Saturday, March 31, 2007

Vital Records

Vital records include birth certificates, death records, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, naturalization, adoption, and land records. At you will find a comprehensive resource to find vital records online. They also have maps and many interesting links.

Vital records in the United States weren't common until the early 1900s. Vital records usually contain the full name of the individual involved in the event, the date of the event, and the county, state, or town where the event took place.

Different types of vital records have different types of information.

Birth records usually have the parent's full names including maiden name of the mother, the name of the baby, the date of the birth, and county where the birth took place, as well as the birthplaces of the baby's parents, the addresses of the parents, the number of children that the parents have, the race of the parents, and the parents' occupations.

Marriage records often record the names and birthplaces of each individual's parents. Sometimes other information is included such as the names and birthplaces of the bride's and groom's parents, the addresses of the bride and groom, information about previous marriages, and the names of the witnesses to the marriage.

Divorce records usually list the names of the couple's children, names of the individuals seeking the divorce, date of marriage and divorce, and may also include ages and birthdates of the individuals, current residences, and/or the reasons for divorce.

Death certificates often mention where the individual will be buried, place and date where the individual was born, parents names, cause of death, and also give the name of the individual who reported the death.

Vital Records are considered a primary source for genealogical information. They give you the bare facts while other records such as obituary, school, and other records add the spice to family history.

Dale L. Edwards

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

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Naturalization Records

Naturalization is the process by which an alien becomes an American citizen. These records can provide a researcher with information such as a person's birth date and location, occupation, immigration year, marital status and spouse information, witnesses' names and addresses, and more.

From the first naturalization law passed by Congress in 1790 through much of the 20th century, an alien could become naturalized in any court of record. In most cases naturalization was a 2 step process that took at least 5 years. After living in the US for 2 years an immigant could file papers of intent, then 3 years later file a petition for naturalization. These papers didn't have to be filed in the same court.

Exceptions to the 2 step process:
  1. "Derivative" citizenship was granted to wives and minor children of naturalized men. From 1790 to 1922, wives of naturalized men automatically became citizens. This also meant that an alien woman who married a U.S. citizen automatically became a citizen. (Conversely, an American woman who married an alien lost her U.S. citizenship, even if she never left the United States.)
  2. From 1824 to 1906, minor aliens who had lived in the United States 5 years before their 23rd birthday could file both their declarations and petitions at the same time.
  3. An 1862 law allowed honorably discharged Army veterans of any war to petition for naturalization--without previously having filed a declaration of intent--after only 1 year of residence in the United States. An 1894 law extended the same no-previous-declaration privilege to honorably discharged 5-year veterans of the Navy or Marine Corps. Over 192,000 aliens were naturalized between May 9, 1918, and June 30, 1919, under an act of May 9, 1918, that allowed aliens serving in the U.S. armed forces during "the present war" to file a petition for naturalization without making a declaration of intent or proving 5 years' residence. Laws enacted in 1919, 1926, 1940, and 1952 continued various preferential treatment provisions for veterans.
Before 1906, any "court of record" (municipal, county, state, or Federal) could grant U.S. citizenship. The National Archives doesn't normally have a copy of these records, but a few are in the county and state microfilm available. Contact the State Archives for the state where the naturalization occurred to request a search of state, county, and local courts records. Also contact the NARA regional facility that serves the state where naturalization occurred to request a search of Federal court records.

After 1906, the courts forwarded copies of naturalizations to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Naturalizations from Federal Courts are held in the NARA's regional facilities for the Federal courts for their area. The National Archives in Washington, D.C. holds naturalization records for Federal Courts in Washington, D.C. More information.

Happy hunting.

Dale L. Edwards

Immigration Records

The National Archives has immigration records from 1820 to 1982. There are some earlier immigration records that are incomplete for the port of Philadelphia beginning in 1800, and for the port of New Orleans, 1813-1819. Most pre-1820 passenger lists have been published.

Here is some of the types of information you can find in the immigration records:
  • one's nationality, place of birth
  • ship name and date of entry to the United States
  • age, height, eye and hair color
  • profession
  • place of last residence
  • name and address of relatives they are joining in the U.S.
  • amount of money they are carrying, etc.
They do not have passenger lists available online, but there is a list of the microfilm available for each port. You can also search the Microfilm Catalog to see which regional locations have the microfilm you are seeking. Type in Passenger as the keyword. More information.

General Overview

Specific Immigration Topics

Happy hunting.

Dale L. Edwards

Sunday, January 07, 2007

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USWeb offers search engine marketing services for medium-size organizations to Fortune 100 corporations designed to get your site noticed when potential buyers are looking for the products and services you have to offer. Search Engine Optimization, PPC Bid Management, and Trusted Feed are the services USWeb supplies to target and drive self-qualified prospects to your website.

Locating the Pertinent Newspaper

Because newpapers are bulky and deteriorate rather quickly, the old newspapers that have survived are on microfilm that can be accessed through interlibrary loan. Before you can request microfilm you have to determine what newspapers were active at the time your ancestors were living in the area. The next step is to find where the microfilm is stored and how to request the microfilm you need. Kimberly Powell at gives these tips to find old newspapers -

  • The U.S. Newspaper Program, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a national effort to locate, catalog, and microfilm newspapers published in the United States from the eighteenth century to the present. The national database is maintained by the Online Computer Library Center and can be accessed through the free FirstSearch service at thousands of participating libraries across the U.S. All newspapers microfilmed through this project are available through interlibrary loan.
  • Check with the local public library or academic library in the town where the event happened to see if they serve as a depository for local newspapers.
  • The Library of Congress maintains one of the most extensive newspaper collections in the world with over 9,000 U.S. newspaper titles and 25,000 non-US newspaper titles.
  • The Family History Center in Salt Lake City has thousands of microfilmed newspapers from around the world which can be ordered through your local Family History Center. Search the Family History Library Catalog for your ancestor's location to find what newspapers and other records have been microfilmed.
  • Contact the local newspaper office to see if they maintain a library of their back issues. Also, most newspapers have a website now that can give you more information.
  • Historical and genealogical societies often have newspaper resources for their immediate area or will known where to find them.
  • Many U.S. state archives and libraries serve as depositories for microfilms of newspapers.
  • ProQuest has digitized over 16 million newspaper pages, including a full run of The New York Times (1851-2001), the Los Angeles Times (1881-1984), and the Chicago Tribune (1849-1984). The Wall Street Journal (1880-1987), The Washington Post (1877-1988), The Christian Science Monitor (1908-1991), the Atlanta Constitution (1868-1925), the Boston Globe (1872-1922), and the Hartford Courant (1764-1984). You can gain access to the database through membership in a participating library/institution or by joining (for a fee) an organization which subscribes to the collection. One such popular option is the Godfrey Scholar program.

A word of caution when you use old newspapers in your research. Verify the facts because there may be errors. It also needs to be documented by writing down the title of the newspaper, its place of publication, the date of issue, and the page number.

Happy Hunting,

Dale L. Edwards

Family History in the News

Newspapers can be very good sources of information about your ancestors. A newspaper is like a diary of what is going on in the community. Some of the valuable information you can glean from a newspaper is:
  • Obituaries - newspapers are inconsistent about the information included in an obituary, but some of the information you can find is place and date of birth; names of siblings, parents, and other surviving relatives; occupation; military service; and even the church where the funeral was held. When searching for an obituary keep in mind that an obituary can appear several days after the date of death.
  • Birth Announcements - became popular after 1900.
  • Wedding Announcements - are inconsistent also in the amount of information they report. They range from the bare minimum to lavish accounts of the decorations and what the wedding couple as well as their parents were wearing.
  • Anniversary Announcements - usually have quite a bit about the couple and their accomplishments. Usually it's the 50th anniversary, but just about any anniversary after the 50th could be announced.
  • Society News and Local Gossip - often included birthday announcements, illnesses, job promotions, wedding announcements, visitors to the community, and other news of a more personal nature.
  • Public Announcements and Advertisements - Livestock, farm equipment, and even personal property were often sold at public sales which might be found listed in small classified advertisements. Advertisements and announcements concerning insolvent debtors, forced land sales, professional services, runaway slaves, and missing relatives are also particularly relevant for the genealogist.
  • Legal Notices - Some judicial actions, such as proving of wills, land sales for payment of taxes, divorce proceedings, proving of heirs, and the settlement of estates, cannot be concluded without public notice. Local newspapers are often a good source for such legal announcements.
  • Transfers of Real Estate - Local columns often kept area residents informed on who was going and coming in the neighborhood. More recent newspapers usually list real estate transactions in the classified or legal notices section.
  • Unclaimed Mail Lists - Periodically published by smaller newspapers, these are lists of letters, often sent by anxious relatives, which went unclaimed at the post office. Useful for potentially identifying ancestors who pulled up stakes and moved to a new location.
  • Church Announcements - Many churches submitted lists of new members, baptisms, confirmations, and other church news to local newspapers for publication.
  • Military News - Items about hometown boys and girls heading off to war, along with news when they wrote home, commonly found their way into print.
  • School News and Activities - can include lists of students who made the honor roll, awards won by area students, school board minutes, school events, and detailed coverage of annual graduation ceremonies.

You would be amazed at the information you can find in newspapers.

Dale L. Edwards

Friday, January 05, 2007

Investing in Precious Metals

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Family History Do's and Don'ts

Here are some do's and don'ts for family history.

Do Document
I've said this before, but I can't emphasize enough the need to document what and where you've searched whether you found anything or not. This will keep you from going through the same records over and over because you don't remember you searched this record before. When you share your genealogy, it's important to send along your documentation (not the actual documents, but a list of your sources with enough information to guide the recipient to the original record).

Do Make Copies
A photo copy of a document helps to reduce the errors that can creep into our research. It is so easy to make a mistake when copying by hand from documents.

Do Check for Obvious Errors
Before you add new information to your family history go over it to look for obvious errors. Do a little math on the dates to make sure the parents weren't born after the children, they didn't get married at 7 years of age, they didn't die before the child was born, or any other mistake that can happen. I've seen all of these errors in family history.

Do Organize
Choose a filing system that works with the way you do research, making sure it includes a way to organize your papers, certificates, your digital documents, and other computer files. The main thing to look for when choosing a filing system is ease of use. It's useless if you have a system that is so involved you don't use it.

Do Verify
Just because something is printed in a book or is found on the internet doesn't automatically make it true. Even vital records can have mistakes. In one death certificate I know of, the deceased is married to his son's wife. Just one wrong fact can have you going around in circles.

Do Rule Out Other Possibilities
You know that your great-great-grandfather lived in Virginia around the turn-of-the-century, so you look him up in the 1900 U.S. census and there he is! In truth, however, this isn't him - just someone else with the same name living in the same area during the same time period. It is a scenario that actually isn't all that uncommon, even with names you might think are unique. This actually happened to me with my Harrison line.

Don't Assume
"Junior" and "Senior" as well as "aunt" and "cousin" were often used very loosely in earlier times - and still are, even today. A designation of Jr., for example, may have been used in official records to identify between two men of the same name, even if they were unrelated (the younger of the two being called "Jr."). You also shouldn't assume relationships between people living in a household unless it is specifically stated. The sole adult-aged female listed in your great-great grandfather's household, may indeed be his wife - or it could be a sister-in-law or family friend. Always remember that undocumented facts are just educated guesses.

Don't Skip Generations
Prove and verify the information you have on each generation. Start with your parents and don't assume you know everything about them. Have copies of vital records, church records, school records, military records, and any other record you have come across that documents their lives.

These do's and don'ts will help keep us from barking up the wrong family tree.

Dale L. Edwards