08 March 2015

How to Begin Researching Your Family History

By guest blogger Suzie Kolber

Studying one’s past can be an exciting adventure. You never know what stories and facts you will learn about your family genealogy during the process. One of the ways that you can make this task easier is by creating a visual “map” that you can follow during your research phase.

Collect the Information That You Know

Begin by writing down everything you know about your family history. Start with your parents and grandparents and work your way back. See how far back into your ancestry you can go just based on the information you have. If you are lucky enough to still have great-grandparents living, you may already have basic data about four or five generations. The most important information and often the easiest to collect are the names of your ancestors. Even if this is all you have to go on, you have a good start. Once you have listed all of the information that you have currently available, now is the time to organize it into a visual format.

Creating a Family Tree

As you delve deeper into your family history, it will be easy to get confused. This is especially true if you have people with the same names. Take the time to write your basic information down into a format that is easy to read and visually pleasing. You may wonder why it is important to include this step. The reason is that it helps you keep the information straight in your mind. While it is easy in the beginning to remember who you are researching because you either know the person or have heard stories about him or her, as you move farther back into your past, it becomes more difficult. These people become just names on a page and it can get confusing. A family tree allows you to stay organized.

Choosing a Family Tree

Numerous templates are available to help you organize your information. Each one is designed a different way to appeal to various styles of researchers. Some are extremely simple and only include names while others provide room for more elaborate details. The first decision is how many generations you want on your family tree. To begin your research, you may want to start with a four or five generation family tree. Many of these templates give you room to write birth and death dates, dates of marriage and even locations. Since you probably know more information about recent ancestors, this is a good option for storing that data. As you move farther back into your family history, you may want to use an eight- or nine-generation template. This allows you to see more members at a glance without including a lot of information. These templates come in various styles to fit your needs. Some common options include circular, hourglass and bowtie shapes. The one you choose depends on what is most visually pleasing to you. Researching your family history can be challenging and a lengthy process. Begin by organizing your information into a family tree and it will make the task much easier.


Suzie Kolber created http://obituarieshelp.org/free_printable_blank_family_tree.html to be the complete online resource for “do it yourself” genealogy projects.  The site offers the largest offering of family tree charts online. The site is a not for profit website dedicated to offering free resources for those that are trying to trace their family history.

17 September 2014

Your Family Photos

A recent post on "For Better -- Or What?" reminds us of the importance of labeling family photos. Without labels, future generations will not know who is who. Even if you took the picture, the day is likely to come when you can't quite remember when this was taken or exactly where you were. Photos should be labeled with the names of all the people in the picture, the date the picture was taken, and the location. If you have room, include additional details about what made the event special. Your descendants are much more likely to appreciate and keep family photos if they include meaningful information.

18 August 2014

Lost in a Sea of Names

I have over 26,000 people named Newcomb or some variation on Newcomb in my database. With the spouses, ancestors, and descendants, the total number is over 120,000.

Here are some statistics from my collection:
  • Approximately 860 men were named John (or Johnathan, Johnnie, etc.) Newcomb
  • Around 660 men were named Charles Newcomb
  • 326 women were named Sarah Newcomb
  • Over 600 Newcomb men had a wife named Mary
  • 151 Newcombs married someone named Smith
  • Close to 3,000 individuals have unknown parents

I enjoy helping people find information on their ancestors. But I am sometimes overwhelmed by the numbers.

Keep in mind that if you write to me and say, "My great-grandparents were John and Mary Newcomb," I won't be able to find them. Inquiries should contain as much specific information as possible. Include whatever you know, such as dates of birth, death, and marriage, names of children or siblings, names of parents, etc.

03 August 2014

John Newcomb's Cane

According to the old Newcomb genealogy, written in 1874, Jonathan Newcomb (b. 29 Jun 1796) of Braintree/Quincy had in his possession a cane which had been given to his 3-g-grandfather, John Newcomb, in 1712. The cane was described as "of mangrove wood with an ivory head and a band of silver 3/4 inch wide, upon which is the inscription, 'John Newcomb March 1712.'" John Newcomb (1634-1722) was a member of the Francis Newcomb line.

It appears that Jonathan Newcomb had no descendants. Upon his death the cane may have been passed to one of his brothers (William, Benjamin and George) or to a nephew or some other relative.

I have received an inquiry from a member of the Francis Newcomb line who wonders what happened to the cane. It would certainly be interesting to find this item still in possession of a Newcomb descendant.

If you know anything about what happened to the cane, please respond in the comments or send me an email. Thanks!
 

02 January 2014

Paul Z. Burrell

Are Paul Z. Burrell and Paul Zanfrey Burrell the same person, or is it just a coincidence that there were two men with such similar names (including the unusual middle initial) of about the same age in the same place at the same time?

Paul Zanfrey Burrell was born 7 May 1890 in Columbus Ohio, but seems to have lived most of his childhood and youth in Nashville. His parents were Benjamin Franklin Burrell (1864-1941) and Annabell Zuck (b. 1886). Paul died 17 April 1936 in Nashville TN and was buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery. He was married to Rose Shields (or Shield), (b. approx. 1900), and they had two daughters. They seem to have lived in New York throughout most of their marriage. Paul worked as a telegraph operator and/or railroad dispatcher.

Paul Z. Burrell was born between 1888 and 1900 in Ohio, but lived in Nashville. The 1910 census lists his occupation as railroad operator. Paul married Hazel Delight Newcomb (1889-1975) 3 August 1909 in Chicago IL. They had one son, Theodore (1910-1955), probably born in Illinois. According to Hazel (as recounted by her daughter-in-law), Paul died young (some time between 1910 and 1914) and she moved to California, where she married her second husband. I have not yet been able to find the record of Paul's death or burial.

I am hoping to determine whether Paul Z. Burrell is the same person as Paul Zanfrey Burrell. It is possible that Paul and Hazel divorced and that she lied about his death (I have found that divorced people in the past often claimed to be widowed because they were ashamed of the divorce). It is possible he kept his first marriage a secret, or that he simply didn't talk about it, so descendants might not be aware of it. It is even possible that they never got a formal divorce and simply remarried bigamously. All the more reason to avoid mentioning the first marriage or to claim the spouse had died. All of this is speculation, because I simply don't know whether or not the two Pauls are the same person. Aside from all the other things they have in common (probably the same age, born in Ohio, lived in Nashville, railroad dispatcher) it's that middle initial that really gets to me.

22 December 2013

Molly Bearse married Obadiah Newcomb

Molly Bearse was born 14 Dec 1795 in New Fairfield CT, the daughter of John and Molly (Beardsley) Bearse. She married Obadiah Newcomb (1798-1840) 6 Mar 1823 in Westmoreland NY. Obadiah was the son of William and Elizabeth (Cunnabell) Newcomb. Obadiah and Molly had two children, John Bearse and Esther. Molly's sister Esther married Obadiah's brother William.

18 December 2013

Esther Atwell married Isaac Newcomb

Esther A. Atwell was born around 1835 in Vermont. She married Isaac Madison Newcomb (8 Aug 1824 - 4 Jan 1862) 1 Aug 1852. They had two children: William Stanley and James Madison. Esther's second husband was Simon B. Buxton.

Sources: J.B. Newcomb, U.S. census records