Category Archives: Databases

James Hill and His 400 Acres


Last night I found another record. It was nestled among the Pennsylvania Land Warrants, 1733-1987. The database I used was on Ancestry, but the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a site with even more details, and it’s free.

A James Hill is documented on Ancestry as having 400 acres of land. It was actually 426 acres, according to the notation in the books. That is quite a swath of land.

The warrant is dated July 19, 1792 and the land is located in Luzerne County. It may have been Northumberland County at the time. There are some named Jordan who also acquired land in Luzerne County, brothers-in-law and other relatives of James Hill through his wife Mary. The Jordans, except one, claimed land in November of 1789. That exception was John Jordan, who claimed land in August of 1792.

So what the heck is a land warrant? I was wondering the same thing myself.

“An application was a request to purchase a certain amount of land in a particular locality from the State government. The successful applicant received a land warrant from the State Land Office, and both the applications and warrants are filed in Record Group 17, Records of the Land Office, at the Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg.”

James returned the land on May 6, 1794, though why he did isn’t known. Nor do I understand how this ‘return’ process works.

I will be browsing through the records in other counties as well.


Whitsun & Weather

In repsonse to a woman who hadn’t received any messages from a mailing list about genealogy and Pomerania lately, a fellow sent some news on Germany.

Weather has become very fine the last couple of days here in Germany and many people might prefer outdoor activities. Also there have been Whitsun (Pentecost) and some other holidays here.

Besides the great weather, which Seattle has been lacking for too long, I am curious about the holidays, including the etymology of the word Whitsun.

According to Douglas Harper and his wonderful Online Etymology Dictionary, Whitsun is a contraction of the word Whitsunday, which originated in the late 13th century. The late Old English form, written and spoken from about 450 to 1100, was Hwita Sunnandæg, meaning “white Sunday.” This term may have come from the white baptismal robes worn by newly baptized Christians on this day.

The word Pentecost is Greek.


A Thank You Note

On May 1 I gave a presentation on German genealogy research, a sort of introduction to it and my experiences, including several useful sites. One attendee sent me a nice, little note the other day.

Thanks for the great class regarding German history and family research ideas. . . .

I must admit that your experience in surfing the net astonished me. I especially enjoyed your commentaries that introduced me to ‘thinking about the historical impacts’ of our family migrations. . . .

I’m looking forward to receiving the list of internet sites that you were going to compile for our continued personal researches.


Grandpa Oscar’s Social Security File

The Social Security Death Index, often abbreviated as SSDI, is a useful tool for any family historian.

Unfortunately however, some feds got worked up about identity theft and control of information, and access has been restricted or removed from certain sites, including RootsWeb.1 Today though, someone posted on a mailing list a site where it remains accessible without requiring registration and login, although the information is not complete.2

I decided to lookup my maternal grandfather, Oscar Fromke. He was born on Wednesday, August 8 in 1900 in South Dakota, the same state where his number and card were first issued.

What I found intruiging was the list of residences. His last home, which is usually the only one listed, was in Watertown. However, a list of other towns followed: Appleby, Foley, Grover, Kampeska, Pelican, Rauville, and Waverly. So he must have lived in all of these places throughout his life.

I have heard of Grover. The bank where he worked with his brother Herman was located there. Kampeska is on the shores of a beautiful lake where the family vacationed in summer. My mother remembers it fondly. Rauville is where his parents attended church and are buried. I recall Waverly being discussed before, but I can’t remember the details.

I will have to do some poking around on Google Maps.


1. Much like anything the Department of Homeland Security does, I am think the decision was draconian and stupid. Anyone wanting to use other people’s information for nefarious purposes can easily find a way to do it, including registering for Ancestry and other web sites using fake names. All the restrictions did was to make it difficult for genealogists to search the database. But who said anything about Big Sis and her counterpart in the Social Security Administration having any brains or common sense.

2. The person’s Social Security Number is not included, as was the case before the government crackdown on information.

DNA and the State

As both a genetic hobbyist and one who is wary of Big Brother, I am somewhat conflicted on projects, particularly government ones, seeking people’s DNA. The latest effort, launched by the Veterans’ Administration, wants samples from one million vets.

Officials overseeing health care for the nation’s veterans are undertaking what may be the largest effort of its kind in the nation, to collect medical records and blood samples from a million former service members for a bank of genetic information.”

Meanwhile, New York and Washington states are pursuing mandatory DNA collection for people arrested and charged with certain crimes. In the case of New York, it is an expansion of an already existing program.

I am very concerned about innocent people being required to submit DNA. It is very important that any laws first require a conviction before anyone is compelled to submit DNA for analysis. Records within any genetic databases for anyone exonerated must be deleted within a short period of time.


Molecular Genealogy

One of my newer hobbies is learning about human genetics. I’ve been interested ever since hearing about the Molecular Genealogy project at BYU while I was attending the National Genealogical Society’s conference in 2001. It was in Portland, not too far away from my abode at the time.

The only reasons I didn’t give a DNA sample was that the researchers were drawing blood, not something I find pleasant, and there was a horde of people queued up in a very long line. I hate hypodermic needles. I don’t like crowds and despise waiting in lines.

So fast forward a few years. The project at BYU became the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation. Scientists with SMGF developed a mouth wash to collect DNA specimens. It was painless and simple, and I really wanted to do it. So, I gave SMGF my DNA and found a sponsor, a distant cousin, to submit another sample to Family Tree DNA.

Ever since I’ve been advocating for genetic genealogy, giving a few talks here and there to various groups. Testing has led to many leads on my male line, which has hit a dead end at James Hill, born in 1763 in Pennsylvania and whose remains have been resting peacefully in Hardin County, Ohio since 1862. In 2009, I sent a message to the coordinator of the Hill DNA Project about what I had learned.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I have been working on the DNA and genealogy way too much lately, neglecting more important things. I like the new site design at FTDNA and have poked around some on the maps and whatnot, but there isn’t much there of direct benefit, just a general direction of England or Scotland.

We are close to the JOHNSON clan, who may trace to Sir Gilbert JOHNSTONE of Scotland, but I haven’t seen much to document that and only person claiming it. It has been especially frustrating not finding the link.

Unfortunately many of the others in my group have neglected research for some reason. I have been focused on Owen HILL and Deborah JONES. Apparently there is some connection to New York or New Jersey, as this is where Owen’s father was born.

I am sure it will only be a matter of time, but it looks like I will be the one doing the work. I did a lot of research in the South trying to track Joseph of North Carolina, but didn’t find much of value, so I decided to turn north. I am hoping more people will get tested so the matches increase.

— Aaron


General Land Office Records

I remembering reading on an ancestor’s land grant that a government office was located in Bucyrus, Ohio. Seeing a link to the Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum brought back some memories of a great website. It’s free and operated by the BLM, the Bureau of Land Management. It was known as the General Land Office (GLO).

As the successor agency to the original General Land Office (GLO), we maintain more than nine million historic land documents— survey plats and field notes, homestead patents, military warrants, and railroad grants. These historic documents were among the very first land records to result from the Land Ordinance of 1785, which authorized the transfer of public lands to private individuals. Even today, these records are valuable resources for natural resource agencies, historians, title companies and genealogists.

I’ll be looking through the database again, uploading the files to the blog, and adding some commentary.


Family History & DNA

While sorting through a few older email messages today I came across this one from July 2008. I sent a note to some relatives asking that they consider giving DNA samples for study.

At the time there was no charge. Now, unfortunately, the project is no longer accepting samples from the public. Thankfully I did convince an uncle and my younger brother to submit their DNA. So there are are at least three known relatives in the databases.

Thursday, 24 July, 2008 5:03
Family History & DNA

I would like to encourage people who may be interested in the history of the various branches of the family to consider submitting a DNA sample to the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation. The study is completely free and painless. It is fascinating to learn about our relatives prior to recorded history and may help to connect lost cousins.

For example, the HILL male line is I1, which originated in Scandinavia. It is likely that the HILL ancestors were Vikings who invaded England and Scotland, sometime from the 5th to the 11th centuries. There were two major waves and as our understanding increases, we may be able to pinpoint a more specific time.

I have found a close match in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne on the coast of northeastern England. The HILL family is also closely related to several men named Johnson, which may predate the adoption of surnames. Our mother’s maternal line is in a group called T1, which is common to eastern Europe and central Asia.

Specifically I am trying to find a male HAY to test, but I encourage everyone to participate. This is particularly important as the paper trail on the HAY family ends in general confusion in colonial Pennsylvania. Based on Warren’s Catholic catechism book, which is printed in German, I am assuming the family immigrated from southern Germany, but others believe the family is Scottish. I have found a family named HOH which may be the HAY family. This will likely only be settled by studying the DNA. Either way, it will be great to learn about it. Thus far I have not found anyone willing to do it, but I will keep asking periodically. (I am used to rejection, by the way, but rarely let it deter me.)

Anyway, if this has piqued your interest, then please visit these links to learn more and feel free to send me a message if you have questions or comments:




WWI Military Cablegrams

A database of World War I military cablegrams “exchanged between the General Headquarters, American Expeditionary Forces (abbreviated here as AEF HQ) and the War Department during World War I” are online at Fold3, a rebranding of the historical doc site

These are file copies from the Cable Division of the Adjutant General’s Office, arranged by series and then chronologically. They contain nine series of cablegrams and many contain a number of distinctive markings and marginal notes.

I am of the opinion that material of such historical significance should be available online for free. The National Archives (NARA) has an agreement with Fold3, previously, to scan documents. These are available for free at NARA sites and presidential libraries throughout the country, but since these are few and far between, most Americans don’t really have access unless they’re willing to pay for a Fold3 subscription.


Playing Around with Wolfram|Alpha

When I first heard of Wolfram|Alpha, in a news story, the search engine tool sounded pretty cool. And it is.

For some reason I don’t recall, I found myself at the site and decided to experiment with various keywords to see what results were returned. There may have been a link to something in one of my Google Alerts.1

My first search was Bytów, the town where my maternal great grandparents were married. It was a German town prior to World War II, but has been Polish since. Among the information given is a map of where it is located within Poland, the current weather, population figures, and nearby cities and airports. A chart shows a steady decline in population since 1999. The Baltic Sea is 36 miles to the northwest.

Searching for Pomorskie, the province where Bytów is located,  didn’t yield much. I decided to see what was available for Berlin, London, Dublin and Paris. Some of the city nicknames are cool. For example, London’s is The Big Smoke.

Then I moved onto surnames: Hill, Hay, Lentz, Wolf and Wolfe. Some, such as Fromke, Boal2, and Van Note, don’t have anything within the Wolfram universe. For some word searches, Scrabble scores (varying based on American or British spellings) and anagrams are given.

I then started playing around with Christian and complete names, starting with my own, Aaron Hill. Other neat features include having a list of people associated with a particular town or city and famous people with a given name. I searched for famous folks named Aaron.

I wanted to see what popped up when I typed James Hill, the name of the patriarch of the Hill family.

Moving onto to geographic place names, I went from Colo, Iowa to just plain Iowa to Watertown, South Dakota and Lake Preston, South Dakota, ending on South Dakota.

I then stumbled upon the examples pages. The ones that interest me the most and will likely be the most useful to me are: Human Genome, Words and Linguistics, Places and Geography, and People and History.


1. I’ve since remembered that a link to a page on Pommern, a place in Germany, was in my inbox, and, ever curious, I clicked on it. I was hoping it would have something to with Pommern the province, but Wolfram doesn’t have much on the region, even using the word Pomerania, merely giving the apparent dates of its existence, from 1013 AD to 1806, the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. However, I don’t think it is accurate. The end of Pomerania really should be placed in 1945, after the collapse of Nazi Germany.

2. There is a fish with the name boal.