Monthly Archives: February 2009

Does the Family History Library Have Everything?

In a word, no.

Salt Lake City’s Family History Library ( is a wonderful library in which to research. Their collection of genealogy materials is the largest in the world.

But remember that they do not have everything.

For many Illinois counties, the Family History Library does not have personal property tax records from the mid-nineteenth century and later. While most genealogical problems do not require the use of these records, there are times when these records are helpful in placing a specific person in a specific location at a specific point in time. There are other counties where court case packets have not been filmed and where tract indexes to land records are still accessible only at the courthouse.

The Family History Library is an excellent place to work on your research. But do not assume that because you have searched there that you have accessed everything.


Do you Understand the Index?

A few things worth remembering:

  • Indexes to courthouse records are not always strictly alphabetical. Sometimes they are indexed only the first letter of the last name.
  • Some indexes are partially by last name and then by first name.
  • The Mc and Mac names can be at the front or the end of the “M” section.
  • Not every party in a lawsuit appears in the defendant or plaintiff index.
  • Indexes can be incorrect or missing.
  • Courthouses may have indexes to records that were not filmed by the Family History Library.

A good idea is to ask a local person from the area who is familiar with the records. These people can be an excellent resource.


Does it Make Sense?

Before I say this, let me say that copying someone else’s data into your database is not advised at all.

But at least make certain it makes sense before entering it into your database. I saw an online family tree where the mother and father died before their children were born and another couple who had their children before they (the parents) were born. Woah!

And if your database indicates someone died in 1742 and served in the American Revolution something is decidedly amiss.


Are You Looking At What is Missing?

Are there time periods in your ancestor’s life that are not accounted for? What was he or she doing during those periods? Where was he or she living? The first five years of my ancestor’s life in the United States were a complete mystery to me. John Ufkes came to the United States in the spring of 1869, settling in Illinois. He cannot be found in the 1870 census and there is no record of him until his marriage in 1874. His life is well documented after then until his death in 1924. There are a variety of land, court, census, church and other records fairly clearly documenting his life in Adams and Hancock County, Illinois.

I realize five years is not a long time in the life of an adult, but the gap in information always bugged me. Since the time period was short and other items were more pressing, I really never worked on those five years, but they were still in the back of my mind.

A cancelled homestead claim in Franklin County, Nebraska, indicated that John spent at least one of those five years in Nebraska. That was NEWS to me and explained the “gap.”


Grantor versus Grantee

Do you know what the difference between a grantor and a grantee is? A grantor is someone who is selling or transferring their ownership in property to someone else. A grantee is someone who is purchasing property or is having property transferred to.

One joke I make during many lectures is about the genealogist who spent hours looking for a deed when her ancestor purchased land. Her time was spent looking in the grantor indexes. Of course, looking for when her ancestor purchased land should be done in the grantee indexes.

It can be easy to get the two terms mixed up. Make certain you are looking in the right index.


Google Books

We don’t normally feature websites, but I have been locating so much information on Google Books that I thought it worth mentioning.

Google Books has digitized thousands of books and allows users to search them using OCR (optical character recognition) technology. I’ve found many pieces of information I was unaware of, including the fact that a great-great-grandfather’s brother-in-law was a chronic alcholic and that his son was mentally incompetent, but I digress.

I have been searching for either some of my more unusual last names or just typing in ancestral names. Not all books are completely online, but there will be links with citation information so you can try and get a copy of the book yourself, either by purchasing it or obtaining it on interlibrary loan.

Of the books that are completely scanned and on Google, you can download them as a PDF or text file. I prefer PDF. But keep in mind, the “search” in Adobe Acrobat Reader is not the exact same search as in Google books. Google books found “troutfetter” in a book (and I saw it, so it was there). I downloaded the book and then viewed the PDF file and had that program (Adobe Acrobat Reader) search the file. Adobe didn’t find it. So now I’ll make certain and make notes about the page numbers before downloading the entire file to my computer.


Do those search boxes on GenWeb Pages get everything?

Many county USGenWeb pages have search boxes that allow you to search the entire site. Keep in mind that sometimes they don’t work.

As an example, a search for “ufkes” on the Franklin County, Nebraska, USGenWeb page

resulted in no hits.

And yet there are two pages with that word:

The last page was located doing a search for “John Ufkes” at ( The first page I located using a long trial and error process I won’t go into here. I think there is a problem with the linking, but it is just something to keep in mind.


Look for Divorce or Separate Maintenance

Never make the assumption that “our family” never had any divorces. Married couples have had difficulty getting along since marriage began.

Divorce is not one of those stories that always gets passed down in families. It is easier to “not pass” the story down if the marriage does not result in children or the divorced parties do not remarry. My third great-grandmother was divorced twice. My great-uncle was divorced from his wife and no one ever told anyone about it. I never would have thought to look for a divorce record except his death certificate indicated that he was divorced.

Divorce records are usually kept with the county records. Give them a look. You never know what you will find out. And remember, even a divorce record on an uncle or aunt may provide testimony from their siblings or clues as to where the family lived previously.


Update Your Old Message Board Posts

Have you posted to the message boards at Ancestry/Rootsweb or other genealogy sites and not looked at your message in a while? Have you gotten a response? Remember that even if the site allows you to be notified of a response, that response might have gotten stuck in your spam filter.

Also some users don’t view the “old” posts because they are concerned that the emails are out of date, etc. Consider re-posting messages to boards with updates in your information, etc. New people are getting into genealogy every day and there may be new relatives just waiting to be found on the message boards.


Review Your Early Findings

Have you reviewed information you found early in your research? Perhaps you entered data without really analyzing it or copied only parts of a document or a book without realizing that there was more?

Are there any conclusions you reached early in your research that you are “sticking” to, even though you should go back and analyze them now that you know more?
I have copies of court records in my files, where I now realize that I only copied part of the record, what I thought was important when I was first starting my research. Now I realize that there might be more.

If you have not done it, it may be worth your time to revisit some things you “discovered” when you first started.