Apr 2020

Runaway Advertisements

In colonial America’s earliest years, those with runaway slaves, indentured servants, apprentices, military deserters, escaped prisoners, husbands, wives, or children had to rely on broadsides or word of mouth to advertise a reward for their return. Unsurprisingly, few such broadsides (and no words of mouth) survive. With the advent of colonial newspapers in the early […]
Apr 2020

The 1870 Federal Census’s Second Enumeration

By all reports, the 1870 federal census was a mess. It was the last census for which U.S. Marshals were used as census takers. As there weren’t enough Marshals, a number of men were made Assistant Marshals for the purpose, many of whom were Northerners who were said to be only semi-literate. Their lack of […]
Mar 2020

Fee Tails and Entailment

In her 1989 NGSQ article, “The Adeustone-Rogers Families of Virginia: Tracing a Colonial Lineage through Entailment and Naming Patterns,” the late Margaret Hickerson Emery provided a definition of the term that was key to solving her genealogical problem: Fee tail or entailment, as defined by Black’s Law Dictionary, is the encumbrance of property with a […]
Mar 2020

Taking Your First Steps Around the 1870 “Brick Wall” in African American Research

For African Americans who were enslaved until the 13th Amendment was passed in 1865, the 1870 census was the first federal census to name them. Since the slave schedules of the 1850 and 1860 censuses only referred to slaves by tick marks, sex, and age, connecting the people identified in 1870 to their pre-emancipation identities […]
Feb 2020

The Creation of Leap Year and Its Effects on Genealogy

This Saturday is February 29th, a relatively uncommon occurrence as days go. It’s a leap day in a leap year. Unless you’re like Dinah Shore, Tony Robbins, or Ja Rule, all of whom share a birthday that day, you may not even notice. For the rest of us, it’s a subtle reminder that calendars change. […]
Feb 2020

Little-Used NGS Resources: The Book Loan Collection

I don’t blame you. I really don’t. I’ve never used it myself. So who am I to point a finger? When the National Genealogical Society was founded in 1903 in Washington, DC, it established a library for its members. That library continued to grow for the next 98 years, amassing more than 20,000 volumes of […]
Jan 2020

Hearing Voices

Former NGS board member B. Darrell Jackson had an unusual request for his birthday. He asked his three adult children to read one of the six books he has written on their family history and write about their impressions. His son’s response was particularly thoughtful. I am struck overall about how little we can know […]
Jan 2020

Three Updates at the National Archives

Record Group Explorer The National Archives houses billions of pages of records, a volume so significant that researchers can easily be overwhelmed. A new tool released by the Archives makes it easier to browse those records by record group. The Record Group Explorer first shows record groups organized by volume of textual records, from the […]
Nov 2019

USCIS Fee Hike Proposal

According to Records, Not Revenue, “an ad hoc group of genealogists, historians and records access activists,” U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) recently proposed a 492% increase in fees for historical records held by the USCIS Genealogy Program. Until December 16th only **UPDATE; extended to February 10th**, the Federal Rulemaking Portal is accepting comments from […]
Nov 2019

Highlights from the 2020 Family History Conference Program

I’m not normal; on this I’m clear. But for reasons that remain a mystery, I take an inordinate amount of pleasure from opening up a conference program for the first time, perusing the pages, and marking the presentations that catch my attention (in red ink, no less). Some lectures I mark because they address a […]