Michael John Neill – 12/24/2002
What Michael Wants In His Stocking
I don't want a completed family tree for Christmas—the
search is usually too much fun. However, there are a few items I'd like to
have for Christmas that might help me complete that family tree myself.
Post suggestions to questions asked by a new researcher on a list.
For The 1880 Census. I would like a way to search the 1880 census
nationally for individuals born in a specific state, with parents born in
specific states without having to enter in any last name. I realize this
would not be a fast search and would provide a significant number of
results. This type of search would admittedly slow down the online 1880
census index at Family Search (www.familysearch.org
). However, if the CD version of the 1880 census transcription could perform
this search, it would only slow down my machine. I have at least one problem
where being able to search in this fashion would provide me with a potential
list of individuals who might be siblings to one of my brick wall people. I
could then over the course of time analyze the entries separately to
determine if any were for families that required further study.
For Censuses 1920 and Before. I would like to see every name indexes
created for these census years. I've got a relative aged approximately six
in 1920 who cannot be located in this census. Finding her will require going
through the entire Chicago, Illinois, area. Her parents have been located,
but the child is not listed with them and I've got good reason to believe
she was living with another family. A manual search would start with the
area where the parents are known to have lived. The problem is that the
family moved around the city several times during this time period and each
move was a significant distance from the previous residence and I'm not
certain I even know all the places they lived.
I know I'm not the only person who has a problem like this. You'll note that
1930 was left off the heading for this wish. That's because Ancestry.com has
nearly completed the posting of an every name index to the 1930 census.
More Sites Like Stephen Morse's Ellis Island Site. This excellent
site housed at
www.jewishgen.org/databases/EIDB/ellis.html allows for a more
sophisticated searching of the database than does the actual site itself (www.ellisislandrecords.org).
There are other sites that I wish had more effective search interfaces that
would allow users to refine their searches in more sophisticated ways. Name
only searches and Soundex searches are not sufficient to solve every
More Sorting Options. On many search sites, the results are sorted in
only one way (and not usually the way that I want the results sorted). There
are several sites that I use on a regular basis that allow for no
flexibility in how the results are sorted before being displayed in my
One site allows me to search a statewide marriage database, but only returns
the results in a strict alphabetical order. There are times when this type
of report serves the purpose, but there are also times when I would like the
option of how to sort the results. If the county is one of the fields in
each database entry, I might like the option of sorting by county in some
situations. For some sites the data returned in the results window can
easily be imported in Excel, Access, or some program that allows sorting in
multiple ways. The problem is that not all sites make it easy to copy the
results into another application.
Ability To Get More Results On A Page. There are also some sites
where I'd like the ability to determine how many hits or results I get per
page. Sometimes a dozen results on each page makes for a great number of
pages to click through. Some sites allow the user to determine the number of
results returned per page. I wish more sites gave the user this option.
Image Documentation. The creation of digital image databases are a
great boon to genealogical research. However I would like to see some type
of documentation included with each image. Census images (particularly later
census years) already have a significant amount of documentation in the
heading columns. For these census years, the documentation problem is not so
great if the user simply saves the entire image of the census page and not
just the desired entry. Other records though do not include such
documentation on each page. Including a simple "tag" or comment line at the
bottom of an image would be a great way to include the documentation of
where the image originally came from.
My list of specific wishes are short. I've got several brick walls that
I would also like to break down, but I'll refrain from listing all of them
here. The following wishes are personal ones.
Digitization Of The Ostfriesische Nachrichten. This wonderful German
language newspaper was originally published in Breda, Iowa, beginning in
1882. This bi-weekly publication was received by Ostfriesen natives
throughout the United States and Germany. It is an excellent source for
Ostfriesen researchers and contains a great deal of genealogical and
historical information. Being half-Ostfriesen by ancestry, this is one
newspaper that I would love to see available in digital format. Of course,
virtually every genealogist has his own favorite record that he'd like to
see digitized. The good news is that the trend towards digitization is
likely to continue.
Location Of More World War One Alien Registrations. These records are
currently available for Kansas; Minnesota; and Phoenix, Arizona. These
registrations were required of German aliens living in the United States
during the World War I time period. I was fortunate enough to locate a
record for a first cousin of my great grandfather (viewable at
really wish these records were available for other states as well. An
article containing more on these records is available at the Federation of
Eastern European Historical Societies site (http://feefhs.org/usa/alien/wwi-dd2.html
Ira and Ellen's Parents. Okay, I'm still looking for Ira (or William
Ira) and Ellen Butler Sargent who were dropped by a UFO at Warsaw, Hancock
County, Illinois, sometime before the 1880 census. Ellen (a.k.a. Florence
Ellen) cannot be located after approximately 1882. Ira dies in Illinois in
the early 1900s. Maybe in 2003, I'll start my search for them from scratch
and review all those sources I used years ago in my research.
Getting What You Want. There are some ways to get some of your
genealogical wishes. In some cases, winning the lottery won't even solve
your problem. After all, if the records are not available even the most
experienced and knowledgeable researcher will not be able to find them. It
is possible though that some of your genealogy wishes will come true. Post
your query to the appropriate mailing list at:
Or to the message boards at:
If there's some search method you'd like to be able to do on a specific
site, perhaps it is possible and you just don't know how to do it. Ask your
question. It may also be possible that there's a source or repository that
does hold the information you need—you just are not aware of it or current
finding aids are incomplete. Broadcasting your wants may make it easier for
you to get at least some of them. There are no guarantees however. After
all, I've been looking for Ira and Ellen for over twenty years, and so far,
to no avail. Another excellent way to solve your own research problems is to
write up your own research. Even if it never leaves your own computer
desktop, organizing your research through writing is an excellent
Remember To Give Yourself
It is important to remember the flip side of receiving: giving. Usually
if we receive a genealogical "gift" someone has to create it-either by
giving us research hints or suggestions, by buying us a book, writing a book
or an article, or making a record accessible. If you have genealogical
expertise, consider sharing a little of it yourself during the holiday
season. You don't have to spend hours every day helping others, but consider
doing some of the following:
Post information about a courthouse or library to an appropriate
genealogical mailing list or website.
Create an abstract or summary of records that are currently difficult to
access. Remember to abstract carefully and not to change or alter the
content of the record itself. Diligent abstracts are better than ones done
sloppily and in haste.
Compile and publish your genealogy in book form, with source citations.
Posting an answer or two to a genealogical mailing list can really make the
recipient's day. And you never know, years later they may be in a position
to answer your query. Apart from that, sometimes when working on the answer
to a question, I even learn a little bit myself. Remember that for someone
to receive, someone must also give. And finally . . .
Don't forget your living relatives this holiday season. The deceased ones
will still be in the cemetery after the holidays have passed.
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 e-mail him at:
visit his website at: www.rootdig.com/,
but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.
Copyright 2002, MyFamily.com Inc.
Used by the author on his website with permission.