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Rhonda's Tips: Genealogy Questions Answered
by Rhonda R. McClure

January 03, 2002
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Ohio Deaths

Q: I'm searching for my grandmother, who I've learned lived and died in Ohio. Now my question is, where would I look to find the death records for her and her late husband? They were from Greenville, Ohio. The Social Security Master Death File states that her last known address was Dayton, Ohio. She died in 1984. Her husband died in 1967 in Greenville, Ohio. -- Tracy

A: Ohio vital records are open and available to anyone. You are fortunate in this respect, as it will make it easier in writing for the death certificates for your grandmother and her husband.

Usually when I find someone is relying on the Social Security Master Death File, also known to most as the Social Security Death Index, for place of death, I like to stress that this is just a possibility. When we find an individual in the SSDI, the information given includes the last residence and the place where the death benefit check was mailed. It is the last residence that can sometimes be misleading.

The last residence is the legal residence known to the Social Security Administration. There are times when the death occurs when the individual is traveling or visiting family in another county or state. So, while in many instances the last residence is also the place of death, it is important to remember that this isn't always the case.

With that said, when it comes to death certificates in the state of Ohio, they are found in one of two places. The difference is based on the date when the death took place.

For deaths prior to 1945, it would be necessary to contact:
Ohio Historical Society
1982 Velma Avenue
Columbus, Ohio 43211
phone: 614-297-2300

For those deaths that took place from 1945 to the present, you will need to address your request to:
Ohio Department of Health
Division of Vital Statistics
P.O. Box 15098
Columbus, Ohio 43215-0098
phone: 614-466-2531

You will find that the Ohio Department of Health has created digitized forms that you can view online and print out for requesting vital records, including death records. The files are created using the Adobe Acrobat software and require that you have the FREE Adobe Acrobat Reader software installed on your system.

The Name's the Same

Q: My grandfather, Joseph Calvin Russell, had a brother John Walter Russell. John Walter Russell of generation 2 named his son John Walter Russell. My grandfather (Joseph Calvin Russell) named one of his sons John Walter [Russell]. In turn John Walter Russell the son of Joseph Calvin named one of his sons John Walter Russell. Consequently, there are John Walter Russell's in each of the first three generations. I am not sure if John Walter Russell's will show up in later generations. How do I distinguish between them. Is it appropriate to assign 1st, 2nd and 3rd identities? -- Joseph

A: Goodness, it took a couple of reads of your message to get a good understanding of the individuals with the same name and how they were likely to be related and appear in the family tree. I can see how you might be afraid that you would mix them up in your database.

Conventional naming would have John Walter Russell of generation two becoming John Walter Russell, Sr. when his son was born. The son would of course be John Walter Russell, Jr.

Your grandfather's son with the same name, would likewise become John Walter Russell, Sr. when his son with the same name was born. So you would find that you have in your database two men named John Walter Russell, Sr. and two men named John Walter Russell, Jr.

The use of 1st, 2nd, 3rd or more traditionally I, II, and III are used when those men named John Walter Russell, Jr. have sons who carry their name. The sons would be named John Walter Russell, III.

When working in your database you should have a way of identifying these individuals with the dates of birth and death. Most indexes to the individuals in a personal family database will either give you both birth and death dates or perhaps the birth date and place or mention the spouse of the individual in conjunction with the dates of birth and/or death.

Kissing Cousins

Q: I am tracking my Flory-Stancliff-Strader ancestry but how do I really track on a tree so that when it shows the roots it shows that husband and wife were cousins. My mother's side of the family had a long history of marrying cousins. Wonder if you have any resources for tracking this type. Seems it would be simple but I am finding it more difficult than tracing my Dad's family which avoided marriage to cousins. -- Rhonda

A: Any genealogy program will show what you enter. As you are entering these cousins, and you know how they are related, you will type in the names of the parents, on one, and then use the features in your genealogy program to find those parents again rather than typing them in again for the other person.

Once you have entered all of the individuals, it is possible that your genealogy program offers a relationship chart. This allows you to either show the relationship of everyone to a given individual or more importantly a report showing the relationship through blood of two individuals.

The key to the tracking of these individuals is to truly understand how your genealogy program works. You need to know how to call up a parent or child who was previously entered to use them again, in this case as either the parent of a new individual or in linking this previously entered child into the family with the individual from whom you also descend. If you haven't done this, you may want to read up on it in the online help of your genealogy program.

Fred or John

Q: I have little to go on. My grandpa, Fred J. Mahon married Marie Kietzman in Chicago, Illinois in April 30, 1909. My father, Edward Frederick William Mahon, was born April 1910 in Cook County. The marriage license says Fred J Mahon, but when my father was baptized they use John Fred. I have tried for years and come up with nothing. He deserted my father and his mom when he was about two years old. I sure would like to know more about him or some relation still living. I have tried the 1910 census but come up with nothing because I am not sure what the real name is. I thought one relation said he worked at a railroad in Chicago, but again the name. -- Faith

A: One of the hardest aspects of research is sometimes the fact that we need to be a little more flexible in our research. In a perfect world, the name as it was spelled would always be the same, regardless of the records searched. Of course, we know that isn't the case.

In your research, you will need to keep an eye out for the two variations you found already as well as abbreviated versions of those names as well. For instance, searching for just Fred or just John.

This does make your research more difficult as you will need to look for other identifying information whenever possible. For instance, in the 1910 census, you will need to look for a household with a wife named Marie and perhaps the son Edward. You will want to get a copy of Edward's birth certificate if you don't already have it, so that you have some identifying information about his parents. The birth record should give you the age of each parent and their place of birth. When combined with looking for a family unit that includes Marie, then you will find that as you search the 1910 Soundex that you can eliminate some of the entries you find for the variations of the given name.

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer for your search. As you look in indexes, such as the 1910 Soundex, it will be necessary to keep your eyes peeled for any possible individual. This means you won't be able to zip through those indexes, but if you are slow and methodical, you will find that you can separate those you find in the index and rule them out as possibilities.

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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