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

February 20, 2003
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Orphan Trains

Q: I am looking for information on a great-great-grandfather of mine named Robert Harley Cox. I have no dates or locations of birth or death (death was possibly in Iowa or Kentucky). What I do know is that when he was a child (unknown age), he came to Iowa on an orphan train from the east coast. He came with three brothers, one named Charlie, and the others unknown. Robert was the oldest and Charlie was the youngest. They were adopted by a priest and his wife. What I need to find out is if Cox was their adopted name or their natural name, and if it is their natural name, what the name of their adoptive parents would be. I would also like to know where these boys originally came from and if I can find birth certificates, or at least records of birth. Do you have any idea how to find this information? -- Sarah

A: I think you will find that you have better luck in your research if you can better identify Robert Harley Cox. You know that he is your great-great-grandfather. By locating records on your great-grandfather, you should be able to come up with approximate ages for Robert in the records in which both appear, such as a birth certificate for your great-grandfather (or mother as the case may be). You know there were four brothers and you know that Robert was oldest and Charlie youngest, but beyond that it appears to me that you do not have enough identifying information on Robert to be able to effectively search for him at this point.

Once you have some idea of how old Robert may have been, say, at the time of birth of your great-grandfather, then you may be able to find Robert in the Kentucky Death Index or rule out that as a possible place of death for him. If you haven't done so yet, you will want to search all of the census years available for Robert to see if his age changes dramatically over the years or stays pretty constant (this would be another factor in better identifying your ancestor).

The good news is that the orphan trains are not something that are hidden away any more. There are articles and books and now Web sites devoted to the search and identifying of those who rode the orphan trains from the east and were placed out in the west. I found the following sites that I think you will find useful, as they deal specifically with those orphans who were placed out in Iowa.

  • Iowa Orphan Train Project - this Web site compiled by a local elementary school includes quite a bit of information along with a list of the stops made by the trains in Iowa and the dates in which they made those stops.
  • Orphan Train Resources - this list deals with those published resources primarily, including books and magazines giving you more history on the orphan trains.
  • Placed Out: Orphan Train Riders to Iowa - this site should be one that you spend a lot of time at as it's focus is to aid those searching for their orphan train riders and has queries and more.

You may also find that you will need to contact one of the following for more information. The first is the national orphan train association, which has published some books on the subject, including remembrances of those who rode the trains. The others are those groups who had the orphan children originally in the east.

Dates in Genealogy Software

Q: Why does Family Tree Maker use a comma after the month when using the date-month-year format? I don't feel like you need a comma at that point. Also, why does Family Tree Maker always print the whole month out? Using just three (3) first letters of every month (i.e., 2 Feb 2003) is a much more effective and saves space. Every time I type in a date like this, it appears: 02 February, 2003. Is there a way for me to let me put my data in the way I want to? -- LoyceC

A: Genealogy software has in many instances caused us to rethink how we enter information, including dates. However, good genealogy programs, and I put Family Tree Maker in that list, offer options for many of the things that genealogists do the most often, from way information is recorded to the way in which it is presented to others.

I am not sure which version of Family Tree Maker you are using, so it is possible that a version before 7 did insert a comma in the day-month-year format. However, the only time I have seen Family Tree Maker put a comma in the date is when the default date of month-day-year has been selected. The default date, using your sample, would then be February 02, 2003. While this is the default, it is not the only date option offered to genealogists.

Family Tree Maker, in fact, can be set to do the more genealogically recognized date of 2 Feb 2003 with a few quick mouse strokes and can be changed back at any time. While most of the genealogical reports that we use do rely on the day-month-year format, if you were to publish in a journal, such as the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, then you would need to change the date back so that it appeared as February 2, 2003, since that is what they consider to be the standard.

Anyway, getting back to where you make this change, I think you will find the following steps will take you to the section of the program where you make the change easy to follow. And, once you make this change, Family Tree Maker will go in and change all of your previously entered dates. Some genealogy programs will only make the change from that point forward.

  1. Click on the File menu. The File menu will appear.
  2. Move your mouse pointer over Preferences. The Preferences sub-menu will appear.
  3. Click on Dates & Measures. The Dates & Measures window will open.
  4. Click on the D-M-Y radio button to select this format.
  5. Use the date and month pull down menus to select the appropriate version of the month and day as you wish to see.
  6. Click on the OK push button. Your changes will take affect.

You may want to take a look at some of the other preferences offered in Family Tree Maker. There may be something else that you wish the program did differently, that in fact it can be set up to do the way you want.

Looking for Information Online

Q: I am a beginner in the genealogy area. I have purchased Family Tree Maker and started entering data. Last summer, at the family reunion, I was able to gather information on most of my living and recently deceased relatives. Everywhere I look for data on the Internet, each area wants me to buy something or pay for information that may or may not help me. What are your suggestions for finding and gathering information. -- Don

A: While we would love for everything to be free, the reality is that much of the reliable information that is being made available online these days is the result of major digitization projects. For instance, the digitizing of the census records involved technology in the way of special microfilm readers, software, computers, not to mention the thousands of man hours. It is fool hardy of us to assume that this should be made available for free.

In addition to my subscriptions, I have subscriptions to a number of specialized databases including some devoted to my research in the United States as well as abroad. In each case when I sign up, I give the subscription a year to prove to me that it is worth the price I paid. If I have made genealogical progress then I renew the subscription when it is time to renew. If it didn't make progress, then I don't renew.

Sometimes I am paying for the convenience of being able to access the records from my home, rather than having to drive long distances or pay tolls and parking to access the same records at a library. I am paying for the ability to view those documents or records at a time that is convenient for me. Few libraries afford that opportunity to research at 2 a.m. if that is when I choose to do the research. Even the Family History Library in Salt Lake City has its limits, closing at 10 p.m.

It could be that your frustration in not finding information stems from your being relatively new to the field. In addition to learning about genealogy you may also be learning about the Internet. You may be relying on places that others have told you about, only to find that many of them make their data available only to members. Usually membership brings with it some perks. For instance, the census subscription brings with it an index to the head of household for the 1910 census. This census was only partially indexed via Soundex (an index arranged more by phonics than by actual alphabetical spelling) so the index of all heads of household for every state is a big bonus, and one that I would not have at the library.

You might want to check out your public library and see if they have subscriptions to some of the Web sites you are interested in. This might help you determine if you would like to join yourself. While there, you may want to see what books they have on how to do genealogy, especially online. Such a book geared toward a beginning genealogist will introduce you not only to how to research your family tree, but also how to use things like general search engines to do genealogical searches of free Web sites. You might find the book I wrote The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy to be of use as well.

It may also be possible that where you are in your research right now is what is preventing you from finding much on the Internet. There are certainly some localities and time periods that are better represented than others both in subscription sites and online genealogical Web sites. And there are times when a search one month reveals nothing but the same search done two months later reveals new and useful information.

Headings of the 1910 Census

Q: I have printed a page from the 1910 census but I cannot read the column titles. Where can I find out what the column titles were for the 1910 census, particularly Oklahoma, Cimarron, Roll 1247 Book 1, Page 277? Any help you can provide will be greatly appreciated. -- Susan

A: The 1910 Census was the thirteenth federal census of the United States. It is also the only one to have enumerated people as of the 15th of April (that was the date on which the enumerators were supposed to base their questions). So if they asked for the names of those living in the household, it was supposed to be as of the 15th of April, 1910. The censuses up to this point had all been done as of the first of the month, most in June.

The 1910 census has a total of 32 questions broken down into about 11 categories. I have included them below. You may want to look into seeing if you can get a copy of 200 Years of U.S. Census Taking: Population and Housing Questions, 1790-1990. This publication by the federal government, shows close up views of the population schedules so that you can easily read the column headings for each census year. Along with this you will find some information and background as to the rules of the enumerator and why and how certain questions were asked. Another good source are Census Abstract PDFs available in the Learning Center. Finally, you may want to check out Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses from 1790 to 2000. This 149 page document was published in April, 2002 and is full of a lot of useful information about the various census acts and how they affected when and how the census was taken.

However, back to the 1910 census. Here are the columns of that census broken up by category. There were two additional columns at the very left of the page that were not numbered, so you will see that there are 32 numbered columns, but there are actually 34 columns.

  • Location
    • Street Name
    • House Number
    • 1. Number of dwelling house in order of visitation
    • 2. Number of family in order of visitation
  • Name
    • 3. Name of each person whose place of abode on April 15, 1910 was in this family
  • Relation
    • 4. Relationship of this person to the head of the household
  • Personal Description
    • 5. Sex
    • 6. Color or race
    • 7. Age at last birthday
    • 8. Whether single, married, widowed, or divorced
    • 9. Number of years of present marriage
    • 10. Number of how many children born (asked only of adult females)
    • 11. Number of children now living (asked only of adult females)
  • Nativity
    • 12. Place of birth of this person
    • 13. Place of birth of Father of this person
    • 14. Place of birth of Mother of this person
  • Citizenship
    • 15. Year of immigration to the United States
    • 16. Whether naturalized or alien
  • 17. Whether able to speak English; or, if not, give language spoken
  • Occupation
    • 18. Trade or profession of, or particular kind of work done by this person
    • 19. General nature of industry, business, or establishment in which this person works
    • 20. Whether an employer, employee, or working on own account
    • 21. If an employee - Whether out of work on April 15, 1910
    • 22. If an employee - Number of weeks out of work during year 1909
  • Education
    • 23. Whether able to read
    • 24. Whether able to write
    • 25. Attended school any time since September 1, 1909
  • Ownership of Home
    • 26. Owned or rented
    • 27. Owned free or mortgaged
    • 28. Farm or house
    • 29. Number of farm schedule
  • 30. Whether a survivor of the Union or Confederate Army or Navy
  • 31. Whether blind (both eyes)
  • 32. Whether deaf and dumb

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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