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

April 04, 2002
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

How to Hire a Professional

Q: We have been searching for a first cousin for years. Her last known place of residence is Yonkers, in the mid-late 1940s. We know her birth date and birthplace, full maiden name, and that she married in the late 1940's. We keep hitting brick walls in our search and have decided that using the services of a professional genealogist in Yonkers would be wise; we are in Northern California. Any recommendations or names of individuals who might be amenable to doing a Yonkers mid-20th century search would be greatly appreciated. -- Maira

A: I would encourage you, and anyone else who is thinking of hiring a professional genealogist, to turn to one of two professional associations: the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) and the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG). Both of these organizations exist so that there is a quality and ethics in the professional genealogy community.

The Association of Professional Genealogists maintain a searchable database of its members. You can search by the professional's residence or by their area of interest. In this case, I would suggest that you run both types of searches just to make sure you find all researchers who may be available. You may want to find a professional who specializes in 20th century research.

While you are at APG's site, be sure to check out their informative pages devoted to hiring a professional. The guide brings up a number of important issues that many of us do not think about before hiring a genealogist. You might want to print out the information so that you can refer back to it whenever you need it.

The Board for Certification of Genealogists is a professional body intent on ensuring that ethics and quality be maintained in genealogical research. Those who have passed the rigorous test can be proud of the accomplishment. As a potential client, you can rest assured that these individuals are the highest caliber of researcher you'll find.

By contracting with researchers you find through the APG or the BCG , you can have a certain element of confidence in the person you are hiring. Both groups take ethics in research and in professionalism seriously. Should you be dissatisfied with the work done by a member of these organizations, you'll have options to help in rectifying the situation. I know that I would not hire a professional that did not have an association with at least one of these groups.

Tracing an Emigrant

Q: I have been trying to trace a great-great aunt who went to United States in 1924 to join a son, living on 185th Street in New York. Her name was Catherine McEntee and his name was James McEntee. We believe there may have been a John there too. I have reached a dead end. This was my great-great grandmother's sister and she used to say to me "Our Kate went to America and we never heard from her again." I would like to find out just what did happen to her. Don't think she would have had a social security number since she was 61 when she went to America. So far, I've been able to find her on an Ellis Island passenger list. -- Panchoshel

A: If you have found record of her on Ellis Island's site then you have a lot of information about her and where she went to stay. Perhaps that is where you got the information you shared with me in your message.

The passenger list would have told you where she was going and who she was meeting, among many other things. While the passenger list told you where she was going, it did not tell you what happened to her after she got there.

Of particular interest in her case were the notations made on the second page of the S.S. Celtic's passenger list. While she stated she was going to join her "Mr. McEntee, 421 East 85th Street" you will want to notice the handwritten notation of "2 sons & 1 daugh." Also, written across columns 21 through 27, you will find "Cert 5772 Senility." Intrigued by this, I took a look the two special forms (one for those detained and another for aliens held for special inquiry) at the end of the passenger list for her ship. The Wilde family listed above her on the passenger list were shown to have been sent to the hospital and they show up on the list of those aliens held for special inquiry (they were eventually admitted into the country). I thought perhaps a clue to her certificate might be found in these forms, but there was nothing. However, it is something that might be worth following up on.

When working in New York, you'll find that some records are easily accessible while others don't make research easy for you. If you haven't visited your local Family History Center, you may want to. Through them you have access to the vast holdings of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

There is an index to New York death records that goes up through 1965 that may help you determine when your great-great-aunt died. If you find her in the index, you could then request a copy of the death certificate which would tell you her last residence and would let you know how she died. Since she was already 61 when she arrived in 1924, you may be able to order a microfilm of the death record after you find her in the index. Some of the boroughs have death certificates on microfilm up into the 1940s available through the Family History Library.

Another record that may be useful is the just released 1930 census. Many genealogists all over have been patiently waiting for the release of the 1930 United States Federal Census. Because of a privacy law that protects these records from being viewed for 72 years, the 1920 has been the most recent since its release in 1992. However on Monday, April 1, the 1930 was released. It will take a little while for the films to make their way to local repositories and be catalogued, though. A colleague of mine who is the manager of the genealogy section of his public library estimated that you can expect to find the 1930 census in your local genealogy section by mid-May.

If she was still living in 1930, she would have been enumerated in this census. Unfortunately, the 1930 census is not indexed for the state of New York. Only 12 southern states were indexed, using the Soundex method. For those of us researching in the other states, we must locate our ancestor through other means, relying on the geography of the area. City directories, which are available on microfilm for New York City up to about 1935, are an excellent way to determine where in the city she was living. For more on this method of tracking someone in the census using the city directory, you may want to read Federal Census County Index in USA and There May Be More than One Way

Updating My Online Tree

Q: I have all of my family data online. However, I am coming across new data all of the time. How can I change the information that I have online? I do not understand the process for editing and changing the information on the people in my tree online. Any help you can provide will be greatly appreciated. -- Nancy

A: The information you have posted to the Internet, is available on the User Home Pages section of Family Tree Maker's site. Since you created the page using Family Tree Maker, everything was done from within the program itself when you initially uploaded it.

Now, to update the site, you will need to investigate the "Edit Your Page" link that appears at the top of your site. By putting in your user name and password, you can make changes to your pages.

Once in the Edit section, you will notice that you can select certain trees and other items on the site. Select those that you want to update. You will then need to delete them from your site. You should see the delete option on the page you are working in.

Once you have deleted the reports in question, you can then regenerate them in Family Tree Maker and post them to your site. Then, your site will incorporate your latest family history discoveries. To update your site again later, just follow these steps again.

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

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