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by Jake Fletcher

Travelogues of a Genealogist

August 2015

Welcome to the first monthly newsletter for Travelogues of a Genealogist. Travelogues of a Genealogist is a blog page that I created in 2008. Since then, the blog has been a major asset to my experiences in the world of genealogy. A newsletter will be posted each month to educate readers on genealogy and to stay in touch with followers who want a concise overview of the content in my blog. Find out more below on how to get started with your own family tree.


Genealogy is the study and identification of one’s ancestors or family tree. You may find yourself wondering who your ancestors were, but are not sure how to get started. Below are four tips to guide the beginner.

  1. Ask yourself what you want to know. Determine your personal motivation for learning about genealogy and write down pressing questions you have about your family.
  1. Family Tree Builders. Most online family tree builders are free and are friendly to beginners. You may also consider a genealogy software program. Next month’s newsletter will feature a section on recommended family tree builders.
  1. Collecting Evidence. Evidence in genealogy comes from documents, but also from oral tradition. Every family has a story that has been passed down from other family members. Before going to the record collections, you should talk with family members, especially older ones, to record family traditions. Our role as genealogists is akin to a private eye detective: We seek truth and use evidence to shed light on family stories that have accumulated distortions. Sometimes all of this new evidence will not be received warmly by family members, i.e. a newspaper article of a disturbing event involving an ancestor, and we as researchers must enact a degree of empathy in these sensitive situations.
  1. Ask for Help from Experts. Availability of genealogy education has increased several-fold in the past few years. One can find many articles with tips from the experts, webinars, and genealogy courses. Facebook is now home to a significant number of genealogy groups hosted by experts that will answer your questions. I too am happy to answer your genealogy questions. [See links below]

RECORD SPOTLIGHT: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office


Was one of your ancestors an inventor? Ancestry.com has made available Record of the U.S. Patent Office, 1790-1909. The documents provide researchers with the name and residence of the inventor and signatures of witnesses. These patent records are great documents to assist in telling the story of your ancestor and you even receive a detailed drawing of their new patent. For example, William R. Johnson of Waltham, Massachusetts patented a new modification to drums in 1887 (specifically ‘snare drum’) allowing musicians to control the stretch of the drum skin, thereby changing the drum’s pitch. This slight modification has forever changed the way drums are used in performance.

Figure 1. “W.R. Johnson – Drum,” patented 5 July 1887, No. 365,817: accessed on Ancestry.com, U.S Patent and Trademark Office Records, 1790-1909.

Figure 1. “W.R. Johnson – Drum,” patented 5 July 1887, No. 365,817: accessed on Ancestry.com, U.S Patent and Trademark Office Records, 1790-1909.

U.S. Patent Records up to 1909 are available on Ancestry.com and at the National Archives. [See links below]


Recently I was invited to be a guest blogger for Legacy News. For my first guest article, I chose to discuss strategies for researching ancestors who worked at sea in the United States. If you are searching the seven seas high and low for an ancestor, try some strategies brought to you by the many guest experts at Legacy News.

“My Grandfather Was A Sea-Captain: Researching Maritime Ancestors,” 1 July 2015, Legacy News, Legacy FamilyTree/Millenia Corp, http://news.legacyfamilytree.com/legacy_news/2015/07/researching-maritime-ancestors.html

Several clients have approached me with research cases on their Irish families. Many individuals who try online research struggle with the commonness of names like Matthew O’Brien or Mary Kelly. The problem is compounded by the concentration of Irish residing heavily in American cities. For some tips to help you with Irish research and to make sure you have found the right ancestor, try my recent blog post for Travelogues, “Needle In The Haystack: Personal Strategies for Researching Irish Americans,” [https://fletcherfamilytree.wordpress.com/2015/06/21/needle-in-the-haystack-personal-strategies-for-researching-irish-americans/]

Travelogues in July 2015:

“Re-tracing your footsteps in research,” 24 July 2015.

“More Clues to Owen O’Neill’s Seafaring Past and Life in California,” 15 Jul 2015.

“Cataloging Research Papers for Edmund Freeman with New Thoughts,” 5 Jul 2015.

“Transcription in the National Archives Catalog,” 5 Jul 2015.

Essential Internet Bookmarks for Genealogy

National Archives – Records created by the government are available for genealogy research. These include military records, land records, naturalizations, and more! [http://www.nara.gov]

National Archives Catalog, Finding Aid, Records of the Patent and Trademark Office (Record Group 241) – [http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/241.html]

Family Search – World’s largest catalog of genealogy records – thousands of collections made online for free. [https://familysearch.org/search]

Family Search Wiki – Looking for ancestors in a specific locale? This Wiki page will point you in the right direction. [https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Main_Page]

National Library of Ireland (NLI) – Three weeks ago, the NLI made a historic move and digitized all Catholic Parish Records. These are free for browsing so there is no excuse now to search for your missing Irish ancestor! [http://registers.nli.ie]

Interesting Links

Writing and Composing Family History  –  http://vita-brevis.org/2015/07/composition-1/

Advice/Consultation for Starting a Genealogy Business – http://genbiz.solutions and Hack Genealogy Videos by Thomas MacEntee

250+ Killer Digital Libraries and Archives – http://oedb.org/ilibrarian/250-plus-killer-digital-libraries-and-archives/

40 Genealogy Twitter Accounts Worth Following – http://crestleaf.com/blog/40-genealogy-twitter-accounts-follow-right-now/

Struggling to read old penmanship in documents? Try this guide from family searchhttps://familysearch.org/indexing/help/handwriting?cid=fb-fsb-3299#?l=en 

We hope you enjoyed our first newsletter. Check in with Travelogues of a Genealogist blog (fletcherfamilytree.wordpress.com) for more updates. To request a hard copy of the newsletter, please use the e-mail below. Thank you.

Jake Fletcher

Genealogist, Historical Researcher, Blog Author

Lunenburg, MA


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Jake Fletcher, “August 2015 Newsletter,” Travelogues of a Genealogist, posted 5 Aug 2015. https://fletcherfamilytree.wordpress.com/2015/08/05/august-2015-newsletter/

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