Posted in Ancestor Stories

Revolutionary Man – John “Raccoon” Miller

We all have what I like to call a “gateway ancestor”. You know the one ancestor that as you were researching you realized that you actually like genealogy. For me, that ancestor was John “Raccoon” Miller. I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about how my mom got me started in genealogy, but it wasn’t until I started researching John Miller and reading his stories that I became truly hooked. Let me tell you a bit about this revolutionary man.

Who was John “Raccoon” Miller?

John Miller was born in 1747 with the exact location still up for discussion. Some say he was born in South Carolina. Others state that he was born in Holland. Nobody has any proof to back up those claims. I tend to lean to the third opinion. That he was born in Scotland. If you know the history of the Scottish coming to American, you know that North Carolina was a hotbed for Scots to settle. Also, I have found a document placing a John Miller being born in 1747 in Scotland. The only problem is, with such a common name, it is hard to say with 100% confidence that this is him.

Documents for John Miller are a bit scarce until he shows up in Haywood County, North Carolina in 1776. At this point, the American Revolution is in full force and he is serving with the North Carolina militia. However, he does find time in his busy schedule to marry Eve Weidner. Together they have seven children; John, Nancy, Isaac, Lewis, Rachel, Elizabeth, and Jacob. The family will eventually make their way across the mountains and settle in the State of Franklin (modern day East Tennessee).

It’s War Time

When the American Revolution made it’s way to the North Carolina back country, John Miller did not hesitate to join. Enlisting in the North Carolina militia, John was able to encourage others to join the cause due to his standing in the community. He fought bravely in many battles, the most notable being the Battle of Kings Mountain.

Artist painting of The Battle of King’s Mountain

John not only served his county proudly, but he made some useful connections along the way. One of his new friends was future Tennessee governor, John Sevier. John soon found himself as one of Sevier’s trusted companions. So much so, that Sevier made John a Captain in the militia. The two would remain friends after the American Revolution. The would both be instrumental in what would be known as the State of Franklin.

It’s Peace Time

After the war, John would find himself with significant land holdings in both North Carolina and Tennessee, thanks to military land grants. John would hold onto most of the land, allowing it to pass down the generations. However, always being one up for a good story, there is a rumor regarding John and the land he owned in what is now Middlesboro, Kentucky. Supposedly, John was given an offer he just couldn’t refuse and “sold” the town for a bottle of moonshine. I have yet to find any documentation that this actually happened, but I feel like if moonshine is involved it may have been an “under the table” transaction.

One of John Miller’s land deeds

John was also quite the entrepreneur, not just with land but with some unique items. He took it upon himself to buy some silkworms and set them up in his barn. John then proceeded to sell the silk to local merchants to make some extra money. Nobody in the area had ever grown silkworms or even knew what to do with them. But, in true John Miller fashion, he figured it out and turned that silk into gold.

The Legend of John “Raccoon” Miller

Nobody really knows how John Miller was given the name “Raccoon”. The most logical story that has been handed down is that since there was another John Miller in the area, he was given a nickname in order to distinguish between the two. Whatever the reason, the memory of “Raccoon” Miller still lives on in East Tennessee. If you ever find yourself in Maynardville, Tennessee, you will see Raccoon Valley Road which runs though that acreage that belong to John. You will also find a highway maker that shows the location of Miller’s blockhouse.

Highway Marker in Maynardville, TN

John Miller passed away on August 25, 1832 in Maynardville, Union County, Tennessee. He is buried along side his wife, Eve, in Ousley Cemetery in Maynardville.

John and Eve’s headstones in Ousley Cemetery, Maynardville, TN

I think it is safe to say why John Miller caught my attention. He was the first ancestor that I really got to know. Researching John is the reason I joined the Daughter’s of the American Revolution. I guess you could say that even in death, John “Raccoon” Miller is still making his presence known.

My Daughter’s of the American Revolution pin

Make sure to read the stories of my other revolutionary ancestors.

Posted in Ancestor Stories

Revolutionary War Soldier – John Hanna

In case you couldn’t tell, the Revolutionary War is my jam!  I mean, if I could find some magical stones and travel though time, this is without a doubt the era that I would want to land in.  I love hearing the different stories of my ancestors who were alive during this time.  It makes me wonder what part I would have played in this part of history.  Today, I’m digging into my ancestor, John Hanna.

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Who was John Hanna?

John is my 6th Great-Grandfather on my paternal side. This line, according to records I have so far, originated in Ulster, Ireland. John was actually born on a ship in 1756 as his family made their way to America from Ireland.  His parents, James A. Hanna and Anne Johnson had six other children; Elizabeth, James W, William, David, Joseph, and Martha.  The first three children were born in Ireland while the last three were born in Virginia.  I suppose John being born at sea was in true middle child fashion.  The family arrived in Pennsylvania and made their way south where they settled in the Virginia colony.

John’s Revolutionary Experience

John enlisted in the Continental Army in Greenbrier County, Virginia in 1777.  He joined as a private under Captains Samuel Lapsley and Alexander Breckenridge.  He saw quite a bit of action during his time in the army.  He fought at the Battle of Monmouth, the Battle of Point Pleasant, and the Siege of Charleston (South Carolina).  If you’re a Hamilton fan, I’m sure you’re familiar with the Battle of Monmouth.  I’m looking at you, Charles Lee.

giphy-8

At the Siege of Charleston, John was taken by the British Army as a prisoner of war.  He was held captive for about eighteen months.  Unfortunately, there are no records of where John was held or what the conditions were.  It seems that after his release, John was honorably discharged from the Army by Captain Breckenridge. 

Post-War John

After the war, John settled in Augusta County, West Virginia.  While living there, he met and married Jane Graham.  Jane and her family were also from Ireland.  If history teaches us anything, it seems more than likely that their families were from the same area of Ireland.  They married in 1787 and together had seven children; John, Robert Graham, Jane, Christopher, Joseph, Elizabeth, and Martha.

In 1825, John applied for his Revolutionary War pension.  According to the documents, John considered himself poor and desperate needed the money to support his family.  Both of his daughters, Elizabeth and Martha, were living with him as well as four grandchildren.  John also states that while his occupation is that of a farmer, he is physically unable to do the work.  He lists all of his assets, as well as items that he has sold, to prove to the court that he needs this money.  His pension is approved on July 6, 1825.

One page from John Hanna’s pension application.

John and Jane eventually moved their family to Jackson County, Ohio.  The children would scatter to different states after that.  You have to think that John was proud of this fact.  He had fought for this country and the right for his children to explore it.  John Hanna passed away on April 11, 1845 at the age of 89.  I think it’s safe to say that John lived a long and eventful life!

The headstone of John Hanna. He is buried in Fairmount Cemetery in Jackson, Ohio.

Read about more of my revolutionary ancestors…

Posted in Ancestor Stories

Robert Messer: North Carolina Regulator

The big moments in history are often the only moments we talk about.  The Sons of Liberty, George Washingon, and The Battle of Yorktown seem to get the most press when talking about the Revolutionary War.  What about all of the moments that happened before the war even started?  What about the story of the North Carolina Regulators?  Here is the story of my 7thgreat grandfather and North Carolina Regulator, Captain Robert Messer.

Who was Robert Messer?

Captain Robert Messer was born in New Bern, Craven, North Carolina in 1734. History tells us that New Bern was named after the town, Bern, in Switzerland. While I have yet to prove that the Messers came from Switzerland, it is safe to say that they did come from the Germany/Switzerland area. Not much is known about Robert’s family. I have yet to find any information on his parents or if he had any siblings. We do know that Robert married Mary Ann Basket. There are rumors that say Mary was at least part Indian and that her Indian name was “Little Flower”. Now I’m not sure how true this is. Maybe Mary was part Indian or maybe somewhere down the line somebody thought “Little Flower” and Basket went good together.

Robert and Mary Messer had 6 children; Christian Sargent, Joseph E, Tipton, Jarred, Mary Ann, and Solomon. Christian is my 6th great grandfather, and along with Robert plays an important roll in some pre-Revolutionary folklore.

The Regulator Movement

In the early 1770s, the colonists were beginning to become dissatisfied with the British Crown. In North Carolina, this led to the formation of the Regulators. While the Regulators are usually ignored in Revolutionary War history, it is safe to say that the battles involving the Regulators are basically the beginning of the Revolution.

Highway marker in Alamance County, North Carolina

If you are an Outlander fan, who may recognize the story of the Regulators, after all Murtagh was one.  You also know that the series covers the Battle of Alamance and even mentions the notorious Herman Husband.  Husband was one of the most well known Regulator leaders and is often credited for the documents produced by the movement.  Governor Tryon had his sights set on Herman Huband even before the Battle of Alamance occurred.  For the record, I kept waiting for them to mention Robert Messer in one of the Outlander episodes.  Sadly, he didn’t make the cut.

In May of 1771, the Battle of Alamance took place in Orange County, North Carolina. Captain Robert Messer fought along other Regulators against Governor William Tryon and his militia. While the Regulators lacked the supplies and organization that Tryon’s militia had, they were able to hold their own during the early part of the battle. Unfortunately, the battle turned and ended in the favor of Governor Tryon. In the end, Tryon took 13 Regulators prisoner…one of those being Robert Messer.

messer 3

In the days after the battle, Tryon killed one of the prisoners to make an “example” of what would happen to someone taking a stand against the Crown. The other 12 were told to take an oath in order to show their allegiance to the Crown. Only six of the Regulators took the oath while the others were on their way to stand trail for treason.

It didn’t take Tryon long to decided that the six remaining Regulators were guilty of treason against the Crown. Judge Richard Henderson handed down the judgment of violating the Riot Act to Robert Messer and the five others. Messer and the other captured Regulators were to be hung for their crime. Like many of Tryon’s acts, this was to be a public hanging with hopes of putting a stop to the Regulator uprising.

Let’s Make a Deal

The most gut-wrenching part of the story would happen next. In hopes of a last minute pardon, Robert Messer’s wife, Mary, and son, Christian (who was around 11 years old at the time), made their was to Orange County. In the minutes before the hanging was to occur, Christian Messer, threw himself at the mercy of Governor Tryon. It is said that Christian begged Tryon to take him instead and allow his father to go home and continue to provide for his family. Legend says that Christian told Tryon he was worried about what would become of his mother Mary if Robert was to be killed.

Article from The Daily Times-News (Burlington, North Carolina) July 23, 1934

Tryon’s assistant, Colonel Fanning, stepped in and convinced Tryon to momentarily pardon Messer. Fanning came up with the deal that if Messer could find Herman Husband and bring him back to Tryon, then Messer could have his freedom.  (Sidenote:  while Herman Husband was at the Battle of Alamance, he did not actually participate in the fighting.  He was a Quaker.).  Messer took the deal and set off to find Husband.  To keep Messer honest, Tryon held Robert’s wife and son as hostage until he returned.

Messer was able to track Husband down just across the border in Virginia.  The only problem was that Messer was one man and had no way of actually bringing Husband back to North Carolina.  Realizing that he had run out of options, Messer made his was back to Tryon empty handed.  Tryon then proceeded to arrest Messer and release his wife and son.  Tryon took no pity on the Messers, and along with the 5 other “traitors” Robert was killed.

Headstone that marks the place of the Regulators hanging in Hillsborough, North Carolina

If you ever find your way to Hillsborough, North Carolina, there is a marker in a field where the hanging took place. This is the one place where I can go and actually feel a connection to my ancestors. It’s strange to stand there and think what was going through Robert’s, Mary’s, and young Christian’s mind. I’m very proud of my ancestors for standing up for what they believed in, regardless of if all the stories are in fact true. Stories like this make spending countless hours in a library well worth it.

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Check out some of my other revolutionary ancestors.

Posted in Ancestor Stories, Revolutionary

Eve Weidner: Revolutionary Woman

Often, when we think about the Revolutionary War, we only think of the men who fought.  We focus on the battles and who won or lost.  We talk about the men who were Generals, the men who enlisted, and all the men in between.  We tend not to talk about the women and how important their role was in winning America’s freedom.

Who was Eve Weidner?

Eve (or Eva) Weidner was born to Ludwig (Lewis) Weidner and Barbary Boyer on January 31st, 1751 in Lincoln County, North Carolina.  While little is known about her mother, Ludwig was of German descent and held his German traditions close to his heart.  Growing up, the Weidner’s were known revolutionaries living in a county full of loyalists.  This more than likely made growing up challenging for Eve.  This is why the Weidner family started moving towards western North Carolina and the Tennessee border.

Like Father, Like Son-In-Law

Records for Eve become a bit scarce until she marries John “Raccoon” Miller on March 1st, 1776 in Haywood County, North Carolina.  The Millers would move on to Hawkins County, Tennessee and eventually settle in Union County, Tennessee.  Once settled, Eve and John would have seven children: John, Nancy, Isaac, Lewis, Jacob, Elizabeth, and Rachel.

If legend is true, John Miller seems to be a lot like Eve’s father, Ludwig.  They were both revolutionaries and participated in battles with local militia.  One of the most notorious stories of Eve is when she was left at home with the children while John was off on one of his excursions.  The story says that the family dogs started barking and going crazy while Eve and the children were inside.  Living in known Indian Territory, Eve immediately had the children hide while she grabbed a shotgun.  Eve then went outside to defend her home against the said Indians.  While not much is known about the actual encounter, I think it’s safe to say that the Indians probably thought twice before messing with Eve again.

Show Me the Money

John passed away in 1832 and had never applied for his Revolutionary War pension.  Well, Eve decided that she would go for it, twenty years after John died.  It seems that Eve was not a woman who would ever take no for an answer.  I will tell you that people thought that a woman her age attempting to get her dead husband’s pension was crazy!  According to the pension documents, Eve was 100 years and 6 days old when she started the application process.  While there is no documentation if Eve ever received John’s pension, I think it is safe to say that whatever Eve put her mind to she succeed.

An example from Eve Weidner’s pension application.

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

Eve passed away on August 12th, 1853 in Union County, Tennessee.  She was 102 years old.  Just a few years ago, a local Daughter’s of the American Revolutionary chapter in Knoxville, Tennessee, recognized Eve for her efforts and support during the Revolutionary War by giving her a new headstone.  It is always nice when women recognize other women!

Eve Weidner’s gravestone.

I feel that it is important that we continue to share the stories of our female revolutionaries.  The Revolutionary War was not just fought on the battle field, but all across the colonies.  These hidden stories need to written to preserve the memories of colonial women.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review – The Lost Family

I knew when I first heard about Libby Copeland’s book, “The Lost Family”, I had to read it. It has been on my must read list since last year. I finally got around to buying, and reading it, this month. What can I say, the list of books that I want to read is at least a mile long!

The Book

The Lost Family takes a look at genetic DNA testing and the many different outcomes that may come from it. The book covers from the time DNA test first hit the genealogy scene to what the future holds. Even while diving into the scientific aspects of DNA, Copeland continues to weave the emotional, real-life stories throughout. The Lost Family really makes you pause and think about all the possible outcomes and effects of DNA testing.

I thought that I was an early tester when it came to DNA. However, Copeland goes into such a detailed history that even the most seasoned genealogist will learn something. This book does a wonderful job at taking the reader step-by-step through DNA testing. It never gets boring. For a book that detoured into scientific jargon from time to time, I found it relatively easy to follow.

The Surprises

I really picked up this book to read in order to recommend it to others. I really did not expect to get anything new out of it. I am happy to say that I was wrong. Seeing the fallout of DNA results from real people and real experiences was eye-opening. One story in particular (don’t worry, no spoilers) kept me hanging on the edge of my seat. I think as genealogist, we get so wrapped up in DNA and our matches that we sometimes lose the mystery aspect of the process. Copeland does a great job of taking us on a DNA journey.

Aside from the personal DNA stories, I was really surprised at how the section regarding DNA and race/ethnicity hit me. Whenever I discuss DNA testing, this subject is usually my soapbox. I think DNA is a great way to open our world, and our minds, to other ethnicities and how we connect. Copeland wrote about, and gave facts about, aspects of ethnic identity that I had never thought about.

To attempt to read the past through the genes, you need more than knowledge of science, statistics, and algorithms. You need to understand history, and history is profoundly messy.

Libby Copeland “The Lost Family”

The Verdict

If you have ever taken a DNA test, or have considered taking a DNA test, you should read this book. To say it is eye-opening would be an understatement. My only issue (and for me, it wasn’t that big of an issue) is when Copeland takes a deep dive into the science of DNA. I love science and even for me it became a bit dense. It also seemed to get a bit repetitive when talking about the technical side of DNA. It is not so big of an issue that it would cause me not to recommend the book. I just want you to be aware of that part of the book.

All in all, I would give this book an 8 out of 10. You should read for the DNA history, learn the DNA technicalities, and stay for the DNA stories. For the conclusion alone, you will not be disappointed.

Previously…in book reviews…

In case you missed my last book review…got check it out!

Posted in Places To Visit

Places to Visit – The Museum of Appalachia

This week, I’m taking you to my happy place. No matter how many times I have been, whenever I’m in the area, I have to stop by the Museum of Appalachia. Many of my maternal ancestors are from this area of Tennessee, which makes visiting the museum even more special. Let me try to put into words why I love this place so much!

Looking out from one of the cabins

The History

The Museum of Appalachia was founded in 1969 with the intentions of showcasing an authentic mountain farm and pioneer village. John Rice Irwin, who was instrumental in the founding of the museum, helped to collect over 250,000 artifacts ranging from folk art, musical instruments, baskets, quilts, and so much more. Side note: John Rice Irwin is my 4th cousin 2x removed on my maternal. I had no idea of this connection when I started going to the museum, but now it just adds something special!

John Rice Irwin

The main focus of the Museum of Appalachia these days is to preserve its massive collection and to develop educational programs. The goal of the educations programs is to encourage others to preserve the past for the future. This is something I can very much get behind! The museum is also a Smithsonian Affiliate museum.

Things To Do

The Museum of Appalachia covers about 65 acres that are absolutely beautiful. The land boasts 35 log cabins, barns, farm animals (my favorite are the goats), churches, schools, and gardens. Speaking of farm animals, watch out for the peacocks. The last time I was there, two peacocks were ruling the roost. They just wander the grounds from the gift shop to the outer cabins. They are beautiful to look at, but don’t get too close!

The Peacock!

The gift shop is a must visit and hard to miss. Literally, it’s hard to miss since that is where you buy your tickets. Everything you could possibly want to shop for is in the gift shop. Of course, the majority of it is geared to Appalachia. They have everything from books to candles to toys to apparel. I mean, I could almost guarantee that you will not walk out empty handed.

The Gift Shop

If you want to make a day of it, make sure to visit the museum’s restaurant. If you are looking for some yummy, authentic Appalachian cuisine, look no further! They do only serve lunch (from 11am-2pm), but serve lighter dishes, such as soups, sandwiches, and desserts until 3pm. They do have a daily menu, so check out their website to see what they are serving on the day you are visiting. An example of their daily menu would include Herb Roasted Pork Loin, Chicken Noodle Casserole, Turnip Greens, Broccoli Casserole, Sweet Potato Casserole, Buttered Corn, Deviled Eggs, and Mac & Cheese. I’m full just thinking about it!

More Information

Ticket prices range from $18.00 (adults) to $6.00 (children). There are group rates and senior discounts, so make sure to check the website for more information. Their summer hours are 9am-5pm (monday-friday) and 9am-6pm (saturday & sunday). They are closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. They also have special events and special days throughout the year.

All this information and more can be found on their website https://www.museumofappalachia.org/

I can’t recommended enough the Museum of Appalachia. When I’m there, I just feel closer to my ancestors that lived much in the same way that they are preserving at the museum. If you have Appalachian ancestors, or just wonder how folks lived there in the past, you will not be disappointed!

Posted in Genealogy 101

Genealogy 101 – Death Records

When I first started researching my family’s history, death records were not high on my priority list. While I knew it was important to know when my ancestors died, it just seemed a bit depressing to spend my days reading obituaries and causes of death. It wasn’t until I came across an obituary that vividly painted my ancestor’s life, that I realized this subject wasn’t all doom and gloom. I changed my way of thinking from this is an ending to this is something I can use to celebrate my family member. Now, I love finding obituaries and walking though cemeteries. My friends still think I’m a bit strange, but they just don’t know what they are missing.

Death is inevitable. All of our ancestors have done it, so why can it be so hard to find death records? Also, when we find them, what other information can we gather? I hope the following tid-bits can help you on your journey.

Death Certificates

The most obvious place to find your ancestor’s death information is on a death certificate. Even the most basic certificate will give you a name, date of death, place of death, and cause of death. While that is all great information, it’s the other gems that may really help you break through a brick wall.

Let’s take a look at Anderson Carpenter’s death certificate. Anderson is my paternal 2x Great Grandfather. On his death certificate, we are able to gain basic information such as his birth and death date and location of death (including the hospital). Now, look at all the genealogy information that is included. We learn that he is a widower and that his wife was Lillie Lacy (actually, her name is Lizzie Lacy). The death certificate lists his parents as John Carpenter and Linda Tanner, who were both born in Ohio. If we look at the informant, it gives the name Marvin Carpenter. It’s easy to assume that Marvin is related in some way, which he is. Marvin is Anderson’s son. We are also given the name of the funeral home who handled the arrangements and the name/location of the cemetery. With just this one death certificate, we are able to go back another generation and fill in some holes such as Anderson’s wife’s name.

Anderson Carpenter’s death certificate

Funeral Cards

Funeral cards, also known as memorial cards or prayer cards, are an excellent source of information. The cards are designed as an easy keepsake to remember the deceased. At the very least, a funeral card will include your ancestor’s birth and death date. Some cards are a bit more detailed and may include a short memory of the deceased. Also, there a good chance that the funeral card may include a picture of your ancestor. These cards are not to be missed when you are collecting death records.

Below is my maternal Great Grandfather’s (William Howard Taft Price) funeral card. This card tells me that he obviously went by the name Taft, which could help me find him on other documents. It also states his birth and death date. While it doesn’t give me the locations of those events, the dates alone will help me to narrow down my search. Lastly, it gives me where the funeral was held, where he was buried, and the funeral home in charge of the arrangements. If nothing else, this information points me in the direction of finding more sources that I can use to find out more information.

William Howard Taft Price’s funeral card

Obituaries

Probably everyone’s favorite death record is an obituary. After all, no two obituaries are the same and they can sometimes be full of all kinds of genealogy information. Websites like Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/ and Genealogy Bank https://www.genealogybank.com/ have made finding an obituary a little easier.

More recent obituaries tend to give a clearer genealogy picture. When looking at obits from the mid-1900s back leave a bit more puzzle pieces to be solved. Remember the time period and the fact that women were known more as someone’s husband than an individual. Take the obituary below as an example. This belongs to my paternal 4th Great Uncle, Hiram Goodwin. Hiram passed away in 1936 in Kanawha County, West Virginia. If you notice, his daughters are listed as Mrs. “insert husband’s name”. While this can be frustrating, it does as least give you names of spouses. All you have to do is play the match game and figure out who goes with who!

Hiram Goodwin’s obituary (1936)

Find-A-Grave and Headstones

When all else fails, there is always (well…almost always) a headstone to be found. Families tended to be buried in the same area, so if you can find one, you may be able to find more. If you’re not able to get out to the actual cemetery, check out Find-A-Grave https://www.findagrave.com/

Stella Alice Baker Martin’s headstone (my maternal 2x Great Grandmother)

Find-A-Grave is a great resource for information. By searching your ancestor’s name, you may find their birth/death dates, their obituary, and if you’re lucky, a picture! The Find-A-Grave community is pretty awesome too in the fact that you can put in a request for a particular cemetery. The only issue is that because the information is entered by volunteer individuals, you should also double check the dates, locations, ect. I’m not saying that the information is always wrong or anything like that. It just like when you’re looking at someone else’s family tree. It’s a great starting point, but you should always verify the information.

Next Steps

Now that we’ve covered all the actual vital records, birth, marriage, and death, it’s time to dig into census records! The new series will cover all the basics of how to search for census records and what you should be looking for!

If you need a refresher, check out the marriage records post!

Posted in Genealogy 101

Researching Holocaust Records

At some point, if you have Jewish ancestors, you are going to have to take a look into Holocaust records. History is full of horrible moments, and when we realize that our ancestors were victims of such events, it just hits you different. Researching isn’t easy, especially when you are tackling a subject like the Holocaust. Give yourself time and grace. Remember, genealogy isn’t a race. We should take our time and give our ancestors the moments they deserve.

Getting Started

Just like any other area of genealogy research, start with what you know. If you only have names of potential ancestors, that is okay. There are several databases (which I’ll go into later) that will allow you to search with only that information. It will take patience, but don’t be discouraged if you feel like you don’t have a lot of information to go on.

If you are able to locate the town they may have lived in during this time period that can help you narrow down your search range. By knowing the town, or even the area where they lived, will help you in following the path they may have taken. Gary Mokotoff’s book, How to Document Victims and Locate Survivors of the Holocaust is a wealth of information that can help you trace your ancestors’ steps. (For the record, Amazon only had one copy available. However, check with your library as this is a popular book for Jewish research).

Cover of Gary Mokotoff’s book

Yizkor Books

Yizkor books, or memorial books, were written after the Holocaust in order to memorialize Jewish communities that were destroyed during the Holocaust. Many Jewish genealogy specific organizations, such as JewishGen, are working to translate Yizkor books. Since they were written with a specific community in mind, the majority of them are not in English. However, the books that have been translated have also been digitized and are available online.

When looking at Yizkor books, remember to look not just for your ancestor, but also for general information about the community. This will help you to get a sense of what life was like for those who lived there. Also, each book includes a section called “Remembrance of Souls”. This section may include photographs and other specific information of those who lived in the community.

Example of a Yizkor Book

If you know the particular Yizkor book that you are looking for, it may be available for purchase. Both Amazon and JewishGen have Yizkor books that you may purchase.

Victim Database

If, unfortunately, you have an ancestor that was a victim of the Holocaust, they may be listed in one of the online databases. The most extensive database is Yad Vashem’s Central Database of Shoah Victims. https://www.yadvashem In the database, you may search by surname, first name, or place. Even if your ancestor’s name is not in the database, try searching for the place that they lived. If you can find other victims information, it may give you a nugget to use for your own ancestor.

An example from the Yad Vashem’s Central Database

Survivor Database

For the most extensive survivor database, look no futher than JewishGen https://www.jewishgen.org/ This website contains a search engine that covers over 190 databases and 2.5 million records. While JewishGen can point you in the right direction to find your Holocaust victim, this particular database only deals with survivors.

Dutch Survivor List from JewishGen

When searching on JewishGen, make sure to look at all the Holocaust collections. There are so many areas that may have your ancestor’s information. Again, be patient and remember that persistence pays off!

Example of databases found on JewishGen

More Holocaust Research

There are many different libraries and archives that have dedicated Holocaust sources. So many, in fact, that it is not possible to include them in this one post. If you are looking for more ways to search, I suggest using this guide that was assembled by The Ackman and Ziff Family Genealogy Institute. This 10 page “cheat sheet” is a great resource to have on hand whenever doing Holocaust research.

If you need a refresher, make sure to check out last week’s Intro to Jewish Genealogy post!

Posted in Baking With My Ancestors

Irish Oat Cookies

Never underestimate the power of an oat. Especially if that oat is in an Irish Oat Cookie! While these cookies are not what you traditionally think of when you think of Irish cuisine, they do have a very Irish history.

The History

Thanks to the Celts who immigrated from Mainland Europe, oats have a very long history in Ireland. Oats were a staple crop in the country from pre-historic time until the 17th century. While potatoes replaced oats as the main staple, oats made their comeback during the Great Potato Famine. Oats were cheap to grow and leant itself to many different recipes.

Oatmeal was the most obvious way to enjoy oats. So much so, that oatmeal was used as a way to pay rent. Butter and salt was eventually added and the Irish discovered a way to make oat bread. However, when honey and sugar were added to the mix, the Irish soon realized that they could use oats to enjoy the sweeter things in life. Both scones and biscuits (cookies) were soon being baked in Irish kitchens across the country.

The Cookie Ingredients

  • 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (55 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp (3 grams) firmly packed orange zest
  • 1 tsp (6 grams) vanilla bean paste
  • 2 1/4 cups (212 grams) old-fashioned oats
  • 1 3/4 cups (219 grams) unbleached self-rising flour
  • 1/4 cup (44 grams) steel-cut oats
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

The Making of Cookies

  1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugars, orange zest, and vanilla bean paste at medium speed until creamy, 2 to 3 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together old-fashioned oats, flour, steel-cut oats, and salt. Add oats mixture to butter mixture all at once; beat at medium-low speed just until combined, stopping to scrape sides of bowl.
  4. Using a 2-tablespoon spring-loaded scoop, scoop dough, and roll into balls. Place at least 2 inches apart on prepared pans; press to about 3/4-inch thickness, pinching closed any cracks and smoothing edges, if needed.
  5. Bake in batches until edges are golden, 12 to 16 minutes. Let cool on pans for 2 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on a wire rack placed over a parchment-lined baking sheet.

The Glaze Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (180 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (45 grams) crème fraiche
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (22.5 grams) fresh orange juice

The Making of the Glaze

  1. In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients until smooth and well combined. Use immediately.
  2. Place the glaze in a small pastry bag or plastic bag; cut a 1/4-inch opening in tip or corner. Drizzle glaze onto cooled cookies as desired; let stand until set, about 15 minutes.

Full disclosure; these have become my favorite cookies. It’s nearly impossible to eat only one Irish Oat Cookie!

Posted in Genealogy 101

Genealogy 101 – Marriage Records

First comes love, then comes marriage, and then comes someone years later looking for proof! Marriage is such a hot topic when it comes to genealogy research. Figuring out if your ancestors were married, and when they were married, can be a challenge. Luckily, there are a few options for finding this much needed information.

Types of Marriage Records

When trying to find an ancestor’s marriage, keep in mind the different records. If you’re looking for an actual marriage record, you will be looking for either a marriage register or a marriage license. If you can’t find either one of those, there is always the 1900 U.S. Census that may point you in the right direction. Last, but certainly not least, you should dig around in newspapers.

Marriage Register

You can usually find marriage registers in county books. Many of these have been digitized and are easily accessible online. A basic marriage register gives limited information. At the very least, it will give you the date/place of the marriage, the names of the couple, and who performed the ceremony. Other marriage registers, like the one below, actually gives significant genealogy information. This marriage register belongs to my paternal Great Grandparents, James Anderson Hanna and Inez March Carpenter.

In the first line, we find the date of the marriage, their names, and their ages. We also see that they are both listed as single which means, unless one is fibbing, neither have been married before. In the second line, the marriage registers shows where they both live (Chapmanville, West Virginia). Next, it states James’ parents and then Inez’s parents. Yay! That’s another generation back! In the last two sections, it shows that James is a farmer and the name of the minister who performed the ceremony.

Marriage License

A basic marriage license usually has more information than a marriage register. A license tends to go into more detail, including the date it was applied for and the date of the actual marriage. When looking at the information included in a marriage license, make sure to pay attention to the details. You will often find potential family members, or at the very least family friends, listed as witnesses or even the person performing the ceremony.

For example, take the marriage license below for my maternal 2nd Great Uncle and Aunt, Royal Augustus Martin and Geneva Louise Hensley. If you look at the name of the minister who performed the ceremony, you will see the name J. W. Baker. I know that Royal’s mother was Stella Alice Baker. That leads me to believe that J. W. Baker must be related in some way. Spoiler alert, J. W. Baker is John William Baker who is Stella’s father. This means that Royal’s grandfather is the person who presided over the marriage ceremony!

1900 Census Records

An often overlooked source for marriage information is the 1900 U.S. Census. This census asks the head of household the number of years they have been married. While this gives you the number of years, keep in mind that people tended to lose track of time. Just like how ages fluctuate from census to census, the amount of years married is not always accurate. However, even if the number of years do not add up to the exact year, it will give you at least a ballpark.

The example below is from my paternal 2x Great Grandfather, James Benjamin Arthur. He actually nailed the number of years married. He states that he has been married 13 years which would put his marriage year in 1887. I have a marriage record for James and he was indeed married on July 21, 1887!

Newspapers

For more recent marriages, newspaper are the way to go. With the combination of engagement announcements and wedding articles, you can get a pretty accurate picture of what life was like for your betrothed ancestors.

The engagement announcement below is for my maternal Great Uncle and Aunt, Carl Edward Price and Alice Dianne Flannigan. Look at how much information is included!

Next is an example of a wedding announcement. While not as detailed as the above engagement announcement, there is still valuable information included. This article is in reference to the marriage of my paternal 2nd cousin 3x removed, Anna Riley.

Also, don’t discount articles regarding anniversaries! Like engagement and wedding announcements, these articles contain all kinds of good information. In a perfect genealogy world, these articles contain at least one picture of the couple and usually a list of family members who attended. Look for anniversary articles around milestone dates such as a 50th anniversary.

Marriage Records Tips

When researching marriage records, there are a few things to keep in mind. Watch out if dates fit. This means that if you known when your ancestor was born, do the math and see if the ages are appropriate for being married. Yes, marriages tended to happen to those younger in previous centuries, but unless we are in medieval times, a six year old did not get married. Also, pay attention to the place where the marriage occurred. If your ancestor did not get married in their hometown, did it make sense for them to travel to the marriage location? On occasion, couples had to travel to a minister or a town where the marriage ceremony could be held, but did it make sense to travel to a place days away?

Many marriage records are on the major research sites. If you happen to be doing research in West Virginia, I highly recommend the West Virginia Archives and History Vital Records search. Their database includes birth, marriage, and death records.

Birth Records Review

If you need a refresher on birth records, check out my previous post!