30 January 2014

Google Alerts: When Only the Best Apparently Isn't

One of the advantages of having unusual surnames in your background is that most people are related to you. 

One of the advantages of having Google alerts is that the internet will do your searching for you.

Just be careful.

A first cousin of my father's passed away last week, Ragene (Trautvetter) Wartick. Her obituary was on the local funeral home's website the day after her death. Her obituary appeared in local and regional newspapers at varying times over the next week. Her obituary and burial information was posted to FindAGrave and on Legacy.com

I found the obituary on the funeral home myself because an acquaintance and my mother told me of Mrs. Wartick's death. The name of Trautvetter is mentioned in every obituary. 

I have a Google alert for Trautvetter as shown below:

All the email alerts I received for "trautvetter" in the week or so after the obituaries began to appear did not include the Wartick obituary.

I performed a Google search for "trautvetter wartick" just to make certain Google was indexing the pages where the obituary appeared. I didn't want to scroll through the thousands of "trautvetter" hits just to make my points. This notices appeared in my results as shown below--so Google was getting to the pages.

Google just wasn't alerting me to the pages. The pages should have appeared in my alerts with a day or two after they were posted online as my alert is set to email me daily. The only reason I can determine for the obiuaries not showing up as "new pages" was that I had the volume of results set to "only the best results." That's the only explanation I can think of for why the obituaries did not appear in an alert. I set the alert for "only the best results" because I didn't want to get total junk and links to pages that posted random content just to generate web traffic. I guess that's not going to get me the pages that I want...apparently Google doesn't consider an obituary a "best" result.

So I'll change my settings and see if more results come my way--especally obituaries.

29 January 2014

Did You Google "John Henry Ufkes Draft Card" and Not Contact Me?

I don't often look at my website statistics or what search terms draw people to my site.

I realize that is "bad" from a blogging perspective to ignore the search queries that bring people to my site, but for the most part I really don't care. I write about what interests me and hope that it interests others as well. I realize marketing people don't think that way, but I'm not a marketing person.

But occasionally I look at the search terms. Sometimes they are really funny. But one of the search terms from yesterday has me really curious:

"john henry ufkes draft card"

World War II Draft Card for John Henry Ufkes, obtained from
Selective Service Administration. Ufkes registered in
Hancock County, Illinois. 
On the list of really uncommon names, that's up there. There are not many men named "John Henry Ufkes." My grandfather was one of them. (The only exact matches at Ancestry.com for John Henry Ufkes are for my Granddad. The others are either not really a John Henry Ufkes or are a reference to his grandfather Johann Hinrichs Frederichs Ufkes).

I posted Granddad's World War II draft card on my site several years ago and I'm assuming the searcher found the page. The blog post indicates that Granddad is my Granddad the post is not some random post.

But it has me wondering, who searched for "John Henry Ufkes draft card?" and "how can I increase the chance that those who stumble upon my site contact me?" I'm not really certain how I can increase contact. The posts usually mention that I'm related to the person I'm discussing and my email is readily available. Teasing people with the potential of more information really isn't effective--I've tried it.

The question of "who?" remains. Granddad has five living descendants. Three of them live with me and I'm pretty certain my daughters didn't search for Granddad and I didn't either. My mother's online activities don't include much in the way of Google searching and my brother usually limits himself to the weather, grain prices, and livestock and equipment auctions.

Granddad has siblings who have descendants, but we are all pretty much aware of each other and most of them know how to easily contact me and probably would if they were actively interested.

I'll probably never know who did the search. If the name were "John Henry Smith" a search for it wouldn't have piqued my interest. That's the drawback with unusual names...we always want to know who they are!

Suggestions for how to increase reader/viewer response or interactivity are always welcomed.

28 January 2014

New or Updated on FamilySearch; DC, MN, NH, NYC, OH, TX, WV Materials

The following are showing as new or updated on FamilySearch since our last update. Please note that it is difficult to determine just what's really new, partially new or updated, or just "tweaked a little" in these updates. I'm not really thrilled with the level of transparency on the update announcements either--but that's the way it is.

Her Chicago Birth Is Indexed Twice--That Has to Be Wrong!

It would appear on the surface that two entries for the same person in an index would be at best a duplication and, at worst, a mistake.

In this situation, the reality is somewhere in between. 

A search for Lillian Apgar in the "Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1871-1922" resulted in two entries--both with dates of birth as 2 March 1910 and parents as William and Mary.

The "more about" screen for the first entry provided the following information.

The second one showed the following and contains more information. The names of the parents are the same except the maiden name of the mother is one word on the second entry.  

The FHL film number from which the index entries were created is different.I searched for the film numbers on the FHL catalog to see what microfilmed records were used to create the index entries.

The first FHL film number indicated that the first index entry was made from abstracting the birth register.

The film number for the second indicates that the information for that entry was taken from the birth certificate as shown below.

Yes, the entries are for the same person. But they are not entries made from the exact same record. One entry is made from the birth certificates and the other is made from the birth register. The birth certificates are filed in a bound volume with one certificate per page. The birth register is a ledger that has one or more lines devoted to each birth.

If I had bothered to read the section on the "original data"
  • "Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878–1922." Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009. Illinois. Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878–1922. Illinois Department of Public Health. Division of Vital Records, Springfield.
  • "Illinois. Cook County Birth Registers, 1871–1915." Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah. Illinois. Cook County Birth Registers, 1871–1915. Illinois Department of Public Health. Division of Vital Records, Springfield.

the potential reason for the duplicate entries might have been surmised. FamilySearch and Ancestry.com do get things tangled up upon occasion. This is not one of those times.

Lessons and reminders:

  • Learn what you are actually searching.
  • Be aware of multiple records. In this case the register does not contain as much detail as the certificate. And even a record that is less detailed may be easier to read than another one.
  • Cite specifically. If I just list this as "Lillian Apgar birth information" in my sources--I can't tell whether I saw the record or the register. There's a reason why being specific in a citation is advised. 


As mentioned before, we believe in citing information in the spirit of Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained. However my editoral policy on this blog is not to include citations as a part of each blog post. We do however include enough information in each post to obtain the original item or to craft a citation (if you think I haven't, please email me and I'll rectify it). We realize others include citations as a part of each blog post, but there are only so many hours in the day. My newsletter, Casefile Clues, does contain complete citations to any items referenced in that work 

Slowing Down Until It Just Fades Away

[a little fiction--one of our few forays]

It's 2018. You've been researching your family history for several years and have noticed that one of the two fee-based websites you use is slower than the other. The type of content of the two sites is similar, they just have different content. There's stuff on both you need and use regularly. No matter how many windows you close, how many times you reboot, or how many diagnostics you run, one site is still slower. Frustrating.

And some of those free genealogy sites you used to use, they barely load. In fact, you have just about given up on using some of them because you can never get past the home page. It's been ages since you've browsed the free material on www.doitfreegenealogy.com.

And that one paid membership site? Well, despite your membership, it's always slow. You are almost contemplating letting your "slow site" membership lapse because you just can never get anything to load. You'll just stick with the one that loads fast, even though they don't have everything on it you need. You've even had your grandchildren and your son-in-law help you. And having the son-in-law help was a testament to your desperation. 

You then get an offer from your Internet Service Provider.

Their latest marketing gimmick: internet "channels." And they've developed several genealogy channels, just for you and your checkbook. One lets you access your "slow site subscription" site at a reasonable speed for an extra monthly fee paid to your Internet Service Provider. Another genealogy channel lets you get those "free genealogy sites" for another additional monthly fee. Thank goodness your Internet Service Provider has come to your rescue. Maybe now you can take the son-in-law off speed dial.

Interesting, you think. Until you realize that the "free genealogy sites" aren't getting any of that fee. Your Internet Service Provider is. And the "slow site" isn't getting any of that fee either. And here you thought the extra revenue would help those sites develop new content. But...

You decide to cough up the extra fees to your Internet Service Provider--to get the free sites and to get the subscription site you use regularly.

Pages load...the familiar logo appears on their home page. You will be up for days getting caught up on all your work. 

Not exactly. The subscription site is going out of business at the end of the month. The owner has posted a rant about mafia-style tactics which you don't even bother to read. You have no ancestors who worked for the mafia after all.

You decide to visit www.doitfreegenealogy.com.

There's a just a blank shell. Even the logo is gone.  The webmaster indicated that due to extremely slow load levels for his site, his ad revenue is down to a trickle. He doesn't get any revenue from what the ISP charges you to access his site. He's gone back to working at the bank in Santa Fe. If you're in his area, stop in, and open an account. Please.

Can it happen?

Not certain. But if you've never heard of net neutrality, now would be a good time to learn by visiting  Michael LeClerc's original post on the Mocavo Blog.

Michael wrote an update after seeing this little essay--there's information there on becoming informed and proactive. This is not just about genealogy

And now may be a good time to send some emails, make some phone calls, and make your voice heard.


Now back to your regular programming....

26 January 2014

My Ebay Win-Virgil Rampley-And Some Ebay Thoughts

It's rare for me to find items really related to my own immediate family history on Ebay.

And yet I did. And yes, it was a really "neat" experience.

The screen shot below was taken from the Ebay website (item 321301556486) on 25 January 2014, shortly after the auction ended. I have yet to receive the picture, but not even 24 hours have elapsed since the auction closed.

I'm excited to get an original copy of the picture--I already have a scan of it made from a copy in the possession of a relative.

But locating the picture and obtaining it has me wondering:

  • How do I really know it's a Virgil Rampley? In my case, it looks like the other picture I have of him that was identified by his sister, Fannie (Rampley) Neill and was in the possession of her daughter, Nellie (Neill) Shanks. But what if this was the only picture of him that I had identified? With nothing else to compare to, how would I know it was really Virgil?
  • And with just a name on the back (and no other identifying photographer mark, handwritten comments, etc.), how could I know "which" Virgil Rampley it was? Of course, Virgil Rampley is not the most common name and a picture of him in a World War I era uniform certainly narrows down the possibilities, but what if the name were more common and the time period a little more difficult to pin down?
  • And what of the provenance? How do I know that it was identified correctly? How do I even know who identified the picture?
  • And, if I had simply chosen to "copy and paste" the picture from the ebay site for use in my own genealogy (without purchasing it), how do I cite that? Referencing the Ebay website, the date of access, the seller (who has intentionally been left out of this blog post for privacy reasons), and the item number should be a part of that citation. Of course, Ebay auction pages are taken down after a while, and I'm not certained exactly how they are archived on archive.org (if at all). Others cannot easily "go back" and view the page in 6 months, let along longer. And then, is the image just one that I essentially found "anonymously" on the internet?
I'm not saying not to use images of this type for items that you've not personally purchased. After all, personal use is personal use and I'm not the genealogy internet police. What I am saying is that there are issues that need to be thought about.

A Hypothetical Situation

Let's say that there is a purported picture of my 3rd great-grandmother for sale on Ebay. The auction price is more than I can afford or I am outbid at the very last minute. I am unable to contact the seller or the buyer. I copy and paste the image for my own personal use. I cite it. How do I really have any idea that the picture is 3rd great-grandma? 

That's a problem with many pictures we encounter if one really thinks about it. There is one difference. Usually with pictures we use in our genealogy, we have some sense of the provenance of the picture--at least who identified it or how it was identified or who had it when we saw it or copied it. In the case of simply taking an image posted by an unknown person to an auction website we don't. And the real concern for the genealogist is probably "where did that picture come from...and are there more?"

Don't construe this post as saying the pictures sold on Ebay and other sites are not identified correctly. They probably are. After all, no one is going to get rich selling pictures of Virgil Rampley or any of my other relatives on Ebay. It is just that we need to think a little bit about where we get information. 

You can never go wrong if you completely cite. That is how you (and others) know exactly where and how you obtained the image. And that's what it is all about.


As mentioned before, we believe in citing information in the spirit of Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained. However my editoral policy on this blog is not to include citations as a part of each blog post. We do however include enough information in each post to obtain the original item or to craft a citation (if you think I haven't, please email me and I'll rectify it). We realize others include citations as a part of each blog post, but there are only so many hours in the day. My newsletter, Casefile Clues, does contain complete citations to any items referenced in that work 

Our Purpose and Focus

While I don't make New Year's Resolutions, the first of the year is a good time to pause and reflect. That's what this post is about, reflections about the purpose and direction of this blog. If that doesn't really interest you, then stop reading (grin).

Rootdig is a place where I share some of what I have learned about research and my ancestors. Much of the research discussed here is not complete--things that are "more somewhat complete" are published in Casefile Clues. Ideas posted here are meant to be relatively short--sometimes with a lesson attached and sometimes not. For some research problems, things posted are "in-progress," because sometimes writing about them clarifies things for me and I feel that (hopefully) peope benefit from reading about works "in progress" instead of finished projects. And when we get something wrong, we admit that. All of which is instructive to readers---and that's our purpose.

This is also a place where I share research frustrations and opinions. Some of these frustrations are also shared by readers--and some are not. That's ok. And, in the last year, I've written some about my progress towards certification. Hopefully as we continue in 2014 there will be more blog posts centered on that process. It should be noted that comments about that process are not necessaraily reflective of the BCG.

I do try and avoid getting overly technical or theoretical. I try, but am not always successful. There are many reasons I choose to do this, but they largely center on the fact that most people really don't want to read things of that nature. And also because I try and make this a down-to-earth way of interacting with readers and would rather try and make lessons in a more subtle fashion if at all possible. I'll let others go on about theories--just like I'll let others write about what's in the most recent genealogical press release. I really don't have much of an interest in writing about what's "new," unless it directly applies to my own research.

There is no editorial staff here-just me. All opinions are my own and are not reflective of anyone else. And I do have affiliate links on this site, but I only mention products that I use myself. I never write blog posts solely to promote or sell an item.

And thanks for reading. I do appreciate it.

25 January 2014

Post-Roads in 1873

Googlebooks contains a scan of an 1873 Congressional Act "Revising and embodying all the Laws authorizing Post-Roads, in force on the first day of December, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-three." To be frank, I stumbled upon it while looking for something totally unrelated. That's often how the best things are found.

The title pages have been reproduced as a part of this blog post. The specific publication also included legislation related to the District of Columbia.

The page numbering starts over again for the legislation related to the Post-Roads (a direct link to the first page is here).

The Act begins with bridges over the Mississippi River...

And continues with a list of post roads listed alphabetically by state. The page reproduced here (48) lists roads for part of Illinois.

Even a few post offices at individual residences are listed.

 Too bad there are no maps, but this was a really interesting find.

Give it a look for those areas where you have an interest.

Prairie Patrimony: Inheritance and Farm Passing Practices

It's been years since I first read Prairie Patrimony: Family, Farming, and Community in the Midwest (Studies in Rural Culture), by Sonya Salamon.

The book focuses on several ethnic groups in Illinois and how members of farm families from those ethnic groups interacted amongst themselves, other members of their ethnic group, and with "outsiders" Salamon studies a group of Ostfriesians (what started me reading the book), a group of Germans, and a group of what she terms Yankees (basically Illinois settlers who were born in the United States).

While one may argue with her definition of Yankee (a Virginia would qualify), there's no debating that reading her book gives insight into how 19th century farm families in Illinois estalished their farms, both for themselves and for the next generation. The three groups Salamon studied took different approaches to how they interacted with others, when they retired from the farm, and how (and if) they passed the farm to future generations. The book was particularly interesting to me both as a farm kid myself and as the descendent of groups similar to those Salamon studied.

What struck me most about the book was the occasional passage written by Salamon that put in words one of those "unspoken rules" that I had always taken for granted. Of course any study of this type has to make generalizations and there will always be families that "don't follow the rules."

In most of my Ostfriesian families, the "homeplace" (that farm originally purchased by the immigrants upon their arrival) was almost sacred and not to be sold at any cost. It was not to be mortgaged outside the family except in the more dire of circumstances. Fathers in these families typically saw their "job" as done when their boys were established with farms of their own and their daughters were married. The other Germans Salamon studied didn't quite have that same viewpoint and the "Yankee" farmers were ones who tended to farm until they dropped dead.

And as I thought about it, those tendencies were pretty much the norm in my own farming families during the time period of Salamon's book. Salamon even made some comments about how females in Ostfriesian families were treated somewhat differently than in other groups during this time period--her comments were consistent with items I had noticed in court and land records. Suddenly things were making sense.

It's imperative for genealogists to study the law. It is important for genealogists to have an understanding of history and national events that impacted our ancestors. But it is just as important to know something about the sociological setting in which our ancestors lived. Prairie Patrimony: Family, Farming, and Community in the Midwest (Studies in Rural Culture) provides that background for someone with rural Midwestern families during this time period.

And if you don't have rural Midwestern families, have you looked for similar materials for your own areas of interest? (I still need to do some searching for information on the experiences of typical workers of the Pullman Car Company where two of my children's great-great-grandfathers worked from the 1890s through the 1920s.)

22 January 2014

Inoculated for Smallpox by July of 1809

A scar "by inoculation" on this 1809 Seaman's Proof of Citizenship likely refers to an inoculation against smallpox.

Those with a knowledge of the fight to eradicate smallpox will remember that vaccines were around in 1809. How common it was for sailors to have been vaccinated during this time I don't know.

Another interesting bit of information  that can be gleaned from these records. Sometimes one doesn't know what is in a set of records until one takes the time to actually browse the records.

If I have any ancestor or relative on whom I'm stuck and there's even a sliver of a chance that he went to sea, these records should be accessed if for no other reason that one never knows what information they might contain in that "description."

21 January 2014

Why My "Tree" and My Images are With Me

Before you link all those images to your online tree at Ancestry.com, consider the following:

  • When you download your GedCom file from the Ancestry.com tree, do the images come as a part of your GedCom file? (I don't think they do, but I could be wrong).
  • If there are images Ancestry.com has aquired as a part of an agreement with another group or organization and you link those images to people in your tree, what happens if those agreements that Ancestry.com has with those groups are terminated? Do you still have active links to the images in your online tree?
I still prefer to download images to my own computer for my own personal use. But that's just me. I use Ancestry.com on a regular basis, but I prefer to have copies of things on my own computer and not be constantly dependent on a subscription or on agreements between other organizations and companies over which I have no control. 

There's enough I can't control as it is.

[Please note: Posts on this site are meant to get you thinking about how you do your research, how you share that research, and how you preserve that research. Whether you agree with me or not really isn't the point; I just want readers to think about things and make decisions for themselves instead of falling into habits or patterns without giving things some thought first.]

Backwards Film and Who Was Watching?

Genealogists who began their research in the days when there was only microfilm can remember getting that occasional roll of film that someone was too lazy to rewind.

Apparently the FamilySearch digitization department gets those rolls of film as well.

The roll of film that was digitized (NARA microfilm publication M1880 roll 7) contains Philadelphia Seaman's Protection certificates from 1806 and 1807. Microfilmed alphabetically by seamen, this roll should begin with the last names starting with "I" in 1806 and go through the last names starting with "C" in 1807.

And it does--on the microfilm.

Except that the roll of film was digitized backwards starting with the end of the film and working to the beginning of the roll. The certificates are not out of order. They are backwards.

It's not really a problem after it is understood that the records are in reverse order. These items were filmed in alphabetical order and there's no "index" that links a user directly to a specific person of interest. I just have to remember that I'm leafing through these images backwards.

They were microfilmed in the right order.

Each microfilm image is numbered sequentially beginning with the first one. The "image number" in the Family History browser references the digital image--and not all microfilm images are numbered on the microfilm.

As the image number in the FamilySearch image box gets higher, so should the NARA image number (which was used to number the microfilmed images).
 As you can see, the NARA number goes down as the FamilySearch number goes up.

End result: Pay attention when using the digital images. The mistake that was made may not be yours.

All of which makes me wonder how automated this digitization of microfilm actually is.

Tattoos in 1807

This 1807 seaman's proof of citizenship from Philadelphia provides an interesting physical description: a number of tattoos.  I came across it while searching for handwriting samples for Daily Genealogy Transcriber. The statement drew my attention as the description section is usually not as complete as it is in this document.

Curtis has quite a few tattoos for a man only about twenty-three years of age. Actually Curtis might have been at sea for a number of years as statements from seamen as young as fourteen appear in these records. 1807 probably was not his first year on the boat.

Usually the physical descriptions are not as lengthy and usually deal with missing fingers or toes, pock marks from smallpox, scars, and similar identifying characteristics. The ones for Curtis are atypical.

It took me a few seconds to determine that the first tattoo underlined here probably referred to an "Eagle on the Right arm."

I. C. and B. C. may have something to do with his last name, but I'm not certain. He also had his name tattooed to him as well.

Unfortunately I don't have any relatives in these records and, if I did, their descriptions would not be nearly as interesting as this one.

20 January 2014

Genealogy Standards: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition

I've finally gotten around to ordering Genealogy Standards: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition, the manual printed by the Board for Certification of Genealogists. It has a release date of tomorrow.

As regular readers know, I'm working on BCG certification. My original copy of the Standards manual is pretty well-worn. I tend to make notations and comments in paper versions of things, both things I want to remember and things I originally don't understand. The new edition won't be any different. I tend to view books of this types as "learning texts" to be used in a way that increases my understanding.

When my copy of  Genealogy Standards: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition arrives, we'll be making comments about various parts of it. I've found reading it over helpful in my certification work. Any comments made will be my opinions and may not necessarily agree with the BCG viewpoint.

And even if you're not considering certification, thinking about how you research and how you can improve your research is never a bad thing. Even if you think you'll never take genealogy "that seriously," learning about methods can only help you research.

And isn't that we all want?

Note: We'll have the comments feature turned on whenever the Genealogy Standards: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition is discussed. Get your own copy and feel free to take part in the discussion--or just read along.

19 January 2014

On Reading Directions

I'll be honest. I didn't read the complete set of suggestions on Ancestry.com's results page yesterday when it told me I got too many hits (read the post here).

Ancestry.com requires that users enter in at least three characters in any name box. My search did not do that.

When the results page told me there were too many results for my search, I glossed over the suggesions. I shouldn't have done this and I've used Ancestry.com enough to know that three characters are required (years ago there was a workaround that they've since fixed).

My problem was (and still is) that there aren't too many results to my search. My intuition told me this and FamilySearch's interface confirmed it.

I should have remembered the three character requirement. I'll admit that.

Ancestry.com should have an error message that accurately states the problem.

18 January 2014

Ancestry.com Gets "Too Many" When FamilySearch Correctly Gets None

Here we go again with "too many matches" on  Ancestry.com. I've written about this before, but my level of web traffic probably is why  Ancestry.com doesn't really seem to take notice. It continues to be frustrating when searches do not work the way they should.

"Too many matches" rears its ugly head again and always when it's someone I am actually interested in trying to find.

This is the result screen when I performed a search for 

first name: hab*
last name: ag*

"Too many matches." 

The same search on FamilySearch's 1880 census. No results.

I'm not surprised there were no matches. The name combination is unusual. I searched for other first and last name combinations using wildcards at FamilySearch--and I got the expeted results. Their search is working. If Habbe Agena is enumerated in the 1880 census I will have to try another variant for his first or last name.

Thanks to FamilySearch for an interface that works.

But the question still remains:

Why can't  Ancestry.com make it work?

Note added 19 January 2014: A reader correctly pointed out that I neglected to use the three letter minimum before a wildcard on the search. When that was done (and I followed directions), I got no results. The results screen that Ancestry.com returned to my initial search indicating there were too many matches needs to be revised. There weren't "too many matches" at all--I didn't follow directions.

A Baptism Provides Confirmation

As a followup to my post "An 1893 Baptism....Brings Two Questions," I'm posting the baptismal entry for my great-grandmother Trientje Marie (Janssen) Ufkes.

Great-grandma was baptized at the same church as her future husband: Immanuel Lutheran Church in Hancock County, Illinois' Harmony Township.

This time there were no surprises from the entry which comes from pages 34 and 35 of the church record and was obtained digitally on Archives.com.

The entry indicates that Trientje Maria, daughter of Jans Janssen and Friedericka (geb. Sartorius) was born in Bear Cr[eek] T[ownship] on 17 April 1895 at 3 in the morning. She was baptized on 28 April 1895 by pastor B[ernard] Geissler and had Tj[ark] Janssen and his wife [Meta Flick] as her sponsors.

I didn't know who great-grandma's sponsors were, but the names were no surprise to me. Tjark Janssen was her father's brother who also lived in the area.

The only thing I "learned" was that great-grandma was born at 3 in the morning.

Actually I was glad to obtain this record. Sometimes it's good to find something "new."

I was unable to find great-grandma's birth record in the birth records of Hancock County, Illinois Clerk and Recorder despite several attempts to locate the record. The birth date is consistent with more recent records on great-grandma, but it is nice to have a record contemporary to her birth that provides the same date "we always knew."

Of course, given that great-grandma's parents were members of a denomination that practiced infant baptism (Lutheran), the record of her baptism (which also includes her date of birth) would be a record contemporary with her date of birth. The baptismal record who have to be given more credence than other records. Fortunately in this case all the records agree.

Except that this is the only one that provides her time of birth.

16 January 2014

An 1893 Baptism at Immanuel Church Brings Two Questions

It is always fun to locate things you "already have."

The Ufkes family  has published several genealogies since the 1950s and is one family that's very proud and knowledgable about their heritage. However nowArchives.com that allows users to browse images, I decided to search for as many relatives as I can in the digital ELCA records that are on Archives.com. (More information on these records can be seen here.)

The entries below are from the baptismal entry for Friedrich Janssen Ufkes, born in Bear Creek Township in 1893.
Baptisms from Immanuel Lutheran Church, Harmony Township, Hancock County, Illinois, pp. 30-31; digital image from Archives.com

Friedrich Janssen, child of Joh. Ufkes and Lina geb.Grass, born in Bear Cr[eek Township] on 8 October 1893 at 10 a.m. Baptised on 15 October 1893 with sponsors A. Mueller, Fr. M. Rosenboom and Mina Geissler, pastor B. Geissler.
Baptisms from Immanuel Lutheran Church, Harmony Township, Hancock County, Illinois, pp. 30-31; digital image from Archives.com
Friedrich was not named for one of his sponsors as happens in some churches and ethnic groups. The Ostfriesens were strong practicers of using family names for children, which was the case wth Friedrich.

On my list is to detemine who the sponsors are. Mina Geissler probably is the wife of the pastor. I'm not certain about the other two, but based upon what I know about the well-documented Ufkes family they don't appear to be relatives.

Even when you think you know everything, there's still more questions.

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A Bride, A Divorce, A Lawsuit, and a War Baby

This 1922 account from the Nebraska State Journal contains more clues that one usually finds in newspaper articles.

Note: the man the article refers to as "Frand" Goldenstein was actually named Frank.

Some of the clues contained in this article:

  • divorce record for Frank Goldenstein
  • lawsuit initiated by Goldenstein against his wife's parents
  • passport application if Goldenstein was citizen when he made the visit to Germany
  • adoption records (which may be closed)
  • passenger lists for the return trip with new wife and baby
That's a lot of records.

Liz on our Facebook page mentioned that Frank probably had a connection to Germany if he went there for a bride. That's true. It's one clue I almost didn't think to mention as I already knew Frank was a German native.

Note: this Frank Goldenstein was a first cousin of my great-grandmother, Tjode (Goldenstein) Habben.

How Is the 1861 England Census at Ancestry.com "New?"

Another repeated frustration with  Ancestry.com.

The image above was taken from the home page today at 8:15 am CST.

I've used the 1861 census on  Ancestry.com before several times. If anything it is "updated." The  Ancestry.com blog and the content section of the blog do not mention this item.


How is it different? Is it different in a way that means I should go back and revisit those people I can't find? Have images been improved or enhanced? Or did they just update a part of the index for one specific county? If I don't know how it is different, I don't know how to alter my search.

A reader commented to me privately that we should "just be glad to have the records and 'work with it.' "

I don't agree with that. While I am glad to have access to the records, it's not unreasonable to want to know what databases include and when they are "changed" or "updated" what those changes or updates are.

Especially when we are paying for the service.

15 January 2014

Mother Was a Hard Worker

Transcribing documents is often about context. Analysis should not be done in a vacuum. 

This image makes that point crystal clear. It certainly looks like "worker" on the superficial analysis

But it is not. It's taken out of context from this document from probate records in the Bronx, New York.

It's not "worker." It's "mother." 

Is that how you read it in the first box?

There are indexes and finding aids that are created by individuals viewing materials and images out of context.

It never hurts to think about how something could be transcribed if it were viewed in isolation.

Updated on FamilySearch-Ohio and Bronx, NY Materials

The following are showing as updated or new on FamilySearch:

13 January 2014

A 1901 Pre-Marital Contract Detailed in the Newspaper

I never cease to be amazed by the things I encounter in a newspaper. This item from the Davenport Daily Republican of 12 May 1901 discussed an ante-nuptial contract signed by Casper Wachter and Mrs. Emma Wilson before their marriage on the same date. It is dificult to imagine such a contract being discussed in a newspaper today at the time of the marriage.

Widow Wachter had children by a previous marriage, many of whom were grown by the time their father married Mrs. Wilson. He also had step-children from his first marriage.

I'm not certain what the inheritance laws of Iowa were in 1901, but it would be reasonable to conclude that this provision was different from what was in state statute at that time. That's the only reason there would be a need for the agreement: to circumvent state statute.

It is possible that the contract was recorded in the records at the Scott County courthouse. It may be worth taking a look to see if there are any other details of the contract besides those mentioned in the newspaper.

If Emma died first, the contract didn't matter. If Casper died first or if there was a divorce, then it did. It could also be that C. J. Ruymann was trying to drum up a little business.

Note: Casper is my wife's step-3rd great-grandfather.

Hijacking a Truckload of Liquor in 1936

One never knows where or how pictures of relatives will be located.

While performing a little background work on the John Florian Cawiezell mentioned in an earlier post ("Iowa, World War Two Bonus Case Files," I stumbled upon the little gem shown above.  Six men were arrested from the "tri-city" area for hijacking a liquor truck near Mount Pleasant, Iowa, in 1936. The Mason City-Globe Gazette on 6 May 1936 pictured all six men.

The Florian Cawiezell shown above is not the John Florian Cawiezll from the earlier blog post. They are different men (born several years apart actually) although they share part of their name. A good reminder that even when the name seems to be unusual it might not be.

Florian Cawiezell (shown above) was the son of John and Lizzie (Gold) Cawiezell of Scott County, Iowa, and the grandson of Swiss immigrants Anton Christian and Marie (Willi) Cawiezell, also of Scott County, Iowa.

John Florian Cawiezell (from the earlier blog post) was the son of Jacob Cawiezell, also a Swiss immigrant to Scott County, Iowa. Jacob was not a son of the Anton Christian and Marie (Willi) Cawiezell.

No matter how unusual the name sounds, don't assume anything about the relationship. John Florian and Florian are related, but it is more distantly than first cousins.

And one never knows when one's relative will appear in the newspaper. These pictures are actually pretty good quality for a newspaper image.

12 January 2014

Realizing It Is Not Online and Waiting to Search for John Gibson

I've been working on the John Gibson ("Not Getting the Revolutionary Cart Ahead of the Horse") who "disappeared" from Ashby, Mass. around 1800. And I've come to a conclusion.

I need offline resources to answer this question--or to at least make that next step. I'll leave the details and citations to a later post. This post is more about process.

Assuming the family history cited in the post is correct (and I have no reason to conclude that the names of John's children are wrong), it seems likely that at least two individuals with names the same as John Gibson's children lived in Addison and Rutland Counties in Vermont in the 1800-1820 time frame. This is the same time frame that Sarah (Gibson) Sargent and her family lived there. There's also a John Gibson in 1810 in Pittsford, Rutland, Vermont of the age to be the John Gibson mentioned in the "Cart Ahead of the Horse Post"). That's a lot of coincidence. And, if it is the Gibson family living near the Sargents, then it makes a little more sense why the Sargents settled there when there were no other Sargents nearby.

I need to see if there are any land deeds, court, town, or probate/estate records on this John in Rutland County, Vermont.The hope is that they will connect him to his children, particularly daughters with married names (ie. Sarah Sargent). Searching online compilations probably is not going to answer my question. These records do not appear to be online in digital format.

I've added this work on John to my list for when I'm at the Family History Library.

Another time when one needs to realize when the online sources have told you what they are going to tell you.

And this time they are telling me that I need to look at those local records in Vermont.

11 January 2014

Iowa, World War II Bonus Case Files, 1947-1954

Ancestry.com  recently released its MyFamily.com Redirect Text Link"Iowa, World War II Bonus Case Files, 1947-1954."

Ancestry.com's description of these records says (in part):

"In May 1947, the Iowa Legislature approved bonus payments of up to $500 for men and women who served on active duty in the U.S. armed forces between 16 September 1940 and 2 September 1945. To qualify, applicants had to be legal residents of Iowa for at least the six months prior to their service."

We've included a copy of the application for John Florian Cawiezell as illustrative. 
John Florian Cawiezell application (indexed as John Flordan Cawiezell), Iowa, World War II Bonus Case Files, 1947-1954 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com 
Original data: WWII Bonus Case Files. State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa

John Florian Cawiezell application (indexed as John Flordan Cawiezell), Iowa, World War II Bonus Case Files, 1947-1954 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com 
Original data: WWII Bonus Case Files. State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa

Neat stuff.

Not Getting the Revolutionary Cart Ahead of the Horse

Haste makes waste.

A search on GoogleBooks for Samuel and Sarah (Gibson) Sargent brought up the a reference in a genealogy of the descendants of John Gibson of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Sarah Gibson who married Samuel in 1798 is my ancestor.

And it's tempting to immediatly conclude that my Sarah is the daughter of this John Gibson referenced below:

I don't have too many ancestors with Revolutionary War service as this John does--his father actually does as well.

But it's important to read the entire writeup carefully. The author uses the word "likely" to define the relationship between Sarah (Gibson) Sargent and this John Gibson. Just how "likely" is "likely?" It is enough to put the relationship in my database and go from there?

Just because other online trees have included the relationship does not mean it is true. They could very well have used the reference above (or a reference derived from it). It may or may not be worth my time to look at other online compiltations to determine if someone has attempted to take the relationship from "likely" to something even stronger.

At the very least, it would be good to know why the author used the word likely? There's no indication of what prompted the author to clarify the parent-child relationship as likely. Was it beause of the proximity of the indivduals involved? Were there no other Gibson families in the area? Was it based upon the probable age of the Sarah who married compared with the known Sarah, daughter of John?

I don't know.

It appears that the author was unable to locate John after he sold property in 1799. The book follows other male Gibson lines of descent (it also includes information on children of Gibson daughters) and the lack of information on any of John's other children causes me to believe that the author simply lost the family after 1799.

What to do?

I know where Samuel and Sarah (Gibson) Sargent were after 1799. They left the immediate area. It's possible that they moved along with other Gibson family members. At this point, I will:

  • Look for Gibsons living near (in the same and adjacent counties) to Samuel and Sarah (Gibson) Sargent in post 1800 census and other records. 
  • Look for Gibsons living near Samuel and Sarah (Gibson) Sargent's children in New York State, Michigan, Illinois, Vermont, and New Hampshire. While the father John probably didn't move into Illinois, it is possible that he did go to any of the other areas and the Sargents could always have lived near Gibson cousins.The Sargents who settled in Illinois and Michigan did not settle near other Sargent relatives. 
That's probably enough for now. 

The motivation is to find something on John Gibson that may more concretely tie him to the family of Samuel and Sarah (Gibson) Sargent.