FamilySearch’s “All About Me” Tool

Over the past few years, genealogy giant FamilySearch has introduced tools to get people interested in family history. Two of these tools—the Ancestor Infographic and Compare-a-Face—are discussed in earlier posts. As the name suggests, the All About Me tool is, well, all about you. It takes your birth year and provides significant events that occurred during that year. (It’s like a digital version of those year books you could buy at the Hallmark store.) Topics covered by the tool include the following:

  • How popular your name is.
  • The meaning of your name.
  • The world’s population in your birth year.
  • Top news stories of the year.
  • Top technology breakthroughs of the year.
  • The cost of gas, a movie ticket, and a stamp in your birth year.
  • The president of the U.S. in your birth year.
  • Championship teams of various sports leagues.

Some of the items are presented in an infographic, and others involve mini trivia games.

All About Me: The Cost of Gas in 1978
All About Me: The Cost of a Movie Ticket in 1978
All About Me: The Cost of a Stamp in 1978

Have you tried All About Me? If so, let me know what you think in the comments below. If you haven’t seen it yet, click here for more information.

FamilySearch’s Ancestor Infographic

Genealogy giant FamilySearch has been experimenting with different ways to make family history more entertaining. Its latest campaign involves the Ancestor Infographic—a fun, visual way to present data in your family tree. I tried it out this morning and enjoyed what I saw.

Ancestor Infographic

The Ancestor Infographic provides a helpful snapshot of the people who came before you. Try it out and let me know what you think in the comments below. You can access the tool by clicking here. (You will have to login with your FamilySearch username and password.)

FamilySearch Releases “Compare-a-Face”

Genealogy giant FamilySearch has introduced a fun new feature called “Compare-a-Face.” Through facial recognition software, you can discover which ancestor you resemble the most. All you need to do is simply upload a picture of yourself. Then, the program scans the portraits of the ancestors in your family tree and provides a list of matches. (Obviously, the tool won’t work if your tree lacks pictures.) I eagerly tried it out and was pleasantly surprised to be matched to my great-grandfather Harrison Hunley.

Compare-a-Face

FamilySearch’s “Compare-a-Face”

As you can see, it gives you a similarity percentage. It also gives you a list of other ancestors at the top, from highest similarity percentage to lowest. This is a great new feature that adds an element of fun to family history work. It looks like FamilySearch will add other entertaining features in the near future, so stay tuned. Click here to learn more.

Have you tried “Compare-a-Face?” Let me know what you think in the comments below.

ABCs of Family History: B

B…

is for boat. Boats are synonymous with the classic immigration story, which teaches us that immigration is more than just physical movement – it’s an emotional journey where identities evolve and family narratives are rewritten. As such, it’s important for the family historian to look to passenger lists and other boat records to understand the motivation behind the immigration of an ancestor.

The first (and earliest) boat record I found concerned my 11th great grandfather, Godfrey Hundley. Godfrey was born in 1611 in Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England. According to a 19th Century publication edited by John Camden Hotten, Godfrey sailed from London to America on the vessel “Primrose.” He arrived in Virginia on July 27, 1635; he was 24 years old.

Primrose 1

“Primrose” Passenger List (part 1)

Primrose 2

“Primrose” Passenger List (part 2)

The publication describes the passengers as “persons of quality; emigrants; religious exiles; political rebels; serving men sold for a term of years; apprentices; children stolen; maidens pressed; and others who went from Great Britain to the American Plantations.” I assume Godfrey fell into one of those categories, but without clarifying documentation, I have no way of knowing which one.

Although the reason for Godfrey’s immigration is unclear, the story behind my 2nd great grandfather’s journey is pretty straightforward. In 1857, Marcus Espersen Funk immigrated from Denmark to America to join the Latter-day Saint community in Utah. His travels were partly motivated by a desire for religious freedom and a thirst for new opportunities.

Marcus Funk

Marcus Funk (1842-1926)

The following boat record shows that Marcus, his mother, and his siblings traveled from Liverpool, England to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the ship “Tuscarora.” The ship arrived on July 3, 1857 (159 years ago today); the voyage took a little over a month.

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“Tuscarora” Passenger List

Notes describing the Tuscarora’s voyage shed some light on the situation:

“The ship Tuscarora, Captain Dunlevy, sailed from Liverpool, May 30th, 1857, having 547 of the Saints on board, of whom two hundred and ninety-eight were from the Scandinavian and the remainder from the British Mission. Elder Richard Harper was appointed president of the company, with Joseph Stapleton and C. M. Funck as his counselors. The Saints who sailed in that vessel only contemplated going to the States that season, there to labor and procure means to enable them to cross the plains to Utah another year. After a pleasant voyage lasting about five weeks the Tuscarora arrived in Philadelphia on the third of July. From that port most of the emigrants continued the journey by rail to Burlington, Iowa, where they scattered in search of employment.”

Marcus and his family eventually settled in Richmond, Cache County, Utah.

These two stories illustrate the importance of boat records in telling your family’s immigration story. This story is tremendously important. It reveals the types of values your ancestors cherished – values that caused them to leave their homes and risk everything for a new life. Be sure to lean on boat records to help uncover the motivation behind your ancestors’ travels.

ABCs of Family History: A

A…

is for ahnentafel. Yes, it’s German. Literally translated as “ancestor table,” an ahnentafel is a simple yet compact way to depict one’s family history. And it can be done without diagrams or the typical family tree structure. This makes an ahnentafel the preferred way to present genealogical information when schematics are limited or impractical (e.g., group emails).

An ahnentafel uses a numbering system to organize your ancestors. The individual whose ancestry is being traced (typically you) is listed as No. 1. The subject’s father and mother are assigned No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. Paternal grandparents get No. 4 and No. 5, while the maternal grandparents get No. 6 and No. 7. This means that, with the exception of No. 1, all males will have even numbers and all females will have odd numbers.

Here is an example of an ahnentafel using my maternal grandfather (Harold Edwin Lundquist) as the subject.

1st Generation

1 Harold Edwin LUNDQUIST. Born on 4 January 1910 in Smithfield, Cache Co., Utah. Died 28 May 1979 in Los Angeles, Los Angeles Co., California; he was 69.

On 8 November 1930 when Harold was 20, he married Erma Funk in Preston, Franklin Co., Idaho.

2nd Generation

2 Eric Benjamin LUNDQUIST. Born on 27 December 1871 in Broten, Annehard, Sweden. Died 25 July 1932 in Smithfield, Cache Co., Utah; he was 60.

On 4 November 1903 when Eric was 31, he married Eugenia Harris in Logan, Cache Co., Utah.

3 Eugenia HARRIS. Born on 4 November 1881 in Hyde Park, Cache Co., Utah. Died 14 February 1950 in Smithfield, Cache Co., Utah; she was 68.

3rd Generation

4 Carl Gustav LUNDQUIST. Born on 9 February 1834 in Luckebo, Orebro, Sweden. Died 21 September 1880 in Broten, Annehard, Sweden; he was 46.

On 20 November 1857 when Carl was 23, he married Caroline Erickson in Ostmark, Varmland, Sweden.

5 Caroline ERICKSON. Born on 12 September 1832 in Varmland, Sweden. Died 11 March 1903 in Hyde Park, Cache Co., Utah; she was 70.

6 William Emer HARRIS. Born on 3 December 1854 in Ogden, Weber Co., Utah. Died 27 October 1904 in Pocatello, Bannock Co., Idaho; he was 49.

On 4 November 1877 when William was 22, he married Katherine Sarah Perkes in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake Co., Utah.

7 Katherine Sarah PERKES. Born on 12 May 1861 in Belleville, St. Clair Co., Illinois. Died 7 September 1957 in Smithfield, Cache Co., Utah; she was 96.

As you can see, an ahnentafel generally includes the three main genealogical events: births, marriages, and deaths. In addition, since an ahnentafel doesn’t use diagrams, last names are usually in capital letters so you can easily scan each name.

Take some time to prepare a basic ahnentafel – you never know when it will come in handy.

 

Cause of Death: Senility?

Lately I’ve been obsessed with death certificates. Apparently, I’m not alone. A recent family history trend involves mapping causes of death within a particular line and noting patterns. Whether it be cancer or heart disease, such patterns pave the way for more detailed family medical histories.

As you probably know, death certificates often use archaic or peculiar terms to describe the cause of death. For example, here is the death certificate of my second great grandmother, Katherine Sarah Perkes (May 12, 1861 – September 7, 1957).

Death Certificate

As you can see, “senility” is listed as the cause of death. In 2016, when we hear the word “senile,” we usually think of someone who has lost his or her mental capacity. However, use of the word has changed throughout the years, and the attending physician who signed Katherine’s death certificate probably meant she had died from old age (Katherine was 96 years old!). In fact, “senility” was frequently listed as the cause of death when the deceased was elderly and no apparent disease or condition contributed to death.

As you search your ancestors’ death certificates, you may see the terms “senile decay,” “senile dementia,” or “senile insanity.” In those instances, it is highly likely that the deceased had been suffering from diminished mental capacity due to old age.

Have you come across other interesting causes of death? Here is a short list of terms I found fascinating:

  • Ablepsy: blindness
  • American plague: yellow fever
  • Bad blood: syphilis
  • Bladder in throat: diphtheria
  • Brain fever: meningitis
  • Cachexy: malnutrition
  • Camp fever: typhus
  • Dropsy of the brain: encephalitis
  • Falling sickness: epilepsy
  • Flux of humour: circulation
  • Grocer’s itch: skin disease caused by mites in sugar or flour
  • Inanition: physical condition resulting from lack of food
  • King’s evil: tuberculosis of neck and lymph glands
  • Milk sickness: disease from milk of cattle that had eaten poisonous weeds
  • Nervous prostration: extreme exhaustion from inability to control physical and mental activities
  • Nostalgia: homesickness
  • Pott’s disease: tuberculosis of spine
  • Quinsy: tonsillitis
  • Remitting fever: malaria
  • Scirrhus: cancerous tumors
  • Stranger’s fever: yellow fever
  • Summer complaint: diarrhea, usually in infants caused by spoiled milk

For more terms, click here.

Named After A U.S. President

The other day I noticed an interesting trend in my family tree: ancestors named after U.S. presidents. For example, there is my third great uncle George Washington Crum (1853-1942). Today, however, I want to focus on my fourth great uncle Andrew Jackson Allred.

Andrew Jackson Allred (1831-1899)

Andrew Jackson Allred was born on February 12, 1831 in Monroe County, Missouri. At that time, Andrew Jackson was the president of the U.S. Known as “Jack” all his life, he was the twelfth (and last) child born to James Allred and Elizabeth Warren. Jack’s family joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints one year before his birth.

As an early pioneer in the church, Jack experienced intense persecution at a young age. Eventually, Jack and his family arrived in Salt Lake City in October 1851. They settled in Manti, Sanpete County, Utah. It was here that Jack became interested in Native American culture and language and eventually became an interpreter.

On November 3, 1855, Jack married Chloe Stevens. Five months after their seventh child was born, Chloe died at the age of 34.

Andrew Jackson Allred 1831-1899 and Chole Stevens 1838-1872

Andrew Jackson Allred and Chloe Stevens

In July of 1873, Jack married his second wife, Elizabeth Ivy. They had two children together. In the spring of 1876, Jack was called by Brigham Young to settle in Rabbit Valley and establish a trading post. Jack did so and initially built his home east of the Fremont River. However, the winter was so harsh that year that the river froze over and flooded most of the valley. So Jack moved west to the top of the hill, which is now known as Allred Point.

In 1888, Jack’s second wife, Elizabeth, died. He later married his third wife, Martina Nielson Anderson, and had two more children.

Jack died on October 10, 1899 at the age of 68. He is buried with his second wife Elizabeth in the Fremont Cemetery (Wayne County, Utah).

Named After A President: A U.S. Tradition

It turns out that parents often named their children after U.S. presidents. Here are some fun facts from the Social Security Administration:

  1. In 1933, the name “Franklin” jumped to No. 33, up from No. 147 in 1931.
  2. The name “Dwight” climbed in the 1950’s; similarly, “Lyndon” surged in the 1960’s (going from No. 635 in 1962 to No. 348 in 1964).
  3. “Theodore” peaked in the first decade of the 20th century.
  4. “Lincoln” (for boys) and “Reagan” (for girls) became very popular in the 1990’s.
  5. In 1928, the name “Hoover” came in at No. 367 for boys’ names. However, in 1931 (in the midst of the Great Depression), the name dropped to No. 945.
  6. “Clinton” was a fairly popular name in the 1970’s and 1980’s and ranked No. 211 in 1992. Following the Monica Lewinsky scandal, however, the name plummeted to No. 664.

Naming your child after a U.S. president was a way to honor the prestigious office while expressing a form of American pride. Following the Watergate scandal in the 1970’s, however, the tradition started to fade as people began to view the office with a cynical eye. Despite this, it seems the tradition is gaining in popularity, especially in the African American community following the election of Barack Obama. Hopefully this is an American tradition that will live on through the ages.

Discovering Mental Illness In Your Family Tree

People are generally reluctant to discuss the less desirable aspects of family history. This is particularly true when it comes to mental illness. First of all, the topic is incredibly complex, and most of us do not fully understand the ins and outs of mental health. Secondly, we fear the genetic implications of mental illness. Will I inherit my ancestor’s disorder? Will my children? This post discusses the discovery of mental illness in my family tree and how that can help you.

Leo Ivan Lundquist (1895-1975)

Leo Ivan Lundquist, my first cousin twice removed, was born on December 4, 1895. Leo was the second son of Emanuel Richard Lundquist, who immigrated to the U.S. from Sweden in 1881.

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Leo Ivan Lundquist (seated child), About 1897

I was first drawn to Leo after examining his draft registration card from World War I.

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World War I Draft Registration Card (June 5, 1917)

As you can see, the Registrar lists Leo as “insane” and specifies that as an exemption from the draft.

After digging a little deeper into Leo’s history, I found a very interesting census record from 1920.

1920 Census

1920 Census Record

According to the record, Leo was a patient of the Utah State Mental Hospital in Provo, Utah. He was approximately 24 years old at the time.

Utah State Mental Hospital

Originally called the Territorial Insane Asylum, the Utah State Mental Hospital opened its doors in 1885. Early documents describe the hospital as being eight blocks from the nearest residence in Provo and separated from the city by swampland and the city dump. The Asylum was renamed the Utah State Mental Hospital in 1903. In 1927, it adopted its current name, the Utah State Hospital, in an attempt to lessen the negative connotation associated with the word “mental.”

UtahStateMentHosp3

The Utah State Mental Hospital (Provo, Utah)

Attitudes Toward Mental Illness

Mental illness was highly misunderstood in the 1920’s (arguably, it is still misunderstood). Our ancestors probably used the words “insane” or “idiot” quite differently than we do today. An individual was sometimes labeled “insane” if he behaved in a way that society could not comprehend (e.g., he suffered from anxiety or depression). In addition, asylums were sometimes known to house individuals who were not mentally ill – the elderly, for example, or those with untreatable conditions such as epilepsy.

By today’s standards, many of the “treatments” performed on patients were archaic and cruel. During the 1930’s, frontal lobotomies were quite common. In fact, early medications designed for the treatment of mental illness were not developed until the 1950’s. The 1950’s also saw a shift in attitudes toward the mentally ill. Treatment generally transitioned from institutional care to community-based care.

Leo’s Move To Wyoming

The 1930 census provided more details on Leo’s life. According to the record, Leo had moved to the U.S. Veterans Hospital in Sheridan County, Wyoming. Again, Leo is listed as an “insane patient,” but something more interesting stands out. Under the “Occupation” column, Leo is described as a “Clerk.” This leads me to believe that although considered “insane” in 1930, Leo was able to perform basic job responsibilities. Also, I discovered that Leo was a veteran. Eventually, I learned that he enlisted in the U.S. military on February 23, 1915 and was released on September 28, 1916. It is very possible that his condition is directly connected to something that occurred while serving in the military.

1930 Census

1930 Census Record

Research Tips

Researching a mentally ill ancestor can be quite challenging. First of all, family members may be reluctant to talk about that individual. Secondly, source documents may be hard to find, and there may be privacy law restrictions if your ancestor was in a mental institution. Here are some tips to overcome these hurdles:

  1. A court proceeding may have been held before your ancestor was institutionalized. Search court records for more information on the nature of your ancestor’s condition.
  2. Your ancestor’s death record may list the informant as someone who worked at the mental institution. This can at least inform you as to where your ancestor was living.
  3. If you know where your ancestor was hospitalized, try to contact that institution for any available records. Again, privacy laws may come into play, and some hospitals do not release really old records as they are considered closed. I recently contacted the Utah State Hospital and am hoping to receive a response soon.
  4. Look for nontraditional records, such as social history sources, newspaper articles, or articles on the particular institution where your ancestor was housed.
  5. Don’t necessarily equate the word “insane” with mentally ill. It may be that your ancestor was merely eccentric or misunderstood by his community. Dive deeper into records to learn the true nature of his condition.

Above all, persistence is the key. Learning about our mentally ill ancestors is extremely important because it allows us to understand the hardships they endured. And family history is just like any kind of history – it reports the good and the bad, and our mentally ill ancestors deserve to be a part of it.