This past week I had the occasion to go up to the Puget Sound Regional Archives in Bellevue, to look for divorce records. The archivist trundled out 4 huge bound books on a book cart, for me to look through. They were the indexes for the civil court cases in King County, Washington, from 1890 to 1900, and 1900 to 1906; two books indexed by the plaintiff's name (the person bringing the lawsuit), and two by the defendant's name.
These cases cover the whole range of civil (not criminal) legislation - everything from divorce (which is what I was looking for) to adoption, naturalizations, medical malpractice, personal injury, and just suing the next-door neighbor because he was noisy after 11pm. These are just the indexes; the actual cases (denoted by the case numbers) are on microfilm, also at the Puget Sound Regional Archives.
And none of these are online.
In the last several days I have been intrigued by several blog posts by professional genealogists that discuss just how little of their ancestry they've discovered! The Legal Genealogist (Judy G. Russell) posted "More Lost Than Found" this morning, and her percentage was 12.3%: only 126 ancestors out of 1022, covering just 10 generations, a little over 300 years. Yesterday Crista Cowan posted "Family History All Done? What's Your Number?" She fared better, being able to account for 365 out of 1022 ancestors. And Lorine McGinnis Schultze on her Olive Tree Genealogy wrote, "What's Your Number? Don't be too shocked if it's under 30%!"
So, I decided to run my own numbers, for comparison. I brought up my Legacy Family Tree database, created a fan chart, and started counting. Out of 1022 ancestors, reaching back to the early 1700's, I've traced 113. That's 11 percent!
Here's the chart:
There are some reasons for the low numbers:
One quarter of my ancestry is German. My grandfather Arnold Aaron Anthony Stoelt was born of German immigrants. While I do have a photocopy of the family Bible naming his parents and grandparents, I have done very little German research.
While I have found 15 out of my 16 great-great grandparents, that missing person is my Civil War ancestor, my great-grandmother Rhoda Ruth Prosser's father, who reportedly died in the Civil War. Almost 40 years of research has failed to come up with a first name or family of origin for him.
In totaling up my numbers, I'm not counting women for whom I only have a first name. I'm also not counting names for which I don't have any evidence. My great great great grandmother Abigail Stanley was reportedly born in August 1790 to Joseph and Phylen Stanley - I haven't found any proof, and I'm beginning to think this handwritten family tree, handed down from my grandmother, was incorrect.
And, to be honest, I know that some of my lines have good documentation going back to the 10th generation, and I just haven't taken the time and careful effort to enter them into my database. My 3rd great grandfather Benjamin Curtis, who died in Michigan in 1888, has a well documented ancestry going back to 1700's New England. Another 3rd great-grandmother, Betsy Webb (granddaughter of my Revolutionary War patriot Jonathan Webb) goes back to William Bradford. Levi Lane (1784-1856) fought in the War of 1812 (mental note - I need to get his pension file), and I'd like to trace his Vermont ancestors.
And, since this is my own ancestry we're talking about here, I'm also not counting the ancestors of my dearly beloved grandmother Ervilla Varran Stoelt, who was my mother's stepmother. She had a stepfather, Elmer Van Wagoner (and yes, I traced his ancestry), and he had a stepmother, Frances Nora Tanner (you have to ask?). Her life story is important to me, because I own the beautiful crazy quilt she sewed in 1890.
So, next time you're thinking that your ancestry is finished and there's nothing left to search, think again!
When I decided in January that I was ready to take the plunge and send in my preliminary application for certification as a genealogist, I had no idea of the benefits I would receive from making a concentrated effort to improve my skills in research and reporting. One of the very real benefits I've gained is just the necessity (and luxury) of getting back to researching my own family again. When I became a professional genealogist and started doing research for others, it was absolutely necessary for me to learn how to cite my sources correctly and write a proof summary. When I was laid off from my part-time job (almost 2 years ago!) paid research was vital to this household, and I did very little research on my own family.
In deciding on my research subjects for my case study and kinship determination project, it made sense for me to choose my own family, since I've been doing research on them for over 30 years. And over the years, I've collected some unique original records - such as the original patient files for my great-grandfather Henry Hickox Chase, who died in the Traverse City State Hospital in 1940. (I asked for and received those records in 1985, before today's privacy laws kicked in!)
In looking at my own Legacy database, I'm more than a little horrified at the insufficient (or non-existent) source citations. Source citations like "1880 census of Manistee, Michigan", instead of "1900 U.S. census, Manistee County, Michigan, population schedule, Manistee, enumeration district (ED) 38, sheet 1A, p.218 (stamped), dwelling 2, Stacy Thompson; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 12 Aug 2012); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 728." I'm way behind in correcting these, since I have over 2300 source citations for more than 3500 individuals! But the best benefit in turning my attention back to my own family has been the additional investigation I've needed to do to fill in the holes in my research. Two recent examples come to mind:
Elkhart Daily Review, 7 August 1883, p.3, col. 3-4; digital image, GenealogyBank (http://www.genealogybank.com: accessed 12 Aug 2012)
In looking for something to prove my theory about my great-great-great grandmother Margaret Goodenow's maiden name, I found this newspaper article in GenealogyBank. My case study is going to be about the value of using newspapers to connect and prove relationships.
And in asking a Salt Lake City researcher to look for my great-great-great grandfather John Hickox's will, I was amply rewarded!
Medina, Ohio, "Old wills (includes administrators settlements, guardians bonds and inventories) 1820-1836," p.45, John Hickox will, 26 July 1832; FHL microfilm 423,849.
Here is the first page of the will John Hickox wrote in 1832, just after he married Abigail Stanley Scott in Medina County, Ohio. In it he mentions her daughter Louisa Scott, and his daughter Eliza Hickox - thus validating family trees first set down by my grandmother Ruby Reed in the 1940's.
This is only one of the original sources I will cite in my 3-generation Kinship Determination Project.
These are only two of the great finds I've made during the past year. With 5 months to go until my deadline, who knows what I will find next!!
On June 14, 2012 I graduated from Highline Community College with a Paralegal Plus certificate. This makes the 5th degree or certificate I've earned since I last walked to Pomp and Circumstance at my high school graduation 39 years ago!
As I sat and listened to the speakers, I began thinking about those other degrees and certificates, and wondering how easy (or difficult) it will be for my descendants to find those records. Since I was enumerated in the 1970 census in Merritt Island, Brevard County, Florida, they will probably figure out that I graduated from high school there about 1973. And, since my children know that I obtained my Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Florida State University, that information may be handed down orally. But if my descendants look in the 1978 or 1979 FSU records, they won't find me - I actually obtained both degrees only 4 years after graduating from high school, having obtained a year's college credit by taking the CLEP test before I finished high school.
And they probably won't realize that I attended two different community colleges here in Washington - Bellevue Community College (now Bellevue College) in 2003, and Highline Community College in 2011 and 2012.
In thinking about my history of lifelong learning, I started remembering several of my ancestors who attended college in Michigan, and where the records of their education might be.
My paternal grandmother Ruby Marie Chase graduated from Bear Lake (MI) High School in 1912, with a graduating class of 10 students. (My graduating class in 1973 was over 600!) Ruby and her sister Myrl both attended Michigan State Normal College, where Ruby graduated in 1916. This college was originally founded in 1849 as Michigan State Normal School, and became Michigan State Normal College in 1899, was renamed to Michigan State College, and then to Eastern Michigan University in 1959.
After graduating, Ruby Chase became a teacher, like most of her classmates, and taught school in Illinois before marrying my grandfather Maurice L. Reed in 1918.
My grandfather Maurice Leonard Reed went to school at Benzonia Academy in Benzie County, Michigan, which is where he met my grandmother Ruby. He graduated in 1912 and when World War 1 began enlisted in the US Army. Although he did not pursue a career in teaching, education was important to him. He worked for decades as a truant officer for the Lansing Public Schools, and after he was retired taught himself Spanish, just because he loved the language.
My maternal grandmother Ervilla Varran (who was actually my mother's stepmother, but she was my Grandma Stoelt, and that's all that mattered) also went to college to become a teacher, and worked as a teacher for the Detroit Public Schools until she retired in the 1960's. In writing this blog, I realize that I don't know where she went to college, when she graduated, or when she retired. Finding that information will help complete my picture of her as a person.
And going back further, Maurice Reed's father Percy Adelbert Reed finished high school in the little town of Fennville, Michigan, and then got his Teacher's Certificate in Allegan. He taught school in several small towns in southwestern Michigan before giving up teaching to become a store clerk, eventually owning a shoe store in Beulah.
And in our family, the tradition of higher education continues. My daughter Stacy graduated from Western Washington University with a degree in Spanish in June 2010, and she is currently a Graduate Teaching Fellow in the Romance Languages department of the University of Oregon in Eugene. She loves language, learning and teaching.
Like all genealogists must be in order to be successful, I am a life-long learner. And I have my ancestors to thank for their example!
One of the ancestors I had on my list to look for was my great-grandfather Henry Hickox Chase. I knew from family records that he entered the Traverse City State Hospital in 1936 and was there until he died in September 1940.
I spent some time on Google Maps and Google Earth, trying to pin down the ED for the hospital. Turns out I didn't need to go to the trouble, since the State Hospital had an ED all to itself: 28-18.
What I wasn't prepared for was how big this institution was in 1940! The first four pages enumerated over 160 hospital employees, including physicians, therapists, dentists, psychologists, nurses, clerks, cooks, bakers, kitchen helpers, dietitians, housekeepers, maids, seamstresses, laundry workers, telephone operators, and student nurses. When at last the roster of inmates began, they were listed in alphabetical order. I quickly scrolled through page after page until I got to the "C"s, and was momentarily taken aback when H.H. Chase wasn't listed. Then I realized that they began with the listing of women patients. This listing of just the females went on for over 25 pages - well over 1200 women. When I got to the list of men patients, there he was:
1940 U.S. census, Grand Traverse, Michigan, population schedule, Traverse City, enumeration district (ED) 28-18, sheet 19B, Henry H. Chase, digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 8 Apr 2012); citing NARA microfilm T627, roll 1753.
He was listed as age 69, although he had actually just turned 70. He was divorced, and had an 8th grade education. In 1935 he was living in his own home in Bear Lake, Manistee, Michigan.
I thought I knew what I was expecting to find on the 1940 census. But I'm finding out that this census is giving me a clearer picture of the life and times, and the surroundings each of my ancestors was living in. Where before I may have imagined that Henry H. Chase spent his last years in something approaching a nursing home or assisted living facility, now I have the image of something closer to the truth - of many brick buildings, housing well over 2500 inmates, all of them mentally ill.
Henry Hickox Chase, 1870-1940
The 1940 census is here!! I will have to admit that after all the hype, I was a little disappointed (but not surprised) that I wasn't able to get in to the NARA website to view images. As the National Archives put it the following day, they were expecting a tidal wave and got hit with a tsunami!
The first census discovery I wanted to make was finding my mother, Mary Elizabeth Stoelt, living with her parents on 14883 Faust in Detroit, Michigan. Using Steve Morse's website, I was able to narrow down the Enumeration Districts to 1604A and 1604B. When I was finally able to view images on the day after the release, I scrolled through 32 pages of ED 1604A and 8 pages of ED 1604B before I found them.
I was surprised by a number of things on this census. The circled X next to my grandmother's name meant that she was the one giving the information to the census taker. However, given that she was a high school English teacher, the errors are surprising. My grandfather's middle initial was A, not L, and Ervilla's name is spelled Ervilia. This leads me to believe that my grandmother was answering the census taker's question orally, and that the answers were written down as they were heard.
It was also interesting to see that their housekeeper was enumerated with the family. I remember my mother talking about Bernice, but I was under the impression that she was black, and came in for the day. According to the 1940 census, Bernice Robinson was a 26 year old white woman, born in Michigan, who lived with the family. My mother's family needed the help, because both her father and stepmother worked full-time; Arnold Stoelt was a printer at the Detroit Free Press and Ervilla taught school.
It was at once satisfying, and strange, and sad, to see my mother's name on her first census record. She missed being on the 1930 census by a year (my father missed it by 4 days). I have lots of memories visiting that ivy-covered brick house in Detroit when I was a young girl, and now I have another picture in mind - of my grandmother Ervilla, standing in the front door of that house, answering the census-taker's questions.
Mary Elizabeth Stoelt in 1942, holding her baby sister Ethel.
My friend and colleague Michael Hait wrote a blog post after he discovered a song he'd never heard before, called "I'm My Own Grandpa". This brought back memories for me, because this was my father's favorite song, and we all would sing the chorus along with him.
You can hear the Muppet Jugband singing it here on YouTube:
I'm a little late in getting started, but I have finally started making my list(s) of who I'm going to look for in the 1940 census, for myself and my clients. This census is especially exciting for me, since I was not involved with genealogy 10 years ago when the 1930 census was released, and therefore missed the excitement then. Also, this is the first census to be released digitally - no more going to the National Archives branch on Sand Point Way in Seattle, to crank the handles of microfilm readers!
One of the most important reasons I like to keep my records in a genealogy software program
(Legacy Family Tree
) on my computer is the ability to run specialized reports. For instance, I can run a report that will list everyone born in Medina County, Ohio after 1900, or generate a list of people who died in Michigan before 1920. The most recent report I've run for myself and my clients is a list of those people who were born before 1940 and died after 1940.
My own list of 577 names (out of a database of 3400) includes both sets of grandparents: my maternal grandfather Arnold A. Stoelt and his second wife Ervilla, living at 14883 Faust St. in Detroit, and my paternal grandparents Maurice and Ruby Reed, living at 1030 E. St. Joseph St. in Lansing. I imagine that both these families were grateful to have made it through the Great Depression with steady employment - Arnold Stoelt was a printer at the Detroit Free Press, and Ervilla taught high school English, while Maurice Reed was a truant officer for the Lansing Public Schools.
Since it will be released digitally with images only, there won't be a searchable index for several months. I am fortunate that I know where both sets of my grandparents lived in 1940, and I can determine the Enumeration Districts (ED) to look at.
To do that, I used Steven Morse's website on obtaining Enumeration Districts for large cities: http://www.stevemorse.org/census/. I selected the state (Michigan), the city (Detroit), and then selected the street (Faust). It gave me a list of 17 ED's, but I can narrow it down further by selecting the nearest street that crosses Faust. I looked it up on Google Maps, and found that the nearest street was Chalfonte. That narrows the possible ED's down to 2 - a much smaller target!
My great grandparents Percy and Mary Reed, however, lived in Beulah, a tiny village on the shores of Crystal Lake, in northwest Michigan. In order to determine their ED, I used Steven Morse's conversion tool, which converts the 1930 ED to the ED used for the 1940 census, here
. Their 1930 ED was 10-3, and using the conversion tool I can see that I need to look at ED 10-3 and 10-4 in 1940. However, I can narrow it down further by looking at the 1940 ED map of Beulah, using the 1940 ED map finder, here
On this map, it's easy for me to see that ED 10-4 is the one I want to look at, since I know that Percy and Mary lived in that section of Beulah (which is spelled wrong on the map).
My great grandfather Henry Hickox Chase, in 1940, was a resident of the Traverse City State Hospital, having been diagnosed with a form of dementia in 1936. It took me a combination of Google Earth
, and a private website to determine that the hospital was (more or less) at the cross streets of Elmwood and 11th in Traverse City. The ED here is 28-17.
My great great grandfather Stacy Clay Thompson was living in Manistee, Michigan, with his second wife Marian. His address on the 1930 census was 214 Arthur Street, and on the 1940 census I will want to look at ED's 51-9 and 51-10.
For my clients, I will be looking at ED's in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Montgomery County, North Carolina, Seattle, Washington, Mercer County, Ohio, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and various small towns in Minnesota.
I can tell I'm going to be busy, come April 2. Who will you be looking for on the 1940 census?
Last month I received an email from the president of our local chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists - he'd gotten an email from the Black Diamond Police Department, requesting our help. I volunteered for the case, since I live in Maple Valley, just a stone's throw away from Black Diamond.
In January someone turned in an urn of ashes that was found in the storage area of the basement of the Black Diamond Bakery. The urn was labeled with the birth and death dates for Helen C. Morrison, who died Sept. 19, 1977.
“Helen Morrison”, Record-Chronicle, 23 Sept. 1977, p.4
When I met with Sergeant Brian Lynch, he gave me the photo of the urn (being stored in his evidence locker), and the obituary he'd obtained from the Seattle Public Library. With the clues given in the obituary, I was fairly sure I could come up with the names of some living family members that we could give the ashes to.
I have been doing genealogical research for a long time, but I have never seen a case like this one where there were so many errors in the records.
I began with Helen's daughter, Ruth Kurtti. I found her cemetery record on Find A Grave, and her gravestone indicated she'd died in 1979; however when I checked Ancestry, I found that her actual date of death was 13 Jan 1980, as given on the Oregon Death Index. I found the death date for her husband, and emailed the Astoria Public Library for their obituaries. Those obituaries gave the name of their surviving daughter.
Next I decided to investigate Helen's sister Charlotte Balloway, only to find that on Washington Digital Archives there was no such person. Figuring from the obituary that Helen's (and Charlotte's) maiden name was Cook, I looked for the marriage of Charlotte Cook - and soon found that Charlotte Cook married John Galloway in 1917 in Snohomish County.
Looking at the 1920 census of Snohomish County, I discovered that Charlotte Galloway was born in Iowa, and that her father was born in England and her mother in West Virginia. The 1900 census of Wapello, Richland County, Iowa revealed that "Ellen" was born in October 1891, not 1880.
1900 U.S. census, Wapello, Iowa, Richland population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 137, sheet 12A, p.334 (stamped), dwell. 259, fam. 265; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 12 Feb 2012); citing NA microfilm T623, roll 463.
Then I started looking for census records here in Washington that might include Helen and her children - William, Charles and Ruth. I soon found them on the 1920 census of Earlington, near Renton:
1920 U.S. census, King, Washington population schedules, Earlington, enumeration district (ED) 15, sheet 3A, p. 171 (stamped), dwell. 54, fam. 55; digital image; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 15 Feb 2012); citing NA microfilm T625, roll 1924.
On this census, Helen's husband was listed as Columbus Morrison. That led me to their marriage record (in 1908 in Seattle), and to his 1951 obituary in the Seattle Daily Times.
From the census records I figured that Ruth Morrison was born about 1909, William about 1912, and Charles about 1914. My next step was to look for Washington Death Records - and found that a William E. Morrison (born about 1912) had died in Renton on 10 December 1985 and Charles L. Morrison (born about 1915) had died in Issaquah on 6 April 1981. A trip to the Kent Library to look at their South King County newspapers yielded this obituary for William:
"William 'Ed' Morrison", News-Journal, 13 Dec 1985.
"Charles L. Morrison", Seattle Times, 7 Apr. 1981, p.D6.
After exploring some online directories, I was able to determine that Barry Morrison probably still lived in Kent. I sent this email to Sergeant Lynch: Here’s the information:
Junetta C. Brown, age 64, lives in Seaside or Cannon Beach, Oregon.
She is the daughter of Ruth Morrison Kurtti, who was Helen C. Morrison’s daughter.
Barry J. Morrison, age 65+, lives on SE 227th Pl. in Kent. He is the son of William “Ed” Morrison, who was the son of Helen C. Morrison.
Leonard E. Morrison was living in Kent in 1986. He is the other son of William “Ed” Morrison, son of Helen C. Morrison.
From this information, Sgt. Lynch was able to contact Barry Morrison, who was astonished to learn that his grandmother's ashes were in the evidence locker at the Black Diamond Police Department. On Tuesday, March 6, we met with Barry and his family to formally turn over the ashes, and celebrate a successful conclusion of a puzzling case!
L to R: Claudia Breland, Sgt. Brian Lynch, Barry Morrison with his granddaughter and wife. Photo courtesy of The Voice of the Valley, c.2012.
Helen Morrison with her grandson Barry, age 2 years. Photo courtesy of The Voice of the Valley, c.2012.
With NBC's "Who Do You Think You Are?
" in its third season, I'm finding that I can't get enough of genealogy on TV! A good complement to that show is The Generations Project
, which is produced by BYU-TV. Rather than following celebrities, they take an ordinary person like you or me, who has a compelling reason for exploring their ancestry, and follow them through that journey. Here's a preview of one of last season's episodes: