Doing All the Work When You Already Have the Answer

I understand why people want to trace their lineage as far back as they can as quickly as they can.  Skipping back as quickly as one can may hinder the development of adequate research skills.

On the one hand most of my maternal ancestors were relatively easy to trace in the United States. They were all immigrants from Ostfriesland, Germany, to the Midwest between the 1850s and 1880s. With the exception of one, the village of birth overseas was known by living family members. Genealogies had been published on several of the families. For the most part, church, census, and vital records in the United States made establishing parent-child relationships a simple matter of finding those records and reading them. I didn’t “have” to use other records to clearly establish the family connections. Researching the families in Ostfriesland was usually a matter of using the appropriate church records once the village was determined.

Researching my paternal lines was another matter entirely. Researching families in rural New York State before 1830, Virginia before 1800, Kentucky before 1830, Pennsylvania before 1850, and other areas can be more difficult due to type of records that are extant. It can be done, but it is not always as easy.

What helped me in those areas was that I completely, exhaustively, almost obsessively researched my maternal and paternal families in Illinois post 1850, even when I didn’t “need” the records to establish the relationships. It is easier to find land, court, probate, and other records when one already knows the relationships and the dates and places of vital events. Using those records provided me with a deeper understanding of those ancestors for whom I thought I knew everything. But it also provided me with something else:

a deeper understanding of the records

It was sort of working a math problem when the answer was in the back of the book so that I could check.

It’s a little easier to understand probate and court records when you already know all the family relationships, particularly those that are not stated. Land records that suggest relationships (but don’t state them) are easier to understand as well when the relationships and dates of events are known. It’s easier to see that a quit claim deed was frequently drawn up after the surviving parent died when you have all those death dates. My understanding of all those records was enhanced by my underlying knowledge of the families.

And that help me on those families where I didn’t already know the relationships.

Research in certain areas of the United States before vital records were kept can be difficult. The problem is compounded when certain records have been destroyed or lost. It makes the use of the remaining records even more important and the ability to understand and interpret those records crucial. Those records often don’t explain things as completely as we would like. For that reason it’s always advised to understand how records fit into the larger record keeping process and the legal process that generated many of those records.

A really good way to do that is to fully research a family or group of families that you already “know,” perhaps in a slightly later time period when there are more records. The legal structure will be the similar (although state statute can change), the organization of the records will be similar, and the way people behaved won’t be all that different. Fully researching that family will improve general research skills, improve one’s ability to understand and utilize materials that are found.

After all, if you’ve never really looked through and completely analyzed a series of post-1850 probate records, how well can you analyze ones from 1800? Of course there are differences, but there are similarities.If you’ve never completely analyzed all the deeds on an 1880 era ancestor, are you really prepared to completely analyze those for a 1790 ancestor?

And that might be what you’ll have to do for that Virginia relative who is giving you difficulties.

If you’re stuck on many of your relatives in areas or time periods where there not good vital records, consider fully and completely researching one or more of those families that you think you already have “done” in time period and location where there are better vital records. Find everything. Analyze everything. Interpret everything.

At the very least you’ll have a better understanding of those relatives that you think you already “know everything about.”

And there’s always the chance that you will have improved your research skills to help you with those that you don’t.




Locating Anna Lisa Eriksdotter…Err Sund

Death Entry for Anna Lisa Sund, died 23 July 1916, Tjarstad, Ostergotland, Sweden–church records.

She was born Anna Lisa Eriksdotter in Ostergotland, Sweden, in 1829. I was fairly certain she had died in Sweden as well, but I really was not entirely certain. Some of her children immigrated to the United States and some remained in Sweden, so it was always possible that she had immigrated. To be honest, I never tried to locate her death entry in the Swedish records, particularly years ago when my access to records solely via microfilm.  Without a date of death for her, I focused on other family members.

With recently releasing or updating their “Sweden, Indexed Death Records, 1840-1942,” I decided to try and locate her again, using several variations of her first name and her last name of Eriksdotter.  Most of my Swedish research had been in the 19th century and the females I had researched were usually listed with their maiden name. Anna lived into the 20th century and my research approach needed to reflect that. She was listed under her husband’s surname of Sund.

Anna Sund was located in‘s “Sweden, Indexed Death Records, 1840-1942” in the exact location where I expected her to be: Tjarstad. The index entry indicated 1829 year of birth. It probably was her. But I learned a long time ago that some Swedish names that I may think are unusual are exceedingly common. The index entry alone was not sufficient.

At the time of this writing her image was not loading in this database, but the index entry did indicate that an Anna Sund born in 1829 had died in Tjarstad in 1916. Since the index gave the year of death it was decided to manually search the online Swedish church records at (published as “Sweden, Church Records, 1451-1943“). Working through one year of deaths would not be difficult.

And it was not.

There she was in the church records. The date of birth matched what I had from other records. The maiden name was the same and the 1897 death date for her husband, Anders Sund, matched what I had from other records. Anna lived longer than I thought–long enough to have great-grandchildren living in the United States.

Before I located this death record, I had assumed Anna died of some complication of childbirth in the 1850s or so. But now that I know she lived until 1916, I’m wondering:

are there pictures or her anywhere?

One discovery always leads to more questions.

NL or UL Albers in Colorado in 1885

It is easy to see how the the last entry on this census page was transcribed in‘s “Colorado State Census, 1885” as N. L. Albers instead of U.L. Albers. Initial upper case letters in first names can be difficult enough to transcribe sometimes when the rest of the name is there to provide a context. The difficulty is significantly worse when initials are all that are used. It can be problematic for a transcriber, unfamiliar with the family, to correctly interpret the initials.

Fortunately the initials are in the correct order. There’s always a possibility that the initials are reversed making locating the person using an index even more of a challenge. That’s why it’s always advised to search for initials for anyone when you have a given name and to consider the possibility that the initials are reversed in just about any record.

The problem is somewhat compounded in this case as the man, Ulfert Lubben Albers, used his initials quite a bit of his life. So did his father, Lubbe Ulfert Albers. And several other close relatives who were either named Ulfert Lubben Albers or Lubbe Ulfert Albers. It makes keeping them separate even more of a challenge than if they had used their full names. It was not uncommon for those with Germanic names to use initials during this time period. Sometimes it was done to reduce confusion when dealing with those who were not familiar with German names and sometimes it was done mask German heritage.

There are several blanks on this census page in columns for places of birth of the individual and their parents. It is presumed that this indicated the information was unknown. Referencing the enumerator’s instructions would answer this question. In some families the places of birth for children living in the household are not known. Before one wonders what was going on in the mind of the person who answered the question, it is worth remembering that a parent might not have answered the questions. An older sibling might have and may not have known where all of their younger siblings were born. And it is always possible that a neighbor answered the questions. It is not just the Albers family that has blanks. The use of them in the Albers enumeration is not unusual. Many families have similar entries.

This enumeration serves as a good reminder to check those “off-census” years for enumerations that were federal enumerations, but that were only taken in specific states. They can be especially helpful around the 1890 time period.




Women Get the Right to Vote in School Elections in Illinois in 1891

On 19 June 1891, the Illinois General Assembly gave women in Illinois the right to vote–in school elections.

The 1891 act was specific in stating that women could only vote in school elections. But it was a start and does mean that women could vote in at least some elections in Illinois before the 19th amendment was passed to the United States Constitution.

I’m not certain if any of my female ancestors living in Illinois would have been interested enough in school elections to actually vote. I am curious as to what the local reaction to women’s suffrage was in Adams and Hancock Counties where my families were living at the time this law was passed.

Which of my 1891 female ancestors living in Illinois would have been eligible to vote? For native-born citizens who married native-born citizens, the answer is easy. The problem occasionally comes into play with individuals born outside the United States are involved. There are several categories (the list is not meant to be exhaustive), some of which I have people in:

  • native born and married to a native born citizen–Nancy Jane (Newman) Rampley, born in 1846 in Rush County, Indiana, married to Ohio native Riley Rampley and living in Hancock County, Illinois in 1891. Eligible.
  • native born and married to a naturalized immigrant–Anna (Dirks) Goldenstein, born in 1861 in Adams County, Illinois, married to naturalized German native Focke Goldenstein and living in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1891.
  • foreign born and married to a naturalized immigrant–Noentje Lena (Grass) Ufkes, born 1848 in Backemoor, Ostfriesland, Germany, married to naturalized German native Johann Ufkes and living in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1891.
  • foreign born and married to a native born citizen–I don’t have any of those.
  • native born and married to an un-naturalized immigrant–I don’t have any of those either
  • [this was a repeat–thanks to a reader for catching that]

An interesting “side project” would be to try and determine which of my female ancestors would have been eligible to vote under the 1891 act. The Act indicated that women who would be eligible to vote under the Illinois Constitution in effect in 1891 would have been able to vote.

And there’s the answer. Maybe.

Women’s citizenship was still tied to that of their father or husband in 1891. That muddied the waters as we will see in a future post.

And…the “being entitled to vote if the constitution in effect at the time allowed them to vote?” That caused problems also–as we’ll see in another future post.

“School Law of Illinois: With Annotations,” Alfred Bayliss, Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1903, Springfield, Illinois, page 165.

Women Voting to Support Women Teachers in 1905

All of us have gaps in our knowledge, it’s a matter of realizing and admitting that we have gaps in our knowledge that can be the problem. Being willing to deal with those gaps in a constructive way helps as well.

One way to discover those gaps is to read somewhat random things…and to think while reading. Thinking is always advised.

Good headlines help, especially when one is reading newspapers.

This item from a 1905 issue of the St. Louis Post Dispatch was titled “Sweethearts Win Election for Women,” subheaded by “Married Men The Losers.”

It then said “Wives and Daughters…Casting Ballots for Fair Instructor Rule.”

I tried not to get bogged down in whether the headline meant that the ballots for the fair instructor ruled the election or whether the vote was for some “Fair Instructor Rule” as opposed to a rule for unfair instructors. Headlines are not always to be taken entirely literally as they usually are written to grab the reader’s attention.

Women voting?

In Illinois in 1905?

The rest of the article discusses the Millstadt, Illinois, school district and its “female situation” in 1905. Details mentioned include how long it has been since the district has had a female teacher, the belief that female teachers cannot handle Millstadt students, the refusal of male board members to support female teachers at any instructional level, and the resulting election in which women voted.

At one point, two board members refused to attend board meetings when they discovered that four board members supported women teachers. The County Superintendent warned them they needed to attend to their duties or resign.

Louis Kalbfleish resigned. The other board member, A. Marxer, stayed on apparently in an attempt to attempt to keep up the fight.

“Many women voted in favor of the schoolma’ams” and the resulting board was now five to one in favor of “schoolma’ams.”

Women voting?

But could women vote in 1905? What about the United States Constitution?

Yes they could in specific Illinois elections.

And that’s the subject of our next post.

The law.

Ya gotta know it.

Cousin Veta Crosses the Pond in World War I as a Red Cross Nurse

Markley as shown in her application for a US passport.

Records of those involved in World War I include women and well as men, even though women did not serve in combat.‘s “U.S., American Red Cross Nurse Files, 1916-1959” contains employment records of Red Cross nurses who served during the World War I and World War II eras. Nursing was one of the main ways that women were directly in the war effort, especially during the World War I era. Fortunately these files often contain detailed biographical information on the nurses in addition to occasional personal correspondence from them and about them.

Hancock County, Illinois, native Veta Blanche Markley, served as a Red Cross nurse in France and Italy during World War I. The 1893 native of Stillwell, Illinois, was living and working in Quincy, Illinois, at the time she applied to work as a Red Cross nurse. She was the daughter of Charles and Laura (Rampley) Markley of the West Point and Stillwell areas in Hancock County.

Veta Blanche Markley’s initial application for enrollment in the Red Cross Nursing Service

Veta Blanche Markley’s initial application for enrollment in the Red Cross Nursing Service–back side indicating her acceptance.

The Red Cross Nursing Service file for Veta Blanche Markley contains detailed information on her Red Cross career as well as some details on her nursing career outside of the Red Cross. Her initial application summarizes her educational experience and background. Markley indicated she attended common school and the local three year high school. The high school is not named, but based upon her mother’s residence as stated in the application and where the family is believed to have lived, it’s reasonable to conclude that Veta attended high school in West Point, Illinois. She attended the three year nursing program at Blessing Hospital in Quincy, Illinois, from which she graduated.

1944 Application for re-admission to the Red Cross Nursing Service

Markley never married and the only information on her family in the file is a listing of her mother as an emergency contact. There is a letter in the file close to the start of World War II that indicated Markley only wished to be re-enrolled in Red Cross service if absolutely necessary as her mother was not able to live by herself and Markley was taking care of her. Marley lost her Red Cross pin while in Europe during World War I and there are letters in the file after her return home requesting a reissuance of the pin.

Markley required a passport before she could travel to Europe. That passport application repeats  biographical information that is contained her Red Cross nurse file, but does include the name of her father.

For those with relatives who served as a Red Cross nurse during the first two-thirds of the 20th century, the database “U.S., American Red Cross Nurse Files, 1916-1959” may be worth a look.


Veta is a first cousin of my paternal grandfather. Their mothers, Laura (Rampley) Markley (1870-1950) and Fannie (Rampley) Neill (1883-1965), were sisters and grew up in Walker Township, Hancock County, Illinois.’s U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939

U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939” has been on for a while, but after seeing some fellow researchers post images I decided to revisit the database.

Some of the lists contain the name of the person that is to be notified in an emergency along with an address. Other lists contain the name of the soldier and his numerical designation. How helpful that information is really depends upon what is known about the soldier. In the case of Bertus Ufkes, the name of the father and address were already known. This database could be a place to locate additional details on the soldier’s unit that may help in locating additional documentation regarding his service

I knew that Bertus’ father was living at the time of World War I, but if I had not then this would have been helpful.

This database apparently can be searched by name of emergency contact if those words are put in the keyword box.

We’ll have a future post with a few additional suggestions for using this database and a neat discovery I made as well.’s U.S. Phone and Address Directories, 1993-2002

One can never be certain what’s “really new” on, what’s “new,” and what’s “recycled.” Sometimes for me it simply is a case of “I don’t remember seeing it before.” The database, “U.S. Phone and Address Directories, 1993-2002,” falls into that last category.‘s “source” for this database is as follows: U.S. Phone and Address Directories, 1993-2002 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005.
Original data: 1993-2002 White Pages. Little Rock, AR, USA: Acxiom Corporation.

The search results appear to be gathered by person as the partial list of results for a search of John Ufkes in Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois, shows:

Clicking on the person of interest pulls up an address and a phone number.

In some cases spouses are listed. But that would depend upon whether or not the spouse was listed in the phone directory in the first place.

There is even an option on page for an individual to “view neighbors.” Users will have to refine that search as the automatic search generated by clicking on that link appears to search for the entire town.

Obviously individuals with unlisted numbers will not be listed (searches I made for myself turned up empty). Age and other identifying information is not included, so users should use this information in concert with other details. But in certain situations such a database may come in handy–particularly for late 20th century research.

As always, use with caution and with your brain turned on (grin!).