RootsTech 2014: Use your iPad for Genealogy Research at the Family History Library

RT-Blogger-badge-150sqThinking about attending RootsTech in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2014? Then I’m guessing a trip to the Family History Library (FHL) is part of your plan. Here’s a great tip: bring your iPad or tablet computer and don’t make a single photocopy while you’re there!

Last year, I spent two days researching at the FHL before RootsTech got going. I was up and down a lot between floors, looking at all kinds of books, microfilmed and microfiched materials and even big old maps. On a previous trip, I would have spent a LOT of money on photocopying, even though the copy services there are very low priced. I would have wanted color copies of the maps, so that would have cost more. I would have wasted a lot of time in line to use the copiers–time I would have wanted to spend researching.

But I didn’t waste any time or money. I used my iPad. I have a generation 4 with the rear-facing, 5 megapixel camera, and I used it practically nonstop…

1. Copying material from books. Whenever I found a book page (or a few pages) I wanted to copy, I first imaged the cover pages with the source citation info. Then I imaged the inside pages, making sure the image captured the page number. When I needed to record that a book didn’t have anything on my ancestors, I put a sticky note on the inside front cover saying “checked for Johnsons, didn’t find” (or whatever), then imaged the page with the sticky note on it. This was easy and fast. I sometimes imaged books while standing right in the library stacks! I didn’t have a scanning app on my iPad at the time, but remember you can also use an app like Scanner Pro to scan multipage documents, convert them to PDFs and straighten out and enhance the images.

 

2. Copying material from microfilm. Okay, it’s not perfect quality, but you can take decent digital images of microfilmed material right from the microfilm reader. First, image the microfilmed page at the beginning saying what the source is (or a note with the source description or even the box with the microfilm number on it). Then stand just in front of the microfilm reader with the iPad. Point the camera down to the displayed image, taking care not to block the projection of the image from the reader above. Here’s an example of what it looks like. Like I said, it’s not perfect because of the angle and lighting. Glare can be a problem so you may want to take a few shots. But you can read these images and most of the time, you don’t need keepsake quality out of microfilm. You just need to capture data. I followed up with some cropping and enhancement editing right on my iPad.

 

3. Copying material from a map or other folio items. The same general idea applies to imaging maps and other oversized materials. First, image the source citation information, often found on a label at the bottom of the page or on the back. Image the map key, including which way is north, scale, and other details. Then image as much of the map as possible to get an “establishing shot.” Finally, zoom in to the areas of greatest importance to you. Again, it’s not perfect. Laminated items may have glare issues as you can see by the shot shown here. But you may get what you need out of your digital image, especially if you move around so the glare isn’t covering the important areas on the map.

 

Remember to organize all your images when you get back to your hotel room or home while your memory of the visit is still fresh. Keep source citation shots together with the images you took. Load them into Evernote, if you use it. Organize them as you would other computerized research materials: in surname files, etc.

Finally, remember that fair use and copyright laws still apply to all images you take, whether on a photocopier or your personal digitizing equipment. The Family History Library does allow people to take their own digital images, but not all libraries and archives do. Some repositories rely on the income from copying to fund their facilities. ASK before using your iPad at other libraries! But as you can see, you can save yourself time and money–and have all your research notes and copies already digitized and ready for use on-the-go.

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This post was written by Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton. (Just so you know, I’m not a longtime iPad pro. I learned everything I know about using an iPad for genealogy from reading Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse. Then I adapted what Lisa taught me for the way I research.)

 

 

 

 

Finding Widows, Disappearing Husbands, and Lost Relatives

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.

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.

Looking for a Living Relative?

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This article was originally posted on August 24, 2016 and updated on April 18, 2019.

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