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Rhonda's Tips: Genealogy Questions Answered
by Rhonda R. McClure

March 21, 2002
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Railroad Retirement Benefits

Q: I worked for the Pennsylvania railroad as a fireman in Akron, Ohio in the 1950s. I would like to apply for my railroad retirement but I have not been able to find anyone who can tell me how to do this. -- Lester

A: The U.S. Railroad Retirement Board is found in Chicago, Illinois. However, they have field offices around the country. The easiest way to find your local district office is to put your zip code in at the RRB District Office Lookup.

You will want to take a look at the Railroad Retirement Board Web site for additional information. They have some information about the proof you'll need in order to qualify for benefits.

Privatized Information

Q: We have found a name we think may be our relative, but it says private. How can we find further information or let her know that we are looking for her? -- Lauren

A: To protect the privacy of living individuals, Family Tree Maker and many of the currently available genealogy programs will privatize or hide information on living individuals. As you have discovered, many compiled databases include the names of the living, but list their vital information as LIVING or PRIVATE.

One way to find more information would be to determine who the submitter of the information was by contacting the person who compiled or published the information. If you are using the World Family Tree here on Genealogy.com, simply fill out a form to get contact information for the person who contributed the information. You will need to know the volume number and the tree number. Once you fill out the form, the contact information will be e-mailed to you shortly (usually within a few hours). You can then write to the individual.

Usually fellow researchers are happy to collaborate but I think it is important to mention that some people are unwilling to share information on living individuals. If they are in contact with the living individual in question, they may pass along your contact information. I suggest that you encourage that in your contact letter.

FamilyFinder Reports

Q: I am new to genealogy. I was doing my tree and up popped this report listing members of my family. I just clicked one person and up popped a user home page on familytreemaker.com. Could you please tell me what that is? I found pages one through thirty seven. Can those all be related to me? -- Elizabeth

A: Congratulations! You've discovered the FamilyFinder Report. The FamilyFinder Report is the result of a FamilyFinder Search that Family Tree Maker runs for you. It takes the information you have entered in your family file and compares it to the databases and information available at Family Tree Maker and Genealogy.com. The resulting report offers links to individuals, including those found on the user home pages.

You will notice a number of stars beside each name. The more stars, the more likely the individual on the Web site is to match the individual in your family file. To find out if you are related to all of the individuals, you will need to investigate the data on the user's web page more thoroughly and then compare it to what you presently know. Then it is a good idea to contact the person directly and discuss with them the common individuals. It is possible that the person who compiled the Web site may be able to tell you how and if you are related to all those individuals you found on the Web page.

Beyond Ellis Island

Q: My maternal great-grandparents were immigrants from Hungary: Anna and Martin Silling. I have found records through the Ellis Island database showing my great-grandmother Anna, with my grandmother as an infant, arriving at Ellis Island in 1913. The ship manifest shows they were going to live with my great-grandfather who already had an address in Detroit, so obviously he came to America before my great-grandmother. Since there is no Ellis Island record on Martin, is there another immigration source I can check? I would like to find records of Anna and Martin's parents. Any advice how to go about finding birth and marriage records in Hungary? -- RAndrews

A: The page of the passenger list that lists Anna actually gives you another clue, though you may have been unaware of its importance. Above Anna's occupation as a wife, you will find written in a different handwriting a cryptic number followed by a date: 8-276804 2/10/43.

The cryptic number tells you that Anna was somewhere in the midst of the naturalization process. Verifications of facts submitted on the naturalization application forms would be checked. When a check was made, a number made up of the naturalization district number (the first number) and the application or Certificate of Arrival number (the second number), was written in the occupation column above the person in question followed by the date. This number tells you that you should contact the Immigration and Naturalization Service to request a copy of Anna's naturalization records.

As for Martin, it is entirely possible he came through the Port of New York and that his name was recorded wrong in the index. The problem with some of these online indexes is coming up with an alternative. When the name is not found, the Ellis Island site will offer you some alternatives which you may want to try. However, I think I would encourage you to locate the family in the 1920 census and see when Martin came over. This would give you something to work with.

If you still can't find him in the online index, which I mention only because of the age of the two children, then you will want to turn your attention to the microfilmed index, Soundex actually, to see if Martin appears in that for New York. If not, then begin to branch out to the other eastern ports.

In regard to birth and marriage records in Hungary, you will need to know the town of birth of the individuals in question. Vital records are available from 1895, so that means that Anna's and Martin's children who appear on the passenger list might be available in the vital records. You would need to write to the Civil Registration Office, (Town), Hungary. Prior to 1895 you will need to turn your attention to church records. It is possible that some of these may be available on microfilm through the Family History Library, again on the town level.


Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at rhondagen@thegenealogist.com.

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