RootsTech 2017 is 3 weeks away. Time to get organized!
Classes: Decide which classes you want to attend. This is probably the hardest as there are going to be multiple classes that you would love to attend all happening at the same time. Decide on your top 3 choices. Then, if your number one class is full you are ready with your next choice. Use the RootsTech App to keep track of your personalized daily schedule.
Family History Library: Build in time in your schedule for the Family History Library. I am heading up a day early to take advantage of the proximity of the Library to the Salt Palace Convention Center where RootsTech 2017 is taking place. Make sure you know what you want to look at in the Library and make good use of your research time. The Family History Library is a black hole when it comes to how fast time flies whilst there!
Network: RootsTech is a great place for networking with friends and colleagues. It’s a great place to make new contacts too. Make the effort to meet in person those genie friends you know online. It doesn’t hurt to have a business card to hand out!
Electronics: almost every RootsTech attendee will have their laptop or tablet with them. Some attendees take notes on them or quickly look up a new website being mentioned by a presenter. You’ll want your updated genealogy software program on there, especially if you plan to do research at the Family History Library. Don’t forget those chargers.
Comfy shoes! No need to explain further. The Salt Palace Convention Center is huge, you’ll be walking a lot.
I like to print out the syllabus for each session and use that to make notes on. I also write where that session will be taking place on the top of the handout. I then file them in the order the classes will be happening each day. As of the time of writing, the syllabi for each session is not on the RootsTech website yet but they do seem to be available via the RootsTech app. I was able to click on the session I am interested in and page to the bottom where a link appears for the syllabus (if the presenter has one). By tapping on it you can select to either Take Notes on the Handout, Download Handout or Email Handout.
Learn more about RootsTech 2017 here. See you in Salt Lake!
Arizona Territorial Census records are unique in that they fall in the interim years between federal censuses. Arizona became a U.S. territory on February 24, 1863. By February 1864 Milton B. Duffield, U.S. Marshall for Arizona, provided instructions for the first census to be taken. The information collected on the census varies from year to year but may include name, place of residence, age, nativity and occupation. A territorial census was taken in 1864, 1866, 1867, 1869, 1874, 1876, and 1882. Instructions were given that no settlement, mining district or ranch was to be excluded. A daunting proposition considering the size of the territory.
Good news for Arizona researchers, especially those who do not have paid Ancestry subscriptions is the partnership between Arizona State Archives and Ancestry.com which makes these Territorial Censuses freely available online to residents of the State of Arizona. You do need to set up a free Ancestry.com Arizona account which is easily done by going to https://www.azlibrary.gov/arm/research-archives/archives-resources/ancestry-arizona. The State Archives of Arizona has much more available than only the Territorial censuses so it is well worth a look.
Many Latter-Day Saint (Mormon) families heeded the call to settle parts of Arizona Territory, including the Judd family. Called by Brigham Young to settle the Little Colorado river area, the first families arrived in Sunset in Apache county, Arizona Territory in March 1876. Hyrum Jerome Judd, a herdsman by occupation, and his family were living in Sunset, Apache, Arizona Territory when the 1880 U.S. Federal Census was taken.
Hyrum Jerome Judd’s brother, Don Carlos Judd and family had arrived from Utah Territory about 1879 and settled in Smithville (Graham County) on the Gila river. Smithville would later become the Town of Pima. Hyrum Jerome Judd and Don Carlos Judd lived about 300 miles from each other in 1880.
These early pioneers faced many obstacles including flash floods, crop failures due to poor soil, long cold winters and summer droughts and by 1881 many had moved on to other areas. By 1881 the Sunset settlement had failed and the pioneers looked to the settlements in the southern part of the territory as a better option. The 1882 Arizona Territorial census indicates that by 1882 Hyrum Jerome Judd and his family had moved south to join his brother Don Carlos Judd in Pima. Their father and mother, Hyrum and Lisania Fuller Judd had also moved to Pima with 4 of their younger children: Lucius Hubbard Judd (24), Daniel Judd (17), Lyman Perry Judd (13), Lafeyette Judd (12).
The Judd’s were only one of many stalwart pioneer families who took on the challenge to settle parts of Arizona Territory. The Arizona Territorial censuses are unique records that help to find those pioneer settlers in the years between U.S. Federal censuses.
Probate documents are created by a court after an individual’s death. They relate to the distribution of the deceased’s estate and often contain information of great genealogical value. One of the records created at probate is often a list of creditors and accounts of debts owed. At first glance these may not seem of as much value as a will for example. However, a closer look at the debts incurred by Experience Case Fuller and her husband Lucius Hubbard Fuller allow us to create a more in-depth picture of the last year or so of their lives.
Experience Case Fuller was 39 years old when she died in Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois in 1846. She had lost her husband, Lucius Hubbard Fuller in April 1845 and had been left a widow with 4 children still at home. Her probate record contains 18 pages, consisting mostly of accounts and administration paperwork. Together with Lucius Hubbard Fuller’s probate records we are able to put together a timeline of the family from 1844 to Experience’s death in 1846.
One of the first creditors owed money by Lucius and Experience Fuller is a Dr. Jonathan Berry. In September 1844 the account states that Experience was sick and had been treated with quinine.
Quinine was used to treat malaria, so rife in the swampy land of Warsaw, IL. Malaria is the probable diagnosis although the actual cause of death is not given in the probate record. Malaria was the most common cause of death in this time period in Illinois.
In the probate records of Experience Case Fuller we see continued doctor visits, this time for Lucius Hubbard Fuller. The last entry is on 27 April 1845, the day Lucius died.
A few pages later there is another account for visits to treat Experience, a daughter and a child. The first account is dated two days after Lucius died. It would appear that many in the family were sick in 1845 including Experience. The accounts show the doctor continued to care for Experience and one of the children in August.
Hancock County, Illinois probate records, ca. 1831-1942; Author: Hancock County (Illinois). Illinois, Wills and Probate Records, 1772-1999; http://www.Ancestry.com, citing Experience Case Fuller.
The final account payable tells the story of the last few months of Experience’s life. On Christmas Day 1845 Experience is bled by the doctor and attended to for a few more days. Nothing is noted until March 2, 1846 where the Doctor’s account states that she was attended to in her ‘last illness’. Experience was 39 years old. Her youngest child Josephus was 2 years old. The account in the probate record indicates that Josephus and older brother Lucius were also sick and the doctor continued to attend to them until November 1846.
In thoroughly exploring a probate record we can discover information that may not be found anywhere else. In this case, that the Fuller family experienced sickness, most likely malaria, which undoubtedly contributed to the deaths of Lucius Hubbard Fuller at age 43 and his wife Experience Case Fuller at age 39. Not only do we have an idea of the cause of death based on the accounts in the probate record but we can see history reflected in the individual lives of our ancestors: “Epidemics of cholera, malaria and typhoid took their toll on the struggling Mormons until the swamp was drained” Brooks, Juanita (1962), John Doyle Lee, Zealot, Pioneer, Builder, Scapegoat, Glendale, California: Arthur H. Clark Co.
Lucius Hubbard Fuller and Experience Case Fuller are my husband’s fourth great grandparents. Their eldest daughter, Lisania Fuller married Hyrum Judd in 1844 and set off across the plains in 1849, reaching the Salt Lake Valley between 22 – 24 September 1849.
Searching for a family in the 1890 U.S. census may leave you feeling very frustrated. That’s because the 1890 Census was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1921. If you are researching in Appomattox County, Virginia it is vital to know that a fire destroyed much of the county court records in 1892. If you are searching the freebmd.org.uk site for a birth registration for your ancestor born in 1835 you will be disappointed. The civil registration of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales only began in July 1837. On June 30, 1922 almost all of the records kept in the Public Record Office of Ireland were destroyed during the Irish Civil War. All Irish census returns for the years 1821, 1831, 1841 and 1851 as well as many other documents were destroyed by the explosion and fire. These are simple examples of why it is important to know the history before you search for the records.
How to Find Out What Records are Available
There are 2 sites I use when trying to find out what records may be available in a research locality which is new to me:
I’ve written before about the incredible value to be found in using the FamilySearch Wiki as you prepare to search.
Start out with a broad locality, for example, Arizona. Here you will find a page that gives you all the information you need to begin a search for records in Arizona. The large blue ‘Online Records’ button indicates that there are numerous records available online to look at.
You can continue to narrow your search to a particular county, city or town. The FamilySearch Wiki is not only focused on the United States but has information on the available records for many countries. Below is the Wiki page for South African genealogy:
You can also search by keywords so typing in ‘Burned Counties’ will give you a page with information on which U.S. counties are considered ‘burned counties’ and ways to find records for them.
Not only can the FamilySearch Wiki assist in finding out what records are available but it also gives valuable research guidance and advice. Know the history know the records!
The other site that I use for my British research is GENUKI. From their main page, “GENUKI provides a virtual reference library of genealogical information of particular relevance to the UK and Ireland”. (http://www.genuki.org.uk/)
GENUKI provides a wealth of information on county formation, available records, maps, addresses of libraries and county record offices, directories, description and travel, and local history.
Having trouble locating a record? Good questions to ask yourself are:
Do I understand enough about the history of this area to be able to search effectively?
Does the record exist in the time period I am looking at?
Am I looking in the correct town, city, county, province or district?
Have records moved as counties merged with other counties?
Have a country’s borders changed over time?
Was there a fire, flood, or some type of disaster which may have destroyed the records I’m searching for?
Knowledge really is power. Knowing the history means knowing which records may be available. The added benefit of this knowledge is that it helps us make good use of valuable research time.
Many years ago I received the birth certificate for my great-grandfather James Thomas, born in Medomsley, County Durham, England in 1862. I knew his parents to be William and Susan Thomas, but I had not been able to find Susan’s maiden name. I eagerly opened the envelope anticipating the beautifully written maiden name of my great great grandmother. It was not to be. The handwriting, while not the worst I have ever seen, was not that easily read:
From James’ birth record I was able to make out that Susan was formerly BASH-something. It looked like it could be BASHLON, BASHLOW, or BASHTON. I noticed too that Susan was not able to sign her name and instead had added her mark (x).
Using James as a starting point I was able to find the family on the 1871 U.K. census. This gave me the names of some of James’ siblings, specifically of his older brother, William Henry Thomas. I sent off for William Henry’s birth certificate, hoping for better handwriting that would confirm his mother Susan’s maiden name.
While waiting for the birth certificate to arrive from London I began a search to see if I could locate a marriage record between William Thomas and Susan BASH-(something). I was fairly confident that the maiden name began with ‘Bash’ as those were the 4 letters I could easily read. No luck!
Six weeks later I had my hands on William Henry Thomas’ birth certificate. The handwriting was better and there was Susan’s maiden name …. BASTON. Not what I was expecting to find.
What I had thought was BASH-(something) was now BASTON. The 1871 U.K. census had shown that William Henry Thomas had been born in Cardiganshire, Wales but that he had an older sister, Mary Ann Thomas who had been born in St. Agnes, Cornwall circa 1857. Hoping that Mary Ann Thomas was their first child, I began a new search for a marriage record for William Thomas and Susan BASTON, in Cornwall in the years before 1857. The search was negative again. Using FreeBMD I was able to search for all marriages between 1850 and 1857 (when Mary Ann was born), with William Thomas and Susan (leaving out any last name) as parents, and across all districts and all counties in the U.K. I received 44 results. I searched through each one looking at the maiden name of the bride. The only record which came close was a marriage between William Thomas and a Susan BOSTON, in Aberystwyth, Wales in 1854. Could they have met and married in Wales, moved back to Cornwall and had Mary Ann Thomas there in 1857, and returned to Wales where William Henry Thomas was born in 1859?
Working backwards from the 1871 census to the 1861 and 1851 U.K.censuses I was able to track the family’s movements and noted that in 1851 William Thomas, aged 17, was living with his parents in the village of Goginan, Melindwr, Cardiganshire, Wales which is within the Aberystwyth registration district. The FreeBMD marriage index I had previously found seemed to be the right one.
So far my search for Susan’s maiden name had resulted in:
1854: Marriage of William Thomas and Susan BOSTON
1859: Birth of son William Henry Thomas – mother’s maiden name BASTON
1862: Birth of son James Thomas – mother’s maiden name BASH-(lon, ton, low, tow)
The recent launch of birth, marriage and death indexes at the General Register Office in England has given genealogists the opportunity to search for births with a maiden name, which was not possible before (only available now for births before 1911). I began to search for each of William and Susan’s children with the following results:
1857: Birth of Mary Ann Thomas (mother’s maiden name is BACTIAN)
1859: Birth of William Henry Thomas (mother’s maiden name is BASTON)
1862: Birth of James Thomas (mother’s maiden name is BASHTON)
1864: Birth of Emma Thomas (mother’s maiden name is BASHTON)
1867: Birth of Matilda Thomas (mother’s maiden name is BASHTON)
1869: Birth of Elizabeth Thomas (mother’s maiden name is BUSHTON)
1879: Birth of Joseph Thomas (mother’s maiden name is BASHTON)
This is certainly a great way to get a first look at information before ordering a certificate.
You would think that with BASHTON being the most commonly occurring name in all the records so far that I would be fairly confident in thinking that to be Susan’s maiden name. The other variations of the name can be ascribed to the fact that it’s probable neither Susan or her husband William were able to write their names (they always used their mark ‘x’ in place of a signature) and BASHTON can easily sound like BASTON or BOSTON or BUSHTON to the person they were reporting the birth to. Right?
Wrong! Using her ages given on the various census to come up with an approximate birth year, my searches for a birth record for a Susan BASHTON born about 1837 in Chacewater, Cornwall were all negative. However, an 1851 Welsh census record for a family with a daughter named Susannah, born about 1837 in ‘Chesswater, Cornwall’ caught my eye. This family was living in Melindwr, Cardiganshire, putting them in the same place as William Thomas and his family, at the same time. And the last name of the family was BASTIAN.
A quick look back at the birth of Mary Ann Thomas (first child of William and Susan Thomas) revealed that the maiden name of the mother was BACTIAN, only a slight variation from BASTIAN. Unfortunately, despite searching through parish records, page by page, and surrounding parishes to Chacewater, Cornwall, I have not been able to find Susan BASTIAN’s birth or christening record.
My confidence in Susan’s maiden name as BASTIAN comes from:
Susan’s parents and siblings are recorded as BASTIAN on the 1841 and 1851 census.
In 1841 Susan and her family are living in Kerley Downs, Kea, Cornwall. Kerley Downs is described as a very small moorland to the southeast of Chacewater. There are 7 very large BASTIAN families living there.
The christening records for all of Susan’s younger siblings show BASTIAN as the last name.
The marriage record for Susan’s parents, John and Susanna Evans, shows the last name as BASTIAN.
Susan’s father, John was christened in 1805 as ‘John, son of Henry BASTIAN’
It is an interesting lesson in not always believing the first record you find. Had I not gone any further than the first 2 birth certificates ordered I would today have in my records a great great grandmother with the incorrect maiden name of Bashton. And while the General Register Office search facility is extremely helpful in being able to provide results coupled with a maiden name, those results must always be corroborated with further proof. This is the emphasis of the third point of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) – all information, sources, and evidence must be analyzed and conflicting evidence resolved, resulting in a credible conclusion. And of course, all of this rests on the first point of the GPS, reasonably exhaustive research. My search therefore continues to find Susan’s birth record and confirm that Susan’s maiden name was in fact BASTIAN.
Frustrated by a lack of progress in my research today I took a moment to try to figure out exactly what had contributed to that feeling of discouragement. We all have those days – our research seems to hit a brick wall almost immediately and we can’t find a way around it. We’re not finding what we thought would be easily found. We feel discouraged and frustrated. We’re skipping from record to record in the hopes that what we are searching for will suddenly drop into our lap. So how had I been conducting my research that led to such frustration? Once I took a step back I noticed three things:
1) I had started searching without a research plan. No wonder I was jumping all over the place, easily distracted by other information not pertinent to what I was trying to find. I had no focused question I was trying to answer, just a general ‘Let me see what I can find on James Craft who I think was born about 1810 in Maryland’.
2) I was researching in an area I was not familiar with. I began searching without knowing what records are available for that area, either online or elsewhere.
3) I had not followed the most basic advice given to those just starting out in genealogy research – begin with what you know and move from the known to the unknown. I was searching for the unknown, hoping to connect to the known. Additionally, my search began without familiarizing myself with the information I already had. I found related information in records only to realize that I already had that information.
So how do we avoid research frustration?
Start by reviewing what you know. Move from the known to the unknown. Study your Research Log. Study the records you have already found.
Have a research objective. Formulate your research question and keep your focus on it as you search.
If you are new to a particular area of research, familiarize yourself with its history and record availability. The FamilySearch Wiki is a great place to start finding information and available records on a new area.
Once we have done all these things we are PREPARED to search.
That was what derailed my research today – I did not prepare to research. I know all those things mentioned above but in my rush to use the little time I had available for research, I simply jumped right in without any preparation. A somewhat wasted day but a good lesson in following basic strategies to ensure we are making the most of our time. We know too that even with good preparation we will experience days (weeks? years?!) where we feel frustrated with our lack of progress on a particular person. It happens but isn’t usually because we began our search unprepared.
As genealogist’s we know the value of probate records in our research. Probate records are court records made after the death of an individual and relate to how that person’s estate is dispersed, the directions to heirs and creditors and the care of dependents. There are numerous records created during the probate process including wills, petitions and inventories. Probate records may include a death certificate, guardianship records and sometimes even land records.
A will can sometimes be the only document you find that shows a relationship between people, or which gives you the name of a family member you did not know about. It provides the full name of the individual, the date of death and often occupation. A will may name the spouse and children, may give a daughter’s married name and many times the names of grandchildren. A will gives us a personal glimpse into what was important to our ancestor.
So how do we go about finding an ancestor’s will? Much of my research is in the British Isles and this post focuses on finding a will in England. I recently came across a service provided by gov.uk. The Find a Will website is located at https://www.gov.uk/search-will-probate and consists of three databases:
Wills and Probate 1858-1996
Wills and Probate 1996 to date
I decided to try to find the will of my great-aunt, Charlotte Lillie Davis, who I have recently discovered had married in Germany, to a man by the name of Oluf Antonius Jensen. The Find a Will website requires that you already know the year of death. So there is a little work to do if you do not already have this information. Besides parish registers, below are a couple of databases that may help you find a year of death:
FreeBMD contains information from the Civil Registration Index to Births, Marriages and Deaths from 1837-1983. Not all years are complete yet. (Free)
Ancestry.com has the Civil Registration Death Index 1916-2007 ($)
Ancestry.com also has the England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1996, 1973-1995 ($)
Findmypast.com also has Probate Calendars of England and Wales 1858-1959 as well as many individual County probate indexes. ($)
I did not have Charlotte’s year of death but a quick search on Ancestry.com came up with both a civil registration death index record and a probate record.
According to the Civil Death Index Charlotte Lillie Jensen’s death was registered in the 4th Quarter of 1982. The Probate record gave me the specific date of death as 13 December 1982 and a probate date of 11 February 1983.
Using this information I went to the Find a Will website and entered the Surname and Year of Death.
Charlotte Lillie Jensen was at the top of the second page of Probate Indexes.
The next step is to use the information you have just found in the Probate Index and fill in the form to the left of the results. I was able to find Charlotte Lillie Jensen’s probate index entry using Ancestry.com but the Find a Will website will search the Probate Index provided you have the year of death.
A PDF of the will costs £10 (about $12) and can take up to 10 working days to be delivered electronically. Once you receive an email letting you know the will is available you have 30 days to download it.
I ordered Charlotte Lillie Jensen’s will on October 19, 2016 and it was ready for download by October 24, 2016. This is an easy to use and valuable service for genealogists. In my opinion it is well worth the £10.