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

July 25, 2002
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Surname Spelling Variations

Q: Please help me solve the problem of differently spelled last names in the same family. If I list them the way they are spelled by the individual will my genealogy software program link them properly? Thank you for your help. -- Jo

A: This is a common misconception about genealogy software programs. Many people think that the surname is what tells the computer program to connect two individuals together. This is not the case though.

Your genealogy program is either connecting individuals because you, for example, tell it that John Smith is Julie Smith's father or because the three people are connected through the birth event. It doesn't matter what the names are or how they are spelled as far as the computer is concerned.

In fact, spelling is one of those things that genealogists need to be aware of but not put too much stock in. To dismiss a family because the surname is spelled differently is a big mistake. Spelling has only recently become important. I have found records where the name is spelled differently each time it is listed throughout the one record.

When looking in original records, it is important for a genealogist to keep an open mind about the spelling variations. They may all be related in the end. Many genealogists have lists of spelling variations they take with them when looking through records to guarantee they don't overlook a possible spelling. Sometimes, through Soundex indexing many of those spelling variations end up grouped together.

When you are working with computerized databases, unless they allow for a Soundex search, it will be necessary to search for each variation on the spelling of the surname to ensure that you have truly exhausted all possibilities. After all, the computer won't guess if something is a close match. It looks for just the spelling you tell it.

So in one case, when you are entering information into your genealogy software program, the computer doesn't care how the name is spelled. It links them together based on who you put in what field of the program. In the other case, where you are using your computer to search databases, spelling will count.

1910 Census Civil War Veteran

Q: Column 30 of the 1910 census requires the enumerator to ask members of a household if they are Civil War veterans. I noticed in Cherokee County, Georgia the enumerator placed a number in column 30. What does the numbers represent? I think I have seen letters instead of numbers in other 1910 census pages for column 30. What do the numbers and letters represent? -- Charles

A: The directions given to the enumerators for Column 30 were as follows:

Column 30. Whether a survivor of the Union or Confederate Army or Navy. — This question should be asked as to all males over 50 years of age who were born in the United States and all foreign born males who immigrated to this country before 1865. Write "UA" if a survivor of the Union Army; "UN" if a survivor of the Union Navy; "CA" if a survivor of the Confederate Army; and "CN" if a survivor of the Confederate Navy. For all other persons leave the column blank.

What you are seeing in Cherokee County is the use of those boxes for something else. This is a common problem with many of the forms used by the government, including census and passenger list forms.

As you look at the census page, I am sure you have noticed check marks and other notations near names on the other side of the census page. Also, if you compare the numbers in columns 30 through 32, as well as in column 29 in some instances, you will find that the writing is different from that of the general entries made by the enumerator, including ages and number of months unemployed.

Usually once the enumerators were done and had submitted the sheets, there were internal tallies that took place and notations that were made in the home office. These marks appear and are difficult to distinguish from those of the original enumerator when working from the microfilmed census page. Unfortunately, no one appears to know what these internal notations meant.

In the case of column 30 though, unless you see the abbreviations UA, UN, CA, or CN, then you can ignore the numbers listed there. They will not tell you anything about the length of service.

Out of Print Books

Q: Much of our Schuyler family history is already completed and published. However, we can not seem to find the book or the publisher. Can you recommend any places to find old, out of print books? Thanks very much! -- Patty

A: Many out of print books have been reprinted as well as digitized. If you haven't done so already you might investigate the Genealogy Library to see if the book you need has been digitized by Genealogy.com.

Many out of print books are also available on microfilm at the Family History Library. If you haven't done so yet, you will want to check the Family History Library Catalog to see if the specific book you are interested in is part of the Library's collection. If it is available on microfilm, you can borrow it to your local Family History Center. You can arrange to get the film on indefinite loan, which means it would remain at your local Family History Center.

If the Family History Library has the book but it hasn't been microfilmed, then you will need to either locate the book through InterLibrary Loan at your local public library or hire a professional genealogist out in Salt Lake City to go through the book for you.

Finally there are many used book and out-of-print book services that might be able to find the book in question. You would need to supply them with the full title, the author, and the publication information. Some of them will also ask how much you are willing to spend. You can find those that are available on the Internet by visiting a general search engine and typing in "out of print books". Be sure to include the quotation marks.

Finding a Name

Q: We have been told that my husband's father's family is from Canada but we have been unable to find anything on him. How do we find out what a French-Canadian name is. We cannot find anything under the name of Harris, which is our name. -- Sybel

A: While family stories are always useful, it is important to keep an open mind when you begin your research. Sometimes when we hear family stories we try to adhere just to what they have told us about the family tree. Most family stories, while harboring grains of truth, have much misinformation in them as well.

All genealogical research should follow the same premise — work from the known to the unknown. Work on getting records for your husband's father. Those records will hold clues about the time and place of birth of his parents and will give you something to focus on with the next step in your research.

While it may turn out that the family line is French-Canadian, without more to go on, you will find that you continue to come up empty handed. It would be better to get some specific details about your husband's father and his parents to establish a trail to follow.


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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