Friday, November 17, 2017

Finding Martha Reay and Her Parents

How often does it happen that you find information about a female ancestor and her parents before finding information about her spouse and his ancestors?  Never, in my experience, at least not until now.

William Doyle is the elusive ancestor.  But here's a church record of the baptism of his wife, Martha Reay, giving her birth date, baptism date, the names of her parents, occupation of her father, and a location (which may be where they lived or birth location).

          [At top of page] 1810 
          [page number] 111
          Name  Martha Reay
          Birth  7 Nov [1809]
          Baptism  25 " [Feb]
          Child  1st d d [first daughter?]
          Names of Parents  Robt Reay of Walls End, Pitman   Houghton, by his wife
          Mary late Bell, of Painshaw

I found this record on FamilySearch microfilm 95,029.  The index is available online but the film images are viewable only at a local Family History Center or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

More specific information about the record:
Parish Register Transcripts, Vol. VI, St. Luke's, Wallsend, Northumberland, England
Burials   } 1798 - 1812
FHL Film 95029, Item 3, image 677, page 111

This is the full page image from the register.  Unfortunately I was unable to download the image and had to use the Snipping Tool to make a copy.  If you enlarge it (by clicking on it) you'll be able to see that it's generally unreadable.  I must find a way to download those images.

Illegible saved image or not, the online image at the Family History Center was clearly legible and I'm thrilled to have found it.  This makes up, in some small way, for my inability to find any records for Martha's husband, William Doyle (other than their marriage record).

This is the line from me to Martha:  me -> Lee Doyle -> Gust Doyle -> William Doyle -> Andrew Doyle -> Martha (Reay) Doyle.


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Comparing the Quality of Saved Images: Screenshot/Snipping Tool ≠ Download

I couldn't find a way to download an image at the Family History Center so made a screenshot using the Snipping Tool.  I was pleased -- until I enlarged the image at home and found its clarity lacking, and realized that the more the image was enlarged, the more pixelated it became. 

Here is a comparison of images from the same document in FamilySearch saved using three different tools plus the downloaded image.  Please click to enlarge the images in a new window to see the differences.

Snipping Tool.
Image cropped from FamilySearch using Snipping Tool, saved as png image
Image cropped from FamilySearch using Snipping Tool, saved as png image

Print Screen button on keypad.
Image cropped from FamilySearch using Print Screen button on keyboard, saved as jpg image
Image cropped from FamilySearch using Print Screen button on keyboard, saved as jpg image

Firefox's print screen.
Image cropped from FamilySearch using Firefox's Print Screen tool, saved as png image
Image cropped from FamilySearch using Firefox's Print Screen tool, saved as png image

Downloaded image.
Imaged cropped from downloaded image from FamilySearch, saved as jpg image
Imaged cropped from downloaded image from FamilySearch, saved as jpg image

There are times when a clear image could be very important such as when there's a lot of writing on a page; think census, handwritten court document, etc.  If there is no way to download a document image I'll make a screen capture and try to be satisfied with it but as you can tell from the images above (especially if you enlarged them) a downloaded image is clearly more clear. 


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

"Matilda Toots" for the 2017 Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge

Our little family of four first encountered "Matilda Toots" when The Ohio Village Singers introduced the song after a Grand Illumination in early December, 1987.  Our older daughter was six, our younger daughter a six-month-old babe in arms.  It was a staple of the Singers' Christmas and holiday music for many years after and attending their concerts at the Ohio Village Town Hall became part and parcel of our Christmas activities for the next twelve years. 

The gentleman in the center of the photo above was the lead singer.  He chose someone from the audience to portray Matilda Toots, usually a girl young enough not to be embarrassed by the attention, and, while on one knee, sang to her.  Occasionally it was one of our daughters, much to their delight, though once he chose a 20-something young lady who attended with us.  Everyone joined in on the choruses.  It was rollicking good fun.

"Matilda Toots" was published by Frederick Blume but I was unable to determine who wrote the lyrics or composed the music.  I found the lyrics and image above at the Library of Congress website and learned through WorldCat that another publisher of the song, H. De Marsan, was in business in New York City from 1861 to 1864.  You can see images of the original sheet music online at the Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection at Johns Hopkins Sheridan Libraries and University Museums.  "Matilda Toots" would have been sung during the time when several of my known American ancestors were alive:  Dixon and Rebecca (Smith) Bartley in Butler County, Pennsylvania, and the Bickerstaffs, Thompsons, Fithens, and Bells in Jefferson County, Ohio.  I like to imagine that because they lived in a time when music was a major entertainment they heard and enjoyed "Matilda Toots."

In the video below Diane Taraz sings a beautiful but calmer and somewhat slower version of "Matilda Toots" than we heard at Ohio Village where the Singers sang with energy and enthusiasm and the audience sang along.  Truly, it should be sung by a male but you'll be able to hear the tune and sing along by following the lyrics, below, if you choose. 


    Or "You Should Have Seen Her Boots."

    One frosty day, on pleasure bent, I stroll'd in to the park—
    With skates in hand upon the ice to have a skating lark—
    Some were whirling round like tops, some darting like a flash—
    Others cut their names out, too, and others cut a dash—
    But not alone was I, that day, for, there in fur-topp'd boots—
    And four rows of pearl buttons, was my own Matilda Toots.
    Oh! My own Matilda Toots, you should have seen her boots!
    Upon the ice they looked so nice, did the boots of Tilda Toots.

    Oh! my own Matilda Toots, you should have seen her boots!
    Upon the ice they look'd so nice, did the boots of 'Tilda Toots.

    She had the prettiest pair of skates of highly polish'd steel,
    And gracefully in a chair she sat while I prepar'd to kneel
    Down at her feet, to put them on, by boring in the soles
    Of those fur-topp'd pearl button'd boots the smallest gimlet-holes;
    But just as I upon my knee had got one of her boots,
    A skater from behind upset me, chair, and 'Tilda Toots.


    As I, the chair, and 'Tilda Toots, were struggling in a heap,
    A dozen skaters, more or less, came o'er us with a sweep.
    Some went tumbling head o'er heels, others on the back,
    When suddenly, where 'Tilda lay, the ice began to crack!
    The water next came bubbling up! crash!  I saw the boots,
    Alone above the waters, where had gone down 'Tilda Toots.


    "'Scape ladders, grappling-hooks, help! help!" I roar'd with all my might
    A squad of gallant "Park Guides" then quickly hove in sight.
    They ran a ladder 'cross the hole,  the men aside I cast,
    I scarcely think I touch'd a rail, I rush'd along so fast;
    But I was there in time to save the soul of my pursuits,
    For by those boots, those fur-topp'd boots, I dragg'd out 'Tilda Toots.


    With 'Tilda in my arms, to the Refreshment House I flew—
    They us'd the proper remedies, and quickly brought her to.
    I call'd a cab and saw her home— and saving thus her life,
    Matilda Toots agreed next day to be my darling wife;
    And, as the water did not spoil those fur-topp'd button'd boots,
    Why, in those boots— identical boots— I married Matilda Toots!


Our family has fond memories of "Matilda Toots," of the Ohio Village Singers, and of visits to the Ohio Village at Christmas time and throughout the year.  In the late 1980s and 1990s when we spent time there, the setting was 1880s Ohio, the Town Hall was lit by gas light, and there was a comfortable, friendly atmosphere.  I hope my daughters recall to my grandchildren the sweet memories of time spent there. 

I'm submitting this post to Bill West's 2017 Ninth Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge. Just now you can click the link for his information post.  When he creates the final post with all the contributors I'll edit this paragraph to link to that post.


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Using Capital Letters for Names May Make a Difference

This week I performed a surname search in an index at the Family History Center.  Doyle is such a common surname I was certain there would be at least a few and hoped perhaps one or several of them might be mine.  It saves two keystrokes to type lower case letters and, being somewhat lazy that night, that's what I did.  First name:  william.  Last Name:  doyle.

I was surprised to see no results because FamilySearch nearly always gives a list of less likely results that don't exactly fit one's search criteria.  (Click on the images to enlarge and view clearly.)

When I tried the same search again using capital letters at the beginning of names, a list of results appeared.  (Sadly, none were my family.)

I performed this search at home and received a list of results when I used upper case and when I used lower case names.

I don't know if this phenomenon of no results when using lower case for names happens consistently at Family History Centers but I thought this experience worth remembering and sharing.  It would be sad to miss results for the lack of two keystrokes.  I'll capitalize from now on.


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved. .

Thursday, November 2, 2017

I Had Hoped for More: William Doyle & Martha Reay

William Doyle and Martha Reay are my third great-grandparents.  I hope it doesn't sound greedy that I wanted more information from this marriage record.  I'm grateful to have found this much but I had hoped that the names of the bride's and groom's parents would have been recorded.  Their birth dates would have been good, too.  Other than family information this is my only information about William Doyle and my only document for him.  But I'll be happy for what I find and keep searching for more.

Page 197.
Marriages solemnized in the Parish of Walls End
in the County of Northumberland in the Year 1825
William Doyle of this Parish
and Martha Reay of this Parish
were married in this Church by Banns with Consent of
[blank] this Third Day of
May, in the Year One thousand eight hundred and Twenty five.
By me Geo. Jackson, Minister
This Marriage was solemnized between us William Doyle his x mark
                                                               Martha Reay now Doyle her X mark
In the Presence of Joseph M[orow?]
                            James Jamson
No. 589
What this image doesn't tell you is that this marriage was performed in St. Peter's Church in Wallsend, Northumberland.  May 3, 1825, was a Tuesday.

The image comes from St. Peter's Church register, Marriages, 1813-1830.  This record was found on digitized, online images of FHL Microfilm #993,567, available at my local Family History Center.

See images and history of St. Peter's Church at Wikipedia.

 Onward to continue my search for William Doyle in other records.


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 30, 2017

What You Need to Know Before Looking at Digital Images of Microfilms at a Family History Center

Please note:  This post is specifically and only about searching and using FamilySearch's digitized microfilms.

You found an index at FamilySearch with your ancestor but when you click, you realize that all you can see is the image information -- the briefest of transcriptions -- and a citation.  You notice a microfilm number in the citation, so you click on "Catalog" and type the film number into the search box for "Film/Fiche Number."  In the results you may see an image similar to the one below.  Or your image may have many more films available.

On the right of the page (in the image above and to your right in this post) you notice that there is a magnifying glass and a camera with a key above it.  The magnifying glass tells you that the film has been digitized, indexed, and is searchable.  You can search from home or anywhere else with internet connection and, hopefully, find your ancestor.  But you will not be able to view images except at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City or at a local Family History Center.

When you search for your film at the Family History Center you will see an image that looks similar to the one at right with magnifying glass and camera but no key.  Now you will be able see images that correspond to the indexed information.  But please know that you cannot search for your ancestor and then click through to see the image.  If you click your ancestor's name after a search, you will see the same thing you saw at home:  a transcript with minimal information.  The camera indicates that the images are available to you in a format somewhat similar to a microfilm.  If the record is a register of births in book form, you will see the pages of the book.  You'll have to read the pages and search for your ancestor's name.

To Know and Do Before You Go to the Family History Center
  1. Register for a FamilySearch account if you haven't already.
  2. Search for your ancestors while at home.
  3. Print or somehow save the results of your searches including microfilm numbers, locations, and dates.  I'm a paper person so I print the transcription, (and from now on I will circle the microfilm roll number, and use the bottom of the page for additional information and notes. 
  4. Highlight/make note of the microfilm numbers you want to look at while at the Family History Center (FHC).  If you've decided to make a list of microfilm numbers be sure to include the names, locations, and dates of your person of interest.
  5. Notice that some microfilm rolls are subdivided into categories such as Item 1, Items 2-3, etc.  You won't know that until you dive a little deeper in the search area.
  6. Take a flash drive if you want to save images.  You'll also be able to print images if that's your preference.
  7. Know that there may not be much "personal" space at a FHC.  Condense and be as organized as possible.
  8. When you are at the Family History Center, sign in at one of the computers, go to FamilySearch, click "Catalog," and type in the film number you want to search.
  9. Since you already saved information about your person(s) of interest, dates, location, and film number and item, click on the camera icon for your chosen film and item. 
  10. Now you can search through the images much as you would through a roll of microfilm.
  11. Be aware that the film number may not appear on all screens as you continue your search and detailed locations don't appear in the citations.  Keep clear, accurate, detailed records as you proceed with your searches.

One difference between the online digital images and a roll of microfilm is that FamilySearch has served us well by making a kind of contact sheet where we can see small images of the larger pages.  (You can reach that screen by clicking the little icon at left with small rectangles on it.)  You'll notice that some images fill the pages; other are smaller and similar to index cards.  Those smaller images give information about subsequent pages and may include name of organization and location where the records were made, dates, and possibly microfilm number.  This is especially helpful when there are several sets of records on the same roll of microfilm.

If you want to save images of the records you should be able to but you'll have to be more tech savvy than I am.  I did not succeed in saving whole pages.  In fact, I was unsuccessful in saving the parts of several pages with my persons of interest.  I'm sure it can be done but I didn't have time to figure it out while I was there.  "Download image" did not work and I couldn't see how to make a screenshot (which would not have been as clear as a download).  If any reader knows how to save an image of a document at a Family History Center, I hope you will please share.

Because I didn't know how the system worked at the Family History Center, my time there was not as productive as it could have been.  I wasted time using search (at the magnifying glass) and finding no spot to click to see an image.  I assumed the microfilm roll images would be available the same way images are at the online FamilySearch website.  I wasn't organized as well as I thought, either, especially with knowing exactly which part of a roll of film I wanted to view.  And the computer was different than mine at home.  I'll be better organized for my next visit.

You can find a local Family History Center or FamilySearch Affiliate Library here by typing in your zip code.  I don't know if the Affiliate Libraries offer the same access as the Family History Centers.

Good luck!


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A Resource for Researching British Coalmining Ancestors

If you have British ancestors who were coal miners you might find Brian Elliott's Tracing Your Coalmining Ancestors:  A Guide for Family Historians a helpful resource.  It appeared in search results when I was seeking information about my British coalmining ancestor William Doyle.  Although only part of the book is available for viewing at Google Books there is enough to know that it is a goldmine of resources.

The first chapter focuses on the life and work of a coal miner including various jobs he may have done.  There are also sections on home and bathing (certainly a necessity after being exposed to coal and coal dust all day); disasters, accidents, and disease; rights, strikes, and associations; women and child miners (I was not aware that women worked in and/or for the mines.); and more.  The final chapters give both regional and national coal mining sources for Scotland, England, and Wales.

There is a glossary of coal mining terms.  I learned that though we may use the terms collier, coalminer, and pitman interchangeably they are not the same and have different responsibilities.  I also learned the meaning of the terms afterdamp, blackdamp/chokedamp, and firedamp -- none of them good.  When your ancestor worked in a coal mine, all things mining become interesting.

There are a good number of photographs which help the reader envision the setting, clothing, etc. of his/her own ancestor.   Interspersed through the pages are excerpts of interviews conducted with miners.  The author mentioned that mining is often an intergenerational occupation:  father, son, grandson, one follows the other into the mines, a fact that may help when searching for the next older generation.  There are many suggestions for places to research an ancestor, ones that I would not have known had I not read the pages of this book. 

I especially liked this description (on p. 3) of coal miners.
Unfortunately, coalminers are often portrayed in stereotypical extremis, banded together as militant agitators or habitual drunkards, even as a "special breed"....  In reality–and this is where good family history research is so important–miners lived in communities where the pit, family, sport and leisure, politics and even religion combined and interacted in many positive ways; and especially manifested in deep friendships and an unspoken camaraderie engendered by the ever-present shared dangers of the job...."

Even reading only the limited number of pages of this book available online, I can see its helpfulness in learning about how miners and their families lived and as an aid for tracing my coalmining ancestors.  I hope to purchase a copy soon.


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

You Never Know Where a Search Will Lead

Every search has to start somewhere, based on some scrap of accurate or inaccurate information.  You don't know where the search will lead, or whether it's in the right (or wrong) direction until you've searched.  And it may only lead to a dead end.  This was a string of searches I performed for William Doyle. 

Family sources record that William Doyle, coal miner, died in 1844, presumably in England.  That's not much to go on.  Making a guess, I imagined the possibility of a mine disaster in 1844 and began a search.

Search Terms:  Collieries Northumberland England 1850s

Among the results of the search was a link to a book about mining disasters called Darkest Hours.

The link took me to page 710 in the book where I learned that on September 28, 1844, the Haswell Colliery in Northumberland, England, exploded and 95 people died.

Could William Doyle have worked at the Haswell Colliery and, if so, could he have died in that explosion?  The year corresponds to the family information and the general geographic location where Andrew likely lived.   I decided to search further considering this as a possibility, however slight.

Search Terms:  Haswell Colliery Northumberland England
That search led to a website about the Haswell Colliery Coal Mine where I learned that there was a miner's strike in 1844, and confirmed that 95 men died in a subsequent explosion on September 28, 1844.  It looks like the colliery is in Durham, not Northumberland.  William may have lived in both counties at different times.

Search Terms:  Haswell, County Durham

I found the Wikipedia page for Haswell, which linked to the Durham Mining Museum's page for Haswell Colliery.  There I found a list of deaths due to mining disasters, including 94 of the 95 who died in the explosion at Haswell Colliery in 1844.  William Doyle was not one of the 94 who were listed.  Could he have been the 95th?

Chances are William did not die in this explosion and probably didn't work at Haswell Colliery.  I'll continue searching in another direction.

My local Family History Center was not open during its scheduled time tonight.  I want to look at some locked FamilySearch microfilms that have been scanned including a parish marriage record for William.  The next scheduled open hours are this coming Saturday.  I hope to go then. 


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 20, 2017

An Exercise in Possibilities

Considering the possibilities is something I like to do when an ancestor appears in few records, is "lost," or when the "facts" I have don't add up.  In cases like the one below I imagine as many possibilities as I can and then list the next research steps to take. 

My ancestor in this exercise is William Doyle.  His name, death year of 1844, his wife's name (Martha Ray), and his occupation of coal miner come from family records.  The only record I've found for him is an online transcription of his marriage to Martha Reay in 1825.

His absence from records include
  • the 1841 U.K. Census.  His wife Martha and five children live in Bedlington, Northumberland.
  • an 1844 death record (though there are plenty of other William Doyles indexed online but none in 1844). 
  • a birth record or hint of a birth year.  (The only basis for estimating a birth year is his marriage year.)

Possibilities for William's absence with his family from the 1841 U.K. Census are...

Possibility #1:  He was temporarily working in another mine in another city or county (based on the assumption that he was coal miner as per family legend).
Next Steps:
  • Look at every William Doyle in the census to see if any were coal miners.
  • Look for one who was living alone, in a boarding house, or with relatives.
  • Look at birth years (assuming a birth year between 1795 and 1805 based on the 1825 year of marriage).
  • Learn the names and locations of other coal mines then look for him there.

Possibility #2:  He died before the 1841 census.
Next Steps:
  • Look for a death record between 1838 and 1841.  (His youngest child was born in 1839.)
  • Were deaths recorded in newspapers?
  • If he died in a mine accident there may be another kind of death record in addition to a civil land church record.

Possibility #3:  He was in the hospital due to an injury or illness.
Next Steps
  • Learn whether patients in hospitals were enumerated there or at home.
  • Identify contemporary hospitals local to Bedlington where Martha and the children were living in 1841.
  • Learn whether there are records of mining accidents in collieries in England in the 1840s.  If so, look for William.

Possibility #4:  He was in prison (or debtors' prison).
Next Steps:
  • How would he have been enumerated if in prison?
  • Would newspapers have listed prisoners, have had articles about court cases, etc.?
  • Learn whether there are prison records, where to find them, and how to access them.
  • Determine the location of prisons local to Bedlington.

Possibility #5:  He and Martha separated, divorced, or William deserted.
Next Steps:
  • Are there divorce records for the 1840s and, if so, where might I find them?
  • Would divorces have been announced in contemporary newspapers?

Did you think of any possibilities I didn't think of or any additional research I didn't include?  I often add to these lists as I continue to think about the ancestor's situation and circumstances, especially when my first ideas don't reveal new information.

As you know, if your are family historian, this research will take some time and effort to complete and, of course, I hope the first possibility reveals the information I want to find.

I can search records and transcriptions of records on FamilySearch, Ancestry, and Find My Past.  I may also learn more about possible records (prison, hospital, and newspaper research) by asking questions on the U.K. Facebook groups.

When you're stumped do you list possibilities, too?


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved. .

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Hint: Using Those Film Numbers Found in FamilySearch Citations

I'd like to thank Anonymous, a reader who left a comment on yesterday's blog post where I bemoaned the fact that the FamilySearch citation did not tell me the actual source of the transcription for a marriage.  Anonymous suggested that because the citation included a Family History Library (FHL) film number I could reserve the film and have it sent to one of the local Family History Centers to see the image.

FamilySearch has discontinued its microfilm lending program but some digitized films are available through the online FamilySearch/Family History Library catalog.

I looked at the FamilySearch citation again and found the FHL film number.  Then I headed to the FS Catalog where I typed in the film number.

This is what I found:  the record for William and Martha (Reay) Doyle's marriage came from St. Peter's Church, Wallsend, Northumberland. 

When I clicked on the highlighted "Items 1-2, Item 3..." (in above image) it took me to another screen with more information.  Scrolling down provided even more details (not shown in this screenshot).

It doesn't appear that this film has been digitized and made available online but even these details about the film give me more information that I had.

Eventually I may have thought to look at the FS/FHL catalog for the film in the citation but it wasn't my first thought.  Perhaps this is second nature to more seasoned researchers.  Is it something you regularly do?  I hope it will become common practice for me when I see a FHL film number and the FS citation seems limited.

My thanks again to Anonymous who made the suggestion.  It was very helpful.


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.
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