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

June 20, 2002
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Information Marked "Private"

Q: I see many of your data sets offer material on Danny Kaye but the information is marked "private." What I'm looking for is information on his parents' genealogy. I have been told by many that they were both of the Kaminsky family and on both sides were related to my Kaminsky family. I know they come from Ekatersburg, but I wish to ascertain that before that they originated in Grodno, Russia. -- Lynn

A: The "private" that you see in the World Family Tree listings for the family of Danny Kaye is the result of the feature in Family Tree Maker that privatizes information on living individuals.

You might want to spend a little time with the 1920 census to find out if Danny's parents became naturalized citizens, and if so, when. You could then request the naturalization records or go looking for them on microfilm or through a county courthouse, depending on when the naturalization took place.

You might also want to check for death records or obituaries on both of his parents to see what you can find for additional information.

While it is unlikely that his parents are still alive, given that he was 74 when he died in 1987, if the individual who created the file in question did not know when they died, and it was within a certain time frame, Family Tree Maker would have replaced any birth information with the word "private." Family Tree Maker and would not have an unaltered file but you may be able to learn additional information from the person who created the file.

If you haven't done so already, you should get the submitter information and then contact the person directly. You may discover that they have quite a bit of information and are willing to share it with you.

Native American Research

Q: My 84-year old mother tells me that my grandfather was full blooded Cherokee. I have had a hard time proving this beyond her word. She is my grandparents' last living child and, while some of our relation has been able to trace the line, I haven't seen any proof. -- Peggy

A: Many families have family traditions, or family stories, about Native American ancestry. As you have discovered, this ancestry isn't always easy to prove. If the story is true, you can usually pick up some inkling through census records and other documents. This is especially true in the early 1900s since the 1900 census is uniquely useful to those researching Native Americans. The enumerators had a separate page they were to fill out for those who were Native American. While not all states have these pages, those with major Native American populations usually do.

If you have tracked your grandfather's life, you will want to see if it coincides with any known Native American populations. You may want to read up on the history of the areas in which your grandfather lived to see what tribes, if any, resided in the area.

An excellent book specifically about tracing Cherokee ancestry is Cherokee Connections by Myra Vanderpool Gormley. This book was published, and reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Company. Your local genealogy library may also have this small but information-packed book.

Locating Records of Closed Institutions

Q: I am trying to find records of the Ohio State Mental Hospital that was located in Columbus, Ohio during late 1880s and early 1900s. I haven't had any luck talking to the clerks at the state health department because they have never heard of the hospital. It is possible that I don't have the correct name for the hospital but this is the only name I have ever heard of. The clerks said that they had no idea where I would look to find these records. Do you have any suggestions? -- Chuck

A: First, you have the correct name of the institution. And the Ohio State Mental Hospital was in Columbus, Ohio. However, many of the clerks at the state health department may be unaware of its existence since few clerks would have dealt with the records or would have been aware of the hospital's existence this long after it closed.

The records of the Ohio State Mental Hospital are now housed at the Ohio Historical Society. However, you may find you have trouble gaining access to these records.

Ohio is one of the better states when it comes to accessing records. They have one of the most liberal of "open door" policies I have seen, especially when it comes to vital records. Indeed, this is something that genealogists with any Ohio ancestry are thankful for. When it comes to the records of the state mental hospital, though, the open door is closed.

The records of the Ohio State Mental Hospital are some of the few in the state that are sealed. You will need to contact the Ohio Historical Society. It is possible that the "closest living relative" to the individual in question may be able to gain access to records on that given individual.

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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