Saturday, June 28, 2014

Searching for Marriage Licenses


Good News!!

The decision was made to have the digitized marriage licenses be available for researchers to view and handle through the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center in Fredericksburg, VA.

The original documents were to be archived since there would be a digital copy available of the license and any supporting documentation. We are pleased the Heritage Center has offered to be the repository for these documents. And some of the supporting material will be a gold mine for genealogists!!

The title of this blog post is such because these licenses are not just for Fredericksburg or Virginia residents only. Virginia was and still is a Gretna Green where anyone can come, get a license, and be married immediately.  Not only did couples drive south from New York and New England, but also east from the surrounding states.  Since Fredericksburg is conveniently located to several military bases, like Quantico, many military personnel received their licenses from the Fredericksburg Circuit Court.

Our digitizing efforts recently experienced a number of marriages that occurred during World War II. We worked our way through a large number of marriages just after the war, and were a bit surprised that this week’s number for the year of 1942 was the largest we have ever done – 335!!  We suspect 1940 and 1941 will also be big years for marriages.

So, when looking for a marriage license for ancestors especially in the east,  and/or in the military, don’t rule out Virginia.  

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

“Tin Can Tourists” – June 10, 2014


I have been working on a monograph of the Nunn family and through that writing process I realized the title no longer fit. 

In his presentation on writing family history at the recent National Genealogical Society meeting Warren Bittner suggested starting at a crucial point in the story. That point for me was the death of Elizabeth in January 1947.

The prologue imagines how my grandfather, Elizabeth’s brother, might have received the information of her passing. It then occurred to me where the focus of my story should be -  my grandfather, Harry Nunn.

I reread my mother’s oral history, and my father’s accounting of their 1949 trip to Florida, I realized my grandfather didn’t retire and move to Florida in 1946, which is what I had believed, but actually it was probably more like 1949.  And that trail brought me to my grandparents’ move to Florida and settling down in what was then known as “The Largest Trailer Park in the World.”

In 1935 the Bradenton, Florida Chamber of Commerce wanted to capture their fair share of tourists that flocked to the Sunshine State each winter. Many of those tourists pulled a small travel trailer behind as they headed south on the Tamiami Trail. In order for Bradenton to entice these snowbirds, or Tin Can Tourists, to stop and stay awhile, it needed a trailer park.

The city could not come up with the money, but the Kiwanis Club thought they could. With a generous land lease from the city and donations from various Bradenton businessmen, a park was born. At first tourists were charged $1.50 a week, and if they stayed four weeks or longer, that rate was $1.00.

Living the American Dream
Retiring to Florida
Harry and Mary Nunn
Kiwanis Trailer Park abt 1950
Cabanna added later in the 50s.


By the 1940s the park had electric, water, paved streets and a bathhouse where residents could shower, do laundry, and use the toilet facilities.  With all those amenities the rental rate then went to $3.50 a week.

In 1996 the heavy hand of the IRS came down on the Bradenton Kiwanis Club. It was ruled that proceeds from the park were disallowed for charitable purposes, and the Kiwanis Club faced 30 years of back taxes!!  After some negotiation, penalties were removed, and the park was sold to pay the taxes.

The park lives on as the Bradenton Tropical Palms a 55+ community of 490 trailer homes.  Among the list of amenities is the “nicest wooden dance floor in the Manatee-Sarasota county area.

The Manatee Historical Society has a neat early brochure of the park online. There is also an interesting article in the Sarasota Herald Tribune about the selling of the park.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Of census and pizza


I had trouble finding Joseph Nunn on the 1940 federal census. I had his World War II Old Man’s Draft Card from 1942, which stated he lived at 606 Fifth Street, Lower East Side of Manhattan.  Since his discharge from St. Joseph’s Home in Peekskill on 25 August 1910, Joseph worked on farms in both New York and New Jersey.  I checked the census for both states, using the advanced search technique on HeritageQuest for different spellings of his name, searching by age, etc.  Nothing came up. 

Today I went to SteveMorse.org to search the ED for the address he gave in 1942, thinking he might be there in 1940, or at least the name he put down as the person who would always know where he was, Mr. Spitzle, at 614 E. Fifth Street.  Steve Morse has a great ED finder. You put in the street address of the city of which you are searching, a cross street if you know it, and he then gives you the Enumeration Districts for that area. Since I knew the address, I could put in the cross street of Avenue B.  That gave me only five or six EDs to search.  In ED 31-503, I found my Joseph.  He was living at 610 Fifth Street in 1940. He seemed to have a reduced rent and that could be because he was a “Helper” to the superintendent.  Joseph lived in this same place in 1935, he was 46 and single.

Why couldn’t I find him?  If I had remembered my lesson from the 1900 census, I would not have first looked for the name Nunn.  If I had remembered my father’s experience in Ithaca New York during the 1960s, when he tried to order pizza from the Italian Carry-out, when asked the name, and it was given, Nunn, the response was, “I gotta hava name!” 

After repeating the question several times, I am sure Joseph finally answered, “Joseph.”  His name appears on the 1940 census as “Joseph Joseph.”  Just as the 1900 census listed Catherine Nunn and her eight children as “Joseph, Catherine,” Because when she answered the question correctly, I am sure the census taker said, “I gotta hava name!”

Monday, May 26, 2014

Tips for Writing an Interesting Family History



Thanks to F. Warren Bittner’s presentation at NGS earlier this month, “Writing to Engage Your Reader,” I learned that writing a family history and genealogy writing are different.  Specifically, writing a family history that will engage your readers from start to finish.

I tend to march to a different drummer much of the time, so while most genealogists are busy capturing names and dates on scraps of paper and then entering into the database of their choice, I am interested in immediately writing about the names, dates, and whatever social and cultural history I can pull together. Entering names and dates into my Reunion software is mostly an afterthought.

I am a genealogy writer, which means I stick right to the facts. I now struggle with turning that writing style into a more relaxed, creative style that my readers will be hooked from the start, and will read through to the end.

Research has to come first. Mr. Bittner stressed to search all available records and then analyze them.  Some he listed were military, probate, court, contemporary journals, histories and diaries.  Look at every jurisdiction. Read between the lines. What isn’t being communicated?  Scour social histories – regional, educational, medical, gender, micro, ethnic, economic and vocations.

Start your family history with action, a moment of decision or high point, an interesting person, or an unusual situation. Catch your readers’ attention, give them a reason to keep reading.  Then add context.  “Arrange facts and details for impact, not chronology.” Stay true to the story.

What makes your ancestor unique? What makes them tick?  Your story should be emotion based; appeal to the senses.

Use clear language, action verbs, active voice.  “Every sentence must do one of two things – reveal character or advance the action,” states Mr. Bittner.

On a sobering endnote, Mr. Bittner says, “Nine tenths of good writing is re-writing.”

Carry on.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

Luminaria as far as the eye can see

Since 1995 the local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of Fredericksburg, VA have honored the American soldiers who died in service of their country by putting luminaria at their graves the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.

Fredericksburg's National Cemetery is dominated by the graves of Union soldiers, with some from the Spanish American War, World War I and World War II.  It is a daunting task to light one luminary for each of the 15,300 American soldiers in the National Cemetery. The Scouts are up to the task and last night we visited the cemetery to witness their efforts. It was a sobbering experience.  

There is complete silence while Taps is played every thirty minutes during the evening. 



Saturday, May 24, 2014

Census Search Tip


I was searching for Elizabeth Siebert on the 1940 census just now and could not find her. I knew she was still alive and living in the Bronx.  Why didn't she come up?

We are told to always search the pages before and after our family to see if other family members are nearby. Using this search technique I then searched for Elizabeth's daughter and son-in-law, Regina and Nicholas Eberhard.  I found them on page one of six of the Morris Street, Bronx section of the census.  The listing showed Nicholas as head with Regina, his wife, and their three children.  No Elizabeth.  I scrolled through the next page of names, nothing. The next page was blank. On page five I found four names. The top one was Elizabeth Siebert, indexed as "Silbert."  It listed Elizabeth as "mother-in-law." 

We have downloaded all the blank census forms that can be found on Ancestry.com. Elizabeth had a notation on Column 3 that stated, "cont. 3." I pulled out the blank form for 1940 and found that Column 3 asks "Number of Household in order of visitation." Going back to page one, I then noticed that Nicholas and Regina were indeed Household number three. 

The other three folks on this last page were Household 30, which had been missed altogether.  Why Elizabeth wasn't counted in the first round and ended up on a census sheet between two blank ones, I will probably never know. I do know that if this form had many more pages, I probably would not have taken the time to search.

Maybe Elizabeth really does want her story to be told. Thanks for guiding my hand.  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Noah Agard of Litchfield, Connecticut


We are in Glastonbury, Connecticut several times a year, but today is not one of those times.  That is unfortunate, because at its annual meeting today in Glastonbury, the Connecticut Society of Genealogists will announce that my essay, Noah Agard of Litchfield, Connecticut Revolutionary War Soldier won the “Tell Your Family Story” Essay Contest. This essay contest is a component of the CSG 2014 Literary Award Contest.

I am honored and humbled by their selection of Noah’s story.  By utilizing several sources including Frederick Browning Agard’s 1976 publication Agards in America, a handwritten account by Noah’s grandson, and the Agard family bible pages, I shared parts of Noah’s life that are not found elsewhere.

Thank you, CSG for this honor.