Free Updates

Let us tell you when new posts are added!

Email:

Navigation

Categories

Search

Archives

<September 2008>
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
31123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
2829301234
567891011

More Links










# Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Help! My Ancestor's Birth Record Is Restricted
Posted by Diane

Q. I’m having difficulties getting a relative’s birth records because I live in a state that restricts vital records. I’m not an immediate family member, and thus not entitled to the record. Any suggestions?

A. You don’t say about when the ancestor was born, but many states loosen restrictions on records created more than 75 or 100 years ago. So first, double-check the rules where your ancestor was born. If older certificates are unrestricted, you may need to request the record from the state archives. Try these ideas, too:
  • Try to find someone who is a qualified family member of the person in the record, and ask if he or she will request it for you (or perhaps the person already has a copy). A relative may be able to help you connect with the person, or you can post to surname message boards.
  • See if you can get an uncertified copy of the record. Unlike a certified copy, an uncertified copy can’t be used for official purposes such as identification. The uncertified record also may contain a bit less information.
  • Look for a birth index in print, online or on microfilm. It’ll certainly have less information than the full record, but you can confirm the person’s name, place and date of birth, and maybe the parents’ names. To find printed or microfilmed indexes, check with the state archives and a local library. Also, run a place search of the FamilySearch catalog on the county of birth, then look for a vital records heading. You can go to your nearest Family History Center to rent the microfilm.
  • You may need to go to other sources for birth information. The person’s church may have recorded his or her baptism. Maybe there’s a family Bible entry or the newspaper announced the good news (check newspaper databases such as Ancestry.com’s or GenealogyBank’s, or visit the local library for microfilmed papers).
  • Military records, death certificates, cemetery records and the Social Security Death Index can provide birthplaces and dates. Remember that these records, created long after a person’s birth, are more likely to contain errors than a birth certificate.
See the December 2006 Family Tree Magazine for more help finding ancestors’ birth records. If you have more tips, click Comment to post them.


birth/death records | US roots
Wednesday, September 10, 2008 10:09:11 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, August 28, 2008
Aunts and Uncles: Grand, Not Great
Posted by Allison

Q. Some sources say my brother's grandchildren are my grandniece and grandnephews. If that's the case, why am I called a great-aunt? What is the correct term?

A. Great-aunt or great-uncle is a lot like second cousin: It’s common practice for people to call their grandparents’ siblings by these terms, just as they often refer to first cousins’ children as second cousins—but neither is technically correct. As you noted, the proper term for your relationship to your brother’s grandchildren is grandaunt, just like grandparent. Grand means that the relatives in question are two generations removed from one another.

So aunts and uncles follow the same pattern as parents as you tack on generations:

parentaunt/uncle
grandparent grandaunt/granduncle
great-grandparentgreat-grandaunt/great-granduncle
great-great-grandparent 
great-great-grandaunt/great-great-granduncle

And so on. “It’s a mistake to lump [grandaunts and granduncles] in with the greats,” says Jackie Smith Arnold in Kinship: It’s All Relative, 2nd edition (Genealogical Publishing Co.). “Mixing the generations causes confusion.” That may be the case, but given the widespread misusage of great-aunt, grandaunt might not be any clearer to your relatives. Having your grandnephews call you that certainly doesn’t hurt anything—it’s up to you whether you want to correct them.

In case you’re still wondering about cousins: Your first cousins’ children would be your first cousins once removed. See our article "Cousin Confusion."

genealogy basics | Relationships
Thursday, August 28, 2008 3:14:33 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, August 20, 2008
When You Think You're German, But You Aren't
Posted by Diane

Q. I’ve made little headway in 30 years of researching my Hondlenk line. I was under the assumption Hondlenk is a German name, but a friend went to Germany and asked everyone about it. Germans told her the name is probably Dutch or Danish. Now I don’t know what nationality it is.

A. From the genealogical material you sent, it looks like the source for your assumption is John Hondlenk’s listing in the 1860 Louisiana mortality schedule,  with the place of birth as Germany. (Census mortality schedules, in case readers are wondering, list those who died the year before the census was taken. The schedules exist for the 1850 through 1880 censuses.)

You don’t give John Hondlenk's birth year, but what “Germany” means has changed throughout history. After the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Germany—then a group of states, the largest being Prussia—covered much of Central Europe. Various wars and treaties led it to gain and lose territory to surrounding countries.

Germany as a nation didn’t exist until 1871. Its changing boundaries resulted in many Germans living outside the borders of Germany, and many non-Germans living inside Germany. John Hondlenk may have been born in Germany without being German, and his birthplace may or may not be in today's Germany. See the December 2006 Family Tree Magazine for help sorting out these boundary changes and population movements.

Surnames aren’t fixed through history, either. Your ancestor’s original surname might not be Hondlenk, but a variation or something completely different. After arriving in America, it wasn’t uncommon for immigrants to change their names or alter the spelling to sound more “American.” Our writer Nancy Hendrickson, who wrote about researching surnames in the May 2008 Family Tree Magazine, says she always assumed her Shore family was from Britain, but she later learned Shore is a variation of the Swiss Schorr.

Something else to keep in mind: The birthplace in the mortality schedule might be wrong. Someone may have provided the census taker with the wrong information, or the census taker may have misheard. Or perhaps your ancestor lived in Germany, or left for America from a German port, but wasn’t born there.

Just for kicks, I looked up Hondlenk in Ancestry.com’s free search tool for surname origins, but didn’t find anything.

Focus less on determining the nationality of the name, and instead try to find John Hondlenk’s town or parish of origin—information you’ll need to research him in Europe. Keep plugging away on this side of the pond: Research his relatives and neighbors; look for church, court and other less-often-consulted records; and try to connect with other Hondlenks on surname boards such as GenForum’s.

If any readers have come across Hondlenks in their genealogy search, click Comment and pipe up.


German roots | Surnames
Wednesday, August 20, 2008 7:41:57 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Thursday, August 07, 2008
Recording Nontraditional Family Trees
Posted by Diane

Q. A member of FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum asked "I'm confused. Do I put the names of divorced relatives on a family tree chart if they have biological children on the chart? If the descendant remarried and had children with another spouse, do I list them separately with the descendant?"

A. The answer depends whether you’re putting together a family tree for research purposes or for another reason, such as a decorative display.

For genealogy research, you’d record all this information, but not on one chart. On your five-generation ancestor chart, you record only your biological ancestors—parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. No aunts, uncles, cousins or siblings. Spouses or partners who aren’t your ancestors aren’t listed, either.

That means you’d put your mom’s biological parents on a five-generation chart even if they divorced and remarried other people. Also, because no siblings are listed on a five-generation chart, you don’t have to worry about any half- or step siblings your mom may have.

You’ll record siblings and other spouses on a family group sheet (also available on FamilyTreeMagazine.com) for each family. Here, you write the parents and children of a nuclear family; this form also has spaces to name each parent’s previous or subsequent spouses. If your grandmother was widowed before she met your grandfather, you’d make two family group sheets for her: One for your grandmother with her first husband and their children, and another for your grandmother with your grandfather and their children.

You may be thinking that five-generation charts aren’t very adaptable to blended, adoptive and other nontraditional families. In a purely genealogical sense, ancestors are biological parents, grandparents, etc., whether or not they lived with their children. But if you want to trace your adoptive or step family, you can find charts designed for nontraditional families, such as our adoptive family tree. You also can record people on a traditional five-generation chart, though we recommend clearly indicating the step or adoptive relationships.

If you’re filling out a decorative family tree for display or a baby book, rather than one for your personal research, how you handle relationships is really up to you. We do recommend that to prevent confusion for future family historians, you indicate relationships clearly and/or also keep a five-generation pedigree chart with biological relationships.

If you’re designing your own tree, you can use dashed or colored lines (similar to those on a type of family map called a genogram) to indicate various types of relationships.


genealogy basics
Thursday, August 07, 2008 1:55:39 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Doing Genealogy Almost From Scratch
Posted by Diane

Q. Both parents and my grandparents are deceased, and I know little about either parent’s family. I tried to get vital records and was only able to able to find my father’s death certificate in New Jersey. I know the street where the family lived in Philadelphia some time ago and I believe I have an aunt living somewhere in Pennsylvania. Do you have any ideas for how to approach my research?

A. You don’t have a whole lot information to start with, but you can learn more. First, sit down and make a timeline with everything you know about your family, even if it doesn’t seem genealogically important—names, dates and places of birth and death, jobs, high school, residence, vacations, etc. They’re all clues.

Include any of the family members (such as your aunt) you do know of. If you don’t recall the dates associated with an event, make your best guest or create a separate list. Use the information on your timeline to help you find these records:
  • Marriage records: Request your parents’ marriage license and certificate from the county clerk where they were married, or look for it on Family History Library microfilm (run a place search of the city or county where they married). Rent the library’s microfilm by visiting a local Family History Center.
  • Censuses: Search each family member whose name you know in every available census during his or her lifetime. You can use HeritageQuest Online or Ancestry Library Edition at libraries that offer these services; use Ancestry.com ($155.40 per year) at home; or check microfilm at a National Archives and Records Administration facility, large public libraries or a family history center.
  • Old telephone books and city directories: Larger local libraries often have these listings of residents going back years. You may be able to search by name or address, and you’ll see where the person lived and his or her occupation.
  • Deeds: If you know a person’s name and address, you can request his deed records (assuming he was a property owner). In general, they’re at county courthouses. You can search Philadelphia historical deeds and other records at the city archives, which has an excellent Web site explaining its holdings.
  • Death records: Since you know when and where your father died, look for a will and/or probate records in court archives. (The September 2008 Family Tree Magazine has a guide to finding will and probate records.) Search local newspapers for an obituary, and look for cemetery and funeral home records, too.
  • Military records: Was your dad or grandfather the right age to have fought in any wars? Records of 20th century wars aren’t as readily available as prior conflicts, but you can find WWI draft registration cards (which covered virtually every man of age between 1914 and 1917) on Ancestry.com (or use Ancestry Library edition) and WWII enlistment records on the National Archives’ Access to Archival Databases site.
  • Newspapers: Run a name search in newspaper indexes such as NewsBank (available through many libraries)or GenealogyBank ($69.95 per year, a monthly rate also is available). You might find birth and marriage announcements, graduation notices, obituaries, articles about school activities—you never know.
  • High school yearbooks: If you can find out where a family member went to school, look for yearbooks. Some local libraries have them for the area, or contact the school the person attended.
Research names of people who come up in your search, even if it’s not clear they’re related—you might find clues about your parents.

Explore the collections at state archives in places where your family lived (click here for the Pennsylvania archives’ site). I’d also suggest reading a how-to genealogy book, such as Unpuzzling Your Past, 4th edition, by Emily Anne Croom (Family Tree Books, $18.99). It’ll show you where to look for basic records and give you strategies for solving genealogical problems.


genealogy basics
Tuesday, July 22, 2008 9:56:19 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, July 02, 2008
How to Order a Big Family Tree Wall Chart
Posted by Diane

Q. Where can I get a giant genealogy chart printed to hang on the wall at a family reunion?

A. Plenty of businesses will take your GEDCOM or genealogy software's proprietary file and turn it into a large wall chart. Find links to charting companies on FamilyTreeMagazine.com and Cyndi's List.

Some companies focus more on artistic presentations with photos and illustrations, which are beautiful but may limit the size of the chart; others specialize in, yards-long text charts showing every member of your family. Some do both.

Take a look at photos of finished charts on the company Web site. Narrow your list to companies that offer the type of chart you need, then look at the ones that can work within your time frame and budget.

Some questions to ask each company when you’re deciding which one to go with:
  • What are my options (if any) as far as chart size, typeface, text color and size, paper color, etc.?
  • Will I get to see a digital proof of the chart before it’s printed? (So you can make sure the information is correct.)
  • If I don’t like how the proof looks, are there any charges for making changes to it?
  • Do you keep the chart on file in case I want to order additional copies?
  • What is the charge for updating the chart with new genealogical information and having it reprinted in the future?
  • What special steps should I take to prepare my GEDCOM (or proprietary software file) before sending it to you?
  • What are your file specifications for photos? (If you want to include pictures in your chart.)
  • What delivery method do you use? How long will shipping take?
For best results, before you export your GEDCOM, go through your genealogy files and standardize date and place formats. For example, if you abbreviate one state name, abbreviate them all; and format your dates as day/month/year, as in 22 April 1907. Also make sure names are spelled correctly and check for typos.

When you tote the chart to your family reunion, remember to bring pens so people can add information or make corrections.

For our reviews of several chart-printing companies, see the April 2006 Family Tree Magazine.


family reunions | genealogy basics | Preserving Heirlooms and Photos
Wednesday, July 02, 2008 1:53:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, June 19, 2008
Plot Ancestors' Lives With Online Mapping Tools
Posted by Diane

Q. I heard about a site that can help me find places in Chicago where my ancestors lived. What is it and how does it work?

A. You’re thinking about ChicagoAncestors.org, an interactive online mapping tool, created by the Windy City’s Newberry Library.

Type in an address, and you’ll get a map showing the location, along with nearby churches, sites of crimes and more. Roll over the map markers for each place to see data such as addresses, dates, related library resources or links to online images. (The data come from other history-related projects, such as Homicide in Chicago 1870-1930 and the Historic American Buildings Survey.)

There’s also a keyword search box, so you could type in St. Thomas, for example, to see locations of churches with that name. Registered ChicagoAncestors.org users can customize maps by adding their own map points, and comment on existing map points. Check the Tools section for documents that help you convert addresses predating the sweeping 1909 street renumbering.

Descendants of Bostonians can take advantage of a similar tool. Tufts University’s Boston Streets features Cowpaths, a map-based tool named for the cute but false story that Boston streets meander because they trace old bovine trails.

You can use it to plot information from the Boston Streets' databases of street scene photos, city directories and historical atlases. Users can either search those databases first and then click to plot matching places in Cowpaths, or start in Cowpaths by assigning different search criteria to up to four map layers. Use the illustrated Cowpaths primer for more-detailed instructions.
   
Those whose families didn’t live in Chicago or Boston can use good old Google to create a map showing a neighborhood over time, and where relatives lived. Start by going to Google maps and clicking Sign In, then creating a profile (if you don’t already have a Google account). You’ll be able to import images and add text and markers. You also can let others view and/or edit your maps.

A FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum member used features in Google Maps to find a street-image view of her grandparents'  former home. You can see then-and-now shots in her post.


land records | Web tips
Thursday, June 19, 2008 3:04:02 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, June 11, 2008
How to Cite Sources
Posted by Diane

Q. How do you cite your sources? I know how to fill out a family tree chart, but I don't know how to cite the information.

A. "Source citation" can sound like a technical term, but it’s really just recording where you found each record or piece of genealogical information—that way you or anyone else can go back to recheck the original record.

Different sources are cited different ways. For books, record the title, author, publisher (with the location), year of publication, where you found the book (the name of the library or the person who lent it to you), library call number (if it came from a library) and page numbers containing the referenced information, like so:
Carmack, Sharon Debartolo and Erin Nevius, eds., The Family Tree Resource Book for Genealogists (Cincinnati: Family Tree Books, 2004), 219-220.
For examples of citations for a variety of sources, such as census records, vital records and oral history interviews, download our Source Citation Cheat Sheet as a PDF.

This citation Web tool will automatically format various types of citations based on what you type in about the source.

ProGenealogists also has a guide to citing online sources, including databases such as those on Ancestry.com.

Where and when to cite your sources is another important issue. As JustJean says in the FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum, include a full citation on the front side of every photocopied record or page from a book, so the citation won't get separated from the data.

Most genealogy software lets you type in source details or even link a digitized record when you add information to your tree. If you’re using paper, you can number all your photocopied records and add the numbers to your family group sheets. For example, if Grandma’s birth certificate is record number 17 in your files, you’d write 17 next to her birthdate on a family group sheet. (Most don’t note sources on a five-generation ancestor chart.)

You also might keep a log of the sources you’ve found and what pertinent information they contain.

For an in-depth look at source citation, see Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills (Genealogical Publishing Co., $49.95).

Readers, click Comments to add your own source citation advice.


genealogy basics
Wednesday, June 11, 2008 6:51:49 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Doing Genealogy With Just a Name and SSN
Posted by Diane

Q. I’m stuck on my Dad's family tree: I have his father's name, birth and death dates, and Social Security number (SSN). I can’t find anything on him. I have only his mother's first name, and I can’t get a birth certificate without her surname. Where do I go from here? Can I find out information with a Social Security Number alone?

A. Yes—you can request a copy of your grandfather’s application for a Social Security card, called an SS-5, from the Social Security Administration (that's how I found my great-great-grandmother's maiden name). You’ll find how-tos and a link with the address on the Genealogy Insider blog.

The fee is $27. In your request, provide your grandfather’s full name and SSN, and state your relationship and the reason for your request. If your grandfather is living, you’ll need his written consent.

Where do you go from here? A lot of people start with about as much information as you have, so it can be done.

First, fill out a pedigree chart with names, and dates and places (including counties) of birth, marriage and death. Then search an online census database, which you can do free at libraries offering Ancestry Library Edition (you also can subscribe to its sister site, Ancestry.com, for $155.40 per year) or HeritageQuest Online. The 1850, 1860, 1880 and 1900 censuses are free at FamilySearch Labs. Start with the most recent census during your grandfather's lifetime and work back.

Depending when your grandfather was born, his record might be on microfilm at the Family History Library. Run a place search on the county name and look for a vital records heading, then see if any films cover the right year. You can rent the film by visiting a local branch Family History Center (see our list for locations).

Do you know the year and county where your grandfather died? (If not, look him up in the Social Security Death Index.) Death records are often easier to get than birth records. They also may be on microfilm, or by request from the state vital records office.

Was your grandfather an adult during any wars? If so, check military records. Look for WWI and WWII draft registrations on Ancestry.com or Ancestry Library Edition. The National Archives and Records Administration keeps military service records—see the research guide on its Web site.

This is all just for starters. Details you uncover and resources you learn about will lead you in new directions. You can get advice and stay up to date on new resources by reading Family Tree Magazine.


genealogy basics | US roots
Tuesday, May 27, 2008 8:17:29 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Finding Your Ancestors' Cattle Brand Registrations
Posted by Diane

Q. How would I trace cattle-brand registrations? I have the names and sketches of some brands my great-grandparents used, and I'd like to see if the documentation would provide any genealogically relevant information.

A. Ranchers such as your great-grandparents had their own marks or brands they usually burned into cattle hides to show ownership. Most states have livestock boards that regulate the movement and branding of livestock, says Robert Gant, curator of the Old West Museum in Cheyenne, Wyo.

It'll help to know when your great-grandparents used the brands, since records of brands are kept in annual brand books. The books are often available in county libraries or state archives; some state livestock boards may search their records for a fee.

If you're lucky, the state will have digitized historical brand books. Search Utah's Division of Animal Industry's brand books from 1849 to 1930 on the state archives Web site. Records show the brand symbol, name and county of residence of the person registering the mark, location on the body of the animal, and date the brand was recorded.

A Google search on your ancestors' state name and livestock board or cattle brand should point you in the direction of the records. Montana, for example, puts records of 1873-1950 brands in the Montana Historical Society Research Center. Once you find the repository with the books you need, you can visit or submit a research request.

You also may be able to find a book about brands in the state, such as the 1936 publication Texas Cattle Brands edited by Gus L. Ford (Cockrell, out of print).


printed sources | US roots
Wednesday, May 07, 2008 10:39:11 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]