Thursday, July 30, 2015

What Might You Find in the NEW database, Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007?

While at GRIP (Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh) last week, the news at dinner one night was that Ancestry had released a new database. It was called "Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007" and offered more information than the "Social Security Death Index." But, we were told, do your homework first! (Yes, classes at GRIP have homework in the evenings!)

(image from Wikipedia)
I didn't access the new index until a couple of nights ago. I decided to work with one of my more unusual surnames: Kaechle. And, I found a lot of new information!

If you don't know how to find a specific database on Ancestry, here's one way:
  • Go to the "Search" drop-down menu at the to of the page and select "card catalog"
  • Type in at least part of the database's title - I typed in "Social Security"
  • Click on the one that includes "Applications and Claims"
From here, you can search for a specific person OR surname. Or, you could even search for everyone with a certain surname who was born in a specific state. I typed "Kaechle" in the surname box and clicked "exact" for spelling. I received 21 matches and was able to identify all but four of them.

What kind of information can you find on this index? You can see a list by clicking "learn more about this database" on the left-hand column. It tells you the information MAY include:
  • applicant's full name
  • SSN
  • date and place of birth
  • citizenship
  • sex
  • father's name
  • mother's maiden name
  • race/ethnic description (optional)
  • details on changes made to the applicant's record, including name changes and life or death claims
What NEW information did I uncover on the 17 people I viewed?
  • date of death
  • middle name
  • correct (or at least different) spelling of spouse's last name
  • maiden name!
  • names of spouse's parents
  • a daughter I didn't know about
  • an alternate name for a mother
All of this was terrific new information! But, the most interesting finds were the last two.

A daughter I didn't know about

How did this happen? Well, Myrtle Marie Sommers, born 1891 in Toledo, Ohio, was the daughter of John Sommers and Lena Kaechle. She would have been about 9 years old in the 1900 census. But, I can't find her family in 1900. By the time I find the family in 1910, Myrtle Marie was already married and gone. So, I didn't know she existed!

There is a note on this application that says: "Jul 1963: Names listed as MYRTLE MARIE MAHER." So, I also have her married name! From this, I've been able to find her husband and some of her children.

An alternate name for a mother

Clarence Alexander Kaechle Jr's parents are listed as Clarence Alexander Kaechle (Sr) and Christine A Zelmer on a marriage record index found on Ancestry. I was 'shocked' to see this new index listing Clarence Jr's mother as Ann Simmons who I already had as another wife of Clarence Sr.

My working theory at this time... Ann Simmons might be Clarence Jr's real birth mom, since this is a Social Security application. But, perhaps Christine Zelmer either adopted him or raised him, so he called her "mom" and listed her as his mother on the marriage record. 

Yes, more research is necessary!

So, as "good genealogists", what's the next step after viewing these new Social Security records? Order a copy of the "real" thing! You can find a copy of the SS-5 online request form here. But, at $27 each when you know the SSN and $29 when you don't, these are expensive! I'll only be ordering more significant discoveries.

Have you seen the new Social Security database? Have you found anything new or made any breakthroughs? 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Guest Interview with Michael D Lacopo: author, lecturer, and "Hoosier Daddy?" blogger

On Saturday, I returned from my second summer at the week-long genealogy institute in Pittsburgh known as GRIP: Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh. This year, I enjoyed a course taught by Michael D. Lacopo, DVM and Sharon Cook MacInnes, PhD titled "Pennsylvania: Research in the Keystone State." 

While trying to decide which course to take, I recognized Dr. Lacopo's name from his blog, "Hoosier Daddy?" I wondered how this Indiana native could be an expert on Pennsylvania research. I was pleasantly surprised!

Michael, a former veterinarian, now works full time as a genealogy researcher, writer, blogger, and lecturer. He has graciously allowed me to interview him about his first experience teaching at GRIP, Pennsylvania research, and his fascinating blog. 

Dr. Michael D Lacopo with me and two other friends at GRIP
July 2015
You co-taught “Pennsylvania: Research in the Keystone State” last week at GRIP in Pittsburgh. What did you enjoy most about the experience?

Anyone who has seen me lecture knows that I get rather excited about the topic of genealogy, especially my Pennsylvania ancestors. And of course, the biggest complaint I receive of my teaching style is that I speak too quickly. But it’s all a manifestation of my excitement and passion. So I think the biggest enjoyment for me is sharing my knowledge and experiences and hoping that my enthusiasm is contagious. Any hey, we’re all colleagues with the same kind of goals. We all “get” each other. Who else spends a week in the summer in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh learning about courthouse research in Pennsylvania?
How long have you known your GRIP co-coordinator, Sharon Cook MacInnes, and how did the two of you decide to teach a course specifically about researching in Pennsylvania?

I believe Sharon began publishing her Early Landowners of Pennsylvania book and CD series in 2004. I was made aware of her presence then, and we met shortly thereafter at a national genealogy conference. Of course, the shared passion for Pennsylvania research made us very quick allies. The credit for the birth of the Pennsylvania GRIP course lies squarely on Sharon’s shoulders. She proposed the course to the administrators at GRIP, and started the ball rolling. She asked me shortly thereafter to join forces with her. I eagerly accepted.

While the course focused on research in Pennsylvania, many of the techniques would be valuable for research in any state. Are there unique aspects of researching in the Keystone State?

You are exactly right! When I discuss finding treasures in manuscript collections, I can highlight certain Pennsylvania repositories, but we ALL should be digging into those types of records regardless of where our ancestors lived! My teaching style is more of a “thinking” style. I will show you how to access things, and I will help you think outside the box, but it is up to you to do the digging. I want people to be broader, more creative thinkers. There is an enormous amount of information out there for us to find, but if you are constantly thinking surname, surname, surname, you are going to miss it all.

I think the lecture I gave on the county courthouse offices of Pennsylvania and the records found within them was the most Pennsylvania-specific lecture. I mean, really, who doesn’t raise an eyebrow in confusion when you talk about Prothonotaries and Courts of Oyer and Terminer? Even now, Microsoft Word tells me all those are misspellings. It makes Pennsylvania a “scary” state to research for newcomers. The terminology does not make sense intuitively for those walking into their first Pennsylvania courthouse to do research.

For those who are researching their Pennsylvania ancestors but aren’t able to travel to the state to do research, can you share a favorite site or tip?

I tell all genealogists that they should hug an archivist every day. There are tremendously amazing things nestled in archival and manuscript collections. Not only are they grossly underutilized, but they are usually within the jurisdiction of archivists and librarians who LOVE to share them with people. So although it takes travel to access the things you find in archives, I do love poking through the online finding aids of the Pennsylvania State Archives or of the Genealogical and Historical Societies of Pennsylvania. I can also spend hours throwing random search terms into ArchiveGrid to see what goodies are lurking in other repositories.

You live in Indiana where you write your blog, “Hoosier Daddy?” While living out-of-state, how did you become an expert on Pennsylvania genealogy?

I have said this to people before, and I try to do it without sounding too flaky. Although born and raised in northern Indiana, I have always felt at home in southeastern Pennsylvania. Although I have poked around the entire state doing research, the bulk of my Pennsylvania ancestors are in the corridor between Philadelphia and Harrisburg. Many of them are colonial Germans, and they reach out to me. They are my “favorite” ancestors, and I cannot give you a real reason why. I have been fascinated with the 18th century immigration of Germans to Pennsylvania since beginning my research in 1980. It doesn’t hurt either that Pennsylvania didn’t experience the record destruction of, say, Virginia. So it has spoiled me.

You’ve left your blog readers with a cliffhanger as you’ve been recounting the tale of searching for and finding your grandfather. How are your house repairs going? And, do you have an idea of when you’ll be able to continue telling your incredible story? 

Let me just tell my readers this… there is a LOT more to the story. Finding my grandfather seems like it was a wild ride, but you have no idea what you have in store for you! From the history behind my grandfather’s life, his own amazing journeys and adventures, and the aftermath of the reunion, the story rivals any work of fiction you can pluck off the shelf at the nearest bookstore. But now that I am dealing with the living, and the here and now, there are unique issues regarding how I tell the story. That is one hurdle.

The second hurdle is that the story is still unfolding. I keep uncovering tidbits of my grandfather’s past that he has kept secret to all those in his life. As genealogists, we all understand the concept: “let me find one more thing…” We research and research and research, and we postpone writing. I need to deal with that.

And thirdly, the last blog ended with the destruction of my office and home from water. The office is back in working order, but the remainder of the house is not. There are still insurance battles, re-flooring, and remodeling in my near future. Combined with travel and lectures, it has significantly cut into my writing time. The light is visible at the end of the tunnel, but all I can do now is beg a wee bit more patience from my readers. I should be back at it very soon.

It will be worth it.  J 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

White Hair Turning Black & Sleeping 60 Hours Straight: Things a 100(+) Year Old Might Do

This week I had a breakthrough on my Snavely ancestors. I knew my 4x great grandfather, Jacob Coppenbarger (1769-1841) married Catherine Ann Snavely. But, Catherine Ann was the only Snavely I had found.

My great aunt's files had Catherine Ann's father as "John Snavely" and said in the notes: His Will, proved 14 Mar 1826 in Smyth Co, VA (signed with a mark X). A lot of the info on his data and children was taken from his Will. Book 3: 186-187.

Though I thought my great aunt was probably correct, I'd never seen a copy of the will. And, Smyth county didn't form until 1832. It formed from Wythe & Washington Counties and I knew this family lived in Wythe at some point. When I looked at the FHL microfilms, I saw that Wythe County Will "Book 3" would include 1826, so it was likely this was where John Snavely's will would be found.

I received the microfilm and was able to go to the library earlier this week. I found John's will! And, it is certainly evidence that John Snavely was my Catherine Ann Snavely's father. Among other children it listed "C--t--- [hard to read] Jacob Kappenbergers [sic] wife..."

Catharine Ann Snavely's sister, Mary (Snavely) Crow at age 62 in the 1850 census
1850; Census Place: District 60, Smyth, Virginia; Roll: M432_976; Page: 220B; Image: 442
accessed at
Besides Catherine, I was able to find out about the other children of Jacob. As I entered them into Ancestry, various "hints" popped up and I was able to piece together more of this Snavely family.

One exciting find was that one of Catherine Ann's sisters, Mary, lived to be 100 years old! And, I found a newspaper article written about her just weeks before she died.

Stauton Spectator, Stauton, Pennsylvania, 08 Dec 1886, page 3 column 7; 
digital image; accessed 17 Jul 2015. 
I think the newspaper exaggerated as it said she was 110 years old, but it was a wonderful article,
I've added paragraphs to make it easier to read, but here's the article as written near the end of 1886:

A Wonderful Old Lady

Living in Southwest Virginia - at the Age of One Hundred and Ten Her Hair Growing Black

Marion, Va., November 29, 1886.

To the Editor of the Dispatch:

Probably the oldest person in Southwest Virginia lives in this county, and it is such a remarkable case I will give it to you for publication. 

Mrs. Mary Crow, widow of Thomas Crow, was born August 11, 1776; was a Miss Snavely, of German descent, and was married in 1794. She has great-great-grandchildren sixteen years old - her fourth generation. 

Her eyesight is almost perfect; can read German without glasses; cannot read English at all. 

For a number of years her hair was white as snow. Not it is getting black again. Two inches or more of the hair next [to] the scalp is now perfectly black; is growing rapidly, and black and full. 

She is quite childish now. When a stranger visits her or comes on the place she becomes very much excited; is afraid of strangers. 

Her health is good. She does not hear very well. She has a very poor memory of things that have happened recently, but will talk of things that happened fifty to ninety years ago as clearly as if they had only happened. 

A week or two since she went to bed as usual, and slept for sixty hours without waking. When she awoke she was very hungry, and ate very heartily.

In the prime of her life she weighed between 275 and 290 pounds. Now she weighs scarcely 100 pounds. 

This is certainly a remarkable case, and your correspondent knows the facts as reported true in every particular. How do you account for the changing of the gray hair now growing out black? Can't some of your scientific correspondents answer?

Yours, &c.,                                                Southwest.

Interestingly, I did some research about white or gray hair returning to black and found several examples. Too bad there aren't any photos!

But, I was thrilled to find this article about Catherine Ann Snavely's sister. Mary (Snavely) Crow died only a few weeks after this article was published. Unfortunately, at this time, I have not been able to find a death notice or obituary for her. 

The 1828 Will of Peter Close's Relict: Catharine Elizabeth Close

Yesterday, I shared the 1810 will of my 5th great grandfather , Peter Close of Armagh, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania. Peter's wife, Catha...