Category Archives: Genealogical tidbits

Words from the Past

The Bermuda Gazette, issue 1 published on Saturday, 17 January 1784 on the island of Bermuda.

I love researching the past and when I start, I usually lose all track of time. Last night  I found myself  researching the Bermuda National Library online records. They have copies of the Bermuda Royal Gazette online that date from the very first issue of January 17, 1784… complete with the “s” that looks like a funky “f”! How cool is it to read a 227 year old newspaper that is still being printed today?! Do you think they had any clue that when they started their publication, just 8 short years after American won its independence from the British, that they would still be in business in 2011?? Now that’s a healthy business plan!

Well, when I’m researching, I tend to forget about all else and that’s usually how I end up staying up until the wee hours of the morning… last night, or rather this morning, I didn’t turn off my computer until after 3 am.  But in my defense,  I was finding some really interesting tidbits.

Bermuda Gazette, Mar. 17, 1787

I came across this story in the 166 issue, published on Saturday, March 17, 1787. I only wish there was more information given so I could research that family and to see what happened to them.

“A letter from Tortola, dated October 25 contains the following extraordinary account: The wife of one Agramune, a mendicant (one who begs or lives a vow of poverty), having heard that one of her children had been taken up with a gang of vagabonds (and we thought the youth of today were different!) and carried to prison was so shocked at the report, that she was, before her time, taken in labour, and delivered of five children at one birth, viz. four girls and one boy. It is remarkable, that the above woman, who is of a vigorous constitution, has had fourteen children at four different lyings-inn, namely, two at the first, three as the second, at the third four, and at this last five before her time.”

17 Mar 1787, page 3

I think you have to agree, what a remarkable story! I would really love to learn if the children survived to adulthood, but I am unable to located the name given.

If you ever have the opportunity to read words from the past, don’t pass it up. You will find that the trials, tribulations and heartwarming stories from the past aren’t really any different from today.

You can read today’s issue of the Bermuda Royal Gazette online at


The Wrong and Right Way to Repair a Headstone

On a visit to a local cemetery today I came across a sight that, well to be frank, stunned and pissed me off! Someone, and although I believe their intentions were good, completely ruined a headstone due to their improper repair techniques. To be honest, if you don’t have the required skill set to tackle and complete the task correctly, please don’t attempt it… find someone who does.

Definitely the wrong way to fix a headstone... the dates have been obliterated! Poor young C.W.A. Grimes needs help now.

I found the following article posted on It shows the best and most harmful ways of fixing cemetery headstones.

Repairing Headstones

A variety of techniques for repairing headstones was observed during the picture-taking phase of this project. Some were very good; others were very bad. By sharing the ideas and experiences of other people, perhaps this web page will lead to more repairs being done as well as better choices in how repair projects are carried out.

Sample photos (sizes much reduced) and commentary are used here to illustrate both good and bad repair techniques. At the bottom of you will find some information about selection of materials and tips for mixing concrete.

This repair was accomplished by “gluing” the stone back together with mortar mix or some other Portland cement mixture. Not only is it the worst way to repair a stone, but it is widely popular throughout Newfoundland. Sadly, the individual who was ambitious enough to do the work, ruined the face of a beautiful old stone.From an engineering perspective, this repair technique is poor because the stone will fail again when lateral force applied to the stone subjects the mortar to tensile stresses. Concrete is only strong under compression. Steel re-bar is typically used to carry tensile loads. In simple terms, this repair will easily break in the same place as soon as someone pushes on it.The second common error with this sort of repair is not masking off the face of the stone so mortar does not ruin it. George Peckham’s year of death was completely covered and unreadable.

A metal plate was bolted to the back of this stone to hold the two pieces together. The left side of the photo shows the face of the stone, and the right shows the plate attached to the back. Although this particular repair appears to have lasted a number of years, it is not a recommended repair method. Installing the bolts can cause the stone to be broken again. A fundamental problem with the use of bolts is that they create a region of high stress in the stone that can immediately or eventually cause additional damage. 

Epoxy was used on this stone. It was found in the Belvedere Catholic Cemetery in St. John’s where vandalism is high, and a large number of stones had been repaired using epoxy. Judging by the quantities used in those repairs, it was probably an industrial grade of epoxy purchased in large containers at a reasonable price. If attempting a stone repair using the small tubes of epoxy from the supermarket, it will be costly.Some words of warning about epoxy: If it runs it can make a big mess of the stone if precautions are not made to mask it off. If possible, lay the stone fragments face-up on a flat plastic-covered surface prior to gluing. Also, exposure to the sun will break down epoxy over time, although that which is sandwiched in the crack of the repair is fairly well protected from the sun.An important consideration before using epoxy concerns the quality of the edges of the stone that are being rejoined. The epoxy may become “as hard as a rock”, but is the old headstone “as hard as a rock”? Do it appear that the stone failed because of physical damage from impact, or from a general weakness of “rotting stone”? (See the page onDeath of a Headstone for more information on this problem.) If the edges of the stone are like a sugar cube and flake off when rubbed, glue is useless because the stone will soon break again. Stones broken due to physical abuse are generally good candidates for epoxy.

The pieces of this stone were set in a fresh bed of concrete, sort of like tiling a floor. Although not obvious from the photo, the surface of this one was raised at a steep angle from the ground. This provided good drainage, lowering the opportunity for water to collect, freeze, and cause further damage. This is an excellent repair technique for a stone with multiple fractures. The individual who performed this repair was careful to mask off the face of the white stone to protect it from the inevitable splashes of gray concrete. This fine repair job gets high marks!
This is one of several fine repairs completed by someone at “Barr’d Island, Fogo Island”. It looks as though a lot of thought when into planning the concrete forms, protecting the face and exposed surfaces of the stone, and carrying out the repair. The individual was obviously skilled with concrete. The finished product provides excellent support and drainage for the stone. The only drawback with is repair is that it is too difficult for the average handyman.

This stone had a single horizontal break across the base, the most common place for failure. The repair technique is similar to the one above, and the same individual probably performed the work.

A blue ribbon goes to the person who originated this idea. It was observed in several cemeteries around Newfoundland, so perhaps it is illustrated on another web page somewhere on the internet. This method is excellent for several reasons: It does not cause any additional damage to an already damaged stone, it should be mechanically stable for a long time, the stone will drain well, the cost of materials is low, and best of all, it is simple enough for any handyman. The only difficulty might be finding aluminum stock with a slot equal to the stone’s thickness.Notice in the photo that this was the second time this stone was repaired. The failed repair appears to have been with mortar mix.

 This is the same technique illustrated in the previous example, but with two slight modifications. Apparently the repairman was unable to locate aluminum stock of the appropriate dimensions, so an additional aluminum strip was used to shim the gap. Also a horizontal crosspiece was welded to the back to tie the sidepieces together. This is a complication worth avoiding, especially if heavy gauge aluminum stock is used on the sides.Some tips about carrying out this repair technique are offered below.

Tips on the Repair Process & Material Selection

To perform the “blue ribbon” repair technique shown immediately above, use only heavy gauge aluminum stock. Cut the stock long enough to cover the straight edges of the stone plus at least 8 more inches to extend down into the concrete base. Place the aluminum stock along the edges of the stone pieces and bind it all together with bungee cords. Mask off the exposed surfaces of the stone with plastic and/or masking tape to prevent contamination with wet concrete.Dig a broad flat-bottomed hole at least eight inches deep for the new concrete base for the stone. The dirt at the bottom of the hole should be “undisturbed” and well packed to prevent the stone from overturning with the passage of time. Do not throw loose dirt back into the hole!Now prepare some “ready-mix” concrete to go into the hole. A typical bag contains less than one cubic foot, so you will probably need several bags. The biggest mistake people make with concrete is not mixing it properly. If you don’t mind if your new base resembles the following picture in about 20 years, then stop reading here.

Concrete” is an aggregate compound made by mixing a gray powder known as “Portland Cement” with water, gravel, and sand. The relative proportions of each of the four components including the water, determine the final curing strength and life of the end product. The relative proportion of sand to gravel has been carefully determined through laboratory testing, so don’t be tempted to thrown in an extra shovel full of sand. The Portland Cement is the “glue” which holds it all together. The curing of concrete is a slow process by which the water mixed with the Portland Cement actually chemically combines with it over a long period of time. In fact, it takes 30 days for concrete to cure to 90% of it ultimate strength, and 100 years to reach its ultimate strength! Then it begins the slow process of breaking down. The point of this information is that because the cement and water actually chemically combine, if you add too much water to the initial mix, the ultimate strength and watertightness of the final product will be degraded. When concrete is too porous, it is much more susceptible to the destructive affects of Newfoundland’s deep-freeze winters.Tips for buying and mixing concrete: Do not purchase “cement” which contains no sand and gravel, or “mortar mix” which contains sand without any gravel. Instead buy the bags of “ready-mix concrete”. These bags already contain the cement, gravel, and sand in the correct proportions. Slowly add the absolute minimum amount of water necessary to make a thick plastic mix that will not “flow” under the force of gravity. If you really want to have a strong watertight mix, use liquid acrylic ad-mix in place of water. It’s available at home-centers and stores that sell tile-setting products.With the stone standing on its two aluminum legs in the hole, shovel in the freshly mixed concrete. Use a level to square up the stone and brace it as necessary. Trowel off the top of the wet concrete to give it a neat professional look. After an hour cover the fresh concrete with plastic to prevent the surface from drying out. Concrete does not get hard by “drying”; it must “cure” in the presence of moisture. Therefore it is important to keep the concrete damp while it is curing. Give the concrete at least three days to cure before tampering with it again or removing any forms that were constructed.

What Genealogical Records Might be Hiding in Your House?

There are many places you can find family history information. As you search for valuable records in your home, think about looking at some of these sources. 

Florence Nightengales birth certificate

Bibles. Old Bibles may contain a few pages devoted to genealogical records of the family (births, marriages, and deaths). Information found in a family Bible should be carefully evaluated and, where possible, confirmed by other sources.

Diaries and Journals.  Study journal entries for genealogical data.

Biographies. Unpublished biographies are often found among loose family papers. Although a biography may be unscholarly and poorly written, it will be a treasure to the family historian.

Letters. Old letters are the most informal and intimate family sources. Addresses, names of correspondents, postmarks, and dates are useful information to a genealogist.

Memorial Cards and Funeral Programs. Genealogical data on funeral memorabilia include date of birth, place of birth, date of death, place of burial, and age at death.

Church Records. Certificates of birth, baptism (or christening), marriage, death, and funeral notices are often found in church records.

Civil Records. Competent civil recorders prepared birth, marriage, and death certificates usually near the date of the event.

Citizenship Records. Records of immigrant ancestors may include citizenship papers, date of arrival in the United States, port of embarkation and debarkation, and other details.

Fraternal Records. The Masonic Lodge, Elks, Knights of Columbus, etc., have preserved biographical sketches of their membership. If your ancestor joined a fraternal society, you may procure a biographical sketch.

Genealogical Records. Other family members may have compiled genealogical records, such as family group records and pedigree charts. Photocopying these records will save you many hours of research time.

Histories. Specific local histories describe the geography, political atmosphere, economic trends, etc., of ancestral residences.

Credit to BYU Independent Study course

Understanding the Basic Research Process

There are five steps to this process:

  1. Write down what you know
  2. Decide what you want to learn
  3. Choose a source of information
  4. Learn from your source
  5. Use what you learn

When you complete the fifth step, you start over again. Systematically you can fill in all the gaps. After you organize and design a system for yourself, you will find that step one is easily accomplished. 

If you examine a pedigree chart, it’s easy to see the missing puzzle pieces and determine what you need to learn. From there you can choose a source of information, review the source, and record new information. Then the process starts over as you identify new holes in your puzzle.

The Mosaic Templars of America

I am constantly learning something new about history when I look at the past. This past week a couple of new friends and budding genealogists and cemetery researchers found an old forgotten cemetery in the woods in Stanton, Haywood County, Tennessee.

We’re referring to the cemetery as Quarter Rd. Cemetery, well, because that’s where it’s located and we don’t know yet what it’s original name is. They’ve located the graves of five individuals in this long-forgotten final resting place. One child and four adults. One of the stones is the oldest stone I’ve come across in this area of West Tennessee…

John Bishop died Jan 1807 age 70

John Bishop died in January 1807 at the age of  70, putting the year of  his birth about 1737! Also located is Mahala Bishop, who was 54 years old when she died in 1921, Roland Hamer who passed at the tender age of 13 in 1925, Henry Clay Watkins who died on April 1, 1914 at the age of 62 and young Herman Sales who was just 25 years old when he died on August 1, 1920. More to come on them….

The most unusual aspect that was discovered in this cemetery was the markings on a couple of the headstones. It was a symbol that we had never run across before and it had the initials TMA 3vs engraved in the stone. But after a few hours of research I had discovered the answer.

The initials were really MTA which stood for the Mosaic Templars of America which was a famous black fraternal organization founded by two former slaves, John Edward Bush and Chester W. Keatts, in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1883. The organization originally provided illness, death, and burial insurance during an era of segregation when few basic services were available to black people. By 1900 Mosaic Templars’ industries grew to include an insurance company, a building and loan association, a publishing company, a business college, a nursing school, and a hospital. The  goal of the organization was to provide its members with various services but also to meet the needs of the black population in general by encouraging self-help measures.

By 1905 it had a number of lodges across the state with thousands of members. When the new headquarters were built in 1913, Booker T. Washington delivered the dedication speech. In the 1920s they claimed chapters in twenty-six states and six foreign countries, making it one of the largest black organizations in the world. However, in the 1930s the MTA began to feel the effects of the Great Depression and eventually ceased operations.

But today there is an organization struggling to keep that rich history alive.  The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center is located in Little Rock, Arkansas, and is dedicated to the preservation of Arkansas’ African American history. Within the cultural center is a museum with hundreds of artifacts, a research facility which collects various types of artifacts related to Arkansas’s rich African American history from 1870 to the present. You can visit their website at

The power of the press

I get so excited when I come across what I call genealogical “hidden gems.” Old newspapers, correspondence and letters from long ago, family pictures with identifying info, receipts, logs and family Bibles all help us to understand the trials and tribulations our forefathers went through so that we can be where we are today. Today, while exploring the Ned R. McWherter Library at the University of Memphis for the first time, I discovered a virtual gold mine – their microfilm library is amazing! Not only do they have federal census records going back to the 1790s, they have films of various newspapers from across the country, Letters and correspondence from the Secretary of the Navy and the War Department during WWI and WWII. There are even Prisoner of War correspondence for the first world war. There are documents on Nazi Germany, letters from U.S. presidents, correspondence and files from the NAACP and CORE organizations. And let’s not forget the FBI files on Martin Luther King, Jr.! This list doesn’t even begin to cover their extensive holdings. One title I was surprised to find was several microfilms on African American newspapers from the 1930s.

The newspaper I found was called the Afro American and it published out of Washington D.C. I’m not sure of when it began but the issue I found listed on its masthead that it was its 41st year. It ended about 1937.

I guess the reason I was so surprised is I never considered the notion that African Americans had newspapers at that point in history which solely catered to African Americans. I know, as a genealogist that’s a pretty lame attitude to have, and perhaps, well okay, definitely a whole lot of naivety on my part.

Since the first newspaper or rather news pamphlet was published in the late 1400s in Germany, the power of the press has been one to reckon with. It was a way for the people to pass information back and forth. Merchants used it to talk about their goods, governments used it to reach the general population, people used it to discuss social customs and items of human interest.

The London Gazette

The London Gazette

One such paper, the London Gazette, began its publication on Nov. 7, 1665 and is reportedly, the world’s oldest, continuously printed newspaper. Today, it is still published daily. Here in American, Boston saw the birth of the first newspaper in 1690. That first publication was called the Publick Occurrences (sic). It was immediately shut down, its publisher arrested and all copies supposedly destroyed because it was published without authority. I guess they didn’t understand freedom of the press back then. Its history remained hidden until the only known surviving copy was discovered in the British Library in 1845. Since that first paper came on scene bringing American into the fourth estate, newspapers have been telling the story of America.

And so it was also with African American run papers.

What I’ve actually learned today is African Americans have had their own newspapers since the mid-1800s. The Elevator out of San Francisco, the Colored American in Washington D.C. and the Freeman in Indianapolis, Ind., and others have all played a part in telling the story of a too often silent or rather, silenced history. Catering to their audience the same as their white counterparts, these trail blazers told the story white Americans did not want to hear. The stories about what was going on in African American neighborhoods – the celebrations of life, the beginnings of entrepreneurship, the recordings of African American history and the injustices suffered.

I hope you enjoy perusing this copy of the Sept. 3, 1932 edition of the Afro American. I’ll be examining a few of the stories a bit more in depth to learn what happened to the lives portrayed so long ago. Look for those stories soon.

If you are interested in learning more about African American newspapers and the role they played in America’s history, check out your local universities and colleges. You might be surprised at what’s hidden there.

Ten Reasons to Join a Local Genealogy Society

by Kathleen W. Hinckley, CGRS


“But my ancestors are not from this area, so why should I join the local genealogical society?” 

Are you guilty of this “why should I join” attitude? I know I was several years ago when I moved to Colorado. My ancestors were from Minnesota, Ohio, New York, Denmark, and Sweden. None of my ancestors were gold miners or pioneers who may have trekked across the Rocky Mountains. So I, too, wondered why I should join the Colorado Genealogical Society.

Eventually, someone convinced me to attend a meeting of the local society. Little did I know that my life as a genealogist would never be the same. I found a group of passionate family historians who were eager to share their experiences and knowledge. It did not matter that our ancestors were from different parts of the world. In fact, most members did not have Colorado roots.

So why, you ask, did a simple genealogical society membership impact my life as a genealogist? Here are ten reasons:

1. I was no longer alone.

Until I discovered the network of local genealogists, I was researching within a vacuum. I had no idea there were more than 300 genealogists within a few miles of my home. I could now share my passion with other like individuals. More important, I plugged into a network that alerted me to the latest products, news, and educational opportunities locally and nationwide.

2. I learned new research skills.

The guest speakers at monthly meetings and annual workshops taught me how to prepare a research plan, how to evaluate evidence, and techniques to discover new sources.

3. I learned how to evaluate genealogical software.

One of the most frustrating decisions for a genealogist is deciding upon the right software for their specific needs. Our society created a Computer Interest Group and sponsored educational seminars and hands-on learning workshops. Without their guidance and instruction, I would have floundered within the world of computer genealogy.

4. I improved my skills in reading old handwriting.

My personal research included transcribing old documents, but until I became involved in a society project, I didn’t realize that my skills were elementary.

5. I learned from other members.

Our society encouraged members to share their latest breakthrough or discovery at our local meetings. This sharing was not only fun, but gave me ideas on how to solve my own brick wall research problems.

6. I gained an appreciation of other local societies.

While abstracting or indexing Colorado records, I realized that volunteers in Ohio or Denmark might be indexing some records pertinent to my own ancestry. Genealogists helping one another in this manner is one of the most significant gifts we receive within this unique hobby.

7. I gained experience in using a new record type.

I volunteered to be the “society genealogist” which meant I answered Colorado research inquiries. Many of the questions could be answered through city directory research. Since my ancestors were mostly farmers, I did not have experience with this record type. Had I not volunteered to answer the society’s mail, I may never have learned the value of directories.

8. I developed leadership skills.

As an active and involved member, you will ultimately be given opportunities to participate in the leadership of the organization. While serving on committees and board member positions, I developed skills that would be valuable in future state and national leadership roles.

9. I did not find a cousin, but someone else did.

I’m always amazed at the odd connections that are made at meetings. For example, someone will casually mention they are researching the Watson family in Kentucky. Another member will answer that they are too. After comparing notes, they discover they are related six generations back into time. Believe me, it happens more often than you may think. Members will also find others researching the same geographical area and can help each other with resources, etc.

10. I developed lifelong friendships.

Common interests create friendships, and I have gathered many through genealogical connections. Can you imagine what it might be like if you didn’t have an understanding genealogical friend to call when you make a major discovery or solve the problem you’ve been working on for several years?

How to Find a Genealogical Society

There are hundreds of genealogical societies throughout the United States. To find one near you, visit the Society Hall developed by and the Federation of Genealogical Societies. The Society Hall is an excellent place to begin your search, with contact information on over 500 societies. The Society Hall also features a Calendar of Events arranged chronologically. There may be a genealogical activity planned in your area that you can attend, or one on your vacation route.

The Historical and Genealogical Society Pages, arranged geographically, are also an excellent resource for locating a society near you.

Cyndi’s List has over 3,000 links to societies and groups. The list is indexed alphabetically by the name of the society, rather than geographically.

The fourth edition (1999) of The Genealogist’s Address Book by Elizabeth Petty Bentley gives contact information on over 25,000 libraries and repositories, including genealogical societies.

The Federation of Genealogical Societies also has a Guide for the Organization and Management of Genealogical Societies. It has advice on how to start a society and keep it running.

Beyond the Local Society

The personal benefits of joining a local society are quite different than reasons to join out-of-state or other types of genealogical organizations. When you cannot attend local meetings, the obvious benefit is receiving the society’s publications. One of the primary goals of local societies is to index, abstract, or transcribe local records and publish the results in their journals and/or online.

If you have roots in Wood County, West Virginia, for example, you may want to join the Wood County Genealogical Society in order to receive notice of their publications and projects. And just because you do not reside in Wood County, does not necessarily mean you could not participate in extraction projects. Some non-local members participate by using microfilm or photocopies of records.


About the Author
Kathleen W. Hinckley, CGRS, is a professional genealogist and private investigator who specializes in locating living persons by using the Internet, public records, and genealogical sources. She is the Executive Secretary for the Association of Professional Genealogists and lectures at state, regional, and national conferences. You can reach her at or through her web site Family Detective.


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