NBC’s Genealogy Show: A New Leaf


I just became aware of a new half-hour genealogy show on TV: A New Leaf presented on NBC with major sponsorship by Ancestry.com. In the Cleveland area, it is broadcast on Saturday morning at 11:30 on WKYC Channel 3.

Logo for NBC’s new genealogy series.

According to the website for the program (click here), two episodes have already been broadcast. They are available for viewing from the website or On Demand on your TV (I have Spectrum TV service and they are listed in the On Demand list).

Here is how NBC describes the show:

“A New Leaf” will follow everyday people on the cusp of key life inflection points, using family history, genealogy and sometimes DNA analysis to help guide them on their journey of self‑discovery. Along the way, viewers will learn about different cultures as our featured guest uncovers new information about their family’s heritage. Each week, “A New Leaf” will teach viewers the importance of appreciating and understanding their family history in order to make important decisions and enact positive changes in their lives.

The hostess for the premiere (and subsequent episodes) was TV personality Daisy Fuentes, who visited with the subject of the episode, Nadia, to explore her family history. (One note: if you watch an On Demand presentation, you won’t be able to fast forward through commercials — boo-hoo!)

Countdown until German Seminar at WRHS


We have one month to go until the Western Reserve Historical Society hosts an all-day German Genealogy Seminar at the Cleveland History Center in University Circle. James M. Beidler will present four presentations under the umbrella title of “Jumping into German Genealogy” there on November 16.

The History Center is located at 10825 East Boulevard, Cleveland, Ohio 44106. The doors will open at 9 am with the first presentation scheduled to begin at 9 am.

Beidler will present the following lectures:

  • Your Immigrants’ Germany
  • German Research Online
  • German Names and Naming Patterns
  • Online German Church Registers, Duplicates, and Substitutes

I am interested in gathering more information about the German immigrant ancestors I have added to my Ancestry.com family tree. In preparation for attending the seminar, I have identified in my own lineage on my mother’s side, nine 4- to 6-great grandparents. I may identify more.

Based on the information I have found so far, they came from the German states of Hesse, Wurttemberg, Thueringen, and Bavaria in various years between 1749 and 1773. In many cases, I have been able to find birth and marriage records for them on Ancestry.com. I will be checking FamilySearch.org and MyHeritage.com for additional online records.

In his book, The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide, Beidler states that these immigrants would be classified as “First Boat” German immigrants, arriving in American during the first wave of immigration in the 18th century.

The maternal line of my late wife MJ arrived as “Second Boat” German immigrants between 1800 and 1920. In this case, we know that her grandfather, August Scheppelmann, arrived in 1897 from Neinburg, Germany. This city is in the present-day state of Lower Saxony. We know this not only from records found on Ancestry.com but also from records retrieved by MJ’s second cousin who traveled back to Germany about 35 years ago to visit relatives and obtain church records for family members.

MJ’s maternal grandmother was another story. We only had the fact that she last lived in Kempten, Bavaria, gleaned from her passenger arrival record at Ellis Island in 1902. I paid a researcher to look for any records for Marie Thomann. She was able to provide residency and work records for Marie, and eventually, she tracked down the fact that she was born out of wedlock and even the names of her mother and father. At some point, I probably will hire her to find any additional information about Marie’s family in Bavaria.

In the meantime, I am reading Beidler’s book and learning about German history.

I hope to be well-prepared to learn more about researching family history records from James Beidler when he presents his seminar on Nov. 16. If you are interested in signing up for this seminar, go here on the WRHS website. You can check out Beidler’s website here.

“Finding Your Roots” Season Off to a Satisfying Start


Last evening (08 Oct 2019) I watched to first episode of Season Six of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. I found the three case studies featured in this episode to be interesting and satisfying.

The subjects were Isabella Rossellini, Angelica Huston, and Mia Farrow. Mia Farrow’s ancestry was traced to Australia, Angelica Huston’s to Italy, and Isabella Rossellini’s to Sweden.

Rossellini is the daughter of Ingred Bergman, an actress who was well-known for being born in Sweden. Gates and his research crew traced her ancestry to Norrköping, Sweden. That resonated with me because I had visited a training school for foundry workers in nearby Jönköping during a business trip to Sweden and Denmark in the 1970s while I was working as the engineering editor of Foundry magazine.

Overall, I was impressed by what the episode revealed in terms of “old world” documentation for the ancestors of the three guests.

DNA also figured into the episode when Gates revealed that Rossellini shared some DNA with another actress with Swedish roots: Scarlett Johansson.

Upcoming episodes will be broadcast in the Cleveland area on WVIZ PBS on Tuesdays at 8 pm. I’ll be tuning in to learn the ancestral stories of many fascinating guests, including Jeffrey Wright, Sigourney Weaver, Melissa McCarthy, Sterling K. Brown, Jordan Peele, Nancy Pelosi, Gayle King, Norah O’Donnell, Queen Latifah, Jon Batiste, Diane von Furstenberg, Zac Posen, Jeff Goldblum, Terry Gross, Eric Stonestreet and more.

A Finn Was Pitcher for Chicago White Sox


From time to time my cousin Matti in Finland sends emails with links to articles and other text material of interest to me and my brother Walfrid. This morning, he sent an item article about a Finnish national who came to America in the early 1900’s to pitch for the Chicago White Sox. It was from today’s Helsingin Sanomat, the leading newspaper in Finland

Of course, the article was published in Finnish. This is no problem for my brother, as he is fluent in Finnish. I, on the other hand, know very little Finnish. Google Translate comes in handy for me, and I am going to include some screenshots to show what Matti’s email was all about — and to demonstrate the capabilities of Google Translate with Finnish. First, here is Matti’s email:

Matti’s Email as it arrived this morning
Translation provided by Gmail

This contained some “awkward” translations. I thought I could do better by copying and pasting the text into Google Translate. And here is what I got back:

Side-by-side comparison between the original and the Google Translate result.

A much cleaner translation. It’s obvious that the translation service within Gmail is not as capable as is Google Translate.

FYI, here is why Matti sent the message to me: When I visited Finland last summer, he and other cousins took me to view a baseball park in Kuopio, the closest big city to where my grandparents emigrated from.

Now back to the newspaper article. I noted that the credit line Jouni Nieminen, teksti, was a hotlink, so I clicked on it. It took me to the newspaper’s website, which featured a built-in translation service. I searched for the article and got this result in English:

The article (translated) from the Helsingin Sanomat website. Note that the baseball player’s name has been translated into English.

I believe that the term “feeder” would more likely be used as “special” or some such term in an American newspaper. Jouni Nieminen probably is a freelance writer, feeding items of interest to the newspaper.

I went to Wikipedia and searched for Michaelson and found this summary of his very brief baseball career:

John August Michaelson’s baseball career summary on Wikipedia.

A brief search on Ancestry.com shows that John August Michaelson was a common name. But I was able to separate out the fact that the Michaelson I was looking for died in Wisconsin in April of 1968. Here is his cemetery stone:

Maps Galore in Historical Atlas of Germany


If you are tracing ancestors born in Germany and other German-speaking lands, there is a new reference book that should be helpful to you. For centuries, what evolved into Germany as we know it today was a feudal patchwork of kingdoms, principalities, duchies, and even free cities, with often changing boundaries. The book is The Family Tree Historical Atlas of Germany, by James M. Beidler. It provides more than 100 full-color maps along with valuable text about the history of the region that developed into present-day Germany. The maps and text combine to fill 240 pages bound in an attractive hard-cover format.

By studying this book, you can come to understand German border changes throughout the centuries. Of particular value to genealogical researchers are the following chapters: Nineteenth-Century Germany, Regional and State Maps, Twentieth-century Germany, and Modern-Day Religious and Demographic Maps. Another valuable section provides an index to cities and villages found on the included maps, a glossary of geographic terms, and a list of map sources, All this material can help you pinpoint the hometowns of your German ancestors and thereby locate where you might find their records.

I am researching German ancestors ranging from my fourth great grandfather Johan Mathias Flaugh, born in Rimhorn, Baden-Wuerttemberg, who immigrated to America in 1773, to Maria Thoman, the grandmother of my late wife, who was born in Kaufbeuren, Bavaria and came to America in 1905.

The Historical Atlas has helped me understand the geography and history of Germany pertinent to these and other ancestors.

The author readily admits in the introduction that most of the maps can be viewed online. I found it to be convenient, however, to have them in one printed reference. If you wish to study them online, and perhaps use your browser to enlarge them, you’ll be happy to know that citations to the sources of the maps are provided.

Jim Biedler has written other books about German genealogical research, including The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Germanic Ancestry in Europe and Trace Your German Roots Online: A Complete Guide to German Genealogy Websites. He also is the author of The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide: How to Find Your Ancestors in Archived Newspapers (which we should note includes information about German-language newspapers in America).

The book is available from a wide range of booksellers, both brick and mortar and online. The list price is $34.99, but you can find it available for less if you search online for special offerings.

Jumping into German Genealogy–An All-Day Seminar at WRHS


On Saturday, November 16, Western Reserve Historical Society will host an all-day seminar for beginning and advanced genealogists interested in researching their German ancestors. In four seminar sessions, James M. Beidler will cover the following topics:

“Your Immigrants’ Germany,”

“German Research Online,”

“German Names and Naming Patterns,”

“Online German Church Registers, Duplicates, and Substitutes.”

Jim Beidler

  Jim Beidler is the author of the brand-new The Family Tree Historical Atlas of Germany. He also has authored The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide and writes “Roots & Branches,” an award-winning weekly newspaper column on genealogy. He is a columnist for German Life magazine and is editor of Der Kurier, the quarterly journal of the Mid-Atlantic Germanic Society. He also is an editor for Legacy Tree Genealogists, Inc. and contributes frequently to periodicals ranging from scholarly journals such as The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine to popular-interest magazines such as Family Tree Magazine

  Check-in opens at 9 am, with the first session commencing at 9:30. There will be a lunch break at 12:15. Boxed lunches will be available for purchase the day of the seminar. 

  To register, complete the registration form, provide a check for the $40 registration fee and return to: 

WRHS Genealogical Committee, Attn: Linda Freeman, 10825 East Blvd., Cleveland, OH, 44106 Name: _____________________________________________________________ 


City:__________________________________ State: ______ Zip______________ 

Phone Number: Day ( ) _____________ Evening ( ) ________________ 

Email Address: _______________________________________________________

Online Registration coming soon!

Questions? Please contact Chris Staats: chris@staatsofohio.com 

Family Tree Magazine Sold to Yankee Publishing


On July 22, 2019, Dick Eastman posted in his Eastman’s Online Genealogy News blog the following:

Great news! A major genealogy magazine was on the verge of folding. (See my earlier article at http://bit.ly/2Z6yoN8 for the details.) However, the US Family Tree Magazine has now been purchased by a major magazine publisher with a long history of publishing. Family Tree magazine now seems to have a bright future. Here is the announcement:

Dublin, NH (July 19, 2019) — Yankee Publishing Inc. (YPI), publisher of Yankee, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, and New Hampshire magazine, announced its acquisition of Family Tree magazine from F+W Media.

“We’re pleased to welcome Family Tree to YPI’s family of products,” said President and CEO Jamie Trowbridge. “Family Tree fits well with our suite of brands, both in terms of content and business strategy. We’re excited to take this step to continue YPI’s growth as an independent media company.”

Family Tree – with its print magazine, website, online classes and conferences, and web store – serves a passionate audience of genealogy enthusiasts. Interest in genealogy is surging in America, with over 20 million Americans having had their DNA tested by the four leading commercial ancestry and health databases, according to industry estimates.

“Yankee Publishing has a great vision for Family Tree,” said Andrew Koch, editor of the magazine. “As part of YPI, we’ll continue bringing the best genealogy advice and resources to our readers so they can discover their ancestors and connect to their roots.”

The editorial offices of Family Tree will remain in the Cincinnati, Ohio area. The other functions of the business will be managed by YPI staff at its headquarters in Dublin, New Hampshire.

Yankee Publishing Inc. (YPI) is based in Dublin, New Hampshire. It is a family-owned, independent publisher of magazines, websites, books, calendars and other periodicals including Yankee: New England’s Magazine, which was founded in 1935. YPI also owns the nation’s oldest continuously produced periodical, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, and subsidiary McLean Communications, which publishes New Hampshire magazine and other publications about New Hampshire.

Further research yields the following information:

The Family Tree Store, which served as the subscription portal for FTM and offers books and genealogy courses, is down for the time being. The Store’s website has the following statement:

Family Tree Store Will Be Back!

While our website is in transition, Family Tree Store is temporarily offline.

Some digital products, online classes, videos, and content that you purchased may be temporarily unavailable.

Please know that we well be closely monitoring the situation and working to resolve an issues quickly.

And we’ll be back, better than ever, in mid-August.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

We’ll have to wait to see if the Family Tree Store actually comes back. In the meantime, many of the FTM books are still available from Amazon.com and other online sources.

Earlier, the Genealogy Guys podcast announced that Penguin Random House Books had acquired the book publishing assets of F+W Media, which includes FTM books and print publications, such as Blaine Bettinger’s The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, and many, many genealogy and family history titles.

New-Found Marriage Record Creates a Mystery


A couple of days ago I posted about FamilySearch pointing me to a marriage record for Frank Nikkari who married my Aunt Edith in 1915. The record match stated that they were married in Mayfield, Fulton County, New York, some 400 miles from where at least Edith was living in Ashtabula, Ashtabula County, Ohio, according to the 1910 Federal Census. In that post, I reported that I had contacted the Mayfield Town Clerk about obtaining a copy of the marriage record.

Today (31 Jul 2019), I received a call from the Town Clerk. She said she had found the record and did I want to receive a scanned copy by email? At no charge? Of course, I answered yes and yes. And I provided my email address.

In short order, the email arrived with the record attached.

Note that Frank and Edith both reported that they were residents of Broadalin, the next Town to the east of Mayfield Town. Frank stated that he was a farmer. That was all interesting information, but it didn’t explain why Frank and Edith were residing some 400 miles from Ashtabula.

New York State conducted a state census in 1915, but Frank and Edith were not enumerated there. In fact, while browsing the censuses for the two towns, I learned that Frank and Edith would have been among a tiny minority of residents born outside of the United States (Frank and Edith both were born in Finland).

So we are left with a mystery of why Frank and Edith were living in upstate New York, some 400 miles from Ashtabula where they spent much of their adult lives.

FamilySearch Pushes Record Match to My Email


Sometimes genealogical records come to you. FamilySearch.org recently sent me an email with several possible matches. One of them involved my Uncle Frank Nikkari, who married my Aunt Edith Huskonen on 12 Apr 1915. I knew this fact from Frank’s obituary in the Ashtabula Star Beacon. I was happy to learn this date, but I didn’t pursue additional information about the marriage; in fact, at the time I made a note that they probably got married in Ashtabula County.

The possible record match from FamilySearch.org pointed me to a marriage record for Frank and Edith created in the Town of Mayfield, Fulton County, New York. What’s that? Mayfield is about 400 miles from Ashtabula. And I knew from the 1910 Census that at least Edith was living in that city. To date, I haven’t been able to turn up any 1910 census record for Frank. At that time, his parents and siblings all were still living in Kaleva, Manistee County, Michigan, where they all settled after immigration from Finland in 1903 and 1904.

I’m assuming that FamilySearch recently added the New York, County Marriages, 1847-1848; 1908-1936 collection and the website’s automated search algorithm matched the marriage record with the profiles I have added to the FamilySearch Community Tree for my uncle and aunt.

The match was a transcribed listing for my uncle as Frank Nikkare and my aunt at Edith Huskon, and the date was in fact 12 Apr 1915. Here is the index listing for Frank:

The FamilySearch listing for Aunt Edith was similar.

FamilySearch did not provide any images with these record matches. I knew that Ancestry.com had the same information in the All New York State, Marriage Index, 1881-1967 collection, but Ancestry.com hadn’t yet turned up a hint for Frank and Edith. I entered Frank’s name in the search window for this collection. Up came Ancestry’s indexing transcription:

In this case, an image is linked to the index entry. It also contains as additional information the Certificate Number that I can use to order the certificate document from the Mayfield Town Clerk. I have a phone call in to order this record.

I’m hoping for more details on the actual marriage record, such as Frank’s address and occupation at the time of the marriage. Maybe there will be a clue as to why in 1915 Frank and Edith traveled so far to get married.

In the 1914 WWI draft registration, Frank reported that he was a laborer for the New York Central Railroad. Did this mean that he had some sort of rail pass for himself and his intended spouse to travel all the way to upstate New York?

By 1915, The NYCRR ran along the Mohawk River and Erie Canel across New York State. It had a stop in Fonda, the county seat of Montgomery County, the county just south of Fulton County. Was there a rail connection from the NYCRR in Fonda to Mayfield. Yes, there was a short line called the Fonda, Johnstown, and Gloversville Railroad.

Here’s an answer to that question that I found on Wikipedia:

The FJ&G was formed in 1867 as a steam railroad. The first train ran from Fonda in 1870 all the way to Gloversville. Gloversville, named after the many glove companies in the area (237 in 1905), was at the northern end of the FJ&G for a few years before the railroad was pushed north by business owners. The Gloversville and Northville Railroad went from northern Gloversville through Mayfield and Cranberry Creek to Northville which became its permanent terminus.

In New York, marriage records are created at the town level (towns in New York correspond to townships in Ohio), which is why I am contacting the Mayfield Town Clerk to possibly obtain a copy of the marriage certificate for Frank and Edith.

The takeaway from all this is that you watch for all possible hints and possible record matches and check them out. If they come from more than one source, compare the records to acquire all available information.

Seizing the Moment: Obtaining Grandma Grace’s Divorce Record


A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Juhannus Celebration Potluck dinner at the Finnish-American Heritage Association (FAHA) Museum in Ashtabula, Ohio (FYI, Juhannus is the Finnish name for St. John, the disciple, and Juhannus Holiday is a national holiday in Finland celebrating the Summer Solstice, the start of summer. I am a member of FAHA because my paternal grandparents immigrated from Finland).

I sat at a table across from Carol, who I recognized from an earlier FAHA gathering as the retired Clerk of Courts in Ashtabula County, the county where I grew up. I ventured to ask her about divorce records in the Clerk’s office. She volunteered to forward my interest in obtaining the divorce record of Grace Tripp, my maternal grandmother, from John Tripp to her former colleagues. I provided what I knew: that both were living in Andover, in Ashtabula County, and that they were divorced sometime in the early 1940s. In the 1940 Census of Andover, both Grace and John were listed as married, but living separately. Further, I knew that Grace remarried in 1943, to Don A. Stafford of Cleveland.

Carol did forward the information to the Clerk’s office in Jefferson, the Ashtabula County seat. On July 1, I received an email from a staff member there with the divorce record as a PDF attachment. It turned out that the divorce was granted during the “January 1942 Term,” which was a bit earlier than I guessed.

Receiving the email when I did was quite a coincidence because my sister Viena and her husband Jim were planning to visit me the next day, on July 2. They had traveled from Florida to Ohio for an Andover high school reunion and to visit their daughter Lara and her family in Bowling Green, Ohio. I was able to hand off a copy of the divorce to my sister, adding one more bit of information about our Grandma Grace. I then sent off copies to my brother Walfrid in Oklahoma, and first cousins in New York and Florida.

Sometimes it pays to “seize the moment.”