Visiting the Cemetery

Cemetery Transcribing at an 1850's era cemetery.


One great place to find information about your ancestors, is at their grave site. While visiting one ancestor’s grave site, you may find other family members buried nearby. If you do not know where an ancestor is buried, look in their obituary or on their death certificate. If the cemetery is large, it is wise to go to the office for a map of where to begin looking. Some cemetery offices will provide you with copies of interment records for your ancestor.

Many cemeteries are in poor shape or have very little maintenance. You may have to dig to find a headstone. Headstones may also be weathered to the point where they are illegible. If you are unable to read a headstone inquire at a local library, genealogical, or historical society. These organizations often have transcriptions of headstones from local cemeteries.

Although transcriptions are a great resource for genealogical information, nothing beats seeing the real headstone. If you ancestors are buried a far distance from where you are now, www.findagrave.com is a valuable resource to check out. On this website, you can view headstones from cemeteries all over the world. You can also upload photos that you have taken on your own visits to the cemetery, to share with other genealogists.

Posted in Cemeteries | Leave a comment

Civil War Draft Registration

Civil War Draft Sardinia New York

Today ancestry.com  (ACOM) released an index of Civil War Draft Registrations.  This is exciting, since before today, a visit to The National Archives in Washington, DC was required to obtain these records.  For anyone that does not already have an ancestry.com account, ACOM will be providing free access to this database through April 14th.

Information  contained includes: residence, age (as of 1st July 1863), race, profession,  married status, place of birth, former military service, and remarks.

In just a few seconds of searching, I was able to easily obtain this record containing information about my Third Great Grand Uncle and Third Great Grandfather. 

While their brother Robert Pierce was already fighting the Civil War in the New York Volunteer Infantry,  Bradley Sherman Pierce and Phileman Pierce, Jr, were working as farmers in Sardinia, Erie County, New York.

Posted in Erie County - New York | Leave a comment

Minnesota Death Certificate

George Alden Pierce Death Certificate

A Death Certificate is a great way to find a lot of vital information on your relatives.  Each state has a different method for obtaining a copy of death certificates.  Compared with other states, Minnesota has one the most simple methods.  The Minnestoa Historical Society has an online index where you can search for death records by name, date, and location.  Once you find a result you are given some basic vital information such as Date of Birth, Place of Birth, Mother’s Maiden Name, Date of Death, County of Death, and a Certificate Identification Number.

Once you have the Certificate Identification Number you may order a copy from the Minnesota Historical Society for around nine dollars.  Or you may visit the Minnesota Historical Society Library and locate the Death Certificate on their microfilm. 

As you can see from the Death Certificate above, there is all kinds of data geneologists find valuable.  With every new clue you find, several new routes may be opened to direct your research. 

One of the most elusive pieces of information  found in the Death Certificate for George Alden Pierce was his Mother’s Maiden name, DeGroth, before this Death Certificate I only knew her by her married name, Cindy Pierce.

The exact birth date of 4 June 1877 is also helpful, because  most birth dates deducted from census records provide only an approximate date of birth.

The location of burial, Oak Hill Cemetery, is very useful, since the location may be visited to see who has been buried in nearby plots.

The date of death, 2 June 1951, provides a reference point to begin searching local newspapers for obituaries, where more detailed personal stories are often found.

 If you have ancestors from Minnesota, visit the death certificates index on the Minnesota Historical Society website to see how easy it is to begin researching genealogy.

Posted in Isanti County - Minnesota | 2 Comments

French to English Translation of Vital Guerin History

When researching into your family history you may come across documents and stories in foreign languages.  This story about one of my ancestors was found in a French Family History website.  Luckily, I have a fiance who speaks French and completed the translation into English.

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*The French material is from the website:
http://galaxie.guerin.free.fr/guppy/articles.php?lng=fr&pg=55

Vital Guérin, fondateur de Saint-Paul (Minnesota)
1812 – 1870

Plusieurs Québécois se sont dirigés vers l’ouest canadien vers 1820, mais en 1821, une épouvantable inondation de la Rivière Rouge, près de Winnipeg les força à quitter l’actuel Manitoba pour se diriger vers le sud. C’est pourquoi l’on retrouve un grand nombre de Canadiens Français de ce qui est devenu le Minnesota. C’est même à un Guérin, Vital Guérin, dit Lafontaine, qu’est attribuée la fondation de Saint-Paul, capitale du futur état.
Vital Guérin serait né à Saint-Rémy le 17 juillet 1812. Son père Louis, mort en 1865, était un voyageur comme Vital le sera à son tour, au service en 1832 de Gabriel Franchère, agent d’une importante compagnie de fourrures. Il fut chargé de conduire trois barges de marchandises de Montréal à Memphis (Minnesota) avec 132 hommes sous ses ordres pour une expédition qui dura du printemps à l’automne. Rendu aux USA, il y travailla pendant trois ans pour Jean-Baptiste Faribault et Pierre Provençal à Mendota et Traverse des Sioux.
Une vaste région ayant été ouverte à la colonisation, fatigué des voyages, Vital s’installa sur un vaste domaine qu’un certain Michel Phélan avait du abandonner du seul fait qu’il avait été emprisonné pour meurtre. Vital y construisit une cabane de troncs d’arbres à l’endroit où s’élève maintenant l’édifice Ingersoll’s block en plein coeur de Saint-Paul.
Un domaine voisin portait un nom peu banal et d’origine amusante: Oeil de Cochon. En effet, avant Vital Guérin, y vivait un certain Pierre Parent, gaillard pas très catholique, grand amateur de bouteilles et de trafics en tous genres, mais de préférence capables de l’enrichir rapidement et roulant les biceps pour décourager ceux qui ne seraient pas de son avis. Ajoutons qu’il était borgne et roulait son seul oeil valide de manière inquiétante, d’où son nom qui resta au domaine.
Mais revenons à notre ami Vital. Les moeurs de l’ouest américain n’étant pas précisément ceux de chastes rosières, il fut menacé par d’autres colons qui voulaient le chasser pour s’installer à sa place. Il s’associa donc avec Pierre Gervais en lui vendant la moitié de sa propriété. Mais ce dernier abandonna vite la partie et Vital se rapprocha d’Abraham Perry, un horloger suisse qui élevait des bestiaux près de Saint-Paul. Père d’une famille nombreuse et voulant caser sa progéniture féminine, il le maria à sa fille Adèle et la cérémonie se déroula à Mendota le 26 janvier 1841.
Adèle devait être une maîtresse femme et conduisait les boeufs pendant que Vital défonçait le sol vierge. Leur existence était loin d’être confortable car leur cabane d’origine en troncs d’arbres mesurait environ cinq mètres sur sept, sous un toit en écorce de bouleau. Pas de poêle et peu d’ustensiles de cuisine, comme lit, une couchette remplie de paille et un coffre qui servait de table.
Le voisinage lui même était loin d’être de tout repos. Beaucoup comme Oeil de Cochon faisaient le trafic de l’alcool. Ils le vendaient aux indiens qui se livraient à des carnages quand ils en avaient trop bu. Ils tuèrent un jour une vache et un cochon à notre ami Vital. Mais ce n’était encore rien. Dix sauvages éméchés attaquèrent sa cabane, brisèrent une fenêtre et s’apprêtaient à massacrer tout le monde. Vital sortit menaçant de faire sauter la cervelle du premier qui approcherait, mais que voulez vous faire contre dix?. Bec de Faucon intervint, chassa les agresseurs, alors qu’Adèle et son bébé de deux mois s’étaient réfugiés chez le voisin. Ils avaient eu chaud.

La ville se développa rapidement à l’arrivée de nombreux arrivants. En 1849, Vital se fit construire une belle maison au coin de la septième rue et de celle de Wabaska. C’était d’autant plus nécessaire qu’ils avaient quatorze enfants et avaient vécu jusqu’ici entassés dans la vielle cabane comme des Parisiens dans leur métro.
Vital aurait pu être fort riche, car il possédait d’immenses terrains dans ce qui devint le centre urbain de Saint-Paul. Malheureusement, il en avait vendu une bonne partie avant l’augmentation de leur prix. Puis quand l’évêché fut fondé, il vendit encore le terrain pour 800 dollars. C’était donné.

Vital fit partie de la délégation qui en 1848, se rendit à Washington pour demander au président Polk que le Minnesota devienne un nouvel état de l’Union.
Il aurait pu vivre dans l’aisance s’il ne s’était pas associé à des spéculateurs qui le spolièrent d’une bonne partie de sa fortune. Lui même, lorsque la ville fut constituée, donna un terrain estimé à 250.000$­, un cadeau royal sur lequel furent bâtis l’église romaine et le palais de justice. Il essaya bien de se refaire en achetant un cirque et de pratiquer une activité au dessus de ses compétences, si bien qu’il perdit le reste de sa fortune.
Mort pauvre à 58 ans, il repose au cimetière catholique près du monument à sa mémoire, que ses concitoyens, tardivement reconnaissants lui ont quand même érigé.

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Vital Guérin, fondateur de Saint-Paul (Minnesota)
1812 – 1870

Numerous Québécois were pushed west, toward 1820, but in 1821 a dreadful flood from the Red River, close to Winnipeg, forced them to leave Manitoba and head south.  This is why one can find a large number of French Canadians in what is now Minnesota.  It was the same with Vital Guerin dit Lafontaine, who is credited for founding Saint Paul, capital of the future state.  Vital Guerin was born in Saint-Rémy, July 17, 1812.  His father, died in 1865, was a voyageur, as Vital would later become, in 1832 in the service of Gabriel Franchère, the agent of an important fur company.  He was charged with driving three barges of goods from Montreal to Memphis (MN) with 132 men under his direction on an expedition which would last from spring until autumn.  Brought to the USA, he worked for three years for Jean-Baptiste Faribault and Pierre Provençal in Mendota and Traverse des Sioux.  A vast region having opened for colonization, tired from traveling, Vital settled on the vast territory of a certain Michel Phélan, who had had to abandon the territory because he was imprisoned for murder.  Vital constructed a log cabin where now stands the edifice of Ingersoll’s block in the heart of Saint Paul.  A neighboring territory carried the name: Pigs Eye.  Essentially, before Vital Guerin a Pierre Parent lived there, a not so catholic fellow, an amateur drunkard, a trafficker of all sorts, but who usually preferred to flex his biceps to discourage anyone who didn’t agree with him.  We must add that he would roll his one good eye in a disquieting manner, and it is for this that he was named Pigs Eye.  But back to our friend Vital.  The conventions of the West weren’t exactly wholesome and rosy, one would be chased out by other settlers who wanted to move onto your land.  He became associated with Pierre Gervais and sold him the half of his property.  But Gervais quickly abandoned his share and Vital approached Abraham Perry, a Swiss watch maker who raised livestock near Saint Paul.  Father of a large family and wanting to marry off his daughter, he married him to his daughter Adèle and the ceremony took place in Mendota on the 26th of January 1841.  Adele took care of the beef cows while Vital broke ground for farming.  Their life was far from comfortable since their cabin was only about 5 meters by 7 meters under a roof of birch bark.  No stove and few kitchen utensils, a kitchen filled with straw and a chest that served as a table.  Neighbors were far away.  Many, like Pigs Eye, trafficked alcohol.  They sold it to Indians who engaged in bloody fights when they’d drunk too much.  One day they killed a cow and a pig of our friend Vital.  But this was nothing yet.  Ten drunken savages attacked his cabin, broke a window and seemed set to kill everyone.  Vital came out, threatening to scramble the brains of the first one of them to come forward, but what would you do against ten men?  Bec de Faucon stepped in, chased the men out, while Adele and her two month old baby were stowed away at the neighbor’s.
The city grew rapidly as many newcomers arrived.  In 1849, Vital built himself a beautiful house on the corner of 7th street and Wabasha (Wabaska?).  This was even more necessary since they had 14 children and had been living until that point in the old cabin.  Vital was perhaps very rich, he owned immense territories in what would become the downtown of Saint Paul.  Unfortunately, he sold the large part of his land before the prices appreciated.  When the diocese was founded, he sold his land for $800.  It was a giveaway!
Vital was part of the delegation who in 1848 traveled to Washington to ask president Polk to make Minnesota a state.  He could have lived a life of ease were he not associated with speculators who spoiled the better part of his fortune.  Himself, during the founding of the city, gave away a territory estimated at $250,000, a gift on which the catholic church and the courthouse would be built.  He tried to rebuild his fortune by buying a circus and practicing a trade which was beyond his competence, until he lost the rest of his fortune.  He died a pauper at the age of 58.  He resides in the catholic cemetery close to his memorial/monument.

* Translation to English completed by Natalie Anderson.

Posted in Ramsey County - Minnesota | Leave a comment

The Monticello Herald

Scanned Image of Monticello Herald

It is difficult to find digital copies of old small town newspapers.  I have been going through microfilms of The Monticello Herald from White County, Indiana, USA.  I will convert some into digital format.  It would also be nice to create an index of names mentioned in each edition.

This digital copy was created by scanning each page of the newspaper from microfilm into four Tagged Image File Format (.tiff) files.  Next, Photoshop was used to paste and align the four scanned images together into one file.  Finally, the image of each page in the newspaper was merged into one document, using Adobe Acrobat.

I hope to find a good Optical Character Reconition (OCR) tool that will help transcribe this paper.  This will greatly reduce the time required to create an index of the names mentioned.

25 November 1880 — The Monticello Herald

Posted in White County - Indiana | Leave a comment

Transcription of Last Will and Testament of Elizabeth Haskins

Wills are an excellent source of geneological information.  In addition to other interesting information, this will from Elizabeth Haskins identified her two sons, confirmed Robert Haskins was her second husband, and gave a list of her property (40 acres, furniture, and a horse).  

Please share in a post if you can decipher any of this text better than I did.

Thank you, Eric Pierce

  LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF ELIZABETH HASKINS
1 February 20th 1861.  I Elizabeth Haskins being about to depart this life do hereby
2 dissolve of what property it has pleased and to entrust the with in the following
3 manner to – with I hereby give to my two sons, Levi and George Swartzell all
4 my Real Estate amounting to forty acres the said Levi is to have the West half
5 and George the East half.  The son George is to have one bed and bedding and
6 clock.  My husband Robert Haskins is to have my young, 4 year old horse
7 colt.  Witnessed of my hand and seal Elizabeth Haskins [Seal]  Witness Joseph
8  Shelton MS Mitchell.
9 State of Indiana White County in be it remembered
10 that on the 15th day of April 1861.  Joseph Shelton one of the subscribing witnesses
11 to the above and foregoing Last Will And Testament of Elizabeth Haskins
12 late of said County deceased to which this affidavit is attached personally
13 appeared before me Orlando J Conafay Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas
14 of White County in the State of Indiana and being duly sworn by the Clerk of
15 said Court upon this solemn oath declared and testified aforesaid to sit
16 that is to say: that on the 20th of February 1861, the said Elizabeth Haskins
17 sign her name to the said testament in writing as and for her Last Will
18 and Testament and that the said Deponent at the same time heard the
19 said Elizabeth Haskins declare the said instrument in writing to be her Last
20 Will and Testament and that the said instrument in writing was at the same
21 time as the request of the said Elizabeth Haskins and  with her consent attested
22 and subscribed by the said Joseph Phabus and by W.S. Mitchell in the presence
23 of the Testator and in the presence of each other as subscribing writing or other acts
24 and that the said Elizabeth Haskins the said Testator was at the time of the
25 signing and subscribing of the said instrument in writing as aforesaid officially
26 that is more than twenty-one years of age and of sound and disposing mind and
27 memory.  And not under and coercion or restraint as the said Deponent verily believes
28 And further Deponent says not.  Joesph Phebus.
29 Sworn to and subscribed by the said Joseph Phenus before me Orlando
30 McConafias Clerk of the said Court of Common Pleas at Monticello this 10th day of
31 April A.D. 1861.
32 In attestation whereof I have hereunto subscribed my name
33 and affixed the Seal of said Court at Offices in Monticello this 10th day
34 of April A.D. 1861.
35 C McConsafay Clerk
36 C C P White Co
37 The State of Indiana White County.  I C McConsbay Clerk of the
38 Court of Common Pleas of said County certify that the within Said Will of
39 Elizabeth Haskins late of White County deceased has been duly admitted to probate
40 that its due execution was this day proven by Joseph Chalew.  Whose proofs to-
41 gether with such Will have been duly recorded on 29 page of the Record of White
42 in my office In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed
43 [S.S] the Seal of said Court this 16th day of April 1861.
44 O. Mc Conalay Clerk
45 By D. D. Dale     Dep
46 State of Indiana
47 White County F J Orlando Mc Gourehay Clerk of the Court of
  <new page>
48 LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF
49 the County Parse or our pieces of White County in the State of Indiana.
50 do hereby certify that the afore and foregoing is a true and complete
51 Record of the Last Will and Testament of Elizabeth Haskins late
52 Subscribing witnesses there to as filed and recorded in my Office on the
53 15th day of April 1861.
54 Witness my hand this 15th day of April AD 1861.
55 C McYouahay Clerk C.C.P.
56 By Dan D Dikle D ps

This is a scan from pages 29 and 30 from White County, Indiana, USA.

Posted in White County - Indiana | Leave a comment