St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Need Some Free Canadian Help? It's Here until July 3 is giving all of us genealogy types a great big present for Canada Day. From now until July 3, they are offering free access to the Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865 to 1935.

Here's the link in case you are interested.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Keep Digging to Overcome That Insanity Story

GT Note: One of my biggest joys in genealogy is finding old blood in my veins that also runs in other people. I've had the honor over the last several years of reuniting family members all in one place and one time as we shared our stories and our bloodlines.

While I have not personally been to the Godfrey Library, I have corresponded with them over the years and dutifully sent them money to have them send some files to me.

The following is an update from one of my cousins on some of her personal research. I thought this is a good reminder to all to continue that search for the elusive find of the month. Ellen, keep up the hunt.

Have you ever explored the Godfrey Library in Middletown, CT's Family History Center in your real or online genealogy travels? What a wonderful resource it is! It is only about ten miles from my son's home, so I was able to spend a couple of hours there last month.

As my time was limited, I only researched my mid-seventeen hundreds Witter ancestor in Connecticut--I had run into an alarming stonewall in the genealogy dept. in the Port Charlotte, FL Library, which has an excellent collection of New England and Northeastern family information.

According to one of the three books in which I was able to find information on Ezra and Anne Morgan Witter, Ezra had, in a fit of insanity, murdered his wife and three older children, including my ggggwhatever grandfather, Isaac Witter. So, obviously either the material was wrong, or that particular Isaac wasn't my ancestor.

They, at Godfrey, found several more Stonington, CT resources on the Witters, including one that mention the awful story, but said it wasn't Ezra, but a cousin of his. Phew! I was fond of Isaac as an ancestor, because he is listed in the DAR index as having performed patriotic duty. He was terribly crippled, apparently, but served as a cook to his militia. I knew that he was my ancestor, but because of the "awful story" wasn't sure who he was descended from in CT before he moved to Orange Co., NY.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

UK 1911 Census Online

Here's a boost for those searching their family genealogy in the United Kingdom.

Entire 1911 Census now Available Online for the First Time

Research commissioned by reveals nearly a quarter of the population (23%) have now actively researched their family tree*, with 2.9 million people having visited to research their own ancestors’ census records since the website went live in January this year**. The pastime is now just as popular as participating in team sports and overtaking other popular hobbies such as making Twitter posts and blogging (11%) and bingo (13%).

Following the initial release of the Southern English records in January 2009, the website now hosts the complete 1911 census records for people living in England, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. What’s more, for the first time in a British census, full details are available of British Army personnel and their families stationed overseas. There were 135,866 people serving in the British Army and 36,804 people serving in the Royal Navy across the British Empire in 1911, including 69,785 serving in India.

Christine Webber, psychotherapist and lifecoach, says: “Being able to find out how our grandparents and great-grandparents lived gives our own lives some extra perspective, and also helps us to understand ourselves better. The ability to delve into what our relatives were doing almost a hundred years ago is fascinating. It also helps us to get a sense of our own place in history. I think that getting in touch with your own roots is a very valuable and healing thing to do. So, this is a most exciting development.”

And it’s not just the older generation who are embracing the chance to discover more about their roots. Over a fifth (21% of under 35s and 35-55 year olds) have researched their family history in the past 12 months. People are turning to genealogy for a wide variety of reasons, from wanting to find out more about family stories that have been passed down through the generations (28%), to being inspired by TV shows like ‘Who Do Think You Are?’ and after a family event such as the birth of a new child (12%).

Women, however, are still leading the way when it comes to family history research as over one quarter (26%) are actively researching their family history, compared to only one fifth of men (20%).

The website service has been developed by UK-based family history website, owned by brightsolid, in association with The National Archives***. Completed by 36 million householders on Sunday, 2 April 1911, the census records show the name, age, place of birth, marital status and occupation of every resident in every home as well as their relationship to the head of the household and the online records include images of our ancestors’ own handwriting. For the first time the enumerators’ summary books for the whole of England and Wales have also gone online today, recording details of all properties in the country in 1911 – a great resource for anyone interested in local history or house histories. The 1911 census records have been released three years earlier than the scheduled 2012 date as a result of public demand for the 1911 census, which will be a key resource for family historians.

Debra Chatfield, Marketing Manager at, says: ‘“We’re delighted that the final records have been uploaded from the 1911 census including the military records and the records for Wales, the Isle of Man and Channel Islands. We hope many generations will gain a huge amount of valuable information about their ancestors by consulting the records and that they’ll discover new chapters of their family history that they previously knew very little or nothing about.”

Oliver Morley, Director of Customer and Business Development at The National Archives, commented: “It’s wonderful to see that so many people are discovering a new passion for family history through the 1911 census. Bringing this project to completion has been one of the most exciting events for us this year, and to know that so many people have been able to access part of their personal history online shows how valuable it can be to make these records available via the web.”

** internal data
***In line with data protection legislation, certain sensitive information relating to infirmity and to children of women prisoners will be held back until 2012. The 1911 census is a special case at the request of the Information Commissioner all records of infirmity as listed on the records (e.g. ‘deaf’, ‘dumb’, ‘blind’, ‘lunatic’ etc.) have been obscured and will not be available to view until January 2012.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Wall St of 1825

The two story building on the right front is the site of my family tavern. If only the family had known!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Monday Madness: 1792 Bible of John Matthews

There's a beautiful old Bible in the family. The question is, "How does it fit in?"

Samuel Simmons (1788- c.1818) lived in Allegheny Co, PA, at the time of his death. Or at least that is where the trail on him vanished into thin air. His widow, Elizabeth MATTHEWS, is found in the 1820 census of Lower St. Clair, Allegheny, PA with the three children and an elderly female. We can surmise the elderly female is her mother as Samuel's mom died abt 1790 in NY. His dad was remarried and happily living in Washington Co, PA, at the time of Samuel's alleged death.

Elizabeth disappears after the 1830 census of Lower St. Clair, Allegheny, PA, never to be seen again. We know not where she is buried, but it is generally believed she could be in a long forgotten grave at the St. Clair Cemetery in Mt Lebanon, Allegheny, PA. Her known descendants are there and it was in the neighborhood.

Much research has been done on trying to tie down her family roots. There is a Thomas Matthews in the neighborhood who served with her husband in the War of 1812. There is a Thomas Matthews who died in 1795 in Pitt Twp, Allegheny, PA who left a widow, Elizabeth and eight children. One of the children is named Elizabeth, so this could be correct.

Robert Laughlin is named the guardian of this child Elizabeth, but I have not been able to find any more information on him.

Now, a Bible from 1792 has surfaced which has the name of John Matthews in it. This Bible is in the possession of a 3rd great grandson of my Samuel and Elizabeth. Who is this John Matthews? Is he the father of my Elizabeth, or another beloved relative? To date, no other evidence has surfaced on either of the two suspects for Elizabeth's father.

The clues are there. If only we could unravel them.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Searching for Low Country Graves

Thanks to the Colonial Dames over in Georgetown, South Carolina, for reading the cemeteries in Georgetown County and getting the cemetery census online.

I found the story through the Eastman Newsletter and immediately set about trying to see if I could dig up any family members in Georgetown. Before I could do that, I had to refresh my memory on some of the surnames from that side of the family.

So, if you don't see me for a day or two, just look around the Low Country for me. You'll recognize me. I'm the one who will be digging for gold.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Careful Investigation Needed Before Before Posting Family Ties

"Hey, this one looks good. It must be my family. So, I'll add it to the family chart online and life will be so perfect."

So wrong! I was quite surprised when a distant cousin sent an email to me asking if a new family tree posted online belonged to my line. I hadn't seen it, so I went to check it out. Quite shocking. Who are the people they've linked us to? They are not mine.

I took a quick look at the sources noted and quickly noted their assumptions. It was assumed that someone of the same name and similar birth year must have been ours. Not so fast.

One must follow the evidence. Were the obituaries checked? Were the death certs checked? Did they check the wills? The probate records? The land records?

I know they weren't checked because I have copies and what it shows is not what the online family chart is detailing.

Now, there may be researchers who are misled on the real family for years to come. And all because the evidence was not followed properly.

Please don't take a census and make it yours. Please follow the evidence and investigate thoroughly before making a claim. Please don't make the family into a fairy tale.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Alien Files to be Permanent at National Archives

Signing Ceremony Permits Millions of Alien Files to Become Permanent Records at the National Archives

A joint signing ceremony on June 3, 2009, between the National Archives and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at the National Archives will designate as permanent the immigration files created on the millions of aliens residing in the United States in 1944, as well as those arriving since then. These Alien Case Files (commonly referred to as A-Files) document the famous, the infamous, the anonymous and the well-known, and are an historical and genealogical goldmine. The new agreement authorizes the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services/Department of Homeland Security to send A-files to the National Archives when 100 years have passed since the birthdate of the subject of a file. The National Archives expects to receive the first transfer of A-files later this year, and will store the files at National Archives facilities in San Francisco and Kansas City. Researchers will be able to access the files at these two sites, or request copies of files. An index will be available to support research use.

The A-files are a key to unlocking the fascinating stories of millions of people who traveled to the United States in search of opportunity. They include information such as photographs, personal correspondence, birth certificates, health records, interview transcripts, visas, applications and other information on all non-naturalized alien residents, both legal and illegal. The files are of particular interest to the Asian American community because many A-files supplement information in Chinese Exclusion Act era case files (1882-1943) that are already housed at the National Archives.

The signing ceremony is an important first step in the preservation of the 32 million records that were originally scheduled for disposal. At the ceremony, the National Archives will have samples of the alien registration form that was used to create the A-files. The form requests detailed information revealing valuable material for researchers and family historians, such as the alien’s current name, the name that he or she used when entering the country, marital status, occupation, name and address of employer, height, weight, and date and place of birth.