Ireland Reaching Out

Our Chicago client (and friend) Marsha was chosen as part of the Ireland Reaching Out project and featured in the Tar Abhaile video as they traced her roots back to Ireland. We helped her research her Irish relatives in Chicago and now you get to see what she learned on her journey back to County Limerick. This is a fun video and I love how it is spoken in Gaelic. And of course there are great views of Chicago to begin the Journey. Enjoy

Daughters of the American Revolution DAR Application Process

My first experience with the Daughters of the American Revolution was at the very beginning of my family research.  As a matter of fact, the DAR was there to help me solve the very first mystery that drove me crazy for weeks about my great-great grandmother Eliza. 

I had no idea that Eliza even existed.  She died at the young age of 24 in 1872 in Rosamond, Illinois (population 205), and before vital records were required by the state.  It wasn’t until I found a tattered letter in the bottom of my mother’s files where I read the story of the early death of Eliza.  The letter also mentioned the cemetery where she was buried, but that was 132 years ago and a lot of time to erode the etchings on the oversized headstone.

When I called the county’s chamber of commerce, they gave me the name of a local man who was the caretaker of this small but mythical cemetery.  Upon returning my phone call, he first shuffled some papers and immediately confirmed that he did have a record of Eliza being buried at the Rosamond Cemetery in 1872.  In fact, he explained to me how the DAR spent time in 1962 recording every headstone in the cemetery and it was the only record he had with an index of older graves.  1962 may sound like yesterday, but every year that goes by is another year for the outside elements to wear away the script on the headstone.  And 50 years later, her marker is barely legible.

What the DAR did to record a 90 year old headstone is monumental to my family research today. 

The Daughters of the America Revolution is a truly amazing organization with dedicated volunteers and a commitment to preserving our American History, including mine.  And best of all, our family was lucky enough to have a Patriot that fought in the American Revolution.  I was able to document this Patriot, apply to the DAR, and successfully be accepted as a member within a month of my first contact.

Based on what I have learned about the process of applying to become a member of the DAR, here are some tips I can offer up for a successful outcome.

  • Visit the national Daughters of the American Revolution website to verify if your Patriot has already been documented.  If your Patriot is listed in the index, you can then buy the lineage report that details how far down the line the society has proven records.  This will tell you which ancestor in your line that you need to start documenting.
  •  Determine which local chapter you are interested in applying through.  Each chapter’s rules for applying are different.  I filed my application in Chicago and it was a very easy process where I was able to send all the documents via email.  I didn’t even have to print anything out.  The historian filled out the application for me and federal expressed it to me for my signature.  I was approved in all of 4 weeks.  However, I also have worked on a membership for a client in a very small town in Mississippi.  This local MS chapter didn’t have a budget for paper, so I had to mail 2 copies of every document.  We were approved in less than 2 months.
  •  Do your legwork up front before applying.  Gather all your documents for each generation and make sure you have them scanned into your computer in file folders.  I strongly recommend you save and send every census record for each ancestor too.  These may or may not be needed, but I have learned over time that it is better to include everything, otherwise there can be delays due to additional documents needed.
  •  Each generation that requires documents needs to show clear proof of a connection to their parents. 
  •  Government Vital Records (Birth, Marriage and Death certificates) are required for each generation.  Once you get far enough back where vitals were not mandated by the state, then records with clear proof of a family connection to the prior generation need to be found.  This can be in the form of Wills, Land Records, Newspaper Obituaries, Pension Records, and Bible Records (as long as you have the original bible in your possession).
  •  Effective January 1, 2014, the DAR will accept Y-DNA as a supplemental tool of lineage.

Be patient and don’t get frustrated.  Delays are inevitable as you need to completely satisfy the society that you are tracing the correct lineage.  But the reward is worth the wait, and your descendants will thank you for your hard work in passing down this bit of family history.

A look back

2013 is almost behind us and as another anniversary for Ancestry Sisters approaches, we look back at some of our most interesting research, which includes multiple divorces with named accomplices; a child given up for adoption only to be given back when the parents were re-married; murder; suicide; orphaned children and more. One of these is even a story involving our own family.  A story we have been working on for many years, even before Ancestry Sisters was formed.  It’s one of the reasons we now do this full time.

Once upon a time, way back in the late 1800’s, there lived a young woman who took several different partners to her married bed.  Upon discovering her with her friend, her husband divorced her and named her friend in a divorce suit.  Not once, but twice he divorced her, naming 2 different friends.  The divorce decree(s) reads like a soap opera!  Who knew that way back when, a friend could be named in a divorce suit?  The wronged husband was given custody of the minor child, only to then give this child up for adoption.  But, when the couple eventually got back together after the 2 divorces (was he forgiving or what?!),  they petitioned the Court that the minor child be given back to them….and that child was returned to its biological parents. Happy ending?  You decide.  In the meantime, another child was born to this woman, but whom this child belongs to, is anyone’s guess.  Oh, and by the way, the couple did not stay together. 
This does not mean we are ever giving up on finding the true identity of this 2nd child.  The search continues…..

One late summer night on a rural road in the late 1800’s, a distraught husband allegedly killed his wife.  When discovered by the authorities a few days later, he stole the gun from the Sheriff and killed himself.  Here begins the story of 3 young, orphaned children.

A young couple from the Midwest heads West during the California gold rush.  Gold wasn’t lucky for them, but real estate was and the family was able to buy several lots in a city where downtown real estate was important.  So important in fact, that their child was allegedly kidnapped and murdered, as protest against this successful family.  This particular family kept us busy researching for the better part of 6 months and we learned so much.

Everyone has heard this one….the story of how the woman you thought was your grouchy Great Aunt, was really your grouchy Great Grandmother.  We researched and verified several of these, and almost learned a foreign language in the process.

Our research took us to Ireland last year and among the interesting research we discovered, was that our clients’ great grandparents were cousins and had to get special dispensation from the Catholic Church in order to marry.  Thankfully, our client took the news very well!

This year alone, we conducted research in more than 20 of the lower 48 United States; in hundreds of counties; in 2 Canadian provinces; in Australia and in 5 European countries.  We viewed close to 250 films both locally and in Salt Lake City.  We attended classes, seminars and even a convention.  We put more than 750  miles on our cars in search of answers for our clients, by visiting libraries, cemeteries, courthouses and genealogical societies, just to name a few places.  We sent over 1,500 emails, made countless phone calls participated in conference calls, learned to use a hand held voice recorder, and along the way we made some remarkable friendships from literally all over the world.  We can practically apply for DAR and Mayflower society memberships in our sleep, and at one point, knew more about the state of Virginia than we did about our own home state.

Try not to be afraid to dig into your family’s past.  We have as much drama and dirty laundry as anybody else.  It simply makes up our family quilt.

We are looking forward to what’s coming next………

When to Hire a Genealogist and How to Hire a Genealogist.

Whether you are just beginning to research your family history, or you have been working on your branches for years, there comes a time to hire a professional genealogist.

When to Hire a Genealogist:
  • When you want to find out more about your family and don’t know where to begin
  • When you are trying to find named or unknown heirs in a testate or intestate estate.
  • When you have hit a brick wall
  • When you have been looking at your brick wall for way too long.  It’s time for a new pair of eyes to give you a fresh perspective
  • When you don’t have time to devote to the details.  Sometimes the smallest of clues lead to the biggest results.
  • When you are looking for something specific
  • When you are writing your family history
  • If you are applying to a Society that is very specific about the documents needed to prove lineage.  It can be a very slow process and require a lot of legwork to tie up loose ends.
  • When you want to give the gift of a family tree to a loved one
  • When you just want someone to collaborate with.  We have made many friendships with our clients and they bounce ideas off of us long after our project is complete.

How to Hire a Genealogist:
  • Learn as much as you can about the process.  I hired my first professional about 6 months into my family research.  I was specifically looking for more information on my Irish relatives on the East Coast.  The woman I hired was extremely knowledgeable about the Irish and gave me a wealth of information, in addition to gathering documents that I was not familiar with.  I learned everything I could from her along the way and asked a lot of questions.  This knowledge has served me well with my clients of today.
  • Have a plan and communicate your goals to the genealogist before hiring them.  The genealogist can then assess what is needed to achieve your goals and provide a proposal for next steps.
  • Hire someone that is current and up to date on what is new in the world of genealogy.  Social Media has become a major tool for communicating with clients.  It can be very helpful to find someone with the following: Website, Facebook Page, Twitter Account, Blog.
  • Hire someone that knows how to retrieve a hard-to-get record.  Your families lived in many places.  You don’t necessarily need to hire someone that lives in one location.  There are several ways a professional genealogist can gather those documents from any geographical region.  An example would be a Civil War Pension Record, or a simple obituary.
  • Hire someone with access to many subscription databases.  There are several key websites out there that have a comprehensive collection of documents, such as newspapers, regional records, military records, etc.  For example, we belong to several newspaper websites.  Just recently, we found a marriage announcement from 1819 in upstate New York that helped our client prove lineage for the Mayflower Society.
  • Hire someone that is willing to do the legwork and physical research.  Online searches are not the only way to find documents and answers to your brick walls.
  • Ask lots of questions to ensure the genealogist can help you in your area of interest.
  • Be prepared to pay for document retrievals that are out of pocket expenses to the genealogist.
  • If travel is required to various locations to follow the family, then that may require additional expenses that need to be paid.
  • A good genealogist will even help you find someone local to a specific area and subcontract the work if that is needed to accomplish your goals.
  • If you need help outside of the US, there are tremendous records available online for specific countries.  However, there may come a time when you need to hire someone in that foreign country.  They should be able to help you find a genealogist in that area.
  • Look for an active Genealogist in the following areas:  Referral from someone who has previously hired a professional and had a good experience, Website of the Association of Professional Genealogists, Local Historical Society or Genealogical Society, Local Library, or the Website of the Board for Certification of Genealogists.  We have even had clients find us from a Google search and Angie's List

Other things to consider:
  • Is the genealogist responsive to your initial request for information?  This can be an indication of how they communicate in the future.  If you are looking to complete your research in a specific time frame, then communicate that in advance so they know your expectations.
  • Be realistic about results.  Even the most knowledgeable genealogist will hit a roadblock if a record does not exist.  Keep in mind that vital records before 1850 are rare, except for church records.  And even those are spotty based on the religion and church that kept the record.  A top-notch genealogist will think outside the box and put on their creative hat.  Examples of outside the box thinking include researching sponsors of the child’s baptism, or searching for divorce and probate records.  One of the hardest cases we have to date is a Switched at Birth story in Quebec.  We have found some key information on this case by individually flipping through pages of the church book one by one.  You cannot just rely on a search engine to help you find the exact name you are researching. 
  • If all you need is document retrieval, then someone local can be your best bet.   However, there are ways for a knowledgeable genealogist to gather what is needed.  This includes utilizing the inter-library system, and outsourcing a specific job to another genealogist in a specific area.  A good professional will have contacts all around the US, or know how to find someone quickly.
  • Ask the tough questions – how much do they estimate this project will cost, how long will this project take to complete, how will they provide the documents and recaps of all findings, etc.

And most importantly, find someone to have fun with.  Learn as much as you can and enjoy the process.
Ancestry Sisters hard at work