Finding Henry’s Father

One of my biggest genealogical discoveries last year was a hopeful clue to the parentage of my 4th great grandfather, Henry Hays (1808-1888). I’ve believed that his father’s name is John, but this belief stems from early research I conducted that was not documented at all. (Sham on me.)

To find some leads in Washington County, Maryland, the county of his birth, I searched FamilySearch’s Will Index to the “Maryland Register of Wills Records, 1629-1999” (1a) for Hays or Hayes in Washington County and found 10 matches for the last name.

One record for John Hays in 1833 with John D Eakle as executor seemed interesting because Henry Hays married Sarah Eakle. Even though the “Administration accounts 1833-1836 vol. 10” on pp. 159-161 list a Henry Hays without specifying the relationship, other details in probate records lead me to believe this John Hays is not Henry’s father, but is instead the John Hays listed in the 18 Jan 1825 announcement of the marriage between John Hays and Catherine Eakle listed in the Torch Light and Public Advertiser (2). This background and these relationships will be explored in a future blog post.

Back to the Wills…

After considering the other Washington County Hays entries, I looked through the records for Frederick County (1b) and found an exciting entry for a John Hays in 1811. In John Hays’ Will (1c), a wife, Syellany, is listed with her “three youngest sons, ” Samuel, Barney, and Henry indicating that “my wife Syellany Hayes should continue my youngest son Henry Hayes to school until he learns the art of book keeping and surveying.” Since my Henry Hays would have been 2 and a half, this instruction could fit his timeline.

To strengthen the connection between this John Hays and my Henry Hays, I’ve started looking for other records of the family. However, so far, the only record I’ve found is the baptism record for Barney. (3, 4) A Barnabas Hays born to John and Silana on 1 Apr 1793 was christened at Jacob’s Lutheran Church in Washington County, Maryland.

The hunt continues…

If you are a descendant of John Hays or Henry Hays, I would love to hear from you and discuss any research or DNA testing that you’re working on.


(1) “Maryland Register of Wills Records, 1629-1999.” Images. FamilySearch. ( : accessed 24 Feb 2016.) Citing Prerogative Court. Hall of Records, Annapolis.
(1a) Washington County, Will index 1777-1850; H Index (Images 88-102)
(1b) Frederick County, Will index 1747-1930 (Image 102 of 236)
(1c) Frederick County, Wills 1809-1815 vol. 1 (Image 86 of 310)

(2) “The Torch Light And Public Advertiser (Hagerstown, Maryland)” digital images. ( accessed 11 Jan 2017) Marriage announcement for John Hays and Catherine Eakle, 18 Jan 1825, p.4.

(3) “Maryland Births and Christenings, 1650-1995,” database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 27 February 2016), Entry for Barnabas Hays, 01 Apr 1793.

(4) Wright, F. Edward. 1988. Washington County, Maryland church records of the 18th century. Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications. p. 61.

Naturalization numbers, index, and petitions on FamilySearch

Does anyone have any idea why the naturalization numbers and names mentioned in an index wouldn’t match with the names and numbers on the naturalization petition images? Are there different numbering systems?

I started with the tip sheet (1) that Rosanna Hogarty posted to the Chicago Genealogy page on Facebook. The tip sheet was clear and organized well. And, I was excited to jump right into the search.

But, I was puzzled that for two out of three of my Polish great grandparents that I found in the index, the numbers listed on the index card led me to a petition for a different person.


First, the one that matched. Louisa Smasz’ record in the index (2) did match the record the petition (3). It was also easy to find using the tips provided by Hogarty.

Ludwika Smarz Naturalization Index image snippet
Louisa Smasz in index (record P. 234127) (2)

Ludwika Smarz Petition image snippet
Louisa Smasz petition (record P.234127) (3)

First Mismatch

While I found an index record for Louisa Smasz’ husband, Piotr, the name on the petition did not match. Piotr’s index card (4) listed number P.56992, but the application with number P. 56992 (5) belonged to someone named John Silinskas. The doubly strange part of this is that I have a copy of Piotr Smasz’ petition number P. 56992 (6) that was included in a packet from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services FOIA request response. The “best reproducible copy” may not be the best, but the petition number and name are readable in the paper copy and match Peter Smasz’ index card. Unfortunately, I couldn’t produce a readable image to share in the blog.

Piotr Smarz Naturalization Index image snippet
Piotr Smasz in index (record P. 56992) (4)

Silinskas Petition image snippet
John Silinskas petition (record P.56992) (5)

Second Mismatch

Similarly, Vincent Szubinski’s index card (7) listed number P.69199, but the application with number P.69199 (8) belonged to a person named Erik Hugo Peterson. I also have a copy of Vincent Szubinski’s petition from the USCIS Genealogy Program (9) that does match his index card and is clear enough to share here.

Wincenty Szubinski Index image snippet
Vincent Szubinki in index (record P.69199) (7)

Peterson Petition image snippet
Erik Hugo Peterson’s petition (record P.69199) (8)

Wincenty Szubinski Petition image snippet
Vincent Szubinski Naturalization Petition from USCIS Genealogy Program (9)

I did try browsing the petition images by the petition date instead of petition number, but didn’t find Piotr’s or Vincent’s peitions in the online images.


I noticed when comparing the FamilySearch images to the USCIS copies that the image of the naturalization petitions available through FamilySearch are original copies while the copies of naturalization petitions available from the USCIS Genealogy Program are duplicate copies.

I am thankful that the FOIA request yielded the response that I received. One explanation is one the USCIS Genealogy Program website (10):

The USCIS Genealogy Program uses indices unlike any immigration or naturalization index available to the public. Our unique Master Index system is a combination of index tools—partially automated and partially manual—that work together to identify and locate old agency files and records. 

I’m am very curious why a person would be indexed in “Illinois, Northern District Naturalization Index, 1840-1950,” when their petition doesn’t appear in “Illinois, Northern District Petitions for Naturalization, 1906-1994.”

I would love to hear from anyone who knows why this discrepancy is happening or from anyone experiencing similar challenges.

The lesson is to not give up, even if you don’t find the records where you think you should.


(1) Rosanna Hogarty; Chicago Genealogy group on Facebook; uploaded file; 20 Oct 2015: accessed 24 Mar 2016; “How to use the Illinois District Court Records Naturalization files on” file

(2) “Illinois, Northern District Naturalization Index, 1840-1950,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 7 April 2016), Ludwika Smarz, 1941; citing Chicago, Illinois, NARA microfilm publication M1285 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 164; FHL microfilm 1,432,164.

(3) “Illinois, Northern District Petitions for Naturalization, 1906-1994,” images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 25 April 2016), Cook County > Petitions, 1941, v. 965, no. 233901-234250 > image 708 of 1079, Ludwika Smarz, P.234127; citing NARA NAID 593882, National Archives at Chicago, Illinois.

(4) “Illinois, Northern District Naturalization Index, 1840-1950,” database with images,FamilySearch ( : accessed 7 April 2016), Piotr Smarz, 1924; citing Illinois, NARA microfilm publication M1285 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 164; FHL microfilm 1,432,164.

(5) “Illinois, Northern District Petitions for Naturalization, 1906-1994,” images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 25 April 2016), Cook County > Petitions, 1928, v. 326, no. 56801-57050 > image 708 of 926, John Silinskas, P.56992; citing NARA NAID 593882, National Archives at Chicago, Illinois.

(6) U.S. Department of Homeland Security. C-File. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Washington, D.C., C-1784133, Piotr Smarz, age 35, Superior Court, Chicago, IL, 7 March 1924, FOIA request fulfilled 15 Feb 2015

(7) “Illinois, Northern District Naturalization Index, 1840-1950,” database with images,FamilySearch ( : accessed 7 April 2016), Wincenty Szubinski, 1926; citing Illinois, NARA microfilm publication M1285 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 151; FHL microfilm 1,432,151.

(8) “Illinois, Northern District Petitions for Naturalization, 1906-1994,” images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 25 April 2016), Cook County > Petitions, 1929, v. 375 no. 69051-69300 > image 575 of 963, Erik Hugo Peterson, P.69199; citing NARA NAID 593882, National Archives at Chicago, Illinois.

(9) U.S. Department of Homeland Security. C-File. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Washington, D.C., C-2337865, Wincenty Szinbinski, b 15 Jul 1884, Superior Court, Chicago, IL, 30 Apr 1926, FOIA request fulfilled 30 Nov 2010

(10) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; “USCIS Genealogy Program – Searching the Index” accessed 25 April 2016

SSA Form SS-5 Leads

It was very exciting when I received the Form SS-5 copies of the social security applications for Vincent Szubinski and Peter Anthony Smasz.

For Peter (1), the form supplied a middle name that I had never found before. The names of his parents were the same as recorded previously except for his mother’s last name. Sophia Wojcik was listed in the Form SS-5, while Sophia Blizniak was listed in Peter’s death certificate. Since the Form SS-5 was completed 30 years earlier and by Peter instead of by another person, as in the death certificate, I set Wojcik as the preferred name in FTM.

Continue reading SSA Form SS-5 Leads

Thank you to #NGS2015GEN for the Home Study Course Scholarship

Helping people tell their stories has always been a passion of mine. I’ve been doing this for years as a career advisor to alumni from the University of Illinois. But, those stories focused on the world of work and my clients’ professional lives.

I’m intrigued by the research questions that arise within family history and wish to dive into these questions more deeply. The John T. Humphrey Scholarship will help me achieve these goals. The American Genealogical Studies courses would firm-up the foundation of the education that I have already built, fill in gaps, and provide the recommended structure for citing and reporting on the information I collect.

Continue reading Thank you to #NGS2015GEN for the Home Study Course Scholarship

A Full #NGS2015GEN Friday

While I could only attend this one day of the #NGS2015GEN conference, I packed it full.  I was so excited about all the things that I would learn and the people that I would meet.

I was not disappointed.

I’ll need to process the amazing amount of information and review my notes, but here is a review of the topics.

8:00 am – Problem Solving: Using a Cast of Characters by Ann Carter Fleming, CG, CGL, FNGS @BCGenealogists sponsor

9:30 am – The Problem-Solver’s Great Trifecta: GPS+FAN+DNA with Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA @BCGenealogists sponsor

11 am – Researching Online at the Maryland State Archives Website by Michael Hait, CG

FGS Luncheon – Lincoln Lives: 21st Century Access to Resources Documenting the Life and Times of Father Abraham with Curt B. Witcher, MLS, FUGA, IGSF

2:30 pm – Forensic Genealogy Meets the Genealogical Proof Standard by Michael S. Ramage, JD, CG

4 pm – What is a “Reasonably Exhaustive Search?” with Michael Hait, CG @BCGenealogists sponsor

7 pm – NGS Banquet John P. Colletta will entertain us with this burning question: Why Great-Grandpa Shaved Off His Mustache: Tales of Our Ancestors and the Weather. Stories of winter through the centuries and across the country illustrate how weather affected our ancestors’ lives.

Social Security Requests

I took a risk and opted to request the extracts instead of the full photocopies of the SS-5 application.  The responses contained enough information to verify death date, residence at time of death, birth date, and birth location, but parent’s names were not included.

Since I was looking for information on my two maternal great grandfathers, the extract isn’t enough information. I wanted to see if the parents are listed. I also want to confirm that only Poland was listed as the birth place. So, I will be submitting additional requests.

For information on requesting information from the SSA, visit

“Cousin” Sean Hayes on #WDYTYA

If I was as genealogically lucky as my husband, I would be related to everyone who bears my maiden name. While that isn’t as easy for the Hays/Hayes clan as the Bartimus descendants, I still feel a kinship when I hear the name.

I also like to hear the different Hays/Hayes stories to see where paths parallel and diverge. It is amazing that Hays/Hayes could be Scottish, Irish, English, German, and even French.

I’m looking forward to hearing Sean Hayes’ story on today’s episode of #WDYTYA. The teaser indicates that his lineage is Irish, but doesn’t yet mention his American roots.

So far, I can only trace my father’s Hays line back to Washington County, Maryland in the early 1800’s. Henry Hays is reported to have been born in that county in 1808. While I have not yet found direct evidence to support the birth date and location, he did marry Sarah Eakle in Washington County, Maryland in 1832 and buy and sell land between 1843 and 1854. (See source information below)

Continue reading “Cousin” Sean Hayes on #WDYTYA

Polka Celebration for Illinois

As I was scanning headlines earlier this week, I found one that had my half Polish heart standing up to take notice.

A Grammy award winning polka song is close to becoming the Illinois state song.

The Article originally appeared on the The Southern but was also carried on the Chicago Tribuine, which is where I first noticed the headline.

Source: Maddox, J. (2015, March 26). Committee approves polka song as state symbol. Retrieved March 28, 2015, from

As most polkas, it is an up beat song that had me on my feet and dancing. The song “Polka Celebration” will help as stated “chase away the blues.”

The song version shared on the Trib was clearer, but the version shared by The Southern has a great video of Eddie Blazonczyk’s Versatones in concert.

Here is the version shared by

Unfortunately the State’s official dance has already been declared the square dance.

Although, for a woman whose father’s family came from the farmland of Ogle County, Illinois, and whose mother’s family is south side Chicago Polish, this mix is fairly appropriate.

Obits & an Inquest

Henry Hays, reportedly born in 1808, was killed in 1888. Because he is my four times great grandfather, I have been curious about the facts of his life since I started researching in 2003. Initially, I only had information from family bibles. My challenge with this source if I don’t know who originally entered the information on the family page.

I know that he has a shared family plot in Fairmount Cemetery in Polo, Illinois, but I haven’t found officially information regarding his death yet.

Continue reading Obits & an Inquest