Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mining Your Genealogy Database

Do you know how to extract a list from your genealogy software of all the individuals born in a certain town between two specific years? If not, consider learning. Such reports can be helpful when searching certain records.

If you don't know how to mine the data in your genealogical database, you are missing out on research opportunities. Virtually every genealogical database system on the market today allows the user to mine their database for individuals that match specifc search terms.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tip of the Day's Sponsor--Casefile Clues

Genealogy Tip of the Day is sponsored by my weekly newsletter, Casefile Clues. More indepth than the tips, Casefile Clues focuses on the research process, methodology and sources, while at the same time being readable and practical. Readers comment that Casefile Clues is actual research, not just theory and not just "skimming over the details."

For more on Casefile Clues, including subscription plans, visit our recent post on the Casefile Clues blog.

Do You Need to Perform a Manual Search?

If searches of electronic indexes aren't bringing you success, would a manual search of the records be practical? If you have a good idea where your rural ancestor is living in 1870, searching one or two townships page by page might not take very long and might be the way to find him.

Are you searching a birth index online, when you already know the year and the records are grouped by year? It might be easier to search certificate by certificate, particularly if the records are online or have been microfilmed.

Online finding aids are great, but there are still times when a manual search is the way to go .

What Have You Avoided?

There are several records on my wife's family in Moline and Rock Island, Illinois, that I've never bothered to get. Part of it is that other records spelled things out fairly clearly, so I didn't see the need to make a trip during the week to the courthouse and did not think some records would tell me anything anyway.


Familysearch released probate records from Rock Island, Illinois. There in a probate from 1907 was a son of the deceased that I really wasn't aware of. His address: the "Feeble Minded School" in Lincoln, Illinois.

It pays to search everything--even those records you've avoided or ignored for whatever reason.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Do You Know How To Use Soundex?

Lots of genealogists use Soundex. Did you know that:

  • A Soundex search for Sartorius is not the same as one for Satorius?
  • A Soundex for search for Smut will catch one of the most common English language names?
  • Soundex is usually not an option on first names (usually, that is)?
  • Even though ONeill and Neill differ by a vowel they require separate soundex searches?
Probably old hat to most of you, but probably worth remembering for some. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Time Between Those Dates

When I need to know how many days there are between two dates, I use It allows me to enter the dates as "7 March 1861 to 21 Nov 1865" and tells me the time that has elapsed and the day of the week for the beginning and ending dates.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Getting Around Difficult Names in City Directories at

I'm looking for the last name of Frame in Chicago city directories on While I like the site, I'm no real fan of how to search on Footnote. The problem with "frame" is that results come back that aren't a last name--framemakers, etc. Navigating through the images to get to the right section takes forever sometimes as well.

My workaround is to search for names that are very near to Frame in the alphabet, but that don't have the search problems Frame does. Searching for Fraley or Fralich gets me really close to where the last name of Frame would be in the directory, but those names don't have the problem that Frame does.

Not the best approach, but at least it allows me to jump a little more quickly to the right section of the directory.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Do You Understand All the Terms

Census indexes are fairly easy to search (usually) as the search are generally easy to understand. However, if you are search records in other databases, do you understand what all the search terms mean?

As a quick example, if you are searching the Bureau of Land Management website (, do you know what patentee means? Do you know what warantee means?

If you are searching the marriage bonds at the New Brunswick Provincial Archives website, do you know what a marriage bond actually is?

Makes the searching more difficult if there are terms used in the database that you do not understand.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

User Survey

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Family Search Doesn't Automatically Soundex

Goldenstein and Goldenstien are soundex equivalents. However, searching for Voke Goldenstein and Voke Goldenstien in the 1880 census at Familysearch ( does not give the same results. Voke Goldenstein does not bring up any results. Voke Goldenstien brings up one result--in Adams County, Illinois.

Name "matches" in Familysearch do not necessarily catch each and every Soundex equivalent.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Find All the Ways to Browse

The American Memory Collection at the Library of Congress has some wonderful materials--particularly the United States railroad maps. These maps don't just list railroads, they often include numerous other political and geographic features as well. The dates of the maps range from 1828 to 1900. There are several ways to search the maps, but I find it most effective to browse by geographic location instead of doing keyword searches.

Always look over the entire page on any database or search site. There may be ways to browse the data in ways other than text-based searching.

The Railroad Collection at the American Memory Collection in the Library of Congress can be viewed beginning at this location:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Patents on Google has digital images of US patents on their website at In addition to searching for names, if your ancestor lived in a smaller town, consider searching for the name of that town. Search with the name of the town and all abbreviations for the state. It could be that the state is either spelled out or abbreviated. You might find relatives this way as well--some names are very difficult to read and the OCR of the patents didn't always render names in ways that are easy to locate via search boxes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Search All Jurisdications

When searching an online library card catalog, make certain you have searched for all relevant geographic jurisdictions, this can include city/town, township, county, state, country. It may also include parish or other ecclesiasticall boundaries. The records you may need may have been created at any of these levels and they should be cataloged at the level at which they were created.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Books on has a large number of old county histories and other genealogy type books scanned and in a variety of digital formats for genealogists. Search for "yourcountyname county yourstatename" and see what materials are available.

Remember that some books might have been scanned and placed on by more than one person, so it's possible that another scan might be better, have that missing page, etc.

And don't forget that once you've found the book on there are a variety of ways to download it, search it, etc.

And reading parts of it might be good too.

Monday, April 18, 2011

How Many Men Born in 1918 Registered for the World War I Draft?

Sometimes what looks to be an error is actually what the record said. In the World War I Draft Card database at, there are 22,975 results when a search is performed for men born in 1918 ( members can see search results here). While I have not looked at all 22,975 results, the ones I did look at had a year of birth of 1918. While obviously the card is wrong, the transcription is correct and theoretically, transcribers are to transcribe what the document says, even if the document is clearly wrong.

So maybe if you can't find someone in that index, consider that they information they gave is wrong, making the index entry problematic for you as well.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

How Complete Is that Newspaper Coverage?

There are several sites that offer online subscriptions to digital images of newspapers. Make certain though that if the site says it has newspapers from 1890-1900 that it has every issue published. Some sites upload images in "chunks" and coverage from 1890 through 1900 (or any set of years) may be spotty. There may be months where only a few days are covered and those days are apparently random.

Determine if the newspaper you are searching was weekly or daily as well as that also makes a difference. Not all old issues of newspapers survived to be microfilmed, but make certain you know what specific issues you are (and are NOT) searching when you query an image database.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Did You Google The Minister?

Does your ancestor's marriage license or record list the name of the minister, but nothing else? Try searching for him either at or I tried it on a minister in Chicago who used his name and address (but no church name) on a marriage record--Google found him on the history page of that church.

I used google books on the name of a minister from a Culpeper County, Virginia, marriage in 1806 and found out quite a bit about him.

If the name gives results that are too broad, try adding the name of the city/town or county where the marriage took place.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Match All Terms Exactly On Searches

If your searches on are resulting to too many hits or ones that look totally off-base, make certain you have set the search to advanced search and click the "match all terms exactly." This will still allow you to perform wildcard and soundex searches, but won't give all the "fuzzy" matches.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Before You Start That Free Trial

Before you start that free trial, write down the day BEFORE it expires. Then you can contact to cancel on that day, if that's what you decide to do. Do not wait until the day the free trial expires--you might get distracted and after then it may be too late. The day before is the day you should decide--and if that's a weekend--make it the Friday before.

Free trial links:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Don't forget to search a global library card catalog. A search for a relative Rezin Kile, turned up a set of his personal letters written during the Civil War that had been donated to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Obituary Alerts from Legacy.Com

You can set up alerts on to be sent notifications when obituaries containing certain search terms are published. Legacy publishes a significant number of online obituaries daily in the United States. I have notices set for some of my more unusual last names and will be adding more. Give it a try at

Monday, April 11, 2011

Use Advanced Searches If Possible

Unless I am searching for an extremely unusual name, I always determine if a site has an advanced search page. Being able to search on as many fields in the database gives me more flexibility and allows for more creative searches than just ones conducted on first names.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What Does the Database Contain?

Try and find out how a database was compiled and precisely what information it contains. Some database titles may imply they are complete, but they may in fact not be. As a researcher, you need to know whether or not the actual locations you need are included.

As an example, the Illinois State Marriage Index 1763-1900 located on the Illinois State Archives website contains a list of counties and time periods covered

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Read the FAQ

For any database you are using, have you read the Frequently Asked Questions page, the Search Tips page, etc.? If it has been awhile or if you have never read the page, look it over--there might be something you missed.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Is That n and r or is that r and n?

Think about it for a minute, is it possible that someone got these two letters confused? When searching for Blains, I'm always on the look for Blairs in the index as well. That makes a difference when performing Soundex-based searches on this name too.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Is that u an n or is that n a u?

When searching databases, keep in mind that vowels are sometimes read as consonants, creating names that defy Soundex searches and, depending upon the letters in the name, wildcard searches as well.

Traut can easily become Trant--and that's just for starters.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bureau of Land Management Location Searches

Don't forget if you find your ancestor received a patent from the Bureau of Land Management to search for others who might have patented property near his. The site is

I always search at least for people who obtained property in the same or adjacent sections. Entire townships can be too large when we're talking 40 acre parcels.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Family Search Suggestion

I have made quite a few discoveries on the site by choosing the advanced search, and then choosing spouse for the relationship.

I then just enter in last names. If you have a Smith marrying a Jones, it will not work, but you may be surprised at the results you get with one or two less common names.

Worth a try.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Contains the Name

Several database sites, including ones at the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick have a "contains" option. This is particularly effective when searching for "Neil" which may be rendered as Neil, Neill, ONeil, ONeill, McNeill, etc. A search for "contains" Neil will catch all those variant spellings. Look and see if the site you are using supports this option.

The marriage bonds for New Brunswick are here for those who'd like to play with this option

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Google Books

Search Google Books for the name of your ancestor, use quotes if the name is common or consider adding:

  • last name of spouse
  • county of birth, residence, etc. 
  • year of birth or year of death
  • first name of child
  • last name of married child

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Those O Names

When searching for names like O'Neill, try ONeill, O Neill, O'Neill, etc. Different databases may have the names entered differently and may have searches procedures constructed differently. Same for Mc and Mac.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Leave Out Names on World Connect

When using the Advanced Search at World Connect leave out names and only put in county of birth and county of death. This can be a great way to find other individuals who were born and died in the same place as your ancestors, perhaps relatives or at the very least someone who started and ended their lives at the same place as your ancestor.