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Expert Tips: Genealogy Questions Answered
by Rhonda R. McClure

May 22, 2003
See Previous Columns

Researching Name Found in a Bible

Q:I need advice. I have been looking for an ancestor for three years. In an old Bible it gives the name and age at death, then it says Berlin. This is the only notation for this person. How should I go about searching—there are a lot of Berlins in this country and then out of this country. Do I take this death year of 1906 and search all Berlins, but I would need to find out if there are Berlins in West Virginia or Virginia. I find him in the census of 1870, but not after. Do you have any suggestions? —Florence

A: You mentioned that you found this person in the 1870 census but not later. You did not mention just what you did in the way of searching for your ancestor in the later census records. If you have just used the available online indexes to censuses, then it is possible that a typo or a hard to read name is the reason you have not found them. It could be that you were also limiting your research to just one state, assuming that he or she stayed there when in fact the person went across the country.

You didn't indicate how old the person was in the 1870 census. If the person was an adult in 1870, then it is possible that they owned land. Land records might help you in determining when the last piece of land was bought or sold, and might help you establish a timeline in the specific area in question. Land records are usually indexed by both the buyer and seller, and both indexes would need to be checked to see when the person bought and sold land. And you would want to tally out the total acres of land bought and sold. If they don't equal each other then you may find that land has been passed on through the person's will or that the person received some land through a bequest by a relative.

If you have limited your searching in the census to just a couple of states, which I am guessing from the mention of Virginia and West Virginia in your message, you will want to move out from there. Studying migration routes from those states to the midwest and beyond may also offer you an idea of where the person might have gone, giving you new states to check in your research.

Also, you may want to look at the family as a whole for the person listed in the Bible. See what you can find out about the other children of that family. Did they stay in Virginia? What about the parents of the person? Have you tried to find probate records on the father? Is the person mentioned in the will? If there is a probate packet, then it is possible that in the additional records you may find an indication of where the person moved or if they were still in the county.

Generally when I have lost a person, I find that it becomes necessary to go back and make sure I have exhausted all of the records for that person and his or her family. I find that I have often not done that. For instance, when the parents died, the place of residence of this child might be mentioned in the obituaries.

Of course, most of the records I have mentioned are not available online. Many of them are found on microfilm and would be available through your local Family History Center. If you haven't visited a Family History Center before, you should see where your local one is—usually found in the yellow pages of your local phone book under Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—and see what they have available. Many of the microfilms will need to be ordered from Salt Lake City and the Family History Library, but it opens up your research options considerably.

Double First Cousins

Q: All of my life, I have been told that my first cousins are my double-first cousins. Their Mother was my Father's sister and their Father was my Mother's brother. Is double-first the correct term or is there one more often used in genealogy to describe this? — Rod

A: The term double-first cousins is the correct term. The addition of the word double to the first cousin term is the result of the number of common grandparents that are shared in this case.

Most first cousins share only one set of common grandparents. If you look at the table below, you will see a standard first cousin relationships:

  Grandparent - John Smith  
|   |
parent - John Smith Jr. siblings parent - Jane Smith
|   |
child - John Smith III first cousins child - Jane Johnson

Now, let's change this to show the relationship of the double cousins:

  Grandparents - John Smith and James Johnson  
|   |
parents - John Smith Jr. and Jane Johnson siblings parents - James Johnson Jr. and Jane Smith
|   |
child - John Smith III double first cousins child - Jane Johnson

Descended of Kings

Q: Upon doing research on my family I was told that at one time a great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, the number of generations is unclear, was daughter to King Adolphus of Sweden. How do I find information as to if this is true? I have gone to the Sweden website and have found no genealogy information. To search do I need a last name? Where can I go from here? — Robin

A: There are two things that will need to be done in researching this particular family story. In effect you will need to not only do the research on your own lineage, but also become familiar with the genealogy of King Adolphus, specifically his descendants.

King Adolphus' descendants may be the easier of the two to complete. You mentioned going to the "Sweden site" and not finding any genealogy. Without knowing specifically which of the many sites devoted to Sweden it is hard to say what you found or what might have been there. There is an impressive site devoted to the royal houses of the world that is probably going to supply you with the information that you need. If you haven't checked this site, you may want to. The Royal and Noble Genealogical Data on the Website is a massive undertaking and a good place to begin. While it won't bring all the descendants down to the present day, it does have a good compilation for each family.

While you are becoming familiar with the descendants of King Adolphus, you must also be researching your ancestry to see if it begins to lead you back to Sweden. I will not say that the connection is not possible, because there are many instances where people have been able to prove a biological connection to a given royal. There are books published about some of the lines, such as Roderick Stuart's Royalty for Commoners. But in order to find a common individual between the two lineages, it is necessary to know as much as possible about your great-grandmother.

It is possible that someone in the family has traced this back, since you mentioned that the family story was told to you as you began to research your family history. See if you can get this information from the family. If you can, then I suggest going through it and recreating it to make sure the connections from generation to generation are correct. This serves two purposes. The first is to check the accuracy of the information sent to you. The second is to make yourself familiar with the names of the individuals. If you aren't familiar with the names and you begin to work with the information on the descendants of King Adolphus, you may not recognize your own ancestors.

Remember when working with the descendants of King Adolphus that while the family tradition indicates it was a daughter of his, that the relationship (if it exists) may not be quite as close. As a result, be sure to look at not only his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, but also his nieces, grandnieces, and great-grandnieces as well.

Looking for Census and Tax Lists

Q: Can you please tell me where I can find tax lists on the Internet? When doing a search for a new line, some of the records suggested are census, population schedules, and tax lists. What are population schedules, and where can they be found? — Freddie

A: First, the terms census and population schedule are the same thing to most researchers. The population schedule was one of the enumerations that the government did when they were collecting the census every ten years. Some of the other enumerations that have been taken at the same time the enumerator was recording the population schedule include:

  • farm schedule - details the production and livestock found on farms
  • manufacturer schedule - details the stores and their focus and goods
  • slave schedule - taken in 1850 and 1860 only, listed the slaves of a slave owner by age and sex

The population schedules are the ones that have been digitized and made available in the U.S. Census Collection available here at Genealogy.com as one of the subscription options. You may find that some of the other census enumerations have been transcribed and made available on the Internet by volunteers interested in a specific county. The best place to begin looking for the other census enumerations, if they are available on the Internet, would be the USGenWeb Project. More likely though, these other more specialized census schedules will require you to find a library that has the microfilmed census pages. Many of them are available in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, which means that you can have them ordered to your local Family History Center.

Tax lists are another record that is more likely going to be found online. There are some county sites of the USGenWeb Project that might get you started, but even if you do find the county you are interested in, if you are not looking at the actual images of the tax lists it is still a good idea to find the microfilms and view them yourself. Too often transcription errors can lead us to assume that our ancestor is not in the tax lists when in fact he is. Also many times the abstracts of the tax lists do not show the full picture of what your ancestor owned at the time or may not cover each year as you would find in the microfilmed records.

In addition to checking the holdings of the Family History Library, you may also want to check the county courthouse, the state archives, and the state library to see if the older records have been deposited there for safe keeping. If you need to contact the county courthouse, remember that they are more about doing the business of today than looking in records of the past. If they have the tax lists and you must make a visit there to view them, see if there are any guidelines for viewing them or any restrictions as to time of your visit before you make the trip.

With all the new information coming onto the Internet, it is natural to want to see if the records you seek are available on the Internet. And while you may find some of them, it is important to look in more traditional repositories to make sure that you are exhausting all the records that are available. When the two research options are combined, you have a better chance of improving your ancestral research.


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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