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

November 02, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Starting a Family Tree

Q: I have all the information on my family. I need a suggestion as to the set up. The members of my family to be named are the parents, they were born in the late 1800s and had 8 children. I have names for all of the offspring. I would like to get started in placing all the information in a format that would be useful. Please advise. -- Jeanne

A: The easiest way to do this is to purchase one of the available software programs. You can then type in the information and the program will print it out in many of the standard, accepted, genealogical formats. Two such programs are Family Tree Maker and Family Origins.

However, there are a few items to keep in mind even when working with such genealogy programs. They concern the way to enter names, especially those of females, and how to enter dates.

When entering the name of a female in a genealogy program, or when writing it on a genealogy form, the standard is to record the female by her maiden name. Even though her name was likely to change at the time of marriage, females are listed by their maiden names. This helps you in searching for her father.

Dates are traditionally entered as 26 Dec 1990. The month is spelled out, rather than a number, so that there is no confusion. Genealogy software programs will sometimes allow alternative dating styles.

From Kansas to Oklahoma

Q: Fleda was born February 9, 1888 in Neodesha, Wilson Co., Kansas to Ethan Byron Moore and Mary Francis (Nicely) Moore. Her parents were married June 16, 1887 in Butler, Kansas. That is the only information I have been able to find on them. Fleda married William Alonzo Burnison July 25, 1907 in Garfield, Oklahoma. William died in Yakima, Washington. They had 5 children and I believe one William Jr. died at age three. My grandmother was one of their children and she has also been unable to find any information on them. -- Anja

A: Geography often plays an important role in our research. And in many instances it is the one fact that gets overlooked. The first thing that you need to do is to look at the places that you know where life events took place or where you have located them in the census.

A look at a map for Kansas shows that Butler County, if indeed it was the county your message referred to, is in the south eastern section of Kansas. It is a short distance from Wilson County, where the birth of Fleda took place. Wilson County is even more southerly and easterly in the state of Kansas.

While Oklahoma is the state just to the south of Kansas, at the time in question it was actually a divided state. In 1900, the next available census for the time you are researching, the state of Oklahoma was actually two territories; Oklahoma Territory - the western part of present day Oklahoma - and Indian Territory - the eastern part of present day Oklahoma.

When people don't suspect a Native American heritage, they immediately dismiss searching the Indian Territory. However, if you look at the geography of the counties in Kansas, it is entirely possible that the family spent some time in Indian Territory. This could explain why you cannot find the family in 1900. The soundex for the 1900 Indian Territory is separate from Oklahoma Territory, and should be checked.

Black Dutch

Q: In searching for ancestors , especially 19th Century north Georgia, I have seen references to someone being "Black Dutch" or "1/2 Black Dutch". To what does this term refer? -- Charles

A: This has been an ongoing question for many years. There are a number of theories out there. However, of all the theories floating around, there is one constant. Those with Black Dutch in their family history can trace those lines to the Upper South, those people living in Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, and North and South Carolina.

One of the current theories is that the term "Dutch" is not really in reference to those who can trace their ancestry back to Holland. It is thought that in this instance, the term is actually "Deutsch," as in German. The precedent for this is the Pennsylvania Dutch, who of course can be traced back to Germany, and are really the Pennsylvania Deutsch. With the research now turned to Germany, there is one particular area, the Black Forest, that interests those researching Black Dutch.

Another theory adheres to the idea that these individuals were indeed Dutch and that they can be traced back to those living in the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries. As the story goes, this was during the time when the Spaniards were at war with the Dutch. This was a lengthy battle, lasting about sixty years. So the theory is that the Spaniards were intermixing with the Dutch. Thus the swarthy looks of the Spaniards was a dominant trait over the blond, blue-eyed Dutch. And therefore the offspring of these alliances carried the darker looks of the Spaniards.

In her "Shaking Your Family Tree," In Search of the Black Dutch, from April, 1998, Myra Vanderpool Gormley calls this particular theory "fanciful." When one stops to consider that the two factions were at war, it does raise questions. Additionally, the Dutch government's Central Bureau for Genealogy can offer no explanation for the term. And since this group was established as a state archive and genealogical organization, if they cannot explain this, then it is likely that this theory is inaccurate.

Another theory traces its lines back to early immigrants who married Native Americans. While others who take stock in this theory add in the additional mix of African-American descent. There is a great deal of research on tri-racial groups. Two such groups that have been heavily investigated are the Melungeons and the Lumbees. Both of these groups appear to be tri-racial in descent. Even the origins of these unique, isolated groups have been immersed in controversy, primarily over the genetic origins and just what three racial groups are involved.

As you can see by the number of theories, there really appears to be no concrete answer to this question. The debate continues on, even today.

Recording Place Names

Q: I am researching a family that was in the Kittery, Saco, Pepperrellborough, and Dover areas, (to list a few), from 1650 to 1850. New Hampshire and Maine were not states during much of this time, so I don't know what to list for that field in my genealogy program. "USA" seems improper to be entered for the place listing for country as well. -- Rocky

A: You bring up an important point, when recording places, it is important to record the names as they appear at the time the event took place. This is especially true when working within states where the county boundaries changed, putting a town in more than one county.

The reason for recording place names as they were at the time of the event is to make it easier to research. Obviously if the town was in Hillsborough County in the 1700s, it would do no good to be looking in Rockingham County for your records. With that said, you may be confusing your own issues, by confusing statehood with other acceptable existing jurisdictional divisions.

For instance, New Hampshire, while not a state until 1771, was a Royal Province from 1623 until 1771, with two exceptions. It was known as New Hampshire. Now, you are correct, you cannot use "USA" or the United States as the larger division. If you wanted to be historically accurate, then you would want to list the town as part of the American Colonies. The two exceptions were 1642-79 and 1690-92 when the province was a part of Massachusetts. However, the records were not moved to Massachusetts. They may have been copied, but you will also find the records in the holdings of New Hampshire as well.

While Maine was indeed a part of Massachusetts, the records have remained in Maine as well. You may want to qualify your information by adding a note that prints out on the reports from your database that Maine was at that point actually a part of Massachusetts Bay. Originally though, in 1622 when the land that made up Maine was granted to Sir Ferdinando Gorges and Capt. John Mason, it was referred to as the Province of Maine.

Because of these original names, I think you can feel safe in listing them under the names of the states as they are today.

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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