Ellis Island “How To” for Educators

Recently, a US History teacher in my school asked me if I could “come up with something” to help his students determine if they had any ancestors who had arrived through Ellis Island. Since we’ve had several snow days here (actually, little snow but wind chills around -25!!) I’ve had plenty of time to put together a packet for his class showing how to find that out using only free web sites – FamilySearch.com, EllisIsland.org and Steven Morse’s One Step site (although I did mention that the local library may give access to Ancestry, which ours does.)

I thought I’d offer the packet to anyone who might find it useful as well.  It is a PDF document with clickable links as well as a family tree circle chart, blank 1940 census example and blank 1930 census example. It is designed so that it can be broken down into sections easily and I do give basic information on Bob Hope as a search subject if no family of their own came through Ellis Island.

The information in the packet is certainly not entirely from my own brain, but the layout of the packet is, so I put a copyright at the bottom with absolutely no legal knowledge on my part! Needed? I don’t know.  Illegal? I hope not!

If you just happen to be a genealogist who just happens to be a teacher who just happens to be reading my blog….enjoy!

Did Your Ancestors Come Through Ellis Island?

Confession of a flash addict

Is anyone else addicted to portable storage?

School was cancelled today, so I spent the day organizing my digital files – getting everything onto one “Master Drive”. I have a habit of putting a few files onto a portable flash drive “in case I have some free time” but then I worry that I’m going to forget something, so I copy folders with family group sheets and surname notes as well. So later, I’m unsure which files are the last to be updated, and to be safe, I don’t delete anything. And then I see a flashdrive with more storage and I have to have it and then that becomes my “just in case” drive.

Couple that with the fact that when I scan files at the library, the folder is automatically given the name “Scanwrite”. For several years, the computers at the library would not allow you to access anything other than the library web site or the scanning software, so I was always sure to write down what was in the folder – but never quite got around to renaming it because “I’m sure I won’t forget!”

Repeat this for a few years and soon, I have duplicated files out my ears and I’m never sure exactly what I have. So today, I decided to “get organized”. Step one – collect the flash drives.

Let’s see – there’s my normal genealogy flash drive and my school flash drive, which just might have a file or two collected over lunch breaks.  And wait… I used to have a blue flash drive, so where is that? I think it may be in my research backpack. When I look in the pocket, lo and behold, there’s also a flash drive that I had to purchase at the library because I accidentally left mine at home. And look! There’s also a teeny tiny flash drive that was just sooooooooo cute that I had to have it! That reminds me that somewhere, I have a flash drive that looks like a little surf board that was an AWESOME deal for 10 whole gigs! I know where that one is stored and when I get that, I also see my old iPod that I used for storage for quite awhile as well. Which reminds me of my very first external drive – what files might be on there?

So bottom line – I’ve been transferring files all day. I have a 1 terabyte drive that I’ve copied everything onto – well, only files for my Mom’s side of the family. And only files that were not created by me, such as family group sheets or timelines or notes. Six flash drives, 1 iPod, 1 older external drive and files on my laptop have been combined into one location. As I copied to my external, I deleted from the device I was working with.  If I had already copied something from a previous device, I deleted it from the the remaining drives.

I’ve placed everything into folders by county name. There are some additional folders for photos, maps, military histories and educational information I’ve collected. Each county has folders for cemetery records/images,  land records, tax records and census records. But the files in my county folders are still named really creatively – like Scan 01, Scan 02, etc. How many of these files might be duplicates? That is what I’ll be working on next. As I have time, I’ll be working on renaming the files and making a list of what I’ve already scanned – to make sure I don’t duplicate things again!

Of course, my external drive isn’t nearly as easy to take along as a flash drive, so as I get things renamed, I’ll want to put everything onto one “Master flash”.

And luckily for me – I have an awesome 32 gig flash drive still in the package that I got at a great after Christmas sale!

Snow!

Well, I was steaming along quite nicely with my research until the holiday pack up caught up with me and the snow hit! Have only been out of the house once since Saturday (grocery shelves are almost as bare as our kitchen pantry!) – although I may venture to the library today. Roads are still dicey – all schools have canceled – so we’ll have to see how lucky I’m feeling after lunch.

But I’ll be using this opportunity to organize files on my laptop as well as in my “genealogy cave”. Hope to get back on the Welcome Stephens research train soon!

When the shoe won’t fit – part 3 (Census)

I am trying to narrow down the dates of birth for the children of Welcome Stephens.

My original list of children looked like this:

Elizabeth

1794

John

1797

Dudley

1797

Joshua

1800

Andrew

1801

Polly “Mary”

1807

Thomas

1810

William

1813

Sherwood

1815

Lettie

1816

After looking at Welcome’s will, I adjusted the list of children to:

  • Dudley
  • Joshua
  • Andrew
  • Sherwood
  • Elizabeth
  • Polly
  • William
  • John Bailey (not a child, but listed in the will and could be a clue to Welcome’s wife)

Now I am ready to look for information in the 1840 and 1850 census records.

Dudley – my original d.o.b. was 1797 and that came from the 1850 census where Dudley was listed as 53 years old. I know he couldn’t have been born before 1800, so taking a look at the 1840 and 1830 census helps me to narrow this down a bit. In both census records, Dudley was listed as being between 30 and 39. So if he was on the younger end for the 1830 census and the older end for the 1840 census, I would put his d.o.b. around 1800.

Joshua – Joshua is a bit of a mystery. The first census record I can find for him that I feel confident is the correct record is in 1860 when he is found living with John Bailey’s family! (John Bailey married Andrew Stephens’ daughter – Martha “Patsy”) In 1860, Joshua is listed as 49 years old, giving him a d.o.b. around 1811 – much younger than I expected! At the same time, I see that John Bailey is listed as 37 years old, giving him a d.o.b. around 1823. He would have been 17 years old when Welcome passed away.

Andrew – 1850 census, 50 years old – 1840 census age 30-39. I’m going to put a potential d.o.b. at 1801 because I believe Dudley was the oldest.

Sherwood – 1850 census, 34 years old – 1816 d.o.b. This seems a bit young compared to the others, but in the 1820 census, Welcome had 2 males under 10 and that could have been Joshua and Sherwood, so it’s not out of the question.

Elizabeth – I have found zero records for John Ard. ZERO! So the only thing I have to make a guess on would be the marriage record. Elizabeth was married in 1822 and was listed as the daughter of Welcome Stephens – making me think she was young enough to need her father’s permission to marry. In the 1820 census, Welcome had one daughter under 10 and one daughter between 10 and 15. If Elizabeth was 15 in 1820, she would have been 17 when she married in 1822. This would make her d.o.b. around 1805.

Polly – Polly’s 1850 census indicates that she was born around 1810. She had a 19 year old daughter who would have been born when Polly was about 21, so that d.o.b. fits.

William – The 1850 and 1860 both put William’s d.o.b. around 1807.

Name

My original d.o.b.

Updated d.o.b. based on census records

Dudley

1797

1800

Andrew

1801

1801

Elizabeth

1794

1805

William

1813

1807

Polly

1807

1810

Joshua

1800

1811

Sherwood

1815

1816

John Bailey

?

1823

The first thing that I notice now is that there is a 10 year difference between my original notes and my new dates for Elizabeth and Joshua. That could make a significant difference when looking for potential records!

So do these new dates line up with the older census records for Welcome’s family?

1810 Buncombe Co, NC

1810 Buncombe Co, NC

Based on these dates, in 1810, Welcome should have 4 or 5 children – 3 boys and 1 or 2 girls. Checking the records, I see that Welcome has 3 boys under 10 (check!) and 2 females under 10 (check!). (I also notice an additional, older woman – perhaps a mother or mother-in-law?)

1820 Adair Co KY cropped

1820 Adair Co census

In 1820, Welcome should have around 7 children – 5 boys and 2 girls. Checking the records, I see that Welcome has 2 boys under 10 (Sherwood and Joshua), 1 boy 10-15 (William), 2 boys 16-18 (Andrew and Dudley)[the 2nd 2 is males between 16 and 25, which would be the same 2 boys], 1 girl under 10 (Polly) and 1 girl between 10 and 15 (Elizabeth). This looks good EXCEPT – Dudley was married in 1818, so he would not have been living with Welcome. Or if he was, there should also be an extra female. (The Dudley listed above Welcome was his older brother.) So who is the “extra” male? If my “new” dates are correct, he certainly wasn’t in the 1810 census. The other  new piece of information in the 1820 census was that there was no wife, so now I have a potential date of death for “Nancy #1”.

I’m pretty happy with these numbers, but it does give me more questions. My next step will be to take a look at tax records to see if those give me additional clues.

When the shoe won’t fit – part 2 (The Will)

I’m trying to narrow down the dates of birth for the children of Welcome Stephens.

I will begin with Welcome’s death. Welcome died in 1840 – before any census records listed all family members. So I will look to see who was listed in the will and what I can discover in the estate settlement.

I Welcome Stephens Russell County and State of Kentucky do hereby make my last Will and Testament in manner & form following that is to say

1st I desire that my blacksmith tools shall be sold immediately after my decease and out of the monies from all my just debts and funeral expenses be paid.

2nd after the payment of all my just debts and funeral expenses I give to my beloved wife Nancy Stephens one bed and furniture and for her to give the same to who she pleases at her death and shall have her support in manner hereafter mentioned only she shall have the use of my farm or so much of them she needs for her and John Baily and the kitchen furniture

3rd I give unto my son Dudley Stephens all the ridge tract of land including the Racoon Springs and the tract on which he now lives included in the deed to me from Thomas Wilson so high up the creek as to take square across the bottom at the lick at the upper end of the old field, to him and his heirs forever also my clock and my five dogs.

4th I give to my son Andrew Stephens the tract of land where he now lives containing one hundred acres more or less to him and his heirs forever.

5th I give to my son Joshua Stephens the home tract of land that is including where I now live and the place where he settled at the Lisha[?] place only he shall contribute to my wife before mentioned a reasonable support in the following manner, she shall have choice houses on the land for own self to live in and as much ground as she can tend herself during her life or her widowhood and my sons Dudley Stephens and Joshua Stephens shall contribute to her what she lacks of making in manner before mentioned.

6th I give to my son Sherwood Stephens the tract of land where he now lives to him his lifetime and to his heirs forever also my bureau

7th as far as John Ard and the children he had by Elizabeth his first wife my daughter I have given them all that I intend for them to have

8th, all the rest of my estate both real and personal of what nature or kind so-ever it may be not herein before mentioned and disposed of I desire that it may be equally divided all my children only I want John Baily to have my young mare when he is 21 years old or one that is as good as she makes when he is 21 years of age provided that he continues to conduct himself as well as he has done heretofore and lives at home as he has always done until he is free.

And lastly I hereby appoint Dudley Stephens and Joshua Stephens Executors to this my last will and testament in witness whereof I do hereby set my hand and affix my s—[?; remainder of word obliterated] the 14th day of July 1840.

First in the will, he mentions his wife, Nancy. I “know” (information from other people) that Welcome married Nancy Bailey and there is a John Bailey mentioned in the will, so this makes sense to me – perhaps a younger brother.  However, Welcome is a fairly uncommon name (unlike William and John which I have in the dozens!) so I have also noticed that Welcome Stephens married Nancy Stephens in 1830 – long after his children were born.

Marriage of Welcome and Nancy Stephens

Marriage of Welcome and Nancy Stephens

I have to assume that this is NOT Nancy Bailey, but a 2nd marriage. Based on that marriage record, I believe that Nancy Bailey died before 1830. I do not know if the Nancy Stephens that he married had been previously married and therefore has a different maiden name or not.

OR – I can continue the plan of accepting no information other than what I can find myself and then believe that Welcome’s first wife is unknown and the Nancy he married in 1830 WAS Nancy Bailey and John Bailey was HER son from another marriage. The only problem with this is that the marriage record clearly says “Nancy Stephens”. Could the recorder have accidentally written Welcome’s last name for both individuals? No way to prove that so I will add John Bailey to my “group sheet” to see what information I can find for him as he is my best clue for Nancy Bailey – whether she was Welcome’s first or second wife.

The children specifically mentioned in the will were:

  • Dudley – because he is listed first and was a co-administrator of the will, I’ll assume that he is the oldest child.
  • Andrew – assuming he is 2nd oldest
  • Joshua – 3rd oldest – however, he is also a co-administrator of the will – does this mean he might be the 2nd oldest? More clues needed.
  • Sherwood – 4th oldest
  • Elizabeth – Welcome states that his daughter is deceased and that his son-in-law and grandchildren have been given all he intends to give to them. I do not feel that having her listed at the end is an indication of birth order, but that he takes care of his living children first.
  • John Bailey – not specifically mentioned as a child, but Nancy is given “use of my farm as she needs for her and John Bailey” and he is to be given a mare “when he turns 21”.
  • The rest of the estate is to be disposed of and divided equally among “all my children”.

When the estate was settled, 2 more names come to light. Polly Stephens, who agrees with those mentioned above to sell the property to the highest bidder and to give an equal share to William Stephens. William was living in Mississippi or Alabama at this time, so that explains why they mentioned giving him his equal share. From my original list, 3 individuals are missing – John, Thomas and Lettie.  I will have to think about these individuals later.

So my “new” list of children becomes:

  • Dudley
  • Joshua
  • Andrew
  • Sherwood
  • Elizabeth
  • Polly
  • William
  • John Bailey

My next step will be to see what I can determine about each of these children in the 1840 and 1850 censuses.

When the shoe won’t fit!

When you begin gathering family history information for the first time, it’s exciting to find information in a book about your family. It’s almost like discovering you’re famous!

I have a group sheet for Welcome Stephens that I created years and years ago. I believe the information that was the basis for this group sheet came from a Russell County History book in which individuals can submit family information and from people who submitted trees on Ancestry.com. I have approximate dates of birth and to be honest; I have no idea where some of this information came from. So after this oh-so-newbie beginning, I have 10 children for Welcome Stephens and his wife, Nancy, with dates of birth ranging from 1794 to 1816.

Elizabeth

1794

John

1797

Dudley

1797

Joshua

1800

Andrew

1801

Polly “Mary”

1807

Thomas

1810

William

1813

Sherwood

1815

Lettie

1816

I have used that information as the jumping off point for both directions – ancestors AND descendants of Welcome Stephens. But as I spend this holiday season updating notes, I just can’t make some of this information fit. And if I’m searching for individuals many years older or younger than their actually age, I may be missing valuable records.

In the 1800 census, Welcome’s household only had 2 people – a male and a female, each between the ages of 16 and 25.  Based on my group sheet, there should be 3 or 4 children by this time, which makes me see that this information cannot be accurate. I understand that census takers sometimes got their information from neighbors, but there were a total of 4 Stephens’s families living in the area at the time and I find it hard to believe that a stranger would know that there was a man and a woman living at a location, but fail to notice 4 kids!

So what if I was starting totally from scratch with no “outside” information?  What would I have in my group sheet? For years, I’ve been collecting documents from any Stephens name I could find – time to be a detective with the documents I have by looking at them with a fresh eye.

Next Time: Welcome’s Will

Fantastic Book!

This week, I purchased the digital e-book, “Online State Resources for Genealogy” by Michael Hait. It is an incredible book that that not only gives a goldmine of websites with genealogy information for every state, but also makes every listing a clickable link to take you directly to the page.

Here’s what I love the most about the book – I visit the State Archives or State Library sites for many states while doing my research, but Michael’s book gives a link to each individual record set available on that site! Sometimes, a state site is less than user-friendly and if I enter a surname, I may get pages of results that are difficult to evaluate as far as potential value of information. Often, I am not able to find a list of databases contained on the site, but this book lists them all!

With Michael’s book, every entry has a paragraph with a description of the information contained in the database including the dates covered.  Not only can I rule out sites in date ranges that don’t apply to my ancestors, but I can see exactly what type of information might be on a site so that I can do some pre-research on what information I have and what information I need so that I can use my time effectively.

Not only are the State Archives and Library sites included, but also many other libraries, historical and county sites and their databases as well.

In the short time that I have had this book, I have been able to look through indexes or actual images of records for counties that my ancestor spent such a short amount of time in, that I would not be likely to pay for films from the FHL. With one link, I was able to see tax records for years that aren’t included on any FHL film, helping me to look for family members and associates to prove a hypothesis for the birth location of an ancestor in 1836.

I downloaded the 1140 page book as a PDF file and as I do my research, I can highlight databases that I have searched and include a comment telling exactly what I searched for and the results of that search.  I can indicate links that I’d like to go back to spend more time with as well as  questions that I have after finding new information.

And while my research tends to focus around 1 surname at a time for long periods of time, I know that this book will be a huge value for me when I change gears to another family or when I am asked to do a “quick search” for information for a friend.

Bottom line: I think this book would make a great gift for any genealogist!

Lovin’ the Form!

Tags

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Collaboration! That’s where it’s at when it comes to genealogy research. Finding “cuzzins” and exchanging information – that’s the goal!

Whenever I partner with another researcher, I’m never certain what records they might have access to. Do I need to order a microfilm or does one of my research partners already have access to it? Does a cousin know about a resource that I’ve never even thought of looking for?

I’ve often thought that it would be great to be able to share a database of resources.  I’d love to create a database, relevant to my family line, of all possible resources to help in my research and who has access to them, but to make it really worthwhile, I need to take several things into account.

  1. This needs to be easy – even for those who aren’t comfortable with technology.
  2. This needs to be compatible with PC, Mac, iPad, etc.
  3. There needs to be a way to make sure that everyone is collecting the same information.
  4. There needs to be a way to make all results available to everyone so that everyone reaps the benefits and is motivated to contribute.
  5. I would like to make this available to people that I haven’t even met yet to try to make new family connections.
  6. I would like for this to be a true collaboration tool which means that it should be possible to makes comments and ask questions within the document.

My solution? A Google Form that automatically enters information into a sharable spreadsheet.

I think the Google Form is the easiest answer for #1-3 above. I think that making the Form and Spreadsheet available through my blog may be the answer to #4-6.  So I’m including the form below, but I’m also adding a tab at the top of this blog so that Stephens Researchers can quickly access the form and the spreadsheet without having to look for this specific post.

Am I concerned that this will turn into more work than I’m looking for? yes.

Am I worried that somehow, there will be a negative side to this that I haven’t thought of yet? yes.

Am I worried that the “Build it and they will come” philosophy will be a total bust for this? yes.

Am I going to give it a try anyway? yes.

If you are researching the same Stephens family that I am (Welcome Stephens, Dudley Stephens, Rev. William Stephens, etc) then I would love to hear from you!

The Open-Minded Genealogist?

Sometimes, a genealogist has a branch on the tree that has been researched for years and years by other genealogists. Family histories are published. Trees are uploaded to Ancestry – some are sourced, many are not. Those trees are copied an exponential number of times to other trees. So when a beginning genealogist begins their research, there seems to be an overwhelming amount of evidence to be gleefully accepted as fact.

Then, after creating a timeline for your ancestors, there is a question about how the jump to a previous generations was proven. With a 40 year gap in the records, why does everyone believe this is the correct mother and father? How do you know that this name in the new county is the correct father? There is no marriage record to be found (well, it WAS 250 years ago, so you might think that’s not unusual), so how was the mother connected to the father? Certainly, you think, someone has proven it because it’s on the internet and in books and in newsletters. Someone has a genealogy written out by an earlier ancestor – and everything else has been proven, how could this be wrong? Is research that was done “B.I.” (before the internet) more accurate than research we can do now?

So when another researcher comes along with a totally new idea – what do you do? Ignore it and continue looking for that “missing link” document? The one that makes the connection everyone has been claiming? Or do you set aside what you’ve always believed – the line that you’ve researched for years – the line that everyone else says is true? Are you open-minded enough to try to prove this new potential line? There is an emotional attachment to people you’ve been researching for so long. Is it betrayal to put those “ancestors” in a drawer?

The new information is well documented, but in a round about way – not through your direct line. There is still no document that directly links your ancestor to the generation before, but if you are willing to believe that the most common-sense approach is to believe that neighbors were brothers who witnessed documents for one another and became surety for one another, THEN you can begin to think this new line is more believable that the line you’ve always known.

What would be the negative side to “switching lines”? People who have shared information with you in the past might write you off as someone who is trying to stir up controversy. Or, in a couple of years, you might realize that this new line cannot be right and you’ve “wasted” years of research time. Notes and databases become a mess while making “the switch”. Will it be worth it?

I think that today, I am prepared to take the leap – to make the switch – to be open-minded to the idea that someone else’s research might be a better path to follow. I’m ready to take the “road less traveled” to see where it takes me.

Pulling out the magnifying glass!

Ahhhh….details!

I’ve been focusing on finding tax records for Polly Stephens. When did she appear in Russell County and who was she listed near? Can I determine the family groups and find out when migration to other counties began?

So I’ve been going through the microfilms and scanning appropriate documents. Not the most exciting information on a tax record…numbers for acres of land (she had none), cattle (she had 2), mules (none), carriages (none), children….wait, what? Does that word really say “children”? Why yes it does! Why do they care about the number of children on a tax record? What else do those teeny tiny words say?

Well, in 1838, it’s handwritten and it says “Male children”, “Females” and “Total”. Hmm…Polly has 1 female child.

So, what do I know about Polly’s children?  In the 1850 census, Polly (Mary) is listed with 3 children: Elizabeth – born @1830, Lucy – born in 1842 and Andy – born @1844. Other than the 1838 tax list that I found, each year asks for the number of children between certain ages.  For example:

  • beginning in 1840, the list asks for the number of children between 7 & 17.
  • In 1844, this changed to the number of children between 5 & 16.
  • In 1853, it asks for the number of children between 6 & 18.

All of the information that I see for Polly matches well – EXCEPT for an unaccounted for child. From the years 1840-1845, Polly indicates that she has 2 children of the correct ages. Assuming that Elizabeth is one of these children, she would be 10 years old in 1840, but neither of the other children would have been born yet. Even if the birth dates that I have are off by a couple of years, Lucy would not be any where near 7 years old by 1840. I suppose this extra child might not have been her own child, but I’ve never seen anything indicating that Polly had the resources to care for extra children. In fact, I’m not convinced that Polly lived on her own around this time. The tax records indicate that she owned nothing other than a couple of cows.

So this brings 2 questions to mind. What records can I find that might help me find this child? How can I find out what happened to him/her? If the information in the tax listings is accurate, than this child was born between 1829 and 1831. If the child was born in 1829, they would have been 17 in 1846, a year in which I cannot find Polly in the tax list. A 17 year old is old enough to get married, so perhaps I can find a marriage record to give me a hint. If the child was born in 1831, they would have been 17 years old in 1848, the year in which Polly indicates that she has 1 child between 5 & 16. The child could still be living with Polly, but not show up in the tax count. By 1850, the child is not living with Polly, so I will look at potential marriages between 1846 and 1850.

Up until now, I’ve just gathered tax records as a way of keeping track where an ancestor was living. But now, I’ll be using my magnifying glass and will examine those records more closely!

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