Hope You’ve Had KISS of a Genealogy Day!

7 July 2007 is the 100th Anniversary of Hershey’s Chocolate KISS–one of the most successful candy launches ever. And you can get these little morsels in the original milk chocolate, dark chocolate, chocolate with caramel, with almonds, with white chocolate swirled with raspberry like a cheesecake, a new vanilla creme debuted at Easter, and a mint chocolate truffle due in October. Takes a full 10 minutes at the supermarket to decide which package to take home.

Remember when K.I.S.S. meant Keep It Simple Stupid (or Sweetheart)? Genealogy teachers try to teach genealogy simply: census records, vital records including marriages, probate files, family histories and genealogies, and cemetery records. And for the first two or three generations, this simple recipe works–especially with the censuses available at Ancestry. com and Heritage Quest (Pro-Quest.com).

Once you have your grandparents identified, you can go back and pick up cousins and uncles and aunts with their families, and even-farther back grandparents who are living with married children or grandchildren. Gathering the extended, whole family seems easy–because you recognize the names of family members when you see them.

At generation #5 the whole simple formula begins to crack. Unless, of course, you are lucky enough to find a genealogy compiled on the family and you can plug what you have into someone else’s work. At generation #5 you are into tax rolls, and deeds, and land grants, and militia lists where you have to gather in everyone with your surname and examine them carefully for fit with what you know.

Let me share a strategy that works well beginning at generation #5–

  1. Search the marriage records first, extracting or copying the entries for everyone who carries your surname of interest. I prefer to do each one on a separate sheet so I can mix and match them and shift them around as I learn more.
  2. Sort by census year. Later you can alphabetize the entries. Begin with the first census year where all the persons in the household are named. For example, in US, 1850; in UK, 1841, etc.
  3. Read the manuscript census. You can do it from microfilm or from the facsimiles on the internet. Don’t depend upon the index. Click until you get the actual images and read the whole district, town, parish, or county as needed. Extract or copy all the entries for your surname of interest.
  4. Sort to match the marriages for each census year. If you have two or more households where the names are the same, keep them together until you can eliminate those households that do not fit.
  5. Set aside those family units that do not match what you know about the family–their migration patterns, their naming patterns, too old or too young, too many children, not enough kids.
  6. Mark for further research, those families that do match. Include those where only some of the information matches and some of it agrees or fits imperfectly.

American genealogy research responds well to this strategy. You dig a pit for yourself, however, if you do not read the manuscript census. Or if you depend only on transcripts prepared by nonEnglish-speaking out-source companies. Reading someone’s handwritten work improves with experience. Lots of times, getting the name right is a matter of recognition or knowing that a particular background does not begin a name with H of J or some other letter. One of the most common mistakes is to read the old double SS as double ff.

Dr. Donald J. Martin, a friend of long-standing, and a subscriber to this Genealogy News Sheet, shared this approach with me in the early 1970′s. And it has served me well, especially when I am researching a common surname. This strategy also has the advantage of building the family as you go, so you can spot more quickly when two people of the same name have been combined into the one. And this strategy is not simple. It takes considerable work–to pull the correct family out of the crowd.

A New LDS Source

Property Transactions in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois and Surrounding Communities, 1839-1859. Compiled by Susan Easton Black, Harvey B. Black, and Brandon Plewe. Wilmington DE: World Vital Records, 2006. This new database is available in two formats: 1) a limited number of printed copies for archives and libraries and 2) by subscription, online at http://www.worldvitalrecords.com.

The entries are alphabetical by the name of the property owner. Vital statistics and biographical comments for grantors (sellers) and grantees (buyers) are supplied as aids in identification. Full property references are given, so you can track the manuscript materials more easily. Where no public entry was recorded, private sources have been used with full citations.

This is a very important new resource for this early LDS period of time. I found ancestors and persons I have researched, and entries for people I have read about all my life. I copied the entry for Anson Call, who owned the property in Woods Cross /Bountiful UT where I grew up. Two full pages of data for him and three full pages for his father, Cyril Call, including his origins in Vermont. Check it out! This source is not simple either. Requires study. And follow-up. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

P.S. I am working on so many projects and so many topics that my head is all a WHIRL. Before summer is out, we will post some of it online. Stay tuned in. I now know how to link what I describe to the internet. WOW!

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