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

July 12, 2001
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

1900 Census Question

Q: In the 1900 census there were two questions asked of women: "Mother of how many children" and "How many children living." Did enumerators asking this question mean the total number of children this mother has ever had regardless of whether they are in this household or was it the total number of children in the household? Were they given instructions that this was what the question meant? In general how much instruction were enumerators given? -- Sue

A: The 1900 and the 1910 censuses were the only two years to ask these questions. For genealogists they are a wonderful way to determine if our research has accounted for all of the children for that mother.

The directions given to the enumerator in 1900 were quite explicit when it came to these two questions.

Columns 11 and 12. Mother of how many children and number of these children living. - This question applies only to women, and its object is to get the number of children each woman has had, and whether the children are or are not living on the census day. Stillborn children are not to be counted.

Enter in column 11 the figure showing the number of children born to this woman, as 1, 2, 3, 6, 10, etc. If she has had none, write "0." Enter in column 12 the figure showing the number of these children living on the census day. Whether the children are living in your district or elsewhere makes no difference. If the woman has had no children, or if they are all dead, write "0."

Therefore, if you discover a family where the woman is listed as having had eight children, and all eight are still living, and you count eight children in the household, you can feel pretty confident that you have located all eight of her children.

Of course, it is always possible that the husband of the family was married before and that he has more children. These children would not be counted with the new wife, though they may be living in the household. All you can be assured of is that the woman listed in the 1900 census bore eight children, or whatever number is listed.

You may need to really look at the ages of the children and see if perhaps there is a gap in the ages of the children living in the house. This is sometimes an indication of a possible change in the family structure, such as a new husband or wife.

RR & Social Security

Q: I read your article about Social Security on Genealogy.com and was wondering if you could answer a question for me. My uncle worked for the Pennsylvania RR and passed away in 1972. I was trying to get information from the RR Retirement Board, but they say that they need his Social Security Number before they can search for his file. His Social Security number was not on his death certificate. Any suggestions? -- Craig

A: The Railroad Retirement Board has organized their files by social security number. That is why they need the social security number before than can supply you with the file.

Of course you are in a catch-22 situation because your uncle worked for the railroad you cannot look him up in the Social Security Death Index to get the social security number. And you have already found the other most logical record, the death record, did not have the number.

It looks like the only alternative to you will be to order a copy of his SS-5 form. Unfortunately, because you do not know the social security number, you will need to make the request and pay a higher fee.

According to the Social Security Administration's Web site the price for such a request is $18.00.

Because you haven't found your uncle in the Social Security Death Index, you will need to supply a copy of the death record with your request. Usually the SSDI is the proof that the individual, for whom you want the SS-5 form, is deceased.

Once you have received the SS-5 form, you will then be able to request a search from the Railroad Retirement Board for his railroad records.

Different Languages - Different Spellings

Q: I am fairly new to research. My problem is how do I record names when one record is written in Latin (Stephanus Retz) and another record is written in Hungarian (Istvan Retz or Istvan Recz.) I have read the article on name and word spellings but it doesn't address my need. I am searching Hungarian records of my maternal grandparents and great grandparents and I understand about spelling errors but I have no clue as to how I am supposed to enter the names in Family Tree Maker 8.0. Other surnames I am researching are Wingelmann, Winkelmann, Winkelman, Vucs, Vutch, Wutch, Wutsch, Vutsch and many others. -- Maggie

A: What you are dealing with is what is commonly known as "variant spellings." Genealogical research is plagued by this even without the added bonus of the different languages, such as you are experiencing. There are a couple of different ways you can deal with this. The most important thing is to be consistent with however you elect to handle this situation.

One school of thought says that you should record the name as you find it in the record. So if the first record you found Istvan Retz was a record in Hungarian you would record his name that way. The other school of thought is that you should either stick with all Latin or all Hungarian names.

The good news is that most genealogy programs, including Family Tree Maker, offer you the ability to record other names. So, you could list him as Istvan Retz on the main family page and then include any variant names you have located in the More About facts.

I personally elect to use the name as found in civil records as opposed to ecclesiastical records. The Latin used in church records may be the only time you see the name in such a way. Whereas you are more apt to see the Hungarian spelling used in a variety of records.

Online Death Index

Q: Do the majority of states here in the U.S. have an online death index and if so how does one get access to this index? -- Harmon

A: Presently of the fifty states, there are online searchable databases for only thirteen of them. Those states with some type of searchable database are:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Texas
  • Utah

Of this list, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah are part of a privately compiled database of marriages from Ricks College in Idaho. Illinois's marriage database is the result of the efforts of the Illinois State Genealogical Society. This leaves only eight states that are offering searchable indexes from the state records.

Those with death indexes include:

Finding such databases is made easier by using one of the compiled directories of genealogical links or one of the many search engines available on the Internet.


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 rhondagen@thegenealogist.com.

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