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!

Please follow me on Twitter:

Why not check out my helpful Genealogy Resources webpage:

Please join my group Finding Family for Free at GenealogyWise:

Thank you! And good researching!

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