Friday, January 29, 2010

January ProGen 3 Assignment....phew!!

I'm completely burned out...well, maybe not completely. :) But I've just finished this month's ProGen assignment and it was rough. The topic was Evidence Analysis and it focused on the proper way to weigh and work with the evidence you have compiled to come to a well-founded conclusion. The assignment was to choose a subject that you've worked on in the past/been working on recently and gather all of your evidence together. Take the evidence and state what each item is (whether it is a census schedule, tax record, vital record, etc), what information it gives relating to the fact you're trying to prove, whether it is original/derivative, whether it gives primary/secondary information, whether it gives direct/indirect evidence, and whether it's credible. At the end of all of that, you state your conclusion based on the chart that you have created and what all of the evidence included tells you, how much weight to place on each, etc. What you're left with is what appears to be a chart which you can then use to write a formal proof report. As much as this entails a huge amount of work, it is so worth having that visual. It's really going to come in handy later on when we tackle that dreaded proof argument for a fact which is proved without the benefit of direct evidence.

To give a better idea of what these charts we are working on look like, you can check out pg 336 in Professional Genealogy or the back of the front cover of Evidence Explained. I think I may also try to find a way to get my own chart attached somehow. I'd love to get some feedback because some of the determinations made were not exactly clear-cut.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Forgot one...RootsMagic

One of the comments to the previous post on genealogy programs was a recommendation to try out RootsMagic, available from It was one that I had frankly forgotten about in the short list I compiled and I will be checking it out fully when time permits. This morning though, I got my free version of Dick Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter and included in the 24 January edition was a great run-down of features on both the free version of RootsMagic and the paid version, RootsMagic 4. It was a great way to get introduced to the program. If you are not a subscriber to Eastman's Online Genealogy newsletter, you can easily subscribe on his website at You can also find the RootsMagic discussion at that address (just scroll down a little). The post also directs those interested to read about both programs at

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Re-thinking my current genealogy software...

Actually, that should say "my lack of genealogy software". Yes, I admit to being one of those poor, lost souls who hasn't succumbed to the allure of genealogy software. It's not my fault though, really. These are the options that I'm aware of are (if there are others, please let me know):

  • Legacy - free download available from ; I actually do have this downloaded onto my computer but can't get used to it and so I haven't really entered very much
  • The Master Genealogist - available from; free 30 day trial is available. I've done the trial once or twice now since it seems to be the most popular program used by the "pros" and I keep trying to get the feel for it, but it just doesn't seem like a good fit for me
  • Family Tree Maker - available from the store, This is the program that really started it all for me. My father purchased this program back in the early 90s and it was really the vehicle that put everything in motion. We used this all the time and found it very easy to use and maneuver. By now, it has gone through many incarnations and there is now a 2010 version available. Seeing how I've alread used earlier versions I thought this might be the right choice for me but I've read a couple negative reviews of the product that make me nervous and I've also become aware that earlier FTM CDs are not compatible with the program. Therefore, all of the CDs my parents purchased years ago for use with FTM are worthless. I really hate that. However, there are many good options included, most of which are outlined here

With the lack of a proper program to store information, I've been taking advantage of's tree feature. As a paid subscriber to the website, you are able to input your information and organized several family trees to your own pages. You have the option of making the trees, however many you choose to create, public for all to see and comment upon or private. If you opt to make your trees private, you do have the option to email invitations for your friends and family to have access to the trees. I've been using these trees as databases where I've been able to add information and sources as I go, as well as note-keeping as far as what I'd like to check out, what information is pending, etc. I've found that having the information on also allows for cousins to see your work and connect with you. If you would prefer not to have people contact you, you are able to turn this option off. Because of this, I've connected with many people and even been able to obtain copies of photographs of family members that I never knew existed. Overall, it's been a great way to deal with the info and manage my projects.

There are downsides to this method however. For starters, there aren't very many options as far as printing various charts, different organizational methods, and complete sourcing. This is becoming a larger issue as I go along with the NGS course and ProGen which can suggest or even require charts for assignments. It will also become an issue if/when I ever get any clients who will need reports. A bigger problem though lies with the information you upload to the site itself. When you upload your tree information ancestry automatically searches its site for matches. That is, it will search the other public member trees for others who have the same, or similar, people in their trees and then let each of you know. This could be a good thing for the reason I mentioned above, but it could also be a not-so-good thing because your hard work and information is going out to everyone who has entered the same, or similar people, to do with as they will. This could exascerbate the problem of incorrect and/or unsourced material on the web. Not really something that I'm keen on adding to and this is exactly why I've been anxious to figure out what to do about my lack of an actual genealogy database, not associated with ancestry. While I enjoy having the ease of inputting someone into the tree and connecting them with things like census records, or better yet, having their name automatically bring up hits in a number of different records, since I use my trees as "works-in-progress" I don't like knowing that the info I place there could be making matters worse.

For now, I'm really going to try and work hard at getting comfortable with Legacy (since it's free and seems to offer the basic options that I need). But I'm not happy with it and would love a change. I wish FTM offered a free trial so I could check things out for myself....

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lesson Learned

Just because the employee on the phone tells you that the marriage records are open, that doesn't always mean that you can view the actual records.

After my failure to get to the Lake County, IL court house last week (thanks to the most abysmal parking situation at a court house that I've seen to date) and the subsequent knowledge that the records are not open to the public anyway, I decided to return to that marriage survey assignment from Lesson 6 of the NGS home course today with a trip to neighboring McHenry County. The County Clerk's office has the vital records, with marriages back to 1837, housed in the county administration building in Woodstock, IL. The marriage records are not on microfilm and when I called yesterday, I was told that they are open records. When I arrived at the office this morning however, I was greeted by an employee who made that confused face when I said I was there to view the records. Once I explained that I was doing a survey on how the records changed over time, what years may be missing, etc. she brought me a ledger which she said covered the earliest years. In a way, it did but it was clearly not what I needed. She brought me the index to marriages in the county between 1837-1895. The index was alphabetized by surname of the groom and merely stated which book and page the actual record (whether it was a return or a certificate, the employee wouldn't tell me) was located. So I requested what appeared to be the earliest ledger for the actual records to which I was told those are not open. She asked her "boss" about whether she could show me the records but the answer was no. So there ended my second attempt to view marriage records for this assignment and the third county to shoot me down.

Lake County does not have open marriage records, McHenry County does not have open marriage records, and according to the Cook County Clerk's satellite office in Rolling Meadows, the records for Cook County aren't accessible either. I'm starting to think I may have to go over the border into Wisconsin to get this assignment done. I have one more county in IL that is under an hour away from me that I could call, Will County, but if they tell me the same thing then I'm going to have to start looking at alternatives to get this assingment done. I could possibly just order film from the FHL and do it that way. I was really hoping to be able to get in there and at least see the ledgers or possibly pages like in Indiana. This past fall, I was able to toil away like a kid in a candy store in courthouses in Randolph and Jay counties in Indiana and Darke county Ohio, as well as the archives building in Xenia, Greene County, Ohio. That's four counties of records in one week all with ledgers and pages to view! It was great! Oh well, guess those days are gone and I'm looking at strike 3.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


This morning, despite the web traffic, I was able to register for the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR). It wasn't easy though. It took about 40 minutes to be able to get completely through the registration process because the site kept shutting down due to the bombardment of traffic. So I think I started the process and only got to the first or second page about 70 times before it actually went through for me. The Advanced course, taught by Elizabeth Shown Mills, is already full (45 minutes after registration opened) so if you were hoping to get into that course you'll have to settle for the waiting list. I'm glad I'm putting that one off for at least a year!

Instead, I opted for Barbara Vines Little's Virginia course for this year. The topic is "Virginia's Land and Military Conflicts & Their Effect on Migration " and the schedule for the week sounds intense. When I hopped on to the IGHR website this morning (at 8:30-half an hour before the registration started) I had every intention of registering for the Intermediate course. Listed on the IGHR website as Course 2, it covers a wide spectrum of records, including church and naturalization records, and has a great series of instructors lined up such as Christine Rose (author of several standard genealogy books and guides, my favorite of which is her book on courthouse research), John Colletta (an expert on naturalization and passenger lists with a great book on the subject of immigration research), and Lloyd Bockstruck as coordinator. I just couldn't drop the Virginia class though because it speaks to some of the issues I'm working through now with 18th century Virginians. It always seems like once you trace your ancestors back to the 17th or 18th centuries you're either dealing with New England or Virginia in one way or another, so getting a more in-depth look at the laws, the military conflicts, and the migration patterns of those who were settled or even just passing through Virginia could have a huge effect on how you look at some of those brick walls. Add in a superstar list of instructors (Barbara Vines Little is the coordinator, Craig R. Scott is the military expert, and Victor S. Dunn covers the specific land work) and this is going to be a really jam-packed and wonderfully useful class.

Can't wait!!

Friday, January 8, 2010

So for my first trick...

...I will attempt to pretend to know what I'm doing when dealing with records that I have never dealt with before and/or have very little experience with. For those who have been following my "projects", besides the NGS course and ProGen I also have a few leads to chase around, you know, in my free time. :) These two paths are going to take me into some really new territory for me-divorce records (circa 1920-1930) and pre-1900 IL naturalizations. So this morning I spent a little time getting introduced to what the basics are for these records in IL. Thanks to Ancestry's Red Book and the web, here is what I found:


~Pre-1962 divorces are generally held in the county clerk where the papers were filed (the county I need to search is Cook so in this case, I need to go to the Clerk's office in Chicago since I was not able to locate any film for Cook County, IL divorces in the FHL catalog)
~The Illinois Department of Health has the post 1962 indexes to divorces however, you will need to request the actual record from the appropriate county clerk; you cannot search them yourself.
~The Illinois State Archives and IRAD also have SOME microfilmed material, generally post 1962 records


~Pre-1906 naturalizations are generally held with the circuit court in the county where the applicant filed
~IRAD has some naturalization records (declarations, petitions, etc.) but not for every county and not every format for each available county. Check their website for specific information regarding the county you're looking for (in my case, I'm looking for Kankakee County and I was not able to find any naturalization holdings for that county through IRAD. Therefore, I need to either consult the Kankakee Count naturalization film through the FHL or go directly to the clerk of the circuit court in Kankakee)
~Pre-1871 Cook County naturalizations were destroyed in the fire
~NARA-Great Lakes, located in Chicago, does have some naturalizations (again, not for Kankakee however, they do have early 1900 Cook Co. naturalization records organized by a Soundex index making the name you need fairly easy to find)
~For post-1959 naturalizations, see the United States District Court location in Chicago. According to the Red Book, they have a naturalization index from 1871 to the present.

From what I can tell, these are two record types that vary widely in both content and availability. While records for one county are available through FHL, for example, others may not so it is extremely important that you do your homework first and figure out exactly what you're looking for (what type of naturalization record you require, etc.), what's available, where it is, and how to get it. I'm going to need to do a bit more research on these records before I can actually dig in and find them, but at least I feel like I'm on the right path now.

New site

The following website was recommended to me twice in two weeks and when I checked it out, I saw why. This is the latest posting from The Genealogue

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Final assignment for NGS HSC CD 1: Vital Records

Sounds pretty self-explanatory, right? I figured the assignment would be to dig out a vital record from your collection and then go over its contents. Yikes, was I wrong!

The final topic of the NGS Home Study Course is Vital Records and the highlights of the lesson are brought to life with the inclusion of three, count them, 3 assignments. The first is another great example of "Why didn't I think of that?" You dig out your first four-generation pedigree chart again and go through each ancestor with your copy of Ancestry's Redbook (boy am I glad I was able to pick this one up on ebay over the summer!) and your computer, writing down where records recording each person's vitals (birth, marriage, and death) can be found. Once again, it's not just a lesson is how to handle the records, it's also a lesson for me in organization and keeping master lists of important info together. I'm one of those people that has little scraps of paper everywhere and then when I need the info I've written down, I can't find it. So this was a really great exercise.

The second assignment for this lesson is to actually order a new record. I was a "hobbyist" genealogist for about 10 years or so before I started to actually think more seriously about it as a profession, so between my Mom and I, we've managed to collect almost every vital that we could handle. However, we have left some select few that were either too pricey (the ones that are $20/$25 and up) or those where we needed to research things a little more before chancing a wrong date and/or location and getting one of those dreaded "no results found" certificates. So now I'm kindof in a quandry about what to order. I have a few options though which I'll probably relay in the next post. In any case, the purpose of the exercise is to familiarize yourself with the request letter and/or the forms required by the County Clerk/state Health Dept, etc.

The final assignment for this lesson is a "Marriage Records Survey". I'm really excited about this one. The assignment requires that you go to a nearby County Clerk's office, or some other repository near you that maintains marriage records, and record the information found; whether they have the marriage records in those big ledgers, or even loose pages, while others (like Chicago, which would have been my first choice), have microfilmed the info to save space. Some things to look for while working on the inventory include: the earliest record, type of records (ie, license, bond, application, register, etc.), any marriage record loss, records for any period that may be held "off-site", and info provided on the records. It is also suggested that we look at records from the earliest time to the more recent and compare the available information, trying to figure out when the changes may have taken place. This is also an assignment that suggests you turn in examples of what you find along with your inventory and subsequent report, along with their correct citations of course.

This third assignment is going to be a large one, and I haven't chosen a repository yet. I don't think I'm going to be going to Cook County for this, as mentioned above, they have microfilmed their records and public access tends to be restrictive and I'm not sure whether they would allow me to just pull random film (or have the staff pull random film for me), so I'll probably need to stick to one of the counties closer to home. I'll also need to find a day where I'll have a little extra time to do this. I'll definitely post about the experience though, it should be an interesting day. I love when I'm able to get back into a courthouse and see those old pages!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

NGS Home Course Lesson 5 finished

Over the weekend, while I was waiting for school to start back up so I could get the Library Survey finished, I jumped ahead to Lesson 5 of the NGS Home Study Course. This Lesson was about Census records and research, a topic I'm fairly familiar with at this point. The assignments though were extremely useful and this is probably one of my favorite assignments so far.

The first assignment was to pull out the pedigree chart (from an earlier assignment) and specify each census in which that person should be listed. This way you end up with a master list of starting points for each person on the chart which is an extremely useful tool to have. It was also interesting to see, on paper, which years I'm missing for each person. Overall, I've gotten most of them covered. That business of Great Grandma Ward missing from 1910 and 1920, along with my Grandma, is messing up my perfect record though. I really need to get that figured out.

The second assignment for this lesson was to choose one ancestor in one census year. Find that person in that year and copy their household onto one of those blank census sheets available from either or NARA. Then search the local area for known relatives and those of the same surname. If none others were found, you needed to account for that. For this one, I chose to locate John Kleinert in 1900. I already knew he was in St. Anne, Kankakee Co., IL at that time with his wife, Josephine (Dellibac), and their children but I hadn't noticed that there was another Kleinert household only a few census pages away. This man, Herman, was born in Germany, like John, and they are only 5 years apart in age. The name "Herman" is really what stuck out at me though because John Kleinert had a son named Herman (my paternal Grandmother's father). So we could be looking at a possible brother, cousin, etc. and another avenue with which to locate John's father. Currently, John is the earliest known of my Kleinert ancestors primarily because he was the one who came over from Germany as an adult (according to the 1900 census he was about 24 when he came over in 1882). Both Herman and John claim to have been naturalized, however IL naturalization records for these early years are notoriously bare on information so I probably will not get much info from that. It doesn't mean I won't order it anyway though. :)

Library survey is done

Yesterday was a serious work day. I was able to make it out to a local library to get the Library Survey assignment (Lesson 4 of the NGS Home Study Course) finished. It was an interesting trip though.

First off, the library had what they termed the "Antioch Collection" downstairs in a locked conference room. Once a staff member opened the door, I then noticed that there were several locked cases for their books and was told that they don't open the cases for "browsing". They did, however have a binder with a list of what was in those cases which made things fairly easy although it was arranged by dewey number rather than by subject or alphabetical by author. In any event, thanks to the catalog, along with a brief flier of "highlights", I was able to find that the library had several family genealogies, a few newspaper collections (the oldest of which dated back to 1888), virtually no periodical collection (although it appeared they had at least subscribed to one Mayflower family periodical at one time and just hadn't taken it out of their catalog-instead of in the stacks, copies were found for free in front of the library shop), four file cabinets of various photos, newspaper clippings, event descriptions, memories, etc., subscriptions to and HeritageQuest, as well as a subscription to the archive of the Chicago Tribune with articles from 1985, a book on local naturalizations, lots of info collected from the local Ladies Group (mostly old minutes and descriptions of their annual plays), and quite a bit of info from the local area's Zoning and Planning Commission.

As the collection was definitely geared more towards a local history collection, rather than a genealogical collection, I'd say they have a decent group of useful information. However, even for a local history collection I would like to have seen a wider assortment of periodicals. A brief internet search for a historical society in Lake County, IL did not turn up a general group but there were several surrounding area societies whose periodicals could be nice additions to Antioch's history collection. Illinois also has a State Historical Society that puts out a periodical four times a year but the Antioch Library only had a couple of volumes of that journal. I'm not sure why since it would be my thought that the wider state historical context when used with the local areas more detailed information would provide the "whole picture" in historical research of the area. So I find this to be a big hole. But again, this is a small town one mile from the Wisconsin border and I think they do what they can and at least now I have a great description of what they have. It will be interesting to see how/if they expand upon their holdings in the future.