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

August 30, 2001
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Looking for O'Leary

Q: My father was the son of May O'Leary of Lewiston, Maine, and Henry Schlaffer of Baltimore, Maryland. He was born on December 7, 1914 in Portland, Maine. Where can I find information on May O'Leary of Lewiston, Maine? -- Evelyn

A: There are a number of things you can do to begin your research on May O'Leary. First, if you know nothing about her other than her name, you need to find some records that will help you to identify her while still connecting her to your father. This is so that you don't go off in search of an entirely unrelated individual with the same name. While perhaps not as likely with May O'Leary, you might still be surprised.

The birth record for your father would be one place to begin. If you haven't tried to get this, that would be one of the steps to take. In addition to having the birth information on your father, which you probably already know, the birth record should supply you with the age of May at the time of birth. This gives you a year to aim for when searching for May in other records. Like most New England towns, the vital records are found at the town level.

Another resource that may prove useful in finding the year of birth for May O'Leary is the 1920 census. The family should show up in this census showing your father as a child living in the household. May will be listed with her age and her state of birth, along with the places of birth for her parents.

Once you have some idea of when May was born, a search of the Social Security Death Index, available on CD-ROM as well as online at many different places, including Genealogy.com may reveal her. May would be listed with her married name, so you would search for May Schlaffer. If you find her, you can then try writing away for her death record. The death record should, if the informant knew, supply you with the names of her parents.

Morton Allen Directory

Q: Do you know how I can review the Morton Allen Directory for Passengers for Steamships arriving in New York 1890-1930. I am looking for the S.S. Majestic arriving in September 1890 to find a passenger named Jane Elizabeth Hog(g)arth and possibly her daughter, Dora. -- John

A: The Morton Allen Directory has been reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc..

The Morton Allen Directory is arranged chronologically for the years mentioned in the title. Under each year, you will find the shipping companies listed alphabetically. Under each shipping company, you will find arrivals, chronologically by month and day and for each date and the name of the ship that arrived.

The book is especially useful when working in those unindexed years for the port of New York, which your Jane Elizabeth and Dora would fall under. Armed with the exact date of arrival you would then be able to locate the passenger list for the S.S. Majestic.

The Morton Allen Directory will not supply you with any information on Jane Elizabeth and her daughter. The book lists nothing but the information I have already described. Once you have used the directory, you will still need to turn your attention to the original passenger lists.

While you can order the Morton Allen Directory from Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., you should also check the genealogy department of your local library. Also, look to see if perhaps your local Family History Center has it. This is one of those works that Family History Centers sometimes carry, even if they have limited shelf space for books.

How Do I Find Her?

Q: I want to know how do I retrieve my mother's Social Security number. I want to do some research on her past. I didn't really know my mom as I was raised by my grandparents. -- Dortheda

A: If you haven't done so already, you will want to write for her death certificate. Do you know when and where she died? If she died before 1962, it is unlikely that she will appear in the Social Security Death Index, however you may still want to run a search so you can definitely rule it out as a possibility.

Most death certificates from the 1950s on up often had a place for the recording of the social security number. In fact, next to the SSDI, the death record is the most common place to find this information.

Of course with the pricing changes at the Social Security Administration, if you cannot find her social security number, it will not cost that much more to request a copy of her SS-5 form, assuming of course she did get a social security number. They will do a search for her SS-5 form even if you cannot supply them with the social security number. There is now only a two dollar difference in price from the cost charged when you know the social security number and the cost when you do not.

Even if your goal was not to get the SS-5 form, this may be your last resort in getting a social security number on your mother. The SS-5 card, or NumIdent (a computerized printout) would include the social security number in addition to other information.

Unknown Abbreviation

Q: I am tracing my family roots. I have come across Initials in my search which I do not understand, can you help? What does WFT Est. mean? I have come across this several times in my search and don't know what it stands for. -- Margaret

A: This is one of those abbreviations that is program specific, or in this case, database specific. WFT stands for World Family Tree, a compiled database of family history submissions from researchers just like you. You can access information from the World Family Tree on CD-ROM on with an online subscription.

WFT Est. is an abbreviation used when the database has estimated a date of birth, death or marriage. Usually it is followed by either one year or by a group of years, listed something like <1845-1890>. The actual entry itself would look something like WFT Est. <1820-1890>.


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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