Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Genealogists to the Rescue!

A Facebook post I received this morning called for help:

FB friends, we need help! We bought this cedar chest at an estate sale and found it had a hidden drawer underneath. In it was a stack of letters, drawing of a house, marriage license and birth certificate. The letters are addressed to Arlise Mord at Methodist Hospital in Sioux City and are from 1947. They are postmarked from Wausau, NE. There are also letters from Arlise to Stanley W. Anderson in Sioux City. There are baccalaureate and commencement notices from the School of Nursing, 1949. Arlise's birth certificate (Mar. 7, 1928) to Arthur Emanuel Mord and Esther Helen Larson (maiden name). He was a farmer in Wausau. The wedding license is for Arlise and Stanley (am guessing the letters were their courtship while she was in nursing school.) Everyone loves a "happily ever after", so PLEASE SHARE THIS, we would love to give it all back to their families!

Immediately after posting this I had time to do a quick Findagrave search. Arlise Anderson came up with a full obituary.  Wow - wish my family were that easy!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

AncestryHealth and AncestryDNA

A recent Genealogy In Time article about Ancestry’s future growth strategy caught our attention. What was most disturbing is that Ancestry has sold its DNA sequences to Calico, a Google affiliated company. Here is the 2013 announcement about Calico.

“MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – September 18, 2013 – Google today announced Calico, a new company that will focus on health and well-being, in particular the challenge of aging and associated diseases. Arthur D. Levinson, Chairman and former CEO of Genentech and Chairman of Apple, will be Chief Executive Officer and a founding investor.

Announcing this new investment, Larry Page, Google CEO said: “Illness and aging affect all our families. With some longer term, moonshot thinking around healthcare and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives. It’s impossible to imagine anyone better than Art—one of the leading scientists, entrepreneurs and CEOs of our generation—to take this new venture forward.” Art said: “I’ve devoted much of my life to science and technology, with the goal of improving human health. Larry’s focus on outsized improvements has inspired me, and I’m tremendously excited about what’s next.”

We don’t doubt the philosophy behind this company – quality of life – is an important one. What concerns us is the privacy issue. Not only will over a million people who have had their DNA tested through Ancestry have their sequence available to another company, that information is accompanied by extensive family trees. And who else might gain access to this information?

We think it would have been a much better idea if Ancestry had first gotten permission from those who had had their DNA tested through that site. But then, it is about money.

Friday, September 11, 2015

African American Research Tips

Last Wednesday evening our genealogical society had the honor to host Char McCargo Bah, owner-CEO of Finding Things for U, LLC. Ms. Bah educated those in attendance with her presentation: We Were Always in the Courthouse: What You Can Find in African American Court Records.

Char’s Hints:  You can’t research African American ancestors without tracing the white population. No one is an island; we are all part of a community.

Don’t skip anything when researching genealogy. At some point you’ll come to a brick wall and you’ll need that piece of information you skipped over. If you’re using information that has been passed down, understand that additional records have become available since older genealogies were done.

Cite, cite, cite - If/when you publish, you’ll need  accurate citations - Char makes sure she has three sources to document each fact. Make life easier for yourself, cite as you research. Use cluster research or collateral lines.

Cohabitation records – African Americans that were married before the Civil War could go to the courthouse to have their marriage recorded. This applies to divorce as well, and this may be the first record of the couple’s children. In divorce cases they have to present their marriage license. One stop shopping!  The children are listed. Divorces are found in courthouse records with siblings and neighbors testifying. The only grounds were adultery and desertion. If adultery, there had to be numerous witnesses. The court would have lists of people from whom they took depositions.

Know correct terms; know the county. Not all records are on line. You may have to go to the courthouse.

Dispute of property: Division of Slaves.  You have to understand African Americans were considered property, and when people were taken to court, it was because slaves were property that had to be divided equally.

Keep in mind - Some court cases lasted 30-40 years. Some court cases brought slaves back in to verify the owner and owner’s family to settle land disputes.

Many African Americans went to DC to get married. DC was a popular honeymoon spot because of the availability of hotels that would allow blacks. Unfortunately, DC marriage licenses didn’t ask parents’ names.

Prior to 1865, the free people of color in Virginia were required to register every 2-3 years (Register of Free Blacks). Those lists are in local courthouses. They had to carry their free papers on them. This law was passed 1790, and took effect early 1800s. In Virginia when freed by their owner, an African American had one year to leave. They had to petition to stay and that had to be applied for and approved. Black Code Laws; some of these laws continued after Civil War into the Jim Crow period.

Char’s website can be found at: