Yet another genealogy tip

One more tip for those of you looking to get started in genealogy: Don’t forget the library. You know, that place with tons of books in it that you don’t want to set foot in since you discovered the Internet. The Internet’s less reliable and the information on it definitely leans towards some subjects more than others, but Google’s always open and it’s faster to turn on the computer than it is to hop in the car and drive.
The St. Louis County Library, for example, offers access to U.S. Census data and historical biographies through HeritageQuest.com and access to numerous newspaper archives. It’s arguably as good as the $80/yearly packages offered by a lot of online services, and I’m already paying for it. Some of the newspaper archives are only available inside the library from its own computers, but there’s plenty of data available from home using your library card.

It’s worth a look to see what your local library offers.

I’m going to try to post again later today, and maybe tomorrow before I hit the road and head west.

Getting started in Genealogy

I’ll admit it. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m a johnny-come-lately to the genealogy game. My computer can tell you how I’m related to more than 1,200 different people. And I just started last week.
I’ve accumulated more names than my mom did in years of research, working the old-fashioned way in the 1970s, searching libraries, museums, LDS records, and graveyards.

So how’d I do it?

Talking about Mom’s side of the family is cheating, because she can easily trace her ancestry to pre-Civil War days. Dad’s side of the family was the challenge, because his parents never talked about their roots (my grandmother actually told my mom to quit nosing around in the past and spend time with her two young kids instead–advice that I, as one of those two kids, disagree with, but it’s too late now).

Here’s what I did. I knew that my great great grandfather was named Isaac Proctor Farquhar (I didn’t know if the middle name was spelled “Proctor” or “Procter”), that he was a doctor, and that he lived in Ohio. I literally punched “Dr. Isaac Proctor Farquhar Ohio” into Google to see what came up. What came up was a family tree tracing my ancestry back to 1729. I verified it because I knew the names of my great grandfather and grandfather.

A better approach is to visit a pure genealogy search site, such as ancestry.com or the Mormons’ familysearch.org and punch in the names of any deceased relatives you can think of. The further back they are in the past, the better. The names of living relatives aren’t very useful, since people almost always strip out the names of any living people from their online records due to privacy concerns.

Once you’re reasonably certain you’ve found a relative, enter whatever you can find into your computer. Family Tree Maker is a good piece of software for tracking your roots, and it’s not terribly expensive. Several sites offer free genealogy software. I haven’t looked at any of it. There’s little risk in trying it though–virtually every genealogy program can import and export data in GEDCOM file format. A number of free Linux genealogy programs are available too–just search Freshmeat.

I need to stress entering anything you can find. Often I find incomplete genealogies online. I’ll find a record for a great great great grandfather that lists two children and a birthplace. If I’ve previously entered all available data and I know my great great great grandfather had 10 kids, including the two on that genealogy I just found, and the birthdates and birthplaces and spouses’ names all match, then I can be reasonably certain that I’ve got the right ancestor and I can see where that trail leads me. It’s more fun to track direct ancestors and see how far back into the past you can go, but you need aunts’ and uncles’ and cousins’ names to prove relations sometimes. Besides, sometimes you find a distant cousin who married someone interesting.

If you don’t find anything, talk to your living family members. Ask if they can remember any relatives’ names, birthplaces, and anything else about them. I only know about Isaac Proctor Farquhar because of some conversations I had with my dad. My sister may or may not have known about him. But I know there are relatives she knows about that I don’t. Old family photo albums and Christmas card lists are other sources of clues.

Here’s how I cracked a tough problem. My great grandfather, Ralph Collins Farquhar, married a woman named Nellie McAdow. Nellie McAdow was a dead end. Her mother’s name was Mary Lillian Miller. I didn’t even have her father’s first name. All I found was a guy named McAdow, born in Ohio. A subsequent search revealed her father’s initials were A.G. and he was born in Pharisburg. So then I had A. G. McAdow, Pharisburg, May 25, 1859-January 15, 1904. I did a Google search and found the text of an old book that casually mentioned A. G. McAdow owned a store in Pharisburg in 1883. Great, so the guy’s in the history books, and I still can’t find his first name. Somehow, somehow, Mom knew his first name was Adalaska. Adalaska!? No wonder he went by “A. G.” I searched for Adalaska McAdow. Nothing at ancestry.com. But at Familysearch.com, I found 1880 census data. I found Adalaska living with someone he listed as his stepfather, Smith May, occupation farmer. His mother’s name was Virginia, and she was born in 1838 in Ohio, and they had a daughter, Lena, who was born in 1871. That was enough information to feed a couple more searches, which gave me Virginia’s maiden name, Evans, and the name of her first husband, James W. McAdow.

He was tougher than most, and I still don’t know nearly as much about this line as some others–including Nellie’s mother, Mary Lillian Miller’s line–but I broke the dead end.

I still have no clue why two people with normal names like James and Virginia would name their son Adalaska.

The grandmother who told my mom not to pry into the past remains a tough one. Social security records confirmed her dates of birth and death, and place of death, because my memory was hazy. Mom knows her parents were German immigrant Rudolph Keitsch and Irish immigrant Bessie Bonner. A Google search revealed Elizabeth Keitsch graduated from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1932. So far I’ve found absolutely no trace of her parents. I’m hoping that census records may help–a Google search for “ancestry records search” turns up several sites that will let you search various U.S. censuses for free, but they all use ancestry.com for something or another, which is down for maintenance as I write.

But I’m reasonably confident that once I can search census records, even my stubborn half-German grandmother will finally yield some information after all these years.

You can subscribe to ancestry.com to get to information that you can’t find online for free, and I’m sure that at some point I’ll end up doing that. For now I don’t have much reason to. You might as well see what you can find out for free as well. And I honestly hope you don’t have four grandparents like Elizabeth Keitsch. I hope yours are more like Ralph Collins Farquhar Jr., who took about 30 seconds to trace back to 1729, and whose grandmother, Elizabeth Stratton, led me back to the sixth century and gave me a splitting headache that forced me to temporarily abandon the search to return to this continent and four-digit years.

May all your lines do the same.

Royal roots

This past summer, someone told me he’d traced his genealogy back to William the Conqueror. I acted impressed, but I didn’t believe him. I dismissed it as wishful thinking.
When I traced myself back to the late 1600s, I felt pretty proud of myself. I mean, I wanted to go back further, but there just didn’t seem to be any trace of Adam Farquhar’s father or Dugal McQueen’s parents. Dugal was shipped over because he participated in a little rebellion intended to overthrow the King of England. I don’t know why Adam did. It was probably something boring, like an inability to get land.

The only way at the time to go back further was to trace a few other mothers’ families. The majority of them only went back a generation, maybe two. Then I got to my great great grandmother, Elizabeth Stratton. I mentioned that via her, I was a very distant cousin of the patriots John Adams and Samuel Adams. But it goes further than that. She also makes me a distant–very distant–cousin of Teddy Roosevelt, his wife, Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and George Bush. I always knew I probably had distant relatives in Texas, but I didn’t expect Dubya to be among them.

But I wanted direct relatives, so I traced her back. And back. I started finding knights. Then I started finding people with higher noble titles, like Duke and Baron. Then I found someone with a title of Princess. One link later, I’d connected with William the Conqueror. And within a couple of hours, I’d also with Charlemagne (twice) and Alfred the Great.

I also found people who fought in the Battle of Hastings (besides William), a number of kings of France and Italy (you know something’s wrong when you cease to be impressed when you see a note on an ancestor that lists his occupation as the King of Italy), and people who appeared to be among the invaders who led to that whole Anglo-Saxon thing.

Eventually I had to return to the 19th century though. The inconsistency of last names gives you a headache when you research genealogy in 3-digit years.

Along the way, I found speculation that every person of European descent is probably related to Charlemagne. One genealogist has identified more than 50,000 descendants of Charlemagne. I’ve lived half my life in towns smaller than that. I wonder if the same thing is true of every person of British descent and William the Conqueror.

I think I also know where the plot of the John Goodman movie King Ralph came from now.

But now I want to trace my line back to 1382 in Scotland, when the Farquharson clan was founded. I now believe that Adam Farquhar’s father was a James Farquhar, who lived from 1670 to 1728 in Aberdeen, Scotland, and that James’ father was named Robert. That still leaves a gap of 300 years.

Finding my roots

A friend asked me a question. I still haven’t found the answer.
In search of the answer, I found, preserved in Google’s cache (I don’t know how much longer it would have been there) my father’s family tree, going all the way back to 1746 in, of all places, New Jersey. (The furthest back I’d ever been able to go was about 1840.) Supposedly my Farquhar ancestor who came over on the boat was one John Farquhar, who arrived in either North Carolina or Virginia sometime in the 1730s. But my source on that is about as reliable as the Weekly World News.

It appears that John Farquhar was actually the brother of my direct ancestor, a Scotsman who was named, appropriately (I think), Adam Farquhar. And John did eventually end up heading south. Adam headed west.

I never could trace Adam’s family back. There’s a huge gap between 1729, Adam’s birth date, and 1382, when Farquhar Shaw, the founder of Clan Farquharson, lived–“Farquhar” used to be a Gaelic first name, which can be translated “beloved man” or “honest man,” but Shaw was so highly regarded that his descendants called themselves “Farquharson,” literally, “Son of Farquhar.” Later, some of his descendants shortened the last name back to “Farquhar.” So how are Adam and Farquhar Shaw related? All that’s known is that Adam’s father was born between 1700 and 1710. We don’t even know his first name.

Anglos have always had problems with the name “Farquhar”–it’s pronounced FAR-kwur, in case you’re wondering–but we always hear goofy variations of the pronounciation, and far-out spellings. Adam apparently often went by “Adam Forker.” The children of his second wife tended to retain the Scottish spelling and pronounciation, while the children of his first wife tended to go by “Forker.”

Adam’s Farquhars mostly ended up in Ohio, and a lot of his Forkers ended up further west, in Kansas. One of his descendants, Della Forker, married a Kansan named Walter Percy Chrysler–the founder of Chrysler Corporation.

How many people can say their half fourth cousin twice removed married Walter Chrysler?

Probably more than you think. My great great great grandfather Dr. Edward Andrew Farquhar had 11 kids.

Dr. Edward connects me to a trio of other people you’re likely to have heard of–at least if you’re American. Dr. Edward married Elizabeth Stratton, whose great great great grandmother was named Deborah Adams. Deborah Adams’ father was named John Adams, and he was born in Plymouth, Mass., in 1630. That fact made me really start to wonder. You’ve probably heard of some people named Adams from Massachusetts.

Declaration of Independence signer Samuel Adams and U.S. presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams were descended from an English immigrant named Henry Adams. Henry Adams’ grandfather, also named Henry Adams, had an older brother named Richard. Elizabeth Stratton is descended from Richard Adams, making her the sixth cousin three times removed of John and Samuel Adams. Which makes me the sixth cousin eight times removed of John and Samuel Adams.

This stuff is addictive.

Oh, and to answer the other obvious question: not counting the Adams family–which I’ve traced back to 1392 and expect to be able to go back at least one generation further–I can trace my earliest ancestor back to 1462, in England.

WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux