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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sorry for the Delay, But Life happens

My last posting was in June of 2011.  It is now December.  So, what happened in between posts?

I visited my Mother in August.  She suffered from Alzheimer's and I could see that her health was not the same as it had been.  She celebrated her 87th birthday in July.

I traveled to Springfield in September to meet up with other researchers at the Federation of Genealogical Societies annual conference.  If you have never attended such a gathering, I suggest that you do.  They have many opportunities to take classes, ask questions, meet others that may be researching similar records, and vendors galore.

October brought me to Sicily, on a trip to visit my maternal ancestors hometown.  It was the second time that I had been there.  This time I brought my husband with me.  A very nice trip indeed.

I visited my Mother, after I had gotten a phone call from my sister, in November.  Mom had a stroke in mid October and did not seem to be recovering very well.  Unfortunately, she passed away on November 7th.
Putting together her memorial viewing, church services, burial and luncheon took up most of my time through mid November.

Returning to my hometown once again this month of December, enabled me to help with my Mother's estate papers and meet with relatives in a much more cheery atmosphere.  However, I did take some time to do some research at the county library.  Much more on this later.

2012 will be a much better year, for all of us, as I hope for peace and unity throughout the world.  And to all of my fellow bloggers, a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year.  May you keep writing your thoughts and sharing your knowledge.  Peace to you all.  Until next month.....when I will pick up where I left off, and discuss Marriage Records.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Starting with Death and Funeral Records - Working Backwards

So, now you have lots of "clues" about your family from looking at the Federal and State Census records.  You probably have lots of questions about those holes in your collected information.  When doing family research it is always beneficial to work backwards in time.  This might seem curious to you, but after a few months of this, you will see what I mean.

Life begins with the birth of a person and ends with a death.  So, find out everything you can about your ancestor and the end of their life.  If you know where this person is buried, go to the cemetery to find the grave site. Don't forget your camera.  If there is a memorial stone placed for this person, take several photos of the stone and the immediate surroundings.  Hint: many times persons are buried in the same lot with relatives.  Or, relatives may be buried in adjacent lots.  If this is the case, relish what you have found and get all the information that you can while you are there.

Photos are great.  But, don't forget to transcribe what is written on the memorial stone.  There can be some valuable  information there.  However,  I wish I had a dime for every time that I have found incorrect information engraved on cemetery stones.  The engraver only inscribed the information that was given when the stone was purchased.  Unfortunately, it may have been given by someone who did not have access to credible data.  Likewise, transcribe the information on other stones in the same lot. You never know how this information might help you with your research in the future.

So, what if your deceased individual did not have a marker laid for them?  Go to the cemetery office.  They will have files containing information about the purchase of the plot.  Usually it will mention the date of purchase, name of purchaser, address of purchaser (or maybe just the home town), who is buried in the lot (great information just in case you find more that one person in that lot, and they don't have markers either), the name of the undertaker and date of burial.  They might even have a copy of the deed for the plot.  Look that over very carefully.  You might just have hit a gold mine of information to add to your files.  By the way, when you are in the office, ask what the current charges are for laying a stone for your family member if they don't already have one.  This might be a nice gesture, and you can ask other family members to donate to the fund to make it a joint venture.  What a nice tribute to that ancestor!

Some cemeteries have their burial data on-line.  What a wonderful source of information even before you get to the burial site.  Do some internet searches to find out whatever you can before you even get into your car.

Don't know where to look?  Easy.  Other than and other websites that post the Social Security Database, you may find death and burial information on other websites.  Some of my favorites include :  lets you search their grave records that have been posted by individuals and volunteers, many with photos of memorial markers.  I am a volunteer photographer for this website, and encourage you to also become a volunteer.  You can post photos of graves that are in close proximity to your home just by becoming a volunteer.  If someone requests a photo of their family member's grave, the administration of Find A Grave will contact you by e-mail and announce that there is a request for a gravestone photograph.  If interested, you can "claim" the task, find the grave in a nearby cemetery and photograph it, and then post it to the website.  Your photo will be posted at the appropriate link to the grave.  The person that requested the photo will be alerted that you had completed the task, and they will be sent a link whereby they can send you a personal "thank you". is another website that gives international data on cemeteries.  Much like Find a Grave, it might also allow you to link to sites that may give you newspaper obits, etc. is a wonderful website to find final resting places of military veterans, whether buried in VA cemeteries or private cemeteries.  American Battle Monuments Commission, found at, gives information about overseas military cemeteries, and lists thousands of missing American servicemen and women.

Still stumped?  Try Mocavo at  This website will search through thousands of websites for a surname, cemetery name, or whatever.  It will give you a wealth of information that you will have to then narrow your search because of the number of items it will give you to search.  Nevertheless, a great starting point it you have no where else to go.

If a death was from the recent past, you might try where on-line condolence books are posted for persons to add a personal note to a grieving family.  Most of these are set up by Funeral directors, which may also have a link to the newspaper obituary.  And, speaking of newspapers, don't forget and  While both of these do cost a fee (varies depending on the amount of time of the subscription) you just might find an obituary, news article, historical document, social security death data or other item that just might get you the information about a funeral and burial that you need to complete your search. is a wonderful website where many historical and genealogical societies and other agencies link to post their researched data.  So many of these organizations have performed wonderful deeds by indexing cemetery records and other vital information from their little part of the world.  As mentioned before, Cyndi's List is a great place to look for information on various areas that just may have posted data to help you with your family research.

Most importantly, don't overlook a basic Google search.  So much can be gathered from various websites, posts, databases, news articles, etc.  It may take some time to wade through all of the "hits".  Be sure to have some fuzzy slippers, a nice beverage by your side and plenty of time on your hands.  Google can be your best friend when hunting for your family history.

A word of warning:  posted information on the internet does not mean that it is verified.  Just like the census information that you have gathered, all information must be verified with reliable sources.  A good rule of thumb: if you find identical information from three independent, credible sources, chances are that information is correct, as long as those sources don't reference each other as a source.  Confused?  Don't worry, be happy.  It will all become clearer as you "travel through time" with your ancestors.

Next time I'll discuss marriage documents.  Now, go and get some rest.  You'll need it before you put on your cemetery walking shoes.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Federal and States Census : A Usual First Step in On-Line Family History Research

 Filling in the blanks on your family research is easier than you may think.  Try looking at the US  Census and the individual state census returns.

This can mark your first jumping off point to gain more information about your family history.
As set for by the founding legislators of our country, every 10 years a census shall be taken to count the number of people living in the USA.  In addition to the federal census, many states have commissioned their own individual census programs to enable their governments to find where their inhabitants live, what they own, and what their occupations are.

The US federal census began in 1790.  All census data is available on-line through the 1930 poll.  Various websites have this information, whether transcribed, and/or available images of each page.  This information can be very useful when researching your family history.  There is one word of caution.  The information on these census sheets are not certified to be true.  Names and their spellings, ages of persons, addresses, marital status, number of children, place of birth, home ownership, etc. mentioned on these sheets may or may not be true.  So, in short, you should consider all information that you gather from the census to be clues to the life stories of families.  Many times, a census-taker would visit a household and not speak the same language as the residents.  It may not be quite clear as to the names of the persons being questioned. When the names of the residents were not quite clear to the census-taker, they were instructed to name the man John, and the woman would be named Mary. You will find many phonetically spelled names in the census.  In addition, a friend or a neighbor may have answered questions about an individual living in their household.  The informant may not know the truth about their family member or friend, or may have just guessed to answer the questions of the census-taker.  Census-takers usually visited a home during the daylight hours, and the residents may not have been home to answer the questions about themselves.  Many times, older children were home to answer questions about their parents, but did not know the true answers.  They told only what they believed to be true.  Therefore, you will find many discrepancies and confusing information in the census that you are looking at.

Many States conducted their own census projects, much like the federal census.  Before the states joined the Union, they were just territories  Even some of the territories conducted census programs.   These can often give different information than what was gathered from the federal census just a few years from the date of the state census.  Once again, use the information as clues to the true family history.  The State census data may have special schedules that include information about births and deaths that were not required to report in that particular state at the time of the census.  It may also have information about agricultural details, if the family lived in an area of farms and cattle raising.

Dates of immigration can be researched through the records of Castle Garden, Ellis Island  and the Steve Morse websites with several ports of entry also in the South and West of the United States.
Castle Garden   Ellis Island   Steve Morse

Where do you find special state census information?  Currently, you can do a quick search on Cyndi's List to seek information to each state to discover what census each state has in its archives and where you might be able to view the data.  You may also try Ancestry for a quick search of this also.  As you might know, the Latter Day Saints have begun an indexing and imaging program on their website where they are beginning to post transcriptions and images of many of the wonderful records that they have collected from all parts of the world.  The Federal and State census is a part of this project.  Visit Family Search to find out what is currently on the internet, and be sure to check back periodically as it is constantly being updated.
Cyndi's List   Family Search

Remember that the information in every census are just clues.  Use this information to research vital information of your family.  Birth and death certificates were not always required by states until a particular year.  Marriage documents can more readily be found in county records and church records.  Be sure to look high and low for proper documentation  of your family's vital records.  The census can point you in the right direction most of the time.  But be prepared for surprises.  That is what makes this kind a project very interesting and keeps you on your toes.  You will have a greater understanding of your family once the pieces of information begin to fall into place.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Managing Your Family History Data

Since last month, you should have started to collect information that you know about yourself, your siblings, your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc.  Placing this information on the free family data sheets that was discussed earlier is a good place to start.  However, now it is time for you to put your collected data into a software program.

Why?  No one likes to see piles of papers on their desk. Organization and storage of your collection of genealogy information is very easy to accomplish with a software program.  You can get a program for FREE.  Need I say anymore?  Of course, there are software programs that can be purchased.  It really depends on your expendable income.  Software programs are wonderful for the services that they can provide, and they keep you on track, too.   The best software programs include the following: source citation instructions, timelines, family trees, charts, reports, family group sheets, maps, audio and photo storage, and the ability to publish your research. Depending on how many "bells and whistles" you want, the cost go from FREE to about $60.00.

Here are a few that I have researched:  Bygones is FREE note keeping system, replacing your papers and forms.  No technical support is included with this program.  It does not replace lineage-linked programs, but can be used in conjunction with them.  The Legacy standard edition is FREE.  The Legacy Deluxe edition is $29.95 downloadable, and contains research guidance and to-do lists, among many other features.  Many researchers prefer this program.  Personal Ancestral File, aka PAF, is FREE, with lessons provided by the Church of the Latter-Day Saints.    In my opinion, this is a good place to start if your funds are limited.  LDS has free lessons on a wide variety of research topics on their website, too.  The Master Genealogist has  Silver and Gold editions.  The Silver edition is $34.00 downloadable, and the Gold Edition is $59.00 which includes more charts, output to word processors and HTML web pages, in addition to publication tools.  Ancestral Quest is a FREE basic version, or Ancestral Quest 12.1 is $29.95.  This program is compatible with PAF listed above.  Brother's Keeper has a FREE trial.  The registered version is $45.00 and includes a manual.  This program is not for MAC users.  Roots Magic has a basic version for $29.95.  However, you can purchase bundles, including Personal Historian and/or Family Atlas which are about $49.00.  An additional program, Family Reunion Organizer, is $29.95.  Clooz is an electronic filing system for genealogy records.  Version 2.1 is $39.95  Family Tree Maker is integrated with  and can be purchased on the Ancestry website.  Currently, version 2011 is on sale  for $31.96.  It has a Windows and a MAC version.  This is my personal favorite because it links directly to Ancestry, but also give you the ability to link to other websites, including, and  It also has an Ancestry Web Dashboard that includes Ancestry Twitter, a direct link to message boards, organizes  several family tree files, organizes your source citations, etc.

As you can see, there are so many programs to choose from.  There are more than just these programs that I have mentioned here.  Do a Google search for family tree software programs.  Take a look at what is available for your price range.  You will never regret putting your information into a software program.  And, your desktop will remain clean!

Next month, we will look at what holes are in your family history information, and how to determine where to start researching for those facts that are missing. Step 3: What Am I Missing?  Write Your First Search Plan.  Until the beginning of April...happy organizing!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Step 1 : Where to Start With Your Heritage History

When deciding to start your genealogy quest, always begin with yourself. You are the best person to consult when it comes to writing historical data about yourself and your immediate family.

What information is important to record?  Vital information should include a birth date, place of birth, parent names and their birthdates and places of birth, a home address, professions of each parent, etc.   Most of this is listed on a birth certificate.  Make a digital scan of your birth certificate, marriage certificate, and any other official documents that tell your life story.  This should include a graduation certificate from grade school, high school, college, military training certificates and discharge papers, divorce finalizations and death certificates of spouses, children or your parents.  Each paper tells a story.

Begin to transcribe the information listed on each of the papers that you have gathered as described in the previous paragraph.  List every name and date exactly as it is written on the records, even if there are things that are not spelled correctly.  You can always make footnotes where you can mention the error, and be sure to back up your comments with well sourced data.  If you have many documents to transcribe, take your time to be very accurate.  There is no rush or deadline when recording the information.

If you are married, find as many documents as you can to record the information about your spouse's life.  If you have had more than one spouse, it is always nice to have as much information recorded on each one.  Anyone who reads your family history years from now will appreciate every piece of information that you record.  At times there may be information that you know, but are unable to find in a document.  This might be a nickname, fact about a person's religious affiliation, or maybe even places that the person may have lived in the past before you met them.  You can always record these as your personal comments, but make sure that you note who may have revealed the information to you, or where you may have heard or read about it.  Leave as many clues as possible if you are not able to backup your comments with a document.

As with your spouse or spouses, record the same vital information about your children.  This part will have to be kept current as your child grows and experiences each step in their educational and personal life.

Many forms are available to help you keep your lists of facts in an organized and neat manner.  Search the internet for such forms that you may download and print.  Websites such as ,,, etc. have these free to the public. Or you can make your own form in a Word or Excel document.  This will allow you to customize your forms to adapt to the information that you have been able to collect.

Next month : February 2011 : Step 2 : How to Organize your Heritage History - Preserve the initial information so that it is very easy to refer to before you begin further family research.