Author Archives: ejpells

Raymond Jaques Fennimore, Merchant Marine


Raymond Fennimore, Merchant Marine

It was Christmas in the early 70’s.  I’m thinking about 1972.   I was a proud owner of a Polaroid Instant Camera; I seem to recall a bit of family drama, which resulted in this gift from my dad.  For my birthday I received some film for the camera, and since this was a rare occurrence (I am sure it was pricey) I rationed it accordingly.  When I was 9, my parents separated, my mom, and I moved frequently.  My limited picture collection saw a lot of miles, and today very few remain.  The pictures weren’t very good, but one has made it into my scrapbooks, it was the subject that warranted the placement.

There was knock at the back door, and in walked a fellow that I didn’t recognize.  He was old; probably ancient would have been a better description, at least to my young eyes.   I tried to make my escape but I received a non-verbal cue from my mom that it would be rude to scamper off, with a firm grip on my shoulder I was plunked down at the kitchen table.  I can’t recall the tales, but I do remember the man was utterly fascinating, and had a lot of stories I could not resist.  My camera was in the next room, and I wanted a picture.  Being a bit shy I wouldn’t dare ask for him to pose, so I took one on the “sly” from the floor.  I doubt it went unnoticed, if the noise of the camera didn’t clue him in, the smell of the chemicals would hardly be missed.  To his credit, he didn’t call me out on it, and I have my fond memory of him and his visit.

All I know about my subject was that he was a brother of one of my Great Grandfathers.  My mom told me he was Uncle Bill Fennimore, a merchant marine and that he would pop by the house from time to time.  Since Willie Fennimore of that family did not see his 4th year, it had to be another brother, either Clarence, or Raymond.  My father told me the picture was of Uncle Ray, which would make sense, as Clarence was married and had children.  His visits would most likely include more than a solitary fellow, so my picture is most likely of Raymond Jaques Fennimore, bachelor, and merchant marine.

Although Raymond wasn’t my direct ancestor, many years later I am still interested in the kind old man I met as a child.  Although he was not the youngest, it seems he was the last one home with his mother.  His father William was incapacitated by a head injury and the financial front must have been a bit dire.  In the 1910 Federal Census we find Raymond 17, living along with his mother Matilda, his younger sister aged 14 appears to have moved out to make her way in the world.  Perhaps Ray was already out in the ocean, at this point, and simply found his way home between voyages.  A common theme seems to be late filings of paperwork due to being at sea.  One of the first documents I ever received for Raymond was his application for a social security number (SS5 form).  On this form it is indicated that his employer was the S.S. American Farmer, Pier 62, NYC and that he had an urgent filing because he was a seaman and never received his previous number.  In May 1943, Raymond’s WWII draft registration indicated he was late filing because he had been out to sea as a Fireman aboard a ship.  Although he registered for the WWI, And WWII drafts he doesn’t appear to have served directly in the armed forces in either of these wars, but is working on ships during both time periods.

Thanks to I have been able to find some additional information on Uncle Ray.  Passenger lists are not restricted to immigrants to America and the multiple comings and goings of our ancestors can be found on and  Many of his trips are documented in various passenger and crew lists on a few online repositories.  He went to many different places, but the one that seemed to catch my eye was a return in April 1943 to Boston Mass, from Iceland.  My first observation was this would have been during WWII, and it probably an assignment on behalf of the war effort.  I dug a little deeper into the document and noticed that my Uncle’s name with many other’s was crossed out with an indication that one should refer to “sheet number 4, Citizen’s Manifest”, so all that remained were 13 “foreign sailors” with, certain columns completed, as this was really a list of “Alien” arrivals.  When I scrolled down to the bottom of the page I couldn’t help but notice “13* includes (8) survivors”.   I know very little about maritime terminology, but if this possibly means that only 61% of the foreign born occupants survived the trip; I have to think “Deadliest Catch” crews have nothing on these guys.  I decide to do a little research on the role of the merchant marine in WWII, and the vessel.

According to Wikipedia, The S.S. Chateau Thierry served as a troop transport and that after my Uncle left its deck, it was transformed into a hospital ship.  It was originally built in Hog Island for WWI but arrived a little late, only to see active duty in WWII.  If the ship’s main purpose was to transport troops from Europe, then the mortality rate could definitely be high.  The ship is also mentioned in a book called, “Unsung sailors: the Naval Armed Guard in World War II” by Justin F. Gleichauf.  Mr Gleichauf paints a picture of ships so old that Germans didn’t bother to bomb them figuring they would sink soon enough.  He also indicates they were indeed ships used in the war effort and at risk of attack.  In pages 76 and 77, he discusses the trips from Iceland to Boston and mentioning a near collision between The Cheateau Thierry and another ship.  Wikepedia’s entry for Merchant Marines in WWII indicates a high degree of danger “3.1 million tons of merchant ships were lost in World War II. Mariners died at a rate of 1 in 24, which was the highest rate of casualties of any service.  All told, 733 American cargo ships were lost and 8,651 of the 215,000 who served perished on troubled waters and off enemy shores.” The life of a merchant marine did not sound like an easy one.  Raymond Fennimore was 50 years old during this time, demanding work for a man of that age, considering many years of such wear and tear.  I can’t imagine the people he met or the things he witnessed, but it must have been worth quite a few interesting stories.

In looking at his picture with grown up eyes, I see my dad by the sink in a t-shirt, scotch tape on the table, and a coffee cup.  Is it late afternoon? Early evening?  Uncle Ray looks tired, cigarette in one hand, and I doubt it is water in that glass he is holding.  Did he enjoy the visit that day?  Did my parents take the time to make him feel welcome, or were they busy preparing for Christmas and a bit distracted?  I hope his visit was pleasant, and wish I had known him better, or recalled one if  his stories.  He passed away in 1976, hopefully surrounded by family.  If you are out there Uncle Ray, I wish you a Merry Christmas.


Sources: Boston Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1943 [database on-line]. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at Boston, Massachusetts, 1917-1943; Microfilm Serial: T938; Microfilm Roll: 454. Viewed 15 December 2011. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006. Year: 1910; Census Place: Passaic, Morris, New Jersey; Roll: T624_903; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 0036; Image: 90; FHL Number: 1374916.  . Viewed 15 December 2011. U.S. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Viewed 15 December 2011.

Original data:

United States, Selective Service System. Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Fourth Registration. National Archives and Records Administration Branch locations: National Archives and Records Administration Region Branches.


Gleichauf, Justin. Unsung sailors: the Naval Armed Guard in World War II. Annapolis: MD, 1990. Web. <


SS Form Raymond Fennimore, “Freedom of Information Act” Washington, DC.  Image in possession of Elizabeth Pellicane, Private residence.


S.S. Chateau Thierry .” Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia., 2011. Web. <>. Viewed 15 December 2011.


United States Merchant Marine.” Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia., 2011. Web. <>. Viewed 15 December 2011.



The Case of the Unfortunate Emeline Church

I’ve been consistently researching my family history for close to 17 years.  Over that time certain ancestors captured my attention, and I have a difficult time putting them aside.  We are all interested in discovering someone of note in our pedigree, but I find the ones that had a bumpy course in life have story worth finding as well.  The famous ancestors will have reams of historic tidbits to pull; their deeds are very well documented, perhaps even exaggerated.  The humble folks, those that struggled to make their way deserve their due too, but the search can be very problematical.  I’d like to take this time to introduce Emeline Church my paternal third great-grandmother, her story is by no means complete, but this is it as it stands today.

Although it was in the beginning of my interest in genealogy by the time I had decided to research my maiden name my grandfather, John King was 10 years gone and his health had been failing for years before that.  I had fond memories of him but I didn’t know much about his family.  When I was a little girl I would visit my grandparents in Stonington Connecticut, he and I would bring a small shovel and go for long walks.  I recall him telling me his own father sold antiques, and that “in the old days” any trash that didn’t burn easily often would be buried.  We would go to spots his father had brought him and dig for old china and bottles.  When my grandfather passed away I met his younger brother Leonard, who looked just like my grandfather before life got the better of him.  That pretty much was the extent of my knowledge of his family.  My grandmother didn’t know much either; John King’s father had died years before she and my grandfather met but she did recall he was an antique dealer.  She is not one to focus on the past, but provided what she could; his mother was named Anna Lee, he was born and raised in Norwich (Connecticut), and that the family was German. I had a little information to work with but it was sketchy at best.  I prepared a bit by looking for German variations of “King” so that I could find all possible spellings of his surname, and to see what research had already been done for the KING surname in Norwich.  I did see that there was a King family that was connected to Benedict Arnold, but the likelihood that we were related was slim. Luckily I do love a puzzle.

I started with what I knew about my grandfather, and built upon that very small foundation. Living in New Jersey and he being from Connecticut would be a bit of a challenge.  This was about 1996 before the Internet was really a genealogical tool that it is today.  I worked, and had two small children so time was limited.  I began with what I could do remotely and accessed the social security death index.  I found my grandfather, and ordered a copy of his application for a Social Security card (SS5 form*).  On this document he wrote his parents were Charles James King and Anna Lee, and that he was born November 1915, in Norwich Connecticut. It also noted he was employed by Norwich Golf Club.  Analyzing the facts gleaned from this form I recalled a family friend mentioning John was an excellent golfer in his youth.  Lee seemed a bit odd for a German surname, but not thinking too hard about it I documented and moved along.  Since my grandfather entered this in his own hand, I had no reason to doubt any of it.  Next I had to get the census records for his hometown.  This was prior to the availability of subscription based census records so I had to locate a repository that held the Connecticut Federal Census.  On one my visits to my grandmother I went to Otis library in Connecticut, and discovered not only the census but also a local directory.  I pulled all occurrences of KING in Norwich back to 1850, with 1920 being the most recent available.  I focused on the census’ that had Charles as the head of household, and Anna as wife, which was 1910, and 1920 the latter having a John L King age three.  My grandfather’s age seemed a bit off in some of the census, but I felt since he completed the social security application himself that it would be the more valid date.  I compiled all the entries for both the Census and the directories and discovered that my grandfather appeared to be the second youngest of many siblings.  His father was an antique dealer in Norwich for decades, and earlier he was a laborer.

With the birth date from my grandfather’s SS5 card I could obtain his official birth record.  In Connecticut each town clerk has the vital records, you must request from the town, so you need to know the town of the event and the date.  There is an additional requirement you must be a registered member of a CT genealogical society to obtain a copy.  I joined a society and sent my request for John King’s birth record to Ms. Muldoon at the Norwich city office.  I received my check back with a note that my grandfather was not in her books for that date, or thereabouts.  This was troubling and I was a bit disappointed, it seemed his family truly stayed in Norwich, and I had a date, where could the record be located?  Years later I would order the Norwich vital records on microfilm from LDS only to discover that my grandfather had inaccuracies on his SS5 form.  He was born John Leonard King, but two years later a younger brother came along and given the name Leonard.  Sometime between the 1920 Census and his SS5 application my grandfather started using James as a middle name.  He also had his birth year 2 years earlier, and shortened his mother’s name from Wohlleben to Lee.  Perhaps he needed to be 21 to work at the golf course, and it is quite possible he didn’t know his mom’s surname; my grandmother also thought his mother’s last name was “Lee”.  John’s SS5 application was also around WWII, and her German surname may have been Americanized for obvious reasons.  Interestingly this was an instance where the census proved correct, and the “first hand knowledge” did not.

Early in my research I had looked into cemeteries that were in operation in Norwich during Charles King’s approximate death date.  None of the online lists mentioned Charles King, but the were also very incomplete. The Norwich directory of 1928 has Charles King (Annie ) listed, but in 1929 Annie (wid) appears at the same address.  Directories were usually a year or so behind, so this would indicate Charles probably died in 1928 or earlier.  I decided to try my luck at the Yantic cemetery in Norwich, and after about an hour located his gravestone.  I now had Charles’s death date and could order this record from the clerk.  Unfortunately being a beginner, with my family in tow I did not think to record the other headstones around his but there were a few, so I do need to make a trip back one of these years.  Charles King’s death certificate indicated his parents were Joseph W. King, and Eliza Hyde both of Norwich.  With Charles birth date from this certificate I was able to locate the birth record as well, which had one differing fact that Eliza was from Hartford.  This perhaps is the more accurate than Charles’s death record, as it was more than likely provided by herself or her husband. I now have two more ancestors to research, and they both seem to be born in Connecticut.

Joseph King was not as easy to locate.  The Norwich town records appear very orderly; no missing volumes on the LDS films, but the only entries I find for Joseph are the birth and death of Charles James King, where he is listed as the father.  He is listed in several census records and quite a few years on the Norwich City directory.  He seems to fall off both after 1920, giving me a window to search for a death certificate.  I ordered the vital record films for Norwich from the LDS again and no birth, marriage, or death records appear in Norwich.  I also searched the surrounding towns of Franklin, Preston, and Montville with no success.  It was at this point I decided it would be best to look at the Norwich town hall in person.  Since I couldn’t get there quickly I hired a professional genealogist.  She opted to go to Hartford and work at the state archives and library.  I waited patiently for her response, hoping she would locate Joseph’s death certificate, or the marriage record for he and Eliza.  I have a strong theory on Joseph’s parents were and I am hoping a vital record will confirm this easily.

The search to find Joseph’s mother and prove the relationship has been a bit difficult, although I feel confident at my conclusion, it’s a case I am still building.  On the 1860 Norwich Census I found a Joseph King age 2 living with an Emily King 45, and Harriet King 1, in what appears to be a poor house or some other institution.  The list is not in alphabetical order, but the three are one right after another and listed as paupers, there are several other families that seem to be recorded in this manner as well.  Although the 1860 census does not indicate relationships this points strongly to a mother and her two children; same surname, the order in which they appear on the census Emily, Joseph, and finally the youngest Harriet, and the three are listed as paupers, while the entries below and above indicate insane.  This is the only occurrence in Norwich for Emeline/Emily King or Joseph King, and there is only one Emeline King listed in the city directory in the years before and after.  There is a strong indication that this may be my Joseph King, his mother, and sister.  The age is in the correct range, however it’s not enough, it doesn’t establish a family relationship between the three, or that they are “my” Kings.  As stated earlier I know Charles J King had a father named Joseph King, whom we think was born in Norwich Connecticut.  The only insight we had into the parents of Joseph was the 1900 Census where it was listed that his father was born in France, and spoke French, and his mother was born in Connecticut, and spoke English.  Contrary to the 1880 census, but to me it’s an important entry.  On a page where almost every place of birth has Connecticut listed, this is a deliberate entry, written more neatly, that stands out.  Could Joseph’s father have been from France?  Family lore had them being German, but anything could be possible at this point.  I then turn to the vital records again.  Up to now my family’s marriages haven’t made it to town hall so I’m not too confident.

I located every King marriage in Norwich during 10 year span and find 3 possible occurrences.  I research all three using census, directories, and Norwich vital records and I can easily eliminate two on what I find.  I am left with one potential marriage; in the births marriages, and deaths book 7 I find John King born in France and Emeline Cranston born in Norwich were married on July 1, 1856.  The dates are in line with the Emily King found in the poor house 4 years and, two children in later.  John King is from France according to the marriage entry; in 1900 Joseph W. King indicates that his father was born in France.  I go to the directory during this time period and there is only one John King appearing for one year, it states he is a physician.  Although this is all considered indirect evidence, the accumulation of facts, and the elimination of other people in Norwich leads me to conclude that this couple was probably the parents of my Joseph W. King and I should research further.  Because Emeline is in an almshouse shortly after her marriage to John King, I decided to search for his death record.  Harriet the youngest child was 1 on the 1860 census, so I start with 1858 and go through until 1861, no death record.  I expand my search to later and early as 1856, still no sign of a death of John King.  I searched a Norwich newspaper during those years no death announcement.  I guess it is possible that he deserted the family, perhaps he wasn’t, a physician but rather a sailor a common profession in Norwich.  It’s been many years of searching and I have not located the fate of John King, so taking the path of least resistance I turned my attention to Emeline Cranston.

Back to the Norwich vital records and I look for a birth of Emeline Cranston, and a death for Emeline King.  Not a single entry.  The unfortunate woman had two young children, possibly deserted by her husband, and was a ward of the town’s poor house, I really wanted to get her story.  Where was her family? What happened to her husband?  Did her lot in life improve after 1860?  With the name Cranston, and Rhode Island not being too far, I checked some records to see if Emily could have been from that family, but nothing jumped out. She languished on my family tree until I subscribed to  A quick census search to locate her prior to her marriage to John King and I find an Emeline Cranston living with two children Charles and Annie Cranston on the 1850 Census.  Could this be the Emeline Cranston that married John King in 1856? If so where were Charles and Annie in 1860?  They would have been 17, and 15 years of age.   I accepted that there was a possibility that Emeline Cranston, and Emeline King was one in the same.  Validating this theory would take a bit of time which is at a premium right now, my twins sport schedule, and work is more demanding than ever, Emeline doesn’t get much of my attention.

Years pass, the children are seniors and I find myself looking at a very empty nest, and I start taking on some clients.  I have some success with Google Books with one case, so I try it on some of my brick walls. I stumble upon, Vital Records of Connecticut Series I, Town II Part II Vital Records of Norwich 1659-1848, and the following entry,  “ This may Certify that I lawfully joined together in marriage Mr Charles Cranston of Norwich and Mifs Emeline Church of Montville  this 2Ist day of August AD 1842 Ent by Othniel Gager Asa Roath Town Clerk Justice of the Peace.”

While I am pretty comfortable that Charles is the first husband of Emeline King, I still need more proof.  From this published book it’s very   easy to locate the original marriage entry in the Norwich vital records.  It’s exactly as was published in the book that I found on Google.  To further solidify the link I need to also prove that Charles died before Emeline Cranston married John King in 1856.  I look for Charles death record between 1848 and 1850, I find him deceased in November 1848 of consumption.   Emeline was widowed well before her marriage to John King.  Google books also opened up another door; the publication was A Modern History of New London County Connecticut and an entry on page 41, several generations of the CHURCH family, their military service and most importantly a mention of Emeline’s two marriages.  In this book it is George Cranston instead of Charles, but another similar book has Charles Cranston mentioned.  I feel confident enough to update my family tree and with Emeline’s surname as Church.  Online I find a descendent of Annie Cranston, Emeline’s second daughter from her first marriage. That cousin has a bible record indicating Emeline died in 1877.  I have not been able to locate a death record, which is odd indeed, but perhaps I am not looking in the right spot.

The professional genealogist I contracted to conduct an in-person search for the death record of Joseph King or the marriage of Eliza Hyde and Joseph King has done her magic. I was hoping to find a document stating the name of Joseph’s parents.  Right now the weakest link is that between Joseph King and Emeline Church.  They are on the census together in 1860, and though they are grouped, as a family would be, that year relationship was not collected.  Joseph indicated that his father was French in the 1900 census, and Emeline’s second husband, John King was also born in France.  There are only so many entries of Kings in Norwich, and pretty much I’ve narrowed it down to these individuals by researching any other occurrence of these names and eliminating them.  Finally a small possible link Joseph names his first-born son, “Charles”, the same name as Emeline’s eldest son. I receive an email from Betsy the genealogist that she found three Joseph Kings, but none of them passed away in Norwich.  I ask her to please pull them anyway, as it could possibly belong to my family tree.  I receive a follow-up and she has located the death records of both my second great grandparents.  Eliza (Hyde) King died in Norwich, before Joseph and there was a very long obituary.  In it mentions her parent’s names, but more importantly that Joseph was a war veteran and living in a soldier’s home in Darien Ct.   I never would have looked there for his record so far from the Norwich area.  Sometimes it really is beneficial to hire someone to take a second look, if only to have someone think outside of your own assumptions.  She sent a copy of Joseph’s death certificate, and of course no mention of parents, not surprising the person providing the information was from the Soldier’s Home…. Eliza’s obituary mentioned Joseph was a civil war soldier not likely since he would have been a small child; perhaps that assumption was made because he was in a soldier’s home.  The genealogist found a transcription of Joseph’s grave in the Hale Headstone collection, and he was a veteran of the Spanish-American war.  His company and unit indicated on the stone itself. The genealogist discovered some great information for me to follow-up on, but not one fact strengthening the relationship between Emeline and Joseph.

I still don’t know as much about Emeline as I would like.  Interestingly she,  Joseph King, and Harriet King are not indexed in the 1870 census.  I had done a line-by-line search for Emeline in Norwich, with no hits.  They could have been missed, or all lived elsewhere.  Joseph reappears in the Norwich city directory in 1878, the year after her death.  I also checked with the CHURCH’s in Montville, and no sign of them there in the 1870 census.

I have many questions, some of which I may never find the answer.  Emeline’s father Erastus died after she did, and it didn’t appear he was destitute, did her family help her in any way? Why was her first marriage to Charles Cranston performed by a Justice of the Peace, and her second a Reverend?  What happened to her husband John King? Where is she buried, and what did she die from?  I can’t imagine in Connecticut in 1877 her death would not have been recorded in the vital records.

While it appears as if I hit a bit of a dead end I still have several options.  I can try the collections at the Connecticut state library myself and see if Emeline turns up anywhere else. I can obtain Joseph’s military pension file, which could have genealogical data.  The year he served his file should be with the Veteran’s Administration, but I probably have to put a request through the national archives first, wait for the rejection and then send that rejection to the VA.  The fine people of Norwich had more than one poor house, I can see if a manuscript collection exists with data on residents.  I can also find the church Emeline worshipped at and see if there are any baptismal or other records.  In 1856 Reverend C.S. Weaver officiated the marriage between Emeline and John King.  I can try to track down where the church records exist.  Churches like people have their own genealogy of sorts.  Sometimes congregations broke off from others, ministers may have served multiple churches, and the records will reside in what would be considered their “home” church. Many religions also keep old records in regional repositories with research rooms.  Reverend Weaver appears to be Baptist and also worked in more than one place, so it will be a bit of work to track the records down, if they exist at all.  The Church family in Montville likely belonged to the Congregational church, if I find their church I can perhaps find the minutes, and it might give some insight into the family and Emeline’s early life.  Finally though I felt it was unlikely I would find much I should at least look into probate and land records.  Another path is Harriet King, see if I can find her vital records, if she married and see if there is something that will help there, perhaps she will have an obituary, it appears my Joseph did not.  So while I have a bit of a brick wall, there are still options open.

The family lore proved helpful in isolating Charles’s records, in particular multiple references to antique dealer.  There was more than one Charles J King in the directories and census throughout this time period, but only one with that occupation.  The German family story, seemed only be related to Anna, the mother of John King, my grandfather as that was where she was born.  From what I have gathered about the family to date Emeline Church began life in Montville, New London County, Connecticut 1822 the daughter of Erastus Church and Nancy Ford.  She is one of eleven known children, and her mother passed on in 1826, when Emeline was four.  She was widowed twice and a ward of the Norwich poor house. It appears as if her older children were forced to fend for themselves at a young age. Her lot in life couldn’t have been easy, and I really want to learn the rest of her story.

*Note as of this writing, the availability of the SS5 data and the social security death index is undergoing drastic changes and will be limited in the future.

Sources, Social Security Death Index (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010.Original data – Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration.Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security D),,, Number: 040-14-1186; Issue State: Connecticut; Issue Date: Before 1951. Birth date: 23 Nov 1916 Birth place: Death date: Oct 1986Death place: Pawcatuck, New London, Connecticut, United States of America, 1850 United States Federal Census (Online publication – Provo, UT, Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. .Original data -Seventh Census of the United States, 1850; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M432,1009 rolls); Records of the Bureau of th),,, Year:1850; Census Place: Norwich, New London, Connecticut; Roll: M432_48; Page: 159B;Image:. Birth date: abt 1822Birth place: ConnecticutResidence date: 1850Residenceplace: Norwich, New London, Connecticut., 1860 United States Federal Census (Online publication – Provo, UT, Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. .Original data -1860 U.S. census, population schedule. NARA microfilm publication M653, 1,438 rolls.Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Recor),,,Year: 1860; Census Place: Norwich, New London, Connecticut; Roll: ; Page: ; Image:. Birthdate: abt 1858Birth place: ConnecticutResidence date: 1860Residence place: Norwich,New London, Connecticut, United States. and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1880 United States Federal Census (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005. 1880 U.S. Census Index provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ©Copyright 1999 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. All use is subject to the limited),,, Year: 1880; Census Place: Norwich, New London, Connecticut; Roll: T9_107; Family History Film: 1254107; Page: 141.4000; EnumerationDistrict: 92; Image: 0567. Birth date: abt 1879Birth place: ConnecticutResidence date:1880Residence place: Norwich, New London, Connecticut, United States., 1900 United States Federal Census (Online publication – Provo, UT, Operations Inc, 2004.Original data – United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Washington, D.C.: National Archivesand Records Administration, 1900. T623, 18),,,Year: 1900; Census Place: Preston, New London, Connecticut; Roll: T623_150; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 484. Birth date: Jun 1878Birth place: ConnecticutResidence date:1900Residence place: Preston, New London, Connecticut, 1910 United States Federal Census (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.Original data – Thirteenth Census of the United States,

1910 (NARA microfilm publication T624, 1,178 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Was),,, Year: 1910; Census Place: Norwich, New London, Connecticut; Roll: ; Page: ; Enumeration District: ; Image:. Birth date: 1878Birth place: ConnecticutResidence date: 1910Residence place: Norwich, New London, Connecticut, 1920 United States Federal Census (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005. For details on the contents of the film numbers, visit the following NARA web page: NARA. Note: Enumeration Districts 819-839 on roll 323 (Chicago City.Original data – United States),,, Year: 1920; Census Place: Norwich, New London, Connecticut; Roll: T625_197; Page: 16A; Enumeration District: 277; Image:. Birth date: abt 1917Birth place: ConnecticutResidence date: 1920Residence place: Norwich, New London, Connecticut.

Stedman’s Directory of the City and Town of Norwich and Part of Preston Connecticut, Otis Library, Norwich Connecticut, Multiple years.

Town of Norwich, Records of Births in the Town of Norwich 1878 (Official Vital Records town of Norwich), Jesus Christ Church of Latter day saints, School House rd

Town of Norwich Vital Records, Births Marriages and Death, Jesus Christ Church of Latter day Saints, Clinton, NJ 08869, Microfilm of original records 1311437.

Bureau of Vital Statistics, Medical Certificate of Death Charles J King (Connecticut State Department of Health), Collection of Elizabeth Pellicane, private residence, 557. State of Connecticut, Death Certificate Joseph W. King (Connecticut State Department of Health), The State Vital Records Office at the Connecticut Department of Public Health, Hartford CT, Transcription. Connecticut Department of Health, Death Certificate Eliza King (Bureau of Vital Statistics), The State Vital Records Office at the Connecticut Department of Public Health, Hartford CT, Transcription.

Obituary Eliza Hyde King (Norwich Bulletin), State Library Hartford Connecticut, Page 5 Column 6.

Clerk of Norwich Connecticut, Town of Norwich Births Marriages and Deaths boo IX (Norwich New London Connecticut, City of Norwich, New London, Connecticut), Jesus Christ Church of Latter day saints, School House rd Clinton, NJ 08869, Book 7 page 87.

Benjamin Tinkham Marshall, A Modern history of New London County, Connecticut A Modern history of New London County, Connecticut A Modern History of New London County, Connecticut (New York, NYC, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1922),,, Erastus Church, son of Peleg Jr and Mary (Leach) Church was born April 6, 1792. He married (first) Nancy Ford, daughter of John Ford. and had children:4. Emeline born Sept 20, 1822 and married (first) George Cranston * (Second) Dr. King of Norwich. Note it was really Charles Cranston see marriage record and census data Second note – John King was listed in the directory as a physician. Digital Image Also available on

Email referring to Bible record, Death information of Eliza Church (Connecticut, private individual),,, Personal information…Jul 9 10:49 PM GMT, History of Montville, Connecticut : formerly the north parish of New Londonfrom 1640 to 1896 (Online publication – Provo, UT: The Generations Network, Inc.,2005.Original data – Baker, Henry A.. History of Montville, Connecticut : formerly the north parish of New London from 1640 to 1896. Hartford, Conn.: Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard Co.),,, Residence date: 1640-1896Residence place: New London, Connecticut, USA. Digital Image Also available on

Vital records of Norwich, 1659-1848, Volume 2‬ By Norwich (Conn.), General Society of Colonial Wars (U.S.). Connecticut,, viewed January 201.

Charles R Hale, Connecticut Headstone Inscriptions (Connecticut USA, Charles R Hale Collection), Connecticut State Library, Hartford Connecticut, #405-2 Page 62 Darien. King, Joseph W Spanish American War Co. C 3rd CVI died Nov. 27. 1929 age 72 years.




Thank your Veterans

Thank you Veterans for serving and putting your personal safety at risk to protect our country.  Today I will be thinking of you all but in particular I will consider the ones in my circle, and family that have stood with their nation and did what they felt was necessary.  Not all wars are popular; there will always be questions as to whether we belonged in a particular place.  We should never let these issues take away from the sacrifice made by men and women in these conflicts.  Although I was quite young I can still recall the terrible treatment of our soldiers when they returned from Vietnam.  I hope to never witness anything like that again.

In my field I try to locate service records, and pension files.  It is a way of course to fill out the family tree, and push the research back another generation.  Also one really must consider the impact these battles had on the individual.  I need only look to war veterans in my family that I have known to realize it is something that stays with them their entire life.   Many chose not even to discuss their experience at all or until enough years passed by to open that door once again.  Some of our Veterans carry physical burdens their entire life, and others never make it home.  Did they have a home to go to when they returned?  Who worked the farm while they were away?  What challenges did they face in their life because of their answer to our nation’s call?  Don’t just use your ancestors records as a spring-board to determining their lineage, but also consider how it may have changed their lives.

I’ve traveled to many historic places throughout my life and there are a few that really impacted my thoughts on hardships our folks must have withstood.  The two in particular that I have felt it most strongly are Gettysburg PA, and Fort McHenry in Baltimore MD.  My husband has visited the USS Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor and he felt it truly was a memorable trip as well.  I find touring these sites opens our eyes to the experiences our service men and women may have endured.

I’d like to recognize my war veterans, and offer my appreciation for their efforts.  Without your sacrifices who knows what freedoms we would not have today.  Here is also to hoping that someday we won’t have any conflicts at all.

Brian, My Stepfather – Vietnam War

Joseph, My Father –in Law – Korean War

Walter, My Grandfather – World War II

Joseph, My Second Great Grandfather – Spanish American War

Peleg, My Fifth Great-Grandfather – War of 1812

Peleg, My Sixth Great- Grandfather – Revolutionary War

Genealogy and Pizza, Searching Roots in Brooklyn

A few months back my Aunt was scouring and up popped a cemetery match for my 3rd great grandmother, Charlotte Ruttel Schellenberger, 2 of her children, and a child of her married daughter.  All circumstantial, but it opened the door to allow for me to order a death certificate and verify it was indeed our Charlotte.  Long story short it’s led to more records that have helped me locate the town, and birth dates of the Charlotte’s son-in-law and his parents.  I then discovered a match on of German records that are indexed; the town, birth dates, parent’s names, and sibling names are spot on so I’ve decided to invest the time to order the films and start going through those records.  My Aunt however is more interested in the family of our Charlotte’s husband and I’ve found a likely match on the index as well, the town is correct, approx birth is there too, the problem is I’d feel a little better if I could find a document such as his death certificate that tied things a little neater.   Since I don’t know exactly when or where his death occurred, I thought I’d take a chance and see if he was buried near his wife.  The burial ground where Charlotte was interred is Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, Kings County New York.  I viewed the “Green-Wood A National Historic Landmark”, and was surprised to see that it was a National Historic Landmark, as well as a very active cultural center. It may seem odd that a cemetery would be used for entertainment, but during the era in which it was designed such places were planned to be destinations for travel, family outings as well as final resting places.

There is a partial on-line database of burials, I recorded the plots for my family and made my plans.  I’m not a big fan of driving in cities, so I convinced my husband and history major son to accompany me on my quest.  My husband I am sure would have been happier to spend the day watching football, and my son made it clear he is interested in “historical events”, not people (forgive him he is 18).  However with a little ingenuity I came up with a bit of bait, pizza.  Whenever we travel my husband and son like to visit restaurants from some of their favorite food network shows, so I suggested we could try one of the pizza places they have wanted to go to in Brooklyn.  A plan was in place we would visit Green-Wood, followed by a trek to L & B Spumoni Gardens for pizza and spumoni.

We entered Green-Wood via the large gothic gate at the main entrance.   Once past the guard office we pulled over, it is there you can join a guided trolley tour, or purchase a map.  Right across from the guard in the main gates is an alcove with a computer inside. If there is a specific grave you would like to locate the program will print out a map directly to the area.  There are many famous “residents, and memorials which are works of art.  The most interesting tomb I observed had a giant bear lying across the top of the monument.  Infamous residents such as William Poole, Boss Tweed can be found in the cemetery, as well as notables such as Louis Comfort Tiffany.  There are plenty of humble folk such as my ancestor there as well.  It’s worth the visit to see some of the interesting pieces of art, and the natural setting.  I didn’t see them but there is also a community of wild parakeets living at Green-Wood.  Birds, history and art there is a little something for everyone there.

Unfortunately Charlotte’s grave was alone probably passing right before my German ancestors moved to New Jersey.  Ironically it was also about that time my husband ‘s Italian family set up their home in Brooklyn.  My family history portion of the jaunt was over, and my companions’ thoughts turned to food.

The distance to the pizzeria was approximately 5 miles it was interesting to see the different neighborhoods.  First we came upon a predominately Jewish area.  It was a beautiful day and families were out with their strollers and children enjoying the summer-like weather.  Slowly this section gave way to a more industrial neighborhood, reminding us we were indeed in a city.  A slight turn and we were back into a different residential area.  This time there were row houses with neatly manicured yards, and small gardens.   A house with “Il Tricolore “ waving proudly next to an American flag, and my husband announced, “we are in the Italian part of town we must be getting close”.  My husband’s family was one of my first projects.  I knew that his ancestors came from Sicily and spent a few years in Brooklyn.  It seems many from their little town of Santa Ninfa resided in the same area of New York when they first arrived to the United States.  Some ventured to the wilds of New Jersey, and most stayed in place.  While there is always exceptions the vast majority of my husband’s ancestors rarely moved once settled.  His surname is fairly uncommon, but a quick search via the white pages at shows 100+ listings in Brooklyn.  My son was fascinated and we talked about my husband’s family a bit until we came to the restaurant.  It reminded me that my children were very young when I created a little book for my husband’s family and perhaps it was time to reprint a couple of copies for them.


Brooklyn Pizza

Finally we arrived at what my men consider the point of the entire trip, L & B Spumoni gardens at 2725 86th St,  The specialties there are Sicilian style pizza and spumoni, and both were quite good.  I’m not usually a fan of Sicilian slices but this was extremely light, and quite delicious.  I opted for pistachio spumoni, and it was fantastic!  While I must admit that I was a bit disappointed to have not made much progress on my family tree that day, the trip to the Italian neighborhood really was fun.  It was nice to spend some time with my grown son, and husband and talk about his family, and culture.

The day was fading and it was time to head back to New Jersey.  We departed via the Verrazano Bridge, which brought us along Coney Island and the long stretch of the New York Bay.  I’ve always been fascinated by Brooklyn, it’s my favorite part of New York.  It seems that the past and present residents have created an area with personality galore evident by the sign right before you get on the exit ramp..”Leaving Brooklyn Fuggedaboutit”.



If you do have ancestors in Brooklyn there are some very useful sites, and I would start with:





1. “Genealogy, Family Trees and Family History Records online –”, 2011. Web. 15 Oct 2011. <>.



2.” Family History and Genealogy Records.” Family Search. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2011. Web. 15 Oct 2011. <>.



3. “Green-Wood main page.” Green-Wood A National Historic     Landmark. Green-Wood Cemetery, 2011. Web. 15 Oct 2011. <>.


4. “White Pages – Find People for Free.” MSN White Pages. Whitepages Services, 2011. Web. 15 Oct 2011. <;.


5. “L & B Spumoni Gardens.” Spumoni Gardens. Spumoni Gardens. Corp, 2010. Web. 15 Oct 2011. <;.

Germany…Uncharted Territory

Life has been pretty busy.  My day job continues to be more demanding, I’m getting a few requests for small projects, and my twins are leaving for college.  My blog has been ignored a bit as a result, though I am sure few are missing me.  I’ve had managed to dabble a bit in my family tree, but sporadically at best.  For quite a while my goal was to see if I had a Revolutionary War patriot of my own and join D.A.R.  I’ve finally gathered what I think is sufficient proof and I am just waiting for the local chapter to get back into session in the fall.  I’m suddenly without a personal project.

Up to now most of my research efforts have been US, England and Italy and to be honest that has been decision I have made on my part.  From a professional standpoint my desire really is to focus in areas where I feel I offer value to a customer.  This is clearly New Jersey, though I’m pretty well versed in Italian and New England records.  There are some things you just have to do on location.  From a personal standpoint, I’ve had more than enough to keep me busy with my English speaking ancestors, and my husband’s Italian family.  Every so often I peek at my mother’s side of the tree and see Germany and Ireland and shy away.  I’ve always had the perception that this research will be more difficult, Germany because of the language issues, and Ireland I envision great reliance on local records.  Ancestors usually stay put, so no pressure to rush into anything.

This summer my mother came out for the kids’ high school graduation.  Although her interest in genealogy isn’t quite where mine is she will humor me and spend some time researching.  My mom seemed to recall that her great-grandparents owned a farm in Hunterdon County, and that her biological grandfather may have worked there briefly.  While that seemed a stretch we were near our county hall of records so we made a trip.  Much to my surprise it proved to be true.  I guess it was enough to pique’ my curiosity but not enough to get me started.  About two weeks ago my mother emailed me that my Aunt may have found her great-grandmother’s resting place in Brooklyn NY, it was on records of Green-Wood cemetery.  Since I’m a little over an hour from Brooklyn I volunteered to make a run in the fall and get some pictures.  Because I have been around the block once or twice before I run out there I wanted to establish it is indeed our Emily Schellenberger and if there will be any other graves I should seek.  So I need to learn a little about Brooklyn.

Well, I know that Brooklyn is home to Coney Island, and Dominic the Italian Christmas donkey delivers gifts manufactured there.  I also hear that Green-Wood cemetery is worth the visit just because it’s so magnificent; at least that is what a fellow history nerd has informed me.  One ancestor has left a nice trail and the fine people at the LDS have indexed many of the records of that town.  I’ve got the list of tapes I need.  If the index proves correct I’m well on my way to filling out that branch nicely.  I email my mom she sends it to my Aunt. A sisterly debate takes place as to the veracity of my findings; wisely I stayed out of it.  In the end I get the virtual nod of acceptance and we all share trees.

I order a German ancestry book – a sure sign I am committed (or should be).  My Aunt likes what I found on the Steidle’s but she is really interested in the Schellenberger family.  There is quite a bit of family lore as well as some jewelry she inherited.  There are stories of a Hessen soldier, a colonial reverend and a duchesse in one line and much of it is conflicting.  So the best order of business of course is start with what you know and work backwards.

I worked for a German company for quite a few years, and have known many people who call Germany home.  I expected the records to be efficient and centralized; perhaps two sets one for East and West Germany.  It was then I recalled something else about Germany it has not always been one country.  Most of my former co-workers from Frankfurt and I had grown very accustomed to their accents, and management styles. After more than a decade our division was spun off and purchased by a company in Düsseldorf, very quickly I noticed a distinctly different accent and style.  I had a conversation with a friend from Frankfurt and mentioning the dialect differences, and comparing it to our own country with our regional differences.  He felt in Germany the difference was even greater.  He told me in their grandparent’s time that if a person from each of the two cities were to sit and try to have a conversation they would have barely been able to understand one another. Perhaps it is an exaggeration, but it could prove useful later.

Because I can’t fly off to Germany to research my family, I am dependent on the records I can order at my family history center.  Most of the records available are church records primarily Lutheran and Catholic.  Germany itself is not an old country, and it was a land of changing borders for a very long time.  Because of this it is really important to know where your ancestors lived, and then find the modern equivalent. The German baptismal and marriage records are one of the sets indexed by the LDS.  I imagine while prioritizing projects the need for an index of local records in Germany brought it to the top of the list.   I have to discover from where in Germany my Ferdinand haled.  In 1880  the Census indicated he was Darmstadt Hess, naturalization petition “Emperor of Germany”, and the rest just plain Germany.  Most records indicate he was born in March 1833, and I have found a match in Worms, Hessen, Germany.  However I need to get some more supporting data still.  Worms is about 26 miles from Darmstadt, so it’s not out of the question. The long and short of it is though because Germany unification occurred in 1871, when my 3rd great grandfather was born, it was not a unified country and church records are going to be the most reliable.

Given names are another issue.  I discovered my family in Ulm Germany each person had between 4-5 given names, and in all the families from Germany the first name was rarely used.  Here I thought I was unique using my middle name in everyday life, when my ancestors had been doing it for generations.  How very German, Prussian, Austrian or Bavarian of me!  My ancestors didn’t seem to know where they were from exactly or there names, how exactly am I going to find them?  When Heinrich stated on the ship’s manifest that his mother was Julie Steidle, what he really meant was that she was Anna Christiane Louise Caroline Julie Steidle.  I have to admit this piqued my curiosity.  Was this a naming convention unique to Lutheran Germans?  Time to dig a little deeper and find out German naming conventions.  The short version is that the first name is a “Holy” name and the middle the name used.  When you get into the areas that have multiple given/middle names there may be an indication in the church records of which name the person used in everyday life.   I’m sure I could do an entire article on the naming conventions and still miss something.  Suffice to say that it’s complicated.

I’ve just started my research of German genealogy so this is a very narrow view I am sure.  But it’s certainly has grabbed my interest, I love a puzzle.  Wish me luck in “proving” my family lore that my 3rd Great Grandfather who immigrated to the US in 1870, is descended from a colonial preacher, a Hessian soldier (yes as in 1776), as well as a mid 16th century duchess. I will not say that it is impossible because it seems whenever I cast my doubts about one of our family stories it ends up being true.  However I will continue with a very healthy dose of skepticism and find my Ferdinand’s death certificate, excuse me Fransiscus Ferdinandus’ death record.  Well I guess I have my new personal project.


Beware the Living; they can be more Frightening than the Dead….

Recently I was asked to pull some records at the state archive.  They were not the regular birth, marriage, deaths but rather a manuscript from early 20th century.  Although the records are on the NJ DARM website, and only one set indicates that portions may still be considered unavailable, pretty much the entire set is currently closed.  I pushed a little and convinced the archivist to at least look into the index and see if the surname I was researching appeared.  It did not, but there wasn’t much of an index either.  I knew my client would be disappointed, when you are digging that deep it’s because many other avenues have been exhausted.  The archivist informed me that the reason the records were closed is they are 97 years old, just shy of 100, and technically some of the people mentioned could still be alive.  New Jersey has pretty tough privacy laws when it comes to records; I doubt you will ever see our birth/marriage/death certificates on-line at ancestry.  This can make it a challenge to find some of the more recent generations when conducting research.  Some may question why it is so difficult to find one’s ancestors in the lovely garden state, but I found out first hand sometimes you can encounter a living relative and there can be some implications.


One of my paternal great-grandfathers was born in 1886 and had passed away before I was born.  I had very little to go on with this family and I was a newbie to this family history thing.  After a year or so and having encountered my first brick wall (which still exists after 16 years), I went old school and sent out letters.  I included a letter on pretty stationary, my request for information, a SASE, and a family tree, as I knew it.  This hefty package was sent to about 20 recipients that had the surname in the vicinity of my forebears.  I wasn’t expecting much but I was desperate.  I got a call from one fellow that felt pressured to respond from a local historian he gave me some insight, but clearly he wasn’t really into the whole walk down memory lane.  I received a very nice letter from another woman, not much to share but she was interested and then I received the call.  He introduced himself and told me he had received my family tree and letter and he would be glad to help me the best he could.  Much to my surprise he was the same generation as my great grandfather, and in all honesty I assumed he had passed, and I just hadn’t found the record. My own grandmother (his children’s “peer”) was in her late 80’s.  After I picked up myself off the floor we talked quite a bit.  He was friendly, bright, and I really enjoyed speaking with him.  Towards the end of our call he wanted to ask me a question.  He noted on the family tree that his older brother had died, and asked me what proof I had of his death.  I only had the social security death index, and an obituary, but the name was very unique, and the address was one that he had lived for a while, so I felt fairly confident he had passed away.  I read the obituary, and my newfound cousin, said “yes that was my brother, I just had no idea he had died; you see we had lost contact.”  He explained that every family seems to have one that drifts away from the pack, and that was the case with his brother.  I didn’t know what to say, I really was speechless.  This was something I did for fun, and my activity brought sadness to another person.  I apologized profusely and was so sorry he had to find out in this manner.  He seemed ok, but I just had the feeling that he wished he spoke to his brother one last time.


I wondered how I could have missed the possibility that my relative could be living.  On reviewing my tree I did see I was descended from the first child in every generation, while he was descended from the youngest, and was the youngest of 13.  Throw in longevity that seems to run in my family, and it was not really extraordinary.  While I really didn’t divulge anything extremely sensitive such as a prison record, or a child born out of wedlock, still my research was a bit of a shock for someone else.  Because of this at all costs, I do my best to be conscious of how my findings may impact the living.  Not every footnote belongs on an online family tree.  I’m not saying hide facts, but consider the privacy of the living before you post it for the entire world to see.  If someone gets in touch, then fine be forthright, but in my opinion some things should be kept in that “private” tree.  When dealing with clients, of course disclose everything, but again tread with care.


While my client is very disappointed, the nature of the records in that box would have some personal information that could  be unsettling if one of the children is still alive.  Maybe the state is overly cautious; maybe it is not I guess it’s up to each of us to decide the boundaries.  Just be aware you might be providing some unwanted information that could impact another person.  There is probably a better way to deliver some data than on a piece of paper, stated simply as a fact.

Hello old foe, I see your have returned from my youth…

Back in the groovy 60’s and 70’s when all our neighbors drove down to the Jersey Shore each weekend we had to be different, the King family headed to Stonington Connecticut. We would visit my grandparents and enjoy the Rhode Island beaches a few miles away.  I brought along my personal companion, motion sickness…. My parents would plop me in the back seat with several brown grocery bags doubled, make me buckle-up, and tell me to try to sleep.  The trip usually included a fog of cigarette smoke and me asking them to pull over, which usually fell on deaf ears (pretty typical of most parents of that era).   Three and a half hours later we would arrive at our destination, and I would bounce back once on solid land.  I recall kissing the ground on one of the trips, stunning my grandparents.   I had gotten sick 11 times that ride, and my 9-year-old self must have decided to be a bit of a wise guy.  Though today I can’t read in the car, I usually don’t have motion sickness when traveling.

When I started genealogy back in the mid-90’s there was only one way to get census records, and that was via microfilm.  Two Saturdays a month I would trust the husband with our 2 year old twins, and take a few hours to go to the basement of Alexander Library at Rutgers University.  I had to cram a lot of research in those brief times so I did everything as quickly and efficiently as possible.  To be honest I was also afraid that my husband would decide 2 toddlers were too much for him, so I would fly out of the house as quickly as possible.   Don’t get me wrong I love my children, but my sanity was at stake here!  I would skip breakfast grab my bag and a coffee and head to my few hours of quiet.

I recall the relief of finally understanding out how Soundex worked and then finding my family on the 1920’s census.  Ironically my first dip in the genealogy pool had the family I was researching, Fennimore indexed as Tenimore, so I had to go line by line manually through my hometown.  It was during this long search that my old buddy motion sickness crept back into my life.  I think at the time I had it confused with a more recent acquaintance morning sickness, but I was able to rule that out easily enough.  To say I was less than pleased is an understatement.  I had to cut one trip short because it was just so bad, and I even questioned if I would be able to continue with this obsession, hobby.

I decided I wouldn’t be beat so easily, and tried some strategies to keep myself from feeling icky.  It never occurred to me to ask fellow genealogists for solution, because I assumed I was the only person to have this malady.  Recently I attended the spring program sponsored by the Genealogical Society of NJ, and struck up a conversation with a fellow attendee.  I believe we were discussing the convenience of online census records, and feeling friendly shared that I tend to get sick when viewing microfilms.  Much to my surprise she told me many researchers encounter that same problem.  I guess I need to get off the Internet, out of cemeteries and talk to actual living people a little more frequently!

This past Monday I was at our state archives and thanks to a protest practically had the place to myself.  I had headed out extra early to beat the demonstrators and made it in right before they closed off the road.  I meant to grab a protein bar, but the voracious teenagers beat me to them (schools out) so I went sans breakfast.  I was speeding through the reels, had a good machine that didn’t need to be manually cranked and the drawers were all mine, so no waiting for others to grab 10 films…Nirvana!  It was then my stomach lurched a bit, and my old pal said “I’m baaaaackkk”.  Luckily I was a little better prepared this time and employed my sour stomach avoidance strategy.  While this may not work for you it seems to work for me.

Tips to avoid “Motion Sickness”:

  1. Do not look at the screen while you wind forward – I can’t stress this enough!  It is better to scroll past and back track than constantly keeping your eyes on the screen.
  2. Do not research on an empty stomach – My theory (non-scientific) is that there must be too much acid in the stomach, and it needs food to keep it busy.  My hypothesis may be wrong, but it does help to have something to eat before the symptoms set in.
  3. Mints or Jolly Ranchers – Again not sure why but a tic tac, or a hard candy seem to help relieve the queasiness for me.
  4. Fresh Air – Particularly if you are in a basement or small-enclosed area, a step out to get a few breaths seem to close down the symptoms.
  5. Drink some water.  Can’t say if it’s the actual act of leaving the machine to search for a water fountain, or the drinking of the water that provides relief but it seems to help.

So weak-stomached genealogists unite!  Please feel free to share any tricks that have helped you over the years, or at the very least know that you are not alone.  I’m going to need  them I have some newspapers searches to do, and unfortunately I have only “decades” as dates.

Filling in the Gaps, when Vital Records don’t exist


New Jersey officially started collecting vital records in 1848.  Some towns and counties did have vital records collected, but it is not consistent and varies from locale to locale.  I have found the period of 1820-1848 to be some of the most difficult records to track down.  This is when you really need to go to alternate sources.  Some are easier to obtain than others, and creative problem solving as well as analyzing the quality of the sources is imperative.

Church records and cemeteries are usually my first starting point.  I try to find a historical association for that area, check out their website, or pay an in-person visit.  Quite frequently they will have a list of churches active at the time, or even some of the church records.  I visit cemeteries and that certainly can yield information, but not everyone has a tombstone when interred, or they can be damaged with age.  You can even inquire at a particular church to see if they have records, or look on family search (LDS) if you have a family history center near by and order the tapes. 

Bible records are another source of vital statistics.  It was a long-held tradition to write the births, deaths and marriages in the family bible.   The Genealogical Society of New Jersey has an extensive collection of bible records.  They are housed at the Rutgers University in New Brunswick, Alexander Library Special Collections room.  Like anything else bible records need to be reviewed with objectivity.  Does the handwriting meet the period?  Or does this look like something added a century later?  Is this your ancestor, or one with the same name?  In some cases this may be the only data you will ever find on an ancestor so bible records can be a very important source.

Bible and church records are some of the more obvious sources of data, but there are some obscure records that you will need to be creative to obtain.  This is where local history, libraries or genealogy groups come into play.  I had one ancestor that I couldn’t pin down the date of death; I searched in her county of last residence but no luck.  I did know the family used a specific undertaker, a town over (and in another county) so I was hoping to find his records at a historical society.  I ended up finding them at the town library, in records room that was rarely visited.  Not only did I pin down my ancestor’s death date, but also two children that were born and lost at an early age.  The journal indicated what was ordered for each funeral, how much it cost, where their grave was and many times cause of death.  The information not only provided the basic dates, but also gave a brief glimpse of life, as they knew it. 

A good genealogist does not take every record at face value and assume it is correct.  A certain amount of analysis needs to be deployed.  This is true even with official vital records.  My one brick wall ancestor his death certificate has the same date for birth as well as death, but listed old age as cause of death.  That is obviously incorrect even though it is what was gathered when the certificate was issued.  The same is true of less traditional sources of records, proceed with caution, if at all possible having multiple independent sources of information is the best bet. 

Following is a list New Jersey groups/libraries I have found that have historic holdings.  Most are located in my areas of research Hunterdon, Morris and Somerset Counties.  I’m sure there are more out there, but this is the short list: 


Bernardsville Public Library  – 1 Anderson Hill Rd, Bernardsville NJ

Bernardsville Library has a local history room, but limited to specific hours. Vertical files, Local books, pictures, and copies of the Bernardsville News 1932 onwards.


Bernards Township Library – 32 S Maple Ave Basking Ridge NJ

Although it’s not listed on it’s website there is a room with historical records.  You need to approach the Reference Desk to get access.  They don’t generally want you poking around in there alone.  This library has a free genealogy group that meets the 4th Tuesday of most months.  They usually have a program/lecture at these meetings and a mingling period.


Long Hill Township Public Library – 917 Valley Road, Gillette NJ

There is a local history room open Weds 1-3.  I have yet to get there in that time so can’t speak to the holdings, which are not in their online catalog.


The Historical Society of Somerset Hills – 15 West Oak Street, Basking Ridge NJ

This society’s main interest is Bedminster, Bernards Twp, Bernardsville, Far Hills, Peapack & Gladstone.  I have not yet been able to get there in-person but there is a library with some genealogical items.  Limited hours, check the website beforehand.


Hunterdon County Historical Society – 114 Main Street, Flemington NJ 

I plan on trying to make a visit shortly; it appears there is quite a bit of data for genealogists.


The Tewksbury Historical Society – 60 Water Street Tewksbury NJ

Very small, but contains quite a bit of information on the town of Tewksbury (New Germantown).


North Jersey History and Genealogy Center – (Morristown and Morris Township Library) 1 Miller Rd, Morristown NJ

This is probably my favorite place to visit.  Quite a few holdings, great facility and very generous hours.