8 December 2010, Vol. 13, No. 12
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
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Using RootsWeb

By Joan Young

Holiday Gatherings as Genealogical Research Tools

Whether you head over the river, through the woods, by plane, train, or automobile, to grandmother's house or Aunt Anna's place, if you are like most of us, you probably travel to visit relatives during the holidays. These holiday visits can result in a goldmine for the family genealogist in many ways.

Visits to grandmother or Aunt Anna's home can also provide access to family heirlooms and photos in their possession. Ask other relatives who are visiting for the holidays to bring their albums of old family photos with them as well. Have them identify and label the people in the photos where possible. Discuss the photos during your visit to see if anyone can identify the unknowns.

Photographs may also be centered on events. Perhaps you will be able to establish that a certain photo was taken at an anniversary party or wedding. Any details your family can provide about the photos may offer clues useful in your research. Professional photographers usually include the city when they mark their pictures. This can show you the probable area where the people in the photo lived.
Having a group of family members discussing and sharing old photos may also help to jog the memory of elderly relatives about past events and people. Most family historians have attempted to interview the oldest members of the family about their early history and very often the answers are "I don't remember" or "nothing important happened." However, when prompted with photos or possessions, memories often come flooding back and the stories begin to flow.

Make a list of family heirlooms in your possession before you head off to your family gatherings and ask others in your family to do the same. Family heirlooms often provide clues to an ancestor's interests, religion, military service, or occupation. For example, I inherited a molded iron doorstop from my father. He told me his grandfather made it but never specified which of his two grandfathers. Also passed down to me from my father was a highboy he said was made by his grandfather--but again, which one? I would have loved to share these items with relatives to see if they knew more about the stories behind these items but since I don’t have any older relatives alive I turned to searching records.  A check of both grandfathers in census records on Ancestry.com proved that my father's maternal grandfather, James H. SMITH, was an "iron moulder" and Henry MYERS, his paternal grandfather, was listed as a carpenter by trade. Thus, I was able to deduce which grandfather had crafted each heirloom.

After the holidays, review what you have learned, update your trees and records and make sure to import or scan your new photos.  Using your newfound information do a new search of records and of RootsWeb mailing lists and message boards. New searches can yield connections to data others have already posted that you had missed until grandma remembered her mother's maiden name when confronted with a photo she'd long forgotten or a possession passed down to her from her mother. 

Consider sharing what you have learned and gathered (newspaper clippings, photos, family Bible records) with others via the lists and boards. Photos may be uploaded to the boards and links to the photos posted on a relevant list.  

The holidays are a time for renewing acquaintances and giving and receiving gifts. What better gift can we, as our family historians, offer extended family than sharing family data and photos?

In a previous article the subject of what to do with the information gleaned from family stories, myths, and lore was discussed, you can reference it here.
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Genealogy Tip

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

Location, Location, Location

Records are often found in unexpected places – so when you can't find a particular proof, look to the location. Generally, U.S. vital records are maintained at the county level, so determine all names associated with a location, starting from the current time period.

If you don't know a town's county, RootsWeb's Town Search can assist.

Then work backwards, as over time, boundaries change. What started as a territory, ended up as a state with many counties formed out of larger ones.  Jurisdiction of records was often clouded, so each location is a potential target for research.

A chart, such as this one, may be useful.

If you can't find the records, examine maps for surrounding areas -- particularly cities where rural residents went for commerce or to hire lawyers.  And geographical limitations, such as mountains and swamps, determine accessibility, so don't be surprised if you find records in the next town, county or even state. This is particularly true of river communities, such as those along the Mississippi.

So where does one locate this information?

  • County Courthouses and Websites
  • Genealogical Societies
  • Historical newspapers
  • RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees
  • State Archives and libraries
  • Thorndale, William, and Dollarhide, William. Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1987. (This makes an excellent gift for genealogists!)
  • USGenWeb.org


If your research extends beyond U.S. borders, see Wikipedia's article, List of sovereign states by date of formation.

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Message Board Cousins

I had a friend who was "into genealogy" and was showing me his research one day many years ago.  He showed me how to use the online resources, and I made a post about my dad's family stories.  Someone reading the post (one of my dad's second cousins) told me the names were familiar but the story was wrong.  From that, I ended up with quite of bit of my HUSKINS lines.  Not only that, he sent me photos of my father's grandfather as well as great grandparents! Fast forward many years.  My tree is so big I can't even tape it to the wall when I print it out thanks to wonderful people sharing information online through RootsWeb.  I've found online cousins who've helped me with researching some lines (or even do census lookups for other lines for me!). However, I'm missing several key lines very dear to me.  I again go searching online message boards, but since it has been years since I've done this, even more people have posted.  I find some names that may work with my lines and write them.  Not only do I find several nice gentlemen who help me with some of those lines, they also send me photos of long lost ancestors and relatives!  I love my online cousins!

Thanks to Trina Huskins
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Bottomless Mailbag: Readers Write In
Could They Have Been In Two Places?

I was searching the 1880 Census for one of my Carter ancestors and came across one that was listed twice.  Solon Augustus Carter & his wife Emily plus two daughter ages 16 & 14 were listed at his residence in Keene, NH as well as the state capitol in Concord, NH.  Since he was the State Treasurer at the time, I can guess what must have happened.  I suspect elected officials didn't spend the entire year at the capitol as they do now.  There was a servant listed at the Concord location.

Thanks to Leslie Gallaugher in Walnut Creek, Washington

Useful Naming Trends

Having a surname as an additional given name is quite common practice in the UK. Usually the name is the maiden name of the mother or sometimes the grandmother. I have examples of both on my tree. The name can become something of a tradition and be passed down through several generations. In one of my cases the first born son and daughter were both given such a name by their father who also carried it. It can be a very useful guide for clarifying spousal maiden names where alternatives exist.

Another UK tradition, certainly in the 19th century, was for the first born son to be given the paternal grandfather's given name and the first born daughter the maternal grandmother's given name. I have an example of this which passed through 7 generations. This is also a useful pointer.

Thanks to Walter Jakeman
Beware of Incorrect Locations

One of my gripes is when compilers include incorrect or incomplete place names.  The names of many towns and villages have been repeated all over the world by migrating people. The citing of a town or village without including the county and country has led to confusion and/or laziness by many tree compilers.  I was born in the UK, and have now lived in Australia for 50 years.  I have verified to my satisfaction that none of the 1000's of individuals in my personal tree (not online) have ever been to the USA, but many tree compilers seem to think that they have, because they have carelessly copied data, without analyzing and verifying the facts.

Another gripe is about transcription errors. Most of these seem to be perpetrated by individuals that do not double-check, and cross-reference the place names against the actual location.   On a census collection taken in Portsmouth, Hampshire, UK, one relative of mine is recorded, on the same page, as residing in Pruth, Hampshire. 

Family trees that are published online can be a great, and sometimes useful, source of information.              

Thanks to Edward Brand

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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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


Request a Free Web Site Account.

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

DAR = Daughters of the American Revolution


  • alschs — St. Clair (AL) Historical Society
  • arfulttp — Fulton County (AR) Trails to the Past
  • ausgbc — Gippsland and Bass (Victoria, Australia) Cemeteries
  • aznavatp — Navajo County (AZ) Trails to the Past
  • azocdar — Ocotillo Chapter (AZ) DAR
  • cojeffgt — Jefferson County (CO) Gravestone Transcriptions
  • flnscdac — Nathaniel Shannon Chapter (FL) Daughters of American Colonists
  • gafors3 — Forsyth County (GA) Historical Information
  • iaoscetp — Osceola County (Iowa) Trails to the Past
  • inwashtp — Washington County (IN) Trails to the Past
  • momcghs — Mercer County (MO) Genealogical & Historical Society
  • ohjhcsar — John Hancock Chapter (OH) Sons of the American Revolution
  • tnc13udc — Clark Chapter #13 (TN) United Daughters of the Confederacy
  • txjccd17 — John Champion Chapter (TX) Colonial Dames 17th Century
  • txjjmcem — Joseph J Manor Cemetery Association (Travis Co, TX)
  • vafmsdar — Fort Maiden Spring Chapter (VA) DAR
  • vamggdar — Major George Gibson Chapter (VA) DAR
  • waclartp — Clark County (WA) Trails to the Past



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, the Fulton County (AR) Trails to the Past web site is at

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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:

U.S. Department of the Interior Decisions on Pensions and Bounty-Land Claims, 1886-1930,

Kent, England, Tyler Index to Wills, 1490-1800,

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

This photo of a rugged lumberjack, was shared by a cousin and really piqued our interest.  We loved the hobnailed boots, his hat, his great beard, and the old stove but were stumped as to his identity.  When we spotted the bandage-wrapped hand we immediately surmised that his name was Albert Charles Meyer (1862 - 1893), my grandmother's uncle.   When I was a child, my grandmother, Eleanor Kaempt Beversdorf, told me that Uncle Albert died of an injury he received after punching his hand into a cast iron stove.  He had bet a man that he could dent the side of the stove; unfortunately, the stove won.  He battled the injury for several years, but succumbed from gangrene.  He must have been a rugged person to continue to work for years with that injury.

According to the Shawano County Advocate dated July 13, 1893, “Albert Meyer, a young man of the town of Washington, died last Friday from an injury received on his right hand two years ago.  Two operations were performed on him with some hope of saving his life, but it proved in vain.

Thanks to Thomas Strauss

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
Names That Make You Look Twice

My great grandmother was born a LOVE.  One of her cousins was named True Love, a male child who lived till he was three.

She also had twin cousins christened Louisiana and Indiana Ludlow.

My husband’s family includes a Nerrel Javan Whiteside, Gova Linville Whiteside, Alphania Sherley, Absalom Sherley, Avington Felps, Jeptha Leet.  The spelling variations are sometimes just as interesting.

Thanks to Barbara Whiteside
Sing-song Siblings

My mother, who was born in 1883, used to recite the names of the Mobley siblings in singsong fashion, so I never saw them spelled out: Agnee [Agnes] and Veevee [written VV, she said] Spino and Petri, Eighty-one [written 81, the year he was born], Hughdick and Simp [Simpson].  She knew them in the Nevada, Missouri area, probably ca 1890-1900.

Thanks to Isabel T. Coburn
A Tombstone Epitaph

Before my friend passed away she bought her tombstone and had it engraved with her maiden name and two married names and her epitaph.  It states:

"Here lies Virginia Alice
Day, Tracy, Matay -
Loved Life. Wanted to Stay.
God Called. She Went His Way.

Thanks to Flossie Hulsizer
A Real Clone

My step-mother had a friend named Clone Quackenbush.

Thanks to Carol Elrod in Bokeelia, Florida

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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