Philatelic Genealogy: What is it and how can it help me find my ancestors?

As a child you may have been a philatelist without knowing the official term. Stamp collecting has long been a popular hobby.  It was (and still is) a great way for young and old alike to learn more about the world. The word “philately” is the English version of a French word coined by a man named Georges Herpin in 1864. Herpin took the Greek root word “philo” which refers to love or appreciation of something, and combined it with the word “ateleia” which refers to “exempt from duties and taxes”. . . . Genealogists know that Bible records, wills and old letters can be a gold mine of family history. In regards to old mail, philatelic genealogy also looks at the outside of the envelope to glean genealogical information. . . For the rest of the article, which includes actual examples of combing through old letters to find family history “gems”, purchase the January issue of Digging History Magazine here ($1.99)....

Brick Walls: Despise Them or Conquer Them

Whether you’re an amateur or a seasoned genealogist, you have inevitably run into what is called a “brick wall”. If you primarily use the internet for research, it’s easy to blame it on Google, but sometimes it has nothing to do with search techniques, but a mindset that may need some adjustment — or a change in strategy. For instance, and I’ve encountered this myself, we rely too much on family “lore”. Let’s face it, some family stories were just that — stories (and perhaps outright stretches of the truth!). Too much reliance on those stories may have you “barking up the wrong tree.”. . . Try a “Back Door” Approach Awhile back I was researching family history for a friend who was adopted by his aunt and uncle. He knew his mother but didn’t know much about his father (but did know his name). After a brief conversation with his wife at church one Sunday, I set out on a quest to find out all I could about his father and his family. What I found was a family tragedy related to a volatile time in United States history on the border between Texas and Mexico.  To read the rest of this lengthy and informative article, purchase a copy of the January issue of Digging History Magazine here ($1.99). P.S.  This article in the magazine is followed by a short article on effective Internet search...

Happy New Year: New (Ad)ventures on the Way Soon!

Happy New Year . . .  and with the new year come new (ad)ventures!  Digging History will be “going digital” by mid-January (if all goes as planned).  What does “going digital” mean?  (Update:  looks like it will be sometime Tuesday, January 16 for opening day!) Digging History will be publishing a monthly digital history magazine packed with an eclectic mix of articles and topics.  Digging History has always tried to focus on the unusual, unique and unheard-of stories which are not found in history books and that tradition will continue with Digging History Magazine.  After purchasing you’ll be able to download a copy to your computer, tablet or phone to read and enjoy at your leisure. There will be a new web site: www.digginghistorymag.com (still under construction).  Here you’ll be able to purchase monthly issues, beginning with January 2018.  Also available will be special editions which are dedicated to one particular theme.  For example, an “Early American Faith” special issue will be available and focus on a series of articles and essays previously published on the Digging History blog (with some new content).  Another special issue entitled “Genealogy and the Census” is also planned, with more to come. While early on most articles will be written by Publisher and Editor Sharon Hall, the goal is to garner interest from other lovers of history who would like to write and share these same kind of stories.  If you have a story to tell, contact us and let’s discuss.  In addition to serving as publisher/editor of Digging History Magazine, Sharon also serves as Editor for the award-winning newsletter of the South...

Book Review Thursday: Heaven’s Ditch: God, Gold and Murder on the Erie Canal

A dear friend who recently passed away once wrote an article about his ancestors and reflected on how, as the nineteenth century dawned, lifestyles began to change.  Before the 1800’s life was much the same through generations of families.  Then, the nineteenth century – what my friend called “The Century of Acceleration” – dawned and with it rapid change from beginning to end (and of course, beyond). America had just concluded its war for independence and many were looking to the west to expand beyond the confines of the eastern seaboard and the original thirteen colonies.  One of the major challenges the expanding nation would encounter was better ways to transport goods back and forth from the established urban and rural areas of the east to those who chose to venture to the west.  Yes, roads could have been carved through the mountains and forests, but what about a waterway to convey those needed supplies? Many had thought of building a canal system but Jesse Hawley, who took it upon himself to survey the Mohawk Valley, was the many who finally got it done, but only after petitioning the New York State Legislature and gaining the support of Governor DeWitt Clinton.  The challenges were great with varying altitudes and rises along the proposed three hundred and sixty-mile canal.  A system of locks would become necessary to accommodate those variances. Many mocked the idea but on October 26, 1825 the canal opened for business.  Along the way, however, there were other events of note occurring along the canal some would call “Heaven’s Ditch”.  The book’s subtitle says it all: God,...

Book Review Thursday: The Brigade: An Epic Story of Vengeance, Salvation and WWII

Howard Blum’s latest book is about many things as the sub-title implies: Vengeance, Salvation and World War II.  Palestine was under British control and in November 1944 the British finally agreed to send five thousand Jewish soldiers to fight the Nazis.  This may be surprising to some people who assumed Jews weren’t allowed to fight back against Nazi tyranny and the horrors of the Holocaust. While the brigade’s contributions had very little influence on the eventual outcome, still they were extremely proud to have been allowed to serve.  In fact, at times it was downright frustrating to be held back to participate in only minor operations.  Yet, when given the chance to fight the Jewish Brigade proved themselves more than adequate to the task at hand.  Of course, by the time the brigade was sent to Europe the war was winding down.  Five months later Hitler and the Germans were soundly defeated. The men chosen to serve in the brigade had been living in Palestine, having migrated there from various parts of the world.  At this time, of course, the State of Israel was non-existent.  It was extremely heart-wrenching for the brigade to witness first-hand the persecution of their brethren at the hands of the Nazis.  That’s when things got rather interesting. As one reads the book it sounds much like a novel.  However, this is a true story of how this group not only ably served, but once the war had ended remained “on duty” while pillaging the enemy and exacting vengeance.  It’s quite an interesting story full of details of exploits these fiercely and proudly Jewish men...