Research Request: Harold Anderson’s Family

As a member of my local genealogy society, one of my favorite things to do is respond to requests for assistance in researching a family member in our area. Harold Anderson is not my family member, but was a fun project and demonstrates the wealth of information available on line.

Gary from Minnesota contacted WMGS and requested help finding his grandfather’s brother, Harold Anderson. Three brothers had come from Norway, two settled in Minnesota, but Harold ended up in Missoula, then disappeared. Gary had found an entry in a death index that matched Harold’s approximate age, and had a family photo labeled Harold and family (no names, date, or place). Gary had three elderly aunts who wondered if Harold’s two sons (their cousins) were still living, or if their children were. There was also family lore that Harold’s wife was part Native American.

Using the death date provided, I did find Harold Anderson on Find-A-Grave, at the Missoula Cemetery. The birth and death dates were legible in the photo. The birth date matched a WW1 draft card for Harold Anderson living at the Hamil Block in Great Falls, rancher in Chouteau County. His contact person was Theodor Anderson of Boyd, MN. I checked with Gary, and he confirmed that Theodor was one of the three brothers who came from Norway.

Since Harold was listed as a rancher, I checked the BLM General Land Office for homestead records. There was one match, on the Chouteau/Liberty county line. I let Gary know how to order the full homestead packet, if he chooses to do that.

I found Harold Anderson in Ancestry’s collection of city directories, first in Sand Coulee, then Great Falls, then in Missoula. He was a bartender, working and living at the Hammill Hotel in Great Falls, and then as proprietor of the Scandia, in Missoula at 118 West Front. When Gary shared this information with one of the aunts, she then remembered that Uncle Harold was, in fact, a bartender – extra confirmation that we were tracking the right person. He also ran a billiards establishment. His 1927 city directory entry refers to his occupation as “soft drinks” – after all, it was Prohibition.

Cascade County has a great collection of records at Not all are indexed. However, at the beginning of many sets of records are images of the indexes for that book. I did locate Harold’s naturalization and citizenship records. We discovered that Harold came from Norway to Quebec, then west on the railroad, before crossing into the USA in Michigan. Since he arrived in 1903, I didn’t need to look for him in the 1900 census, nor did I have to look through Ellis Island records. As much as I searched, however, I could not find his marriage record, nor records for the births of his sons.
I found Harold in the 1910 census, but not the 1920.

At Missoula Public Library, I located Harold’s death notice and obit. He was survived by sons Harold and Theodore – no ages listed, no wife listed. His brother Theodore came from Minnesota for the funeral. The newspaper vital statistics index also listed a divorce for a Harold and Julia Anderson. That news items named the sons – Harold and Theodore, so we could confirm that Julia was the wife of Harold Sr. The divorce was quick, apparently uncontested, and Harold got custody of the boys.

At the Missoula County Records Center, I was able to learn that there were two divorce cases (Julia vs Harold, and Harold vs Julia) as well as guardianship, and probate. The actual records were at the courthouse. I discovered that early in 1927, Julia filed for divorce, saying that Harold drank excessively and was verbally and physically violent. It appears that the case was dropped as there were no entries after Harold was served with the summons. Later in the year Harold sued Julia for divorce, saying that she stayed out late, and wouldn’t get up to cook their meals. The actual record did confirm the news item that the divorce was granted in less than a month, and Harold got custody. The divorce papers also said they were married by “oral agreement” which accounts for the lack of a marriage record.
The guardianship papers indicate that after Harold died, Julia was granted guardianship of the boys and their estate. She was also appointed administrator of her ex-husband’s estate. While there was no will, Harold did have a fair amount of property relating to his business, plus the grazing land (homestead) in Chouteau County.

Since Harold died in 1928, I expected to find the boys back with their mother, in 1930, or perhaps living with one of the uncles back in Minnesota. Instead, they were living with a couple in Butte, listed as step-sons. The woman wasn’t Julia, and the man was never married to Julia. Best guess is that they were friends of Julia who were caring for the boys at the time of the census. Since the boys were in Butte, I looked for Julia Anderson there, and found a Julia Anderson who married John Holm in 1929 in Butte. The marriage record identified her parents as Dan Hart and Delamar Richard.
I found Julia Holm in the 1940 census in Klamath Falls, OR, with son Harold Anderson. Julia died in 1970. I found her entry on Find-A-Grave, which mentioned her other living children from other marriages, including son Harold of San Francisco. Theodore was not in the 1940 census, nor listed in the FAG entry.

A private tree on Ancestry appeared to include this family. I contacted the owner, who said that Theodore died in 1939 in a car/train crash in northern California. A newspaper (from Ancestry) carried a story of four teens killed, and the date matched a Find-A-Grave entry for a Theodore Anderson in Oregon. The tree owner said Harold Jr did not have a family, and had also passed several years back. The answer wasn’t specific enough for me to identify the dozens of Harold Andersons in the Social Security Death Index.

Because of the family lore that Harold Sr. had married a Native American woman, I looked at Julia’s parents. Their marriage record says that Daniel was ½ Indian, and his bride was ¼ Indian. Using old newspapers from Chronicling America, I discovered that Daniel Hart had some run-ins with the law, but later was a church bishop in the Shaker Indian Movement on the reservation at Klamath Falls. Using Google, I found an on-line photo of Dan Hart with other church officials.

Using the theory of “cluster genealogy” – looking for family members beyond just the direct line – paid off in this case. I identified Julia’s other daughters, and found one on Find-A-Grave. She died in 1982, and this entry listed her brother Harold Anderson of San Francisco. I identified the youngest of Julia’s daughters but couldn’t find a death record for her. I used modern social media and found a person with the same not-very-common name who formerly lived in the Oregon town where Julia died, now living in Virginia. Her age was consistent with the age of the daughter in the 1940 census. Using an on-line directory, I found her address, and shared that with Gary. He contacted her, she confirmed she was the last surviving sibling, and in fact, Harold Jr had lived with her until he died 10 years ago. She seemed glad to connect with her half-brother Harold’s cousins and has shared photos and stories with them. She provided Harold’s birth date, and I was able to find Harold Jr in the SSDI, and also find an obituary for him at NewsBank.

Using a time line was important to keeping this information organized, and I was able to electronically share the timeline and all the records with Gary. The aunts were excited to learn what had happened to Uncle Harold who disappeared in Montana. The information will be shared with the cousins still in Norway.


Marie Clapasson Mack

Our genealogy society responds to requests for help relating to research in our area.  Here’s one I worked on recently.

The request for information about Marie was a simple one that came through our website. Gérard from France was looking for an ancestor who came to the US in 1895, and who married in 1907 a man named Edward Mack, barber. He had their information from the 1910 census, and found Ed’s burial information in the on-line Missoula Cemetery interment records, but Marie was not with him. Gérard’s request was simply to know how to find out when and where Marie died, if in Missoula.

The answer was easy to find – a trip to the library to check the cemetery index and biographical sheets from the Missoulian vital records index. First, I checked a few other resources. I confirmed that Marie or Mary Mack was not listed at the Missoula City Cemetery (although Ed was), nor in Find-A-Grave (many at Saint Mary’s are listed.) Knowing that the Missoula Cemetery office has more than just the burial information for some interments, I sent an e-mail to the office to see if there were any clues in Ed’s record that might lead to Marie. I found the image for Marie’s marriage record to Ed at, and was surprised to see that it was an interracial marriage, performed by a Justice of the Peace, not in the Catholic church. Mary’s name was recorded as Chapasson, not previously married, and Ed was divorced.

At Missoula Public Library, I easily found Mary Mack in the cemetery index books, and she was at Saint Mary’s. The bio sheet included the date, page, and column number for the newspaper items. With that, I was able to go directly to her death notices in the newspaper microfilm. I saved the images to a USB drive, so they were easy to e-mail to Gérard.
Gérard shared that he had a Canada border crossing record where Marie Clapasson named her contact in Missoula. I found that record on Ancestry, and it appears that the person listed was Mrs. Gleim. Mary Gleim is a notorious figure in Missoula history, known for, among other things, operating brothels. Her addresses, and those of Marie (from city directories) put them living adjacent to each other, in the downtown area of Missoula. I don’t know what type of relationship existed between Marie Clapasson and Mary Gleim. I found no arrest records for Marie during a check of historic jail records at UM’s Mansfield Library Special Collections, nor at the new Missoula County Records Center. Gérard later said that he was aware of the possible connection to Mrs. Gleim. The staff at MCRC also checked their naturalization records for Marie, but didn’t find her. Perhaps she claimed automatic citizenship based on her marriage to Ed Mack.

I went to Saint Mary’s cemetery where a staff member escorted me to Mary Mack’s burial place. She has no headstone. She probably had a flat “paver” with her name. Probing with a large metal spike didn’t reveal it, and it may have disintegrated after 99 years. I took special note of the location, then used Google Maps (satellite view) zoomed in all the way, plus street view (Marie was close to the fence) and was able to give Gérard a virtual visit to the burial site of his great grandmother.
I received an e-mail back from the Missoula Cemetery. They found no information about Marie Clapasson Mack with her husband’s record, but the burial record for Ed’s second wife Callie indicated that she had been murdered!

I visited the courthouse to get death certificates for Marie, Callie, and Ed, then went back to the library for the bio sheets for Callie and Ed. The newspaper reported that Callie had been found with a bullet wound in her head, and a gun in her hand. The initial thought was suicide, but investigators ruled that out. A female associate and a former male guest at Callie’s boarding house were initially charged with Callie’s death, I read that Ed Mack was charged a few days later with killing his wife. The newspaper vital records index did not have the date of Ed’s trial. Back at MCRC, I was able to read the trial record. Sadly, it only listed the charges, the list of jurors, and the list of witnesses (which included the two people originally charged in the murder). The jury instructions included explanations of first and second degree murder, manslaughter, premeditation, and other information the jurors would need for the case. The file included no list of evidence and no testimony or law enforcement reports, but a final sheet of paper that said Ed was acquitted. His death notice in The Missoulian said that Ed had come to Missoula to play baseball. Perhaps he was part of one of the local company teams. He worked as a horse trainer in his earlier days, and was a barber until he became too ill to work. The notice referred to the murder of Callie, saying that he was acquitted after a lengthy trial, and vowed to find the real killers.

Feeling the full story of Marie’s husband wouldn’t be known without more information about the trial, I used the microfilmed Missoulian for February 11, 12, and 13, 1925 to review the coverage of event. The reporter commented on the large number of people who came to watch. The State was seeking the death penalty if Ed Mack was found guilty. The coroner and a doctor ruled out the possibility that the wounds could have been self inflicted, as she had three bullet wounds, anyone of which could have been fatal, and the body had no powder burns. Prosecution witnesses reported hearing three gunshots, and a voice they identified as Mack’s, in the area of the woodshed behind Columbia Rooms, Callie’s business. However, some of these witness statements were not consistent with their previous testimony at the earlier inquest, and some were specifically contradicted. Apparently in response to criticism about the quality of the character of some of those witnesses, the prosecutor was quoted as saying, “One can’t get witnesses from a Sunday school for a crime that is committed in a house of ill-repute.” Defense witnesses testified seeing Ed at his barber shop during the time in question, and character witnesses described him as a good citizen. In the end, the jury deliberated only 40 minutes before acquitting Ed Mack of the murder, to the approval of the large crowd which had attended the trial.

I was glad to have the opportunity to work on this research request. Since my personal research doesn’t include this geographical area, it was fun to learn what wonderful resources we have available right in our own home town. And most of all, the staff at every stop was friendly and helpful.

My Presentation to Montana Library Association, 18 April 2013

[Basic, beginning research, and free Internet resources to assist the researcher.]

How popular is Genealogy? Hard to measure, with questionable statistics, being an individual activity, no superstars, but commercial sites, blogs, and personal family history websites are growing in number. It used to be common more with people who had the time and resources to travel to do the research. Libraries of all sizes have local history and genealogy sections of all sizes, and if your library provides Internet access for patrons, librarians can help them research their families using Internet resources. I’ll present these concepts as though you are the beginning researcher, and you can share whatever you find helpful with your library customers.

Some people think genealogy is a way to prove that they are descended from, or related to, someone important. Most of us are not – we are more likely to find some small black sheep in the family than we are to find a president in the pedigree. Be prepared to find unwed mothers and early babies. Accept that you may find someone with a criminal history. Your race may not be what you thought. Just enjoy the pursuit.

Assess what you already have. Look through letters, bibles, and photographs. Record what you know, starting with yourself, then your parents, then their parents. Don’t forget the siblings in each generation. Talk to the family elders. Ask them about family history – some will be more willing to talk than others. Pay attention at family reunions. Ask if they mind if you record stories.

KEEPING RECORDS – It’s hard for me to believe, but people did do research and keep records BC (before computers.) Now there are many software programs that keep electronic records organized. One free version is Personal Ancestral File (PAF) available from – the LDS site. It can be downloaded directly from the site. Another popular name is Family Tree Maker (FTM), which is affiliated with It is not free, but in the past it has come with a free subscription to Ancestry, so it might be a good deal. These are the only two I have personally used – I don’t have personal knowledge of the other programs. – Free download of Personal Ancestral File – Family Tree Maker for PC or Mac, or Google “genealogy software” for other options.

The first basic form most commonly used is a pedigree chart. Most are 4 generation, and will list the person, his parents, his grandparents, and great grandparents. The chart commonly records the name, and date and location for birth, marriage, death (BMD). These are handy for note taking, for later entry into a software program if used. The other most common form is the family group sheet (FGS). It lists the father and a minimum of his birth, marriage, death, and his parents. It lists the same information for the mother. Then it lists the children and information, and their spouses. A person would be listed as a child on the FGS of his parents, then be listed as the parent on his own FGS, then be listed as the parent of the parent on one of the grandchildren’s FGS. (This is why genealogy software is good –it will generate these reports, neatly typed. They will also re-order the children, if you happen to get them out of order.) If you don’t have genealogy software, you can get blank genealogy forms from the internet.

I started out keeping paper records in 3-ring binders – one for the father’s side, one for the mother’s side of the family. It didn’t take long to have to double that, one book for each grandparent. I haven’t investigated in detail, but I suspect that genealogist contribute greatly to the economy by buying all those binders and sheet protectors. Tip – Keep your original records in a safe place. Scan them and make copies for everyday use. Use archival-safe products (paper, sheet protectors, etc). Make back-up disks of your records. Send a copy to a cousin, in another town, even if they don’t care about genealogy. Tell them to keep it safe for you. Don’t know how often to update that off-site copy? If you lost all your records, how much of the newest information would you be willing to have to research again, without shedding tears? It’s a personal decision.

BASICS  Record your sources – easy to say, but it does take a few minutes. It will save you time later. Record where you have already searched and NOT found something – it will save looking there again. You can simply record in a notebook, in your genealogy software, or use one of the free Research Log forms. Record dates in the international style – 01 July 1900. When recording locations, include the county name. It is suggested that state names should be written out, and the country should be included, as an aid for non US researchers, when you share information.  When recording a woman’s name, use the maiden name. Junior and Senior are not normally recorded in the records although those are clues to the name of another family member. Sometimes, those terms were used to distinguish between two people of the same name, but differing in age – such as grandfather/grandson, or uncle/nephew. Expect to find variations of spellings of names. They may have been incorrectly recorded, or become Americanized. Some families alternated using the first name, and the middle name as the first name. Expect to find variations of ages when tracking a person through records. My great great grandmother only aged about 7 years in each census decade. For birth dates, the family might have claimed the baby was younger so as to fit in with the date of marriage. At a wedding, the bride might have been listed as older than she really was, if she was particularly young.

Best records are the original records – BMD – birth, marriage, death. If these documents are not in the family’s possession, search for copies of those records. These vital records are archived at different levels, depending on the state. In the east, they are most commonly held at the city hall. Farther west, events were recorded at the county level. Some states have repositories for vital statistics. Access to records can vary, too, from not available at all, to posted on line, free for the taking. Remember that you should look for a copy of the original, and not an index of those records. Any time someone copies information from one place to another, there is the opportunity for error. Google for the city or county offices – they may have posted information on how to order records.

INTERNET RESOURCES FOR RESEARCH In the past decade, the amount of genealogical information on the Internet has grown greatly. Some jurisdictions post actual images (Washington, Nova Scotia), some have an index (Massachusetts). The years covered varies. Unlike books, Internet resources can changes. If it is of interest, save it, as the information might not always be there. If you post records on the Internet, do NOT put information about live people on line, at least not without their permission. Tip -Set up a Genealogy folder in your Internet Favorites – and use it to keep track of the good websites you find.

Family Search – This site has all free databases courtesy of the LDS Church. Most records can be searched by location, name, and dates. Some records must be browsed, but most are organized by location. Many records are only part of an index, but many others have the actual images. New databases are being added all the time. This site has BMDs plus federal and some state census records, and even probate records. FS also has on-line training for all areas of research, from basics to technology.

Ancestry at is a subscription site. It has historical records (BMD), publications, and family trees (posted by users). It also has all the federal census records and about 36 state censuses. Publications include newspapers, city directories, and school yearbooks. Ancestry also has immigration records. Ancestry is free to use within some libraries, and at Family History Centers affiliated with LDS churches. Rootsweb at is affiliated with Ancestry, but information is free.

Census Finder at tells where to find census records. These are the most commonly used records to establish family groups, ages, occupations, residences. Use the “Census Questions” option to find out what questions were asked each census year. You are unlikely to find the original records for viewing, but scanned images are available online and on microfilm. The census was taken every 10 years, recorded by counties. This is why it is important to record the county as well as town. The first national census was in 1790. In the early years, only the head of household was listed by name. The rest of the family was documented by noting how many of each gender, in an age group (i.e. age 5-10) lived in the family. In 1850, the census started listing every name, but not the relationship. The woman living with the man was probably his wife, but could also have been his sister who came to the family to care for the kids. You just can’t tell from the census. In 1880, relationships were recorded. The 1890 census was almost entirely destroyed by a fire at the archives. The 1900 lists the person’s month and year of birth. The later census records asked “age at first marriage” and then “years married”. This can be helpful to establish whether this is first or second marriage. Some census takers were helpful and wrote “M2” to indicate a second marriage. Another question asked of women was number of children born, number of children still living. Other common information collected is where born, where parents were born, military service, occupation, immigration information. When looking at census records, check the page before and the page after, to look for familiar names. Families tended to leave near each other. In towns, the address was part of the census record and is recorded on the left. Tip – Go online and download blank census forms for each year. Look at the column headings – they will be easier to read than the actual images. Some people transcribe from the images onto the forms, because it may be easier to read when referring back to the forms. is another website with free forms.
The latest census released is 1940 which came out in April 2012. Canada and Great Britain census records are available. They are on the “ones” – 1851, 1861, etc. 1911 is the latest.

IMMIGRATION The Ellis Island site is at and the Castle Garden site is at Those sites are sometimes hard to use. Another site at will provide links to the same information. Use the drop-down list to select Ellis Island or Castle Garden.

OBITUARIES – Obituaries vary greatly in the amount of information provided. Some are mere death announcements. Other include great clues such as family members (watch for “preceded in death by” and “survived by” for clues to their death dates.) Spouses of siblings and children may also be listed. Obituaries are a secondary record. The primary record would be a death certificate (which can also have errors, but are at least considered official.)

BURIAL RECORDS Missoula City Cemetery These interment records are only for the City cemetery. Other cemeteries would have their own records. The cemetery sexton maintains files that may have more information. Find-A-Grave at has user-contributed burial records. Some records include links to other family members. Some include obituaries or short biographies. Searches can be filtered by state and county. Interment at is another site of user-contributed burial records.

CITY DIRECTORIES – Information collected can vary, but usually includes the head of the household, and perhaps the spouse, with the place of employment, and the place of residence. If the head of the household disappears from one year to the next, and the wife is now listed as “widow of”, that narrows down the search for the death certificate. A directory might even list the specific date of death. In addition, directories probably have advertising. I was lucky enough to find a turn of the century advertisement for my great great grandfather George’s horse-drawn freighting business. is a website that has the goal of identifying where old printed, microfilm, and online directories can be found.

TOWN REPORTS New England towns have a wonderful tradition of annual town reports, which may commonly have included an index of all the births, marriages, and deaths for the year. Finding the event listed in the town report would point you to the town hall to get a copy of the actual birth, marriage, or death record. Take the time to look through more of the report. Although we still have not found great great grandfather Barnabus’ death record, we did find that the town paid for his stay at the town farm, and paid a doctor’s bill, then a grave digger’s bill, on behalf of Barnabus. That may be the only record we ever have for his death. Use Google or some other search engine to search for town reports on line.

MILITARY RECORDS The Missoula Public Library at provides access to Heritage Quest, but you do need a library card ID number to log in from home. Revolutionary war pension records are available on line at Heritage Quest. Information in these records varies, but often includes the pensioner or his widow explaining his war service, her date of marriage (to establish she is eligible), their children, and their residence.
Civil war pension index can be found on line, but I have not yet found many images for the actual documents. They can be ordered from the National Archives in Washington, DC. A pay website called Fold3 has military records. WW1 draft registration forms are on line at Ancestry. These were good at recording middle names, and dates of birth although the year can be off by 1. Some versions listed next of kin, and employment. WW2 enlistment information and the “old man’s draft” cards are also on line at Ancestry. (This isn’t an advertisement for Ancestry, but since I subscribe, this is where I have found the information.)

LAND RECORDS Available on line from the Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office (GLO) are homestead records, at . Most have actual images of the final homestead award. You can send away for the full record, which may include proof of residency, naturalization records, etc. With the land description and a good map, you can find the homestead. It may be a housing development now, or perhaps is a farm still in the family. Search Land Patents by selecting the state, then the name using exact spelling (try variations.) is a website that will convert the homestead location from the Section/Township/Range location to a GPS location, and then will take you there using Google Earth if you have that installed on your computer.

WORLD GENWEB PROJECT at is a non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to providing genealogical and historical records. The website for the United States is at and that site is divided by states, then by counties. Because these are all run by volunteers, the information at each local site varies.

GOOGLE at or your favorite search engine (Dogpile, Yahoo) can lead to information about ancestors. Tip: Search also by last name first, “Woody, Frank”. Search on locations, such as “Vermont Genealogy”. Search for land records by geographic area, church records, etc.

MESSAGE BOARDS – If you google a name, you may get a hit that leads you to a message board relating to either the location you searched on, or the family name. Those are a good place to find information. Here are a few tips for posting a query of your own. In the subject line, put in meaningful information. A query like “Need information on Smith Family” will probably be glossed over by readers, whereas a query like “Seeking Parents of Joseph Smith b 1803 Ipswich MA” provides time and location enough to let the reader know if she can help this person. Use the body of the message to be specific about information sought. For example, “ Joseph m Harriet Newell, has children Albert, George, Drucilla. Brother possibly John. Trying to determine Joseph’s parents names.” Giving clues about what you already know will save someone the trouble of giving you information you already have. Make sure you are in the right bulletin board. If the query isn’t in the Ipswich MA board, or the Smith board, it is probably in the wrong place.

CYNDI’s LIST at has categorized and cross-referenced lists of links to other genealogical research sites online. For example, click on N for Norway, and you will find 337 links to other websites that will have helpful Norwegian information.

LIBRARIES and HISTORICAL SOCIETIES   The Family History Library in Salt Lake City has incredible resources. In fact, it can be overwhelming. A lot of what they have is available on line. They also do interlibrary loan with the local Family History Centers that are affiliated with the LDS churches. FHC have free access to Ancestry and other paid websites, as well as people who can help researchers Those also have lots of resources, and can order the microfilm you need. is the card catalog. Search on places, and Norway, for example, has 161 matching titles, including biographies, census records, histories, etc.

Town libraries frequently have family history sections with books, film, and even donated records. Most libraries will accept donated copies of your research if it is related to that area. A good way to get more data is to donate a file and then leave your contact information. Someone may want to either give you info, or get more from you. Use Google to search for a town library, then check to see what resources are available. Remember that the reference librarian will be your new best friend. She either already knows the answers, or knows where to find them, or knows how to get them on inter-library loan.
NEWSPAPERS Chronicling America at contains searchable old newspapers from 1836 to 1922, in 25 states (including Montana). You can also use Cyndi’s List, browse categories – select N for newspapers, and you will find 742 newspaper links.

LANGUAGE LINKS – If you find records in a foreign language, you may be able to translate using a site like Google Translate at Just select the “from” language, and translate to English. Another similar site is These may not be suitable for long documents, but might be good for translating simple documents such as BMDs.

GENEALOGY WEB LOGS – BLOGS Blogs about specific surname, locations, technology Genealogy and family history This site tells how to create a blog in order to attract other researchers, and open up opportunities to exchange information. This site gives specific information relating to “Blogger” which is owned by Google, but there are other free blog sites, such as WordPress.

Find of the ‘40

The 1940 census was taken on 1 April (and the two weeks or so following).  By law, it was to remain confidential for 72 years.  It was released to the public on 1 April, 2012. and are two of the major genealogy organizations that bought copies of the images.  It took them a short time to get all the images up.  At that point, the images could only be browsed, going page by page, looking for the names of interest. That worked for me if I knew the person’s address, but wasn’t useful if I didn’t know where the family lived in 1940. The images had to be indexed, meaning someone had to go page by page, line by line, extracting the names and other information so that the images could be searched by name.  As each state was completed, the websites were updated.  FamilySearch used volunteers, and did the states in a different order than Ancestry, so if the state wasn’t available on one website, it might have been available on the other.  Both sites now are reporting 100% completion of the indexing.  I have found errors, of course, in the spellings of the names.  I always send in corrections to Ancestry, (FamilySearch doesn’t have that function) so the next person searching will be more likely to find that name.  If I cannot find the person on one site, I find it pays to check the other.

The person I most wanted to find in the 1940 census was Marcel Labor /Marshall Laber, born in 1865.  No one seems to know when or where he died.  I found him in the 1930 census in Lexington, MA.  A grandson remembered his father receiving word that Marshall had died, and guessed it might have happened about 1940 or 1941. 

I was able to find him in the 1932 Lexington city directory.  In the 1933 Arlington MA directory, he was listed as living at 71 Mystic, employed as a dynamite blaster.  Mrs. Marie Kenny also lived with him, the same housekeeper he had as early as 1920. The 1934 and 1935 Arlington directories had the same entries.  But I didn’t have access to later directories. So the question was:  Would Marshall be found in the 1940 census?

Massachusetts was one of the last states to be indexed, but when it was, Marshall’s was the first name I looked for.  And there he was, now living at 132 Sylvia Street, in Arlington, with the same housekeeper.  His occupation was driller and blaster, employed by the town.  His age was recorded as 67, but he was really 75.  I still don’t know when or where he died, but probably in Arlington, and definitely after April 1, 1940.

I’m always happy to find a person lived longer than I thought.  That was especially true this weekend, when I found that my Aunt Bea was recorded in a family tree on Ancestry as having died in 1988.  She was at the family reunion this weekend.  She’s looking remarkably well for someone supposedly dead for a quarter of a century!  But that’s another story.


New Old Massachusetts Vital Records on

The Weekly Genealogist, an e-newsletter from the New England Historic Genealogy Society, usually contains three current news stories of interest relating to family history research.  The newsletter of 21 March 2012 included a link to a story about a private collection of microfilmed old vital records from Massachusetts being sold to, a “for profit” genealogy site.  A Massachusetts official was quoted as saying that:

Most of the records are, of course, already public and free, a point that Secretary of State William F. Galvin emphasized when told of the sale. His spokesman said that vital records and other documents can be made available to anyone who asks for them at their local city hall or town hall. Vital records from 1841 through 1920 are also available at the Massachusetts Archives. “What they’re doing is fine, but he [Galvin] wants people to know those records are available at city and town halls at no cost,’’ said Brian McNiff.

I suspect that neither Galvin nor McNiff is a family researcher.  I appreciate the fact that the records are on Ancestry now.  I can visit that site 24/7, unlike trying to go to a town hall during business hours.  In fact, when I did go to a town hall for my grandfather’s birth certificate, a prominently posted sign said “Genealogy Inquires on Tuesdays Only”.  Just by coincidence, we were there on the specified day.  With Internet access to the records, I don’t have to wait in line.  I can do my research in my jammies.  I spend no money on gas or parking.  I have an immediate digital copy of the record.  I suspect that while someone can look at the records for free, copy costs probably apply – if in fact they will copy or scan the fragile documents.  A researcher has to know which city or town hall to visit.  While it would be wonderful to see those records in person, for those of us who are on the opposite side of the country, the collection on line is truly a treasure.

To read the full story, go to

Genealogy of a Gold Watch

I was recently contacted by someone researching a pocket watch he inherited from his grandfather.  The watch said “Chas H Tourville  Special ”.  He was not familiar with the Tourville name, and posted information about the watch at   the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors.  Besides telling him about the company that made the watch, and the year 1898, the experts there suggested he try to find out about the original owner and see if he could trace the watch as it passed through different owners.  I’m guessing that he Googled the Tourville name, and found his way to my blog.  It is possible that  it belonged to Charles born 1828, and may have been a 70th birthday present.   I ordered a copy of the Franklin County probate records for Charles but his property list did not include a gold watch.  I also shared this story with other Tourville researchers, but we did not come up with proof of original ownership.  It may have belonged to Charles, his son, grandsons, or nephews.

Josie’s Watch

 I shared this story with family members, one of whom has a pocket watch that belonged to my great grandmother Josie Newell (Smith) Hodges.  I posted photos and information about the watch at the NAWCC website.  Here’s what I learned.

In the era that this watch was made, the watch case was a separate part of the pocket watch, sold separately, and selected at the time of the purchase of the watch movement.  Although the watch case had serial numbers, they were used for internal purposes, as opposed to the movement serial numbers, which were needed for obtaining the correct replacement parts.  If the case was original to the watch, dating the watch would date the case, to within a year or two. 

This watch case was made by Keystone Watch Case Company, and is called a hunting case.  It had a cover over the front of the watch to protect the timepiece in the hunter’s pocket.  The case holds the watch so that the stem is at the “3” position rather than at “12”.  This watch case says “J Boss” on the inside.  James Boss worked for a watch case maker in Philadelphia.  He received a patent in 1859 for cases made of “gold-filled” material.  This was a sheet of composition metal (usually brass) sandwiched between two thin sheets of gold.  He was able to make less expensive and stronger cases, which were less apt to wear.  A series of business mergers eventually resulted in the Keystone Watch Case Company.  The balance (scale) and crown trademark for J.Boss indicates a 25-year guarantee, and that it is the gold-filled model.  The guarantee referred to the number of years during which the gold on the case was guaranteed not to wear through to the brass.  Some less reputable companies didn’t stand behind their guarantees, and eventually laws were proposed to forbid gold filled or plated watches to have such a guarantee. 

The watch case holds a Waltham watch.  AWWC, or the American Waltham Watch Company was in operation from 1851 to 1957 in Massachusetts.  Opening the back cover of the watch allows access to the movement serial number.  The folks at NAWCC have a database that allows someone to enter the model name and serial number, and determine some information about the watch.  Based on the serial number, I learned that this Waltham watch was a model 1907, which means that this particular model began to be made in that year, and continued for some years afterwards.  Based on my number, it is estimated that this watch was made about 1908.  Josie received this watch as a gift from her son Roland, who was a watchmaker.  Since Roland was born in 1906, I now know that this is not a watch that he helped build.  Perhaps when he came across it later, he used his knowledge as a watchmaker to pick it out as a gift for his mother.

 The database says that the grade or name of the watch was No. 165. The number doesn’t refer to the quality of the watch but just identifies the run of manufacture.  The Material designation is “U”, and this does refer to the grade of material used by Waltham.  “U” stands for “Unadjusted” and includes most 7-15 jewel watches.  NAWCC says:  These are usually not adjusted for positions or temperature (other than that provided by the bi-metallic compensation balance). Timing screws are brass and there are usually no mean-time screws. A “U”-grade balance staff has no oil grooves and the coarsest pivots. Wheel pivots are the coarsest used in the model. 

Size refers to the size of the movement.  This serial number database tells me that it is a size “0” which is 1 and 5/30inches across, the size common for a lady’s watch.  “Jewels” or “Jewelling” refer to the number of jewels used in the watch to reduce friction on the bearing points:  7 jewels are found in the escapement, and additional jewels – if used – would typically be found on the plates for jewelling the gear train.  A watch with 15 jewels has four pairs.  The balance is recorded as “Pat. Reg. – Breg.HS”.  Breg HS seems to refer to their patented micrometric regulator (star wheel), a hairspring with a Breguet overcoil to improve timekeeping. 

Although the case is different, I found an identical watch advertised for sale at  It describes the face as “single sunk porcelain dial with bold black enameled Roman numerals, Waltham logo, subsidiary seconds register and outer minute track.  The 5 minute markers are trimmed in red enamel.” That matches Josie’s watch exactly.  Josie’s watch hasn’t been run recently, and the websites caution against trying to make an old clock or watch run unless it has been properly serviced first.

I have now gone through all my photos of Josie and have not found one that shows her with the watch.  I have asked that her three granddaughters check their photographs and see if they have better luck.

Generations Project

If you are a fan of TV shows such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” there’s a similar show on line, at  It is also on the BYU television channel.

The Generations Project takes non celebrities, and helps them look at their family tree.  Usually there is a back story, for example, a couple whose sons were saved by a bone marrow transplant.  The match was so perfect that they wondered if they were related to the donor, so they researched their own, and the donor’s family.  I won’t tell you the answers.

This program doesn’t teach how to do research, although they generally say where they found the information, such as census records or church records.  The subject of the episode does do some travelling, and the goal of the program is to relate family history to the person’s current life or life’s challenges. 

For the French Canadian cousins, look for the story of Nick, as it includes his Quebec ancestors and talks about how his ancestors (and ours) lived several generations ago.

The bad news? Each episode starts with a 30-second commercial, which is fine, but it comes on at full volume and even if you turn it down, the next time it will be loud again.  The good news?  That is the only ad, so you can watch the 45 minute episode without commercial interruption.

Indexing – A Way to Give Back

When you are searching an index for a record, do you ever wonder how the index was created?  Someone compared the hand-written original record, and transcribed the information so it would be searchable.

One site known for volunteers doing indexing work is  Here’s how it works:  You register with FamilySearch, then download a program from their website.  You then pick a database to work on, from a list they provide.  I always pick a database of personal interest, figuring that the sooner the records are all ready, the sooner they’ll be on line for everyone to use – including me.  Most recently I’ve been working on Vermont vital records.  OK, I’ve never come across a relative while indexing, but it could happen. On the other hand, someone I don’t know working on California marriage records made it possible today for me to find the marriage record for Will Richardson and Mary-Grace L Perham – not in the place I had been told they were married. 

Those Vermont records come in a set of 20 cards.  (Other databases, such as a state census, might be a single page with multiple entries, for example.) The indexing program opens up a spread sheet that corresponds with whatever database is open.  The indexer transcribes the information from the image of the record to the spreadsheet.  The Vermont vital records project involves typing names, dates, and locations for births, marriages, and deaths.  There is a spell check system.  Once all the information from those 20 cards has been transcribed, the spreadsheet is sent back to FamilySearch, and compared to someone else’s work on the same records.  If the information doesn’t match, a third party will look at the records and try to determine the correct entry. 

After a record series is completed, the information goes up on’s website for people to use. You can set personal goals, such as a certain number of names by a certain date.  You also get feedback relating to your own accuracy rate. 

Indexing is a way to help provide a link for people to their family history.  The records are free for all to use.  You can do volunteer work from the comfort of your own home. will tell you more about the indexing project and how to get involved.

Everyone Has A Story

In November 2010, I decided that I would start a blog, and try to write one mini biography a day about a family member from my family tree.  I selected a person whose birth, marriage, or death was that day, and people who mostly were born before 1900.  I looked for people for whom I had gathered the information from records and newspapers, as opposed to just finding someone else’s already written information.  Because of the availability of records on line, most posts ended up being about people living between 1800 and 1950.   

Picking one person per day has helped me focus on that person, and for the most part, not get led down a side path.  I’ve found extra spouses and children.  I’ve looked more closely at homes and occupations.  I’ve tried to find more than just the BMDs so I could put the person in historical context.  I have tried to be better about recording my sources, even if they aren’t put into the blog.

I have also met new cousins who have provided information about our mutual family members.  I’ve been able to share information with them.

Having made one loop around the calendar, and written about roughly 450 people, I have decided to stop writing a daily post, and go to a less frequent schedule.  Since my blog is searchable, I hope that other distant cousins will happen across my postings and contact me with more information, or questions.  I will continue to search for new information about those already posted, and for those yet to be written. 

Everyone has a story, or is part of someone else’s story.

Family History Center Portal Subscription Databases

There are lots of free Internet resources available, which allow people to do family history research from the comfort of their own home.  There are also lots of pay sites for general genealogy, or specific to certain areas or eras.  There is also a place to use several pay sites for free – your local Family History Center.  Every FHC has the following subscription databases available.

  • 19th Century British Library Newspapers digital archive –  This searchable database has a complete run of 48 national and regional newspapers from 1800-1900.
  • Access Newspaper Archives –  This site claims to be the largest online newspaper archive, and the articles are searchable.
  • Alexander Street Press – American Civil War  This site contains searchable information on soldiers, battles, and photographs, plus diaries, letters, and memoirs.
  • Ancestry –  Ancestry has some free databases, but a paid subscription gives access to immigration, census, newspapers, vital records, photos, city directories, and user-posted family trees.
  • Find My Past – Find My Past specializes in United Kingdom research, and includes the 1911 census of England and Wales.
  • Fold3 – formerly known as Footnote – This site has original historic documents and photos.  It was purchased by Ancestry but requires a separate subscription.  They are starting to focus on military records.
  • The Genealogist is a British genealogy website, apparently a competitor of “Find My Past”.
  • Genline Family Launcher is for searching your Swedish genealogy.
  • Godfrey Memorial Library has US and international resources, city directories, vital records, and other information of interest to researchers.
  • Heritage Quest Online is not at every FHC, but check with your town library – I can access it at home using my library card.  It has Revolutionary War pension records, census records, digitized books, and other records of interest.
  • Historic Map Works Library Edition is also not at every FHC, but check yours.  They have extensive digital maps available including property ownership maps. 
  • Paper Trail – This site specializes in 19th century westward migration documents.  Unfortunately, the site doesn’t have images, but rather will tell you where to find the originals (libraries, museums, etc).
  • World Vital Records –  Advertises that they have vital records, immigration, land, military, newspapers, gravestones, maps, ship manifests. 

So, I went to the local FHC to check out these subscription databases.  I was disappointed in how little new I found.  I have my own Ancestry subscription, so I pretty much have every census record for every person of interest in my family. I have Heritage Quest at home so don’t need to go to the FHC for that. I don’t have a lot of interest in UK research, as I didn’t find much from Ireland for the era of the Hodges immigration.  I love the old maps, but found very few for my locations of interest.  I’m not looking for anyone from Sweden.  I used to have a subscription to Godfrey but let it lapse.  I don’t know how much they have added since then.  I was not impressed with World Vital Records.  I didn’t find much as far as actual Civil War pension records on the military sites.

I spent the most time with the newspapers.  Their papers are different from the ones at the New England Historic Genealogy Society site, and different from the Chronicling of America (free) site. 

My friend who is just starting out on her research was happy to find things that were part of the subscriptions.  Did I not find much new stuff because I have already seen it elsewhere?  Well, I’ll go back again and look through more of the information.  I certainly suggest that other researchers try out the free databases at your FHC.  If one of them happens to have records or newspapers from your area of interest, you may well find some great treasures.   I put the links in this posting so that you can look at them in more detail, but if you want them for free, go to the FHC.

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