Sunday, February 23, 2014

Plotting Migration & Immigration Routes

Table 1 Family Migration of Walls Family (father, son, grandson), 1748-1880

Levi Walls, Sr. 1748-1827
About 1748-1795
Unknown location, Delaware
About 1795-1809
Morgantown, Monongalia County, Virginia (present-day West Virginia)
Mifflin Twp., Ross County, Ohio
Sunfish Twp., Pike County, Ohio (possibly no physical move, only new county of Pike formed in 1815 from Ross County)
About 1820-1827
Brush Creek Twp., Scioto County, Ohio
Levi Walls, Jr. 1778-1863
About 1778-1795
Unknown location, Delaware
About 1795-1809
Morgantown, Monongalia County, Virginia (present-day West Virginia)
About 1809-1815
Mifflin Twp., Ross County, Ohio
Sunfish Twp., Pike  County, Ohio (possibly no physical move, only new county of Pike formed in 1815 from Ross County)
Pebble Twp., Pike County, Ohio (possibly no physical move, only new township of Pebble formed in 1821 from Sunfish Twp.)
Elias Walls 1811-1880
Mifflin Twp., Ross County, Ohio
Sunfish Twp., Pike  County, Ohio (possibly no physical move, only new county of Pike formed in 1815 from Ross County)
1821-about 1880
Pebble Twp., Pike County, Ohio (possibly no physical move, only new township of Pebble formed in 1821 from Sunfish Twp.)

Sometimes you just have to plot it out.  I have started using a chart similar to the one above to plot out the whereabouts of my targeted ancestors.  This places them along a "route" and allows me the opportunity to guess where they may be during times they go "missing".
             When a chart is completed with whatever information you are able to find, you can begin to fill in the missing pieces by answering questions like:  What might have caused the family to decide to leave?  Were there new lands opening up somewhere?  Was there a mass migration for religious purposes?  If the family did leave, how might they have gotten to their new location?  What routes were popular for travel at that time?
                Using the chart above, I could speculate that the family started out in an unknown location in Delaware.  They probably took portions of the Braddock Road and what we would call the National Road today.  The National Road was built starting in 1811 and our family had already completed their move into Monongalia County, Virginia by then.  Perhaps it was not much of a road at that time and travel was difficult and slow.  The Levi Walls, Sr. family would have also been traveling with several children.
                Once in Monongalia County, Virginia, they settled for about 14 years.  It was here that Levi Walls Jr. married his step sister, Susan Harmarson.[1] 
                When the decision to move to the Ohio Valley was made, they most likely enjoyed the new Zane’s Trace which was widened and cleared for wagon travel in 1803.  They would have made their way south into Chillicothe and then on into Mifflin Township in Ross County sometime around 1810.[2]  What was the reason for their move to Ohio?  Viewing other records led to finding another relative had moved into the area a year or so before.  Perhaps he had encouraged them to come to Ohio.
   Elias Walls (son of Levi Jr.) was born in presumably Ross County, Ohio in about 1811.[3]
   It is unclear if their physical location changed.  Pike County was formed in 1815 and both Levi Sr. and Levi Jr. are found in the tax list for Pike County in 1816.[4]
                About 1820, Levi Sr. moved down the creek into Scioto County.[5]  He lived here the remainder of his life.  About that same time, there was another boundary change and in 1821 Pebble Township of Pike County was formed.  It is possible that Levi Jr. and his family did not move, but rather the boundary changed and they were then found in the Pebble Township records instead of Sunfish Township.
                Levi Jr. and son Elias Walls lived the remainder of their lives in Pebble Township, Pike County, Ohio.
                On a visit to the Garnet A. Wilson Public Library at Waverly, Ohio in Pike County, I was fortunate to find a newspaper article in which a re-run of a column in the February 20th, 1874 issue of the Pike County Republican was on hand.  This article was an interview of my forth great- grandmother, Susan Harmarson Walls (spelled “Wall” in the article).  In it, she tells of her history and the history of the Walls family moving from Delaware to Ohio.  She literally tells the migration route of her family...what a find!
                Her story matched the records I had found.  She might have been “off” a bit in her years according to census records and tax lists, but for the most part, she was right on.
                By using Susan's interview and learning the history of American Migration in the time frame of these people, I was able to piece together their likely route and could envision some of their difficulties in the trek.
                This same technique can be used to trace an immigration route.  This is another example of creating a timeline.

                  Further research could find information on why the family left Hungary at this time and settled first in Loraine, Ohio.  Why did they decide to leave and go to Virginia?  If there was a question as to where Joseph's children were born, we could view this chart to determine the family's likely location at the time of the child's birth.
                  You never know what you might see when you take a different approach at family history.  I encourage you to try new ways and new techniques and see what new things you learn about your family!

[1] “Leeth Creek Lady Subject of Interview”, (Ohio) Waverly News, 4 July 1973, newspaper clipping in Walls Family Scrapbook, Garnet A. Wilson Public Library, Waverly, Ohio.
[2] Esther Weygandt Powell, “Early Ohio Tax Records:  Reprinted with “The Index to Early Ohio Tax Records,” (Clearfield; Revised edition June 1, 2009), page 351; digital images, Google Books, (  accessed 8 Nov 2012).
[3] 1850 US Federal Census, Pebble Twp., Pike Co., Ohio, population schedule, page 951 (penned), page 375 (stamped), dwelling 1604, family 1604, Elias Walls; digital images,, (  accessed 24 May 2011); from NARA microfilm publication M432_721.
[4] Esther Weygandt Powell, “Early Ohio Tax Records:  Reprinted with “The Index to Early Ohio Tax Records,” (Clearfield; Revised edition June 1, 2009), page 307; digital images, Google Books, (  accessed 8 Nov 2012).
[5] 1820 US Federal Census, Brush Creek, Scioto, Ohio, population schedule, page 131A, Levi Walls; digital images online, (  accessed 30 Oct 2012); from NARA roll M33_95.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

It Happened in the Most Unusual Place

             Look closely at the picture above.  Some time ago, I was researching for a friend of mine in the area.   I was able to find this picture of her great-great grandparents.  It was found in the "Funderburg book" at the Piqua Library (Piqua, Miami, Ohio).[1]  I was very familiar with the book because I am a descendant of the Funderburg family too and my family pages were in the same chapter!
            But, the story becomes even more interesting!  One day, my mother and I were visiting downtown Piqua and went into several of the little antique shops along Main Street.  They all had wonderful collections of old photographs.  As I viewed these old photos I would wonder what their story was.  I thought, ‘How on earth did you end up in a shop being sold and not passed down through generations of family?’  But not everyone is as interested in family history as I am!
            I spotted an old album filled with pictures.  I scanned through each of the pictures and low and behold, I found this:

a picture card of the original of the photo I found in the Funderburg book!  I was near tears.  I just couldn't believe my luck!!  What were the chances? 
            Yes, I bought the little photo and presented it to my friend so that she could have this photo of her great-great grandparents...for $5, I might add!
            After purchasing the card, I asked the owner of the shop how likely it was to find a picture that you recognized.  To my surprise, he said it was not at all unusual.  His explanation was this:  When a photographer of the past finished his "photo session", he would file these original prints away in his case. At the time of the photographers death, the family took ownership of possibly thousands of pictures. Now sometimes, a child would hold on to them and pass them down to yet another generation. Over time, the pictures became collectible and the descendants decide to try to sell them or donate them to a society or library.  The individual might bring these cases of photos to a flea market or antique shop and sell them on consignment.  You all know how it works in many of our little towns across the country...people don't move away.  So your ancestors and the photographer were probably living in the same vicinity.  Perhaps the photographers descendants have not moved far away either and so the pictures end up somewhere local.  Checking flea markets and shops in your ancestors locale may lead you to an awesome find.
              The only problem with this?  What if you don't know what your relative looked like!?  Well, that IS a problem.  Few cards have names, however, if you have seen photos of your loved ones in books or at Great Aunt Susie's house, perhaps you may recognize them.
            I have been fortunate enough to find photos of loved ones in a variety of ways.  Other successful methods have been to contact the local historical museum(s) in the area of the targeted ancestor.  I was able to find three pictures of family members at the Bureau County Historical Society in Princeton, Illinois.  They have a photography collection that is indexed.  By writing to the society with surnames you are interested in, they will search the collection and send you a description of photos they have with that surname.  You can then order a reprint.
            Another suggestion:  follow the genealogy trail to present day relatives.  Here’s a hint…follow the oldest daughter...she usually gets the good stuff!
            I wondered who would have pictures of my great-great grandfather that I had seen in a book.  I wanted to get a better copy and see if there were others.  The author of the book made mention of who owned the photographs at the time of publication (as all good authors will!).  I used this name and tried to locate the individual on the internet.  She had died, but in her obituary two living children were listed.  I found her daughter and contacted her.  She did not have any photos, but her brother did.  Her mother had been living with him at the time of her death and everything was at his home in Kansas!  She put me in contact with him.  He didn't have the picture I was looking for, but he had something better, a picture of my great grandfather as a young man.  No one in my family had ever seen it!  We were delighted!
My Great grandfather as a young man.  George H. Bowser ca. 1890's

             What pictures will you be on the lookout for? Spring is right around the corner (I hope!), so here's to visiting old shops and using creative methods of tracking down photos of your ancestors!

Do you have family records written in another language? Here's how to get them translated!

[1] Funderburg, Alvin K., “Descendants of Jacob and Eve (Boone) Funderburg”, published 1978, page 202

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

You Write With an Accent!

This is a special post to a few of my friends.  Not long ago, I happened to be at an event where we were reading off ancestors names.  These names were from all over the world and some were VERY hard to pronounce.  Afterwards, I said to another observer, "Wow.  Those were some tough names.  It reminded me of my husband; who when given any name or word he is not familiar with, says it with a Filipino accent."  The other observer says, "I do the same thing.  Only I use a Spanish accent!".

You see, Tagalog (a Filipino dialect) and Spanish are the languages the two men know best besides English, so everything foreign has that accent.

It reminded me of a genealogy problem I had years ago.  I had run into brick wall.  I couldn't find the records I needed.  I reviewed all my notes on how to overcome challenges.  "Know your location" one hint suggested.  That's it!  This particular locale had a heavy southern accent.  For instance, my Great Grandfather was named George Washington, however they called him "Wash" for short.  But they didn't pronounce it "Wash"; it sounded more like "Warsh".  I knew that in most cases, he would have gone by the name of "Wash", not "George" and probably never by "George Washington".  I needed to look for both "Wash" and "George" to find him.

At the same time, the surname I was looking for was "Cole".  We Yankees would pronounce that like a piece of "coal".  So, I called up my mother and said, "Mom, if someone were to have asked your name when you were a kid, how would it have sounded.  Say it just like you would have with your accent".  And she pronounced it "co"... like in the word "codependent" or "co-op".  I wondered how a person who might not be familiar with the accent might spell that.  "Coe", I thought?  I typed that spelling into the search engine and wa-la!

If it is occasionally difficult to understand our southern neighbors, how much more difficult would it be to understand the many immigrants of the past!  So when you run into a problem, try saying it with an accent!

Not only do accents give us problems, but handwriting can also be a challenge.  Have you ever seen something like this:

The two names highlighted are NOT "Hanis, Nalken" and "Natson, Jeneve", but it looks like it could be.  If it can look that way, then it could be indexed that way.  The names are actually "Harris, Walker" and "Watson, SOME-MALE-NAME-THAT-STARTS-WITH-J".  (I can't make it out, but I am fairly certain it isn't "Jeneve"!)

When you can't find your targeted ancestor, think about how the name might look if written in a sloppy, slanted, whirl-y type way!  I have been successful by writing the name on a piece of paper Then observing it carefully to see how it might be seen by an indexer who is not familiar with the name.  Or better yet, have a young person (age 12-16) come take a look and ask them to translate it.  When I did this with the name "Richey", I got "Rickey" and "Pickey".  I tried "Parker" and it looked like it was "Porku".

Lastly, know your community and the people who lived there.  By reading the history of a location, you will become familiar with the surnames.  Like in this instance:

Silas, highlighted in pink, was indexed as "Silas Creck" and as "Silas Cruch", but because I am familiar with this locale, I know that a large family by the name of "Creech" lived in this area for over a hundred years!

Hopefully you can look through your brick wall cases and find one of these techniques help you to finally break through it!  Good luck!!  PS...don't forget about the Family History Jamboree in Centerville, Ohio this weekend!!  See you there!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Translating Letters From Hungary

Did you know that it is a fairly common practice among the Mormon faith to send out their young men and women at the age of 18 and 19 respectively, to serve a full time mission?  Yep.  And did you know that those missionaries are sent all over the world?  In fact, in my own family we have a French speaker, a Tagalog (a Filipino dialect) speaker, a Japanese speaker and three Spanish speakers!!
So what does this have to do with “Translating Letters From Hungary” you ask??
About a year ago, my cousin contacted me to do some genealogy work for her father’s Hungarian line.  At that time, she knew only that her father’s parents were Joe and Lillie (Eldridge) Nimety of Lee County, Virginia.  She had been told that Joe had had a family before marring Lillie and that there were other children.  She hoped to connect with these children and introduce her father to his half siblings. 
We started in the censuses and were fortunate to find Joe and Lillie listed in 1930 living in Lee County, VA.  On that census, Joe is listed as having arrived in America in 1903 and was naturalized.  From there, we went to to the database entitled “US Naturalization Records – Original Documents, 1795-1972” to see if we could find his naturalization papers.  Sure enough, Joe had first filed a Declaration of Intention on 18 Dec 1920 and listed his first wife’s name!  What a find!  On this Declaration of Intention, we found other important information.  Joe listed his birthdate as 21 Sept 1886 and his birthplace as Kormend, Hungary.  He also stated that his wife, Mary Super, was born in Kormend, Hungary.
The next set of paperwork we located was the Petition for Naturalization dated 1 Nov 1927.  This time Joe listed his wife as Lillie Eldridge.  Uh oh…what happened to Mary!   Well, according to family tradition, Mary and Joe had divorced and Mary had gone back with the children to Hungary.  Using this paperwork and the marriage record I found for Joe and Lillie, the divorce seems to have occurred sometime between the year 1920 when the Declaration of Intention was filed and 1923 when Joe married Lillie Eldridge.  But how could I find the children born to that first union?  I searched the 1920 census high and low and found nothing.  I searched birth records in Lee County, I searched death records in Lee County, I searched everywhere I could think of!!   And just as I was about to give in, my cousin called.  She had in her possession 2 letters written to Joe in the years 1946 and 1947.  Perhaps these letters held some much needed information, but they were written in Hungarian and who could we find to translate them here in the small town of Piqua, Ohio?
Off to Facebook (a wonderful social networking site that has been a wiz at finding treasure troves of genealogy information and connecting with long, lost cousins)!   I posted, “Attention all my Mormon returned missionaries!!  Does anyone speak Hungarian?”  Sure enough, in just a couple of days I had a response!  A friend-of- a- friend served his mission in Hungary and would be happy to translate them for us…for free!  I emailed the scanned letters and in no time, we had our translations.  Following are the letters.  I will let you judge for yourself if it was a real “find” or not!
So remember, even though you many not live in a big city, you can always find a translator among your friendly, neighborhood Mormon returned missionaries!!

Letter 1
8 Mar 1946
My dear father,
I give thanks to God that I am well now.  From the bottom of my heart I wish good health and lots of luck to you and to my stepmother and siblings.
I am happy to tell you that we have endured this difficult war with the exception of poor Liysa. God rest her ashes.  She was killed in a bombing.
Please don’t be upset that I haven’t written much but the winds of fate have again separated us from each other and I didn’t know your address.
I found my little sisters.  Thank God they are also well.  They have both married.  Vilma has a small family; one boy, one girl.  Iren has a little girl.  My little girl is five years old.  You have four beautiful granddaughters here in Hungary who all send kisses to their grandfather, who they may not see in this life.
Dad, I don’t want to beg because I understand your situation as well.  I know that it is difficult to provide food for a family even in America.  But I am finally able to search for work if there were any.  I am a [something similar to a central heating and or plumbing] contractor’s assistant.  Unfortunately, it is not possible to get along here in Hungary.  I don’t say this to complain.  To this point in my life I have not starved, even now with no work.  I ask just one thing of you; that you find my birth certificate and send it to me.  I believe you can find it in Mount Morris, Michigan as that’s where I was born.  I hope that will enable me to travel to America for work.  I would not be a burden on you for a single minute.  I am able to find my own place and work.  Thank God I am healthy and I wish the same for you, dear father.
Again, I ask just this one thing.  Find my file and send it to me.  And, if you are in excellent material standing, help me to collect the money to come there, God willing, I’ll make it to America and give back what you’ve given me.  If you cannot do without, even a few dollars would help.  The dollar is very valuable here.
Dear father, I must end my letter.  Lots of kisses to my whole family.  To you, to mom, to my siblings.
Jozsef Joska, Monci, my wife and Ersik, my little girl

Letter 2
25 Jun 1947
(Iren speaking)
Dear Dad, I hope this letter finds you in the best of health and strength.  I write these few lines with tear-filled eyes.  I, rather we, live in a world without mother and without father.  These rows don’t allow me to express the joy and happiness I feel at exchanging words with my dear dad, if only in letters.
Of course, I would be happier if we could see each other and speak with one another.  But I am so happy to be able to write to you.   After all, not even this was possible until now.  Dad, I would have written much sooner but, unfortunately, I did not know your address. My elder brother, Jozsi, finally sent it to me in mid-June.
I am your youngest daughter, Iren.  I have been married since 1940 and now have two children.  We have a 3.5 year old daughter and a 3.5 month old son.  Our daughter is named Irenka and our son is Imre.  We thank God they are healthy.  We had one son die who would now be 2 years old.
Dad, how is your health?  Write more about your life.  Are you alone or do you have someone?  I hope things are better for you there than they are for us here.  Besides our health we don’t have much to be happy about.
My husband, Jani, is a machinist with a few jobs going.  It is very difficult to be happy in our current situation.  He is overcome with bills that need to be paid.  We hope the situation will someday be better.
(Janos, husband of Iren, now speaking)
Dear Dad,
First off, I need to ask your forgiveness for calling you Dad so confidently despite our not being familiar with one another.  Getting to know each other gives me endless joy, even if it is only through letters.  We could do it better in person but that seems nearly impossible.  I’m happy to have this much.  I write these few lines in silent faith and with eager hopes that my father-in-law is in America and when this is over we will live in milk and butter.  But it feels good to be able to write these few sincere lines.
I have undertaken the role of a spouse in your lovely daughter’s life.  I express my complete satisfaction with her as a good wife and mother.  Charitable children come from charitable families and so I ask you to accept my sincere appreciation and respect.
We are going to prepare a family portrait and will send it in the next letter so that you can see your grandchildren as well.  I would also ask, if it is within your power, please obtain and send my wife’s birth certificate.  This isn’t urgent and please don’t postpone your next letter for it.  In case you need the information, Iren was born 24 Mar, 1920 in Virginia.  For now we bid farewell and send out kisses with love.  We await your reply.
Iren and Jani
Irenka sends kisses to her grandfather

Monday, February 3, 2014

Never Take Leave of Your "Census"

The more I study the information that can be gleaned from a census, the more I fall in love with them.  They are not perfect, but boy can they paint a picture of your ancestor’s life.
I think it is very important to understand some details about censuses, census takers, and the like.

The US federal censuses are taken every 10 years.  The United States started taking censuses for apportioning the number of federal representatives from each state for tax levy purposes in 1790, but, genealogy information was a by-product.[1]  I will focus on the population schedules, although, there are many types of censuses that you may have overlooked.  Agriculture, Industry/Manufacturing, Mortality, and Slave schedules are just a few.

Between 1790-1870, the duty of collecting census data fell to the U. S. Marshals.[2]  A marshal could appoint as many “assistants” as they needed to get the job done.  Before 1830, there were no printed schedules, so you may see some censuses that look like the columns are just written on paper…that’s because they were!  A census worker was not necessarily well educated or qualified.  Penmanship was not a prerequisite!

Wages were not an incentive to become a census worker.  It was hard work and long hours for not much pay.  In 1790, which was the highest pay rate, the worker was paid $1.00 per 50 people.  By 1920, the census worker was paid between $.01 and $.04 per person![3]  I am sure the census taker was not thinking that these records would be used for generations for the use of research; therefore, perhaps they did not worry about “little errors”.

In March of 1879, an act replaced the marshals with specially trained and hired census-takers to conduct the 1880 and subsequent censuses.

There was often confusion of jurisdictions.  An area was divided into districts and sometimes into sub-districts.  These boundaries were often poorly defined and a census worker may be unsure if a household lay in their jurisdiction or another.  This is one reason a family may be enumerated more than once.

Prior to 1880, as the enumeration of each sub district was completed, the enumerator was instructed to make two copies, which were “carefully compared to the original for accuracy”.[4]  That last part sends up a red flag to me!  We all know that hand copies may produce mistakes no matter how carefully it is compared for accuracy!

When you are viewing “an original” census record, it is difficult to tell if you are looking at the original or one of the two copies.  So you see; there were three records of any given census prior to 1880.  One set was filed with the County Clerk, one set went to the State and the third set went to the US Census Office.  You can tell which copy went to the Census Office because there will be tabulations directly on the schedule.

In 1880, the practice of making copies was ended and the originals went back to the Census Office.
Prior to 1850, typically only heads of households were listed by name.  There were no exact ages given, but rather a tally mark in a column which was dedicated to a span of ages.  In 1850, everyone in the household was listed by name, age, and place of birth.  In 1880, a person’s relationship to head of household was recorded and not only where the individual was born, but where their father and mother were born.

Ever notice that the 1890 census is not available?  It was destroyed.  The building it was located in was burned in a fire in 1921.  Less than 1% of the census survived.[5]  Over 6,160 names of persons survived in fragments covering 10 states and the District of Columbia.[6]  See for a list of the surviving records.

Naturalization information can be found on censuses for the years between 1900 and 1930.  The questions vary from census to census.  It is important to pay attention to what the question was.  You might notice some abbreviations.  NA – means naturalized, PA – first papers filed (Declaration of Intent), AL – Alien

The 1900 US Federal Census is my favorite.  Why?  It is the only census that lists the MONTH and YEAR of birth for every individual.  It is the only census that has this information.

The most recent census available to the public is the 1940 census.  It was made available in 2012. The 1950 census will not be available until the year 2022, 72 years after it was taken.  The 1940 census was unique in that it asked where the person was living 5 years earlier in 1935.  

Take some time to gather your "census" and use them to paint a picture of the life of your ancestor!

Goldie Cole and her children.  Pennington Gap, VA ca. 1953
PS...want to hear something kind of funny?  Pictured above is my grandma Goldie Cole and some of her children.  She once told me she hated "those census people" and sometimes she would hide the kids in the back room and tell them to "hush up".  Then, she would lie about how many kids she had, their names, and ages.  She didn't want the government knowing her "business".  Keep that in mind when you are looking over these census records.  The information is only as good as the person giving it and if the person wanted to lie, well...the census worker wouldn't have known!

[1] “Overview of the US Census”, internet article, (  accessed 3 Feb 2014); citing original article “Census Records” by Loretto Dennis Szucs & Matthew Wright in The Source:  A Guidebook to American Genealogy.
[2] “How Were Census Takers Instructed on How To Conduct The Census?”, internet article, United States Census Bureau (  accessed 3 Feb 2014).
[3] “Overview of the US Census”, internet article, (  accessed 3 Feb 2014); citing original article “Census Records” by Loretto Dennis Szucs & Matthew Wright in The Source:  A Guidebook to American Genealogy.
[4] ibid
[5] “United States Census 1890”, online article, FamilySearch (  accessed 3 Feb 2014).
[6] “The 1890 Census”, online article, National Archives ( accessed 3 Feb 2014).