Welcome, fellow genealogists! My blog will teach you about U.S. land records and United Kingdom research. My family has roots in Niagara County, New York; Norfolk, England; and northeast Germany.

Monday, November 28, 2011

One-Name Studies

Did you notice an unfamiliar phrase in my post about the Federation of Family History Societies? I consider a one-name study or a one-name society a thoroughly British invention, although some of us are essentially studying one name in an area during a specific time frame as we do our everyday research .

According to the Guild of One-Name Studies in London, this research involves the study of the genealogy and family history of all people with the same surname and its variants. You can find more information at their website
www.one-name.org .

Most of us start with ourselves and go back in time creating what is called an ancestor chart of our direct ancestors, or we look for all the descendants of an ancient relative of ours. Many of us also record any instance of a surname in an area hoping to later connect them to our tree. For example, when reading parish records in Norfolk, I write down people with the names BRETT or HAYLETT. I assume someday I will figure out how they are related to me. One-name studies build on these informal notes, but are much more.

The Guild site gives you guidelines about what names are appropriate for a one-name study, obviously not ‘Smith.’  Frequency, both too few and too many occurrences, is the chief criteria, it seems. The site also has a very good section about the origin of surnames – occupations, place names, etc. 
Perhaps most useful is their list of surnames that already have studies started on them.  Almost 8000 names have been registered by 2500 researchers. I struck out with six of my Norfolk names, but I found that DALGLIESH, the fictional detective, is being studied. By clicking on the name, I found a page detailing the progress of Steven Daglish.

This society has meetings and produces journals, all described on the site. In this electronics age, surprisingly, there is an 800 number for use by North Americans 1-800-647-4100. The email is guild@one-name.org.
One of these 2500 researchers may have information on your branch of the family so check it out.

©2011, Susan Lewis Well

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Foods Past

This off-topic post honors this week’s great American holiday. Happy Thanksgiving to all  my readers.

Thanksgiving in my mother’s family was always celebrated at our house on the Sunday after the holiday.  I could tell you why the Sunday celebration, how holidays rotated among my aunts and grandmother, or about the food in this German-American upstate New York family.  I choose the food.
Food in the 1950s was different than today. I spend time before Thanksgiving looking for recipes that put a new twist on traditional foods.  As I think back, I realize I have gone quite far from the childhood menu, especially in the variety of dishes served.  My mother provided what I now consider a whole meal before the aunts contributed their side dishes. She and my father prepared the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, two vegetables and cranberry sauce. 

My father made me think all men helped in the kitchen on big holidays, although none of my uncles or grandfather did. He was especially proud of his dressing. While others might use apples or chestnuts, his dressing was not complete without pineapple and raisins soaked in brandy.
Dessert was always pie baked by one of my aunts. Others brought their specialties; German rice, stewed prunes, cole slaw, and molded gelatin salad. There was an appetizer too. I recall fruit cocktail, fruit juice with sherbet, frozen fruit cup, or tomato juice on a rotating schedule.  I remember relish trays laden with olives and homemade pickles. A family favorite was celery, ends dipped in salt. Some of the crisp veggie was eaten with the meal, but most it was consumed by the women as they talked after the dishes were washed and dried.  Imagine being able to eat more then.

Of this feast, the German rice may need further explanation. In short, take ¼ cup of white rice, one quart of milk, cinnamon stick and sugar. Simmer in a double boiler for hours, creating a pudding with about 20-25 half-cup servings. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon to finish.  If you can master this dish, you are better than all the women in my generation of this family except my cousin, Nancy. One aunt told me the secret was to use short grain rice. When I told another aunt about this tip, she came over the next day with a bowl made with long grain rice and made it clear that substitutions were not needed for success.  I have stopped trying after a few dismal attempts as a young adult, but I have Nancy’s recipe which is probably Aunt Millie’s formula so I may give it another try sometime.

Monday, November 14, 2011

www.ffhs.org.uk = Useful Website

The Federation of Family History Societies website is a ‘must’ visit for all UK researchers. Known as ‘the Federation,’ this organization has about 160 member groups, including national, state and one-name societies in England, Wales and Ireland. Scotland has a similar group called the Scottish Association of Family History Societies. (www.safhs.org.uk)

The Federation assists and supports its member societies by giving awards for newsletter and websites and by organizing educational opportunities. They sponsor cooperative projects, one of which resulted in the National Burial Index CD-ROM that is for sale on the site.  They also present a unified voice for genealogists to such allied groups as the Society of Archivists.

If you are new to UK research, this site is immediately helpful for two reasons. On the right hand side, you can sign up for their free FFHS ezine and/or FFHS news.  Now you will be in touch with a major force in genealogy on the other side of the Atlantic.
For example, the FFHS News recently reminded me that the least expensive way to obtain a Birth, Marriage or Death certificate is to order from the General Register Office (GRO) at http://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/.  This was really a warning against the high prices charged by commercial sites. Remember civil registration in Britain started in 1837, and that is what is available from the GRO.

On the left side of the FFHS home page, there are many choices, but the most helpful first step is to click on “Find a Society.” I am a huge advocate of joining the family history society in the county where your ancestors lived. A friend whose ancestors lived near the border of two counties looked at the websites for both and chose to join the group that seemed most active and was very happy with the resulting contacts. The FFHS listings give the contact information for their member groups.

I am such a big fan of the county societies because I am thrilled with the Norfolk Family History Society. All the societies have about the same services. I have been a happy, satisfied member for fifteen years or more and have used the Society for all of the following purposes:

-reasonable dues.
             -newsletters and/or small journals with a wealth of information. These often have a section  where you can submit queries about your ancestors.

             -volunteers at their libraries or archives to do free lookups for you.

             -opportunities to give back to the genealogy community by submitting your family tree or write an article for the newsletter.

-a website that may have members only content.
             -your dues support local research such as recording the inscriptions on town monuments, gravestones or plaques on church interiors.

Also on the left side of the FFHS website’s homepage are buttons to click for educational opportunities,   a calendar of events and a list of new books and CDs. The ‘Research Tips’ section has questions and answers for new and experienced UK researchers alike. You cannot help but find useful information here.

©2011, Susan Lewis Well

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Using Tax Stamps to Find Property Sale Price

Buying real estate is a very public event.  Often newspapers print a list of grantors, grantees, addresses and sales prices every week. No wonder people have been trying to hide the true sale price since the beginning of record keeping. When trying for privacy, the phrase used has not changed in some venues in all that time – ‘$1.00 and other valuable consideration’ or the equally unhelpful, ‘for consideration paid.’ There are a few ways to find the sale price.

Another reason to hide the sale price was the excise tax charged for each transaction.  Before 1968, the federal government used tax stamps affixed to deeds to collect revenue from each transaction. They looked like postage stamps. The rate on the sale price was $.55 per $500 or fraction thereof.  A property selling in 1967 for $30,500 would require one of the parties, usually the seller, to pay U.S. taxes of $33.55. After 1 Jan 1968, the U.S. government stopped taxing land sales, but the states decided to tax property transfers themselves. Some states were doing so before that time.  From 19 Jun 1940 to 28 Dec 1967, Massachusetts had its own tax on the $30,500 transaction cited above of $34.00 for a total of $67.55 in taxes on the transaction.
The stamps were bought and attached at the time of recording. (Note that if a mortgage was assumed, the feds only charged taxes on the difference between the mortgage amount and the sale price.) Some jurisdictions let the parties hide the sale price by not putting stamps on deeds where the consideration was $1.00. Other counties put the stamps on for the real amount which allows us to calculate the price with simple math.

If you are at a recorder’s office or find its website, it often has the tax rates through the years because genealogists make them FAQs.  To figure out the rate yourself, read this example:
In a 1975 Massachusetts deed, the sales price was $70,000 and the tax stamp was $159.60. Divide the tax by the number of thousands in the sale price to see that the tax rate was $2.28 per thousand.

$159.60 ÷ 70 = $2.28
Now that you know the tax rate at that time, you may be able to use that rate and the amount of tax stamps to determine the sales price on another deed that tries to conceal it. First find a deed with tax stamps and no sale price. Divide the amount of the tax stamps by the tax rate of $2.28. For example, if the deed indicates $171.00 in taxes, divide it by $2.28/thousand. The answer will be ‘75’ which you translate to $75,000.

©2011, Susan Lewis Well