Migration Paths

I’ve seen these migration path charts floating around and decided to create one for myself. The idea is to trace where your ancestors were born, but realistically you could use this method in any number of ways.

My chart starts with myself as the largest block on the left and works backward through my father (top portion, all Pennsylvania) and my mother (bottom portion, multiple locations).

A blank spreadsheet ready to fill in is freely available as a Google doc.



When What You Know, Isn’t What’s Correct

I’ve spent the better part of a decade searching for the estranged brother of a family member. Due to various circumstances, the only information I had came from the one brother I knew. He told me when his brother was born and his name. I wanted to locate the estranged brother to see if he could answer some questions about his parents, who died when the brothers were fairly young. Since the estrangement didn’t happen until they were adults, I assumed the brother knew his brother’s name and birth year and focused my search on these pieces of information.

Thanks to new social security records available via ancestry.com, I finally found the estranged brother. Turns out the birth year was quite off and the name was close, but the middle name was wrong. I had been searching based on the wrong information.

Oddly enough, both brothers had the same middle name. They were the only children of this particular marriage and the middle name was not a family name as far as I can tell. I’ve never come across siblings that both have Matthew or Steven as a middle name. Very odd, but intriguing.

Unfortunately, the estranged brother died in 2004, not long after I began looking for him. I don’t believe he ever married or had children, so this particular search has likely ended. The brother I knew died a few years ago, so there’s no longer anyone to bounce ideas off.

Research can feel so overwhelming sometimes, whether the person has a common name or not. I always tried different combinations, different ranges of birth years, etc. but always came up empty handed until I was able to pair the mother’s maiden name with the death information. I only wish I had been able to do this when these brothers were still alive.

New Book Search from MyHeritage

It may be old news to some, but it the MyHeritage “Compilation of Published Sources” search tool was new to me. Similar to Google books, this search includes a variety of printed material including yearbooks, city directories, and more.

The search interface is easy to use. Try different combinations to get different, and sometimes better, results:

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The search results screen gives you the title of the source, the publication place, and an excerpt from the materials with your search terms highlighted:

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Selecting an item takes you to a detail page where you can see the full text. Zoom toggles are available and you can also opt to view full screen. Once on an individual page you can move back and forth through the pages of the book.

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Happy hunting!

Finding Graves on Vacation

At the end of September I spent a week in Vermont. Before the trip, I took a look at local cemeteries on Findagrave.com and picked a few to visit in between days spent mountain biking and enjoying the local scenery.

My first visit was to Woodmont Cemetery in East Burke, VT. I spent an hour or two there taking photos and getting a feel for the place and then returned again a few days later to finish as much as I could. When I started the cemetery was 54% photographed. After uploading all of my photos including new memorials the final tally was 74% photographed.


I spent one afternoon at Hillside Cemetery in West Burke, VT. This lovely cemetery was smaller than Woodmont and is uniquely situated at the top of a steep road on a high plateau. Although close to the road it felt completely isolated. The starting number was 54% photographed, ending number is currently 70% although I still have many photos to upload.

My final cemetery excursion was to Saint Elizabeth Cemetery in Lyndonville, VT. I rarely visit catholic cemeteries, but this one was small and I didn’t have much time so I figured I could make a decent dent. The starting number was 14% photographed and the ending number was 37% photographed.



Reburials at Mount Moriah Cemetery

In late October I had the privilege of joining members of the Daughters of the American Revolution, local university students, and other volunteers in reclaiming section 112 of Mount Moriah Cemetery on the Yeadon side.

This section was purchased by the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia and the church moved its burial ground from the area of 2nd and Arch Streets to Mount Moriah in early 1860. The center of the section contains a large monument to the churches pastors and the rest of the section contains a criss-cross of sidewalks with burials in between.

It appears a number of stones were moved when the bodies were reinterred, but perhaps most interesting is the portion of sidewalk made up of flat headstones used as sidewalk ‘pavers’.

In October 2015, may of these stones saw the light of day for the first time in many years.


“A Stranger Whose Name is Unknown”

While searching the wonderful fultonhistory.com, I came across this obituary:

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We all know our ancestors can be elusive…that obituaries weren’t always printed and documents didn’t always exist. And even when records exist, they can be extremely hard to find, to confirm, to cross-reference…it can take years of research and many of us will be unsuccessful in ever finding the right connections.

So this newspaper clipping gives me mixed feelings. This stranger whose name is unknown is likely forever lost to history, but someone found the man’s death—or at least his anonymity—worthy of coverage.

Where They Lived

Many records give the address where our ancestors were living. Census records are a great source of addresses (check the left margin), as are some military records. I’m always interested in seeing whether the property still exists and what it looks like today.

Thanks to google maps and street view, you can often get a close look at a property.

Find a street address and then visit https://www.google.com/maps

Type in the address and you’ll see a box like this, top left of your screen:

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Click on the photo where it says “street view” in white to get a look at the street:

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Now us the + sign (bottom right) to zoom in, if necessary. You can often see the house number on or near the front door. In this case, my ancestors lived in the house on the far right:

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You may not always find street view available – it depends on what Google has imaged. You’ll have the most luck in larger cities and towns, as opposed to rural areas.

You may also find that addresses have changed and the exact house number may no longer exist, even though the street does. The same is true of streets – names can change over the years. It’s also possible the building has been demolished in the decades or centuries since your ancestors lived in the area.

Happy hunting!