13 December 2008

Genealogy Tip of the Day

Beginning tomorrow, 14 December, my new blog rolls live:

Genealogy Tip of the Day


More to come--check it out.


11 December 2008

Brick Walls from A to Z

Brick Walls from A to Z

This article originally appeared in the Ancestry Daily News on 11 Jan 2006. It is copyrighted and requests for reprint/redistribution can be directed to me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com.

This week we discuss the alphabet looking for clues to ancestral brick walls. The
list is meant to get you thinking about your own genealogy problems.

A is for Alphabetize

Have you created an alphabetical list of all the names in your database
and all the locations your families lived? Typographical errors and
spelling variants can easily be seen using this approach. Sometimes
lists that are alphabetical (such as the occasional tax or census) can
hide significant clues.

B is for Biography

Creating an ancestor's biography might help you determine where there
are gaps in your research. Determining possible motivations for his
actions (based upon reasonable expectations) may provide you with new
areas to research.

C is for Chronology

Putting in chronological order all the events in your ancestor's life
and all the documents on which his name appears is an excellent way to
organize the information you have. This is a favorite analytical tool
of several Ancestry Daily News columnists.

D is for Deeds

A land transaction will not provide extended generations of your
ancestry, but it could help you connect a person to a location or show
that two people with the same last name engaged in a transaction.

E is for Extended Family

If you are only researching your direct line there is a good chance you
are overlooking records and information. Siblings, cousins, and in-laws
of your ancestor may give enough clues to extend your direct family
line into earlier generations.

F is for Finances

Did your ancestor's financial situation impact the records he left
behind? Typically the less money your ancestor had the fewer records he
created. Or did a financial crisis cause him to move quickly and leave
little evidence of where he settled?

G is for Guardianships

A guardianship record might have been created whenever a minor owned
property, usually through an inheritance. Even with a living parent, a
guardian could be appointed, particularly if the surviving parent was a
female during that time when women's legal rights were extremely
limited (read nonexistent).

H is for Hearing

Think of how your ancestor heard the questions he was being asked by
the records clerk. Think of how the census taker heard what your
ancestor said. How we hear affects how we answer or how we record an

I is for Incorrect

Is it possible that an "official" record contains incorrect
information? While most records are reasonably correct, there is always
the chance that a name, place, or date listed on a record is not quite
exact. Ask yourself how it would change your research if one "fact"
suddenly was not true?

J is for Job

What was your ancestor's likely occupation? Is there evidence of that
occupation in census or probate records? Would that occupation have
made it relatively easy for your ancestor to move from one place to
another? Or did technology make your ancestor's job obsolete before he
was ready for retirement?

K is for Kook

Was your ancestor just a little bit different from his neighbors? Did
he live life outside cultural norms for his area. If he did,
interpreting and understanding the records of his actions may be
difficult. Not all of our ancestors were straight-laced and like their
neighbors. That is what makes them interesting (and difficult to

L is for Lines

Do you know where all the lines are on the map of your ancestor's
neighborhood? Property lines, county lines, state lines, they all play
a role in your family history research. These lines change over time as
new territories are created, county lines are debated and finalized,
and as your ancestor buys and sells property. Getting your ancestor's
maps all "lined" up may help solve your problem.

M is for Money

Have you followed the money in an estate settlement to see how it is
disbursed? Clues as to relationships may abound. These records of the
accountings of how a deceased person's property is allocated to their
heirs may help you to pinpoint the exact relationships involved.

N is for Neighbors

Have you looked at your ancestor's neighbors? Were they acquaintances
from an earlier area of residence? Were they neighbors? Were they both?
Which neighbors appeared on documents with your ancestor?

O is for Outhouse

Most of us don't use them any more, but outhouses are mentioned to
remind us of how much life has changed in the past one hundred years.
Are you making an assumption about your ancestor's behavior based upon
life in the twenty-first century? If so, that may be your brick wall
right there.

P is for Patience

Many genealogical problems cannot be solved instantly, even with access
to every database known to man. Some families are difficult to research
and require exhaustive searches of all available records and a detailed
analysis of those materials. That takes time. Some of us have been
working on the same problem for years. It can be frustrating but
fulfilling when the answer finally arrives.

Q is for Questions

Post queries on message boards and mailing lists. Ask questions of
other genealogists at monthly meetings, seminars, conferences and
workshops. The answer to your question might not contain the name of
that elusive ancestor, but unasked questions can leave us floundering
for a very long time.

R is for Read

Read about research methods and sources in your problem area. Learning
about what materials are available and how other solved similar
problems may help you get over your own hump.

S is for Sneaky

Was your ancestor sneaking away to avoid the law, a wife, or an
extremely mad neighbor? If so, he may have intentionally left behind
little tracks. There were times when our ancestor did not want to be
found and consequently may have left behind few clues as to his origins.

T is for Think

Think about your conclusions. Do they make sense? Think about that
document you located? What caused it to be created? Think about where
your ancestor lived? Why was he there? Think outside the box; most of
our brick wall ancestors thought outside the box. That's what makes
them brick walls in the first place.

U is for Unimportant

That detail you think is unimportant could be crucial. That word whose
legal meaning you are not quite certain of could be the key to
understanding the entire document. Make certain that what you have
assumed is trivial is actually trivial.

V is for Verification

Have you verified all those assumptions you hold? Have you verified
what the typed transcription of a record actually says? Verifying by
viewing the original may reveal errors in the transcription or
additional information.

W is for Watch

Keep on the watch for new databases and finding aids as they are being
developed. Perhaps the solution to your brick wall just has not been
created yet.

X is for X-Amine

With the letter "x" we pay homage to all those clerks and census takers
who made the occasional spelling error (it should be "examine" instead
of "x-amine.") and also make an important genealogical point. Examine
closely all the material you have already located. Is there an
unrecognized clue lurking in your files?

Y is for Yawning

Are you getting tired of one specific family or ancestor? Perhaps it is
time to take a break and work on another family. Too much focus on one
problem can cause you to lose your perspective. The other tired is when
you are researching at four in the morning with little sleep. You are
not at your most productive then either and likely are going in circles
or making careless mistakes.

Z is for Zipping

Are you zipping through your research, trying to complete it as quickly
as possible as if it were a timed test in school? Slow down, take your
time and make certain you aren't being too hasty in your research and
in your conclusions.

The "tricks" to breaking brick walls could go on and on. In general though,
the family historian is well served if he or she "reads and thinks in
an honest attempt to learn." That attitude will solve many problems,
not all of them family history related.


09 December 2008

Sally-Sarah: What is the Difference?

Sally/Sarah, What's the Difference?

When two people have the same (or similar) names, or one person has multiple names, it can create big problems for genealogists. Records on individuals with the same name need to be "sorted" out into their separate identities, while individuals who used different names may have to be "merged" together to create one identity despite the varying names. The separating or merging is not always an easy process, and sometimes it is downright impossible. Incomplete or hasty research can aggravate the situation. Jumping to conclusions too early and holding on to them for too long may only add to the confusion.

To help with these frustrating occurrences, today's article centers on difficulties caused by individuals with similar names.

Making Assumptions: A Case Study

Philip Smith and Sarah Kile were living as husband and wife in Mercer County, Illinois in the 1870 and 1880 census. This family was the focus of our research. Sarah's children's marriage and death records had consistently listed her maiden name as Kile. But the consistency of secondary sources, while comforting, did not guarantee their accuracy. However, Sarah was listed as Archibald Kile's daughter in a late-1800s Mercer County, Illinois court case. The maiden name seemed fairly solid.

A search of the online Illinois Marriage Index located no marriage between Philip Smith and Sarah Kile. However, there was a marriage between a Sarah McIntosh and a Philip Smith on 3 May 1860. Another search of Kile marriages for females turned up an 1858 marriage for a Peter McLain and a Sally Kile. After finding these online records, I made the connection that Sarah and Sally were one in the same. After all, Sally was a well-known nickname for Sarah. Peter must have had died shortly after the couple's 1858 marriage, and Sarah must have married again. The nickname situation would explain the ladies' first name difference, and the original record was probably just misread so that McLain was mistakenly recorded as McIntosh. The scenario seemed clear, based on these assumptions! (Genealogy Guardian Angel advice: Look at the actual, original marriage records before making a conclusion like that.)

Next Stop: Census!

I located an entry for Peter McLain and Sarah L. McLain in a published 1860 Mercer County, Illinois census. But the published source did not include the actual date the census was taken, and I was still holding strong to my theory. However, listed in the household were an Elizabeth Kile and a William Kile. The 1860 census does not give relationships to heads of household. Sarah, the wife of Philip Smith, was the daughter of Archibald Kile. My theory was starting to unravel slightly, but perhaps the older Kiles were Sarah McLain's aunt and uncle. (Genealogy Guardian Advice: Be certain you aren't trying to make the records fit the theory instead of making the theory fit the records.)

I needed the original census to doublecheck the information and determine the date the census was taken. While I was waiting for that, a quick look at my copy of The Sources indicated that the 1860 census began on 1 June 1860. Philip Smith married Sarah McIntosh on 3 May 1860. This was starting to shoot holes in my theory.

On To 1870 . . .

There's Peter McLain STILL living with Sally! My theory is now bust, as Philip Smith and his Sarah had several children by this time. It is back to the drawing board.

Back to the marriages (more thoroughly this time . . .)

A search in the online Illinois State Marriage Index for brides under the surname "Kyle" located a marriage between a John McIntosh and a Sarah Kyle in September of 1852 in Mercer County, Illinois. This information led to a new working hypothesis, which was as follows:

Sarah Kile married John McIntosh in 1852. This marriage was terminated (either by John's death or by a judge). Sarah McIntosh married Philip Smith in 1860. Sally Kile, who married Peter McLain, was likely a relative of Sarah Kile, who is known to have married Philip Smith. Sarah Kile (McIntosh?) Smith and Sarah Kile McLain are likely related, possibly cousins. A look at Philip Smith and Sarah McIntosh's marriage license lists her as "Mrs. Sarah McIntosh" with a mark on the Mrs. (it's not clear if the mark is intending to strike out the Mrs. or not). This "Mrs." notation is not indicated in the online marriage index and is a considerable clue.

There's still plenty of work to be done: a COMPLETE analysis of census and other records, and an attempt to find out what happened to John McIntosh.

Lessons Learned

    1) Nicknames should not always be an "excuse" to automatically "combine" two individuals.

    2) Consider alternate spellings.

    3) Do not jump to conclusions.

    4) Research with the goal of finding out as much of the truth as you can—not with the intent of proving your initial hunch correct.

    5) Continue to analyze all information as new information is located.

Comments on This Research "Technique"

    1) Sally was frequently used as a nickname for Sarah.

    2) McIntosh and McLain being considered the "same" without any evidence to back it up was a stretch (and a very long one at that).

    3) At least the research continued and the researcher finally admitted that the initial theory was not correct.

Final Note

When I was just starting my research, I hired an individual to look for an ancestral marriage record. The individual found a man with the correct surname and a woman with the correct surname, but the date he found was not the same as the marriage date I had provided. I received a copy of this couple's license with the comment (paraphrased), "Nicknames were common in early days, and people weren't always certain anyway. Likely your date is off. Here's the copy."

It was only some years later, when I researched the records myself, that I discovered my ancestors' marriage record was there—with the date and the names I had given the researcher. My ancestor and his brother had married sisters, and I was originally sent the record for their siblings.

Labels: , ,

08 December 2008

What Name do You use and Why?

Do you use your "real" name? Or do you use a diminutive based upon your first or middle name? Do you use a nickname?

In the notes section of your genealogy software indicate why you used the name you did. Future genealogists and relatives might like to know why you used it.

I have always used Michael, never "Mike." This is largely because my family always called me Michael and mother always said "if I had wanted him called 'Mike' I would have named him 'Mike.'". And I always thought Mike Neill sounded too short to be an actual name--at least to my ears--probably the result of being half German where every name needs to be somewhat long and have a lot of consonant sounds.

I started using my middle name because when I started my job, there was another guy in town named "Mike Neal" who was always getting arrested for one various thing or another. That was a way of distinguishing myself.

I know my great-grandmother Neill never used her "real" name of Francis--she used Fannie on everything, Francis appears ONLY on her birth record.

But jot this sort of thing down in your genealogy notes. Someone in a hundred years may want to know and you won't be around to tell them.


26 November 2008

Make Certain You Read

I mentioned in an earlier post today that Ancestry.com just released Ontario, Canada Voter Lists, 1867-1900 on their website. I was really excited as I was hoping to find my elusive Clark Sargent in this database.

There was one reason I did not find him: he was dead by 1867. Oops.

Make certain your excitement doesn't cause you to waste time and energy. Hopefully you will find your living ancestors in this database. If this had been a list of Chicago voters, then I would have needed to look for the dead.


23 November 2008

Pilgrim Ancestors on Ancestry's Blog

Juliana Smith has posted my article "Pilgrim Ancestors" on the Ancestry.com blog. There are links there to a variety of sites and a discussion of making a proof and establishing a case and working on a Pilgrim connection.

There is also some commentary on my own potential Pilgrim connection.

And if anyone knows anything about Clark Sargent who died in Winnebago County, Illinois, in 1847, let me know. If I can connect to him, then I have a likely Mayflower connection.

Labels: ,

22 November 2008

Getting more than just the Name

It is more than about reading just the one page or the one item.
The screen shot provides a little bit of information on my family Thomas Ramphey[sic]. The book has been digitized and is on Ancestry.com. Because of the typographical error, I did not find this one by searching on "Rampley." I already located the print book years ago and knew how the name was spelled. Turns out that John Demoss was a brother to Thomas Rampley's wife, Christianna.
This paragraph needs to be put in context. You can't read just the page where the entry appears. If I do that, I lose the fact that this page is talking about early settlers of Jackson Township, Coshocton County, Ohio. I also need to keep track of the author, title and publication date of the book.
History of Coshocton County, Ohio : its past and present, 1740-1881, by N. N. Hill, Jr., A. A. Graham and Company, Newark, Ohio, 1881, page 502. Available digitally at Ancestry.com.

Labels: , ,

21 November 2008

Ancestry.com's Card Catalog

One frustration with some sites is the ability to search for databases that are in a specific locatilty. Libraries at least have a card catalog where one can search for locations, in particular counties, towns, etc. This makes finding specific materials easier. While global searches of websites are nice, there are times when I like to search a specific book instead of looking instantly at every book in the library.

The Ancestry.com Card Catalog will let you search by location, you just have to filter your way down to the level you want instead of typing in keywords to search subject headings the way you would in a library card catalog. The screen shot in this entry is reduced to show more of the page, but in the red circle is where you can filter by location.

Users can simply then scroll down to the desired state and click.

Once you choose a state, the list of counties will appear. That is what happened after I clicked on Illinois.

Every time you choose a new location, the right hand side of the page "updates" to reflect items cataloged based upon your new choice.

The county is as far down as you can go. When I choose the county, the list of locations from which to choose disappears. If you do not see anything, scroll up to the top of the webpage, that is what I had to do.

Then on the right hand side I saw my four references. On the left hand side (under the orangish search button) are clickable areas that tell me where my search is currently focused. I can click any of those to pull up the appropriate list again to change my filtering.

Or I can click on one of the "hits" and search it or (heaven forbid) actually read it.

Before you search the book, read the description so you know what you are searching. Remember that OCR searches do not always find people. I KNEW my ancestor's biography was in this book (I have a copy at home). Finding it searching for Ramply and Bamply did not located the desired entry. I performed a keyword search instead for the word "laurels" only because I remembered that word was in his biography (this has to be on the top of the list of minutia that I have remembered). Any way I did find his biography split over two pages, which is how it was in the original.

I even left the word "laurels" green from when I searched for it.
Of course if I save this material, I should track the book, author, publication information, online source, etc.
I like the Ancestry.com Card Catalog and am glad they either added it or I just noticed it. At any rate, it is helpful.
Now--if they would let me search just for materials in one county at a time instead of either books or just one book. I'm never satisfied.

And if any descendants of James Rampley (1803-1884) read this post, let me know. I'm his 3rd great-grandson.

Labels: , ,

19 November 2008

Digital Collections at Brigham Young University

Full text searches are great--it takes a little while to find the full text search box for the family history materials in the digital collections at BYU, but I finally did.


My suggestion is that those unfamiliar with the collection learn about it before searching. This site contains some scanned materials from the Allen County Public Library. One can also perform near searches as well. Pretty interesting.


Try Libraries for Directories too

The city directories on Ancestry.com. are an excellent source. The ones on Footnote.com are as well. However, there are other sites and locations to try.

The Hannibal Public Library has scanned city directories on its site, ranging from 1859 to 1929. Just as a fluke, I happened upon the site recently. They also have a scan of Stone's Tri-County Directory for 1892-93. This includes Adams County, Illinois, across the Missisippi River. Sure enough there was my ancestor, Bernard Dirks.

Lessons here: Libraries might have free digital images of some records.
And look at libraries outside your direct area of interest.

Labels: ,

18 November 2008

Search Tips on GenealogyBank

If you have missed the search tips page on Genealogy Bank, give it a read. There are some excellent suggestions there for using the OCR searches on their site. And keep in mind that you do not even have to fill in the name boxes. It pays to experiment and remember that you do not get more points for having every box filled in.

Labels: ,

Do you need a Lookup or More Extended Research?

Sometimes all the genealogist really needs is a lookup. Sometimes they need more extended research. Which really depends upon the situation.

One lookup example stems from the newspaper article I located from 1892 in Quincy, Illinois. It references a court case regarding estate of my ancestor, Ulfert Behrens.
Years ago, when I was much younger, I located his estate file which included a copy of his will. I did not do land or court record work at that time. While I am always interested in land records, I don't need them right now and the family relationships have been fairly well documented with other records. However, this court case intrigued me. But do I need to hire someone for extensive work to research this? Probably not. All I really need in this case is information from the file.

However, I do need someone with research experience--even though they are doing a "lookup." Why?

  1. So they know how to search for this record. The newspaper doesn't have any citation information.
  2. So they know how to extract. There might only be a few papers in this file or there could easily be hundreds. In some cases, many of the pages may be repetitive or contain entirely legal jargon. I might not want to go to the expense of getting a copy of the "entire file."
  3. They need to have experience searching this type of record and know what various items in the file mean and interpret them correctly.

In this case, I probably don't need a formal research report since one document is being researched. However, I do need to know what records were searched, how they were searched, and what the citation is for the records that were located.

A lookup might not be as simple as a lookup.

We will keep you posted on what the case file contains. There is more to this case than an heir filing a claim for "taking care of father during his last illness."


28 August 2008

Checking Your Filter and your Junk Mail Folders?

How often do you check what goes into your junk mail or s *p*a*m folder? I just checked mine last night and there was one from a relative. Who knows how it got in there, but it pays to periodically scan those messages so that something does not get overlooked.


07 August 2008

Google them All...

Honestly, I have not been in the habit of "googling" each and every relative, especially those who have probably been dead twenty or more years.

I am slowly (very slowly) working on the descendants of Barbara Haase (died 1903 Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois). One granddaughter, Ruth Haase Hillberry was born ca. 1894 and lived in Michigan in the 1950s. On a whim I did a Google search for ruth haase hillberry and one of the results was a webpage hosted by Albion College's Special Collections Department that contained names of College alumni. One alumni was apparently Ruth Hillberry--see Ruth Haase. I contacted the college to see if they have any information on Mrs. Hillberry.

Just goes to show what you might locate when you google. I think I've got some more work to do.

Labels: ,

07 July 2008

Ancestry "My Family Tree" sources

I've been experimenting with the "Your Family Tree" section of the Ancestry.com site. Ancestry will give you hints in the hopes that you have overlooked records and will allow you to attach images (and source information) directly to your database. This is nice.

But be careful.

I was attaching a 1900 census citation to Samuel Neill--the basic screen that came up is shown here. Note the "show advanced options" link in the upper right hand corner.

When I clicked on it, the next screen appeared. The way it originally appeared, the 1900 census entry was "checked" as "add source" to the date and place of birth. However, the census enumeration was not as precise as the birthdate and place it was sourcing. The "add source" box comes up checked by default, meaning if you don't think to view it you may accidentally indicate the census says something it does not.

My best option here would have been to check the "add as alternate" fact. While technically not inconsistent with the information I originally had, I do NOT want to indicate the census said something it did not. Adding an alternate fact would allow me to use the census as a source for Samuel's birth and track EXACTLY what it said.
I wish this screen came up by default.

Labels: ,

16 June 2008

1830 Census Handwriting

Does it look like Jas. Kyle to you?

Sometimes it is clear to see how names get misread. This 1830 Census entry for Monroe Township, Licking County, Ohio, was located by searching manually. There are still times when a manual search is necessary. Not every name is easily readable.

Ancestry.com indexed this as "Gs Hyles" and it is easy to see how that might have happened--particularly with the last name. However, I think this is actually meant to be Jas. Kyle. James is known to have lived in the township for several decades

Labels: , ,

02 April 2008

Using Genealogy for Passwords

Most of have too many passwords. Sometimes we even are forced to change passwords periodically and unable to "reuse" passwords for a specific amount of time. Colleagues at work have suggested using a word and a number after the word, incrementing the number by one each time. Great idea. Not.

If I can't remember whether I used bubbagum12 or bubbagum13 and I enter in the wrong one too many times, I get kicked out.

I designed a different system. I use initials (or names) of relatives and their year of birth. This works better for me as I "know" from memory the name of each ancestor through my great-grandparents with their year of birth. Then my challenge question is simply "so and so" and I know what it means.

For those who say that others might be able to figure it out based upon the challenge question, that is taken care of too. I have "nicknames" for each grandparent that no would (other than my parents) would know. My challenge question is not "Grandma Neill," but rather "Grandma Goose" (not her real nickname), or "Grandma Goose's mother." Then I know to whom I was referring and I can enter the appropriate password.

I just got sick and tired of making up arbitrary passwords I could never remember.


Are You Looking in Surrounding Counties?

I stumbled upon it to be honest.

The Hannibal (Missouri) Public Library has digital images of many county and city directories on their website. While I have no family in that area, I made an interesting discovery. The 1892-1893 directory, actually Stone's Tri-County Directory for 1892-93, is one of the items included on their site. It includes Adams County, Illinois, right across the river and where I do have ancestors. The directories are searchable as well--a nice feature.
It always pays to check out surrounding counties for information that may be relevant to your search, even if your ancestors never lived in those counties and even if those counties cross rivers or state lines.

[the first screen shot shows part of the directory for Golden, Illinois, in Adams County].

Keep in mind that some names may be spelled incorrectly in the directory, which makes searching even more difficult. The partial image here (also from Golden) shows several names, including Ulfert Idens, which should actually be Ulfert Ideus.

The towns are organized alphabetically; I did not notice a table of contents. A little more searching located the entries for Coatsburgh, where I located my 3rd great-grandfather Bernard Dirks.

The Dirks entry got me to wondering about the numbers after the names. I knew they were not section numbers--the numbers only were 1, 2, and 3.

A little more searching led me to the list of abbreviations, something that one needs to look for in any directory of any kind.

The list of abbreviations told me that the 1 after my ancestor's name indicated he owned his farm. The list of abbreviations is included at the end of this post. This directory is really neat and those with Hannibal ancestors will find many more on this site. I was happy to find just one!

Labels: , ,

18 March 2008

Newspapers at Footnote.com

Footnote.com has added more newspapers from Chicago during the 1870-1877 era. The Chicago Tribune is the paper currently being added.

Users of Footnote.com have been viewing the images and some have noted pages of marriages show in the newspaper, such as this one from 1880. The nice thing is that the newspapers have OCR search, so a full-text search is possible. Keep in mind that Footnote.com is still adding newspapers and that their collection is incomplete.

Of course, if one finds a marriage referenced in a newspaper, the actual civil and religious record (if applicable) should be searched. If the civil record indicates the officiant was a justice of the peace, then looking for a record of a religious ceremony is ill-advised.

I've been searching the Chicago Tribune for some of my wife's Frame family, but so far no luck. Part of the problem is that the last name "Frame" is more difficult to search for since many references are to frames, being framed, etc. But if anyone finds references in the paper to a Thomas or Elizabeth Frame, please forward them off to me.

Newspapers are a wonderful source and the more they are converted to digital format, the easier they will be to search.

Labels: ,

12 March 2008

New York Vital Records Index Lookups

I've been reading Dick Hillebrand's blog about obtaining copies of vital records in New York. Yesterday he posted an update to information he blogged about earlier in regards to free lookups in the indexes.

Those who are interested in the lookups are highly encouraged to follow the directions he has posted from the library on the website. The directions are clear and easy to follow and the librarians are offering this service on a voluntary basis. Do NOT send them a request for a search of "all Smiths" from 1900 until 1930.

I sent my request in Monday, as soon as I found out about the Onondaga Library's service. I was looking for Louis Demar, a Clinton County, New York native who after living in Chicago for 30 years, returned to Clinton County. I actually forgot about my request, but today in my inbox was the response:

"There seems to be a match in 1935 - here is the listing as it reads: Louis Demar 6 Oct 1935, Saranac, #60631This is a confirmation that there is a record. If you contact Saranac they should assist you with getting a copy! "

A BIG thanks to the library for providing this service. I appreciate it.

Now, I'm off to get a copy. We'll be posting updates as we get them.

Labels: ,

10 March 2008

Accessing New York State Vital Records

Upstate New York Genealogy Blog has posted an entry on "Accessing New York State Vital Records," with some commentary about the locations of microfiche indexes to these records, which start in the late 1800s.

I've put off getting vitals on my wife's Clinton County, New York, relatives but might start now--particularly Louis Demar who lived in New York state for several years, moved to Chicago for approximately twenty years and apparently returned to Clinton County after the 1930 census.


19 February 2008

More on Searching the Family Histories at BYU

Full text searches of all the family histories at the Family History Archive at Brigham Young University can also be conducted (in addition to the searches on names included in the subject headings). A nice feature and one that can be easily missed if one does not scroll down the page far enough (grin).

A search for "Rampley" resulted in a few hits, one of which was this biography from a Bedford County History. While I already had located the biography, this full text search would have made it easy to find in seconds--much easier than the first time I located it.

Of course, tracking your research is important. Part of the post here also includes part of the title page from the 1884 publication. And don't forget the page number.

Thomas Chaney is my ancestor--I descend through his daughter Elizabeth Chaney Rampley.

Labels: , ,

BYU's Family History Archives

The Family History Archive at Brigham Young University has digitzed a number of family histories and placed them on their website.

I found one book that I already had used years ago, but it is nice to know I can easily access it if I want to refer to pages that I did not copy originally.

A clip from page 19 of the DeMoss Family in America is a part of this post (John DeMoss born 1718 is my ancestor). Of course, be certain to doublecheck anything you find in a published family history. These are excellent resources, but they are still compiled sources. The images are full-text searchable and pages can be viewed using Adobe Acrobat. No membership or account is required to use the site.

Labels: , ,

15 February 2008

Finding Noentje's Passenger List

Noentje Lena Grass had been one of those immigrant ancestors I could never find on a manifest. Virtually all of my Ostfriesen ancestors have been found--and I have over twenty who immigrated between 1850 and 1883.

I think I've located the Backemoor, Ostfriesland, native in the New York Passenger lists.

Years ago when I searched, I focused too much on her first name and the variants such as Nontje, Nantje, etc. The recent discovery of letters she wrote in 1887 indicated she might have gone by Lena as well.

Searching the passenger lists for Lena/Lina Gross/Grass brought no results.

I finally gave up on the first name when searching. I went back and revisited her 1900 census entry (it is the last one for her as she died in 1902). On that census (which easily could be wrong) she indicated she came to the US in 1873. I performed the search as shown in the image with this post.

This entry struck my interest.

And when seeing the actual image, it is easy to see how the entry could have been interpreted as Luie. However, it really does appear to be to be Lina.

Next on my list is to look at the other names on the manifest and see if any of them "ring a bell" in my head.

And I will pay close attention particularly to any last or first names that sound Ostfriesen.

We've looked for great-great-grandma for years on passenger lists and I'm just excited to find her (I think).

And it is always important to track your searches as you do them, so you do not repeat searches already done and so that all reasonable searches are conducted.

Labels: ,

12 February 2008

Family Search Labs adds some WW2 draft cards

Family Search Record Search has added some of the WW2 draft cards for the "Old Men's Draft" for those men born between 28 April 1877 and before 16 February 1897.

At the time of this writing, the project is 29% complete, including the states of:
  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rhode Island
  • West Virginia

Cards are arranged pretty much alphabetically by state and users have to browse these images--at present there is no "click and get it right away" index. However, this still is an excellent set of records to have available at no cost.

The sample image is from Peter Verikios, my wife's step-grandfather. I've got a whole bunch more to find in the Illinios set of data. I had searched these before, but time never allowed me to search for all the cards I really wanted.

Labels: , ,

01 February 2008

Researching Your European Origins Online

This page (which I don't link to anywhere) gets quite a bit of traffic, so I thought I'd mention it here.

Researching Your European Origins Online http://www.rootdig.com/european2.html is a page I use as a part of my lecture on this same topic. It is not meant to be comprehensive and is more intended to be a starting point for further work. Maintaining a page with hundreds of links is not something I care to do, but this is a good place to get started and provides links to pages I use when I'm working on a family from "across the pond."

Mailing lists are especially helpful. The Ostfriesen mailing list at Rootsweb is one of the best around.


31 January 2008

Searching 1870 Census

We've posted two articles on our site on searching the 1870 census. The discussion is applicable to other years as well and focuses on alternate spellings for names, variant last names, places of birth, and other issues with locating people in the census. The focus is on organizing and thinking about what you want to search before you start mindlessly entering names in search boxes.

The second article centers on an analysis of entries located while trying to search for Johann Ufkes (born 1838 Ostfriesland, Germany) in the 1870 census and provides some ways to analyze entries.

Unfortunately I have not found either person (Johann Ufkes or Ira Sargent) I was looking for in 1870. But the search continues.

Labels: , , , ,

30 January 2008

Sourcing When Scanning

This is a lovely scan of an obituary from the Chicago, Illinois, area. Only one problem--when I scanned it, I included no source information on the obituary. There are several options that I had at the time the scan was made.
  1. I could have written the name of the paper and the date on the original and then my scan would have included that information.

  2. I could have used my photoediting software to add the same information in text format on the document.

  3. I could have included the source in the file name of the document--without being too long.

Probably the best option is 1 or 2 and 3. File names are not always included with printouts, so that is a limitation of only using option three. Including the source in the file name (along with the name of the person on the scan), makes it easier to search the hard drive or media for specific words or phrases.

My attempt to date and locate the source would require using contextual clues from the document. I already know the paper is one in the Chiago area, which could have been determined using the place names and addresses. Had the year not been known already, a perpetual calendar and contextual clues would have given a good guess as to the paper's date. The real problem would be in determining in which newspaper the obituary actually appeared.

The desired obituary on this page was that of Peter Verikios. He's my wife's step-great-grandfather. At least I copied more than his obituary which helped to provide additional contextual references. It is usually a good idea to copy a little more than you think you will need.


29 January 2008

Citations on the Source

Many of us write our genealogical citations on the source, particularly if we are in a facility where we are making photocopies or receive photocopies in the mail. As mentioned earlier, black ink works best.

There is an article on the Board for Certification of Genealogists' website on this very topic. Those who are concerned about tracking their sources (as we all should be) may want to take a look at Amy Johnson Crow's article from the May 2000 issue of On Board, published by the Board for Certification of Genealogists.


28 January 2008

Cite it as You Get It

My continuing work into the Neely-Rathbone scandal located two references in Meekel's Weekly Stamp News as mentioned in a previous post.

Fortunately my librarian was able to quickly and easily obtain copies of the articles. Unfortunately the library supplying the material to me did not write an issue date on my copy [nor was it on the newspaper itself]. I was lucky that the article request form was sent to me along with the articles and I was able to determine the date of each reference. But always make certain you have dates and other relevant sourcing information for any copies of materials you make.

And don't write in green ink. It doesn't always copy or scan well ;-)

The image in this post is from Meekel's Weekly Stamp News on 24 May 1900.


24 January 2008

Are You Checking all Online Newspapers?

Like many genealogists, I use the online newspapers at:
World Vital Records
Genealogy Bank

However it is worth remembering that these newspaper collections are sometimes incomplete and that other sites may have newspapers on them as well, in some cases for free.

The Quincy, Illinois, Public Library is a good case in point. They have scanned old Quincy area newspapers from the microfilm, and created a digital database that can be searched. The interesting thing is that I KNOW I have searched this database for the last name Trautvetter several years ago and already viewed all the small number of hits. Today a search for that name again (on a whim) resulted in two new hits, including the one that is shown in this post. I would have remembered seeing this reference.

The Quincy Daily Journal from Quincy, Illinois 22 March 1918 listed those who had taken their teacher exams for second and third grade. A surprise to me was the listing of Luella Trautvetter from Mendon, Illinois. I never knew my great aunt had taken the teacher exam. She would have been 17 and a half years old at the time she took the exam.

If not for the digital version of the newspaper, I would never have located this reference.

The digital archives of the Quincy [Illinois] Public Library can be found on their site.

Labels: ,

18 January 2008

They Have to be Related--They have the Same Last Name!

Just because two individuals have the same last name does not mean that they are related. Researchers working on a Smith family know that two people with this common last name are not related, but what about a more unusual surname?

Well it depends on the origination of the name (and that even is not a guarantee) and jumping to conclusions makes for bad research.

One of my ancestral surnames is Habben--a somewhat unusual name. In Ostfriesland, Germany, where many of these families originate the surname is somewhat more common. However, the name is a patronym actually meaning "child of Habbe." While patronymics was practiced, two men with the first name Habbe would have children with the last name of Habben--though there might have been no relationship.

Sweden is full of Larsons, Carlsons, etc. for exactly the same reason--patronymics.

Even surnames that are not patronymical in origin may be shared by two unrelated individuals. This is especially true with surnames such as Baker, Farmer, Lake and other names that may have been derived from occupations or nearby geographical features.

There may be cases where all individuals with the same surname are related, but let research, not your gut, be your guide. My tentative hypothesis is that all or most individuals with the last name of Trautvetter are related. However, research is not complete and just because the name is concentrated in a certain area of Germany does not mean there was one common ancestor.

Last names can be used as clues to relationships. But a last name only means it was that person's last name, not that he (or she) had to be related to someone else.


16 January 2008

The Importance of Location for Vital Records.

My family has lived in Illinois for generations.

Yet my parents were born in Iowa. My grandfather died in Iowa. My great-grandmother died in Iowa. The reasons is simple: the county where I grew up did not have a hospital until the 1950s. The nearest hospital for many was in Keokuk, Iowa, across the Mississippi River.

When researching in a time period when births and deaths typically took place "at home," the location of the nearest hospital is not as much of a concern. However, during that era, the location of the nearest hospital is important as the death or birth record will be filed there, not where the person was living.

Regardless of the time period, it is always important to remember that birth and death records are filed where they took place. If Grandma moved during the last six months of her life to live with her daughter that's where it will be recorded.

And that's also why later sources providing secondary information may be incorrect.

Just something to think about.


15 January 2008

Are You Checking Manuscript Collections?

Online images and databases are nice, but it is worth noting that there are still vast quantities of information that are available only in paper form. Local county records housed in the original courthouse come to mind as records that are occasionally overlooked (and do not assume that the Family History Library filmed EVERYTHING if they "filmed a courthouse.").

Another overlooked source are manuscript collections, materials that may be housed in a library or a private archives, with letters, files and other documents that may have been donated at some point in time.

A google search was how I located information on Philip Troutfetter in a manuscript collection at the Kansas Historical Society. I was fortunate that the finding aid to this Bristow collection was online. If it had not been I would have been unable to locate the reference as easily as I did. I'm working on locating additional papers regarding the investigation into Troutfetter.

Searching World Cat (http://www.worldcat.org) may also bring up some manuscript collection,but bear in mind that only the "main" names in a collection are indexed--not every name. And the material has to have been cataloged and uploaded to OCLC in order to appear in Worldcat. That it not true of every item in every collection.


UpState New York Genealogy Blog

There is an interesting blog on upstate New York Genealogy maintained by Dick Hillenbrand. It is nice to have a site for New York that focuses on areas outside the city for those of us whose work in New York does not usually require information on NYC.

My wife's great-grandmother was born in 1895 in Clinton County, New York, which I think is about as upstate as one can get. I found a few hits for "Clinton County" when I did a search of his blog. And there's general research advice and information on his site as well.


14 January 2008

BLM Database at Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com released a version of a database of land patent data from the land patent database at the Bureau of Land Management. The Ancestry.com Land Patent Database currently does not contain information on as many states as the database at the Bureau of Land Management does.

I was excited however as the Ancestry.com version allows users to search based upon keywords. That search apparently does not function in the way I think or it does not function. Searches of keywords for "smith" and "johnson" resulted in no hits, yet there are obviously names such as those in the actual database.

The Bureau of Land Management contains more states, is free to use and contains a Visitor's Center that provides a background on the patents and the land description process followed in federal land states. Understanding how land is described is crucial to searching effectively.

Some time ago I made an extended post about using the Bureau of Land Management site.

Labels: , ,

10 January 2008

Antarctica Natives Living in the US in 1910

A search of the 1910 census index at Ancestry.com resulted in 4342 hits when searching for natives of Antarctica. Some of these are very difficult to read and others are probably typographical errors.

Just remember to consider leaving out place of birth when doing a census search.

I did not look to see whether or not these Antarctica natives were living in warm or cold US climes.


04 January 2008

Avoiding Assumptions

Juliana Smith at the Ancestry.com Blog recently posted my article "Avoiding Assumptions."
It contains a list of suggested assumptions that we have to make sometimes and discusses when these assumptions should be dropped and the importance of realizing that you have made assumptions. There are times when we have made our own brick walls.

The complete article "Avoiding Assumptions" can be viewed on the Ancestry.com blog for free.

Labels: ,

Discrepancy Charts

Rarely is all genealogical information consistent. This is one of the reasons that most genealogical software programs allow for multiple dates of birth, multiple places of birth, etc. This way one can accurately record what each record indicates. It is up to the researcher to determine which location or date is most accurate. This largely is dependent upon the perceived accuracy of the individual sources, etc. Then one can choose the "preferred" date or location. It is always important to include your reasoning as to WHY that date or location was chosen.

Another way to analyze conflicting information is to create a discrepancy chart, listing each different date or place and where that information was obtained. I wrote an article some time ago on using these charts. Unfortunately, I am no closer to learning about great-grandma's parents than when the article was written several years ago.


17 December 2007

The Ostfriesen "Extra" List

Those on Rootsweb mailing lists know that things are suppose to stay on topic and that attachments are not allowed.

Our Ostfriesen mailing list at Rootsweb set up an "extra" list on Googlegroups so other things could be discussed outside of genealogy, but still related to our common heritage. This is a great idea for any ethnic based list at Rootsweb.

One of the recent postings was for a New Year's Cookie, which we may give a try this year. It will also be a good lesson for the kids in metrics!

Labels: ,

14 December 2007

Undocumented Chaos

Undocumented Chaos

from the Ancestry Daily News Michael John Neill – 10/16/2002

As genealogists looking to the past, we are forced to focus on paper records left behind by our forebears. We also use historical records and information about larger historical movements and cultural trends to reasonably infer things about our ancestor's lives. For many of us, there are times when neither of these sources or approaches is particularly helpful. Sometimes things just do not make any logical sense. There are times when our confusion stems from a misconception or ignorance we have about records, history, or cultural practices. But there are times when we've tried to learn as much as we can about the situation and perhaps have asked others more knowledgeable about the area to help us out. At times even the experts are stumped.

And so I occasionally wonder: Did some event in my ancestor's life throw the entire family into chaos?

Some of these events may be easily documented. There generally are records of epidemics, natural disasters, or the closing of a major employer (the main exception being when these first two events took place on the extremely raw frontier). The impact may have been very direct and very immediate. County historical societies, newspapers, county histories, or other sources may provide at least some information on an outside event in our ancestor's life. The loss of employment by the father, the death of three family members due to an epidemic, or a massive flood might have easily thrown a family into turmoil. The more difficult situation is where the causal event left no record.

The connection may not always be easy to make.

Maybe . . .

  • A marriage was hastened in an attempt to avoid the draft?
  • An emigration took place to avoid compulsory military service?
  • A sudden move took place because the father lost a job?
  • A move took place because of a significant economic opportunity?
  • A child left home because of a difficult step-parent?
  • A son left for California to pan for gold?

    In these cases the causes are partially discernable. Rash generalizations should not be made. When the outside factor is something large and something relatively well known it is easier to logically connect it to events that took place within the family. It is important though not to grasp at straws and create convoluted soap operas to fit scant ancestral records.

    Where's The P?

    In logic classes, students study implication, cause, and effect. If p happens then q happens as a result. The problem in some family history situations is that we have the q, but have no idea what the p was that preceded it.

    There are many explanations for the p above, but we'll focus now on events within the family that might have caused other family members to react. They might have responded in ways that do not always make sense when analyzed two hundred years later without the perspective of living within the actual family itself as it endures the turmoil.

    Did Some Event Throw Your Ancestor's Life Into Chaos?

    Did one parent die at a young age? The death of the father (typically the breadwinner) might have been a major challenge for the family. The death of the mother (typically the housekeeper and minder of the children) would have been equally difficult, especially if the older children were not of an age to take care of the younger ones. If your ancestral family was living in an
    area outside their kin network, the death of one young parent might have hit them especially hard.

    Hubby Dead . . . Mouths To Feed

    One ancestor died in the 1850s while in his early thirties. His widow Barbara was left with two small children in a town several hundred miles from where they had married and had family. As a German immigrant, Barbara likely spoke little English and had few marketable skills. The small river town where she lived offered few employment opportunities. Her options were
    extremely limited, she did not have some of the options her great-great-great-grandchildren may have today. Within six months of her husband's death she married a man who left her two months later. The records only point towards the recorded facts, they provide little idea of the
    likely situation in Barbara's home. And while we cannot find a tombstone, the breadwinner of her family was buried in the local cemetery and she was left with two young children to care for. She did the only thing she could: she ran her husband's tavern for several years until she married for the third time. And from newspaper records, that tavern was quite a place.

    I had another ancestor die and leave a widow with children in Kentucky in 1814. The children were old enough to help out and the husband left the wife with a few hundred acres of property. Records are scant, but it appears this forty-something widow was not in quite the same situation as my German immigrant in the 1850s. Still, the road after her husband's death was likely not easy.

    In some cases, children may have scattered after the father's death as a necessity. Some may have gone to live with other family members or even strangers. Some may have been apprenticed to learn a marketable skill, potentially leaving records. These apprenticeship records (if available) are typically found at the county level. In some cases, there may be records of guardianships as well. But if the family was particularly poor, records of
    guardianships may be non-existent.

    Wife Dead . . . Mouths To Feed

    A young widower with small children was in a similar situation, especiallyif there were no nearby family members to provide childcare. Widowers who had older female children may have enlisted them to help care for younger siblings. One of my own ancestors married three times, wives one and two likely dying in childbirth and leaving behind several small children. This ancestor waited a year, at most, to remarry.

    My own great-great-grandmother "disappears" ca. 1882 and her two young daughters live with other families for several years, apparently while the father gets things "together." I am not exactly certain what happened in this family. All I know is that the mother "left" (or so I've been told) and was never heard from again.

    Unknown Chaos?

    Some of the cases already discussed leave records that hint at the problems. Some situations can reasonably be explained by other historical records. Not all chaotic situations leave behind records delineating the problem. And the records that do document the results rarely focus on the past. There may be no record indicating a family member was mentally unstable or had an alcohol problem. Yet these situations may have impacted the family significantly, perhaps for generations.

    The family of the sibling of one of my great-great-grandparents had particular difficulties. The mother apparently became mentally unstable in the 1880s while the children were young. She died a few years later. The father never remarried and knew two things: "how to acquire land and drink whiskey." A doctor who visited the family at about the same time said he never knew a family who lived in such squalor. One of the children was classified as "simple" and intentionally injured himself on at least one occasion. It is not difficult to see how the family lost contact with other family members, particularly the mother's family. Nor is it difficult to see
    why some family members show little interest in their family's past.

    This family's home life is partially documented only because upon the father's death there was legal trouble and court records provide a scant paragraph on the family's past. Had there been no money worth going to court about, this family's lifestyle would not have been documented.

    Was there chaos in your ancestor's life? There might have been, but the problem will be in proving it. The real problem is that the chaos frequently creates records that make no sense without a rough knowledge of the underlying issues.

    Copyright 2002, MyFamily.com, Inc.Used by the author on his website with permission.

  • Labels: ,

    13 December 2007

    Variants for OCR searching

    I've been using the Historical Newspapers at GenealogyBank in an attempt to learn more about Philip Troutfetter, who was involved in some interesting financial activity in Colorado around the turn of the twentieth century. I love to do soundex and wildcard searches when possible, but GenealogyBank does not allow Soundex searches (however wildcard searches are possible at GenealogyBank).

    I find it best to make a list of variant spellings of the name before beginning any search.

    Here's a few:


    There are MORE.

    It is important to remember that when printed materials are digitized, letters can easily be misread. For that reason, Trautvelter is a reasonable variant as is Trantvetter. Small "e" can also be misread as a "c." Searching records that have been digitized and indexed with OCR requires thinking about how letters can be misinterpreted if part of the image is difficult to read.

    Labels: , ,

    Working on the Descendants of Barbara Haase

    I have written before about the estate settlement of Anna Haase in Hancock County, Illinois, in the 1950s. Anna died with no descendants and this wonderful probate lists all her heirs as of the time of her death in Novenber of 1955--over forty heirs. Anna had five siblings who pre-deceased her, and several of her neices and nephews were deceased as well, only increasing the number of heirs.

    Anna's mother Barbara Siefert Bieger Fennan Haase Haase (died 1903 Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois) had children with Peter Bieger and Conrad Haase. Her estate settlement in the 1950s essentially is a genealogy of her mother's descendants compiled fifty years after her mother died.

    The probate lists the heirs, their relationship to Anna, and their address. Also listed were how the heirs were related. My initial attempts to find these individuals has been somewhat successful. Generally speaking, I used census records online at ancestry.com to find the family groups in 1900-1930 census records where possible . The estate settlement did not mention spouses or ages or places of birth and census enumerations were helpful in obtaining approximate ages to allow me to more effectively search other records. This also helped me put together more complete family groups and get details on individuals that did not appear in the estate settlement.

    I searched for these various family members at:

    World Vital Records, using in particular their:

    GenealogyBank, using in particular their:

    Given that many of the males were required to register for the World War I Draft, I used the database of World War I Draft Cards at Ancestry.com as well. There were other databases used at Ancestry.com that I also used, but the census records and the World War I Draft Cards were particularly helpful for my problem.

    I too am a relative of Anna Haase, but I wasn't alive when she died. Her oldest sister, Franciska Bieger Trautvetter (1851-1888) is my great-great-grandmother.

    Labels: ,

    19 November 2007

    Watch those toes and shadows

    This picture taken by my daughter a few years ago makes two important points. Watch your shadow and avoid getting it on the stone. Of course, photoediting software can help in getting rid of the shadow, but that may take more time than avoiding it in the first place and you don't want your photo to look "doctored."

    And watch the feet. There are toes in the bottom of this picture. Those are easily cropped out.

    Labels: ,

    Get Some Perspective

    I've been reviewing several tombstone photographs we took several years ago. There are a few things I would do differently:
    • take a picture of the entryway, sign, or something identifying the name of the cemetery if possible.

    • rename all the pictures so I know whose stone is in the picture and the cemetery it was taken in.

    • take "far off" shots showing relative positions of stones, particularly when there are several family members buried together. I did this in some cases (shown below), but not all.

    • review all the photographs as soon after taking them as possible and add a text file to my folder of pictures containing notes and other information on the cemetery and the pictures.

    Pictures taken in this post were taken in Holy Family Cemetery, Davenport, Scott County, Iowa.

    Additional suggestions are welcome.

    Labels: ,

    16 November 2007

    The Importance of Going One Step at a Time

    There is a reason that genealogists are told to work from the present to the past and not to "skip around."

    My wife's great-grandfather is William Apgar, born around 1888 in Chicago. I spent hours looking at Apgar families in 1880 and in 1900 (and in city directories), trying to get an idea of who his parents could be.

    Turns out Apgar was not his last name after all--it was a last name he took upon his marriage for reasons I am not entirely aware of. His marriage record and a 1910 census enumeration, along with some other information made it clear that his name at birth was actually William Frame. All that time spent looking for Apgars was for naught. Had I worked on him in more detail initially in the 1909-1920 time frame, I would have realized this and not spent so much time looking for the wrong family.

    And for those who wonder if Apgar was a name in William's background, the answer is no. It appears he simply chose the name from somewhere other than his own family history.

    Labels: ,

    15 November 2007

    Checking out those multiple marriages

    I had the date and place of the marriage from an index, but I had never seen the original document. I obtained a copy during my last trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake.

    The first image on this post is a copy of the marriage record of Conrad Haas and Barbara Haas in Ft. Madison, Lee County, Iowa in June of 1882 (Marriage record volume 5, page 470). The record gives the ages of Conrad and Barbara. Nowhere is it indicated that this was the Haase's second marriage (they were divorced this time, too....).

    It is always good to obtain marriage records for marriages of your ancestor besides the one from which you descend. Sometimes records of these additional records may contain significant clues. And in my case the divorce records contained other clues as well.

    And of course, while at the Family History Library, I scanned the records from the microfilm, including the "title page" so I knew where the document was from.

    Labels: ,

    Why it pays to search all the siblings

    Even when you think you "know everything" on a certain family, searching for information on the siblings is still a good idea. The 1860 census image from this post comes from page 89 in Pea Ridge Township, Brown County, Illinois. I was searching for Anke/a Taletta Mueller Adams, sister to my ancestor Heipke Mueller Dirks. Heipke and her family have been fairly well documented with records in the United States and in Germany. I could not find a death record for her parents in Germany, but just figured they had moved to a neighboring parish I just had not found them you.
    I was right that they moved. The "missing" parents in Germany were living with their daughter Anke Adams in 1860 as shown in the image that is a part of this post. Had I not done my census work on Anke, I might still be looking for the parents.
    The Muellers were natives of Etzel, Ostfriesland, Germany.

    Labels: ,

    14 November 2007

    Declarations of Intent pre-1906

    When I was in Salt Lake last May, one of my goals was to search for some declarations of intent and other naturalization documents on a few of my ancestors.

    Like other documents, declarations of intent to become a citizen can vary greatly from one location to another and from one time period to another. Those familiar with naturalization research and history realize that records before 1906 are less detailed and less uniform than records after the 1906 reform.

    There are two declarations of intent included in this post. The first one comes from Adams County, Illinois in 1856. Bernard Dirks is simply stating his intent to naturalize. It is not known (yet) when he immigrated, but it was likely close to the time this declaration was filed in April of 1856.

    The second declaration of intent (partially shown in this post) comes from 1853 in Hancock County, Illinois, just north of Adams County. This form is significantly more detailed than the 1856 form for Bernard Dirks. In this declaration, George Trautvetter indicates his date and place of birth in Germany and his date and place of landing in the United States. His declaration was filed on 4 January 1855, a year and a half (approximately) after his immigration in July of 1853. Why the delay is not known. George did settle in Hancock County, Illinois, pretty much immediately after his arrival in the United States as he is listed as a resident of Hancock County, Illinois, when he purchased property in the fall of 1853.

    Unfortunately, declarations of intent are not always preserved at the county level and as we have seen here there can be inconsistencies in how much information they contain. However, they should still be included as a part of any research plan for immigrant ancestors. And don't forget that before 1906, any court of record could naturalize.

    Labels: , ,

    10 November 2007

    Is Grandma living with one of the kids in the census?

    The 1920 censustaker found my 87 year old ancestor, Heipka Dirks living with her daughter in law, Anna Dirks near Coatsburg, Adams County, Illinois.
    If you cannot find your "older" ancestor in the census, look at the entry for each of their children (or in this case daughter-in-law)---they might have moved in with family as they got older. Heipka lived to be 91 and did not die until 1924.
    The source citation for this image is:
    Year: 1920;Census Place: Honey Creek, Adams, Illinois; Roll: T625_296; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 12; Image: 213.

    Labels: ,

    09 November 2007

    Platting Out Kentucky Properties

    When I was at the Family History Library last May, I scanned several deeds from Bourbon County, Kentucky for James Tinsley and Thomas Sledd, two of my ancestors.

    This deed dated 2 April 1814, transferred property from Thomas Sledd to George Henry, part of the deed is shown in this post--the part that contains part of the metes and bounds description of the property.

    I like to use a program called DeedMapper to plat out the parcels to get an idea of how they are shaped. DeedMapper requires the description of the property to be entered in a specific format, but it's really not to difficult to do that. The screen image shows how I did that for the Sledd deed.

    DeedMapper will plat out the property. The first image shows it REALLY SMALL with the lines/corners shown.

    The second image is larger and only shows the directions of each line. It gives a little better perspective. What I really need to do is fit all the deeds together in order to better understand what property Thomas Sledd owned at his death and how that property was allocated amongst his heirs.

    Labels: , ,

    08 November 2007

    Think about the informant

    Think about the informant on the death certificate or other record you are viewing. Is there a chance they might not have had first hand knowledge of the information on the deceased. The informant on the 1946 death certificate of Granville Lake in Marcelline, Linn County, Missouri, was his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Ola Lake. While the information she provided in this case appears to be accurate (based upon other records), it is always possible that an informant is uncertain of some information, especially parents and place of birth for the deceased.

    Labels: ,

    Make Certain You've Seen the Whole thing

    The death certificate for Granville Lake (died 1946 Marcelline, Linn County, Missouri) contains an omission: the year of birth. Part of Granville's death certificate is shown along with this post entry.

    This certificate was located on the Missouri State Archives Death Certificate website.

    The year of birth is a detail I would like to have. On the Lake certificate, like others from this era, there is a supplemental certificate to correct the omission. It always pays to read the entire document or see if an additional document is filed after the first one has been located. Of course, they had to stamp "supplementary" OVER the year of birth, but it is still legible (1863).

    Granville is my wife's great-grandfather.

    Labels: ,

    07 November 2007

    Adams County Illinois 1872 Map

    This map is for sections 35 and 36 in Honey Creek Township, Adams County, Illinois, in 1872. The 40 acre plot in the northeast quarter of the northwest quarter of section 35 is supposed to be B. Dirks, actually Bernard Dirks.

    Make certain when using these maps at Ancestry.com that you get the source as well. Simply saying "1872 Adams County Plat Book" is not an accurate title, nor is it a complete bibliographic entry. Take the time to look on the site for the title page, usually obtained by searching for the county and the year the book was published. It was too hard to locate the title page for this one. This is one drawback to how the maps are on the site--one has to be a little more vigilant to get adequate documentation.

    Labels: ,

    31 October 2007

    How was Habben read on the 1867 manifest?

    The name was read as "Walelsen." The image in this post shows how the last name appears on the actual record.

    Our earlier post today regarding the Habben family's manifest from 1867 indicated I was having difficulty finding the same entry on Ancestry.com in their index. After some creative searching, I discovered the name was read by the indexers at Ancestry as "Walelsen." I can see it now that I know what they thougth it was. Of course, it looks like "Habben" to me, but that's because I already know what it is.

    Labels: ,

    Finding a manifest a second time

    This is part of the 21 Oct 1867 arrival manifest for the Union which landed in New York City.

    The names are intended to be:
    • Mimke Habben
    • Antje Habben
    • Trientje Habben
    • L[ubbe] Habben
    • Jasper Habben
    • H.
    • John
    • M.
    • J.
    • Ger.
    • Inft.

    The names are a little "off" from what they actually are, but they are very close considering.

    I actually located the reference several years ago using the Germans to America series--which included the last name spelled as "Habben." I am trying to find the family in Ancestry.com's indexes and so far have struck out. I'll keep trying and post a followup message on how these names appear in their database.

    Labels: ,

    29 October 2007

    Census Searching Reminders

    All of us at one point in time or another have difficulty locating someone in a census. Juliana Smith just posted my article on Ancestry's blog with a list of census searching reminders. Feel free to post your own suggestions at the bottom of the post.

    The article can be viewed here on Ancestry.com's blog.

    Labels: ,

    18 October 2007

    Georgia Death Cerficiates online

    Georgia recently uploaded an index of it's death certificates from 1919-1927. There are many search options, including first and last name.

    The nice thing is that if one does an "advanced" search, one can search all the name fields, including those of the parents. This made it easier for me to track the movements of some extended members of the Rampley family, including Rachel, whose son's Samuel Mosley's death certificate from 1921 is partially shown on the left.

    I'll be spending more time with advanced search. Feel free to post your tips for using the site here as well.


    10 October 2007

    Reminder for Genealogy Users of Ebay

    Many genealogists use ebay to make a variety of purchaes. Keep in mind when buying books that you may be bidding on a book that is still in print. Find out what the publisher is charging for the book before you bid. I have seen several occasions where a bidder ends up paying MORE for the book on ebay than they would have had they purchased the book directly from the publisher.

    I ususally try and find the book for sale somewhere else online and then use that to base my bid--assuming of course that the book is still in print.

    Save your extra genealogy money for copies ;-)

    Labels: ,

    06 October 2007

    Disappearing Ancestors in Census Records

    My "Tip from the Pro" which appeared in last week's Ancestry World Journal.

    Disappearing Ancestors in Census Records

    You have found your ancestor in the 1820 and 1830 censuses, but he
    cannot be located in the 1840 census. What can you do? There are
    several approaches, but one idea is to locate his 1820 and 1830
    neighbors in the 1840 census and see if your ancestor is nearby with
    his name woefully misspelled or written in a barely legible fashion.
    It is possible that your ancestor moved out of state; locating those
    1820 and 1830 neighbors in that "new" location may allow you to find
    your ancestor living there among them.

    Of course, it is always possible that your ancestor is dead in 1840
    and not enumerated at all. And there is always the chance that if he
    is living with one of his grown children in 1840 that the grown child
    is listed as the head of the household. In this case, the ancestor is
    there, but just one of the "tic" marks for an older family member.

    Labels: ,

    01 October 2007

    Auction Houses that won't sell

    The headline appeared on a news website:

    "Auction houses that won't sell"

    Does it mean auction houses have things they will not sell or does it mean you can auction your own home if your own home does not sell?

    The latter was the intent.

    Make certain your genealogical writing is clear as well. If something can be interpreted in more than one way, rephrasing is probably necessary. Creating ambuigity is never a good thing for the genealogist.


    17 September 2007

    Posting Estate Notices in 1918

    Notices of the estate settlement were posted in 5 places for my ancestor's 1918 estate settlement:

    Two local banks.
    Two local meat markets.
    and what appears to be a harness shop.

    The banks did not surprise me, but I was a little surprised that notices would be posted at the two meat markets and a harness shop (the 1920 census for Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois, indicates a 69 year old Joseph Radford living on Marion Street and working as a harness maker).

    What is really interesting about John Trautvetter's estate settlement is that a copy of the actual sale bill is included in the estate papers.

    Labels: ,

    How Long Does a $50 Tombstone Last?

    This entry is from the estate settlement of Mimke Habben, indicating his tombstone cost the estate $50.00. The burial was in 1877 and based upon the estate records, it seems reasonable that the stone was erected within a year or so after his death in Prairie Township, Hancock County, Illinois on 11 February 1877.

    Habben was buried in the Barnes Cemetery, Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois. This small cemetery hasn't had a burial in decades and is located south of the much larger (and still used) Moss Ridge Cemetery. I was there on Sunday and had not seen the stone in over ten years. It was a good thing I transcribed the stone years ago when I first learned of its existence.

    The inscription was very weathered and the stone had fallen off its mounting. It was laying right next to the mounting. The stone of Habben's wife Antje (who died in 1900) had met a similar fate. It too was resting next the mounting.

    Transcribe those stones before it is too late. No source lasts forever.

    Labels: ,

    14 September 2007

    American Revolutionary at Footnote and HistoryKat

    One of the additions to the HistoryKat site is the Historical register of officers of the Continental Army during the war of the revolution, April 1775, to December, 1783 by Francis Heitman.
    Part of the screen image from HistoryKat is shown in this post, along with the entry for Angus Rucker, a distant relative. This book is available as part of the HistoryKat collection and is searchable by name.

    Of course, research never ends and I remembered that Footnote.com is also working on digitizing and indexing Revolutionary War Pensions as a part of their American Revolutionary War Collection

    The Rucker pension is quite lengthy and can be downloaded completely from the Footnote.com website. The image shown in this post is but a small portion of Angus Rucker's pension file. Also note that the image from the pension shown here has been significantly reduced in size for webposting. The original image printed nicely on my printer--better than a microfilm copy usually does.

    Using several websites in tandem with each other results in more raw data and more information about the desired family.

    Subscriptions to HistoryKat or to Footnote.com are reasonably priced.

    Labels: , ,

    10 September 2007

    Fred, Tena, and John Ufkes ca. 1920

    Thanks to my great-aunt Ruth, I have a picture of my maternal grandfather, John H. Ufkes (1917-2003) and his parents. My great-grandmother Tena Ufkes (1895-1986, actually born Trientje Janssen) and Fred Ufkes (1893-1960) are also pictured.

    Granddad looks to be about 3 or 4, which would make the picture taken around 1920. The 1920 Census shows the Ufkes family living in Bear Creek Township, Hancock County, Illinois, on a rental farm---the farm was actually rented from Fred's father Johann Ufkes (1838-1924).

    Don't neglect to contact all family members who might have pictures. And if they are nice enough to share with you, don't forget to send a thank you note.

    Labels: ,

    06 September 2007

    Is That Obituary Misleading?

    Ancestry.com ran my "tip" on obituaries and the responses from readers have been interesting. Of course newspaper obituaries are good source of information, but they must be used with care. Obituaries are by their very nature a secondary source and since information may be given under a time of stress, details may not be remembered accurately either.

    Never correct an obituary when typing it into your database, but clearly note known errors in the notes of your software program or in a commentary on the obituary itself.


    30 July 2007

    Trivial References May Be Clues

    Even the slightest reference may be a clue. I already knew my 3rd great-grandmother married after her husband died. If I had not, her signature on the final accounting of the estate would have been a significant clue. Initial filings list her as Antje Habben. The final accounting in 1877 shows her signature as Antje Fecht. It always pays to read everything. Clues can be lurking anywhere.

    Labels: ,

    26 July 2007

    Illinois Marriages

    Researchers should keep in mind that starting in 1877 some Illinois counties asked for names of parents as a part of the marriage application. Of course, this does not mean that every couple provided the information. The marriage application shown partially here does not include parents' names for William I. Sargent, my great-great-grandfather. This is particularly unfortunate...but all couples were not forthcoming.

    Cook County did not start asking for parents' names on marriage applications until the early 1960s.

    The Illinois State Marriage index is online at the Illinois State Archives. Researchers who have not used the index should remember that it is incomplete and like any index, occasionally contains errors.

    Labels: ,

    17 July 2007

    Price of Corn in western Illinois in 1877

    Prices of everything are relative.
    The image to the right shows the value of a few items from the estate of Mimke Habben in Hancock County, Illinois in 1877. The corn was born 25 cents a bushel as were the oats. The problem with comparing value today with value then is there are a variety of factors at play, including supply and demand, historical uses of items, etc.
    While it is fun to compare prices of items, it must be done with care. In this case, we really don't know the quality of the grain in question. We do know that the corn and oats had the same per bushel value, which may or may not be true at other points in time. One could utilize old newspapers in order to get an idea of grain prices contemporary to the document being shown partially here (the actual date is March of 1877).
    There is a neat website that provides more food for thought on the "current" value of money or an item:


    03 July 2007

    Are You Thinking about Alternate Spellings?

    Sometimes when we start work on a new name or a new family, we forget the things we learned years ago on "old" families. One of these things to think about are alternate spellings. While doing a little preliminary work on the "new" Blain family, I realized that one of the alternate spellings I need to keep in mind is Blair. While this is not really a spelling or pronunciation variation, the final "r" in some cases can easily be read as an "n. " Soundex based searches will not catch this variation, but an appropriate wildcard search would.


    02 July 2007

    Administrator with will annexed

    Typically administrators are appointed because there was no valid will left by the deceased.
    Yet there are some cases where there is a valid will and an administrator. This can happen if the will names no executor or the named executor refuses to act, is incompetent, or denied by the judge.
    The image on this post comes from the appointment of an adminstrix when my ancestor's 1877 will named no executor. His wife was appointed "Administratrix with the will annexed" as shown here.

    Another situation is where the executor dies before the estate is settled. A great-grandmother was settling her husband's estate and died before it was settled. In her case, she appointed her executor to also complete the settlement of her husband's estate.


    21 June 2007

    Keeping Track of HOW you Got it

    Tracking your research (the title of the book, page, publication date, publisher, etc.) has always been an integral part of research. However, sometimes there is more to it than that.

    While reviewing digital files I saved to my flashdrive while in Salt Lake City at the Family History Library, I realized that I had the book title and page number, etc. What I don't have is the database that allowed me to search that book in the first place. Many scans of older books are parts of larger digital collections. What I did not track was the digital collection that contained scanned images (and searchable text) of the book. This would have been extremely helpful for when I want to search those books for names that were not searched for originally.

    Lesson learned.


    14 June 2007

    A Look at Cook

    Those with Cook County, Illinois, ancestors will really get some use out of this website. A Look at Cook contains census enumeration maps and other ward maps for the City of Chicago from the 1870 through 1930 time period. The site is free to use and very helpful in determining what enumeration district your ancestor should have been in for a particular census.

    I've made extensive use of it while working on my wife's Chicago area families between 1870 and 1935.

    The website is easy to remember: www.alookatcook.com



    06 June 2007

    Names may be more common than you think

    Remember that names you think are not common may be.

    For years, I thought I had found the immigration of my wife's Elizabeth Schulmeyer who came to Davenport, Iowa, in the early 1850s. I had a manifest entry with her name, the known name of her father, and others I assumed to Elizabeth's siblings. The ages were a pretty close fit---I had to have the right person.


    When I searched the Beberstedt, Germany records for Elizabeth Schulmeyer, I found her with her parents Andreas and Brigett Schilling Schollmeyer. The problem was as I went through the column for names of parents I realized. There was another Andreas Schollmeyer having children at the same time....only with a different wife. It appeared that there were two contemporaries with the same name--likely cousins. Further research indicated when the correct Andreas Schollmeyer immigrated.

    Names may be more common than you think.

    The were Schollmyeyer names on virtually every page of the parish register....not as unusual a name as I thought.


    Backing up your flash drive

    I absolutely love my flash drive. It allows me to easily store large amounts of data and bring files with me while travelling that I would not bring if I had to have on paper. It also allows me to create digital images while travelling that can then be brought home.

    There are two problems with it.

    I tend to leave it everywhere. I probably forgot it at least 6 times while travelling over the past two week.

    The other thing is that one needs to back up the data on the flash drive as soon as one returns home. That I did. I would hate to lose all that information and all those images. So....don't let your flash drive "copy" of file or a record be your "only" copy. The risk of losing it is too great.


    26 May 2007

    A Find on PERSI

    I have long suggested that researchers use PERSI (the Periodical Source Index) created by the staff of the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. This finding aid indexes articles in genealogical newsletters, quarterlies, and other periodical publications. Until PERSI finding articles in these journals required a page-by-page search. PERSI has topic indexes and also includes articles that relate to genealogical methodology. The indexes are not full name indexes, but they can be helpful. Each citation includes a complete reference so that the magazing containing the article can be located. The Allen County Public Library will copy articles for a small fee or users of PERSI can locate the article themselves.

    While at the Family History Library last week, I performed a search of PERSI on www.heritagequestonline.com. Honestly, I haven't found too much personally on PERSI, but my search for "samuel rhodes" brought up several hits, one of which was an article in the Hawkins County Tennessee Genealogical Society quarterly. Since the Samuel I was searching for lived in Hawkins County for a time, I decided to see if the Family History Library had the magazine in question. They did.

    I scanned the desired pages for use at home. Part of the article appears on this post. It was a great find for me as it opened up new information on Samuel, particularly his Revolutionary War service.

    Never put all your genealogical eggs in one basket.

    Labels: ,

    22 May 2007

    Reveiewing Things I've Already Seen

    I went through many of my great and great-great-grandparents estate settlements when I was much younger, knew less about genealogy, and didn't bother to copy or read quite a bit of the material. In some cases, time never allowed me to go back, particularly on those families where other records allowed me to easily trace them back to earlier generations.
    This time at the Family History Library, I've reviewed a few of those files and have picked up a few new clues and some neat documents I had forgotten existed.
    The image on this post is part of a sale bill from the estate settlement of John Michael Trautvetter. His estate was interesting to view again, but there were no relevations in it.
    However the estate of his uncle some forty years earlier contained one line I had overlooked that caused me to find out some members of the family had spent ten years in Kentucky after arriving from Germany and before coming to Illinois--something I was not aware of.
    It pays to review files you may have scanned early in your research.

    Labels: ,

    01 May 2007

    US Mexican Border Crossings from 1903 to 1957-website

    Ancestry.com has just released US Mexican Border Crossings from 1903 to 1957.

    This new database can be searched on their site at US Mexican Border Crossings.

    We'll put up a few samples later today as time allows. Unfortunately this is a little too far south for most of my family and the cousin I just learned about who was running from the law in 1902 probobably didn't bother with paperwork.


    28 April 2007

    More on Analyzing Pre-1850 Census Entries

    I had nearly forgotten that several years ago we posted an extensive series of articles on searching per-1850 census records for Thomas Chaney of Bedford County, Pennsylvania. Those articles are housed on our site at:

    Labels: , ,

    27 April 2007

    Need a death date for a Civil War Veteran?

    Need a date of death for a Civil War veteran, but have no idea where to look?

    The Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900, on microfilm at the National Archives, the Family History Library (card catalog reference), and Footnote.comhas a line on each index card for when and where the soldier died.

    Many cards do not have a death date and place (at least I saw quite a few that did not), but it might be worth a try if you know the guy was in the service and just can't find out where he died and do not want to order the entire pension file to find out.

    The card in this post is a sample of one from the 78th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, the same unit as my ancestor and his brother. Of course their cards did not have a date and place of death, but I already knew it.

    The main thing is that this might be a help. Using the cards on film (NARA or FHL) requires that one know the unit (because that is how the cards are organized). Using the cards at Footnote.com
    only requires a name as they are indexed.

    Labels: , ,

    25 April 2007

    A good way to prepare for any research trip

    A good way to prepare for any research trip is to write up the information you already have, as if you were going to submit it for publication. You don't have to submit it to anyone, but just the fact of writing it up, organizing it, and making your case and summarizing the details you know will get you on track for continuing your research and noticing holes.

    I've often pulled up old Ancestry articles I have written to use when at a library when doing research.

    Your writing need not be fancy (but it should be sourced). And your written up summary is better to take with you than just untranscribed copies of your records.


    28 March 2007

    Migration Chains

    I've been thinking quite a bit about migration chains lately, largely because I'm giving three lectures about it in less than a month. And also because I realized that another of my families was part of a larger migration chain I was unaware of until recently.

    Genealogists sometimes make the incorrect assumption that chains of migration only apply to non-English speaking immigrants. Nothing could be further from the truth. Of course, all of my German immigrants from 1860-1888 were parts of migration chains and this has been relatively easy to document. My wife has immigrants from Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, and Quebec from the same time period and every one was part of a larger migration chain which we were eventually able to document. Even my Irish Neills were part of a larger group that I only recently discovered.

    But "natives" also moved in chains---and they can be discovered if one takes the time. My Newmans from Kentucky into Indiana, Illinois, and eventually Iowa were part of a group that moved over a fifty some year time period. Other families moved from Amherst County, Virginia to Bourbon County, Kentucky over a twenty year time period in the very early eighteenth century.

    Take the time to look for your ancestor's chain of migration.


    22 March 2007

    Check your assumptions

    My previous post indicated that my great-great-grandfather's death certificate indicated and his parents were born in Saxony. I wrote this from memory. BIG MISTAKE.

    Turns out the death record was not even that specific---Germany was listed as the birthplace of John and his parents.
    Be careful relying on memory and always check your assumptions. Don't add to the confusion already existing in some records.

    Labels: ,

    The Importance of Siblings

    Beginning genealogists may be tempted to focus only on their own direct line, ignoring records from siblings of their ancestors. This can lead to missed information. The death certificate of my great-great-grandfather, John Michael Trautvetter indicates he and his parents were born in Saxony. That is very specific and very helpful (grin). The clip on the right is from his brother George's death certificate. George's record provides exact places of birth for George and his parents.
    Of course this is secondary information, but it still is a valuable clue and would have been overlooked if I had only focused on "my line."

    Labels: ,

    Is the Original Wrong?

    The accuracy of the original should never be assumed--regardless of when the record was created and who gave the information. And sometimes errors are just that--errors.

    If you search the online index of World War I Draft cards at Ancestry.com for only the year 1918, you will get many hits. If the actual card image is viewed, it will be seen that the card does actually say 1918 as the year of birth. Think about it for a second, have you ever written the wrong year on a check or an application? It is very easy to do. Those who transcribed the data for the online index of World War I Draft cards at Ancestry.com were supposed to transcribe what the card said, not what they thought it should say. Of course, the transcribers were human so they may have made mistakes, but the mistake could just as easily have been on the original.

    A few samples of these cards can be viewed on our site.
    And if you want to play with the database and don't have a subscription, you can read our suggestions for a 14 day free trial here.


    21 March 2007

    Copies of SS-5 Forms

    They aren't cheap, but in some cases, copies of an SS-5 form may be just what your genealogy research needs. The form shown here is for my wife's grandmother. She listed a different father on this form than her children listed on her death certificate, obituary, and other records for which one of her children was an informant.

    The SSDI at Rootsweb can be searched for free. It can also be searched on our page which has more information about the SS-5 form, including how to obtain it. I usually only obtain SS-5 forms when I have a big "brick wall" or records created after the person's death are insufficient.

    Labels: ,

    17 March 2007

    Name Games

    First and last names can create all kinds of problems for the genealogist. Two older articles on our site discuss concerns family historians need to keep in mind with both last names and first names. Phonetics can be a problem with either one, but there are differences--particularly if your ancestor came from a country where they practiced patronymics as late as the nineteenth century as my Ostfriesens and my wife's Swedes did.

    The Last Name Game

    The First Name Game

    Labels: ,

    13 March 2007

    Federal Land Patents

    An article I wrote several years ago about the Bureau of Land Management website is still accurate--thankfully they leave the search interface alone for the most part.

    A search for William Newmans in Indiana resulted in one match for my William. The legal description for his property is as shown in the image below.
    The legal description is available on the patent image, but the quarter section can be viewed on the BLM site as part of the database entry for William's patent.

    Then using the legal land description of William's 40 acres, I searched the BLM database of patents again. This time I searched for patents granted to people for property in the same section of the township.

    I was excited when I viewed the names. One last name was the same last name as William's wife, Rebecca Tinsley. Viewing the patent for William Tinsley indicated he was living in the same county William was when William purchased the land in Tipton County. Both men were listed as residents of Rush County, Indiana.
    Patents are not only for "early" or pre-statehood settlers. There were federal land sales in many states long after statehood. After all, these sales are in Indiana in 1850.
    The article goes into more detail on using these patents. I would view the BLM website's information on patents and the rectangular survey system descriptions before I did extensive searches.

    Labels: , ,

    11 March 2007

    Are You Paying Too Much for Vital Records?

    Shop around before you buy a copy of that vital record. Experienced genealogists usually know where and how to get the best price on a vital record, but those who are just starting their ancestral search may pay significantly more than they have to.

    Generally speaking, copies of birth, death, and marriage records are best ordered from the local (county or city) office that records and maintains them. Additional copies of these records may be at a state department of vital records, but typically their prices are slightly higher than local offices. Of course, there are always exceptions.

    In some cases, the records may have been microfilmed and may be available at either a state archives or via the Family History Library. In some states the records have actually been placed online at no cost. This is true for at least Missouri, Arizona, and Utah for some records in some years.

    It is never cheapest to order from one of the "online providers" of vital records and genealogists rarely need "immediate service" which significantly adds to the cost.

    Before you purchase a vital record for the first time, search the UsGenweb page for the county where the event took place. These pages may have information on obtaining vital records for the county in question. If that does not work, consider posting a message to the appropriate message board at rootsweb http://lists.rootsweb.com or http://boards.ancestry.com. Someone may be able to tell you where to obtain records for the place in question.

    Don't just type in "kansas vital records" into google and click and buy at the first site that comes up. Save that money for other copies ;-)


    10 March 2007

    Where did they get THAT?

    Confusion is often in the mind of the beholder. The every name 1900 census index at Ancestry.com has caused me to revisit some relatives in this census. When I viewed one entry, I remembered how confused I was when I first saw it. Like many genealogical records, the enumeration contained an error. And like many errors, the incorrect statement was a clue. In this case it was a clue that I failed to notice.

    The article Where Did they Get That? continues on our site...

    Labels: ,

    05 March 2007

    Chicago Voters

    Voter registration lists are an excellent genealogical resource when they can be located. The image shown here comes from voter's registration lists from the late nineteenth century in Chicago. These have been indexed and are on Ancestry.com. The article contains complete image samples. These records are helpful for tracking movements and also include date/place of naturalization for those voters who were naturalized citizens. Of course in these records from the nineteenth century, women are not included. If you don't know why, a review of American history is in order.

    Labels: ,

    Backwards in the Census

    Have you ever considered the possibility that your ancestor's census enumeration may have his first and last name switched? The 1930 census entry for my wife's step-great-grandfather, Panagiotis Verikios in Chicago does.
    The image on the right shows the enumeration and the pattern here was for the last name to be first and the first name to be last--except for Panagiotis.
    You can search the 1930 census for your own ancestor as well and if you don't find him, consider switching the first and last names.


    04 March 2007

    Witness versus Bondsman

    Do you know the legal difference between a witness to a document and a bondsman? There is a legal difference and it impacts how you should interpret the potential relationships among the people on the document. A witness is testifying that he saw the person sign the document. A bondsman is creating a potential legal or financial obligation if the person for whom he signs the bond does not act as he is supposed or was not legally able to get married (in the case of a marriage bond).


    03 March 2007

    Infant One Year Married the Next

    On the surface it seems a little strange: in 1814 my ancestor is listed as an "infant." A year later she is getting married. Seems a little hinky and perhaps immoral or illegal.
    And yet it is not.
    Someone who is an infant in the eyes of the law is simply not of the age of majority or the age of consent. The person could easily be termed an "infant" one year and old enough to get married the next.
    Remember how the law defines a term is often slightly different from how that same term is used in everyday English.


    01 March 2007

    Social Security Death Index Updates

    To be perfectly honest, I don't pay attention to how often the (Social Security Death Index) SSDI is updated at or at Ancestry. I search it at Rootsweb for two reasons: I like the interface and I can remember the URL (http://ssdi.rootsweb.com). Both sites have the same data (Ancestry requires a membership (or at least a free trial) to see the data). Rootsweb shows the same information for free.
    Since I'm not often looking for the really recently deceased, I'm not overly concerned with how fast the SSDI is updated.
    Out of idol curiosity, I checked Ancestry and Rootsweb versions of the SSDI tonight for my uncle who died in late December 2006. Both databases contained his entry (Roger Neill, 1937-2006 for anyone who is interested).


    1910 Who is it?

    It is easy to complain about indexes...until one sees the original handwriting that the indexers had to deal with. To be certain, indexers, as other humans, make mistakes. However, sometimes what they have to work with is very dificult. This is the 1910 census entry (partial) for a well-known American. Knowing that may help you read the entry, but if you had already read two hundred entries that day and had not known this was a "well-known" entry, would you have been able to read it "correctly?" Just something to think about the next time a census search leaves you frustrated. And remember---you can always search the old fashioned way....one page at a time. That's how many of us started out searching the census.

    Labels: ,

    What is a grantor?

    Land records are full of terminology...and not knowing or guessing incorrectly could lead the researcher to incorrect conclusions. And there is always the case of spending hours looking in the "wrong" index. I always mention in a beginning land record lecture that researchers should think of the grantor as the "sellor." Of course that's not how "seller" is actually pronounced, but the key is remembering what it means...

    Labels: ,

    Brick Walls from A to Z

    A is for Alphabetize Have you created an alphabetical list of all the names in your database and all the locations your families lived? Typographical errors and spelling variants can easily be seen using this approach. Sometimes lists that are alphabetical (such as the occasional tax or census) can hide significant clues.

    B is for Biography Creating an ancestor's biography might help you determine where there are gaps in your research. Determining possible motivations for his actions (based upon reasonable expectations) may provide you with new areas to research.

    the rest of it is here...

    Labels: ,

    28 February 2007

    Who is a Mortgagor?

    Question: If you found a land reference and your ancestor was the mortgagor, would you know if that meant he borrowed the money or loaned the money?
    If you said it "doesn't make any difference," you've got some learning to do ;-)
    We'll post the answer in a few days.

    Answer--the mortgagor is the person who signed the mortgage--that is, they borrowed the money.

    Labels: ,

    27 February 2007

    Analyze the Tradition

    We all have family traditions. Some are colorful, some are entertaining; some are exaggerations, and some are bold-faced lies. All can be used genealogically, whether for actual clues or just to provide "colorful" stories to add to the family history.

    Most traditions are not completely false and contain a buried grain of truth. Finding that grain of truth and determining the difference between truth and fiction is not a simple matter.

    The rest can be read in our "Analyze the Tradition" which was posted to our site some time ago in the pre-blog era.

    Labels: ,