Discover your inside story with AncestryDNA®

June 30, 2015

It's Not Just Loyalists! (A Misleading Title on Ancestry)

Recently I poked around a database record set on The title is UK, American Loyalist Claims 1776-1835. In the description given by Ancestry we read that "Records in this database relate to Loyalist claims and cases heard by the American Loyalist Claims Commission."

There is more detail given in the description but every sentence stresses that this database provides names and details of Loyalists, those who fled the Colonies during and after the Revolutionary War 1775-1783. However this is incorrect! Badly incorrect.

The records are divided into Series I (AO12) and Series II (AO13). 

Yes there are some Loyalist claims and documents in this set of records. But a very quick look in Series II (AO 13) reveals that in the section titled "American-Loyalist Claims Series II (140) Miscellaneous 1801-1835", we find Claims for Losses in Upper Canada after the War of 1812. 

These claims for losses were not filed by Loyalists but by ordinary citizens who suffered at the hands of the Americans or the Indians during that War. This specific (and valuable!) list of those filing claims is dated May 1824 and begins on image 15 of 228. It ends on image 49 at claimant number 2054.

It's an invaluable database but sadly not many researchers will find it since it is not listed correctly on And for those who do stumble on it by searching and finding an ancestor's name, they are almost certain to think that finding that name in this database means that their ancestor was a Loyalist. 

Please don't be fooled. When searching a large database, be sure to scroll back to the start of the specific section your ancestor's name is on. Look for the title of that specific set of records so that you know what you have found and can provide an accurate and correct source for the information.

June 29, 2015

Victorian Lunatic Asylum Patient Photos - So Tragic

Faces of pain: Harrowing portraits from Victorian lunatic asylum were taken by doctor who believed photos could help 'cure' them - even though many were only there because their husbands had tired of them. These Haunting images give an insight into harrowing lives of women forced to live at Suffolk County Lunatic Asylum

June 28, 2015

Celebrate Canada Day with FREE Access to!

Celebrate Canada Day with FREE Access to!
To celebrate Canada Day [FN1], is providing free access to all 235 million Canadian records on their site. The offer is in effect until July 1, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time.

You will need to register (for free) with your name and email. A username and password will be emailed to you which you can use to log in to view the free records. After July 1, 2015, you will only be able to view these records using an paid membership. 

[FN1] On July 1, 1867 Canada became a new federation with its own constitution by signing the Constitution Act - formerly known as the British North America Act. Canada Day is a national statutory holiday celebrated in all provinces and territories.

June 27, 2015

Once in a Lifetime Family Reunion

Share the emotional reuniting of four generations (71 people) from one family that scattered across America. As families spread further and further apart, reunions are making a comeback to keep traditions and family histories alive. 
Evie & Clarence Wedding Day 1948
image courtesy of

This 3rd & 4th of July, in Black Lake, Michigan, after 67 years of marriage, Great-Grandparents Evie & Clarence will gather their entire living family of 71 people from all over America and will finally see their 28 great-grandchildren in one room; meeting many for the first time.  

With family members ranging in age from newborn to 86 this will be a day full of laughs, tears How of joy and memories that will be passed down for generations.

This is all thanks to Barbara Klee of Pemberville, Ohio entering a contest to win a Once in a Lifetime Family Reunion, and winning! TinyBeans, the app that makes sharing memories with family safe and simple for over 700,000 people around the world, is honoring Barbara Klee’s family with a $10,000 reunion of a lifetime!

June 26, 2015

Who Do You Think You Are is Back With New Celebrity Guests

Who Do You Think You Are is Back With New Celebrity Guests
 The two-time Emmy nominated series WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? returns this summer to share more fascinating stories, and shed light on surprising revelations, of the real life family history of celebrities. 

Executive Produced by Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky, the new season premieres Sunday, July 26 at 9/8c.
 The contributors featured in the upcoming season include:
·         Tom Bergeron, who is aware of his French Canadian roots on his paternal side, but wants to know what brought his ancestors to North America. He goes as far back as his 10x great grandmother to find the answer.
·         Bryan Cranston, who comes to discover an unfortunate pattern amongst the men in his family.
·         Ginnifer Goodwin, who sets out to learn about her mysterious paternal great grandparents, whom her father, regretfully, does not know much about either.
·         Alfre Woodard, who strives to find out more about the paternal side of her family, and explores how her surname came to be.
Additionally, TLC will air the U.S. premiere of J.K. Rowling’s episode of the series, where the best-selling author sets off to uncover her maternal French roots. She finds that a family war story might not be what she thought when military records reveal a surprising twist. , the leading family history company, is teaming up again with TLC as a sponsor of the upcoming season. As part of the show sponsorship, Ancestry provides exhaustive family history research on each of the featured celebrities to help make discoveries possible and build out the story of each episode.


June 25, 2015

PBS Suspends Finding Your Roots Over Affleck's Improper Influence

 Finding Your Roots is a TV show with host Henry Louis Gates Jr. and has been on air for 2 Seasons. The premise is similar to Who Do You Think You Are? and traces the roots and family histories of celebrity guests.

When an episode featuring Ben Affleck aired last October it was later learned (through hacked emails) that Affleck had told Gates he did not want mention made of his slave owning ancestors. Gates and the show's producer removed all mention. 

When the emails surfaced there was a huge outcry from fans and genealogists alike, most of whom were dismayed at the editorial liberties taken by the show to hush up the past and hide the facts. 

At the time Gates defended the decision to not air Affleck's ancestors' slave owning deeds by saying that the producers found "more interesting" ancestors to talk about.

After an investigation, PBS found that "... producers violated network standards by letting Mr. Affleck have “improper influence” and “by failing to inform PBS or WNET of Mr. Affleck’s efforts to affect program content.”

Before Season 3 airs, PBS plans on making staff changes and has not yet reached a decision as to whether or not there will be a fourth Season. 

Read more in the NY Times at Citing Ben Affleck’s ‘Improper Influence,’ PBS Suspends ‘Finding Your Roots’

June 24, 2015

Why You Can't Find Great-Grandpa's Death Registration

Why You Can't Find Great-Grandpa's Death Registration
How many times have you looked for a Vital Registration in Ontario and come up empty? But you know Great-Grandpa Harvey's death date and location. You know it was after Vital Registration began in 1869. You've tried using wildcards to pick up variations in his surname. You've searched just under his first name. You've tried every trick in the book but there is nothing found. 

I've done it too. I have several people whose deaths or marriages or births are simply not showing up in the online Registrations. My most recent failed attempt was in searching for a murder victim and the woman who was executed for the crime. It was a very famous case in Ontario (James Workman the victim, beaten to death in 1872 and his wife Elizabeth Workman, the last woman hung in Ontario in 1873) and is still written about today as a miscarriage of justice. I wanted to see their death registrations for research I am doing on this family. But nothing was found. After several frustrating hours of creative searching, I wrote to the Ontario Archives and asked where the Death Certification of murder victims and the murderer were kept.

To my surprise I was told that they are filed with all deaths and registered with Ontario Vital Statistics so they should be found. Then the Archivist added that perhaps the families had not paid to have the deaths registered. This was news to me! So I wrote back and asked for clarification as to whether all individuals had to pay to register a vital event. The answer was YES. Here's the explanation below:

People were required to pay (either directly or via family members, hospital, clergy or funeral home) for Ontario vital statistics registrations.  The cost to register a marriage was about .10 cents prior to WWII then the cost went up to about .25 cents after WWII.

Now I know why I can't find some of my ancestors and collateral branches' births, marriages or deaths. No doubt the family didn't have the money or thought it was a waste of money that could be better spent elsewhere.

So if you have been hunting and unable to find a Vital Registration Event, consider the possibility that perhaps it was never registered. That doesn't mean you should give up after the first try! Use wildcards, they are your friend. For example Ancestry allows the use of * to represent more than one letter and ? to represent one letter.  If your surname of interest is Madden, try searching M*d*n to pick up Maden, Maiden, Maddin, etc.

Be creative in how many details you put in the search engine. In other words, loosen your search, make it less restrictive. Search just by a first name or just by a location and date (no name at all) 

If all your searches are in vain, you might want to try church records. Even if the event was not registered at the Provincial level, odds are good that it made the local church.

June 23, 2015

Such a Huge Abandoned Cemetery in Pennsylvania

Imagine a cemetery, an abandoned cemetery, the size of a small town. 

Well that is what Mount Moriah Cemetery in Pennsylvania is like. It is over 400 acres in size and in complete disarray with crumbling tombstones, weeds and thick vegetation. 

Mount Moriah Cemetery is a historic cemetery in southwest Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, along Cobbs Creek. It was incorporated on March 27, 1855. It is thought that over 80,000 are buried in this cemetery. 

Some interesting documents can be found at Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery.

Read more at Pennsylvania’s oldest abandoned cemetery is the size of a small town

June 22, 2015

Building An Ancestor's Face from DNA Could be Possible One Day

I love new technology! Can you imagine one day perhaps being able to reconstruct the faces of our ancestors from DNA? Don't scoff. It may be a reality. 

Scientists have been using a technique called "molecular photo fitting" to reconstruct faces of criminals, based on genetic markers from their DNA.

In a BBC series called Catching History's Criminals: The Forensics Story, this technology offers the prospect of generating a face from nothing more than a few cells. In the Forensic world this means that a few cells of DNA left at the scene of a crime would allow the criminal's face to be reconstructed. 

In an experiment the face of Surgeon Gabriel Weston was reconstructed using nothing more than DNA from her saliva. It's a pretty uncanny likeness and you can see the results at Building the face of a criminal from DNA on BBC News.

June 21, 2015

Free e-book for Father's Day! Help Dad Preserve His Stories

Why not gift your dad this free e-book for Father's Day? Ask him to follow the prompts and jot down his own memories of his childhood.

Writing Your Memoirs For Descendants: Prompts for Recording & Preserving Your Family Stories and Memories is free today only 

Choose either on at Writing Your Memoirs For Descendants: Prompts for Recording & Preserving Your Family Stories and Memories

or on at Writing Your Memoirs For Descendants Prompts for Recording & Preserving Your Family Stories and Memories

Anybody can read Kindle books even without a Kindle device with the free Kindle app for smartphones, tablets, and computers.

June 20, 2015

Featured Database: Ticehurst House Hospital Insane Asylum Records

The archives of the Ticehurst House Hospital, which are part of the Wellcome collection, have been preserved and its records from 1787 to 1925 have now been digitized and put online. These records provide a glimpse into life in an Insane Asylum.

Ticehurst House Hospital was opened as a private lunatic asylum at Ticehurst, East Sussex, in 1792. At first the hospital admitted a number of pauper patients as well as its more numerous private clients. However no pauper patients were admitted after 1838, and the clientèle became increasingly upper class as the century progressed. 

In the 19th century and earlier, people were often committed to Insane Asylums by a family member who had grown tired of them. Aging parents could be sent away by resentful adult children; wives discarded by a husband who wanted a change, a well-off auntie whose scheming nephew wanted money - these were often patients.

The horror stories abound. Treatment was often cruel and neglectful. Little was understood about true mental illness so even those truly suffering from some type of illness were not helped by the treatments of the time.

Male doctors were in charge and women suffered terribly in this male dominated world. Patients could be chained to the walls, they could be dipped in icy water. Straightjackets and solitary confinement were commonplace for those who could not or would not keep quiet.

My Experiences in a Lunatic Asylum written by Herman Charles Merivale and published in 1879 was written by a former inmate of an Insane Asylum. It is free to read on Project Gutenberg.

June 19, 2015

Digging up Bodies of Those Buried in Bedlam

The Bedlam mental health hospital was established in 1247. A burial site, called Bethlehem and the New Churchyard, was opened after graveyards around London started to overflow.

The poor from London and inmates from the asylum were buried there and recent excavations have uncovered bits and pieces of skeletal remains. Over 20,000 bodies are estimated to be buried. 

There are many amazing photographs and more details at

June 18, 2015

Twists and Turns Can Lead to Great Genealogy Surprises

 Unraveling Samuel Butler & Anna Jane Maria Peer

1861 Census Samuel Butler
“Sadie Butler Pue's Marriage Certificate lists her mother as Anna Jane Peer, Carolyn Hubbard (granddaughter) speaks of her grandmother as Jane Peer but Sadie Pue's death certificate lists her mother as Jean Duff” [source:]

Those simple words caused what I call the light bulb effect in my head. A quiet “Bingo!” escaped my lips. I was positive I now had the answer to what has long been an extremely convoluted genealogy puzzle.

As any genealogist knows, a new clue can spark great excitement. I could hardly wait to open my genealogy program and check my notes for the woman I now believed was Sadie Butler’s mother. If I was correct, the woman found in the 1861 and 1871 census for Nassagewaya Township, Halton County Ontario as wife to Samuel Butler and mother to six children, was the daughter of my great-great-grand uncle Alphaeus Peer. Since we believe that this Samuel Butler may be the missing brother of my husband’s 3rd great-grandfather, that would link our two families together. 

The Butler children were:
Angeline Butler 
Henrietta A. Butler
Caroline Helen aka Carrie Lena Butler
Elizabeth Victoria aka Sadie Butler
Samuel F. Butler
Margaret Ellen Butler 
I knew who Jean (aka Jane) Duff was! Anna Jane/Maria Peer born circa 1833, daughter of Alpheaus Peer and Mary Young, had been a challenge to find in my original research of the Peer family of Nassagewaya. Anna was born in Stratford Ontario according to a Chatham Kent County marriage record dated November 1881. 49 year old Anna was listed as the Mrs. Jane Baker and her father’s name was given as Alphaeus Peer. Her spouse was Robert Duff.

I had previously found another marriage record for Anna in November 1911 to Robert McDonald. Here she was recorded as Anna Jane Duff age 57 with parents Alphaeus Peer and Mary Young. Her residence was Bothwell Ontario.

I’d never found a marriage to this mysterious “Mr. Baker” nor found them on any pre-1881 census record. But I did find Anna Jane in 1881 with her husband Robert Duff. There were several children listed with them, all born before 1881 and all with the surname Duff so I’d assumed that they were all children of Robert by his first marriage. But I was wrong.

A check of my genealogy program showed that in the 1881 census Anna Jane was recorded as Anna Jane M. Duff with these children in the family:

Angeline Duff,  Caroline Duff, Elizabeth V. Duff, Jennie Duff, Christina Duff ,  Robert A W Duff, Richard Christofer Duff. Those first three names were Anna’s Butler children using their step-father’s surname! The last four would be children by Robert Duff’s previous marriage. That explained Sadie Butler’s death certificate statement that her mother was Jane Duff.

There is a great deal more to this story of Samuel Butler and Anna Jane Maria Peer (and many more sources found to substantiate my findings) and I am still searching and putting more pieces of the genealogy puzzle together.Thanks to a tiny clue found in an online tree, I was able to take a huge step.

June 17, 2015

Find Your Ancestor in Ships Passenger Lists or Naturalization Records

Find Your Ancestor in Ships Passenger Lists or Naturalization Records
Visitors to my website Olive Tree Genealogy often ask me for a list of all the free ships passenger lists I have published online. Since my site is quite large and can take time to navigate to find the records, here is the list of free passenger lists and naturalization records on my site. I hope this will help those looking for an ancestor!

Olive Tree Genealogy Free Genealogy Database Missing Friends The Missing Friends Project is abstracting the names of those who immigrated from UK to America or Canada and who were inquired about by family in various 19th Century newspapers.
Olive Tree Genealogy Free Genealogy Database Passenger Books of J & J Cooke, Shipping Agents sailings from Londonderry Ireland to Quebec, St. John New Brunswick, New Orleans Louisiana and Pennsylvania from 1847 to 1871
Olive Tree Genealogy Free Genealogy Database Pennsylvania Baggage Lists 1809
Olive Tree Genealogy Free Genealogy Database New York Almshouse Records 1819 to 1840 contain the names of the ship each person sailed on, plus dates of arrival. Includes arrivals in Canadian ports
Olive Tree Genealogy Free Genealogy Database  Emigrants from England in New York City Almshouse 1818-1830 - 254 names of English immigrants to Canada & USA including the name of the ship they sailed on.
Olive Tree Genealogy Free Genealogy Database New York Almshouse Records 1855 to 1858 contain the name of the ship and the arrival date and port for each person.
Olive Tree Genealogy Free Genealogy Database List of those who died while in Staten Island Quarantine May 1849 - Dec. 1850
Olive Tree Genealogy Free Genealogy Database Names of Emigrants from 1845-1847 from the Records of James Allison, Emigrant Agent at Montreal Quebec Canada
Olive Tree Genealogy Free Genealogy Database Return of Emigrants Landed at the Port of Kingston Ontario, Canada (1861-1882)
Olive Tree Genealogy Free Genealogy Database Peter Robinson Settlers sailing 1823 & 1825 Ireland to Canada
Olive Tree Genealogy Free Genealogy Database English to America 1617-1778 Child Apprentices in America from Christ's Hospital, London England
Olive Tree Genealogy Free Genealogy Database English Immigrants to USA 1773-1776
Olive Tree Genealogy Free Genealogy Database Poor Irish to England Includes Ports of Departure & Arrival plus number of years in England or Scotland. Over 1,600 names
Olive Tree Genealogy Free Genealogy Database Irish Emigration Lists, 1833-1839 Lists of Emigrants Extracted from the Ordnance Survey Memoirs from Counties Londonderry and Antrim
Olive Tree Genealogy Free Genealogy Database Passenger Lists from the New York Times (Arrivals & Departures)1851-1929
Olive Tree Genealogy Free Genealogy Database New Netherland Ships Passenger Lists Project Lists of those sailing from The Netherlands to New Netherland (now New York) 1654-1664 came from the West India Company Account Book and consist only of names of those who owed for their passage. There is no published record of those who paid for passage before leaving. Olive Tree Genealogy has reconstructed several passenger lists for these ships using other primary sources.

Naturalization & Citizenship Records

Olive Tree Genealogy Free Genealogy Database Naturalization Records Naturalization Records in the USA & Canada. Includes searchable Naturalization Records, Declarations of Intent, Certificates of Citizenship
Olive Tree Genealogy Free Genealogy Database USA Passport Applications
Olive Tree Genealogy Free Genealogy Database USA Alien Registrations
Olive Tree Genealogy Free Genealogy Database USA Oaths of Allegiance
Olive Tree Genealogy Free Genealogy Database USA Voters Registrations
Olive Tree Genealogy Free Genealogy Database Canadian Passport Records

June 16, 2015

Fully Dressed 350 Year Old Body found in France

Fully Dressed 350 Year Old Body found in France
Screenshot from The Guardian
The body of Louise de Quengo, a widow who died in 1656, was found fully dressed along with the preserved heart of her dead husband. The City of Rennes France was her final resting place.

She "was dressed in simple religious vestments: a cape, chasuble, a brown habit in coarse wool, a plain linen shirt, woollen leg warmers, and leather shoes with cork soles. A devotional scapular was wrapped around her right arm and her hands were joined and holding a crucifix. Her face was covered with a shroud, two bonnets and a hood." [Source: The Guardian]

Four other lead coffins dating from the 17th century were also found at the site of the Saint-Joseph chapel, as well as 800 other graves containing skeletons.

Continue reading The Guardian's story: Fully dressed and preserved 350-year-old corpse of French noblewoman found

June 15, 2015

Finding an Ancestor in WW1 RAF Service Records Online

Finding an Ancestor in WW1 RAF Service Records Online
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 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.

June 14, 2015

Nursing Sister Phillips WW1 Album: 13 V Landscaping

This Photo Archive consists of a small autograph album (6.5" by 5.25") kept by Constance (Connie) Philips as a memento of her time serving as a nurse during World War One. 

The majority of the photos and items are from 1915, when she served as a nurse in France and Britain.

The album and all photographs, postcards, and other ephemera contained in the album belong to Karin Armstrong and may not be copied or republished without her written permission. The images will be published on Olive Tree Genealogy with permission.

Each image has been designated an "R" for Recto or a "V" for Verso plus an album page number. Recto is the right-hand side page of a bound book while Verso is the left-hand side page.

I will be posting the entire album and my additional research on the individuals identified in Connie's album over the coming months so please check back frequently to view these historic photos. The easiest way to see what has been published is to click on the topic "Nursing Sister WW1 Photos" in the vertical menu bar on the right side of your screen. You can also click on that phrase at the bottom of this post.

June 12, 2015

Father's Day Sale on AncestryDNA Kits!

Great news! AncestryDNA is now on sale on, so grab a kit or two while this deal is in effect.

I've tested my DNA and my brother's and my son's and have had amazing results. I've found new cousins and revealed family secrets. I've added DNA evidence to the paper trail to my Native American lineage.

It's a win-win situation with this special deal good until June 21st.