Re-tracing your footsteps in research

I devoted the day to one of my ongoing genealogy research cases. I am working on a revised sketch for Elisha Freeman of Norwich, Vermont and his wife Lucy. The first step was to bring together five years of research so I can create my proof argument. Creating a chronology can tell you whether the facts work and are consistent with a research hypothesis.

Admittedly, in my first year of research I did not always record proper citation information. One of my biggest problems was I identifying the copies I made from microfilms. In 2009, I completed a northeast research tour on my own time to trace the Freeman genealogy. At the New England Historic Genealogical Society, I scanned six references from a microfilm series containing early town records for Hanover, New Hampshire. However, I missed a great deal of citation information and being six years ago, my memory has not served me. The problem became worse because some of the repositories are far from my location, including town halls three hours away in Vermont. I decided to make up for what I could with online availability and to my surprise; I was able to retrace most of my steps.

The key fact was discovering that the references included not only the town clerk’s records (starting 1761), but proprietor records as well. Proprietor records from the American colonial period include a charter for the town made in the name of the Royal Government and officiated by governor of the colony, distribution of large lots within the town, and records dealing with establishing the town.

I needed to figure out these mysterious pages in order to add them to the proof argument. Internet Archive has a copy of Hanover Town Records, 1761-1818 that were printed in 1905. I was able to find some information, but could not determine the origin of the microfilms. Family Search’s catalog led me to the answer and informed me that the microfilm was digitized. From there, I could see the collection of Hanover records again and was quickly able to record the right information. The first page catalog explains the inclusion of proprietor records, town records, and vital records.  The eBook from Internet archive only includes one volume of town records.

Ebook: The Records of the Town of Hanover, New Hampshire, 1761-1818

Family Search, New Hampshire, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1636-1947

It is important to look a couple pages back and forth to find when events involving your ancestor happened. Careful note taking the second time around has led me to discover some important information. Having thought Elisha moved to Hanover in 1774, proprietor records list payments for work he did in Hanover in 1767 when he was 20 years old. He adventured up the Connecticut River valley much earlier than previously known and was eager to make the frontier his home. The land his father received as a proprietor was quitclaimed to Elisha on 23 May 1769. I can continue forth with this project having the correct dates, citations, and a clear objective. I am looking forward to tackling this puzzle thanks to the amazing resources and education available on New England Genealogy.

Copyright (c) 2015, Travelogues of a Genealogist.

More Clues to Owen O’Neill’s Seafaring Past and Life in California

Recently my focus in maritime history has prompted me to look at the curious past of great great great-grandfather  Owen O’Neill. Many questions are unanswered. I want to know what jobs he worked at sea and if in fact he was born off the coast of South America.  I posted about Owen recently when led me to the family burial plot at Holy Cross in Menlo Park. Owen died 28 May 1871. [Link]

San Francisco Bay / painted by Ch. Jargensen ; etched by A. Drescher.

San Francisco Bay / painted by Ch. Jargensen ; etched by A. Drescher.

I found him and his family in the 1860 curious although the spelling of Owen’s first name as Eugene does not make sense.

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Owen O’Neill, Township 3, San Mateo, California, roll 65, page 85, accessed on Ancestry, 1860 US Census.

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page 86.

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Eugine or Owen [?] O’Neill, born 1830, male, white, sailor, born in England

Ellen, born 1827, female, born in Ireland

Ellen A, born 1852, female, born in Massachusetts

Matthew J, born 1855, male, born in California

Kate T O’Neill, born 1857, female, born in California

Hannah O’Neill, born 1859, female, born in California

Charles _, born 1846, male, Indian, born in California

The names of the family members in the household are proof that this is the correct family, but what remains curious is the head of household. Is this Owen O’Neill or another man named Eugene. Maybe the census taker heard his name and entered how it sounded phonetically.

This Owen O’Neill heading the household in 1860 is a sailor born 1830 in England. The 1860 Census also led to the discovery of a daughter named Hannah who is only 1 year old. She most likely passed away before 1870 as she is not in the following census. The boy named Charles who is Native American is someone I have never heard of.  The following census of 1870 provides conflicting biographical information on Owen.

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Owen O’Neill, Township 3, San Mateo, California, roll 87, page 371A, accessed on Ancestry, 1870 US Census.

Owen O’Neill, 1870 Census, Belmont.

Owen O’Neill, male, white, born 1825, farmer, property valued at 2000, personal estate 200, born in Central America, parents of foreign birth, citizen

Ellen, female, white, born 1827, keeps house, born in Ireland, parents of foreign birth

Ellen M, female, white, born 1852, at home, born in Massachusetts

Matthew J, male, white, born 1854, at home, born in California

Catherine, female, white, born 1858, at home, born in California

Eugene, male, white, born 1853, at home, born in California

Wiiliam J, male, white, born 1855, at home, born in California

John Ah, male, chinese, born 1835, cook, burn in China, alien

John Rice, male, white, born 1848, day laborer, born in New Brunswick, citizen, 

In adjacent census records, occupations, birthplaces, and birthdate are completely different for Owen. The most jarring conflict are his birthplaces. Was it England or Central America?  These kind of challenges should be familiar to Irish researchers who find that some or all records provide conflicting information. Owen most likely worked two jobs, running the freight boat but also tilling land.

I continued to search online and snagged another clue on Ancestry. This came from the California Voter Registration Lists. Owen appears on the 1867 List.

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California State Library, California History Section; Great Registers, 1866-1898; Collection Number: 4 – 2A; CSL Roll Number: 122; FHL Roll Number: 977285. Accessed on Ancestry, California, Voter Registers, 1866-1898.

He was 37 making his birthdate around 1830 and listed his birthplace as Brazil. His occupation is boatman and he registered to vote in Belmont.

I then came to the San Mateo County Genealogical Society’s (SMCGS) website. The indexes are great and I searched everyone to collect as many references as I could. I focused on Owen but would need to go back and record references to the children. This allows me to explain what researchers for this county can access online.

I’m always fascinated by court records and SMCGS has a name index to early court registers. Owen appears four time and one reference shows he was addressed as “Captain O’Neill”.

Vol 5, page 148, O O’Neil

Vol 5, page 234, Captain O’Neill

Vol 5, page 266, O O’Neill

Vol 5, page 296, Owen O’ Neill

Land Record indexes came up with two references.

O’Neill Owen 17 Dec 1858 D1 472 grantee
O’Neill Owen 29 May 1861 D4 101 Grantee Swamp and Overflow Land

I was excited when I found that an obituary was published in the San Mateo County Gazette, 3 Jun 1871. There is also an impressive name index to a local historian’s genealogy collection called the Schellens Index that includes references to the family.

I am interesting in finding a genealogist in the area who would transcribe at least the obituary. I begin to think about what local maritime museums close to San Francisco could offer. There is an impressive site called the Maritime Heritage Project. The site is useful to anyone who had a mariner from California in their family tree or if their ancestor traveled to San Francisco 1846-1890 because a lot of passenger lists are transcribed from local newspapers. I will probably spend a lot of time on this website the next couple of days perusing their resources.

The next step is to make a timeline for Owen and his family as the number of sources are starting to accumulate.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Jake Fletcher, Travelogues of a Genealogist.

Cataloging Research Papers for Edmund Freeman with New Thoughts

Many of our ancestors have amassed a great deal of  documentation, with folders stuffed to the brim. Such is the case of the founder of Sandwich, Massachusetts, Edmund Freeman. I have some blog pieces from past about him and his life still begs curiosity. While I have read many genealogies and scholar’s articles on the Freeman family, it is important to understand what sources are authoritative and worth citing.

Most would say Robert Charles Anderson’s Great Migration is a good place to find a colonial ancestor’s genealogical bibliography, as in what scholars and historians have already looked in to the questions we have today. Compared to Anderson’s list of sources, I have Edmond Freeman’s citations from Plymouth Colony Records, “Prence Freeman of East Hampton, Connecticut” from The American Genealogist and Mary Walton-Ferris’ Dawes-Gates and Allied Families Genealogy.

My grandmother had left behind photocopies from library books which I identified as including George Norbury Mackenzie’s Colonial Families of The United States and John Camden Hotten, Original Lists of Persons of Quality. I was glad I took a few minutes to look up these sources.

As I catalog all of these research papers, I realize I have never taken the time to really peruse them and organize the details. Creating a chronology would point out discrepancies, if any and could lead to a published revision of Edmund Freeman’s genealogical account. More realistic would be an article that “magnifies” the events in his life to have more historical context. Has anyone ever undertaking the project of revising an ancestor’s previously published genealogy?

Copyright (c) 2015

Transcription in the National Archives Catalog

I joined a webinar last week for the new national archives catalog and learned about developments in their site. The most interesting feature is that anyone with internet access can transcribe digitized federal records. One user has taken virtual volunteering to the fullest, having transcribed 500 documents last month [Article Link]. It could be a great project and a way to develop an important genealogy skill; interpreting primary sources. I myself have decided to start working with Records of the Customs Bureau. What has been digitized seems to be from New Bedford in the 19th Century. I will use this as an opportunity to learn about more record groups. You can make an impact on history as a citizen archivist.

Transcription in the National Archives Catalog

Transcription is an important way for us to improve search results and increase accessibility to our historical records. Your contributions make a big impact. Go ahead and give one of the Transcription Missions below a try!

Getting Started

  1. Create a username and password in the National Archives Catalog.
  2. Login from any transcription page or on the login page.
  3. Start a Transcription Mission, check out More Records, or create your own mission by doing a keyword search for your favorite topics.
  4. Select the “View/Add Contributions” button located below all images in the catalog.
  5. Select the “Transcribe” tab for the page of the record you would like to transcribe.
  6. Select the “Edit” button and remember to save your work frequently.

Check out this example transcription page and Citizen Contribution Policy for more information.

Courtesy of

New Post From Legacy News – “My Grandfather was a Sea Captain: Researching Maritime Ancestors”

Hi Everyone,

I am pleased to share my first blog post for Legacy News. One of my interests is maritime history and I wrote an article to help genealogists whose ancestors worked on ships.

Check out the post from Legacy News here.

Legacy News of Legacy Family Tree brings genealogy news and tips to you every day.

Needle In The Haystack: Personal Strategies for Researching Irish-Americans

Researching an Irish family is usually no small undertaking. Therefore, the first strategy is diligence and to keep looking. The fire of 1922 has in fact terminated millions of records that would save genealogists a lot of headache. Researchers also have to use a different methodology for Irish Ancestors because surnames existed all over the country by the 18th and 19th centuries. Irish ancestors with common surnames can be among the most difficult to pinpoint. The second strategy is to trace your ancestor’s steps backwards, making sure you have enough specifics before researching in Irish Records. Whether it be the US, England, Australia, etc., consult the records of the ancestors’ adopted home. I find myself very intrigued by Irish-American families and larger networks as I dig deeper into records. I have listed some observations and personal strategies.
– Choose your Jurisdiction with which you will be researching the surname. It could be a particularly city, county, state, etc.

– Be thorough and exhaustive. Create an excel document and be prepared to enter a lot of data. Table headers should include essential information, including citations.

-In addition to the United States Federal Population Census, I find city directories particularly useful because they run yearly. Among the useful information provided by city directories are address, occupation, and indicating if a person removed and if so, where.

– Try collecting different types of data from a particular source, i.e. If I am looking for Owen O’Neill who arrived 1852, I would search passenger manifests for Owen O’Neill and record all persons named Owen O’Neill that arrived in a 10 year range (1847-57), but I would also like to record all people with the last name O’Neill that arrived in the year 1852.

-Naturalization records are also important to consult. Recently, I took a more time consuming approach of using the index on microfilm and found several naturalizations that ancestry did not list when I first conducted an online search. In fact, one naturalization record that came to my attention in the microfilm could very possibly be the individual I was seeking out the whole time.

Important Resources:

– has digitized versions of all the collections mentioned, although in the city directories I have used, there are years missing.

Search Passenger Lists for Free:

– Ellis Island
– Castle Garden

Copyright (c) 2015 Jake Fletcher

Pittsfield, Massachusetts City Directory, 1898, p 179. Taken from, US City Directories, 1821-1989 [online database]. — at Fletcher FamilyTree Research.

Pittsfield, Massachusetts City Directory, 1898, p 179. Taken from, US City Directories, 1821-1989 [online database]. — at Fletcher FamilyTree Research.

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Author’s example of a data spreadsheet for research on Doyle Families in Berkshire Co.


The Reason My Name is Fletcher

Everyday I live as Jake Fletcher, but three generations ago my grandfather (or my father’s father) made a motivated decision to forego his heritage and namesake. My grandfather was born Robert Frank Fleischhauer in the borough of Queens, New York.[1] His research files and tales of military service invigorate my curiosity deeply. This is in part because I never even had a chance to meet him; he died in 1965.[2] However, I have procured more photographs of him than probably any ancestor on file. Such interesting relics include war ration booklets, foreign coins he collected while at sea with the Navy, school report cards and letters he wrote as young as eight years old.

Grandpa Bob WWII pic 1

Fig 1. Robert during the War period enjoying a pipe. Notice the endless convoy of ships in the distance.[3]



Grandpa Bob School Report Cards

Fig 2. Report Cards, Board of Education, City of New York. Note the parent’s signatures, their names were Frank Julius Fleischhauer and Caroline Marie Pralle.[4]

With all these sources to understand his legacy, what remains unclear and without genealogical truth is the reason he dropped Fleischhauer for the surname Fletcher, I needed to look at what sources I could to recollect the facts of his name change. The family tradition as presented my father suggests that a sequence of events led to the name change. First, it was Robert’s marriage to Margarette Freeman. This allied him with Margarette’s father, James Freeman who ran a flooring business in Hartford, Connecticut and thus they became business partners. The circumstances of post-war and the business somehow motivated him to forever change his identity to Robert Fletcher. The narrative as explained by my father provides concrete evidence that the name change occurred between the date of marriage and my father’s birth in 1947. Some boxes that were re-obtained during a recent spring cleaning provided some important clues to my investigation. Someone, mostly likely my grandmother, had created a photo album from the wedding.

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Fig 3. An original copy of the wedding invitation for Margarette Elizabeth Freeman and Robert Frank Fleischauer, Ensign U.S. Navy. The wedding took place 12 Dec 1943 at Immanuel Congregational Church in Hartford.[5]


Having a copy of the wedding invitation saves me the time of placing a record order to Connecticut or does it? At least I find myself able to pull out many clues from this single source. The spelling of Fleischauer is significant, the use of one letter h is different from the original two h spelling. Robert did not become a Fletcher before the marriage and the name change may have occurred shortly after. Ordering the marriage record from Connecticut would give me definitive proof as to what surname he registered under the marriage license. Another important part of Robert’s legacy is his military career. After speaking to an archivist at NARA, I understand the process of obtaining his WWII service records. In the meantime, I have procured a few clues which explain to some degree the nature of his service. I utilized and their collection of Navy Muster Rolls to come across a Robert F. Fleischauer in a passenger manifest from the USS Shipley Bay (CVE-85).[6] His rank is listed as corporal and his destination is noted as “USMCR Fray”. Previously, my father’s own interest in Robert’s service led to some research on the ships he sailed with including Ajax IV (AR-6) and Delta II (AK-29),[7] therefore I had not come across a vessel named Shipley Bay. I also cannot prove this Robert F. Fleischauer is the same individual without consulting the service records held in St. Louis. Whatever the archivists can provide me with will certainly enlighten me to the full story of my grandfather’s service.


Grandpa Bob North Africa


Fig 4. A photo of Robert taken during his service in North Africa Campaign.[8]


One detail which always fascinates me resonates in another photograph from the war era. Robert had apparently taken part in the campaign against Germany in North Africa. You can see in the distance the sandy foothills of the desert. While clearly wearing Navy regalia, it seems that his role was partially land-based, perhaps to bring supplies for the ground troops. My father has ascertained that preceding his enlistment in the Navy, Robert had gone to the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point which is based on the quaint and suburban outskirts of Long Island. In 2009, we both drove to Kings Point to search their files and yearbooks, which ended in a negative search.[9] As of now, the understanding of my grandfather’s legacy and the circumstances surrounding his name change remain somewhat unclear and fragmented by the pieces of circumstantial evidence. Having the service records is the next step, followed by seeking out court documents for the name change. However, I do not know if these documents are heavily restricted in the state of Connecticut. I am however certain that these documents lie in Connecticut.

Useful Resources:

NARA – How to obtain U.S. Military Service Records after 1916 and Link to Standard Form 180   Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships


Copyright © 2015



[1] Held in author’s research files. [2] Ibid. [3] Ibid. [4] Ibid. [5] Ibid. [6] Passenger Manifest of Robert F. Fleischauer, 23 Sep 1944, Shipley Bay: Accessed on, U.S. World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949, National Archives Record Group 24. [7] James L. Mooney, Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, (Navy Department, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Naval History Division, 1981,) p. 101-102, 258-259. [8] Held in author’s research files. [9] See Author’s Blog Post, “ A Day at Kings Point,” 5 Dec 2009.