Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Land Speculation in America: Finding Out Why Your Ancestors Lived Where They Did

You may have a basic knowledge of the settlement of North America and history of the United States of America, but I would guess that your classes or history books made little mention of land speculation and promotion as a major part of that history. In actual fact, most of the settlement history of the country is based on land sales and development. Let's start with the establishment of the Roanoke Colony in 1585 and Jamestown in 1607. The motivation for these settlements was based on land investments

The first land company was established by Sir Walter Raleigh as the Roanoke Colony. The settlement was established in 1585 but after much difficulty, the colony had completely vanished by 1590. In 1606, a group of wealthy Londoners formed a joint-stock venture company called The Virginia Company of London and obtained a royal charter from King James I. Here is a quote from the website about the charter.
The initial public reaction to the Company was favorable, but as the mortality rate at Jamestown rose and the prospect for profit grew dim, financial support for it waned. The leadership resorted to lotteries and went so far as to attempt silkworm production at Jamestown. As industries failed, the promoters of the Company argued that converting the Virginia Indians to Christianity was a worthy goal for the venture. Tobacco cultivation finally provided a profitable return, but it came too little too late to save the Virginia Company. After the Indian Massacre of 1622 killed hundreds of settlers, the king revoked the Company’s charter in 1624 and made Virginia a royal colony under his control.
The passengers on the Mayflower in 1620 had obtained a land patent from the Virginia Company of London. But they landed too far north and technically had no right to land along the Massachusetts Bay. Here is a short summary of what happened as taken from Wikipedia: Plymouth Colony.
The congregation obtained a land patent from the London Virginia Company in June 1619. They had declined the opportunity to settle south of Cape Cod in New Netherland because of their desire to avoid the Dutch influence.[6] This land patent allowed them to settle at the mouth of the Hudson River. They sought to finance their venture through the Merchant Adventurers, a group of businessmen who principally viewed the colony as a means of making a profit. Upon arriving in America, the Pilgrims began working to repay their debts.
Land ownership was an issue because by settling in the Massachusetts Bay, the Mayflower passengers and later arrivals did not have clear ownership of their land because they landed in the wrong colony. Here is a short reference to the legal status of the Mayflower passengers from The Plymouth Colony Archive Project.
Governor Bradford and other prominent officers of the Colony realized the riskiness of proceeding without a royal charter for their venture. They instead possessed only a land patent issued by the New England Council, a private corporation which did not possess the authority to grant the colonists any right to self-governance (Langdon 1966: 188). Bradford, Isaac Allerton and others attempted repeatedly over the years of the Colony to obtain a charter from the Crown. They failed to do so, and Plymouth Colony ultimately lost its self-governance and was annexed as part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691.
A list of the English land grants in America can be found in the following article entitled appropriately, "English colonial grants in North America (1621–1639)." Settlement of the English Colonies in America is basically the story of the land grants and the efforts of their promoters. For example, according to the Mayflower passenger list, only about a third of the passengers were Puritan Separatists who were attempting to break away from the Church of England, the rest were indentured servants, hired hands, originally destined for the Virginia Company of London.

I could continue with examples up to the current day when some of us purchased a house and lot in a subdivision created by a land development company. If you look into the history in this way, through a filter of land development, you will soon understand a lot about the settlement and movement of people. This background information will help to explain why people moved from Connecticut to Vermont or from New England to Ohio.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Pattern Recognition as a Goal in Genealogy

Quoting from the website about the journal, "Pattern Recognition."
Pattern Recognition is a mature but exciting and fast developing field, which underpins developments in cognate fields such as computer vision, image processing, text and document analysis and neural networks. It is closely akin to machine learning, and also finds applications in fast emerging areas such as biometrics, bioinformatics, multimedia data analysis and most recently data science. The journal Pattern Recognition was established some 50 years ago, as the field emerged in the early years of computer science. Over the intervening years it has expanded considerably.
Genealogy is really all about patterns. This fact was recognized many years ago when genealogists began applying what is known as "cluster research" to their research. Cluster research consists of adding research to the extended family, friends, and neighbors of ancestors. But pattern recognition is much more than cluster research. If genealogists were to use pattern recognition, they would have to add research into the historical, cultural, social, religious, and occupational background of their families.

I ran into an issue of pattern recognition recently when I discovered a family line living in the county of Kent, England. So far, for this family, the predominant occupation is that that of basketmaker. It appears that basketry extends back generations. In doing some research about individuals who were basketmakers, I found that traditionally, this occupation was practiced by those of Romi or Romany descent. Now, I am beginning to see a pattern and even when the individuals move to other areas of England, I can see how their trade of basket making has been preserved. This particular pattern begins to disappear during the development of the industrial revolution in England.

Failure to view genealogical research as based on reconstructing family patterns is probably one of the most limiting factors in genealogy's acceptance as an important academic pursuit.

To begin using basic pattern recognition techniques to advance genealogical research, there needs to be a greater emphasis on placing the family within the context of its entire background. The most basic pattern is that of where events in a particular family occurred. The current emphasis in genealogical research is on adequate documentation of the family relationships. This goal is usually referred to as conducting a reasonably exhaustive research effort. However, simply looking for documents and other sources about the family begs the issue of actually identifying the family in the context of its existence as a patterned entity. Granted, there are some very competent genealogical researchers that have knowledge of the history and backgrounds of their families, but the most genealogists concentrate only on "genealogically significant" records.

Take for example a core family unit. Looking at a family as merely a biological unit is tantamount to looking at the world in black and white rather than color. There is amazing detail in black and white photographs but there is a whole dimension of additional detail given when the photos are in color.

When we move into the realm of online, digitally based genealogical research, it is easy to stay at the searching for names level of genealogical research. Moving beyond that level may actually involve reading a book or visiting the area where your ancestors lived. It may also involve a lifetime learning process of gaining sufficient knowledge about the history, geography, and culture of the places where your ancestors lived to reach the level where you know who they were and who their ancestors were.

I am only beginning to recognize the patterns of my own ancestors after more than 36 years of research. But the benefit of what I have learned helps me to do original research for unknown family members with more accuracy than I could have believed possible even a few years ago.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Living on Internet Time

For many years now, I have been living on Internet time. Since moving to Annapolis, Maryland on Eastern Daylight Time and away from my usual Mountain Daylight Time, I am becoming even more disassociated from any regular time schedule. It is sort of like living with perpetual jet lag. When I post something on my blog, the time stamp usually shows Pacific Daylight Time. I can also set any time, day or night, for the blog to automatically post. In addition, I post from many different places around the United States and into other countries. Consequently, my blogs are almost entirely disassociated with any particular local time.

In addition, I receive email in a constant stream from around the world. I rarely notice the time when the email was written and my response could be any time during both the day and night depending on when I have time to respond. Right now, I am regularly corresponding with someone who is living in Poland. The emails show postings at midnight and in the early morning. My responses do not correspond to any actual time in Poland.

You might be only vaguely aware, but there is a Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Universal Time originated from the International Meridian Conference in 1884. The starting place for time is the Prime Meridian, a transit circle through the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London, England. All this doesn't really help with the problem that any local time of day is arbitrarily determined and changes constantly around the world.

For example, my relatives in Australia have three time zones. Like those in the United States, rather than being straight lines north and south oriented, they correspond roughly to the Australian Provinces. Here is a map showing the time zones of the world.

By United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) -, Public Domain,
Here is the United States, we also have Daylight Savings Time. To add insult to injury, twice every year the "time" changes for obscure historical reasons that make little sense in a world that operates like I do, 24 hours a day.

So, I you wonder if I ever sleep? The answer is obviously yes, but I may be working at any given time day or night.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Case Studies in American Migration: Part One, Moving Away From the Coast


In this extensive series, I will be focusing on migration patterns in that part of North America that has become the United States of America. This will be a multipart series with each post featuring a particularly important migration route and its associated geographical, cultural, and historical context.

Minimally identifying our ancestors depends on knowing their names, dates associated with events in their lives, and the exact places where those events happened. We learn most directly about our ancestors by researching the records that were created at or near the time the events in their lives occurred. These records are sometimes referred to as primary sources. Any other records made after the event or made by someone who was not present at the time of the event, are usually considered less reliable and are referred to as secondary sources. For example, a birth record made by someone who witnessed the birth would be considered a primary source. A birthdate on a death record would be a secondary source. However, the reliability of the record can be entirely independent of whether or not the record is a primary or secondary source. The more you know about your ancestors, the more accurate you will become in evaluating the accuracy and consistency of records whether primary or secondary.

As we begin to accumulate ancestral information, we will inevitably discover that some of our ancestors seem to disappear from contemporary records. There are other records that may not mention your ancestors at all that can be valuable to reconstruct events in your ancestors' lives. These records help point you to where records about your family may be found. Knowing the cultural and historical context of your ancestors can help resolve end-of-line or "brick wall" problems that will inevitably arise in the course of doing genealogical research.

With a background in identifying and understanding migration patterns, a genealogical researcher has an important perspective that can provide suggestions about where to look for additional records. Ignoring history and culture is like trying to find a pin on the floor in a dark room.

Migration is a general term used to refer to movements of people from one geographic area to another. The term "immigration" has a political overtone and usually involves a change in national citizenship. It also refers to people moving from one country to another. For example, before the American Revolution and the establishment of the United States of America, British citizens moving from England to the British Colonies were not technically immigrants because they did leave British jurisdiction. But those people who came from the British Isles to America were part of a population migration. As I stated above, I intend to focus on migration within the United States.

So, here I go.

Moving away from the coast 

There were a number of European countries that established settlements in what is now the United States of America. Here is a list of the main countries, the name, date, and current name of the location of their earliest settlements.
  • France settled in Florida (South Carolina) in 1562 but were all killed in 1564 by Spain. 
  • Spain settled St. Augustine, Florida in 1565 but attempted settlements as early as 1526
  • England settled in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607
  • Holland settled in New Amsterdam (New York), New York in 1624
  • Sweden settled in New Sweden, New Jersey in 1638
  • Russia Settled their Three Saints Bay Colony on Kodiak Island, Alaska in 1784
By 1750, here is an illustration of the parts of the North American continent claimed by the European countries. 

By Pinpin - Own work from Image:Nouvelle-France1750.png1)Les Villes françaises du Nouveau Monde : des premiers fondateurs aux ingénieurs du roi, XVIe-XVIIIe siècles / sous la direction de Laurent Vidal et Emilie d'Orgeix /Éditeur: Paris: Somogy 1999.2) Canada-Québec 1534-2000/ Jacques Lacoursière, Jean Provencher et Denis Vaugeois/Éditeur: Sillery (Québec): Septentrion 2000.Map 1 ) (2008) The Forts of Ryan's taint in Northeast America 1600-1763, Osprey Publishing, pp. 6– ISBN: 9781846032554.Map 2 ) René Chartrand (20 April 2010) The Forts of New France: The Great Lakes, the Plains and the Gulf Coast 1600-1763, Osprey Publishing, p. 7 ISBN: 9781846035043., CC BY-SA 3.0,
With the exception of the Spanish settlements in Mexico and the Southwest, the original colonial claims and settlements were all located on the coast or associated with major waterways. This population distribution is reflected in the fact that even today a high percentage of the U.S. population lives in counties directly on the shoreline. See "What percentage of the American population lives near the coast?" It wasn't until the mid-1700s that there began to be any movement away from either the coast or the major waterways into the interior such as the Chesapeake Bay. See Wikipedia: "List of North American settlements by year of foundation." See also, "Settlement of the Coastal Plain, 1650-1775."

Migration into the interior of the country did not get started until the 1700s. From the standpoint of genealogy, this is an important concept. As genealogists begin tracing their families across the country, if they arrived before the mid-1700s, they lived along the coastal regions. Some of the earliest settlers were Ulster Scots also referred to as Scotch-Irish. Other settlers included German-speaking people from the Palatinate region of Europe. The earliest movements were into the western parts of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland. See Wikipedia: Appalachia

To get some idea of the time periods involved in the western movement of settlers here are some dates of the first settlers in some of the second tier states away from the coast.
  • Ohio: "On April 7, 1788, Ebenezer Sproat and a group of American pioneers to the Northwest Territory, led by Rufus Putnam, arrived at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers to establish Marietta, Ohio as the first permanent American settlement in the Northwest Territory. Marietta was founded by New Englanders." See Wikipedia: History of Ohio.
  • Kentucky: "1774: Harrodsburg was established as the first permanent settlement in Kentucky. Settlements at Boonesboro, St. Asaph, and Danville soon followed." See Kentucky History Genealogy, FamilySearch Wiki.
  • Tennessee: "The first settlement in Tennessee; that is, the North Holston settlement in the present county of Sullivan, and the South Holston settlement, on the Watauga, in the present county of Washington, were effected between the Treaty of Hard Labor in 1768, and the experimental survey of the Virginia-North Carolina line in 1771, while all the territory so settled was still believed to be a part of Virginia." See "Why the First Settlers of Tennessee were from Virginia."
In future posts, I will be discussing specific migration routes and the patterns that accompany them. 

Search Ellis Island Records for Free

A recent blog post from announced that the complete archive of Ellis Island passenger records is now available. Here is the post.
The free records include the following:
New York Passenger Lists (Castle Garden) 1820–1891 
These passenger lists document over 13 million immigrants and international travelers who arrived in New York City beginning in 1820, when the federal government first required ship captains to submit lists of passengers to customs officials. Among these records are customs passenger lists for those who arrived at Castle Garden, the State of New York’s official immigrant reception facility, during its years of operation (1855–1890). You can search the name index for your ancestors or browse the record images. 
New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island) 1892–1924 
This is a searchable index of 25 million names of immigrants and international passengers who arrived at Ellis Island from 1892 to 1924. Once you find a name of interest, you can click through to view individual record images at FamilySearch. If you’re interested in seeing a photo of the actual ship your ancestor travelled on, or learning more about Ellis Island as a historic port of entry into the US, check out the free Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island website. 
New York, New York Passenger and Crew Lists 1925–1957 
Search nearly 29 million indexed names (and over 5 million record images) for these lists of post-Ellis Island-era international arrivals in New York Harbor and at New York airports.
Not sure when your immigrant ancestors arrived? Here’s a tip: If they were alive between 1900 and 1930, look them up in the 1900, 1910, 1920 or 1930 U.S. censuses. There should be a column indicating their year of arrival. Still not sure? Search for their names in all three of the passenger list collections—it’s free.
Search now for your ancestors in passenger arrival lists for 1820–1891, 1892–1924, or 1925–1957. Then share your story! We’d love to hear about your search. #familysearch

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Mall, Washington, DC

One of the amazing features of our nation's capital is this huge open space called "The Mall." Somehow, that term became applied to shopping centers, but here in Washington, D.C., this is the background feature to all of the other tourist attractions. The Mall has been the location of some of the largest public gatherings in our history. But on an ordinary day, it is mostly a place for walking and other recreational activities. By the way, it is hard to make a huge lawn covered field into an attractive photo.

See more of my photos on WalkingArizona.

Monday, August 13, 2018

FamilyHistoryExpos is Back with a New Virtual Expo

Attending a Virtual Expo is a way to participate in a genealogy conference without spending the money and time it takes to travel to the conference location. You can participate from the comfort of your own home. Additionally, can bring you a quality genealogical education experience without incurring those same costs. Here is an explanation about how a Virtual Expo works.
Join Family History Expos and researchers from around the world as we celebrate 15 years of service to the genealogy community! 
We have chosen "Pirates of the Pedigree" as our theme for this amazing event. With the advent of the internet and digital documents, we are surrounded in a virtual sea of opportunity. But too often the ancestor you are seeking is lost in the records. At this Expo, we will share experiences, resources, and techniques that will assist you in discovering which records may hold the clues to locating the correct ancestor from all the rest. 
After attending this event, you will know how to recognize those "Pirates" that would steal your treasured lineage. Let the internet connect family historians from distant lands to tackle the challenges we all face. 
This is a totally online event. Classes will be broadcast. Sponsor and Vendor links allow you to visit their website or special event page quickly. Visit websites, blogs, and social media sites where you can learn about the resources and services available to help you successfully and accurately research your family history. 
Paid registered attendees receive the following with their registration:
  1. Registration gift packet of digital fun and educational items donated by our Sponsors and Vendors
  2. Access to view and print class handouts
  3. Access to view recorded classes after the Expo is over
  4. Eligible to win door prizes
Public viewing of some classes will be available at no cost. Those attending free classes offered without registration will enjoy the slideshow presentation of the presenter only. To view classes at no cost, simply click the link provided in the Agenda (check in early to assure yourself a spot in the broadcast).
You can find out more about the schedule and classes and also register by clicking on this link.

Pirates of the Pedigree.