The SWEERS Connection

Find your ancestors in Revolutionary War Rolls.

Before I left for vacation two weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a lady named Nancy, who coincidentally hails from Yakima, Washington, just a three-hour drive from my hometown. Nancy has been chasing the HILT family all over Maine and Massachusetts, she says, and she found my record of Peter HILT who married Margaret ZWIERS on my WorldConnect database at RootsWeb.

First off, if you aren’t familiar with WorldConnect, it is a place at RootsWeb where you can upload your family tree database in GEDCOM format. Information on living persons is automatically “cleaned” from viewers on the Internet, for privacy’s sake. As a submitter of my GEDCOM, I can use my database as a backup file in the event of a computer crash, home fire, natural disaster, etc. and download a copy of my entire GEDCOM back into my computer in the event that it is necessary. Did I mention this is free, as is everything on RootsWeb?

One of the nifty features of WorldConnect–and this feature is also available at many of the other databases at RootsWeb–is the ability to add Post-ems. Say that you, like Nancy, were searching for Peter HILT and you found him on my WorldConnect database. When you click on his file, you can then click on the “Add Post-em” link near the top of the page. You will then be prompted to register for a free member account, if you don’t already have one and are signed in. Next you will be able to leave a Post-em; think of it as an electronic sticky note. This will include your name, e-mail address, and a short message, such as “Hi, I’m researching this individual, too!” or “I have records that show a different death date for this individual.” You can leave the URL and title of your website or blog, if you wish, and then create a password for security’s sake. After you click the “post” button, an e-mail will be sent to me, and we can connect further, if we desire.

Anyway, back to my SWEERS family. From my research, I knew that a Daniel ZWIERS, a Palatine born in Germany, immigrated to the U.S. on the galley Ann, where he landed in Philadelphia on 27 September 1746. Then I have no more record of him until 1762, when he and his wife Margery join the First Church of Lancaster, Worcester Co., Massachusetts on June 18th. He and his family lived in the Lancaster area until his death in 1779. Thus far, I’ve been able to determine that he and Margery had at least six children: Jacob, Daniel Jr., Margaret (who married Peter HILT), Barbara (who married William SHAW), Peter, and a son who was “killed with a cart” in Lancaster on 30 April 1765.

Jacob, Peter, and Daniel Jr. (my ancestor) all served in the Revolution; the first two for Massachusetts, and Daniel for Vermont. In fact, I’ve recently found Daniel in the Revolutionary War Rolls at Footnote (more on that another time). I’ve been able to trace this family all through New England, New York, Ontario and into Michigan, as the name has evolved from ZWIERS to ZWEARS, then SWEARS and finally, SWEERS. But what has puzzled me was that 19-year gap from Daniel Sr.’s arrival in Philadelphia until his appearance in Lancaster. And why Lancaster? It was a Puritan stronghold, and to my knowledge, no Palatines were in the area. Where in the Palatine did Daniel and Margery hail from? I haven’t been able to find them in histories of Palatine immigrants. Nancy may have the answers.

She sent me copies of pages from the book, Broad Bay Pioneers: 18th Century German-Speaking Settlers of Present-Day Waldoboro, Maine by Wilford W. Whitaker and Gary T. Horlacher. I found a long history of the HILT family, as well as a short mention of the ZWIERS family, stating that the name “Zwier” was an occupational surname, “meaning a member of a two person group in court or other official duties.” According to this book, the original spelling was “Zweier.” Hmmm…I know just enough German to know that Zwier and Zweier would have two distinct pronunciations–zhveer and zhvy-er, respectively–so I wonder about the accuracy of this.

The book continues that the ZWIERS family’s origins in Germany are unknown and that Daniel apparently arrived in Boston on 9 November 1751 on the Priscilla, coming to Broad Bay later. Broad Bay Plantation was a settlement founded in 1748 by German immigrants from the Rheinland area (the present-day Rheinland-Pfalz [also known as Rhineland-Palatinate] area of Germany is the home of the Palatines). The settlement is now known as Waldoboro, Lincoln Co., Maine.

Daniel’s daughter Margaret is listed, with a birthdate that I did not have, as well as a child of Margaret and Peter’s, and some information on grandchildren of this couple. The children I had in my database as being the offspring of Peter and Margaret actually turn out to be children of Peter and his second wife, Anna Margaretha Löbensaler, whom he married in early 1768 (giving me a probable death date of 1767 for Margaret ZWIERS).

There is also information on another possible son of Daniel and Margery, born about 1751. This cannot be the same as the unknown son who died in 1765 in Lancaster, as the former was married with children who were born in 1779 and 1787.

There’s a Daniel ZWAUR who signs a petition in Broadbay in 1788. This cannot be Daniel ZWIERS, I, as he died in Lancaster in 1779. It could be his son, my ancestor, Daniel ZWEARS, II who has a 17-year gap between records I’ve found for him as a member of First Church in Lancaster in 1773 and his appearance on the 1790 Federal Census for Dummerston, Windham Co., Vermont.

Unfortunately, Broad Bay Pioneers has no sources cited for its information, according to Nancy, so it’s difficult to determine where the authors got their information and how accurate it is. It does provide me with some possible answers to my questions, especially informing me that there was a settlement of German Protestants in New England at the time my ZWIERSes were living in the area. Maine was considered a part of Massachusetts in those days, and it wasn’t unusual for people to move back and forth between those two areas.

A couple of theories I’ve since developed with this information that will bear further investigation include:

  • 1. My Daniel ZWIERS first came to what is now the U.S. in 1746 on the galley, Ann, to Philadelphia without his wife and children. He worked to save money to bring the rest of the family over, returning to Germany to fetch them, and arriving on the Priscilla in Broad Bay, Maine in 1751. Later, he moved to Lancaster, Massachusetts in 1762, where he lived for the remainder of his days.
  • 2. The Daniel ZWIERS who appears in Philadelphia is not my ancestor, but another immigrant with the same name. My Daniel does not come to America until 1751, arriving in Broad Bay.

This information excites me, because this family is one of my few colonial families that does not already have a published history. It’s much more fun to do the research yourself than to discover that the history has been done to death, as what has happened all-too-frequently in my many Puritan and Pilgrim lines!

P.S. This is only one of two known German ancestral lines that I have. The other is my ENGBRENGHOF line, a family that came from Burgsteinfurt, Westfalen to the province of Friesland, the Netherlands between 1774 and 1778, and married into my DOLSTRA line there in the village of Marrum, municipality of Ferwerderadeel.

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The SWEERS Connection

Find your ancestors in Revolutionary War Rolls.

Before I left for vacation two weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a lady named Nancy, who coincidentally hails from Yakima, Washington, just a three-hour drive from my hometown. Nancy has been chasing the HILT family all over Maine and Massachusetts, she says, and she found my record of Peter HILT who married Margaret ZWIERS on my WorldConnect database at RootsWeb.

First off, if you aren’t familiar with WorldConnect, it is a place at RootsWeb where you can upload your family tree database in GEDCOM format. Information on living persons is automatically “cleaned” from viewers on the Internet, for privacy’s sake. As a submitter of my GEDCOM, I can use my database as a backup file in the event of a computer crash, home fire, natural disaster, etc. and download a copy of my entire GEDCOM back into my computer in the event that it is necessary. Did I mention this is free, as is everything on RootsWeb?

One of the nifty features of WorldConnect–and this feature is also available at many of the other databases at RootsWeb–is the ability to add Post-ems. Say that you, like Nancy, were searching for Peter HILT and you found him on my WorldConnect database. When you click on his file, you can then click on the “Add Post-em” link near the top of the page. You will then be prompted to register for a free member account, if you don’t already have one and are signed in. Next you will be able to leave a Post-em; think of it as an electronic sticky note. This will include your name, e-mail address, and a short message, such as “Hi, I’m researching this individual, too!” or “I have records that show a different death date for this individual.” You can leave the URL and title of your website or blog, if you wish, and then create a password for security’s sake. After you click the “post” button, an e-mail will be sent to me, and we can connect further, if we desire.

Anyway, back to my SWEERS family. From my research, I knew that a Daniel ZWIERS, a Palatine born in Germany, immigrated to the U.S. on the galley Ann, where he landed in Philadelphia on 27 September 1746. Then I have no more record of him until 1762, when he and his wife Margery join the First Church of Lancaster, Worcester Co., Massachusetts on June 18th. He and his family lived in the Lancaster area until his death in 1779. Thus far, I’ve been able to determine that he and Margery had at least six children: Jacob, Daniel Jr., Margaret (who married Peter HILT), Barbara (who married William SHAW), Peter, and a son who was “killed with a cart” in Lancaster on 30 April 1765.

Jacob, Peter, and Daniel Jr. (my ancestor) all served in the Revolution; the first two for Massachusetts, and Daniel for Vermont. In fact, I’ve recently found Daniel in the Revolutionary War Rolls at Footnote (more on that another time). I’ve been able to trace this family all through New England, New York, Ontario and into Michigan, as the name has evolved from ZWIERS to ZWEARS, then SWEARS and finally, SWEERS. But what has puzzled me was that 19-year gap from Daniel Sr.’s arrival in Philadelphia until his appearance in Lancaster. And why Lancaster? It was a Puritan stronghold, and to my knowledge, no Palatines were in the area. Where in the Palatine did Daniel and Margery hail from? I haven’t been able to find them in histories of Palatine immigrants. Nancy may have the answers.

She sent me copies of pages from the book, Broad Bay Pioneers: 18th Century German-Speaking Settlers of Present-Day Waldoboro, Maine by Wilford W. Whitaker and Gary T. Horlacher. I found a long history of the HILT family, as well as a short mention of the ZWIERS family, stating that the name “Zwier” was an occupational surname, “meaning a member of a two person group in court or other official duties.” According to this book, the original spelling was “Zweier.” Hmmm…I know just enough German to know that Zwier and Zweier would have two distinct pronunciations–zhveer and zhvy-er, respectively–so I wonder about the accuracy of this.

The book continues that the ZWIERS family’s origins in Germany are unknown and that Daniel apparently arrived in Boston on 9 November 1751 on the Priscilla, coming to Broad Bay later. Broad Bay Plantation was a settlement founded in 1748 by German immigrants from the Rheinland area (the present-day Rheinland-Pfalz [also known as Rhineland-Palatinate] area of Germany is the home of the Palatines). The settlement is now known as Waldoboro, Lincoln Co., Maine.

Daniel’s daughter Margaret is listed, with a birthdate that I did not have, as well as a child of Margaret and Peter’s, and some information on grandchildren of this couple. The children I had in my database as being the offspring of Peter and Margaret actually turn out to be children of Peter and his second wife, Anna Margaretha Löbensaler, whom he married in early 1768 (giving me a probable death date of 1767 for Margaret ZWIERS).

There is also information on another possible son of Daniel and Margery, born about 1751. This cannot be the same as the unknown son who died in 1765 in Lancaster, as the former was married with children who were born in 1779 and 1787.

There’s a Daniel ZWAUR who signs a petition in Broadbay in 1788. This cannot be Daniel ZWIERS, I, as he died in Lancaster in 1779. It could be his son, my ancestor, Daniel ZWEARS, II who has a 17-year gap between records I’ve found for him as a member of First Church in Lancaster in 1773 and his appearance on the 1790 Federal Census for Dummerston, Windham Co., Vermont.

Unfortunately, Broad Bay Pioneers has no sources cited for its information, according to Nancy, so it’s difficult to determine where the authors got their information and how accurate it is. It does provide me with some possible answers to my questions, especially informing me that there was a settlement of German Protestants in New England at the time my ZWIERSes were living in the area. Maine was considered a part of Massachusetts in those days, and it wasn’t unusual for people to move back and forth between those two areas.

A couple of theories I’ve since developed with this information that will bear further investigation include:

  • 1. My Daniel ZWIERS first came to what is now the U.S. in 1746 on the galley, Ann, to Philadelphia without his wife and children. He worked to save money to bring the rest of the family over, returning to Germany to fetch them, and arriving on the Priscilla in Broad Bay, Maine in 1751. Later, he moved to Lancaster, Massachusetts in 1762, where he lived for the remainder of his days.
  • 2. The Daniel ZWIERS who appears in Philadelphia is not my ancestor, but another immigrant with the same name. My Daniel does not come to America until 1751, arriving in Broad Bay.

This information excites me, because this family is one of my few colonial families that does not already have a published history. It’s much more fun to do the research yourself than to discover that the history has been done to death, as what has happened all-too-frequently in my many Puritan and Pilgrim lines!

P.S. This is only one of two known German ancestral lines that I have. The other is my ENGBRENGHOF line, a family that came from Burgsteinfurt, Westfalen to the province of Friesland, the Netherlands between 1774 and 1778, and married into my DOLSTRA line there in the village of Marrum, municipality of Ferwerderadeel.

Happy Canada Day!

To my Canadian relatives, friends and readers, I wish a Happy Canada Day!

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Flag Image from 3DFlags

My ancestral connections to Canada are as follows:

  • My father was born in Edmonton, Alberta while his father and uncle were stationed there with the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II (back in the day when being born in a U.S. military hospital on foreign soil did not automatically qualify you for American citizenship). Dad became a U.S. citizen when he was 16. When I was a kid, I used to tease him that he could never become the President of the United States. I don’t think that was ever a disappointment for him…! Dad also had many Canadian ancestors.
  • On his father’s side, Richard John WILKINSON, b. c. 1815 in Yorkshire, England, immigrated to Canada and lived in what is now Whitchurch, York Co., Ontario. His wife, Mary TERRY, a.k.a. Mary LAMOREAUX, may have been French-Canadian…or she may have been born in New Brunswick…or she may have been born to a Loyalist family from New Jersey. It’s one of those vague family stories that I would love to focus on and get documented and clarified!
  • Richard and Mary’s son John WILKINSON married Mahala SAYERS, who was the daughter of Scots-Irish immigrants, John Henry SAYERS and Mary CAHOON. John SAYER’s family came to Athol Township, Prince Edward Co. (not to be confused with Prince Edward Island), Ontario from Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland in the mid-1830s, in several trips. Mary CAHOON’s father was Preston CAHOON, and our line dead-ends there. John and Mahala (SAYERS) WILKINSON immigrated around 1880 – 1881 to Musekgon County, Michigan along with many of her siblings, thereby missing both the 1880 U.S. Federal Census and the 1881 Canadian Census (they were sneaky like that!). Mahala was alive when her great-grandson Robert Lewis ROBBINS (my paternal grandfather) was born, and he had a few memories of her to share with me.
  • On dad’s mother’s side, her paternal YORK and SWEERS ancestors took advantage of offers of homesteading land that were provided by the Canadian goverment during the early 19th century. We know that the SWEERS family emigrated to Chippewa Creek, Welland County, Ontario from Worcester, Washington County, Vermont in May 1809, and that the YORKs from Bath, Stueben County, New York were there around the same time. This became a problem for these American citizens when the War of 1812 broke out. Ancestor Daniel SWEARS, III, escaped across the Niagara River to join up with a New York regiment. Ancestor Jeremiah F. YORK (Daniel’s future son-in-law) and his brother Stephen VanRensselaer YORK were pressed into the 3rd Regiment of the Lincoln Militia of the British army, but also managed to escape to Canadaigua, Cattaraugus County, New York to join Captain Justus P. Spencer’s militia there. The SWEERS and YORK families eventually settled in the Town of Clarence, Erie County, New York, and later Atlas Township, Genesee County, Michigan.
  • Grandma’s paternal great-grandfather, Daniel J. MacARTHUR was born in Glengarry County, Ontario in 1827, a grandson of immigrants from Kenmore, Perthsire, Scotland. He emigrated to Montcalm County, Michigan in the mid-1840s. During the Civil War, he enlisted in Company I of Berdan’s Regiment, U.S. Sharpshooters (Michigan), rising to the rank of sergeant. Taking ill within weeks of the close of the war, he returned home on leave, and apparently never reported back for duty, disqualifying him for a veteran’s pension years later, although he made several applications.
  • Grandma’s maternal grandfather, Orlando BARBER, was born in Ontario in 1868, and the household is found in Amabel, Bruce County in the 1871 Canadian Census. The family emigrated to Lapeer County, Michigan around 1876. Orlando’s father, James, was born “in England” in 1839. His death record gives no clues as to his parentage. Orlando’s mother, Elizabeth A. “Betsey” COLE, was born in South Dorchester, Elgin County, Ontario to parents James COLE and Lavina WILLIS who were a first-generation Canadian (James’ parents were from Vermont) and a direct immigrant from New York, respectively. It is likely they came to Canada for the same reasons the YORKs and SWEERs did.

My husband has two lines that also hail from Canada:

  • His great-great-grandmother, Rachel HUBBY, was born somewhere in Ontario in 1832 to John HUBBY from Scotland and Hannah JONES from New York.
  • Henry LYTON was born as George TURK in Ottawa around 1841. He, like 10,000 other Canadian men, immigrated to the U.S. during the Civil War expressly to join the Union forces. He served from Iowa.

So as you can see, Canada may not be my home, or my native land, but it is one of my ancestral homelands!

Happy Canada Day!

To my Canadian relatives, friends and readers, I wish a Happy Canada Day!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Flag Image from 3DFlags

My ancestral connections to Canada are as follows:

  • My father was born in Edmonton, Alberta while his father and uncle were stationed there with the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II (back in the day when being born in a U.S. military hospital on foreign soil did not automatically qualify you for American citizenship). Dad became a U.S. citizen when he was 16. When I was a kid, I used to tease him that he could never become the President of the United States. I don’t think that was ever a disappointment for him…! Dad also had many Canadian ancestors.
  • On his father’s side, Richard John WILKINSON, b. c. 1815 in Yorkshire, England, immigrated to Canada and lived in what is now Whitchurch, York Co., Ontario. His wife, Mary TERRY, a.k.a. Mary LAMOREAUX, may have been French-Canadian…or she may have been born in New Brunswick…or she may have been born to a Loyalist family from New Jersey. It’s one of those vague family stories that I would love to focus on and get documented and clarified!
  • Richard and Mary’s son John WILKINSON married Mahala SAYERS, who was the daughter of Scots-Irish immigrants, John Henry SAYERS and Mary CAHOON. John SAYER’s family came to Athol Township, Prince Edward Co. (not to be confused with Prince Edward Island), Ontario from Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland in the mid-1830s, in several trips. Mary CAHOON’s father was Preston CAHOON, and our line dead-ends there. John and Mahala (SAYERS) WILKINSON immigrated around 1880 – 1881 to Musekgon County, Michigan along with many of her siblings, thereby missing both the 1880 U.S. Federal Census and the 1881 Canadian Census (they were sneaky like that!). Mahala was alive when her great-grandson Robert Lewis ROBBINS (my paternal grandfather) was born, and he had a few memories of her to share with me.
  • On dad’s mother’s side, her paternal YORK and SWEERS ancestors took advantage of offers of homesteading land that were provided by the Canadian goverment during the early 19th century. We know that the SWEERS family emigrated to Chippewa Creek, Welland County, Ontario from Worcester, Washington County, Vermont in May 1809, and that the YORKs from Bath, Stueben County, New York were there around the same time. This became a problem for these American citizens when the War of 1812 broke out. Ancestor Daniel SWEARS, III, escaped across the Niagara River to join up with a New York regiment. Ancestor Jeremiah F. YORK (Daniel’s future son-in-law) and his brother Stephen VanRensselaer YORK were pressed into the 3rd Regiment of the Lincoln Militia of the British army, but also managed to escape to Canadaigua, Cattaraugus County, New York to join Captain Justus P. Spencer’s militia there. The SWEERS and YORK families eventually settled in the Town of Clarence, Erie County, New York, and later Atlas Township, Genesee County, Michigan.
  • Grandma’s paternal great-grandfather, Daniel J. MacARTHUR was born in Glengarry County, Ontario in 1827, a grandson of immigrants from Kenmore, Perthsire, Scotland. He emigrated to Montcalm County, Michigan in the mid-1840s. During the Civil War, he enlisted in Company I of Berdan’s Regiment, U.S. Sharpshooters (Michigan), rising to the rank of sergeant. Taking ill within weeks of the close of the war, he returned home on leave, and apparently never reported back for duty, disqualifying him for a veteran’s pension years later, although he made several applications.
  • Grandma’s maternal grandfather, Orlando BARBER, was born in Ontario in 1868, and the household is found in Amabel, Bruce County in the 1871 Canadian Census. The family emigrated to Lapeer County, Michigan around 1876. Orlando’s father, James, was born “in England” in 1839. His death record gives no clues as to his parentage. Orlando’s mother, Elizabeth A. “Betsey” COLE, was born in South Dorchester, Elgin County, Ontario to parents James COLE and Lavina WILLIS who were a first-generation Canadian (James’ parents were from Vermont) and a direct immigrant from New York, respectively. It is likely they came to Canada for the same reasons the YORKs and SWEERs did.

My husband has two lines that also hail from Canada:

  • His great-great-grandmother, Rachel HUBBY, was born somewhere in Ontario in 1832 to John HUBBY from Scotland and Hannah JONES from New York.
  • Henry LYTON was born as George TURK in Ottawa around 1841. He, like 10,000 other Canadian men, immigrated to the U.S. during the Civil War expressly to join the Union forces. He served from Iowa.

So as you can see, Canada may not be my home, or my native land, but it is one of my ancestral homelands!

Ontario, Canada Vital Records at Ancestry

I have the feed to Joe Beine’s blog on my Google home page (along with feeds from many of my favorite blogs), and I noticed yesterday that he had a new post entitled “Online Canada Death Records Indexes.” I discovered that not only were the death records indexes for Ontario available at Ancestry.com, but so were Ontario birth and marriage records indexes. Where have I been?

I have no idea when these databases were added to Ancestry, so that’s what I love about Joe’s blog. It highlights new online databases, links of which are posted at his website. For someone like me who can be very easily overwhelmed by visual clutter, this blog is a godsend. Whenever I try to find out what’s new at Ancestry, it’s too hard for me to process all the information available on their “What’s New” page. Besides, Ancestry isn’t the only kid on the block. Joe’s easy-on-the-eyes blog and website have links simply categorized from all over the web.

I was very excited to find birth, marriage, and death records for many of my SAYERS, WILKINSON, and SWEERS (SWEARS) kin in Ontario. I wasn’t as successful with my BARBER, COLE, and McARTHUR (MacARTHUR) searches, probably because I didn’t have enough information to do a specific search, and/or the records I needed were too early for registration. At long last, I believe I found a death record for my 4th-great-grandmother, Mary (TERRY) WILKINSON (or was her maiden name LAMOREAUX?…I have documents that support both as her maiden name). Here’s a snippet of her death record from Markham Village, York County, Ontario:

For a full-size view, click here.

If you’ve got Canadian ancestors in Ontario from 1858 to 1932, I recommend you visit Ancestry. And no matter from where your ancestors hailed, I definitely recommend you visit Joe!

Ontario, Canada Vital Records at Ancestry

I have the feed to Joe Beine’s blog on my Google home page (along with feeds from many of my favorite blogs), and I noticed yesterday that he had a new post entitled “Online Canada Death Records Indexes.” I discovered that not only were the death records indexes for Ontario available at Ancestry.com, but so were Ontario birth and marriage records indexes. Where have I been?

I have no idea when these databases were added to Ancestry, so that’s what I love about Joe’s blog. It highlights new online databases, links of which are posted at his website. For someone like me who can be very easily overwhelmed by visual clutter, this blog is a godsend. Whenever I try to find out what’s new at Ancestry, it’s too hard for me to process all the information available on their “What’s New” page. Besides, Ancestry isn’t the only kid on the block. Joe’s easy-on-the-eyes blog and website have links simply categorized from all over the web.

I was very excited to find birth, marriage, and death records for many of my SAYERS, WILKINSON, and SWEERS (SWEARS) kin in Ontario. I wasn’t as successful with my BARBER, COLE, and McARTHUR (MacARTHUR) searches, probably because I didn’t have enough information to do a specific search, and/or the records I needed were too early for registration. At long last, I believe I found a death record for my 4th-great-grandmother, Mary (TERRY) WILKINSON (or was her maiden name LAMOREAUX?…I have documents that support both as her maiden name). Here’s a snippet of her death record from Markham Village, York County, Ontario:

For a full-size view, click here.

If you’ve got Canadian ancestors in Ontario from 1858 to 1932, I recommend you visit Ancestry. And no matter from where your ancestors hailed, I definitely recommend you visit Joe!

International Genealogical Index

Last weekend (January 21 and 22), I spend a lot of time searching in the International Genealogical Index (IGI). If you’re not familiar with this database, I highly recommend checking it out. Number one reason: it’s free! Number two: many of the sources of information in this database are extracted from official records. Note of caution: I said MANY, not ALL…and there ARE errors. However, it’s a great way to find clues as to which counties your ancestors’ vital records (birth, marriage, death) may have been recorded in. Then you can order the actual records on microfilm to see for yourself (but that’s a topic for another day).

So how did I access the IGI? I went to http://www.familysearch.org, which is the official website of the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (sometimes referred to as the Mormon Church…the preferential term is LDS Church, however). Using the search feature on the main page, I entered the following information in the corresponding search fields:

First Name: james
Last Name: york
Country: united states (you scroll down to get the correct country, or tap the letter “u” four times)
State: michigan (scroll down, or tap “m” four times… the “State” search field does not come up until after you’ve chosen the United States for your country)

Then I clicked the large Search button.

On the next page appeared 54 matches, from seven databases. I only wanted the IGI, so I clicked on its link (IGI/North America) in the box on the right side of the screen…the one titled “Sources Searched.” I then viewed a page of the 13 results for James York in Michigan in the IGI.

My great-great-grandfather, James L. YORK, was born in Atlas Township, Genesee County, Michigan on 7 October 1867 to John H. YORK and Anna CROTHERS. I know this, because I have a copy of his birth record located in the Genesee County Birth Register Libers (books). You will notice that there are two matches in the list of 13 James Yorks that fit my ancestor: Number 1 and Number 6.

If you click on James York’s name in entry Number 1, you will see James’s birth information, along with a message near the bottom of the page: “Extracted birth or christening record for the locality listed in the record.” This information is an extraction (an official viewing and copying of the main data of a record, which is usually double-checked for accuracy before being published) of the actual birth record from the Genesee County Birth Register Libers. Extracted records are usually (but not always) accurate, and are a more trustworthy source than submitted information (as we shall see). At the bottom of the page, you will see Source Information, with a linked number (1018921). This is the microfilm roll number. The Genesee County Birth Register Liber 1 (Volume 1) has been microfilmed and given the number 1018921. You can go to your local Family History Center and rent this roll of microfilm from Salt Lake City for $5.50 for 30 days. When it arrives, you can view the actual record of James York’s birth.

If you click on James York’s name in entry Number 6, you will see birth, death, and marrige information, including his spouse’s name, listed. The message at the bottom of the page reads: “Record submitted after 1991 by a member of the LDS Church. No additional information is available. Ancestral File may list the same family and the submitter.” This is submitted information, and I happen to know who submitted this. This information came from distant cousin of mine, who is a member of the LDS Church. He received his information from me when I shared my family tree data with him. In turn, he submitted this information to the IGI along with all his other data. While the information he submitted is correct, a problem arises when corrected or updated information comes along. There’s no way to determine if submitted information you see on the IGI is incorrect or outdated. That’s why I suggest you not use submitted information other than as a rough guideline. The extracted information is much more trustworthy, and you can always use the Source Information to help you access the original record to view it yourself.

If you are looking for an entire family, rather than an individual, you can go back to the main page and enter the surname (last name). Pick the country of your choice. You will not be able to further limit your search by state or province when you do a surname search. In other words, if I were researching my Sweers family, I would enter “sweers” (without quotation marks) in the Last Name search field, and choose the United States in the Country search field. The list I then receive is very long, as it lists not only the Sweers, but also the Swears, Swayers, and other similarly-spelled names. I want to keep this feature, even though it makes a longer search, because my Sweers ancestors used unusual spelling. If I wanted to keep it only on the Sweers spelling, I would click on “Advanced Search” on the main page, instead of clicking on the “Search” button. The Advanced Search gives me a choice to use the exact spelling.

Again, when I have my page of matches, I click on the IGI/North America results on the right side of the screen. I scroll through and look at the matches that are most promising, always choosing the extracted information over the submitted information.

Last weekend, I found new information on about 50 individuals that I was searching for. Some information was updated, i.e. I had only an approximate birth date, and then found an official birth date. Other information was additional, i.e. I found names of children for individuals that I did not have before. It was a lot of fun to search through the IGI and add more to my YORK, SWEERS, and CROTHERS families. I have a list of microfilm numbers now that I can order at my local Family History Center so that I can view the actual records myself at a later date.

Happy Hunting!