28 January 2010

It is All About Context

This image is from the 1855 Mercer County, Illinois State Census.

Just a couple of things I noticed while using this image for next week's issue of Casefile Clues.

The names are in rough alphabetical order--that's fairly evident from the screen shot here and very evident when viewing page after page.


The 6th entry on this image--the last name is not all that easy to read, admittedly.

However if I were indexing this page, I would have noticed the names were in approximate alphabetical order. The first letter of the last name begins with either an "S" or a "T." A "T" appears most likely looking at the "S"s right above it.

Ancestry.com indexed the name as "Andrew Frank." I realize why someone might have thought that if I had simply posted the image of the name completely out of context as I did here (although I still think the last two letters look like "sk" or maybe "sh.").

Ancestry.com also titled these 1855 census images a little strangely below the county level too, but I'll leave that comment for later.

It's not all about context, but context is extremely important. Nothing is created or exists in a vacuum.

26 January 2010

Happy Birthday Granddad..

My Granddad Ufkes (John Henry Ufkes) would have been 93 years old tomorrow (27 January). He was born 27 January 1917 to Frederick and Trientje (Janssen) Ufkes on the family farm near Basco, Hancock County, Illinois. Granddad was the only grandfather I ever knew--my Grandpa Neill passed away when I was an infant.

I've posted my version of his obituary on my website.

Happy Birthday and Rest in Peace, Granddad. You deserve it.


24 January 2010

Sample Copy of Casefile Clues

Readers of the Rootdig.com site can get a sample copy of my weekly newsletter, Casefile Clues, by pointing your browser here:

Casefile Clues is delivered weekly as a PDF file attached to an email. The sample focuses on a German family, but topics cover the entire United States and a variety of time periods. Emphasis is on sound methodology, citation, and clear writing. Attention is also paid to "why" certain things were done or tried--not that I'm always correct, but at least I try to let readers know what was going on in my head as I was researching.

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

23 January 2010

Incorrect Volume Numbers on Google Books

This "hit" from Germans to America was located on Google Books. There is no doubt that the desired individuals, Martin Fecht and Kea Goldenstein, appear in Germans to America.
They just don't appear in volume 1 as indicated on the search results which is shown in this image. Volume 1 of Germans to America covers the early 1850s and Fecht and Goldenstein (and the rest of the names shown) arrived in NYC in March of 1881.
In working on the next issue of Casefile Clues, I've discovered that in some books from a series that appear in "snippet" form, the actual volume number listed is incorrect. Anyone else noticed this?
My first in an ongoing series of articles on Google Books will appear in issue 26 of Casefile Clues, scheduled for distribution in a few days.

21 January 2010

Hand on the image

This was a page I stumbled upon while playing around with Google Books for an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues.
Apparently the digitization of books by Google is not a completely automated process--as the hand here shows.
Just thought it was a neat image. Thankfully they didn't cover up anything I needed--that's usually the way it goes.

Laying the Groundwork for Salt Lake City FHL Trip

I'm laying the groundwork for the few things I want to look up for myself or for future writing when I am in Salt Lake City this coming May at the Family History Library. Nothing too fancy yet, but thinking about things. It is never too early to get started and our trip participants have already been given preliminary information about the trip.

It's not too late to my group in May/June for a week in Salt Lake City at the Family History Library. Your research will never be the same.

I still have a stack of things (ok, a flash drive full of images) from the last time I was there. I will read through those in the next month to see if there were any leads I need to follow up on my next trip.

Embedded Image from Google Books

This is a test post. This is a part of page 534 of the Encyclopedia of the history of Missouri: a compendium of history and Biography, published in 1901. Levi Rhodes is my wife's ancestor. This page is from the history of Sand Hill in Scotland County, Missouri.

Books on Pig Breeders Counts as Juvenile Fiction

One really has to wonder sometimes. While working on a Casefile Clues article, I stumbled across this reference on Google Books.
The first two books were published by various hog breeder associations. Google books classifies them as "juvenile fiction."
If they were Charlotte's Web, maybe, but that's not what these books are about.

More on 1950 census substitute at Ancestry.com

I have been playing just a little with 1950 Census Substitute at Ancestry.com.

This image comes from the 1947 directory for Rock Island, Illinonis and shows my wife's grandparents, Wilbur and Grace Johnson living at 1011 14th Street in Rock Island. They owned the house and Wilbur was employed at Servus Rubber.

This one is a little more helpful than some of the others as the spouses are listed.

1950 Census Substitute at Ancestry.com

1950 Census Substitute has been released as a database at Ancestry.com. Don't get me wrong. I use Ancestry.com regularly. However, one has to take this database with a grain of salt. It is NOT a census substitute. A substitute is a record that serves the same purpose as the original record and intends to collect the same information. The 1950 Census Substitute at Ancestry.com does not do that.

City directories generally list heads of households and occasionally their spouses. The 1950 census listed everyone by name. Remember that when using the 1950 directories, they were not created to list everyone.
Keep in mind also that the city directories currently on Ancestry.com generally are for larger urban area. That leaves those of us with rural ancestors out until the actual census is released. And the 1950 census is not scheduled for release until 2022. That's just a little while--but I still won't be listed.
The image shown in this post comes from the 1951 directory for Rock Island. The entry at 1207 is my wife's great-grandfather, Henry Mortier. I'm assuming the little "bell" means he has a phone. The circle thing I'm not certain. My quick scan of the front of the book found a list of abbreviations, but somehow I missed the symbols. If anyone has them, let me know--I'd like to post them.
The "census substitute" is a great source--but just remember what it is and what it's limitations are.

18 January 2010

Bureau County Illinois Society Newsletter Mentions Casefile Clues

Casefile Clues received a very nice write up in the January-February 2010 issue of the Bureau County Genealogical Society Newsletter. Janes Jones, editor, had several nice things to say about Casefile Clues and I appreciate the mention. I've spoken to the group in Princeton several times over the past ten years. It's always a good time and an enjoyable experience, particularly dinner before the meeting. There is always a good sized group at the meetings, which is very impressive. The Bureau County society is very active and very successful in their endeavors--a really good society to model for those in a rural area. A google search will pull up their website for those who have Bureau County ancestors.

The price of Casefile Clues was $15 when the review was written and when the newsletter went to press (annual rate is now $17). Society members who would like to subscribe at the $15 rate can do so, just email me the last name of the new society member from Springfield as listed in your newsletter and I'll send you a link that will give you the $15 rate. My email is mjnrootdig@gmail.com.

Thanks Jane for mentioning Casefile Clues. I appreciate it.

Charting out the Relationships

We've even started including more relationship charts in Casefile Clues--something that is helpful whether you are "writing up" a family or not.

Seeing how the relationships fit can be helpful when working on a family, whether you are just starting on it or whether you have been analyzing it for some time. And charts are always helpful when you reader or relative is not as familiar with the family as you are. Names do tend to run together, especially

Receipts are Great Places to get Signatures

Receipts from estate settlements are also great places to get signatures. This one comes from Hancock County, Illinois, in 1871, when Barbara Trautfetter/Trautvetter is signing for her share in the state of Michael Trautvetter--her brother-in-law.
She made her mark on this one, but all the others signed their name. Remember that making a mark does not mean the person was illiterate. It just means that they made their mark. In some cases, the person was literate, but unable to write due to infirmity or age. I have seen individuals sign and make their marks on different documents at different points in their life.
This estate settlement was analyzed in this week's issue of Casefile Clues. There were more clues in the settlement that just the signatures, but those are always interesting.

New Subscriber Offce for Casefile Clues

Special offer on Casefile Clues:

Get back issues 1-25 and a year's subscription for only $27.50 here https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=11268556

Casefile Clues is my weekly genealgoy how-to newsletter focusing on research sources and methods---not just what's "new."

Email me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com if the link doesn't work. A sample can be requested by sending me an email at mjnrootdig@gmail.com


16 January 2010

Casefile Clues Subscriber Contest Announced 17 January 2010

We'll be announcing our "Find Valentine" contest in the cover email with issue 25 of Casefile Clues. It will be sent out tomorrow (Sunday). Only subscribers who are subscribing before issue 25 goes out tomorrow will be allowed to play. Join now to get in on the fun.

Current subscribers are eligible and if you want to subscribe now and get in on the fun, you can do so securely here.

There's no real deadline to find him, but by 14 February would be nice! Good luck....

2010 Family History Library Research Trip Registration Page Fixed

Finally fixed the regular registration fee page for my 2010 trip to the FHL in SLC http://www.rootdig.com/slctrip_paypal.htm.

Trip details are at http://www.rootdig.com/slctrip.html

We always have a great time at the Family History Library in Salt Lake.

Join us!

15 January 2010

Ancestry Magazine---some thoughts

I posted earlier that Ancestry Magazine is ceasing publication with the March/April 2010 issue. I noted that several other genealogy bloggers mentioned it, but I really didn't see any comments on it other than they were sorry to see it go. I was hoping to hear a little opinion on any thoughts as to why the decision was made to end the print magazine.

I don't claim to have any more knowledge than anyone else, but a part of me is really not surprised. Print publications in genealogyland face stiff competition from the large quantity of free how-to information on the internet related to genealogy. Obtaining general information on a specific topic online is fairly easy, although the quality and accuracy of such online information varies greatly from one site and one author to another. Some are highly accurate and helpful. Others, not so much. But when a magazine is geared towards the "genealogy masses," as Ancestry magazine was, the competition from the internet (especially blogs) is fairly intense.

I'm not certain the economy is really to blame.

People subscribe to something when they can see how it benefits them and (in the case of a genealogy magazine) their research. Money is also a factor. I actually let my subscription to Ancestry magazine lapse several years ago as it just wasn't meeting my needs. I need specifics when I read how-to articles and I need details, more than usually are contained in shorter articles. My decision to let my subscription lapse had nothing to do with the internet, but I suspect that for many genealogists, it did.

I'm curious to see what others think about this decision.

Casefile Clues (my own weekly how-to newsletter) is still operational and I hope to continue it for quite some time. Changes for the better have been made since I began self-distribution in July of 2009. I used to occasionally write for Ancestry magazine years ago and also wrote a weekly column for their genealogy ezine for at least six or seven years. Editing my own publication has decidedly more headaches than writing for someone else, but there are several advantages:
  • I can write whatever I want
  • Word length is at my discretion
  • I don't have to worry about any advertisers (Casefile Clues accepts no advertising and has none on it's website http://www.casefileclues.com)
  • It is a hell of a lot more fun
  • Writing about them justifies my obsession with the Trautvetter family (Casefile Clues readers know that this family illustrates just about every research pitfall known to man)
  • I enjoy getting feedback from readers
  • I'm always excited when I get a new or renewing subscriber

To see what Casefile Clues is all about, request sample information by sending an email to samples@casefileclues.com

Ancestry Magazine to cease publication

For those who subscribed to Ancestry magazine, this announcement was just posted:

The March/April 2010 issue will be the last one:


That's too bad...I first wrote for Ancestry magazine nearly twenty years ago.

Casefile Clues continues weekly distribution, but I don't think that had any impact on Ancestry's decision.

13 January 2010

Augusta Newman's Signature

I can't always find ancestral pictures. Consequently I like to collect ancestral signatures when I can. The earlier one researches the more difficult it is to obtain copies of actual signatures. Courthouse records are often transcriptions which do not contain actual signatures unless one is fortunate enough to find a packet of loose papers with signed receipts, affidavits, etc.

This signature comes from the Bounty Land application file for War of 1812 veteran Agusta Newman. His affidavit dated 15 August 1856 in Indiana, gives information on his military service and also includes his signature as shown here.

He indicates his personal papers were lost in a fire, but the application mentions his military service and I learned a few things about him that had not been located in other records. A really neat record.

In an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues, we'll be discussing Augusta's application, how it was actually located, and what clues it contained. Federal records are often an underutilized resource. I've been researching Augusta for twenty years and just recently learned he had a bounty land application file.

Upcoming Price Change for Casefile Clues

Casefile Clues Subscription Price Change Effective 15 January 2010 It's been nearly six months since I began self-distribution of Casefile Clues and I've had to sit down and do some hard evaluating over the holidays. To be honest, when I started Casefile Clues, I just threw some things at the wall to see what would stick. Some things did and some things did not. I do appreciate all the support (and suggestions) I have received since July of 2009. I do believe that Casefile Clues is a better product now than when it first started.

I had no idea when I started distributing Casefile Clues how well it would go over or how many subscribers I would get. Frankly, I was most excited when I got that first subscriber. There is still room for growth and improvement, but I'm pleased with the number of regular readers I have, especially when I was told by some that there just wasn't much interest in reading case studies and "stories about Michael's ancestors." I think Casefile Clues has settled into a groove, but there is room for improvement and a few things that I want to do--records I'd like to discuss and use as example, materials I would like to have researched that I cannot access myself, etc.

So after some hard thought, the annual subscription price will be increased slightly on 15 January 2010. Price increases will not be a regular event here at Casefile Clues and this decision was not made lightly.

Effective 15 January 2010, the annual price of subscription to Casefile Clues will be $17.00. This increase will allow me to purchase some software upgrades I've been needing, obtain copies of information for new articles, and a few other "neat" things that I have planned for upcoming issues. This is still just 33 cents an issue, a bargain for your genealogical buck. Casefile Clues will still be delivered weekly as a PDF file.

I do realize that money for genealogical research is limited and that every penny counts. It is my hope that Casefile Clues gives you the tools to do your research more efficiently and in a more cost-effective manner.

Current subscribers who wish to can renew their subscription at the current price as well.

Our subscription page is at

Current subscribers can renew/extend their subscription at the $15 price by visiting this link. The charge is the same, but PayPal tells me you are a renewal, which helps in my recordkeeping.

05 January 2010

Missouri Civil War Service Records on Footnote.com

They are almost done digitizing the Missouri Civil War Service records on Footnote.com. The partial card shown here is for George Trautvetter, an Illinois resident who enlisted in a Missouri unit.
He enrolled in Keokuk, [Iowa], as shown on the "Joined for duty and enrolled" section of the card. Just goes to show that you always have to check those locations and remember that men might have served in units outside those of their state, particularly if states were having difficulty meeting their quotas.
Next is to get George's pension file. There's got to be something interesting in that. Casefile Clues readers know that the Trautvetters always leave an interesting series of records.
Footnote.com wish number 2:

Would like to be able to download a "file" from NARA film without having to save each image separately. Downloading a service record is taking entirely too long when I can't save the "entire set" of one person's images at once. This would be a definite improvement.

Wish for Footnote.com

I like Footnote.com.

The search allows me to "eliminate OCR results." I like that. An option I would also like to see if the ability to eliminate results from the SSDI and the user created pages. Sorry sometimes I don't need the recent stuff and I want to focus on original records. Just my personal preference. I get tired of wading through all that other stuff.

04 January 2010

Wrong Year on that record?

It is easy to accidentally put the wrong year on something, especially as a new year begins.

Peform a search on which Ancestry.com's World War I draft card database and you will find 10,907 entries born in 1918. Obviously there's a mistake somewhere (if you do not realize why WWI draft registrants cannot be born in 1918, review your American history before doing any more research). For all the ones I checked, the error was on the card as the one in this illustration shows.
So when searching, consider the fact that the original could be wrong and remember that indexers are supposed to copy the original as it was written--not as it is supposed to be.

02 January 2010

2010 Family History Library Research Trip

2010 is finally here and that means it won't be all that long before we are in Salt Lake City at our 5th annual Family History Library Research Trip. Our trip is in May-June of 2010 and with millions of records at our disposal it will be a fun and exciting research time.

The early bird registration deadline has passed, but we are still accepting registrations and payment can be made through our secure link here. Those who would like other registration options can email me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com.

Details on the trip can be viewed on our site-when you register, please download the registration materials and either email or US mail them to me. Thanks!

01 January 2010

Casefile Clues Back Issue-Subscription Offer ends today

My combination back issues (1-22) and subscription offer for $23 expires at 11:59 tonight--there is still time to get in on the fun with Casefile Clues.

Note: If anyone had difficulty with the back issue/subscription combination email me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com--a few had difficulty using it yesterday and today's the last day. The link is https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=10760056