11 August 2010, Vol. 13, No. 8
Table of Contents
Using RootsWeb
Genealogy Tip
Bottomless Mailbag:
Readers Write In
What’s New: Databases, Freepages, and Mailing Lists
Volunteer Opportunities
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 Review Archives
Check here for previous editions.
Using RootsWeb

By Joan Young

Acronyms and Abbreviations Lead to Confusion

Periodically the subject of those crazy LNUs and MNUs surfaces.  Recently there was a message on the ROOTS-L mailing list at RootsWeb so I posted a link to an article that appeared in the Review in August 2003 entitled "In Search of the Wild LNUs" and a link to a follow-up article, "Revisiting the Wild LNUs," which appeared in June 2006. Both articles provide insight into misconceptions as to the meaning of those acronyms. (Acronyms are combinations of the first letters or syllables in a group of words to form a new grouping of letters that can be pronounced as a word.)

LNU and MNU are acronyms used by many genealogists to indicate Last Name Unknown and Maiden Name Unknown. Their usage all too frequently sends others on a merry chase (or not so merry chase as the case may be) in search of their LNU ancestors. One novice researcher approached me about having DNA testing to learn more about her Chinese ancestry. She hadn't realized she was part Chinese until she encountered her LNUs and assumed she had a Chinese surname in her family tree.

You will also find confusion resulting from the use of "Unk" for unknown and a wide variety of additional acronyms and symbols used to represent an unknown name. The intended usage is often not obvious to those who find list and board posts and family trees at a later date. Newbies and old hands alike can be thrown for a loop when acronyms and symbols with which they are unfamiliar are encountered. At various times, RootsWeb message board users have even requested the creation of boards for the "surnames" LNU, MNU, Unk and similar "names" that they found online and assumed were their family surnames. 

I wondered whether the passage of time had changed the situation with regard to WorldConnect family trees. Just how many LNUs, MNUs, UNKs, etc. would I find by revisiting them in a current search? The statistics show that time hasn't resolved the issue.

LNU/Lnu: 71,393
MNU/Mnu: 12,909
FNU/Fnu (Family Name Unknown): 382
UNK/Unk: 91,950
??: 145,406
???: 279,184
___ (underscores of various lengths): 263,024
MRS/Mrs: surname: 2885, given name: 1,145,974

The earlier RootsWeb Review articles linked above provide a more suitable, and less likely to be misconstrued, solution to the problem of displaying an unknown name by inserting [--?--] to represent the given name or surname. Of course, if you are using a genealogy program or submitting a family tree and the program or Web site instructs the use of a specific method to display unknowns, follow the instructions. Otherwise, the Review articles provide the most acceptable solution.

In addition to misunderstandings created by the use of acronyms, abbreviations can also result in confusion. Abbreviations are commonly used to represent locations but does that AR mean Arkansas (United States) or possibly Argentina? It isn't too far-fetched to see how a researcher might find himself looking for an ancestor he'd found in someone's family tree who he thought was born in India when, in fact, this ancestor was born in Indiana, United States of America.

You will find links to the various United States Postal Codes, Chapman Codes, ISO
(International Organization for Standardization), and other codes here. But, keep in mind that every entry you find posted online may not comply with these accepted standards. Use caution in making assumptions as to locations when abbreviations are encountered.

Keep these facts in mind when you post on a message board or mailing list, or create a family tree. Avoiding acronyms and abbreviations where possible will keep cousin Henry from searching in Australia for your mutual Austrian ancestor.

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Genealogy Tip

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

Tutorials and How-tos at RootsWeb

As stated in Getting Started at RootsWeb, the primary purpose and function of RootsWeb, is to connect people so that they can help each other and share genealogical research. And one of the ways we accomplish this goal, is through tutorials – some provided by the RootsWeb Review columnists, our dedicated RootsWeb staff and others by the RootsWeb family of volunteers.

RootsWeb Review Archives
You can always find a previously published article or tip in the archives at http://rwr.rootsweb.ancestry.com/.

A few ideas from the RootsWeb family of volunteers
Want to learn about Native American genealogy? 
Try Paul Carter's “Cherokee Gen Tutorial”.

Want to know how to get a copy of a soldier's official Civil War military record?
See Geoffrey R. Walden's “Compiled Service Records (CSRs) - Civil War Soldiers”.

How about creating web pages?
Pat Geary will teach you how to “Create a New Website in Expression Web”.

And don't forget the Webmaster FAQs.

Want to avoid genealogical issues?
Read “Twenty Ways to Avoid Genealogical Grief” (originally published in The British Columbia Genealogist, Vol. 17 #1, Mar/88).

RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees
And finally, don't forget this almost timeless step-by-step guides created by professional genealogists, Julia M. Case, Myra Vanderpool Gormley, CG and Rhonda McClure. Topics include: Using Technology: Software and GEDCOMs; Vital Records:  Death, Tombstones and Cemeteries; Taxing Tales; Tracing Immigrant Ancestors; Fraternal Organizations; City Directories and Newspapers; Canadian, French-Canadian, Acadian and French Connections;  African American, Native American, Jewish, Unique Peoples (Melungeon, Black Dutch, etc.); Adoption and Orphans Records, & many more

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Challenging Spelling

I want to pass on a story about the search for my great grandfather, John McDowall.  By the time I started searching for my mother’s parents, my grandparents had passed away.  Mom knew very little about them.  The one thing mother said was that her father INSISTED that his name be spelled with an "a", though his sister, Mary, spelled it McDowell.  My aunt Margie had told me that John McDowall had come from Scotland when he was l6, and changed his name because "people wouldn't pronounce it properly".  With that, I gave up!!!  Where to start??? 

In 2007, I received an email from someone named Bruce McDowall, spelled with an "a"!, from Melbourne, Australia!  It had taken him two years of research to find me, going thru my cousin Mildred in Kansas, who gave him a regular address (not email).  He went to my home town high school and found my email ... and here we are.  He identified not only my great grandfather but his parents AND their parents, with the spelling of William McDouall in l756.  I will now continue the search for the other branches of this family.

Thanks to Diane Etherson
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Bottomless Mailbag: Readers Write In
A Search Tip

I have found that when searching the pilot site at FamilySearch that just using first names and state when searching for marriages provides good hits. This works for Michigan as most of the marriage records from 1867-1925 are on the site. So many times last name spelling is wrong, so first names of bride and groom are much more useful. I also use just first names, date and place of birth when searching at Ancestry.com, if I know the state and county where the person may be living. Sometimes just using a first name takes a little longer but if you are patient you will be rewarded.

Thanks to Mary Watkins in Ludington, Michigan

Screen Capture Suggestion

Thank you for such a great newsletter.  I'm writing about the contribution regarding the use of the snippet tool.  May I recommend a freeware programme called Gadwin Print Screen?  It is used to capture a section of the screen visible in your browser.

Thanks to Martin Roe
Census Note

This was written in the margin of the 1803 Census for Oglethorpe County Georgia, Capt Parmenas English District.
"Fishing Creek Academites part morallised the rest get drunk run in debt can't pay go to jail breakout and run away."

Thanks to Terry Robertson

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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California Family History Expo is back and bigger than ever! Don’t miss it, Oct 8-9, Alameda County Fairgrounds, Pleasanton, CA. New techniques and technology empower you to trace your roots! Nation’s finest genealogists and researchers share experience, information, advice in captivating classes to help you learn the tech to trace your roots. Great for beginners to sage professionals. Network with others who share your passion for family history research. Shop for and try new products designed to assist in discovering and honoring your family. Win fantastic door prizes too! Visit www.fhexpos.com/expos to register right now or call 801-829-3295.


Ancestry.com and the New England Historic Genealogical Society are pleased to bring you Boston Family History Day 2010, Oct 16th, a day to discover and celebrate your family history. This exciting event can help you start or hone your genealogical skills with informative classes, expert consultations and more. Just $38 to attend this all-day event. Don't miss out on this wonderful day — space is limited and will sell out.


ANCESTOR SEEKERS researchers at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City will search this vast collection of records from the United States, Canada, Italy, Ireland, England, Scotland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and other European countries. Friendly service, affordable prices.

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

Or join us 29 November - 4 December 2010 for our 18th Salt Lake City Research Trip – the dream genealogy vacation! Click or call toll-free at 877-402-6846.

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


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 for Counties, States, and Historical Societies

DAR = Daughters of the American Revolution
FreeCEN = UK Census Online


  • alccdar — Cahawba Chapter (AL) DAR
  • alofrdar — Old Federal Road Chapter (AL) DAR
  • alttcdar — Twickenham Town Chapter (AL) DAR
  • alwalktp — Walker County (AL) Trails to the Past
  • coelpatp — El Paso County (CO) Trails to the Past
  • colapltp — La Plata County (CO) Trails to the Past
  • coprowtp — Prowers County (CO) Trails to the Past
  • cosanjtp — San Juan County (CO) Trails to the Past
  • cosanmtp — San Miguel County (CO) Trails to the Past
  • galamatp — Lamar County (GA) Trails to the Past
  • gatptp — Georgia Tombstone Project, Trails to the Past
  • idelmotp — Elmore County (ID) Trails to the Past
  • kscheytp — Cheyenne County (KS) Trails to the Past
  • kscloutp — Cloud County (KS) Trails to the Past
  • ksdicktp — Dickinson County (KS) Trails to the Past
  • ksgrshno — Graham, Sheridan, and Norton Counties, Kansas
  • kslinctp — Lincoln County (KS) Trails to the Past
  • kslyontp — Lyon County (KS) Trails to the Past
  • ksmarstp — Marshall County (KS) Trails to the Past
  • mdphcdar — Potomac Hundred Chapter (Maryland) DAR
  • mnmcgs — Morrison County (Minnesota) Genealogy Society
  • mocwtp — Missouri in the Civil War, Trails to the Past
  • mslchgs — Lafayette County (Mississippi) Historical and Genealogical Society
  • njgloutp — Gloucester County (NJ) Trails to the Past
  • njgwldar — Governor William Livingston Chapter (NJ) DAR
  • ohlghs — LaGrange (Ohio) Historical Society
  • scmaritp — Marion County (SC) Trails to the Past
  • txcd17c — Texas Society Colonial Dames of the 17th Century
  • txmcmutp — McMullen County (TX) Trails to the Past
  • ustptttp — Tombstone Project (USA) Trails to the Past
  • utdavitp — Davis County (UT) Trails to the Past
  • utsalttp — Salt Lake County (UT) Trails to the Past
  • utsevitp — Sevier County (UT) Trails to the Past
  • ututahtp — Utah County (UT) Trails to the Past
  • utwashtp — Washington County (UT) Trails to the Past
  • utwebetp — Weber County (UT) Trails to the Past
  • vtsmd — Society of Mayflower Descendants (Vermont)
  • wasgcdar — Spokane Garry Chapter (WA) DAR


  • canbcdar — Bytown Chapter (Ontario, Canada) DAR
  • canuccdar — Upper Canada Chapter DAR
  • engports — Portsmouth (Hampshire, England)
  • mextpdar — Thomas Paine Chapter (Mexico) DAR
  • sctfiffc — Fifeshire (Scotland) FreeCEN Project

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. These sites are accessible at www.rootsweb.com/~xxxxxx, where xxxxxx is the account/site name.

Note that the ~[tilde] before the Web account name is required.
For example, theTwickenham Town Chapter (AL) DAR web site is at

Request a Free Web Site Account.

New Mailing Lists

New Surname Mailing Lists

New Regional Mailing Lists

  • CAN-AB-GHOSTTOWNS — A mailing list for anyone with a genealogical interest in the ghost towns of the province of Alberta, Canada.

New Ethnic or Special Interest Mailing Lists

  • MCCLURE-DNA — This mailing list is for the discussion and sharing of information regarding DNA projects for the MCCLURE surname.

    The following mailing lists are for the discussion of using the various rolls of Native Americans (Indian) taken between 1717 and 1924.  Many of the rolls are long and the microfilm is very hard to read.  Rolls have dates and researchers need to know the family location to search the correct roll.

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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Volunteer Opportunities

Are you looking for an opportunity to give back to the genealogy community?
Check this section to learn more about some of our hosted projects and other projects you can participate in.

The World Archives Project is helping to keep the world’s stories alive. You can too by typing information from historical records into searchable online collections that are available to the public for free. Learn more.

New projects to Key:

Consular Reports of Marriages, 1910-1949
California Naturalization Originals
New York Naturalization Originals
Pennsylvania Naturalization Originals

For a complete list of projects to key, and search click here.

If you know of genealogically related volunteer opportunities please email Editor-RWR@rootsweb.com.

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The Darkroom

The dentist pictured in 1911 was my grandfather, Dr. David Groff Everhart of Manchester and Frederick, Maryland.  Throughout his career he was known as the 'painless dentist' for making a patient feel relieved in his chair.  Talking to his patients and putting them at ease was his first obligation, long before any actual dental work could be performed. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, he continued his scholastic studies on the latest dental techniques, especially with the use of x-rays.  In those early days there was little understanding of safety related to x-rays.  Dr. Everhart lost the tip of two of his fingers due to radiation exposure. 

Thanks to Alice L. Luckhardt in Stuart, Florida

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
Try Saying This Name

I remember coming across this lady during the course of my research a year or two ago and the name just stuck in my memory. Her name was Ethel Thistle. Hard enough to say when sober!

Thanks to Annette Humphreys in England
Plenty of Condiments

Several years ago, my sister worked at a bank in a small town in Kentucky.  One of her clients was a lady by the name of Lotta Pickles.

Thanks to Charles Facemire
A Census Tickle

I had photos in my baby book of my mother's family, but I didn't have any names.  I started my search looking for my grandparents' name and information. When I started searching the census records, I couldn't find my maternal grandfather anywhere.  I finally started looking at the census page he should have been on line by line.  It was then that I found they had transcribed his first name Ritchie as Bitchie. 

Thanks to Christy Hutchinson in Texas

I became interested in names, when I started researching my own family roots back in 1956.  I was researching in Massachusetts records and out jumped the name "Preserve Fish."  A few years ago, a site, which I frequently visited, also asked for funny names.  I answered with Preserve Fish as having been one of the funniest I'd found.  I received an email from a descendant of Preserve Fish at that time, which confirmed that this was the person's actual name. 

Thanks to Jennie Vertrees

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: 11 August 2010, Vol. 13, No. 8
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