Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Confession

Everyone is in the same situation I am as far as ancestors go:  we all have the same number of them.  By my count, after 2 parents the number of ancestors in each successive generation back in time doubles, making 14 ancestors by the time we reach our great-grandparents, 126 ancestors by our 4th great-grandparents, and 1,022 by the time we get to our 8th great-grandparents.

But me?  I confess:  I have absolutely too many ancestors.  Finding 1,022 individuals who lived as long ago as the 1700s is entirely too many.  For that matter, finding 126 ancestors seems like too many, too.

Maybe the problem is not the number of ancestors but the fact that I have to find so much information about them to recognize them as my own family members.  A simple search for a death record, which if not available, may turn into a search for a burial record, or a will or probate record, or an obituary, or some other record to indicate a death date and location and a family relationship.  Going back in time we search for a marriage record, either civil or church, and/or banns, or a newspaper article, possibly even an article detailing an anniversary celebration.  Or maybe it's someone else's will naming the couple as husband and wife.  Of course, there's the search for a birth record, either civil or church, newspaper announcement, etc.  And the list of possible documents goes on....

If you want my opinion, there are just too many records and documents available.  We don't need all those documents.  The only ones we need are the ones that document my family.  I suppose we should keep the ones that document your family, too, shouldn't we?

And there are so many places to search for those documents.  If there were three specific, known places to find each ancestor's information it would be so much easier.  Found and done.  But no, the records are all over the place -- online in any number of genealogy collections, in courthouses, in libraries, at historical societies....  Not to mention the fact that our ancestors didn't stay in one place. 

Then there are the relationships.  Keeping them straight is a challenge.  Someone asks, "Who was so-and-so's husband?"  Uh... let me check.  I can't remember everyone.  Besides not remembering them, I confuse them.  Was it Robert Laws or Robert Reay?  You'd think I could keep everyone straight.  After all, they ARE my family.  I can keep three generations of couples in mind and remember who belongs where in the family structure, but when it comes to the children, which we sometimes have to find, that's another problem altogether.  Some ancestors married again after the death of a spouse or after a divorce which means more searches.  Add to that the fact that children died, more children were born who were sometimes given the same name as children who died.  Some ancestors have the same name, passed down from mother to daughter to granddaughter or from father to son to grandson.  Who is who?  Sometimes those names were given to nieces and nephews, confusing the matter even more.  Ancestors can be a challenge to keep in line.

Sometimes the search has to extend to the individual's sons and daughters, sometimes to his or her  siblings, sometimes even more broadly, all in the search for and hope of finding my direct ancestor's parents.  Well, that's not exactly true.  I really want to find all the children of an ancestor so I can gather the family back together.  More people, more challenges -- too many people.

Of course, it's not enough to know only dates of birth, death, and marriage.  I want to know if they owned property, where they lived, what the house looked like, who built it, what church they attended, how far it was to get there, what their occupations were, whether they owned a business or were paid employees, etc.  For my farming ancestors I want to know what crops they grew, how many acres of land they owned, what animals they had, the names of their horses, etc.  For my coal mining ancestors I want to know where they lived, which mines they worked in, exactly what their jobs were in the mines, how much they earned, why they moved from one mine to another, and on and on.  My ancestors could have helped a lot if they'd kept written records and passed them along to me.  (If they had written things down, I'm sure the record would have ended up in some other descendant's hands, probably someone who wouldn't have cared a whit and tossed the papers.)

But despite feeling like I have too many ancestors, I believe their spirits are alive in the Great Beyond and that they want to be found.  So I can't imagine saying to any one of them, I can't search for you.  I already have too many ancestors.  (But just between you and me, sometimes one more ancestor feels like one more ancestor too many.)

I know I wouldn't be here without every single one -- grandparent to nth great-grandparent -- so I'm grateful to each of them.  But that doesn't prevent the occasional thought that there really are just too many of them. 

How about you?  Do you have too many ancestors?


Copyright © 2017, Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Using FreeReg as a Finding Aid for Ancestors in U.K. Parish Records

If you're searching for ancestors in England, do you use FreeReg?  It is a new-to-me website which offers transcriptions of baptism, marriage, and burial records from parish registers, non-conformist records, and other sources in the United Kingdom.

The top of the search page offers search fields for surname, forename, and beginning and end year for searches.  There are also places to choose county and location within the county.  You can choose to search for only baptism, marriage, or burial records, or you can search all three.  Be aware that if you search only a surname (without a given name) and there are over 250 results, they won't be shown.  It seems there must be a few qualifiers (given name, search dates, etc.) if the surname is a common one.

Scroll down a little more and you are offered several more choices.  Find family members of your person of interest; find the person as a witness; use soundex; and/or search nearby places.

I searched for Martha Reay in Northumberland, all record types, and asked for family members to be included in the search.  Below are the results.

I clicked on the detail for Row 3 and was shown the information below.  It happens that I already have a copy of the parish register's record of Martha Reay's marriage to William Doyle but if I didn't this would be wonderful information and a good starting point to try to find the original record.

I've used FreeReg for only a few searches but have already found information about burial dates and locations for several ancestors.  As with any transcription, one must be aware that there could be errors.  It's always best to find a copy of the original document if at all possible.

I'm thrilled to find one more resource for finding my British ancestors and consider it a helpful finding aid.  Maybe it will be helpful to you, too.


Copyright © 2017, Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Record of Baptism for Lawrence Doyle, Son of William and Martha

Lawrence Doyle is the second known son and third known child of William and Martha (Reay) Doyle. 

Baptismal record of Lawrence Doyle, son of William and Martha (Reay) Doyle, on 18 Jul 1830 at St. Peter's Church, Wallsend, Northumberland, England

[At top of page:]
      Page 10.
      Baptisms solemnized in the Parish of Walls End
      in the County of Northumberland in the Year 1830
[Individual record:]
      [Entry] No. 79.
      When Baptized.      July 18th
      Child's Christian Name.      Lawrence Son of
      Parents Christian Name.      William and Martha
      Parents Surname.      Doyle
      Abode.      Walls End
      Trade or Profession.      Pitman
      By whom the Ceremony was performed.      Wm. Armstrong   P. Curate

This record is from Family History Library (FHL) Microfilm #993567, Items 1-2, St. Peter's Church, Wallsend, Northumberland, England, Parish Register of Baptisms, 1813-1854, p. 10.  This record was not available for viewing at home; I saw and copied it with the Windows Snipping Tool at my local Family History Center.

These siblings of my great-great-grandfather, Andrew Doyle, were completely unknown to me until I began this research.  I've found and, to date, posted baptisms for (in order by age) Jane, William, Lawrence, and Martha.  I've completed more research than I've posted.  There's more to come about this family.


Copyright © 2017, Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

St. Peter's Church Register, Wallsend, Northumberland, 1830

This image is from the Register of Baptisms, 1813-1854 of St. Peter's Church, Wallsend, Northumberland, England.  I found the inscription on the left page so interesting.

Register of Baptisms, 1813-1854 of St. Peter's Church, Wallsend, Northumberland, England

It reads,
N. B.       Two additional Free Galleries were
               erected this year, viz, One Thousand, Eight
               hundred & Thirty.  One on the South, the other
               on the North Side of Wallsend Church, by
               voluntary Subscription to remain, for the
               use of the poor, free and unappropriated
               forever.  At an estimated expense of One
               Hundred and fifty pounds;--Towards which
               the Dean of Chapter of Durham contributed Forty
               and the Durham Diocesan Church Building Society
               Thirty Pounds --
                                                John Armstrong
               Wallsend, 31st Dec. 1830.        Perpetual Curate.

Jas C. Anderson }
[Illegible]          }  Churchwardens

I love seeing these extra annotations in parish registers and other old documents.  I think they sometimes give extra insights into the lives and times of my ancestors.  This came to light as I searched for baptismal records for children of my third-great-grandparents, William and Martha (Reay) Doyle.

According to the Historical U.K. Inflation Rates and Calculator, the value of £150.00 in 1830 equals £15,150.00 in 2017, though I doubt that the work done in 1830 could be done in 2017 for that price.

I wondered if the two galleries Rev. Armstrong mentioned were still standing at St. Peter's and if they were still in use for the poor, since "forever" had a double underline for emphasis.  I found numerous websites with photos and descriptions of the church structure but I was unable to determine north/south from the photos or learn about the galleries for the poor.  The church was remodeled in 1892 so perhaps they were removed or used for some other purpose.

You can see photos and read more about St. Peter's at these websites:
The cemetery of St. Peter's is home to miners who were killed in pit explosions over the years including the Heaton pit disaster of 1815, the Wallsend Colliery explosion of 1835, and the Hartley pit disaster of 1862.  Coal mining was such a dangerous occupation.


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Baptismal Record of Jane Doyle, Daughter of William and Martha

This is the record of Jane Doyle's baptism at St. Peter's Church, Wallsend, Northumberland, England in 1826.  Jane and my 2nd great-grand, Andrew Doyle, are siblings.

Page 252.
Baptisms solemnized in the Parish of Walls End
in the County of Northumberland in the Year 1826
[Entry] No. 2010.
When Baptized.      October 1st
Child's Christian Name.      Jane Dau of
Parents Christian Name.      William and Martha
Parents Surname.      Doyle
Abode.      Walls End
Trade or Profession.      Pitman
By whom the Ceremony was performed.      Geo. Jackson

This record was found on FHL Film #993567, image 145, St. Peter's Church Parish Register, Wallsend, Northumberland, page 252.  I was able to view it only at a Family History Center (as of November, 2017, though that may change in the future).


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Too Much Death on the Same Day

We family historians know about death.  We want to -- really, we need to -- find and document death dates and other information surrounding an ancestor's death.  And we know it's an inevitable part of life.

But today... today was a hard day in the death department.  Of the four U.K. GRO death certificates I requested only three turned out to be for family members, but all three of those people died too early and of unnatural causes.  It breaks my heart to know that a father and daughter died 15 days apart due to very different causes of death, leaving behind a wife and mother and several other children.  It breaks my heart that a mother in a different family died leaving behind a husband and two little girls. 

Learning of these three deaths on the same day... there's been too much death in my family today. 


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Baptismal Record of Martha Doyle, daughter of William and Martha

Thanks to FamilySearch I have an image of the baptismal record of Martha Doyle.  She was baptized at St. Peter's Church, Wallsend, Northumberland, England.

Transcribed from above image:
Page 63.
Baptisms solemnized in the Parish of Walls End
in the County of Northumberland in the Year 1833
[Entry] No. 497.
When Baptized.      1833 August 10th
Child's Christian Name.      Martha  Daughter
Parents Christian Name.      William and Martha
Parents Surname.      Doyle
Abode.      Walls End
Trade or Profession.      Pitman
By whom the Ceremony was performed.      John Armstrong P. Curate

I first located Martha in an index of transcribed names at FamilySearch.  At home I was able to see only the transcription but learned the the digitized images from FHL Microfilm #993567, Items 1-2, were available at my local Family History Center. 

This record is from St. Peter's Church Register of Baptisms, 1813-1854, Volume 2, p. 63.

Further research at FamilySearch suggests the possibility that Martha died in 1838.  I purchased a death record from U.K. GRO last week that may be hers.  It has not yet arrived.


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

American Grit - a Book Review

American Grit:  A Woman's Letters from the Ohio Frontier - book cover American Grit:  A Woman's Letters from the Ohio Frontier is a collection of letters written by Anna Briggs Bentley, a Quaker who, in 1826, moved from Maryland to Columbiana County, Ohio.  Because I have ancestors who lived in an adjoining county during about the same time period, I thought the book might add insight into the conditions of their lives.

I think this is the first book I've ever read that was entirely letters.  There are short chapter introductions that explain the settings or events of the time, and even briefer explanations between some letters, but those fall to the background of the letters themselves.

The book was slow-going -- letters are written much differently than a book, written as thoughts come to mind and not necessarily in a logical order or in well-composed sentences -- and, though interesting, I almost stopped reading after about 50 pages.  I deliberated and finally decided that despite the slowness the information was interesting enough to continue.  I'm so very glad I did:  having persisted to the end it was almost as if Anna had become a friend.

Anna was about 30 when she moved to Ohio with her husband and their six children, all 12 or younger.  One child died before the move and 6 more were born in Ohio.  She left behind  her mother and eight younger siblings in Maryland.  She had been raised in a genteel family with the comforts of money, servants, the society of friends, local shops, etc.  She was not a born pioneer, but she was strong-willed, determined, and willing, along with her family, to "carve a homestead out of virgin forest with the sweat of their labors."

In the introduction Emily Foster, editor of the book, writes,
[Anna] wrote voluminous, detailed letters to her family in Maryland about life on the frontier.  No inadequacies of grammar, spelling or punctuation ever stood between Anna and a lively account of her daily affairs.  She followed a philosophy of letter writing that she frequently recommended to correspondents:  "Don't fear a repetition, but just give daily concerns, the affairs of the neighbourhood, the sayings and doings of the children, how little Henry looks, your garden, your cows, horses, chickens, and pigs, and even Ajax . . . so that as I am journeying on through time in my distant habitation I may keep up a kind of acquaintance and not feel like a stranger in my own dear native land, if ever I should visit it again."  Anna's letters poured unedited from her pen . . . [and] . . . became her lifeline to Maryland, a strong, binding cord made of stories, jokes, descriptions, gossip, hopes, and fears that would keep her tied to them for life, even from far away.

Here are a few observations from the book -- thoughts, events, and activities that stood out to me as I read.
  • Anna seemed desperately homesick during her first years in Ohio and begged her family to write to her often.  She wrote, "I now look forward to receiving letters from you as one of the highest pleasures I shall ever enjoy in this world..."  During those early years she had difficulty obtaining paper either because she didn't have money to buy it or it wasn't available.  At times she wrote both horizontally and vertically on the paper, the writing crossing at 90-degrees.  Some of the typed letters in the book are pages long.  I imagine even more pages when they were handwritten.
  • At first the family lived in a small, borrowed cabin -- the two older boys slept in their wagon -- until a larger cabin could be built.  The larger cabin was 24' x 36' with two stories and a balcony on the second.  They finished the rooms as they were able, over a period of time.
  • Early letters mention the hard work of clearing the land, felling trees, having log rollings, and building buildings.
  • Anna loved coffee and smoking her pipe.  She thought going without her coffee caused the drowsiness and stupidity she sometimes felt.  She commented that she wished she could have the coffee grounds her family threw out and lamented how often she had wasted coffee in her lifetime.
  • Food was sometimes scarce and money was often scarce during the early years.  She said they didn't go hungry but there was little variety in their diets.  She wrote, "When I think how many dollars I have spent that need not have been and what a small sum would now make us so much more comfortable, I feel certain I should never abuse prosperity as I have done."
  • There was coal on their property which her husband and son mined and sold.  She wrote once that they couldn't sell it because they had no means of transporting it (either no cart and/or no oxen) but they did not have the money to buy cart or oxen until they sold the coal.
  • In nearly every letter during the first decades Anna wrote about mending clothing and knitting stockings.  Both wore out quickly.  She mended using parts from clothing that was too worn out to mend.  She was grateful when family sent fabric and needles.
  • Anna's family was dependent on the weather.  The mills were operated by running water.  During times of drought the mills weren't able to operate.  Anna waited anxiously for flour, fulled cloth, and other mill-produced goods while she hoped for rain.  Forest fires were a problem during drought, too.  When the weather was good their crops flourished unless an infestation of insects attacked them.  Their crops included maple sugar, oats, wheat, linen, corn, hay, broom corn, pumpkins, cucumbers, cantaloupes, peas, beans, potatoes, and honey.  They also owned various animals including oxen, milking cows, sheep, and pigs.
  • There was often someone ill in Anna's family.  Reading the remedies was surprising, sometimes shocking.  

The other aspect of the book I must mention is how often Anna wrote about family members including siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, even extended family.  The editor makes a good effort of let the reader know who they were but it became too confusing for me to keep track of everyone.  That did not diminish any aspect of the book.  Anyone researching the surnames Bentley, Brooke, Briggs, Farquhar, Garrigues, and Stabler (among others) who lived in Ohio or Maryland might find this book interesting.

Looking back from the letters of later years to ones from earlier years, it was obvious that Anna and her family had made a success of their efforts.  Progress helped and life became easier as the decades passed.  Anna's last letter was written in November, 1881.  She died in 1890 at the age of 94.

I highly recommend this book if you'd like a glimpse into the life of a frontier woman from 1826 onward.


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Baptismal Record of William Doyle, son of William & Martha

Thanks to FamilySearch I'm able to see parish baptismal records from All Saints Church in Newcastle, Northumberland, England, where William Doyle, son of William and Martha (Reay) Doyle, was baptized.

William was baptized on June 14, 1828.

This is a transcription of the record.  (Full page image is below.)
Page 6.
Baptisms solemnized in the Parish of All Saints in the Town and
in the County of Newcastle-upon-Tyne [currently Northumberland] in the Year 1828.
[Record] No. 47.
When Baptized.  June 14th
Child's Christian Name.  William Son of
Parents Names Christian.  William & Martha
Parents Name Surname.  Doyle
Abode.  Byker-Hill
Trade or Profession.  Pitman
By whom the Ceremony was performed.  M. A. Shute

This record comes from Volume 18 with baptisms from 1828 to 1831.  Below is a two-page image of the records.  William's record is on the left, page 6.

This images comes from FHL Film #1,068,963, image 7, page 6 in the parish register.  You can view the record at here, but you must sign in to see the image.

All of these images were taken with Windows Snipping Tool and are not as clear as if they'd been downloaded.


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Problem Search in RootsMagic - SNGF

Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun is this:
1)  Is your genealogy software family tree database perfect?  With no errors or inconsistencies?  Yep, mine isn't either!  Big time.  With over 49,000 persons there are bound to be some errors in my tree.  Even 1% would be 490 persons or 1,500 events!

2)  This week, find your genealogy software's "Problem Report" or something similar.  Tell us how you found it, and what it tells you about the problems in your family tree database.

I use RootsMagic.  I didn't know it would find problems for me!  What an idea!

These are the parameters I gave Problem Search:

Individuals without sex entered
Proper order of events
Birth before parent's marriage
Birth before parent's birth
Birth after father's death
Birth after mother's death
Age at death should be less than 100
Age at marriage should be 14 to 70
Father's age should be 14 to 70
Mother's age should be 14 to 50

The results returned six individuals with problems. 

The parents of two individuals married after they (the individuals) were born.  I'll check on those and see if they are typos (I'm horrible), if they're accurate, or if I need to do more research.

There are two infants without sex.  One of the babies had a name that could be a boy's or a girl's name and I think he/she died as an infant.  I'll see what I can find about that baby.  The other baby was a stillborn and perhaps should not be included in RootsMagic but when a mother says she is the mother of 15 children and she's including the stillborn, I just can't leave that baby out.  I have no idea how to find the baby's name or whether they name him/her.

One problem is that a child was born after her father died.  That's accurate.  Her mother was pregnant when her father was killed in an accident.

The other problem is that someone lived to 101.  That is also accurate.

So I have four problems to check for accuracy.  Unlike Randy who has 49,000 individuals in his database, I have about 500.   This exercise reminds me to be more careful and accurate when I add individuals.

Thanks for the fun, Randy, as well as for the heads up about being able to find problems.


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.
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