31 December 2006

Hamburg Passenger Lists

Ancestry.com has added some of the Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934 to their list of searchable databases.

The sample image shown is from 1907. Ancestry is adding more years to the index on an ongoing basis. All the images are there, but not all are indexed. The Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934 are browsable by date.

One more way to kill some time searching..... ;-)

30 December 2006

Greenmound Cemetery in the News

It is not often that a story involving your ancestor's cemetery makes the national newswire.

Greenmound Cemetery in Keithsburg, Illinois, has made news scene because the displays put up on the grave of an Iraqi War veteran have drawn the attention of the cemetery trustees. While I understand the desire of the family to honor their deceased loved one, I also understand the need of the cemetery board to be able to maintain the cemetery without additional full-sized flags, benches and other items being placed at the gravesite.

The following papers have run articles on the controversy:

Chicago Sun Times
Aledo Times Record
Quad City Times
Galesburg Register Mail

I'm not certain how I feel about a flag flying permanently at half-staff either.

My wife's ancestors Archibald and Lucinda Kile are buried in the cemetery in this Mississippi River town. There is little controversy regarding their graves--even though Archibald Kile was also a military veteran.

27 December 2006

New Articles on Rootdig.com

We have posted three new articles on our site:
Do I have the right family?
Ancestral Biographies
Using 1851 Canadian Census

These (and other columns) can be linked to at:


26 December 2006

Former President Gerald Ford

CNN is reporting that former US President Gerald Ford passed away on December 27th. A while back we located him in the 1920 and 1930 census and posted those images on our site.


Reading Signatures

We've posted twentysome signatures or handwritten names on our site along with the transcriptions. Give them a try and see how many you can read.


We are working on posting more.

25 December 2006

My New York City Actress

The possibility never even crossed my mind.
A daughter of Marie Cawiezell "disappeared" in the 1890s in Davenport, Iowa, and I simply thought she died as a child without a death certificate or extant tombstone. Some fortunate snooping located Emma Cawiezell living in New York City as Emma Davis and working as an actress. Her 1893 death certificate provides some information about her and I'm anxious to see if I can get information from the cemetery. I never thought she travelled from Davenport, Iowa, all the way to New York! There were no stories passed down to the present generation about an aunt who died in NYC while working as an actress.

Part II of her death certificate is posted here.

Actually she's not my aunt, she's my wife's aunt. Emma's sister, Catherine Cawiezell Freund (born and died in Davenport, Iowa), was my wife's great-great-grandmother.

23 December 2006

Updated Illinois and Chicago Pages

We have updated our pages with how-to articles on Illinois and Chicago area research. Some articles have links to examples of actual records and all are step by step, focusing on a variety of problems and time periods.

The Illinois articles are

The Chicago articles are:

Suggestions are welcomed.

22 December 2006

Missouri State Death Certificates 1910-1929;1950-1955

For those of you with Missouri roots, the Missouri State Archives recently loaded additional death certificates to their website. The index covers 1910 to 1955. And you can now see the images for 1910 to 1929 and 1950 to 1955.


Whoa! Another evening shot....

Meyers Gazeteer on Ancestry for Free

Ancestry.com has posted Meyers Gazetteer of the German Empire on their website. This geographic source can be used for free on the Ancestry site (you will have to provide an email address). Now this wonderful resource can be used at home.

The image on the right is for Holtrop, where many of my ancestors lived.

Meyers Gazetteer of the German Empire is a part of the Ancestry.com site.

21 December 2006

The One Question I Hate

There are few genealogy questions I do not like.

The one that always frustrates me is "are you related to anyone famous?" Occasionally this is phrased as "do you have any famous ancestors?" Of course, the goal of genealogy is to locate as many famous relatives as possible. Uh huh. While I do have fun locating famous people in the census, locating them is not as much fun as locating actual relatives. Most of my relatives were farmers, with the occasional artisan and laborer thrown in. There were a few ministers, but one has to go back three hundred years to find them.

I am not related to any presidents, but that is probably just as well. I am related to Adam and Eve, but they did not live in the Garden of Eden. They lived north of Hamilton in a stone house. I'm not certain if they had an apple tree or not.

Riley Rampley

Riley Rampley
This picture of Riley Rampley (1835-1893) was likely taken in Hancock County sometime before his death in Walker Township, Hancock, Illinois. His Civil War records indicate his hair was red and he certainly has more hair than I will when I reach the age he likely is in this picture.
Riley is an excellent example of an average person (nothing wrong with that) who left a great deal of records. His military pension file is over 200 pages and there was a court case involving his estate that was started ten years after his death.
To top it off, Riley has three tombstones: a military one, an individual one, and one with his wife Nancy. Fortunately all are in the same cemetery and in the same location. They do not give the same date of birth however.

Christmas Animation

See a neat animation while the Drifters sing "White Christmas"


I thought this was cute and it went over well on the Gen-Newbie mailing list where occasionally we get slightly off topic.
NOTE: I am getting a 503: Service Unavailable Error when I try and access it today.

It can now be found at:


19 December 2006

Salt Lake Research Trip-Discount-Updated

We are offering a discounted price on our May 2007 research trip toSalt Lake City.

The discounted offer is good between 1 and 27 December 2006. The discount applies to single and double occupancy. Price includes hotel accomodations.

This price is one hundred dollars less than our usual price. Genealogy research trips make an excellent Christmas present and do not take upmuch space under the tree. We had a great time on our trip last year and are looking forward to another great trip.

More information on our trip can be found on our site.http://www.rootdig.com/slctrip.html

18 December 2006

Beverly Sills and Frank Capra

We have added the 1930 census for Beverly Sills to our site as well as census enumerations for Frank Capra (1920 and 1930) and Anthony Quinn (1920 and 1930).

Former Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak

We've added 1900-1930 census images for Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak to our site. His images and the links for other well-known Chicago people can be found on our site. He was shot in Florida while travelling with FDR.

Upcoming Speaking Engagements-VA and PA

I will be giving all-day workshops in or near
  • Virginia Beach, VA
  • Pittsburgh, PA

this upcoming Spring. More details will be posted on my schedule page early in 2007.

I'm still scheduling events for 2007 and 2008 and can be contacted if you are interested in having me present to your group or for your workshop.

Beverly Sills and Dr. Joyce Brothers--ship manifests

We have located a passenger list entry for Beverly Sills and Dr. Joyce Brothers.

Duke and Duchess of Windsor in Passenger Lists

We have found the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in several American passenger lists in the 1930s through the 1950s. Wallis listed separately in several and the last ones are with her and Edward sailing to the US together. Some list their two dogs and in one they have 60 pieces of luggage. Their staff are apparently listed on a few manifests and on one they have apparently cancelled their trip as their names are crossed off the manifest, but are still legible. We have posted seven different images on our site where they can be viewed.


16 December 2006

Patents found!

I found that my great-grandfather's cousin has two patents issued in the mid-1900s. One for a fish hook remover U.S. Patent 2907134 and one for a feed trough device (2576154). My search was done by entering the words

trautvetter warsaw

in the search box.

Since the town of residence is usually included in the patent it would be an excellent search term to enter in addition to the name, especially for genealogists using this site.


Patents on Google

Google appears to be allowing full-text search on US patents.

On it's site about the search Google indicates it has indexed patents from the 1790s and on. My intial searches indicates it is searching all the text except for any text written into the images.

The patents can be searched here.

Why do I always learn about these things late at night when I should be sleeping?

15 December 2006

Dietrich, Goldwater, Crosby, Astaire and more added to ship pages

We have added the following to our "rich and famous" ship manifest pages:

Marlene Dietrich
Tennessee Williams
Bing Crosby
Vincent Price
Anthony Quinn
Dr. Seuss
Danny Kaye
Lena Horne
Lorne Greene
Barry Goldwater
Lon Cheney, Dr.
Danny Thomas

These (and many more) can be viewed for free on our site

14 December 2006

Are you assuming too much?

When one is unfamiliar with the laws of an area it can be easy to assume things that simply are not true.

Nancy Rampley and her youngest son sued all her other children (and his siblings) in the early 1900s over the title to her farm in Illinois. One could look at this as a great disagreement between Nancy and her son and the other children. That was not the case.

Nancy's husband died leaving no will. Nancy and all her children owned the farm jointly. Nancy wanted to sell the farm and move to town. The only problem was her youngest son was a minor and unable to sign of his own accord. Consequently Nancy and the youngest minor child had to sue the rest of the family. It was the only recourse they had due to his age.

What I originally thought was a huge family squabble was really the result of the youngest child's age, the law at the time, and Nancy's unwillingness to wait to sell the farm and move to town ;-)


13 December 2006

More Famous Manifests

We've added the following to our Rich and Famous Ship Manifest page:

1938 Langston Hughes
1948 Walter Cronkhite
1947 Sammy Davis Jr. and Sr.
1948 and 1951 Danny Kaye
1948 Tennessee Williams

These and many others can be viewed at:

Suggestions for additions can be sent to mjnrootdig@gmail.com

12 December 2006

Clues as to name variants

Sometimes we have to guess at the alternate names our ancestors used. Sometimes we get lucky and we do not. Many of my Ostfriesen ancestors had names that were not readily Anglicized or did not use the Anglicization that "everyone else did." Sometimes virtually any record can provide documentation to the name variation. This deed from 1902 in Hancock County, Illinois, makes reference to Gretje Fecht. Many Gretjes used Grace as their name in the United States. This deed indicates Gretje Fecht used Maggie.

11 December 2006

Evidence Analysis

Of course, work on a family never centers on one document (or at least should not, if at all possible). In the case of Martha and others, her death certificate should be analyzed in light of other evidence. And it should always be remembered that documents can be incorrect. Her death certificate had information provided from someone outside the family--a prime source of potentially incorrect information.

The 1900 census for Rocky Run Township, Hancock County, Illinois even has the last name as Sargin instead of Sargent.

Martha's 1900 census entry (itself prone to errors) gives a different middle initial for her and a year of birth off from the census, but not radically different.

My Brick Wall

The death certificate here represents part of my brick wall. It is the death certificate of Martha Ellen Sargent, second wife of my ancestor, Ira Sargent. Martha had one daughter, Martha/Mattie Sargent Silsby Greenstreet. Martha Ellen may have also had a son before her marriage to Ira Sargent, but no information about this son has been located. Unfortunately, this certificate for Martha does not provide much in the way of information.
Martha and Ira are enumerated in the 1900
census with Ira in Rocky Run Twp., Hancock County, Illinois. I have been unable to locate her in 1910, 1920 or 1930 for reasons I cannot determine. Ira was institutionalized between 1900 and 1910 and is enumerated in the state hospital near Peoria, Illinois.
Interestingly enough, Ira's first wife was named Florence Ellen. She is another story completely.

10 December 2006

From your ancestor's mouth to your computer

Have you ever really thought about how that entry gets to your computer screen when you search a database? I'm not talking about how the information is transmitted from a file server to your computer. Rather how the information left your ancestor's mouth, went into the census taker's ear, to the written page, through the transcriber, etc. Thinking about all the steps in this process, might help you locate a record that has been giving you trouble.

We've posted an article about this on our site.


08 December 2006

Jeanne Kirkpatrick in 1930

We've located recently deceased former United Nations ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick in the 1930 census. Her last name was originally misread as Gordan instead of Jordan. Luckily her father had an unusual first name.

05 December 2006

Churchhill, Capra, Rockwell, Porter and O'Neill added to ship list pages

We have added ship manifest images for the following to our site:

Winston Churchill
Frank Capra
Norman Rockwell
Cole Porter
Pearl Buck
Eugene O'Neill
Sinclair Lewis
Fatty Arbuckle

O'Neill was found by searching for Oneill instead of O'Neill--the name was in the database as O'Neill. Go figure.

All can be viewed for free at:

04 December 2006

Exact versus Ranked Searches at Ancestry.com

If you are searching at Ancestry.com and getting stuff you never even searched for, and you don't want those matches, make certain you have your search box set to "exact matches only." Otherwise, Ancestry.com performs ranked searches and many times returns as "hits" items that do not come close to matching your search terms.

We've posted samples of search boxes (screen dumps only) illustrating this on our site.

I know I'm in the minority, but I do not like the "ranked" searches. With the exact search, it does what I tell it to. There are so few times I get to be in charge, that I like to take advantage of every opportunity that comes along ;-)

Seriously, if I do a ranked search, I cannot be exactly certain how the search was conducted. If I am uncertain how the search was conducted, how can I tweak it to improve the chance I find who I was looking for?

And frankly, I don't care if I'm in the minority either ;-)

Feel free to email me your thoughts on the ranked search vs. exact search.


02 December 2006

Santa's Draft Card and 1920 Census Image

Thanks to a reader, we have located the 1920 census image for "Santa Clause" in southern Missouri. He's not living with Mrs. Clause, although his WW1 draft card indicates he is married at that time. He signed the card, "Santy Clause" which is kinda cute.

The images of the draft card and the 1920 census can be viewed at:

Working the message boards

An earlier post mentioned my search for James Neill in Butler County, KS. A respondent to a post I made on the Butler County, KS message board at Rootsweb sent me two death notices for James.

The good news is they found them and now I have the date of death. The even better news is that James never married and no children are listed. This is excellent because James left no nieces or nephews either. His only heirs would have been his first cousins.

Why do I care?

Because James is a first cousin to my great-grandfather, Charles Neill.

I don't always track down all the first cousins of each ancestor, usually because I just don't have the time. But this situation is a little different.

James and Charles were sons of two Irish immigrant brothers, Joseph and Samuel. These two brothers were born in the 1830s and emigrated from Ireland in the 1860s. Story is that there were other siblings of Joseph and Samuel. I have no clue where they emigrated to, or if they stayed in Ireland. If there were siblings and they had children, they would also be first cousins of James and also heirs. If there is an estate settlement for James...all his first cousins might be listed. It is worth a shot.

So I'm going to see if there is a probate and I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

01 December 2006

Using Passenger Lists to get passport and citizenship information

Those who haven't might want to consider searching the manifests at Ancestry.com while they are free to see if any relatives made a trip overseas. For citizens, in later years, there should be a reference to their passport on the manifest.

Dean Martin's 1953 entry lists his passport number.


Their passport application may provide even more information. Keep in mind earlier manifests do not include passport information, but many after 1907 will list the citizenship status and provide information (brief) on where the person was naturalized.

Just a thought if you are stuck. There are also some lists included of various crew members and others as well.

More Famous Manifests, including Dean Martin, Babe Ruth, and more

We added several names to our Famous US Ship Manifests page on the last update:

Dean Martin
Margaret Mead
Walt Disney
J Paul Getty
Babe Ruth
Jean Piaget
David Sarnoff
Herbert Hoover
Edward Murrow
Ogden Nash
Omar Bradley

Images can be viewed on our site.
Suggestions are welcomed and can be emailed to me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com

Discount on our 2007 Research Trip to Salt Lake City

We are offering a discounted price on our May 2007 research trip to Salt Lake City. The discounted offer is good between 1 and 15 December 2006. The discount applies to single and double occupancy. Price includes hotel accomodations.

This price is one hundred dollars less than our usual price. Genealogy research trips make an excellent Christmas present and do not take up much space under the tree. We had a great time on our trip last year and are looking forward to another great trip.

More information on our trip can be found on our site.

29 November 2006

28 November 2006

Clement C. Moore--Twas the Night Before Christmas

There is some debate about whether or not he is the true author, but Clement Moore is credited with writing "Twas the Night Before Christmas, " and giving all of Santa's reindeer (except for Rudolph) their names. Clement Moore was living New York City in 1850 and 1860 and we have posted a page for him with links to his census entries in those years.


Trip to Salt Lake City--May 2007

I am really looking forward to our second annual research trip to Salt Lake City in May of 2007. We are at the Family History Library from a Wednesday to a Wednesday. Part of the trip package includes pre-trip planning. Trip goers are encouraged to send me summaries of their research problems as soon as possible before we leave so I can have time to review their material and make suggestions in advance of our trip. This is to give us time to clarify and problems and to get records from outside sources before we are in Salt Lake. Our goal is to have everyone with lists of books, films and other materials to access upon their arrival in Salt Lake.

We choose Wednesday to Wednesday for our trip because the library is closed on Sunday. This gives trippers a time to relax, regroup and get ready for three more days. We have found that six days of straight researching is not a good idea for many. Trippers last year spent Sunday sight-seeing and recouping before we were back at the Library and hard at it on Monday morning.

There are presentations by me on a variety of topics yet to be determined each morning.

I am in the library at least 8 hours a day for questions and answers and trip goers are encouraged to sign up for consultations during our library time or drop by and ask me questions during time I am not in a consultation.

More information on our trip can be found at:

We'd love to have you join us.


Greta Garbo and Walt Disney in US Passenger Lists

We have added a few passenger manifest entries for actress Greta Garbo and Cartoonist Walt Disney to our site. More are enroute and suggestions for additions are welcome! I wasted time looking for Garbo under her "birth name" only to find her under Greta Garbo. Had to hit myself on the head for that one!


When I posted the information about Ancestry's new extension of the Immigration Offer, I accidentally used the wrong year...the error was noticed just as soon as it went up. It is now correct. Michael

Ancestry Extending Free Immigration Records Access to end of 2006

Ancestry.com today announced it is extending free access to the most extensive immigration records collection online through the end of the year. The link below will take you to the collection.
The picture below may say November 30th, but it is not right, it is December 31st.

25 November 2006

Gloria Swanson in Passenger Lists 1903-1950

We have found actress Gloria Swanson in several US passenger lists between 1903 and 1950. The first one has her arriving with her mother in the United States from Puerto Rico. The others are return voyages from trips to Europe.



Birth and Death at the Poor Farm

You might be surprised to find your relatives in the county poor farm---locating the records is the problem...

The Poor FarmThe county poor farm (or almshouse) was a fixture of many eighteenth-century counties in the United States. These tax-supported institutions were places where individuals who could not support themselves could go. Generally residents were required to work if they were able on the farm that was usually a part of the property (hence the name "poor farm".

Some individuals might find themselves in temporary dire circumstances and remain at the farm a short time, as did some of the individuals in the example that follows. Others may stay longer. Illness, injury, loss of job, death of parents, or a variety of other circumstances may have resulted in your ancestor knocking on the door of the county farm.

The rest of the article has been posted on our website.

New Famous Ship Images

We have added the following names to our "Rich and Famous" manifest pages:

Jerome Kern in 1928
Knute Rockne in 1928
Helen Keller in 1929
Georgia O'Keefe in 1924
Ty Cobb in 1929
Grant Wood in 1924
Groucho Marx in 1931

Images can be seen for free at:


23 November 2006

Elizabeth Taylor listed on Passenger Lists

Elizabeth Taylor was born in England of parents (Frances and Sara Taylor) who were American citizens. According to US manifests for Elizabeth, her parents (and she) made three trips from England to the United States between her birth and the entry of the United States into World War II. Their address is listed as New York City or California, depending upon the manifest.

She and her mother must have made one trip to Europe by themselves in the 1940s and there is a manifest with her and husband Conrad "Nicky" Hilton and Michael Wilding.

We've linked to all of Elizabeth's manifest images on a separate page on our site.
Anyone finding additional references is encouraged to email them to me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com

Actress Lillian Gish in US Manifests

We have found actress Lillian Gish in at least three passenger lists, making a return trip to the United States. Her mother and sister are listed with her on at least one of the passages shown below:

Ancestry.com free for Thanksgiving

If you've got a little free time on your hands this Thanksgiving, Ancestry.com is offering a free three day pass to all of their databases. Click here for more information and GOOD LUCK!


More Ship Manifests of the Rich and Famous Added

We have added the following to our Rich and Famous in Ship Manifest page:

Jesse Owens in 1936 returning home from the Olympics
Richard Burton (twice)
Zsa Zsa Gabor
Alfred Hitchcock
Henry Kissinger


21 November 2006

More Famous Manifests Added

We've added some new manifests to our rich and famous pages.
Cary Grant
Nelson Rockefeller
F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald
Desi Arnaz
William Faulkner
Humphrey Bogart


More are on the way---suggestions are welcome.


Some of my favorite books

These are three books that are sitting on my "nearby" shelf for ready reference. Maybe Santa can get you one for Christmas.

This is a really helpful guide to county and local sources and provides an overview of genealogical information on each state. I co-wrote five chapters, including the ones for Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa.

I've had each edition of this tome and have always been well pleased. There is a wealth of information in this book and one can pick it up and start reading in any chapter.

Land and Property Research
Land records are one of my favorite sources--they can reveal a great deal of information about your family's comings and goings as well as various inheritance relationships.

18 November 2006

Genline for Swedish Research

My wife is 1/8 Swedish and when I know I'll have some time, I subscribe to Genline.com (http://www.genline.com) and access what I can. Genline provides online access to Swedish church records, from the earliest records until the 1860s. There are abstracts of birth records for the latter part of the nineteenth century and this source is a wonderful boon to those with Swedish ancestry. The nice thing about Genline is that there are several options under which you can subscribe, 30 days, 60 days, a year, and they are every so often offering discounts, etc.

As time goes on, we'll be posting some of my experiences with Genline and Swedish records here. The families I am working on are for the most part from Ostergotland, particularly in and around Tjarstad. Of course, one of the last names is Johnson (Jonsson)--but then if you are Swedish and don't have Jonsson ancestors, there's a problem somewhere!


17 November 2006

New Famous Manifest Postings

We've added the following rich and famous to our manifest page:

Woody Guthrie
William Faulkner
Audrey Hepburn
Humphrey Bogart (twice)


More are on the way---suggestions are welcome.


16 November 2006

Milton Friedman in 1920 and 1930

We have added 1930 and 1920 census images links for Milton Friedman, the Nobel prize winning economist who passed away recently.



The handwriting on the 1920 entry is particularly easy to read. Wish that person had taken more censuses.

I have been de-spammed by Google

Google (actually their blogger site) declared my site to be spam.
After nearly a week, I have received confirmation from blogger that I am not spam.
This is a big relief, because I have never managed to fit myself into a small can and was concerned I would be unable to close the lid.

14 November 2006

Remember the free lookups

There are times when a quick lookup is all you need. The US GenWeb page for Butler County, KS had an offer to do lookups in a series of published cemetery books. My great-grandfather's first cousin, James Neill, lived in that county from 1900 until 1930, according to the census. I emailed the contact person his name, year and state of birth, and last known date alive. In a few days I learned the cemetery where he was buried and his year of death. Armed with this information, I can get a death certificate and other information. We will post updates as we have them.


More Famous Ship Manifest Entries

We have added the following individuals to our rich and famous on US ship manifest collection:

1951 Julia Child

1955 John and Jackie Kennedy

1924 Fred Astaire

1930 Albert Einstein

1933 Albert Einstein

1932 Fred Astaire

1933 Orson Welles

1938 Cary Grant

1945 Frank Sinatra

1947 Cary Grant

1947 Kirk and Michael Douglas

1951 Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner

All can be linked to from our main manifest page at: http://www.rootdig.com/ships/famousships/index.html

Feel free to send us suggestions for additional names to add. We'll post them here as we add them, but updates are not done every five minutes..;-)

Thanks to those who have sent suggestions and their comment. It is appreciated.


12 November 2006

Immigration Databases at Ancestry.com--free til 30 Nov

I've been playing around with the immigration databases at Ancestry.com--a really great way to spend a little spare time and much more fun that watching HGTV in my opinion. Ancestry is offering free access to their immigration databases until the end of November.

More Famous Ship Image Updates

We have added more famous ship manifest images to our site. The following were uploaded in the last update:

1873 Thomas Edison
1896 Franklin Roosevelt
1911 Thomas Edison
1912 Henry Ford
1913 Harry Houdini
1910 Theodore Roosevelt
1928 Amelia Earhart
1928 Ira Gershwin
1923 George Cohan
1927 Katharine Hepburn
1931 Charles Lindbergh
1937 Charles Lindbergh
1937 Ernest Hemingway
1947 Charles Lindbergh
1950 Clark Gable
1954 Katharine Hepburn
1950 Ira Gershwin


Suggestions can be sent to me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com

10 November 2006

More Famous Manifest Postings

We have added a few more famous ship manifest entries to our site:

1914 Theodore Roosevelt
1920 Harry Houdini
1931 Franklin Roosevelt
1924 Dwight Eisenhower
1928 Henry Ford


More are enroute and suggestions can be sent to me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com

09 November 2006

New Famous Manifest Entries

We've added the following to our well-known ship manifest page:
1873 Thomas Edison
1896 Franklin Roosevelt
1911 Thomas Edison
1912 Henry Ford
1913 Harry Houdini
1910 Theodore Roosevelt

All can be linked to from

More are in the works. Suggestions can be sent to me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com
Apparently Harry didn't always hide from the guy creating the manifest.


Ancestry Immigration Databases Free til 30 Nov

Ancestry is offering a free subscription to its immigration databases until the end of November. I use Ancestry.com on a regular basis, but remember to make your decision by 29 Nov so you can contact Ancestry.com if you wish to NOT continue the membership.
The link below will bring up the free trial offer.

08 November 2006

Famous Census Contests Returning...

For those who have asked, our famous census search contests (with prizes) will be returning in the next week or so. Stay tuned for details.

Our Most Famous Famous Census Pages

For reasons that make completely no sense to me...June Carter Cash is our most "famous" of the famous census pages.

Here are some of the most popular famous census pages on our site:

June Carter Cash in 1930
Marilyn Monroe in 1930
Al Capone in 1930
Al Capone in 1900
Abraham Lincoln in 1850
Helen Keller in 1920
Thomas Edison in 1880
Laura Ingalls Wilder in 1880

Who knows why they are the most popular?

Gustavius Swift (the meat packer) also appears in the top twenty...go figure.


Santa Clause in 1930

This is one of our more popular pages: Santa Clause in 1930.
Of course it's too far south to be the REAL Santa...this one is in Missouri.
Those who are interested, can take a peak:



05 November 2006

Immigration Articles

We have updated our list of immigration articles on our website. Immigration is always an interesting topic, at least to me since over 75% of my ancestors were not in the United States in 1850!



Talk About it

Talking about your research problem may be just what it takes to get a new idea to "hit you in the face."

On one of my brick wall lines, I realized while talking about it in a lecture on Saturday that there was a first cousin of my great-grandfather who died with no descendants and whose siblings also had no descendants. That meant that the estate would have gone to his first cousins, who in this case may have been spread across the globe. It took talking about the family for this option to "pop" into my head.

Just goes to remind us that talking about a problem (or writing about it) may be enough to get us to notice something that we just keep overlooking when silently studying.


04 November 2006

Ft. Wayne, Indiana Research Trip 30 May-3 June 2007

We are in the final stages of planning our annual research to Ft. Wayne, Indiana's Allen County Public Library--sponsored by the St. Charles County Genealogical Society and St. Charles Community College. This will be our eighth annual trip. More information will be posted to our site at


The St. Charles group is an excellent one to work with. We always have a great time and have an unofficial contest to see who makes the most copies while at the library!

You can also send me an email at mjnrootdig@gmail.com to be sent more information when it becomes available.

31 October 2006

St. Charles, Missouri--this weekend

I will be presenting the Family History workshop in the St. Charles, Missouri, area on 4 November 2006, Saturday. This all-day event is sponsored by the St. Charles County Genealogical Society and the St. Charles Community College. Registation is still possible and more information is on our website below:


Registration is very reasonable.


29 October 2006

Ancestry.com contests

Ancestry.com is having a sweepstakes and an offer for three free days of Ancestry.com. How much you can find in three days is a whole "nuther" story, but a trip would always be good. To enter the contest click below....you can always enter just for the three free days, or just start a free 14 day trial and not worry about the contest.

24 October 2006

Scheduling Workshops and Seminars

I'm scheduling genealogy workshops and seminars for 2007 and 2008. Lectures can be given on a wide variety of topics...my presentation style is relaxed and informative. I don't just read the handout!

A partial list of topics is posted on my site and my current speaking schedule includes dates that have already been booked and more current topics. New topics can be developed upon request, with adequate lead time.

If you are interested in having me present for your group, send me an email.


23 October 2006

Family History on QVC-Heraldry Items

Those who want their "coat of arms" and surname history can now get it instantly on QVC. Progress is wonderful.

You can pick whatever name you want. Heck, even make one up. It will let you purchase a coat of arms for the Idiot family (I tried but changed my mind when they asked for a credit card--after all, I'm no Idiot), but most of those "seven dirty words" are forbidden (ok, I tried a few of those too but I won't admit it to my kids).

If you've tired of overpriced jewelry and other knick-knacks......

I won't post the URL here...but clever websurfers can probably find it easy enough ;-)

(we'll return to real genealogy in a future post)

21 October 2006

1851 Canadian Census is coming

The first complete index for the 1851 Census for all of Canada will be available for searching on October 24, 2006 at Ancestry.com Join either Ancestry.com or Ancestry.ca to search for ancestors by name, and to view the images free from the release until the end of October. The database will only be free until the end of the month.


19 October 2006

Female Ancestors

Biology indicates that half of our ancestors are female. For those of us working in American records, a knowledge and understanding of the legal system is important.

There was a time when women could not own property, could not will property, could not be guardians for their children, etc. etc. In some cases, a failure to understand the law of the time may create brick walls that do not exist.

For example, my ancestor Sarah Turberville, left a will in Virginia in 1761, mentioning no real property. What? How can that be? The family had a farm, etc. etc. The reason is that in 1761 Virginia women could not own property in their own right...that is why.

We've posted more articles on searching for female ancestors on our site at:

And some of us might not have the same number of male and female ancestors, but that we'll leave that for a later post.

17 October 2006

SS5 forms

Anyone who has a social security number has an SS-5 form, the "application for Social Security and Tax Account Number" appears on the right.

I don't often get these. They are $27 from the Social Security Administration and are open to the public for anyone who is deceased. They are helpful when other records are not available or other records are confusing. The one on the right is for my wife's grandmother. It is one of the few I have...because in her case records were inconsistent.

Keep in mind that for more individuals these forms were filled out by the applicant themselves. That is usually not the case with death certificates and why in some situations these records provide information that is at odds with the death record.

More about SS5 forms can be located on our site at http://www.rootdig.com/ss5/


Reading those Latin Church Records

Records written in a foreign language are always a challenge. There are several thigns to keep in mind when working with records that are not in your native tongue.

  • Many church records can be translated using a handful of words.
  • Many church records follow boilerplate text.

For these reasons, word lists from the Family History Library (http://www.familysearch.com) are particularly effective. Also it is extremely helpful to copy all the register entries on the same page as the located entry and to find entries for all family members, not just your direct line.

A column of mine from the Ancestry Daily News, Catching Christening Clues: Belgian Baptismal Beginnings , discusses several entries I obtained from Belgium. The images themselves have been posted on my website for anyone who wants to try their hand at reading Latin (http://www.rootdig.com/stofferis/).


15 October 2006

Lectures for Friends of VA State Archives

Thanks to the Friends of the Virginia State Archives for inviting me to give their annual Richard Slatten lectures at the Library of Virginia this past weekend. It was great to be at the library and I hope the attendees enjoyed the seminar as much as I did presenting it. I also appreciated the Southern hospitality and only wish I had more time to utilize the library's wonderful collection and absorb more of Richmond's history.

The workshop was held at the Library of Virginia, home to an excellent collection of Virginia archival materials. http://www.lva.lib.va.us/


Computer workshop-Using Ancestry.com

There is still room in the "Using Ancestry.com" workshop being sponsored on 21 October at Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Attendees will have access to Ancestry for the duration of the workshop and all will have their own computer to use. For more information or to register, visit our page with details.



09 October 2006

Spokane Seminar

Hopefully everyone enjoyed the Spokane seminar as much as I did this past weekend. The committee from the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society did an excellent job from my perspective and hats off to them for all their work and preparation. Hopefully everyone enjoyed their doorprizes as much as I enjoyed putting the winning numbers on the screen ;-)

The website for ordering materials will have additional links added to today. That link should be in your handout.

The URL for the Missouri Death Certificates is:
They are still working on it, but those who have people in this place during the time period of the records should give it a go.

If there are other URLs or links that you need from the seminar, please let me know mjnrootdig@gmail.com and I'll send them to you privately or post them here for others to use as well.

Thanks for having me as your speaker. Spokane is certainly a beautiful city and the short tour I got Saturday night from Donna Potter Philips was greatly appreciated. It's clear she loves Spokane and knows a great deal about its history as well.


Here is a link to the book I mentioned during the lecture, Prairie Patrinomy. The link is at Amazon...you don't have to get it there, but that will give you enough bibliographic information to either interlibrary loan or purchase it as is your pleasure.

Links mentioned that weren't in handout:
World Connect http://worldconnect.rootsweb.com
Mailing Lists at Rootsweb http://lists.rootsweb.com
Message Boards at Ancestry http://boards.ancestry.com

04 October 2006

FGS Boston Conference Recordings Now Available

For those who have been waiting, many of the conference sessions from the Federation of Genealogical Societies 2006 Boston conference can be downloaded online for a nominal charge. The FGS Board and the conference committee is hoping this is a way that we can share the conference information with those who were unable to attend.

Individual sessions can be downloaded for just $1.99. Special packages of 15 sessions are available for $25 – a discount of 17% off the usual price. Once you download the sessions you can listen to them on your computer, iPod or other MP3 player. Visit www.lulu.com/fgs2006 to download your sessions now. If you have any problems or questions about downloading, please contact the FGS office at fgs-office@fgs.org .

My searching lecture is

and my UFO Ancestor lecture is

FGS Board Member

03 October 2006

Migration Chains

Genealogists who focus too much on migration trails might overlook what usually is more important in my opinion: migration chains.

If your ancestor moved from point A to point B, what brought him there? Determing the likely reason lead to new research opportunities. Of my numerous immigrant ancestors in the 1840-1885 era, I thought I only had one who came "alone." Turns out they didn't come alone after all---I just missed the links because the links. The connection was not obvious and involved several degrees of "in-laws." All of my immigrant ancestors during this period (nearly a dozen families) immigrated to where they had family or relatives. Keep looking...there's probably a connection somewhere.

Readers of the Ancestry World Journal will see my story on this migration chain in an upcoming edition.

And if anyone knows what caused August Mortier to be one of the earliest Belgians to settle in Moline/Rock Island, Illinois (they arrived in 1880 which was a decade before significant numbers came to the Quad Cities)...let me know. I have several Mortier descendants living in my house, but am not one myself ;-).


Me at NGS-Chicago

I'm a little tired in this picture...but someone asked me for a recent one and it is the most current that I have. Juliana Smith (of Ancestry.com) snapped it at NGS in Chicago in June (I'm probably working on two hours of sleep...) . At every conference...she's got that darned camera ;-).

Spokane and Richmond

This weekend, I'm off to Spokane, Washington, for a workshop for the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society on 7 October.

The following weekend, I'm in Richmond, Virginia, for a workshop at the Library of Virginia in Richmond. Anyone who is interested can email me and I can put you in contact for more information.


21 September 2006

Improved census images at Ancestry.com

I went back today and compared a scan I did of an 1841 UK census entry with the entry at Ancestry.com. The different was outstanding. I remember spending HOURS upon HOURS looking for the family originally when barely half the census page could be read. The images at Ancestry.com were enhanced and are a significant improvement over what I got from the microfilm.

The images are not the same size, but there is no doubt which one is better.

Take a look:



My problem with delayed birth certificates

It is always more difficult when things do not make sense.

My great-grandmother-in-law had four children born in Chicago early in the twentieth century. The oldest two have delayed birth certificates which incorrectly state they were twins (filed on different days no less), the third has no birth certificate, and the youngest has a relatively correct certificate filed at the time of his birth in 1914 in Chicago.

We've posted the images to our site

along with an article discussing the records:


Confusion is frustrating and on a positive note, challenging.


20 September 2006

FGS 2007 UFO Ancestors Lecture for $1.99 at lulu.com

My "UFO Ancestors" lecture from the FGS conference in Boston has been posted on lulu.com and can be downloaded for $1.99. It was there all along and I missed it...why? Because I did a "find on page" for my last name "neill" and that's NOT how my name got spelled on the site. It listed as "neil" but it is me.


See? Even genealogists spell names incorrectly sometimes ;-(


17 September 2006

FGS 2007 Searching lecture posted for $1.99 download at lulu.com

Those who missed the recent FGS conference in Boston can download recordings of most of the lectures from the lulu site. My Searching Techniques lecture has been posted at:


Downloads are only $1.99. Hopefully my UFO ancestors lecture will be uploaded in the near future.


14 September 2006

My Irish Problem

The Annie Moore story got me to thinking about my own Irish Annie:

Annie Murphy....

I know little about her other than she was born in Ireland ca. 1840 and was in St. John New Brunswick in 1865 when she married Samuel Neill. Samuel (and his brother Joseph) left for Hancock County, Illinois, around 1870, where many of their descendants still live today.

Annie is not known to have had any family move with her to Illinois. Any suggestions are welcomed. Anyone wanting to know what little more I know about the Neills can see more information on the site.

First Person Through Ellis Island

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak (with some help) has found the true story of the first immigrant through Ellis Island. The results were featured in the New York Times


Of course, New York had millions of immigrants through Castle Garden before Ellis Island....the story of the research into Annie Moore is interesting, but basically boils down to two things:
  • don't assume previous research and conclusions are true
  • research the siblings

13 September 2006

Ancestry.com sweepstakes

Ancestry is having a sweepstakes to visit your ancestral homeland. You might want to give it a try by entering. The only problem is that you already have to know the country where your ancestor came from. Heck, if they could just tell me where my Ira Sargent was born, I wouldn't even bother with the trip. ;-)

12 September 2006

1856 Probate Manual

A few years ago I wrote a column about an 1856 Illinois probate manual. While this might seem like really dry reading, genealogists can benefit greatly from reviewing such material in detail. An understanding of applicable inheritance and probate laws can prevent one from making incorrect conclusions and suggest when additional follow up may be needed with other records.

The article can be linked to at:



11 September 2006

Genealogy Computer Workshops in 2007

The details of our 9th annual Genealogy Computing Week have been released. 2007 will be the 9th year Carl Sandburg College has offered a week of computer genealogy workshops.

This year our offerings include:
Using Genline for Swedish Research
Using Ancestry.com
Promoting, Preserving and Publishing Your Information
Military Research Online

Our week of workshops begin on 5 March 2007.

We have had attendees come from 10 states over the past nine years. We try to offer day long sessions not usually seen at national conferences. Our registration fee per day is around $35, which is the same as it was the year we started the workshops.

More information can be found at:



08 September 2006

Family History Day-St. Charles, MO 4 Nov 2006

I will be presenting the Family History workshop in the St. Charles, Missouri, area on 4 November 2006. This all-day event is sponsored by the St. Charles County Genealogical Society and the St. Charles Community College.

More information can be found at:


Registration is very reasonable.


07 September 2006

Lecture Downloads FGS 06

Many of the lectures at the recent FGS 2006 conference in Boston were recorded and can be downloaded to your computer, ipod, etc. at a very reasonable cost. So far, only the Wednesday lectures have been downloaded, but more are on the way.


We'll post an update when later sessions are added.


05 September 2006

FGS 07 in Ft. Wayne

The Federation of Genealogical Societies' 2006 conference in Boston is barely over and some of us have already focused our attention on next year's conference.

In 2007, FGS travels to Ft. Wayne, home of the Allen County Public Library, which will be showcasing not only its outstanding genealogy collection, but also its extensively expanded and remodeled digs.

The conference will be held at the Grand Wayne Center - Fort Wayne, Indiana, August 15-18, 2007. Mark your calendars now. A wonderful choice of sessions, extended hours for the library, and an exhibit hall full of genealogical wares await those who join us in 2007.

More information will be posted on the FGS website as it is developed.



02 September 2006

Proposed change in NARA hours

At the recent FGS 2006 Conference in Boston, the Records Preservation and Access Committee (http://www.fgs.org/rpa/) announced their concern over changes in the hours in the research rooms at the National Archives. This concern was conveyed to Dr. Allen Weinstein in a letter from David Rencher, Chair of the Records Preservation and Access Committee.

These changes would eliminate evening hours at the National Archives.
These changes would eliminate Saturday hours at the National Archives.

Many genealogists who travelt to DC to research rely on these evening and Saturday hours to reach their research objectives.

You can read (and sign) an online petition opposing these changes at:

You can learn more about the Records Preservation and Access Committee at:


16 August 2006

A few funnies

Here are some questions I have had in my email:

1) Why am I not in the Social Security Death Index?

2) I heard you had all the Illinois marriage records in the basement.

3) Can you find the email of my grandpa in Arkansas in 1910?

Here is an attempt at genealogical humor.


15 August 2006

Brick Walls From A to Z

Virtually every genealogist has at least one brick wall that they can't seem to surpass. Mine is Ira Sargent, born ca. 1845 in Canada, living in Illinois by 1880.

Regardless of where, when, or how there are some common ways that some brick walls can be broken. We've posted a list from A to Z of brick wall breakers on our site in the article section.


10 August 2006

Rich and Famous Ship Manifests

We've posted a few well-known people in ship manifests:

Charlie Chaplin, Jane Addams, Errol Flynn, Mark Twain and many more are listed.

08 August 2006


I am looking forward to the annual Federation of Genealogical Societies' annual conference--this year in Boston, Mass at the end of August. There is still time to register and the conference looks to be a great one. Kudos to Michael and Sue for lining up a great agenda in a great venue. More information on FGS and the conference can be located on the website at http://www.fgs.org.

Immigrant Trunk

This trunk belonged to my aunt who immigrated ca. 1870 to Keokuk Junction, Illinois (now Golden). It is not in the best of shape, but the front is lovely. All but two of her numerous siblings settled in either Adams or Hancock counties in Illinois, including Focke (Frank), my great-great-grandfather. I have one of his trunks too from a later voyage, but his name is not stenciled on it.

05 August 2006

Getting copies

I finally got a copy of my grandfather's 1917 birth certificate when I was in Salt Lake a few months ago. I had seen it years ago, but was too cheap to pay for an official copy. I thought it listed his first name along with both his middle names. My memory was incorrect, only one middle name was listed and the anglicized version of his mother's name was used. I also got his time of birth (2:45 a.m.), which I didn't have before. It's always good to get these events down as precisely as possible!

Remember that the Family History Library may have something on film which you sometimes can get much cheaper through your branch library than you can at the courthouse. In the case of this birth certificate from 1917, even with ordering the film on loan, I saved $6. In states where copies of vitals run as high as $20, the savings can be substantial.

And remember---RARELY do you need a birth or death certificate immediately, via fax, overnight mail, etc. If you are ordering the certificate online from anyone BUT the local records office, you are paying too much.


03 August 2006

Analyzing pre-1850 census entries

As most genealogists know, pre-1850 census records provide less direct information on the individuals enumerated. Names of only heads of household is a limitation. However, it is possible to do some analysis on these entries. We've posted a series of articles analyzing pre-1850 census entries for one family from Pennsylvania on our site for those who may need some direction on using records from this era.

02 August 2006

Genline workshop

We still have room in our two-day hands on workshop on using Genline.com for Swedish genealogical research. For those who are not aware, Genline offers online access to church records for all of Sweden and is an excellent source for those with Swedish ancestry.

Our workshop is on 18 and 19 August 2006 in Galesburg, Illinois, on the campus of Carl Sandburg College. All attendees will have their own computer to use for the duration of the workshop.

More information on the workshop can be found at:

More information on Genline can be found on their site.


Heritage Bears

For Christmas a few years ago, my mother had teddy bears made from my paternal grandmother's chenille bedspread. I thought this was a neat idea and have posted pictures of the bears on our site.


31 July 2006

We're Really Cousins

I received an email today from a cousin. It is difficult for me to explain the relationship precisely because:
  • her paternal grandfather and my mother's paternal grandfather were brothers.
  • her maternal grandmother and my father's paternal grandmother were sisters.
  • and, one of her great-grandmothers was a sister to my great-great-grandfather.
Needless to say we're related ;-)
Once you get back five generations on her pedigree chart 5 out of 8 names in every generation are also on my pedigree chart!
Double cousins are pretty common for me---which explains why I have one genealogy database instead of several separate ones.

Found William Faulkner and J. Edgar Hoover

These were two of our contests and we have winners for locating:
1910 William Faulkner
1930 J. Edgar Hoover

Open contests are listed on our site.

29 July 2006

New Famous Census Search Contests

We have added the following Famous Census Search contests to our site, complete with new prizes:
1870 Thomas Edison
1930 J. Edgar Hoover
1910 William Faulkner
1930 Geogria O'Keefe

Good luck!

27 July 2006

Oct. 7, 2006-Spokane, Washington

I'll be presenting the Fall Seminar at the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society in Spokane, Washington, on October 7 2006. More information can be found on the society's website.

Reading Signatures

We've posted twentysome signature samples on our site. Those who are interested can take a shot at reading the writing.
Some are easier than others and we'll work on adding more as time goes on.

26 July 2006

Got Stones?

My ancestor Riley Rampley has three tombstones:

Riley died first, which explains the stone with just his name.

Look around near your ancestor's stone. You may find relatives. Or you just might find duplicates!

Riley and Nancy are buried in the Buckeye Cemetery in rural Hancock County, Illinois, a few miles west of West Point--and not too far from where their farm was located.

An Actress in NYC

One never knows what one will find.

The 1893 obituary for Marie Cawiezell in Davenport, Iowa, indicates her daughter Emma had died a few weeks earlier in NYC. Until I saw the obituary reference, I just assumed Emma had died "young" and eluded death records in Davenport and was buried in an unmarked grave.

A search of NYC death records indicated that she was living as an actress in NYC under the name of Emma Davis. Fortunately, her real name also was included on the death index. A copy of her death certificate can be viewed on our site.

Now to find out more about her.

25 July 2006

Found Mae West in 1930

We have a winner in our 1930 Find Mae West contest.
The entry has been posted at:
More contests will be announced later.

20 July 2006

WW Two era draft cards

This is the World War II draft for my grandfather. These cards are available from Selective Service as long as you can prove the registrant is deceased . We have an article on our site about accessing these draft cards from Selective Service.

19 July 2006

The Source

The newest version of the Source has just arrived in my mailbox. For those genealogists who don't have a copy and need some summer reading, it will provide you with hours of learning. The first edition of the source was one of the first genealogical reference books I ever bought.

The Source can be purchased directly from Ancestry.

We will be reviewing the newest edition of The Source in an upcoming column on Ancestry's blog.

18 July 2006

FGS Boston 2007

There is still plenty of time to register for the Federation of Genealogical Societies' conference in Boston, Mass. 30 Aug through 2 Sept. I'll be there, speaking, visiting the exhibit hall and catching up with other genealogists.

For the conference program grid and to register: http://www.fgs.org/2006conf/FGS-2006.htm

To keep up-to-date on conference details and news: www.FGSConference.blogspot.com

To see the list of Exhibit Hall exhibitors: http://www.fgs.org/2006conf/conf-exhibitors.asp


Did Grandpa and Grandma Immigrate Too?

Tips from the Pros: Did Grandpa and Grandma Immigrate Too?

from Michael John Neill (from the 24-7 Family History Blog at Ancestry.com)

Don’t overlook Grandpa and Grandpa in your search for immigrant ancestors. When it is determined that an ancestor emigrated as an adult, the thought many times is that the parents remained in the old country, never to see their child again. This is not necessarily so. There were no age limits on immigration and ship manifests are scattered with names of individuals in their sixties and seventies leaving their homeland.

Widows or widowers whose children had all left were more likely to emigrate, perhaps when the last child left. It may explain why an elderly couple has disappeared in the old country.

In my research, when one set of my ancestors disappeared from the church records of their local parish, I assumed it was because they moved to a nearby parish and I had just failed to locate them. A comprehensive search of census and cemetery records for the children in the United States located them on the opposite side of the Atlantic. They were enumerated with a married daughter in the 1870 census and are buried in the same cemetery as that daughter. So if Grandpa and Grandma are lost, don’t neglect the possibility that they might have crossed the pond as well.

The post can be viewed on the Ancestry.com blog here along with other posts

Florence Nightengale in 1871 and 1881

I added these images to make our Florence Nightengale UK census page complete.

Lewis Carroll in 1841 and 1851

We have added 1841 and 1851 census images for Lewis Carroll to our site (of course, Lewis Carroll is not his real name).


Summer is a great time to visit cemeteries and photograph tombstones. Just remember to leave no mess and obtain permission before crossing private property. More suggestions on photographing stones and making rubbings can be found on our site.

The picture to the left was taken at the West Point, Hancock County, Illinois, cemetery and is the stone of my great-grandparents.

17 July 2006

Karl Marx in the Census

Karl Marx spent a great deal of his life in the United Kingdom (which I forgot) and is enumerated in the 1851-1881 Census for the UK. We have created a webpage with links to the images here:


Famous United Kingdom Residents in the Census

We've modified our UK Famous census page, which includes links census images for the following:

Queen Victoria
Lewis Carroll
Charlie Chaplin
Agatha Christie
Winston Churchill
Charles Darwin
Charles Dickins
Alfred Hitchcock
Rudyard Kipling
A A Milne
Florence Nightingale
Beatrix Potter
Alfred Tennyson
J R R Tolkien
H G Wells
Oscar Wilde

14 July 2006

Find Mae West in 1930

We have announced our latest search contest:
Mae West in 1930
More details have been posted at:

13 July 2006

2007 Research Trip to Salt Lake

We are taking reservations on our 2007 trip to Salt Lake City, where you can overload on genealogical information. More information about our trip has been posted on our site.

Before Looking for a Civil War Pension

There is a lot one should do before searching for a Civil War pension, and there are several finding aids to these records that are NOT online.

A recent article posted to our site discusses searching for pension records--one of the best genealogical sources there is.



1920 Famous Census Additions

We have added the 1920 census image for
Mae West
Cy Young

to our site. These two individuals were subjects of our "famous census" search contest.

The images can be viewed from

03 July 2006

Fred Astaire, Irving Berlin and Henry Ford

We've added census images for the following to our site:
1910 Henry Ford
1910 Irving Berlin
1920 Fred Astaire

Just go to our main page and choose the desired year:

These were submitted by contest winners. We are hoping to announce more contests later in the week at http://www.rootdig.com/contest/


01 July 2006

Primary and Secondary

The difference between primary and secondary confuses many genealogists. I posted an article today which discusses the difference. It is also important to remember that classifying a piece of information as either primary or secondary is only PART of the process by which one decides how reliable a given piece of information is.

The article can be found at:



New Famous Census Search Contests

We have added famous census search contests for the following individuals on our site:

1910 Henry Ford
1910 Irving Berlin
1920 George Burns
1920 Fred Astaire

details are on our site at:http://www.rootdig.com/contest/


22 June 2006

1910 Everyname Census Index at Ancestry

Ancestry has finally released their 1910 everyname census index. A recent column posted on this website discussed some ways to prepare for that release. The article is here:


The 1910 census index at Ancestry.com is here:
1910 United States Federal Census Index (everyname)


President Lincoln in 1850 and 1860 census

For those who are interested, we have posted links to 1850 and 1860 census images of President Lincoln.

21 June 2006

Potential Security Breach at WIU

Just what you want to read in your email. WIU (Western Illinois University) alumns probably already know, but just in case:

14 June 2006

NGS 2006

Our time at NGS 2007 was short, but very eventful!

Personally I get great deal of value out of the program syllabus, which includes speaker's handouts which summarize their lectures. I tend to be a learner who (ironically) learns best and easiest by reading--so the syllabus is usually of significant interest to me. When a national conference is close enough, I would encourage attendance.

Thanks to those who came up to ask questions after my Illinois and Ohio lectures. I always enjoy the questions and appreciate the time that some of you give to wait patiently for a chance to ask and get an answer.

Those interested in our research trips to Ft. Wayne and Salt Lake should stay tuned. Details are forthcoming.


27 May 2006

Family History Library research trip 2007

Our 2006 research trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake wrapped up last week, we all had a great time and some even hung around for a few extra days wrapping up loose ends and following new leads.

Dates of our 2007 trip to Salt Lake have been announced on our trip website. Stay tuned for future details about 2007!



17 May 2006

In Salt Lake City

We're in Salt Lake City for our first annual research trip to the Family History Library. I arrived a day early and did some probate work and a few other loose ends. We are looking forward to our time in the library. Those who missed this year's trip can stayed tune for information on next year. There probably won't be too many blog postings in the near future....unless I find something really great.

Find Spencer Tracy in 1920

Our latest census search contest:

Spencer Tracy in 1920


16 May 2006

Genline--Swedish online Church Records-Workshop

Carl Sandburg College is hosting a two-day workshop I am presenting on using Genline for Swedish ancestral research. This site has millions of images of Swedish church records and is an excellent site for anyone with Swedish ancestors.

The workshop will be held on 18 and 19 August in Galesburg, Illinois. For more details, visit our website:

11 May 2006

Old Men's Draft Registration in World War II

The fourth registration for the World War II draft in the United States included men born between 28 April 1877 and 16 February 1897. These cards are an excellent genealogical source for anyone born in this time frame.

The card on the right is a sample.

We are taking requests for lookups in these cards until 21 May 2006.

There is more information on the cards and additional sample images on our site

08 May 2006

Find Bob Hope in 1910

We have announced our latest "famous census search." This time it is Bob Hope in 1910.

06 May 2006

Names reversed in Census

Panagiotis Verikios is enumerated in the 1930 census and was not toooo hard to locate except for the fact that his first name and his last name were reversed. Occasionally this happened, more likely with non-English names, but one never knows. When searching the index, consider switching the first and last names...you never know.

Panagiotis' entry can be viewed here:


He's living on the south side of Chicago.

04 May 2006

Still room on our Ft. Wayne Trip

Procrastinator that I am, I just made my reservation at the Ft. Wayne Hilton for our research trip there at the very end of May. Those who are still thinking about joining us still can. Anyone from the US is welcome and more information about our research trip is posted online. We always have a good time and get lots of research done.

Searching World War I Draft cards at Ancestry.

We've posted an article with search techniques for the WWI Draft card database at Ancestry.com on our site:
You will need access to Ancestry.com to use the index (your library may have access onsite--ask them and find out, your local Family History Library has access). My suggestions for what to do when requesting a free trial are posted on our site.

03 May 2006

Illinois Genealogy Articles

Over the years I have written several articles on Illinois research and posted them on our site. Those with Illinois roots may wish to venture over and take a look:

02 May 2006

Analyzing A Probate

Estate records are a great source for the genealogist. In a past article on our site, we analyze an estate from 1860s in Missouri and include clues about the family that are hinted at in the estate inventory and sale.

Even when the estate doesn't list the heirs, you may still learn something. Record images are included.


1910 Postcard

Ever thought of postcards your ancestor might have sent? I've posted one to my site that my ancestor sent to his father-in-law when he made a return trip to Germany. The text he wrote is pretty short and generally refers to his trip and the weather...no real hard genealogy information, but it was neat to have it. Consider looking for cards in your own background.



28 April 2006

Bureau County Genealogical Society meeting

Thanks to the group from Bureau County (Illinois) for inviting me to speak at their monthly meeting. I always enjoy my trips to Princeton and the society has a very active group with a nice downtown facility. Those with Bureau County roots may wish to check out the society's website; their membership is over 400!

27 April 2006

Birth Certificate Spellings

One always has to keep in mind the creative spellings that were used, especially when the families did not speak English. My great-grandfather Frederich Ufkes is listed as Elineny Ufcuss on his birth certificate. And no, nothing close to "Elineny" was ever used as a nickname for him.

Ohio Gene. Conference-Toledo

I'll be giving two lectures on Saturday at the annual Ohio Genealogical Society Conference in Toledo.
  • Where did the Farm go?
  • Math for Genealogists
If you'll be attending, be certain to say hi.


25 April 2006

Find Glenn Miller in 1930

Our latest census contest:

Glenn Miller in 1930.

Click on the link and please follow the directions if you want to try and win. If you can't find him, that's ok, but please don't send me suggestions...and yes his first name is not Glenn.


Tennessee Genealogical Society

We had a great time in Memphis at the recent Tennessee Genealogical Society's Spring workshop. The handout for our Tight Budget lecture has been posted online. The group was very hospitable and my daughter enjoyed everyone of the Brownie Bites the ladies in the kitchen gave her! Thanks again for having me as your speaker.


Do You Ear?

This has been one of the most popular articles on our site. Think about how that word got into the ear of the censustaker or records clerk. It makes all the difference.



1841 UK Census

Ancestry.com has the 1841 UK Census online—16 million names from England, Wales, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man. The 1841-1901 UK Census Collection is now complete. It appears they have cleaned up some images as well. I'll be spending too much time looking for the Frames and Watson's from County Cumberland.

We've posted some 1841-1871 samples here. The 1841 image was taken from a microfilm copy. What I just saw at Ancestry.com was MUCH cleaner. The darkness on the left hand side that made reading difficult was essentially gone.

A World Deluxe Membership is needed to see the images (Monthly or Annual), or else get a 14-day free trial. Remember to write down day 13 if you take the trial and decide then to keep or cancel. Don't call the day AFTER to cancel. ;-)


20 April 2006

Lessons from Searching for the Rich and Famous

Over the past several years, we've located hundreds of the famous and infamous in US census records. An article discussing my experiences and lesssons learned has been posted on our site. In most cases, looking for the well-known is not all that different from locating the not-so-well-known.



17 April 2006

Famous Contest Announcement

Our first contest is to find Hank Williams, Sr. in 1930. First correct submission wins a current edition of Family Tree Maker.
More details are on our site at:
As of 1:00 CST 19 April 2006 we had no winner.
Good Luck!

16 April 2006

Jackie Kennedy in 1930

She's living in NYC with her parents, but interestingly enough she and her mother are enumerated with the father/husband, John Bouvier, but they are un-named. Very interesting, but made finding them a little more difficult than usual.

The image on our site was reduced in quality to save space, but one can still get the idea.



14 April 2006

John Tyler in 1860 Census

We have added President John Tyler to our rich and famous census page for 1860. The image can be viewed for free here:

Famous Census Search Contest

In the next week, we will be restarting our "find the famous person in the census contest," complete with prizes. Information will be posted on our Contest page



Dizzy Gillespie in the Census

We have added Dizzy Gillespie in the 1920 and 1930 census to our "famous census" website:


The handwriting on these was not all that easy to read.


13 April 2006

Genealogy research trips May 2006

There is still time to join either one of our genealogy research trips in May 2006.
More information is available on our website by visiting the links above.


Pre-1850 Census Entries

Once your census work gets to before 1850 it is a different world...only heads of household are enumerated. The analysis is different than it is for census enumerations that list everyone by name. This series of four articles discusses one individual's 1810-1850 census entries, indicating what the tick marks

mean and what they do not mean.



12 April 2006

Queen Victoria in the Censu

Even the Queen does not avoid the census taker. Surfers can see Queen Victoria in the 1851-1881 census on our site located here:


10 April 2006

Famous Ship Manifests

One of our "diversions" here is to locate various famous people in actual documents. We've posted about 30 images on our site, a sampling

Joan Fontaine in 1934
Errol Flynn in 1938
Errol Flynn in 1940
Errol Flynn in 1941
Oscar Hammerstein in 1930
Ernest Hemingway in 1941
Joseph P. Kennedy in 1913
Mary Pickford in 1930
Knute Rockne in 1927

Our main entry pages for this set is at:


Hiring a Professional Genealogist

Before you decide to hire someone to research part of your family for you, there are several things to consider:

  • What you really want
  • How much you can afford?
  • What you already have
  • How likely it is that your "problem" really has an answer

A few years ago, we posted a series of articles to our site about my experience with a professional genealogist. Those who are considering hiring someone to help them with part of their research may wish to take a look at this series



09 April 2006

WWI Draft Card Harry Houdini

I'm not certain who exactly was responsible, but illusionist Harry Houdini is listed as Harry "Handcuff" Houdini on his World War I Draft Card. He even signed that on his card. His World War I draft card is one of over thirty draft cards of notables we have posted to our website. They are all free to view and offer an interesting perspective on history.