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

November 25, 1999
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Creedons from England

Q: I am looking for my great grandfather's information. His name was James CREEDON and he was an immigrant from England. I can not find out where he came into the US. I know that he married Mary SHEEHAN of Topsfield, Massachusetts and they had 4 children: Francis (Mar 1904); Ellen; Mary; and Paul all in Massachusetts. They then moved to West New York, NJ (Hudson County) and they had another child Cathaleen. The 1920 census told us that when the census was taken James was 45 and Mary was 38. I have posted messages for CREEDONs in Massachusetts but no response. The genealogy library said that there is information on CREEDONs in Topsfield, but that you must pay to find out the information. They state that there is information in the Historical Collection of Topsfield. I have looked at the Essex Books website and not found this book. -- Donna

A: The 1920 census may be the clue that is most important for your research. Along with the names and ages of everyone living in the household, this census also tells you when James immigrated and whether or not he is a naturalized citizen. Naturalization took some time and there will be an abbreviation in the one column and then possibility a date in the other column. The abbreviations found most often include:

  • Al - Alien (they have not begun the naturalization process)
  • Pa - Papers (they have begun the process and are somewhere in the middle of it)
  • Na - Naturalized (they have completed the naturalization process)

Only if the individual has completed the naturalization process will there appear a date in the second column.

Once you have determined the naturalization status on your ancestor in 1920, then you can probably turn your attention to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. After 1906, the INS was responsible for the naturalization records for immigrants. If he either completed his naturalization process or was in the middle of it in 1920, you can contact the INS and request a copy of these records. This can take a little time though.

Depending on where James was living in 1920 and when he was naturalized, you may want to turn your attention to the records for that given state. You can check at your local Family History Center to see what records might be available that would be of help to you in this instance. These records are likely to be at the state level, as opposed to the county level where we find most of our records.

If you do not find anything in the catalog at the Family History Center, do not assume that the records don't exist. It merely means that they have not yet been microfilmed or that Salt Lake has not yet acquired copies of the microfilms.

Another avenue to locate the films may be to look in the book The Archives published by Ancestry. This book lists the various NARA branches and details the holdings at each one. It could be that the naturalization records you need can be found there and you can contact the archives branch directly.

Once you have located the records, you will want to find the declaration of intent. This application is the one to generally supply you with the necessary information about when, where and on what ship your immigrant ancestor arrived.

Too Many Breeches

Q: My surname is BREECH. How can I enter a search for this name without getting hundreds of web sites about breech births, breech guns, breech pants, etc. -- Judy

A: What you are experiencing is a common complaint for those who have a surname that has been incorporated into other things such as guns, animals, and so forth.

In order to omit those sites that do not pertain to the surname, you will need to use Boolean operators to help you in excluding those words you don't want and including those that you do want. Booelan operators include:

  • AND = all query terms must be present
  • OR = if any query terms are present it is a match
  • NOT = excludes sites with those query terms

Many search engine sites will default to the OR system. That means if you type in Breech genealogy the search engine will include all those sites that have genealogy as well as those that are for breech births and such. A friend of mine has come up with an excellent way to determine what the search engine defaults to. You type in the term pizza genealogy. If you get a lot of hits, then the search engine defaults to OR. If you get no hits, then the search engine defaults to AND. Once you know this you can tailor your searches appropriately.

Generally including something like:

Breech AND genealogy

will usually limit your search results, excluding those items you mentioned above. However, you can also do a search such as:

Breech NOT birth

which will tell the search engine to include those sites that include the word birth. Of course, because we are genealogists and are looking for births, this may exclude a small selection of genealogical sites as well.

You will need to experiment with the search engines to see what you can narrow it down to.


Q: Checking on some family members today in the Social Security Death Index, I came across two men who had the letters RR and not the initials of a State for the Place of Issuance. Can you tell me what the RR stands for? Also, I never seem to be able to find women on the list, not even under their husbands' surnames. What date did women get their own cards? -- Beth

A: First an answer to your second question about women. You are misunderstanding the requirements for inclusion in the Social Security Death Index. This index is not an index of everyone who has ever had or applied for a Social Security card. This is an index of those deceased individuals from 1962 to the present on whose behalf a death benefit check was cut. Not everyone who died and who had a social security number will appear in the SSDI, because not everyone has had a death benefit check cut after they died.

Now on to your other question. The RR most likely stands for Railroad. Up until 1964, railroad employees were assigned their own special social security numbers. The key to this was the first three digits of the social security number, also known as the area number. It is these three digits that tell you a little about where the individual got their social security card. And for those who were railroad employees, their social security number begins with 700-729. If this proves to be the case, then you will find that you may have some excellent records to turn to.

In addition to having their own social security numbers, railroad employees also had their own pension plan. Very seldom did they receive regular social security as they fell under this other plan. The Railroad Retirement Board was set up as a federal organization by Congressional acts in 1934, 1935 and 1937. According to the article "Railroad Records for Genealogical Research" by Wendy L. Elliott, CG and found in volume 75 (December, 1987) of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, "over one million railroad employees, eight hundred thousand spouses, and two million survivors have received benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board."e; (p. 271). That's a lot of family names.

Now, to research with the retirement board, it is necessary to be able to supply them with some pertinent information, including:

  • Employee's name
  • Position
  • Name of the railroad worked for
  • Where employed
  • When employed

The Railroad Retirement Board will supply information on those deceased individuals that they find in their records.

In addition to the retirement board records, there are other repositories that may be of use to you in a search for a railroad employee. There are some museums and historical societies that have collections of old railroad records for their region. You may want to consider hiring a professional researcher or plan a trip to these archives and do the research for yourself.

For more information on the records found at the Retirement Board and about finding aids, you will want to read Wendy Elliott's article, National Genealogical Society Quarterly which is available on CD-ROM through Family Tree Maker or you may be able to find back issues at your local genealogy library.

Baby Lafayette

Q: I have found a George F. Lafayette in the 1900 census. It states his birth place as New York in 1860. When I look at the 1860 census all I can find is one George Lafayette and it gives his age as three years old. It doesn't show his father or mother. I don't know where else I can look. -- blafay

A: It is possible that you are skipping some important steps in your research. It is natural to want to jump from the 1900 census back to the 1860 census when we think we know all there is to know about a person. After all, the 1900 census supplies us with the state of birth, and the month and year of birth for our ancestor. It tells us how many years they have been married and for the women it tells us how many children they have had up to that point and how many are still living.

That is a lot of information and we sometimes don't take the time we need to acquire the other records for these events. Now, there is not going to be a birth certificate in New York for your ancestor. However, other records may help you.

For instance, George's death records. This may have the names of one or both of his parents listed. If you haven't already obtained a copy of this, you will certainly want to. Another possibility is the marriage certificate. While the certificate may not have anything other than the names of the bride and groom and the information about when and where they married, there is often an application on the other side of the certificate or in the marriage register that does include the parents' names for both the bride and groom along with other pertinent information about when and where born.

Finally, I am intrigued by your mention that there were no parents for George Lafayette. If you used an index to point you to that listing in the 1860 census, you may not have gone far enough in your research. Most of the published indexes to the census records that I have used have included only the head of household, or the first person on the next sheet (if a household was split over two pages on the census) or in some instances if the surname of the individual differs from that of the others living in the household. So, if you found George F. Lafayette listed in the index and went to the page with him on it, it could be possible that the rest of his family is on the prior page.

Generally, one does not find a three year old living alone. So, George had to be living with someone. If not his own family as I have described above, then possibly with a guardian or adopted family. If this is the case, then it is possible that you can locate guardianship papers that would detail the names of his deceased parents, at least the father.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

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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