13 August 2008, Vol. 11, No. 18
Table of Contents
Editor’s Desk: News and Notes
Using RootsWeb
Genealogy Tip
Bottomless Mailbag:
Readers Write In
What’s New: Databases, Freepages, and Mailing Lists
The Darkroom
You Found It
Subscriptions, Submissions,
Advertising, and Reprints
RootsWeb Resources
RootsWeb Helpdesk
Check here for frequently asked questions about RootsWeb.
RootsWeb Newsroom
Check here for the latest RootsWeb news.
RootsWeb Store
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RootsWeb Review Archives
Check here for previous editions.
Editor's Desk: News and Notes
Book Notice

Madison Parish, Louisiana—Earliest Landowners
By Richard P. Sevier

A compilation of the earliest landowners (patentees) in Madison Parish. These are the first landowners who purchased land from the U.S. General Land Office after Louisiana became a state in 1803. Most purchases were in the middle 1800s. Among other things the book includes 98 pages of patentee names including location and amount of acreage purchased, an index map, and 58 pages of detailed original survey township maps showing the exact location of the acreage, patentee names, and year of purchase. Price $35.00, plus $5.00 shipping and handling. E-mail the author at dicksevier@comcast.net.

Also available:
Madison Parish, Louisiana, Tax Rolls, 1879 and 1881 ($25)
Cemeteries of Madison Parish, Louisiana ($25)
Earliest Recorded Madison Parish Marriages, 1866-80 ($25)

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Using Rootsweb
By Joan Young
Understanding RootsWeb's Social Security Death Index

One of the things that made RootsWeb famous was the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). When it was first added to the site around 2000, it was free, was updated more frequently than any other online version, and was accompanied by the best search engine. Today, RootsWeb continues to be one of the most convenient and effective places to access this index. How much do you know about the SSDI and how long has it been since you used it?

In 1935, President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law, providing Social Security benefits to all eligible citizens. Participants were given a Social Security number to identify them.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) keeps a record of all individuals who have a Social Security number and whose death is reported to the agency. This information is recorded in the SSA's Death Master File.

The SSA doesn't publish the Death Master File; it sells the database to others (including RootsWeb) who make it publicly accessible and searchable. Various companies offer the SSDI online but each formats the data differently, updates at different intervals (RootsWeb updates ~monthly), and employs its own search engine. Therefore, not all SSDIs are equal—even though the information is derived from a single source.

The SSDI was not created to assist people in genealogy, but it has become a valuable genealogical resource.

If you are looking for information on someone from the U.S. who died after 1962 (the year the SSA began digitizing its records), the first place to start is the SSDI.

Most people in the index are from the U.S., but a few Canadians, Mexicans, and individuals of other nationalities are in the index. Some Americans who worked or died abroad may also be found in the database.

Some individuals who died before 1962 can be found in the SSDI as well.

Among the reasons why someone might not be included in the SSDI are the following:

  • The death was not reported to the Social Security Administration (SSA).
  • The death was recent and the person has not been indexed yet.
  • The individual did not participate in the Social Security program. (Not everyone was required to have a Social Security number until 1988. Before then, farmers, housewives, government employees, unemployed people, and those with other retirement programs may not have had Social Security numbers or participated in the Social Security program.)

RootsWeb boasts a full-featured SSDI search engine with advanced search capabilities that enable researchers to find individuals with a minimal amount of information.

A simple search allows you to enter the last name, first name, middle name or initial, and/or Social Security number.

You may enter as little or as much information as you know. You may search the last name using either the exact spelling or by selecting Soundex or Metaphone. Soundex and Metaphone are "sounds like" search tools and were previously explained here.

The Advanced Search feature offers additional fields to search: last residence or last benefit (zip code, state, county, city), births and deaths (year, month, and day), and location where the Social Security card was issued. Be careful when entering information on the last residence and last benefit; they do not necessarily represent the place the individual was living at the time of death.

The RootsWeb SSDI search engine supports the asterisk (*) as a trailing wildcard where at least the first three letters are known. For example, "Rob*" will find all names beginning with Rob and containing zero or more additional letters. Enter "402*" in the field for zip codes and the search engine will search for any zip codes beginning with 402.

[For the morbidly curious (like me), here is an explanation of the internal source codes you occasionally find in the "Last Residence" field that do not represent a location.]

Once you have located someone in the Social Security Death Index, you can order his or her SS-5 form (the form filled out to apply for a Social Security card). Among other information, the SS-5 form contains complete birth information (date, city, county, country) and the maiden name of the individual's mother.

To order the SS-5 form from RootsWeb, click the "SS-5 Letter" link on the search results page. Fill out the request form that appears, print it out, and mail it to the SSA. It costs $27.00 to order an SS-5 form.

If you find incorrect information in the SSDI, report it directly to the SSA.

You can also add Post-em Notes to entries in RootsWeb's SSDI to indicate inaccuracies or give your connection to an entry. To do this, click "Add Post-em" on the search results page for an entry.

To learn more about the Social Security Death Index, you may want to check out these additional resources on RootsWeb:
Social Security Death Index, Getting Started

RootsWeb Guide, Lesson 10

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Genealogy Tip
By Mary Harrell-Sesniak
"Genealogy is not just a pastime, it's a passion."
Selecting Memorable Passwords
Remembering passwords is challenging—particularly for systems that don't allow passwords to be repeated. Two easy-to-remember solutions are mnemonic devices and keyboard shapes. And if you are passionate about genealogy, use it to help you create memorable passwords.

A mnemonic device is a made-up phrase that stands for something else. For example, GINJAPIAP stands for "Genealogy is not just a pastime; it's a passion." There are no numbers in my mnemonic device, but if the program I was using required me to include them, I might replace the "i" with a one (GINJAPIAP becomes G1NJAP1AP). Another example is to use a zero for an "o" or a 2 for "to".

And consider combining phrases with words for readability.
M2GGMWJANE — My second great-grandmother was Jane.

When asked to change a password, make a simple switch.
M2GGFWRALPH — My second great-grandfather was Ralph.

Another method I like is sketching a shape on the keyboard. For instance, I might draw an "M" (for Mary); or, if named Carla Chang, you could create two Cs.

M — aw3edr5tg
C C — 32qas54edf

When required to make a change, reverse the sequence, or use a different location on the keyboard.

CC — fde45saq23 or 23esa45tfd

It's important not to disclose passwords, so keep your password selecting method secret. If you are inspired to try a new RootsWeb password, simply click on "My Account" in the upper right-hand corner of the RootsWeb home page to change it. Forgot your password altogether? Visit Password Central by clicking "Passwords" on the main toolbar.

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Morris Family Bible

I keep in touch with a distant Morris cousin named Marianne on the Internet. She lives in France and I live in New Zealand.

Her mother, in England, was on another genealogy site and was contacted by a woman named Kristin who was living in Florida, U.S.A. Kristin has been in possession of a Morris family Bible for thirty years and has been hunting for any descendants of the family members whose names were written in the Bible.

The Bible was given by George Morris to his bride in the 1870s in Birmingham, Warwickshire, England. It lists George's siblings, children, and some grandchildren. The Bible appears to have left England and possibly gone to Canada (a French inscription is included) before ending up in an antique shop in Tucson, Arizona.

My third great-grandmother is one of George Morris's sisters, so Marianne put me in contact with Kristin after reading the query on her mother's computer. Kristin has offered to send me the Bible and I am excitedly waiting for its arrival.

Sadly, Marianne's mother passed away not long after she had helped Kristin and I find each other. I will be eternally grateful to Marianne's mother and thankful that the Internet has made all this possible.

Fiona Russell
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Bottomless Mailbag: Readers Write In
Genealogical Symbols Article: A Follow-Up
The main article in the July issue of the "RootsWeb Review," described various symbols used in genealogical records. We received several questions from readers wanting to know what the hyphen (-) in front of the birth dates in the second and third examples indicated:

Musse, Daniel (Johann Daniel)
      * Els, -02.03.1694
      + Els, 28.01.1772
      & Els, 21.02.1736
Gernand, Elisabeth (Anna Elisabeth)
      * Els, -19.11.1708
      + Els, 03.12.1767

These hyphens indicate that the dates are baptismal/christening dates rather than birth dates.

The RootsWeb Review Editor
Using an Ott Light

In last month's issue, Carol told us about successfully using an Ott light to read a dark photocopy of an obituary. We received a number of requests for more information about this. Carol has provided the following additional details.

"Ott lights are sold for crafters and for those who suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), which results from shorter sunlight days.

"If you Google the phrase "ott light" you will find a lot of places that sell them. I purchased my OTT-LITE(r) TrueColorTM Pink Portable Lamp at Staples, so you can see that they are readily available.

"My Ott light is high on my desk, above my head, so I was looking up at the light with the dark copy in front of the light. When I held the paper up to the light, the light was above my eyes, and the paper was between me and the light.

"I actually ended up taping the top of the paper to the light so I did not have to hold on to it.

"I would suggest that users 'fiddle' with their paper, their light, and the angle—each case may be different. Also, I suggest trying at night and turning off any other lights in the room."

Never Avoid Searching Common Names

As a serious genealogist for 52 years, I spent endless hours researching Williams families. Both my mother and father had Williams lines back to the earliest colonies. Most resources had so many pages to search and always caused so much frustration that I would move on to other surnames that were easier to locate. Only this last year did I discover, through researching some other families, that my mother and father had a common Williams ancestor in the early 1600s in Virginia. This led to dozens of other lines and taught me an important lesson—never give up.


Have a story, question, genealogy resource, or tip you'd like to share with RootsWeb Review readers? Send it to Editor-RWR@rootsweb.com.

Editor's note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the editor or of RootsWeb.com.

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Ancestor Seekers Eleventh Salt Lake City Research Trip
22-27 February 2009—10 Percent Discount for Early Registration

Join others from throughout the U.S.A. and Canada for the dream genealogy vacation. Spend a whole week at the Family History Library, accessing the world's largest collection of genealogical records with help and advice from accredited genealogist professionals. Opening and closing socials, theater trip, and other optional activities!

"Thank you all for such a wonderful experience." (Marsha, Iowa)

Visit www.AncestorSeekers.com/slcrt.

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What's New: Databases, Freepages, and Mailing Lists
New User-contributed Databases at RootsWeb

No new user-contributed databases.

Submit Your Genealogical Data to a RootsWeb Database.

New/Updated Freepages by Individuals
No new/updated freepages by individuals.

If you have a new or substantially revised freepage at RootsWeb and would like to see it mentioned here, send the URL, the title, and a BRIEF description, including major surnames, to Editor-RWR@rootsweb.com.

If your genealogy- or history-related site is located somewhere other than RootsWeb, you can add the link to RootsWeb here.

Request a Freepage (Free Web Account).

New/Updated Freepages by Counties, States, and Historical Societies

DAR = Daughters of the American Revolution
UDC = United Daughters of the Confederacy


  • azwtmdar — White Tank Mountains (Arizona) Chapter DAR
  • gawcghrg — Wesley Chapel (Georgia) Genealogy and Historical Research Group
  • moreludc — Robert E. Lee (Missouri) Chapter #552 UDC
  • nhbelkn2 — Belknap County (New Hampshire) Cemetery Transcriptions
  • orcar — Children of the American Revolution (Oregon)
  • pasucomu — Sullivan County (Penssylvania) Historical Society Museum
  • txghcftc — Greater Harris County (Texas) Family Tree Club
  • wadac — Daughters of the American Colonists (Washington)


  • engkfcen — Kent (England) Free Census Project
  • rombuch — Romania, Bucharest WorldGenWeb

Some of these Web pages might not be accessible yet. They are created by volunteers, so if one that interests you isn't up yet, please check again in a few days or next week.

Note that the ~[tilde] before the Web account name is required.
For example, the Robert E. Lee (Missouri) UDC website is at

Request a Freepage (Free Web Account).

New Mailing Lists

New Surname Mailing Lists

New Regional Mailing Lists

  • AUS-VIC-ECHUCA-DISTRICT—A mailing list for discussing genealogical topics in the area of Echuca, Victoria, Australia.
  • NY-NORTHERN-CEMETERIES—A mailing list for discussing cemeteries located in northern New York.
  • POL-MORZEWO—A mailing list for discussing those who lived in Morzewo, Poland, and the surrounding area at any time.
  • TX-MONTAGUE-VOLUNTEERS—A mailing list used to communicate with Montague, Texas, volunteers who answer queries for visitors of the Montague County TXGenWeb website. The list will basically be restricted to those volunteers. Anyone wishing to volunteer will be cheerfully welcomed.

New Ethnic or Special Interest Mailing Lists

  • FRAZIER-DNA—A mailing list for discussing DNA projects for the Frazier surname and its variations (e.g., Fraser, Frashier, Frasier, Frazer, Freshour).
  • FPFHG-LIST—A mailing list for members of the Fleurieu Peninsula (South Australia) Family History Group and its associates to share genealogical and historical information.
  • GRAY-DNA—A mailing list for discussing DNA projects for the Gray surname and its variations (e.g., Grey).
  • MAP-MY-ANCESTORS—A mailing list for discussing the Map-My-Ancestors software program.
  • MOORE-DNA—A mailing list for discussing DNA projects for the Moore surname and its variations.
  • QUATREMAINES-OF-OXFORDSHIRE—A mailing list for discussing the book The Quatremains of Oxforshire, by William Fowler Carter, originally published in 1936.
  • SOCIAL-NETWORKING—A mailing list for discussing genealogical topics related to social networking and the use of social networking sites or services.
  • UK-CHEMIST-APOTHECARY—A mailing list for anyone with a genealogical interest in the chemist and apothecary professions in the United Kingdom at any time.
  • WALKER-DNA—A mailing list for discussing DNA projects for the Walker surname and its variations.
  • Y-DNA-PROJECTS—A mailing list for those interested in practical genealogical issues related to Y-chromosome DNA surname projects.

To find or subscribe to a mailing list, or to search archived posts to more than 30,000 RootsWeb-hosted genealogy mailing lists, go here.

Request a Mailing List.

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The Darkroom

A McCormack Family reunion at William McCormack's house in Otter Lake, Michigan in 1905. The two people sitting in chairs are Michael and Catherine McCormack. The couple at the left shoulder of Michael are my great grandfather, William, and his second wife, LaVina Jane Hemingway.

Jeff Ford

For a chance to see your ancestor's photo in the RootsWeb Review, send it to Editor-RWR@rootsweb.com. Make sure to include your name and a brief description of the photograph.

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You Found It
Little or Small?

I was looking through old death notices from Ohio and ran across one that hit me in the funny bone:

"... LITTLE, NATHANIEL, Esq. d. Delaware, Dec. 10th, 1812. He left a small family. (*Jan. 20, 1812)"

Thanks to Randy E.
The Aches and Pains of Life

Early in my research I came across a death certificate for an aged relative, single cause of death—exhaustion. After a smile I assumed this could mean old age, consumption (TB), or a prolonged illness. Several years later I overheard a (living) aged relative moaning to the doctor about poor eyesight, aches and pains, etc. The doctor replied, "It is just Anno Domini."

She quickly responded, "Oh, is there anything you can give me for it Doctor?"

Thanks to Dave Cash

Found a funny name or humorous tidbit in old records, or an amusing entry in census, parish, church, or other records? Send these and other genealogy-related humor/humour items to Editor-RWR@rootsweb.com.

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Permission to reprint articles from RootsWeb Review is granted unless specifically stated otherwise, provided:

  1. the reprint is used for non-commercial, educational purposes; and
  2. the following notice appears at the end of the article: Previously published in RootsWeb Review: 13 August 2008, Vol. 11, No. 18