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Ancestry Daily News
  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.

General Wishes
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. Yeah!

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 genealogical problem.

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 browser window.

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.

Specific Wishes
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 www.rootdig.com/habben/), but 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: http://lists.rootsweb.com
Or to the message boards at: http://boards.ancestry.com

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 problem-solving technique.

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 suggestions to questions asked by a new researcher on a list.
     
  • 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: mjnrootdig@myfamily.com or 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.

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