March 16, 2010
When searching for a vital record in a specific county, first verify that the county/ state collected records in that specific time period.
For example, looking for a birth record in Allen County, IN for 1854 will produce no results because birth records were not collected until 1882.
Sources for determining when a locality began collecting vital records are:
The Handybook for Genealogists
March 12, 2010
One of the first things we, as genealogists, need to learn is that our ancestors’ names were not always spelled correctly, and you may even find the same person’s name spelled several different ways in the same document. The spelling of some names have only “recently” been standardized. Not everyone could spell his or her own name, and not all clerks could spell either! Regional pronunciations might alter a person’s name, or an individual might change it to adapt to surrounding population or for simplicity. These variations may, or may not lead to lasting changes, and may not be an instantaneous or single change. It may take several generations, and the advent of modern record keeping, before a name becomes permanent.
March 5, 2010
Running across nicknames and name variations as you research is always a challenge. You can hope that the legal records will list the person’s real name, but if you use newspapers, diaries, or personal reminiscences, you might run across shortened names such as Jack (John? Jackson?), Bert (Albert? Herbert? Hubert?), or Nellie (Cornelia? Eleanor?). Sometimes, these shortened names become the real names of descendants (Hamilton is called Hammie, then a great-nephew is christened Hammie). The hard ones are those that can be a name or define a relationship (Sissy for Cecelia or sister). Nicknames can describe physical appearance (Red, Shorty), or some other characteristic (Lucky or Tex). First and middle names could be switched at will, or new names adopted, as with a Queenie and a Narcissa who both changed their names to Mary. Nicknames provide an added dimension to an ancestor, so remember to check all of the possibilities.
February 25, 2010
You can even Google people’s names, although you might be surprised to learn that your ancestor from the 1700s has a Facebook page and that you can get a background check on him with credit rating for a low fee! If you get such hits, obviously it is someone with the same name. You probably will have the best luck searching for someone with an unusual name. Googling “Dawson Pompey,” for example, brought to light photographs of his family members that someone had posted online.
A more planned approach to Internet searching might include looking at the homepages of public libraries, university libraries, genealogical and historical societies and courthouses in the specific areas where your ancestors lived. Any of these entities may have databases specific to the area online, or even digitized images of records, tombstone photos, and more. At the very least, you can discover the addresses and hours for the libraries and courthouses you want to plan to visit in the spring or next summer!
Cemeteries, funeral homes, colleges, fraternal organizations, governmental entities, ethnic groups, family associations and many other businesses and organizations have their own websites. And every website you land on often will have links to still more websites that may help your search.
In addition, you can look for other people to be your “legs” in a distant locale while you are snowbound. Local genealogical societies or libraries may have volunteer or for-a-fee research services. The Board for Certification of Genealogists and Association of Professional Genealogists have lists of researchers with specialties in geographic or subject areas that you can hire to further your research.
Just because you can’t take a road trip does not mean your genealogy project has to come to a screeching halt. Light the fire, pour the cocoa and grab the laptop – it’s time to hit the highway … the armchair research highway, that is!
February 24, 2010
If cold and snowy weather is keeping you from taking that genealogical research trip you are dreaming about, why not take a “virtual” research trip by doing some armchair research?
Until quite recently, armchair research meant writing letters to people researching the same family lines and sending forms to courthouses for copies of birth, marriage and death records. While these still are worthwhile pursuits, the Internet has opened up a whole new world for genealogical research from home, or from your local library.
The Genealogy Center’s website has a number of databases and collections of links that anyone can access from anywhere – you do not need to have an Allen County Public Library card. Access to these is from the gray bar running down the lefthand side of the Genealogy Center’s home page. Check back often because material is being added regularly!
The links in the top part of the white quadrant in the center of the page are for subscription-based databases, such as Ancestry.com, HeritageQuestOnline.com and Footnote.com. To access those, patrons need to be inside one of the Allen County Public Library’s buildings. But if you don’t live in Fort Wayne, call your local public library and ask about these databases – many libraries have subscriptions and you may be able to use these databases for free by driving to your closest library!
From home, you might try doing some creative keyword searches in the search box of your favorite Internet browser, such as Google or Yahoo! Try putting quotation marks around words that belong together in a phrase to help narrow your search to the most relevant “hits.” For example, “Allen County Indiana” will keep those three words together in the search instead of bringing up everything in cyberspace that has each of those words somewhere in the record.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of Armchair Research.
January 21, 2010
City directories fill in gaps in our research by providing information on our ancestors during time periods not covered by other records. We can see where are ancestor lived, possibly marital status, or a hint at migration or death, as well as occupational information.
1859 Philadelphia Directory
According to the 1850 Census, John Hagey of Philadelphia, PA was a confectioner, as were other members of his household who served the same occupation. The same John Hagey is employed as a clockmaker in 1860. Upon initial review, this appeared to be a drastic change in occupation, but using Philadelphia city directories, the answer was found.
In the 1838 Commercial City Directory, John Hagey owned a clock, watch, and jewelry business, but by the 1840 directory, he’s a confectioner in the Hagey & Nice Company that specializes in confectioners. From 1840 to 1860, his various sons are also in the directory as confectioners. The 20 year snapshot of John Hagey’s company and life provided in the city directories shows a man who shared his business with family and may have returned to his previous profession of clockmaker as he aged.
To access the Genealogy Center’s listing of city directories, you can search the microtext catalog or search the print catalog using search terms of town, state, “directory.”
January 12, 2010
When reading handwritten records, remember some letters can look alike. Examples of letters that can be misread are:
S, J, L
M, H, W
L, F, T
m, n, w, u, v, r
Some helpful guides on the subject are:
Reading Early American Handwriting
Understanding Colonial Handwriting