Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Building a Family Tree: An Example on -- Project Six, Part Two

This post is another in the unending series of Projects I am doing to research different people in the Family Tree. See the comment at the end of this post for a further explanation of the Projects. 

In my earlier post about Thomas Gray, I ended by leaving many unsolved questions about the family. But thanks to a surprise helper in England, I received a message through the website about some wonderful progress he had made. Here is his message:
Hello again. It's been a while since we communicated. 
I thought you might like to know I've had a look through KNCB-72K Beatrice Clarke and made a bit of progress on sourcing etc. Got her birth and marriage registry index entries, but most importantly I've found her and her husband in the 1911 census. He and one child were at his parents' house in Rettendon in Essex, in between Southend and Chelmsford. She and the other four children were at her mother's house in Ryde on the Isle of Wight. The reason you weren't easily able to find her was that she was 10 years too old in that census: she was down as having been born in 1873. 
All of the children's birth entries show Clarke as the maiden name in the GRO indices, and I've filled in the appropriate middle names. I've not dealt with the rather ludicrous death dates for the twins of "2010", but I think I might have a proper death date for the male twin, just no proper sources to prove it. There's a Findagrave entry which has him born 17th April 1907 and dying in 1986 in Queensland in Australia. I've also found Australian electoral register entries corresponding to a couple of his siblings as well on Ancestry. It appears that some of the children at least ended up in Australia by about 1930 as an entry for Kathleen Prudence Margaret Harmer has her in New South Wales by 1934 and an entry for Robert Alfred Sutton Harmer has him in New South Wales by 1930. There also appears to be an Australian military service record Robert Alfred Sutton Harmer with him having a birth date of 7th March 1909, a birth place of Essex, England and next of kin of Alma Harmer. 
So I'd suggest Australia might be a fertile hunting ground for the mysterious second husband Mr Gray. 
BTW since my last message I've found the Gray-Harmer marriage you were looking for. 1930, Inverell, New South Wales.
You may have heard me mention the amazing experience I had with this commentator the first time I heard from him. I had discovered a family that needed some work on the Family Tree and left off working on the family until the next day only to discover that this person in England had filled in all the blanks and provided sources for the entire family. Now, it happens again.

It is so amazing to encounter such a superb example of genealogical research and see how it can be done in a such a short time using online tools. All I can say is thank you for the help and the example of outstanding research. Now I need to get busy and do a Part Three to this Project and see what more I can find.

Interesting Observations on the Historical Record Collections

I get a weekly notice from about all of the new or updated Historical Records added by FamilySearch. You might recall that the "Historical Record Collections" are linked from the main "Search" tab on the web pages of the website.

Now, what is interesting is that for the past few weeks all the records being uploaded to the Historical Record Collections are indexes without additional images. At the same time, the number of digital images published only in the FamilySearch Catalog has grown to 746.3 million. I am informed that the total number of images online on will soon reach or has reached by the date of this post, 2 billion images. So almost half of those images are available only by searching in the Catalog.

I am supposing that FamilySearch is trying to make the images already in the Historical Record Collections searchable, hence, the addition of indexes to these images. But if you are doing research, you need to realize that if you don't look for records in the Catalog, you will be missing a significant percentage of the total records on the website. This means that searching for records by using a name search is not entirely effective.

A Family History Mission: Dorsey Graveyard at Home Depot

No. 53

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission James Tanner" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them or click back through all the posts.

Most towns in the West have one or maybe two large cemeteries. Smaller cemeteries are not unheard of but they are not usually located in a Home Depot parking lot. I had to drive over to this Home Depot and take a look for myself. Here is the photo of the "graveyard."

We drive by two larger cemeteries on our way to work at the Maryland State Archives every day, five days a week. Almost everywhere we go around Annapolis we find another graveyard. I guess we are in the right place to digitize probate records for family history.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Building a Family Tree: An Example on -- Project Six

This post is another in the unending series of Projects I am doing to research different people in the Family Tree. See the comment at the end of this post for a further explanation of the Projects. 

This person is supposed to be the husband of one of my cousins. The only source for this person listed in the Family Tree is a "Legacy" source that cites "published information." In starting out with this type of entry, you cannot rely on even the name being accurate. Here is what is shown for the family information.

Since the name "Thomas Gray" is fairly common, I decided to begin with his wife. Here is how I am related to her.

She has five sources listed including two England and Wales Census years. But she is shown as being 18 years old living with her parents in the 1901 England and Wales Census. It also appears that the records were attached by my daughter Melinda Tanner Bowers and so I am confident that the research has been well done.

Here, once again, we get into the issue of privacy laws. As I have noted before, the England and Wales Census records for 1921 will not be released until 2022. So we have four more years to wait. But by looking at the information for Beatrice Anne Clarke, I see that she was apparently married twice. Her first husband died in 1919.

Is there any hope? What is more pertinent is whether or not there is any reason for me to do the research for this person at this time? Since this is Beatrice Annie Clarke's second marriage and her first husband died in 1919, there is really nothing here to indicate when this second marriage took place. In fact, she could have married the second time almost anytime up until she died, but even those dates are missing. However, Beatrice and her two children were all born in Essex. So let's take a look and see what the chances are for finding a Thomas Gray in Essex. I will look in There are well over a million records for the Gray surname in the database, 1,338,744 to be exact and 55,263 of those live in Essex. By refining the search to add a given name and an approximate birthdate, I get the following:

Hmm. Not much of a chance to find this person. I looked through every one of the marriages listed in the time period they could have been performed and did not find a marriage record. I started over and searched for Beatrice rather than Thomas Gray. I did find a marriage record for Beatrice and her first husband, Samuel Robert Harmer. I changed the marriage date to reflect the record.

I searched every listing of marriages for Beatrice during the possible time periods and did not find a marriage record to Thomas Gray. I did find one unusual record on

This record shows an Annie Harmer (Clarke) working as a domestic servant in Windemere Crescent, Eastbourne, Sussex, England. It has the note that she is married and 45 years old. The birthdate does not agree with what is in the sources on the Family Tree.

Where do I go with this? Well, this research goes into the Family Tree and awaits the passage of time to provide additional information.

Explanation of how this project began and why I am pursuing it.

In this project, I started out by picking a somewhat random person from my ancestors' descendants who lived in the 20th Century from the Family Tree and to hopefully show, step-by-step, the research needed to extend that person's family tree back several generations. Finding a person who has no apparent ancestors in the Family Tree is relatively easy for those who lived in or into the 20th Century. However, I am not able to use any of my own family lines because my direct lines all end back, at least, six generations. To clarify this project, I will not be reserving any of the people I discover for my own Temple List. I will simply leave the "green icons" on the Family Tree for that person's descendants to find and use for themselves. Please refrain from doing the temple work for people to whom you are not related.

Now, after I got going doing the research, I got a couple of requests to research some people further back in time. These turned out to be old, established "end-of-line" situations. Since my original idea was to demonstrate finding people, I started with easier challenges. But in any event,  I may or may not find new people to add to the FamilyTree. Since the families I choose are in an "end-of-line" sort of situation independent of the time frame, there is no guarantee that I will be any more successful than the average user of the Family Tree in finding additional family members. In any event, I hope that my efforts as recorded will help either the family members or others to find more information about their ancestral families and relatives.

Why am I doing this? For the past 15 years or so, I have been helping hundreds (thousands?) of people find their ancestors. I simply intend to document the process in detail with real examples so that you can see exactly how I find family lines. I simply want to show where those "green icons" come from. Since the Family Tree is entirely cooperative, I will simply assume that when I find a family that needs some research that I am helping that family. By the way, this is Project Five of the series because I intend to do this over and over with different examples.

There is another reason why I am doing this. Because I constantly offer to help people find their ancestors and I get relatively few that take advantage of that offer. I need to spend some of my excess energy.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Family History Mission: More Unusual Archival Finds

No. 52

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission James Tanner" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them or click back through all the posts.

We are finding some very usual items here at the Maryland State Archives. I recently posted a document signed by George Washington, but some of the other items are just plain strange. The court documents we are digitizing are in large books, some weighing as much as 25 pounds or more.

These books are most transcripts of filed court probate documents. There is one Court Clerk who liked to "illustrate" his transcripts with drawings of the court seals on the original documents. Seals were required for some types of court filings. Here are some examples of his work.

Usually, the clerks would just do a squiggle with the word "Seal" but this clerk went all out.

Here's what they look like on the pages of the books.

So far, we have found two books with these drawings.

We also keep finding interesting people in the records. Here is another example.

This is a probate document for Junius B. Booth, b. 1796, d. 1852. This is the entry in the Family Tree for the family showing that he is the father of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln.

It helps to know a lot about the history of the United States and Maryland, in particular, to work with these old documents.

New Calling Information Available on

For those of us who are acting as Temple and Family History Consultants in our Wards and Stakes, there is a new venue for information about our callings. If you go to the Consultant Planner on, you will see a link to "Your Calling" in the upper left-hand corner of the web page. Clicking on that link brings up a new page of links to resources to help us all with our callings.
Many of these resources are also available on the website, but this is another convenient way to access these valuable items. You should take the time to explore these inspirational and educational videos.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

A Family History Mission: Archives

Revolutionary War Pension Receipts
No. 51

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission James Tanner" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them or click back through all the posts.

If you look close, you might recognize the following signature.

Yes, that is the original signature of the first President of the United States, George Washington. Here is a photo of the entire document.

This is an order discharging a soldier from the Army because of some disability, likely a war injury.

We have been processing Invalid Claims Receipts recently. As Missionary/Volunteers in the Maryland State Archives, one of the side benefits of working at digitizing the records is to actually get to see some of these historic records. Maybe it was your ancestor that was getting a pension from the U.S. government for being in the Army. Maybe, your ancestor was discharged with an order signed by George Washington. Maybe you would like the opportunity to find out that information. That is why we are here digitizing records. Almost every day, we see something remarkable. Maybe you would like that opportunity also.