31 March 2015

What Is Genealogical Information?

Sources are said to provide genealogists with information, but what really is "information?"

I've thought quite about what information is and what information isn't.  I'm not entirely certain I hae any sort of formal definition.

It seems that genealogy "information" is a statement:

  • that has a person participating in a certain event, at a certain place, at a certain point in time
  • or expresses a relationship (biological, legal, or social) between two individuals
I'm still working on this...thoughts are welcomed.

The analysis of whether a statement is perceived to be true or false is a separate matter.

FindAGrave Photos Versus Memorials--There is a Difference

When I use information from FindAGrave, whether it comes from the "memorial" tab or the "photos" tab makes a difference. I analyze the information differently. If the image of the stone is clear, then I conclude that it's representing to be the stone it claims to be--especially if the inscription can be read. It's always possible that the picture of a stone is placed in the wrong virtual cemetery on FindAGrave, but unless I have information on the burial location that is inconsistent with FindAGrave, I will conclude that the stone is where it claims to be.

The memorial is different. That information sometimes cannot be compared to the stone. It often does not even from the stone and the "source" of the information in the memorial is not often given by the compiler. For that reason, one has to take caution in using the information from the "memorial."

I think it's important to make the distinction when using FindAGrave information to include whether the information came from the "memorial" or the "photo." If the source of your photo of a stone is the "photo page" on FindAGrave, then you should so state.

We'll work on crafting some citations and post those in the next several days.

30 March 2015

If There Was A Bear in the Creek, I'd Never Find It On Ancestry.com

Locations are crucial to genealogical research.

Ancestry.com understands that in theory. I'm not so certain they understand that in practice.

One of the civil townships in Hancock County, Illinois, is Bear Creek Township. Bear Creek Township has been called Bear Creek for some time. How long I'm not certain, but Hancock County adopted township government in November of 1849.

Ancestry.com obviously knows that Bear Creek Township exists--they've coded it in as location in the 1910 census as shown below.

However, Hancock County's Bear Creek Township does not appear in Ancestry.com's drop down list of locations.

How hard can it be to include geographic locations from the census in the drop-down list of geographic locations? It certainly would make it easier for the user to narrow their searches to just Bear Creek Township if desired (now the workaround to search just Bear Creek Township is to use "bear creek" as a keyword and search only in a location of Hancock County, Illinois). It's frustrating to have to gerryrig the search for some locations and not for others.

What about Bear Creek Township?

Bear Creek Township--from Wikipedia
 placed in the public
domain by creator Omnedon
Errors like this are frustrating for paying users of Ancestry.com. The naive user will think the location does not exist if it's not in the drop down menu. They may even blame themselves for not being able to find it. Experienced users will realize that it's probably just a quirk in Ancestry.com's system and see what workarounds are available.

Cynical users will wonder if Ancestry.com can't manage to find a 36 square mile area in Illinois what else can't they find?

Keeping Track of the Ps and Ws

Abbreviations and symbols are great, but can be confusing when users are unaware of what they mean.

Such is the case of P and W on the Bureau of Land Management website.

The results page on the Bureau of Land Management website indicates that names on the patent are either the name of a warrantee or a patentee. The warrantee is the person(s) who qualified for bounty land based upon their or someone else's military service. Warrants were for a specific amount of property--but not location specific. The patentee is the person to whom a deed was issued for a specific piece of property. Patentees could have obtained title to federal property through a cash sale, a preemption claim, a homestead claim, surrendering their own warrant, or surrendering a warrant they had purchased from someone else (in addition to a few other ways).

Generally speaking cash land sales have the least in the way of genealogical documentation. Homesteads, preemption claims, and warrant applications have more genealogical material in them.

We've mentioned these files in the past, but will be looking at some new examples in upcoming blog posts.

If you'd like to learn more about federal land records, check out my three webinar offerings on this topic.

How Do You Know Who Those Tic Marks Are?

It can be difficult in pre-1850 United States census records to know to whom reference is made in various age category tick marks.

Usually the person listed as the head of the household is the oldest male shown in the enumerator's tick marks. However there are potential exceptions:

  • a widowed female is the head of household and the oldest male is her underaged son or the oldest male is her aged father or father-in-law who may not actually be the actual "functional" head of household but is still living in the household
  • the oldest male is the father or father-in-law of a younger male in the household and that younger male is the actual head of household
We'll have a future post about "Grandma and Grandpa" hiding in the pre-1850 census tick marks.

29 March 2015

Newspaper and Ancestry.com Census Search Strategy Webinars Released

Getting More From Newspapers

There is more to newspaper searching than obituaries and marriage announcements. In this presentation, we will see how to see what newspapers are available, both digitally and on microfilm. We will look at effective search techniques for online newspapers, including search structures, keyword searching, and more. We will also discuss approaches for accessing newspapers that are not available online. Order an immediate download of this product.

Effective Census Search Strategies for Ancestry.com

There is more to searching the online census than simply putting a name in a box and clicking. We will look at effective use of wildcards, soundex options, location parameters, and more. Included will be a discussion of a general organizational strategy so that searchers spend less time "going in circles. This presentation is not sponsored or endorsed by Ancestry.com and Michael John Neill is not an Ancestry.com employee. Order an immediate download of this presentation.

View a complete list of webinars here.

27 March 2015

FamilySearch Update: Massachusetts Marriages 1695-1910

This database is showing as new or updated on FamilySearch:

Massachusetts, Marriages, 1695-1910

I suspect that it's not new--but rather updated. How updated it is I can't say. Nor can I say how complete the coverage is for any specific county.


I don't often repost items from Genealogy Tip of the Day here as many readers get both, but for those who missed our "venter" tip--it can be seen here.

26 March 2015

Why No Index

"Those who use the book as a part of the research for ancestors can well afford the relatively few hours necessary to read the entire book..."

Now there's an interesting thought.

The 1958 genealogy of the Kile family has no index. In place of the index is a one page statement "Why No Index."

The author makes some good points. Indexing a book in 1958 was a more intensive process than it is today.

And reading the entire book is never a bad idea--just looking at the one page that mentions the person of interest can easily cause the researcher to overlook other significant information.

25 March 2015

He Wore His Hair Plaited in 1774

In all honesty for a long time I never searched for any relatives in newspapers before 1850. The reason was simple--they simply were rarely mentioned.

That was a mistake--although it's a rare find for me to locate a reference such as this from 1774.

Absalom Hooper and a few of his cohorts--Innis Hooper, Charles Holmes, Richard Holloway, and Reason Young--murdered a Mr. Corbonneau and four other unnamed persons on the Mississippi River according to this newspaper reference from 1774.

According to the article Innis Hooper and Charles Holmes were convicted and sentenced to death. Absalom Hooper, Richard Holloway, and Reason Young were indicted for murder and have "escaped the hands of justice."

The article goes on to describe Hooper as five feet eight or nine, "stoops much," has long light colored hair (which he generally wears plaited) and is about thirty years of age. The other two are also described. Reason Young shaves his head and often wears a silk cap or a handkerchief on his head.

I've known about this incident for a while, but have never researched it. Maybe it's time to do a little additional sleuthing.

Search for items on your ancestor in newspapers at GenealogyBank.

Using Archive.org and WorldCat Webinars Released.

I've just released recorded versions of these two presentations. Archive.org has scans of thousands of books--all downloadable in multiple formats (including Kindle for many). WorldCat allows researchers to search thousands of library card catalogs at once--including for print and manuscript materials.

Using Archive.org

Archive.org is a free resource containing digital scans of thousands of out of copyright books and thousands of rolls of microfilm (including all 1790-1930 United States Federal census records) Learn how to effectively search for specific materials, navigate the site and interact with uploaded items, and download items for personal offline use in a variety of formats. You will be using the site for days after you've seen what's available on this free site. Download the recording for only $8.

Using WorldCat

WorldCat contains an online library catalog for libraries across the entire United States and many foreign countries. Search thousands of library card catalogs in one interface. See effective ways to search for print, microfilmed, and manuscript materials on this site that contains millions of library catalog entries. Download the recording for only $8.

24 March 2015

FamilySearch Updates: TX Marriages, KY Probate, PA GAR Records

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

Texas, World War I Records, 1917-1920

Pennsylvania, Grand Army of the Republic Membership Records, 1866-1956

Kentucky Probate Records, 1727-1990

United States, GenealogyBank Obituaries, 1980-2014

Texas, County Marriage Records, 1837-1977

Evidence of a Canine But No Passport

I've made no headway on locating  the five "passports" for the dog of Marie/May Drollete as mentioned in an earlier post. However, I did come across a picture of the dog in a 1921 article on Drollette in the Evansville Courier. It's not often I come across pictures of relatives and their pets in the newspaper.

That still doesn't answer the question of the "dog passport."

I'm inclined to think that Drollette was referring to some type of permit for the dog to board the ship and to accompany her on the voyage from Hong Kong to the United States.  After all, dogs probably don't need to document their citizenship status--only their health status. I'm also reasonably certain that the reporter who wrote the article didn't ask Mrs. Drollette for any "paper proof" of the five passports to which she referred. Like many newspaper articles, the information contained is only as accurate as the person providing it and is also dependent upon the amount of due diligence the paper exercised. I'm doubtful made an any attempt to back up Drollette's "dog passport" story.

And "dog passport" makes for an interesting headline.

One always has to be careful taking at face value what one reads in any newspaper. Just because the word "passport" was used does not mean that "passport" was what was meant.


It is also possible that this dog was not the one that accompanied Drollette to Indiana from China. It could easily have been a different one. The dog is never referenced by name or even breed.

Genealogy takeaways from the picture:

  • Newspapers may not use words in quite the way the reader thinks.
  • Reporters may take what an informant says at face value.
  • Newspaper items should be used as clues to further avenues for research.
This item was located on GenealogyBank.

23 March 2015

You Ask...And I Wonder

[note: This originally appeared in the Ancestry Daily News in January of 2001. There is still a lot of good food for thought in this piece.]

Genealogists ask questions of relatives, record keepers, librarians, family members, archivists, historians, and just about anyone who might have knowledge to assist them in their ancestral search. Family historians need to ask questions of others; after all, it's a great way to learn. But questions should not only be directed outward. Sometimes it is helpful if we ask a few questions of ourselves. Here are a few you should ponder.


And I wonder:

- Have you entered the information into your genealogy database?
- Have you completely analyzed the document?
- Have you thought about what other records the document suggests you
- Have you filed the document so you can find it?
- Have you adequately cited the document so someone else can find the


And I wonder:

- Have you read the document out loud?
- Have you typed the document?
- Have you asked someone else to look at the document?
- Have you read the entire document?
- Have you read the document backward?
- Have you looked up words you do not understand?
- Do you have the entire document?
- Do you have an incomplete transcription or abstract?


And I wonder:

- Have you looked at the entire family?
- Have you looked for unknown family members?
- Have you analyzed the neighbors?
- Have you read local histories?
- Have you read regional histories?
- Have you considered geography?
- Have you considered economics?
- Have you considered migration trails?
- Have you considered chain migration?
- Have you considered boundary changes?
- Have you traced the person's life as far as you can?
- Have you started with the most recent events and worked backward?


And I wonder:

- Have you interviewed all the relatives?
- Have you interviewed former family neighbors?
- Have you identified all the family pictures?
- Have you considered all the spellings?
- Have you considered all the pronunciations?
- Have you taken a break and worked on another line or family?
- Have you written up what you already have?


- Have you CHECKED vital records?
- Have you checked LAND RECORDS?
- Have you checked court records?
- Have you checked probate records?
- Have you checked local records?
- Have you checked state records?
- Have you checked federal records?
- Have you checked church records?
- Have you checked occupational records?
- Have you checked ETHNIC organizations?
- Have you checked fraternal organizations?
- Have you researched every organization to which your ancestor
belonged (church, fraternal, ethnic, military, etc.)?


- Have you checked your assumptions?
- Are you researching from the present to the past?
- Have you organized your information?
- Have you double-checked research you did when you were new to
- Have you put queries on appropriate bulletin boards?
- Have you posted your question to appropriate listservs?


And I wonder:

- Have you attended a relevant workshop or seminar?
- Have you read an article or book on the subject?
- Have you listened to a conference tape?
- Have you read an appropriate reference work?
- Have you subscribed to an appropriate listserv?
- Have you looked for articles on the Internet?


And I wonder:

- Have you contacted the compiler?
- Have you located the original source?
- Have you located records the online source suggests?
- Have you considered that the online source might be incorrect?
- Have you considered using offline sources as well?
- Are you using the Internet source as a clue?


And I wonder:

- Have you made certain you know how the index is compiled?
- Have you read the compiler's introduction (it might list record
- Have you considered typographical errors?
- Have you considered transcription errors?
- Have you considered searching the records themselves?


And I wonder:

- Have you considered reading the original records?
- Have you read the published material's preface?


And I wonder:

- Have you read research guides to that area?
- Have you located maps of that area?
- Have you contacted the local genealogical/historical society?
- Have you considered joining genealogy listservs for that area?
- Have you seen the USGenWeb page for that county?
- Have you seen the UsGenWeb page for that state?
- Have you checked Cyndi's List for that state?
- Do you understand the political boundaries of that area?
- Are you remembering that each area has different records?
- Are you remembering that each area may have different laws?
- Are you aware that each area has a different culture?

There are a lot of other things I could wonder too. This listing is
not meant to be comprehensive. However, if it makes you wonder about
your own research, then it has served its purpose. (After writing
this article, I realize I have a lot of work to catch up on as well!)

This post is:

22 March 2015

The Genealogist and Her Son--a Little Genealogy Humor

I'm not certain of the origin of this joke, but I'm paraphrasing it here. I'm fairly certain this joke first crossed my path at least ten years ago...
A widow had "discovered" genealogy and found it a great way to occupy some of her spare time in her retirement. She spent some money, but was judicious in what she spent and was not in any danger of frittering away her retirement. In fact, she stayed well within her genealogy budget.

Her son, thinking that his mother was spending too much time "looking for dead people," constantly berated her for it and criticized her for spending too much money.

She finally told him that since her genealogy work bothered him so much, she had decided to develop a new past time that might cost less. The local tavern had a weekly "ladies' night" and she was hopeful that she'd meet a man there would could be her son's stepfather.

He never complained about genealogy again.

Webinars This Week: Archive.org, Ancestry.Com, WorldCat, and Newspapers

We are excited to offer four new webinars this week.

Registrants can get a complimentary copy of the presentation to use personally as many times as they wish---you don't need to take as many notes that way! Webinars are held via GotoWebinar and attendees do not need any special equipment--just a high speed internet connection. Join us!

Using Archive.org--24 March 2015-7:00 p.m. Central Time

Archive.org is a free resource containing digital scans of thousands of out of copyright books and thousands of rolls of microfilm (including all 1790-1930 United States Federal census records) Learn how to effectively search for specific materials, navigate the site and interact with uploaded items, and download items for personal offline use in a variety of formats. You will be using the site for days after you've seen what's available on this free site. Register for only $6 and reserve your spot.

Using WorldCat--25 March 2015-8:30 p.m. Central Time

WorldCat contains an online library catalog for libraries across the entire United States and many foreign countries. Search thousands of library card catalogs in one interface. See effective ways to search for print, microfilmed, and manuscript materials on this site that contains millions of library catalog entries. Register for only $6 and reserve your spot.

Getting More From Newspapers--26 March 2015-7:00 p.m. Central Time

There is more to newspapers than obituaries and marriage announcements. In this presentation, we will see how to see what newspapers are available, both digitally and on microfilm. We will look at effective search techniques for online newspapers, including search structures, keyword searching, and more. We will also discuss approaches for accessing newspapers that are not available online. Register for only $6 and reserve your spot.

Effective Census Search Strategies for Ancestry.com--26 March 2015-8:30 p.m. Central Time

There is more to searching the online census than simply putting a name in a box and clicking. We will look at effective use of wildcards, soundex options, location parameters, and more. Included will be a discussion of a general organizational strategy so that searchers spend less time "going in circles. This presentation is not sponsored or endorsed by Ancestry.com and Michael John Neill is not an Ancestry.com employee. Register for only $6 and reserve your spot.

Presentations are geared toward advanced beginning and intermediate researchers.

This webpage is:


Genealogical Information from a Kewpie Doll

The newspaper said the picture was not of a "kewpie doll," but instead was a four year old musician.

One wouldn't really think that there would be much in the way of genealogical information in a newspaper account of an "embryo musician." That would be a mistake as this 1922 reference to Lillian Drollette contains quite a bit of information on her heritage, including naming her parents (with her mother's maiden name), grandmother, and great-grandfather.

The item goes on to mention that her great-grandfather was a well-known Evansville musician, Josef Cintura, and that she was related to another local musician Arnulf Cintura. Residential information was also given on her parents and grandmother.

Genealogical clues can turn up in unexpected places. Based upon what is known from other records the genealogical information in this account appears to be correct.

This item was located on GenealogyBank.

21 March 2015

Do You Know the Qualifications?

How one gets listed in a record is an important part of the analysis process.

It should be fairly obvious how someone gets listed in a death record--at least the principal person. There are other people who may be alive and whose names may appear on a death certificate (the parents, the informant, the doctor, etc.).

In the cases of other records the qualifiers may not be so clear:

  • What were the qualifications to vote in Ohio in 1823? 
  • Who had to pay personal property taxes in Maryland in 1845? 
  • Who was required to register for the Civil War draft? 
  • Who was eligible to serve on a jury in South Carolina in 1810?
  • Who could witness a document in Maryland in 1798?
  • Who could serve as an administrator in Missouri in 1878?
  • Who could serve as a guardian in Illinois in 1856?
The answers to the above questions usually lies in contemporary state statute.

But there are more:
  • Who was eligible to naturalize in the United States in 1860?
  • Who was supposed to be enumerated in the 1840 census?
  • Who was eligible to be a schoolteacher in Ohio in 1920?
If your relative acted in any capacity, appeared in an official record, or was "required" to do something, find out more about why that was necessary.

The way may not be stated in the record, but knowing it may tell you more about your ancestor.

I'm An Adult--You Don't Need My Age

It is frustrating when a record lists information as "unknown," but it happens. It's even more frustrating when it's pretty clear that the information really is not "unknown" to the informant.

In an attempt to find passport records and application for May Drollette (and her dog!), I came across her 1941 marriage in Hong Kong as reported to American Consulate.

The groom, John Oram Sheppard indicated he was 62 years of age. 

May Cintura Drollette only indicated that she was an "adult."

This may explain why her age tends to get younger and younger as documents become more recent. There probably were only so many record agencies who would list her age as "adult" and required a specific age.

It was probably clear to the marrying official that May was over the legal age to marry--and that really was all that was required. If we think about it for a minute, whether a person is aged 40 or 60 does not impact their ability to marry as long as they are single and legally competent to enter into a marriage.

Fortunately most record clerks are a little more particular about requiring an age than this one.

Unless May's new husband didn't know her age either....


Consular Reports of Marriage, 1910–1949. Series ARC ID: 2555709 - A1, Entry 3001. General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59. National Archives at Washington D.C

Upcoming Speaking Engagements in 2015

I'll be speaking at the following locations/events for the duration of 2015:

Visit the group's website for more information, or email me for information on having me speak to your group.

20 March 2015

Webinars Released: BLM, Fold3.com, and Your "Process"

We've released copies of my three latest webinars--download is immediate!

Is Your Process the Problem?

Is your genealogical research process part of your problem? We will look at ways to organize your search, your problems, and your results in order to make the most effective use of your genealogical and financial resources. Geared towards beginning and intermediate researchers. $7 includes registration and handout.

Using the Bureau of Land Management Site

This presentation discusses search strategies for the Bureau of Land Management website--which hosts a database of federal land patent extracts and images. It will include a brief discussion of legal land descriptions in federal land states before discussing the several ways the site can be searched and queried. The presentation will conclude with several specific examples and how the site was queried for additional information. $7 includes presentation and handout.

Navigating Fold3.com-

Frustrated with finding databases and people on Fold3.com? This presentation discusses search techniques for determining what Fold3.com has, what it doesn't and how to search the entire site and specific databases for individuals of interest. Download complete presentation for $7.

Dog Passports and Leaving Servants in China

Sometimes one just simply cannot make things up.

In the process of searching for items on GenealogyBank while working on a separate blog post, I located a reference to a visit George and Marie Drollette made to her hometown of Evansville, Indiana, in 1921. The article contained an interesting subheading:

"Five Passports for Dog"

In explaining the subheading further, the paper states that "in speaking of the difficulties of entering the United States, Mrs. Drollette remarked that she had to have five passports to get her dog over."

Five passports for her dog? I'm inclined to think that she's referring to some sort of permission for the dog, but I'm doubting that she obtained canine passports.

Mrs. Drollette also lamented that she was unable to bring over her Chinese servant due the apparent amount of time the Drollettes were staying in the United States.

I'll have to look for Mrs. Drollette's passport and see if any dog is mentioned.

Stay tuned.

GenealogyBank may contain similar items on your relative.

17 March 2015

FamilySearch Update

The following database is showing as updated on FamilySearch:

Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013

How much of this is "new" I am not certain. I've used this database personally and it's been on the site for some time. My advice is to check and see if your counties of interest are showing up.

My Irish Immigrants

Like many genealogists with Irish immigrants, I don't have a great deal of information on my Irish family in Ireland. 

Samuel Neill immigrated as a single man in 1864, arriving in Canada's New Brunswick Province with his married brother Joseph and Joseph's young family. The Neills were living in Limavady when they left Ireland for Canada. Their immigration information appears in Brian Mitchell's Irish Passenger Lists 1847-1871: Lists of Passengers Sailing from Londonderry to America on Ships of the J. & J. COOKE Line and the McCORKELL  Line (Genealogical  Publishing  Co., Balto., MD.  1988).

Samuel's brother Joseph was married in Ireland before the family's immigration to the United States:

From  the "Quarterly returns of Marriages 1862 Ireland  Vol.  9," LDS microfilm roll 0101440, page 375.

On  16 January 1862 at the Derrymore Presbyterian Church,  Joseph NEIL[sic] and Ann BRYCE[sic] were married by Wm. [JAMISON?], with witnesses  of  Wm. MC INTOSH and John ARCHIBALD.  Joseph  was  of full  age  and was a bachelor who lived in [Taques] Hill  in  the parish  of Drumachose.  Joseph was a servant, and was the son  of John NEIL[sic] who was a laborer.  Ann was a spinster of full age and  was  a servant living in White [??] in the parish of  Drumachose.  Her father was James BRYCE, a laborer.

Samuel and Annie Murphy were married in New Brunswick in 1865. Unfortunately there is no additional information on the family in their marriage record there. Nothing is known about Annie's Irish origins other than she was born in the late 1830s/early 1840s and was a native of Ireland.

The Neills moved to near West Point, Hancock County, Illinois in the late 1860s and remained there until their deaths. Research in Hancock County has not located any information related to Annie's Irish origins. The Neills settled in Hancock County likely because Joseph's wife, Anne Brice, had family already in the area. 

Annie (Murphy) Neill died in St. Albans Township in 1897. Samuel died at his home on 17 March 1912.

Samuel and Joseph supposedly had several siblings. One may have been a Roseanna Neill who died in Ireland.

Related to Michael?

For those who've read various postings here and have wondered if they are related to me, I've posted an incomplete copy of my ancestor table on my website. My email indicates that there are several followers/readers who are related to me in one way, shape, or form.

I have quite a bit more of my Ostfriesen lines but just don't have them uploaded to the page yet. While some of the Ostfriesen last names are unusual, the nature of patronymics does not necessarily mean that we're related just because we have the same last name in common. There are several different Ufkes families out there for example--unrelated (I'm from the Ufkes family from Holtrop/Wiesens). Ufkes descendants have a male ancestor whose first name was Ufke--meaning that unrelated men with the first name of Ufke could both have children with the last name of Ufke. And every Ostfriesen has at least one (or five, ten, fifteen, etc.) ancestors with the last name of Janssen). Exceptions to the Ostfriesen patronym rule are generally the last names of Fecht, Flessner, Gronewold, etc. which are not patronymic in origin.

If you think there's a relatively close connection, I'd love to hear from you--but keep in mind that responding may take me a little while.

14 Genealogy Blogs You Might Not Be Reading

Genealogy Tip of the Day made Crestleaf.com's list of "14 Genealogy Blogs You Might Not Be Reading...But Should!" I appreciate the mention as we don't spend any money here on advertising or promotion.

I'm fairly certain most Rootdig readers are aware of Genealogy Tip of the Day as we've mentioned it here before and most tips come from items I'm working on for larger projects.

Readers may wish to take a look at the other blogs listed here. Sometimes it's good to get outside your "genealogical comfort zone."

Congratulations to the other bloggers for appearing on the list!

16 March 2015

Unravelling the Mysteries of Women on the FamilySearch Site.

I was quoted in a recent article on the FamilySearch blog, "3 Ways to Unravel the Mysteries of Women in Your Family Tree." Female ancestors present challenges for ways mentioned in the article.

Here are few of my female ancestors for whom I was able to locate a great deal of records and where those records were located:

  • Barbara (Siefert) Beiger Fennan Haase Haase (died in Illinois in 1903)--two divorces (1870s and 1880s) and the guardianship of her children in the 1850s.
  • Nancy Jane (Newman) Rampley (died in 1923 in Illinois)--her denied Civil War widow's pension was finally approved in the very early 20th century, after a great deal of testimony which documented much of her life before and after her marriage to the Civil War veteran.
  • Antje (Jaspers) Habben Fecht (died in 1900 in Illinois)--a family court case after her husband's death in 1877 documented her operation of the family farm after his demise.
  • Susannah Rucker--deeds executed by her children in Orange and Amherst Counties in Virginia in the mid-18th century document her move from one county to another.
There is no doubt that female ancestors are more difficult to document than male ancestors. One key is making certain you have researched everything you can get your hands on and have interpreted every document in the appropriate legal and historical context. Often records that are not directly about females indirectly contain significant clues about them.

14 March 2015

Getting Listed in the 1880 US Federal Agricultural Census

Census instructions matter, but genealogists do not always read them as often as they should. The image that is a part of this post comes from a set of instructions for the United States federal agricultural census schedules found on the www.census.gov website.

If you have an ancestor in the US agricultural census schedules, have you thought about what size and type of farm qualified? Was your ancestor who had a large truck garden from which sold produce supposed to have been enumerated?

Have you thought about reading the instructions?

Hard telling what you might learn.

BLM, Fold3, and Research Process Webinars

We had scheduling challenges with my brick wall webinars (the BLM site was not responding during our presentation and I had a family emergency on 12 March). But we are back and on track. If you already registered and paid, you do not need to do so again--you are on the list.

Using the Bureau of Land Management Site-Wednesday 18 March 2015-7:00 pm Central

This presentation discusses search strategies for the Bureau of Land Management website--which hosts a database of federal land patent extracts and images. It will include a brief discussion of legal land descriptions in federal land states before discussing the several ways the site can be searched and queried. The presentation will conclude with several specific examples and how the site was queried for additional information. $6 includes registration and handout.

Navigating Fold3.com-Wednesday 18 March 2015--8:30 pm Central

Frustrated with finding databases and people on Fold3.com? This presentation will discuss search techniques for determining what Fold3.com has, what it doesn't and how to search the entire site and specific databases for individuals of interest. $6 includes registration and handout.

Is Your Process the Problem?-Thursday 19 March 2015--7:00 Central

Is your genealogical research process part of your problem? We will look at ways to organize your search, your problems, and your results in order to make the most effective use of your genealogical and financial resources. Geared towards beginning and intermediate researchers. $6 includes registration and handout.


If you already registered for these at the original time and cannot attend, you will get a complimentary download link to view the presentation and the handout. You do not need to pay again.

Registrants will receive a GotoWebinar link and a handout before the webinar begins. No special software is required to participate in the webinar, but a high speed internet connection enhances the participation experience. Questions can be addressed to Michael at mjnrootdig@gmail.com. 

Ancestry.com's Whispering Hints That Make My Ears Hurt

Let me preface this by saying that Ancestry.com's digital images of actual records are helpful to my search. But...

Their "hint"s are another matter entirely and make it clear why some of the user-submitted trees on Ancestry.com are full of errors. 

The "hints" on Ancestry.com for my ancestor Habbe Habben who died in 1665 in Holtrop, Germany, include:
  • World War I Casualty Lists
  • An 1864 military crew list
  • An 1881 passenger list

I'm a little rusty on my world history, but I thought that World War I was a twentieth century experience.

I realize Ancestry.com wants to give me a "good user experience" and help me find things. I also realize they are concerned that my death year for Habben could be off.  However, a death date of 1665 would have to be pretty off for that same person to be serving in World War I.

I also realize sometimes these hints are taken from records that have been linked to trees by other users. I know Habbe Habben is not the most common name in the world and that some people can't be bothered worrying about accuracy imposed by things as ephemeral as dates.

But can't Ancestry.com set some parameters to not even show me these inane hints even if someone has linked them to the same person? If my Habbe Habben who I thought died in 1665 really lived until World War I, he could have been considerate enough to have lived through the 1980s when I could have asked him all sorts of personal questions.

Can't the search parameters on the "hints" be a little tighter?  It seems to me that record event dates two centuries after the person died is a little loose. Just a little.

Let's not blame the computer for these wacked out hints. It's not the fault of the computer that these hints are returned. Programmers control computers. Ancestry.com is not the new kid on the block just setting up shop. They've been at this a while. If they can index the entire 1940 census in a matter of months, create all those cell phone apps, and manage all that DNA data, they certainly can figure out how to tighten up a few search parameters.

It is "hints" like this that hint to me Ancestry.com just does not really understand the genealogy research process.

Or maybe they don't understand programming.

Fold3.com Acknowledges Wildcard Issue

Apparently it was not just me.

In "Wildcards at Fold3.com-Why Won't Foc*e Find Focke?" I mentioned a wildcard search at Fold3.com that apparently was not working. 

I received several emails from people who apparently thought I wasn't performing the search correctly. That wasn't true as the search approach I was using was precisely the same one that Fold3.com suggests on their search page (and which was shown in the images in my post). 

But Fold3.com realized the problem was not with me when I recevied this message via Twitter:

"Our engineers are looking into that wildcard issue you had with search. Thanks."

We'll post an update when we have one...stay tuned.

Sometimes website problems are not with the user!

12 March 2015

Wildcards at Fold3.com-Why Won't Foc*e Find Focke?

Hopefully I'm just a little confused with Fold3.com. Hopefully there's just something I'm doing wrong that I'm not realizing.

When I search for Focke Goldenstein, there are 29 total matches. That's not surprising. Focke Goldenstein is not a common name.

While practicing for an upcoming Fold3.com webinar, I decided to perform a wildcard search for "foc*e" goldenstein. It should find "focke goldenstein" and any other matches to that search term. I should get at least as many matches for foc*e goldenstein as I do for focke goldenstein.

The surprise was on me. There were no matches. 

Hopefully I'm doing something wrong. If Focke Golenstein is in the database at Fold3.com (which it is based upon the first screen shot included in this post), then a search for foc*e goldenstein should locate it as well. 

These searches were conducted on 11 and 12 March 2015.

We'll post an update if needed.

11 March 2015

Have You Considered Blogging?

One of the "2015 Brick Wall" techniques I mentioned was blogging. There are several reasons why blogging can be good for your genealogical research:

  • Writing up your research in a clear way for others to read and so that they can understand your thought process makes your research better
  • Citing what you write--completely even if not academically correct, makes your research stronger
  • Sharing your research can "get the word out"
  • Blog posts are excellent "cousin bait"
That said, I'm not suggesting that blog posts be rambling, contain "connections" that make no sense, repeat undocumented conclusions, or merely copy information from other researchers or compiled sources. Bloggers need to be original and create their own content. I'd also suggest that posts include reasonably correct grammar and correctly spelled words. 

There are a few caveats:
  • Blogging is not necessarily a permanent way to "preserve" your information.
  • Blogging shares whatever you post with the world immediately and from a practical standpoint, you may lose "control" over what you post.
  • Blogging is very public, others may not like what you post.

There are two sites where you can set up a blog at no charge with minimal technical experience:

There are other sites--these are just two.

This post was meant to get those who have not really thought about blogging to consider giving it a try--or at least give it a second thought. You don't have to blog every day. In fact it is better to wait until you have something to actually say instead of thinking that you must blog every day. 


This post was written because a recent post turned up a distant relative--now I just need to respond to her email. 

Brick Wall Strategies for 2015 Webinar Released

Our brick wall webinar series was our most popular...so we added one more:

Brick Wall Strategies for 2015

Aimed at the advanced beginner and intermediate researcher, this presentation will focus on a variety of brick wall problem-solving strategies and is different from my "Brick Walls from A to Z" series. Discussion will be through specific example emphasizing the problem and the process used to work through it. We will also discuss knowing when you may be at the "end of the line." A basic knowledge of American resources is suggested. Download the recording and handout for $7.

They Are In the Book But Not Named

Back in the early days of my research, after attending a lecture or a seminar, I looked in a copy of the 1895 Sargent Genealogy for my elusive Ira Sargent. While published genealogies had their pitfalls, they were still a good source of clues if nothing else.

I didn't find my Ira Sargent listed. It wasn't of trying.

It turns out he is in the book.

He was there as entry 1128:
A son.

No wonder I didn't find him.

I'm not certain why the last three children of Clark and Mary (Dingman) Sargent were not named in the 1895 publication. My speculation is that they simply lost touch with the rest of the family when Clark moved west, frst to Ontario and later into Illinois. All of Clark Sargent's children were born in Ontario, Canada, and he died in Winnebago County, Illinois, in the late 1840s. Clark did settle where he had no known Sargent relatives and, given that he was younger when he died and that his wife Mary died shortly after a subsequent marriage and that her second husband raised the children, it is very possible that they simply lost all touch with their paternal side of the family upon Clark's death. It is even possible that Clark wanted to lose touch with his family.

But it got me to wondering.

How often is the person of interest in a publication, only to be unnamed?

And how many families lost touch with their "families of origin" as they moved west?

The Sargents did settle in Winnebago County, Illinois, where it appears they had no immediate relatives. That's somewhat unusual but not unheard of. However, they are not as unusual as one might think. There were other Canadians who settled in Winnebago County--including several from Ontario.

The Sargents didn't move west with family. They moved west with neighbors.

Mary Sargent's second husband was an Ontario native she met in Winnebago County, Illinois. In 1850 she and her new husband and her children are enumerated in Winnebago County in the federal census. By the 1856 Iowa State Census, Mary is dead and her husband is heading a household with four of his step children of two children of his own. By 1860 they have moved to Missouri.

It's doubtful that the Sargent children had any contact with close relatives of their mother or father.

Which might explain why few stories of the family were passed down to the current generation and possibly why when the Sargent genealogy was compiled in the 1890s there probably was not any contact made with the children of Clark Sargent.

10 March 2015

09 March 2015

BLM and Brick Wall Strategies Webinars Tomorrow-10 March

My BLM and Brick Wall Strategies webinars are tomorrow-10 March.

FamilySearch: US Education Supt. Records; Chinese Pass. to San Diego, and NY Passenger Soundex

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

United States, Records of the Superintendent of Education and of the Division of Education, 1864-1879

California, San Diego, Chinese Passenger and Crew Lists, 1905-1923

New York, New York, Soundex to Passenger and Crew Lists, 1887-1921

How "updated" they are I can't say, but the last one has already been online for a while.

A Warning About Warnings Out

An earlier post ("Aunt Caty Warned Out of Addison in 1814") mentioned a "warning out" a relative received in Addison, Vermont, in 1814.
Like many records, there's a little more here than just what is on the surface. The "warning out" didn't mean that Aunt Caty was drug out of town in January of 1814 with her children in tow and her belongings dragging behind her in a cart. It was most likely a warning that she was a newcomer to Addison and was potentially a person who would not be able to support herself. Warnings out have a long history dating back to the early days of the American colonies and stemmed from English practice. The essence of the intent behind the system was that the village not have new residents move in who had no means of support. 

Caty's brother-in-law, Samuel Sargent, was "warned out" of Addison in 1812--also in February. It may be that Samuel actually never left and his residence there was the reason Caty moved there herself after her husband died. Maybe. There's nothing in these records to indicate that however and I'll need to do more work to determine if Samuel Sargent was still living in Addison at the time when Caty was "warned out."

These records, like all records, require an understanding of their intent and their implementation. But don't just assume that your ancestor was "dumped at the village line" as a result of the warning out.

An additional reminder that sometimes just "Googling" to find information on a topic may not be sufficient. My own Google searches for this topic located several online references that provided a very superficial treatment of these records. Understanding the purpose and background of any record is crucial to the interpretation of it. Readers with an interest in the topic may wish to refer to Josiah Henry Benton's Warning Out in New England (Boston, 1911, W. B. Clarke Company).

We're working on a longer post with some references and additional readings on these records. Stay tuned.

Aunt Caty Warned Out of Addison in 1814

In February of 1814, Caty Roe was "warned out of Addison, Vermont, and told to "Depart Said Town."
The order to ask her to leave was dated 14 January 1814 and signed by Addison's selectmen Gideon Spencer, Levi Hanks, and William Picket. William Whitford, Constable, attempted to serve notice on Caty.

Except she wasn't home on 14 January 1814 when the notice was served. She was "gon[e] to Burlington and Expected to return tomorrow." Whitford left the notice with Solomon Crowfoot who was living at her "last usual place of abode."

What Caty was doing in Burlington in 1814 is another story and one that I don't know. It is nearly thirty miles from Addison and most likely not an easy trip in the winter for a single woman. What Caty's connection was to Crowfoot (if any) is not known at this time. Preliminary research does not indicate that he is a member of her extended family, but it is possible.

The warnings out were usually issued to newcomers who were either undesirable or had no means of support. Caty was a widow and her financial situation at the time of her warning out is not known. It's possible the town of Addison did not want a family without means of support living there. Whether she immediately left Addison is not known, but she is known to have lived in other locations in Vermont.

Her sister, Sarah (Gibson) Sargent's husband, Samuel was warned out of Addison in 1811. Whether he actually left is another matter.

What I need to check are town vital records to determine where the children of Samuel and Sarah (Gibson) Sargent were born and where Caty Roe's children were born. The Sargents were having children around the time of Samuel's warning out. Roe was not. That would help to provide a partial  migration chronology for both the Sargents and for Roe.

They might have been warned out of more than one Vermont town.

See our first update here.

08 March 2015

Thinking About Research Process for John Gibson

I've decided to take another stab at the family of John Gibson (born in Stow, Massachusetts in 1751) and who I wrote a while ago after finding a reference to him in a Gibson family history.

The author of that family history apparently loses John after a land transaction in 1799 where he sold his property in Ashby, Massachusetts, and indicated that it was thought that John left the area after that point in time.

And, for unexplained reason, the author indicated that John Gibson died after 10 April 1811. The author makes no reference as to why they knew John was alive on that date. In all honesty, I need to read more completely the Gibson genealogy from which the information on John was obtained to see if there is any other reference to that 1811 date--it may be that he signed or appears in some sort of probate or other estate settlement document. But that's only a guess.

Apparently at some point, some genealogist has taken the "last alive by date" for John and converted it into a death date. That date is given as John's death in numerous online references, all seemingly copied from the initial date converter.

I've not thrown out the online references to John and his children. Just because a compilation has one fact apparently interpreted incorrectly does not mean that other information in those compilations is incorrect. Those compilations have given me solid leads on John's children, specifically:

  • Catherine Gibson, born 1783 in Ashby
  • John Gibson, born 1778 in Ashby
I'm using the information in those online compilations on those two children as clues to obtain further information from "non-compiled" sources. I am also constantly reviewing that data to determine if the information is reasonable and consistent. And as I do that, I'm tracking from where the information was obtained. That does slow down the research process, but it makes later continued analysis and reference easier. 

Another of John's children, Sarah (born in 1744 in Ashby) is believed to have married Samuel Sargent. I'm also hoping to find documentation to solidify that "belief." 

Part of the rationale for tracking these children of John Gibson is that some of the records on Catherine, John, and Sarah Sargent mention where they lived and where their children were born. 

These locations are then being used as possible places to search for John Gibson in an attempt to see where he went after he apparently left Ashby. Chances are hopefully he'll turn up near where one of his children live.

And then maybe I'll find estate, probate, or land records on him that may more concretely tie him to his children and maybe even solidify that died after 10 April 1811 death date. 

Some schools of thought would suggest that I research the children completely, then put that information together, see what it says and go from there. Given that I'd really like to find John after 1799 and that records on him may help me confirm where his children ended up, I'll keep working the approach that I'm using now. 

Because I'm hoping to firm up the "belief" that John's daughter Sarah married Samuel Sargent--after all, that's my actual line of descent.

05 March 2015

An 1811 Slave Murder in Virginia

Sometimes the things we find in our past are not pleasant and often the unpleasant items are not ones that are passed down as stories from one generation to another. Such is the case of a Virginia slave who was murdered by a probable relative of my Sledd family.

Every so often, I try and determine who this "Sledd man" was that murdered a slave in Virginia in 1811. The Sledd name is not common and the individual referenced is from the same two county area (Bedford and Amherst) as where my Sledd family was from.

It was a vicious punishment of the slave by Sledd to which the article in the Examiner refers. The treatment of the slave (which was not even Sledd's slave but instead belonged to a neighbor) was brutal. Sledd received two years in the Virginia State Penitentiary for the crime.

Newspaper accounts indicate the case was heard in Bedford County, but offer no specifics as to Sledd's name.

It's probably time to access the local criminal records that would cover Bedford County--which I've mentioned doing before. 1810 census records, property tax and personal tax records may give me candidates for this Sledd man. I should also locate local newspapers as those references to the case may help to identify Sledd.

As mentioned in an earlier post, this may be a case that cannot be solved by online sources.

And unfortunately, the slave woman--poor soul--will never be identified.

04 March 2015

One Mile to School in 1933 for the Ufkes Children--and No Hills According to the USGS Site

There's a site of historical USGS maps that may help you disprove that story of Grandpa walking uphill to school both ways....

While working on an unrelated post, I was reminded of the historical USGS topographic maps that have been posted online.

The image on this post comes from the 1933 map for Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois. The only modification I made to the map was the "Fred & Tena Ufkes farm" notation (and the black line pointing to their house). My great-grandparents, the Ufkeses, would have been living there in 1933. All the Ufkes children (including my grandfather) attended the Union School which is shown in the northwestern corner of section 24 of Bear Creek Township. Not too far of a walk and a fairly flat one from the map (which I already knew).

These historical maps on the http://historicalmaps.arcgis.com/usgs/ site are a wonderful resource and a great way to locate former one-room schools. Churches are also indicated. There's one to the very very small "+" to the right of "farm." Cemeteries may also be noted as well, sometimes unnamed. There cemetery affiliated with the church near the Ufkes farm is approximately one mile north of the church and is indicated with an + with a box around it.

He Was Born in T: Being More Specific than the Database Won't Help

Too much information can be a problem in many ways. It can be a particular problem when querying genealogical databases created from original documents that may have information entered in a non-standard way.

Transcribers are encouraged to transcribe documents as they are written and not to transcribe them they way they think they should be.

That's what happened with the database entry in Ancestry.com's "Sweden, Selected Indexed Household Clerical Surveys, 1880-1893." for Samuel Johnson who was born in Tjarstad, Sweden, in 1867.

Searching for him with his birth place as that village brought back no results as shown below.

 That's because the only information listed for him as a place of birth is "T" and so that is what was transcribed.

I imagine the pastor from Tjarstad who compiled the Household Clerical Survey became tired of writing Tjarstad over and over--so he abbreviated it with a "T."

And that's how it got put in the index.

And that's how it should be done. 

Note: Samuel was searched for as an exercise simply for this blog post---and I discovered two entries for him in the Household Clerical Survey as a result.

Lesson number one: Avoid being overly specific in creating database searches. Sometimes too much information is too much.

Lesson number two: sometimes it pays to search for people you've already located. One never knows what might turn up.

1880 Era Household Clerical Register for Samuel--Part I

Ancestry.com recently announced an update to "Sweden, Selected Indexed Household Clerical Surveys, 1880-1893." As of this writing, the database is incomplete--Ancestry.com makes that clear.

But at this point, I'm happy as the database contains indexed entries for Tjärstad in the Östergötland province. Users of the database should confirm that their locations of interest are included in the index.

A not-so-quick search turned up the relative of interest: Samuel Otto Johansson Sund.

For those who have not used these records, the Household Clerical Surveys contain significant genealogical detail and are often cross-referenced to other records. Samuel is working on the farm of Jonan Mansson (line entry 6). I know this is the Samuel of interest as the date of birth and place of birth is consistent with records on him in the United States, although his name is slightly different--the addition of the Anders.

The "T" is relative here--and refers to Tjarstad, the parish in which this record was created. Like many records abbreviations may liberally used and are relative to the location and time period. The entry also references Samuel's migration to North America, which is known to have taken place during the time period of this register--an additional clue that I've got the right person.

Samuel was also vaccinated against smallpox and that's noted in the register.

We are working on a complete transcription/translation of this Household Clerical Register for Samuel.

Readers with Swedish ancestors may wish to take a look at Sweden, Selected Indexed Household Clerical Surveys, 1880-1893. on Ancestry.com. Like any database, the index is not perfect, but the ability to perform searches across all of Sweden is a significant ability.

Stay tuned.