24 August 2013



Great Grandpa walked across the border of Mexico and the United States from somewhere in Mexico and before 1920. He was alone. He was Mexican and we are now fifth generation Mexican-Americans. Eventually he worked for the same manufacturing company in Arizona for over 30 years, a company that no longer exists, so I don't think I can contact anyone there to ask about his employment or personnel records. No one seems to know what village in Mexico he left. Maybe he never said. I'm not sure he became a citizen but I think so, especially because of his work history. I found the family on the 1920 census and he was not a citizen. He was in his mid-twenties. Now I'm not sure of his birth date. Other than the census I haven't found anything on Ancestry, the genealogy research database. Any Suggestions? Marie C.

Answer: The personnel records might very well have this birth date and place and other information that could be useful to your genealogy research generally and finding them is an interesting idea that I think you should pursue a bit. You might check around to see if that company's records were destroyed or held in an archive or historical society or library somewhere, since the company was a big employer, instrumental to the history of the area, and around a long time.

Start with the closest public library to where the company was and also ask the local historical society. There are some company records available here and there for industrial age "Company Towns." I've found some that relate to my own research including a photo of one ancestor which was in a file.

However, I think your best bet is to search for his WORLD WAR ONE DRAFT REGISTRATION as ALL MEN, even those who were not citizens, up until about the age of 40 had to REGISTER, and your GP seems to be in the right age category. The registration asks the birth date and place as well as an address and name of the closest relative, which may or may not be your great-grandmother, but could verify their marriage. They asked such details because of the notion that unmarried and childless men would be called to serve before the married with children.

There were 3 or 4 draft registrations for the World War over about 2 years time and up to about the age of 40. Registration is not the same as a draft or enlistment record or a military record, though they are stored under MILITARY RECORDS in the Ancestry and other genealogy databases.

I would also suggest that after you get that Mexican hometown you look for CHURCH RECORDS. I've found that church records sometimes contain interesting notes by the priest or minister in the margins besides the mostly usual names, occupations, and addresses. The Church records from Mexico may record GP's birth or baptism, and could include his marriage there or in the United States by notation. I've found that in small towns the church records have comments about who has gone to America or come back for a visit, and so on.

17 August 2013


ZSR SPECIAL EDU : NC Baptist Historical Collection  AKA Ethel Taylor Crittenden Collection in Baptist History.


The North Carolina Baptist Historical Collection (also known as the Ethel Taylor Crittenden Collection in Baptist History) documents the history of North Carolina Baptist churches, institutions, and individuals. The collection contains materials on Southern, Missionary, Primitive, African-American, Union, and Alliance of Baptist churches. These materials include over 16,000 books, periodicals, association annuals and other printed materials; church records; association minutes; and church vertical files. In addition, there are more than 1000 biographical folders containing information on and photographs of Baptist pastors and Wake Forest alumni.

The collection serves as a repository for records from North Carolina Baptist churches and institutions. See our church records page for more information about these collections. The NCBHC is also the repository for the Alliance of Baptists and the Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina archives.

In addition, a complete set of the print version of the Biblical Recorder, the official journal of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention, published biweekly and in existence since 1833, is available in the NC Baptist Historical Collection. Access to the recently digitized and completely searchable Biblical Recorder is also available. The Biblical Recorder office also publishes an online version of the journal which varies slightly from the print version. To access the online version, or for more information about the history, subscription information, or staff information, you may visit biblicalrecorder.org.

13 August 2013


Using a search feature to mine information from old newspapers can be a lot of fun and reward you with information you never thought you could get your hands on.

Consider that obituaries, engagement and wedding notices (and photos!) and that this information can help you link to other records which may be more recent and get you past the 70 year wait due to privacy laws, which we all agree need to be in place for the protection of the living.

A draw-back.  Misspelled surnames and this time it's not about bad handwriting.  One family I research had about 12 different spellings to the surnames as they were reported - birth, death, engagement, wedding, and even one family member who had been arrested in a newspaper, small but the only paper in the Capital of that county.  I finally figured it out.  The paper didn't have enough letters to TYPE-SET the pages.  So in this case there must have been extra O's!

07 August 2013


These days, with so many people moving around the country for work and so busy, it takes a while to feel you are a member of a community.  As well, if you are far from where  your family of origin in the United States settled  you may not know much about their lives in a historical niche because you're so distant from that place and time.  Contacting the Historical Society that is in that area may just be the start for your research.


Because most Historical Societies have some people - often older people - who have stayed put and know a lot about the area. They may just know of your family.

That's what happened to a friend of mine who found out that the home her immigrant ancestors had lived in for a couple generations was on a HISTORY TOUR of the area.  She actually got to go see the house and hear this local expert talk about them.  They were thrilled to meet her as well!

Some historical societies also offer some low-cost look up services for you if the records you need are not on databases or microfilms.  This is especially true of local newspapers.

03 August 2013


I once had a potential client that I decided not to work with because of her rigidity! 

Seriously, this woman was a highly educated and successful social worker of Jewish background with a very unusual surname.  My preliminary research based on the town that she said her family was from, but a town she was distanced from by three generations, revealed a cluster of this unusual name - with spelling variations.  SHE REFUSED TO BELIEVE THAT THESE PEOPLE COULD BE RELATED based on the idea that surname spellings never changed.  She was arguementative and I could tell that she would never be able to take the small leap of faith required and that I'd be fighting to prove things to her all the way.

The fact is that surnames have been very changeable through history.

African American slaves who were freed got to choose their own names.  Sometimes siblings all chose different surnames.  Did they do this formally and legally?  NO.  Assuming a name for some time is all it took - to be KNOWN by a name.  Some tried out a name, didn't like it, and went with another.

This is just one example of the flexibility or a surname.

Another ; I've heard the "They Changed Our Name At Ellis ISland"  so many times.  I don't argue it but this is 99% of the time pure bunk. They did process people quickly and we always have the problem of bad handwriting or misinterpretations of a name, but a mispelling or misunderstanding at Ellis DID NOT CHANGE AN IMMIGRANT'S NAME LEGALLY.  They did not have to go with a mispelling.  In the five minutes or so that they were processed, clerks were not changing the family name.  End of that old story.

Many people did decide to AMERICANIZE their surname, sometimes by spelling it different or spelling it more according to how it would be written in English.  Few went with legal proceedings, which cost money, to take off an ending, or ad or subtract a letter.  As a result, I have found so very many documented families with a wide variety of spellings.  In one family the name was slightly different on Ellis, on naturalization, or WWI draft registrations, and on census.  They were the same family though.

As I mentioned on a recent post, there is also the SPANISHIFICATION of certain surnames due to immigration. So, it's not always about ANGLICIZING!