Family History Outing: Holland Land Office Museum

Although online research lets us visit places virtually whenever, wherever, and wearing our pajamas, there are definite benefits to traveling to visit museums, chat with experts and historians, and meet with local researchers. This Spring I had a chance to do all that (and more).

Beginning in 1801, the Holland Land Company sold the land from the Holland Purchase, from its office in Batavia, NY. Agents opened offices in other areas of the purchased land. By 1840, all their land was sold. Much can be learned about the Holland Land Company in online databases, and maps.

Our visit started with a phone call to check on the Holland Land Office Museum’s hours for the day of our trip. We asked if someone would be able to help us locate the purchases on the map. The answer was that they were open and would certainly try. Finding expert about the Holland Land Office land purchase was reason enough to drive over to Batavia.

The Museum is housed in the original Land Office building in Batavia, Genesse County, NY. A transaction could be done at this building for any of the purchases, for any of the counties. In addition to the history of Holland Land Office, there were information and exhibits about the local area and its history. The items in the exhibits are informative and help place ancestors in their context. Another blog post covers the WWI Exhibit.

The Museum has Livsey’s volumes of “Western New York, Land Transactions” which are extracted from the archives of the Holland Land Company. The extractions are indexed and thoroughly document the names and dates of the transactions. (These are also available online.) But the lists of transactions do not indicate whether the transaction was a payment or a reversion back to the company. You need to check the county land records for the nature of the transactions. If you had ancestors in this area, at this time, it is worth checking these books in case your ancestors tried to buy a property in the area but did not complete the sale. One of the big surprises was that an ancestor had purchased land in Erie County, which would later revert to the Holland Land Company

We learned that the Museum also holds the Land Records for Erie County, from about 1809-1840. Executive Director Duffy retrieved these books from storage, put on his gloves and handled them himself.

Just as outlined in our Land Tutorial, the way to use these books is to look for the name in an index then find the page for the transaction. This book also contained map details for the sales.

The recording of his sale was on Page 27

Lumis Lillie’s lot was in Township No.11 Range No. 5.
His property on the map was labeled with 27.

Lumis Lillie’s lot was in Section 6 shown marked 27 for the page number.

In the pages of these original Land Books we found the names of prominent members of the community for whom streets were named. Unfortunately, these books were too early to contain records for other ancestors in Erie County.

When you visit, be sure to check out their store for their selection of books and pick up a very reasonably priced map of the Purchase area.

A local researcher also advised immersing myself and my research team in local culture near the Museum, at Oliver’s Candies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources:

The Holland Land Office Museum

The Reed Library in the State University of New York at Fredonia has Archives of the Holland Land Company on microfilm

Click on the image of Ellicot’s Map of the Holland Land Company Purchase in New York to view and right clock to download.

The New York Heritage Digital Collections contains Holland Land Company Maps. You can search for the County name, Township and Range to get a specific map.

Search Livsey’s books on Ancestry.com: Western New York Land Transactions, 1804-1824 and Western New York Land Transactions, 1825-1835.

For those with access to Hathitrust, you can search Western New York land transactions, 1825-1835, and view other books about the Holland Land Company.

On Google Books, you can search Western New York Land Transactions, 1804-1824

Many other resources and references can be found online by searching on Google.

New At FamilySearch

Recently I attended the monthly meeting of the Anne Arundel Genealogical Society about “What’s New on FamilySearch” given by Michael Butterworth who is a Director at the Annapolis Family History Center.

FamilySearch has new features and new mobile apps.

When you sign in to FamilySearch.org, you see a personalized home page. This page includes links to suggested tasks and the recently viewed people in the FamilySearch Family Tree. There is also a to-do list for you to track your tasks. (if you do a search, then sign in, you will be brought to the search results page. NOTE: To see results of a search, you know have to login with a free account.)

FamilySearch now has FamilySearch Places to help you research localities.   You can learn more about it here.

Map You Ancestors is a part of the FamilySearch mobile app. Learn more about it here.

Some of the interesting things we learned:

  • The FamilySearch website software is updated 3 times a day
  • There is chat/email/phone support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • 1.7 million images (images from 1000 rolls of microfilm) are added to the website daily
  • FamilySearch has already digitized every filmstrip that was rented in the past 5 years (that they had digitizing rights to do)
  • FamilySearch uses wildcards: *    ?    ~    (The tilde (~) searches for similar terms)
  • The Annapolis Family History Center has the capability to scan photos, slides and negatives
  • It is estimated that the Maryland State Archives project will go on for another six years. The records are being digitally photographed, and the photographs contain searchable metadata making them indexed as soon as they come online
  • Only you can see the live people you enter into the FamilySearch Family Tree. If another user enters the same live person that you have entered, then there will be duplicate entries for that person.

Always look at the symbols next to search results. A camera icon means that there is an image available for the record. A document icon lets you view the record details. A mini-pedigree chart means that the record has been attached to someone in the FamilySearch Family Tree. Clicking on that icon will bring up a popup window with the individual’s profile summary from the tree.

What you access can change based on the currents laws, the number of users, and the place you access it from. Always try to access a record at home first. If home access is unavailable, then you will get a popup box telling you where the record can be accessed. Some choices are: at a partner site, at a Family History Center, or on a filmstrip. For some records, only a transcription may be available.

If the record is only on filmstrip, you will get information about where a filmstrip might be found. Family History Centers still have some filmstrips (Annapolis has 600+ microfilms, 650+ microfiche). If the record is only on a filmstrip, call FamilySearch at 866-406-1830 to request that the filmstrip’s digitization move up in priority. FamilySearch does track the demand for the filmstrips, and your call may bump up the scanning priority.

The Anne Arundel Genealogical Society meets the first Thursday of every month. You can find out more about their meetings here. https://aagensoc.org/eventListings.php

What WWII Military Ancestors Were Reading

The average American soldier in WWII had an 11th grade education. With a lack of recreation, and a lot of waiting, soldiers needed books. There was an effort by the Victory Book Campaign to furnish soldiers with donated books. These books ended up being heavy and the 18 million books raised were not sufficient.

So, the Council of Books in Wartime went to work to print Armed Services Editions (ASEs). They were light-weight, miniature books designed to fit in uniform pockets. The titles ranged from literature, classics, history, contemporary fiction, humor to career guides. Book contents were reformatted, and printed on lighter magazine pages. For efficiency, the books were printed two titles at a time on the same magazine paper, one on top of the other (“two-up”), and then cut into separate books.

 

 

Soldiers read these books constantly, and credited them for putting them in touch with their own humanity among the horrors of war. Others read history to understand the conflict in which they found themselves. Some books entertained, some books educated. Books were read in transit, while waiting, and recuperating in hospitals. While the First Division waited for a break in the bad weather before D-Day, the soldiers read. It is said that seriously wounded soldiers on Omaha Beach on D-Day were seen propped against the cliffs, reading ASEs as they waited for rescue.

The printing of ASEs continued after the war’s end, for those soldiers serving in the post-war occupation. The final ASEs were printed in September 1947.

An estimated 100 million books in Europe had been destroyed by burning and bombing. The ASEs numbered over 123 million copies of 1,322 titles were printed.

The Library of Congress has a complete set of the 1322 ASE books. There are other large, but incomplete collections.

For a short story of the ASEs, with a list of the ASEs by author listed by author, BOOKS IN ACTION THE ARMED SERVICES EDITIONS.

You can learn more about the subject at Molly Guptill Manning’s website and book, “When Books Went to War.”

One of  the interesting books printed in the format of an ASE was “Returning to Civilian Life”. The interior pages were printed differently than the other ASEs.

 

 

One topic struck me as valuable to us, as genealogists: Record Your Certificate.

 

 

Some of these books are still around. One place you can look for them is ebay. It would be remarkable if, in addition to the stories within their pages, they could tell the stories of where they had been and who had been reading them.

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5 TV Shows That Teach Us About Genealogy

We’ve all watched and enjoyed specific television shows dedicated to genealogical audiences, such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” and “Genealogy Roadshow”. But are you learning about genealogy from other TV shows?

 

“Catfish”

The investigation phase of each episode is filled with techniques to search the internet and social media for a person’s real identity and location. You may have had an ancestor who used aliases or whose images might be clues.

 

“The Curse of Oak Island”

Family stories can turn into treasure hunts.

There is always a grain of truth in the stories that are handed down. It may take a lot of digging to find the truth. As a metaphor for the search for ancestors, the number of pits promise riches but yield conflicting clues.

 

“The Big Bang Theory”

No ancestor was an island. Each person is surrounded by family, neighbors, and a community.

Neighbors like Penny remind us that sometimes our ancestors did not travel far to find spouses. Coworkers can become part of a family of choice. Those non-blood relatives may have pictures you have never seen and stories about your ancestors you have never heard.

 

“Myth Busters”

Make a hypothesis! Assemble all possible information you can. Then test it, to see if it is: busted, confirmed, or plausible. Modify your hypothesis as necessary.

 

“The Lone Ranger” and reruns of other favorite shows

Are any of the shows that you enjoyed as a child rerun on television? Watching them may be a pleasant enough experience on its own. When you watch them, they may trigger memories of times and places. Those memories are great to capture. But a deep memory may also be the key you that unlocks a clue to solve one a pesky family mystery.

Researching Soldiers who died during World War I

By all means, search the ABMC Burials and Memorials to see if the soldier rests in Europe. But, you may not find his name is in the database, and there may be more to the story.

Individual Combat units were responsible for burying the deceased soldiers and marking the grave. Then the Graves Registration Unit was responsible for moving the deceased to U.S. cemetery graves. The 51st Pioneer Infantry History tells of GRU work.

But, even if the deceased soldier was buried overseas, his remains may have been returned to the U.S. in 1920 or 1921. The decision whether to leave a soldier at an overseas cemetery or bring him home was made by the next of kin. In October of 1919, the War Department contacted the next-of-kin of every deceased soldiers, and each was given the option to bury them in American military cemeteries in Europe, or have them shipped home for burial in a military or private cemetery. 46,000 of the soldiers’ remains were returned to the United States. It took over $30 million and two years to return the remains of 46,000 soldiers. 30,000 soldiers were buried in the cemeteries in Europe. The government also paid the travel expenses pilgrimages for Gold Star mothers, and widows, to visit these graves.

The Burial Files and Graves Registration records are part of the Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General (Record Group 92). You can find the Individual Burial Files at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO. These are also called the “Cemeterial Files” or “293 Files” and contain: Correspondence, Reports, Telegrams, Applications, and Other Papers Relating to Burials of Service Personnel. Check out The Sick and the Dead, Veterans Administration Claim Files and World War I Burial Files by Archivist Daria Labinsky.

There were many similarities between the Americans and the Australian soldiers, who fought so far from their homeland. Australia would not pay for mothers to visit the graves of their sons, as it was a dangerous and expensive proposition.

Let’s see what we can do to locate the final resting place of these fallen soldiers:

Search the American Battle Monuments Commision (ABMC) for an overseas grave.

If the soldier is not in the ABMC database, then it is worth searching in the United States for the soldier’s grave.

Searching the U.S. Army Transport Service records on Ancestry.com would confirm that the soldier’s body was returned to the U.S. These records contain the soldier’s serial number and the soldier’s military organization. If you do not have a subscription to Ancestry.com, remember that you may be able to  access Ancestry.com in may be available in your local library, or at a nearby Family History Center.

Even if you do not have access to Ancestry.com, you can still try to locate the grave.

First, search in National Gravesite Locator to see if the soldier was buried in a military cemetery.

If the soldier cannot be found in a military cemetery, try Findagrave.

Many of the fallen soldiers are documented in the three volumes of the Soldiers of the Great War:

Vol 1 Alabama – Maryland

Vol 2 Massachusetts – Ohio

Vol 3 Oklahoma – Wyoming  Volume 3 also contains an index by volume, by state and by first letter of the last name. The index to Vol 1 Begins on page 499, and the index to Vol 2 Begins on page 501.

The photos in the book are not in alphabetic order, and not every soldier has a picture.

Making A Findagrave Virtual Cemetery

Lately, many of my posts have been about WWI. So, I thought it might be time for a different topic. Building a virtual cemetery can be useful for collect information from a variety of cemeteries into one page. This is a great way to share information you have found about a family line (or even a WWI military organization).

In FindAGrave, use the link in the upper right to go to your Profile Page.

Scroll down until you see “My Virtual Cemeteries”.

Click on add. Then you will be able to enter a name for your Virtual Cemetery, a description and determine whether you want your list to be visible to the public or private.

Then Save your Virtual Cemetery.

Now, when you view any grave, you can use the tools on the right.

Select “Save to” and one of the options will be to save to a Virtual Cemetery.

And you will be presented with a list of your Virtual Cemeteries. Check the one or ones that you want to select, and save.  (At this point you can also create a new virtual cemetery.)

If you add someone by mistake, you can go to your Virtual Cemetery and select Remove next to the entry.

Give this a try!

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