Genealogy, Civil War, Lost relatives

Genealogy Isn’t Just Finding Dead People

Editor’s Note: The following post about how to find your relatives, including how to determine whether they’re alive or dead, and if they’re alive how you might find someone who appears to be “lost,” is by Denise R. Larson. This article appeared in the 12/30/2014 issue of “Genealogy Pointers.”

Genealogy is usually a vertical construct with ascending or descending generations, which uses the imagery of a soaring, multi-branched tree and its deep roots to visualize how a family has grown, spread, and at times intertwined through many generations.

There are a couple of new uses of genealogical methods that are horizontal in their approach to finding family members. One looks to the past to help adoptees find their birth parents. The other looks to the future to find lost or out-of-touch family members who can mentor a youth transitioning from foster care to adulthood.

Both types of looking-for-the-living searches use a variety of resources: hard-copy guides, directories, and documents; online databases; and personal contact over the phone and in person.

Not sure if someone is still in the land of the living?

If you already have the name of the person you’re looking for but are not sure if the person is still alive, go ahead and do an online search of the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), which was started in 1936 for persons born in 1865 or later. Several websites offer free access to the SSDI database. They can be found by doing a Google search for “Social Security Death Index.” If the person is located, then it’s time to order a copy of the Application for a Social Security Number (SS-5) to obtain all the personal information provided at the time of the application. As the Social Security Administration states on its website, www.socialsecurity.gov, “A deceased person does not have any privacy rights.” The application can be a gold mine of names, dates, and leads as to where to look next for living relatives. Continue reading…

genealogy books, Collegiate records

Must Have Genealogy Books for Your Reference Collection

Editor’s Note: Following is a revised and updated post containing the recommendations and personal opinions of the late Carolyn L. Barkley. Her experience as a librarian gave her unique insight into which genealogy books should be a go-to for both amateur and professional Genealogists as research tools, and we wish to preserve that expertise.

As a retired public librarian, I am a firm believer in the use of public libraries (in fact, all types of libraries). In addition, I realize that more and more how-to resources are available online. However, there are basic tools for research that you need to have at hand in your home library, books that you can reach easily from your computer chair. These are the titles that you refer to over and over again, no matter the time of day, or whether your DSL connection has disappeared yet again (I live in the mountains and for some reason this happens all too frequently!).

I started writing this post with a specific number of books in mind; top 6 then top 10, then top way-too-many. What appears, then, is very selective and definitely personal. I recommend these titles both for your home collection, as well as for your local library’s collections of genealogy books.

Methodology / Best Practices

Mills, Elizabeth Shown, ed. Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians. Do not be scared away by the title! I’ve seen this happen in the GPC booth at conferences. This book is for everyone from family historians to professional researchers. With articles written by experts in the field, it describes best practices, defines quality, and offers each of us the opportunity to advance our skills and enrich our research. Topics include lineage papers, proofreading and indexing, family histories, abstracting, evidence analysis, writing research reports, copyright, execution of contracts, and more. Various sections will apply at different times in our research lives, but the aggregation of this knowledge is essential to have available.

Citing Your Sources / Writing

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace.

This book is the definitive guide to the citation and analysis of historical sources. The mark of good research is the richness of the documentation. The mark of a good researcher is the quality of the citations provided as part of a research report, periodical article, newsletter article, compiled genealogy, etc. These skills need to be learned from the inception of our research and this book is the best available, discussing source citations for every known class of records, including microfilm, microfiche, and records created by digital media. I recommend this book as one that needs to be within easy reach of your desk. You may want to consider putting its predecessor (and lighter weight!) Evidence (2007, © 1997) in your briefcase when you travel to do research. Continue reading…

merchant marines cadet corps

Researching Merchant Marine Records

Editor’s Note: The following is a lightly revised and updated post originally written by the late Carolyn L. Barkley on how to research Merchant Marines that may be part of your family’s history. As Ms. Barkley originally mused, her own curiosity led her to research more about the individuals, ships and records available for those in this career.

Merchant marines have played an important role in American history. Without their efforts and sacrifices, the outcome of many of our armed conflicts would have been quite different. If you believe that there was a merchant mariner in your family, a little research effort will reward you with a new understanding of the life experiences of that individual.Merchant Marine

Historical information is often located (thanks to the power of the Google search engine) in unexpected sources, and I found one of the best historical overviews of the history of the merchant marine on a site dedicated to mesothelioma, a form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. (Further reading dispelled any sense that this combination of topics was coincidental. During the modern military period, exposure to military materiel and construction exposed civilian and military personnel to high concentrations of asbestos, making mesothelioma a significant medical risk.)

In summary, the historical article outlined events that shaped the merchant marine, beginning with the dependence of the American colonies on the shipment of commercial goods back and forth between colonial and European ports. As the colonies gravitated toward war, so did merchant shipping, and these ships were loosely designated as the “merchant marine.” One seminal event was the June 1775 seizure of the HMS Margaretta by citizens in Machias, Maine, thus preventing its shipment of lumber to Boston for British barracks construction. This action, then, anticipated the formation of both the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy. Beginning with the Revolutionary War, merchant ships and their crews would become crucial for all American war efforts, ferrying supplies and troops to depots and ports where they were most needed. Early on, the relationship between merchant mariners and their government was on an “as-needed” basis, with letters of marquee granted to privateers and other citizen ship owners engaging them to sail with cargo as agents of the government. No official formation of a merchant marine service occurred, however, until the 1920s. Continue reading…

Lineage Societies, DAR

Membership in Lineage Societies

Editor’s Note: Nancy Mahone Miller is the author of this post on lineage society membership, which originally appeared in 2011. Ms. Nancy Mahone Miller is the Collection Development Librarian for the Local History/Genealogy collection at Virginia Beach Public Library, Virginia Beach, Virginia. She is a past chapter regent of the Lynnhaven Parish Chapter, DAR (Virginia Beach) and a long-time DAR member who has mentored many prospective applicants through the process. She has established nine Revolutionary Patriots in her ancestry and at the time of this writing, had two more pending approval.

Pursuing the goal of lineage society membership often provides the impetus for seriously delving into one’s ancestry. To join a lineage society, a researcher must prove descent from a specific ancestor. The qualifications are usually based on a strict variety of credentials. For example, the prospective member must have an ancestor that arrived on a specific passenger ship such as the Mayflower, possess an early ancestor in a specific geographic area (e.g., Minnesota Territorial Pioneers), have a precise ethnic or religious background such as Huguenot, or relationship to a President of the United States (Presidential Families of America). The common thread in all lineage societies is that the members must document ancestry to a person who fits the organization’s criteria. Most societies, moreover, require sponsorship for membership by another member. Almost endless possibilities exist for membership in such a group.

Joining a lineage society affords the member a number of advantages, including the opportunity to connect with other genealogists who share a common interest and access to the organization’s library and/or membership records – or it simply may provide a way to meet some new cousins. Continue reading…

"Family History" — by Robert Kehlmann (2008). Genealogical Society Family History Writing Contest.

Oklahoma Genealogical Society “2015 Family History Story Writing Contest”

The Oklahoma Genealogical Society will be accepting entries for its “2015 Family History Story Writing Contest” beginning January 1, 2015 through March 1, 2015. Society membership is not required to enter, and there is no entry fee. This contest caught our eye due to rule number four, which mentions that citations must conform to the standards outlined by one of Genealogical.com’s noted authors, Elizabeth Shown Mills.

The rules are as follows, posted from Sharon Burns on The Oklahoman’s website:

1.Submissions may be made electronically or by hard copy through the mail. Stories must be typed in a standard font and double-spaced on one side of standard letter-size paper. Entries must be less than 2,500 words, not including attached documents.

2.Story title and page number must be shown on each page; name should not be included on any pages of the story. All entries will remain anonymous when judges are reviewing them.

3.The entry form must include the story title, author name, author’s mailing address, email address and phone, and approximate word count. As the entry form will be used to notify the winners, ensure contact information is up-to-date.

4.Please indicate that you have researched the events by citing your sources as endnotes. Source citations must conform to the guidelines in “Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace,” Elizabeth Shown Mills, editor (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 2009).

5.Family group sheets and pedigree charts may be included if pertinent.

6.Stories must be original and unpublished at time of entry. By submitting your story, you are giving the society permission to publish your story.

7.More information and a downloadable entry form can be found on the Oklahoma Genealogical Society website www.okgensoc.org.

For the complete rules for this contest, go to www.okgensoc.org/storywriting-contest.htm or address questions to contest chairperson Denise Slattery at editor@okgensoc.org.

Good luck to any of our readers who enter! If you choose to enter, please let us know.

Image Credit: “Family History” — by Robert Kehlmann (2008). This image is of an original work by the artist in Sandblasted hand-blown glass, mixed media.By Rkehlmann (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.