Saturday, May 15, 2010
Surname Saturday - "Can you help me find some family names?"
Well, there is nothing I enjoy more than the "ancestor hunt". In the past, I have started some family trees for friends, getting them a good start and then letting them run with it. So, I told her that I would start one for her, make her an editor, and then once we found the names and information we needed, she could keep using that one or start her own. That's when the fun started!
Step one is writing down what you know. In this case, we didn't know a great deal. She is young enough that her parents and most of her grandparents fall into that "after 1930 Census" category so you really have to get creative to find information. She knew her parents names and a couple of grandparents. That is about all we had to go on, but it was a beginning, and luckily for me, the names weren't "Smith" or "Jones".
I began the family tree on Ancestry.com, listing her name as the "Home Person" and entering her parents names and birthdates. Then, I added the grandparents names that I knew. I didn't know birthdates or birthplaces or where they had lived in the country. I was just assuming they were from Ohio. I started with her grandfather Turocy. Right away, I discovered someone I thought might be him in the 1920 census, living in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. His father and his mother were listed as having been born in Czechoslavakia. I wrote to my friend, asking if her family was from the Cleveland area. She told me they were indeed. Soon, I discovered an obituary for her grandfather and the names from the census were a match with the name in the obit. So, now we had gone back another generation, with new names that my friend had never known. Investigating her great grandfather proved to be fascinating. We discovered he had immigrated to the United States in 1907.
My next step was looking into any databases that might be available for Cuyahoga County. I started with the Cleveland Public Library and I wasn't disappointed. Their list of online databases includes the Cleveland Necrology File Index. At first, I wasn't too optimistic that I would find anything right away. An index usually gives just basic information and instruction on how to obtain the actual documents. However, this index is actually a gold mine of facts. It lists the ID number of the obituary, name of the newspaper in which it appears, and microfilm roll number; all pretty standard. But, the bonus is that it lists the name of the deceased, the place, date, and time of the funeral service, and every name included in the obituary. Luckily for me, maiden names were also included. From those files, I was able to link new names to my friend's tree. Within just a couple of days, we had grown her tree by several generations on both her maternal and paternal sides. She now has some World War I and World War II draft registration and enlistment forms that contain the signatures of her great grandfathers and uncles. She knows the immigration details of most of her ancestors. The best part is, she can continue to grow her family tree, because like all trees, it is a living, always changing thing. There are always more documents, article, photographs, and cousins to find.