Saturday, December 31, 2011

Do You Know Bill Bateman from Chicago?

At the library where I work part-time, this photo was found in a donated book. No one knows who donated it. It has quite a bit of genealogical detail on the back, so I hope that a descendant of his sees this.

Here's the back of the picture:
The back says:
"William Harrison Bateman (Bill)
military academy, Chicago Ill
mother of Bill - Rosie Bateman
father of Bill a buyer
for Marshall Fields Chicago

Bill's sister - "Dick" Bateman
Gamma Phi Beta (Nat. Sorority
U. of Wisconsin -
married to Luke Goetzloff) spelling?

Bill served with General Patton
So. Africa
2nd World War

visited [?] & Jo Cucknells
in Charlottesvile [?] before leaving USA
for Africa

Following war employed by
Sherwin Williams Paint Co in

Unfortunately, there are no years on the back of the picture, but I hope there is enough detail that a relative will recognize him.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Many PA Birth and Death Certificates Will Become Open Records

After a long campaign spearheaded by People for Better Pennsylvania Historical Records Access, Vital Records Law Senate Bill 361 was signed into law on December 15, 2011 and will take effect on February 13, 2012. This means that Pennsylvania death certificates over 50 years old and birth certificates over 105 years old will become open records, and will then be transferred to the holdings of the Pennsylvania Archives. 

I am elated to hear that Pennsylvania has taken the first step to catch up to other states in terms of vital record access. As the completely redesigned PaHR-Access site points out, the next step is to ensure that these records will become searchable online through the Pennsylvania Archives website. I look forward to helping with this effort in any way that I can. 

PaHR-Access has listed several ways that researchers can help with the campaign to get these records online here.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Names, Places and Most Wanted Faces

I haven't been writing nearly as much as I'd like, so here's a good time to jump back in: Thomas MacEntee has suggested that bloggers revive the Names, Places and Most Wanted Faces blogging meme from Craig Manson of GeneaBlogie. Thomas explains how it works:
"To participate, do the following at your own blog and post a link back here in the comments:

1. List your surnames in alphabetical order as follows:

[SURNAME]: State/Province (county/subdivision), date range

2. At the end, list your Most Wanted Ancestor with details!"

So, here are mine:


ATTANUCCI: Campania, Italy (Pastorano, province of Caserta), 1840-1900

AZZOLINO: Campania, Italy (Pastorano, province of Caserta), 1840-1900

BOEHM: Hessen, Germany, 1786-1840; Pennsylvania (Allegheny County) 1840-present

BOYD: Pennsylvania (Allegheny County), 1800-1900

BRENTON/BRINTON: Pennsylvania (Washington County), 1740-present

BROCK: Ohio, 1820-1850; Pennsylvania (Washington County), 1850-1900; West Virginia (Marion County), 1895-present

DAVIES: Pennsylvania (Beaver County), 1919-present

DURKIN: Pennsylvania (Centralia, Columbia County), 1860-1940

ELLER: Pennsylvania (Beaver, Lawrence and Fayette counties), 1860-present

FERGUSON: Pennsylvania (Fayette and Westmoreland counties), 1880-1930

FRITSCHLE: Baden, Germany, 1785-1852;

FRITZLEY: Pennsylvania (Allegheny and Beaver counties), 1852-present

HAYES: Ireland, 1820-1870; Pennsylvania (Beaver County), 1870-present

KANE: Pennsylvania (Centralia, Columbia County), 1880-1971

MERALILLO: Campania, Italy (Pastorano, province of Caserta), 1830-1920

MUSCIANESE: Campania, Italy (Pastorano, province of Caserta), 1820-1921

OVERAND: Scotland (Lanarkshire), 1836-1863; Pennsylvania (Allegheny and Westmoreland counties), 1863-1940

SWIFT: Pennsylvania (Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties), 1820-1953

TEMPLIN: Pennsylvania (Allegheny County), 1905-present

WAGNER: Bavaria, Germany (Schedendorf), 1860-1923

WRIGHT: Pennsylvania (Washington County), 1840-1910

2. Most Wanted Ancestor:
b. abt. 1885 in Arkansas
m. abt. 1905 to William TEMPLIN
d. probably between 1920 and 1930
Lived in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Reader Poll - Genealogy Education

In an upcoming post, I am going to talk about major genealogy education providers. In particular, I'd like to compare and contrast aspects of each of them which may be important to prospective students, such as cost, degree or certificate received, available class topics, etc. 

In this vein, I'd like to ask for your help. It would be great to hear many different perspectives on this question: 

When choosing a genealogy education program, what factors are most important to you?

I would really appreciate any feedback that will help me make meaningful and helpful comparisons between programs. Please answer in the comments section here, on Facebook or Tweet me.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Good News for Pennsylvania and Virginia Researchers: Legislatures Reconsidering Restrictions on Vital Record Access

Betty Lou Malesky at Green Valley News reports that the legislatures of both Pennsylvania and Virginia are considering easing their restrictions on vital record access. I've written before about how difficult it is for researchers to obtain vital records in Pennsylvania, and discussed to efforts of People for Better Pennsylvania Historical Records Access (PaHR-Access) to allow researchers to obtain vital records in a reasonable manner, while keeping any privacy concerns in mind.

This is very exciting news for Pennsylvania and Virginia researchers. In Virginia, some would like to restrict access even further - closing birth records for 125 years and marriages and deaths for 75. Currently, they are closed for 100 and 50 years, respectively, and can only be accessed by immediate family members if that time period has not yet passed. The Virginia Genealogical Society has urged the Virginia Legislature to reconsider these restrictions, and according to the above article there are currently 8 proposed options for doing so. Although it is unfortunate to see that longer waiting periods have been proposed, this serious discussion about the needs of genealogical researchers does inspire hope. If you have an interest in Virginia research, you are urged to contact the Virginia Joint Commission on Health Care by October 6th. Please see Ms. Malesky's article above for details.

In Pennsylvania, Vital Records Bill SB-361 has been unanimously passed by the State Senate and will now go to the State House of Representatives for consideration. If this bill passes, death certificates over 50 years old and birth certificates over 105 years old would become open records, and would then be transferred to the Pennsylvania State Archives. Pennsylvania researchers interested in seeing this bill passed should contact the House Health Committee members as soon and as often as possible. Thanks to PaHR-Access for tracking the progress of this legislation, and posting a list of House Health Committee members to contact here.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

SNGF - My Matrilineal Line

I am trying to get back into posting regularly after a long absence, as life has been extra...interesting...lately. I am working on a few things at the moment, aside from client work. I'm currently doing research for an article about the Crawford Expedition, in which I'm fairly sure my ancestor was a prominent participant.

In the meantime, I thought I'd jump back in here with something fun. Randy at Genea-Musings posted this challenge:

"Hey genealogy buffs - it's Saturday Night again -- time for more Genealogy Fun!!
Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to:

1) List your matrilineal line - your mother, her mother, etc. back to the first identifiable mother. Note: this line is how your mitochondrial DNA was passed to you!

2) Tell us if you have had your mitochondrial DNA tested, and if so, which Haplogroup you are in.

3) Post your responses on your own blog post, in Comments to this blog post, or in a Status line on Facebook or in your Stream at Google Plus.

4) If you have done this before, please do your father's matrilineal line, or your grandfather's matrilineal line, or your spouse's matrilineal line.

5) Does this list spur you to find distant cousins that might share one of your matrilineal lines?"

Here's my matrilineal line:

a) My mother, Laura, whose maiden name was Fritzley.
b) Helen Ada Brenton (1924 Brownsville, PA - 2008 Pittsburgh, PA), married William Fritzley.
c) Gertrude Ada Swift (1903 Scottsdale, PA - 1953 Brownsville, PA), married Everett Brenton.
d) Delilah Ferguson (1872 Mount Pleasant, PA - 1936 Mount Pleasant), married Robert Swift.
These next two generations are unverified; many online family trees have them, but I haven't found anything to support them yet other than a few census records.
e) Catherine Pletcher (1832 Westmoreland County, PA - 1895 Bullskin, PA), married George W. Ferguson.
f) Phoebe Nichols (1802 Liberty, PA - 1872 Ruffsdale, PA), married David Pletcher.

I intend on having my mitochondrial DNA tested as soon as I can save up for it, and I'm very much looking forward to the results.

This line is one that I don't have much information about past my great-great grandmother, Delilah (Ferguson) Swift. I know there must be many, many distant cousins out there, and I hope to find more of them soon!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sorting Out Contradictions in Member Trees

There's been a delay in posting the next generation in my Brenton family study, because I've run into some problems. My last post was about Isaac and Jane Brenton. I have Isaac's parents as Joseph Brenton and Louisa Hair. On, there are at least 10 public member trees that include Joseph and Louisa. All of them contain conflicting information. I'm currently going through all of them and sorting out the conflicts.

I'm having some trouble figuring out how to handle this via the blogosphere. What should I post regarding public member trees on Ancestry?

The bottom line is that I will have to spend some more time writing this report, since there are many conflicts to resolve. I will also be contacting the owners of the trees once I do that, so that we can (hopefully) work together to figure out the facts regarding our common ancestors.

Friday, August 5, 2011

MyHeritage Family Goals and the FamilyConnect App for iPhone and Android

I recently noticed that MyHeritage has a new app for iPhone and Android called FamilyConnect. It is free to download from the App Store or Android Market. You need a log-in to use it, since it connects to your family tree there. The MyHeritage site is also free to use, although to store trees with more than 250 people and/or use more than 250MB of data, someone in the family needs to sponsor a paid subscription. If you set a Family Goal, which I'll talk about it in a bit, your family can share the cost of the site.

After you log-in to the FamilyConnect app with your MyHeritage log-in and select your family site from the list (if you belong to more than one site), it loads the most recent photos uploaded to your family website. From there, there is an option to save a photo you've selected to your phone, or share the photo via email with other family members on the website. I was actually glad to see that you can't share the photo on Facebook or Twitter, since my site is private and membership is by invitation-only. You can also take a photo to share on the family site or share one from your phone. The apps settings include the ability to limit who appears on the apps email contact list by how closely they are related to you.

This seems like a great start for keeping connected with your family through MyHeritage on-the-go. The app is very user-friendly, has a friendly, simple look, and ran quickly on my Motorola Droid running Android 2.2.2.

However, it would be great to see some more options, such as:
  • Viewing at least a few generations of your family tree on your mobile phone.
  • Being able to see the latest family newsletter from your phone through the app.
  • An option to use the MyHeritage message feature.
  • The ability to share videos as well as photos. 
  • An "invite family members" button.
Generally, it would be nice to see a "light" version of the site on the app, similar to a Facebook or Twitter app. Obviously, that kind of thing requires a great deal of development, so I look forward to seeing updates to the app as they are released. 

Another new feature on is the Family Goal. The option to set one up is on the left hand site of the home page once you log in. If you are already paying for a subscription on a monthly basis (as I was), you will have to cancel the plan in order to set up a Family Goal. I chose a PremiumPlus subscription at (unlimited data) $119.40 per year  as this is the only option that could fit all of the data on my site.

I was glad to see that the invitation to donate to the Family Goal was customizable, as I was already uncomfortable asking for money (however, the cost of the site had become difficult to pay on my own), and I didn't want my family members to receive a generic email.

The Family Goal ran for two weeks, and I'm happy to say that my family met the goal, so our site is paid for until next year. Thanks to everyone who donated, I really appreciate it! I do wish the Family Goal could have run for longer than that, to give me a chance to get in touch with more family members. Overall, I was very happy with it, and having the site up for another year is a big relief.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

One-Line Study - Isaac Brenton

On Saint Patrick's Day, I wrote about my great-great-great grandparents, Isaac and Jane (Johnston) Brenton. That post covered my Irish roots via Jane. Today, I'm going to continue with my one-line study with Isaac Brenton (father of Johnston P. Brenton).

Isaac was born about 1830 in East Pike Run, Washington County, Pennsylvania1-5. He worked on the family farm there when he was young, along with a few of his siblings3-4. I am not sure when he married Jane. I do have a general idea - their first child (that I know of) was born in 18596, so they were probably married before that. Jane would have been about 20 in 18597, so most likely only a few years before that at most. Knowing when Jane immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland would help to narrow the date further, but I am having trouble finding those immigration records due to Jane's common name.

So far, I know of nine children that Isaac and Jane had together. The 1910 Federal census indicates that Jane had 9 children, and that 7 of them were still living at that time8. As I indicated in the last post, two of their children (J.P. and William) opened a very successful butcher shop together in West Brownsville, Washington, PA5. Three of their children (J.P., Henry and Mary Louise) married, settled nearby, and had children. James, William, Emily and Elizabeth never married9-11. They lived together and helped support each other in West Brownsville area, not far from their brother J.P. and his wife Lena.5

Isaac, along with his brothers, were enumerated on a Civil War draft in 18634, but I have not found any service records for any one of them, so I cannot tell whether any of them served. There was a space of a few years (from 1861 to 1865) where Isaac and Jane did not have any children, as far as I know. This may mean that he did serve in the war. I will continue to search for evidence of what he did during those years.

The last census on which I've found Isaac is the 1870 Federal Census1. According to an undated, unsourced list of deaths in a 1904 directory of West Brownsville, Isaac died 11 Jul 187712. I haven't been able to find solid evidence to back this up, however.

I do know that Jane was enumerated on the 1880 Federal Census, living with her unmarried children in East Pike Run (perhaps on the family property there)9. She also lived with them in West Brownsville, according to the 190010 and 19108 Federal Censuses. In 1910, that household lived a few houses away from Isaac and Jane's daughter Mary Louise and her husband David Watkins8. Jane died on 24 Mar 1918 in West Brownsville, and was buried in Bridgeport Cemetery in Brownsville, Fayette County, PA7.

I hope to find some other death records soon to verify Isaac's death date, as well as some property or tax records to tell me a little more about Isaac. A search for his will came up empty. The best source I have for the details of Isaac's life is a few sentences from Joseph McFarland's 20th Century History of the City of Washington and Washington County, Pennsylvania and Representative Citizens5:
Isaac Brenton, also a native of East Pike Run Township, was born on the farm on which his father, Joseph Brenton, a native of Virginia, settled at an early period. He married Jane Johnston, who was born in Ireland, and came to this country during her girlhood days, with her parents, Thomas Johnston and wife...
This is a good start, but all of the statements need to be further verified. Also, the account is a little suspect (expected for secondary information like this), since part of it is not correct; that is that Joseph Brenton, Isaac's father, was a native of Virginia. I am confident that Joseph Brenton was not from Virginia. His wife was most likely from Virginia, and that is probably where the mix-up occurred. The Brenton family, generations before, did briefly live in Virginia, but they had always lived in the same area. There was a heated border dispute between Pennsylvania and Virginia, so that many people in what is now Western Pennsylvania were not sure exactly whether they lived in Pennsylvania or Virginia at a given time. This has made land record research for that time especially fun (i.e. complicated). I will detail this further with the information I have gathered about Isaac's parents (and grandparents) in the next few posts.

(Sources below the cut).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Nearly Wordless Wednesday - Gertrude and Minnie Eller and Joe Davies

Gertrude "Gert" (Eller) Davies and her sister Mary Ann "Minnie" Eller, walking Gert's son Joe Davies into the ocean (or trying to). Very cute family moment. Gert and Minnie's sister Myrtle ("Mert") did her best to duck out of frame. Oops.

There is nothing about this picture I do not love.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

One-Line Study - Johnston Playford Brenton

Last week's post continued my one-line study of my Brenton ancestors with my great-grandfather, Everett Mansell Brenton. I'm going to write summaries of my progress so far in a "Brenton Study" page on the blog soon.

The next ancestor in my study is Johnston Playford Brenton, Everett's father and my great-great grandfather.

 J.P.'s headstone in Taylor Cemetery, Brownsville, Fayette, PA. Courtesy of Joseph Howard Matthews.

Johnston (J.P.) was born in Pennsylvania on 28 Feb 1859 to Isaac Brenton and Jane K. Johnston (Brenton)1-3. He was their oldest child (as far as I know) and it seems that his parents gave him his mother's maiden name as his given name4 - a bit unusual, as it was more traditional to give a child his/her mother's maiden name as a middle name.

He resided in Washington County for his most of his lifetime. His father owned a farm in East Pike Run township, and he worked as a farmhand there in his youth5. On 1 Oct 1896, he married Lena Wright, also of Washington County (West Brownsville)6. This marriage was the focus of the post "Did J.P. and Lena Elope?" as I (still) don't know why they married in Marion County, West Virginia when they had no known connections there (and they were both over 21 at the time of their marriage). They had 7 children together, as mentioned in the last post: Everett, Bessie, Mary Virginia, Sara, one child still living, and two children who died very young (Emery and Robert).

For a few years in the early 1900s, J.P. and his brothers owned Brenton Brothers Meat Market in West Brownsville7-11, where he and Lena moved after they married. Unfortunately, it seems from "street view" on Google Maps that the market is no longer there.

Around 1919, Lena became ill with tuberculosis, and she and J.P. (along with 3 of their daughters) moved to Los Angeles to seek treatment12-14. While in Los Angeles, J.P. (around 60 years old then) worked as a laborer in a tire plant. Lena succumbed to her illness in 1924, at age 5515.

J.P. himself became ill around 192616, and moved back to Washington County around the same time. He  moved in with his daughter Bessie and her husband Addison Wise in North Bethlehem17. On 7 Apr 1931, J.P. died at age 7218 and was buried in the family plot in Taylor Cemetery (pictured above).

Next week, J.P.'s father Isaac...

(Sources below).

Saturday, July 9, 2011

One-Line Study - Everett Mansell Brenton

First, a little background: in a previous post, I discussed studying the Brenton line of my family in preparation for my BCG portfolio (a study focusing on my direct ancestry). The beginning of that that study was my grandmother, Helen (Brenton) Fritzley, who was born 28 Mar 1924 to Everett Brenton and Gertrude (Swift) Brenton in Brownsville, Fayette County, Pennsylvania. She was the focus of the post linked above.

This post goes forward in the study with the next ancestor in the Brenton line: Everett Mansell Brenton, my great-grandfather.

Everett's headstone in Taylor Cemetery, Brownsville, Fayette, PA. Courtesy of Joseph Howard Matthews.

Everett Brenton was born 18 Apr 1898 in West Brownsville, Washington County, PA.1-5 His parents were Johnston Brenton and Lena (Wright) Brenton.1-5 He went to school with some of his siblings in Bentleyville, a nearby town.6 His World War I draft card describes him as being tall with a medium build, brown hair and blue eyes.4 For most of his life, he was a brakeman on the railroad, like many men in the West Brownsville area.4,5,7 In fact, the town of West Brownsville has train tracks running down Main Street.8

Everett had four sisters: Bessie Irene2,3,5, Mary Virginia3, Sarah Jane3,5, and a sister who is still living. He had two brothers who died very young: Emery and Robert Clayton, who are also buried in Taylor Cemetery.

When Everett was 22, he eloped on 11 Sep 1920 with 17-year-old Gertrude Ada Swift to Cumberland, Maryland9, where (it so happens) minors did not need parental consent to marry. Gertrude's parents were well-regarded in the Brownsville community (connected by bridge to West Brownsville). It seems Gertrude was unable to get their consent to marry Everett.9

Remember kids, listen to your parents.

Everett and Gertrude's marriage did not end well - I will spare the details, as some of Everett's close family is still living. They separated in 1932, and their divorce was finalized in 1934. They had 5 children, who Gertrude supported after the divorce with the help of her mother, Delilah Swift.9

As far as I know, Everett never remarried. He continued to work on the railroad, as a brakeman and later a conductor9-12. He remained in the Brownsville area until his death in 1965, at the age of 66.12 He was buried in the same cemetery as his father and siblings.

(Sources below).

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Difficulty of Obtaining Vital Records in Pennsylvania

For various reasons, obtaining a birth or death certificate from the Pennsylvania Division of Vital Records is a long process. The purpose of this post is not to disparage those who work there or the office itself. All birth and death records from 1906 to the present are only kept here, so they must deal with an extremely large number of requests.

I am wondering how long it usually takes those of you in other states to obtain a birth or death record, and about the complexity of the process for doing so.

Here is how it is done in Pennsylvania:

As far as I can see, the only option for obtaining birth or death records from 1906 or later is to submit a mail request to the Division of Vital Records. The website above states that you should receive the record (if present) within 12-14 weeks after they process your payment. In my experience, it usually takes longer. For example, I just received some death certificates in the mail a few days ago. I sent out requests for them in late February, with the payment being processed in early March.

There are options for submitting an online request, but according to their website, this service is not available for certificates needed for genealogical research.

It is also possible to go to the nearest Vital Records office and submit a walk-in request; however, same-day processing is not available for genealogy requests. This is the only exclusion listed. So, I assume that means that you drop off the form there, and it is mailed to you at a later time. The website does not specify how long this typically takes. Also, some offices can only forward the request on to the New Castle office for most records (like the Pittsburgh office, which only holds records for Pittsburgh deaths from 2001 to the present).

Also, in order to make a request a copy of a birth certificate, you must fall under one of the following categories (from the website):
Person named on the birth certificate, who is 18 years of age or older (if under 18, immediate family member must apply)
  • Legal representative
  • Husband / wife
  • Parent / step-parent*
  • Brother / sister / half-brother / half-sister
  • Son / daughter / stepson* / stepdaughter*
  • Grandparent / great grandparent (specify maternal or paternal)
  • Grandchild / great grandchild
  • Power of Attorney (for person named on birth certificate or immediate family member listed above)
*A step-parent or step-child is required to submit parents' marriage record supporting their relationship.

Also from the site, to request a death certificate, you must be a(n):
  • Legal representative of decedent's estate
  • Immediate family member
  • Extended family member who indicates a direct relationship to the decedent
  • Power of Attorney  (Please note that a Power of Attorney document is no longer valid upon the death of the individual)
You must know the date of birth or death in order for your request to be processed. This can be difficult, as obtaining that date is often the reason for making the request in the first place. If you don't know the date, you can request a multi-year search within a span of 2-10 years for $34, and pay $25 more for each additional span of 2-10 years (so, if I know my ancestor died between 1910 and 1930, a multi-year search would cost me $59).

A copy of photo identification is required with either request. Notice there are no allowances here for professional researchers, so a researcher cannot request a certificate on behalf of a client.

Please see the link in the first paragraph for additional requirements.

To me, this does not seem like an efficient process, and does not encourage an exchange of genealogical information. I can understand privacy concerns for records of a relatively "young" age, but what concerns could there be for a person who died in 1906?

I assume that the reason that genealogical requests are excluded from online ordering is that they are of a lower priority, understandably, than many others - like requests made in order to settle an estate. However, I'm not sure why this means that online ordering is altogether unavailable. Couldn't your genealogy request just be put further down in the "queue"?

For these reasons, I am again asking that those of you with an interest in Pennsylvania records review this petition from People for Better Pennsylvania Historical Records.

Hopefully, with the recent general increase in interest in genealogy, more people will become interested in reforming this process.

I'm also interested in what researchers in other states have to say about this. Is the process for obtaining state vital records easier, harder or about the same in your state?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Heartwarming Reunion Made Possible by Kids' Research

This article in the Chicago Sun-Times tells the story of Edith Westerfeld and Gerda Katz, who became friends as little girls as they were fleeing Germany to escape the Nazis (they were 12 and 10, respectively). Then, they never saw each other again. Until now, 70 years later. Edith's daughter came to speak about her mother's experience, to a class of eight-graders at Madison Junior High School in Naperville, IL. From the article:

After Chapman visited the school and talked to them earlier this year, they knew they  wanted to help find Katz.
“Different people looked her up in different search engines,” said Mishal Sherwani, 14. “We found a little community newspaper item about her and her husband’s anniversary.”[...]
Finding Katz didn’t prove all that difficult for the social network-savvy teens.
“I love how the kids didn’t believe they couldn’t find her,” said Susan Rice, communications director for District 203. “They just didn’t think that was possible.”
It is wonderful to see kids so excited about research. I hope to see many more stories of kids taking an interest in genealogical research. They have grown up with technology, and if they become interested in genealogy early, then they will be able to use this technology to find their roots (and find lost friends and relatives) in ways that we probably can't imagine yet.      

Read the full story by Susan Frick Carlman of the Chicago Sun-Times here.                       

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What was "Of Interest to Women" 100 Years Ago

It's become obvious to me that I would love to specialize in finding records for female ancestors. And if I ever get to conduct that research out of an actual office, these are the kind of newspaper articles that will be framed on my walls.

I have been using Google News Archive to do some client research, and in that search I found that the Pittsburgh Press (along with many other papers I'm sure) ran a regular column called "Of Interest to  Women." Out of curiosity, I decided to see what exactly that meant 100 years ago. Here's what I found.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

March and April 2011 Classes - National Institute for Genealogical Studies

Last month, I finished up the Analysis and Skills Mentoring Program, Part 1 at the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. This class afforded a chance to get personal instruction from several instructors. The class began with a short series of assignments designed to assess your genealogical analysis and problem solving skills after taking the beginning level classes. You are asked to analyze hypothetical situations and form a simple research plan based on that data.

The class includes two individual and at least one group consultation. Any registered student can attend almost any group chat session at any time - this class requires that you attend at least one.

I felt very reassured by my two individual sessions with instructors. The purpose of both is to gauge your genealogy knowledge and experience to this point, and address any major concerns you have after taking the beginner's level genealogy classes. Both instructors thought that I was doing very well, and made helpful suggestions about certification and research in general. It was good to speak with people who could serve as mentors about my progress, as I do most of my work online and haven't taken many opportunities to interact with other researchers yet.

Speaking of which, the group chat session was also helpful. Unfortunately, it was a little difficult to communicate with each other, as only one person besides the instructor had a working microphone (I had to type questions, as I have not figured out how to get this mic to work right on this computer). There were not many people there, as it is difficult to coordinate many people in different time zones coming to a session at the same time.

I was able to chat quite a bit with fellow blogger Julie Cahill Tarr ( It was great to speak to her also, because we share a lot of the same concerns about certification and training. Good luck, Julie!

I'm also taking:

-Methodology Part 3
-US: Religious Records - Part 2
-US: Vital Records, Understanding & Using The Records

More on those to come. Right now, I have some very important hockey to be watching.

Monday, April 18, 2011

New Ways to Follow

Just a short update with some new features. I have created a new Twitter and Facebook page for my genealogy updates, and also updated my personal website. All of these are linked at the side of this page and here.

Follow me:
- On Twitter: @geneapprentice
- On Facebook: Geneaprentice Facebook Page
- On my website for current and potential clients:


Sunday, April 17, 2011

One Lovely Blog Award

I have received the "One Lovely Blog Award" from Donna at Hanging from the Family Tree. Thanks so much! I am sorry I took so long to respond.

Here are the rules for this award, from Donna's blog:
   "Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who granted the award and their blog link.

   Pass the award on to 15 other blogs that you've newly discovered.

   Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for the award."

Here are the blogs I have chosen:
  1. Angela McGhie, Adventures in Genealogy Education

  2. Tracy Collins, The Family History Researcher

  3. Tami Osmer Glatz, Finding Family Stories

  4. Mary Staub, I'm Related to Whom?!
  5. Joleen Aitchison, Genealogy Your Way

  6. Ancestral Journeys

  7. Danielle, Pid Was Her Name

  8. Resting In Pennsylvania

  9. Sheryl Lazarus, A Hundred Years Ago

  10. Christine, Genealogy Tours of Scotland

  11. Jeri, Lost in the Family Tree

  12. Banai, The Ginger Jewish Genealogist

  13. Deanna Martin-Osuagwu, Totally Related

  14. Jacqueline, My Journey Back

  15. Suzie Grogan, No More Wriggling Out of Writing Woman...
Thanks for reading, everyone!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sláinte agus táinte this Saint Patrick's Day!

Since it's Saint Patrick's Day, I thought I'd take a side-step from the Brenton line to talk about some of my Irish relatives.

Only a small step, since my great-great-great grandfather, Isaac Brenton, married Jane K Johnston, an Irish woman. Jane was born around September 1839 in Ireland (according to the 1900 census), probably Northern Ireland. I don't know exactly when she immigrated, nor when she married Isaac, but I do know that she gave birth to her first child (that I know of), my great-great grandfather, Johnston Playford Brenton, on 28 Feb 1859, in East Pike Run, Washington County, Pennsylvania (according to his obituary). Isaac and Jane had seven children besides Johnston. On the 1870 census, a Thomas Johnston lived with Isaac and Jane. He is probably Jane's father, since he was 73 years old on that census, and Jane named her first son Johnston. Isaac does not appear with the family on the 1880 census, so I think that he died between 1870 and 1880. Jane would live in Washington County with her family until sometime between 1910 and 1920. She does not appear on the 1920 census; I am presuming for now that she died sometime in between those censuses.

Unfortunately, though, most of my information on Jane comes from census records. Since she and her father had such a common surname, I will have to use some different strategies to find more information than "the Johnston family from Northern Ireland." Since Jane was born around 1839, and immigrated before 1859, it seems possible that she and her father were affected by the Great Famine; but, I'll still have gather some more details on the two before a search of those records would be effective. I'm tempted to go off and do that now; but one line at a time! Hopefully gathering more information on Isaac and their children will tell more of Jane Johnston's story.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Beginning of My One-Line Study - Helen Ada (Brenton) Fritzley

So, as I prepare my portfolio for BCG, I am also using this as an opportunity to apply for membership in the Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society's First Families of Western Pennsylvania. In order to be included, you must prove that your ancestors lived in "what is now Western Pennsylvania (the 26 counties west of Centre County) before 31 Dec 1810." Most of my ancestors in the Brenton line lived in Washington and Fayette counties, and it seems from my initial research that they have lived there since well before 1810.

But let's start at the beginning of my study. My name is Sarah Danielle Boehm, and I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. So was my mother, Laura (Fritzley) Boehm. Her parents were William Frederic Joseph (Bill) Fritzley and Helen Ada (Brenton) Fritzley. Helen was a remarkable woman. She had 6 children with Bill, the oldest and the youngest (my mom) 17 years apart. They survived well on a policeman's salary, occasionally supplemented by Helen through several different jobs. Here's my grandmother, my mother, and me at a New Year's Eve party:

Gramma Fritzley, as I called Helen, was the most selfless, understanding and generous person I've ever met. She was truly our matriarch. Her chief concern was always the happiness of her children and grandchildren. No one could host a family gathering like my gramma. She rarely had a bad thing to say about anyone, and I've never met anyone with a negative thing to say about her. She died in 2008, at the age of 83. Our entire family, and her wide circle of friends, were devastated.

What makes her even more remarkable is that she had a very difficult upbringing. Her parents were Gertrude Ada (Swift) Brenton and Everett Mansell Brenton. Besides Helen, they had two daughters and two sons, only one of whom is still living. The family lived in Brownsville, Fayette County, Pennsylvania. They were very poor, even before Everett left the family in 1932, in the depths of the Great Depression, when Helen was 8. Her parents' divorce was granted in 1934. How Gertrude managed to raise 5 children by herself at this time is a mystery to me, but I do know I admire her greatly for it. Gertrude went on to remarry and have two more daughters. Gertrude died, only 50 years old, in 1953.

Helen met Bill when he came home to Pittsburgh after serving in the Army in World War II. He showed up at my grandma's apartment, intending to ask out one of her friends, but Helen informed him that she wasn't there. Bill decided to ask my beautiful grandmother out instead. Here they are on their first date (the couple on the left):

They married in 1946 and settled in Pittsburgh. They were married for 52 years, until Bill passed away in 1998. I miss them both every day.

Next: The story of Everett Mansell Brenton...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Did J.P. and Lena Elope?

I am preparing a one-line study of my Brenton ancestors, to prepare for my BCG certification. I am confident that my great-grandfather was Everett Brenton, through the personal statements of my grandmother, Helen (Brenton) Fritzley, as well as other secondary evidence, which I will detail as I go further into this study.

Recently, I was searching for marriage records for my great-great-grandparents, Johnston Playford "J.P" Brenton and Lena Leotta Wright. They were Everett's parents. Johnston is (I believe) an interesting example of a child receiving his mother's maiden name as his first name, although he is sometimes referred to in census records, etc. as Johnson. Through FamilySearch, I found that the West Virginia Division of Culture and History had Johnston and Lena's marriage record, in the West Virginia Archives and History's Vital Records database. They were married 1 Oct 1896, in Marion County, West Virginia.

This raises some interesting questions in my research. Both J.P. and Lena were born and raised in Washington County, Pennsylvania. Their parents (as far as I can tell) lived in Pennsylvania for all or most their lives. Why would two people get married in West Virginia when they had no connections there? Did they elope? What other reasons could there be?

Monday, January 24, 2011 Closes Expert Connect Service

The blog announced today that it will be shutting down its Expert Connect Service. As of February 3, 2011, members will not be able to post new projects, meaning bidding and awards will be discontinued that day as well.

The service will be shut down completely on March 18, 2011 - just two years after Ancestry opened Expert Connect for business. Experts can continue to work on existing projects until March 13th, with final payouts on March 18th.

Experts will need to use the message board before March 13th to speak with clients and arrange to work on their projects, and accept payments, off of for any projects that will continue beyond that date.

Any questions or comments can be sent to:

There is no explanation of why the service is shutting down, other than: "Though this service has been a positive experience, has decided to focus on other business priorities."

This seems to be a very abrupt move, and I along with other experts will have to scramble to wrap up some projects and make other arrangements. I have commented on the post and contacted Ancestry to see if they can give any further explanation for the closing of Expert Connect.

EDIT: Paula Stuart-Warren makes an excellent point about the need to make clients (and potential clients) aware of all of the places where they can find professional genealogists, as Expert Connect prepares to close. Read her post here.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

My top goals for 2011:

1. Post on this blog more often!

2. Complete a well-researched one-line study of my family for my portfolio.

3. Finish the Intermediate and Advanced-level classes for my American Records certificate at NIGS, with a B or better in each. 

4. Become well-prepared for my BCG certification.

5. Begin to establish myself as a small genealogy business.

Not lofty at all, huh?