Archive for April, 2010

Amanuensis Monday: Friedrich Jourdan’s Declaration of Intention

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Inspired by John Newmark of the TransylvanianDutch blog, I’m going to try an Amanuensis Monday post today.

Friedrich Jourdan

I’ll be transcribing the declaration of intention for my great-grandfather Friedrich Jourdan. I’ll follow John’s convention and indicate by boldface the entries used to fill in the blanks on the form.

Triplicate (To be given to declarant)

No. 10333

United States of America
Declaration of Intention (Invalid for all purposes seven years after the date hereof)

State of Pennsylvania
County of Erie


In the Common Pleas Court of Erie County at Erie, Pa.

I, Friedrich Jourdan now residing at 47 Orchard St., Erie, Erie County, Pa. occupation Retired, aged 76 years, do declare an oath that my personal description is: Sex Male, color White, complexion Fair, color of eyes Gray color of hair Gray, height 5 feet 3 inches; weight 130 pounds; visible distinctive marks fourth finger on left hand deformed race German; nationality German.

I was born in Walldorf, Germany, on Feb. 8, 1864. I am widower. The name of my wife or husband was Amelia. We were married on unknown, at Redwood, Jefferson Co., N.Y.; she or he was born at Theresa, N.Y., on Aug. 28, 1867, entered the United States at {blank}, on {blank}, for permanent residence therein, and now resides at Deceased. I have 4 children, and the name, date and place of birth, and place of residence of each of said children are as follows: Amelia 7-3-88, Elizabeth 11-29-90, Emma 9-17-94, Margaret 6-11-03. All reside in Erie, Pa., except Emma resides in Twinsburg, Ohio.

I have not heretofore made a declaration of intention: Number {blank}, on {blank} at {blank}; my last foreign residence was Walldorf, Germany. I emigrated to the United States of America from Genoa, Italy; my lawful entry for permanent residence in the United States was at New York, N.Y. under the name of Friedrich Jourdan, on Feb. 27, 1901 on the vessel SS Kaiser Wilhelm Der Grosse.

I will, before being admitted to citizenship, renounce absolutely and forever all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignity, of whom or of which I may be at the time of admission a citizen or subject; I am not an anarchist; I am not a polygamist nor a believer in the practice of polygamy; and it is my intention in good faith to become a citizen of the United States of America and to reside permanently therein; and I certify that the photograph affixed to the duplicate and triplicate hereof is a likeness of me.

I swear (affirm) that the statements I have made and the intentions I have expressed in this declaration of intention subscribed by me are true to the best of my knowledge and belief: So help me God.


Subscribed and sworn to before me in the form of oath shown above in the office of the Clerk of said Court, at Erie, Pa. this 24th day of May, anno Domini, 19 40. Certification No. 7x-24877 from the Commisioner of Immigration and Naturalization showing the lawful entry of the declarant for permanent residence on the date stated above, has been received by me. The photograph affixed to the duplicate and triplicate hereof is a likeness of the declarant.

Clerk of the Common Pleas Court.
By {Signature} Deputy Clerk.

Surname Saturday: Fisk

Saturday, April 10th, 2010


Here’s what I’ve learned so far about my FISK ancestors:

1. Dean Richardson

2. Roberta Matthews Knapp

3. Kenneth Guilford Knapp, born 07 January 1906 in Worcester, Worcester County, MA; died 8 Sep 1974 in Bradenton, Manatee County, FL.

4. Rosamund Guilford, born Jun 1874 in Williamsburg, Hampshire County, MA; died 1942 in Westfield, Union County, NJ.

5. Harriett Amanda Fisk, born Jan 1841 in Worthington, Hampshire County, MA; died 21 Sep 1893.

6. Moses Fisk, Jr., born 11 Nov 1804 in West Chesterfield, Hampshire County, MA; died Sep 1875 in Suffield, Hartford County, CT

7. Moses Fisk, born 12 Nov 1780 in Worthington, Hampshire County, MA; died 22 Feb 1851 in Chester, Hampden County, MA

8. Josiah Fisk, born 8 Feb 1745 in Willington, Tolland County, CT; died 1 Aug 1826.

I’ve taken most of the data for Moses Jr., Moses and Josiah from pp. 160-161 of “History and Genealogy of the Families of Chesterfield Massachusetts 1762-1962″ by Ruth A. Baker, published by The Town of Chesterfield, Massachusetts in 1962. The census image I’ve included shows Moses Fisk, his wife Lorintha Pearl, and their children, including Harriet A., enumerated in Worthington, Hampshire County, Massachusetts in 1850.

Follow Friday: John Newmark’s “TransylvanianDutch” blog

Friday, April 9th, 2010


Thus far, I’ve tried to avoid writing “Follow Friday” posts focusing on bloggers who’ve already been recommended by others. Today I’m breaking with that tradition. Randy Seaver highlighted John Newmark’s TransylvanianDutch (TD) blog back in January. Like Randy, I’m a fan of John’s blog title, his Amanuensis Monday meme,  and his “Weekly Genealogy Picks” posts (I aspire to become one of John’s picks someday.) In this post I’ll offer some additional reasons why I think you should add TD to your blogroll or feed reader.

Breadth, Depth and Humor, Too

Here are some things I particularly enjoy about TransvlvanianDutch:

  • John covers a lot (a lot!) of different geographic areas and ethnicities in posts about his own research: Transvlvania, of course, but also Hungary, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Canada, the UK, plus Missouri and Illinois. St. Louis gets a lot of attention, which suits me just fine since I have ancestors from there who I need help with.
  • Though he writes many short and breezy posts, John occasionally goes into long-form mode and gives extensive details on a particular research technique, historical event, or record collection from his archives.
  • TD boasts several nice topical indexes in the left-hand side bar: you can easily search the blog by surname, locality, or geneablogging meme.
  • In addition to the main blog, John has a link bar across the top of his homepage that leads to several helpful resource compilations, including specific ones for Illinois and Missouri resources and another that lists sources specific to his own research. Browsing through these, you get a sense for John’s own research process.
  • His writing style is approachable, uncluttered, and often graced with gentle touches of humor.
  • His posts tend to contain a generous supply of links worth following.
  • He shares types of records that other blogs don’t tend to mention, including interviews, poetry, music, and themed lists of names from censuses.

All in all, by following TransylvanianDutch, you’ll be getting quality genealogy content that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else.

How Citable Public Documents Will Change… Genealogy!

Thursday, April 8th, 2010


I’ve been following with some interest the nascent “Government 2.0″ movement, which aims to “use Information Technology to… commoditize government services, processes and data.” Basically, the goal is to help citizens connect with their governments (and vice-versa) using Web tools like social networking, wikis, and distributed version control. One obvious potential outcome of this effort would be making government documents easier for the public to access, understand, and respond to.

The League of Technical Voters

To this end, a non-partisan group called the League of Technical Voters (LTV) has proposed a software solution called The project is aimed at making it easier to cite government documents hosted online. Here’s how they describe the problem they perceive and the solution they’re trying to build:

Making it possible to create timestamped permalinks at a paragraph level of granularity would be a huge leap forward in increasing government transparency through its online documents. The same principles apply when producing citable government data. When decided to display visual representations of the data coming in about recovery money around the nation, it quickly became clear that some amount of data was erroneous. When the errors were reported and the data was later modified, there wasn’t any way to go back and compare the two versions to see what changes had taken place. A blogger, reporter, statistician or scientist should be able to run a query against any specific collection of government data, as it was published, for a given version or moment in time.


The nonprofit, nonpartisan League of Technical Voters has proposed a simple, easy to build and implement citability solution. Open source software development is underway and a wide range of government institutions are already on board.

OK, So What’s the Genealogy Tie-In?

A number of genealogy organizations public and private, for-profit and non-profit are currently working to build centralized, authoritative yet collaborative online family trees, appropriately sourced with wiki-like conflict-resolution tools built in.

At the same time, some state and county governments are making more and more of their genealogy-relevant records available online, while others are working to restrict public access to records in the name of privacy and identity theft prevention.

It strikes me that the principles behind projects like LTV’s could be explored, adapted and potentially championed by genealogy organizations. After all, for many genealogists, accurate sourcing — particularly of public government documents — is practically an article of faith.

A Helpful Introduction

I found Silona Bonewald’s article Stop Fishing and Start Feasting: How Citable Public Documents Will Change Your Life a helpful introduction to this topic. I’d encourage you to take a look at let me know what you think in the comments section of this blog.

Wordless Wednesday: A Woman in Uniform

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010


This image turned up in a collection of Matthews family photographs that we briefly had access to a decade or so ago. My research on this line hasn’t yet turned up an Edith, so this person is something of a mystery to me. Can anyone help me with the uniform? What organization does it belong to? What time frame might it be from?

Tombstone Tuesday and The Power of Genealogical Crowdsourcing

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010


Once in a while a blog post shows up in my feed reader or my Twitter-stream that is so well-crafted and uplifting that I feel compelled to share it. Michael Cassara’s “Easter, 2010” post is a perfect example.

A Paean to Find A Grave

Michael starts out by exploring the delights of Find A Grave. I’ve praised their site myself in previous posts, but Michael manages to craft a highly-nuanced view of what makes the site so cool. Here’s how he explains what I like to call “The Power of Genealogical Crowdsourcing”:

There’s a wonderful website called “Find A Grave”, which… is one of the most interesting and powerful concepts among digital genealogical repositories. The idea is, quite simply, to record information for all of the world’s cemeteries. It is a constantly-growing, user-driven compilation of information. One of the most useful features of Find A Grave, is that it lets the general public collaborate to build the largest shared database of burial information in the world…With this website, members of the community-at-large can pool their resources and knowledge for the better good – creating a stronger, searchable resource for everyone.

An Aside: How Else Could This Power Be Used?

What would happen if someone built something similar to Find A Grave, only for wills? Or vital records? Could a business be built around it, or would any serious attempt at monetization kill the volunteer / karma / pay-it-forward vibe that Michael describes so well? How would it (whether free, freemium or otherwise) affect existing subscription sites, assuming it grew to have traffic comparable to theirs?

Michael’s Take on Genealogical Serendipity

Even if he’d stopped with the quote above, this post would have been an automatic reblog / retweet. But it gets better! Michael describes his efforts to fulfill two cemetery photo requests from Find A Grave for Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens. One he’s unable to track down, the other he’s successful on. As he turns to head home, he suddenly finds himself face to face with his great-grandfather’s grave:

Of my eight great grandparents, he’s the only one for whom I was never able to find a cemetery location. As a matter of fact, before I left the house today, I even searched through Find A Grave. I took a look for other Cassara listings – and I searched Calvary Cemetery, just to see if there were any occurrences of Cassara burials among the over 7,000 they have listed. None came up. I thought nothing of it, and moved on.

But here I was – shaking and awestruck – face to face with the headstone of my great-grandfather. Without his courage, our family would not be residing on this continent, let alone even be in existence. He led a hard life, with the hope that mine wouldn’t be as hard. And here he was, where he’s been for the last 60 years: 9 blocks from my apartment.

…there he was. There he is. Less than a minute’s walk from the headstone that I volunteered to photograph for a stranger from the internet.

It Could Happen to You

Many of us have had experiences similar to the one Michael so lovingly depicts here. Yet each such encounter represents something unique and important. Call it serendipity, call it “turning the hearts of the fathers”, call it karma, call it mere coincidence… whatever you’re comfortable with. My point is, this is why we do what we do. Why we spend untold (and told!) hours in front of microfilm readers, at county courthouses, and yes, walking amidst rows of tombstones. Because when we do, it somehow seems to matter to someone besides just us.

Nine Questions with Robert Williams of Ulster Ancestry

Monday, April 5th, 2010

ua-logoleftOn most Mondays, I publish brief e-mail interviews with some of our lookup providers. This week’s interview is with Robert Williams, whose Genlighten username is ulsterancestry.

From UlsterAncestry’s profile

Robert is our first provider from Northern Ireland. He can retrieve documents from the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) in Belfast, including wills, probate records, land valuations and baptism/marriage records. He’s pursued genealogical research on a full-time commercial basis since 1998.

Nine questions with Robert Williams

1) How did you get started doing genealogy lookups/research?

I have always had an interest in history, even as a child. I also had a great love of books. I started on my genealogy journey back in the mid 1990’s researching my own family tree for my American, Welsh and English cousins. As more and more doors opened, I found myself caught up in a world that previously I knew nothing of.  I also found I had a “feel” for research  that others did not seem to have, so in 1998 I gave up my previous career and embarked on one in Irish genealogy. I have never regretted it.

2)      Do you have a genealogy “superpower”? If so, what is it?

There is some truth in this. I don’t know about a “superpower” but when primary evidence runs out, I follow my hunches and my gut instincts and they are usually right.

3) Describe a tricky research problem you’re particularly proud of having solved?

Too many over the years to detail here. I had an American lawyer some years ago, seemingly with 300 years of pure German American ancestry, who much to the amusement of his family, was  totally convinced he was Irish. I helped him prove his Irish ancestry, much to his delight. I also do Probate {living heirs} research and every case is a challenge.

4) What are the ideal elements you like to see in a well-formulated lookup request/research query?

We need to know certain basic things: The persons full name; his/her vital dates {birth, marriage, death} to within 5 years; the geographical area to within a Parish.  I get too many “Born Ireland”!!

5) What’s the most interesting record source or repository you’ve utilized in your area?

Without a doubt the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. The archive contains 36 miles of shelving holding millions of records in the form of original and copy documents, many not available outside Northern Ireland, all relating to Ulster/Irish families generally from 1630 onwards. I found 3 leases for a family, just the other day, dated 1495. I was able to get them copies.

6) What technical tools do you use to produce the digital images you provide to clients?

Images must be made by the repository, using their equipment.

7) Any new lookups you’re considering offering?

I am considering offering an “affordable” document retrieval service based on the PRONI catalogue. PRONI must offer this service under the Freedom of Information Act, but it is very expensive. With a new service any available document held in the PRONI archive and listed in their catalogue could be copied.

8 ) What advice would you give to someone who wants to get started as a lookup provider?

Get to know the archives you will use in depth.  Acquaint yourself with what they hold in terms of records. This is essential if a document is to be found and found quickly.

9) What other passions do you pursue when you’re not at the archives doing lookups/research?

I have time for very little else at the moment but I suppose my other passion is Manchester United Football Club!

Lookups UlsterAncesty Offers

New FamilySearch: An Enormous Endeavor with Enormous Rewards

Sunday, April 4th, 2010


Here at Genlighten, we’re working on ways to collaborate with the folks at FamilySearch so we can become “FamilySearch Certified.”.

With that thought in mind, I was intrigued to hear Russell M. Nelson, a member of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, discuss New FamilySearch (NFS) in an address entitled “Generations Linked In Love” at the Church’s 180th Annual General Conference today. Here are some excerpts from his remarks that got my attention:

“When our hearts turn to our ancestors, something changes inside us,” Elder Nelson said. “We feel part of something greater than ourselves. Our inborn yearnings for family connections are fulfilled when we are linked to our ancestors through sacred ordinances of the temple.”

“No matter your situation, you can make family history a part of your life right now,” Elder Nelson said.

The New FamilySearch system helps members find their ancestors, decide what ordinances to do and prepare the names for the temple. It’s accessible wherever the Internet is available and about 60,000 [family] history consultants serve throughout the world who can assist those who need help.

The new system reveals errors needing correction and members may be frustrated as they work through these challenges, but the Church understands these concerns. “The Church… is working diligently to assist you in solving these problems,” he said. “Together we are striving to organize the family tree for all of God’s children. This is an enormous endeavor with enormous rewards.”

I was gratified to see Elder Nelson acknowledge the frustration that some have experienced in using NFS. I don’t have access to any inside information on the process beyond the notifications I receive as a member of the FamilySearch Developers’ Network and what I read on the FamilySearch Labs blog. But I sense that the people behind NFS are indeed working very hard, and that “enormous endeavor” is a rather pleasant euphemism for what in reality is a ridiculously difficult programming and database administration task.

Surname Saturday: Ingersoll

Sunday, April 4th, 2010


Here’s what I think I’ve learned so far about my INGERSOLL ancestors.

1. Dean Richardson

2. Roberta Matthews Knapp

3. Roberta Trafford Matthews born 05 July 1907 in Leonia, Bergen, NJ; died 19 September 1987 in Emmaus, Lehigh, PA

4. Sarah Caroline Trafford born 21 April 1868 in Manhattan, NY; died 27 March 1933 in Springfield, Hampton, MA

5. Cecelia Merritt Ingersoll born 05 Aug 1837 in Manhattan, NY; died 12 Feb 1915 in Hudson, Middlesex County, MA

6. Roswell R. Ingersoll born in 1813 in White Plains, Westchester County, NY

7. Nathaniel Ingersoll born 19 Feb 1783 in Greenwich, Fairfield County, CT; died 10 Apr 1824

8. Nathaniel Ingersoll born 11 Apr 1754 in Greenwich, Fairfield County, CT; died 16 Nov 1834 in Greenwich, Fairfield County, CT

9. Simon Ingersoll born 1710 in Huntington, Suffolk County, Long Island, NY

Data for Nathaniel, Nathaniel and Simon is from “Ye Historie of Ye Town of Greenwich, County of Fairfield, State of Connecticut” by Spencer P. Mead, pp. 593-594. Data for Cecelia is from her death certificate, shown above. My apologies for any illegalities committed in the process of reproducing the certificate here [sheepish grin].

Genlighten ♥ The “Tip of the Iceberg” Illustration

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010


I came across this photo today as I was preparing this month’s issue of the Genlighten newsletter. In the picture, I’m giving my 3-minute pitch to the panel of judges at the midVentures25 competition held a few weeks back.

One of my slides included the now-famous “Tip of the Iceberg” illustration commissioned and owned by the California Genealogical Society. It communicates in an exceptionally clear way the fact that most genealogical records simply aren’t online. Since this remains a big component of Genlighten’s value proposition (“We help you find the offline records you need via a network of local researchers with access to remote repositories”) I wanted to make sure I drove this point home to the judges in a memorable way. From the questions and comments I got, I’m pretty sure it worked.