Connecting Record Datasets to Living Memory will post new images online before year’s end! And the choice of what images to add first? What records to finish digitizing first? The choice is determined by the decision to focus on more recent records, like the 1900 census and the 1850 census so that genealogists can connect these new record datasets to living memory.

Besides, the loss of from the Family History Library and its branch family history centers leaves room for another version of the 1900 census. The 1850 census needs an every name index you can rely upon–one that matches the entries in the original census and one that includes even the slave schedules.

Many genealogists have told me that all the censuses from 1790 though 1930 are available online with every name indexes. Ancestry. com comes close. And a very nice feature offers is the ability to correct the extracts and indexes right online–if you know the correct answer. My genealogy class members have submitted corrections every time they consult the census entries. Some really amazing mistakes are present in those indexes.

If the index is incomplete or incorrect, the only advantage of the online access is the ability to search the census at home. Reading a whole county frame by frame is a real pain online. I would rather look at the microfilm on a film reader with interchangeable lenses. Easier on the eyes and much faster to search.

Heritage Quest online census is missing 1830, 1840, and 1850. These are critical years for American research, especially when tracing Southern ancestors where many pre-1830 censuses have not survived. Yet no one seems to know why they are not on the site.

Records for the time period before 1600, where some family organizations need resources, will have to wait awhile. Ugh! The Family History Library has a broad collection of pre-1600 sources, both printed and original records. And while there are some websites that are adding the printed sources for the British Isles and early America, access is still pretty sparse. (see Genealogy New Sheet, 11 Dec 2006 for more details) and have scanned whole libraries with pre-1600 titles. Heritage Quest book search has early American volumes, especially rich in family histories written before 1900.

The principle advantage of online access, for me, is the every word indexing capability. So when I request a person, or a family, or a small community, or even a county–up comes what I asked for. That is the most amazing experience. May I share one of my favorite search strategies?

An ancestor, with two or three given names, is often named for someone of importance to the family–military officers under which the father served, a clergyman influential in converting or capturing the heart, a person who leads an immigration group to America, a local government official with whom the family served, or a local hero. I take these given names and run them through the online indexes and search engines looking for the locality where they resided or where interest in them still exists. Bingo! Then I search for the ancestor and his family there. And Bingo! Try it. If you have a Swinfield Hill Tucker you cannot find. Look for Swinfield Hill first. Then search for your namesake where you find him.

Researching a Pennsylvania Dutch Ancestor

Your Pennsylvania Dutch ancestor could originate in a German province or kingdom, in a Netherlands Dutch parish, in a Huguenot commune established as an enclave, or in a Swiss palatine area. You will not know until you have completed your research in Pennsylvania. From all over the mid-West, the Northwest United States, and especially the South you track your ancestor back to Pennsylvania. Then use this key cultural evidence to differentiate who your ancestors are.

  1. Naming patterns. Watch for christening name, often given to all the children in the family of the same sex; the given name, which is the middle name by which the child is addressed in records; and the surname. Be careful because it is easy to make a mistake and mix up the generations.
  2. Spellings variants. Changes of spellings are subtle and these changes often reflect the background from which the family comes. Watch especially when using the printed Pennsylvania Archives volumes. There are many transcription errors and misreadings of names originally written in old script.
  3. Items omitted. Parts of the original records are omitted as insignificant by unwary editors. European records often contain internal links which connect people and prove relationships. American records usually do not contain these connectors. So you probably won’t miss them–Like military numbers given to male children at birth and carried through the records. Like listing the maiden name of each female in every entry where she appears. Always check the original records wherever possible.
  4. Participation in the Revolutionary cause. Even anti-war, conscientious objectors may serve in non-combative roles or special assignments–Committees of Safety and Observation, German Regiment, driving supply wagons, herding army cattle, serving in field hospitals. Special records will detail this service. Be sure to check them.
  5. Use of German, French, Dutch languages in church services and records, in original wills and other probate documents, on tombstones and memorials, in family Bibles, and even in tax rolls. Use of German in the records increases when the new United States government comes into existence because Germans wanted their language to become the law of the land. When the local clerk did not read and write the language of the document, he could not copy it. So he filed the documents as loose papers in the court house. And may or may not mention the foreign language documents at all in the record books.

Remember that the property documents are the surest records to prove that your ancestor is really yours. Heavy dependence on church records, cemetery transcripts, and passenger lists (which are conveniently available for Pennsylvania) may lead you to put someone on your pedigree who does not belong there.

In coming issues I will address Huguenot, Quaker, Mennonite, and other religious groups who flood into Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland, spreading out from there–even into Canada. Some wonderful records are available and they can ensure that you trace the correct lineage. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle.

P.S. Be sure to watch my speaking schedule and if you can attend, come up and tell me you are a reader of my Genealogy News Sheet. I want to know how I can best help you.

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