Imagine my surprise when I found that a sea captain in my family tree had filed a patent application. I knew he was in many newspaper articles, and in the history books for Hawaii, where he lived with his wife from Boston. One day, at GenealogyBank.com I was searching for more newspaper accounts when I failed to click on just newspapers and pulled up historical documents instead. I had many hits there for the name "John Dominis" which was terrific, and some of these were related to his patent applications. It described his invention as "a measuring instrument for sails".
When you find an ancestor who is an inventor, the place to look for records is at Google.com/patents There you can enter the name and it will pull up patent applications filed under that name, or witnessed by that name. I had used this in the past to search for my 2x great grandfather, Peter Hoogerzeil, who we knew was an inventor because of oral history (see this link for the story http://nutfieldgenealogy.blogspot.com/2011/01/perusing-google-patents.html) When I entered the name "John Dominis" this is the application that came up!
The application contains much complicated mathematics and calculations, and I was very impressed. I know that Captain John Dominis was from Croatia, but his application is very well written. I don't recognize the names of his witnesses, and his application describes him as a "citizen of the United States of America now residing in the Sandwich Islands, in the Pacific Ocean" and it was filed in 1842.
Now you know to never assume that an ancestor doesn't have any historical documents such as a patent for an invention! And you know where to look for those patents, too.
Copyright 2012, Heather Wilkinson Rojo