Tips from the Pros: More or Less Than What It Says, from Michael John Neill

Genealogists are told to read the preface or introduction to any reference book they are using. Prefaces can contain information about the records used to compile the reference, including gaps in records, difficulties in reading records, etc. The same is true for those who use online genealogical databases. Read the introductions and the “more about” sections of the website for the database you are searching. If you don’t know what you are searching, you may create additional brick walls for yourself because you may not be searching as many records as you think you are.
Sometimes it works the other way. A database or source may contain more than the title indicates. Ancestry recently released Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans, 1879-1903. The title is the same title the National Archives gave to this series of records. Ancestry’s description and the description on the National Archives website indicate that the database includes a few veterans from wars besides the Civil War.

It would have been reasonable to assume the database and the original microfilm of the cards only includes Civil War Era veterans. The majority of stones were provided for Civil War veterans, but a handful of veterans from other wars had stones appear in this record series.
This is an excellent case of an instance in which–if I had only read the title–I might have missed something. In this case, had I not searched the database I would have missed the entry for James Kile, who died on 31 March 1852. I was looking for other Kiles and the James reference struck my interest. I originally thought the reference was for an “unknown” or unrelated Kile. But, as it turned out, it was for an ancestor of my wife, one who no longer even has a tombstone.
Read the description. The database or publication may contain more or less than you think.

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Your Quick Tips

Beware of Given Names that Look Alike
I worked for a long many months trying to track a David French in southern Indiana in the early 1800s without much luck. Nothing would fit until I discovered, by really examining the handwriting on old documents, that the handwritten David French looks almost exactly like Daniel French in some cases. It fooled me for quite a long time, and I’m sure it could fool an indexer. Daniel and David French lived in the same area, during the same time period. What a job to sort them out.

Laurie Smith Continue reading

The Year Was 1875

The year was 1875 and the United States was still struggling through the Reconstruction Era following the Civil War. There was much debate about the roles that African Americans would play in society and what rights they had as far as social equality. One of the last acts of the outgoing Republican Congress in 1875 was the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in public facilities like hotels, places of transportation, and other private businesses. The law was largely unenforced though and in 1883 it was struck down by the Supreme Court.

Some were allowing equal rights to African Americans, even before the Civil Rights Act was passed. An article in The Constitution of Atlanta, Georgia, dated 31 March 1875, decried George Pullman’s decision to allow African Americans to travel in his famous sleeping cars.

African Americans did score some wins during Reconstruction. With the Fifteenth Amendment guaranteeing the right to vote without regard to race, twenty African Americans were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and two to the U.S. Senate. But attacks on African Americans throughout the South by militant organizations like the Ku Klux Klan made these few advances pale in comparison to the terror and continued repression that African Americans faced.

Despite the development of the smallpox vaccine in 1796, by 1875 the world still struggled against the disease. In countries that had laws requiring vaccination, like England, Scotland, Sweden, and Bavaria, the mortality rate was a third of what it was in countries that did not.

In France, flooding along the Garonne and Tarn rivers killed an estimated one thousand people and devastated the city of Toulouse and many villages that were located along the river. The New York Times of 11 July 1875 reported that,

“Five miles from Toulouse is the village of Fenouillat, which contained a population of between 800 and 900, and was composed of some 400 buildings of all sorts; but only three houses remain of all that was once Fenouillat. The whole town was swept away in a night.”

On 18 August 1875 a flood also hit the city of Waterbury, Connecticut. In a strange twist of fate, exactly eighty years later in 1955, another flood would inundate that same aptly named city.

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Photo Corner, 14 July 2008

Mary Thistle LorimerContributed by Gayle Hardin
This is my grand-aunt, Mary Thistle Lorimer, taken where the family resided for the early years in Canada. This picture was taken by a professional photographer in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, around 1910. My mother attended her wedding at age three months in 1914.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Marie Louise Vesely Hilpert and Evelyn Marie Hilpert LewisContributed by Gayle Vernon  
Marie Louise Vesely Hilpert was my maternal great-grandmother (grandmother’s side). She was born in 1889 in Nebraska and died in 1966 at Long Beach, California. She is holding her daughter Evelyn Marie Hilpert Lewis born 1910 and died 1970. This beautiful photo was taken in 1910.

More on Ancestry’s New Search Experience

Ancestry____logo.bmpKendall Hulet has posted responses to feedback he’s been receiving in regards to the new search on They’ve fixed at least one bug that was causing problems and are working on several others. You can read Kendall’s post on the Ancestry blog.

They’re still seeking feedback from users and if you have encountered a problem with the new search, please send detailed examples of what you are seeing so that they can duplicate the problem. The examples people have sent in are very helpful in identifying problems and correcting them. You can contact Kendall through the link in the article on the Ancestry blog.  

Article on Printer Ink–Discount vs. Manufacturers’ Brands

Last evening I took a few minutes to relax with a magazine on the back porch until the ‘skeeters chased me back in, but while I was there I spotted an article in PC World titled “Cheap Ink: Will It Cost You?” Since “cheap anything” is appealing with today’s high prices on so many things, I thought some of you might be interested in the article too.

The magazine tested a sampling of printers and tested inks from the manufacturer, as well as some inks from discount suppliers.  They found for the most part that while discount inks often yielded more pages per cartridge saving you money, manufacturers’ inks typically gave better print results, and–a very important point for us–the manufacturs’ inks did better in tests as to fading over time.

The article is not available on the PC World Magazine website,  but if you’re interested in learning more, you can pick up a copy at your local newsstand. It’s in the August 2008 issue, on page 92.

New Brochure from the Records Preservation and Access Committee

I think most of our U.S. readers are familiar with the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC), a joint committee of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), the National Genealogical Society (NGS), the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS). The mission statement for the committess says that their purpose is “To advise the genealogical community on ensuring proper access to historical records of genealogical value in whatever media they are recorded, on means to affect legislation, and on supporting strong records preservation policies and practices.”

The committee has been on the forefront of protecting our access to the records we use in our family history research and because they represent hundreds of genealogical societies, which in turn may have hundreds or thousands of members, their collective voice represents millions.

RPAC has developed a tri-fold brochure with “The Case for Open Public Records” and is encouraging societies to help them distribute the pamphlet. It lists the benefits of researching family history, addresses myths and misperceptions that sometimes lead to the closure of records, the access we need to records, facts about the reach family history has, and more about the committee. There are also links to helpful websites with more information on preservation and access.

If you get word of possible closures to public access, the RPAC website should be your first step. The committee has set up a network of state liaisons that can communicate your concerns to the committee and help determine what other steps are necessary. It’s very important to go through this committee, because although well-intentioned, knee-jerk reactions to these types of issues can sometimes do more harm than good.

Visit the FGS website and the RPAC website for more information on this important committee and the work they do in protecting our access to the records of our ancestors. Click here to see the brochure.

Photo Corner: Spokane, 1919

20080709Spokanegoat.bmpAs I was going through photographs for next week’s newsletter, I ran across this one. Although it’s too wide to fit in the newsletter slot, I thought it was too cute not to share.  Click on the image to enlarge it.

This is a photo of my father, Robert White and his sister, Helen Ivy White, who were born in 1918 and 1911, respectively.  As shown, the photo was taken in Spokane, Washington, sometime in 1919.  I have photos of a number of their cousins in Spangle taken with the same goat and cart so it must have belonged to an itinerant photographer who was making his rounds of the Northwest.
Diana Smith