Discover your inside story with AncestryDNA®

October 28, 2008

Caveat Part 2: re the new Inbound UK and Inbound Canada Ships Passenger Lists

This continues my discussion of the UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960 and Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935 which have been recently published online

With this AHA moment I talked about in Caveat Part 1: re the new Inbound UK and Inbound Canada Ships Passenger Lists, I went back to a very difficult search I had for my grandmother's brother Ernest Simpson. Ern had come to Canada with his new bride Mary Cordelia, in April 1908. Between that year and 1954 Uncle Ern apparently travelled back and forth many times. My chart for Uncle Ern showed that he most often came in and left from St. John New Brunswick. The chart looked like this:

* 1908 To Canada with wife
* 1913 To England with wife and daughter
* 1913 To Canada (bringing back his 15 year old brother Sydney)
* MISSING voyage to England
* 1921 To Canada alone
* 1922 to England with wife and daughter
* MISSING voyage to Canada
* 1954 to England with wife

I had tried every research technique I could to find that voyage to England (alone) before 1921 and after 1913. I knew he would not have left his wife and daughter alone in Toronto Ontario for very long. And I also knew his father (My great grandfather) had died in January 1921 so I speculated that he made a trip to England shortly after his father died in January, then returned in March that same year. But I could not find him.

Using my AHA moment of clarity and realizing that the port of departure could be completely INCORRECT in the index, I simply clicked on any results that fit his criteria.

There he was, listed as sailing on the Scrindia on Jan 30, 1921 out of BOMBAY INDIA! Now I knew he didn't sail out of India, for goodness sake he lived in Toronto Canada! And so I had not clicked on that result before. But it was my grandmother's brother for the passenger list showed him to be sailing out of Canada on the Minnedosa, and it provided his occupation and address in Ontario.

And so I could now, after many hours of frustration, fill in most of my chart. I still have not found his return voyage to Canada after Aug. 1922 but I am sure I will eventually. All I need is a little more time and no pre-conceived notions of what can and cannot be "correct".

October 27, 2008

Caveat Part 1: re the new Inbound UK and Inbound Canada Ships Passenger Lists

The new Ships Passenger lists inbound to the UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960 (and thus outbound from Canada, USA and other ports), and the recent Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935, have meant a boon for researchers.

I spent several enjoyable (yet frustrating) hours over the weekend searching those lists for my maternal and paternal great-grandparents, and my grandmother and her brothers. I learned a lot about some pitfalls and obstacles to anyone searching those lists and want to share that with you.

First let me explain that my grandmother and my grandfather arrived in Canada from England in 1913 and were married shortly after arrival. My grandmother hated travel by ship and so never went back to visit her family left behind in England. But they came to see her. My grandfather's parents also came over to visit, in fact they intended at one point to remain permanently in Canada but missed England and returned to live out their lives there. Three of my grandmother's brothers also immigrated to Canada to live. So I had a lot of searching to do!

Because it became rather confusing as I switched back and forth from the TO England database and the FROM England database, I eventually made a chart. Thank goodness I did, for it allowed me to think about what trips I was missing and what time frame I might find them in.

The indexing for Ships Arriving in Canada must have been difficult. Those lists are very difficult to read - faded, almost illegible handwriting, and badly filmed copies made the transcribers task difficult. So many of the entries are simply first names (no surname) or a partial surname or a question mark. I talked about that in an earlier post on Olive Tree Genealogy Blog. The bottom line is that we cannot blame the transcribers and we have to be very creative in our search strategies to find an ancestor.

The ships inbound to UK however present another problem! For the most part they are quite legible. Later lists are typed. Some are a bit blurry from bad filming but still legible. But there is a huge problem with these lists which I discovered only because I was determined to find some of the "missing" return voyages of my ancestors and as I grew increasily desperate and frustrated at NOT finding them, I began to click on search result hits that I knew could NOT be my people...

Let me first explain about my search for passenger lists for my Great Grandparents Charles & Mary Ann Fuller. I knew when both were born and died. I knew approximately when they came over to visit from England.

Here is the chart I ended up making:

* 1920 May 24. Tunisian TO Canada - Charles & Mary Ann)
* 1929 Dec 14. Duchess of Athol TO UK (from Canada) - Charles & Mary Ann
* 1930 Mar 2. Minnedosa TO Canada - Charles, Mary Ann, + sons Walter & Harold
* MISSING return voyage to England

I could not find a return voyage from Canada to UK no matter how I searched! I narrowed my search by dates of birth (+/-2), arrival years (1915-1935). I used wildcards (Ful*) instead of full names. I used first names only combined with dates of birth or years of arrival. In short I tried every research trick I could think of to make sure I had all arrivals in Canada and departures from Canada (back to UK)

One thing I've found since looking for my own ancestors in these passenger lists is that people tended to use the same shipping line and often came in via the same port of arrival and departure. That can be helpful if you are stuck, as you can narrow your search or search under different fields. It didn't help me. I could not find Charles and Mary Ann leaving Canada after March 2, 1930 and returning to England, yet I knew they did. Both died in UK. Their sons Harold and Walter remained in Canada when the parents returned, so I was only looking for Charles and Mary Ann.

Finally in desperation I began clicking on search result hits that matched names, dates of birth and departure years, even if the port of departure was NOT within Canada. And there it was in the index - Charles & Mary Fuller leaving from New York on the ship Majestic on 11 Sept. 1934.

I was so excited to find this! But wait, there's more... clicking on the image brought up a ships passenger list with Charles & Mary Ann. They were definitely my great grandparents, for their address in Ramsgate Kent England was given. But looking up at the TOP of the passenger list I read that this was the list for the ship Empress of Australia sailing out of Quebec for England on 30 Sept 1934!

Finally it dawned on me that these passenger lists are bundled. And the indexers have either recorded ONLY the outside label of each bundle OR the first ship in each bundle! And that first ship/outside label has been attached to the name of each passenger within that bundle of lists, no matter what ship they actually sailed on or what port of departure they used.

CAVEAT: You cannot trust the ship name or port of departure that has been recorded on the index to the UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960

... to be continued tomorrow in Caveat Part 2: re the new Inbound UK and Inbound Canada Ships Passenger Lists

October 26, 2008

Toronto Chair Dies While Filming Ancestors in the Attic

Sent: Saturday, October 25, 2008 1:56 PM
Subject: Toronto Branch Electronic Bulletin - October 25, 2008

Shocking and Sad News

Toronto Branch has been informed that our chair, Paul McGrath, died of a heart attack in Scotland. He was there filming for Ancestors in the Attic.We will advise you when we know what arrangements have been made.

We will observe a moment of silence in Paul's memory at the meeting on Monday evening (October 27) and there will be a proper tribute at our November meeting and in the November/December issue of the Toronto Tree.

Please meet with other branch members in the Burgundy Room on Monday evening.

October 24, 2008

UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960 online! Outbound from Canada, America, Australia and other countries

Incoming UK Ships Passenger lists are now online! Genealogists can now search for ancestors on UK Incoming Ships Passenger Lists, 1878-1960

These new passenger lists include OUTBOUND lists from Canada and America as well as other countries such as Australia.

Neither Canada or America maintained "outbound" passenger lists. The records for all these ship passengers travelling between 1890 and 1960 are the only United Kingdom "inbound" lists, but prior to this month, they were not indexed, nor microfilmed. The original inbound lists were kept at Public Record Office in
Kew, England, and they could only be viewed in person.

Now that has scanned the lists and indexed them, they are avaiable online and what a terrific resource they are. I've been playing in them for a few days now and have already found my great grandparents sailing back to England from Quebec - more than once. I knew they had come over to Ontario for a visit (perhaps more than one) in the 1920s.

A search of the Canadian Passenger Lists 1865-1935 which put online several weeks ago, gave me one ship passenger list with their names. But it also gave me another puzzle, as the list stated they had been to Canada from England in a previous year. I was not able to find that list but learning when they returned to England has narrowed the timeline.

I'm off to play some more in this terrific resource! UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960

October 22, 2008

Smolenyak Seminar Registration British Columbia March 2009

You can register now to hear genealogist Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak in Surrey, B.C., Canada, 7 March 2009

Smolenyak Seminar Registration and Details - A Brochure is available in PDF or MS Word

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak is the author of Honoring Our Ancestors: Inspiring Stories of the Quest for Our Roots, In Search of Our Ancestors: 101 Inspiring Stories of Serendipity and Connection in Rediscovering Our Family History and They Came to America: Finding Your Immigrant Ancestors, Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak is the Chief Family Historian and North American spokesperson for and also a co-founder of ‘Roots Television’.

Seminar co-sponsored by the British Columbia Genealogical Society and the Cloverdale Branch of the Surrey Public Library.


* Trace Your Roots With DNA
* Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones
* Introduction to
* Cases That Made My Brain Hurt

October 20, 2008

Finding Ancestors in Land Grants in Ontario

Yesterday I posted about Abstract Indexes to Deeds. I've talked about Ontario Land Grants before on Olive Tree Genealogy Blog.

There have been quite a few questions recently about Free Grants of Land in Ontario so I wrote up what I hope is a helpful explanation as well as a list of the abbreviations used for various types of Free Grants.

Up to 1826 free land grants were available to all settlers, to government favourites, and to UEL (Loyalist) and their children. In 1826 these free grants were abolished except Loyalist and military grants to soldiers, and anyone wanting Crown land had to buy it.

The qualifying regulations and administration fees charged to the settlers changed over time and you will need an understanding of this when searching for ancestors.

The new pages are online at Free Grants of Crown Land in Ontario

You can also start at Land Records in Ontario

There are links provided there for the new pages. The Land Records page provides details of

* Free Grants
* Land Petitions
* The Canada Company
* Crown Land Grants
* CLRI (Computerized Land Record Index)
* Abstract Indexes
* Assessment Records
* Township Papers

and more..

October 19, 2008

Abstract Indexes to Deeds - an Explanation

I've talked about Ontario Land Grants before on Olive Tree Genealogy Blog. They are an amazing resource but often overlooked by researchers.

There have been quite a few questions recently about Free Grants of Land in Ontario as well as curiousity about the Abstract Indexes to Deeds on a mailing list I am on.

So I wrote up what I hope is a helpful explanation for each topic, including examples and a list of where you get these records.

The new pages are online at Abstract Indexes to Deeds The Abstract Indexes to Deeds are the indexed record of every transaction on a plot of land from Crown ownership to the present day. Abstract Indexes were created 1865-1866 according to new legislation and were retroactive to the patent on a property, meaning they went back to when the land was first owned by the Crown before it was sold or granted to individuals

The new page I have online explains what you might find in the Abstract Indexes, how to use the Abstracts, where to find them, and provides a graphic example for a better understanding

You can also start at Land Records in Ontario

There are links provided there for the new pages. The Land Records page provides details of

* Free Grants
* Land Petitions
* The Canada Company
* Crown Land Grants
* CLRI (Computerized Land Record Index)
* Abstract Indexes
* Assessment Records
* Township Papers

and more..

October 18, 2008

A Day Late & A Dollar Short? Freaky (oops FUN) Friday and I'm It!

Kathryn Lake Hogan tagged me to participate in a Freaky (I mean FUN) Friday post of getting to know all about me... Okay I know it's not Friday but I figured better late than never!

Apparently I am supposed to list 25 things you may or may not know about me - arranging them in 5 topic groups of 5 each. 5 jobs I've held, 5 places I've lived, 5 snacks I enjoy, 5 things I doing 10 years ago, and 5 items on today's to-do list.

After jotting down a few items, I realized how dry and uneventful my life has been! I've never had an exciting job like working for the circus.

I've never lived anywhere exotic like Tibet. And I mean, really - who cares about where I lived? Do you honestly want to read about 5 towns or villages or cities I've lived in? I assure you, it's a boring dull list!

And 5 snacks I enjoy? Unless you plan on sending me some of them, why would you care? By the way, I do have a birthday coming up in November in case any reader does care to send me something that is on the list....

By the time I got to 5 things on today's To-Do list, it was snoozeville. So at the risk of losing the few readers I have for this blog, here goes!

Ten years ago I:

* Was a lot younger than I am today
* Had fewer aches and pains
* Was marrying my third husband (aka sweetie)
* Was teaching High School boys who couldn't be in regular school
* Was wishing I was lived in or near Salt Lake City so I could research my family tree every day

Five places I have lived:

* a Haunted House with resident spirit
* a non-winterized cottage on the shores of Georgian Bay - with a one year old child and no heat, no running water and no insulation
* a scummy apartment in a very bad area of Toronto
* the upper floor of a house in the Italian district of Toronto
* a home we designed and built ourselves in the country near Georgian Bay

Five jobs I have had:

You've got to be kidding! How can I choose which 5 of the many I've held? I can't. Apparently I have been less than focused on one specific career. So prepare to be asleep by the time you get to the end of this list

* Library Assistant in Ajax and Toronto Public Libraries
* Waitress - immediately apparent this was not a good careeer choice as on the first night I spilled a full plate of food (turkey, potatoes, gravy and vegeys) on a buxom woman's chest
* Keypunch Operator - anyone care to date themselves by admitting they know what a Keypunch is?
* Coin counter for a Vending Co.
* Bookkeeper in Mortgage Co. in the Big City aka Toronto (I was 19, it was my first full-time job, and I got fired. Not an auspicious start...)
* Teacher of Special Needs Students
* Child Care Worker for Kinark Social Services
* Nursery School Aide
* Tutor for High School Math
* Receptionist for a Dental Office
* Bookkeeper in Opthamalogist office
* Questionaire Writer for Market Research Co.
* Genealogist
* Maid, nurse, secretary, washerwoman, cleaning lady... oh wait, that's called wife and mother!

Five snacks I enjoy:

* Hagen Daz Coffee Ice Cream
* Lays Potato Chips with Kak's Chip Dip
* Hagen Daz Coffee Ice Cream
* did I mention Hagen Daz Coffee Ice Cream? But I don't think you can mail this successfully
* Tim Horton Dutchies

Five things on today's To-Do List

* Continue working on Missing Friends Newspaper Extracts
* Convince sweetie he should make dinner
* Respond to several dozen e-mails
* Go into town for groceries and try to resist the Hagen-Daz Coffee Ice Cream
* Mail presents to grandchildren whose birthdays I missed when I was sick

Here are five genea-blogger buddies I am passing this on to.

* my friend Illya of Genealogy Today News Centre
* Brian aka sweetie of Ancestors At Rest Blog
* my friend Kathi of Ancestor Search Blog
* Rick Crume, who tagged me in January 2007's Tag You're It!
* my new-found cousin Thomas of Destination Austin Family

Missing Friends from Boston Pilot 1830-1840

The Missing Friends Project has added another set of extracts from Newspapers.

The recent set is from the Boston Pilot, published in Boston Massachusetts. From October 1831 to October 1921, the Boston Pilot newspaper printed a Missing Friends (Information Wanted) column with advertisements from people looking for lost friends and relatives who had emigrated from Ireland to the United States & Canada. Many travelling to Canadian ports went on to USA, but others remained in Canada. This project is extracting the names and other details of those who sailed into Quebec and other Canadian Ports of Arrival.

This dataset of Missing Friends from the Boston Pilot is for those who were known to have arrived or settled in Quebec. Since ships passenger lists to Canada did not have to be archvived before 1865, these extractions will form an important piece in the gap in surviving ships passenger lists.

October 17, 2008

Genealogy Today Launches Live Roots Meta Search Website

Genealogy Today ( announced the release of a new website designed to help researchers locate genealogical data -- both online and offline, and either digitized or in-print. Live Roots bridges the gaps between independent websites, large commercial repositories and printed materials yet to be digitized and published on the World Wide Web.

"I've always tried to stay informed about new resources; but with so many outlets, there hasn't been a single place to search across different catalogs," commented Illya D'Addezio, owner of Genealogy Today. "Through Live Roots I'm partnering with major genealogy companies and many medium and smaller publishers to combine their respective catalogs into one repository."

Live Roots extends beyond the typical bounds of a traditional search engine or link directory by facilitating access to offline records and publications through partnerships with amateur and professional researchers who either own copies or are geographically close to the libraries and archives that do. In a few quick steps, visitors will be able to hire a researcher to obtain digital copies (scanned or hi-res photo) of pages referencing a specific name (or surname).

October 15, 2008

Missing Friends Project online. Find names of those who settled in USA and Canada

The Missing Friends Project on is extracting the names of those who immigrated from UK to America or Canada and who were inquired about by family in various 19th Century newspapers.

Missing Friends Project starts with Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, published in London England and their weekly column (1886-1900) called "Long Lost Relatives". We also plan to publish extracts of weekly columns of Missing Friends from The Irish World (1892-1899), published in New York and The Manchester Weekly Times (1891-1893) published in England. We will add other newspapers as we find them and can access them.

The fields being extracted are name of person in America or Canada who is missing, where they lived in the UK, when they left, where they intended going, ship name if known, when they were last heard from, where they were living when last heard from, who is seeking them and any miscellaneous comments.

Researchers can look for names of those who were last known to be in Canada or those known to be somewhere in America. This is an ongoing project so be sure to check back often to see what has been added.

October 10, 2008

Reading 17th Century Dutch Handwriting - Part Four

Reading Dutch Script: More Letter Formations

Using this same page of church records we can learn other letter shapes and names

October 9, 2008

More Loyalist Petitions - an example

We have talked about Loyalist Petitions for land and the UCLP in other blog posts. There can be many bits and pieces of affidavits, letters, etc in a Loyalist petition for land. These are all important to the genealogy researcher. But one part of any petition which is often overlooked by researchers is the outside flap or envelope of the entire bundle.

The outside envelope holds important clues and details. It will tell you whether or not the individual's petition was granted. It will give the size of the grant if one was awarded. It may hold other details. When searching in the Upper Canada Land Petitions (UCLP) don't overlook all the pages including the outside flap.

Here is a good example - the outside envelope of the petition for land of Sarah Follick (Vollick) We learn several things from this outside envelope - first that she was the daughter of Jacob DeCow (DeCou), secondly that she was recommended for 200 acres of land. This was a normal size grant of land to a child of a Loyalist. So we know that her married name is Follick (Vollick) and that she was the daughter of a Loyalist (DUE).

If Sarah was an ancestor now we would hunt for her father's Loyalist petitions, using the clues that his name was Jacob DeCow (DeCue and variants)

The petitions themselves which are inside the bundle reveal more about Sarah and her husband John Vollick but I'll save that for another blog post.

October 8, 2008

Reading 17th Century Dutch Handwriting - Part Three

Reading Dutch Script: Steps to take when you find an entry of interest

Step 1: Trace the entry as it displays on the microfilm reader

Step 2: Copy the entry

Step 3: Study the letter formations. Figure out what the entry says

October 7, 2008

Upper Canada Land Petition for a Loyalist Ancestor

The Americans called them "Tories" or "Traitors". The British referred to them as "Loyalists". They were the men and women who remained loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution (Revolutionary War) They may have been individuals living in the Colonies (now USA) who fled to Canada and fought on the British side. They may have been British soldiers. You have just found out that you have one in your family tree. How do you find more about your Loyalist ancestor?

I begin with the Upper Canada Land Petitions (UCLP). Each Loyalist could claim free land as a Loyalist (UE). Every child of a Loyalist could claim land as a DUE (Daughter of a Loyalist) or SUE (Son of a Loyalist). Thus Loyalists and their families began filing petitions for their rightful land claims.

Petitions can hold a wealth of genealogical information (military service, description of hardships, immigration year, letters from friends attesting to petitioner's loyalty, origin of petitioner, etc) OR they can contain very little. Only by finding every petition for every family member will you be happy that you have not overlooked a clue. For example one family member might give info that another does not.

The affidavit on the left is part of a large bundle of letters, affidavits, and petitions from my Loyalist ancestor Isaac Vollick which he submitted in 1797. Each bundle is given a number, in this case "27". Then each page in that specific bundle is assigned a letter. The affidavit is 27K indicating that A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I and J preceeded it. You can see that this set of papers for Isaac probably contains a great deal of interesting information.

This specific piece of his petition in 1797 states

I do hereby certify that Isaac Volek [sic] served in Butler's Rangers from the year 1778 to the end of the War. That his wife and family suffered much during his absence [xxx] were sent prisoners a considerable distance from home.

Newark March 30th 1797 [signed] J. Ball, JP

Isaac Volck's [sic] wife came to Niagara in the year 1782.

J. Ball

You can see that I have learned a great deal from this one piece of paper among many - that Isaac was in Butler's Rangers from 1778 on. That his family were imprisoned and then exiled. That his wife (and probably children) arrived in Niagara in 1782. There was much more information in this set of papers and I will talk about that in other blog posts. One letter went into great detail of Isaac's family's hardships. Today I just want to demonstrate how important the UCLP are in your research.

Step One is to consult the UCLP Index (Upper Canada Land Petition Index) for all instances of your family. Copy each entry in the index exactly as found. Then use the Finding Aid for the UCLP Index to convert the info for each entry to a correct microfilm number for the full petition(s) for land.

The UCLP index is available on InterLibrary Loan but you will have to ask your local library or FHC for details (or consult the online FHC catalogue).

October 6, 2008

Reading 17th Century Dutch Handwriting - Part Two

Reading Dutch Script: Studying the letter formations on a page of records

If you need help with Dutch names, you might find my section on New Netherland (present day New York) of some help. Anyone with ancestors from New York in the 1600s may find themselves with Dutch ancestry (which is what got me started on all this!)

It gives examples of >Dutch names = English names = Shortened Dutch names (nicknames). It also explains the use of suffixes -je or -tje, -je, -tje, -ie and -ke

To learn the patronymic naming system and the suffixes used there, you might find >Understanding Patronymics helpful

October 5, 2008

Membership Lists New Amsterdam (New York City) Dutch Reformed Church, Question & Answer

Question: Here's the entry from the "New York Membership lists" exactly as it appears in New York Genealogical Biographical Record, Vol 9, p. 168.

den 29 Novemb. (1682)

Claes Janszen Stavast, en Obyt tot N. Albany
Eva Gerrits, Syn huysvr. [den 6 Aug. 1687

I feel more confused now that I have seen the entry because the way I read it:

Claes Janszen Stavast, and died N.Albany 6 Aug 1687 Eva Gerrits, his housewife.

Would this be Eva that died????

My Answer: The membership lists of the New Amsterdam (New York City) Dutch Reformed Church are searchable online. The names are in the left column. Comments are in the right column and were made (sometimes years later) after the names were entered.

This means that the notation below is read as

Claes Janszen Stavast, and Eva Gerrits, his wife

The extra notation "died N. Albany 6 Aug 1687" refers to whatever name it is beside. If it is beside Claes, it refers to him.

When you read the other names in the earlier registers you can see that various names have an entry which begins on the same line as their name. If it extends to a second line it is indented but kept in the samn column - presumably so there is no confusion as to whom the notation refers.

In the years you are looking at, you can see that if the entry extends to a second line, sometimes it is indented, and sometimes a [ has been added to the beginning of the second line in the right hand column. Sometimes it is indented *and* has the addition of a [

I am presuming this is to reinforce the separation of the entry from the name on that line, and to indicate the entry refers to the name *above* (which is also where the entry started) The entry you show below has the separating bracket [ and is indented in the NYGBR publication.

Several names have a little } beside both of them - and one notation on the first line of the right hand column. This means, as far as I am aware, that the notation refers to both parties.

If you look at the name one down from Claes Jansen Stavast and Eva Gerrits you will see the { being used and the right column notation extending down two lines with no indentation and no separating bracket [ --- thus indicating that this notation, unlike the one for Claes, refers to both parties.

October 4, 2008

Reading 17th Century Dutch Handwriting - Part One

Finding an entry on a page of records from 1621

Click on the image for a larger picture, or View larger image. You can also view a larger image here

This is a page of church baptismal records from 1621 in Amsterdam. The entry I was looking for was for Claesje the daughter of Teunis Dircks & Aefje Pieters.

This is a relatively easy page to read compared to some! The handwriting is neat and legible, the filmed record is not dark, and the size of the writing is not too small.

October 3, 2008

Reading 17th Century Dutch Handwriting - Introduction

If you have ancestors who settled in New Netherland (now New York) in the 1600s, you will undoubtably eventually find yourself struggling with Dutch words and handwriting. You may even venture into research from the Amsterdam Archives Church Records which have been microfilmed.

Amsterdam Doopregisters (Baptism Registers) follow a fairly consisent format. They show names (sometimes an occupation) of father, mother, child and sponsor(s).

You don't need to read Dutch, you only need to be able to pick out and read the names of the individuals you are interested in. But it is more difficult than it sounds. 17th century letter formations are very different than what we are used to. Dutch names and spellings are something new to many of us as well.

Example from a 17th Century Marriage record from Amsterdam

As I was struggling to learn how to read this early Dutch script, I made up a little booklet which I add to each time I figure out something new.

I use my little home-made guide to help me interpret what I am looking at in these early (1600s) records. Other researchers asked me to send them copies of my notes and examples, so I made up a mini-tutorial.

I am not an expert, I muddle along as best I can, but researchers I sent the tutorial to seemed to find it helpful, so here it is. I hope that if any of you are starting to dig into those distant records you will find this at least interesting if not helpful in some small way.

I'll add to these Blog notes as I get the pages of my little guide scanned. Remember, it's FUN and it's NEW and it can be intimidating but just keep on plowing through one step at a time.

Part One: Finding an entry on a page of records from 1621 will be published tomorrow

Source of Registers: Amsterdam Doop (Baptism) Registers on Microfilm

October 2, 2008

Cousins Removed versus 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Cousins - an Explanatioin

There is often confusion over the terminology of cousins removed versus 1st cousins, 2nd cousins, etc.

Example: First cousins 4x removed means that the two individuals are 4 generations apart.

Example: 4th cousins means the individuals are on the same generational line and share a common ancestor in one of their 3rd great grandparents.

* First cousins share common grandparents
* 2nd cousins share common great grandparents
* 3rd cousins share common g-g grandparents

and so on

* 1st cousins once removed means one of the individuals is the child of your first cousin (you are one generation apart)

* 1st cousins twice removed means one of the individuals is the grandchild of your first cousin( you are 2 generations apart)

and so on

October 1, 2008

Stephen Peer, Tighrope Walker of Niagara Falls in Carnival of Genealogy “I read it in the news!”

Newspapers are a great source of information on our ancestors. I didn't actually find this news story in a newspaper until after I had been told about it. One of my uncles had always told this tale, and insisted it was in a Hamilton Ontario newspaper. Uncle Roy's retold tale of family lore was that my great grandfather's brother had walked Niagara Falls on a tightrope and plunged to his death.

To say I was intrigued was putting it mildly! Uncle Roy could not find the newspaper clipping he claimed he had from the 1880s, so I began searching. Sure enough my grandfather's cousin (not brother) Stephen Peer (whose flyer proclaims him as Professor Stephen Peere) had indeed walked Niagara Falls on a tighrope, then fell or was pushed to his death a few days later on 25 June 1887.

The full story is given in various newspaper accounts, for this was high drama and intrigue!

The Niagara Falls Public Library has this report:

Stephen Peer was born in Stamford Township in 1840. He was nineteen when Blondin performed the first of his many tight rope walking feats at Niagara Falls. Peer became determined to become the first real "Niagaran" to walk the Gorge. In 1873 he became an assistant to Henry Bellini, he then illicitly used Bellini's equipment to perform his own first stunt. Bellini was not amused and attempted to cut down the tight rope. The residents chased him out of town, after all Peer was the home town boy ! By 1887 he had become famous enough to begin performing under his own billing and on June 22, 1887 he successfully walked on a wire cable stretched between the present Whirlpool Bridge and the Pen Central Bridge. Three days later he went to the platform from which he had started his crossing, with friends. Speculation is that they had been drinking, Peer began to walk across the cable and fell forty five feet to his death

The reports of his death claimed accident, suicide and murder, but his family was convinced Peer was murdered.

The first report of his successful first walk across the Falls follows:

"NIAGARA FALLS TIGHT ROPE WALKER in The Hamilton Daily Spectator, Hamilton Wed. June, 1887, pg. 1 Col 7

Niagara Falls Ont. June 22 Steve Peer, a local tight rope walker, crossed the Niagara River on a 5/8 inch cable stretched from the Canadian to the American side between the Cantilever and Suspension bridges at 4 o’clock this afternoon successfully. A stiff breeze was blowing during the time, and the cable was not properly guyed and he says that several times he very nearly lost his balance from its vibrations. Several thousand people witnessed the daring performance. Peer will repeat his performance several times during the season. "

The famous Canadian author Pierre Burton wrote about Stephen's walk and mysterioius death in his book Daredevils of the Falls.

It was unusually windy on June 22, 1887, but Peer gave his performance as scheduled. His five-eighths inch cable was a mere thread compared to the heavier ropes of his prdecessors, and the wire was held steady by 20-30 guy wires and weighted down between them with 12-20 sandbags, each weighing about 35 lbs. His walk was a complete success, and he returned to Canada in a carriage via the suspension bridge, welcomed by thousand sof applauding spectators. Three days later he ws dead, discovered on the gorge bank below his cable. The reason for his death remains a mystery, but stories suggest murder.

The Hamilton Daily Spectator Hamilton, Canada, Monday June 27, 1887 called its story Peer the Rope-Walker Suicide

Niagara Falls, June 25 Steve Peer, the local celebrity who outdid Blondin in daring feats around Niagara and recently crossed the rapids on a 5/8 inch cable is dead. Ever since he did the daring act he has been drinking very heavily, and Wm. Leary proprietor of the Elgin House where Peer has been stopping, has been watching him closely. This evening about 7:30 pm Peer went out unobserved with John Gillespie and a stranger, and later was seen with 2 men near his rope. As he did not show up by 8:30 and no trace of him could be found elsewhere, it was suposed that he had attempted to walk his rope and had fallen from it or stumbled over the bank, and ropes and lanterns were procured and Peer’s brother, with John Connolly was lowered down. Near the bottom of the incline they found his lifeless body, badly cut around the head. There was a large gash leading from his nose over the top of his head so that his brains protruded, and death must have been instantaneous. His body was raised to the top of the precipice by means of ropes, and taken to the Elgin House, where it now lies awaiting the coroner. A good many rumors are afloat regarding how he met his death, amongst them one that he suicided, there being, it is said some trouble between himself and his wife. The general belief is that he attempted to walk out on the cable when recovering from his drunk and lost his footing and fell into the abyse below.

The coroner's inquest labelled his death suicide. Others proclaimed that as nonsense, for why would Stephen, just as his career as a tighrope walker was about to peak, end his life? Sadly 121 years later, the mystery remains - accident, murder or suicide?

October Ancestor Most Wanted - $100.00 Reward

The ancestor most wanted for this month is Joseph McGinnis.


Joseph McGinnis was born ca 1825-1830 in Ireland. He was married to Frances (Fanny) Downey. With his wife and year old daughter Bridget (aka Delia) he came to Ontario Canada circa 1846. They settled on a farm owned by John McGinnis who was probably a father or uncle. The farm was on Concession 3, Lot 11 Puslinch Township, Wellington County Ontario.

Joseph disappears from the records after the 1871 census for Guelph, Wellington County Ontario. Fanny also disappears but is found again in 1891 Guelph and 1901 Morriston census as a widow. She may be the Fanny found in 1881 Guelph census too, also as a widow. Many of Joseph's brothers (or cousins) and sisters (or cousins) left the Guelph area for USA and it is possible Joseph left with them and died there.

To complicate this mystery, there was a second couple named Joseph McGinnis with wife Frances (Fanny) Foster living in the area at the same time. Both couples were born in Ireland and were Roman Catholic. Both couples were around the same ages. One of the problems is determining which couple is being referred to in some of the records. I have listed the known facts and confusions below.

Known Facts about Joseph McGinnis & Fanny Downey

* Joseph rented/ran a tavern called Speed the Plow on Concession 4 Lot 6 Puslinch Twp.
* 1847. Daughter Fanny baptised in Church of Our Lady, Guelph, in Sept. Parents "Joseph Miganes and his wife Fanny"
* 1850. Son Alexander in Church of Our Lady, Guelph,in Feb. 1850. Parents "Joseph McGinnis and his wife Fanny"
* 1851. Missing from the 1851 census for Puslinch Township. The first page of that census is missing, it is very probable that Joseph and family were on that lost page
* 1857. Daughter Margaret baptised in Church of Our Lady, Guelph, in Feb. Parents "Joseph McGinnis and Fanny Downey"
* 1861 Puslinch Township Census. Joseph age 30, labourer born Ireland, Roman Catholic. Wife Fanny age 30 born ireland. 7 children
- Bridget, b Ireland, 16
- Fanny, b. Upper Canada, 14
- Alex b. Upper Canada, 12
- Daniel b. Upper Canada 10
- Ann b. Upper Canada 8
- Margaret b. upper Canada 6
- Mary Jane b Upper Canada, 1
* 1864. Son Joseph baptised in Church of Our Lady, Guelph in August. Parents "Joseph McGinnis and Fanny Downy [sic] McGinnis"
* 1871-1872 Wellington County Directory. Joseph McGrunnis [sic] farmer on Conc 3 Lot 11 Puslinch
* 1871 Census, Guelph Wellington Co. Joseph age 46, labourer and Fanny age 44 with children:
- Alex, 23 b. Ontario
- Fanny, 20 b Ontario
- Daniel, 18, b. Ontario
- Annie 16 b Ontario
- Margaret 14 b Ontario
- Mary 9 b. Ontario
- Joseph 7 b Ontario
- Robert 5 b Ontario
* 1881 Census Ontario. Joseph not found but Fanny may be (see notes below)
* 1891 Census Guelph, Wellington Co. Fanny McGinnis, 60, widow, Roman Catholic, laundress. living with her daughter Delia Johnson
* 1901 census Morriston, Puslinch Tp, Wellington Co. Fanny McGinnis, widow, born Ireland 1824, age 76, living with her daughter Frances (Fanny) Vogt and son Alex McGinnis
* 1904 Death of Fanny McGinnis nee Downey in December.

Known Facts about the SECOND Joseph McGinnis & his wife Fanny Foster

*28 March 1877. Death of Joseph McGinnis age 48 in Guelph. Church of Our Lady records his burial with the notation "husband of Fanny Foster". Burial in St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Cemetery, Guelph, Block C, Section 28, Grave 25
* 12 July 1890. Death of Fanny McGinnis in Guelph. Church of Our Lady records her burial with the notation "born in Gilbrator, age 65 years". Death certificate reads "60 years old, died in St. Joseph's Hospital [Guelph]" She is buried in St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Cemetery, Guelph, Block B, SEction 19, Grave 47.

Facts for Joseph and Fanny McGinnis - but which ones?

* 1847. Feb 4, July 7. Letters for Joseph McGinnis in the Guelph Post Office
* 1850. Dec 10. Letters for Joseph McGinnis in the Guelph Post Office
* 1873 Guelph City Directory. Joseph McGinnis, labourer living Norfolk & Cork St
* 1875-1877 Guelph City Directory. Joseph McGinnis, living 77 Norfolk St. near Cork
* 1877 Guelph City Directory. Fanny McGinnis, widow of Joseph, living 64 Cork St.
* 1881 Census Guelph. Fanny McGinnis, 40, born Ireland, servant in another house (if this is MY Fanny, where are her sons Robert and Joseph?)
* 1881 Census Guelph, Fanny Maginnis [sic], 49, charwoman, born Ireland, Roman Catholic with son Joseph, 15, a moulder. (If this is MY Fanny with her son Joseph where is son Robert?)
* 1882-1883 Guelph City Directory. Fanny McGinnis, widow of Joseph, living 64 Cork St.

Migratory Pattern of Known Sons & Daughters of John McGinnis of Conc 3 Lot 11 Puslinch

* S. left Ontario for Cherokee Iowa in 1872
* J. Jr. in Puslinch until 1861. 1871 in Oxford Co. Ontario. Naturalized in LaPeer Co. Michigan in 1879
* D. in Puslinch until 1861. 1871 in Oxford Co. Ontario. Naturalized in LaPeer Co. Michigan in 1880
* C. left Puslinch for Marquette Michigan in 1864 then went to Iowa
* MJ was in Puslinch in 1851, in Cleveland Ohio by 1860
* F. in Puslinch in 1851, in Cleveland Ohio by 1860
* J & H sold land in Puslinch in 1875, found in Hespeler, Waterloo Co. Ontario in 1879

The possibility is strong that my Joseph and Fanny also left Puslinch/Guelph for USA. Joseph may have died there sometime between 1871 and 1881.

Additional Notes:
* no death record found for Joseph in Ontario after 1871
* no burial record found in Church of our Lady, Guelph
* no record of Joseph in the 1880 USA census or 1881 Ontario census

* I am unable to find the 4 youngest children of my Joseph and Fanny in the 1881 census for Ontario. These children are Margaret, Mary Jane born 1860-1862, Joseph born 1864, Robert born 1865. I did find a Fanny with son Joseph who could be my Fanny with son, but the other 3 youngest children are missing.
* All the children except Margaret resurface (Mary Jane marrying in 1883 in Galt, Watlerloo Co; Joseph in Hamilton by 1899 and possibly in Guelph 1885; Robert in Morriston Wellington Co. in 1891)
* The 5 oldest (Bridget aka Delia, Fanny, Alex, Daniel and Ann) are all married and accounted for in 1881 census records for Guelph (Delia & Alex), Morriston (Fanny), Bruce Co (Dan) and Waterloo (Ann).

The Reward

$100.00 Reward offered for proven death for my Joseph McGinnis - the location and date.


$50.00 Reward offered for proof of where Joseph was living after 1871


$25.00 Reward offered for proof of whereabouts of any of 4 youngest children - Margaret, Mary Jane, Joseph and Robert, in 1880 or 1881 census.

If you need more details to tackle this mystery, please contact me in private email ( replace AT with @)

P.S. The Reward for September Most Wanted Ancestor is still up for grabs!