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From the Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill – 11/2/1999


Using the Indiana Pre-1850 Marriage Index

Individuals with ancestors who married in Indiana pre-1850 have access to a database of marriages in the state during that time. The site is a part of the Indiana State Library website. Information on the history of the project is available at:
http://www.statelib.lib.in.us/www/isl/indiana/genealogy/mirinfo.html#History

The URL to search is at:
http://www.statelib.lib.in.us/www/ISL/indiana/genealogy/mirr.html

Personally, I like to save the result pages to my hard drive and view/manipulate them offline. When I tried this with my results from the Indiana marriage index, what was on my hard drive was not what had been located when I searched and was not what appeared on my screen when I saved the file. I was not alone in my problem. What follows are two ways to deal with this situation. The first is the easiest method to use. Of course, one can always print out the results and manually enter them into a database.

Copy/Paste
Printing out the results is nice, but having them on a disk in a computer format is even nicer. A copy/paste approach will work and may be easier for some users. Once the results screen has been obtained, the user can select the desired information and copy it to their clipboard (usually by choosing "copy" under the "edit" menu, or by hitting the appropriate keys for your browser and operating system). The information can then be pasted into a word processor (you must open a document in your word processor first). While not the most sophisticated method, copy/paste does have the following advantages:

1) It is fast and easy.
2) It allows the user to type comments, notes, and research ideas within the results.

The main disadvantage is that the results normally will not paste in a nice format. This approach will work for the vast majority of Web sites. Users who are more comfortable with their computer and manipulating files may find the following approach helpful. In this case, saving is not as simple as it might appear.

Saving to Your Hard Drive
Most Web pages can be saved to your hard drive. This is done normally by going to "file" and choosing "save as." There are two file formats that can be used when a Web page is saved, text or source. Saving as a text file only saves the text on the page, tables and graphics (and most formatting) are not saved. Saving as source saves not only the text but also the formatting and layout of the page.

In this case, the table, background, and other formatting are not necessary to obtain the data and will only have to be stripped later if we are to import the data into other software programs. For this reason, I'll save the file as a text file. But for this database, it will not be as simple as that.

I conducted a search for my surname of Newman by going to the N-O-P-Q-R portion of the marriage index. I did a save as and used the text file option. However, when I viewed the results from my hard drive, I did not find any Newmans. Instead I found the first entries under the letter "N." This was not a good thing. The formatting and background were gone but this was to be expected (since I did not save the file as "source"). I wanted the results of my search not the first matches under the "Ns."

I tried a search for Rampley in the same portion of the index and found two hits. I saved this same page on my hard drive. When I opened this page from the hard drive, I had the same list of names I had for the Newman search. I went back and redid the search and saved each file with separate names to make certain I had not messed the files up. I had not.

Some more experimentation led me to the conclusion that when I saved the results I was getting the names for the very start of the section I was searching. Since the Newman and Rampley entries were in the same portion of the database (the N-R section) I was getting the same information when I saved each search. I noted that when I "saved" the browser contacted the site again for information, which was when the other results were obtained.

Those who wish to save the exact information to their hard drives are not without hope in using this site. It can be done but it takes a little more time and finesse.

I noticed when I did a search for Rampley or Newman, the URL of the results page was the same:
http://www.statelib.lib.in.us/tango/marriage/n-o-p-q-r.qry?function=search&start=1

While it was set to display the results correctly, when I saved the file, the computer went and "grabbed" the names from the N-R section of the index starting at the first entry. This was why both times what I had saved only listed the first section of the index.

And so I decided to massage the URL in order to get the results that I wanted by changing the 1 at the very end to 100. (http://www.statelib.lib.in.us/tango/marriage/n-o-p-q-r.qry?function=search&start=100) Changing the end of the URL to this number brought results that began with the surname Nance.

The number after the "start=" tells the server which entry to start with in the specific section being accessed. In this case, since I wanted the Newman marriages, I had to keep increasing the number until I got the desired matches. It did take some time. The URL below starts with Hiram NELSON
http://www.statelib.lib.in.us/tango/marriage/n-o-p-q-r.qry?function=search&start=1200

Getting the correct number is a hit and miss operation. In the section I was working on there were 45633 records (listed on the top of the results page). Typing in 22000 would get the user to approximately the halfway point of the N-R section. Do not enter commas in the number—the address is an URL and commas do not work. After some experimentation, I discovered that the URL that gave the first Newman was:
http://www.statelib.lib.in.us/tango/marriage/n-o-p-q-r.qry?function=search&start=2260
The remaining Newmans were obtained at:
http://www.statelib.lib.in.us/tango/marriage/n-o-p-q-r.qry?function=search&start=2360

It is important to note that this technique will not work for all Web sites and that this approach is specific to this site of Indiana Marriages pre-1850.

An upcoming article will update the information and provide additional suggestions. Users who have their own suggestions and techniques for downloading data and using it are more than welcome to submit their suggestions and ideas. They'll get credit and we'll incorporate the information to help all of us make better use of online information. Correspondence can be sent to mneill@asc.csc.cc.il.us.

We've said it before, but it bears repeating:

1) Remember, if you find your ancestors in any such index, follow up by obtaining the actual records. At best they might tell you more. At worst they might conflict with the index's information.
2) Remember also that if you don't find someone in the online index the original records used to create the records should be searched. While indexes may be a genealogical godsend, they are not divinely created.
3) These search tips are only suggestions and won't solve every index problem.
4) Find out how the original index was created, records can come from a variety of sources—not necessarily where you would think.

Good Luck.

Copyright 1999, Michael John Neill. 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 visit his website at: http://www.rootdig.com/

Used by the author on his website with permission.

Michael's other Genealogy Articles