The Library of Congress has made available 25,000 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. These historical maps are valuable to genealogists, as they provide details on the structure and use of city buildings.
These maps will be rolled out gradually state by state, with all states becoming available (1860-1960s) by 2020. Read more about the gradual unveiling in the LOC blog here.
Details about the Sanborn Map Collection can be found here. Pay attention to the keys and colors used in the maps. They describe the buildings in detail.
Spring is in the air! Now we're rounding the corner and heading for summer. What sorts of genealogy adventures can you find. Here's a list of events happening in Houston in the coming weeks:
May 20, 10-11am
Computer Class: Genealogy Online
George Memorial Library in Richmond: an introduction to some of the free online resources that are available to the genealogical researcher.
May 20, 2-4pm
Clayton Library Orientation
This monthly orientation covers research basics and how to get started with your family tree using the library's vast resources.
Texas Institute of Genealogical Research
Not in Houston, but a good opportunity for in-depth genealogy education.
May 27, 10:30am-12pm
Fáilte (Welcome) – to your Irish ancestry!
Part of the Clayton Library Lecture Series
June 3, 12-2pm
Hispanic Genealogical Society of Houston Day
Members of the Hispanic Genealogical Society of Houston will be on hand at the Clayton Library to assist you with your research.
Have a genealogy event you want publicized? Contact us at RaincrossInfoServices@gmail.com.
I'll admit it: I get attached to my clients' ancestors.
Miriam is one of those ancestors. I've been working on a particular client project for several years. She is part of that project and the extensive family tree I've studied for so long.
Miriam was a genealogist back in the day. I'm not sure when she started researching her family's history, but I've seen notes and charts in her handwriting that date back to the 1930s.
Flash forward so many decades later and those papers are now in my hands. They are being scanned and uploaded for availability online. Each ancestor she mentioned is carefully labeled and tagged, so they can be searched online as well.
Miriam took so much care in documenting her family's history that I want to ensure that her research lives on.
Sometimes the tagging and labeling is tedious, but it's part of the job. Miriam's notes remind me of my commitment to assist clients in keeping their ancestors memories alive for future generations. Miriam died before I was born, but through her stacks and stacks of notes she's become like a friend to me. I'm honored to finish what she started.
(Names/approximate dates changed for confidentiality.)
Spring is in the air, and upcoming Houston genealogy events are sprouting up all over the place. Should you be fortunate enough to be in the Bayou City in the coming weeks, check out these great learning opportunities:
April 15, 2017 - Clayton Library Orientation 2-4pm
This is a monthly event that is part library tour/part resource tour/part getting started in genealogy. It's the best way to hit the ground running when you begin to climb your family tree. And, it's free!
April 22, 2017 - DAR Day at the Clayton Library 10:30am-4:30pm
Ever wonder how to join the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR)? Representatives from local DAR chapters will be at Clayton Library for consultation and research help in preparing lineage papers for submission to the DAR. No reservations required.
April 22, 2017 - Clayton Library Lecture Series 10:30am-12:00pm
Using Historical Online Map Sites to Enhance Your Family History Research
Maps are an excellent resource for researching our ancestors’ movements. In addition to tracking movements, maps can add context to the economic, geographic, and political environment in which they lived. Staff member Franklin Smith will discuss the best free online map sites, those available at Clayton, and how maps can enhance your research experience. Reservations required, please call 832-393-2600.
April 29, 2017 - George Memorial Library Using FamilySearch and Self Publishing 9:00am-12:00pm
Using FamilySearch.org More Effectively FamilySearch.org has billions of names in the family tree and millions of records for genealogical research. This class discusses how to use this collaborative tree more effectively using indexed and unindexed records and leaving a trail of your research decisions along the way.
Self Publishing Your Family History The best way to preserve family history is to publish a book. Once you have your manuscript finished, how do you prepare it for publication and what services should you use? This class walks you through the process so you can have your family history in your hands efficiently and affordably.
May 6, 2017 - Hispanic Genealogical Society of Houston Day 12:00pm-2:00pm
Need help finding your Hispanic family roots? Members of the Hispanic Genealogical Society of Houston will be available for consultation and research help to guide you on the path to finding those roots. No reservations required.
Folks, I’m here to tell you that if you’re interested in giving your family genealogy-themed gifts in December 2017, it’s time to start your holiday shopping. Do you want to give your parents glorious copies of their family trees? Create a book? Share with relatives maps with the locations of their ancestors’ homelands? Then start making purchasing plans now.
“But the season is still nine months away!” I know, but good—and accurate—family history research takes time.
Each November, Raincross Information Services receives several requests for research with the clients’ intent to present said findings to families at holiday gatherings.
Each November, I have to reluctantly decline all these requests. Why? Because family history research has its own timeline and can’t be guaranteed in 2-4 weeks.
It’s not all online.
Genealogy has hit a boom, and the many television commercials we see make it appear that certain websites have all the records and thus all the answers. That’s not the case. These websites are helpful tools but they don’t hold all historical records in their collections. Often the records I need to help build your family tree are offline, sitting in books on shelves in small county courthouses. It takes time to locate the records, make requests for them or the microfilms that have what is needed.
No two genealogy issues are the same.
Just as each individual is unique, so is each family tree. No two genealogical research situations are the same. This is why it is impossible to guarantee your November request for a full family tree will be met in a few short weeks.
Accuracy takes time.
It’s very tempting to pull all your family history information from someone else’s online family tree but don’t do it. What if it is wrong? Do you want your own family history to be incorrect? Or your fancy wall charts to contain people who aren’t even your ancestors?
Genealogical questions are answered with records. It takes time to get those records. Sometimes those records bring more questions, which leads to requesting and waiting for more records.
If you want to do our own genealogy research or have someone do it for you, I suggest you start now. If you want to try your hand at it, but get stuck, as me for help. I’m happy to point you in the right direction. Whatever your choice, have patience and allow plenty of time.
Family history is the best present you can give. It connects loved ones and brings senses of purpose and understanding. I hope you’ll consider giving the gift of genealogy this year. Besides, giving family history as a present now means you don’t have to deal with unruly crowds and malls after Thanksgiving.
This week, I had the pleasure of visiting the Carnegie History Center, housed in the former Carnegie Public Library building. If you're unfamiliar with Carnegie Libraries, read all about them here.
The library holds a lot of unique records reflecting the history of the area. I was there to look at some of those records on behalf of a client. Here are my tips and impressions if a genealogy visit to Bryan is in your future.
Parking was free along Main Street in front of the library, but all signs pointed to a 90-minute limit. I drove around to the back of the library and found a free parking spot with no limit.
The staff was very friendly and helpful toward me, so expect the same on your visit. Many archives request visitors store their belongings in lockers, but the Carnegie History Center does not have them, nor do they require that you stow your belongings. They did ask that I only use pencils (no pens), but even lent me one to borrow.
The library has copy machines, but I just took photos of the records using my camera. I don't know if their microfilm machine takes flash drives, so call ahead if that's part of your research plan.
Let's talk food. Are there places to eat around there? This is my first question when I go to a new repository because I'll likely be there all day and will need some sort of lunch. The Carnegie History Center is right in the middle of historic downtown, with restaurants in walking distance.
The architecture of the building is so stunning, that it was a bit of a distraction for me. I needed to work quickly to finish everything in one day, but I often found myself staring at the tin ceiling above me:
If you visit the Carnegie History Center, make some time to view the entire building, and ask for a quick tour if possible.
Carnegie History Center
111 S. Main St.
Bryan, Texas 77803
Learn how to use the online genealogy resource, Ancestry.com, on Wednesday, March 22, beginning at 10:30 am, in Meeting Room 2 at Fort Bend County Libraries' University Branch Library, 14010 University Blvd in Sugar Land, on the UH campus.
Daniel Sample, manager of FBCL's Genealogy and Local History department, will provide an introduction to the family-history-research resources that are available on the Ancestry.com genealogy database, which can be accessed for free through the library's website. Learn how to get results tracing family history by using this helpful online resource. Tips and strategies for a more efficient search will be demonstrated.
The class is free and open to the public. For more information, call the University Branch Library at 281-633-5100 or the library system's Public Information Office at 281-633-4734.
Time: 10:30AM - 2:30PM
Age Group: adults, teens ages 13-18 years
Join us for guest speaker Kelvin Meyers, forensic genealogist and author. After being employed for ten years in the Genealogy Department of the Dallas Public Library, Mr. Meyers now has a solo practice as a forensic genealogist serving clients that include probate attorneys, trust department of banks, the U.S. Immigration Service, and energy companies. Reservations required, please call 832-393-2600.
Who Cares Who Their Neighbors Were? You Do! That’s Who! | 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM
Your ancestors did not live solitary lives. They lived, loved, hated, sued, and died all within a particular group of people. Examining this cluster of people may be the only way to get to your ancestors and the questions concerning them.
The Hand that Rocked the Cradle Could Rule the World | 11:45 AM – 12:45 PM
Half of the people on your pedigree chart are female, and may be the most difficult to identify. With a basic knowledge of sources created about and by women, and how to locate these sources, finding the females in your family may not be so hard after all.
Brown Bag Lunch Break | 12:45 PM – 1:30 PM
Probate: More Than a Will | 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM
Most persons in the U.S. who lived to adulthood left some type of an estate to be administered. The records of probate can be some of the most fruitful records for genealogists. Wills, distributions, administrations, and inventories are all vital parts of the probate process and full of genealogical information.
If you could travel back in time and ask one question to one ancestor, whom would you choose and what would you ask?
I answered this question during RoostTech, on video for a colleague's web series. I have lots of questions for lots of ancestors, but I chose a particular person for a particular research problem I've had for years.
My great-great grandmother, Marie Magdalena "Molly" Schmitz (or Schmidt depending on the record), born September 2, 1865, was a bit of a mystery. I was able to track her from her 1947 death back to her first marriage in the 1880's, but then I was stuck. I didn't know who her parents were. The documents I had for her listed four separate birth places: London, Belgium, Prussia, and Alsace-Lorraine. Plus, she was a Schmitz in the Chicago/Milwaukee area in the 1880s, along with a gazillion others with the same name.
Molly was widowed in 1896 after a few years of marriage. With a small child in tow (my great-grandmother), Molly left Milwaukee for Las Vegas, New Mexico. Now, I've been to Las Vegas, New Mexico and I can tell you it's nothing like the Las Vegas everyone else knows. This Las Vegas is small and dry. In 1896, it would have been the same.
Why did she go to New Mexico? She had to have known someone there. A lady doesn't just pick up and move to the middle of nowhere. I studied the other folks in Las Vegas and tried to find a connection, a common surname, ANYTHING, but nothing stuck out. I gave up and moved on to something else, then something else, until the issue faded.
Fast forward to this week, where I was asked to answer by brick-wall question on camera. I told the same story you're reading here, with the challenges of working with Schmitz/Schmidt and no solid birthplace evidence.
Just discussing the issue again piqued my curiosity. I decided to visit my Schmitz/Schmidt problem briefly with a fresh set of eyes. Molly's death certificate said her father was Joseph Schmitz/Schmidt and her mother was "Reichsdorfe." These were the only possible clues I had regarding the identity of her parents.
I started digging for people named Joseph Schmitz/Schmidt in the Illinois/Wisconsin area in the 1880's since that was where my Molly trail ended. I found one record that seemed promising for Joseph and Elizabeth Schmitz and family in Dublin, Indiana.
1880; Census Place: Dublin, Wayne, Indiana; Roll: 322; Family History Film: 1254322; Page: 136C; Enumeration District: 062; Image: 0035
I zeroed in on Amelia. Molly had a record or two where that name was referenced. This Amelia was the correct age. Was this my great-great grandmother and her family?
I was supposed to be covering events at a genealogy conference, yet here I was in the corner of the media section, sneaking in a little personal research. This problem has plagued me for years and now the genealogy spirits were teasing me.
I poked around the records and online information for this Joseph and Elizabeth. Someone online had uploaded an old newspaper clipping about their 50th wedding anniversary in the early 1900's. The article listed their adult children including a daughter named "Mary Hayworth" in New Mexico. Sure sounded a lot like my Marie Hayward (her second marriage) who was there at the same time.
More poking around led me to discover a death record for Elizabeth Schmitz. Her maiden name was Reisdorf. Sure sounded a lot like the maternal "Reichsdorfe" reference on Molly's death certificate.
The similarities were strong, but I didn't have the one holy grail of a record that would tell me for sure if these were Molly's parents, my great-great-great grandparents.
I kept stealthily searching online, trying to make it look like I was conference-focused even when I wasn't. This 1880 census above listed Amelia and Victoria's birthplace as "Aachen."
I decided to search the FamilySearch database Deutschland Geburten und Taufen, 1558-1898 (Germany Births and Baptisms) for people born in Aachen with the surname Schmitz. This was the first result:
"Deutschland Geburten und Taufen, 1558-1898," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NNTY-KW5 : 28 November 2014), Amalia Schmitz, 23 Jun 1803; citing ; FHL microfilm 176,245.
It was my Molly, born on September 2, 1865 to my new-to-me great-great-great grandparents.
My Molly mystery was solved less than 24 hours after I said she was who I'd travel back in time to see. Coincidence? I think not. Our ancestors want to be found. Go out and discover them.
I had the opportunity to tour the RootsTech exhibit hall a few hours before the official opening. I like doing this each year so I can get good photos before the crowds descend. Below are some of those photos. You'll notice the convention center crew was still setting up, so don't mind the mess.
This photo was taken at 7:15 a.m. It is the line of people waiting to get in to the General Session that started at 8:30 a.m. I've never seen such a crowd so early. I'm guessing the Property Brothers as keynote speakers had something to do with it.
This is the main entrance. There's a RootsTech logo in the carpet under that white square.
This portion of the exhibit hall is referred to as Innovators Alley.
MyHeritage is really plugging their new DNA testing service. They also have a dedicated seating area for presentations. Several larger exhibitors has similar meeting areas.
Another example of a vendor seating area.
This is the Demo Theater. Vendors give 20-minute presentations on their products. It's RootsTech Lite. I enjoy this format because I can learn about several new items in a short amount of time.
Yep. Those are phone booths and you really can call your relatives. There's a real push to record family stories, so this is one easy way to do it.
New at RootsTech this year is "Heirloom Show and Tell." Experts are on hand to assist you in determining an heirloom's value and other information.
That's it for my report from the exhibit hall. After the tour, it was on to the general session to kick off RootsTech 2017.
Amy Lenertz, MLIS is the founder of Raincross Information Services.