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

January 18, 2001
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Daughtering Out

Q: I was reading an article and the author mentioned that a line "daughtered out." What does this term mean? -- Louise

A: When a line has only daughters, the line "daughter's out." This does not mean that you cannot claim descent. You descend just as directly from a daughter as you do from a son. The big difference when you descend from a daughter is that usually the surname will change.

When a daughter marries she generally takes the surname of her spouse. What this means is that those that descend from her no longer have the surname of the famous individual. And if she had only daughters, then there would be yet another surname thrown into the picture.

For instance, General William Tecumseh SHERMAN was born 8 Feb 1820 in Lancaster, Ohio. Depending on which side of the Mason-Dixon line you might be on, you may consider him a famous ancestor or a skeleton in your closet if you are basing it on his performance during the American Civil War. However, you cannot have the SHERMAN surname and be directly descended from him. While he had four sons, none of them had offspring. Two of his sons, William and Charles both died young. His son Tom became a Catholic priest. Other son Philemon never married and had apparently no issue. His descent is one of those that daughter's out.

Writing for Records

Q: I am new to researching my family tree. I need to write for copies of some birth certificates. Is there anything special I should know before I do this? -- David

A: When writing to anyone for the first time, it is generally a good idea to keep the letter short and to the point. This is true whether you are writing to a potential cousin or to a county clerk, though I maintain it is even more essential when contacting a clerk. After all, your potential cousin may be more interested and more willing to read the family stories you include in the letter. The county clerk or librarian has many things to do including reading additional requests from other genealogists, and therefore appreciates it when your letter is direct.

When contacting a county clerk or librarian, a good model is the one that is included below:

    Dear Sir or Madam,

    I am writing to request a copy of the death certificate for my great grandfather. Below is the pertinent information for the requested record:

    Name: Oliver Marion Standerfer
    Death Date: 6 June 1931
    Death Place: Sullivan, Moultrie, Illinois
    Name of Spouse: Sarah Adaline Standerfer

    I am including a check in the amount $8.00 to cover the cost. Please let me know if this is not enough. I am also including an SASE for your convenience.

    Thank you for your time.

Such a letter generally gets you a response. In fact, I have always received a response, though a couple of them were negative evidence. In one instance the check I enclosed was even returned because the information I was seeking was not found. Generally though, they will cash the check to cover the expense of the search.

Native American Ancestry

Q: I am trying to trace my heritage through my father. I believe that I have some Indian ancestors in my background and if I do, I know it is going to be on my father's side of the family. How do I start the process? -- April

A: Researching your family history when you suspect Native American descent starts out the same as any other research. You must begin with what you know. You will want to record what you know about your father and his parents. Then begin to get vital records on them to document what you have written down. As you go further back, if there truly is a Native American connection, you will begin to see some clues alluding to this fact.

One of the most important aspects of Native American research is that it is essential that you determine what tribe you descend from. There are many different Native American tribes and the record availability will vary from tribe to tribe.

Another important aspect is where the family was living. There are some areas that appear to have more Native Americans. And in these areas, record keeping sometimes varies from other areas. A perfect example of this is the 1900 census. This census had a second page that was used for Native Americans. It is quite prevalent in the Indian Territory (the eastern section of Oklahoma). If an individual is listed in the regular 1900 page as being "Indian" then further information was entered on the second page, including Indian name, blood quantum (just how much of an Indian they were), and other information.

If you do discover an ancestor that was Native American, you will want to read up on the tribe to see what records exist. If you are fortunate, your ancestor will be connected to one of the Five Civilized Tribes. These are the individuals that were taken to Indian Territory. The records for these individuals are quite useful.

There are many family traditions that suggest to us that we have Native American ancestry. Just as with all other family traditions, there are usually some grains of truth and some embellishments that need to be sifted through. One often heard tradition, is the Cherokee Princess in the family tree. The Cherokee tribe did not have royalty. Therefore it is not possible to have a Cherokee princess in your background. However, it may turn out that you descend from a female Native American.

If your research does turn out to be Cherokee, there is an excellent book that you will want to read. Cherokee Connections by Myra Vanderpool Gormley. This book looks at the various records for researching your Cherokee ancestry.

Passenger List or Manifest

Q: What is the difference between ship's passenger lists and ship's manifests? Also, where can ship's manifests be obtained for CA, 1865? -- Carolyn

A: A ship's passenger list records information about the individuals who were aboard, generally immigrating from one country to another. Earlier passenger lists included just names, ages, nationalities and possibly occupations. The more current ones began to include information such as the town of origin of the individual, the person who paid the fare, and who the individual was going to live with. At the end of the pages for a particular ship, you will also find reports of any stowaways or births or deaths on the ship, along with individuals who may have been deported or detained at their port of entry. Passenger lists were begun in 1820 for the United States, and are referred to as arrival lists. Many of the ports of departure have similar lists that were kept as well. The book The Source edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking has an excellent table listing the various ports in many countries. The table includes the port, the type of document, the dates covered, whether or not indexed, where the originals are housed, where available copies are housed and miscellaneous comments.

Ship's manifests list the cargo being carried by the ship. Often times a copy of the passenger list was kept with the ship's manifest. Generally the ship's manifest includes the name of the ship, the type of goods being carried, and the names of the shipper and the receiver. Ship's manifests are part of the National Archives Record Group 36 — Records of the Bureau of Customs. The Records of Collectors of Customs, 1789-1899 are where you will find any available cargo manifests. In 1789, custom collection districts were established in more than 100 coastal, river, Great Lakes and inland ports. In 1913, single state districts were set up. Few of these records have been microfilmed.

To find out about the availability of records for other custom houses, you will want to read up on Record Group 36 in the "Guide to the National Archives of the United States of America" (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1987) as it has detailed lists of the records by collection district. One particular note is that the cargo manifests for New York were deliberately destroyed for the years 1865-1917. Those that are available and housed in the National Archives are listed, including available years, in this volume. Once you determine what district and port, you can then see what records are available for what years. However, be aware that there may be some restrictions to trying to access these records. Also, keep in mind that the ship's manifests would appeal more to the historian than to the genealogist, as there is no genealogical information included in them.


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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