Tag Archives: Genealogy

Sources and Strategies for Discovering Immigrant Origins

For many genealogists, tracing the origins of immigrant ancestors can be a difficult task and leave on discouraged.  Melissa Johnson, a Certified Genealogist, will help unlock the mysteries of searching for immigrant ancestors.  Learn about various records and strategies to help discover the origins of immigrants who came to the United States during various time periods. This lecture will cover immigration, naturalization, and alien records, as well as other record sets and strategies for studying groups to identify immigrant origins.


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Preserving Family Photographs

Since the introduction of photographic portrait studios in 1840, photographs have been among the most treasured of family records but, while most are long-lasting when stored optimally in archives, in the home environment, they are all too often prone to fading and discoloration.  In this slide lecture, Gary Saretzky, Archivist at the Monmouth County Archives, will provide guidance on how the life of family photographs can be extended so that they can be passed down to future generations.  The lecture includes examples of how old photographs can be enhanced or restored in the computer after digitization.


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Genealogy Research Stories: Women of New Jersey Class Blog

Thank you all so much for attending yesterday’s Genealogy Research Stories:  Women of New Jersey class.  As promised here are some of the resources mentioned during the presentation:

-The Case Files for Susanna (Susanna vs. William Bloodgood, 1761) and Patience Rutter (Patience Rutter vs. William Bloodgood, 1767) are available at the New Jersey State Archives.

Middlesex County Court of Common Pleas Minute Books are available on microfilm at the New Jersey State Archives.  Rutgers University owns the originals.

-John Tatham’s Probate Documents (Unrecorded Wills Book 4 p.157) are available at the New Jersey State Archives.

Captain Kidd in New York Harbor by J.L.G. Ferris

You may order this item remotely via the State Archives’ website.

-Elizabeth Tatham’s Probate Documents (Unrecorded Wills Book 1 p.117-134) are also available at the State Archives and can be ordered remotely.  Remember, it’s in her inventory that notes she has property at Dorothy Hickman’s house.

-The Burlington Court Book is available at the New Jersey State Library and the State Archives.  It is also published online.  The Judgement against Elizabeth Bassnet for allowing Dorothy Tatham to marry Robert Hickman in her tavern is on p. 229.

The Burlington County Court of Common Pleas Minute Book is available at the New Jersey State Archives.

-Pirate’s Nests and the Rise of the British Empire is available via Google Books.  Information on Robert Hickman can be found on p.279

-Robert Hickman is also mentioned in William Penn’s Papers on p.596 and in Notes, which are available online, and also in published form at the State Library.

-Finally, here’s the article I mentioned about John Tatham, which details his exploits in England and also recounts the story of Dorothy’s marriage to Robert Hickman.

I’d love to help you uncover some of the phenomenal women in your family tree.  If you have any questions about genealogical research, please contact me!

Genealogical Research Stories: Women of New Jersey

In honor of Women’s History Month, come hear some Genealogy Research Stories pulled from New Jersey’s genealogical records collections!  Join Regina Fitzpatrick, the New Jersey State Library’s Genealogy Librarian, in exploring stories of some remarkable women who lived here in New Jersey.  Time will be left at the end of the program so that others can share their own stories of remarkable women in their family tree!


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Organizing Your Genealogy Program Recap

A big thanks to Michelle Novak, a trustee of the NJ Genealogical Society and editor of the Genealogical Society of Bergen County’s national award-winning newsletter “The Archivist”, who gave a very informative presentation on organizing your genealogy research.  Whether you are working with paper or electronic records, having clear and defined organizational strategies will help ensure that you never miss a beat.  Some takeaways from her presentation include:

  • Break down big problems into small challanges
  • Think beyond today and make sure you have actual copies (paper and electronic) of the records your are working with and make sure they are saved in multiple locations
  • Be ruthlessly consistent, especially in terms of how you organize your files as well as how you name electronic folders and files
  • Protect and share your work, particularly encouraging other family members from younger generations to appreciate all of the hard work you have done

You can download a copy of her handout below which includes all of her tips and suggestions, as well as instructions on how to save web pages as PDFs.

Organizing Your Genealogy Handout

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.”


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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.


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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.  


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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.

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