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Month: July 2006



Symbols on tombstones have you confused? There are many sites with information on the symbols found on tombstones. Like everything else in genealogy, the information should be doublechecked but here are some places to start:

Here’s a encyclopedic site with all sorts of information on subjects like tombstones, illnesses, occupations, etc.

California Death Index

Illinois Death Records
1916-1950, some pre 1916

Kentucky Death Index

Maine Death Index

Texas Death Index

Social Security Death Index
If you don’t find it in a basic search move up to the advanced search. Try using only the first letter of the given name. If you enter “Robert Smith” and for some reason the death record was entered as “R. D. Smith” it won’t find it using Robert.

How to Find a Place
Once you find it — and this includes cemeteries, towns, schools, etc. — you can click on a link and get a map of the location.

Find a Grave
Graves of the rich and famous — or infamous — and a few others.

Cemetery Junction
If the cemetery listing is online there is a link to it. In this database you search by location and then by cemetery.

Find a Person in a Cemetery
In this database you search by location and then by surname.


Obituary Daily Times

There are some great newspapers archives — which of course include obituaries — on Heritage Quest, part of ProQuest, a subscription database which may well be available through your local library. If it is not ask for it. Your library may also have a subscription to the Ancestry databases. Do not overlook these resources which become free when you get them at your local library.

Remember, the internet is fluid and URLs do change. I have tried to pick the most stable locations for this information but that doesn’t always work.




At a genealogy conference a year ago I bought a two volume A Basic
Course in Genealogy
. It is actually the text of the time [about 50 years
ago] for LDS genealogical training classes. Needless to say, it does not
include computers.

One of the more amazing things to me is those questions we struggle with,
how to indicate this, what about this, are answered. As we struggle with
them now we are reinventing the wheel. Example, “place of birth is known but
it is in a town different from the christening or “full date of an event
unreadable.” [Imagine that!] There is a procedure for listing children who
die before their 8th birthday and their name is not known. [son
Jones/daughter Jones] Those who die after their 8th birthday and their name
is not known are Mr. Jones or Miss Jones.

Why the 8th birthday? It doesn’t particularly matter why. It is a system
that works in all cases and provides uniform recording, something we all
strive for. We may not want to use that system but we can look to it for
suggestions on how to handle sticky or unusual issues.

It also tackles foreign sources because so many LDS came over from Europe in
the 1800s.

Way out of date and yet useful — give those old books a second look even if
they don’t mention computers.


Here’s a link to an article on basic genealogy that makes some good
points for everyone to remember:

It’s fairly short.


Here is an interesting web site:

Your ancestors had to come from some and most of them came by boat.* [Well, I have a couple who apparently came by UFO. Further research indicates that time and place apparently had a lot of UFOs.] This web site is a list of links for, the owner thinks, all the online passenger listings. There is also some information on naturalization papers.

*Obviously I am talking about coming to the US. Admittedly this blog is centered on research in the USA.


The new second edition of Rose and Ingalls’ Complete Idiot’s Guide to
is out. So what did they do with the first edition? It’s
available free online!

Go to

and download it. It’s a BIG file and it downloads immediately with no help
from you so keep that in mind if you are on dialup. It’s worth the time.




DJ Weber, original author of this post, kindly gave me permission to pass it along to you. I think may of you will find it interesting. Remember, this is about emigrants and NOT colonists. Their ships went to whatever colony they were going to.

When you think of emigrants arriving at North American ports you need to think of the historical times of their arrivals.

First, we may need to know from which port our ancestors left Europe. Prior to 1783 as a result of British Maritime laws governing its North American colonies no ships legally might arrive in North American unless their port of departure was in Britain, usually Hull, London, Bristol or Liverpool.

In addition, considering that within the British Empire of that time, Philadelphia was the second (or third) largest town after London (depending on which historical source you find, either Calcutta or Philadelphia was number two or number three but there is no consistency in records as to which was in which position), the port of Philadelphia was an early important port of arrival. English port to English port!

For Colonial times, therefore, think PHILADELPHIA, BOSTON and NEW YORK.

After 1783 ships could leave from most any European port, from LeHavre, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Emden, Bremen (and later Bremerhaven) and dozens of other sea ports eastward to Stettin and Danzig as well as numerous Scandanavian and Mediterranean ports. While this time period is later than the era when the European Hansa was of high importance, many of those ports were still quite active and only the ability to receive a cargo was necessary for the ship to return to North
America with a return cargo of emigrants. You may think Hamburg as a vital European port and it was but not one of the early-time European ports.

This era also increased the potential of North American ports. New York grew while Boston and Philadelphia became less of importance. By the middle 1800s, you would have had New York, Baltimore and New Orleans as the major ports of arrival. New Orleans was very important prior to the American War of the Rebellion as its shipments to Europe were loads of cotton and the then, empty ships had ample space for return emigrant cargo.


There were many smaller ports, particularly if for some reason the ship from Europe stopped in the West Indies first. Galveston and Charleston are noted for smaller arrivals. Often it was cheaper to arrive through Halifax.

The cost of emigration was a particular problem. Did the emigrant pay his passage, was the passage paid by his town (many towns “weeded out” financial distressed families during times of crop failures, heavy taxes, famine and other almost-regular European disasters) or perhaps handled by an agent for a North American activity. Each of these might be a reason for using certain ports in Europe and in North America

We might think of a trip up the Rhine as the logical method of transportation to a sea port but just from the Alsace area on north, there were over thirty toll locations on the river. It was costly enough that many south-western Germans, Swiss and others walked, barged, horse-backed their way across France to LeHavre as that route could be cheaper to reach a sea port and a ship headed for North America. This route, as a result of the American War from 1861 to 1865 became less of value.

If you have a 1900s arrival, think NEW YORK. If you have an 1800s arrival, think NEW YORK, BALTIMORE or NEW ORLEANS. If you have a very early 1800s arrival or a 1700s arrival, think PHILADELPHIA, NEW YORK or maybe BOSTON.

Many smaller ships which were not direct from Europe disembarked their passengers at most any port along the shores of eastern United States and Canada. These came from the West Indies, from Cuba and from South America, normally. Any port is possible.

Remember that long after the area of the Louisiana Purchase lands its animals were trapped and its lands were occupied by French Canadians. Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, the Dakotas and other of those eventual states were all areas where the lands were native to those who had migrated westward from French Canada. There was no border. In many towns, those French Canadians were the original settlers. Records for Canadian emigrants of the eastern provinces were not recorded until the 1900s.

The true question should be of what nationality were your ancestors, what might be their logical ports for a ship from Europe to the Americas and during what time period did they emigrate. Then keep in mind that if they did emigrate normally and legally during a time period for which there would have been records, many of those Manifests bit the dust through fire, water damage, rat gnawings, deterioration and every excuse which can be identified by NARA before its predecessor activity started to microfilm those Manifests. Many records do not exist.

If you want to go on to migratory routes through the United States, the Mississippi river and its tributaries (Tennesse, Ohio, Missouri and all the rest) were excellent routes from New Orleans. From New York for the Erie Canal, by 1823 navigation was possible from Genesee River to Albany and Lake Champlain and on October 26, 1825, the first complete passage was recorded. From Philadelphia and Baltimore for the National Road (Cumberland Road/National Pike) actual construction stated in 1815 and by 1818 the road had reached Wheeling, Virginia (West Virginia) by 1833 Columbus, Ohio and by 1841 Vandalia, Illinois.



Did you know you can search the 1880 Census Index at 1880 Census FREE?

You won’t get to see the image free but you will get some basic information. Here’s what I got.

Name: Robert Downing
Age: 86
Estimated birth year: abt 1794
Birthplace: Pennsylvania
Occupation: Retired Farmer
Relationship to head-of-household: Self
Home in 1880: Mt Pulaski, Logan, Illinois
Marital status: Married
Race: White
Gender: Male
Spouse’s name: Jane Downing
Father’s birthplace: PA
Mother’s birthplace: PA

The next two people I tried were not found — although I did find them on the LDS 1880 census index. I specifically told them what county I wanted but they persisted in showing me everyone in the US.

If you are out of other ideas it’s worth a shot. But I’d go to the LDS site first. They have a complete index of the 1880 census too. If you have the CDs or know a place that does you can search for the neighbors too. Knowing the names of the neighbors can provide a lot of information.


When the census taker went door to door what was he supposed to do? Knowing that can be useful information. To find out go to:


You might find a useful free spreadsheet here:

He has spreadsheets for all the federal censuses and more, also for cemeteries, passenger manifests, research, family groups.

If you don’t have a spreadsheet program — it doesn’t have to be the latest version — he has them in pdf.


I started to put together a blog on the census. Then I remembered I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Try Rootsweb’s Guide.

It covers just about everything including censuses. Be sure to read the pitfalls — don’t take census information as gospel. If it is a transcribed census look at it even more cautiously. Note the dates the census was “as of” — the official date of the census. It is almost assuredly different than the day it was actually taken. Were they always careful about that? What do you think?

Knowing what was asked is important too. Unfortunately you can’t know who they asked it of. Was it an adult? A child? A neighbor? The census is a guide but not necessarily completely factual.

Did you know the 1900 census asked the exact month and year of birth and the number of years married? Did you know the 1880 census asked for the birthplace of each individual AND their parents? The 1910 census asked when you arrived in the US. My favorite is the 1930 census which asked if you owned a radio.



Ancestors. We all have them. We all have about the same number of them. Why is it that some of us have found many of ours and others have found only a few?

Sometimes it is where and how you were raised. I have Revolutionary War ancestors buried almost literally in the backyard where I grew up. This is not uncommon on the East Coast. People came to this country and next moved more than a few miles from where they landed. I was raised in the Midwest but once my ancestors got there their traveling days were over.

My family was a large extended family and they knew their history, angels and scoundrels. I had first cousins and second cousins, first cousins once or twice removed — didn’t matter much. We were all related. I confess I was nearly 30 before I found out this was not the norm!

Sometimes it is the result of serious and dedicated research, hours spent looking over dusty documents in courthouses and archives. Sometimes it is a combination of both. There are those who went online and collected whole genealogies but they don’t really count.

I’ve been at this awhile. These are my thoughts, mostly random. Some you may already know. Some you didn’t until now. If it helps you in your search I’m happy.


  1. Write down all you know now. Start with yourself and work backwards.
  2. Include the source of every piece of information. Yes, it is a pain in the rear but someday you will be happy you listened and did it. Trust me. BTDTGTTS (been there, done that, got the tee-shirt)
  3. Minimum to include is birth, marriage, death, burial location, parents — same for your spouse and children. [I heard you say you aren’t dead yet.] You don’t know it all? There’s your first serious research, filling in the blanks you didn’t know.


I always assume that everyone knows about Cindi’s list. Even if you do perhaps you don’t realize it is a work in process and is constantly being updated and added to. It’s a massive site.

Karen Isaacson and Brian Leverich, the founders of Rootsweb, have put together pages of genealogy links at:

Both of these lists are worthy of checking regularly to see if there are any links you can use.