Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Genealogy Tips Based on the New Year

As 2014 comes to a close and we look forward to a new year, here are some genealogy tips for you to consider:
Genealogy: New Year Tips
  1. Set Goals - Many of us set goals for the new year, so why not choose a few genealogy goals? It will help you focus on what to spend your time and energy on, as well as motivate you forward to success.
  2. Start a New Habit - Just as some people decide to start a new exercise program, try to implement a new habit while researching your family tree. Here are a few you may want to consider.
  3. Start Fresh - If you've been disappointed by the amount of time you've dedicated to genealogy research or blogging, now is the time move on. The new year gives you a chance to start fresh and make the effort to do better.
  4. Celebrate - Take time to celebrate the past year's findings and look forward to the new year of research.
I wish you a healthy, happy, and successful new year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Family Immigration: Peter Klein in 1854

Genealogy: Klein Home in Pittsburgh
On this day in 1854, my German 3rd great-grandfather, Peter Klein, arrived in the United States. He was traveling with the woman he would later marry, Barbara Steimer, and her two brothers, John & Andrew. All of them would eventually make their way to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The couple raised seven children, including a steelworker, a grocer, and a Sister of St. Francis. Peter first made a living as a coal miner and later as an engineer for the Freedom Oil Company. He eventually owned a dozen lots in the Lower St. Clair area of Pittsburgh, and lived in the house shown here at 2900 Arlington Avenue (courtesy of Google Maps).

Probate records show that Peter died at the age of 67 on April 14, 1892, presumably from injuries received on the job six months earlier from a boiler explosion in Freedom, Beaver County. The Pittsburgh Dispatch reported that he "was standing in front of the boiler when it exploded and was blown to an adjoining field, a distance of 80 feet."

I still have a lot to learn about Peter & Barbara Klein. I don't know the names of their parents and have no idea where in Germany they lived before coming to America. My genealogy research continues...

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Greetings from 1930

Here's another greeting card that my grandfather gave to my grandmother, this one from 1930 before they were married:

Genealogy: Christmas Cards

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Genealogy Novel: Finding Eliza

Genealogy: Novel
I download a lot of e-books to read on my iPad using the Kindle app. While I read all kinds of genres including nonfiction, romance, historical fiction, self-help, etc., my main criteria is that they need to be free. (Ok, I admit it...I'm cheap!) But when I heard about this book, Finding Eliza, I knew I had to read it and was willing to pay. And it was still a bargain since it only cost $3.

This novel was written by Stephanie Pitcher Fishman, who is a professional genealogist and one of the founders of the The In-Depth Genealogist blog. She also writes research guides for Legacy Family Tree.

Finding Eliza is a gripping book involving a "forgotten" relative, a diary, and another reminder of America's troubling history with racial hatred. It's the story of Lizzie and her Grandma Gertrude, who learn the truth about a long-forgotten relative, Eliza. There are sections which take you back to the 1930s in Georgia, based on entries from a diary written by Gertrude's father.

Although on the periphery of the story's main messages, I couldn't help but notice that the novel shows how younger generations are often uninterested in genealogy, how others can't get enough of it, how families often hide from shameful stories, and how you can't help but be affected when learning some details about your ancestors.

If you have some free time over the holidays, it may be the perfect time to grab this book and curl up on the couch for an enjoyable read.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What Genealogists Can Learn from Christmas

As the holiday gets closer, here are some Christmas lessons that can be applied to genealogy:
Genealogy: Gifts of Research
  1. It's better to give than receive - There are many ways to help other genealogy researchers, and it will make you feel great. Consider taking photos of headstones for others when you visit a cemetery, or volunteer to help with a transcription project. And, if you keep your tree private, think about sharing your research. It doesn't have to be perfect (and will never be complete!).
  2. You don't always get everything you wish for - Some details about your ancestors will never be known. Records may not exist or have been destroyed, but you can still enjoy the genealogy details you do uncover.
  3. The wait helps us appreciate the gifts that come - Do you remember the great feeling of getting an envelope in your mailbox that contained ancestors' records you had requested? With online databases, we may not have to wait as much as in the past, but patience is still needed when it comes to a brick wall or finding time to visit a courthouse or archive. You will definitely appreciate the wait when you finally get some answers.
  4. We should emphasize the story - Just as we should remember the story of Christmas, we shouldn't lose sight of the stories involving our ancestors. They are more than names and dates, so dig deeper to find more about their jobs, towns, and lives. 
And, finally, since the holidays (and genealogy) are all about family, make sure you take time to enjoy yours!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Family Birth: Alice Huber in 1905

Genealogy: Ancestor Birth
On December 16, 1905, in Reserve Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, my great-grandparents welcomed a baby girl into the world. Joseph & Alice Laubersheimer Huber named her Alice Marie, and I'm sure they were excited about their first daughter.

Unfortunately, little Alice wouldn't live to celebrate her third birthday and died of pneumonia and convulsions on November 2, 1908. She is buried in United Cemetery in Ross Township.

My grandmother would never meet this sister, since she was born in 1909 after Alice's death, but she would mention her from time to time. Luckily, her parents must have spoken about her so she wasn't forgotten.

Children who were born and died in between censuses may not be included in our family trees. While searching the PA death certificates on, I have found several children in my family I didn't know about. While it's sad enough that they never grew to be adults, it's even sadder to think that subsequent generations may not be aware of them.

I'm glad my great-aunt Alice won't be forgotten.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Quotes from Genealogy Masters

I'm a big believer that you can always learn from others, and that's especially true when it comes to genealogy. That's why I read A LOT of blogs, including those written by people who have been involved in genealogy for decades and those whose search for ancestors is relatively new.

Here are a few quotes from genealogy experts that have caught my eye:
  1. "The word ASSUMED should never be used in genealogy!" from Dick Eastman, "Barking Up the Wrong Tree," Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter, May 8, 2014.
  2. "My skill as a family historian is to analyze those facts, understand them in context of the life of the person, and preserve them for future generations of my family. I can do so responsibly and in a caring way that still respects that person and their personal information," from Thomas MacEntee, "Is There A 'Right' To Do Genealogy?", GeneaBloggers, September 19, 2013.
  3. "As genealogists, adding a medical history to the family history already collected and treasured should be a natural progression and inclusion," from Leland Meitzler, "What Does Your Family's Medical History Look Like," GenealogyBlog, January 10, 2012.
  4. "[S]eeing how others have solved problems, what records they have used and how they have used them is an excellent tool in developing our analytical skills," from Michael John Neill, "What an Experienced Researcher Would Expect to be Relevant,", December 6, 2013.
  5. "We must verify the sources of information, and see for ourselves if we'd arrive at the same conclusions. ... I am thankful for people like Elizabeth Shown Mills who show us the ideal, but I am also thankful for the tens of thousands of amateur genealogists who are working to the limit of their capability to share the story of their ancestors as they see it," from Pat Richley-Erickson, "The Proof is in the Pudding," DearMyrtle, November 29, 2012.
  6. "If there is any group of people in the world who ought to understand human frailty, it’s the genealogical community," from Judy Russell, "The struggles," The Legal Genealogist, August 12, 2014.
  7. "To be a 'complete genealogist,' every researcher needs to understand proper methodology and be aware of and use all available resources in order to perform competent research," from Randy Seaver, "How Should Genealogy Societies Nurture Beginners?", Genea-Musings, July 24, 2014.
  8. "Theoretically it may be possible to do a complete search of all of the possible records for finding your ancestors, but in practical terms, it is highly unlikely that anyone has actually achieved a 'complete' search," from James Tanner, "There is always a next place to search," Genealogy's Star, September 10, 2011.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Historic Hardware Stores and Christmas Time

My 2nd great-uncle owned a hardware store in Pittsburgh's Mt. Washington neighborhood from about 1898 until his death in 1936. For those of you familiar with the area, it was right on Grandview Avenue in the building that later became the well-known Cliffside Restaurant. The hardware store was on the main floor, and my uncle and his family lived upstairs.

A Christmas ad from 1908 in The Mount Washington and Duquesne Heights News shows that his holiday gift suggestions were carvers, pocket knives, mantles, reflex lights, ice skates, sleds and globes. Some of the same items are in this ad from the Internet Archive Book Images for a Canadian hardware company:

Genealogy: Ads in Historic Publications

Hardware and Metal (Toronto, Canada), November 19, 1910

In Google Books, I found a great paragraph from Hardware, dated December 10, 1906, that shows some of the product decisions my 2nd great-uncle had to consider at Christmas time:
"The up-to-date Hardware dealer makes as much preparation for the selling of holiday goods as other merchants these days. Years ago the dullest period of the season for the Hardwareman was Christmas time, now it is one of the busiest. The merchant should lay in some attractive novelties. The cutlery stock should be tastily displayed. Carving sets and plated-ware are always salable Christmas time, if the goods are shown attractively and advertised unstintedly. ... Many of the stores are selling children's vehicles; there is good profit in the line and the Hardware store is a good place of distribution. Sporting goods is another line that should be pushed forward during the holidays, as every boy in the land wants a gun for Christmas and guns from a pop-gun to a rifle should be kept in order to satisfy all demands. There are hundreds of novelties that the Hardware store can sell at this time and make a good profit."
Just another reminder that you can learn more about an ancestor's business, life, or town by searching publications and newspapers.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

5 Habits for Successful Genealogy Research

There are lots of habits you can develop for success in your genealogy research. Here are five that I'm highlighting:
    Genealogy: 5 Habits for Successful Research
  1. Have a plan - There are so many branches in our family trees that it's easy to get overwhelmed or get off-track while doing genealogy research. Try focusing on one ancestor and making a list of the questions you have. Prioritize these questions and then work on finding the available resources that may lead you to the answers.
  2. Put an ancestor’s life in chronological order - By compiling a timeline of your ancestor's life, you'll be able to organize the details you already know. But more importantly, it will help you identify gaps and make it easier to see what additional research is needed. For example, an ancestor may be living with their parents in the 1900 census and then you may have the birth record of his/her first child in 1906. This will remind you that you still need to track down the marriage record, which could lead you to unknown details about parents or residence.
  3. Put aside difficult issues - At some point, you may need to take a break from your brick wall ancestor. When you eventually return to it, you may be surprised to see that you have a new perspective on the issue. Just be sure to keep good notes so you don't duplicate any work that you had previously done.
  4. Learn from others - Even if you've been researching your family history for decades, you can always learn something new from others. There are a lot of great genealogy blogs out there that can give you ideas that can be applied to your own research. I use Feedly to read almost 200 blogs, and I've definitely learned a lot from them.
  5. Keep track of new and updated databases - Websites are constantly adding new databases and updating others. Don’t just search websites once and never return. A great resource for keeping track of the changes to online resources is GenealogyInTime Magazine.
What other habits do you think are critical for building your family tree?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Gift Suggestions, 1921

Here's another example of what you can find by searching The Internet Archive Book Images on Flickr. This ad appeared in The Highland Echo, which was published in 1921 by the Maryville College student body in Maryville, Tennessee:

Genealogy: Ads and The Internet Archive Book Images on Flickr

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Christmas Cookies and...Surnames?

I love food, so I definitely can't resist all of the Christmas cookies that are around this time of year. Is it possible that the names of cookies are also surnames? For Crestleaf's Surname Scavenger Hunt contest, I decided to find out:
Genealogy: Cookie Surnames
  1. Gingerbread - There are no Gingerbreads, but I found 331 Ginger surnames and 35 Bread.
  2. Snickerdoodles - There are 17 with the Snicker surname and zero with Doodle.
  3. Sugar Cookies - There are 452 Sugar surnames and 8 with Cookie.
  4. Russian Tea Cakes (my favorite!) - There are 143 with the surname of Russian.
  5. Chocolate Crinkles - There are 22 Chocolate surnames but zero with Crinkle.
  6. Peanut Butter Blossoms - There are 613 Blossom surnames.
  7. Buckeyes - There are 37 with the surname Buckeye.
  8. Nut Horns - There are lots of Nutt surnames and even more with Horn.
  9. Thumbprints - There are 24 Thumb surnames and 4 with Prints.
  10. I also found the names of Bake, Kitchen, and Oven.
I hope I didn't make you too hungry! What other Christmas cookies would you add?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Who Was the Census Taker?

Back in October, I read a post on Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems blog called "See what this intriguing census taker had to say about the neighbors." Lisa wrote about some unusual entries made by a census enumerator in the 1875 census and provided some details about his life.

Her post got me thinking. I don't recall ever looking to see who the census takers were for my ancestors' neighborhoods. I've looked at lots of census pages but never paid attention to the enumerator. Wouldn't it be great if one of my relative's names appeared on the top of the page as the census taker?

Well, I randomly pulled up census pages to take a look, and there was no such luck with that wishful thinking. But I did find something interesting for the 19th Ward of Pittsburgh (Mt. Washington). In the 1930 census, the enumerator was Anna M. Allen and, in 1940, it was Bessie Dorgan. I'm guessing that female census takers weren't that unusual, but it still caught me by surprise. So like Lisa, I wanted to find out more.

In 1930, Anna M. Allen was a 41-year-old widow who lived in the Mt. Washington area of Pittsburgh, the same area where she worked as a census enumerator. Her husband Charles J. Allen had been a city fireman but died of pneumonia two years earlier, leaving her a single mother of three children: Charles, Ida and Edna.

In 1940, Bessie Dorgan was a 49-year-old widow who lived on Mt. Washington (though she was not the census taker on the page where her family is listed). Her typical occupation was a stenographer and had completed one year of college, but she had been unemployed for 64 weeks. Bessie's parents were James Burns and Anna Dunn, both from Ireland, and her husband Charles P. Dorgan died in 1917 of pneumonia, leaving her with two sons under the age of 3 at the time. Bessie passed away at Pittsburgh's Mercy Hospital at the age of 72.

Two women faced with the difficult task of raising children alone did what they needed to do in order to support their family, if only temporarily. They became census workers, and their names and handwriting will be visible to their descendants for generations to come.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

History & Art at the Ward Museum

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my family and I took a vacation to the East Coast. One of our day trips was a drive to the The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art in Salisbury, Maryland. My husband loves duck decoys, so he was really looking forward to it. My son & I weren't sure what to expect.

I must say that I was completely surprised and absolutely charmed by the place. It's a lovely and interesting museum. We learned about the history of duck hunting and how the decoy evolved from just a functional item to a piece of art. The Ward brothers and their neighbor, Lloyd Tyler, were highlighted in the collection. Their lives and those of other carvers were described, which I loved most of all. You can find genealogy everywhere!

The museum was history and art rolled into one. If you're ever in the area, I would highly recommend that you stop and check it out.

Do you have any artists in your family tree?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Genealogy Messages on

I love hearing from other genealogy researchers. A cousin in Michigan tracked me and my sister down several years ago, and I really enjoyed sharing information with him. Several people have commented on this blog and emailed me, and I think that's great.

I've also received messages on, but I'm surprised that several of them have left me scratching my head. At the risk of sounding judgmental--which my son would be quick to point out--I am writing this post as a gentle reminder to take the time to make sure you're sending useful messages to your possible cousins and fellow researchers.

For example, I received an Ancestry message that simply said "Hello cousin!" and a surname in the subject line. That surname is in my online family tree, but it's not really a relative. I sometimes get carried away and save details about the families of in-laws and other people who aren't directly related. Another person wrote, "I see our branches cross... I did not know I had so many relatives out there." In both cases, I wish the person would have given more details so that I could figure out our relationship or would have asked a question to make it easier to reply.

Please keep reaching out to others while you do your genealogy research, but remember to think about your message before you hit the send button.