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

November 30, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Wrights of Virginia

Q: I am trying to do the Wright family tree. My grandparents are James Floyd Wright and Nancy Alma Rosenbaum of Wytheville, Virginia. They lived in Cripple Creek, Virginia. His birthday is March 19, 1897. He passed away June 22, 1990. Her birthday was September 21, 1904 and she passed away December 24, 1990. My great grandparents are Robert Herick Wright Jr. and Martha Grubb Wright. I don't know their birthdays. Can you help me on the Wright family tree? -- Deborah

A: You have a good amount of starting information. You know names, some dates, and some places. Best of all, your information is back prior to 1920. This means you can rely on the census records in supplying you with some of the unknown information.

A search of the soundex for the 1900 census for Virginia should reveal a card for Robert Herick Wright, with his wife and son James, plus possible other siblings. Because you already know the name of the father, you can go right to the cards for those Wrights with the given name of Robert.

Had you only known the name of your grandfather, James, then you would have had to go card by card in the soundex looking for Wright families with a son named James who was aged 2-4. While such an approach is not difficult, it is always nicer when you know the parents' names.

These records are available on microfilm. If your local library does not have a genealogy department with these films you will want to visit your local Family History Center (FHC). Through your FHC, you have access to most of the holdings of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The Family History Library has all of the available census films.

Finding a Web Site

Q: I searched for one of my ancestors today & found in Genealogy Web sites a reference to an Archived Message from March, 1997 about my ancestor James Crittenden. It sounds like him from what I already know. Native of Benenden, Kent, England c. 1800, father William. The only problem is that when I clicked on the link I came up with and cannot find any archived message forum there. Have contacted them to no avail so far. Do you know of any way to access this message. This is the only reference of him I've found so far. James left England in 1839, so not on 1841 census. He brought his daughter, Elizabeth, with him to Australia. She was 4yrs old and is my great great grandmother. -- Dave

A: One of the things that people don't understand about Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) is that they truly are an address. If you take a few moments to examine the URL, then you will understand where the message in question was housed.

As you mentioned, when you tried to go to the URL, you got an error message. In fact, it was an Error 404 that the file could not be found. Your browser, in displaying this message, probably suggested that you try the main Digiserve site. Unfortunately, for you, Digiserve is a Web site server. They offer Web space for people to post their Web sites. So, when you went to their main URL, you couldn't find anything related to James Crittenden.

What you want to do is to go to Kent Resources, the site where the message archives are contained. Then select either the Visual or the Text Directory push button to the left. You will then want to select "The Kent Meeting Place". Here you can run a search on your Crittenden surname, which reveals two hits on that site. If it isn't what you are looking for, you may want to contact the designer of the Kent Resources site directly.

Famous Family Connections

Q: My father always told me that his father told him our family were related to President Abraham Lincoln. I can't find anything though. He was George Edward Lincoln born in about 1921, in Canada. His father was George Lincoln, born in London, England. He was in his thirties when my father was born. -- Barbara

A: Nothing is impossible in the field of genealogy. However, when looking for a possible connection to another individual, you have to look at the lineages of both individuals. In your case, Abraham Lincoln and your own grandfather, George Lincoln.

While it will be up to you to research your grandfather's line, that of Abraham Lincoln's has been done by many. You may want to check out Ancestry of Abraham Lincoln to see where Abraham Lincoln's lineage goes.

Massachusetts Vital Records

Q: Can you tell me why Massachusetts published individual town vital records prior to 1850 extensively in 1911? Was it because of a copyright hold on records prior to that? What about records after that? Is there some sort of hold on Vital Records after 1850 from being published currently? -- Lostheir

A: Many researchers of Massachusetts have relied heavily on these published records that date up to 1850. For a more in depth look at these records and what you need to look out for, see this week's Twigs and Trees with Rhonda: Understanding the Published Massachusetts Vital Records.

In 1902, an act was passed to preserve these records. "An Act To provide for the Preservation of Town Records of Births, Marriages and Deaths Previous to the Year Eighteen Hundred and Fifty" was signed into law by the Governor on 11 June 1902. Through this law, the Secretary of the Commonwealth was to purchase 500 copies of each town's published vital records.

Unfortunately this law was repealed in 1918 as a war economy measure. By that time 149 towns' vital records had been published from 1902 to 1918. For those researching after 1850, the first stop should be microfilmed records. A stop at the local Family History Center or a search of the online version of the Family History Library Catalog is in order. Search under both the town and the state. If the records needed are not available through the Family History Library, then a search at the Massachusetts State Archives would be the next step. They have vital records from 1841 to 1905. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has vital records from January 1, 1906 to the present.

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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