Finding Mary Simmons & Her Ancestors, Part Three

In Parts One and Two, we found we found the wife of Leaming Hawkins Bradley and mother of Sherman Abernethy Bradley to be Mary Simmons of the Town of Litchfield, Litchfield County, Connecticut. We estimated her birth year as 1811 or 1812 and then found that her father very likely was Job Simmons who lived in the Town of Litchfield.

Who Job’s Wife and Mary’s Mother?

If Job was Mary’s father, who was her mother? Unlike most of the Simmons families who moved west from northwest Connecticut into New York in the early 1800s, Job remained in the Town of Litchfield until his death in 1855. Thus, he was enumerated in the 1850 Census as Job Simmons, age 71, a farmer, with his wife Arsena Simmons, 67, both born in Connecticut. They lived in or near the village of Milton in the Town of Litchfield, west of the village of Litchfield and north of the village of Bantam or Bradleyville. [See map for all three villages.]

In 1834, Job Simmons had purchased a 1/8th share of the Simmons Forge located near Milton. Two previous Simmons individuals owning the iron works there were John and Solomon, mentioned in Part Two. Others who owned part of the Simmons Forge at one time or another were Eri Grannis, Guerdon Grannis and Thomas Grannis as well as Chauncey Dennison.

Arsena Simmons was recorded with other variations for her first name. She and Job are buried at the Headquarters Cemetery just south of Milton. There they are recorded on gravestones as Job Simmons, died 20 June 1855, age 76, and Arseneth, consort of Job Simmons, died Feb. 23, 1869, age 86. A consort is a wife.

They can be found in the book Litchfield and Morris Inscriptions and also on FindaGrave with a memorial for Job Simmons and another memorial for Arseneth Simmons. When Fanny B. Simmons died on 25 June 1818 at age 4 years 4 months, her parents were shown as Job and Arcena Simmons. Fanny too is buried in the Headquarters Cemetery. [Note: some sources say she was 7 years 4 months old at death.]

With is no indication that Job Simmons married more than once, it is likely that Arsena or Arseneth is the mother of Mary Simmons while Fanny B. Simmons is her sister. The book History of the Simmons family: from Moses Simmons, 1st, (Moyses Symonson) ship “Fortune” 1621 to and including the eleventh generation lists just one child, the daughter Fanny B. Simmons, likely because she is buried with her parents and official birth records were missing. Some family trees also list a daughter named Caroline, born in 1804.

Key Piece of Evidence

While I believed my theory about the parents of Mary Simmons was a sound one, I really wanted another source for confirmation. That came in the form of a mortuary notice at the time of her death.

On 14 Sep 1854, the Litchfield Republican newspaper carried this very brief notice: “In Chicago, Ill., July 18th, Mary, wife of Leaming H. Bradley, and daughter of Job Simmons of Milton.” Here, in less than 20 words, was confirmation that the Mary Simmons who married Leaming H. Bradley was indeed the daughter of Job Simmons who lived in Milton, Town of Litchfield, Litchfield County, Connecticut. Arsena or Arsenth Simmons must have been her mother.

With these multiple sources, I had confimed the parents of one of my third-great-grandmothers on my father’s side. The next challenge would be to try to find more about Mary’s Simmons ancestors. We’ll take that up in Part Four.

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Published in: on October 29, 2011 at 11:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Finding Mary Simmons & Her Ancestors, Part Two

In Part One, we discovered the wife of Leaming Hawkins Bradley and mother of Sherman Abernethy Bradley to be Mary Simmons. She married Leaming on 19 September 1830 in the Town of Litchfield, Litchfield County, Connecticut. The marriage is in the Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records. While that was satisfying, that discovery piqued our curiosity to learn more about her – and hopefully to find  her parents and ancestors.

No birth record for Mary is found in the Barbour Collection for the Town of Litchfield so we had to turn to other sources to find her birth place and estimate her birth date. With those details, we hoped to find her parents.

Birth Place and Estimated Birth Year
Mary’s marriage record in the Barbour Collection showed that both she and husband Leaming were “of Litchfield,” meaning the Town of Litchfield, Litchfield County. This seemed to mean that she was born in the Town of Litchfield as well as living there at the time of marriage. That was true for Leaming.

For an estimate of her date of birth, we turned to the 1840 Census, taken on June 1 of that year. The household of Leaming H. Bradley was located that year in the Town of Washington, Litchfield County, immediately southwest of the Town of Litchfield.

See here for a map of Litchfield towns or townships. Then see here for a map of Litchfield County with its towns, the area of Bantam (home of the Bradleys) on the west side of the Town of Litchfield, and, if you look closely, a line for the Litchfield & New Milford Turnpike that – believe it or not – started at Aaron Bradley’s barn on the Litchfield end. Aaron was Leaming’s grandfather.

The Leaming H. Bradley household was enumerated as follows: two males 5 & under 10 [likely the sons mentioned in the Cutter book, one of them likely Sherman A. Bradley], one male 15 & under 20, one male 30 & under 40 [Leaming, age 32], one female under 5 and one female 20 & under 30 [Leaming's wife Mary].

Discovering Mary’s Father
When America conducted its first census in 1790, five Simmons households were enumerated in the Town of Litchfield. The households were those of John, Peres, Rufus, Solomon and William Simmons, with William’s surname recorded Simons. I had encountered this fact while transcribing the business journal of Aaron Bradley, Leaming’s grandfather, and finding a few details about each customer. Aaron had a blacksmith shop, tavern and grocery in the Bantam area of the Town of Litchfield, called for a time Bradleyville. Rufus Simmons was a customer in 1795.

Due to this multiplicity of Simmons’ housesholds, I felt I would have a difficult time determining Mary’s parents and ancestors. But I had to try.

With Mary’s birth about 1811 or 1812, I decided to search the 1810 Census for Simmons families in the Town of Litchfield. Remarkably, there was just one: the Job Simmons family with a household as follows: one male 26-44 [Job, 31], two males under 10, one female 45 and over,  one female 26 to 44 [likely Job's wife], and two females under 10. Households recorded adjacent to Job Simmons were those of Chauncey Dennison and Thomas Grannis.

Here certainly were parents of the right age to have a daughter born in 1811 or 1812. Next we turned to the 1820 Census to learn more about this family. In that year, the Job Simmons household was comprised of four men and three women, with two of the people engaged in agriculture. The oldest male and female were each in the 26-44 years old age range, with Job about 41 at the time, the female likely his wife.

And there among the young people in the Job Simmons household in 1820 was one female under 10 who could be Mary Simmons as she would have been about 8 or 9 years old. Job Simmons looked more and more as if he were Mary’s father.

The next challenge would be to try to find her mother, siblings and further ancestors. We’ll take that up in Part Three.

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Finding Mary Simmons & Her Ancestors, Part One

I thought it would be impossible to find the parents of the Mary Simmons who married Leaming Hawkins Bradley in 1830 in Litchfield, Litchfield County, Connecticut. Right after the Revolutionary War, there were several Simmons families in that county. Fortunately, I was wrong. The saga of finding Mary and her ancestors offers several helpful genealogy research lessons.

First discoveries about Mary
When Leaming and Mary’s son Sherman Abernethy Bradley married Hannah M. Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on 6 January 1859, the person taking down Sherman’s parents failed to get Mary’s maiden name. They were recorded as Leman H. Bradley and Mary C. Bradley. So that was my first brickwall concerning Mary: no maiden name.

As an aside, Leaming is a surname turned into a given name, and it is misspelled in many different ways including Leman, Leming, Leyming and more. Leaming Hawkins Bradley apparently insisted that his middle initial H. be included whenever his name was recorded. This gave me a helpful clue that a record was for my third-great-grandfather, even if the spelling of his first name was mangled. He also went by L. H. Bradley.

Then one day, while reading about the importance of doing research on all members of a family, I remembered that Sherman A. Bradley married a second time. I wondered if his mother’s maiden name would be on that second marriage certificate. To my great delight, it was.

When Sherman married Mary Schneider on 11 January 1882 in Plymouth, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, his parents were recorded as L. H. Bradley and Mary Simmons. Now I could learn more about my third-great-grandmother and confirm that Sherman A. Bradley was from Litchfield County, Connecticut.

Her own marriage record
Once I had Mary’s maiden name, I recalled a curious entry in the Barbour Collection of the Vital Records for the Town of Litchfield, Litchfield County. It read: Seyming Bradley and Miss Mary Simons, both of Litchfield, married there on 18 September 1830. Knowing how often the old script letters L and S are confused for each other, I was pretty sure that this really was Leyming Bradley and Mary Simmons. [I now have a certified copy from the town clerk of the original document and can confirm the name is Leyming, a phonetic version of Leaming].

This marriage was the best match I had found for the parents of Sherman A. Bradley whose place of birth on his 1859 marriage certificate was “near New Haven, Connecticut.” But could I found any other source for this being the marriage of Leaming H. Bradley and Mary Simmons?

Leaming’s birth in Barbour Collection
Fortunately, the birth of Leaming Hawkins Bradley was recorded with the Litchfield Town Clerk and was transcribed correctly in the Barbour Collection. He was born 10 October 1808 in Litchfield to Horace Bradley and Hannah who was recorded there as Hannah Hawkins but actually was Hannah Twitchell. Her mother’s maiden name was Hawkins, the source of the middle name for Horace and Hannah’s first son Leaming.

The Cutter genealogy book
While I believed my theory about Sherman A. Bradley’s parents was a sound one, I really wanted another source for confirmation. That came in the form of an item in the Bradley genealogy section in a major book, Genealogical and Family History of Central New York, Vol. III. The editor was William Richard Cutter.

On page 1224, listed first among the children of Horace Bradley and Hannah Twitchell, was “Leaming, married Mary Simonds and had several sons.” Here was Leaming’s first name spelled correctly, his marriage to Mary Simonds, another variation of Simons and Simmons – and the mention of sons.

With these multiple sources, I was convinced I had found the name and the birthplace of my third-great-grandmother on my father’s side of the family. The next challenge would be to try to find her parents and further ancestors. We’ll take that up in Part Two.

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Saluting Ancestors’ Labors

When we go back far enough in our genealogy and family history research, most of us will find ancestors — women and men — who labored as farmers. This Labor Day column explores a number of the diverse occupations followed by my ancestors, some quite surprising when I first learned of them. America is indeed the land of opportunity as seen in the changing careers down the generations.

My ancestor Caleb Church and his wife Hannah Baker lived in New Paltz, Ulster County, New York, where he was a farmer and cooper and she was a wife, mother of 10 and a Quaker preacher. Hannah, who lived from 1775 to 1843, is one of the first women in my family tree with a career that took her outside the home. Caleb also was his own lawyer, according to Descendants of Richard Church of Plymouth, Mass.

Their son Benjamin F. Church, my ancestor, went west to Chicago and then in 1835 to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he was a pioneer carpenter and builder. He was the “boss carpenter” for one of the first hotels in the nascent city and his Greek revival family home has been preserved as the Benjamin Church House or Kilbourntown House, a museum of pioneer life in southeast Wisconsin.

My Bruce ancestors, surname orginally Bruss, came to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1839 from the Baltic port city of Cammin, Kreis Cammin, Pomerania. The traditional male occupation was ship building and ship caulking, with the young men sailors until they married and settled down. Martin Friedrich Bruss and his sons Augustus, Martin and John all followed the family tradition, the first two in Milwaukee, son Martin near Pensacola, Florida, and John in San Francisco.

By the next generation, the sons of Augustus Bruce had careers in publishing (William George Bruce), tanning company executive (Albert J. Bruce), postal delivery (Augustus I. Bruce), and accounting and later Milwaukee Athletic Club secretary (Martin P. Bruce). The daughter of Martin P. Bruce and his wife Grace Booth Bruce was a teacher while their son was an attorney, both in Milwaukee.

An entrepreneurial tradition is found in my Bradley ancestors, starting with Aaron Bradley who enlisted twice during the Revolutionary War, then married Lorain Abernethy and two sons, two daughters and several different businesses. He was a blacksmith first, then added a tavern and grocery store at his location in Bradleyville or Bantam, Town of Litchfield, Litchfield County, Connecticut. I imagine it was a very busy place with farmers bringing oxen and horses for shoeing or tea kettles needing new bails or handles; travellers on the post road stopping for a meal and a drink; and students from Sarah Pierce’s Litchfield Female Academy and from the Litchfield law school coming to Mr. Bradley’s for a bit of entertainment. He also had a nail factory, Aron Bradley & Co., as shown by a 1798 ad, and was a selectman and a representative to the Connecticut Assembly.

Aaron’s great-grandson Sherman Abernethy Bradley came to Milwaukee in the late 1850s, appearing in public records first in the 1857-1858 Milwaukee Directory, listed as a carpenter. He later launched the Badger Pump Company of which he was the proprietor, pumps in those days made of wood. Then for a time he was co-owner of the Brockhaus & Bradley planing mill, and continued in the timber and lumber business throughout his life. One of Sherman’s grandsons was a banker and while his two great-grandsons had fine careers, one as an attorney and the other as an executive of the Wisconsin Telephone Company. Two of his great-great-granddaughters have had careers in public relations.

My Hachez ancestors came to New Holstein, Wisconsin, in 1854 from Bremen, Germany, where men of the Hachez family had been merchants for several generations. Even today the Hachez chocolate factory is an important feature of the City of Bremen. Ferdinand Hermann Hachez at first pursued farming as that was the natural occupation in New Holstein, a rural area between Lake Winnebago and Lake Michigan. He served as president of the German Agricultural Society there in 1867.

However, in 1870, Ferdinand Hachez Sr. and several other New Holstein men founded the Mutual Hail Insurance Company of Wisconsin and he became an insurance salesman. His son Ferdinand Hachez saw an opportunity when the railroad came to New Holstein in 1872. He left farming and for two decades operated the Farmer’s and Mechanics Saloon at the east end of the village of New Holstein, not far from the railroad station. Later, when grandchildren were born, he and wife Elise Boie Hachez returned to farming.

I found it fascinating to realize that some of my ancestors truly were “builders of Milwaukee,” my hometown. Many more stories of ancestors’ occupations await next year’s Labor Day for the telling. Until then:

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Bradley Ancestor’s Baptism in Yorkshire

Today, right before my eyes, thanks to the Internet, on a page headed “Children Baptized,” was my ninth great-grandfather’s baptism in the records of All Saints parish church, Bingley, West Yorkshire, England. The graceful script entry on a page for the year 1642 reads as follows: “Aug: 21 Steuen the sonne of Daniell Broadley de West Morton.” While the location for Daniel is a bit hard to decipher on this his youngest child’s baptism record, the phrase de West Morton is clear on his own burial record for November 27, 1641, also at All Saints parish church.

Viewing that page was a very satisfying part of my five-year quest to trace my Bradley ancestors from Wisconsin to Connecticut and then back to England. The first part of this genealogy journey was the discovery of the parents and place of origin of Sherman Abernethy Bradley who came from Connecticut to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the late 1850. That sleuthing used varied sources including:
> Census records from 1840 through 1905
> Genealogy books that include Leaming and Mary in a Bradley genealogy outline
> The marriage record for Leaming Bradley and Mary Simons in Litchfield, Connecticut
> Two Wisconsin marriage records for Sherman with one having his mother’s maiden name (thank goodness!)
> Milwaukee city directories from the 1850s and 1860s

Using those resources, I was able to conclude that Sherman’s parents were Leaming Hawkins Bradley and Mary Simons of Litchfield, Connecticut. Read that part of solving the Bradley genealogy puzzle.

Once I had made the connection between Wisconsin and Connecticut, I had many sources that outlined the genealogy for this branch of the Bradley family back to Stephen Bradley who immigrated from England. Among these sources are:
> The Descendants of Danyell Broadley de West Morton, a major Bradley genealogy online
> Profile of Stephen Bradley, son of Danyell, who came to America, in the above genealogy
> The Bradley Line including Stephen, in New England families, genealogical and memorial, Vol 4 edited by William Richard Cutter
> Profile of William Bradley of New Haven that mentions his mother and half-siblings including Stephen Bradley
And many others as the Bradley story was retold in the biographical sketches of the immigrants’ descendants.

While I had encountered many times my Bradley family’s origins in and around Bingley, West Yorkshire, England, I at last could see the baptism record that confirmed the story. I could look up All Saints parish church in Bingley to learn its story — the present structure is from the reign of Henry VIII — and see pictures of the church where the baptism occurred. And I could learn more about Bingley, a market town between Bradford and Keighley as seen on this map. And about the nearby rural locations of East Morton and West Morton, the latter the location for Stephen’s father Danyell or Daniel.

At last I had the evidence, in the baptismal record, to say this truly was the home in England of my Bradley ancestors. All the pieces of the puzzle came together.

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Published in: on July 11, 2011 at 2:26 am  Leave a Comment  
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Daughters’ Education In Litchfield

An English major and history minor at Lawrence University back in my college days, I today relish both genealogy and family history as well as writing about discoveries. The Fourth of July this year provided an intriguing new insight on my paternal Bradley family.

July 4th seemed to be an appropriate time to again Google my patriot ancestor Aaron Bradley of Litchfield, Connecticut, who enlisted twice as a teenager during the Revolutionary War. The Web continually gains new content so doing a web search on ancestors’ names and locations can provide new details for your family history. Remarkably, the discoveries I made were about his daughters and their educations.

Aaron Bradley was born 27 August 1762, the son of Leaming Bradley and Anna Parsons. His second great-grandfather was Stephen Bradley who arrived in New Haven, Connecticut, from Yorkshire, England, in the mid-1640s with his mother Elizabeth Bradley and siblings Ellen, Joshua, Daniel and Nathan Bradley. Stephen settled in Guilford and married Hannah Smith; they had seven children and this Bradley family lived in Guilford for several generations. Aaron, however, was born in Middletown on the Connecticut River, where his father had moved by the 1750s. At that time, Middletown was Connecticut’s largest and most prosperous town and a port city comparable to Boston and New York.

Apparently seeking new opportunities, Leaming and Anna moved in the late 1760s to Litchfield, the county seat of Litchfield County and the leading community of northwestern Connecticut. This was a prosperous period for Litchfield, followed abruptly by the Revolutionary War. Here during 1777-1778, Aaron enlisted twice for military service, first serving in the Artificers Shop where weapons were made and repaired. During his second enlistment, he was a guard for the munitions stored in Litchfield as well as for prisoners held there.

After the war, Aaron Bradley opened a blacksmith shop and other businesses, and married Lorrain Abernethy, daughter of Dr. William Abernethy of nearby Harwinton. They had two sons, Horace and Leaming, and two daughters, Mary Ann Bradley and Maria Tallmadge Bradley. Aaron was a local selectman for 9 years, 1803-1812, according to “Sketches & chronicles of the town of Litchfield, CT, historical, biographical & statistical,” published in 1859.  He represented Litchfield in the Connecticut Assemby in the October 1806, May 1808 and May 1810 sessions.

What turned up in the new Google search? Aaron and Lorrain Bradley sent their daughters to Sarah Pierce’s Litchfield Female Academy, one of the first and most important educational institutions for women in the early United States.  The Litchfield Historical Society provided these profiles about the two Bradley students:

>> Mary Ann Bradley, the oldest daughter, is believed to have attended the academy in 1806. She married Henry Wadsworth and they sent two of their children, Mary Ann Wadsworth and Charles Wadsworth, to the academy in the 1825-1828 period.
>> Maria Talmadge Bradley attended the academy in 1819. She later married William Coe.

The Litchfield Female Academy was not simply a finishing school for girls. It combined an academic curriculum including English, history, geography, writing and arithmetic with the ornamental arts such as embroidery.  Among the students were Catharine Beecher, who later founded other educational institutions for women, and her sister Harriet Beecher, after marriage known as Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

My family believed in the importance of education, my parents and sister attended the University of Wisconsin, and I was most fortunate to have an excellent liberal arts education at Lawrence. This discovery that my Bradley ancestors provided their daughters with the best possible education of their era pleases me greatly. A grateful thank you to the  Litchfield Historical Society for creating the online Litchfield Ledger with its wealth of information on the students of both the Litchfield Female Academy and the Litchfield Law School. It allowed me to make a remarkable discovery on the Fourth of July.

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Family Found in 2 of 75

When the  Milwaukee County Historical Society celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 2010, the staff chose 75 items from the collections that they considered “both unique and enlightening” and told a story about Milwaukee County’s past or about the Historical Society. Imagine my surprise recently on discovering that 2 of the 75 items have a direct connection to my own ancestors.

First, you can view the entire collection of 75 items ranging from a red A. O. Smith Flyer to Christopher Bach’s violin to Increase Lapham’s bookcase to Arthur McArthur’s desk to Old Settlers Club albums. These items and collections help illuminate Milwaukee’s history and people. Each is worth exploring to learn more.

Second, as noted, 2 of the 75 items have family connections.

One consists of a pair of  daguerreotypes featuring Byron Kilbourn, one of Milwaukee’s founders, and his wife  Henrietta. The main connection is that these pictures for some years were on display at the Benjamin Church House or Kilbourntown house built by my ancestor Benjamin Church and now a museum. Another connection is that Benjamin was an early Milwaukee settler, arriving in 1835 and living in Kilbourntown on the west side of the Milwaukee River. He was a political associate of Kilbourn’s in early Milwaukee.

The other is the William George Bruce Collection featuring family chronicles from 1916 to 1948. A Milwaukee publisher, historian and civic leader, William George Bruce was the oldest brother of my great-grandfather Martin P. Bruce.

These two members of my extended family are featured in a recent blog post I did on writing and posting biographical sketches on Wikipedia about selected ancestors.

There are other family connections to 75 items in the anniversary collection, but they less specific. Benjamin Church was a member of the Old Settlers Club and may be mentioned in one or more of the Old Settlers Club Albums while several family members have documents in the collection of Naturalization Papers.

When working on your family history, keep a look out for materials from the historical society where they lived. You too may be pleasantly surprised!

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FreeBMD & FreeREG

Are you researching your roots in England and Wales? Then there are two very helpful websites with free databases that you need to be using.

I have used the website FreeBMD for some time with good results. Here you will find transcriptions of the Civil Registration index (GRO Index) of births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales. As of May 2011, there were more than 200 million distinct records in the database that you can search for free. This large number of records means you have a good chance of finding what you are seeking.

Civil Registration started in 1837 so there are no earlier records in its database. And the site does not have scans of the original documents themselves, but does provide the details you need to order copies of your ancestors’ original birth, marriage and death records from the General Registration Office (GRO) here. Learn more about FreeBMD by reading its FAQs here.

An important companion to FreeBMD is the website FreeREG where you can find baptism, marriage, and burial records transcribed from parish and non-conformist registers in the U.K. As of June 1, 2011, the database had some 15 million records that you can search for free. FreeREG states that it is a “finding tool” and you should always review the original parish record in person or via microfilm, for example.

I am currently researching my BOOTH ancestors of northern Shropshire, England. My third great-grandfather, Joseph Booth, reported in census and other documents that he was born in Shakeford, a small village or hamlet south of Market Drayton. When he married a second time, on 12 April 1863, his marriage certificate states that his father was George Booth, a farmer.

Who was George Booth? I have found a 1794 marriage record and an 1845 death record for a George Booth in Market Drayton who may be my fourth great-grandfather, although these are unconfirmed. But when using FreeREG recently, I found a record that seems likely to be for the right George Booth. The baptism record dated 5 Aug 1795 at St. Mary’s Church in Market Drayton is for Mary Booth, daughter of George Booth of Shakerford, quite likely Shakeford.

Now I have two records pointing to a Booth family in Shakeford, Shropshire, in the relevant time period. Joseph was born about 1808 according to family and census records. This inspires me to keep searching, and to order the microfilms for St. Mary’s Church, to look at the records myself. I would love to add another generation to my Booth ancestral line.

The third in this volunteer-driven system of databases is the website FreeCEN which has census transcriptions for 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891. Many counties are far from complete, however, but it is another free resource to use in your search for your ancestors. It might have what you are looking for!

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Thank you! And good researching!

Published in: on June 5, 2011 at 6:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ancestors on Wikipedia

Do you have an ancestor who has made a significant contribution to his or her community, field of business or profession? Were they an inventor or artist or civic leader of note? Then consider developing a biographical sketch for them — using encyclopedia format — and add it to Wikipedia.

Why is this a worthwhile step in your family history? First, you will need to organize many details about your noted ancestor in a thorough and coherent way to share with others. Second, it will go onto the website well known for being the place to turn for information on all important topics.

Of course, most of our ancestors are not likely subjects for Wikipedia, no matter how good they were as citizens and family members. But if there are distinctive and influential features to their lives and careers, you should consider taking this step. To do this, you should sign up for a Wikipedia account and learn the basic formatting steps for a Wikipedia entry. Or find someone to help you.

Some years ago, I visited the Benjamin Church House that today is a pioneer museum in Estabrook Park, Shorewood, north of Milwaukee. It was built in the early days of Milwaukee, 1843-1844, not far west of the Milwaukee River by my third great-grandfather for his family. He used the distinctive Greek Revival style for the house, one of the reasons it was rescued and turned into a museum. I wrote a Wikipedia article about the Benjamin Church House because it is on the National Register of Historic Places and is open to the public in the summer.

Sometime later, I wrote a Wikipedia entry about Benjamin F. Church himself. He was one of the earliest white settlers in Milwaukee, was a carpenter and builder, filled several public offices in the early city — and of course built the Benjamin Church House that still stands today.

Recently, I had time to write a Wikipedia entry on William George Bruce, a Milwaukee publisher, historian and influential civic leader. I had done considerable research about him as he was the oldest brother of my great-grandfather Martin P. Bruce. I had the details on his career, public service contributions and family, as well as his many recognitions and awards including being called “Public Citizen No. 1″ for Milwaukee. I also had many sources, very necessary for the References or Notes section of a Wikipedia entry. Luckily I had found a copy of the book I Was Born in America: Memoirs of William George Bruce that helped me with my family genealogy as well as the Wikipedia entry.

Of course there are other places to post such biographical sketches, including your own family history website. But if you have an ancestor whose contributions are influential and distinctive — and if they don’t yet have a Wikipedia entry — consider doing it. You will add to the store of knowledge we all share through Wikipedia.

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Online Genealogy Courses

Genealogists and family historians enjoy the quest of adding more generations to their family trees. We always face the key questions: But who were their parents? And what was the woman’s maiden name? Where did the family come from, where did they move, and why?

If you’ve been doing genealogy research for some time, you know that solving those genealogy brickwalls takes not only new online databases and books, but also new insights on how to approach our research. Here’s where free online classes and lectures can be a big help. They’re a great supplement to workshops presented by genealogy societies where you can ask the experts face to face.

Today I watched the three video segments of an excellent presentation by Bernie Gracy, founder of AncestralHunt.com. In them, he discusses how understanding place and geography and demographics can help you find key relationships among your ancestors. Locations – whether a small rural village or a city neighborhood – often influence the selection of marriage partners, and thus genealogy and family history. Proximity in an ancestral location in Europe may well determine proximity in America, for example.

These short videos are among the best genealogy lessons I’ve seen and heard. They add depth to the insights I gained from Donna Potter Phillips, a genealogist from Spokane, Washington, who gave a very fine workshop on using place in family history research. [See story.] She gave it recently for the Whitman County Genealogical Society.

You can watch these three helpful video segments from Bernie Gracy free on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/user/ancestralhunt

There are many other sources of online genealogy classes, often free. Some are videos, some are text only. Consider using these to help you advance your own research:
- Introduction to Genealogy
- 85 lessons at Genealogy.com
- Genealogy Research Classes Online from FamilySearch

Links to other free classes and tips on improving your genealogy research can be found on the Genealogy Resouces page at my website: http://www.workingdogweb.com/Genealogy-Resources.htm

Or try a Google search for the words “genealogy on youtube” with or without the quotation marks to find more classes and videos for genealogy. Or search for genealogy on the YouTube site itself. Here are examples of what comes up:
- Genealogy Gems: http://www.youtube.com/user/GenealogyGems
- Genealogy Guy: http://www.youtube.com/user/GenealogyGuy

Some important topics include using Flash drives to back up all your genealogy documents and pictures including how to find your computer’s USB ports; organizing and preserving your genealogy papers materials and resources; and much more.

Here’s to great success in finding your family’s ancestors by learning new research skills and strategies!

Published in: on November 26, 2010 at 8:02 pm  Comments (2)  
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