Tag Archives: Tracing Ancestors

Patience is the Key When Researching Family History

In Ireland researching my Moore family history from the 1600s I was reminded again that there are no shortcuts in discovering your genealogy and family history.

On my father’s side I am very fortunate to have an 850 page resource researched and written by a cousin, Timothy J. O’Rourke, in 1973.  “Maryland Catholics on the Frontier”, traces my Moore family lineage up the paternal line starting with Nicholas Moore born in Maryland in 1712. His father is listed as “possibly” William Moore.

This very complete and well documented history amazes me every time I go back to it. In 1973 there were no quick answers via the internet and digital images. The book represents years of on the ground research and document searches.

Since I started my quest to find more about my mother’s ancestors, Crittenden and West, I have also been able to add to my knowledge of the Moore family with online digitalized copies of birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and other documents verifying the research already done.

Our family’s oral history tells me that our ancestors immigrated to the United States in the Maryland area from Ireland in the 1600s. Not finding any definitive information online I got it into my head that a visit to Dublin (I was going to be in Europe already) and the genealogy department of the National Library of Ireland might provide some clues.

I was blown away by the antiquities available to research in their manuscripts sections, land documents from the 1500s and 16oos and even earlier.

1622 Mortgage Ireland.JPG

!5th and 16th Century deeds.JPG

However, I quickly realized that I was trying to make a very difficult leap from Maryland back to Ireland without enough information. I had thought maybe studying manuscripts with Irish Moore genealogies from the 1600s would provide me the clues that I needed. I did indeed find some genealogies with similar family naming patterns but none that mentioned family members moving to the United States in the correct time period.

I found documents with given and family names that could be a match to my family, but without enough detail to make a connection.

It this one of my ancestors - 1675.JPG

I met with a genealogist in at the National Library. She reminded me of what I really already knew. I was trying to skip a step. If I could not find what I needed about my Maryland ancestors online I needed to start in Maryland, on the ground, visiting libraries, court houses, churches and scouring documents in person.

In my quests for more information in both my Crittenden and West lines I already knew that my key links, when I was stuck, were found by going to Oklahoma and Arkansas and spending weeks examining papers that I could only access in person. Hours, sometimes days, spent finding nothing only made the reward that much greater when I would find a key piece of the puzzle of my family’s history when I was least expecting. Often when I was on the last piece of paper after four to five hours in a library or court house I would find my great reward.

I am already scheduled to go to Oklahoma, Arkansas and Alabama in the fall of 2016 for the next step in Crittenden and West research. I now know that what I need to schedule next is a trip to Maryland to immerse myself in the Moore history of the 1600s and early 1700s.

I am confident that by remembering that I have to go back one step at a time, and that skipping a generation can lead to false assumptions, I will find the next missing piece in the link from Maryland to Ireland for my Moore ancestors.

Once I find that link I will go back to Ireland and search once more through hand written Moore family trees and land documents, like the one below with its awesome seal. When I do, I hope to be able to piece together the story of my family in Ireland.

Look at this seal from the 1600s.JPG

 

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Find a Grave Discovery

Find a Grave has provided me with information, photos and leads for every branch of my family tree. The Find a Grave website was created by Jim Tipton in 1995 because he could not find an existing site focused on his hobby of visiting the graves of famous people. Jim soon found a whole community of people who shared his passion. The site is largely filled with information and photos from volunteers. Every day, contributors from around the world enter new records. It has grown from a site to find out where famous people are buried to an invaluable tool for family history research.

While I have found many facts and dates on Find a Grave, the most emotional find for me was a listing for my Aunt Trixy. Aunt Trixy is my mother’s sibling. She was born and died in New Mexico many years before my mother was born. As a child I was always aware of this aunt whom I had never met.  I knew that she died very young and that my other aunts and uncles had memories of her. My mother’s family moved to Roswell, New Mexico in the early 1900s and then back to Oklahoma before my mother was born in 1920.

The 1910 census in New Mexico lists Trixy’s name as Della B and shows her age as three years old. Based on that I guessed her birth year to be 1907 . My mother thought she had died at about two years of age. So I thought she must have died shortly after this census. I looked for a listing on Find a Grave hoping to be able to fill in some details about dates of birth and death and her full name. Nothing came up in my search.

Aunt Trixy

Aunt Trixy

I am fortunate to have photos of each of mother’s siblings when they were young. One day, about a year after first searching for Trixie (how I thought her name was spelled at the time) on Find a Grave, I was scanning and entering a photo for each of my mother’s siblings on my Ancestry family tree. When I added Trixy’s photo a hint came up for Find a Grave. A memorial had been added for her nine months earlier that had not been there when I conducted my initial search. The listing had her full name which I had never known, Della Beatrix West. There were no photos with the listing. There was a year of death but no birth date listed. It appeared that the person adding this info had added it based on cemetery records and not headstone photos.

This brings me to how Find a Grave is administered. Hundreds of volunteers worldwide access cemetery records where they live and add information to the Find a Grave site. Some volunteers take a photo of each headstone and the entrance to the cemetery and add those photos and any information that can be found on the headstone. Anyone accessing the site can put in a request for a volunteer to go to a cemetery, take a photo of a headstone for a particular listing and add it to the listing.

Della Beatrix West Headstone

Della Beatrix West Headstone

People who use Find a Grave for research sign up as volunteers for the area in which they live and when a request is made they get an email asking if they can fulfill that request. I put in a request for a volunteer to take a photo of Trixy’s headstone for me. It was a very emotional moment for me to when I awakened the next morning to an email saying to check Trixy’s listing for an update. I found that a photo of her headstone had been added and a photo of the cemetery. The headstone showed her birth and death dates. The headstone was a loving tribute from her parents, sweetly inscribed and with a lamb resting at the bottom.

I could not help but think what it must have been like for my grandmother to leave New Mexico and her daughter’s grave behind when they moved back to Oklahoma. I also thought about that grave sitting there for all of those years, with no one ever visiting.

I uploaded the one photo of Trixy that I had to her Find a Grave memorial. Now anyone browsing her listing will see her adorable face. The memorials on Find a Grave have banner ads on the page. You can permanently remove the banner ads from an individual listing for a onetime fee of $5.00. I did that for Trixy’s page.  I hope one day to go to New Mexico to research more about my grandmother’s time there in the early years of her marriage. I now have a place to go and remember Trixy for my grandmother and all of her siblings who were not able to go to her gravesite after they moved in about 1915.

Since making this find I have signed up to be a volunteer for Find a Grave and have been able to fulfill two requests for photos from my local cemetery. I know from my personal experience how much it means to the person making the request.

The most important lesson in this story is to never give up on a lead. New material is being added to the internet every day. I had searched for Trixy in Find a Grave before and found nothing. Months later a volunteer had entered enough information for me to be able to discover the missing details about Trixy’s short life.

In a future article I will talk about how to use Find a Grave in your family research and how to make use of the information that you find there.

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Family Mystery Solved – What Happened to Uncle Frank?

One of the interesting and frustrating things about genealogy is thinking that you have a clear picture of facts, then you find one more source of information and things you thought you knew are proven to be false. That is the case with my grandfather’s older brother Frank.

When I started searching for my grandfather’s family there was a lot of trial and error, travels down the wrong trails,  and moments of thinking I would never find who my grandfather James West’s parents were. Then, several things came together to prove that I at last had the correct family.

As many of you know there are often families with almost identical family member names, living in the same state, that can add much confusion to your search.

I did, however, at last have the correct family. My grandfather met and married my grandmother in Oklahoma. His family migrated there from Alabama sometime between 1880 and the late 1890s. Once I had identified the correct family in Oklahoma living in the same neighborhood as my grandmother, I was able to work backward and find an 1880 census for my grandfather West’s family in Alabama.

That census showed my great grandfather Ben West, great grandmother Sarah West and their four children, listed as follows.
Frank West – 17 years old – son
David West – 11 years old – son
James R West – 5 years old – son
Sarah West – 4 months old – daughter

The 1900 census in Oklahoma has son David living in his own household and, nearby, Ben and Sarah living with children James R and Sarah. I wondered what happened to the eldest son Frank? I could not find Frank West in Oklahoma nor in Alabama.

Through my online genealogy research I was fortunate to meet my grandfather’s sister’s grandson and develop an active relationship of exchanging what information we had about the West family. My cousin said he had been told as a child that the eldest brother Frank had started to Oklahoma in a covered wagon but had never completed the journey and the family never knew his fate.

We talked about how much we would like to find out what happened to him on his way to Oklahoma and wondered if that would ever be possible. Fast forward about a year and a half and I made the discovery that our great grandmother, Frank’s mother, had been married previously to a man named Pleasant Frank Johnson, something we had not known. I recently found the marriage certificate for that first marriage. I also found the 1870 census for the West family in Alabama fairly recently.

Much to my surprise, Frank is listed as William Johnson age 7, along with his sister Molly Catherine Johnson. So the reason I could never find a record of Frank West in Alabama after 1880 is that 1880 is the only time he was listed as West and not Johnson on a census. Whether the family did not give his name as Johnson, or the census taker just did not write it down, I don’t know.

This week a search for Frank Johnson in Alabama turned up the following astounding information!

Frank Johnson lived with his married sister Mollie Catherine and is listed in her household in 1900, 1920 and 1930. He died in 1932 one year after her and is buried in Alabama.

Cousin John and I no longer have to worry about our poor great uncle Frank and what happened to him in that covered wagon on the way to Oklahoma. He lived with family in Alabama until his death at age 59.

I wonder how some of our family lore gets started. In that 1870 census where I discovered that Frank and Mollie Johnson were the children of my great grandmother’s first marriage, there is also a 5 month old Arthur, son of my great grandparents, on the census. Arthur never appears again, so apparently died in Alabama sometime before his 10th birthday.

I think somehow a brother’s death in Alabama and Frank’s staying behind in Alabama when the family moved, over the years, combined into one brother who died on the way to Oklahoma.

Have you solved any family mysteries in your search for your roots?

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