August 08, 2002
Tracing French Ancestry
Q: Could you supply me with any information as to how to find information about ancestors from France? I have two versions of the story. The first version is that my ancestors came from Nantes and were French Huguenots. The second version says that they came with Lafayette to fight in the American Revolution. The family name is Fancher, sometimes spelled Francher or Fancier. Any ideas on how to proceed would be greatly appreciated. -- Caroline
A: You will want to be sure that you are not overlooking valuable records because you have these stories. It is one of the temptations that researchers must fight against. Often, when a family story talks about a relationship, like yours does, it is hard to resist the temptation to head right for records on the Huguenots or for those who traveled with Lafayette. By doing that, however, you could overlook records with clues to where your family truly came from.
While you continue to work from the known to the unknown in the researching of your lineage, you can begin to amass some information about the Huguenots and those who fought with Lafayette in the American Revolution.
When it comes to the Huguenots, the first place to start your research is The National Huguenot Society. The society has compiled a database of identified Huguenots. While your surname was not listed, this doesn't immediately negate the story. What it does mean is that your ancestor has not yet been identified as being a Huguenot. It may turn out that he is and the research has just not yet been done. I would encourage you to investigate the many resources they mention, as it could help you with your research.
You should also be able to investiage the story of your ancestor coming with Lafayette to fight during the American Revolution since much has been written about Lafayette. Learning where Lafayette's army came from may be an important step to proving or disproving this particular story as it pertains to your Fancher lineage.
A Boy Named Fleming
Q: My ancestor Joseph Venable married Matilda Merritt and had a son James M Venable. He, in turn, married Lucy Bolin. James and Lucy named their son Fleming M. Burton Venable. Do you have any guesses as to why they chose this name? Thanks for any clues. -- Sandra
A: There are times when we see the name of a child that we scratch our head and wonder why a child was given a certain name. My hypothesis with Fleming would be that he was named for those close to the couple in question. The trick is in determining just how close and if there was a familial relationship between the individuals and the parents of the child.
While you mentioned the parents of James M. Venable, you did not mention the parents of his wife Lucy Bolin. If you have not researched her parents or do not know who they are, it is possible that at least part of Fleming's name comes from his maternal grandparents. It is also possible that James M. Venable and Lucy named their son after grandparents as well.
While less common, I have seen children named for close friends of the parents or for someone the parents respect highly. For instance, Wyatt Earp, whose full name is Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp, was named for his father's Army Captain.
Depending on when Fleming was born, you may want to begin your investigation by looking at the census in the surrounding homes for, say, ten pages before and after the entry where you find Fleming and his parents. If you find any Burtons or Flemings, you will want to then further investigate them.
Searching for Possible Non-Conformist Family
Q: I'm having some difficulty finding my ancestors in England. I'm descended from Edward Milner, born 1745 in England and Sarah Grammar, born 1748 in England. A recent search of Parish and Probate Records for England indicated the highest number of Grammars and Milners, together, lived in Nottinghamshire, England. There were 180 Milners and 14 Grammars in Nottinghamshire. Although two of the Grammars had children named Sara/Sarah, they were born before my Sarah. I have reason to believe Edward and Sarah were either Quakers or Non-Conformists. Do you have any suggestions? -- Jon
A: Few people think to look at the Non-Conformists when researching in early England, assuming that everyone was a member of the Church of England. The non-conformist religions included Presbyterian, Independent (Congregational) and Baptist. The Quakers kept their own records and would be a separate search.
The best place to begin such a search is the Family History Library. The FHL has the Nonconformist Registers of London from 1728 through 1837, which is when civil registration began.
The register contains births for the non-conformists in and around London and is certainly something to go through and eliminate as a possible resource in your quest. The registry is located at Dr. Williams' Library on Red Cross Street and is sometimes referred to as the Red Cross Street Library. The good news about these records is that there is an index available on microfilm. One of the easiest ways to find these films in the Family History Library Catalog would be to do a Title search on Nonconformists Registers of London.
If your ancestors were Quakers, then you will need to locate Quaker records. While some of these have been microfilmed by the Family History Library, they are seldom indexed and you would need to know more than just the shire in which the family was suspected of living. There are Quaker, or Society of Friends, records available on microfilm for much of Nottinghamshire for the time in question.
A Death in Argentina
Q: I would be interested in finding out how I would obtain a death certificate of my late uncle Charles O'Dolan. He was born in Ireland 1894/95 and emigrated to Argentina around 1914/15. Can this information be obtained? -- Olivia
A: You will want to write to the Director of Civil Registration in Buenos Aires to request a copy of the death certificate. You will need to supply them with more information than you shared above.
Whenever you are requesting a vital record of any kind, it is always best to include as much identifying information as possible. For a death record it is a good idea to include the name of the deceased, being sure to list a woman with her married name, and then the date and place of death. I also include the name of the spouse and, if known, the name of the parents.
You might also want to search the Family History Library Catalog as they have many records on microfilm for Argentina and its individual provinces and towns. If you are able to find the information on microfilm at the library, you won't have to spend time writing a letter and waiting for a response. If you do need to write the letter, you will want to address it to
Director General del Registro del Estado Civil y Capacidad
Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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