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

June 17, 1999
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

The Name's the Same

Q: In my search for my great grandmother's family I have found on the 1880 census an older lady living next door to my great grandparents. My great grandmother's maiden name is the same as her surname. One of the great grandparents daughters has the same name, Anna, and another has the same middle initial D. Can't find any more information on this older lady. Can I assume that she would be my great great grandmother or do I have to find positive proof? -- Thelma

A: Assuming is not good in any situation, especially in genealogy. Even with very uncommon surnames it is not always a given that the person is related to a particular person or line.

You say that you cannot find any more information on this older lady. It could be that you are overlooking vital clues in the census you already have. The 1880 census lists where the lady was born. It also lists where her parents were born. Does the older woman's place of birth fit with the place of birth of the mother listed for your great grandmother who is living next door? If so, then you have a piece of supportive evidence. If your great grandmother was born in the state in which they appear in the 1880 census, do you find her and the older lady in the 1870 census? Depending on how old the older lady is in 1880, is it possible that she made it to the 1900 census? If not, are you sure that you have exhausted all possible death, cemetery and probate records? It is important to remember that not everything is available online or on microfilm. There may be records available that you have not yet accessed.

Searching for Slave Records

Q: The 1860 Shelby County slave census shows Richardson BASS owning 4 slaves, from the sex and ages this appears to be a family. Where can I find when and where he acquired the slaves and when they became free? -- Pat

A: The researching of slaves often requires that the researcher concentrate more on the slave owner than on the slaves themselves. If Richardson BASS had only the four slaves you mention, then he would be considered a small-scale owner. The records that you will need to concentrate on will be:

  • Deeds
  • Census records
  • Wills
  • Probate records

By comparing the names and details on slaves in these records, you are likely to determine when the slaves were purchased. It is very likely that the records you will need to research may not be available on microfilm. Especially in regards to small-scale slave owners, as their personal records, if they still exist, are likely to be located in the local historical society.

If you are researching slave ancestry, you will find Finding a Place Called Home, A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity by Dee Parmer Woodtor, Ph.D. to be of great assistance.

Ireland in 1872

Q: How do I go about getting info on my grandfather? Michael CLEARY, born 1872 in County Cork, Ireland, came to New York (don't know when). He married Georgiana FLANEGAN in Brooklyn, New York. They had 8 children (though none are alive now). He died in 1914 in New York. Where can I turn for additional information? -- Pat

A: While you didn't mention whether you were trying to go forward or backwards in your research, there are some records that will be of help to you. It does not sound like you have yet located Michael CLEARY in the census records. I would suggest a thorough search of the 1900 soundex for Michael. It is likely that he had arrived in New York by then.

Unfortunately the 1910 census is not soundexed for the state of New York. You will need to look to other records to try to pin down where exactly in Brooklyn Michael was living. Then you can narrow your search of the 1910 census to that area. City directories are one resource that can aid you in this search.

The 1900 and 1910 census will be able to tell you approximately when Michael arrived in the United States. And you could then turn your attention to passenger lists.

Unlike most people who do not know much about where in Ireland their ancestor was born, you have an advantage. You know the year and the county. And because it is after 1863, there is a microfilmed index available through the Family History Library. It is broken down by year, so you will want to make certain that you have the correct year.

World War II Death

Q: Is there a listing of casualties anywhere in genealogy of World War 2 deaths? I am looking for an uncle who was killed on or around the Rhine River [Alton Plaine]. I have not been able to pull it up in the Social Security Death Index either. He was killed around 1942, I think. -- Shirley

A: You will not find your uncle listed in the Social Security Death index. This index, available online at many places, primarily includes those individuals who died after 1961. This is when the Social Security Death records were computerized.

There are however World War II Casualty Lists. They are available for each state in the United States. These lists are organized by the state given as the "home" state by the soldier at the time of his enlistment. Such lists will supply you with the name, rank, and service number. You can request a copy of the list for the state your uncle was from, by writing:

The National Archives at College Park
Archives II Textual Reference Branch NNR2
8601 Adelphi Rd.
College Park, MD 20740-6001

When you contact them to request copies for your state, do not send any money. They will contact you and let you know how much the copies will cost. However, at the very minimum, it will be $6.00.

If your uncle was buried overseas, then you may wish to contact the American Battle Monuments Commission. They are in charge of the burials in American cemeteries overseas. You can write to them at:

American Battle Monuments Commission Operations
20 Massachusetts Ave.
Room 5127 Casmir Pulaski Building
Washington, DC 20314-0001

What to Do Before Death Records?

Q: I need some direction in securing the date and place of death for my 3rd great grandfather Silas Stewart MALLISON, probably in New York. I understand that New York did not require death certificates until quite late in the 1800s. How would you suggest that I proceed to find out where he died and what the date was? The last record I find Silas in is the 1865 Farmington, Ontario County, New York census. He was listed as 66 years of age. He does not show up on the 1870 census. -- Nina

A: While it is true that New York as well as other states did not begin to record death records, actually vital records in general, until the late 1800s into the early 1900s, there are other records that can be of use to you in your research.

Based on your research it looks likely that Silas died after the 1865 state census was taken and before the 1870 federal census. You may want to search the 1870 federal mortality schedule. These schedules are presently only available in the New York State Library in Albany, New York.

Other records that you should not overlook include:

  • Obituaries
  • Cemetery records
  • Probate records

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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