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

November 23, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Death in Kentucky

Q: I am trying to find information on my Grandfather, Wilson Cole. He had a very short life span. He was born in Magoffin Co., Ky in 1893 and died in Floyd County, Ky in 1936. Do you have any suggestion on how to find some one who died young? He was killed on the train tracks. -- Charlene

A: It is likely that you can find information in the death certificate for Wilson COLE. While he had a short life, he died after Kentucky began keeping track of deaths through death certificates. Their is an online Index to Deaths for Kentucky. A search of this will supply you with the pertinent information needed to request a copy of Wilson Cole's death certificate.

Once you have searched the database, you can write and request a copy of the death record, which will cost $6.00, from:

Department for Health Services
Office of Vital Statistics
275 East Main Street
Frankfort, KY 40621

Also, because of the nature of the death, you will want to look at newspapers for the city or area where the accident took place. You may find a detailed biography or other information about Wilson in the newspaper.

Junior or The Second

Q: A couple of friends and I got on the discussion of naming conventions (I, II, III, Sr., Jr.) and I need clarification on something. My name is John Smith II and my dad's name is John Smith I. Does that mean that technically I am a Junior? Because, he was always very avid about me not being a Junior but instead the 2nd. Can you clear this up for me? -- Dave

A: Actually both methods are fine. In most families you will find that when John Smith has a son and names him John Smith, that the son becomes John Smith, Jr., and the father becomes John Smith, Sr. However, when you are researching prior to the 1900s, these naming distinctions may not refer to familial relationships.

Often the younger of two individuals in a given town may have been known as Junior simply to differentiate from the other, older resident. When researching early records this can be a stumbling block as we sometimes force our current conventions of naming on this time period. This may result in a need to redo some research.

While most current families do not begin to use numbers until the third generation of the same name, what your father elected to do is fine. You are the second John Smith, so using John Smith II is certainly acceptable.

Proper Use of Baptismal Dates

Q: I have an authoritative source of information, prepared by a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, which provides the names of 8 generations of ancestors. Many have birth dates but a sizable number have only baptismal dates gleaned from church records prepared during the years 1600 through 1800. How should this information be recorded and should birth dates be estimated based upon established practices of the times? -- J.

A: When you get back to a certain time period, the church records are often all that exists. Usually you get the baptismal date, and nothing referring to the date that the child was actually born.

Depending on where the baptism took place, it may be possible that religion or other ethnic beliefs may dictate when the child should be baptized. Of course, assuming anything in genealogy can get you into trouble.

As genealogists, we are supposed to deal in facts. In the case of baptisms, the facts that you have are that the child was baptized on a specific date. You can also infer from that fact that the child was born before that date. However, to estimate the exact date of birth can cause problems.

To that end, I encourage researchers to simply record the birth date as "Bef 12 October 1789" if the baptism date was 12 October 1789. You are accurate with your information in this way, and you solve the problem of a birth date, which many of the genealogy programs of today rely so heavily on.

Cherokee Ancestry

Q: How can I prove the Cherokee ancestry of my great great grandmother. I can't seem to find her name on the Guion Miller Roll. -- WindDancer

A: The Guion Miller Roll is not the only list of Cherokees that exists. The Guion Miller Rolls dealt specifically with the Eastern Cherokees.

In 1905 the Eastern Cherokees were to be awarded $1 million in their claims against the United States. Guion Miller was the agent assigned to compile a list of eligible persons. To be eligible, the member of the Eastern Cherokees had to be alive on 28 May 1906 and had to prove that the family had not moved west prior to 1835. They had to prove they were members of the Eastern Cherokee tribe at the time of the treaties and were not affiliated with any other tribe.

Additional records to check would be the Dawes Rolls. Also, depending on when your great-great grandmother died, you may want to begin your research with her death certificate. This may supply you with the information on where she was born and the names of her parents. Also, you will want to check the census records to determine where your great-great grandmother was living. There are certain places where members of the Cherokee tribes tended to live.

Additional information on researching Cherokee ancestry can be found in Myra Vanderpool Gormley's Cherokee Connections, published by Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc.

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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