There are many ways we can review our genealogical files. An occasional perusal
of "old" information is a great way to catch errors, notice new leads,
and follow up on items that somehow originally were missed by your genealogy
radar. This week, we'll take a look at some old columns I have written with
a particular focus.
The day this column originally runs would be my paternal grandfather's 100th
birthday. Cecil Neill was born on 29 October 1903 near Stillwell in Hancock
County, Illinois. Like many of his generation, he did not have a certificate
registering his birth, even though the county had begun recording births nearly
thirty years earlier. Half-Irish, his ancestry covers a wide area of the United
States and a wide variety of resources have been used in researching his ancestry.
In today's column, we look at a variety of older articles that have touched
on his ancestry in some way shape or form.
Selective Service Records
In "Selective Service Records," we discussed how genealogists can obtain
copies of American Selective Service records for their deceased ancestors. In
order for me to obtain a copy of my grandfather's selective service record from
the World War II era, it was necessary to include a copy of his death certificate.
From this record, I received a copy of his registration card, which included
birth information and his signature. This article can be found
Analyzing Pre-1850 Census Records
A four-part series analyzed pre-1850 census records for Pennsylvanian Thomas
Chaney, one of my grandfather's ancestors. The largest difficulty with pre-1850
census records is that only heads of household are listed and other family members
are enumerated in aggregate head counts only. This series of articles looks
at Thomas Chaney's pre-1850 census records in some detail and includes links
to the actual census images used.
Analyzing ancestral biographies from those old county histories can bring new
research clues to the forefront. The difficulty with many of these biographies
is that they contain much superfluous prose and they are not always written
in purely chronological order. The article
Analysis" presents an analysis of a Chaney cousin of my grandfather,
taken from a "mug book" in the late nineteenth century.
Court records are an excellent genealogical tool and have been very helpful
in the search for my grandfather's ancestors. The article "Killing
the Hogs and Threatening the NeighborsCourt Records Solve a Kentucky Problem"
discusses how court records were used to prove a parentage in early nineteenth-century
Kentucky, one of the many places and time periods where court records are particularly
Most of my grandfather's ancestors were farmers, at least in the United States.
I always try to use land records in these cases. The one potential problem is
that every ancestor who was a farmer did not necessarily own land.
Did the Farm Go?"
Wild: Using % and _ at the Bureau of Land Management Website
A more comprehensive listing of land articles from this column can be viewed
In Analyze the Tradition several family traditions from my own family
are discussed. Included is a story on my grandfather's grandfather Rampley,
a Civil War veteran who supposedly met his wife and decided he would marry her
before even talking to her. Looking closely at your own family traditions may
cause you to see overlooked research opportunities. This article can be viewed
in the Ancestry
Daily News archives.
Women and Property
Like everyone else, half of my grandfather's ancestors were women. One ancestress
was Sarah Turberville, who died in Orange County, Virginia, in the 1760s. Based
upon her probate and other information, she is believed to have outlived four
husbands. A series of previous articles discusses Sarah, her husbands, her children,
and her estate in some detail. (Please make certain to read the entire series
before sending any comments.)
Oft-Married Sarah," part I
around to Figure Sarah Out, part II"
Reality of Sarah's Realty, part III"
For some genealogists there is no greater thrill than finding an original copy
of an ancestor's signature. The article "In
Their Own Hand" discusses several types of records where ancestral signatures
may be obtained. Several of these examples are from my grandfather's ancestry,
including records in Illinois, Maryland, and Virginia.
topic Article Brings Results" discusses how an article unrelated to my
actual research got my work on my Neill family jump-started. After getting my
mind back on my own problem, I located the marriage bond for my grandfather's
grandparents in New Brunswick, Canada, in the 1860s. An additional lesson here
is that websites for state or provincial archives should always be referenced
for their services, bibliographic materials, and online databases. And it never
hurts to read an article you think "won't help." You never know when
it just might cause something else to "click."
Many surnames in my grandfather's pedigree have few spelling variants and are
relatively easy to search for in records. This can make research easier, but
it can also make things more difficult when there are serious spelling or legibility
problems. The best example is from the 1880 census. The township where Grandpa's
Rampley relatives settled was also heavily settled by Germans, one of whom was
the 1880 census enumerator. He did a great job with the German names, but the
non-German names occasionally are listed in unusual ways. Grandpa's Rampley
relatives are listed as Ramlei, Ramplei, and Rampley. In some cases, analyzing
the first names was extremely important in order to locate the correct family.
The 1880 images for various members of the Rampley family are viewable here.
The article analyzing these entries can be found in the
Daily News archives.
Using the Ancestry.com Library
We've mentioned the Ancestry Daily News archives several times in this
article and readers are encouraged to take a look at previous writings from
the Ancestry Daily News penned by all the columnists. There is a wealth
of information, particularly articles discussing research methodology and online
It is easy to use the Ancestry.com library. Articles are classified by broad
If it is a specific article or topic for which you are searching, the Learning
Section has a
search box. This
search box works best if you have a specific topic in mind or remember a key
phrase from an article or its title.
Reviewing Your own Material
Consider using ancestral birthdays or anniversaries as a time to review your
own genealogical files. You never know what leads and ideas may be sitting in
your files, just waiting for you to rediscover them.
Copyright 2003, MyFamily.com. 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 and Genealogical
Computing. You can email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit his website at: www.rootdig.com/,
but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.
Used by the author on his website with permission.