10 June 2009, Vol. 12, No. 6
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
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RootsWeb Newsroom
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RootsWeb Review Archives
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Using Rootsweb

By Joan Young

Evaluating Online Genealogical Data -- To Accept or Not to Accept?

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone complain that an online family tree or database is "garbage," error-ridden, or sloppily compiled, I wouldn't have to worry about the state of the world's economy. Some researchers even claim that they would never stoop to looking at online user-submitted data (such as RootsWeb's WorldConnect database). Let's take a look...

Don't automatically discard user-submitted data. Information you find online, regardless of the source, may provide the very answers you need. I once found a will mentioned in a WorldConnect tree that provided the maiden name of an immigrant ancestor's wife I'd been seeking for years. The submitter sent me a copy of the woman's father's will which provided conclusive proof. Part of family history research is being a sleuth. Don't merely copy another researcher's files perpetuating errors. Verify and evaluate the evidence you find online.

  1. Did the submitter include his sources? If so, how reliable are the sources? Is the data based upon a birth certificate, marriage record, deed, or other document with a relatively high degree of accuracy? Or, did Susie Submitter copy or merge the information from other files (possibly unsourced) she found online? Obtain original copies of the documents used as evidence where possible, especially if you have reason to suspect there may be an error, misinterpretation, or even a typo.
  2. If sources are not listed, look for a contact address for the submitter so that you can ask about his evidence and conclusions. Once again, verify the information yourself.
  3. Does the submitter's data agree with information you have already gathered or found elsewhere? Conflicting data requires a careful analysis to establish what the best evidence or the preponderance of evidence indicates. Look for the evidence recorded nearest the event it supports and provided by someone in a position to know. Consider whether the person would have had any reason to falsify data (such as a young bride claiming to be of marriageable age or a man wanting to show he is old enough to enlist in military service).
  4. Is the data logical or are there blatant errors in the tree such as children born to women in their late fifties, marriages at age five, or other unlikely events or inconsistencies? Look for red flags such as a tree that links (or merges) two individuals of the same name without regard for dates and ages. Watch out for incorrect assumptions that two same name individuals in different locations are the same person, unless there is evidence to support a move from point A to point B. Genealogical leaps of faith connecting individuals or generations could well be erroneous.
  5. Remember that finding the same information online in multiple databases doesn't ensure accuracy as others may well have copied or merged the information without verification.
  6. Pay no attention to who submitted the data, but rather to the evidence itself. Even respected genealogists make errors occasionally and may not have access to all the information you possess.

Companies such as RootsWeb are not the genealogy police or Judge Judy, and cannot be expected to evaluate the accuracy of data submitted (and owned and controlled) by family historians. Submitters have the right to be wrong.


  1. Contact the submitter by e-mail when possible.
  2. Add a Post-em Note (user-added note) indicating the error and any corrections and evidence you have.
  3. Upload your own database so that researchers who find the incorrect data in a search will also find your file. The only database for which you are responsible is your own.
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Genealogy Tip

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

Finding Newspaper Reports on the Web

A smart genealogist was once asked, “Which resource is the best?”
And the answer was, “The one with the information I need.”

This is especially true when seeking obituaries, birth, marriage and death announcements from one of the numerous Web newspaper archives.  Some are limited by time periods, and others concentrate on specific publications. Few are dedicated to genealogy – so explore multiple options.

Two comprehensive lists of free newspaper archives are at:

  1. The Library of Congress
  2. The University of Pennsylvania's Historical Newspapers Online.

Another free option is the Google News Archive. To eliminate general interest stories, enter a name and add a keyword such as marries, dies or obituary

Once a search is completed, switch between News Articles and Timeline, or limit date ranges by selecting Search Other Dates.

The Advanced News Archive Search allows you to narrow searches to specific languages, or the publication of your choice (ex. NewsBank). Since many results will incur a charge, you can control your budget by selecting from no price (i.e., free), to $50 more or less. You can also determine if you wish to see a timeline or not.

If you don't know which publication you require, explore RootsWeb's Obituary Daily Times at www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~obituary or at obits.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/obit.cgi.

Another extensive resource can be found at Ancestry.com (subscription service) in their Newspapers & Periodicals Collection. Remember, most newspaper archives are updated frequently, so check back often.

For more on obituaries, see Mary's article, Obits and Tidbits: The Obituary Daily Times and Other Newspaper Resources from RootsWeb (RootsWeb Review: 12 March 2008, Vol. 11, No. 11.)

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Civil War Pension Files

I am a stickler for having actual affidavits or documentation verifying the information I obtain for my family. Through my genealogy search I found a cousin/friend who advised me to contact the National Archives to see if there was a Civil War pension file for this particular relative. 

I did so, and submitted my $37 and was sent an envelope with 35 pages of documentation for this file.  I found new details and confirmed the following information among the forms completed by my great great grandmother Nancy when she applied for the pension benefits:

  1. Marriage date
  2. All the children's names, including a child I did not have listed due to the birth and death of the child outside of census lists
  3. An explanation of why I had seen my great grandfather listed as Robert R, Robert S, and Robert R.S.  (There was an affidavit in the file explaining the child had taken his father's Solomon name as a middle name when his father died in the Civil War, thus using the initial.)
  4. The doctor's reports regarding the death of my Solomon. It was noted in several areas of my research he died of "disease" during the war.  He DID die of disease, but the disease progressed quickly after he shot himself in the foot while cleaning his gun. This was in the medical file included in the pension file.
  5. The marriage date and name of my great great grandmother Nancy's second husband and his affidavit taking guardianship of the underage children.
  6. The dollar amounts of the pension allowed for each child, AND the fact that payments would now be made to the new husband, rather than Nancy.
  7. The birth dates for the children.

An interesting side note is that one of the descendants of Solomon whom I have corresponded with regarding our family searches participates in Civil War re-enactments using the name "Solomon."  I couldn't wait to share the medical report with him so he could "accurately" die in his re-enactments!

Needless to say, it was worth every penny of the money I spent on it, and it was so much fun to read, too!!!  It really made the ancestors some "alive."  I cannot stress the importance of pursuing these documents if you have the chance to do so.

Nancy Phillips in Virginia
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Bottomless Mailbag: Readers Write In
More Thanks

I'd like to say a big AMEN to Barbara Germer's note from Texas on thanking people who go out of their way to help people like us searching for information on long dead relatives. It was published in the May 2009 RootsWeb Review. (One gentleman called them "shirttail" relatives.)  I would like to share two of my own experiences where others provided significant assistance.

One lady in Cleveland, Ohio read a query, responded, and eventually visited a cemetery to search for the grave of a great uncle, which she found with no marker. She then went online to search for WWI records to see if he had served, in which case he would be eligible for a free marker from the Veterans Administration.  Finding no record, the grave is still unmarked.

The second experience also involved a cemetery. I knew where this relative was buried, and through a website contacted a lady in Maryland, who not only visited the grave one day after her two small children were in school, but also took photographs which she sent me. This case was quite sad, as the stone had sunk over one third into the ground, and I live hundreds of miles away.

We have many to thank for their assistance.  We need to acknowledge these good Samaritans wherever we can.

Amy in Central Virginia

Tired to the Bone

My great great grandfather, Anthony Wayne Hanna, was evidently quite a character. In a book about local history, "Tales of Old Whitehaven," he is described as being remembered for his "flowing white beard, his expert horsemanship and his picturesque language."

He had survived serving in the Cavalry in the Civil War, a case of Yellow Fever, and supporting and helping raise his widowed daughter's three children. He lived to be ninety years old and his death certificate listed the cause of death as "Exhaustion (worn out)."  

Hunter Wayne Johnston in Tennessee

Suggestions For Connecting In New Ways

In conjunction with studying my own ancestry, I am conducting a "Gamber" single name study. The new social networking internet sites such as Facebook provide a new way to make connections. I established an account with a profile noting genealogy studies. Then I did a Facebook directory search and sent "friend" requests to all Gambers. The accompanying note described my studies and gave my web address.

On the internet I also found a web site for the school in Germany in the area where my Gamber immigrant ancestor was born circa 1717. Most of his siblings and cousins did not emigrate and some of their descendants are still in the same area. I posted a "hello" note to my cousins on the school web site, also noting my web site.

Dan Gamber

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 September 2009 Salt Lake City Research Trip

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)

CLICK HERE Or call TOLL FREE at 877-402-6846

International Jewish Genealogical Conference to Meet in Philadelphia
August 207, 2009

Generation to generation. It's a recurrent theme in Jewish theology and the basis for prayers during every Jewish religious service.

Yet, due to historical events that have torn Jewish families apart for centuries, many American Jews feel they are unable to trace their family history past their grandparents.

Co-hosted by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia this 29th International Conference meets from August 2-7, 2009 at the Sheraton Philadelphia City Center Hotel. More than 800 genealogists from around the world will attend hundreds of programs and take advantage of networking and extensive resources to help then discover their roots. A unique aspect of the IAJGS conference is the presence of archivists from Central and Eastern European countries.

To learn more and register for this exciting conference, go to www.Philly2009.org.

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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


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
DRT = Daughters of the Republic of Texas
DUVCW = Daughters of the Union Veterans of the Civil War
MOLLUS = Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States
SAR = Sons of the American Revolution
SUVCW = Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
UDC = United Daughters of the Confederacy
USD1812 = United States Daughters of the War of 1812


  • cajcdac — John Chew Chapter (CA) Daughters of American Colonists
  • flagchs — Admiral Gaspard de Coligny Hugenots Society
  • kycgcdu — Cyrus Grable Chapter (KY) National Society Daughters of the Union
  • kyfindar — Fincastle Chapter (KY) DAR
  • laflcjs — First Louisiana Company Jamestowne Society
  • lahmcusd — Henry McPherson Chapter (LA) USD1812
  • lamscdar — Moses Shelby Chapter (LA) DAR
  • lastadar — St. Tammany Chapter (LA) DAR
  • lastgudc — St. Tammany Greys (LA) UDC
  • lausd1812 — Louisiana State Society USD1812
  • mndcgs — Dakota County (MN) Genealogical Society
  • neduvcw — Nebraska Department, DUVCW
  • nesar — Nebraska Society SAR
  • nesuvcw — Nebraska Department, SUVCW
  • nygenoha — Genoa (NY) Historical Association
  • nygs1812 — New York (NY) General Society of the War of 1812
  • nymollus — New York Commandery of the MOLLUS
  • ohgaim — Greek Ancestry in Middletown, Ohio
  • ohrgcdar — Rebecca Galloway Chapter (OH) DAR
  • pabfddar — Bethel Fife and Drum Chapter (PA) DAR
  • pacrddar — Mrs. Cynthia R. Dolinger Chapter (PA) DAR
  • pagvcdar — Great Valley Chapter (PA) DAR
  • pdchs — Peninsula-Delaware Conference Historical Society
  • txamcdrt — Alamo Mission Chapter DRT
  • wishawa4 — Shawano Genealogical Society Researchers
  • wvfchs — Fayette County (WV) Historical Society


  • nzlasfhg — Ashburton District (New Zealand) Family History Group

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 John Chew Chapter, Daughters of the American Colonists 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

  • BLACKBIRDING — A mailing list for the discussion and sharing of information on families from Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tuvalu and other areas of Melanesia that were taken to Australia, Fiji, New Caledonia and Peru between the 1860's and 1906 either by force or by voluntary means.

  • GARRISON-DNA — A mailing list for the discussion and sharing of information regarding the GARRISON-DNA testing that is currently being done by the descendants of those bearing the GARRISON surname.

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

Franklin Hargrave Woody was born in 1833 and died in 1916. Here he is pictured standing in front of the first store in the Missoula, Montana area, where he worked as a clerk.

Michael A Woody

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
The Potter

While researching the Ohio 1870 census in Killbuck, Holmes Co., this name jumped out at me!

Plant, Potter age 35. Of course his occupation was "farmer"!

Thanks to Leonard B. Chapman in California
Buffalo Gal

I was reading through marriage records and found the record of Joe Buffalo marrying Rhoda Jones.  Doesn't sound like anything of note until you say the brides new name - Rhoda Buffalo.  I laughed out loud and those around me looked up!  

Thanks to Patricia O'Neal
Communicating Effectively

While searching the 1870 Federal Census for Montgomery County, Ohio, I found my paternal "Leingang" great grandparents who had emigrated from Germany. My great grandfather was identified correctly but my great grandmother was identified only by an asterisk. At the bottom of the page was the explanation of the asterisk which was "Too Dutch to be understood by me."    Great grandmother’s name was Apollonia and 20 years in America had not improved her accent!

Information found in Series M593, Roll 1248, Page 772a

Thanks to John Newbright

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: 10 June 2009, Vol. 12, No. 6