Do You Read the Statute Under Which Your Ancestor Applied?

If your relative applies for something based upon a certain act of Congress, do you look for the text of that act? There may be something in the act that gives you a clue about your ancestor.

Acts related to military pensions may have required a certain length of service. Acts related to widow’s pensions may have required the widow be married to the veteran by a certain date, for a certain length of time, etc. The act under which a military land warrant was applied for usually had specific qualifications.

Those qualifications may explain why the application contains the information it does. It may tell the researcher something about the ancestor which is not stated in the application.

But if you don’t read the act, you’ll never know.



19th Century US Men?

I was reminded of the importance of searching the Bureau of Land Management website for 19th century ancestors. Potential ancestor Harrison Ramsey was born in the late 18th century and lived in Clinton County, Illinois, in the 1840s-1850s. He actually appears in the BLM database of federal land patents three times:

  • once for a land warrant received in the name of his son Andrew who served in the Mexican War (the January 1850 patent shown below) [discussed earlier in another post]
  • once based upon his own service in the Mexican War (the December 1849 patent)
  • once for a cash land purchase (the September 1851 patent)
Accession Names Date Doc # State Meridian Twp – Rng Aliquots Sec. # County
MW-1033-418 RAMSEY, HARRISON, 1/10/1851 55687 IL 3rd PM 003N – 004W NW¼, Lot/Trct 2 30 Clinton
003N – 004W NW¼, Lot/Trct 3 30 Clinton
MW-1090-180 RAMSEY, HARRISON, 9/1/1851 62694 IL 4th PM – 1815 Illinois 013N – 003W SW¼ 22 Mercer
IL2380__.288 RAMSEY, HARRISON 12/1/1849 24339 IL 3rd PM 002N – 005W SE¼NE¼ 29 Clinton

Harrison is fairly typical of the majority of individuals who appear in this database. Not every 19th century American (or their spouse) appears in this database, but it is generally worth searching. Urban dwellers (other than veterans or land speculators) typically do not appear in this database as by the time an area became “urban,” most federal land was already transferred to private ownership. Individuals who lived in state land states (other than veterans or land speculators) also are less likely to appear in this database.  Five of my direct line ancestors appear in this database:

  • Thomas Rampley–credit sale in Coshocton County, Ohio, 1810s.
  • William Newman–cash sale in Tipton County, Indiana, 1850.
  • Agusta Newman–War of 1812 military land warrant, 1850s.
  • Rufus Stephens–War of 1812 military land warrant, 1850s
  • Foche Goldenstein–homestead in Nebraska, 1880s.

I have several ancestors who lived during the 19th century who do not appear in this database.

The ones who are in the BLM land patent database represent typical reasons most individuals appear in this database:

  • credit purchases of property in the early 19th century–typically in the early days of settlement in an area–that’s what Thomas Rampley did.
  • cash sales of “leftover” unclaimed federal property in states that were no longer on the frontier-that is what William Newman did, likely as a speculator.
  • military land warrants based on military service–Agusta Newman and Rufus Stephens were in the War of 1812.
  • homesteaders applying for property under the Homestead Act–Goldenstein

Women may occasionally appear in these records as well (largely as widows obtaining land warrants for their husband’s service or as homesteaders in their own right. I just don’t have any female ancestors who acquired federal property.

The applications for federal land patents are at the National Archives.


Trying to Find Aunt Ella’s Death Certificate in 1927

The obituary of my great-grandmother’s sister indicated that she died in a Keokuk, Iowa, hospital in December of 1927.

Wanting to view her death certificate, I decided to search “Iowa, Death Records, 1904-1951” at FamilySearch.  A few quick searches turned up no entry for Ella Shipe or any reasonable facsimile of her name. Since I had the date of death, browsing seemed like my best option. Browsing the images from which this index was created is possible.

However when attempting to do that I was directed to a page of film numbers. That was not going to work as I did not intend to look at each roll of film. Fortunately that was not necessary. I could search the card catalog to see what records they had.

I had to remember that even though this death was in Lee County, Iowa, that the records used for this index were state copies of the record. The catalog would have to be searched for vital records recorded at the state level–not the county level. The FamilySearch catalog was searched for “United States, Iowa” and I scrolled down to the section of the catalog for:

United States, Iowa – Vital records ( 30 )

That explained why my aunt was not found–I thought.

Looking at the list of certificates classified under the subject “Iowa, death certificates, 1904-1958,” I originally saw:

Death certificates, Lee County, 1904-1920

The time frame did not cover the 1927 death date I had for my aunt. I thought I had my answer. I didn’t. Using the “find” feature in my browser, I found another set of records for Lee County much further down the list of records in the “Iowa, death certificates, 1904-1958” heading:

Death certificates, Lee County, 1921-1929

Those records are available digitally and when browsed, I did not find the certificate of interest. The search was conducted for two months after her death, just in case there was a delay in recording the item. I did not that there were other certificates for the hospital in which her obituary indicated she died.


  • browse manually when necessary-indexes miss things
  • look at the entire set of items in a collection, they may not be listed in an order that puts all of the same geographic location together
  • read the “notes” (in this case it told me that early records were organized by county and that later ones were organized by years–and then counties).
  • the “find” features in inventories of this type might not work in all cases. If counties had been filmed in volumes containing multiple counties, Lee County might have been “hidden” in a volume that contained Jones County through Lyon County.

I still don’t have my great-aunt’s death certificate. It could be that her obituary had the wrong place of death. I should also check the county records of deaths in case for some reason her certificate was not forwarded to the state.


Picking Low Hanging Fruit on GedMatch Part II

In “Picking Low Hanging Fruit on GedMatch Part I” a potential discovery was made on the parents of Lucinda (Ramsey) Trask who died in Mercer County, Illinois, in 1861. In reviewing what I could find on her probable parents, I was trying to focus on something that would concretely tie her to her family of origin suggested by the pedigree of one of the matches–father Harrison Ramsey and Sarah Kerr/Carr who lived apparently in Clinton County, Illinois, in at least the late 1840s through the early 1850s.

While focusing on online materials is an admittedly limited approach, I did discover a land warrant that was issued to Harrison Ramsey in Clinton County, Illinois, based on the military service of his deceased son, Andrew Ramsey. Harrison indicated that he was the heir of Samuel.


I’ve ordered the warrant application and the surrendered warrant to see what it includes.

I’ve also got to clarify just what “heir” would have meant at this point in time in terms of the land warrant application process? Who was an heir of a deceased soldier who left no descendants? Was it just a surviving parent or were siblings also included in that designation?



Another Thought On Labeling Your AncestryDNA Matches

In “Label Your AncestryDNA Matches” we discussed the Google Chrome extension that Blaine Bettinger has created that gives AncestryDNA users eight different colors to use in categorizing matches.

As we mentioned, give the color scheme some thought before you start using it and tagging your matches with a color. Nothing is worse that realizing after you’ve invested time in using an organization strategy that you wish you’d used a different one.

Another approach to using these eight categories might be:

  • paternal grandfather–relationship known
  • paternal grandfather–relationship unknown
  • paternal grandmother–relationship known
  • paternal grandmother–relationship unknown
  • maternal grandfather–relationship known
  • maternal grandfather–relationship unknown
  • maternal grandfather–relationship known
  • maternal grandfather–relationship unknown

Just another thought. The key to any organizational strategy is to give some thought to it before using it. What works for me or another researcher might not work for you.


Tightwad Genealogy Webinar-21 September 2018

September 21, 2018 at 8 PM central.

Online attendance via GotoWebinar–no special software needed for attendance.

This presentation discusses a variety of ways that researchers can make more effective use of their genealogical research funds. This discussion will include, but not be limited to:

  • Effective use of mailing lists, message boards, and Facebook groups
  • Local societies and libraries
  • Non-local Professionals versus locals “in the know”
  • Alternate ways to obtain same record
  • Alternate ways to obtain same information
  • Places never to use
  • Improving your own skills will save you in the long run
  • Coordinating with other researchers
  • Determining if it’s already been done
  • Consultations instead of actually hiring research
  • Others as time allows

Registration is $9.99, includes handout and complimentary recorded copy of presentation–GotoWebinar attendance links will be sent within 24 hours of registration. They are not sent immediately. Those who cannot attend live can pre-order the presentation and handout. This is a revised version of this presentation recorded several years ago.


Teachers in the Yearbooks, Too!

It’s not just students that you may find in yearbooks in‘s “U.S., School Yearbooks, 1900-1990.” There are teachers and other school employees as well.

This 1941 Gridley, Illinois, yearbook from Gridley High School contains a picture of my great aunt, Margaret Habben. She taught in Gridley before enlisting in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.

These yearbooks are another database whose index at was apparently created by OCR. Aunt Margaret is in the index as first name Margaret last name Habben-Homemaking.



Label Your AncestryDNA Matches

Blaine Bettinger has created an extension for Chrome allows you to use up to eight colors to code your AncestryDNA matches (download it here). Great idea and it’s easy to install.

But before you start using it–stop and think.

And stop and think some more. Not because it’s bad to use the extension, but because sometimes in our excitement to use a new tool that we don’t think about how to use it.

Before you decide what to use for each color, think about your family tree background and if there are any “clusters” or what I’ve called DNA pools. Based on my individual genealogy (your break down will differ), I decided to use the following descriptions for the colors:

  • maternal-Ostfriesen
  • Neill not Rampley
  • Neill and Rampley
  • Rampley not Neill
  • John Michael Trautvetter
  • Ira Sargent
  • Ellen Butler
  • other determined person

Again, what works for you will be different. All my maternal ancestors immigrated to the United States in the mid-to-later 19th century from Ostfriesland, Germany, settling in two geographically close areas of Illinois. I have numerous double triple cousins on my maternal side. It made more sense to just use one color for all of them and put the details of the relationship in the notes for that match. When I see red, I’ll know I’ve determined that person to be a relative of my mother.

Three children of my great-great-grandparents Samuel and Annie (Murphy) Neill [married 1864] married into the family of James and Elizabeth (Chaney) Rampley [married 1830]. For me it made sense to put them in one of three pots: Neills but not Rampleys, Rampleys but not Neills, and both Rampleys and Neills. That classification took care of most people related to me through my paternal grandfather–but did not include a color dot for relatives of my great-great-grandmother Nancy (Newman) Raampley.

That generally left my Grandma Neill’s relatives. I decided I wanted a color for everyone I figured out. I decided to make dots for three of Grandma Neill’s ancestors (except for her grandmother Franciska (Bieger) Trautvetter. Black can be used for others who had been figured out. The details of that relationship will be in the notes I have for that person.

Give some thoughts to how you will use the dots. Once the colorization process has started, going back and changing it will take time.

See our brief follow up to this post.

Check out my list of AncestryDNA webinars–download immediate.


Are You in’s Yearbook Collection?

Undated yearbook no location given–actually 1983, Carthage [Illinois] Community High School; digital image on Just about the only time I’ve been referred to as “Mike.”‘s “U.S., School Yearbooks, 1900-1990” was recently updated. The yearbooks are indexed, but effective use is to browse the geographic listing and determine whether the locations of personal interest are included.

Keep in mind that over time schools merge, consolidate, close, change names, etc. Those administrative details will impact how you look for the school of interest.

The coverage is not 100% for all schools for all years during the time frame.

Some schools are not cataloged appropriately.

Not all yearbooks are indexed and those that are have issues.

Search “U.S., School Yearbooks, 1900-1990” for yourself or your relatives. You may discover hair you forgot you ever had.




Atlases Still Classified Wrong at is slow to move on some things when it moves at all. tags records to geographic locations to help users find them in their catalog and to help researchers find people in search results using geographic search parameters. That’s all fine and good when the materials are cataloged correctly. When they are not it’s another matter entirely and a good reason why searches should not always include as much geographic detail as a person knows.

I’ve known for some time that the 1913 Hancock County, Illinois “platbook” was cataloged in as being in Jo Daviess County, Illinois, instead of Hancock. I also know that the name of interest (Trautvetter) can easily get rendered in one of a variety of a ways when these old platbooks are read either manually or by some sort of OCR process.  A search of “All U.S., Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918” at for “walker” as a keyword in records tagged as being in Jo Daviess County in Illinois in 1913 was conducted. I knew the search results would sort alphabetically and instead of creating clever wildcard searches to catch the Trautvetter variants, I chose the keyword option as described. That also allowed me to browse all the entries that showed as being in “Jo Daviess County” (incorrectly) in 1913 that had the word “walker” in their residence (coming from the Walker Township location). Many of these last names were ones that I recognized as living in Hancock County, Illinois’ Walker Township–including my Trautvetter family members.

I scrolled through the search results until I got to the “T” section (they are sorted by last name by default). I knew there were Trautvetters in the atlas, but didn’t know how those names were indexed. The names of owners in the atlas are occasionally difficult to read so it was easy to see how the name was read as Traufvetter and Trourvetter in addition to the actually spelling of Trautvetter. The good news was that I found a reference for G. A. Trautvetter that I had overlooked earlier.


We originally wrote about this classification issue in 2010. This appears to be a set of records that once they were uploaded to just never got corrected.