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

January 24, 2002
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

The Next Step

Q: I have identified, from the 1900 census, that my great grandmother and great grandfather (Mary Hennessy and Timothy Sullivan) emigrated from Ireland in 1854 and 1852 respectively. Since this is pre-Ellis Island, what would my next research item/step be in identifying where they came from in Ireland.-- Tom

A: While it is pre-Ellis Island, it is not pre-New York. There are passenger lists for the port of New York that go back to 1820, when passenger lists were first required by the United States. This is a big misconception among those researching immigrants. So much has been written about Ellis Island, that people think there was no port prior to its being built.

The 1900 census should also have told you if the ancestors in question were naturalized citizens. This is actually the next step in your research, the location of naturalization records. The naturalization records may tell you where in Ireland your ancestors were born, and that is essential if you hope to continue your research in Ireland. Irish records are found at the town or parish level, which means you must know that in order to work in Ireland.

While it is natural to want to head for the passenger list, this will not show you the information you seek, in this case the place of birth in Ireland. At the time your ancestors arrived, the passenger lists did not ask anything about place of birth or last residence. That would not come until the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Another problem you have with this time period is the fact that for New York, there are no indexes from 1846 through 1896. So you would need to know more than the year of arrival, instead you would need to know the exact date of arrival.

If your ancestors were not naturalized, you may still be able to find out where they were from in Ireland. While many of our ancestors were farmers, if your ancestor was in another line of work, it is possible that there may be some biographical directory that gives you additional information about him, including where he was born.

Civil War Vet

Q: I believe my great grandfather was a veteran of the Civil War. Next to his headstone is a metal star with "Department Post 357 Gar Kansas" on it. How can I find out information about his service in the Civil War? -- Kathy

A: GAR stands for the Grand Army of the Republic. This was a fraternal organization. To be a member of the GAR, a man needed to be an honorably discharged Union veteran. So, this tells you that your ancestor was a veteran of the Civil War, and that he was a Union soldier.

You may want to search the state archives in Kansas, as well as local county historical and genealogical societies to see if they have the local GAR records. The GAR is no longer in existence, ending with the death of its last member, Albert Woolson, at the age of 109, in 1956. Some of the GAR records are being published by genealogical societies, and may also be available through the Family History Library or a local library.

If you know where your ancestor was living in the 1860s, that would be the first place to look for service records. There are compiled indexes by state for some of the states for Union soldiers. This would supply you with the information you need to request a copy of your ancestor's service records.

It is also possible that your ancestor applied for a pension after the war. There is the Old War Index to Pension Files, 1815-1916 on seven rolls of microfilm, which is available through your local Family History Center. This includes those who fought in the Civil War. Each card shows the name of a veteran; the name and class of dependent, if any; the service unit; the application, file, and certificate number; and the state from which the claim was filed.

With the information from either the compiled service records indexes or the pension index, you will have enough information to request copies of the service records and pension files. For pension records, you would need to request NATF Form 85, and the service records use NATF Form 86. You can find information about requesting these forms via e-mail by visiting the Order Forms for Military Service and Family History Records page of the National Archives Web site.

Just Learning

Q: I don't know if you can help me or even point me in the right direction. I am trying to find out background info on a person in the U.S. but I have nothing really to go on. I have a name, birth date and that is pretty much it but I don't even know where to start. If you could head me in a direction to try I would be very grateful. -- Angela

A: In genealogy, it is important to work from the known to the unknown. If all you know about the individual right now is the name and birth date, it may be necessary to look at the children of that person in an attempt to find out more information about them. For instance, the birth certificates of the children, if in existence, would give you the age of the parent at the time of the birth along with the state of birth, giving you a little something more to go on.

If the individual in question is more contemporary, say a grandparent, you may be able to ask other relatives for some information. It is possible that they remember some about the family, thus giving you some of the information you need to progress.

Since you mention that you are just beginning, you will want to spend a little time reading some of the great articles in the Learning Center. Here you will find some online classes, some wonderful topic-specific articles, a glossary and some reference material.

There are also a number of books available on the subject. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Genealogy by Christine Rose and Kay Ingalls looks specifically at traditional research using letters, census, books, libraries, and other offline resources. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy by Rhonda R. McClure, looks more at the opportunities that are now available via the Internet, but also introduces you to the world of genealogy.

Tindalls in 1900

Q: How do I look through a whole county on the 1900 census? I have found some family members for example in Shelby County, IN but it is very slow-going for others, as I am not sure where the county starts, page-wise. Is there way that I can query the list for example to pull up all of the listings for any Tindall in Shelby County for the 1900 Census? -- Katy

A: Instead of going through the main FamilyFinder page, which actually queries all of the databases that are available, you can access the specific state in the census you want and then begin your search there.

On the main menu banner, that appears at the top of each page of the site, you will find a link to My, this allows you to view links to those databases you have subscribed to. Place the pointer on My and a menu will appear. Click on My Online Data Library. The page that opens will display those databases that you have subscribed to. For the 1900, you will see links to each of the states. Select the link to Indiana.

On the screen that appears, you will find you can search for a specific individual or you can type in the surname and begin to scan through the list looking for those Tindalls in Shelby county.

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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