July 3, 2015

Was Great Grandpa's Name Changed at Ellis Island?

Was Great Grandpa's Name Changed at Ellis Island?
 "My great-grandpa's name was changed at Ellis Island!" How often have we genealogists heard this statement? But do you realize that is not true? There is not one shred of evidence to support the claim that officials changed names when an immigrant arrived at Ellis Island. 

Officials not only did not have the time to start assigning new names to incoming passengers, they also did not have the authority to do so.  Check how many ships were arriving daily and how many passengers on average were on each one... then think about the lineups of immigrants waiting to be cleared. Think about the math - the sheer numbers of immigrants arriving during certain years. There was not time for officials to do more than process each immigrant as quickly as possible.

Sometimes immigrants used incorrect names such as the surname of a stepfather rather than the biological father, or a name the family had adopted for other reasons. Sometimes it was deliberate and an immigrant arrived under the name of someone else. Those arrival names were often changed by the immigrants themselves later in life.

One of the most common reason that your ancestor's name on the manifest does not match the surname your father and grandfather have used, is that it was a name unfamiliar to English speaking clerks, and was entered phonetically in other documents, such as census records.

Sometimes an immigrant chose to "Americanize" their surname themselves and simply began using their new name a year or so after settling in America.

When an immigrant's new name no longer matched that shown on their official immigration record such as a ship's passenger list, he or she might face difficulties voting, in legal proceedings, or naturalization. Below are some sample letters representing typical cases of immigrants who made their own decisions to change their surnames.

How Diamond became Cohen…  
How Kohnovalsky became Cohn…  
How Bahash became Amber…  
How Shukowsky became Zakotsky…  
How Asszony became Miazaroz…
 An excellent article on this topic called "American Names / Declaring Independence" can be found at Immigrant Name Changes

July 2, 2015

Children's Fashions in Civil War Era Photographs

CDVs (Cartes de Visite) arrived in the United States around 1859, on the eve of the Civil War (1861-1865). Demand for CDVs was high, as soldiers and their loved ones sought an affordable image of remembrance. Special photo albums were designed especially for cartes-de-visite.
Several years ago while prowling through a local antique store, I came upon a gorgeous leather photo album full of beautiful old portraits.  Most of the photos were identified with names in elaborate old handwriting and that also caught my eye. Holding a CDV in your hand is like holding a window to the past and I couldn’t walk away from that album. I wanted a better glimpse through that window.  That was the start of my collection of Civil War Era Photograph Albums. You can see many of them on my Lost Faces website. 

Children’s portraits of this time period  intrigue me, as during the Civil War era they were dressed as miniature adults. Young girls were dressed as miniature adults. Very young girls wore skirts and petticoats that were mid‐calf with pantaloons at ankle length. In 1862 three year old Mary Mermod wore a shorter scoop necked dress with pantaloons just below her knees.
Mary Mermod 1862. Private Collection L. Massey

In 1863 little Fanny Towne wore a scooped neckline which was no doubt identical to her mother’s evening or formal gown.

Fanny Towne July 1863. Private Collection L. Massey

As girls grew older and developed a bust, skirts and petticoats became ankle length or
longer, and pantaloons became shorter. The sisters Emily and Susie Fryer in 1863 have longer skirts and their pantaloons barely show.

Emily & Susie Fryer 1863. Private Collection L. Massey
Other clues for dating these lovely old photos is hairstyles. Young girls wore their hair in similar fashion to their mothers. Notice how these young girls have their hair parted in the middle (just as their mothers would have had) and at the height of the Civil War, had long ringlets added.

Don't Miss the Independence Day Special on DNA Kits!

AncestryDNA is celebrating Independence Day by offering a 20% discount on AncestryDNA. Don't miss this special offer. 

If you haven't tested your DNA yet, or Grandma's or Auntie Helen, now's your chance!

What can DNA tell you? You can learn your ethnicity. It can connect you to cousins you never knew about. Family secrets are often revealed as they were for my husband's and my families. 

My husband discovered that his great grandfather was not really his great grandfather! Instead it was another man. DNA confirmed family rumours on that one. You can read all about that shocker at DNA Gave My Husband a Completely Different Great Grandfather and DNA Results Leave us Gob-Smacked! 

What did I learn? That one of my sons had a first cousin no one ever knew about. I haven't blogged about that as I have not asked permission of the new cousin yet. But in any case, run, do not walk to AncestryDNA to order your kit! The discount will run from July 2-July 6

Please celebrate by spreading the word!

July 1, 2015

Happy Birthday Canada!

Canada Day is a celebration for everyone even though some are working today and taking the holiday on another day. It's still a celebration – whether you’re enjoying fireworks, outdoor concerts or fun with friends and family.  

What are you doing on Canada Day? I'm spending time with my son and his family before they move to Colorado. We'll barbeque and laze around the pool for the day. 

For Canada Day events from the Government of Canada, see
Celebrating Canada Day from coast to coast to coast on July 1, 2015! Come back soon for more information and follow on Twitter at #CanadaDay.

June 30, 2015

It's Not Just Loyalists! (A Misleading Title on Ancestry)

Recently I poked around a database record set on Ancestry.com. The title is UK, American Loyalist Claims 1776-1835. In the description given by Ancestry we read that "Records in this database relate to Loyalist claims and cases heard by the American Loyalist Claims Commission."

There is more detail given in the description but every sentence stresses that this database provides names and details of Loyalists, those who fled the Colonies during and after the Revolutionary War 1775-1783. However this is incorrect! Badly incorrect.

The records are divided into Series I (AO12) and Series II (AO13). 

Yes there are some Loyalist claims and documents in this set of records. But a very quick look in Series II (AO 13) reveals that in the section titled "American-Loyalist Claims Series II (140) Miscellaneous 1801-1835", we find Claims for Losses in Upper Canada after the War of 1812. 

These claims for losses were not filed by Loyalists but by ordinary citizens who suffered at the hands of the Americans or the Indians during that War. This specific (and valuable!) list of those filing claims is dated May 1824 and begins on image 15 of 228. It ends on image 49 at claimant number 2054.

It's an invaluable database but sadly not many researchers will find it since it is not listed correctly on Ancestry.com. And for those who do stumble on it by searching and finding an ancestor's name, they are almost certain to think that finding that name in this database means that their ancestor was a Loyalist. 

Please don't be fooled. When searching a large database, be sure to scroll back to the start of the specific section your ancestor's name is on. Look for the title of that specific set of records so that you know what you have found and can provide an accurate and correct source for the information.

June 29, 2015

Victorian Lunatic Asylum Patient Photos - So Tragic

Faces of pain: Harrowing portraits from Victorian lunatic asylum were taken by doctor who believed photos could help 'cure' them - even though many were only there because their husbands had tired of them. These Haunting images give an insight into harrowing lives of women forced to live at Suffolk County Lunatic Asylum

June 28, 2015

Celebrate Canada Day with FREE Access to Ancestry.ca!

Celebrate Canada Day with FREE Access to Ancestry.ca!
To celebrate Canada Day [FN1], Ancestry.ca is providing free access to all 235 million Canadian records on their site. The offer is in effect until July 1, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time.

You will need to register (for free) with your name and email. A username and password will be emailed to you which you can use to log in to view the free records. After July 1, 2015, you will only be able to view these records using an Ancestry.ca paid membership. 

[FN1] On July 1, 1867 Canada became a new federation with its own constitution by signing the Constitution Act - formerly known as the British North America Act. Canada Day is a national statutory holiday celebrated in all provinces and territories.

June 27, 2015

Once in a Lifetime Family Reunion

Share the emotional reuniting of four generations (71 people) from one family that scattered across America. As families spread further and further apart, reunions are making a comeback to keep traditions and family histories alive. 
Evie & Clarence Wedding Day 1948
image courtesy of BrilliantBabyProducts.com

This 3rd & 4th of July, in Black Lake, Michigan, after 67 years of marriage, Great-Grandparents Evie & Clarence will gather their entire living family of 71 people from all over America and will finally see their 28 great-grandchildren in one room; meeting many for the first time.  

With family members ranging in age from newborn to 86 this will be a day full of laughs, tears How of joy and memories that will be passed down for generations.

This is all thanks to Barbara Klee of Pemberville, Ohio entering a contest to win a Once in a Lifetime Family Reunion, and winning! TinyBeans, the app that makes sharing memories with family safe and simple for over 700,000 people around the world, is honoring Barbara Klee’s family with a $10,000 reunion of a lifetime!

June 26, 2015

Who Do You Think You Are is Back With New Celebrity Guests

Who Do You Think You Are is Back With New Celebrity Guests
 The two-time Emmy nominated series WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? returns this summer to share more fascinating stories, and shed light on surprising revelations, of the real life family history of celebrities. 

Executive Produced by Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky, the new season premieres Sunday, July 26 at 9/8c.
 The contributors featured in the upcoming season include:
·         Tom Bergeron, who is aware of his French Canadian roots on his paternal side, but wants to know what brought his ancestors to North America. He goes as far back as his 10x great grandmother to find the answer.
·         Bryan Cranston, who comes to discover an unfortunate pattern amongst the men in his family.
·         Ginnifer Goodwin, who sets out to learn about her mysterious paternal great grandparents, whom her father, regretfully, does not know much about either.
·         Alfre Woodard, who strives to find out more about the paternal side of her family, and explores how her surname came to be.
Additionally, TLC will air the U.S. premiere of J.K. Rowling’s episode of the series, where the best-selling author sets off to uncover her maternal French roots. She finds that a family war story might not be what she thought when military records reveal a surprising twist.
 Ancestry.com , the leading family history company, is teaming up again with TLC as a sponsor of the upcoming season. As part of the show sponsorship, Ancestry provides exhaustive family history research on each of the featured celebrities to help make discoveries possible and build out the story of each episode.