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

February 17, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Descendant from Stephen Hopkins

Q: I am a direct ancestor of Stephen Hopkins, one of the signers of the "Declaration of Independence." I have a lot of the genealogy already but cannot link it to Stephen. Where do I start? I am fairly new to the computer world and need help! -- Janet

A: First, what I think you meant to say was that you were a descendant of Stephen HOPKINS. Ancestors are those direct family members who have come before you, such as your parents, grand parents, great grandparents, and so on. Descendants are those who come after, such as your children, your grand children, and the like.

You mentioned that you had a lot of information already. However, it sounds like you have not yet been able to get back far enough to reach Stephen. If family tradition is what you are basing your assumption on, then it could still turn out that you are not related.

Family traditions, the family stories passed down through the generations, while based on some fact, do tend to get altered throughout time. The job of a genealogist is to determine just what that truth is and discard the rest.

The only way to do this is to begin with yourself and work backwards. Not all of the information you need will be available online. You will need to take advantage of the sources available through libraries and your local Family History Center. And while you are researching, do not force what you find to fit the mold of your direct descent from Stephen Hopkins. Just move from generation to generation, compiling the information and evaluating it for the future generations.

Black Genealogy

Q: I have been using Family Tree Maker 4.0 to find information on my family. I find very little information about Black families. Is there another source for this info? I am interested in the slave history for Kentucky. My parents were from Nelson County, KY. My great grandfather was Robert STALLARD. -- George

A: While it is true that researching Black ancestry brings with it some unique issues, those issues do not crop up until you get back prior to about 1880. It is then that you will find yourself having to possibly deal with slave ancestry.

There is an excellent book available for those researching Black ancestry. Dee Parmer WoodTor has written Finding a Place Called Home: A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity was published this past year and is an effective introduction to research for African-Americans.

There are some excellent articles available through Genealogy.com that you will find informative. I have included links to them here.

You will also want to be sure to visit the AfriGeneas - African Ancestored Genealogy web site.

Brooklyn in 1910

Q: I'm trying to locate a relative in Brooklyn in 1910. However, there is no Soundex for the state of New York. Are there any indexes available? -- Mike

A: Unfortunately the 1910 census was not soundexed for each state. There were only twenty-one states included in the 1910 soundex project. For many of us, this means we must use other means to narrow down where in a given county or city our ancestor was so that we can locate them in the census records.

When dealing with a large city such as in your case, the best resource is to turn to the city directory for the years surrounding 1910. It is a good idea to search the two years prior to 1910, then 1910 and then the two years after 1910. This helps to guarantee that you will find them. Just as with other records, there may be a reason why your ancestor doesn't show up in the directory for 1910. However, by searching both before and after 1910, if they remain in the same area, then you know they were likely there in 1910 as well.

City directories are very often available on microfilm or microfiche through your local Family History Center. And once you have located your ancestor in the directory, you can use the address, and the ward to help you narrow down the number of pages you will have to search in the census.

More information on how to do this can be found in Help with Unindexed Census Records.

Texas or New Mexico

Q: On my birth certificate my father is listed as being born in Texas and 38 years old which would make him born in 1922. On his death certificate and Social Security information, he is listed as being born in New Mexico in 1916. He received his social security card while in Texas. Other family names include Black Raven, Deer House, and Fleet Wing. My grandmother Hittie Black Raven and grandfather John Henry Parker were to have married in Mescalaro, NM in 1905. I have tried looking through vital records for births and marriages but no records are there supporting this angle. -- Shirley

A: If you haven't done so already, you will want to search the 1920 soundex for both Texas and New Mexico. What you need to try to do is establish the locality of John Henry and Hittie PARK in 1920. Once you have pinned that down, you can begin to concentrate on other records in that area. The census will also help you in determining when your father was born. If he shows up then it is likely that the age on the 1920 census will be close to 1916. If he doesn't appear and you do find the parents, then you know he was born after 1920.

You mentioned where your father received his social security card, which is information found in the Social Security Death Index. However, it was unclear whether or not you had actually applied for and received a copy of his SS-5 form. If you haven't, you will want to get it.

Also, it is important to keep in mind that the place of birth supplied on a death certificate is only as accurate as the informant supplying the information. You will want to take another look at the death certificate and see who is listed as the informant and determine how they are related to your father. You might also try searching on the brothers and see what information you can find on them.


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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