19 April 2014

Our Informal Style Guide--Image Provenance

George & Ida (Sargent)
Trautvetter family,
Adams County, Illinois
about 1920
I've mentioned this in a few posts over the past few weeks, but we're going to add this to the unofficial style guide for my blogs.

All images made from original records and photographs will include source information. We're not in the habit of formulating them in academically format, but there will be sufficient detail for people to know where the image originated. There's two reasons for this:

  • it's faster--at least for me
  • it's a format that readers can more easily emulate and I'd rather people had source details on their images in "unacademic" format than nothing. I'm not trying to scare people off with citations. 
We're not putting that information in the caption. Why? 

If people copy and paste the image the caption doesn't come with it as a part of the "paste." That's why it's been added to the image---making it easier for someone who uses the image to include the citation.

This helps me, too. Then if I view an old blog post I know exactly where the image came from. No one can remember everything.

It Was Wild In Nebraska In 1885---That's Why We Search With Wildcards

We've mentioned using wildcards at FamilySearch, but the release of the 1885 Nebraska State Census reminded me of their importance.

A search for ann* goldenstein (exact unchecked) did not provide any hits as shown below:

But a search for ann g*ld*st*n did:

 Readers familiar with Soundex will know that Goldenstein and Goldensten are Soundex equivalent. They will also remember (hopefully) from earlier blog posts that unexact searches are FamilySearch do not necessarily pull all hits that are Soundex equivalent.

The desired entry was located in Dawson County, Nebraska's Willow Island precinct.

The young homesteaders had been married around four years at the time of this enumeration and their household had been joined by two children, including Tjode (listed as Tyoda above), the author's great-grandmother. 

Renhert is actually Bernard--named for Annie's father, Bernard Dirks who stayed behind in Adams County, Illinois, where the couple had been married in 1881. 

The more I search on FamilySearch, the more I use wildcards as they are more effective. At least most of the time. I'll have to do a little more searching, Frank's uncle and several cousins should also be in Dawson County in 1885.

Uncle Henry Was Tall in 1918

An earlier post mentioned that my uncle's World War II draft registration card indicated he was 6' 4" which was something of a surprise.

His World War I draft registration card only indicated that he was "tall.' I'm not certain how "tall" "tall" actually was but at least the card did not indicate he was "short."  Unfortunately not all records provide the same types of details as do others.

Users of these cards know that the images are often blurry and the quality of this image is not unusual for a World War I draft card. This digital image, obtained on Ancestry.com, as made from the microfilmed copies of these cards--which are blurry as well.
Unless I can locate some pictures, this is probably the end of my research into Uncle Henry's height. I'll have to go back and review the World II Draft cards on FamilySearch. There may be more physical characteristics discoveries waiting for me.

18 April 2014

FamilySearch Updates: WA State and AZ

The following databases are showing as new or updated since our last post regarding FamilySearch:

Washington, Western District, Naturalization Records, 1853-1957

Arizona, Douglas, Arrival Manifests, 1906-1955

Uncle Henry was 6' 4" Tall

The World War II Draft Registration card for Henry William Trautvetter didn't provide any earthshattering information on this younger brother of my great-grandfather. (These cards are available digitally at FamilySearch).

It confirmed his date and place of birth which I had obtained from church records. And, of course, the church baptismal record would be a preferred source for information on Henry's date of birth.

I'm not really certain why William Shauw[sic] of Tioga is listed as the person who "will always know your address." Shaw was not a relative as far as I know and Henry would have been married at the time of this registration.

Trautvetter is like many who live near a county line--he has a Sutter mailing address in Hancock County, Illinois, but registered in Lima Township, Adams County, Illinois.

 For me, the most interesting thing was his physical description.

I always thought the Trautvetters were short people.

Uncle Henry as 6'4" tall and weighed 140 pounds.

Not a major revelation, but neat little discovery. Of course a stickler for genealogical details and accuracy would wonder if there's any other evidence as to Henry's height. I don't think I have any pictures of him. 

But he would have registered for the World War I draft, given his age.

And that's something I can try and find.

World War II Draft Cards on FamilySearch Updated

FamilySearch indicates that this database has been updated as of 17 April 2014:

United States World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 (Image Browse)

Born in Oklahoma City in 1863

As a rule of thumb, death certificates where informants only knew the deceased towards the end of their life tend to be suspect. This death certificate for Montvill Harness is no different.

We've talked about Montvill before, but haven't really looked at the place of birth given on his 1925 death certificate from New Mexico.

It indicates he was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in 1863. While it is possible that Harness was born in Indian Territory in the 1860s, all other extant records indicate that he was born in Illinois. This is the only record that provides an Oklahoma place of birth.

Simply because Oklahoma didn't exist by that name in 1863 doesn't mean the location is wrong. Locations exist well before they have names and people can easily be born in "unnamed" locations that later have named.. Montvill did live in Oklahoma for a time before going to New Mexico and it is possible that for this reason the informant concluded he was born there for that reason.

Of course, I would transcribe the document as written and include my commentary about the likely reason for the error in my notes.

And in my final analysis and proof argument regarding Montvill's place of birth, I would include this record and why I think it is incorrect. I would include it because 1925 era death certificates are logically places to look for information regarding place of birth and leaving it out would make it appear as if the research was incomplete.

Organizing Genealogical Information-April 2014

April-May 2014 Class

Organizing Genealogical Information:
A Short Course
With Michael John Neill
(scroll down for specific schedule)
Organizing information is an important part of genealogical research—perhaps more important than the actual research. This short course (only 4 sessions) is intended to provide the students with exposure to a variety of ways to organize information with an emphasis on problem-solving. The course will consist of four lectures (topics and schedule below), problem assignments, virtual follow-up discussions, group discussion board interaction, and student submission of work (optional). There is no assigned grade—you get from this what you put into it. Students will also be able to share their work and ideas with other students.
Citation of sources is important, but presentations will not focus on citation theory.
This time the course will be presented a little bit differently. Students will be able to download the lecture and view it at their convenience--ideally all on the same day that the download link is sent to registered students.
Course registration is only $30 for this run of the course. Class size is limited to 30 to encourage group interaction.
  • Assignment/Study 1Charts, Charts, and More Charts (we will discuss a variety of charts and table to organize your information and your searches—all students work on same problem
  • Assignment/Study 24 Step Research Process (we will discuss a four-step process to research organization)—pick your own problem
  • Assignment/Study 3— Constructing Families from pre-1850 Census (discuss of how to ascertain family structure from pre-1850 US census records)---all work on same problem
  • Assignment/Study 4— Problem Solving Chart (problem-solving techniques not discussed in previous lectures)– pick your own problem
Register here.

Lecture downloads will be posted at the beginning of class.

Discussions last for approximately  30-45 minutes and are at:
  • 23 April 8:00 pm central time.
  • 30 April.-8:00 pm central time
  • 7 May -8:00 pm central time
  • 14 May.-8:00 pm central time

Lectures and discussions will be via GotoMeeting.

Register here.

Or use this webpage:

17 April 2014

Determining Your Own Migration Trail/Chain Webinar

I made a revised recording of this popular webinar. I always seem to learn something when I represent these sessions. 

Determining Your Own Migration Trail/ChainThis lecture discusses ways to find the names of your ancestor's associates and ways to determine how your ancestor fit into a larger chain of migration. Geared towards advanced beginners and intermediate researchers. Order for $5 here

URL: http://rootdig.blogspot.com/2014/04/determining-your-own-migration.html

Updated on FamilySearch: NE and SD Materials

The following are showing as new or updated on FamilySearch since our last update:

Nebraska, State Census, 1885

South Dakota, Grand Army of the Republic Membership Records, 1861-1941

Searching FamilySearch Webinar Released

My recent webinar on FamilySearch focused on using and interpreting databases versus image sets, navigating images, and search techniques. It's geared towards advanced beginners and intermediate researchers, or anyone who has used FamilySearch some, but is uncertain that they're searching correctly or wondered if there were other ways of doing things. The download of the presentation is only $6 (there is no handout).

Note: If you were in this presentation or registered for it and missed it, please let me know (mjnrootdig@gmail.com)  if you did not receive a complimentary download link. That's something registrants for the "live" session get at no additional charge.

This page's URL:

16 April 2014

Updated or New on FamilySearch

The following are showing as new or updated on FamilySearch since our last update:

Arkansas, Oakland and Fraternal Historic Cemetery Records, 1867-2013

Iowa, State Census, 1925

Blanket Statements About Recorded Copies

Generally speaking, local record copies of deeds and other original records do not contain the actual signature of your ancestor.

They contain the clerk's handwritten copy of your ancestor's signature. Some clerks may have tried to "copy" the "mark" your ancestor made if he did not sign his name, but there was rarely any attempt by the clerk to "match" the style of the signature on the original record with the transcription that constitutes the record copy.

Of course when recorded copies were reproduced by some type of "image capture" instead of being transcribed by hand or typewriter, the "signature" is a "picture" of the signature.

This 1950 deed makes the point.

At some point before February of 1950 the Hancock County Recorder's Office stopped making manual copies of deeds and began using a photoduplication process as shown in this illustration.

When you conduct searches in record copies of documents do you indicate the process by which the record copy was made?

Would you give more credence to a handwritten transcription or an image copy such as this one?

Shouldn't your research notes indicate the type of record copy you were using?

15 April 2014

Twenty Percent Webinar Sale

From now until 9 PM on 16 April, we're offering 20% off all my webinar offerings.

Our prices are already the lowest around, but we're cutting the price even lower through the 16th. I have over thirty presentations on a variety of topics....make your choice here:


Use coupon code twenty to get your discount at checkout.


Good luck with your research

Updated on FamilySearch: MT, TN, MA, MO

The following are showing as updated since our last FamilySearch post:

Montana, Chouteau County Records,1876-2011

Tennessee, White County Records, 1809-1975

Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1627-2001

Missouri, County Marriage, Naturalization, and Court Records, 1802-1969

I am not certain which ones have had significant changes.

Our Use of the Word "Proof"

I've been muddling over the concept of a style guide for some time now. Not because I like to sit down and write definitions, but because I believe that it makes for clearer and more consistent writing. It is important to say what you mean, mean what you say, and know what you are saying.

I know that few genealogy blogs do not have a style guide and that's really of no concern to me. An earlier blog post discussed how we are handling the distinction between homestead and homeplace.

The word "proof" is another word that genealogists and others throw around. "I have proof of this or I have proof of that." Usually what they mean is that they have one record or piece of paper that says something--usually what they were hoping it would say. I'm no different. I get excited when a piece of paper or a record says what I want it to say. But the excitement needs to wane so that the analysis can begin. And the analysis consists of more than simply typing up the record and saying it is true.

While I'm still refining some concepts in my head, use of the word "proof" on my blogs will mean that I have looked at all the available information (after performing an exhaustive search) have concluded that a certain statement is true based upon what I have located. That's not quite how the BCG manual defines proof in Genealogy Standards, but it's going to be the definition I use on my blogs.

Proof as a noun

Material from an exhaustive search, that when combined with analysis, logic, and reasoning supports a genealogical statement.

Prove as a verb

To write a proof or go through the process of gathering information from which a proof can be made. We will refrain from using "prove" as a verb until the material has been gathered and the analysis has been done.

We may tweak this definition as necessary. If we do, we'll simply strikeout the original and put the new text in red. That way later readers can see our thought process a little more clearly.

Did South Dakota Annex Canada East in 1915?

This may look I made it up, but it is right off the Ancestry.com website as of 12:49 PM central time today.

The 1915 South Dakota State Census contains information from "Canada East." Yes, Canada East.

This is an unaltered image.

Apparently someone at Ancestry.com is using an altered map. I hate it when I realize there's some United States history I don't know.

This appears to be the same database that FamilySearch has had on their site for some time. That database indexes the cards created from the 1915 South Dakota state census.

Updated On FamilySearch

The following are showing as updated on FamilySearch since our last update:

North Carolina, Estate Files, 1663-1979

United States General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934

I think these are updated only, but am not certain.

12 April 2014

My Blogs

For those of you who did not know, this is not my only genealogy blog. Here's list with the links. Enjoy!
You can subscribe to any of the above blogs for free--please tell your friends. We don't have an advertising budget!

Homestead Versus Homeplace

Words that have different meanings can confuse people. Homestead is one of those words. Sometimes it even gets confused with "homeplace."

For this reason, I've written this short "style-guide" for how I'm going to use "homestead" and "homeplace."

Homestead as a noun:

Homestead as a noun will be used in two ways on this blog. One is in reference to an actual parcel of real property acquired by someone via the procedure set forth in the United States under the Homestead Act of 1862 (and amendments). The second is in reference to that portion of an individual's real property to which they have certain rights as their residence. For those with farming ancestors, this concept of homestead usually refers to the residence and a portion of the farm, but not usually to the entire farm. A surviving spouse may also have some legal rights to the homestead portion of a farm, even if there are unsettled debts. The legal concept of homestead allows property tax relief in some states. State statute in the state of interest should spell out these rights more clearly than I am here.

Homestead as a verb:

When I use homestead as a verb it means to participate in the process of acquiring title to real property in the federal domain of the United States under the Homestead Act of 1862 (and amendments).

Homestead and homeplace have similar meanings. When I talk about the first farm my ancestors purchased from a fellow German couple in the 1880s in Illinois and where they lived their entire married life, I am talking about the "homeplace." They acquired it through direct purchase and did not "homestead" it. When I am talking about this entire farm, I'll use the word "homeplace."

Some may see it as a minor distinction, but we're going to make this distinction going forward. When the word "homestead" is used in the above two contexts, there may be records of that "homestead" (either federal land records or potentially local court action to have the specific property that constitutes the homestead clearly surveyed and marked).

And it is always about locating records!

This post is based in part on definitions obtained at:
  • http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/homestead

Time Stands Still for No Stone

Andrew and Lucinda Trask tombstone
Norwood Cemetery, Mercer County,
Illinois. Taken 2005 Michael John Neill
I took this cemetery photograph several years ago at the Norwood Cemetery in Mercer County, Illinois not too far from my home.

I'm really glad that I did. It's one of those stones that weathers somewhat easily.  Facing west on the Illinois prairie, the winter weather probably doesn't help the inscription to stand the test of time.

As warmer weather approaches, I'm thinking of other stones that for which I need digital images. Some I transcribed years ago early in my research.

But as this stone makes clear, time does not stand still.

Do you have any stones like this for your ancestors?

FamilySearch Updates: IL, IA, and UT

The following databases are showing as new or updated on FamilySearch since our last update:

11 April 2014

It's About Them...Not About Me

Search Results for Nan* Ramp* in the 1920 US Census at Ancestry.com. Search performed 11 April 2014. Can there be two Nancy Rampleys living in the same rural Illinois township in 1920?
Some will bemoan the fact that people don't cite their sources, research too quickly, and give nary a thought as to accurate and sound methodology. I understand that, but I also understand that many people just don't want to read lengthy diatribes extolling why those things are important.

I firmly believe in those concepts and I don't want to read those diatribes either.

Two quick examples in my own research indicate why it's important to take our time and think as we research. Our ancestors did things on purpose to confuse us. Many times that confusion centers around names.
  • Hancock County, Illinois brothers Riley Rampley (1835-1893) and James Rampley (1844-1913) married first cousins who were both named Nancy Newman. Of course both men served in the Civil War and both their widows received pensions. This was done just to confuse the pension department. It is fun to confuse the government.
  • Scott County, Iowa, first cousins George A. Freund (1858-1928) and George K. Freund (1854-1941) married women named Katharine Cawiezell and Catherine Schilling, respectively. Can you imagine how easy it is to get those two couples confused? After all, they were both George and "Catherine" Freund....and we know that first names can be spelled incorrectly.
I have more, but this makes the point.

And the confusion is even worse in frontier families where there are fewer records one can use to distinguish them. The two examples shown above, while confusing, are relatively easy to sort out--if one takes the time to be concerned about that.

My grandfather John H. Ufkes (1917-2003) had a first cousin John G. Ufkes and another first cousin John H. Ufkes. You don't even want to know how many John H. Ufkeses there have been since the immigrant John H. Ufkes died in Illinois in 1924.

It's About Them...Not About Me

Doesn't their information deserve to be recorded accurately? From what I know, Nancy (Newman) Rampley and Nancy (Newman) Rampley were confused with each other enough when they were alive--enough so that one spelled her name "Nancie" upon occasion. Now that they're dead, don't we owe it to them to record their information as correctly as we can.?

That's why we cite our sources and strive to use sound methodology. It's not so that I can say my research is better than anyone elses or that my research is "perfect." Because it's not.

It's so that I can keep Nancy (Newman) Rampley separate from Nancy (Newman ) Rampley and Catherine (Schilling) Freund separate from Katherine (Cawiezell) Freund and the myriad of John Ufkeses separate from each other.

It's about them....not about me.

Updated/New On FamilySearch

The following are showing as new or updated on FamilySearch since our last update:

United States, Cancelled, Relinquished, or Rejected Land Entry Case Files, 1861-1925--looks like Dodge City Land Office only.

New Mexico, Naturalization Records, 1882-1983--only four counties included so far:

Georgia, Probate Records, 1742-1990--records for many counties included--at least some records.