November 2015 Newsletter



Travelogues of a Genealogist just celebrated it’s seventh anniversary and I am reflecting back with fondness and am humbled by the encouragement of others. Genealogy is truly a wonderful field to be involved in.

In it’s seventh-year, the blog is going through some changes. A new theme and design has given the page a more user-friendly and authentic look. Plans for the upcoming months are to register a domain name with a web address that I found particularly clever but will not release it until the website is launched. I will always continue to blog and will certainly keep you posted on where you can connect with me.

*** Genealogy Societies ***

2016 is shaping up to be a great year of getting involved with local and regional societies. Starting in January, I will begin my tenure as Vice President for the New England Association of Professional Genealogists. The annual meeting was located in Boston at an all-time favorite location for genealogists, New England Historic Genealogical Society. The morning’s panels offered informative discussions on career topics such as education opportunities, large genealogical studies, and publishing articles. Members were also treated to a tour of the book conservation lab before the annual meeting. An all around great day for sure! I look forward to working with the officers and members in the upcoming year.

Earlier that week, I attended the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists Chapter meeting in Worcester where Sara Campbell gave a great talk on how land records are used in genealogy. Land records are among my favorite and deserve great study in any research case.

The biggest takeaway is that there are many opportunities to educate yourself wherever you look.

***2016 Lecture and Class Schedule***

My lecture schedule is up to date and available for you viewing. Most of my appearances are locally based in North Central Massachusetts. Please contact me  if you would like to learn more about obtaining a recording. Click “Lectures” in the menu for more information.

*** Past Travelogues ***

A list of my blog posts published since the last newsletter:

Tracking One Name in the Census,” posted 9 Nov 2015.

Faces of Next Gen,” posted 6 Nov 2015.

History of the W. & A. Olswang Co. in Jamaica, Queens Co., New York,” posted 1 Nov 2015.

The True Sons of Ireland,” posted 30 Oct 2015.

Records of Civilian Deaths Overseas (US and UK),” posted 21 Oct 2015.

I’ve Been Nominated,” posted 20 Oct 2015.


*** Favorite Links ***

Lowell Police Court Naturalizations 1838-1854, 1885-1906  – Irish researchers should look at the fantastic work of Walter Hickey who put together this database of naturalizations. This has led me to consider to a similar genealogical study of Irish communities in other Massachusetts cities and towns. – I give Lisa Louise Cooke all the credit for showing me how useful non-genealogy software programs can be for our research. In particular, Google Earth provides an exciting and dynamic way to educate others on one’s family history. Additional information on how to search in Google is available here: (

The Genealogy Professional Podcast – There’s nothing like first-hand experience and that’s what Marian Pierre-Louis’ podcast is all about; having professional genealogists provide first hand how they worked their way into successful careers. Always a good boost of inspiration!

Research guide A3: Tracing family history from maritime records | Royal Museums Greenwich – An excellent guide on researching ancestors that sailed with the Royal Navy, Merchant Marine, or other British maritime occupations.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to sign up for the mailing list!


Jake Fletcher

Genealogist, Historical Researcher, Blogger



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Copyright (c) 2015 Jake Fletcher.

Jake Fletcher, “November 2015 Newsletter,” Travelogues of a Genealogist, posted 18 Nov 2015.

Tracking One Name in the Census


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Time consuming as it may be, tracking the occurrence of a surname overtime in a particular locale can actually be extremely helpful.  We want to get to know the nearby families that share the name of our ancestor, especially if they live in the same town, because their records may very well be able to lead us further back in our family trees. If you see two families with the same surname living on the same street, there’s no question you should investigate who the neighboring family is.

I have studied several Irish surnames in Berkshire County, Massachusetts by collecting data from population schedules and created maps of how the name is distributed throughout the county. This technique is useful in studying large immigrant communities, but could be implemented in any genealogy case. About a year ago, I was researching a laborer named Owen Murphy from North Adams, Massachusetts. No records of Owen Murphy were able to identify parents, brothers, or cousins. All the evidence I had gathered gave the frustrating conclusion he was only born in Ireland. Research problems like these have existed an almost infinite number of times and many researchers would say your not going to find where Owen came from within the country of Ireland.

Nevertheless, I made a conscious decision to not forfeit the pursuit and decided I would research every other Murphy family within the county and neighboring counties for an answer or even a clue. Based on how common the name Murphy is, it’s no surprise that retrieved 1200 results for Murphy in Berkshire County, Massachusetts records, 1850-1900.  I was left with the task of abstracting all these names, by no means a short task and at times tedious. I abstracted the information into an excel document with headings for each of the census columns.

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The next step was to create visual representations of the data. I would suggest finding a county map online or in a book that has town borders outlined A Guide to Berkshire County Massachusetts had a perfect example of this and from here a color-coded legend was created to represent how many Murphy families lived in each other. This results in a better comparison and understanding of how the families moved around. Overtime industrious cities like Pittsfield and North Adams are home to the most Murphy families, while quainter villages like Sheffield are home to one or two. Most Murphy families have settled in the central and southern part of the county.

Demographical information collected from the census in large quantities lends itself useful to migration studies. They are also evidence of historical trends and ethnic diversity in a community. Starting in 1850, census takers asked individuals to give the state or foreign country which they were born in. Abstracting and evaluating data from the census showed that Irish born males with the surname Murphy increased overtime from 1850 to 1900. If more Irish Murphy families are coming to settle in Western Massachusetts, are they relatives of people who settled there first? Chain migration occurs when a family or community over time leaves their home village to adopt a new community. In order to investigate this, we need to go into record groups that could provide the parish or town of origin and collect this information to see if there is a correlation. After gathering information about where the Murphy’s originated, it was clear they were not all coming from the same county in Ireland.

Distribution of Murphy Surname, Berkshire County, Massachusetts. 1870 US Census

Distribution of Murphy Surname, Berkshire County, Massachusetts. 1870 US Census

Distribution of Murphy Surname, Berkshire County, Massachusetts. 1880 US Census.

Distribution of Murphy Surname, Berkshire County, Massachusetts. 1880 US Census.

Population schedules recorded by the government, such as the U.S. Census, are often emphasized as go-to sources for family history research. This is because the demographical information provided in population schedules provide many pieces of evidence to discern if this person or family in the census actually belongs in their family tree. The various questions such as name, age, residence, birthplace, occupation, and family members can be evaluated and compared in adjacent census schedules to confirm their identity. Assuming that sources prove the family did in fact stay in the same area, those individuals who move elsewhere as indicated by their absence in the town’s schedule can be eliminated from the list of possible matches for the target ancestor.

We as family historians need to be careful in presenting conclusions of identity. Is the person you are adding to your family tree in fact your ancestor? These kind of questions always need to be taken into consideration and can be more of a challenge with common surnames. Getting to know the surname in the area where you are looking can help to provide more definitive proof of the target ancestor’s identity. It is through doing this type of work for others that I’ve learned how valuable is and will need to implement the same strategies on certain branches of my own family tree.


Copyright (c) 2015 Jake Fletcher. All materials protected under the laws of copyright. Do not copy or reproduce without author’s permission.

Jake Fletcher, “Tracking One Name in the Census,” Travelogues of a Genealogist, posted 8 Nov 2015.

Faces of NextGen



The NextGen Genealogy Network assists in facilitating communication between younger genealogists and promoting the importance of sharing family history with all generations. I recently introduced myself to NextGen and took the time to answer some questions about my genealogy experiences. You can read the full interview here:

History of the W. & A. Olswang Company in Jamaica, Queens Co., New York


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Jacob Olswang was an avid businessman and immigrant who settled in the borough of Queens, New York. For thirty years, he and his sons, Walter and Arthur, oversaw a successful business selling furniture and flooring in a middle class neighborhood of Queens historically known as Jamaica.

Why is the flooring business so intriguing to me? I do not know much about my Jewish heritage, which happens to only run through the Olswang family. As distant and foreign as my Jewish heritage feels, my great-grandmother Ethel Olswang Freeman died in 1987[1] and Jacob in 1950,[2] therefore I am researching in a somewhat recent period of history (at least more recent than most of my genealogy pursuits take me). I am also fascinated because this is the first case in my family tree of a prominent family-run business. It does recall some elements of the immigrant experience regarding assimilation into a new society. I admire the tenacity and work ethic of the Olswangs to make for themselves prosperity and a comfortable lifestyle.

I have been collecting documentation about the Olswangs sporadically for five years, so it is a nice surprise that a great deal of evidence manifested itself recently. Local newspapers, digitized through, brought to light a slew of evidence about W. & a. Olswang Co. for me to digest. It was poignant to see how often the Olswangs graced the newspaper, which made me realize they were more respected and affluent than I might have originally thought.

Very little documentation has surfaced about Jacob’s early life and most of his genealogical information comes from his life in the United States. He usually stated his birthplace as Russia, however on the 1930 census, Jacob stated he was born in the province of Kurland, which is now present-day Lithuania.[3] Before crossing the Atlantic to live in New York, he came to the industrious city of Liverpool, England, where he married a “spinster” named Margaret McGrevey. Jacob and Margaret married 2 Jun 1895 at the Waterloo Christ Church of Sephton Parish, Lancashire County, England.[4] It is unclear what connected Jacob Olswang to the industry of flooring and selling, however on the marriage record he lists his occupation as “merchant”.[5] The couple had two children in England, Walter, born Christmas day 1896[6] and an unnamed child who died young.[7]

Genealogical research has only been able to provide a rough estimate of when Jacob Olswang and his family immigrated. The Olswang family arrived in America sometime between Walter’s birth and 1900. On his naturalization petition, Jacob gave his date of arrival as 28 Nov 1896.[8] This date conflicts with the fact Walter was born in England a month later, unless Jacob actually left before Margaret having the child. Jacob’s witness to the naturalization, Adolph Friedberg, says that he has known Jacob to have continuously resided in the United States since 30 March 1897.[9] Jacob consistently states his arrival as 1897 in US Census records. Jacob and Margaret had a second son named Arthur, born about Oct 1899 in New York.[10] Ethel was born last on 31 Dec 1902.[11]

Olswang Children

Ethel, Arthur, and Walter Olswang.

The Olswangs did not move to Jamaica until about 1920, previously residing in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Census records show that Jacob wore several hats in his profession, simultaneously laying carpets and linoleum in houses while selling them to customers. In 1900, Jacob and his family lived at First Ave in Manhattan where he is listed as a carpet layer.[12] On his naturalization petition dated 1904, Jacob stated his occupation as storekeeper and living at 26 Montgomery Street in Manhattan.[13] By 1910, the Olswangs are living at 1671 Prospect Place in the borough of Brooklyn. Jacob is working at a factory emporium as a carpet [second word illegible].[14] Around this time, Jacob would see more success in his business ventures. An article in 17 Apr 1914 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle talks about “New Brooklyn Companies” and reports that the Brooklyn Linoleum Co., owned by Jacob Olswang, Michael Olswang, and Louis Rein of Brooklyn, was offered and accepted a contract job from the State of New York.[15] The relationship of Jacob and Michael Olswang is not stated when they are living next to each other the 1915 New York State Census because they are separate heads of household.[16] Michael’s wife is named Sidonia and was born in Hungary. After searching for the couple on, I located a marriage record of Michael Olswang and Sidonia Braun dated 22 Feb 1911 in Manhattan. Michael stated his parents as Ephram Olswang and Annie Wolf.  The name of Michael’s father is the same as Jacob’s, who named Ephraim Olswang as his father on his marriage record. Evidence points to these two being brothers.*

1913-14 Brooklyn & Queens Business Directory.

1913-14 Brooklyn & Queens Business Directory.

Jacob’s eldest son Walter enrolled in the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis on 31 Jul 1916.[17] The Naval Academy yearbooks showed that he rose to the rank of Petty Officer and was a high standing member of his class. Curiously, he was dismissed from the service 27 Feb 1919.[18] My assumption is that he left the Naval Academy to focus on the family business and eventually establish the W. & A. Olswang Company. Surely, the family business rested on the success of Jacob’s sons and their diverse talents.

Shortly after Walter left Annapolis, the family removed to 821 Woodland Avenue in Queens, which happens to be in the neighborhood known as Woodhaven. According to the Olswang family’s record in the 1920 census, Jacob was managing the store on his own, while Walter lists his occupation as marine engineer (even though he had been previously discharged) and Arthur is a salesman for a “ladies dresser”.[19]

“Altered Store at Olswang’s Has Big Stock,” Article in Long Island Daily Press, 18 Sep 1930, p.4.

“Altered Store at Olswang’s Has Big Stock,” Article in Long Island Daily Press, 18 Sep 1930, p.4.


Jacob would soon after convince his sons to invest in the business of selling linoleum flooring and carpets. Walter and Arthur became heads of the W. & A. Olswang Company established in 1921.[20] While the Olswang trade primarily focused on carpets, rugs, and floor coverings, the store would stock and sell bedding as well. The brothers signed a lease for a building on 166-02 Jamaica Avenue, located at the southeast corner of Merrick Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue.[21] The business saw growth in first 12 years, becoming one of the “largest specialized stores in Central Queens” and giving president Walter Olswang recognition as a “pioneer merchant” in his community.[22] In 1933, W. & A. Olswang expanded their store and leased out the entire ground floor of their present location at 166-02 Jamaica Avenue.[23]


Together, the three Olswang men ran a successful store and were a respected business in the Jamaica neighborhood and throughout the borough. Other family members, like my great-grandfather James Freeman who married Jacob’s daughter Ethel, came in as a contract worker and carpet layer for the Olswangs. Tragedy came to the family when Arthur Olswang died of heart disease in Apr 1942.[24] Perhaps by some kind of bad omen, the W. & A. Olswang Company’s “display house” at 92-24 Merrick Road was destroyed in a fire nine days after Arthur’s death and damages were over $10,000. Fortunately, the main office and store scathed any damage. The house was used to display linoleum and bedding projects.[25]

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“$15,000 Lost in Blaze on Merrick Road,” Article in Long Island Daily Press, 22 Apr 1942, p.1. Accessed on

Jacob died in 1950 and Walter followed soon after in 1953.[26] I was able to locate articles in local newspapers announcing the estates were settled in the Queens Co. Surrogate Court for Jacob and his wife Margaret, who died December 1939.[27] The flooring business continued with James Freeman who moved to Hartford, Connecticut and started the company Stately Floors.

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“Walter Olswang, Queens Merchant,” The Brooklyn Eagle (Brooklyn, NY), 25 Jun 1953, p.13. Accessed on

Writing this post has allowed me to point out several research directions with which I may be able to discover the exact origins of Jacob Olswang. Researching business associates of an immigrant ancestor can often be very useful because these were often associates from their homeland and were that could be trusted in an environment where they may have been vulnerable. There is a good chance that the associate stated his birthplace in a document and would thus reveal where the “target” ancestor came from. When I put a research case away for a while and then look at it again, it is amazing how a set of fresh eyes can add to your perspective and understanding of the evidence. Details and facets of information that were overlooked before take on new meaning.


[1] Ethel M. Freeman death record, (Filed Februrary 16 1987; Died February 10,1987), Seminole County, Florida, Seminole County Public Health Unit, Sanford, Florida.

[2] Tombstone. Interment # 71926, Montefiore Springfield L.I. Cemetery Society, Montefiore Cemetery, Queens, New York.

[3] Jacob Olswang, 1930 US Census, Queens, New York, ED 1153, Roll 1597, page 2A. Accessed on

[4] Marriage Certificate of John Olswang and Margaret McGrevey (2 Jun 1895), no.247, Christ Church Waterloo, Sephton Parish, West Derby Registration District, Lancashire County. Certified Copy from GRO Office made 28 Jan 2015.

[5] Ibid.

[6]  Walter W Olswang, “New York, Abstracts of World War I Military Service, 1917-1919,” database,

[7] In the U.S. Census, Margaret indicates she bore a child that has passed away.

[8] Petition for Naturalization of Jacob Olswang (27 Jun 1904), petition no. 2935, Vol 134: page 214B-215B, Circuit Court, Southern District of New York.

[9] Petition for Naturalization of Jacob Olswang (27 Jun 1904).

[10] Arthur Olswang Certificate of Death, (Died April 10,1942), Queens County, New York City, Bureau of Records, Department of Health, City of New York, Certificate no. 2870.

[11] Ethel M. Freeman death record, (Filed Februrary 16 1987; Died February 10,1987), Seminole County, Florida, Seminole County Public Health Unit, Sanford, Florida.

[12] Jacob Olswang, 1900 US Census, Manhattan, New York County, New York, ED 243, Page 7. Accessed on

[13] Petition for Naturalization of Jacob Olswang (27 Jun 1904).

[14] Jacob Olswang, 1910 US Census, Brooklyn, Kings County, New York, ED 646, Page 14A. Accessed on

[15] “New Brooklyn Companies,” Article in Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, NY), 17 Apr 1914, p.22. Accessed at

[16] Jacob Olswang, 1915 New York State Census, Brooklyn, Kings County, New York, ED 22, AD 23, p. 69. Accessed on

*Entry for Michael Olswang and Sidonia Braun (22 Feb 1911), Manhattan, New York, New York City Municipal Archives, “New York, New York Marriage Records, 1829-1940” database, Familysearch.

[17] Walter W Olswang, “New York, Abstracts of World War I Military Service, 1917-1919”.

[18] United States Naval Academy, Annual Register of the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD: Seventy-Fifth Academic Year, 1919-1920 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1919), 198.; Walter W Olswang, “New York, Abstracts of World War I Military Service, 1917-1919”.

[19] Jacob Olswang, 1920 US Census, Queens Assembly District 5, Queens County, New York, ED 338, page 19A, Image no. 44. Accessed on

[20] “Altered Store at Olswang’s Has Big Stock,” Article in Long Island Daily Press, 18 Sep 1930, p.4.; “Store Owner Signs Lease,” Article in Long Island Daily Press, 29 Jun 1933, p.4. Accessed at

[21] “Store Owner Signs Lease,” Long Island Daily Press.

[22] “Altered Store at Olswang’s Has Big Stock,” Long Island Daily Press.; “Store Owner Signs Lease,” Article in Long Island Daily Press.

[23] “Store Owner Signs Lease,” Article in Long Island Daily Press.

[24] Arthur Olswang Certificate of Death.

[25] “$15,000 Lost in Blaze on Merrick Road,” Article in Long Island Daily Press, 22 Apr 1942, p.1. Accessed on

[26] “Walter Olswang, Queens Merchant,” The Brooklyn Eagle (Brooklyn, NY), 25 Jun 1953, p.13. Accessed on

[27] “Olswangs to share $50,364 Estate,” Long Island Daily Press, 7 Jun 1940; Estate of Jacob Olswang, Long Island Star Journal, 19 Apr 1950, p.4; State of New York Certificate of Death no. 7217, Department of Health, New York State, Certificate for Margaret Olswang, Queens, New York, 23 Jun 1939.


Jake Fletcher, “History of the W. & A. Olswang Co. in Jamaica, Queens Co., New York,” Travelogues of a Genealogist, posted 1 Nov 2015.


Copyright (c) 2015 by Jake Fletcher. All materials protected under the laws of copyright. Do not copy or reproduce without author’s permission.


The True Sons of Ireland


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Irish fraternal organizations were influential in their communities during the 19th and 20th centuries. Their mainstay in American society is due to the fact that they assisted new immigrants in transitioning to living in their adopted country. Several fraternal organizations rose to prominence such as Ancient Order of Hibernians, Knights of Columbus, and Catholic Daughters of the Americas, however thousands of smaller organizations existed for a variety of ethnic groups.

"A New Irish Society", San Francisco Call (17 March 1895). California Digital Newspaper Collection.

“A New Irish Society”, San Francisco Call (17 March 1895). California Digital Newspaper Collection.

A search of the California Digital Newspaper Collection for my great, great-grandfather Matthew J. O’Neill turned up several articles in San Francisco newspapers, including one which mentioned his allegiance to “A New Irish Society” called the True Sons Of Ireland. Matthew was born 1855 in Belmont, California, to Owen and Ellen (Russell) O’Neill. The critical piece of evidence to be gleaned from this newspaper column is that each member present stated their county of origin, which he stated as County Antrim. Based on the fact that Matthew is a second-generation, or child of an immigrant, it would be inferred that his father (or even grandfather) came from County Antrim. This is contrary to family tradition passed down by Matthew’s wife Jane Barre that the O’Neill family originated in County Cork. Antrim is one of six counties that comprise Northern Ireland and in comparison to Cork, they are geographically very far apart from one another.

Yet another part of the O’Neill family history also strikes my curiosity based on this new piece of evidence. Supposedly, Matthew’s grandfather was captain of a British Man-of-war. Without any direct evidence, the fact that the O’Neill’s came from the northern part of Ireland is a favorable piece of indirect evidence and makes this story slightly more possible.

The night before St. Patrick’s Day in 1895, 32 men of San Francisco assembled at the Palace Hotel to form a “grand Irish-American society.” The city of San Francisco was ethnically diverse and included a very large amount of Irish-Americans. Newly appointed chairman P.A. Dolan stepped forward to call the meeting and lay out the intention with patriotic fervor, which was “to repeat our vows, both night and day, to dear old ireland! Brave old Ireland! Ireland far away!”

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Palace Hotel (1887) By C.P. Heninger, San Francisco [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Palace Hotel (1887) By C.P. Heninger, San Francisco [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Online searching has been unsuccessful in turning up more information about the True Sons of Ireland in San Francisco. So far, no repositories are known to hold any records. There are many organizations named True Sons of Ireland that have formed and dissolved since the mid-19th century. I am excited for what I may find, because records from fraternal organizations can often reveal a lot about your ancestor’s origin and the experience of transitioning in their adopted country.


Jake Fletcher, “True Sons of Ireland,” Travelogues of a Genealogist, posted 30 Oct 2015.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Jake Fletcher. All materials protected under the laws of copyright. Do not copy or reproduce without permission.

Records of Civilian Deaths Overseas (US and UK)


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My newest contribution to Legacy News is available and talks about how to research ancestors that died abroad. Consulates of the United States Government and British Parliament recorded vital statistics of their citizens in foreign jurisdictions. They are a great alternative when vital records at all levels (state, county, town) have been exhausted and one can still not determine what happened to their ancestor.

The U.S. Consul at Tiensin, China filed a report for my ancestor Helen Oliver Cornish and helped me greatly in determining what happened to her. While the death and internment may have been recorded at some point in California, this document serves as a more then adequate substitute source. I  She died in 1922 due to child labor complications. Her reasons for resending out of San Francisco are still unclear to me. The consul’s record provides an impressive amount of detail and alludes to nearby relatives and friends. By research them, I will more than likely be able to figure out the circumstances of my ancestor’s move.

I always enjoy contributing to Legacy News and hope you benefit from my tips!

Click HERE for the link.


Jake Fletcher, “Records of Civilian Deaths Overseas (US and UK), Legacy News, posted 21 Oct 2015.

I’ve Been Nominated!


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The Liebster Award is an award given to bloggers by bloggers.  It’s a pay-it-forward-way to encourage fellow writers to keep writing.  Given to bloggers with less than 200 followers, the award’s origins are clouded in mystery.  To receive the award you must answer your nominator’s questions on your blog and then nominate three bloggers to receive the award.

Thank you to genealogy blogger Gary Roberts ( who focuses on his fascinating family history originating in the Southwestern part of the United States.

  1. What are your top two motivations for blogging?

My motivations mostly stems from one of my career goals, which is to become a professional family history that publishes family sketches, brick wall methodologies, and genealogy tips for society publications/periodicals. I also draw a lot of inspiration from the desire to document my family history and tell the stories of my ancestors.

  1. Describe your early attempts at blogging?

When I started my genealogy blog in late 2008, it was in part to supplement the research of my high school senior project on genealogy. That year was particularly busy; I was able to keep a log of my many research trips, such as NARA and Library of Congress in Washington D.C. I found myself post new findings about my ancestors almost daily. The warm feedback I received from the community about my blog page has inspired me to keep writing.

  1. Describe your immediate family and share how, if in any way, they influence your blogging?

Working at home as a genealogist is great because it allows me to share and connect with family members about our history. We enjoy hiking and  taking care of two dogs, Mike and Daisy. My family has supported my dreams to become a genealogist and I am grateful for their support.

  1. What is the favorite blog post you’ve written and please share a link to it?

“Voted that his rights shall have their full proportion [part 1], talks about my ancestor Elisha Freeman who withheld his land rights to Dartmouth College. One of my goals as a genealogist is to add historical context to my ancestors lives in order to better understand the. Investigating controversies and social life in 18th century America is fascinating to me and I have enjoyed researching it. Elisha Freeman’s story is one I post about frequently and has proven to be an intriguing research case.

  1. Describe how your research and blogging influence each other.

Blogging is an excellent medium to present the genealogist’s research process. Writing in itself is a very engaging activity and will allow our brain to see complex research problems in new ways. You may find yourself in the midst of writing about an ancestor that you had not looked for a particular set of details about their life. Concerning the research of my family tree, I have not added every footnote and document I have come across. My blog posts happen when I say to myself that I need to explore what I am finding deeper. Writing about my methods  allows me to self-reflect and analyze my own methodologies. Research into other genealogy topics has also led me to using my blog as a forum to share important genealogy resources to the community.

  1. If you had only one thing to say to your readers, what would it be?

Practicing something daily that allows you to disengage from the noise of modern life is important to your health.

I have nominated three prolific bloggers for the Liebster Award and they are….

  1. Catherine Meder-Dempsey at Opening Doors in Brickwalls
  2. Marian Pierre Louis at Marian’s Roots and Rambles

Amy Cohen at Brotmanblog: A Family Journey asked me to forward her nomination along, so I am nominating EmilyAnn Frances at Through the Byzantine Gate

Should they choose to accept my nomination, they will need to post their answers to the following questions and nominate three other bloggers for the award.

  1. When did you decide to start a blog and what is the emphasis of for your blog?
  2. Describe how blogging and research influence each other.
  3. List a few of your favorite blogs.
  4. What goals do you have for your blog in the next year?
  5. What is your favorite post that you have written?
  6. What are three interests/hobbies of yours outside of blogging and family history?

I look forward to reading my nominees’ responses.  Congratulations!

October 2015 Newsletter


Thank you for following Travelogues of a Genealogist and the monthly newsletter. It feels as if the time when I need to remind myself  to write a newsletter comes quicker and quicker. Fall is traditionally a busier time of year and I am attending as many genealogy seminars as possible. Seminars allow us to be around others with a shared interest. Personally, I experience a feeling of solidarity with other researchers regardless of their expertise. I am happy to be bringing you this newsletter with exciting news about my multiple genealogy projects. I hope in the coming months to add more content about my ancestors, which will allow me to present my methodologies and techniques for solving brick walls.

There are a couple new features of the blog page that deserve mention. I have added a calendar that allows you to access my archive of blog posts. I am available for webinars and live lectures on many topics in genealogy. Check out the lectures page and contact me if you would like to present on a topic for patrons of your organization.

Maritime Genealogy

I have received several inquiries about ancestors who worked on ships. Researching maritime ancestors can produce some fascinating family stories, but are among the most difficult or time consuming to locate evidence of their occupation. Many of us can recall a sea captain or shipmaster in our past, but we do not have any actual record of it. My interest in the subject stemmed from a volunteer project at NARA Northeast Branch in Waltham, Massachusetts where I am creating an inventory of records of the U.S. Customs Service in Salem, Massachusetts. These federal records are overlooked and could certainly hold the clue to your ship captain. What I have compiled is a working bibliography that could get you started on finding your mariner in a crew list or view his protection certificate. Head over to the publications page and download the pdf, “Maritime Genealogy Bibliography”. I would also suggest downloading the Maritime Terms Glossary to assist you in understanding the documents related to your seafaring ancestor.

If you enjoy genealogy talks on maritime ancestors and researching at the National Archives (NARA), check out my upcoming lectures. Members of the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists  are welcome to attend my webinar 19 Jan 2016, now titled, “Using Records of the U.S. Customs Service to Locate Seafaring Ancestors”. For those live in northern Worcester County, the Central Massachusetts Genealogical Society will be hosting a live talk where I will present on “Maritime Research at the National Archives”. The date of this talk is scheduled for 23 Feb 20161 and will be held at the American Legion in Gardner, Massachusetts.

  1. Date subject to change

Recent Travelogues

Obituary of Owen O’Neill and wife, Ellen Russell,” posted 9 Oct 2015.

Thoughts on Fall Conference in Chelmsford,” posted 27 Sep 2015.

Determining the “Purpose” of a Source

One of my theses as an undergraduate history student looked at published memorials made in commemoration for fallen soldiers of the Union Army. While this thesis discussed their function in northern Protestant culture during the Civil War, I decided to put a genealogist’s spin on it. The resulting blog post demonstrates that my topic’s connection to genealogy comes from the importance of how re-evaluating analyzing the original purpose of a genealogical source can add new clues to our research. Judy G. Russell, a prolific genealogist and lecturer, offered a venue for my blog post with her own blog The Legal Genealogist. Follow Judy Russell and enjoy her thoughts connecting the law and its history to genealogy. You can view my guest post here.

Recommended Links

FamilySearch Wiki – Wherever my genealogy research paths may take me, the FamilySearch Wiki is there to provide answers on new locales, records, and many more genealogy subjects.

Periodicals and the Periodical Source Index [PERSI] – Many researchers are frustrated with dead ends and not being able to find documented proof of your ancestors. Periodicals of different genealogy societies are a great source of literature because societies require research articles include documentation for their finds. PERSI is the go-to repository for finding a genealogy article and the most up-to-date collection is searchable at

Virtual Genealogy Fair – Access the expertise of NARA archivists and historians. Lectures are 21-22 Oct and are available on NARA’s Youtube channel.

Facebook Group “New England Witchcraft Trials” – A group on the New England Witchcraft Trials to include history and genealogy of the accused, the accusers, and the investigators.

What the Heck Does it Say? Five Tips for Deciphering Old Handwriting

Call for Volunteers – The NextGen Genealogy Network

ISFHWE 2016 Excellence in Writing Competition Information – Writing contest for family historians – This is a great blog to visit if you are just getting started with genealogy. – Ellen Todd has been a genealogist for 30 years in the New England area. Her blog focuses on her Ohio and Mid-Atlantic Ancestors.


Jake Fletcher

Genealogist, Historical Researcher, Blog Author

Lunenburg, MA

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`Jake Fletcher, “Oct 2015 Newsletter,” Travelogues of a Genealogist, posted 20 Oct 2015.

Copyright (c) 2015 Jake Fletcher. All materials protected under the laws of copyright. Do not copy or reproduce without the author’s permission.

Obituary of Owen O’Neill and wife Ellen Russell


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The story of my 3x great-grandfather and grandmother Owen O’Neill and Ellen is slowly piecing itself together. For a couple years, I sat with many references to the collections of San Mateo County Genealogical Society unable to view the original sources. Eager to access information about my O’Neill family, but without means to travel to California, I employed the help of my good friend Deborah Sweeney ( who mentioned she would be able to squeeze in a trip to the California State Library, which has microfilm copies of the San Mateo County Gazette. Owen and Ellen were among the very first settlers in Belmont township. The obituaries proved to be on the short side, but as always, there is tons of evidence to glean from these newspaper columns.

San Mateo County Gazette (28 Apr 1871), page 3, column 2. Accessed at California State Library.

San Mateo County Gazette (28 Apr 1871), page 3, column 2. Accessed at California State Library.

Based on the index, I presumed his date of death was 28 Apr 1871, but with the original source I corrected that date to the 23rd. He was called by his title of Capt. Owen O’Neil because he piloted some kind of vessel around San Francisco Bay. According the the column, he had been a sufferer of inflammatory rheumatism for almost a decade leading to having no mobility the last three of years. A great deal of pain and a tough condition for many today, “rheumatism” is an obsolete diagnosis of severe joint pain. Owen left Belmont, California as a respected member of the community.

San Mateo County Gazette (4 Aug 1883), page 3, column 1. Accessed at CSL.

San Mateo County Gazette (4 Aug 1883), page 3, column 1. Accessed at CSL.

Ellen died suddenly 1 Aug 1883 and was determined as blood poisoning. Based on the sophistication of medicine and diagnoses at the time, this should be taken with a grain of salt. The obituary mentions only one child, my second great-grandfather, Matthew James “Mat” O’Neill. I don’t know a whole lot about his firm Emmett & O’Neill. As always, I am left with more questions than answers, but I have more clues to help understand my Irish-American history. Thanks again to Deborah for her research services and be sure to visit her website ( to learn more about her amazing contributions to genealogy. I did strike gold recently looking through the deeds of San Mateo County on and will be posting more about the O’Neill family in the near future.


Jake Fletcher, “Obituary of Owen O’Neill and wife Ellen Russell,” Travelogues of a Genealogist, posted 8 Oct 2015.

All materials protected under copyright. Do not copy or reproduce without the author’s permission.

The ‘Purpose’ of a Source – Guest Post for Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist

I was ecstatic to hear from my colleague Marian Pierre-Louis that Judy Russell ( had offered to publish one of my articles as a guest post for her blog. In this piece, I examined one source that I had become familiar with through my senior thesis. My thesis focused on published memorials for Union Soldiers of the Civil War. Through my research, I was able to survey and analyze the literature in a way that revealed how these were not just for a family’s keepsake and long lasting memory, but were instruments of the Union cause.

Thank you to Judy and Marian for making this happen. I hope you all enjoy reading it!

“The ‘Purpose’ of a Source: A Case Study of Memorials For Union Soldiers”


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