30 March 2006

Bureau of Land Management Site

The Bureau of Land Management has created an online finding aid to manyof its patents for federal lands. It is a wonderful finding aid, but remember
  • patents are those "first deeds" transferring ownership from federal to private hands
  • the Bureau of Land Management only has patents for Federal Land States (basically the Northwest Territory and west...but that is a generalization)
  • local county offices have the vast majority of land records--transactions between private individuals.

The search interface of these patents provides some wonderful searching options. An article on our site, "Get Wild at the BLM" discusses these searching options and how to make best use of them.


I've found three of my relatives in the database, none of whom were "early settlers" in the area. Keep in mind that in many federal land state, they were still selling federal land long after statehood.


Ancestry's Redbook

Online sources and references are great, but sometimes an actual book is still a good idea ;-) Ancestry's Redbook provides an overview to various state and local genealogical sources for the United States. I co-wrote five chapters of the book (Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, and Minnesota). There is more information about the book on our site. It is a good reference and if you watch the sales at Ancestry.com (the publisher) you can occasionally get a better price.


Born in 3 states?

Depending upon what record you choose to believe, my great-grandmother was born in either Iowa, Illinois, or Missouri. I am still not certain where she was born, but it likely was in the area where those three states meet. Not surprisingly her 1880-1930 census enumerations provide a variety of birthplaces, but all give an age consistent with an 1874 year of birth.

Her various census images can be seen here. Her death certificate is also on my site.

And if anyone knows anything about the parents of Ida Mae (Martha) Sargent, born April 1874 to Ira William and Ellen Butler Sargent, drop me an email. She spent her life from 1880 until her death in 1939 in Warsaw, Tioga, and Loraine, Illinois (in Hancock and Adams Counties).


29 March 2006

These Ancestors cannot be displayed

These Ancestors cannot be displayed

The ancestors you are looking for are currently unavailable. They may be hiding in offline resources which will require you to contact repositories via more archaic methods. If they are dead, rest assured they are not creating more descendants.

View the rest of the error message at:

28 March 2006

Sophia Elizabeth Derle 1808-1877

This is just to see if I can post a picture without any difficulty. This picture is taken from an oil portrait done of my 3rd great-grandmother, Sophia Elizabeth Derle Trautvetter (1808-1877). She was born in Thuringen, Germany and died in Walker Township, Hancock County, Illinois, in 1877. I'm always happy to hear from anyone researching the Trautvetter or Derle families.


When the census taker came to the door

Have you ever thought about what really happened when the census taker knocked on your ancestor's door? The census itself really doesn't tell us and there are many ways your ancestor adn the census taker could have interacted.

We posted a fictional article on our site about what might have happened over several census enumerations.


Just something to think about when the enumerations are not consistent.


27 March 2006

Do You Ear What I Ear?

This article was posted several years ago and has been one of the most popular ones on our site. It discusses the way things are said and heard and how that impacts the way things get written down in records. Some food for thought when spellings are giving you difficulties in your research.


The whole article got started because in an earlier column I used the term "birder" house. The editor never caught it and that was what it sounded like Grandma called that little building where the baby chickens lived......


We are going to Salt Lake

I'm leading a research trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, this coming May.
We still have spaces if anyone would like to join us.
There will be help before we leave and help during the trip..... I've been to Salt Lake several times before and am looking forward to return to the Mecca for genealogists.
More information can be found on our website at:


Please email me at saltlake@rootdig.com if you have questions.


Spellings all over the place

There is an 1860 census enumeration that lists four of my families on one page. The problem is that the last name is spelled differently for each household. Part of the problem in this case is the dialect the residents used, combined with the likely difficulty the census taker had figuring out how to spell the non-English names. It is always an excellent idea to consider as many variants as possible and to search pages manually if necessary. The entries for the Behrens family in Adams County, Illinois, can be seen here:


And if anyone is related, send me an email ;-)

24 March 2006

Preparing for Census Search

Quite a few of the articles on our site discuss census searching. One of the key things to make any search of census records successful is to prepare first. An article on our site discusses things to help prepare for searching the 1870 census, but much of the commentary is applicable to any census year.

The article is posted here:


Search the 1870 census at Ancestry.com.


World War II Draft Cards

World War II Draft Cards are available to the public for those men born between 28 April 1877 and 16 February 1897. While they were not young men during the WWII era, they were still required to register. These cards are available from the regional branches of the National Archives or are on microfilm through a local Family History Center.

There is more about the cards in an article we posted on our site (including sample images):


Draft cards for men born after Feb 1897 are available if the registrant is deceased. There is an article on obtaining these records from Selective Service on our site along with sample scans of the cards.


Interesting records from an interesting time in our nation's history.


23 March 2006

Native Born Alien?

Mary Verikios was born in New York State and (to the best of my knowledge) never left the United States. Yet in the 1920, she is enumerated as an "alien." Her marriage to a Greek native was part of the problem. To learn more about her unusual census enumeration and more about the history of women and citizenship, read an article we posted on our site:



Ancestral Signatures

For many of us without family letters or diaries, obtaining a copy of our ancestor's signature requires searching specific types of records. This article on our site discusses some of the typical and not-so-typical sources for finding an actual copy of our anestor's signature.


We have also posted two pages of signatures for site visitors to try and read. You can click on the image to view a larger image and then click again to read what the name was supposed to be



22 March 2006

Birth dates on WWI Draft Cards

A search of the World War I Draft Cards at Ancestry indicates that there are 10,893 draft cards for an individual born in 1918. When looking at these cards (I sampled 50 and quit) all of them did indicate a birth year of 1918 on the card, an obvious error. The indexers were told to transcribe the cards EXACTLY as they were written. We've posted a few of these cards here on our site:


The database can be searched directly at Ancestry.com here
World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.


Al Capone-World War I Draft Card

Al Capone is listed as a box cutter on his World War I Draft Card from 1918. His signature is at the bottom of the card, which can be viewed here:


He lists his mother on the card as well.


21 March 2006

SS-5 Forms

Individuals with a Social Security Number should have an ss-5 form, which was completed by them (or their representatives) in order for them to obtain a number. This form contains birth and parental information on the individual. These forms are only available to the public if the person is deceased. The forms are not cheap to order ($27) so I only get them when I have a "real problem." We have posted a SS5 form I have used in my research on our site as a sample.


The forms are not generally online and you have to order them from the Social Security Administration. The page listed above has search boxes for the Social Security Index and if you find someone in the index, you can generate a letter to make your request.

One advantage is that these forms were actually filled out by the person, unlike their death certificate. But because they are not cheap, I don't order them for everyone.


20 March 2006

Minor Naturalizations

These records are sometimes misunderstood by genealogists. Minor naturalizations are not records naturalizing minors, they are naturalization records of those who immigrated as minors. Individuals in this category for most of American history naturalized under a slightly different set of rules than did those who immigrated as adults. Sometimes these naturalizations were recorded separately from the "adult" naturalizations.

We posted an article some time ago on our site about these records, including links to actual samples:



18 March 2006

Enumerated in the Census Twice?

It happens more than you think--someone listed in a census more than once. My grandmother is enumerated in 1930 once with her parents and once in the household where she was a "working out" (the kids always thought that meant she was exercising...)

There are also several well-known people who have been enumerated more than once:
1850 Mark Twain
1860 Robert E. Lee
1880 Frank Lloyd Wright
1880 Rutherford B.Hayes
1900 Humphrey Bogart
1900 Katherine Anne Porter
1910 George M. Cohan
1910 Jack London
1930 Charles Lindbergh
1930 Thomas Edison

All can be linked to from here:

Keep looking, you may find your own person more than once.

St. Peters, Missouri-using Ancestry.com

For those living near St. Peters, Missouri (St. Louis burbs), I'll be presenting an all-day hands on workshop in using Ancestry.com on 1 April 2006 (that's no April fool ;-) ) . Attendees will have temporary access to Ancestry.com that day. The workshop is sponsored by the St. Charles Community College and the St. Charles County Genealogy Society--a great bunch of folks. For more information visit:


Hope to see some of you there!

June Carter Cash

For the last two weeks, the 1930 census image of June Carter Cash has been the most popular image on our site. It has received nearly three times as many visits as Marilyn Monroe and Al Capone which are always high on our list of hits. Usually her page never makes the top 100....

June's image can be viewed here:


Her mother is one of the few married women in rural West Virginia in 1930 who is listed with an occupation.


17 March 2006

Civil War Pension Indexes

Did you know that the Pension Index at Ancestry that includes Civil War Veterans is only one of three finding aids to pensions for men from this era? There are actually three indexes to these records, each one serving a different purpose and covering a slightly different time frame. All three of the indexes were microfilmed by the National Archives and are also available through your local Family History Center.

"Before the Pension" includes information on these finding aids and offers other suggestions on what to do before requesting a pension from the National Archives:


The article discusses these finding aids in the section on "Pension Indexes"


Our New Look...

We've changed our main home page look to a blogtype format. Suggestions are welcome...

I can be reached via email at mjnrootdig@gmail.com


NGS Chicago-June 2006

I'm looking forward to attending the National Genealogical Society's annual conference this June in Chicago, Illinois, in my home state. I'll be attending some lectures and making two presentations (Illinois and Ohio research).

There's more information on the conference here:



Poorhouse Article

We all have disappearing ancestors. Perhaps times got hard and your lost family went to the county poor house or local almshouse. That's what happened to one of my wife's families during the winter of 1875 in Mercer County, Illinois.

We've posted an article on our website here about locating records of this type. Interesting records which document a socioeconomic class that is sometimes difficult to track.



Charles Schulz 1930

The well-known Peanuts cartoonist is not living in Minnesota where he was born and where he grew up. Apparently his family spent a very short amount of time in Needles, California--just in time for the 1930 census.

The image is on our site at:


Something to think about when searching for those Depression era people. They might have moved away from "home" for just a short time and it might not even be a commonly remembered fact within the family.