Thursday, November 7, 2013

An Amazing Software Find

Today, I went to a class at my local Family History Center. I don't usually go in for such things, but the topic was great free software programs for image manipulation and I couldn't resist.

If you care to scroll back through my piteously few postings, you'll see that there is an issue with the scans from the State Archives of Belgium.  That is, you have to save them as screen shots and paste them back together in an image manipulation program.

Until today.  Go and download Microsoft ICE.

I went to the archives and found the birth record for my Great-Grandfather, Honoré DeClerck.  I had to scroll down to capture the entire image, it took two shots:

The first thing you have to do is to take them into an image manipulation program and crop off the borders, so all you have left is document...

Now, you open up Microsoft ICE and drag these two images into it.

It works really fast with only two to merge.  The class instructor merged 31 photographs into a huge panorama and it took just a minute or so.

Now, this is a little picture of this, and this was only two pictures, but it has seamlessly merged these two together to make one intact picture.  You can crop from this program to get rid of the jagged edges and save in a variety of formats.

Wow!  I am so excited about this now!!  I have been avoiding these records because of this.
H/T to instructor Mike Maddox, who turned us on to this great tool!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Almost serendipity

My account is going to expire in three days.  I am not going to renew it.  Last time I renewed, I paid $135 after tax and this time, it's going to be nearer to $185.  I'm going to go it alone for a while.

So, today, I was looking at my hints for any last minute additions before I was stuck with Ancestry Library Edition....

I happened to look at a hint for my 3rd Great-Grandfather, Henry Seamens (1839-1904 Cayuga County, NY).  The only hint was a family tree hint.  Normally I don't look at those unless they are more closely related, but this time, I did click through and they had Henry's residence as Bristol, Massachusetts, 1687-1933.  This was an obvious error, but I thought I'd click through and see what record provided this anomaly...this was it:

Henry's daughter, Dora is my GG Grandmother.  This book traces back the family to 1687.  Not indexed by, so it never showed up as a hint.

This book was listed as privately printed in 1933 in Syracuse, New York.  I was pretty bummed that I wouldn't get a chance to look at the whole thing in three days.  On a whim, I plugged in the author's name into
The supremely awesome Clayton Library for Genealogical Research here in Houston, amazingly, has a copy of this book.  Heh.  Pretty close to serendipity for me!  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Willard was displeased

This is Willard, born on 11 Nov 1918.

In celebration of the day on which he was born, Armistice Day, he was given the middle name Peace.

I have no idea why he was given the first name Willard. 

All of Willard's grandparents were born in the Netherlands and came to America. His father's family came in 1887 and his mother's in 1890.  His parents were born in the United States.

According to this article on Dutch naming traditions, sons were usually named after their grandfathers.  The first son gets the name of the father's father and the second son gets the name of the mother's father.  Both of Willard's grandfathers were named Jacob.  Both of the fathers of Willard's grandfathers were named Jacob. Willard's own father was named Jacob.

I did not find out until Willard had passed away, but he was quite displeased that he didn't get named Jacob. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013


There are a few items that I would be devastated to lose in a fire.  This is one of them:

Back in 1997, my grandfather received a letter from a researcher in the Netherlands tracing our family tree.  He had determined that one of his ancestor's brothers had emigrated to the United States and he decided to track all his descendants down.  This was the results of his work. 

I can honestly say that without this book, I probably would have never gotten anywhere researching in the Netherlands despite their fantastic online records.  You see, my maiden name was spelled Van Gee.  I knew it was Dutch.  What I didn't know was it was spelled completely wrong.  My third great-grandfather who emigrated to the United States in 1890, Jacobus Johannis' last name was spelled Vinjé.
The Vinjé family arrived 29 Sep 1890 on the S.S. Spaarndam

On the census records, it is spelled Van Gee, and Vangee and Vingee.  Even on his headstone, it's spelled Vinja! I doubt that I could've figured it out myself.  It doesn't sound Dutch to me and maybe it didn't to the other people of Wayne County, New York, where there are lots of Dutch names, and that's how it evolved to Van Gee.  Thanks to the author of this book, my third cousin, twice removed, Jo Vinjé, I can now look up lots of records in the Netherlands without frustration.  He compiled this book, which my father was kind to secure a copy of for me.  My father traveled to the Netherlands several years ago and got to meet Jo in person.

It was with extreme sadness that I discovered a few days ago, that he had passed away.  He had been on my mind lately, I was wondering if he had ever decided if Vinjé was a French of Norwegian name.  I even emailed him at the address in the book and didn't get a response.  This prompted me to do some online searching and found a death notice online for him.  He passed away on 10 Apr 2013.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The State Archives of Belgium Primer

My online journey started at  I was looking the Belgian documents.  Having just recently discovered that there is a wiki for every collection, I looked at the one for the "Belgium, Civil Registration, 1795-1910".  Included in the information on this collection

The images for the Belgium Civil Registration, 1795-1910 have been temporarily removed from the FamilySearch website to assist with the development plans of the Belgian National Archives Website. The digitization of images by the State Archives of Belgium is ongoing; however some of the provincial registers are available for viewing online at the State Archives of Belgium

That last part is indeed a link.  I followed it.  Caveat:  it will be difficult to proceed without either the Chrome browser installed or fluency in Dutch or French, depending on the origin of your ancestors.  (Mine were Dutch-speaking.)  Chrome will ask you if you want to translate any pages it recognizes are from a different language.

Once you get to the archives and have Chrome translate from Dutch, you will find this section in the middle of the page:

If you have any familiarity with the Dutch civil registers, you will recognize the layout of the Belgian archives.  I was interested in the civil registers, so I clicked on the last link in red on this section.

The next page will take you to a place to select the region your ancestors lived in.  I knew mine were from Oost-Vlanderen (East Flanders), but I didn't know which district (arr. is the abbreviation for arrondissement, or district) the town Maldegem belonged to.  A quick Google search led me to Ghent.

So I clicked on the Ghent district and was presented with a long line of towns in the district to choose from.  Luckily, I knew my great-grandparents had emigrated from Maldegem, so I clicked on that...

Here were my choices.  These words are easy to learn, geboorteakte means "birth certificate"  (think about boor, like "born" in the middle of it), overlijdensakte means "death certificate" (I think "over" like they are "over you in heaven"), and the third is huwelijksakte which means "marriage certificate", no easy mnemonic here, it's just the one left over, lol.

When you click the arrows to the left of the three categories, you will find this:

Now, I started with the births.  I had two last names to work with and I opened up the birth indexes.  (tienjarige tafel means ten-year table, or index, I found what I was looking for in the indexes, so I didn't need to go into those).

Maldegem gave me two choices of indexes, 1871-1900 and 1901-1910.  I accessed both, but started with the earlier first.  

Now, this part is important.  You will have to register with a name and password to continue from here.  If you are using the Chrome browser, it will ask you to translate every page unless you told it to automatically translate and down on the left hand side, there is a link to register.  You will be taken to a page to enter a name, an ID, an email address and a password.  You cannot continue without this.  They will send you a verification email, click the link and you are in.

Here is the difference:
This is not logged in
This is logged in.

There is a second tab next to the blue box once you are logged in, and this is the tab where the actual scans of the documents are located.  When you click on that link, this is what you get:

I am using screen capture to make this tutorial, so I can't capture the entire page, but there are seven rows of thumbnails and navigation at the bottom of the page to get to each of the nine pages that makes up the 171 scans for this index.

One of the surnames I was looking for is De Clerck, so I picked a page to start my navigation at, by clicking on one of the thumbnail images, it happened to be number 10.  These indexes are alphabetical.
Similar to Family Search scans, this opens up in your window.  Unfortunately, unlike Family Search, there are some vital buttons missing.  There is absolutely no way to save or print the entire page or any portion of it.  Also, the percentages of magnification are set rigidly and you cannot go above 100%.

The De Clerck's begin on page 11, but the first one I was looking for was on page 12, so we will skip to there:

In this image, the ancestor I am looking for, Honore is listed as number 182 in 1878.  You will need both pieces of this information to find his birth certificate.  

The number 182 represents that he was the 182nd birth certificate of 1878.  In the next section of books, the actual certificates are filed numerically by this number.

Click on the x at the top left of the scan screen (you can see it in the image above this one) and it will take you back here:

Click on the left tab "Archive Description" to get back to the list of books.
This time we want just "geboorteakten" and not the index.

This was a long line of books, which I cropped down, since I knew we were looking for the book for 1878. Clicking on that book brings you to here, which should look familiar:

See your tab on the right with the digitized records?  If you are not logged in, you will not see this.  From here, you will see your screen with the thumbnails of the images, similar to the one above.  You can pick a thumbnail to start navigating.  For the sake of brevity, I found the 182nd certificate of the 1878 on page 47 of these scans. (Remember, this book has three years of certificates in it.)

In this book, there are four scans per page. Later books have six per page.  My great-grandfather is the bottom right on the page.  Once again, there is no way to print or save this image.  If you make it smaller to get in one screen shot, it is almost impossible to read.

At this point, your options are to save multiple scans of the document and stitch them together with an image manipulation program, or to extract the information without saving.  Chrome will not translate the text from an image file, but all of these documents are in the same format unless there are extraordinary circumstances.  

In this case, Honore was born on the 26th of September to Charles Louis De Clerck and Barbara Geyssens.  The first name listed in the document is an official of the town and then there are usually two sponsors, in this case, I think maybe only one, Pieter De Clerck.  If you can decipher the handwriting, you can open a window of Google Translate and type in what you see and it will attempt to translate the document from Dutch for you.  Since the format is identical, it doesn't take too many and you see the pattern.

When I began my search of this archives, I opened the each of the two indexes and made and Excel file of all the births for the two surnames I was looking for.  Then I opened up each book and recorded the data, including the scan number and book title of each record.  I originally started by trying to save each scan, but this quickly became difficult because of the time needed to stitch the screen shots together to try and get an entire document.

At the end of each year in the birth certificate books, there is an index for all the names of the year, sorted alphabetically, so if you misrecord a birth sequence order number from the index, and know the name you are looking for, you might be able to find it from this additional index.  This index also includes death dates, if they are known, but this is far from complete.

I was able to find three sets of 3rd great-grandparents in these records, even with the limited time frame available online.  Family Search has a large quantity of these records available on microfilm, there are 21 films available for the town I am searching in alone.  Some of these records have come online there recently as well:

I hope you find this helpful.  I am by no means an expert at this, your mileage may vary.  Good luck searching!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The start - this time.

This is not my first blogging rodeo.

I had knitting blog for a long time.  I enjoyed it and kept it up until our lives had some upheaval back in 2006.  It petered out and was deleted by the hosting company.  I stopped knitting about the same time, so it seemed like a natural conclusion.

I started this one for a couple of reasons. First, I jumped into Google+ yesterday again, hoping to cultivate some more genealogy knowledge.  I've been a Facebook user for awhile, but I don't have any genealogy contacts there at all, other than a New York Genealogy page I follow and contribute to.  Google+ seems more conducive to what I am looking for.  Sadly, I have not yet found a New York Genealogy community.

Second, I started this blog because I have been doing some research I think is very exciting and I wanted a forum to share my methods.  I could post my experience directly to Google+, but I have a tendency to be verbose so this way it makes things a little easier for people to ignore me.


I was born in Rochester, New York.  My father's maternal grandparents were immigrants from Belgium (Maldegem, Oost-Vlanderen) and his paternal great-grandparents (both sets) were Dutch immigrants (Zeeland, specifically Zeeuwsvlaanderen).  My mother's family has been in the same two counties (Wayne and Cayuga) for generations.  I have not yet found her immigrant ancestors.

My earliest genealogical memory is a family tree I had to prepare for 6th grade history class:
I was a little unclear on maiden names.

I wasn't close to any of my grandparents.  We moved to Texas when I was nine and we had very little contact with them.  Nevertheless, I have dabbled on and off with genealogy since that first chart.  I did have the opportunity to visit with my maternal grandmother in 1996 and got some fantastic photographs and information at that time.  I also got to visit with my paternal grandfather a couple of times before he passed away in 2011 and got some photos and information from him.  I am very lucky in that regard.

My daughter had a family tree project in the 4th grade at her school.  If you have read this far, you probably know it was really my project:
We made an A+

Since that time, the leaves on my side of the tree (right) look my fluffier, although I still haven't found any Revolutionary War ancestors, they must be there.

Here we go!  Next stop: Belgian archives.