Sunday, April 22, 2018

FamilySearch's Family History Calendar

I received an email from FamilySearch today telling me they had created a calendar of my ancestors' special events.

I've occasionally celebrated births and marriages on my blog in past years but not recently.  I decided to see what my calendar looked like.  I had to sign in to FamilySearch to see it.

The calendar has the month on the left, then the date, and to the right is the event and ancestor's name.

My great-great-grandfather, Dixon Bartley, died today in 1900.  He was in his late 90s but since I don't have an exact birth date, I can't be sure.  And in two days, my great-grandparents, Henry and Elizabeth (Armitage) Meinzen, will celebrate their anniversary -- 148 years, if they were still alive.

I don't know about you but I'm not sure how I feel about celebrating a death, at least certainly not like a birthday or marriage.  But I think it's probably a great way to remember an ancestor, especially if you don't have a birth date.

I can imagine that this list could become cumbersome and totally overwhelming if you have many, many ancestors and many generations linked in your FamilySearch Family Tree but for me, with only a few generations, it's a great help!

I expect you, too, will receive an email invitation to see your calendar if you have a FamilySearch account and have ancestors in your tree.  FamilySearch also offers a Calendar of Ancestral Moments.


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

St. Cuthbert Church, Bedlington, Northumberland

I like to see the places where my ancestors worshiped, were baptized, married, and buried.  I'm thankful to generous people, like John Lord, who took the photo above, who make photos available on the internet for all to see so we can imagine what it might have been like to be near and inside the church when our ancestors were there.

The burials of several ancestors were recorded in the books of St. Cuthbert Church, Bedlington, Northumberland.  Among possible others, my known ancestors are
  • William Doyle, my third great-grandfather, who died in 1838
  • Martha Doyle, William's daughter, who also died in 1838

When I first searched for information about St. Cuthbert's Church in Bedlington, I found that there are many churches named for the saint in other cities and towns in the northern counties of England. 

Google Books provides The History of St. Cuthbert or An Account of the Life, Decease, and Miracles of St. Cuthbert... written by Richard Eyre in 1848.  It seems that St. Cuthbert is considered the patron saint of Northumbria.  After his death in 687 A.D. the Danes went after his followers and were about to kill or capture them when they remembered Cuthbert's dying request that if this should happen, the monks and bishop would take his body and leave so as to avoid the "yoke and servitude of wicked schematics."  Apparently, leaving was easy but finding a place to settle wasn't.

The following explains why there are so many churches named after St. Cuthbert. 
It is an interesting task to trace the course pursued by the holy fugitives with their precious treasure, from the time they left Holy Island till the time the remains of their Saint were finally deposited at Durham.  There are few places in the north of England and the south of Scotland that were not visited by them, and hallowed by being the temporary resting-places of the body of so great and good a man.  The whole of the ancient Northumbria is studded with churches and chapels dedicated in after times to St. Cuthbert.  Tradition points these out as the spots where the monks lingered for a while with their precious deposit."  (p.97)

... The spots where the churches were built in honour of St. Cuthbert were the very places that the monks visited with the body of their Saint....  It was usual amongst the Anglo-Saxons, when a person was being carried to the grave, to erect a cross of stone, if the distance was great, at every spot where the corpse had rested."  (p. 99)

When looking at photos of old churches it is not easy to determine whether the current structure is the original structure as my ancestors would have known it.  I found St. Cuthbert's Church, Bedlington, Archaeological Assessment, completed in January, 2015, which tells which parts are old/original, when parts were torn down, and when newer parts were added.  Be sure to follow the link to see more photos of the church, both inside and out. 

And finally, here is a collage of photos of the church, found at Google Maps.  Notice that if you go to the link, you will be able to click the arrows at the bottom of the right side image to view larger images of the photos on the left.

Will I ever have the chance to visit some of the locations where my ancestors lived?  I hope so!

Opening image  © Copyright John Lord and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.  Thank you, John.


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Friday, March 30, 2018

Eliza (Hartley) Armitage - Death Certificate

When I first began research on my mother's paternal side of the family I was told by another researcher that Elizabeth Armitage Meinzen's mother was Ann Bell.  Comparing Elizabeth's and her siblings' death certificates, it did not make sense to me that the informant for Elizabeth's certificate, one of her daughters, knew only Elizabeth's father's name while several of Elizabeth's siblings' children knew both parents' names.

I pondered that while I searched for Elizabeth and her parents in census records.  Elizabeth was born in 1852 and her older sister, Ann, in 1850.  Their younger siblings were born between 1859 and 1872.  I began to make sense of the situation when I found the 1851 census with Ann Armitage with her parents, Abel and Eliza.  When I searched the 1861 census I found Elizabeth and Ann with parents Abel and Ann, and another son, Peter.  I finally understood that something had happened to Eliza before about 1859 -- possibly a death or a divorce.

Further searches revealed that Abel Armitage and Eliza Hartley were married in 1847.  Looking at the death indexes for England I found more than a few Eliza Armitages.  A few months ago, when the U.K. GRO began offering PDF versions of death certificates at a reduced cost, I made an educated guess about which Eliza was probably mine based on where Elizabeth and Ann lived in the 1861 census.

When the certificate arrived there was no doubt it was the Eliza of my search.  It's so satisfying to learn what happened to an ancestor and put her to rest, so to speak.

This certificate is from U.K. GRO Year 1856, Volume 10A, Page 54.

Death Certificate of Eliza Hartley Armitage, U.K. GRO Year 1856, VOl 10A, P. 54

This is the transcription.
Superintendent Registrar's District  Stockton
Registrar's District  Sedgefield
1856.  Deaths in the District of Sedgefield in the County of Durham
No. 167
When Died.  Twenty-second October 1856  Trimdon Colliery  Trimdon
Name and Surname.  Eliza Armitage
Sex.  Female
Age.  44 Years
Rank or Profession.  Wife of Able [sic] Armitage Coalminer
Cause of Death.  Consumption  Not Certified
Registrar's Description and Residence of Informant.  X the mark of Jane Jackson Present at the death Trimdon Colliery Trimdon
When Registered.  Thirtieth October 1856
Signature of Registrar.  William Sowes Registrar

It's easy to understand why Elizabeth didn't know her mother's name to tell her children:  she was only four when her mother died.  In fact, she probably had few, if any, memories of her mother.  It's also likely that after Abel remarried there was little talk of his first wife, the mother of his two oldest daughters.

I'm grateful to learn the sad end of Eliza Hartley Armitage's life.


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Helps for Finding Pre-1858 Probate Records in England

In pre-1858 England wills were probated through the Church of England, generally where the ancestor lived and held property.  Probate records were church records.  Within the Church of England there are a number of courts in which a will could have been probated:  a Peculiar Court, an Archdeacon's Court, a Bishop's Court, and an Archbishop's Court, among others.  An executor would generally have taken the will to the lowest court with jurisdiction over the area where the will could have been probated.

The first step to finding probate records for an ancestor who lived in England is to learn where he lived and held property.  Census records, a death record, and a burial record can all help you determine that location. 

The National Archives (U.K.) has an excellent online guide to assist and direct in searching for pre-1858 probate records.  You can find it at Wills and probate before 1858:  further research.

In the book A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your English Ancestors by Paul Milner and Linda Jonas there is a chapter devoted to searching for pre-1858 probate records.  It explains the church court system (parish, peculiar, deanery, etc.) and suggests the steps to follow to search for records.  This is especially helpful because there may be several courts' records one needs to search, each successively higher and geographically broader.  In addition, there is a section devoted to finding and using probate indexes. 

FamilySearch has a book devoted to researching British probate records before 1858.  Information is available at Researching British probates, 1354-1858 : a guide to the microfilm collection of the Family History Library.  There is link to digital images which can be viewed at local Family History Center or at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

While you're at the FamilySearch website (and after you've found where your ancestor may have owned property and died), be sure to search the catalog by location to see lists of probate records available for that location at FamilySearch.

Helps for Finding Northumberland Probate Records

The Northumberland Probate Records wiki at FamilySearch offers a step-by-step guide to searching records.

Durham and Northumberland Probate Records, 1527-1857 is a website offered by Durham University Library.  It is searchable by name and also offers an advanced search.  I believe this is a work in progress based on the explanation in the opening paragraph and is a website I will search again in the future.

English Probate Jurisdictions -- Northumberland is pamphlet offered through FamilySearch with a step-by-step guide for searching.  You may need to sign in to FamilySearch to see this website.  (It will look like a blank screen so be sure to scroll down.)  This is a guide through the court system -- search here first, here second, etc.

Letters of administration and probates granted, ca. 1832-1893 for Northumberland and Durham gives information about a FamilySearch microfilm (#252774 / #004629095) which is available for digital viewing here (possibly after you sign in to your FamilySearch account or it may be available only at a Family History Center).  The images are not yet indexed.

Have you had success in finding early English probate records for an ancestor?  Do you have any tips or hints for my readers and me?


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier.  All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

What Are the Chances My Northumberland Ancestor Made a Will?

William Doyle was a coal miner who died in Northumberland, England, in 1838 after being run over by a cart wheel.  He was about 36 years old.  What are the chances he wrote a will?

Reasons a Will Was Created
  1. A person who owned property wanted to declare who was to receive the property after his death.   
  2. A person wrote a will when he anticipated his impending death.

Would William have owned real property?  It's hard to imagine that a coal miner would have accumulated enough money to buy land, or even that he would have worked at the same mine long enough to wish to own property.  He probably owned furniture, dishes, bedding, clothes, perhaps his own tools.  Would his possessions have been "will worthy" --  worth the time, effort, and perhaps expense, to make a will?

Coal mining is and was a dangerous profession.  When miners went underground to their work every day they probably knew it could be the last time they might see the light of day.  At what point would a coal miner have decided it was time to make a will?  

I doubt there's any easy way to know whether William had a will other than to search for one.  And even if he had one, it would have to have been probated for there to be probate records.

I'm on foreign ground with this next question.  Did England have an Orphan's Court and, if so, would a guardian have been assigned to William's five children?  This happened in Pennsylvania after the death of one of my ancestors:  the children were assigned a guardian through the Orphan's Court though their mother was alive and cared for them.  Would that have happened in England in 1838?

And, of course, there's always the question of whether finding a will would help in my search for William's place of birth and his parents' and siblings' names.  Is it worth my time to search or should I move on?

Researching in another country is an interesting experience, especially when it goes beyond indexed census records and birth, marriage, and death records.

Do you have experience researching in England?


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Springing Forward for Daylight Saving Time

Are you ready to "spring forward" tonight or in the wee hours of Sunday morning?  Change your clocks (if you have to do it manually) before bed?  Lose one hour of sleep?  Have the morning dark continue an hour later, and the evening light last an hour later--at least according to the clock?  These days I don't think we have a choice if we want to arrive at work or other activities on time, keep appointments, and meet deadlines for travel on planes, buses, etc.

In his book Spring Forward:  The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, Michael Downing relates the history of Daylight Saving Time from the time it became law in 1918 as "An Act to preserve daylight and provide standard time for the United States," to almost the present.  He also discusses the creation of standard time, time zones, the challenges of having no standard time, and plenty more.

Until reading this book I had not realized that prior to this law there was no standard time in the U.S.  Times between cities or farms could vary by a few minutes or as many as 50 minutes.  A 30-minute ride on a train could result in leaving and arriving at the same time.  Crazy.  The railroads needed the standardized time for the trains to run efficiently.

Part of the purpose of changing the clocks was to save fuel, the idea being that less electricity, gasoline, and oil would be used if it were light an hour later in the evening.  Apparently no one thought of the need for lights during the hour of darkness in the morning traded for the hour of light in the evening. 

There were plenty of people who were opposed to Daylight Saving Time:  farmers, theater owners, baseball players (who refused to play under artificial light), those who looked at leisure time with an eye toward laziness, those who thought government was messing with "God's time."  And there were those who loved it:  golfers, factory workers, automobile manufacturers (because auto sales increased), those who thought it saved fuel, and anyone who wanted an additional hour of light at the end of the day for leisure activities.  Some people and cities chose to change their clocks, others didn't.  It seems that New York City's choice to adopt Daylight Saving Time was the push needed for other cities to adopt it as well.

I searched for an online newspaper contemporary with my farming ancestors in Mercer and Butler Counties, Pennsylvania, which mentioned Daylight Saving Time with the hope of learning how those in the community felt about its adoption.  I guessed that my farmers, Fred Gerner and William and Gust Doyle, would not have been in favor of the change.  For one thing, they couldn't harvest dew-covered crops and would, therefore, have had to wait an additional hour before beginning some of the day's work.

Nothing from their area came to light but I did found "Daylight-Saving Petitions" on the front page of the Wednesday, September 3, 1919, edition of the Harrisburg Telegraph.
   Daylight saving petitions which the Harrisburg Telegraph was asked to prepare for the great number of Harrisburg folks who want an extra house of sunshine during the summer months now are ready for distribution.
   The petitions are directed to members of Council and call upon the City Commissioners to pass a daylight saving measure for the months of May, June, July, August and September.
   These petitions may be circulated by baseball players, amateur gardeners, golfers, fishermen and all others who have benefited by the extra hour of daylight.  Any man or woman who desires to stave off darkness next summer may secure one of the petitions or sign one in the business office of this newspaper.

Benjamin Franklin has been attributed as the first person to propose the idea of changing the clocks.  He did not propose changing the hands of the clock but suggested that people get up earlier in the morning to take advantage of every hour of daylight.  Wasn't Franklin a wise man to realize that no matter what you do with the hands of a clock, there are a set number of hours and minutes the sun will shine on any given day?  As if turning the hands of the clock will "save" the daylight, prevent its going, and prevent the sun's setting!

If you're still reading I'm sure you realize by now that I'm not a fan of Daylight Saving Time.  I'm not a morning person but the earlier the sun rises by the clock, the earlier I awake and arise.  I dislike giving up an hour of morning sun only to have it tacked on to the end of the day.  Where I live the sun rose at 6:51 a.m. this morning.  It will not rise at 6:51 a.m. again until April 17, more than five weeks from now.  And that's saving daylight?

Do you like of Daylight Saving Time?  Do you know if your ancestors who lived after 1918 had any opinions about it? 


P.S.  For more about Daylight Saving Time and its history, see

Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

My RootsTech 2018 Experience from Home

When RootsTech published the live stream sessions offered for 2018 it seemed packed with presentations.  When I looked more closely on the days RootsTech was presented, I realized that many of the sessions were rebroadcasts of previous years' keynote speakers.  How disappointing.  Now that I go back to the RootsTech website and look at the live stream videos, it once again seems packed with presentations.  Did they not stream all the presentations as announced before the event?  Whether they did or not, at least they are currently available in video format.  I have lots of presentations to watch now!

I watched the presentations below and also all of the keynote speakers.  (Clicking the title of the presentation will take you to the online video.)

Organizing and Preserving Photograph Collections by Ari Wilkins
It's always interesting to see how others organize photo collections.  I liked Ari's methods and appreciated her hints for organizing as well as preserving photos.  Handout here.

Google Photos: Collect, Organize, Preserve and Share by Michelle Goodrum
I use Google's old Picasa on my desktop to organize my photos but I don't store them online in Google Photos.  I appreciate the fact that it can be one more place to back up photos but I don't know that I will use it.  Handout here.

Findmypast's British & Irish Hidden Gems by Myko Clelland of Findmypast
Myko talks fast so the presentation was filled with information about collections available at findmypast and he included some interesting stories.  Toward the end of the presentation there were technology problems and there was no video.  Myko was so calm and collected and carried on as if things were normal.  I have only a limited subscription to findmypast so it's not as useful a website as it could be if I had a full subscription.  Handout here.

Elusive Records at FamilySearch by Robert Kehrer of FamilySearch International
This was my favorite presentation.  It was excellent.  I knew some of the information Robert presented but some was new and I learned several new ways to search the unindexed records available at FamilySearch.  Handout here.

Civil Registration Indexes of England and Wales by Audrey Collins of The National Archives
Audrey explained the background to the indexes and the process by which they were compiled, then the progression of steps from initial registration to collection and processing of the information to the indexes.  It seems that the indexes and the information included in them have been gently evolving and include more information now than in earlier years.  Throughout the presentation Audrey quipped about some of her findings and sometimes about her obsession with genealogy.  ("Obsessed is such an ugly word," she said.)  Handout here.

Next RootsTech 2018 streamed videos to watch:

And then there are the handouts to read:

If you watched RootsTech from home, which presentations did you watch?  Were any especially interesting or helpful?


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Friday RootsTech 2018 Keynote Speaker - Scott Hamilton

If I had to describe Scott Hamilton, RootsTech's Friday Keynote speaker, this is what I would say:  joyful, insightful, with a great sense of humor.  I love his attitude when faced with problems:  Get to work:  pray.  And, Get busy.

He said, "We honor our past, we honor those that came before us, and we honor them in a way of gratitude by remembering them, by celebrating them, by finding out who they are...."  I call that family history.

You can watch his presentation here.


Saturday, March 3, 2018

On Brandon Stanton, Thursday's Keynote Speaker, RootsTeach 2018

Humans of New York was at the edge of my radar.  I'd heard of it but really knew nothing about the blog, the blog owner, the project, or the Facebook page, so hearing Brandon Stanton speak was a great introduction to both him and his work.  His focus is not family history but connecting with others, asking questions, and listening to answers.  (If only we could do that with our ancestors!)

Brandon Stanton at RootsTech 2018

He shared several ideas that I thought were worth noting and remembering. 
  • On time:  "Time itself is the most valuable resource."  We spend our time on activities that aren't necessarily satisfying, in accumulating resources, and doing things that will make us important in the eyes of others but "we don't view our time as a resource itself....  All the cars, all the houses, all the money, all the importance in the world put together cannot buy a minute of that time back."
  • On time and thoughts when doing unfulfilling work:  "It wasn't only the minutes that passed me by, it was all the thoughts that I could have been directing towards people that I love, that I could have been directing towards things that I want to do, things that I want to create, were instead directed and funneled into trying to maintain that sense of importance."
  • On following your dream:  He talked about people following their dreams -- as musician, writer, whatever professions -- and spending a little time each day working at their music or writing, then spending the rest of the day in the coffee shop.  "People use following their dreams as an excuse not to work....  Following your dreams correctly is nothing but hard work....  The goal, I don't think, is get to the place where you don't have to work.  The goal is get to the place where you choose your work...." 

Thank you, RootsTech organizers, for inviting Brandon to speak.  And thank you, Brandon, for sharing your story and insights.

If you didn't see the presentation you can see it here, at the RootsTech website.  I thought it was well worth my hour.  I hope the video will be available on youtube soon, in which case I'll switch out the image above and include the video.


P.S.  I was #NotAtRootsTech.

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