Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

52 Weeks of Genealogy Sources: Week 11, Relinquishment of Dower

I have often thought that I would love to take some law classes so that I could better understand some of the legalities that surrounded our ancestor's lives.  It would be great if someone offered law classes for genealogists that just wanted to learn and don't want to actually become lawyers, (because well, we just want to do genealogy.)

With that said, this week's suggestion may be a little difficult to understand and quite frankly I am simplifying it greatly and would encourage you to read the article mentioned below.

Quoting from the excellent article by Donn Devine entitled The Widow's Dower Interest , "Dower was a widow's right to a lifetime interest in one-third of all land owned by her husband."  So if he was to sell this land she would have to relinquish her dower. She was suppose to do this willingly but my guess is that that was not always the case.

Let me just say that Devine's article is fabulous and goes into detail that you need to fully understand this, so instead of reinventing the genealogical wheel I would encourage you to read the article.

Yesterday I was looking for some information on an ancestor and found information about this ancestress relinquishing some land her husband wanted to sell.  You can see that here .  This is information you might find with deeds or in a transcribed deed book like the one I was reading on Google Books.  Now, you won't find a relinquishment of dower everywhere in the United States.  Devine points out that these relinquishments would only be found in the eastern and midwestern United States where laws were derived from English common law.

Other articles about dower include Michael John Niell's 1856 Illinois Probate Guide: The Dower  and the definition of Dower at the 'Lectric Law Library.

This is a great example of yet another place to find information about your elusive female ancestors.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Church Record Sunday: Guide to Maryland Religious Institutions

The Maryland State Archives Guide to Special Collections has a Research Guide for Maryland Religious Institutions that is a must for everyone with Maryland ancestors.This Guide is a compilation of information taken from WPA surveys, directories and records at the Maryland State Archives in an effort to have a list of all known churches in Maryland.

You can search this Guide by county, denomination or church name.  Information found in this guide includes the name of the church, address, denomination, and information about the WPA Survey.  In some cases you will see a hyperlink that will take  you to a complete description for that collection. There are 5 types of religious records in this collection, Administrative Records, Vital Records, Financial Records, Misc. Records, and Loose Papers and Documents.

Most of these religious collections are available on microfilm because of the fragile nature of the original records.

This is not the only Guide the Maryland State Archives has, check out the Guide to Maryland Newspapers for information about Maryland newspapers.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

On the Bookshelf: Mary Todd Lincoln by Jean H. Baker

This week I started reading Mary Todd Lincoln by Jean H. Baker on my Kindle.  So much has been said about Mary and her mental state that I thought it would be interesting to read something about her on the week of the anniversary of her husband's assassination.

 Baker is a history professor at Goucher College.  Although I am only about 1/3 into the 464 page book I am enjoying it for it's detail into life during  early 19th century Kentucky.  The rich detail would be helpful to any genealogist in understanding what life was like for women during this time period.  Baker talks about childbirth, disease, epidemics, education, all topics that would enrich a study of your early 19th century female ancestor. 

One of my favorite parts includes a description of Mary Todd's grandfather who was a clerk for Fayette County.  It lists the types of recordings he did for the county, relinquishment of dowers, road surveys, deeds, lists of taxable property, issued marriage and tavern licenses and kept deeds and mortgages. What a great list of county records that we all should be using in our genealogy.

What I love about reading a biography is that it gives you an idea about other records you should be looking for in researching your ancestor, records that go beyond the census and civil registration.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What Do You Know About The History Of Taxes?

Tax records are important to genealogical research. We may forget about them in the face of finding other records more quickly and easily like census records. Taxes have been collected since colonial times but the type of taxes collected and how they were collected can be very different throughout history.

One place to learn more about the types of taxes collected in the United States can be found on the U.S. Treasury website. They have a fact sheet on the History of the U.S. Tax System. This is a great introduction on the topic that can help you get ideas about what types of records might exist for your ancestor. It's not enough to know that a type of record exists; it will help your search if you know the different kinds of tax records to look for.

52 Weeks of Genealogy Sources: Week 10, The Tattooed Genealogist

On Saturday I spoke to the Genealogical Society of Riverside.  We had a great time discussing the topic of women of the American Revolutionary War and how to better research women ancestors.

About a week ago, one of my son’s thought it would be funny to affix a tattoo on my arm.  It was one of those tattoos that kids get in bubble gum machines.  He thought it would be funny and who am I to get in the way of a child getting in on some fun at his mother’s expense.

So for a week I have had a tattoo of a cat with lightening bolts on my right arm.  To be honest I had forgotten about it.  I incorrectly assumed it would quickly wash off but it would seem that those tattoos has some staying power.

So as I was leaving for my presentation, my cousin pointed out to me that my shirt sleeve did not cover my tattoo.  My kids thought this was the funniest thing they had ever seen.  They started laughing that I was now “The Tattooed Genealogist.”

It got me thinking.  One of my main messages in my presentations is that in order to break down brickwalls you must enlarge your way of thinking about what genealogy and genealogical research is.  Genealogy is more than gathering names and dates and seeing who can get back to the 1500’s the fastest.  It’s about the incorporation of social history with your genealogy so you can know the stories behind your ancestors.  What was their lives like? Names and dates bore people, it reminds them of their school history classes.  Stories about an ancestor's life tells others how that ancestor truly lived, they become a real person and not just a name and a date.

So I try to point out all of the different places you should be researching.  I try to get the message across that at some point you need to stop typing a name in an online subscription site and research the locality of where your ancestor lived.  What manuscripts and records exist for that area?  What were other people writing about your ancestor?  What places did you ancestors leave information about themselves whether as a patient in a midwife’s diary, a store ledger or someone’s birthday book. 

I truly believe by expanding the way you think about genealogical research, you in turn find more records that tell the story of your acnestor’s life.

So yes, I am The Tattoed Genealogist. No, I have no “real” tattoes but I want genealogists to be different. My idea of genealogy is different than some and that is my mark. I want family historians to research their ancestor's lives using a comprehensive toolbox, if you will, of  repositories as well as records.

Need some help thinking of new and different places to look?  I couldn’t have made a better list than Lou Szucs' 300 that she published over several issues of Ancestry Magazine.  Print these out and laminate them and refer to them over and over again.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Church Record Sunday: Alexian Brothers Archive

A special thanks goes out to my fellow geneablogger Miriam Midkiff of AnceStories for bringing this website to my attention.  Thanks Miriam!

Members of a religion participate in many different way to further that religion's mission and for the sake of their personal salvation.  So many of the records that I concentrate on in this weekly posting have to do with records generated by the attendance and activities of individual members of a faith community.  Today's Church Record Sunday looks at an archive that has to do with those who devote their life's work to a religion. 

The Alexian Brothers are a 800 year old lay, apostolic Catholic order who dedicate their lives to caring for the sick, aged, the poor and the dying.

The Alexian Brothers Archive states that they have: "both the religious and corporate aspects of the organization, including but not limited to correspondence, minutes, reports, manuals and guides, publications, external publicity, and photographs. A valuable adjunct to the archives is the Ministry Museum. The artifacts presented in exhibits on Alexian Brothers Heritage, Spirituality, and Ministry make the records come alive. These objects have been gathered from Alexian Brothers facilities, particularly from the Chicago, St. Louis, and Elizabeth hospitals."

From their website you can learn more about their collections, including  how to can access these records and even how you can donate to their archive. 

From the above link, click on the link to the right hand side of the page, titled History Online to  read articles about the history of the order, a bibliography, and even a 30 page graphic novel detailing the Brother's work.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

52 Weeks of Genealogy Sources: Week 9, GPO Bookstore

The Government Printing Office (GPO) Bookstore has a  multitude of publications including books, maps and timelines that can help you with finding  social history for your genealogy.

According to the GPO website "The core mission of Keeping America Informed, dated to 1813 when Congress determined to make information regarding the work of the three branches of Government available to all Americans. The U.S Government Printing Office (GPO) provides publishing & dissemination services for the official & authentic government publications to Congress, Federal agencies, Federal depository libraries, & the American public." (from

There is so much great genealogical treasures from the GPO but for the purpose of this blog posting, I'm just going to focus on titles from the  GPO Bookstore.

The Bookstore allows you to browse by subject links on the left hand side of the homepage.  There are also some category tabs at the top.  I would recommend that you go beyond the subject you are interested in.  I found that the more I clicked around the subject links and the tabs, the more I found.  Some things were not indexed where I thought they  made sense.  For example, they have a publication about resources on researching women at the Library of Congress, American Women: A Library of Congress Guide for the Study of Women's History and Culture in the United States.  But it is not part of their Women's History Month Collection. So I would recommend clicking on the subject links on the side and the tabs at the top of the website to find everything you might be interested in.  

They do have a special values tab that is a list of publications that are at a reduced price.  Yes, publications at the GPO Bookstore do cost, they are not free.  Prices range from a few dollars to over $30.00 for a publication. 

You can keep current on what's available at the GPO Bookstore by signing up for the email alert, New Titles by Topic, found on their homepage, upper left hand side.

Just some of their titles include:

Hispanic Americans in Congress 1822-1995

Black Americans in Congress 1870-2007

Women in Congress, 1917-2006

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, L-M

Mud and Guts: A Look at the Common Solider in the American Revolutionary War

Against all Odds, United States Sailors in the War of 1812

Guide to United States Army Museums

Monday, April 05, 2010

Saving Money So You Can Do More Genealogy

One of the comments I hear a lot from family history researchers is that they are unable to afford  the website subscriptions, books, research trips, or vital records they need  because it’s all too expensive.  And let’s face it, genealogy can be an expensive hobby.  Like most hobbies it can take over your life and your spare change.

I’ve seen a lot of people do an enormous amount of research utilizing free sites, libraries and networking.  They are able to get the research they need done without purchasing subscription memberships. Blogger Miriam Robbins Midkiff has a great series on Frugal Genealogy on her blog Ancestories.  A few postings in this 10 part series include Website Subscriptions and Genealogy Records.

One way you can save money so that you can spend more on genealogy is by cutting your food costs.  Now, you may think I’ve lost it but I am serious.  By using coupons, you can save tons of money and then use that money for a book, subscription, or vital record.

Now, I’m not talking about just clipping coupons and that’s it.  I’m talking about using manufacturers’ coupons with store coupons and sales.  No, you don’t have to make coupon clipping your new hobby to see substantial savings.  And even if you don’t like canned or frozen foods, my guess is that you do use paper towels, toilet paper, band-aids, shampoo and other items, all of which have coupons.

Just as an example, I went to the grocery store today and I saved $53.00.  That was 39% of my grocery bill.  Not a huge amount of money but that could pay for a few books or vital record certificates. Now if you were to put away what you saved you could quickly afford what you want on your genealogy wish list.

Some places to learn more about using coupons so they save you the most include The Grocery Game and the Coupon Mom .

You don’t have to go overboard, just try a few things and then make a commitment that the money you save goes towards your genealogical fund.  Saving on groceries could mean spending more on genealogy and who doesn’t like that?