Public Service Announcement

Anyone with a genealogy interest in Brooklyn, N.Y. has likely visited the Brooklyn Information Pages. (And if they haven’t, they should.)

As I once wrote for Follow Friday, this site has been compiling and sharing all things Brooklyn genealogy since 1997. For free. (Remember that concept? People helping each other out for nothing?)

This is the link for the Brooklyn Information Pages (

Something called “” is NOT the same thing. It is, in fact, one of those really annoying zombie-type pages that are a collection of commercial links. So I’m not going to waste keystrokes putting a link in.

Nancy Lutz, who owns and manages the Brooklyn Information Pages, put the word out on the the NYBROOKLYN Rootsweb mailing list to clarify things. Here’s the killer: The proprietor of the click-trap site told Nancy that he appreciates her site and wouldn’t “mind people finding it through me.”

As my Brooklyn relatives might say, talk about crust.

Here is Nancy’s complete post on this topic to the Brooklyn List.


Links, 8.30.10

Did I mention that school doesn’t start in my New Jersey district until Sept. 13? Due to the unusual combo of a late Labor Day and an early Rosh Hashanah, we are living our very own remake of Endless Summer. I never thought I would grow to hate the sight of my own beach towel, but … really. I am ready for leaves to turn and apples to bake and all that other fall stuff. Please.

Success story: Good news for the Cook County (Ill.) Genealogy Online site, which was named a Best Website by Family Tree magazine. Containing a free index of more than 8 million genealogy records, the site went live in 2008.  More good news: County officials say that the cost of creating the site was repaid in just four months of online sales.

Funky?: The headline was eyecatching: Are you in a Genealogy Funk? Although upon reading the essay (“Maybe the record you seek is not online”),  it sounded more like being stuck in genealogy low gear to me. The article does offer useful advice: If you’re in a funk, it’s probably time to set down the mouse and pick up a road map instead.

No more new names: The New York Times talks about the disappearance of that U.S. genealogy staple: the immigrant who changed his or her name to sound more “American.” Experts agree the practice has been steadily dwindling in the last few decades. The U.S., they say, is simply more multicultural today than it was in the past.

Well, maybe SOME new names: Of course, there’s always a twist to these trend stories. A blog on this name-morphing topic mentions the writer’s father, a Korean immigrant who did change his name — to make it seem more exotic.

Never too early … To start making holiday wish lists. My kids have already tackled the topic of what to be for Halloween, so let’s just  keep working ahead. Anyway, did anyone else see the Eastman newsletter report on that nifty little FlipPal scanner? Sounds like a genealogy gift to me.

Off topic, but off my chest: Look, stop asking about whether I saw Snooki and the gang down the shore this summer. And thank you, Philly Inquirer, for explaining why I did not, and likely won’t. Trust me, my endless summer was lovely without them.

Enjoy the last days of August, and hello September!

Amanuensis Monday: Mrs. Roche Notes 88th Birthday

I’m offering this for Amanuensis Monday, and selfishly including it in my NewsClips file too. It was the most fantastic find from my unexpected bonanza of Troy, N.Y. newspaper clippings.

My great-great-aunt Maggie Haigney Roche and her sibs certainly had their share of publicity over various birthdays, but nothing topped the ink Maggie got in 1958, when a features reporter for the Troy (N.Y.) Times-Record sat down for a talk with her as she turned 88. The result? A personality profile that not only yields the date of Maggie’s parents’ marriage, but also gives an irreplaceable sense of Maggie’s lively personality. I so want to find out who Maggie’s PR rep was.

(Amanuensis Monday is the ongoing initiative by John Newmark at TransylvanianDutch in which participants transcribe family letters, journals, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts.)

For Maggie’s moment in the spotlight, read on:

Mrs. Roche Notes 88th Birthday

Today in 1920 … Votes for Women!

Celebrating the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. Photo: Cornell University Library.

Yes … The Nineteenth Amendment became law, giving United States women the right to vote. How about those smiles? I can only imagine what a rush it must have been.

This happened just in time to enfranchise my mother-in-law, who came along a month later. (I love to remind my daughters of that bit of timeline trivia. The bad old days are never as far away as you think!)

We were a bit behind the curve on this one. British women over 30 won the right to vote in 1918, although it would be 10 more years before they gained the right to vote at 21, achieving true voting equality at last. (And here’s a timeline showing the history of women’s suffrage worldwide. It is particularly amusing to note the instances in which women inadvertently won voting rights through loopholes in laws that politicians hastened to “correct.”)

While I’m straying into suffrage history on the other side of the pond, I wonder if anyone else remembers a riveting 1974 BBC miniseries called “Shoulder to Shoulder”, about the remarkable Pankhurst family and the fight for British women’s suffrage. Somebody on YouTube put up this rare clip, which I cannot resist sharing.

Don’t miss the kick-ass theme anthem and (at 3:14) the scene where the tough-as-nails Mrs. Pankhurst (played by the great Sian Phillips) causes a riot in a crowded theater:

I saw “Shoulder to Shoulder” as a teenager during its U.S. release on PBS’ “Masterpiece Theater” and never forgot it. Exasperatingly, it has never been released on DVD. Come on, BBC, how about it?

Quote of the Day: “Dear Son: Hurrah and vote for suffrage! Don’t keep them in doubt! I notice some of the speeches against. They were bitter. I have been watching to see how you stood, but have not noticed anything yet. Don’t forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the “rat” in ratification. Your mother.”

— Mrs. J.L. Burn (Febb Ensminger) of Tennessee to her son, state legislator Harry T. Burn, who would cast the decisive vote enabling his state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment, clearing the way for it to become law.

Just Clone Me, Already

I’ve talked about my successes with searching New York State vital records indexes at the National Archives regional branch in NYC. That’s me; always putting my best foot forward. Today’s edition is about the other foot.

Does anyone else find themselves wishing they had a clone along for the ride whenever they visit a major records repository? I know I do.

This clone would be an idealized, hyperaware form of me (perhaps synthesized from some super-secret, ultra-octane Irish-German DNA grown in a medium of Guinness and Weissbier). It would tag along to places like the National Archives regional facility in Manhattan. I’m sure the security folks would be fine with it once we both cleared the metal detector.

Upstairs at the archives, my clone would:

• Bring the sweater I desperately need, even in high summer. The microfilm room is a MEAT LOCKER, people.

• Remember what the Soundex code for “Walker” is so I don’t have to go checking for it.

• Notice that I’m starting to nod over the microfiche viewer and say brightly: “Look at you — at that rate you’re going to miss something big! Tell you what, why don’t you grab a cup of coffee — I’ll take over for a bit.”

• Poke me as we’re leaving and say: “Hey! You found that kid’s birth for 1899 but you forgot to check the 1899 deaths for her! Just thought I’d save you an extra trip.”

I want that clone so bad.

Wisdom Wednesday: A Quotable Quote

For Wisdom Wednesday, I offer this pithy advice about the golden years from my great-great aunt Maggie Haigney Roche (1870-1964):

“Age doesn’t floor you, unless you let it!”

Maggie lived to be 94 and was a live wire right up to the end, if newspaper accounts of her doings in Colonie and Watervliet, N.Y. are any indication. Mind you, she wasn’t doing anything scandalous. She just was the sort of person who had a lot of friends and threw a lot of parties. Not a bad way to live — at any age.

Vitally speaking

In planning for a genealogy trip to New York State’s Capital District, I’m determined not to burn precious road-trip time on tasks I could accomplish closer to home.

Consider the New York vital records microfiche indexes, which list events, names, places, dates and certificate numbers (not the certificates themselves). They’re at the New York State Archives in Albany, but copies are also at several other locations across the state. For me the closest is the National Archives Northeast Region facility in New York City, a commuter’s ride away. Excellent!

The New York vitals parameters read like a particularly nasty pop quiz.  Indexes begin in 1880 (for deaths) and 1881 (for births and marriages). They cover everyplace except for (a) Albany, Yonkers and Buffalo births and deaths before 1914, and marriages before 1908, and (b) the city of New York, but do include Staten Island, bits of western Queens and assorted townlands of Brooklyn and Westchester prior to annexation. Births are available after 75 years, deaths and marriages after 50 years.

Got that? Me neither. One can re-read the rules at the New York State Archives site. Do so, and carefully. Dick Hillenbrand’s Upstate New York Genealogy website has a guide to obtaining New York State vital records that is as user-friendly as things get in this cruel world.

The microfiches themselves are straightforward. The older ones run by year, alphabetized by last name. Some years (like the 1956 deaths I searched) are indexed by Soundex, however. (Never leave your Soundex cheat sheet at home, class.)

It was a good day overall. I found all the births where I had specific time frames, plus one birth listing that was a total shot in the dark (a “child died young” who was documented only on my Aunt Catherine’s handwritten Genealogy List). I also easily found death listings for both my Haigney great-great-grandparents, plus a great-great aunt. Marriages were a bust,  despite diligent searching.  Maybe my relatives didn’t register, or maybe my information isn’t 100 percent accurate. (I know; unthinkable.)

Confirming the existence, dates and numbers of vital records can speed retrieval (and save money) at the state Department of Health, which holds the certificates. Now I need to decide which certificates are most urgently worth ponying up for. At $22 per genealogy copy, this is a serious matter.

If you’re using the New York State vitals microfiches, I suggest these steps:

1. Make sure you really need them. For pre-1880 vitals, you need to dig elsewhere. For New York City, you need the New York City Municipal Archives. And don’t forget that Albany/Yonkers/Buffalo thing.

2. Save your sanity; narrow your date range. Use censuses, military records, family traditions, Bible notations, whatever you’ve got. Newspapers, too– stories like this one can be gold mines.

3. At the repository, tackle your “sure-thing,” specific searches first. Then do the fuzzier searches.

4. Carefully write everything down, especially if you’re sure it’s not important.