31 March 2012

Second World War 2 Registration Asks Father's Place of Birth

I've never looked at World War I draft registration cards as closely as I should have. There were three registrations. The second one is the focus of this post as the card contained something I had never really noticed--probably because I don't have that many close relatives whose age qualified them for it.

The second registration, on 5 June  1918, registered those who attained age 21 after 5 June  1917.  These men were born between 1896-1897.  A supplemental registration was held on 24 August 24 191, for those becoming 21 years old after 5 June 1918.  These cards are included in the second registration cards.

The World War I draft cards which are online at Ancestry.com (World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 and at FamilySearch (World War I Draft Registration Cards 1917-1918).

The card in this post is one of those rare few that's not for a relative. 

30 March 2012

Genealogical Proof Standard Webinar Released

I just wrapped up my webinar on the "Genealogical Proof Standard for the non-Professional" today. We discussed:

  • exhaustive searches
  • compilation and citation
  • resolving conflicts
  • and a variety of terms and definitions

Quick easy examples were given--complex problems can't be used as numerous illustrations in an hour session. My goal was to get concepts across--and I think we did that. I could have kept talking for another hour. The intent of the session was to make the point that all of can learn something from implementing the standards in our research--whether we intend to "publish" or not. 

The recording (video and audio) along with the handout, can be ordered securely here for $8.50. Download is immediate and you can view as many times as  you want.

Where Will Anna Habben Be In 1940?

The image above is part of the 1940 census enumeration district map for Hancock County, Illinois, obatined at  Ancestry.com. The maps they are on the National Archives website as well

My great-great-grandmother was living in Elvaston, Illinois. I don't have her address, but if my memory served, she lived near the Presbyterian church, which I think is in the eastern portion of the village. 

Elvaston has two census enumeration districts in 1940--because it is split in two townships. Montebello for the western part of the village (district 34-19) and Elvaston (district 34-27) for the eastern portion. 

Gotta watch those township and county lines. 

1940 Census Enumeration District Maps At Ancestry.com

One of the necessities before searching the soon to be released 1940 census is knowing the enumeration district that contains your ancestor. Ancestry.com recently released these maps and they are on the National Archives website as well. I personally found the ones on NARA a little easier to use.

It is important to find the enumeration districts...even for those who have ancestors in rural areas, like me. If you "know" the rural location, I find that the maps are easier to use than any of the other online finding aids. I save Steve Morse's site for urban people's enumeration districts.

This is part of a map for Hancock County, Illinois, Prairie Township. This is where my paternal grandparents should be located in 1940. Their farm is close to the Prairie/Carthage Township line--in fact Carthage township's border "jogs" on the east side as can be seen in the map below. There is also the City of Carthage as well.

From this map:

  • Prairie Township appears to be 34-29.
  • Elvaston appears to be 34-27
  • Village of Ferris (cut off mostly in the image) appears to be in two enumeration districts (because it is in two separate townships. The southern strip appears to be in district 34-28 and the rest of the village appears to be in enumeration district 34-30. 
  • The city of Carthage appears to be in district 34-6.
Grandpa and Grandma Neill should be enumerated in district 34-29 as their farm was in Prairie Township.

Have to add that to the list. 

29 March 2012

Has the National Archives Heard of 1920? Or Puerto Rico?

From the National Archives website the following graphic:

It says that the 2010 census was the "First to use an English/Spanish bilingual form..."

Uh? What about 1920? It's not bilingual, but it certainly is in Spanish. Doesn't look like 2010 was the first.

Let's not let our excitement over the 1940 census cause us to get details incorrect.

The Genealogical Proof Standard

For years (seventeen years or so to be honest), I've lectured on the Problem-Solving Process as applied to genealogical research. The Problem-Solving Process is a four step process developed by George Polya to assist students in solving math problems. Polya's steps are basically:

  • state the problem
  • design a plan to solve
  • execute the plan
  • evaluate
Then there is the Genealogical Proof Standard-which includes the following elements:
  • Reasonably Exhaustive Search
  • Complete and Accurate Citation
  • Analysis and Correlation
  • Resolution of Conflict
  • Soundly Reasoned Conclusion
I don't see too much difference. I always indicate that "stating the problem" involves learning about the records, culture, time period involved in the research and all the records that could have been created or are applicable to the problem at hand. 

Designing the plan means organizing your research, deciding what to do and documenting it.

Executing the plan means the actual research--citing what you do during the research.

Evaluate, the way I always present it, means synthesizing what you have located, reaching a conclusion, and clearly stating that conclusion in a way that others can understand it. Resolution of conflicting information is always a part of that process. My approach is a little different based upon my academic background--I'm a mathematician (not an applied one either). In a theoretical mathematical class where we are "proving" something--there's not really "conflict." Our "conflict" are techniques that didn't work, led us back to where we started, etc. We aren't really gathering evidence per se, we are eliminating procedures that don't work. But there still is the necessity for reaching a soundly reasoned conclusion.

As I reviewed the proof standard for tomorrow's webinar, I realized that it's not all that different from what I've always done. 

And how do I know it's been seventeen years? Because I was first really introduced to Polya's process in a graduate class I took the year my youngest daughter was born. I used it in a lecture that following spring. That's as much "proof" as I have for that.

Can't Ancestry.com Realize Hinrich Muller is Henry Miller?

I have a love-hate relationship with the "leaves" on the trees at Ancestry.com. Today it's leading towards a certain end of that spectrum.

Sometimes matches are really difficult to understand and other times they miss things that they really should find. And there are time where the matches are spot on. It's when things don't really work that people get frustrated.

And that's the case with ancestor Henry Miller.

You would think that Ancestry.com would have programmed name variants into the system so that Hinrich Muller would equate to Henry Miller. After all, it is a pretty easy "translation" to make.  Apparently not.

I've got Hinrich Muller in my database with a year of birth of 1799 in Germany and a death of 1880 in Brown County, Illinois. I added him to my online tree this morning with those details, so there's not a chance I rejected potential matches several months ago and did not realize it.

And yet, there's a Henry Miller, born in 1799 in Hannover and died in 1880 in Brown County showing up in the 1880 mortality census on Ancestry.com. This Henry Miller from the mortality schedule did not show up as a "leaf match" for my Hinrich Muller. It would be interesting to know why not.

There are two images with this post. The first are the hints for my Hinrich Muller. The second is the match in the database. (Click on the image to view a larger one).

And here's the record for Henry Miller from the Mortality Schedule.
I could understand the hint not coming up if I didn't have any location for Henry's death. After all, Henry Miller is a fairly common name. But I've the same years of birth and death and the same county of death.

There are apparently three reasons why this match might not be coming up:

  • Ancestry.com doesn't realize Henry is Hinrich.
  • Ancestry.com doesn't realize Muller is Miller.
  • Ancestry.com doesn't realize that Hannover is in Germany. 
(Sarcasm alert-The failure to get this match is frustrating when I do get leaf matches for people in records after they are dead or 110 years after they are born.)

Why can't I get matches that pretty much match what's in my tree?

Will Ancestry.com Tell You Your Ancestor Was Mentally Deficient?

This is part of the register entry for a convict listed in the  Alabama, Convict Records, 1886-1952 which was recently released on Ancestry.com. I'm not certain how many of these entries have comments like this--but this individual was born in 1924 and while he's not living (he's in the Social Security Death Index and the name is very uncommon), he could easily have been. Convicts from the 1950 era could easily be living as well as this database goes until 1952.

 You could find your living relative has been in jail and was also a little loopy. You never know what you will find in those "remarks" columns.

 Search the Alabama, Convict Records, 1886-1952 for yourself and find out.

28 March 2012

7 Trees Agree, But Not With Me

The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

I'm working on Friday's "Sourcing in Ancestry.com's Trees" webinar and using a few of my own families to get ready.

So I can practice again with editing, modifying, etc. the online trees, I'm building a tree from scratch as that's the really best way to get certain ideas in my head, review common pitfalls (learn a few more), etc.

Years ago, when I started my research I learned the last name of a female ancestor who for now I'll call Susan Bubbasdaughter. I now know that her maiden name was actually Susan Bobbysdaughter. Bubbasdaughter came from a published county history and Bobbysdaughter came from the actual marriage record. The source for this actually isn't all that difficult to locate and I've actually blogged about Susan several times using the correct name of Susan Bobbysdaughter.

This ancestor appears in 7 public trees on Ancestry.com--every last one of them lists her as Susan Bubbasdaughter. I've even communicated with two of the compilers and shared the correct information. All 7 trees still have the incorrect last name. All were probably copied from something I shared years ago not realizing it was incorrect.

If any of them had actually bothered to research "Susan" they'd know what her maiden name actually was--the source is pretty easy to find--particularly as Susan's obituary hints at the location where she got married. If they'd googled her name, my website and posts would come up on the first page of hits (I know because I just checked). And they'd have found the information on the correct maiden name (and source) without even doing all that much research.

Just because 7 trees agree doesn't mean they are right.

What Does That Date Mean and Can They Draft Dead People?

This Civil War draft registration of men in Scott County, Iowa, indicates a date of 23 July 1863. This image comes from the database of these registrations currently available on Ancestry.com.

I know it wasn't taken on that date. Or at least I am relatively certain that it was not taken on that date. Most likely the date of 23 July was the date the list was "written" up for submission to the Provost Marshal General.

Paul Freund--shown here on line 13--is known to have died in Scott County, Iowa in June of 1863. His wife petitioned to administrate his estate on 17 July of that year, indicating he died on 28 June 1863. Her petition is filed with the local county probate records for Scott County.

Obviously dead men cannot be drafted. The information must have been collected before Paul died and "written up" later.

Are you assuming that someone is alive on a certain date because his name appears on some list?

27 March 2012

World War I Draft Cards and Why "Where" Matters

Genealogists sometimes wonder why it's important to track exactly where a digital image was obtained--when it's "the same thing" anyway. 

The World War I draft cards which are online at Ancestry.com (World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 and at FamilySearch (World War I Draft Registration Cards 1917-1918) make an excellent illustration for why this tracking is important.  I had located the World War I draft card for Charles Thomas Neill years ago at Ancestry.com.

The image wasn't all that great, but having already seen the image on the microfilm, I didn't expect it to be all that great. I decided to take a look at the image on FamilySearch and see if it was similar to the Ancestry.com image. I was pleasantly surprised when the image loaded. It was more legible than the Ancestry.com image. It wasn't the information on the card that was my real interest--I was after Neill's signature as he's my great-grandfather. The FamilySearch image is significantly better than the one at Ancestry.com.
World War I Draft Card for Chas. Thomas Neill
Hancock County, Illinois
Obtained from FamilySearch
World War I Draft Card for Chas. Thomas Neill
Hancock County, Illinois
Obtained from Ancestry.com
I was even able to zoom in on the signature and get a fairly decent image of that from the FamilySearch image. 

I do have one question about the images on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch however. I'm wondering how much manipulation Ancestry.com and FamilySearch did to the images. The "image" on Ancestry.com loads with both sides of the card fairly close together--which I'm pretty certain is not the way they appear on the microfilm. 

 FamilySearch has some "space" between the cards--which I'm pretty certain is how they appear on the film.

What I'm wondering is--how much manipulation was done to the images made from the microfilm by Ancestry.com and by FamilySearch?

If I get an answer, I'll post an update.

26 March 2012

Who Is the Witness?

I've decided to revisit my Irish forebears in an attempt to learn more about them before their life in New Brunswick--particularly my gg-grandmother, Annie Murphy Neill. This is a copy of the marriage bond signed by her husband Samuel Neill and Edward Durbin. Durbin does not appear to have been related to the family (he was born in England--the Neills were both Irish and his wife was not a Murphy or Neill before her marriage).

I realized that I had never researched the witness on this bond--who could easily just be a warm body or someone of significance. The difficulty is in reading the name.

My guess is that the last name is Drury, but the initials are more of a mystery.

This image came from the microfilmed copy of the marriage bonds at the Family History Library--obtained from the New Brunswick Provincial Archives.

In hindsight, I wish I knew whether the document that was filmed was the original bond or a transcription of it. I'm glad that I know where I got this record, but now I need to know where the "microfilmer" got it as well.

World War I Draft Cards in Spanish

Did you know that the US government printed World War I draft cards in Spanish and used them in Puerto Rico? It was news to me as I had just assumed that all cards were in English. This card was for Justo Bonavo Veliz, who registered in Rio Grande County, Puerto Rico. His registration was located online at FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org) in their digital collection of World War I Draft Registration Cards. This card was from the roll for letters A-G, image 128 of 910. [note--I know that's not citation in perfect Evidence Explained format, but it is more than sufficient to get readers to the digital image and we don't often use citations in pure form for these blog posts.]

I'm always looking for additional signatures for the Daily Genealogy Transcriber--which is what I was doing when I came across this card. The Daily Genealogy Transcriber is the only site where I use examples that are not from my own research--so I have no connection to the individual named on this card.

Proving Benjamin Webinar Released

Yesterday I presented "Proving Benjamin" discussing how 1850, 1870, and 1880 enumerations for a man in three different states were shown to be the same man. This New York native was born around 1820 in New York State and lived in Michigan, Iowa, Missouri, and possibly other states as well as Canada. Dealing with individuals with similar names, people who move all over, and conflicting information are discussed.

Compounding the issue is that Benjamin is enumerated with a different name in 1880. This webinar (and handout) can be ordered for $8.00 for immediate download.

21 March 2012

Was Your Ancestor Hiring?

This image comes from the newspaper database at GenealogyBank and appeared on page 12 of the Philadelphia Inquirer on 6 May 1899.

Newspaper advertisements are a sometimes overlooked source of genealogical information--Rampley owned a carriage factory. We've mentioned W. A. Rampley here before--he's a descendant of James Rampley who settled in 1764 in what later became Baltimore County, Maryland.

UK Land Tax Redemption 1798-Two Lessons

Ancestry recently released a new database on its site which it has titled UK, Land Tax Redemption, 1798. Ancestry.com refers to this tax as a "national land tax" and that's really all that I know about it so I won't comment on that any further. Ancestry.com in the description of the UK, Land Tax Redemption, 1798 states (on 21 March 2012) that "these records provide almost a mini census."

Comment 1:
I am not certain what a "mini" census is, but I'd hesitate in calling these records a census of any type. This is a great record, don't get me wrong--and likely lists some of my children's Watson and Hodgson ancestors from Castle Carrock as they were landowners and farmers.

However, the other side of the family were town dwellers, mainly laborers and the type of people who didn't own real property at all. I'm not certain if this database lists tenants of this type. If it doesn't, then calling this document a "mini census" seems a little off the mark.

Lesson 1--learn about a database and don't always conclude that the description is accurate.

Comment 2:
The entries for Jno. Watson are indexed as Ino. Watson. Just another thing to be on the lookout for.

Lesson 2--Continue to be creative with searches. When a new database is released, there's not always been time for others to "correct" entries.

Direct or Indirect?

What is the difference between indirect evidence and direct evidence?

One good example is a voter's list. Since a person has to be a citizen to vote, your ancestor's name appearing on a voter's list is indirect evidence that your foreign-born ancestor naturalized (assuming that the guy on the voter's list really is your ancestor and not another guy with the same name). The evidence is indirect because the voter's list doesn't explicitly state that he was naturalized. 

If the voter's list is one of those that lists date and place of naturalization for voters, then the voter's list would be direct evidence of his naturalization because it is specifically stating that he was naturalized. 

Of course you ancestor could have lied about his citizenship status in order to vote, but that gets into accuracy of information which is a separate issue. 

Indirect evidence can be more involved than in this little example, but this gets to the heart of the matter.

(c) 2012 Michael John Neill

20 March 2012

Preparing for Mother's Death

I like titles that are a little bit unusual--and this is one of the upcoming webinars I'm working on for April.

"Preparing for Mother's Death" revolves around an 1889 will that bequeathed all of the testator's real estate to one of her sons, John. When the mother died in 1900, the county judge (for unspecified reasons) refused to probate the mother's will. Fortunately the will was filed in with the local probate records so it's contents were not lost. A comprehensive search of probate records revealed no reason for the court's action. Thanks to an exhaustive search, the likely reason for the denial is known.

About the same time the mother drew up the 1889 will, her granddaughter and former son-in-law (husband of a deceased daughter) signed quit claim deeds to the son who was bequeathed the farm by the mother in her will.

There's a quit claim deed from the heirs to the son John a few weeks after the will was denied probate.

The will of "Mother"'s first husband (who died before she wrote her 1889 will) provided evidence as to why the judge likely denied the will's probate.

To top it all off, the mother married after her first husband died--to the man who would later become her son John's father-in-law.

This is a German family, but the problem isn't an ethnic one--instead we discuss property rights, inheritance, convoluted family relationships, the importance of an exhaustive search, the importance of using logic/reasoning,  and the need to look at "motive."

Confused? We'll sort it all out. If it were totally straight forward, it wouldn't be as interesting.

You can register for "Preparing for Mother's Death" here. It's being held on 13 April.

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19 March 2012

Inductive Or Deductive Reasoning?

People throw around the phrase "deductive reasoning," but I'm not certain that everyone really knows the true meaning of the phrase.

"I looked at other handwriting by the clerk and using deductive reasoning I concluded that the letter that was difficult to read was an 'M.'" The conclusion that the letter was an "M" may very well be correct, but it wasn't deductive reasoning that was used. In reading other writing of the same clerk, a pattern may be noticed as to how the clerk makes his letters. Noticing a pattern and then concluding that the pattern always happen is inductive reasoning--not deductive reasoning.  Inductive reasoning is a valid form of reasoning--but it involves taking examples, making a rule from those examples and saying that the next time it will happen the same way.

Genealogists use deductive reasoning all the time. Deductive reasoning takes specific rules that are known to be always true (or hoped to be always true) or statements made in documents and uses those rules or statements to reach an unstated conclusion. Here's one simple example of deductive reasoning.

  • The marriage record of Henrietta Newman in Smith County, Illinois, in 1869 has no letter of consent to marry and no notation is made on the record that someone provided consent. 
  • Females had to be 18 to marry in Illinois in 1869.

Therefore Henrietta Newman was at least 18 on the date of her marriage. 

The conclusion about Henrietta's age at the time of her marriage is based upon deductive reasoning. We are using the "rule" about female marriage age, combined with the marriage record, to conclude something about Henrietta that is not on the marriage record specifically. Some would say we have inferred Henrietta's age or year of birth and others would say the marriage record was "indirect evidence." I'm not really certain I like the phrase "indirect evidence" and I'm not certain it really matters if that phrase is used or not. What does matter is that we state why we think Henrietta was born in a certain year if the marriage record (and the age at marriage) allows us to deductively conclude that.

There's actually one more "given" that we need to state if we are really going to conclude when Henrietta was born:

  • The marriage record of Henrietta Newman in Smith County, Illinois, in 1869 has no letter of consent to marry and no notation is made on the record that someone provided consent. 
  • Females had to be 18 to marry in Illinois in 1869.
  • Henrietta knew her age and did not lie about it in order to marry.

If all those statements are true, then Henrietta was at least 18 on the date of her marriage.

Whether you use inductive or deductive reasoning, make certain you contemplate the validity of your argument. Inductive reasoning can lead you astray when your ancestor doesn't really "fit the pattern" after all and deductive reasoning can get you in trouble if your ancestor lied, was unaware of the law, or the clerk was sloppy.

This post is located at http://rootdig.blogspot.com/2012/03/inductive-or-deductive-reasoning.html and was originally published on the Rootdig blog on 19 March 2012 and is (c) 2012 Michael John Neill

18 March 2012

The Release of Dower

A fan of Genealogy Tip of the Day indicated they had never seen a dower release on a deed, so I thought it an opportune subject for the blog.

This is part of a deed from Harford County, Maryland, that was discussed in a recent issue of Casefile Clues (click on image above for a larger picture). The portion underlined in red is where Sarah Rampley, wife of grantor James Rampley, releases her dower in the property. The dower right is an interest Sarah had in the property as James' wife. Dower has a long history, which we will not to into here, but the end result is that James could not sell his real property without his wife's consent. Whether Sarah could have realistically denied the sale is another matter entirely. Dower releases tell us the name of the wife at the time of the sale, confirming marital status and perhaps establishing the existence of more than one wife.

Dower is that portion of a husband's estate that a wife is entitled to the use of for her lifetime, after his death. Typically it was 1/3 of the real estate. The amount of dower, and whether a wife is entitled to it or not, is set by state statute.

Source of document:
Harford County, Maryland, Deed Liber JLG, Volume N: 95-96, James Rampley to Jesse Kent; FHL microfilm 14096.

17 March 2012

100 Years Ago Today-17 March 1912

Ironically my Irish immigrant ancestor died on St. Patrick's Day 1912. Actually it's probably not all that ironic considering he was from the North and wasn't Catholic.

Thinking about the 100th anniversary of his death caused me to take a second look at the civil registration of his marriage in New Brunswick which I obtained last year while at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

I have a copy of the marriage bond, signed by Samuel with Edward Durbin (also the witness). The other witness Ann Neill was probably Samuel's sister-in-law, wife of his brother Joseph. There were (to the best of my knowledge) no other Neills from the family in New Brunswick at the time of the marriage in 1865.

My last bit of work is to try and obtain a copy of the church record of the marriage, if it exists. I'm trying to get additional clues on the family--if there are any. The Neills were from Drumachose in County Derry and, while their residence their is known little has been located on them in Ireland except for brother Joseph's marriage there to Ann Brice--the Ann Neill (probably) of this record.

I still am uncertain if Edward Durbin had any relationship to the family or not. I known virtually nothing about Annie Murphy and was hoping that one of the marriage records might provide a clue as to her origins.

Another lesson from Samuel Neill tied to his date of death 100 years ago today--his obituary did not appear in the local weekly newspaper until early May. That was nearly 6 weeks after his death.

14 March 2012

Seeing it All Versus Querying a Database

These two cards from the patent index at the Maryland State Archives website is a perfect example of why I sometimes prefer to see all the entries in an index instead of query a database. Don't get me wrong, the ability to query databases is a great boon to genealogists, but there are times where I frankly waste too much time getting clever with search terms, tracking my searches. This card index is in PDF format and I can scan each name myself and decide if it is for the person of interest.

The second card has the name spelled "right:" James Rampley. I'm betting that that's the intent of the card right above it, but the name undoubtedly looked like Ramphy and the indexer, unfamiliar with local names, and operating under the directive of "type it as it looks," entered Ramphy on the card.

Sure, that's a variant spelling of which I should be aware, but sometimes variant spellings are so off the wall that looking at the actual entries like this is helpful. Spellings of this type are even more of an issue with older records where the handwriting if often difficult.

The Maryland State Archives had the right idea--scan the cards and upload them as PDF files. There is also a digital index to these records, which I've used as well. But having a second index is never a bad thing especially when it is in a different format.

That was one thing I liked about using the print version of the Germans to America series. I could actually eyeball all the names in the index. Book or card indexes don't have to actually be reproduced on paper--that's not how I accessed this one. But they are a nice additional option to have.

These patent cards can be linked to at:

All That Part Does Not Mean All

Part of a 1796 deed in Harford County, Maryland, from James Rampley to Jesse Kent states:

"...Bargain and Sell unto the said Jesse Kent his Heirs and assigns all that part of a Tract of Land originally Granted to the said James Ramply by the State of Maryland on the first day of December seventeen hundred and ninety five as by said Patent may appear..."

 I admittedly read the deed too fast and focused on the "all that" portion of the text. Later when analyzing it, I relied a little too much on memory as well which did not help alleviate the confusion. The patent was for 32 acres and the deed referenced above was for 10 acres. Selling the whole patent by this 1796 deed should mean that the deed discussed 32 acres. The discrepancy in the acreages was too much to write off to an approximation error. 

Even after seeing the word "part" I was not immediately convinced that there wasn't a problem with the 1796 deed. I was stuck on the "all that...Tract of Land granted" part of the document. 

Later the deed states "...as contained in the following Courses...[followed by the metes and bounds description]..."

It actually took a little while for it all to sink in. 

Extracting key phrases from the deed it's really saying:

"...all that part..contained in the following Courses..."

When I focused on those words the meaning was a little more clear. The deed did not intend to transfer the whole of the patented property. The only intent was to transfer the part described in the metes and bounds description. Of course, I knew that. The legal description of the property is always what is intended to be transferred, but metes and bounds descriptions are not easy to visualize and simply reading one doesn't immediately lead one to conclude whether it is 10 or 32 acres. 

My misinterpretation may seem a little silly and it may seem like I'm admitting that I'm not as "on the ball" as I should be. Personally I think it is good to admit that we all occasionally make errors in interpretation--especially if we read things quickly and accidentally focus on the wrong part of a document. Every researcher is guilty of occasionally of making a hasty conclusion that is incorrect. However, in my case, I knew I had to be overlooking something and I was.

Usually if I think something in a document is "wrong," I ask myself:

  • am i certain what the terms mean?
  • have I left out a word or part of the document?
  • have I assumed something that is not true?
  • do I need to transcribe the whole document?
There are other questions, but these are an excellent start. All of us occasionally make a snap interpretation that is incorrect. The reason why we cite sources, get to the "original," re-analyze and re-interpret is to reduce the number of these mistakes that we spread with others. 

There's no shame in catching your own errors of interpretation. Critiquing and proofreading your own writing is an excellent way to catch these errors. 

And we learn best when we've caught our own mistakes. 

The image below is part of the deed discussed in this blog post. 

Harford County, Maryland, Deed Liber JLG, Volume N: 95-96, James Rampley to Jesse Kent; FHL microfilm 14096.

11 March 2012

Analyzing the Handwriting-Spencer and Palmer

I have a lot of fun posting images to the Daily Genealogy Transcriber and learn quite a bit as well. A recent private email mentioned the Palmer Method of writing and  asked when it came into favor (the general answer: the 1890s). An earlier method was the Spencerian Method which became popular in the 1860s and continued until the Palmer Method was generally adopted. Your ancestor who served in the Civil War was probably not using the Palmer Method and likely wasn't taught the Spencerian Method either--assuming he went to school.


06 March 2012

Using Fold3.com Webinar for Download

Today's webinar on "Using Fold3" went fairly well--there were lots of good comments and emails afterwards indicated that several got new ideas for searching on the site.

This webinar provided a broad overview of what was on the site and provided some actual live demo of searching and interacting with the information. The image interface is different from some and the searching is slightly different so both those things were demonstrated for some representative databases on the site.

This presentation is geared towards those who have not used Fold3 or have limited experience with it.

You can download the webinar now at the introductory rate of $6.

Overview of the Probate Process Webinar for Download

My webinar on the probate process (focusing on American records) was recorded today. Geared towards the advanced beginner or intermediate researcher, it covered an overview of the process and looked at selected documents from two probate settlements with a discussion of the pitfalls to watch out for along the way. 

Probate records are an excellent genealogical source--regardless of the time period in which you are researching and may contain clues about your ancestor, where he lived, his occupation, etc. 

The recording (and handout) are available at an introductory rate of $6.

05 March 2012

My Own Little Version of WDYTYA--For RHL3

I bet NBC and Ancestry.com won't touch him with a ten-foot pole, but we'll do our own episode of "Who Do You Think You Are" on Rootdig. I've written before about Sarah Turberville of Orange County, Virginia. She's my ancestor--and also that of radio personality Rush Limbaugh.

The study of your genealogy brings us history lessons on a regular basis. Our ancestors often bring us face to face with realities we never expected and knock holes in our preconceptions of how our forebears lived. The history we learn in books, on television, in print, and on the radio was not the reality most of our ancestors lived. They didn't live in pages of a history book--they lived in their own reality show, sans script, and sans camera. Many today would have us believe our ancestors lived in black and white terms and that a return to the "Good Ol' Days" is what is needed, when people were married only once and children didn't know what "his, hers and ours" families were.  What life was actually like centuries ago is somewhat different than what some actually think it was.

Such is the case with Sarah Turberville who died in Orange County, Virginia, in the 1760s.

She had a "his, hers, and ours" family, having children with three husbands...some of whom had children of their own from previous marriages. Step-children and step-siblings were the norm in Sarah's family and hers was not unusual for that time and place. Colonial Virginia had many families structured in a similar fashion to Sarah's.

There were ways though in which Sarah was not typical.

Women in Colonial Virginia didn't often write wills--Sarah did. Women could not own or bequeath real property, but Sarah mentioned a variety of personal items in her will. The inventory of her estate includes a slave, several books, some cattle, and other items. The owning of a slave was not unusual for the time and location.

Sarah was literate--also probably atypical for a woman of her time. A woman who cannot read is unlikely to bequeath books to her children as Sarah did. Sarah made her mark on her will, but making a mark is not necessarily a sign of illiteracy--particularly for someone who may be ill or physically incapacitated.

Sarah survived four husbands--and had children with the first three. She frequently married before her deceased husband's estate had even been settled. A quick remarriage is not cause for judgment, but rather an opportunity for us to realize that Sarah was pragmatic, and with land to manage and children to raise, another husband was a necessity.

Sarah can't speak for herself. She's dead. I'm a genealogist and not a psychic, so I can't say whether she was a liberal, a feminist, or a radical conservative--and historians and politicians can't either. Those political terms in the modern meaning didn't even exist in Colonial Virginia and, like any attempts to define the past by the present, such classifications say more about the classifier than the person being classified.

 It would be well over a century before women could own and bequeath real property in their own name. It would be longer before it was easier (and not always easy) to raise children as a single widow. And it would not be until the early twentieth century before women had the right to vote. Sarah was living in mid-18th century Virginia and that is the time period in which we must analyze her. In some ways she was like her peers and in others she was significantly different.

Sarah has thousands of descendants--including me. She's been an interesting person to research.She's my 8th great-grandmother.

Sarah has a more well-known descendant than me--radio personality Rush Limbaugh. She's Mr. Limbaugh's 7th great-grandmother.


Sarah's will and an estate inventory follow. Funny, there's not a radio listed.

From Orange County, Virginia, Will book 2, pages 310-311:
In the Name of God Amen I Sarah Turbervile of Orange County in the Colony of Virginia . . . do make & Ordain this my last Will . . .

I give to my Son John Willis one Shilling sterling . . . 
I give to my son William Willis Ten Shillings . . . 
I give to my son Henry Wood Two pounds . . . 
I give to my son David Hudson one Shilling sterling . . . 
I give to my son Joshua Hudson one Shilling Sterling 

I give to my Daughter Sarah Hawkins all my wearing cloths with a book Called William Beverage Sermons

I give to Rush Hudsons Daughter Mary one chest and his Daughter Elizabeth one Trunk

I give to son Rush Hudson one Negro Woman named Winny during his life & afterwards I give the said Winny & her increase to Rush Hudson Junr Except the first born I give to Elizabeth Hudson and the next to Mary Hudson. I give to my Son Rush all the rest of my goods . . . ordain my son Rush Hudson . . . Executor of this my last Will and Testament . . . this 18 day of June in the Year of our Lord God 1760

Sarah (x) Turberville 

Witnesses: Benjamin Hawkins Junr. 
Moses Harwood (signed with an "x") 
Kezia Roper (signed with her "x")

Sarah signed an addition to the will indicating that her estate not be appraised.
Sarah's will was proven in Orange County Court on 28 May 1761, presented by Rush Hudson and proved by the oaths of the three witnesses. Probate was granted to Hudson and his probate bond in the sum of twenty pounds lists Joshua Hudson and John Morton as securities. 

Sarah's inventory (p. 319, Will book 2) is relatively short. It includes the slave mentioned in her will, one bed and furniture, three head of cattle, one trunk and chest, one small table, one pair of [Stillards?], some old books, some old puter[sic], one cutting knife, some bottles, one stone cup, one Earthan pott, and one Small Chair. 

Researching Female Ancestors Webinar Available

My webinar "Researching Female Ancestors" was recorded today. In giving the presentation live, a few ideas for my own research crossed my mind as well.

This presentation discusses approaches and techniques for determining an ancestor's maiden name and locating "missing" females. Geared towards the advanced beginner or intermediate researcher, it focuses on American records and sources. The content is not specific to any one time period and many of the approaches can be refined for different locations or types of records.

If you are stymied on your female ancestors--and half your ancestors are female--consider purchasing the webinar (and handout) at the introductory price of $6.

04 March 2012

Female Ancestors: After the Marriage

Female Ancestors: After the Marriage

[This is a slightly edited version of this article which appeared in the Ancestry Daily News, on 13 October 2004]. It is a "basic" article, but there's some good food for thought here.

Female ancestors present special research problems for two main reasons. A significant part of the difficulty stems from the fact that at the time of their marriage most American females changed their last name to that of their husband. Not knowing the last name makes for significant research difficulties.

Another significant problem in locating women is that for much of American history, women have not had the same legal rights as men. The result is that women are generally listed less often than men in many of the records utilized by genealogists.

Determining what happened to a woman after her marriage requires the genealogist to do more than simply look up names in indexes hoping something magically appears. It requires that the researcher learn about:

- Records of the time period.
- Common legal practices of the time, particularly those involving women's rights and inheritances.
- History of the region during the time period.
- Factors effecting migration during the time period.

Research outlines from the Family History Library for the appropriate state and Ancestry's Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources are two great ways to learn about records for the state and time period. Reading county, state, and regional histories are excellent sources of additional background information.

It may be possible that someone else has already worked on your problem. Online databases such as the GEDCOM files at WorldConnect, the International Genealogical Index at the Family Search Website (www.familysearch.org), appropriate state and regional mailing lists at Rootsweb (lists.rootsweb.com), and other sources available through Rootsweb (www.rootsweb.com) and the USGenWeb (www.usgenweb.org) may prove successful.

It is important to keep in mind that if the problem is a difficult one, the answer may not be available online, and the problem may be unsolved as of yet. Clues and finding aids to off-line records may be online, but the actual answer may lie in an un-microfilmed box of county court records deep in the mountains of Virginia or in an isolated courthouse on the Kansas prairie.

Women Were Treated Differently

For much of American history, women have had significantly fewer legal rights than men. Consequently the number of records mentioning women dwindles as a family history is researched into earlier and earlier time periods.
For much of American history, under a concept called coverture, a woman's separate legal status ended upon her marriage. The married female typically could not own real property and derived her citizenship from that of her husband.
Today this is no longer true, but during the period where most of us have genealogical brick walls, it was. Keep in mind that most laws regarding a woman's right to own property are governed by state statute and have changed over time, sometimes gradually over a period of years. Consequently what is true in one state at one point in time might not be true in another state at another time.

Half of our ancestors are women, and like everyone else, I have encountered these problems before.

Determining Where She Went After Her Marriage

It can be challenging enough to find a mobile person whose name is known, let alone a married relative whose husband's name is not known. Of course a thorough search of marriage records should be conducted in those areas where the missing female's family is known to have lived using all reasonable spelling variants.
Let's take a look at some examples of situations where records beyond the marriage record might contain the desired name:
- The missing female's sibling died and the missing female survived. Does the sibling's death notice or obituary provide the name of siblings? Does the funeral home have this information?
- The missing female was an informant on a relative's death certificate after the missing female married. This long shot may pay off, particularly if the missing female remained near relatives.
- Did the missing female inherit from any estate (not just her parents) after her last name changed? If so, she should be listed with the new last name on those records.
- Was the estate of the missing female's parents settled up after the name change? If so, later (or final) records in the probate may provide the new married last name.

What Is the Key Here?

The key is that we are not searching for the missing female when trying to locate these records. All the examples discussed can be located by searching for someone other than the missing female--someone whose surname is known. Ask yourself, Is there a record for someone else that will list the missing female with her new last name--possibly as an heir, a sibling, or an informant? Are there events that might have spurred the creation of a record naming the missing female? Are there records of these events that you can locate without knowing the missing female's name?
In some records it will be clear who the missing female is (listed as a sister in an obituary, or as a niece in an estate settlement). In other records the relationship might not be given (an informant on a death certificate, a witness to a marriage, etc.). In these latter cases a hunch that the individual is the missing female will have to be confirmed with other records.

Is Your Missing Female Hiding near Other Relatives?

Locate your missing female's parents and siblings in census records. Is there a married female in a nearby household with the same first name as your missing female? Is that female born in the same place as your missing female? If other sources fail, this neighbor is a candidate for your missing female and this neighbor should be researched to determine if she is the missing female or not.

Also look at all the gravestones near your missing female's parents and siblings. Is there a grave with a burial whose first name is that of your missing female? Family members were frequently buried near each other and there is a chance that you have walked right by your missing female relative while looking at her parents' or sibling's stones.

Did She go With a Sibling or Another Family Member?

Thomas Chaney died in Bedford County, Pennsylvania in 1856 leaving a large family. Two children left Pennsylvania. Son Abraham was easy to track to Ohio, his last name never changed. What of daughter Elizabeth who vanished in Bedford County, Pennsylvania? She reappeared in Coshocton County, Ohio, the very same county where her brother settled.
In most cases, a female who heads west in the early nineteenth century didn't strike out entirely on her own. Chances are she has a brother, uncle, or other relative or neighbor who has gone west before her or at the same time. The problem is finding out who that relative is and where they went. For this reason another approach to locating missing females is to completely research their other family members in hopes that this will also locate the missing female relative.

Sum It Up
Locating missing female relatives is not always easy. Some useful approaches are:
- Consider all the records that might list the female with her new last name.
- Consider that the female might have moved to live near other family members or former neighbors.
- Consider that the missing female might be hiding right under your nose near her family--only with a different last name.

Two of My 19th Century Female Ancestors/Relatives

One of my favorite lectures is "Barbaras Beaus and Gesche's Girls." Barbara is a German immigrant who arrived in Illinois in 1850, was married 3 or 4 times, widowed once, and divorced twice. She figures in quite a few local records in the area and was fun to research. A discussion of Barbara makes for an interesting study in Midwest records during this time period--just about every record that can be found on a woman during this time includes Barbara, including:

  • Probate records
  • Land records-as grantor, grantee, and quitclaim deeds after her death
  • Court records--divorce and criminal records
  • Newspaper
  • Church
  • Cemetery
  • Vital
Her marriage records are atypical as are the records of her first husband's estate settlement in the 1850s.

Gesche Fecht Weerts Grass Heyen was my step-ancestor who married in Germany in the 1880s and disappeared after my ancestor's death. This part of the lecture discusses how she was located when her "new" married name was initially unknown. A good example of detective work when one does not have all the clues. 

I've given this lecture several times and sometimes people call the second part of it "Geisha Girls." I'll be honest...that irritates me on two levels. One, I'm half-Ostfriesen by ancestry and I love the sound of the traditional low-German names. Two, making fun of people's names is something I find very offensive. 

This lecture, "Barbara's Beaus and Gesche's Girls" is available as a webinar for download--handout included.

03 March 2012

My Children's Boring Ancestors

I've been thinking about "boring ancestors" lately and the feeling by some that it's necessary to add extraneous "stuff" to your family history in order to liven them up. To that I say "balderdash." There's nothing like good ol' exhaustive research to discover that your ancestors are not all that boring. My children have no famous ancestors, no bluebloods, and no wealthy or elite forebears hiding in their tree. Most of their ancestors were farmers, artisans, laborers, factory workers and the like--with an occasional English merchant of modest means thrown in.

Yet here are quick summaries of just a few stories:

  • Pension applications indicate that in 1902 my great-grandfather was working as the hired man for his future mother-in-law, complete with his salary, what parts of the work he did and what his regular work was. 
  • Probate records on my third great-grandmother indicated that her one grandson borrowed $1800 from her about 1899, never paid her back, never drew up the mortgage that was supposed to have been drawn up to secure the loan, and was almost sued by his uncle after his grandmother's death.
  • My great-great-grandfather was arrested for illegal distribution of beer around the turn of the 20th century.
  • My great-grandmother's brother was shot (and probably murdered) in a hotel in Kansas City in 1921.
  • My 3rd great-grandfather accidentally shot himself while hitting a cow with the butt of a gun.
  • I had an aunt who, while suffering from cancer in the 1930s, "cut her stomach" out because of the pain and died.
  • My great-great-grandparents were step-siblings.
  • My ancestor at the age of nearly 70, returned to his native Germany leaving his wife and grown children in the United States.
  • My wife's ancestors lived with 7 children in a 14 foot square cabin in Missouri in the 1850s.
  • My ancestor went to Nebraska, started a homestead in the 1870s and returned.
  • My aunt's third husband killed a man in Nebraska after a bar fight in the 1870s.
  • An ancestor was censured by the Virginia House of Burgesses in the 1740s for interfering with an election.
  • A cousin was involved in mining speculation in Columbia in the 1890s.
And that's just scratching the surface. 

There aren't boring ancestors, just research that's not done. And virtually none of these stories were discovered on Ancestry.com. While I like and use it every day, the bulk of these items were located in original, offline records. 

Need to Register for my 2012 Trip to Salt Lake?

We've had some additional inquiries about my Family History Library trip between 23 and 30 May 2012 in Salt Lake.

Additional trip details are here http://rootdig.blogspot.com/2012/01/early-registration-deadline-for-family.html

To pay your complete registration click here for secure credit card registration ($175) payment. Email me if you need other payment options. A registration document will be emailed to you upon payment.

02 March 2012

March 2012 Fundamental Genealogy Webinars

March 2012 Fundamental Webinars

Our fundamental webinars are each approximately 20 minutes in length. These short session are geared for beginner or somewhat experienced beginners who would like to learn more about the following topics. Each presentation includes the 20 minute or so presentation and the handouts. Downloads of previous fundamental webinars can be ordered here.
  •   Quick Google Ideas—this is geared towards the advanced beginner to intermediate genealogist as all the fundamental webinars. Our focus will be on searching, what to search for and how to search for it. Runs on 9 March 2012 at 2:30 PM CentralRegister for $2.
    ·         Organizing Census Searches---querying census databases to locate hard-to-find ancestors is necessary. Organizing the search is necessary as well. Through three quick examples, get ideas for how to organize your online census searching for those ancestors you cannot find in five quick minutes. Runs on 16 March 2012 at 12 PM CentralRegister for $2.
    ·         Comparison Shopping (Part 1)—We will see some elementary ways to determine whether the person/family you have found on a passenger manifest or census is the same family you’ve located on a census elsewhere. Runs on 16 March 2012 at 1:30 PM CentralRegister for $2.
    ·         Proving Florence—how I found the father of an 1870 Iowa bride when there’s no direct proof. Not a really difficult to understand problem, but one that many researchers encounter. The solution is not too difficult but we’ll see how the search and the “proof” was organized. Runs on 16 March 2012 at 2:30 PM CentralRegister for $2.