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

August 02, 2001
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Dit Names

Q: I'm new to genealogy research and I have come across my last name with the term "dit". I have also seen another name then "dit" and my last name. What does this mean? Could it mean the name has changed spellings? Or is it representing a female that was married and changed her name? -- Todd

A: "Dit" names are generally found in French-Canadian research. The term "dit" in French means say or more specifically in regard to surnames, called.

Usually this indicates that while the ancestor's surname was Lenseigne, he chose to go by the other surname. So you could translate it as Todd Lenseigne called Roy. This was sometimes done to help differentiate one family from another that lived in the same area.

Researching such a surname will require that you keep an open mind, looking for both the original surname and the surname with the dit name. However, if you find Lenseigne with two different dit names, it is probable that the two lineages are different.

For more information on "dit" names, you may want to visit the following sites:

Q: I was born with the name Thomas Everett Griswold III. My parents divorced later and I was adopted by my stepfather and my name changed to Thomas Everett Griswold Lewis. How do I make my entries in charts? I also have some indication that my paternal grandfathers last name was different than Griswold at birth. If I verify that information, how should I make his future entries in charts? -- Thomas

A: You will find that you will get as many different answers to this question as people you ask.

Because we always record women with their maiden names, I record names as they appear at the time of birth. Sometimes this means I must make a change in my entry as my research progresses. Other times, it may mean I need to record a note or an additional life event in my genealogy database to help me remember why there is a difference in the names.

In your instance, you can record yourself with your name as it was given at birth. Then record the change in name either in a note, or in a name event if your genealogy program offers such an event. Finally, you can record the adoption as well.

Mortality Schedule

Q: I was at the National Archives in Fort Worth, Texas today looking for the 1870 Illinois mortality schedule and they do not have it. Do you know if this means that it is nonexistent? We tried to find it in book form and then tried to find it on computer. The program is, I believe, the Family Tree Maker CD which shows that these schedules are available between 1850 and 1880. It could not bring up 1870 Illinois. Specifically, I need 1870 Wayne Co., Ill. DAR is challenging me for some proof on my grandmother's connection with her parents. I would check census records but the parents were married in 1861 (too late for 1860 census) and my great grandmother died in Jan. of 1870 (too early to be on that census).So, the mortality schedule might help. My grandmother's death certificate does not list her parents. I'd appreciate a reply and hoping there is, in fact, an 1870 Ill. schedule out there somewhere. If not, any other suggestions? -- Frankie

A: Yes, there is a mortality schedule for Illinois, but only for part of the state for the year 1870.

The original records are available at the Illinois State Archives in Springfield, Illinois. You may want to contact them at (217) 782-4682 to see what you would need to do to access the mortality schedules. It is possible that you will need to contact a professional genealogist to do the research for you.

There is a microfilm version of the mortality schedule available through the National Archives. The film number is NARS-T1133. It is possible that the only branch archive with this film is the Archives branch in Chicago. Again, it may be necessary to contact a professional genealogist.

Further research found that Lowell M. Volkel has transcribed the 1870 mortality schedule for Illinois. These volumes, five combined into two, were published circa 1985 by Heritage House in Indianapolis, Indiana. In investigating these volumes, it appears that the schedules that survived begin Kendall County and go, alphabetically, through to Union County. However, further research indicated that the 1870 census covered all of the counties for the letters K through Z, so you will want to contact the archives mentioned above to see if indeed Wayne County's 1870 mortality census survived.

Early Land Grants

Q: My ancestor, Elias Sickles, purchased land in Ohio in 1827, in Harrison County. I cannot find a copy of the land grant. His son, David, purchased land in Hancock Co. Ohio in 1835. Would Elias's records be under a different name? There was a change about 1840 of VanSickle to Sickles. I have seen the name spelled Sikel also. -- Dorris

A: Based on the dates, my first stop was the Bureau of Land Management database. Of course the problem with some of these databases is the fact that you need to sometimes search on all of the variant surname spellings you know of. And sometimes it requires searching for new spellings.

When I got to the BLM database, I first put in Elias Sickels and came up empty handed. The same thing happened when I typed in the name Elias VanSickle and Elias Van Sickle. However, a search for Elias Sikel did reveal a land patent dated 15 March 1836. Similar searching revealed the patent for David Sickles dated 14 December 1835.

As I sat staring at the different spellings you had provided, I questioned what other variants might exist. In searching under the name Elias Sickle, I uncovered the patent for Elias dated 22 May 1827.

One final note, all of these land records were cash sales, so the files will not have any additional information. Also, in each case, as you will see as you do the searches, the individuals were listed "of Harrison County, Ohio."

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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