The following is a guest blog, an a great example of how hiring a genealogist is sometimes the best option, even for the economically conscience researcher. As I mentioned in my Genealogist Fees post, it is sometimes just better to hire a genealogist to get the family tree building back on track after hitting a roadblock. Read about the progress made after only 2 hours of research conducted by this websites Brooklyn Genealogists.
Beginning Your Family Tree Project
I would like to sincerely THANK the Genealogist at BrooklynAncestry.com for providing a major breakthrough for me in my quest to build my family tree. I began my project about ten months ago, and on my father’s side I had practically no information. My Dad’s parents were both only children, and both had lots of mystery about their parents (my Great-Grandparents).
My Dad’s father never introduced his three sons to his parents, and he adamantly refused to discuss them. He told his boys only two things from his childhood, and they were that he was born in Brooklyn, NY and he spent most of his youth working on a farm. With such little information, my search was a monumental task.
Using New York and US Census
Thru the United States Census records I eventually learned the first names of my paternal Great-Grandparents, but I still needed more. Luckily for me, New York State used to do their own state census in the 1800’s and early 1900’s, and I was finally able to learn my paternal Great-Grandmother’s maiden name. I felt I was finally making some real discoveries. My Family Tree now had branched back to my paternal Great-Great Grandparents and a Great-Grand Uncle (I found that my Great Grandmother had a brother).
This victory made with thirst for much more and I began to feverishly search every genealogy website I could find. I needed to know if I had distant cousins out there somewhere. I was constantly on search engines digging for ‘hits’ of my new found information, but I was not having any luck.
Back to the US and NY Census and I was hitting roadblocks. I could not find any record of my paternal Great-Grandparents after 1910. I began to assume that one or both had died around that time, and this must have been why my Grandfather refused to discuss his childhood.
I continued to search through various family tree sites and I eventually found some leads that indicated that my Great-Grandmother was hospitalized in a state facility, and that my Great-Grandfather changed his first name. With this new information, I went back to the US and NY Census records and began to locate both of them at 5 and 10 year census intervals, but not much beyond that. Frustration was setting in.
Through the sharing of my family tree information on a genealogy website, I was contacted by a paternal distant cousin. She was able to provide me with many answers about my paternal Great-Grandfather. Her Grandmother was his sister and she had pictures of him!!! She sent them to me and I have shared them with my family. My Dad and his brother went from never knowing anything of their Grandfather to now holding his picture, truly an emotional discovery.
With my Great-Grandfather’s story beginning to unfold, we needed to know what became of our Great-Grandmother. Beyond her living with her husband and only son in Brooklyn, NY in 1910, I was only left to know that she went into a state hospital prior to the 1915 NY State Census, and she remained there at least through the 1930 US Census. Unfortunately, the 1940 US Census has no record of her anywhere. I had been stuck at that point after about 4 – 5 months from when my journey began. What I knew about her was an approximate date of birth, her parents were both deceased by 1902 and that she had a brother about 13 years older than her. Beyond that I was stuck. I could not find any viable lead on her brother, so that was a dead end.
I hoped that my new found cousin may have known something, but regrettably no. She only knew about a hospitalization, and did not know what hospital. She never met her and said that she was rarely spoke of.
I searched the hospital name and found that it was a massive facility that housed patients for many years, and that it has long been closed. Its patient records had been transferred to another NY State facility.
I wrote to the Records Bureau of that second facility and they invoked patient confidentiality in a standard form letter. The basically did not confirm or deny that my Great-Grandmother had ever been a patient. The letter referred me to the State of NY, and so I wrote them.
Again I got back a ‘no comment’ type letter, but they did give me some guidance. The letter stated that the closest living relative was allowed to get her death certificate, but they could not tell me where her certificate would have been filed.
Back to the internet and genealogy searches I went. I was making a guess that she probably passed during the 1930’s because she does not appear in the 1940 census. I then searched the state hospital again and found the municipality that had jurisdiction over the hospital where she lived. In February 2013, now 7 months into my project, I loaded my family into the car and we drove two hours to that town on Long Island.
The two women in the office were as helpful as they could be. Each searched the records for quite some time, but to no avail. They tried to provide some additional guidance and resources, but all were dead ends.
My search for my Great-Grandmother had come to a complete halt, with no leads. I began to contemplate hiring a genealogist but the costs seem very prohibitive. I was torn between the need to know what happened to her versus the expense in this economy.
<For the next three months my family tree had been stalled, not a single new branch or update was made to anyone already on it. I joined genealogy sites through social media sites in hopes of finding new information, but nothing developed for me on my own.
Then the sky opened up for me. Through the Twitter account I opened and was using to follow various ancestry pages, I was notified that an ancestry page began to follow me. That was a new twist, so I had to learn more about them.
It was Brooklyn Ancestry(@BKlynAncestry). I loved that they were following me, so I sent them a tweet and then immediately responded. From there, I went to their Facebook page (BrooklynAncestry.com) and ‘liked’ it as well. I went through their page history and saw their roots were in my Great-Grandparents old backyard – Brooklyn, NY. I was hoping their intimate knowledge of this region would be the key to uncovering my mystery of my Great-Grandmother.
Hiring a Genealogist
I contacted Brooklyn Ancestry through the message application on their Facebook page and we exchanged several notes. Within two hours of our online conversations, Brooklyn Ancestrys’ genealogist not only found out that my Great-Grandmother was still living in September 1943, but they found that she had an older sister. They also confirmed that her brother was still alive as of 1943. BrooklynAncestry.com sent me two newspaper accounts documenting this discovery. They had done in mere hours, what I had been totally unable to do in months.
With the discovery of a Great Grand Aunt, I was then able to locate her husband and their three children. My Family Tree has instantly added some substantial new growth with great potential for more. I also learned that my Great Grand Aunt is buried only 50 miles from my home, so I have another road trip planned.
BrooklynAncestry.com has not only given my family some new members, it has brought my Great-Grandmother into a new decade – the 1940’s. With this new information, I can begin looking in new databases, and go back to review some previous ones. Since I assumed she passed away prior to the 1940 US Census, I was only searching prior to that date. Brooklyn Ancestry has opened a whole new area for me to go exploring. I cannot thank them enough!!