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.