DNA Question: How can I tell matches from my mother’s and father’s side apart?

We took a poll of questions AncestryDNA members had about their test results, and this one topped the list: How can I tell my paternal from my maternal matches? This is one area where testing multiple family members can help—and there’s no better time than the holidays for getting family on board. Starring: Your Parents Read More

AncestryDNA reunites Hicks Babies on “Nightline”

Kristie Hughes was sold as a baby. Now AncestryDNA has helped her find the family she was taken from 51 years ago.

The story of the “Hicks Babies” broke about 20 years ago when a researcher discovered that a Dr. Thomas Hicks of McCaysville, Georgia, sold babies he delivered in his clinic to couples looking to adopt children in the 1950s and ’60s. Some were children of women he convinced not to have abortions. Others may have been from mothers who didn’t want another child or whom Hicks told their child had died. There may have been more than 200 of these children—including Kristie Hughes.

AncestryDNA got involved when ABC’s Nightline asked for help tracking down relatives of eight Hicks Babies. Because forged birth certificates identified the Hicks Babies adoptive parents as their biological parents, DNA offered the best—and in many cases the only—chance to find family.

Nightline captured Kristie’s reunion in an episode that aired last night (August 5). If you missed it—and it’s one you won’t want to miss—you can view it online.



American Indian Research in the 1800s

In 19th-century America, the eyes of the country were looking west. The Louisiana Purchase, annexation of Texas, Mexican-American War,

Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Indian Photos, 1850-1930, American Indian Exposition, Anadarko, Ok.

Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Indian Photos, 1850-1930, American Indian Exposition, Anadarko, Ok.

resolving of the Oregon boundary dispute, California gold rush, Homestead Act, and transcontinental railroad all contributed to opening more of the American continent to white settlement.

This westward expansion also spelled the end of the life they had known for tribes that had not yet encountered European settlers. By time the 19th century was over, disease, war, the reservation system, allotments, and assimilation would all take their toll on native homelands, cultures, and lives. And the inevitable clash of peoples led to many of the records you can use to trace your American Indian ancestry.

Key Dates in the 19th Century

Each tribe or band had its own experience with treaties, soldiers, and resettlement, which makes generalizations difficult. However, a few key dates stand out when it comes to researching your American Indian ancestors in the 19th century.

1824: Office of Indian Affairs is created (later renamed Bureau of Indian Affairs, or BIA).

1830: Indian Removal Act passes Congress. Andrew Jackson favored a policy of removing native peoples in the U.S. to federal lands west of the Mississippi River. The act eventually led or contributed to the resettlement of most members of the Five Civilized Tribes and several other nations, the Trail of Tears, and the establishment of Indian Territory in 1834. Though white settlers were eager to lay claim to Indian lands, the act was not solely a land grab; issues surrounding tribal sovereignty vs. state or federal law were also in play.

1834: Congress establishes Indian Territory in modern-day Oklahoma.

1860: Census enumerators are instructed to include some Indians on the census.

1871: Congress stops making treaties with American Indian tribes.

1879: Carlisle Indian Industrial School, the first government Indian boarding school that removed students from their reservations, opens.

1885: Starting in 1885, Indian agents and superintendents were required to take a census of Indians under their jurisdiction.

1887: The General Allotment (Dawes) Act included a plan to parcel out formerly communal tribal lands and allot them to individual tribal members. This would both encourage assimilation among American Indians and open millions of acres of “surplus” land to white settlement.

People on the Move

Trail of Tears Migration Map

Trail of Tears Migration Map

Like so many people in America during the 19th century, your American Indian ancestors were probably not living in the same place at the end of the century as they did at the beginning. The difference is that the Indians were forced to move. This had been going on for more than a century, but the process of resettlement accelerated and reached its apex in the 1800s.

A general timeline of American Indian resettlement in the 19th century includes the huge migrations into Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) of the Five Civilized Tribes following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. But it’s been said that every tribe had its “Trail of Tears.” In other words, each group had its own journey.

For example, by the time 1800 rolled around, the Delaware (Lenape) had long ago left the Delaware Valley, and many were in the Midwest on their way to Oklahoma—in all, some 65 tribes would be relocated to Oklahoma. Elsewhere, the Navajos’ “Long Walk” between their homelands in Arizona and western New Mexico to Bosque Redondo started in 1864, only to see them return in 1868. The Spokane were confined to a small portion of their original homelands in Washington, and other reservations were established in the Dakotas, Montana, Utah, California, Minnesota, Idaho, and elsewhere. Today, there are 566 federally recognized tribes, and you can find reservations in more than half of the states in the U.S.

Your challenge is to learn the story of your ancestor’s tribe or band—where they were living at the beginning at the century, where they were by the end of it, and how they got there. Just like it is in real estate, location, location, location is important in American Indian research. Also, remember that not everybody moved. Some assimilated, some broke ties with a tribe, some married a non-Indian spouse. (The AccessGenealogy website can be a good starting point for background on tribes or our recent post on Researching Native American American Ancestors: Context Is Key.)

Records, Records, Who’s Got the Records?

Records documenting the lives of American Indians increased steadily during the 19th century. Various NARA research facilities have the largest collections of records relating to American Indians, and the recent additions to the American Indian Collection on Ancestry make this the largest online collection available. But again, finding out what is available and where records might be will often depend on learning the history of a tribe.

Enrollment Records

The Dawes Rolls and the documents surrounding them are the best-known tribal enrollment records of the 19th century. These deal specifically with members of the Five Civilized Tribes living in Oklahoma (for the most part) and can be found in a number of databases on Ancestry. However, the Dawes Rolls are not the only enrollment records. Other Cherokee rolls include the Baker and Guion Miller rolls, both of which used older enrollments as a basis. Various rolls and tribal censuses exist for other tribes as well, but unfortunately, there is no central repository for enrollment records, though the Internet makes searching for them a little easier. (If you want more on the Five Civilized Tribes, read Juliana Szucs’ post.)

Indian Census Rolls (1885–1940)

Starting in 1885, Indian agents and superintendents were required to take a census of Indians under their jurisdiction each year. Though there is not a census for every tribe on every reservation for every year, this is still one of the most valuable and far-reaching collections of records relating to American Indians. You’ll find the entire collection on Ancestry at U.S., Indian Census Rolls, 1885–1940.

U.S. Federal Census

American Indians are not identified as such on the 1790–1840 censuses. A few American Indians living among the general population were identified as “Indians” in the 1850 census, and in 1860, census enumerators were instructed to enumerate “families of Indians who have renounced tribal rule, and who under state or territory laws exercise the rights of citizens.” This did not include Indians living on reservations or a nomadic life on the plains. Starting in 1900, Indians on reservations were enumerated on the census.

Other Records

These records will take a little more effort to access, but they may prove useful, depending on your ancestor’s experience.


Though they probably don’t list your ancestor by name, treaties may help you learn more a tribe’s history. The University of Oklahoma has an online database of treaties.

Annuity Rolls

Annuities, or payments to tribes or members of tribes, resulted from some treaties. Some annuity rolls start listing heads of families as early as 1834, though this became mandatory only after 1875. NARA has a large collection, and others remain at local Bureau of Indian Affairs offices. However, these records have not been microfilmed or digitized.

Emigration and Removal Rolls

Some records of Indian removals were created by government agencies. A collection of these, going as far back as 1824 in some cases, has been microfilmed (NARA film M234) and is available at NARA research centers or the Family History Library.

Indian School Records

The first official boarding school that took Indian children off their reservation was the Carlisle Indian Industrial School opened in 1879 in Pennsylvania. BIA schools were opened in 18 different states. There is no central repository of Indian school records. NARA holds some BIA Indian school records. Use the web to look for others at a local level.

Bureau of Indian Affairs Records

Bureau of Indian Affairs records can include allotment records, various case files, rolls, and applications. Many are held at various NARA research facilities and others at the state level.

Remembering Cemetery Day

I was only two when my grandfather died, so I never knew him. But I know his grave. I’ve visited it probably every year since he died. I know I’ve been there practically every year I can remember, even the year my brothers had to stay home with chicken pox. Memorial Day in Lewiston is a funny thing. I see relations I don’t see any other time of year, and the whole town turns out at the cemetery. My grandma’s there, and she used to talk for hours when I was little, back when hours were longer. My dad sees old school buddies. And we go grave to grave, trying to make sense of who is related to whom and how.

Only my grandma knows it all. She could probably tell you something about everybody in the cemetery, or at least their families. And all day I hear stories about the people I came from. I know I’ll wish I remembered these stories someday. They’re supposed to be a part of me somehow—whether I know them or not.


We start on the east side of the graveyard, at my grandpa’s grave. We have roses from our yard, and there’s columbine from out front of my grandma’s house in a glass jar. My aunts have a nice store-bought arrangement and a wreath in fall colors. Somebody else has left lilacs.

The wind’s blowing, and if even it weren’t now, it would be, so we anchor everything down with little shepherd’s crooks bent from hanger wire. They’re always too long or too short, and the ground’s always hard. But we finish, and everything stays up.

Then we start the loop. We pass a row of faded white stones along the east side for children who died in Decembers and Januaries. Dad says a Rawlins might have been the first newborn in Lewiston, but it was too cold, and the parents wintered in a warmer house in Richmond.

My aunt points out the grave of one of my uncle’s best friends. She tells me someone in the family had a fit about his grave being so close to his mother’s—I don’t know why. And he was a tall boy, she says, and he should have a flag. He was killed in Vietnam, stepped on a Claymore mine. It was one of those things—the point man got through.

We stop by the grave of Mom’s dance teacher. This is new; she’s never mentioned it. Barbara Monroe. A beautiful lady. Handsome husband. She died in 1968, the year my youngest brother was born. I’ve seen a picture of my mother sitting out front of the old house on Liberty Avenue, her ball grown spread around her on the lawn like a pond. Barbara Monroe wasn’t living in Lewiston when she taught my mother how to dance. My mother isn’t from northern Utah, but everybody knows somebody from Cache Valley.

Maybe that’s what my dad means when he calls it God’s country. It’s some kind of Eden, a source. Dad insists on being buried here. He comes as close to looking forward to it as you can without being morbid. He talks about being buried under a tree for shade. My mom says he’ll have to have his heavy cotton sheets or he’ll be complaining about the cold. Maybe a reading lamp. He says he’ll come back and haunt us if we leave him in the city cemetery down in Ogden. Too much traffic, too noisy.

Most of the direct family is over to the west, with Harvey M. and Margaret Elzirah, my great-great-grandparents. There’s Jasper Alfonzo and Cora Mae Burbank, Dad’s grandparents. And a string of small cement squares. They’re numbered, and they sink and get lost in the grass along the roadside most of the year. They mark babies’ graves, babies my great-uncles lost. They don’t have headstones, only these little numbers, but every year my aunts hunt up the graves. They tug back overgrown grass and talk about whose child each was and how they died.

Ruth is here, too. For years Ruth’s grave always got a little metal basket of flowers, but the silver was starting to show through under the paint, and this year my aunts have a new arrangement. They never miss her grave, though nobody here ever even saw her, not even my grandma. Ruth was my grandpa’s baby sister. She died on Armistice Day, “while the rest of the world was celebrating,” my grandma tells me.

We make our way back to the car, gathering up stray members of the family, finishing the loop. “I know more people here than I know alive,” my aunt says. I guess time will do that to you.

*     *     *

My grandma’s gone, too, now—I wrote those words more than 20 years ago. But I’ve been to that same graveyard and walked that same loop almost every year since. I know a few more people there myself, now. We make a few more stops. It’s my nieces and nephews who tote the flowers and listen to the stories. I’ve learned that you need to hear those stories more than once, need to walk that loop again and again, if you’re going to learn what they have to teach you. You don’t do it in a day. It takes a lifetime.

Profile: Private Sarah “Lyons” Wakeman

“I am as independent as a hog on the ice. If it is God’s will for me to fall in the field of battle, it is my will to go and never return home.”

That quote comes from a letter Private Lyons Wakeman of the 153rd New York Infantry wrote to family back home in Afton, New York. The family didn’t know Private Wakeman as “Lyons,” however.  They knew her as Sarah Rosetta.

Here’s the Wakeman family at home in the 1860 census.

Wakeman family 1860 census


In 1862, Sarah made a career move, assuming a man’s name and dress to get work on a canal boat. But with the state paying a bounty for enlistment, there was more money to be made as Union soldier. So on 30 August 1862, Sarah signed up under the name Lyons Wakeman.

Lyon boatman


Private Wakeman is described as being five feet tall with blue eyes and light brown hair. Sarah lied about her age, saying she was 21. A Dr. Snow, the examining surgeon, certified that he had “carefully examined the above named Volunteer, agreeable to the General Regulations of the Army, and that, in my opinion, he is free from all bodily defects and mental infirmity which would, in any way, disqualify him from performing the duties of a solider.” He obviously didn’t examine that carefully. Or maybe he believed in gender equality himself and enjoyed the irony of signing the document.

Lyon enlistment


In any case, Lyons enlisted for three years and saw duties that ranged from standing guard in Washington, D.C., to battle during the Red River Campaign.

Lyons didn’t survive the war. Private Wakeman died in New Orleans, Louisiana, of dysentery, or “chronic diarrhea” as the record puts it.

Lyons death


In one register of deaths of U.S. volunteers, Private Wakeman appears as the last entry on the page.

Lyon registers deaths volunteers


Sarah took her secret to the grave, and Private Wakeman is buried in Chalmette National Cemetery in Louisiana.

Lyons Chalmette Nat Cem LA headstone


Private Wakeman’s letters came to light in the 20th century and have been collected in the book An Uncommon Soldier, by Lauren Cook Burgess. And Lyons isn’t the only woman to be found in Civil War records. Whether they went to be with a husband, for money, for adventure, or out of patriotism, the fact is, they went. They faced the same dangers and deprivations, and some, like Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, would pay the same high price.


New Content: Nor Cals, Seadogs and Swedes

Last week brought records from eight counties and the Portuguese Union of California to the site in California, Death and Burial Records from Select Counties, 1873–1987.


cali death and burial select county


Residents of Canada’s Atlantic Coast inhabit the Newfoundland, Canada, Index of Birth, Marriage & Death Notices from Newspapers, 1810–1890, and Canada, Seafarers of the Atlantic Provinces, 1860–1899, databases.

Newfoundland BMDs


Finally, an update to Sweden, Indexed Birth Records, 1870-1941, adds 1.7 million records from the 1870s.

Happy searching!




New Content: Medicos, Taxpayers and Railroaders

Was there a doctor—or midwife—in the family?

The New Zealand, Registers of Medical Practitioners and Nurses, 1873, 1882–1933, database lists all sorts of state-approved medical practitioners.

NZ med


Meanwhile, back in England, the West Yorkshire, England, Tax Valuation, 1910, itemized (as it were) more than half a million residents for tax purposes.  Rhode Island, Vital Extracts, 1636–1899, features almost three centuries of birth, marriage, and death details.

RI extracts


Plus we’ve added another 2.3 million records to the California, Railroad Employment Records, 1862–1950, database of payrolls, seniority lists, and blacklists.

cali rr

And we all know which list we’re hoping to find a relative on.


New Content: Indexes for Oregon and Swedish Church Records

Last week featured some welcome additions to existing databases. Ancestry World Archives Project volunteers provided indexes for two collections that had been image only up until now:

Marion County, Oregon, Marriage Records, 1849-1900, and Marion County, Oregon, Census, 1895.

marion or census


We also added another 99,094 records to Sweden, Church Records, 1500-1941, which isn’t an insignificant number. It just gets a little dwarfed by the 20 million records already there.

sweden church

Happy searching!

New Content That’s Not (All) New York

We did launch a few collections over the past week that weren’t all about New York…


The U.S., Dutch Church Records from Selected States, 1660–1926, database includes some records from Pennsylvania and New Jersey…as well as New York.

dutch church


New Mexico and Texas, Select United Methodist Church Records, 1870–1970, are a long way from the Big Apple.

new mexico methodists


So are New Zealand, City & Area Directories, 1866–1955, which can include names, street addresses, and occupations.

Makes you hope they never stop printing phone books, doesn’t it?




Now Available on Ancestry.com: New York City Vital Records

Did you hear the news out of New York?

We have teamed up with the New York City Department of Records/Municipal Archives to bring indexes to more than 10 million New York City birth, marriage, and death records for the years 1866–1948.Statue of Liberty

You can search the indexes free from a new landing page at www.Ancestry.com/NewYork, where you’ll find other new releases as well, including the 1855 and 1875 New York state censuses.

Just how important was New York to U.S. immigration? Of the 5.4 million people who arrived in the U.S. between 1820 and 1860, more than two-thirds entered via New York. By the 1890s, New York’s share had eclipsed four-fifths. Even today, 36 percent of New York City’s population was born outside of the United States, down only 4 percent from 100 years ago. This means a wedding or death certificate from New York can often provide the first documentation for a family or ancestor in America.

You’ll also find a link to our latest state research guide—for New York—on the www.Ancestry.com/NewYork page. This guide walks you through records and family history resources available for New York and tells you where to find them, both on- and offline. A timeline of New York events to help you understand the history that surrounded your ancestors’ lives.

So feel free to start spreadin’ the news: New York, New York.