Book Review: The Manual to Online Public Records by Sankey and Hetherington. Updated 4th Edition.
If you are doing a lot of online research for finding family members in your search for reunion or building family trees, this book can be one of the tools in your arsenal that will help you to find matches.
Published by Facts on Demand Press, this book is amazing! It breaks down into different sections search strategies and tools.
Chapter 5 and 6 are what will make this book a goldmine for genealogists and family searchers. It is a list of resources broken down by state and county. I have used these sections so much already that I have bookmarks in the areas that I tend to use the most. Chapter 6 is Federal resources and how to access them. I find myself using this book all the time in looking up information and I know that you will, too. The thing that I find the most helpful in using this book is the way it is laid out is very intelligent. Seeing all of the licensing bodies, for example, will allow me to look in areas that I might not have considered up until then.
My friend, Katy and I got together a month ago to go over photos. As I mentioned in the past, it is a shame when photos from the past are not labeled because you just don't know the relevance.
We were poring over the photos when I saw a man in a uniform, arm dangling over a beautiful woman. "Who's that?" I asked.
"I wish I knew" Katy sighed, dropping it into the cookie tin of photos.
"Hand it back. Just let me look for a second" I saw writing on the uniform. We grabbed a magnifying glass and looked. There, on the uniform were 2 embroidered patches. One was the name of the company, the other was the name of the person. Neither Katy or myself knew the name of the company, so with Google, we were able to find out the name of the business, which gave us the place of the business.
Once we knew all of that, Katy knew which part of her family it was. A little more asking around of family members, and she was able to determine that the photo was of an older great uncle who never came home from World War II.
Look for clues in your photos.
Some examples for dating a photo include:
Cars. If a 2000 Ford Mustang is in a photo, you know that it is not from 1985.
Landmarks in the background. I used to hear the story from my late mother about the bridge heading into the small town of Columbia, Louisiana. The joke was that by the time you crossed that bridge, a relative would have called my great grandmother and let her know that you were on the way to her house. How? Because the community was so small (at the time) that everyone knew everyone as well as the car that they drove. When I was small, we picked persimmons from the side of the bridge, making sure that we did not touch the peel to our lips because the alum (I don't think that is what it actually was) would taste bitter. We loved the time there, and a when I wanted a timeline of a photo that was taken long before I was born, I looked up the history of the bridge. I was thrilled to have a working timeline to go on.
Products. A photo with my great-grandmother shows a box of cereal on the table, a brand I had never heard of. A quick Google search found the brand for me, as well as the years that it was made. I was able to greatly narrow the field of timeline, and by doing that, I was able to also find out some of the food habits of my ancestors, which always adds some depth to them.
I know, these things can seem to be long shots in identifying family, but by narrowing down your timeline with clues, you can eliminate those who have not yet been born, those who have already passed away, and those who were deployed or at college or otherwise not around at that time. This may help you to determine who those people are in those photos.
This weekend has been one of a lot of housecleaning of my online family trees. I have been ruthless in pruning and cutting away family members who are not related to me. I am not talking about in laws or anything like that. I am talking about family members who I used to believe were related to me and I now know that they are not. Although I want to have a full and robust family tree, I need to prune the "bad branches" to make sure that I am not getting false positives.
First cuts to make it? Step parents and adoptive parents. I still love everyone, none of that has changed. I am increasing my odds of my parental family finding me by removing the people that I have no biological relation to.
Someone sent me an email explaining how we were related based on a surname that is of no blood relation to me. I sent a nice email and I am still pruning the tree, hours after I started this process.
I learned a couple of things that I would like to share.
When you download the GEDCOM file with all of the "bad" information, don't rename it and don't meddle with that file. If you make a mistake, that is your master copy, there for you in case you need it. I got a little crazy deleting people and nearly deleted myself at one point.
This is for Ancestry.com Other sites will be different, of course.
So, here is how I have done it. I hope that: 1. This is not confusing. 2. That you are able to follow all of this. Let me know if you have any question either by emailing me or by commenting below.
1. Download your GEDCOM file from Ancestry. To do this, go to the main page, click on TREES, then manage your trees. Go to Tree Settings. On the right hand column, there is a green rectangular box that says "Export tree". It will take several minutes to do, but less than 30 minutes unless servers are busy. leave that page open, you will be using it again in a moment.
2. Once the file is downloaded, create a new tree with a name that will let you know that this is for your DNA tree. I included the words Autosomal in there so that I will know which tree is the one for my research.
3. Upload the file you just downloaded. (I know, this is confusing.) This file is your GEDCOM file. Note that the name of the file will be the same as the tree that you took it from. Don't change the name of the file, because again, if you make an error, you don't want there to be a conflict.
4. Do you have family members that are no biological relation to you? Parents who are not your parents? We will use a parent who is not a parent for my example. (Referred to as a non parental event) Don't delete the parent yet. Save yourself some aggravation. Go back on their timeline as far as you can go. All the way back as many generations as there are. Start deleting people that are not related to you all the way back there. Don't forget spouses and children of these genetic non parents! Otherwise you will be forever cleaning up!
5. Remove all of the people that need removed. It may take a while, but be patient.
Now, go back and edit any relationships that may be mis-listed. Change siblings to half siblings and things like that. Ancestry has a setting for step parents, but I removed any and all similar ties because I was still having people contact me in reference to having a match to me.
6. When you are done, if you would like, you can download the GEDCOM file, which should show up with the name of the new family tree that you created. You can then use that new GEDCOM file to upload to any of the places online that host a family tree.
I am really fortunate that a good part of my Moore family line is well documented. I was on a site recently looking up my great-great grandfather, Dotta Cusetta Moore.
Dotta Cusetta was a farmer in northern Louisiana. As many of the men in his family, he chose to go by his initials instead of his name, so I see a lot of things with "DC" on them instead of his name. Imagine my delight and surprise when I discovered DC's Old Man Draft Registration from 1942. This little gem has remained hidden from me because of the misspellings.
DC was 64 at the time of the registration. I would like to think that he looked really good for his age because of the fact that 54 was originally written in, and then the 6 in the 64 was overwritten many times to attempt to cover the 5.
There is a lot of good information on this registration, and I want to share all of my findings with you.
1. His name. The ONLY part of my grandfather's name that is correct is his surname, Moore. However, I have run across a lot of spellings of Moore.
2. His place of residence. The address is there, and I can check and see if that address still exists by looking at old maps of the time and seeing how things have changed or remained the same.
3. He did not have a telephone installed at the time of the registration, which is a nice little factoid for gleaning information after the draft.
4. Place of birth. The place of birth is listed as Downsville, Louisiana. If I were searching for a birth record or certificate for DC, this would be an excellent place to start looking.
5. Date of birth. The date of birth matches some of the documents that I have, so I am able to verify that this is my family member.
6. Name and address of person who will always know your address. DC chose to list a relative who lived just down the road from him.
7. Employer's name and address. As stated in the 1940 census, DC was a farmer.
DC did not sign the registration card. Instead, the name was written out, he made his mark of X and it was witnessed by Isabel Elliott, the registrar. This lets me know that DC was at the very least functionally illiterate. There may be other details, but I am keeping it simple right now.
Now, by forwarding one frame in the search that I was conducting, I am able to see the reverse of the registration card. This is the Registrar's Report. It lists off the race, height, weight, complexion, any other physical characteristics and the signature and location where all of this was conducted.
My GG Grandfather was white, 5'2" tall. (Petite!) weighed 138 pounds, had gray hair and blue eyes. His complexion was described as sallow.
Isabell, the registrar completed the back as well, signing it at the bottom and dating it.
To find this document was a nice reward at the end of a very trying week!
My source for this document is the invaluable FamilySearch.Org,
a free site where you can view and review millions of records.
As you know, I advocate making good notes of the results from your searches, but I am now also advocating something else. I think that you should keep a log of what you are searching so that you can pursue good searches and eliminate dead ends.
I found an excellent search via great notes a couple of weeks ago. There was a lot going on in my personal life around the end of January, so when I found this really amazing link, I made notes, but I was unable to bookmark the link or I flat out did not remember to.
When I was looking in my history for a website, there was the search from January. I went through the entire history of searches that went back for a few months and made some really diligent notes.
I discovered that my mind is not a steel trap like I tend to think of it. One search term I have looked up every weekend for about 4 months.
Now, by making notes, I am able to continue where I left off, rather than searching like a tumbleweed.
I also am noting the search engine that I use, and so far, I am the most impressed with google, followed by bing.
Save your searches!
I have been looking at records and family trees for my darling fiance. He happens to be black. I have given cursory looks at helpful tools for black families who are doing family history before I was with my fiance, but I am using them a lot more now and I want to share some of the things that I have discovered.
In marriage records in the south, there may be separate books for white and black people. Black families may be called black, negro or colored.
The spelling of names will vary much more wildly than in white records. I have no reason for this, but I am seeing a lot more spellings of last names than in white records.
I would like to give a piece of advice that can save you a lot of time: Lose the term "African American" when looking at old records. It is a 20th century phrase, and to be blunt, my husband to be to be finds it very offensive.
I was on the FamilySearch.org site this weekend, and I discovered that for the time period that I was looking at, there were state marriage records and there were county records. There were white records and colored records. I looked at the state records and I had no success in my search. I looked in county/coloreds and it was there I had success. I found one of my fiance's great uncle's marriage record. It was actually a court paper for a 200.00 marriage bond. I am not done researching the 200.00 bond, and I will write another article about it when I am done, but listed there was the name of his uncle at the turn of the century, with a relative pledging the money for him to get married.
The way that I even learned about the marriage was through this uncle's death certificate. This was probably one of the most detailed death certificates that I have ever seen. It listed his name, place of birth, parents names and places of birth, and spouse name. I then learned why the death certificate was so detailed. This was a death certificate issued as a result of a homicide. The uncle was murdered. The shooting happened in September, but he did not die until the early part of November. He basically died of complications from the shooting: toxemia and uremia as a result of being shot in the stomach with a revolver. Having never viewed a death certificate from a gunshot before, I have to say, the amount of information that is contained is very detailed. For a genealogist, it is very rich with family facts.
As I mentioned above, this certificate lists names and places, and it lists birth and death dates. I find it very interesting to note that his wife had already passed. At the time of his death, he was less than 55 years old.
I am now searching for what happened to this person between the marriage and his death. It is proving to be very elusive, but hopefully, I will find something.
I spend a lot of time at libraries all over the United States and the world. One of the things that I have grown really used to is making sure that I have the means to capture the information that I find while I am there.
Here are the methods and tools that I use.
Notebook. Bound and loose leaf.
Sometimes, It is easier to go to the library with one small notebook, a handful of change and a USB drive. Other times, I know that I will be there for a while and I want to be as organized as possible. When I am in that mode of research, I bring a loose leaf notebook that I have pre-tabbed to make everything easier for adding to my computer when I get home.
Change or funds for the copier machine.
The way to pay for copies generally speaking is one of two ways. Drop some money into the machine or add some money to a card/your library card. Make sure to bring enough money to make twice the amount of copies that you are expecting to make. Not all libraries accept credit cards or are located near ATM's.
USB storage device.
Some but not all libraries will allow you to copy information directly to your USB drive. I always bring 3. A small storage with less than a gig, a medium around the 16-32 gig mark, and my jumbo, which is 1T. No matter what, I am able to copy as many documents and photos as I have run across.
Photos with phone or tablet.
There have been some weird things that have happened when I have been at libraries doing research.
A copier that had a paper jam prevented all of us who wanted to make copies from being able to do so. That particular library did not have the ability to copy to a USB or to email. I pulled out my phone, turned the flash off, took as clear of shots as I could manage and then painstakingly wrote, line by line the information and the source so that I would be able to return to that library in the future and have an easy time of finding my information.
Creative thinking to problems in accessing the information.
Another library had a microfiche library, but the machine's display screen was badly damaged. I ended up making 100+ copies of pages to find the portion that I was looking for. It was worth the cost because the information that I was looking for was very obscure.
Always notate your records.
I bring pens, pencils and highlighters to make sure that I don't miss something on the pages that I made the trip to find. A link to a family member was once found on an inscription in a church cookbook. You never know where you will find the link you need, but if you don't notate your records, you may never find it again.
It has been discussed on many other forums about how we as family members tend to accept without question the information that is passed to us about our ancestors.
Stop that practice. Make it a point to verify, cite sources and document your findings.
The discovery that I made is actually an old one for me, but I wanted to share it here in case anyone out there is hitting dead ends in their searches.
I had always been told that a portion of my family was from Louisiana for over 100 years. I never bothered to look anywhere else, even when my search went cold.
Doing a US Census search one time, I forgot to limit the search to Louisiana. There, in Alabama was my missing family. Every single member of that family, with the correct birth order and ages! For a moment, I was willing to discount and discard my new lead. After all, my great grandmother had told me straight from her own mouth that her family had been in the state of Louisiana for "over a hundred years." I never doubted the veracity of her statement.
Years later, I was updating this family line. I cross indexed this search on Find A Grave to see if there was a photo or information of any headstones. There was. Below, you will see the photo of the actual headstone for John Marion Moore, husband of Sarah Elizabeth (nee Brittenham OR Brittingham) Moore. The headstone actually gives us a lot of information.
Let's look together at the headstone, located below this entry.
At the top, there is the emblem for his membership into the Freemasons. You can go to Find A Grave and see my relative there. I have direct linked for convenience purposes.
Something to be aware of, as is the case with this relative: The name is actually common, but if you narrow the search to Louisiana, you will quickly find my ancestor. Born in Alabama, John Marion Moore served in the Confederate Army through Alabama, he settled and later died in Louisiana. The rest of the information can be found at Find A Grave, where the information on the main page was very well done. The point that I am making here is that this grandparent--4G to be exact, was documented in family trees and so forth, but I ignored clues because that is not what my family historians told me.
After I discovered where my trail picked up, I did a further search on various websites and also conducted in person searches at various libraries and I was able to very easily and quickly pick up the cold trail on my family.
His wife is also listed. They are both listed on the stone only by their initials, so I did some sleuthing. Armed with my research, I knew the names that I was looking for was John Marion and Sarah Elizabeth Moore. The initials matched and the dates were near exact to the ones that I had listed in the information that I had in my records.
Location, location, location.
In the state of Louisiana, the French influence is felt in many ways. One of them is that we have Parishes, NOT counties. I knew where my family is generally from in Louisiana. I knew that it was the northern part of the state. That helped me when I was looking, because although I am from the southern part of the state, eliminating the common name of John Moore from New Orleans was a boon to my search. (Common name!)
Look for other relatives in that cemetery or family plot.
My great grandmother was from Caldwell Parish when I would visit her at her home, which is a short drive from Ouachita Parish. Because I also have family in Ouachita Parish, I was able to ask if we had family buried in the cemetery that I found John Marion Moore listed in. We do. I have loads and loads of family that are interred there. That helped me to make the link, especially when direct relatives of his were also interred there.
Online Photos, if there are any, can help you add or eliminate a person from your family tree. The Find A Grave listing for John Marion Moore has the same photo of him that I think we all must be issued upon birth. It is John Marion Moore with a very full beard, looking off to the side. When I saw the listing with that photo, I knew that we were related! Another person that I was looking for showed a person was assuredly not my relative as the photo made it very clear that they were not the gender that I was looking for. (It was a name that could be either male or female, so there was a reason for confusion.) Seeing that photo saved me a lot of research and I reached out to the person that had the info so that we could both clear up our family trees.
Obituaries and Funeral Cards are a BOON to your search.
I know that it can be hard to find these when you are going back a distance, but when you do find them, it can be a huge help. Often, the person that is reporting the death is a relative, and the next of kin of course is a relative. These documents will sometimes list things such as occupation, address, cause of death, name and birthplace of parents and plenty more details that can help in your search. One of the best obituaries that I ran across when I was searching listed the names of the deceased person's parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles. I am convinced that this person was a genealogist because it was extremely thorough!
Always make notes when searching. I even have a file that I call "Cold Case Files". (Because it makes me laugh is why I named it that.) Until I can either rule that person out or include them in my family, they remain in that file. If they are not related (as far as I can prove, anyway) they go into a new file "Red Herrings". I still visit my Red Herrings file about once a year. I have been able to effectively prove some of these people are not related, and surprisingly I also discovered one relative is a distant cousin.
Don't get stuck on the dates that you see in print as being right or wrong. My greatest loss of a really great file that I disregarded in a search was because the dates did not match up 100 percent with what I showed in my files. I lament to this day that I have never found that file again in any search that I have ever performed.
Leave breadcrumbs for yourself, no matter what type of research that you are doing. I now bookmark things if I am searching online. I keep paper notebooks with me and make diligent and detailed notes. I know now that I won't remember the information that I am looking at. There is simply too much. If I am searching for 4G grandfather, the bookmarks that I gather will go into the bookmark folder named "John Marion Moore". If those bookmarks can apply to another relative as well, I will drop it into their file. This has saved me a lot of time searching for information.
Make your paper trail easier to follow.
When I am making notes in a paper notebook, I write the name and then go back and highlight it if I am using a bound notebook. If I am using loose leaf pages, I divide each person with a tab or at least a piece of tape bent in half and written on with a Sharpie. It may seem extreme, but in the long run, it makes my searches more organized and makes me take the time to take better notes. By being less jumbled, I waste less time of searching within my own notes.
Let me know if any of these tips are helpful, and share your search gaffes here!
Some of you have been following my nervousness and excitement about participating in the University of Michigan's DNA project, Genes for Good. You can look them up on Facebook. After you join Genes for Good, it is pretty straightforward to "earn" your test.
Take a week or so, answer some questions and then one day, you will have answered enough questions to be sent a "spit kit" in the mail.
From the time that I started on their website until the time that I got the spit kit was between one and three weeks. From the time that I sent it until I got an email saying it had been received was perhaps another week or two. After that, it was about 3-4 months until I got the results. Every single time that I get new DNA results, I now know that I get really giddy and it prompts me to do a lot more online research about the information that I have received. I have now completed two tests. One from Family Tree DNA and now, this one from Genes For Good. My results have a lot of similarities, of course, but they also offer a look at my current information differently.
I do not have family members to compare to on Genes for Good, and to my knowledge, there is no database at this time to link other participants to one another if they are related. I have written to Genes for Good for an answer and I will update this post as soon as I hear if there are plans for that in the future.
One of my side hustle jobs is taking care of an elderly person for a few hours a week. I really like the person that I care for and she is a lot of fun to be around. Her physical needs are great, which brings me to the idea of getting the most senior or most frail person DNA tested before it is too late. My client has a lot of physical needs.
With the DNA tests that are out there right now to test your DNA results through, especially through Promethease, a person can make a lot of discoveries about themselves for the modest fee of less than ten US Dollars. The test results are available to be downloaded and reviewed at your leisure. Of course, these tests are not a replacement for proper medical treatment and consulting with your doctor, but they are a great stepping stone that allows you to have a baseline with which to compare information when you do decide to go to the doctor.
With the eldest person in your family being tested, you get an additional generation of research and information upon which to stack and build your research. Additionally, some of the information, if run through Promethease, can be searched through in order to see if they have a higher risk factor for diseases, drug interactions and the metabolic rate that certain drugs are processed through.
When I took the test and ran the results through Promethease, I learned that certain medications, I process much more slowly than the average person. I also saw that I have an elevated risk of bladder cancer, but a reduced risk of dementia disorders and diseases.
With any of these tests, the strongest thing that you can do is make sure that you take good notes, note the source and go forward from there.
Here is an example image of one of the test results:
As you can see, the magnitude of knowing that your body takes longer to metabolize medications is something that is very important. I strongly and heartily endorse taking this test as it can point out factors that can change the way that you take medication.