Hello everyone. February has been a strange month. It seems to me (and the long-suffering Mrs H) that I've spent more time on genealogy this month than I have in many months and yet, when I look at the number of lives we added in the month, it's only 700! Ian and Mike Howes have both been beavering away as normalI've said before that the more people we have in our database, the more likely it is we come across new information on the people already in the database, and thus as time goes on we may be adding fewer people just as a matter of course.
Thinking along these lines caused me to review my month, just to see where it had gone.
Salt Lake City
The start of the month found me in SLC staying in a small house just North of Temple Square just a couple of blocks from the Family History Library (FHL) - very handy to be outside the doors at 8am to get a full day in! Last year I transcribed about 220 marriages from New York City between 1870 and 1935. They were all men. I had another 40 marriages to finish the job and another 250 women's marriages to work on. Although there are indexes of NYC marriages available online, there are only two places on the planet where one can see copies of the originals: Chambers Street in downtown Manhattan and Salt Lake City.
Transcribing each requires noting a microfilm number, pulling the microfilm from the stack, winding by hand to the appropriate register entry, noting the details, rewinding the film and replacing it. . . .260 times!
I was able to connect some families up thanks to remembering parents' names from last year. There weren't any big surprises like last year, but there was one family which we have since been able to connect back to Thomas Howes and Mary Burr who came to Massachusetts in 1637 when a family member coincidentally wrote in to ask for help.
Just another 500 families to rebuild, then!
Family History Library
So, after a few days I'd finished with the NYC marriages. What to do next? Logic dictated I should do something while there which would be dificult or expensive to do elsewhere. I quickly found that Fold3, an Ancestry.com-owned website, but which is not available to Ancetry users without an extra annual fee, is free while one is connected to the network while in the FHL. Fold 3 is a military-oriented site but has many records not available elsewhere.
So for the remainder of my sojourn in SLC I downloaded almost 2,000 images which I don't believe are available elsewhere. These images include WW1 and WW2 draft cards, US military headstone application forms (often completed by next of kin but always with the mention of their military unit, allowing one to do further research if one wants), some Texas and Missouri death certificates and sundry other papers. 2,000 images are exactly the kind of thing to work on during long journeys as I do now with 1,500 obituaries I downloaded some time back from ProQuest!
The original reason for going to Salt Lake City was to attend RootsTech, the largest gathering of genealogists on the planet. 23,000+ people signed up and attended the conference over a three day period. For the first time on this side of the Atlantic, the Guild of One-Name Studies had taken a booth there in the exhibition hall and I intended to work the stand with other British and American members, catch a few lectures and poke around the other exhibitors to see what might be available. Sadly, three other Guild members couldn't make it at the last minute and we had to re-jig the schedule. Some of us did double and triple duty and I failed to get to a single lecture! After three days I was exhausted and could not speak but it was great fun to extol the virtues of the Guild to a new audience, sign up a few new members and "spread the word".
Tentative learnings from the past month
- This is a re-learning, but it is worth saying again and again that without the internet almost none of this study would have been possible. Even if one had access to the original New York City records, building families around just this one small data set could have taken a lifetime in the past, let alone a database as large as ours is today
- People named House came from Eastern Europe. As I as going through the NYC marriages, I was reminded of a feeling I had had last year: that many people named House said they came from Poland and even Russia. From the given names of them and the people they married it is apparent too that many of those families were Jewish. This opens up another potentially very interesting avenue of research. Do we have any Eastern European experts among us?
- As I focus more of my own research on the US (and I hope I'm getting better at it!) I'm finding more and more instances of people in the 19th century whose surnames were spelt different ways during their lifetime. Mostly these are folks named Howes also referred to as House, or vice-versa but many other permutations exist.
I think I've noted here before that when I least looked at this topic in detail about one-third of all 19th century English males named Howes/House/Howse had more than one spelling of their name during their lifetime. Some even had five or six! It's this datapoint which caused me to note that the names are practically interchangeable, especially along the Thames valley and up from Bristol toward Birmingham, and thus may have had the same original root since they clearly sounded alike.
It will be interesting to see whether the same level of spelling interchangeability occurred in the US too.
Well, that's been my month, folks. Thanks for your continued support, particularly those with whom we've corresponded.
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