It’s October, and we of course are all celebrating “National Family History Month.” Have you decorated yet? I noticed everyone is getting into the spirit of National Family History Month with skeletons, witches, and even a few headstones springing up in front yards. Well done!
As part of my own celebration I decided to finally join a lineage society. You know, those organizations that only accept members with ancestors who meet certain elevated standards, like Daughters of the American Revolution, or Colonial Dames of America, or… the Associated Daughters of Early American Witches. Yes!
Descendants of the Illegitimate Sons & Daughters of the Kings of Britain
Associated Daughters of Early American Witches
Flagon and Trencher (descendants of early tavern or innkeepers)
Order of Descendants of Pirates and Privateers
Registry of Infamous and Famous Relatives in American Families
National Society of Saints and Sinners
Alas/fortunately, I do not qualify for any of those societies. Looking forward to the next big holiday I love to celebrate—Thanksgiving (because I was born on Thanksgiving and I really like pie)—I plan to apply to The General Society of Mayflower Descendants or National Society of Old Plymouth Colony Descendants. They don’t let you join just because you like pie, however, so I will need to come up with some proof of descendancy from my 10th great-grandparents, John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. I will let you know how it goes.
Were you excited when the Wonder Woman movie hit theaters recently? I was! Like you, I was obsessed with the thought of, “What kind of records can I find for Diana Prince?” Lucky for us both, it was not as hard as one might expect for someone who was born on a magical island inhabited by Amazons and once worked as a military intelligence officer.
Not surprisingly, her military records were not easy to locate, but the “island with Amazons” story led me to uncover her super-secret life as a wife and mother—and her never-before-revealed Italian roots!
As always, the Fairy Tale Genealogist has the records to prove it! Just get a load of this Brazilian immigration document for one Vittorio Piccinini:
If your Portuguese is rusty it is still better than mine, but here is what we learn: Vittorio Piccinini, who was born in Milan, Italy in 1914, arrived in Brazil in 1948 and is the son of none other than Angelo Piccinini and Diana Principe! Of course we all know Diana Principe—later anglicised to Diana Prince—as Wonder Woman.
With Vittorio coming to Brazil there is no doubt his parents were right behind him. It is easy to see how the whole confusion about Amazons (a race of immortal super-women that lived on the magical Paradise Island) and the Amazon (a tropical rainforest that is part of Brazil) thing got started with Diana once a few publicists with over-active imaginations dicovered she had lived in Brazil. And come on, she named her kid Vittorio—Italian for conqueror!
Settlers had a variety of “pushes” or “pulls” that influenced them to hitch up a wagon and make the trek Out West. The 1800s was a time of unprecedented territorial growth for America, and the native peoples of the West saw an influx of settlers of every kind.
Frontier forts gave some soldiers their first glimpse of the region and they decided to settle there after their service was finished. Trappers and traders followed native trails and established trading posts utilized by other migrating groups. The Homestead Act, the end of the Civil War, and the transcontinental railroad brought waves of families looking for opportunity. Foreign countries sent colonists to stake claims in the West, and religious groups sought refuge in the region.
A lesser-known influence on the settlement of the West as a whole was the mining industry. Most people are aware of the California Gold Rush, and some may know about the Nevada Comstock Lode, but how many of these other mineral strikes are you familiar with?
1850 Queen Charlotte, B.C.
1850 Northern Nevada
1856-1858 Arizona (silver)
1858-1961 British Columbia
1858 Cherry Creek (Denver)
1859 Pike’s Peak, Colorado
1859 Virginia City, Nevada
1863 Black Hills, Montana
1860s/1870s East. Oregon
1870’s Leadville, Colorado
1870’s – 1880’s Arizona
1890’s Silver at Creede Gold at Cripple Creek, Colorado
Mining influenced the creation of territories and states, and here’s how:
The discovery of gold, silver, copper, lead, etc. was broadcast through word of mouth or newspapers.
Miners flooded into an area
Temporary mining communities sprang up, and sometimes mining companies were created.
These settlements preceded any form of government, and they were rough places. There were mostly men, and the diversions that came along with that—saloons and brothels and such. Add to that sudden wealth in some cases and frustration in others, and the potential for crime was high. It was every man for himself, and sometimes the mining companies were the closest thing to government for solving grievances.
Military was dispatched to the area to help keep order, and then when enough people were in an area they started to want official government for protection and adjudication of problems.
Territorial governments followed along with a Court system.
More people moved into the area once territories were created.
When enough people settled in a territory a state was created.
Was your ancestor a miner? Where can you find records for him? It varies by state and county—there are no hard and fast rules. Here are a few places you might look:
Look for mining claims in deed records in county courthouses
Look for mining claims on the glorecords.blm.gov website (Bureau of Land Management)
State archives often have records of mining companies, mining districts, and mining accidents
Newspapers can be a resource for mining records, especially specialized mining newspapers
Some states have mining departments with knowledgeable personnel, indexes, and maps
Mining museums have been established in many areas, and often have libraries
University Special Collections in the state you are researching
Territorial records can also be found on the county level sometimes
Here is a quick guide and links to the territorial papers available at the Family History Library:
State Department territorial papers, Arizona, 1864-1872, FHL film 1580035
State Department territorial papers: Colorado series, FHL film 1464017
Territorial papers, Idaho, 1863-1872 FHL film 1580038
Territorial papers of Montana, 1864-1872, FHL films 1602228 -9
State department territorial papers, Nevada, 1861-1864 FHL film 1491200
State department territorial papers: New Mexico, 1851-1972, FHL films 1580030-33
State Department territorial papers, Utah series, FHL film 491567
Interior Department territorial papers, Utah, 1850-1902, FHL films 1602234 -9
Territorial papers of Wyoming, 1868-1873, FHL film 1602230
Here are some published finding aids for territorial records:
Kvasnicka, Robert M. The Trans-Mississippi West, 1804-1912: A Guide to Federal Records for the Territorial Period, pts. I-IV (Washington, District of Columbia : National Archives and Records Administration, c1993-1996).
Chiorazzi, Michael. Pre-Statehood Legal Materials: A Fifty-State Research Guide, including New York City and the District of Columbia, 2 volumes (New York : The Haworth Information Press, 2005).
Some other good resources are:
United States, The public statutes at large of the United States of America / by authority of Congress (Boston : Little, Brown, n.d.)
United States. Congress. House and Senate Documents and Reports, United States Congressional Serial Set (Washington : U.S. G.P.O., n.d.).
United States. Congress, American State Papers, 38 vol (Buffalo, N. Y. : W.S. Hein, 1998)