31 August 2011

New Editor to Take Reins of Ohio Genealogy News in 2012

Congratulations to Sunny McClellan Morton!
She has been selected as the next editor of the Ohio Genealogy News. She will replace Debra Cyprych and Jennifer Hershberger as editor on January 1, 2012. Cyprych and Hershberger have held the co-editorship for the past five years.
Sunny writes a regular column and frequent features for Family Tree Magazine and she is the author of My Life & Times: A Guided Journal for Collecting Your Stories. She is also an instructor on family history writing for Family Tree University.
Sunny will bring to this position twenty years of solid experiences as a writer, an editor and as a public speaker. She holds undergraduate degrees in History and Humanities from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and has taken graduate-level courses at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
She is actively engaged in genealogical research. She is a member of the Ohio Genealogical Society, the Association of Professional Genealogists, the National Genealogical Society, and the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors.

Sunny lives in Cleveland. You can read more about her at http://sunnymorton.blogspot.com/

30 August 2011

Ancestry.com Offers Free Week of Access to Immigration Records

The following announcement was released by Ancestry.com:
Week of Free Access Enables Families to Discover Stories of Ancestors’ International Travels and Passage

PROVO, UTAH – (August 29, 2011) – Ancestry.com, the world’s largest online family history resource, today announced an entire week of free access to its popular U.S. and International Immigration and Naturalization records. The free access week begins August 29th and runs through the Labor Day holiday ending September 5th. During this time, all visitors to Ancestry.com will be able to search for free the indices and images of new and updated U.S. immigration records as well as selected international immigration records from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Australia, Canada, Germany, Sweden and Mexico. Millions of Americans can trace their family history to other countries, and these collections provide valuable information about the travels and journeys that brought them to America or other countries around the world.
Ancestry.com’s extensive collection of immigration, naturalization and travel records offer an important resource for discovering and celebrating family history. As part of this promotion, the company is adding to its collection of U.S. and international records for tracing relatives from their homeland to other countries around the world. These records include ships passenger and crew lists, declarations of intent, petitions for naturalization, witness affidavits, border crossings, certificates and other records generated by the naturalization process, which is the act and procedure of becoming a new citizen of a country. Because the process has changed significantly over time and varies from country to country, different records are available from a wide variety of state, federal and international sources.

Newly added U.S. collections include Florida Petitions for Naturalization, 1913-1991; Delaware Naturalization Records, 1796-1959 and Utah Naturalization and Citizenship Records, 1850-1960. Noteworthy updated U.S. and international collections include U.S. Naturalization and Passport applications, 1795-1972; UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960; Border Crossings: From Canada to U.S., 1895-1956; New South Wales, Australia, Unassisted Immigrant Passenger Lists, 1826-1922; Border Crossings: From Mexico to U.S., 1895-1957; New York State, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1917-1973; Atlantic Ports Passenger Lists, 1820-1873 and 1893-1959.

“One of the most common elements of the American experience is our respect and interest in our native heritage.  Almost all Americans have international roots, and many take great pride and even feel patriotic toward the countries from which their ancestors originated,” said Josh Hanna, Ancestry.com Executive Vice President. “That’s why we continue to build and enrich our collection of immigration and naturalization records and why we are providing free access to anyone who wants to search these records to discover their family’s international history.”

Many families have already made important discoveries in Ancestry.com’s immigration and naturalization collection. Each of the following stories offers an example of the exciting and often emotional discoveries made by some Ancestry.com users.
  • David A. Bader – Atlanta, GA: Bader traced his mother’s immigration from birth in Vienna, Austria, in 1934, during the Holocaust, through a KinderTransport to England (1939-1941), and eventually her immigration into the U.S. He’s also traced her parents’ journeys through concentration camps and other paths that lead to the United States, where the family came back together after their separate journeys of luck and fate.
  • Kristine Plotinski – Romeo, MI: Plotinski recently found the ship manifest of when her grandparents and three aunts immigrated to the United States from Iraq in 1947. She shared this document with her aunts and they were deeply touched when they saw their names on the manifest. One of her aunts remarked that she had been unable to find her immigration records on a visit to Ellis Island and recounted that seeing the document from Ancestry.com brought back many memories. Her aunt very clearly remembers the day in 1947 when her ship arrived in New York. She was awed by the lights of New York and the snow and wore a pink coat made with rabbit fur, which her grandmother had made for each of Kristine’s aunts.
  • Jackie Wells – Annapolis, MD:  Although her father died of cancer, Wells was fortunate to spend considerable time with him before he passed. Many of their talks focused on his family history. He did not know much about his mother, who died from a fire when he was three, or about her background. His father remarried and supported a blended family, but did not talk about his background. Since those discussions, Wells has traced her father’s side back to the original immigrants, finding early colonial settlers of New England, a sea captain defending New York’s harbor under George Washington in 1776, early residents of the new capital Washington, hard-working mid-1800's immigrants, Civil War soldiers, sports legends and many poignant personal stories. So far, for two of the immigrants Wells located, she has traveled to and photographed their birth villages, in Italy and in Germany. Wells’ family history research has helped her find and be welcomed by hundreds of newfound relatives who have provided many memories and a much deeper understanding her father’s family history.  
To start researching the immigration and naturalization records for free, please visit www.ancestry.com/immigration.

29 August 2011

Theory Offered in Case of Headstone Mystery in Lorain

I live in Brecksville in Cuyahoga County, about 40 miles from West 23 Street in Lorain in the next county, which has the same name. With the power of the Internet, I learned about a mystery surrounding a headstone found in a backyard in Lorain—and I was able to follow developments in the story--all without leaving the comfort of my home office.

I first learned about the mystery from an email from LinkedIn wherein an acquaintance, Linda Ellis, reported “Finding the Tombstone of Simeon Shepard in a Lorain Backyard.” This sounded intriguing so I followed her link and checked it out. [You can find it at  http://limesstones.blogspot.com/. Scroll way down on the page.]

It turns out that the Morning Journal newspaper in Lorain first ran the story on Aug 18. The report stated that Tarrence Scott, 24, was cleaning up the backyard shrubs at his W.24th Street home when he stumbled upon the headstone. "I thought it was just a brick, I picked it up and pushed it over and it was a tombstone," he reported. "I thought there was a body under there. There might still be a body under there." Scott ran inside an told his wife Jennifer Scott, age 27 who called police. Police advised the couple not to touch the stone and to call a cemetery to come out and inspect.

The tombstone was inscribed as belonging to "Simeon Shepard" and reads "Died June 16th 1864, aged 82 years and 16 days."

The story caught the attention of Channel 8 in Cleveland which broadcast the story the afternoon of Aug 18.

The Morning Journal did follow-up stories over the next two days. These stories ended up being posted by a FindAGrave volunteer in an entry for Simeon Shepard [go to http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=21476766]. From that source, I’m relaying what the newspaper reported on Aug 20:

After two days of searching and calling, the mystery behind why Simeon Shepard's headstone is in the back yard of a West 23 Street, Lorain, home isn't known, but there is a plausible theory.

"It was either replaced or stolen," Diane Wargo Medina said.

Since she was 19 years-old, Medina has been helping care for the Charleston Village Cemetery on West Sixth Street, Lorain.

So when she heard about the backyard tombstone she was determined to discover where Shepard came from and belonged.

Her investigation ended up being very fruitful, as she studied U.S. Census and death records.

"The date of death matches and they were from the Lorain County area," she said.

There is a monument at Andress Cemetery with Simeon and his wife, Aseneth, names. Aseneth passed away a few years after Simeon.

Which is one of the reasons, Medina believed that the headstone could have been replaced.

Whether the stone ended in the West 23rd Street back yard by accident or on purpose, she believes it belongs in one place only.

"I personally think that (the headstone) should go back over there (cemetery)," she said.

Medina, who repairs headstone at the West Sixth Street cemetery, stated that she would be happy to help relocate and repair the stone.

"I will gladly repair it," she said. "It should go back."

While the mystery of how the headstone ended up in the backyard may never be solved, the mystery of who Shepard was has been.

Shepard was a farmer, born in Massachusetts, who moved to Henrietta with his wife, Aseneth and their daughter, Sarah Shepard, according to the website familysearch.org. [She obviously used the Internet to do this checking.]

I also did a quick check of census records for Simeon Shepard, using Ancestry.com, and found find him and his family in the 1850 census in Henrietta Township in Lorain County. I also noted  several listings for men by the name of Simeon Shepard in earlier censuses, including listings in Massachusetts. The listings include several in New York, which often was a waypoint for people migrating from Massachusetts to Ohio. 

There is one more census result of interest: In the 1860 census, Sarah Shepard, age 35, was living in the home of a hardware merchant, and working as a seamstress, in Wellington, Lorain County, about 15 miles from Henrietta Township (distance gleaned from Google Maps). It seems likely that she was the unmarried daughter of Simeon and Anseneth Shepard listed with them in the 1850 census.

Using the power of the Internet, I was able to see all this within about a half an hour. Wow!

28 August 2011

Online Genealogical Resource on the Firelands

I just became aware of the website, "Firelands History Website," at http://firelands.wordpress.com/. 

The creator, David W. Barton, writes in his welcome message: 

“Sufferers’ Land.” “Firelands.”

These evocative and descriptive phrases refer to a region in northern Ohio set aside by the state of Connecticut for “Sufferers” burned out of their homes by the British during the American Revolution. Part of the Western Reserve, it covered present-day Huron and Erie counties.

After the War of 1812, a flood of emigration erupted out of crowded New England, the result of a pent up desire for new land that had been held in check by the threat of Native Americans defending their homes, and the spur of economic hardship engendered by the catastrophic “Year without Summer” of 1816.Most of these pioneers were bound for the Firelands.

Thus began one of the great migrations of American history; a flood of humanity that poured out of New England and settled lands stretching along the southern shores of the Great Lakes from upstate New York to Illinois and across the Mississippi River into Iowa.

These settlers greatly impacted the history of the United States. In the 1850’s, some of them entered Kansas and clashed with the leading edge of another great migration that had settled the South — a tragic foreshadowing of the Civil War. The grandchildren of the settlers of the Old Northwest formed the backbone of the Union Army of the West during that war and made possible the Republican majority that ruled the nation the remainder of the century.

This website presents histories of the Firelands and genealogies of families that settled there.

For researchers interested in this region, Barton provides an online reproduction of the Sufferers’ Land, a history of the settlement of the Firelands from the founding of the town of Norwalk in 1817 by Platt Benedict to the final Pioneers Reunion and founding of The Firelands Historical Society in 1857. This story may be read from the beginning starting at the Prologue, or by selecting any of the 53 episodes in the Index of Posts.

I am sure that I will be referring to this online resource in my research in the Western Reserve.

19 August 2011

News Flash: Footnote Is Refocusing; New Name Is Fold3

Today the website formerly known as Footnote.com announced the intention to create the finest and most comprehensive collection of U.S. Military records available on the Internet. In the process, the website will become known as Fold3.

The official announcement continues:

Footnote Gets Focused

This announcement isn’t a complete change from what we’ve been doing.  Some of our best and most popular work has been on military titles like the Revolutionary War Pension files, the Civil War Service Records and “Widows’ Pensions,” WWII Missing Air Crew Reports and the Interactive Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

This new focus will direct our content plans and allow us to organize the site around military records.  In the future we’ll make other changes that will help us build the best online source for records related to the U.S. military, the men and women who have served and the families who support them.

You will still be able to access the great non-military records previously found on Footnote, but we’ll be adding millions of U.S. military records, like these that we’ve already begun work on:

Word War II “Old Man’s Draft” Cards
War of 1812 Pension Files
Mexican War Service Records
World War I Officer Experience Reports
Confederate Casualty Reports

One change that won’t impact how things work, but is significant and will probably get a lot of attention, is the site’s new name.  Footnote has been a great name, but it doesn’t relate to military records and can carry a connotation of insignificance which doesn’t seem appropriate for a site focused on records related to the great sacrifices associated with military service.

New Name: Fold3

We wanted a name that would show respect for the records we are working on and for the people who have served in the armed forces.  The name Fold3 comes from a traditional flag-folding ceremony in which the third fold is made in honor and remembrance of veterans for their sacrifice in defending their country and promoting peace in the world.

We are excited for this new focus and name because it will help us continue to improve the site and bring you records that will help in your research.

If you have any questions, feedback or suggestions, please let us know.


During the day following the announcement, people have provided feedback, and the website has issued some updates:

Many of the questions so far have been about what will happen to all the non-military content on the site. Sorry for any confusion we caused on that. We don’t plan to remove any non-military content from the site with the exception of some third-party newspaper content that may be removed at the owners’ discretion. The city directories, naturalizations, vital records, Native American records and other non-military content that we have created for the site will be available on Fold3. You can still find them through search, on the records list page, and in browse under the new “Other Records” category.

There have also been some questions about content moving back and forth between Ancestry and Fold3. We do plan to bring copies of some of Ancestry’s military records over to Fold3 (the World War II “Old Man’s Draft” Cards we are currently adding to the site are an example) and Ancestry may get copies of some Fold3 titles that make sense for their users, but when this happens, the records would be copied, not moved, Fold3 content added to Ancestry will still be available on Fold3 and vice versa.

Thank you for all your comments. We appreciate your passion and support for Footnote. We hope as the dust of this change settles, you’ll find that the site feels familiar and that the most important parts of Footnote are still part of Fold3.