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

September 09, 1999
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Canada Back to England

Q: I am a Canadian and I am trying to find information on my wife's family tree. We have traced it back to England and are stuck with just a name. I don't know where to look to find the date of birth or the date of death. -- cybercop

A: The resources that you will use will be largely contingent on the time period in which the family is in England. While you do not have an exact date of birth, you do have an approximation based on the others you already know about. Another factor will be how common the surname is. If you are looking for SMITHs, then you will have a harder time of it.

If you are new to researching in England, an excellent and inexpensive resource, is the England Research Outline that is available from the Family History Library. It may be available through your local Family History Center.

Regardless of the time period you are working in, these are some steps that you need to take:

  1. Determine what you know about the family
  2. Settle on a goal of what you want to learn about the family
  3. Settle on a particular record type to begin the search
  4. Locate the record and begin the search
  5. Evaluate the information and apply it to your family tree

You mention that you do not know the date of birth or date of death for the individual in England. This could mean that you need to do additional research prior to reaching England. When we discover a new country or state or province, it is tempting to jump back immediately to that new locality. However, we overlook valuable research and records if we do that. You will want to continue to be methodical in your research. If you cannot find any information on the individual in England, step back one generation to the child of that individual. What records have you not investigated? If the child was in Canada, how and when did he or she get there? This may then clue you in to a record that offers additional insight into the individual in England.

The Meadors Oil Well

Q: I am a descendant of the MEADORS family and I need to find a family tree for the MEADORS family and for those who are related to the MEADORS. This is concerning the Meadors Oil Well in Texas and I need to see if my information matches. Where and how do I do this? -- luckycharlie

A: First a little background on the Meadors Oil Well. This story has been around for quite some time. In fact, back in 1989 I knew of another person who was trying to prove her connection to this MEADORs line in the hopes of getting part of the inheritance. The confusion appears to trace to a letter dated 8 Feb 1943 (though there is some belief that the letter was actually written in 1934) that talks about consolidating the royalty interests from Mr. James Meadors accounts. The letter was addressed to a Mr. Wm. R. Meadors and was from Gulf Oil Corporation in Pittsburgh, Penn.

The confusion appears to be with this letter and the mention of Wm. R. MEADORS.

Research though shows that James MEADORS did not have an heir named William. And in fact, that his widow and his children were alive and did receive the estate which has now been lawfully passed down to a living heir and two churches.

Many of the records for this research are found in the Dallas County, Texas courthouse including the deeds and affidavits showing names of James' wife, then widow and his children, including the married names for his daughters.

Additional information about this search can be found on The James Meaders' Information Web Page. This site offers detailed information, including abstracts of some of these records, showing how most of those claiming a connection to the inheritance really cannot claim it.

Just How Do I Get Started?

Q: My husband gave me the Family Tree Maker program so that I could search my family background. I don't know where to start since everyone that can tell me about my ancestors and where my family originally started have passed away. All I can get is that one of my family names is from Europe, but I can't find anything on the other family names. Are there any websites or places that I can go to and give my family names and get history on where it originated. -- ecasilla

A: Since you already have the Family Tree Maker program, you can do many of the steps listed here directly within the program. Most people begin by writing the information down, but you can type it directly into the program.

When you begin your research, you need to begin with yourself. Type your name (because you are female, be sure to use your maiden name) into the program. You can then type in your birth date and place and your marriage date and place. Then move on to your father (click the Father tab) and do the same on your father. Type in everything that you currently know about your family. Then armed with this information, you will begin to get records.

Some of the records that you would need to look for are vital records, census records, and probate records. As you find records on the people you know about, then you will find clues to those people you don't know about. As you begin to work further back through your family tree, you will eventually learn where the families came from.

A good book that can help you learn the Family Tree Program as well as get some pointers on how to do your research is Prima's Official Companion to Family Tree Maker by Myra Vanderpool Gormley. This is much more than a manual to the program. You will find it at many bookstores and you can order it online through

DALEYs in New England

Q: I have been trying to trace my mother's family (DALEY). I have come to a dead stop with my great grandfather, John J. DALEY. I can find no record of his death, marriage or birth. I have searched all the records in the towns involved - Blackstone, Shirley and Ayer, Mass. and even where his first son was born in Newmarket, NH. He supposedly died in Maine in the 1920s, but Maine has no record of him. I have no idea where to go next or what to do. -- Connie

A: Depending on what information supplied you with the towns in Massachusetts, it may be necessary to branch out on your research. If he was born before 1850, it is possible that he will show up in the International Genealogical Index (IGI) found at your local Family History Center and now online. Many of the published volumes of town vital records have been transcribed and are available in this index. This would allow you to search for him by state, rather than by town. Another possible avenue would be to search the Birth Index CD by Family Tree Maker. This index will show you if John J. DALEY shows up on any of their other CDs. The CDs can then be used for clues to point you in the direction of the primary documents that you need.

If you haven't done so already, you will want to locate John J. DALEY in the census records for 1920, 1910, 1900, 1880 and 1870. This will give you and idea of where they moved to. Once you have these localities, you can locate land records. The land records might hold clues to localities you were not aware of.

Understanding Tax Lists

Q: I have located 1880 Houston County, Tennessee tax rolls and I don't have a clue on how to read what it means. I have located my UNDERWOOD family in the tax rolls for 1882, 1883 and 1884 and each one looks like this: Underwood, Thomas -112 A. $250 - D6. How do I read this? -- Cora

A: Tax lists generally list the individual being taxed and then the amount he is taxed. I have seen the tax lists set up in a columnar format, and the individual's tax under one of the columns. The property tax will often have columns for such things as horses, land, personal property, etc. Generally if an individual shows up for the first time in the tax list and is being taxed on a horse only, you have a good idea that they have just reached the age of majority for that area. This is because they usually only own a horse at that time in their life.

The other kind of tax list that you often see is the poll tax. This was a tax on those person's of legal age (which did vary from state to state) who could vote. In some instances combining the poll tax and the property tax can help to replace a missing census.

If the tax lists you were working with were those microfilmed by the Family History Library, you may want to look at the beginning of the volume to see if there is information about the different levels. For instance was A for his horse or his land? Also, it appears that both the poll tax and the property taxes have been combined in the example you supplied to me. The letter-number combination after each entry could be the district or precinct in which your ancestor resided.

While possibly out of print, you will want to see if you can locate a copy of Arlene H. Eakle's Tax Records: A Common Source With an Uncommon Value which was published by Family History World of Salt Lake City, Utah in 1978.

However, I would suggest returning to the manuscript or microfilm that you found the tax list on and seeing what, if anything, is mentioned at the beginning of the book. It could be that the abbreviations are spelled out there. In those with columns, I have often found that it was just the first page that had the headings for the different columns.

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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