Saturday, June 30, 2007

CVGS Program: "The Magic of Rootsweb" by Alan Jones

We had our special 5th Saturday program today, with 30 in attendance. After my welcome and a short summary of the upcoming CVGS programs and events for the next two months, Connie introduced our speaker - Alan Jones on "The Magic of Rootsweb."

Alan used a Powerpoint presentation, consisting mainly of screen captures, to lead us through the many web pages, search engines, databases and other features on the site. He effectively highlighted the features he wanted to discuss with arrows and text boxes with big letters inside.

He covered the following Rootsweb features in considerable detail:

1) Mailing Lists - how to find a list (he recommended using the index list), subscribe to it, post on it, and find the list archives, with examples of success stories from his own research.

2) Message Boards - how to find a board, access it and post to it, with success stories from his own research.

3) WorldConnect database - how to access it, search for people (he recommended not using too much information unless it is a common name), and move around on the results pages. He talked about how to contact the contributor, see all of the names in the database using the Index link, how to download the GEDCOM database, and how to add a Post-em note.

4) Social Security Death Index - how to access it, search for people on the index using Advanced Search, how to make a Post-em note and how to download a pre-written letter to send to the Social Security Administration in order to get the SS-5 application.

5) UK Free BMD Index - what it is, how to access it, how to search with it, and how to use it to see the actual entry in the index.

6) The US Town/County Search - what it is, how to use it, how to search with it, and how to find information on Rootsweb concerning that county (click on the highlighted county name on the results list).

7) Web Pages at Rootsweb - there are many surname sites, locality sites, genealogy society sites, transcription sites, etc. at Rootsweb.

Needless to say, this was a quick tour through only some of the free information, contributed by researchers, available on the Rootsweb site. The 75 minutes went by real fast! Alan has a friendly style and uses some humor and research examples in his presentations.

Many attendees thought that this was one of the best presentations we have had - and it opened a lot of eyes as to what the Rootsweb team has been doing over the last 15 years!

Thank you, Alan, for a wonderful talk!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

CVGS Research Group highlights

Our CVGS monthly Research Group meetings are always lively affairs, with members hoping to get help to solve their research problems, and some brimming with enthusiasm over research successes. Today's meeting had 10 researchers in attendance.

After introductions (we had two visitors and a new member), the meeting started with my presentation of the Genealogy News for June. We then moved onto the research problems and successes.

Martha is having trouble finding Hampshire County VA (now WV) records from the 1790 time frame. We suggested that, if she knows the town(s) where her ancestor lived, she figure out the progression of counties that the town(s) were in over the time frame 1750 to 1900. Then look for records for her ancestor in those counties for the time period that the town was in the county. The county USGenWeb site may have the information, and the LDS Family History Library Catalog may have records on microfilm available for rent.

Next up was new member Shirley, who came well-prepared and provided a two-page handout describing her research problem. She, and other family members, have done years of work trying to identify the parents of Evan Harer (born ca 1790 in VA (?), died 1873 in CA) and his siblings - family stories say they were John and Sarah (Watkins) Harer. They have exhaustively searched records in the places where the Harer children lived, but have been unable to find more information on their parentage. We suggested that she read some of the available books (e.g., here) and online articles (e.g., here and here) about "Cluster Genealogy" and review articles in the NGS Quarterly for examples. By identifying and following the people the Harer's associated with, she may find clues that identify the parents.

Dick regaled us with stories about his Uncle Jim, who was a postal thief and safecracker in the 1920's. He has received information about his uncle from newspaper articles and prison records through the National Archives in Kansas City MO, Laguna Niguel CA and Seattle WA. He submitted a request to the "Get Grandpa's FBI File" web site and got a response, but thinks most of it will duplicate the 400 pages he already has received. He passed the fascinating newspaper article around the group - Uncle Jim was quite a guy, and Dick remembers him from his childhood.

Bobbie described their trip to the Seattle area, where they found a gold mine of info on the Gottlieb Wolter family, who emigrated from Baden to North Dakota to Sultan in Washington state (northeast of Seattle). They found his grave, a history booklet with a plat map, an aerial picture of the farm, and visited the farmstead. In the process, they met the town mayor, the current farm resident, and the museum director, all of whom helped them immensely. Bobbie passed around the pictures, the map, and told stories of the serendipitous events on the trip - for instance, the museum was open only two days a month, and they were there on one of the days!

I really appreciate the sharing of research problems by our attendees, and the helpful suggestions made by the group. This is one of the monthly meetings that sets CVGS apart from other San Diego area societies.

CVGS Program - Saturday June 30 - Alan Jones on "The Magic of Rootsweb"

The Chula Vista Genealogical Society (CVGS) has quarterly programs on the 5th Saturday in an effort to serve working genealogists and include other San Diego area researchers. The next "Special Saturday" is June 30th, at 10 AM in the Chula Vista Civic Center Library (365 F Street in CV) auditorium.

Our program speaker is Alan Jones on "The Magic of Rootsweb." Some of our members heard this talk at the Escondido Family History Fair in March and eight of us attended Alan's talk on USGenWeb and WorldGenWeb in April at the CGSSD meeting.

Alan's biography is:

"Alan Jones, a native Californian, holds degrees in business and computer science and is an IT Senior Consultant currently with Southern California Edison. He has enjoyed blending his computer career with genealogy. He pilot tests genealogy software programs and systems that we use today and some that are coming soon. He volunteers in various record extraction programs, and gives presentations on genealogy using computer programs and the Internet.

"As a teenager his dog, Mugs, had a bigger pedigree than he did, which started Alan's journey. He and his wife live in Mission Viejo and their 3 children also live in Orange County."

The presentation summary is:

"Rootsweb is the largest free unaffiliated genealogy resource on the internet. It is growing every day! Even if you know and use Rootsweb regularly, please come and see what features you are missing out on. Walk with us on the paths to the wonderful features waiting for you. We will cover the email lists, finding resources just for the county you want, various tools to help give your family tree those finishing touches, see actual documents online, censuses, share your genealogy, collaborate with others, search massive databases of genealogy and so much more."

If you missed this talk before, join us for an informative meeting on Saturday, June 30th. CVGS welcomes guests and visitors - please come!

Genealogy News - June 2007

In our CVGS Research Group meeting, we discuss what has happened in the genealogy world over the past month. Today, we discussed the following:

1) New and useful databases at (not a complete list! See

* Native American Family History Databases - Indian census records from 1885 to 1940.
* Library of Congress Photo Collection - 1840 to 1900.
* U.S. County Land Ownership Atlases, ca 1864-1918.

2) -- announced partnership with Sorenson Genomics to put some DNA data online. Note that this is only what Sorenson has, not what all DNA services have.

3) ProQuest Databases

* Partnership with American Antiquarian Society (in Worcester MA) to provide online access to part of the AAS collection, apparently through HeritageQuestOnline (home access with library subscription).

* Partnership with the UK The National Archives to provide access to selections from the UK Colonial State Papers. These hand-written materials offer new insight into British trade, history and overseas expansion between the 16th and 18th centuries. It is not clear how access will be provided.

4) New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) has added 500,000 names to their databases, plus years 2000 to 2002 of the NEHG Register journal, and updated the SSDI. The new records include many in the Mass VRs for 1841 to 1910.

5) Online Database of US World War II MIA and POWs - go to

6) LDS FamilySearch "Record Search Pilot" announced - you can sign up, evaluate the available databases and comment on them - at

7) Useful and interesting web sites:

* - collections of links
* - archaic medical terms, diseases and causes of death
* - a super genealogy database search engine
* - Canadian County Atlas Digital Project - only has Ontario so far - maps of towns showing plots from ca 1880.
* - Get Grandpa's FBI File.
* - online databases for US and Canadian immigration, naturalization, VRs and more.
* - Geographic names, linked to Google type satellite maps.
* - Veterans Administration National Gravesite Locator.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

US County Land Ownership Atlases on Ancestry

While reviewing the list of new databases available on, I found the US County Land Ownership Atlases database.

These are map books of counties, usually by town, that show residence and land ownership. In other words, they show where certain people lived in relation to others, the roads, the physical features, etc.

For instance, I chose to look in Worcester County, Massachusetts. There are two map books available - for 1870 and for 1898. I chose the 1870 one, because I wanted to see if my ancestors, Edward Hildreth and Isaac Smith, owned the land in Leominster at that time.

Each county map book has an index, but the page numbers shown for the towns do not match the image numbers in the database. Leominster was listed on page 28, but actually was on images 30, 31 and 32.

On the image for the central part of Leominster, there were E. Hildreth on the west side of Lancaster Street and across the street was I. Seaver. Now I know how how Hattie Hildreth and Frank Seaver probably met - they were close neighbors!

This is a phenomenal asset for genealogy researchers. County USGenWeb sites have had some of these maps available, but there was not a central source for them.

You will probably have to search page-by-page for the township you are looking for. It seems that the order of the images doesn't correspond to the page numbers in the index, at least in the three counties I checked (in MA, IA and IN).

Unfortunately, there are no names in cities and towns with small lots. These maps are great for large plots but not so good for small lots.

There are few maps for some states - e.g., California has only Alameda (1878), Kern (1901) and Los Angeles (1903) available. There are no maps listed for NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, TN, MS, NM, AZ, WY, UT, AK and HI.

Monday, June 25, 2007

CVGS Research Group on Wednesday, June 27

The next CVGS Research Group meeting will be on Wednesday, June 27, at 10 AM in the Chula Vista Civic Center Library conference room, hosted by Randy Seaver. We will try again to connect to and use the library's wireless system.

The meeting will have the following segments:

1) Genealogy news for June - and there is a lot of it!

2) Research problems that the attendees want discussed. The group will analyze the problems and suggest further research opportunities.

3) Research successes that the attendees want to tell about - what they found, how they found it, suggestions, etc.

4) Questions about areas of traditional or online research. The group will share what they know about the issue.

If you have a research problem, or a research success, please come and share them with the group.

June 25 Program - Anne J. Miller on "Overcoming Obstacles..."

We had our Chula Vista Genealogical Society (CVGS) meeting today at the library, with about 40 in attendance. Anne J. Miller from Temecula was our guest speaker on "Overcoming Obstacles that Interfere with Finding Your Ancestors." Anne's biography and talk summary are here.

Anne used her professional experience as a PhD psychologist in this talk - telling us that our problem solving styles, first impressions and assumptions, our thoughts and beliefs sometimes hinder us from finding our ancestors.

She introduced and defined "convergent thinking" (oriented toward finding the best single answer to a question) and "divergent thinking" (producing many possible answers to a question). A purely convergent thinker would search for only "John Robinson Hall" and no other name variation. A purely divergent thinker would "name collect" all people named Hall, put them in a database, but would never put them into families. The ideal for genealogists is to be a divergent thinker but not obsessively so. We should search for all possible answers, but work toward finding the right answer to a problem.

She noted that first impressions and assumptions that people have may be wrong, and that people may consciously or subconsciously ignore, excuse or reject information that doesn't fit. One of her examples was a family story about a great-grandfather who was born in Scotland and his family owned a mansion there. The truth was that the fellow was born in Ireland, but the family members refused to believe it because the Scottish story had been handed down over several generations and they wanted to believe it.

Anne showed a list of surnames with just one letter different, and discussed how the Soundex method of finding similar sounding names won't work on them - essentially because of an added or missing consonant in the name, or because the surname was indexed with a different first letter. Examples included Irwin - Erwin, Owens - Owen, Vasquez - Basquez, Niles - Miles, Johnson - Johnston, Thomason - Thompson, Colton - Cotton, Leigh - Lee. Understanding the Soundex system is still important, since and other search engines use it for their "Sound-like" searches.

She recommended that researchers should be aware of their thinking style, try to think outside the box, and consider all possible solutions to a problem. You should question your beliefs, assumptions and research findings. Understand how, why and when various sources were created, and then critically evaluate them. You should expect the unexpected - other marriages, divorces, people moving in unexpected directions, name spelling errors, etc.

This was an excellent talk on a subject of interest to all researchers - from an angle that many of us don't consider.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

CVGS Meeting is Monday, June 25

The monthly meeting of the Chula Vista Genealogical Society (CVGS) is on Monday, June 25, at 10 AM. The meeting will be at the Chula Vista Civic Center Library (365 F Street in CV) in the Auditorium. We ask attendees to enter through the Conference Room (off the east entrance-way) to sign in, pick up handouts and have a snack before going into the auditorium. There will be a brief business meeting and an "opportunity drawing" before the program speaker is introduced.

The guest speaker will be Anne J. Miller on"Overcoming Obstacles to Finding Your Ancestors." The program description and Anne's biography is:

"Our assumptions, thoughts, and beliefs often make it difficult for us to find our ancestors. While these factors can have a negative impact on our research, recognizing them and learning how to overcome them will result in solving more of those brick wall situations and being more successful in our research.

"Anne J. Miller began her genealogical quest 19 years ago. She is particularly interested in combining historical resources with genealogical resources to provide a more comprehensive understanding of people and their lives. The focus of her historical research is primarily Southern California.

"She is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists as well as national and local genealogical and historical societies. She teaches for the Temecula Valley Genealogical Society and volunteers at the Murrieta FHC. She is a licensed psychologist with a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona."

CVGS welcomes guests and visitors - please join us for our monthly meetings and events.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

CVGS Computer Group meeting today

In the computer group today, we were able to work in the Library Computer Lab rather than be stuck in the Conference Room, as scheduled. Shirley is out of town, so she loaned her projector to me, and I led the group today. Gary hooked up Shirley's projector to the Lab computer with the wireless keyboard and mouse controlled at the podium, so the group could see what the leader was doing online.

Of course, we couldn't get to Ancestry Library Edition for the first half hour (the library changed their web page and didn't include the Databases on the "home" page). We got that the diligent library staff.

While we waited, I took the group to our Chula Vista Genealogy Cafe ( and also to my own blog, Genea-Musings ( to demonstrate how easy it is to get information about web sites and answers to questions. One of the web sites I blogged about was the Get Grandpas FBI File at I knew that member Dick would benefit from this, and thought others might also - especially if they had a "black sheep" ancestor or relative in the 20th century.

We were able to access Ancestry eventually, and we went to the Ancestry Card Catalog page - at On this page, you can use names, locations or key words to search for entries for your family searches. I demonstrated how to search for records on Ancestry from a certain county. Hopefully, that will be helpful to the attendees.

We also investigated some of the links at the web sites and I wrote a blog post on these at Genea-Musings today in anticipation of discussing it today at the meeting. The attendees were amazed at the organized way these records were presented, and overwhelmed by the amount of information.

Gary hooked the projector up to his laptop, and demonstrated some FamilyTreeMaker tasks that his "mentee" had asked about. We will do a lot more of this in our 3-session class in July.

One of the attendees asked about, and I showed their web site and did a few searches so people could get a feel for the interface. We then went to and did the same. We discussed the different databases available and noted that both Footnote and WVR, plus several other sites, have partnered with LDS FamilySearch and will be available for free in the near future in the LDS FHL and FHCs.

I encouraged the attendees to read the Chula Vista Genealogy Cafe and Genea-Musings blogs on a regular basis - weekly, or more often, so that they don't miss out on interesting and important genealogy news. You can sign up to receive email for every post on these blogs, you can read them using a reader (available on Yahoo, Google, etc.) or put them in your Favorites/Bookmarks and click on them on a regular basis. I have been double posting some articles - once on Genea-Musings, and then on the Genealogy Cafe, in order to broaden the coverage. Some of the posts also appear in the CVGS newsletter as space permits.

Joe Beine's Genealogy Web Sites

Have you visited Joe Beine's "Genealogy Articles, Tips and Research Guides" web site - at

It is absolutely wonderful, with categories of:
  • Census Records,
  • Military Records,
  • Naturalization Records,
  • Passenger Lists,
  • Irish Research,
  • Native American Research,
  • State Research Guides, Records and Families, and
  • Miscellaneous.
Joe also has a main web page ( that includes:

He also has specific web sites for:

Many of the links go to, so you need a personal subscription to access them, or you can use Ancestry Library Edition at the library. However, the links are useful to indicate what is available online.

I recommend that you go visit Joe's web sites, and put them in your Favorites/Bookmarks on your Internet browser.

I really appreciate Joe's hard work in creating these web pages that make our research a lot easier!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Dear Genea-Man: How do I find 20th Century people?

Genea-Man gets hard research questions sometimes, so he's going to answer them occasionally on this blog. He will also try to report progress toward the "final solution."

Q: Dear Genea-Man, my grandfather ran off from his wife and baby son back around 1920 when they lived in Los Angeles. All I know is his name, his birth date and birth place, spouse and child's name, World War I draft registration card, and that he was in aviation. How can I track him down? Do you know where he is?

A: About the only thing I can tell you for sure is that he is NOT alive. He must be dead, so there is probably a death record for him in one of the states. There may be other records that were made during his life.

The usual procedure for finding people in the 20th century is to:

1) Try to identify his parents from a birth certificate, a marriage record, a death record, an obituary or a census record. You should try to nail down his parents names, a birth date and a marriage date.

2) Search the Federal census records to try to identify the names, birth dates, birthplaces, residences, etc. of his parents and siblings.

3) Search the available death records (e.g., CA has 1905 to 2000 available online, but many states do not have theirs online) - vital records and Social Security Death Index for the parents and the siblings.

4) Try to find newspaper articles, death notices, obituaries, etc. for the parents and siblings - these might provide a clue to where he lived at a given point in time.

5) If you identify towns where he lived, then use city directories to determine a spouse's name, an occupation, an address. Follow him in the city directories until he disappears - he either died or moved out of town at that time. City directories can be found in local libraries or in regional libraries.

6) Interrogate the online commercial genealogy services like Ancestry, World Vital Records, Genealogy Bank, etc.

* Is he in the One World Tree, Ancestry World Tree or Public Members Tree on
* Did he register for the World War I draft (was he born between 1874 and 1900, available on
* Did he register for the World War II draft (information on men born before 1897 are available on
* Did he serve in the military in World War I or II?
* Is he in the "Stories and Publications" section on Ancestry?
* Is he in the Historical Obituary collection on Ancestry?
* Is he in the "Books" collection on HeritageQuestOnline?

7) Write, call or email local libraries, genealogy societies or historical societies to see if there are indexes of newspaper obituaries or cemetery listings available for the city or town he lived in. Ask them to search for your fellow. Alternatively, go there yourself and do the search.

8) Has anybody else posted queries on surname mailing lists or surname message boards about your guy?

9) What about online databases at Rootsweb WorldConnect, LDS FamilySearch,, etc?

10) Have you checked the online cemetery databases?

11) Have you Googled his name forward and backward (since many databases use last name first)?

12) If any of the above searches provide a Social Security number, then you could order his SS-5 application. If you don't have a SSN, you can still request a search - see

20th century research is very difficult in many states because the Vital Records are not readily available to researchers, especially online. Blind searches in state vital records can be costly. Not all newspapers have complete indexes of obituaries, and most don't index Death Notices in the Classified section at all.

By searching the available online resources, you can narrow the search a bit - you try to find the "last known location" and "last known year" he was alive, and then work from there in traditional records. You can take advantage of online help desks at libraries, genealogy societies and historical societies, and don't forget the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness at (free advice and lookups by volunteers).

To obtain newspaper obituaries and city directory data, you often have to contact a local repository or engage a researcher.

Dear Genea-Man: Why can't I find my ancestor in the 1900 census?

Dear Genea-Man: Why can't I find my ancestor in the 1900 census? I know his full name, his date of birth, his parents names, and some of his sibling names.

Genea-Man responds: Even though you know all of those facts, it is possible that the census enumerator didn't get them right - he may have misspelled the names, made mistakes on the dates, or mixed up your family with another family. We don't know who gave the information to the enumerator - was it one of the parents, or one of the children, or the housekeeper, or a neighbor?

Even if the enumerator got most of it correct, what did the indexer see on the census page years later? Was the enumerator's handwriting clear? Did the ink on the page fade, or was the page damaged before it was indexed? Even worse, what if the indexer had a bad day or intentionally messed up? The latter is probably far-fetched...

Based on my own research, and opinions shared by others with me, it appears that perhaps 75% to 85% of all names were enumerated and indexed fairly well. Another 5% to 15% are poorly enumerated or indexed, but are able to be found using the indexes and creative searches. The last 5% to 15% were either not enumerated, or the records are not available or readable, or were enumerated and indexed so badly that they can't be found.

Searchers need to understand that there are differences between the two most popular online census search sites:

1) (a personal-use subscription site, or free at libraries with Ancestry Library Edition) has all of the US Census records available online. They have a Head of Household index for 1790 through 1840 and an Every-Name index for 1850 to 1930. Ancestry lets you put in a birth year and select an age range (plus or minus 0 years, 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years or 20 years). Ancestry permits wild cards in the given name and surname fields (a minimum of 3 letters then an asterisk), and permits an exact search (a check in the search box) or a Soundex search (uncheck the box).

2) The other census provider is HeritageQuestOnline which has all of the US census images, but not all names are indexed on HQO. They have a Head of Household index for 1790 to 1820, 1860 to 1880 and 1900 to 1920 only. They have a Head of Household index for the 1930 census for some states, but not all states. The spouses and children in a family are not indexed on HQO. HQO requires a full surname - no wild cards and no soundex-type search can be made. HQO lets you specify age ranges in 10 year increments (e.g., 0 to 10, 11-20, 21-30, etc.). You can get a maximum of 1,000 results on HQO - if there are more then you have to restrict your search to a smaller locality (e.g., All States to State to County to Town).

My list of "tricks to try" for elusive ancestors in the census records are to:

a) Write out the surname in longhand script. For each letter, identify other letters that are often mistaken for that letter (e.g., L and S, R and K, m and n, b and l, etc.). You can then combine letters to create alternate surnames (for example: Seaver could be Leaver, Seaner, Searer, Scaver, Seuver, Seaven, Saever, etc.) You could leave out a vowel (e.g., Sever, Lever, Seavr, etc.) or add a letter (e.g. Severs, Seavers, Seavern, Seavere, etc.) This will result in a list of names to try in the search box (especially on HeritageQuestOnline).

b) Sound out the surname. How would your ancestor have pronounced it? If he pronounced it that way, how would you have written it down? What if the enumerator was a different nationality than the householder? How would a Norwegian spell the New England name Seaver ("Sea-vah") in Wisconsin? This also results in a list of names to try.

c) Can you limit your search to a specific township, county or state? If so, search only in that locality. This reduces the number of results to a more manageable number. If you don't find your target, then expand your search to the next higher governmental division - Town to County to State to All States.

d) Do a search with only the surname. If you know a birth year and birth state, search using those items also. I always use a date range of +/- 2 years for children and +/- 5 years for adults. If those don't work, I expand the range to the next highest choice.

e) Do a search with only a given name and no surname, but with a birth year (and range) and birth state.

f) Do a search without a given name or a surname, but with a birth year (and range) and birth state. You may get too many results in a large city, so this works best if you are searching a small county or if the birth place is not a nearby state.

g) If you know the given names of the children, pick one of the names that is uncommon (e.g., I would use Josephine rather than Mary if that was a choice) without a surname, and use the birth year (with a range of +/- 2 years).

h) Put the given name or middle name initials in the given name field - some enumerators used only initials. You will get results with the initial as either the given or middle name.

i) Did the surname have a prefix like De, Mc, Mac, O, Van, Von, on the surname? The indexer might have listed it by the last part of the surname (e.g., "Knew" for "McKnew").

j) Did the enumerator or indexer leave out a letter in the name? I recently looked for a "Crosby" and it was enumerated and indexed as "Crsby." Try alternative spellings without each letter.

k) Did the enumerator or indexer misspell the given name or abbreviate it (for example Jno instead of John, Geo for George, Goerge for George, Cahrles for Charles, etc.).

l) Was a middle name used as a first name by the householder? This is fairly common.

m) Did the enumerator transpose the householder names (i.e., first name last, last name first) for the head of household?

n) For a blended family, were the children enumerated with the head of household's surname? I've seen this several times.

o) If you are using, then use the wild card search capability. You can put the first 3 letters of each name in the search box and then an asterisk (like Isa* and Sea* for Isaac Seaver) and see a list of candidates. The results list will often show the spelling variation used by the enumerator or indexer. You can also put a wild-card "?" in place of one letter - for example, input Thom?son and get Thompson and Thomason. This only works with the first three letters known.

p) On, you can input additional names on the 1880 to 1930 census searches. You can input one or all of the father's given name, the mother's given name, the spouse's given name, and their birth places. This can be very effective especially for uncommon names. Of course, if one of those is wrong in the records, you won't find the target.

q) lets you search with an "Exact search" box checked or unchecked. If the box is left unchecked, you will get a long list of results, with the best matches first. I usually check the box and use the other "tricks".

r) Sometimes "less information" works better than "more information." You don't know how they were enumerated. If you know the full name (e.g.) "Frederick Walton Seaver" then you might search for "Fre* Sea*" or "Wal* Sea*" in a county rather than put the full name into the search boxes and the town/county names. If there are too many results, then reduce them with a birth year and range and/or a birthplace, if known.

s) Have you checked all the available indexes? The Ancestry index and HeritageQuestOnline index were done at different times by different people, and there are many differences between the search terms and the results.

t) As a last resort, and if you are fairly sure where they resided in the census year, you can search line-by-line either online or on microfilm. City directories may help pinpoint a ward or enumeration district in a large city.

While you think that 100 or more results is "just too many to search through," the reality is that you can usually sort through them quickly. will provide the spouse's name or the parents names (for children) for 1880 to 1930 searches. It sure beats going page by page, whether on a microfilm reel or online.

The census records are like a haystack. You are searching for a few needles in that haystack. The indexes currently available online are tools we use to find those needles. In many cases, they work wonderfully - we can usually find the actual census image online in minutes rather than weeks (as we did pre-2002 with microfilms).

UK Census Records on

Do you have ancestors or cousins hiding in the England and Wales census records 1841 to 1901? Have you found them in those census records?

Ancestry Library Edition provides access to those census records, but you can access ALE only at subscribing libraries. In the San Diego area, Chula Vista, San Diego city, Carlsbad and San Diego County library systems have access at all branches (I'm not sure about other libraries). In other areas, you should check at your local libraries.

For those persons that have only a US Deluxe Subscription to, and need to access England and Wales records, going to a library with access to Ancestry Library Edition is a much cheaper solution than signing up for a World Deluxe subscription to

However, you are out of luck if you need Scotland or Canada census records - you need the World Deluxe subscription. By far the cheapest way to find those records is to wait for a free trial offer on that provides access to them.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Online Family Trees

There are a number of web sites - free and subscription based - that have online family trees submitted by genealogy researchers. These web sites include:

1) Ancestry - One World Tree (subscription)- OneWorldTree gathers family trees and family history records for millions of people, analyzes the birth, death and marriage data and then displays the most probable matches for your ancestors. Users can upload a GEDCOM file with their research data.

2) Ancestry - Public Member Trees and Personal Member Trees (subscription) - Public Member Trees contains family trees submitted to Ancestry by users who have indicated that their tree can be viewed by all Ancestry members, while Personal Member Trees can be viewed only by Ancestry members who have been granted permission to see the tree. These trees can change over time as users edit, remove, or otherwise modify the data in their trees. You can contact the owner of the tree to get more information. Users can upload a GEDCOM file with their research data.

3) Ancestry World Tree and Rootsweb WorldConnect (free) - These databases contain the same information submitted by users to either Ancestry World Tree or the Rootsweb WorldConnect database. The data can be viewed for free by all researchers. The data can change over time as users edit, remove or add data in their trees. You can contact the owner of the tree to get more information. Users can upload a GEDCOM file with their research data.

4) World Family Tree (subscription) - The world's largest collection of family trees --- just waiting for you to research online anytime. Add an average of 600 names to your family tree with just one successful search result. The opportunity to explore more by contacting the person who contributed a tree. Users can upload a GEDCOM file with their research data.

5) Kindred Konnections (subscription) - The Ancestry Archive is a database that contains information from GEDCOM files that have been submitted to us, as well as information from files that we have indexed from the internet. With a paid subscription you can view the pedigree, notes, and submitter information, and download the family trees of your choice. The MyTrees PLUS Search will take every name in your file and compare it to every name in our database. With a paid subscription you will have access to a list of all the matches, saving you hours of research time.

6) One Great Family (subscription) - OneGreatFamily is a single, shared familytree built by people all over the world.The OneGreatFamily Tree is a powerful genealogy database that is shared and built by people like you from all over the world. Everyone's genealogy ties into the OneGreatFamily Tree.

7) WeRelate (free) - WeRelate is a free public-service wiki for genealogy sponsored by the Foundation for On-Line Genealogy, Inc. in partnership with the Allen County Public Library. We are the world's largest genealogy wiki with pages for over 350,000 people and growing. Our goal is to be the number one community website for genealogy. At WeRelate you can connect with other researchers and cooperatively work on web pages for your ancestors. Your research can be documented completely online. You can upload GEDCOM files, upload and annotate scanned documents and photos, include family stories and biographies, and generate maps of your ancestors' life events.

8) Geni (free) - Geni is a tool for understanding and staying in touch with your family. Geni lets you create a family tree through our fun simple interface. You can expand your tree by adding relatives' email addresses. They will be invited to join your tree and can add other relatives. Your tree will continue to grow as relatives invite other relatives. Users have to input all data by typing it into the forms on the web site.

9) FamilyLink (free) - FamilyLink is a social network Web site that provides an innovative platform to connect with individuals, research family history, and preserve memories. At FamilyLink, users set up a unique personal profile that can be viewed by individuals throughout the world. Users have to input all data by typing it into the forms on the web site.

I did not include the LDS online databases (the IGI, Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource File) since you cannot get "Family Tree" information from them directly. FamilySearch Inc. will be providing a user-contributed family tree database, similar to the Ancestry Member Trees, in the future - perhaps in late 2007.

The purpose of each of these sites is to provide a means for genealogy researchers to share their genealogy data with other researchers. The "social networking" sites want the users to network with their family members and other researchers in order to share information and obtain more information through the network.

I know that there are additional online genealogy databases similar to the ones above - if you know of one, please make a comment here, or email me at, and I will add it to the list.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Commercial Genealogy Services

It is difficult to stay up to date with the different sets of online databases offered by commercial genealogy services. A list of the different commercial web sites is in order. The member or reader can then go to each web site to determine the current content, the cost of a subscription, etc.

The online commercial genealogy web sites with data from the United States that offer subscriptions to individuals for in-home access include the following:

1) Ancestry (part of The Generations Network)

2) (partnered with FamilySearch Inc.)

3) GenealogyBank

4) (part of The Generations Network)

5) Genealogy Today

6) Godfrey Memorial Library (partnered with FamilySearch Inc.)

7) Kindred Konnections (partnered with FamilySearch Inc.)

8) One Great Family

9) World Vital Records (partnered with FamilySearch Inc.)

The list above does not include commercial sites that market mainly or only to schools and libraries.

Many national, regional and state genealogy societies have databases behind their subscription firewalls - I will deal with these in a separate post.

There are other commercial web sites with databases for Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Scandinavia, etc. I will post those in a separate list.

If I have missed some commercial sites with personal subscriptions, please make a comment to this post and I will add them to my list.

Friday, June 1, 2007

California Vital Records

California is one of the states with fairly open vital records. Births, marriages and deaths can be searched online at:

1) BIRTHS - 1905 to 1995 are available on:

a) You can search on first name, last name, county, mother's maiden name, birth day, month, year, or any combination thereof.

b) The same database is available at if you are a Premium Member. For those that aren't Premium members, you have to use a Guest Pass (give them an email address and they will email one to you). You can search by last name only (four letters maximum, with % as a wild card) The results are in first name alphabetical order and you can page through the entries (30 to a page). This works OK for uncommon surnames, but is nearly impossible for common surnames. You cannot skip ahead to a certain given name - you have to go one page at a time. As an example, I can find Crouch entries by entering Crou% and get 3,103 results, many of them Crouch.

2) MARRIAGES - 1949 to 1986. Online marriage records are at the site. With a Premium membership you can search both of the bride and groom marriage lists. Without a membership, you can access the Bride marriage list for 1986 only. Until recently, any searcher could enter the marriage index for 1949 to 1959 and 1960 to 1985. The 1949 to 1959, and 1986, records are scanned lists from microfiche, and the 1960 to 1985 records are in an SQL database.

There are microfiche indexes of the 1960 to 1985 marriage indexes available at the LDS Family History Center in Mission Valley (and other locations, I'm sure). Carlsbad Library has a microfiche index for San Diego County marriages from about 1905 to 1985 on the shelf in the Genealogy collection.

3) DEATHS - 1905 to 2000. There are several online portals for death indexes:

a) has Deaths for 1940 to 1997 in their offerings. You can input first name, last name, county, mother's maiden name, father's surname, death day, month, year, and birth day, month, year, etc.

b) (free access) has Deaths for 1940 to 1997 - similar to, but with more listings for some reason. You can input birth place (state or OTHER) and death place (County), but can input only a birth year or death year.

c) has death indexes from 1905 to 2000. Unless you are a Premium Member, you will have to use a guest pass, but using the system is not onerous (like births) or restrictive (like marriages). There are three databases here:

* 1905 to 1929 in scanned images,
* 1930 to 1939 in scanned images, and
* 1940 to 2000 in an SQL database.

You have to scroll through the scanned images, but can input last, first and middle names, birth day, month, year, death day, month, year, county of death, birthplace (state), mother's last name, father's last name, SSN, age, etc.

There are other sources for California births, marriages and deaths, but they are not comprehensive. See the lists at for births and marriages, and for deaths.

If you know of additional resources, please let me know!