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

August 10, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Born in South Carolina

Q: I am trying to find the parents of Robert P. Workman, born in SC. I know that he was in Mississippi in the 1850 census with his wife, Elizabeth M. Green Workman and son, John James. In 1860, he is in Upshur County, TX with a new wife, Susan Jane Rogers Workman and children, John James, Robert P. and Susan. How can I find the parents of Robert P Workman? I have tried to find relatives that can help, but they do not know any more that I do. The only known Bible of the Workman's was burned in a house fire in the early 1900s. Am I at a dead end? -- James

A: You have a good start on your Robert P. Workman. You have located him in two census years, you are aware that he has had two marriages. You know that he was born in South Carolina. You even have an idea of when he was born, though you didn't include this in your message. You can estimate when he was born based on his age in the census records. This may vary by a couple of years from census to census. That's to be expected.

Now you need to branch out a little in your research. First, you need to see what other WORKMAN are living in Mississippi, specifically the county where your Robert Workman was living, which I believe is De Soto County. You will also want to look around for families that share the same name of his first wife's maiden name.

You will also want to expand your research to land records, court records, tax lists, and probate records. You will begin in the county where you have Robert P. Workman in 1850. If you are lucky you will find an entry in the land records for Robert when he first enters the county and buys land. Often these first records will list the county from which the individual is coming from.

Even if you do not find this in the land records, you will have a better idea of when your Robert first arrived in Mississippi. However, remember to keep in mind that if the county he is living in was recently created, that he may trace back to the parent county. The parent county is the one from which the new county has been created. If this turns out to be the case, then the same record types need to be searched in that county.

You will also want to see how many WORKMAN families are listed in the census for South Carolina when your Robert would have been a small child. You will then need to look through each of those families and record those with a child who fits your criteria. Then you will need to do further research for those families to see if you can find the names of the children for the families.

Triplets Disappear

Q: I have reached such a DEAD END. Searching for any information on Hopeful Martin; Faith Martin & Charity Martin. The family story was that the children were born as triplets in England and were taken from their family and made wards of the crown due to their oddity of multiple births. I cannot locate any information and I am out of ideas for deviations in spellings etc. -- Robin

A: If you have limited your search to the Internet and computerized databases, this may explain why you cannot find additional information on these children.

If the birth of the twins took place after 1837, then your first stop should be the Index to Civil Registration of England and Wales. Civil Registration for England and Wales was begun in 1837, and for Scotland in 1855. The indexes are available on microfilm through the Family History Library.

The index is broken down by quarters of the year. So for each year, unless you know their exact date of birth, you will need to search four indexes. Even if you know their exact date of birth it may be necessary to search through two quarters. There are times when the birth was so late in the one quarter that when it was registered it appears in the next quarter.

From there, you will need to turn your attention to other records. If appropriate, you may want to look at the census records for the shire where they were born. Of course, if they were made wards of the crown, it is possible they were moved to somewhere else.

Also, if this was such a rarity, then you may find something written in a newspaper. Access to the newspapers may require hiring a professional researcher. The National Collection of Newspapers is housed at the Newspaper Library in London. However, access to these newspapers must be done in person. You may want to check the Family History Library Catalog to see what may be available on microfilm, though newspapers are not one of the most often filmed resources.

Who Are My Great Grandparents

Q: My grandfather was Lodrick Sampson. Born in Louisiana. He passed away in a town called Marksville. I was wondering who is my great-grand father and great-grand mother. -- Skpl22

A: You know where your grandfather died. You will want to request a copy of his death certificate. This can usually be done through the county in which the death occurred. If you need help in learning the address of where to write for this, you will want to visit VitalRec.

The death certificate should supply you with the names of your great grandparents. However, if that is not included on the certificate, or was not known by the informant, there are other clues that should be on the death certificate, including his place and date of birth.

If he was born prior to 1920, then you may be able to find him in the census records as a child. The 1880, 1900, and 1920 are soundexed for each state. The 1910 is soundexed for only selected states. However, you can search the surname looking for a family with a child of the right name and address. Census records can be accessed through your local Family History Center.

Much of the work you will do at this point will be writing of letters, visiting libraries and other repositories. It is less likely to be found on the Internet. Once you have a little more information, you can then return to the Internet possibly discover some cousins.

Records from Boston

Q: My mother age 79 has been trying to get information about her father who was born 27 July 1888 in the Boston area. Apparently the records were burned in a City Hall fire. Are there any other avenues to pursue for information? -- Jo Norma

A: It is true that there are times when fires in repositories result in damage to the records. But you are on the right trail in asking about alternatives. In many cases there are alternate repositories or resources that can supply you with the same information.

In many cases when you are dealing with a town or county, it is a good idea to look at the state level. Often copies of the records, especially vital records, are often found at the state archives or the state vital statistics office. You can find this information in such books as Ancestry's Red Book and Everton's The Handybook for Genealogists.

Also, it is a good idea to check at your local Family History Center to see what records have been microfilmed. In your case, the city of Boston has birth records from 1870 to 1905 on microfilm. If you don't find him listed in these records, you will want to look in the Family History Library Catalog under the state of Massachusetts, which has an index to births up to 1900 that is available on microfilm.

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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