All posts by RAMutt

Finding your way back – putting together the initial lineage


Today’s topic is how to put together that initial lineage.  This could be a general lineage as in “starting with your parents” and just heading back to see what you can find, who is who and where/when did they get to where you are now.

It could also be that your grandmother often said that you are descended from some notable person or someone who was at an important event.  You have a starting point and an ending point and a lot of white space in between.

It is perfectly acceptable to find a lineage posted online to use as a guidepost.  Just don’t accept it as the truth until you find verifying information,  what is known as a source document.  An official record from the government, church, will, handwritten bible are some examples.

Since everything in genealogy starts with little ol’ you, it is where you start the documentation process.  This of course means your birth certificate.  Next, you get the documents from your parents.  Their birth certificates or other birth documents and their marriage certificate.

Each one of these documents has identifying information, not only of the people but of the locations they lived and got married.  People often get married far from where they were born.

Then you try and find the information for your grandparents.  Here is where you start to have some options.  Privacy laws in the United States keep many personal records private until 70 or more years after the date of the record.  The US Census is protected in this manner.  But starting with your grandparents, you should be able to find them in the US Census records.

I personally use which is available as a free electronic resource through the public library.  Using the available search engine, you can select the year of the census, the location, search for alternate spellings of the name and more.

The sites also allow you to download the census image onto your computer or store it in a portfolio if it is a paid service.  By finding your grandparents records, you also find out their age.  You can then search for them in even earlier census records, lining up the ages with the years difference in records.  You will find the family members, where they were born, occupations and other interesting items.

You should be able to find your way back to 1850, which was the first really usable census. Previous versions just listed the head of household and number of persons living there.

Here is where you must turn detective.  From this point back, you have to search for everything you can find.  The most helpful documents from the past years 1700’s and early 1800’s are church records, deeds and last wills and testaments.  Each of these documents has information on relationships and are solid proof of lineage.

Another good technique is to search for an unusual name, usually the woman’s last name.  It is far easier to search for Maria Shindeldecker than it is to sort out all the Jonathan Miller’s.

But don’t overlook other sources.  You will find family information in county minutes, orphan listings and other administrative records.  I have gone through book after book on the shelf at genealogy rooms.  As an example, I had difficulty finding a record to prove a mother daughter relationship in a lineage.  The answer was found in a document called a necrology that some dedicated research compiled.

It was reported to the county coroner that the mother had died of sickness and her daughter supplied the information.  Both women were named in the record.  Given the exact match of the names and the locality, it was proof of the relationship.

So leave no stone unturned, It may take you years to resolve a lineage, but the EUREKA! moment is the big reward. Best of luck.

Rob Andrews
I’m a mutt with a pedigree




Online research part 2.

My last post discussed using some valuable online resources available from your local library such as Heritage Quest, Fold3 and Persi.  I neglected to mention other great online sources of information, so here is a list of possible places to check:

  • Local library electronic resources
  • State libraries and archives
  • Genealogy libraries – Latter Day Saints, Daughters of the American Revolution, etc.
  • Historic heritage organization websites – VA Historical Society, etc.
  • County websites – some have volunteers who post old county records
  • County and town historical societies
  • USGenWeb series of websites
  • Find-a-grave

The above listed sources will have the most accurate information,  images of historical documents and headstones and official lists of taxes, land ownership, marriages, births/baptisms and other legal documents.

You will certainly find great nuggets of information on other websites, personal blogs and what not, but you must verify them.  They can also point you in the wrong direction!

So you found just what you were looking for, now what?  Most people try to make a print out with various results.  Now if you are at the public library, that may be your only recourse.  Users with a bit of computer savvy can take a different approach.

Create a directory on your hard drive named something like “genealogy”.  Under this directory you can make other directories to hold your data.  I have directories like Census Records, Military Records, Baptisms, etc.  Next, when you save your file give it a descriptive name.

Windows allows long file names so go wild…1830census_book200_page155  or even better something like Amos_Peters_Eliza_Hardy_Roll 1351_Book1_Page 687.  That way you don’t have to open a bunch of files to find the one you want.

The next step is key…the index of documents.  You need to develop some method of tracking where these documents are in relation to the families you are researching.  An excel spreadsheet or text document for each family line you are researching makes it easy to gather all the documents together, find them when you wish to share them or refer to them when writing.  Software such as Legacy Family Tree or Family Tree Maker is also a huge help because they allow you to enter notes alongside of the names.

Check this link for the best programs:

Well thats it for this post.  Remember, genealogy is a never ending search.

Rob Andrews
I’m a mutt with a pedigree

Online research part 1.

You’re poking around on the internet, looking for that missing link.  Suddenly, there it is!  It may be in a forum, posted on a webpage, or in a gedcom on a genealogy website.  Finally, the lineage is resolved.

No so fast.

When I talk to people about genealogy, I always tell them to be wary of online data.  Some people have  an overwhelming desire to make information say what they want it to say and not letting it stand on its own merit.  Forcing the square peg in the round hole so to speak.  Sometimes, they think that they have looked so long and hard that this must be it, there is no other data.

Sometimes, you will not find the answer. Sometimes, the records simply don’t exist. Sometimes, you have an unresolvable dilemma.  Learn to live with it, but never stop searching for the answer.

Its been said the internet never forgets and it doesn’t forget in many places as the erroneous information is posted and reposted.  These errors are compounded by poor research methods, sloppy attention to details and those who take the easy way out. The true genealogist verifies every piece of data with a source document, a verified reference and yet another road trip. Above all, genealogy is a search for the truth.

One of the best ways to begin online research is not with a subscription, or some other website.  It is at your public library website.  If you have a library card, usually you can access online resources(they usually call them electronic/digital resources) such as, or Persi for free.

These websites have census records, county records, newspaper listings, military and tax lists, marriage and baptism records and more.  The records are bona fide, source documents from official sources.  These websites will also allow you to download them to your computer to start your own digital collection.

So get started on your research in the right way and make your free digital resources at your public library your first stop in your research.

Rob Andrews
I’m a Mutt with a Pedigree



Getting started in a lifelong pursuit

As a introduction to this post, I am assuming you have already selected an area of research and have probably done a bit of research already.  You hope to write the family history book one day or prove your relation to a famous person in history.

What this post is about is the first step in getting there.  And that is being organized from the beginning of the journey.  “The heck with that”, you say, “I want to go do some research!”  Well, go ahead.  This post will still be here when you get back.  But as you dive in, you suddenly realize the enormity of it all.

When I started in genealogy, I was just like everyone else.  I did the forays to the local libraries, subscriptions to and was strolling through family cemeteries.  And like many people, I spent too much money, wasted too much time, worked really hard and my research was a mess.

From the outset, a simple, effective way to arrange my burgeoning mass of names, dates, documents and pictures was a big problem.  Another problem that I encountered was staying focused on my research goals when I was visiting libraries. Too often, I would see a reference or name that held promise and off I would go on a tangent.  There were many trips where I did not get far down my list of items to find or resolve.

So to help you, in future posts I will write about some essentials.

  • A cross-indexed filing system
  • Not so obvious sources of information
  • Genealogy travel kit
  • Planning a road trip
  • Arranging your data
  • Conducting online research
  • Genealogy Standards and Proofs
  • The search for Truth
  • Time saving techniques and tips

As my methods evolved, the amount of data I gathered piled up.  I had copies of book pages, handwritten notes, digital pictures, web page printouts, downloaded files, emails from other sources and CD-ROMS.  And aside from keeping the whole thing organized in my head, I had no way of relating all of the different data in a workable manner.

So, to really get started in genealogy, think about your filing system.  What works best for you?  Will it be computer based, paper based or both?  Mine is both and I think yours will probably end up that way as well for some reasons I will give in a later post.  Yet I am working on getting everything onto my computer.

A genealogist is only as good as their data, so from the beginning you should make a commitment to spending half of your home research time working on your file system, indexing and cross-indexing your data.  Its necessary, you get to know your information well, and its really, really useful.

Rob Andrews
I’m a Mutt with a Pedigree

I’m a Mutt with a Pedigree

Hi there!

Who am I to tell you how to do genealogy? Since embarking on my genealogy research a decade ago, I have learned it from the ground up, made the mistakes, the many road trips and developed many methods to speed things along.

I became famous or more accurately, notorious, for being thrown out of libraries so folks can go home, my family rolling their eyes as I embarked on another recitation of our ancestors, and using all the toner in the photo printer.

Of course that all is forgotten with the guaranteed A on the kid’s class projects that need the last four generations of the family.

Along the way, I found it all… Pioneers, soldiers, patriots, bums, sordidness, history and struck genealogy gold–my connections to Daniel Boone and also to the Royal Line in England/Scotland.

So I will tell you what works for me, give you some ideas on arranging your collection of research papers and how to resolve that difficult lineage and more.

Rob Andrews
I’m a Mutt with a Pedigree