I volunteered to help many people in the past, either by: finding their missing grandpas; building their family trees from scratch; given them clues on where to search next; or by cleaning their online Ancestry.com family trees and proving the information they already had was correct. How these people have reacted, as well as my enjoyment of "the hunt" has led me to starting "Finding Grandpa" as a business.
Here are a some of those successes.
For four years I had been searching for my own 2x great grandfather's death date. Family lore said he was a blacksmith and had died in the late 1890's in New York City from a horse-and-buggy accident. I was unable to find a death record, a cemetery listing or an obituary. In the fall of 2011, another person who was related to the same family by marriage was researching this family line. He emailed me with a link to an online newspaper collection for New York and suggested I try searching in that database. I immediately began hunting for my great grandfather. I found much more than his obituary. The story of how he died was so eventful, that it was printed on the front page of the New York Times!
Click the image above to read the article from December 12, 1898.
Barby knew her paternal grandfather was from Norway, and had come to America in the late 1800's. According to family lore, he had "jumped ship" in the Seattle area and had lived the rest of his life there, working for various sawmills. She wanted to find out where in Norway he was from and who his parents were. I knew I would not find a ship manifest for him and since we didn't know the town he was born in, I had hit a wall. However, Barby had a copy of a letter written by her father many years ago, that had the names of several relatives he had visited while on a trip to Norway. I kept at it, searching for any records for the town her father visited, and found a website that had a forum about records available in Norway. In this one forum, a volunteer wrote that they had the record books for this area, and would look up information for people. I emailed that volunteer and asked if she might be able to look for us, and she started her search. She found Barby's grandpa's birth record, and then went on to research his family lines, taking them back another 18 generations to the year 1400!
Josh's grandpa and grandma:
Josh wanted to document his family lineage, and while on a trip back to visit his grandmother, asked her if she had any information he could bring to me, so I could create his family tree. She got very emotional and said she lost all the records, documents, and lists of family names years ago. She was very sad that she could not give him all the data that she had acquired over the years. She did, however, provide him with a list of names of her parents, grandparents, and great grandparents, as well as, those relations of her husband. When I began loading that information into Josh's tree I created, I found I could take the family back several more generations. I told Josh to call his grandmother and put her mind at ease, because their lines were not "lost" as she had feared.
I helped a woman who was born and adopted in England find her birth mother's family from Ireland. She had some information on the family, found by another researcher in Ireland, and I took that data and expanded on it to find other siblings of her mother. I also found where her grandparents were buried, as well as, where her mother now rests. We were then able to contact living nieces of her mother, not knowing if they would welcome their new-found cousin into the family. "Bridget" and her cousins have since shared personal photos and now communicate often.
Jeff had been looking for years, searching in Hungarian record databases, for anything about his great-great grandparents. He told me it was useless to search, since Hungary has very little records available online. I began looking in America at Jeff's great grandfather to see if I could find any clues on where he was from. I found the great grandparents in a 1920 census record in Gary, Indiana. They were living right next door to an older couple with the same last name. Realizing that they were related somehow, I started searching for this other couple's ship manifest and found it. It showed that they were heading to their son who lived in Gary! The manifest also listed the town that they had lived in at the time of departure, as well as, the name of this great-great grandfather's brother and where he was living. I was then able to find the birth records of their other children.
I found this information in 3 1/2 hours.
Barby was looking for information on her estranged grandfather. I had tracked Barby's grandfather and his family through time using the census records, and found his WWI draft registration card. I was unable to find him after the 1930 census, however. Her mother, who had not seen her father since she was a little girl, had hired another researcher years ago. This researcher found information for a man that seemed to be the correct grandfather, and had supplied a 1940 Social Security application, as well as, a death record. I helped prove that the person the other researcher had found was the right man by comparing the signatures on his WWI registration to his SS application. Grandpa now rests in Texas.
Dave's grandpa and grandma:
Dave wanted to know if his father's parents were truly from the Azores, so I created a tree and began searching. I tracked the family back in time to the turn of the century and, using ship manifests, to the island of Faial, Azores. Not only does Dave now know that his father's family was, indeed, from there, but he has the exact island. I then worked on his mother's line. Dave knew his grandmother was from Canada, but nothing more. Using the birth and marriage records, I tracked her family back to 1830's Nova Scotia. I also found an old plat map of the area which showed the land that his 4th great grandfather owned, after arriving from Ireland.
I offered to help Terry, who just wanted to know about his grandmother. She had died before he was born, and he couldn't remember her last name, or even if his mother ever told him. Terry's son had created a family tree on Ancestry.com, and invited me to be an editor so I could help in the search, as well as, fix some errors he had in the tree. I found the marriage record for Terry's mom and dad, which showed their parent's names and the town that they were living in at the time. After I found Grandma in the 1880, 1900 and 1910 censuses, Terry's son was able to connect her family line to another online tree he found that was created by an Australian couple. I emailed this couple and asked if they would like to have the information I had found on the family after they arrived in America. I also asked if they had more information on the family prior to their immigration. The information they shared with us took his family line back in time to before 600 AD! They explained that Grandma's ancestors are part of a lineage that is "the longest direct line in British genealogy".
I was asked to help Susie find information on her French Nova Scotia ancestor. She wanted to verify if he was the same man of lore that walked from Massachusetts to the St. Lawrence River, then back again to gather his relatives for their relocation to Quebec in 1764. I actually proved that her ancestor was not the same man. During this process I discovered that Susie had so many other family trees merged to her online Ancestry.com tree that it created scores of clones (the same person entered twice into the family tree). It also created multiple spouses for some people. I suggested it would be easier to create a new tree from scratch, using just the information she had started with several months earlier, than to try to clean her tree. It only took two evenings to recreate the tree, and within one week, using census records to track the families, her tree went from about 160 people to over 450, but now everyone in the tree was a proven relative. The following November I began creating a 250 page family tree book. We both edited it throughout the winter, and by the end of February, the book was completed. A copy was later donated by Susie's brother to a Beaumont, Texas, library which now keeps it in their special collections archive.