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From the Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill – 12/1/1999

Michael's Christmas Wish List

Genealogy in General
1) The continued push for accuracy and citation of digital information--Genealogists should continue to encourage the development of digital sources that represent the original record as closely as possible (errors and all) and that indicate the original source of the information. It's always "genealogy Christmas" when I locate something online and can determine where it actually came from.

2) The continued push to "cite your sources"--Tracking the location of genealogical information is an integral part of the research process. A GEDCOM file that has sources cited is always a welcome genealogical present.

3) The continued push to "not just copy someone's information into your own files without checking it first"--Online GEDCOM files (such as the Ancestry World Tree) are a great source for leads and contacts. The information from these GEDCOM files most likely hints at original record sources and online databases. Follow up on these leads by accessing actual records and using online database like those at Communicate with the researcher from whom you actually obtained the GEDCOM file. They might have more information or be willing to collaborate to solve additional problems. And wouldn't more information be a welcome present?

4) The continued addition of online databases that are specific or regional in scope--As I review the list of databases at, I am always amazed at the number of databases that focus on a county or a city. While these databases individually do not attract as many users as do the larger national ones, some researchers benefit greatly by these focused sources.

5) The creation of indexes to records that currently are largely unindexed--Court records come to mind as one vast source where little has been done in this regard, especially in states west of the original thirteen colonies and in court records other than probates or wills. While such a task would be onerous, many genealogists would benefit. There are many counties where an index to all the names in the first fifty years of will record books (or similar journals) would be extremely helpful. Indexes to court case packet files would be a similar boon, but the development would be a long-term project.

6) The continued involvement of genealogical societies, organizations, and individuals to make certain that records are accessible to genealogists and that records continue to be preserved. While more records come online every day, the original records themselves are still important and necessary to preserve. Involvement in your own society can help to ensure that original records are not lost. To locate a society in your area of interest, visit the FGS Society Hall at:

7) The continued preservation of records by microfilming and other reproduction means. There are vast amounts of original records in county courthouses, state archives, and the National Archives that are accessible only in their original paper format. American Civil War Union pension records are one such source that is ONLY available through some type of physical contact with the actual record itself (either in person, by National Archives staff, or a professional genealogist). While it would be a significant financial undertaking, such a project would be a significant boon to genealogists. The Stern-NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) Gift Fund was been established to fund the creation of finding aids and the microfilming of records in the National Archives. One of their current projects is to raise enough funds to film the War of 1812 pension and bounty-land warrants. More information can be obtained at These records are also currently unmicrofilmed.

8) The continued emphasis by local, state, regional, and national genealogical groups on education and genealogical skill improvement--With interest in genealogy continuing to grow, the need for opportunities in which to learn increases. Workshops and conferences with audience size from 10 to 2,000 strive to meet the growing needs of the genealogical community.

9) The continued growth in the number of "younger" people involved in genealogy. The Internet has made research easier for those whose job and family obligations seriously restrict genealogical research from nine to five. While onsite research is still a necessity, the Internet has opened up genealogical doors for those whose children are still underfoot and whose retirement date is nearly three decades away.

10) Study in the archival longevity of digital media to determine how to best preserve information into the twenty-second century and beyond. The genealogical community needs to be concerned about the archival quality of digital media (punch cards anyone?).

11) A biggie: the digitization of SS-5 forms for deceased individuals and the ability to access this information via the Internet. SS-5 forms for deceased individuals are available under the Freedom of Information Act. This form (which is an application for a social security number) contains the name of the individual, their parents' names (including mother's maiden name), their birth date and birth place and other information. These forms represent a vast source to genealogists. The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is already available for online searching at several sites, including It must be noted that the SSDI was not originally created for genealogists and its conversion to online searchable format was not as formidable a task as the digitalization of the SS-5 forms would be.

12) The cessation of hostilities in the foreign countries where many of us have ancestral ties--Northern Ireland is of personal interest, but many readers have family ties to areas town by war and strife. Let's hope that some day those who are able can travel to their ancestral homelands without concerns over safety.

Michael's Personal Wish List
1) The names of the parents of William Ira and Florence Ellen (BUTLER) SARGENT, living in Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois, in 1880. Ira was a native Canadian born ca. 1845, Ellen was supposedly a Missouri native born a few years later. To all of you who have been banging your head against a wall for years on one problem, I sympathize. It's been nearly twenty years and I'm still banging.

2) The Schatzungsregister for 1719 in Ostfriesland, Germany. This book is supposed to contain the names of everyone over the age of twelve living in most of the Ostfriesland area of Germany during this year. I won't go into details here, but the discovery of unique resources like this is one reason to subscribe to listserves that focus on areas in your ethnic background! Fortunately, I know Santa is bringing this one already.

Good luck and may Santa be good to you this Christmas!

Michael John Neill, is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry Magazine and Genealogical Computing.

Used by the author on his website with permission.

Other Genealogy Articles by Michael John Neill