Michael Brophy-Spoke at VBGS Meeting-on Upcoming 1940 Census

The Virginia Beach Genealogical Society monthly meeting was scheduled for Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 7PM  at the Virginia Beach Central Library-in VA Beach, VA. The speaker was professional genealogist Michael Brophy visiting from Abington, MA to give the group a lecture titled: “The 1940 Census: Countdown to April 2, 2012”  All of the programs and free and open to the public.

To look at the upcoming 1940 Census Form see the link below:

 1940 Census Form (Legal Size-2 Pages)

This lecture was widely attended by the members and several guests to the society.



Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Corbett Expected to Sign Vital Records Bill.

Good News from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania!

Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Corbett is Expected to Sign Pennsylvania Senate Bill #361-Within Next Several Days.

Being a Pennsylvanian by birth and having most of my own family history located in the boundaries of Pennsylvania, I am exited about the prospect of having more vital records available to the public.  It has been a long fought battle to have these records released.

Blake Stough from Pennsylvania wrote an interesting article in his Preserving York blog about “An Act amending the act of June 29, 1953 (P.L.304, No.66), known as the Vital Statistics Law of 1953, further providing for disclosure of records.”  In terms that would interest both genealogists and historians-Senate Bill #361 will make birth certificates issued by Pennsylvania open public record after 105 years, and death certificates issued would become public record after 50 years. This bill opens the research door for many persons who have an interest in their Keystone State ancestors.

The Senate Bill #361 has now been sent to the Governor, who has indicated that he is willing to sign it into legislation in the next few days.   Let’s hope other states follow the fine example of Pennsylvania.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: Bankruptcy Records of your Ancestors

With the landscape of today’s economic plight, coupled with the loss of  numerous  jobs, and the highest unemployment rate that our country has seen since the great depression-has afforded social historians a unique gaze into the window of our ancestor’s lives.  Genealogists can gain an understanding of some of the ways in which our ancestors carried out their everyday lives, and how they survived during previous economic depressions-where the fortunes of so many have been gained and lost overnight.

*Under the constitutional provision that Congress shall have the power to establish “Uniform laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States, (Article I, and Section 8).

Following the guidelines based on the United States Constitution, our nation has seen four separate Bankruptcy Acts become the law of the land -consisting of;

Act of 1800 followed the business disturbances of 1797;

Act of 1841, followed the Panic of 1837;

Act of 1867, the post Civil War period recession of 1866-1867

Act of 1898, the Panic of 1893 and the following years of depression

In these records, genealogist get a different look at individuals from a somewhat slanted prospective as this was often not a subject of family discussion, usually only talked about behind closed doors.  Often the very word of bankruptcy had a certain stigma attached to it, and would be something not passed down from generation to generation.

The United States District and Circuit courts were created under the Judiciary Act of September 24, 1789. The jurisdiction and powers that these courts held varied with subsequent legislation that was passed. District courts generally held original jurisdiction over both admiralty and bankruptcy cases among other related suits. In 1891, the appellate jurisdiction of the circuit courts was transferred to the newly created circuit courts of appeals. The Judiciary Act of 1911 abolished the circuit courts and provided for the transfer of their records to the district courts-that had jurisdiction over civil, criminal, and bankruptcy actions. Each Bankruptcy act varied in regard to the regulations accompanied by each successive act.  The last Act of 1898 is the one in which we operate today in these filings.

Edgar Alan Poe-Circa 1845

One individual who filed a successful petition under the Bankruptcy Act of 1841 inPhiladelphia,Pennsylvaniawas Edgar Allan Poe who lived there from 1838 to the spring of 1844. One the most successful years financially for Edgar Allan Poe occurred while  he lived in New York City from 1844 to the spring of 1846. Inadvertently these same years were a period of time when New York was fast becoming a center for the arts.  At the time of his arrival to the City in 1844, Poe was reasonably free of debt, having recently having filed a successful petition at the Federal District Court in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the winter of 1842, (a year after he wrote his now widely known work “Murders in the Rue Morgue”),  under the statutes of the Bankruptcy Act of 1841.  With his filed petition Poe was able to eliminate over two thousand dollars of personal and business debt-this amount being a sizeable sum of money in those days-considering that an average payment for one of his stories was roughly thirty dollars at that time.  The fact that Poe was able to move beyond his abstract genre of writing and to facilitate the legal documentation required to file a successful petition during the short window of time the Bankruptcy Act of 1841 was in place, give us an interesting look into social history.  The documents in his file show a rare, although somewhat human side of Poe that most historians and enthusiasts of his macabre writings would not see.

Bankruptcy File-Philadelphia, PA-1842

To access these this genealogical information, researchers must contact the National Archives inWashington,DC or one of twelve regional offices that dot the landscape of the United States.  These documents are filed under the Records of the District Court of the United States (RG21) and cover a broad range of years from 1790 to the 1990’s.  Locating these records can present a challenge as some have been moved over the years to other repositories because of space restrictions.

The following link below gives an overview of the records from the National Archives inWashington,DC contained within RG21.

National Archives-Records of the U.S. District Court

This information allows genealogists to tailor their research plans accordingly based on the details found on the Archives website. Genealogy research is not limited to names, dates, and places as the records of bankruptcy add a new dimension to lives of your ancestors.  Discover some these great relatively untapped genealogy resources on your next research trip.


Genealogy Conference Planned for Virginia Beach Genealogical Society-2012

The Virginia Beach Genealogical Society is pleased to welcome European Expert Paul Milner as their featured speaker for next years’ annual genealogical conference planned for Saturday, March 24, 2012 in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Paul Milner brings a wealth of genealogical knowledge and experience to the 2012 VBGS Conference. Paul is a nationally recognized speaker who has lectured for many organizations including:

Paul Milner

NGS-1999-2011 (National Genealogy Society)

FGS-1996-2011 (Federation of Genealogical Societies)

IGHR-2008-2011 (Institute of Genealogy & Historical Research)

NERGC-2006-2011 (New England Regional Genealogical Conference)

Paul Milner, a native of northern England is a professional genealogist and lecturer. He is the co-author with Linda Jonas of A Genealogists Guide to Discovering Your English Ancestors: How to find and record your unique heritage (2000), and A Genealogists Guide to Discovering Your Scottish Ancestors: How to find and record your unique heritage (2002)

Paul has specialized in British Isles genealogical research for 30 years. He was raised in England and settled in the United States in 1975. He has been designing workshops and lecturing to a wide variety of audiences for over 35 years. He holds an advanced degree in Theology and is particularly knowledgeable about the church and its role in record keeping. As a genealogist he speaks on a variety of topics relating to research in the British Isles, migration to North America and research methodology. Paul is currently the book review editor for the FGS FORUM and the BIGWILL newsletter. He is the past-president of the British Interest Group of Wisconsin and Illinois (BIGWILL), and a past board member of the Association to Professional Genealogists, the Federation of Genealogical Societies and the Genealogical Speakers Guild.

Paul Milner’s broad range of lectures to be covered include:

1. A New Location: Steps for Quickly Getting Started

2. Finding Your Ancestors in Ireland

3. Finding Your English Ancestors: The Big Four

4. Genealogical Wikis: A Personal and Customizable Research Tool

His broad range of topics make him a perfect speaker for the beginner as well as the experienced genealogist. The Virginia Beach Genealogical Society is pleased to welcome Paul Milner.

To download and print out a conference brochure, click the link below:

VBGS-2012 Brochure

or for more information contact the Virginia Beach Genealogical Society


Old English Occupation: Knocker-Up Keeping Employees Working

Many old and honorable occupations that no longer exist have their origins deeply rooted in history when people worked many varying trades.  Some of these professions are not what historians or genealogists might consider to be mainstream work, but over the years these various lines of work have provided great stories that can be passed down to future generations.

One of these jobs was that of the knocker-up also sometimes referred to as a knocker-upper.  This profession was prevalent in both England and Ireland having started during the early days of the Industrial Revolution and lasted into the beginnings of the 20th Century as late as the 1920’s.  Before alarm clocks were both affordable, and reliable, it was the job of the knocker-up to rouse his sleeping clients from their slumber so they could get to work on time.

The knocker-up often used a long stick with wire or knob to wake those clients that required his services. More often the sticks were made of lightweight bamboo, and much longer to be able to reach windows on upper floors. In return for the provided service the knocker-up would be paid a few pence a week. The knocker-up would often not leave a client’s window until they were assured the client had been awoken and would not fall back asleep.

Knocker-Up in England

A large number of persons in this profession usually worked in larger industrial centers or town such as Manchester, Englandor in Londonitself. Generally this job was one that elderly men or women worked or sometimes local police constables would supplement their income by doing this work during their early morning patrols. This occupation has also found it’s way into modern literature of the same time period.

In 1860 Charles Dickens when he wrote his very popular novel Great Expectations, he included a brief description of this line of work in the introduction.

An interesting video on the internet has surfaced that show the knocker-up plying his trade during the early 20th century. Follow the link below to view this video.

Knocker-Up in England

Requesting your Ancestor’s SS-5 Social Security Application

Discover some great facts about an ancestor. Once you’ve located a family member who is deceased, or one that is in the Social Security Death Index (generally those who died after 1960-although not complete), you may request a copy of that persons original application for Social Security. It is an excellent source of genealogical information and can provide many facts otherwise not known to descendants. The SS-5, or Application for Social Security Number  provides many great resources for learning more about someone who died after 1960, and generally includes the following pieces of information:

  • Full name at birth, including maiden name
  • Present mailing address
  • Age at last birthday
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth (City, State)
  • Father’s full name
  • Mother’s full name, including maiden name
  • Gender of applicant
  • Race as indicated by the applicant
  • Current employer’s name and address
  • Date signed
  • Applicant’s signature


As long as a person is deceased, the Social Security Administration will provide a copy of the original application filed in their office, to anyone who makes a request under the Freedom of Information Act.  In the case of my great- grandfather Jacob F. Strauss (Born 1880), I didn’t have an original Social Security Number for him, and he died in 1957 before the index really could have helped.  I did however, have a copy of his Death Certificate that listed his number and requested this from their office.

Following the link below researchers can request the documents themselves;

Request for Deceased Individual’s Social Security Record SS-5

For a fee of $27.00-if the persons SSN is known and $29.00-for someone who number is unknown, the Administration will conduct a search for the requester.  The time varies by individual.  Although, it typically can run anywhere between 4-8 weeks for delivery.  If the record is located and sent to you, it is well worth your efforts as the information provided will be helpful to future generations.

Articles of Engagement: The United States Life-Saving Service

Do you have an ancestor who served in The United States Life-Saving Service? The unofficial motto of this organization which the men lived by was; “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back“. Many men gave up their lives to live by that motto as they saved shipwreck victims in all sorts of inclement weather. This unique organization has it roots traced back to the early part of the 19th Century. Although, not officially recognized as a service, a system of stations languished until 1871 when Sumner I Kimball was appointed chief of the Treasury Department’s Revenue Marine Division.

Sumner I. Kimball-USCG Historian Office

Articles of Engagement-USLSS Station Fourth Cliff, MA-1885 NARA

One of his first acts was to send officers of the Revenue Cutter Service on an inspection tour of the life saving stations. With the need for life-saving stations and men to work them, Kimball instituted six-man boat crews at each location and built additional stations.

By 1874, numerous stations were added along the coast of Maine, Massachusetts, and later along the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The following year, additional stations were added to serve the Great Lakes. In 1878, the network of life saving stations were formally organized as a separate agency of the United States Department of the Treasury, being called the Live-Saving Service.

One of the more interesting textural records from this venerable service are the Articles of engagement for surfmen that date from 1875–1914. These records are arranged chronologically and then by district and station. They list the names of the surfmen, their terms of engagement, and their record of compensation each received for duty. They may include reports of changes in crew, along with the reason for the change. Medical inspection reports that provide some physical descriptions of the surfmen are also included in these files. These records are located at the main office of the National Archives in downtown Washington, DC.

When ordering these textural records-request them as part of Entry #260, in Record Group 26 (RG26), which is part of the United States Coast Guard. The United States Life-Saving Service merged with the Revenue Cutter Service in 1915 to form the modern United States Coast Guard, with the United States Lighthouse Service joining in 1939. If you have family that may have served, these records (which have never been filmed), are an indispensable part of researching men from this group of maritime rescuers.