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Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Genealogical Quest for Identity: The Lineage Society

The journey to discover the identities and lives of our ancestors can begin for many reasons, and a sense of purpose for this journey can change along the way.  Intrigued by research a cousin had produced on my paternal grandfather’s line, I quickly became addicted to immersing myself in history from a very personal perspective.  I extended the work my cousin did, and began to work from scratch on the lines of my other three grandparents. 

Several years into my genealogy research, I found at least a temporary sense of purpose in lineage societies.  These are selective groups, often over 100 years old, which recognize specific ancestors for military, geographical, or other reasons.  Excited about the feedback and common purpose I could share with members of these societies and verification of my research through their stringent admission processes, I was soon able to join the Sons of the American Revolution after discovering the first of several ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War.  I soon after also attained membership in Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, the General Society of the War of 1812, and a lifetime membership to the Pulaski County (Missouri) Historical Society.

There are various feelings of accomplishment upon gaining entry to a lineage society.  There is a connection to your ancestor when you are able to verify they participated in a certain historical event or lived in a specific area.  Most lineage societies keep records, so there is the satisfaction of knowing you not only have linked your ancestor to yourself, but you have linked them to their participation in history for posterity.  And as genealogy societies offer insignia to indicate your membership, there is a sense of belonging as you are visibly tied to others whose ancestors played similar roles in the course of human events.

The insignia of lineage societies are quite varied and numerous. To wear this ever growing collection of medals on your chest elicits a sense of pride, but also to those of us who served in the military, perhaps a sense of self-consciousness. Our modern day understanding of medals and ribbons is associated almost exclusively with military service, and a large collection of these is associated with heroism, bravery, valor, courage, etc. The meanings behind medals and insignia of lineage societies are quite different. The insignia are associated with heritage, and perhaps devotion to the principles upon which those societies were founded. Other medals bestowed by lineage societies honor service, commitment, dedication, scholarship, merit, etc. The decorations of lineage societies are not medals of heroism, bravery, valor, and courage, and those who wear them certainly do not intend for them to be seen as such.

The quest to learn about your ancestors is one which is never completed.  On this journey you will learn about history from a personal perspective, you will find you qualify for admittance into several different lineage societies, and you will build character and become wiser in the process.  

If you need any help with a lineage society application, just click this link to contact us and we will be glad to assist you. 

Signing out,


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Bible Records

Family Bibles

Family bibles are like a present to genealogists. In the past most families had a bible that provided divine guidance and also served as a record of life memories and events. This was of particular importance pre-1900 as most states had no civil vital registrations requirements until the early 1900s. Even in 1906, when the federal government, for the purpose of public health, mandated state vital record keeping, some states lagged behind in compliance.1 For example, Alaska did not achieve full compliance of vital registrations until 1950 During early colonial history through to the 1900s most churches and some civic authorities recorded this information, but a family bible was like having a personal copy of all the family members vital information. This personal copy was of particular importance during the 1800s when families began in earnest to migrate to the Western United States.2 They could easily take all their family vital information with them in their bible, and events that occurred along the way, away from church and state, could be recorded.

Noel Stevenson presented a classification system for rating family bibles as to their level of reliability as evidence.  According to Stevenson, bible records rated “AAA” would be one where someone was alive that had personal knowledge of the events contained in the bible.3 As Stevenson points out, this condition is nearly impossible to meet.4 Bible records rated “AA” would be one’s where the bible is has remained in the hands of a family members, and there is evidence to show that the book has been passed down from generation to generation.5 Bible records rated “A” includes bibles in possession of a family member, but the individual possessing the bible has no first-hand information about the bible.6 For example, it was found in grandmother’s attic upon her death.  Bible records rated “BB” would be family bibles that are in the possession of a person whose spouse owned the bible, but is now dead.7 Bible records rated “B” are those that belong to distance cousins who have no information on the origin of the bible.8 Bible records rated “C” are those that belong to a non-family members, such as bibles in bookstores, libraries, archives and museums.

Here are a few links to family bibles that have been placed online.

1.Kimberly A. M. Richards, Development of Civil Registration in Britain with Parallels to the Situation in the United States of America. Unpublished paper, American School of Genealogy
2. Michael Leclerc, “Vital Records in the United States”, Macavo Genealogy Blog, MGBblogsite, 2013, ( : 2013).
3. Ibid.
4. Noel C. Stevenson, Genealogical Evidence, rev. ed. (Laguna Hills, California: Aegean Park Press, 1989), 164.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid., 165.
9. Ibid.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Early Canadian Genealogy

Just a note to share a great resource for those of you tracing Acadian and French Canadian ancestors. I just ran into this gem today on the Creighton University web site and thought I would share it. It is the English translation of the entire volumes of The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents. These volumes mention many Amerindians and Metis people of early Canada and reveal the fascinating history of colonial Canada/New France.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Reflections on Genealogy

The popularity of genealogy in recent years points to the innate curiosity of humans who want to understand from where they come from and what makes them...well, them. This recent trend has been fuelled by main stream media via television shows and advertisements with genealogy themes.  There are other irresistible reasons that drive people to seek answers to the question “where does my family come from? “ For example, People seem to have an inherent desire to identify with a group. In fact saying "I'm Scottish," or "I'm part Egyptian," is like wearing a badge of honor. There's also the allure of "pedigree." Being the descendant of anyone who left a significant mark in the distant past is enough to conjure up a nostalgic smile on the family historian face. However, the overriding impetus for genealogy’s popularity seems to be that we simply want to know our histories. Wouldn't it be nice to know that your great, great, great grandfather sat on a hill in Carnac, France in 1700 staring at the sea as our great, great, great grandmother painted his portrait? To visit that hill yourself, makes knowing your family story all the more of an amazing experience!  I can’t begin to explain what it was like for me to see the buildings my ancestors saw, walk in their footsteps, and pray in the same church they prayed in.  


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How to Find your Italian Ancestors

Tracing your Italian ancestors can be the start of an amazing personal journey that can lead to unexpected discoveries about your ancestors. Even if you have little knowledge of your Italian kinship ties, the Italian language, or where your ancestors came from in Italy, don’t worry because you still may be able to find your ancestors birth place and perhaps even your Italian cousins who may have information to add to your tree.

1. Talk to all your relatives

Your first step is to talk to all your family members to find out what they know. Talk to everyone: parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.  Even your siblings may have information about your family that you may not have.  The goal is to try to find out the names of your ancestors, when they emigrated from Italy, if they become naturalized citizens, what ports they arrived at, where they lived after arrival, what churches they attended, what were their occupations, and of course their vitals. Make sure you record all the details, and if possible, create audios files of the conversations you have with your relatives.

2. Begin searching

After you have gathered up the information, now is the time to begin searching.  Locate documents that evidence the events and places in your ancestors’ lives.  Online genealogical databases are a good start. You can search the internet as well because other people, your more distant cousins, may have or are now tracing, the same family members you are.

3. Find your immigrant ancestors home towns

The most important step in developing your Italian genealogy is to find the exact place of birth of your ancestors. You need to find out which Italian communes (towns) they were born in. Keep in mind that the place they migrated from isn't necessarily their place of birth. This is what you can do to discover the places your Italian ancestors were born:

  •  Look into family documents: birth, marriage, death, as they may show where the person was born. A child’s birth record might show the birth place of the parents. Marriage and death records may show where the person was born and even who their parents were.  Census records may show places of birth. If you don’t have those records, look for them in online databases or order copies of them.
  • Passenger departure and arrival lists, and immigration and naturalization papers may give place of birth and name of spouse and children. Ellis Island online is a good place to search. You can search and see the records for free, but if you want copies you have to purchase them.
  • Military records, such as draft registration cards may show the birth date the town and country of birth. Some also have the names of their spouse or parents.
  •  Faith based organizations, such as churches, may have records for your ancestors. For example, a baptism record my record the parents’ names and where they were born.
  • Copies of original social security applications may also be useful. To obtain them you need to apply for copies via the Freedom of Information Act.  
4. Searching for records in the home country

If you were able to identify the exact place of birth of your Italian ancestors it’s time to look for information in Italy.
  • The vital records for your family, if they still exist, would be in the commune and/or provincial archives.  Each province has their own archives and most communes have them as well.  Even if you don’t read Italian, most vital records are readily understandable.  If needs be, Bing Translator makes generally adequate, if not perfect, translations.  The Italian government did not require vital record collection until 1866, but most provinces and communes were already collecting these records.  Most provincial archives, if not all of them are online, for example the State Archives of Venice.  I have seen some that date to the late 1600's.  There is also a general portal to the state archives on Antenati.
  • Many commune vital records are available for free on the Family Search website. They may lack indexing though so you have to search through many records to find the record you want.  Some are only on microfilm so you have to order them through your local Family Search Center.  Here is a link the Family Search Italian site.
  • Some small towns in Italy may have only one or two churches, so write to them both.  If you are able to identify the church your ancestors attended, you can request records.  Some churches have their historic records online so google the church.  Some parish records are searchable though the database on the Parrocchie website.  Likewise, some church records are also on Family Search website.
5. Check online resources

There are a lot of great online resources for Italian research!  A few examples are:  

Having worked on so many family trees, I truly believe that as you search your family history that you will make many interesting discoveries about your family.  If after tying some of these ideas out you still need help with your Italian genealogy, please click this link to contact Ancestry Connections Genealogy for a free no obligation consultation.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Tracing African American Roots

Tracing your family tree is a rewarding project.  However, if you are tracing African American ancestors it can be very challenging.  Prior to the Emancipation Proclamation, most enslaved people had no civil or probate records. Since it was illegal to educate slaves, most enslaved people could not write to produce letters and other personal literary items that might reveal their names, if they had children and other personal history. Though it is difficult to trace African American ancestors, do not let this deter you from finding your family.

Getting Started

Start your family tree with yourself, add your parents and work the way up your family tree. Collecting data online is good for finding vital information such as birth and death dates, but those old family stories are excellent sources of information.  Ask your elders if they know of any family stories, and if so, record them. These stories may provide information and clues that will help you trace your linage further back in time. Use open ended questions to broaden and deepen the conversation. Get as much oral history from your family members as possible.  If not mentioned, ask for names, locations, dates, professions, or anything that will provide clues to your family members’ lives.

The census of 1870 is the first census that included the names of enslaved people. For many African American ancestors this is where they are first documented.  The 1850 and 1860 Slave Schedules may be of some use, but you would need to know the name of the slave owner and even at that you may not be able to verify who were your ancestors because no names were provided. Slaves were also enumerated on federal census records from 1790 to 1840 with the families they served, but like the slave schedules, no names were recorded.

Search Free Databases!  

Freedmen’s Bureau

The "Freedmen’s Bureau," or the Bureau of Refugees, Freedman, and Abandoned Lands was established in 1865 to help newly freed slaves find relatives that they were separated from.  The Freedmen’s Bureau only existed from 1865 to 1872, but their records are still maintained and are a very good resource for tracing African American ancestry. From their website, you can look up death certificates, marriage records, birth records, documented slave owners, migration information, plantation records such as location and conditions, and African American military service documents. The website is easy to use; you just need to search by name.  The Bureau has additional website links to help you with your search through related websites. 

This website is a database of all of Confederate and Union armies for the Civil War.  The website is run by the National Park Service. This growing database includes the Colored Troops who fought in the Civil War.  Categories that can be searched are for soldiers, sailors, regiments, battles, prisoners, medals of honor, cemeteries, and monuments.

Information after the Civil War is a lot easier to find than information prior to it.  Oral histories are a tradition that humans have long used and still do.  We tell our children and our grandchildren about our lives and the people in it.  Voices from the Days of Slavery was created by the Library of Congress to help preserve these oral histories from former slaves. 

Lowcountry Africana is a fantastic resource for anyone who had ancestors in the “historic rice-growing areas of South Carolina, Georgia and extreme northeastern Florida.” The site provides information on slave-owners that in most cases includes the names of the slaves they owned. The site also has photos, tips and special projects.
The only way to explain this is to take a quote from the website “Two books you can read on-line containing about 2,000 pages of family histories based on all colonial court order and minute books on microfilm at the state archives of Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Delaware (over 1000 volumes), 1790-1810 census records, tax lists, wills, deeds, free Negro registers, marriage bonds, parish registers, Revolutionary War pension files, etc. There are also another 5,000 pages of abstracted colonial tax lists, Virginia personal property tax lists, census records, etc., under "Colonial Tax Lists..."

The University of Virginia has an amazing anthology of interviews with former slaves in both written and audio form. During the interviews former slaves discussed their lives before and after emancipation. In many cases, photos of the people interviewed are included. The site also has a collection of lists, photos and registers of African Americans that were free prior to the Emancipation Proclamation.

Though not all the USF project databases seem to be searchable, many are.  The site has links to a variety of resources, a mailing list, story share, and someone who you can e-mail with questions. 

If you need the help of professional genealogist to assist you with your African American  research contact Ancestry Connections Genealogy

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Tracing your Family Tree – How to Get Started

History is important.  We learn about history in school, but school does not teach us about knowing our own personal history.  How exciting would those history classes have been if we knew our ancestors role in building our country, say as soldiers in the American Revolutionary War.  Tracing your family tree is a fun project that puts you in touch with your family roots.

Of course, like all projects, tracing your family tree takes a lot of work.  It is all worth it though!  You never know what you will find and sometimes it can be quite revealing.  Whether you are starting your family history project on your own, or just gathering information to present to a genealogist to assist you; this article will help you start looking for your ancestors.

Make it a Family Project

The best way to begin tracing your family tree is by talking to your family.  Talk to all of your living relatives, both near and far – siblings, great uncles and third cousins.  This is a good way to begin a family tree.  Not only can you begin to chart and track your ancestors and gather up more information than you would have otherwise, but more importantly it brings your family together.  Ask your relatives about any family stories they have heard.  Overtime these stories may have become a little distorted, and in some case completely mythologized, but usually there is some truth, to them, even if it is only a grain, but those grains create a rich tapestry of your family over time.  These stories can provide clues that will help you or a genealogist trace your family line.  Gather details about these stories and the people in them.  Where they were born, what jobs did they have, were they in the military, what adventures did they have, what was their ethnic background, where did they come from?   

Focus on One Side of the Family at a Time

If you are new to genealogy, you will probably be eager to trace your maternal and your paternal family lines.  However, it can be overwhelming and confusing for the beginner family historian to try tracing both sides at once.  Pick one side of the family to trace first.  This makes your task easier by streamlining the scope of information, and is less confusing when initially trying to document and organize information.  As you gain more experience, you may want to shuffle between the two sides.  

Using the Internet

Thanks to the internet, more and more information is readily available, and may be be free, to family historians.  The internet allows access to information that previously was available only by sifting through records in person.  Technology has significantly enhanced the ability of family historians to trace their family trees. 

Some of the things that you want to look for online are:
·         Census Records
·         Land Records
·         Immigration/passenger arrival records
·         Death Records
·         Birth Records

Finding a Format

Having the information does you no good if you cannot organize it in some cohesive form.  Genealogy software programs can store all your documents, information, photos and other files in one safe place.  These programs can also be used to create a variety of genealogy charts.  They are inexpensive, most are under $40.00 and free versions exist as well.  Roots Magic Essentials is a good starter software.  Free versions have fewer ‘bells and whistles’ than the paid versions but are a good way of identifying the software program that works best for you so try a few of the free version out.  It is really important though that you maintain hard copies of all your information as well.  Create a hard copy file system and file all your ancestry related documents.

Document your Findings

I can’t stress enough how important it is to document your sources.  When starting out many people make the mistake of not documenting the information that they found.  For each person in your tree create a list of the sources you used to prove connection to others in the tree. Genealogy software programs mentioned above can do this for you if you have entered the information in the program, then you can just generate a list of sources.


These tips will help you get started with your genealogy project.  Tracing your family tree is a fun project and one that you can be proud of.  You will be able to share your findings with your family and it will give you something to pass down to your children.  Discovering where you come from is fun and rewarding, so enjoy!  
Ancestry Connections Genealogy is here to help you find your ancestors and build your family tree so if you need some help contact us for a free no obligation consultation.