Monday, April 20, 2015

Extra! Extra! Read All About ... Your Family

When you think of using newspapers for genealogy research, be honest, what do you think of first? Obituaries! In general, most people automatically think of obituaries, too. However, newspapers are a resource that can be used for much more. They are a useful tool for finding your ancestor’s unique story, as well as for building an understanding of the historical events that may have shaped your ancestor’s life. For example, if your ancestor wrote or talked about an historical event, finding contemporary documentation can add more depth to your family narrative. If great Aunt Susannah mentioned the horrible flooding in Denver, Colorado, in July 1912, checking the local or national newspapers might reveal more details than Aunt Susannah was saying.

Some of the many reasons why ancestors can be found in newspapers:
Birth announcements
School reports, graduation announcements, scholarships awarded
Marriage and engagement announcements
Divorce decrees
Land sales and purchases
Political associations or careers
Criminal activities, legal disputes
Military pensions granted
Invention patents recorded
Social activities
Charitable work
Church activities
Musical or theatrical performances
Notice of movement, such as a visit to a faraway relative, relocation to a new city, a vacation or business trip
Accidents or Illnesses
Special anniversaries or birthdays
Business advertisements
Medical advertisements with testimonials
Funeral notices
Estate sales

Newspapers are great resources, but sometimes they are difficult to find. The Library of Congress has a great resource for locating newspapers, as well as their own digital collection of newspapers at Chronicling America.  The website also includes the index “U.S. Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present.” This is a comprehensive database with over 150,000 titles from all 50 states. Information on each newspaper ranges from when and where the paper was published to which repositories contain copies of the paper today. 

There are several resources for digital newspapers online though the vast majorities remain in local archives. By starting with the U.S. Newspaper Directory, you can determine whether or not a local paper existed in the area where your ancestor lived, and then, you can find the repository that houses the newspaper. Some repositories have staff members that are able to help locate specific articles. Many have limited manpower and time restraints, and do not have hours to spend searching through reels of microfilm. 

This is where a member from the team can help. With access to repositories around the country (and the world), they can access historical newspapers and take the time to locate those news worthy items that highlighted your ancestors’ lives.

Article by Deborah Sweeney, the Genealogy Lady 

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  © 2015,, All rights reserved

Monday, April 13, 2015

These Famous Kin of Thomas Jefferson Will Surprise You

From Prince William to Paris Hilton — Yes, We Are All Related!

Thomas Jefferson. To Americans, the name itself rings of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And to this day, the third President of the United States is considered one of the truest, most steadfast patriots to have ever lived; a man who helped free the American colonies from British rule by helping to establish the Declaration of Independence. 
Thomas Jefferson's Famous KinDownload or share this fun graphic ——> HERE
In addition to being the principal writer of one of the most treasured documents ever known, this Founding Father of the United States also played a hand in the creation of some other widely adored and influential United States Presidents — and even some famous celebrities.
This infographic highlights a number of Jefferson’s famous kin who undoubtedly share his good genes. Download the full version and see for yourself!

Former U.S. Presidential Kin to Thomas Jefferson

Famous Movie Stars Related to Thomas Jefferson

  • Brilliant actors and actresses of days past such as Humphrey BogartKatharine Hepburn and crooner, Bing Crosby, share Thomas Jefferson’s genes.
  • Western film hero, Randolph Scott is Thomas Jefferson’s 11th cousin, five times removed.
  • The most “bewitching” actress of them all, Elizabeth Montgomery, is his 11th cousin, seven times removed.
  • Even the late, great Superman, Christopher Reeve, shares a family bond with the third President of the United States.
  • Diamonds (and Presidents) are truly a girl’s best friend to Marilyn Monroe (Jefferson’s 14th cousin, six times removed).
  • One of the most notable A-list celebrities and movie stars of our time, Jennifer Lawrence (1st cousin, seven times removed), is also related to the third U.S. President.
  • And yes, even Hollywood socialite Paris Hilton (11th cousin, five times removed) shares the blood of one of the most influential Presidents to have ever taken office.

 More Famous Kin of Thomas Jefferson

See the full list of famous kin below… Are there famous people whom you’ve been shocked to discover are related to you? Let us know!
Thomas Jefferson's Famous Kin - Full List

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Friday, April 10, 2015

Flower Symbols and Their Meanings on Gravestones

Photo Credit: A Grave Interest
Symbols have been a silent language used on tombstones for centuries. But, it was not until the mid-1800s that this secret code caught on with the ‘common folk’ who could afford to decorate their graves with statues and carvings.

 The Victorians were known for their love of ornate designs and this carried on to their gravestones. Stone carvers of the period created works of art. Rural cemeteries became the poor person’s art gallery, offering carvings, statues, and buildings of spectacular craftsmanship.

The Victorians were enamored with flowers, which were known to have their own language.  Give a woman a red rose and that signified love, a yellow one meant friendship, and a white rose suggested a new beginning, or a fond farewell.

A Rose is a Rose …
Roses on a tombstone can have several meanings, depending on the number and if the rose is in bud or bloom. 

• The rose itself symbolizes love, hope and beauty.

 • Two roses joined together signifies a strong bond and is usually found on the grave of a couple.

• A wreath of roses represents beauty and virtue.

• A rose bud indicates the grave of a child.  A partial bloom was used to show someone who had died in his or her teen or early adult life – a life cut short.  And a full bloom signified someone in the prime of life.

• A broken blossom, whether a rose or any other flower, indicated that someone who died too young.

Consider the Lilies …
 Another flower that is abundant in the cemetery is the lily, which stands for innocence and purity.  There are several various types of lilies used on gravestones, each with a slightly different meaning.

• Most popular is the Easter lily, which represents resurrection and the innocence of the soul.

• Calla Lilies represent marriage and fidelity.
• Lily of the Valley signifies innocence, humility and renewal.

• The Fleur de Lis is actually a stylized lily representing the Holy Trinity.

• The Daffodil, also of the lily family, indicated grace, beauty and a deep regard.  This is why daffodils are abundant in older cemeteries during the spring.

A Flower By Any Other Name ...
Other flowers used on gravestones include:

• The daisy represents gentleness and innocence.

• The morning glory suggests mourning, mortality and farewell.

• Greenery is also used to convey unspoken thoughts.  Many stones are covered in Ivy to imply faithfulness, undying affection and eternal life.

• The fern was very popular in Victorian times, indicating sincerity and solitude.

• And the palm, another plant associated with Easter, signifying triumph over death and a forthcoming resurrection.

Wander any cemetery and you will discover a secret language communicated through symbols.  All it takes is the interest to learn what each generation wished to imply with this language, and the time to let them speak to you while offering interesting insights into someone’s life and time.

~ Joy
* All Photo Credits: A Grave Interest

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by Joy Neighbors © 2015,, All rights reserved

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Let Me Introduce you To ... Mary Tedesco of Genealogy Roadshow

Let me introduce you to ... Mary M. Tedesco. You may recognize Mary; not only is she a professional genealogist, speaker, and author, Mary is also a Host/Genealogist on the PBS TV series “Genealogy Roadshow” (season 2), as well as the Founder of ORIGINS ITALY. 

Mary speaks Italian and travels often to Italy to conduct client genealogical research and visit family. She is the co-author of “Tracing Your Italian Ancestors” an 84-page Italian research guide published by Moorshead Magazines. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from Boston University and a Certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University’s Center for Professional Education. 

In addition to her Italian ancestry (Calabria, Trentino-Alto Adige, and Tuscany) on her father’s side, Mary also has deep American roots (German, Irish, Danish & English) on her mother’s side, and is a proud member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Mary is a member of a number of local and national genealogical societies and serves on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Genealogical Council. 

Q & A With Mary Tedesco How many years have you been involved in genealogy?

Mary: I got started in genealogy about nine years ago, but my mother tells me I have been collecting family stories since I was a toddler! How did you get involved?

Mary: Growing up, I listened with intense curiosity to the stories my grandparents and other family members told about long-deceased ancestors from Italy. I wanted to know their names and how they were related to me and everyone else in the family. These were the greatest people I’d never be able to meet, and I wanted to know more about them.

In 2006, a coworker loaned me his login to a genealogy website to search for my grandparents’ passenger lists from Italy. I haven’t looked back since. At the time, there were few educational resources for how to get started with Italian genealogy, so I turned to my grandmother. She helped me compose my first letter to a civil records office in Rovereto, Italy to request her own birth record. We continued the letter writing together and obtained my grandfather’s birth record from San Pietro a Maida, Italy and my grandparents’ marriage record from Rome, Italy. Then we continued with the requests until we were back to my grandmother’s grandparents and my grandfather’s great-grandparents. At that point, the city halls told us we’d reached the beginning dates of the civil records, and we would need to contact the churches next for more information. That’s exactly what I did (and am still actively doing), of course. Since my family comes from three different parts of Italy (Calabria, Trentino-Alto Adige, and Tuscany) researching my own roots will keep me busy and Alitalia in business for many years to come! How has genealogy changed your life?

Mary: It’s a gift to be able to wake up each day and do something that I love. This passion inspired me to start a company called ORIGINS ITALY. We focus primarily on Italian and Italian-American genealogical research. As a Host on “Genealogy Roadshow” (PBS), I’m honored to share moving family stories with each of our guests on the show. It’s a pleasure to help show people how very cool it is to be a genealogist and to discover your past. Answering people’s deepest curiosities about their roots will never get old. What do you love about family history?

Mary: Every day as a genealogist is different. No two families are the same. Each of our ancestors has a unique and special story that deserves to be discovered and told. Going beyond names and dates, our ancestors lived during and through all the major historical events like wars, political upheavals, economic booms and busts, and all the other milestones that are studied in traditional history classes. Through family research, you can discover how seminal events of world history impacted the lives of our ancestors. It’s fascinating and endlessly intriguing. What’s your favorite part of the search process?

Mary: Conducting onsite research in Italy is by far the coolest part of my job. The nerd in me finds onsite research exhilarating. Setting out on a new client project with all the unknowns and challenges that Italy has to offer on the research front is never boring! At the onset of the trip you don’t know where the research is going or where exactly it will lead. On any given research trip some location specific challenges may include: records access issues, limited hours at essential archives, missing records (whether they were lost to time, in a natural disaster, etc). Has the client’s family been in the same Italian town for a thousand years or only half a generation? The good news for our clients is that we closely monitor and constantly refine our research approach in Italy. I draw upon a lot of the skills I learned from my background in mathematics and finance to make our research approach methodical, sound, and analytic. What is your least favorite part of the genealogy process?

Mary: There isn’t much I don’t like about genealogy. Citations weren’t always my favorite thing, but I’ve actually grown to love them. As a researcher, I want to give others – clients, other professionals, etc – the ability to examine my work and get back to the original source. In research, this is of the utmost importance. What do you believe is the most difficult part of family history research?

Mary: It’s sometimes very difficult to stop researching when the client-commissioned research has concluded. A lot of times, I wish I could just keep going deeper and deeper into every family’s past, discovering more and more about that family’s history, traditions and culture. I become akin to that family and I don’t want to stop learning all about them. But, alas, the business of genealogy requires that I survive and pay my bills, so I have to stop. Still, I wish I could do it for free. If you could sit and chat with one ancestor who would it be? And what would you ask them?

Mary: This question is fantastic! I’d want to chat with my fourth great grandparents, the parents of my third great grandmother Maddalena Mironi. I do not know what their names were, and may never know. Maddalena Mironi was abandoned at the Hospital of San Sebastiano in Siena, Italy on 19 October 1857. There is no anger or resent, but I would just like to know the circumstances surrounding the abandonment of this baby girl. Was it an out-of-wedlock birth or another more difficult circumstance? Regardless of the circumstances, I’d love to know what happened. What I do think is that they’d be proud of our family. Anything else you’d like to add?

Mary: In this world of care and concern, I find comfort in the past. Our ancestors managed to navigate both the tribulations and the joys of their times and brought their families forward to us, to this world. We learn from them, from their lives that we will continue to survive and progress through the vicissitudes of our modern lives, and that we will have the strength, the power, the character to overcome our challenges to fulfill our destinies…It will make us worthy of both our ancestors and our descendants.

Mary can be contacted @

Next Wednesday I'll speak with Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings about his love of genealogy.

~ Joy

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by Joy Neighbors © 2015,, All rights reserved


Monday, April 6, 2015

Vintage Photo Characteristics That Can Help You Date Old Pictures

Image by
If you’re a passionate family history buff like us, everyone from your mother to your Great Aunt Sally knows that they can pawn off boxes of old family photos for you to peruse to your heart’s content. Sifting through vintage photos can be a family historian’s dream, that is, until you find out that you just can’t seem to identify the time period in which certain photos were taken. Much like genealogical resources and classes are helpful to discovering and sharing your family story, knowing some photography history can also be beneficial when it comes to identifying origins of vintage photos.
The following common types of vintage photos, their photographic processes and characteristics could help you positively identify some of your long-lost ancestors.

Common Types of 19th Century Vintage Photos

Image by
1. Daguerreotypes
Photo credit: The Art Part
The daguerreotype was created by Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre and is known by photography experts as the first practical form of photography. Daguerreotypes were produced on a thin copper metal support that had a polished coating of silver that was mirror-like. Daguerreotypes were sealed in glass for protection. In America, daguerreotypes were often placed in hinged, wooden cases with paper or leather coverings.
  • Height of Popularity: 1839-1860
  • Distinguishing Features: They can either take on the look of a negative or a positive depending on how the light hits them and the angle in which you’re viewing them. Also look for their highly-polished silver support.

2. Salt Prints  (Talbot’s Process)
Photo credit:
In 1841, William Henry Fox Talbot patented the process of salt printing — the first photographic process that used sodium chloride to make photos more light-sensitive. Salt printing was also the first process to utilize both a negative and a positive allowing photographers to create prints of larger quantities.

  • Height of Popularity: 1839-1860
  • Distinguishing Features: This photo type can encounter serious fading problems, so if you find a very faded old photo coupled with a smooth yet dull surface, lack of fine detail and a silver image inside the actual fibers of the photo’s support paper, you could have a salt print on your hands.

3. Albumen Prints
Photo credit: Henry Art Gallery
In 1850, Louis-Desire Blanquart Evrard improved upon Talbot’s salt prints by introducing albumen paper. Photographers would coat a thin sheet of paper with egg white which would hold light-sensitive silver salt on the surface of the paper, preventing image fading. Once it was dry, albumen prints were used just like salted-paper prints and the image would form by the darkening properties of the sun on the chemicals. Most of the surviving photographs from the 19th century are on albumen paper.

  • Height of Popularity: 1855-1890
  • Distinguishing Features: Albumen prints take on a rich, purple-brown hue. When you examine these photos, look for paper fibers through the albumen overlay. You can also usually see a fine lateral cracking across the glossy photo surface. The support is typically thin and also coated with albumen.

4. Carte de Visite (CDVs)
Photo credit: Historical Indulgences  
Albumen prints were often mounted on cardboard carte-de-viste (CDVs). Introduced in the 1850s in Paris, France by Andre Adolphe Eugene Disderi, CDVs were very popular in both the United States and Europe until the turn of the 20th century.

  • Height of Popularity: 1860-1890
  • Distinguishing Features: You can distinguish a CDV from other card mounts mostly by the size: 2.5 x 4 inches (63 x 100 mm) — or slightly less at times. Look also for the photographer’s imprint and the type of image itself (most CDVs are portraits). All of these characteristics can help you determine a correct date within just a few years of the photo’s origin.

5. Ambrotypes
Photo credit:
In 1854, the ambrotype became a popular photographic print method which used the wet-plate collodion process to create a positive photograph on glass. Each photo was unique and could not be duplicated — much like using a Polaroid camera.

  • Height of Popularity: 1854-Mid-1860s
  • Distinguishing Features: Look for dark purple, blue or red glass support. These photos may also be found presented on a mount with a case just like daguerreotypes. You can easily distinguish a daguerreotype from an ambrotype since ambrotypes always appear positive when viewing from any angle.

6. Tintypes
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Introduced in 1856, the tintype — also known as a melainotype or ferrotype — was produced on a plate of thin metal. And just like the ambrotype and daguerreotype, the method didn’t use negatives and was directly exposed in the camera. Some small tintypes were also placed in cardboard mounts much like the CDV.

  • Height of Popularity: 1856 – 1900
  • Distinguishing Features: Look for a thin, metallic plate holding the positive image to distinguish a tintype from an ambrotype. Also try to look for mount plates that are brown or red. The most common size to look for is 2 ½ x 3 ½ inches.

7. Cabinet Cards
Photo credit: Image Event
Introduced in 1866, the cabinet card, like the CDV, was an albumen-coated, card-mounted photograph which was also quite popular in America until the1890s.

  • Height of Popularity: 1870 – 1890s
  • Distinguishing Features: Look for card-mounted photos that are 4.25 x 6.5 inches (108 x 164 mm). Most are portraits and don’t include the name of the subject. An extensive logo can typically be found on the back of the card.

8. Hyalotype
Photo credit:
Invented in the 1850s, hyalotypes were used in “Magic Lanterns” where their positive images on glass plates were projected onto screens. They were widely popular until modern slides came along in the 1950s.

  • Height of Popularity: 1875-1950s
  • Distinguishing Features: If you come across old family slides, just know that the most common size of a hyalotype is 192 mm x 83 mm. They were also always produced in black and white, yet some could be hand-tinted.

Have you come across any of these popular vintage photo types during your research? Let us know in the comments! Now that you’re equipped with vintage photo knowledge, you may be able to add those previously unknown ancestors and their stories to your Crestleaf Family Tree!

 Thanks to  Crestleaf for this post!

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