Tag: Letters

Creating and safeguarding a digital library of genealogy records.

The first consideration when starting to research your genealogy is creating and safeguarding a digital library.

Creating and safeguarding a digital library of genealogy records.

The importance of creating and safeguarding a digital library of genealogy records.

I have been a computer user from the day of the old single-use word processors. Therefore, I tend to digitize everything into my own digital library of valuables from family photos, tax documents, bills, bank records, correspondence – and of course, genealogy records, genealogy databases and data.

I’m not a novice. I’m well aware of the pitfalls of relying on a digital library, but I’m as guilty as the next person for procrastination and rationalization. When it comes to doing the tasks necessary to ensure my genealogy records are secure and permanent, I tend to think, “It’s OK, I’ll do it later.”

There are, however, some very serious pitfalls of putting these things off.

Some of the compelling reasons for digitizing records include:

  • Immediacy of sending genealogy records digitally over the internet.
  • Ease of organization, storage, searching and reproduction.
  • Ability to share family genealogy records between yourself and others.
  • Retain genealogy records in condition at the time of scanning to safeguard against the inevitable ravages of time on physical documents, etc.
  • More and more genealogy records are “born-digital”, never having been in physical form at all.

The digital backup we are used to is not sufficient to safeguard and archive records. The process required includes:

  • Storing with background, technical and descriptive information
  • Storing records in several locations
  • Archiving for a very lengthy period of time
  • Saving genealogy data at a very high resolution
  • Periodically transferring stored genealogy records to new media to prevent loss of data
  • Converting file formats and media to new ones to avoid obsolescence
  • Ensuring access to the digital genealogy records collection

For my own digital archive storage, I am using a 1 terabyte hard drive and save all important genealogy documents and photos to it. If my sum total of research at this point wasn’t as large as it is, I would use the ‘cloud’ as a backup. But there are limits to the quantity of data it will hold.

After a couple of years, I transfer the archived files to a new backup using the newest technology and format, and use the older hard drive for every day computer backups of less important ‘stuff’. I don’t believe in using CDs or DVDs for permanent storage at all. I’ve had too many fail.

photo credit: Sean MacEntee via photopin cc

The Discovery Service at the National Archives in Great Britain

Discovery ServiceThe UK National Archives has announced its new Discovery Service.

The National Archives catalogue has a free online search, but there are problems. Some knowledge has always been necessary to search the catalogue with any success.

The Discovery Service makes it easier for everyone – novice to expert – to search and use the collection.

The user is able to search the collection, explore and browse, whether for genealogy research and/or scholastic purposes.

Discovery is a digitized document delivery service that will make it easier to search for genealogy records such as wills and testaments, court proceeding transcription and order digitized genealogy records.

To experience Discovery, visit the Labs section of the National Archives website, the place they release new online services for customers for testing and to provide feedback. New features are being added to Discovery regularly and the latest release includes advanced search and fixes existing problems in previous versions.

The Discovery service will be fully tested and approved before it replaces any other services.

The National Archives holds over 22 million historical government and public records, doubling in just over two years and making it one of the largest archive collections in the world. From Domesday Book to modern government papers and digital files, the collection includes paper and parchment, electronic records and websites, photographs, posters, maps, drawings and paintings.

The old catalogue offered a free search of the collection, but had its problems. A minimum knowledge level was necessary to be able to effectively search the collection. This required level of knowledge made it difficult for new users to take advantage of the search.

The National Archives Discovery Service has implemented a new system, now the only method of searching the collection. This new search makes it easier for users of all levels.

David Coon: A Civil War story… and tragedy.

I spent a great deal of time transcribing the typewritten copies of handwritten letters of David Coon to his wife and children from Confederate prison, marking the days until his subsequent death from disease. The original transcriptions were completed by his son, Dr. William B. Coon in 1913, one for each family member. My father-in-law now holds one of the transcribed sets of letters.

David Coon and Mary Ann Adams

David and Mary Ann (Adams) Coon

David Coon, born February 10, 1824 in Beekmantown, Clinton County, New York, was the son of William B. Coon and Clarissa Haskel Williams. David Coon was the 4th great grandfather of my children on their father’s side by adoption.

My husband’s father-in-law, Marshall Matthews Blythe was the son of Louise Matthews, who was adopted by Dennis William Matthews, son of Elam Dennis Matthews and grandson of David Coon.

On June 15, 1843, David married his first wife, Mary Ann Adams, daughter of Alanson Adams and Submit Hall, in Burlington, Chittenden County, Vermont. In subsequent years, they had seven children: Alonzo Beckwith Coon, Edgar Coon, Herbert William Coon, Emma E. Coon, Hiram Southwick Coon, Elam Dennis Coon and Orilla (Mary) Coon. Mary Ann died June 3, 1859.

Between 1843 and June of 1844, he was living in Licking County, Ohio and in 1844, started a wagon making business with his brother-in-law Elam Dennis Adams. He is shown in records of November 27, 1854 in Waushara County, Wisconsin, living on 40 acres of military bounty land at the SE Quarter of NW Quarter of Section 12, Township 19. He is recorded in the 1860 census for Bloomfield, Waushara County, Wisconsin, farming his land.

David married his second wife, Isabel Ann Hall, daughter of Benjamin Hall and Eliza McReynolds on November 24, 1859 in Leon, Waushara County, Wisconsin. They added to the family with three more children: John Williams Coon, Matthew Edgar Coon and Jedidah Wood Coon. Isabel Ann was the cousin of David’s first wife Mary Ann as Benjamin and Submit were brother and sister, both children of John Hall and his wife Submit.

John Williams Coon, MD

John Williams Coon, MD 

Assuming that the responsibilities of caring for such a large family as a widower were too much for David after the death of Mary Ann, the younger children went to other families. Elam Dennis went to the Matthew’s family, who later adopted him. He took the last name Matthews. Orilla went to live with a family named Ellis, who later adopted her, and Hiram lived with a different Matthews family (although related to the family who took Elam) but later returned to live with his father and his father’s new wife, Isabel.

Leaving his farm close to Bloomingfield in Waushara County and proceeding to Berlin to enlist in the army, he was told he had to leave right away to proceed to Madison. His departure for camp Randall was so quick, he did not have time to go back and tell his family he was leaving. They only found out in a letter dated February 28, 1864 that he “…enlisted in the 36th Regiment.” David enlisted in the Union army from Green Lake County on February 26, 1864 and served as a Private in Co. A, 36th Wisconsin Infantry, and is recorded on his military documents dated August 15, 1861 as being 5 feet, 8 3/8 inches in height with blue eyes and sandy hair. The following is an excerpt from the foreward of the original typed transcription of David Coon Letters, prepared in 1913 in Wales, Wisconsin by his son, John W. Coon, MD.

“David Coon was a great man, a kind husband and father, a true soldier of the American type, not only a patriot but a philosopher.” During his service in the Civil War, David wrote frequently and consistently, approximately one letter per week, to his wife and children, his devotion to all being very evident. Even if he did not have any stationary to write on he made sure they knew he was okay. He once wrote a letter on the label of a condensed milk can. As described by his son John W. Coon, MD in the typed transcription he prepared of his father’s letter home, “Many of the letters were written on such scraps of paper as were available, the ink being often very poor — in one instance at least, made from the juice of pokeberries gathered on the battlefield.”

Forest Cemetery, Stephens Point, Portage County, Wisconsin

Forest Cemetery, Stephens Point, Portage County, WisconsinSources

David was stationed with his regiment at Camp Randall until May 10, 1864, where he nursed the sick at the hospital before being sent to battle. He was then ordered to join Hancock’s Corps in Virginia where he participated in many of the noted great battles of that campaign.On May 8, 1864, he sent a letter to his family telling them that he was to be sent away to Washington to join General Grant’s Army.The regiment moved from battle to battle. They hardly ever had time to rest. During a battle, Coon was captured by a Confederate officer and was handcuffed for two hours. The officer let him go with a note of warning. Coon wrote to his family, “He offered to let me go back to the regiment but wanted me to promise to be a better boy.”Not until August did the regiment start to travel again. They went to Richmond where they fought against the rebels. When they finished they returned to their camp near Petersburg. On August 25, 1864, he, along with 11 officers and 175 other men from the regiment, posted themselves at Reams Station on the Weldon Railroad. Before long, he, along with 133 other men from his regiment were reported missing. On August 27, Coon wrote a letter to his family telling them that he and 127 other men had been captured and taken prisoner. He talked about how the officers and guards had treated them fairly until then and he wrote that he was expecting to be sent to Libby Prison in Richmond and for his family to keep up courage. That was his last letter. He was first held in Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia, then at Belle Isle, later being transferred again to Salisbury Prison in North Carolina.

Salisbury Prison was one of the best Confederate prisons. However, soon after David and the other men arrived, the conditions grew worse. The prison became over crowded with 10,000 people in a space that had reached capacity one year before Coon arrived. Living in these terribly overcrowded conditions, one third of the prisoners, or 35,000 men, died. David Coon was one of these. The diary of James Canon, a Sergeant in the same company, states in a simple entry dated November 2, 1864, “David Coon died today.” He was buried the same day in Forest Cemetery at Stephens Point, Portage County, Wisconsin.


  1. Matthews, Dennis, 1910 US Census, Louisa County, Iowa.
  2. Coon, David, 1860 US Census, Bloomfield, Waushara County, Wisconsin; Ancestry.com.
  3. David Coon and Family tombstone, Stevens Point Cemetery, Wisconsin.
  4. Emily Bailey, “David Coon and Family Background,” e-mail message from < EnBBailey@aol.com> to Christine Blythe, 19 Nov 2006.
  5. Emily Bailey, “William B. Coon Family,” e-mail message from <EnBBailey@ aol.com> to Christine Blythe, 20 Nov 2006.
  6. Military Bounty Land Warrant – David Coon – 27 Nov 1854.
  7. Act of Sept. 28 1850 Land Warrant Card – Coon, W.B. and Coon, David.
  8. Military Bounty Land Location Record.
  9. Military Bounty Land Warrant Certificate – Coon, William B.
  10. David Coon, “Hiram Coon Biographical Information,” e-mail message from < noxqcez@comcast.net> to Christine Blythe, 21 Nov 2006.
  11. Widow’s Declaration of Pension – Isabel Ann Coon (5 M ar 1865).
  12. Statement of Pension Claim of Nathan H. Matthews (16 Mar 1870).
  13. Coon, David, death certificate no. Widow’s Claim to Pension – Emma and Hiram Coon (1864).
  14. Sworn Statement re Matthew Coon’s Birth, compiler, (27 Feb 1867).
  15. Statement re David Coon’s Children.
  16. Claim for Increase of Widow’s Pension – Coon, Isabel – 22 Aug 1865 (22 Aug 1865).
  17. Widow’s Pension Statement – Isabel A. Coon (15 Se p 1893).
  18. Notice of Death of Isabel Coon to Pension Agent.
  19. Wisconsin Civil War Volunteers Roster – C (Coon), Wisconsin Historical Museum online
  20. Claim for Widow’s Pension – Isabel A. Coon (1865).
  21. Affidavit of Alanson and Mitty Adams (31 Mar 1869 ).
  22. Statement of Isabel Coon re Custody of Children (4 M ay 1870).
  23. Sworn Statement of Isabel A. Coon re Orilla Coon (2 8 Jun 1869).
  24. Statement of Minister re Marriage of David and Isabel Coon (24 Mar 1875).
  25. Statement of Clerk re Missing Marriage Record of David Coon (8 Apr).
  26. 1850 OH, Licking, Alexandria, M432_702, Page 170 Dwelling 66, Family 68
  27. http://web.archive.org/web/20000601082635/http://madison.k12.wi.u s/wright/civilwar/36regmet.

Researching Welsh Quaker Ancestors in Pennsylvania

Welsh Quaker ancestors are the major cultural group that comprises the majority of the ancestry of my children (on my husband’s side). One of the benefits of researching this culture is that the people were religious, often educated (could read and write) and were very good at documenting vital statistics and events. As a result, there are several very good written resources available that directly cite or are based upon this documented data.

Historical Collections of Gwynedd, Pennsylvania

One of these sources is “Historical Collections of Gwynedd, Pennsylvania“. This is a well-researched and highly detailed account of Gwynedd Township, Montgomery County and the Welsh immigrants who settled there.

William Penn was a Quaker and the founder of Pennsylvania (photo credit: wikipedia.org)

Here is the index of chapters in the document:

Chapter 1. The Place: The Scope of its History.
Chapter 2. Remarks upon the Geology of the Township. [Gwynedd lies at the southern edge of the Mezozoic, or Red Sandstone belt...]
Chapter 3. Traces of the Indians. A history of the Lenni Lenape (Delaware) can be found here.
Chapter 4. The Arrival of the Welsh Settlers, Alternatively, here is brief summary of all the early Welsh settlements in Pennsylvania.
Chapter 5. Edward Foulke’s Narrative of his Removal.
Chapter 6. The Origin of the Township’s Name. [Gwynedd is the Welsh name for the mountainous North of Wales, meaning the White or Pure Land] . Gwynedd is pronounced in Welsh as Gwin-eth (dd = th) and was pronounced this way for at least 100 years here. Almost all of the first settlers of Gwynedd came from within 10 miles of Fron Goch, a village just north of Bala in Wales.
Chapter 7. Number of the First Settlers: Growth of Population. [see Map of 1698 settlement]
Chapter 8. The First Settler’s Homes: Personal Details [see picture of William John House, 1712] [note the William John house, on West Point Pike in Upper Gwynedd, was demolished in the early 20th century]
Chapter 9. Establishment of the Friends’ Meeting [Sketch of Gwynedd Meeting-house before 1897]
Chapter 10. Details Concerning the Early Friends
Chapter 11. Narrative of John Humphreys, of Merion
Chapter 12. Early Monthly Meeting Records of Marriages; Other Lists of Marriages and Deaths
Chapter 13. Evans Family Genealogy [go to Evans descendancy in Register format]
Chapter 14. Roberts Family Genealogy [go to Roberts descendancy in Register format]
Chapter 15. Foulke Family Genealogy [go to Foulke descendancy in Register format] [see also Foulke Family Association web site]
Chapter 16. The Early Roads
Chapter 17. Early Settlers in Montgomery
Chapter 18. Affairs Before the Revolution
Chapter 19. Gwynedd in the Midst of the Revolution: Sally Wister’s journal. Here is more information about Sally’s journal at the Foulke Family Assoc. web site
Chapter 20. Revolutionary Details [see map of unknown soldiers buried at Gwynedd meeting]
Chapter 21. Taxables in Gwynedd in 1776
Chapter 22. The Boones, Lincolns, and Hanks
Chapter 23. St. Peter’s Church
Chapter 24. Social Conditions Among the Early Settlers
Chapter 25. Agriculture, Slaves, Schools, Hotels, Stores, etc.
Chapter 26. Genealogical Details Concerning Early Families
Chapter 27. Biographical Notices
Chapter 28. Additional Chapter –1897

Pennsylvania Founding Families

Another document I have used extensively in my research is “Pennsylvania Founding Families”. This document is searchable on Ancestry.com. Although this is a subscription site, they do offer a free trial of the Ancestry.com US Deluxe Membership.

To search this document: navigate to Ancestry.com; scroll to near the bottom of the right sidebar and select “Stories, Memories and Histories” under the “Stories & Publications” heading; select “Social & Place Histories”; under “Filter by Location”, select “USA”; in the “Title” search box at the top of the left sidebar, enter “Pennsylvania Founding Families” and click search; and select “Pennsylvania Founding Families, 1681-1911″. This is the same process you would use to search any publication or narrative document offered by Ancestry.com.

Ellwood Roberts’ Biographical Annals, 1904: Montgomery Co, PA

Yet another valuable source for Welsh Quaker genealogy in the USA is “Ellwood Roberts’ Biographical Annals, 1904: Montgomery Co, PA“, which is available on the US GenWeb Archives site.

Although the Welsh Quaker ancestry is not my own, it is one of my favorite cultures to research (next to the Acadians, which is my own family’s ancestry), for the most part due to the detail in the narratives, documents and records available to researchers. This helps to bring the lives of those Quaker ancestors to life for the researcher.

The headings are links to the cited documents. For more facts and dates about the above mentioned individuals, check out our family’s extensive genealogy database.

The best gifts for genealogists during a cash-strapped holiday season.


For my recommended Christmas gifts for genealogists list for 2013, I thought I’d concentrate on more obscure, lower cost gifts. Some could even be used as stocking stuffers. Last year’s list was for higher end, higher priced, technically focused gifts for genealogists. So, for this year, I’ve come up with a list of lower priced gifts suitable for anyone interested in genealogy in any way, even if they’re tentative amateurs or are just exploring the possibilities without wanting to make a large financial investment in the beginning.


HumorMug - My family tree is  full of nuts.

  • First of all, when in doubt, inject a little humor in your gift giving. It’s well appreciated, especially by those of us who chase dead people, frequent graveyards, and dig through musty libraries and archives. One example is the Mug Full of Nuts on the cafepress.com website.
  • The Book of Bad Baby NamesThe book of Bad Baby Names would be a wonderfully funny, almost unbelievable gift for the genealogist. The authors have scoured old records, censuses, etc. to find the most unusual, unfortunate and just plain funny names given in the past.


ToolsStone Rubbing Kit gift

  • An ideal gift for those of us who are fascinated with graveyards, this Stone Rubbing Kit would be a wonderful and fascinating gift. There are certain important gravestones that I would love to get rubbings of.
  • Magnimark magnifier and bookmarkThis MagniMark 7-1/2″ x 2-1/2″ magnifier and bookmark is ideal because of its portability, ease of use, and the ability to use it as a bookmark within the pages of the old books or documents one might need it for.


Gift CardsGoogle ebooks gift card

  • I am always searching historical books and publications on the Google eBooks site. Where the books are free, I download them and use them as I need to. For paid titles, however, I do think twice and a gift card to invest toward the books in my online library would be a welcome gift. It’s important to note, however, that the gift card is a new venture for Google eBooks and may not be available at all outlets yet.
  • Although my entire collection of genealogy research is digital and available within my genealogy software, there are occasions when I like to put something to pen, paper, scissors and glue – such as scrapbooking. Two years ago I created a scrapbook for my in-laws about their ancestors for the previous five generations and the scrapbooking supplies were handy. A gift card for scrapbooking supplies from any store would be welcomed.


Magazine Gift SubscriptionsCanada's History Magazine

  • The one thing I always look forward to is my Canada’s History magazine subscription. I’ve been a subscriber since it’s original title was ‘The Beaver’ (Canada’s national animal). I was saddened when I learned that certain racy connotations of the word beaver were influencing and negatively impacting its performance on search engines and a name change was in order. A gift subscription to a history or genealogy magazine would make a great stocking stuffer.


Miscellaneous GiftsThe Book of Myself Project

  • I can certainly speak for myself and I’m sure most other genealogists would agree with me that once we start working on our genealogy, our focus is all to the past. “The Book of Myself, A Do-It-Yourself Autobiography in 201 Questions,” by Carl Marshall and David Marshall would be a great exercise in exploring one’s own personal history and documenting it. After all, our present will soon become the past.
  • The “Our Family Tree Tapestry Afghan” would be a wonderful way of honoring history and genealogy through textile and thread. This is one gift that would one day become a family heirloom.


Gifts that Only Take a Little Imagination and Effort

  • Heritage Recipes – Either purchase or create a cookbook featuring the recipes of childhood and cultural history. In my case, Acadian and French Canadian recipes would matter the most.
  • Historical Treasure Chest – Create a treasure chest containing copies of everything you can and would like to include that would help the recipient with their genealogy research, including photos, documents, newspaper clippings, publications, etc.

FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com Updates and Additions

FamilySearch.org andFamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com Updates and Additions Ancestry.com Updates and Additions



Italy, Catania, Caltagirone, Civil Registration (Tribunale), 1861-1941

Russia, Nizhni Novgorod Poll Tax Census (Revision Lists), 1782-1858

South Africa, Orange Free State, Estate Files, 1951-2006

Spain, Cádiz, Testaments, 1531-1920

Georgia, Probate Records, 1742-1990

Maine, State Archive Collections, 1718-1957

Missouri, Cole County Circuit Court Case Files, 1820-1926

Montana, Big Horn, County Records, 1884-2011

Nevada, Marriage Index, 1956-2005



Michigan, Genesee County, Marriage Index, 1836-1934

Michigan, Kalamazoo County, Riverside Cemetery Index

Michigan, Monroe County, Obituary Index,1821-2012

Michigan, Western Michigan Newspapers, Marriage Index, 1959-2011

Oklahoma, Oklahoma County, Marriage Index, 1889-1951

U.S., Dawes Commission Index (overturned), 1896

U.S., Index to General Correspondence of the Record and Pension Office, 1889-1904