Free Genealogy Resources

August 15, 2011

I’m sure that every genealogist has come to the same conclusion: genealogy can be expensive.

1. Software fee: So that you can have all that cool software to organize all of the family history nuggets you collect or have      the privilege of searching internet research sites…not to actually get documents mind you…just to search.

2. Document fees:  Heaven forfend someone isn’t making money off of birth, death, and marriage records.  And woe betide       you if you are trying to riddle out the mystery of someone’s adoption no matter how long they’ve been dead.  Someone       remind me to tell you that story some other time.

3. Travel Expenses:  I’m sure I’m not the only person driving all over hell’s half acre taking pictures of headstones, having         cozy sitdowns with elder family members and piquing their brains, and visiting local courthouses in the hunt for                     documentation.

I’m sure I’m missing some, but those are the major things that popped into my mind.  Regardless, it is a rare and wonderful thing when you find a site or a source that is absolutely free.  And, I have stumbled across just such a thing.  If you have not already checked out these possibilities, I highly recommend them.

Library sites:

When I first started working on genealogy, I actually went to the library because that’s what everyone told me I was supposed to do.  I only went the one time.  Why?  Because when I asked the librarian about possible resources for genealogy, she looked at me like I was some sort of heroine addict.  She led me over to a computer console, typed in the word genealogy and then walked away as though the list of books that popped up (most of which were not available, might I add) should be self explanatory.  *sigh*  I never went back.

Instead, I went online.  Lot’s of libraries have fabulous obituary collections.  And, they are absolutely free.  I’m sure not everyone is from the state of Ohio like me, but the Cleveland Public Library has a fantastic resource that they call The Cleveland Necrology File. They give you the full text of the obituaries and it has helped me enormously with my husband’s family, who have been difficult to find in other ways.  Here’s the link in case you happen to have family members who died in Cleveland.


Genealogy Sites:

My Uncle Floyd turned me on to this.  Many counties have their own genealogy sites.  The genealogy site that I use the most is the Coshocton County Genealogy page because…well…that’s where my mother’s family is from!  It’s a really awesome page.  It has obituaries, cemeteries, schools, historical information about the area, county census records, and all kinds of fabulous little gems.  Obviously, different county genealogy pages are going to vary in what they offer but they are completely worth checking out.  Just in case you are from the Coshocton area or have family from that area, here’s the site.



Religious Sites:  The Mormon’s especially have provided me with some awesome free documentation.  The name of their page is familysearch.org, and it is a gold mine!  Seriously.  Why aren’t you opening another window right now and checking it out?  It has birth records, death records, marriage records, census records, and all kinds of other fabulous finds.  It has an easy to use search engine and you never pay one dime for any of it.  The day that I discovered it was a magical day in the life of Carolyn.  I’m sorry to all other religions.  I’m not trying to leave you out.  It just so happens that the Mormons have it on this one.  Here’s the site!



Independent Sites:

This is another fabulous thing.  I literally happened upon it when I was searching for something else.  It’s called findagrave.com.  It’s free.  They don’t send you thousands of spams a day.  They don’t sell your info to porn sites.  They just give you access to pictures of thousands of graves globe wide.  Individuals like you and me contribute pictures and burial information to the site.  There are folks on there whose sole goal in life is to wander the country taking pictures of tombstones and to them I am eternally grateful.  Of course, while the site is free, they do welcome your support in the form of findagrave.com paraphernalia purchases.  Still, here is the link!


Well folks, that about sums it up!  I really hope that you find all of this to be helpful in your continued search for long lost relatives.  Please keep in mind that I am not working for, payed by, or in any way compensated for including the sites that I have.  I just happen to love these resources and wanted to share the wealth with my fellow hunters.

Happy Hunting!



Family Reunion Season

August 13, 2011

It’s August and the weather is starting to get a little cooler (just a little, mind you.  I still have to either run the fan or sit here and marinate in my own sweat).  We all know what that means…reunion season is upon us!  I personally love reunion season.  I try to go to as many reunions as I can during reunion season because they are invaluable sources for genealogy information.  There’s nothing better than Aunty Mable’s rantings to get you where you need to go in your hunt for names, dates, and documentation.

Family Stories:  Recently, I have made contact with my Grand Aunt Tommie and she is a gold mine!  She is the older sister of my paternal grandmother (by about a year and a half) and is one of only two siblings who are left.  Bless her heart, she has really tried hard to answer all my questions, numerous as they are, and I have gleaned so many things form her.  Between she and her sister Betty, they are a veritable goldmine of information and family stories that, to me, are absolutely priceless.  Some people are name and date collectors, I but I really feel like if you don’t know a persons story then knowing their name is kind of worthless.

Family Research:  I have also recently made contact with my biological, maternal grandfather’s brother.  Yeah.  I know that’s a mouthful, but such is a genealogists lot sometimes.  His name is Floyd and he is fabulous!  I am humbled by the amount of genealogy research that he and his wife have done over the past 30 odd years.  I was lucky enough to visit their house and they have an entire room…yes you heard me right, an entire room…to the genealogy of the Corder family.  It’s freaking insane!!!  They have binder after binder cram packed with pictures, obituaries, newspaper clippings, birth and death records, etc.  For me, it was a lot like winning a golden ticket to the Willy Wonka factory and makes me a little more sympathetic to the plight of Augustus Gloop.  If I were a less reserved woman, I probably would have jumped up and down and clapped my hands like a little kid!

Connecting with the Living:  I have been to one family reunion this year and I have one to go.  🙂  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to the third and I was really sad.  I’ve been working really hard to make this more than a collection of names.  I really want for this to be a common bond between me, my daughter, and our extended families.  And, it seems to be doing its job.  I’ve made contact with people that I never knew existed on more levels than one!  As I research, I find myself reaching out more and more to people like my Aunt Tommie and Uncle Floyd for their memories and the information they can provide.  But, I find myself talking to people across the country who are related to me in less immediate ways, but who are willing to share info with me about our shared ancestors.

Isn’t genealogy magical?


Happy Hunting!


A “Holy Crap!” moment…

June 3, 2011

Dude!  I am having the best genealogy day ever!  My Aunt Becky (my grandfather’s sister) sent me a copy of the Bennett family genealogy and it is the awesomest thing ever.  Thank you Aunt Becky!  You rock!!!  Pardon my lack of grammar and spelling; I’m too excited to care!  The cover of the genealogy is a preface written by George Roy Bennett in 1964 regarding why he had become interested in genealogy and how he had used his mother’s and grandfather’s records to get it started.  I feel as though I have unearthed the arc of the covenant and actually trembled a little as I read the first words for fear that I might be undone.  It is truly a magical moment.  This man, George Roy Bennett, cousin to my great, great grandfather and to whom I have given only the most cursory of glances as I have done my research, has unwittingly played a huge role in unraveling the secrets of my lineage.


So, three cheers for George Roy Bennett!  May I carry on his legacy in a manner that he might have admired and appreciated.






Hunting Leonardo

March 23, 2011

When I first started my genealogy project, I never dreamed that I would spend so much time looking at other people’s families, but that seems to be how it’s panning out.  Sometimes, you have to work around the issue in order to get to the core, like digging up the roots of a tree (pun intended).  So, amidst all of the dirt that I am flinging, this way and that, in order to hunt down my daughter’s family history for her, I find myself embroiled in the hunt for Leonardo DiCaprio.

It has been a long-standing, oft told, and much-loved legend in my husband’s family that the DeCaprios are related in some way to Leonardo DiCaprio, perpetrated by my husband’s Grandma Mary.  The details of that yarn are murky at best, but I am doing the most difficult research of my life on this one because it’s just so sensational.  We all wonder if we might secretly be related to famous people, but wouldn’t it be awesome if we actually were and could prove it?

“So, old girl, what have you found so far?” you might be asking.  Well, it’s not going so well.  Every tidbit of information I have on the DiCaprio family is gleaned from newspaper and magazine articles.  Recently, I was lucky enough to find an English translation of  German interview with Leonardo’s grandmother Helene Indenbirken, a Russian immigrant to Germany who eventually moved to the United States with her husband Wilhelm and daughter Irmelin in 1955.  Here’s the website if you’d care to read the article.  http://www.german-way.com/intervw1oma.html

But, that is Leonardo’s maternal line.  His paternal line is a little more illusive.  I know that George Paul DiCaprio was born in 1943 to George Leon DiCaprio and his wife Olga Anne Jacobs.  That much is well documented because George Dicaprio himself is a celebrity in that he is known for his involvement in underground comic books.  I also know that he is a third generation American which means that his grandfather and/or grandmother must have immigrated here.  Other than that, your guess is as good as mine because I am by no means a Leonardo DiCaprio expert.  I like his movies, that’s about it.

I’m pretty sure the DiCaprios are from New York because of the 1998 interview with his grandma Helene and because the Indenbirkens were living in the Bronx in 1964 (per a naturalization record I found for Irmelin and Helene) which would have made Irmelin around 19 and in college where she is purported to have met her ex-husband George.  So, that sets the stage.

Unfortunately, there are two George DiCaprios living in New York in 1930 (got this from census records) who are around the right age.  The difference?  In the one record, George already has an infant son called George.  That’s a problem because the George I am looking for won’t have a son called George until 1943.  The other problem is that folks back then were likely to have infants who died and then named a later child that same name.  However, I’m pretty sure that the infant George Dicaprio in that 1930 census record is still alive and kicking, or at least he was in the 1980’s which is the time period I found a record for him.  *sigh*  So, is that other family his then?  Was he really 27 and living at home in 1930?  I don’t know and I really have no proof.

I’m sure those of you who are experienced genealogists know exactly what I am talking about when I say that George Paul DiCaprio’s 1943 birth is what’s causing the problem.  For those of you who don’t, please allow me to explain.  There is a “sweet spot” in genealogy: a magic 90 year window between 1850 and 1930 for which detailed census records are available.  If your family member falls inside that window, awesome!  If not, you’re gonna have to work a little harder.  Since George Paul DiCaprio was born in 1943, no census records are yet available where he might have been living with his folks and this also means that his folks probably weren’t married yet in 1930.  I’m stymied.

If anyone of you Leonardo buffs out there has any info that you think I might not have, feel free to let me know.

In the mean time…the hunt for Leonardo continues.


Intro to Genealogy

March 17, 2011

My name is Carolyn DeCaprio and I love family history.  Honestly, I don’t care whose family history it is.  I just love the challenge.  There is something magical about the day that you discover a ship’s log that details the migration of your family member to America from the old country in spite of the fact that they spelled his or her name in some crazy way. And, nothing beats the thrill of finding the piece of evidence that proves your great, great, great grandma’s maiden name was Schmidt instead of Smith.

I recently have been having all kinds of breakthroughs in my personal family history.  I found a log that shows where my Great Grandmother Antonia Vaccaro Gargione came to America from a little town in Italy called Perdifumo in 1905!  And, I found it in spite of the fact that they were calling her Maria Antonia, her brother’s names were listed as Raffaele and Pasquale instead of Ralph and Charles, and there weren’t nearly as many children as I suspected there might be.

And, on the same day, I found out that the Vaccaro’s have actually been in this country nearly a decade longer than anyone suspected, and I found a record where my Great Grandfather came to this country with his father in 1899 and it listed his father as a civilian of the United States already!

Additionally, my uncle has been on the same hunt and has reached out across the globe to possible family members.  And, can you believe it?!?!  I personally got to talk to two brother who are probably our cousins in Italy.  We are friends on facebook!

You just can’t beat it!  If you have a drug problem that you are looking to kick, I highly recommend genealogy hunting.  Although I’ve never done any drugs, I suspect that this is better.

Regardless, it’s a brave new world for genealogist with the internet containing many of the resources that amateur genealogists need to make a go of it.  And, this blog is dedicated to my fellow genealogist and to genealogy discussion.  I will be discussing my weekly triumphs and failures in my ongoing hunt for my roots.  I’m also hoping that as a forum for genealogists everywhere that people will free network.  In that way, you may just run into people who are looking for the same family histories that you are!


Carolyn Bennett DeCaprio: A member of the Corder, Bennett, Gargione, Dawson, Hardesty, and DeCaprio families.  (There are many more, of course.  But they are too numerous to list!)