26 May 2007

Footnote adding Revolutionary Pensions

I was pleased to see Footnote adding Revolutionary Pensions to their site, particularly since I've been working on some Revolutionary ancestors of my wife. One of the neat things about footnote is that users can add annotations (such as when they see another name in a pension file) and those annotations are searchable. This is particularly helpful with those records that are handwritten and cannot be searched through OCR.

Start Your Free Trial With Footnote.com and experiment and see what Footnote has to offer.

A Find on PERSI

I have long suggested that researchers use PERSI (the Periodical Source Index) created by the staff of the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. This finding aid indexes articles in genealogical newsletters, quarterlies, and other periodical publications. Until PERSI finding articles in these journals required a page-by-page search. PERSI has topic indexes and also includes articles that relate to genealogical methodology. The indexes are not full name indexes, but they can be helpful. Each citation includes a complete reference so that the magazing containing the article can be located. The Allen County Public Library will copy articles for a small fee or users of PERSI can locate the article themselves.

While at the Family History Library last week, I performed a search of PERSI on www.heritagequestonline.com. Honestly, I haven't found too much personally on PERSI, but my search for "samuel rhodes" brought up several hits, one of which was an article in the Hawkins County Tennessee Genealogical Society quarterly. Since the Samuel I was searching for lived in Hawkins County for a time, I decided to see if the Family History Library had the magazine in question. They did.

I scanned the desired pages for use at home. Part of the article appears on this post. It was a great find for me as it opened up new information on Samuel, particularly his Revolutionary War service.

Never put all your genealogical eggs in one basket.

23 May 2007

Dearborn, Michigan--Computer Genealogy Workshops-June 07

We still have room in our computer workshops in Dearborn, Michigan. Space is limited and includes day-long access the database or website being used. Each workshop is one day long and you can sign up for one day or all three days. Topics are:

  • Using Ancestry.com
  • Using Genline
  • Publishing and Preserving Your Information

More information is available on our website.

22 May 2007

Reveiewing Things I've Already Seen

I went through many of my great and great-great-grandparents estate settlements when I was much younger, knew less about genealogy, and didn't bother to copy or read quite a bit of the material. In some cases, time never allowed me to go back, particularly on those families where other records allowed me to easily trace them back to earlier generations.
This time at the Family History Library, I've reviewed a few of those files and have picked up a few new clues and some neat documents I had forgotten existed.
The image on this post is part of a sale bill from the estate settlement of John Michael Trautvetter. His estate was interesting to view again, but there were no relevations in it.
However the estate of his uncle some forty years earlier contained one line I had overlooked that caused me to find out some members of the family had spent ten years in Kentucky after arriving from Germany and before coming to Illinois--something I was not aware of.
It pays to review files you may have scanned early in your research.

21 May 2007

Getting a Signature

One thing I like to collect (when I can) are signatures of my ancestors. The one shown in this blog post is from Noentje Lena Grass Ufkes (1848-1902). It comes from testimony in a court case in the late 1870s involving her and her husband, Johann. I'm not certain yet how the case was decided, but we'll post that information when we get it.

The case really isn't all that genealogically relevant. However, I was excited to get the signature as there are no other records containing her actual handwriting. Land records only contain transcriptions not actual writing.

20 May 2007

Scanning at the Family History Library

I'm using a lot less paper this trip to the Family History Library.

I was already a fan of the microfilm scanners at the Family History Library, but have become even moreso during this trip. Scanning the microfilm creates a lot less paper for me to have to cart around (and take back home) and allows me to copy things I might not have copied from the microfilm in the old days when I only made paper copies. Even at the very reasonable fee of 23 cents a page, a 100 page court case file still costs me $23 and makes a stack of papers to fit in my suitcase.

I've been printing out only those pages I need to have on paper for analysis later in the day or in the evening at my hotel room. There is still a time for paper and sometimes I like to lay it all out in order to analyze it.

My flash drive has come in very handy. I even brought a copy of my ancestor's 207 page Civil War pension file with me (obtained from the National Archives and scanned at home a while ago), in case I need to refer to it. I like having all those papers "with me" but not taking six suitcases to haul them all home again.

I back up my flash drive every night on another flash drive, just in case.

But I'm happy to have a lot less paper to take home with me while still having a great deal of information at my fingertips.

We aren't even done with this year's trip and I'm already planning for next year!

18 May 2007

1856 Iowa State Census

I always tell our trip participants not to spend too much time on the computer while at the Family History Library. However, it doesn't mean one should avoid the computer completely.
I had a half an hour before the Family History Library closed one evening this week and decided to give my Ira Sargent problem a "fresh try" without any of my notes. This is not always a good research procedure as occasionally it can waste time. However sometimes I have had success "re-researching" a family without all my "stuff" with me (including my assumptions).
A search at Ancestry.com revealed a "hit" for Ira Sargent that I had not noticed before and I saw one entry from the Davis County, Iowa 1856 for him and viewed it immediately. The name and age were consistent with my Ira Sargent and this Ira was not Iras I had already located. In about twenty minutes I learned more about this family, including a few apparent name changes and one apparent gender change by a census taker. In a later column for the Ancestry World Journal at Ancestry.com, we'll see what progress I made with this entry (and what progress I didn't make).
Those of you who know me know I don't do the "happy dance" and while this one hasn't solved my brick wall yet, came close to "doing" the "happy expletive" when I found this.

16 May 2007

In Salt Lake City

I arrived LATE last night in Salt Lake for our annual research trip. Fortunately, I was re-routed so that I completely avoided O'Hare, but avoiding delays caused by weather at O'Hare was difficult.

Anyway, I found that the Ancestry.com accounts work just fine at the Family History Library--I used mine.

In fact, I made a discovery on my wife's English lines using the census at Ancestry. Of course, I have it at home, but sometimes what one needs is time. I think I have found Elizbabeth Frame in the UK Census (her own family group chart appears on our site here).

The family was living in Brampton, Cumberland, England. I think I have the family in the 1851-1861 census, but there is more work to do. This was only "practice" to make certain my ancestry.com account worked, I wasn't expecting to find anything. Hopefully before I leave, I'll have time to locate more information.

14 May 2007

the Famous Census Images--followup

For the time being, the famous census and other famous images will not be on our site.

In answer to some questions--this is not a copyright issue. The image of a census microfilm can be reproduced and posted by anyone who wants to. The real issue here is the license agreement for those who use Ancestry.com's databases and images. Previous staff were "ok" with the posting of the images. New staff have decided that is no longer the case.

Until I can view the images from the microfilm or find a vendor allowing me to post their images that part of our site will remain offline.


11 May 2007

Federal Civil War Pension Indexes

There are three finding aids to federal Civil War Pensions. They are NOT the SAME.

There are:

1) “General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934.” T288. 544 rolls. This index is strictly alphabetical.
Scroll down--there is information on other microfilm publications besides T288. This index is also

2) “Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900.” T289. 765 rolls. 16mm. [rolls 1-400].(Scroll partially down the page as there is information on other microfilm publications on this page.) This index is not by soldier, but rather by unit. The cards are arranged alphabetically by state, then by arm of service (infantry, cavalry, artillery), then numerically by regiment, and then alphabetically by veteran's surname. The information is similar to the information contained on the General Index to Pension Files T288.

3) “Veterans Administration Pension Payment Cards, 1907-1933.” M850. 2,539 rolls. [rolls 1-1000].

NARA has all three. The Family History Library has all three. Ancestry.com has 1 online and Footnote.com
has 2 online.

Our article on pension records discusses them in more detail. Know what you are searching and do not let anyone tell you these are the same index. They are not.

Remember: the educated genealogist makes better decisions and does better research. The uninformed builds his own brick walls around himself.

10 May 2007

What does it Mean to be Related?

Ancestry.com is reporting that President Bush and Pocahontas are
related. I guess by most definitions of "related' they are, but it
might be a stretch.

An ancestor of President Bush, Robert Bolling, was married twice. The
first wife was Jane Rolfe, a granddaughter of Pocahontas. Robert
Bolling's second wife is the ancestor of the President. Does this
qualify Bush as "related" to Pocahontas?

While I see the connection (genealogy isn't always rocket science),
I'm not certain this qualifies the two as related in the sense that
most people think.

For many people, their definition of related implies a blood or
biological connection. That clearly is not the situation in this case.

For others, being related implies a relationship by marriage.
However, in most of these cases, the "relative" is the subsequent
spouse, not the first. Subsequent spouses are often referred to as
step-parents of any children by previous marriages and may be seen as
defacto parents by those children. That was not the case here either
as Bolling's first wife was a Pocantas descendant, not one after
Bush's ancestor was born. Did Bolling have a relationship with his
former in-laws after his wife's death? I'm not certain, but the
chance lowers unless they had children.

Should a genealogist care about these "relatives" if they aren't
related in the way we normally think? The answer is
sometimes--depending upon how stuck we are and how much time we have.

As for me, I rarely trace the ancestors of all my ancestor's
spouses--when they had more than one. In most cases, knowing at least
their parents' names is helpful to help place them in context--going
further back usually isn't necessary,but sometimes it is. However, I
don't consider myself related to all the spouses of my ancestor, it
is just that sometimes learning more about them is helpful in tracing
my own family.

Of course sometimes I am related to all my ancestor's spouses.
Related in the biological sense of the word.

Good old Hinrich Fecht (1823-1912), my 3rd great-grandfather is a
prime example.

Hinrich was married three times:

1) Trientje Bruns (1823-1848)--sister of wife 2
2) Marie Bruns (1831-before 1877) her and Hinrich's daughter Anna was
my ancestor
3) Antje Jaspers Habben (1823-1900)--her son John Habben married
Hinrich's daughter Anna, daughter of wife 2.

There's a lot of relationships here...more than in the
Bush-Pocahontas connection. I have a couple of other ancestors from
whom I descend via the first and the second wife.

But we'll leave that for another posting.

Murder over a Monkey-Wrench

A little search for Saathoff on Footnote.com turned up the image seen here--a reference to a shooting in Texas. This was in the Investigative Case Files of the Bureau of Investigation 1908-1922, Old Mexican Case Files (click on Bureau of Investigation), 1909-21, NARA film M1085, case 2187.
The "hand" is not on the original document or image--it's just my little helper. Actually I got a little carried away when making the screen dump.
I'm not related to the Saathoff family of Texas. However, they were of Ostfriesen extraction as were my Saathoffs. All Saathoffs are not related--but that's a story for another posting.
The Old Mexican Case Files (click on Bureau of Investigation) can be searched on Footnote.com.

Hindering the World War I Draft-One man at a Time

A neat little find on Footnote.com today.

Running a house of "ill fame" was enough in Florida to get you arrested for Violating the Selective Service act in Florida in 1918 as this image shows. Josephine Tinsley alias Josephine Evans was arrested on Key West for running her enterprise within five miles of the Naval Station (probably close enough to walk....how convenient). A neat little commentary on history. I didn't locate this intentionally, it came up when I performed a search on the name Tinsley. Fortunately none of my Tinsley family were ever in Florida (grin).

Note: This image has been reduced to fit on the page---actual images from footnote are much nicer. In a future post, we'll put one up in that fashion.

The online image comes from Footnote.com and only part of it is reproduced here.

Source information is located below.
Publication Number: M1085
Publication Title: Investigative Case Files of the Bureau of Investigation 1908-1922
Publisher: NARASeries: Old German Files, 1909-21
Case Number: 153114
Case Title: Violation Section 13 of Selective-draft Act

Thanks guys

I appreciate the support and emails I have received after I removed the "famous census" images from my site. So far Dick Eastman , Leland Meitzler, and Randy Seaver have commented on the issue. We may have some options, but for now things are where they were a few days ago. (Sue Kaufman, now at the Clayton Public Library, always chides me for speaking of myself as "we," but it continues...).

For now, I'm concentrating on my upcoming group trip to Salt Lake City--where I'm hoping to get some of my own research squeezed in while I am out there. I've been posted some ideas on my preparation and I'm hoping to have some results to report when I get back. Most of my problems (genealogy ones, that is) are not of the kind that can be solved in 5-second lookups, but I'm still hoping for that Eureka moment.

In the meantime, remember not everything we as genealogists need is online and that records that have not been microfilmed or digitzed should be are prime conservation priority (Union Civil War pensions are one huge set that comes to mind...)

09 May 2007

Your Own Unique Migration Chain

I've never been a huge fan of migration trails. Of course, how our ancestors got from point A to point B is important. However, what is generally more important is why our ancestors went from Point A to Point B. Usually that why was a person.

A friend, relative, or former neighbor found out about an opportunity and thought that our ancestor, still living in Point A, should migrate to Point B. Of course, there were times than our ancestor read a book or newspaper that mentioned the advantages to living in Point B. But still something drew him to that area.

I have had more luck working with migration chains than any other type of "migration technique" for genealogical research. Our ancestors rarely moved in complete isolation. Twenty-two of my mother's ancestors migrated to the United States between 1850 and 1883. Every one of them immigrated to where either:

  • a relative was already there
  • a relative was quick to follow the ancestor to the new location
And it was not only my Germans who followed this trend. My Irish settled where they had kin and former neighbors. My wife's Swedes, Belgians, Swiss, Germans, and Greeks did the exact same thing during approximately the same time period. And it was not only the non-English speakers who migrated in groups over a period of time.

My families who travelled from Virginia into Kentucky and eventually into Indiana had some of the same neighbors in all three states. My wife's Kiles who migrated from Ohio to Illinois in the 1850s were part of a larger contingent following the same migration path. And some of my Virginia families in the 1750s had neighbors with the same last names as the neighbors of their grandparents fifty years earlier and several counties further east.

Pay attention to your ancestor's associates when he settles in a new area. Those associates and neighbors might have been his neighbors and associates from "back home." Finding where they were from may help you discover where your own ancestor was from as well.

Free Trials on Footnote.com

This site is digitizing microfilm from the National Archives that until now has been overlooked.

Footnote.com has added many records to their set of databases, including

In the next few weeks, we'll be posting some image samples along with a discussion of how these records were obtained and how these records were located. Footnote also allows users to annotate images and these annotations are searchable. You can even add images to a "file" to keep track of images you have already used. And you can download images to your own hard drive for editing, manipulation and use in your own genealogcal database, word processing documents, etc. A really neat site with some really neat opportunities to easily access records that until now had to be accessed via microfilm.

You can get a free 7 day trial at Footnote.com

OCR at Footnote

One of the neat things about the records at footnote.com is that those that are typewritten are increasingly able to be searched using OCR technology. While OCR has limitations, it is decidedly easier than manually scanning or reading thousands of pages in an attempt to locate specific names.

The view results pages at Footnote.com now provide just a snippet of the actual page where the hit appears, showing what it actually looks like. This allows the user to manually determine whether or not the hit it what was actually being searched for. This is a nice feature of the viewer--so many times one has to load the entire image just to see what the hit was. And some names get OCR hits that are not quite what one was looking for. This makes it easier for me to scan the hits as I don't have to view each one separately. A neat idea.

You can start your free trial with footnote.com, just remember when it expires so you can make the decision about renewing before the end of the free trial period.

07 May 2007

Famous Census Images are GONE!

At the "request" of The Generations Network we have pulled all our famous census images. This has been a fun project, but unfortunately until I have time to view the NARA microfilm myself for each entry there is not much I can do.

Oh, we had to pull the draft cards and ship manifest images as well.

03 May 2007

Wanna go to Salt Lake at the last minute?

Anyone who thought they missed our trip deadline is in luck. There
are still options for anyone who wants to join us in Salt Lake May
16-May 23 for a week of family history research at the Family History
Library in Salt Lake. Millions of genealogical records will be at
your disposal. Our group size is small, so everyone will get
individual attention and assistance as needed.

More information on our trip is available at:

We do have people who are driving instead of flying to Salt Lake City.

There are options besides our official hotel. Those who have the
flexibility of making late plans should email me with questions. Our
trip is especially great for those who have always felt they would
feel overwhelmed by the library--someone will be there to help. Or
more experienced researchers will have others to share ideas with and
not be alone for the whole week. Consultations with Michael are
available throughout our stay and if appropriate you'll be given an
"assignment" for your problem and told to report back. Shorter,
off the cuff questions are okay as well. I've researched for over
twenty years and made numerous library research trips.

Email me with trip questions at mjnrootdig@gmail.com.

02 May 2007

Is that really Grandma in that Grave?

If they start digging up bodies to do genealogy DNA tests, what happens if it's not really Grandma in the grave?
There was a mix-up in Hamilton, Ohio, and they put the wrong body in the grave.
I guess that would be a mix-up. And a little more of an error than an incorrect birth date on a tombstone.

01 May 2007

How is your pre-1850 methodology?

In informal conversations with other genealogists and with my experience with helping other researchers, there are two points in time where American genealogists experience research pangs:

  • their first (or second or third) foray into pre-1850 research.
  • their first (or second or third) foray into pre-American Revolution research (especially outside of New England).

The everyname census in American research 1850 and after makes sorting out families somewhat easier, although there are always exceptions. Good, sound methodology is always required for research, but in many cases, crossing the 1850 line presents additional challenges particularly in those areas that were not keeping good vital records. In other cases, crossing the American Revolutionary time-frame presents a challenge as well.

There are several ways to help yourself cross the 1850 barrier. One is to read articles in journals like the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, The American Genealogist, the Virginia Genealogical Society Quarterly, etc. Another is to attend workshops and conferences related to your topic. Reading well-written research guides is another. Mailing lists can be helpful as well, but sometimes finding a good one can be difficult.

For a variety of reasons, I've been working on pre-1850 families in Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky and was reminded that this period is a challenge for many. It is especially frustrating working on those families who were "extremely migratory" and not too well-off.

Settlement Deed Article posted on Ancestry's Blog

Those who follow my column in Ancestry's blog know that several articles have been posted on pre-1850 census records. This week the followup was posted where the census records are analyzed in light of the settlement deed closing out the estate. That document confirms most of the conclusions from the census and builds upon them.

Those who want to view the article can do so on Ancestry's blog (at no charge).

And descendants of Augusta and Belinda Newman are always free to fire off an email to me---we're related.

US Mexican Border Crossings from 1903 to 1957-website

Ancestry.com has just released US Mexican Border Crossings from 1903 to 1957.

This new database can be searched on their site at US Mexican Border Crossings.

We'll put up a few samples later today as time allows. Unfortunately this is a little too far south for most of my family and the cousin I just learned about who was running from the law in 1902 probobably didn't bother with paperwork.

Mexican Border Crossings at Ancestry.com

Rumor has it that Ancestry.com has released US-Mexican border crossings from 1903 to 1957, but if it is on there, I'll be darned if I can find it. If anyone knows where they are on the site, let me know. We've found it. Thanks!