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

May 17, 2001
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Contacting WFT Contributors

Q: While I was going through my CDs from Family Tree Maker, I found tree #4534 which shows that my line of Thomas Robinson (Jane Buck) was united with Palmquist through marriage. How can I make contact with whoever submitted the information for this tree? I am sure we can share additional information. Is it possible that you can contact them and have them contact me if they chose to. If not, any suggestions? -- Jerry

A: and Family Tree Maker offer you a way to request this information. The information will then be sent to you in an e-mail message. This is the only way to get contributor information and it may or may not include an e-mail address.

To access the necessary request form and to learn more about accessing this information, visit the World Family Tree Contributor Contact Information Service site.


Q: I hope you can help me find my heritage. -- Heavenlyeagle

A: All research, regardless of ethnicity, begins the same way. You must begin with yourself and work your way back. You will want to talk to older relatives. See what they remember. Write all of this down and then begin to gather records that help back up this information you have received.

Eventually your research reveals clues as to ethnicity. In researching Native American ancestry, it is essential that you identify the tribe from which your line comes. At some point the bulk of your research will need to be in records generated either about or from the tribe. That is why this information is so important.

To find out more online about Native American research and the records generated about Native Americans, you may want to visit these online sites.

Probate Records

Q: Is there some way to open Probate Records online? Or an address? I want to access Pontiac, Livingston County, Illinois. -- Sharon

A: While you may discover some kind soul has abstracted an index to some probate records, generally you will find that you must either write to a courthouse or order microfilm of the probate records.

Generally before ordering records from a courthouse it is a good idea to at least look at any available indexes. These are often available on microfilm as well.

The microfilmed probate records for Livingston County are available through the Family History Library. You can visit your local Family History Center to order the films. You can also see what else the Family History Library has by visiting and searching in the online version of the library catalog.

If the years available do not cover the years you need, you may need to request a search of the index when you contact the courthouse. This assumes they have an index to their probate records. If the records are simply arranged by docket, an index based on dates rather than name, then you may need to either plan a trip to the county yourself or look into the feasibility of hiring a professional researcher.

Looking for a Passenger

Q: I was trying to find a site for my father that had a list of passengers arriving by ship through Ellis Island. My great grandmother, Selma Muller came from East Germany by ship in 1903. If you have any information on where to look I would greatly appreciate it. -- Wanda

A: First, when working on any research problem, it is important to verify that the information you have is as accurate as possible. If your only knowledge of your great grandmother's entrance through Ellis Island is through family knowledge, you may need to do some additional research before you can pin down the necessary information.

Census records are one resource that may prove useful in this research. Among the other questions asked there are columns in regard to entry into the country and naturalization. Researching in these microfilmed records will help to verify what you have already been told.

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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