10 February 2010, Vol. 13, 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
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Using RootsWeb

By Joan Young

Census Substitutes: What purpose do they serve? What information do they include?

When Ancestry.com recently announced a 1950 US "Census Substitute" many questions and comments arose on RootsWeb mailing lists indicating many people are confused by the term "Census Substitute." There were some who thought the actual US Census listing for 1950 was being released early.

US Census records are released to the public seventy-two years after being recorded. For example, the 1940 US Census will be publicly released in 2012 and the 1950 census in 2022. Census substitutes are other (non-census) records that are already publicly accessible that provide, in part, the information that censuses would include.

Federal censuses in the USA were taken every ten years beginning in 1790. Checking each available census and working back every ten years tells you where a family lived over the years, follows them as they moved, and tells you about the makeup of the household (births, marriages, and possible deaths from one census to the next). Beginning with 1850, each member of a household was listed by name.

Much can be learned using census records. You can usually trace a family back several generations--in many cases back to your immigrant ancestors and you can see their country of birth listed.

So what is the purpose of a substitute census and what records comprise the substitute?
Early census records for some states (my state of New Jersey is one of them) were lost or destroyed. New Jersey census information prior to 1830 can partly be gleaned by using tax lists as a census substitute and they are often referred to as such. Tax lists show most heads of households for the same time period as the early censuses and give the location by town/township where the person resided. My ancestor, Abraham Robinson, appears on an early tax list in New Jersey with the following information:


Abraham Robinson




Gloucester County


Greenwich Township



Record Type:

January Tax List August Tax List




NJ Tax Lists Index 1772-1822

By using the index listing above I was able to obtain the full tax record and learn that Abraham was married and had horses and cows on his farm. I was able to ascertain his approximate wealth. An earlier tax list showed him as a single man--thus narrowing down his year of marriage.

Probably the best known census substitutes are those for the 1890 census. A fire in the basement of the Commerce Building in Washington, D.C., resulted in the loss of most of that year's census records. Several companies including Ancestry.com have used alternate records such as City Directories (the precursor of our modern day telephone books) to reconstruct families in 1890 and the years preceding and following that year. The substitute records provide the needed bridge for many families covering the gap between the existing 1880 and 1900 census lists.

So, if you are primarily working your way back in time using census data, why is it helpful or important to have a substitute now for the not yet released 1940 and 1950 censuses? Many family history researchers enjoy learning about collateral relatives as well as ancestors and may find helpful and interesting information about aunts, uncles, cousins, and spouses, or even neighbors of direct family members. These are often people you have actually met. In cases where you know little about your family history, clues may be found in these records that lead you on your journey into the past.

An example in my own research involves my uncle (now deceased) Walter BORTON. As a child, I remember visiting my uncle when he lived in Philadelphia before the family moved to Delaware. I wondered if I could find him in Philadelphia in 1950 in Ancestry.com's 1950 Census Substitute database. Sure enough, I found him living on N. 11th Street. Knowing the neighborhood where the family lived helped me to locate the cemetery where a baby who had died while the family lived there was buried.

City Directories as census substitutes may well be what you need now to flesh out your family history research and make your family story more complete and interesting.

Some helpful links that will give you a better understanding of census records and census substitutes are:

Ancestry.com's 1950 Census Substitute Information

RootsWeb Guide Lesson #9: Censuses

Cyndi's List Census Links

Previous RootsWeb Review Articles about Censuses:
The purpose of the census

Getting the Most Out of Pre-1850 Census Records

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Genealogy Tip

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

To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade – Is it time?

Diagnosing computer issues is difficult.

When computers become bogged down, we blame it on too much spyware, too much spam and too many programs, just to name a few. But that's not always the case – sometimes there is a component failure.

And when you discover one, it is tempting to dispose of an old unit. But there is a strong case for upgrading, which is what I did two years ago. Rather than discard a beloved 3-year-old computer and have to upgrade or replace software, I maxed out the RAM and added a large hard drive.

It served me well -- that is, until December, when it crashed 95% through a virus scan.

Boom went the power and after it returned, I was presented with the dreaded blue screen of death. For those of you unfamiliar with BSoD, that means the operating system went bust. Did it need to be reinstalled, or had something else occurred?

The issue was not spyware, spam or a choked hard drive – testing showed a faulty power supply. I was reminded that when a computer doesn't get enough juice, crashes occur.

And this was right on schedule. From experience I know that power supplies often fail within five years. Two concepts to note from my experience are – the expected lifetime of equipment, and its Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF). This, according to Wikipedia, is “the predicted elapsed time between inherent failures of a system during operation.”

All equipment eventually fails.

Whether you repair or replace, is discretionary. But consider a casual user who computes 2 hours per day (730 hours per year), may have a longer lasting unit than a power user of 10‑hours per day (3,650 hours per year). And over five years, an active genealogist potentially spends 10,000-20,000 hours at the keyboard!

What can you do to preserve your computer's lifetime?

  1. Be green and turn it off when not in use. That includes the monitor and anything that consumes power, excepting modems or equipment used by the telephone and television.
  2. Do not disturb the computer while it is computing or catching up on a request.
  3. Keep programs up-to-date. That includes the operating system, major software and security programs.
  4. Don't neglect virus scanning, removing spyware, installing patches, optimizing and testing.
  5. Backup regularly and store your data off-site or in the “cloud” (the Web). WorldConnect users know retrieving data is as easy as logging in and downloading their GEDCOMS.

Did I decide to purchase a new computer?

Absolutely. It was time.

And rather than mention by brand, I'll disclose I love the power, dual monitors, dual hard drives, and the fast and affordable all-in-one printer!  … I did add an extended warranty, just in case.

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Following a 30-year Old Clue

Late last year I began to ponder a clue I’d tried to follow up on more than thirty years ago. At that time I had learned about a cousin, Marshall Clemmons, who’d been orphaned by a horrific tornado when just a boy and sent to live with his uncle and aunt. Marshall had moved with them from Tennessee to Colorado and finally to Ardmore, Oklahoma where he remained. I had located a phone number for him and called only to find from his wife that he had passed away a few years earlier. I had also learned that they’d had a son, Billy, who’d been injured in a freak high school football accident. Having an invalid son in their home had occupied most of their time. In my joy to have made contact, I had failed to ask about any other family members or even her name. My follow up letter had been unanswered.

As the years passed I never made any additional contact with her. But that story about the horrific tornado never left my mind.  Another cousin had given me a copy of a pamphlet published in 1909 which honored the survivors of the tornado. The pamphlet mentioned a 10 year old survivor named Marshall Banks.  (Marshall’s mother, Lena, had remarried Perry Banks before they perished.)

A few months ago I wondered if Marshall Clemmons had any children other than Billy. The 1930 Census for Ardmore, OK listed two children, Billy and Betty and his wife, Eugenia. My further searching located a cemetery record for Marshall at RootsWeb. He was buried in Ardmore. I contacted Ruth Bellamy, a volunteer at Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness to see if an obituary for Marshall could be located.  It wasn’t long before she started sending me copies of mortuary records that she just happened to have at home!  She sent copies of Marshall’s and Billy’s mortuary records giving birth and death dates and living kin. Marshall’s record indicated that he was married to Gene (Eugenia?) in 1925 in Hillsboro, Texas.  These records were followed by obituaries for Marshall and Billy and an article about a serious football injury a local high school football player had received.  Ruth also sent a picture of Billy from his high school yearbook, which had been dedicated to him in 1943.  She also got me in touch with another person that had known the Clemmons family, who appreciated receiving a copy of the pamphlet about the tornado survivors.

It really is worthwhile following up on 30 year old clues.

David Johnston in Utah
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Bottomless Mailbag: Readers Write In
A Hello From Beyond

I was driving from Denver to Chicago last year and took a detour to Des Moines to see if I could find my GG grandparent's grave. I knew what cemetery to go to and had a picture of the stone, but it was Sunday and there was no one in the office to ask. I started to drive the perimeter and a huge acorn fell to the roof of my car. I was startled but kept on going. After some time I found myself back where I started and another acorn fell on the roof of my car. I looked to the right to see if I could find a way to get out of the cemetery more quickly and lo and behold, there was the tombstone. I guess my ancestors wanted to say hello!

Thanks to M. Noga

Switching First and Second Names

After reading about people changing middle names to first names, I thought I would tell you about my father who was called Ronald Arnold BRADFORD, born 1922 in Sheffield, England. He was known to everyone as Ron. I knew his date of birth and his mother’s first name but did not know her maiden name so I ordered his birth certificate. I was surprised to read that Dad's birth was registered as Arnold Ronald BRADFORD, so it would seem he did not like the name Arnold, choosing to use his middle name. I wonder why he was given a middle name and where this came from. Neither his older brother, Leslie, nor younger brother, Derek, had middle names. Their father’s name was Herbert. I have not yet come across a Ronald in the family.

Thanks to June Chatterton in Sheffield, England

A Canadian Census Rule

I have just read in the October RootsWeb review of the duplication of George Stephen, wife and servant, being in both the English and Canadian census returns in 1881. I don't know what the regulations for the Canadian census were in 1881, but in a recent census we were required to list those who lived in the dwelling, not who was there on a particular night. Thus I filled in the census as a resident, as was required, even though I was not in the country on the census night. I was in England at the time.

Thanks to E. Crouch in Ontario, Canada

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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For a no-obligation research assessment visit AncestorSeekers.com.

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2010 NGS Family History Conference

Whether your family helped settle the nation, migrated across the country, stayed in the same place, or recently arrived in America, the 2010 NGS Family History Conference to be held at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, 28 April – 1 May, has much to offer. The family history resources in Salt Lake City, Utah, will provide a depth and breadth to your research. The Family History Library has an extensive collection of international records and a major focus of the conference will be increasing research skills in foreign countries.

Visit http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/conference_info for complete details.

Who Do You Think You Are?

Stock up on the popcorn and get ready for the new NBC hit show “Who Do You Think You Are?” The family history-focused series will lead seven celebrities, including Lisa Kudrow, Sarah Jessica Parker, Spike Lee, Matthew Broderick, Susan Sarandon, Emmitt Smith, and Brooke Shields, on a heart-warming journey back in time as they discover more about their ancestors. Tune in to NBC Fridays 8/7c beginning March 5. For more information about the show, go to: http://www.nbc.com/who-do-you-think-you-are/. This could be the next biggest family history phenomenon since Roots!

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

US Alumni Lists: Marshall College Year Book 1940, 1905 records; Eric Thornton

WEST VIRGINIA. Memorial to Confederate Soldiers, Elmwood Cemetery, Shepherdstown WV, 137 records; Jack Bennett

CALIFORNIA, Plumas County. Greenville High School, 14 records; Paula Lucy Delosh

CALIFORNIA, Sacramento County. Bell View Cemetery Sacramento California, 529 records; Zack Harless

NEW YORK, Genesee County. Batavia Daily News, 9495 records; Genesee County History Department

NEW YORK, Genesee County. Genesee County, New York, Daily News, 7586 records; Leilani Spring, for the Genesee County Historical County, New York

NEW YORK, Genesee County. WWII 1944 Index, 11828 records; Genesee County History Department, Batavia, NY

PENNSYLVANIA. "An Account of the Gospel Labors ... of a Faithful Minister of Christ" by John Churchman, 301 records; Patricia R. James

TEXAS, Wichita County. Electra Star-News Obituaries 2009, 93 records; Jane Engbrock

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 Free Web Site Account.

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

CD17C = Colonial Dames of the XVII Century
DAR = Daughters of the American Revolution
DUV = Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War
SAR = Sons of the American Revolution
SCV = Sons of Confederate Veterans
UDC = United Daughters of the Confederacy
USD1812 = US Daughters of the War of 1812


  • azcd17c — Arizona State CD17C
  • aztttp — Arizona State - Trails To The Past
  • cochaff2 — Chaffee County (CO) Trails To The Past
  • colake2 — Lake County (CO) Trails To The Past
  • cotttp — Colorado State - Trails To The Past
  • hitttp — Hawaii State - Trails to the Past
  • kyander — Anderson County (KY) Trails to the Past
  • kytttp — Kentucky State - Trails to the Past
  • mibranc2 — Branch County (MI) ALHN
  • mnoakfhc — Oakdale (MN) Family History Center
  • mofdlsar — Fernando de Layba Chapter (MO) SAR
  • msjmrdar — Jackson Military Road Chapter (MS) DAR
  • msmcjs — Mississippi Company Jamestowne Society
  • nchigs — Hatteras Island (NC) Genealogical Society
  • nydcw — New York State Society Daughters of Colonial Wars
  • nydutch3 — Dutchess Co (NY)
  • ohallcgs — Allen County (OH) Genealogy Society
  • ohtttp — Ohio State - Trails to the Past
  • okpcgs — Payne County (OK) Genealogical Society
  • ortttp — Oregon State - Trails to the Past
  • orwashi2 — Washington County (OR) Trails To The Past
  • pasfdar — Shawnee Fort Chapter (PA) DAR
  • scchcscv — Colonel Charles Jones Colcock Camp #2100 (SC) SCV
  • tncbcd17 — Captain Charles Barham Chapter (TN) CD17C
  • tncd17c — Tennessee State Society CD17C
  • tnhk1812 — General Henry Knox Chapter (TN) USD1812
  • tnmbduv — Mary Ann "Mother" Bickerdyke Tent 2 (TN) DUV
  • tntccd17 — Captain Thomas Carter Chapter (TN) CD17C
  • txdlcudc  — Daffan-Latimer Chapter #37 (TX) UDC
  • txhuntgs — Hunt County (TX) Genealogical Society
  • usforts — US Forts Project - Trails to the Past


  • engrlopc — Ruan Lanihorne Parish (Cornwall) Online Parish Clerks
  • irlmayo2 — County Mayo (Ireland)
  • nshalich — Halifax Co (Nova Scotia, Canada) Community Histories

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 Chaffee County (CO) Trails To The Past web site is at

Request a Free Web Site Account.

New Mailing Lists

New Surname Mailing Lists

New Regional Mailing Lists

  • ENG-CORNWALL-ST-BURYAN - A mailing list for anyone with a genealogical interest in the Parish of St. Buryan in Cornwall, England
  • ENG-EAST-MIDLANDS – A mailing list for the discussion of genealogy and related subjects in the East Midlands which comprises Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Rutland. Especially useful for those who find ancestors regularly crossed borders.
  • IRELAND-GENEALOGY-NEWBIES - This list is for people who are just starting out doing genealogy research regarding Ireland. It is also for those who are stuck and have Ireland research questions.

New Ethnic or Special Interest Mailing Lists

  • NORMAN-DNA - A mailing list for the discussion and sharing of information regarding DNA studies of those with the Norman surname and variations in any place and at any time.

  • VINING-DNA – A mailing list for the discussion and sharing of information regarding DNA studies of those with the Vining surname and variations in any place and at any time.
  • WALSH-DNA – A mailing list for the discussion and sharing of information regarding DNA studies of those with the Walsh surname and variations in any place and at any time.

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

This is a picture of my parents, Clarence Allman and Eleanor Mae (Trout) Mayle, which may have been taken on their wedding day on May 30, 1914. They lived most of their lives in Oakland, Maryland and were married just short of 58 years when dad passed away.

Thanks to Carolyn Mayle Mellott in Battle Creek, Michigane

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

This is a little something we came across while searching through a cemetery. My daughter and I were looking for information on any of our ancestors we could find. I came across one large stone with one surname, Ditto. I asked my daughter if she thought it would say the same thing on the other side. We looked and it did say the same thing "Ditto." No disrespect to the name. It just struck me as funny.

Thanks to Venida Brown
The Stranger

In my family tree I have a lady named Sue (original surname unknown) as she was adopted, She married Ross Stranger.  Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.  She is still married, so she is still a Stranger.

Thanks to Glenice Bayliss
Strange Names

My maternal grandmother's name was, Sleety Hill. Her maiden name was Johnson. While researching the old relatives I also came across an Olive Green.

Thanks to Barbara Smith

A distant cousin married Orange Peach in the mid 1880’s.  I looked up his family and his father’s family and could find no apparent reason for the unusual name.

Thanks to Connie Trier

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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  2. the following notice appears at the end of the article: Previously published in RootsWeb Review: 10 February 2010, Vol. 13, No. 2
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