Am I Ready for My Research Trip?


That is my question for the month. Yes, I know it has been a while since I asked a question but truly I have been doing some research. As our most recent podcast is about getting ready for a research trip and since Amy and I have planned one, I thought I better do a recheck to see if I am actually ready for this trip.

Ticket? check! car rental? check! Hotel? check! preliminary research? meh…working on it. One thing I wanted to do was to have all my information on what I have already researched at my fingertips. Since I am a note taker (in the form of lots of little Post-it notes and scraps of paper all over) I wanted something I could take with me and have all in one place. I needed a journal of some sort. Something with organizational potential. Hello Google, whatcha got? Google hands me a bullet journal. I did a lot of research on the bullet journal and watched a ton of videos. Most people use it for daily journaling. They include monthly, weekly calendars and daily note pages which would be great as well but not my purpose here. However, I thought I could adapt it for what I need.


There are so many options out there but I ended up purchasing a Moleskin. I have to watch what pen I use as the pages are a bit thin and some ink ghosts through. Some other brands have thicker pages but I am not doodling or using color markers in this journal (at least not anymore) so I just wanted to be cost-effective and find something lightweight to carry with me.

At the beginning of a bullet journal, you want to create an index and you will want to number your pages so you can find your notes quickly. Mine is fairly simple, my index is the first four pages and then I am right into my notes.


My first note has the name of my ancestor at the top and what exactly I am trying to find out. What is my question? In this example, I am asking about John Burk(e), who is his father? The rest of the page or pages is devoted to what I find or don’t find. My first section is checking on a marriage record. I of course first checked Ancestry and Family Search, I even spent time in the browse images in the county marriage records to no avail. Then I hit the phone trail and called the county clerks of 6 counties (I have more to go yet). They were all helpful and did some checking but nothing turned up. Beginning to wonder how far they ran off to get married. In the bullet journal I noted everyplace I called and what the result was. In the index, I wrote “Burk, John search for father”. This way later in the year when I want to take up this search again, I can find it quickly in the index and see what has already been done without digging through a ton of Post-It notes. I can also make a copy of that page and add it to a research log.



I did not link any videos or websites with bullet journal possibilities as there are too many out there and you can easily find them on Google. There is even one Youtube video called Bullet Journaling for Genealogy (ok, that one I linked). A big difference between what I do and the others do is the calendar. I am not using a calendar in this journal. I will make note of the dates I did the research but no calendar. I just want the pages with the research and the index to find it quickly.

At this point, I think I am a more ready than I was before for this research trip.

French Photographs

Alma Florentz collection photos from France

While on a vacation to not so sunny California, my mother and I went through some photos she had from France. Many we knew the people but there were a few that we did not. This one above is one of those photos. We were lucky in the fact that someone had written information on the back pertaining to the photo, in French of course. We had it translated. As it turns out the photo location is just above the street where my grandmother lived. It is a large home that she often remembered.

map for blog 2

The woman on the far left looks just like the woman in another photo (see below). While we do not know who she is, yet, she looks just like other family members that immigrated to the United States. Looks like more research on this photo needs to be done to figure out who she might be and why my grandmother had her photo.

Alma Florentz collection photos from France

Down the Rabbit Hole and how a question was answered

This week I thought I would ask a question about someone in my SIL’s tree. Remember the advice to stay focused? Well, I had a difficult time following my own advice to stay on track and stay focused on the question at hand.

Step away from the research.

After a brief break to refocus I zoomed in on one of her distant relatives, Minnie Bell Snyder. I did not have parents listed for her and there were only a few “hints” from Ancestry so I thought this would be a good road to go down. Who were Minnie Bell Snyders parents? I started out with the marriage record. Minnie was married on 12 July 1891 to Berkley Anderson in Belmont, Ohio.  This information was found in the Ohio, Compiled Marriage Index, 1803-1900. As this was only the index there was no record to view and no parents listed. I also found a marriage notice at in the Belmont Chronicle on July 16.  Again, no parents listed.


The West Virginia Birth Index lists Minnie as being born on 8 April 1870 to John C. and Nancy L. Snider. Different spelling of the last name. As this was just an index on Ancestry I headed over to to see if there was a record there. There were eleven Minnie Sniders listed. Ten were all listed with birthdates too late to be the one I wanted so the only left was the 8 April 1870, and there was a document showing her birth in Grant, WV. with parents John and Nancy. Just in case I also checked Minnie Snyder, spelled with a y. They too were born too late to be the one I wanted so I felt pretty sure that the record listing John and Nancy was the correct one.

Now to prove that the Minnie that was married to Berkley Anderson was the same Minnie born to John and Nancy Snider. Some of the trees on Ancestry had John and Nancy listed as parents but no one had any source for this information. Going back over the census from 1870 through their marriage, I find that Minnie and Berkley are both from Ellsworth, Tyler Co., WV so it makes sense that this is, in fact, the family I am researching. I also check Find A Grave and voilá, there is a listing for Minnie Bell Snider. It has a photo of the headstone, matching birthdate, matching husband and a death date of 30 July 1948. The cemetery is located in Canton, Stark Co. Ohio which is where I expected it to be or thereabouts according to later census records for the family. The memorial on Find A Grave does not mention parents so really all this did was confirm the other information I had found. I needed an obituary or death certificate  (if it lists parents) although with the previously mentioned census records I feel comfortable saying that John and Nancy are indeed her parents but it does not give me her mother’s maiden name, still need confirming documents!

The search continues.

Since it costs $25 to order a death certificate in Ohio and I have other things I need to order before this one, I decided to go on an obit hunt. Finding nothing in or on My Heritage I just put the facts in a Google search and up popped an index that listed an obit in the newspaper The Repository from Canton, Ohio. I put in a request at the Stark County District Library for Minnie’s obit and they quickly responded with a digital copy. It did not mention Minnie’s parents but did mention two brothers. Oh, this is getting good!!!

One brother, Marshall, was listed as a sibling on the census forms and turns out to be George Marshall, but the other, Harvey, was not listed on the census. Delving a little further I find that her brother Thomas’ middle name was Harvey. Back to the site and I found not only Thomas Harvey Snider’s BC but his delayed BC which had both parents’ names and the mother’s maiden name! The certificate was signed by Minnie B. Anderson, sister. This is all the proof I need.

Minnie’s father’s full name is John Calvin Snider and her mother is Nancy Laura Gorrell. Question answered. From there it went pell-mell forward with the Gorrell family, but that is another post.



Make it Visual


Grace Curtiss

Here is a twist on getting the information you have on an ancestor out there and in print for others in your family to see. Most of us compile a report with our genealogy software, I use RootsMagic, and while we as family historians like all the details, most family members do not. Have you encountered eye-rolling when you bring up the genealogy subject? It happens. Not judging.

Well, as I like to scrapbook digitally, I made a few pages with basic information on some ancestors and included photos. These pages will give viewers facts and a good visual. Maybe it will prompt them to ask a few more questions or even help you in your research.

How do you share your information with your family? Inquiring minds want to know.

Frederick FREYTAGMary Ann FRETTINGER Jan 17 2017 post

A Hunting We Will Go, Cemetery Hunting that is

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(the above photo is not the cemetery in my story but how I imagine it too look if it had headstones)

Looking for the cemetery in Forks of Coal, WV where my great grandfather Millard Stephens is buried has been a fascinating journey. It started when I asked the question about his death certificate. While doing that research, I became interested in all the places he had lived and then died. My mother often spoke about making the trip up to her grandmother’s house and visiting the cemetery, so I knew the general area and by general, I mean the Alum Creek and Forks of Coal, Kanawha Co. area.

The first thing I did was pull out some old emails from back in 2001 from my aunt and a gentleman that grew up in that area. She had sent me these correspondences long ago and I had them in a Stephens file. In the emails, it mentioned some directions that probably could be followed if you lived there and a story about a man, Jack Workman, living on the property. Well, now I had two clues.

The directions mention a four-lane highway built in the 1980’s crossing the Big Coal River between the Girl Scout Camp and the Cemetery. It also mentions some Hill’s being buried in that cemetery. Then there are the directions of turning off onto Rocky Point Road (not on the map) parking your car and walking down the old dirt road, around a hill, through a creek and back up the other side and on and on. This must have been where one lived when walking to school uphill both ways in the snow.,-81.79776191711426&zoom=14&maptype=undefined

I pulled up mapquest and zoomed into the Alum Creek area and found the Coal River. Following it down it forked into the Big Coal and Little Coal Rivers. According to the directions and my mom, the property I was looking for was near the Big Coal River where 119 (the four-lane highway) crosses. A quick search of the girl scout camp did not turn anything up but a few blurbs in the paper. Nothing to help. So, the mapping just narrowed the location.

Next, it was plugging in Jack Workman’s name into google. A fabulous article popped up which detailed how he donated this property to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. The article gave a good description of the property and I could easily find it on the map. The actual area is run by the Forks of Coal Foundation and on their site, I found a trail map. According to the trail map, only the area to the north of 119 is open to the public and the cemetery would be south of 119 according to the directions in the emails.


The girl scout camp was not noted on the trail map but on the Facebook Page for the park, a wonderful hiker posted a photo of a plaque indicating the camp (and kindly give permission to use the photo). I contacted the contributor and he said if you follow the trail to the far right of the parking lot the camp was about 50m. Remembering the notes from the email the cemetery should be on the other side of 119 from the camp. I now had a much more approximate location. I would still like to find someone who knows exactly where it is though so I kept searching.

I put a call into the Forks of Coal Foundation and they put me in touch with a gentleman working with the donation of land. He was able to give me the coordinates to the cemetery and old home as he had been to the property. He also had copies of a few old deeds to the land which helped define the borders. We also discussed other names such as Hill and Chandler that might be in that same cemetery but that is a question for another week.

Millard Stephens Grave

What a wild ride. It just takes asking some questions and it can lead you to the answer. Many thanks to all the individuals who answered my emails and phone calls and shared their knowledge.

Where did Millard Stephens live?

A simple enough question and yet because I wanted to not only answer it but put it all on Google Earth Pro and make a quick movie out of it, it took waaaaayyyyy longer.

This is actually a fun project to do and you can do it for one person or for a family. It is fascinating to see where they lived and how they moved about. This movie is pretty basic but you can add photos of the homes you find and overlay old maps. You can really be creative. I do have one in the works with actual photos but that is not the question I am answering this week. Stay focused and on task!

In the case of my great-grandfather Millard, who lived his entire life in the Wayne, Boone and Kanawha Counties of West Virginia, I took all the census I could find and wrote down where he lived during those years. Nothing was very clear as either his father was a farmer or he was and there was no street location so I just picked an area close to the town noted or general area of the enumeration district. Next, I looked at the birth certificates or records of all his children, or those that had one online, so five out of eleven. I noted the locations and years and fit them between the census. I also looked at the marriage record which only stated Boone Co., not very helpful so when it came time to mark the map I put it somewhere near the birth of the children at that time.

Since I still do not have a death record I had to go by the obituary that said Millard died at home and after lots of digging I found where that home was located. I will detail that in my next post. After gathering all the dates I opened Google Earth Pro and in the My Places panel, I created a folder for Millard Stephens. I located the first place on my list and added a pin and made some notes (which do not show up in the movie). I added all the pins and created a tour. Next, I watched several Youtube videos to see how it was done and tried it out several times. I had to adjust a few places and move place markers etc till I got it where I wanted it. There is still one location that appears off to the left and I cannot figure that one out, not important though, you can still see it.

Here it is, my first ever Google Earth movie


Ask and you shall recieve…maybe

Stevens family at Millard's funeral


This year we are starting a challenge for ourselves and our followers. Ok, mostly for me so I can make some headway on my research in a timely fashion. The challenge is to answer a question a week or a month (depending on how much research it will take). My first question of the year is: Is there a document out there for my great grandfather’s death? The photo above is the family at his funeral.

First, let’s pull out the handy dandy research log so I do not duplicate any research I have already done. Ancestors name at the top, Millard Stephens or Stevens, objective – locate a death certificate, and location – West Virginia. The first thing I will put is what I know from family and that is that he died late 1930’s early 40’s. The next thing I do is look for an obituary that would give me a date. Huzzah! I found one, in my own files from years ago and Boo! I did not mark down what website I found it. This, of course, was back before I learned how to research correctly (do as I say not as I did).  However, I had marked down what newspaper it was from, the Charleston Daily Mail, September 29, 1939.

Oobit Millard Stevens Charleston Daily Mail Wednesday evening September 27, 1939 page 14

I pulled up a 1939 calendar and found that September 29 was a Friday and it says he died on Monday so that would make his death on September 25. There are also two clues here, one is the Dunbar Masonic Lodge having charge of the burial in the family plot which I am guessing is out in the sticks somewhere from what my family tells me and the Rev. L. J. Priestly officiating. Before running down those two clues I pop over to the most wonderful WV research site where you can find birth, marriage, and death certificates and records. However, nothing shows up for Millard and I tried all different spellings, locations, and more to no avail. The date is recent enough that there should have been a record, right?

Moving on, I called the Dunbar Masonic Lodge and they were very helpful in sending me a file, and by file, I mean a one-page record that had Millard listed as a member but no record of them assisting in any way with a funeral. Next up, call the Kanawha County clerks office. They also did not have anything but sent me back to the state archives and they sent me back to the WV Culture site where I could request a search in the archives on the chance that maybe his record was not transcribed onto the site. I wrote the letter, included the obit, as I do not need them to send that to me, and am waiting for a response with fingers crossed.

Next, I researched the good Rev. L. J. Priestly. By putting his name on Google, it sent me to several WV Baptist sites. Baptist, who knew? After scrolling through several Google entries I found one that mentions the good Rev. and Forks of Coal Baptist Church, ah ha! Remember the Forks of Coal location in the obit? Click on the link, call the number, no answer and no message. But there is a Facebook page that seems to be updated frequently so I put in a message to them there and wait patiently for a response.

In the meantime, I plug in Rev. Priestly’s name in the search box in and the first thing that pops up is a city directory with Charleston, Dunbar, South Charleston, WV listed. Did ya see the Dunbar name? As in the Dunbar Masonic Lodge? Just helps to solidify that this is the right track. At this point, I went over all the places I could look and checked them off the list. You know the usual suspects, Ancestry, Family Search, Find My Past, Find a Grave. Nothing came up on any of them. Best hope at this point is a church record or the miracle of an actual death certificate from the state archives. Come on J. L. Priestly!

While waiting for a response from the church and the archives I called the Kanawha County Public Library and spoke to an awesome reference librarian who searched for an additional obituary for me. Sadly there was nothing. Just a few notes posted by the Masonic Lodge about the time and location of the funeral and one note in a social section about his son Herman and his wife returning from the funeral. The librarian did spend some time checking out the Rev. Priestly but not finding anything new or that I could use and directed me to a few other places to look such as the genweb site (which leads to Rootsweb which is currently down) and the Charleston WV Family History Center. The library had a handy-dandy donation tab so I could make a donation. Oh and nothing in the local histories at the History Center in case you were curious.

That is all I can do at this point until I hear back from the church and the state archives. I think my question for next week will be “Where did Millard live from birth to death?”. This will involve some Google Earth mapping (if I can remember how to do it). What is your question and did you get an answer? Curious minds want to know!

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!


newspaper-1595773_1920Newspapers are a wonderful resource to use in your genealogical pursuits. They are filled with not only birth, marriage, and death notices but also social comings and goings as well as crimes committed. You might also find ads for your ancestors business or farm and agricultural reports. Our latest podcast, episode #26, goes into detail how to use newspapers are a research tool.

At this point, you wonder where you can find these newspapers and we recommend these four different locations. The first one is with newspapers from 1690 to today. There is a cost to become a member but some libraries have memberships that you can use with your library number. 1700-200’s and 1607-2000 are also paid sites and have extensive volumes of newspapers from different locations. The last one is Chronicling America it is free and has newspapers from 1789-1925.

Other places to search are your local libraries and libraries located in the area you are researching. Check out Universities as well. Many have extensive collections that might aid your research.

In doing some research on my father’s side of the family, I put in my grandfather’s name, DeWayne Burke, in the search engine. Turns out there are two that pop up. My grandfather and another gentleman that lived in Florida. I isolated the articles to Ohio, as that is where DeWayne lived, and then narrowed down the years. An article popped up in regards to the local Kiwanis Club where he was in charge of inducting new members. There is one article from The Sandusky Register 24 December 1964 where he is honored for his outstanding work as inductor officer of the club. Being a member of a service club myself I was excited to see that he was involved in his community and held a leadership position.

The best course of action is to find out what newspapers were printed in or near your town. You can do this by contacting the local historical society or library they will know what was available during the time period you are searching. Next check which sites listed above cover those newspapers and be sure to check what years they have in their arsenal as they may or may not have your era. Check with the libraries and Universities to see what they have digitized or on microfilm. Finally, begin your search!


Researching Coast to Coast

In our most recent podcast, we talk about research in the different regions of the United States. Some states we love and others not so much based on what is available online and at the local level.


Here are a few places to use for your research in the different regions.

New England has a great resource in the New England Historical Genealogical Society. You do have to pay for membership, but if you have research to do in that area (and they also have records from across the country as well) it might be worth the investment. Records in the New England states can be found at the town level so be sure and contact the Sexton at the town clerk’s office. One thing to remember in this region, New York is a restricted access state and this makes research difficult.

In the Mid-Atlantic region, state libraries and archives house most county records but not all are digitized or online. Be sure and check at the county level for your ancestor’s information and independent cities without county affiliation. West Virginia has a great site, West Virginia Division of Culture and History, Virginia has the Library of Virginia, Maryland has the Maryland State Archives and New Jersey offers the Department of State.

Mid West research uses County and Circut Court Clerks and the State Archives and Historical Societies are very good resources also. In Ohio, you can join the Ohio Genealogical Society where they have a multitude of resources and check out the Ohio History Connection. If you are researching in Michigan be sure to look at Seeking Michigan for death records and guides on other research in Michigan. Don’t forget the Allen County Library in Indiana and the Indiana State Archives. We also talk a little about the MOMS, the Minnesota Official Marriage System, the Minnesota Historical Society and lastly, the Midwest Genealogy Center.

Headin’ out West we find that records are kept by Couty Clerk or Clerk-Recorders and Probates will be at the District Courts. The state archives are also a great resource. Check out the California State Library and the Montana State Genealogical Society.

Finally, the South. If you are researching in the south you need to remember that there were quite a few fires and many records have been lost at the county and town levels. Records here are located in county or county circuit courts. Birth and Death records are at the state level. State archives in the south can be very helpful. Be sure and check for Confederate Pension files which are full on information. If you are researching in North Carolina, check out Helen Leary’s North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History and in South Carolina be sure and try the South Carolina Archives and the South Carolinainana Library.

These are just a few of the many places to research in the different states and will give you a great start and get you thinking of all the other possibilities there are out there for research. Happy ancestor hunting!