Thursday, March 18, 2010

Civil War Pension File Received!

I'd waited MONTHS for this, and the day finally arrived. I received my ancestor Ezra Wilkinson Nichols' Civil War pension file!!

First though, a bone to pick, and then a sincere thank you to the folks at NARA. I received the *wrong* pension file TWICE in a row before finally getting the right one on the third try. It would have seemed more understandable to me if they had gotten the name only slightly wrong, or been off by a number or two. Instead though, it was as if someone had picked out a file at random, stuffed it into a big envelope with my original request, and sent it off on its way. I still do not understand how this occurred, or how it happened not once, but TWO times. Each time, I emailed customer service to tell them of the error. The first time they asked that I send the file back (at my expense I might add). The second time, in my complaint message I demanded that they send me the correct file and I refused to send the new one back. I had wasted a good $10+ on sending the first one, and it had been their mistake after all.

To the folks at NARA's credit, my second complaint was handled *personally* by the gentleman receiving and answering these correspondence. He went to the files personally, secured the copy, and got it ready for shipping to me, and then sent me a personal apology and note. So THANK YOU to him. He has proved that there are some great, competent folks there, and I'd like to think I just got a bad apple or two the first two times.

I still have the pension file for one mistaken person. It is at my mother's place now, but when I go back to visit - probably this summer or spring - I will post the name in appropriate message boards and offer to send it just for the cost of shipping, to any descendant or researcher of his line.

But now for the correct file. The file was IMMENSE. Possibly 1.5 inches thick! I believe I would have been required to send additional payment for the whole thing normally, but due to NARA's first few mistakes, they didn't ask me. (Thanks NARA!) I've skimmed the whole thing and taken some notes. It didn't give me the answers I was hoping for on Wilkinson Nichols' ancestry, however it did give me a whole lot of answers I wasn't looking for. It confirmed some family connections and migrations I hadn't been able to confirm by any other sources except for censuses. And it painted a wonderfully detailed story of the personalities of some my ancestors, and their trials and tribulations navigating multiple, perhaps bigamous marriages.

In my next post, I'll talk a bit about just what is in a Civil War Pension file, and what you might find.

Friday, March 12, 2010

More Genealogy on TV!!

Ahhh... a genealogist's dream. MORE genealogy programming! In addition to the American version of "Who Do you Think You Are" and PBS's "Faces of America", I came across a television show produced by the original genealogy exports - the Mormons.

Specifically, Brigham Young University is producing a show featuring everyday citizens and their quests to learn more about their ancestors. It's titled "The Generations Project".

If you don't get BYU TV - and I imagine most of us don't - you can watch the most recent episode online on their website here.

I am halfway through the most recent episode and really like it. I feel like it goes more in-depth on a single individual or branch of the tree than the other two programs. I also appreciate hearing about the history of "ordinary" people's families. It's a different take than the celebrity route. Though of course I think that everyone's family history is really equally interesting!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Who Do YOU Think You Are?

The NBC series "Who Do You Think You Are" premieres tonight. I am psyched! Speculation is that this will lead to an increase in the number of Americans interested in family history, and I couldn't be happier if this is true. That means more cousins to collaborate with, and more possibilities at finding old family documents, bibles, photos, and more.

Watching a preview clip for the first episode, I was surprised to realize that Sarah Jessica Parker is a cousin of mine. Ok, a distant cousin, but the connection is on her and my ELWELL line in Massachusetts. Of course, more than a few of you reading this blog probably have New England ancestors, and a few Elwells hiding out, so this is not an exclusive group at all!

Who might you be related to who will appear in this season? Spike Lee? Susan Sarandon? Matthew Broderick?

I know I have been away from blogging for some time. I also made all my videos public once again after rectifying some problems with a "stalker" I was having. Creepy.

I'd love to hear what your thoughts are on the show tonight! Post a comment and let me know.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Area Man has Far Greater Knowledge of Marvel Universe Than Own Family Tree

In very loosely genealogical-related news, comes this article from The Onion, a satirical paper I love to read. Thanks to Scotto-san for sending it.

"Sundling, who cannot identify his ancestral homeland or the meaning of his surname, possesses extensive knowledge of the creation of superhero teams, the history of imaginary alien races, and the special powers of countless characters."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Top Ten Reasons Our Ancestors Came to America

I didn't write this one, but it was too good to resist re-posting here:

Top Ten Reasons Our Ancestors Came to America

10. Took wrong turn at Bering land bridge.

9. Slavers seemed pretty insistent.

8. Sought religious freedom and the right to disembowel Quakers.

7. Nothing good to watch on BBC.

6. Took their orders from Neil Diamond.

5. Potato famine put big dent in profits from Irish fish-and-chip franchises.

4. To oppose anyone else being allowed to immigrate to America.

3. Sick of having unpronounceable names.

2. Wanted the right to vote on behalf of their wives.

1. Hoped to one day be listed on Ellis Island website.


I stole this (rather shamelessly) from The Genealogue, who publishes all kinds of other "Genealogy News You Can't Possibly Use". He has an excellent and highly entertaining blog filled with news that you can definitely use, or at least get a laugh from. Check him out at:


And for ALL of his "Top 10" lists, visit:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Off the Beaten Genealogical Path

Sometimes I get tired of ordering birth and death certificates, sifting through census data, or searching cemetery databases. Not tired of genealogy, but tired of the "traditional" channels for research.

That's when an article like Kathy Jones-Kristof's comes in to play. Her "Unusual Places to Look for Genealogy" does a great job of listing a number of different avenues for research - some that you probably have never thought about, and some which you have probably not tried for awhile. It's worth taking a fresh look at the article, as well as the rest of her blog:


Inspired by her post (it was written awhile ago but I just came across it today), I decided to search some Unclaimed Property type sites and actually came across three recently-deceased cousins listed. I've contacted their next of kin, and am hoping that there is some sort of positive payout for them!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Japan's Itako a Dying Breed


With modernity comes some loss of belief in the ability to commune with one's ancestors:

“This is an era when children ignore their parents and forget about the dead,” said Mr. Kurokawa, who runs an inn near the temple that caters to visitors of the spiritual mediums.