30 May 2014

How Common Are Your Names?

How unusual are your names? I always knew many of my immediate surnames were not overly common, but now I have some evidence--at least when my names are compared to other names in the United States.

Using the database search form at "How Popular is Your Name" on the "Sweetest Sound" on PBS.org, I determined the popularity ranking of the surnames of my four great-grandparents.

  • Neill-3651
  • Rampley-34381
  • Trautvetter-99676
  • Sargent-1190
  • Ufkes-110472
  • Janssen-3100
  • Habben-40720
  • Goldenstein-43095
Of course some unusual names are difficult to research and some common names are easier to research. The frequency of a surname is only one factor in whether or not an ancestor is a research challenge.

Update on a Weight of 999

An earlier post mentioned unusual heights and weights in a database (U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946") at Ancestry.com. It turns out that the original data was the problem and the problem is noted on the "more about" page for the database on Ancestry.com.

The data from which the database was created is also discussed on the National Archives website along with a notation that the National Archives does not make the "height and weight" data available on their version of the database.

Theodore J. Hull's 'The World War II Army Enlistment Records File and Access to Archival Databases" (which appeared in the Spring 2006 issue of Prologue available online also), states in part that:

"Over time the enlistment card format changed, and the height and weight or military occupational specialty categories were recorded in the same columns on the original punch cards. Because there is no easy way to distinguish original data recorded on the two forms, NARA chose to drop that data..."
 Based upon this it appears that there is good reason not to include the height and weight data.

Weighing 999 With a Height of 89

A member of the "Genealogy Tip of the Day" group on Facebook located this reference in the "U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946," on Ancestry.com for a James L. Dozier that indicated a height of 99 and a weight of 999 as shown below.

Obviously the measurements are not in inches and are not correct. It's possible that a description of this database at the National Archives indicates what these unusual numbers mean. It seems reasonable that they obviously incorrect numbers are some sort of code to indicate something else.

We'll see if we can get the answer and follow up.

[note: it appears that this error may be due to a card read error on the card that was punched to store the data.]

29 May 2014

An Umlaut Problem, Original Data, the "Source," etc.

Part of analyzing sources is getting as close to the original as possible. This "Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s" entry in Ancestry.com contains a reference to Wilhelm Metz who arrived in the United States in 1833.

Ancestry.com indicates that the "original data" for this entry is "Filby, P. William, ed. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s. Farmington Hills, MI, USA: Gale Research, 2012."  Searchers have been using Filby's for years, before the information he compiled was ever available in digital format.

While this is the original data for the Ancestry.com database entry, it is not the original source of the informtion contained in this entry. Filby's book indexes an article by Wilhelm Hauth which in turn was probably taken from original records of some sort. 

Because of the number of iterations between the original entry and the image shown in this blog post (which is actually from the Ancestry.com "Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s"), it is desireable to obtain the original record if possible.  Genealogists are always advised to "get to the original."

And that's good advice, but it wasn't the problem that actually led to this blog post. It was use of the word "Blaetter" in the Ancestry.com description of the source Filby used to create his index that was the problem.

I searched for "Blaetter Familiengeschichtliche" as a keyword (without quotes) in the card catalog on the FamilySearch website. No luck. It took a little searching and finally I located the entry searching only for Familiengeschichtliche.

That was because "Blaetter" was spelled "Blätter" in the card catalog and the "variant" spelling with the diacritic was not recognized as being the same when I was searching.

When the diacritics are present in the word for which I'm searching it's easy to be aware of the fact that they could impact my search. The problem was that this time the diacritic was in what I was trying to find instead of what I already knew.

And I already knew that "ä" gets transliterated as "ae." But once in a while we all forget.

FamilySearch Update: MN, NY, and MO

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

Minnesota, County Marriages, 1860-1949

New York, Probate Records, 1629-1971

Missouri, State and Territorial Census Records, 1732-1876

28 May 2014

Few Hard and Fast Rules

Genealogy is more art than people realize. I'm not talking about watercolors Grandma painted or oil portraits your ancestor commissioned of himself. That's "genealogy art" which is not the same as viewing genealogy as something of an art.

By referring to genealogy as "art," I'm also not suggesting that one gets creative and makes up evidence or makes up connections for which there is no evidence. The creation of facts is not sound genealogy. It's out and out lying.

By referring to genealogy as "art," I'm thinking of those times when making a connection or putting together an argument requires creatively looking at information and creatively organizing it. Organization should be supported by common sense and the laws of biology and physics, but clever organization requires the researcher to put information together in ways that others have not and seeing things that other researchers have not noticed.

There's no hard and fast set of rules of what to do to solve some problems. There are suggestions and guidelines but rules that will always work the exact same way for every problem. The Genealogy Proof Standard is necessarily vague for that reason.There needs to be some wiggle room.. There's not a precise set of steps to follow to separate out three men with the same name. The reason is that exactly what worked in one case may not work exactly the same way in another.

27 May 2014

FamilySearch: MT, TX, and IN Materials

The following databases on FamilySearch are showing as new or updated:

FamilySearch: Chicago Catholic Church Records

This database is showing as updated on FamilySearch since our last update:

Illinois, Chicago, Catholic Church Records, 1833-1925

Webinar Closeout Ending 28 May-Don't Wait

If you've been waiting to purchase a genealogy webinar, now is a great time. On 28 May, I'm taking down the sales pages for my webinars and they will no longer be offered so that I can concentrate on other genealogy-related activities.

My contract with the hosting and download service ends at the end of the month, but we're pulling the sales pages down before that to give people time to download any purchases they make.

Downloads of webinars are immediate and presentations can be viewed as many times as you like.

Now's a great time to increase your genealogy knowledge at an affordable price.

Theodore Trautvetter's Disappearance From Start to Finish Part IV


[Warsaw Bulletin, 24 January 1890, page 4]

In his search for his brother Mr. Geo. A. Troutvetter was ready to accept any suggestion that contained the slightest ray of hope. It was with this feeling that he was induced to go to Hamilton to consult with Dr. John Wright, who professes to do wonders through mesmerism. Accordingly three different parties were mesmerized at different times. One who passed through mesmeric state thought he saw a dark object on the bottom of the river, but the day (Sunday) was foggy, and he was unable to tell what it was. Another saw Troutvetter riding in a wagon with a boy, through a low, marshy place. The third was quite positive he saw the body of the missing man at the bottom of the river, below the Keokuk and Hamilton bridge, and that blood stains were on the bridge. An investigation followed, and sure enough something resembling human blood was found at the spot indicated. Chips dyed in the supposed blood were taken from the floor of the bridge and the same were brought to Warsaw to ascertain the nature of the dye...

[to be continued]

Thoughts on the Problem-Solving Process

I've written about the genealogy problem-solving process before. Essentially the four steps are:

  • Understand the problem
  • Devise a plan
  • Execute the plan
  • Evaluate
The first step here is the most important and it's one that I need to remind myself of from time to time. Understanding the problem to me includes:
  • Knowing about the history of the location
  • Being aware of contemporary economic, social, and other factors that could have impacted the people under study
  • Knowing about local records
  • Knowing about applicable laws
  • Listing all assumptions about the people and time period involved
  • Stating a specific problem about one person and event in their life
That's a tall order and one that researchers need to revisit from time to time. One can very easily fall into old habits and research "out of habit" instead of thinking about what the records actually say and what the actual problem at hand is.

Devising a plan and executing it are relatively simple. It is advised however to over the long haul to search as many records as possible and not only concentrate on those records with which we are familiar or which are the easiest ones to access.

The majority of the time, the "problem" is not solved and the evaluation stage takes us right back to a "re-understanding" of the problem.

Or it leads us to a new set of ancestors and a whole additional set of problems.

25 May 2014

The St. L. K. and N. W.

In part III of my "Theodore Trautvetter Disappeared" series, the St. L. K and N.W. Railroad is mentioned.
Commissioners official railway map of Missouri.
Completed to January 1st 1888.
Copyright 1887 by R. T. Higgins.
Digital image in the
American Memory Collection at the Library of Congress

Apparently, according to the conductor, Trautvetter traveled on this railway from Keokuk, Iowa, to at least Hannibal, Missouri. Those locations were helpful in determining the exact name of the railway.

This 1887/1888 railroad map shows in yellow the St. L. K. and N. W. Railroad. St. L. stood for St. Louis, K for Keokuk, and N. W. for North Western.

The map shows the entire route the line took from Keokuk to St. Louis. The newspaper does not indicate where Trautvetter departed the train, but based on his eventual destination, he likely remained on the train until it arrived in St. Louis.

The Library of Congress' American Memory Collection contains digital images of thousands of items, including this map which is in the Railroad Map section of the collection. There's not a list of railroad abbreviations, but armed with a little geographic knowledge and some patience, it may be able to find the specific railroad or at least have a pretty good idea of what railroad was being referenced.

In this case, Google searches for the railway were not immediately successful and use of the maps was a much faster approach.

24 May 2014

Theodore Trautvetter's Disappearance From Start to Finish Part IV


[Warsaw Bulletin, 24 January 1890, page 4]

This clue found substantiation in a letter received by Mrs. Barkhurst from her husband, who writes from Lamar, Mo., that he traveled on the same train with Troutvetter as far south as Hannibal, and that Mr. T. said he was on his way to St. Louis to visit relatives. This disposed of the mystery in part, but as Mr. Troutvetter has not been heard from his family are anxious to know his whereabouts. The circumstances surrounding his sudden departure, together with the fact that he was a man who never went far away from home, strengthens the belief that he was not in his right mind when he left. It is hoped that he may return ere many days shall have passed.

In his search for his brother Mr. Geo. A. Troutvetter was ready to accept any suggestion...

[to be continued]

FamilySearch Update: Iowa Death Records-And Some Concerns

Familysearch announced recently an update to their database of Iowa marriage records ("Iowa, County Death Records, 1880-1992"). I'm always grateful for access to new finding aids. But this database is one of those on Familysearch that confuses me.

The search page for this database (as of this writing) indicates that "the collection contains indexes, death records, certificates, registers, etc. for 98 of the 99 counties." Actually the "collection" is an index to these items since currently there are not links to actual digital images for specific records.

The wiki entry for the collection does not indicate the year coverage for any counties specifically and apparently there is no way for the researcher to know what county's records include what years within the 1880-1992 time span. In fact, the wiki states:
"This collection will include records from 1867-1991. These records include a compilation of county death records. The collection contains indexes, death records, certificates, registers, etc. for 98 of the 99 counties."
Those are not even the years on the title of the database.

Which means that the researcher does not really know what they are searching and if they do not find the desired record in the database they should search the records manually. While manual searching is always advised when desired materials cannot be found in any finding aid, in cases like this it is even more advised because the finding aid does not make it clear exactly what materials it includes.

23 May 2014

Theodore Trautvetter's Disappearance From Start to Finish Part III


[Warsaw Bulletin, 24 January 1890, page 4]

The mysterious disappearance of Theodore Troutvetter, of Rocky Run mention of which was made by the Bulletin last week, has been partially solved. But not until several clues were followed, only to lead to disappointment. Report had it that Conductor Hough, of the Wabash, was certain a man answering the description of Troutvetter had got on his train at Keokuk and rode to Bowen, this county, teh 14th inst.---the day of Troutvetter's disappearance; but on receiving a fuller description of the missing man, Mr. H. concluded he was mistaken. Dark hints of foul play proved to be no more than hints, so far as it was possible to determine. Then it is said a conductor on the St. L., K. & N. W. was of the opinion that Troutvetter got on his train at Keokuk, the evening of the 14th, and went as far south as Hannibal at least. This clue found substantiation in a letter...

[to be continued]

And it was not a letter from Trautvetter....stay tuned.

FamilySearch: TX, DC (Freedmen's Records), and UT

New or updated on FamilySearch since our last update:

Does That Look Like Aldrich (or Alridge) To You?

Would you have thought this name was Aldrich?

I'm not certain that I would have if all I had was the signature? And the signature could actually be "Aldridge" and not Aldrich.

The nice thing about using the browser at FamilySearch is that there is a partial "evidence chain" on the image if I crop it correctly.

Ending Webinar Sales on 28 May--Don't Wait

If you've been waiting to purchase a genealogy webinar, now is a great time. On 28 May, I'm taking down the sales pages for my webinars and they will no longer be offered so that I can concentrate on other genealogy-related activities.

My contract with the hosting and download service ends at the end of the month, but we're pulling the sales pages down before that to give people time to download any purchases they make.

Downloads of webinars are immediate and presentations can be viewed as many times as you like.

Now's a great time to increase your genealogy knowledge at an affordable price.

22 May 2014

Theodore Trautvetter's Disappearance From Start to Finish Part II

[Warsaw Bulletin 17 January 1890]


Suspicion was first aroused of something unusually [sic], Tuesday night, when Trouvetter's team was found as late as 11 o'clock hitched to one of the hitching racks on Fourth street. The animals were put away, and on Wednesday morning a search for the owner was made, but without avail. During the day word was sent to his home to see if he was there, but no tidings were received of the missing man. Relatives, friends and officers further pursued the search that day and yesterday, but without revealing more than is elicited above. The search is progressing as we to go press.

The missing man is a German, about 45 years of age, 5 feet and 8 inches in height, of light complexion, wearing a sandy moustache and goatee, and weighing about 160 pounds. When last seen he had on a brown overcoat, brown frock coat, and a scotch cap, among other clothing.

 [to be continued--Trautvetter's brother calls in the spirits in an attempt to find him]

21 May 2014

Theodore Trautvetter's Disappearance From Start to Finish Part I

[Warsaw Bulletin 17 January 1890]

Or, Possibly a Case of Temporary Insanity
Theo. Troutvetter Missing

Theodore Troutvetter, a prosperous farmer who resides a few miles below Warsaw, in Rocky Run Township, came to Warsaw last Tuesday morning with a load of wheat, which he disposed of. He had considerable money with him, a portion of which was deposited in the bank. He still had on his person about $120. After spending the remainder of the morning in Warsaw, he went to Keokuk on the 2:35 p.m. train, and the last trace of him there found was at 4 p.m., when he was seen at the Wabash restaurant. Since that time no trace of man has been attainable, and opinion is divided as to what has become of him. Some believe he has wondered away in a temporary fit of mental aberration, which the greater number are strong in the conviction that he he has been foully dealt with. The theory is that some of the toughs, in which Keokuk abounds, have waylaid him, either in that city or on the road to Warsaw, and murdered him for the money he had.

[stay tuned....more to come in this installment--we finally have all the local newspaper articles on Trautvetter]

1825 Citizenship Petition Provides Family Details in Clinton County, New York

This document is one of those reasons that some of us say simply "look at everything."

I've seen quite a few naturalization documents and declarations of intent in the 19th century in the United States. It is not often that they contain as much detail as is found in this document. The application for citizenship, filed in 1825 in Clinton County, New York, contains ages and place of birth for the applicant, his wife, and his children.

Most of us with immigrants during this time period would love to find similar documents. Of course the information in this entry could be incorrect, but it is a great start given that most of the immigrants probably died before detailed vital records were kept.

Would an "exhaustive search" on the children of this couple include their father's naturalization record? I'm not certain.

What I am certain is that in this era, searching for everything you can find on the family is of utmost importance.

That's the search approach that maximizes what there is to find.

[note: I have no relationship to this family. I came across the entry while searching for another person. There were actually several similar entries during the time period in which this one was made.]

20 May 2014

FamilySearch Updates: NYC Passenger Lists, Tampa Pass. Lists, Baltimore Pass Lists, WV Naturalizations

New or updated on FamilySearch since our last post:

New York, New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1909, 1925-1957

Florida, Tampa, Passenger Lists, 1898-1945

Maryland, Baltimore, Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels and Airplanes, 1954-1957

West Virginia Naturalization Records, 1814-1991

Using the Cell Phone to Take Pictures of Microfilm

I spent a little time today at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield and was fortunate enough to have some research success. In addition to making paper copies from the microfilm, I decided to take pictures with my phone, just for practice.

I need to work a little on taking photographs from a microfilm scanner, but this is not bad for a first attempt from my cell phone.

The flash is a problem.

But it definitely was faster than making a photocopy and once I get a little better at handling the flash, this may be an approach to take. At least it may work in some cases.

I can use software to lighten up the image, so that is not a problem. The flash spot is a problem--that's going to be difficult to darken to make legible. Another difficulty is that I need to make certain that the camera is really parallel with the display so that there's no distortion of the image.

With items from a newspaper like this that are entirely text and which I probably will transcribe later, this approach may be workable.

For handwritten records that are difficult to read or with varying areas of darkness, think digital copies from the microfilm itself will be preferable. Although I may take both digital pictures with my camera and with the microfilm reader if that is an option.

Citation while making the image is a problem. The citation that is on this image was added later, not when I made the actual image.

One citation approach may be to take a picture of a handwritten note as to where the image was located. That way the record image and the citation image would be right next to each other in my files and the time stamp would help me to tell which item came from where.

Snapping pictures is great--but it can be too easy to snap, snap, snap without tracking where the images were taken from.

And then what would I have?

18 May 2014

Are You Cropping Too Much?

Genealogists often crop photographs--either to reduce file size, image size, or just make the picture look a little more "artistic."

One should take care that key details are not cropped.

The first image in this post contains a cropped picture of my great-grandfather, Fred Ufkes.

It turns out in the background, very faint, is the church which was a few miles from their home.

If I had not already suspected where the picture was taken that church would have been a big clue.

Your archival scan of a picture should include the entire original image.

There could be clues hiding in what appears to be "background."

It is difficult to see, but the church is there. I think it's the only clue in the background of this image, but it I had gotten "crop happy," I might have cut out the image entirely.

In some cases there may be clues that allow the researcher to more precisely date the picture as well. 

Pictures taken in urban outdoor settings frequently have environmental clues, but rural pictures can as well.

Don't cut out clues--save the cropping for later.

[note: pictures were shrunk for this post as I'm close to using all my Google space.]

17 May 2014

Are the Search Results at Ancestry.com Based on Phonics? Maybe....

A recent blog post on Ancestry.com's search result sort order ("Search Result Not in Alphabetical Order") prompted Sue Maxwell to comment that the results were actually sorted phonetically. That made perfect sense because in the initial post the last name of "Phair" was listed in the "F" section so that searchers of "Fair" would find it.

That made sense and I thought I had it figured out until I went to find another image to illustrate a follow up blog post.

Why is the last name of Perry listed in between Penfield and Penell? It would seem reasonable that Penfield and Penell would be adjacent as they "sound similar." Certainly Perry sounds different.

I understand why "Saint Andrew and St Clare" are listed together. But the other names notated on this image confuse me.

Which leaves me confused about the sorting of the search results. Strict alphabetical order I can handle. But now when I need to leave the surname blank on a search, I will have to scroll through all the results. Just in case.

I don't believe that we should take "whatever results" we get and be happy with them. There's no reason why these search results cannot be displayed in a way that makes sense. This is computer programming where sort procedures can easily be applied.

FamilySearch Update: MA, PA, and TX

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

Ancestry.com Search Result Not in Alphabetical Order?

I'm confused again. [partial followup here]

I'm trying to find Sarah and Margarat Demar/Demarrah/Desmarais in the 1905 New York State Census on Ancestry.com. The sisters should be in somewhere in Clinton County, New York. That's not why I am confused.

Given the exponential number of spellings for the last name, I decided to perform first name searches in my attempt to locate the girls. The screen shot shown below was obtained when searching for individuals with the first name of Mar* born in 1888 (plus or minus 1 year) in Clinton County. It's not the search results that I'm confused about.

It's the way they are displayed that is confusing. I thought the listings were in alphabetical order by last name, but that does not appear to be the case. At least not this time. Mary Depre and Mary Deome are out of alphabetical order and Mary Phair is out of order as well (although admittedly "Phiar" is phonetically equivalent to "Fair" and may appear in the "F" section for that reason.) Even if one concedes that "ph" and "f" are equivalent, the names are still not in strict alphabetical order.

Why does it matter?

Because sometimes when performing first name only searches, I get more hit than I can ever review. But I will go to a section of the list that starts with a specific letter and manually review those searches. This is because Ancestry.com won't allow me to perform wildcard searches on last names with only one letter--so I use the alphabetical sort to essentially serve the same purpose.

But now I'm wondering just how alphabetical the sort is.

Now that I review the image above, I realize that Mary Chrystal is out of order also.

What am I missing? Or can Ancestry.com  not sort alphabetically?

And, as usual...the concern is: "if these are weird things that I notice, what other weird things are there with search that I am not noticing?"

[search results accurate as of 16 May 2014]

15 May 2014

14 May 2014

Literacy Clues Buried in Some US Naturalization Documents?

I've had copies of these documents for years, but rediscovered them since they went "live" on FamilySearch.

This is part of the naturalization petition for Peter (formerly Panagiotis) Verikios.

Petition 125826, Peter Verikios, petition dated 2 July 1934, District Court of Chicago, Illinois Northern District [Naturalization] Petitions; digital image, FamilySearch.

The document indicates that Panagiotis was able to read the document rather than have it read to him. Earlier I had been focused on his "henceforth" name of Peter and did not notice that he indicated he had read the document.

Never hurts to get buried in that fine print.

Back Issues of Casefile Clues

We're gearing back up at Casefile Clues and I am excited to get back to writing. For those who are unfamiliar with Casefile Clues, we concentrate on research methods, analysis, and process. We pride ourselves on being readable and understandable without watering down content. We're not writing to impress an academic or add a line to a vita. We're writing to help the reader with their research by explaining our method and our process. 

And we analyze a variety of records in the process. If you want a newsletter that helps you with your research without sounding like a graduate-level textbook, give us a try.


  •  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.

FamilySearch Updates: WI and ME

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

Wisconsin, Probate Estate Files, 1848-1948

Maine, State Archive Collections, 1718-1957

13 May 2014

Casefile Clues Returns from Hiatus

After a hiatus, we are ready to resume distribution of Casefile Clues. You can get free copies following the directions below
  • 2 free copies of Casefile Clues can be yours-simply enter in your email address and "submit" order. There is no credit card or other personal information required. Copy 1    Copy 2

We are looking forward to returning to our research, analysis and discussion of records. And, yes, we are even looking forward to returning to citations. We’ve got stories on some old favorites, follow ups to a few missing links, and new families and locations to discuss. We are excited about what’s coming up in the newsletter.

An email about the newsletter was supposed to be sent earlier to all subscribers, but apparently it did not go out. All subscribers will receive the full number of issues that were a part of their original subscription. Subscribers who have been left on the distribution list after their subscription expired will be removed from the list.

Questions can be sent to me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com.

If you would like to subscribe, you can do so at this link

Style Guide: Our Use of "Ancestor"

Our use of the word "ancestor" on this blog (and my other blogs) will be used as a reference to someone from whom a person descends. This does not usually includes aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. unless there is some sort of double kinship.

I realize that others may have a more broad view of this word. This definition parallels those of several online dictionaries and is consistent with how I have used the word since I started my genealogy research.

FamilySearch Update: CA and NC Marriages

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

California, County Marriages, 1850-1952

North Carolina, County Marriages, 1762-1979

Marriage certificate for future President Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman

12 May 2014

Updated on FamilySearch: IL Naturalization Index (Cook County)

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

Illinois, Northern District (Eastern Division), Naturalization Index, 1926-1979

These appear to currently only cover Cook County.

My Research Is Better Because I Have Citations

No, it's not.

Really, it's not. While citation to the source is necessary, research is more than simply citing everything we use. And while we applaud the fact that more genealogists cite their sources than in days past, research is not so simplistic that source citing solves every problem. Research is also not so simplistic that citing sources is all you need to do.

The quality of your genealogical research is not about your citations. It is about your process, your analysis, and your ability to clearly explain that process and analysis. Writing "up" your research includes adequate citations to the material that you have used. I may get kicked out of the genealogy club for saying so, but "you can have good research with citations that are not in the proper form (they do need to include all the proper elements, though)." I just think that for the typical researcher, it's a little silly to go bonkers over a semicolon.

Citations alone do not imply "good research."

If it were only that simple.

1840 Census of Pensioners

American genealogists sometimes forget that the 1840 census does contain names of individuals besides heads of household. Revolutionary pensioners were to be enumerated on the right hand set of pages for this head of household only census.

Researchers often fail to even look at the right hand page of these enumerations.

The names of pensioners were published in 1841 in "Census of Pensioners for Revolutionary or Military Services" by the United States government.

Mocavo.com includes images of the entire book which are full text searchable (other sites may also have images of this book as well). A portion of the page of interest is shown in the image below. This transcription of the census only includes pensioners and the head of household for the household in which the pensioner resided.  It is not a full transcription of the 1840 census.

The reference to Alam in his son's household
appears on the right hand page of his
son's entry. There's a lot of white space on this
page and people often do not even
bother to look at it.
Why use the transcription when the census is available digitally? After all, aren't genealogists told to"use the original" as if no other copy of any material exists.

Not exactly and not always.

It is possible that there were transcription or typographical errors in creating this 1841 publication. It is also worth noting that the transcription was made in 1840 or 1841 when the original census may have been easier to read.

The entry for Alam Blain, the 80 year old pensioner, is contained in the household of his son with the same name in Harlem Township, Delaware County, Ohio, as shown in the image accompanying this blog post.

The transcription in the "Census of Pensioners" lists the name as starting with an "E." Itis pretty clear from the image that the name is written with an initial "A."

And of course, if this were my first reference to Alam as a pensioner, I would want to locate military and pension records for him.

Consider searching this reference for your Revolutionary War era ancestor. The spelling used in this transcription may be the one that helps you to find him.

Or her--widows who are receiving a pension are enumerated as well.

Brick Wall A to Z Giveaway in Honor of Graduation

To celebrate my daughters' graduation from college this month....I am offering my four brick wall from A to Z webinars for free:

Hit "Check out with PayPal." You will not need to give a credit card number to receive the download email link.

Does that Look Like Alexander to You?

Would you have thought this signature was Alexander if all you had to go on was the signature?

This signature on this document is "easier" to transcribe because the name is written elsewhere by the clerk. It is always possible that the clerk wrote down the name incorrectly or "translated" a non-English name into the closest thing he could think of. The first name may not have been Alexander at all.

But let's assume the name is correct as written by the clerk and that the signature is simply being written by someone whose literacy skills are not too high.

"If this signature had been on a document with no idea as to what it was, would you have transcribed it as 'Alexander'?"

Signatures on petitions, bonds, and other documents often do not have clerk's renderings on the same page, unlike this document. Frequently we don't have another reference on the same page to help in our transcription efforts.

09 May 2014

FamilySearch Update: MI, GA, and SC Materials

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

Michigan, Marriages, 1868-1925

Georgia, Deaths, 1928-1940

South Carolina, Darlington County Records, 1798-1928

What Does a Record Provide Evidence Of?

My daughter graduates from Eastern Illinois University this spring. Her grandparents are unable to attend the ceremony but afterwards we are taking pictures of them along with her in her gown. The grandparents live quite a distance apart and two sets of pictures will be taken.

If the pictures are around in a hundred years will someone think they provide evidence that her grandparents attended the graduation? It is hard to say as I won't be alive in one hundred years.

What will the picture indicate? Actually it will only provide evidence that the three of them were in the same location at the same point in time. Just because my daughter is in her graduation robe does not mean that they were necessarily at her graduation.

Are you reaching conclusions that may not be supported by the records and information you have obtained?  Pictures are not the only record that can occasionally not be what they seem.

07 May 2014

FamilySearch Update: Milwaukee Naturalization Index

The following database on FamilySearch is showing as updated since our last post:

Wisconsin, Milwaukee Naturalization Index, 1848-1990

Stumbling Upon Things Is Great...But

Sometimes it is difficult balancing genealogical research theory with the way in which some materials are often located.

It is not often really addressed in the genealogical literature, but the research process of what we searched, why we searched it, and how we searched it is integral to our analysis. This is especially true if an exhaustive search does not include everything under the sun (which it sometimes doesn't). Researchers should not just drop records into an article or a database and say here's what we found and analyze it. Don't get me wrong, that analysis is important. It is extremely important. But an understanding of how we came to locate the information we did is integral as well. That understanding does not have to be lengthy, cumbersome, or ladled with minutia about how we determined where to park our car at the library. But an explanation of search method is important.  It can be as simple as "civil death records in Hancock County, Illinois, originally recorded by the County Clerk and Recorder, were searched using Family History Library microfilm for anyone with the last name of Rampley born between 1885 and 1900." My research report should site the specific records I located, but if I don't include the time frame of my search how does anyone know? If I don't say "all Rampleys" were a part of the search, how does anyone know? (The problem of what name is searched for is magnified with it is a common one. Of course anyone reading citations would know from the citations what record was used (at least in that case). But it's possible I searched other records as well that came up empty-handed.

Search method needs to be a part of the analysis and the write up. Otherwise, how do we know that an exhaustive search was really conducted? How do we know that records were not overlooked? How do we know that there were items that were not explored? We cannot assume.

All of which gets at how accurate we view the author's conclusions.

Sound research requires that searches be systematic, documented, and reproducible by others. They should be able to find the same thing we did. That's the main reason I don't like "fuzzy" searches at any of the "big" genealogy sites. Of course, once I find something, then someone else will have an easier time finding it because of my citation. The problem is when I can't find things with "fuzzy searches" I don't know how to refine my searches. And, if I don't know how the searches are conducted that makes troubleshooting my searches difficult.

And if any part of my conclusion is based on not finding someone in a database or record series and fuzzy searches were used, then my conclusion may change if the fuzzy search algorithm is changed.

I wished the Genealogy Standards addressed search process in a little more detail.

Updated On FamilySearch: MN and US Public Records

The following databases are showing as updated on FamilySearch:

Minnesota, Birth Index, 1935-2002

Minnesota, County Marriages, 1860-1949

United States Public Records

This last database contains records from a variety of "public records." The references may or may not be correct and there's no way to tell from where the information was created. Information on me is incorrect in this file. Use at your own risk as a tepid clue.

Why Ancestry.com's "Suggested Records" Suggests Frustration

I meandered over to Ancestry.com to do a little work on Leander/Landon/Lee Butler.

A revisit to his 1900 census transcription on Ancestry.com made it clear why I personally find the "Suggested Records" frustrating and why I rarely use them. They require too much meandering to find anything on the actual person of interest.

The "Suggested "Records" section (boxed in red in the image below) include entries for Leanders in a variety of places and locations-some a distance from Missouri where he is enumerated in several census and other records.

The problem is that on this page, I have nary an idea of where those suggested records are located or what time period they cover. 1821-1989 is a wide range of years when compared to a human lifespan. Ancestry.com's "fuzzy search" pulls in records from a variety of time periods and locations in an attempt to "help." I can't change those "fuzzy parameters" on the "Suggested Records" so I really have no control over what appears there. I like control.

I also cannot see which of these "Suggested Records" I have already looked at--as in other parts of Ancestry.com, this is an excellent place where a notation that "I've seen it before" would be nice.

Honestly, I rarely use the "Suggested Records" section. There's two reasons for this:

  • I don't know how the results are obtained (inexact or fuzzy matches on my search terms are too unprecise for me and this just increases the chance that I see something I've already seen before).
  • I have no idea in what time period or location some of these results are in.
The problem is that quite a few searchers do use these results and they do link them to their people without giving any though to how reasonable the match is.

And all that does is increase the number of "trees" with questionable conclusions.

06 May 2014

FamilySearch: Yates County, NY Materials

The following database is showing as updated on FamilySearch

New York, Yates County, Swann Vital Records Collection, 1723-2009

Daily Genealogy Transcriber

One of the blogs I write is the Daily Genealogy Transcriber. On it, I try and post daily a signature or other piece of writing for readers to try and interpret.

The idea behind the Daily Genealogy Transcriber is to see how easy it can be to transcribe the same word or name in a variety of ways. Only a small part of the handwriting is posted. In the case of signatures, that may be all the writing the person did on that document as the clerk, notary, or lawyer wrote out the rest of the document. For this reason signatures can be especially challenging for genealogists to transcribe and why we tend to focus on those items.

The Daily Genealogy Transcriber also includes pieces of handwriting that is not someone's signature. In these cases, I try and post something that can easily be misinterpreted or viewed in several ways.

The purpose behind Daily Genealogy Transcriber is to get people to see how names and other items can be "wrong" in indexes in other finding aids.

And that never hurts.

04 May 2014

A Meander Towards Leander

One has to be careful using names as hard evidence of a family connection.

But it certainly is tempting and it can give a researcher encouragement.

My elusive Benjamin Butler (born in New York State about 1819, died in Vernon County, Missouri after 1880) had children with probably two wives. One of the sons was named Landon or Leander. The name is not the most common of names during the time period when Benjamin's children were born.

I'm trying to determine the "family of origin" for Benjamin's first wife Margaret Stephens. The man who possibly is her father is a Rufus D. Stephens. This Rufus D. Stephens (born in 1773 in Connecticut) had several siblings, including a Leander [Marjean Holmes Workman, "Joshua Stephens/Stevens and Christiana Dutcher of Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York," The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. 142, No. 2, April 2011, p. 95].

The fact that the Rufus had a brother Leander and that a man who may be Rufus's daughter had a son named Leander may be coincidental and nothing more.

Benjamin Butler cannot be found in the 1860 census and a better way to work through this possible Stephens connection would be to look at locations where Rufus's siblings (named in the article referenced above) were living in 1860 and look closely for Benjmain Butler there. Families tended to migrate in groups and since attempts to locate Benjamin near probable Butler relatives has not been successful it may be time to look and see if he migrated with possible relatives of his wife.

And that may even help me to tie into her family of origin.