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April 30, 2011

Review: Tracing Your Civil War Ancestors

Tracing Your Civil War Ancestors by David A. Norris
published by Moorshead Magazines Ltd. 2011
Glossy Magazine format, 82 pages

David A Norris combined  his expertise in Civil War history with his love of genealogy research to write Tracing Your Civil War Ancestors. Tracing Your Civil War Ancestors is a collection of resources, both well known and obscure, combined with ideas, hints and suggestions on where to research.

Mr. Norris covers such topics as how to begin looking for a Civil War ancestor, how to find an African American Civil War soldier or sailor, finding records of Southern ancestors who served in the Union army.  He also explains how to find and access Civil War records such as medical records, pension records, amnesty papers and Southern claims, income tax records, cemetery records, prisoners of war, newspaper records, 1865 Payroll List, NARA Civil War service records, and records from Soldiers, Sailors and Widows' Homes.

Each of the topics covered includes a comprehensive list of what is available and where it can be accessed. Explanations of each record set is also given, which is very helpful for researchers. Many interesting facts are included with each chapter. For example the chapter on Pension Records provides an interesting account of the last known Civil War widow, Maudie Celia Hopkins who died in 2008 at age 83. How Mrs. Hopkins became a Civil War widow is the intriguing part of the factual tidbit! (Hint: At the age of 19 she married an 87 year old former Civil War soldier)

I was really impressed with this work. The magazine looked professional and the cover photo of a Civil War soldier in full uniform made me want to read what was inside. It is an excellent resource for all levels, from the beginner to the more experienced researcher. While researchers might be able to find the same information by spending many hundreds of hours at their computers and in various repositories, Mr. Norris' 82 pages have very capably put it all together in one easy to read format. At $9.95 you can't go wrong.

April 29, 2011

Are You Related to William or Kate?

The Royal Wedding. Prince William today marries Kate Middleton. sent a graphic which is very interesting, and gave permission to publish it here. I don't think I'm related to royalty but maybe you are!

April 28, 2011

Finding a Loyalist Ancestor Part 4: Land Records

We talked about the history of Loyalists in Part 1 and about Land Grants and Requirements for Loyalist Status in Part 2 and Land Petitions in Part 3. Now let's talk about other Land Records that can help you find a Loyalist Ancestor

Upper Canada Land Books

The Upper Canada Land Books do not, for the most part, contain much more information than the names of petitioners for land. However if you cannot find your ancestor in a Land Petition, you may find his or her name in the Land Books. Sometimes more detail is found in the comments section of the Land Book reference, but not often. Library & Archives Canada provides a list of microfilm reel numbers for both Upper and Lower Canada Land Books.

There are four Land Books for Upper Canada (A, B, C & D) which are in chronological order from 17 February 1787 to 13 July 1798. Upper Canada Land Book C covering 11 April to 20 December 1797 has been indexed and abstracted and can be consulted online. There are also some out-of-order petition entries for June and July 1796 in this database.

An example of a Land Book entry is one for my ancestor Jacob Peer in July 1797. His one line entry in Land Book C states

"Peer, Jacob - Praying for lands as a settler. Recommended for 200 acres." 

That is a typical entry.  However some entries provide much more detail such as this one for Rebecca Seeley

"Seeley, Rebecca - Praying for 3000 acres of lands in remuneration of her father's losses during the American war. The committee of Council are restricted from recommending lands as a compensation for losses, commissioners having been sent by His Majesty to this country for the especial purpose of remunerating the suffering loyalists. As the petitioner appears to have neglected this opportunity, the committee regret that they can only recommend her for 200 acres, if her father's name appears on the U.E. List."
Remember - these are brief entries from the Land Books. Petitions in the Upper Canada Land Petition files contain letters, affidavits, petitions, oaths of allegiance and more.


CLRI (Computerized Land Records Index) (aka Ontario Land Record Index)summarizes land grants from sales of Crown Land, from Canada Company sales or leases and from Peter Robinson settlers' grants. If your ancestor settled anywhere in Ontario and he was the first time buyer of Crown Land, he will be on these lists. Loyalists were the first time owners of Crown Lands and thus are almost always found in the CLRI.

The information from the CLRI one-line entry includes date of purchase, type of purchase, residence of purchaser, land location (lot, concession, township), type of purchase (very important to knowing whether or not there are more records available!), archival reference (where full record can be found) and often more info such as date of land ticket, or date of petition for land, etc.

Both of these resources can help you find a Loyalist ancestor. Next time I'll talk about the various lists of Loyalists and why the researcher should approach with caution....

April 27, 2011

Titanic's Unknown Child Given New, Final Identity

A very poignant story has emerged about the identity of a young child aged about 2 years old, whose body was recovered when the Titantic sank. The child's identity was not known and he was buried in an umarked grave in Halifax Nova Scotia. Over the years different identities were attached to this child and published as fact but recent DNA extraction has proven with 96% accuracy that the child  was 19-month-old Sidney Leslie Goodwin from England.

A pair of brown leather shoes helped substantiate the identity.

Little Sidney was travelling with his parents, Frederick and Augusta Goodwin and five siblings. The family was headed from England to Niagara New York. None of the bodies of the rest of Sidneys' family has ever been recovered so little Sidney lies alone in his unmarked grave.

Read more about this story and view photos of Sidney as a baby and a group photograph of his family on Live Science.

April 26, 2011

iPhone App Rama Looking for Writers for Historical Tours

This Press Release intrigued me. Could genealogists utilize this app for iPhone or create walking genealogy tours? I'd love to hear from any readers who decide to apply - just post a comment here on my blog and let us know.

Past Preservers is looking for passionate writers who can utilise the iPhone app, Rama, to make history come alive

04-21-11 - Press Release
Cumbria, United Kingdom, Europe
Past Preservers is working with Crimson Bamboo to develop historical tours for iPhone app, Rama.

Uniting popular history with archival photographs, Rama adds a historical narrative to the walking tour and shows snapshots of the tour route as it actually appeared.

Named by BBC Travel in 2010 as one of the ten best new travel apps, Rama is the only app that captures the experience of being in Chicago after the Great Fire, on the beaches of Normandy during D-Day, or in Shanghai’s French Concession in the roaring 20s.

If you would like to be involved with creating tours for Rama, send us an email about yourself and your tour idea to

Whether it’s a jaunt through your university’s past, or a recreation of the recent protests and political reform in Egypt, if you make the idea sound compelling, we’ll give you the tools to make it into a tour.

Related Link:

Contact Information:
Nigel Hetherington
Past Preservers
2 North Street
Cumbria, CA7 1BP

April 25, 2011


Special Guest Curt Witcher to Discuss 21st Century Genealogy Societies

April 20, 2011 – Austin, TX. The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) announces the debut of My Society, the first Internet radio show dedicated solely to genealogy societies. Broadcast weekly each Saturday at 1:00 pm Central, My Society will host discussions of genealogy society topics with a variety of guests including well-known genealogists and genealogy community leaders. This unique media outlet can be accessed at

Debut Episode of My Society with Special Guest Curt Witcher

On Saturday, April 23, 2011 at 1:00 pm Central, Curt Witcher, Senior Manager for Special Collections at the Allen County Public Library, will be the special guest on My Society hosted by FGS board member Thomas MacEntee. Witcher, who is also a former president of both FGS and the National Genealogical Society as well as the founding president of the Indiana Genealogical Society, will discuss bringing genealogy societies into the 21st century.

Internet Radio and FGS

Each week, My Society will focus on a selected topic relevant to genealogy society management and the role societies play within the genealogy community. Future topics will discuss increasing membership, developing a social media and Internet presence, member services, and more. In addition, each episode of My Society will spotlight a member society of FGS and discuss their various programs and offerings. Using the Blog Talk Radio platform, listeners will not only be able to hear a live broadcast, but they will also be able to call in and speak with the show’s host and guests to discuss their own genealogy societies.

George G. Morgan, FGS Vice President-Membership and veteran genealogy podcaster notes: “FGS strives to provide information and value to its members and to the entire genealogical community. We recently announced the FGS series of webinars, beginning on April 30th. However, we are also significantly expanding our offerings in 2011 to include the launch of regularly scheduled, live FGS Radio broadcasts over the Internet. These program will feature leaders in the genealogical field, and genealogical and historical societies sharing their success stories and best practices. Listeners can call in with their questions and comments. The programs will be recorded and made available for free download at the FGS website. We are very excited and proud about this new offering and look forward to expanding communication in the genealogy community.”

  To learn more visit

April 23, 2011

Easter Bunny Hopped By to Share Some Genealogy News

Some of you may remember that a few years ago a very exciting discovery was made! A small girl named Alice was playing in the garden of an old house in England when she fell down a large rabbit hole. Before climbing out she made a unique discovery. In a small wooden box under a pile of rabbit fur hats Alice spotted a yellowed letter. The letter was addressed to "Dear Easter" and signed "Uncle Wiggily", and it provided details of an interesting family tree!

Take a look at Easter Bunny's Family Tree chart and the letter to Easter Bunny from Uncle Wiggly.

Easter Bunny hopped by my house today as he made his rounds and shared some new discoveries. His great-grandma Bunny Fufu's bible has been found! Cousin Willy decided to downsize his warren and needed to get rid of items. So Easter was the lucky recipient of the treasured Bible. It even has a photo of Fufu on the cover!

Easter couldn't stay long as he had a lot of eggs to colour and hide but he did show me the Bible and let me take a picture of it. Wow, what a lucky bunny! I wonder what he'll find in the next 12 months?

April 22, 2011

Clues from an Ontario Obituary Lead to the Colorado Archives Online

Back right: Barnard McGinnis
From Theory to Fact: 30 Years in the Making talked about finding new information on my much-sought after McGinnis ancestry.

One of the items I discovered in a newspaper obituary was mention of Bernard McGinnis' death in Colorado in 1902. That was pretty exciting as I had never been able to find Bernard in the Ontario Death Registrations and yet he should have been there. He and his family lived in Galt Ontario for over 20 years so I had assumed (note to self: never assume!!) he died there. I wondered what he was doing in Denver Colorado, so far from home.

Obit: the body of Mr. [Bernard] McGinnis arrived in Galt Saturday morning Nov. 1, 1902 from Denver Colorado and was taken to the residence of his sister Mrs. D. Fields, North Water St, from which place the funeral took place on Sunday at 3 to St. Patrick's Church, thence to the Roman Catholic Cemetery. The service was conducted by Rev. Father Lenhardt. The members of the CMBA turned out in a body and were augmented by about twnety visiting brethren from Hespeler. His daughter Miss Jennie McGinnis accompanied the body from Denver. Other relatives present were Mrs. Albert Smith of Toronto; Mrs. Joseph McGinnis of Thoront; Mrs. John McGinnis of Berlin' James McGInnis of Toronto, Hugh McGinnis of Hespeler; Mrs. Robert McGinnis of Guelph; Mrs. John Clancy of  Cleveland; his mother Mrs. Hugh McGinnis who is 85 years of age. The family feel grateful to the community for the widespread sympathy extended. Pallbearers: frank Smith, Dennis Callaghan, Thomas Fleming, John Albert, Thomas Murphy and William Miehm

Colorado research isn't completely new to me as my husband's Massey ancestors left Canada circa 1880 and settled in Pueblo. Even though it is not his direct line, we always search all siblings down the generations in order to gain a more thorough knowledge of the family. We also hope to find out new details about the common ancestor using this method (searching all siblings).

Crossing my fingers, I went to the online Colorado State Archives to see if Bernard McGinnis was in the death record indexes. Since I knew a month and year of death (October 1902) I could verify if more than one turned up. And there he was.

My next step was to order a copy of the Death Record, which I was able to do online. There was no price given on the website but an email followed a few days later with details. It would cost me $25.00. Phew! That was a bit steep but I really wanted the record so I agreed. That was March 11 and finally on April 21st the record arrived at my home in Ontario Canada.

I was pretty excited as I opened the envelope. And there it was. Unfortunately the only new information was his cause of death (typhoid fever) and his residence address in Denver. I'd hoped for a clue as to why he was in Denver. I thought if his occupation or employer was noted, I'd have more clues for investigation. But no such luck. The only fields that were on the record were:

Address 1049 8th Street
Date Oct. 27, 1902
Number (blank)
Sex male
Color white
MSWD Married
Age 45
Nativity Canada
Occupation ?
Cause of Death Typhoid Fever
Contributory (blank)
Operation (blank)
Autopsy (blank)
Dr. G. A. Moleen
Interment Canada
Undertaker McGovern
Name McGinnis, Bernard
No parents' names or locations of birth - such a disappointment! Turning my attention back to the obituary, I saw many other details that provided clues for further research as well as some puzzling items. One was the sentence that "The members of the CMBA turned out in a body and were augmented by about twnety visiting brethren from Hespeler."

I had no clue what the CMBA was so off I went on another hunt. And there it was - the Catholic Mutual Benefit Association A quote from the website explains:

"CMBA was established for the purpose of joining fraternally in one grand organization all male Catholic between 18 and 50 able to pass a proper medical examination, to supply life insurance of $1,000.00 or $2,000.00 at actual cost to give social benefits only give by secret or fraternal organizations outside the Catholic Church, and to offset the work of secret societies"
Another bit of detail to make Bernard come alive for me. I've yet to explore the other clues in the obituary but I do recognize the names mentioned. I'm intrigued by the fact that there is no mention of his wife who was still living. And why was Bernard's body taken to his sister instead of his wife? I'll delve into that question at some future time.

April 21, 2011

Lost Faces: Featured Photo from Fowler - Merchant Album

Here is a CDV (Carte de Visite) from the Fowler-Merchant Family Photo Album on Lost Faces.

Photo #15 Frank & Josephine Fowler

Front: Frank & Josephine Fowler

Verso (Back): Henry M Wells Cambridge New York. Ink stamp with date: “Sep. 1866”

Date: Carte de Visite September 1866 

The Fowler Merchant Family Photo Album has slots for 30 CDVs (Cartes de Visite). 22 CDVs are identified by name. This is a Civil War Era Family Album with CDVs (Cartes de Visites), circa 1860s.

Surnames: Fowler, Merchant, Keach, Houghton, Lovejoy, Hewitt, Maloney, Tanner, Whitcomb, Sladden, Frazier, Comstock, Gray, Moseley, Center, Lee, Alexander, Fisher, Williams, Cottrell, Burgess

Locations: Cambridge New York, Connecticut, Washington DC

April 20, 2011

Finding a Loyalist Ancestor: Part 3 Petitions

We talked about the history of Loyalists in Part 1 and about Land Grants and Requirements for Loyalist Status in Part 2

Today I want to discuss Land Petitions. Every individual who believed they were entitled to a grant of land under Loyalist Regulations, had to file a petition with the Executive Council. In their petition the individual presented their case for receiving a grant. These Land Petitions often contain a wealth of genealogical information.

Below is the petition of Storm Folluck. It is a typical petiton and  could be the first of many pages submitted by one individual. This petition states (in formal language)

The Petition of Storm Folluck Humbly Sheweth That your petitioner served as a Private in Col. Butler's Corps, that as yet your Petitioner has only drawn from His Majesty's 200 acres, most of which your Petitioner has improved, therefore prays your Honour will be pleased to grant him an additional 100 acres to put him on a footing with other soldiers of that corps.
There is the formal typical ending of "... as in Duty bound your Petitioner will ever pray"  and dated Niagara January 1797

Some petitions are as little as one page outlining military service. Some are many pages long and often include affidavits from commanding officers testifying to military service. Sometimes affidavits or letters are included which outline personal hardships and suffering in the American Colonies - arrests, property seized, homes burned, etc. If an individual applied for a land grant as the son or daughter of an approved Loyalist, reference is made to the Loyalist parent. You never know what you will find in a petition until you read it.

One of my Loyalist ancestors' petitions contained an affidavit outlining the hardships his wife and children suffered when their home in New York was burned to the ground  by those opposed to the King.

The affidavit on the left is for the same Loyalist ancestor but provides other details including the year his wife arrived in the Niagara settlement of Upper Canada. This affidavit also tells me that he was in Butler's Rangers from 1778 to the end of the war.
Upper Canada Land Petitions (UCLP)

The good news is that Library & Archives Canada recently indexed the Upper Canada Land Petitions and genealogists can now search the index on their site. If you find a name of interest in the index, be sure you copy the details exactly as you will need the microfilm number, Volume number, Bundle Letter and Number, and the Petition Number.

The Volume, Bundle and Petition numbers and letters allow you to find the Petition(s) you want on the microfilm reel. You can order the Microfilm in to a Library or Family History Center. Remember that Upper Canada is now present day Ontario. Also it is important to note that the UCLP (Upper Canada Land Petitions) include petitions from individuals other than Loyalists.

Envelope of a
Loyalist Petition

Once a petition was submitted, it was read in Council and a decision was made. Whether the individual's petition was recommended (approved) or denied is marked on the outside "envelope" of the petition.

This is the dated Order in Council (OIC) and it will have a brief reference to how much land was granted and under what regulations, or the fact that the petition was denied.

My next Finding a Loyalist post will be about Upper Canada Land Books and the CLRI

April 19, 2011

A Chance Encounter Leads to an Act of Generousity

This morning my email contained a note from a woman who purchased an old photo album many years ago. This woman (who asked to remain anonymous) explained that she wants descendants to see the photos but wasn't sure how to share them.

I was privileged to see copies of the photos, many of which are identified in period handwriting. I replied saying I would be pleased to host the images on my site Lost Faces with her name and email as a contact.  I also began researching some of the names on the photographs. Okay I confess I am addicted to genealogy research even when it's not my ancestors!

Imagine my surprise (and excitement) when she responded saying she would prefer to give the entire album and photos to me. Now, many of you  know that I collect old CDVs (Cartes de Visite) from the 1870s and earlier. My personal collection of such photos now numbers over 3,500. That is only the CDVs.

Many of these photos from antique albums are online on Lost Faces and more are being scanned whenever time permits.  My goal is to scan my entire collection of CDVs, tintypes, Cabinet Cards, ambrotypes and daguerreotypes and publish them all online for all visitors to my site to copy and save for their own use.

It is my hope that more photographs can be rescued and shared with descendants and that is why I am so thrilled that my new-found contact is such a generous soul. Some days become "feel-good" days when you meet someone with a caring and generous nature. Today is one of those days.

April 18, 2011

A Titantic Connection

Recently a cousin of my husband, Diana Bobo, sent hubs an email saying he has a connection to a man who died when the Titantic sank on April 15, 1912.

The man's name was George Graham, and Diana sent an outline showing how George connected to my husband. When I entered the names into my FTM program, it immediately showed me that

"George Graham is the brother of the brother-in-law of the sister-in-law of the father-in-law of the sister-in-law of the great grand-aunt of xxx" (xxx being my husband)

Phew. That's quite a mouthful! Basically the connection is:

   HUMPHREY                       HOBBS
           |                                 |
George -- Humphrey md Bessie -- Mary md William McCutcheon

William -- Charles       STONE
                  |                |
                John m Alma -- Roy md Jenny Facey

Jenny Facey was the sister of my husband's great grandmother Mary Louise Facey

I had a look for George Graham and found some interesting data online. (Google is my friend!)

Note that George was born in St. Mary's Ontario Canada which is where my husband was born too. Small world. He has ancestral ties there on both sides of his family tree, going back to the early 1800s when St. Mary's was first settled.

Co-incidence? Or something else? In another odd twist, I too have a Titanic connection through William Thomas Stead who also was among those who died when the ship sank. This connection is through my great grandmother Sarah Stead who was born in England and is distantly related to William Thomas Stead.

It's interesting to find out about these connections to a famous event or person. I bet we all have one or two.

April 16, 2011

Using an Obit to Find Other Records For an Ancestor

Recently I found an obituary in a Wisconsin newspaper for my son's great-grandfather Michael Niland. I didn't know too much about Michael before reading his obit, only that he was born in Ireland circa 1846, arrived in America circa 1870 and was married twice.  I had his wives' names and the names of seven children.

Michael's obituary was one of those finds that we all dream of - providing me with his County of origin in Ireland, his first wife's death (she was my son's great-grandmother), his year of immigration and confirming the names of five of his children.  Those were the genealogical facts. But the obituary also included some descriptive text about Michael himself - his character and some interesting tidbits of information.

We have to remember that an obituary is only as accurate as the knowledge of the person who wrote it.  It's unlikely that Michael wrote his own obit so the newspaper account is suspect unless we can find evidence to support it. That's where the fun starts!

Michael died October 15, 1924 in Wauzeka Wisconsin. According to his obit he came from Co. Rosecommon Ireland in 1870 and married Mary Brennon in 1871. Perhaps I can find him in the 1871 census or on a passenger list. That's my first step so off I go to

The first hit was for Michael in the US Naturalization Records indexes on . The index doesn't tell me much that is new, but it does provide information I need to send for his Naturalization records. He was born 23 June 1846 in Ireland,  66 years old, living in Wauzeka, applied at the courts in Prairie du Chien, Crawford Co. Wisconsin on 20 May 1913. His certificate number is F-23. I'll use that information to hunt or send for his papers.

The next find was Michael age 34, his wife Mary and three children in the 1880 census in Marietta, Wisconsin. Here he is listed as a farmer which makes me wonder if there might be land records for him. His wife Mary is age 30 born Ireland so now I have an estimated date of birth for her of 1850. I want to check the image and not just the transcription because neighbours are sometimes relatives. Aha - living with Michael is a Thomas Niland age 36 born Ireland. I'm betting Thomas is a brother but I can't put that in my genealogy program without some proof. But it's a great extra bit of information as now I can look for Thomas as well as Michael in the records.

I wasn't having much luck finding Michael in the 1870 census so there's a good chance he arrived after the census was taken. I didn't spend too much time searching for a ships passenger list but will do that another day. I did find evidence supporting the obituary claim that his first wife (Mary Brennon) died in 1889 although this record gives her date of death as 24 February 1889 which differs from the obit death date of 3 October 1889.  I'll have to do some work to resolve that discrepancy.

Next I plan to find Michael in 1900, 1910 and 1920 Census, plus look for his children in various online records. I'll also hunt for Thomas (in the 1880 census with Michael) and see if I can find his name on a passenger list on , or in another census record.

April 15, 2011

DNA Day - Big Sale on DNA Testing

It's DNA Day and FamilyTreeDNA is having a sale. So earlier today I upgraded my brother's Y-DNA test from 37 to 67 markers, saving $20.00. Then I got a little crazy and ordered the new FamilyFinder test for his DNA. That was on sale too :-)

I'm looking forward to seeing what the new tests and upgrades reveal and will blog about it here. I've never blogged about the results of his original DNA test so that's also in the line-up. DNA is a wild and crazy thing to try to understand and I'm still in Kindergarten but I'll pass on everything I learned about my brother's paternal DNA test and results in a future blog post. Paternal DNA follows the male lineage and can only be tested on a male in the direct line. So to test my McGINNIS origins I had to get my brother to give up some spit.

Then I took the plunge and ordered my own kit to test my MtDNA. This means I'm testing my mother, her mother, her mother's mother and so on up the maternal line. I'm really curious about this as I know that maternal line back  to late 1700s in Kent England -

My mom Joan
My Grandma Ruth (Joan's mom) (from here back all were born in Kent England)
My Great Grandma Sarah Stead
My 2x Great Grandma Sarah Elvery
My 3x Great Grandma Hannah Elvery (she married a cousin with the same surname)
My 4x Great Grandma Mary Ansell

I'm not sure what the test will tell me so I'll post about my journey as it happens!

There are many companies selling DNA kits and it's a personal choice as to which one you use. But to
take advantage of FamilyTreeDNA promotional prices use the coupon code: DNADAY2011

The coupon code  expires today ( Friday April 15)  at midnight (CT).

April 14, 2011

Finding a Loyalist Ancestor Part 2

We talked about the history of Loyalists in Part 1 and today I want to talk about lands given to those who could prove they were Loyalists.

By 1784, Loyalists could return to the U.S.A. without fear of persecution or physical assault, and some did. Those who stayed in Canada were granted land under the following conditions:

  * 100 acres for head of family plus 50 acres per family member
50 acres for single men
  *  300 - 1000 acres for army officers
  *  200 acres for an NCO plus 200 for wives, if they applied
  *  100 acres for a private soldier plus 50 acres for each family member 

In order to obtain their grant of land, an individual had to meet certain requirements (which changed slightly depending on the year of application):

1. had to live in the American colonies before the start of the American Revolution
2. joined the  British forces before 1783
3. suffered property losses

In 1798 a fourth requirement was added, that an individual had to be living in Upper Canada before 1798

Lots were drawn for locations and when the land had been occupied for a year, the Loyalist received a permanent deed. In 1789, it was decided that sons would receive 200 acres when they became 21 and daughters the same, except they would receive the grant upon marriage if not yet 21. This was known as an Order in Council and you may see it referred to as OIC. For instance here is a one-line entry for one of my Loyalist Ancestors, found in Reids' book The Loyalists in Ontario: The Sons and Daughters of the American Loyalists of Upper Canada

Cornelius Vollick OIC 25 May 1793

This entry tells us that Cornelis received his land grant on 25 May 1793. Since I know his father was a Loyalist I also know that Cornelis was at least 21 years old in 1793. Therefore I  know he was born 1772 or earlier. This also tells me that he submitted a petition to receive his Loyalist Land Grant, and so I need to look for that petition. I may get a surprise as it is possible he was applying for land in right of being a confirmed Loyalist himself and not just a son of a confirmed Loyalist. The Petition, if found, will have the information as to under what conditions he was applying. 

We'll talk about Petitions in Part 3. They are very important and can contain a wealth of genealogical information and detail. In Part 4 we'll discuss the various lists of Loyalists and why researchers should use caution when referring to them.

April 13, 2011

Calling all Canadians & Americans - Does your family have British Roots?

Dragonfly TV in the UK wrote to me about a very interesting opportunity for Canadians and Americans

We’re currently making an exciting new TV series called Guess the Relative  and it’s a fun and entertaining show all about family history and our distant living relatives.

In it, people from around the world with get the chance to travel to Britain to discover living British relatives, who they never even knew existed.

We’re currently looking for people from Canada who think they may have a distant ancestor from the UK. Their ancestor might be several generations back and come from England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland - but if they have any link to the UK whatsoever, we want to hear about it!

Their Press Release follows

A British TV company is making an exciting new TV show featuring British families and their long lost Canadian and US relatives. Dragonfly TV is currently looking for Canadian and US families who would like to travel to Great Britain to discover long lost relatives they never knew existed. They’ll get to experience British life and stay in a magnificent Countryside home and meet new members of their family along the way.
If you think you may have British ancestors and would like to find out more visit

April 12, 2011

WW1 RAF Service Records Online at National Archives UK

The Royal Air Force (RAF) was the world's first independent military air arm and by the end of the First World War it had become the largest.

Now you can search and download First World War service records of RAF officers. This database is of interest to Canadians whose ancestor may have enlisted in WW1 as a pilot. Canada did not have its own Air Force and any individual wishing to join the Air Force had to join the RAF. Approximately one-quarter of the aircrew in British Royal Air Force (RAF) squadrons were Canadian. A large RAF training establishment operated in Canada to produce new aircrew.

The collection contains records for over 99,000 individuals and is searchable by first name, last name and date of birth.

Searching the indexes is free but to obtain full details a small fee is charged by the National Archives UK. I tried this database earlier this morning with a generic search for my PEER ancestors. Because I search for all PEER individuals in North America, it's always of interest to me to see if one of them can be found in any new database online.

My search gave me two results for PEER. In order to view the scans of their service records I saw that it would cost me 3.50L for each man (that converts to $11.00 Canadian) The website stated each man's records consisted of 3 pages. I added both to my Shopping Cart and then made the purchase. This is what I love about ordering from the National Archives UK website - after entering my Credit Card details, I was given an immediate link to download the service records. The link is good for 28 days.

As is common with Military Service Records you never know what you're going to get. Some are full of information, others are not.

The Service Record I downloaded for Walter James Peer gave his name, date of birth, next-of-kin in Canada, address in Canada and place of employment. There wasn't much recorded in the section for his whereabouts throughout the War.

The second record for Harold Emerson Peer had a full page of entries for his movements throughout his time in the RAF but no date of birth, no next of kin and no location in Canada. For me that $11.00 was well worth it as I pursue my genealogy with the goal of obtaining as much detail as possible about every individual in my database.

One caveat - when the National Archives UK website states there are x number of pages in a set of records, be aware that the first page is a Title Page with no information on the person involved.

I'll explain how to read and understand these Service Records in a separate blog post. Please watch for it here! 

April 11, 2011

"Soliciting a Continuance of Your Esteemed Patronage...."

My husband collect ephemera from St. Mary's Ontario Canada. One of his recent acquisitions was hundreds of miscellaneous documents from Andrews Jewellery Store. The documents date from 1870 to 1900 and remained in the Jewellery Store until quite recently.

William Andrews built his Jewellery store in 1884 and one of my husband's ancestors Fred Massey, worked as a jeweller for Mr. Andrews in later years. The store is still in St. Mary's at its original location and still operates as a jewellery store. William Andrews died in St. Mary's in 1927 at the age of 83.

William's father Henry Andrews was a Stone Mason from Devonshire England who came to Canada West (present day Ontario) in 1855 and William apprenticed as a clerk for a jeweller in St. Mary's before opening his own store.

Part of my husband's collection consists of  Post Cards sent from businesses and stores all over Canada to Mr. Andrews. These are not Post Cards as we think of them today. They are receipts for money paid by Mr. Andrews for goods and services.

This image shows one from Toronto and dated October 20, 1882. It is from H. A. Nelson & Sons on Front Street West.  A check of Google books revealed that H. A. Nelson sold brushes and brooms.

"Dear Sir - Your favor to hand enclosing the sum of Twenty-Six /78 Dollars which we have placed to your credit in settlement of invoice of Oct. 10/82.  Returning thanks, and soliciting a continuance of your esteemed patronage, We remain Respectfully yours, H. A Nelson & Sons"

I love this flowery language. I was chuckling to myself thinking how nice it would be if Visa or American Express sent me such a lovely note every time I make a payment.  "Soliciting a continuance" of my "esteemed patronage" ..... 

Reading through some of the hundreds of documents is delightful and jolts the reader back to another time where courtesy abounded and flowery language was the norm.

April 9, 2011

Finding Details About the Loyalist in Your Ancestry (Part 1)

When the American Revolution (Revolutionary War) began in 1775, individuals living in the 13 British colonies had to decide whether to remain loyal to the British King or to fight for independence. Loyalist is the term used to describe those who supported the King and who later fled to Canada with their families. You may sometimes see Loyalists  referred to as Tories but this is not the commonly accepted term.

Lands Confiscated

Loyalists were harassed socially and politically. Many were expelled from their land and their property was seized. Many were arrested. One Loyalist ancestor living near North River, New York was arrested and in 1779 his home was burned to the ground forcing his family to flee to Montreal Canada. My Loyalist ancestor from New Jersey did not take up arms  but remained sympathetic to the British forces and according to official documents 
"[he] suffered greatly both in his person and property in the Late War between Great Britain and America"
Fleeing to Canada

The first trickle of Loyalists into Canada was in March 1776 when 1 000 people fled Boston and accompanied the British Army as it retreated before the American forces. In 1782 when the Revolution ended, Canada consisted of two colonies: Quebec and Nova Scotia. Approximately 10,000 Loyalists went to Quebec, the rest to Nova Scotia. 

Quebec Settlements

Those who settled in Quebec ran into problems with the French feudal system of land ownership and agitated for the creation of an English-speaking province. As a result, the Quebec colony was divided into Upper and Lower Canada in 1791. Loyalists came overland to the Niagara Peninsula in the new area of Upper Canada. 

Ontario Settlements

Although there were exceptions, Loyalist settlement in 1784 in what is now the Province of  Ontario  was mostly by discharged servicemen from Ranger Units who settled in roughly the following pattern, going from east to west along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario:

   > Lancaster Township: Royal Yorkers settled there in 1785
   > Charlottenburgh Township: Roman Catholic Highlanders in the Royal Yorkers
   > Cornwall Township: Scottish Presbyterians in the Royal Yorkers
   > Osnabruck Township: German Calvinists in the Royal Yorkers
   > Williamsburgh Township: German Lutherans in the Royal Yorkers
   > Matilda Township: Anglicans in the Royal Yorkers
   > Edwardsburgh, Augusta and Elizabethtown Townships: Major Jessup's Loyal Rangers
   > Kingston Township: Captain Michael Grass and his New York Loyalists
   > Ernestown Township: Jessup's Rangers
   > Fredericksburgh Township: Major James Rogers' Co. of the King's Rangers and the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Yorkers
   > Adolphustown Township: DeLancey's Corps
   > Marysburgh Township: German mercenaries and disbanded English and Irish troops
   > Sophiasburgh Township: Americans who arrived after the Revolution
   > Ameliasburgh Township: no specific Loyalist units
   > Sidney Township: no specific Loyalist units
   > Niagara Region: Butler's Rangers

I'll discuss Loyalist Land Grants, Land Petitions, Rationing Lists and other available records and information on Loyalists in subsequent blog posts.

April 8, 2011

Who Do You Think You Are: Last Episode Ashley Judd

It's the final episode of Season 2 of Who Do You Think You Are? tonight April 8th. has once again partnered with NBC in Season 2 of Who Do You Think You Are?

You won't want to miss tonight's episode with Ashley Judd as she follows her ancestors to England and the Pilgrim Fathers. The program airs at 8 PM Eastern time, 7 PM Central.

I hear via the grapevine that there is also a Civil War ancestor hiding in Ashley's lineage. I'm texting my hubby to bring home potato chips and pop for tonight's tv watching!

April 7, 2011

Free Access to Civil War Records on Ancestry!

Starting  Thursday, April 7th and running through the following Thursday April 14th, will be featuring a week long promotion to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the beginning of the U.S. Civil War. is offering Free Access to all Civil War records during the promotion!

April 6, 2011

Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

There's been a lot of discussion about clouds recently. Cloud computing that is. Are you in the cloud? I am and it's not only easy, it's fun and a great way to save and share important things.

Got a new find in your genealogy research and want to have multiple copies in safe places? Typed out great-grandma's recipe and want to share it with your cousins? Scanned 100 old family photos and want to make sure you have backups? Need to work on a project in collaboration with others? At your hotel for a genealogy conference and just remembered you left your notes at home? Don't worry, the cloud has your back!

What is it and Why Do I Want It?

There are many different types of cloud computing and several models of use, but I just want to describe the cloud services  I use and how and why I use them. You can Google "cloud computing" to read detailed definitions and descriptions.

I Love Dropbox!

My all-time favourite and most-used cloud service is Dropbox. With Dropbox I can store, sync, and, share files online for free. Not all cloud services will sync. If that's not important to you, don't worry about it. But I like to have at least one service that will automatically sync my uploaded files to all my devices.

Here's a brief look at how Dropbox works. Let's take an example of writing the story of Grandpa Harvey's life. I've saved my file to my computer hard drive but I want a backup and I want to be able to work on the story from my iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Laptop or other computers. All I need to do is "drop" my file into my Dropbox Account (2 GB of free storage space). Dropbox automatically syncs the file to all my devices that have the App installed. I can also access the files from any computer simply by going to the Dropbox website. I can also give other family members or contribuotrs access to the file and they can participate in the story writing, or simply enjoy reading it.

With Dropbox I can take a photo from my iPhone camera and immediately send it to Dropbox. When my husband is out photographing cemeteries for our Cemetery Walk series on Olive Tree Genealogy You-tube Channel, he can send each photo as he takes it to Dropbox. Dropbox notifies me on all my devices and my main computer immediately that a file has been added to my space. That gives me  immediate access to the tombsotne pictures hubby is taking.

Comparison of Free Cloud Services

2GB of free storage plus ability to earn extra free space up to 8GB. No size limit on files. Sync files automatically. Available as an App for iPhone, iPad and other mobile devices. Able to access files from any computer (Mac, Windows, Linux) or mobile device. Sign up for your free Dropbox Account of 2GB and get an extra 250MB free through this link.

Amazon Cloud Drive
5 GB free storage. Does not sync. Access files from any computer. Amazon promotes their cloud storage as a great way to save videos, music and photos. 5 GB is about 1,000 songs, 2,000 photos or 20 minutes of videos.  When you purchase songs or albums from the Amazon MP3 Store, you can  save your purchases to your Cloud Drive.

3 GB free storage space. Get an extra free 500 MB with friend invites. Available as an App for iPhone. Use this link to immediately get 3.5 GB of free storage on signup    UPDATE MAY 5, 2011. I do not recommend this cloud storage service and will be writing a blog post to explain why
5 GB free storage space. 25MB file size limit. Mobile App access. Website

Windows Skydrive
25GB free storage but file sizes limited to 50MB.  Create, view, edit, and share Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote files online with SkyDrive even if you don't have Microsoft Office installed on your computer. Note: I find Windows SkyDrive slow but I love the online Excel and Word programs! It allows me to use my familiar Excel and Word even on my MacBookAir.

Google Docs
1GB free. With Google Docs you create and share your work online.


Each of the free cloud storage services above with the exception of SkyDrive  allow users to pay for  expanded storage and more features.

Why do I use so many? I like to keep my cloud storage semi-organized by type of files or work. For example I use Amazon Cloud Drive for my scanned photos. I use DropBox for files I'm actively working on and files I need to easily and quickly share between computers.

I use Memopal for backup storage of my main website Olive Tree Genealogy. isn't one of my favourites but it's useful for backup of final versions of the Family History books I've published. It's downfall is the small file size it allows.

I'm not a huge fan of Google Docs so hardly ever use it but I include it here because it is good for teamwork participation. Windows SkyDrive is one I'm just starting to explore and I love being able to work in Excel and Word from my MacBook Air, but I find it the least user-friendly.

You can read what PC World had to say about Google Docs vs SkyDrive vs Amazon CloudDrive.  Spoiler: The author likes the best. Don't ask me how that got into the mix when the title is "Cloud fight! Amazon Cloud Drive vs. Google Docs vs. Microsoft Skydrive"

My Top Three

My personal choice for my top three cloud services are Dropbox, Memopal and Amazon CloudDrive. Try them. See which one works for you! Don't forget to use these links for Dropbox and Memopal to get your extra free storage space when you join! You won't be sorry you dipped your toe into the cloud.

April 5, 2011

New Births, Deaths & Marriage Records Available for Ontario

The Archives of Ontario has completed microfilm of  Vital Statistics records from the Office of the Registrar General for the 1913 birth, 1928 marriage, and 1938 death indexes and registrations.

Consisting of over 127,000 scanned images, the microfilm and its related finding aids are available  at the Reading Room at 134 Ian Macdonald Boulevard in Toronto, Ontario, on York University's Keele Street campus, and at local libraries through the Interloan program. 

The Vital Statistics records for 1914 birth, 1929 marriage, and 1939 death indexes and registrations, are currently being scanned and the resulting 130,000 images checked for clarity and completeness. 

Ontario Archives is working to have these records available online in a searchable format in 2011. They also hope to make the 1915 birth, 1930 marriage, and 1940 death registrations available later in the same year. As the work progresses, further details will be released through Archives of Ontario website.

April 4, 2011

The Peer Family in North America (Press Release)

The Peer family left New Jersey to settle in Ontario Canada in 1796, after the Revolutionary War. Jacob and Anne (aka Hannah) Peer had several children born in New Jersey (Levi, John, Edward, Philip, Phoebe, Marcy, Jacob and Stephen). Their descendants settled in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Ontario Canada.

I have been researching all branches of this family for over 30 years and last year I published Volume 1 of a planned series of books on the family.

The following brief excerpt is from my book The Peer Family in North America. V1 Jacob & Anne Peer, Immigrants from New Jersey to Upper Canada in 1796. A study of the first two generations. published June 2010.  

Jacob Peer, the immigrant ancestor to Ontario, left New Jersey for Upper Canada (present day Ontario) thirteen years after the American Revolution ended in 1783. The American Revolution began in 1773 and during this time New Jersey was a hot bed of political and military upheaval.

From records found in Ontario we know that Jacob and his family were loyal to the British side, and suffered from persecution in New Jersey throughout the war years. His British sympathies had caused great hardship for him during the War, and as former neighbour Nathaniel Pettit described in an affidavit supporing Jacob’s petition for land in Upper Canada (present day Ontario)

"[Jacob] suffered greatly both in his person and property in the Late War between Great Britain and America".

Jacob remained in New Jersey until the summer of 1796 when he and his family and at least one adult son Philip (and his family) left for Upper Canada.

Subsequent volumes are in process for each individual in Generation 2 (Jacob & Anne's children) and their descendants. Peer descendants will want to purchase Volume 1 plus any  Volume(s) containing details and records of their next ancestor and descendants.

Generation 2: Children of Jacob & Anne Peer
  • Levi Peer & his wife Elizabeth Marical (settled in Illinois & Ontario) [Vol. 2]
  • John Peer & his wife the widow of Thomas Millard (settled mainly in Ontario) [Vol. 1]
  • Edward Peer & his two wives Anna and Sarah (settled in Pennsylvania & Ontario) [Vol. 3]
  • Philip Peer & his two wives Ester Dunn and Susan Griniaus (settled mainly in Ontario) [Vol. 4]
  • Phoebe Peer & her husband Daniel McQueen (settled mainly in Ontario) [Vol. 7]
  • Marcy Peer & her husband Harcor Lyons (settled in Michigan & Ontario) [Vol. 7]
  • Jacob Peer Jr. & his wife Lucy Powers (settled in Michigan & Ontario) [Vol. 5]
  • Stephen Peer & his wife Lydia Skinner (settled in New York &Ontario) [Vol. 6]

Interested descendants may sign up for notification of publication and updates by writing to (replace AT with @) Please include your name, and the Volumes you are interested in. 

April 2, 2011

The Indian List - A Revelation

Recently I found mention of my great-grandfather's brother Gideon Peer in a local Guelph Ontario newspaper. The date was 6 August 1913. The notice read as follows:
'ENRICHED THE COFFERS: Gideon Peer, Robert Simpson and Chas. Emslie, all on the Indian list, were each fined $10 and costs at the police court this morning. Abe Summerville, also on the list, pleaded not guilty, and his case will be disposed of tomorrow morning"
That was it. No explanation as to what the fine was for and no details as to what this "Indian List" was. I'd never heard of such a list before.

As far as I knew, my Peer ancestors were not of native heritage. But could I be mistaken? Wouldn't an "Indian List" be a list of natives, those known to be of native blood?

I remembered that Gideon's father Levi Peer, in a letter written to his mother Elizabeth Marical Peer in the 1840s had referred to his Irish born wife Jane as a "squaw". In the next sentence he'd added that Jane was "Irish to the bone" so I'd dismissed the use of the term "squaw" as simply some kind of local colloquialism.

I also recalled that one branch of the family descended from Elizabeth Marical Peer insisted she was a native,  part of the Mohawk Marical family in Ontario. Although I had found no evidence of this in my research and in fact I linked her to the Palatine family of Merckel aka Merkely aka Marical.

Now I questioned my research. Perhaps I'd overlooked something. So I went back and pulled out all my notes on Gideon and his sibings and parents. No reference to native heritage in any of the census records. No reference to it in other sources. I decided to search for the men listed in the newspaper account - Charles Emslie, Robert Simpson and Abe Summerville. Perhaps something found in records for these men would provide a clue.

A few hours later I was still puzzled. Nothing I found indicated that these men were of native heritage. I'd already searched on Google for "The Indian List" without much success but I went back to Google and started over. Finally I found two references - one an article called Punched Drunk 
and a cached version of an article titled "Are You on the Indian List" published in 2008.

Apparently in 1876 a change in the Indian Act made it illegal for natives to purchase or possess alcohol. Names of natives were compiled on an Interdiction List which became known as The Indian List. Saloon keepers, hotel owners, and bars had copies of this list and they were not legally allowed to sell to anyone whose name was on the list.

That still did not explain my Gideon Peer appearing on such a list. But I learned that rather quickly non-natives were added to this list. Thus anyone, white, native or otherwise, who was a habitual drunk or had been in trouble with the law due to being drunk and disorderly, had their names added to this list. It then became illegal for them to purchase or own liquor or to have a drink in a tavern, hotel or bar.

Failure to comply with the regulations meant a fine either for the person on "The Indian List" or the person selling the liquor to them.

I must confess that finding out about this "Indian List" shocked me. Such a list could only lead to prejudice and social classifcations that were applied to all natives. Assumptions had to be made in the first place that no native was to be trusted with alcohol! This would have affected social expectations and views of the native population. Adding the names of non-native individuals who had been found drunk and disorderly would only further add weight to the notion that a native was automatically assumed to share that classification.

As a Metis (of native and French descent) I'm appalled that this existed in our country. I recognize that it was a product of the times but it doesn't make the law or the list any less a social injustice.

What did I learn about Gideon? He wasn't a native but apparently he liked his liquor and was prone to being charged with  drunk and disorderly conduct.  His family must have been mortified to see his name in the newspaper and the mention that he was "on the Indian List".  

April 1, 2011

Gwyneth Paltrow in Episode 7 of Who Do You Think You Are

Tonight's the night! Who Do You Think You Are re-runs are over and tonight's episode is brand new. has once again partnered with NBC in Season 2 of Who Do You Think You Are?

Gwyneth Paltrow is featured tonight in Episode 7. Tune in at 8 p.m. tonight, Friday April 1st to see what exciting ancestors Gwyneth discovers as she journeys to Barbadoes in search of her ancestry.

Season 2 consists of 8 episodes featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Rosie O'Donnell, Steve Buscemi, Kim Cattrall, Lionel Richie, Vanessa Williams and Ashley Judd in their search for ancestors.