Limiting Leads on Leander by Leaving Things Out

Sometimes one just simply cannot afford to obtain a copy of every record that might contain a detail about an ancestor or relative. There is a limit to the amount of money that one can spend on genealogy research.

Let it be known that I do not expect to receive copies of documents for free. Record keeping agencies have a variety of expenses and someone has to pay for the upkeep of facilities, employment of staff, and other daily business expenses. There are a variety of reasons why giving away free copies of records simply is not practical. butler-index-card

And this is not what this post is about.

Several years ago I obtained the Civil War pension file for Leander Butler who served in the 10th Kansas Infantry in the United States Civil War. Leander is a son of my ancestor, Benjamin Butler, and I was hoping something in that pension file would lead to information on Benjamin or Leander’s siblings. Other than a few geographical clues in the medical reports, there was nothing direct or indirect regarding Leander’s family of origin.

And that’s where I’m really stuck.

And then I remembered that while the compiled military service record concentrates heavily on military service that there can be other pieces of information in that file as well. And since the time period where I’m really stuck on Lender and his family is the 1851-1870 time frame, those small clues may be helpful given when the Civil War took place.

And while I “get” the importance of “getting everything” (and am a firm believer in it), I realize that there are times where I don’t really need what’s in the compiled military service record. But in this case that record was created during a point in time where I have virtually nothing on the family.

And that’s a time to get whatever you can–even if most of the time it doesn’t really “tell you anything.”



How Are the 1905 Iowa State Census Cards Organized?

FamilySearch recently updated their 1905 “Iowa State Census, 1905” and it got me to wondering how the cards were microfilmed.

The 1905 Iowa state census was taken differently from most other censuses. Each person’s entry was written on a separate card instead of in a ledger one name after another. The cards are not filmed in order of enumeration as most federal census records are. That makes them more of a challenge to use.

The cards are numbered and one can hopefully be reasonably confident that the numbering was in the order in which people were enumerated.  For urban dwellers, the address was also given. This allows users to know who was in the same household–or at least living in the same location. The problem is finding these people because of the order in which the cards were filmed.

The database of images at FamilySearch is searchable. The city and county (if provided by the informant) searchable, but street addresses in cities are not as they do not appear to have been extracted for the FamilySearch database the accompanies the images.

The card number has been extracted–hopefully this is a good to tell who probably was living in the same household. The only problem is that I didn’t see a way to search based up the card number.

The card:


The database entry:


I’m interested in thoughts users have about using this database.

Medical Reports in Military Pension Files

Some United States Civil War pension files are chock full of medical reports. Many times these reports are repetitive and full of more details about your ancestor’s height, weight, temperature, and body functions than a person needs or wants to know.

But there are times when those reports do have information helpful to your research.

The reports may provide details about their injuries during the war. Specific battles or locations where injuries took place may be mentioned and that can provide additional insight into their service. Some testimony may be included from their comrades when they were on the battle field.

Testimony from doctors may indicate where and where they first saw the doctor after the war. In some situations those dates and locations may help you to pinpoint where your ancestor lived during the war. Occasionally those residential details are not mentioned elsewhere. The length of time your ancestor had been seeing the doctor could be a relevant clue–all depending on your specific research situation.

Consider reading through the medical reports in detail. You may learn a few of your ancestor’s habits that you really don’t care to know–like perhaps he drank quite a bit which contributed to his health problems.

Or you may gather a piece of information that helps you flesh out a non-medical clue to your ancestor’s life.

You won’t know if you don’t read it.

My Blogs and Newsletters

To reduce confusion, we are posting a summary of my blogs and newsletters.

The blogs are published on the following websites. Any of these blogs can be received daily in your email for free by subscribing using the links on the individual blogs.

My two fee-based newsletters (because we have to pay the bills):

  • Michael’s Genealogy Blog Update–published weekly and delivered as an email–see a copy on our hosting service. This is a fee-based newsletter ($5 a year), and includes a summary of new blog postings along with some premium content. Take a look.
  • Casefile Clues–a how-to newsletter delivered as a PDF file. This newsletter focuses on research, methodology, and analysis. We are accurate and pedagogically correct, but we concentrate on articles that are easy to understand and follow without watering down content–grow your research skills from the comfort of your own hoe. Visit the webpage for more details including subscriptions.


Talking About What Does Not Work

Books and journals are full of “finished” research articles with laid-out evidence and analysis that clearly makes the author’s case.

It the author is “fortunate,” someone has edited out the process, the things that don’t work, and the struggle along the way to that final research goal. After all, it is the finished product that matters most. It is about the end game.


But there are times where it’s the game, the process, that matters and is most instructive.

The finished product without some of the “whys” behind the research is not always instructive.

A colleague was giving me research advice about a family I was working on in Boston. He asked me questions in an attempt to help me. Pretty good thing to do.

He then gave me advice.

Then I asked him “why?”

Unless he explained his reasoning, I asked him “why?” Just like a small child would do. I wasn’t asking him why to irritate him, I was asking “why?” in order to learn.  Just giving me answers really only helped me on that one specific problem. Giving me his rationalization for his suggestions helped me to understand a little better.

And maybe I won’t have to ask him the same type of question again.

That’s why this blog and Casefile Clues tries to include as much of the process and the “why” as possible.

Genealogists are like students. Sometimes just seeing the answer without any of the work is not all that helpful.


My Politics are Why I’m Not Getting a Square Deal

County biographies and obituaries are places where the political persuasion of an ancestor canhartsell-politics sometimes be located.  They are probably one of the first places a researcher who is interested in such information should look. Voter’s registration rolls may also provide the political affiliation, but these records are not always easy to access.

Pension files are not high on my personal list of places to find the political party with which an ancestor was affiliated.  However, seasoned researchers know that pension files can contain just about any type of information. This 1913 letter in the Union Civil War pension file of Charles Hartsell indicated that he was a Democrat.

Whether Hartsell’s belief that party affiliation was the reason for his not getting a “square deal” really can’t be determined. The writer of the letter appears sympathetic to Hartsell’s cause and the belief that political affiliation was an underlying factor.

It is possible that a complete review of his pension file may indicate that he had several petitions for pension increases that were denied. Those denials aren’t going to indicate whether political views were the real issue. Those denials should be in the file as well as any appeals he may have made afterwards. That’s something for which the file should provide evidence.



Casefile Clues is Back

After a hiatus, Casefile Cluesmy easy-to-follow how-to genealogy newsletter focusing on the research process and analysis is back.1914906_133301877226_3680450_n

To celebrate our return, we’re offering new subscribers a rate of $17 for 52 issues. Your subscription will begin with issue 3-51 and run through issue 4-52. That’s 54 issues. Our normal subscription rate is $20.

This offer ends at 3:00 pm central time on 26 August 2017. Don’t wait.

You can learn more about Casefile Clues on our blog and order free back issues (download immediate) here.

Process your new subscription securely here.

If you’re already a subscriber–we’ll let you download a webinar at no charge. Visit our webinar page and email me at with the name of the presentation you want.



Citing a Pedigree Chart


A 5-generation pedigree chart compiled in 1982 on my maternal grandfather. New information has NOT been added, but known errors have been removed.

Pedigree charts. Years ago genealogists compiled them on a regular basis, usually with nary a source. There were companies that sold blank forms and, because photocopies were not all that great, the repetitive typing of certain pieces of information is probably why I have certain ancestor’s dates of vital events memorized better than I do things that occurred a few years ago.

Times have changed.

Occasionally one still needs to cite a chart of this type in their actual research. My personal preference is to use information on such a chart as a guide and not enter in into my database until I have obtained a hopefully more reliable source.

I realize that there are those who wish to include these charts among their cited sources in their database and there are times when other records are not available and a chart of this type is the only source for a specific event that can be found.

The chart illustrating this post is one that I created in 1982 using a blank form from the now-defunct Everton Publishers and my mother’s manual typewriter. I completely forgot about it. The chart was stuck in my grandparents’ copy of the privately published “Ufkes Family History & Genealogical Record” from 1980. Actually “stuck” is the incorrect word. The book had a removable metal binding and this chart had been inserted as a page towards the end of the book. I’m still debating whether to remove it from the book or leave it where my Grandmother had inserted it.

A rough citation for the chart follows:

Michael Neill, John H. Ufkes (born 1917) Ancestor Chart; supplied by Michael John Neill, [address for private use,] Rio, Illinois, 2016. This chart contains no sources or references and was found in a copy of the 1980 “Ufkes Family History & Genealogical Record” in the private collection of John H. and Dorothy (Habben) Ufkes.

Analyzing the information in the chart is another matter entirely. Since I compiled the chart and it begins with my grandfather and moves backwards in time, the information is secondary. Every piece of it. I suppose if the date of marriage had been wrong, Grandma would have corrected it. But the only information my grandparents would have had primary knowledge of would have been their date of marriage.

The only primary information on the chart from the viewpoint of the compiler is my mailing address as of 1983. Interestingly enough, my “rural route” number is incorrect. The “compiler information” was written by my grandmother and she inserted her rural route number in place of the one I actually lived on (rural route 3).  The only handwriting on the chart that is mine is in the section on the ancestry of my grandfather’s mother.

For publication purposes, I chose to block out dates or locations that I now know are incorrect.  I would not mark out information on a chart that I did not compile. While that is a modification of the original document, I have no interest in spreading incorrect information. I would not have done this if the chart had been compiled by someone else, but since I compiled the chart to begin with I’m only modifying my own original content.

If I’m going to use the information from the chart in my genealogical database, I need to cite it.

And don’t forget–we don’t just cite information from a source.

We also analyze it and evaluate it.



Maryland Land Records Webinar


Plat of Everyman’s Refuse–patented for William Gibson and James Rampley in Harford County, Maryland, in 1794

[there were some errors in our earlier post about this presentation so we’re posting an update]

MDLANDREC has Maryland Colonial land patents and county record copies of local land records on its site. The land patents are searchable based upon name of property  and the name of the patentee. Older land records are not indexed digitally, but copies of the county’s grantor and grantee indexes are online as well.

Copies of the record images can be downloaded as PDF files. There is no charge to use the image site. In some cases, entire grantee/grantor indexes can be downloaded. Pages from various record books can be downloaded individually. Images from the loose patents can be downloaded as well. This is a wonderful website for those with Maryland ancestor who were property owners.

Order the presentation for immediate download.