31 October 2013

New On FamilySearch-Montana Materials

New on FamilySearch since our last update:

Montana, Judith Basin County Records, 1887-2012

Montana, Big Horn, County Records, 1884-2011

Rufus Stephens and Clarissa--Both Sets

This is the 1850 census enumeration for "person of interest" Rufus D. Stephens (town of Port Huron, St. Clair, County, Michigan). The 81-year old is living with his apparent wife, Clarisa aged 68.

Rufus cannot be located in any later federal censuses in Michigan. It is believed that he died after this 1850 census enumeration and before the 1860 enumeration. This conclusion is solely based upon the fact that he cannot be located in 1860. It is very possible that he is enumerated in 1860 under a spelling or handwriting that has been overlooked.

Attempts have been made to locate Rufus in earlier census records. Based upon the place of birth for his likely child Aaron, it is thought that the Stephens family lived in New York before they lived in Michigan. There is a Rufus Stephens who appears in Lewis County, New York in several pre-1850 census records.

Location and details
Enumerated as Rufus Stephens in Lewis County, New York. Oldest male was 26-44, page 702 (right hand side).
Enumerated as Rufus Stephens in Lowville, Lewis County, New York. Oldest male was 26-44. In Lowville—page 249.
Enumerated as Rufus Stephens in Lowville, Lewis County, New York. Oldest male was  40-49, page 388
Enumerated as Rufus Stephens in Lowville, Lewis County, New York. Oldest male between 60-69 , page 42, stamped upper right.

Concluding that this Rufus is the one who is living in Pt. Huron, Michigan in 1850 would be a mistake. 

Good research practice indicates that the 1850 US Census for Lewis County, New York, should be searched for a Rufus--this is one way to get a better fix on the Lewis County Rufus Stephens and determine if he could be the one for whom I am looking.

Sure enough, there is a Rufus Stephens living in 1850 in :Lowville, Lewis County, New York (stamped upper right page 186).

It is seen as a coincidence that the wife in both cases is named Clarissa. The Lewis County Stephenses are approximately ten years younger than the ones in St. Clair County, Michigan in 1850.This Rufus Stephens is apparently enumerated in Lewis County, New York, again in 1860 as an eighty-year old Connecticut native (enumerated in Lowville, stamped page number 63, line 12). 

Additional records on the Rufus of interest, Rufus D. Stephens, indicate that he actually spent some time in Ontario's Yarmouth Township in the 1830s and 1840s. That Rufus D. Stephens consistently uses a middle initial and in the 1842 Canadian census, Rufus D. Stephens has a near neighbor Arvin Butler who is also his apparent neighbor in St. Clair County, Michigan in 1850.

Tracking down the Lewis County, New York, Rufus has made it pretty clear to me that the man of that name enumerated there in 1810 through 1860 is not my Rufus Stephens. There would have been too much moving back and forth for all the dates to fit and it would be odd for Rufus to "move home" just to be enumerated in the census. 

Lesson-Never "grab" a census entry that "fits" and assume that it is the person of interest. Track that "new" person in prior and subsequent census records to see if he (or she) is existing at the same time as your ancestor, only in a different place. 

It's clear in this case that Lewis County, New York, Rufus is one person and he's not the Rufus for whom I am looking. Unfortunately for me the one I need moved around quite a bit more than the one I don't need.

29 October 2013

Updated on FamilySearch: NV Marriages and 1870 Census

The following are showing as updated on FamilySearch since our last posting:

United States Census, 1870

Nevada, Marriage Index, 1956-2005

Clues in a Cow-Calf Picture

I posted this picture to my "Genealogy Tip of the Day" page on Facebook to see if they could guess when it was taken. I've seen the picture numerous times--that's me in the background. I know when it was taken. But it still makes a good genealogy photo exercise as there are several clues as to when this picture was taken. Some of those clues will be more apparent to some readers than others.

The car

There is a car in the upper right hand corner of the picture that could be used to aid in dating the picture--or at least knowing the earliest point in time when it was taken. I'm not a car buff, but a Facebook commenter indicated it was a 1972 Monte Carlo.

The caps

Both my brother and I are wearing ball caps (with the Pioneer seed corn logo). These caps were not commonly worn before a certain point in time (don't ask me because I don't remember a time when people did not wear them.). I've got earlier pictures of my Dad with his show cattle and I don't seem to remember him wearing a cap or hat of this type.

The cattle

This is an Angus cow and calf in the picture. There was a point in time when show cattle were short and "low to the ground." This picture was taken after that time had passed and taller cattle were more in vogue. Pictures of my Dad with his show cattle (also Angus) make this cow-calf combination look tall by comparison.

The school

There is a building in the background. The style of architecture suggests it was built in the 1950s or 1960s (probably).

The metal panel

There is a metal panel behind us in the picture, used to create a temporary fence or corral (in this case to help keep escaped animals from getting too far away). This type of panelling has not always been used. I am not certain when it came into vogue, but researchers with an interest could probably do a little digging.

I avoided a discussion of clothes, largely because that's not my "thing" and I personally find jeans, boots and dress shirts had to date.

The actual year? 

This picture was taken in 1977 (probably). I'd have to ask my Mother to be certain. How did I know that? This was my first 4-H project and I started 4-H after I turned eight. I couldn't show that first summer, so it would have been the summer I turned 9.

FamilySearch: Putnam Co. TN Records

Updated since our last FamilySearch update:

Tennessee, Putnam County Records, 1842-1955

28 October 2013

Casefile Clues Issue Topics

Part of getting myself organized is getting Casefile Clues back on track. Here is a list of titles and topics from volume 3.


  •  Issue 1- A Method to the Madness: Starting A Search for William Rhodus. Beginning a search on a man whose first "known" document is an 1860 marriage record in Missouri.
  •  Issue 2-"Know" Objection That I Know Of: Letters of Consent and a Bond from a 1798 Marriage. This column analyzes a set of marriage consents from the marriage of Thomas Sledd and Sally Tinsley in Amherst County, Virginia, in 1798. 
  •  Issue 3-Thomas and Elizabeth Frame: Arriving Outside the Time Frame. This column discusses establishing an immigration framework for an English immigrant family to American in the 1860s.
  •   Issue 4-An 1873 Chicago Naturalization: Two Thomases to Confuse. This column looks at the 1873 naturalization of Thomas Frame from Cook County, Illinois
  •  Issue 5-Copied from the Ashes: The 1850 Declaration of Peter Bigger. This column looks at a declaration of intent to become a citizen from Hamilton County, Ohio, that was recreated or copied from the partially burned one. 
  • Issue 6-A Venture into Harford County: A 1790-Era Grant and Deed. This column looks at two land records from Harford County, Maryland, the patent to James Rampley and the subsequent deed of sale for part of that property about a year later. 
  • Issue 7-Potatoes Not Worth Digging: The 1863 Personal Inventory of Paul Freund. This column analyzes an 1863 estate inventory from Davenport, Iowa, paying particular attention to clues that might provide details about Paul's occupation and origin.
  •   Issue 8-We Were at the Wedding: A Civil War Pension Affidavit. This column looks at an affidavit made out in California in the early 1900s regarding a marriage that took place in Michigan nearly fifty ears earlier. Accuracy of information along with research suggestions are included.
  • Issue 9-Finding William and Rebecca in 1840. Discusses a search for a couple in their first census enumeration as man and wife.
  • Issue 10-More Brick Walls From A to Z. Another installment in our popular series of brick wall techniques from A to Z.
  •  Issue 11-Mulling Over a Deposition: Testifying For a Fifty-Year Neighbor. This column analyzes a deposition made in  Revolutionary War pension case where the deponent has known the applicant for fifty years. Plenty of clues and leads to analyze in this document.
  • Issue 12-An 1836 Kentucky Will. This column includes a transcription and an analysis of an 1836 Kentucky will.
  • Issue 13-An 1815 Marriage: Augusta Newman and Belinda Sledd. This column analyzes a marriage register entry and marriage bond for this couple in Bourbon County, Kentucky.
  • Issue 14-Going Back: James and Elizabeth Rampley in 1850. This 1850 census enumeration is completely analyzed for clues on this apparently well-documented family.
  • Issue 15-Selling My Part of My Father's Farm: An 1820 Deed From Maryland. This column looks at a Harford County, Maryland, deed where Thomas Rampley transfers his ownership in his father's farm to his brother. The relationship is not stated in the document, but all clues are completely analyzed and research suggestions given.
  • Issue 16-At the Baby's Birth in 1859. This column looks at a proof of birth for an 1859 birth as given in a Civil War children's pension file.
  • Issue 17-Dead or Alive: G. W. Garrett?  This column looks at a transcription of a guardianship order contained in a Union Civil War pension application. The document is somewhat unclear and indicates that further research is necessary.
  • Issue 18-From a Life Estate to a Fee Simple. This column looks at an 1880 era deed that essentially converts a wife's life estate in a ten acre parcel into one that is a fee simple title. Of course, the deed does not explicitly state that.
  • Issue 19-An Estate of Inheritance: Benjamin Sells His Forty. This column looks at an 1840 era deed from Michigan. Interpreting boilerplate text must be done with care. Benjamin left few records about his origins and this one is maximized for all the clues it contains. 
  •  Issue 20-Giving Up Germany: An 1855 Declaration of Intent. This column looks at an 1855 declaration of intent for George Trautvetter--what it says about him and what it does not.
  • Issue 21-Analyzed in Isolation: An 1855 Guardianship Appointment. This column looks at an 1855 guardianship appointment from Scott County, Iowa.
  • Issue 22-Get Off My Rented Ground: An 1812 Ejectment Survey. A Bourbon County, Kentucky survey that was the result of a court case.
  •  Issue 23-Our Daughter Can Get Hitched: An 1868 Marriage. A underaged bride never goes to the courthouse with her intended to get the license.
  •  Issue 24: About My Husband: Cook County Divorce Statements. This issue takes a look at several statements made in an early 20th century divorce in Cook County, Illinois.
  •  Issue 25-Giving Grandma My Claim. A homestead claim is transferred from a twenty-something female to her aged grandmother in response to a neighbor’s petition.
  •  Issue 26-Contingent Life Estates: the 1912 Will of James Rampley. This will provided for a contingent life estate to one of Rampley’s heirs.
  •  Issue 27-My Grandpa Owned this Farm: The 1942 Affidavit of James Rampley. This statement made in the 1940s documented land ownership for approximately one hundred years earlier.
  •  Issue 28-Too Many Margarets: The 1850and 1860 Census Enumerations of Michael Trautvetter. This issue looks at some confusing census enumerations from Campbell County, Kentucky.
  • Issue 29-The Straw Man: Thomas Tipton in the Credit Under File of James Shores. This issue looks at a file for a credit under purchase of federal land where a straw man was used to complete the transcation.
  • Issue 30-A Year to File: the Death Certificate of Lucinda Kile. This issue takes a look at a death certificate that was filed nearly a year after Lucinda Kile died in Mercer County, Illinois in the 1870s.
  •  Issue 31-Two Sentences: the 1902 Will of August Mortier. This issue takes a look at a two-sentence will from 1902. There’s always more to things than meets the eye.
  •  Issue 32-One Fifth to You: A “Son” Sells His Part. A deed from Nicholas County, Kentucky, where a man styled as the “son” of the deceased sells his interest in the family farm.
  • Issue 33- Why Do I Get 9/567th of Grandpa’s Farm: Fun With Fractions. This issue of Casefile Clues explains how one heir received 9/567th of his grandfather’s farm. It’s not quite as straight forward as you may think.
  •  Issue 34- The Cawiezells Come to Davenport: Estimating Immigration Information. This issues uses census information to formulate an immigrant search strategy for a Swiss family.
  •  Issue 35- Mastering Deeds: Samuel’s Heirs Go to Court. A family fights over their deceased father’s farm resulting in a judge issuing a deed for the property.
  •  Issue 36-M is for Melburn: An 1879 Birth Certificate. Completely analyzing a birth certificate where the middle name’s significance is still not understood.
  •  Issue 37-The Clerk Can’t Find What Is Right There: An 1851 Marriage in St. Louis. A marriage record in St. Louis that the records clerk was unable to locate in the 1890s because he failed to look page by page.
  • Issue 38-My Sun May Marry: Two Kentucky Marriage Bonds. This issue takes a look at two marriage bonds from early 19th century Kentucky where the witness was the real person of interest.
  • Issue 39-Tonyes or Tonjes: A Minor Naturalization from 1889. This issue looks at a minor naturalization from 1889 that provides clues about the witness as well as the individual being naturalized.

You can purchase current year 3 issues 1-39 for $12. A complete list of topics beginning with volume 1 issue 1 can be seen here.

26 October 2013

President Lincoln Does Not Have Descendants

We don't normally get remotely close to Miley Cyrus on this blog, but ad for something about her appeared next to an ad Ancestry.com involving President Abraham Lincoln. The ads appear in a "From the Web" section of ads "sponsored content by Taboola" and were noticed tonight while viewing news content sites. The ads did not appear on a genealogy site.

It would be fine except that President Abraham Lincoln has no descendants. Not one. His last great-grand child died some time ago and was the last direct descendant of the former president.

I realize it's a minor detail and I may be nitpicking, but rumor has it that some genealogists do make distinctions between relatives and descendants. That's sarcasm (grin!).  The article to which the ad links does not actually claim there are "new" Lincoln descendants, just that George Clooney is a Lincoln relative. Whoever created the headline either did not read the article or does not know the difference between a descendant and a relative.

Despite who made the mistake, it still makes a statement.

If Citing Is All You Do......

Citing sources is never enough. It's a great start, but there's more, particularly in those cases where information is scant and sources that can be found are not forthcoming with sufficient detail.

Adequately documenting our process matters--it matters to our research and our conclusions. Because it is important, I do get frustrated when sites have search interfaces that are confusing or have interfaces that emphasize "fuzzy" searches that are difficult for the typical research to understand. When one does not understand how a "fuzzy" search works, it makes troubleshooting difficult.

Knowing how a site searches and knowing that a site searches "correctly" is always important for the genealogist. This is especially when research conclusions are based, at least in part, on searches performed on that site. There are times when knowing how searches were conducted impacts the amount of credence we give to a research argument. Documenting that search process is an integral part of analysis. I know there are some researchers who think that documenting the "why" and "how" is unnecessary. I am not one of those. I don't want to know where you parked your car at a library, but do I want to know what name variants you looked for in the records that were there, and how you queried the library's databases in an attempt to find items in various collections.

We will summarize an example.

William Sargent married Ellen Butler in October of 1870 in Davis County, Iowa. There are no later records on Ellen that provide any indication as to her family of origin. Her 1880 census enumeration is her last record period. This leaves only two records providing any information on Ellen--her October of 1870 marriage and her 1880 census enumeration.

An indirect argument as to the family of origin for Ellen centered on the belief that she would have been living in or near Davis County, Iowa, at the time of the 1870 census--conducted a few months before her marriage. While she could have lived elsewhere at the time, it was decided that her 1870 census enumeration location was near her marriage location.

A search of Ancestry.com's 1870 census index was conducted for individuals named Ellen Butler within a one county radius of Davis. A detailed discussion of the search will not be included in this post, but the determination of a possible family of origin for Ellen hinged upon being able to search the 1870 census at Ancestry.com for individuals who matched certain know criteria, specifically:

  • name of Ell* But*
  • born between 1851-1857
  • born in Missouri or Iowa
  • probable parents born in Michigan or New York.
  • Living in Union County, Iowa, or an adjacent county, in 1870
There are of course potential problems with searching based upon clues obtained in one census. Let's put those aside for just a minute. 

Matches to those search criteria were analyzed--all but one of the 1870 hits could be eliminated as being the Ellen of interest. The remaining Ellen was tentatively identified as being the Ellen of interest. 

In my "proof" it's not sufficient to say that I "found" a match and that's the one. The citation of the 1870 census entry is necessary, but all it does is help me find that entry. It does not tell me why I believe that entry if "my" Ellen. 

Just because one person matched does not mean I have found the correct person. My analysis needs to discuss how I searched the census (including my search parameters, wildcards, etc.), what site I used, and how I eliminated the other matches. All of that needs to be a part of my argument. The citation is a minor part--necessary, but minor.

There is no way another researcher can agree with my conclusion if they are not privy with the website I searched and how I searched on that site. If my search terms were inadequate or wildcards were not included, then my conclusion is not valid as I may very well have not discovered all "reasonable" matches. 

A Conjecture Regarding Gertice

Documents should always be transcribed as they are written, but...

This is part of the 1880 US Federal Census Mortality Schedules for Hancock County, Illinois' Harmony Township. 

There is little doubt that the enumerator wrote "Gertice Gretke" on the top line shown below. That is exactly how I'd transcribe it because that is exactly what it looks like.

However, that's not what I think the name is and I would certainly add a comment as a part of my transcription of this name. The first four names shown on this document are all Prussian natives according to the enumeration. The names on lines three and four are relatives of mine. The Habbens were immigrants from the Wiesens area of Ostfriesland, Germanny. There was a heavy Ostfriesen settlement in the area and Harm Jurgen is likely a member of that settlement as is Gretke. Gretke is an Ostfriesen name. Gertice is not and it is likely a mishearing and incorrect spelling of "Gerdes." 

I'm not certain and I have no proof, so any comment made regarding the name actually having been Gerdes is conjecture. However, based upon the common nature of the Gerdes name within the Ostfriesen community, I'd be willing to bet that is what the last name actually is.

How familiar are you with the common last names from your ancestor's ethnic neighborhood? Becoming more familiar might give you an edge in interpreting and understanding records.

And it is always important to remember that conjecture is just that: conjecture.

24 October 2013

Getting Reasons in the Chronology

This is part of a chronology I'm working on for an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues. While sources are a part of any chronology or compiled item, I find it more helpful to include a column in my chronology for a "justification from [the] record."  I cite these records (which hasn't been included here), but find that creating the justification column keeps me on track and reminds me later of not just what document I used, but "what I was thinking" when I entered an event or a date.

Sometimes we can remember the source we used, but our remembering our reasoning is another story.

Justification from Record
3 June 1868 or before
Tonjes Goldenstein born in Germany.
Tonjes’ statement indicated he had arrived at the age of twenty-one years.
3 June 1882 or before
Tonjes Goldenstein arrived in the United States, apparently settling originally in Illinois.
Tonjes’ statement indicated that he had lived in the United States and Illinois for seven years.

Citation reminder: We are a strong believer in citing genealogical source material in the spirit of Evidence ExplainedHowever, we choose not to include properly formatted citations in these blog posts. There's always enough information in the post to create a citation and full citations are included in my how-to newsletter Casefile Clues. 

23 October 2013

When Is Ernestine Trautvetter Not Ernestine Trautvetter?

This is the entry for an Ernestine Trautvetter as is appears in the "United States Germans to America Index, 1850-1897" on FamilySearch. The entry was of interest as there are Ernestines in my own Trautvetter family and the name combination is not all that common. The date of immigration was also "right in the middle" of when various members of my family were immigrating.

I went to Ancestry.com to view the actual image. The problem was that a search for Ernestine Trautvetter did not produce the entry as indicated on FamilySearch. After some doing, and searching based only on first name, I found the following entry that I'm pretty certain is the individual referenced on FamilySearch.

The problem is that the last name isn't Trautvetter. It's close (in a loose definition of the word), but the other details of the person matched--first name, age and date of arrival.

Sure enough, that's the last name on the entry. I was pretty certain that this entry is the one FamilySearch was actually referenced because not only did first name, age, date of landing and name of ship matched, but this person also died on board.

Death on the ship was not uncommon.

A manual search of the manifest did not locate any references to Trautvetter or other Ernestines that could have been the one to which FamilySearch was referring.

It is always worth your time to view the original.

This was one Trautvetter that wasn't.

All searches and images were made and obtained as of the date of this post.

22 October 2013

Why FamilySearch's "United States, Public Record Index (FamilySearch Historical Records)" Is Not Included in Announcements

I regularly include in this blog notices of databases and image sets on FamilySearch that have been newly released or updated.

I choose not to include any notices on this blog about "United States, Public Record Index (FamilySearch Historical Records)."

I realize this database can help researchers find relatively current people as it contains information from 1970 through 2010. I realize that it comes from publicly available information. I'm not opposed to public records--far from it.  The concern I have about it is that when an entry is located in this database, there is no way the researcher can tell from where the original reference was obtained. There is no way to know where to "get more."

If I were working as a private investigator or a bill collector, etc. that would be great.

But I'm not.

I'm a genealogist and sound genealogy methodology indicates (at least to me) that I use sources whose validity I can adjudicate to the best of my ability. It is difficult for me to do that when FamilySearch does not tell me where they obtained the information. The only information regarding "source" on the FamilySearch site are the following statements (current as of this posting):

  • These records were generated from telephone directories, driver licenses, property tax assessments, credit applications, voter registration lists and other records available to the public. 
  • These records have been gathered from multiple sources.
That's too generic and there's no reason why the source of "publicly available information" can't be made to researchers. Saying the original sources are "unavailable" seems highly unusual to me. 

21 October 2013

FamilySearch-NOLA Passenger lists, Mass Town Records, NC Passenger Lists

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

Ancestry.com's Corporate View on #RipFacebook--Do Genealogists Care?

The above tweet flew from Ancestry.com's corporate account at 9:00 am. on 21 October (today).

Do genealogists following Ancestry.com on Twitter even care what Ancestry.com thinks of the use of various hashtags?

Personally if I were managing Ancestry.com's social media I would avoid posting opinions such as these on corporate social media. Unless, of course, they were hoping to "ride the #ripfacebook" wave. It's ironic that while they thought the hashtag was "premature," they used it themselves.

20 October 2013

The Spammers Are Out

A suggestion to spammers: do not send the same message to each of my email addresses at the same time. One email may smell a little like spam, but when I get three at two different addresses within thirty seconds, the intent is perfectly clear.

I've removed the person's name and their website.

Whether they are a student or not, I don't know and frankly I don't very much care. Another website added to the list of those I do not mention nor promote--whether directly or indirectly.

[message follows]


My name is [removed] and I am a student doing some research on a genealogy paper I have due and came across your site. Anyways, I found your site among a few others, most useful and just wanted to extend my thanks and appreciation. I am fairly new to the world of genealogy and have a new found interest in it now.

Anyways, with all the research I did, I stumbled across so many articles and there was a really fun list I found that had a bunch of interesting facts on DNA. You can find it here [url removed] I thought you or your other readers might find it entertaining.

Thanks . :)


A D is a D is a D

Names can be spelled differently in a document. Letters can be written differently as well.

This image is part of a deed from Bedford County, Virginia, where Thomas and Sally Sledd are selling property.

The letter "d" appears numerous times in the record. It appears that the clerk wrote a small "d" one way when writing it in the name of Sledd and another when writing it in other words.

One more thing to be aware of when making transcriptions.

19 October 2013

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.

18 October 2013

When the Male Line Fails-Where Did the Chain Break?

If a male line DNA test indicates two researchers are not related, does it mean that their supposed direct line male ancestors are not related? It seems to me that is not necessarily the case. I'd be interested in thoughts on this little scenario.

The Oldmans

Kevin Oldman has researched his ancestry back seven generations to Henry Oldman, who appeared in Kentucky in 1820 from nowhere.

Bubba Oldmann has researched his ancestry back seven generations to Thomas Oldman, who also appeared in Kentucky from nowhere in 1820.

Thomas and Henry Oldman lived in the same Kentucky county in 1820 and 1830, but their listing on those two population census schedules are the only documents on which they appear together. Their farms are in the same township, but not adjacent. After 1830, Henry leaves Kentucky for Indiana. Thomas dies in Kentucky. No record ties them together other than the census. There's no hint they were related other than their enumerations in the same census district in 1820 and 1830.

Kevin and Bubba learn of each other through the internet and discover that they are potentially related through a common Oldman ancestor. They speculate that Henry and Thomas are most likely brothers or first cousins.

Kevin and Bubba decide to have a y-DNA test performed to determine if they share a common male ancestor. The test indicates that Kevin and Bubba do not have a common strict paternal line ancestor. Kevin and Bubba conclude that Henry and Thomas are not related based upon the test results. They continue to compare research notes, but are left convinced they are researching different Oldman lines. After all, if Henry and Thomas were related through a paternal ancestor, it would have showed up on the y-DNA test Kevin and Bubba took wouldn't it?


There's something Kevin does not know.

Kevin's ancestor, Clueless Oldman (son of Henry), thinks he was the father of all the children his wife had. Clueless is not aware of the fact that during his marriage his wife had an ongoing relationship with an unmarried neighbor. During her lifetime, the wife was relatively certain that the neighbor was actually the father of two of her children and not Clueless. One of those children Clueless' wife had with the neighbor is Kevin's Oldman ancestor.

So "technically" Kevin's not really and Oldman at all--that's what the paper trail says, but it's not the biological reality. Kevin is not actually a descendant of Henry Oldman.

And it turns out that Henry and Thomas Oldman were indeed brothers.

Bubba Oldman and Kevin Oldman are not related--because Clueless Oldman didn't father all his supposed children. And that has nothing to do with whether or not Henry Oldman and Thomas Oldman were brothers.

The Inverse

Readers with a mathematical or logical bent, may notice that there's a logical fallacy at work here. The original statement is:

  • If Kevin and Bubba share a common ancestor, then Thomas and Henry are related. 
This is a valid statement based upon DNA theory. If Kevin and Bubba share a common male ancestor, then Thomas and Henry share a common male ancestor. But the statement:
  • If Kevin and Bubba share a common ancestor, then Thomas and Henry are not related.
is not true and cannot be derived from the original statement. It is the inverse of the original statement and the believing the that the inverse is true is referred to as the "fallacy of the inverse."

16 October 2013

Junior Is Not Always the Son and Probably Why There is No Probate

In the absence of other information, genealogists are usually advised to conclude that "junior" and "senior" does not immediately indicate a son/father relationship. Usually what is safe to conclude from a junior and senior notation is that senior was in the area first or is older than junior.

Of course, one may find proof of the relationship in virtually any record.

This 1802 assignment of an interest in a piece of real estate confirms that John Demoss Junr. of Harford County, Maryland, was the son of John Demoss. Unfortunately John Demoss the father is not referenced as "senior" in this document, but it would be reasonable to conclude that he is the senior, unless records indicate to the contrary.

John Demoss' assignment of this property in 1802 indicates that he was alive on the date of the assignment. In fact, it is the last document on which his name appears. His transfer of his property rights may also indicate why no probate or estate settlement can be found for him. It may be that after this interest was transferred there was no real property in which he still had an interest.

Tax records for Harford County, Maryland, would confirm or deny this. I'll have to add those records to my research list.


12 October 2013

Sledding Down Sledd's Hill

The above image is survey plat that was done for 85 acres owned by Thomas Sledd in Amherst County, Virginia. This plat was made in 1802 and recorded in a series of books for this specific purpose. Such plats were necessary in areas where property was surveyed in metes and bounds. County Recorder's offices in federal land states also have plats of this type, but it is easy to see why surveys were needed in states where metes and bounds were used.

Transcribing the text on the right is not so much of a problem, it's pretty much standard material.

It is transcribing the plat itself that will be more problematic and something I'm working on for an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues. It's not linear like the text, but there is information on the plat that I want to retain.

A little looking indicates the name of at least one neighbor is mentioned. William Ware's name appears in the bottom left hand portion of the plat.

There's also "New...." that appears on the top and seems to work over to the right and wind down. The problem with this text is that it is sideways and in places it is difficult to tell where sideways letters are and where numbers are.

If you have landowning ancestors in metes and bounds states, determine if survey maps were retained. These images were made from microfilmed copies of the records while I was at the Family History Libary in Salt Lake.

[I don't know if there was a "Sledd's Hill," but I couldn't resist using that as part of the title of this blog post.]

Webinar Download Issues

If you had any issues with recent webinar purchases during my $5 sale, please email me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com so that I can take care of concerns before my contract with the hosting service expires. Please create a new email when bringing these to my attention as replies to other messages sometimes do not get noticed.

We've moved our final order page here if there's anything you missed the first time around.

11 October 2013

It's a Rich Document--Transcribing Creatively

I know the name of the person in the box is not "Bitchard" Lake, although it certainly looks like it. It's also not how I'm going to transcribe it.

When transcribing a document, a certain amount of license is taken. Reasonable license that is.One has to be true to the original and it's intent. That's why I'm going to transcribe the first name of the first signer as "Ritchard" and not as "Bitchard." One could easily make the case that the first letter is an "R" and that the writer simply connected the bottom "tail" a little more than usual. The fact that's there is no such name as "Bitchard" also is consistent with this conclusion.

I usually transcribe the "his" and "mark" in a line above and  below where I type the actual signature and include the "x" in between "Richard" and "Lake." 
The name of "Lake" is spelled in two ways in the document, "Lak" and "Lake." It's probably oversight on the part of the person writing out the document. Richard didn't write out the document given that he made his mark on it. From the handwriting of the witnesses, it seems reasonable that Julius Jenkins probably wrote the letter for Lake and Beesly to sign.

Transcription, like document analysis, is not always an exact science and there's a certain amount of "creative" element to it. One must be careful how one interprets the use of  "creative" in this sense. Creative in this case is thinking outside the box, not in the sense of making things up. The ability to judiciously use the "creative" element cf transcription comes from practice and from reading document after document.

Who Wrote this Document?

I'm not certain, but the signature of Julius Jenkins is similar to the handwriting of the document, making it appear he was the actual writer.

Jenkins was the maiden name of Lake's wife and is a probable relative. However, that's not even vaguely indicated by this document (there's no law that relatives have to write things). The fact that Jenkins probably made out the document only indicates that he was trusted to make it out correctly. He may have been one of the "nearby" kin who was familiar enough with how such letters should be written and so he "got the job." He could just as easily have been more closely related to Beesly than to the Lakes or not "related" to anyone else on the document at all.

And it goes without saying that all these individuals were associates of one another in some way.

Whether they were related is another matter entirely.

10 October 2013

Genealogical Software-Some Thoughts

In the early days of my research I used genealogical database software regularly, entering in names, dates, and locations (and sources). My research was about how many names I could accurately accumulate. I was always concerned about accuracy of information and entering in reliable information, which was fortunate. But I wanted to get as much information into my database as I could. There was no mistake about that.

Then I genealogically grew up.I'll be honest, I haven't used a genealogical software package regularly in fifteen years. Seriously. It is fine with me if people have a software program that they swear by. I don't and that's just fine with me.

My research has progressed and hopefully has become more sophisticated than it was in 1986 when I first used a computer for information storage. The more I research, the less need I find for using a genealogical database to actually "help" me with that research. In fact, I generally find a database limiting and constraining for my analysis. Most software requires me to make information fit forms or patterns into which the information or the analysis of that information does not fit. For me the migration away from software really started when I began researching families before the American Revolution in the South--where there are not really vital records and most dates are "estimations" obtained from analyzing a variety of sources. I also became frustrated with deciding what name to use for ancestors that had multiple last names at different parts of their lives.

I was spending too much time trying to "trick" software to do what I wanted and not enough time on research.

I have another approach that helps me to organize what I find and assist me in drawing conclusions and deciding where to progress.

I write.

I write a lot.

I create my own charts and tables as a part of that writing process to organize data relevant to a specific problem or family. I use software regularly, just not genealogical software. I find that writing is the best way to strengthen my research, to analyze information I have located, and to make conclusions from the evidence I've discovered. Writing in many ways is free form (even citations can have slight variations from one author to another). When writing, I'm not spending my time trying to pigeonhole information into fields in a database and make it" fit" someone else's ideal. To me all that time "making it fit" is time wasted.

There are times where sources do not allow me to reach solid conclusions--or at least ones that I think are reliable enough to enter into any database. And the analysis, logic, and methodology simply does not often  fit into someone's preconceived ideas of database entries. There are gray areas in the interpretation of records and documents--how to I assign reliability of a piece of information on a scale from 1 to 5? And if I'm going to assign that level of perceived reliability, I need to give some justification. I shouldn't simply "click" a checkbox and call it classified.

I do understand using software to manage large projects and relationships involving large numbers of individuals. And I understand how software relieves the individual from the need to constantly re-enter in repetitive information. And creating a database or spreadsheet of sources used is an excellent idea. I use a computer for my genealogical research on a regular basis.

But the only thing I use a genealogical software program for on a regular basis is to print a pretty chart.

Half of John Sledd's Black Cow

This is part of the inventory of John Sledd which was presented to an Amherst County, Virginia, court in December of 1811.

A truly literal rendering of the handwriting underlined in red might indicate it says "1 Black Cow Half."

That really doesn't make sense--one cannot have half a cow.

There's also the word "Hoes" in the line underneath. That clearly starts with an "H," making the "1 Black Cow Half" seem not quite correct--although some writers do not make letters consistently.

What is probably meant by the underlined item is "1 Black Cow & Calf." Although the uppercase "C" in "Cow" and "Calf" are not made the same.

But that's what makes more sense.

And that apparent "Pi??d" Cow two lines above?

We're working on that. Stay tuned.

Salt Lake Family History Library Research Trip 2014

We've set the dates for our 2014 Family History Research Trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City in 2014--28 May through 4 June.

Join us for a week of genealogical research in the world's largest genealogical library between 28 May and 4 June.  We are in the library from open to close--with an optional hour long presentation at 8 am. every morning. Otherwise there's no distractions, with time for research all day and time for questions when you have them. The library is not busy with hundreds of conference attendees using the facilities the same time as you.

Our group is informal, with the focus on helping you with your research as much (or as little) as you need. We have people who join us simply because they like to be a part of a group--which is fine. A few of us even take the California Zephyr from the Chicago (or points in between) to Salt Lake. If you've wanted to take the train but didn't want to arrive in Salt Lake late  or leave early by yourself--consider joining us as Michael takes the train too if you'd like that option.

Don't wait --- pre-register today for only $50. Balance of registration is due 1 April 2014. It is not too early to start planning for 2014. 

The complete registration price is $175--that's a bargain compared to other trips. This fee includes pre-trip planning assistance, morning presentations at 8:00 every day the library is open during our trip, onsite consultations, assistance in learning to use the equipment at the library if necessary, quick on the fly questions, and follow-up assistance as needed or requested. 

Travel arrangements are on your own as are all personal expenses. We stay at the Salt Lake Plaza where we have  group pre-tax rate of $85 a night (single or double occupancy). The Plaza is next door to the library--very convenient. 

The official group activity starts on 28 May at 6:30 pm with a short meeting in the hotel for a quick orientation. Full daily activities start the next day, with group presentations on:

  • 29 May
  • 30 May
  • 31 May
  • 2 June
  • 3 June
Sunday the library is closed. We usually meet for an optional brunch in the hotel and I have consultations on Sunday with those who would like to discuss how their research is progressing. 

Our registration price is $175 when not paid in full by 31 December 2013---with a deposit of $50. Deadline for registration is 15 April 2014 (refund if you cancel by 15 March 2014). We'll be posting additional details later this fall, but that's pretty much the essence of the trip. 

Travel arrangements are not included.  Our group size has traditionally been small and we plan on keeping it that way.

08 October 2013

Lucinda and Lucy Ann In One Document

This letter from Mercer County, Kentucky, and there are two different names for the bride--Lucinda Brown and Lucy Ann Brown.

The reason in this case is fairly simply--or at least that's how it appears. The bride signed the letter, but someone else wrote it based upon the handwriting of Lucy Ann's signature and the rest of the document. John L. James (the witness) may have written it as his "L"s are similar to the ones in the document. They are not exactly the same, but the "J" in "John" and "James" aren't really the same either.

At any rate, who wrote the letter may have known Lucy Ann by Lucinda and so that's how the letter was written. Lucy may not even have been able to read, or if she was literate she might not have been concerned that she was referenced as Lucinda in the text of the letter.

Names that are reasonably consistent are not problems. If she had been referred to as Elizabeth, then there would have been a problem.

New at Ancestry.com-HOW?

The Ancestry.com home page is indicating that the "1870 United States Federal Census" is "new."

Now I know the 1870 census is not a "new" at Ancestry.com. It's been on their site for years. The question is: "how is it new?"

  • Has the index been updated?
  • Has the interface been changed?
  • Has the image viewer been changed?
  • Have the images been enhanced?
  • Have incorrect locations been fixed?
I cannot tell from reading the search page for the 1870 census. There is NO list of changes or updates there.

It would be nice if the search page included a history of "changes" to the 1870 census that made it "new."

Then I could know if those changes mean that I should try and search for my missing Ira Sargent and John Ufkes again. Changes to the index mean that I should search again. Other changes mean I probably do not have to search again.

And that would really, really be nice to know. That would enhance my user experience. And I don't need another Iphone/Ipad App. I need to know what changes have been made to databases that are "new." 

But that's just me. 

And I really doubt that Ancestry.com is listening. And sometimes I wonder how much genealogical research the decision makers actually do.

07 October 2013

It Can't Be a Marriage Debt-Transcribing an 1780 Marriage Entry from New Jersey.

My work on these marriages from the Zion Lutheran Church in Oldwick, New Jersey, brought home the importance of copying more than just the item of interest.

The temptation sometimes is to copy or scan "only what I need" instead of a larger portion of the record. That's a mistake.

This image comes from two facing pages in the marriage register of the Zion Lutheran Church in the 1780s and was made from the Family History Library's microfilm copy of these records. My goal was not to transfer the enter set of records, but rather to focus on just one. Copying multiple entries lets me see how the entry of interest is the same as other entries and how it is different. That's useful information in performing any analysis of the information.

But there's one abbreviation that I do not understand. It looks like "debt," but I don't think that's it.
My thoughts on the notations after the names of the couple:
  • most of these marriage references use an abbreviation for "published," which I'm taking to mean that the banns were published or announced in church.
  • A few entries (with blue rectangles) reference an indemnification bond--which I'm taking to be a marriage bond like those used in more Southern locales.
  • A few (underlined in red) reference a marriage license.
  • The green boxes--I'm not so certain.
Of course, the marriage of interest is one with the word I cannot quite determine and is shown in the green box in the larger image above.

It is the marriage on 12 April 1784 between Elam Blain and Catharine Reid. Apparently the banns were published for this marriage and there is that word after it--the one that looks like "debt."

Catharine Blain could not remember when or where she was married when she applied for Revolutionary War widow's pension in Ohio in the 1840s. But that's another story.

I'm hoping that the "debt" is not some obvious word that I'm going to kick myself for not immediately knowing.

06 October 2013

Spelling Augusta Without the "u"

As a person who has his own definite preference for his first name, I try and be cognizant of my ancestor's preferences as well--at least when it can be determined.

That's why I'm revisiting my ancestor, a Mr. Newman who died in White County, Indiana in 1861. I'll be honest, my use of a certain first name for him came from what I found years ago in printed county histories and other records, as well as from other researchers. Local records did mention this specific ancestor, but any renderings of his name in those records were made by clerks and others--not by him. Even transcribed deed records do not contain his actual signature. It's always possible that a hurried clerk or one who could not read his signature wrote it in the deed record the way they "thought" it should be spelled.

In working on issues of Casefile Clues, I've been looking at copies of original documents signed by this ancestor and it looks like in some cases he signed his name "Agusta" and not "Augusta."

I'm going to revisit some other original signatures I have on this ancestor--in particular the military bounty land applications and the surrendered warrant. Based upon the signatures on those records, I'll decide how I should spell this ancestor's name in my database. I'm leaning towards Agusta based upon signatures in marriage bonds from Nicholas County.

Lesson: we don't always have actual signatures of our ancestors, but original records (not record copies) are excellent places to obtain those signatures. In our research, Agusta, Augusta, Auguste, Gust all are reasonable variants of the same first name and should be included and should be transcribed as written. But in how I refer to this ancestor in my database, various charts and reports, I will use how he signed his name the majority of the time.

04 October 2013

Did Agusta Write This Certification?

One of the reasons it is suggested that genealogical documents be transcribed is that things get noticed when materials are transcribed.

In transcribing this item for the next issue of Casefile Clues, I realized that there's a chance it was written by the man who witnessed it--Agusta Newman.

I'm not entirely convinced yet. One difficulty is that the black and white nature of the image hides some clues.

Why do I care?

Agusta Newman is my 4th great-grandfather and having a copy of something written in his hand would be a really neat find.

The Sun, Signatures, and Records that Aren't "Mine"

These two signatures come from marriage bonds in Nicholas County, Kentucky. The person of interest, Agusta Newman, whose signature is underlined, is not the groom in either of the documents. He serves a purpose in each record, but any specific familial relationship between Newman and the individuals getting married or the other individuals listed in the records is not stated.

The signature underlined in red comes from an 1829 marriage permission that Agusta witnesses for Sophia Thomas to her "Sun William A. Thomas." The signature underlined in green comes from an 1830 marriage bond that Agusta and Richard Harding sign for the impending marriage of Richard Harding and Mrs. Sophia Thomas.

Agusta's relationship to the individuals is not stated.

One could speculate that Sophia is widowed in 1830 and Agusta is signing the marriage bond and apparently vouching for Sophia's eligibility to be married. The widowhood of Sophia at the time of the marriage is speculation--there's nothing to indicate she was widowed. What's clear is that she was single before the marriage. Since Harding (the groom) signs the bond with Agusta, it would be reasonable to conclude that Agusta had knowledge of Sophia's ability to marry.

Agusta also witnessed Sophia's consent given in 1829 for her "Sun" to marry.

What's clear is that Agusta had a relationship to Sophia. Just what that relationship is is not stated in the documents.

If I had been uncertain that this Agusta Newman of Nicholas County, Kentucky, was the same one who later lived in White County, Indiana, a comparison of signatures of both men would have been in order.

Agusta's signatures in Kentucky were obtained in records that are not even "technically" about him--he's not getting married. Agusta apppears in land and property tax records in the Nicholas County, area, but those records do not include his signature.

Agusta's signatures when he lived in White County, Indiana, were obtained from his bounty land application and his surrendered military warrant. Both of those files are at the National Archives.

Records we need are not always in the immediate area where we are researching and they are not always "about" the actual person of interest.

Webinar Closeout Extended

I had quite a few loyal readers, followers, etc. request that I give them a little more time to participate in the $5 webinar closeout--which I've done. It's been extended until 7 October.

My contract with the download service is up shortly after that, so there won't be any additional extensions. Problems with downloads can be addressed to me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com.