Are My Roots Showing?

The chronicle of this woman's perpetual game of hide-and-seek with her ancestors

Old Search is Dead. Long Live New Search!

March 31st, 2014


Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Ancestry in any way – unless you count the obscene amounts of money deducted from my bank account every year.  I don’t even LIKE Ancestry’s search.  I’m just tired of all the unfounded whining.

magnifier-159360_640Okay – by now you’ve heard that Ancestry’s Old Search is dead.  Unless you just started using Ancestry in the past month, you can’t say you didn’t know it was coming.  The genea-community has been talking about it forEVER (for example, see my post from June of last year, in which Ancestry had made the announcement that Old Search would die at the end of the year.  Suck it up, folks – they gave you an extra 2-1/2 months with your beloved.

I have noticed several people complaining in multiple Facebook groups that new search doesn’t give accurate results like old search did.  Some people have even gone so far as to cancel their subscriptions because old search is gone.  News Flash … IT’S NOT OLD SEARCH SO IT DOESN’T WORK LIKE OLD SEARCH.  You folks simply have to learn to use new search in order for it to be effective.

You may have heard of Crista Cowan (also known as The Barefoot Genealogist, as Ancestry’s search guru).  She has worked for Ancestry for about 10 years.  You may have even heard her speak at various conferences about Ancestry’s collections and using the website.  What you may not know is that Crista also hosts an internet show every week.  Her YouTube channel can be found here.  There are several videos on how to use Ancestry’s “new” search.  You can also watch her presentation at RootsTech back in February FOR FREE here.

Russ Worthington also wrote about new search back in July 2013 here.  Randy Seaver also gave a good example here.

Despite all of these resources – quite literally – at their fingertips, there seems to be some difficulty in finding these training tools (which surprises me because, you know, researchers and all).

I get that there are those of you who simply can’t watch the videos because of bandwidth issues or time issues or whatever.  In that case, just PLAY with the settings.  You aren’t going to break it, I promise.  It really IS intuitive, you just have to be in the right mindset for it to be that way.  If you go in thinking “new search is terrible and I’m never going to find anything.”  Then guess what?  You probably won’t.  I recommend starting with a record you KNOW is out there and using different search parameters to find it again.  You’ll see that it starts to make sense (most of the time*).

So – in addition to the resources mentioned above, I thought I would provide a couple of tips and things to keep in mind that might make new search a little more intuitive:

1.  If you aren’t using Advanced Search, you’ve already given up.


Stop using the search box on Ancestry’s home page.  That’s like living in a city and only going to the tourist-y places.  That little search box is what Ancestry uses to entice people to buy memberships.  Of course you’re going to get 8 gajillion results.  Click on that “advanced search” button before you do anything else and the rest will be so much easier.

2.  If it isn’t on the document, you won’t get a match.

Bottom line is that if the census record says your ancestor was from “United States,” a search for an exact match of “Memphis, Shelby, Tennessee” isn’t going to be fruitful.  This is when you need to select less rigid parameters.

Additionally, if you do a search for an exact match of “John Smith” with a birth year of 1827 and a death date of 1917, you aren’t going to get a match for census records.  You will only get a match for those records that contain an indexed death date.

3.  If it’s not indexed, you won’t find it either.

If there is no field available for the information, or if the field simply wasn’t indexed, narrowing or broadening your search based on that field isn’t going to help either.  A search of the 1870 census for John Smith narrowed by an exact match for his uniquely-named wife, “Abracadabra,” isn’t going to help you at all.  Why?  Because the 1870 census doesn’t identify spouses.  Remove that parameter, and narrow your search using parameters that actually appear on the record (age, race, gender, birthplace, etc.), and you’ll get better results.  Be warned!  You might actually have to use your research skills to determine which one is yours.

4.  Use the Collection Priority button.  Seriously.  Use it. 

I mentioned this in my post from June 2013, but it bears repeating (plus, the graphics have changed, so I thought I’d include another screenshot).


If your ancestor was born in the United States and never left, you shouldn’t need to search any records outside of the U.S.  So … tell Ancestry to only search those.  Select the collection you want AND CLICK THE BOX THAT SAYS “ONLY” SEARCH THESE.  Then you won’t end up with 874,000 matches for records in other countries, when it obviously could not be your person.  If you don’t click the box, the U.S. records will get priority, but you’ll still end up with 874,000 records from other countries because you only gave the U.S. priority, not exclusivity (all figures are completely fictional).

You can further limit your search by unchecking those other boxes below the collection priority if you don’t want to see a bunch of unsourced family trees or photos attached to people but have no provenance.

So if your intent is to cast a wide net and see what bubbles up to the top, you want to use your “exact” matches sparingly.  If you know exactly what you’re looking for, I recommend narrowing your search before you even start searching.  How?  By going to the card catalog and selecting the record group you want to find, THEN enter your search parameters.  Why do it this way?  Well, because the search window will only let you fill in those fields that are pertinent to that record group, that’s why.  Then it’s not looking for things like I enumerated in the examples above.

I’m just going to put this out there – Ancestry has been talking about killing old search now for almost a year.  If you haven’t taken the few minutes (seriously – like less than an hour) to watch one of the videos, read one of the blogs, or play around with the new search features – then it’s your own fault that you aren’t getting the results you want.  It’s kind of like knowing for a year that there’s a flood coming and then getting pissed off because everyone else has figured out how to row a boat and you’re still trying to keep your car from sinking.

You’ll either learn to use it or you won’t.  If you’ve chosen the latter, then stop whining about it.

*I’m not saying Ancestry’s search is perfect.  It isn’t.  Far from it.  It will never be perfect because it’s designed by humans.  Michael John Neill has an infinite number of examples of how messed up Ancestry’s search really is.  However, it is also not designed to do your research for you.  It is only designed to make it easier to find the documents you need to do your research.



Do we share any ancestors?

Please email me at lostancestors [at] gmail [dot] com

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved

Are My Roots Showing?

Just Make Up the Lyrics Challenge: Maternal Line

March 18th, 2014

About 5 years ago, Bill West challenged the Geneabloggers to put their ancestors’ names to song lyrics.  He’s brought that challenge again, and this is my [weak] attempt.

I heard this song on the radio the other day and I couldn’t help but notice how readily the chorus lent itself to a genealogy ditty.  I will never be able to hear this song the original way again …


(To the tune of “Draggin’ the Line” by Tommy James)


Gallaghers living the old, hard way,

Liquor and fraud is their day by day.

The Heerdinks are putting the crazies out in the sunshine

Maternal line (maternal line)


Marriage, divorce, and joy and sorrow

They ain’t got much, and what they’ve got’s borrowed

Made sure I won’t find land records at any point in time

Maternal line (maternal line)


I feel fine

No telling what I will find

I’m gonna take my time

I’m getting to good times

Maternal line (maternal line)


Trying to follow the money supply

Fraud and deceit, were you a wise guy?

Diggin’ up more than you ever thought I might

Maternal line (maternal line)

Maternal line (maternal line)


I feel fine

No telling what I will find

I’m gonna take my time

I’m getting to good times

Maternal line (maternal line)


Do we share any ancestors?

Please email me at lostancestors [at] gmail [dot] com

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved

Are My Roots Showing?

Yes, I’ve Started Another Blog

March 7th, 2014

In case you missed it on Facebook, here’s the announcement:

Now that I have received my great grandfather’s (Walter Gallagher) scrapbooks, the ownership of which the Ridgefield Public Library so graciously relinquished, I have created a new blog just for the articles, photographs, and other memorabilia in them.

Here is the link: The Lost Scrapbooks.

In that blog, I will attempt to maintain the chronology of the articles so they tell the story of my great grandfather and his father (Billy Gallagher), as well as the story of the Ridgefield (NJ) Police Department as it relates to my great grandfather.

I fully intend to continue regular programming on this blog as well!  (operative word: intend)

I’ll see you over there!



Do we share any ancestors?

Please email me at lostancestors [at] gmail [dot] com

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved

Are My Roots Showing?

Will the real Anton Heerdink please stand up?

February 25th, 2014

My 3rd great grandfather, Anton Heerdink, has been a question buried in a puzzle and wrapped in an enigma since I began researching the Heerdink line.

Finally, I think I may have some answers.

His story goes something like this:

Anton Heerdink was born in Groenlo, Gelderland, Netherlands on 21 January 1836.  He emigrated with his family to America in 1847 through the Port of New Orleans.  By 1850, the family had migrated north to Evansville, Vanderburgh, Indiana.  Anton’s mother died in 1850 and his father died in 1860.  He married Mary Theresa Diefenbach in 1863 and had 3 children by 1870.  Mary dies in July 1878, which is when Anton is abducted by aliens (who are civilized enough to allow him to place his children in orphanages and as servants in the homes of other families before he leaves).

… or so I thought.

While trying to find some clue as to where Anton may have gone after his wife died, I ran across a blurb in the March 5, 1879 issue of the Evansville Courier newspaper that simply said, “Anton Heerdink who was adjudged insane, started for Indianapolis yesterday, in charge of Sheriff Lemcke.”  Well, of course this got me curious!  Could this be my Anton?  Could this be why he abandoned his children?  I had to know who this man was!

I did a quick search and found that the only facility in Indianapolis was the Indiana Hospital for the Insane, located on Washington Street in Indianapolis.  I went looking for the 1880 census to see if perhaps he was still in the asylum, but to no avail; no inmates with a name even close to his.  But then I thought – what if he died while he was in the hospital?  He was committed in March 1879, so he would have to be listed on the mortality schedule!  And BAM!  There he is … or is he?

Antony Neerdink mortality schedule entry 1880

The name is rare … and close enough that I can’t disregard the record … the rest of the conflicting information is another story.  For example, Antony is listed as 54 years old, born in Indiana, and a farmer.  My Anton was born in 1836, so he would have only been 44 years old in 1880.  I also know he was born in Holland and was a tailor.  He is also shown to have been a resident of Marion County for 2 years – even though he was living in Vanderburgh County as late as March 1879.  But here’s the thing: he wasn’t alive to answer all these questions, so I’m skeptical.

So I did the only thing I could think to do … I requested the records from the State Archives!  After a little over a week and the low, low price of $20 ($10 of which was because I lived out of state), I had a copy of all records from the Central State Hospital for the Insane that existed about Antony Neerdink.  Even if this didn’t turn out to be my guy – how do you not LOVE the fact that I received insane asylum records?!

The first record I looked at was an affidavit signed by Conrad Muth on March 1, 1879, stating that Anton Heerdink is a resident of Pigeon Township, has been insane for two weeks, and is a danger to the community.  It also states that these facts can be proven by Jacob Reis, D? Bryant, Bernard Yeager, and Sophia Bettag.

Anton Heerdink insanity affidavit - Conrad Muth - 1879

I was curious how these strangers (to me) could possibly be trusted to say that this man was insane, so I began to look for relationships.  First, I consulted the Evansville city directory for 1879, knowing that the information may well be from 1878.  My Anton is found in 1879 living at 220 Harriet.  Know who else lives at 220 Harriet?  Bernard Yeager (also a tailor).  Conrad Muth lives at 116 W. Franklin, roughly 2 blocks from Anton.  I was only able to find a D.C. Bryant living at 415 Upper 3rd Street who is a printer at the Evansville Courier.  It’s too far to be a close neighbor, so I’m unsure of their relationship.  I could not find an entry in the directory for Sophia Bettag, but did find a Casper Bettag and Joseph Bettag.  I suppose she could be a spouse or daughter of one of them.  I could not find Sophia locally on the census for either 1870 or 1880.  Oh, and Jacob Reis?  He runs a saloon in town.  That relationship pretty much speaks for itself.

The next document I reviewed was the Physician’s Certificate.  It is undated, but it had to have been completed within a day or two of the other commitment documents.  This document gives Anton’s age as 51 (off by a few years from the mortality schedule).  It says that the “supposed exciting cause of the disease is loss of his wife destitution and being unable to obtain employment.”  He is listed as a widower, Catholic, and a tailor.  It is signed by A. H. Bryan, MD.

Anton Heerdink physician certificate p1 - 1879

A few things strike me about this document.  Other than the age (which is now only 7 years off), all the other allegations match what I know about my Anton.  He was Catholic, he was a widower, and he was a tailor.

Next was the hospital admission page.  This is when his name was changed to “Neerdink.”  This paper claims Anton was admitted on March 4, 1879, age either 51 or 57, widowed, German, a tailor, able to read and write, and Catholic.  For “form of insanity” it gives “melanch.” exciting from “dom. bereave – loss of wife, etc.” which I take to mean domestic bereavement.  It also states that he is refusing food.  I can’t quite make out what it says for “Insane Ideas, Acts, &c.” but I think part of it says “moans.”  I can see that he had a “sachel & clothing” when he was admitted, and that his care is being paid for by the county.

Anton Heerdink - CSH Admission book - 1879 cropped

Again, so far the only thing that doesn’t fit with my Anton is the age.  His country of birth has fluctuated between Germany and Holland since he arrived in the U.S.

The last document with any real information is the County Book, but it pretty much reiterates the information contained on the admission paper … except that it also gives his date of death as July 24, 1879 (just 11 days after the one-year anniversary of Mary’s death).  The cause? Acute melancholia and diarrhea.  I don’t know what’s sadder – that he only survived 4 months after being institutionalized or that it seems like his entire family turned their backs on him. It’s all just sad.  Even if this doesn’t turn out to be my relative, it still breaks my heart.

There is more information that is consistent with Anton Neerdink being my 3rd great grandfather than contradictory information.  Add to the equation that I am unable to find my Anton in any census or city directory after 1879, and the evidence weighs heavy on the side that says they are the same person.

What do you think?  I would love to hear the opinions of someone who isn’t influenced by wanting so desperately for this to be their relative!


Do we share any ancestors?

Please email me at lostancestors [at] gmail [dot] com

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved

Are My Roots Showing?

How Do I Know That?

February 7th, 2014

3d human with a red question mark

As I sat down to process all the new information I’ve received from multiple sources (the Dutch Genealogy Group, a couple of 5th cousins who have been generous enough to share, etc.) about my Heerdink family, I wanted to make sure I was on the right track.  So while I was reviewing certain relationships to make sure they were accurate, I kept asking myself “how do I know that?”  This wasn’t about sources – I mean, it was, but it was more about how I know THAT child belongs with THAT parent, or how THAT husband belongs with THAT wife.

Many of them were pretty easy.  I had a marriage certificate, or a birth or baptism record that was pretty explicit about who the parents and/or spouse were.

My mom was quite clearly my grandmother’s daughter.  I knew that much (plus, I have a copy of her birth certificate).  My grandmother was the daughter of my great grandmother, Lucile Stiker.  I knew this because I have a copy of her birth certificate as well.  Lucile’s parentage is shown by her baptism record and the state birth register – Eugene Stiker and Jeannette Heerdink.  Then I got to the link between Jeannette and my alleged 3rd great grandfather, Anton (Anthony) Heerdink.

Uh oh … the only documentation I have for Jeannette’s parentage is a WPA marriage index for Vanderburgh County, Indiana (father Anthony, mother Mary Diefenbach) and a brief reference in an (unsourced) family history book written by someone on a collateral line.  No census record exists that shows Jeannette with her parents because she was born in 1871 and by 1880 was in an orphanage (her mother died in 1878).  She wouldn’t appear in any city directories during that time because she was a child.

[insert tiny heart attack here]  Well, occurred to me that all this Heerdink research may be moot if I can’t even show how Anton is my 3rd great grandfather!  Take it on blind faith? I don’t think so.  For my peace of mind (and my sanity), I decided to convince myself with the records that were currently in my possession that I was researching the right family.  (If I couldn’t do that, I would have to stop everything and get more documentation).

The first thing I did was take a look at the information I did have for Jeannette.  I had a copy of a cemetery card that listed all of her surviving relatives.  Two of her siblings were listed: Louis Heerdink of Oak Heights, Kentucky and Mrs. Fannie Mackedon of Evansville [Indiana].1

Jennie Stiker burial card 1953

Okay … now do I have anything showing the parentage of Louis or Fannie?   A marriage return for Fannie shows that she married John Mackadon in Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, on 6 November 1889.2

Fannie Mackadon marriage return

A search of Memphis city directories yielded only a mention that John Mackadon removed to Evansville in 1894.  However, a search of Evansville citydirectories shows an entry for John Mackadon in 1896 … and Mrs. Frances.3  Well, if I didn’t know her given name wasn’t “Fannie” before, I did now.

Mackedon city directory clip

The 1870 census for Evansville, Indiana, shows Anton Heerding and his family: wife Mary, son Alexander, daughter Frances, and son John.4

Anton Heerding 1870 census clip

Is this the right family?  I know that Anton/Anthony had a wife named Mary [Diefenbach].  Check.  And there’s Frances at age 3.  Check.  But no Jeannette and no Louis.  Well, I know that Jeannette and Louis were both born after 1870, so they wouldn’t be on this census record.  Hmm.

I have not been able to find an entry for Anton/Anthony on the 1880 census.  However, I did find a listing for Louis.  He is in the St. Vincent’s Orphanage in Vincennes, Knox County, Indiana.  And there are his brothers, John , Henry, and Clarence.5

John Heerding 1880 census clip


First of all, until I found this entry, I never knew the names of the two youngest children.  I heard rumors of them, but this is the first time I’ve been able to confirm their existence.  But there they are, all together (except Alexander, who would have been 16 years old and “too old” for the orphanage – still looking for him in 1880).  Jeannette and Fannie are also not listed because St. Vincent’s was an all-male orphanage.  Jeannette is found at St. Ann’s in Terre Haute and Fannie is working as a servant with another family.

So now I have linked John and Louis as siblings, John and Frances as siblings, Frances and Louis as siblings, and Louis and Jeannette as siblings, which links them all to Anton/Anthony.  I feel a lot more confident about saying that Anton Heerdink is my 3rd great grandfather.

Now I just have to prove HIS parentage … another story for another day.



1 Browning Funeral Home (Evansville, Indiana), “Browning Funeral Home Records,” ID 47614, Mrs. Jennie C. Stiker; Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library, Evansville, Indiana.

2Shelby County, Tennessee, Shelby County Marriages, Book N, page 350, John Mackadon and Fannie Heerdink, 6 November 1889; digital images, Shelby County Register of Deeds ( : downloaded 1 February 2014).

3Bennett & Co.’s Evansville City Directory (Evansville, Indiana: The Courier Company, 1894), p. 430, John Mackedon and Mrs. Frances; digital images, Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library Digital Archive ( : downloaded 7 February 2014).

41870 U.S. Census, Vanderburgh County, Indiana, Ward 7, Evansville, p 17 (penned), dwelling 142, family 141, Anton Heerding; digital images, ( : downloaded 20 August 2013); National Archives and Records Administration.

51880 Census, Knox County, Indiana, Vincennes, enumeration district (ED) 123, p. 19, St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum, John Heerding Louis Heerding, Henry Heerding, Clarence Heerding; digital images, ( : downloaded 2 February 2014); National Archives and Records Administration, Washington DC.


Do we share any ancestors?

Please email me at lostancestors [at] gmail [dot] com

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved

Are My Roots Showing?

Are My Roots Showing?

The chronicle of this woman's perpetual game of hide-and-seek with her ancestors