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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Start with Yourself and Work Backwards

This question came to Ask Olive Tree Genealogy today. The answer is so simple I'm jumping Joanne to the head of the queue! 

My name is Joanne Rich (married name)
Joanne Bersane (maiden name)
Bersane name comes from Italy, not sure about married name. How do I find out if ancestors were Jewish
 Joanne - Genealogy research is always done the same way. You start with yourself and work backwards. Gather documentation of your parents, their parents, and so on. Documentation consists of census records, birth records, marriage records, death records, obituaries and more. Ask older family members for details of their births, marriages, places of residence, information on their parents and grandparents, etc

See http://www.olivetreegenealogy.com/beginner/ for more help

Keep going backwards in time, tracing your family ancestry. As you trace back you should discover information on religion and ethnicity of your ancestors.

Lastly, be prepared to spend the next dozens of years researching. Genealogy is not a quick fix. It's not fast and it's not always easy. 

Best of luck!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Finding Out if Ancestors were Jewish

Jenn S. asked for help with


My paternal 3rd great grandfather, Samuel Abraham(s) was born about 1806 according to the England 1841 Census.  I know I should either add or subtract 5 to that as they were know to round the number.

When Samuel and Mary Cockayne married there were no parents listed.  I contacted the church and verified that the parents were not listed.  Samuel died, I believe, 1849 in Nantwich, England and it was listed that his father was Marcus.  So if his father was Marcus, he did not follow the pattern which all families followed during that time by naming his first son the name of his father.  His children, that I know of, are as follows:  Lewis abt. 1831-1891, Samuel 1834-1836, Caroline abt. 1836-?, Charlotte abt. 1837-1902, George H. 1838-1840, Harriet abt. 1840, Mark Henry abt. 1842-? and Eliza abt. 1846-?.
Our name was change to Brahams. Also, we are not Jewish. Abrahams i commonly a Jewish name and there was a story told that the Abrahams were Jewish until one of the boys married a Christian and they were cast away from the family. Could that have been Samuel and is that why I can't find anything? So those are my things about Samuel.

Jenn - Naming patterns were not followed by all families as you stated in your query. Some families followed them but many did not. And I note that there was a child named Mark Henry  - Mark being a shortened form for Marcus.

A Charlotte and Catherine Abraham of the right ages can be found in the Hebrew Girls Boarding School, Palestine Place in 1851. They are in the census for that year for Tower Hamlet, St. John's, Bethnal Green, Middlesex England. So it seems there may be some truth to your family lore.

Also you might want to make note of the fact that some of the children are listed twice in the 1841 census - once with their parents Samuel and Mary, but also in Manchester with Mary Cockayne age 63 with daughters Eliza and Fanny as well as the Abraham children Lewis, Caroline and Charlotte. 

A quick search for a few of the children turned up Harriet's baptism - as Harriet Ellen Abrahams to Samuel and Mary on 29 Aug 1849 in Manchester. Her birth date is given as 18 Aug 1839 and Samuel is noted as a Commercial Traveller. He is not recorded as being deceased at that time although another record indicates he was buried 30 Jul 1849 in Nantwich. A second child named Eliza Cockayne was baptised the same day to Samuel and Mary (whose name is given as Mary Ann). Her birth was 1845.


If I were you I would search each of the children thoroughly - see who they married, when and where they died. Look for burial records, obituaries, church death records to gain more information on the family.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Sometimes You Must Use Pay-to-View Databases to Find an Ancestor Online

Jenn S. asked several questions. I chose this one to answer today
My 2nd great grandmother on my maternal side.  Elizabeth Power(s) is her name.  She married William Hinch(c)liffe in England and came to the US with him settling in Fall River, Massachusetts.  I have that she was born about 1821 and died somewhere between 1870 and 1880, as she is listed in the 1870 United States Census but William is listed as Widower in 1880.  I cannot find out anything about her prior to coming to the United States and I cannot find when she exactly died.  I have gone to the Fall River library and searched and saved their death notations and cannot find anything.  I have an indication in my tree, not sure where I got it, that lists Lawrence as her father's name.  I have nothing to verify that.  I can tell you that William and Elizabeth had 9 children, all in Fall River, that I know of.  Mary 1848-1849, Mary 1850-1908, Thomas 1852-1912, Jane 1856-1861, Elizabeth 1860-1918, Sarah 1860-?, Ruth 1860-1863, William 1861-1862 and Samuel (my 1st great grandfather) 1862-1927. 

Here is an early Christmas gift for you... William and Elizabeth were married in St. Peter's Catholic Church, Ashton under Lyne, Stayleybridge Cheshire on May 26, 1845. His parents are listed as Thomas and Mary Hinchcliffe, hers are Lawrence and Elizabeth Power. Source: Cheshire Non-conformist & Roman Catholic Registers (Marriages) on FindMyPast

It might help you to see who the witnesses were - Maria Power is one of them. See the last column on the right.



 Your next step might be to hunt for Elizabeth and her parents in the 1841 census. I would start with Cheshire and see what you can find. In fact a 20 year old Elizabeth Power with mother Elizabeth (no father in the household) shows up in Stockport Cheshire in 1841.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Assumptions Can Mislead you in Your Genealogy Research

Lisa asked:

I have my Grandfather’s birth certificate which was issued in 1965 (he was born in 1917), his name on the certificate is Leo John Roy.  All his Military ID is listed as Leo Napoleon Roy.  His Father’s name was Pierre and his Mother, Cecile.  I found them on the 1921 census,  however,  the names are listed as Pete and Elvina.  Childrens names (Leo, Bertha and Albert) are correct.  I cannot find any info apart from that census on anyone in the Roy family.  My Great Grandmother, Cecile is listed on a tomb in Manitoba as she later married a William McNabb.  I believe her maiden name was also McNabb but am unsure.  Her death date is not listed on the tomb.  I believe she was born on June 26, 1893. Pierre,  I believe was 1 year older.  My Grandparents (Leo and Minnie May) lived in Thunder Bay, ON but came from Manitoba.  I believe Cecile came from Manitoba also,  not too sure on Pierre (Pete).  Cecile also looks native in the few pictures I have.  Leo was born in Stonewall,  Manitoba and later lived in The Pas, Manitoba.  He joined the military in the early 1940’s and was based out of Winnipeg.  He was born on June 20, 1917 and died on January 12, 1967.  He was a hoisting engineer after his Military time.  

1921 Census Manitoba
Lisa - Let's go through your query one question at a time. First, in the 1921 census we do see Elvina. I suggest that is likely Cecile's middle name. You will want to look for records to verify this - her marriage, birth or death record perhaps.

Next, seeing Pierre listed as Pete in 1921 is not unusual since the French name Pierre is the English name Peter.

The tomb with Cecile's name on it but no death date suggests to me that the stone was erected before she died but she was never buried there.

As for Pierre and Cecile's ages, you can estimate their years of birth from the 1921 census but of course you will want to find them in earlier census records too. He is listed as 27 born Quebec and she is recorded as 26 born Manitoba. While Census records can be wrong, you do have a starting point for years of birth and locations. (which answers your question about where Cecile and Pierre were from). So you will want to search Manitoba birth and census records for Cecile, and Quebec records for Pierre.  You may want to visit the Manitoba Vital Registration site where you can search the online indexes.

A good clue may turn out to be the recording of little Albert's birth location as USA. I would try to find more on Albert.

Don't be misled by photos where an ancestor "looks native". She may very well be but in the 20th century and earlier, lives were difficult and women especially often had an aged appearance which could lead to an assumption of native heritage.

Understanding Relationship Terms

Barbara wanted to know about relationship terms.

Can you tell me which of the following ‘removed’ are the equivalent of  3rd great grandfather (e.g.) That is, is a 3rd great grandfather the same as Third removed?

Are the two terms used for different reasons or can either be used.
The following is from other notes but I’m still none the wiser. "When cousins descend from common ancestors by a different number of generations they are called "removed."
Once removed means there is a difference of one generation. Your mother's first cousin would be your first cousin, once removed. She is one generation younger than your grandparents and you are two generations younger than your grandparents.
Twice removed means that there is a two-generation difference. Your grandmother's first cousin would be your first cousin, twice removed because you are separated by two generations."
Barbara, 

The short answer to your question is "No". The terms are quite different.

Since you have the correct definition of the terms "once removed" and "twice removed" but it's puzzling you, let me try to explain it a different way. You use the term "removed" when you are comparing two individuals to a common (shared) ancestor. So you need 3 people in the mix! "Removed" means the two individuals are a certain number of generations apart. 

Let's say you have a relative named Sally. Sally's father and your father are brothers. That makes you and Sally first cousins. 

Now let's say you have a child named Roger. Roger is also Sally's first cousin BUT he is one generation removed from her! That makes Sally and Roger first cousins once removed.

Your 3rd great-grandfather refers to a relationship between 2 people -you and your 3rd. great grandfather. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Ships Passenger Records To Canada are Available as Early as 1865

Henry wrote to ask

My great uncle who originated in Germany, born 1872 or 1874, appears in the UK 1901 census as Ferdinand Roks living in London. Within the family there was no mention of him but it was suggested that perhaps he went to Quebec, Since he doesn't appear in a later census, it could be reasonable to assume that he left London sometime after 1901. How do I research the shipping companies or ships records or even the Quebec immigration records to try to trace him, especially as might have changed the spelling of his name.
 Henry

Ships passenger lists to Canada are available as early as 1865. You can search on Ancestry.com, where the passenger names are indexed and linked to images, or you can use Library & Archives Canada (LAC). LAC however does not have a name index so you have to search by date or ship name.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

How to Decipher Old Handwriting

Derek wanted help with reading some challenging writing in an image

I have struggled with this image for a long time and asked many people for their suggestions for the middle name. This (No 260) is presumably the father of James Gray my illegitimate maternal gt gt grand father.His mother Catherine Gray (born 1808, Purton, Wiltshire) was a servant living in Edmonton, London at the time. The  1861 Census for Purton, Wiltshire says he was born in London. Any ideas would be appreciated.


 Derek - Unfortunately when trying to deciper challenging handwriting, one needs to see the full sheet and other sheets written by the same hand. That allows a good comparison of letter formations. Also it would help to know the column headings (not to read the handwriting but to look for other records that might solve the mystery)

It helps to enlarge the image in a graphic program (I use Picasa) or to trace it.  See Deciphering Challenging Handwriting for more tips. 

Guessing only, it seems to be "James --- Fosse son of"

I did a little investigating and found another record for the baptism of your James, but without the extra name


This is found in Lambeth St John the Evangelist Parish Registers Jan. 1828 on Ancestry.