Traditional Genealogy Records

Traditional Genealogy Records

Death records are important in adding information to our Individual Profile (IP). Today more and more of these can be found online. Our main goal here is to find an obituary or death notice, which contains valuable information about someone in the family circle. These notices generally include names of all immediate family members—including married names of daughters, name of funeral home, and possibly the name of cemetery. The following are useful in searching for death information. Death certificates have been required in most locales since early in the 20th century. The key information shown often includes parents’ names, name of cemetery and funeral home, as well as date of death. VitalChek lists where to send for vital records including (birth, marriage, and death) in the USA.

Social Security Death Index (SSDI) lists over 70M individuals whose deaths have been reported to the Social Security Administration (SSA) in the United States. It mostly lists individuals who died after 1962 and who had a social security number (i.e. who were in the work force) and allows searches by name or another field. The database gives the individual’s Social Security Number, birth date (as reported to the SSA by the applicant), the date of death (usually just the month and year), where his or her last benefit was sent (not the place where the death occurred), and the state where the original application to the SSA was made (not where the person was born). Once you know the month of death you can search elsewhere for the death notice or obituary. You can search the SSDI at FamilySearch™.

Obits and death notices can be found in the local newspaper where the death occurred or where the person lived. These newspapers are usually found on microfilm in your local library. You can call the library directly and ask the reference librarian for help in finding what you need. Alternatively, you can ask your own local library to see if they can obtain the specific microfilm via inter-library loan. There are many newspapers that now have online indices, which also can be searched. You can either talk to the local librarian or search Cyndi’s List for a current list.

Another option is a group of volunteers who do obituary lookups. Check the Obituary Lookup Volunteers website. Once you know the name of the cemetery, you can contact it and ask for any records on file on the deceased and for the name of next of kin. Generally, in an effort to protect the family, they will not provide this information. They will, however, often be willing to forward a letter from you to that individual. Similarly, funeral homes maintain records that have information about the next of kin, sometimes even with addresses and phone numbers.

While we have focused only on a narrow set of records here, many additional ‘traditional’ genealogical records can add clues to our search. These records include marriage, birth, census, city directories, property, and many others. Again, as you do more of your family research and discover more of these documents, you will be able to go back to your search for more living relatives.

1790 Census Index

1790 Census

The 1790 census was begun on 2 August 1790. The marshals were expected to finish the census within nine months of the Census Day—by 1 May 1791. Although most of the returns were in long before the deadline, Congress had to extend the count until 1 March 1792. By that time some people probably were counted who had not been born or present in 1790.

Questions Asked in the 1790 Census
Name of family head; number of free white males of sixteen years and older; number of free white males under sixteen; number of free white females; number of slaves; number of other persons; and sometimes town or district of residence.

The 1790 census instructed the marshals to identify, by age brackets, free white males sixteen years of age or older and those under sixteen. It was designed to determine the country’s industrial and military capabilities. Additionally, the first census was to count the number of free white females; all other free persons regardless of race or gender; and slaves. A twenty-dollar fine, to be split between the marshals’ assistants and the government, would be levied against anyone who refused to answer the enumerator’s questions.

Other Significant Facts about the 1790 Census
The Constitution called for a census of all “Persons . . . excluding Indians not taxed” for the purpose of apportioning seats in the House of Representatives and assessing direct federal taxes. The “Indians not taxed” were those not living in the settled areas. In later years, Native Americans everywhere were considered part of the total population, but not all were included in the apportionment figures until 1940.

The government did not provide printed forms or even paper until 1830. It was up to each assistant to copy his census return on whatever paper he could find and post it in two public places in his assigned area. Those who saw and could read them were supposed to check for discrepancies or omissions. The highest pay rate, two cents per person, barely covered expenses, especially where settlers were scattered and living in places that were difficult to find or access.

The jurisdictions of the thirteen original states stretched over an area of seventeen present-day states. Census schedules survive for only two-thirds of those states. The surviving schedules were indexed by state and published by the Bureau of the Census in the early 1900s. Bureau of the Census, Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790, 12 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1908), can be found in most research libraries; it has been reprinted by various publishers over the years.

Both the original and printed 1790 census schedules are available on microfilm for Connecticut, Maine (then part of Massachusetts), Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Vermont. The schedules for Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Virginia were burned during the War of 1812 (there are substitutes for most of these). Published and microfilmed 1790 schedules for Virginia were reconstructed from state enumerations and tax lists.

Research Tips for the 1790 Census
Because of the availability of the printed 1790 census schedules, researchers tend to overlook the importance of consulting the original schedules, which are readily available on microfilm. As in most cases, the researcher who relies on printed transcripts may miss important information and clues found only in the original version.

The 1790 census records are useful for identifying the locality to be searched for other types of records for a named individual. The 1790 census will, in most cases, help distinguish the target family from others of the same name; identify immediate neighbors who may be related; identify slaveholders; and spot spelling variations of surnames. Free men “of color” are listed as heads of household by name. Slaves appear in age groupings by name of owner. By combining those age groupings with probate inventories and tax list data, it is sometimes possible to determine names of other family members and the birth order of those individuals.


Obituaries for African Americans

Obituaries for African Americans

Five Places to Find Obituaries

by Tony Burroughs

Free African Americans of North Carolina and Virginia

Free African Americans of North Carolina and Virginia

by Paul Heinegg



Just who is your third cousin once removed? your great-grandaunt? your sibling? your cousin-german? What exactly is a half-sister, a step-brother? If a child has the same name as his father, can you correctly call him “the second” if you don’t like “junior“? Is there a difference between a genealogy and a family history? Now that the search for “roots” is a national pastime, these questions are plaguing more and more people. Of course, many of the terms used to express family relationships are well-known and used dully: father, grandmother, uncle, sister and so on. But let us take a look at some of the lesser used terms.

SIBLINGS: Siblings are the children of the same parents. It is a convenient term meaning “brothers and sisters”. If you have two brothers and one sister, you have three siblings.

SPOUSE: Another convenient term meaning “husband or wife”.

STEP-: If your parents are parted (death, divorce, annulment) and one of your parents renames, his/her new spouse then becomes your stepmother/father. If your stepparent had also been previously married and had had children by that first marriage, those children now become your stepbrothers/ sisters. Because they have completely different parents than you, your stepbrothers/sisters are not related to you “‘by blood”’ but are related by “extended family ties”.

HALF-: If your remarried parent and your stepparent have children, those children are your half brothers/sisters. Because you have one parent in common, you are partly (half) related “by blood”.

IN-LAWS: If your brother or sister gets married, his/her new spouse becomes your sister-in-law or brother-in-law, but the family of your new sister(brother)-in-law does not become related to you, only in-laws to your newly married sibling. When you marry, however, you do acquire a whole family of in-laws of your own. Your new mate’s family now become your father-in-law, mother-in-law, sister- or brother-in-law. In-laws, like step-relatives, are not related “by blood” but by “extended family ties”. Note that the term sister- or brother-in-law is used both for your spouse’s sibling and for your sibling’s spouse.

GRANDNIECE/NEPHEW: The children of your siblings are your nieces and nephews. The children of your nieces/nephews (your siblings’ grandchildren) are your grandnieces/nephews, and their children are your great-grandnieces/nephews. Grand-nieces/nephews are also sometimes called great-nieces/nephews, and great-grandnieces/nephews are also called great-great-nieces/nephews.

GRANDAUNT/UNCLE: The siblings of your parents are your aunts/uncles. The siblings of your grandparents were originally termed grandaunts/uncles and the siblings of your great-grand parents were great-grandaunts/uncles. But over the years those terms have gradually been replaced by the less descriptive great-aunt/uncle for grandaunt/uncle and great-great-aunt/uncle for great-grandaunt/uncle. Because it is more logical, many modern genealogists still prefer to use the older terms. Either is correct.

COUSINS: The children of siblings are first cousins. Thus your children are first cousins to both your nieces nephews and your spouse’s nieces/nephews. But your nieces nephews and those of your spouse are not related to each other because their parents are not related. First cousins are also called full cousins or cousins-german. Children of first cousins are second cousins, and their children are third cousins and so on down through the generations. But what is the relationship of your child to your great-grandniece? Or of your great-grandchild to your grandnephew? Here is where we use the “removes”. To understand “removed”, it is important to keep the generations in order.

A simple diagram is an excellent method of doing this.

Let us imagine that TELLY has a son TELLY JR., a grand-daughter TEYANNA, a great-granddaughter LATRESSA and a sister TOMIRIKA.

TOMIRIKA has a child DEBORAH, a grandchild Robert and a great-grand-daughter JOYCE.



TELLY — siblings — TOMIRIKA


TELLY JR. — 1st Cousins — DEBORAH


TEYANNA — 2nd Cousins – ROBERT


LATRESSA — 3rd Cousins – JOYCE

We can now sketch a diagram to show that relationship. To determine TELLY JR.’s relationship to JOYCE, look at the diagram. TELLY JR. and DEBORAH are first cousins. Any descendant of DEBORAH is still a first cousin to TELLY JR. but each generation is one “remove”. Thus for TELLY JR., Robert is a first cousin one generation removed, a term usually shortened to “once removed”, and JOYCE is then TELLY JR.’s first cousin twice removed. The same holds for second, third, etc. cousins.

Robert is a second cousin to TEYANNA so he is a second cousin once removed to LATRESSA. Once while working on our family genealogy, I visited an eighth cousin once removed! Now that is a distant cousin (her great-grandfather and my great grandfather were brothers in the 17th century!). Strangely enough, although our relationship was so very distant, we found we were kindred spirits sharing many hobbies and pleasures. Our similar interests even extended to our enjoyment of jigsaw puzzles. When I mentioned I was a “real puzzle nut”, her husband laughed and led me to a closet filled floor to ceiling with puzzles just like my closet at home 3000 miles away We even had many of the same puzzles.

NAMESAKES: If your name is TELLY Henry Doe and you name your son TELLY Henry Doe, you then become Senior (Sr.) and your son Junior (Jr.), not the second (II). If your son TELLY Henry Doe, Jr. names his son (your grandson) the same, his son then becomes ‘the third”’, i.e. TELLY Henry Doe III.

However, if you name your son Richard Henry or TELLY Harold, anything but TELLY Henry Doe, but he still names his son (your grandson) after you, your grandson then becomes TELLY Henry Doe II. Likewise if your brother Edward Charles Doe names his son after you, that child (your nephew) would also be TELLY Henry Doe II. A ‘junior” always has the same name as his father whereas “the second” is not named for his father but does have the same name as an older relative (grandfather, uncle, cousin, etc.). The ‘third” is the third descendant in a family with the same name in either direct or indirect line. In everyday practice, the Sr., Jr., III are often only used when all parties are living but genealogically it is important to maintain the correct title to prevent confusion. One of the most peculiar cases I ever came across was in my own family genealogy. A fore-bearer named Kenny had several children including a son named Kenny. When his first wife died, he remarried and had another son. His second wife also insisted on naming her son Kenny after his father. The boys were only about seven years apart in age. It must have been most confusing —a father with two sons, Kenny #1 and Kenny #2

GENEALOGY versus FAMILY HISTORY: Although currently the two terms are frequently used interchangeably, there is a difference between a genealogy and a family history. A genealogy starts with one ancestor, most often the original immigrant to the United States, and traces all his descendants to the present time. If that ancestor arrived on these shores in colonial times, you can imagine the hundreds and hundreds of descendants he now probably has and what a mammoth task it must be to find even half of them! A family history starts with yourself (or your children) and moves back through your two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grandparents, thirty-two great-grandparents, etc. spreading out fanlike to discover all the people from whom you are descended, not just names and dates but preferably information about their lives and backgrounds. Most genealogy courses offered today concentrate mostly on techniques for a family history rather than a genealogy. However, many of the methods can be used for both.

In our English language, we do not differentiate between the maternal (mother’s) and paternal (father’s) sides of the family as is done in some languages. While this is handy for common speech, it can be frustrating to genealogist or family history researcher. For example, if you found an old family letter which wrote of “my grandmother returning to her home in Smithtown”, you could not be sure whether it referred to the writer’s maternal or paternal grandmother. If the letter had been written in–say Swedish– the word for “grandmother” would have been either “mormor” (mother’s mother) or “farmor” (father’s mother) and it would have been clear.

Who the dickens is your third cousin once removed?
Now you know that he/she is your mother’s third cousin, that their great-grandparents were siblings. (To check that answer, look back at the cousin diagram and imagine yourself as LATRESSA’s daughter. JOYCE, your mother’s third cousin, is your third cousin once removed.) Who is your cousin-german, your sibling, your great-grandaunt? Now you can answer all those questions presented in the opening paragraph. Hopefully the intricate nomenclature for the many and varied family relationships within a family is now more comprehendible and will aid you if you are one of the thousands of Americans personalizing history by searching out their ancestors.

Standardizing Place Names in my Genealogy Database

Standardizing Place Names in my Genealogy Database

I’m almost to the point of trying to standardize all of the place names in my genealogy database.

Researchers are advised by the experts to keep historical place names and jurisdictions in our database so that the place identifications at the time of the records are maintained.  Some software programs deal with this by providing a “Description” box wherein a historical name, an address, a hospital name, a cemetery name, or a note about record jurisdiction, could be placed.  An alternative is to put the historical location in a person’s note or in a place note, record, or to put the historical location in the source citation detail or note.


Amman, Jordan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Apple Valley, California
Augusta, Georgia
Austin, Texas
Baldwin, Mississippi
Battle Creek, Michigan
Beat 1, Harrison Town, Tallahatchie, Mississippi
Birmingham, AL
Birmingham, Alabama
Black Oak Township, Crittenden, Arkansas
Blytheville, Arkansas
Boston, MA
Bridgeport, Connecticut
Browning, Mississippi
Camp Pendleton, California
Carlisle, Ky
Carmichael, California
Carroll County, Mississippi
Carroll Cty, Mississippi
Carroll, Mississippi
Cheyenne, Wyoming
Chicago, Cook Cty., Illinois
Chicago, Cook, Illinois
Chicago, Illinois
Chula Vista, California
Clear Lake, Arkansas
Cleveland, Ohio
Columbus, GA
Columbus, Ohio
Coppell, Texas
Corey, Mississippi
Crystal Springs, Mississippi
Dale City, Virginia
Dallas, Texas
Dix Hills, New York
Dixmoor, Illinois
Dyersburg, Dyer, Tennessee
East St Louis, illinois
Eastover, South Carolina
Flowood, Mississippi
Flowood, MS
Flushing, Michigan
Ford Heights, Illinois
Fort Gison, Muskogee, Oklahoma
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Gary, Indiana
Gary, Lake, Indiana
Glen Allen, Mississippi
Greensboro, North Carolina
Greenville, Mississippi
Greenville, MS
Greenville, Washington, Mississippi
Greenwood, Leflore, Mississippi
Harvey, Illinois
Haywood County, Tennessee
Haywood, Tennessee
Hernando, Mississippi
Highland, California
Hoffman Estates, Illinois
Hollandale, Mississippi
Houston, Texas
Jackson, Mississippi
Jackson, MS
Joliet, Will County, Illinois
Kalamazoo, Michigan
Kansas City, Kansas
Las Vegas, Nevada
Leflore, Mississippi
Lewisville, Texas
Luxora, Arkansas
Lynwood, Illinois
Macon, Noxubee, Mississippi
Marion County, Kentucky
Marion, Arkansas
Marion, Indiana
McGehee, Arkansas
Melrose, Massachusetts
Memphis, TN
Minter City, Mississippi
New Bern, Craven, North Carolina
New Rochelle, New York
New York
Norfolk, Virginia
North Carolina
Norwalk, California
Oak Forest, Cook, Illinois
Otto Mall, Illinois
Paw Paw, Michigan
Phoenix, Arizona
Portsmouth, Virginia
Red Oaks, Texas
Redbird, Wagoner, Oklahoma
Riverside Cemetary
Sacramento, California
Sauk Village, Illinois
Scotts, Mississippi
Scottsdale, AZ
Seattle, King, Washington
South Bend, Indiana
South Chicago Heights, Illinois
South Haven, Michigan
Suffolk, Virginia
Tallahatchie, Mississippi
Tallahtchie County, Mississippi
Toledo, Ohio
Tulsa, OK
Tunica, Mississippi
Tustin, California
Vicksburg, Mississippi
Vicksburg, MS
Vicksburg, Warren, Mississippi
Vista, California
Ward 2, Greenville, Beat 3, Washington, Mississippi, United States
West Memphis, Arkansas
Wheatley Heights, New York