Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

It’s Wednesday again!  Where does the time go?  We’ve had some snow here in the Colorado foothills and I’ve heard there were snowstorms in other parts of the country.  It’s winter and it’s cold outside.  It’s a good time for indoor hobbies – like genealogy.  (Actually, I could do genealogical research 12 months of the year but that’s for another blog post!)

Many of you may have been using Find A Grave and BillionGraves to find your ancestor’s tombstones in your research.  There is another free site called that also provides information about your forbears taken from various cemeteries in the United States and other parts of the world. has a very interesting history.  It is worth scrolling to the bottom of the home page and clicking on “history”.  In March 1997, Steve Johnson began hosting a website that provided links to other sites on the web that had cemetery records.  Through the years, this website has morphed into providing cemetery transcriptions that have been provided by cemetery offices, church offices, and other genealogists.  This isn’t crowdsourcing like Find A Grave.  Once a transcription is submitted to, only the submitter can update the information.  Another summary of the history of the website is available by clicking on About Us at the top of the Home page.

At the bottom of the Home page, next to HISTORY is HELP.  This gives a great overview about how to use this site with links to the cemetery record search (also reached through a tab at the top of the site), a blog entitled Cemetery Column (which hasn’t been updated in several years, but still has quite a few good articles), and a tutorial link.

Once you have taken a moment to browse the site, such as checking out SUBMIT TRANSCRIPTION and LINKS at the top, choose your country of choice from the tabs or click on MORE which will bring up all the countries in which there are records.  Many cemeteries are not yet represented in this database, but judging by the number of new records and the dates that they were updated, more are being continually added.  You can also subscribe to a newsletter that provides updates about the new cemeteries being added.

Here are some examples of the type of information that I found on this website:

United States – Colorado

Not all of the counties are as of yet represented, but there are links in red for the counties that do have transcriptions.  In Jefferson County, for example, there are 5 cemeteries listed.  Clicking on the Arvada Cemetery link reveals 13 records and the name and email of the contributor.  This is not a complete list of all of the gravesites in the cemetery, but it does list the Woodmen of the World Burials.  This can be valuable if one of these people is your ancestor.

United States – California

Again, not all of the counties are represented here.  Clicking on Humboldt County brings up a map and two cemeteries.  There are 646 transcriptions for the cemetery in Blue Lake, along with a description of the cemetery.

United States – Kentucky

I have relatives buried in Russell County, Kentucky.  On, there are 3 cemeteries listed:  Lucinda, Tarter, and Wolford.  Tarter and Wolford cemeteries appear to be complete transcriptions.

The Search function on this website uses the same search operators like Google.  If you click on Advanced Search Tips on the home page under the Search bar, there is a list of some of the operators that you can use on this site, such as quotation marks around your ancestor to bring up that name exactly, such as “William Johnson”.  (Be careful as this may not bring up an ancestor who is buried with a middle initial or middle name.)

One caveat on this site is that it is supported by advertising for  If you have a subscription, this is great for ease of access.  There are links with green leaves to their newspapers, obituaries, and funeral notices.  If you don’t have a subscription, then you will be given an opportunity for a 7-day free trial on their site when you click on one of these links.

Enjoy browsing and checking out this site.  In the meantime, search SMART!

Sara N. Martin

Smart Canyon Genealogy


Image by Dale Forbes from Pixabay

I am taking part in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors Challenge this year.  This week’s theme is “Namesakes”.

It is a very common practice to name children after relatives.  In my own family, the middle name of Arlen or Arleen has been passed down to successive generations.  I have the same name as my great-grandmother Sarah Lewis Hurt and she has the same name as her grandmother, Sarah Neal Lewis.

Sometimes children are named after famous people.  As I do genealogy, I sometimes see president’s names or other prominent people’s names in the family group sheet.  My 4th great grandfather, Francis Asbury Johnson (1805-1865), was possibly named after a Methodist Episcopal minister named Francis Asbury (1745-1816).  I don’t have any concrete evidence that this was the case but my uncle pointed out that it is a possibility.  Always interested in history, I decided to investigate the life of this bishop and see why he might have been a candidate for a namesake.

According to an article in Christianity Today[1], Francis Asbury was born in England and became a Methodist minister about the time that he turned 21.  He felt called to go to the British colonies in America in 1771[2] and preach the faith.  His ministry lasted 45 years and he traveled the country in sickness and in health, staying through the American revolution.  He was especially interested in getting his message to the people in the frontier lands of Tennessee and Kentucky.  Circuit riders were important at this time – there were too few churches to serve the people in these areas.  Francis traveled thousands of miles in his lifetime.

The Methodist Church grew from 1200 people to 214,000 members during his time and he has become known as “The Father of American Methodism”.[3]  He founded Bethel Academy in central Kentucky in 1790 near the town of Wilmore.

My ancestor, Francis Asbury Johnson, was born about 1805 in Kentucky, 15 years after the founding of this academy.  The Christian History Institute claims that over 1000 children were named after him.[4]  My 4th great grandfather’s name may give a clue as to the religious leanings of the Johnson family.  They may have heard him speak in person and felt him to be a great man of God and passed his name to their son.  Incidentally, my Francis had a brother named Wesley.  There is a good indication that this family was Methodist which gives me something to pursue in my genealogical research.

Anyone in your family named after someone famous?  Religious, political, or even infamous?  Doing some googling might bring some surprising results!

Search Smart!

Sara N. Martin

[1] “Francis Asbury:  Methodist on Horseback”, Christianity Today, undated, online archives, ( : accessed 21 January 2021)

[2] “Francis Asbury”, Asbury University, online archives, ( : accessed 21 January 2021),para. 1

[3] “Francis Asbury”, para. 1,2

[4] “Francis Asbury:  Did You Know?”, Christian History Institute, online archives, ( : accessed 21 January 2021), para. 1.



Image by Wynn Pointaux from Pixabay

I love watching webinars.  Before COVID, I thought webinars would not be the ideal medium for learning because I learn more through reading than with someone speaking.  I found out I was wrong.  I do retain many things from listening to a speaker, viewing the slides, perusing the syllabus, and joining in on the question-and-answer sessions at the end.

I discovered there were many, many free webinars available online through societies and genealogy websites.  I came across the BYU webinars early on during COVID.  I signed up to receive an email the day prior to each webinar so that I can watch it if I neglected to put it on the calendar.

On the BYU Family History Library homepage (, the schedule of webinars for the current month is displayed.  There is a link to all of the free webinars in the upper right corner, plus there are links under the calendar not only for the webinars but for other genealogical sites and information.

The webinars are very good.  Clicking on the box “Free Classes & Webinars”, brings up a page with a link for the live webinar schedule:

Once the “webinar schedule” is clicked, the link to join the webinar at the scheduled time is displayed.

If you are unable to watch the webinar at the scheduled time, you can view the recorded webinars with another link below the schedule.

The topics vary.  In this past month, there have been webinars on stepping up your family history game, German records, Irish records, and English records.  The list of recorded webinars is extensive and includes using,, Findmypast, DNA, legal records, military records, etc.

Back to the home page, there are links to the various state archives, historical societies, and libraries.  There are links to other sites such as newspapers, databases, and vital records.  Not all of these records are available for public access.  Some will have the notation “BYU Access” next to them which means you are required to have a BYU login to access those records.

Most of these sites that can be reached through the BYU website can be found independently on the Internet but this site can be useful as a checklist to see if you are overlooking something as you search for your ancestors.

The BYU library is generally open to the public but is closed right now for COVID.  You can contact the library for virtual assistance for family history.  Joining the email mailing list will alert you to future webinars in case you do not come back and check the website.

Check this site out, stay safe during these COVID times, and Search Smart.

Sara N. Martin


Image by No-longer-here from Pixabay

I am participating in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.  This is week 2 and the topic this week is Legends.

Most families have some sort of story or legend about their ancestors, some really cool tale about famous people their family members knew, about a family fortune won and lost, about some horrific sea journey made under duress.  Maybe your family claims native American ancestry.  Maybe your ancestor fought in a famous Revolutionary War battle.  Whatever it may be, most of us have these myths in our family.  Some turn out not to be myths at all, while others turn out not to have any bit of truth to them.

As for my own family, when I was younger, I heard that we might have some Native American heritage but I have yet to find that.  I have an ancestor whose last name was Wooton but he changed it to Ooton.  They say that he had a falling out with his dad and dropped the “W”.  That may be true, or maybe it was just a quirky pronunciation to which modern spelling adapted.  I found an interesting legend about my husband’s family on the internet.  It was convoluted, but it was something about a man who was a baron overseas and forced to leave his home country due to politics or religion. He settled on the Isle of Jersey where his wife died, he came to America, he buried his treasure in the ground during the Civil War and it was never seen again.  Entertaining?  Certainly.  True?  Well, to be honest, I never actually researched that far back on this particular line. It has the appearance of being one long tall tale.

One intriguing tale that I will research though, is the association of my husband’s maternal grandmother’s family with Jesse James, the outlaw.  This is one of the more common family legends out there.  (Considering that this man was a bank robber and criminal, it is interesting how a myth has built up around him.) Will this turn out to be “just talk”, or is there some truth that one of my husband’s ancestors actually did know Jesse James when he was young and maybe grew up with him as kids?

First, there’s place.  Where did the James family grow up?  What area of the country?  Next, there’s time.  In what decade did the James children grow up?

Jesse James was born in 1847 in Clay County, Missouri, near the city of Kearney, northeast of Kansas City. Jesse was about 3 years old when the 1850 census was taken.

Sure enough, Jesse and his brother Frank and sister Susan are in Clay County, Missouri with their parents, Robert and Zarelda in 1850.

1850 U.S. census, Clay County, Missouri, population schedule, Platte Township, p. 351b (stamped), dwelling 732, family 732, family of Robert James : digital images, Ancestry ( accessed 14 January 2021); from National Archives microfilm publication 432, roll 396.

In 1860, Jesse and his family are living in Clay County, Missouri.  Zarelda has remarried a man named Reuben Samuel.  Jesse should be about 13 years old.  His entry on the census has been marked (before microfilming!) with an arrow.  Apparently, someone was excited to find the entry.

1860 U.S. census, Clay County, Missouri, population schedule, Washington Township, p. 969 (stamped), dwelling 920, family 920, Jesse James in family of Reuben Samuel : digital images, Ancestry ( accessed 14 January 2021); from National Archives microfilm publication 653, FHL 803614.

By 1869, Jesse James was in the news as an outlaw and eventually, the governor of Missouri set a reward for his capture.  He probably did not answer the census taker’s questions when they came around in 1870.  His family, though, is still living in Clay County, Missouri.

My husband’s family, meanwhile, is living in Jackson County, Missouri, just south of Clay County.  His great-great-grandmother, Amey Odile Gates, was born in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, about 30 miles away.  She was 8 years younger than Jesse James, born in 1855.  In 1860, the Gates family was living in Sni-A-Bar Township, Missouri which is approximately 25 miles away.  She was married in 1874 in Sibley, Missouri which is 16 miles from Kearney, Missouri.  (These distances are “as the crow flies” and do not take into account any roads existing at that time.)  Amey and her husband John Ames made their home in Fort Osage, south of Sibley.

This information does place the Gates family (later the Ames family) in the right place at the right time to have heard the news of the James-Younger Gang.  The robbery of the Liberty Bank was relatively close to their home in Jackson County. Amey was about 11 when that robbery took place in 1866. Her age makes her a bit too young to have been a playmate of James himself.

Looking through sources, I realize that there were quite a few men involved in the gang at different times.  Many of these men grew up in this general area, including Jackson County.  These men are also about the same age as Amey and her siblings.  I may have been so focused on just finding the association with Jesse James that I have overlooked his accomplices.  I have my work cut out for me with thoroughly researching everyone involved in these notorious crimes in Missouri and the background of their families. 

This family legend may have some validity to it.  At this point, all I can do is more research.  I enjoy the hunt and the history lesson.

Search Smart!

Sara N. Martin



Hirschfield, F. Map of Nebraska published by the Burlington Route , compiled from the official records of the government and rail road offices
. Omaha, 1886. Map.

General Land Office (GLO) records at the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are wonderful if you happen to have an ancestor who purchased public land.  The website is  They have over 5,000,000 land title records starting in 1788.  Not every single land title record will be on this site, but it is a worthwhile search if your ancestor’s land does happen to be mentioned.

There is a good description of the types of records that are on the BLM-GLO site on their home page. Land patents on this site include cash entry (individuals paying cash for the land), homestead (1862-1976 – 160 acres issued to those who would “improve” the land), and military warrants (land issued to veterans for their military service).  Keep in mind that this site is for the transfer of federal land to individuals, not for land sales between individuals.  There are survey plats, field notes, and land status records, along with a land catalog that enables you to search for your ancestor’s land.

Be sure to read the Reference Center section found at the top of the page for information about the records on this site.  The BLM only has records for states that were surveyed by township and range and not by the older metes and bounds survey method; therefore, this website does not have records for the original 13 colonies and the states of Kentucky, Maine, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Hawaii, and Texas.[1]

Clicking on the Search Documents tab takes you to a screen with three options:  Search Documents by Type, Search Documents by Location, and Search Documents by Identifier.  Depending on the information that you have on your ancestors’ land, you can choose any of these to search.

Searching by Identifier is useful if you have very specific information about your ancestor’s land (serial number, survey ID, etc.).  Searching by location can give you a list of your ancestor’s FAN club (friends, associates, and neighbors) by showing everyone in the township that obtained land directly from the Federal Government.  For example, if I wanted to see who were the original recipients of one of the townships in Yuma County, Colorado, I could look for Yuma County on the map and right-click on the area in which I am interested.  In the following example, I chose Main Street in Wray, Colorado.  I right-clicked on that area and the township appears in the left search box under Mapped Townships.  The information given is Colorado, 6th prime meridian, Township 1N, Range 43W.

Clicking on the Search button reveals 15 pages of people who acquired land from the Federal Government in this township from 1879 until 1920.  The list can be sorted by any of the columns.  Here, it is sorted by name (default):

You can click to view the information on the land for each individual.  Some of the records will have images and some will not.

If you would like to see if your specific ancestor had acquired land, you can use the feature Search Documents by Type.  This search engine accepts wildcards and there is a search help on this website in the reference section.

I was curious about one of my husband’s ancestors who farmed in Pawnee County, Nebraska.  I typed in the state, county, and his name – John Curtis.

There was one John Curtis in the search result, and after reviewing the information, I found him to be the correct ancestor.

I was able to read the patent details and view the patent image.  (This can take a while to load.)  I can download or purchase a certified copy of the patent image.

I now know that the claim of John Curtis was established for the “North West quarter of Section twenty seven, in Township three North of Range nine East”.  This information can be put into Google Earth and so you can see exactly where this homestead was located.  An easy way is to go to the website and key in the coordinates and click on “Fly To On Google Earth”.  A screenprint of this website is shown:

If you want to view the place on Google Earth Pro, you can download the .kml file that pops up in a separate window after you click on “Fly To”.  Once you are on Google Earth Pro (a free download from Google), you can do a File – Open to choose the .kml file and you will “fly” to the place on the map where your ancestor lived.  The section in which his homestead is located is framed in purple on the map below.  From here, you can determine the NW ¼ of section 27 and see what is now there.  (It is still a farm.)

There is still more to discover with the land patent search.  If you click the Related Documents tab, you can see several more documents to look at.

The other Curtis’ mentioned here could be family members.  The other men may be associates.  A search by location, pinpointing this township, may show other people that could be neighbors and associates.  The original survey of the township can be found on the left-hand side by clicking on the word “Surveys”.

This is a valuable tool for research, and if you enjoy maps, this can also be fun.  Check this website out and remember – Search Smart!

Sara Martin

[1] Tom Huber, A Location Guide to the General Land Office (GLO) Survey Plats ( : accessed 13 January 2021, para. 4.


I have decided to participate in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks project for 2021.  This week’s theme is Beginnings, which is appropriate for January.

As for beginnings, 2021 is starting off a bit shaky with the violence at the US capitol this week.  There is still a long way to go with being able to vaccinate everyone against COVID-19.  Many people are still struggling with mortgages, rent, and job security.  I am lucky to be able to take the time to write this blog and share my reflections about genealogy and beginnings.

Thinking back to my first interest in genealogy, I suppose it was when I was very little, listening to tales from my parents about their parents and grandparents.  We had a copy of the family genealogy Descendants of Jacob Hochstetler by Harvey Hostetler from 1912 at my house.[1]  I used to read the introduction, pour over the pictures, and look at notes on the blank pages that were handwritten. I was fascinated to think that these were people to which I belonged.  They lived 200 years before me and I marveled that I was somehow connected to them.

At some point when I was in high school, I decided to work on my family genealogy officially.  The year was probably 1981. I don’t remember what prompted it.  I do know that I started doing it correctly – citing sources, MM DD YYYY, maiden names for women, city-county-state, a correspondence log – so I surmise that I checked out a book at the library, probably from the (now defunct) Everton Publishers, and studied it.  Soon I had a subscription to Everton’s Genealogical Helper and was making visits to the Denver Public Library, looking for my family.  This was all pre-Internet and I loved to research and investigate mysteries.  I had been a big Nancy Drew and Harriet the Spy lover when I was younger, and although I was not solving any true crime, I was still solving puzzles.

As for those who came before, I must mention my Grandma Johnson.  She had worked very hard in the 1960s and 1970s studying the Hurts and the Bryants.  She published a newsletter every so often for the family about her latest finds on the family history.  I have a few of them.  They are so old that they are mimeographed, not photocopied.  According to, “a mimeograph printed copies by pressing ink through a stencil onto paper, which was pulled by a crank through a system of rollers.”[2]  The unfortunate result was that, after many years, the ink that was used began to fade.  Sometimes Grandma would be creative and use colored ink, but that faded even worse.  The ones in red are barely readable.  I have the information in other sources, but one of my genealogy goals this year is to scan the ones that I have before they fade even worse.  She eventually compiled a family history titled “Bryants:  Yours and Mine”.

Grandma Johnson in 1981.[3]

Other members of my family researched ancestors and compiled family genealogies.  Both of my grandma’s sons were interested in genealogy.  I am grateful for the research that my dad compiled for our ancestors who fought in the Civil War, and the work that my Uncle Ron does in compiling surname books with long lists of descendants from a common ancestor.

When I began genealogy, I did not begin in isolation and I did not begin without a foundation upon which to build.  Besides my grandma, my dad, my uncle, and others, my sister is a genealogist and she has helped me out many times. When I wrote to everyone I could think of in my family, I discovered other genealogists.  Of course, every source and every fact still need to be looked into – that’s a bit easier now since we have the internet.

In the beginning, I compiled what I could from my family and their sources.  I then wanted my very own branch of the family to start researching, one on which not much work had been done.  I started looking at my OHL, DUBOIS, and OOTON maternal lines.  I did meet some new cousins who had worked on the family but there is still, to this day, so much more work that needs to be done on those lines.

It has been 40 years since I began this journey.  I haven’t researched consistently over those decades.  I have pursued other hobbies and have just been, in general, busy with LIFE.  Every few years I dive back into my family history.  I was able to devote most of 2020 to genealogy and I hope to devote a sizeable chunk of my time in 2021 to it, also.

May 2021 be good for your research, also.

Search smart!

Sara Martin

[1] Harvey Hostetler, Descendants of Jacob Hochstetler, the immigrant of 1736 (Elgin, Ill.: Brethren Pub. House, 1912.

[2] “Mimeograph”, ( : accessed 8 January 2021), para 2.

[3] Hildreth (Hurt) Johnson photograph, 1981; digital image 2020, privately held by Sara Martin, (address for private use), Colorado, 2019.  Hildreth had the picture in her possession, and after her passing in 1992, it was acquired by her daughter-in-law who passed it on to her daughter.

Top Image by Christoph Schütz from Pixabay


Happy New Year, everyone!  Surely 2021 will be better than 2020 – it has to be!  It will be a strange day indeed when I go to the grocery store and see everyone’s faces unmasked.  I’m not excited about going to restaurants again and being seated next to a loud, noisy table but the alternative this winter has been sitting outside in freezing weather with a coat and a fire pit.  There is something to be said for indoor seating.

I’m back to “Website Wednesday” after taking a couple of weeks off on blogging to celebrate (sort of) the end of the year holidays.  My plan this year is to have two posts a week, with the other post being about my ancestors or perhaps something historically or genealogically interesting.  I’ve been spending time learning to use Evernote for genealogy and also really going back through all the family work I have done for the past 40 years, making sure I have good sources and citations.  I also have quite a few documents and photos that need to be scanned.  Never a dull moment!

This week’s website is I imagine most of you are familiar with Find A Grave, owned by Ancestry.  Find A Grave has had more of my family members recorded than BillionGraves, but I still use BillionGraves when I need to.  It is a free site, although they do have features available for a subscription fee.

MyHeritage has partnered with BillionGraves so if you have a family tree on MyHeritage, you can access records for your family on that platform, similar to accessing Find A Grave on  They have also partnered with FamilySearch and Findmypast.

You can volunteer to take photos of tombstones for BillionGraves.  They also have volunteer opportunities for transcribers.  I have not yet tried this feature, but it does seem interesting.  There is also a family tree feature on BillionGraves.  This is a four-generation chart if you have a free account, extended generations for BillionGraves Plus.  They will provide suggestions for you to look at to see if they have graves for your ancestors.

As for the search features, you can search by person or by cemetery.

I searched for the last name Popplewell in Kentucky.  I have a few Popplewell ancestors buried in Russell Springs, Kentucky.  Here is an example of the page for Mary E. Popplewell:

Besides the tombstone information, nearby graves are listed and a life timeline for Mary is provided on the right-hand side.  For Plus accounts, there will be GPS coordinates provided.

Below this section is even more information.

There are helpful links to find more about Mary Popplewell and her family relationships.  Further down there is information on the cemetery.  The Plus account gives you access to other Popplewells on BillionGraves.  Of course, Mary does not have 639 birth records.  The links point to MyHeritage and cover all possible Mary Popplewells.  You will need a paid subscription to MyHeritage to view the records.

Anyone is free to edit the record with the editing links on the top toolbar, as long as you have signed up for a free account:

A subscription to Billion Graves Plus includes everything in the free lookup, plus additional information such as family plots, global family, nearby graves, and priority support.  There are also no ads.  A subscription costs $59.99 per year.  At this time, they are offering a 50% off MyHeritage subscription for subscribing to BillionGraves.

With a subscription, the tombstone information will look like this:

If the cemeteries that your family members are buried in are here and you have a subscription to MyHeritage, this is a great resource.  The free version is fine if you can find your ancestor on here and get more clues.  Unfortunately, BillionGraves does not yet have the widespread reach of Find A Grave so I have not been able to connect with many of my ancestors and relatives on this site.  As more volunteers photograph more tombstones, more ancestors and cemeteries will be added in the future.


I never knew my Great Grandpa Hochstetler. My mother never knew him, either. He is a shadowy figure in my mind. I’m not even sure what He looked like. He passed away on March 6th, 1926, before my mother was born.

I’ve always pictured him stern for some reason. I know he was Baptist. His family was Amish, but I’m not sure when he actually left the church. I know they had financial issues when the last child, my mom’s mother, was born. The census shows he was an engineer at a foundry. Until last night, that’s all I knew. At some point, I was going to research him more but I’ve been spending my time unearthing my husband’s relatives.

I sourced a short bio of him on WikiTree last night, realizing that I don’t know this man at all. Ancestry showed an obituary existed but the link was obsolete. I did some searching and found an obituary on I was surprised, stunned, and sad when I read the headline: Massillon Man Dies Beneath Car In Garage.

My first thought was that the car fell on him. Reading through the article, I found that he had died of heart failure and he was found dead under the car. He was only 54.

Who found him? His wife or one of his kids, calling him in for dinner? He left 5 children. His only son had married 3 years earlier. At home, there were 4 daughters. The youngest was 8.

I’m sure this was a shock to the family. The funeral was held at their house in Ohio. I have an address and I will definitely look for it on Google Earth. I want to know more about him and his legacy. My great grandma did eventually remarry and move to Illinois where her youngest daughter met her husband. Without that event, I wouldn’t be here.

Sobering thoughts. According to my mom, my great grandma was a wonderful person. I’m even named after her! I think I will try to flesh out a better picture of her first husband’s life. It seems like the right thing to do.



The holidays are almost here!  I know many of us do not have a lot of time right now to pursue our genealogical passion (or we’re turning that passion into creating lots of family history-themed presents – printed books with family photos, clever ornaments with ancestors on them, and collections of family recipes from our grandparents, to name a few.)  I’m not that creative with crafts per se, but I did spend a little bit of time baking cookies and I’m debating about making a loaf of banana bread.  I’ve also managed some time to continue my Website Wednesday theme and write a few notes about a great resource that I discovered before I go looking for the Christmas cards and the ornaments.

The Newberry Library has a website for historical and current county boundaries, along with other interesting state-related geography.  The URL is and the first illustration you will see is an interactive map of the United States.  According to the instructions, you can click on any state to see “content related to that state, including shapefiles, chronologies, and metadata.”  Clicking on Colorado, for example, brings you to another page where you can view an interactive map, an index of counties and equivalents, individual county chronologies, bibliography, sources, historical commentary, and metadata (data about data – information on the data used to provide these county boundaries).  A treasure trove of information indeed!

If you click on View Interactive Map you will see a map of Colorado highlighted in blue.  There are dates on the far left that you can click on to see Colorado at a specific period of time.  Clicking on the date 12-29-1866 changes the map to see the county boundaries of Colorado at that time, along with information about the state.  If you hover your mouse over a specific county, you will see information about that county.  Summit County, for instance, has a paragraph explaining that the eastern boundary was not fixed until 1886 when it was determined the Continental Divide was to be the border. 

Going back to the Colorado detail page, you can click on the index of counties and equivalents.  I noticed the “State of Deseret” listed.  I know that would have been Utah.  Clicking on that link showed me that at one time, the State of Deseret (Utah Territory) included part of present-day Colorado.

There is quite a bit of county information on this site.  Going back to the main page, you can click on the map for National Data and there are several maps for county boundaries.  (Unfortunately, I was unable to get any of these to play on my browser.)  There is a tab for instructions on using the interactive maps and FAQs.  There are also tabs for how to use the download feature and a history of the project.

Going back to the states, I chose North Carolina.  Scrolling toward the bottom, there is a KMZ file that you can download and use on Google Earth Pro. This is a zip file that I downloaded to my downloads folder on my PC. Once downloaded, I unzipped it.  I opened Google Earth Pro and then double-clicked the .kmz file.  Going back to the Google Earth Pro program, I saw it zoom into the North Carolina area and it overlayed the historical county map over the earth.  Once on there, I can zoom in or zoom out.  Google Earth Pro is free to download and it’s a fantastic tool to use.  You can put in coordinates of the land that your ancestors owned and it will zoom right to them and you can drill down and see what the lay of the land looks like right now.

Google Earth Pro V (December 13, 2015). Eastern United States. 34° 33’ 16.73”N, 75° 25’ 21.36”W, Eye alt 2672.43 feet. SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO. Image Landsat / Copernicus 2020. [December 15, 2020].

The Newberry Library website itself is very helpful.  They have a beta Internet Archive search (another amazing website) along with their own digital collection.  I did have some trouble opening up the images that showed up on the digital search page, but when I searched by collection, I was able to pull up many issues of The Chicago Genealogist, all fully searchable.  Of course, this will have to wait for another blog post!

I hope you are all able to have a good holiday, even though we can’t all get together as we have in the past.  Meantime, Search Smart!

Sara N Martin

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay



Someday, we’ll be able to visit archives and libraries IN PERSON. When that time comes, ArchiveGrid is your friend. (Of course, you can always contact an archive you are interested in visiting – they may have open hours or have someone available to you for research, even during the time of COVID.)

Not everything is online; not everything is digitized. ArchiveGrid, according to their website, “includes over 5 million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more. With over 1,000 different archival institutions represented, ArchiveGrid helps researchers looking for primary source materials held in archives, libraries, museums and historical societies.”

Tips for searching ArchiveGrid are in the top right on the “How to Search” tab. I decided to search for something locally so I typed in “Golden Gate Canyon” Colorado. (Without adding Colorado, my search brought up a canyon in Montana.) Several interesting search results popped up, including an oral history discussing the Coors family, an album of photographs from a trip to the American West in the late 19th century, and a view of the entrance to Golden Gate Canyon from the Denver Public Library. Interested in the view of the canyon, I clicked on “View the Catalog Record”.

The item’s description is listed, along with a link to WorldCat to see if this item is available elsewhere. In this case, WorldCat shows that this item is specific to the Denver Public Library and there is no link to an online image. The Contact Information link brings me to a form that I can fill out and request information about the collection (including COVID restrictions for the archive). If I want to visit the DPL in person, clicking the Archive Map link brings me to a map and specific GPS coordinates.

To view a collection whose description has links to online images or sound recordings, add “has_links:1” to a search. Along with the details on a page, there will be a “Finding Aids” link to the repository that has the record. Unfortunately, many of these links are broken but you can see the repository that houses the item and search there.

I also keyed in “Russell County Kentucky” in the search bar to see what records appeared. Quite a few search results were returned, including one for church records.

These records are at the Russell County Historical Society. The detail informs me that this collection includes the Creelsboro Church of the Nazarene records from 1913-1934 and that they are photocopies. If I had ancestors that attended this church, I would definitely want to check this out. Clicking “Contact Information” takes me to the Kentucky Historical Society website with information about their hours and COVID-19 precautions and I can also find on their website how to request copies of records if I am out of state.

This website also lets you find archives nearby. Choose your state on the main page under “Search for a location or zip”. Under Colorado, there are 21 archives. Clicking on any one of these will bring up a dialog box and the choice is to Search the Collections or Contact Information”. For the Colorado School of Mines, there are 1,789 collections. These collections primarily concern mines in Colorado. There is quite a bit of historical information in these records so if you are searching for one of your entrepreneurial ancestors who went west to seek their fortune, this might be a good collection to check out.

Remember, it’s not all online. Sometimes we have to actually visit places or have someone in that repository look at records for us. After the danger of COVID-19 has passed, I look forward to spending some in-person time at the Denver Public Library, and to make the best use of my time, I will be perusing some of their holdings before I make a trip.

Happy Hunting!

Image by kropekk_pl from Pixabay

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