Privateers and Letters of Marque 

Filed under: Genealogy Tips on Thursday, November 1st, 2012 by Erica | No Comments

By: Carolyn L. Barkley

If you are even a little bit of a music “folkie,” you may be familiar with the words of Canadian Stan Rogers’ classic Barrett’s Privateers.

Oh, the year was 1778, how I wish I was in Sherbrooke now!

A letter of Marque came from the king

To the scummiest vessel I’d ever seen.

God damn them all!

I was told we’d cruise the seas for American gold

We’d fire no guns-shed no tears

Now I’m a broken man on a Halifax pier

The last of Barrett’s Privateers.

(Stan Rogers, Fogarty’s Cove (2007) Track 5)

The song tells the fictitious story of the Nova Scotia privateer Antelope during the American Revolution. As I listened to it last week (one of those songs that once heard, you hum – hopefully not aloud – ceaselessly until its place is taken by another catchy tune), it suggested a good idea for an article.

First, a few definitions:

What exactly was a privateer? A privateer “in international law, is the term applied to a privately owned armed vessel whose owners are commissioned by a hostile nation to carry on naval warfare.”1 There term is also applied to an individual involved in such actions. A closely related term, “corsair” is defined as “a privately owned armed vessel whose owners are commissioned by a nation to carry on naval warfare on their behalf.”2 Perhaps just a fine semantic distinction, but these definitions imply that privateers were the guys “on the other side,” while “our side” were corsairs. Privateer, however, is the term that is applied most universally to any such ship or individual.

How did a privately-owned ship become designated as a privateer? Governing bodies issued what is known as a “letter of marque and reprisal” which served as a license authorizing a person to attack and capture enemy vessels. This letter would usually contain the person’s name, authorizing him to cross international boundaries; would specify national targets, and authorize seizure or destruction of assets (ships and cargos) or personnel (impressments of seamen).  If a reprisal (action against an attack or injury) was involved, the letter might include a description of the offense prompting the commission and a restriction on time, manner, place or amount. Once captured, a “prize” vessel’s disposition was determined by an Admiralty Court.

In essence, a privateer was a government-licensed pirate, although privateering was considered an honorable pursuit, allowing individuals both to demonstrate their patriotism and to make a profit during time of war. The practice was often used when no national navy existed. The ownership of a letter of marque meant “life or death” if a ship was captured. If the document could be produced, the officers and crew would be treated as prisoners of war; if it could not be produced, they would be declared pirates and hanged.

Privateers have sailed on the high seas throughout history. An international list of examples of letters of marquee and reprisal, and provides year and issuing authorities. The list begin with England in 1205 and ends with the United States in 1812. For example, in 1325, Holland issued a letter of marque and reprisal against Scotland; in 1413, England issued a letter against France for goods with a value not to exceed 5,250 marks; in 1703, England issued a letter against France and Spain for a period of six months. In 1812, the United States issued a letter of marque against Britain. A list of notable privateers on Wikipedia begins as early as 1360 with the Victual Brothers (Likedeelers), and includes such celebrities as Sir Francis Drake, Sir George Somers, Capt. Christopher Newport, and Jean Lafitte.

Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution states: “The Congress shall have the Power to “declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water…”3 The practice was followed throughout the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Civil War (Confederacy only). Internationally, privateering was abolished by the Declaration of Paris in 1856, although several nations, including the United States, did not support the agreement. Further international law was established in the Hague Conferences of 1907 and 1922/23. The only U.S. craft to operate under a Letter of Marque since the War of 1812, the Goodyear blimp Resolute, armed with a rifle and flown by a civilian crew, patrolled the coast off Los Angeles for submarines in December 1941 and the first months of 1942.4 The issue of letters of marquee and reprisal was reintroduced following the 9/11attacks. As those events were termed “air piracy,” the Marque and Reprisal Act of 2001 (H.R. 3076) was introduced in Congress by Ron Paul, although not enacted into law. He raised the issue again in 2009 following the Somali pirate attacks.

Records concerning privateers and letters of marquee can be identified by using the Inventory of the Naval Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library: Record Group 45, Inventory 18, (compiled by Geraldine N. Phillips and Rebecca Livingstone), one of the National Archives’ best finding aides. Although there are textual records for the Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Civil War, I chose to look at those pertaining to the War of 1812 (this is an anniversary year, after all).

President James Madison requested a formal declaration of war and Congress agreed on 18 June 1812. In part, the declaration stated:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States in Congress assembled, That was be and is hereby declared to exist between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland … and the United States of America … and the President of the United States is hereby authorized to use the whole land and naval force of the United States, to carry the same into effect, and to issue private armed vessels of the United States commissions or letters of marquee and general reprisal, in such form as he shall think proper … against the vessels, goods, and effects of the government of said United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland …5

Examples of requests for letters of marque are found in Correspondence Concerning Applications Received by Customs Collectors for Letters of Marque and Reprisal (1812-1815). The following letter to the [Customs] Collector of the District of Norfolk [Virginia?] was dated 2 February 1814:

…We make you acquainted with the Description and circumstances attending the Schooner now called the Four Friends lying in this port – for which we want a Commission as a cruizer. She was built in New York, burthen Forty Six Tons, was employed some time since by Com. Decatur in the service of the U. States as a look-out boat and Tender, has just perform’d a voyage to the W. Indies from thence to New Orleans, and to this port. She has Iron Stantions, R[?] Ropes and waste cloths, Arm’d with one six pounder on a carriage mid-ship, Fifteen muskets, Ten cutlasses, Six pistols, and will be furnished with all other Armament and Ammunition Necessary for a Cruize, to be man’d with twenty men or upward.6

Also included in these correspondence files is an “Abstract of Commissions Issued to Private Armed Vessels by David Gelston Collector of the District of the City of New York from the Commencement of the War to the 8th of May 1813.” This list includes forty-six entries including the commission number, to whom it was issued, when it was issued, denomination and name of vessel, name of commander, name of first lieutenant, burthen of the vessel, number in the crew, number and kind of arms, and names of sureties in the bond. For example, commission #468 was issued to William W. Story on 2 September 1812 for the schooner United We Stand; William W. Story commander, Peter Schuyler, first lieutenant; burthen 74 with a crew of 50; 2 cannons; bondsmen George Youle and Abraham Riker.7

The collection, Logs and Journals of American Privateers and State Navy and Merchant Vessels, October 1776 – October 1867, also provides excellent information concerning the life and experiences of privateers during the War of 1812. The log of Jeduthan Upton, Jr., master of the privateer Polly out of Salem, Massachusetts, describes the following event:8

Wed. 23rd [1812]. Commences with very bad weather and heavy sea. At 7 A.M. discovered a sail on our weather quarter. From her maneuvering we judged her a merchant ship. She had her top gallant masts and yards down and no foretopsail set. We immediately hauled our wind for the purpose of getting to winward of her, in which we successeded, but it died away calm for 4 hours. At 2 P.M. a small breeze sprang up. We stood for her. When within two gun shots she fired at us. We immediately hauled our wind from her to see if she would follow us. In a few minutes she hove round and stood for us. We thought at first we beat her, but she soon began to come upon us. I ordered the gun hove over and a number of casks of water stove but still she came fast upon us … She was within musket shot, continually firing her bow guns and cutting away our rigging. I, with the advice of my officers, thought to hold out longer would be madness … She sent her boat on board and took us all on the frigate Phoebe. Capt Hilgar who treated us more like friends than enemies. I was put in the gun room with the Lieut. And officers of marines who I found to be gentlemen: 1st, Mr. Ingraham, 2d, Mr. Pearson, 3rd, Mr. Iago, Purser, Mr. Surflin, 1st officer of marines, Mr. Buroughs, 2nd Mr. Sampson. She fired from 20 to 30 shot at us. So ends this most unfortunate day.

The log continues with more comments about his “pleasant company.” This log is a typescript copy and includes Upton’s birth and death dates, more information about his capture and eventual exchange, plus a genealogy of the donor of the log (Helen Joanna Merrill Slappy), tracing her lineage back to Jeduthun Upton.

Finally, the private journal of Gamaliel Pease, which he kept while onboard the private armed brigantine Saratoga of New York, included the following entries:9

Thursday 12th Augt [1813] … At 6 A.M. the S. End of Treneriffe bearing W.N.W. distant 3 leagues – the S. side of Canary S.E. by E. the wind light at 8 A.M. saw a sail under our Lee bow we bore away and made sail at 12 came very near her and taking in Studding sail

Friday 13 Augt At 20 minute past Mer. fired a musket which she hoisted English Colours. We run along side & the order was given her to “haul down the Cols.” which order was immediately Complyd with, sent our boat on board and brought her Capt & Crew. Who informs that she is the Brig Lloyd of Greenock – from Goree bound to Teneriffe She had on Board 5 Americans part of the Crew of the Privateer Brig Rambler from New P’ R.I.

If your ancestor owned a ship or was a seaman during the War of 1812, these records represent important background information for your research. While they are rich in names and events, you will have to invest the time to read them carefully as no indexing by name is available. They are, however, well worth your visit to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. These original documents (and the occasional typescript copy) concerning the experiences of people in events of the War of 1812 make this era and this war very real, and, as always, will led to other records pertinent to your research.


1 “What is a ‘Privateer’?”, Rob Ossian’s Pirate Cove ( definition_privateer.htm : accessed 29 October 2012.

2 “What is a ‘Corsair’?”, Rob Ossian’s Pirate Cove (

definition_privateer.htm : accessed 29 October 2012).

3 “Constitution of the United States” (Article 1, Section 8), United States Senate ( constitution_item/constitution.htm : accessed 29 October 2012).

4 “Letters of Marque and Reprisal,” Constitution Society ( : accessed 29 October 2012).

5 Robert McNamara, “Privateers,” ( : accessed 29 October 2012).

6 Letter from C. K. Mallory, Esqr. to Butler Seymour, Norfolk, 2 February 1814, item 263, entry 575, Correspondence Concerning Applications, Received by Customs Collectors for Letters of Marque and Reprisal 1812-1815, Record Group 45, Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

7 Abstract of Commissions Issued to Private Armed Vessels by David Gelston Collector of the District of the City of New York from the Commencement of the War to the 8th of May 1813, item 266, entry 575, Correspondence Concerning Applications, Received by Customs Collectors for Letters of Marque and Reprisal 1812-1815, Record Group 45, Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

8 Log of Jeduthun Upton, Jr., entry 609, Logs and Journals of American Privateers and State Navy and Merchant Vessels, October 1776-October 1867, Record Group 45, Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

9 Gamaliel Pease’ Private Journal Kept on Board the Private Armed Brigantine Saratoga of N.Y. … entry 609, Logs and Journals of American Privateers and State Navy and Merchant Vessels, October 1776-October 1867, Record Group 45, Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library, National Archives, Washington, D.C.





Century Farms – a Heritage Worth Preserving 

Filed under: Genealogy Tips on Friday, October 26th, 2012 by Carolyn L. | No Comments

by Carolyn L. Barkley

In the past, the United States was primarily an agrarian nation. Farm-life was a shared experience for an overwhelming percentage of the population, with the family farm a valued possession. Today, the family farm is disappearing as modern economic pressures make it less and less possible for a few individuals to sustain their livelihoods through agriculture.

In order to celebrate those individuals who continue to remain on the family farm, many states have established “century farm” programs. A century farm, sometimes referred to as a centennial farm, is a “farm or ranch in the United States or Canada that has been officially recognized by a regional program documenting the farm has been continuously owned by a single family for 100 years or more.”1 (For those remaining on the land for 150 years, there are Heritage/Sesquicentennial Farm programs, with Bicentennial Farm programs for 200 years.)

There is no single location at which to research century farms. Each state or region has established its own program with differing requirements, beginning as early as 1937 with the New York State Agricultural Society’s program. A good place to begin research, however, is Wikipedia’s table that lists state century farm programs. However, you will want to be careful with the provided links as they either can lead to other Wikipedia pages, or may not lead to pages by the indicated name. They will require further research to locate information on a specific recognition program. Wikipedia’s table lists state, name of the program, year in which founded, minimum number of acres required, and the department having oversight over the program. The list of century farm programs listed in the Wikipedia table includes those in Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska (which designates them as Pioneer Farms), Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.

The Tennessee Century Farm Program, administered by the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University, provides a good example of how to become designated as a century farm. (Note: the Wikipedia link to this agency only leads to a Wikipedia page about the Center.) Originally established by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture in 1975, the program now includes at least one farm in all ninety-five counties in the state. Of the 1,493 certified farms, 146 are 200 years old, 633 are 150 years old, and 714 are over 100 years old.2 Qualifying farms must have remained in the same family continuously for at least 100 years, include at least ten acres of the original owner’s land, produce at least $1000 in annual farm income, and have at least one owner who is a resident of Tennessee. Individuals may apply for a century farm designation – at no cost. As a genealogist you will be well prepared to complete the application (available to download as a Word document), which requires “the founder’s name and a founding date which you must be able to prove by deed, census record, family papers, or other legal documentation. Beginning with the founder, you will be asked to list the generations of ownership of the farm through the generations to the present day owner. The application also has space for you to recount such information as crops, family stories, involvement in agricultural, civic and community activities and organizations, and the like. The application must be notarized and also signed by the county agent or county historian.”3 Once the application has been processed, the applicant will receive a certificate, and the farm’s information is placed in the appropriate county’s file to become part of a permanent archival collection. In addition, century farm owners receive a yellow metal sign, designating the farm as a century farm. Tennessee century farms can be searched by county. For example, Polk County has eight registered century farms. The description of each farm is brief, but can be rich in genealogical information and may include a photograph. In addition to century farms, the Tennessee program also includes Pioneer Century Farms (settled before 1796) and African-American Century Farms (founded by emancipated slaves and their children).

Recently, as I began research for this article, I talked to a neighbor with Iowa roots and confirmed that her family farm had been designated a century farm ca. 1968. (Iowa farms may be designated as century farms if they demonstrate “consecutive ownership within the same family for 100 years or more consisting of at least 40 acres of the original holding of Iowa farmland. The present owner must be related to a person who owned the land 100 years ago.”4) Folkert and Margaret (Harms) Kromminga purchased 120 acres in Castle Grove, Jones County, Iowa, in 1868 when they were married. The farm’s location is described as Sections 32 and 33 of Castle Grove T86N R4W. This information led me to take a quick look in related historical records. A preliminary review of available census records established additional information about this family and its life on an Iowa farm.

Folkert, born in Germany, and Margaret, born in Wisconsin of German parents, first appeared as a married couple in the 1870 federal census for Castle Grove, Jones County, Iowa.5 For newlyweds, they were well-established with real estate valued at $3,000 and personal property valued at $580. The 1880 federal census for Castle Grove narrows Folkert’s place of birth to Hanover.6 The agricultural census is often unused by researchers, but is an extremely important resource which can provide a wealth of detail about rural farm life in America. The 1880 agricultural census for the Kromminga farm7 provides a detailed illustration of the business end of the family’s farm, reporting that it included 115 improved acres, forty-five acres in permanent meadow or pasture, and ten aces in woodland or forest. The farm had increased in value to $4,000, with farm implements or machinery valued at $200, and livestock at $100; one hundred dollars had been invested in building improvement or repair during 1879. The farm employed hired labor for thirty-six weeks in 1879, paying $225 in farm wages. There were twenty-eight mown acres and thirty-five unmown, with thirty-five acres in hay. There were seven horses, twelve milk cows, and seventeen “meat cattle;” eight calves had been dropped, and seven “meat cattle” had been sold alive and one sold slaughtered during the preceding year. Five hundred pounds of butter had been produced (or sent to be produced) in 1879, and there were eight-one swine, and 100 barnyard chickens who produced 700 dozen eggs in 1879. The farm devoted sixty acres to Indian corn (yielding 2,500 bushels); ten acres in oats (300 bushels); 1 acre in Irish potatoes (75 bushels); ten cords of wood were cut with a value of $40.00. The 1885 Iowa state census8 and the 1900 federal census for Castle Grove9 listed Folkert (born July 1838); his wife, Margaret (born June 1851 in Wisconsin); son, Udo (born July 1870); daughter Mary (born February 1874); daughter Lena (born 1876 and not listed in the 1900 census, so either living elsewhere, married, or died between 1885 and 1900); and son Edward, born December 1877. By 1910 all of the children have left home with the exception of Mary, then aged 34.10 By 1920, Folkert had died, and Margaret was enumerated as head of household, living with her daughter, Mary, then aged 45, and a grandson, Raymond Kromminga, aged 19. Living next door is her son, Edward, and his family.11 A family story states that Margaret was a single mother in 1900 (although the census would place the date between 1910 and 1920) and that she ran the farm “for years” until “my grandfather was an adult and then took it over.”12 The 1920 census would imply that Edward had taken over running the farm by the time of that enumeration. Edward Kromminga appears in the Castle Grove censuses for both 1930 and 1940 censuses. The latter provides a link to a map showing the location of the farm.13 My quick look for marriage and death records was unsuccessful, but the spelling and indexing issues involved with both “Folkert” and “Kromminga” requires more research time than was available in the course of writing this article. I was disappointed when, after locating a pdf copy of An Inventory of the Iowa Century Farm Records in the Iowa Century Farms Collection (1837-1976), part of the Special Collections Department at the Iowa State University Library, I could find no entries for farms in Jones County. Family archives also provide additional information. Present day family members remember that the family had a difficult time holding on to the farm during the Depression and among the family archives is a letter written to the Federal Land Bank, pleading with the latter to wait for the farm payment until the family was able to get livestock ready to sell. Land records, diaries and farm record information in state libraries and historical societies will also provide additional anecdotal information.

While farming is no longer a common experience for most Americans, it is heart-warming to realize that there are still individuals living and working on farms that have been in their families for at least 100 years, if not more. The preservation of this heritage is important and it is satisfying to know that there are multiple agencies celebrating the agriculture history of this country. I think back to this summer’s cross country trip, part of which included a drive across parts of Iowa. The open fields for agricultural crops and livestock grazing were dotted with farms, punctuated by a clump of trees around the house. Many of these farms may have been a part of the landscape for 100 years or more, an enduring legacy of our agricultural past.


1 “Century Farm,” Wikipedia ( : accessed 23 October 2012).

2 Tennessee Century Farms: the Land, the People, the Legacy ( : accessed 24 October 2012).

3 Ibid.

4 Iowa Department of Agriculture, “Century Farms Program: Taking Pride in Our Rural Heritage” ( : accessed 24 October 2012).

5 1870 U.S. census, Jones County, Iowa, population place, Castle Grove, p. 16B (stamped), dwelling 50, family 53, F. Crenninger [sic]; digital image, ( : accessed 23 October 2012), citing National Archives microfilm publication M593, roll 401.

6 1880 U.S. census, Jones County, Iowa, population place, Castle Grove Township, enumeration district (ED) 324, p. 288 (stamped), dwelling 56, family 58, F. Kromminga; digital image, ( : accessed 23 October 2012), citing National Archives microfilm publication T9, roll 348.

7 1880 U.S.  census, Jones County, Iowa, agricultural census, p. 6B, line 6, F. Kromminga; digital image, ( : accessed 24 October 2012), citing National Archives microfilm publication T1156, roll 26.

8 “Iowa, State Census Collection, 1836-1925,” database, ( : accessed 23 October 2012), entry for Folkert Kromminga, 1885, Castle Grove; citing 1885 Iowa census microfilm IA1885, roll 212.

9 1900 U.S. census, Jones County, Iowa, population place, Castle Grove, enumeration district (ED) 50, p. 3B, dwelling 38, family 38, Folkert Kromminga; digital image, ( : accessed 23 October 2012), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 440.

10 1910 U.S. census, Jones County, Iowa, population place, Castle Grove, enumeration district (ED) 56, p. 12 (stamped), dwelling 60, family 60, Folkert Kromminga; digital image, ( : accessed 23 October 2012), citing National Archives microfilm publication T624, roll 409.

11 1920 U.S. census, Jones County, Iowa, population place, Castle Grove, enumeration district 63, p. 5B, dwelling 100, family 101, Margaret Kromminga; digital image, ( : accessed 23 October 2012), citing National Archives microfilm publication T625, roll 495.

12 Email from Cindy Coy to Carolyn L. Barkley, 16 October 2012.

13 1940 U.S. census, Jones County, Iowa, population place, Castle Grove, enumeration district (ED) 53-2, p. 1A, family 10, Ed L. Kromminga; digital image, ( : accessed 24 October 2012), citing National Archives microfilm publication T627, roll 1172.

The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy 

Filed under: Genealogy Tips on Thursday, October 18th, 2012 by Erica | No Comments

By: Carolyn L. Barkley


One of the benefits of researching and writing a weekly article is the discovery of wonderful websites. The Yale Law School Lillian Goldman Law Library’s The Avalon Project is one such discovery.

There is no “about us” page providing the background of this remarkable site–and background information on its development is not easy to locate–but it would appear that The Avalon Project site has been in existence since at least 2001. According to its Statement of Purpose and Document Inclusion Policy “The Avalon Project will mount digital documents relevant to the fields of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government. We do not intend to mount only static text but rather to add value to the text by linking to supporting documents expressly referred to in the body of the text …”1 This rather austerely worded statement does not begin to describe the wealth of information available.

The Avalon Project site is divided into nine major time periods: Ancient (4000bce-399), Medieval (400-1399), and then by centuries from the fifteenth through the twenty-first. Each such category provides a list of the specific documents available online.

Not surprisingly, the availability of ancient documents is limited but includes nine documents including The Athenian Constitution and the Code of Hammurabi. As time moves forward, however, interesting original documents, perhaps some that affected one of our ancestors, can be found. For example, in the medieval era documents, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle provides a timeline of historic events and personages. One entry for the year A.D. 755 states:

The same year Ethelbald, king of the Mercians, was slain at Seckington; and his body lies at Repton. He reigned one and forty years; and Bernred then succeeded to the kingdom, which he held but a little while, and unprosperously; for King Offa the same year put him to flight, and assumed the government; which he held nine and thirty winters. His son Everth held it a hundred and forty days. Offa was the son of Thingferth, Thingferth of Enwulf, Enwulf of Osmod, Osmod of Eawa, Eawa of Webba, Webba of Creoda, Creoda of Cenwald, Cenwald of Cnebba, Cnebba of Icel, Icel of Eomer, Eomer of Angelthew, Angelthew of Offa, Offa of Wermund, Wermund of Witley, Witley of Woden.2

Other medieval documents include Nennius’ History of the Britons; the Magna Carta; the Declaration of Arbroath (1320) (said to have inspired the U.S. Declaration of Independence); the Laws of William the Conqueror; the Golden Bull of the Emperor Charles IV (1356); and the Laws of Richard I (Coeur de Lion) Concerning Crusaders Who Were to Go by Sea (1189) which provides a clear incentive for good behavior:

Richard by the grace of God king of England, and duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and count of Anjou, to all his subjects who are about to go by sea to Jerusalem, greeting. know that we, by the common counsel of upright men, have made the laws here given. Whoever slays a man on ship board shall be bound to the dead man and thrown into the sea. But if he shall slay him on land, he shall be bound to the dead man and buried in the earth. If anyone, moreover, shall be convicted through lawful witnesses of having drawn a knife to strike another, or of having struck him so as to draw blood, he shall lose his hand. But if he shall strike him with his fist without drawing blood, he shall be dipped three times in the sea. But if any one shall taunt or insult a comrade or charge him with hatred of God: as many times as he shall have insulted him, so many ounces of silver shall he pay. A robber, moreover, convicted of theft, shall be shorn like a hired fighter, and boiling tar shall be poured over his head, and feathers from a cushion shall be shaken out over his head,-so that he may be publicly known; and at the first land where the ships put in he shall be cast on shore. Under my own witness at Chinon.3

Many seventeenth-century documents provide direct documentation for our family history/genealogy research. One important group includes charters for Virginia (1606); New England (1620); Massachusetts Bay (1629 and 1691); Maryland (1632); the Carolinas (1663 and 1665); Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (1663); and Pennsylvania (1681). Other documents include the Articles of Confederation, the English Bill of Rights, several grants and constitutions, the Mayflower Compact, the Ordinances of Virginia, and the Royal Commission for Regulating Plantations (1634) – a total of eighty-two documents.

Eighteenth-century resources continue to document the political growth of the various American states, as well as important documents such as Virginia’s draft constitution in 1776; the Declarations for Suspension of Arms and Cessation of Hostilities (20 January 1783) and the subsequent Contracts Between the King and the Thirteen United States of North America (16 July 1782 and 25 February 1783). Other documents include An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery – Pennsylvania, dated 1 March 1780; Annual Messages of the Presidents of the United States; the Alien and Sedition Acts (1798); the papers of Jefferson and Madison; the Northwest Ordinance; treaties and statutes regarding Native Americans; Washington’s Farewell Address; and many more.

Nineteenth-century documents emphasize the growth of the United States as a world power. Documents relate to Algeria, Argentina, Austria-Hungary, the Barbary States, Belgium, Great Britain, Spain, Macedonia, various German duchies, Bavaria, Chile, Peru, Saxony, Russia, France, etc. Major historical documents, such as the Monroe Doctrine; the Communist Manifesto; the Hague Conventions; and statutes pertaining to Native Americans and to slavery, are available as are Henry David Thoreau’s A Plea for Captain John Brown, written in 1859; The Narrative of Sojourner Truth; and The Laws of War, which provides multiple documents ranging from 1856 to 1925, including the various agreements of the several Geneva Conventions. If your ancestor was a prisoner of war during a conflict, reading The Laws of War will add a depth of understanding about his (or maybe her) treatment while held. The Confederate States of America: Papers includes secession declarations for Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas, as well as various Confederate government organizational papers.

Twentieth- and Twenty-first-century documents include Camp David Accords (1978); various armistice agreements during World War II; the Atlantic Charter (1941); the Civil Rights Act (1964); the Dayton Peace Accords (1995); Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream” speech (1963); a collection of documents from the Nuremberg War Crimes Trail; the United Nations Charter; the Israeli Declaration of Independence; and the 9/11 Commission Report.

It is important to place our family members (both ancestors and those still living) within the context of their historical timeframes. The Avalon Project will assist you in making that connection and should be a resource of first-resort when searching for an historical document. It is a resource not to be missed, and best of all – it’s free!


1 Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library, digital images, The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy ( : accessed 15 October 2012).

2 “Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,” The Avalon Project ( : accessed 15 October 2012).

3 “Laws of Richard I (Coeur de Lion) Concerning Crusaders Who Were to Go by Sea,” in The Avalon Project ( : accessed 15 October 2012).

A Look at 

Filed under: Genealogy Tips on Thursday, October 11th, 2012 by Erica | No Comments

By: Carolyn L. Barkley

I freely admit that I don’t leap to use new technology as soon as it is available. I’m a lurker, waiting until most of the “bugs,” either real or perceived, are identified and resolved. For example, I do own an iPad (practically an extension of my right hand), but I purchased it only after the iPad2 had been available for some time. Today I am writing about – no doubt many of you have been using it for a while now–but it is new to me.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have only looked at for a few weeks. I should also tell you that I am a Master Genealogist user, as well as a subscriber to Mocavo and Ancestry, among other online resources. Also, in order to make my research more accessible when I’m away from home, I have the GedView and Ancestry apps on my iPad, and have recently downloaded (but not yet tried) the Heredis app as I find that the other two apps don’t really meet my needs.

My, with headquarters in Israel and in Provo, Utah, at its most basic level, provides free access to what it terms a “family networking site.”1 You can sign up for the Basic plan (note that the family tree size is limited to 250 individuals) at no cost, and it comes with 250 MB of storage, basic SmartMatching™ technology, and basic Family Tree Builder capability. A Premium subscription allows for a tree of 2,500 individuals in addition to 500 MB of storage, and adds enhanced SmartMatching™ capability, as well as priority support and a timeline feature, for a cost of $6.25 per month ($75.00 per year). A third plan, PremiumPlus, includes an unlimited family tree size and unlimited storage and adds a Timebook feature to the features already included in the Premium plan. This PremiumPlus plan costs $9.95 per month ($119.40 per year). Rebates are available if you subscribe for two or five years.

Once you have decided on the size tree you will need, sign up is quick and easy with only minimal information required. You may then download an original GEDCOM file or build a tree from scratch. I chose to import a GEDCOM from one of my Master Genealogist databases. The conversion was, again, very quick. As a caveat, my family tree, which is far from complete in this particular GEDCOM, contains 2,990 people, thereby negating any use of the free basic service.

The family tree pedigree chart resulting from the upload can be viewed either in “modern view” or “classic view.” While I personally find the blue (for males) and pink (for women) boxes in the modern view to be rather cliché, the modern view does show spouses from all of an individual’s marriages while the classic view (which uses green and melon color instead of blue and pink) provides numbered tabs with which to toggle among marriages. Another distinction between the two views is that in the modern view, the left hand side of the screen offers only the details about the individual selected from the tree, while the classic view provides an opportunity to toggle from the individual detail screen to a list of all of the individuals in the file. Both views offer the ability to search for a specific person, although the search/find box differs between views. As there are definite differences between the two views, you will want to experiment to see which you prefer to use.

I was also surprised that all of the married women’s names were shown in the following format: “Lois Lopes (born Smith).” My name, however, showed my maiden name. I finally discovered that the format differed because I am divorced from my first husband and my second is deceased and the program reverted to my maiden name for simplicity. After grumbling about this format and after many minutes sorting out how to change it, I discovered that I could go to “Account,” then “Site settings,” then “Genealogy” and change the display of the names of married women. That process was not straightforward and there appeared to be no other topics under the Genealogy tab.

The detail screen for each person offers the ability to add a photo and to edit or add to the facts provided in the original GEDCOM upload. Please note that the edit/add facts function in the modern view includes only birth, death, burial, marriage, and divorce options, with entry boxes for date, place, and description. Other options include the ability to add a relative, “view this person’s branch” (the purpose of which I couldn’t figure out), remove a connection, or delete the individual. I could find no specific location in the box (other than the description area) in which to include a source.

I particularly like the “People” tab which, when clicked, provides an annotated list of all the individuals in the database. The list includes the individual’s name and picture, if available; place and date of birth; date and place of death; gender; and names of spouses, parents and siblings. In addition it provides easy navigation to an individual’s profile page and place in the family tree, among other options. The profile page is the key entry point at which to add information. I discovered this fact after about an hour of bumbling around on the site. It is here that you add source citations and other non-vital-record facts, including links to web content, videos, etc. employs SmartMatch™ technology to match a family tree to “hundreds of millions of profiles in other trees.” The website states that as a user, you will be able to view all Smart Matches, be notified about new matches, compare your family tree with matching trees, and copy information and photos into your family tree.2 I have been disappointed in this feature as I purchased my subscription on 21 September and when I chose the Smart Match™ option, it still states (almost three weeks later): “Smart Matches are currently being processed. Come back to this page soon to check for updates.” In addition, it provides a tip, marked with a light bulb that suggests that I “add more people to [my] family tree to get Smart Matches.”

There are other interesting features that intrigued me. Under the “Reports” tab is a link called “Statistics.” Once selected, this section provides a series of graphs illustrating information about the file (percentage of males vs. females; living vs. deceased; relationship (i.e., married, single, etc.); common last names; and first names by gender) and maps showing geographical distribution of individuals (places of birth, death and residence). In addition there are statistics about age distribution, oldest living people (which may be a function of missing death dates!); youngest people; average life expectancy by gender; percentage of individuals born in each month; born in each sign of the zodiac (trivia for sure, but the highest in my 2,990 people is Pisces). Other statistical topics include marriages, children, and divorces–kind of a fun function for an inquiring mind. Other reports include a relationship report, an ancestor report, a descendant report, and a place report.

A “Chart” tab allows for the selection of a type of chart (bowtie, close family, ancestors, descendants, hourglass, fan, and “all-in-one”). A final type, “family book” offers a “detailed and professional compilation of the family tree. It includes narrative on each person’s life, photographs, family tree diagrams, and useful indexes.”3 You can chose from eighteen different styles of chart printing, and chose what facts and what number of generations to be included.  Then, after choosing “Create Chart,” you can view the chart as a pdf, or you may order it as a poster. Please note that while the charts themselves are reasonably priced (the largest size in the type and style I first experimented with was 26 x 24 and cost $18.90), the handling fee was quoted as $16.85. I chose a style with more generations and the largest size available was 50 x 42 with a cost of $58.50. In this instance, the shipping was much more reasonable at $10.25.

Almost at the end of the choices on the family tree page is one entitled “Sources.” This function serves as a master source list which is then linked to individual records. When selected, you will see a list of all the sources which you have included in your database. Hovering over the title of the source you will be able to see how many citations are connected to that source and either view, edit or delete a specific citation. By selecting “view,” you are taken to the profile of the specific individual.

The final major function to check out is the “Research” tab. Here you will find SuperSearch™ which will allow you to search “billions” of records on Please note that whether you use the basic search or the advanced, you will want to learn how to focus your search categories so that you do not get thousands – maybe even millions – of irrelevant hits. For example, even though I entered my grandfather’s full name, year of birth and city and state of birth, I received 14,169,345 responses with various years and places (states and countries). Narrowing the search to just birth, marriage and death records reduced the responses to 4,296,096. Reducing the search further to marriage records reduced the number to 291,555. As this number was still too large, I tried to narrow the search by father’s first name, only to learn that there were no Edwards, and that there were no available marriage records for Massachusetts after 1800. A more powerful search engine perhaps could have quickly indicated there were no matches without the extra work required on my part to narrow the search repeatedly. I tried the same search looking for matches in family trees and received 5,619,269 results. This time, narrowing the search by father’s name (Edward) reduced the search to 13,575. After trying to narrow the search further by mother’s name (Grace) I threw in the towel, not only because I could not find a Grace in the list of mother’s names, but also because determining whether Grace was included as a mother’s name was made more difficult as the names are listed by frequency, rather than in alphabetical order.

There are other functions that I have not covered here. One that I will mention in passing is the service terms governing use of the site. Among many other prohibitions, it is important to note the following: “Except with our express prior written consent, you must not copy or store electronically all or part of our Website or its contents, or make available, distribute, sell or offer to sell all or any part of the Website or its contents, or systematically download content and data from or through the Website to make or populate another database for any purpose…Members must obtain permission from living family members before uploading information about them to a family site, or if they still do so without their permission, it is the responsibility of the family site’s owner…The right of the relative to request not to be listed in a family site is stronger than the right of the owner of the site to list that relative in a family site…”4 is a site that will work well for the genealogist who wants a very visual approach to a family tree and who is active in social networking within his or her family. In my opinion, a more advanced researcher will not find it to be a substitute for any of the more traditional genealogical software packages, nor will experienced researchers find its search engine robust enough to satisfy their research needs. Nevertheless, I will continue testing my GEDCOM file to learn more about the product and observe its growth within the market.


1 “My Heritage Reviews,” ( : accessed 9 October 2012).

2 “Smart Matches Technology,” ( : accessed 9 October 2012).

3”Charts and Books,” ( : accessed 9 October 2012)

4 “Terms and Conditions,”

(­_conditions : accessed 9 October 2012)


Did Your Ancestor Travel The Trail of Tears? 

Filed under: Genealogy Tips on Friday, October 5th, 2012 by Erica | 1 Comment

By: Carolyn L. Barkley

History is full of parallels, but they sometimes crop up unexpectedly. I am currently reading David Craig’s On the Crofters’ Trail (Birlinn, 2010) on the Highland clearances of the early to mid-nineteenth century. The author links these Scottish clearances to others that occurred in Europe and the Middle-East, but I was suddenly reminded of a new client research project dealing with a family story proclaiming that an ancestor was a Cherokee who traveled the so-called Trail of Tears to Oklahoma. It became clear to me that the relocation of the Cherokee (along with the Choctaw, the Chickasaw, the Creek, and the Seminole) was clearly no less poignant than that of the Scottish crofters. While my research into the client’s research request has only just begun, I began where all such research should begin – by learning about the historical context within which specific events were said to take place.

The years following the War of 1812 were characterized by the desire for more and more land on the part of settlers. There were increasing calls to open up Indian lands for settlement, with many notable politicians embracing the concept of removal, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe among them. This pressure increased in 1828 with the election of pro-removal Andrew Jackson. Within two years, Congress had passed the Removal Act of 1830, and the “letter of the law” sounded far better than what would become reality. 1 [I have added the underlining below for emphasis.]

That it shall and may be lawful for the President of the United States to cause so much of any territory belonging to the United States, west of the river Mississippi…to be divided into a suitable number of districts for the reception of such tribes or nations of Indians as may choose to exchange the lands where they now reside and remove there…

…it shall and may be lawful for the President solemnly to assure the tribe or nation with which the exchange is made, that the United States will forever secure and guaranty to them, and their heirs, or successors, the country so exchanged with them…

…if, upon any other lands now occupied by the Indians, and to be exchanged, for, there should be any improvements as add value to the land…it shall and may be lawful for the President to cause such value to be ascertained by appraisement…and to cause such ascertained value to be paid to the person or persons rightfully claiming such improvements.

…if shall and may be lawful for the President to cause such aid and assistance to be furnished to the emigrants as may be necessary and proper to enable them to remove to, and settle in, the country for which they may have exchanged…

The Choctaw were the first to emigrate, beginning in 1831. Their westward path would take them either (1) from northern Mississippi, across Arkansas into the southern portion of Indian Territory, or alternatively; or (2) from central Mississippi into southern Arkansas where they would join the first trail. Their progress west was followed by that of the Seminole in 1832, and the Creeks in 1834 (their lands falling almost entirely into white hands by 1836). The Chickasaw, who began their journey in 1837, followed the Choctaw’s northern route. All three removals were underfunded, poorly organized, and seldom voluntary. Clearly, it may have been lawful for the President to act according to the stipulations the 1830 act, but that didn’t mean he had to, nor that those who worked for the government had to.

By far the most difficult removal, however, was that of the Cherokee, the easternmost of the Five Civilized Tribes. Long feared, the possibility of removal was brought to a head by the discovery of gold in Dahlonega, Georgia, in July 1829. (Ironically, as I write this article, the Georgia State Archives is closing its doors to public researchers, thus making local research difficult for this time period.) During that same year, the Georgia legislature passed legislation confiscating all Cherokee lands, prohibiting Cherokees from mining gold, abolishing tribal government and voiding its laws. Not satisfied, legislation also prohibited Cherokees from testifying against whites in court, forbade meetings, and punished any Cherokee speaking against emigration with imprisonment.

The Cherokee nation did not take this treatment sitting down, appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled in 1831 and 1832 that the Georgia laws were unconstitutional. Despite these Pyrrhic victories, the pressure for removal continued. Political machinations on the part of the Jackson administration resulted in a removal treaty, the Treaty of New Echota, in 1835. The treaty was ratified by Congress in 1836, after much debate and public opposition, including this letter written by Ralph Waldo Emerson to President Martin Van Buren in 1836: “…It now appears that the government of the United States choose to hold the Cherokees to this sham treaty, and are proceeding to execute the same…and are contracting to put this active nation into carts and boats, and to drag them over mountains and rivers to a wilderness at a vast distance beyond the Mississippi. As a paper purporting to be an army order fixes a month from this day as the hour for this doleful removal. In the name of God, sir, we ask you if this be so…Such a dereliction of all faith and virtue, such a denial of justice, and such deafness to screams for mercy were never heard of in times of peace and in the dealing of a nation with its own allies and wards, since the earth was made…The soul of man, the justice, the mercy that is in the heart in all men from Maine to Georgia, does abhor this business.”2 Only a small number – 2,000 – Cherokees had emigrated by the treaty’s removal deadline of April 1837, leaving about 16,000 remaining, now in violation of the law. The government did not wait long to act. In May 1838, Major General Winfield Scott led a roundup of the Cherokees who remained, assisted by five regiments and 4,000 militiamen.

The refugees were initially moved to temporary camps and later to internment centers in Alabama and Tennessee, where they would remain until forced to continue their ordeal in early June 1838. The last Cherokee would reach Indian Territory almost a year later in March 1839. They traveled either by land or by water. The principal land route stretched from eastern Tennessee through southwestern Kentucky, southern Illinois, and through Missouri and Arkansas, ending in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. A second one followed a similar route, but remained further south, not going as far north as Illinois, but also ending in Tahlequah. The third followed a much more southerly route along the southern Tennessee border into Arkansas, where it ended at Evansville. The water route followed the Tennessee, Mississippi and the Arkansas Rivers, ending at Fort Smith, Arkansas. The trip was characterized by heat, dust, rain, mud, hunger, illness, and desolate misery. The death toll would reach an estimated 4,000.

Further information about the Trail of Tears is available through such sources as the Trail of Tears Association; the Cherokee Heritage Center; the Digital Library of Georgia; John Ehle’s Trail of Tears: the Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation (Doubleday, 1988); Vicki Rozema’s Voices from the Trail of Tears (John F. Blair, 2003); and Daniel Black Smith’s An American Betrayal: Cherokee Patriots and the Trail of Tears (Henry Holt, 2011). For solid genealogical information on the Five Civilized Tribes prior to removal, consult Rachal Mills Lennon’s Tracing Ancestors Among the Five Civilized Tribes: Southeastern Indians Prior to Removal (Genealogical Publishing Co., 2002). Lennon “outlines a method of research that can carry you from the colonial period to the great tribal rolls of the mid-to-late nineteenth century, using the unique records kept by American, English, French, and Spanish governments.”

What, then, about my client and her family story of possible ancestral Trail of Tears participation? I have been provided with a partial pedigree chart, spanning several generations, but with missing dates, locations, and spouses; with an indication of the specific family (Graham) with the alleged Cherokee connection. The family story, which gives me pause, states that Abner Graham was a full-blooded Cherokee who married a Scottish school teacher (Nancy Graham) “and took her name because he was so ashamed of his Indian blood.” (At least there is no princess involved!) The information states that Abner died in Lafayette County, Missouri ca. 1825. His son, Daniel, is said to have been born in 1810 and died in 1888 in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. At face value, this information does not seem to support a Cherokee Trail of Tears participant in 1838-39, but we shall see what research yields. I’ll write about the outcome in a future article.


1          U.S. Congress, “An Act to Provide for an Exchange of Lands with the Indians Residing in Any of the States or Territories, and for Their Removal West of the River Mississippi,” 21st Cong., 1st sess., Ch. 148. 1830, digital images, Library of Congress, A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875 ( : accessed 1 October 2012).

2          Ralph Waldo Emerson to Martin Van Buren. Letter, 1836. Cherokee Nation: the Official Site           of the Cherokee Nation (

Information.aspx : accessed 1 October 2012).

Attic Tales 

Filed under: Genealogy Tips on Thursday, September 27th, 2012 by Erica | No Comments

By: Carolyn L. Barkley

A basic element of any beginning genealogy course is the admonition to begin with what you know, particularly information contained in documents and photos that are part of your family archives, and information from interviews with older family members. I suspect that many of us, despite our best intentions, leave this task until it’s too late.

Last December, after moving my mother into assisted living, my son and I cleaned out her house. While the main floor was fairly straightforward (my mother not being a collector of things), the attic was another matter. December in Massachusetts means that this unfinished upper floor was cold and often dimly lit. When we encountered what looked like family material, we simply boxed it and brought it to my home here in Virginia. As an illustration of my ability to procrastinate, the boxes sat stacked in my garage for several months, and I am only now actually unpacking them.

As I sort through their contents, I regret that in many instances, I no longer remember the stories behind some of the items. I know my mother would occasionally go through them with me, but the details are hazy and she is now no longer able to remember what she once could recall so easily. I’m on my own to rediscover and piece together what I can of the stories that are waiting in these boxes. This realization has taught me several important lessons:

  • Even if you and a family member have, in the past, talked about pictures and other documents pertaining to the family, do it again, if possible, and write down all of the information as you do – or better yet, record the conversation. Identify people and places; ask questions. If you don’t do it now, it will be too late before you know it.
  • If items are not identified and there is no one to supply any answers, acknowledge your responsibility to do so. Provide as much information about the item as you can based on other materials in the family archives or in resources located elsewhere.
  • Share all the information and documentation with younger members of your family, both in person and in writing. If you have had difficulty identifying people and places and do not include your research and documentation, future generations will have even less ability to recapture their family history.

I’d like to discuss a few types of materials found in Mom’s two boxes and how they have re-informed my understanding of my family and their experiences, and when possible, how finding these materials may lead to further research about the individual or event.


I discovered a wonderful group of photographs documenting several generations of my family. The oldest is an 1862 picture of Lois (Lanfare) Dodd, my third great-grandmother (born 28 March 1818 in Branford, Connecticut; died 24 September 1907 in Wallingford, Connecticut). Other pictures from that era include one of my great-grandmother’s sister, Alice Louise Dodd (born 8 April 1860; died 22 October 1879 in Springfield, Massachusetts). This latter picture, taken in 1863, is particularly important as she died when only 19 years old. (I’m pleased, however, not to have inherited her ears!) Another interesting photograph is of my great-grandmother, Grace Lillian (Dodd) Smith, taken when she was only six months old, therefore dating the picture circa December 1865.

Other family photos include a three-generation group showing my grandfather, his mother, and his paternal grandmother; a picture of my great-grandmother and great-grandfather that may have been taken around the time of their engagement or wedding, as well as a picture of their best man; a picture of my great-great-grandmother, Kate Duncan, holding one of her grandsons; a picture of my grandfather, probably taken in his twenties, looking quite dapper in a fedora; pictures of my grandmother, Mildred Carolyn (Abbe) Smith, as a young girl; a picture of my grandfather as a young boy with Lord Fauntleroy-style curls; and an undated picture of John Frederick Smith (don’t we all need a John Smith relying research!), the brother of my second great-grandfather, Edward Sylvester Smith (born 29 June 1836 in South Hadley, Massachusetts; died 15 October 1898 in Springfield, Massachusetts). Currently, John is my Civil War research problem. I have another picture taken of him in a Union uniform, but with indecipherable insignia. Despite several research attempts, I have not yet located his service record. I know little about him except that he was born in Belchertown, Massachusetts, in 1862 and that he died in 1890, and so this picture prompts further research in the census, Massachusetts Vital Records and Civil War Union military records.

A final photograph is of a young man, placed inside a lovely brooch. Unfortunately I have no idea who he was and there is no notation on the back of the photo, which appears to have been cut from a tintype. My hope is that I will find another picture of the same individual – identified this time.


The first group of postcards that I found provides an enhanced picture of my great-grandmother’s (Grace Lillian (Dodd) Smith) life in the early years of the twentieth century. I’ve never thought of her as having traveled very much except between Springfield, Massachusetts, and other members of her family still living in New Haven, Connecticut. On the contrary, however, she was definitely a traveler in the summer time, with postcards sent to her in Albany, New York (1904), Revere Beach, Massachusetts (1911); and the New Chase Hotel in Portland, Maine (1916). Several postcards from Grace to her husband, Edward Albert Smith, and to others, written from Norwich in Huntington, Massachusetts, and dated 1907, raised my interest. I have mentioned in other posts that I spent my childhood summers at my grandfather’s home in Huntington (specifically Norwich Hill), Massachusetts. He bought the one-time farm in about 1932, but I never thought to ask anyone why he chose that location. The pictures and text in the 1907 postcards imply that my grandmother was staying in a home on the very same road where my grandfather bought his home thirty or so years later, making me wonder if the site was chosen because of my great-grandmother’s previous visit(s) — and, yes, I also don’t know why she was visiting that location. I plan to search further into the Norwich Hill area at the turn of the century and into the Avery family with whom Grace stayed, as well as land and vital records for the town, both then and in the 1930s. Additional postcards illustrate other important sites in that family’s history including the Highland Baptist Church in Springfield, that was destroyed by fire on 3 January 1906; the old City Hall in Springfield, burned in January 1905; and the “proposed” Municipal Building complex in Springfield, where my grandfather would later work as Assistant City Clerk and then City Clerk until his retirement in the 1950s; and a picture of Wesson Maternity Hospital where my mother was born.

World War II

The second box contains souvenirs of my father’s World War II service in the Army Air Corps. Although his dog tags and collar insignia, Army Exchange Ration Card, Enlisted Man’s Identification Card, etc. are there, sadly, what is missing are the letters that my father wrote to my mother during the war. I know they existed as late as 2009, but I believe she may have destroyed them which is a shame, but perhaps understandable if she felt they were private. Luckily she did not destroy several small notebook pages detailing my father’s train trip from Miami Beach, Florida, where he had been in training, to what was initially an undisclosed location that turned out to be Oklahoma. The diary begins on Friday, 16 April 1943 and covers several days of the trip as far as Texas; the rest are missing. Nevertheless, the insight into the atmosphere of a troop train is wonderful: “…Still speeding along north. One of the fellows has a clarinet; another has a sax. They’re playing popular songs. Very pleasant. Sun getting low. Chow was the proverbial frankfurters. But we were hungry enough to eat anything….All the fellows are speculating where they might be and where they are going. It is amazing to hear the number of rumors circulating about. As it stands now, we are going to half a dozen places all at the same time…” By October, he had shipped out and a brief slip documents an event during his voyage.

For the majority of the war, my father was stationed in England. As an English major in college, he had a deep interest in that nation, particularly in its literature and history. Postcards and souvenir booklets document tours and cycling trip to Cambridge, Oxford, London, the Lake District, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Glasgow. Receipts from Red Cross hotels help document his travels. He was stationed at Warton, in Lancashire, at Base Air Depot [BAD] #2 with the 370th Air Service Group. He spoke often of visits to Blackpool and a brochure about the city, written for members of the US Armed Forces in the UK, provides information about restaurants, banks, post offices, telephones, entertainment, etc. and notes that the American Red Cross Club ” ‘donut Dugout’  is in Central Drive, near the railway station, and open from 2 p.m. until 11 p.m.” In addition, that brochure cautions that “…hotel accommodation is limited, and American Forces arriving late at night can apply at the Red Shield Club Hostel, Talbot Square…which has 84 beds…”

A hand-written notation on a newspaper article indicates that he was at Warton from 27 October 1943 to 24 August 1945. As I always heard about his travels, but little about his day-to-day work life, I turned to Google™ to see what I could learn about BAD #2. My first discovery was the fifteen-page USAAF Airfields Guide and Map produced by East of England Tourism, which although it did not cover the right geographical area, did provide links to the Eighth Air Force Historical Society and the Mighty 8th Cross-Reference. Another entry, however, led me to information about the Warton Aerodrome and Base Air Depot #2. In particular, it highlighted a book by Harry Holmes entitled The World’s Greatest Air Depot: the US 8th Air Force at Warton 1942-1945. The brief blurb stated that in 1942 the US Army Air Corps sought to establish three bases at which to assemble and repair aircraft coming into Europe from the States. One of these three sites became BAD #2 at Warton.1 I immediately went to Amazon to see if I could purchase a copy. Unfortunately, the cost of a hard copy was $470; the paperback was about $93.00! Luckily, another link sent me to where I could purchase a “like new” used copy for £20. I look forward to receiving this copy in the next few weeks and to reading about my father’s surroundings during the war.

I certainly still have more boxes to empty and hope to find other pieces of my family history in them. The pieces I found in the first two boxes have expanded my knowledge, matched faces with the names of several ancestors, piqued my interest in further research, and have led to the purchase of pertinent background material. I hope my experiences will prompt you to talk to your family members and to identify and record as much information about individuals, places and events and to write down and document their stories.


1 “Aviation: Warton Aerodrome 1942 to 1945 – Base Air Depot 2 (BAD2),” Made in Preston ( : accessed 26 September 2012).




Road Orders 

Filed under: Genealogy Tips on Thursday, September 20th, 2012 by Carolyn L. | No Comments

by Carolyn L. Barkley

When I was growing up in Massachusetts, I spent summers in Hampshire County. In those days, it seemed as if the roads were always being resurfaced. This worked occasioned many grumpy comments from my grandfather who would have preferred not to get the paint on his Buick Roadmaster nicked by the loose gravel or marked by the oil being applied as the new surface. He also explained that the large numbers of men who comprised the crews were often town citizens who were working off their annual taxes by working on the roads during the summer months as farming allowed.

I had forgotten about that summer memory until my genealogical research led me to discover road orders. My discovery was accidental. Rather, in tracking several individuals in the Northampton County records, I had exhausted almost all of the other sections of the file card draw when I arrived at records dealing with roads and bridges. I almost passed over these records, but instead, despite the lateness of the day (always the time when you discover something new and potentially useful) decided to be diligent and explore the scope of these records.

Care of roads and bridges was a community duty. Road overseers were appointed annually to attend the stretches of road on which they lived and were empowered to call on all eligible able-bodied hands from among their neighbors for the labor. Those who were not exempted or excused from road duty cleared obstructions, cleaned ditches, made minor repairs to bridges, and did such other work as was necessary to make the roads passable.1

What I discovered was that by consulting the county’s road orders, I could establish the approximate location of an individual and also identify his neighbors by the description of the section of road he was to maintain. By comparing the road order information with deeds and other county records, I could begin to create a more comprehensive timeline for an individual and perhaps differentiate among individuals with the same name living in the county within the same time frame.

When my later research turned to Virginia, I found that the community’s responsibility for road maintenance was well-established.  Hening’s Statutes at Large includes a 1632 act of the House of Burgesses pertaining to surveyors for highways that was the first American highway legislation enacted. It stated the following:2

WHEREAS through the frequent alterations of the highwayes by falling of trees over them, and the many times taking them into ffenced plantations to the greate hindrance of travellers and traders: Be it therefore enacted that the justices doe yearely n October court appoint surveyors of the highwayes who shall first lay out the most convenient wayes to the church, to the court, to James Towne, and from county to county…, and make bridges where there is occasion, and the wayes being once thus layed out, and the bridges made they shall cause the said wayes to be kept cleere from loggs, and the bridges in good repaire that all his majesties subjects may have free and safe passage about their occasions; and to effect the same, the vestryes of every parish are upon the desires of the surveyors hereby enjoyned and impowered to order the parishoners every one according to the number of tithables he hath in his family, to send men upon the dayes by the surveighors appointed to helpe them in cleering the wayes, and making or reparing the bridges according to the intent and purpose of this act, and if any court shall omitt the appointing surveyors, or they neglect the executing their office, or the vestry to order the worke, or any person to send helpe according to the said vestryes order, the said court, surveighor, vestry or person, shalbe amerced five hundred pounds of tobacco to the use of the county. And if any person shall contrary to this act fall trees upon the highwayes and not cleere the same, or inclose any parte of the said highwayes within any ffence, the grand jury shall present the same as a comon nuisance, and the inclosure shalbe thrown open, and the offender be fined one thousand pounds of tobacco to the use of the county; and if any countyes have creeke or swampe, lymitting the bounds betweene the said counties, It is enacted that both county’s bounding upon such passage shall contribute to the makeing of the bridge or the way over itt.

Roads and bridges were taken seriously from the very beginning of colonial life as they allowed for the passage of goods to and from ports and marketplaces; ease of movement to places of safety in case of attack; a means to build and sustain a sense of community; and a means to explore and acquire new land.

While many states will have road order records available in their archives, the access to Virginia records is exemplary and access is provided through the efforts of that state’s Department of Transportation, a very surprising source of genealogy-related records. I accessed the “VDOT” website and searched for the term “history.” This search identified a pdf document entitled A History of Roads in Virginia: “The Most Convenient Wayes (Richmond, Va.: Virginia Department of Transportation Office of Public Affairs, 2006). It provides an excellent overview. It is complemented by Nathaniel Mason  Pawlett’s A Brief History of the Roads of Virginia, 1607-1840, rev. ed., (Charlottesville, Va.: Virginia Highway & Transportation Research Council, 2003).

The most useful road order information provided by VDOT, however, is found in the approximately twenty separate county road order books compiled by various authors. These counties include Fairfax, Orange, Lunenburg, Albemarle, Fincastle, New Kent and Hanover, Augusta, Spotsylvania, Montgomery, Brunswick, Louisa, Amelia, Goochland, Culpeper, and Botetourt. The years covered varies(vary?) with some of the earliest orders dated 1722 and the latest 1816.

In the 1744-1748 Albemarle County road order book, the following entries illustrate the information that can be learned from these records (and, in some cases, questions that will be raised by the way the information was recorded):

27 June 1745 O.S., p.23 – Andrew Wallace is Appointed Surveyor of the High Way from D. S. to Mitchams River. and Archibald Woods, Jeremiah Marris, William Shaw, Robert Mannely, John Dickey William Wallace Mirlock Mcdowell Micah Woods junr. Anthony Osbrook John Lawson John Cowan William Little and Robert Anderson Are Ordered to Assist the said Wallace in clearing the same./.3

13 Nov. 1746 O.S., p. 202 – Ordered a Road be marked from Slate River to Glovers Road by Samuel Jordan Gent. in Stead of a Road formerly marked by Scruggs and that the said Road from the County Line at Phineas Glovers to Buckingham Path at William Webbs be Cleared by the Male Tithables of Isaac Bates James Daniel James Nivels and Richard Taylor Abraham Childers Overseer. And from the said Path to Slate River by the Male Tithables of William Cannon John Cannon Richard Cocke and All Other the Male Tiths between the mouth of the Slate River and Isaac Bates that are not already imploy’d on some other Road. and that Thomas Fouts by Overseer./.4

Pawlett’s Albemarle County Road Orders 1783-1816 includes similar entries, such as:

3 December 1811, Order Book 1811-1813, p. 103 – On the petition of John Watson for the view of a road from the road leading from Charlottesville to Moors Creek the nearest & best way to Milton the road to be Conducted on the lands of Charles L. Bankhead & Thos. Jefferson on the south side of the north river Dabney C Gooch Matthew Rodes George Gilmer James Lindsay Jessee Lewis John Coles & Tucker Coles or any three of them being first sworn are appointed to view the proposed road and report to this Court the conveniances & inconveniances to the public and individuals that will attend the establishment of the same.5

The Albemarle road orders refer to roads for which plats may be found in three Surveyors Books (1744-1853). As Albemarle served as the parent county for several later jurisdictions, some of the roads mentioned in the road orders are now located in Amherst, Buckingham, Fluvanna and Nelson counties, as well as parts of Appomattox, Bedford and Campbell. An index to the roads in the Surveyors Books indicating the modern county location was compiled by Nathaniel Mason Pawlett as An Index to Roads  Shown in the Albemarle County Surveyors Books 1744-1853 (Charlottesville, Va.: Virginia Highway & Transportation Research Council, 1976) and provides a useful companion to his road order compilation. Plat maps are difficult to locate in the colonial South and so these Albemarle Surveyors Books are all the more interesting.

Used in combination with deeds, tithable lists and other such records, road orders prove particularly useful in recreating a colonial community and identifying its residents. If you have Virginia ancestors during the colonial period, you can access compilations of these records from the comfort of your own home thanks to the Virginia Department of Transportation’s recognition not only of the importance of the records themselves, but also of the value of convenient access to their contents. Look for similar records in your counties of interest.


1 Raymond A. Winslow, Jr., “Roads and Bridges,” in Helen F. J. Leary, editor, North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History. 2nd ed. (Raleigh, N.C.: North Carolina Genealogical Society, 1996), chap. 22, p.276.

2“Hening’s Statutes at Large…,” database, Virginia Genealogy Research, VaGenWeb ( : accessed 20 September 2012), Laws of Virginia, March 1661-2 – 14th Charles II, Act LXXIX: “Surveyors for Highways.”

3Nathaniel Mason Pawlett, Albemarle County Road Orders 1744-1748 (Charlottesville, Va.: Virginia Highway & Transportation Research Council, 1975), 6.

4Pawlett, Albemarle County Road Orders 1744-1748, 16.

5Nathaniel Mason Pawlett, Albemarle County Road Orders 1783-1816, rev. (Charlottesville, Va.: Virginia Highway & Transportation Research Council, 2004), 197.

The Statistical Accounts of Scotland Adding Detail to Your Research 

Filed under: Genealogy Tips on Tuesday, September 11th, 2012 by Erica | No Comments

By: Carolyn L. Barkley

I am still enjoying my vacation in Scotland, so here is another updated article from the blog archive. New article next week.


Recent advertisements on television suggest that family research is as easy as entering a few names and dates and following the green leaves to your genealogical destiny. While this method may satisfy some, those of us who enjoy the hunt for every possible (documented) detail about our ancestors know the satisfaction found in discovering resources that develop our richer understanding of the lives of these individuals. The Statistical Account of Scotland represents one of those resources. I first discovered these Accounts on microfilm some years ago at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Today searchable, full-text, online versions can be identified by a Google search and downloaded to your computer, making their use much more efficient in terms of time and travel distance.


The purpose of the Statistical Account of Scotland don’t let the dry title put you off – was to  survey that nation’s geography. Its contents provide not only a “statistical” picture of Scotland, but also a detailed geographical, economic, and human understanding of Scottish society.


Following several earlier ill-fated attempts to produce descriptive accounts by the Church of Scotland and Sir Robert Sibbald, Geographer Royal for Scotland, the twenty-one-volume first Statistical Account – sometimes known as the “old” Account – was written and published between 1791 and 1799 under the direction of Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster. The parish-by-parish collection of the information was assigned to Church of Scotland ministers who asked questions about three specific areas of interest: geography and topology, including climate, natural resources and natural history; the population of the parish; and agricultural and industrial production. In addition, they asked a series of miscellaneous questions. The ministers involved in the project often exceeded their instructions providing meticulous detail about their parishes, surrounding areas, history, people, and daily lives.


The second or “new” Statistical Account of Scotland was undertaken in 1832 and published between 1834 and 1845. While similar in format to the earlier Account, the “new” work included maps of each county and, in some cases, doctors, landowners, and schoolmasters added their input to that of the parish clergy.


A third Statistical Account of Scotland was begun following World War II and its first volume was published in 1951, although the final volume was not published until 1992. The third Account includes thirty-one volumes.


The “old” and “new” Accounts are the most useful for genealogists as they provide insight into a period of time when many of our ancestors may have been living in Scotland prior to emigration.

What type of information can be found in the Statistical Accounts? Here is an example for the Parish of Turriff from the “new” Account. The Parish of Turriff is located in the Presbytery of Turriff and Synod of Aberdeen. The information was provided by the Rev. James Cruickshank, Minister, although he noted that John Shier, a Professor of Agriculture at Marischal College, Aberdeen, provided the article on geology. Interesting notations, chosen at random from the parish account, include the fact that during the previous summer a woman had died at the age of 99 and that a few persons above the age of 90 and a “good many” between 80 and 87 years of age lived in the parish. It mentioned the estate of Towie, “which had been the property of the Barclays for 400 years and upwards, was sold by a descendant of that family to the Earl of Findlater, whose son sold it, in 1762, to Gordon’s Hospital and the Infirmary at Aberdeen, who hold it still today.” In describing the cemetery at the Old Church, it details the inscription for one of the Barclays of Towie, complete with transcription, noting that in 1845 the monument was “somewhat mutilated.” (There’s a story that should be researched!) We also learn that the register of baptisms began in 1697, with births entered in the register by 1797, although they’re described as “very defective.” The marriage registers began in 1727, but there was no death register. Mansion houses were described, including Towie Barclay. The population of Turriff had increased by 740 over the previous twenty-year period. The diet of Turriff’s residents may be deduced from the statement that “turnip husbandry is very successfully practiced.” Pigs were raised in quantity, but not sheep. The number of “thrashing mills” had increased from three, at the time of the old Statistical Account, to sixty-three. Many of the farm houses had been improved and were in large part heated by coal from England, although the condition of the cottages was deplored. The term of a standard lease was nineteen years with rents generally paid in money. No weekly market was held in Turriff, but eight fairs were held annually for the sale of cattle, horses, sheep and merchandise, and fairs at Whitsunday and Martinmas provided the opportunity to employ male and female servants. A parish library had been established in 1841 “to promote and encourage a taste for reading,” with a subscription rate of 1s per quarter for books “of the first class” and 6d per quarter for books that had been in circulation the previous year. The collection totaled 567 volumes with 100 subscribers. “The newspapers of the day, of all shades of politics, with a few of the cheaper periodicals, are also eagerly read by all classes of the community.” Finally, public safety was then, as now, a concern, and the minister noted that “One of the most crying evils…was the overwhelming concourse of vagrants and traveling mendicants to whom a well-meaning but mistaken liberality afforded a temptation to make this place a favourite haunt. Since the institution of a rural police and the activity of the district constable, with the terror which his baton and uniform inspire, this annoyance has been much lessened…”

These excerpts for the Parish of Turriff from Volume Twelve of the New Statistical Account of Scotland, imply that a careful reading of the entire account would render a detailed picture of the day-to-day life of the parish. While some effort is required, that time is well-spent as locating and reading these accounts will help illustrate the life of your ancestor.


The Accounts are available online. Edina (a Joint Information Systems Committee National Data Centre based at the University of Edinburgh) provides a subscription service to the “new” and “old” Statistical Accounts. Fees are nominal (from £10 for 2 months’ access to £40 for a year’s access) and include a variety of search and other services and associated documents. In addition, Edina makes access (with fewer features) available to nonsubscribers. Internet Archive provides free full-text access. Please note, however, that the pdf version is 114.5M, so downloading the Kindle version may be more appropriate in some cases.




See also Parish Life in Eighteenth-Century Scotland: a Review of the Old Statistical Account by

Maisie Steven (Aberdeen: Scottish Cultural Press, 1996).


“Tote that bale…” Our Ancestors at Work 

Filed under: Genealogy Tips on Friday, September 7th, 2012 by Erica | No Comments

By: Carolyn L. Barkley


In honor of the Labor Day holiday (and my vacation in Scotland!), I have updated an article that appeared in this blog several years ago.


Labor Day symbolizes the end of the “carefree days” of summer. Contrary to its name, the holiday is often seen as a day of rest, a brief respite from the cares and concerns of our more complicated working lives. The provenance of the holiday is uncertain. Some believe that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, was the first to introduce the concept, but it may have been Matthew Maguire, who in 1882 served as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. (Isn’t this a typical genealogical situation: same surname with variant spellings to confuse the issue!) On September 5, 1882, the Union planned a demonstration and picnic in New York City, and the event was repeated the following year. As the Central Labor Union spread the word and other union and labor groups supported the concept, many municipal governments and state legislatures introduced legislation to recognize a “workingman’s holiday.” In 1887, Oregon was the first state to enact such a statute, and Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York soon followed suit. Over twenty-three states were already observing the holiday when the U.S. Congress passed a June 1894 act establishing the first Monday in September as a new federal holiday honoring the country’s workers.


As a genealogist, when I consider the Labor Day holiday, I think that it should be both a day to “rest” from our daily work and a day to pursue our genealogical “labor of love,” a time to research the occupations practiced by our ancestors and to consider the impact of those occupations on their lives.


U.S. federal census enumerations are the most accessible sources to identify the occupations of our ancestors. Prior to 1850, censuses recorded only aggregate labor statistics: the 1820 and 1830 censuses counted the number of persons in each family who were engaged in agriculture, commerce or manufacturing. The 1840 census expanded on these earlier statistics by counting the number of persons in mining, agriculture, commerce, manufacturing and trade, navigation, learned professions and engineering. The 1850 census once again proves to be a milestone census year for researchers as enumerators no longer indicated simply the number of people in occupational categories, but instead reported exact occupations for all males over the age of fifteen (but no information for females). By 1870, the occupation, profession or trade of every male and female, regardless of age, was enumerated, providing a more comprehensive look at occupations in the United States, as well as a first look at child labor. Subsequent censuses added further detail, including the number of months an individual was employed or unemployed during the census year. The government’s growing interest in the capacity of its workforce can be seen by tracking the labor-and occupation-related questions included in each enumeration.


City directories, social security applications, occupational directories, and often obituaries are other sources that can disclose how your ancestor spent his or her working life. Another useful source is the FamilySearch Wiki. Once at the wiki’s main page, type “occupations” into the search box for links to multiple articles on the topic.


Read every available document relating to an individual to glean clues as to an occupation. Analyze each piece of occupational information you find. These records may yield clues to differentiate between multiple individuals by the same name in the same location at the same time. You will understand the lifestyle of a specific individual and his or her family more fully. An occupation may have dictated where and under what socio-economic conditions a family lived, as well as what organizations or church the family members might have joined. Frequently, occupational choices influenced succeeding generations, strengthening ties between families by both marriage and common experience.


I have been able to identify occupational trends within family groups in my own research. One ancestor, George Duncan, came to New Haven, Connecticut, from England in the mid-1850s. He was a carriage painter. Frederick Dodd was a “coach body maker” in New Haven at the same time. Knowing Frederick’s occupation helped me document a move he and his family made to Liberty, Sullivan County, New York (and back to New Haven) in the late 1850s. George Duncan’s daughter Kate later married Frederick Dodd’s son, Frederick O. Dodd, in New Haven. Frederick O. Dodd was employed as a “coach smith.” As industry and technology progressed and coach construction and painting skills were no longer required, Frederick O. Dodd and his brother-in-law George H. Duncan both worked for American Express Baggage Service. It would appear that the Duncan and Dodd men’s occupation was the common denominator that initially brought the two families together.


Occupations such as coach body maker and carriage painter are relatively simple to understand. If you are researching in earlier time periods or in other countries, however, you will encounter occupations that appear obscure, to say the least, and the terms used will require you to use other sources to understand what your ancestor was actually doing. I have found that the Oxford English Dictionary as well as periodical articles and published lists of occupations, are often the best sources for old (and odd) occupational definitions. Do you know what a tide waiter did? a glazier? a peruker?  (customs inspector, window glassman, wigmaker, respectively) How about a snobscat? (shoe repairman). A chiffonier is not a fancy scarf, but rather a rag picker. One of my favorite obsolete occupational titles is “hamberghmaker” – not a MacDonald’s employee – but an individual who made horse collars.


I fund that standard genealogical how-to books seem to provide little information about occupational research. Cyndi’s List includes an occupations category with links to several lists of occupations and their corresponding modern terms. Specialized sites are available for countries like Germany and Russia, but the majority of sites listed are about occupations in Great Britain. I searched my library collection for “occupations” on LibraryThing and found that I owned a few titles on the topic, all published in Great Britain. Probably the most detailed is An Introduction to Occupations, a Preliminary List, by Joyce Culling (2nd ed., Federation of Family History Societies, 1999). The Family History Library catalog identified several titles, but different search strategies yielded very different results. I found some titles by searching specific occupations or trade names, others by searching occupations in a specific country. Again, Great Britain is the most frequent focus for books with an occupational or occupational/geographic focus. A subject search for “Great Britain – Occupations – Dictionaries” identified The Complete A-Z Guide to Early Occupations: a Complete Guide to 1,700 Old Trades including Job Titles and Descriptions (Genealogy Printers, 2002); I will definitely look at this book the next time I’m in Salt Lake.


These brief examples show that occupational research is an important strategy for us to use in learning more about the lives of our ancestors. Our colleagues in Great Britain clearly understand its importance and those of us doing British Isles research will find significant assistance there.


Even though Labor Day 2013 has come and gone, I hope that you will continue to think about the occupation or trade of your ancestors and consider the impact it had on both their families and yours.




Kinship: It’s All Relative 

Filed under: Genealogy Tips on Thursday, August 30th, 2012 by Erica | No Comments

By:  Carolyn L. Barkley

As a young child, I was often confused about my relatives. My grandmother (my mother’s mother) died long before I was born; my great-grandmother lived with my grandfather. Because I called her “Grandma” (and they both seemed very old in my young mind), I was startled one day to discover that they were actually mother and son. Then there were Uncle Oliver and Aunt Minnie, who turned out not to be relatives at all, but instead were close friends of my grandfather. Finally, there are my (real, not honorary) Uncle Bob’s children, who, although they are of my own generation, are the age of my son. Thank heavens I have a very small family, otherwise who knows what other puzzles might have presented themselves!

These personal examples always come to mind when I am presenting beginning genealogy lectures. Someone always asks, for example, about first versus second cousins, or the meaning of the term “removed.” For the life of me, I have consistently had difficulty explaining relationship charts and have searched for a way to clarify the topic. Jackie Smith Arnold’s Kinship: It’s All Relative, newly available in an enlarged second edition (Genealogical Publishing Co., 2012), provides the answers.

The Free Dictionary defines kinship as “1. Connection by blood, marriage, or adoption; family relationship; 2. Relationship by nature or character; affinity.”1 Echoing this definition, Arnold writes that each of us has three families and each of us will have a specific role in one or more of these family types at any given time in our lives.

  • Family of Orientation: “…the family of our parents and their relatives.”2 We have no choice in the individuals who are in this type of family (as anyone with an eccentric family member knows only too well). A family of orientation includes our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc., as well as uncles, aunts, and cousins.
  • Family of Procreation: the family we create when we marry. We exercise choice (even when it’s a poor choice) in the members of this type of family and by doing so form what will be the family of orientation for our descendants. A family of procreation includes ourselves, our spouses, and all of our descendants.
  • Family of Affinity: “The family of your spouse is your family of affinity, and the members are your in-laws.”3 Again, we have no choice (other than choosing our spouse) as to members of this type of family, but our connection may cease due to divorce or by death.

Arnold’s book provides details about a variety of topics which affect our understanding of kinship: marriage, family law, name conventions, and wills, as well as genealogical and family history research. For example, the chapter on marriage discusses marriage and the law, common-law marriages, premarital agreements, and divorce. A chart delineates the legal marriage age by state (with and without parental consent) and lists relatives who cannot marry one another; another chart provides information on which states recognize common-law marriages. It is obvious from only a quick glance that no single law applies across all states. In Connecticut, for example, both males and females must be 18 years of age to marry without parental consent (16 with consent), and the only relation an individual cannot marry is a first cousin. In Alabama, however, 14-year-olds can be married with parental consent, while the list of relations an individual may not marry includes stepparents, stepchildren, sons-in-law, and daughters-in-law. The prohibition list in the District of Columbia is even longer including step-grandparents, fathers-in-law, mothers-in-law, a grandchild’s spouse, a spouse’s grandparent or grandchild (but first cousins are apparently okay). Really? How many people actually marry their spouse’s grandparent (assuming, of course the previous death or divorce of said spouse)? I don’t want to draw that pedigree chart! Similarly, common-law marriages are allowed in some states, but not in others. It is clearly important to be aware of the law as it affects degrees of relationship.

Grasping “degree of relationship” is also vexing. Luckily, Arnold provides not only a consanguinity chart, but also provides informative explanations concerning uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews, greats and grands, and cousins, with diagrams to illustrate the several relationships. This section discusses two different types of generations. The first is a kinship generation which explains my first-cousin relationship with my Uncle Bob’s children. Our parents were siblings and thus we share a common grandparent. However, his children are in my son’s social generation (people of similar ages). Here is Arnold’s relationship clarification:

Cousins share a common grandparent, with the degree of cousin-ship dependent on how the grandparent is shared.

  • Siblings share a parent.
  • First cousins share a grandparent.
  • Second cousins share a great-grandparent.
  • Third cousins share a great-great-grandparent.
  • Fourth cousins share a great-great-great-grandparent.
  • Fifth cousins share a great-great-great-great-grandparent.4

But wait, what about the “removes?” First cousins are in the same kinship generation (share a grandparent). When first cousins (let’s call them A and B) have children (let’s call A’s child C and B ‘s child D), then child D is cousin A’s first cousin once removed, or as Arnold writes “My first cousin’s child is one kinship generation removed from our original first cousin relationship.”5 Thus my son is a first cousin once-removed of my Uncle Bob’s son. My son is one kinship generation away from the original first cousin relationship. Aha! I think I’m finally getting it…

Other chapters in Kinship: It’s All Relative treat family health history–not only with regard to hereditary diseases, but also to modern issues surrounding artificial insemination–in vitro fertilization and surrogacy. Kinship issues will continue to be important in the future as new social, legal, religious and ethical issues are considered. This edition’s new chapter on same-sex marriage discusses its effects on modern society and on our definitions of kinship, and provides a chart outlining its legal status state-by-state.

Arnold’s book is well worth reading in its entirety as it provides a number of insights that might change the way you view the concept of kinship. It provides historical, sociological, and legal information that will clarify many kinship questions that arise in the course of research. Taken as a whole, it suggests that it may not be appropriate to continue viewing genealogy as solely lineage-based. Many modern issues including not only same-sex marriage, but also adoption, domestic partnerships, civil unions, single parenting, differing methods of conception, and DNA (particularly autosomal DNA) research will have an impact on our understanding of who we are related to and how.


1 The Free Dictionary ( : accessed 28 August 2012).

2 Jackie Smith Arnold, Kinship: It’s All Relative (Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2012), 31.

3 Arnold, Kinship, 46.

4 Arnold, Kinship, 38.

5 Arnold, Kinship, 39.