31 August 2013

My 1870 Census Problem

On Genealogy Tip of the Day's Facebook page, we got to discussing "missing" people in the 1870 census. Here is a summary of one of my people I cannot find in the 1870 census. This post is somewhat "informal" and off-the-cuff. If clarifications are needed, we'll put those in red if this post is updated. This post is sans-citations--the census records are easily located online at FamilySearch and Ancestry.com.

About Ira

Ira Sargent (or Ira William Sargent) was born about 1843 in Ontario, Canada, to Clark and Mary (Dingman) Sargent. The Sargents moved to Winnebago County, Illinois, where Clark died before Mary (Dingman) Sargent married Asa Landon in the late 1840s. The Landons left Illinois for Iowa by the 1856 census in Iowa and were in Christian County, Missouri, by 1860.

1850 Owen, Winnebago County, Illinois Census
  • Asa Landon, aged 41, male, farmer, $400 real estate, born Canada
  • Mary Landon, aged 39, female, born Canada
  • Emma Landon, aged 10, female, born Canada
  • Lucretia Landon, aged 8, female, born Canada
  • Ira Landon, aged 6, male, born New York
  • Martha Landon, aged 4, female, born Illinois
  • Minerva Landon, aged 2, female, born Illinois
  • Edwin Landon, aged 3/12, male, born Illinois
  • Nelson Witesall, aged 25, male, born Canada
The family is enumerated in 1856 in Davis County, Iowa

1860 Census, Benton Township, Christian County, Missouri
  • Asa Landon, aged 62, male, farmer, New York
  • Luxesy, aged 18, female, born New York
  • Martha, aged 16, female, born Canada?
  • Ira[nn?], aged 14, female, born Illinois
  • [Mariana?], aged 12, female, born Illinois
  • Edwin [T?], aged 9, male, born Illinois
  • Roxey, aged 7, female, born Illinois
In October of 1870, in Davis County, Iowa, Ira Sargent married Ellen Butler--as indicated in the county marriage records. Asa Landon and his two biological children left Missouri and headed to Michigan and Ontario in theh 1860s. The Sargent children remained in the United States with Ira's sisters marrying in Davis County, Iowa, in the early 1880s. By 1880, Ira is in Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois, and he remains in Hancock-Adams County, Illinois, area for the remainder of his life.

He most likely is in or near Davis County, Iowa, in 1870, but cannot be located. There are other Ira Sargents in Iowa in 1870 but they are not the Ira of this post.

29 August 2013

FamilySearch-Maine and Indiana Materials

The following are showing as "new" or "updated" since our last post about FamilySearch:

Maine, State Archive Collections, 1718-1957

Indiana, Naturalization Records and Indexes, 1848-1992

Accurately Searching for my Ordinary Ancestors

Genealogy is not a mad rush towards Charlemagne. It is a slow path, filled with frontier brush, Southern sweat, and New England winters. Instead of leading to castles and mansions, that path often leads to one-room cabins, coal miner's shacks, and urban tenements. And it leads to the people who made the fabric of this nation, either by harvesting it in the fields, weaving it in the mills, selling it the general store, or saving to earn the money to purchase it.

And that's just fine with me.

The obsession with celebrity leads some to ask "what famous person am I related to?" or "what celebrity is my umpteenth cousin?"

The obsession with research leads others to ask who were my great-grandparents? What impacted their lives? What historical events beyond their control shaped them in ways that I can't really imagine? And what records did those people leave behind to give me some glimpse into their lives?

Ralph, Nellie, and Cecil Neill--about 1911--near Stillwell, St. Albans Township, Hancock County, Illinois--probably taken on whatever farm Charlie Neill (their father) was renting. The author's grandfather is on the right.

Not in an Instant

The search for those records can take a lifetime, even in the era of the internet. It's not just about the search for some obscure document that makes a connection or finding as much material as possible. Genealogy is not the accumulation of capital. It is about stitching documents together, fleshing out the unwritten clues in the records, and weaving the written and the unwritten together into a story that is based upon sound research, sound methodology and yet is engaging to the reader. The difficulty for those who strive to accurately document their heritage is that many of those who lived their lives outside the bright glow of fame do not always leave the amount of records that makes telling their story easy.
Family of George and Ida (Sargent) Trautvetter, taken approximately 1920. The family was living in the vicinity of Tioga and Loraine, Illinois.The author's grandmother is on the far right.

Accuracy Matters

Family history research is about being as accurate as possible--not so much because that's the right way to do it (which it is), but because telling our ancestors' stories accurately honors their lives. Sloppy and hasty research, thirty-second conclusions, and mere data collection with the intent of "getting as much as we can and as far back as we can" does a disservice to those who came before us, even the ancestors whose lives are ones we may choose not to emulate. Would we not want our own stories told as accurately as possible? Would you want someone in one hundred years confusing you with your deadbeat cousin of the same name whose never worked a day in his life, been arrested more times than he has fingers and has children with women in three different time zones?

Alvin, Leroy and John H. Ufkes--taken on Fred Ufkes farm east of Basco, Hancock County, Illinois, probably late 1930s The author's grandfather is on the right..

Let's Be Royal

Some researchers desire to make that royal connection and establish their family tree back to the ancient royal houses of Europer. That's never been my interest. My interest is in making connections that are as accurate as possible. Does that mean I have a few relatives born in the 1840s that are my "brick walls" and for whom I may never find out much more? Yes.

Oh Darn. They Were All Farmers

I hear people lamenting their "farming" ancestors and how their ancestors are all boring, etc. To adequately research my farming ancestors, I have had to learn about state and federal laws, historical trends, migration patterns, women's rights, agricultural practices, naming patterns, sociological trends, and historical details for more locations than I can count.  Sometimes I'm glad my ancestors are all somewhat homogeneous as it cuts the learning curve.

Will your descendants think you, your occupation and your lifestyle are boring and not worthy of any study at all?

There are no boring ancestors--just researchers who've not yet gone beneath the surface.

FamilySearch Update: NY Marriages and Baltimore Arrivals From 1950s

The following databases have been updated on FamilySearch since our last update:

New York, County Marriages, 1908-1935

Maryland, Baltimore, Airplane Passenger and Crew Lists, 1954-1957

28 August 2013

Is Evidence Derived?

According to the BCG Standards Manual (page 8):

"Evidence is derived from appropriate, effective data analysis and correlation..."

I'm not certain I agree with the use of the word "derived" as it relates to evidence. Evidence is information obtained from sources and used in the creation of a proof argument. I understand that. The analysis and correlation of evidence is a part of the proof argument, but evidence needs to be in a form that is as true to the original as possible, given the occasional limitations one faces when transcribing, abstracting or extracting information from sources. The correlation and analysis is a part of the argument and reasoning that goes into the proof argument and the writing of that proof argument.

Evidence is extracted or abstracted from a source, but the analysis and correlation should be part of the proof not a part of the evidence.

To me when something is "derived," it is somehow altered, changed, or modified. I don't like to change evidence. I may change what my conclusions are. I may change my proof argument. I may alter my reasoning. The evidence should not change. The analysis might.

It seems to me that saying something to the import that the decision of whether to include certain information as evidence in a proof argument stems from effective data analysis and correlation. It just seems that the word "derive" is a little strong or has a connotation that "choose" does not.

Or am I missing something?


Board for Certification of Genealogists (Washington, D.C.). 2000. The BCG genealogical standards manuall. Orem, Utah: Ancestry Pub.

27 August 2013

Do Databases Evaporate at FamilySearch?

As of today (3:50 pm Central Time), there are a total of 743 database collections in the United States section of FamilySearch:

I don't take a screen shot every day, but I do look at the list on a very regular basis so that I can post updates.

For some reason, I seem to remember that there were 744 collections for the longest time. The ending digits of "44" are "stuck in my head."

Am I wrong? Or were there only 743 collections?

I'm going to have to take more screen shots.

25 August 2013

Troutfetter Said Leibo Had No Gun

It seems the Trautvetter/Troutfetter family is involved in more than their fair share of shenanigans. We've written before about Philip Troutfetter whose exploits in the late 1890s covered two continents. His brother also was partially involved in a Colorado shooting a few years later. Fortunately the brother was not the victim or the shooter.

Election Day can bring out the worst in people and that's what happened in Goldfield, Colorado, on Election Day of 1908--November 8th.  A man was shot and killed and W. L. Troutfetter was hanging around nearby and assisted the victim after he was shot.

The case came to trial a few weeks later and Troutfetter is mentioned in a newspaper account of one of the day's events at the trial.

"The most important testimony introduced  by the state today was that of Paul North, an attorney formerly at Goldfield, Colo., but now of Rocky Ford; that of Mrs. Linder and that of W. L. Troutfetter, cashier of the allied railroad lines...Troutfetter said that Leibo did not have a gun in his hand when picked up after being shot."

Taken from the Denver Rocky Mountain News, 23 November 1909, page 7.

I'm not certain how much I will research this trial as Troutfetter's involvement seems minimal, but it is possible that the transcript of Troutfetter's testimony may provide some brief biographical information about him. There's a good chance the testimony contains at least his age and his residence at the time of the trial. In some situations those details may be clues--and the newspaper provided the name of his employer.

Searches of newspaper sites, such as  Genealogybank.com  may turn up unexpected items, that if you think about them, may in turn lead to additional information..

24 August 2013

Updated on FamilySearch: Seattle Passenger Lists

This is showing as having been updated since our last update:

Washington, Seattle, Passenger Lists, 1890-1957

Are You Relying on Google Alerts to Do Your Work?

I posted a blog entry "How Good Are Google Alerts" on my Search Tip of the Day blog, but I thought I'd mention it here also as I know there are some who rely on Google's "alerts" to notify them of a variety of things, including when others have used key phrases that appear in their writing.

Based upon my experience with the search discussed, I'm wondering if some of us might not be relying too much on Google to do our work for us. The obituaries and death notice mentioned in the blog post were easily located by performing Google searches, so the pages were ones that could be found by Google. I've got the search term (trautvetter) spelled correctly in my search alerts and it was spelled correctly in the pages that never appeared in my emailed alerts that I receive daily.

I know that many of my fellow genealogists use the alerts to find new genealogical material and that others use the alerts to receive notifications when their copyrighted material has been posted on another blog. And there are others who have Google alerts set up so that they can see when they've been mentioned on another blog or website.

Despite the reason, I'm wondering if the alerts really work the way we think that they should? Or are they not finding everything?

I don't have an answer...but if you are relying totally on Google alerts to "do your work," you might want to think again.

22 August 2013

Including Identification Details

I really like this picture of my great-grandparents and their two youngest children. Unlike many photographs I have, it doesn't seem staged--the clothes are on the line, after all. And the daughter seems to be shooting her father a funny type of look. 

But identifying the picture got me to thinking...
I'm still toying with ways to include "metadata" with pictures. I realize that when creating graphics files there are other ways to include details such as those I've written in black on this document without putting them on the actual image itself.  One concern I see is that not all users of graphic images readily access such metadata and some may inadvertently bypass it entirely.

Genealogists who are not necessarily adept with their computer skills may simply copy and paste the image into their own graphics program or genealogical software--thus bypassing any "metadata" that is not an "immediate" part of the image and unintentionally overlooking key information.

Who is in the picture is important, but I'm starting to become convinced that some of the "chain of provenance" and "how" we know who is in the picture or where it is taken is important too--just as important. There are many pictures on the internet that are identified, but if one simply "copied and pasted it," how does one know if the identification was correct?

And if the image gets saved without any identifying information, then it's just an old picture of some dead people.

Getting Negative About Evidence

The word "negative" can be confusing when applied to evidence. Negative evidence is "evidence" because it is something we expected to find and did not. The word "negative" is used in the sense of "not finding evidence" that we expect to find.

"Negative evidence" does not mean evidence that indicates something did not happen.

A statement in a court case that "Elizabeth Jones never lived in Missouri" is not considered "negative evidence." A "negative" word in a statement (such as "never") does not make that statement negative evidence. In fact, this statement would actually be considered direct evidence that Elizabeth never lived in Missouri ("direct" because it explicitly states she never lived in Missouri).

 "Negative evidence" does not mean evidence of a "negative" event (eg. a record that indicates your ancestor was an axe-murderer).

The nature of the event or item has nothing to do with whether evidence is considered to be negative. 

What Is Negative Evidence?

Negative evidence is not found. It is the fact that information is "unfound" that makes the evidence negative. A very simple example would be a person who appears regularly in  personal property tax lists for a county from 1828 until 1842. He also appears in the 1830 and 1840 federal census records for that county. Searches of personal property tax records after 1842 fail to locate him in the county and he is not enumerated in the 1850 census there either. There are no death records for the time period and an estate or probate file cannot be located.

His failure to appear in these records would be "negative evidence" indicating he was not living in that county after 1842.  The "negative" is not because he is "not" living...it's negative because he's not listed in records we would expect him to be listed in if he were living in the county, particularly when he was listed in those records before 1842.

His failure to be listed does not mean he's dead. He could simply have moved. One needs to be careful when making statements based upon the fact that someone does not appear in a series of records. 

My Blogs and Newsletter

For those of you who did not know, this is not my only genealogy blog. Here's list with the links. Enjoy!

You can subscribe to any of the above blogs for free.

My how-to newsletter Casefile Clues is also available by subscription, but there is a charge.

21 August 2013

Abandoning the Grands and the Greats

Writing is about being clear and sometimes terms are not as clear as we would like. Terms can be especially confusing when describing family members. Degrees of cousinship are often confusing to genealogists, but the "aunts" and "uncles" often bring about more confusion. Many people confuse, misuse, misunderstand, and misinterpret the terms "Grand Aunt," "Great Aunt," "Great-Grand Aunt," etc. that I am very close to not using the terms in my writing. 

The use of these various descriptors is done in an attempt to make the relationship clear. I'm afraid that in most cases, it really does not do that. 

Which is more clear to the reader and explains the relationship more precisely, "My Grand Aunt Nellie (Neill) Shanks" or "My Grandfather Neill's sister, Nellie (Neill) Shanks." I'm starting to think that the second phrasing, while containing more words and slightly more cumbersome, is a more precise description of the relationship. "My Great-grand Uncle Chris Ehmen" is not quite as clear as saying "My Great-grandmother Habben's brother Chris Ehmen." The second phrasing seems more precise to this reader and actually naming the great-grandmother by name would be even more specific, "My Great-grandmother, Tjode (Goldenstein) Habben's brother Chris Ehmen." My Great-grand Uncle Chris Ehmen" does not really describe the relationship of Ehmen to me--which great-grandparent was he a sibling to?

Writing needs to be about clarity and relationships in genealogical writing need to be stated precisely. I'm not certain "grand" and "great" as modifiers for aunt and uncle do that.

Any thoughts?

20 August 2013

Can Ancestry.com Tell Us What the Changes Are?

Is it too much to ask Ancestry.com to indicate what is "new" about a database on their search page for that database?

This image is a screen shot of the "New records on Ancestry.com" that appeared on their main website at approximately 9:00 a.m. central time today. The underlined database is the one I searched.

It would be nice if the search page for these "updated" databases had a list of when updates had been made and briefly what those updates were (enhanced images, index improvements, additional records, etc.). It is a waste of time to be told a database is "new" or "updated" and then have no way to easily determine what is "new" or "updated" about this database.

I know this database is not completely new because when I searched it for my grandfather's brother the record indicated I had already linked it to his entry in my online tree at Ancestry.com. Here is the screen shot.

Readers will have to take my word that I didn't link the record two seconds before creating this post, but I assure you that I did not. I've not actually linked records to my tree in ages and only did it in preparation for a presentation. I don't usually bother with any linking of records to my "online tree."

It would make it easier for me to use the Ancestry.com site if the search page contained a brief description of what's been changed to a database when it's listed as "new" or "updated." This database is not new as I've used it before today. The changes do not need to be veiled in mystery or buried in a blog post on their website.

Of course, Ancestry.com knows I'll keep subscribing whether they make these changes or not.

And maybe that's part of the problem.

17 August 2013

Haste Makes Waste and "How" Do I Know?

This post began with an error.

In my original haste to post this picture to another website, I incorrectly identified one of the children. The back of the original had the individuals identified, but when I was placing the names on the image I relied on my memory. The older lady in the picture I correctly identified as Nancy Jane (Newman) Rampley. She was the only person in the picture that I never actually met. The young lady on the right was her granddaughter, Nellie (Neill) Shanks (my grandfather Neill's sister). As I looked at the picture, the resemblance of the boy to my Grandfather Neill's brother Ralph was striking--striking enough that I incorrectly identified the young boy in the picture as Ralph.

The only problem was that the boy in the picture was not Ralph Neill. It was his younger brother Herschel L. Neill.

And I knew that. There were four children in the Neill family into which Ralph, Nellie and Herschel were born. Nellie was born in 1910, Herschel in 1912 and Ralph was older than them both. The boy in the picture is clearly younger than Nellie and, in my haste to post the image, I identified him as the wrong child in the family. But this is not a post about the pitfalls of hastily compiling information or identifying people in pictures.

The error was unintentional and the individuals have been correctly identified. But it got me to thinking. How do we know the identity of individuals in pictures we obtain on the internet? And, better yet, how to we track that knowledge when we do have it?

There is metadata associated with this picture of which most of us are aware:

  • when it was taken
  • who was in it
  • who likely took it
  • where it was taken
With the exception of who likely took the picture, genealogists are pretty good about the importance of who is in the picture, when it was taken and where it was taken. Usually we are not so concerned about who took the picture. 

But there is more about the picture that we need to record in some way:
  • how did I get the picture?
  • how did I identify the individuals in the picture?
  • how certain am I that these individuals are who I think they are?
In this case, the picture was identified on the back by Nellie (Neill) Shanks. The identification of Nellie as the identifier was based upon the handwriting and the fact that she was in possession of the picture upon her death. She would have been old enough to remember the individuals in the picture and might even have remembered the fact that the picture was taken. That information is just as important as who is in the picture. 

The identification of people in pictures is more than just "who" is in the picture. It is also "how" that picture was identified.  

14 August 2013

It Could Mean Nothing: Absolutely

An unusual first or middle name of an ancestor could be a significant clue. Or it could be a name that your ancestor chose for their child on a complete and utter whim and one that has no bearing on the family history other than the fact it was chosen "out of thin air" as someone's name. That "error" on a death certificate could have been an inadvertent error on the part of the records clerk who got your ancestor's record mixed up with the one he had just completed.

Sometimes in our attempt to find information we assume things are more significant than they are.

11 August 2013

Elephind Finding All that the Library of Congress Does?

On Genealogy Tip of the Day's Facebook page, we've discussed Elephind, a webiste which searches free digital newspapers at several sites at once--including the Library of Congress.

And this is where I am confused. I searched Elephind for "rampley" and the Library of Congress digital newspaper site for "rampley." The results were different as shown below with Elephind obtaining 87 hits and the Library of Congress obtaining 168. I am not certain why there is a difference, but this is somewhat frustrating as I liked Elephind's display of the text in which the reference appeared. But if the number of hits fewer than on the Library of Congress site directly, I'll have to go with the LOC site.

Suggestions for what I may be doing wrong would be appreciated-if I'm misinterpreting something I'll happily post a corrected update.

10 August 2013

Library of Congress Newspapers and Flip-Pal Webinars Released

We are excited to announce the release of my two most recent webinars: Library of Congress Digital Newspapers and Using Your Flip-Pal. These presentations are only $5 each--we try very hard to keep our costs within as many research budgets as possible. Our webinars have no sponsors so giving them away is not always a practical option, but rest assured that we don't create content worrying about whether or not some executive or editor in an office somewhere is going to cut something because they didn't like what we said or how we said it. That doesn't happen here.

Library of Congress Digital Newspapers

The United States Library of Congress has free digital images of thousands of United States newspapers, all of which can be searched and downloaded. Researchers who have never used these papers may be missing out the wide variety of material that can be hiding in newspapers. My recent webinar "Using Digital Newspapers at the Library of Congress" was recently uploaded to our website and can be ordered for immediate download.  "Using the Digital Newspapers at the Library of Congress" is a practical hands-on presentation, focusing on search techniques and making the most of this free website. This presentation shows viewers how to search the inventory of online papers, view the newspaper's history, determine what papers are actually on the site, search actual papers, browse those newspapers for manual searches, interact with search results, and save and share located materials. This presentation is available for immediate download via this link .


I have just released my webinar on using a Flip-Pal scanner. If you've not purchased a Flip-Pal because you've never seen one in operation or just want an overview of this gadget, then this presentation will meet your needs. I demonstrate several basic scans, both using the machine right-side-up and upside-down (for larger or bound items). I also show how to adjust scanning settings and using the stitching program to stitch partial scans of larger items together. And along the way, there's a few additional tips mentioned as well. This presentation can be downloaded for only $5 via this link. Download is immediate.

Viewing is for personal use only.

Note: My Flip-Pal was purchased with my own funds and this presentation was not sponsored or supported by Flip-Pal. I am an affiliate of

Sidewalks in Rock Island

One never knows what type of information one will encounter in a newspaper. This image comes from an 1897 issue of the Rock Island Argus and was discovered while I was presenting a webinar on using the digital newspapers in the Chronicling America collection at the Library of Congress website.
Rock Island Argus., October 06, 1897, Page 2, Image 2
List of lot owners who are having sidewalks built on their property is not something a person typically encounters. The individuals of interest were the Mortiers, both of whom had lots in George L. Davenport's addition to the City of Rock Island. Armed with the description of the location, land deeds and other information could be located. The Mortier men are listed as working for the Rock Island Lumber Company who is listed as owning a lot in Stickney's Addition. The lumber company may not have been as close to the Mortiers' apparent residences as the newspaper listing may seem to imply. A map would answer that question

The item was located in the digital images of newspapers available on the Library of Congress'  Chronicling America collection. The images are fully searchable although readers are advised of the typical warnings regarding occasional difficulties in OCR in using databases of this type.

Ordering information for the webinar can be found here.

08 August 2013

President Lincoln Has No Descendants CNN

This is part of the "From Around the Web" page that appeared on CNN at approximately 6:00 PM central time on 8 August 2013.

The link actually goes to a blog post from Ancestry.com that discusses how George Clooney is related to President Lincoln--the article never says that Clooney is descended from Lincoln. President Lincoln has no living descendants.

I'm not certain who wrote the headline in the link above but it's misleading and actually, incorrect.

Ancestry.com's Take on the Naturalization Process

The image above is a screen shot of a post that ran across my Facebook newsfeed on 7 August 2013 from Ancestry.com. I don't know who wrote it, but I do know one thing: I didn't write it.

The first step in the naturalization process is filing a declaration of intention. The naturalization petition (to which the post refers) is filed at the end of the process usually right before the individual is naturalized. The declaration of intent is sometimes referred to as the "first papers." The naturalization petition (particularly before 1906) usually provides sketchy information, although sometimes researchers get lucky and more detail is included. The declaration of intention (if still extant) is usually the document that is more likely to provide the detailed information referred to in the Ancestry.com post.

Genealogy is about details, accurate details.  Errors in Ancestry.com user-submitted trees are one things--user-submitted material is going to contain errors. This is different.

And the word "naturalization" in the last sentence does not need to be in capitalized. But that's a separate issue.

07 August 2013

Arkansas First Draft Registration Cards 1940-1945 Update

Updated on FamilySearch since our last update:

Arkansas, First Draft Registration Cards, 1940-1945

Evidently What I Found Was Not Proof But There's Evidence I Found It

When I locate a pension application for a widow where she states her maiden name, that's evidence of her maiden name--not proof. One document making a statement is not proof of that statement.

When I group the pension application where she states her maiden name, along with the church record that gives a slightly different variant of that name, along with her father's will that names her as his daughter, and every other record that provides a statement of evidence about her maiden name and I discuss those records, analyze them, and write up an analysis-that's proof.

Proof is the summarizing and analyzing of evidence (statements) about a person, event, or relationship and stating the conclusion based upon that evidence. It doesn't have to be difficult or overly verbose, particularly if records are easily located and consistent with each other. It when they difficult to locate or inconsistent that writing up the proof is more difficult because there's not always much evidence upon which to base our proof.

Evidence we find. Proof we write up.

The only way to "find proof" is to discover that someone else has done the complete exhaustive research and written it up. Otherwise what we find is evidence.

This post is:

Read Evidence Explained to learn more about evidence and proof.

Certification Responses and Comments

Quite a few readers emailed me privately in response to my post about starting my portfolio for BCG certification, so I've decided to occasionally mention various aspects of that process as there is apparently more interest in it that I thought. So from time to time, I'll mention various aspects of my portfolio preparation, but I won't bore readers with too much minutia.

The certification process is heavy on writing, which as regular readers know is one of my favorite analytical tools. Finding a family that I've not used too much in my own writing and blogging is difficult. I've written about many of my families regularly for Casefile Clues and other publications so there's no family that's "fresh," but I think I have found a good one to use.

I have received my document to transcribe, but so far it is sitting on my desk. I'm already a month into the process and it's time to get cracking.

06 August 2013

1940 Family Educational Levels

Have you looked at the amount of schooling your relatives had in the 1940 census? Just to see if my thoughts were correct, I looked up the claimed educational level of all my living ancestors at the time of the 1940 census. Anna Habben's 4th grade education coincides closely with the family's immigration to the United States from Germany.

  • Charles Neill (great-grandfather-St. Albans Twp.)--8th grade.
  • Fannie Neill  (great-grandmother-St. Albans Twp.)--8th grade.
  • Fred Ufkes (great-grandfather-Bear Creek Twp.)-8th grade.
  • Tena Ufkes (great-grandmother-Bear Creek Twp.)-6th grade.
  • John Ufkes (grandfather-Bear Creek Twp.)-4 years of high school.
  • Mimka Habben (great-grandfather, Prairie Twp.)-8th grade.
  • Tjode Habben (great-grandmother, Prairie Twp.)-8th grade.
  • Dorothy Habben (grandmother, Prairie Twp.) 3 years of high school (she graduated the 4th year the next year).
  • Cecil Neill (grandfather, Prairie Twp.)-8th grade.
  • Ida Neill (grandmother, Prairie Twp.)-8th grade.
  • Anna Habben (great-great-grandmother, village of Elvaston, Prairie Twp)-4th grade

Texas County Tax Rolls Updated on FamilySearch

Updated on FamilySearch since our last update:

Texas, County Tax Rolls, 1846-1910

05 August 2013

A Church in the Distance

How closely do you look for clues in the backgrounds of pictures?

When the below was enlarged, there was a faint shadow as shown in the oval:

photo of Frederick Ufkes (1893-1960), taken near Basco, Illinois; digital image (c) 2013 Michael John Neill
Had I not known where the photograph was taken, the church would have been a clue. It is the Immanuel Lutheran Church east of Basco in Hancock County, Illinois. The church is in close proximity to the farm on which Fred spent his entire life.

Are there clues lingering in the background of your pictures?
Reminder: Copying and publishing or posting pictures from the websites of others is not only considered bad form, it's also unethical, illegal, and an indication that the copier was too lazy to bother and ask if they could use the image.

04 August 2013

Exhausting Those Homesteaders Who Regularly Attend Church in Nebraska

Genealogists talk about "exhaustive search" and what it entails. Generally speaking, it means look at all material that could reasonably answer the question at hand. I understand the concept of "exhaustive search," it does serve a purpose. And I do "get" why it is important--largely because there are people who only research one or two documents and declare themselves done.

Not me. 

I prefer to use "brute force" research. Get everything you can. Everything. And then keep looking and realize that there may always be something you have yet to uncover. But really, you never know what a record will say until you have seen it. Records that contain affidavits are particularly rich in "who knows what they'll put in there."  Such is the case with the homestead application of Jurgen Ehmen in Dawson County, Nebraska.

Renke Kaiser is one of the witnesses in Ehmen's claim from the 1880s.

Where We've Lived Before

Kaiser documents in his affidavit where Ehmen lived before settling in Nebraska, beginning with Ehmen living in Illinois in the 1860s. Kaiser states that he has known Ehmen for over twenty years, apparently since they were living in Illinois.  One of the neighbors mentioned in Kaiser's statement is Focke Goldenstein--actually a relative of Ehmen and the great-grandfather of yours truly.
Testimony of Renke Kaiser, 23 November 1887, Completed Homestead application of Jurgen  Ehmen, Dawson County, Nebraska, Township 11 North-24 West, section 18; digital image,  Fold3.com.
Kaiser indicates the Illinois counties in which Ehmen lived. This was a significant clue as the ethnic group (Ostfriesen) of which all these men were members settled heavily in Adams County, Illinois, and Dawson County, Nebraska. But Knox County, Illinois? That was an unusual place for an Ostfriesen to live and a place that warrants research as to why Ehmen was there (supposition is that he worked for the railroad).

Going to Church

Kaiser even states that he seens Ehmen regularly at church on Sunday and that the church was "near there."  One doesn't always think of homestead records as providing clues as to church attendance. But there it was.

Testimony of Renke Kaiser, 23 November 1887, Completed Homestead application of Jurgen  Ehmen, Dawson County, Nebraska, Township 11 North-24 West, section 18; digital image,  Fold3.com

Ehmen's other witness Eime Friesenborg also indicates in a statement from the same date as Kaiser's that he also sees Ehmen at church every Sunday. His statement includes similar statements about Ehmen's residences before he lived in Nebraska and that he had known Ehmen for twenty years.

Of course, Goldenstein probably attended the same church as the other men. And the reason why Goldenstein did not testify in Ehmens claim: relatives were not supposed to appear as witnesses in these claims.

Brute force with some finesse and some time spent reading. It may be just what your research needs.

That Photo With the Vague Back

This is the front of the photograph whose back we posted a few days ago. Fortunately I knew one of the individuals in the picture without the identification on the back.

This is the reverse side of the photograph as published in an earlier blog post:
I'm not exactly certain who wrote on the photo, but here is what the back says, along with some annotations.

Geos' Tena
Freds Tena Nov 1986 di
Bert's Margaurite
Tena myself & Tena 3
Ufkes inlaws left.

The photograph was apparently taken in 1982 and is of Tena (Janssen) Ufkes, Tena (Bruns) Ufkes and Margaurite (Wetterich) Ufkes. The three were sisters-in-law and were married to brothers George Ufkes, Fred Ufkes, and Bertus Ufkes--hence the phrase "Geos' Tena" and "Freds Tena."

The "Nov 1986 di" reference after "Freds Tena" is an apparent reference to her date of death of November of 1986.

I'm not certain where the photograph was taken, but if I had to bet, it was probably in July of 1982 at the Ufkes reunion.

Sometimes without knowing a little bit about the family it makes it difficult to really understand what the person meant--especially when the clues on the item are a little cryptic.
Note: Tena (Janssen) Ufkes, wife of Fred, is my great-grandmother.

03 August 2013

Joseph Melburn Neill: Why We Get the "Original"

This birth certificate for James Melburn Neill from 1879 in Hancock County, Illinois, is an excellent example of why obtaining the original is frequently recommended. 

This birth is indexed at FamilySearch in their database of Illinois births. When the index entry there was viewed, I originally thought that the "Melburn" in James Melburn Neill was a misreading of "Murphy" and that the transcriber had simply made a mistake.  Murphy was the maiden name of Joseph's mother--Annie Murphy--and that easily could have been his middle name. I expected the original would have a difficult to read middle name that could be interpreted as "Murphy."

I was wrong.

It said "Melburn."

So much for the Murphy theory. But the original made it clear that the name was not Murphy.

The second issue with the certificate is that it appears to have been completed by two different people. The letters "S" and "M" have been marked in the digital image above (which was made from the microfilm). Whether the different handwritings are significant has not yet been determined. But researchers should always consider the possibility that a black and white microfilmed image was actually a record that had been completed by two individuals.

I'm weighing looking at the original. In this case it may not be significant--the Melburn is my concern at this point. But obtaining the image told me the middle name was correct on the transcription. And the apparently multiple handwritings would never have been noticed if I had not obtained the image.

To top if off, for years I didn't research Joseph Neill. I knew that his middle initial was "M." and had concluded incorrectly that it either stood for Murphy, his mother's maiden name, or Michael, a common Irish first name.

As usual, assumptions can limit research.

02 August 2013

Stitching Together the Bowen Illinois High School Class of 1929

This is a scan of the graduating class from Bowen, Illinois, High School in 1929 made from an original in the possession of a daughter of one of the graduates. My grandfather's sister is on the far left in the third row from the top. The scan was done using my  Flip-Pal  scanner.

1929 High School graduating class, Bowen, Illinois.

A few comments about the original:

  • There was a "spot" over the third guy in the second row down. I didn't try to clean it.
  • The gray trim was missing from part of the picture.
  • The black rectangles are because I inadvertently cut off part of the "white background." I didn't have time to go back and rescan.
There were originally 5 scans that were stitched together to create this image. I scanned one part "twice" because I was not certain the original scan had taken. The software was not confused by the repetitive nature of my scanning.

I only know the names of the two ladies who are identified in the picture. Additional comments about the identities of anyone else are welcome.

That Vague Photo Back

Sometimes it is all about context.

This appeared on the back of a photograph I located in my grandparents' things.  It's intended to identify the people in the photograph on the other side. But without knowing anything about the people in the picture it can be a little difficult to interpret.

Sunday we'll have an update and an explanation.

Third Parties, Aggregators, and Bigger is Better Databases

The "United States, Public Records Index" was just updated on FamilySearch. With over 70 million names, it is bound to draw attention and, like any source, it should be used responsibly and as a potential clue-not as a fact.

But how this information was obtained is a little sketchy.

This is from the description on FamilySearch:

"This collection is an index of names, birthdates, addresses, phone numbers, and possible relatives of people who resided in the five boroughs of New York City between 1970 and 2010. These records were generated from telephone directories, driver licenses, property tax assessments, credit applications, voter registration lists and other records available to the public." There are entries for outside the New York State area.

I always thought indexes lead you to another record--the original record. That's one way in which Dictionary.com defines an index. Although I see that Dictionary.com also defines index as "a sequential arrangement of material." I'm not certain that a database of this type qualifies as an index in this sense either as users never "see" the entire "index" like they would a phone book. Users query the database and see what matches their search terms.

This is the "source" information as listed on the FamilySearch site:

"United States, Public Records Index." Index. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2013. From a third party aggregator of publicly available information."

"Third party aggregator?" Sounds like data harvesting to me--which isn't bad, but "third party" sounds a little vague. "Publicly available information" seems a little broad as well--that covers a lot ground and is somewhat non-descript. Sounds like something a private investigator or bill collector might use to track someone down.

The vague nature of this database makes evaluation of perceived reliability difficult.

Some say "any data is better than no data at all."

Sometimes I wonder.

August 2013 Webinars

We have just posted our listing of August 2013 webinars.

Topics include:

  • Using Google Books
  • Using Your FlipPal
  • Library of Congress Online Newspapers
  • Analyzing Land Records
  • Federal Land Strategies
  • Finding and Using City Directories
To view more details, time schedule, or to register, visit our announcement page:

01 August 2013

BCG Certification: "On the Clock"

For a variety of personal and professional reasons, I've decided to seek certification from the Board for Certification of Genealogists and am "on the clock." Occasional posts here may mention this process, but this blog will not turn into a certification diary in any way.

Boston Passenger Lists 1820-1891 Updated on FamilySearch

New or updated on FamilySearch since our last update:

Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1891

Dead In A Shed- A Backyard Death in Rock Island

Life was not always easy for some immigrants to the United States. Some were not as fortunate as others and did not find success and prosperity in the new world.

Such was the case of Alphons Poper.

The article on Poper was of interest because it contained references to to the actual subject, August Mortier. Little is known about Mortier's life in Rock Island and it was hoped that a search of digital newspapers would provide some clues on his life. The Belgian immigrant arrived with his young family in 1880 and immediately settled in the Quad City area where, like many he left a small scattering of records documenting his existence, his wife and children, and where he lived--but not much more.

Apparently in 1895, he was running a boarding house at his home on 5 and a Half Avenue. The residence was already known, but I was unaware he ran a boarding house at that time. Poper had fallen down on his luck and Mortier had apparently taken some pity on him in early July of 1895, feeding him and giving him something to drink later in the day.

Not wanting the disheveled man  to sleep in the barn on his property, Mortier went to arouse him that evening and found him dead in the barn.
Rock Island Argus, 8 July 1895, p. 5; digital image, Library of Congress

One never knows what one will find when searching in the newspaper. There were not a lot of clues about August here, but I did learn that he did take some pity on a fellow Belgian who was down on his luck. Sometimes those are things we don't discover in court and other records--and this family is not one that left diaries, letters, and other materials.

It Was Yoe and Not FamilySearch-Why Line Numbers Are Good to Include in 1920 Census Citations

It's easy to assume that the transcriber is wrong and there has been a mistake made on the part of the human who copied the record. That's not always true.

This is the entry on FamilySearch in their 1920 census for my Neill great-grandparents and their children. For some apparent reason, they have been "lumped" in with the adjacent Young family as shown in this screen shot. On the surface, it's tempting to think that FamilySearch has it wrong and that two households have been "merged."

Why are they lumped together? Who has it wrong? It's not the fault of FamilySearch. It is the fault of Adelbert Yoe, the enumerator.

Yoe apparently got off on his numbers.  The entry above linked me to an image of the 1920 census which I had actually already located (1920 U. S. Census, Hancock County, Illinois, St. Albans Township, ED 25, sheet 7A, Charlie Neill, household, lines 42-47). That image of the actual census is shown below. To be honest, I had never noticed the previous household headed by Elbert Young had the same dwelling and family numbers as the household headed by Charles T. Neill.

The lumping together appears to have been a simple error on the part of the census taker. If the households had been actually living together in the same dwelling, the dwelling number would have been the same and the family numbers would have been different--and it's pretty clear that these are two separate families.

My citation for this entry includes the line numbers because the line numbers are unique to this household--the other numbers are not. My analysis of this entry should include a brief discussion of how the dwelling and household numbers are repeated for two families in a row and why I think this is an error.


I'm a strong believer in citations and in my work (and in Casefile Clues) I cite material in the spirit of Evidence Explained. Here on the Rootdig blog, I have a different philosophy. Posts made here have enough information that the reader could locate where the material was obtained.

FamilySearch-20th Century US Military Indexes

The following are showing as new on FamilySearch since our last update: