22 November 2014

Did the Lawyer Use the Facts to Seize the Moment--And the Land?

Without the surrendered bounty land warrant file for James Kile, I never would have located this interesting little item.

James Kile received a bounty land warrant for 40 acres based upon his service in the War of 1812. The resident of Mercer County, Illinois, died after the warrant was issued but before any specific land could be patented.

As a result his heirs surrendered the warrant in order to patent 40 acres in Mercer County, Illinois. They appointed Cyrus Aldrich as their "attorney-in-fact" to complete the process at the Dixon, Illinois, land office.

This image below shows part of the entry for the completed Kile patent in the tract books of the Bureau of Land Management. These books effectively serve as a geographic index to who patented property were.

Aldrich completed the patent process for the Kile heirs as evidenced by the green entry above-all the properties shown in this clip are for parcels in section 35 in Township No. 13 of Range No. 5 West of the 4th Principal Meridian in Mercer County, Illinois). It's rather difficult to read the names of who received the property, but it appears to be Enoch Kile and others (based upon the information in the surrendered bounty land warrant file).


There was another piece of property in the same section that was "located by" Cyrus Aldrich in August of 1853. A review of the dates that property in section 35 was all located by August of 1853, except for the Kile parcel and the Aldrich parcel.

The Kiles were Mercer County, Illinois, residents and would have known that no one was farming the property. Aldrich does not appear to have been a Mercer County, Illinois, resident and appears to have been living near the Dixon Land Office at the time.

Did he discover that there was an "unclaimed" 40 when he did the paperwork for the Kiles?


We might have to get that paperwork and see if more about how Aldrich obtained the property can be located.

Links to the BLM Tract Books on FamilySearch and the guide to the books can be found here. My webinar on using these tract books can be ordered here for only $6.

Stay tuned!

21 November 2014

New Dates for My 2015 Salt Lake City Library Trip

Due to a scheduling conflict, I've had to change the dates for the 2015 Family History Library Research Trip to:

  • arrive and check in on 19 May 2015
  • check out and leave on 26 May

20 November 2014

Paying for Two Coffins in 1862

It always pays to read the entire probate case file.

This is part of a claim allowed to Philip Smith in 1865 that is contained in the estate case file for William Smith of Mercer County, Illinois.

N. B. Partridge states that in August of 1862 Philip Smith paid him $10.00 for "making two coffins for Wm. Wmith & wife."

The fact that the claim didn't get paid until 1865 does not seem highly unusual. However, there are two aspects of this claim and payment that are interesting:
  • Philip Smith has paid the "coffin bill."
  • The "coffin bill" is for coffins for William Smith and his wife.
Philip Smith is mentioned in other documents in this case file, but his relationship to William Smith and his wife is never stated. It would seem reasonable to conclude that Philip Smith is related to William Smith and his wife based upon the fact that Philip paid for their coffins himself. It's not unusual for someone to request reimbursement from the estate for an expense of this type. It would be unusual for someone related to the Smiths to pay for their coffins on the hope that they would eventually be reimbursed.

The payment by Philip is suggestive of a relationship. The specific nature of that relationship cannot be surmised solely from what is in this document.

William Smith and his wife most likely died reasonably close to each other--time wise that is. Just how close cannot be surmised based upon this reference. The wife of William is not named in the estate case file and no "relinquishment of first right to administer the estate" for her is included either. This is suggestive of her dying before the start of the administration of the estate in January of 1862. However it is possible that a relinquishment was simply not filed. What is sure is that the wife of William Smith was deceased by August of 1862 when Philip paid for both coffins.

Like most records during this era, the clues here are suggestive and require further research.

Cleaning Mother's House

We're reprinting this article I wrote for the former Ancestry Daily News in 2002. It's still relevant today. Reprint requests should be sent to mjnrootdig@myfamily.com

Cleaning Mother's House

It has been nearly a year since fictional genealogist Barbara passed away. Her daughter Charlene reflects upon that year in a letter to her friend Karen. Charlene truly has been busy. Barbara is probably rolling over in her grave.


As usual, my cards are late. It has been a busy year.

We spent much of the year settling up Mother's estate. The house sold well, but cleaning it took longer than we expected.

You are probably the only person who did not know Mother was a genealogy buff. She told practically every human she encountered. I'm convinced that genealogy "nut" was the most accurate phrase. The stuff was all over the house. The inheritance would have been enough to pay for my new Mercedes had she not insisted on spending money on that blasted hobby. I don't know why she couldn't be more like Tom's mother. Nadine spends her day doing needlepoint and watching reruns of 50s television shows. Tom just does not realize how lucky he is, but men never do. My mother had to run off to cemeteries and courthouses. She even went to a conference in Davenport, Iowa, last year! Can you imagine? Davenport, Iowa! After she got back, she was so excited about all that she had learned and all the fun she had. She was planning on going to another one in California this year. Well the grim reaper took care of that.

Because of my promotion to head of knick knack sales at Garbageforless.com, I had not been home for several years. I was appalled to learn that Mother had converted my old bedroom into her family history "headquarters." My shelves of Teen Beat and other magazines documenting my adolescence had been replaced with old family photographs, copies of old documents, and something called family group sheets. She even got rid of the pants I wore to my first junior high dance. I cried at the thought.

I could not bear to go in the room and be reminded that my childhood had been stripped from me and replaced with an obsession with the past. I told the children that if they would clean the room and prepare the items for the garage (should I say "garbage"?) sale they could have the proceeds. I learned what true entrepreneurs they are.

Kenny stripped Mother's hard drive in under ten minutes. I kept hearing him say "GedCom is GedGone . . . GedCom is GedGone . . ." I have no idea what it meant, but the computer fetched a good price. Before he unplugged the computer, he erased all Mom's floppy disks and downloaded public domain games. He sold these at a nominal price.

Susan took the old photographs to a flea market and was able to sell many of them. Some special labels had to be taken off and we had to take them out of protective envelopes. Mother had written the names on the back of many of them. At least none of those pictures of depressing old dead people had our last name written on them. I don't want to be associated with such sour people.

Mother had some type of old plat book -- whatever that is. Kenny tore out the pages individually and sold them separately on Ebay. It was so clever. His dad said he got much more than if he had left the book in one piece.

Susan didn't tear the bibles apart though. I thought that showed tremendously good sense. She's learning that not everything can be marketed in the same way. The 1790 bible brought her a good penny, but she couldn't get the one from 1900 to bring more than fifty cents. She donated it to a local church, and here is where I am so proud of her. We can write if off as a charitable deduction. Someone had written what they had paid for the bible on the back cover. Susan converted that to 2001 dollars and will use that for our tax deduction amount. I've already enrolled Susan in tax lawyer summer camp this coming August.

There was some old large certificate of written on heavy paper. The silly thing wasn't even in English, so why would Mother keep it? Kenny used the other side to keep track of the things he had sold. Waste not, want not. When we were finished we put the paper in the recycling bin.

The kids put an old wedding dress from the 1870s in the washer to get the stains out. It was terribly filthy. The worthless thing didn't even survive the extra long cycle and the half-gallon of bleach. It's doubtful we can even use it for cleaning rags.

The dress was in some kind of old trunk. I'm not certain what it was for, but it had a name stenciled on the front in huge letters along with the name of a town. Susan gave it a good coating of red paint and sold it as a toy box.

The filing cabinets were emptied of their contents, as were the three shelves of binders. Kenny got the bright idea to shred the paper and sell it in bags as New Year's confetti. The file folders were too heavy to shred.

The baby did not react well to any of this. She cried and fussed almost the entire time. Kenny thought she wanted tea, which made no sense to me at all. As she cried, it sounded like she was saying "family tee." She can't even talk yet and I think Kenny was hearing things. The baby does look exactly like my mother though, it's the oddest thing. The fussing didn't stop until she spit up an entire bottle of strained prunes on my junior high jeans, which we did find in the basement. They were ruined -- it was the one real loss. Now my past has really been taken from me -- magazines and all.


Whether you have a child like Charlene or not, have you thought about what might happen to your genealogy collection upon your demise?

18 November 2014

Updated on FamilySearch

The following databases are showing as recently updated on FamilySearch:

Montana, Sanders County Records, 1866-2010

Montana, Lake County Records, 1857-2010

Pennsylvania Obituaries, 1977-2010

Tennessee, White County Records, 1809-1975

Weir Sulky Plow

The 1886 estate inventory of Andrew Trask in Mercer County, Illinois, contained a detail that is not always included: the manufacturer of several of the pieces of farm equipment. Modifiers of this type make it possible for the researcher to learn a little more about the item in question.

A "Weir Sulkey[sic] plow" was valued at $10 and was one of a handful of items in the Trask estate for which a little more background information could be obtained. 

A search on GenealogyBank located several references to the Weir company, one of which is shown below. This article appeared in the Daily Inter Ocean and included brief summary of the Weir Plow Company based in Monmouth, Illinois. Given the proximity of Monmouth to Mercer County, Illinois, it seems pretty reasonable that this is the company that manufactured the sulky plow that was inventoried among Andrew's items.

 A sulky plow is one that has an actual seat for the user instead of requiring the user to walk behind it. Weir patented the plow in 1877 as evidenced by the illustration contained in his patent application that was obtained on Google Patents:

W. S. Weir, Sulkey-Plow, Patent No. 190,652 Patented May-8, 1877;
digital image from Google Patents (http://patents.google.com) obtained 18 November 2014
I knew what a plow was, but wasn't quite certain what a "sulkey-plow" was until I started doing a little searching. And I got a history lesson besides.

16 November 2014

That Place of Birth is How Specific?

[this is more of a commentary than an actual post]

The devil usually is in the details.

How precise is the location of that event?

The death certificate of my ancestor indicates that he died in Limestone Township, Peoria County, Illinois. He was actually at the Illinois State Hospital in Bartonville, Illinois, at the time of his death. If I use the death certificate as my source for his date and place of death, I should indicate that he died on the date and place given on that death certificate. The death certificate does not use Bartonville when referencing his death and I should not indicate that a record provides information that it does not.

Locations are more of a problem when there are no sources providing primary information about an event. Numerous references indicate that Riley Rampley was born in 1835 in Coshocton County, Ohio. No source provides any location more precise than that and it is doubtful that I ever find one. I may surmise that Riley was born in Jackson Township as that is where his parents owned real estate at the time he was born.

But that land ownership doesn't necessarily mean Riley was born there. His mother could have travelled to an adjacent township to stay with another family member as the birth approached. I have no evidence to indicate that. It's also remotely possible that while the Rampley family owned property in Jackson Township that they didn't live there. However since I have no evidence to indicate that they lived elsewhere, I'm concluding that they did live in Jackson Township where their property was located.

Should I indicate that Riley was probably born in Jackson Township, Coshocton County, Ohio in 1835? At this point, I'm not. I'm content saying that his parents owned property there (something which can be documented) and most likely lived there (something I'm surmising). Knowing Riley's precise place of birth would be nice, but it's not crucial to my research at this point to be more specific. Nothing about Riley's life or parentage hinges on knowing the place more specifically than Coshocton County.

The potential problem with saying that he was "probably born in Jackson Township, Coshocton County, Ohio," is that it is often easy for the "probably" to get dropped. If the knowledge of a more precise of birth was necessary for other research reasons I'd be tempted to include it.

But for now, it's sufficient to know that his parents were probably living in Jackson Township when he was born.

Short Course-Organizing Genealogical Information

Still time to join us---our first discussion isn't until 23 November!

By popular demand, we're bringing this course back....

Organizing Genealogical Information:
A Short Course
With Michael John Neill

(scroll down for specific schedule)
Organizing information is an important part of genealogical research—perhaps more important than the actual research. This short course (only 3 sessions) is intended to provide the students with exposure to a variety of ways to organize information with an emphasis on problem-solving. The course will consist of four lectures (topics and schedule below), problem assignments, virtual follow-up discussions, group discussion board interaction, and student submission of work (optional). There is no assigned grade—you get from this what you put into it. Students will also be able to share their work and ideas with other students.

Citation of sources is important, but presentations will not focus on citation theory.

This time the course will be presented a little bit differently. Students will be able to download the lecture and view it at their convenience--ideally all on the same day that the download link is sent to registered students.

Students will have a week to view the presentation, discuss or ask questions on the bulletin board and submit optional homework before the class discussion via GotoWebinar. 

Course registration is only $30 for this run of the course. Class size is limited to 30 to encourage group interaction.
  • Assignment/Study 1Charts, Charts, and More Charts (we will discuss a variety of charts and table to organize your information and your searches—all students work on same problem
  • Assignment/Study 24 Step Research Process (we will discuss a four-step process to research organization)—pick your own problem
  • Assignment/Study 3— Constructing Families from pre-1850 Census (discuss of how to ascertain family structure from pre-1850 US census records)---all work on same problem
Register here

Lecture downloads:
  • 17 November (or until day before class starts)
  • 24 November
  • 1 December
Discussions are at:
  • 23 November 2:30 pm.-3:15 pm.Central Time
  • 30  November 2:30 pm.-3:15 pm.Central Time
  • 7 December  2:30 pm.-3:15 pm.Central Time

14 November 2014

Ten Percent Discount on Webinars

We've opened a new "store" to process my webinar sales. To celebrate the opening, we're offering a ten percent discount on a purchase through 15 November 2014. Use coupon code tenpercent to get your discount. You can view the catalog here.

FamilySearch Updates: US Materials in FL and OH

The following databases are showing as new or updated on FamilySearch:

Florida, Key West Passenger Lists, 1898-1945

Ohio, Washington County Court Records, 1810-1930

Ohio, Hamilton County Records, 1791-1994

The Hamilton County, Ohio records have been posted for sometime. I'm not certain how "new" those records are or how many are "new."

Trautvetter Military Photo Arrives

 It arrived!

The Trautvetter photograph taken in Aurich, Germany, in 1866 which I purchased on Ebay has made its way to me from France.

I have already written about the picture here--so that commentary won't be repeated.

The illustrations in this blog post are made from photographs that I took once the image had arrived. 

I've still got some work to do in order to learn more about the Trautvetter man shown the photograph.

I don't have many pictures dating from the 1860s and this one is small, perhaps 1.5" by 3."

It survived the trip from France to the United States. 

And it also survived several wars in Europe between 1866 and today.

Using Maps As A Research Log

Sometimes a manual search of US (or other) census records is still necessary when indexes fail us. When I'm searching in rural areas of the United States, I find a township map of the area of interest serves as a workable research log. I can mark on each township when I've completed a search of that location and the map makes it clear to me what townships border each other.

12 November 2014

Before I Read that Regimental History

I recently purchased on Amazon.com a copy of  In the Very Thickest of the Fight: The Civil War Service Of The 78Th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

I've decided that before I start reading any more than the introduction to this book, I need to make  a chronology of what is known about the military career of my ancestor who served in the 78th Illinois. A quick review of the book indicates that it's pretty much laid out chronologically and having a chronology of my ancestor's military experience for occasional reference may be a good idea.

Do you use chronologies of your family when reading various historical works?

11 November 2014

Pictures on an 1852 Bounty Land Warrant

This 1852 era military bounty land warrant was issued to James Kile for his service in an Ohio unit in the War of 1812. The illustrations serve political purposes and probably were included to make the warrants more difficult to reproduce and forge. That's also probably why the blue ink was used in the middle of the document as well.

We've marked the seven images used on the warrant. I'm pretty certain I know what three of them are.

  • 1-a shield with 13 stars and 13 stripes and a "40" to reference the fact that the warrant was for 40 acres
  • 4-looks like George Washington
What are your thoughts on the other individuals pictured in this warrant?

It would have been nicer if they had put a picture of the man who received the warrant on the warrant. There are already enough pictures of George Washington (grin!). 

Not Quite a Poppy for Veterans' Day

I've been reviewing materials obtained in the War of 1812 bounty land application and surrendered warrant file for James Kile of Mercer County, Illinois.

This image seemed especially appropriate for Veterans' Day so we're using it for a blog post today. The color images obtained from the National Archives give an entirely different feel to using these records than when only black and white copies are obtained.

James Kile died in Mercer County, Illinois, in the early 1850s. He had received his warrant, but the land had not yet been patented. Fortunately, his heirs patented the property after his death and the surrendered warrant file contains names and counties of residence for his eleven sons.

From a genealogy standpoint, that's the best time for him to have passed away. Had James lived to patent his warrant there would have been much less in the way of genealogical information in his file.

09 November 2014

Bad Query Karma

"Bad" genealogical queries reduce the chance that someone is actually able to help you on your problem.

Here are a few of the more blatant ones:

  • I'm looking for Grandma.
  • Send me everything you have on the Jones family in St. Louis, Missouri.
  • I need an obituary for Henry.
  • My Great-great-great-grandma came from Germany in the 1830s. Who were her parents? I don't know where she was born.
  • Can you send me a list of all the cemeteries in your county?
And so it goes.

Add your own bad query in the comments.

Openings in Our November Webinars

We still have openings in our November webinars, topics include:

  • Court Records
  • Probate Records
  • Female Ancestors
  • Charts, Charts, and More Charts

08 November 2014

An Attempt at Well-Written Queries

As a followup to "Before You Post that Genealogy Query," I've posted some sample queries that may not be great are a good start to getting the answers you want.

Note: Queries with the last name of Smith are fiction. The others are not. Never hurts to get the word out on my own problems (grin!).


Elizabeth Chaney was born in 1804 in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, probably in Southampton Township. Her father was Thomas Chaney who settled in Bedford County in the late 1700s and died there in the early 1850s, probably in Southampton Township. Elizabeth married James Rampley in Coshocton County, Ohio, in 1830 and died in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1883 where her family settled in the 1840s. Looking for the name of her mother. Death records in Illinois provide no further information. Thanks.


Looking for the ship manifest entry for Altje Goldenstein who was born in Germany in 1848 and married in Adams County, Illinois, to Hinrich Schuster on 28 August 1870. Her date of immigration is unknown, but in the 1900 census she and Henry both indicated they arrived in 1870. I have searched on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch for every port they have records for, but may have overlooked an alternate spelling. Thanks.


Looking for a newspaper obituary for a John Smith who died in Minooka, Illinois, on 4 April 1932. I am unfamiliar with the area and need suggestions for what newspapers may have been likely to run an obituary for someone who died in this location. Any help appreciated.


Looking for the burial place of Thomas Smith who died in Smith County, Indiana, in the 1870s. He was living with an address of Milltown, Indiana, as of 1868. I have personally visited the Presbyterian Cemetery, Mill Road Cemetery, and Township Cemetery. Are there other cemeteries in the area that I should search or have someone search for me? Thanks.


Trying to find the place of birth for Annie (Murphy) Neill who died in 1895 in St. Albans Township, Hancock County, Illinois. She and husband Samuel Neill are buried in the West Point Cemetery. Annie's death certificte and obituary only indicate she was born in Ireland. She married Samuel Neill in St. John, New Brunswick Canada in 1864. Samuel's Irish origins are known and Annie does not appear on the same ship manifest as Samuel and it is believed that she and Samuel arrived in Canada separately. Annie does not appear to have been related to any of the other Murphy families that were living in St. Albans Township where the Neills settled. Any help appreciated.

Feel free to post your own well-written queries in our comments....

07 November 2014

FamilySearch: OH, ID, VA, NH, WA, and KY Records

The following US databases are showing as new or updated on FamilySearch since our last update:

A Trautvetter Picture from 1866 and the Prussian Annexation of Hanover

This is the first picture I have purchased on Ebay that has been for a person whose relationship to me was unknown.  The picture attracted my attention because of it's potential connection to my family from Thuringen and ended up reminding me of why my Ostfriesian families began their exodus from Ostfriesland in 1866.

The back reads:
"Trautvetter. Hauptmann und Chef of 10th Company of Infantry Regiment Nr. 78 in Aurich. 1866."

This picture was apparently taken in Aurich in 1866 where Trautvetter's unit was stationed. Based solely upon the last name, I'm doubting if Trautvetter was a native of Aurich as members of this family generally originated from the Thuringen area. Aurich is located in the ethnic area of Germany known as Ostfriesland and those last names tend to be of Dutch or Friesian origin--Trautvetter does not "sound like" an Ostfriesian name.

I'm not even certain if this Trautvetter is related to my family with the same last name, nor am I certain where he was born or where he died. My Trautvetter family had left Germany by 1866.

But Trautvetter was stationed in Aurich a short distance from many of the small villages where my maternal relatives were living in 1866.

In 1866, Ostfriesland was a part of Hanover and no longer independent. 1866 was also the year that Hanover was annexed by Prussia as a result of the Austro-Prussian War. It's possible that Trautvetter's regiment was somehow involved in that annexation. I'll need to do more work to learn more about him and about his unit.

In the decade that followed the annexation of Hanover by Prussia, over a dozen of my ancestors left Ostfriesland for the United States. That's a little more than coincidental.

This Trautvetter probably had nothing to do with my ancestors near Aurich, but even just some cursory research into the picture reminded me that one item can contain more history lessons (or reminders) than we ever expect.

And if Trautvetter turns out to be related--that's an added bonus.

06 November 2014

A War of 1812 Discharge Certificate

Bounty Land application files are wonderful and I've used several of them in my research on my children's ancestry, but this is the first actual discharge certificate I've encountered. Fortunately for James Kile he held onto it for forty years until he needed it to prove up his bounty land application.

We will be writing about this bounty land application and redeemed warrant file in future posts, but this is an interesting set of documents. James died after he received the warrant and before a patent was issued for any specific property. Consequently his heirs obtained the property after his death--meaning there is a wonderful set of documents documenting his eleven children who survived him.

Stay tuned....

Recent FamilySearch Additions: UK and Ireland

The following are items that were recently posted as "new or updated" on FamilySearch for the UK and Ireland:

 Note: We are publishing these on an irregular basis--not as often as the updates from the United States.

Before You Post That Genealogy Query

They say there is no such thing as a stupid question.  That may be true, but one gets better answers if one asks better questions.

Genealogy message boards, Facebook pages, and other communication forums that genealogists use are inundated with questions and queries. Some of them get answers and some of them don't. There are several reasons why questions go unanswered, but frequently writing a vague query is part of the problem.

Having administered several message boards, mailing lists, and Facebook pages, here are a few suggestions for creating a post that increases the chance someone who can help you actually does help you.
  • Provide known information. Posts without dates or places are difficult to answer. Approximate dates or places can help--but clearly indicate they are approximate. While if "you knew all that information" you wouldn't have a question, it is helpful to give readers an idea of the location and time period in which you are working. 
  • Organize your thoughts and information. No one wants to read through a circular discussion.
  • Indicate what you've searched. It's frustrating for a reader of your message to suggest sources or references which you have already used.
  • Indicate what you want to know. What information are you trying to locate?
  • Read your item before you actually post it. Catch mistakes, items you left out, etc.
  • Surnames in upper case. This can be helpful when some last names are not known or when what looks like a last name is actually a middle name. It makes it easier for those interested in surnames to scan for those.
  • Don't abbreviate. Everyone may not know what your abbreviation stands for.
  • Learn a little. Find out about local records in the area, when vital records start, who maintains probate records, etc. Ancestry.com's "Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources" is online (at no charge) for some assistance in this area.
  • Use reasonable grammar. It is not necessary to write as if you were writing a formal composition. Failing to punctuate, using only one sentence for the entire post, using "he" and "she" so often it's confusing, make it difficult for someone to understand what you are saying. (Note: I'm not suggesting being the grammar police, Grammar Nazi, etc. but it is important to write clearly so that others can understand. If nothing else, use sentences that are short and simple.)
If posting to a message board or mailing list with subject lines, then:
  • do not use "genealogy," "help," or anything equally vague in the subject line.
  • Message boards that are county specific do not need the name of the county in the subject line (avoid "Hancock County Families" as a subject line for a message on the Hancock County message board).
  • Message boards that are surname specific should not just contain the surname in the subject line (avoid "Jones Family" as the subject line for a message on a Jones family message board).
These aren't mean to be exhaustive--just to get you thinking. Think "what would someone need to know to help me answer this question." That usually does not include:
  • how long you have been researching the person
  • the fact that Grandma (or Aunt Myrtle, Uncle Bob) lied about the relative in question
  • the fact that the person is your great-great-great-great-great-grandma
Thanks to several of my Genealogy Tip of the Day fans on Facebook for their suggestions.

We'll have at least two followups to this post. Stay tuned! The first followup ("good queries") is here.

If you'd like to share this post with others, the link is: