VERY General Notes on Genealogy ---
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Genealogy Bookmarks will be found within these URLs.
My interest in genealogy was peaked in about 1985 after I got a
good computer and printer and had converted my address book into a
computer file. In the process I realized that the personal computer's
ease of correcting and moving text made it an ideal tool for collecting
data from many widely diverse sources, with varying quality, at
differing times, and keeping the records rather neat without the need
for re-doing a page to add data in its proper place.
On average, most people get to know all 4 of their grandparents.
Personally, I only knew 3 of mine; my day only knew 1 of his; mom
knew all 4 of hers.
I started by just listing all of the family that I knew; then I
got my folks to add their knowledge to it. The second or third
cuts didn't amount to more than 5 pages.
I sent copies of the original pages to aunts, uncles, cousins,
and got many responses.
In the years in since, we've made several trips, been to a quite a few
libraries, some archives, several cemeteries, looked thru a lot of
books, microfilm, and microfiche. Are we are only amateur pikers.
Additionally, I've been fortunate enough to get some good records
from various family members:
.. my uncle in Colorado gave me an old Bible which belonged
to his grand-parents.
.. my mom's cousin in Indiana sent copies their aunt's Bible
which had been in the family for years
.. my dad's cousin's widow sent copies of letters from one
of dad's uncles regarding the family lineage to assist
her daughter in applying for admission into the DAR in 1930s.
.. my dad's cousin's Bible was excerpted in some LDS records.
.. my mom's grandfather's brother was the subject of a book
about his life --- it mentions his parents and grandparents.
Today my computer database contains over 1000 relatives --- granted some
are shirt-tail (e.g., the parents of my cousin's children's spouse and
my aunt's husband's siblings and ancestors), and it is much better
One of my great regrets is that I didn't start this early enough for my
dad to have seen the fruits of the research and to shed additional
light on some shadowy areas. I've found a half-doz people living in
his neighborhood in St.Louis in 1920 who I know are relatives, but I
don't know just how they are related.
For you younger folks: talk to your parents, grandparents, aunts,
uncles and ask about the family history. If you're not interested right
now, you might be someday --- get it before it's too late. Take plenty
of notes; try video taping an interview like David Frost would do.
For you older folks: write down what you know about the family history
so that your descendants will have a good resource after they get
The object should be that when each of us goes to meet our ancestors in the Great Beyond,
we should NOT take with us the ONLY copy of the family history locked in our fleeting
An aside ----
I have known Willis Quick for 25-30 years and have just learned
that one of my ancestor's sisters married one of his ancestor's
in Indiana in 1848. We have a common great-great-grandfather;
Will and I are 3-rd Cousins.
DATA ITEMS AVAILABLE ...
. U.S.Census 1790-1920. This is raw and un-indexed --- just the
way the census taker did it originally. The CensusBureau has it
all on microfilm (35mm) rolls. (most of 1890 was lost in a fire)
The larger LDS libs have all of the reels up thru 1910/20.
The Census Bureau releases the data after 72 years.
The pages are identified by State, County, Township/City/Area,
Enumeration District, name of the census taker, page number.
Various index schemes use a mixture of these identifiers.
Caution must be used when going from an index to the census to
understand the numbering scheme. Some pages have two numbers;
sometimes two pages have the same number.
. U.S. Census Index books. These have been created by several commercial
sources --- there is one big company and a few smaller ones.
These are available for the 1790-1860+ censuses for most states.
The later the census, the more work it is to index it. Later
censuses are indexed w/Soundex. Sometimes county historical societies
did them for their areas.
The larger LDS libs have all of the State books.
. SOUNDEX index films. These were done (as a WPA project, I think)
for the later US censuses. They were 3x5 cards of the names written
by hand as people were found in households in the census and then
sorted by hand and microfilmed.
The larger LDS libs have all of the reels up thru 1910; they're still
acquiring the 1920 set.
. The following are variously available in books and/or on
. Church records
. Withdrawal certificates from Europe
. Board meeting minutes
. Marriage records
. Birth/Christening records.
. Government records
. Birth records
. Death records
. Marriage records
. Military records
. Census records (Not available until they are 72-yr old.)
(The 1920 USC was released in 1992.)
. Court Records --- Custody, Suit, Criminal
. Will/Probate records.
. PoorHouse/Asylum records.
. Property tax records.
. Immigration records.
(Including Declarations of Intent and Citizenship info)
. Ship Lists (arrivals at US ports: NYC, Phila, Galveston)
. Cemetery records.
. Mortuary records.
. Family Bibles.
. Area histories.
. City/Area directories.
. Genealogies prepared by others.
. The LDS HQ has microfilmed a LOT of government, church, etc. records.
Their microfilms are orderable thru any LDS lib on loan for a fee.
Sometimes it is on microfiche. Equipment for printing individual
film frames is available at all LDS libs.
. The index to the LDS HQ is available at all LDS branch libs on
microfiche and computer. Generally each branch LDS lib does NOT have
an index to what it has locally.
. There are genealogy societies specializing in areas, families,
and general research subjects; they publish newsletters and the larger
ones hold annual conventions.
WAGS: Whittier Area Genealogy Society.
(maintains Genealogy section at SantaFeSprings Lib.)
Annual "Jamboree" in Pasadena in April/May (8-9 May '95)
(300 E. Green: $6/day $10/both days info:818/THE-SCGS)
Amer Hist Soc Germans from Russia
. The LDS maintains a large DataBase of data available at its libs
on 5.25-inch CD-ROMs. It is primarily in the forms ...
. Index to the LDS HQ library.
. IGI = Internationl Genealogical Index. It is a surnames-to-fact
. Previously submitted GEDCOM works of others.
. The Accelerated Indexing System (A.I.S.) is a glorified index to
other indexes. It saves time, but only for the limited work included
in its several "scans". The LDS libs have this on microfiche.
. Some fact-filled books are not indexed; some micro-filmed books had
their indexes omitted; at other times only the index got micro-filmed.
The Federal Govmt maintains records at the National Archives in
Wash.D.C. and at the branch Archives --- one of which is in the Chet
Hollifield Building at the Federal compound in Laguna Hills. Some items
are at all facilities, some are only in one or more; D.C. does not have
a copy of everything.
The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) are still active and have
published the lineages of their members. Their records are in many
public libraries to varying degrees of completeness, however they are
not easy to use: each year's-worth of new members and other research is
indexed in that year's YearBook, but overall indexes are only published
For reasons which are not totally clear to me (as a non-member) the
LDS Church is deeply into the subject. The Library at Salt Lake City is
very extensive. There are "Regional" libraries in the larger cities
(e.g., LosAngeles/Westwood, Orange) which have many of the same things.
There are "Branch" libraries at many of the local Churches with a few
resources; these can act as a mail-order desk to obtain films from HQ.
The only fees for any of this are the coin-op copy machines and film
rental fees when ordered from HQ. There is NO proselytizing.
The LDS libraries are staffed 90+% by volunteers.
They are all very polite and try to be helpful, but many of
them are hopelessly under-educated for being genealogy library
SantaFeSprings, Huntington Beach, LosAngeles, Pomona, Carlsbad,
LDS "Family History Centers"
Westwood, Orange, Cerritos, Whittier, Norwalk, Los Alamitos,
Many of the records are confusing. Many of the census workers were
out-of-work and ill-suited for the task; some were drunk. Often
the worker did not ask how to spell a name; sometimes when they asked,
the subject was illerate and did not know; this accounts for
a plethora of spelling variations. Sometimes citizens made minor
changes to their names over time: spelling, nick names becomming
permanent, first and middle names swapping places, middle names
changing to please the person or a favorite relative.
The census shows a person's age at the time of the census --- not the
age on their birthday in the census year. Some people lied about their
age; some didn't really know. Then there's the penmanship problem, too.
Sometimes it's hard to read; sometimes it was hard for the indexing
staff to read, too --- it makes research very interesting.
When contacting relatives (or supposed relatives) some are very helpful,
but some are very reluctant to cooperate. It's often like they have
something to hide, like they are afraid that sharing the information
will steal something from their soul, like they think a hated relative
(or attorney) sent you, like you are from "the enemy", like you might
want to borrow money or move in with them. If they seem too friendly,
maybe they'll want to move in with you.
Some government offices are friendy; we spent hours all alone in the
Polk-County, Iowa, archives; the Monongalia-County, W.Va., Hall
of Records is wide open to anyone. They are a far cry from the
big City attitudes of the Natl.Archive. Some places only allow
one notebook and a lone pencil --- no pens or purses; lockers are
available; lap-top computers are usually OK.
There are even professional researchers in the field who will do work on
request for a fee (e.g., $20/hr); there are several who frequent the LDS
libraries; they are not allowed to solicit business from others in the
library under penalty of being barred further library use.
Some researchers wear aprons or vests with their family surnames
boldly printed on them so as to possibly attract the attention of
other researchers who might be interested in the same names.
KEEPING THE DATA:
. There are various stationery store forms for recording and displaying
The Dollarhide System of research forms has gotten wide reviews.
. There are various computer programs for recording the data; the big
advantage with them is that the data can be changed/added/updated
without having to rewrite an entire form. These provide for printouts
in a varying array of formats. Some are expensive (ROOTS: $250);
some are cheap (LDS's PAF: $35); some are free from computer bulletin
boards with registration fees expected.
There is a standard interchange format (GEDCOM) developed by the LDS
library. Most programs can output to disk in GEDCOM format; a few
can input it, too. Many programs keep data that is not mapped into
GEDCOM; these elements cannot the transferred this way.
The more popular programs have a wide range of utilities for
producing varying reports or even narative-like stories.
Additionally, there are computer programs which will produce neat
wall charts and others things from the data maintained by other
The BIG advantage to keeping the data in computer files is that
it can be changed easily and the reports re-printed at the push
of a button. It sure beats snow-pake and a typewriter. Additionally
it provides views from varying perspectives: Ancestors, Descendants,
Familiy Group Sheets (usually with 3 generations of data in varying
degrees of detail)
A good researcher is very methodical. Several things are important:
. Things which don't seem relevant at first may become so later on.
. Keep track of all of the sources used --- even the ones which did
not yield any relevant information.
By doing this, much duplicate re-research can be avoided if a later
reference is developed to that same source.
. Keep track of all of the sources of collected data.
This will allow for re-evaluation in case contradictory data is later
developed elsewhere or the original data becomes questionable.
. Keep a multi-dimensional notational matrix of Names, DateRanges, and
Data-types indicating the sources used and the information located or
not. This will provide a track of work done and (by the blanks) of the
work yet to do.
Name : John Jones
Census Birth Marriage Death Citiz etc-->
2 Feb 1971
1800 Ind Shel253Jack
1810 Ind John094Edin none
reel 456923 reel 432104
1820 Ind Bart143Briv
reel 685321 reel 729654
. Keep track of whom you have contacted, when/what you asked/sent them.
Its embarassing to repeat yourself or omit someone from distribution.
There's a lot of data out there waiting for a good sleuth to find it.