Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fooled by House Number Changes

As I go through city directories and census returns I am wary of the fact that a lot can happen in the span of 150 years.  I am especially aware that street name changes are not uncommon and the street name I see in 1880 may not be the same in 1920.  Even if the street name has not changed in a hundred years, however, don't make the same mistake I recently made and assume that the numbering of the houses on that street has stayed the same.  That's exactly what I did with my Marsch research in Baltimore.  In fact, I made two mistakes in my search for the Marsch household in 1880:
  1.  I assumed they lived at a certain house in 1880 because they lived there in an 1890 city directory.
  2.  I assumed there were no changes to the numbering of houses on that street.
Of course we all make assumptions when conducting genealogy research and this time my assumption was wrong.  Luckily I was able to correct my mistake (with the help of some very kind people on Ancestry's message boards).

After a quick search of the 1880 census at turned up nothing for my Marsch family in Baltimore, I decided to check the original pages myself to see if they were missed in the index.  I knew the family was living at 205 South Chapel Street (near Pratt Street) in 1890 so I assumed they lived at the same address in 1880.  I headed over to Steve Morse's excellent resource to narrow down the Enumeration District for the address where I assumed they lived.

I found South Chapel Street near Pratt in district 10 so I went back to Ancestry to take a look at all of the census pages for ED 10.  I eventually found the street, but the house numbers did not correspond to what I had expected.  Hmm.  I posted a query in the Baltimore message board at Ancestry to see if anyone had insight into what I was missing.  Several helpful people quickly replied and it turns out the house numbers changed in 1887.  One kind person even told me to look for house #54!  So, back to the images.  What did I discover?  There was no 54!  The even numbered side of the street seemed to start at 56.

So it's back to the drawing board as I search for my Marsch family in 1880.  I know the family arrived in Baltimore in August 1879.  I know they were living on South Chapel Street in 1890.  Where were they in 1880?  The mystery continues...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Don't Ignore's Card Catalog

If you use in your genealogy research you know how powerful, and often overwhelming, the search tool can be.  A simple search can often yield thousands of results spread across the various collections and sources.  In her latest post,  Dig into Ancestry's Card Catalog, Kimberly Powell has written a great primer on using Ancestry's card catalog in conjunction with the search tool to really boost your research.  Take a look at the article and then head over to to put the card catalog to work for you in your genealogy research.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Out of Town News in Local Papers

A big section of my brick wall is my Great Grandmother, Bertha C. Layton.  I knew she had remarried when my Great Grandfather died and moved to York County, Virginia.  I also knew she died in childbirth.  All of that information came from burial records for Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Baltimore (and family lore).  The one nagging problem was that I could not find her in York County.  There was a ten year span between her first husband’s death in Baltimore and her death in Grafton, Virginia.  So far I couldn't find marriage records, census records or death records.  The Mt. Carmel records told me she died in Grafton, York County and that her last name was now Rodgers, but I could not find any other confirmation.
I turned my attention back to Baltimore to see if there were more clues there.  Her mother and siblings remained in Baltimore so I decided to look in the papers there.  I went to the excellent Baltimore Sun archives and searched for Bertha Rodgers in 1904.  The cemetery information told me Bertha was buried in October 1904 so I looked for any articles from October and . . . BINGO!  There was a hit and for $3.95 I gained instant access to a PDF of the article:  

The article mentions her husband, “Captain Rodgers,” and the fact that she had an infant daughter that did not survive.  There was a lot of good information in this short blurb from out of town and it further confirmed information I had previously unearthed.

Thanks to looking at the problem a little differently there is now one less brick in my wall and a new lead to search -- the mysterious "Captain Rodgers"...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Poznan Project Updated

If you have ancestors from the province of Posen (Poznan) in Prussia this announcement is for you.  Lucasz Bielecki of the Poznan Marriage Indexing Project has announced that the project is expanding.  The original scope of the indexing project covered the years 1835-1884.  Now the project will cover the entire 19th Century.  100 years of marriage records from Posen, Prussia!

If you haven't already used this resource I highly recommend it.  Simply type in a surname and you will be presented with a list of all occurrences of that surname in the index.  The search may be a little slower than you are used to, but it is definitely worth the wait.  The best part of this project is that if you find a hit in the database and you make a donation, Lucasz will send a scan of the original record.

I have had great luck using this service and was able to find the marriage record of my Great-Great Grandparents, Johann Marsch and Emilie Rosner.  I gladly made a donation to the project and less than a week later this was waiting in my inbox:

If you have Prussian roots and know the family is from Posen I highly recommend this project.  And if you find it helpful, please consider supporting this excellent service.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Why start yet another genealogy blog?  What new information or advice could I offer people researching their family tree?

My goal in creating this blog is to share how I rediscovered and restarted my genealogy research and correct the mistakes I had made in the past decade of family history research.  I plan to not only highlight my own research, but also offer tips and advice that I have found particularly helpful over the years and, especially, in my renewed quest to fill in the gaps in my own family tree.

After a break of several years from any significant research, the simple act of trying a new piece of genealogy software gave my research new life.  I had been using Reunion for Mac as my program of choice.  I like Reunion quite a bit.  The interface is great and the information is presented in a clean, understandable way.  I also love the iPhone and iPad apps that sync with the Reunion database on my computer.  However, my database was in need of some TLC and it was just time for a change.  I should point out that even though Reunion is no longer the primary software I use (more on that below), I still keep my Reunion database up-to-date so I can use the iPhone and iPad apps.

My original research was scattered, incomplete and lacking in proper sources.  I had plenty of information and original documents.  That wasn't the problem.  My problem was that I had a huge pile of documents, notes and correspondence.  I tried to enter information as I found it, but I was not overly diligent and figured I would worry about the sources later "when I had time."  Of course, that was a big mistake.  I had information in my database and had no idea where it came from.  The task of fixing my database was overwhelming and I didn't even know where to start.

A few weeks ago I read an article on Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter about Family Tree Maker for Mac being available in the App Store.  ( EOGN is one of the few genealogy sites I visit on a regular basis.)  When I began my research over a decade ago I used Family Tree Maker for Windows and loved the program so I was very interested in this announcement.  I visited the App Store and read the description and reviews of Family Tree Maker.  I really liked the interface, how the program integrated with and, as a bonus, the software download came with a six-month subscription.  I was sold.  After a quick download and registration I was ready to import my database.  The export from Reunion and import into Family Tree Maker was simple and I was on my way in no time.

This time I was ready with a plan of attack.  I would start by just focusing on my own surname.  The Marsch line was my brick wall.  Since I had the least amount of information on this line, I figured it would be the best place to start.  I collected all of the documents and notes pertaining to my Marsch ancestors, and I planned to go document by document until I had entered all of the information (with sources!) for that line.  Little did I know that my brick wall was about to come crumbling down.

So, that's how I got here.  I hope you will come back to find out more about my research and what I have learned in the last 10+ years.  Oh, and if you have any Marsch ancestors from Baltimore or Prussia please don't hesitate to contact me.