Tag Archives: Genealogy

Last Seen: Finding Family After Slavery

In honor of African American History Month, please join us for as Dr. Judith Geisberg and Margaret Jerrido showcase a wonderful resource for tracking down ancestors who were slaves.  Before slavery came to an end, enslaved families were routinely separated when “owners” sold mothers away from children, husbands from wives, sisters away from brothers.  The heartbreak of these separations has lived on to their descendants, who today try to fill in their family trees.  For two years, Dr. Geisberg and Ms. Jerrido collected “information wanted” ads taken out by former slaves searching for their loved ones lost in slavery.  The project began by collecting the ads found in The Christian Recorder, published by the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  To date the Last Seen project has identified more than 3,000 of these ads, digitized them, and made them available on the project website, where researchers and family genealogists can search the ads by proper name, location, circumstance of separation, and other events.  The site offers new avenues for genealogists to search their family history.


Judith Giesberg is Professor of History at Villanova University. Giesberg is the author of five books, Civil War Sisterhood: The United States Sanitary Commission and Women’s Politics in Transition (Boston, MA:  Northeastern University Press, 2000),“Army at Home:” Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front (Chapel Hill, NC:  University of North Carolina Press, 2009), Keystone State in Crisis:  Pennsylvania in the Civil War (Pennsylvania Historical Association, 2013), and Emilie Davis’s Civil War:  The Diaries of a Free Black Woman in Philadelphia, 1863-1865 (State College, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014.)  Judy’s latest book, Sex and the Civil War:  Soldiers, Pornography, and the Making of Modern Morality, (University of North Carolina Press) was published in 2017.  Judy is Editor of the Journal of the Civil War Era.

Margaret Jerrido received her BA, in history, from Temple University.  She received her MLS with a concentration in archival management from Drexel University. She has worked in the archival field for over 35 years.  She was the Director of the Black Women’s Physicians Project at the Medical College of Pennsylvania; Director of the Urban Archives in the Temple University Libraries; and is currently the part-time Archivist at Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia. She is a member of the Delaware Valley Archivists Group (DVAG) and the Mid-Atlantic Archives Conference (MARAC).  Ms. Jerrido has conducted workshops on how to preserve historical materials, lead discussion groups on how to begin an archives, and participated in panels and workshops on how to conduct oral histories to the PA Genealogical Society and the African American Genealogy Group.


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Using the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for Genealogical Research

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is one of the preeminent institutions for Holocaust-era research. Known worldwide as a museum, it is also invaluable to genealogists. This talk will cover strategies for using the Victims and Survivors database, the International Tracing Service Inventory Search, and the museum’s archival holdings (particularly those that are available online) of artifacts, documents, photos, films, books, and personal
stories. Methods in which the print collection in Washington DC may be used will be described.  Finally, she will cover some fundamental differences between archives and libraries and tips for researching archives via available finding aids.

Elana Broch, PhD, is the Assistant Population Research Librarian at Princeton University. She is an amateur genealogist who has spent much of her research efforts trying to find out about her grandfather, a 1941 “euthanasia” victim. What little progress she has made would not have been possible without the help of researchers and librarians at the USHMM.


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Webinar: Genealogy Research Stories Recap

Thank you all for coming to the Webinar presentation of Genealogy Research Stories on Friday January 4th!  The link to the recording of the webinar is at the bottom of the post, for those of you who would like to review or share the presentation.  I will also add the recording to the Recorded Webinars page of the Genealogy Research Guide.  I hope you had a great time hearing some neat stories about my research.  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 JamesJames 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 articleplus 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 BarbaraDennelsbeck

Find A Grave records for Frederick and Barbara

Clara Madden

Women Holding Umbrellas to Provide Shade from the Sun

1870188019001905 (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.


Please 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!


Webinar – Genealogical Research Stories

Regina Fitzpatrick Genealogy Librarian

Regina Fitzpatrick, Genealogy Librarian at the New Jersey State Library, 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!

*Please Note: This program is a webinar and space is limited to the first 100 attendees, not registrants*

Click here to register!


Documenting Your Past with iBiographer Program Recap

Thank you to Sofia Milner, founder of iBiographer, for her presentation and demonstration on how her product can help us all document and preserve our family stories.  iBiographer fills a gap in the storage of genealogical and familial information, allowing users to create family histories and family trees that are interconnected.  One of the biggest draws to iBiographer is that is free to use without any restrictions.   Some of the main features include:

  •   Family Trees
    • You can create unlimited amounts of family trees and you are able to link between family trees to ensure they are neat, less-cluttered, and more manageable
    • You can attach biographies to members on your tree to enhance the information related to each person in your tree
    • You cannot import family trees from other programs or websites
  • Biography Box
    • You can write your own biographies on anyone you wish
    • Biographies can be broken down into chapters that you can arrange in any order
    • You can upload photos, videos up to 1 minute, music, and documents to your biographies
      • There is no limit to the amount of material you can add to a biography or chapter
    • You can invite others to contribute to any part of your biography, for free, and they cannot make changes to anything you have done – a great way to involve family members from across the globe to more fully develop your biographies and family tree
  • Baby Bio
    • You can track the growth of children with the Growth Chart up to 14 years old
    • The Baby Health feature allows you to add all of your child’s medical information so that it is easily accessible and a quick reference for things such as immunization dates
  • Chatterbox
    • A chat feature where you can exchange messages with people that you have invited to contribute to your items, an vice-a-versa, as long as they are online at the same time

For more information, please visit the iBiographer website at https://www.ibiographer.com/.  To view videos about iBiographer and its features, please visit https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJQWtiSyzsDtxmnrgGhIgsQ.  You can view the iBiographer pamphlet here.

Documenting Your Past with iBiographer

Genealogy is an ongoing process that requires time and dedication.  While we may feel a sense of relief after hunting down elusive documents or references, we often forget that we still need to compile this information in a way that is easy to share with others as well as survive the test of time.  Determining how to organize your research, whether for publication or personal use, as well as how to store your information can be a hassle.  Please join us as we conclude our National Family History Month programming as Sofia Milner, creator of iBiographer, presents a wonderful tool to help you wrap up your many hours of research and toil.  iBiographer is a free secure website for people to write biographies about themselves and their family members. You can create a family tree, upload photos, videos, music and documents to the biography. It’s a place you can preserve your family history for present and future generations to see.


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Some New, Free, and Exciting Genealogy Websites Program Recap

Lew Meixler from the Mercer County Jewish Genealogical Society at Beth El Synagogues showcased a wide variety of websites that can help genealogy researchers.  Through a paid Ancestry.com account, he demonstrated how to merge family trees others created into your own as well as how you can invite “Guests” to your account that have access to many of the same features a paid member can use.  Lew also covered the basic features of more popular sites such as FamilySearch and FindAGrave, including the ability on FamilySearch to view entire microfilm collections digitally.  Below, please find a list of some lesser known genealogy websites Lew covered, including a brief description.  You can also download a copy of his handout here.  You can download Lew’s presentation here.

GenealogyIndexer (Free) – Over 2 million digital pages, focusing mostly on Central and Eastern Europe, including documents in native languages

GenTeam (Free) – Indexed records for German speaking area, including over 18 million entries

MyHeritage (Paid) – Allows you to upload your DNA results and organize your genealogy resources, from frees to family photos.  You are also able to find related matches that people have uploaded in native languages.

SteveMorse (Free) – Provides links to a wide variety of free and paid genealogy websites including the U.S. Census, Vital Records, and Ellis Island.

ItalianGen (Free) – Indexed records related to Italian heritage, but include many U.S. records, including the N.Y. C. Bride and Groom Records Indexes.

Some New, Free and Exciting Genealogy Websites

The internet has made many things in our lives easier, including genealogy research.  As a result, there are many electronic resources out there for any caliber of genealogist.  Lew Meixler, Chair of the Mercer County Jewish Genealogy Society at Beth El Synagogue will present on a wide variety of online genealogical sites, both popular and hidden gems.  While many of the sites are free, he will cover some fee sites.  The talk will provide examples of how using a number of sites together help to provide information about family ancestors both here in the U.S. and in other countries.  While most of the examples will be centered on Jewish genealogy, the information is very applicable to all types of genealogy research.  Please join us and Lew as we continue to celebrate National Family History Month!


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Webinar: Researching Your Pre-May 1848 New Jersey Ancestors

Family histories at the New Jersey State Library

Thank you all so much for attending yesterday’s first program of National Family History Month 2018:  Researching Your Pre-May 1848 New Jersey Ancestors!  I hope the information provided will help you further your family research.

In the webinar, we discussed:

1. Useful resources and how to find them on the New Jersey State Library Website.

Colonial Deed – Quit Claim by Benne (Cowaken) to Benjamin Hull 1701 Book AAA p.29

2. The importance of the May 1848 milestone: This was when the State of New Jersey began to collect Birth, Marriage, and Death data for all residents.  These records provide personal information (including birthdate, age, parents’ names) and are highly authoritative because the informant was likely the person themselves or a close relative.

3. The goals of Genealogy: to find a birth, marriage and death record for each individual in a line, working from death to birth, backwards through the generations, starting with yourself.

4. Primary Documents (items produced within a person’s general lifetime) versus Secondary Resources (published items produced long after a person’s death) and how each of these can be useful in researching Pre-May 1848.

Colonial Marriage Bond – Edward Pierce and Katherine Talbot Colonial Marriage Bonds Book 1727-1734 p.131

5. Strategies for researching in pre-May 1848, especially where to start. (If they married or died after May 1848, New Jersey State Vital Records.  If not, Secretary of State’s Estate Papers.)

6. Resources available at the State Library, State Archives, and County Offices particularly useful to researching Pre-May 1848 ancestors. Examples include: Early Land RecordsCounty Marriages and Colonial Marriage Bonds, Family Histories, and Newspaper Extracts.

7. Jeremiah Basse family research example, in which we saw the importance of resources such as Deeds, Wills, and Newspaper Extracts in leaping back a generation.

Don’t forget that the slide deck for the class and a flow chart for Pre-May 1848 research strategies are up on the Genealogy Research Guide’s Guides and Handouts page.  I am happy to answer any further questions you might have!

All featured images taken by Regina Fitzpatrick.

WEBINAR – Researching Your Pre-May 1848 Ancestors

Vital records are a critical resource for any genealogist, but they are not always easy to find, especially as your travel farther up your family tree.  May 1848 marks the start of New Jersey’s State Vital Records (birth, marriage, and death) collections, the most authoritative source of personal information about your ancestors.  So, how do we find and research our ancestors who lived before then?  Join New Jersey State Library Genealogy librarian Regina Fitzpatrick to find out and help us kick off National Family History Month!

Want to get started before the class?
Check out the Genealogy LibGuide!

*Please Note: This program is a webinar and space is limited to the first 100 attendees, not registrants*

Click here to register!


Using Ratables for New Jersey Genealogy

image of twelve shilling note, printed 1776

What are ratables?

Ratables are lists of heads of household compiled in order to levy a tax.  Heads of household were typically males and in some cases widows.  These taxes were levied periodically from 1773-1822.

Tax rates were based on a number of variables set by the New Jersey General Assembly, such as how many “improved” (i.e. arable) acres were owned, how many and what type of livestock, whether you owned a carriage, and how many servants and enslaved persons were contracted and owned.

The specifics of what was taxed and at what rate changed when each new tax was issued.  Information collected about the taxpayer varied based on what was being taxed for the period of that ratable.

Somerset County 1784 Book 1778 page 10
A ratable from Somerset County, 1784. Courtesy New Jersey State Archives ; Department of State

What can you do with ratables?

Ratables are an important primary source for pre-1830 genealogy research in New Jersey.

The first set of ratables was issued in 1773-1774, while New Jersey was a province, then regularly until 1822. There was no statewide census of colonial New Jersey.  The federal census returns for New Jersey conducted from 1790-1820 are lost; the first available statewide census return for New Jersey is 1830.  There are less census returns available for New Jersey than any other state. Genealogy researchers use ratables as a census substitute.

Lists of all known taxpayers in a town and lists of all known taxpayers with the same surname facilitate cluster genealogy, name studies, local history studies, and brick wall research.

Revolutionary Census of New Jersey

There are several published transcriptions and compilations of tax lists. The Revolutionary Census of New Jersey compiled by Kenn Stryker-Rodda is the most used.  This index groups individuals by last name from three different ratables: 1773-1774, 1778-1780, and 1784-1786.  There is no complete set of ratables for all regions in this time period, so by using these three sets, all townships are covered.

“For the revolutionary period there is at least one list for each of the townships into which the thirteen counties of the colony/state were divided… Two successive lists have been incorporated into this index whenever possible, as individuals were sometimes omitted from a list, and because names were spelled differently even by the same assessor.” (Stryker-Rodda, p. v.)

image of twelve shilling note, printed 1776
reverse of a New Jersey twelve shilling note, printed in 1776

The index is alphabetical by last name, and includes their township. For the financial details and to see all taxpayers of the same town listed together, you can refer back to the transcriptions of the ratables published in the Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey. A “code” in the front of the book indicates which issue of GMNJ contains the transcription.  The New Jersey State Library has a complete set of the Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey available for in-library use.

What can you learn from ratables?

The account of the taxpayer’s property lists several features of his wealth.  Tax was calculated by multiplying these numbers by rates.  For example, the tax burden for a householder in 1773/1774 ranged from 2 shillings to £4.  Those who owned a furnace or glass-house could be taxed up to £10.  There are a number of carve-outs and exemptions, similar to modern tax policy.

Information Contained in Ratables




  • a number without a letter: number of acres of improved land
  • c: number of horses and/or cattle
  • gm: grist mill
  • hh: householder
  • ms: merchant shop
  • rc: riding chair
  • s: servants or enslaved persons
  • sm: single man
  • sm&h: single man who keeps a horse
  • v: vessel (boat)
  • a number without a letter: number of acres of improved land
  • c: horned cattle
  • ex: exempt
  • h: horse(s)
  • h&l: house and small lot
  • hh: householder
  • p: hog(s)
  • rc: riding chair
  • s: enslaved persons
  • sm: single man who works for hire
  • sm&h: single man who keeps a horse
  • u: acres of unimproved land
  • £: amount out at interest
  • a number without a letter: number of acres of improved land
  • c: horned cattle
  • ex: exempt
  • gm: grist mill
  • h: horse(s)
  • h&l: house and small lot
  • hh: householder
  • p: hogs

Other Indexes to Ratables

  • Jackson, Ronald Vern, ed. New Jersey Tax Lists, 1772-1822. five volumes. American Tax List Indices. Salt Lake City, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems, 1981. This work is an alphabetical index of taxpayers and includes the taxpayer’s name, town, county, and date they appeared on the tax list. It is not comprehensive, does not include all lists or even all counties. The contents are also searchable as part of Ancestry’s database New Jersey, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1643-1890.
  • Norton, James S. New Jersey in 1793: An Abstract and Index to the 1793 Militia Census of the State of New Jersey. Salt Lake City, Utah, 1973.  This is a transcription of ratables created as a result of an NJ Law of 30 Nov 1792 “to take a list of all and every free and able-bodied white male Citizen, between the ages of eighteen and forty-five Years.” Those who did not serve and paid a $3 tax, as well as certain occupations, are listed as “exempt.”  There are no extant 1793 ratables from Bergen, Cape May, Salem, and Somerset, but the author reconstructed a list of these men from other sources.

Access to Ratables at the New Jersey State Archives

Of the total number of ratables recorded, only about a thousand (4% of the total) still exist. Almost all original extant ratables are in the collections of the New Jersey State Archives and are available on microfilm.

The Tax Ratables Collection Guide published by the New Jersey State Archives lists all extant ratables and microfilm copies available at the NJSA. “This series includes original tax ratables from the period 1773-1822, as well as photocopies of several tax lists currently in the custody of various historical societies.” Ratables are part of the New Jersey General Assembly Collection.

These collection guides (also known as finding aids) include the microfilm reel as well as the citation to GMNJ if a transcription has been published.

Questions about access to microfilmed ratables should be directed to the New Jersey State Archives. Researchers are welcome to browse the print indexes listed above and issues of the Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey in the State Library Information Center on the fourth floor of the New Jersey State Library.

Records at the Camden County Historical Society Program Recap

Thank you to Bonny Beth Elwell, Library Director at the Camden County Historical Society for shedding light on a wide variety of unique resources available at the CCHS.  The CCHS has a wealth of information over many collections, including city directories, cemetery records, property records, and newspapers.  Especially useful are the digitized Camden city newspapers available on www.newspapers.com, including Camden County Courier, Camden Evening Courier, and Camden Courier Post.  There are also unique newspapers on microfilm recently discovered including The New Republic and Herald and Gloucester Farmer.  Other unique records include Naturalization and Immigration papers, police reports, and yearbooks from Camden county high schools and universities.  For a comprehensive listing of all that the CCHS Library has to offer, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/CCHS-Library-Holdings.pdf.  For more information on the CCHS, including hours of operation and other events, please visit https://www.cchsnj.org/.