Episode 449 - Mortality Schedules and What They Can Tell You / New NEHGS Genie Training Course for Kids

podcast episode Feb 13, 2023

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. The guys cover a lot of ground this week on Family Histoire News.  Up first… a man who recently bought a photo of Queen Consort Camilla’s great great grandmother and gifted it to her. He has since received a letter back! Hear what she had to say. Then, a massive collection of letters from Chicago in the 19th century is heading to eBay. David explains. Next, a box full of photos of a family murdered during the Holocaust has been returned to surviving descendants. Catch how it happened. Then, AI is now about to translate handwritten letters. Written in Japanese! Dave has particulars. A rookie metal detectorist has uncovered a gem that will likely change his life. Hear about the genuine treasure he has dug up in England. Finally, New England Quaker records…. thousands of them… are being digitized. Find out who’s doing it and when you may be able to see them.

Next, Fisher interviews Katie Chrichton from sponsor Legacy Tree Genealogists. Katie talks about the often underused Mortality Schedules. What are they? What can they tell you? Where can you find them? Katie will share all of that, along with some great stories.

Fisher then chats with Dustin Axe of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Dustin is a Youth Genealogy Curriculum Coordinator and, through NEHGS, is making their course for kids available for FREE to schools, organizations, and home schooling parents everywhere.

David then returns for Ask Us Anything, answering your questions.

That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!


Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 449

Fisher: And welcome America to America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree, and watch the nuts fall out. It is great to have you aboard! We've got great guests today as always. I can't wait for you to hear my visit with Katie Crichton coming on. She's a researcher at Legacy Tree Genealogists and she's going to tell us all about mortality schedules. These are things that are attached to the censuses over the years and are easily overlooked. And she's got some great stories that have come from those as well, so you're going to want to hear that. And then later in the show, NEHGS' Dustin Axe is here. He's going to talk about how he's put together a curriculum for youth to learn about family history research in elementary school and for homeschoolers. It’s just so awesome in its simplicity. You're going to love what he has to say as well. It’s all coming up starting in about 10 minutes. Right now, it’s time to head out to Boston, speaking of NEHGS, here is David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David, we've got a boatload of stuff to talk about today.

David: Oh, do we ever! It really is a wide range of treasures we're going to talk about.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: Starting with a photograph. A simple photograph that, you know, if you went to an antique store, you may have paid a couple of bucks for, you know, the old 19th century carte de visite, CDVs. And there's a fellow that runs a Facebook page called, Medals Going Home. Obviously about returning medals to the family members.

Fisher: Right.

David: Adam Simpson York bought a photograph! It was of Edrica Faulkner. Well, until recently, the great, great granddaughter of Edrica Faulkner may not have meant anything to anybody, but now she's the Queen Consort. Queen Camilla received the photo sent by Adam and she wrote him a note where it says, "Many thanks for the photograph of my great, great grandmother. It is the first time I have ever seen her picture."

Fisher: Wow!

David: And we all know as genealogists how exciting that is.

Fisher: Yes! Yeah.

David: But she writes next, "I must say, she looks a bit sad in it."

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: You know, I don't think I've seen a lot of happy people in 19th century photographs. The exposure time took so long. I'm sure Maureen Taylor could speak more to that. But, that's a fun little find.

Fisher: That's great. I mean, how many people get a letter back from a queen? I mean, that's amazing!

David: I think it’s probably worth the value of the photograph he gave her.

Fisher: [Laughs] You bet!

David: That being said, there is a gentleman in his 80s in Chicago who will be selling all of his collection of letters, dating from the earliest of the 1830s from Chicago. And that's where they're from. I mean, there's Civil War letters, there's letter from people from all walks of life, but they're all going up on the auction lot.

Fisher: Yep. And this is what we talk about all the time, eBay. You can find all kinds of things. And wouldn't it be fun if you had some ancestors in Chicago to be scrolling through those and say, "Hey, wait a minute, that's my great, great grandfather!" They shouldn't be too much either. They're just not expensive things.

David: Right, exactly. I mean, some of them are Civil War related, there's one from a gentleman named William who writes about seven foot high snowdrifts in really cold weather and that they're about to have bountiful Christmas feast at the camp with two turkeys, sausage, dried beef, half a dozen chickens and other things too numerous to mention.

Fisher: All right.

David: Letters are great. We're connecting people with photographs is my next story and that has to do with Kitty O’Dell from Bristol, England, whose ancestors were killed in the Holocaust, but she's not had an emotional reunion with photographs of her family that she had never seen that ended up in Czechoslovakia.

Fisher: Yeah, well, there were neighbors next door and they took a little shoebox and saved all the photos for these Jewish people before they were taken away by the Nazis. And they were sitting up in an attic all this time and a genealogist over there went ahead and tracked down this descendant and has now reunited the photographs with this person, an amazing story, a great story.

David: With technology, we can get and reach people so much easier now.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: But I personally love AI. We talked about it just a couple of weeks ago, there is a new application designed by Toppan Inc. which can decipher Japanese characters and cursive form and it can actually read them.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: So, there’s hope for our doctors’ handwriting that can be deciphered years from now.

Fisher: Yes. [Laughs] Well, that would be an entire separate app I would think.

David: I would think so. Speaking of love, the next item up for discovery was with a metal detectorist who really hadn’t been doing it more than six months when he unearthed a gold pendent. Well, this gold pendent with a large gold chain dates from the 1500s, and on it, it has H and K interwoven with hearts and Tudor roses, and flowers on it. Yeah, that H and K is for King Henry VIII and Katherine his wife.

Fisher: Wow!

David: Never been seen before. They thought it was a fake somebody made this costume jewelry in the 19th century. British museum says, no, it’s real. And this is going to be life changing for the young man who found it. He is hoping to use it for his 4 year olds college education some day.

Fisher: Wow! That’s so fun. And you’ve got to see the picture of this thing, by the way. It is incredibly beautiful.

David: It’s almost the size of a pocket watch on a dog collar chain.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: It’s really amazing, and it’s gold. You know, not all gold is metallic, in some cases, as we know as genealogists, it’s paper. And the UMass Amherst out my way is about to digitize 787 volumes, Fish, of the New England yearly Quaker records dating back to the mid 17th century.

Fisher: Wow, this is great!

David: How many tens maybe even hundreds of thousands of names and dates are going to be in this and this is tremendous. I didn’t even personally realize they had that many volumes. And they’re going to be digitized by Internet Archive right down the street from me at the Boston Public Library. My next big question is, who is going to index them?

Fisher: Um hmm. And how’s that going to work? You know, this is the thing though, so many people descend from Quakers and the Quaker records were probably the number one best church records that were created back in that era.

David: And they say Fish, it’s going to be done by this summer.

Fisher: Wow! Great story.

David: Well, that’s all I have from Beantown this week. And don’t forget, if you haven’t been to American Ancestors and you might want to join, you can use the coupon code EXTREME and save $20. Talk to you a little later.

Fisher: All right, my friend. Thank you so much. And coming up next, we’re going to talk to Katie Crichton with Legacy Tree Genealogists, talking about mortality schedules. You’re going to love the stories she has to share about it as well, coming up next when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. 

Segment 2 Episode 449

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Katie Crichton

Fisher: Well, one of my favorite things to do every month is to visit with one of our friends from over at our sponsors at Legacy Tree Genealogists and find out what’s on their minds. And this month we talk to Katie Crichton. She is a Legacy Tree researcher and has recently written a blog about Mortality Schedules. And we’re going to get into what they are, how long they’ve been around, what you can find in there, but I just wanted to get into Katie’s head here. First of all Katie, tell me about why you wrote this blog? What was your incentive for this?

Katie: Well, for me it all kind of started with a collateral relative of mine who I discovered who died of scarlet fever in 1859. And her name was included in the 1860 Mortality Schedule in Ohio. When I was looking at the local schedule, I noticed that a large proportion of the reported deaths in the area represented children all suffering from that same disease.

Fisher: Wow.

Katie: Yes. I was really curious about that percentage and so I expanded the study and examined all of the mortality schedules in the state of Ohio that year. And in doing so, I discovered that there was actually a scarlet fever epidemic. There were nearly 4000 people who died of scarlet fever in Ohio in 1859 and ’60. And that accounted for about 16% of the reported deaths for the entire state. Some of the counties, the percentage was as high as 50%.

Fisher: Wow! The numbers you’re talking about are horrific.

Katie: Right. It’s hard to imagine right? I think that’s one of the things that’s important about looking beyond just the names in the list, looking for just your ancestors because when you’re at the schedule as a whole, even if your family didn’t lose a member to scarlet fever in that year, it’s likely they were impacted.

Fisher: Sure.

Katie: There were notes from some of the enumerators saying things like almost every house they visited had someone in the family sick with scarlet fever, or two thirds of the children in the area suffered from scarlet fever to some degree.  

Fisher: Wow. And you think about all the parents that were lost, and the orphans made, and the widows and widowers created, I mean what a mess. That’s horrendous. So, let’s talk about, for people who aren’t familiar with mortality schedules, just what does that mean?

Katie: Well, the mortality schedules, they were supposed to be a list of all the people who died during the previous year.

Fisher: Right.

Katie: So it‘s from April or the date of the census, from 1859 to 1860 for example. It’s not actually a calendar year, but one year extending back from the date of the census. 1850 is the first year for it.

Fisher: Okay. How did it change through the years?

Katie: Well, the first schedule just included basic information like name, age, gender, color, whether the person was free or enslaved, marital status, their place of birth, month of death, occupation, the cause of death, and the number of days that they’d been ill. But over time they added more categories. Like in 1870 after the Civil War, the question about the freedom status was of course removed.

Fisher: Sure.

Katie: But two additional columns were added. There was one that links the individual to the family member in a population schedule, which makes it a lot easier to figure out which family a person belonged to. And another column was added asking whether the decedent’s parents were born outside of the US.

Fisher: Ah!

Katie: In 1880 is when they really added a lot of information. These are the best schedules that you can look at. They include detailed places of birth of both of the decedent’s parents. How long the decedent had lived in the county that they died in, where the fatal disease was contracted, if it’s outside of the county of death, the name of the physician who had attended the person at death, and the residents of the decedent’s family or the decedent’s place of death if either was outside of the enumeration district.   

Fisher: I mean that is a monstrous amount of information. And if you’re researching your dead, especially if you’re researching children, sometimes they’re born between census records and they died between census records. But in this particular instance they could actually have died in say, the year that ended with a 9 but be listed in the mortality schedule attached to a given census in the 10th year, right, 1860, 1870, 1880. And you can gather information on that person. I had a similar thing come up here, Katie, many years ago. I discovered a candidate for a third great grandfather on one of my lines. His name was Samuel Downs, and I was hoping to find that he was buried with a woman named Olive, who I believed was his wife. So, I checked with the cemetery in New York and they said no, he’s buried with a little girl named Lizzie Moore. And she said, “Does that name means anything to you?” I said, not really, but maybe. Because I’d had a great grandmother who had married a Moore, but it’s a very common name as you know. So, I had to research who this little girl was, and it turned out that this little girl had been the daughter of my great grandmother in her first marriage. And I didn’t know about her. So, finding this possible person as my ancestor led me to the little girl, and the little girl helped me identify that yes, this had to be my ancestor but she showed up in that 1870 mortality schedule attached to the census. And that was one of the great clues that tied me into the fact that yes, this was the little girl that belonged to my great grandmother and I had no idea she’d had this child so it was great to be able to add her to the family and it was largely because of this mortality schedule. And then from there of course, I was able to look for the death record, but it was a huge boon to be able to figure that out and find out what she died of, that type of thing.  

Katie: Right. I think that’s one of the really great benefits of it. Sometimes they contain information that you’re not going to find anywhere else.

Fisher: Right. Yeah. They are unique and that’s a huge thing. So if you haven’t checked them, you’ve got to do that. When did these get phased out by the way?

Katie: Well, it sort of depends on the area.

Fisher: Okay.

Katie: The way that it worked was that when cities or states reached a certain level of compliance with vital record requirements, then they were able to phase out the mortality schedules.

Fisher: Ohh.

Katie: So like in 1800, Massachusetts and New Jersey both already recorded deaths state wide.

Fisher: Okay.

Katie: And so they were less concerned with those places. Whereas by 1900, there were 10 states, the district of Columbia, and a lot of large cities in other areas that didn’t fall into those states that complied with vital record requirements. By then it was about 40% of the population of the continental United States would be recorded in one way or another when they died. It was in 1902 that the census bureau was actually authorized to collect copies of vital records directly from registration offices nationwide. And at that point, the mortality schedules were phased out completely. 

Fisher: Sure.

Katie: Though it doesn’t mean that they were complete. Because unfortunately, it wasn’t until 1933 that they actually considered that the deaths nationwide were complete and reliable.  

Fisher: Interesting. I mean, it’s hard to imagine that the country started in 1776, and a lot of times we think, oh well, all those records are out there for us to be found. And in some places that’s true. They started fairly early. New York City certainly had early death rolls going there for many, many years. But there are many places that’s just about impossible to find anything like that. And of course, later on, you finally started to see on death records the names of the parents in addition to all kind of other information, where people were born. It’s not just a list of the name, how old they were, and what their address was and who the mortician was. It’s interesting to see how over time the nation said, “Wait a minute, we don’t have a very good handle on where our people are, where they died, and what’s going on”. It had a lot to do with health, everything to do with health.    

Katie: It’s true, though the mortality schedules actually have a lot to do with the genealogist, oddly. Lemuel Shattuck who was from Massachusetts, he was a teacher and a genealogist and he’s actually one of the founders of NEHGS.

Fisher: Okay.

Katie: Through genealogy he developed an interest in statistics and founded the American Statistical Society in 1839. And it was between the American Statistical Society, the Massachusetts Medical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Science, all three of those organizations led the efforts to collect vital statistics in Massachusetts, and Lemuel Shattuck also developed the census schedule for the city of Boston in 1845, which laid the foundation for modern censuses.

Fisher: Interesting.

Katie: That was the first census that included the names of all individuals in the household and not just the head of the household. And because of the things that Shattuck had done in these instances, he was asked to participate in the creation of mortality schedules for 1850.

Fisher: Really? I had no idea. That was a great education there. Of course, Shattuck is an old Massachusetts name, goes back to one of the founders of Nantucket. That’s a great contribution on his part.

Katie: Yes. He was an amazing man.

Fisher: So, for people to find the mortality schedules very simply, where do they go?

Katie: Well, they’re available both through Ancestry and on Family Search. But I highly recommend people look at Family Search because some parts of the mortality schedules are missing. Like when I did all of the schedules for Ohio in 1860, there were whole sections of counties that were missing from the Ancestry schedules.

Fisher: Okay.

Katie: So, there would just be a few pages but parts were missing. Or for 1880 for example, there was a portion where the enumerator had to visit the physician who had attended the person at their death. And so there’s a part on the back of the form where he went and visited the doctors who confirmed or clarified causes of death. And none of those pages are on Ancestry. They’re only at Family Search. And they add some really fascinating information sometimes, where a family might give a cause of death that’s completely different than what the doctor actually believed. I have an example where a family said that a woman had died, I believe it was intestinal blockage, and it turned out that she had really tried to cause an abortion.

Fisher: Oh!

Katie: And unfortunately, yes. So, I think the family might have been covering for what the real story was.

Fisher: Interesting. Key point here; and that is of course Family Search is a great compliment to Ancestry.com It’s free. You do have to create an account for yourself there, but it is free. And you’ll often find things on Ancestry that you don’t find on Family Search, and things on Family Search that you don’t find on Ancestry. So it’s great to work with both and I work with both all the time because it’s just things like you just described, it makes a huge difference. And sometimes you’ll even find that the indexing of the censuses are different from one to the other because of interpretation. So, you can look up a name that appears on Ancestry, but not on Family Search or vice versa.

Katie: That’s absolutely true.

Fisher: Katie, thank you so much for sharing all this. This is really thought provoking and I’m sure it’s going to be helpful to a lot of people. Thanks for coming on.

Katie: I really enjoyed this. Thanks for having me Scott.

Fisher: All right, and coming up next. Speaking of NEHGS, we’re going to talk to Dustin Axe. He’s got a youth educations program going on at the New England Historic Genealogical Society you’re going to want to hear about, when we return in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. 

Segment 3 Episode 449

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Dustin Axe

Fisher: I just wonder how many times over the last 10 years I’ve had people ask, “How do we get the kids interested in family history?” Well, there may be an answer here right now that you’re going to really like. Hey, it’s Fisher. It’s Extreme Genes. We’re back. I’m talking with Dustin Axe. He is a youth genealogy curriculum coordinator for the New England Historic Genealogical Society and they’ve just completed a pilot program in teaching kids through the schools and at home teaching, all kinds of stuff and how to get involved in family history. Dustin, welcome to the show! I’m really excited to talk to you about this because everybody wonders about this subject if they have any interest in it at all.

Dustin: Yes. Well, thank you for letting me share a little bit about our curriculum. It’s a national family history curriculum. It’s free to access on our website. The lesson plan targets grade 4-6.

Fisher: Okay.

Dustin: But really, it’s loaded with accessible teaching strategies, definitions, effective messaging that any teacher can use with students K to 12.

Fisher: Right. Well, let’s start with you first of all. You’re a trained teacher, yes?

Dustin: I am. I am a licensed social studies teacher. So, I am formally trained for the classroom. However, I’ve spent my entire career working in museums.

Fisher: Okay.

Dustin: Developing field trips, doing teacher professional development. I’ve worked with multiple ages, grades, teaching many different subjects. I’ll say that I’ve spent most of my career working in a science museum, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

Fisher: Okay.

Dustin: And I say that because my experience developing and implementing science programs has really informed my approach to helping do the same for genealogy.

Fisher: Okay.

Dustin: So, you can imagine when you learn science, you learn science through hands-on, in-career based activities and history is the exact same way.

Fisher: Sure.

Dustin: And genealogy puts students at the center of that and you learn science by doing science.

Fisher: Right.

Dustin: And you learn that it’s a process of experimentation, history is the exact same thing.

Fisher: Yeah. I think you’re absolutely right. And for people who are curious about this, this is not a course created for your child necessarily at your home to sign up at AmericanAncestors.org. This is for teachers to bring into the classroom, for parents who home school their kids, and this is a real broad outreach thing. Now there are a lot of questions that come up when we talk about something like this Dustin, I think we need to answer because obviously a lot of people are thinking, oh well, how are we going to get my kids signed up for one of those expensive online sites. What about online trees? They’ve got to learn the technology. This doesn’t go there. This actually starts at the best part first, dessert first, the stories.

Dustin: That’s right. It begins with what I’ve been calling “dinner table genealogy” as opposed to where a lot of teachers have students begin with paper trail genealogy. So, you can imagine there are a lot of students if you are a teacher teaching a group of 30 kids, half of them aren’t going to want to research their family tree or put together a multi generation chart, or they just simply can’t because of brick walls. They don’t have the research skills. And then you have the other half of the class who can fill out a nice tree or a multi generation chart, but they’re probably going to go home and copy it from a relative.

Fisher: Sure.

Dustin: And both of those cases the students haven’t learned any research skills and they haven’t went through the process. So instead, I had the students begin at home.

Fisher: Yeah.

Dustin: Looking for simple sources around the house, family history related objects, photographs, heirlooms, interviewing people they know, and not getting hung up on the process of looking for sources because that’s when genealogy for students can become very inaccessible.

Fisher: You know, what you’re saying here is something I just blogged about myself recently on my Weekly Genie Newsletter, and that is, there is a difference between genealogy and family history. Genealogy is a part of family history, but it is only a part of it, right? There are many other things. There are the photographs, there are the heirlooms, there are the stories, and that genealogy is simply the framework of the family going back. So, I love the idea you start with the stories because that’s what we hear about all the time. That’s what people want to hear. They don’t just want the names and the dates, and the places. They want to know why somebody moved from this country and came here, or what they left, or what were the tragedies people overcame? And in the case of children, I think of all the people I’ve spoken to over the years who say, oh, I wish I had asked my grandfather this question, or my aunt that question. And here’s an opportunity for them to actually do so and get something that will be with them potentially for the rest of their lives.

Dustin: That’s right. You know, researching the curriculum, we tried to identify what students know about genealogy already. They’re natural genealogists. They ask questions. They hear stories, but they don’t see that as being formal research.

Fisher: Yeah.

Dustin: So, with just a little training and a little understanding of the whole process then they can start to ask specific questions. They will document it, make connections, and do just what you’re saying.

Fisher: You know, the other thing I thought about was, here are kids sometimes that were adopted or have been given up and have had real rough childhoods, and you’re not going to have maybe some pleasant experiences for them to go home to but I would imagine that every kid has somebody that they can ask questions of and stories, somebody they trust and have a good experience.

Dustin: That’s right. And naturally that’s one of the key strategies in the curriculum that we make sure students understand that they can research anyone they consider part of their family. In fact, I have students, as a class create their own open-ended definition of family that includes any family configuration many different types of inter-personal relationships. So, students know not to compare their families. That it’s okay if you have big families, small families. Families change, they get bigger, they get smaller, that’s okay. Research who you want there’s no pressure to share anything you don’t want to share anything you don’t want to share. In fact, this is a key part in the curriculum too and I think this will especially resonate with teachers. The goal of the curriculum isn’t necessarily for students to research the specific details of their family. The goal is for them to learn the research skills in order to so.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Dustin: You can learn those skills by researching another family, a neighbor, a historic figure, right. So, you’re learning this process, what are the steps, how do you ask questions, where do you look for answers? And then eventually by going through this process again, and again, and again you begin to think like a genealogist. And then if you’re not taught in this conception, you’re not re-enforcing this conceptions, maybe later in life students can then pick up genealogy and they’re inspired to make this a lifelong journey.

Fisher: Well, let’s circle back to what we talked about earlier, once again, there are no costs involved with this for students. So, if you’re a teacher and you wanted to incorporate this curriculum into what you teach at your school or if you’re a home schooling teacher or parent there are ways to do this. How do people sign up for it?

Dustin: So, go to AmericanAncestors.org. We have a youth genealogy webpage. In fact, their curriculum is on our home page right now. You can go there. The curriculum is free to download. There’s a Google slide presentation. You can edit all the work sheets in Google for free. And in conjunction with the curriculum, I host free teacher professional development workshops. So, you can register for one-on-one trainings with me where we can brainstorm a one-on-one plan for your home school group, for your school, for your genealogy society, any K through 12.

Fisher: Oh, wow.

Dustin: Again, this is all free. The curriculum is free. You can register for teacher training. You know, because family history and doing this it’s very personal.

Fisher: Yes. Individualized.

Dustin: Individualized. Just like with any subject there’s no universal way of teaching genealogy.

Fisher: No.

Dustin: It has to really be differentiated. So, you can sign up for teacher training, I can meet with you, and I use my experience as a formal educator to help brainstorm what may work in your neck of the woods.

Fisher: Wow, great stuff! He’s Dustin Axe. He is the youth genealogy curriculum coordinator for the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Once again, the website is AmericanAncestors.org. And yes, it does cover genealogy societies. So, not just schools and at home, it just keeps expanding the longer we talk here Dustin. So, thank you so much for your time. Great to have you and we look forward to hearing about the successes that I’m sure are going to come down the road. And coming up next, speaking of NEHGS, David Allen Lambert returns in three minutes with Ask Us Anything, on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 449

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, let us continue with Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here. David Allen Lambert is back from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And David, this question comes from Mel in Austin, Texas. And Mel says, "Guys, here's another New York question for you." Boy we've been getting a lot of those lately! That's good. "I've been trying to research where my ancestor may have gone to school in the city in the 19th century. How can I do that? And what is the difference between a primary school and a grammar school?" That's interesting, Dave, because public schools are usually how schools in New York City are known, right? PS122, PS49, that kind of thing. But there is a difference when you look at schools from the 19th century. A primary school was for the real young ones, but what I was surprised when I looked at these things some time ago was that you stayed in primary school till about the age of 12 and then you went to grammar school. And the difference was that in primary school, you got about seven years from the age of five or six up to 12 of studying reading, writing and arithmetic, the old song, right, about talk to the tune of the hickory stick. And then once you're done with that, then it's off to grammar school and then they talk about literature and advanced mathematics and that type of thing. And you're done by the age of 14 or 15. And at that point, you either go to a more advanced education or you go off to the workforce. And so, I guess child labor wasn’t such a big deal at 14 or 15 back in those times, you know.

David: Exactly. And even in my own hometown, I mean, we didn't have a high school, a higher school of learning, say, until 1869. Our town actually in 1765, Stoughton had the first community in America that offered free textbooks. I mean, you had to pay for your books. It was just like college in the primer grade.

Fisher: Sure.

David: So, yeah, that's fascinating. And I think with school records, you really get a glimpse of knowing, like I found my parents' school records in Boston. And you know, I was like, maybe they weren't so good in math. You did lousy in math? Well, maybe your grandfather did lousy in math, too, right? Find out.

Fisher: Right, right, absolutely. Well, the interesting thing too is, in New York, first of all, they are not saving hundreds and hundreds of thousands, millions of kids' school records from the 19th century. It's very difficult to find things there. However, you could find if your student was really good, maybe they graduated at the top of their class and they're mentioned in a graduation article in one of the newspapers.

David: Um hmm.

Fisher: And you know, once again, we go back to Newspapers.com and we find things like that! It's fantastic. I found out for instance where the schools were built around the area. And a lot of the schools in New York City by the way are still located on the exact same property that the 19th century schools were. Often the numbers have changed, but yeah. In fact, my grandfather grew up Harlem on 117th street back in the 1880s and '90s. And the school he went to, which was PS57, but back then it was known as Grammar School 57. And by the way, it had a primary school unit there.

David: Um hmm.

Fisher: Some of schools separated. There was a separate primary school and some of them were separate grammar schools, but some of the schools had them all in the same place and they were often separated by male and female. And yeah, and so, public school 57 sits on the same place that grammar school 57 did in the 1890s when my grandfather went there. So, you can kind of go through and figure out, okay, well, let's look at the old newspapers, let's find out when schools were built, you can find listings of them in various places and you get into research and kind of determine at least the most likely place your person went. So, good luck with your journey on that. It's really a lot of fun to think about and kind of determine also from maps what would have been the closest place for your person. So, thanks for the question. We've got another one coming up next when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 449

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: Okay, uno mos, one more question here for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. David, this looks like it's for you. It's from Camille in Lexington, Kentucky, and she says, "Fish and Dave, I recently found my ancestor's last will and testament from New Hampshire," up in your neck of the woods, "From 1796. He had a lot of land in different places. How will I ever find out where all these places where? Camille."

David: Well, I mean you're really in luck, because it's consolidated your research down to what he owned at the time of his death. Now, the first place, the county registry of deeds. And luckily for us, Family Search has diligently over the past several decades or more in New Hampshire copied all of the deeds besides the probates. So, you can go into the grantor of someone who's selling land and the grantee, somebody who's buying land and search for your ancestor's name. Now, don't be surprised for a couple of reasons why you may not find him, primarily because he may have inherited the property himself, so you're going to go back to those probates, Camille and look for his dad, his mom, his grandfather, his grandmother, his aunts and uncles and see if they just transferred it. Now, the other thing is, did the property stay in the family? Because it's an inventory, it doesn't necessarily mean they had to liquidate it. They only usually liquidate after they've sold off the ox and the cows, the different farming implements, because obviously the family needs to live someplace. So, it may have gone another generation down in the family. The other thing you might find is that he didn't purchase the property from the county. The county may have actually had proprietorships. And in New England, it's very early for proprietorship records, Fish.

Fisher: Yes.

David: They go back to the settlement or the community.

Fisher: Yeah, that's right.

David: And the other thing you need to know is when your county formed and what other counties it was a daughter from, because that 1796 probate could be for a county that for instance in New Hampshire, every county in New Hampshire prior to 1771 is one, its Rockingham County. So if he bought the land back then, that's in the old provincial deeds. And maybe that's a bit more information that you may have expected, but, looking at the deeds first, probate second, and then the other thing, go to the local historical societies. Historical societies in New England and of course elsewhere in the United States are great for having maps. So they may know where that sawmill is or that marshland that you're talking about, because, well, they're still in the community and they may know who it transferred over to. Wouldn't it be great to not just have your ancestor's probate? You can't own his possessions, but you can stand of one of them if you could find out where the land is.

Fisher: That's right. Wouldn't that be fun! I think we've all kind of done that at one time or another.

David: Oh sure.

Fisher: It's amazing to pick up a rock from a place and just stick it in your pocket and go, "Yeah, this is from my person's place." That's a great question. And you know, those proprietorships records, it's kind of funny, because there are a lot of people who wound up receiving land for things like that who never stepped for in it in their entire lives and wound up selling it off, you know. So, as you were talking, David, I'm thinking, oh my gosh! This is going to be a years’ long project for somebody. So, thank you for the question, Camille. David thanks once again for your expertise as always.

David: My pleasure.

Fisher: And we'll talk to you again next week as we get closer and closer to RootsTech this year. So, looking forward to that.

David: Me as well. Well, until next time, my friend.

Fisher: All right. Thanks once again to our guest, Katie Crichton from Legacy Tree Genealogists, taking about those frightening mortality schedules. What’s in them? Hope you caught that. And Dustin Axe also. He came on from the New England Historic Genealogical Society, talking about his youth genealogical curriculum that he’s put together so you school teachers can actually get kids into their family history young and get their interest going. If you missed any of this, of course catch the podcast, it’s on iHeart Radio, Spotify, ExtremeGenes.com, TuneIn Radio and Apple Media. We’ll talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we’re a nice normal family!


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