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When I am researching one of the tools I like to have handy is a Records Selection Table. I have created a table that works well for me but, I have found a generic table that could be very helpful if you aren’t sure what to look for, and where the information might be found. The table has 3 columns which read, in part:

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This table is found on FamilySearch.org  and is free to look at even if you do not have a free FamilySearch Account. Below the table there are links to various States and Topics. These additional pages will allow you to link to the record pages that you need. If you are researching other than the US you may want to save the table and add your own unique record collections.


Fold 3

Fold 3” is a website that is dedicated to Military Records. The name “Fold 3” comes from a traditional flag folding ceremony in which the third fold is made “in honor and remembrance of veterans who served in defense of their country.”  This Website gives access to military records, including stories, photos, and personal documents, such as draft registration, and pensions for Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. The records have been digitized from the collection at the National Archives,  Nara.gov, with other records coming from different countries.  It also has collections of records from the UK and from wars such the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars.

This website is part of ancestry.com, however, it is not the part of the free ancestry that many members of the church receive. However, it can be accessed free by going to your nearest FamilySearch Center where Fold 3 can be accessed through the FHC Portal.

Through “Fold 3” you can find stories about forgotten soldiers, including POW [Prisoners Of War] and MIA [Missing In Action]. While much of the information is from sites such as the National Archives, the site also allows you to upload and add content to an ancestor who may have served in the military.

The collection recently added a lot of POW/MIA records from WWII, the Korean War and Viet Nam War. I have a cousin who was a POW in WWII, and another cousin who was shot down and was Missing in Action in World War II, and a cousin who was shot down, and declared MIA  during the Korean War. The collection also includes, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

While this site needs to either have a paid subscription or you need to make a visit to your local FamilyHistory Center, it is worth knowing about, and checking into when you find it accessible.

I love books, and I love research, so I really love when I can get my research books online and, of course, free. Digital Books are perfect for today’s world with much more of our research being done from our homes, and away from crowds. While you can’t sit down and hold the book in your hands, there are lots of reasons why you might want to go digital with your books. 

Reasons to get your books digitally:

  1. Often you can copy the book onto your computer where it is continually accessible.
  2. You can read the book from any mobile device, if you use a cloud storage service.
  3. You can copy and paste any information that you need to have, without the need to re-type the information
  4. You can enlarge the text making it easier for people like me who may have difficulty really smaller fonts.
  5. The entire process can take place from home, or wherever you have a mobile device and the internet available.

My 10 Favorite Book Sites:

  1. FamilySearch >Search>Books [wonderful resource for Family Genealogies] https://www.familysearch.org/en/
  2. Internet Archive https://archive.org/ [besides books you can read online and download, they also have “Open Library” where you can virtually check out for a period of time.]
  3. Google Books books.google.com
  4. Ancestry https://www.ancestry.com >Search>Catalog
  5. BYU Family History Library https://lib.byu.edu/ [besides books this site collets journals]
  6. Library of Congress https://www.loc.gov/
  7. National Archives archives.gov
  8. Digital Public Library of America https://dp.la
  9. New York Public Digital Library https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/
  10. HathiTrust https://www.hathitrust.org/

Some collections you might want to focus on for family history are:

  • Family Genealogies
  • County Histories
  • State Histories
  • Personal Writings and Journals
  • Biographical Sketches

Be sure to save your digital books in a specific folder so you can readily access them again.

While taxes have been a source of frustration from the beginning of our history, they have, nevertheless, been ever present and we can take advantage of them as a genealogical resource.

The earliest detailed tax record that I’m familiar with is found in the “Doomsday Book” which was an inventory requested in 1086 by William the Conqueror. After invading England, he wanted to know what he owned so he could collect the taxes.  It contains records for 13,418 settlements in England. You can find more information by visiting www.domesdaybook.co.uk.

Another well know tax collection record is the” Griffith’s Primary Valuation”. It identifies taxable property in Ireland from 1840-1864, and is extremely valuable for those with Irish ancestry because it lists the land owner and any tenants. Visit FamilySearch.org, or Ancestry.com [card catalog] or the National Archives of Ireland

People taxed were usually, but not exclusively, males, heads of household, and over 21. They were most often landowners. These lists also provided a way for the government to track men who were eligible to vote and serve in the military. Females, who were heads of households, are also included. Some states had taxes on other types of personal property, so you will need to check the state you are looking in for the exact tax laws for your time period.

Sometimes “luxuries” were taxed. Great Britain, for example, in 1795 had a tax on powder used to powder the wigs that were worn, and also had a bi-annual “hearth tax.” Each fireplace in a home was taxed, and you will also see taxes on the number of windows a home had. The comparative wealth and standing of an ancestor in his community can be seen by his “wig powder tax” and how many fireplaces or windows he had. In New England taxes were raised by towns to maintain roads, pay school teachers, and pay the community minister.  A man with more children attending school would pay a larger school tax. Luxury items such as a clock, a watch or a wagon may also cause a person to appear in a tax list. People are not as likely to be left out of tax list, whereas they may be missed in a census.

While these lists will not give you complete family information, going through them for consecutive years can give you valuable clues. For example, if a man appears on the tax rolls in an area for several years in a row and then disappears, we might assume that he possibly moved or died during the past year. This leads us to other possible records, such as a deed if he sold land, or probate records if he died. If he is suddenly gone and his wife then appears chances are good that he died, though there are, of course, other possibilities. If one of his known sons suddenly appears on the tax list, he probably came of age, which was generally 21, and had some land or property of his own. Looking over a period of time, you may see a man’s sons, in order of age, appear on the tax rolls when they come of age.

Some states kept better tax records than others, but if you come to a place in your research where you are stumped, tax records may give you a clue.   You will need to understand the laws governing tax collection for the state you are researching.  You can contact the state or write to a county or town clerk in the area your ancestor lived. The best place to start would be the FamilySearch Wiki.

In summary, tax records put an ancestor on the ground in a particular spot at a given date. They give you clues to the amount of land an ancestor owned, and by looking at neighbors you can often find how they stood in the community. Put the information you find in a timeline of your ancestor and you will begin to understand more about them.

Roots Tech 2021 is going to be virtual and free. If you aren’t familiar with RootsTech, it is the largest Genealogy and Technology Conference there is. In past years you had to go to Salt Lake City, pay for the conference and probably a hotel room, and food. BTW it is usually cold in Salt Lake City in February. This year all classes, speakers, and vendors will be free and online from the comfort of your home. Once you register you can view any event or class for up to a year. Also:

  • While RootsTech is live February 25-27, all the content will be on demand for up to a year.
  • This year RootsTech is Global. and will be available in 11 languages, with translation tools if you happen to need a class from a teacher who doesn’t normally speak English. Classes will cover family history research in many countries.
  • The classes will only be about 20 minutes long, and you can return and view them again if you need to. This gives you time to take notes and to implement anything you have learned before learning something new.
  • There will be hundreds classes covering everything from Beginning Family History, to adding Memories on FamilySearch, to understand DNA.
  • There will be classes for youth and teens.
  • There will be chat/video sessions available.
  • Vendors you can access include, Ancestry, FindMyPast, MyHeritage, DNA, and more
  • Once registered you will be able to view [on your familytree mobile app] a tool similar to Relatives Around me called “Find Relatives at RootsTech” that will let you connect with family members that you may or may not know. You will need a FamilySearch account for this feature.

To sign up go to RootsTech.org [use the link or Google Roots Tech 2021]

You should sign up even if you aren’t available during the February dates, and your registration gives you access for a year. Once registered you will be given more information and updates as they become available.

Are you one of the 10 million Americans, or the 35 million people worldwide who descend from Mayflower Passengers? This year, 2020 is the 400th Anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower so it is a good year to find out.

The Pilgrims sailed to America under a Charter from King James, and under that Charter they were to join the people who had already settled in Jamestown. However, they were blown off course and landed of the coast of what is now Massachusetts. They decided that since they didn’t have a Charter to settle where they landed, they would write their own rules for how they would govern their colony

The Mayflower Compact was important because it was the first document to establish self-government in the New World. It remained active until 1691 when Plymouth Colony became part of Massachusetts Bay Colony.

That said, these Pilgrims were important to the ultimate founding of America. There are a couple of ways you can find out if you have an ancestor that came on the Mayflower.

  1. If you have a free FamilySearch account and you have a tree in FamilySearch, you can go to a site called relativefinder.org. Sign in with your family search user name and password. On the left side of the screen you will see a number of special groups that you can check out. Click on the one that says Mayflower and it will pull up any Mayflower Passengers to whom you are related. If you click on one of the passenger’s names, you will be able to pull up a chart that gives your lineage back to that person.
  2. Again from FamilySearch, you can sign in an go to Search>Research Wiki> and search for Mayflower Passenger List. The list of passengers will come up and you can click on any person that you know, or suspect may be related to you. This will bring up that person’s profile page, and if you click on the ‘view relationship’ tab on the top right of the screen, you will be given your relationship to that person – if there is a relationship.
  3. Also free is mayflower.americanancestors.org. This site will help you find a relationship to a Mayflower Passenger. If you are not related to someone who sailed with them, you can still click on any name of a passenger to pull up information about that person, and lots of fun facts to share, [virtually of course] with your family during this Thanksgiving Season. 

There are lots of great US Census Records. Starting in 1850, and for every 10 years thereafter a census, or population
record was taken for, hopefully, every household in the United States. The census listed household members, their sex, their ages, their places of birth and other information that the Federal and State Governments needed to plan for future needs.

One of my favorite censuses is the one taken in 1900. In addition to the usual questions that the census taker would ask, such as each person’s sex, color or race, and if each person in the household is single, married, widowed, or divorced or where their parents were born, they added some additional questions

These additional questions can be very helpful. One question was ‘how many years have you been married.” This question allows you to go back in time and look for a marriage record.

Two other questions were asked of the mother which were “how may children have you had” and “how many are still living?” Last week I was researching a family that I knew had 2 children. One died as an infant and one as a young adult. Looking at the 1900 census for the parents the mother reported that she had given birth to 7 children and 0 were living. Suddenly I knew that I had 5 missing children. This is not the first time I have found evidence of missing children by looking at the 1900 census.

Because that census also told me how long the parents had been married, and where each of them had been born, I knew where to look and the time period in which to look for the missing children.

To get the most out of the census, you will want to look at the image – don’t rely on the indexes.  Always, always look at the image, and read every line. You will also find out where the parents of your ancestors were born, and if your ancestor immigrated the year that happened because it is included on that census.

You can find the 1900 census free on familysearch.org, or archive.org, or you can use your library card to access Heritage Quest. Go to your public library site and search their databases. Also if you have a subscription, you can also find the 1900 census on ancestry.com  

Even if you think you know all about your family, you may find some surprises If you can find them in 1900 census

I love “Find a Grave.” If you are not familiar with it,Love_Mildred L Hammons
it is a free website where cemetery headstones, organized
by cemeteries are posted. Often family members will add
newspaper clippings, obituaries and photos.

It can be a wonderful place to connect with family members. In days of old, people would put a note in a bottle and leave it on a headstone, hoping that a family member would find it and connect with them. Today we can do that digitally through “Find A Grave.”

The problem comes when someone adds information that is incorrect. Last week I was researching a family, and discovered that their youngest daughter didn’t have a death date. She was born in 1924 so she may still have been living, but I thought I could at least find a marriage for her, since she was born and lived in Missouri.

I had her birthdate, so I started looking for a marriage record. Of course there were two women with almost the same name, in the same town getting married near the same time. So started looking at the spouses. The first man I looked at was Andrew A. Love who married Mildred Louise Hammons on Christmas Eve in 1849. I chased him over several states and found his burial back in Missouri. It identified his wife as Mildred Louise Shelton, but looking at her information it showed that she had the same exact birthdate as Mildred Louise Hammons. A super closeup look at the headstone allows you to read that her name was Mildred L. (Hammons) Love. Mystery solved. She was mis-identified by the person who added her to “Find A Grave.” Because she was mis-identified, she was also mis-indexed, and would have been impossible to locate in an index. I contacted the contributor, and it has now been corrected.

It is easier to verify the burial information if you can view the headstone, but what can you do if there is not a picture of the headstone? If you have a free sign in to “Find a Grave,” you can contact the contributor for more information, or you can take a look a “Billion Graves.” “Billion Graves” has a free section where you can view the headstones. Graves are put into “Billion Graves” through photos being added, and then the names on the headstones are indexed.

While these are great resources for tracing and connecting families, always remember that they are not primary resources.

I first wrote an article similar to this in 2004 Damage Congtrol
when I was writing a genealogy newspaper column, and the area in Arizona where we lived was threatened by flooding. Yes, there can be flooding in Arizona. I also wrote a blog again a couple of years ago talking about it – but today, with fires burning all around the area we live in, it seems it might be a good time to re-evaluate how to store and save your family history.

The best and most certain way to make sure your family history survives is to share it. Once upon a time, I got a new computer. This was the first time I had changed computers. I made a back up of every file on my computer. When I restored my files to my new computer I found that one was missing. The file I was looking for was a 64 page transcribed journal of one of my great-great-grandfather. Remember, this was the old days. Today I would have scanned the journal, but in that period of time I went through the entire journal and typed every word, and now it was gone. Lucky for me I had shared the file with my brother, and he sent me a copy of the file.

Today I would still share it with my brother, but I would also share it on familysearch.org and ancestry.com, where I have my family tree posted. FamilySearch has a long history of filming [now digitizing] and preserving records, complements of their Granite Mountian Vault. They also share their collection free of charge. I’m referring you to my previous blog, Saving Your Family History, for other ideas to keep your records safe.

Since many are grounded at home, now might be a good time to evaluate how you are protecting the collection of family records you have. While you cannot prevent bad things from happening to your precious family history you can share what you have so that these records can be viewed by generations to come, and possibly even by you.

   best maskThese were things I already knew, but had not focused on, as there was so much else going on. But I have had some fun things happen, genealogically speaking, during the Shutdown.

  • I found a new cousin on the Isle of Wight. As I more closely focused on my social network, I went to the Isle of Wight Facebook Group that I had joined, and I made a comment; my soon to be new-found cousin made a comment on my comment, and we are now working together on our family tree. Social Networking can be amazing.
  • I have found children that were previously not added to my family on familysearch.org, and they were fun to find.  I took some time to organize and make sense of sources that were already added to family members in my tree, and found some children that had not been added. I ordered a number of birth certificates from England, and now there are some new additions to our family.
  • Consultant Planner: I have known about the Consultant Planner on FamilySearch, but with the need to work in relative isolation, I have needed to use it and been able to help people with their family history roadblocks totally from my home.
  • Teaching Classes: I have been able to both teach and take classes without driving to the FamilySearch Center, through a  zoom link that our FS Center obtained.
  • New Free Record Sites: By checking out some of the overseas archives that I have used in the past, I discovered that a number of them are currently offering free content because of the pandemic.
  • Newly Indexed Records: I discovered that a collection of records that I wanted had been added to FamilySearch because of the Indexing program. This was a wonderful find for me. So, in searching the current records waiting for indexing, I found 3 collections that I really need to have finished—so I’m taking some time each day to work on them. When you give back, you also receive

Lots of positive things have come out of this shutdown and I’m sure we will come out at the other end of this much wiser, and probably more rested.

My father never wrote anything, except numbers when Bliss_Ferron Lane 1935he was helping me as a child with my math. He didn’t even sign checks, so when I found his signature, first on his draft registration and a couple of days ago on his Hinckley High School Student Body card I was so happy. For some time I have collected signatures. Someday they will hopefully be part of a quilt or a giant wall hanging I have been planning.

This unusual hobby started accidentally while I was researching for a client and I came across the signature of my 4 gg father Asael Smith. Asael was the town clerk and had added his own family history to the town record, and signed his name. I was thrilled, and also hooked

While mostly I find signatures of males, I do have my mother’s beautiful signature, and my grandmother Lydia’s. My earliest female signature so far is in the early 1600s. It belongs to my 9gg mother, Anne Dudley Bradstreet. My earliest male signature is also in the 1600s.

Just in case you are interested – here are some records where you can find how your ancestor signed their name.

  • Letter’s [obviously]
  • Marriage licenses
  • Draft or Military Registrations
  • Land sales
  • Wills

A number of my early ancestors were ministers, so they signed papers for others as they were involved in christenings, marriages, and burials. If your ancestor owned a business, you might find their handwriting on ledgers, licenses, account books, or guild/trade records.

I love to find the handwriting of my ancestors. Each signature is unique, and a part of the person who penned it. When I find them, I know that they could write, I know how they wrote, and that the document I’m looking at once was a part of their life. What can I say, I’m a Genealogist and I get excited about weird things.