11 February 2009, Vol. 12, No. 2
Table of Contents
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
Check here for the latest in genealogy books, software, photos, and more.
RootsWeb Spotlight
Know someone who has gone above and beyond in the service of RootsWeb? Nominate them for recognition on our Volunteer Spotlight page.
RootsWeb Review Archives
Check here for previous editions.
Using Rootsweb

By Joan Young

Adoption Research Resources

Genealogical research entails tracing your blood kin beginning with yourself and working back one generation at a time from what you know to what you seek to learn. If you encounter evidence indicating an ancestor may have been adopted or raised by someone other than the biological parents, this fact can often bring your bloodline research to a screeching halt. It makes matters doubly difficult if you or a parent were adopted, as recent records are more likely to be closed and inaccessible.

While you certainly may want to research the ancestry of adoptive parents or grandparents, many adoptees and those researching adopted ancestors have a desire to learn about their biological heritage. Many adoptees feel a need to learn where they inherited their freckles, blue eyes, or left-handedness. Where do you turn when the usual records are either sealed or apparently non-existent?
There are many resources for adoption research but the path to discovery often requires the sagacity of Sherlock Holmes, the persistence of a Pit Bull, and more than a bit of luck. The place to start is within your own family. Until fairly recently, adoption was frequently a family matter and often handled informally with few or no official court records. Talk to elderly relatives who may recall long-forgotten details. Look for papers in the attic, notes on the backs of old photos, family diaries or journals--anything that might offer a clue.
Sometimes a child's name change or a revised listing of heirs in a will to include a new child, are the only legal or official clues that a child may have been adopted. Census records sometimes list a child as being an "adopted daughter" regardless of whether court records were ever established to legalize the adoption.
In the U.S.A., adoption laws vary from state to state, as do the courts that handle adoption cases. International adoption laws also differ from country to country. So at the top of your agenda you will want to ascertain the location of the birth and adoption. Next, learn the laws and courts having jurisdiction over adoptions in that country or state. Adoptions could have been local or even international in scope. Emigration was sometimes the solution to the problem of orphaned children. Many children from Great Britain were sent to Canada, for example. 

It would be impossible to outline here the laws for every locality and every resource available in the search for birth parents of an adopted ancestor, so the next best thing is to provide links to online resources where you can locate the information.
Begin at RootsWeb with RootsWeb Guide Lesson #31

Additional links to resources and registries where birth parents and adoptees can make a connection are found at Cyndi's List.

German-born adoptees may wish to check out Geborener Deutscher (a German-born Adoptees newsletter). Information is available here.

The RootsWeb/Ancestry.com message boards provide special adoption topic boards.  If you wish to make use of the Adoption message boards it is important that you first read the special rules pertaining to posting on these boards in the RootsWeb Acceptable Use Policy (AUP).

If your adoption research queries mention people who may possibly be living, or if you are attempting to locate living people, be sensitive to the privacy rights of everyone involved.

Back to top
Genealogy Tip

By Mary Harrell-Sesniak
"Genealogy is not just a pastime; it's a passion."

Calculating Cousin Relationships

Next time you attend a family reunion, you're sure to get acquainted with relatives like your first cousin's children or Grandpa's first cousin. How do you calculate these relationships? Are they cousins or removed cousins?

When someone is a “removed” cousin, it indicates that they were born into a different generation than yourself. So in both of these cases, the individuals would be removed cousins. Your cousin's children were born into the generation after yourself, so they are first cousins once removed. And Grandpa's first cousin was born into his generation, which is two removed from yourself, so he/she would be your first cousin twice removed.

Another way to calculate relationships is to “add for greats” and “subtract for generation spans.” Let me explain.

  1. Assuming you are in the same generation as your relative, add one to the number of greats in the common ancestor's title to determine the cousinship.

Since a grandparent has no greats in the title, add 0 + 1 = 1 to determine a 1st cousin relationship.
Since a great-grandparent has 1 great in the title, add 1 + 1 = 2nd cousins.
If you share fourth great-grandparents, then 4 + 1 indicates you are fifth cousins.

Descent from Same Generation

Common Ancestors

# of Greats in Title

Add One




+ 1 =

 1st cousins



+ 1 =

 2nd cousins

2nd great-grandparents


+ 1 =

 3rd cousins

3rd great-grandparents


+ 1 =

 4th cousins

4th great-grandparents


+ 1 =

 5th cousins

  1. If you are not in the same generation, calculate using the first method, and subtract “or remove” the difference from the second person. Remember to start with the earliest generation (e.g., Grandpa from the example).

Luckily, most genealogy programs, such as Family Tree Maker, have tools to calculate relationships. Or you may prefer to use generation charts and calculators. Two useful tools are located on the Barren County, Kentucky, GenWeb website, hosted by RootsWeb. These tools come courtesy of T. W. Parker.

Back to top
Just Browsing

As I was browsing around online one evening, I found another genealogy chart done by someone in Kentucky, with my Smith ancestors on it. I made contact through email, and she turned out to be a cousin. She was the source of the Smith ancestry that I now have posted online. She did her research in Kentucky the old-fashioned, hard way--by hand, on site, in old record books.

One reason I was having such a problem finding anything was that I was looking for “Barney” Smith, which is the name my dad knew his grandfather by. In this woman’s tree I found out that Barney Smith's real name was Gabriel Barney Smith. As I have gained experience I have realized that many times the names our ancestors were known by were not their real, full names. She had a lot more information for me, and I was able to help her too. For instance, I shared a picture of Gabriel Barney Smith with her. As it turned out, he was her great-grandfather too.

This sort of networking helps grow our genealogy trees! Everything I have on our ancestors is posted, and my documentation sources are online at Ancestry.com. So I am very glad to be able to “pass on” the information I got by networking, and please pass it on when you run into another cousin along your genealogy path.

Laurel Smith Hutcherson
Back to top
Bottomless Mailbag: Readers Write In
Email Address

Over the life of my genealogical adventure I have changed my email address many times. How much easier it would have been for me to have a dedicated email address for genealogy only. Since the average adult moves every three to five years, it would be nice to have an email address that followed me everywhere.

Free email is available at Yahoo, Google, Hotmail, etc. and opening an account is a simple process. It just took me 5 minutes to create my new genealogy email account.

Connie Trier

A GIMP Recommendation

I have started using a free program called GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). It is very similar to Photoshop. I just recently purchased Beginning GIMP, Second Edition, 2008, by Akkana Peck online. It is 552 pages. There may be persons who would like to try their hand at photo touchups, who cannot afford to buy any software. (I use GIMP for flight simulator scenery designs.) I have some faded black and white photos of my grandfather taken around 1900 I would like to enhance on the computer. Thanks for the article.

A Genealogical Society Connected Us

We found the tombstones of my great-great-grandfather, James Shaw (1782-1853) and his brother, John Shaw (1773-1848), in the Pretty Prairie Cemetery near Battle Ground, Indiana. The tombstones indicated that they were born in Iredell County, North Carolina.  I wrote the genealogical society in Iredell County asking for further information, sending the information I already had on the family. 

They were very nice, but knew of nobody searching my line. I was amazed several years later to receive a letter from a distant member of my family. She had also written the society and was given my name and address. She not only had an old Bible, but has spent considerable time in Warren County, Ohio, and Tippecanoe County, Indiana, researching the Shaw family, as well as collecting Iredell County records. She has been very generous with her information, and the documentation she sent has enabled me to search census and other records that gave a lot more information. I would never have found this lady, and this information that opened many doors, without the assistance of the genealogical society.
Frances Willess
Austin, Texas

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.

Back to top

Ancestor Seekers June 2009 Salt Lake City Research Trip

14-19 JUNE 2009 - 10% 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. Or call TOLL FREE at 877-402-6846.

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


Submit Your Genealogical Data to a RootsWeb Database.

New/Updated Freepages by Individuals

There are 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

CAR = Children of the American Revolution
DAR = Daughters of the American Revolution
SDP = Sons and Daughters of the Pilgrims
USGW = US GenWeb


  • allccdar — Lily of the Cahaba Chapter (AL) DAR
  • azepcdar — El Presidio Chapter (AZ) DAR
  • ctcanton — Canton (CT) USGW
  • mdgmcdar — Goshen Mills Chapter (MD) DAR
  • meyorkgs — York County (Maine) Genealogical Society
  • msnrcdar — Norvell Robertson Chapter (MS) DAR
  • njgrecem — Greenlawn Cemetery, Monmouth County (NJ)
  • orarf — American Renaissance Foundation (OR)
  • pafscar — Francis Slocum Society (PA) CAR
  • txakgs — Atascocit-Kingwood (TX) Genealogical Society
  • txgracem — Lost and Found (TX) Cemetery Preservation
  • txkerrgs — Kerrville (TX) Genealogical Society
  • txsdp — Texas Branch of SDP
  • vabedgs — Bedford Genealogical Society of Virginia


  • deupcdar — Palatinate Chapter (Germany) DAR
  • nzwlsfhs — Wales, New Zealand, Family History Society

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 El Presidio Chapter (AZ) DAR website is at

Request a Freepage (Free Web Account).

New Mailing Lists

New Surname Mailing Lists

New Regional Mailing Lists

  • None

New Ethnic or Special Interest Mailing Lists

  • 1911-CENSUS-HELP — A mailing list for people that need help understanding and reading the 1911 census records, covering the census areas of England and Wales in the United Kindom.

  • AUS-VIC-ADOPTIONS — A list for adopted persons in Victoria, Australia to share information and resources. Also for those whose lives have been touched by the adoption process in Victoria, Australia.

  • FARRIS-DNA — A mailing list for discussing information regarding Y-chromosome DNA testing that is currently being done for the FARRIS surname and variations.

  • MOHAWK-INDIAN-TRIBE — This list is for all who are interested in finding their Mohawk Indian family connections and learning about the history of the Mohawk Indian Tribe.

  • MARION-DNA — The MARION-DNA mailing list is for sharing information regarding the DNA project for the Marion surname and its variations (e.g., Marien, Marrion, Marrien, Maryion) worldwide.

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.

The Darkroom

My great-great-grandparents, William Taylor Jordan and Hannah Jane Winn Jordan, were married for a little over 50 years. This photo was taken in Nebraska in 1910, after their 50th anniversary, when most of their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren came to celebrate with them. I wish I could identify the rest of the people in the photograph..

Submitted by Peggy DeHogg

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.

Back to top
You Found It
Avoiding the Jokester

This is regarding a shut-in list in a church. My husband was a new pastor and was warned that his lay leader was a jokester. While reading the list of shut-ins during the prayer time, my husband saw the name "Lemon Fresh."  Thinking the jokester added it, he skipped praying for Lemon. After the service, the son of Lemon approached the new pastor to question why he omitted his dad from the prayer.

Thanks to Andrea Jenkins
Cat Footprints

While looking at microfilm of Gloucestershire record books, I came across a page with inky cat foot prints "walking" across the page! The cat is long gone but his footprints live on forever.

Thanks to Sandra McGraw, South Windsor, Connecticut
Cause of Death

July 1995, my mother, then in her mid-80s, joined my two sisters and myself as we searched the death index, and then the actual death certificates, in the county courthouse in Appleton, Wisconsin. Mom started chuckling as she read the entries as to cause of death. She was especially amused by "runaway corner" and showed it to us sisters. We chuckled and as we did, an elderly gentlemen, a volunteer, came to tell us we needed to be quiet or leave. We explained what we were laughing at and he said it was not funny. When stagecoaches were traveling fast and came up against a sharp turn in the road, or where they needed to make a turn at an intersection, sometimes the stagecoach or wagon would tip over and passengers would be killed. Suddenly, it was no longer a funny situation!

Thanks to Patti Nielson, Glendale, Arizona

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.

Back to top

To manage your e-mail communications (i.e., to subscribe or unsubscribe to this newsletter or to sign up for others), visit our newsletter management center at any time.

If you use a spam-filtering program, in order to receive the RootsWeb Review please make sure that you're allowing e-mail from rootswebreview@email.rootsweb.com. The RootsWeb Review is a free publication of The Generations Network, Inc., 360 West 4800 North, Provo, UT, 84604

The RootsWeb Review does not publish or answer genealogical queries, and the editor regrets that she is unable to provide any personal research assistance or advice.

RootsWeb Review welcomes short (500 words or less) articles, humor, stories, or letters, and reserves the right to edit all submissions. The announcement of books and products is provided as a community service and is not an endorsement in any way. Pictures for "The Darkroom" should be at least 72 dpi, preferably jpgs.

All mail sent to the RootsWeb Review editor is considered to be for publication—send in plain text (please, no attachments) to Editor-RWR@rootsweb.com and please include your full name and e-mail address in the text.

RootsWeb Review Advertising contacts
Ad Sales Worldwide: Kathryn Davidson, kdavidson@tgn.com

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: 11 February 2009, Vol. 12, No. 2