Archive for February, 2012


Treasured Documents

   Posted by: HystoryByts    in 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy, Genealogy, History, Research

This week on 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy: Week 7 – Historical Documents: Which historical document in your possession are you happy to have? How did you acquire this item? What does it reveal about your ancestors?

My family had a LOT of genealogy done before I ever came along. But I’ve always been fascinated by my grandfather Osborne who died 14 months before I was born. The little bit I knew was that he had been a cadet at the U.S. Naval Academy, his nickname was “Oiseau” (“bird” in French), he retired from the Navy early, was called back into service for WWII, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He was born in 1888 and died in 1956, and his wife was sixteen years his junior. She lived until 1988, but because of divorce, I really didn’t know that side of my family at all while growing up.

Eventually through genealogical research, I pieced together a much more detailed look at my grandfather:  After graduation, he actually taught English, French, Latin and History for two years at his high school before attending the Naval Academy (he was appointed 3 August 1907 from Virginia) where he lettered in baseball, and accumulated demerits for smoking in his room. He started his naval service in 1912, and I have the complete list of ships he served on. From the 1930 census I learned they lived in San Diego where he was stationed, and you can still see the house they rented. In 1948 he was an alternate delegate to Democratic National Convention from Virginia.

Much of this came from a copy of his official military record, which actually begins with his education at the Naval Academy. It’s huge – two inches thick – and took a bit of prodding to get. The first time we requested the information, the envelope was only a few pages, and only documented his service during WWII, when he was recalled. So we wrote back, and explained that we knew he had been a cadet, and served on board, and mailed our letter. Six weeks later came the full report in two separate envelopes. It’s detailed – demerits at the Academy, time spent in the hospital, requests for leave, it’s ALL in this pair of envelopes! It took a while to get it all sorted into chronological order, but really worth it!

Why is this so valuable to me? I never knew my grandfather, but this has certainly given me lots of information and insight into his life! Genealogical details abound.

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New to Me: Les Filles du Roi

   Posted by: HystoryByts    in Genealogy, History, Projects, Research

I recently took on a little research project for a family, who really didn’t expect to find much. They were aware of many recent immigrants to the United States, and so figured any research out of the country would be less than productive. But, what I DID find was amazing – something I had never been involved with before, which was early French Canadian genealogy. And wow, talk about resources! French-Canadian genealogy is primarily based upon meticulous marriage records that were kept from the earliest days of the French presence in Canada. My own personal research included some Acadians who ended up in Louisiana, but this line was unexplored territory to me!

As I researched, and followed the line back and back, I discovered that it linked into a group known as “les filles du roi” – literally, “the daughters of the king.” These were women who were shipped into the colony of New France because there were only men there and it’s difficult to colonize with only one sex. New France was originally populated by French companies which were promised rights to the resources of the land if they settled and developed it.  Colonization to them meant business, which in turn meant that the settlers were male: shopkeepers, soldiers, workers, sailors and priests. Wives and children really didn’t contribute other than to be more mouths to feed, which was difficult in establishing the colony. So after 50 years of trying, there still wasn’t a good, established colony for France to claim the land with. The population numbered perhaps 2,750 – compared to the British Colonies which had already grown to 100,000.

So the French crown took over development from the companies, and King Louis XIV aggressively began to encourage growth and families with incentives to encourage marriage and children. In an attempt to balance the overly-heavy male population, between 1663 and 1673, the King sent off to New France between 700 and 1000 women of marriageable age. The first group of 36 filles arrived in Quebec on September 22, 1663. These young ladies came primarily from Paris, Rouen, and other northern French cities. A girl was required to present her birth certificate and a recommendation from her local priest or magistrate stating she was free to marry. The girls had to be of child-bearing age, and be “healthy and strong for country work, or that they at least have some aptitude for household chores.”

Each had a trousseau of practical items, among them a taffeta handkerchief, a pair of stockings, a pair of gloves, four shoelaces, needles pins and thread, scissors, two knives a small amount of cash. After they arrived, they received some clothing and provisions. Some had small dowrys, and those who did not were provided one by the King.

All of les filles landed first in Québec, where many remained. 133 went on to Montréal and 75 to Trois-Rivières. They stayed in dormitory-style buildings under the care of a female chaperone who taught them practical skills which would help them in their future marriages. Suitors would come to the house and the chaperone would oversee their meetings. Every woman had the right to refuse a marriage offer from a prospective suitor. After the two agreed to marry, they would have a marriage contract drawn up, and the wedding normally followed within 30 days. On average, the time between arriving and marriage was four to five months.

After marriage, the King also gave each couple an assortment of livestock and goods to help their marriage start smoothly. Incentives in the form of annual payments were given to families who had more than 10 children.

Because of the encouragement from the government, through their children, these women are the ancestors of possibly millions of North Americans. The scrupulous record keeping that has survived to today allows us to have excellent opportunities for genealogical research. I was truly excited to learn about this new genealogical treasure trove.

An online list of the King’s Daughters can be found at


King’s Daughters and Founding Mothers: The Filles du Roi, 1663-1673 by Peter J. Gagné. Pawtucket, RI: Quintor Publications, 2001. pp. 15-42

“Les Filles du Roi.” The 1998 Canadian & World Encyclopedia. McClelland & Stewart, Toronto, Canada. 1998.

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Making History

   Posted by: HystoryByts    in Events, Genealogy, Research, Technology

As much as we look back through genealogy, the 2012 RootsTech conference with live streaming and plenty of twitterers is a very positive look at the possible future of technology and genealogy.

The Keynote speech by Jay Verkler on “Inventing the Future, As a Community” has really spent quite a bit of time talking about what we’d all like to see: permanent records, better searches, collaborative searching, and – hopefully – open source standards for it all.

One of the really exciting things is the use of the GEDCOM standard not only as a way to exchange data between users, but also between software, and as a storage medium. Imagine your GEDCOM storing links to your photos as well as a copy of the photos!

Another really exciting announcement is the use of the schemas standard to create one for genealogy type sites. That schema is in use on, already – the schema itself is online at if you’d like to browse through it. Basically, it uses HTML5 to tag microdata on web sites, which will enable machine-readable data on the pages, so a Google search not only will know the date is on your page, but also that it is the birthdate of a specific person.  There is an new extension for the Chrome browser which utilizes this schema immediately. It’s called the Ancestry Family Search Extension. The demostration at RootsTech was eye opening!

There was more, certainly. Discussion of the future, a lot of humor regarding international cooperation, more technology as we’d like to see it. This was certainly a great start to what looks to be a wonderful conference. Feel free to watch the live stream at the RootsTech home page. It’s a great time to be a genealogy geek!

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