Saturday, June 28, 2008

Poll Results!

The results are in, and the poll is now closed. The question for this poll was, "Are you new to genealogy?" I created the poll with the thought that maybe posting some basic how-to on genealogy would be beneficial to those of my readers who might have been new to genealogy. Nine people voted, and the results are:
  • Yes - 0 votes
  • No - 9 votes

I guess it would not be worthwhile for me to post articles on the basics of genealogy. To those who voted, thank you for voting.

Genealogy and History Thoughts Column 15 - Dealing With the Ugly Side of History: Slavery in the United States

Earlier today, I posted a link to an article on one family's discovery of their involvement in the slave trade, and afterwards, Thomas asked me what my thoughts were about this article and its affects on genealogy research. To be honest, this is a difficult topic to write about, and I'm not sure I can write a post that does justice to this topic. I will try my best, though.

Do I believe a discovery like the one the family made above would deter or stop people from doing genealogy? Maybe. I think it depends upon whether or not the genealogists in question were prepared to expect to find ugly family secrets. Even though I have no clue how many people might be scared away from doing their genealogy, my guess is that the number would be fairly small. (Of course, I could always be wrong.)

To be honest, I think if I found a dark family secret, it would still come as a shock to me even though I know I might uncover something ugly in my family's past. I have not uncovered any slave-owning ancestors yet, but I am not going to be presumptuous and claim that I do not have any ancestors who were. I might still uncover an ancestor who was a slave-owner.

If I find a slave-owning ancestor, what will I do? To be honest, I do not know what I would do, and I guess I will not know unless I come upon this situation. But, I think the best solution would be to be honest about my family's past. It probably would be difficult to admit, but I do not believe hiding or white-washing my family's past would be a good decision. History is full of incidences where humans have behaved ugly or done horrible things to other humans, and it does not do anyone any good to try to hide the past.

An Article On A Family Secret ...

A couple of days ago, Thomas wrote about a documentary that he watched on one family's role in the slave trade. Well, I just happened to find a brief article on the family today from the History News Network. You can read the article here.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Looking For My German Ancestors: My Research Experiences - Part 1 ...

I did write an earlier post about researching German ancestors for a previous edition of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy, but it was a fairly brief post. Plus, I wrote the post in terms of generalities. I did not go into detail about my experiences. So, how did I start?

Since my known German ancestors are on my paternal side, I first started out by talking to my paternal grandparents about my ancestors. (Well, actually one is supposed to do that anyway, regardless of ethnic background, but I digress.) From my grandma, I was able to learn the names of her grandparents and the names of two of her grandma's brothers. With that information, I was able to do searches in the censuses, and find the rest of the family. Of course, it also helped that my grandma had a family tree of one of her lines as well. Even though I had that family tree, I still verified the information that was on the tree, and I am glad I did so, as I found several errors on it, especially the portion of the family tree where one of the generations in the U.S was concerned.

After searching for my ancestors in the censuses, the next step for me was to start research in Michigan's vital records. Since I found my ancestors living in Saginaw and Bay counties in the censuses, I decided to start looking for records in those counties. Up at the county buildings for both counties, I was able to find marriage and death records for a few of my ancestors and their siblings. Of course, I did not find all the records that I had hoped to find, and I am still looking for records on my ancestors in this country. In another post, I will post more specifically on records that I collected and still collecting on my ancestors. Stay tuned ...

Finally ... I Got It Posted!

I finally got the Genealogy and History Thoughts Column 14 posted! I had been working on it for a while, and I have finally got it done. You can read it here. Enjoy!

12th Shades Of The Departed Guest Column Posted!

The 12th Shades Of the Departed guest column has been posted! The author of this week's column is Miriam, and you can read it here. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Probable Ancestor: The Independent and Spirited Christoph Friedrich Cotta

Is he my ancestor? Well, I say probably because all the sources that list him as the father of my ancestor are secondary sources. I don't have any primary sources, yet, to back up the claim. (The microfilm that I am waiting for might have a primary source document connecting him to my ancestor.) I don't know much about him, except from the few secondary sources I have read. One of those secondary sources happens to be a family tree.

This family tree, though, only has a brief paragraph on him, and that paragraph is in German:

"Chr. Friedr. Cotta, Dr. Jr., geb. 1758 in Tuebingen (cross symbol) 1838 in Trippstadt, Pfalz; einst franzos. Praefekt von Strassurg, Bezirksrichter von Weissenberg u. Landau; getr. 1796 mit Sara Stamm, Weinhaendler's Tochter, geb. 1771 in Strassburg, (cross symbol) 180? in Weissenburg."

According to this paragraph, Christoph Friedrich was born in 1758 in Tuebingen, Germany, and that he died in Trippstadt, Palatinate, Germany. It also states that he held the public offices of Perfect in Strasbourg, France and judge of the district court in Weissenberg and Landau, Germany, and that he married Sara Stamm in 1796. The family tree also lists his children as Emil and Amelie Cotta, and that Amelie married Adolph Kees. (Amelie and Adolph Kees are my ancestors according to not only the family tree but also the marriage record of their daughter, Emilia.)

Of course that paragraph does not tell me much about him. From another secondary source that I, it appears that he was a revolutionary in the area of present-day Germany during the French Revolution. Although I don't know yet what his exact role was, it appears that he was a part of the leadership of the Mainz Republic. (I'll have to do some more research about the Mainz Republic, and I'll probably post another article on the French Revolution.) The Mainz Republic, though, did not last very long, and Christoph apparently fled to Strasbourg. I don't know much more about what he did during the French Revolution, and I'll have to do more research. Of course, I consider him to be an independent spirit because of his ideological beliefs and the role he played in the French Revolution, even if it turns out to be a minor role.

  1. Cotta Family Tree, printed ca. 1930s-1940s (according to family tradition. Family tradition also claims that only five copies were made.)

  2. Haas, Heinrich. Geminde Trippstadt: Ihre Buerger von 1666 bis 1890.
  3. "Marriage record of Friedrich Klippel and Emilia Catherina Charlotta." Heiraten 1840-1875. Zivilstandregister, 1803-1957, (Trippstadt, Germany). FHL Film INTL 489217.
  4. Wangermann, Ernest. The English Historical Review. (April 1991) 106:419. 404-406. JSTOR.

So, What Do You Think? Please Advise ...

I'm writing this post with the hope that some of the more experience genealogists will be able to advise me or give a suggestion. The problem I am trying to solve is outlined below:

Although I have written about my Civil War ancestor, Adam Oswalt, before, the posts have always been fairly brief. For this post, though, I plan to write up a little bit on him and his possible siblings. I am hoping that more experienced genealogists will either be able to confirm for me that I am right in my analysis or what I should do to make links. So, here is where I am at: I'm trying to figure out if Adam had brothers named William and Benjamin. I have circumstantial evidence that suggests that they are, but I don't have actual documents yet that confirm this link. What I do have, though, are a death certificate, a Civil War pension file, a couple of marriage records, and some census records that imply a relationship.

I think I'll start with the death certificate and Civil War pension file. On Adam's death certificate, his parents are listed as Benjamin Oswalt and Mary Rough, and his birthplace is given as Pennsylvania. From Adam's Civil War pension file, I learned that he was born in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. He did mention that his parents were illiterate, but unfortunately, he did not name them. Of course, when I did a census search for Huntingdon County, I was able to find Benjamin and Mary Oswalt. (They were the only Benjamin and Mary Oswalt couple in the county. Sometimes their surname is spelled Oswald.) For the 1850 census, the children listed in the household were: Solomon, William, Margaret, Benjamin and Nancy. The only problem was that Adam was not listed in this census. Nor could I find him in the 1860 census. In fact, I could not find Adam in the censuses until the 1870 census, and by that time, he was already living in Three Rivers, Michigan. (The only census that suggests he was living in Benjamin and Mary's home was the 1840 census, but as most genealogists know, the 1840 census only lists the name of the head of the household.)

To make things even more interesting, in the 1860 census, I found a Solomon and William Oswald living in Saint Joseph County, Michigan, although they were living in different households. William Oswald, though, was living with a Daniel and Margaret Black. Originally I did not know Margaret's maiden name was Oswalt until I just happened to find the marriage record for her second marriage. When she married David Elsey, she listed her parents as Benjamin and Mary Robb. Outside of having William living in Daniel and Margaret's household, the significance might not be much, except that when Benjamin Oswalt married Elizabeth Freelove, Daniel Black was listed as one of the witnesses, suggesting a family relationship.

Up until I found Margaret's second marriage, I really did not have anything to connect Adam to William and Benjamin other than the fact that they lived at some point in the same county. And I only had a land record where Adam sold some land, that listed an Elizabeth Oswalt as a witness. (Benjamin had married an Elizabeth Freelove, and William had married an Eliza Mosier. I suspect that the Elizabeth listed might have been Benjamin's wife. Although I don't have the marriage record yet for William and Eliza, I do know what her maiden name is from her second marriage record.) Of course, outside of those two records, I don't have much to connect them to Adam, and to make things worse, both William and Benjamin's death records list the names of their parents as unknown. I have not yet checked William or Benjamin's pension files, so I might find a connection still.

As for searching church records, I am still trying to figure out which church Adam might have attended. Other than the fact that he was a Protestant, I don't know what his religious beliefs were. To make things more difficult, when he married Barbara Detwiler, he was married by a justice of peace and not a minister, so I'm still trying to figure out what his religious beliefs might have been. As you can see, I'm having some trouble with this, especially since I don't have any family traditions, of what might have been his religious, to go on.

So, what do you think? Do I have enough to connect Benjamin and William to Adam, or are there other sources of information I should seek first before I list them as brothers? What do you think should be my next move? Any suggestions are welcome and appreciated. Thanks.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

No! Ancestry's New Search Is Worse ...

I just happened to notice The Ancestry Insider's post on Ancestry discontinuing their old search and switching to the new search. At the moment, I personally believe the new search is inferior to the old search. When I was looking through the free newspapers last week, I noticed that new search would not eliminate any newspapers, even if I specified the name of a state in the keyword section. I would still get too many irrelevant matches. Obviously, it was frustrating for me to have to try to sort through everything that the new search brought up, and in the end I had to switch back to the old search. With the old search, it was easier for me to narrow down the number of matches since I could specify the state that I wanted. I could not do that with the new search.

I did try the new search once before the historical newspaper database was available, and again, I was not impressed with the new search. I still had the same problem with the new search as I did when I looked through the newspaper database. Even if I had specified a state for an ancestor, the new search still brought up similar names for other states. It seemed as though it did not matter whether I narrowed down the search; I still got too many irrelevant matches.

I personally believe that if Ancestry were to switch over to the new search today, it would be a mistake. The new search is much worse than the old one, and I think many genealogists would be upset with a search engine that was worse than the old one. Many customers would be dissatisfied with Ancestry, and would feel as though they were getting less for their money. (Ancestry subscriptions are expensive enough already.) Besides, I don't understand why Ancestry needs to change the old search. The old search seems to do a fairly decent job. Unless the new search is improved and made to be better than the old search, there is no point in changing the search. Why fix something that's not broke, and why replace it with something much worse and much inferior to the old one?

Somewhat Of A Home ...

Well, the picture isn't exactly of a home. It is actually a picture of some of the buildings in the on-campus apartment complex where I lived up at school for the past two school years. The houses in the pictures are single homes that house four people in each building. I ended up living in a single-person efficiency room instead of living in one of the houses with three other roommates. The apartment houses, though, are very nice, outside as well as inside.

I ended up choosing this picture because I couldn't think of a good picture that would celebrate home, but since this is where I called home for eight months out of a year, I guess it counts. Just as an end note, I took that picture this past school year in the fall.

Some Interesting Articles ...

I just happened to notice two interesting articles on Yahoo news, and I thought I would share them with everyone. The first article deals with personality and bilingual speakers. (I know this has nothing to do with genealogy of history, but I thought I would mention this article because I like to study different languages.)

The other article has to do with Homer's epic poem, the Odyssey. Apparently, the date of Odysseus' return home has been determined. You can read that article here. Interesting and intriguing, isn't it?

And More Genealogy Blogs I Forgot ...

Yes, I did it again. I forgot a few more genealogy blogs that I had linked to before. The blogs added are:
  • All My Branches
  • My New Mexico Ancestors and Favorite Recipes
  • Radixlog - Hungarian genealogy news blog
  • Genealogy Blog - Geneanet
  • GenDisasters
  • Family Research - English, Scottish, and Irish Genealogy

You can find these and other genealogy blogs on the left hand side of the blog. If I have forgotten your blog, please let me know. Thanks.

How Many Times Have My Ancestors Been Married?

I just happened to notice Randy's post on the most married person, and I thought I would do a similar post, only I would be doing this post on my ancestors. So, how many times have my ancestors been married?

Well, so far, the most times one of my ancestors has been married is three times. I've had a few ancestors who have been married twice (One, of which I have written about before.), but this ancestor was married more than that. For all I know is that he had been married at least three times. His first marriage only lasted about two months before his wife died, and then he didn't apparently remarry until eight years later. His second marriage lasted about nineteen years, and he again out-lived his wife. As for the third marriage, I have not been able to figure where or when he married his third wife. In fact, I don't know what happened to her. From family stories, it sounds as though she walked out on him, and his children apparently didn't care what happened to her. (It's a long story.)

So, how many ancestors do you have that have been married more than once, and how many times were they married?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Duh! I Did It Again! I Forgot Two ...

Two more genealogy blogs, that is. I had these two blogs added to my list before, but I forgot to add them again when I had to rebuild the list. So, the two blogs added are:
  • The Practical Archivist
  • OakvilleBlackWalnut

You can find these and other genealogy blogs on the left hand side of the page. Any suggestions for other genealogy blogs are welcome.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Anybody Know French, German, Italian or Spanish?

I've happened to notice a couple days ago that FamilySearch Indexing has made some Italian vital records for indexing and some church records for Quebec. There are also church records in German that need to be indexed, and many Spanish records. I thought I would mention this in case someone didn't know about this.

Genealogy and History Thoughts Column 14 - My Thoughts on Another "Genealogy is Bunk" Article

A few weeks ago, I noticed that Randy had posted on another "Genealogy is Bunk" article, and I thought I would post my response. I realize I am late in responding to the article. I had originally planned to post on this article at the time Randy posted on the article, but I never got around to writing this column at that time until now. (I was also going to post on the Vatican and Mormon records controversy, but I do not think I will now as too much time has passed and many other bloggers have covered the topic.)

So, why should I care now, weeks after the fact? Well, I thought I should respond because of Mr. McKinstry's accusations and because of his reference to the growing lack of knowledge of history. I realize that he is only writing about conditions in the United Kingdom, but the situation with the lack of knowledge in history is similar to the situation in the United States. Those who are my age or younger generally lack a good knowledge of history, and I do not believe genealogy is the reason for the decline in knowledge. No, the apathy of a majority of youth towards history, due to the way history is taught, is the cause for the decline. In public schools, history classes are associated with the memorization of dates and facts. If a student is just expected to memorize some dates and basic facts for a test, what need is there for a student to remember? Or to be interested in history when it is just a few basic facts and does not have any connection to him or her? To explain what I mean, here is an example:

Suppose a student was learning about Andrew Jackson in U. S. history class, and that student learned that Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States from 1829 to 1837. Do you think that student will find these facts interesting or will want to have an interest in history? My guess is probably not. Or suppose this student also learns that Andrew Jackson ran for President in 1824 but did not get the office, even though he had the popular vote, and that Jackson's opponents accused John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay of stealing the election. Would this student be interested now? Maybe, but I wouldn't be surprised if the student still found history boring. Or suppose in addition to learning this, this student also learns that he had an ancestor who was a supporter of Andrew Jackson. Would this same student be more interested in history? My guess is that the history of this time period would have more meaning to that student.

Of course, this only a hypothetical situation, and doesn't necessarily mean students would suddenly become more interested in history. But I think it would help make history more relevant to students. In my case, genealogy has helped make history come alive for me. As I wrote in Column 3, just reading an article in a newspaper from the area my ancestors lived brought history to life. I did learn about the event from school, but learning from a textbook only made it feel one dimensional to me. (And I love history.) Yet, when I was doing research on my family, it brought what I learned in class to life. I was not and am not trying to do away my country's history; genealogy just brings history to life and help reinforce what I learned. For me, it gives history context. Genealogy has also forced me to learn the geography of the areas that my ancestors lived, and to learn the history of other countries where my ancestors lived. Plus, I have had to learn at least one foreign language to be able to go back for some of my ancestors, and I'll probably have to learn at least another language to continue my research. If studying history, geography and foreign languages are legitimate, why is genealogy not legitimate?

Of course, I can only speak for myself, but I am sure genealogy has helped other genealogists to remember or learn the history of their country. I don't believe genealogists are trying to replace a national history; I think they are trying to reaffirm and acknowledge their nation's history by figuring out how the events of history affected their ancestors. Our ancestors did not live in a vacuum; events in their country and around the world affected them as well. Combining genealogy with a nation's history gives context and understanding to why things happened the way they did. Social historians, archaeologists and anthropologists study the way common people lived, and genealogists are doing the same, except that it is on their own families. If it is legitimate for a historian to study how the average person lived in a certain time period, why should it not be legitimate for genealogists to do the same, in the context of their own families? For it is not just kings, queens, military officers and politicians who make history; average, everyday people also make history. Wars could not be fought without the participation of common people, and movements for change could not occur without the participation of the average person. Common people play just as much of an important role in history as their leaders do.

Genealogy, though, is much more than just a teaching tool for history. It could also save lives. When a person studies his or her family history, that person inevitably learns about his family's medical history. If one's ancestors died of an inheritable disease like cancer or heart disease, it could save that person and their family members' lives by forcing them to take action to change their lifestyles or get medical check-ups. Only a few months ago, their was news about the discovery of a family's history of colon cancer. Through the study of their DNA, doctors and geneticists were able to determine the cause of this family's colon cancer was caused by a genetic mutation, and they were able to narrow down the genetic mutation to one couple who came to America in the 1600s. Obviously, the study of this family's ancestry and medical history enabled scientists and doctors to figure out the mutation in their genes. If they could do it for this disease, in this family's incidence, who is to say that wouldn't be able to do so for another family. In addition, if one knows that they are susceptible to a certain disease, he or she might be able to catch it early enough to live a longer life. Is not the study of genealogy legitimate, if only for this reason?

I could probably go on and on, but I think it is obvious that most genealogists are not doing genealogy to be snobby. There are legitimate uses for genealogy. Of course, I could be wrong about my analysis. So, what do you think? As always, you can leave a comment with your thoughts.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Another Blog Change ...

I've made another blog today. I've added some links to the top articles of 2008 so far to the page. You can find the links at the bottom of the page just above the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy widget. Of course, I'll update the links as the year goes by. Enjoy!

A UK Newspaper Link ...

I also want to mention a link that I learned about today from the same group I learned about the article. This link is a link to the UK Times' archive. Articles from 1785 to 1985 have been digitized, and can be viewed for free at the moment. One has to register, though, to see the images. I've registered and I am waiting to receive my confirmation e-mail at the moment. I'll let you know if I find anything on my UK lines. Stay Tuned ...

An Interesting Article On a Genealogy Gold Mine ...

I just learned about this article from a yahoo genealogy group I am member of, and I thought I would mention it. Apparently, a gold mine of records has been discovered in the Attic of a Maryland plantation. You can read more about it here. Enjoy!