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

October 26, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Not Online

Q: Why am I unable to locate any of my mother's birth records? I've checked many web sites and it's like she doesn't exist. -- Bonnie

A: At the present time, not everything is available online. This is especially true of vital records. Only a select number of vital statistics offices, primarily in the United States, have put their indexes to vital records online. Most of these are from the 1960s on. There are a few that have their indexes from the early 1900s.

In most cases though, it is necessary to write to the appropriate vital records office to request the certificates. It is best to supply as must information as possible when writing for vital records. The more information you supply the more likely you are to get the certificate in question.

For a birth certificate, it is good if you know the name of the child, the date of the birth, the place of the birth, and the names of the parents. Of course, some will say, that if they knew all of this, they wouldn't need the certificate. However, part of the process of genealogy is getting records that verify information already known.

Using Tax Records

Q: I am interested in finding an article or learning exactly "what, where, how to locate, etc." about local tax records to hopefully find a person. One in particular, my great-great-great grandpa, Henry Froshour settled in Vineyard Township, Washington CO, AR in 1833. In the 1840 census (on Rootsweb) I found him with his family listed. Additionally, he had an 80-90 year white, female living in his household. Since I have never been able to nail down his parentage or his wife's, Jane R. Nee Finley, I would love to know who that person was. Someone once told me that tax records might help, but I know nothing about when they were taken, where to find them or what might be in them. -- Linda

A: Tax records are wonderful resources when working in between the census records. They are also an excellent tool to help in determining when the sons came of age. Generally when a man appears in the tax list for the first year and is taxed on his horse, it means he has just come of age.

In most cases the tax records are found on the county level. They will often carry back to the year when the county was created. However, in some cases the records may have been destroyed through fire or water damage.

Tax records will not give you familial relationships. However, it is possible to determine which individuals are yours based on their location. Some tax records include the watercourse on which your ancestor's farm was. This may be used in conjunction with the land records in isolating specific individuals of the same name.

Unless a female owned the land, most likely as a widow, you will not find females listed in the tax records for the time period you need. Therefore, it is unlikely that you will be able to determine who the 80-90 year old female was in the house of Henry Froshour.

Research in Missouri

Q: I'm just beginning my search for any information on Andrew L. Henson. I know my parents saw a marriage certificate at the courthouse in either Joplin or Carthage, Missouri. He married Sarah in 1886 and I think it was April. They divorced soon after the baby was born on July 16, 1886. I would like to find documents to confirm any of this. -- Holly

A: The first step would be to write to the county courthouse. Carthage is the county seat for Jasper County, Missouri. It would be ideal if you had the exact date of marriage for Andrew L. Henson and Sarah, however, you do have most of the information.

Another option would be to visit your local Family History Center. You can order microfilms through them for Jasper County. This would allow you to actually look at the records and evaluate them for yourself.

According to the Family History Library Catalog, they have some births for Jasper County for the 1880s and 1890s. There are marriage records from 1841 to 1916. The volumes are each indexed, probably by the groom's surname.

The divorce records are also likely to be at the county level. They do not appear to be microfilmed, so you would need to write directly to the county courthouse to request a copy of the record.

Hardy Family Research

Q: I have only recently found my family after 45 years. One of the contacts I have with a distant relative tells me that there is a rare book that gives our family history. The book "Hardy & Hardee." Do you know if there is a copy of this book online? We apparently are descendants of Thomas Hardy from Ipswich, Massachusetts in the 1600s from Dorset, England. -- Sandra

A: Whenever I am looking for a book that is out of print or hard to find, I begin with genealogy libraries, especially those that offer me a way to borrow the book.

Whenever I am working in New England research, the first place to begin a search is the New England Historic Genealogical Society. For members, they offer a lending library system. You can borrow books from their lending library for about three weeks.

Another resource is the Family History Library. In many cases they have these volumes in both a book, which cannot be borrowed to the local Family History Centers, and a microfilm or microfiche version.

Finally, you may want to check the online subscription databases such as Genealogy Library. They are constantly adding new volumes to the collection. Many of them are out of print genealogy books. While you would need to become a subscriber to actually see the book, you can see the resources without being a member.


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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