Undertaking genealogical research involves more than growing a family tree. It means gaining a deeper understanding of traditions, not just of our own family but the culture we are rooted in. Because as we grasp how our customs have evolved through the centuries, we gain insight into our own family's history and way of life. And learning a bit about Colonial marriage traditions can be both enlightening and intriguing.

The original settlers of Jamestown, Virginia of 1607 were all men, no women among their crew. And the approximately 100 Mayflower passengers included only 28 women, making the task of obtaining a wife difficult at best for the early 17th century colonial male.

Eager and perhaps desperate for male colonists to marry, approximately 150 "pure and spotless" women arrived in Virginia between 1620 and 1622 to be auctioned for 80 pounds of tobacco to future husbands. Many other women were brought to the Southern colonies as indentured servants, marrying the men who purchased their contracts.

The colonists established laws pertaining to the rights of husbands and their wives. The wives had few rights to land or to their children; the children were granted legal guardians upon the passing of their fathers, even when their mothers were still alive. Women had the responsibility of clothing and feeding their children but the guardians addressed legal matters, such as the child's property.

The wedding traditions varied, depending on ethnicity. The Dutch and Germans performed wedding ceremonies in their native languages, and the Quaker's weddings were held in their meetinghouses without a clergyman. Southerner's and New Englander's wedding ceremonies were also quite different: the Southern weddings often held in the bride's home with a pastor and lavish parties; whereas New Englanders often perceived a wedding not as a religious rite but as a civil affair conducted by a magistrate.

And not only were marriage customs dissimilar depending on the culture one lived, but divorce and grounds for divorce varied between New England and the South. If a wife alleged physical assault by her husband in Massachusetts in the 1600's she had grounds for divorce, but in the Southern colonies her husband was only restricted from "inflicting permanent injury or death" (all other atrocities on a wife must have been fair game).

Many of the colonial churches maintained marriage books. And institutions, such as the New England Historic Genealogical Society, offers free searchable records of colonial churches of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

For leads into locating archived marriage certificates and church records, you may find the Genwed website helpful, providing links for all 50 states along with Ireland, the U.K and Canada.

It can all sound silly when learnng about the marriage traditions of the colonists but they eventually evolved into our present customs and gaining insight into your own ancestor's marriage traditions based on their ethnicity and location where they lived can provide clues to further your research.

So have some fun and learn about the marriage customs of your ancestor's religion and culture and you will establish a good foundation for your quest.

Possibly leading you to the ultimate discovery: their marriage records.

Keep searching for answers,

(Source: GenealogyMagazine.com)

William Larkin Capps
I slammed the car door and skipped barefooted to the backyard; eager to spy my grandfather toiling his garden of pimple-faced potatoes and redheaded radishes. Certain of my secret presence, I slinked from behind, giggling at my sleuthing flair. His soft, brilliant eyes smiled with playfulness as he gave tickles to my side. I was a five-year-old granddaughter, awe-struck with the sweetness of a gentle, simple man.


I sat on the mettle stool, pushing against the wooden workbench as I twirled in circles. My eyes caught my grandfather's wink as he entered the little workshop and I grabbed the bench to a sudden stop, eager to jump to his side for a shared embrace. I melted into his belly and he tossed his brown felt cap to the chair. At ten, I could now reach my face to his soft-shaven cheek and brush him a kiss. I watched as he and my father tinkered their grease-slicked screwdrivers on old radio parts.


I sat at the Sunday table, a teenage mind distant in thought and bored with the adult conversation passing to each end. Suddenly, my eyes reached across the table to gaze at my grandfather's face. His thinned hair now gray and his bald spot broader to the sides, I imagined few men as handsome as he. A life void of higher eduction, the pitch in his voice sparkled with interest as I discussed my college goals.


I was called home from college, my grandfather abruptly scheduled for heart surgery. I leaned against the flat gurney as he lay, turning his face to smile and give a charm-filled wink. I brushed my hand across his and he clasped hold, still sweet and kind and beautiful.

And that was my last memory of a gentle, simple man.


I new my grandfather labored years in the Oklahoma oilfields; a hard-toiled job with rough-talking men and sweat-drenched days. I presumed he was a roughneck; an uneducated sort, but with a heart and mind that gave competition to the best.

I was content with that; left with a memory of the kindest grandfather God made.

And then I searched his 1930 Census record. Ancestry.com's latest beta device provides clear pictures of your grandparent's records, highlighting fascinating details. I clicked the zoom to read my grandfather's employer:

"Oil company."

And then occupation:


My heart contracted as I realized my simple grandfather quietly spent a career in charge of the Reno Oil Company in Nowata, Oklahoma.

Or perhaps I was told, but failed to give his history my attention.

Become reacquinted with your grandparents and give their life the attention you give to ancestors you never knew. Find them on the 1930 US Census and discover if they had a radio in their home or served in the military.

Or lived a life you never knew.

Keep searching for answers,

(Only 36 days until the 1940 US Census is searchable for free!)

Jumping The Border


Early Canadian Land Petition
Those that dismiss the practice of genealogy likely see the hobby as dull and tedious; a pastime for the gray-haired sedentary set. But I shake my head, keenly aware of the head-spinning adventure they smugly resist.

My experiences over the years have certainly been a testament to the knee-slapping thrills of ancestral exploration. And even to this day, I am shocked with new discoveries; constantly reminding myself to keep my eyes open and my net wide.

Many of you have followed my expedition into my Hobbs' lineage as I have discovered a wealth of records and knowledge unselfishly provided by an Internet Hobbs cousin. But I have yet to reveal my recent discovery that has lead me north into the Canadian Archives.

Thumbing through a stack of miscellaneous papers once again mailed by my Hobbs' contact, I paused at a digitalized copy ofa 1796 Late Loyalist List of Lower Canada. The signatures were men from Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont and I spied my Hobbs ancestors on the list. Searching further through the collection, my ancestors were again found on land applications for the Province of Quebec.

Thrilled with the discovery, I went straight to the Canadian Archives website, finding the records for myself. But my curiosity pressed me further as I wondered: what on earth were my Vermont ancestors doing north of the border and why was my American Revolutionary ancestor, Isaac Hobbs, signing an oath of allegiance to Canada?

Perplexed and bewildered, I researched this Late Loyalist List of Lower Canada along with the history of the land petitions for Upper and Lower Canada in 1792. I zipped an e-mail to an historian at the Canadian Archives and received a very informative summary:

"The term Late Loyalists were for those American settlers in Upper and Lower Canada who failed to conform to the definition of United Empire Loyalist. They were the so-called Late Loyalists who responded to invitations in 1792 by the governors of Upper and Lower Canada to file petitions for titles to lands. Many from the New England Border States were attracted by inexpensive and accessible land, as well as low taxes."

It was a Canadian land rush that brought settlers from the States into Canada. Their signage of the Late Loyalist List was required before petitioning for the lands.

My Hobbs ancestors, like many signers of the Late Loyalist List, never followed through with pioneering Canadian land, but their brief stint into Canada, add a fun and surprising twist to their history.

While browsing the Canadian Archives website, I was pleasantly surprised with the ease of the site. It is ripe with searchable census, vital and land records and I was awe-struck with the potential of locating records of New England ancestors.

I learned that many of our ancestors freely hopped north and south of the border for marriages, divorces, land, etc, making the Canadian Archives a must for anyone with New England ancestors.

So take a peak through the genealogical collections of the Canadian Archives--better yet, place it on your bookmark list.

Like me, you may be surprised to find your ancestors jumping the border, willing to cast loyalty to the States aside, for cheap land easy fortunes.

Keep searching for answers,

"Sarah my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break...The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I enjoyed them for so long...How thoughtless and foolish I have often times been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness..."

"But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights...always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again..."*

Who was the achingly lovesick author of this beautiful letter? Possibly Hemmingway, Fitzgerald or even Poe?

Your guesses, though flattering, were miles off. The above excerpts of the heart-wrenching love letter were penned on July 14, 1862 at Camp Clark, Washington D.C. by Sullivan Ballou; A Civil War soldier from Rhode Island. One week after the Union soldier poured his love and affection into the letter to his wife Sarah: Sullivan Ballou was killed in the Battle of Bull Run.

And the letter was never sent; found tucked within his belongings at the time his remains were retrieved.

As more and more Civil War documents are brought to light; thousands of records, held deep within the vaults of state archives, reveal the love letters from soldiers. Many of these men wrote from their hearts as they camped on blood-soaked battlefields. At a time in our history when the soldier's only communication to his wife and family was by pen and paper, the letters of Civil War soldiers allowed a private platform to describe the horrors of the war and to speak from the deepest of their souls.

The letters of Civil War soldiers, many of which are love letters to their wives or sweethearts, are beautifully preserved and readable on many of the state archives and university libraries. The Library of Virginia Tech's Special Collections offers a wonderful display of soldier's love letters from the battlefield.

History Happens Here, a magazine of the Missouri History Museum, began posting reprints of the James E. Love Papers: a Union soldier in St. Louis. James wrote letters to his fiance, Eliza Mary Wilson from 1861 until the end of the war. The magazine wittingly posts the letters in sequence, 150 years to the day after each letter was originally written, allowing subscribers to read them as if each were a chapter in a book, unfolding in front of them.

At a time when the art of writing love letters has grown old fashioned and antiquated, reading the beautifully written letters from young men ravaged by war, feels fresh and romantic. A fitting repose for those of us who love genealogy and long to imagine...just for a moment...the aching love and loneliness of our ancestors of the Civil War.

Read Sullivan Ballou's complete love letter to Sarah and dream your hearts away: 150 years after the prose was penned.

The love letters of the Civil War soldier; just in time for Valentines Day.

Keep searching for answers,

*(Source: PBS.org)
"Modern Journeys: The Irish In Detroit"
As human beings we have an inner drive to take risks; explore new paths that can push and pull us toward unknowns. And though change can ferment growth, a link to familiarity and sameness keep us grounded. Which has been the crux of immigrant communities throughout history; change and newness within the midst of villages of similarity.

Immigrants have come in waves. The British and Dutch explored and developed the colonies in the 1600's; the Germans flocked to the states in mass in the 1800's; the Russians came to America in the early 1900's. They came for various reasons, many of which included poverty and religious persecution. But as they migrated across America they searched out each other.

Immigrants grabbed hold of their bonds and formed communities across America. Dotting the country with little countries within. Irish, German, Italian villages where they could speak to one another in their native language (many Irish spoke Gaelic languages; not English) and hold on to the only cultural traditions they had known. These little immigrant societies provided a sense of security in a world that at times was strange and intolerant.

The immigrant communities have over the centuries, melded together, assimilating into a more homogeneous world. But many still hold tightly onto to their history and traditions; which can be a goldmine for those of us in genealogy.

All across America, descendants of immigrant communities have festivals, maintain historical societies and publish surname books of genealogical importance.

I found my 18th German ancestors listed within the historical publication of German town, Pennsylvania. While searching for an ancestor within another lineage, I discovered a German ancestor living on a street of the German Village of Columbus, Ohio. And the names of my Irish ancestors were embedded within an Irish surname publication from DetroitIrish.org.

It is not hard to discover the remnants of centuries old immigrant communities. In Texas, you may find your German ancestors in the historical publications of GermanTexans.org where German communities such as New Braunfels, Fredricksburg and Weimer still thrive today.

If your ancestors were Polish, they may have lived in New York, Minnesotaor Connecticut. And If Italian, they could have settled in Tontitown, Arkansas where families with Italian surnames such as Bariola, Fiori and Pianalto still live in the rolling Arkansas hills.

So explore the histories of little countries within a country. You may stumble upon your immigrant ancestor's name rooted within their publications.

It's worth the effort.

I think you could be pleasantly surprised.

Keep searching for answers,

Well, it is official: I am truly and unequivocally convinced that the opportunities to find more records on our ancestors is as wide and bottomless as the universe's Black Hole.

This week, I once again received three stuffed packages of ancestral records from my "genealogist gem"; the one I spoke of a few blogs ago. I sifted through volumes of notes and records and within my bulging stack of papers, one in particular struck me; sending a ripple of excitement that tingled my toes!

The record that gave life to my middle-age (I hate saying that term!) heart, is a digital copy of a Congressional Record. And highlighted nicely by my "gem" was my ancestor Samuel Hobbs, noted in a Congressional Journal on January 12th, 1846. Samuel was representing himself and sixteen other citizens of Pennsylvania for "remonstrating against the admission of Texas as a slave state into the Union."

What on earth is this? I thought.

I slowly sat down at my kitchen table and glared at the document. I put on my thinking cap (I keep it handy at all times) and read slowly the statement at the beginning of the records: "Mr John Quincy Adams presented a memorial from..." and a long list followed of names of representatives from several states renouncing the proposed "slave state of Texas."

Now at this point I would like to make it clear to all Texans, I truly have nothing against your state. But at that time in our history, knowing my ancestor boldly and publicly denounced slavery--participating in a Congressional petition as an Abolitionist--reconfirms my purpose for genealogy.

Stunned with the discovery, I went straight to the Library of Congress website and searched for myself. Of course I have utilized their wonderful Chronicling America portal--their digitalized and searchable archived newspapers. But I had never peeked inside the portal for "A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875."

Why would I pause to consider that I might have an ancestor's name embedded within the great archived books of Congress?

I never did; until now.

The fact is, the Congressional books have volumes of petitions, debates and military promotions of American citizens from every state since the Continental Congress. One does not have to be a Congressman to have your name recorded in a Congressional Record. If your ancestor was promoted in military rank; if they signed a petition from their state that was forwarded on to Congress; if a widow requested a military pension for her deceased husband; these and many more examples could become an entry into the Congressional Record.

In exploring this site, I recommend going to "search all titles" and then type in your ancestor's full name in the large white square. The results will list which records have your ancestor's full name--that's the one to focus on. What I also love about this site is how the results highlight your ancestor's name in bold lettering; allowing your eyes to zero in on what you are looking for.

So bookmark this brilliant Library of Congress portal because you will undoubtedly become hooked; routinely placing several of your ancestor's names within their search engine.

You may be quite stunned at your discoveries.

I know I was--thinking cap and all.

Keep searching for answers,

The door crept open and the timid young man stretched his head inside, shifting his eyes around the room. Others shoved against his back, pushing him through and as he stood, his voice joined the chant echoing against the wall: "No to war! No to war!"

The swell of adrenaline encircled each man; the crowd multiplying as the hot August evening melted into night. Their youthful faces radiated hope but many of their eyes reflected anger: anger at authority and anger at their country.

Leaders evolved, moving to the platform, professing the wrongs of war. Shouting defiance to the American Government, protest signs were built and the inflated crowd moved into the streets. Cars rumbled through the sleepy village of Seminole, Oklahoma, now bringing men of all ages. Men of different backgrounds, bonding to form a strong brotherhood in the fight against one cause: American's involvement in World War 1.

The dramatic story of the Green Corn Rebellion manifested the strong antiwar sentiment within the state of Oklahoma in 1917. The discontent led to an uprising of a large mob of protesters in several northeastern counties of Oklahoma, seizing control of local institutions with the determination to walk to Washington D.C. in protest of the war. The mob was eventually dismantled by law enforcement, but their story provides a backdrop to my own grandfather: a World War 1 objector.

The discovery of my grandfather's World War 1 draft card brought excitement and extreme curiosity. Claiming he had grounds against the draft; Glenn Beatty stated he "was not particularly sympathetic to the Allied Armies." The statement was bold and clearly political; particularly at a time when patriotism and loyalty was cast upon American citizens in hopes of increasing support for the war.

With a hunger to learn everything I could about the environment my grandfather was living in, I searched historical papers of Oklahoma in 1917. I discovered that the state I live in today has little resemblance to the state my grandfather lived in almost a hundred years ago.

In the early 1900's, the Oklahoma Socialist Party was ranked as "one of the top three state socialist organizations in America." The party was a strong force against America's involvement in the war; banding with the Oklahoma farmers and unions. And the uneasiness and dissent against the war swelled among young Oklahoma men, percolating into an antiwar protest: The Green Corn Rebellion.

Adding fuel to the undercurrent of discontent, the National Defense Act of 1916, directed each state to develop a Council of Defense. These small committees were specifically formed to create patriotism and loyalty. But instead, dissenters were often bullied, beaten and jailed for refusing to sign loyalty -pledge cards: Oppressive tactics more reflective of dictatorships than democracy.

I cannot say that Glenn Beatty walked the streets with war protesters in August 1917. And although only half of the citizens of Oklahoma willingly signed loyalty pledge cards distributed by the Council of Defense, I have no evidence he refused to sign.

But learning the history of the environment surrounding my grandfather, gives life and meaning to his story.

If you truly want to understand and write your ancestor's story then immerse yourself in their history and their world. Search publications at your local historical society and gain a real knowledge of the times they lived.

Because their world, was most certainly very different than your own.

Keep searching for answers,

(Source: Oklahoma Historical Society)


A New Years Wish


A new year can lift our spirits and create a feeling of fresh beginnings; spiritual rebirth and hope. The study of our history--the widely growing hobby of genealogy--appears to be swinging headfirst into 2012. New websites are spilling forth and the "oldies but goodies" are growing even larger and stronger.

Feeding off of the rapidly growing interest in genealogy, PBS is launching a new series March 25th called Finding Your Roots. It will be a one-hour, 10 part series that like NBC, will feature important Americans and their journeys to ancestor discoveries. And speaking of NBC; Who Do You Think You Are will begin season three on February 3rd. Each program sounds enlightening and most likely, very inspiring.

Over the years, as I have delved deeper into genealogy, I have witnessed an increasing growth of new websites and blogs. But what I am seeing now excites me for the future. The granddaddies--Ancestry.com and Fold3--are taking notice of the smaller sites that are publishing digital records free for the taking.

These subscription websites are offering more free access to records. Ancestry.com has announced making the 1940 US Census free and available starting April 2012 until 2013. And they are bringing direct access to free sites such as Rootsweb, directly to their members.

Fold3 is a partner with the Federation of Genealogical Societies in their War of 1812 Project. They have been digitalizing all 1812 Pension Application Files and offering them free on their site.

The two largest lineage organizations--the DAR and NSSAR--are now providing their patriot records searchable on-line and I must not forget the wonderful website FamilySearch.org. This great organization has rapidly grown during the last year, adding new records daily. It has quickly become a leader in the field of genealogy.

As I explore the Internet, I am delighted with sites such as Archive.org-a free access site that provides searchable and downloadable ancestral books. And I have been thrilled to find ancestor's tombstone records on FindAGrave.com and Interment.net.

But what continues to stun me the most, is the little county courthouse websites with free access to land, wills and probate records. Town historical centers with archived city directories and genealogical societies with realms of free files.

These small, individual websites are flooding the Internet. They are providing all of us with our history at our fingertips.

All for free.

Which is my wish for the New Year. It is my hope that with time and the growth of more websites providing free access to digital records; some day in the new future, genealogical records will be free to all.

You never know; it's a wish that just may come true.

Keep searching for answers,


If you follow my blog, you will recall my recent exploration of my Hobbs' lineage. I had left the lineage untouched for years and felt delighted over my latest discoveries and resourceful cousin contacts. But realizing I had a "real-time" link to my Hobbs history, I zipped an e-mail to my aunt.

Remembering stories of "Uncle Rush" throughout my life, I felt certain my aunt might provide further details to uncover. Assuming for years that "Uncle Rush Hobbs" was the brother Rush of my great-grandmother Elvira Hobbs, I wondered if my aunt had much contact with the much elder ancestor.

"Yes, I remember Uncle Rush. We spent a lot of time visiting Uncle Rush and Aunt Gale." But the details began to blur as she described years knowing our Hobbs ancestor.

How could that be?, I wondered. "Uncle Rush Hobbs" must have died only a few years after my aunt was born. It's not possible for her to have years of contact with the much older great-uncle.

Reviewing, rereading and pondering my Hobbs family tree; my mind went back and forth second-guessing my research.

And then my genealogical light bulb clicked on and I was struck by the realization that for years, the "Uncle Rush Hobbs" that was so endeared by my mother and aunt was not at all their uncle.

He must have been a younger generation Rush Hobbs, I thought: Perhaps a son of one of great-grandmother Hobbs' siblings. And with that, my light bulb brightened as I furiously began placing each of my Hobbs ancestral uncles and aunts in the Ancestry.com search engine.

And voila! I found it.

The "Uncle Rush Hobbs" that my mother and aunt so dearly loved was not their uncle at all. He was the cousin to my grandfather: A son of a brother of great-grandmother Elvira Hobbs. And I found the younger Rush living with his father only a few miles from our family home. The "Rush" name appears to have been passed through several generations; an all too familiar genealogical perplexity and frustrating phenomenon.

So why was the familial misnomer of "uncle" used for dear cousin Rush? That question will most likely go unanswered. But that one little inquiry led to a whirlwind of an inquisition, resulting in the further discovery of more Hobbs ancestors. Which reminds myself to obey my number one rule:

Ask your elders.

Mistakes and misnomers are just as revealing as certainty. And when something doesn't make since, go toward the light; especially if it's blinding your eyes.

Keep searching for answers,

The end of a year traditionally places us at a point of nostalgic review while instilling a spark of hope for new beginnings. And as this genealogy blog has matured throughout the last twelve months, I am forced to examine its functionality to the website it is planted upon.

When developing my website, I originally viewed it as a vehicle to make my family history book more available to genealogists. With that, I have attempted to provide visitors quick access to genealogy sites I have found useful, available and at little to no cost.

But as I quickly learned, the "build it they will come" phrase, does not apply to new websites. So, after long nights of studying the assertions of experts much wiser than myself, I began writing a weekly blog in order to increase traffic to my site.

Gradually developing this weekly stint into something the researcher could grab hold of and make useful, I in turn, learned from my experiences and mistakes. And as a lover of story, I am drawn to the uniqueness of life: the curiosity of another individual; peeling back the layers of my ancestors to discover bits of their personalities and histories. And I have been humbled by my realizations.

As I have uncovered my ancestor's stories, I have been blindsided by their tragic life experiences and their ability to withstand loss: parents that buried their babies, year after year. Entire families erased away by diseases such as Typhoid Fever and Smallpox. In contrast, our daily worries appear trivial in comparison.

Though very proud to be a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the discovery that my Scottish ancestor was jailed as a Loyalist lead me to face the "dark side" of the Revolution. The war atrocities within both armies and the bitter hatred amongst neighbors: Loyalists who lost their properties and were subjected to brutal, horrific attacks.

As I uncovered the wills and personal writings of my great-great-great-grandfathers, I was chilled with the reality that I had ancestors who owned other human beings. And to understand that an entire culture coldly accepted that a person could be sold and traded like furniture or be discarded like old, worn out shoes.

I was disheartened to think of the prejudices my Irish ancestors had to withstand just to settle and raise a family within the same country as I currently live. And I pause to wonder if the prejudices my ancestors faced are parallel to the current struggle of our immigrants of today.

Where would any of us be, had our ancestors not been allowed to immigrate to America?

The undertaking of genealogy, if done properly, can and will change you as an individual. If you look for the story and seek out the truth; you will be moved into a different direction. And as you find your ancestors, you will find yourself.

The development of this blog has, as the experts predicted, increased traffic to my little site. Over the last year I have welcomed over 70,000 visitors; much more than I ever imagined.

With fresh eyes to review a year in the life of my blog, I do see the value of its being. I have grown through my discoveries and stories and I hope you have benefited from my revelations.

I'm not certain what direction this blog will take next but it most likely will continue to reveal more stories; at least in some form. Because once you start peeling away the layers, you struggle until you reach the core. And as you find your ancestor's core, you will find your own.

Thank you for visiting and keep searching for answers.