Weekly Planner: Break Down Larger Files into Smaller Files

As L. Mentzel suggests in one of today’s Quick Tips, having overfilled files can lead to the proliferation of those dreaded piles that quickly take over your workspace. Unwieldy notebooks and file folders are a pain to work with and even harder to find anything in. If you have files that are too large, try breaking them down into smaller sections (for example, the “Smith Family” broken down into James Smith family, John Smith family, Joe Smith family, etc.). With more room in your files, you’ll find it easier to add documents as you go along, and you can banish those nasty piles from your workspace!

Tips for Sorting Complicated Families, by Juliana Smith

twisty tree.jpgMost of us have probably heard the song “I Am My Own Grandpa.” (For those of you who haven’t, it’s online.) In the song, a man marries a widow with a grown-up daughter and his father marries the widow’s daughter. As both couples have babies, through the twists and turns of their family tree, the man determines that he has become his own grandfather.

It’s a cute song that originated in the 1940s, and while most of our families don’t get that complicated, we will occasionally run into some complicated family trees of our own. With siblings marrying siblings of another family, various degrees of cousins marrying, multiple marriages, families taking in nieces and nephews, families reusing the same given names of children who have died, and any other number of complications, we may find ourselves singing a similar tune and having a hard time sorting out who belongs to which family. (Plus, is it just me or does this kind of thing typically take place most often in the families that also have the most common surnames? It’s kind of a Murphy’s Law of Genealogy.)

Since I often hear from readers writing in with complicated family mysteries, I thought that today we’d discuss some methods for sorting out complicated families. Continue reading

British Army WWI Pension Records 1914-1920, by Sherry Irvine, CG, FSA Scot

Twixt Love and Duty (WWI postcard)Twenty years ago I spent a number of afternoons in a library sitting on the floor working my way through a set of the “War Graves of the British Empire.” I was looking for Corporal S.L. Nuttall, my maternal grandfather’s brother. I was new to genealogy; if there was a quicker way to find Corporal Nuttall, I did not know about it.

How things have changed! Not only can I locate my great-uncle’s grave, I can find the same information at the website of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission where I can read the details of the inscription, find his father’s name, and look at a plan and a photograph of the cemetery.

Ancestry.co.uk is another website presenting records of the first World War. In cooperation with the National Archives of the United Kingdom, it has recently added British Army WWI Pension Records, 1914-1920. Documents for surnames beginning with A and B have been uploaded in the first phase and the remainder will follow over the next eighteen months. Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: Voter Registration Records, from George G. Morgan

Many counties and municipalities maintain their voter registration records for extended periods of time. While censuses were taken every ten years, a voter registration roll may provide verification in those years in between to help you confirm that your ancestor may have been in an area. It also is helpful to do a little preliminary research into the voting laws at the time. If your ancestor was on a voter roll and the voter residency requirement at the time was one year, that knowledge can verify that your ancestor was in a location for at least that long. By the same token, if a decennial census record shows your ancestor at a location and not on the voter roll, it could indicate that he may have been a new arrival and had not been there long enough to meet the residency requirement.

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Your Quick Tips, 09 April 2007

The Value of Coroners’ Records
Over the past two years I have found all of the relatives on both sides of my family who were missing. For some reason, my parents kept their relatives a secret from me and my sister. But the one relative I really wanted to find was my half-sister, a woman born of my father and a woman of mystery.

My father was fifty-two years old when I was born and was married several times before he married my mother in 1936. When I was twelve, he died of a heart attack and I saw my half-sister, Vivian, at his funeral. It was the only time I saw her; my mother didn’t like her and wouldn’t share any information about her with my sister and me. All we knew was that Vivian lived in Florida in 1963.

I finally found her today. Unfortunately, she is deceased, which wasn’t a big surprise because I knew she had probably been born in the 1920s. I sent a request to the coroner’s office in the county where my father died, hoping they would have information on his next of kin. It did show that my mother was called at the time of his death, and the information I had been seeking for so long was at the bottom of one of the pages–my half-sister’s signature, address, and phone number in 1963. She had a fairly common name, but I finally knew the city in Florida where she lived which gave me something to go on.

One thing about coroners’ offices is that they keep information for a long time. It was relatively expensive getting the death investigation report on my father; I knew he died alone of a heart attack, and even though there wasn’t an autopsy, they did have a record of the investigation into his death. That report alone cost me $68 because they had to go to another location to obtain the actual record.

I was very lucky because the county in which my half-sister lived in Florida had online records, with PDFs of all of the original documents–riches!! I found four women with her name and looked at original documents for each one. I finally found a document with the exact same signature as the one on my documents from the coroner.

Even though Vivian died two years ago, I was able to find an obituary for her, so now I have the names of her children. The rest of my search will be fairly easy.

I just thought I’d write in and tell you about my saga, and suggest that even though the subject may be unpleasant, coroner’s records may hold useful clues. The Los Angeles County Coroner sure did help me in time of need, and I am going to write a thank you note to express my gratitude.

Best regards,
Roberta Kendall Continue reading

The Year Was 1818

wolves.jpgThe year was 1818 and the Convention of 1818 decided the northern boundary of the United States and the southern boundary of Canada as being the 49th parallel, between the Lake of the Woods in Minnesota and the Rocky Mountains. The land west of the Rockies was under joint control of the U.S. and Britain. That boundary was settled in 1846 with the Oregon Treaty.

South of 49th parallel, Illinois was admitted as the twenty-first state. Initially the northern boundary was set just below the southern end of Lake Michigan, but at a population of around 36,000, Illinois was short of the necessary 60,000 minimum required for statehood. Illinois Congressional delegate, Nathaniel Pope, suggested that it would make better sense to move the boundary northward to include the City of Chicago and the area upon which the I & M Canal would be built, connecting the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River, and from there the Gulf of Mexico. Continue reading

Photo Corner

Marjorie Lou Phillion and her brother Bobby taken about 1930 in Saginaw, MichiganContributed by Mary Rathbun, Frederic, Michigan
The second picture is of my mother Marjorie Lou Phillion and her brother Bobby taken about 1930 in Saginaw, Michigan.

Isabelle Whiteman (left) born 1887, and her sister, Agnes Whiteman (right). born 1889, with their cousin, Frank Waugh.Contributed by Priscilla Geddis, California
I love this photo for the gorgeous matching coats and hats worn by my grandmother, Isabelle Whiteman (left) born 1887, and her sister, Agnes Whiteman (right). born 1889. They are pictured with their cousin, Frank Waugh.

1881 and 1901 Scottish Censuses Added to Ancestry-Transcriptions of All Available Years for Scotland Now Online

Bannatyne, Kyles of Bute, Scotland.jpgAncestry has added 1881 and 1901 Scottish Census transcriptions, making all currently available years, 1841-1901, searchable by Ancestry.co.uk and Ancestry World Deluxe members.

The entire Scottish census collection covers 23,804,561 names and information found on the records may include:

  • Full name of each individual residing in a house/dwelling
  • Age and est. birth year
  • Gender
  • Relationship with head of household
  • Father’s name
  • Mother’s name
  • Spouse’s name
  • Place of birth
  • Address
  • Civil parish, Town, County
  • Occupation
  • Other members of the household
  • Parish number, enumeration district, page
  • Household schedule number, line, roll


The image accompanying this article is of Bannatyne, Kyles of Bute, Scotland and can be found in the Library of Congress Photograph Collection at Ancestry. Click on the image to enlarge it.