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

October 18, 2001
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Which Tree To Do?

Q: I am having the problem where in my grandparents generation, they were adopted by their step parents. My husband and I have argued about this. Do I trace by biological line or the adopted parents line? He says that once you're adopted you loose all rights to your blood line and I should be tracing the adopted parents line. The adoption by step parents has happened more times than I care to count in my families history. -- Jennifer

A: Genealogy is the tracing of a person's blood line. Under this strict definition, you would be researching your grandparents' biological parents regardless of any adoptions involved. While it is true that adoptive parents do have an affect on the overall person someone becomes, there is a lot to be said for genetics, and thus the biological lineage is important.

Your husband's comments are interesting. I know of many adopted individuals who are researching, or trying to research, their biological line because they do not feel that "connection" with their adoptive family. This is not to say they did not feel loved by their adoptive parent or parents, but they somehow know instinctively that they come from somewhere else.

There are other adoptees, though, who do feel that their adoptive parents are their true parents and they will often trace the adoptive lineage instead. Their thinking is that the biological parents have given up the rights to them and are not their real parents.

Family history, what many of us are doing now instead of true genealogy, allows for the inclusion of non-biological lineages. It is important to make a note in the database or on the reports printed that the lineage followed is the adoptive lineage.

Sometimes the decision on whether to research the biological line or the adoptive line is made more from the family and how they react. If the adoptive parents would feel hurt should their adopted child research the biological lineage, the adoptee may elect to concentrate on the adoptive lineage out of respect or love.

If you wish to do a true genealogical pedigree of your ancestry, you will want to concentrate on the biological lines. This is after all, where you come from. While adoptions may have been involved, it is the blood lineage that resulted in your birth.

From CD to Source

Q: I have Family Tree Maker's Family Archives CD#213. It is from Genealogical Records: The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, Volumes 1-39. In volume 38 page 259, I have found a short reference to my third great-grandfather Hugh Harry Alker Hayes - family group sheet 1 page. This is all the information provided. Apparently this information was provided in 1993 by Rose. Can you please tell me how to acquire more information. I am finding it frustrating. -- MAYOHH

A: The various journals and other publications that are now available on CD-ROM are a major tool for genealogists. Few of us have access to all of the journals such as The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine or The New England Historical and Genealogical Register.

The search features in the CD-ROMs allow us to find pages that we might have overlooked if we were thumbing through a volume in our hand. The search features also allow us to aim right for the page where our ancestor appears, often saving time.

Sometimes though it requires that we look beyond the page where our ancestor is listed. This is such a case. While you did go to see the author of the information, the clue was actually in the title of the article in the journal.

The title - Materials Received by the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, 1993 - tells me that the alphabetical listing compiled by Rose is a listing of new holdings of the library of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine is the journal publication of The Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania. The society has a library that is open Monday through Wednesday, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, and also by appointment on Saturdays. If you cannot get to the library in person, you may want to hire a professional genealogist to get a copy of that family group sheet that lists Hugh Harry Alker Hayes.

Errors on a Family Page

Q: I noticed that you have my family listed on page 17 of the descendants of Joseph Allen. I found my grandmother, father, mother and sister. Could you tell me who prepared the page? I would like to contact them. Your help is appreciated. -- Mike

A: While the Internet FamilyFinder takes you to the exact page where your ancestor's name will be found, you need to take a moment to view the entire page. Often the link that the FamilyFinder page has is not the front or home page, which is often where the information is located for contacting the individual.

In the case of the page in question, if you look at the top of the page of the indented descendant report, you will see a number of links. Most of these links will take you through the report one page at a time either forward or backward through the report. You can also get to the first or last page of the report as well.

The other link found at the top of this page is the home link. This doesn't take you to the home page of the entire site, but the front or home page of the individual family history page of the person who created the report you are viewing. It is here that you will discover the contact information needed to reach this potential cousin.

Cataloguing Digitized Images

Q: An uncle recently discovered a scrapbook which contains many pages, each of them crammed with newspaper articles clipped out over the years. They are glued in and it would be difficult to remove, and sometimes they even overlap. I'm scanning in each piece as a .TIF file and I'll be saving to a CD. I was wondering if you could give me some advice on how to catalog the electronic files. I would like to be able to share these with others in the family as there are many people who are interested in this discovery. -- Pam

A: You will want to give each file a unique name. You will also want to number or somehow identify the CD-ROM discs, as it is likely that the images will end up taking more than one disc.

You will then want to create a log for the images. I have done this in Microsoft Word using the table creation abilities. There are columns for the file name, the date it was digitized, a full description of the image, a list of the names of those included in the image, the location of the disc, and the location of the original document.

In your case, as you copy the CD-ROM to give to cousins, you could also give them a printed version of the log so that they can easily access the image of interest.

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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