Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Saturday, April 12, 2014

GENEALOGICAL JOURNEYS: Adoptees, Orphans and Recent Immigrants

I have been fretting lately about the fact that I can’t find the parents of my 5th great grandmother, Elizabeth “Betsey” Nichols who married Joel Cutler and lived in Vermont. No matter how many potential parents I look at, there is no good match. Then I started to think about how some people have much tougher searches. For example, adoptees often don’t know the names of their biological parents.  There are a fair number of adoptee hits in my DNA results. These people have no tree. Can you imagine how it feels to have no ancestors on your tree? They may have only a clue or two about the possible identities of their parents, and those clues may not be correct.  

And then there are the people whose families are new to this country, so they have to explore foreign countries and languages in order to find their ancestors. The countries may no longer exist. Most of my ancestors were from England, so I don’t have to grapple with an unfamiliar language. Okay, I have to deal with archaic handwriting, but at least it is not archaic and foreign.  

And then there are the orphans. Where do they begin to find their biological family?

Sometimes it is important to visualize life from someone else’s shoes. I would really love to find out the names of Betsey’s parents, but I guess I can’t complain too loudly if I don’t.

These are some websites I found for adoption and orphan research:

Adoption » Professionals, Volunteers & Other Research Services

How to Handle Adoption in the Family Tree: Do I Trace My Adopted Family, Birth Family or Both?

Researching Orphans in Genealogy

Research Orphan Train Ancestors

Orphans and Adoption


Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "1100 Pictorial Symbols," 2007.

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "Decorative Silhouettes," 2003.

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "Early American Design Motifs," 2003.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Women with Gumption: Mayflower Descendant Grandma Moses

Do you have a female ancestor who started a new career late in life? Is there a woman in your tree who defied the odds and made a name for herself despite her age and income? Many people believe that women used to just stay home and tend to housework and family matters. I think they were more talented and industrious than we might suspect.

Since my blog is called “The Art of Genealogy,” I thought I would talk about one of my favorite female artists:  the wonderful Grandma Moses.  I love her colorful, folksy depiction of everyday life in upstate New York, Vermont and Virginia. I grew up in upstate New York, and much of her work reminds me of the scenery of my childhood. My mother, also an artist, used to talk about Grandma Moses with admiration when I was a child.  I would be thrilled to have "Grandma" in my family tree, but so far I have found no connection.

There are hundreds of newspaper articles and plenty of books about Grandma Moses. One of my favorite books is The Essential Grandma Moses by Jane Kallir. Whenever I want to relax and feel good, I grab this little book and read about a woman from humble beginnings on a farm who became one of the most beloved artists in our country. The book is filled with reproductions of her artwork—covered bridges, weddings, snow-covered hills, horses pulling carts, maple sugar making, picnics and autumn trees. On page 22, there is a photograph of Grandma’s gnarled fingers holding a paintbrush. She did not let arthritis stop her from being great.


“Grandma Moses” was born Anna Mary Robertson on 7 Sep 1860 in Washington County, New York to parents of Scotch and Irish heritage. (1) When she was 27, Anna married Thomas Salmon Moses, and they moved to Virginia. (2) Anna would bear ten children with only five living past infancy. (3) In 1905, Thomas convinced Anna to move back to New York. (4) There Anna began experimenting with painting to pass the time. (5) In 1918, at the age of 58, Anna produced one of her first paintings called “Fireboard.” (6) Anna’s pastime of choice was embroidery, but she gave it up due to arthritis. (7) Louis J. Caldor, a New York City art collector, discovered her paintings in a drugstore window in 1938. (8) In 1940, Anna debuted at the Galerie St. Etienne with an exhibit called “What a Farm Wife Painted.” (9) The December 28, 1953 issue of Time Magazine had Grandma on the cover with the caption "Christmas is not just one day."


According to the Francis Cooke Society, Grandma Moses was a descendant of the Mayflower passenger Francis Cooke. (10) She was also a member of the DAR. See the article entitled “Grandma Moses to Give DAR Painting of Famous Battle." Check out her “Battle of Bennington” painting at "By, For, and of the People: Folk Art and Americana in the DAR Museum."

Anna was 101 when she died in 1961. (11) She continued to paint until the last few months before her death. (12) What an inspiration to all of us!


If you would like to read and learn more about this amazing woman, these are some links to interesting information about Grandma Moses:

Guide to the Robertson Family Papers, 1820-1907

Grandma Moses Is Dead at 101; Primitive Artist 'Just Wore Out'


Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "Decorative Silhouettes," 2003.

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "American Historical Illustrations and Emblems," 2001.

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "Dover's Greatest Clips," 2010.


(1) Jane Kallir, The Essential Grandma Moses, (New York, New York: The Wonderland Press, 2001), p. 9.

(2) Ibid., p. 15

(3) Ibid., p. 17.

(4) Ibid., pp. 17 and 18.

(5) Ibid., p. 19.

(6) Ibid., p. 19.

(7) Ibid., pp. 25 and 26.

(8) Ibid., p. 29.

(9) Ibid., p. 33.

(10) “Famous Descendants of Mayflower Passenger Francis Cooke,” Francis Cooke Society, ( accessed 4 Apr 2014).

(11) Op Cit., The Essential Grandma Moses, p. 103.

(12) Ibid., p. 102.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Saturday, March 29, 2014


Because I live in Michigan, I have the good fortune to be able to visit the Henry Ford complex in Dearborn ( whenever the urge strikes. However, anyone can view its online collections at And, no, it is not all about cars. There is much, much more.

You can browse the “expert sets,” such as:

You can also enter a keyword and search the collection. Want to envision the kitchen of your ancestors? Search for “kitchen” and see photographs of aqua-colored stoves from the 1950s, pie safes and more.

Here are some of the fascinating items I found:

There are also many historical resources available on the Benson Ford Research Center page:

If you go to the Research Library page, you can search the collection. Under the Artifact Collection, I found Digital Dress: Henry Ford Historical Costume Collection. I searched within this collection for “1810” and found photographs and information about typical clothing worn by people in that time period.  There are other costume collections at partner institutions that can also be searched.

So, you have found some ancestors who lived in the 1800s. Create a vision of the world of the children by viewing toys they played with. See:

Do you want to know what kind of vehicle an ancestor may have driven? Check out

There are hundreds of historic photographs and images on the Henry Ford website. On the Detroit Publishing Company page, I found links to photographs of Cityscapes, Everyday Life, Foreign Views, Getting Around, Michigan Views, Nature and Workplaces. I especially liked the Workplaces section because it showed various occupations across the country such as logging in Michigan, railroad workers in New York, fishermen in Louisiana, fruit growers and packers in California and cotton gin workers in Mississippi.

There is also a very informative page entitled “Caring for your Artifacts” ( Here you will find Preservation Fact Sheets to help you protect your historical items.

Learning about our ancestors is more than collecting names and dates. Discover the world they lived in—their clothing, occupations, toys, furniture, jewelry, vehicles and more. The Henry Ford Online Collection can help you paint a picture that will flesh out your ancestors and make them truly feel like family.


Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "Victorian Goods and Merchandise," 2006.

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "East Meet West Art Deco Motifs, 2010.

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "Full-Color Old-Time Vignettes," 2002.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014