Saturday, May 31, 2014


When I was in Richmond, Virginia, a few weeks ago, I visited the Museum of the Confederacy (  Whether your ancestors were from the North or the South in the Civil War (or both like mine), this museum is well worth the trip.

Museum of the Confederacy
Richmond, Virginia

Inside you will find flags, maps, guns, rifles, swords, cannons, uniforms, hats, boots, drums, bugles, saddles, letters, photographs, dolls used to smuggle medicine, ribbons, bibles, pocket watches, cookware, pipes and so much more.  I am not very knowledgeable about military history, but this museum will entice even the novice.  I was really impressed with the number of letters, bibles and documents containing genealogical information.

Exhibit at
the Museum of the Confederacy
Richmond, Virginia

As I was making my way along the well-thought out exhibits, I came upon an exhibit about Major General John Bankhead Magruder. Magruder is one of my surnames, so I pulled out my cell phone and looked at my tree on the Ancestry app.  Virginia-born John Bankhead Maguder was my 1st cousin 4x removed.  He was known for his flamboyant lifestyle. (1) His military achievements were many. For an entertaining discussion of his life, see:

Shoulder cord and silk sash of
Gen. John B. Magruder at
the Museum of the Confederacy
Richmond, Virginia

I, of course, started researching John Bankhead Magruder. Ironically, despite his fame, there apparently is a disagreement about his date and location of birth.  Several sources, including many public trees on, list it as May 1, 1807 in Port Royal, Caroline County, Virginia. (2 and 3) One record on actually has him born in 1807 AND on August 15, 1810. (4)  I made a comment on about that problem. Other sources say he was born 15 Aug 1810 in Winchester, Virginia. (5) At least one source states that Magruder was born in 1807 in Winchester, Virginia. (6).

There is a discussion of this birth discrepancy in John Bankhead Magruder: A Military Reappraisal. According to Thomas Settles, the author, John was born May 1, 1807 in Port Royal, Virginia. (7)

Major Gen. Magruder is buried in Texas. However, according to a comment made on the FindAGrave entry for Magruder, there is some disagreement about his exact location. (8) Andy Hall of states that Major General John Bankhead Magruder is buried in Galveston’s Episcopal Cemetery near the author’s home, but that he was first buried in Houston. (9)  

If people have this much trouble pinning down the vitals on a famous person, how are we ever to track down the every-day, run of the mill ancestor?

There are numerous books and articles, favorable and unfavorable, on Magruder. Many libraries and universities have manuscripts, dissertations and letters concerning Magruder, including the Swem Library at the College of William and Mary. (10)  I could easily spend all my time researching his life. But there are many ancestors waiting for my attention. 

I have gone off on a bit of a tangent, but that is what family researchers sometimes do. I may not have ever researched John Bankhead Magruder had I not visited the Museum of the Confederacy.  Be sure to visit the museum or at least check out their website (  The museum also offers research sessions by appointment (


(1) Konstam, Angus. Seven Days Battles 1862: Lee's Defense of Richmond, p. 20. Botley, Oxford, United Kingdom: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 2004, Google Books ( accessed 31 May 2014).

(2) Find A Grave, Inc., Find A Grave, digital image ( accessed May 29, 2014), John Bankhead Magruder, Old City Cemetery, Galveston, Galveston County, Texas, Memorial No. 11021.

(3) Thomas W. Cutrer, "MAGRUDER, JOHN BANKHEAD," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed May 31, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on January 18, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association

(4) Entry for John Bankhead Magruder, “American Civil War General Officers” database on ( accessed 31 May 2014), Operations Inc., Provo, UT, 1999; Original data compiled by Historical Data Systems of Kingston, MA, Copyright 1997-2000.

(5) Wilson, James Grant, and John Fiske. Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. IV. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1888, p. 175 ( accessed 31 May 2014).

(6) Op cit., Seven Days Battles 1862: Lee's Defense of Richmond, p. 20.

(7) Settles, Thomas M., Preface," In John Bankhead Magruder: A Military Reappraisal, pp. 2 and 5.  Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 2009, Google Books ( accessed 31 May 2014).

(8) Op cit., Find A Grave.

(9) “Are Pardoned Confederates Still Confederates?” Posted in Leadership Memory by Andy Hall on November 5, 2010, Dead Confederatres, A Civil War Era Blog ( accessed 31 May 2014).

(10) Op. cit., John Bankhead Magruder: A Military Reappraisal, Bibliography.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

TUESDAY’S TIP: Central New York Online Resources

If you have ancestors from Central New York, you might find the online collection of the Waterville Public Library ( helpful.  Waterville is in Oneida County, New York.  Some of the items that I found helpful or interesting were:

  • Waterville Times Obituary Index 1856-1895

  • Cowen’s History of the Loomis Family

  • Recollections of Abner Livermore (1851)

  • Waterville Seventy Years Ago (1876)

There’s much more, so check it out. You never know where one of your ancestors may be hiding!


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

Monday, May 26, 2014


In honor of Memorial Day, I wanted to share with you a link to one of my early blog posts. I am fortunate to have inherited amazing photographs from World War I.

Almost Wordless Wednesday: World War I Pictures, August 15, 2012


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

Saturday, May 24, 2014


While in Richmond, Virginia, a few weeks ago, I visited the Museum of the Confederacy. I found the “woman’s section” of the museum especially fascinating. Many Civil War battles were fought on Virginia soil. The picture below depicts a woman in mourning perhaps for her husband, her father, her son or any number of relatives. The black veil and long black dress are frightening, like death.  

Woman in mourning
exhibit at
Museum of the Confederacy
Richmond, Virginia

Years ago women would wear mourning jewelry—locks of hair, black brooches, dark earrings, etc. Below is an image showing mourning jewelry at the Museum of the Confederacy.

Mourning jewelry
The Museum of the Confederacy

In Victorian America, the departed person would often be on view in the family home. (1) Blinds and shutters were closed, and mirrors were covered. (2) I have found newspapers articles about some of my ancestors who had the deceased on display at their home. Generally, that is not the case nowadays. People who have passed away are taken to funeral homes or places of worship. And I rarely see mourners wearing dark clothes for months after their loved one’s departure. I have never seen anyone wearing a hair locket.

For a wonderful description of nineteenth century death practices, see:

Revised Widow’s Weeds and Weeping Veils: Mourning Rituals in 19th Century America” by Bernadette Loeffel-Atkins, 2012.
If you type “Civil War mourning” into, you will see dresses, hair lockets, hats, bonnets, vulcanite pendants, black petticoats, capes, ribbons, pins and more. I imagine that reenactors purchase these items.

Although they differ by location and religion, mourning practices today are much different than in the nineteenth century. There are online funeral websites such as Online-Funeral ( Many funeral homes also have online viewing of funerals as well as message boards where you can leave condolences.  For example, I learned about the death of one of my doctors a few months after he died. I was able to log onto The Ira Kaufman Chapel’s website ( and watch the funeral.  Social media is now a fairly accepted way of remembering our loved ones.  For further reading see:

“How We Mourn in the Age of Social Media” by Lia Zneimer, May 6, 2014

“For Funerals Too Far, Mourners Gather on the Web” by Laura M. Holson, January 24, 2011


Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, 1268 Old-Time Cuts and Ornaments, 2006.


(1) Loefel-Atkins, Bernadete. "Wakes and Funerals." In Revised Widow's Weeds and Weeping Veils. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Gettysburg Publishing LLC, 2012, p. 6.

(2) Ibid.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Living History Museums: Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

A few days prior to my attendance at the National Genealogical Society conference this month, I had the pleasure of visiting Colonial Williamsburg, an 18th century living history museum. I loved looking at the historic buildings, people dressed in period costumes and horses clomping down the street. Our understanding of our ancestors is richer if we can visualize their world.

Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

Here are some of the places I especially enjoyed visiting:

Printing Office

Since I frequently read historic newspapers in pursuit of genealogical information, the printing office ( was one of my first visits. The printer gave us a wonderful demonstration of the ways newspapers were created many years ago. Did you know that the letter W came from UU (double U)? The painstaking typesetting process was tedious and expensive.  Paper was costly during the 18th century, so the rich citizens were often the ones who wrote articles to be published in the papers. There was also a high illiteracy rate.

The Apothecary

I really enjoyed visiting the Pasteur & Galt Apothecary Shop ( There I learned about the medicine our ancestors took for their ailments and the types of medical equipment that was used for broken bones. There was also a discussion of dental practices. To learn about Thomas Jefferson’s toothbrush see I’m really glad I didn’t live in the 18th century.

The Cooper

A few of my Park ancestors were coopers so I was eager to visit the cooper (  I asked the cooper (he was a real cooper) how they ensured that the barrels did not leak—did they seal them?  He said that a good cooper will know how to cut the wood just right so that it does not leak. He also said that coopers were usually employed by others and not self-employed.  I now want to investigate what employers may have employed my coopers in Utica, New York. 

The Wig Shop

I found the visit to the wigmaker ( especially interesting. Did you know that to fit a wig properly, you have to have your head shaved bald? Wealthy persons in the 18th century often wore wigs.  A wig was very costly, as much as an average person’s yearly salary.  The term “blockhead” comes from the wooden form used to make wigs. See "Puttin’ on the Dog" (

Bruton Parish Episcopal Church

If you go to Williamsburg, be sure to visit the exquisite Bruton Parish Episcopal Church ( 

Bruton Parish Church
Williamsburg, Virginia

I know the genealogists out there love to visit cemeteries, so you will enjoy the historic cemetery that surrounds the church.

Inside, you will be delighted by the beauty and history. Men who attended this church included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry.  Note George Washington’s name on the pew in the photograph below:

Public Gaol (Jail)

After a visit to the Public Gaol (, you will wonder why people ever disobeyed the law. I learned that a person who was found to have committed theft would have the letter “T” branded onto their hand.  And that was one of the lesser punishments!

The Capitol

The Capitol is a good stop if you want to learn about the government in colonial Virginia. See:

The Capitol
Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

Governor’s Palace 

The Governor's Palace ( is fabulous, but I most loved the magnificent tree in the garden behind the palace.

The Brickmakers

I had no idea how bricks were made until I stopped at the brickmakers exhibit. See:

Chowning’s Tavern 

I just adore taverns. It must be the English in me. We enjoyed lunch to the tunes of a mandolin. See:

The Magazine 

If you love guns and swords, then you have to visit the Magazine ( I have never seen so much ammunition.

Colonial Williamsburg is a top-notch vacation spot for adults and children. The grounds are clean with beautiful gardens and architecture. The employees are well-educated and professional.  Summer is almost here, so put Williamsburg on your list of places to see. Also, be sure to check out the Colonial Williamsburg Digital Library (

Friday, May 9, 2014


ne of the ways that genealogists and family historians can earn money is by speaking at conferences. This past week there have been dozens of excellent speakers at the National Genealogical Society’s Conference in Richmond, Virginia. Some have been speaking at conferences for years and others are new to the role.

I recently gave a PowerPoint presentation on blogging at the Waterford Genealogical Society’s Annual Lock-in event in Waterford, Michigan ( It was a new experience, but I enjoyed the challenge.  Let’s face it, many family historians like to hang out in libraries and stay out of the limelight. See, for example, the recent “Upfront with NGS” post entitled “Genealogy conferences and the introvert…” (

A great deal of work goes into a presentation. If you do a PowerPoint presentation, you will spend many hours drafting and decorating your slides, contemplating how many to use, deciding on a color scheme, etc. You will fret over possible technical issues that undoubtedly occur—Internet outages, projector issues and more.  You also need to be sure that you have the right technical paraphernalia so that your laptop connects properly to the equipment at your conference location.

And then there is the handout. Attendees want a useful handout—I know I do. Here again, you have the question of what to include, how many pages to write and how many photocopies to make.

And, of course, there is the presentation itself. Practice is the key. Bless my poor husband for listening three times as I rehearsed the genealogy blog talk on him.

Are you a family historian contemplating a speaking engagement? Are you a genealogist who needs some brushing up on your speaking skills? I want to recommend that you join Toastmasters International (, a club that helps people improve their speaking and leadership skills. There are Toastmasters clubs all around the world. In my area there are over ten clubs within an easy drive.  The cost to join is very low, and you will be so glad you made the leap. There are classes during the day and at night so anyone can fit them into their schedule. You will make friends and gain confidence.

The Toastmasters' website offers many informative resources for free. See:

Past Issues of the Toastmaster Magazine

Toastmaster Video Resources

The Toastmasters Podcast

If you want to find a club in your area, here is a link:
We all love tracking down our ancestors, but it is important to be able to communicate your learning to others.  Public speaking is a skill set that will broaden your experience and maybe even put a little money in your pocket—perhaps enough to pay for some of those expensive database subscriptions. Frequently, you may also want to donate your speaking time for the good of the cause. If you join a Toastmasters, please let me know. Good luck!


Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "1200 Ornamental Letters," 2007.

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

Saturday, May 3, 2014


If you have not visited Old Fulton New York Post Cards (, a database of historical newspapers scanned by Tom Tryniski, you are missing one of the best resources out there for genealogical research. The newspapers are mostly from New York State, but you will also find newspapers from other states. I have compiled a list of 20 reasons I love this site, but there are many more.

1. It is free. There is no cost to use Old Fulton New York Postcards.

2. Helps people with New York ancestors. People with New York ancestors know that New York poses a special challenge to finding information. is one of the most useful resources for discovering information on your New York ancestors.

3. History and Genealogy. If you type “History and Genealogy” into the search box at and choose the exact phrase, you will get over 500 documents containing information on numerous surnames, genealogical sources and local history.

4. Treasure ChestIf you click “View Fulton Historical Photos” on the bottom of the home page, you will find a page full of links to church records, New York census records, military records, business histories, cemetery records, photo albums, maps, postcards, probate records, high school yearbooks and more.

5. O’Hearn’s Histories. If you type “O’Hearn’s Histories” into the search box at and choose the exact phrase, you will get over 700 documents containing historical and genealogical information.

6. Other States. also has historical newspapers from other states. For example, if you type “Philadelphia PA Inquirer” into the search box and choose exact phrase, you will get over 5,000 documents. You can narrow these hits by using a Boolean search such as “Philadelphia PA Inquirer” w/25 [your surname].

7. Pioneers. If you type the name of the county or town you are interested in along with the word “pioneer,” you will probably get a number of newspaper articles that discuss the early pioneers in that area. This can be very useful information because, as you know, the censuses prior to 1850 only gave you the names of the head of household. I ran a search for “Brookfield Pioneer” and found a fascinating article entitled “Capt. Daniel Brown’s 60 Feet of Daughters.” This article stated that Capt. Daniel Brown, a Quaker, came from Stonington, Connecticut, and was the first settler in Brookfield in 1791. It then goes on to list his different wives and children. (1) Since I have Brown ancestors from Stonington and Brookfield, this information will give me clues to further research.

8. Family Reunions. Historic newspapers would often run articles about family reunions. Simply search for your surname and the word “reunion.” If you choose “exact phrase,” you will get more relevant hits. See “More Fun with Fulton: Reunions”

9. Missing people. Newspapers often ran articles about people who disappeared or left home unexpectedly. See “The Joy of Newspaper Research: Frederick Scripture is Missing”

10. Death Notices and obituaries. When someone died, there was often at least a small blurb in the local newspaper. Wealthier or more famous individuals often had their memory recorded with a lengthy obituary. See “Fun With Fulton” ( ) and “Death Roll and the Joy of Newspapers: Albert Parks”

11. Life activities, such as church and social activities (weddings, showers, etc.). By reading about your ancestor’s daily life memorialized in newspapers, you can reconstruct a life. See “The Sad Fate of Rena Grace Edwards”

12. Occupational information. Historic newspapers carry articles about the occupations of your ancestors. See “Ancestral Occupations: Dog Warden”

13. Old people. Newspapers loved to feature articles about people who defied the odds and lived to be 100 or close to it. See “Centenarians in the Tree: Dewey Miller”

14. Fraternal societies and sororities. You can learn a lot about an ancestor by their club memberships. Newspapers ran articles about members and their activities. See “Order of American True Ivorities: Isabel Williams Hamlin”

15. Famous Individuals. Newspapers love to run articles about famous or controversial people. See “Prudence Crandall”

16. Violent or tragic deaths. There is nothing like a grisly or sad passing to bring out reporters. See “Richard Williams and the Erie Canal” ( ) and “The Welsh Saga Continues” .

17. Track a business. Newspapers often featured articles about local businesses. My grand aunt, Isabel Williams Hamlin, owned a hobby shop in Utica, New York. I have found dozens of ads and articles about her business.

18. Epidemics. There are thousands of articles about cholera, tuberculosis, diphtheria and other epidemics. You might just figure out why you lost a number of ancestors the same year.

19. War veterans. Many of our ancestors fought in wars. Newspapers ran articles about them, especially on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. DAR members also honored our nation’s veterans, and newspapers recorded their activities.

20. The site is whimsical and funny. You have to love the swimming fish that sticks its tongue out on the home page of Old Fulton New York Post Cards.

Thank you, Tom Tryniski, for all your hard work!


Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "Full-Color Men and Women Illustrations," 2001.

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

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "Advertising Cuts of the 20s and 30s," 2003.

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "1268 Old-Time Cuts and Ornaments," 2006.


(1) “Capt. Daniel Brown’s 60 Feet of Daughters,” The Courier,” Brookfield, New York, February 15, 1928, Byte size 602735, Tom Tryniski’s Old Fulton NY Post Cards ( accessed 1 May 2014).