To Scan or Photograph?

My mother has approximately 12 years of daily calendar entries in various day planners and other similar fill-in notebooks. How to preserve them is a concern. The entries are short and usually revolve around the weather, farming, who called, who visited, and other short snippets of daily life. They are not diaries with long, detailed entries.

So how to preserve them?

I’ve decided to take pictures of each page instead of scanning them. I realize that scanning can create higher quality images. I also realize that I’m not reproducing photographs here. My goal is to preserve the text and taking photographs will be much faster than scanning. That makes the likelihood that I actually complete the project higher.

And to me actually getting it done matters.

That time can then be used to create a guide to the entries. This guide is not going to be a complete annotation of every day–at least that’s not my goal at this point. My initial goal with a guide is to reference the individuals she only mentions by a first name and indicate who I think they are. The same can be done with farm properties (eg. “the Coeur place”), local businesses (eg. “Casey’s), and the like. To me, the annotation seems important as well as when I and my brother are gone, much of that knowledge will be gone as well.


FamilySearch Full-Text Search: Is It Exhaustive?

Genealogists who follow the Genealogy Proof Standard are told to conduct a reasonably exhaustive search.

How does the full-text search of some land deeds and probate records at FamilySearch impact that? At this point, using the FamilySearch full-text search of these records simply helps the researcher to find some things–pulling some more low-hanging fruit from the tree. That’s not bad. There’s no doubt that it can help one find things in places one would never have looked or in records that are unindexed.

It’s great to be able to find references to a person buried in the list of payments from an estate or in a metes and bounds description to a piece of property. Those references before the full-text search would have been too time consuming to find before. But the old indexes still need to be searched. This search does not eliminate the need for searching land deed indexes that most locations created themselves manually when the records were originally created. Those grantor and grantee indexes still need to be accessed–and most are online at FamilySearch if the deeds themselves are.

But do not indicate that you’ve manually searched every page of records from a location when that is not what you have done. Indicate that items have been located using the full-text search of those records at FamilySearch. We do not cite records that we do not use and we should not suggest that we’ve done searches that we have not done.n

If I’ve found things using the keyword “rampley” and filtered my results to Hancock County, Illinois, (as shown in the illustration), I should track that in my research log. I also think it should be noted in any discussion of items found. One reason for that is that these indexes may not be static.

Other considerations:

  • What records are actually indexed in the full-text index.
  • What searches were conducted for variant renderings of names.
  • What search parameters were used other than names (if any).

Searching the FamilySearch card catalog can give you an idea of what land or court records could be in the full-text search at this point. Keep in mind that some record holders may not allow you to view their records from home.


FamilySearch Labs Full Text Search

FamilySearch recently announced the full-text search of various local records–particularly probate court and land records at their FamilySearch Labs site. This site is still in the beta stage, so things may work differently from one visit to another. But this functionality allows researchers to access records that would have required manual, page-by-page searches before.

But it is not perfect.

Results can be filtered.

Filtering can be done by record year, record type, record place, or collection. I’m choosing to filter by location–at least for now. Your approach may be different. No matter how unusual the last name, nationwide searches are not always appropriate. You

In my family several Habbens married Fechts–so that was one keyword combination I used.

Multiple keywords are helpful

Surname only searches will likely result in too many results to practically wade through. Think about what other keywords or terms may appear on the document with your ancestor’s name. Keep in mind that any word may have been interpreted incorrectly by the AI.

Some keyword approaches to consider:

  • family surnames that intermarried with your family.
  • last and first name combinations
  • locations where the family lived–other than the location where records are being filtered-this can be helpful in deeds where the new residence of a grantor may be mentioned in the deed
  • ancestral occupation–for those records that do mention that as some deeds in the Eastern US do
  • locations where the family lived–helpful for deeds that may mention townships, towns, or other place names. Remember that in federal land states, townships are not always named in legal descriptions.
Wildcards are allowed

Wildcards are allowed.

Many names are easier to locate using wildcard searches. In the illustration, I wanted to search for Bieger, Berger, Beger, etc. all in one search–hence b*ger as a keyword search term.

Quotes for exact searches.

Quotes can be used to search for two words as a phrase. “Clark Sargent” will only return entries containing that exact phrase. I did note in searching for other names with quotation marks that this search occasionally does give other results. My search for “James Rampley” returned that name along with James E. Rampley and James & Rampley.


  • this search is still in the developmental stage
  • track how you search–you’ll never remember all the keyword combinations you used.

We’ll have more in future posts.

Our webinar on the full-text search at FamilySearch Labs.


Do I Include the Red Saks 5th Avenue Box in the Citation?

Note: The 4th edition of Evidence Explained has just been released by Genealogical Publishing Company. We’ll be featuring it in several blog posts over the coming months.

The Saks Fifth Avenue Box

Documenting items in private collections (often housed in just a spare room of someone’s home) is one of the things covered in Evidence Explained. This example illustrating this post was used in an earlier edition of
Evidence Explained. At the time the citation was created, the school register was in my Mother’s possession.

The register was found in a red Saks Fifth Avenue box in my great-grandmother’s home after she passed in 1986. Fortunately the register and the red box were rescued before they met an unfortunate demise. It’s still in the red Saks Fifth Avenue box, but it’s no longer in my parents’ home and has now passed to my possession. There’s a reason why citations such as these include the date: things change. The citation in the illustration needs to be altered to say:

“School Register, 1898-1911,” page 3; Union Grade School, Bear Creek Township, Hancock County, Illinois; privately held 2024, by Michael John Neill, [address for private use,] Galesburg, Illinois, who inherited it from his mother Connie (Ufkes) Neill, who inherited it from her grandmother Trientje Ufkes of Carthage.

I’m not precisely certain how my great-grandmother came to acquire the register. Her husband, Frederich Ufkes, attended the school at the turn of the 20th century and his children would attend it when they were grade-school age. The one room school is no longer standing. Frederich Ufkes, according to family tradition, was on the board of the school when he was an adult. It is surmised by this writer that through his membership on the school board he came to acquire the register.

I chose not to include any speculation about the provenance in the citation to this item. The red Saks Fifth Avenue box is also not mentioned. It’s not archivally safe and on my list of things to replace in order to store items in an archivally safe way.

The bigger question (at least for me): Where did my great-grandmother Ufkes get a Fifth Saks Avenue box? Luxury department stores were decidedly not her “thing.”

Note: The illustration from Evidence Explained was used with permission of the author and publisher.

Genealogical Publishing Company has announced the release of the new 4th edition of Evidence Explained. Check it out on their website. 


Brick Walls and Being Stuck

I posted this to one of my Facebook pages and decided it said what I wanted to say and that I didn’t need to spend time writing it over…so here it is.

I’ve been thinking about “brick walls” for a post I’m writing on my blog where I post lengthier pieces. Some say brick walls exist. Others say that there are no brick walls at all and that it’s your methods and lack of knowledge about resources and genealogy in the area and time period that are the problem.

I’m a huge believer in genealogical education–in knowing about all the records that were created at all levels in the time and place when your ancestor lived and in knowing why those records were created, how they were created, how they were maintained, and how you came to view/access them. I’m a huge believer in knowing about the history of the area and time period in which your ancestor lived–including details about your ancestor’s background, social class, educational level, occupation, religious experience, etc. And I’m a huge believer in understanding the laws and legal system during the time and place in which your ancestor lived. And it’s good to organize your information to see if there are patterns or approaches that you may have missed.

It’s also good to reach out to others with accurate knowledge of the time and place in which your ancestor lived–and not knowledge they acquired by reading random social media posts by influencers who don’t necessarily know anything.

After all that…you may be stuck.

You may get to a time period where there simply are no more records. It happens. Of course you should make certain you’ve searched thoroughly, but there are times and places where you have hit the end of the road in terms of the paper trail.

You may also get to a person who for one reason or another, intentional or not, seems to have appeared out of nowhere. There are approaches to try on these people–sometimes they work and sometimes they do not. Sometimes DNA helps and sometimes, depending on how far back the problem is, how many descendants the person/family had and what paper trail there is, sometimes it does not. Autosomal DNA has its limits as one goes further back in the pedigree and strict maternal and paternal tests have limits as well.

Of course a person keeps trying and staying aware of finds or approaches that may help or things that might have been overlooked. But sometimes you do really reach the end of the discoverable lineage.

Just my two cents.


Do You Warn Them?

If you encourage a family member to take a genealogy DNA test, do you warn them of the potential to uncover family secrets of which they may be unaware?

You may encourage your father’s brother’s child to take a test to help with your (and his) paternal ancestry. The test results may cause them to discover things about their mother’s family that they did not know at all and that you, not being related to the mother’s family, had no idea about either.

You may discover that this first cousin of yours is not your first cousin at all.

I’m not saying not to have those relatives test. But make them aware that the test could potentially result in discoveries of secrets that their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. thought had been taken to their grave. Some may welcome such discoveries and new family members. Others may not.


I’ve Never Seen “Star Wars”

There’s a meme that floats around that purports to show your grandparents waiting to see “Star Wars.” The intention of the meme (I think) is meant to be funny as it shows a picture of people waiting in line to see a movie. I’m not certain it’s funny or not.

What I’m reasonably certain of is that none of my grandparents saw “Star Wars.” I’m 100% certain my grandfather who died in 1968 never saw it. And, based on what I know of my grandparents who were alive when “Star Wars” was in theaters, I’m reasonably certain they did not see it. My paternal grandmother never went to the movies (she did not drive). My maternal grandparents never mentioned going to see a movie that I can remember. I’ve never seen it either. I only have first hand knowledge of my “Star Wars” attendance.

But this post is not about “Star Wars,” movies, or having first hand knowledge of an event. It’s about making assumptions about something a relative would have done because it was popular or “everyone was doing it.”

Genealogists need to look for evidence that something happened. They should not just assume it. It is great to use pop culture and contemporary trends to get to know more about a time period or a location. Just do not assume your ancestor was doing something “because everyone else was.”


He’s Got a Copy

Apparently Conrad Haase had an “original Paper” copy of his naturalization in his hands when he had the Hitchcock County, Nebraska County Clerk create a transcription of that naturalization. The naturalization transcript was used in Haase’s Timber Claim as proof of his citizenship.

Haase’s claim was for 160 acres in Section twenty-six of township 4 North Range 36 west in Hitchcock County, Nebraska. The Haase claim was for the southeast quarter of the section. His claim was approved and a patent was issued.

But what kind of copy is this?

It is a decidedly derivative copy. The original copy of Haase’s naturalization is apparently on file with the Circuit Clerk of Hancock County, Illinois, where Haase was naturalized. The copy Haase on his person was a transcription of that original and apparently was made on the same day he was naturalized in May of 1864.

The image in this post was made from the transcription of Haase’s copy of his naturalization which was made in Nebraska. Unfortunately the image I have, from the completed timber claim file, does not include the back of the transcription made in Nebraska. The back of the document likely indicated when the transcription was made.

So I need to get an image of the back of this page from the completed timber claim file for Haase. But what I have now is a derivative copy. I have no doubt as to its authenticity, but if I cite this document I need to clearly indicate what it is.

Also on the to-do list is to get a copy of Haase’s original naturalization from the office where it was created in Hancock County, Illinois.

And this makes me wonder…”how common was it to have a transcription of your naturalization in the mid-19th century?”

Note: Completed Timber Claim files are at the National Archives.