Saturday, September 22, 2018

A Trio of Earliest Memories - Saturday Night Genealogy Fun

Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings regularly hosts Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.  This week's assignment, suggested by Janice Sellers, is to answer the following questions.  Thanks for hosting, Randy, and thanks for the idea, Janice.
1) What is your earliest memory?  How old were you, where did you live, who are the characters in your memory?

It's hard to know which of these memories is the earliest but it's possible and likely that I was younger in the first than in the other two accounts.

My mom did not seem a particularly maternal mother.  It was almost as though she had some discomfort touching me.  I remember being little -- maybe two, maybe three years old -- wearing a one-piece footed sleeper, and I'd been crying.  Mom was sitting in a rocking chair, holding me and rocking.  She was wearing cologne (which I might recognize if I smelled it but cannot describe), and was dressed up, maybe ready to go out for the evening.  She was either trying to comfort me or just trying to get me to quit crying.  I had a sense of her unease, almost discomfort.  It's just a wisp of a memory.

I have a vague, nebulous memory of awaking in a crib, climbing over the side, and going downstairs to the living room in our home on Furnace Street in Mineral Ridge.  Surely I was three years old or younger.  It must have been a late afternoon in mid or late fall because I remember that the windows and doors were closed and the house was warm.  I can't remember who was in the living room but I think they were surprised that I'd gotten out of the crib and come down the stairs.  I especially remember the golden glow of the setting autumn sun coming through our living room window. 

Another memory from about the same time is of my mom cleaning the living room.  She had moved the furniture to the center of the room so she could dust the baseboards and clean the floor.  My father was repairing a watch at his roll-top desk in the adjoining room.  I was sitting on the edge of the couch, possibly playing with a doll.  My father came into the room, picked me up, and put me over his knees.  He told me that since it was my third birthday he would spank me three times, which he did.  Then he stood me up and give me a large coin, probably a half dollar or a silver dollar.

I think it's strange and interesting how little strands of events, sometimes the most mundane, common events, stay in our memory, while some of the most important events seem to have been completely erased.  It's also strange how the events before and after the memory don't exist in my mind.

Thanks for the genealogy fun, Randy.


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 


Monday, September 3, 2018

The Work of My Ancestors

I'm thinking of my ancestors on this Labor Day.  They worked most days of their lives while today most of us have had a day of leisure.  I liked this quote by D. Todd Christofferson suggesting the need for both. 
Just as honest toil gives rest its sweetness, wholesome recreation is the friend and steadying companion of work.

In honor of this year's holiday I compiled a list of occupations, professions, and employment of my ancestors through my great-great-grandparents.  It was interesting to see the collective results of the list.

Lee Doyle, 1913-1987:  coal miner, farmer, steel mill worker, insurance salesman, clock repairer and jeweler, clock builder, handyman
Audrey (Meinzen) Doyle, 1915-1997:  nurse, house keeper

Gust Doyle, 1888-1933:  farmer, coal miner
Beulah Mae (Gerner) Doyle, 1888-1913:  milliner, house keeper

W. C. Robert Meinzen, 1892-1979:  barber, electrician
Emma (Bickerstaff) Meinzen, 1893-1973:  house keeper

William Doyle, 1863-1941:  coal miner, farmer
Tressa (Froman) Doyle, 1867-1936:  house keeper

Frederick K. Gerner, ~1848-1926:  farmer
Elvira (Bartley) Gerner, 1954-1943:  house keeper, midwife

Henry Carl Meinzen, 1837-1926:  carpenter, gardener, confectionery shop owner
Elizabeth (Armitage) Meinzen, 1852-1920:  house keeper

Edward Jesse Bickerstaff, 1871-1945:  carpenter
Mary (Thompson) Bickerstaff:  1872-1940:  house keeper

Andrew Doyle, 1836-1908:  coal miner, grocer
Elizabeth (Laws) Doyle, 1845-1910:  house keeper

John Froman, 1841-1871:  coal miner
Catherine (Saylor) Froman, 1844-1928:  house keeper

Christian Gerner, ~1820-1899:  farmer
Elizabeth (Stahl?) Gerner, uncertain dates:  house keeper

Dixon Bartley, ~1806-1900:  farmer, wagon maker
Rebecca (Smith) Bartley, 1820-1899:  house keeper

Abel Armitage, 1821- after 1881:  coal miner
Eliza (Hartley) Armitage, 1813-1856:  house keeper

Ellis H. Bickerstaff, 1840-1907:  carpenter
Virginia (Nelson) Bickerstaff, ~1846-1878:  house keeper

John Thomas Thompson, ~1850-1923:  laborer
Lydia (Bell) Thompson, 1851-1930:  keeping home

Except for a smattering of other occupations, the work of my male ancestors generally falls into two major categories:

     >  those who provided food, the farmers, and
     >  those who provided fuel, the coal miners
It's interesting to me that one group worked in the light of day, the other group worked below ground in the darkness of the earth.  What a contrast!

Of course all of my female ancestors were homemakers at least part of their lives.  I believe women get short shrift when it comes to the work of keeping a home.  Their work was different than those of the men and had more variety throughout a day or season but was no less laborious.  And the hours were often longer, at least in days of yore before labor-saving conveniences.

I hope you have or had a great Labor Day.


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 


Friday, August 24, 2018

An Indexed Record ≠ a Source Document

There are indexes and there are indexes.  Some link to images of actual documents.  Some tell you where to find the actual document without linking to it.

When I find an ancestor in an index that's not connected to an image of a document, I print the indexed results and then try to obtain a copy of the document. 

Commonly used indexes, among many others, at FamilySearch are
> England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008
> England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005
> England and Wales Death Registration Index, 1837-2007

When I search one of these records I get results that look similar to the ones in the photo, above, and those below.

In this instance I searched for Jane Doyle, location of death as Northumberland, date of death between 1850 and 1865.  There are four individuals named Jane Doyle in the results, all meeting the criteria I requested.  Any of them could be (or could not be) the person I'm trying to find.  When I click on one of them I'm taken to a screen that looks like this one, below.

The only information in this record is name; quarter of death; location of death; and the reference to the actual source document in the U.K. GRO Index.  This is not an image of the actual document and does not give enough information to determine whether this is the ancestor I'm seeking.  No family members are named nor is any other specific information given. 

You'll notice that FamilySearch gives a citation for this record and offers me the opportunity to attach it to an individual in Family Tree.  But this is only an index result, not a document that helps me know whether this is my ancestor or not.  Until I order the document there is not enough information to tell whether this may be my ancestor or not.  I do not want to save this record to an individual in FamilySearch's Family Tree, order the record, and find out it isn't for the person I thought.  I'd rather wait until I know for sure, then attach this as a record along with a transcription of the document. 

These are the steps I recommend when when searching an index that does not link to an image of a document:
  1. Search the index and when you find a possible ancestor
  2. Record the information (in your research log or as a note in your personal genealogy program) and use it to
  3. Find a copy of the original document.
  4. Evaluate the information in the document and if you decide it's your ancestor
  5. Record the information in your personal genealogy program.
  6. Include a source citation and a transcription of the record in your genealogy program.

I love indexes but if I assume a person I find in an index is my ancestor without actually seeing the document I could go far astray.  An indexed record is not the same as a source document.

How about you?  Do you cite the results of index searches as documents?


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 


Monday, August 13, 2018

Dealing with an Impasse in Research

When I come upon an impasse in a family history search I often fall back and consider possibilities.  I prefer to call it an impasse — just a little hitch in progress until I figure out the next step, the next place to search for a solution. 

First, I consider all the records I have — civil (census, birth, death, etc.), parish, undocumented family records, and any others — and ask myself
  • Have I carefully reviewed every document for every scrap of information?
  • Have I missed anything in those documents and, if so, what?
  • Did I misunderstand or misread some record or some information given to me?
  • Was any of the information I received transcribed from another document/record else and, if so, how many times had it been transcribed from the original (knowing that every transcription allows for further misinformation to be passed along)?
  • Which information that I've received might be inaccurate?  Undocumented family records are high on this list.
Next I consider the possibilities.
  • If there was a feet to register the birth to create a civil document, might the event have been registered later than it actually happened and given a date within the registration deadline?  I can imagine this could happen if the registrants didn't have money to pay the fee at the time of the event.
  • If a child was born out of wedlock, might that have prevented the baby from being baptized/christened?  If so, there would be no parish record for the event.
  • If a child was born out of wedlock, was his surname listed as the mother's maiden name, or the father's surname?
  • If the child was born out of wedlock, was the child's birth require civil registration?
  • If the parents moved (or the county boundaries moved) between the time of their marriage and the birth of any of their children, which locations would need to be checked?

My Current Impasse
I am unable to find a birth or baptismal/christening record for William Doyle. 

Andrew and Elizabeth (Laws) Doyle married on November 14, 1863, according to their U.K. GRO marriage record.  By the same record they had both been living in North Seaton and married in the parish church, Woodhorn Church (St. Mary the Virgin, according to FreeReg transcriptions), in Northumberland. 

According to family records, their first son, William, was born on March 3, 1863, in Bedlington, Northumberland, 8 months before his parents were married.   However, also according to family records, his parents married on November 11, 1861 (instead of the date given on the civil record).

Considerations and Questions regarding this family
  • Did Andrew and Elizabeth forget the actual date of their marriage or did they fudge the 1861 date so William would have appeared to have been born after they married?  I find it hard to argue with both a civil and church document that give the same date of November 14, 1863.
  • If he was born before they married, would his civil registration be as William Laws or William Doyle?
  • Where were they living when William was born?  I began with a search of Northumberland then expanded it to Durham (though all information I have suggests they did not leave Northumberland until they emigrated).
  • Did his parents even register William's birth or have him baptized/christened?  

Further Thoughts
It's unfortunate that Andrew and Elizabeth and their family appear in no U.K. Census record.  They married, had children, and emigrated between the 1861 and 1871 censuses.  They do not appear in the 1870 U.S. Census:  Andrew arrived in late 1869 but was not a citizen.  (There is a 30-year-old Andrew Doyle in Philadelphia in 1870, apparently in a boarding house.  There are no identifiers other than a name.  My Andrew would have been 34 in 1870.)  His family didn't arrive in the U.S. until October, 1870.

U.K. GRO birth registration indexes tell me the probable birth locations of William's younger siblings were Morpeth in 1864, Alnwick in 1866, and back to Morpeth in 1868.  At FreeReg I can find no indication that there were parish records of their births.  (That is not to say that there aren't any since FreeReg has not yet transcribed all parish records.)

My biggest concern is this:  Does the lack of a birth record for William Doyle negate the relationships to parents, grand-parents, etc.?  William is listed as the son of Andrew and Elizabeth in the 1880 U.S. Census.

What do you do when this happens to you?  Do you have any other search strategies?


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 


Saturday, July 28, 2018

Two William Doyles and Neither Is My Ancestor

GRO posted the birth record for William Doyle to my account on Thursday.  Sadly, it is not for my great-grandfather.  I now have two birth records for two different individuals named William Doyle, neither of which is my ancestor.  I didn't think it would be so difficult to find a birth or baptism record for someone born in the 1860s in England but my searches are proving fruitless.  Perhaps because they are based on undocumented family records -- family legends?

A few days after I ordered the birth record I anticipated it might not be the one I hoped it would be when Dara of Black Raven Genealogy reminded me that one can search the U.K. GRO website.  I find it cumbersome to use but it can serve a purpose when one becomes more familiar with it.  I searched for the record I ordered, for William Doyle, born 1863, and learned that his mother's maiden name was not Laws.  Below is the record I ordered and received.

In an effort to make both records for the births of two different babies named William Doyle available for anyone who might want them, I'm posting copies below.  I hope some other family historian in search of either of these individuals will find this post, thereby saving him/herself £6.00 (or more, if the prices go up).

This first record (the second one I ordered) comes from GRO, Year 1863, Volume 10A, Page 537.  It is for William Doyle, born March 20, 1863, in Sunderland, Monkwearmouth, Durham.  His parents were Thomas and Sarah (Johnson) Doyle.

This second record (the first I ordered) comes from GRO, Year 1861, Volume 10B, Page 60.  This William Doyle was born December 9, 1860, to Patrick and Mary Ann (Quin) Doyle, in Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland.

Please help yourself to this record if you are a descendant or relative of either of these two Williams. If you would like the PDF, please email me and I'll forward the document to you.

My mission to find information about the birth of William Doyle, son of Andrew and Elizabeth (Laws) Doyle, born about March 3, 1863, continues.


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

By Guess and By Gosh: Choosing Between a Location and a Date

"By guess and by gosh" means doing something without careful planning.  Yet how can one carefully plan when faced with so much inaccurate information from undocumented family records?  (I'm referring to my Doyle family records which, perhaps, I should call legends.)  Family history research, by its very nature, involves a lot of decisions based on a best guess (and by gosh), especially when searching indexes and purchasing a record without being able to see all the pertinent information on it.

This post continues the saga of my search for my Doyle ancestors in England, based, as I said, on undocumented family records which gave this information for my great-grandfather:

William Doyle born at Bedlinton [sic], England - March 3, 1863

Previous research tells me that Bedlington is a city in the county of Northumberland.  I searched the U.K. birth indexes at FamilySearch and at Free BMD for a birth record for William Doyle born in Northumberland in 1863.

I did not find a record fitting that criteria.  Instead, I found William Doyle, born Newcastle, Northumberland, 1861.  Newcastle and Bedlington are close neighbors, both in Northumberland.  Considering how wrong the marriage date for William's parents was in the undocumented family records, I guessed that perhaps William's birth date could also be wrong.  I reasoned that at least the location was likely correct.

So I ordered a digital image of the birth certificate for William Doyle, born 1861, in Newcastle, Northumberland, England -- and hoped I'd chosen the right one.  The certificate comes from Year 1861, Volume 10B, page 60, line 73.

The certificate arrived within a week or so.  And this is what I saw when I looked at it.

U.K. GRO Death Certificate for William Doyle, born 1860, parents Patrick and Mary Ann (Quin) Doyle

This is a great certificate because it gives the mother's maiden name, which doesn't usually happen. But, of course, this is not my William.  My William Doyle's parents are Andrew and Elizabeth Doyle and Andrew was a coal miner.

I returned to the index to search again.  Knowing that Durham County is just south of and adjacent to Northumberland and that at one time they were combined (though they were separate counties by the time William was born), I decided to search there.  I found William Doyle, born 1863, in Sunderland, Durham, registered in the June-July-August quarter.  This could be my William.  Or not.  Except for the location, the other information in the index fits with the information I have.

I ordered the record this past Friday and am waiting for notification that it's available for viewing.  It could arrive any day or not for another week or two. 

I have to face the fact that sometimes I don't have enough information to be certain that a record I order will be for the person I hope it will.  With so many indexed records available online for free or minimal cost, it's easy to click through and look at the record and if it's wrong, move on to the next one.  But with records one can't see, it's more of a challenge.

I can only hope this most recent record I ordered is for my William.  If it isn't I'll continue my "by guess and by gosh" efforts to find birth information for him, though I have no idea where I'll look next.

These Doyle ancestors are being a bit contrary.  And they're becoming expensive, too.

How do you handle searches when the information you have may be less than accurate?  Do you ever have to choose between a location, a date, a given name, etc."  How do you make that choice?  (By guess and by gosh?)


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Trying Not to Be Too Hard on Myself

I began to beat myself up when my sister-in-law noticed the incongruity of dates (or the lack of usual sequence of dates) in the marriage of my great-great-grandparents and the birth of their first son -- and I hadn't noticed it.  I think of myself as a careful researcher, not prone to adding information to my genealogy program until I'm convinced it's probably my ancestor.  But if that's true, how could I have missed this? 

A day or so later I realized that I should not have felt bad that I hadn't noticed the dates.  In fact, I transcribed the marriage record, photographed it, and posted it before I added the date, a transcription, and a citation to RootsMagic.  Which means that I had not yet fully analyzed the information nor compared it to other family information.  If I'm not looking at dates I won't see them.

I have no doubt I would have noticed the incongruity, especially since the information from my Doyle family is based primarily on undocumented family records.  I'm wary of every bit of that information and take it as "legend" but...

You have to start somewhere.  If the only information you have to begin with is undocumented family records with names, dates, and locations, that's where you start your research.  But you must be fully aware that information that comes from family should be considered hints until more information can be gathered to support (or refute) it.  In addition, memory fades.  (Forty-odd years later he asks, "Were we married in 1861 or 1862, dear?")  And there can be transcription errors at any point for a record or a memory.  The more often something written is copied, the more likely mistakes will appear. 

You need to evaluate, analyze, and compare.  How does this record fit with that one?  Does this document support (or refute) information in the other record (or in the family information)?  Either way, it's a good idea to write down your reasoning and why you think it offers support for or against another document.

You can't find every ancestor at the same time.  When I bemoan my slow progress in my family history research, I have to remind myself that I can't find all of my ancestors at the same time, let alone documents for them.  Each person gets his or her own time, own research, own documents (unless they name other family members).  I can't record all of the information at the same time, either.  One ancestor at a time, one document at a time.  There are so many possible documents and so many ancestors, too!  With 8 great-grandparents and 16 great-great-grandparents and each previous generation doubling, plus their children (if one wants to research and add the children to the family group -- and I do) it all takes time.

I guess this is a pep talk to myself (and anyone else who needs one):  Don't be too hard on yourself.  Things take time.  Be patient with yourself because you're still learning.  Be careful, be diligent, be thorough, do the math, record everything, analyze everything, and enjoy the process.

How about you?  Do you ever need to give yourself a pep talk (or a good talking to) because you've missed a piece of evidence, assumed something, or overlooked information on a document?


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner.


Sunday, July 15, 2018

FamilySearch Campaigns

Do you know about FamilySearch campaigns?  Some are helpful research tools, others are just for fun.  Below are the ones I know about.  I don't know how often they add new ones but suspect more may be coming.

Sign in to your FamilySearch account and  you'll be able to see results for your ancestors in the campaigns below.  (Bear in mind that the results are for people in "your" tree which may have ancestors others have added to the worldwide tree.)

And if you're a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and would like to take ancestors to the temple, learn who's waiting at Ancestors Awaiting Temple Ordinances,

Fun, don't you think?  Sometimes I receive notices of these via email, too.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Never Trust Undocumented Family Records

She sent an email which said,
I have [William Doyle's] birthday as 3 Mar 1863.
Andrew Doyle married Elizabeth Nov 14 1863.

It wasn't exactly a question, just two statements.  But seeing those two statements together immediately created a question in my mind.  What's wrong?  We know that marriages sometimes follow births among our ancestors so this wouldn't be extremely unusual.

But this is the problem:  I received marriage and birth dates for Andrew and Elizabeth's family from undocumented Doyle family records.  The date of marriage I was given for Andrew and Elizabeth was November 11, 1861.  Considering I have in hand a copy of their civil marriage record, that takes precedence (in my mind, at least) over the family records.

As I search the England birth registers at FamilySearch the only William Doyle I find with a birth in the 1861-1864 range was born March 3, 1861.

I remember reading that there was a fine for not registering births within a certain time period.  FamilySearch's England Civil Registration Wiki has this to say about births.
The father, mother, neighbor, or other person present at the birth must register a birth within 42 days.  The 1874 act imposed a fee for late registration (43 days to 6 months).  This penalty may have persuaded some parents to "adjust" their child's birth date to avoid paying the fee.  After six months the birth could not be registered. 

But if they were late registering his birth, it doesn't make sense that they would move the date back two years, which would make it even later.  On the other hand, if they missed the deadline completely the indexed record I found for William in 1861 may not be Andrew and Elizabeth's son.

I wondered if there was a penalty for late registration of marriages but the FamilySearch wiki gives no suggestion that there was.

The census records I've found for William (with all their inaccuracies) corroborate the 1863 birth year.  There is only one record that suggests a different year:  the passenger list with his, his mother's and his siblings' arrival in the U.S.  They travelled on the "Wisconsin," arriving in New York City on October 18, 1870.  In that record, William is listed as 8 years old.  Calculated, he would have been born in 1862.  But then Elizabeth gave her age as 28 (therefore born in 1842) but, according to other information her birth year was closer to 1845-46.

I will order William's birth record (and probably those of his siblings who were born in England) from the U.K. GRO.  I will hope that it names his parents as Andrew and Elizabeth (Laws) Doyle.

I've known from other experiences with the Doyle information passed on to me that much of it is not accurate, so it's not like this is a huge surprise.  It's just a reminder to keep searching for further documentation.  And I love a good family history mystery!

Never, ever take undocumented family records as truth.  Always, always research civil, church, and other records.


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 


Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Two Wives of Andrew Doyle

I've finally collected enough information to be certain that a family "legend" is true.  Undocumented family records indicated that my great-great-grandfather Andrew Doyle was a widow at the time he married my great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Laws.  Now I know it's true.

Andrew's first wife was Jane Barron.  He was 21, she was about 20 when they married.

Below is a transcription of the above marriage record which came from U.K. GRO, Year 1857, Quarter S, Volume 10B, Page 134.
Year 1857.
Marriage solemnized at the Parish Church in the Parish of St. Nicholas in the County of Northumberland
No.  136
When Married.   September 5
Names and Surnames.   Andrew Doyle   Jane Barron
Age.  full
Condition.   Bachelor   Spinster
Rank or Profession.   [miner?]
Residence at the time of Marriage.   Neville [?]
Father's Name and Surname.   William Doyle   William Barron
Rank or Profession of Father.   Miner    Miner
Married in the Parish Church according to the Rites and Ceremonies of the Established Church, after Banns by me, [?] Mosely.
This Marriage was solemnized between us, Andrew Doyle  Jane Barron her x mark in the presence of us, Edward Barron  J. C. [illegible name]

Jane (Barron) Doyle died on October 14, 1860.  Andrew waited just over three years before marrying again.

Andrew's second wife was Elizabeth Laws.  They married on November 14, 1863.  He was 26, she was 18.  Family legend claims that her parents were strongly opposed to the marriage because he was so much older and a widow.  Do you suppose Elizabeth was strong-willed?  Or did her parents finally relent? 

The image above, with transcription below, is from U.K. GRO Marriage Record, Year 1863, Quarter D, Volume 10B, Page 463.  FreeReg's transcription of parish records indicate that the marriage took place in St. Mary the Virgin Church.
Year. 1863
Marriage solemnized at Woodhorn Church in the Parish of Woodhorn in the County of Northumberland
No.  177
When Married.   Nov 14
Name and Surname.   Andrew Doyle   Elizabeth Laws
Age.   full age   full age
Condition.   Widower   Spinster
Rank or Profession.   Miner   ------ 
Residence at the time of Marriage.  North Seaton   North Seaton
Father's Name and Surname.   William Doyle   Robert Laws
Rank or Profession of Father.   Miner   Miner
Married in the Parish Church according to the Rites and Ceremonies of the Established Church, by me, after Banns by me, Rev. T. H. Ashhurst [additional unknown word]
This Marriage was solemnized between us, Andrew Doyle   Elizabeth Laws in the Presence of us, John Mitcheson   Martha Doyle

As far as I've been able to determine William and Jane did not have children.  William and Elizabeth, however, had 14 children, four of which were born in England and the others in Pennsylvania.


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved. 
Do not copy or use any content from this blog without written permission from the owner. 

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