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Church Record Sunday: A Nun's Life

The website, A Nun's Life: Catholic Sisters and Nuns in Today's World, is not a genealogy website but it's a website for understanding what it is like to be a Nun, this could be useful for those who have had Nuns in their family history. There are also links to blogs authored by Nuns and even information about becoming a Catholic Nun.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Dear Abby's Advice on Family Heirlooms

Today's Dear Abby column was very interesting. To read it click on One of the letters was from a couple who have inherited family heirlooms from their parents and childless aunts and uncles including "a Family Bible, military memorabilia, photos of pets, etc." Their house is becoming cluttered with the stuff and they want to know how to dispose of it. (Boy isn't that a problem most of us genealogists wish we had?)

Abby's advice starts out fairly good, she recommends donating the Bible and the photos to the state historical society. (Though I'm not sure pet photos would rank on a state historical society list of things they want to acquire). She then goes on to comment that the military memorabilia could be appraised and might be quite valuable. The she advises that the rest could be sent to a consignment shop or a thrift store.

Hmmm. What about other family members? Could another family member possibly be interested? There are more than just direct descendants, there may be cousins and such who would love to be the caretaker. Too bad that Abby didn't know about the various websites that reunite Family Bibles and family photos with their owners. Yes, you could donate the military memorabilia to a museum or a historical society but there might be family members that may be interested.

This is a good lesson for us as genealogists to make sure that we discuss with our family where our precious genealogy information and heirlooms should go before we pass on. Plus make sure that they people you plan on willing it to want it. If they don't, start making plans now to will it to a society, museum or some entity that will want it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cub Scouts and Genealogy

Image is Copyright, 2003, VCLH. Used With Permission
My time as a Wolf den leader in Cub Scouts ended on Tuesday. My youngest son graduated from the Wolf den and we are switching Cub Scout Packs because of our move. As he was thanking the den leaders for their volunteer service, the Cubmaster pointed out that being a den leader is about having to learn and teach many different topics. Cub Scouting calls upon the leader to lead activities of all kinds including those that feature geology, maps and compass, recycling, cooking, pet care, forestry, patriotism, entertainment, sports, music, camping and much much more.

His remarks reminded me of what a genealogist is expected to know. Yes, we need to be good at researching-finding facts and determining their usefulness. But sometimes our ancestor’s life experiences require us to know so much more. Some of the topics that might help your understanding of your ancestor’s life include real estate, law, religion, and history. While it is impossible to know everything-it is a good idea to read up on those subjects that might shed light on your ancestor’s life.

We are so lucky to live in this time where so much education is available to us for free 24 hours a day. Google Books is a great place to find digitized books on all types of subjects. CalCat,, the catalog of the California libraries and World Cat,, are both great places to find books that you can check out at your local library or interlibrary loan.

On a daily basis, well almost daily, I have been posting social history websites to my Twitter page (my Twitter name is genaortega). These websites are meant to give you ideas about what your ancestor’s life was like. I also periodically post these websites to my Facebook page and right here on my blog.

So why not take a few hours and read up on a topic that will help your genealogy but isn’t necessarily genealogy. It will not only help you with your research but help you better understand your ancestor’s lives.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday: Maywood Nebraska Cemetery

From the Maywood, Frontier, Nebraska cemetery. The burial place of Philetus R White (16 Oct 1858-6 Mar 1908) and Ida May White (8 Apr 1866-18 June 1952? I can't tell if it is 1952 or 1932)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Shake, Rattle and Roll

Well, we had an earthquake yesterday in Southern California. While we are well known for earthquakes here in California, there is actually seismic action going on all over the world at any given minute. Today's Social History Website is the list of historic earthquakes from the USGS, The list begins in 1568 and ends in 2008.

You can also look at a historic map of earthquakes in the US from 1750-1996 at Check it out-you'll be surprised at how many earthquakes there are all around the United States. Maybe your ancestor even felt one.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Church Record Sunday: Religion in American History

A website that might be of use in learning more about religion and its place in American history can be found at Divining America: Religion in American History at This website is part of a National Humanities Center TeacherServe project. It provides essays by scholars on different topics related to American religion from the 17th century through the 20th century.

While this is not a standard genealogy site with information about individuals, it will provide you with information that will help you better understand your ancestor's place in time.

Some of the articles about American religion in the 19th century include:
  • Roman Catholics & Immigration
  • The American Jewish Experience
  • Religion in the Civil War: The Northern Side
  • African American Religion
  • Foreign Missionary Movement
Essays about American religion in the 17th and 18th centuries can be found at The 19th century can be found at and the 20th century can be found at Each centuries 'page' also includes additional website links to accompany each essay.

People Read This Blog??

I have been a little behind in acknowledging some great bloggers who have chosen to give me two awards. I really appreciate them thinking of me and considering me for these awards.
Granny Pam at Granny's Genealogy,, awarded me the Friendly Blogger Award. Sherri Bush at Twig Talk, and Miriam at have both given me the One Lovely Blog Award.
Thank you everyone, I appreciate you so much for remembering me.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Genealogy Tip for Today

An important genealogical and historical resource can be books. Now with all the access we have to digitized books through services like Google Books and Heritage Quest, it has become easier to track down books about our ancestors and where they lived.

When using a book, don't forget to check out the footnotes and the bibliography. These two very important resources provide you with clues where you can search further. The author has already done quite a bit of research and they put that information in the bibliography and the footnotes/endnotes. Use that to further your own research. Find which books and articles might help your research from the author's list and then look for them at your local library or through interlibrary loan.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Finding Time To Do Genealogy

One of the questions I've been hearing a lot lately is "where do you find the time to do genealogy?" I know that we all have obligations that can seem overwhelming. Sometimes it can feel like having an extra 10 hours a day would be good. Although, we live in a modern age where we have so many more conveniences than our ancestors, we also have a increased amount of worthwhile activities to partake in. It seems that now, even kids are scheduled to the maximum.

I often hear people with kids under the age of 18, that there is no way that they can do genealogy, they'll have to wait until the kids are out of the house.

The problem is, if you wait til the kids are out of the house, it may be too late to talk to the older generation. Plus, there will be something new to occupy your time...grandchildren!

I have no magic answers. I can tell you that I have 2 kids under the age of 18 and I homeschool them. So I know that it can be difficult to have other pursuits. There are other genealogists and bloggers that I marvel at and wonder how they find the time.

My philosophy is there will always be something that needs to be done and that seems, or is, more important. You can clean the house til it is spotless and it will still get dirty tomorrow, especially with kids! So think about what you can cut out or cut down on. You can't cut out work-since you like to eat-but could you cut out watching some TV? Or maybe spend Sunday morning before church on genealogy. Maybe cook and freeze some dinners so that you can spend some of the time you save on the computer.

Consider getting a book like, The Weekend Genealogist by Marcia Yannizzee Melnyk, that can help you find ways to research in the little time that you do have. This book is great for ideas for spending even minimal time, like 10 minutes, on your genealogy.

Genealogy can be accomplished a little at a time. It doesn't have to be the all encompassing project. Even a little bit at a time brings you closer to understanding your ancestor.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Places to Find Documents, Records and Manuscripts

Today I spoke to the Computer Group at the North San Diego County Genealogy Society, This is a fun group and they have put together a lot of interesting programs and speakers for the year.

I have been recently handing out a postcard sized handout in addition to my presentation handouts. This postcard is a checklist of places to find information about your ancestor. I didn't bring enough for my presentation today and decided to go ahead and post it here for any who are interested.

I printed it so it was postcard sized to make it easy to place by your computer or take with you on research trips. This is one of many postcard sized research helps that I will be bringing with me to societies that invite me to speak.

Monday, May 11, 2009

80 Social History Websites

I am now up to 80 social history websites (out of 100 promised) that I have been posting on Twitter, almost daily. Here's a recap of all 80 Social History Websites. I hope they help you with your research or give you a better idea of your ancestor's time.

A Pictorial History of Kentucky Coal Mining

France in the Age of Les Miserables

Old Magazines

Sears Archive

What 19th Century Kids Read

Picture This” Depression Era

Agriculture and Farm Machinery

Digital Archive of American Architecture

Car History


Recipe Curio

What did you do in the war Grandma?

The Victorian Era Online

How to Make Moonshine

American Century Project

World War I and II Posters

National Museum of Civil War Medicine

America’s Quilting History

Working in the Lowell Mills

Victorian Calling Cards

Fashion Era

David Rumsey Map Collection

Medieval Technology and American History

National Museum of Funeral History

Past and Present Railroad Job Descriptions

Index of UK Portrait and Studio Photographers 1840-1950

History of Tinker Toys

History of Girl Scout Cookies

History of Furniture

Hairstyle History

Utopian Communities

Menu Collection

Old Catalogs

Sewer History

Brownie Camera History

Vintage Stuff

19th Century Sunday School Books

19th Century Inventions and Patents of African-Americans

19th Century Schoolbooks

18th and 19th Century Nicknames

18th Century History

Immigration Map

How to Build a Log Cabin

History of Mortgages

Salem Witch Trails

Pets in America

History of American Education

Women’s History Cyber Exhibits

Civil War Hospitals

The 1950’s

Tax History Museum

Historic Medical Terms

American Migration Routes

Victorian Entertainment

Common Place

Online Guide to Traditional Games

Reading Old Handwriting

19th Century Love and Marriage

Timeline on Garbage

Social History of Children’s Literature

Folk Music

Pioneer Women

Colonial Firefighting

Early America

Ephemera Society of America

Western New York Railroad Archive

Internet Modern History Sourcebook

Godey’s Lady’s Book

Vintage Ads

Telephone Museum

Plagues and Epidemics

Old West History

Antique Homes

Sewing Machine History

Witches, Midwives, and Nurses

Fraternal Insurance Organizations

Story of Farming

Letter Writing

American Labor Unions Research Guide

Shorpy Photo Archive

Thursday, May 07, 2009

United States Veteran Burial Places

Finding the resting place of a soldier who died during a war or a veteran who died later can be tricky. So many possibilities exist for where they could be buried; on the battlefield, in an unmarked grave, oversees, in a private cemetery, or in a veteran’s cemetery. While searching for a grave can be a long process, here are some ideas for finding the burial places of soldiers and veterans of the United States.

U. S. Dept. of Veteran Affairs Nationwide Grave Locator

The Veteran Affairs Grave Locator at allows you to search for the burial place of a veteran and any family members buried with the veteran, in veteran national cemeteries, state cemeteries, other military cemeteries, and private cemeteries where the veteran has a government headstone. The search engine allows you to search by the name of the deceased. There are some limitations to this database such as private cemetery burials are only recorded prior to 1997.

If you are curious about obtaining a military headstone for a veteran , consult the Veterans Affairs website at Free headstones are available for those veterans with an unmarked grave. For those with a marked gravesite, consult the website for new legislation that addresses this issue.

American Battle Monuments Commission

For veterans who died oversees, you may want to check out the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) at The Commission is charged with caring for United States veteran cemeteries overseas. Begun in 1917, the Commission looks after 24 cemeteries that are the final resting place for about 125,000 soldiers.

Their online databases, organized by the surname of the deceased and the conflict include: those interred at a World War I or World War II cemetery overseas; those missing in action from World War I and World War II who are memorialized on memorials overseas; those killed worldwide during the Korean War; War dead and veterans of the Mexican War, American Civil War, and Spanish-American War who are buried at American cemeteries in Corozal, Panama and Mexico City; those Missing in Action who are memorialized at the Honolulu Memorial; and all interments at Corozal, including civilians who were working on the Panama Canal. To search their databases, from the main page click on “Burial Listings” on the left hand side and then click on the database that you are interested in.

If you find your soldier listed, the ABMC provides services such as information about the grave location of the cemetery, escort around the cemetery, letters authorizing fee-free passports for immediate family members traveling to the cemetery, photograph of gravestone or name on Tablets of the Missing, arrangements for flowers to be placed on grave, and more.

Civil War Burials

The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, an auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic, has a National Graves Registration Database that is searchable by name. Once at this site click on “search entries” to begin your search. This database is a volunteer project that includes the burial places, both government and private, for union veterans of the Civil War. This database can contain information of not only where the veteran is laid to rest but his birth and death date, some military information like rank, enlistment and discharge date and unit he served with, the GAR post he was a member of.

Other Cemetery Sites

Although not military oriented, several other cemetery sites exist that may help you locate a burial. Remember that most of these sites are volunteer driven and may not contain complete transcripts of cemeteries. Other general cemetery listing sites include and Find a Grave at Websites like the U.S. Genweb Project,, and Rootsweb at may also contain cemetery transcriptions. While searching the library catalog at Family Search, conduct a place search and then check out the cemetery categories for transcriptions done of various cemeteries in a state and county.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Strange Remedies in the Family

Does your family have a strange remedy for just about anything that ails you? I’m not talking about the remedies that are good for you like chicken noodle soup, vitamin C or some herb concoction. I’m talking about things that are a little odd or that may seem like a very bad idea. The remedies that defy logic.

My great grandmother use to say that you should take 2 aspirin and persevere. This could be good advice, unless you couldn’t breathe or were having a heart attack. The father in the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding puts Windex on aches and pains. One of the characters uses it to rid himself of a pimple. My grandmother put WD40 on her arthritic elbows. My best friend told me that her father swears by witch hazel. 20 years ago a co-worker told me that her mother would take Vicks, melt it down in a pot and have her drink it. I would definitely not recommend that since it is for external use only.

So what strange remedies run in your family?

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Church Record Sunday: Los Angeles Archdiocese Archives

For those with early Los Angeles Catholic ancestors, there are many places to search for records but perhaps one of the most important is the Los Angeles Archdiocese Archives,

From the website, you can read more about the archive collections, services and access policy. You can also view a list of sacramental records that are available from the archives.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

My Top 10 Genealogy Websites

Randy from Genea-Musings,, has requested that genealogy bloggers write their Top Ten List of Favorite Genealogy Web Sites. I decided to not go with the usual genealogy websites (Ancestry, Family Search, etc..) since I didn’t want to repeat what others might say. Many of my choices are not necessarily genealogy websites but they are essential to doing genealogy. So here is my Top 10 list.

1. Google Books,, this is a great place to look for digitized family histories, county histories and new books on genealogical techniques.

2. National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC), The place to look for manuscripts. Remember that you are not just researching your ancestor but their locality and neighbors.

3. Death Indexes,, One of Joe Beine’s great web sites. Provides a listing by state of online death indexes, both free and for pay.

4. Find a Grave,, 32 million grave records and counting. You can search cemeteries for graves and sometimes even luck out and find a picture of the grave. Volunteers are continuously adding new cemeteries and burials.

5. Genealogy Today,, genealogy database of names found in diverse records like alumni books, yearbooks, fraternal order records, war ration books, criminal records and more. Other services include Live Roots and Gen Weekly.

6. Heritage Quest, by subscription through a library or the Family History Center. Find everything from census data to digitized books to Revolutionary War records and Freeman Bank records.

7. Utah Digital Newspapers,, a great site for searching digital newspapers from various places in Utah.

8. CalCat,, the California Libraries Catalog. Search by subject, author or keyword. Results will include not just books but periodicals, visual, archive materials and more. Results will provide you with names of libraries where the item can be found and how to cite the item in your bibliography, source list, etc.

9. Online Archive of California,, an index of historical materials from various California libraries, archives and museums. Some are digitized and available online.

10. Genwriters,, Ideas and information to help “bring your family history to life”. Lots of great social history information.

Feel free to add your favorites to your own blog or comment on this blog.