Find My Ancestor Blog

NGS Review Part 3

The following are my tweets from the opening session of the National Genealogical Society conference held last week in Salt Lake City. I am re-posting my tweets from the conference just in case you missed them and would like to know about some of the classes I attended.

  • "U.S. Naturalization Records, Colonial Times to Early Twentieth-century" by John Philip Colletta, PhD
  • Three periods of naturalization records
  • 1. Prior to 1970 2. 1790- Sep. 26, 1906 3. Since Sep. 27, 1906
  • Find a likely candidate and then secure and examine the original recede on microfilm or digitization.
  • Basic facts you need: ancestor's name,, native country, state and county where living during naturalization.
  • Where can you find naturalization records?
  • Citizenship columns in federal censuses: 1820, 1830, 1870, 1900-1930.
  • Find information in state censuses. He is talking about New York state census.
  • Why Naturalize? Vote, Ability to hold office, transfer land.
  • Check passenger ships records to see if a family member was already a citizen.
  • ALWAYS check state archives!! He emphasized that a lot!
  • Colonial Period - beginning in 1607: stautes of British colonies in North America(except for N.H.)
  • 1740: people could become a citizen of both Great Britain and the colony they were living.
  • White, males, 21yrs. +, land owner. These were people who could get citizenship at the time.
  • 1776: people who were born from this point forward are automatically citizens.
  • Pennsylvania Records of Natiralization 1695 177~ Most are Germans.
  • 1795: Free white females 21>. 5 years in country. 2- Declaration 3- Petition.
  • Sep. 27, 1906 Bureau of Immigration & Naturalization created.
  • 1922: married women must file separately.
  • Courts that naturalized: Federal, State, Municipal. Start with Federal and work your way down.
  • After INS was created forms were made that gave a lot more information than previous hand written declarations.
  • Of course, be sure to check
  • Great lecture on Naturalization by John Philip Colletta!!

  • "LDS Resources on the Internet - Where Can I Find Them And How Do I Use Them?" by Luana Darby
  • Early Latter-day Saint Database
  • Immigrant Ancestors Project - - not only for LDS records.

  • "FamilySearch's Tools and Resources for the United Kingdom and Ireland" by Diane Loosle
  • - England Jurisdictions 1851. For now it ony covers England.
  • FamilySearch Research Wiki. Repository for the collective research knowledge of the genealogical community.
  • Access online classes for free at
  • FamilSearch Forums.
  • Trees, Records, and Books.
  • FamilSearch Beta.
  • Currently there are 1.3 million records for the British Isles availabe on FamilySearch.

  • Waiting for "Immigrant Clue in Photographs" by Maureen Taylor to start.
  • Our immigrant ancestors took photographs the same way we do today.
  • Women immigrants would save all they could to buy a good dress to takes pictures and send home to family
  • Ancestors left clues in many of their photos.
  • Look for the fine details in the "costume clothes".
  • Red lines around photographs were generally taken in the 1870's.
  • In Europe, more than America, people dressed for their jobs.
  • The hardest costumes to figure out in photographs are military.
  • Wales developed a national costume to be distinct from England. Abt. 1860's.

  • Elizabeth Shown Mills class is packed already and it doesn't start for another 20 min!!
  • "Finding & Using Birth, Marriage, & Death Records Prior to Vital Registration.
  • In the 1100's is when records were started to be recorded a lot more regularly.
  • When records do exist, we still have to prove that the individual of record is the one we seek.
  • Many ancestors didn't have official marriages even when available because licenses &bonds cost money. Many were too poor.
  • Many couples could not legally marry even if they wanted to.
  • Beware of "the only one" of your relatives in a town. It may not be them or true.
  • "Research is NOT looking up the answer. Research is tracking down the answer."


The Immigration Experience

After lunch on Friday I attended Sue Clark's class on Ellis Island titled Ellis Island and the Immigration Experience.

Her class wasn't really on HOW to find your ancestors that came through Ellis Island, but rather stories about Ellis Island and the history of it. Even though it wasn't a lesson on how to find your ancestors or records, I really enjoyed the class. I definitely learned a lot from what she had to say.

I have been to Ellis Island a couple of times, the first when I was 11 and the second time when I was 18, but it just seems like there is so much to learn and see when you go there that you don't get to learn it all. You could spend days there and still not learn everything there is about the history of it. When I went, I think we only spent an hour or so each time we were there and I don't really remember anything from the first time I went anyway.

I really enjoyed hearing about the process that most people went through as the immigrated through Ellis Island and that many of them had "obstacles" on their journey here. Many of them were detained because of illnesses they had or because of physical or mental defects. There were even quite a few that got sent back to the "homeland" because of these deficiencies.

I look back now and wish that I had my love for genealogy back when I went there as I do today. I think I would have definitely payed more attention and retained more of what was taught on the island. I guess we all say that about one thing or another at some point though.

I also think it is important for us to learn the history of these places, documents, etc. of the ancestors we are searching for. I think there are many times where we search for the documents or records, but we don't take the time to learn about the history of the event. If we were to learn about why a particular event was happening, we would learn why the document was being created or why our ancestor was there in that event.

If only my high school history teacher could see what I was writing now... He would say "I told you so" when he told me to stop goofing off in class and pay attention. I guess the saying "What goes around comes around" is true.

Thanks again Sue for the great presentation!


Freedom of Information Act

There is a great story in the Los Angeles Times today about using the Freedom of Information Act to help find information about our ancestors.

The article gives a couple of examples of people who have used this service to find immigration information about their ancestors and how they found things they didn't know about them. Government documents about Jinbei Mori were obtained by his granddaughter, Susanne Mori. Seeing in print the information about him, his birthplace and the ship on which he traveled, "somehow makes it more real," she said.

One of the most exciting things about genealogy is the fact that when we do find information about an ancestor, whether it is an immigration document, a military draft card, an obituary or even a picture, it does make the whole experience of searching for them "more real". We start to know the person even if they lived 100 years ago. We learn what they were like, where they lived, and how they got through tough times like the Great Depression.

Utilizing services such as the Freedom of Information Act gives us the ability to find out more about our ancestors and could even help break down a brick wall. "It will be a treasure chest for genealogists," said Southern California Genealogical Society President Pam Wiedenbeck. "Oftentimes these files will have information on brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles that will help connect the dots."

For experienced genealogists, the files may open the doors to even more research, perhaps leading people to exact hometowns in their ancestors' native countries. And for those new to genealogy, they may be just the beginning. "For every question you answer you come up with two or three more," Wiedenbeck said.

To read more about his article, click here.

To learn more about this government service and the Freedom of Information Act, click here.