Tag Archives: AncestralFindings.com

Interpreting what it says on a death certificate

Interpreting what it says on a death certificate

February 3, 2018

Vicki’s note – some helpful genealogical links that can help you interpret what it says on a death certificate. The death code numbers make the cause of death clear if you can’t read  the Doctor’s handwriting.  I got the link to Will Moneymaker’s AncestralFinding.com article from Facebook postings that I get. You can sign up for a  free on-line newsletter:


International List of Causes of Death, Revision 3 (1920):

195 Lightning


International Classification of Diseases    http://www.wolfbane.com/icd/index.html

(Tells what the 3 digit code of disease means, if you cannot read what disease/cause of death is written on the ancestor’s death certificate.)

Rootsweb Genealogists, who seem to be willing to answer any question. https://www.facebook.com/groups/17834741205/



Death Records Research

Death Certificates: Your Doorway to Your Ancestor’s Life


“It might seem strange that a death certificate, which is a document of an ending, could be the beginning of your journey into your ancestor’s life. However, a death certificate can hold a wealth of information that either directly tells you things about your ancestor that you didn’t know, or points you to where you can find more substantial and important information. You’ve got to study the death certificate closely, though. Don’t skim over or ignore any line. Each line on the certificate has the potential to tell you something useful about your ancestor. Here are the top things you should be examining (but again, remember not to ignore any line)…”

Marital Status, Full Name, Names and Birthplaces of Parents, Informant, Cause of Death, Name of the Attending Physician, Method of Disposal, Place of Burial, and Name of the Undertaker.

Will Moneymaker founded Ancestral Findings back in 1995. He has been involved in genealogy research for over 20 years. The thrill of the hunt, the adventure, and the excitement begin when he started investigating the meaning of his surname. Why I Love Genealogy (And You Should, Too!)


Where are Probate Records?

Where are Probate Records?

Vicki’s note – A good reminder of the importance of Probate Records in proving the relationships of people. 

What are Probate Records? See this definition from Rock County Probate Court:

” Under the supervision of the Circuit Court, the Register in Probate oversees the administration of estates, “testamentary” trusts, guardianships, and mental health commitments. The Register in Probate also makes and keeps records of proceedings; and maintains records of wills admitted to probate, wills for safekeeping, guardianships, and mental health commitments.”

Currently, people do not have to go to Probate Court for a deceased person how has an estate of less than $50,000 in value, but there are other legal forms, or informal court proceedings that will be stored.  And there are more possible records to find – for guardianships and mental health commitments.

I have made good use of the recent addition of the Probate  materials added to Ancestry.com.  I did not know that Ancestry had been so systematic in approaching all of the county courthouses.  A newly added group of wills from Ohio proved the daughter/father status of one of my ancestor families.  Until then, I could not definitively prove their connection.

Hint – try to prove your ancestor’s facts in three different sources, including a primary source like a will.

Read the whole posting Finding Probate Records by Will Moneymaker in his BLOG AncestralFindings.com.

Finding Probate Records

“Probate records are some of the most valuable, informative genealogical records you will come across. There are several different kinds, and each one can tell you previously unknown things about your ancestors. You may find probate records that are simple inventories of estates, wills with varying amounts of personal information in them, and legal records from proving the will (and sometimes, contesting it). Probate records let you know what things your ancestors owned, how much money they had, how well they lived, and their family connections. If a will names children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, in-laws, and friends, as they often do, this information will allow you to confirm suspected relationships and learn new ones.

So, where do you find probate records? There are a few different places.

1. County Courthouses

County courthouses can contain probate records going back centuries…

2. Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com just added a huge new collection of probate records from around the United States this year. These are the same probate records you would find in county courthouses. Ancestry.com sent representatives out to county courthouses across the country to get the courthouses to allow them to digitize their probate records…

3. Older Relatives

If you have older relatives who have collected a large amount of family information over the decades, you should visit them and see what they have in their boxes, chests, and files… genealogical gold

4. State or Local Archive Buildings

Probate records from colonial times may be found in county courthouses, but are more often found in archive buildings. If you are looking for the probate records for an ancestor who lived in America before the American Revolution, visit or write to the historical society in the city, town, or county in which they lived….

Will founded Ancestral Findings back in 1995. He has been involved in genealogy research for over 20 years. The thrill of the hunt, the adventure, and the excitement begin when he started investigating the meaning of his Moneymaker surname. Why I Love Genealogy (And You Should, Too!)

Please Site Your Genealogy Sources; OR How to Keep Your Ancestors & Their Stories Straight

Please Site Your Genealogy Sources; OR How to Keep Your Ancestors & Their Stories Straight

Vicki’s note – article from AncestralFindings.com  .  A reminder that taking the time to cite all of our genealogy sources for each fact is important. The main goal is to document your path so that you, (and others) can find that information in the future.

It is the difference between having a fun hobby, and maybe a sloppy family tree; OR being  (a more) professional genealogist “that ensures you have an accurate family tree where everyone is where they are supposed to be.”

I find that (when I am being good and cite my sources), I can see all of the places to search again.  We may see a person listed as a witness, etc. and then we find later that he/she is our relative.  Where did we see his name?

Ask me how I track sources/facts for a person with a time-line linked to the sources, as I find them.  We don’t discover the facts of a person’s life in a tidy lifespan order.  Time-lines are a great way to organize the events by occurrence.

The Legacy Family Tree.com genealogy software has a good free edition , (which you can download with that link), and a deluxe paid edition.  I suggest trying out the free edition using their sample George Washington family tree.  Both editions have Source Writer templates that are based on Elizabeth Shown Mills’ “Evidence Explained” so help to ensure that all the necessary source information is included.

Would your family history sources pass peer review?  If you ever want to write an article or have a book published on genealogy, they must pass peer review.  Yikes, I better stop having fun searching, and do the mundane task of validating my sources as I go!

The Dangers of Being Careless on Citing Resources in Your Genealogy Research

One of the most important parts of genealogy is citing your sources. Doing good genealogy research means making it something others can trust and follow. Sources allow other researchers to do this and use your research with confidence. Good sources also allow you the confidence of knowing your research is as correct as it can be with your current information. Using source citing shows good genealogical scholarship, and shows you to be a serious researcher and not just a casual hobbyist. Citing sources is also required if you are submitting any of your work to genealogical journals.

As you can see, you must cite your sources to be looked upon as a good genealogist. However, you also have to be careful in citing your sources. Make sure they are accurate and attached to the correct facts. Here are some of the dangers of being careless in your source citing in your genealogical research.

1. You May Get the Wrong Source Attached to the Wrong Fact

Be careful when citing your sources, especially on genealogy family tree software programs. It can be easy to accidentally put a source on the wrong fact. This not only makes your work look sloppy and unprofessional to other researchers, it can be confusing for you when you look at your research later. If you look up a source to confirm a fact as you go further back on that family line, you won’t be able to connect the two, resulting in you being unaware of where you actually got the fact you cited. Anyone using your work as a source for their own research will come across the same problem, and that particular fact, or even all the work you did on that line, will become useless to them. It can also lead to embarrassment if your research gets published in a genealogical journal and someone notices the citation and the fact don’t match each other.

2. You May Not Be Able to Understand Your Citation Later

There is a proper way to cite genealogical sources. You usually cite the entire source, including the name of the publication, the author, the repository, and the date you accessed it, the first time you use it. Subsequent times the source is used, it can be abbreviated. But, if you don’t cite it in full and accurately the first time, you may not understand it, or your abbreviations, later. Don’t think you won’t ever need to check a source again. The more work you do on a family line, the more likely you are to need to use your sources to re-confirm information. If you have recorded your sources in a way you can’t understand them later, they will be useless to you. It is well worth it to invest in a book on how to properly cite genealogical sources for this very purpose. “Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace,” by Elizabeth Shown Mills, is considered the definitive publication on the subject.

3. You Can Get People and Family Lines Confused With Each Other

Many families reuse names again and again over the generations. There are also surnames that are quite common, and if you have different family lines in the same area with the same surname, it can get confusing keeping people straight. Making sure your source citations are accurate can keep people straight for you. If you don’t cite sources, or cite them incorrectly or illegibly, you can easily get people confused. You might put someone in the wrong generation, or mix up one line of your family with another that uses similar names and is in a similar location. Good, careful source citation minimizes these risks and ensures you have an accurate family tree where everyone is where they are supposed to be.

It may seem like a hassle to write or type your sources for every genealogical fact you include on your family tree, but it is worth it. It is also worth it to take the time to do it correctly. Don’t be careless with your genealogical source citation, and you can be relatively sure you’ve got an accurate family tree that will stand up to the scrutiny of even the most diligent genealogy scholars.



Will founded Ancestral Findings back in 1995. He has been involved in genealogy research for over 20 years. The thrill of the hunt, the adventure, and the excitement begin when he started investigating the meaning of his Moneymaker surname. Why I Love Genealogy (And You Should, Too!)

Re-visiting the Census Records

Vicki’s note – article from http://ancestralfindings.com

Look here for more on Census recordsCensus Research


3 Ways to Make the Most Out of Your Census Research

Census research is one of the first things most people learn how to do outside of talking to family members when they begin their genealogy research. And, no matter how long you are a genealogist, you will always come back to the census. It is excellent for confirming findings from other record sources, begin research on new lines in your family, and to look for missing ancestors (or those you didn’t examine in-depth the first time you saw their census entry). You can even look at a census entry for someone many different times over many years, and even decades, and get something new out of the information on the entry every time. The census is more than just gathering names and ages off of a page. You can get some really important, otherwise unavailable information on your ancestors from it.

Here are three ways to make the most out of your census research.

1. Look at Other Things the Census Says

You may be looking at the census just to get the names, ages, and birthplaces of your ancestors, and this is good. You should do this, as it is a basic research task in genealogy. Looking up these things on the census records can tell you a lot about your ancestors you never knew, such as children, parents, and other relatives who are living with them who you never knew existed. You can also get important information on their origins and the origins of their parents. There is more to most census records than just this basic information, however,

Some census records, like 1850 through 1870 censuses, only give you the basic information. Others, however, have a treasure trove of other information you can use. Depending on the census, you may find things of important genealogical significance, such as:

  • Whether or not an ancestor served in the Revolution or Civil War
  • If they were a slave owner (and how many slaves they owned, sometimes even by gender and age range)
  • Their level of schooling
  • Their occupation
  • The number of children a woman has given birth to and how many were still living
  • The year of marriage
  • The number of marriages a person has had
  • The month and year of birth, the year they immigrated to the United States
  • Whether they were a naturalized citizen or not
  • Their address
  • Their native language
  • Whether they could speak English
  • Whether they could read or write
  • Whether they had any disability
  • Whether they rented or owned their home
  • And more

These are all things you will want to put in your family history research.

2. Use Unique Ways to Look Up Names

Census takers didn’t always spell names correctly. If it was an unusual name or a foreign one spoken by foreign people, the census taker may have spelled the name phonetically, or misheard it and spelled it completely differently from anything it was supposed to be. You may think your ancestor is not in the census, but this is because you haven’t checked using all the search methods that can lead you to them.

This method works best on online census records that are searchable with an interactive index, such as on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. Try the following search methods to discover your ancestor:

  • Search by the first name only, with an age range, gender, and location
  • Search by the last name only, with an age range, gender, and location
  • Search only by age range, gender, and location, with no name
  • Search by age range, gender, location, and place of birth, with no name

Using any of these methods may lead you to the ancestor you seek. You’ll know the person when you see them, even if their name is spelled completely incorrectly. They’ll be even more obvious if they are living with recognizable family members you already know. Remember, not everyone made it into every census, so your ancestor may legitimately not be there. But using these techniques will weed them out if they were recorded.

3. Use Earlier Census Records to Your Advantage

The 1790 through 1840 census records only list the name of the head of the household, but that doesn’t mean you can’t glean more information from them than this. They also include lists of how many people are living in the household, and most of them categorize these people into gender and age groups within those genders. Really early ones may even include listings of who is free and who is the slave in a household, and categorize the slaves into genders and age groups, too.

You can use this to your advantage by comparing the names and ages of people in that household on later census records where they are all listed, to get an idea of who was in the household in earlier census records. You can also discover new ancestors by looking up the head of household in old newspaper records and discovering mentions of his or her family. Obituaries, wedding announcements, and birth announcements may be in old newspaper records and give the names, and even ages of family members who were never recorded in a census by name. You can use this information to fill in the names of the people in a household in earlier census records. Wills and probate records are another excellent source of family names that you can use to fill in an earlier census with names. It takes a little bit of detective work but can give you a fuller picture of your family history, so it’s well worth doing.

How to Organize Your Family Photos

Vicki’s Note – Facebook posting from AncestralFindings.com 1-19-2017:

How to Organize Your Family Photos


Even those of us who aren’t genealogists usually accumulate a lot of photographs over the years. Some of them end up in albums, others are scattered in digital folders, shoe boxes, and even empty drawers. Genealogists gather even more photos than the average person, through inheritance, gifting, sharing with other genealogists, and a sense of needing to photograph nearly everything to document special and even average family moments for future generations. Taking photos and accumulating them is an important part of genealogy, and it is easy to do. What is not so easy is organizing them. Yet, if you don’t organize them, the identities of those in the photos may be lost to time, and the photos themselves challenging to find when you want to look at certain ones.

There are many different ways of organizing family photos, and you really should do what works best for you. The two most important things to remember are to always label the photos and to keep them organized in a sensible way, usually by category and date. If the photos are physical ones, you should label them on the back with a soft-tipped pen that is marketed as being safe for photographs. If they are digital photos, typing in a name for the photo file will do it. Make sure you include the names of everyone in the photo, their positions in the photo, the place the photo was taken, and the date it was taken. If the photo is from a special occasion, indicate that in your labeling, too. Never neglect to label your photos.

When it comes to organizing them, you have a lot of choices at your disposal. This is the method I use, and it allows me to always be able to find any photo I need quickly and easily, be it a digital photo or a physical photo.

Organizing Physical Photos

I use acid free albums with plastic sleeves for each individual photo. You should never use the old albums with adhesive backing or any album that requires you to glue or tape in your photos, as this can damage them over the years. Each photo is labeled appropriately on the back. I organize the photos by date and by family branch.

I’ll dedicate one album to one branch of the family, then put photos in them in chronological order, starting with the oldest ones, working up to the newest ones. I do this with the general photos that don’t commemorate any specific event or activity. In the back of the album, or in an entirely different album, I organize the photos for that family branch by event type, in chronological order from oldest to newest. Some albums have many clusters of “event” or “activity” photos in them.

Once the photos are organized in an album, I type up a label for the spine of the album indicating the family branch, the years covered (if I had to make more than one volume to keep all of the photos), and the events included (for event or activity photo albums). That way, I can easily read the labels to see what albums contain which photos, and can grab the album I need and flip to the photo or photos I want without any searching required.

Organizing Digital Photos

Organizing digital photos is similar to organizing physical ones, except you do it on your computer with a variety of labeled digital file folders. I create a master folder for each family branch for which I have digital photos. In each master folder, I put sub-folders. I also distinguish between contemporary photos of people I know, and ancient, ancestral photos. Contemporary photos have sub-folders indicating the individual or group of individuals whose photos will be going in those sub-folders, as well as the years the photos in the sub-folders cover. I make additional sub-folders within the sub-folders for photos of special events or activities pertaining to that person or people. Sub-folders for individuals or groups of individuals will go in their master family line folder. All photos are named beginning with the date the photo was taken (or approximate date), who is in the photo, and where it was taken. Sub-sub-folders for events and activities will have those events and activities in the folder names.

For ancient ancestral photos, I do the same thing, except I also include sub-folders for photos of genealogical documents. For each master family line folder, I include sub-folders for photos of birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses and certificates, military records, newspaper clippings, census records, land records, and any other genealogical documents for which I may have photos.

If I have one main ancestor for a master family folder, I also make sub-folders for branches of that main ancestor’s family. These master folders can accumulate hundreds of photos if you have done a lot of work on the family line. For example, I have a Moneymaker line I’m researching. I’ve been able to trace it back to the original German immigrant in the late 1700’s. My photo organization of the digital photos for this family looks like this:

  • A master folder named Moneymaker Family
  • A sub-folder for the original German immigrant, labeled The Luis Moneymaker Family
  • Within the Luis Moneymaker folder, I have sub-folders for each of his 7 children, each labeled with their name, such as The Jacob Moneymaker Family
  • Within the sub-folders of Luis’s children, I include sub-folders of their children, and so on, down to the present day Moneymaker family
  • Within the sub-folders for each person, I include sub-folders for regular photos, organized in the same way I organize and label physical photos
  • The sub-folders for each individual person also include sub-folders for all the types of different genealogical documents I have pertaining to them

You’ve got to sometimes click-through a lot of sub-folders to get what you want, but once you do, all you have to do is look through the dates on the photo names, going from oldest to newest to find exactly what you want. You can find what you’re looking for quickly, and no photo ever gets lost this way. Your photos are labeled and organized in a way that makes sense and makes even a single photo among hundreds simple to locate any time. Be sure to back up your digital photos and their folders and sub-folders to one or more external hard drives and keep at least one drive away from the house, so your photos won’t be lost if your computer is broken or stolen. You’ll always be able to get them back again. Back up each time you add new photos, and use the off-site hard drives to back up what you’ve collected at least twice a year, or more if it’s convenient for you.

As you accumulate more photos of both the digital and physical kinds, just label them appropriately and add them to the proper album or digital file folder and/or sub-folder. Do it as soon as you get them, and you’ll never have an accumulation of photos to organize again. Just get them organized once, then organize as you go. You will enjoy your photos more, your research will be made easier (especially when it comes to sharing photos with newfound relatives), and future generations will thank you for doing it, as you are creating wonderful heirlooms that will mean something to the generations of the future, because they will know who is in the photos and the significance of each one.

This is just one method of many for organizing photos, but it works really well for me. It will work for you, too.