Tag Archives: Genealogy

Organizing (and Staying Sane with) Your Genealogy

Genealogy is a fun and exciting endeavor that can easily seem unmanageable with the more information we uncover and the deeper down the rabbit hole we explore.  There are as many ways to organize genealogical information as ancestors in our family tree—and most find that they improve their methods as their records grow.  Michelle D. Novak will explore organizational methods for digitizing, naming, and organizing your paper and digital files, discuss common technology pitfalls to avoid, and present ideas on to help your research live beyond today’s technology.  We’ll draw inspiration from the past, set up common-sense systems, protect against “a matter of when” disasters, and find inspiring ways to share research with your family.

Michelle D. Novak is President of [MND] (www.mnd.nyc), a NYC Brand-Design agency and a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design and Boston University Genealogical Research. She is a Trustee of The Genealogical Society of New Jersey; the Genealogical Society of Bergen County, NJ (GSBC); and is Editor of the GSBC’s national award-winning newsletter, “The Archivist.”


Fields marked with an * are required

Please indicate the classes you would like to attend by clicking on the appropriate box below. 

It’s Elementary My Dear Watson: Solving Mysteries with Genetic Genealogy

Humans are 99.9% identical in their genetic makeup, yet, differences in 0.1% of our DNA has helped us answer questions about our recent and deep ancestral origins.  Direct-to-consumer DNA testing provides the toolbox for solving difficult genealogical problems.  This presentation will guide you in selecting the right DNA test, understanding your results in the context of your family tree, and present examples of how those with little to no knowledge of their family history can make big discoveries.

This topic will be presented by Anthony May.   Anthony has been engaged in genealogy research for over a decade. Anthony is a molecular biology and genetics researcher for the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine in Newark, New Jersey.  He is a graduate of Temple and Drexel Universities in Philadelphia, where he received his Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry, and Master of Science in Molecular Medicine, respectively.  He holds a certificate in Genealogical Research from the Boston University Center for Professional Education.


Fields marked with an * are required

Please indicate the classes you would like to attend by clicking on the appropriate box below. 

Webinar – Useful Genealogy Electronic Resources

Are you overwhelmed by the amount of electronic genealogical resources and unsure where to start?  Regina Fitzpatrick, Genealogy Librarian here at the New Jersey State Library will offer a live tour of useful electronic resources for researching your ancestors! She will review how to navigate useful resources on the State Library website, search strategy tips for databases and the library’s catalog, and other valuable websites specifically for New Jersey genealogy.

Note:  This is an online webinar.  Please register at the link below.

Register Here!

My Genealogy Story

This past October was National Family History Month and it encouraged me to do some “light” research into my background. I use the term “light” because I was only going to focus on direct descendants and skip the siblings and extended relations. While I managed to stay on track, I must say after a month of digging, I am exhausted. I must also mention that I was only using free resources available online through the New Jersey State Library, namely Ancestry Library Edition and FamilySearch. What I thought would take a couple days, turned into weeks, marked by highs and lows.

Growing up I was always told I was 50% French Canadian through my father’s side and 25% German and 25% Italian through my mother’s side…nice and simple. Yet when my father’s mother passed away, it was revealed that she was adopted around the age of 1 and was most likely of Irish descent. A few other assumptions informed my ancestry for decades and remained unchallenged until my foray into genealogy. For one, my mother always said her Italian side came from Sicily. As for my father’s side, they were Catholics that came from New Brunswick/Nova Scotia, but on my parents’ trip up there, they could not find any concrete evidence of Catholics with my last name. Third, as far back as my parents could remember, their immediate and extended family all lived in and around the Rochester NY area, unclear of how the families actually settled there.

With those assumptions in mind and essentially framing my search strategies, I began my quest and found some surprising results. For confidentially sake, I will be using initials when talking about some of my finds. The most important part of this process was to find out more about my grandmother’s unconfirmed adoption. I already knew her maiden name thanks to my parents and surprisingly found her S.S. Application and Claim index record, listing her father and mother. Her father was S.T. and mother was E.J. Unfortunately, I was unable to find anything on E.J., but according to the 1930 census, S.T.’s wife had the same first name as E.J. So they must have married at some point and didn’t include her maiden name on the census. Actually, in a plot twist, S.T married an E.C. almost 30 years before my grandmother was born and E.C. remained his wife through the 1940 federal census. Sadly, this mystery still remains, though perhaps DNA testing through Ancestry and close inspection of the NY Vital Records unavailable through Ancestry will provide more fruitful leads.

I continued looking into my father’s French Canadian line and was able to track them pretty easily. They stayed in the same geographical area in Nova Scotia, yet listed their religion as Anglican on the Canadian censuses, which is why my parents found nothing in the Catholic records on their trip to Canada. While we cannot confirm anything, my great-great grandfather’s brother was a mariner and there was a portrait of a mariner with the same name in a restaurant my parents ate at during their Canadian excursion. Ultimately, I was able to trace my great-great-great grandfather’s birth to 1797 in Nova Scotia, but he married a woman of German descent, so it seems the French Canadian heritage is losing some ground.

Once last experience I wish to share is related to the Sicilian claim from my mother and her father that turns out is both true and false. By going through the Federal and NY state censuses as well as the NY Marriage Index, I found my great grandparents marriage information from 1901. On their record, they both list their birthplace as Niwastre Italy. Well, there is absolutely no such place as Niwastre in Italy or Sicily. Given the high probability for human error in recording that information, I was able to find a small Italian commune, the Italian version of a small city or village, by the name of Nicastro in southern Italy. Can I definitely say this is the correct city, no, but the fact that you only need to replace two letters and the myriad of misspellings in official documents throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it is a fair assumption that this was their birth place. Lucky for me, out of all of the communes and cities within the province of Catanzaro (where Nicastro resides in Italy) whose records are available online, Nicastro records are the only ones that were transferred to the Italian State Archives and unavailable online. So while I can’t trace that line back any farther, I did find out that Italy did not exist as a unified country until 1861. Previous to 1861, everything from roughly Naples south on the mainland was considered the Kingdom of Two Sicilies. Were my ancestors proud of that heritage and therefore referred to the old country as Sicily; it’s possible. But like so many instances in genealogy, possible is not proof.

To wrap up my ramblings, I’d like to point out a couple things. First, while the online resources available through Ancestry and FamilySearch are incredible and a wonderful source for starting your research, there are so many other resources available at state and local archives, public libraries, and churches that can include new or corroborating evidence so do not be afraid to visit, call, or email those places. Second, genealogy research is a great opportunity to bring family closer together. Whether everyone participates in the research or just adds to the family lore through stories, genealogical research is a powerful force. I hope I have inspired some of you to take a closer look at your ancestry and please visit the New Jersey State Library, both in person and online, to see our Genealogy Collection and resources.

Using Ancestry.com DNA Results to Solve Genealogical Mysteries


Please join us as we conclude National Family History Month with a look toward the future of genealogical studies through DNA testing.  What family legends can you confirm or deny through this new and evolving form of ancestry discovery?  What new and exciting discovers can you reveal about yourself?  Joseph R. Klett, director of the State Archives and longtime genealogist, will discuss how he has utilized Ancestry.com DNA results for himself and other families members to explore and determine ancestral connections.   Find out how DNA results can dramatically change the trajectory of your research project.  


Fields marked with an * are required

Please indicate the classes you would like to attend by clicking on the appropriate box below. 

Researching Your Civil War Ancestors Recap

Courtesy of the New Jersey State Archives

Thank you to Jon Bozard, Reference Assistant at the New Jersey State Archives, for his informational presentation on Civil War ancestry.  Jon covered a variety of record types and collections that can be very useful for amateur and professional genealogists tackling the Civil War.  Popular resources available at the state archives include the Record of Officers and Men of New Jersey in the Civil War by William S. Stryker, Regimental Records, and the Federal Pensions.  Other less common resources include Payment Vouchers, Muster Rolls by Congressional District, New Jersey Home for Disabled Soldiers case files, and Photographs of Soldiers.  All of these collections can be viewed in-person at the State Archives.

Jon also highlighted some digital resources available through genealogical websites such as Ancestry and Fold3.  These collections include the U.S. Civil War Pension Index (Ancestry), a small number of Federal Pensions (Fold3), and the 1890 Veteran’s Schedule (Ancestry).  If you have any questions about the collections or are looking for direction in your research, please contact Jon Bozard at the State Archives or Regina Fitzpatrick, Genealogy Librarian the State Library.

Researching Your Civil War Ancestors

As the NJSL continues to celebrate National Family History month, please join us for Researching Your Civil War Ancestors.  Jon Bozard, reference assistant at the New Jersey State Archives, will cover the military records that are available at the Archives, and talk about what information you can and cannot expect to find there. He will also talk about records available at the National Archives in Washington DC, pension files and military service files, as well as show examples of some of the types of records you can find. There will also be information presented on other sites where there might be information of use to researchers.

Fields marked with an * are required

Please indicate the classes you would like to attend by clicking on the appropriate box below. 


Researching Your Revolutionary War Ancestors Recap

Thank you to Katherine Ludwig from the David Library of the American Revolution for a wonderful presentation on on researching Revolutionary War ancestry.  The David Library located in Washington Crossing has a treasure trove of information relating to the time period in American History from 1750-1800 including many primary source records on microfilm.  She covered a host of topics including resources available both at the library and available freely online through sites such as Fold3, how to read Pension and Service records, and unique information about the war.  I encourage you to reach out to Katherine at the David Library via email, librarian@dlar.org, or via phone 215-493-6776 ext. 102 for further information on the library’s collections.  Also, do not forget to come check out all of our genealogy resources for New Jersey ancestry, including collections related to the Revolutionary War.  A video recording of the presentation will be made available for online viewing so please check back in the near future.

Researching Your Revolutionary War Ancestors

Ever wonder if those war stories about your ancestors are true?  Did your family play a role in America’s fight for Independence?  Were your ancestors in America during the second half of the 18th century?  Please join us in celebrating National Family History Month with an informational session on these topics presented by Katherine Ludwig, librarian at the David Library of the American Revolution located in Washington Crossing PA.   She will present  information on the David Library’s rich and diverse collections, how to use them, and how to go about conducting your research.  Her talk will focus on using the Library’s resources to research family history during the colonial and revolutionary periods.  Please join us for this exciting and highly educational program.


Fields marked with an * are required

Please indicate the classes you would like to attend by clicking on the appropriate box below. 

Genealogy Research Stories Recap

Thank you all for coming to Genealogy Research Stories yesterday!  I hope you had a great time hearing some neat stories about my research.  Thank you to the audience members who shared their own interesting research stories as well!  I just wanted to quickly provide you with some citations for my research materials for the stories, in case any of you would like to see any of the original materials.

James Harris, Jr.

The Rapalje Children by John Durand

Find A Grave entries for James, James Sr., Ann, and David

Will of James Harris Sr.  Calendar of New Jersey Wills…V.8 p. 166 (abstract) 8443-8448 L Middlesex County (Full Text, available to order online or view on microfilm at NJ State Archives)

Will of James Harris Jr. Calendar of New Jersey Wills…v.12 p. 168 (abstract) 10405L Middlesex County (Full Text, same ordering or viewing options above)

Extracts from Colonial Newspapers article, plus one additional

Colonial Marriage Bond for James Harris Sr. and Anne VanBuskirk 21 June 1748 BK H (part 1) p.77 (available for online ordering or on microfilm at the NJ State Archives)

Supreme Court Case File King vs. Howell, Buskirk, and Harris Middlesex County 1770 #20872* (available for online ordering, also viewable at the NJ State Archives)

Supreme Court Case File King vs. Howell Middlesex County 1770 #20872** (for assault of John Giles, also on January 9th, 1770)

Frederick Dennelsbeck

Detail from Romeo and Juliet by Frank Dicksee

Will abstract of Frederick Dennelsbeck, Sr.  Full Text available via NJ State Archives Book 12 p.308 (recorded copy)

Colonial Marriage Bond for Frederick Dendlesbeck and Barbary Elwell 9th Dec 1766 BK D p.226

Family Search death record for Frederick and Barbara Dennelsbeck

Find A Grave records for Frederick and Barbara

Clara Madden

Women Holding Umbrellas to Provide Shade from the Sun

1870, 1880, 1900, 1905 (Emma Rayner), 1910 (Emma Rayner), 1915 (Clara), 1920 (Emma and daughter Alice Itson), and 1930 (Alice Randall and husband Charles) Censuses

Clara’s death record was found by searching the 1916 death records under her last name “Madden”.  (Remember, New Jersey Death Certificates from 1904-1948 are organized in alphabetical order by last name within the calendar year.)

Here’s a Find a Grave page for Alice Randall, her husband Charles, and Emma Rayner, who died in 1929.  Ada Crist may be Alice Randall’s aunt and Emma’s sister, as one of Clara’s daughters was named Ada.


We will be having additional lectures to celebrate National Family History Month on Wednesday October 18th, Tuesday October 24th, and Tuesday October 31st, 2017.  I hope you’ll join us for these upcoming programs.  Please also feel free to contact me for assistance with your research questions, and check out the Genealogy Research Guide.  I’d love to help you uncover some cool Genealogy stories of your own!


Genealogical Research Stories

Regina Fitzpatrick Genealogy Librarian

Please join the New Jersey State Library on Wednesday October 11th as we kick off our series of programs for National Family History Month.  Regina Fitzpatrick, Genealogy Librarian here at the NJSL, is an expert researcher into New Jersey’s genealogical records collections.  She has found some truly interesting and jaw-dropping stories about residents who lived long ago.  Come hear about forbidden romances, lost relatives, pirates, and criminal activity!  Time will be left at the end of the program so that others can share their own stories uncovered while digging into their family history.  Who knows what your next endeavor may uncover!

Fields marked with an * are required

Please indicate the classes you would like to attend by clicking on the appropriate box below. 

Useful New Jersey Genealogy Electronic Resources at the New Jersey State Library

Thank you all who were able to attend yesterday’s Useful New Jersey Genealogy Electronic Resources class!  I had a great time showing you how to find resources on the State Library website and highlighting some research strategies in Ancestry and Family Search.  Remember, most of the resources we looked at are completely accessible to you from home or your office.  In our discussion, we reviewed:

  1. How to access and search the State Library’s catalog.
  2. How to access and search the City Directory catalog (pdf file, use CTRL+F to search the document)
  3. How to find the State Library’s Genealogy Databases
  4. Using the “New Collections” function in Ancestry to sharpen your search results. (The State Library’s Ancestry subscription is only available for in-house use.)
  5. Using the “Catalog” function on Family Search to sharpen your search results
  6. Reviewing the Newspapers Research Guide, where the State Library’s complete newspaper holdings are listed.
  7. Reviewing the Genealogy Research Guide, which includes overviews of the State Library’s collections, the State Archives’ collections, and County Offices’ holdings, plus guides and handouts.

I’ve posted the handout distributed during class on the Genealogy Research Guide for anyone interested.  Look for additional Genealogy classes as part of the Lunchtime Learning series starting this autumn. Have a wonderful summer, everyone!