Embarkation of the Saints, Liverpool, 1851


What was it like for our ancestors to emigrate from the lands of their birth to the “New World” of the Americas? This question resonates for many of us who may find it difficult to imagine traveling for months in the hold of a wooden sailing vessel of the 18th or 19th centuries.

The Laguna Niguel FHC recently acquired an art print entitled “Embarkation of the Saints”, that attempts to capture the scene that might have met the brave travelers making such a voyage. The painting is the creation of Utah painter Ken Baxter. A description of his artwork[1] reads:

“Emigrants in 1851 Liverpool, England prepare to board the ship Ellen Maria which will carry them across the ocean to join the Latter-Day Saints in America. The stately ship is one of many waiting in somber anticipation to sail through the brown and gold mist in this canvas giclée.”

FHC patrons who view the painting might well wonder who actually boarded the Ellen Maria, where it eventually landed, what became of its passengers, and what details they recorded concerning their journey. Fortunately, answers to these questions can be found in numerous historical sources. Here are some documents, contemporary accounts, and modern retrospectives that we found interesting:

Ships passenger list for the ship “Ellen Maria” departing Liverpool for New Orleans, 29 Jan 1851

Report Summary of Arrival of the Ellen Maria

Samuel William OBray, Mormon, Pioneer Polygamist

However and whenever your immigrant ancestors (or you!) came to this country, there are surely enlightening and sobering lessons to be learned from their (or your) experiences, and many related stories worth passing down to your descendants. We invite you to use the resources available at FamilySearch and elsewhere to research and document your family’s history. If you need help finding immigration records, passenger lists, naturalization documents, or pioneer journals, please visit the Family History Center and we’ll be delighted to assist you.

When you visit, we hope you’ll enjoy “Embarkation of the Saints”. Viewing it might help your heart turn towards your fathers (and mothers) as it has ours.

[1] store.lds.org, Church History Art, accessed 7 February 2017.

Resources for Census Research

Finding Census RecordsLast night’s workshop topic was finding and analyzing United States census records. We learned a little bit about the history of the census (Did you know that the decennial census is mandated by the Constitution?), talked about search strategies, and then went to work examining entries for two fascinating Chicago families looking for clues about births, marriages, deaths, immigration, and family relationships.

If you missed it, no problem! We’ll offer the workshop again. In the meantime, here are a few quick notes  that might be of use to you in your research:

  1. Census records are valuable research tools and many are online.
  2. If you have a tree on Ancestry and/or FamilySearch, you can begin your census search with one click of your mouse. No need to type anything into a form.
  3. If you have trouble finding a family in a census try a new search approach. Check alternate websites. Use wildcards. Vary the search information. Try different combinations of search fields. Look for known neighbors. Browse a likely enumeration district.
  4. Look at more than names, ages, and occupations. Depending on the year, census records might  include information about military service, immigration, naturalization, property value, education, illness, and even whether or not the family owned a radio.
  5. Check instructions given to enumerators in order to clarify what an entry might mean.
  6. Look for unwritten clues. For example, taken in combination, the census year and ages and birthplaces of children might suggest when a family arrived in the United States or when and where a couple married.

By far, though, the most important takeaway was this: following an individual or family through available census years and comparing the information that was recorded can provide useful insights into the lives of your ancestors.

In preparing for the workshop, we came across a number of helpful online resources for census research. Here are three worth bookmarking:

Chart comparing census information, 1790-1940 (Ancestry Wiki)

Census Instructions, 1790-2010 (United States Census Bureal)

Census Transcription Forms with Easy-to-read Headings (FamilySearch)

Six Reasons to Add Images to Your Family Tree

Photo Tree

Have you started uploading scans of documents and photos to your FamilySearch tree? If not, here are six reasons to give it a try:

To share one-of-a-kind documents and photos.

We have letters exchanged by Ingersoll family members in early 1800s. Other descendants might find them interesting, but how would they find them? Adding tagged scans to the FamilySearch Gallery  makes the letters accessible.

To help lost records find new homes.

I bought a packet of family papers at a local antique shop hoping to return them to the family someday. One of the items was a Providence of God “Tax Booklet.” I uploaded a copy to FamilySearch and attached it to the head of household hoping that a descendant will see it and contact me.

To backup important documents and photos.

I have a cradle roll certificate for my grandfather that was signed by his father who was serving as the Sunday School superintendent at the time. It’s likely no other copy exists. Uploading an image to FamilySearch is a way of protecting it from loss and sharing it with other family members.

To tell the life story of people on your tree.

Dates, places, and family relationships identify unique individuals but they don’t tell a rich life story. Adding this obituary for Jane Owens Niles gives tree visitors a chance to learn more about who Jane was as a person.

To organize the photos and records that you’ve collected.

I’ve taken many gravestone photos but they’re stored in boxes or envelopes in no particular order.  Scanning, uploading, and tagging makes them easily accessible.

To replace those little gray place-holding avatars that stand for names and dates with photos that remind you of real people. 

Simply put, it’s a neat feeling to log into FamilySearch and browse through a tree that’s filled with photos of generations of ancestors.

Scanning, uploading, and tagging is a pretty simple process and we’d be happy to show you how it’s done. Contact the FHC to arrange for a quick tutorial!

(Contributed by Cyndy Richardson)

How to Find Free Family Records on FamilySearch

You probably know that FamilySearch makes millions of family history records available on microfilm that can be ordered online and viewed at our Family History Center.

But did you know that these microfilms are being digitized and that there are now many digital images of records from across the world online to search or browse for free?

Here’s how to explore them:

  1. Go to FamilySearch.org.

2. Roll your mouse over the word “Search” and choose “Records.”

Record Search

3. You could search from this screen, but don’t do that yet. Scroll down and look for the map that’s titled “Research by Location.”


4. Click on a part of the world where your ancestors lived. As an example, I clicked the United States and selected California.

California5. Once again, you could search, but don’t do that now. Instead, scroll down and click on “Show All 70 Collections.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 8.19.16 PM.png

6. Now scroll through that list to see what’s available. Here are some examples of what you might find:

  • California, County Birth and Death Records, 1800-1994
  • England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008
  • Czech Republic Civil Registers, 1874-1937
  • Germany, Prussia, Pomerania, Church Book Indexes, 1600-1900
  • Italy, Catania, Caltagirone, Civil Registration (Tribunale), 1861-1941

If you find records that looks relevant to your search, click through. If there’s a search box, try it! If not, you can browse the images.

Want to learn some of the finer points of accessing the digital records available on FamilySearch? Stop by the Family History Center. We’d be happy to give you some tips.

Indexing Socials?

IndexingOnce a month, the Laguna Niguel FHC hosts an indexing social which is just what says it is–a chance for people to get together to index genealogy records.

I know what you’re thinking. Sounds exciting, right?

Well, actually, if you’re the kind of person who can give patient attention to detail, who enjoys a good puzzle, and who likes the satisfaction of accomplishing something that’s really worthwhile, then you might enjoy the challenge!

In a nutshell, FamilySearch is digitizing microfilmed records from around the world at an astonishing rate–important things like church registers and probate documents and naturalization papers–and making them accessible for free online. If you’re not familiar with what they’ve done so far, take a look at this list of published record collections.

It’s great to be able to browse through original records online, but it’s even better when you can just type in the name of your ancestor and have the record appear in the search results. In some cases, research that use to take hours can now be done in a matter of minutes. Indexing makes that possible.

Volunteers look at small batches of records and extract useful information, usually names, dates, and places, by typing it an online template. A small effort by lots of people adds up to something great. In 2015, 89,000 contributors indexed 19,315,100 records. Indexing is something that you can work on from your home computer, in short periods of time, whenever the mood strikes.

Check out FamilySearch’s indexing overview, if you want to learn more.

Our indexing socials give you a chance to try indexing first-hand. If you’re new, we’ll walk you through the process and then give you a chance to try it on your own. And that’s where the fun begins. Every record batch you work on will tell a story.

You might be typing the names of infants that were born to Polish families in Chicago in the early 1900s. Or you might be working down a list of names on a Boston passenger list. Or, if you’ve got the language skills, you could even be working on a project like this: España, Granada, Ciudad de Granada, Registro Civil, 1837–1870. Check out the current list of indexing projects.

The nice thing is you never have to worry about finishing a batch. If, for some reason you can’t, your  saved work will just be sent to someone who can continue. And, you even though you should be very careful, you don’t have to worry about making mistakes. Every batch is indexed by two people and if extracted information doesn’t agree, a third person gets to make the call.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably thinking you’d like to give indexing a try. So, join us for the next indexing social and we’ll help you get started!