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

June 01, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Where is the Tree Filed?

Q: My main area of research is in my own surname HAIR although this is not why I write. I grew up with the knowledge that an Andrew O'BOYLE of 2820 Coddington Avenue, Bronx, NYC. Had already researched my mothers family line GILMARTIN. Andrew was helped in this research by my Grandfather Gilmartin in 1950. My grandfather was from Sligo, Ireland and Andrew was his cousin. My grandfather told my mother that if she was ever to go to New York she had to go to **************? to look up her relatives. I have a Christmas Card to my Grandfather from Andrew telling him the preface was completed to this family tree dated 1950. I have searched on line all the Libraries of New York for this document. Yesterday a cousin contacted me on the net asking if I had a copy of this document. She had been going through the personal effects of her mother who had died. She found a letter from my grandfather to her mother again mentioning Andrew O'Boyle, 2820 Coddington Avenue, Bronx, NYC. Stating his age as 78 in 1950 and that the tree went back to 1703 and how he was pushing on to finish, as his health was deteriorating. This time a museum was mentioned. I have spent this evening searching the New York State Museums holdings. Am I looking in the right places for this document? Where would a person living in the Bronx, New York deposit such a record? I live in the UK and when I have finished my research I was intending to deposit my results with the Society of Genealogist in London. That was before the net, now I can just post them, in a gen file somewhere on the web. Is there a Society in America which was the holding centre/source for depositing genealogical records in 1950? -- Tom

A: While it is probable that a copy of the research was given to one or more of the repositories near where Mr. O'Boyle was living, there are other scenarios that need to be kept in mind. The unthinkable is that due to his death, his family destroyed the work. While we do not like to think about this, it is more common than we know.

Another variation to this theme is the possibility that the records were either sold or given away during an estate sale. I know of a few genealogists who have purchased collections to help preserve them. These researchers then either hang onto them if the records deal with an area they are concentrating on, or they donate them to a library or other repository.

Because the records may no longer be near where Mr. O'Boyle was living, a resource that you will want to check into is the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections also known as NUCMC (pronounced nuck-muck). The Library of Congress has sought details of the manuscript holdings of various repositories around the country. They have then compiled this catalog which has been published annually since 1962. However, they have recently put part of the catalog on the Internet. You may want to search their online holding to see if Mr. O'Boyle's records have been catalogued.

Another possible repository where his final research may have been sent would be the Family History Library. While many people think of this as a modern library, the Genealogical Society of Utah was created in 1894. And they have been microfilming records for over fifty years now. It is possible that when Mr. O'Boyle finished the tree in question that he submitted a copy of it to the Family History Library so that it would be preserved. A search of the Family History Library Catalog found in the Custom Search at FamilySearch may reveal the wanted resource.

Family Trees Everton Publishers FTM CD #15

Q: I would like some additional information concerning the above CD. I have done some searches on it and the last column is for SNDX. What does this mean? I have found that their is a common link between the individuals that I'm interested in. How can I get more information based on the number that shows in that column? The 2 that I'm interested in are B632 and E426. This information could sure help! -- Judy

A: The abbreviation for the last column, SNDX, stands for Soundex. Soundex is a code used in many government records.

The soundex code is a method of indexing surnames based on sound rather than on exact spelling. This allows for like sounding names to be grouped together in a given index. This is useful to genealogists because they are often having to search variant spellings in true alphabetical indexes.

The Everton Publishers Family Tree CD (FTM CD #15) includes this information only as a finding aid. If you already know the soundex code you will not have to go through the laborious process of coding it. Some new genealogists find this to be a daunting task to take the surname they are researching and condense it to the proper four digit code that is made up of one letter and three numbers. The rules required for the code can seem confusing at times.

Depending on the time period of those individuals you are interested in, the soundex code can be used to locate the family members in the later census years. Soundexing of the census was begun in 1880 and was done for the 1900, 1910, and 1920 censuses. Soundex codes have also been used at times in the indexes of passenger lists. Many present day drivers' licenses also have this code as part of the driver's license number.

A Lack of Information

Q: I have my great grandmother's death certificate. It lists her name, mother as unknown, and Father as Mr. Bolin. Her birth place is listed as Kentucky. It also lists her age at death, and the year and day of death. This info was given by a son-in-law. Do I have any hope of tracing her ancestors? -- Mary

A: It can be disheartening to receive a copy of a record that everyone has told you will supply you with the necessary data to take a line back further and find out that it does not. Unfortunately what you have described does happen all too frequently. However, it does not mean that it is impossible to research that line.

Because this is your great grandmother, you know that she had a least one child. You will want to get copies of the birth certificates for all the children that she had. These will give you information about how old she was at the time of the birth. They also will sometimes include information about where she was born.

Census records can also help you with this. Begin with the most current census she would be found in. The census records are taken every ten years with the most recent that is available being the 1920. Most of these have an index of one sort or another. If she was married in the 1920s, you would look for her husband's name. The 1900 census in addition to supplying you with her age and state of birth (or country) would also supply you with the month and year of birth.

Finally her marriage application would also be of use. Usually there were questions in regard to the age at the time of marriage, place of birth, name of father and maiden name of mother. This information would have been supplied by her and is more likely to be complete.

Grandparents in Sicily

Q: How can I find the birthdays and death of my grandparents who lived in Cannicattini, Bagna, Sicily. I am not sure if they were born there. The only thing I have is their names. -- Paul

A: It sounds like you need to back up a little in your research. You know the names of your grandparents and nothing else. So you need to back up to your mother or father and locate their birth certificates. Depending on when your mother or father was born, you may need to next look into the census records. This assumes that your parent was born in the United States or that the family was living in the United States prior to 1920.

The census records will help you to determine when the family immigrated. Also, based on the age of your grandparents you can estimate approximately when they were born. If they did immigrate you will also want to look into naturalization records. Those naturalization papers done after 1906 are quite thorough and will include not only their date of birth but also their place of birth.

Again, if they immigrated to the United States and died here after 1960, then you will want to search the Social Security Death Index. This is available online at many different places including Genealogy.com. If you locate them in the SSDI, you will want to print out the letter requesting their SS-5 form. This form will also include valuable information about when and where they were born and the names of their parents.


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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