Saturday, June 22, 2024

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Genealogy "Rabbit Hole" Did You Go Down Recently?

Tonight's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun topic from Randy Seaver is a favorite of genealogical researchers everywhere.

Come on, everybody, join in and accept the mission and execute it with precision.

1.  What genealogy "rabbit hole" did you go down recently?  Did you have genealogy fun?  How did it help your genealogy research?

2.  Share your response on your own blog or in a Facebook post.  Please share a link in Comments on this post if you write your own post.

What?  Genealogists falling down rabbit holes?  Who would have thought such a thing could happen?

The most recent rabbit hole I went down was totally the fault of Reclaim the Records, that scrappy little nonprofit that's filing lawsuits all over the country when records jurisdictions don't follow Freedom of Information rules, even their own, and then sharing all the records they acquire freely and publicly through the Internet Archive.  I love them!  (And I remember when Brooke Schreier Ganz started the whole thing!)

I don't remember when the various New Jersey indices were posted, and RtR doesn't put dates on a lot of its posts, but a couple of months ago I started poking around.  They have New Jersey Marriage Index, 1901–2016; New Jersey Death Index, 1904–2017; New Jersey Birth, Marriage, and Death Indices, 1901–1903 and 1901–1914; and New Jersey Geographic Birth Index and Delayed Birth Index, 1901–1929.

I have a lot of New Jersey relatives.  For many of them I did not have specific birth, marriage, or death dates.  My father and both of his parents were born in New Jersey, and I had their information, but between multiple relationships on both sides and half-siblings all over the place, I didn't have documentation for everybody else.  So I decided one evening to start looking.

I think it started innocently enough.  All I wanted originally was to find the birth dates of three of my grandfather's siblings, for whom I had only "about" and a year.  And then I figured while I was looking, I should find all of the siblings in the birth index, just to verify that I had the correct dates.  Oh, and maybe I should look up all their marriages.  Oh wait, some of those siblings didn't live to adulthood, so I should look for them in the death index.

Several hours later . . . .

I had lots of fun, but I still don't have everyone!  I found one of the birth dates, but two are still missing.  The birth index showed a different date for one of the siblings for whom I already had a date.  I can't find death dates for three children.  And three marriage dates are still hiding from me also (although it's possible one or more of those might not have taken place in New Jersey; lots of people in Jersey went to good old Elkton, Maryland, as my aunt did).  Or maybe some of those couples didn't actually get married.

One amusing discovery was finding the original index entry for my grandfather and then a handwritten one based on his amended birth certificate.

I wrote several years ago about my frustrating and fruitless search for my grandfather's birth certificate and how it took my sister going in person to the New Jersey State Archives to discover that he had been recorded as a girl on his birth record, explaining why I had been unsuccessful in three attempts at finding a birth certificate for a boy.  The lovely archivists had also unearthed an amendment to the original birth certificate, filed by my great-grandmother 37 years later, changing Grampa from a girl to a boy.

Well, both of those records are reflected in the state birth index.

Birth index showing Gertrude Armstrong (bottom), born April 6, 1903, page 7173
(edited image)

Birth index showing Bertram L. Sellers (bottom), born April 6, 1903, page 7173
(edited image)

And in a very strange coincidence, the handwriting for the entry for the amended birth certificate strongly resembles my grandfather's handiwriting.


  1. I've been down the NJ RiR rabbit hole several times. I found a few records, but there is probably more to still be found. Congrats on your finds.

    1. Thank you! I think I vaguely recall that you have New Jersey relatives. I have Jersey roots going back centuries, but most of those people won't show up in what RtR has available, so I'm happy I found some!

  2. Now that's a good rabbit hole to go down!


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