Casefile Clues

17 December 2007

10 Reasons why the Internet is no library substitute.

10 Reasons Why the Internet is No Substitute for the Library

The ALA website contains an article from 2001 by Mark Herring titled as above. I'm not certain I agree with everything the article says, but here are the author's ten main points:


  • Not Everything Is on the Internet

  • The Needle (Your Search) in the Haystack (the Web)

  • Quality Control Doesn’t Exist

  • What You Don’t Know Really Does Hurt You

  • States Can Now Buy One Book and Distribute to Every Library on the Web—NOT!

  • Hey, Bud, You Forgot about E-book Readers

  • Aren’t There Library-less Universities Now?

  • But a Virtual State Library Would Do It, Right?

  • The Internet: A Mile Wide, an Inch (or Less) Deep

  • The Internet Is Ubiquitous but Books Are Portable

Those who want to read the entire article can do so on the ALA site.

Comments can be posted here.

Cattle Pedigrees in my Genealogy

Ok, I have too much time on my hands.

I knew my Grandpa Neill had raised registered Angus cattle

The problem was the site only allowed me to search based upon the name of the animal. That made searching difficult. Putting my last name in the search box resulted in more hits than I had time to view, and apparently there was a Neill farms in Corydon, Iowa, that also registered cattle.

My search for "carthage" (where my grandparents lived) resulted in fewer hits and after some browsing, I found Carthage Barbara, registered to my grandpa with a 1952 dropdate (err..birthdate). Clicking on the sire or dam name allows one to browse the pedigree, much like worldconnect.rootsweb.com.

Abraham Lincoln's "pension" card


A pension card for Abraham Lincoln (actually for his widow, Mary) appears in the "Organization Index to Pension files of Veterans who served between 1861 and 1900" on Footnote.com . As discussed in an earlier blog post, not all these pension cards are for pensions from Civil War service, but most are. The complete image of the card includes Mary's annual allotment and refers to Lincoln's own military service, which was in Illinois well before the Civil War.
Search Footnote.com for your own ancestors...whether they were famous or not.

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!

Revolutionary War Roll information for Elam Blain


I've blogged before about the Revolutionary War Pension of Elam Blain who eventually settled in Delaware County, Ohio. His pension makes mention of his service and time finally allowed me today to search Footnote.com for his records in their Revolutionary War Rolls. The image above is from the heading of the page where he is listed and the image below contains his name in the actual records.



You can search the Revolutionary War Rolls on Footnote.com.

Of course his name was spelled Alaim Blain--and here again it is easy to see how Blain could have been read as Blair.

Filtering at Footnote.com

I'm still experimenting with the Beta Test of Advanced Search at Footnote.com. One neat feature is the ability to see what names (first and last) appear in records in which the desired name appears. I was searching for Benjamin Hawkins in Revolutionary Pensions--obtaining more hits than I could navigate. I focused my search to just those in Virginia where my Benjamin lived. I scanned the list of last names (shown above) on pensions where Benjamin Hawkins' name appeared, looking for any that appeared to have a connection. This is a nice improvement.



16 December 2007

Refining searches at Footnote

Lest anyone think all I can do is complain, I do like the refinement ability on Footnote.com. I am sure there are improvements that can be made, but the ability in the Beta Test of Advanced Search at Footnote.com currently allows for one to narrow the search from the results page as shown above on the image (left hand column).

The image below shows what happened when I clicked on a specific search parameter in the above search results page at Footnote.com.






We'll be posting more of our experiences with advanced search as time allows. I am glad to see improvements and changes being made!


My wish list for Footnote's new search

I am glad that Footnote.com is making improvements to their search. However, here are two things I would like:
  • the ability to perform soundex and wildcard searches
  • the ability to "flag" records I have already viewed and located and for those "flags" to show on my search results. I wish Ancestry.com would do this as well.

Beta Test of New Search at Footnote.com

We'll have to post our experiences with it, but we noted recently that Footnote.com is allowing a test of it's advanced searches. They can be tried here:
Beta Test of Advanced Search at Footnote.com

It also appears that some of the searching issues that I had earlier on have been corrected, but I might have just gotten lucky. When I searched at Footnote.com on specific Virginia regiments from the American Revolution for specific words, I obtained results. I had not obtained them before. We'll be posting updates to this as time allows.

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.


  • 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:

    Trautvetter
    Trautfetter
    Troutfetter
    Troutvetter
    Trantvetter
    Trantfetter
    Troutfelter
    Trautvelter

    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.

    If I could change the Illinois Death Certificate Index

    Don't get me wrong, I really like the Illinois Death Certificate Index and am very appreciative of it.

    However, if I could only make one change, it would be to add a new search option:

    "every county except Cook"

    With the exception of my grandmother-in-law, all my Illinois families (and there are a lot of them) are well outside of Cook County. When I perform a statewide search (which is often necessary), I really only want the western third of the state. The results from Cook County overwhelm my results.

    Of course, I can import the results into a spreadsheet and sort them by county and delete the ones from Cook, but it would be nice to have a "everything but Cook" search option. And Illinois is not the only state whose population is dominated by one metropolitan area.

    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.

    10 December 2007

    Footnote Search Issues

    I recently blogged that the Revolutionary War Pensions at Footnote.com appeared to be allowing searches correctly. Now, I have another problem.

    Now when searching the Revolutionary Rolls for Virginia at Footnote.com
    http://www.footnote.com/browse.php#Revolution:%201775-18159679695
    things do not appear to be searching correctly. A manual search indicates a Samuel Cary appears in one of the documents. Yet when I search for "Cary" in the Revolutionary War Rolls » Virginia » 2d State Regiment (1778-79) [which is where he appears], I get no results. I would like to narrow my search by only searching in a specific regiment, but those searches do not appear to be working. I think I get the desired results when searching all the Revolutionary War Rolls, but there are some names that I would like to search for without having to search all the rolls at one time.

    Hopefully I'm doing something wrong, but I don't think so.

    A New Ira May be "My" Ira

    The image to the right shows the 1856 census enumeration for an Ira Sargent in Davis County, Iowa---who may be my missing ancestor.

    An article on my search
    for Ira appears in this weekend's edition of the Ancestry World Journal .

    The census enumerations are not crystal clear---but that's not unusual for census enumerations. Coimpounding the problem with this family are the two marriages of the mother, which are not hinted at in other records.

    07 December 2007

    Henry Ford's 1916 Peace Expedition


    I probably learned about it in American history, but I had forgotten about Henry Ford's ill-fated 1916 attempt to stop World War I with his own sponsored peace expedition. Ford financed the trip involving journalists and distinguished Americans. There is more information on the expedition on the American Heritage site.

    The picture that is a part of this blog post comes from Ford's 1915 passport application recently added to Ancestry.com. There are passport applications of many others on the trip located before and after Ford's.
    A very interesting set of records.

    06 December 2007

    Right Under My Nose

    My article "Right Under My Nose" was published last week on Ancestry.com's blog. It discusses my search for an 19th century Ohio resident who seemingly "disappears."

    Sometimes those disappearing ancestors did not disappear the way we thought they did. Rather they are right there in front of us waiting to be found. This week we look at such a situation. Our search reminds us of several research techniques that any family historian needs to have in their repertoire when the ancestor seems to vanish without a trace.
    Sarah Wickiser Calvert’s only known record of existence was an 1862 Delaware County, Ohio, deed

    The rest of the article can be viewed here....


    And anyone researching Sarah Calvert can email me mjnrootdig@gmail.com. She is an aunt of my wife--her sister Lucinda Wickiser Kile is my wife's ancestor.

    05 December 2007

    Searching Problem at Footnote.com

    Maybe it is just that I'm a little tired...

    I finally found the Revolutionary War Pension for Samuel Rhodes of Hawkins County, Tennessee using Footnote.com. However, I am having another searching problem for this Samuel. I cannot get his entry to come up in my search results.

    When I search the Virginia set of Revolutionary War Pensions at Footnote.com for "Samuel Rhodes" I get no results, yet when I browse these pensions by name, his record comes up--spelled the exact same way as I entered it.

    If anyone is aware of what I am doing incorrectly, I would appreciate knowing.

    04 December 2007

    Footnote Completes Digitizing Revolutionary War Pensions

    The Revolutionary War pension files at Footnote.com are complete .

    Those who have been waiting for the complete set of pension microfilm of American Revolutionary War pensions can now view them (and search them) at Footnote.com. Those unfamiliar with these records should read more about them on the Footnote.com site before searching. Footnote has indexed the names contained in the pensions, more completely than White's abstracts do. There are some limitations to how Footnote searches, but there's no denying that having 24/7 access is an improvement.

    Footnote does offer a free trial . Give them a try before you buy! Personally, I've gotten a great deal out of Footnote. I'm hoping the search improves.

    We'll be posting more updates and information on my searches in the Revolutionary War pension files at Footnote.com as I have time. There's a neat file that documents one soldier's migration from Virginia into Tennessee and finally into Missouri.