I love to view old family photos to learn about my family history. They tell us so much about our ancestors and are great tools to learn about family dynamics. Often, family photos are taken at special events and holidays and if examined closely, can shed light on how our family
members interacted and celebrated family gatherings. They also speak volumes by showing us which family members are not in the photos.
The problem with these family photos as genealogy resources is that our ancestors often took the pictures, but did not take the time to share when, where or why the photos were taken and who was pictured in the photo. This can be frustrating for the genealogist. Never fear. I have a technique that I will share with you to help! I am going to use an old family photo below to illustrate the technique. I recommend you utilize the following steps:
· First, look closely at all of the people in the photo and identify as many of them as you can. Utilizing the photo below, I was able to identify all of my family members.
· The second step is to identify which family member in the photo passed away first. In this case, it was my great-grandfather Casper John Phillip Horn who died on 21 May 1941. Now I knew that the photo was taken prior to that date.
· The next step is to identify the birth date of the youngest child in the photo. In this case, it is my second cousin William Casper Horn born 22 December 1935. In the photo, Bill appears to be about 2 years old. So I know the photo was taken before 21 May 1941 and approximately December 1937.
· Step four is to identify where the photo was taken. I happen to recognize the location because I was there every Sunday as a youngster. It is mygrandparent’s dining room on Diamond Street in Alton Illinois. Usually familyphotos are taken at some family member’s home so look for clues.
· Step five is to try to determine why the photo was taken. From the candles on the table and the festive sweaters being worn by the younger children, it looks like this was taken on Christmas. As you examine your old family photos, look for clues like this and if the photo was taken outside, look
for clues to indicate the time of year based on flowers, snow, leaves on the
I am relatively sure, based on the technique described above, that this family photo was taken on Christmas day 1937 in my grandparent’s dining room!
But there is more. Who took the picture? My great-aunt Adelaide was never married and died in 1953. She is not pictured in the photo and I assume was the photographer.
The final step is to think about living family members not in the photo. I this case, my grandfather’s brother Charlie and his entire family are pictured in the photo as well as his parents. Also, my grandmother’s parents and living siblings and spouses are in the photo as well. The only living relatives not in the photo are my grandfather’s brother Louis and his wife Alvena. My father has shared with me that there was friction among his uncle Lou and the rest of the family and it looks like they were not invited or at least did not attend the Christmas festivities in 1937.
Have fun with old family photos. They can teach you a great deal about your family history!
I have been lucky enough to find a great deal of information about my family utilizing Catholic Church records. In many cases, the Catholic Church has kept impeccable records and they are readily available for researchers. There are a number of church recordings that can be
useful in genealogy research including member’s sacramental records, minutes from church meetings, and pew reservations. For this blog, I will focus on the use of church records regarding the seven sacraments of the Church. Those sacraments are Baptism, the Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick. Let’s examine each and their usefulness in genealogy research.
Baptism –the sacrament of Baptism is administered at a very early age in the Catholic Church, usually within six months after birth. Often, knowing the baptismal date can narrow the
researcher’s efforts in attempting to retrieve birth dates and birth locations. They are especially useful in Irish genealogy research where civil records were rarely kept. The baptismal records usually contain the following: the date of the baptism, the full name of the baptized, the date of birth, the names of the mother and father, the names of the God-parents, and the name of the priest performing the baptism. You can see why baptismal records can be a great resource for genealogist. The date can often narrow the search for birth records; the full name can be very useful since some people are known by their middle name, but civil records are in their first name; the date of birth can lead directly to civil records; the names of parents can lead to a generation the researcher has not yet discovered; the God-parent’s names can lead to uncles and aunts the researcher had not yet discovered. Baptismal records have aided my research efforts significantly and I would highly recommend you use them in your research.
Reconciliation– the sacrament of Reconciliation is administered to Catholics at about the age of 7 or 8. In my research, I have found records of this sacrament spotty at best. Some priest do
record the dates and names of reconciliation recipients, but this data has limited use in genealogy research other than indicating the approximate age of the recipient.
Eucharist –the sacrament of the Eucharist or First Holy Communions is usually administered shortly after Reconciliation at about age 7 or 8. Like Reconciliation records, First Holy Communion records have limited value to the genealogy researcher. These records can provide the approximate age of the recipient, but that is about it.
Confirmation– Catholics are confirmed about the ages 12-14 and most churches keep these records in a register. The records contain the date of the confirmation, name, including the Confirmation names chosen by the confirmed, parents names, and sponsors. These records can be useful for researchers when birth dates and names of parents are in question. The records also can identify family and friends close to the person being confirmed. Ironically, I learned that my great-grand father Horn chose his future father in-law to be his sponsor at his Confirmation and my great-grand mother chose her future mother in-law to be her sponsor.
Marriage –marriage records are considered vital records and can include lots of information about the married couple. Usually the date of the marriage, the names of the married couple, the parent’s names, names of the best man and maid of honor, and the name of the priest
performing the sacrament. If you are having difficulty finding marriage records, take a close look at the baptismal records. Often the priest recorded information about the marriage by placing a notation on the baptismal records.
Holy Orders –if there was a priest in your family, most dioceses have very good records regarding the dates priest’s received the sacrament as well as the parishes in which he served.
Anointing of the sick – also known as last rites or extreme unction, these records usually provide the date of death, the names of parents and spouses, and often the date of birth, and the name of the priest administering the sacrament.
A few tips: 1) these records are almost always in Latin so get Google translate ready; 2) vital records include civil birth, marriage, and death records so Catholic Church records are very
useful in genealogy and often provide those key dates; 3) you may have to do some digging as some churches maintain the records locally and some are housed at the diocese that serves the parish. The bottom line is these records are very useful in genealogy research so do not overlook them!
Ok I will admit it. I had no clue who George Balanchine was, but Angie requested I find a record. So, I did! George Balanchine, born Giorgi Balanchivadze, was one of the 20th century's most famous choreographers, a developer of ballet in the United States and the co-founder and balletmaster of New York City Ballet. I was able to find a record from the 1959 Weston Connecticut City Directory. At the time George Balanchine was doing what he loved best, teaching dance in New York. Below is a copy of page 549 of the city directory. Thanks for the education Angie!
Abraham Lincoln was our 16th president. He was born on 12 February 1809 and died 15 April 1865. Just a few months prior to the election, Abe and family were residing in Springfield Illinois. On 14 July 1860 the US census was taken and listed the 51 year old Mr. Lincoln, his wife Mary, and their young family. Below is a copy of the 1860 US census.
I had a request from Connie to find a genealogy record for a true American hero, Chuck Yeager. Charles Elwood "Chuck" Yeager born February 13, 1923 is a retired major general in the United States Air Force. He was the first pilot to travel faster than the speed of sound in 1947. Below is information regarding Yeager's WWII enlistment into the Air Force. A copy of the actual document may be obtained from the National Archives.
Jessica came up with the idea to find a genealogy record for Babe Ruth. Here you go Jess. George Herman Ruth, better known as Babe, was born 6 February 1895 in Baltimore Maryland. Babe spent 21 years in the major leagues. Most of those years with the New York Yankees where he was part of what many believe were the greatest teams in major league history. Like all American men, Babe was registered for the draft of WWII. Below is a copy of his draft card. Keep those ideas coming!
If you have conducted much genealogy research, you have likely made your way to the
local Family History Center to utilize their resources. Family History Centers are genealogy libraries staffed by volunteers of the LDS Church and are located word-wide. The LDS has amassed a huge collection of genealogical records and you can obtain copies of these records by ordering microfilm and picking up copies at the Family History Center near you.
Here is how the process works:
· Log onto the LDS website at https://familysearch.org/eng/library/fhlc/
· You can search by place, surname, keyword, title search, film, author, subject or call number.
· When you find the record you are looking for, if the image is not available for you to print, write down the FHL film number that contains the record.
· Then, set up an account (some records are available only if you
have an account on the familiyserach.org web site). Account set up is free and
it takes only a couple of minutes.
· After your account is established, go to the online film ordering page at familysearch.org and input the FHL film number and follow the ordering directions. The cost is usually about
· You will be notified via e-mail when your film is ready and you can go to the Family History Center to make a copy of the record.
I have been able to obtain copies of church and civil records for my ancestors back into the 1700's utilizing the LDS records and my local Family History Center.
Keep in mind that the Family History Center is staffed by volunteers and some are far
more versed in the equipment and processes than others so be patient.
To find a Family History Center near you, check the following link: https://familysearch.org/locations/centerlocator
The Family History Center in the St. Petersburg area is in Largo at 9001 106th Av. North. It is just south of Bryan Derry off of Starkey. I will tell you from personal experience that the staff is extremely friendly and helpful. I would highly recommend you utilize this great resource!
Ok, I'll admit it, this was an easy one. Perhaps the most sought after birth certificate in recent memory. Born in Hawaii on 4 August 1961, Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th President of the United States. Unlike previous presidents, there was a great deal of discussion about his place of birth. Below is the certificate of live birth from the state of Hawaii. Source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/birth-certificate-long-form.pdf
City directories can be a very useful tool for learning about your ancestors and are often overlooked as a source for learning about family history. Unlike U.S. census data that is collected every ten years, city directories were usually printed every year or every other year and can provide key information regarding your ancestors. City directories usually consist of
four major sections.
Section 1 – Sponsors of the directory. In this section businesses pay for ads to make the publication of the directory possible. I have found key information about people I have been
researching, including photos of individuals and businesses where ancestors worked. I would highly recommend you take the time to study this section closely for clues about your ancestors or places of employment.
Section 2 – Residential listings (similar to white pages) City directories contain an alphabetical list of citizens, listing the names of the heads of households, their addresses, and
occupational information. They also often list the wife’s name and in some cases, older children still living at home.
Section 3 – Business listings (similar to yellow pages) Names, locations, phone numbers, business owners and employees are listed in this section of the city directory and can provide the researcher with key information regarding the occupations of their ancestors.
Section 4 – Street and avenue directory which is an alphabetical listing of each street and house numbers in the city and a listing of the head of each of those households. This is also known as a crisscross directory and can provide information about the neighbors and the neighborhood where our ancestors lived.
City directories can also include a miscellaneous section with government locations as well as schools and churches in the city.
Copies of city directories can be found online at sites such as ancestry.com, familysearch.org, Fold3, Google Books, and uscitydirectories.com. Copies are usually available at local libraries and local historical societies. Don’t underestimate the value of city directories as you
pursue your family history.
Last week Jessica made a request to find information about James Dean. Here you go Jessica. James Dean was born James Byron Dean on 8 February 1931 in Marion Indiana. At an early age the family moved to Santa Monica California. I was able to find the family in the 1940 census living in Santa Monica. Here is a link to familysearch.org for a clearer view of the record. Keep those requests coming!https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/K9W5-6DM