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Using tricks to search the census

The purpose of this note is to demonstrate a 'trick' which will help in searching on the Ancestry.com indexes to the census of England and Wales.

Thomas Isaac Hewett, a shoemaker in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, his wife Matilda Skerry and their flock of children are usually easy to find using the online English census indexes.

The name Hewett can be problematic, as it is spelled variously Hewitt, Hewit, Huit and often misinterpreted by the indexers as Howitt.

Keeping this in mind, I tried to search for Thomas Isaac Hewett, born 1833 in Norwich. It is better to keep away from his middle name, as the initial I in Victorian handwriting in other censuses is usually interpreted as J.

Searches for Thomas Hewett living in Norfolk; Thomas Hewitt living in Norfolk, or Thomas [no last name], born 1828-1837, born in Norwich all yielded no results.

I decided to try using his wife as the search term. To avoid the problems associated with Hewett, I searched on Matilda, born 1828-1837 in Norwich.

The result was Matilda Howitt, b. ca. 1832 in Norwich. The original census revealed the correct family, with the name written Hewitt. (The indexer had misread the handwriting.) Her husband was listed as Thos. Isaac Hewitt. He, too, was indexed as Howitt but the abbreviation (Thos.) had thrown off the search.

If you are searching for some names (William, for example), the Ancestry search engine will recognize their abbreviations (such as Wm.).

However, you cannot guarantee that this will happen. The Victorians were fond of abbreviating given names, even ones as short as John, so researchers should keep these short forms in mind.

A similar example occurred with an 1881 census name, Henry Ch[illegible]rton, 16, born in Norwich and listed as 'cousin' to the man he lived with. Naturally the genealogist will want to know how Henry is related, in case he needs to be added to the database.

The 1871 census index revealed no Henry of a proper age born in Norwich. In the end, after much frustrating playing around with Henry, I tried a wildcard search using Che*rton and the obvious alternative name, Harry.

Harry Che*rton turned out to be Harry Cheverton, aged 7, livingwith his mother Amelia in Norwich, his father being absent. I suspected that Harry and his boss were related through the Skerry family, and a quick 1851 census index search showed Amelia Skerry right where I wanted her. Problem solved.

Neither Harry nor Thos. were the expected names in the census or the index, but they are good examples of the kind of alternative searching we can use to find our missing relatives. The real trick is never to give up!

Canadian directories online

Library and Archives Canada (formerly the national archives) has begun a program to make its huge collection of city directories more accessible. They have national, provincial, county and city directories.

The program will make the directories available in digitized form on their website, so it will no longer be necessary to search out many of these directories in libraries which own them. In addition, a page on the history of directory publishing will demonstrate how directories can help genealogists. Finally, a Cityscape section will provide social histories of the cities whose directories are featured in the database. This background will be of great help to historians.

Directories can be used to determine when a family lived in a certain place, can help determine their address, where people worked and in the case of rural directories, whether or not they owned their farms.

The information given in directories can be used to narrow down the time period used to search for obituaries, marriage records or even a move toanother city. Some curious rural directories even state what breed ofducks and pigs people raised and what kind of car and tractor they drove!

This new attraction is a great step forward and shows once again how aware the LAC is of family historians' needs.

The truth about Callistie

In records for Fall River, Massachusetts' French-Canadian Roman Catholic church, there are two weddings for the same man, ten years apart. In one, his mother's name is given as Scholastique Fortin and in the other as Callixta Fortin. The names are vaguely similar, both are legitimate names, so which is his mother's name?

Eventually we located the parents' marriage in 1864 in St-Octave de Matane, Québec, and the name was confirmed as Scholastique. We could assume that 'Callixta' was an error.

However, her husband married for a second time in 1884, and in this he is described as the widower of 'Callistie Fortin'. This is still in St-Octave, where she would have been known, so an error in her name is a surprise.

The conclusion is that although her name was the unusual and formal Scholastique, she was known by the diminutive Callistie. This is easily mistaken for Callixta, but is not connected. The mistake would be easy to make, and confusing for genealogists.

Not only were we able to clarify the genealogist's problem in Fall River, we were able to add a small insight into the life of her great-grandmother, Callistie.

Trust Canadian funeral cards

In the September 2003 issue of The Norfolk Ancestor, Susan Well discusses a family memorial card. It memorialises Elizabeth Brett, who died in 1867 aged 96, leaving 135 descendants.

Well investigates the facts on the card, and finds that the only one which seems to be accurate is Mrs Brett’s name. She had not even died in 1867, but a year earlier in 1866. Her age, number of children and grandchildren all seem dubious.

Well states that "they were distributed after the funeral had taken place." Since she is discussing English memorial cards, researchers should note the difference between these and Canadian funeral cards, which were printed at the time of someone’s death as a notification of and invitation to the funeral.

Well notes that David Hey in The Oxford Guide to Family History says memorial cards give "precise information" -- her point being that this is not true. That may well be true for English cards, but Canadian ones, which are primary documents created at the time of the event, are much more reliable.

Emigrants from Islay

Terry Lodge of Vernon B.C. wrote asking for advice about her ancestors from the Isle of Islay in Scotland who emigrated to Ontario in the 19th century. They changed their name from McCuaig to McLeod, but Terry wondered why. Apparently a number of family members did this.

My first thought after reading this query was of Freda Ramsay's book John Ramsay of Kildalton. The Ramsays were lairds on Islay and this material is taken from the Ramsay estate papers. It includes a biography of John Ramsay and reprints his account of his trip to Ontario in 1870. On page 112 there is a long account of his visit with Norman M'Cuaig and his family (in Oro) and the following reference:

"Happily however about two o'clock, I saw a steamer in the distance coming towards Collingwood, along the Georgian Bay, and on arrival, she proved to be the "Frances Smith" and by four o'clock we were under way, and making progress to Owen Sound...On the voyage I made inquiry to ascertain whether any of the hands were from Islay, and I found that one of them, named M'Leod, was steersman, and I soon tried to see him. He was, however, occupied with his work until we were near the place; but, in the short time we had, I found his name was M'Cuaig (not M'Leod); that he came out from Glenasdale with the rest of the family some thirteen years since, and is a nephew of Dugald M'Cuaig, labourer, who still lives about Draigabus." (p. 127)

Whenever Ramsay encounters Islay people in Ontario (and visiting them was his chief purpose in crossing the ocean), he gives details about their family connections back home, including both names and places.

For researchers with Islay connections, it is well worth looking at Freda Ramsay's book, which should be available to you on interlibrary loan if your local library does not have it. It was first published by Peter Martin Associates, Toronto, 1969 and reprinted in Scotland in 1988 but with the same Peter Martin imprint.

It is clear from Ramsay's remarks above that he did not consider it usual for the M'Cuaigs to change their name to M'Leod. My first guess was that there were too many McCuaigs and this was their way of differentiating, but if so, they chose the wrong name, because there are so many more McLeods! So I doubt that that is the reason. The question requires further research.

Driven from their homes

A book on Irish immigration to North America had detailed descriptions of the ships which brought our ancestors to Canada, and the conditions under which they made the voyage. Of particular interest to Canadian researchers is the chapter on Quebec City in 1847, with information on the Irish ‘fever ships’ of that time.

David Hollett’s Passage to the New World: Packet Ships and Irish Famine Emigrants, 1845-1851 (P.M. Heaton Publishing, 1995) begins with the situation of the famine emigrants, many of whom were given no choice about what to do, because they were evicted from their homes.

Hollett writes, "The actual evictions were carried out with great brutality, in a manner that was an affront to human dignity. There had been many clearances before in Ireland, but they were stepped up in 1884 -- at the very height of the famine. Whole communities were deliberately destroyed, the cottages razed to the ground, and the inhabitants driven away..."

For these people, the miserable conditions on board ship probably duplicated what they had already put up with back home. The fresh air and plentiful food in Canada must have seemed heaven-sent, even if they had to work hard to earn their daily bread.

Although there are other volumes with details about 1847 on Grosse Ile, the quarantine station near Quebec City, this volume provides a succinct account of that time for those who wish it.

It should be stressed that only part of the book deals with Canada; the majority is about the United States.

Help with Sweden

If you're interested in Swedish genealogy and you're brave enough to attempt a guidebook in Swedish, here's a suggestion.

Slaktforska! Steg for Steg (Genealogy step by step), by Per Clemensson and Kjell Andersson is now in its fifth edition (Stockholm: LT:s Forlag, 1997). It is probably the best introduction to the subject, and is both handy and brief.
If you've been working with Swedish church records, you may be having trouble with the handwriting. A good chapter on Swedish paleography can be found in Henrik Anderö's Läsebok för släktforskare (Västerås: ICA bokförlag, 1979). Sometimes seeing other examples can help with difficult words.

Treasures from Scottish archives

The Scottish Archives Network site includes a broad variety of documents showing the kinds of things available in Scottish archives. This will help anyone who is contemplating work there. On the practical side, there is a tutorial on Scottish handwriting 1500-1750, and a dictionary of examples which will help you decipher an illegible word or even a whole document.

The Virtual Vault includes examples of many kinds of records from the expected court, property or other public records to personal materials (medical records and diaries) to very particular or unusual things (lighthouse records).

To take one example, the Application for Poor Relief page shows individuals needing assistance in the parish of Dunbar. Information included: address, birthplace (country and town), marital status, age, occupation if any, whether partially or wholly disabled and the cause of the debility. Researchers may not be aware that these Poor Relief registers contain so much that would be of value, nor that they would be available to us.

The example under Medical Records is for a smallpox hospital in Aberdeen, 1872-1875. On one page we see six members of the same family admitted on 25 April 1874. Two of the children died on 5 May, while the others recovered, being discharged in late May or early June. These few lines tell an interesting story for the family history. This site will be of interest not only for those with Scottish heritage, but may also give ideas for research possibilities for English and Irish genealogists also.

Remember -- keep on looking

A genealogist I was helping recently said that some church registers were missing. I suggested that they might turn up and he scoffed at the possibility. "Not ones that old!" he said-they dated from the 1920s.

The November 2002 issue of the Devon Record Office newsletter contains the following report: "We were also delighted to find that the second two Chawleigh registers, 1694-1742 and 1743-1812 had only just been retrieved from private hands by a local historian concerned about their future..."

If 17th and 18th century records can turn up and find themselves safely lodged in a welcoming archives, then 1920s records certainly can. Every genealogist's motto should be: never give up hope! (And keep looking.)

Early Methodist Clergy in England

If your family includes a Methodist preacher in the early days of the movement, you may want to find out more about him. Two publications give listings of these missionaries.

William Hill's An alphabetical arrangement of the Wesleyan Methodist preachers and missionaries: who are now travelling in Great-Britain and in distant parts of the globe, with a view of all the circuits and stations to which they have been appointed by the Conference, from the commencement of their itinerancy to the present period, carefully extracted from the printed Minutes (1819) gave 765 names. There are twenty-five later editions of this work, each adding new names to the roster. The most recent is dated 1922, but covers clergy up to 1887.

It might be difficult to find a copy of Hill, but Kenneth B. Garlick prepared a synopsis of the preachers and their charges, published in a limited edition booklet by the World Methodist Historical Society (British Section) in 1977 entitled Mr Wesley's preachers: an alphabetical arrangement of Wesleyan Methodist preachers and missionaries and the stations to which they were appointed, 1739-1818. He lists the preachers alphabetically, then chronologically includes all the charges where the man worked. Thus we see that John Hearnshaw was in Whitehaven in 1800, Barnsley in 1801, Manchester in 1803, Congleton in 1805, Sheffield in 1806 and Bristol in 1807-8. This meant a lot of travelling, mostly in the north. The missing years may be a time of retirement; Garlick mentions that many of the clergymen had to take periods of rest and recuperation for health reasons.

Another use of a list such as this is if a genealogist has a document or reference in their family with the clergyman's name, but there is an uncertainty where the original records might be consulted. For instance, a reference in a document to John Hearnshaw dated 1805, when the family lived in Leek, Staffs, might be confusing until we find that Hearnshaw was based nearby in Congleton. That fact might lead to more complete records.

Garlick provides a useful introduction giving the history of Hill's books and his own method in listing the places where the men worked. This tiny volume will be most valuable for researchers working with English Wesleyans. Garlick mentions that there is a similar manuscript text for Primitive Methodists by William Leary, available at the John Rylands Library in Manchester. This was published as Primitive Methodist ministers from the commencement to the year 1932 (1971, revised edition 1981). Leary has published a number of lists and directories of Primitive Methodist clergy and churches since then.

Be sure to check all available sources

The transcribed records for Mount Horeb Primitive Baptist Church in Lauderdale County, Mississippi were published by the Lauderdale County Dept. of Archives and History in 1993 [abstracted by Mary Ellen White, edited by Jim Dawson]. The August 1859 minutes contain the following notation:

"A colored brother belonging to Mr. Pendleton McDonald and Birts, a colored brother belonging to Mr. Whilock(?)" indicating that these slaves had been admitted as members of the church.

This is confirmed by a further listing on p. 81, "Believed to be the oldest list of church membership" which includes:

"Monroe, a colored brother belonging to Bro. Pendleton McDonald

Birt, a colored brother belonging to Mr. Whitlock"

The same list includes in the female section "Rachael, a black sister".

Later minutes indicate that Monroe McDonald [as named] was still a member in November 1865, when he was cited for misconduct, but no resolution of the conflict is given. The oldest membership list does have a section for those excluded [expelled] and his name is on it.

Birt [no surname] was still a member in March 1866. He, too, was being cited for misconduct, specifically that he had unlawfully taken a horse. In May of that year the minutes state: "A report on Bro. Birt that he had been gambling was taken up. Birt being present gave the church satisfaction and it was motioned and approved that the church bear with the brother for the offence." In May 1869 there was a complaint about his language and in October 1869 there was further trouble: "A complaint against Birt (Whitlock) a colored brother for using slanderous language against Thomas Riley, a brother from a sister church, was brought. Bro. Birt, being present, made a satisfactory confession and was retained."

At some point Birt was excluded without a note being made of the fact, as in August 1873 he made a public confession and was restored. In this record, he is fully named as Birt Whitlock.

Being reported for misconduct was a common occurrence for many members of this strict society, and it was possible to be excluded for minor infractions. It was their policy, for example, to exclude without a trial anyone seen in a drunken state on two occasions. Birt's treatment, when he showed contrition, seems to be quite lenient.

Rachael continues to appear on later, undated, membership lists; by the third one she is named as Rachael Whitlock, so she may be Birt's wife or merely have come from the same plantation. By the time of the first dated membership list (1886), neither Whitlock appears.

No other members of the church are specified as being African American.

It may seem surprising that slaves were permitted to join a white church in ante-bellum Mississippi, and then after the war seem to have the same standing as the other members in terms of treatment. Birt Whitlock was associated with Mount Horeb for at least fifteen years, and Rachael for a decade or more.

These examples can be used as a reminder that there should be no preconceived notions of where information might appear, and that in African American genealogy, it is always worthwhile looking at all documents for an area in the hope that some mention of our ancestors may occur.

An Aberdeenshire biographical source

The Spalding Club, in several incarnations, has been an influential historical entity in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Its publications are useful sources for genealogists.

The 1932 and 1933 volumes of the Third Spalding Club published tax rolls collected by John Forbes, a public offical and Jacobite. The 1932 volume consists of the Cess Roll of 1715, with great biographical details, and the 1933 volume consists of the valuation roll of 1667.

In the preface to the 1932 volume, Alistair and Henrietta Tayler write: "Biographical details are given in the case of every individual mentioned, as far as possible, with his or her progenitors and immediate descendants; besides any interesting historical or personal events in which they took part, and occasional longer accounts*."

As an example, in the parish of Kindrochit: Dalmore. Kenneth Mackenzie, with his son, James Mackenzie of Dalmore (now [i.e., 1932] Mar Lodge). James was the eldest son of Kenneth Mackenzie, Laird of Dalmore, who was the owner in 1696 and 1715. In 1699 "Kenneth Mackenzie of Dalmore" signed a heritor's bond, he was also Elder of the Parish of Kindrochit in 1701. James was 'younger of Dalmore' when he took part in the Rising of 1715, his activities in which ruined his father completely. He was served heir to his father in 1723. In 1728 he married "Isobel Douglas of Tilwhilly", had a daughter, Agnes and died before 1733, when his brother Donald was served heir to him.(p.55)

Anyone with Aberdeen ancestry with claims to being 'landed' will want to examine these and other Spalding Club volumes. In the Third Spalding Club series, other volumes deal with the Gordon, Leslie, Fraser and Forbes families, the archives at Dunvegan Castle (seat of the McLeod family), Powis House (Aberdeen) and Monymusk, and documents concerning Glenbuchat and Kirkwall.

Two notes about Oxfordshire:

The Centre for Oxfordshire Studies in Oxford, England, have put together packets of information about a number of parishes. These include church register transcripts, 1851 census materials and other things; they are on CD-ROM, but not, alas, for sale. The parishes currently available are Carterton, Cowley, Hanney, Neithrop, Standlake and Thame. It seems a drop in the bucket considering how many parishes there are, but it should be looked on as a good beginning. The materials are available at Oxfordshire libraries. The Centre is also working to digitise thousands of photographs from well-known Oxford photographers.

The Centre, based in the Central Library in Oxford, will obviously be a place genealogists will need to visit in the future. See their website.

And speaking of photographs, Robert Boyd's wonderful series Changing Faces has passed its fiftieth title. Each volume concentrates on one part of Oxford, often an individual village. The photos come from people living in the villages, and many faces can be seen-perhaps some of them related to you. I was amazed to find, in the Bladon volume, my great-grandfather's sister Amelia, never before seen. We only knew her birth and marriage dates from the church registers. She was unmistakably his sister, however, from her looks. A full list of the Boyd volumes can be found in the August 2002 issue of the Oxfordshire Family Historian, or you can contact Boyd at 260 Colwell Drive, Witney OX28 5LW England.

A German genealogical dictionary!

One of the difficulties for any genealogist is encountering words in old documents which are unfamiliar. This is even more complicated if the word is in a language other than our own. For researchers in German-language materials, I have found a handy small dictionary which might help.

Familienkundliches Worterbuch, by Fritz Verdenhalven is, as the title indicates, entirely in German. It may be more than we can hope that there would be a specialised German-English genealogical dictionary. However, this small handbook does include a vast array of terms, including occupations, names of individual days, and causes of death. Some of the meanings given are fairly obvious to English-speakers also: Kehlfuss is explained as 'influenza' and Keist as 'asthma'.

Individual days have their own names in English also-think of Christmas and Easter as the obvious examples, but there are many others, such as Whitsun and St. Swithin's Day. Nowadays we need a calendar book to explain these in English, and named days in German are similar. Hemeramus is 22 September, and Drudentag is 17 March (or St. Gertrude's Day).

Abbreviations are also explained, such as K.D. which is Latin for kalendis Decembris or 'in the month of December'.

It may be necessary to use this with a German-English dictionary at hand, but the specialised terms which Verdenhalven includes will probably not be found in a more conventional volume.

This information comes from the second edition (1969), published by Verlag Degener, but a 1992 edition is available from amazon.de (the German branch of amazon.com) for 20 euros. Ordering from them is as simple as ordering from the other amazon websites. If you intend longterm research in German documents, I recommend it.

Sometimes, serendipity helps

It isn’t supposed to happen this way. Finding family information is the result of hard work and shrewd research practices. You aren’t supposed to happen into a distant library and find that your unknown fifth cousin from Regina came there to do genealogy on the same day.

I suppose we all know that it can happen. Henry Z. Jones, an American genealogical lecturer, has written two books on unusual happenings. The first is called Psychic Roots: Serendipity & Intuition in Genealogy (1993) and its successor More Psychic Roots (1997). Jones collected incidents from his fellow genealogists, and there seemed to be a lot of them with stories to share.

I will now have to join the crowd. Recently I was cataloguing the journal of the Canadian Friends Historical Association, which is published at the Quaker school, Pickering College in Newmarket, Ontario. The Canadian Quaker archives are there, and the society seems as interested in genealogy as the history of their church.

I noticed that our library had Ed Phelps’ old inventory of Quaker records, from the days when they were lodged at the University of Western Ontario. The book needed some work, so I had it brought up from the library’s basement and set it on top of a pile on my desk for attention soon.

That evening I was taking part in an online chat group with some of my students at the Institute of Genealogical Studies in Toronto. We were talking about church records and a woman from Missouri mentioned her Quaker relations in Ontario before 1850. They had lived in Leeds County and gone to the United States as missionaries. I wondered if there might be some records in the inventory for a monthly meeting (as the Quakers call their church) in the Leeds area. I reached over for the book, and glanced through it. Sure enough, there were the Leeds Monthly Meeting records for 1838-1855, a perfect match.

The CFHA journal was still there too, so I found an address and phone number for her to enquire about the records. She was very pleased and so was I. It isn’t often we can help another genealogist with such specific information.

By the time you read this the Quaker books will have gone back to their basement shelves. It was only chance that I had them on my desk on the day I was asked that question.

Book review

American church register: records of Rev. A. Hastings Ross, Port Huron, Michigan and Springfield, Ohio Congregational Church, 1866-1893. Sarnia, Ont.: Lambton County Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society, 2001. 195p. ISBN: 0-7779-1209-0. Index.

This is a facsimile reproduction of the register, with index. There are records from Congregational churches in Columbus and Springfield, Ohio and Port Huron, Michigan. The original register was bought at a flea market and is now owned by Lambton County Branch. The information from Springfield begins in 1866 and for Port Huron in 1876, and ends only with Ross’ death in 1893.

Reproduction of the register was made difficult because it had been used as a scrapbook. The pasted sheets have been carefully removed and the quality of reproduction is high. The index makes it easy to find individuals in the entries.

This kind of church record, covering widely scattered places and having essentially been lost, is a most valuable publication, because now it can be made available to researchers in all the various places served by Mr. Ross. Many Ontario entries are included, particularly in the marriages section. People often crossed the border to be married, the trip taking the place of a honeymoon and sparing the couple the expense of a wedding celebration.

Available from the publisher at Box 2857, Sarnia ON N7T 7W1, price $22.

An Intriguing but Confusing Yorkshire Resource

In 1888 a Yorkshire antiquarian named J. Horsfall Turner began a series of periodicals, all dealing with Yorkshire history and genealogy. None of the magazines was particularly successful, but over the next few years, Turner combined and relaunched them in an attempt to make a go of the enterprise. In the end, he failed.

Family historians with Yorkshire interests will want to know about the series, however, and may want to search the little books out in case they contain something which might add to the family history. Here are the titles:

Yorkshire Bibliographer was founded in 1888. One volume was published and then the title was absorbed by Yorkshire Genealogist.

Yorkshire Folk-lore Journal was founded in 1888. One volume was published and then the title was absorbed by Yorkshire Notes & Queries.

Yorkshire Notes & Queries was founded in 1888. Two volumes were published. It absorbed Yorkshire Folk-lore Journal in volume two, and both titles are on the title page. Notes & Queries then merged with the Yorkshire Genealogist, to form the Yorkshire County Magazine.

Yorkshire Genealogist was founded in 1888. Two volumes were published. It absorbed the Yorkshire Bibliographer. It then merged with Yorkshire Notes & Queries to form the Yorkshire County Magazine.

Yorkshire County Magazine was founded in 1891. Four volumes were published before it was discontinued in 1894.

Although the titles make the various publications sound different, they were all essentially similar in content, with local history and family information, bibliographical references and other things which reflect Turner’s Victorian spirit of wide-ranging enquiry. Aside from anything else, those with Yorkshire interests will probably find them fun to read.

One mode of finding obscure titles is by searching in FirstSearch, an online catalogue featuring the combined resources of hundreds of libraries including the national libraries of Canada, the United States, Great Britain and Australia. It lists what participating libraries own the books. No Canadian libraries are listed for these Yorkshire titles, but all are at the Allen County Public Library, the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston, and four are at the Los Angeles Public Library.

Four of the five titles (excepting Yorkshire Folk-lore Journal) have been indexed in PERSI.

Column copyright © 2002-2005 Ryan Taylor

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