Finding Ancestors: Resources & Index

Blogs are marvelous devices, but due to their behavior as a diary or log, the most recent posting is always on top or first on the home page. To read a series of postings on a related topic, you either have to read last to first or scroll down to begin.

To make it easier to use the Finding Family for Free series of postings here at Relative Musings, I’ve created an annotated index that runs more naturally, first to most recent. You can click on the above link to view it or you can always find it on this blog’s right navigation bar under the title Index to Free Genealogy Tools. It will open in a new window for ease of use.

I’ve created two other genealogy guides on separate Web pages. One lists and describes a good number of the finest genealogy resources on the Web today. The page makes useful starting point for learning about these research tools. This too is on the right navigation bar under Blogroll.

Finally, to help people with “brick wall” or dead end genealogy situations — including myself — I’ve created a brick wall genealogy page with links to a wealth of articles and examples of strategies for getting past the dead end. This too is on the right navigation bar, called Brick Wall Genealogy Solutions.

I hope these resources are useful for those seeking their ancestors!

This is one in a series of genealogy and family history research ideas to help you find your family and ancestors for modest or no cost.

Published in: on November 26, 2006 at 2:02 am  Leave a Comment  

Thanksgiving Musings

Expressing thanks to those who have helped me on my journey of family research seems an appropriate thing to do on this Thanksgiving Day 2006.  Mentioning everyone will be impossible.  So this is a sampling, one that provides anyone reading this an idea of the remarkable range of assistance available.

My heartfelt thanks to:

The New Holstein Historical Society,  for publishing informative books about the people from Schleswig-Holstein who established the new community in eastern Wisconsin in 1848 and built it into an area with prosperous industries and farms.

Barbara Weber, directory of the New Holstein Public Library, who helped me with their obituary index to the New Holstein Reporter and made sure I read about the town and some of my ancestors in the centennial book.

Debie Blindauer, webmaster of the Calumet County genealogy and history site where I found so much about ancestors who were among the early settlers in New Holstein, located in that county.

The Milwaukee Genealogical Society, that indexed and put online a large collection of Additional Milwaukee Marriages from 1822 to 1876, most not found elsewhere.  Here I found the marriage dates of some of my early family in Milwaukee including:

  • In 1857: Joachim Speich and Marianna Stocker, both from Switzerland
  • In 1859: Sherman A. Bradley, from Connecticut, and Hannah M. Church, born in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Historical Society, that has put a wealth of genealogy resources online including a new Virtual Records Index to many early births, marriages and deaths.  Searching the Wisconsin Name Index showed that a biographical sketch had been prepared on Benjamin Church in the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers Project, at the time his Greek Revival house was being rescued and made into a museum.  What a treasure to have about one’s ggg-grandfather, born in New York and my earliest ancestor to arrive in Wisconsin — in 1835.

Ellen, who with volunteers has built Links to the Past – Milwaukee Web site with truly extraordinary resources. The transcribed City Directories for 1848-1849 and for 1857-1858 are one examples of special resources. In the latter volume, several ancestors were found, including:

  • Sherman A. Bradley, carpenter, boards with Mrs. Luscomb
  • B. Church [Benjamin], builder, Fourth, between Cherry and Galena, W
  • John Speich [surely Joachim based on the 1860 Census] , grocer, North Water, between Milwaukee and Odgen, W

Ira May “Tootie” Sharp Dennis, who for more than 30 years has devoted herself to tracing all the descendants of Isaac Sharp and his wife Mary Woolverton Sharp — including daughter Rebecca Sharp who married David S. Conger, among my maternal lineage. In the summer of 2006, she confirmed that I had correctly figured out that an old biography of old Isaac was wrong about Rebecca’s husband, an error picked up in genealogy databases.  Tootie has developed a Sharp Family Web site where I learned even more about my Sharp and Conger ancestors.

And, mostly recently, Robert Roesler of the Greenfield Historical Society who has sent a plat map showing where the Jacob and Samuel Stocker farms were located in Greenfield, Milwaukee County, when the properties were bought and sold, and much more. The two men were Marianna’s father and brother.

And last but not least, family members! Mother, sister, uncle, cousins — and relatives I did not know I had — all had pieces of the puzzle that is slowing fitting together into our family saga, our part of America’s history.  Thank you all!

Published in: on November 23, 2006 at 6:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Finding Family for Free, Part X

City directories are an invaluable tool for learning more about your ancestors.  Some you will find transcribed and online, while others will be available at historical or genealogical societies. 

The role of city directories is especially important in filling the gap left by the loss of virtually all the 1890 Census records.  City directories at this period often included a person’s employment, work address and a second address, typically a residence.  That’s considerable detail for one brief record.

An early city directory for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, helped me discover quite a bit about my gg-grandfather Sherman A. Bradley soon after he arrived from Connecticut.  The relevant entry was on the page of B surnames in the 1857-1858 Milwaukee City Directory on the excellent volunteer Web site Links to the Past for Milwaukee.

The entry is terse but informative:  “BRADLEY: Sherman A.  Carpenter,  bds Mrs. Luscomb.”  Census records show that he was born in 1835, so now I knew he was 22 or 23 years old when he was working as a carpenter in the young but rapidly growing city on Lake Michigan.  And, because he was boarding with Mrs. Luscomb, it seems likely that he arrived in Milwaukee on his own.

To be thorough, I decided to look up Mrs. Luscomb to see if she had an entry. Sure enough, on the page of L surnames, I found:  “LUSCOMBE:  Mrs.  Fourth, bt Cherry and Galena, W.”  At first I was simply pleased to know where Sherman was living, but suddenly I realized the address looked very familiar!

I had researched Benjamin Church, an early pioneer carpenter and builder in Milwaukee and my ggg-grandfather.  His famous Greek Revival home, built in 1843-1844, was rescued in the 1930s, moved to Estabrook Park and made a small history museum. [See my Wikipedia entry on the Benjamin Church House]. 

Just to make sure, I looked again for his listing on the page of C surnames in the city directory.  There it was: “CHURCH: B.  Builder, Fourth, bt Galena and Cherry, W.” Clearly the same neighborhood as the Luscombe home, a fact confirmed by census records that placed the Church and Luscombe homes next door to each other.

Why was this one of my favorite genealogical discoveries? Because I had found how Sherman A. Bradley had met Ann Marie “Hannah” Church, the oldest child of Benjamin and Permilia Church. On January 6, 1859, Sherman and Hannah were wed, a union that would extend our Bradley lineage when son Jesse Charles Bradley was born June 22, 1866.

Put city directories on your research list when you are seeking to fill in gaps in your family story.

This is one in a series of genealogy and family history research ideas to help you find your family and ancestors for modest or no cost.

Published in: on November 22, 2006 at 11:29 pm  Comments (2)  

Finding Family for Free, Part IX

Genealogy and family history research are aided greatly by the generosity of volunteers. They know the importance to people of finding their ancestors.

These volunteers transcribe old documents such as census records, city directories and genealogy books. They develop and maintain Web sites, and find still more volunteers to contribute information. They own valuable books and documents and offer free look-ups.  They are the heroes and heroines of genealogy.

A remarkable network of volunteer genealogy Web sites is the USGenWeb Project which aims to have a useful — and free — genealogy site for every county in every state in the USA. From the home page, you can find the state sites, and at state sites you’ll find links to county sites and other helpful resources.

Let’s use Wisconsin as an example.  At the WIGenWeb Project site, you’ll find a brief description of Wisconsin history, a history timeline, a state map showing the counties and a link to the County List of county sites.  There is also a Wisconsin Archive of historic documents and a search engine for them.  In addition, there is a big page of Wisconsin resources.

But if you know your ancestors’ county, you’ll likely find the most useful information on the county site.  For example, I visited Calumet County where New Holstein is located. One-quarter of my ancestry has its roots in New Holstein and back to Holstein, Germany.  The Calumet County page is helpful, but the treasure trove for me was the Calumet County Genealogy Page.

For example, in searching for my Hachez ancestors, I found the obituary of Nicholas Boie that listed his many daughters and sons. Among them was Mrs. Ferd. Hachez. I now had the maiden name for my great-great-grandmother, unknown until then.

Then, in searching for Boie, Hachez and Luhr/Luehr ancestors, I found them all in the 1860 census transcription. There were Nicolaus Boie, Ferdinand Hachez [the elder], and John, Margaretha and Peter Lühr, later spelled Luehr.

Transcriptions from the New Holstein Cemetery provided more family details including for many of the Boie family members, including Nicholas Boie and his wife Cecilie Tonner Boie. The online cemetery plot owners listing  shows listings for Nic Boie, Ferdinand Hachey [Hachez] and John Luehr.

The 1893 New Holstein Patrons Directory had a business listing for Ferd. Hachez [the younger], and the transcribed newspaper clippings revealed that William Henry Luehr, son of John and Anna, was at the University of Wisconsin during 1888-1889.

Thanks to this excellent site, I found details that helped fill in the family story. In return, I have transcribed and donated the obituary for Anna Margretha Groth Luehr, another of my great-great-grandmothers, and will donate others soon.

Check out USGenWeb and consider the parallel WorldGenWeb for your own research.

This is one in a series of genealogy and family history research ideas to help you find your family and ancestors for modest or no cost.

Published in: on November 19, 2006 at 12:35 am  Comments (1)  
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Find Family for Free, Part VIII

Connecting with others researching your surname or your geographical area can help you make discoveries that Internet search engines and databases cannot.  

Last time we discussed the mailing or discussion lists which send messages to your email box and are posted online in an archive.  Another service to consider is Genforum, a large collection of free online forums or discussion sites.  This service collects the posts online and you need to visit the forums to browse or search the postings.

Genforum, hosted by, has several unique features.  The most noteworthy is that you can set up a My GenForum account free — and then add the forums you are interested in to your personalized site. The forums you choose are all listed at the left side, making it easy to find and review them again.

The categories for GenForums include surnames, U.S. states and counties within states, countries, and an array of special topics from immigration to genealogy software. You can search previous posts and add your own.

Does it work? Yes.

One of the most exciting finds early in my own family research was finding a January 23, 2001, query from Paul Church seeking information about Benjamin Church who came to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, about 1840 from New Paltz, New York.  Information previously obtained from my uncle told me that this Benjamin Church was my ggg-grandfather. Consequently, I immediately posted a reply.  Paul and I shared information and as a result I was able to find more about Benjamin’s family — Caleb and Hannah Baker Church — in Ulster County, New York.

Since then, I have created a Web page about Benjamin Church and his place in Milwaukee history. He arrived in the new town on November 15, 1835, some 13 years before Wisconsin became a state. He settled on the west side of the Milwaukee River in the village then called Kilbourntown.

He was as a pioneer carpenter and builder who erected a Greek Revival house for his family that today is a Milwaukee area museum.  The page  includes many links to Web pages about the house — called the Benjamin Church House or Kilbourntown House — which is today on the National Register of Historic Places.

I also wrote the Wikipedia entry about the Benjamin Church House, based on various published sources.

Thus, the Church Family Genealogy Forum helped me connect to my cousin Paul Church, discover details about Benjamin Church’s life in New York and Wisconsin, and share the results with family and online.  Give GenForum a try.

This is one in a series of genealogy and family history research ideas to help you find your family and ancestors for modest or no cost.

Published in: on November 17, 2006 at 4:06 am  Comments (1)  

Find Family for Free, Part VII offers more than the handy search engine to its site discussed in Part VI.  Another of its popular services are mailing lists or email discussion lists for individuals with common family research interests.

Genealogy information on the Web continues to grow, much of it available through search tools. But there’s a wealth of family information held in private family records offline.  The mailing list approach can help you connect with people who may have just the pieces of family history that you need. offers more than 30,000 mailing lists or email discussion lists. They are arranged in four categories:  surnames, U.S. states, international and other. With this number of lists, you have a good chance of finding several that are relevant to your research interests. You will be able to post queries and possibily connect with others researching your surname or ancestors.

For example, some of my ancestors are from northern Germany. By checking the list for Germany, I found that there is a list for Schleswig-Holstein, one of my specific ancestral home areas. I joined that list and have made some useful contacts.

Each list offers the opportunity to search or browse previous messages, on a year by year basis. The search and browse links are at the bottom of each list’s description and sign-up page.

The year-by-year search can be tedious, but a new archives search engine of the full archives for all lists, in beta status, in now available.  This is worth a try as others may have posted just the information you need. Or you’ll find new contacts.

Before signing up for email discussion lists or groups, you might want to set up a Web-based email address for use just for this purpose. Gmail, Yahoo, Microsoft and others offer this handy service. You’ll keep your genealogy emails in one email box, and protect your personal email address.

In addition to posting queries, you can share information you have found to help others.  You likely want to join just a few lists at a time, to keep your email from overflowing — many of these are very active.  Good searching!

This is one in a series of genealogy and family history research ideas to help you find your family and ancestors for modest or no cost.

Published in: on November 13, 2006 at 5:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Finding Family for Free, Part VI

The impulse to gather and record family history has led to a parallel trend, namely to share that information via the Internet. One of the most useful — and influential — of the Web sites for such sharing is This free site helps you find family information contributed by others as well as ways to share what you have gathered.

The first feature is the most obvious — the Search search box on the home page, adjacent to a search box for the well known pay-to-use service,

If you are searching for an ancestor with a common name such as Robert Brown or Mary Jones, you will get many individuals on the results page. At the bottom of the results page, however, is an advanced search tool that allows you to narrow the scope of the search using birth place and year or similar biographical facts.

If you seek an ancestor with a less common name, you will get just a few results.  For example, I did a search for Clara Hachez, one of my maternal great-grandmothers.  That turned up just one result, but exactly the person I sought.  

The result for Clara Hachez includes three helpful facts: the name of her father Ferdinand Hachez, the name including maiden name of her mother Eliese Boie, and the name of her husband Wilhelm H. Luehr, more typically known as William H. Luehr. 

A result screen may also include the date and place of birth and date and place of death. It all depends on the information the contributor has to share via  When you click on the name of the person you want, you will get a more detailed page that may include some or all of the person’s children.

And, you typically will find the name of the contributor and their email address in a graphic format.  This provides an individual you may want to correspond with to share more information.

You can also view the individual pages for related persons, in this case Clara’s father, mother, husband and two children:  Lucille M. Luehr and Robert W. Luehr.

When using these results, remember that these are not original source documents.  Often there is no source given for the facts stated. But you will now have a wealth of information to guide your continued research — a set of facts that you can confirm via vital records and other documents.

There are many more tools at the site, to be discussed in future entries on Relative Musings.

This is one in a series of genealogy and family history research ideas to help you find your family and ancestors for modest or no cost.

Published in: on November 12, 2006 at 10:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Finding Family for Free, Part V

By now, you have your basic family information in notebooks, on notecards or typed into computer documents.  You’ve decided that genealogy will be an enjoyable project and you want to be sure you’re well organized.

It’s time to review the various forms and charts used by family history researchers. Many are available free on the Web to print and use.  Or use them as models and create your own versions on your computer so you can type in details for easy-to-read results.

Here are Web sites offering family record sheets, pedigree forms, family relationship charts, timelines, census forms and more. [Click on the bold, brown names to find the forms.]

Family Tree Magazine: more than 30 forms including ancestor chart, research forms, census checklist and census forms for 1790-1930, heirloom chart and more — in pdf and doc formats.  pedigree and family group charts, census forms, and research forms including research extract, research calendar, correspondence record and source summary, in pdf format.

Ancestors: pedigree forms, family group records, more, in new pdf format that lets you enter details via your computer.

Misbach: unique forms including tree chart, grandma’s box chart, fan chart and picture pedigree chart, in pdf format.

Cyndi’s List: in-depth guide to forms, charts, supplies including U.S., Canadian and U.K. census forms, most of them free.

Kindred Trails: guide to free forms and other free genealogy stuff including software, databases to search, tips

Bailey’s:  11 free forms and charts in pdf format including family record sheet, pedigree forms and various research charts.

Getting your information into forms and charts will make it easier to use and to pass on to the next generation.

This is one in a series of genealogy and family history research ideas to help you find your family and ancestors for modest or no cost.

Published in: on November 5, 2006 at 5:58 pm  Leave a Comment