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

July 8, 1999
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

How Are We Related?

Q: I have recently met a girl who says she is related to me. She has told me that her great grandmother and my great grandmother are sisters. We both have different last names, so what does that make her and me? -- STORESYS2

A: It is perfectly understandable that you and this girl have different last names. Since you both descend from females, the surnames changed to that of their husbands. And though your letter didn't elaborate if either of you then further descended from females in the line in either your grandparents or your parents then the name changed again.

To figure out your relationship to this girl, you need to first go back to the common ancestor. In this case it would be the great great grandparents. The chart below will take the father of the siblings great grandmothers and then bring that forward to show you what your relationship is to the girl.

  Great Great
Your Great
Sisters Her Great
Your Grand-
1st Cousins Her Grand-
2nd Cousins Her
You 3rd Cousins Her

As each generation moves away from the common ancestor you add one number to the cousinship. So you and she are third cousins.

Pre-1820 Passenger Lists

Q: My question pertains to ships, and passenger lists. My ancestor is Thomas SOUTHARD. He came from Holland to Long Island, New York. He was born in 1615 and came to the Americas between 1637 and 1650. How do I find these records? Some information was published in a Surname Index in 1975, but it is out of publication. The book was Founders of Early American Families: Emigrants From Europe, 1607-1657 by Meredith B. Colket, Jr. Would you know how I could find this book? -- Tina

A: Prior to 1820, the recording of passenger lists was not handled by a centralized body. In 1820, the Custom Houses became responsible for listing all of the individuals who disembarked on newly arriving ships. These lists are known as " Customs Passenger Lists." This responsibility then shifted, in 1891, to the newly formed immigration affairs and the lists changed to Immigration Passenger Lists. However, this was all long after your Thomas SOUTHARD arrived.

In 1982, P. William Filby began a massive annual undertaking, that of indexing passenger lists that appear in published volumes. For those of us with colonial immigrant ancestry, this work became a top priority whenever we discovered a new immigrant. And it is to this work that you will want to turn as well. Published by Gale Publishing, this multi-volumed work can be found in many libraries with genealogical departments under the title of Emigration and Passenger Lists Index. However, it was recently published by Family Tree Maker last year as a CD. This year CD #354 Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1538-1940 (1999 Edition) was released. For those who already have the 1998 version, a new 1999 supplement CD was released as well, and you can find information about this at the link above.

The data in this index will point you in the direction of any published passenger lists that contain SOUTHARDs and especially Peter. They are organized alphabetically. If working with the CDs, you can just do a single search on Peter. If you are working in the books, you will want to be sure to check each yearly volume to before ruling out published passenger lists as an option.

As for finding the book by Colket, while you may be able to locate it in a library and perhaps request it on interlibrary loan. At this point I do not believe it would be possible to purchase it. You might try searching some of the online library catalogs of known genealogical libraries such as the Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois and the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. And don't forget to check the FHLC at your local Family History Center.

If you want information from the book, you may either need to hire a professional researcher or see if the library that has it is willing to send it out on InterLibrary Loan.

Cemetery No Help

Q: I would like to find out how to get info on my grandmother's family. They are all buried in the same cemetery but I have no info on them. They all have died before I was born and there were no records left behind. The cemetery says they have no records of where they lived or their birth. All are buried in St. Louis, Missouri. I have the names of the funeral homes they were at but cannot find who has the records. -- Peggy

A: While the cemetery records may have supplied you with information on where your grandmother's family lived and when and where they were born, there are other useful records that may also supply you with that information.

If the funeral homes in question are no longer in existence, you may want to see if you can determine which ones that are still available might have been there then. You could then contact them to see if they have the records. It is possible that they don't.

Another avenue to pursue in regards to the funeral home records is the local historical and genealogical societies.

If the individuals might appear in the 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910 or 1920 censuses then you will want to extract the information about them from these census records. While they won't give you exact information like the town of birth, they will help you in estimating when and where the family members were born. Then you can begin to back track until you find records to further support the information garnered from the census.

Marriage records are often another avenue to supplying you with information on place and date of birth for your ancestors. And since these records are very often filled out by the very individual in question, they are more apt to be accurate than census, cemetery or death records.

Why Is My Grandfather Not In the SSDI?

Q: I really am lost. I can't seem to locate my grandfather in the SSDI. I have all of his info, but I would like a copy of it. Kinda like a death record only it's for family only reference. His name is Roy BOSSOM. I know his social security number. But still I cannot get him to come up in the SSDI. Why not and what do I do now? -- Trace

A: There is a misconception as to just who is included in the Social Security Death Index or SSDI. It is not an index to deaths that have taken place in the United States. It is an index of those individuals on whose behalf a death benefit check (currently $255) has been cut and mailed. Not everyone who dies qualifies for this check to be sent.

You did not mention when your grandfather died. If it was before 1962, then your grandfather's omission is likely due to his records not having been computerized. If he did die after 1962 was someone else entitled to the continued social security payments that he'd been receiving? I have discovered a number of people that continued to receive social security payments because of their heirship to the deceased that cannot find the name of the person who died listed in the SSDI. I chock this up to the fact that the Social Security Administration did not send the death benefit check because the other checks were still being sent.

Another possible explanation for your grandfather not appearing in the SSDI is if he worked for a railroad. The Railroad employees had their own pension system and while they did have social security numbers, they did not draw on any social security money during their retirement. If he did work for the railroad, you can further investigate this option by visiting the Railroad Retirement Board web site.

And finally, it is possible that the spelling you have for your grandfather's name is not the one that the Social Security Administration had. These things do happen. Or when they were computerizing the information, someone made a typo. These have to be considered when you cannot find someone in any kind of an index.

Migrating from Canada to Vermont

Q: I am told that my great grandmother, Annie Goodrich MOORE, came to Vermont through Canada from Wales. From the family bible we have gleaned she was approximately 28-32 when she died in 1907. The gravestone has no dates on it. The town hall has nothing as well. Is there anyway to find immigrants from Canada in the latter half of the 1800s?

A: Ok, you appear to have some knowledge that your great grandmother arrived in the United States prior to 1900. I would say that your first step should be the 1900 federal census. This will tell you what year she arrived. If it was after 1895, it is very likely that she came through the St. Albans District. There is an index to the Canadian Border entries through St. Albans that begins in 1895. It is possible that she might appear in this.

When you say that the town hall has nothing, is it possible that you didn't ask the right question? While they may not have any records on her immigration, it is possible that they have information on her death. And that might hold further information as to exactly when she was born.

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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