12 June 2012

Start Here, Here, or Maybe Here

I have studied my family history since I was 15 years old and actively online since 2000. If you are looking to start the process of researching your family tree, I recommend starting here:

Talk to your parents, grandparents, cousins, great aunts, uncles, etc... and start with what you do know. Family stories and pictures, as most genealogists can attest, are the heart of the family tree. The dates and events in someone's life are interesting, yes. However, a biography or better yet, auto biography of someone two, three, or four generations back can really show you more than when, but who this family or family member was as a person.

Stories are lovely to pass on, but stories can indeed be just that. A story. You can discover that Grandpa's chin scar wasn't from fighting Indians; it was from falling out of a wagon at age 6. He’d always told a fun story to make light of the actual incident. Taking stories and family histories with a grain of salt can reveal a more accurate picture when confirmation comes across your research desk. 

In this same vein of confirmation, there are some sources that should be used as a loose guide. I've seen names misspelled on a cemetery marker, people interred under maiden names, nicknames, or with someone without a headstone indication. Even vital records spelled incorrectly, especially with internet data transcription falling into play. The State or Federal Census and birth certificates should be regarded with care. 

Census enumerators, immigration records are subject to name changes, age discrepancies, transcription or memory errors. Variations in name spelling are quite common, especially after naturalization and persons of foreign extraction.

Documentation is of utmost importance even with unverified documentation. Reputable websites, word of mouth, interviews, pictures, vital records, court documents, even the family Bible are all great sources for information. This practice of documentation even with the smallest lead will greatly help you in the long run.

Years ago, when I was first bit with the genealogical bug, I had my first six months undocumented. I had to retrace steps to document. It was a chore and now not a bit of information that goes by undocumented. I once had someone contact me to tell me some of my online research was incorrect. After further discussion, I found that the person had gleaned from my online family tree years prior and had not kept the documentation I’d offered with said gleaning. My documentation had indicated 1) a probability of facts and 2) further need for verification, which I had since nullified and documented hard evidence to the fact. It was interesting having my own documentation come back to me this way, however had that researcher (insert egg on face) done her own documentation, she would have not propagated erroneous information to other people online, in the family tree, nor embarrassed herself.

I recommend offering your family tree to cousins, sans living members, with documentation but include contact information for their records. Anyone can come along and take your hard work for their own monetary gain, copyright the conglomerate, and make a buck with your research. It is a rarity although it does happen. It is a good work ethic to source your work accordingly, be it interview, photos, distant cousin, another researcher, online or book repository. This also helps eliminate the propagation of  erroneous data.

I am also careful to never give out personal information on living individuals. ID theft is bad enough without someone ordering your personal documents (most vitals and Social Security are public record) because your info is innocently posted online or passed to a distant cousin who places it online for everyone to see.

I recommend setting up a free email account (e.g. gmail.com) that is online accessible to avoid loss of any email addresses supplied by an internet provider. I don’t know how many times I have gotten email from some of my five, six year old posts on message boards that I was so thankful to receive.

Rootsweb is very helpful for the beginner. The message boards there and the email newsletters which are regionally specific are the best.

I would also start with a good genealogical program for your PC. I personally like...

Its nominal $20 upgrade (bells and whistles). Any program that is easy for you to use, input records, document sourcing, and provides printable charts is good. I recommend reading the reviews on any free or paid family tree program which vary in price and usefulness as an $8 to $80 bottle of wine.Costlier is not always better.

The biggest things I have found in genealogy research:

1880 Census:
This is the LDS website, where the census is searchable by every member in the household. You can click on the link (scroll) on the far right of the page to find others listed. You can then take the reference and go to Heritage Quest (below).

One of my favorite websites is Heritage Quest.com
A number of libraries and genealogy sites have access to this. You can access it in your PJs on Saturday morning from behind a cup of coffee and a computer and also from home! ~grins~  I love this site. You usually get a pin number to use with your library card. It will then direct you to Heritage Quest.

This is a searchable list for immigrant ships...not inclusive, but extensive. There are other links to Ellis Island Ships there as well. If your ancestors came over via boat or ship you seek, this is a great place to start.

This is the best site for info on Civil War persons. This one too:

This is the 'county-finder' for any township you may come across. Good family tree programs have this already installed.

This will link you to the Bureau of Land Management. Civil War Veterans were granted land patents for 160 acres of land by the Federal Government. Non Veterans were granted 80 acres these were on newly homesteaded property. This is a searchable site by name for those patents.

These are good for searching for headstone transcriptions. 
I am at FindAGrave under my moniker, "The Cemefairy"

First look up the actual US Geological Survey location
For instance, this cemetery land was donated by my 3x Great Grandfather, Franklin KELLER back in 1856.
This is the location:

Feature Type: cemetery
State: Iowa
County: Warren
USGS 7.5' x 7.5'
Map: New Virginia 

Then we can look up the actual satellite image on this site…kind of fun.

This is for finding out what those old occupations really were. (What is a Mule Skinner? Someone who handles a team of horses..a teamster)

I have ordered from this company before and loved them. They take OLD, expensive books and take images and place them on CD Rom. I have an old history of the Frederick LITTLEHALE family. Nice find for only $25 for a book that runs in the hundreds. And later I was able to access the book images on Heritage Quest (link above) several years later.

Fun site for identifying or submitting unnamed or lost photos.

I have many links in my side bar that can help the budding genealogist. Feel free to leave me a comment if you can’t find what you need. 

15 June 2010


I picked up these photos at an antique mall for $3 each picture.
If you are family and are interested in this photo, I only ask for cost reimbursement. Thanks!

"Emma & Emil Peterson - 1903"
"Mr & Mrs. Emil Peterson"

The photo stamp on the front indicates it was taken by Shaffner in San Bernardino, CA.
It is their wedding photo.

"Emma Erickson to the left (right)
Mrs. Emil Peterson"

Light pencil writing on back looks like "Easter Sunday 1906".
Two women and three men.

"Carl Peterson"
"Neighbor girl"
"Helga Carlson"

(note that this line/name is written in the same pen/by the same person as the other two photos)

"in San Bernadino, CA"
Small toddler boy in white standing next to young blonde. She's got a hold of the fabric on his arm/shoulder. Looks like she was watching him.

Further research has uncovered the following:

Emil Julius PETERSON
b. abt 1872 in Denmark
Immigration in 1885 from Hamburg, Germany (per son's passport)
Naturalized 7 Jul 1894 in Los Angeles, Los Angeles Co., CA
resided in Santa Barbara, CA until at least 1930s.

married to
Emma J. ILMER in 1903 in San Bernardino, CA
b. abt 1872 in Denmark

Had four known children:
Herman Charles PETERSON
b. 28 Apr 1902
d. 1 Jun 1977

Boy PETERSON (is this Carl?)
b. 11 Oct 1906

b. 9 Dec 1908

b. 30 Sep 1910

25 October 2008

Genealogical Kindness Meets Dead Fred

Every now and again, I pick up photos at antique shops when I believe I can match names, research, and return photos with flesh and blood family.

I started this endeavor for a few reasons. I enjoy the research, can always use a good excuse to visit our local antique mall and lastly, to get these pictures back to family is a rewarding process.

Back in the 1980s, my mother had her car stolen along with boxes of old, old family photos in the trunk...irreplaceable to the family and heartbreaking for me. It nearly makes me ill to think of it. I can't imagine where they ended up but again, I try not to think of it.

I do not make any money off of this endeavor, but I do ask for reimbursement of my costs. This is typically a nominal $1 to $2, depending on the photo.

Feel free to email me or leave a comment. I do not accept inquiries from auction dealers or genealogical publishers as I'd like to reunite these treasures to family members. Thank you!

13 October 2008

Antique Store Photos

I picked up this picture for a dollar.

It's of Levi and Jennie SOMERS and addressed to Mr and Mrs Ed SOMERS, apparently Levi's father.

Levi Azariah SOMERS
b. 19 FEB 1869 in Bethany, Missouri
d. 26 NOV 1940

Father: Edward SOMERS
b: 12 AUG 1833 in Philadelphia, PA
Mother: Elizabeth Ann ELLIS
b: 21 MAR 1837 in Hampshire Co.,VA

Married in 1890 to Jennie ROUSE and resided in Wichita, KS

Ola Mae SOMERS b: 21 MAR 1892 in Putnam,Illinois
Charles SOMERS

30 June 2008

Revolutionary War Patriot George Keller

I contacted the DAR after several dead ends with my family tree. They have listed in their patriots a one George KELLER b. 19 Apr 1758 in Stoverstown, Frederick Co., VA (it's now Shenandoah Co.). Now to follow my bread crumbs on down.

Today, I'm posting about George KELLER, my Rev. War Patriot and my Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Grandfather. Yes, my 6x Great Grandfather.

What I do know about George KELLER is that he married Martha [maiden unknown], presumably in 1780. I have received information before my days of documenting my work, that he was married 13 Jul 1778 in Stoverstown. I do not know where I gleaned the marriage date from but it is a date I held onto, albeit undocumented (insert grain of salt here).

George KELLER of Monongalia County
Private in the VA Militia
$65 annual allowance starting 4 Mar 1831
Pension issued 10 May 1833

George Keller came to Monongalia County about 1786 from Augusta Co., VA. George was b. 19 April 1758 in Stoverstown then, Shenandoah County, Virginia. He volunteered at Staunton, VA to fight Cherokee Indians in July 1779. He was a private under the company commanded by Capt. Thompson in the regiment commanded by Col. Christee for 19½ months. (See Revolutionary War Pension Record #S5649).

My transcription of the Rev. War Pension Record is as follows:

That in the month of July 1779 as well as he can recollect, he volunteered at Staunton in Augusta Co., VA (to go against the Cherokee nation of Indians) under Capt. Christee, ninety-nine of us volunteering at the same time, finding our own rifles. Capt. Christie, then being sixty four years of age---that we marched. In the same month through Botetourt and into North Carolina, on the Holstein River: near Big Island, where we were joined by about eighteen hundred troops, and also by Col. Christee of Staunton. Their being the place of rendezvous, ---Col. Christee was the commander---in a few days we marched and after crossing the Tennessee River, burnt six Indian towns. Six of the towns came in and made peace---that we remained three weeks and then were marched back on the same route to Staunton and arrived there about Christmas
day and was discharged, after a service of five months and a few days, which discharge he took no care of and has long since lost.

That in the the month of April 1780, he marched in Capt. Thompsons' volunteer company of Riflemen, from Staunton, to the West Fork [Fort] of the Monongahela River to protect the frontier settlements against the Indians---on half of us were stationed at West [Fork] Fort and the other at Lowther's Fort, where we remained until August, and then marched back to Staunton, where we arrived about the first of September, after an absence of upwards of four months and discharged by a general discharge.

That he believes it was in November 1780, he marched in a company of about ninety volunteer riflemen commanded by Capt. Rankin from Staunton, accompanied by other troops in all about three hundred under the command of Col. Sampson Mathews, to Falmouth and then to Hunter's Works a mile above where we remained a few days---we then marched through Petersburgh, that from Suffolk we went to Camp Carson, where our tents came and Col. Dicks' regiments came, and a considerable number of other troops from Camp Carson.

We frequently marched during the night to Porstmouth [Portsmouth?] and back to camp in the day---that about the hundred and fifty of our troops turned out as volunteers at Camp Carson
to go to Guilford, where it was expected an action took place---there men marched under Major Posey, our company commanded by Capt. Patterson and within a day and a half travel from Guilford. We heard of the battle and returned to Camp Carson---during the winter we had several skirmishes with Arnold's troops in one of which Capt. Cunningham from Augusta was wounded---in one of these skirmishes a Hessian shot at him, wheeled and run. He fired and shot the Hessian as he ran---that sometime in the spring the volunteers were marched back to Staunton and arrived there about the last of April and discharged after a service of six months, which discharge he has long since lost.

That two days after his return from Camp Carson to Staunton, he received orders again to march, in the same company of volunteers commanded by Capt. Rankin, that we immediately marched across the mountain in to Amherst Co., to the Old Store where Cornwallis was. That a large number of troops were at the store and the enemy had moved off toward Richmond---We marched to Westham where we had a few rounds with the rear guard of the enemy from thence we marched through Richmond to Bottom's Bridge across a swamp where we arrived about daylight and found the bridge destroyed---we made a bridge of rails and waited until our main force came up---we then followed the enemy to Jamestown, near which we fired on the enemy's rear guard and took a number of cattle from them and had a severe skirmish. Gen Wayne commanding---thence we marched after the enemy to Yorktown, where he remained until about three days before Cornwallis surrender, he was discharged having had the camp fever for some time before which discharge was signed by Capt. Rankin and long since lost. That he was in the service this time four months and a half.

That in January 1781 (as he omitted to mention above) the troops that had marched to Guilford, hearing that [Lieutenant Colonel Banastre] Tarleton was going to attack Morgan, Major Percy determined to join Morgan. We marched in haste and joined Morgan and was in the Battle of the Cowpens and after that engagement we marched the prisoners up to Bedford in Virginia where the county militia took charge of them, and we marched back to Camp Carson. That he recollects very well Gen. Morgan addressing and animating the troops before the Battle of Cowpens.

That he is under the impression that he served during the Revolution a longer period for he recollects that after the Revolution he frequently said that he served about two years, but he was unable to read and write and from loss of memory he is unable to make any other statement of his services and may mistake dates.

That he now recollects that his eldest daughter was but two days old when he marched from Staunton to Falmouth under Capt. Rankin and she was born on the first or second day of October. That they never beat up for volunteers, but he entered into the service---that he is confident he served more than twenty-one months.

That he was born on the 19th of April he believes in the year 1758 in Stoverstown in Shenandoah Co., Virginia---that he believes the record of his age is in Augusta Co., with a sister if she is still alive. That every town of duty he performed he marched from Staunton, that after the Revolution he continued to reside in Augusta until about forty-seven years ago. He removed to this county where he has continued to reside. That he has frequently seen Gen. Washington, Gen. Morgan, Gen. Greene, Col. Howard, Col. O. Williams, Col. Lee, Col. Washington.

That he was personally acquainted with Capt. Triplett and Taite whose companies were placed under Morgan - Taite was from Augusta - that he is personally acquainted with Col. Thomas S. Haymond, Francis Billingsley esq. Hillery/Baggess esq., Col. Dudley Evans, Capt John Evan's, and a great many other respectable men of the county who he believes can testify as to his veracity and the general belief in his services.

He hereby relinquishes every claim whatsoever to a pension or an annuity except the present and declares that his name is not on the pension roll of the Agency of any State. That there is no clergyman with whom he has any acquaintances residing in his neighborhood. That he knows of no other testimony than Henry Whiteman of Randolph to prove his services. Sworn to and subscribed the day and year aforementioned.

signed (with his mark)
George Keller


Martha and George are recorded in Violet Gadd Coonts' The Western Waters as having seven children and further that:

"Martha, whose surname or family this author has at this writing no further knowledge about, was born in 1760 at Staunton, Augusta County, Virginia."

1) Sarah Keller
b. 2 October, 1780 in Stoverstown, Virginia
d in 1828 in Barbour Co.

Violet states in The Western Waters that Sarah was m. to Isaac "Boone". This is proven as Isaac BOOTH, with his military record sometimes showing erroneously as BOONE. Only recently I found his marriage to Sarah in the book Frederick County, Virginia, marriages, 1771-1825 by Eliza Timberlake Davis, published in Smithfield, VA by Davis in 1941.

27 Jan 1803, Isaac BOOTH and Sarah KELLER.

This is also fitting with the years of their children;s birth. Until recently, BOOTH and KELLER researchers had no proof that the marriage existed, especially with Sarah giving her two children her last name and not of their alleged father, Booth. It is said that he refused the children as his own also with no mention of his and Sarah's children in Isaac's will.

Sarah later m. 26 May 1816 to

2) Samuel Keller
b. 1782
m. 1 November 1798 to
Ann SPRINGSTONE (dau of Jacob and Elizabeth SPRINGSTONE of Randolph County). Samuel's granddaughter was Nancy Jane KELLER.

3) John KELLER and later changed to KELLAR.
George KELLER was living with him while George received his pension funds.
b 1784
d 1851
m. Rebecca HAMILTON

4) Elizabeth KELLER
b 1787 in Monongalia Co.
d 12 June, 1857
m 4 November 1806 to
Charles DIGMAN
They had at least eight children, four of them that I have researched are named:
Margaret "Peggy" DIGMAN
George Keller DIGMAN
Magdalene DIGMAN
Alpheus DIGMAN

5) Jacob KELLER
b. 1789
m. 5 February 1818
Elizabeth POLING

6) George KELLER, Jr.
b. 1791
He served in the War of 1812
m. 15 March 1827
They had eight known children

7) Mary KELLER
b. 1793

20 January 2008

Working Toward

I'm attempting to become a DAR member and since summer of last year, I've been anxiously awaiting mail and growing impatient with the State of Virginia. :)

Updates to come.

25 June 2007

Family Tree Software

I debated on whether to break down and purchase some family tree software. There are many to download for free but do they really do the job.

I've downloaded Rootsweb's free tree software by it's parent company Myfamily. The layout was busy, it was slow, hard to navigate and I needed something that documented things well.

I moved on to the Family Tree Maker. It's one of the longer running programs on the market. I see it everywhere in the stores but the price kept me looking. I wasn't about to fork over a 'c' note for the program unless it also made me breakfast in bed. Onward and upward....

I sent out a few emails to others who have been researching longer than I. A cousin of mine in Florida quickly responded to my query and was adamant, hands down I needed to use Legacy Family Tree. She said she'd been through several tree programs, and liked this one the best especially when it came to sourcing work. Sources, big and small, are the foundation of any reliable family tree so I downloaded it from their website: Legacy Family Tree.

I love this program.

This was a free download and I paid less than $30 for the added bells and whistles, unlocked without a hitch with the purchased key code. I have to say it's the best investment I've made and my cousin was right, it out performed the other software I had been using. The formats made it easy to back up online and I have used it for the last 10 years.

Do check out other reviews here of the top ten best family tree software.

Happy hunting!