Monday, December 19, 2011

Kings County, New York Wills 1866-1923 online

I continue to be amazed by the growing collection of original records over at Family Search.  Original and indexed probate records for wills are available for Kings County, New York, for the years 1866-1923.  You can't beat free and online original records, so if you have any lines with any connections to Brooklyn, you best run the names through the search.

Documents accompanying the will can include a date of death.  If you are unable to easily locate a death certificate, probate records are another source to try to uncover a date of death.  Remember that a date of death recorded on a death certificate is a primary source, while a date of death recorded in the estate file is secondary information at the most.

I used this resource in hopes of uncovering more information about a pair of siblings, Mary and George Hawkins, born in the late 1880s in Brooklyn.  Fortunately, all four of their grandparents have records in this collection.  Their maternal grandparents, Georgianna and Smith Nostrand, could be considered collateral lines, but I find such lines to be worth researching for at least a few generations.  Georgianna's records were most interesting.  We were provided with a date of death of 15 May 1917, which will greatly assist in locating a death certificate and obituary.  The witnesses to the will were what intrigued me.  Marguerite Stewart, formerly Hawkins, was one witness.  This provided a married name and made Marguerite easier to trace.  The other witness was Walter Phelps.  He was a cousin of Marguerite, but on the Hawkins side, not the Nostrand side.  So why did Walter bear witness?  We do not know.  He may have simply been available when Georgianna was creating her will.  Or his signature could indicate a deeper relationship among these families that has not yet been uncovered.  It is something to bear in mind as research continues on these lines.

Portion of estate papers of Georgianna Nostrand, 1917.

1900 federal census
Georgianna and Smith Nostrand with their daughter and her family
914 Greene Avenue, Brooklyn

Miniature family tree diagram illustrating relationship between testator, Georgianna Nostrand,
and witnesses, Walter Phelps and Marguerite Hawkins

Friday, December 16, 2011

DNA Sales Continue- which company will you choose?

Two major DNA testing companies, 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA, are having sales.  Their pricing is roughly the same for the first year.  The problem with 23andMe is that you need to continue to pay a monthly subscription fee of $9 for a Personal Genome Service, or you risk losing access to your results and new genetic matches.  This fee structure, which was not in place when I originally purchased my kits a year ago, is disappointing.  I have not used the services of FamilyTreeDNA, but will strongly consider using their website for any future DNA purchases.

In addition to the fee structure, I am disappointed in the genealogical offerings of 23andMe.  I have been fortunate enough to encounter several people who are serious researchers and are actively corresponding with me to find our common ancestors.  Unfortunately, most of my genetic matches do not correspond with me at all.  My father has over 600 genetic matches.  Eleven of these people have outright declined contact.  About 150 have accepted contact; few have researched their family trees and are unable to assist in identifying our link.  The other 450 remain silent and do not respond to my requests to share information.  The plentiful database of matches is meaningless if most matches are not interested in genealogy.  23andMe promotes both health analysis and genealogy, and some of its customers are more interested in one than the other.  This is understandable but frustrating when someone who is not interested in finding relatives is added to the pool of matches.  FamilyTreeDNA, as its name implies, has much more of a genealogical attraction.

23andMe sent its customers a link to save $23 on new DNA kits.  If you purchase through the 23andMe website directly, the savings is $10.  As a disclaimer, if you use the above link to purchase a kit to save $23, my account is credited with chances of winning a prize.

The pricing over at FamilyTreeDNA is a one-time $199 with no subscription.

Although the kit from 23andMe costs only $99, you must pay a $9 monthly charge for a year, bringing your total to $207 after one year.  If you stop paying $9 per month after a year, you may lose access to your results, making your new genetic cousins vanish.

In an upcoming post, I will detail my substantive experiences of using 23andMe for autosomal DNA testing.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

City Directories Online through Millburn Library

I previously wrote about researching in Millburn, Essex County, New Jersey.  I highlighted an interesting coincidence of similar names.  Someone took me up on my offer of further investigation, causing me to again visit the website of the Millburn Public Library.  I was most pleasantly surprised.  In addition to the local paper and other archival information, the city directories are online!  The earliest year is 1850.  The primary collection is 1889-1981.  I have not viewed every edition, but towns besides Millburn and Short Hills are included in the directories.  For example, 1918 included Irvington, Livingston, Millburn/Short Hills, and the Oranges [West, East, South, and Orange- no North Orange in Essex County for those of you who were wondering].  The search function picked up every word I tried.

City directories are an invaluable tool for researching families.  By analyzing names associated with an address, you can link individuals as part of a larger family.  Later years can include death dates, new spouses, and moving information.  Someone who may have worked in town may be included, even if he/she lived elsewhere.

1918 The Price & Lee Company City Directory
Oranges, Irvington, Livingston, and Millburn
Essex County, New Jersey
Online through the Millburn Public Library Archives