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

November 09, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Getting Started on the Internet

Q: I am new at this family research thing, where do I start looking on the Internet for my family name "Monnier" in the New Orleans Area. -- Jules

A: The easiest way to get started is to purchase one of the available software programs. You can then type in the information and the program will print it out in many of the standard, accepted, genealogical formats. Two such programs are Family Tree Maker and Family Origins.

After you have some information, from talking with your living relatives, you will begin your search of the Internet by visiting some compiled sites. When you are doing this, it is essential that you set up some sort of a log of the sites you visit. Your log should include the following information: date of search, the title of the site, the URL of the site, and some details about the results from your visit. If you do not keep track of the sites you visit, and when you last visited them, you will find yourself going around in circles — constantly revisiting sites that were of no use to you.

Compiled sites are designed to bring together a variety of web pages so that you don't have to go out looking for them. The better ones will have them organized under subjects. This allows you to visit their site and select the appropriate subject for what you are looking for. For your research, you would want to check the following subjects: Surname, Personal Web Pages, United States, and perhaps Finding People. I suggest the Finding People section as it will take you to web pages for locating living people, and you could search for those who also have the MONNIER surname.

Another valuable resource for researchers can be found in mailing lists and bulletin boards. Mailing lists concentrate on a specific topic. It could be a surname, locality or resource. It brings together individuals who share this common thread. And the best part is that the messages arrive in your e-mail each day. You can easily keep in touch with others. One of the best web sites for mailing lists is RootsWeb. You can visit them to see what mailing lists might be useful to you in your research.

Finally, you will want to use a search engine designed to include only those sites that are of genealogical value. One of the best is's FamilyFinder that will search not only the Family Tree Maker site, but also many useful genealogy sites found elsewhere on the Internet.

Using Land Records

Q: Are land records available on microfilm like census records? I guess what I'm asking for is a primer on where I need to start looking to review these types of records. -- Bill

A: Land records generally have two types of indexes. The grantor index is an index to those who are selling the land and the grantee index is an index to those who are buying the land. This is your first stop when beginning to work with land records. Many of these are on microfilm and can be accessed through your local Family History Center.

Once you read through the indexes and write down the names, dates, volume numbers and pages for those individuals that you suspect as your own, you will need to turn your attention to the individual volumes to begin reading through the individual land records.

Land records are generally recorded at the county level. So when visiting your Family History Center and searching the catalog for the land records, you would look under the state, then county for the heading "Land Records."

Railroad Employees

Q: Could you tell me where I could go to find info on railroad employees? I understand that those employees did not get Social Security numbers. Is this correct? My 1st great grandfather and other ancestors worked for the railroad in Virginia. -- Gayle

A: Railroading was a major force in the United States. In fact, at its peak, about 1920, it is estimated that some 2 million people worked for the railroad. Up until 1964 those who worked for the railroads were given special Social Security numbers.

Railroad employees did have their own pensions, and generally do not appear in the Social Security Death Index because of this unique situation. Researching a railway employee requires you to turn your attention to the unique records of the railroad itself and to the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board.

The U.S. Railroad Retirement Board is concerned with the pension and other benefits of railroad workers after 1936. It is important to note that the employee had to work a minimum of 10 years in order to qualify for benefits from the Board. The records of the Retirement Board are organized under the employee's social security number or a Board assigned number that is prefaced by a letter. Fortunately for genealogists, the Railroad Retirement Board will supply information on deceased individuals. However, when corresponding with them, you will need to supply a copy of the individual's death certificate. You will also need to include the employee's name, position, railroad, and when and where they worked. You can contact the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board by writing to them at:

U.S. Railroad Retirement Board
844 N. Rush St.
Chicago, IL 60611-2092.

There are some excellent articles that you will want to locate and read to help you further with this research. One "Railroad Records for Genealogical Research" was written by Wendy Elliot and can be found in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, in volumes 75 (Dec, 1987, p. 271-77) and 79 (June, 1991, p. 140 - an addendum). These back issues of the NGS Quarterly are available on Genealogical Records: The National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Volumes 1-85, 1600s-1900s.

Were They Naturalized

Q: On the 1900 census under Citizenship, one of my ancestors has AL listed under Naturalization while another ancestor has PA. What do those two things mean? Were they ever naturalized? -- Terry

A: The recording of citizenship information began to be included in the census starting in 1900. The columns on citizenship included questions on year of immigration, number of years in the United States, whether or not naturalized, and year of naturalization. However, not all of these questions were included. For instance, the 1910 census includes only the year of immigration and whether or not the individual was naturalized.

Under the question of whether or not an individual was naturalized, you are likely to see one of three abbreviations:

  • AL - this abbreviation was used to signify that the individual was still an alien (was not naturalized and had not begun the naturalization process).
  • PA - this abbreviation was used to signify that the individual had gone through the declaration of intent and had filed his "first" papers.
  • NA - this abbreviation was used to signify that the individual had completed the naturalization process and was a naturalized citizen.

Of particular interest in regards to the naturalization process was who actually had to be naturalized. Over the years this has changed. I found it interesting to read that the enumerators were only to record the year of naturalization for males over the age of 21 during the enumeration of the 1900 and the 1920 census. The 1910 and 1930 censuses only included the column for the status of the immigrant's naturalization, no dates were included.

The abbreviations AL, PA and NA continued to be used up through the 1930 census. In 1940 the question was changed to "Is he naturalized" and the possible answers were Y(es) N(o) or AP (for born abroad of American parents). By the 1950 census, less emphasis was put on questions of citizenship, as the questions went back to place of birth of the parents, similar to what we see in the 1880 census. While I have mentioned census from later years, please remember that the 1920 is the last available census at this time.

As regards the two individuals you located in the 1900 census, one of them had begun the naturalization process and the other had not. I would suggest that you locate them in the 1910 and the 1920 census and see what their citizenship status was at those points. The Immigration and Naturalization Service kept copies of naturalizations that took place after 27 September 1906. So, once you determine when your ancestors were naturalized, you can contact them at:

Immigration and Naturalization Service
425 Eye St.
N.W., Washington, DC 20536.

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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