July 19, 2017

The Genealogy FAN Club Principle Overcomes Genealogy Brick Walls

Another brick wall…busted! We all have trouble spots in our family history research. Sometimes, we just need a little help breaking through. Here’s a tried-and-true method for using the genealogy FAN club principle to overcome brick walls in your family history research.

Creating a FAN club tips

A FAN club stands for Family, Associates, and Neighbors. Using the FAN club principle is a process in which genealogists identify a list of people (family, associates, and neighbors) that lived and associated with a given ancestor. By researching these other people, you may flesh out some new hints for your own research. Ultimately, identifying our ancestors FAN club is an effective tool for overcoming brick walls in genealogy research.

Renowned genealogist and author Elizabeth Shown Mills, coined the phrase “FAN Club” for genealogical purposes. She points out the significance of not only searching records for an ancestor’s surname, but also paying attention to documents about the ancestor’s “FAN Club” (Friends, Associates, Neighbors). Historical information, she says, is like real estate: the true value of any piece of information is unknown until it is put into community context. [citation: “QuickSheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Cluster Research (the FAN Principle),” Genealogical.com (http://www.genealogical.com/products/QuickSheet%20The%20Historical%20Biographer%92s%20Guide%20to%20Cluster%20Research%20the%20FAN%20Principle/3868.html: accessed 25 Oct 2016).]

Step 1: “F” Stands for Family

Searching out other family members may prove helpful. Like in the case of Michael Knoop of Miami County, Ohio, I noticed there was another man in the county named Jacob Knoop. What was even more unique is both Michael and Jacob were born in New Brunswick. How unusual, I thought! Two men with the same last name, both born in New Brunswick, living in a small, farming area in Ohio! They had to be related, and they were. Jacob was Michael’s older brother.

Because I was having trouble finding when Michael had come to America, I traced Jacob instead. I located the passenger list with Jacob’s name on it and in doing so, I viewed all the passengers and found Michael, their mother, and lots of siblings!

Creating a FAN club family

Creating a FAN club with Family

In the case of Catherine Fearer Coddington, wife of James Coddington, I was having difficulty finding who her parents were. By searching for other Fearer individuals in the area, I discovered a biographical sketch on a John Fearer, Jr. Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, Volume 2, reads:

In 1836[,]John Fearer [Jr.] brought his family to Illinois. From Wheeling, West Va., the journey was made entirely by water. A landing on the Illinois soil was made at Hennepin. James Coddington, from near the Fearer’s old home in Maryland had already settled north of Princeton, in Bureau County, and later married John Fearer’s sister Catherine. The family found a home at Coddington’s until Mr. Fearer rented land near by.

Catherine had a brother! With this new information, I was able to easily trace John’s father to John Fearer, Sr. of Allegany County, Maryland and finally connect Catherine to her parents through a probate record.

It’s easy to see what a powerful strategy researching the relatives of your ancestors can be!

Step 2: “A” Stands for Associates

Creating a FAN club with associates

Creating a FAN club with Associates

An associate could be a business partner, a witness on a document, a pastor, a lawyer, or the man that bailed Grandpa out of jail! Associates are often related. To create a list of associates, you might start gathering all witnesses to vital events, such as baptismal or christening records, marriage records, probate, land, and affidavits.

Were the courthouse records in your targeted area destroyed? Check the local newspapers for clues for possible associates. As an example, Jacob Trostel was a signee and vouched for Harvey D. Wattles’ tavern license. The license and names of the vouchers were listed in the newspaper, too. Eleven other men of the community appear on that petition. Later, Jacob himself petitions for a tavern license. That petition is signed by twelve men: George Filler, Conrad Slaybaugh, Lebright E. Hartzell, William G. Eicholtz, Isaac Yount, Joseph Dull, Isaac Myers, George W. Rex, Daniel Filler, William Harlan, and John Bream.

In both of these examples, relatives of Jacob Trostel had been vouchers. By tracing them, we were able to find out more about Jacob and his family.

Step 3: “N” Stands for Neighbors

Where can we find a list of our ancestors neighbors? A census, of course! When looking at a census page, we look for other people on the page with the same surname as our targeted ancestor. There’s a good chance those folks could also be related. But, your ancestor’s neighbors may also hold rich clues that can help you in your research. Many neighbors intermarried, sold land to each other, and even migrated to new locations together.

Besides looking at individuals listed on the same census page as your ancestor, remember to turn the page! Sometimes, a neighbor is not on the same page as your ancestor, but rather the pages before or after. Just because a person appears directly after your ancestor on the census rolls doesn’t necessarily mean they were neighbors. This only indicates the order in which the census taker visited the homes. You might also be able to identify close neighbors by looking at land ownership maps for the area. In this way, you can easily identify who lived near-by.

If you are having difficulty determining where your ancestors came from, researching the neighbors may give the answer. Many neighbors migrated together. Always check at least one page before your ancestor and one page after your ancestor in any given census.

census_ledford_together

Creating a FAN club with Neighbors

Genealogy Fan Club: Comments and More Resources

There are likely dozens of successful ways for creating a FAN club for your ancestor. We would love to hear your examples in the comments below. For even more ways to break through those genealogy brick walls, enjoy these links below.

Read our article Solve Your Genealogy Brick Walls: 3 Tips for Breaking Through!

Genealogy Gems - Family History Podcast and WebsiteEven better: Genealogy Gems Premium Members can watch Lisa’s one hour video class Brick Walls: Cold Case Investigative Techniques. In this video you’ll not only learn how to apply criminal cold case strategies to your brick walls, but you’ll also get loads of fresh and innovative ideas you can try right away. If you are not a Premium Member yet, learn more about becoming a Genealogy Gems Premium Member here.

GenealogyDOTcoach Online Service for the Fledgling Genealogist

Everyone can use a great coach and a new genealogy service is striving to fill that need! GenealogyDOTcoach (SM) is a new online service matching up professional genealogists (called Genealogy Coaches) with people who want to have all the excitement of making their own family history discoveries, but need a little personalized help.

GenealogyDotCoach_FeatureImage

Janet Hovorka, co-founder of the new website, says, “With do-it-yourself sites like Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org it has become so easy for anyone to start climbing their family tree. But sometimes people get a little stuck in the process.”

In the past, genealogy hobbyists in trouble were either doomed to find another line to work on or hire a 10 or 20 hour research package from a professional genealogist. Many of us can’t afford the high prices of a professional researcher. Besides, what we really want is just a little help. GenealogyDOTcoach is striving to fill that need.

GenealogyDOTcoach: How it Works

As of today, there are 25 coaches across 47 genealogical categories. Areas of expertise include: getting started, DNA, writing a research plan, and even document translation. Many levels and types of expertise are found in these Genealogy Coaches with hopes of finding the right match for your specific need. The impressive list of coaches include some of the most well-known genealogists in the industry.

GenealogyDotCoach_1
At the genealogyDOTcoach website, you can select a topic like Jewish Genealogy, Software Assistance, or DNA (and there are tons more). Once you have selected your category, you will see a list of coaches that specialize in that topic. Sessions can be scheduled with your genealogy coach for 15, 30, or 60 minutes at a predetermined rate.

Before your coaching session, an email link is sent that allows you to log-in to a private chat room. You will meet your coach face to face, via video chat, and be able to share screens and documents.

We Want to Hear From You

please leave a commentSo, what do you think? Is this something that interests you?

We would love to hear what you think about this new service in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading, friends!

Finding Widows, Disappearing Husbands, and Lost Relatives

Finding Widows

Great-grandma may be listed as a widow in the 1900 federal census…but she might not actually be a widow after all. Women in the past sometimes claimed widowhood to protect their family’s good name. A recent reader’s question prompted this post for sharing some tips to finding widows, disappearing husbands, and lost relatives.

Widow or Not?

Genealogy Gems reader, Mary, wrote us the following comment:

“My grandmother Kitty’s first husband was Robert Lee Jeffries. They married in 1887 and had 4 or 5 children. He died in the very early 1900’s. She later remarried my grandfather, John, and they had four children together. All this took place in Hardin County, Kentucky. I cannot find when, where, or how her first husband died, or where he is buried. Can you help me?”

I think we can give Mary some tips to help her find Robert. As you read along, consider how these same tips and techniques could help you in finding widows, disappearing husbands, and lost relatives.

Finding Death Records in the Early 1900s

A death record is typically a good way to determine where someone went. If you can locate a death record for your lost individual, they aren’t lost anymore! Finding death records for the time period that Mary is asking about isn’t usually too difficult, unless there has been a record loss for that county. By doing a quick check on FamilySearch wiki for Hardin County, Kentucky, I learned that many records between 1852 and 1911 are missing, including some of the death records. That may be why Mary wasn’t able to find one.

When a death record can’t be found, there are many alternatives that we can exhaust. Cemetery records, newspaper obituaries, and probate records are just a few suggestions. But before we move into alternative records, something caught my attention.

Misspelled Names

With a last name like “Jeffries,” there could be several ways to spell it. Jeffrys, Jefferies, Jeffres, and perhaps many more. What can you do when you have a name, first or last, that could be spelled so many different ways?

One suggestion is to search by each of the possible name spellings, but another tool is to use an asterisk or wildcard. The first part of the surname Jeffries is always the same: J e f f. Whether you are searching records at Ancestry, Findmypast, or MyHeritage, you can use an asterisk after the last “f” to indicate you are looking for any of the possible surname spellings.

DisappearingHusband_1

I didn’t find any great matches using the criteria you see in the image above, but I took off the death date range and Kitty’s name and found Bob Lee JeffERies living in his parents home in 1880 in Hardin County, Kentucky. Take a close look at this image:

DisappearingHusband_2

Do you see the mistake? If you look at the digital image of the census, it spells the surname as Jeffries, however the record is indexed as Jefferies. Not to mention that Robert Lee is recorded as Bob Lee. This combination of name differences will always cause a little hiccup in our search process. This is why it is so important to consider name spellings when searching for records.

Even though using an asterisk didn’t produce a death record, you can see how using a tip like this can help when searching for any records online.

Alternatives to Death Records

Like I mentioned before, Hardin county had some record losses. Just because their death records may have been lost or destroyed, doesn’t mean the probate records were.

Using FamilySearch.org, I used the browse option to search probate record books in Hardin county, Kentucky. I found a record dated 25 Apr 1893, in which Kitty wrote her own will. [1] She mentions Lucy (possibly Robert’s mother found in the 1880 census) and others by name. What is strange is there’s no mention of a husband. I wondered if perhaps husband Robert had died before 1893. Unfortunately, there was no Robert Jeffries (or any variation) in the previous record books and the record book that Kitty appeared in was the last one available online.

When no will can be found, that doesn’t mean there is not a probate record available. The next step would be to visit the Hardin County probate office or State Archives to see if there is an estate packet available for Robert.

An estate packet is typically filled with all sorts of genealogy goodies! Receipts, list of heirs, and affidavits may shed light on many a burning question for your targeted ancestor.

The Disappearing Husband

Sadly, not all husband’s leave their families due to their demise. In the past, it was sometimes easier and more appealing to call yourself a widow or widower when your spouse left you. Kitty wrote a will in 1893 and did not mention a husband. In 1900, she was living in her father’s house and her children were divided up among the relatives, including her in-laws. Could Robert have left Kitty and the children? There may only be one way to know for sure.

Kitty remarried. To do that, either Robert had to die or she would need to be divorced. Divorce records can sometimes be located on a county level or at a state archives. I gave Hardin County Clerk of Courts a call and found out that divorce records between the years of 1804 -1995 are held at the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives. Their website provided details to ordering several types of records, including divorce records.

Looking in All the Wrong Places

Sometimes, we are so focused on one area that we can’t see past the end of our noses! Many of our ancestors lived on the borders of other counties. Hardin County, Kentucky is especially unique. It borders not only eight other Kentucky counties, but it also borders Harrison County, Indiana. It’s always a good idea to branch out to these nearby locations when you are having trouble locating records.

A Re-cap

When struggling to find a record for any targeted ancestor, try the following:

  • Consider alternate name spellings and search for common nicknames.
  • When there has been a possible record loss, search for alternative records that may hold the information you are looking for.
  • Determine which counties/states your targeted location is bordering and search there for records as well.

Have you found a disappearing person or long, lost relative? If so, share with us (in the comment section below) your story and how you finally tracked the elusive person down. Maybe your story will help others still searching for that missing ancestor!

More Gems on Finding Missing Ancestors

How to Search Your Ancestors’ Other Spouses and Childrenmy ancestor in the newspaper news

6 Sources that May Name Your Ancestors’ Parents

How to Save Time and Find the Ancestors You Are Looking For

 

 


Article References

(1) “Kentucky, Probate Records, 1727-1990,” digital images online, FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org : accessed 10 Aug 2016); record for Kitty A. Jeffries, 1893; citing Will Records, Index, 1893-1915, Vol. G, page 12.

Where to Look When There’s Been a Significant Record Loss

significant record loss

A significant record loss can be due to fire, water, weather disaster, or even theft. A courthouse disaster is one of the worst ways in which a genealogy research plan can be derailed. Learn some alternate locations for vital information to help you keep moving along!

I read somewhere the thirty-five counties of Tennessee have some level of record loss. Can you believe that? After researching long enough, it seems we all run into a county level record loss due to a courthouse disaster. What are we to do? Here are a few helpful tips!

Know Your County

While researching in Lee County, Virginia, I couldn’t figure out why some of the records I needed had not been microfilmed by the Family History Library. The answer was: a significant record loss. Unfortunately, I had wasted time searching for records that didn’t even exist anymore. Instead of going round and round looking for records that may have been lost or destroyed, begin your search by learning whether there has been a record loss in your targeted county. You can quickly find this information in the FamilySearch wiki at FamilySearch.org. Click Get Help at the top right corner and choose Research Wiki from the pull-down options.

Courthouse record loss

Once you have reached the wiki search page, type in the county and state you are interested in.

Courthouse_Record_Loss_3

At the wiki research article for your targeted location, scroll down and look for a disaster icon. There are four icons that represent the type of loss your county has experienced, if any. In the record loss section of the article, you will find what records and years have been lost or damaged.

Courthouse_Record_Loss_2

It is important to remember that you should never assume that what is listed on the wiki is 100% accurate. There may be times when records were “lost” at one time, but turn up later…you never know. It pays to check the wiki first, then confirm with a knowledgeable person at the county courthouse or local genealogical society. Check, check, and check again.

Finding Alternative Sources When Dealing with a Record Loss

Courthouse record loss can be an obstacle, but not a barrier. You can continue to do effective research in these situations with a little know-how and some exhaustive searching. Leave no stone unturned!

Many know that the 1890 federal census was almost entirely destroyed by fire and consequent water damage in 1921. Because of this record loss, I figuratively lost my family between 1880 and 1900. Using another record source entitled “Native American Applications for Enrollment in Five Civilized Tribes,” I found that many of my family members had filed for this allotment. The 1887 General Allotment Act, or Dawes Act, allowed land to be allotted to members of Native American tribes. In 1893, the Dawes Commission began accepting applications and these application packets are packed full of genealogical data.

In my fourth great-aunt’s application packet for enrollment in the five civilized tribes, she listed all her children (even the illegitimate ones), who her father was, who her paternal grandfather was, and where they had lived over the last 75 plus years. It helped me to put together the family story line that had been lost.

When there has been a county level record loss, look for federal records which could be advantageous. Some additional federal records to consider might be: pension files, military records, naturalization records, or passport applications.

Even when there has been a county level record loss of one set of records, consider where you might find the information you need in another record set. I noticed that Claiborne County, Tennessee had lost or damaged marriage records between 1801 and 1837. However, no deed or land record sets have been lost. You may be surprised to learn that deeds and land records will often name a spouse. Though this doesn’t give you a date of marriage, it works as a record to support a marital relationship and can narrow down the year of marriage.

Death records been destroyed? Don’t forget our recent article on finding cemetery records as an alternative! Newspapers and obituaries are another great source of information. For a cheat sheet of alternative records for vital statistics, check out the United States Record Selection Table at FamilySearch wiki.

When faced with any record loss, it’s reassuring to know that records were created at all levels of government, offering us viable alternatives. I would love to hear your story. In the comments below, I hope you’ll share the losses you have faced and the creative alternatives you uncovered.

More Gems on Alternative Records

Cemetery Records: An Alternative to Death Records

A Life Changing Find at the National Archives

How and Why to Create an Alternate Family Tree

alternate family treeUse an “alternate family tree” to emphasize unique or interesting patterns in your family history, such as eye or hair color, birthplace, age at death, or adoption. Here’s how to do it–and WHY.

Alternate family trees are popping up all over social media and genealogy blogs. Have you seen them? Some trees emphasize the age at death, cause of death, or birthplace for each individual.

There can be tremendous value to creating trees like these. Recognizing patterns can help tear down brick walls. Imagine a pedigree chart with birth places instead of names. It’s a new way to see migration patterns. I also love the a-ha moments I have! For example, the time I realized my hair and eye coloring likely came from my maternal great-grandmother who I have a special connection with.

I can share these quick “did you know” revelations with my relatives on social media (totally shareable images!) or at family reunions. Images are often more powerful than words because they are easy to glance over. Your family won’t be able to resist taking a look, and most importantly, sharing your tree images with other family members. Shared images can generate new information when shared with the right relative. Hey, here’s an idea: you could even blow up your alternate family tree to poster size for the next family reunion!

Take a look at these examples of my own alternate family trees for age at death (left) and birthplace (right).

Alternate_Trees_1 alternate family tree Alternate_Trees_2 alternate family tree

 

Other alternate family trees may focus on occupations, schooling, or color of eyes or hair.

I was inspired to create an alternate family tree that had significance to my own immediate family. We have a lot of adoption in our family tree. My three children are adopted, my husband is adopted, and several of my great-grandparents were raised by other family members. This is a unique perspective. Blood lines are important, but even more important are those people who influenced my family the most as caregivers.

I created a pedigree that indicates who, if anyone, the father and mother figures were. Take a look:

Alternate Family Tree

Did you notice that every set of my great-grandparents had one or more parent die or abandon them? I was shocked to see this significant ancestral dynamic. I had never considered the likely effect of such a family tree. It was fascinating!

How to Create an Alternate Family Tree

The easiest way to create an alternate family tree is to use a genealogy software program. I use RootsMagic. RootsMagic is a genealogy software program for PC and Mac computers. (Note: To use RootsMagic on your Mac computer, you will need to use the MacBridge add-on.) You can purchase the full version of RootsMagic for $29.95 or you can use the RootsMagic Essentials for free!

There are two ways to make an alternate family tree using RootsMagic. You can start from scratch or use the wall chart report.

Starting from Scratch

To start a new pedigree, click the “blank sheet of paper” icon at the top left. Name your tree with a title that will indicate its purpose. (Example: Age-at-Death Tree)

Alternate Family Tree

Instead of using the names of your ancestors, use whatever alternate pieces of information you wish in the name fields.

Now, you simply click “Reports” across the top and choose “Pedigree.” You can generate the report and print out your new alternate tree.

Using an Existing Tree

If you already have your tree on RootsMagic, you can use the Wall Chart feature to create trees with unique data.

As an example, if I wanted to create an occupation family tree, I would first need to enter that data for each person by clicking on the individual and then “Add a Fact.” From the drop-down list, choose “occupation.” Type in the occupation in the description field at the right and click “Save.”

Alternate Family Tree

Add the occupation to each individual and when you are ready to print your alternate family tree, simply take the following steps in the image below.

Alternate Family Tree

After taking these six steps, it is time to “Generate Report.” You will be taken to a new screen where you will see your creation.

Alternate Family Tree

Once you have completed your alternate tree, it’s a great idea to print it and lay it out in front of you. You might ask yourself, “What does this information tell me?” The interpretation of the data will be unique for everyone. Maybe your “Cause of Death Tree” will make you think, “Oh no! I should really be watching my heart health!”

I hope that you will take the opportunity to create an alternate family tree or two today. Genealogy Gems Premium website members who like this idea will also want to listen to Genealogy Gems Podcast #136, due out later this month. In that episode, Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard goes in depth on the value of gathering family health history.

shareHow does this view of your family tree make you feel?
We love to hear from you so leave your feelings or comments below,
and please feel free to share your alternate family tree on our Facebook page!
More Family Tree and RootsMagic Gems

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Family Tree Hopscotch: Fun at the Family Reunion

Census Research Tip: Why Look at the Same Thing Twice

census research tipWhen may it pay off to look at the same records or indexes twice? When you can compare them on different genealogy websites. Here’s an example for this census research tip.

You’ve probably noticed that some record sets are available online at multiple websites. At each site, the images and indexes you find may be a little different. Online tools for viewing and searching at each site may also be different.

For example, a digitized image may be faded, dark, blurry, blotchy, cut off, or otherwise unreadable on one website but clearer on another site. Here are two images from the first few lines of the 1880 U.S. Federal Census taken in Bay Minette, Baldwin, Alabama. The first image comes from HeritageQuest Online (available at public libraries) and the second is from Ancestry.com. See the difference?

Alabama census image HeritageQuest census research tip

alabama census image ancestry census research tip

As you can see, depending on which line you’re reading, one image may be clearer than another.

Here’s another census research tip: The online tools available at each site are different, too. At HeritageQuest Online, you can view the image at original size, 200% or 400%, and you can look at the image as a negative, which sometimes helps faded text stand out a little more. Ancestry.com lets you zoom in and out, magnify specific areas, and rotate the image or view it in mirror form (in case you’re trying to read backward text bleeding through from the other side).

HeritageQuest Online improvesMore Gems for Online Genealogy Research

HeritageQuest Online Gets Better with Ancestry’s Support

4 Tips for Getting the Most out of Ancestry.com

Genealogy Gems Premium podcast episode 125: HeritageQuest Online, Ancestry Library edition and other great genealogy resources at the public library (Available only to Genealogy Gems Premium website members)

 

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 190: Missing Person’s Case SOLVED!

GGP 190In the just-published, free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 190, hear from a genealogist who helped lay to rest a 30-year old missing-person’s case–and so much more.

Don’t you love it when everyday heroes help the experts solve baffling mysteries? I especially love it when that hero is a genealogist who wields research skills with deftness, creativity and bulldog tenacity. Has Lisa Louise Cooke got a story for us!

Scott Fisher, Extreme Genes

Scott Fisher, Extreme Genes

In the new Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 190, Lisa interviews Extreme Genes radio host Scott Fisher about his now-famous role in helping to solve a 30-year old missing persons case. He’s told this story to People, FoxNews and CBS.com, but here Lisa gets Scott to really lay out the details of how he did it for fellow researchers.

There’s more to love in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 190, such as:

  • Lisa advises a listener on a pesky Gmail problem;
  • A whirlwind world tour of new genealogy records online;
  • Searching out military service details with Google Books;
  • One RootsTech attendee’s Google search success story
  • the new Genealogy Gems Book Club title, a brand-new, much-anticipated second novel by a breakout British novelist.

GGP thanks for sharingClick here to listen to the episode for FREE (no membership or login required).

Not sure what a podcast is or how to listen? Click here to learn more about these “online radio shows” that you can take with you on your mobile device. Listen while you commute, exercise, do your household chores or garden.

6 Sources that May Name Your Ancestors’ Parents

Ancestors ParentsHave you reached a dead end on one branch of your family tree–you can’t find the parents’ names? Check out these sources for finding ancestors’ parents.

Recently Genealogy Gems podcast listener Trisha wrote in with this question about finding marriage license applications online. She hoped the original application would name the groom’s parents. Unfortunately, her search for the applications came up dry. So, she asked, “Are there other documents that would have his parents names listed on them?”

Here’s a brainstorm for Trisha and everyone else who is looking for an ancestor’s parents’ names (and aren’t we all!).

6 Record Sources that May Name Your Ancestors’ Parents

1. Civil birth records. I’ll list this first, because civil birth records may exist, depending on the time period and place. But in the U.S. they are sparse before the Civil War and unreliably available until the early 1900s. So before a point, birth records–which will almost always name at least one parent–are not a strong answer. Learn more about civil birth records in my free Family History Made Easy podcast episode #25.

2. Marriage license applications. Trisha’s idea to look for a marriage license application was a good one. They often do mention parents’ names. But they don’t always exist: either a separate application form was never filled out, or it didn’t survive. Learn more about the different kinds of marriage documents that may exist in the Family History Made Easy podcast episode #24.

How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers3. Obituaries. Obituaries or death notices are more frequently found for ancestors who died in the late 1800s or later. Thanks to digitized newspapers, it’s getting SO much easier to find ancestors’ obituaries in old newspapers. My book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers is packed with practical tips and inspiring stories for discovering your family’s names in newsprint. Millions of newly-indexed obituaries are on FamilySearch (viewable at GenealogyBank). Get inspired with this list of 12 Things You Can Learn from Obituaries!

4. Social Security Applications (U.S.). In the U.S., millions of residents have applied for Social Security numbers and benefits since the 1930s. These applications request parents’ names. There are still some privacy restrictions on these, and the applications themselves are pricey to order (they start at $27). But recently a fabulous new database came online at Ancestry that includes millions of parents’ names not previously included in public databases. I blogged about it here. Learn more about Social Security applications (and see what one looked like) in the show notes for my free Family History Made Easy podcast episode #4.

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast5. Baptismal records. Many churches recorded children’s births and/or the baptisms of infants and young children. These generally name one or both parents. Millions of church records have come online in recent years. Learn more about birth and baptism records created by churches in the Family History Made Easy Podcast Episode #26. Click these links to read more about baptismal records in Quebec and Ireland.

6. Siblings’ records. If you know the name of an ancestor’s sibling, look for that sibling’s records. I know of one case in which an ancestor appeared on a census living next door to a possible parent. Younger children were still in the household. A search for one of those younger children’s delayed birth record revealed that the neighbor WAS his older sister: she signed an affidavit stating the facts of the child’s birth.

Thanks for sharing this list with anyone you know who wants to find their ancestors’ parents!

missing birth recordMore Genealogy Gems on Finding Your Ancestors in Old Records

Missing Birth Record? Here’s What You Can Do to Track it Down
Try These 2 Powerful Tools for Finding Genealogy Records Online

Finding Ancestors in Courthouse Records: Research Tips
(Premium website membership required)

 

 

 

 

Try These Two Powerful Tools for Finding Genealogy Records Online

When we showed one listener these tips for finding genealogy records online, she wrote back immediately: “I will be utilizing that research technique more often!” 

Try These Two Powerful Tools for Finding Genealogy Records OnlineNot long ago, Trisha wrote to Lisa to thank her for the free Genealogy Gems podcast and ask for help: “I am trying to find the marriage application from my grandparents marriage, from 1939 in Jackson County, Arkansas with hopes that it will contain my grandfather’s parents names. Do you have any information about how I can find this information?”

I tend to start my search for ANY record type with Google. Lisa has sharpened my Google search skills with everything I’ve learned from the 2nd edition of her book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, fully updated for 2015 with hundreds of search strategies and suggestions.

So first I Google-searched “Jackson County Arkansas marriage records.” I scanned the list for results from the “big” genealogy websites: FamilySearch, Ancestry, Findmypast, etc, because there might be a database on one of those sites. In this case, the top result is from FamilySearch, but it’s not a direct link to online records: it’s a wiki page that will direct you to lots of Jackson County resources.

I mentally flagged that result but kept looking down the list. A result from Archives.com popped up. I clicked on it, but it didn’t lead me to a database either, just a somewhat canned  summary of how to order the original records from the government office. That can be expensive and time-consuming, so it’s not my first choice if I can find the actual record online, so I came back up to the FamilySearch wiki result.
family search wiki find ancestors' names
The FamilySearch wiki can be an excellent signpost to finding genealogy records online all over the world (and offline records!). Wiki articles are written by volunteers, so some entries are spotty or outdated. But in this case, there are a couple of excellent resources. The wiki page for Jackson County, Arkansas starts off with a table of contents, which you can click to take you further down on the page to exactly what you want to know. For Trisha, it’s marriage records (under 4.2, Vital Records).

Clicking on “Marriage” under Vital Records will take you to this paragraph:

FS wiki marriage records

The first resource is not helpful to Trisha because the time frame is wrong. The second resource appears useful, but only if Trisha’s grandparents’ last names begin with K-Q. However, when you click on it (it’s free), you can quickly learn that Jackson County coverage has broadened since the wiki article was written: all the records for 1939 are now included. (How can you tell? Click on “Learn more” under the collection description, and then click on the record coverage table. Scroll down to Jackson County: you’ll see all the records for 1939 (1935-1940, in volume N (not for surname N)) are included.)

Unfortunately, these are records of marriage licenses and returns, not APPLICATIONS for marriage licenses, as Trisha wants. Specifically, she wants to find the parents of the bride and groom, not mentioned in these marriage records. So in this case, I would move on to the third resource mentioned on the FamilySearch wiki. It’s a link to Jackson County’s own index of marriage records. The index isn’t helpful, but click on Home and you’ll find the County Clerk’s email address. My next step would be to email the clerk and ask whether the applications for 1939 still exist. If her answer is negative, check with a local genealogical society, which may suggest alternate local records to help with those elusive parents’ names.

What genealogical record sets are YOU burning to find? Try this search strategy and see what Google and the FamilySearch wiki have to tell you!

MORE Gems to Help You Find Your Family History in Old Records

Google AlertsGoogle for Genealogy: Google Keyword Search Tips

Advanced Google Search Strategies for Adoptees in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode #128 (Premium website membership required)

Google Alerts for Genealogy: Not What They Used to Be?

Thanks for sharing this post with others who would love to try these search strategies! You’re a gem!

US State Census Records: Capture Your Family History Between Federal Censuses

state censusesThe 1915 New Jersey State Census was recently released on FamilySearch. What a great opportunity to remind everyone about valuable U.S. state-level censuses taken between federal censuses.

Along with everyone who has U.S. roots, we love the federal census! We just wish there were more of them. Well, we can’t go back in time and make the federal government take more censuses. But we CAN turn to the many state census records.

In State Census Records, author Ann S. Lainhart tells us 3 reasons for seeking out state censuses (and colonial and territorial censuses that preceded them):

  • They fill in gaps between federal censuses, and particularly the long gap left by the missing 1890 census.
  • They may not be closed to the public for as long.
  • Different questions may have been asked than on the federal census.

For example, FamilySearch just announced that it’s added more than 2.7 million records from the 1915 New Jersey Census  to its free online collections. “New Jersey records…was a popular settling point for millions of immigrants during the heyday of US immigration from 1892 to 1924,” states a press release. These records include “the names of each member of the household, location, gender, birth date (month and year) and birthplace.” New Jersey took censuses every 10 years from 1855 to 1915: FamilySearch has 1885 and 19051895 is at Ancestry.

Actually, MOST U.S. states took some kind of census in the past. Ancestry’s wiki has a full list of U.S. colonial, state and territorial censuses. A lot of these are online at Ancestry and/or FamilySearch; a Google search of the state, year and “census” will lead you to these.

Resources

Census Records series in Episodes 9-11 of the free Family History Made Easy podcast

A Surprising Lesson on Using Census Records for Genealogy

1950 Census Substitutes: What to Use Until its Release Date

Share HeartsThank you for sharing this post with others who may want to know more about state census records!