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

December 23, 1999
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Researching Long Distance

Q: I have two unusual family names which I am researching: TRADER (my family name), and KLEIST (the name of my paternal grandmother). They were of German origin. My grandmother received letters from relatives in Germany in the late 1940's or early 1950's. I now live in Arizona which makes it difficult to do first hand research in Michigan which is the family home state. In all of the resources I have searched, including the Michigan Genweb site, there is no record whatever of their existence. I have genealogy information (names, mostly) going back to when the families came from Germany, but the names simply don't appear in the places I have searched. -- Karl

A: It is still possible to conduct your research even if you are no longer living in the state where the family lived. In fact, most researchers find that eventually they are having to research long distance. And fortunately, the Internet can be of help with this research.

Before talking about the Internet though, it is important to point out that you will need to also rely on records available through your local Family History Center. While the Internet is a major benefit to us as researchers, the realities are that we must still rely on non-computerized records including:

  • Census records
  • Vital records
  • Probate records
  • Land records

It is through these records that you will find the answers to your questions.

You mentioned that you had already tried certain web sites to locate information about your TRADER and KLEIST surnames. Sometimes when we are researching we get tunnel vision. We concentrate only on the surnames and don't think about the other avenues in which we can approach a given research problem.

Since you have been unable to locate information specific to your TRADER and KLEIST surnames online, it could be that you need to rethink what you are searching online. You may want to concentrate instead on the localities and the record types. It would be a good idea to return to the Michigan USGenWeb site and look to see what is available for your counties in regards to information for contacting repositories that might be of help to you.

Died in New Brunswick

Q: I am at a loss. I am trying to locate the death of Mahala Cromwell (nee Babbit) in New Brunswick Canada. Unable to locate anything. I believe she died between 1841 and who knows when. -- JSBBECK

A: The recording of vital statistics for New Brunswick did not begin until 1888. Prior to this time it is necessary to work with other records. Some of those that are likely to be of use to you include

  • Cemetery records
  • Newspapers
  • Church records
  • Probate records

You will want to investigate what is available online by visiting the CanadaGenWeb site, which you can access off the WorldGenWeb page.

While you may not find something specific to your ancestor, it is likely that you will learn what repositories offer indexes to some of the above records and how best to access them. For instance, the Royal Gazette newspaper has been indexed for the years 1784 to 1867 and this index can be found in the Provincial Archives.

An index that is available on CD that you might find helpful is Family Tree Maker's Canadian Genealogy Index, 1600s-1900s (CD #118). This index is countrywide for Canada and has indexes for a number of different resources. It may give you the necessary clues you need to pin down when your ancestor died.

Who Are His Parents

Q:I can't find any census record of my great great grandfathers parents, he was born in TN. in 1828 but his brothers and sister were born in the 1850s. This is the info I have found by an elderly cousin in McNairy Co. He said his name is Robert Henry. My great great grandfather: Rev.John Henry b:1828 m.Jane Catlett his brother: Anderson Henry b:1855 m.Mary E.?; Tillman Henry b:1854; Dezane Henry b:185? m.Mac Plunk. They are all buried in McNairy Co. Selmer,Tn. He also (great great great grandfather) but the headstone just says Mr & Mrs Henry they are buried in the same Liberty Church cemetery #2. I don't know where to go from here. -- Doris

A: There are times that the research that fellow cousins have done seem only to further confuse our research. This recently happened with a friend. We were at a repository and somehow the records were not revealing the same information that she apparently already had from a cousin. However, it is only through these clues that we can try to determine where our ancestor came from and who their parents are.

Another method we rely on with research is watching out for "red flags". These flags can be something like the mother being 12 years old when the child is born. Another is large spaces between the births of the children. And in your case, you appear to have a major gap between your ancestor and his siblings. This can often times signify a second marriage.

You did not mention how you had searched the census records. If you haven't done a line-by-line search in the census, you will want to do this. There are times that no matter how much a company strives, names are missed when the census is indexed. Likewise not all names are found in the index, it is usually just the head of household.

Because you haven't yet been able to determine who his parents might be, it is possible that you have overlooked a step or record type that might be helpful. It is so tempting when we locate someone in the census to jump backwards to the census closest to the time when the individual was born. Usually this results in frustration. If this is what you did, you will want to reexamine what you know about John Henry. See if there are land records for him or if you can find his death record. Obituaries can also be useful.

Possibly Skeletons in the Closet

Q:The name is Hampton. My grandparents were Alex E. Hampton and Rose Nell Curl. married 24 Nov. 1900 in DeWitt County, Ill. My gr.grandparents were John E. Hampton and Maria/Mariah Reynolds. They were married 02 Oct 1879 in Fulton County, Illinois. The problem is no one seems to know who John and Maria/Mariah parents were. This information does not seem to be registered. Even the family does not know. None of them talk about the family. How do I find this out? Who doesn't know their gr. grandparents?? Could there be a skeleton in the closet?? -- Janice

A: Whenever you find a place of marriage for a couple, it is important to examine a very important question: "Why did they marry in that county?"

Generally the place of marriage tends to be the residence of the bride. This is true in many cases still today. Therefore, you need to examine what was happening prior to their marriages in 1879. What other families with their surnames were living in the same county?

It is possible that you will have to first determine what families have the same surname and then research those families to determine how they may relate to each other and to your own ancestors. Very often they do turn out to be related in some way.

One of the most powerful tools with such research is the probate records that might be generated at the death of those older men and women who share the same surname. If you are lucky they will include the names of all their children in the will. Even if the estate was administered, because the deceased died without writing a will, there is always a possibility that the heirs will be named.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns


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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