Big changes have come to — all content is now read-only, and member subscriptions and the Shop have been discontinued.
Learn more
New? Start Here
Genealogy How-To
 Getting Started
 Getting Organized
 Developing Your Research Skills
 Sharing Your Family's Story
 Reference Guide
 Biography Assistant
Free Genealogy Classes
 Beginning Genealogy
 Internet Genealogy
 Tracing Immigrant Origins

Family Finder
First Name:

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

June 28, 2001
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Creating a Family Association

Q: I would like to start a family name genealogy association, but want to know if there are any laws concerning forming one. I live in Massachusetts, but the members will be from all over. Don't want to start until I am sure. -- Doreen

A: While you have probably given this much thought, a family association is a big undertaking. I hope that as you pursue this that you have many others who are willing to be involved to help you in the various operations that are involved in running such an organization.

The first thing you will need to do is to do some investigating in Massachusetts. The individual state laws differ on things like this, and what may work in Florida or California may not be the same as what you must do in the state of Massachusetts.

Probably the biggest deciding factor when you are doing this is whether or not you are going to charge money, dues, for those involved in the association. It is natural to assume that you will, but this basically takes the association outside the realm of a hobby and into a business.

While your focus is on family associations, you may want to visit your local bookstore or search their online sites for books on trade associations. Some of the subjects deal with legal issues, and while you are not a trade association, it is a good place to start, as far as the legal ramifications. You may want to see if you can get Jerald A. Jacobs' Legal Risk Management for Associations: A Legal Compliance Guide for Volunteers and Employees of Trade and Professional Associations or Henry L. Ernstthal's Principles of Association Management.. These and other books may also be at your local library.

Local libraries are also a great place to start with questions about policies, laws and code restrictions. Many public libraries have special sections devoted to the laws and statues of the given town, county and state.

Oklahoma Territory

Q: Is there a way to check census of the Oklahoma Territory? My grandfather was born there in 1870. I can't find his parents' names. -- Rmc1951

A: Acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase, Oklahoma was originally established as a home for the Native Americans. The largest forced removal from elsewhere in the United States to Oklahoma took place from 1825 to 1842, and is known to many as the "Trail of Tears."

Over the next few decades, the land that became Oklahoma was Indian Territory. It was set aside for the Five Civilized Tribes: Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole. Some other Native American tribes were allowed to temporarily move into the area in order to hunt on some of the land.

After the Civil War, there was an increase of European settlement (primarily railroaders, soldiers and some cattlemen) on this land reserved for Native Americans. None of these individuals was supposed to be there, as the area had not yet been opened up to settlement by whites. It would not be until 22 April 1889 that the government would start allowing homesteading on what was previously known as the "Unassigned Lands."

Because of this history, the first real census to be taken for Oklahoma Territory was the 1890, which was destroyed by fire. Therefore, the first census in Oklahoma Territory is the 1900 census. Because this census recorded people who resided in Oklahoma Territory as well as Indian Territory, people with Native American ancestry whose ancestors were on Indian Territory at the time have a good start on their research.

There was one additional attempt to enumerate those living in Indian Territory who were not Native American. The 1860 census includes a schedule for the "Indian Lands" that can be found on the microfilm after Yell County, Arkansas. Unfortunately this is too early for your research, unless you know of older siblings who may have been born at the time.

If your grandfather did have siblings, that may be the necessary route to follow in determining the names of the parents. Look for marriage records, death records and obituaries. Also, if you haven't tried this yet on your grandfather, you should.

One final word about the 1870 census. The 1870 census did not list relationships. The first census to list the relationships of those enumerated in a given household was the 1880. Therefore, it is pure speculation on our part when we assume that a household is made up on a father, mother, and children. While this is certainly going to prove to be the case in most instances, there will be those times that we are led astray by such an assumption, so just be wary when working in the pre-1880 censuses when it comes to relationships.

Looking for Manifests

Q: I am interested in finding the ships' manifests for the S. S. France that sailed from France to New York in 1913. Where can I obtain this manifest? -- A. Arellano

A: Ships' manifests for the port of New York going up through 1945 are available on microfilm from the Family History Library through your local Family History Center. To find your local Family History Center, if you are not aware of it already, you can start by searching the phone book. Look in the Yellow Pages under Churches for the listings for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Family History Center is usually found listed here.

A quick scan of the Morton Allan Directory of European Passenger Steamship Arrivals that was reprinted in 1998 by Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., reveals that the S. S. France arrived a number of times in 1913:

  • February 21
  • March 22
  • April 11
  • May 9
  • May 30
  • June 20
  • August 15
  • September 5
  • September 26
  • October 25
  • November 22
  • December 12

That is a lot of microfilms to order. Instead, if there is a specific individual you are searching for in the manifests, it would be better to begin your research by ordering the appropriate Soundex for the Port of New York. This indexes those ships arriving from 1 July 1902 through 31 December 1943. Armed with the information found in the index, you could then order the appropriate microfilm containing the volume in which your ancestor appears.

If you are interested, there is a photograph that exists for the S. S. France. The photograph taken of the French Line steamship is dated 1912. It is available from:

Peabody Essex Museum
East India Square
Salem, MA 01970

No Birth Record

Q: How do you find a birth record when the state tells you there is not one there? My grandfather, Francis Stotlar was born to Robert Stotlar and Addie Fannon on April 5,1920. This much I know is true. Grandpa Francis's SS-5 paper said he was born in Anderson, Indiana, but when I checked for a birth record with the Health Department, nothing turned up. -- Dixie

A: While it is true that Indiana has required the recording of birth records at the state level since October 1907, it is possible that some of the records either have been misplaced or were never sent. There are many times where records have been taken out to be copied, used, whatever, only to be misfiled later.

Your grandfather may also be wrong. He was an adult when he filled out his SS-5 form to request his Social Security card. He would have put down what he was told about his birth, and that information may have been inaccurate. Dates of birth were not as important as they appear to be today. It was not unusual for a person to be off by a year or two on their age. Also, there were times when individuals have hedged their age on the SS-5 form to qualify for social security a few years earlier.

In addition to the State Health Department, you can also contact the county directly. Anderson is in Madison County. Madison County has birth records dating back to 1882. There is an index to these records covering the period 1882 to 1920 available on microfilm from the Family History Library.

I would encourage you to order the microfilmed index and look for your grandfather in there. Then armed with all the information in the index, write to the County Courthouse and request the birth record from them. You can send your request to them at:

Madison County Courthouse
16 E. Ninth Street
Anderson, IN 46016

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

Back to Top of Article

Home | Help | About Us | Terms of Service | PRIVACY
© 2011