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

March 30, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Stock Marks

Q: I found a list on the web that was titled "Stock Marks of Tyrrell County, North Carolina 1763-1819." What are stock marks? -- LaWanna

A: A stock mark is the branding mark found on animals. Just as those stock marks identify ownership of an animal today, it was even more essential in the past. There were times when animals from different owners could be found together. Therefore with the brand mark, the animals could be returned to the rightful owner.

Listings of stock marks are just one more record that can help us to determine where an ancestor was living. These records can sometimes be a substitute when tax lists, census, and some of the other records we rely on so heavily either have not survived or are unavailable.

Brands or stock marks are registered in the town records. When looking for them, you will want to search the county repositories, the historical societies, and the town hall. And as you have discovered, they are now beginning to make an appearance online as well.

Ellis Island Records

Q: My grandfather came to the U.S. from Greece in the early 1900s through Ellis Island. How can I find copies of entry documents for a family reunion we're having this summer? -- Anna

A: Ellis Island was the entry point for many individuals coming to the United States. In fact in 1907, the number of individuals who came through Ellis Island peaked at 1.3 million.

The records that you need are the passenger lists. Fortunately the time period you are interested in is indexed. There is a fifty-year gap in the New York passenger lists, 1846 to 1897 that are not indexed. This can make it particularly difficult to find the specific ship that an ancestor arrived on.

The easiest way to locate the necessary pages you need for the reunion is to visit your local Family History Center. These are branches of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and through them you have access to most of the microfilm holdings of the library. This includes the passenger lists for New York.

You will find the needed records in the Family History Library Catalog under New York, New York, New York - Emigration and Immigration. The specific entry you are looking for is the one for records from 1897 to about 1945. It is an extremely lengthy entry.

Early English Records

Q: Where in London would I find records of 1730-1750? My ancestors came here during this time period, from either Manchester or Birmingham. -- Bill

A: Civil registration for England and Wales was begun in 1837. Prior to this, it is necessary turn your attention to church records. The church records for some churches can go back to the 1500s and before.

However, in many instances, especially the large cities, it was possible to have more than one parish church. This means that when using the church records, it isn't just a matter of knowing the town where the family lived. Now you need to know the parish.

Some of these parish records are available on microfilm through the Family History Library. There is also an excellent book that you may want to look into. Genealogical Resources in English Repositories by Joy Wade Moulton is available from Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc.

Where Are They Buried?

Q: I am looking for the obituary or the place of burial for a person. I have the date of death, last known address, date of birth and social security number, but can't find the obituary or anything that can tell me where she is buried. -- jcc

A: It sounds like you have already searched the Social Security Death Index. If you haven't done so already, you will want to write for a death certificate. The first place to check is the county where the death took place. In most cases the death certificates for the 1900s include the place and date of burial.

You mention that you haven't yet been able to find an obituary. First try to determine what the closest published paper is. Also, depending on when the individual died, it may be that the obituaries have been published by a local genealogical or historical society. While they may not be online or be available on microfilm, it is possible that you can purchase them through the local society.

Again, depending on when the individual died, it may be that the cemetery has been canvassed by the local society and published in a book form. Very often the societies will compile the cemeteries in a given city or county into a single volume or a multi-volumed set that makes it easier to search all the cemeteries in the area.

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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