Archive for category Genealogy How To

Sports Center Saturday – Learn about the sports your ancestor played

Posted by on Saturday, 24 November, 2012

Do you know what sports if any your father or grandfather played in high school, college or beyond. Perhaps your mother or grandmother was the star of the basketball team or the ping pong champion of the school. With a little digging you can find out about the youthful activities that occupied your ancestors time.

The first and easiest way to find out is to ask. If your ancestor is still around ask him or her. If they are not, ask an older aunt or uncle or anyone who knew your ancestor. You might be surprised about what they know. Here are a few questions about what to ask them.

  • What sports did you play when you were in high school or earlier?

  • What position did you play?

  • Tell me about one particular game or match that you remember playing in.

  • What special awards did you earn while playing in the sport?

  • Tell me about one of your teammates that you remember.

  • Did you continue playing the sport in college or afterwords

You can use these or come up with some questions on your own. Try to ask them open ended questions rather than a questions which can be answered with a yes or no.

If there are no older relatives to ask, there are still resources you can look for to understand your ancestors life in school and sports. Here are some of my favorite resources to look for;

  • High School Yearbook: Many of these can be found at the local historical society or library.

  • College Yearbook: You can find these at the college library.

  • Local Newspaper Articles: A lot of newspapers are being digitized and indexed. If your lucky your ancestor’s hometown newspaper is one of them.

  • High School or College Programs: Many teams published a yearly pamphlet about their teams

  • Below is a small sample of what you might find.
    Central Connecticut State University Cross Country Program 1988

  • High School or College Newspaper: School newspapers highlighted the sports programs.

  • Here is another example of what you might find.
    The Central Recorder - April 28, 1988 - Page seven

If you know of any additional resources to find out about the sports your ancestors played, please reply to this post. We would love to hear about them.

Newspaper Archive Search at Genealogy Bank

Newspaper Archive Search and

Photo Genealogy – Part 3

Posted by on Sunday, 11 March, 2012

Old Photo Identification

Four weeks ago we started a series of posts regarding photo genealogy. For those of you who have been following along, you know the background. For those who are just seeing this blog series for the 1st time; I acquired a 19th century photo album of my own family. It has pictures from the 1860s to about 1930. This series of posts have documented what I’ve done to identify at least sme of the people in the photos.

Below are some relevant links to the series of blog posts.

Part 1 contains a detailed overview of the background and family group sheets. Part 2 contains a good portion of how to go about dating and determining who is in the pictures. The other posts are still unidentified photos of people from the album. This post will go through a number of additional images and how to go about identifying them.

The cabinet card below is that of a young man in a sailor’s uniform. An unusual feature in this image was that it was located with a locket of red hair. Since we already knew the family groups involved it wasn’t hard to pinpoint the most likely subject depicted within this photo.
Joseph James Sanders
The photo is almost certainly that of Joseph James Sanders. This was the only son of Joseph Charles Sanders and Mary Agnes Fraher to be in the Navy. The only way to get a good indication of who is in this picture was to have a good understanding and to have done genealogical homework regarding the family.

The next photo has an interesting story. It appears to me to be a picture of a father and son. The man standing is obviously much older than the younger man sitting. Tucked right behind the image in the photo album was an anti-tobacco pledge card from 1903. It just goes to show you that even back in 1903 people must have known smokng wasn’t good for you.
Joseph James Sanders

Joseph James Sanders

The anti-tobacco card was signed by Joseph (James) Sanders on May 19, 1903. He must be the younger man sitting. The facial features seem to match the young man in the sailor uniform to me which is additional confirmation. The older man must be Joseph Charles Sanders, which is Joseph James Sanders father. The ironic thing about the anti-tobacco pledge is that Jospeh James Sanders grandfather John Charles Sanders owned and ran a tobacco shop in New Britain for many years before he died in 1901. With all these common names James, Joseph, John, Charles, Sanders, it’s gets to be almost a tongue twister keeping the family straight.

Above we just used another good method to help identify your old photos. You can gather all the photos which have already been marked or identified. Compare the photos which have been marked to unknown subjects in other photos.

Now let’s look at the picture below. Look closely at the facial features. Pay particular attention to the eyes, nose and ears. The man below appears to be the same man as the man standing in the picture above. If you have pictures which appear to be the same person and you’re not 100% sure who they are, make sure you mark them, print out a copy and put them in a folder (digital and/or hard copy).
Sanders, Fryher - New Britain, Connecticut
Notice the photographers imprint on the photograph. It’s Knight Studio. Knight Studio started operating around 1890 and was in operation until at least 1908. The photographers imprint is a really good aid to date your photographs.

Knowing all that you can know about the potential family members in a photo can pay off when trying to identify likely subjects within a photo. Take the following photo and photographers imprint.
Sanders, Fryher - New Britain, Connecticut
Sanders, Fryher - New Britain, Connecticut
There’s nothing really unusual about the photo or distingusiable. However, the photographers imprint says Sanfrancisco, California. This is very unusual as the home of all the family members in question was New Britiain, Connecticut, which is 3,000 miles away. One family member was known to be in San Francisco for a period of time. Joseph James Sanders (the same as the sailor pictured above) was in San Francisco for a period of time during his time in the Navy. Though not 100% sure, Joseph is the likely person in this photo.

Photo identification is going to be a lot about process of elimination as well as positively identifying the subject in the photo. Some of the photos in this post I’m not 100% sure of the subjects. We’ve gone through s process of elimination and determined the most likely subjects. I’ve been contacting some 2nd cousins of mine who are known to descend from Joseph James Sanders and who’ve had an interest in genealogy. Hopefully they will have a couple of photos of Joesph James Sanders at various ages and then we can be 100% sure.

We’ve covered a few more photos this week and gone through some methods of identification. In two weeks the next and last in this series of posts will be published. It will focus in on some still unidentified photos and the on-going process to identify them. Also don’t forget to look at the Wordless Wednesday posts. These posts will also have photos from this album.

Free Genealogy Databases

Posted by on Sunday, 4 March, 2012

Free Family Research and Genealogy Databases

With shows like “Who Do You Think You Are?” and others, there’s been an increase in the number of people looking into their family tree. Some of these shows make it look easy even though they go through the proper family research to dot all the i’s and cross the t’s. I wonder how much family research is done prior to meeting the guest star. My guess would be at leasy 60-80 hours of research in archives, not counting travel time is required by researchers to produce each show. This is just my own guess not based upon any scientific estimation process.

Shows like this make me wonder how many free genealogy databases are out there for you to do real family research? Do these genalogy databases have access to digitalized original records? This post will explore various free genealogy database as well as to go through a process to find genelaogy databases which are of interest to you.

First, there are many subscription based genealoogy databases out there today. Did you know that most of these provide a free trial offer? Each genealogy database listed below has a free trial offer (at least when this post was written they did). If you try these offers back to back, you’ll have more than a month of free access to some of the best geenalogy database out there today. Each has it’s own strengths. These offers are subject to change by the individual website.


No discussion of free genealogy databases would be complete without talking about I know many of you may be saying at this point that ancestry. com is a paid subscription site and you would be correct. However, you can Try FREE with a 14-Day Free Trial. Just remember to can trial if you really don’t want to sign up. Also, there are other ways to use for free. There are always some databases and indexes which are available for free and opens up some databases for short periods of time for free. Local and State Libraries may also have a paid subscription to the library edition of If this is the case, you’ll be able to use for free, you’ll just have to go to the library.


One more major company which has genealogy databases to use for free is They offer a free seven day trial. They offer many of the same data you might get at other subscription website including the census. They also indicate they have a wdie selection of newspapers. As with all paid subscription sites, if you want to use only the free trial period, make sure you cancel the subscription before any charges are made.

One Great Family

One Great Family database is unlike the other major databasese. OneGreatFamily offers a free seven day trial. One great family has a large collection of family trees within it’s databases. It attempts to combine the trees of all of it’s members into one big family tree. This can be a great aid if you’re looking to connect with other researchers.


If you are looking for original military records there’s no better place to go than Fold3. They offer a free seven day trial. This website offers military records from virtually every American War since the Revolutionary War. You can find service records, pension records and more.

World Vital Records

Another major company which has genealogy databases to use for free is They offer a free seven day trial. This database has a wide selection of vital records including birth, marriage and death. As with all paid subscription sites, if you want to use only the free trial period, make sure you cancel the subscription before any charges are made.

Summary of Free Trial Offers – 14 days – 7 days
OneGreatFamily – 7 days
Fold3 – 7 days – 3 days

Family Search

No talk about free genealogy database can be complete without discussing . The Mormons have the largest collection of vital records from everyone around the world. They have these records stored within their climate controlled vaults in Utah. Indexes to many of these records have been put on-line and many more are currently being inded. In addition to the indexes, some of the some of the original images also are displated when you find a record which matches your search criteria and you click on that record.

Heritage Quest

Heritage Quest is another free database which has digital copies of the census records, revolutionary war pension and bounty records and so much more. In order to use Heritage Quest, you’re going to have to find a library which offers it. Here in Connecticut, our state library system has it on-line through and you can use it from the comfort of your own home. You will have to have a libary card from any of the libraries in the state of Connecticut in order to sign in and use it.

Finding other relevant genealogy databases

There’s such an explosion of what you might find on-line in terms of digitalized documents you never know what you might find. Google is a great way to discover what other free information might be out there. For example, I know my wife’s ancestor Joseph Dallas Pool(e) was from Georgia and likely died there. I tried a Google search of “georgia death certificates”. On the first page of the results was a link to Georgia’s Virtual Vault . It turned out to be an on-line database of Georigia Death Certificates from 1919 – 1927. Luckily for me I found my wife’s ancestors death certificate with an on-line digital copy which was free of charge. He was indexed as Dale Pool.

There are a number of ways to structure your query if you’re looking for records for your ancestor. Here are some which have worked for me.

  • {place} birth certificate
  • {place} marriage certificate
  • {place} death certificate
  • {place} newspapers archive

Replace {place} above with the place your ancestor came from. Substitute the place with state, county and town in seperate queries. Sometime the records are at the state level, sometimes at the county and sometimes at the local level. Each search may turn up different records.

Determine what large universaries are lcoated where your ancestor came from. These large universaries often have large digital collections on-line and available to the public for free. More and more records are coming on-line every day.

Photo Genealogy Part 2

Posted by on Sunday, 26 February, 2012

Old Photo Identification

Two weeks ago was the first part of the photo genealogy series of posts. The series is about trying to identify photos in a 19th century photo album. This process can be applied to your own photos. This week we will explore in more detail how you can date and identify your old photos. But first, below are a few links to the previous posts.

The first post above provides a good background. It contains family group sheets for three families who are possible subjects of the photos in t he book. We will pick up where the last post left off. The other two posts are pictures which are still unidentified from the photo album.

One thing you must do to identify your pictures is to narrow down the branch of the family which are the likely subjects within the pictures. Were these picturess in a box from your maternal grandmothers items? Is there a family trait that stands out such as big wide ears such as my Sanders had? Luckily for me, the inscription in the photo album clearly identified the branch of the family. It was the Sanders – Fryher side from New Britain, CT. There were various types of pictures in the photo album tin types, carte-de-visite, cabinet cards and more.

The photo identification process will be as much about the process of elimination as it will be about positively identifying the subject. The pictures in the album were taken anywhere from about the 1860s until about the 1930s. Clearly in order to figure out who was in individual pictures I was going to have to try to put a date to each of the pictures. A good way to start this dating process is to determine the type of photograph it was.

The chart below shows some of the common types of photos popular from the beginning of photography up until about the beginning of the 20th century. A brief overview about the photo media type is written and approximately when the media type was popular. For a more in depth discussion, you can refer to one of Maureen Taylor’s books.

Daguerrotypes – from about 1840 – 1860

Daguerrotypes were the first major photographic media which still survives today. They are small metal photographics normally found in a case. They must be held at a particular angle to see the picture.

Ambrotypes – from about 1854 – 1881

Ambrotypes are a glass negative. These are nearly always in a case with a dark background.

Tintypes – from about 1856 – 1930

Tintypes were very popular for a long period of time in part because of it’s durability. Due to the many years this media was used, it sometimes makes it difficult to put a date to it. Tintypes are an image on a thin sheet of metal.  Bescause of the process, tin types were printed in reverse. 

Albumen prints – from about 1856 – 1900

Albumen prints are a thin paper print mounted on cardboard stock. There is a wide variety of sizes which were produced.

  • Carte-de_visite were introduced in about 1859. They are roughly 4 1/4 inches by 2 1/2 inches.

  • Cabinet Cards were introduced in about 1866. They are roughly 4 1/2 inches by 6 1/2 inches.

  • Victoria Cards were introduced in about 1870. They are roughly 3 1/4 inches by 5 inches.

  • Stereo Cards were introduced in about 1859. They are roughly 3 inches by 7 inches.

Most of the pictures in this book were either a Tintype or an Albumen print of various sizes. One of the most helpful characteristics of the Albumem prints was the cardstock they were mounted on. The photographer’s imprint was often printed on this cardstock, sometimes with an address. This helped me identify the baby picture below.

Florence Sanders - 1899

This is almost certainly my Aunt Florence Sanders as a baby. The picture is a cabinet card. It measures 4 1/2 inches by 6 1/2 inches. Notice the photographers imprint. It is Cottage Studios and lists an address. Using the New Britain City Directories I found that Cottage Studios was only at this address between 1896 and 1898. The only child of Joseph and Mary with the right birth date to fit the timeframe is Florence. This is also the only baby picture in the album.

The photographers imprint will be one of the best methods to date a picture. You need to find when the studios were in business. The city or town directories will aid you in this. I had a lot of pictures from the City of New Britain from various Studios. With this in mind, I created a spreadsheet and a timeline when each studio was operating. I kept track of addresses and dates of operations. Using this information it was easy to date the picture and determine who is most likely the subject of the picture.

Another good method to help in identifying your pictures is to compare the features from a known identified picture to some pictures you’re trying to identify. Take the following image. It’s a Civil War Photo of my ancestor Patrick Fraher.

Patrick Fraher - Civil War

A cousin of mine I met on the internet through a message board. Took the known image above and compared it to the male in the following photo in the image below.

Patrick Fyaher and Sarah Hayes

He took the head of each shot and put it into the same scale. He then super imposed the pictures varying the intensity of each picture. The facial features were identical. The man sitting with the woman is clearly Patrick Fryher. The woman sitting with him must be his wife Sarah Hayes.

Another good process to help date photos is to look at the clothes and accessories within the photo. I need to confess, I’m not the best at this method to date photos, but there are a number of good resource books out there which you can consult with. Maureen Taylor’s book Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs is among the best I’ve seen and used. There’s a number of pages within this book dedicated to dating costumes for both men and woman. The following photo has been dated to around 1900. Although the date of the phot has been identified, I’ve been unable to find an individual who would fit the timeframe and age of the woman in this photo.

Sanders Photo Book - image 01

This is the first photo in the book. I orginally thought this picture might have been Mary Fryher’s Wedding Photo to Joseph Charles Sanders. However, they were married in 1886, so this could not be Mary’s wedding photo. The woman in this photo remains a mystery at this point.

The following image is image number 11 within the book.

Sanders Photo Book - image 11

I have not definitively identified this photo, but I suspect the man in the photo above is the same as the man in the photo below. Look closely at the mans facial features. He has a somewhat elongated head and large proturding ears which seem to be consistent.

John Charles Sanders about 1900

There are a number of websites where you can post your pictures to help date and restore your pictures. One of the best forums I’ve come across is Photo Restoration and Dating at Rootschat . If you have any old photos, check them out.

This is where I will leave the post for this week. On the next two Wednesdays, I will post another unidentified photo from the album in the Wordless Wednesday Post. Next Sunday will be a new topic, but in two weeks on Sunday March, 11, I will post another update on identification of the old photos in this album.