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

July 06, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Family Tree Forms

Q: I need some sort of a form to actually draw my family tree, and have no idea how to go about it. Any ideas or tips? -- Carrie

A: Family tree forms, or Pedigree Charts as they are more commonly known, can be purchased through a variety of publishers. The ones that people use the most usually contain four or five generations. You can use multiple forms if your tree exceeds that number of generations. Visit the PBS Ancestors Web site to download a Pedigree Chart in PDF format.

There are also extended generational pedigree charts that can hold up to twelve to fifteen generations. These are wall-size charts. You can purchase them at many of the standard genealogical publishers like Everton's, publisher of The Handybook for Genealogists, now in its 9th edition.

Also available from genealogy supply companies are decorative family tree charts, many with pictures of trees or frames for pictures of your family members. These charts, when filled out are usually suitable for framing.

With today's color printers and the features found in most of the currently available genealogy software programs, it is also possible to create beautiful printouts of pedigrees. Of course to print out a large wall-size chart would require access to a plotter-style printer or contacting a company that specializes in this.

Locating Port of Entry

Q: Per my great grandfather's (Peter L. Larson) death record he was born in Vesta Torp Sweden in 1848. I don't know what port he came through. I do know that he lived in Griswald, Iowa in 1885 when my grandfather (Lars Larson) was born. I also know that he moved/lived in Wahoo, Nebraska when my grandfather was 5 years old and also died there. Per the 1900 census he entered the US in 1860 and was naturalized in 1875. However I have information from his obituary that shows later dates for when he entered the US and when he was naturalized. I tend to believe the information on the obituary because it states that he entered the US with his wife Ingrid (Christoffersen) Larson. How do I get a copy of naturalization records when I don't know where he was naturalized? -- Sandra

A: One of the important things to keep in mind when working with any records is the proximity in date to the events in question. For instance, the 1900 census was closer to his immigration and naturalization than was his obituary. It is also important to keep in mind who may have supplied the information and if they had an ulterior motive. For instance, if the wife was older than the husband, but she didn't admit to it, she may have supplied a slightly different age. Men sometimes aged a little when social security came about so that they qualified a little sooner.

To locate the naturalization records for Peter Larson you will need to determine where he was living around the time you suspect he was naturalized. Since you have two dates, you will need to keep them both in mind. You will also want to remember that the naturalization process was not instantaneous. It required different applications and a number of years.

Prior to 1906, the naturalization process took place in local county courts. In 1906, the records became the responsibility of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Washington. It is because your ancestor was naturalized prior to 1906 that you need to determine where he lived as it will be at those county courthouses that you begin your search for the naturalization records. You will also want to check the holdings for the closest branch of the National Archives. While INS didn't begin until 1906, the branches of the archives do have records prior to this time period.

Understanding Real Estate Values

Q: I am fairly new at research for my family line. I secured my family line through an Internet site (Mollohan's of WVA). I noted that my great-great grandfather had land and the report I have says he had 3,000 acres of property. I checked the 1850 census and it has "3,000" for Value of Real Estate. Is the number on the census acres of land or a dollar amount. My great, great, great grandfather on my father's side was a farmer in PA and in the 1850 census under the column for real estate value it has 600. It will help me as I try to secure land records of a farm in PA. -- Dennis

A: The enumerators were supplied with very specific instructions in regard to the questions they were to ask as they came upon each family.

The instructions to the marshals and assistant marshals for the 1850 census includes the following for Heading 8 - Value of Real Estate:

Under heading 8 insert the value of real estate owned by each individual enumerated. You are to obtain the value of real estate by inquiry of each individual who is supposed to own real estate, be the same located where it may, and insert the amount in dollars. No abatement of the value is to be made on account of any lien or incumbrance thereon in the nature of debt.

So the value listed in the 1850 census for your great-great grandfather was in dollars of that time and his land was apparently worth $3000. He may have owed money to a bank for that land, but as the directions state, the real estate amount was not to have that figured in.

Born in Kentucky

Q: I only know my great grandfather was born in Kentucky. I don't know the time period or county. His name is Katon Hughes and not even sure of how it may have been spelled back then. What do I do? -- dogtraks

A: Usually when you find that you know very little about an individual, other than their name, it should signify that there may be some records that have been overlooked. It is tempting when you get a new name to immediately jump to it. But as you have discovered, that sometimes results in a brick wall that you cannot get past.

So, your first step is to look at the children of Katon Hughes. See what records you have. Put it all down in a timeline. Then see what records you have overlooked. For instance have you exhausted all pertinent census records? Have you gathered all available birth, marriage and death records for Katon's children?

The timeline allows you to focus your attention to the minute rather than to broad strokes. It also forces you to reexamine just what you do currently know about the family and what records you do indeed have. As you are creating the timeline, you should pull out each copy and each vital record that you have. And then on your timeline you will want to highlight or make a mark next to those events that you do not have a record for.

Then, when you have completed the timeline and the reexamination, I suspect you will have a number of records and resources that need to be checked. And when you have completed gathering these missing pieces, at the very least you should have some useful clues about when Katon was born that will allow you to proceed with your research.


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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