Monday, March 20, 2017

Tip: Working Around Wrongly Transcribed Families in Census Records on

I hadn't been able to locate my husband's grandfather, Fred Hunter, and his family in the 1940 census. Searching for his parents and siblings individually didn't help me locate the family. So, I turned to a census "trick" to find this missing family.


I chose one of the more unusual names in the family: Mabel. I chose the 1940 U.S. federal census and searched for the following:

  • First name "Mabel" set to "exact"
  • Born in "1912" set to "+/- 2 years"
  • Born in "Oklahoma" set to "exact"
  • Lived in "Garvin County" set to "exact"

With this search I got 2 results, though neither were the correct family. So, I changed the "lived in" Garvin County from "exact" to "county and adjacent counties" and got 36 results. Near the bottom of the list was an entry for Mable Gunter with the correct parents listed. I had found the family!

1940 U.S. Census, McClain County, Oklahoma, Turnbull, population schedule, page 10A [written], household #163,
William E Hunter Household, image, ( : accessed 19 March 2017), citing
National Archives microfilm T627, roll 3308.
You can see it is a fairly poor copy, so it is understandable that it was transcribed incorrectly.


There are several other ways I could have found this family:

  • Searched for some of the family's 1930 "neighbors." Since the Hunters were still in the same, small community, it is likely I would have located them.
  • Searched page by page through the 40 pages of this Turnbull enumeration. 
  • Searched using either FamilySearch or MyHeritage, both of which have the family transcribed correctly as Hunter, not Gunter.
  • Searched with the wildcard "?" to start the family surname by searching for "?unter." When there is a transcription error in surnames, it is often with the initial letter.
Do you have other tricks for finding missing families in census records? I'd love to hear! 
Please leave a comment or email me at

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Who Was "Lawless Mary"?

While doing some research today, I came across an intriguing name in a 1940 census: Lawless Mary. She was an 82 year old widow living in Texas, and I had to learn more about her. What fascinating life did she live to earn her nickname?

After finding her in a 1900 census, it turns out "Lawless Mary" was not a nickname; her name was Mary Lawless. 

1940 U.S. Census, Falls County, Texas, Lott Ward, population schedule, page 7B [written], household #165, North 6 St, John Priest Household, image, ( : accessed 15 January 2016), citing National Archives microfilm T627, roll 4030.

The 1940 census enumerator had just added a line indicating her surname was the same as the name abover her: Cone. But, her name was, in fact, Mary Lawless and there is not an amazing story.

So, if you were researching Mary Lawless, how would you have found her? I think the most likely way would have been to search for her daughter, Susie, in the census.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

"Found Lifeless" in a Brook

Bethuel Vincent was only 29 years old when he was found lifeless in a brook. His obituary reads:

Died – In Turbut township, on the 11th inst., Bethuel Vincent, junior, aged about 30 years. The deceased had gone to the fields to collect raspberries and while crossing a small brook was taken with convulsive fits, to which he was daily subject, fell into the water, where he was, shortly after, found lifeless. ["The States Advocate, Thursday, 17 July 1828. Posted on Bethuel Vincent's Find A Grave memorial page in Warrior Run Church Cemetery, Delaware Run, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania]

Find A Grave memorial page in Warrior Run Church Cemetery, Delaware Run,
Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, photo by Earl Munday

Daniel Vincent's will, who was Bethuel's father and my 5th great grandfather, told more of Bethuel's story. [The "junior" designation in the obituary was because of Bethuel's uncle, also named Bethuel.] 

The will was written two years before Bethuel's death. It regards to my youngest and afflicted son Bethuel it is my will that my Executors provide him with all the comforts of life, to live in the family of my son Isaac or John as he may choose - whilst being with Isaac his wife Rebecca is to receive at the rate of Thirty dollars per year and when living with John his wife Maria is to receive the same - to be paid out of the estate not previously devised - and should Bethuel by accident or affliction become more helpless than at present the sum to be drawn from the estate shall be increased in proportion to his frailty and the expense necessary to keep him. Bethuel have one of the best beds and bedding in the house.

I still don't know what type of "affliction" Bethuel had, but I love that his father was taking care of him even on his death bed. And, I love that, even though his mother had died several years before, Bethuel would continue to live with his family in the house of one of his brothers.

My Line of Descent
  • Daniel Vincent (1760-1827) m Angelchy Huff/Hough/Heuff (1760-1821)
  • Bethuel Vincent (1798-1828) is a brother to my direct ancestor Elizabeth "Betsy" Vincent (1789-1846) m George Watson (1783-1856)
  • Sarah Jane Watson (1826-1853) m John Quiggle Stewart (1825-1922)
  • Alexander Stewart (1852-1922) m Catharine Jane McClintock (1852-1929)
  • Andrew "Andy" McClinock Stewart (1882-1954) m. Bessie Waldron Merrill (1879-1959)
  • James Edward Stewart (1910-1972) m. Hazel Lucille Peters (1910-1975) (my paternal grandparents)

Do we share common ancestors? I'd love to talk! Please write me at

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

My First Jump Across the Pond

In November of 2013 I found my first record of an ancestor in Europe. It was my first "jump across the pond." It was a huge day for me and I was thrilled! In fact, that's the day a volunteer told me she loved my 'enthusiasm' for genealogy and I came up with my blog name. So, how did this 'pond jump' happen?

1860 Census - Lock Haven, Clinton Co, PA from

At the time, I knew the following...

  • my great, great grandmother, Sarah, was born in 1848 in England (she was 12 in the above census)
  • according to her obituary, she was from Leeds, England
  • her parents were James & Sarah Ann
  • she had an older brother, Adam, who was also born in England
  • there was another male, Humphrey, who was probably James' brother as he is listed as only 16 years younger than the James in the 1860 census

1841 Census - Prestwich Cum Oldham, Lancashire, England from

The next clue was finding an 1841 England Census that listed parents named James & Sarah who were about the right age. It listed two children who were transcribed as follows: Thomppey (age 6) and Sylwanos (age 1). I was at the Dallas library and I took this record to one of the librarians to see if he could help. I thought that Thomppey looked like "Humphrey," but I wanted to make sure that wasn't just wishful thinking. He agreed that the name was Humphrey and helped me translate the second name as Sylvaneous (which he told me refers to trees). In this record, the ages of the parents were a little different and it now looked like Humphrey could actually be their son.

As you can see, between the 1841 England Census and 1860 U.S. census, Humphrey aged appropriately 19 years (from age 6 to 25). Sarah's age, though, went from 25 to 47 (so, an increase of 22 years) and James went from 30 to 41 (an increase of only 11 years). But, if this was my family, what happened to Sylvaneous?

If this was really my family, I know knew where to find them: Lancashire, England. I did another search on Ancestry and found a marriage record! The record was for James Eastwood & Sarah Hall (I already knew her maiden name, so this confirmed it) in 1839 in Prestwich in Lancashire—the same location as the 1841 census!

1839 Marriage Record - Parish of Prestwich, Lancaster County, England from
There were many interesting things on this record, but one of them was the fact that James was a widower! James and Sarah got married on September 2, 1839. So Humphrey, born about 1835, was James' son from a first marriage. But Sylvaneous, who was probably born in 1841, was a son of both James Eastwood and Sarah Hall.

This marriage record and census were the first European records I'd found for my family. And, they remain the only family I've traced to a country besides Germany.

Do we share common ancestors? I'd love to talk! Please leave a comment or email me at

Saturday, March 4, 2017

What's the Most Unusual Name on Your Family Tree?

The only Hedwig my American ears have ever heard of was Harry Potter's owl. I thought the owl was a male. Imagine my surprise when I discovered my 4th great grandmother's name was Hedwig!

Snowy Owl photo by Michael Gäbler, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://
I did research the name online and discovered it is a feminine name. And, Harry Potter's owl was a female, though she was played by a male in the show. Evidently, Snowy Owl males are smaller and whiter and they decided they liked the look better.

My American ears have trouble with Hedwig's surname, too: Borgward. And, when I put her name together—Hedwig Borgward—it has to be the most unusual name on my tree. Although, again, I'm sure it is because my American upbringing!

On November 14th, 1814 in Behren u Lübchin, Mecklenburg in present day Germany, Hedwig Borgward, who was 29 years old, married Jacob Eckhard Peters, who was 28. They had at least three children including Joachim Carl Otto Peters, my 3rd great grandfather, who was born on June 27th, 1815.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

An Interview with Rick and Pam Sayre (Speaking in Houston on March 18th with HGF)

As the publicity chairman for Houston Genealogical Forum (HGF) I get the privilege of interviewing our speakers. In about two weeks, Pamela Boyer Sayre and Rick Sayre are giving an "all day" presentation in Houston. Their two topics are "Capital Treasure" and "Ohio and Pennsylvania Research." If you are in the Houston area, we invite you to come and join us! More information can be found on our website


What got you interested in genealogy?

Pam: Mrs. Kirkpatrick, my eighth-grade language arts teacher, gave us an assignment to research where our surname came from. I learned that Boyer was an occupational name similar to Bowman or Bow-yer—an archer, if you will. But I also checked out the two how-to books on genealogy at our town’s library and began a quest for my family history right then—in 1968. My fascination and addiction has only grown over these many years.

Rick: My mother discovered in researching her family that she had five half-siblings she had never met. I took her to Pittsburgh to meet them – I was hooked after that!

What skills from your life “before genealogy” have proven useful to you as a genealogist?

Pam: All those subjects we saw no need for in junior high and high school have practical application to genealogy. Of course history is important, but also sociology and geography—why our family groups moved where they did, why they chose the religion they did (or why they show up in criminal records instead). And geometry has helped me understand deed platting, and biology and chemistry certainly help in learning about DNA and heredity. My past life as a police investigator taught me investigative skills and how to write a concise evidence-based report, both very important for genealogical research. And a career in software training gave me skills as a genealogy instructor and speaker. All genealogists bring many past skills to the table, and they are all valuable.

Rick: As a career military officer I learned a lot about planning and organization. One of the things I learned was the need to pay meticulous attention to details—a great skill for a genealogist.

As you create joint presentations like “Capital Treasures,” how do you divide the work load? For example, is one of you better at technology and one better at writing? Or do you work together on each aspect of the talk?

Pam: We generally divide the work topically. We brainstorm the overall presentation and then set to work individually, eventually bringing our work back together into one Power-Point presentation and one syllabus. I think our joint presentations are stronger because we hit two target audiences. Rick is a “brainiac” with a lot of in-depth knowledge on any given topic. I am a more casual speaker who can decompose a topic and make it understandable to perhaps a beginner.

Rick: Pam pretty well summed it up.

As you travel for genealogy research, lectures, conferences, etc, what is your favorite and least favorite part about traveling?

Pam: I love traveling to small towns and big cities alike and feeling the flavor of a region through local dialects and accents, foods, and history. It’s fun to meet people with all different kinds of ancestors. My least favorite part of traveling is leaving behind our hairy “son,” Andy, a twelve-year-old yellow labrador retriever who adopted us a couple years ago.

Rick: Meeting new people, seeing new places, and the opportunity to meet new relatives. I, too, wish we could take Andy.

If an experienced researcher wanted to become a genealogical lecturer, what steps would you recommend to help them get started?

Pam: Volunteer. Prepare one very good lecture on a topic you know well, and then volunteer to give it free of charge at a local genealogical society, DAR meeting, or any venue (Rotary Club, Kiwanis, any organization that has speakers). Work on a few more lectures. As you begin to lecture and do a good job, you’ll develop a good reputation that will help you rise to the regional and eventually the national level.

Rick: Go to a national conference and listen to a variety of lectures. Take notes on what impressed you. Learn your topics in detail.

As a certified genealogist with many responsibilities, how much time do you get to spend on researching your own family?

Pam: Not enough. I try to use examples from my family in lectures or classes that I do without boring people to death. This means that I get to do a little personal research, but never enough.

Rick: Most of the time when I research my family, it is to build an example for a presentation.

How do you continue your own genealogy education?

Pam: I attend lectures at national conferences when I have any free time. I try to listen to new speakers or sit in on a topic in which I may have no personal research needs, but still learn something of value. When I’m not coordinating a course at Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy or Genealogical Research Institute of Genealogy, I register as a student. As the beginning course coordinator at Institute of Genealogical Research, formerly at Samford University in Birmingham, now at University of Georgia, for the past eleven years, I have been unable to take a course there. We also avail ourselves of online webinars on a variety of topics, and continue to read genealogical journals such as NGSQ, the NYG&B Record, and NEHGS Register.

Rick: Pick a new topic and prepare a lecture. No better way to learn something new.

Who is one of your favorite ancestors, or what has been one of your favorite genealogical discoveries?

Pam: Jesse Westmoreland, my third-great-grandfather, a farm boy from southside Virginia who served in the 2nd Virginia Regiment of the American Revolution. I have followed his footsteps to Valley Forge and Monmouth, New Jersey during the war, back home to Virginia. I have tracked him just over the state line into North Carolina and on west to the very hilly Fentress County, Tennessee, where he died in his late 80s in the same area as the most decorated soldier of WWI, Sgt. Alvin York. Jesse never appeared in a single U.S. census during his entire lifetime, and he owned very little land or personal property.

One of my favorite genealogical discoveries was visiting the Lutheran Church in Oberbexbach, Germany, where another Revolutionary War-era ancestor, Jacob Daniel Shearer, had been baptized in 1726, and his grave in Guilford County, North Carolina, by the church he helped found—sort of the entire cycle of life for this old German.

Rick: My favorite person is Mary Fassbinder. She immigrated in 1856, married twice, gave birth to four children, and raised them in the tough urban environment of Allegheny City (today Pittsburgh North side). She was a rooming house manager, liquor dealer, cigar salesperson, and much more.

My favorite discovery is William Crozier and his wife Elizabeth McMullen Crozier. They came to Allegheny City in 1866. Finding and walking their land in County Armagh, Ireland, was a very moving experience.

Dana: Thank you to Pam and Rick for taking the time to answer my questions and allowing me to share their thoughtful responses! I hope some of you can join HGF in welcoming the Sayres to Houston on Saturday, March 18th.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

When Was George Washington Born? A Lesson on Double Dating

Last week we remembered George Washington's birthday on February 22nd (which also happens to be my birthday). But was George Washington born on February 22nd? Extreme Genes, one of my favorite genealogy podcasts, discussed the uncertainty of Washington's birthday in this week's show.

Portrait of George Washington
Painted by Gilbert Stuart

After listening to the conversation, I decided to dig a little deeper and found his family Bible where he is listed as being born on the "11th Day of February 1731/2." [See "Washington Family Bible Page" at the Digital Collections site from The Washington Library.] If he was born on February 11th, why do we celebrate his birthday on February 22nd? And why is his birth recorded as 1731/2?

Actually, both the strange way of waiting Washington's birth year and his two birth days, February 11th and 22nd, have to do with the switch from the old Gregorian calendar to the new Julian calendar. Though this switch happened at different times around the world, in the colonies the switch happened in 1752 when Washington was a young man. Since different parts of the world made the switch at different times, in the colonies during the approximately 100 years before 1752, dates between January 1st and March 24th were given "double dates" like Washington's birth year of 1731/2. This is because the old calendar didn't start a new year until March 25th, while the new calendar started the new year on January 1st. So the two dates were indicating the years using both the old calendar, 1731, and new calendar, 1732.

As far as the day of his birth, Washington's family Bible shows he was born on the 11th of February. However, when we officially switched to the new calendar in 1752, our calendar "skipped" from September 2nd to September 14th. On February 11th, 1753, which should have been Washington's 21st birthday, he was actually 11 days short of being 21 years old. So, his birthday celebration was generally switched to February 22nd, though some celebrations still occurred on the 11th.

Land Warrant Application, David Beiler & Michael Cline, record number 463, 15 February 1748/9; digital images, "Pennsylvania, Land Warrants & Applications, 1733-1952," ( : accessed 13 February 2017).

I recently came across an example of double dating in my own research on a Land Warrant application of my ancestor, Michael Kline/Cline, and his neighbor, David Beiler. The document was dated February 15th of 1748/9. When I first saw the date, I didn't understand what it meant, which led me to researching double dating. Along with the research I did for Washington's birth date, I now feel I understand double dating fairly well.

The following is my transcription of this document:

By the Proprietaries
Pennsylvania SS
Whereas by consent and direction of then Commissioners of Property, a Survey was mad  in the year 1729, on a certain Tract of two hundred and thirty seven Acres of Land, Situate in
Warwick Township in the County of Lancaster, which is now in the Possession of David Beiler
[symbol] and Michael Cline of the said County who have requested that we would grant them
the said Land, and agreed to pay to our use for the said Tract the full Sum of Thirty six –
Pounds fourteen Shillings & seven pence Money of Pennsylvania with lawful Interest for the
Same, and the yearly Quit Rent of one half penny Sterling for every Acre thereof, both to
commence from the 1st day of March 1732; These are therefore to authorize & require you to
accept and receive into your Office the Survey of the said Tract, and make Return thereof into our
Secretary’s Office for the use and behoof of the said David Beiler and Michael Cline in
order for further Confirmation, and in so doing this shall be your sufficient Warrant, which Survey
in case the said David Beiler and Michael Cline fulfil the above agreement within
One Month after the Date hereof shall be valid, otherwise the same is to be void. Given
under my Hand and the Seal of the Land Office by virtue of certain Powers from the
said Proprietaries at Philadelphia this Fifteenth day of February 1748/9-

To Nicholas Scull Surveyor General
James Hamilton [signature]

poor original [Stamped]

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...