30 October 2011

Not Many Stories

My Grandpa Neill would have been 108 years old on 29 October 2011. He was born in St. Alban's Township, Hancock County, Illinois, the son of Charles (Charlie) and Fannie (Rampley) Neill.

Grandpa died when I was six months old, so I don't remember him myself.

When my girls were small, we took them to see my Aunt Nellie, Grandpa's younger sister. I asked her what she remembered about her parents, Grandpa, etc. She said she didn't remember much and I was never one to press for details or stories when they were not forthcoming.

She did tell me thing about my Grandpa and apparently it meant a great deal to her.

The Neills were not well-off, and the Depression hit them hard like it did most families in the area. Aunt Nellie had gone to Bowen [Illinois] to finish out her high school and lived in the hotel there and worked as a housekeeper to earn her keep and help make ends meet. She wanted to go to school to be a teacher and was accepted at Culver-Stockton College, across the river in Canton, Missouri.

It wasn't easy coming up with her tuition money. Grandpa, who was still single at the time, had been building hoghouses with the intent of selling them to earn some cash. Aunt Nellie told me that instead of keeping the cash for himself, he sold them and gave her the money so he could pay her tuition that first semester.

Perhaps that's the only story I really need.

Cecil Neill died in December of 1968 after farming north of Carthage, Illinois, for over thirty years. He is buried with Grandma and next to his parents in the West Point [Illinois] Cemetery. Aunt Nellie taught elementary school for forty years. She died in September of 2001 in Adams County, Illinois.

27 October 2011

M4V File Format of Recorded Webinars

Miss my recent webinars? The recorded version  in M4V format and the PDF version of the handout can be purchased for viewing at your convenience. Presentations are generally an hour long.
  • Brick Walls from A to Z--This lecture is based upon my article "Brick Walls From A to Z" and is geared towards the somewhat experienced beginner to intermediate researcher. Just a list of ideas to get beyond your brick walls discussed alphabetically. Handout included. Add to card here
  • Local Land Records in Public Domain States--This lecture discusses obtaining, using, and interpreting local land records in areas of the United States from Ohio westward where land was originally in the public domain. This lecture is geared towards those who have some experience with land records--advanced beginning and intermediate researchers.  $8.50 includes handout and hour-long lecture.Add to cart here. 
  • Barbara's Beaus and Gesche's Girls--Case study of two German immigrants to the American Midwest in the mid-19th century. For $8.50 you will be able to download the media file and the PDF version of the handout. Add to cart here
  • Court Records-Pig Blood in the Snow. This lecture discusses American court records at the county level where cases were typically originally heard. Discusses cases of main genealogical relevance along with searching techniques. For $8.50 you will be able to download the media file and the PDF version of the handout. Add to cart here
  • Seeing the Patterns-Organizing Your Information. This lecture discusses the problem-solving process and a variety of ways to organize your information with the intent of getting the research to notice overlooked clues, patterns, trends, and information. $8.50 includes handout and hour-long lecture. Add to cart here

24 October 2011

Social Security Death Benefits in the 1930s

To be honest, I never gave it much thought. The probate settlement of John J. Trautvetter mentions a receipt for $22.06 for "Social Securities compensation." This appears to have been paid out to his mother, based on the fact that it was the same amount, $22.06, where it was listed as "Social Security benefits."

I'm not certain there would be any real records related to John. This is one of the few estates I have during the early 1930s where the deceased was someone who would have paid into Social Security and would have had a mother (no children) as an heir. John was working for a trucking company in Quincy, Illinois, at the time of his death in 1937. 

I am not certain just how much information there would be in these records or how helpful they would be in this case. We'll post an update if warranted. 

23 October 2011

Ancestry.com Still Confuses Last Benefit With Death Place on the SSDI

A quick search of the SSDI on Ancestry.com indicates that they are still interpreting the data incorrectly from the Social Security Death Index when entering the information into their online trees. We reported in a post a while back that this was a problem and it still is. The screen above is the "new person" in my tree screen. The screen below is the information from the SSDI. This screen indicates that Loraine, Illinois, is the last residence, which is correct.
I'm pretty certain Cecil (my great-uncle actually called "Pete"), didn't die in Loraine. If my memory is correct, he was in a hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. I highly doubt he died at home.

Some would like Ancestry.com to include meta data with accurate, consistent source citations. Yeah..that would be nice-but I'd just like accurate import of data. That would be a nice place to start. I can handle citations that aren't 100% complete or totally in "Evidence" style. But importing data into incorrect fields is a much bigger problem, in my opinion.

21 October 2011

It Was Spelled " Ballance"

An earlier blog post mentioned that in the will record of this will, the word "balance" was spelled incorrectly and underlined. There was a reason for that. The word was spelled incorrectly in the original will. This image comes from the microfilmed copy of the estate packet of Mimken Habben, case file 113, Hancock County, Illinois probate case files. Habben's will, written in 1877 contained the mispelling and the clerk copied it as it. The clerk's job was not to change or alter the document at all.

20 October 2011

The Incorrect "ballance"

This is part 5 of the will of Mimken [Mimke] Habben which was admitted to probate in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1877. It is recorded in Will Book C, pages 27 and 28 (available digitally at FamilySearch.org), which is where this image was taken.

The word "ballance" is spelled incorrectly and underlined. My guess is that the clerk copied it exactly the way it was written in the original will and that the underlining is to indicate that--particularly the extra "l."

The original will of Mimke is in the packet of papers and we'll post that later and see if it really is spelled "ballance" on the original. Often that is what notations of that type in a transcription mean.

19 October 2011

Ancestry.com--There's More to Illinois than Cook County

This is a screen shot from a search result on the 

Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947 at Ancestry.com. The problem is that the description indicates these deaths are extracted from Cook County, Illinois, records of deaths. 

The "Learn more" about the database contains the following information:
The problem is that this information also indicates these records are from Cook County. 
One little problem. James Rampley didn't die in Cook County, Illinois. He died in Hancock County--just a little ways from Cook County.

I did a little searching, the database is for the entire state of Illinois. In fact, it appears to be the database "Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916-1947" that is on FamilySearch. The citation Ancestry.com has in their source information is incomplete and inadequate in my opinion.

Ancestry.com needs to remember that there is a lot to Illinois outside of Chicago and Cook County. 

The good news is that if I were to use the information on James Rampley from the database to "merge" or "create" a new person in an online tree at Ancestry.com, the information does pull up correctly. That's a good thing-although I don't use the online trees at Ancestry.com myself. 

The end result is that the description of this database is wrong. The database information itself, which is pulled from FamilySearch, is correct (or at least the way the volunteers transcribed it). It is the description that indicates these records only cover Cook County. 

18 October 2011

When Searching Digital Newspapers

I've been working in digital newspaper collections lately and this newspaper clipping, from the Mendon [Illinois] Dispatch of December 1935, got me to thinking about ways that we need to search newspapers. In this case, it was the typos and errors that made several key points. This clipping was located the old fashioned way though--a manual search based upon my grandparents date of marriage and where they were living at the time of their marriage.


Grandma's maiden name was actually Trautvetter. For some reason it is spelled "Trautretter" throughout the announcement. Soundex searches will not catch the reference and other search formulations might not either, depending upon how they are constructed.

The Headline

The last name of the groom, Neill, is spelled correctly throughout the announcement. However, there is a blob over part of the name in the headline. If the headline had been the only location where the last name of Neill appeared, searches based upon that name might not have located the reference.

Still-well or Stillwell?

There is a dash in the name of "Stillwell" in the last reference to it in the announcement. Why eludes me, but again that dash (or hyphen) might cause searches for just the name of the town to not locate the reference if only the hyphenated version has been used.


It is actually Keithsburg. Easily a typo.

Fortunately the dates and other details in the document are correct, based upon the actual record of the marriage. But it never hurts to keep some of these things in mind when searching digital versions of newspapers.

And if you have the date of an event, a manual search is still a good idea--just in case.

15 October 2011

November Webinars

We have added new webinars to our schedule for November, including:
  • Using the census on Ancestry.com
  • Deedmapper
  • The Missing 1840 Census Enumeration
  • Search techniques at the Bureau of Land Management
  • Using US Passenger Lists on Ancestry.com

12 October 2011

Don't Wait Until You Are Dead

I'm taking a different approach to those who suggest you include in your will where you want your genealogy papers to go.

Let's be honest. The executor of your estate has your final bills to pay, a variety of accounts to settle up, perhaps a house and other assets to sell or distribute. These things are either worth money or cost money to settle. Those boxes of papers in your attic? Their financial worth--not so much.

If your executor is one of your children who didn't give a care about your genealogy papers when you were alive, how can you expect them to change when you have passed away? If they dump the papers or don't want to be bothered, what is the judge likely to do about it? I'm not certain. Some probate officers or judges may push the issue on your box of papers, others----I'm no so certain about them either.

If your boxes of papers are unorganized, what library is really going to want them? I mean seriously want them and serious acquisition them? Libraries are understaffed as it is and it is one thing to acquire books or other organized materials. Boxes of papers? Boxes of unorganized photocopies from books which other libraries already have?

The Allen County Public Library will copy and bind your materials. If you have something organized, easy to use, then that's fine. I've seen bound volumes of papers that look like file folders simply had their contents copied and bound. It is preserving that person's information? Yes. Is there any reasonable chance I'll want to  go page by page through unorganized copies and computer printouts from Family Tree Maker and other software programs? No.

Call me cynical, but if you want your information preserved after your death, it is up to you while you are alive to organize what you can, in a way that can be used by others and actively preserve it before you pass away.

To think that a clause in a will is the real answer to preserving four drawers of unorganized photocopies is something else.

Just my two cents.

Two Stones-Two Dates of Birth

This stone for Riley Rampley in Buckeye Cemetery, Hancock County, Illinois is somewhat faded (and my picture is not the best). It indicates that he was born on 25 August 1835 and died on 27 March 1893.

The stone with Riley and his wife (shown below) provides the same information, except that it indicates he was born in 1825.
The 1835 date is consistent with other records. Of course, the tombstones do not provide primary information for Riley's date of birth (or Nancy's either), given when they were likely put on the graves.

Riley's "solo" stone could be considered primary information on his date of death, assuming that it was erected closely to the time he died. It could still be incorrect--remember that classification as either primary or secondary does not indicate that the information is accurate.

The "joint" stone, probably erected after Nancy's death, would contain primary information on her death, but not on Riley's as it was erected thirty years after his death.

Riley also has a military stone--giving him three stones in the same cemetery.

These photos are (c) Michael John Neill and are NOT to be posted on any website without prior permission.

11 October 2011

Webinar Prices to be Increased 15 October

Our free trial "experimental" period is ending for some of the software we are using to present and record our webinars. If you'd like to take part in any of our upcoming October webinars check out our schedule. These topics won't be repeated for a while as I'm working on new ones for November and later. Topics include:

Add yourself to our schedule here

09 October 2011

Sample Discrepancy Charts

These two sample discrepancy charts come from an article I wrote for Genealogy.com several years ago. 
Birth date
Information Type
John TRAUTVETTER death certificate, 1937
Not given
Alexandria, Missouri
Not given

Ida MILLER death certificate, 1939.
1 April 1874
Adams County, Illinois
65 years, 2 months, and 22 days
Hospital Records
Ida's Obituary, 1939
1 April 1874
Warsaw, Hancock, Illinois
65 years

Marriage to George TRAUTVETTER, 1898, Hancock County, Illinois
Ca. 1874/1875 (estimated from age)
23 years
Probably Ida
Marriage to William MILLER, 1936, Hancock County, Illinois
Ca. 1873/1874
Lima, Adams, Illinois
63 years
Probably Ida
1880 Census, Hancock County, Illinois
Ca. 1873/1874 (estimated)
6 years

1900 Census, Hancock County, Illinois
April 1874
26 years


Seeking Birth Information: Case 2
The second discrepancy chart is for Ida's father, Ira William SARGENT. In this case, the birthplace, while not overly specific, is at least consistent. Based upon the records used in the chart, a reasonable birth date estimate would be between 1840 and 1845.
Birth date
Information Type
Death Certificate, 1916 Peoria County, Illinois
Ca. 1840/1841 (estimated from age-birth date not stated on record)
75 years
Hospital records
1880 Census, Hancock County, Illinois
Ca. 1844/1845 (estimated from age)
35 years

1900 Census, Hancock County, Illinois
March 1843
Canada F.
57 years

1910 Census, Peoria County, Illinois
Ca. 1841/1842
Not listed
68 years
Probably Hospital records
1883 Marriage to Martha PHELPS, Adams County, Illinois
Ca. 1842/1843
Not listed
40 years

Adams County, Illinois Poor House Records, August 1907
Ca. 1844
"about 63 years"

Insanity Case, Adams County, Illinois, September 1907
Ca. 1843/1844
Not listed
63 years

Insanity Case, Adams County, Illinois, September 1905
Ca. 1838/1839
66 years


01 October 2011

10,000 Fans for Genealogy Tip of the Day!

We have finally crossed, at least hopefully, the 10,000 fan mark for "Genealogy Tip of the Day" on Facebook.

We'll have some special thing about it later, when I've had time to get organized about it. This sort of snuck up on me to be honest.

Genealogy Tip of the Day also has a blog for those who are not on Facebook.

Tips can come in your email--there is a subscription box (free) on the blog site linked to above. Email tips do not include the "chit chat" from FB and are just the tips.

Thanks for all those who have helped to spread the news about Genealogy Tip of the Day. And thanks to our Tip of the Day sponsor, GenealogyBank~!