Tuesday, November 29, 2011

23andMe Coupon

The genetic testing company 23andMe is conducting a survey of its subscribers.  Completion of the survey generates a coupon code for $10 off an order to use by December 31st.  I manage a few accounts and the coupon code WFEDKR has been the same for all of them, so I am sharing it here.  If the code is successful for more than one person, it would be great to know.

In another post I will discuss my experiences with 23andMe for your consideration in selecting a DNA testing company to assist you in your family history research.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Social Security Death Index

A great way of finding a date of death for someone in all states for recent times is the Social Security Death Index, which is available at Ancestry.com or Rootsweb.com (for free). Starting in 1937, certain employed people could participate in this federal retirement program. Based on certain conditions, some of these people made it into the Death Index. The point is that you will not find everyone in the Death Index. When you find someone in the Index, you will have a birthdate and a month and year of death, maybe even the day. You may also get one or two locations of death; one might be where the check was being sent; the other might be a residence.

Ancestry.com entry for the Social Security Death Index
James Earl Jones, 241-18-6528
Note the date of birth as 1921

If you find an entry for a person of interest in the Death Index, you can order the original application.  Ancestry will generate a letter for you.  The fee used to be $7. A few years ago, the fee jumped to $27. This is unfortunate, as the application contains great information, such as birthdate, place, and names of parents.

Note that the information in the Index lists the date of birth for James Earl Jones as 1921; but the original application has 1920 as the year of birth.  This is an interesting point and is why you need to order the original application.
Copy of the original application for a Social Security Number
James Earl Jones
Note that the year of birth he provided was 1920
Sometimes you may have a Social Security Number for someone who is deceased, but you cannot find the person or number in the Death Index.  For $29, you can request a search of the number.  I have tried this with a few people, but have not had success in locating a record with Social Security.

The death certificate of Nellie Duryea provides a Social Security Number.
The Number is not listed in the Death Index.
I requested a search of the Social Security Number listed on the death certificate for Nellie Duryea,
but the Social Security Administration reported not finding a record.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Visiting Home

As you research your ancestors, you will uncover more and more locations where they lived.  You will probably want to visit these locations.  Most of my ancestral lines lived fairly close to where I live now, so I have visited many homesteads.  The original structures are usually long gone, though.  Amazingly, a house where my family lived in Manhattan in the 1850s is still standing.

Stephen C. Duryea lived at 326 Spring Street in New York city in the early 1850s with his first wife, Mary, not to be confused with his second wife, also Mary.  Here is his listing in the city directory in 1851:

Doggett's New York City city directory, 1851
Back in Stephen's time, just as today, the building houses a bar, now called the Ear Inn.  The structure was built around 1817 and is now called the James Brown House and is on the National Register of Historic Buildings.  [Information not digitized at nps.gov as of this writing.]

This land used to be on the southern shore of the island and was part of a farm.  Isn't that hard to picture?  If you follow the links for the official sites of this building and the bar, you can view pictures of the inside of the living quarters as well as items found over the years.  I wonder if Stephen Duryea sat in front of the same fireplace 160 years ago, or if he used any of the bottles found in the attic.

If you wish to visit an old homestead, first try google maps to see if you can satisfy your curiosity from your couch.  If you decide to physically travel, keep in mind that house numbers and street names change over the years.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Upromise adds Ancestry.com

I was surprised this morning when I visited Ancestry.com and the Upromise banner appeared at the top of the page.

Upromise has added Ancestry.com to its stores.  Right now, purchases at Ancestry will earn you 20% back at Upromise plus an additional 11% (not the listed 1%) with the Upromise credit card.

Missing Marriage Returns

If you cannot find a marriage return filed with the State, this article from 1897 could explain why.  It seems that Father O'Connor of Hudson County, New Jersey, was remiss in completing and filing marriage returns for several years.  When prompted, he filed seven years of marriage returns.  If you come across one of these returns, you need to keep in mind that they may not have been made at the time of the event and some were made on behalf of other priests.

I am still searching in the Trenton Archives for a marriage from 1887 performed in Bayonne, Hudson County by Reverend Egan.  The marriage turns up in the index at familysearch.org.  (Remember to use any index as a guide for where to locate the actual record.)

This marriage record should contain names of parents, which would be wonderful, if I could locate the record.
St. Mary's Church is still active in Bayonne and has a record of this marriage.  They kindly sent me a transcription of their record.

Record of 1887 marriage of Patrick ODonnell to Delia Joyce in Bayonne.
Courtesy St. Mary Star of the Sea Church
The next important step is to locate the actual marriage return.  Marriages in New Jersey in 1887 are indexed by the name of the groom.  But there is no listing in the index for a marriage between Patrick ODonnell and Delia Joyce.

Index of Marriages in New Jersey
June 1, 1878 to December 31, 1900
Surname ODonnell
(No listing for Patrick ODonnell to Delia Joyce)

There are possible explanations for the marriage not appearing in the index:  it was misspelled, it was left out of the index, or the return was never filed with the State.  For now, the above church record is what I use for a source of the marriage date and place, but with a notation that the record cannot be located in the State's records.

You may ask, "Why does this matter?"  For this particular couple, we are dealing with some common surnames.  We would like to pluck this Patrick ODonnell out of the vast sea of ODonnells inhabiting Hudson County in the late 1800s.  This particular Patrick ODonnell was born in Ireland, but we know that he was in the United States by 1887 because he married in New Jersey.  This 1887 marriage record is actually the earliest definitive record that I have found on this man.  The 1880 United States Federal Census does not provide us with a good match for an Irish couple named Peter and Margaret ODonnell with a son named Patrick.  The 1890 census was destroyed.  In 1900, Patrick is living with his wife and children, but not his parents.  We need to link Patrick ODonnell to a set of parents, and the marriage return is a great way of doing this.  The luck of the Irish was with me when someone filled out Patrick's death certificate in 1931.  His parents are listed as Peter ODonnell and Margaret Gallagher, which bolsters the information supplied at familysearch.org.

We want to next establish the identity of the parents of the bride, Delia Joyce.  She died in Bayonne in 1929.  Her death certificate lists her father, but not her mother.

I previously wrote of the death of Delia Joyce's mother in 1870 in Pawling, Dutchess County, New York.  The record of this death is provided by the 1870 mortality schedule, a companion to the census.  In this record, Mary Joyce was killed by a train in 1870; she matches up to family 21 in the census, which is Patrick Joyce, age 40, with a bunch of small children, but no wife.

1870 morality schedule for Pawling, Dutchess County, New York
Viewed at Ancestry.com
While we can say with confidence that the father of Delia Joyce was Patrick Joyce, we need additional documentation to establish that her mother was Mary or Margaret and that her last name was Campbell.  We can use the name Campbell to help us perhaps find a marriage record for Delia's parents.  Having a copy of Delia's marriage return, rather than an online index entry, would lend more credence to a claim that Delia Joyce's mother was Ms. Campbell.  There are still other paths to try, such as marriage and death records for Delia's siblings.