05 May 2015

FamilySearch Updates: IN Marriages, Milwaukee Naturalizations, Northern IL Naturalizations, MN Deaths

The following databases have been updated/added to FamilySearch since our last update:

Indiana, Marriages, 1811-1959

Wisconsin, Milwaukee Petitions to Naturalization, 1848-1991

Illinois, Northern District Petitions for Naturalization, 1906-1994

Minnesota, County Deaths, 1850-2001

Utah, Applications Indian War Service Medals, 1905-1912

Search Irregularities on Ancestry.com's ELCA Records

Again I am confused.

Searching for my Wilhelmina Kraft in the  "Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940" gave me this set of search results:

I was searching for a Kraft who died in 1878.

Pulling up the "View Record" brought this screen for Wilhelmine. This seems pretty straightforward.

In an attempt to locate her husband (or other family members), I decided to search for individuals with the last name of Kraft who had any event take place in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois. I was hoping to find other Krafts. But I should at least have Wilhelmine's entry returned to me.


The entry for Wilhelmine did not even show up--and since she had an "event" in Nauvoo in the database, she should have been returned as a hit. After all, I already had located her complete record in the database and Nauvoo was one of the locations in her entry.

Why doesn't Wilhelmine's entry show up? I'm not certain and it's possible that I am doing something incorrect.

In continued attempts to experiment with the database, I decided to search for all entries that were tagged with Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois as a location. My search terms were all set to "exact."

And then there were my results.

One entry was for Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois.

A view of the record does not include any reference to Carthage. All the references are to Nauvoo.

While Nauvoo is in Hancock County, Illinois, my search was set to "exact" and I should have only received hits that included Carthage, not Nauvoo.

Am I doing something wrong?

Or is there a bigger problem?

ELCA Image Downloads Now Working at Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com has fixed the download to computer issue with their "Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940" as mentioned in an earlier blog post.

As of this posting, Ancestry.com  subscribers can download these images to their own computer as they can most other images.

Thanks to Ancestry.com for fixing this technical issue.

04 May 2015

That Doesn't Look Like Christina to Me

Transcribing foreign language records is not always as difficult as one might expect. There's a difference though between transcribing and translating.

This image comes from the "family register" of the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Harmony Township, Hancock County, Illinois, and is part of the digital images associated with Ancestry.com's "Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940." As mentioned in an earlier post, the index Ancestry.com currently has to these records does not include the family registers, but if they were microfilmed they can be viewed on Ancestry.com.

The notations on the image below only transcribes the first names of the family members listed in the entry. I used the script guide from an old Family History Library research guide to help me through the transcription process. 

The entries for Christina geb. Uffkes and Benjamin Rolfs are shown below. The individual letters in "Christina geb." have been circled in the image below:

They are a pretty close match to the sample images in the guide to Gothic script.

Pastor had very nice handwriting.

Too bad others didn't.

Where Is Pepu, Illinois?

I'm looking for Pepu, Illinois, and not having much luck in locating this Illinois town that apparently had a Lutheran church in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Apparently Ancestry.com has already found it.

According to the database "Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940 on Ancestry.com, there is a Lutheran church in Pepu, Illinois. 

Curious as to what the name of this town actually was, I browsed the digital copy of the microfilm of the records at the church in Pepu, Illinois--and discovered it was not Pepu after all. 

It was Peru. 

I suppose one can see how the name from the first microfilm image could be read as "Pepu."

But a further reading of the images makes it clear that the intended location was Peru--which is what I suspected all along. 
Until this error is fixed, database searches of  "Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940 with "Peru" as the name of the church location will not locate any of these records. It seems a little bit strange to me that locations used in database construction are not compared to lists of known place names, particularly since Ancestry.com incorporates a geographically based search strategies into its search functionality.

All of which reminds researchers to be thinking as they search, not use too many search terms, browse the records and search manually whenever possible--and not rely entirely on indexes to search records.

Note: I have spent hours on the "Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940" at Ancestry.com and greatly appreciate the access to these records. However, I've mentioned before my "error philosophy" here on Rootdig.com. 

Informed users are better users.  

03 May 2015

No Download of ELCA Images at Ancestry.com? [Now Fixed]

Sometimes when things don't work the way they usually do, it's not you--it's the website. I noticed this problem a few weeks ago, but with other things going on I simply forgot about it.

A Facebook friend (and relative) reminded me that the ELCA images ("Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940" ) on Ancestry.com do not allow the download image option as many records on Ancestry.com do.


Many other records allow users the option of downloading the entire image as shown below:

I actually read the "about the records" section that Ancestry.com has for the ELCA records. No mention of why downloading the entire image was not an option. Nothing "special" about the use of these records was stated. It would be nice to know if there was some reason why the "download entire image" option is apparently disabled in these records.

Church records are private records--unlike, for example, census records, which are public records. Churches do not have to allow anyone to access their records. Whether that's the reason the download is disabled I do not know.

If I find out, I'll let readers know why downloading images is not an option here.

This has been fixed as of 2:19 PM CST on 5 May 2015.

United States Passport Applications

Genealogy Tip of the Day mentioned United States passport applications yesterday. We're reposting this old blog post from 2012 for those with an interest in these records.

We discussed United States Passport Applications in an earlier post. There is an article on the National Archives website about these applications, which are available on microfilm--unindexed.

These records are also:

The microfilm is available through the Family History Library (and on Archives.org) and may be in the collection of other large genealogical libraries. The microfilm is unindexed. Read the article on the National Archives  site before using the microfilm or its digital images.

30 April 2015

FamilySearch Update: North Dakota Census Records

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

North Dakota, Census, 1915

North Dakota, Census 1925

How "new" this actually is, I can't say. I think that this database has been on the site for a while.

29 April 2015

FamilySearch Updates: Military Headstones, El Paso Aliens, GA Deaths, WW2 Draft Cards

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

United States Headstone Applications for U.S. Military Veterans, 1925-1949

Texas, Manifests of Aliens Granted Temporary Admission at El Paso, ca. July 1924-1954

Georgia, Deaths, 1928-1939

United States World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942

Organizing Genealogical Information Class-May 2015 Session-Updated!

Still time to join us---our first discussion isn't until 10 May!

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 (updated):
  • 3 May (or until day before class starts)
  • 11 May
  • 18 May
Discussions are at (updated):
  • 10 May 7:00-7:30 pm.Central Time
  • 17 May 7:00-7:30 pm. Central Time
  • 24 May  7:00-7:30 pm.Central Time

Indirect Marriage Date Evidence in a Homestead File

Homestead records can contain many clues. Like most records, the "best clues" are often the ones that are not blatantly stated. Such is the case with the homestead application for Harm A. Fecht.

In his "Final Proof" made out on 19 January 1895, Harm A. Fecht stated that he lived on his homestead with his wife and three children and that they have lived on the homestead continuously. The "Final Proof" often contains a variety of valuable genealogical information and is one of the documents in a homestead application file that genealogists often concentrate on. On the surface this statement seems pretty simple.

Fecht's initial affidavit is informative as well. Dated 1 March 1888, it indicated that he was a single man, "a widower," and a naturalized citizen of the United States. Had the complete homestead file not been read, this clue would have been missed. 

Fecht could easily have married and fathered three children between the affidavit date and the final proof date. If the statements made in the homestead records are correct, then Fecht married between the date of the affidavit and the final proof.

Hopefully there are local records of Fecht's marriage, but it's possible that they are no longer in existence. This document provides information directly stating that Fecht was married and indirect information regarding the range of dates during which Fecht married the wife to whom he was married in 1895.

The 1895 wife is obviously not his first wife.

Sometimes straight forward affidavits provide more clues than we think.

These image are from Ancestry.com's "Nebraska, Homestead, Records, 1861-1936"

28 April 2015

Who Is Pastor Klorkemeyer?

The "family register" entry for the family of Bernd (Bernard) Dirks from the St. Peter Lutheran Church in Coatsburg, Adams, Illinois, contains the baptismal information on Anna Margaretha Dirks, my great-great-grandmother. 

This image was located in the "Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940at Ancestry.com.

This is the closest as I have gotten to a contemporary birth record for Anna. The birth and baptismal entries were all apparently written at the same time, probably some time after the church's founding--which was after all the Dirks children were born and baptized.

It's very possible some of the dates are incorrect as they were copied from other records.

However, it's still a good clue and, given there are no civil birth records in Illinois for this time period, it is as good as I may ever get. There's no reason to doubt the dates at this point.

What I'm curious about is the pastor who baptized Anna--his last name appears to have been Klorkemeyer or some variant. The letter in front of "Klorkemeyer" appears to be a "P," referring to pastor. The other references contain the same letter and it's doubtful each pastor's first name began with a "P."

Pastor Klorkemeyer most likely lived near where the Dirks family did. Other children were baptized in Keokuk Junction (now known as Golden), Illinois and other were baptized in Pea Ridge in Brown County. Both villages had German immigrant communities and Lutheran churches. Those are probably the best place to begin my search for Pastor Klorkemeyer. The family likely didn't have to travel too far to get to the church where Klorkemeyer was serving.

The problem may be determining what the actual spelling of his name actually was.

27 April 2015

Why We Point Out Errors

Occasionally I get called to task in private emails for pointing out difficulties with databases and websites.

The responses usually fall into one of two categories:

  • "Indexes are created by humans"
  • "We should be glad to have anything."
And I'm also told that I just "shouldn't worry about it." That comment bothers me on so many levels that I won't discuss it any further. 

I'm well aware that indexes can contain errors. Having created indexes myself many years ago and having transcribed my share of records, I know how easy it is for the most well-intentioned and conscientious of researchers to overlook the occasional error. Index creators are human and as such, they are prone to make mistakes. 

"Being glad to have anything" I understand in theory, but I have difficulty with in practice as sometimes it is used as an excuse to justify shoddy or incomplete work. 

 Those two comments really miss the mark of why we talk about difficulties with indexes and finding aids on this blog: indexes and finding aids are tools.

And tools must be used appropriately.

A hammer should not be used to put in a drywall screw and a screwdriver should not be used to hammer in nail. Sure, in a pinch they would do. But they are not the best tools for the job. 

Indexes and finding aids are tools. Knowing their limitations and their quirks allow researchers to know when to use them, when not to use them, and to use them more effectively.

That's why we point out their pitfalls and limitations. 

And, for the record, I've never had one company tell me to "stop writing." I have had behind the scenes emails from them when things weren't working the way they should.

Writing about the pitfalls of indexes and databases helps users make more effective use of those indexes and databases. And on some level, in addition to new and continued subscribers, that's what database providers want. 

25 April 2015

The Preacher's Confused, She's Foresaken, and Church Records Are Not Gospel

Sometimes ministers have a way of laying things on the line and sometimes they are just a little too blunt.

This 1914 entry from the funeral portion of the church register of St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Coatsburg mentions my aunt and includes a little commentary from the minister as well. In addition to listing her date of birth and death, he indicated that she "died childless and foresaken by husband..."

The minister was apparently so concerned about Sophia being childless and "foresaken" that he got her names mixed up. She was Mrs. Sophia Driesback nee Dirks, not Sophia Dirks nee Driesback. Church records can be just as incorrect as any other record.

This image came from Ancestry.com's "Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940"

What Ancestry.com Did Not Index in the ELCA Records

Ancestry.com recently released their version of a dataabase called "Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940." 

There are pitfalls to this collection of which users should be aware:
  • Not every ELCA church is included.
  • Not all the records of every church were microfilmed.
  • Some church records are incomplete.
  • The index at Ancestry.com is not complete and tends to concentrate on baptismal, marriage, and funeral entries. 
The images included in this post come from the "family register" at the Lutheran church in Coatsburg, Adams County, Illinois. Not all churches in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America database at Ancestry.com inclde records like these, but researchers should determine that for themselves. 

Finding this record requires a manual browse of the records, which can be done most easily by using the collection browse option on the right hand side of the search screen for these records at Ancestry.com.  These are a wonderful set of records.

This "family register" for Bernd Dirks lists his wife and children along with their dates of birth, baptism, confirmation, marriage, and death. 

In this case, the entry was particularly helpful as there was no Lutheran church in the town where the Dirks family lived until the 1870s and I had not located the baptismal information for the children. 

This record is the "most contemporary" source of birth information that I have for the children of Bernard and Heipke Dirks as civil records of birth in Illinois do not start until the late 1870s. 

Had I not browsed the images manually, I never would have located this wonderful record.

These items are on the Ancestry.com site at "Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940"

Using Iowa GAR Membership Records at FamilySearch

FamilySearch recently updated their GAR membership records for Iowa.

These records are unindexed and organized by GAR post. The microfilm (and digital images) are organized by county, and then by post. There is an "index" that appears in the county listing (there is one post, called "nulla" which then takes you to the actual "index."

That "index" tells you what post numbers are within what county, organized by counties. There are then two lists of posts sorted numerically on this "nulla" roll:

  • A post listing--which starts at image 7
  • Posts of the Permanent Iowa Department-which starts at image 21
If you know the county of residence, you will have to search all the posts within that county. The cards are sorted alphabetically within the post. 

In my case, I knew the county of residence and had the GAR post number from a biography. 

The cards for David Aquilla Newman provided information on his military career and his personal life. 

David's entry was atypical in that it also contained a newspaper obituary for him clipped from an unknown paper. A quick look at other entries did not locate many that had supplemental information of this type.
Undated and unsourced apparent obituary for David Aquille[sic] Newman
appearing in his GAR membership record file
for Iowa GAR members.
 My citation for the apparent obituary of David needs to indicate that it was located in his GAR membership record and that the actual date and place of publication is unknown.

Of course the information on the GAR membership card needs to be validated with other records, particularly David's service record and other military materials. There's nothing to suggest that the information on the card is wrong, just that errors can easily be made.

Note: There is a PDF file with information on Iowa GAR posts on this site from the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (thanks to Keith R. for pointing this file out to me).

23 April 2015

RIP: Constance "Connie" (Ufkes) Neill, 1942-2015

After a nearly three year struggle with cancer, my mother passed away on 21 April 2015.

Mom was always kidding me that she was "afraid" to talk to me for fear that I would write about whatever it was she said or that it would become fodder for some blog post. It got to be a running joke. .

I was fortunate that I was able to be at the nursing home with her much of the week before she died in what ended up turning into one long sleepover. When she was still able to communicate, we talked quite a bit about a variety of things. Often, I could only understand about a third of what she said and she was never frustrated with me when I would tell her "Mom, I'm not trying to irritate you, but I can only understand about a third of what you are saying." She would smile and say "I know," and we'd try again. She was never impatient with me and never complained and was rolling her eyes at me until the last days. Fortunately I know that she was able to hear me during this time.

Mom always encouraged my genealogy research and she'd listen patiently to about any story that I would tell of a discovery that I had made. She was always proud of her 100% Ostfriesen heritage and would "ignore me" when I would tell her that somewhere in her background I thought there was a Frenchman from the 1600s...telling me "that didn't count and she wasn't going listen."

The staff of the nursing home in Mendon, Illinois, where Mom spent about the last month of her life told me how much Mom had communicated to them that she thought the world of her family--her husband, two boys and two granddaughters. The staff of the nursing home were very gracious, supportive, and kind as we took this final journey with her and I'll be forever grateful for that. We also received support from a variety of relatives, friends, both in real time and online. I am appreciative for that as well.

Mom lived all her life in Hancock County, Illinois--well the vast majority of it. Growing up on a farm north of Ferris, she lived in Macomb while attending Western Illinois University and lived in Carthage with her grandmother until she married my father and moved to a farm north of Carthage. 

Mom was acutely aware of how blessed and fortunate she was. One of the things she told me in those final days was that we were "lucky ducks," and we certainly were. 

I know I was a "lucky duck" to have her for a Mother.

Rest in Peace, Mom.


The obituary for Constance "Connie" Janet (Ufkes) Neill can be viewed here

16 April 2015

My Grandfather Owned that Farm

Land records can contain a variety of information.

This affidavit from 1942 discusses three generations of land ownership in the Rampley family of Walker Township, Hancock County, Illinois. 

It was located using the tract index to land records that the Hancock County Recorder's Office has--that index locates records geographically based up on the quartersection in which the property being referenced is located.

That's how this item was found. 

But there are a few lessons with this document.

Records may be created or recorded decades after the person of interest died.  James Rampley (the grandfather) is the ancestor in this case. James the affiant and grandson of James the ancestor is a an actual cousin of mine. This document was recorded nearly sixty years after James the grandfather died and could have easily been overlooked if I had only used records created during James the ancestor's lifetime. Genealogists don't always think to research land records quite this far after someone dies.

Items recorded with land records may not be actual "deeds." This affidavit was created to assist in clearly up some title issues to the property referenced in the deed. Like many records, it doesn't precisely state what precipitated its creation. That was determined by looking at other records and creating a time line--and by using a little logic and reasoning.

Cook County Birth Certificates Updated At FamilySearch

I can't guarantee how "updated" is it, but this database is showing as updated on FamilySearch since our last update:

Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1938

Database only--no image links.

15 April 2015

A Short Hiatus

We've not left the blogging world, but are taking a short hiatus. We'll post FamilySearch updates if there are any, but that will be it for a short while. We'll be back...stay tuned.