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

April 17, 2003
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Getting Started on Your Research

Q: I am looking for information on my grandfather, Thurlow Weed Dalton. He was married to Lola Monica (Montie) Adams around 1907. They had 13 children and moved to Ohio in the late 1920s (I think). My grandfather passed away in 1964. I cannot find any information on him or his parents or his siblings. -- Ruth Ann

A: There are some census records that might help you with your research. You mention that your grandparents married in 1907. This means they would be enumerated together in the 1910 census with perhaps one or two children.

You mentioned that the family moved to Ohio in the 1920s, but you did not mention from where they had moved. I believe that I found them in the 1920 census, living in Somerset, Pulaski, Kentucky with six children (Enumeration District 203, Sheet 15A and B). It appears that all of the children were born in Kentucky up to this point. It is likely that they are living in Kentucky in 1910.

The 1910 census is indexed online in the U.S. Census Collection. While some of the states were indexed on microfilm using the Soundex system (an index based more on phonics than on exact spelling) it was only 21 states. The online index, which is a head of household index, is the only one to completely index all of the states. A head of household index means that the names of those listed as the head of the household or who have a different surname than the others in the household are included in the index.

If you haven't done so yet, you will want to get a death certificate on your grandfather. You mentioned when he passed away but not where. If you don't know where, you may be able to get an idea by checking the Social Security Death Index. This may list your grandfather's last residence. While a person's death location and last residence aren't necessarily the same, it would give you some place to start in your search.

Verifying Connection to Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Q: I have traced my genealogy back to a William Carroll, born around 1801 in Carroll County, Georgia. My family's story is that he was the grandson of Charles Carroll of Carrollton. I have researched several sources and cannot find information regarding Carroll's descendants. Can you help? -- Sarah

A: Charles Carroll of Carrollton was born in 1737 in Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, Maryland. He married Mary Darnall 5 Jun 1768 in Annapolis. The couple had seven children, but only one son. Charles Carroll IV was born 2 Mar 1775 in Carrollton, Maryland. He married Harriet Chew on 17 Jul 1800 and his first son, Charles Carroll V was born in 1801 in Frederick, Maryland. Based on this information, I suspect that the family story of your William Carroll being the grandson of Charles Carroll of Carrollton is not quite correct. It is still possible, though, that William and Charles are cousins in some way.

In digging around for something to help you I came across a William Carroll who was born in 1801 in Georgia. He died 24 Jan 1870 in Tallapoosa County, Alabama. If this is your William Carroll, then it is possible that his father is a Leonard Carroll from South Carolina.

Also, in digging around to see what I could learn about records of Carroll County, I saw that many of them did not begin until 1830 or later. This sent me off to find out exactly when Carroll County was created. I discovered that Carroll County, Georgia was not created until 24 Jan 1826. Before this date the land belonged to the Lower Creeks, one of the Five Civilized tribes. As such, while it is possible that William was born in Georgia, it does not look like he was born in Carroll County. While it is possible that his family was living among the Indians, I suspect you will find that if he was actually born in Georgia, that he was born in another county.

If you are able to find William in census records, I suggest that you begin to look at the various other Carroll families living in Carroll County, Georgia. I would begin to investigate these other families to see if you can find a connection from one or more to William. Were they living near each other in the census? Did they buy or sell land among each other? Are they buried together? If William did go to Alabama were there other Carroll families that also went to Alabama and settled nearby? It is possible that these are relatives of William.

Death Information in Social Security Index

Q: I have tried to find out the answer to this seemingly simple question and keep running into dead ends. If a person is listed in the Social Security Death Index, why wouldn't they know "where" they died if they know they're dead? -- Helen

A: I'm going to assume that you are actually referring to the Last Residence field in the Social Security Death Index. While many people assume that this field is the place of death, this is a misconception. If there is a place listed, though, it is certainly a place to begin your research when trying to get a death certificate.

The last residence is, in fact, the last known legal residence for the individual in question. This may not, however, be the most current address for the individual. There are any number of reasons why the Social Security Administration may not have known the most current information. Perhaps mail sent to that address had been returned or perhaps the information was not entered into the Death Master File, from which we get the Social Security Death Index.

If your purpose for finding the place of death is to get ahold of the death certificate, it sounds like you are disappointed. If you were looking for the death certificate in order to get information about the parents, you can find this information on the application for a social security number (the SS-5 form). This would list the individual's date and place of birth along with the names of the parents, including the maiden name of the mother. If you are instead trying to find the death certificate so you can completely record the death event on these individuals, it looks like you still have your work cut out for you. If you know where the individuals lived, you may want to start there, looking for an obituary after the date of death you found in the SSDI.

Ports of Entry Besides Ellis Island

Q: I always hear of New York City and Ellis Island being the port of entry for arriving immigrants but don't often hear of any other ports. Were there other cities that were ports of entry? My grandmother's father came from France in the 1800's and came in by ship at New Orleans (so I am told). -- Michael

A: While you hear a lot about Ellis Island and the port of New York City, it was just one of many ports that welcomed immigrants to America. Ellis Island, in fact, didn't open until 1892. Before this, immigrants were processed at Castle Garden off the tip of Manhattan. Before Castle Garden, immigrants were processed on board the ship they had traveled.

While some immigrants were coming through New York City, there were many other ports actively accepting immigrants. These include ports at the cities of Boston, Massachusetts; Baltimore, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the late 1800s there was a immigrant station opened in St. Alban's, Vermont to handle some of the immigrants arriving from Canada. Other immigrants traveled as far as Detroit, Michigan before disembarking. There were also many who traveled to New Orleans and then would use the Mississippi as their mode of transportation elsewhere in the United States.

Asians who were immigrating in the 1900s likely came through Angel Island. Construction began on Angel Island in 1905 but it was not operational until 1910. There was a lot of controversy about this immigrant station. It was nicknamed the "Ellis Island of the West" in public, but it has been said that within the Immigration Service it was more often referred to as "The Guardian of the Western Gate." Perhaps this nickname was purposeful. We need to remember that in 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act and subsequent additional acts were passed in order to stem the flow of Asian immigrants into the United States. As such, in many ways Angel Island was more a detention center than simply an immigrant processing center like Ellis Island (though Ellis Island detained its fair share of individuals and did send people home). Angel Island buildings fell into total disrepair after use but they are currently being restored. There is a museum in the detention barracks and in 2000 the citizens of California set aside money to restore Angel Island Immigration Station.

For a complete list of all of the operating ports for which there are passenger lists, you will want to check out the National Archives Web site. Specifically, look at the Immigration Records page for a look at the many different records that the National Archives has relating to immigrants. Once you know what exists for ports other than Ellis Island, you can then visit your local genealogy library to see if they have any of them. Your local Family History Center, a branch of the Family History Library, is another option. There, you can request most of the passenger lists on microfilm.


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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