Another Find Where It Shouldn’t Have Been!

Originally published on on 26 Dec 2015.

Okay – here we go again!  I found the missing information in a place that that was not anywhere close to where the ancestor had lived but ironically, was only 5 minutes from where I work. 

Earlier this month I blogged about the importance of revisiting places previously checked as sometimes the needed information becomes available due to persistence.  You can read that blog here – Why Persistence Pays in Hunting Records.

That blog was about my difficulty in obtaining a death records for my husband’s maternal great grandmother, Louise Carlson Johnson.  I had a death year (1937) given to me by his mother but no proof of death.  Previously, I had written to Lake County, Indiana where I assumed she had died, for a death certificate.  They told me they didn’t have one.  I then contacted the Gary Health Department thinking they may have some record but they said they had nothing on Louise.  I contacted both hospitals in existence in Gary at the time of her death – Methodist Hospital (the Protestant hospital) and Mary Mercy (the Roman Catholic Hospital) but they couldn’t help me.  I checked both hospitals because many of our Protestant relatives used Mercy Hospital as they had a very good staff back in the day.  And seriously, when you’re in pain who cares who helps you! 

After discovering that Louise was buried in Ridgelawn Cemetery in Lake County, Indiana I decided to write to Indianapolis (for my non US readers – that’s the capitol of Indiana) to see if they had the death record.  Maybe it had been sent from the local to the state level.  I received the response via snail mail on December 22– no record found.  Geez!

The cemetery didn’t seem to be the kind of place that makes any exception to rules (see Ashes on the Doorstep for those places that do!) so I believe the death certificate was presented for burial.  With that thought in mind I decided there was only two reasons that there was no death certificate in Lake County:  1) she had remarried and her name was no longer Johnson or 2) she died somewhere besides Lake County.

I checked for City Directory information for Gary for 1937 and found her residing with one of her married daughters.  Her name was still Johnson and she was listed as a widow.  I wasn’t exactly sure when the City Directory was published but the chance of her marrying in the few months after it was published and before her death was remote as she had been a widow for 31 years.  That meant she must have died out of the county.

Louise had 3 children – all married in 1937.  She resided with daughter Elsie in Gary.  Daughter Ruth lived nearby.  Daughter Helen, however, was living in Porter County – the county next to Lake.  Louise also had 10 step children and although I’ve been unable to trace many of them, some were also living in Porter County.  From letters that I have it didn’t appear that Louise was close to most of the step children but the possibility existed that she may have been visiting one when she passed away.  Porter County seemed the most viable place to look.

Searching online I could find no database for Porter County deaths.  I had previously checked newspaper archives for the Vidette Messenger, the Valparaiso (Porter County seat) newspaper but found no obituary.  I had also checked for an obituary in the Gary paper, The Post Tribune, previously but was unable to find a paper from that year as the paper had been sold a number of times and some years are missing in the archives.  Of course, 1937 was one of those years!

I went to to check their catalog and discovered a book that might be helpful – Index to death records, Porter County, Indiana, 1931-1959Right place, right years – could be helpful. 

Checked Worldcat and found a copy locally so Wednesday morning I called the Genealogy Department at the Tampa Public Library and David not only found the book on the shelf, he did a lookup for me.  Happy Holiday to me!  Sure enough, Louise Johnson was listed in May 1937.  Now I know where I can write for the death certificate! 

Louise is the only recent relative that I don’t have parent information for so hopefully, the death certificate will give me a clue or two.  Also, her dna is very interesting so I’d really like to find out more about her line.

Due to holiday closures David volunteered to scan and email the page to me.  I attached it to the death certificate request to expedite it.  Like the song says, “waiting is the hardest part!”

After I put the death certificate request in the mail I decided to just recheck newspaper archives and what wonders did I behold!  Some kind folks have entered the obituary information for the Gary Post Tribune and now 1937 is available!  I immediately requested a librarian to look it up.  Keeping my fingers crossed that my youngest brick wall is about to be scaled.  

12+ More Genealogical Gems to Use


Originally published on on 20 Dec 2015.

Last post was my 12 most favorite free genealogy sites and today is my 12 favorite paid sites. I have placed these in alphabetical order and not by preference:

1. – since they own just about everything in the genealogical world it’s very hard not to  subscribe to them.  I do have issues with their new website, phantom hints, relationship help that comes and goes, removal of records and not adding new databases but for now, I still use them.  Just learned there is an AARP discount and I will be going after that when I renew in 2 months.  Complete access is $389.00 per year.  OUCH!  

2, Association of Professional Genealogists – “an international organization dedicated to supporting those engaged in the business of genealogy through advocacy, collaboration, education, and the promotion of high ethical standards.”  Subscribers are $45.00 annually, Professional Members $100.00.  Well worth it for the webinars, journal and eNewsletter! Additionally, members get discounts to many paid sites.

3, Board for Certification of Genealogists – Even if you have no desire to become a Certified Genealogist this site is valuable!  Check out the Skillbuilding, Work Samples and Genealogy Standards which are free.  If you decide to become certified, the cost is $75.00 initially, followed by $300.00 when your portfolio is submitted (1 year deadline).  

4. – Similar to Ancestry with different records.  Cost varies depending on plan purchased.  I got a year free due to being a member the National Genealogical Society but it would have cost me $99.95.  Since I’ve had trouble uploading my tree I won’t be purchasing this anytime soon but it was nice for a year.  

5. – an owned site, currently I’m not a member but I join periodically.  For military history it’s a must have.  If you’re an ancestry member it’s currently $39.95 a year – half the regular price.  So maybe, I’ll upgrade….

6. JStor – is a digital library with books and journals (about 1700) that are intellectual in nature.  Many libraries and educational institutions are members so check out if you get an alumni password.  If not, some access is free (but not much) and you can purchase an article if you have to, cost varies.   

7. New England Historicand Genealogical Society – the database, is free, however, if you are planning to visit the library in Boston, it is not free.  This is a nonprofit organization that also offers research assistance (for an additional fee but discounted), an awesome magazine, journal, weekly email update and seminars.  Well worth it for $89.95 a year.

8. National Genealogical Society – the journal, the magazine, the conference, the discounts, the store – wow, that’s a lot of genealogy goodness.  Annual membership is $65.00.

9, Radaris – the place to find the living! “Radaris is a universal people directory and an information indexing system about people.”  Trying to find long lost cousin Joe – this site will help.  If you just want a report it will cost .95.  Premium memberships can cost up to $49.95 per MONTH.  I only purchase a report if I’m desperate as I usually can find people through other methods – Facebook, Linkedin, etc.

10, Spokeo – a more inexpensive way to find the missing – A 6 month membership is $4.95 per month.  They do offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee that I’ve never tried so I can’t attest to what that offer is.  I don’t currently belong to this, either, but I’ve gleaned info from this site to help me locate free information in the past.  

11 Your Local Genealogy Society – because you need to hang out with people who get excited about your finds.  Mine offers trainings and research help for novices.  Cost is $17.00 a year.

12. Your State Genealogy Society – or whichever state your ancestors’ resided.  My state offers a wonderful journal, newsletter, links to sites around my state, posting for help and webinars.  For $25.00 a year it’s the best deal around!

Bonus – The sites mentioned above are not the only for pay genealogy sites around but the ones I use the most.  Every couple of years I join but until they add some new newspapers, I’ve maxed them out.  I would highly recommend them, though, if you haven’t ever been a member.

Yikes!  I totaled the amount and I’ve spent $776.85 this year.  Guess when I retire Ancestry will be accessed only from the library.  

Twelve+ Genealogy Gems for a Whole Year of Fun!

Originally published on on 16 Dec 2015.

I’ve been asked lately by colleagues and students what are some of my favorite genealogy sites so in keeping with the holidays (and having the 12 Days of Christmas stuck in my head!) here are my favorite free go to sites for quick genealogy answers.  They are listed in alphabetical order because they are all valuable in their own way.  I’ve also included the sites’ own description, when available:

  1. AncestorCloud – “is a community that connects family researchers with willing helpers and professional genealogists. Connect with helpers to pick up records, take local photographs, translate documents, help with research questions or conduct custom research. It’s free to join and post a request. Connect with researchers in over 52 countries”.  I have never been contacted to provide research assistance so I can’t vouch for how that works but I did post a request for help that was picked up by a genealogist in Croatia. AncestorCloud acts as an intermediary so I never communicated directly with the researcher.  She did provide valuable assistance in how to locate my maternal great grandmother’s gravesite,  The process isn’t anywhere online so the information was extremely valuable to me.  I had tried Find-A-Grave and Billion Graves but no one ever responded.  I volunteered to pay the researcher $25.00 US dollars for her help – that was my choice.  If you are going to hire someone the price is negotiated before hand.  Additionally, AncestorCloud emails helpful genealogical articles.
  2. Crestleaf – “is for people who want to preserve their family’s legacy in a chronological timeline and digital archive for both current and future generations to enjoy.”  I don’t use Crestleaf as an archive.  Instead, I scroll to the bottom of the page and check the All Surname search.  You can also browse by state or decade. The absolute best part of Crestleaf, though, is the weekly emailed Genealogy Tips and News.  One of my favorite reads!
  3. Cyndi’s List -“A comprehensive, categorized & cross-referenced list of links that point you to genealogical research sites online.”  Cyndi has been a wonderful resource for me for a long time!  Amazing that her links always work and are current.
  4. Family Search – “Search for a deceased ancestor in historical records to uncover vital information from their life.”  Besides searching records, check out the genealogies (that may be inaccurate so look for citations), catalog, books and the wiki.  I love the wiki and find it’s extremely useful if I need information about a region that I’m don’t typically research.  The only cost is if you want to view microfilm that hasn’t been placed online. You can order and have it sent to a local Family History Center to view.
  5. Find-A-Grave – “Find the graves of ancestors, create virtual memorials, add ‘virtual flowers’ and a note to a loved one’s grave”  It’s owned by but remains free.
  6. Billion Graves – “Collect photos of the headstones in your local cemetery with our iPhone/Android camera app. Then upload the mapped-out photos here. Transcribe information from uploaded headstone photos – then descendants everywhere can easily search for their ancestors. Search for your ancestors’ graves using our easy search. You can access their headstone records, photos of headstones, and accurate locations of all the graves.”  (Both Find-a-Grave and Billion Graves have helped me find children that may have been born and died in between census years)
  7. Geneabloggers – “The ultimate site for your genealogy blog – an online community created by Thomas MacEntee”.  There’s alot of blogs here but the features I like the most are Tom’s genealogy special offers and his webinars (which have a nominal charge).  Subscribe for free to Geneabloggers and you’ll receive emails with give aways (such as genealogy e-books), discounts and helpful hints.
  8. Genealogy in Time (online) Magazine -“We have the tools and resources to help you discover your ancestors for free. Let us help you find your story”.  There’s also a search engine, rare book search and the magazine includes new records placed online each week.
  9. Geneanet News – “More than 1.5 billion indexed individuals  The Genealogy Library gives access to hundreds of thousands documents indexed for genealogy research.”  They will email you periodically any surname updates you’ve identified to follow.
  10. Genealogy News – Every Sunday, I receive this awesome newsletter filled with links of recent genealogy news from Genealogy Today LLC.  Love to read it with my morning coffee as it often gives me ideas that I use to plan my research for the upcoming week.
  11. Legacy Family Tree – “Genealogy News, Legacy tricks and technology tips”.  Some webinars are not free but many are. The Standard Edition of Legacy is free to download if you want to save your tree to your hard drive, desktop or cloud.  If you do use their tree, you can also subscribe free to their techie list and you’ll get emails with updates and hints.  They’re also on Facebook.
  12. Rootsweb – A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away… no, not Star Wars, I’m referring to circa 2000 before owned everything – Rootsweb was the most awesome site in the genealogy universe.  I still use it although it’s not current and it’s now owned by Ancestry.  It remains free, however, and if I’m stuck I use the site to see if someone has created a tree in the past that may be helpful.

Next time I’ll write about my favorite NON FREE sites.  Happy Hunting!

Playing With Names – Wildcard Searching and Other Methods to Discover Your Family

Originally published on on 13 Dec 2015

Just read a helpful blog about how to use wildcards when researching online.  You can read it here. I have to admit that I’m not very good at using wildcards or identifying the many, varied and unusual ways my ancestors spelled their names.  I think that many of my brick walls could could tumbling down if I took the time to use the wildcard search approach.

Another method I’ve used was just plain dumb luck but it taught me a very simple way that I’ve used since. I once had a dead end on my paternal grandmother’s line.  A distant family member thought my 2nd great grandmother’s name was Maria Dure.  I searched and searched for years and found nada!  It never dawned on me that I had two of the letters reversed in the last name. Duh, DURE should have been DUER.  I would love to take credit for that discovery but alas, wasn’t me who figured this out. I’m not sure how the gentleman found me but I received an email asking me about by DUER connection. I responded I didn’t see any Duer’s in my tree.  The writer than let me know he suspected my Maria Dure was a long lost line he was pursuing.  He knew his missing Maria had married an immigrant named Kuhn and sure enough, once I began looking for Maria under Duer the whole line fell into place!  He was kind enough to send me his years of Duer research and they are just a fun family to learn about.  (Well, probably getting kicked out of England wasn’t exactly fun, nor later being shunned or having to payoff an indenture in the Caribbean but you understand what I mean)

Last technique I’ve used is adding or removing an ending.  My Koss’ are really Kos.  Have found documents with both names so it pays to play with the last name.

Sorry this is so short but I’m recuperating from jet lag! Once my head clears I’m going to take my own advice and play with my Bird or is it Byrd?! or Berd or Burd line.  Happy Hunting!

Genealogy At Heart – A New Website

Originally published on on 8 Dec 2015.

I’m heading out to the west coast for a conference but wanted to let you all to know I’ve developed a website to contain my blogs in one handy dandy spot – you can now access it at All blog posts will be listed under Family Stories/Genealogy Hints.

Genealogy is expensive so I will also post any special offers I discover there under the tab “Specials to Share.”

Besides genealogy, I love traveling, architecture and visiting historical sites so I’ll be posting some pics of places I recently visited so check out the tab “On the Road Again.” It may give you an idea of where you want to explore your family’s past.

If you’d like more information about an older posting or have suggestions/ideas for the future simply email me from the About Lori page.  I look forward to hearing from you!

If you are a Family Tree Maker user synching with and just learned that Ancestry is discontinuing the agreement soon, you may be looking for a new software program.  I’m not making any money off this but here’s my advice – check out these GENEALOGY PROGRAMS .  Once you’ve decided which you’re going to use, go to and click on Trees – Create and Manage Trees on the ribbon.  Then click on “Manage Tree.”  On the right hand side, click EXPORT TREE in the green box. It may take some time but when it’s ready, click the new green box DOWLOAD YOUR GEDCOM FILE.  You may have difficulty doing that as sometimes it doesn’t want to work.  If so, click “download tips” and alternative directions are given.

I saw the zillions of negative comments by FTM users on Ancestry’s blog and for the life of me, can’t understand why Ancestry didn’t give clear directions in the announcement on how to save your work as a gedcom.  I feel very badly for those unhappy people thinking that they have lost years of work when they haven’t.  The only thing they can’t do is have their work saved both on Ancestry and on their hard drive at the same time.  Personally, they need to be saving in another location, too, because, if their hard drive crashes and they can’t get on Ancestry, then they have a huge problem.  I use the free cloud to also save my gedcom in Legacy.  That way, I can log on to DROPBOX anywhere and access my tree, in addition to using Ancestry if I’m not on my main computer.

Seriously, you should be exporting your tree at least once a month if you’re a heavy user as if something happens to Ancestry your citations are gone!  Notice I said citation and not records.  You cannot download all of your records when you download the gedcom.  You will be downloading the citation of what record was found but not the picture of the actual record.  For example:  You’ve saved the 1880 US Federal Census for your great grandpa to your Ancestry tree.  When you download the gedcom it will show that the census record was what you referenced, or cited, for the 1880 residence.  If you want the actual picture of the census page you will have to download it to your hard drive. That is time consuming but important.  I haven’t done that for most of my lines but plan on beginning that process soon.

Now, back to the download directions – Once you’ve exported you will have to import the saved file, called a gedcom, to whatever program you’ll be using.  I like Legacy because 1) the Standard version is free and that gave me a good idea if it was a program I could easily use and 2) their support is very good.  They are friendly on the phone and they have an email group that you can subscribe to for free that you can post queries to and the software engineers answer.  Amazing!  I never got that kind of response from Family Tree Maker and when the synch between Ancestry and FTM stopped working, I decided to move to something else.  Now I’m really glad I did!

I ended up purchasing the Deluxe Legacy version six months after downloading the free Standard version and the updates have all been free since then, too.  The program has a lot of bells and whistles I haven’t even begun to delve into but plan to do so when my Board of Certified Genealogy portfolio is done.  I also have made a New Year’s Resolution that I will stop saving records to my Ancestry tree and just save directly to Legacy.  It’s another adjustment but then I’ll have all the records (pictures) even if Ancestry becomes cost prohibitive or stops making some records available, which has already happened to me.

Hope this has helped!

Visiting the New England Historic and Genealogical Society

Originally published on on 18 Nov 2015.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of researching at the New England Historic and Genealogical Society in Boston, Massachusetts.

New England Historic & Genealogical Society, Boston, MA Nov 2015
New England Historic & Genealogical Society, Boston, MA Nov 2015

If you’re planning a first visit, here’s some tips I found useful:

  •  The library is SMALL but filled with tremendous resources that you might not find anywhere else.  Don’t let the size fool you!  Obviously, the holdings are fantastic if you have New England relatives but there is also a sizable collection of Long Island and New Netherlands.  My most awesome find was from Indiana, though, so don’t discount other areas!
  • COST is free if you’re a member (about $90.00 a year) and $20.00 if you aren’t. Click for Info on Joining! I highly recommend being a member for the following reasons :  First, if you’re planning on spending a few days, it’s cost effective.  Second, as a member you get a lot of perks you wouldn’t get with a day entrance fee – those wonderful journal articles that the society puts out, discounted fee on accessing a genealogist, training opportunities and so on.  Third, you’re helping the society keep the materials available to everyone.
  • BE PREPARED (Yay, Boy and Girl Scouts!) Seriously, know what you’re trying to find before you get there so you don’t waste valuable research time.  You can do a search of the card catalog online at .  If you haven’t registered, which you can do even if you don’t join the society, it’s easy and if you save the search items, you can email them to yourself so you have it on your phone and tablet when you arrive.  It saves results with the FLOOR listed so you know exactly where you need to look.  Emailing saves a tree, time and having to juggle more stuff in the stacks!  (HINT:  Many of their holdings are digitized so you can peruse the text online and focus on books in the library that you can’t view from home.)
  • To get familiar with the library you can watch their video, which I did, but if you’re short of time you’re fine if you don’t watch it. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page for the video. (HINT:  Start on the 7th floor which is reference because those are the books you can’t easily find elsewhere.)
  • Getting there is simple – I took a cab from Logan Airport because I had my heavy bag that I couldn’t check into the hotel since I arrived too early.  It was $23.00 without tip.  Another option is to take the subway, called the T, which is super easy to navigate, inexpensive and available right from the airport to Copley Square.  It’s a short walk. There are also parking garages close by if you drive which I would recommend against.  I learned to drive in Chicago and I drive in New York City but I never ever drive in Boston.  Those narrow streets and congestion intimidate me!
  • Lockers are available but they are very small and my large purse didn’t fit.  The website says NO SUITCASES so I packed light, stuffing everything in the bag, thinking I could get away with a purse.  I mentioned this to one of the employees and she laughed and said they wouldn’t have minded the suitcase.  Oh, well.  Since the flights were overbooked and there was no space in the overheads it all worked out anyway.  Across from the lockers is a coat rack so I hung my coat (Wicked Boston cold last weekend, it was 89 degrees when I left Florida) and put my bag on the floor in the corner.  No one messed with it.
  • Check the website for hours and days opened, especially with the holidays approaching.  I arrived shortly after 10 AM.  There were few patrons researching and no one in the stacks so I was able to accomplish a lot in a little time.
  • When you arrive there is a welcome counter to your left where I was given a map.  They will check your membership before permitting you entry.  Once you’re checked, you will be directed to the elevator.
  • I was greeted by a wonderful genealogist on the 7th floor – she welcomed me, was willing to help me get started and was open to answering any questions I might have. She had a client so another genealogist took over for her.  He was very professional, too, and gave me the wireless access.  I always bring just my Kindle as I find it’s a light, space saving alternative to a laptop.  With access to my online tree I can fact check right in the stacks.  The internet was spotty, though.
  • The stacks are narrow and dark.  There is a small counter in the midst so you can put your finds on the counter and snap a picture of the page.  You can also use their copy machine or save to a thumb drive but my smart phone’s camera is good with low light so I could happily click away.  I like that approach because I tend to look at many volumes and it wastes time to carry them to a copier, wait for the copier to warm up, and you know the rest.  Read an interesting article in Family History Daily that recommends the use of other devices.  View here for other ideas but I’m good with my phone.
  • BRING PENCILS – they don’t allow pens.  I did print a concise list of the books I wanted to see and wrote my notes, mostly negative findings, on the margin to transfer to my tree notes later.  Here’s an example:  “No Adams, Cole or Dennis.”  To me, that means those are the surnames I checked out but there were no references in the index to them.  That way, I know later if there was another surname I overlooked and I’ll not have to recheck the source in another library for what I’ve already checked.
  •  BRING A MAGNIFYING GLASS or have an ap on your phone.  I miss my young eyes, I really do!
  • BRING POST IT NOTES.  You can quickly flag pages to take pictures of findings without having to flip back and forth to the index and they’re reusable.
  • Once I finished with the 7th floor I moved to the 5th.  No warm and fuzzy welcome there – two young ladies didn’t even look up from the desk when I entered.  What’s cool about these stacks is there is a light switch from the aisle you can turn on to get more overhead light.  Very useful!
  • After you’ve checked out your pre-identified books you may have additional time to look over the stacks.  That’s how I discovered my most intriguing current genealogical mystery.  Hmmm – why would my husband’s grandmother be enrolled in school at age 7 by someone named Frank?  Have NO ONE named Frank in that line.  It could be Frank’s name is an error or the record is for someone else in the area with the same name as hubby’s grandma (not likely, though, since I’ve been over the census numerous times without finding another with her name and she has an unusual first and middle name!).  Immediately texted hubby and asked “Who’s Frank?”  He didn’t know so now I’m on a hunt to discover more.  The book was a transcript of school enrollment for the late 1800’s in Indiana.  Must find the original record to make sure Frank is correct!
  • Food and directions – ask at the front desk on the first floor.  The first person there was a volunteer not from the area but she was so sweet she phoned someone to help me.  I ate at a pizza place inside the YWCA but there’s many places to get a quick bite.  I only stopped there because I was freezing and it was half way to my hotel so I could eat and warm up for a bit.

S    I’ll definitely come back after my portfolio has been submitted and spend time trying to uncover more of our New England ancestors.  So much to look at and so little time!

My finding at NEHGS also confirms what professionals emphasize – you have to look high and low to find proof.  I can’t explain why I found my husband’s several times great grandfather from New York’s place of burial in Salt Lake City and his Indiana grandmother’s school enrollment in Boston.  What’s strange is I looked for the burial records in numerous places in New York and never found them.  I never looked for school enrollment records in Indiana so I can’t say that they don’t exist there, I just find it odd to find it in Boston.  My point is check as much as you can about everyone everywhere you go.  I also find it interesting on Who Do You Think You Are celebrities fly from place to place to trace their families. Lucky for them, their family records are ALWAYS where they lived.  Clearly mine are not!

Your Tree Posthumously

Originally published on on 18 Oct 2015.

Being that it’s Geneanet’s A Cemetery for Posterity Weekend, I’ve been thinking about ways to have me tree live on after I do.  Geneanet had an interesting blog on the 5 October 1915 by Jean-Yves regarding your genealogical tree after you’ve died.  I don’t have a tree on Geneanet but I may want to investigate doing so.  You can read the blog here:  What Happens To Your Data…

And then there was this interesting post in Myrt’s blog about ancestry’s disappearing records.  It happened to me trying to retrieve my husband’s 3 times great grandfather’s obit info.  I recently blogged about John and Mary “Mollie” O’Brien Cooke (A New Genealogy Society – What Fun! 11 October 2015).  When I was checking my saved sources on for the couple I couldn’t retrieve the info for John’s obit.  On the bottom right hand corner on the old ancestry version I could see the link under Source Info but when I clicked nothing appeared.  I tried to do a search through the card catalog for Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003 using John Cooke but there were no hits.  I had a hard copy so I dug through my records and found it.

I’m not sure if ancestry reactivated all the records they had blocked a few weeks ago because I tried it again yesterday and I was able to access it.  Very weird!  Having records here one day and gone the next is frustrating.  That makes me want to save what I find in multiple locations to insure that the data isn’t lost.

If you’re a member of the National Genealogical Society one of the new benefits is obtaining access to the United States and Canada records FREE on Find My Past.  I tried last week to upload my tree as a gedcom to the site but I kept receiving an error message.  Although my tree is large it’s well within the limits of the Find My Past site.  Going to try it again today. If you’re interested in getting Find My Past, the first crack at registering for the upcoming Family History Conference to be held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida the first week of May, 2016, and very useful periodicals, you can join here,

Another though I had was the idea of creating ebooks on my lines once I’ve obtained genealogical certification.  I could then download the ebook and print a hardcopy.  I would include snips of the pertinent records in the text so if the original disappears there would still be a picture available.

So many ideas – so little time!

Correcting Records Is A Feat!

Originally published on on 3 Sep 2015.

Recently I’ve been ranting about the problem of looking for a record that never existed or once existed and has since vanished.  Today, I’m going to share a frustrating story about trying to correct an error in a record.

As genealogists we know that it’s common to find discrepancies in records.  One census may show a person born in one year and the next census may show a different birth year.  A marriage record may state a person was born in one state but the census record may show a different state.  We know it’s a best practice to try to find primary sources but sometimes even a primary source isn’t correct and it becomes a herculean task to try to fix the error.

Daughter recently moved and was trying to have her power turned on.  Power company told her they couldn’t do it because she had a discrepancy in her birthdate through one of the credit services they used.  She called the credit service (and I use the term service loosely!) and they refused to tell her which company had reported her birthdate wrong.  She was told to fax 2 of the following 3 documents to the credit card company to prove her correct date of birth:  a birth certificate, driver’s license, passport, or social security card.  Since daughter didn’t have power she couldn’t fax the documents (duh) so she took a picture of them on her phone and emailed them to me to fax.

Immediately I thought this was a scam but I checked and found that the number she was supposed to fax to was legitimate and lots of other people have encountered the same problem.  I faxed and got confirmation that the documents were sent.  Daughter called the power company back and informed them the information had been faxed but it could be 10 days before the situation was investigated.  Power company turned on the power (hooray!).

A few weeks later daughter received via US mail a letter from the credit service stating she had to refax the documents as they were not readable.  Daughter refaxed and then sent a hard copy via US Mail.  Another few weeks went by and daughter received another document from the credit service in the mail stating they had re-investigated and would update the record if she sent them either a birth certificate or driver’s license.  This will be the fourth time they received copies of those documents.  Frustrated, daughter again tried to find out which record was in error so she could go directly to the source to get it corrected.  Although it is her credit record, the credit service again refused to divulge the information.  Daughter contacted her bank and credit card companies to see if they had the birthdate wrong.  Nope, their records were correct.  So, for the fourth time, daughter resent proof of her birthdate.

I’ve noticed when looking at US Public Records Index that too many individuals have conflicting birthdates in comparison to my other sources.  I don’t know if you’ve notice this, too, but I’m guessing there must be a date of birth field where someone is entering the digit 1 instead of the actual date of birth.  Since the month and year are correct, I don’t know if all the fields must be complete and if they don’t have the day of birth they enter a 1.  No way to correct the error, either!

It’s important to remember that clearly, even today, record accuracy isn’t going to happen 100% of the time.

More Inaccessbie Genealogical Records

Originally published on on 30 Aug 2015.

I’ve been mentioning that several events occurred recently that really brought home the connection for me between education and genealogy, along with the impossibility of trying to find a nonexistent record.  The records that I’m looking for today did exist once but is not easy to find.

The illustrious Florida legislatures (and I mean that with all the sarcasm that I can muster) passed a bill called Florida’s Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship last spring which is not the best or brightest idea IMHO!  Eligible teachers can earn an additional $10,000.00 bonus.  Florida teachers are way underpaid compared to most of the rest of the states so this is a big chunk of change.

To “earn” the scholarship a teacher must be considered “highly effective.”  Hubby and I get a great big check mark on that requirement.

Next eligibility condition is “…by October 1 official ACT or SAT documentation either that their score on the ACT was at or above the 80th percentile based on the rank in effect when the assessment was taken or that their scores on the SAT were at or above the 80th percentile based on the rank in effect when the assessment was taken” be provided to our school district.1

Hubby and I can’t find our Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) documentation.  We took that exam, which wasn’t a requirement to enter college back in our day, about 43 plus years ago.  I found copies of our Graduate Record Exam, National Board Certified Teacher scores, middle school achievement test results, report cards for every grade beginning in kindergarten, opened and sealed transcripts, and lots of awards but I can’t find our SAT scores.

This post isn’t about how idiotic it is to base a bonus on a test that was designed to measure success in college that was administered almost a half century ago.  Not to mention how that particular test has been shown to be historically biased against many of the test takers, particularly minorities, women and those raised in lower income households.  Nor is this post to discuss why the results of an obsolete test could demonstrate how accomplished at work an individual is today.  Nope, this post is just about the difficulty in trying to obtain the record.

I called the College Board to see if I could get another copy of our test results.  The automated message said the cost was $15.00 and for a $30.00 investment, hubby and I could receive $20,000.  Wow, what a deal!  After 45 minutes on hold I thought maybe we should just retake the exam so I looked up the next test date.  Problem is, the next administration is October 3 so it’s too late for the October 1st deadline.  I continued to wait on hold.

Finally, Russell #443 answered the call and was clearly confused when I asked him how far back records were kept.  He didn’t know.  I told him I need a copy of an exam I took in Spring 1973 as I wasn’t sure if I took the test in March or April.  He stuttered a bit, clearly taken aback that someone would need the test results from that long ago, especially since no college would accept a test that old.  I explained why I needed a copy.

Russell said the cost for an archival search was $31.00 with $11.00 for mailing and would take a minimum of 4 weeks.  That might not make the October 1st deadline, either.  Money is not refunded if they can’t find the test results.

I hate to spend money for the archiving fee because the College Board lost my son’s entire junior class’ PSAT scores a few years ago.  I still don’t understand how that happened and I was really not happy that he wasn’t able to qualify for National Merit Scholar.  School blamed College Board and College Board blamed school.  Just another example of a record that should exist that unexplainably doesn’t any longer.

I can understand missing records due to war, fire, flood or other disaster but I can’t understand why an entire school’s paper records just vanishes.  I bet they’re out they’re in cyberspace with the delayed text messages, lost  postal mail and missing socks.

The State of Florida will be able to hold on to the bonus checks as I suspect few will be able to come up with their requirements.  Laws like this just make me long for my next career as a full time genealogist!

The Nonexistent Genealogical Record

Originally published on on 23 Aug 2015.

This past week I had several interesting situations occur that really drove home to me the connection between education and genealogy.

The first was an email from my division superintendent that requested everyone bring a photo of their high school graduation to post as a visual reminder of our district’s goal of increasing high school graduation rates.  Problem is, I don’t have a grad photo.  If you’re one of my loyal readers you know my parents were divorced when I was young.  I attended 1st through 11th grade in the Lake County, Indiana school district where my mom and I lived with my grandparents.  In June of my rising senior year I sat for senior picture; the custom at that time was girls had to wear a crew neck grey top- no mortar boards.  I have a copy of the photo which never appeared in a school yearbook because in August, my mother, who was employed by Montgomery Wards Department Stores, which was then owned by Mobil Oil, was given a transfer to Florida.  Mom gave me the option of going with her or moving in with my dad and step-mother to complete my senior year in Indiana.  Either way, I would have had to attend a different high school so I opted to move to Florida.

My first day of my senior year at St. Petersburg High School was a disaster.  I had to retake classes I had already passed because Pinellas County Schools did not have a work-study program that I was scheduled to take in Indiana. They wouldn’t let me attend school part time, either.  I had wanted to work my senior year to save money for college so that goal was shot.  In addition, no one spoke to me the entire day, even when I asked for directions.  I came home that evening and announced that I was quitting school.  My mother insisted I return so the next morning we met with the guidance counselor.  I don’t remember his name but I remember his complete lack of concern.  He suggested I enroll in a school for drop outs where I could complete assignments at my own pace and hold a job.  My mom drove me to the new school.  As we entered there was a fist fight in the hall and we had trouble getting into the office.  No adults were around although this was adult education.  I only needed 3 classes to graduate but the school only allowed enrolling in 2 classes at a time.  I finished senior English and Business Math in two weeks.  I then enrolled in Americanism vs. Communism.  Back in the day, the state of Florida was fairly certain Fidel Castro was going to storm the shores so every Florida senior had to be prepared by taking this ridiculous course.  Even though I finished the actual course work in another 2 weeks I was forced to sit for the entire school day in the class for an additional two weeks as there was a requirement that students must be enrolled for a certain number of hours.  The teacher was kind and told me I could bring anything quiet to do so I read a book a day.  No one spoke to me at this school either.  At the time, doctors, judges and other leaders in the community were so afraid that their children would become drug addicts that they enrolled them in a now defunct program called “The Seed.”  Anyone enrolled was not permitted to speak with anyone outside of the group.  The organization decided to enroll all of their students at the adult ed program probably because there would be less opportunity to interact with other teens.  I completed my entire senior year in 6 weeks.  When I went to the school counselor to turn in my completion paperwork she informed me the district would mail my diploma to me by the end of the semester (which they did but spelled my name wrong which is another story).

I never had a graduation ceremony so I never wore a cap and gown which is why I don’t have any pictures to contribute.  Hubby offered to photo shop my senior pic to add a mortar board but I nixed that idea.  I don’t want to fake history.  I submitted a photo of my college graduation instead.

Technically, I’m a high school graduate as I had the diploma conferred to me via US Mail but since this didn’t occur with pomp and circumstance I have no photo.  Several of my co-workers did attend a graduation ceremony but it wasn’t a custom to take a picture of the diploma being conferred so they don’t have pictures, either.

I think the practice of taking a picture as the diploma is being awarded must have occurred in my area after the early 1980’s.  My bachelor’s and first master’s degree photos were taken by my mom and husband.  By the time I received my second masters in the 90’s, photographers were on stage snapping away during the ceremony.  By the 2000’s you could get the whole event on DVD.

My point is you may be looking for a record or photo that doesn’t exist because it was never recorded. Next time you’re searching for that wedding photo or birth certificate think about the possibility that it never was!  This will save you time and frustration – just look for an alternative, like the marriage license of a baptism certificate.  In my case, I have the transcripts and diploma – just no picture.