Coming to America

Our program after the meeting on July 10 was about immigration. Carol Foltz gave a short presentation and tried to answer the following questions:

Why did people come to America?
Many people came in hopes of a better life. For many reasons: religious persecution, economic hardship, famine or war. There were others who were sent as prisoners of war or criminals. My ex’s many-times great-grandfather, William Munro, was captured in the Battle of Worcester and sent to the colonies in 1651. England sent criminals until the Revolutionary War, then sent them to Australia until 1868.

When did people come to America?
There were several main waves of immigration: the colonial period, the mid-19th century, the start of the 20th century, and post-1965.

How did people come to America?
Mainly by boat, until airplanes were available. But the types of boats varied, from wind-driven sailing ships to steamboats that could cross the Atlantic in a few days. In Carol’s family, one of the latest immigrant families came over in February 1912, just two months before the Titanic.

Who came to America?
People who wanted a better life.

Where did people enter America?
We think of Ellis Island first, but it wasn’t the first port or the only port where immigrants landed. In the New York area, Castle Garden preceded Ellis Island. But other ports include Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, New Orleans, as well as ports on the West Coast.

Where did people settle in America?
Many settled in cities, but many pushed West. Some would settle for awhile, then uproot and move further West.

A history of immigration in the USA

The Irish potato famine

Immigration to the United States

Immigration to the United States, 1851-1900

The Immigration History of the United States (Video)

Growth, Cities, and Immigration: Crash Course US History #25 (Video, John Green talks very fast.)

U.S. Immigration Before 1965

10 Myths About Immigration in the United States

Genealogy tip of the day: July 18, 2015

More about organization: I have a spiral notebook for research notes. I have written one name on the front side of each page. (I’ve only done a few, not the whole notebook.)

Under the name I have the birth date and place, death date and place, as well as burial and marriage information.

Underneath that I have listed:


I can add other sites as I sign up for them.

In front of each site, I put a check mark if I have entered information about that person on that site. On the right side, I put the person’s ID number if there is one.

So for my great-grandfather, Walter Burrell, I have the following information:

Walter Burrell
b 20 Oct 1871 Whitewater, Walworth, Wisconsin
d 30 Jun 1954 Fort Dodge, Webster, Iowa
bur 3 Jul 1954 Memorial Park Cemetery, Fort Dodge, Webster, Iowa

M 21 Aug 1895 Sibley, Osceola, Iowa

Listed 29YB-MMC Burrell-719

This is my way of keeping track of what I want to put online. I don’t want my research to be lost, so I am trying to share it in as many places as possible.

Genealogy tip of the day: July 17, 2015

Today’s tip is about organization.

I work with a number of different notebooks, computer programs and websites. I have a hard time keeping track of what I have done in each case.

With a three-ring notebook, you can tear the pages out and put them in a binder in whatever order you wish.

With a composition book, that’s not so easy. This post explains a type of organization for bound notebooks (called the Highfive notebook in the example). The method puts the index in the back, so it doesn’t matter if you start writing information right on the first page. Otherwise, if you must have the index in the front, leave 2 or 3 pages blank at the front for the index, then start writing the information. You can number the pages, as well.

In the example of the Highfive notebook, instead of recipes, think of surnames. Each surname goes on a line and you highlight the edge of that line, and also the corresponding spot on the page where you have written down information about the person(s) with that surname. You can even color-code them if you like. Then as you go through the book, you mark each page the same way. You will be able to look at the edge of the book and see all the pages with information about Smiths, for example.

As the example states, you can mark multiple places on the edge of the page. So if you have a Smith who married a Jones, you can mark both “Smith” and “Jones” spots on the edge of that page.

Genealogy tip of the day: July 16, 2015

Genealogists generally write dates in this fashion: 16 Jul 2015. This separates the day of the month from the year, and using the four-digit year eliminates confusion as to which century you mean. Each month is (usually) abbreviated to the first three letters.

If you are working in a genealogy program or online tree, you might not have to abbreviate the months. It does help when filling out forms by hand, though.

Part of the reason for using this format is because that is how dates are written in Europe. So using this format lets you get used to how the dates are used there (helpful when you are looking at records from Europe). It also avoids confusion that is possible if you write a date in just numbers, as 11/01/01. Is that November 1, 2001 (or 1901 or 1801), or January 11 in some year that ends in 01? Looking at 11 Jan 2001, it’s easy to tell the correct date.

Genealogy tip of the day: July 15, 2015

Today’s tip is about collateral lines.

Many people only research their direct ancestors: parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and so on. If they find information on the children in these families, they might not keep it because those people aren’t their ancestors, just relatives of ancestors.

Finding out about collateral ancestors — the children in those family groups, or your direct ancestors’ siblings and cousins — can be valuable to your research.

Not sure if you have found the correct family in the 1880 census? If you know who the children are, you can pinpoint whether John and Mary Smith you see are the right ones. You can also check the neighbors in the census to see if there are any known relatives living nearby.

Is this Thomas Jones the father or son? If the age isn’t listed, you can look at who else is in the household.

Sometimes a parent goes to live with a child when they are older. If the child isn’t your direct ancestor and you don’t look for the other close relatives, you could miss finding that person.

Happy hunting!

Genealogy tip of the day: July 13, 2015

Today’s tip links to a blog post about genealogy travel.

The advice is good, but I’d like to add one more tip. Try to find out before you go, what places are available to help your search and when are they open.

Find out phone numbers, addresses and what hours each place is available. If it’s a genealogy or historical society, see if you can arrange for a special visit if you are there when they normally aren’t open.

Recently, we had a volunteer who was ill on the day she was going to work at the Webster County Genealogical Society. She contacted another volunteer, who had made plans to go out of town with friends. So I stepped in, but could only work until 1:30 p.m. because I go to work at 2. That day, we had three visitors: a regular researcher and two women who were from out of state. It was the only day those two women were in town. They were lucky that I was able to be there when they needed access.

At our July monthly meeting, we had a couple from California stop by. One of our volunteers stayed after the meeting to let them research more. Again, it was a day when we normally aren’t open, but we were there for the meeting.

And just to be clear, we are thrilled when we are able to help people, especially when they travel long distances for family history. We are just worried that we might miss someone.

The Webster County Genealogical Society is trying to make our presence known. We have this website, email address (, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, Pinterest and even a phone number (515-302-9854).

~Carol Foltz

Genealogy tip of the day: July 12, 2015

Today’s tip is: Don’t wait.

Don’t wait to talk to your older relatives. Don’t wait to tell your own story. Don’t wait to compare notes with siblings and cousins about events and family tales.

You don’t know how much time you have to hear the family stories from the people who are closer to when the events happened.

There is an African proverb that says when an old man dies, a library burns to the ground. This is true in family history, as well. When the older generation dies, we lose the stories we haven’t heard yet.

So, don’t wait.

Genealogy tip of the day: July 10, 2015

Today’s tip is a slightly hidden gem. If you are familiar with Family Search, you may have used it for searching for records. But the site also has a Learning Center.

The Learning Center has a collection of videos ranging from a few minutes to over an hour. Topics include countries, skill levels, subjects like birth, marriage and death records, family trees, military and so on, and even include some in a few different languages. Selected videos from the latest RootsTech conference are also available.

The videos are all free and you don’t have to have a Family Search account to view them.