Researching, Preserving, and Sharing Genealogical Information For Future Generations
Author: Carrie Brown
Carrie Brown is a genetic genealogist, hobby blogger, and long-time history enthusiast with a passion for genealogical research. Currently she is working on her degree in business from Western Governors University. Carrie is a member of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy and volunteers her time as a research volunteer for SearchAngels.org
By act of the Continental Congress the United States Navy was created on October 13, 1775 in Philadelphia.
It would be safe to assume that the place of creation for the United States Navy was Philadelphia in conjunction with the resolution which ordered the building of a naval fleet. That assumption could be correct. That assumption could also be incorrect.
The answer is it depends…
Even the U.S. Navy itself is unwilling to take a firm position on the topic.
Philadelphia has a strong claim to the military fame. The resolution ordering the creation of the United States Navy was issued in Philadelphia.
For early naval exploits Machias, Maine takes the prize when the British Navy schooner Maragretta
In Massachusetts, both Beverly and Marblehead claim fame
George Washington authorized the ship Hannah to harass the British fleet from Beverly and it was owned and manned by residents of Marblehead leading both towns to claim the title.
Providence, Rhode Island
Providence stakes a claim to the birth place of the Navy by virtue of the fact that the state’s delegates were the first to call for the establishment of a Navy.
Whitehall, New York
Whitehall also claims a part in the birth of the United States Navy. Benedict Arnold used ships built in Whitehall, New York to harass British interests on Lake Champlain.
The Navy had many birthplaces
The birthplace of the Navy is one of the questions of history that may never have a settled answer. The United States Navy probably takes the safest answer with the explanation that the Navy has many birthplaces.
Where is the birth place of the Navy? That question has been asked many times since the creation of the force in 1775 and it does not seem to be one of settled debate in the future.
Five different states and six different cities. The birthplace of the United States Navy is a source of heated debate as old as the Navy itself.
I suppose it could be considered morbid but to me cemeteries are nothing remotely spooky. To me, they are some of the most beautiful and peaceful places.
I have been known to travel far out of my way just for the
opportunity to visit cemeteries of interest to me.
In the case of Marie Leveau, I waited years to visit that
cemetery…only to have a seizure on the way there and get no farther than the
road outside the entrance of the cemetery. I still intend to make it back to
see the tomb of the famous voodoo queen.
I developed an interest in cemeteries as a child from visiting the graves of my ancestors.
As I grew older, I learned to appreciate old cemeteries in
places that I traveled. Then it blossomed into an interest in the graves of
historically noteworthy people.
I started to make a short list of graves of interesting individuals I have visited over the years. Frequently, I scope out a cemetery in every new location I travel to.
No list would be proper if I didn’t start it with Arlington National Cemetery. I am a military granddaughter, wife, mother, and mother-in-law so Arlington is extra special. I couldn’t make a trip to Washington D.C. without taking the opportunity to see the Tomb of the Unknown soldier or the eternal flame burning in remembrance of JFK.
The second most interesting grave I have had the pleasure to
visit is Buffalo Bill. This legendary show man of the wild west is buried in a
breathtaking place on Lookout Mountain just outside Denver, Colorado. There is
a great little museum to Buffalo Bill near his burial site.
On the same theme of western beauty, the resting place of legendary
gunman Doc Holiday is perched high on a mountain in Glenwood Springs Cemetery.
His exact resting place is lost to time, but a memorial stands in the cemetery
to memorialize the notorious figure of the shootout at the O.K. Corral.
The year I traveled to Deadwood, South Dakota I got a two
for one. Both Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickock are buried in the cemetery in
Deadwood. Where else would Calamity Jane be buried besides near the rumored
love of her life, Wild Bill Hickock?
Geronimo is another interesting grave I was able to visit on one of my travels. The old Native American warrior lived a very noteworthy life. His grave marker is one of the more unique but simple stones I have seen.
Finally, I have the oddest cemetery I ever went out of my way
to see. The Mascot cemetery on Ft Sill, Oklahoma. If you have never heard of
the mascot cemetery that probably makes you one of most. I noticed a sign for
the cemetery by chance while visiting Ft Sill for a basic training graduation.
It piqued my interest, so we went off down a trail to the middle of nowhere.
Eventually we stumbled upon the Mascot Cemetery, but it was not exactly what I expected.
I was assuming a cemetery for a family with the last name Mascot from long ago.
Indeed, it is literally the base Mascots.
Do you enjoy visiting cemeteries? Tell me about your favorite cemetery!
History is full of countless minor characters who will never
be regaled on the pages of history books. These men and women who toil, bleed,
and persevere through extraordinary circumstances yet go on to live normal
lives are the stories that lurk deep in the depths of family history research.
L.J. Eckler was one of my ancestors. He was my 3x great grandfather.
L.J. was living a simple life of a family man and blacksmith
when he was called to serve in the American Civil War. He was mustered into the
legendary Wolverine Brigade and served under the notorious and daring, Brig.
Gen. George Armstrong Custer, long before he ever fell on the distant
battlefield in in his final last stand.
L.J. Eckler served as a blacksmith for G company of the 6th
Michigan Calvary. He was captured during the battle of Trevilian Station at
what is commonly known as Custer’s First Last Stand.
During the rest of the war L.J. would experience the depths
of hell beyond even the blood and chaos of the battlefield. He would spend time
at some of the deadliest Confederate prison camps.
I follow the life of my 3x great grandfather as he returns
home from war and follow the rest of his life in documents. He seems to have
brought the trauma of his experience home with him. The rest of L.J.’s life is
dotted with several divorces, instances of jail time for fraud.
I don’t know if a photo of L.J. exists. If it does, I have
never seen it. I found a photo of his gravestone and it seems likely that is all
I will ever find. My 3x great grandfather is the type of individual that family
history research is full of, simple and often tragic heroes, that history
1. Follow the document trail as far as you can but once the details start to get less clear it’s time to fan out. In family history research FAN refers to friends and neighbors.
As an example, let’s say that the research trail goes dead
at the 1900 U.S. census. A lot of researchers run into roadblocks around this
time period due to the destroyed 1890 U.S. Census. This is a good time to attempt
to perform FAN research.
I used this method to knock down one of my own family brick
walls. My great-great grandmother was a controversial figure in the family lore
of my ancestry. She lived into my lifetime although I don’t really have any
recollection of her. I did grow up hearing various tidbits about her from
different relatives and none of them were positive.
When I started my research on her I didn’t have a great deal
of details. I knew a given name, Fanny, and I knew the surname she had when she
died, Meadows. I didn’t know if Fanny was a nickname for a different name. I
had no clue if Meadows was a maiden name or a married name.
I built off what I did know using documents that I knew were
related to my Great-Grandmother, Fanny’s daughter. I was able to locate the
family on the 1920 census, the first census after my Great Grandmother was
born. Without the FAN method this would have been my dead end.
On this census living in the household with the family was an
individual named Elmer Bennett….and he was listed as a nephew.
With a little digging I was able to locate Elmer Bennett and
Fanny Bennett on the 1910 census and they both lived in the household of Fanny’s
parents. With that information I was able to crack the brick wall that held up
my research on my Great-Great Grandmother.
The FAN technique of looking at Friends and Neighbors can be
valuable in navigating research speed bumps.
2. Cast a broad net with a general search engine search. Often, we get tunnel vision and convince ourselves the only way to research is via sites we know and trust
There are countless more focused sites that while they may
have less broad information, they may have extensive details of the individuals
that you are researching. The best way to locate some of the harder to find
resources is to search wide to locate the pinpoint resources.
The history of West Virginia might be a topic that not everyone needs. For me and my extensive West Virginia mountain heritage, the West Virginia Culture site has been a priceless resource. If I had limited my research to strictly sites such as ancestry and family search, I may have never found this massively helpful resource.
Unlike sites such as Ancestry with a wide catalog of records
and a subscription fee smaller more specific websites will often be free or
operate solely on donations.
There is a plethora of lesser known websites that are just
as reliable as sites such as family search and ancestry
It’s easier to toss out the wrong results than it is to infer
information from a mystery record. Exhaust all avenues.
3. Don’t focus too much on spelling if the rest of the details mesh out. Spelling has not been standardized long in the grand timeline of history. Many people were unable to read and write until modern times.
A recent instance that I came across was the case of the
Monteith/Mantooth surname. Legend has it that there was a rift in the Mantooth
family generations ago that led to one branch of the Monteith family changing
their name to Mantooth.
If the spelling is close and all the other details match up,
then you must research deeper. It’s better to research the wrong thing and
realize it later than it is to skip over a record because Smith is spelled
It doesn’t hurt to sound out a name and try to
think of any ways you can that might be a spelling for that name. Search them
all. Then remember that our ancestors often had accents so you might have
missed a spelling completely.
4. Research more than just people. If there is a certain location where the ancestors, you are researching lived for a long time take the time to learn about that area
I have discovered a great deal of family information through
researching things such as towns, churches, and early military units.
Town founders, early community office, local militia unit
rosters. There are countless places that ancestors can show up in historical
The members of the communities were self-sufficient. They
pooled efforts to help build churches, they would donate land for a community building,
and they would ban together to build roads.
In earlier periods these were handled at a community level and often details
notes exist of these events.
5. Pushes and Pulls. This is such a simple concept but it’s easy to forget during research. Much like the world today there are often bigger events happening which influences migration patterns. Migration is rarely random.
A good example of this is with the Scotch-Irish population
of the 18th and 19th centuries.
These individuals left regions of Scotland and Ireland
hoping to create a better life. The conditions in their home regions were the
The pulls were the reasons they were pulled to the Americas
such as available land and religious freedoms.
The Irish potato famine pushed many Irish families out of
Ireland decades later and pulled them to the United States in search of
During the industrial revolution the United States saw a lot
of people pushed from rural farmland where there were less economic opportunities
to urban areas such as Detroit, Michigan seeking available jobs in the
My grandfather was from a poor coal mining family in Appalachia. He was pushed from his small community in rural West Virginia that his family had inhabited for hundreds of years. He was pulled to the economic opportunity of the manufacturing hub of northern automotive cities. He retired from GM in Flint, Michigan after a long and rewarding career. At that point he was pushed yet again from the busy hustle and bustle of life in a city and pulled toward a slower and more rural life.
Often if we consider the larger picture of a certain group
or region it can provide great clues that can help fill in the research blanks.
What are your top 5 fast tips to help you find your family history treasure?
We often think of and treat our pets as members of the family
Growing up part of my enjoyment in going to visit my grandparents
was not just in seeing my grandparents but enjoying the chance to spend time
with the giant collie dog, Tramp, they had the entire time I was growing up
He was a magnificent beast and I’m sure that when news
finally went through the family grape vine that he had crossed over that
rainbow bridge there were more than a few of us who shed a quiet tear over his
He was not a pet he was family
As an adult I am animal lover. I have a house full of critters. My senior mini dachshund has traveled more than a lot of humans I know.
He’s 13, half blind and has trouble getting around but if he sees me packing a travel bag, he’s the first one at the car ready to go.
He has been a part of the family longer than my youngest
He is in countless family photos over the years showing how
he’s aged as children grew.
Long after he is gone Oscar will still be a topic of family
conversations and memories because he’s more than a pet. He’s family and has
earned his place in the pages of family history.
My mother and her siblings and cousins will reminisce about
their childhood and while I’m not sure anyone has agreed what type of dog “Tippy”
was, I know each of those kids enjoyed that dog.
For the record while I consider Oscar my fur kid I will not
be adding him to the family tree.
What do family pets have to do with family history?
Pets make a great topic starter.
If a family group had a beloved childhood pet, it’s a good
place to break the conversation ice to get people strolling down memory lane for
Another way that family pets can be very useful in family
history is when it comes to dating photographs.
Pets have shorter life spans so if you have a photo with a
certain pet pictured then it can be a useful tool for narrowing down a date
Have any animals played an important part in your family history?
One of the most common stumbling blocks in family history research can be nicknames
I encountered a recent research case where I was researching an individual who was referred to as “Nell”. Through research I was able to conclude that Nell was a nickname for several names…in this case Nell was a nickname for Helen.
began to think about the countless nicknames I have come across in my research
and how some of the names are common while others are less so and how both
instances can cause research headaches.
my immediate family I have a Desi, short for Desirae. There is a Sarah, and the
grandmother she was named for who prefers to be called Sally. There are several
named Joshua, two Joshes and one “J.J.” or “junior”. Every family seems to have
a multitude of Williams who may go buy William, Will, Willie, Bill, or Billy.
Robert is another fun one with several popular nicknames. A Robert could be a
Rob, Robbie, Bob, or a Bobby. For women Elizabeth can be a fun one. Is it a Liz,
Lizzie, Betty, Beth, or maybe a Liza?
Another fun instance where nicknames can derail research is when a relative uses a middle name instead of their first given name. My great grandmother was a Lily but if you find her in records for most of her life she went by Mae. I’ve had a friend since childhood who was named Randi Kristina, she prefers to be called Kristi in another case of the middle name preference.
my first granddaughter was born. As with my other grandchildren she was given a
heritage name from the family tree, Catherine. Right now, she is a little baby
with a big name and only time will tell, will she choose to be known as a
Catherine, perhaps she’ll become a Cathy, or maybe even a Cat.
What are some common nicknames that you have run into?
In 2001 Congress named October National Family History Month
With the holiday season approaching this is the perfect time
to start considering family history projects.
This time of year presents opportunities for both recording
today’s moment’s for future generations and for discovering information from
days long past.
With many families gathering for holiday celebrations over the next few months one of the best ways to document your own family history is to take photos. Even if it is only ONE photograph of your holiday celebration and your Aunt Mildred loudly complains the entire time because she HATES having her photo taken. Get that photograph. Someday someone will be delighted that you took a moment to record that moment in time.
While you are there get Aunt Mildred to tell some stories of
when she was younger. Was she at Woodstock in the summer of ’69? The holiday
season provides countless opportunities to learn about the history of your
relatives and discover things that you never knew. That interest will probably put
a certain spark in old Aunt Mildred’s eye because someone took the time to ask.
Or….she may smack you with a shoe for digging up the past. There is only one
way to find out. Either case will make a great story for generations to come.
Another thing to consider this time of year is the popularity
of genealogy in the United States today. It is one of the most popular hobbies today.
Family history themed gifts can be an excellent choice for the hard to shop for person and there are options that fit every budget.
Some great gift giving ideas could be buying a DNA test through
one of the testing companies, a framed hand drawn family tree or family
portrait from a younger family member to a grandparent, a photo book of family
photos, etc. Just be mindful that gifts along this theme can be tear jerkers so
get the family photo before you give it!
Genealogy is one of the most popular hobbies in the United
States. It is second only to adult content searches regarding internet search
terms. As family history interest passes from just being about family lore and
delves further into the science realm with DNA the field is only going to
continue to grow in popularity.
As interest in family history continues to grow the
resources dedicated to the industry are becoming more visible. NBC has
premiered a new show “A New Leaf” hosted by Daisy Fuentes and presented by
Ancesty.com. The show airs on Saturday morning and is available free on demand
on the network’s website.
I took a moment to review the premier episode and thought I
would provide my thoughts on this show. The show is only 30 minutes in run time
and that is with commercials. Actual airtime is closer to 20 minutes. I found
the program enjoyable.
This episode is about a young woman, Nadia, and her mother
Stephanie. Nadia is trying to learn more about her mother’s unknown father so
she can learn more about that unknown side of her family. One thing that is
unfortunate about the show is they skip over the process of how they identified
the identity of Stephanie’s father. This was a good opportunity for the program
to delve into the process of genetic genealogy but honestly in a 30-minute time
slot, for an early morning weekend audience, this was probably the wisest
Most of the show is about the reaction of Nadia and Stephanie
as they learn about this unknown branch of their family tree. The researchers
were able to locate records and photos of several of their ancestors including
a very interesting interview from Stephanie’s great-great-grandmother, Martha
Patton, who was 91 years old when interviewed for the Slave Narrative project 1936-1938.
Compared to a more research detailed show such as “Who Do You
Think You Are?” this show is more of a feel-good show for the person with
casual interest in family history. There is a lot of general history education
dotted in through the program that relates to the story being researched but
not as much on the actual research process.
Overall, I loved the show
I think it is a great concept that can help the average
person understand the things genealogical research can reveal without getting
bogged down in the detail of how it is done. I would recommend this program for
anyone looking for a lighthearted program that can provide interesting
educational tidbits without being too technical to appeal to a wide audience.
Have you had a chance to check out this show? Take a moment
to let me know what you thought of the premier in the comments!
Always look at records or images of records whenever possible
is convenient to take the quick route and take information from the
transcription of a record. This is a mistake. The actual document often has information
that is not available on the transcription.
I pull a document to source a fact, I look at the entire document. I have found
valuable clues in looking at the neighbors listed on census records and witnesses
listed on marriage or death records just to name a couple places you can locate
valuable information that might not be on a document transcription.
I have been dedicating a great deal of my time on working on genealogy cases
for others and less on my own. I discovered genetic genealogy and I fell down a
wonderful rabbit hole of exciting new tools and uses for my love of genealogy
by happenstance I discovered the power of genetic genealogy while assisting an
individual who showed up on ancestryDNA matches. Through messaging with a
mutual cousin, I discovered this cousin was an adoptee in search of his
I love a good puzzle so I couldn’t resist jumping headlong into this challenge
took me a couple weeks to crack the mystery. It was a long and winding road
that involved not just this cousin’s adoption but also the fact that his father
was the child of an adoption like process also. Once I put together the scientific
puzzle, I discovered a newspaper article that helped fill in further pieces and
finally one of the older generation relatives revealed information that had
been a poorly kept family secret for decades.
The cousin was happy to have someone finally tell him the truth about his parentage and I was overjoyed to have assisted in bringing him that information. I had a mission.
Shortly after the conclusion of this case I sent off an inquiry to join a non-profit organization called Search Angels and have now been spending my spare time assisting adoptees or estranged individuals use DNA and genealogical research to reunite them with their ancestral heritage.
Are you the product of an adoption confused by the process of figuring out who your biological family is? Consider search angels or a similar organization to help navigate the complex analysis of genetic information. You might even get me working on your case!