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

October 05, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Church Records Online

Q: I have ancestors that were married in St. Margaret's Church in Ipswich, England. This information is on my relative's tombstone. Please tell me how I can research this on the Internet. -- Sherry

A: Depending on when your ancestors were married the records may either be civil registration or the actual church records. For now, we will assume that it is at a time before civil registration and that you need to actually look at the church records themselves.

The first place to begin your research online is at the Genuki Web site. This is a site devoted to the research of British Isles records and resources. You will find that there are sections for the country as a whole, as well as individual shires.

However, it may turn out that the records you need may not be available online. This is especially true of the older records. The writing is hard to read and cannot be easily converted to a digital format as easily.

When a printed book is digitized it is often easy to do. A simple scanner and software can quickly convert the pages to a digitized file of text. Even if the book is left in its original format and viewed as scanned pictures of the pages, there is not as much involved as there is with the older records.

The older records are often more likely to have faded pages, ink splotches, or additional ravages of time that make it necessary to not only scan the page, but to also enhance it. Fortunately, as has been seen with census records lately, which can be seen at Genealogy.com, the technology is making more and more records available through the Internet.

At the present time it may be necessary for you to use the microfilmed records. A search of the Family History Library Catalog at your local Family History Center under the town of Ipswich is the place to start.

Understanding Relationships

Q: I've just begun the search and assembly of my family tree. In doing so I am trying to figure out what the difference is between a cousin and a once or twice removed cousin. People I thought were 2nd cousins are 1st once removed. Also what does canon and civil mean? -- Barb

A: Removeds in cousinships refer to the number of generations that differ between the individuals. You can figure this out with a simple chart, though there are many complicated ones available online.

When you are figuring out a cousinship, the first step is to trace back to the common ancestor. That person is placed at the top of the paper, in the center. Then off to the left of that person, you will write down the name of each individual in the direct line from that person to yourself. This is your direct lineage to that common ancestor. You will repeat this same process to the right of the common ancestor for the other individual to whom you are related.

You then begin to look at the number of lines that have names. The first line under the common ancestor would be the two siblings from whom you and the other person descend. The next line would be first cousins, the next line's individuals are second cousins and so forth.

However, there are times when one individual will have a generation or two more than the other person. This is where the removeds come in. Once you no longer have names on both sides of the list, then you stop counting cousins and begin counting removeds.

This question has been asked many times and I have created digital examples of this. You can find them by searching the columns of 1999. Specifically, see the July 8 issue.

Canon and civil relationship charts refer to the canon and civil law requirements for relationships. Canon law, that used in the United States, measures the number of steps to get to the common ancestor. So you and your first cousin both share a common grandparent. That means there are two steps (from you to your parent and from your parent to your grandparent), so the canon relationship is 2. Civil relationships count the total number of steps through the bloodline. Using the first cousin example again, there are two steps from you to your grandparent, and then there are two more steps from the grandparent to your first cousin (from the grandparent to the parent and from the pare to your first cousin). Therefore the civil relationship is four.

Researching in Indiana

Q: I would like info on Charlie Ewing, born in Brownstown Indiana, 1-19-1866. His parents are James & Susan B. Ewing. She dies 9 days after his birth. Thanks. If you will tell me how or where to search I will find it.-- Kathleen

A: You will find that most information on our ancestors is found by researching in county records. You know where Charlie was born. Since his mother died just after his birth, it is likely that she will be buried somewhere in that county, even perhaps the town of Brownstown.

Genealogical and historical societies across the country have spent many hours through the years transcribing and extracting cemetery records which they publish. Some of these are now even available on the Web. You may want to check Genealogy Library to see what they have available in their subscription databases.

You may also want to see what the local genealogical society has. Many of these societies now have Web sites. I would suggest that you begin with seeing if they have an online site, and if so, what books they have published.

To find out more about the family as a whole, I would encourage you to begin with the 1870 census. It is likely you will find Charlie with his father. It may be possible that the father has remarried. This happened often when there were small children still in the house. The 1870 census will help you with when and where James Ewing was born.

You will also want to think about looking for marriage records for James and Susan. Again, these records are usually found on the county level. And they are another resource that societies are often publishing, at least in the form of an index to the marriage records. Since many of these are often organized at the county courthouse under the last name of the groom only, such indexes are useful when researching the marriages of daughters in a given family.

Many of these records may be available through your local library if they have a good genealogy department. And there is always the Family History Library and its many branch Family History Centers. Through your local Family History Center, you will have access to most of the microfilm holdings of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

Researching in London

Q: I am trying to track down my family from London in the 1800s. My great grandmother's family was named Stephens. Her name was Rebecca and she married my great grandfather whos name I believe was Morris Goldman. Her sister (whos first name I do not have) married a man named Sir Louis Sterling. (He was knighted by the queen.) I believe the Goldman family might have come from Russia???? and their name there was Slotnick. Eventually Rebecca and Morris moved to the USA and settled in St. Louis Missouri. They had 12 children, 8 of whom lived to adulthood. I don't know where to start. -- Nancy

A: Before jumping to England, you will want to make sure that you have exhausted all records that Rebecca and Morris may have generated in the United States. Depending on when they arrived in the United States, the passenger lists and naturalization records may prove very useful in this regard.

The more recent the records, those generated in the latter years of the 19th century supply you with additional information about the immigrant and their origins. Those generated from 1820 to about 1880 are less useful as they are more general. Instead of supplying a town or parish of birth, they mention only the country.

Research in England is also going to depend on when in the 1800s your family was there. If it was prior to the 1830s, then it is essential to learn the parish where your ancestors were from, as that is where you will find the records you need, such as birth records and marriage records. If it was later, then you may be able to find the needed information in the Index to Civil Registration of England and Wales and then order birth and marriage certificates from England to help you with your research.

If it was after 1840, you may be able to find useful information by searching the census records. Few of the English census records are indexes, however, the Family History Library has recently released the 1881 census on CD-ROM. This may be too late for your research though.

You may want to read more about record availability and the resources that pertain to your time period. The Genuki Web site would be a good place to begin. You might also want to read the other areas of the Learn About Genealogy section of Genealogy.com, and see what they offer that might pertain to your research.


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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