Archive for 2007

Quick-Start Research Strategies

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

By Amanda Forson,

This blog is for researchers who already have their family information recorded into a genealogical database (i.e. PAF, Ancestral Quest, Family Tree Maker, Legacy, RootsMagic, Brother’s Keeper, the Master Genealogist, etc.).

Case scenario:
i. John Forson, b. (Abt 1829), Scotland d. 23 Feb 1872 Garrison, Putnam, New York
His son,
ii. James Smeaton Forson, b. 5 Oct 1871 Cold Spring, Putnam, New York d. 9 Feb 1965, Garrison, Putnam, New York

This case scenario deals with trying to find the correct father for James(ii), not proving that John(i) is the right father.

Day One: When trying to go backwards in time, start with the most recent (chronologically-forward information) and then proceed backwards. To begin, review the date and place information for the generations in question.

Day Two: Although this information is possible, it is less likely as the one son was born when the father was approximately forty-three years old, and died four months after his birth. While an accident may have occurred, the searcher has no verified information leading to this possible conclusion. To find out whether this is the right father for James, a death record is likely information needed. In 1965, New York was issuing death records. Financial backing would be necessary for this endeavor, and at present is not available, but the most direct way of finding out if James is really the son of John would be to purchase the death record from New York State.

Day Three: If the death record is not readily available, the next best thing would be to look over censuses for siblings of James, if known, and to look for records of John’s possible wife. The name, Forson, is less-common in New York state and surrounding areas, and even though with the death date such that it is not likely that both the father and son would show up on the same census, looking for only the father and son relationship and dismissing the rest of the family is unwise.

Day Four: I personally prefer to make census survey forms. That is to say, noting which people show up in which census, with marks for when someone is deceased, or marks when someone should not show up anymore in census searches. Examples are attached on the end of the article, though dealing with another family in the filled-out information sheet. This step, if taken, may also take the rest of the fifteen minutes per day allotted for the week.

Day Five: From here, it depends upon what information is available for an area. If researching from a distance, as I almost always have to do, looking up online resources is the fastest method of “travel.” If not used for the census survey, online subscription sites come into use here.

Day Six: Once those sites are exhausted (keep checking back with them as they tend to update on a regular basis), then check free sites like the USGenWeb, WorldGenWeb, CyndisList, etc. As both of these people have vital information happening in the same county, a US GenWeb Project check for this county revealed the area’s historical society and email address.

Day Seven: Any and all found information needs to go on research logs and (if possible) digital information placed as documents in electronic genealogical filing systems AND as paper copies in possession of the searcher.

Example of Blank Census Survey form. © 2005 Amanda Forson.

1930 1920 1910 1900 1890 1880 1870 1860 1850

2 Example of Census Survey form for the Dennis Sweeney family.

1930 1920 1910 1900 1890 1880 1870 1860 1850
Dennis Sweeney Dead Dead 71 60 Missing data 40 Can’t Find
Anna (Heiser) Sweeney 69 60 50 Missing data 30 Can’t Find
Fawdie or Vawdie or Vaudie Vau(Van) C.
Dead 50 29 Missing data 10 Can’t Find N/A N/A
Charles E. Sweeney, Sr. 58 46 38 28 Missing data 8 N/A N/A N/A
William A. Sweeney 58 44 34 25 Missing data 4 N/A N/A N/A
Herbert D. Sweeney 50 40 28 21 Missing data 1 N/A N/A N/A
John L. Sweeney 48 37 28 19 Missing data N/A N/A N/A N/A
Ada May Sweeney Dead Dead Dead 15 Missing data N/A N/A N/A N/A
Grace Sweeney 10 Missing data N/A N/A N/A N/A
Alice K. Sweeney 58 44 37 29 Missing data N/A N/A N/A
Charles E. Sweeney, Jr. 28 (going by Edward C. )
8 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Sterling F. Sweeney 34 23 12 3 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Alice H. Sweeney 20 10 7/12 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Edith (Eva P.) Sweeney 17 8 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Thelma Sweeney 26 16 7 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Ira Sweeney 25 15 5 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
(Charles E. Jr.’s wife) Francis Sweeney 28 19 Not in US N/A N/A N/A
Geraldine Sweeney 9 6/12 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
(William’s wife)
Loula Sweeney
56 39 34 22
(Herbert’s wife) Henrietta M. Sweeney 54 41 32
Ralph H. Sweeney 21 1 3/12 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Robert D. Sweeney 11
(John’s wife)
Bertha A.
48 37 28
(Sterling’s wife)
Betty Sweeney
Julia Sweeney (Vaudie’s wife) 48 27
Charles R Sweeney (Ray C.) 39 29 9
Anna May Sweeney 27 7
Elizabeth Sweeney Goodnough 24 5
Wilford P. Sweeney 29 21 2
Helen Sweeney 1/12
Julia Sweeney 17
Ada Sweeney 15
William Sweeney 22 13
Donald Sweeney 17 7
Rex Sweeney 3
Rosa(Charles R.’s wife) Sweeney 33
Jean M. Sweeney 4 9/12
Rex E. Sweeney (Elizabeth’s son) 12

Writing a Genealogically-Relevant Obituary

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

By Amanda Forson,

Obituaries are hit-or-miss when dealing with relative’s records, but eventually relatives will all need one as modern papers have columns devoted specifically to them, even in small towns.

Usually included within an obituary in a semi-prioritized order:

  1. Name: The full name is preferred for both women and men. For women, the maiden name should be put in parenthesis. If the person was known by a nickname, including this information in quotes is often acceptable.
  2. Death date, place, and (as wanted) how died.
  3. Birth Date and Place: If possible, include the full month and town, county, and state, especially if the deceased was born in another state or country. Especially if the deceased was born in another country, find out the town, parish, count, district, province, or any other geographically-relevant information.
  4. Parents (with maiden name in parenthesis) are always appreciated. If the person was adopted and the descendents do not mind, include adoptive parents. When there are step-parents, include the names of both biological and step-parents.
  5. Focus on life highlights that were important to the individual. Usually political affiliations are only included if the person was prominent in the party. Service or religious affiliations are included as the person may or may not be holding the funeral services at a religiously-affiliated building. Occupations, military service, fraternal or sororal organizations, clubs, or other life-items of note would be fine here also.
  6. Include all children, living and deceased including first names and to whom they are married when daughters are listed. Finding daughters is one of the hardest things to do in genealogical research and including husbands’ names in parenthesis makes for a very genealogically-useful obituary.
  7. Include all grandchildren when possible, though depending upon the space and amount. Their spouses do not have to be mentioned unless it is the desire of the family. Usually for women, simply having the different last name should indicate. Divorced partners (specifically the former relative who is no longer related) only need inclusion at the request of the family.
  8. Great grandchildren are usually only numbered if included, due to space.

Note: If being less specific, non-inclusion of grandchildren is acceptable when including locations of relatives. Generally speaking, putting in family information is preferable when possible. Space and cost limitations will reign in the size of the obituary. When dealing with a paper that has plenty of space, including a picture is a nice touch and helpful. The less information that is available or possible for entry, the more the vital information for that particular person is critical.

Social Networking For Your Family Tree

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

Family Tree Magazine recently identified as a program that excels in helping individuals organize their family tree data and find other researchers interested in their ancestral surnames and places.

Family Tree Magazine said, “This site [] from the growing database service, World Vital Records, most resembles popular social networking destinations such as Facebook. Your FamilyLink profile can include your picture and biography, as well as the surnames and places you’re researching. You might also add your skills and experience, such as languages you know and the genealogy software you use. You can make your profile available to everyone or just your network of designated connections, and you can invite friends to join FamilyLink.”

For more information, go to:

Wonderbase of the Week: 100 Family Histories From Quintin Publications

Monday, December 17th, 2007

This week’s Wonderbase of the Week at comes from the Quintin Publications Collection. These dataabases will be free to access until December 27, 2007. Click here to access the Quintin Publications Collection.

The majority of the databases that comprise the Wonderbase are family histories, with most of the histories about families with surnames beginning with T, U, or W.

Most of the histories include several thousand names. The largest database this week is The Wentworth Genealogy: English and American, which consists of three volumes. These three volumes combined contain nearly 156,000 names. Other large databases this week include an Italian history called Storia Del Conti a Duchi d’Urbino with more than 96,000 names; Underhill Genealogy with more than 87,000 names; and The Descendants of Andrew Warner with more than 59,000.

Many of the family histories cover genealogies of families going back to the eighteenth century. A few of these titles include Grandmother Tyler’s Book, The Recollections of Mary Palmer Tyler, 1775-1866; The Ancestry of Lieut. Amos Towne, 1737-1793; and Edward Treadway, 784-1859, and His Descendants.

There are also a few with genealogies that date back even earlier, to the seventeenth century. Some of these titles are as follows: William Swyft of Sandwitch and Some of His Descendants, 1637-1899; The Descendants of John Upham of Massachusetts, Who Came from England in 1635 and Lived in Weymouth and Malden; and A Genealogy of the Lineal Descendants of William Woods Who Settled in Concord, Massachusetts in 1638.

As you navigate your way through these 100 titles, it is important to remember that even if the surname in the title is not one that is in your tree, one of your ancestors may be mentioned in the volume anyway. As always, these Quintin databases are completely indexed and searchable, which means that if your ancestor is in one of these volumes, you are likely to find him with a few simple clicks.

Pruning the Family Tree

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

By Amanda Forson,

Looking at the information passed down by other relatives, there are often pieces of information that do not quite work correctly. For example, when someone was born around 1840, it is less likely that their parents were born in the 1700’s. Connecting proper generations and family members together is important. Sometimes people who are in the same town at the same time may seem to be related, but in reality only have the same last name. Today that would be seen as a random coincidence. Some newer researchers may consider this to be evidence, the further back they research. Unless there is some sort of proof, or a source that states that X person is the daughter of Y, X and Y are not related. The original information is not necessarily wrong, but further evidence is needed to verify what is happening with the family lines.

Researchers may see a family who has lots of information surfacing many times over during research on a particular surname, and it seems so easy to relate the relatives that one has in that area to this person on the assumption of “Same place, same name, must be right.” NO! Please never do this without some sort of evidence stating the relationship as fact. Yes, researching for relationships takes longer, but it is correct. This sort of research usually brings up the correct relatives, and often brings to light long-lost stories of ancestors about whom the family never knew. Occasionally, this research may show how a direct-line ancestor is related to the famous person originally in question. In most cases, knowledge of town history increases while the knowledge of true ancestry takes time and patience to build.

Different sources of starting information often provide such leads. On one line recently worked by the author, it seemed obvious that the previous researcher wanted the family to be related to a locally famous person. The direct-line ancestor, whose parentage was in question, would have been the daughter of a military hero, and related to others who seemed to be of great importance to the previous researcher. The hopeful but inaccurate assumptions of the previous researcher led this searcher into more brick walls than were necessary. After years of trying to verify the information on the family group sheet without any degree of success, the author decided simply to look up what was available for the previously-proven ancestor. An entirely different family came out of the accurate research. This searching pruned a major branch from the family tree. However, the pruning was necessary for accuracy and allowed room for filling in the new family information. Having now checked on the accurate family, information comes to the author on a regular basis that is active and vital for the further progress of the true line.

Holding onto lines that are inaccurate in a family keeps true ancestors from being discovered. The more-accurate the family line, the more often and better the information on the actual family comes to light. It may be hard, but check brick walls for dates that are too far apart to be accurate, dates that lead to the conclusion of children having children before the age of possible reproduction, and places that “seem to come out of nowhere.” Although there are exceptions to this, genealogy usually paints a picture of people who made small moves (i.e. marrying people who lived nearby) and tended to lead lives that made sense concerning dates and places. Most genealogical software points out possible errors when it is run (as was noted in a previous Genealogy in 15 Minutes a Day article) and takes some of the guess work out of finding the ancestors that may not belong to your family, but to someone else’s.

Solving the right family relationships leads to happiness in research and interesting stories to give to descendants–often better than whatever is offered by the published tales of supposedly famous people. If the exploits do not compare, the fact that the people in the story are truly yours makes it worth the search.

Special Note: Thanks to Kathy M. for her feedback received this week concerning the GenTip and Genealogy in 15 Minutes a Day articles. It was very much appreciated.

Things Are Going To Be Sailin’ In St. George In February: Introducing The 4th Annual Family History Expo

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

101 Reasons to Be at the Expo

St. George is hot in February, and we don’t just mean the nice, warm weather! February 8-9, 2008 is the time of the annual Family History Expo. St. George, Utah will be the place to be for genealogists who want fun and fabulous educational classes and products–all at an unbeatable price. There is something valuable for everyone, from beginners through advanced levels. As a matter of fact, 101 classes are being offered by many of the nation’s best family history professionals. This year’s theme “Pirates of the Pedigree” is all about saving your genealogical gems from the pirates of time, war, weather, and the ravages of misinterpretation. Come learn how to build your true family tree!

The first Jamboree (Feb. 2005) was a tremendous success with over 650 registered attendees, last year’s event included approximately 3,000 visitors in our exhibit hall. Most came from Southern Utah, Southern Nevada, and California, but there were a surprising number of attendees from all across the country and many from the Salt Lake area. This upcoming Expo is bound to be even more spectacular since the word has been spreading far and wide.

In the spacious exhibit hall, more than 60 vendors will be available, offering everything from books and software to awe-inspiring family trees and entire family history kits – all to get you sailin’ into your genealogy and away from those cranky ol’ pirates. Fantastic door prizes are being offered as an added bonus and as a fun incentive to check out the exhibit hall. Sponsored by My Ancestors Found and FamilySearch as the co-sponsor for this event. Other sponsors include,, Family Tree Magazine,, Generation Maps, and the Godfrey Memorial Library. Many more popular exhibitors will be there. Click here to see a full list. Attendees raved about the exhibit hall at the last conference, and were pleased with the variety of products, the friendly, helpful exhibitors, and the totally amazing door prizes.

It’s important to note that the VERY Early Bird Deadline is December 31, 2007. Tickets are only $50 for two great days! This will increase to $60 after the deadline, and will be $65 to purchase at the door. Folks who can only make it for one day pay only $35 for that day. Since no one wants to miss out on the best pricing available, it’s good to remind friends and family about the Early Bird pricing. Click here to sign up today and save.

Two Very, Very Special Events

My Ancestors and FamilySearch, sponsors of the event, are excited to announce the addition of two very important events that are sure to make the Expo even more of a hit. Mark your calendars for Friday night’s special banquet, “Come Away With Me”: Time Travel Set to Music and dinner with Jean Wilcox Hibben! A musical look at events that shaped America and the newly arrived immigrants. This presentation touches on some key moments in United States history that affected both the current residents and their future generations (us). Songs of Colonial times, the Civil War, Prohibition, Westward Migration, etc., along with songs about various phenomena that shaped the future for everyone, including the building of railroads, working in the mines, settling new areas, etc., create a musical picture of what our ancestors endured and enjoyed. A program suitable for all ages. Register today at Those interested will want to sign up quickly, as reservations for this event are limited.

Beau Sharbrough, the popular–ever ready–rolling ball of butcher knives, will be joining the festivities Friday as the Keynote Speaker at the Expo. Beau Sharbrough is the vice president of content at the history website, He is a popular writer and lecturer on technical topics in genealogy. He is a former president of GENTECH, the founder of the FGS and GENTECH websites, and formerly worked on tree products at He lives in Orem UT. Don’t miss Beau’s entertaining and motivational presentation on how to avoid the common “Pirate’s of the Pedigree!” at this conference.

More Amazing Speakers

My Ancestor Found is delighted to announce great speakers at every class for this event: Kip Sperry, Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, Craig R. Scott, Arlene H. Eakle, DearMYRTLE, and Dale Bartlett are just a few of the magnificent speakers who will be teaching classes, along with many professionals from FamilySearch in SLC, and other expert genealogists known for their wealth and breadth of experience.

The Expo will be held at the state-of-the-art Dixie Convention Center, 1835 Convention Center Drive, St. George, Utah. The Dixie Conference Center is a large attractive facility with ample free parking for everyone. The Hilton has recently opened right next door to the Dixie Center, and there are a number of other great hotels within close proximity, such as the Crystal Inn, Shuttle Lodge Inn, Fairfield Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, and the Holiday Inn, see our website for details. The Conference Center food concession will be open into the exhibit area for lunch. They’ll have a great selection and are prepared for a large and wonderful group of genealogists.

Sign Up Now for the Early Bird Special

Interested in finding out more about the Family History Expo? Simply visit for more information as it becomes available. Remember, the Very Early Bird Special is only $50 for two terrific days, but that price is only good until December 31. For more information, call 801-829-3295. Or email: Registrations may be mailed to My Ancestors Found, PO Box 187, Morgan, UT 84050.

Wonderbase of the Week: Quintin Family Histories

Monday, December 10th, 2007

This week’s Wonderbase comes from the Quintin Publications Collection. The Wonderbase contains 215 titles, 100 will be launched today, and the remainder will be launched throughout the rest of the week. The Wonderbase will be free to access until December 20, 2007. Click here to access the Quintin Publications Collection. The majority of the databases that comprise the Wonderbase are family histories written about families with surnames beginning with U, V, W or Z.

Because of the nature of languages, two of these letters, V and Z have linguistic commonalities. For instance, many of the V genealogies deal with surnames with the prefix “Van,” which means that most of the surnames are of Dutch origin. Among the V surnames are Van Deursen, Van Gelder, Van Brunt, Van Voorhees, Van Horne, and many others. The Z surnames tend to be of German and Eastern European origin. Some examples include Zink, Zabriskie, Ziegler, and Zimmerman.

Unlike the two other letters highlighted today, the W Y surnames don’t have a distinct ethnic pattern, but there are many of them. Some W surnames include Willard, Winters, Willis, Winslow, Weikert and Woodruff. A few Y names include Yale, Yeardly, Yandes and Yerkes.

As you navigate your way through these 215 titles, it is important to remember that even if the surname in the title is not one that is in your tree, one of your ancestors may be mentioned in the volume anyway. As always, these Quintin databases are completely indexed and searchable, which means that if your ancestor is in one of these volumes, you are likely to find him with a few simple clicks. Newsletter Searching

Friday, December 7th, 2007

By Amanda Forson,

Sometimes a question comes to mind about or about a database that may have already been answered previously within a portion of the newsletter. Before asking customer service, a good idea is to check the newsletter:

How to do this:

Day One: Go to the News Tab on the home page.

Day Two: Go to the search area and type in terms that may be in question, such as “Godfrey” or “Searching.”

Day Three: Examine the results that come up from the search. These should include all results for the term, along with whatever other articles are relevant and those articles that may have come along at the same time within the newsletter or the blogs.

Day Four: To quickly examine the hits for the terms in questions, use the functionality provided by CTRL+F and then typing the term into the page and searching for the specific mention of the term. The previous search done on was meant to bring up the specific articles dealing with the term. The CTRL+F gives you the exact locations of the term within the article.

Day Five: If you do not immediately see the answer to your question, check for the answer on the Support/ FAQ page, located near the top right of the page.

Day Six: If those options do not bring the desired results, then ask

Day Seven: Check for more updates on services and information! If there is something in particular that you would like to see in the newsletter, email Have a great week!

Note: can access an archive of the newsletter by clicking on the following link:

Success Story: Otto Prinkaln’s Record Found at

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

By Judy Levy Pfaff – Michigan State University

My great success story with World Vital Records occurred with my nephew’s family, the Prinkalns. The first generation American Prinkalns were WWII refugees from Latvia. The family had fled into Germany after the war and spent approximately 2 years in a displaced persons camp. They were able to come to America. The family story I remembered said that the father of the family was working in an orchard picking fruit. This was soon after their arrival to America. He could not speak English. At the end of the day, he was missing. They found him dead under a tree. He possibly had a stroke or heart attack. I did not know his first name, or which state he had died in. I knew his wife’s name, first name, and the children’s names and approximate ages.

My work had turned up nothing useful. I could account for all the current Prinkalns in the public databases. The man would not have worked or collected Social Security. I thought he had died in Georgia harvesting peaches, but that turned out to be the wrong state. I thought he had died about 1949, but that was a guess.

I put the last name in the search box for World Vital Records. There were 4 returns. One was a fictional character in the book Sharkman Six by Owen West. By an odd coincidence the grandson of the man I was looking for has the same name. Another was a mention of my sister-in-law in the Michigan State Alumni Magazine. Another was in a book titled Latvijas revolucionāro cīnītāju pieminas grāmata, by Sigurds Ziemelis, published 1987 in Latvia. There is a copy available in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This may prove useful later.

It was the first entry under Birth, Marriage and Death from Find A Grave that proved to be my great find. Marie V. had submitted a photograph of a gravestone of Otto B. Prinkalns, 1903-1949, in Macpelah Cemetery, Prince William County, Virginia, photo added on Nov. 8, 2006. I was pretty sure this was the man I was seeking.

I have since followed up by contacting Marie V. She gave me a lead on an archivist for the county and a local genealogy librarian. These leads proved without a doubt that I had the right man. He died July 15 or 17, 1949 and survivors were the same children. Now, I have some needed information for further work on this family.

Thank you World Vital Records, and Marie V., a volunteer for Find a Grave, for getting me started on my latest quest.

The Importance of Genealogical Sources

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

By Sherry Lindsay,

You might have heard the saying “Genealogy without sources is mythology.” Without sources, genealogy truly is mere hearsay. Knowing only that a piece of information originated from Great Aunt Minerva’s pedigree chart does not prove much of anything. While it may be interesting, it is certainly not factual without sources.

If you are interested in doing genealogy but feel like “everything’s been done,” working on citing the information you have is an excellent way to get started. You may be able to correct bad information, find new branches of your family that no previous researchers have found, or even cut out branches of your family that aren’t actually related to you.

Perhaps the information your family has always trusted is riddled with errors. As I’ve worked on citing sources, I’ve been able to find and correct several problems within my family tree. I find that correcting these problems has helped me find more information in spots of the tree that were previously thought of as “brick walls.” As it turns out, the spots were not brick walls, but were based on incorrect information, which is why we were unable to move on.

To add sources to your tree, simply select a part of the tree that is lacking sources. Then begin working on the family as if no information is known. For instance, you might have an unproven fact such as a specific death date in 1910. For something like this, which is very specific, you should be able to locate a death certificate rather easily. As you work through your tree, you will find that proving information can be quite similar to finding information. The primary difference in research, however, is that you are basing your search on much more information than you would ordinarily have. This can help you to narrow your searches to very specific localities and types of records.

You might also find that proving your tree is easier because your searches are based more on family groups instead of single names. For instance, rather than searching for a known ancestor and her husband, you might be searching for a known ancestor, her husband, and their eight children. This sort of foundation makes searching in most resources much easier because you are more likely to find at least one relative that you are looking for, and you are more likely to prove that the person you’ve found is the right one. For example, looking for a Stephen and Ann Sexton in the 1850 U.S. Census yields many results, but knowing that they had a daughter named Mary Ann and a daughter named Sarah can help you prove that your family is a match.

Once you’ve cited sources you might find that selecting families to work on becomes easier. When you’ve spent time looking for sources, you will find that you are more familiar with the different sources that are available to you, and knowing those can help you select areas of your tree that need work and are likely to be found in readily available sources.

You might also find families that no one has discovered, which can change your mantra from “it’s all been done” to “I thought it had all been done.”