Genealogy Program Next Week

Join us on Wednesday, March 25 at 7:00 p.m. for the program Spanning the Great New York Abyss: Connecting Generations When No Vital Records Exist. Laura DeGrazia, genealogist and former editor of The Record (New York Biographical and Genealogical Society publication), will discuss the research strategies and alternative sources that will help locate and link your ancestors who lived in New York before 1880. This program is free and open to all. 

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Irish Genealogy Checklist

With today being St. Patrick’s Day, I thought it would be a good idea to put together a checklist for those of you having trouble finding out what county in Ireland your ancestors were from. These are not the only records to check, but I think they are a very good place to start. Ádhmór ort!  (Good luck to you!) Irish American Genealogy Checklist

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HeritageQuest News

HeritageQuest Online just sent me the following information: “Tomorrow morning, the switch to the new version of HeritageQuest Online will occur automatically. All existing authentication methods will remain in place and intact. When your patrons log-in to HeritageQuest Online, they’ll soon experience the brand new interface – powered by Ancestry! If they’ve used Ancestry in the past, this interface will have a similar look and feel. From the user-friendly home page to cool and helpful features such as new Research Aids and interactive Census Maps, it’s a whole new, refreshing experience…and it’s just the beginning. Even more improvements will be added in the coming months! “

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Miscellaneous News

For those of us who were unable to attend RootsTech 2015, we can view some of the sessions by going to the webpage The program videos are free and require no registration to watch.

Another tidbit of news is that new episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? (the television show that explores the genealogy of celebrities) will be aired on TLC starting Sunday, March 8 at 10:00 p.m.  The featured celebrities this season will be Julie Chen, Angie Harmon, Sean Hayes and Bill Paxton.

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Under-utilized Resources at the National Archives Program Canceled

The Under-utilized Resources at the National Archives program scheduled for tomorrow evening (February 12) has been canceled by the speaker due to weather and travel concerns. We will try to reschedule the event at a later date.

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Random Research Tip

If you discover that a relative’s cause of death was described as being an accident, you might want to check the newspapers to see if there was an article about the incident.  New York newspapers back in the 19th and early 20th centuries seem to have reported such local news more often than today’s newspapers do, although I admit to having no statistics to back-up that claim.  Of course the reason you should bother searching for a news story is because it could shed light on the incident or provide more information about the deceased.  If searching by just the person’s name is unsuccessful, I suggest you examine the death certificate for more ideas on useful keywords for your search.  That is because the certificate might give an exact location of death, nature of the accident, or the date of the incident and of course of the death.  These facts might have been mentioned in an article, and if used as keywords can lead to successfully narrowing the search. Do keep in mind when searching newspaper databases, that you often need to be persistent and creative and try many different keyword combinations. I have attached an example of a successful search using Old Fulton Postcards for an article on a fatal drowning accident. Example 


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Connetquot Public Library Databases

A few library patrons at our last genealogy program were unaware they could access some genealogy databases through our library. I thought this would be a good opportunity to explain how these databases can be accessed through your home computer. Click on the attached PDF to view the instructions.

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Getting Started Tracing Your Family Tree

If you are new to genealogy you should mark January 14 on your calendar. That is the date we will be having an afternoon program for beginners.  A member of the Genealogy Federation of Long Island will be here to give you a general overview of how to get started.  Feel free to invite your friends and family to attend. This is an unregistered program that is open to all. It will be held in our Community Room at 2:30 p.m. 

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Genealogy and Calendars

Happy New Year! Here’s hoping that 2015 brings you much success in your family research. The New Year brings to mind the subject of the Julian and Gregorian calendars and how they factor into family research. If you have not encountered the issue yet in your research, here is some background for you.The Julian calendar (introduced by Julius Caesar) was used by most countries, at least European ones, for centuries, but because the calendar was losing about 11 minutes a year (as compared to an actual solar year), or one day about every 128 years, it was considered flawed. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar (obviously named after him) to resolve some of the Julian calendar problems. The general rule is most Catholic countries/regions accepted the new calendar, while others, usually non-Catholic ones, took longer to adopt it, and so there was no universal and simultaneous change in the system of keeping dates. A listing of when various countries adapted the Gregorian calendar can be found at:

Aside from the shift in time of the days of the year, another difference between the two calendars is when New Year’s Day is celebrated. The Julian calendar considered March 25 as the beginning of the New Year; the Gregorian calendar changed that to January 1. A common example of how the calendars factor into genealogy is the birthdate of our first president George Washington. He was born in Virginia (an English colony) during a time period when the Julian calendar was still being used in Great Britain. At the time, his birthdate was recorded as February 11, 1731. In 1752, however, Britain and all its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar, which moved Washington’s Birthday a year (the change in New Year’s Day) plus 11 days (the time slippage due to the Julian inaccuracy) to February 22, 1732.

Sometimes when you come across a civil record you might see the calendar differences noted. This often happens in biographical entries for George Washington. A related issue that comes up in genealogy is when civil and church record dates conflict. Sometimes researchers unaware of the calendar change mistakenly think an ancestor was baptized before he was born, or that bans were published after a marriage took place. Such discrepancies can sometimes be explained by one date having been recorded by the Julian system and the other by the Gregorian. This is because civil registration dates might have been revised after the change over, but the church records were left in the old system. You can understand why calendars are something worth keeping in mind when doing genealogy especially in the 16th through the 18th centuries.


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A Special Family History Present

It seems that the older I get, the harder it is for me to answer the question, “What do you want this Christmas?”  I know my usual answer of “nothing” isn’t helpful, but it really is truthful.  My father use to say the same thing to me when I’d ask him, and out of frustration, I usually bought him a box of gold toe socks.  After he died and I cleaned out the house, I found a treasure trove of gold toe socks, many of which were never even taken out of the plastic boxes. I realize now, I probably should have just listened to him when he said he needed nothing. 

A few years ago, however, I did think of two things I really wanted for Christmas. One was a photo of my great-grandfather, and the other was a postcard photo of my grandmother, as a young woman, with her cousin Willie posing in an automobile in a photographer’s studio. My grandmother’s uncle was the photographer and studio owner, which gave the postcard added meaning.  The reason these items were special to me was because when I would visit my grandmother, she would often show them to me when relating her family stories.  I decided to ask my uncle, Jimmy, who still lived in the family house, if he could either give me the photos or make copies of them for me.  I informed him that they would make the perfect gifts for me.  My uncle, who was a life-long bachelor, was not much of a housekeeper or well organized, and because of that, I had little hope of him fulfilling my wish list. He informed me that he thought they had probably gotten damaged somewhere along the line, and we just left the conversation at that.

Last Christmas season when I visited with my uncle, he gave me a plastic store bag with papers in it.  He said he thought I might find the contents interesting.  I looked through the bag but after seeing a cremation certificate for a dog, another uncle’s old resume, my mother’s Pitman shorthand award, and other miscellaneous items, I am ashamed to admit that I just placed the bag and its contents into a back bedroom closet. I hadn’t gone through it again until my brother asked me last week, if I had a particular family document.  I pulled out the plastic store bag my uncle had given me, I went through it again. This time I was more than pleasantly surprised, because a postcard slipped out from between two sheets of paper.  It was the very same postcard I had asked my uncle for, the postcard of my grandmother and her cousin sitting in an automobile. I suspect he didn’t even know it was in with the items he had given me.  My uncle died several months ago, and if I were the type of person who believed in holiday magic, I might think my uncle were saying to me, “Here’s your Christmas present.” 

So, maybe the best gift I will get this year came wrapped up in a plastic supermarket bag.  Thanks, Uncle Jimmy!  Here’s hoping that the readers of this article will also receive a family history gem this year. Happy Holidays!

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