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# 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]