Category Archives: Genealogy Research Brick Walls

Solving Photo Mysteries

Vicki’s Note – Maureen has given us some efficient steps on how to effectively search for solutions to our unknown ancestors in mystery photographs.  We can find the answer to the “I know they are my ancestors, but I don’t know who they are” quandary.

I have found her books and her BLOG invaluable to find photograph identification answers.  Maureen is one of my genealogy heroes.

 Solving Photo Mysteries

 Maureen A Taylor – photodetective.

Sunday, August 06, 2017


There’s a Good Chance This Photo Mystery Is Solved!
Posted by Maureen

Last week’s Photo Detective post about this family introduced four steps to tackle a mystery photo:

1.    Establish a time frame.

2.    Focus on place.

3.    Search for records.

4.    Watch for matches.

Barbara Rivers’ photo depicts a set of parents and their five children.  Based on the clothing clues, I dated the image to circa 1897.

As I suggested, Barbara went back through her genealogical material and add a bit more detail to her original query:

  • Barbara thinks the family lived in Blackhawk, Grundy County, Iowa.  A more specific location will hopefully make finding a match easier.
  • The last name of Findlay, which may belong to this family, has variant spellings including Findley or Finley. Spelling differences aren’t uncommon. Our ancestors used different versions of their own names, and census enumerators didn’t ask for the correct spelling.

Since the surname is variable, Barbara should do a broad search of censuses. Most genealogy websites automatically look for variant spellings as long as you don’t filter results to exact spellings.

I estimate the ages of the children in this photo between 20 and early 30s.  In the 1880 census, they’d all be living in their parents’ household. By 1900, several of the children may have moved away.

Barbara found a Joseph F. Findlay in the 1880 census and a Joseph T. Findlay in the 1900 census, whom she believes to be the same man. Both were born in Pennsylvania, and married in Illinois to a woman with the same name.

Finding a Match

I found Joseph F. and Joseph T. Findley in FamilySearch censuses. In 1880, Joseph F. had children Alpheus (20), Thomas (17), Fatima (12), Abbie (10) and Emery (6).

Adding 17 years to their ages for an estimated 1897 photo date gives us Alpheus (37), Thomas (34), Fatima (27), Abbie (27) and Emery (23). This identification seems to fit the mysterious photo.

Next, I’d encourage Barbara to do “reverse genealogy,” and research forward in time to find descendants of all these children. She then could reach out to find out photographs of them and verify that the faces match.

Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

·  Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries

·  Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900

·  Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

·  Hairstyles 1840-1900

·  Photo-Organizing Practices

·  Preserving Your Family Photographs

·  Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now



MCGS McHenry County Genealogical Conference 2017

MCGS McHenry County Genealogical Conference 2017

Vicki Ruthe Hahn, SGS Stateline Genealogy Sorter

July 10, 2017

An email I received after attending this one-day Conference last Saturday, July 8.

Dear Vicki,

Thank you for spending the day with us at McHenry County College!  We hope the conference was helpful to your research and that you had a great time connecting with other genealogists.

Hope to see you next year!


And my answer is – YES!  This is the third time that I went to this Conference.  It is only about an hour away from Beloit, and well worth your time.  They have fabulous, knowledgeable speakers, and the cost is $70, including lunch.

The McHenry County Illinois Genealogical Society’s 2017 Summer Conference was held on Saturday, July 8, 2017 at McHenry County College, 8900 Rt. 14, Crystal Lake, Illinois.

This year’s annual conference featured:

  • Mary M. Tedesco, host/genealogist on the PBS TV series Genealogy Roadshow, (seasons 2 &3).    Contact her through the ORIGINS ITALY website at                                                                                                        She gave lots of techniques for good, basic genealogy, and how to find the names and locations of origin for your ancestors from overseas.  I attended a second session that Mary gave on how to find your Italian ancestors.   Mary is every bit as knowledgeable and friendly as she appears on television.  I enjoyed getting to know her a bit.

Vicki Hahn and Mary Tedesco:2017, July 8 Mary Tedesco & Vicki Hahn WSCG Conference, McHenry County College, IL

  • Thomas MacEntee, creator of                                                      I got to talk with Thomas, but had too many other sessions that I needed to hear.   I was not able to go to one given by him this year like I have other years.


  • Paul Milner, author, & specialist in British Isles & U.S. research.                                      He gave a session on how to find your Irish ancestors.


  • Michael Lacopo DVM, nationally known lecturer – adoption, emigration & immigration, and many ethnic groups.                                                                            He gave a session on how to find your German ancestors.


  • A variety of vendors with publications and genealogy supplies.


Each of the speakers gave us a one week course in one hour!   Soon, I will be condensing all of that information, (plus more that I have learned elsewhere), into one session on “Finding your Overseas Ancestors”.  Be looking for a program on “jumping the pond” in our Stateline Genealogy Club programs next year.

These topics came at a perfect time, as I am about ready to search outside of the United States.  I have learned from these experts that it is not an easy task, but they prepared me well (enough) to begin the search.

Several of them would lend professional assistance to you if you decide to hire an expert, or if you need a knowledgeable guide to help you in Europe.

Join me next year.


Saturday, July 7, 2018 SAVE THE DATE!

McHenry County Illinois Genealogical Society P.O. Box 184, Crystal Lake, Illinois 60014 Phone:815/687-0436

Rural Cemetery Studies

Rural Cemetery Studies


Vicki’s note – a quote I read from another on-line source that I found. I am including the entire addendum from the on-line book.  However, I could not find out who did the 2012 revision of this priceless 1970s publication.  My hat’s off to any and all (Find-a-grave, Boy Scout, etc.) volunteer photographers,  restorers, and researchers who find and preserve genealogical information for the rest of us.

I also love his quote about those ancestors, “…who dared to settle the prairie lands of western Illinois and raise their families.”

Read this just to know how lucky we are to have the Internet and computers to aid us in our research.

Hint – google on-line.  You may just find the very exact resource you need for the tiny area that you are researching.:




” a monument is erected not because a person died, but because a person lived”

Mr. Lester’s Magnum Opus is nothing short of monumental. It is not easy to gain access to many of these historic family burial sites. By the time of Mr. Lester’s survey (1970’s) numerous plots were long left abandoned, overgrown with trees and weeds and monuments under attack by weather, livestock, vandals, and property owners who did not care about the burial sites of McDonough County’s brave pioneers.
Thankfully, we now (2012) have laws to protect our county’s historical legacy and these final resting gardens.
I am in awe of Mr. Lester for his transcriptions of hard – to – read tombstones and his laborious typing of his 18 Volumes of the Rural Cemeteries of McDonough County. He did not have access to a computer. In addition to transcribing information from tombstones, he had to painstakingly access county records (e.g. 1840 county tax list), federal census records, and local newspapers requiring a great deal of time and effort.
As a genealogist in 2012, I have access to the internet with fast access to US Census
records, Family Search (records kept by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter – Day Saints) and numerous other legal documents, books, and family journals.
Mr. Lester used an old-fashioned key – strike, ribbon tape typewriter where mistakes
were hard to correct and appear as overstrikes. There are very few attesting to his skill as a typist.
What an US Census record will not contain are the names and dates of infants who died between census surveys. Mr. Lester’s tombstone records give names and dates of children, whose lives were brief, but would otherwise be lost to history without his efforts. Frequently, he provides names of brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers that allows for completion of family group sheets.
Another work of love for those who dared to settle the prairie lands of western Illinois and raise their families is being performed by Dr. A. Gil Belles. He has been able to install signs for each of these rural cemeteries and provide GPS (Global Positioning System) information making it easier for anyone wishing to visit a rural cemetery to help them actually find it.
Gil also works closely with Boy Scouts and other civic groups to help cleanup, clear brush and dead trees, locate buried tombstones, and restore stones. My revision of Mr. Lester’s document will provide information on all cemetery restoration projects.
Any changes made to Mr. Lester’s original work was done in blue color font. His maps were scanned and copied into the text and remain like his original work and are not subject to editing.
His text was transcribed using MS Word, enabling me to control font size and color. Retyping text also leaves room for typo errors. Mr. Lester’s rare typo errors are corrected but not displayed in blue. This MS Word document allows on -the – fly editing of any “Notes, Corrections, Additions, and Changes” found at the end of every cemetery. This was Mr. Lester’s intent to produce a working document and improve accuracy about the information on those buried.
I have retyped state abbreviations as they are now used (e.g. IL, instead of Ill.). On 1840 county tax lists I omitted cents (e.g. $140, instead of $140.00). The current MS Word font uses less space, thus, placing more text per line. This shrinks his documents and reduces pages. This , then, changes page numbering in each Table of Contents.
Cemetery locations are also found on the internet. See: McDonough County Illinois Cemeteries

Other Travelers Part 9 – The Underground Railroad and Me; My Ancestor Thomas Campbell was an Abolitionist!

Other Travelers Part 9 –

The Underground Railroad and Me;

My Ancestor Thomas Campbell was an Abolitionist!

(Part of an On-going Series – “Other Travelers”)

by Vicki Ruthe Hahn – SGS Stateline Genealogy Sorter

June 29, 2017

Thomas Campbell


My paternal Grandmother Muriel Ruthe’s maternal Great Great Grandfather Thomas Campbell (1786 Pennsylvania – 1858 Morgan County, Ohio) was an abolitionist, i.e. “one who before the Civil War had agitated for the immediate, unconditional, and total abolition of slavery in the United States.”  The July  1787 “Ordinance of Freedom” for the Ohio Territory, Article 6 stated that there would be no slavery, but that slavery owners could claim their runaway slaves in Ohio.

From about 1820, Morgan County was part of the Underground Railroad.  In 1842, 16 slaves were escaping from Wood County, Virginia.  They stopped at a Station near James Coles on the river near McConnelsville.  They also hid in Jehu Coulson’s tobacco house, Issac Clendenin’s house, Joshua Wood’s house and, Esquire Lint’s office.  Their owners, Mr. Henderson, and O’Neil Summer of Virginia, offered a $3,000 reward for their capture.  They requested a search warrant.

Several men from the area stalled the owners by talking, and about 30 rode horses in opposite directions to confuse the pursuers, while the slaves escaped.  The owners, and their men, posted guards west of Deacon Wright’s, and at Campbell’s Mill to keep watch at the junction of two main roads. (Thomas Campbell and Henry Moore had an early mill on Island Run.)

The slaves were led on a branch route a short distance down from Island Run, then up to the head of Brush Creek, and then to thick brushwood near the mouth of the Moxahala River.  There they were met by an Underground Railroad Train Conductor from Putnam, and got away.

From 1842 – 1861 Morgan County assisted 285 “Negros” to gain freedom!   (I think Thomas Campbell, even though old and slower then at age 56, either rode with the other men to confuse the pursuers; convinced the owners to set a guard near his Mill because he knew a shortcut behind it for the slaves; or maybe led the slaves partway on the shortcut to continue to their freedom.   I am very proud of him.)  Who knew Ohio was such a hotbed of abolitionists?

This information is from Morgan County, Portraits and Biographical Sketches of Some of  It’s Pioneers and Prominent Men”, by Charles Robertson, M.D., revised and extended by the publishers, Chicago, L. H. Watkins and Co, 1886.  It took reading most of the book to glean the 2 historical references to my ancestor Thomas Campbell.  He was not prominent enough to pay for a separate biography.   I found the book at the Wisconsin Historical Society Library in Madison, WI.  It is time for another trip to Ohio and Pennsylvania, etc. via (WHS) Wisconsin next year.

Hint – read about the history of your ancestor’s places, and you may find them!  And photocopy, photograph, scan, or take neater handwritten notes than I did.  There may be some mistakes here, as I had very little time before the library closed, and about 400 pages to skim through.  I was so happy to find it, and love Historic County Histories.  Look here for the WHS catalog to see what else they have.


Upload DNA Results to MyHeritage for FREE!

Vicki’s note – 5/31/2017 email from Thomas MacEntee:


Upload Your DNA Data to MyHeritage for FREE!

Did you know that many DNA test companies CHARGE YOU to upload DNA data from another company?

Not MyHeritage! You can click HERE and get started today . . . and you’ll be able to take advantage of the new improvements in the Ethnicity Estimate algorithm at MyHeritage.

I just rechecked my own AncestryDNA data that I uploaded to MyHeritage and WOW! I received more information and it actually resolved some issues I had with the Ancestry results.  I’m finding that the MyHeritage results align more with the research that I’ve been doing!

“MyHeritage, as part of its Founder Populations project, now offers the most ethnic populations than any other major DNA testing company. This project worked with over 5,000 participants from its user base of 90 million, based on their extensive family trees located at MyHeritage. These participants received complimentary DNA test kits to gather data to be used in this database.  “Thanks to this analysis, MyHeritage DNA has become the only mass-market percentage-based DNA test that reveals ethnicities such as Balkan; Baltic; Eskimo & Inuit; Japanese; Kenyan; Sierra Leonean; Somali; four major Jewish groups – Ethiopian, Yemenite, Sephardic from North Africa and Mizrahi from Iran and Iraq; Indigenous Amazonian; Papuan and many others.”

PLEASE NOTE: The post content above contains affiliate links. This means I make a percentage of sales via these links. This does not INCREASE the price you pay as a consumer. It simply supplements my income so I can continue providing as much free genealogy content as possible through my “abundance model.”

Disclaimer: All prices and offers are subject to change. Some items may be sold out and have limited inventory. Also check to see if you have automated purchase settings enabled, such as Amazon Buy with 1-Click: it is your responsibility to make sure you are getting the correct price for an item before you check out and finalize the transaction.

Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statement.

©2017, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved

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DNA Testing – Hummmmm

Vicki’s Note – this is a post b

The following post gives me pause, but it sounds like the “contract” has been “corrected”.  When I got my DNA tested at, I did see the option to share my results (statistically only) with scientific research.  I decided not to do that at this time.  Giving too much power?

Anyway, us genealogists are suckers for anything that make our searches easier.  DNA testing has been worth it for many people to help break down walls. 

I have a wonderful new relationship with a third cousin mutually discovered by DNA test results.  He is from the original “home” state Pennsylvania, and has been invaluable to help to me and my sisters sleuth out family history clues on-site.  We have traded old family photos as well.

I still think DNA testing is worth it, and is the powerhouse tester.  Four million tests generates a lot of good results.


25 May 2017 denies exploiting users’ DNA

25 May 2017

A leading genealogy service,, has denied exploiting users’ DNA following criticism of its terms and conditions.

The US company’s DNA testing service has included a right to grant Ancestry a “perpetual” licence to use customers’ genetic material.

A New York data protection lawyer spotted the clause and published a blog warning about privacy implications.

Ancestry told BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours its terms were being changed.

Headquartered in Utah, Ancestry is among the world’s largest for-profit genealogy firms, with a DNA testing service available in more than 30 countries.


The company, which uses customers’ saliva samples to predict their genetic ethnicity and find new family connections, claims to have more than 4 million DNA profiles in its database.

Ancestry also stores the profiles forever, unless users ask for them to be destroyed.


The company’s terms and conditions have stated that users grant the company a “perpetual, royalty-free, worldwide, sublicensable, transferable license” to their DNA data, for purposes including “personalised products and services”.

In a statement to You and Yours, an Ancestry spokesperson said the company “never takes ownership of a customer’s data” and would “remove the perpetuity clause”.

It added: “We will honour our commitment to delete user data or destroy their DNA sample if they request it. The user is in control.”


Joel Winston, a consumer rights lawyer and former New Jersey State deputy attorney-general, was one of the first to spot the legal wording and to warn of the possible implications.

“ takes ownership of your DNA forever; your ownership of your DNA, on the other hand, is limited in years,” he said.

He added: “How many people really read those contracts before clicking to agree? How many relatives of customers are also reading?”


Mr Winston also warns that many consumers are unaware of the additional uses of the data.

In its terms and conditions Ancestry makes reference to “commercial products that may be developed by AncestryDNA using your genetic information”.

One customer, Richard Peace, used AncestryDNA to learn more about his family history.

‘Not happy’

He told You and Yours he “knew nothing” about the commercial use when he signed up for the test.

“I’m not happy about it and today I will be emailing them to ask them not to use the information,” he said.

Ancestry told the BBC: “We do not share user data for research unless the user has voluntarily opted-in to that sharing.”

The company added: “We always de-identify data before it’s shared with researchers, meaning the data is stripped of any information that could tie it back to its owner.”

The ambitious scale of Ancestry’s plans does have support among some academics.

Debbie Kennett, a genetics researcher at University College London, welcomed the aim of building a large, global DNA database.

“For genealogy purposes we really want, and rely on, the power of these large data sets,” she told You and Yours. “A DNA test on its own doesn’t tell you anything at all.”

You and Yours is on BBC Radio 4 weekdays 12:15-13:00 GMT. Listen online or download the programme podcast.


Skeletons in Your Family Closet and How to “Report” Them, (or Not)

Skeletons in Your Family Closet

and How to “Report” Them,

(or Not)

Vicki’s Note – This is a March 19, 2017 article from BLOG by W. Scott Fisher:


Scandal! Dealing With Skeletons In Your Family Tree

This is a guest post by W. Scott Fisher, the creator and host of Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show, heard on dozens of radio stations in the US and as a podcast. A broadcaster by career, Scott has been a devoted genealogist since 1981. He was featured in People in 2015 for using his skills to locate the family of a murder victim, who had been missing for 32 years.


I still remember my verbal response to the very first family scandal I ran across in my research. “WHAAAAT?!!!” The 1893 newspaper article was lit up inside a banged-up old microfilm reader and began answering a long list of questions I had had for years concerning my great grandfather, Andrew J. Fisher, and his wife, Jane.

Where was their New York City marriage record? Who was this “Sarah Fisher” that appeared cryptically in the court file concerning a challenge to his will? Why did that record note “the said Andrew J. Fisher left no widow him surviving”? Of course, he did! It was Jane. She was right there in the will, and lived another six years!

One salacious headline told me all my genealogical conundrums were about to be resolved: “ANDREW FISHER’S RIVAL WIDOWS / One was Recognized by His Will, Which the Other Now Seeks to Break.”

It turned out that “Sarah Fisher” was Andrew’s other, other woman. Three decades younger than he, she had a child by him when he was 58. She claimed common law rights because, said she, Jane, though named in the will, couldn’t be a common-law wife because she was still married to someone else. Hence… no marriage record.

The truth is, if you haven’t found a scandal in your family yet, you haven’t been researching long enough. Just as we all descend from kings and paupers, we also all descend from saints and sinners.

As a writer of over a dozen books for my family, specifically on the ancestral families of both my wife and me, the 1893 story presented a challenge. How do I present this rather… ahem… interesting tale? And, yes, Andrew Fisher has been dead for well over a century, but what of his reputation?

After a lot of thought, I recognized that Andrew’s story was shared among countless people who knew him, and didn’t, during his lifetime. It was a widely spread story in its day. Needless to say, none of those people were still around, including children, to risk causing personal embarrassment to anyone.

I determined that I would have to include this chapter of his life story without embellishment, simply sticking to the facts. Further, I recognized there were many good things he did in his life… he was a volunteer fireman, for instance, who no doubt saved many lives. A comment from my friend, Janet Hovorka, stuck in my mind: “Every scoundrel has some hero in them. Every hero has some scoundrel in them.”

Further, through this final chapter of Andrew’s life, I was able to illustrate that the way people react to damaging family experiences can affect generations. Andrew’s oldest son, John, followed in his father’s footsteps. He drank heavily, was kicked out of the family by his wife, and led a life of despair. His brother, my grandfather, made a conscious effort not to repeat the past. He married and stayed devoted to his teenage sweetheart who died at 49 of tuberculosis. He never married again. He raised his own two sons as his number one priority. Both, including my father, became very successful.

A study at Emory University from the 1990s shows how building a strong family narrative among children, including how ancestors overcame adversity, developed in them greater emotional maturity and inner strength. Indeed, it was beneficial for them to know about the foibles of their ancestors as well as their moments of greatness.

Dealing with more recent family situations can, of course, be more difficult. Here’s a somewhat minor issue. In transcribing a stack of letters written by my grandmother more than a half-century ago, I made the decision to eliminate an unkind comment she made about a cousin of mine who was, at the time, just a pre-schooler. Grandmother is revered in our family, and I’m certain she would never have imagined her thoughtless scribble could have survived for decades and possibly come back to the ears or eyes of this (now) very successful business and family man.

My personal rule is, the feelings of the living, even if the individual in question is dead, must be taken into account. A record that causes pain or embarrassment is contrary to the purpose of family history research and the strengthening of future generations.

When I wrote the first volume of my father’s story, I talked about his first marriage and the challenges it created for the family when he and his wife divorced. I noted something he once told me. “I walked out of the courtroom with eight dollars in my pocket.” I never imagined his first wife, then in her 90s, would ever read it, yet alone take offense. She did. I removed that quote from the next revision.

Yes, it’s true. As the family historian, you get to tell the story the way you see it. (I warned my mother before she died!) But with the privilege of that opportunity also comes responsibility. Privacy is due to the living as well as living people who were close to those who may now be dead. The law may grant protections and maybe even penalties to living family members over what you make public about them. In the end, if you err on the side of sensitivity and ask permission where needed, you’ll avoid painful family trouble. Even as a historian, there are times where we don’t have to share everything we know… or believe we are aware.

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK)

Vicki’s note: An organization that you may be interested in using for free. Or you may want to be a genealogy volunteer.  RAOGK volunteers charge for their costs, but not their time:
Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK)
Random Acts
 Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness
RAOGK is a global volunteer organization.  Our volunteers take time to do everything from looking up courthouse records to taking pictures of tombstones. All they ask in return is reimbursement for their expenses (never their time) and a thank you.

Our volunteers have agreed to do a free genealogy research task at least once per month in their local area as an act of kindness. While the volunteers of Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) have agreed to donate their time for free, you MUST PAY the volunteer for his/her expenses in fulfilling your request (copies, printing fees, postage, film or video tape, parking fees, etc.) if they ask for it.

At one time there were thousands of volunteers in every U.S. state and many international locations, and helped thousands of researchers. Be sure to read our RAOGK Guidelines and FAQ’s for before making a request and or becoming a Volunteer

It’s all about Volunteering

Looking for a RAOGK volunteer?

Is this your first visit to Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness? We want your visit to be a successful one. Our staff has put together a list of Guidlines for making requests for you to view and read before making any requests.

Want to Volunteer?

Ideally, you should reside in the area for which you volunteer. The purpose of this site is to help others obtain copies of documents, pictures of tombstones, etc., that can not be obtained easily by those who do not live in the area of their ancestors.

Donating Local History Documents and Photographs

Donating Local History Documents and Photographs

by Vicki Ruthe Hahn

SGS Stateline Genealogy Sorter

April 3, 2017

This is part of a  reply to a generous person who wanted to share an important hand-written local history document so that others could access it.  This is an important reminder to all of us to share information about our family’s histories that may help others from the local communities where they lived.

The Beloit Public Library has a special bookcase for books, booklets, or papers,  on people and families connected with Beloit, and two lateral pamphlet file cabinets for local (stateline) history.


Thanks so much for taking the initiative to let me know about the unique hand-written resource that you have on Roscoe history.

The very best place to donate that document would be the Roscoe North Suburban Public Library branch, as the Library is open more hours than even the local history societies.

(Donate copies of your family photographs too.  Each Library and historic society will have their own requirements and restrictions on what donations they will accept.  Please ask them first.)

There does not seem to be a historical society for Roscoe, IL (although there is one for Rockton Township.

The 2 North Suburban Libraries act as Roscoe’s historical society.

They have a local history collection (as does the Loves Park main library). I lived in the second oldest house (1839) in Roscoe for 12 years. When I sold that house, I donated a (mostly) hand-written mortgage deed to the Roscoe branch library (Reference desk).

You can read about that house, and more about Roscoe and Macktown IL, and Beloit WI history on this post from my BLOG:

Stateline Travelers – Part 3 – This Old House and Me

If you ask them to send you a written acknowledgement, you can use it if you itemize tax deductions. I have no clue what the value would be.  Ebay/Craigslist would give you ideas.

That Library also has a full copy of this book which I just found online (the index). There are Benders listed, but no Moshers.

The Story of Roscoe, Illinois

All history is not on computer or electronic media, especially local history. (Which is a common mis-conception.)  About 80% of genealogy/history resources are online at this time.  More are being added everyday, but many are in paid sites.

Even that 20%, facebook, and email,  has made genealogy searching so much easier than it used to be.  Not too long ago, people had to go from courthouse to library to historical society in person, or write letters, to find their family history.

I am sure that the growing numbers of (baby-boomer) retirees plus ease of searching has led to the recent growth in popularity of genealogy as a hobby.

I am continuously building up our Beloit local history collection, and some state-line history, but we have limited room.

Thanks again, for the generous offer, and information.

Now I will know that your document will be in a place that I (and others) can access easily.

Overcoming Genealogy Brick Walls – 30 Hints

Vicki’s Note – article from Family Tree Magazine.  I have used several of these hints, and learned some new ones.   What hints do you have to share with the rest of us?:


Overcoming Genealogy Brick Walls – 30 Hints

Big Breakthroughs: 30 Ways to Overcome Genealogy Brick Walls
Find out how 30 family historians hurdled their research brick walls and achieved genealogical success.
Ever wonder how you got stuck with such a difficult family tree to climb? Your ancestry research is constantly running into roadblocks and brick walls. Meanwhile, it seems other genealogists are tracing their roots back to the Middle Ages!

Don’t worry: All family historians get genealogy research block sooner or later. And you don’t have to be biologically blessed to break through it. Take a hint from these 30 Family Tree Magazine readers. They came up with creative solutions to some of the most common genealogical conundrums—and their methods are remarkably easy to employ. Give your research a boost by adopting these habits of highly successful family historians.

1. Don’t miss the mark.

I had no record of my grandfather’s birthplace in Poland. One day I was cleaning out my mother’s dresser drawer and going through her stamp collection, when I came across an envelope with a canceled stamp from Poland. It was from a relative of my grandfather, with whom he’d corresponded in the early 1900s. The town in Poland, Brzozow, was clearly printed on the postmark—much easier for me to decipher than Polish script. Deb Vevea, Robbinsdale, Minn.

2. Map it out.

The US Geological Survey’s highly detailed topographical maps cover small areas and label creeks, family cemeteries, tiny rural churches and more. They’re available in many libraries, or you can view and order them online. Many libraries also have a comprehensive index to the names on these maps, the Omni Gazetteer of the United States of America. In it, I found a list of 41 Jordan cemeteries across the country. Rene Jordan, Knoxville, Tenn.

3. Get on target.

Copy and enlarge a map with your town of interest in the center. Using the distance scale, draw concentric circles at regular intervals, such as 10 miles, from that town—you’ll end up with what looks like a target. Then make an alphabetized list of town names appearing within each pair of rings.

When you’re working with records, you can refer to your list and determine if a strange-sounding location might be in proximity to your area of interest. For example, it was only after doing this exercise for Tolpuddle, Dorset, England, that I realized Dewlish (about which I’d received e-mails) was actually just down the road. Jacki Keck, Williston, ND

4. Reach out to other researchers.

I believe in leaving my name, surnames I’m researching and contact information (e-mail address, mailing address and phone number) every place I can think of. I left my genealogy card on a laundry bulletin board in the small town where my great-grandmother lived, and got four phone calls with information about her. Jana Jordan Shaw, Burleson, Texas

5. Start a letter-writing campaign.

I was getting nowhere on my search for my mother’s father’s family. I found Mom’s old address book and started searching for family members. I put together an introductory newsletter with contact information, an explanation of what I was doing and a request for help. I was amazed at the replies—e-mails, letters, photos, family information and names of more relatives to send the newsletter to. Now I do a newsletter about four times a year, and still get new information and meet new relatives. It’s been a wonderful experience that’s helped fill in a lot of my blanks. Liz Weiers, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada

6. Publish your pedigree.

I’ve been researching my husband’s Welsh lines, and have been successful using the Internet, the National Library of Wales and a local Welsh archive. On trips, we’ve found ancestral homes, churches and gravestones. But I definitely hit a brick wall on a couple of lines.

A distant cousin in England signed us up for a genealogical journal that focuses on my husband’s family’s region of Wales. In the first issue, I found helpful hints but nothing too substantial, so I decided to write an article about our family. Within three weeks of its publication, I received letters from readers related to us. Not only did they provide me with ideas for new resources, they also sent pedigree charts and stories about my husband’s ancestors. Michelle Price, Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.

7. Hit the big town.

Go to the city! For example, if your family was in the Midwest during the 1800s and you can’t find them, look in Chicago. Many of our ancestors were drawn to cities. They may have gone to search for work, be near relatives or the train station, or simply to sightsee.

I searched for years for my husband’s great-grandmother Margaret Culton. She was supposed to have been born in Michigan in 1860, but I could find no records for any Cultons there. I looked in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois, too. A year or two ago, I went back to the 1880 Illinois census—now with its every-name index—and there she was, living with her father and mother. They had been visiting her sister’s family in Chicago—from their home in California. Cities are magnets for people, then and now. Bonnie B. Ruff, Belfair, Wash.

8. Put first names first.

When name searches on Web sites such as HeritageQuest Online (available through subscribing libraries) and don’t yield results—even though you’ve tried every spelling you can think of—try typing just a first name, plus a place and/or time period. I did this on HeritageQuest Online and found the mistranscribed and misspelled names of two ancestors who had eluded me for a long time. Donna Carnall, Cherryvale, Kan.

9. Read all about it in newsletters.

Look for newsletters of schools, universities, synagogues, churches and communities—you may find birth, marriage, Bat Mitzvah and Bar Mitzvah announcements, obituaries, donor lists, oral histories and photographs. Alumni lists in school newsletters often contain graduation years and maiden names. To find online newsletters with your surnames, use a web search engine such as Google. The advanced search can help narrow your results by location.

If you don’t come up with an online newsletter, get the names of local organizations and publications from your search, and visit a nearby library or archive—it may hold documents from churches, clubs, schools and business associations in the area. Teresa Milner, New York, NY

10. Locate material witnesses.

A witness’s signature can be important to your research. On my great-great-grandmother’s Confederate States of America widow’s pension application, her oldest, as-yet-unidentified daughter appears as a witness. With that name, I launched a web and phone-directory search for the area. I found two different families who knew they were kin but didn’t know how. Then I took the witness’s surname to the library where these families lived and read every genealogical society newsletter on file.

In one newsletter, a researcher from Colorado referred to the married surname of my pension-application witness. I wrote her, and a few months later, she sent Bible pages that listed all my great-great-grandparents’ children, except my great-grandfather—which was OK because I already knew all about him. Shirley Bray, Oklahoma City, Okla.

11. Follow the patterns.

I look for families’ first-name patterns and for first names that are family surnames. Such patterns provide clues to female relatives’ families, as it often was customary to give a male child his mother’s maiden name. I’ve also found that in some cases, a daughter was given the mother’s maiden name. Jeri Taylor, Morehead, Ky.

12. Focus on the effect, not the cause.

Many people spend a lifetime searching for their ancestors’ naturalization records, and they never find them. I thought this would happen to me until I stumbled across a solution. My research subject, Manuel E. Rencurrell, was a longtime resident of Boston. I’d searched every available naturalization index to no avail.

I decided that instead of looking for the cause, naturalization, I’d look for the effect, voting. I requested Manuel’s voter-registration records and received his voter card. This proved that he’d become a citizen—and his date of naturalization and the court where it happened were on the card. P. Emile Carr, Palm Coast, Fla.

13. Seek neighborly advice.

In 20th-century city directories, you’ll often find a cross-street index—an excellent resource for finding living relatives. This index is arranged alphabetically by street, then by the address numbers of houses, apartments and businesses. It also gives the residents’ names. You can use a cross-street index to find names of people living next-door to an ancestor—if they still live there, they still may remember your relatives. David Powell, Grand Prairie, Texas

14. Go slow and steady.

I knew an approximate date of birth (1809) for my ancestor and a rough location (Alsace, France). I ordered birth records on microfilm for one city at a time for all the cities in that area, and searched each one. All on one birth record, I found my ancestor’s information, plus his parents’ and grandparents’. Sally Jaquet Roberts, Clyo, Ga.

15. Take a sound approach to place searches.

Be sure to check out variations of place names, too. My brick wall was finding my great-great-grandfather and his parents. According to his death certificate, he was from Milford, NC. I searched online and studied atlases but couldn’t find a town or county called Milford in North Carolina or surrounding states. Finally, I located a Guilford County. That name rhymes with Milford, and on census images, the handwritten Guilford looked like Milford. Sure enough, I found Great-great-grandpa and his family living there. Sherry Daniels, Garden Grove, Calif.

16. Begin again.

Start over! Would you believe a computer crash got me over my brick wall? Being forced to painstakingly re-enter all my research into a new genealogy program helped me discover unseen facts that had been at my fingertips the whole time. Facts I’d input three or more years ago (when I was too inexperienced to know what I’d found) looked entirely different when viewed with fresh, better-trained eyes. If you’ve spent more than a year barking up the same tree, try starting from scratch. Create a new file in your genealogy program (or update your software or buy a different brand) and see what information jumps out at you. Leah Ellison Bradley, Louisville, Ky.

17. Look around.

My great-great-grandfather died in Georgia while serving as a Confederate soldier during the Civil War. I searched that state’s records for years without finding his wife’s pension documents. Then I happened to search Alabama pension records for the surname Michael. That was when my great-great-grandmother’s name jumped out at me. I discovered that a Civil War pension could be obtained in a state other than the one involving the death. Coy E. Michael, Huntsville, Ala.

18. Go to the right place.

This is so simple that it boggles the mind: When searching for death certificates, remember that you will find them in the city or county where the death actually happened — not necessarily the city or county of residence. I learned this after spending several hours searching in the wrong place. Calvin Lyons, Powell, Tenn.

19. Create a timeline.

I prepare a chronology sheet for each ancestor. It includes columns for the date, a description of what happened on that date, and the source of the information. This means all the facts I’ve found about that ancestor — from vital records, census enumerations, immigration and naturalization forms, and land and probate records — are in one place. I also include the ancestor’s family members with birth, marriage and death dates, and a “still need to find” list of records I haven’t located yet. Preparing my chronology sheet forces me to take a second look at the information I’ve gathered. The long-forgotten facts I’ve rediscovered have helped me prepare my research strategy. Carole Magnuson, Lockport, Ill.

20. Get a little help from a friend.

I’m sometimes too close to a specific brick wall to view it objectively. So I “trade” problems with a friend. I try to find her missing information, and she tries to find mine. This brings a fresh look to a frustrating situation, and it’s fun to help someone else. Karen Seibert, Ft. Myers, Fla.

21. Find the funeral home.

Can’t find a birth certificate, but have a death certificate? Never underestimate the power of the funeral home. Our grandmother’s state of birth, but not the city, was listed on her death certificate. We searched for years to no avail. Then we called the funeral home, which fortunately was still in business, and its records contained the information we were seeking. Jean F. Joseph, Wethersfield, Conn.

22. Browse the records.

On research trips with my husband, I’ve twice made breakthroughs while browsing through records just to kill time. In one instance, I found my fourth-great-grandfather’s parents, who had eluded me for 30 years. Unfortunately, my ancestor’s given name, John, was popular in his family, making him difficult to distinguish from other relatives.

I’d already searched an old hotel register — one so delicate, it had to be placed on pillows before I could open it — for John’s signature. It was there, containing his middle initial S, as usual. As my husband continued his research, I casually looked through the rest of the register to see if John had stayed at the hotel any other times. He surely had, signing each time with the familiar S. Then I saw an entry in which an associate of John’s had signed for him — and included John’s full middle name. That middle name opened the doors in my brick wall. Not only was it his father’s name, but it also was his great-grandmother’s maiden name.

This new information led me to his father’s will and the verification that this was the family I sought. Three-plus generations came from this one instance of browsing in a leisurely manner, rather than immediately zeroing in on a particular point. Evelyn Naranjo, Rockville, Md.

23. Read all about it in newsletters.

Look for newsletters of schools, universities, synagogues, churches and communities — you may find birth, marriage, Bat Mitzvah and Bar Mitzvah announcements, obituaries, donor lists, oral histories and photographs. Alumni lists in school newsletters often contain graduation years and maiden names. Search the web to find online newsletters with your surnames. The advanced search can help narrow your results by location. If you don’t come up with an online newsletter, get the names of local organizations and publications from your search, and visit a nearby library or archive — it may hold documents from churches, clubs, schools and business associations in the area. Teresa Milner, New York, NY

24. Get your message across.

I’ve solved my two highest brick walls by posting a current family tree on genealogy message boards. Shortly after posting a tree with what little information I had on my natural maternal grandfather, I received an e-mail from a descendant of my grandfather’s sister Ethel’s husband. The e-mailer wasn’t a blood relative of Ethel’s, but he had the family Bible. In it were complete dates and places of births and deaths — plus my great-grandmother’s maiden name. With all this new information, I was able to track backward using census data.

This led me to other family trees people had posted, along with source information. It turns out my great-grandmother descended from Frances Cooke of the Mayflower, along with other early settlers of this country. I was able to follow other family lines several generations back, as well. Mark Grosser, Lancaster, Calif.

25. Send updates.

Giving your family periodic updates is one of the most important things you can do as you research your family history. Your latest discovery may spark a relative’s memory, and she’ll recall new information for you. I’ve found this to be the case time after time in my own family. Ann Mohr Osisek, Maitland, Fla.

26. Look beyond family lore.

Census records told me my great-great-grandfather was from Hesse-Darmstadt in Germany, but I couldn’t find anything more specific. His hometown wasn’t on any of the usual sources, such as his declaration of intent or his death certificate, and I couldn’t locate his naturalization papers. Family tradition held that he wasn’t a churchgoer, which ruled out church records.

But while reading family obituaries, I noticed that a daughter-in-law had been a member of a German-speaking church. With nowhere else to look, I went to that church. I pored over the records, which were written in German, and was elated to find christening records for two of my great-great-grandfather’s sons.

And then — there it was! The church’s minister had conducted my ancestor’s funeral service, and the record book identified the German village where he was born. Family tradition isn’t always accurate. Dianne Beetler, Bloomington, Ill.

27. Work sideways with siblings.

Don’t forget “side doors.” Sometimes you have to find your own ancestors through their siblings. While searching online for my maternal great-grandfather, I found summaries of his death certificate along with his brother’s. I ordered copies and between the certificates learned different versions of my great-great-grandfather’s name. My ancestor’s certificate gave only their father’s nickname; his brother’s gave the given name. Using this information, I was able to find the family in several census records and in court documents. One of the court documents was a will, which added another generation — my third-great-grandfather. From that point, I’ve been able to trace several family lines back to Virginia. Sylvia Nash, Paris, Tenn.

28. Try another time frame.

I couldn’t find my in-laws’ marriage record at the county courthouse. No one in the family knew when they were married or even where the ceremony took place. I followed a hunch that the wedding occurred fewer than nine months before their first child was born. At a local museum in their hometown, I searched the weekly newspaper for a wedding notice. Sure enough, I found an announcement, so back to the courthouse I went. I found their marriage license there, even though it wasn’t listed in the index. The wedding didn’t take place on the date the newspaper reported, but a few days earlier. Cynthia Rhoades, Hagerstown, Ind.

29. Search on the place.

I did an Internet search for the little village from which my parents and grandparents emigrated. I couldn’t believe it when I turned up the Web site of an organization for people who had lived there. I had tried various spellings of the name (Hungarian, German and Romanian versions), and finally found it. Since then, I’ve connected with second cousins who have given me invaluable help, as has the organization. Rose Mary Hughes, West Henrietta, NY

30. Scout out surrounding plots.

While at the cemetery, check around your ancestors’ graves for other family members. I found an ancestor’s mother-in-law’s grave, and on that stone was the maiden name. Beth Green, Jenison, Mich.

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