I have noticed several times, as I am sure you may have as well, that the images for the 1860 U.S. Federal Census on Ancestry and Fold3 sometimes have very poor quality. It is amazing to me that information can even be extracted from these images because they are so faded or just terrible. I came across this yesterday while doing some research on one of my ancestors.
One of my fourth great-grandfathers, Shadrack Chitwood, was living in Sugar Creek Township, Randolph County, Missouri, in 1860. This was actually just one year before he died. He and his wife, Jane, were living next door to their son, Francis M. Chitwood, and his family.
I first found the census on Ancestry because of a shaky leaf hint from other records I had found for him. However, when I looked at the image to see what other information was on the census, I couldn't read a single entry on the page, except for maybe their last name.
Sometimes when I find a poor quality image on one of the genealogy websites I will go to another website to see if they have a better image. FamilySearch has index entries for the 1860 census, but the website links over to Fold3 for the actual image. When I went to Fold3 for the image, the quality wasn't that much better.
One trick I have found is if images on both of these websites for the 1860 census (or other census years) are poor quality, look for them on Heritage Quest. Unfortunately this website is not like Ancestry or Fold3 where you can purchase a subscription. Heritage Quest is usually available through your local or county libraries. I don't know why, but Heritage Quest has so much better quality images for the 1860 census than the other websites. Why is that?
I find that the images may be more "grainy" and have other particles of dust or something on the images, but at least you can read the names on their records compared to the other two sites. I would be really interested in knowing why Ancestry and Fold3 have such poor quality images and what Heritage Quest did to make their images so much more readable. I would really like to see both Ancestry and Fold3 obtain new images of the 1860 census for those areas like Randolph County, Missouri, that are not legible. I know that is a lot of work and would cost the companies money, but I find it would be a valuable effort for their customers.
Lately I have been doing research in Virginia for one of our clients at work. I have come across a very interesting situation with some vital records. I decided to write a blog post about it, anticipating that someone may read it, know what I am talking about and possibly be able to help me. I have made it a personal goal of mine to figure out what has happened to these vital records because no one seems to know where they are.
Virginia Vital Records
Virginia is one of the rare states that started keeping birth and death records in the mid-1800s. In 1853 each county and independent city in Virginia was required to keep birth and death records. During the Civil War many counties and independent cities did not keep these records, so that should be kept in mind when researching during the Civil War. Registration of birth and death records continued until 1896. On 14 June 1912 statewide registration of vital records began.
During the time between 1896 and 14 June 1912 some independent cities still kept birth and death records, independently of the state laws. According to Kimberly Powell, of the About.com genealogy blog, the only cities that kept birth and death records between 1896 and 14 June 1912 were Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Richmond.
Newport News, Virginia
Newport News was once part of Warwick County. In 1896 Newport became incorporated as an independent city. In 1952 the county of Warwick was incorporated as the City of Warwick. In 1958 the cities of Warwick and Newport News voted to consolidate the two cities and take upon the more well-known name of Newport News.
Vital Records in Newport News
One of the client's ancestors died in 1902 in Newport News, Virginia. The client provided a transcript of his obituary, but since this case is for a lineage society, I wanted to do my best to obtain any and all vital records possible - especially since I know the lineage society would require the records, if available. I also wanted to obtain a copy of the newspaper obituary, not just a transcription of the record.
I went online to find the Newport News Public Library website. Unless the newspaper has been digitized and put online, I have found that going to the city/county public library is the next best thing when looking for newspaper articles/obituaries. As I was looking for information regarding the library's newspaper holdings, and if I could obtain a copy of his obituary from the library, I found some information about vital records in Newport News.
This website is actually where I first learned that Newport News kept vital records between 1896 and 1912, independently of state laws. The page states that if you want records from Warwick County and Newport News between that time period to contact the Newport News Health Department. The address and phone number was provided.
I called the health department and asked the lady how I could obtain this record. She told me that they do not have those records between that time period. After talking with her for several minutes and being transferred to another lady, I was told that those records do exist, however, the health department in Newport News only holds records for five years and then they are transferred to the State Department of Health in Richmond, Virginia.
Next, I called the State Department of Health. The customer service representative told me that the health department does not have any records between 1896 and 1912. I told her that the Newport News Department of Health told me that they transferred those records to the state. I was assured by the employee at the state that they do not have those records.
I called Newport News again. I talked again with the same lady as before. I told her what the state health department told me. She reassured me that Newport News does not have those records anymore. She told me that she worked at the Newport News Department of Health when those records were requested by the state and transferred about 15 years ago.
I ended up going back and forth between each agency and they each told me opposing things. After all of this I am beginning to wonder about these records. Do they exist? If they exist, where are they? Why does no one know where these records are?
I am on a quest. This is so much more than just client research. I am intrigued as to the existence of these records. I have contacted a few people and I will not stop until I can find a solid answer.
Back in early November I received an email from a lady who stated that she believed we were distant cousins on my mom's paternal family. She had taken an AncestryDNA test and I was apparently a really good match to her.
As we corresponded back and forth, and as I conducted my own research, I discovered that we indeed are second cousins. This was really exciting to my family and me because the relation to this lady is on my mother's paternal side of the family, which has been quite the mystery. My mother did not find out who her biological father was until the mid to late 90s, and come to find out, he died in 1972 when my mother was only 10 years old.
When my mother was told by her grandmother who real father was, that was indeed a shock and surprise. My mother does not have any legal documentation such as a birth certificate, court record, etc. that states who her biological father was. All we had is my grandmother's and great-grandmother's word that he was the father - until now.
When I was contacted back in November about the possible DNA match, and then confirming the match through research, it was a very exciting breakthrough. My brother and I bought a DNA test for my mother so see what her ethnicity results would be, but also to see what DNA matches would show up for her. Last night I received an email stating that her DNA results are in!
Below is a screenshot showing the top results from my mother's DNA test. As you can see, in the Parent/Child relationship section there are two results. The first result is my mother's mother. I had her take a DNA test last summer when her health was failing. I wanted to make sure she took a test before she is gone. The second result is my own DNA test.
The third result is the lady who contacted me back in November. Even though AncestryDNA is suggesting that her and my mother are second cousins, the lady and I are actually second cousins and the lady and my mother are first cousins once removed.
The other day when I was doing some research and making sure my family tree was updated with all of the documents pertaining to some of my Ivory family members. As I was reviewing my research journal and tree I decided that I would try again to find Mathew Ivory and his children in the 1870 census.
Mathew's wife, Mary Elizabeth, died in January of 1870. Family "story" has been that she got sick and left her home in Beaver, Beaver County, Utah, and went to go stay with her parents in Moroni, Sanpete County, Utah. I have always been told that she died in Moroni while staying at her parent's house.
The other night I found the 1870 Mortality Schedule where Mary was recorded. Although I had always been told she died in Moroni, I actually found her in the Mortality Schedule in Beaver, Beaver County, Utah.
1870 U.S. Federal Census (Mortality Schedule), Beaver County, Utah Territory, Page 1, Family 115 on Schedule 1 (actually 107), Mary E. Ivory, .jpeg image (Online: Ancestry.com, 2013) [Digital scan of original records in the National Archives, Washington, D.C.], subscription database, (http://www.ancestry.com), accessed December 2013.
After I found Mary in the 1870 Mortality Schedule, I decided I would search again for Mathew and his children in the 1870 census. Since I couldn't find them searching the index on both Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org I figured I would manually search the census page-by-page.
I eventually found Mathew and his children, living in Beaver, Beaver County, Utah. It is understandable why they could not be found on either website's census databases using the index. Both of the images are horrible quality and you can barely read the names.
1870 U.S. Federal Census (Population Schedule), Beaver, Beaver County, Utah Territory, Page 13 (11 stamped), Dwelling 107, Family 97, Matthew Ivory household, .jpeg image (Online: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., 2013) [Digital scan of original records in the National Archives, Washington, D.C.], subscription database, (http://www.familysearch.org), accessed December 2013.
Mathew and his children were recorded at Dwelling 107, Family 97. Below is an abstract of the family on the census: