WMGS-Blog

Western Michigan Genealogical Society

Browsing Posts published by Lisa Christensen

I spent Saturday at the Grand Rapids Public Library’s main branch. A group of wonderful volunteers and staff have created a fantastic series of workshops and talks designed to help a group of eager, new researchers learn more about their African American ancestry. Saturday’s focus was learning how to find information in three databases: Heritage Quest, Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.

Polk City Directories

All of the new researchers were able to come up with a name, residence and birth year for at least one ancestor who was alive in 1940. That’s usually enough information to leap right into the 1940 or 1930 census. From there the volunteers started explaining what information could be found in the census, point out new information and start looking for new records. It’s simple, quick, effective and keeps our new researchers’ enthusiasm high because now they can learn about the research process while they are looking at records about their family. However, in some cases that method ends in failure. That’s when it’s time to return to the basics. Not only do you need to start with what you know, but you may have to close the gap between 1940 and 2018 AND you may have to walk away from the computer.

We had two researchers facing this problem. One researcher hit a brick wall before she found any records. The other hit a brick wall after we quickly found full birth and death dates for his grandmother and great-grandmother. Both of our new researchers had something in common—they knew their ancestor died in Grand Rapids. continue reading…

I attended the National Archives’ Genealogy Fair today. Do you think the National Archives only has veteran pension files, immigration records and census records? You need to keep reading. Today’s presentation titled The Best National Archives Records Genealogists Aren’t Using showed many examples of other records that the Archives holds like relinquished, rejected or canceled land entry files; rural rehabilitation loan case files; and war risk insurance files for WWI vets. I’m going to make a list of my ancestors who lived on farms in the 1930’s to see if they applied for a rural rehabilitation loan!

National Archives Innovative Online Resources and Tools to Help with Your Genealogical Research showed how the NARA website is improving and highlighted even more useful record types I never knew about. I also learned about a program that allows people like us to download selected records and transcribe the contents. This information becomes part of the NARA catalog. Eventually, we will be able to type in peoples’ names and get search results that will take us directly to their digitized records. Are you disappointed that you weren’t able to attend? Not to worry! Go to https://www.archives.gov/calendar/genealogy-fair/2016/schedule-handouts. You will see a list of the talks given and find links that will take you to the videos of the talks and let you see the slides and handouts.

Go to this link and scroll down to Online Learning Resources to view videos and handouts from the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Genealogy Fairs: https://www.archives.gov/research/genealogy/start-research

Happy Hunting!

Lisa Christensen

Did you know that you can request a copy of a Michigan Death certificate from 1920 to at least  1938. I made my request on November 7 and received an image of the death certificate today (November 14.) Not bad!! Yes, this will work for any other database that doesn’t have images online.

Here’s how you do it: continue reading…

What a great day! I have finally found my Christensen family in Denmark. I had tried to find them in some of the Danish databases several years ago, but never found more than an emigration record for one person. I faced the same problem many people face when searching for their families overseas – I didn’t know the name of the town where they were born.

One day, my cousin Sue, told me that her son, Thoren, was living in Germany and wouldn’t mind taking a trip to Denmark to see what he could find. I only had one possibility for a town name for my great-grandmother’s birthplace. I had found a baptism entry on FamilySearch for a Marie Dorthea Christensen with no birth date. The baptism date was a few weeks after the birth date that I had for my great-grandma. That was a good sign. But her brothers and father did not show up in FamilySearch’s database. That was a bad sign. It was a long shot, but I gave Thoren that tiny bit of information along with the birthdates for Marie’s brothers and her father. continue reading…

Those of us who have attended a GRPL Lock-In know that it’s a great way to get help with your research, use Ancestry.com, learn new research strategies, enjoy some tasty treats and socialize with others who share our passion for research. Now I can also say it’s a place to meet family and people who are nearly family.

Tim Gleisner came into the VanderVeen Room to enjoy a snack and tell us how he successfully helped a lady locate her Haberkorn family in the 1860 census. Before I even had a chance to think, I blurted out, “I know that family! They owned a furniture company in Detroit.” That wasn’t the response that Tim was expecting, but he confirmed that one of the Haberkorns did indeed own a furniture business in Detroit. Neither I nor the lady researching the Haberkorns were blood relatives. We were linked together by clusters.

Tim introduced me to the lady researching the Haberkorn family. Her husband was a direct descendent of John Henry Haberkorn, brother of Christian Henry Haberkorn. My great-grandma, Bertha Salewski Frank, was a cook in Christian Haberkorn’s home around 1900. My great-grandfather, Charles Frank, worked at the Haberkorn furniture company for more than 20 years. There we were, 114 years later, looking at the 1900 U.S. census that showed Bertha Salewski enumerated as a servant for with Christian Haberkorn’s family. We had a wonderful time comparing notes and sharing information.

Need some help with your research? Do you need help with Ancestry, FamilySearch, SeekingMichigan, Fold3 or do you simply need access to Ancestry? Join us at the next GRPL Lock-in. Who knows…you might even connect with someone through their ancestors!

Lisa Christensen

Over the years I have inherited photographs, slides and negatives from my parents’ families. I have scanned over 6200 of them and still have many to go. It’s time to admit this is a project and get it organized.

The first task was to establish a goal, or in this case, goals.
1. Digitize all of the remaining photographs, negatives and slides.
2. Organize the photographs, negatives and slides into archival sleeves. Sort by family, then by date.
3. Identify the people and places in the photos.
4. Share the images with my family.
5. Share images of groups (school groups, confirmation groups, sports teams etc.) with archives and libraries. continue reading…

My family has pondered over the origins of the family fudge recipe for years. I remember my Mom making it for special occasions. My Mom and Aunt Carol would tell us stories about how they were forbidden to cook when their mother and father went out for the evening. They would frequently misbehave and make the family fudge. One of my cousins remembered buying it in one of the fudge shops in Mackinaw City. But, we had never seen it for sale before or since then. We didn’t know anyone who made fudge with the unique taste and texture of our family fudge. We concluded that it must be an old German recipe that had been handed down through the generations. Several years ago I searched the internet for more information. There must be someone who also made this fudge. I found a few blogs that talked about a similar fudge. They didn’t know the source of the recipe either. They also theorized that it was of German origin because their family was German. More people wrote in to support the theory because they too remembered a German member of the family making this fudge. No one could conclusively say they knew where the recipe came from. Nevertheless, the German origin theory was beginning to become an Internet Fact.

Last year I tried again. I finally typed the right words into Google and came across the answer. There were some people who remembered a great fudge recipe that used to be printed on the back of a Hershey Cocoa Powder can, but couldn’t find the recipe. The Uncle Phaedrus, Consulting Detective and Finder of Lost Recipes website, http://www.hungrybrowser.com/phaedrus/mphersheyfudge.htm, came to the rescue. I was a little skeptical at first. After all, there’s nothing “old German” about Hershey Cocoa Powder. I clicked the series of links that led me to the recipes. There it was. The family recipe wasn’t exactly the same, but it was close enough. It was identical to the 1936 recipe except ours added 1 tablespoon of corn syrup. continue reading…