Thursday, August 1, 2013

Useful Genealogical Research Web Sites--

Reviewing Some Genealogical Web Sites I Haven't Used Much

In Randy Seaver's Genea Musings Blog of 30 July 
he listed 15 genealogical web sites he ranked as his most useful.  I notices that there were four of them I wasn't very familiar with, so thought I would check them out.  

The first (ranked #5 by him) was American Ancestors, which is the web site for the New England Historical and Genealogical Society (NEHGS).  It is surprising I haven't used it more because I belong to NEHGS and visited their library the summer of 2012.  Not many of my main lines of ancestors were from New England, so I used the "Places" function for my Family Tree Maker (FTM) program and started with Boston.  I then just started entering the names of people who had some type of Boston connection.  I did get some results for most of the names; but most of them didn't seem to be a good enough match.  I did, however, get a couple that could be a match.  One was John Stebbins, who is the 6th great grandfather of the wife of my uncle; albeit not a very close relative; but I know my cousins will be interested, as their mother was a Stebbins.  The listing was in the document "Massachusetts Officers and Soldiers in the Seventeenth-Century Conflicts"  John apparently entered service in 1675 and ended in 1676 for a Massachusetts Regiment headed by an officer with the surname Mosely (rank not provided).  He was involved in the Dedham Plain expedition.  Dedham is a suburb of Boston and, according to Wikipedia, the site of many historic events in the 1600s and 1700s.

Since the John Stebbins in my tree was born in 1647 in Springfield, Massachusetts, which is about 70 miles west of Boston, and died in Deerfield, about 25 miles north of Springfield; it seems feasible for this could be the same John Stebbins.  John was the 2nd in a line of three men with the same name, his father having come from Essex, England.

The second person I found information on was Thomas McCabe, the husband of my great grand aunt.  My records indicate Thomas J. McCabe was born in 1857 or 1858 in New York.  The document retrieved by American Ancestors was "American Canadian Genealogical Society Index of Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1840-2000". 

 The information provided by the document, highlighted in yellow above, is as follows: John Thomas McCABE; Date:  Jun 8, 1858; Location: Troy, New York, United States Record Type: Baptism;  Church: St. Mary;  Repertoir No.: RP104.  I have Thomas J. McCabe as the name for him and the record is for John Thomas McCabe; but they could still be the same person.

The amplifying notes for the document indicate the records were from Catholic Churches in the following states:  New York (21), New Hampshire (21), Massachusetts (5) and Vermont (3).  The numbers in parenthesis are the numbers of churches in the data base.   I know that Thomas was a Catholic, his father having come to this country from Ireland around 1846.  Following is the photo of the Catholic Church in Havana, Illinois that Thomas and Sarah attended around 1910 (it had, obviously, been renovated since 1910).

St. Patrick's Catholic Church, established 1865; Havana, Illinois

It pays to read the amplifying information for documents as it states that one can order the full pages of the documents, which I intend to do.  I doubt there will be any additional information; but you never know!

Anyhow, I am not certain about either of the document I found in American Ancestors; but it was certainly an interesting exercise and gives me a little follow-up investigating to do.    

The next database I looked at was German Roots.  It is a great resource for people doing research on German ancestors.  Some of the hyperlinks provided are for live search sites and some just take you to other sources for information about how and where to search for the information of interest.  The site is well organized as to the type of information you are trying to research and is definitely a place to start when doing any German research. 

Another search site recommended by Randy was Chronicling America, which is part of the Library of Congress website that focuses on historic newspapers.  The site description is as follows: 

Chronicling America is a Website providing access to information about historic newspapers and select digitized newspaper pages, and is produced by the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). NDNP, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress (LC), is a long-term effort to develop an Internet-based, searchable database of U.S. newspapers with descriptive information and select digitization of historic pages. Supported by NEH, this rich digital resource will be developed and permanently maintained at the Library of Congress. An NEH award program will fund the contribution of content from, eventually, all U.S. states and territories.  More information on program guidelines, participation, and technical information can be found at or

The search function for Chronicling America is shown in the graphic below.  Search selections are highlighted in yellow.

The following selection or filters can be applied: All Digitized Newspapers 1836-1922. Us Newspaper Directory 1690-Present, All states or selected states, from 1836 (or later) to 1922 (or earlier).  The Advanced Search feature opens up several additional filters for your search, as seen in the graphic below.  You can go directly to the site for a clearer picture of the options 

I did conduct a couple searches to and did learn a couple things about the site.  I used the name Spear Dean, my gggrandfather as the entering search term.  It returned several results, most of which did not have the two terms together.  If they are within five words of one another a response will be provided.  I tried putting "Spear Dean" in quotes; but it didn't make any difference.  I was surprised that I got a couple responses for persons with the name Spear Dean; but none of them were my person of interest.  Being such an unusual name, I was surprised. 

I then did a search just with my surname, Ritchhart.  I got 17 responses, six of which were my ancestors in Jasper, Missouri.  A couple of the articles provided me with some very helpful information that I hadn't seen before and added three people to my data base.  The names or words you enter as search criteria are highlighted in red in the documents, which helps find the results of the search.  There is also a very nice feature allowing one to zoom in on the document to make it easier to read.

I am definitely going to do some further research with this data base.

The fourth web site was Internet Archives; but I have run out of time and will review it at a later date.

My thanks to Randy Seaver for bringing these sites to my attention.  I am sure they will serve me well in my future genealogy research.