Saturday, August 31, 2013


Next Wednesday and Thursday the National Archives presents a series of classes on genealogy over the Internet.

Free classes on how to access records in the various holdings of the National Archives will be accompanied by handouts and a call-in genealogy help line.

See the announcement here for the full schedule, links to downloading the handouts, etc.  See you there:)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Colonial Immigrants: Who They Were and Where They Came From

Yesterday I attended an excellent virtual lecture on origins of Colonial Immigrants by Mary Hill.  Free access to the webinar is available through Wednesday, Sept. 5 when it will join the rest of the Legacy webinar archives, available for a small annual or monthly fee.

You may enjoy the same information I heard and saw yesterday at this link:

Colonial Immigrants: Who They Were and Where They Came From

I have worked on my family tree since 1989, and attended conferences and classes. The above webinar exceeded all my expectations, and I will be using information Mary Hill shared in my daily work.  The only difficulty I may have will be how to find the time to use all the books and online resources she covered.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sorting it out

While there are people in my tree who lack enough information for me to find their ancestors, most of the people I have documented have the opposite problem: too much information. Although primary source information usually corroborates with other primary sources, even that may seem to fail at times.  Usually there is a reasonable explanation for conflicting evidence, such as two people with the same name living in the same area, and further information will often sort them out.

It is the secondary sources with their derivative facts which most often produces conflicting evidence, and the reason is usually some kind of human error in the transcription. Again, comparing it to further information can usually sort out the facts from the confusion, but only if one has a way to evaluate each bit of evidence.

Early settlers in America often moved from their original place of landing, but they did not frequently change either their religious affiliations, or their occupations. The names of their children would remain the same except where a daughter changed to her married name, and frequently her husband's name will be found with her father's name in the local military or land or church records.

Wills are wonderful primary source documents which often reveal family relationships and married daughters, but since the eldest son was frequently given the home farm (as well as the care of his aging parents) he might not be mentioned in a will, as he would already be in possession of his inheritance. 

This week I read an article summing up the kinds of proof to be found in genealogical records, and how to evaluate it, what weight to give the evidence. Written by Michael J. LeClerc and found in the latest issue of Mocavo News, his research tips, "Sources and Information and Evidence, Oh My!" also includes an excellent flow chart diagram.

I recommend it for anyone doing research on their family tree, as a way of sorting out the relative significance of the records they will find.

For those who wish to delve a little deeper, I recommend the classic "Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian" by Elizabeth Shown Mills.

The Geography of Genealogy

Geography shines understanding upon the migrations of our ancestors. Place names may either confirm or obscure the origination of families. To study my ancestors has been to learn how vital the natural features of the world was to their travels, commerce, and migrations.

Before the golden age of canals in England, there were rivers which carried much of their commerce, which made their travel easier, which powered mills for grinding their grains, and which provided fish for their tables.

Place names change through the centuries, or are misspelled in books and documents, and so confusion is cast upon which home village to look for a family name.

Latest case in point:

The Quaker John Pancoast (also spelled Pankurst) came to Burlington, New Jersey, with his eight children on the ship Paradise in 1680. He brought with him a written recommendation from his church in England. In the various books and documents citing this letter, he is said to have lived in Northamptonshire, an English county. His church is said to have been in "Ugbrooke". He is also said to have lived in or near Ashton.

Ugbrooke is a famous country estate in Devon which originally belonged the earls of Clifford.  It is nowhere near the place where John Pancoast lived and went to church. 

Bugbrooke is a small town on the River Nene, which also happens to flow through Ashton on its way to Northampton in Northamptonshire. 

And so the simple dropping of a letter at the beginning of a word can raise confusion like dust, obscuring the real home village of an immigrant ancestor.

The life of a genealogist is one of details, chasing out the little devils that hide the facts. Looking up Ugbrooke, finding it in Devonshire instead of Northamptonshire, discovering the river that connects Ashton and Bugbrooke -- the simple joys of a researcher on the family tree.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 and new records

This week I checked on some of the 'brick walls' in my family tree, and was pleasantly surprised to find new records added to the already impressive and vast collection at

Although most of my 'end of this line' branches remain the same, one branch grew fifteen new people,with documentation. In the chart above, most of the people on the right half were born and died in England, and most of the people on the left half were born in, or moved to, America.

 These are some of my earliest immigrant ancestors. Some of them were Quakers. (Click on the picture to see a large version.)

They lived in Milford, Fairfield county, Connecticut, and in the last generation (Mary Coley), moved to Cohansey, Cumberland county, New Jersey, which was settled earlier by Quakers.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Perseid Meteor Shower tonight and tomorrow night

It is too often cloudy here in western Oregon, but we may have a chance to watch the Perseid meteor shower tomorrow night . Sky and Telescope reports that the best viewing is from midnight until near dawn, when up to 100 meteors per hour may be seen.

This isn't the only meteor shower to regularly visit earth, but it is the biggest and brightest. The comet that causes the Perseid shower won't be back to earth until 2022, so I want to see the show this year for sure.