July 22, 2014

New Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode #168

DNA and genealogyGet up to speed on the world of DNA and Genealogy in this episode. We’ll explore in depth the ramifications of Ancestry closing down some of their DNA tests along with other businesses in their portfolio. You’ve had a lot to say on this subject, and I do too!
Your DNA Guide for Genealogy Diahan Southard

Then you’ll meet Your DNA Guide, Diahan Southard. She’s a genealogy gem who will be joining us here on Genealogy Gems on a regular basis to help guide us through the murky waters of DNA research in easy to understand, and FUN terms.

 

Thanks for listening friend, I’ll talk to you soon,
Lisa

Genealogy Gems Podcast and Family History

Lisa Louise Cooke Genealogy Gems Podcast

 

Bookmark and Share

Who Do You Think You Are? 5th Season Celebs Announced

Who Do You Think You Are?

View the video below

Who Do You Think You Are? season five (and second on TLC) will feature six popular celebrities from TV and film. The Wrap just posted an article announcing the following:

Valerie Bertinelli (a personal fave of mine from childhood days on One Day At a Time to Hot in Cleveland)

Jesse Tyler Ferguson (ABC’s Modern Family)

Lauren Graham (Wonderful in Gilmore Girls, and currently starring in NBC’s Parenthood)

Kelsey Grammer (best known for Cheers and Frasier )

Rachel McAdams (known for movies such as Mean Girls, The Notebook) and her sister, Kayleen McAdams.

Cynthia Nixon (HBO’s Sex in the City)  Here’s an sneak peek at Cynthia’s episode:

Most family historians devoured the previous seasons, but if you missed any there is good news: TLC has been said to have acquired ten episodes from the show’s previous NBC seasons. You can look forward to episodes featuring:

  • Matthew Broderick
  • Lisa Kudrow(listen to Lisa talk about her episode and the series in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 81 and Premium members can hear exclusive audio in Genealogy Gems Premium episode 41
  • Rob Lowe
  • Reba McEntire
  • Tim McGraw
  • Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Sarah Jessica Parker
  • Brooke Shields
  • Vanessa Williams (also featured in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 63)
  • Rita Wilson

Set Your DVR: Who Do You Think You Are? Season 5 begins Wednesday, July 23 at 9/8c.

Read, hear and watch more about Who Do You Think You Are? on the Genealogy Gems website.

Bookmark and Share

Genealogy Cold Case Files: SOLVED!

Break through your genealogy and family history cold case filesCold Case files are as common in genealogy as they are in criminal investigations. So it seemed a no brainer to me that family historians could incorporate some of the same techniques that cold case investigators use. And that is how my presentation How to Reopen and Work a Genealogical Cold Case was born.

I recently brought this exciting hour to the folks at the Williamson County Texas Genealogical Society and they embraced it with open arms. Eyes were lighting up, and there was excitement in the air at the prospect of pulling some of those dusty old brick walls off their genealogical office shelves. I warned the group that they would be blaming for a sleepless night that night as they burned the midnight oil putting the tips to work.  And as always, I encourage them to let me in on their successes by dropping me an email. I never cease to be amazed at what my wonderful audiences accomplishes!

An email from Teresa Hankins of Round Rock, TX landed in my inbox the very next morning, and her message was inspiring:

Genealogy Cold Case File presentation at Williamson County Texas Genealocial Society“I attended your lecture on Genealogical Cold Cases at the Williamson County Genealogical Society’s meeting just last night. It was late when I got home, but I wanted to check out some of your suggestions on cracking hard cases. I was particularly interested in Google Books, as I had just recently discovered it, but hadn’t used it much.

The Case: My 2nd great-grandfather, Joshua, was too young to serve in American Civil War, but he had nine brothers who did serve. These brothers are what first prompted my interest in genealogy, and I’ve spent untold hours reconstructing their movements and histories.

One of the most poignant stories is that of David, the youngest of the  nine. He couldn’t have been more than 17 years old when he joined the Union regiment. He was wounded at the Battle of Lone Jack, discharged, and then married Margaret, a young lady from a neighboring farm. They had one child, named Thomas, and then David was murdered by bushwhackers. His young bride remarried and had two more children before she, too, passed away at a young age. My unsolvable case was with Thomas, son of David and Margaret, who seemed to vanish from history. He lost his father when he was an infant, his mother when he was about 12, and I wanted to know what happened to him!

Digital Genealogy books at Google Books Like all good genealogists, I was only going to research a little before going to bed. I wanted to play around on Google Books and see how the searches worked. I typed in a few key words that were unsuccessful before settling on a group of books based on Benton County, Missouri, which is where most of my ancestors in this line resided. I was just clicking on a book and searching for the surname, not looking for anything in particular. I only wanted to see what would come up and how the search engine worked. The next thing I know, I am looking at a record from the Supreme Court of Missouri, regarding some sort of land dispute. There are all the names involved, Thomas, his two half siblings, another family that I know are neighbors and relatives! I now know the month and year that Thomas died. I know that he sold some land one of his uncles. He was living there among family and friends, and though he, too, died young, at least I know what happened! This has opened up a cold case, and now it is on fire with new leads. I can’t wait to see what else I can dig up on Google Books!

Thank you for all the useful information you shared. I learned so much. I can’t wait to try out your other suggestions. You said to send you an email if we cracked a cold case, and that is what I’m doing. Have a blessed day!”

Well, I feel blessed every time I hear from my fabulous students / listeners / readers! I’m a lucky girl!

at the Williamson County Genealogical Society presentationAnd I received one more blessing in Round Rock: At long last I finally got to meet my cousin Carolyn. You “met” Carolyn on the free Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast episodes about contacting living relatives (see below for links.)  Carolyn and I have been collaborating online for nearly ten years on our family history (her mother is my Grandmother’s sister) but we never had the opportunity to meet in person until now. She’s as sweet and warm as she is on the phone – it’s not wonder she has such great success reaching out to family relations.

It’s wonderful to hear from folks about how they have benefited from something I’ve shared, but I could write volumes on the blessings I’ve received in this job that I love.

Heritage Quilts Video with Carolyn: featuring a quilt in our family. Each block features one of our female ancestors.

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastEpisode 14: How to Contact Long-Lost Relatives
Connecting with someone who knows about our ancestors can really boost our research results—and even create new relationships among living kin. But it’s not always easy to send that first email or make that first call. In this episode, we chat with my cousin, Carolyn Ender, who has mastered the art of “genealogical cold calling” by conducting hundreds of telephone interviews. She has a knack for quickly connecting with folks she doesn’t know over the telephone in ways that put them at ease and bring to light the information that she’s looking for.

Episode 15: More Tips for Contacting Distant Relatives
In this episode we talk more about “genealogical cold calling” with my cousin, Carolyn Ender, who has conducted hundreds of telephone interviews. Relationships are key to genealogical success and by following 14 genealogical cold calling strategies you will find your research relationships multiplying.

Genealogy Cold Case Video

A one hour video of Lisa’s class on Genealogical Cold Cases is part of Genealogy Gems Premium Membership. Click here to become a Member.

Bookmark and Share

The Genealogy Professional Podcast: New on the Podcasting Scene

The Genealogy Professional podcastProfessional genealogist and house historian Marian Pierre-Louis is launching a new podcast called The Genealogy Professional.

Marian describes her new show this way: “”The Genealogy Professional podcast provides a peek behind the curtain to give up-and-coming and experienced genealogists a chance to learn from active professionals working in the field. Each show contains an interview with an active genealogy professional and provides tips and guidance related to practical aspects of business such meeting deadlines, networking, finding clients, submitting articles for publication and applying for speaking engagements.”

Like our own Genealogy Gems podcast, The Genealogy Professional podcast speaks to an international audience. Her guests have included professionals from Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Australia, Israel and the U.S. Shows are broadcast weekly (released on Mondays) through the above website, iTunes and Stitcher.

Bookmark and Share

5 Times When You Should Be Listening to Genealogy Gems

It was a daunting thought!Ginger going to TX I had over 1650 miles to drive last weekend to make the move from California to Texas. And I’m notorious for getting sleepy on car rides.

My husband was driving the moving van, so I needed to drive the suburban on my own. How was I going to keep myself alert and occupied?

And then it hit me (the podcaster): Listen to podcasts! <SMACK> I coulda had a V8!

I loaded my iPad and smart phone with dozens of various podcast episodes. I ended up learning a ton, and having a grand time, with no zzzzzs!

I often hear from folks “I just can’t seem to find time to listen, or do half the other things I need to do.” But you don’t have to drive 1650 miles to make time to listen to podcasts.

(By the way, I’ve heard from many of you asking if my cat Ginger survived the trip since in our last Genealogy Gems e-newsletter you saw how she had packed herself. Not only did she survive it, she became queen of the car. Here she is perched on the front passenger seat taking in the New Mexico landscape!)

How to ListenThink You Don’t Have Time to Listen to the Genealogy Podcasts?  Here are 5 Occasions When You Can, and Should, Listen:

1. When you are exercising
Many of my listeners are shedding pounds and getting fit while listening to the show. One listener told me she lost over 100 pounds listening to genealogy podcasts thanks to a waterproof mp3 player and her local swimming pool! And like many listeners, Roger in Utah takes the show on his daily walks, enjoying two of his favorite activities simultaneously: walking and genealogy.

2. When you are driving
Here’s an example of how one Genealogy Gems listener, gets into gear: “I recently stumbled upon your podcasts and I must say wow! They were awesome. I listened to episode 1-56 in 10 days. I drive a truck for a living so I have plenty of time to listen.

I was on a genealogy message board and someone mentioned genealogy podcast. I knew my wife had a ipod shuffle lying around so I said hey, let me see if I can find some genealogy podcasts on iTunes. I typed in ‘genealogy’ and up popped a few different choices. I downloaded most of them but yours just caught my attention. Your enthusiasm for genealogy clearly shows through in your podcasts. Your “bubbley” attitude, if I may, is pleasant to listen to and your podcasts are full of history.

I found myself enthralled with the story of the Lennon sisters and their tragic loss of their father and the lady talking about the quilts.  Please don’t tell anyone I said that as my truck driving colleagues would razz me to no end if they heard me say that. I can’t count how many times I had to pull my truck over to write down a web site you mentions or a tip you gave. Then I get home and check out the show notes for photos and other goodies.  So, just a note to say thanks for helping my day go by and for the great gems that I can’t wait to use when I get home.”

3. When you are cleaning and organizing your home office / genealogy space
If you sit down just once a week and sort and clean while you listen to one episode (usually about 45 mintes) you not only be well-informed but your genealogy space will be ready for greater success! (Come on, you know you need to!)

4. When you are scanning old family photos
We all have piles of old photos and documents that need scanning. Do double duty by scanning while you listen.  Check out Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 57 for more on photo scanning and preservation with Sally Jacobs, the Practical Archivist.

When you are doing housework, yard work, or working at the office
Genealogy Gems listener Bryan writes: “Whenever I am doing housework, yard work or driving in the car I am listening to you. I have been listening to you for weeks and I am still 3 years behind…I am enjoying these podcast as they are entertaining and informative. I am eagerly trying to listen at every opportunity so that I can get current.”

And Line in Denmark writes: “I recently stumbled over one of your Podcasts, and after listening to just a few episodes I was hooked.I listen to them every day at work. Some times even twice. Extra benefit: I´m shaping up my English!

And where there’s a will, there’s a way! Here are 5 Ways to Listen:

  1. On your computer (through this website)
  2. On your iPad or Tablet (via the Genealogy Gems App)
  3. On your smartphone (via the Genealogy Gems App)
  4. MP3 Player (Load it up with downloaded episodes from the website, or through iTunes)
  5. Burned CD (Use iTunes to burn the downloaded MP3 files to CD and play it on your stereo)

Next read: Just How Many (and Who) are Subscribing to Podcasts?

Bookmark and Share

Family History Episode 3 – Working Backward and the SSDI

Family History PodcastTune in Tuesday: The Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast

Published October 15, 2013

by Lisa Louise Cooke

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 3: Working Backward and the SSDI

In our first segment in this episode my guest is Miriam Robbins Midkiff, a well-known genealogy blogger and teacher. She shares her best research tips, what motivates her to delve into her family history and how that discovery has enriched her life.

Then in our second segment we answer the question, “Why do we work backwards in genealogy?” and then fire up the Internet and go after your first genealogical record. Below, find current links to the record sources I talk about in the show. Also, when I recently checked, the Social Security Death Index was no longer free at WorldVitalRecords as I mention in the podcast and some of the site features I mention may have changed. I’ve given you links below to more options for searching, including plenty of FREE options!

Working Backward

When it comes to tracing your family history, there are standard methods that will help you build a solid family tree. Starting with yourself and working backwards is a cornerstone of genealogical research. It will be tempting to start with a great grandparent that you just got some juicy information on after interviewing Aunt Martha, but resist the temptation to start with that great grandparent, and go back to the beginning – and that’s YOU!

There’s a very good reason why working backward is so effective. Let’s say you have filled in info on yourself, and then recorded everything about your parents and now it’s time to work on one of your grandfathers and all you have is the date he died and the date he was born. If you are lucky enough to have his birth date and birthplace and you get his birth certificate it will tell you who his parents were, but it can’t predict his future can it? Where he went to school, where he lived over the years, etc. Documents can only tell you what has occurred in the past, not what will occur in that person’s future.

But if you get his death certificate it will give you key information at the end of his life that can lead you to the various events throughout his life. If you don’t have his birthdate and birthplace, you’ll probably find it on the death certificate. It will also likely name his parents and his spouse. A birth record can’t tell you who he will marry, but a death record can tell you who he did marry. You can start to see how starting at the end of someone’s life and working backwards will be the most efficient and accurate way to research.

Records are like the bread crumb trail of your family tree! If you don’t work systematically backwards, it will be very easy to miss a crucial piece of evidence, and you might end up relying on guesswork and end up building a false history on it. Believe me you don’t want to invest time in a tree that you’re going to have to chop down and replant!

So now that you understand and are committed to following this cornerstone concept of systematically starting with yourself and working backwards, it’s time to fire up the Internet and put it into practice by finding your first record. What type of record will we be looking for? A death record of course!

Is one of your parents deceased? If so, you’re going to start with them. If they are still living, and you’ve got their information entered into your genealogy database choose one of their parents, your grandparents, who is deceased – or if you’re lucky enough to be starting at a young age you may have to go back to a deceased great grandparent! (And good for you for starting now while you’re young!)

The SSDI

Chances are the person that you’ve chosen, for this example let’s say it’s your grandfather, he most likely had a social security card. And there is a wonderful free database online in the United States called the Social Security Death Index, what is commonly referred to as the SSDI, that you can use to find that grandparent.

In 1935 the Social Security Act was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt, and consequently more than thirty million Americans were registered by 1937. Today, the Death Master File from the Social Security Administration contains over 89 million records of deaths that have been reported to the Social Security Administration and they are publicly available online.

Most of the information included in the index dates from 1962, although some data is from as early as 1937. This is because the Social Security Administration began to use a computer database for processing requests for benefits in 1962. Many of the earlier records back to 1937 have not been added.

The SSDI does not have a death record for everyone; and occasionally you may find an error here and there if something was reported inaccurately, but overall it’s a terrific resource! As with all records it provides clues that you should try to verify through an additional record source.

There are many websites that feature this database, as seen in the UPDATED links below. This database is free at most sites, even sites that charge for access to other data.

On the Search page, enter your grandparent’s given name which is their first name, the family name which is their last name or surname, the place of their death – this could just be the state – and the year they died, and click the Search button. Hopefully you will get back a result that includes your grandparent.

Now remember you’re looking at an index, not an original record or primary source. We talked about sources in Episode 2. A primary source is a document that was created at the time of the event by an authoritative source, usually someone with direct personal knowledge of the event that’s being documented, like a death certificate is completed at the time of death by the attending physician. These are the best and usually most accurate types of sources you can find. And that’s what we want!

The really key information in this search result is the county information. In order to get an original death certificate which would be your primary source you have to know which county they died in. You may already know that for your grandparent, but keep this in mind because the further back we go, the more crucial it will be to know the county involved since that’s where death certificates are recorded.

By any chance did your grandparent not show up in the results even though you know they worked after 1937 when the Social Security got rolling, and you know they have passed away? Don’t fret – We have other ways to try and find the info!

This brings us to what I think is a really important concept to keep in mind whenever you’re researching your family on the Internet. Each search is conducted at a specific moment in time. Running an SSDI search or a Google search tomorrow might give you results different than the one you ran today. The Internet is being updated second by second, and the SSDI has been updated several times over the years.

In the case of the SSDI database, you can’t be absolutely sure that the website you are using to search the SSDI has the most current version available. Look in the database description on the site to see how recently it was updated.

Here’s a perfect example of that: When I searched for my grandfather on my dad’s side from the Family Tree Legends website, I got no results. Now I KNOW he died in 1971 and I KNOW he worked his entire life so he had to have been registered with Social Security. Then I went to Ancestry.com and searched for him in their SSDI database and he popped right up.

On the other hand, my maternal grandmother shows up on all three websites I’ve mentioned. In most cases, you’ll find who you’re looking for, but occasionally, like with my grandfather, you may have to dig in your heels and try the SSDI on a couple of different websites to find who them. Never give up, never surrender. That’s my motto!

And of course, each website offers just a little different variation on the terms that you can search on.

So just in case you have a stubborn ancestor who eludes your first SSDI search, try finding them  at several of the SSDI databases. If you do have luck on World Vital Records, be sure and click the More Details link next to your search results because it includes some fun extras like a link called Historical Events next to their birth year and death year that will take you to a list of important historical events that were happening those particular years. It’s kind of fun to see what was going on in the world when your grandparent was born.

You’ll also find a link called Neighbors which will take you to a listing of folks who lived in the same county as your ancestor and died in within a year or two of them.

But most helpful is that your research results on World Vital Records will include a listing of nearby cemeteries which are good possibilities for where your ancestor may have been buried. (Again, just clues to hopefully send you in the right direction.) But as I said, the death certificate is going to be your best and primary source and almost always includes the name and address of the cemetery where the person was buried.

Here are a few more search tips if you don’t find your ancestor right away:

1. Make sure that you tried alternate spellings for their name. You never know how it might have been typed into the SSDI database.

2. Many SSDI indexes allow you to use wildcards in your search. So for example you could type in “Pat*” which would pull up any name that has the first three letters as PAT such as Patrick, Patricia, etc.

3. Try using less information in your search. Maybe one of the details you’ve been including is different in the SSDI database. For example it may ask for state and you enter California because that’s where grandpa died, when they were looking for Oklahoma because that’s where he first applied for his social security card. By leaving off the state you’ll get more results. Or leave off the birth year because even though you know it’s correct, it may have been recorded incorrectly in the SSDI and therefore it’s preventing your ancestor from appearing in the search results.

4. Leave out the middle name because middle names are not usually included in the database. However, if you don’t have luck with their given name, try searching the middle name as their given name. In the case of my grandfather his given name was Robert but he went by the initial J.B. But in the SSDI his name is spelled out as JAY BEE! Go figure!

5. Remember that married women will most likely be listed under their married surname, not their maiden name. But if you strike out with the married name, go ahead and give the maiden a try. She may have applied for her card when single, and never bothered to update the Administration’s records. Or if she was married more than once, check all her married names for the same reason.

6. Don’t include the zip code if there is a search field for it because zip codes did not appear in earlier records.

While most folks will appear in the SSDI, there are those who just won’t. But knowing where information is not located can be as important down the road in your research as knowing where it IS located, so I recommend making a note in your database that you did search the SSDI with no result. This will save you from duplicating the effort down the road because you forgot that you looked there. I admit it, in the past I’ve managed to check out books I’ve already looked through and order a record or two that I already had. Lesson learned!

So here’s your assignment for this week: Go through your genealogy database and do a Social Security Death Index search on every deceased person who was living after 1937. Hopefully you will be able to fill in several more blanks in your genealogy database and family tree!

Up next: Episode 4: Genealogy Conferences and Vital Records

Bookmark and Share

Family History Episode 4 – Genealogy Conferences, the SS-5, Delayed Birth Records and Death Records

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy PodcastPublished October 29, 2013

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

by Lisa Louise Cooke

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 4: Attending Genealogy Conferences and Vital Records Requests

In our first segment, our guest is the longtime online news anchorman of genealogy, Dick Eastman, the author of Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. He talks about the changing industry and the benefits of attending genealogy conferences.

Next, you’ll learn the ins and outs of using some “vital” sources for U.S. birth and death information: delayed birth records, Social Security applications (SS-5s) and death certificates.

Genealogy Conferences Conversation: A Few Updates

  • Dick and I talk about Footnote.com as a relatively small site. Has that ever changed! Footnote.com is now Fold3.com and it’s a go-to site for millions of online American military records.
  • Family History Expos still offers an exciting conference, especially for first-timers. But there are others as well: In the United States, there’s RootsTech, the National Genealogical Society and many state and regional conferences (like one near my home, the Southern California Genealogical Society’s annual Jamboree). Find a nice directory at Cyndi’s List. Many conferences are starting to offer live streaming sessions for people who can’t attend: check websites for details. In addition, Family Tree University offers regular virtual conferences—where sessions and chat are all online! If you live outside the U.S., look for conferences through your own national or regional genealogical societies. If you can get to London, don’t miss Who Do You Think You Are Live.
  • Dick now writes all of his Plus content himself. If you haven’t already checked out Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter, you should! Both his free and Plus newsletters are great insider sources on what’s new and great (or not-so-great) in the family history world.

The SS-5

You can order a copy of the application that your ancestor filled out when they applied for a Social Security Number: the SS-5. I have done this, and they really are neat, but they aren’t cheap. So let’s talk about the facts you’re going to find on them so you can determine if it is worth the expense.

The SS-5 has changed slightly over time, but may include the applicant’s name, full address, birth date and place and BOTH parents’ names (the mother’s maiden name is requested). If your ancestor applied prior to 1947 then you will also very likely find the name and address of the company they worked for listed, and possibly even their position title.

Here’s an example of a Social Security application form:

Osby Johnson SS5

In the 1970s, the Social Security Administration microfilmed all SS-5 application forms, created a computer database of selected information from the forms, and destroyed the originals. So it’s important to order a copy of the microfilmed original, rather than a printout or abstract from the Administration’s database. And luckily now you can request a Social Security Application SS5 Form online under the Freedom of Information Act.

It will help to have your relative’s Social Security Number (SSN) when you apply for a copy of their SS-5. First, it gives you greater confidence that their SS-5 exists. Second, it’s cheaper to order the SS-5 when you have their SSN. Third, the Social Security Death Index, in which you’ll find their SSN, usually has death data that makes your application for their SS-5 stronger. Privacy concerns have caused some genealogy websites to pull the SSDI, but you can still search it (in many instances for free) at the links provided in Episode 3.

Finally, here’s a little background on the Social Security Number itself. The nine-digit SSN is made up of three parts:

The first set of three digits is called the Area Number. This number was assigned geographically. Generally, numbers were assigned beginning in the Northeast and moving westward. So people whose cards were issued in the East Coast states have the lowest numbers and those on the West Coast have the highest numbers.

Prior to 1972, cards were issued in local Social Security offices around the country and the Area Number represented the state in which the card was issued. This wasn’t necessarily the state where the applicant lived, since you could apply for a card at any Social Security office.

Since 1972, when the SSA began assigning social security numbers and issuing cards centrally from Baltimore, Maryland, the area number assigned has been based on the ZIP code of the mailing address provided on the application for the card. And of course, the applicant’s mailing address doesn’t have to be the same as their place of residence. But in general the area number does give you a good lead as where to look for an ancestor.

The next two digits in the number are called the Group Number, and were used to track fraudulent numbers.

The last set of four digits is the Serial Number, and these were randomly assigned.

UPDATE: The website for ordering Social Security applications (SS-5s) has changed since the podcast first aired. For current ordering instructions, including online ordering, click here. The cost is still $27 to order a deceased relative’s SS-5 if you know the Social Security number and $29 if you don’t know it.

Delayed Birth Certificates

After 1937 folks who qualified to apply for social security had to have proof of their age. If they were born prior to official birth certificates being kept in their state, they applied for a delayed birth certificate.

Anytime someone needs a birth certificate for any reason, they have to contact the state—and often the county—in which the birth occurred. If a birth certificate exists, they can simply purchase a certified copy. But if there were no birth certificates issued at the time of the person’s birth, they could have a “delayed birth certificate” issued by that state or county.

In order to obtain a delayed certificate, they had to provide several pieces of evidence of their age. If these are considered satisfactory, the government would issue the certificate and it would be accepted as legal proof of birth by all U.S. government agencies.

Originally people turned to the census for proof of age. But eventually the Social Security Administration began to ask for birth certificates. For folks like my great grandmother who was born at a time and place where birth certificates were not issued, that meant they had to locate documents that could prove their age and allow them to obtain a delayed birth certificate. Delayed just meaning it was issued after the time of the birth.

Delayed birth certificates are not primary sources. (Remember we talked about Primary Sources in Episode 2. Since the delayed certificate was based on other documents, and not issued at the time of the event by an authority, such as the attending physician, then it is not a primary source. This means that while it’s great background information, it is more prone to error. In order to do the most accurate genealogical research you would want to try to find a primary source if possible. Chances are your ancestor used another primary source, such as an entry in the family bible, to obtain the delayed birth certificate.

The process for ordering a delayed birth certificate is likely going to be the same as ordering a regular birth certificate. You would start with the checking with the county courthouse, and then the Department of health for the state you’re looking in. Let them know that the birth record is a delayed birth certificate. Also the Family History Library card catalogue would be a place to look as many were microfilmed. Go to www.familysearch.org and search for delayed birth records by clicking on Search from the home page. Then click Catalog and do the keyword search just as the episode instructs, using “delayed birth” as your keyword. (Within that search, you can also add parameters for the place name.)

So the lesson here is that even though your ancestor may have been born at a time or in a location where births were not officially recorded by the state, they may very well have a delayed birth certificate on file.

Ordering Death Certificates

The Social Security Death Index is just one resource for getting death information. But in the end you’re going to want the primary source for your ancestor’s death, and that’s the death certificate. While many of your ancestor’s born in the 1800s may not have a birth certificate, there is a much better chance that they have a death certificate since they may have died in the 20th century. Each state in the U.S. began mandating death certificates at a different time, so you have to find out the laws in the state, and probably the county, since death certificates were filed at the county level.

As I said before, the death certificate is going to be able to provide you with a wealth of information. Of course you’ll find the name, date of death and place of death, and possibly their age at death and the cause and exact time of death, place of burial, funeral home, name of physician or medical examiner and any witnesses who were present. The certificate is a primary source for this information.

You may also find information such as their date and place of birth, current residence, occupation, parent’s names and birthplaces, spouse’s name, and marriage status. But because this information is provided by someone other than the ancestor themselves it is really hearsay, and the certificate is considered a secondary source for that information.

And lastly you may find a name in the box that says Informant. This is the person who reported the death to officials. Informants are often spouses, children, and sometimes, depending on the person’s circumstances, just a friend or neighbor. But the informant is almost always someone that you want to investigate further because they obviously were close to your ancestor.

Once you think you know the location where your ancestor died, and the approximate if not exact death date, you’re ready to order a certificate. If the person died in the last 50 years you’ll probably have really good luck at the county courthouse Department of Vital Records. The older the record, the more likely it may have been shipped off by the county records department to the state Department of Health. Look for helpful links to death records at Cyndi’s List Death Records.

Here are some tips that will ensure that you don’t get bogged down in bureaucratic red tape:

  1. Get the appropriate request form – this is usually available online.
  1. Print neatly and clearly – if they can’t read it, they will send it back to be redone.
  1. Provide as much information as you have.
  1. Provide a self addressed stamped envelope.
  1. Make one request per envelope.
  1. Include a photocopy of your driver’s license to prove your identity.
  1. Be sure to include your check for the exact amount required.
  1. Make a copy of the request form for your records and follow up.
  1. Lastly, keep in mind that county offices have limited personnel and are often swamped with paper work. So my best advice is that the more courteous and thorough you are the more success you’ll have.

Online Death Indexes

In the case of very old death certificates, as well as birth certificates, some state agencies have opted to hand them over to state Archives and Historical Societies, or at least make them available for digitizing.

And there you have it, lots of different avenues for tracking down your ancestor’s death records providing you with key information for climbing your family tree.

Bookmark and Share

Low Tech and High Tech Can Play Happily in the Genealogy Sandbox

Listen to the Genealogy Gems PodcastListen in as we solve a family history mystery with high-tech and low-tech tools in the newest episode of the free Genealogy Gems Podcast, episode 159.

Also in this episode, Genealogy Gems Contributor Sunny Morton discusses where to begin with African-American research with Dr. Deborah Abbott, and we explore newly available Canadian records.

And we wrap the episode with my thoughts on the value of work that we want to pass on to our kids and Grandkids as a family history legacy.

Bookmark and Share

Genealogy Education Can Be a “GRIPping” Experience

GRIP logo captureHello from Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny McClellan Morton. I’m still flying high after a week just spent at GRIP, the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh. This was like mini-graduate school for genealogists, complete with a lush green campus in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania; immediate access to legendary instructors; rigorous coursework that’s exactly what I want to learn; a great genealogy bookstore; and plenty of after-hours socializing.

While I was there, GRIP announced an exciting lineup for 2014 (it’s not even on their website yet). Here are the topics and instructors:

  • Finding and Documenting African-American Families with J. Mark Lowe, CG, and Deborah Abbott, PhD.
  • Practical Genetic Genealogy with Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, CeCe Moore and Blaine Bettinger, PhD, JD.
  • Law School for Genealogists with Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL and Richard G. “Rick” Sayre, CG, CGL.
  • Becoming an Online Expert: Mastering Search Engines and Digital Archives with D. Joshua Taylor, MA, MLS.
  • Determining Kinship Reliably with the Genealogical Proof Standard with Thomas W. Jones, PhD.
  • Intermediate Genealogy: Tools for Digging Deeper with Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, FMGS, FUGA.

All those initials after these instructors’ names means tons of expertise is poured into every GRIP experience, and if you know any of these folks you know there’s not a “boring professor” among them!

If you’re ready for seriously advanced genealogy education, check out GRIP or other learning experiences like it. In the United States, I know about SLIG in Salt Lake City, IGHR at Samford University in Birmingham, and NIGR at the National Archives. There are also more flexible (but still demanding) options like ProGen Study Groups, Boston University’s Genealogical Research Programs and the National Genealogical Society’s American Genealogy Home Study course.

Don’t forget to check out programs and conferences offered by your own state, regional and local genealogical societies. They usually offer a variety of topics for beginners to more advanced students–and they’ll be closer to home and less expensive. Our own Genealogy Gems premium memberships offers a fabulous genealogy education for a fabulous price: in addition to premium podcast episodes, you also get a new, full-length video tutorial every MONTH to watch whenever you like, along with unlimited access to all previous full-length video tutorials. Check out our list of Premium Videos here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bookmark and Share