Friday Serendipity

It’s not only geese that migrate in their famous “V” formations.

Our ancestors migrated, too, and from here to there and back again, over and over and over. Consider most of that early traveling meant walking, it’s a good think you and I weren’t born pioneers. (Well, me anyway.)

Pamela Sayre followed up her husband, Rick’s, presentation on Mapping the West by teaching us at the Montana State Genealogical Society’s 2018 conference in Great Falls about the various trails.

Missouri was a “jumping-off” place for travel west in the 1800s….. perhaps the reason why was the folks or immigrants could come upstream on the Mississippi, overland to the Missouri, and then strike out west on foot. This would include the Santa Fe Trail, the Oregon California Trail, the Mormon Trail, the Butterfield Trail, and the Pony Express.

If you think, or know, your ancestor traveled on a westward-heading trail, there are many references and resources available to you online. Go for it!

Wednesday Nostalgia

Diane Southard spoke these words at the 2019 RootsTech in a presentation: “We’re all made up of all of us.” Stop and think about that for a second. I think she means that as we genealogists research our ancestors, we want to know about them because we recognize that we come from them. They are a part of us yet.

Since about half the U.S. population in the 19th century was from the British Isles (England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales) it follows that as we’re successful in our research, we will likely get back to having British Isles ancestry. They made a good half of us.

Which brings me to www.findmypast.com. “Findmypast is the ultimate destination for British and Irish family history with unrivaled records…” It was announced at RootsTech 2019 that “over the past year, we’ve added millions of new pages to the British Newspaper Archive, reaching all the way back to 1709…”

Findmypast has twice the Irish records of any other site; the largest online collection of UK parish records; British military records; Migration records you won’t find anywhere else. Their new offering is The Catholic Heritage Archive “making available records from the Roman Catholic Church across the US and Britain that have never been publicly available.”

Think you might ought to click to www.findmypast.com and take a looksee?

Tuesday Trivia

In a by-gone era, newspapers carried way more little personal trivia and tidbits than is the standard today. (Today there is Twitter, Facebook, etc.) Also in this by-gone era, a larger city could afford a newspaper while surrounding villages could not.

Take the case of the Montesano, Washington, Weekly Vidette. The issue for Friday, November 30, 1894 featured snippets from the surrounding towns of Elma, Ocosta, Porter and Cosmopolis.

Snippets like from Elma: “Married Nov 22, Wm. Fraser and Miss Carrie Tidwell. Both are well and favorably known in this vicinity.” Or this from Porter: “Albert Iliff returned Tuesday from an extended visit at Aberdeen. What is the lady’s name, Al?” Or this from Cosmopolis: “Mrs. Cullens and sister, Miss Flora Hayes, were in town Wednesday.”

And here’s the point. Even in the 1894 “big town” of Montesano, newspaper publishers had to sell papers to cover costs. And who bought their newspapers? And why did they buy them? The biggest news of a town newspaper was town news, news of the people and what they were doing.

I do recommend using www.genealogybank.com or www.newspapers.com to find these snippets. Yes, there is a subscription cost but would you find these snips on your own?

Monday Mystery

There are three National Cemeteries in Washington. Know where they are? Tahoma, near Tacoma, is one. The next is near Medical Lake (Spokane). The third is tiny 1.7 acre Fort George Wright cemetery, established before 1900 when the city of Spokane gave land to the government to get the fort established.

Some 669 persons lie resting there, interred before the cemetery was closed to burials in 1959. At one time, there was a bitter fight between those wanting “urban development” and those wanting to preserve the cemetery. Lucky for Spokane, U.S. Rep. Thomas S. Foley spoke up and in 1965 plans to abandon the cemetery were changed. Now the Air Force, with personnel from Fairchild AFB, maintains the cemetery. A list of those buried there is available online.

It’s a lovely place to go walking. The cemetery lies on a bluff with a winding road, and various gravel paths, leading down to the Spokane River.

Friday Serendipity

Rick Sayre was the second principle speaker at the Montana State Genealogical Society Conference in Great Falls in 2018. One of his topics was “Mapping the West.”

The history of how maps of the American west came to be is a fascinating, stand-alone, topic. As we zoom along I-90 or I-70, we can barely imagine plodding along on a horse trying to map the vast terrain. (Watch Smithsonian Channel’s Aerial America where they fly over a state and narrate the history.)

Rick stressed the importance of using maps in genealogy: (1) locate and visualize ancestors in time and place; (2) locate boundaries, towns and geographical features; (3) locate and plat land parcels; (4) discover and follow family groups; (5) Identify migration routes; (6) discover the social context of our ancestors; (7) Organize and correlate disparate pieces of the puzzle.

This is “old news” to most of you, I’m sure. The “new news” is that “the variety of maps and map related tools available for research in the Western states include cadastral, topographic, fire insurances, military, gazetteers and atlases.”

Wednesday Nostalgia

Are you of Finnish descent? Danish? Norwegian? Or Swedish? All of these ethnic groups have a center or museum here in the U.S.

The Finnish American Heritage Center is located at 435 Quincy Street, Hancock, MI  49930. “Established in 1932, the archive’s mission is to preserve and promote Finnish-American identity and history across North America.” Here is their website:  https://www.finlandia.edu/fahc   You might also “LIKE” their Facebook page.


The Museum of Danish America is headquartered in Elk Horn, Iowa. Established in 1983, their mission is to preserve the stories of Danish immigrants, their descendants, and the Danes in the U.S. today. Their website is: www.danishmuseum.org Bet they also have a Facebook page to LIKE.


Norwegians have two centers for information and study. The Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum is in Decorah, Iowa, and is a center with 12 historic buildings and a heritage center, library and archives. It was founded in 1877; the nameVesterheim comes from the Norwegian for “western home.” Their webiste ishttp://vesterheim.org


Coming in 2020 to Minneapolis is the National Norwegian Center in America. The Norway House was already there and this new research library open “to all those interested in Norwegian genealogy research.” Visit their website at www.norwayhouse.org


The Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center is located in Rock Island, Illinois. Augustana College was founded in 1860 by Swedish immigrants and therefore became a natural location for the Swenson Center. This is not a walk-in library; appointments are required. Their website is www.augustana.edu/swenson and they, too, have a Facebook page to LIKE. They will do your Swedish research for you; they offer a magazine, theSwedish American Genealogist; and they will translate old letters and documents for you. 


Did you remember that for every one of these ethnic-geographical research areas, there is free information on the FamilySearch WIKI??? Click to www.familysearch.org/wiki and then SEARCH. 

Tuesday Trivia

Good question: When did your ancestor arrive in the colonies? Referring to pre-Revolutionary War arrivals. Here’s a guide with time period, geographic area and resource;

1620 Plymouth Colony Mayflower Families/Five Generations

1607-1657 13 Original Colonies Founders of Early Am. Families

1620-1635 Plymouth/MA Bay Colony Great Migration Begins

1620-1640 New England Great Migration

1620-1650 Massachusetts Pioneers of Massachusetts

1641-1700 New England Early New England Families

by 1699 Maine/New Hampshire Gen. Dictionary of ME/NH

to 1700 (marriage) New England Torrey’s New E. Marriages

These are all pretty much basic New England reference books; you’ll find them in most genealogical libraries and perhaps online.

This list of references/resources is thanks to American Ancestors.

Monday Mystery

Is it a mystery to you what your grandmother’s kitchen might have looked like? Some of us are lucky enough to be able to still visit that ancestral home but many are not so lucky.

This is supposed to be a typical 1928 kitchen….. note the icebox, woodstove, two faucets for water (at least there was running water!) and the stool by the sink. And I read that pink and light green were “the” colors of choice.

Your public library has back issues of many womens’ magazines of the period. You can request them via your library and then page through all the “funny pictures.” How about Better Homes & Gardens of the 1930s? Good Housekeeping published from 1910? Sunset magazine which has been around since 1898?

Is yours today a retro kitchen? Do you have an icebox???????

Friday Serendipity

Pamela Boyer Sayre was a speaker at the 2018 Montana State Genealogical Society conference held in Great Falls. One of her topics was “Our National Treasure: The Library of Congress.”

She began with “even if you never visit Washington, DC, you should explore the holdings of the Library of Congress.” She continued saying that “the LofC is your library too, so use it!”

“The Library of Congress has diverse collections such as digital items, prints and photographs, sound recordings, manuscripts, maps, historic newspapers and much more…beyond just books.” And many of these items are available online. For free. Click to www.loc.gov and check it out for yourself.

So far, the resource from the Library of Congress that I have used most is the newspaper site, Chronicling America (www.chroniclingamerica.loc.gov). This site provides FREE access to millions of pages of America’s newspapers.

Wednesday Nostalgia

Do you have ancestry back in Illinois? Do you like to write? Here’s an opportunity for you. The Illinois Genealogical Society’s Quarterly for Spring 2019 carried a plea from Richard R. Anderson, editor of the Quarterly. “We Need Your Stories!” he begs.

My ancestor, Matthew Potter, was quite the guy, apparently. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War from his home in Illinois. His is a pretty ordinary story until, I found, until I scanned the images from his Civil War Pension File. One last document, filed in 1922 by his last wife (yes, there’s a story) says she “divorced him on account of finding him in a vile act with a chicken.” Hummmm. Think that would make a good story for the Illinois State Genealogical Society’s Quarterly??