Ancestral Clues and Lessons: Elizabeth (Chaney) Rampley (1804-1883)

Elizabeth (Chaney) Rampley was born in 1804 most likely in Southamptown Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania, and died in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1883. She married James Rampley in Coshocton County, Ohio, in 1830. Some things I’ve learned about research from Elizabeth:

  • Sometimes kids travel without their parents. Elizabeth went to Coshocton County, Ohio, as a single woman in the 1820s–likely because her brother was already there. Her parents remained in Pennsylvania.
  • Deeds can sometimes spell out parent-child relationships. Elizabeth’s father speculated in Coshocton County, Ohio, land and in his deed of gift of that land to his son Abraham, it mentions that Abraham was to give his sister Elizabeth Rampley a some of money as payment.
  • It’s not easy when three of your four sons head off to the  Civil War and you don’t know if they will return home or not.

Reliance on Memory and Why Three May Equal Five

Mom and Mary Agnes Habben. Probably taken at Mom’s bridal shower in 1967. Mary Agnes and Mom took summer classes together at Western.

Mom graduated from college in 1963. I was sure of it. I was positive. I would have bet money on it. Well not a lot of money and certainly not an entire paycheck, but perhaps the change floating around in my pocket. After all I wasn’t alive in 1963 and wagering on events one did not witness is risky business even when one is certain they took place.

Turns out it was a good thing I never made that wager.

Mom told me she had finished college in three years (“was done” is most likely the phrase she used). I had heard her tell me more than once and I knew I had heard it. The number stuck in my head like a song that just will not leave.  Three years. The memory was combined with the caveat that Mom didn’t want me to try and finish college in three years because some times she wished she had not done it that way herself.

She never told me why she was done in three years and I never thought to ask. She had worked at the college bookstore to support herself and apparently had some student loans. Finishing in three years was a way to cut the total cost down. The reason was practical and quintessential Mom.

And so when it came time to write her obituary, I indicated she had graduated in 1963. She had graduated high school in 1960 and little math was required to determine that three years later would be 1963. Math does not get much simpler than that.

The only problem was her diploma dated 1965. The diploma was discovered before the obituary was published. My error was corrected. But I was confused.

And then I remembered.

Mom had started teaching elementary school back in the day when a completed bachelor’s degree was not required. She had enough credits and was allowed to teach even though she had not finished her degree. Those stories of her driving to Macomb (home of Western Illinois University, Mom’s alma mater) with some of her fellow teachers to take summer classes came flooding back to me. It made perfect sense and explained the 1965 graduation date.

It also made sense why Mom said she “was done” in three years. She was done enough to start teaching but technically had not graduated.

But it got me to thinking.

How many pieces of information are in records because someone remembers part of a story or remembers a story incorrectly? How often do we use information provided in a record without giving too much thought as to how the informant came to know that information? Was the informant providing information based on only part of the story?Was the informant providing information at time when they were under stress or were distracted?

And how many times do we hear a phrase and conclude that it means a little more than it does? “Getting done” could be slightly different than graduating–at least in Mom’s situation.

I cannot provide primary information as to when my mother graduated college because I was not alive when it happened. That’s a simply fact of chronology. I could scream it as loud as I wanted. I could type it in bold face using the largest font. Communicating the information loudly and proudly does not change the fact that my knowledge is not primary.

That diploma? It does provide primary information and the type size is not unusually large.

And me? Against Mom’s advice I graduated from college in three years. That’s something I have primary knowledge of because I personally witnessed it.

And somewhere is the diploma to prove it.



Ancestral Clues and Lessons: James Rampley (1803-1884)

James Rampley was born in 1803 in Harford County, Maryland, and died in 1884 in Hancock County, Illinois. He married Elizabeth Chaney in Coshocton County, Ohio, in 1830. Some clues and lessons I learned from researching James:

  • Who did you buy that first farm from? James’ first land purchase in Illinois was from a James R. Holden–whose name initially meant nothing to me. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered he was James Rampley Holden, a first cousin of James Rampley.
  • You may be briefly discussed in your daughter-in-law’s pension file. James is mentioned as working on the farm threshing in the summer of 1865 or 1866.
  • Estate planning works. James and his wife sold all their real estate to their sons before they died, retaining a life estate in ten acres on which their home was located. Because of this there was no estate settlement.

My ancestor table can be viewed on my site. James is my 3rd great-grandfather.

Citation Details Should be the First Guest at the Genealogy Party

At some point while writing this blog I had the big idea to include Evidence Explained style citations in every post. At some point I stopped. It was not because properly crafted citations are not important, but because sometimes in writing them it takes time away from writing.

That may sound like an excuse. It is.

Citation is more than about getting all the right pieces of how something was obtained in just the correct format with the commas and colons in the appropriate places, the correct italicization of titles, etc. It’s knowing what pieces of information are crucial to crafting a citation  and capturing those pieces of information as information is obtained. That’s the best time to do it. That’s the most efficient time to do it. Having all that information makes the analysis and interpretation easier.

When all the source information is captured as the source is obtained, the citation can be crafted later. What’s important is not memorizing all the various forms of citation for various documents. What is important is knowing what information needs to be captured when a record is obtained.

That’s what I tried to do in this 1959 newspaper clipping that mentions a birthday party for my aunt. There’s not a technically correct citation there. But information was captured and included in the image so that later one can be created. And even if I never create a “correct” citation for this item–all the information is there.

That’s often how I used Evidence Explainedto help make me aware of what needs to be captured, especially when I’m using a record with which I’m not familiar.

Including citation information should be done first, before you begin analyzing a document. It should not be an afterthought.

Speaking of afterthoughts, it’s interesting that my aunt’s husband is listed last among all the attendees at her birthday party. There’s probably a story there, but it will take more than luck to find it now, let alone create a citation for it.

Evidence Explained: Third Edition Revised can be purchased on at the sale price until 11:59 EDT on 18 May

Small Town Newspapers as Pseudo-Directories

One of the challenges researchers in rural areas of the United States have is the dearth of directories. Many urban areas beginning in the 19th century have extensive runs of yearly directories. While these publications have their pitfalls (generally only listing “heads of household” and working adults in the household), at least they exist and they are generally alphabetical in nature making searching for specific individuals somewhat easier.

One way to potentially make up for this gap is to use small-town newspapers, using mentions in the correspondents’ columns to infer residential clues. The difficulty is that locating these items in unindexed newspapers is tedious and time consuming. That’s changing as more and more newspapers are online in digital format with full-text search capabilities.

The two biggest caveats about using these items is that not every small town resident appears in these columns and digital indexes are far from perfect. But one may be surprised how often some people are mentioned in these small town columns–often people that might not be thought of as social butterflies.

In December of 1959, there was a surprise birthday party for my grandmother’s sister in the big city of Loraine, Illinois. The event was mentioned in the Warsaw [Illinois] Bulletin complete with names of attendees and residences. In this case the locations were not a big surprise to me, but in some situations they could have been helpful. Sometimes even knowing a person has moved from one part of the county to another can be helpful. As in most research situations, whether a piece of information is “helpful” really depends upon your problem.


My uncle Herschel Neill was a career military man from World War II through the 1960s. He frequently returned “home” for family reunions and various other functions when he was able. His city of residence was often listed in these references. While he does appear in city directories in many of these more urban locations, the references in to him in his hometown newspaper help me to confirm that I have the correct person. Admittedly the name of Herschel Neill is not common and connecting the dots is not difficult. For names that are more common, references  to him with a city of residence in his “hometown” newspaper would have helped in making certain I had the correct person.

Note: Our citations on these images are short, but we’re still trying to leave enough detail that a citation in the spirit of Evidence Explained  can be crafted. It is possible to create citations and not worry about commas and semicolons.


Ancestral Clues and Lessons: John Neill

I know precious little about Irishman John Neill. He lived in the NewtownLimavady area of County Derry, Ireland, in the 1860s when his son Joseph married in the Drumachose Parish at the Derrymore Presbyterian Church. John had another son Samuel. The brothers were born in the 1830s. What I have learned about John and about research by researching John:

  • the importance of siblings. Samuel’s my direct ancestor but I have learned more about John from researching Joseph.
  • poor Irish are difficult to research.
  • DNA may help. One reason I’ve submitted to a DNA genealogy test is to potentially find some matches on my direct male line as John is my direct patrilineal ancestor.
  • don’t stop researching. After years of research, I may have located another child of John–a daughter who stayed in Ireland.

Charting My Finds in the Warsaw, Illinois, Newspapers

I’ve decided to keep my spreadsheet of references I’ve located to various family members in the Warsaw, Illinois, newspapers that have been digitized on the site sponsored by the Warsaw Public Library.

I’ve about got the spreadsheet the way I like it, but I may refine it as time goes on. I have decided to simply put all the images I obtain from the newspaper in one large digital file, along with this spreadsheet. Filing them separately is problematic since there are numerous references to a large number of my families and there are articles that contain references to multiple families. The name of the newspaper is included because there are several different newspapers that are a part of this database.

The spreadsheet’s purpose is to let me know when I’ve already located something and briefly what it is. It’s not meant to be a complete transcription or even really a complete abstract. I don’t want to download the same thing more than once. My file names all follow the structure:


Including the families mentioned in the item is not practical for most of the items. In some cases, I have appended the name of the item after the page, but I want to easily go through a listing of the file names and know what I have. Consistency helps me to do that.

I will need to be consistent in the “type of article” that I use. As the sheet grows, I’m keeping a list of what I used for type of article so that I use the same thing every time. Otherwise sorting will be a problem. I may change this slightly as I continue to use it. The intent is that the spreadsheet be short and simple–that way I will be more inclined to use it as I locate images.

year month day page newspaper type of article section main names mentioned specific person comments file name
1941 Sept 25 8 Bulletin Reunion-Trautvetter Trautvetter  blank to save space  blank to save space
1942 Sept 23 1 Bulletin Reunion-Trautvetter Trautvetter
1938 April 7 4 Bulletin Party-Birthday Trautvetter Miller, Ida
1963 Dec 5 2 Bulletin Gossip-Ill West Point News Neill Neill, Fannie

This chart is meant to be suggestive and is not an edict. Personal preferences may vary. When creating charts of this type think about how you will use the chart and be consistent in data entry.

Evidence Explained: Third Edition Revised on Sale

Elizabeth Shown Mills’ popular Evidence Explained has a recently released updated and revised third edition. Until 11:59 EDT on 18 May 2017, this revised edition is on sale at 25% off. I’ve been putting off getting my new copy, but now is probably a good time. I have an earlier edition that’s starting to show quite a few signs of wear and tear as this is a book I view as one to use and mark up with notations as needed.

The introductory chapters provide a good overview of the research process and information analysis. There’s also a fair amount of terminology as well–good for all of us to review from time to time. The bulk of the book discusses citations of a variety of documents from across the globe, with short discussions of those records as well. The discussions in the citation section focuses on the organization of the original records and the main formats in which those records are usually accessed. That’s worth a good read and study even if your citations are never going to follow the Evidence Explained format to the letter.

According to the website, the following changes have been made:

    • Changes to about 75 pages in the text and index
    • New citations for the National Archives (NARA) website and manner of identifying documents
    • Updates for citing DAR’s revamped website and databases
    • Alterations in citations for the DAR website and database
    • Immigration citations reflecting changed records at the Ellis Island website


Evidence Explained: Third Edition Revised can be purchased on at the sale price until 11:59 EDT on 18 May. Other sites will not have this sale.

As always, we’ll continue to occasionally discuss Evidence Explained in various postings here. There’s always good food for thought in the text of this tome–and now is a great time to get it at a price that makes it easier on the budget.


Those Draft Card Titles at Confuse Me has updated their  “U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942.” This draft registration is often referred to as the “Old Men’s Draft,” because of the age of the men who were registering. This fourth registration was conducted on 27 April 1942 and registered men who born on or between 28 April 1877 and 16 February 1897–men who were between 45 and 64 years old and who were not already in the military. I’m not really certain how updated this database is as it’s been around for some time.

Don’t confuse it with registrations of men who were a more traditional age that has titled “U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947.” That’s a more recent database and is still being updated. There are several states that are not included at this point in time.

FamilySearch has the “Old Men’s Draft” registration cards on their site at no charge.

Always know which one you are searching. I saw the update on today for the “U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942“and thought it was for the “U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947.” That’s the one I’m waiting for as there are several relatives whose cards I’d like to find who would have been young men during the World War II era. I’ve already got all the draft cards for the “old guys.”