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


Rhonda is taking a break this week, so this week's
column features highlights from past months. Enjoy!

May 04, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

RR in SSDI

Q: Checking on some family members today in the Social Security Death Index, I came across two men who had the letters RR and not the initials of a State for the Place of Issuance. Can you tell me what the RR stands for? Also, I never seem to be able to find women on the list, not even under their husbands' surnames. What date did women get their own cards? -- Beth

A: First an answer to your second question about women. You are misunderstanding the requirements for inclusion in the Social Security Death Index. This index is not an index of everyone who has ever had or applied for a Social Security card. This is an index of those deceased individuals from 1962 to the present on whose behalf a death benefit check was cut. Not everyone who died and who had a social security number will appear in the SSDI, because not everyone has had a death benefit check cut after they died.

Now on to your other question. The RR most likely stands for Railroad. Up until 1964, railroad employees were assigned their own special social security numbers. The key to this was the first three digits of the social security number, also known as the area number. It is these three digits that tell you a little about where the individual got their social security card. And for those who were railroad employees, their social security number begins with 700-729. If this proves to be the case, then you will find that you may have some excellent records to turn to.

In addition to having their own social security numbers, railroad employees also had their own pension plan. Very seldom did they receive regular social security as they fell under this other plan. The Railroad Retirement Board was set up as a federal organization by Congressional acts in 1934, 1935 and 1937. According to the article "Railroad Records for Genealogical Research" by Wendy L. Elliott, CG and found in volume 75 (December, 1987) of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, "over one million railroad employees, eight hundred thousand spouses, and two million survivors have received benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board." (p. 271). That's a lot of family names.

Now, to research with the retirement board, it is necessary to be able to supply them with some pertinent information, including:

  • Employee's name
  • Position
  • Name of the railroad worked for
  • Where employed
  • When employed

The Railroad Retirement Board will supply information on those deceased individuals that they find in their records.

In addition to the retirement board records, there are other repositories that may be of use to you in a search for a railroad employee. There are some museums and historical societies that have collections of old railroad records for their region. You may want to consider hiring a professional researcher or plan a trip to these archives for yourself to do this research.

For more information on the records found at the Retirement Board and about finding aids, you will want to read Wendy Elliott's article. The National Genealogical Society Quarterly is available on CD-ROM through Family Tree Maker or you may be able to find back issues at your local genealogy library.

Finding Naturalization Records

Q: Many years ago I obtained some naturalization information from the National Archives branch in Boston. Just recently, however, I tried to obtain some from the branch that covers Ohio and was told that the National Archives does not house such records. What am I missing? -- Jan

A: Naturalization did not fall under the responsibility of the federal government until 1906. Prior to this time, naturalization was often taken care of at the county court level. Therefore, in many instances the records being sought after may be housed in the county courthouse.

However, when looking at The Archive, A Guide to the National Archives Field Branches by Loretto Dennis Szucz and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, published in 1988 by Ancestry, it details those naturalization records that the Chicago branch of the National Archives has for Ohio:

  • U.S. District Court, Northern District, Toledo
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District, Cleveland
  • U.S. Circuit Court, Southern District, Cincinnati
  • U.S. Circuit Court, Southern District, Cincinnati
  • U.S. District Court, Southern District, Columbus
  • U.S. District Court, Southern District, Dayton

Some of these records are strictly 20th Century records, however, there are some records for the mid-1800s. If these records still aren't far enough back in years for the individual you are searching for, then you will want to turn your attention to the courthouse in the county where your ancestor was living.

Jail Records

Q: I am researching Enoch STEWART. He was born 1822-1823 in PA. He and his wife and children appear in the 1860 census in KY, which is his wife's birthplace. In the 1860 census, Enoch is listed as being 37 years old and his wife as 21. Their first child was born two months after she turned 15. The only Enoch STEWART that I can find in the 1850 census that is 27 years old is in Clarion, Clarion County, PA. The only problem is that he is in jail for seduction. I don't know that it was actually a jail, the census lists the sheriff and his family and two men, one of which is Enoch. The other man has "swindling" where Enoch has "seduction." At that time Sarah would have only been 11 years old. Are there any records available that would show any details of such an arrest? -- Brenda

A: It was not unusual for the jail to be in the sheriff's house. When visiting St. Augustine, Florida, I had an opportunity to tour their jail, and it was a house that was divided in half. The one half being the living quarters of the family of the sheriff and the other half being the cells where the prisoners stayed. So, the scenario you described from the census is certainly possible.

Researching the arrest of the Enoch STEWART you discovered will take you to court records. It is not likely that these have been microfilmed, but do be sure to check out the Family History Library Catalog to see what records may be available for Clarion County.

Some of the records that you will be looking through include:

  • Dockets
  • Court Minutes
  • Court Orders
  • Judgments
  • Case Files

The docket books will be your first stop. They are generally an index of sorts to the court cases. As a case was brought before a judge, it was put on the dock to be heard. And as the case progresses, notations are made in the docket as to the status of the case until it is over. It may be necessary to visit the county courthouse to view these records. Some of the older volumes of court records have been moved to historical societies and archives.

Once you locate the case of Enoch STEWART in the docket records, you will then be looking into the other records mentioned above. This is truly the best way to determine what happened to this particular Enoch STEWART.

Canadian Border Crossing

Q: I am told that my great grandmother, Annie Goodrich MOORE, came to Vermont through Canada from Wales. From the family bible we have gleaned she was approximately 28-32 when she died in 1907. The gravestone has no dates on it. The town hall has nothing as well. Is there anyway to find immigrants from Canada in the latter half of the 1800s?

A: OK, you appear to have some knowledge that your great grandmother arrived in the United States prior to 1900. I would say that your first step should be the 1900 federal census. This will tell you what year she arrived. If it was after 1895, it is very likely that she came through the St. Albans District. There is an index to the Canadian Border entries through St. Albans that begins in 1895. It is possible that she might appear in this.

When you say that the town hall has nothing, is it possible that you didn't ask the right question? While they may not have any records on her immigration, it is possible that they have information on her death. And that might hold further information as to exactly when she was born.


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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