Sunday, April 12, 2015

Names Crossed Off Passenger List

First and second pages of NY passenger list of Taormina
with names crossed off, Jan 28, 1914
I've recently seen a couple misunderstandings about what it means when someone's name is crossed off a passenger list. The first was that it means the individual died while on board. This is sometimes true but not always. The other assumption was that it means the individual never got on board to begin with. This is simply not true, at least not for the 19th century and early 20th century.

What it generally meant was that the individual got on the ship but didn't get off at that port of arrival. This could have been because the individual died while on board, but it could also mean that they simply remained on board until disembarking at a secondary port of call. This was the case with some of my ancestors, who arrived in New York on January 28, 1914 on board the Taormina, but their names are crossed off so they didn't got off the ship there. There is then a second passenger list from their arrival in Philadelphia a couple days later on January 30, 1914 where their names were not crossed off.

Meanwhile, I have an infant relative in my tree who was born and died on board a ship in 1880 but her name is not crossed off the passenger list on her arrival. It does note "died" beside her details but she's not crossed off (see below). I see the crossing off more commonly in 20th century passenger lists.

Australia Domenica Scioli was born and died on board the ship she was
named after in 1880 - while it notes she died, her name is not crossed off

As for the idea that crossing off passengers from the list could mean they never boarded to begin with, this just isn't possible, at least not until there was a record kept of who had purchased tickets produce in their name. Otherwise, the person compiling the ship's passenger list had no way of knowing who had purchased a ticket or who intended to board, so the list could only be compiled from the names of people who did actually board the ship.

First and second pages of Philadelphia passenger list of
Taormina with names of those crossed off in NY,
Jan 30, 1914
So the ship had a record of who boarded at the departure port and then the immigration officers at the port of arrival made a copy of those lists, crossing off the people on their copy who didn't disembark at that port. The passenger lists we see are usually the copies that were made at the port of arrival from the ship's records. The immigration officers probably didn't care why an individual on the passenger list didn't disembark and therefore didn't always note whether it was due to an on-board death or whether they were just carrying onto the next port of call. Their job was probably just to record who disembarked at their port of call.

So if you see an ancestor or relative whose name is crossed off on a passenger list, don't assume they died on board, or never boarded to begin with. Do some more investigating to see if the ship carried onto another port of call where they might have disembarked. If you're not finding anything by searching for the person's name, try searching by the arrival year and the ship's name. The arrival port officers were working off of the ship's records, which meant the handwriting could sometimes be misinterpreted and copied incorrectly (this doesn't mean a misspelling was a permanent name change). And of course, there's always the digital transcription which could be incorrect too and preventing you from finding the record by the individual's name. This also works for when you may have gotten an individual's immigration data from a naturalization record but can't find the passenger list by searching by name. Of course, by the time of naturalization, the individual may have been misremembering the exact details of their immigration so if you don't find the passenger list by the arrival date and ship name, you may need to make use of wildcards in the name. You can use a '?' in place of a letter, or an '*' in place of several letters but you must have at least three real letters in there for it to work.

Happy searching!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

US Immigration Stats in History

2000 US Census Data on Self Reported Ancestry
I often see people trying to determine which European ethnicity most Americans are descended from. Some attempt to use self reported ancestry from census data to show the major European groups Americans today claim to descend from. The trouble with this is that self reported data is unreliable and most Americans are a mix of ancestries but only able to report one. Many actually reported 'American', which although technically may not be inaccurate (if you have ancestors born in the US, then you have American ancestry - the census did not ask what our non-American ancestry was), it's not helpful for these purposes. Probably because of these reasons, the US Census has since dropped this question and therefore the most recent data for ancestry is from 2000.

Others try to calculate which group most Americans today have roots in by using immigration numbers plus basic multiplication to determine their population growth. The trouble with this is that the multiplication is an estimate, and again, so many Americans today are a mixture of European ethnic groups. In the end, we can only say that it's impossible to determine with any real accuracy which single European ethnic group most Americans today are descended from. But the immigration stats are still helpful by showing us the largest European groups to legally settle in the US.

Over the course of history, from colonial times up to 1969, the largest groups to immigrate were the Germans totaling just over 7 million, followed by the British totaling over 5 million. The Italians came in a close third, also equally just over 5 million, with less than 100,000 fewer than the British numbers. Finally, we have the Irish amounting to slightly more than 4 and half million. Those from Austria-Hungary came in fifth at a little over 4 million, and then the Russians with just over 3 million. Finally, we have those from Norway-Sweden with barely over 2 million, and if you add in the Danes and Finnish to maximize the Scandinavian results, it still only equals about 2 and a half million. The spreadsheet (linked below) shows numbers for more groups in case it interests you but none of them exceed 1 million.

When estimating the amount of descends today from each of these groups, it's important to consider the time periods in which they immigrated. The longer an immigrant has been here, the more descendants they will likely have because they had more time to multiple. For example, the Italians may have had more immigrants than the Irish, but the largest period of Irish immigration occurred decades before the bulk of the Italians arrived so theoretically, it's possible the Irish have more descendants. Considering many Irish and Italians intermarried, it would not surprise me if they were about equal though.

With this in mind, if you look at the stats I compiled in this spreadsheet, you'll see that the Germans and British not only have the highest immigrant numbers in total, but also are the only groups to have been consistently immigrating in mass numbers since colonial times all the way up to 1969. I think it's safe to say that most Americans today have German and/or British ancestry. It would probably be impossible to determine which out of the two of them would rank higher, and many people probably also have some other groups mixed in there - personally I also have Italian and Norwegian, but not everyone else will. But it seems obvious from these stats that most Americans with European heritage have some German and/or British ancestry, even if they don't know it.

  1. Demographic History of the United States
  2. US Department of Homeland Security Yearbook 2008

Monday, April 6, 2015

Dating Old Photographs

An example of a cabinet card with
photographer's details - this
photographer was at this address
from 1879 to 1887
Like me, you may have a collection of old photographs handed down to you with no knowledge of who the portraits are of, or even when they were taken. Here's a few tips to help you out.
  1. The Photographer. Many photos may be printed on paper and mounted to stiff cardstock and stamped with the photographer's name and address in the margin or on the back. Using directory records, you can track when that photographer was working at that particular address, narrowing down the time period in which the photo must have been taken. More details on this can be found here: Mystery Photos.
  2. The Fashion. Get to know the clothing and hairstyle fashions of different eras. This article from SheKnows has many useful links to websites that detail fashion from the 19th and 20th centuries. I make the most use out of the University of Vermont guide which also has info on dating photos based on all different topics, not just fashion. Don't be fooled into thinking people in rural areas didn't receive the latest fashions from magazines and catalogs, or that older people didn't stay up to date with modern fashions. See the common myths on this website.
  3. The Format. The materials used to create the original image (watch out for copies made from the original in much later eras) can be very useful in dating them:
    • Daguerreotypes. The first publicly available photographs were daguerreotypes from 1839 until about 1860. A positive image was produced on a sheet of silver plated copper polished to a mirror finish and mounted in a protective hard case. 
    • Calotypes. Available from 1841, the process produced a translucent negative on paper, allowing positive prints to be created from the negative. This created a softer image, often desirable for portraits. Despite these advantages over the daguerreotype, the calotype did not replace it and both processes remained popular until about the late 1850s/early 1860s.
    • Albumen print. A paper photograph with a positive image created from a negative (typically a negative from a collodion process which created a negative image on glass). Invented in 1850 but not popular until 1855 when it became the dominant form photographic positives. Peaked in popularity from the 1860s to 1890s when used for carte de vista and cabinet cards (see below).
    • Ambrotypes/collodion positive. Popular for a brief period of time in the 1850s before superseded by tintypes. They created a positive image on glass. Required mounting in protective hard case.
      A tintype, probably from the late 1880s
    • Tintypes. A positive image produced on a thin sheet of metal, no mounting required but sometimes mounted in a paper mat. Most popular during the 1860s and 1870s, but still remained in use up to the early 20th century, though by that point it was considered a novelty.
    • Carte de Vista. A small paper photograph (54.0 mm or 2.125 in × 89 mm or 3.5 in) typically mounted on thicker paper (64 mm or 2.5 in × 100 mm or 4 in). Introduced in 1854 but not popular until 1859 and remained so until replaced by the large Cabinet Cards (below).
    • Cabinet Cards. A larger paper photograph mounted on thick cardstock measuring 108 by 165 mm (4¼ by 6½ inches). Introduced in 1866 and most popular during the 1870s and 1880s, beginning to decline in the 1890s. Those photos with the photographer's name and address stamped on the margin or back discussed in the first point above were usually Cabinet Cards.
    • Film/Paper. The first translucent negative sheet film was produced in 1885, with rolls of film as we know it today available from 1888. In 1900, the first Kodak Brownie was released and sold for only $1 (about $28 today), with the film for it costing only 15c, making photography affordable for the masses and giving birth to the "snapshot". Positive images were produced on simple, unmounted paper. 

The Horse in Motion, 1878
Misconceptions and Myths.

I see a lot of misunderstandings about photography in history and perhaps dispelling them will also help people understand the time period in which a photo might have been taken. 

Exposure times. Many people seem to think that in history, the length of time required to take or expose a photograph was so long, one wasn't able to smile or move. This was true in the very early days of photography, but not by the late 19th century. The first daguerreotypes and calotypes in the 1840s had exposure times as short as 5 minutes in optimal conditions but later their exposure times were reduced to only a few seconds with the invention of the collodion process in 1851. I have photographs of small children starting from the 1860s (shown below), which wouldn't be possible without exposure times measured in seconds because we all know small children won't hold still very long.

Small child, circa 1867
In 1878, technology shortened exposure times to a fraction of a second, about 1/25th of a second. Have you ever seen "The Horse in Motion", a sequence of photographs of a horse and rider at a gallop, analyzing it's gait frame by frame (shown above)? That was done in 1878. Without getting too technical, anything that is fast enough to capture and freeze the motion of a galloping horse is more than fast enough to capture a smile or movement of a human being.

So why aren't there more photographs of people smiling or moving around from the late 19th century? It's probably due to the fact that until about 1885 or 1900 at the latest, photography was not affordable to the masses and the processing could be complex. Therefore, the industry was very much controlled by professional photographers and that meant that getting one's photograph taken was a formal event. The concept of the candid photograph didn't really exist yet, and people's only basis for a formal image of themselves stemmed from paintings, where there was no smiling or moving around. So the idea of this as a formal portrait carried over into photography until the advent of the candid photograph. There are examples of candids in the 1880s and 1890s, but it really took off in 1900 with the introduction of the Kodak Brownie, which practically anyone could afford.

Detail. Many people also seem to think that pre-20th century, photographs didn't have much fine detail to them. And while it's true that many surviving photographs from the 19th century don't have much fine detail, that doesn't mean the technology didn't exist to capture it. Just look at some of the photographs of US presidents dating the 1850s and 1860s! While these were probably taken by some of the best photographers in the country, that doesn't mean such detail was exclusive to the best of the best photographers. Take for example the image to the right, which was likely from the 1870s or early 1880s. Note the fine detail in the strands of his hair and mustache.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Italian Foundling Surname 'la Casasanta'

Records showing various surnames for Maria
I've been doing a lot of research on my Italian branch recently and came across a perplexing situation in which I couldn't determine why one of my ancestors was seemingly going by two different surnames, and sometimes both together.

My 4th great grandmother was being listed alternately on Sulmona, Italy records for her children as Maria Fasciano, Maria la Casasanta, and Maria la Casasanta Fasciano. One even said "la Casasanta alias Fasciano." So what was her maiden name? Fasciano? la Casasanta? Or both? Why would she have an alias? I knew they were all the same woman, and not a case of her husband having two wives with the name Maria (which wouldn't be impossible in general because practically every female from this town was named Maria) because of the timeline in which the names appear and the records which listed both names. I have come across a lot of people in my tree who were given the middle name of their mother's maiden name, but in these cases, it was always just a middle name, it was never used on it's own as a surname like I was sometimes seeing in this case. So although I kept 'la Casasanta' in mind as potentially Maria's mother's maiden name, I was hesitant to commit to that idea and kept searching.

Unfortunately, Maria was born and married before the online records from Sulmona begin, and I have yet to find her death record (still searching). But I did notice that on her husband's death record, a Venanzio Fasciano is listed as one of the registrants of the death and upon closer inspection, it mentioned that he was the brother-in-law of the deceased - i.e., Maria's brother!

Record of Venanzio's birth naming his father
So then I was feeling pretty confident that her maiden name was Fasciano and la Casasanta must have been her mother's maiden name. But I go searching for more info on Venanzio just to be sure, and because in general, I want find out their parents names anyway. I find Venanzio's marriage record and a copy of his birth record in with the supporting documents for his marriage, which say his father's name is Saverio la Casasanta "alias" Fasciano, and mother's name is Maria Loreto del Rinto. Huh? So it's not the mother's maiden name, but it actually came from the father's original name who appears to have gone by the alias Fasciano? Why would he do that?

Well, I decided to Google the name and couldn't really find anything out but on a whim I popped it into Google translate, mainly because I knew Casa means House and, I thought Santa meant Holy. And I was right: it means Holy House. Like a church.

And that's when I started noticing that while browsing through the indices of the earliest records, 9 times out of 10 when I saw the surname la Casasanta, it was paired with "Unknown parents". In other words, I think infants who were abandoned at a church (aka, a foundling) would often be given the surname "la Casasanta", literally meaning "the holy house". My speculation now is that either Saverio or his father was abandoned at a church and given this surname, but Saverio also went by Fasciano to avoid the stigma of either his father or himself having obviously been abandoned at birth. If it was his father who was abandoned, Fasciano might be Saverio's mother's maiden name, which he took as an alias. Otherwise, I have no idea where Fasciano came from but you can be sure I will keep digging.

Example of someone named 'la Casasanta' whose parents are unknown

I still don't know why, of Saverio's children, one went only by Fasciano and the other by both names, sometimes together, sometimes alternately but at least I now know what the name la Casasanta means and why someone would choose to go by an alias. Unfortunately, it also probably means that at some point I'm going to hit a dead end with this branch, but hopefully I still have a lot more find.

UPDATE: I have since found Saverio's death record which says his parents were unknown. So Saverio was a foundling and the name Fasciano was either chosen at random or could also have come from the family who raised him, if they approved of him using their name. However, the lack of Fascianos in the Sulmona records suggest there was no other family in Sulmona with the name Fasciano. So it may have chosen at random to avoid the stigma of being a foundling, or to avoid confusion among so many other people with the name la Casasanta.

For more info on other foundling names, check out's article on the matter.

Resource: State Archives of L'Aquila

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Post-1922 Philadelphia Inquirer and Fulton History

As all genealogists know, newspapers can be a valuable resource, especially for obituaries. And as many Philadelphia researchers may know, the Philadelphia Inquirer is available at, but for a price, and only up to 1922. Equally, there's some Philly papers available at, and even some available for free at, but none of them go beyond 1922. There is one Philly paper listed at called Checkerboard which is from 1943-1977, but this may have been niche paper since I can't find any information about it. What if you're looking for an obituary from more recently than 1922? Well, you basically have two options, one online and one offline.

Your offline option is to use Chronicling America's newspaper directory, which provides a listing of holdings of nearly every newspaper up to present times. If none of the holdings are near you, you might be able to ask your library if they can order a microfilm copy of it for you.

But there is one online option and those who are familiar with it's website will understand why I'm hesitant to recommend it: Fulton History. It's free, it's digitized, and it supplies the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1860 to 1963. What's the catch? It's not user friendly so unless you already have a specific date in mind, it's not easy to find what you're looking for. If you do have a specific date, you can find PDFs to download of the Philadelphia Inquirer here. If not, there are instructions and tips on using the search engine found in the FAQ/Help section. If the person you're looking for had a unique name, you may get lucky by just typing their name into the search engine. But if you need to narrow it down to the Philadelphia Inquirer, you can do so by using these instructions:
Q. How can I just search one newspaper issue instead of the hundreds that are here? I'm getting way to many hits. A. Solution - The newspaper titles are also indexed. Use this command.... Filename contains and The title of the Paper or part of the title of the paper in the search window along with what you are searching for (you must know how the Newspaper title was entered when I scanned it... look in the index to see the way it is displayed...). 
Here is a sample Using The Boolean search type I want to search just the Newspapers from Buffalo NY for a murder trial and a person called perraton and I know it happened some time in the late 1920s or early 1930s "murder trial" and "perraton" and (Filename contains (Buffalo NY)) and (Filename Contains (1927~~1934))

Here is an example on how to search on one specific newspaper title( I will use Syracuse NY Post Standard in this example) for a range of dates (I will use 1904 through 1920) for a person named john Green and you not sure if he was using a middle initial........ First change to a Boolean search type then enter the following in the search box (ignore the quotes)  “Syracuse NY Post Standard 1904~~1920 and john w/1 Green”
The words you have written is your instruction to the search engine to find only the newspapers that have the title  Syracuse NY Post Standard and only the years 1904 (the ~~ [tilde symbol] means range of dates) through1920 and with the word john and within 1 character of the word Green ...
Boolean searching is very powerful but you must spend the time and learn how to use it. You will find a comprehensive guide for Boolean searches later in this section.

As you can see, it's still not very easy to follow. The Philadelphia Inquirer was indexed as 'Philadelphia PA Inquirer' so using the Boolean option from the drop down menu next to the search field, your search would have to look exactly like this:
"Smith" and (Filename contains (Philadelphia PA Inquirer))
You can remove the name Smith and put in whatever name you're looking for inside the quotes - first and last name or just last - but the rest of it, including the quotes, the word 'and', plus the parentheses all have to be the same for it to work. If you want to also narrow down the year range, it should be:
"Smith" and (Filename contains (Philadelphia PA Inquirer)) and (Filename contains (1923~~1963))
Obviously, adjust the year range as you need to. And again, use the Boolean search.

You also have to keep in mind that these were very probably indexed with OCR - optical character recognition - which means it was done by a computer identifying the shapes of letters and numbers. Naturally, this is very subject to error and you can wind up with an index where a capital letter 'I' or a lower case 'l' gets mistaken for the number 1. As such, you may not always be able to find the person you're looking for if their name was index in a way that doesn't even match the phonetic search (an option you can tick under the search field). So when possible, it's best to manually search the PDFs instead of using the search engine.

Good luck!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Italian Research: One Mystery Solved

Maria D'Amore 1887 Birth in Polizzi Generosa,
mentioning her unmarried parents
I had been stuck at a brick wall for a while on my Italian branch, mostly because so few Italian records are available online, at least for the regions most of my research is in. One of these brick walls was my 2nd great grandfather, Agostino D'Amore. According to family members, he was born in Sulmona, Italy on Aug 13, 1846 and as a solider, was stationed in Pachino, Sicily where he met his wife, Rosaria, and had children with her. However, his passenger list into the United States said he was born in Pachino. I decided to have a look for his birth record in Sulmona anyway, since those records are actually available online from the Italian National Archives.

I searched Sulmona's births from 1844-1848 without finding him so then I began thinking he was actually born in Sicily. First of all, it turns out that he did not meet his wife in Pachino. His wife was born in Polizzi Generosa, where their first child, Maria, was also born so I checked Polizzi's birth records (found online at for Agostino thinking maybe he was born there too, but with no luck. I also searched for his marriage to Rosaria in Polizzi in the few years before the birth of their first child with no results. Puzzled, I finally got a translation of Maria's birth record (I know enough about Italian records to extract names and dates but that's about it) and what it told me was very surprising but totally explained the problems I was having. Maria had been born out of wedlock. That explained why I couldn't find a marriage record for Agostino and Rosaria before Maria's birth!

Agostino D'Amore and Rosaria Potestio
marriage in Pachino, 1891
It also named Agostino's occupation as Carabinieri, Italian National Police. So there was some truth to the family stories. I also knew that the rest of their children had indeed been born in Pachino so sometime after Maria was born and before their next child was born, they had moved from Polizzi to Pachino. I began to become concerned that Agostino and Rosaria had never actually married but just lived in a common law marriage. After all, if they left Polizzi for Pachino to escape the scandal of having a child out of wedlock, it would have been easy for them to show up in Pachino claiming they were already married and no one would be the wiser. I had looked for the marriage in Polizzi after Maria's birth but still not found it. But I really needed a marriage record because it would tell me where Agostino was born. On his children's birth records, it only listed where he was residing at the time, not his birth location. And his death certificate from Pennsylvania didn't specify anything more than Italy.

So I crossed my fingers and ordered the microfilm for Pachino marriages during this time period because they aren't available online anywhere. I had little hope of finding it - I'd convinced myself they never married and I would never find out where Agostino was born. I also ordered the film which included Pachino births for the period he was born in hopes that his passenger list had been correct and I would find him here, even if I didn't find his marriage record. And when the films came in, I checked the births first because I had more hope of finding that than the marriage.

How wrong I was! I didn't find his birth in Pachino but I did find their marriage! Turns out they married Jan 1, 1891, about six months prior to the birth of their second child. To me, this seems to suggest that their society might have accepted one "mistake" by having a child out of wedlock but two? No, it was time to get married, and quickly because Rosaria would be starting to show soon!

Agostino D'Amore's 1849 Birth in Sulmona
Finally, the marriage record told me that Agostino had indeed been born in Sulmona, just as I originally thought! So why hadn't I found his birth record in Sulmona? Because he was born in 1849, and I'd stopped looking at 1848. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I could have avoided this whole fiasco by just searching a wider year range. However, that might have meant that I wouldn't have gotten the translation that told me their first child was born out of wedlock, an interesting little tidbit. So sometimes my stupidity has a silver lining!

My other reason for wanting to find a marriage or birth record for Agostino was to figure out his parent's names. On his death certificate, his father is listed as something that looked like Dibero or Libero and his mother was listed as "Nana", which was clearly not her name but just what her grandchildren called her. With Agostino's birth and marriage records finally found, it told his father was Liberio D'Amore and Maria Majorano. From there, I managed to search the Sulmona records to find Libero and Maria's parents and even some of their grandparents. Finally, I got past that brick wall!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Genealogy Myths

I've already discussed in the past about the myth of "My family name was changed at Ellis Island", as well as the one about how most people in history married in their teens, but I thought it might be useful to go over some other common myths associated with genealogy as well.

1. The Family Crest/Coat of Arms
I see many people adding family crests to ancestor's in their tree but the fact is, there is no such thing (sorry, Mom). A crest or coat of arms (technically two different things but I'll leave that one for now) is given to an individual by the Crown and only that individual or their descendants in the direct male line are entitled to use it. And since not everyone with the same family name is descended from that one person who was probably granted their coat of arms in medieval times or later, not everyone with the same family name is entitled to use the crest. Unless you've done the research and traced your direct lineage back to the person who was granted that specific crest, then it probably has nothing to do with your particular family. Of course, there's no crest/coat of arms police who are going to come after you to posting it to your tree, but to me, it's like attaching the wrong record to someone in my tree.

This is also the reason why you might find more than one crest for the same family name. If different individuals with the same name were granted a crest/coat of arms (and they might be a part of the same family, they might not), there will be more than one crest associated with that name. For my maiden name, there's at least six or seven different crests I could pick from, but I have no evidence my ancestors were associated with any of them.

The idea of everyone having a family crest was created during Victorian times to sell personalized letterheads with your family crest on them, and the practice continues to this day with companies selling all kinds of products branded with your personal family crest. People are so taken with this myth, I've even seen some who have had their so-called family crest tattooed on them. Let's hope they never read this, huh?

College of Arms FAQ
Crest (Heraldy)

2. The term Pennsylvania "Dutch" is a corruption of the German word for Germans "Deutsche".
An understandable common misconception given the similarity of the words but it's untrue regardless. Lots of people like to point out how the Pennsylvania Dutch are not actually Dutch but German. This is true, within the context of the current usage of the word Dutch to mean people from the Netherlands. But in the past, "Dutch" was a much more vague term that did not necessarily apply only to people from the Netherlands, it also included people from Germany and Switzerland, especially those from along the Rhine, as many Pennsylvania Dutch were. The Rhine River is mostly in Germany but also parts of the Netherlands and Switzerland. Since the term Pennsylvania Dutch was coined in colonial times, it makes sense that the more generic term for people from a range of Germanic lands was used and it has simply stuck, despite the fact that the term "Dutch" now more specifically refers to people from the Netherlands (or, if you're Joey from Friends "the make believe place where Peter Pan and Tinkerbell come from").

Wikipedia addresses this with the follow:
The origins of the word Dutch, a borrowing from Middle Dutch, ultimately go back to Proto-Germanic, the ancestor of all Germanic languages, *þeudiskaz (meaning "popular/vernacular", as opposed to Latin); akin to Old Dutch dietsc, Old High German diutsch, Old English þeodisc, all meaning "(of) the common (Germanic) people". As the tribes among the Germanic peoples began to differentiate, its meaning began to change. On the continent *þeudiskaz evolved into two ways: Diets (meaning "Dutch (people)" (archaic/poetic)[3] and Deutsch (German, meaning "German (people)"). At first the English language used (the contemporary form of) Dutch to refer to any or all of the Germanic speakers on the European mainland (e.g., the Dutch, the Frisians and the various Germans). Gradually its meaning shifted to the Germanic people they had most contact with, both because of their geographical proximity, but also because of the rivalry in trade and overseas territories: the modern Dutch of the Netherlands. 
The word Dutch is also sometimes interpreted as a corruption of the Pennsylvania Dutch endonym Deitsch, which is itself a local variant of the modern German endonym Deutsch, meaning German. This folk etymology is however not supported by the historical record.
And cites it's sources as the following: (English) and Etymologisch Woordenboek van het Nederlands (Dutch) entries "Dutch" and "Diets".
Fogleman, Aaron Spencer (1996). Hopeful Journeys: German Immigration, Settlement, and Political Culture in Colonial America, 1717-1775. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 197. ISBN 978-0812215489. "The term "Dutch," often considered a corruption of "Deutsch", which means German, was actually not a corruption at all. It was a legitimate, well-known term used by the English in the early modern period to describe the people who lived along the Rhine. The "Low Dutch" came from the area of the present Netherlands, while the "High Dutch" came from the area of the middle and upper Rhine."
3. I have a royal/Native American ancestor.
It's not impossible, some people can legitimately trace links to such claims. And there is something to be said about pedigree collapse and the idea that all European descendants are descended from Charlemagne. But when it comes to genealogy, we're talking about traceable ancestors here, and we need reliable documents to prove descent from a particular member of the royal family or Native American. There are many bogus tree links into royal families out there, as well as many false stories about Native American ancestors. Even going back to colonial times, genealogy was riddled with fake claims to royalty, especially in the south, as detailed in Family Life in 17th- and 18th-Century America (Family Life through History) by James M. Volo, Dorothy Denneen Volo:
To maintain the integrity of the family structure, the female relatives would gather to trace the family tree from long before the rise of the Stuart kings. Intermarriage between second and third cousins was promoted to strengthen the connections within the extended family. Nowhere else in colonial American was the status of an extended family of cousins more closely followed or revered.

Yet few in the southern master's social class actually had aristocratic roots, and for some of the gentry, the need to maintain a large body of servants was greatly intensified by the lack of blood ties to some genuine form of royalty. Planters with an English heritage might claim their descent from the Cavaliers of the English Civil Wars of the 1640s. No mere followers of the Stuart kings, their planter ancestry might be derived from dukes, earls, knights, and loyal squires who had ridden at Nasby. This claim helped the planters to define themselves in historically acceptable terms. There were enough southern families with legitimate family trees of this sort-the Lees, the Fairfaxes, and the Randolphs, for instance-to maintain the "truth" of the wider fiction.
4. I possess this old photograph of my x-times great grandparent, therefore I own it and anyone who attaches a copy of it to their tree is "stealing" from me.
Unfortunately, possession is not always nine tens of the law. The truth is that unless either you or one of your ancestors who died less than 70 years ago took the photo, it is not yours. The copyrights of photographs are retained by the photographer for the duration of their life and for 70 years after their death. Upon their death, the copyright ownership is transferred to either their next of kin or whoever they might name in their will (and so on to the next generation if necessary). So unless it was a family snapshot that grandpa took of mommy (or your ancestor also happened to be a professional photographer), you probably don't own the copyright and if it's been less than 70 years since the death of the photographer who did take it, you may actually be the one breaking copyright laws. If it's be more than 70 years since the death of the photographer, the copyright has expired and the photo is actually in the public domain, so no one owns the copyright.

In the genealogy world, it's unlikely the descendant of the photographer would come after you for posting a photograph taken by their ancestor. They would have to know that this particular photo of your ancestor was taken by their ancestor who died less than 70 years ago, and be able to prove it in court. However, it is technically possible and more importantly, ethically, if one is going to get on a high horse about other people "stealing" photos from them, one better be absolutely sure they are not accidentally breaking copyright laws themselves first!

More info at The Legal Genealogist.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

More Thoughts on DNA

As some people may know from my previous posts, My results regarding my Northern European make up have been all over the place. AncestryDNA says 55% British while FTDNA says it's 0% and 23andMe say 16.7%. Results for Scandinavian (Norwegian, in my case) and "German" (called Europe West, Western & Central Europe, or French & German depending on the company but knowing my tree the way I do, I know for me this is my German heritage) are just as varied. I have made some speculation on this before, that I think the reasons for the discrepancies had partly to do with differences in the way the companies were defining categories and regions, and partly to do with the fact that for some people, their British and Scandinavian/German DNA are simply too similar to tell apart.

23andMe results showing 63% Northern European

Recently though, I had an epiphany which just solidified that there are consistencies across all the companies. It still doesn't tell me a more definite break down of my Northern European DNA, but it occurred to me that if I added up all my Northern European results, every company said the exact same thing: 63% Northern European (shown in images). And since I know that the rest of my ancestry is Italian, that means I'm 37% Italian, which is very close to what they all said as well (the range across the companies was 28-37% so it's at the higher end of that). All this reassured me that these companies aren't just plucking numbers out of the air, or that it's not that the science isn't precise enough to get any kind of reliable or consistent results. In fact, there is a huge amount of consistency among all three companies, we just can't always expect there to be a more specific break down beyond "Northern European" or other more broad regions that testers might be struggling to narrow down further. That might be a disappointing answer to some people but at least what I can take away from it is knowing there is a distinct difference between my Northern and Southern European DNA and that because of this, I can get a very precise percentage on my Italian DNA.

AncestryDNA results, circled percentages add up to 63% 
Something else to consider is the estimated percentage range that AncestryDNA provide. I really wish other companies would do something like this. 23andMe take a different approach by having categories for "Broadly" regions, which is basically admitting they can't narrow it down any further. FTDNA don't offer either option, which can be misleading for those who don't understand how complex this can be.

But if I consider my AncestryDNA percentage ranges in comparison to the other companies, I might see some more consistencies.

AncestryDNA results:
  • British: 55% - range 36-76%
  • German: 5% - range 0-20%
  • Scandinavian (incl. 1% Finland/NW Russia): 3% - range 0-11%

  • British: 0%
  • German: 26%
  • Scandinavian (incl. 3% Finland & Northern Siberia): 37%

  • British: 16.7%
  • German: 17.4%
  • Scandinavian: 4.6%
  • Broadly Northern European: 24.3%
FTDNA results, circled percentages add up to 63%

So let's assume that because my British results are so much lower with FTDNA and 23andMe, that it's actually the lowest percentage which AncestryDNA gives me: 36%. The highest results for German with AncestryDNA is not far off of what the other two companies estimate so we'll go with 20%. To make 63%, that leaves Scandinavian with 7%, which makes sense because it's within the small range AncestryDNA estimated for Scandinavian and not far off the percentage 23andMe gave.

So, all things considered, I may be:
  • British: 36%
  • German: 20%
  • Scandinavian: 7%
  • Italian: 37%

It also all makes sense regarding my family tree as well. I have one grandparent who was Italian so on paper I would be 25% Italian. Since we actually inherit ethnicities randomly, 37% is realistically not far from that. I also had one great grandparent who was Norwegian, making me 12.5% Scandinavian and 7% is not too dissimilar. As for British and German, it would have been impossible to calculate since I have so many branches of both of them (it's safe to say most of my branches are British or German), many dating back to colonial times. But knowing that of the most recent immigrants, I had one German 3rd great grandparent and two British 3rd great grandparents, it makes perfect sense that my British results (36%) would be a little higher than German (20%), but not by too much.

It's probably not a very scientific way to determine your percentage break down! But there's some sense to it and it's better than just saying 63% Northern European.

Saturday, December 27, 2014 Myths: No Free Account Without Trial

I see a lot of people criticizing for a lot of things. I will readily admit when they are doing something wrong or when there is a problem they have not fixed (see my posts about things actually wrong with ACOM). But there are equally times when people seem to have inaccurate ideas of so I thought it might be beneficial to dis-spell some of these myths.

Today's myth I came across was someone claiming that you can't sign up for a free account at without doing the 14 day free trial, which makes you jump through hoops to unsubscribe and not get charged at the end of the trial. I won't deny ACOM gets a lot of complaints from people who signed up for the free trial and cancelled on the day the trial ended but wound up getting charged anyway. This does happen and it's recommended you cancel a few days before the trial ends to avoid this.

However, it's NOT true that you can't sign up for a free account at without doing the free trial. Here's how.

Step 1: On the home page, click on "Search", NOT the "Start Free Trial" button (shown above).

Step 2: Type a name into the search fields, John Smith will do fine. No need to put dates or places into the fields (shown above).

Step 3: The search results will be listed and if you click on any of the 1940 Census results (or hover over any of them and click on "Register for a Free Account" in the pop up window - shown above), it will prompt you to create a new account (shown below).

Step 4: Fill out your name, email, and a password to get instant access to free collections at, no free trial, no credit card necessary, no strings attached. Below is a screen shot of the example record I can now view with my new free account, created without any credit card.

Granted, keep in mind that the free collections are few compared to their total database, but frequently provide all or certain collections available for free for a limited time. At the moment, they are making their entire database available for free from December 26-29, which is what prompted the complaint that you can't make use of it without going through the free trial, but now you know that isn't true, you can take advantage of all their free offers from time to time.

48 Search Tips

Hope everyone had a great holiday! Here's a free gift from Family Tree University Magazine: PDF ebook of 48 Search Tips.

It's basically a beginners guide though, so probably won't benefit the more seasoned of users but you never know, it's worth a look.