Webinar: Basics of Citation

The Basics and Elements of Citation

Date: 28 January 2017–2:00 pm central. Session hosted via GotoWebinar.img_20160610_112610540

Citation does not have to be intimidating or something to avoid. Our focus will be on citation for the non-professional who realizes that they need to cite but does not want to become obsessed with it. In this hour-long presentation we will see how to cite:

  • census records
  • wills
  • obituaries–both in the newspaper and one you found in Grandma’s old bible
  • photographs
  • tombstones
  • family items and heirlooms
  • vital records
  • more as time allows

Citation does not have to be a dreaded part of research. See how it can actually help and strengthen your research. Registration limited. Handout included.

Register here.


Is Some Source Better than No Source?

Yesterday’s Genealogy Tip of the Day, Remember Your Cousin in Santa Fe,”  was an extremely shortened version of genealogical citation. Extreme is probably an understatement. It was written more out of frustration than any desire to rewrite the methodology of genealogical research.

While some may take me to task for the citation format that was used and suggested, there was a reason. I know there are many researchers who avoid any type of citation at all because they see no reason to cite or they view citations as unnecessarily complex. There are a few for whom citations bring back visions of PCSD (post-citation stress disorder)* from various high school and college English classes. Seeing citations as something to avoid is not my personal viewpoint, but it is difficult to deny the approach of many–particularly when one looks at some online trees and some printed references. It might be nice if every genealogist would cite in the style of  Evidence Explained, but that simply is not going to happen.  That’s not the world in which we live.

I’m of the mind that some sort of citation in compilations made by genealogists is better than no citation all. Purists may take me to task. That’s fine.

I would rather see a reference to a date of death with a source of “Coshocton County, Ohio, Courthouse Death Records from 1878” than nothing. A genealogist worth their salt (professional or not) who needs to see the actual record should have a good idea to what the compiler was referring. Again, it’s not perfect and ideally there would be a volume, page number, format of access, etc. But it is better than nothing.

As some genealogists continue their research they may see that citations of this need some refinement because there are things that citations of this type do not tell the reader. But there is no denying that these citations do tell the reader something.

These comments should not construed to refer to the fee-based and free-access publishers of genealogical records and sources (census, newspapers, vital records, county records, etc.). These comments are intended to refer to authored sources compiled by researchers on families in which they have a genealogical interest.

*-this reference is not meant to cause offense to anyone suffering from actual PTSD.

Ramblings on a Probate Packet Cover

The image illustrating this post is part of the “cover” that wmichael-trautvetter-probate-coverraps the original probate papers for Michael Trautfetter’s 1869-1881 era probate in Hancock County, Illinois.

The writing is that of the clerks. It’s clearly written in two different hands as the script at the bottom is distinct from the writing on the top. It is difficult from the image shown here to determine if the “73” at the very top was written by one of the two individuals who wrote elsewhere on the wrapper.

And I’m not really certain that it matters.

The number on the top of the packet is not a unique number that identifies this case. It is a reference to the file box in which the packet was originally stored and was used in the index book (not shown here) to facilitate the finding of the case files. The packet of loose papers was wrapped in this cover sheet and stored in metal box 73.

At least they were at first.

Now when one views the actual papers at the courthouse in Carthage, there is not just a box 73. There is a box numbered with 73/74 and the packets are intermingled. While I’m not certain exactly what happened, I do have an idea. A new courthouse was built around the turn of the 20th century and this included a new vault for the records. That vault had bigger boxes than the original courthouse. In order to make better use of space, the old boxes were combined–two old boxes were put into one new physical box. Consequently all the probate case file boxes before the remodel actually have records from two original boxes in them. And since people have been using the records for over one hundred years, the packets have become intermingled in the boxes. They are that way in the boxes and they were filmed that way by the Genealogical Society of Utah (and that’s how they appear in Ancestry.com‘s digital images of these records as well).

The only date on the cover is one in 1881 when the estate was finally settled.

Ancestry.com indexed the case for it’s probate materials collection (note that this collection is not complete and that there are limitations to using the index). Usually when Ancestry.com created an index entry for these packets, they used the cover sheet to make the index entry.


The last name was reasonably read as Frantvetter.

There no date of probate listed for this entry (dates are listed for some others) even though there was a date on the bottom of the cover. The inferred death place may or may not be correct. I would not use it as the place of death unless there was a specific statement contained within the probate as to where Michael died. The item description has a range of dates but those are estimated based upon the papers in the packets contained on the roll of microfilm.

The probate materials for this county (like many of the probate images at Ancestry.com) are online digitally at FamilySearch.  FamilySearch often has images of the original indexes maintained by the local records offices. Those indexes are not linked to the actual images.

But those indexes were created by the actual records clerks as the records were created and, generally speaking are more accurate than the indexes created by Ancestry.com. 


Is it Trautvetter or Trautfetter?

In some families the spelling of the name generates much gnashing of teeth.

It is that way in the Trautvetter family.

Generally speaking, my personal “how do I spell their name” when referring to them in writing decision is based upon:

  • how the person signed the name
  • how the person’s name appeared on their tombstone
  • which name was used a majority of the time

The approach is not perfect and it’s just as much art as it is science in some cases. The problem exacerbated in those families who have names with origins in languages other than that they speak and the country in which they live. And then there’s always problems such as:

  • Some individuals never sign any documents.
  • Some individuals do not have extant tombstones.
  • Some clerks use creative spelling.

This 1869 document is the only one I have that is signed by Hinrich Trautfetter and was signed as a part of the settlement of his brother Michael’s estate. Hinrich appears in other records, but this is the only signature of his I’ve been able to locate to date. Hinrich died while this estate was being settled.


His sister Mine Kraft spells her maiden name as Trautfetter and his brother George spells his name as Trautvetter.

And that’s pretty much what their descendants did. Most of Hinrich’s descendants used either Trautfetter or Troutfetter and continue to do so to this day although there are a handful who use Trautvetter. George’s descendants almost entirely use Trautvetter.

This is the first actual signature I have providing evidence of a difference in spelling. George’s signature appears in other documents and he is consistent in how he spells it.

Hinrich’s son Christian’s signature appears twice in this probate file. Once he writes Troutfetter and once he writes Troutvetter. Apparently by the time Christian went to Kansas in the 1880s, he had made up his mind to use Troutfetter.  Individuals were not always consistent in how they spelled their name.

My prime directive: transcribe it how it is spelled in the actual document and pick one “standard” spelling to use when referring to the individual in other writing. And somewhere make reference to why that standardized “spelling to use in writing” was chosen.


Letting Others Know When You Modify an Image

There were two references to the death of Joseph Neill in a November 1906 issue of the Quincy Daily Herald, published in Quincy, Illinois.  One item referenced the accident in which he was killed and the second reference was to his wife’s parents going to the town where Joseph and his wife were living. slected-parts-image

I did not want to save the entire image of the newspaper. I did want to use the key elements from the newspaper in the image, including the heading which indicted the locals column in which the references appeared. The image I create from the newspaper needs to have an indication on it that the image is a modified one from the original newspaper. This allows anyone viewing the image to know that portions of the locals column in which these items appear have been left out.

Others may choose not to modify the image from the original. For that choose to, commentary to that import needs to be included in the image.


The Neills, Their Horses, an Airplane, and a Cultivator

New technology frequently causes problems as it did for Samuel Neill in 1920.

An airplane flying near West Point, Illinois, spooked the two horses who were pulling his cultivator. The horses ran off, pulling the cultivator behind them and destroying it in the process. In an apparent separate incident, two horses belonging to Virgil Neill ran off while hitched to a mower. One of the horses was injured and had to be put down.

There is more to be learned here than that the Neills had horses who were easily spooked.

I had to do a little digging in my files to determine which Samuel Neill the article referenced. There were potentially several and I did not want to immediately assume the incorrect one.

The article does not mention that Virgil is the son of Samuel. That’s another instance of a newspaper not mentioning the obvious. Most individuals who knew the family already knew that Virgil was Samuel’s son. Newspapers are called newspapers for a reason.

Sometimes newspapers or other references may mention two separate incidents that have absolutely nothing to do with each other. That’s the case here. These items have in common the Neills and their horses. That’s it. One event did not cause the other. One needs to be careful to not draw inferences where those inferences are not supported.


My Irish Neills

Like many genealogists with Irish immigrants, I don’t have a great deal of information on my Irish family in Ireland.

Samuel Neill immigrated as a single man in 1864, arriving in samuel-neill2Canada’s New Brunswick Province with his married brother Joseph and Joseph’s young family. The Neills were living in Limavady when they left Ireland for Canada. Their immigration information appears in Brian Mitchell’s Irish Passenger Lists 1847-1871: Lists of Passengers Sailing from Londonderry to America on Ships of the J. & J. COOKE Line and the McCORKELL  Line (Genealogical  Publishing  Co., Balto., MD.  1988).

Samuel’s brother Joseph was married in Ireland before the family’s immigration to the United States:

From  the “Quarterly returns of Marriages 1862 Ireland  Vol.  9,” LDS microfilm roll 0101440, page 375.
On  16 January 1862 at the Derrymore Presbyterian Church,  Joseph NEIL[sic] and Ann BRYCE[sic] were married by Wm. [JAMISON?], with witnesses  of  Wm. MC INTOSH and John ARCHIBALD.  Joseph  was  of full  age  and was a bachelor who lived in [Taques] Hill  in  the parish  of Drumachose.  Joseph was a servant, and was the son  of John NEIL[sic] who was a laborer.  Ann was a spinster of full age and  was  a servant living in White [??] in the parish of  Drumachose.  Her father was James BRYCE, a laborer.
Samuel and Annie Murphy were married in New Brunswick in 1865. Unfortunately there is no additional information on the family in their marriage record there. Nothing is known about Annie’s Irish origins other than she was born in the late 1830s/early 1840s and was a native of Ireland.
The Neills moved to near West Point, Hancock County, Illinois in the late 1860s and remained there until their deaths. Research in Hancock County has not located any information related to Annie’s Irish origins. The Neills settled in Hancock County likely because Joseph’s wife, Anne Brice, had family already in the area.
Annie (Murphy) Neill died in St. Albans Township in 1897. Samuel died at his home on 17 March 1912.

Where In the Chain?

genealogy-commutativ-migrations I may be focusing on the wrong part of the chain in my attempts to find family information on my Irish ancestor, Anne (Murphy) Neill.

Anne was born around 1840 in Ireland. No record on Anne in the United States provides any more specific information regarding her place of birth. She died near West Point, Hancock County, Illinois, in July of 1897 and death information only indicated she was Irish.

She married Samuel Neill in New Brunswick and that marriage record provided not additional clues as to her origins. The bondsman on the marriage bond was also a dead end. There are no clues in Samuel’s probate file about his wife’s origins and all relatives listed in that record are children of Samuel and Anne. Death records on their children only provide  maternal place of birth as Ireland.

The Neills came to West Point with Samuel’s brother Joseph and Joseph’s family. There were few other Irish Protestants who settled in the rural area where the Neills did and so it was determined to try and find the reason the Neills came to West Point. While both men originally worked for the railroad when they arrived (according to family tradition), only Joseph continued to work for the railroad his entire life. Samuel farmed.

After some searching, it was determined that the connection that the family of Joseph’s wife, Anne (Brice) Neill, had already settled in the area before the Neills arrived and had been there for some time. That had to be the connection that brought the Neills to West Point.

That did not help me locate Anne (Murphy) Neill’s family of origin.

The determination of what brought the Neills to West Point had interested me from curiosity standpoint as well, aside from locating Anne (Murphy) Neill’s origins.

Then it dawned on me: members of Anne (Murphy) Neill’s family could have come to the West Point area after her. My focus had been on locating relatives in the area before the Neills had arrived. It is also possible that relatives of Anne (Murphy) Neill arrived in the area after her.

Simple concept and I should have thought of it earlier. Sometimes we get so focused on our initial approach that we sometimes neglect other approaches as well–or just the reverse of the approach in this case.

Order matters.

Now I’m back to looking for Irish Murphys.

Not that there are any of those

Boston or Philadelphia: Is There a Difference?

The greater the distance, the easier it is to get places mixed up.

The 1913 obituary of Agnes Harper indicated she was

“Death of Mrs. Harper at West Point,” The Quincy [Illinois] Daily Journal, 17 September 1913; digital copy, Quincy Historical Newspaper Archive, (http://www.quincylibrary.org: accessed 11 January 2017).

“Death of Mrs. Harper at West Point,” The Quincy [Illinois] Daily Journal, 17 September 1913; digital copy, Quincy Historical Newspaper Archive, (http://www.quincylibrary.org: accessed 11 January 2017).

survived by her two sisters in Boston, Massachusetts. The names of the sisters were known from other sources and, like any reasonable genealogist, I began trying to search for them in Boston. After all, that is where the obituary said they would be located. Several searches were conducted in censuses and city directories, all to no avail.

Before I spent any more time and went to the work of creating charts to organize my search and allow me to strategize, I decided to search out other records on the family.

And sure enough there was a signed statement in the probate file communicating to the judge the addresses to which notices were sent to Agnes Harper’s heirs in 1915. The first two heirs were Agnes’ sisters, Mary and Sarah. Their address was listed as Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


They weren’t in Boston at all. Obituaries in newspapers don’t always get things correct. Probate files (while they can contain errors) tend to be more reliable.

There’s several reminders here:

  • Sometimes before you spend a lot of time searching records in another location, focus on things you can find–they may help direct that other search on which you are stuck.
  • Some records, for a variety of reasons, are more accurate than others–although any record can be incorrect.
  • And sometimes, when a location is thousands of miles away and no one really knows the people anyway, concern for accuracy in regards to some details is minimal.

Mary and Sarah Brice were located in records in Philadelphia. How long they lived there is another question at this point.