31 December 2013

New Year's Offer on My Webinars

We've turned our $5 genealogy webinar offer back on through the end of the day 1 January 2014! Check it out.

Swastika Trail and Old Highway Maps

Old maps can reveal some interesting things.

I've been looking at the "Illinois Highway Maps" collection on the Illinois Digital Archives website, partly out of curiosity and partly in an attempt to get a better understanding of what early highways were in my native state.

The map in this blog post is from 1922. One of the first things I noticed was that the highways had no numbers. As one who has always heard highways referred to by their numbers (with the exception of highways referred as going "east of town," "west of town," etc.) the lack of numbers seemed confusing to me.

And so there were names. I was somewhat surprised to see "Swastika Trail" listed as one of the highways, particularly as it was one I've driven on numerous times in the past twenty or so years. Of course seeing the use of the word "Swastika" in a different context brought to mind another history lesson: how we interpret words changes over time.

I've never heard the highway referred to by this name--now it's highway 17. I'm not certain I've heard the other names used either. Old maps such as this one may provide names of routes or trails not documented elsewhere--remember old maps aren't usually part of full-text digital collections that can be searched the way print materials can.

If you've got Illinois ancestors during the time of the automobile, consider looking at the "Illinois Highway Map" collection. Or  search for maps for your own state of interest.

You may be surprised at the things you learn in the process.



30 December 2013

Children in Quotes and No Data Entry

I've tried to be very careful in my blog posts on the family of Benjamin Butler to put the word "children" in quotes. It would probably be best to refer to these individuals as members of Benjamin's household, particularly those who are not enumerated in his 1880 household.

My work on these individuals is incomplete and at this point I'm not certain which children are his and which ones may be children of one of his wives by a previous marriage. Even for his children, I'm not certain for all of them which ones were born from which marriage. Benjamin is known to have had two wives, Margaret Stevens and Nancy Jane Wolfe. Benjamin married Nancy Jane in Nebraska in 1854. He may have had a wife between Margaret and Nancy.

Entering any relationships in a computer database is premature at this point as well.

I'll stick to charts to list the children as we've shown in blog posts and maintaining the individuals as separate people in any genealogical databases that include relationships.

But to be honest, I'm sticking to doing my work in Microsoft Word.

Benjamin Butler "Children" "Update"

I've made some headway on Benjamin Butler's "children." As expected, I've located more of the boys than the girls. And for the people I've been fortunate enough to locate, I still need to more fully flesh out their lives in an attempt to gather additional information on more children.

Based upon what I know now, it seems that Benjamin left "children" in Michigan, Iowa, and Missouri, all places where I know he lived. Others moved west.

[summary from previous blog post]

Benjamin Butler (probably born about 1819 in New York State) has a been a thorn in my genealogical side for some time. He moved quite a bit and simply cannot be located thus far in the 1860 census.

Benjamin has been located in the following federal censuses:

  • 1850: St. Clair County, Michigan.
  • 1870: Davis County, Iowa [corrected on 31 Dec 2013].
  • 1880: Vernon County, Missouri.
[updated chart]

Name
Approximate year of birth (source)
Location (source)
1850
1870
1880
Know death location?
Misc.
Alfred
1842 (1850)
Canada (1850)
yes


St. Joseph Co. Michigan
Probably the Alfred Butler who died in 1895 in St. Joseph County, Michigan. This Alfred married in 1891 and indicated his parents were Benjamin and Margaret (Stevens) Butler and was born approximately 1842.
Landen
1844 (1850)
Canada (1850)
yes

Probably the Lee Butler (born 1848? In MI) living in Vernon County, MO.
Vernon County, Missouri, or nearby?
Very possibly is the Leander Butler who married Mrs. Mary Powell in Vernon Co. MO I 1878. This Leander is dead by 1910 (wife a widow in Vernon County, MO).
Mary
1846 (1850)
Michigan (1850)
yes




George
1848 (1850)
Michigan (1850)
yes

Wapello County, Iowa
Wapello County, Iowa 1910s.
Married 1869 Davis County, IA.
Ellen
1854 (1860)
Iowa (1870) Missouri (1880)
Na
Yes
Yes (with her own family)

Married 1870 Davis County, IA
Harriet
1856 (1860)
Michigan (1870)
Na
Yes



Charles
1861 (1860)
Kansas (1870)
Na
Yes



Benjamin F.
1865 (1870)
1864 (1880)
Illinois (1870, 1880)
Na
Yes
Yes
Vernon County, Missouri.
Died November 1940 in Vernon County, Missouri
Alice
1868 (1870)
Michigan (1880)
Na
Yes



Sarah
1872 (1880)
Iowa (1880)
Na
Na
Yes
1960 in Stanislaus County, CA as Sarah (Butler) Shaw Ray.

Lecta
1875 (1880)
Iowa (1880)
Na
Na
Yes
Doniphan County, KS area.
Died in 1968 in Kansas as Electa Painter-buried in Doniphan County.
Lila
1879 (1880)
Nebraska (1880)
Na
Na
Yes


Rebecca
1882 (1900)
Missouri
Na
Na
Na

Died 1958 Nodaway County, Missouri
I'm still finding the chart helpful--even without the sources attached. I've got them, but this chart is to help me stay organized and focused. And to remind me that I've got more work to do.

And I also use it because I'm not entering these people in my database yet--because I'm not certain they are all Benjamin's children. Even if they are all Benjamin's children, he had at least two known wives. 

Sometimes You Have to Be There and Bring Someone With You

I blogged about this picture earlier this year--after I noticed the church in the distance. The picture has given me a few ideas.

photo of Frederick Ufkes (1893-1960), taken near Basco, Illinois mid-1910s; digital image (c) 2013 Michael John Neill
I thought the picture was taken on the "homeplace" in eastern Bear Creek Township, Hancock County Illinois. Sure enough it was.

Standing a hundred feet west of where the house used to be (in the old driveway) and looking towards the northeast, the church was in the distance. I was lacking something in my immediate vicinity which could be included in the picture for perspective. Unfortunately the home is no longer standing, the trees are gone, and I don't ever remember a fence in the front yard. There were no landmarks against which to take a picture similar to one shown above could be taken. I also was alone so there was no one to take a picture of me in the former yard with the church in the distance. 

Next time I'm dragging someone with me so that I can at least get a picture of me standing roughly where great-grandfather stood so I can get that perspective.

Sometimes you need to be in the exact spot. And sometimes you need to drag someone along with you to get that evidence.

Cause in hindsight, it would be kind of neat to have a picture of me taken in the same location. I may even have to get a hat for the purpose.

FamilySearch-US Passport Applications, Virginia Rev. War Pension Applications, and More

New or updated on FamilySearch:

29 December 2013

Lake Illinois?


This map, purported to have been created by Pierre Raffex in 1688 appears in a 1932 atlas by Charles O. Paullin. The map is centered on what are now called the Great Lakes. 
Charles O. Paullin, Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, ed. John K. Wright. Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution, 1932. Digital edition edited by Robert K. Nelson et al., 2013. http://dsl.richmond.edu/historicalatlas/.
What surprised me on this map was "Lac des Illinois." Lake Illinois? From where I could see it looked like Lake Michigan.

I was curious about the reference to the lake as "Lake Illinois" instead of Lake Michigan. At this point, I don't know if the description of the lake with this term is an aberration or if there was a time when the lake was know as Lake Illinois. It is also possible that the reference is a simple mistake. I don't know at this point--and that's not really the purpose of this post.

The reference got me to thinking about what genealogists should do when they see something they think is wrong:
  • Consider the source. Is Raffeix's map accurate in other ways? Are there other problems with it? Is Raffeix generally known to have been accurate? 
  • Consider the time. Was the name in use when the map was drawn up.
  • Consider that the reference could be a mistake or an oversight.
  • Is the map an accurate rendering of the original? In this case, the image on this blog post is made from a digital image on the website that was made from the 1932 book which was made from the original or a copy of the original. That's several generations removed from the original. 
  • Consider that you don't know everything. Maybe Lake Michigan was known as Lake Illinois. Even if a person spent their entire life on the lake, it doesn't mean that they know everything about the lake--especially things three centuries before their lifetime.
And, consider that place names can change. 

All of these things are things to think about even if the reference on the map was an aberration. 

And--it goes to show you that you can always learn something from looking at old maps.




28 December 2013

FamilyHistory Catalog a Part of OCLC

Items in the FamilyHistory card catalog now appear in OCLC--which is accessible through http://www.worldcat.org. This is only the catalog of materials in the FamilySearch collection--their microfilm, books, and other print materials.

This does not change how we access materials via the FamilyHistory library system-you cannot typically go to your local public library to order FamilyHistory library film. But it does mean that we have an alternate way to access the FamilyHistory Library card catalog.

A nice addition for those of us who have searched the FamilyHistory card catalog for years.

Below are two screen shots--showing the search results for some microfilmed records and the fact that they are at the FamilyHistory Library.




My Mother-in-Law is Your Mother, Right?

This started out in an attempt to find Minerva Strobel in the 1870 census.




It is worth noting that Gwendolyn provided the information for the Oliphant household and that Harry is listed as absent (the "ab" to the right of his name). At this point, I was not certain why Minerva was living with the Oliphants.

However, the birth place of Wales was one I knew I had seen before while searching census records for Minerva. None of the biological members of Minerva's family was born in Wales and, given that it is a small area, locating that other person might assist in determining what was going on with the 1940 enumeration.

Sure enough the 1900 enumeration of Minerva Strobel's family contained a household member with a Welsh birth place in their background. Gwendolyn Strobel, daughter-in-law of Minerva, indicated her mother was born in Wales.
It was the Gwendolyn Oliphant in the 1940 census with Minerva who indicated that she was born in Wales. Places of birth can easily be incorrect, but it seemed highly unusual that two Gwendolyns associated with Minerva had a Welsh background.

A little time on FamilySearch located two references that seemed to answer the question of Gwendolyn Strobel and Gwendolyn Oliphant:


  • "Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934" on FamilySearch indicates that a Gwendolyn Strobel (born about 1879 to Richard and Mary (Williams) Martin) married Harry Oliphant in 1913 in Van Buren County, Iowa. Harry's parents are Joel Oliphant and Almyra Curtis. 
  • "Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934" on FamilySearch indicates that a Gwendolyn Martin (born about 1878 to Richard and Mary (Williams) Martin) married George Herbert Strobel in 1878 in Wapello County, Iowa. 


Based upon the transcriptions of the marriages, the working theory is that the 1940 and 1900 Gwendolyns are the same person and are, in fact, Gwendolyn Martin Strobel Oliphant. More work in additional records need to be conducted, especially a determination of what happened to George Herbert Strobel, but the information located thus far is consistent.

But...why is Minerva Strobel listed as the "mother" of Harry Oliphant? Is Minerva a mixed up version of Almyra?

I don't think so.

What I think happened is that when the 1940 census taker came to the door that Gwendolyn indicated that Minerva was her mother-in-law, because that it she was and that the census taker concluded that Gwendolyn's mother-in-law must be her husband's mother.

After all, isn't that the easiest explanation? And whose going to care in 75 years anyway?

It matters who answers questions when a census taker comes to the door and it is important not to jump to conclusions. One may initially conclude that Minerva was married more than once. She wasn't. Gwendolyn was.

But why Minerva was living with Gwendolyn in 1940 is another question entirely.

27 December 2013

Alternatives to Newspaper Obituaries?

I posted this to the Facebook page for Genealogy Tip of the Day, but thought I'd also post it here:

"Have you thought about what obituaries cost and if there are practical alternatives for letting people know of the death/service and of leaving some sort of permanent information for the future?"


A Keokuk By Any Other Name

Those little words like "township" matter.

The screen shot in this post from Ancestry.com indicates that Clarissa lived in Keokuk, Wapello, Iowa.

When I saw it, I was confused as the City of Keokuk, Iowa, is located in Lee County.
Search results for Clarissa Streeby from Iowa 1870 Census database on Ancestry.com
A look at the actual census page confirmed my suspicions. The actual location was not the City of Keokuk, but rather the township of Keokuk in Wapello County, Iowa. It is too bad that Ancestry.com didn't bother to clarify this when the census index was made.

There may very well be additional townships in Iowa with the name of Keokuk. But this entry indicates the continual importance of looking at the actual record before assuming what is incorrect in a transcription or database.

Had I been in too much of a hurry, I might have ignored the county and concluded that this person lived in the City of Keokuk and that the transcription had the wrong county instead of an incomplete "town."

Iowa also has Keokuk County as well--just to confuse us. Hopefully that didn't confuse the indexers.

Is It Worth It?

Curiosity killed the cat, as they say. Genealogical curiosity can kill your budget and bank account.

An earlier post discussed Soundex cards to Baltimore passenger lists in the 19th century. The cards located were for several members of my family. I've seen the actual passenger lists for this family so locating the cards for me was an academic exercise.

As mentioned in the blog post, the cards referenced the back of the card in the location where "other family members" were to be listed. The back of the cards were not filmed. Because of how the  cards were created, I decided it wasn't going to be worth it to obtain a copy of the back of the card.

And then I got emails saying that I should see the back of the cards.

I'll be honest, I don't know what it would cost to get the copy of the back of the card. And while I realize curiosity is a good thing for the genealogist, curiosity must be balanced with practicality and reality. As mentioned in the blog post, the cards were a finding aid to the actual manifest. Information on the card was simply taken from the manifest decades later in the creation of the index.

Here is where thinking about how the records were created and why they were created is important. The cards were a finding aid for someone who needed to locate his date and place of entry into the United States. The names of others who were travelling with the person on the manifest were added to assist the searcher in locating the desired name. This way if the "right name" could not be found by searching for it directly (because it was written incorrectly on the actual manifest and hence indexed in the same way), a searcher could search for others that the immigrant remembered traveled with and if their name was located on an index card, the name of the person of interest should show up as someone in the "traveling with" section of the card. It's worth remembering that these cards were created before computerized database searches and searching for other family members was a good technique. The cards were not created as a genealogical source.

While it may be desirable to obtain a copy of every record created on your relative, there are some things to consider:

  • What is the cost of obtaining the record?
  • Was this "record" really a new record or was it created from information on another record (ie. an abstract)?
  • Is the probable informant on this record one whose "opinion" or "information" I don't already have? 
  • What information is typically on this record?
  • How reliable do I perceive the information to be on this record?
  • How was this record created and what was its purpose? 
  • Do I already have this information from reliable sources? 
  • Is this record likely to provide really new information?
Of course, sometimes it interesting to have any record on an ancestor and any record can contain new information. But sometimes some thinking and reflection may make you decide if obtaining the record is actually worth it--especially if the cost is significant. 

Because we can't always afford everything.

26 December 2013

They Didn't Film the Back

It is frustrating when a record is only partially filmed or digitized.

That's what happened with these index cards created from Baltimore passenger lists (NARA publication M327: Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Baltimore (Federal Passenger Lists), 1820-1897--available digitally at FamilySearch).

I have seen the actual passenger list, so whatever the clerk indicated on the back (note the "over" in the portion of the card for "Accompanied by") is information I already have.

This first card is for the father, George Trautvetter. The reverse side of his card was not filmed. I decided to look at other cards for members of the Trautvetter family to determine if they contained the "over" information.

The same thing was done for the card of his son, Michael. No back filmed and no additional comments on the front of it.

Nor was the back of the card completed for his wife Sophia Elizabeth.

Like the card for George, they all indicate that something was written on the back of the card. There were three others in the family whose cards I've not yet located, but those cards also probably have "over" written on them and the backs of those cards were probably not filmed.

Whenever you have an actual document in your hands, it pays to flip it over and whenever your have the image on your computer screen (or microfilm machine) it pays to see if there is a "next" image of the back.

Sometimes when things are on the back of a card it gets filmed or digitized and sometimes it does not.

In this case, I don't think it is probably worth tracking down the card to see the back. My rationale for this is that the card was created from the passenger list, which I've already seen. Anything on the back of the card is also on the manifest. These cards were finding aids for individuals who needed to document their arrival status--hence the soundex order of the cards and the names of other family members on the cards. These cards and the index were not created for genealogists.

If the cards had been created as the passengers arrived, I would be interested in obtaining the backs of them as they could have something not on the manifest. But that's not the case.

23 December 2013

Avoiding Criminal Records Will Get You on the Naughty List

[in the spirit of the season]

 Criminal records can mention just about anyone, including Santa Claus. They can also include your ancestors--even those you think would never appear in criminal records or any type of naughty list.

Of course, this is not the Santa. Someone obviously gave an alias (or had an unknown name) in 1881 when they were brought up on charges of providing two gallons of whiskey to Indians in Arkansas. It's hard to imagine the Santa doing this--as it would definitely put him on the naughty list.

This record appears on Ancestry.com
Defendant Jacket Files for U.S. District Court Western Division of Arkansas, Fort Smith Division, 1866 - 1900. Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685 - 2004, ARC ID: 201532. Record Group Number 21. The National Archives at Fort Worth. Fort Worth, Texas, U.S.A; digital image Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com), 23 December 2013.
The search results screen for Santa Claus at Ancestry.com is shown below:


If you've been ignoring criminal records for your ancestor, stop.

You'll be on the naughty genealogy list for not conducting exhaustive searches (grin!).

FamilySearch-12 New or Updated US databases

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


The Other Side of the Stone

There's often more to a tombstone than just one side. This picture of the tombstone for my great-grandparents is slightly misleading, especially to someone unfamiliar with the family.

Mimka J. and Tjode Anna tombstone, Moss Ridge Cemetery, Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois. Photograph taken summer of 2004 by Michael John Neill
There is an apparent flag adjacent to the tombstone which appears to be next to Mimka's side of the stone. Flags are usually placed on a grave to indicate military service and an unsuspecting user of the photograph may conclude that Mimka was in the military.

He was not.

His son Edward was. The stone is in the center of the Habben graves. Edward and his wife's inscriptions are on the reverse side of the stone. The flag was placed on the grave to acknowledge Edward's military service.

It is always a good idea to photograph the entire stone and remember that there could easily be something on the "other side."

And don't jump to conclusions.

22 December 2013

Genealogy Webinars for the Holidays

We have re-opened our $5 webinar sales for the holiday season. The complete list and ordering information is available here.

Refocusing on Benjamin Butler in 1860-Charting out the "kids"

Benjamin Butler (probably born about 1819 in New York State) has a been a thorn in my genealogical side for some time. He moved quite a bit and simply cannot be located thus far in the 1860 census.

Benjamin has been located in the following federal censuses:

  • 1850: St. Clair County, Michigan.
  • 1870: Union County, Iowa.
  • 1880: Vernon County, Missouri.
I won't bog this blog post down with my rationale for why I think these enumerations are the same Benjamin Butler as that's really not the point of this post. What I'm trying to do is extend the information I have on Benjamin, particularly for the 1850-1870 time frame. That's a time in his life where I'm hoping that Benjamin left some records somewhere that may provide some clues on his children and perhaps his parents.

Benjamin left St. Clair County, Michigan for St. Joseph County, Michigan in the early 1850s and he stayed there until the mid-1850s. This is based upon land and property tax records in both those locations. Then the trail runs cold until 1870 when he shows up in Davis County, Iowa. If all the children enumerated in his 1850 and 1870 household are his and the places of birth are correct, the family traveled quite a bit. 

The three census enumerations for Benjamin suggests he had at least fourteen children. It is possible that some of the children living in his 1870 household are actually those of his 1870 and 1880 wife, Nancy Wolfe who Benjamin married in Nebraska. I've created a separate chart with these same individuals summarizing which ones for whom I have found parent-child evidence, what that evidence is and which ones for whom I have been unable to locate such evidence. Just because someone appears in a household (especially before 1880) does not mean they are the child of the head of the household. Locating such evidence and "end of life" information for all of the supposed children may also provide information on their earlier life.

The chart here only summarizes what I know on the children in Benjamin's household--focusing on their census enumerations. It is not meant to be comprehensive and was created to help me concentrate on the census and my success (or lack thereof) in finding the Butlers in those records. My sources and my analysis are separate. In fact, this chart is one I created only for my own use simply to keep myself organized and that's why the detail on it is sketchy.


Name
Approximate year of birth (source)
Location (source)
1850
1870
1880
Know death location?
Alfred
1842 (1850)
Canada (1850)
yes


St. Joseph Co. Michigan
Landen
1844 (1850)
Canada (1850)
yes



Mary
1846 (1850)
Michigan (1850)
yes



George
1848 (1850)
Michigan (1850)
yes


Wapello County, Iowa
Ellen
1854 (1870)
Iowa (1870) Missouri (1880)
Na
Yes
Yes (with her own family)

Harriet
1856 (1870)
Michigan (1870)
Na
Yes


Charles
1861 (1870)
Kansas (1870)
Na
Yes


Benjamin F.
1865 (1870)
1864 (1880)
Illinois (1870, 1880)
Na
Yes
Yes

Alice
1868 (1870)
Michigan (1880)
Na
Yes


Sarah
1872 (1880)
Iowa (1880)
Na
Na
Yes

Lecta
1875 (1880)
Iowa (1880)
Na
Na
Yes
Kansas
Lila
1879 (1880)
Nebraska (1880)
Na
Na
Yes

Rebecca
1882 (1900)
Missouri
Na
Na
Na
Nodaway County, Missouri

I chose to only indicate the source of the year of birth and place of birth in this chart.

The chart made the gap between George and Ellen (6 years) more evident and reinforced the need to discover more about "the gap." The gap could have been for several reasons:

  • Benjamin was not married during this time.
  • Benjamin's wife had several miscarriages.
  • At some point in time the younger children died due to an illness.
  • The younger children were living with another family member (after all, this is an apparent large family).
My thought is that learning more about the children I already have may help me discover more about the gap--so while I'm aware of the gap, I'm not concentrating on it at this point.

A map would also be helpful. Unfortunately at this point, for some of the places of birth (even if they are correct), all I have is a state of birth. 

My thought about Benjamin in 1860 is that all of those who would have been living in 1860 cannot have been missed. The hope is that some of the older children were living in other households--or even their own household--and should be enumerated somewhere, even if Benjamin and his household was overlooked. Hopefully.

We'll have updates as we have them. 

Citation reminder: We are a strong believe in citing genealogical source material in the spirit of Evidence ExplainedHowever, we choose not to include properly formatted citations in these blog posts. There's always enough information in the post to create a citation and full citations are included in my how-to newsletter Casefile Clues.