World War II Draft Cards–Younger Men’s Draft

A significant number of World War II US draft registration cards from what is referred to as the “young men’s draft” have been published on FamilySearch. A list of the currently available states has been published on our Genealogy Search Tip of the Day and a few quick tips to using these cards has been posted on Genealogy Tip of the Day

The cards are a wonderful resource for individuals born in the very late 19th and early 20th centuries. The cards can confirm employment (as the one does in the illustration), may mention other relatives and their addresses, and provide a physical description. 

Using the addresses given on the registrations, it may be possible to confirm relationships between individuals with the same last name. For some registrants the cards may provide evidence of WPA employment which would lead to additional records.

These records are one of the few post-1940 federal records available that cover a significant proportion of the population. There sometimes are notations on the card if the individual had active military service during the war. Not all registrants who served during World War II have notations regarding their service on their card–none of my three great uncles who served have any notation to their service on their cards.

The front and back of the card will appear as one image in the digital files. They are supposed to be in alphabetical order, but it is always possible that a card or two is filed incorrectly. Always look at the image after the one of interest is located as sometimes there is additional information after the actual card. I’ve seen change of address information and “proof of birth” information filed after the card. Not always–but occasionally, so it’s worth a look.



Investigative Case Files of the Bureau of Investigation 1908-1922

Investigative Case Files of the Bureau of Investigation 1908-1922 (located on are not just about anti-American activities during the time period around World War I. While many of the files do center around German natives living in the United States, there are materials on other individuals and other types of actions.

This screen shot comes from an investigation in Columbus, New Mexico into Jack Demoss and Mary White. Demoss was accused of acquiring and selling whiskey and Mary White (his housekeeper) was accused of running a bawdy house. There is a fair amount of testimony in the file. Demoss indicates other locations he had lived before this incident and a location of a previous arrest is given.

These images are available on

Many other files are investigations into draft evasion, the occasional house of ill repute near a military base, etc. The draft evasion files usually contain some proof of age and the house of ill repute cases, well they contain information as well.

Do not just assume that these files are only about Germans. That would be a mistake.


That 1870 Census Entry for the Smith-Kile Family

A Facebook follower asked for additional clarification about the entry for the Smith-Kile family’s 1870 census entry that was discussed in “What Did Add and Automate to this 1870 Census Entry?” and wondered if somewhere on the census page there was a notation that used to “break” the census entry apart.


The entire census page is below. There is no notation that there is more than one family in the household.

It’s not up to the transcriber to interpret family structure from a census entry that does not specify relationships (this is a pre-1880 census after all). The transcriber’s prime directive is to render the information faithfully. Period. Full stop.  It is the researcher’s job to interpret and analyze the information–preferably combined with other information obtained from other sources.  has enough to to with transcribing things correctly, making certain their website is operational, and fixing Rootsweb. Just help me find the actual records that are on the site and I can go from there.

Actually in this case the two women in the household are sisters, the head of the household is the husband of the oldest one, and all the children are his.

But that’s another blog post.

And a conclusion that certainly is not supported solely by this one census enumeration.



What Did Add and Automate to this 1870 Census Entry?

It’s the automation of the research process that can create confusion. If records were completely standardized, families always lived in the same structure, and no one “colored outside the lines,” research would be easier.

But they didn’t color in the lines all the time.

Records are not always standardized.

Families can live in more than one structure.

The 1870 US Census index at attempts to suggest “household structure.” Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The difficulty comes into play when people use‘s interpretation to automatically complete their own family trees.  Some of these problems would be solved if people would read the actual record and enter family structure and relationships after reading and analyzing the actual record.

The household hold headed by Philip Smith in Keithsburg Township, Mercer County, Illinois, in 1870 includes individuals with the last name of Smith and Kile. It’s clear from the actual enumeration that it is one household–since the dwelling and family number for the Smith/Kile household are clearly 63 and 65 and the next entry for John McDonald is numbered 64 and 66.

Yet the 1870 US Census breaks the entry up into two households–one for Philip Smith and one for Nancy Kile. It even infers children for both “households.”

Referring to the individuals as “household members” is correct. What is interesting is that has the dwelling numbers correct for these people, but apparently added some other field in their own internal database that separated these individuals into “households.” Otherwise, how would their servers know how to spit back that data to me in that format?

I really don’t like them adding information to the census that’s not there.

But are those Nancy’s children? Or are they her younger siblings? Or are they some of each? doesn’t know just on the basis of that census enumeration.

What appears to be happening here is that:

  • “adds” some field so that it can display households that are different from the household as enumerated in the census
  • infers children based upon the census entry

We’ll have to see if other census years at perform similar “analysis” to what their 1870 “index entries” do.



An 1811 Slave Murder in Virginia

Sometimes that which we find is not pleasant.

I first learned of the 1811 slave murder when searching for references to my Sledd family on  Genealogybank. The vast majority of  Sledd references before 1850 in  Genealogybank refer to this murder–which was not what I was actually looking for. A search of GoogleBooks located the reference below.  Unfortunately none of the online references provides the first name of Mr. Sledd and “new” (at least to me) newspaper references to the incident fail to provide a first name for Mr. Sledd. The newspaper accounts all seem to be copying from an original account. The practice was not uncommon during the time period, but makes it more difficult to locate Sledd’s first name in a contemporary account.

This is not the first time I’ve written about the 1811 slave murder. But now I’ve given up on locating an online newspaper reference to his complete name.

A London publication provides a summary of the incident which parallels the contemporary newspaper accounts. Note: the details are somewhat graphic.

We’ve written about the murder before. Many of the Sledds in Bedford County during this time period were children of John  and Amy/Ann Sledd. It is believed that John was dead by 1811, so the article is probably not referring to him.

Hopefully this time I will have better luck determining just which Bedford County Sledd the articles are referring to.


While Reading the Clagg Court Case

There are many depositions in the Clagg-Sledd Court case from Bedford County,  Virginia, which came to a head in 1827. We’ve written about the case before focusing on the origination of the debt.

But the origination of the debt is only the tip of the iceberg and I’m still trying to figure it out.

The debt is transferred from Amy and John Sledd to one of their sons who then passes it on to his brother. Three of the Sledd’s sons provide testimony in the case. Clagg at some point claims the debt has been paid. The debt was also the subject of legal action in nearby Amherst County a few years earlier–when some members of the Sledd family used to live there. That action was dismissed. The lawyer in that case gives a deposition in the 1827 Bedford County case.

What I need to do is put all the depositions in order. I need to remember that depositions of different witnesses may not provide consistent information and that even depositions that seem repetitive in nature may occasionally provide a new clue. Depositions themselves may not be clear–some occasionally use the word “he,” “him,” and “his” far too often.

And I think there’s even an error in one of them–just one word. But, as one would expect that is a word that matters.

We’re putting the depositions together. The first step is to put them in chronological order along with the other court documents.

The court records I have been using are the images of various original records of Bedford County Court records that online at the Library of Virginia. There may be additional court orders and other records as well.

Those records will not provide the amount of detail that are in the depositions. But they may help me refine the schedule of when the was on the docket and what decisions were made.

And that may help me understand the online copies I have located.


James Clagg vs. John Sledd Jr., Bedford County, Virginia, Chancery Court; digital image, Library of Virginia, Virginia Memory Collection (Chancery Records), referenced as Bedford County Index Number 1827-013)


My Blogs

I maintain the following genealogy blogs. The blogs are all free to subscribe to:

  • Rootdig.comMichael’s thoughts, research problems, suggestions, and whatever else crosses his desk
  • Genealogy Tip of the Dayone genealogy research tip every day–short and to the point
  • Genealogy Search Tipwebsites I’ve discovered and the occasional online research tip–short and to the point
  • Casefile Clues Blog–the blog that accompanies my PDF how-to newsletter. The blog has newsletter updates, content discussion, and more–but is separate from the actual PDF newsletter. The blog is free to subscribe to and is a great way for subscribers of the newsletter to know what’s going on and when things were sent out.

When Your Ancestor Said How Old He Was

Individuals give their ages in a variety of records before 1900 in the United States.

How many times were they asked for “proof” or “evidence” of their age? And how many times were they simply asked?

If it seemed reasonable to the clerk or official, that’s probably what got written down.

That potential for variability (or outright lying) increases if there’s really no penalty for lying.

A forty-five year old giving a wrong age on a census by a few years is an entirely different scenario from an underage minor lying to get in the military or get married.

Just something to think about


Can I Search for Something Besides Smith in AncestryDNA Results?

One of the families I wanted to work on with a new set of AncestryDNA results has the last name of Smith. While the trees of submitters can contain errors, they can also contain clues and suggestions. Only being able to search by surnames is a serious limitation, particularly when the last name is common.  It does not help that in my case the family’s most specific location of origin is Virginia.

I realize that one needs to augment DNA research with paper research. But there are times when there simply are not as many records as we would like or those records are not detailed. The specific Smith family I’m researching left Virginia for Illinois in the 1840s with parents who died in the 1850s and left one child who died as a pauper around 1906. These are not the types of people who leave detailed records.

Families of this type are often the reason why many of us perform DNA tests. Some of us do it to find birth parents or adopted grandparents, etc. Some of us do it to find people of lower socio-economic background who were dropped off by UFOs in the mid-19th century. We need more effective search tools of our results.

It’s not just Smiths and it is not just common names. It is even a problem with other names as well. Half of my ancestral matches have significant ancestry from Ostfriesland, Germany. Habben may not be the most common name in the United States, but it’s a fairly common Ostfriesen name. Searching for it in my matches is problematic as well.

And Jones and Brown? That’s another problem.

Sometimes it feels like AncestryDNA gives whatever they want and they hope we will just be happy.