31 December 2012

Shift in 2013

As we move into 2013, I'd like to thank readers for their support of this blog--it is appreciated.

Moving into 2013, our mention of webinars, specials and other offerings will be curtailed. We'll be focusing on research methods, analysis and sources. Keep in mind that we only blog about research I am actually doing myself. I unfortunately do not have time to help readers with their own research.

Postings regarding "genealogy news" will be minimal. There are other blogs that focus on "news," which is not something I want to do.

If you see weird things on Ancestry.com, GenealogyBank, or any of the other sites, please let me know and I'll look into it. Usually I only post about my own research, but if there are "issues" with those sites, I do like to let readers know about it.

And, in a last effort before the end of the year, we're offering 60% off our webinar recordings. Coupon code "yearend" will reduce your total price if used by 1 January.


We'll be revisiting some familiar research problems in 2013 and starting on some new ones. Encourage your genealogy friends to join us by either subscribing or following our blog. We've got some interesting research stories coming up down the pike.

And remember, our content is not copied from anyone else and we don't simply dump someone's press releases in your inbox.

Thanks--and good luck with your research in 2013!

Provenance of City Directories on Ancestry.com

Providers of digital images try and make it easy for researchers to just "click their way" to their ancestors or to information that may help them in their search.

But research is not just about that information or that digital image. It is about how that image or information came into our possession and how it arrived to our computer screen. We're not talking about the details of an internet connection here. It is more than that.

A recent blog post contained an image from the 1894-1895 Davenport [Iowa] City directory:

A little maneuvering on the page told me that I was on page 105. That was fairly easy. But exactly what book was on my screen? I knew I was looking at a city directory, but which one and when was it published?

The header of the image browser indicated that I was looking at the "Davenport, Iowa, City Directory, 1894." That really did not quite sound like the title of the publication to me. It sounded a little too generic.

What Does Ancestry.com Say It Is?

The Ancestry.com's description for the database ["U. S. City Directories, 1821-1989 (Beta)."] from which this image comes indicates that the title is at the top of the viewer and that additional details about the publication can be found on the actual title page of the publication.  A direct quote from their website for the database from which this image was taken:

Source Information

Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 (Beta) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data: Original sources vary according to directory. The title of the specific directory being viewed is listed at the top of the image viewer page. Check the directory title page image for full title and publication information.

One needs to view the "earlier" images in order to determine as best one can exactly what is being viewed. In all the screen shots that comprise the remainder of this blog post, the image number from Ancestry.com s viewer can be seen. Fortunately Ancestry.com did not strip those microfilm images before posting their digital version of the microfilm.

The title for the Davenport directory I was using is not quite correct on Ancestry.com--it's actually Stone's Davenport City Directory 1894-1895 as shown below:

Does Anyone Really Care?

Does it matter that the title wasn't entirely precise in Ancestry.com s listing? Yes it does. It lets the searcher know what has been searched without having to refer to the actual title page of the publication. Some cities had directories published by more than one publisher and it is also possible that a city might have had specialized directories published in addition to ones that attempted to list every resident (or at least male resident). Titles matter.

Where Was the Original?

Ancestry.com does not have copies of these directories from which the digital images were made. The digital images were made from a microfilmed copy of the directory. In the case of this specific directory (and many in this collection), the image was made from a microfilmed copy of the directory made by Research Publications: An Imprint of Primary Source Media.

The Davenport directory was apparently one held by the New York Public Library which apparently gave permission for it's materials to be microfilmed as indicated in the image shown below.

When was the original microfilming done?

One cannot be certain, but was apparently in 1993 or after. This test image was also included in the microfilmed copy and included in the digital images. It was done to confirm image quality at the start of the photography. The image sheet has as copyright date of 1993.

A little looking at the images before your "desired" image may tell you something about the actual material you are using.

In this case, we learned the actual title of the publication and that the digital image we are using was created from microfilmed copy (made in 1993 or after) of a copy of the directory in the collection of the New York Public Library.

In this case, there do not appear to be missing pages, images that are not clear, etc. If there had been, knowing how this image was obtained and what it originally came from would have helped us in locating alternate sources of the same material.

30 December 2012

Davenport Glucose Works

A recent discovery of a family member in an 1894-1895 directory for Davenport, Iowa, indicated that the relative worked at the Davenport Glucose works.

A fan of Genealogy Tip of the Day located the same page that I did on the Davenport Public Library's website. I'm guessing that she performed a Google search for "davenport glucose works" which is how I located the page.

Until the city directory reference, I had never heard of the place. The library's blog gave a history of the glucose works, which I won't repeat here. However, it was a dangerous place to work--as were many factories in the 1890s.

There was a fire in the factory in 1897. I am not certain if the relative was still working in the glucose works at the time of the fire or not. Based upon information in the library's blog post, there are probably no extant employment records. My option for determining if the relative worked at the plant at the time of the explosion is to search city directories after the 1894-1895 reference that has already been located.

The newspaper accounts give the names of those killed.

Date: Friday, August 20, 1897  

Paper: St. Louis Republic (St. Louis, MO)

--obtained on Genealogybank.com

Date: Friday, August 20, 1897  

Paper: St. Louis Republic (St. Louis, MO)--obtained on 

It may seem like a little too concerned with business and perhaps a little callous when the newspaper states that the works will only be closed "but a few days."

Of course, the other employees left behind would not be paid for those days they were home due to the fire. They were probably thankful that the closure would not drift on for months, perhaps causing them financial problems.


Don't just Google the name of your ancestor's employer. Consider searching for newspaper mentions of the company on websites like Genealogybank.com and Ancestry.com. 

Are Directories Hiding Deaths For You?

City directories can tell researchers several things, usually related to name, residence, occupation and proximity of neighbors. Urban researchers are usually well-served by researching all extant directories for their people of interest.

In some unusual circumstances directories can tell researchers even more. Noticing these items requires the researcher to search for the people of interest in every single directory in which they may be listed--and even in ones after their death. Sometimes the temptation is to find the ancestor in a few directories and stop because "the others won't tell me anything I don't already know." That sometimes is a mistake.

This image comes from a late 19th century city directory for the city of Davenport, Iowa.

Stone's 1894-1895 Davenport [Iowa] City Directory, p. 105, Davenport, Iowa,H. N. Stone Publishers; digital image, . Ancestry.com, 30 December 2012.

The entry for Mrs Mary Cawiezell is particularly interesting. The entry literally reads:
Cawiezell Mary Mrs (wid Anthony) (died Feb 12th 93)

Based upon this one line, I know that Mrs. Mary Cawiezell had been married to Anthony Cawiezell prior to his death and that Mrs. Cawiezell died on 12 February 1893. The information in this entry may not be completely accurate. Names for non-English speakers, which the Cawiezells were, can be incorrect. It is possible that the date of death may be slightly off, but the year and probably the month are correct.

To confirm Mary's residence and determine approximately when Anthony Cawiezell died, my searches will have to continue with 1893 and work backwards. Mrs. Cawiezell is likely listed in the directory published in 1893 as it most likely contained information obtained in 1892.

Deaths can be listed in unexpected places. City directories are just one of those places.

A Cancelled Declaration Leads to An Indexing Irregularity

Hopefully I'm making a mistake and a reader will point me in the correct direction.

While looking for handwriting samples for Daily Genealogy Transcriber, I run across a variety of items. This image is part of a declaration of intent in Delaware County, Ohio, that was marked "CANCELLED."

The direct link to the image is here.

I decided to try and locate this "cancelled" naturalization in the index at FamilySearch.

Several searches were conducted of these records, including a search for the first names of "david arthur" in Delware County, and all Lewis entries in Delware County. The "cancelled" entry was not found.

Searches were made for four of the names immediately preceding the "cancelled" entry. None could be located through a search of the database "Ohio County Naturalizations 1800-1977."

There is no indication on the search page that this index does not search all the counties that have images and there are some results for Delaware County, Ohio.

Lesson: Do not assume the index is complete and perform manual searches if you have good reason to believe someone should be in a series of records even when they are not in the index.

They Won't Contact You Either

[bypass this if blogging is not your thing...]

Posting information about your ancestors, either in online trees, websites, or blog posts, can be a good way to reach out and make other researchers aware of your interests. Many genealogists, myself included, suggest that researchers use blogs in particular as "cousin bait." Be advised that many people will run across your site and never ever contact you, no matter how specific the blog post or how how tempting the "bait."

They may even "use" your information without asking. This is a fact of life.

Occasionally I look at the Google searches that cause people to visit my site. Frankly, I generally worry very little about what people search for to get to my site. My interest really is in what posts generate the most traffic. That may not be wise from a marketing standpoint, but that's how I operate.

What is frustrating is to see that someone has searched for one of my ancestors specifically (using a complete name and village of birth), found my site, and never contacted me. It is even more frustrating when the ancestor is one on whom I know very little or one who has very few descendants. In the last case it makes me really wonder who was searching--particularly when the number of descendants hovers around fifty, most of whom are closely related.

Does this mean stop blogging?


I have made contact with relatives through my blog, some of whom I've now been in contact with for years and with whom I've exchanged quite a bit of information. And, writing about your research is always advised for a variety of reasons.

Just be advised that "cousin bait" won't generate immediate response and some times it won't generate any response. But it is worth the try.

29 December 2012

He Enlisted at Precisely Midnight on 19 Oct 1864

In reality, I don't merge from Ancestry.com's databases into my own trees. However, I do sometimes look at what the merges would do so that I can help others and see where problems may arise. The issues I encountered today were new ones--at least for me.

This screen shot from the "American Civil War Soldiers" database at Ancestry.com  There appears to be an incomplete address in the "Source Information" indicating where Ancestry.com obtained the data that was used to created "American Civil War Soldiers"

That is a minor problem--and hopefully one that can be easily fixed.

What is more interesting is that when the information from this database is used to "merge" into a tree at Ancestry.com it gives a date that is as precise as the time. I'm not certain what time they enlisted the men, but I doubt the records are that precise. And I doubt that it took place at 12:00:00 AM. Interesting that the time is down to the second. Nice.

What also is interesting is that the date of residence is not listed when merging. 

Note: I did not merge these two individuals. I wanted to see what the screens looked like. The Ira Sargent on the right (my ancestor) is not the same as the Ira H. Sergant/Sargent on the left. They are two completely different people. 

Maybe we'll have an update on this after the new year. These screen shots were current as of 2:45:00 PM Central time today. Ok, I'm not certain about the seconds, but I bet Ancestry.com really isn't either. 

28 December 2012

Only Use What It Says

I was searching the 1900 census at Ancestry.com  for the Joseph Watson mentioned in an earlier blog post as having naturalized in 1900 in Cook County, Illinois.

The search as indicated in the image above is not the way I should search if all I know about Joseph is what is on his card. Joseph's naturalization index card indicated he lived at 2539 117th Street in Chicago when he was naturalized and that he naturalized on 5 November 1900.

As mentioned earlier, searching for Joseph in Chicago is reasonable given the proximity of the census date and the naturalization date--but if he is not located in the City of Chicago, I would expand my search to all of Cook County and work from there.

Using only the index card, and nothing else, we don't know that Joseph was born in England. The card indicates that the country to whom he owed allegiance was "Gt. Britain Ireland." Our search should include not just England, if we're basing our search terms on the details contained in the index card. We may very well miss out on Joseph if we only search for natives of England.

[It turns out that this Joseph was born in England, but that's not stated on the index card.]

Do 90 Year-Old Women Naturalize in the US in 1876?

Some of the hints at  Ancestry.com make sense.

Some do not.

This is the page in my tree at  Ancestry.com for my ancestor, Anna Margrete Dirks, born in 1785 in Etzel, Ostfriesland, Germany. I do not know where she died.

At this point, I do not know if Anna came to the United States or not.

But why did Ancestry.com include an 1876 naturalization for Behrend Dirks as a match for Anna? Anna's husband was a Behrend Dirks so that would have been her last name after her marriage, but doesn't  Ancestry.com know that it was highly unusual for women to naturalize in the United States in 1876?

And the fact that she would have been ninety when she naturalized is another matter entirely.

I realize that the search parameters at  Ancestry.com must be set somewhat loosely in order to find things that we do not expect to find. But  loose parameters are one thing. Parameters that indicate ninety year old women naturalize in the United States is another.

Is Genealogy Networking Over-Rated?

Have we had too much of a good thing?

In the last five years there has been a proliferation of "networking" sites that allow genealogists to interact with each other in a variety of real time ways--both synchronously and asynchronously. I'm not going to list all those sites or options here. My concern is whether all this ability to interact is good, bad, or somewhere in the middle. I'm not opposed to interacting with other genealogists and I'm certainly not opposed to writing about our research, either formally or informally.

The concern I have is that social networking can take a great deal of time and it can distract us from the research that has gotten some of involved in social networking in the first place. There is also the assumption, on the part of some, that "if I network enough, I'll get the answer to my question without really having to do the work myself" It's an extension to the belief that everything "is on the internet." It's also an extension of those who years ago thought the answer to everything was in a printed book and that courthouses were not necessary.

Genealogists with some experience under their belt know that everything is not online and that everything is not in print. They also know that networking will only get you so far--it's great for connecting with people who may have ideas that can help you, people who may have specific expertise, or people who may have access to difficult-to-obtain records. Networking usually doesn't eliminate the need to do actual work. Remember--no one is as interested in your ancestors as you are.

I'm not certain genealogy networking is over rated. What I am certain of is that we all need balance.

Those of us involved in genealogical education need to remind people that social networking, blogging, and all the other ways of "sharing online" are important, but they are a part of the research process, not a replacement for it. 

New Non-US Material On FamilySearch

New Non-US materials on FamilySearch since our last non-US update:


27 December 2012

Cyndi Howells and Cyndislist.com File Suit Against Barry J. Ewell and MyGenshare.com

Rules are made to be broken. I don't normally post news here, but am going to make an exception in this case.

Cyndi Howells, webmistress of Cyndislist.com has filed suit against Barry J. Ewell and MyGenshare.com in a Western Washington District Court. The case was filed on 21 December 2012.

Based upon the information on Justia.com, Howells' suit is based on a perceived violation of her copyright.

A link to very basic information about the case can be viewed here on Justia.com.

I've known Cyndi Howells since Cyndislist was one page and hope her case has the desired outcome.

Cyndi cannot comment on pending litigation and I hope that blog readers understand that and respect Cyndi's need to remain silent on the issue at this time. Besides, I'm certain she has links that need to be updated.

[Comments on this post have been disabled as this is an informational posting only.]

Test of our New Facebook Rootdig Page

Ignore if Facebook is not your thing.

To make things easier for those who interact with me via Facebook, I have made a separate page on Facebook for this blog.


That way it's no longer being sent to all my non-genealogy friends.

A Joseph By Any Other Name...

Soundex Index to Naturalization Petitions for the United States District and Circuit Courts, Northern District of Illinois and Immigration and Naturalization Service District 9, 1840-1950 (M1285); Microfilm Serial: M1285; Microfilm Roll: 176; obtained digitally on at Ancestry.com

This is the index card for the naturalization record of Joseph Watson from the Soundex Index to Naturalization Petitions for the United States District and Circuit Courts at Ancestry.com. This card is meant as a finding aid to the actual record. It is not meant to be the actual record.

Ancestry.com makes it easy to "tie" these cards to people in your tree. A little too easy. The problem is that it takes a little work in order to determine whether or not the person on this card is the same as the person in your tree. And that work often requires information not contained on the card itself along with an analysis of that information. Don't connect a document to your ancestor just because the name is the same or someone else has already connected them.

Where to go next with this card?

Obtaining the actual naturalization record is advised. It may contain more information than is on the card which will assist in identifying exactly which Joseph Watson this is. These records may be available in microfilm format through the Family History Library.

Searching for Joseph in the 1900 census. Joseph likely is in the Cook County area in 1900. It would be unusual for him to Joseph been naturalized in an area where he had lived for only a few months. The address of the witness may be helpful in eliminating some Joseph Watsons from consideration.

Search city directories for 1895-1905 (for starters). This may also help in determining if there are other Joseph Watsons in the area that somehow missed the enumerator.

Joseph was white (probably). While it is not stated on the card, Joseph most likely was Caucasian. Connecting this card to someone who was of another race wouldt need to be done with some justification. Not saying that it is not possible that he was non-Caucasian, but the fact that he was naturalizing and was from Great Britain makes it highly probable that Joseph was white.

How do I know that "my" Joseph is this Joseph?

Information on "your" Joseph should match what is indicated about the Joseph on this card. This Joseph, given that he naturalized in Chicago, Illinois, had probably lived  there for several years and was living there in 1900. He likely lived near the address given for his witness. Joseph also would have been twenty-one at the time of the naturalization because minors could not naturalize. Joseph probably was actually over the age of twenty-one as he would have filed a declaration of intent a few years before this document and minors could not declare intent either. Joseph was likely at least twenty-three years of age at the time he was naturalized. If determining Joseph's age is crucial, then state and federal law should be referenced to determine the waiting time between declaring intent and naturalizing.

[note: The original version of this post confused the first name of Joseph with James. That was a complete  and total mistake on my part. This Joseph is Joseph and the reference to James was an oversight. There are other Jameses in the family, but this Watson was Joseph.]

They Don't Answer

Despite the limitations of the "trees" at Ancestry.com.  many genealogists use them, particularly to try and contact other researchers. While I have heard from some submitters that I have contacted, a significant proportion have not responded. By "not responded," I mean no response after several months. I'm not expecting people to reply back two seconds after I send them a message. That is unrealistic.

Of those that have responded, few have any other information beyond what is in their tree. Cannot blame those people because I'm probably stuck on the same line myself. 

Often those who do respond have not (in their words) "really researched" the person, but instead have imported information from someone else's tree into their own tree. Responses of this type usually fall into the category of the "person's sibling's second husband's first cousin's step-father" is my ancestor. Occasionally respondents indicate they do not even know how the person got into their tree. A very small minority of those who have bothered to take the time to respond have actually researched the person about whom I was inquiring. An even smaller proportion of those were still actively interested in research--interested enough to keep up communication.

Some submitters apparently are inactive and have not responded after several months. 

The issue for me here is time--which I'm certain it is for many researchers. For the amount of responses I receive, I'm wondering if it is worth the researcher's time to send out large numbers of inquiries to those who share people in your Ancestry.com. tree. I'm not saying that sometimes connections are not made, but I'm wondering that researchers may make better use of their time by creating blog posts on their own websites, setting up Google alerts, etc. 

I use Ancestry.com. every day-don't get me wrong. But, I'm wondering if the actual records and finding aids are where the real value in Ancestry.com. is.