Author Archive

Writing a Family History Using Photographs and Other Images

Posted by on Saturday, 11 April, 2015

This post is another in s series of posts about how to write a family history. I’m hoping this series will inspire some of my regular readers to start writing down their family history. You do not need to have completed all research to start writing about your ancestors, you only need to start. In this post, you will find that you really do not need specific photographs of your ancestor, though it certainly helps. I will again be using my ancestor Edwin Banks for this exercise.

For earlier posts in this series see the following;


One of the easiest way to start writing about your ancestors is to take some photographs or other images which have some meaning about your ancestor and start describing it.

Banks Family, Alfred, Edwin, Edward 1850

This depiction is the earliest image known to exist about my ancestor Edwin A Banks. It does not appear to be a photograph nor did it appear to me to be a painting. It must have been some other media. The twin boys Edwin and Edward are standing around their father Alfred. It is not known which boy is which. They boys appear to me to be about three or four years making the image from about 1849 -1850. Notice the buys and their father are dressed in very fine clothes. Being that their father was a tailor in Seneca, Ontario County, New York, one might wonder if Alfred made these fine clothes.

If you have series of images about your ancestor, you can show how your ancestor has grown and aged over time.

Edwin A Banks & Mary Ann McKeown

This photograph of Edwin Alfred Banks is from about 1895 – 1900. You can see how his appearance changes within a matter of five to ten years from this photograph to the next one pictured below. Notice his receding hair line and more pronounced wrinkles in the second photograph.

Edwin A Banks & Mary Ann McKeown

In the photograph above, Edwin A Banks is standing next to his wife Mary Ann McKeown. The date of the photograph is unknown, but is must have occurred prior to May 19. 1909. That is the date which Edwin’s wife died. They are both dressed in what is likely their finest clothes or clothes perhaps borrowed at the photographers they went to. It appears that Edwin and Mary are perhaps in their late 50’s of early sixties which would date the photograph in about 1905.

You can put in a picture of two of your ancestors children.

Minnie Bell Banks 1873 Hartford Connecticut

This photograph is of Minnie Bell Banks from about 1873. Minnie is the oldest of Edwin’s three children (Minnie, Alfred, Charles).

You do not have to have photos or other images with your ancestors in them. Find or take a photo from the place your ancestor lived, even if that place is not the same as today. You can look in old city directories for buildings or street scenes from where your ancestor lived. Perhaps there’s a photograph from the civil war unit your ancestor served in. That’s a great way to introduce your ancestors civil war service.

Fitch's Home for Soldiers Darien Conencticut

The Fitch Home For Soldiers in Darien, Connecticut is where Edwin spent the last part of his life. Edwin was living there when the 1920 United State Census was taken. He died there on July 3, 1921.


1845 New York City Store Front

The image above was depicted in the 1845 New York City Directory. The image does not have any relation to my ancestor Edwin Banks, but it’s just a short walk from where my ancestor Dr. Henry L. Sanders lived. Other buildings shown in the directory have a similar structure and composition. This is the New York City that my ancestor would have known.

1) Depiction of Alfred, Edwin and Edward in possession of author’s mother.
2) Photograph of Edwin and Bank in the possession of the author.
3) 1845 NYC Directory

Mystery Photo Monday – Fox, ODay – New Britain, Connecticut

Posted by on Monday, 30 March, 2015

Welcome to the very first edition of Mystery Photo Monday. We are looking for your photos and want to help see if we can uncover some mystery behind your photo. Is that Great Aunt Tessie with some unknown fellow? Perhaps you don’t know where or when the photo was taken? Each week I will post a photo which has some mystery behind the photo. We will examine the photo and look for clues. If you are interested in having your photo in an upcoming blog post, please email the photo to The photo should be no more then 500mb in size. A scan of both sides of the photo is helpful. Please let us know everything you know about the photo including;

  • Suspected surnames
  • Locations where the suspected surnames were from
  • Where the photo was taken, if known
  • When the photo was taken, if known
  • Size of the photo
  • What type of photo it is, if known
  • Any other pertinent information

Depending upon the number of submissions, it may be a while before your photo can be featured in a blog post.


Surnames: Fox, O’Day
Locations: New Britain, Connecticut
Type of Photo: Tin Type
Size of Photo: 2 3/8″ by 3 1/2″
Date of Photo: About 1890s

Observations: The large hats and dresses seem to suggest this photo was taken in the 1890s. The woman on the right seems to be holding something in her hand, though it’s not detailed enough to make out what it is. She also has a moderate sized broach or pin right at the collar. The woman on the left is wearing some type of necklace but the photo is not detailed enough to make out any details on the necklace. No rings can be seen on either woman, which may suggest that neither woman was married.

Fox, Unknown group, New Britain, Connecticut



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Brickwall Buster – Using Local Resources

Posted by on Saturday, 28 March, 2015

Do you have an ancestor which just can’t be found? Are you missing a date for a birth, marriage, death or some other event? Often overlooked and under-utilized genealogy resources are local to where your ancestor lived. Sometimes original records with scanned images can be found on local websites. Other times they may have some transcriptions and notes about the original resource. How great would it be to find something on a local website, which you might not be listed anywhere else on the internet. Sometimes the local website, might not have anything online, but may have a vast amount of records which they house locally.

This post is all about trying to find a local resource which might help you break through that genealogy brickwall. We will explore the types of data and records you can find. While reading this post, open up another page on your web browser to your favorite search engine and follow along.



One place you will want to find is the local genealogy club in the town where your ancestor lived. Let’s see an example of what you might find on a local genealogy website.

Enter one of the following criteria into your favorite search engine to find local genealogy club. Better yet, try them all and see what comes up.

  • Newtown Connecticut Genealogy Club
  • Newtown Connecticut Genealogy Society
  • Newtown Connecticut Genealogy
  • Newtown Connecticut Births
  • Newtown Connecticut Marriages
  • Newtown Connecticut Deaths
  • Newtown Connecticut BMD

The Genealogy Club of Newtown is one of the first websites which comes up with most of the web searches above. Take a few minutes now to go to the Genealogy Club of Newtown website. Explore some of the transcriptions available.

What did you find?

Here are some transcriptions which are available on the website;

  • 1890 Census Substitute including (School Records, Grand List, Voters, New Electors)
  • Listing of Irish Tombstones
  • Various Articles which include Bible Records

Don’t forget to contact the Genealogy Club after exploring what might be online. They may have more records or at least know where those local records might be stored.



Another great resource to look for is the local historical society or the town historian.

Enter one of the following criteria into your favorite search engine to find the local historical society or town historian. Better yet, try them all and see what comes up.

  • Oxford Connecticut Historical Society
  • Oxford Connecticut Town Historian
  • Oxford Connecticut History

One of the search results you will find is for the Oxford Historical Society. Take a few minutes now to explore the website.

What did you find?

This website has some links to class photos from the 1960s and 1970s. While there doesn’t seem to be anything else on the website, make sure you check out the links they have.

  • Oxford Past has cemetery transcriptions and genealogies from around town.
  • Our Oxford has digital copies of diaries, town reports, sexton reports of burials and more.

When you are browsing the local websites where your ancestor lived, do not forget to contact someone from the local organization. I know firsthand that these local organizations often have a vast amount of materials beyond what is indicated on the website.

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One more local resource to consult is the local library. Some libraries have records available online. Others have a genealogy room or a local history room.

Let’s see what we can find. Enter the following search criteria in your favorite search engine;

  • Bristol Connecticut Library
  • Genealogy Bristol Connecticut Library
  • History Bristol Connecticut Library

One of the first sites you find is for the Bristol History Room at the Bristol Public Library. Explore the Bristol Public Library Website now for a few minutes.

What did you find?

Did you notice the following items available at the Bristol Public Library?

  • Cemetery and Church Records
  • City Directories
  • Diaries
  • Newspapers
  • Probate Records
  • Yearbooks

After reviewing the website, you’ll find that although they may not have a lot of information online, there’s plenty of information and records available to plan a research trip to the library.

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Most towns will have at least one if not all of the resources described above, but what else might be out there online and how can I find them?

Open up your favorite search engine and enter the following criteria in them.

  • hidden genealogy records seymour connecticut
  • unusual genealogy records seymour connecticut
  • uncommon genealogy records seymour connecticut
  • rare genealogy records seymour connecticut

As you can see from the queries above using a different word in front of “genealogy records seymour connecticut” yields different results. Trying to find those needle in a haystack websites is like being like a detective. When I entered the search criteria of “hidden genealogy records seymour connecticut”, one of the first links provided was a link to some prior posts from this blog. This website indexed some school records from Seymour, Connecticut. Indexes of these records are available online and these blog posts are likely to be the only place you will find them on the internet. If you go to the Seymour Historical Society, you can consult these records in person.

At some point this year, I’m planning on getting these records into my research database so that they can be searched by name. For now though, these would have to be looked through one at a time for your ancestors from Seymour, Connecticut.

As you can see from the resources we briefly discovered, there’s a vast amount of local resources ready to be explored as you try to break through that proverbial genealogical brickwall.

Almost Wordless Wednesday – Doyle, Unknown Group, Bristol, Connecticut

Posted by on Wednesday, 25 March, 2015

I’m trying to identify this image. The photographer is the Gale Studio in Bristol, Connecticut. It is most likely a group of Doyles from Bristol. Here are some questions I have about the photo.

  • When was the photo taken?
  • Who is in the photograph?
  • What is that item pinned to the woman’s dress who is sitting?

If you can help with any of these questions, I would love here a reply.

Doyle, Unknown group, Bristol, Connecticut

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