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Animals and genealogy

“Dan Patch” lives on in my family tradition, probably around 130 years after he died. Who was Dan Patch? The farm horse who had the good fortune, or lack thereof, to be photographed alongside my great-great grandmother.
A few other “ancestral animals” were captured in my family record. They were photographed alongside family children or, if a farm animal, alongside their farmer. If I’m lucky, the photographer recorded their names alongside those being photographed. But it’s rare.
Although we have many records tracing our human ancestors, there are far fewer tracing their animal companions. To be honest, I’d never considered including my ancestor’s pets in my family narratives – until today.
I did a very last minute run to the Family History Library before leaving Salt Lake City. The intent was to track down a death record copy for a client. On the same film, however, I made a surprising discovery. In addition to the vital records, the microfilm also included the town’s dog registration for 1886 and 1887. It listed owner, name, breed, and more.
That got me thinking. What are our sources for tracing our ancestor’s pets? There are a few sources that come to mind. They might be included in photographs, as mine were. The agricultural schedules for the U.S. census list the number of cows, horses, and other farm animals owned by the occupant. And there are gems like the dog registry. What sources do you know?


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