Sunday, February 28, 2010

Issue 31 Slightly Delayed

Issue 31, an analysis of a 1870 era mortgage will go out probably go out a day or so late. Family History Expo in St. George, Utah, this past weekend got the best of me as I ended up spending most of Friday and Sunday travelling. Subscribe before I send it out and I'll start your subscription with issue 31.

Remember back issues can be purchased here

and a year's subscription can be processed here

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Mortgage Analysis Article

Issue 31--which analyzes an 1870 era mortgage is being finalized. I'm travelling this weekend, so there might be a slight delay, but we should be getting it out by Monday.

I'm travelling home from the Family History Expo in St. George, Utah, Sunday, so my responses to emails will generally have to wait until Monday or after. Anyone who subscribes before Monday will be sent issue 31, so go ahead and join us if you have not already.

I had a good talk with a few subscribers while in St. George which has given me some additional motivation and a few ideas for upcoming topics and concepts.

The research I hired in Chicago is progressing and I'll be working on a couple of updates on that topic. I am still looking forward to seeing what the employment records of the Pullman company had to say.

We'll be revisisting a few families I wrote up nearly ten years ago for the Ancestry Daily News, when it was a regular ezine. There will be updates and expanded commentary as I now can make things about as long as I want to (within reason, of course) and illustrations can be included which adds greatly.

Again, thanks to everyone for their support of Casefile Clues and keep spreading the word. It is appreciated.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Survey Submission Contest

There were nearly twice as many responses to the reader survey than I had hoped for. As a result, I gave away two subscriptions to those who submitted entries.

I used to generate random numbers for me. Each submission was assigned a number by the Survey Monkey.

I've notified the winners.

There are a few things about the survey I'd like to tweak and we'll probably be doing another one before my month of SurveyMonkey expires.

Results are forthcoming. Thanks for all your help. It is appreciated.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ordering back issues 1-30

Back issues can be purchased in sets of 10, 20, or 30 as shown below (Payment processed through PayPal).

Issues 1-10 for $5.50
Issues 11-20 for $5.50
Issues 1-20 for $11.00
Issues 21-30 for $5.50
Issues 1-30 for $15.50

Issues are sent as attached PDF files. If you need other sets, email me for a price quote.


Issue 30 is out

Issue 30 of Casefile Clues has been sent to subscribers. If you do not have it in your inbox, please let me know. At least two of you have bounced emails, maybe more by the time I check it again.

Can't believe this was number 30!

Subscriptions received after this posting will start with issue number 31.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Subscriber Survey

Subscribers have been sent the link for the subscriber survey. Those who submit entries will be entered in a contest to win a year-long subscription for a friend. If you didn't get the email let me know at


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Analyzing those Ages

This handdrawn chart is one I made a few years ago to help me analyze the ages of a relative from his pension file.

We'll be doing an updated version on a new person in an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues. Suggestions on how to improve the chart are welcomed. The one here is admittedly low-tech.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Free Ticket to the Family History Expo in St. George Utah--next week

I am looking forward to presenting at the St. George Family History Expo on 27 February 2010 in St. George, Utah.The Expo actually starts on the 26th--but work prevents me from attending on Friday.There is a great lineup of speakers and presentations--which can be viewed here.

I'm giving away two full registrations to attend the expo (does not include banquet). That's quite a bargain.

The first two emails sent to will win. It might be several hours before I notify you you are the winner, but the two earliest time stamps will win.

Good Luck!

Quotes in Quotes

Issue 29 had quotes inside of quotes. There was an extended transcription of a report that I inserted in quotation marks.

The original report had quotation marks that the investigator had placed around his questions. I am assuming this was done so that his supervisor knew precisely what questions he asked. When I typed up the document I replaced these double quotes with single quotes because I had already placed double quotes around the transcription. I'm starting to wonder if I should have left off the double quotes around the entire transcription which meant I could have left the quotation marks as the investigator placed them in his report.

If anyone has thoughts, please let me know. If you're not all that concerned about single versus double quotes, that's ok.

One of my goals at Casefile Clues is to make things clear for the reader. Another is to give the reader something to follow as a guide. Some of those details are still in flux as a style guide is developed.

A lot of the discussion about style and citations takes place behind the scenes because while I think readers appreciate the inclusion of citations, I'm not certain everyone wants to be in on the discussion. If that's a wrong interpretation on my part, let me know!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Upcoming Survey for Casefile Clues Subscribers

Working on a Casefile Clues survey--for subscribers--anything you think I should ask? Data is for my use only (I won't be posting it online or anything)--but all who take the survey will be entered in a drawing for a gift subscription for a friend! Details will be sent out later this week...stay tuned.

Back Issues,Orders, and a Survey

Orders for new subscriptions and back orders have been processed as of 10:30 a.m. central time today (Tuesday) 16 February. If you ordered something and have not received it, please let me know and I'll take care of it.

We will be sending out an online survey for subscribers in the near future. Think about what you like and would like to see change at Casefile Clues. All comments will be read and consideration will be given. And, as usual, I appreciate all the support I have received for Casefile Clues.

And if you aren't a subscriber, now would be an excellent time to join the ranks.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Aliens Registering for the Draft in WW1

Aliens had to register for the World War I draft as evidenced by this card for Garrit A. Fecht from Varna, Illinois.
Anton's family was investigated during WW1 for "un-American" activity. His draft registration was not mentioned in the investigation. This investigation was the focus of issue 29 of Casefile Clues.
Subscribe in the next two days and I'll send you issue 29 at no extra charge and you can see what happened to Anton and his family.

Issue 29 has been sent

Issue 29 has been sent! Let me know if it did not arrive. Subscribe now and I'll start your subscription with 29.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Issue 29 and the future

Issue 29 is being proofed--please be patient as sometimes Sue has to deal with me being footnote challenged. I'm still somewhat recovering from my surgery and am still playing catchup and trying to not get any more behind than I already am. Hopefully readers appreciate the work we do on citations in Casefile Clues. My copy of Evidence Explained is getting more and more worn every week.

Issue 29 will be sent out, but most likely not on Sunday. Early this week is looking like the expected delivery if you have been putting off subscribing, there's still time.

Upcoming topics in the near future are:
  • working on the Trask family in St. Louis 1820-1880 to see if/how the Andrew we discussed fits as a potential relative
  • analyzing the War of 1812 pension file for Levi Rhodes
  • update on hiring the professional

These I'mworking on in the relatively near future. Suggestions for future topics are always welcomed. There are several pieces planned for a little bit later down the road.

Thanks--as always feel free to let others know about Casefile Clues and feel free to send me suggestions.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Issue 29 update

Working on the family in issue 29 where the father and older children were interviewed for "un-American" activities. The oldest son was engaged to "an American Girl," per the testimony. Turns out another historical event ended up preventing that marriage--and it had nothing to do with World War I.

Subscribe now and find out.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Refused to give one cent to the Red Cross

This is part of the report filed after the agent visited the family of John Fecht near Varna, Illinois, in 1917.

There is more to the report than just the fact that Fecht refused to "give a cent to the Red Cross."

Issue 29 of Casefile Clues will discuss Fecht's record and the other clues it contains. Subscribe now and get in on the fun.

Finding the wife and children

The passenger manifest for the wife and children mentioned in issue 29 has been found. It corresponds with information that indicated the husband arrived first. His manifest entry is proving to be more difficult to find. But the separate immigration is consistent with a census entry that originally was slightly confusing.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Little More About Ira Sargent

I've written about Ira before.

This is a clipping that was located on him in the Quincy, Illinois, newspaper from 1905.

I have the county records of his insanity case.

Getting records from the state hospital is on my list of things to do.

George Rothweiler in St. Louis

We mentioned George Rothweiler from St. Louis before in connection with the estate of Michael Trautvetter. George's wife had a connection to Michael and was an heir to the estate. A superficial analysis of George in city directories and Google books indicated he had a somewhat interesting life and was a Civil War veteran with a pension. He's on the back burner now, but in an upcoming edition we'll look at the directories for him and his pension records.

Thanks for Helping Spread the Word

I appreciate those who have helped to spread the word about Casefile Clues. It does save me time which can be used for writing, research, and editing, instead of marketing. Feel free to continue letting others know about the newsletter.

If you need webpages with more information or need someplace to send your friend for more information, these are good pages to use:

What Makes Casefile Clues Different

About Casefile Clues

They can always email me at either or


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Registration Giveaways for Family History Expos in St. George

I am giving away two registrations for the upcoming Family History Expo in St. George. Details can be viewed here:

Give them a try! Hope to see some Casefile Clues readers in St. George.

Family History Expos-27 Feb-St. George, UT

I will be making three presentations at the Family History Expo on 27 Feb in St. George, Utah. Topics will be: Court records, Illinois research, and migration. Fans in the area are welcome to come and introduce themselves.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Clippings from a cousin

I am going through an envelope of clippings and other items from a
first cousin of my great grandfather that I forgot I had. Will post
updates if there are any major discoveries.

Michael John Neill
Weekly How-to Column Casefile Clues

Do You Ear--Issue 28

I'm getting lots of good reader comments on issue 28--the can you "ear" article. It contains lots of food for thought regardless of the time period or location you are researching because almost all of us utilize written records at some point in our research.

Subscribe now and I'll start your subscription off with issue 28. More interesting things are on the way.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Issue 28 is out

Issue 28 has been sent to the distribution list. Let me know if your issue has not made its way to your inbox.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fans on Facebook-a Subscription Offer

 Based upon my subscriber list, I know there are fans who don't get the PDF version of the weekly Casefile Clues newsletter.

In honor of crossing this milestone, we're offering Fans the chance to subscribe at the old annual price of $15.00. The offer can be accessed by clicking here to make a credit card payment.

If you need other payment options, email me at

Thanks for all the support guys...I appreciate it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Casefile Clues Back Issues 21 and on...

I've had a few requests for back issues after issue 20. To save myself time, I've created these links to PayPal for payment processing. Remember PayPal allows me to process major credit cards. If you need alternate payment options, email me at

Postcard for future article

The letter on the flip side of this post card will be part of what will be used for a down the road column, but I thought I'd post it here while I'm working on a translation of the back.
The postcard was most likely written in 1874 and was written by John Ufkes of Basco, Illinois.
The card was addressed to his brother-in-law Herman Harms. One has to love how the name of the town and county are spelled. Harms obviously got the letter and apparently kept it when he moved to Nebraska in the 1880s.
This postcard and a letter from John's wife written in the 1880s will be discussed in an upcoming column....which I'm really excited about.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Baby is Thick and Fat: Clues in 1880s Letters to Nebraska

This originally appeared in the Ancestry Blog on 24 February 2008

The Baby is Thick and Fat: Clues in 1880s Letters to Nebraska

Local gossip. Worries about money. News about the children. The content of the letters is not all that extraordinary. But when they are written by your relative in 1887, they take on additional significance.

A cousin sent me digital copies of three letters written by my ancestor Lina Ufkes in the late 1880s. Like any record, they need to be fit into my ancestor's life. And they need to be analyzed for additional clues.

Written to Whom?

It would have been easier if Lina had specifically named the letter’s recipients, but the greeting on each letter is "Dear brother-in-law and sister"--no specific salutation. To determine the likely recipients, I had to look at the families of both the writer and her husband.

Lina Ufkes had no sisters of marriageable age in the late 1880s. This eliminated her family. Her husband, John Ufkes, had only two living sisters in 1887--one in Nebraska and one in Germany. Since the letters mention relatives known to have been in Nebraska in 1887 and indicate that greetings should be passed on to them, it seemed reasonable the Nebraska sister was the intended recipient.

In addition, the individual who sent me the letters obtained them from her grandmother who had cared for an unmarried son of the Nebraska sister (from whom she suspected her grandmother got the letters).

From all this I came to the conclusion that Lina was writing the letters to John and Antje Ufkes Harms who were living in Franklin County, Nebraska in 1900s. My reasoning and conclusions about the letter’s recipients are included in my transcriptions of the letters, and in my genealogical software package.

Getting a Date

Of the three letters, only one is dated (20 September 1887). One of the undated letters mentions the birth of a son, Bertus, on the 10th of March--"a thick and fat baby." This same letter also mentions the recent marriage of the pastor (unnamed) and the engagement of the pastor's sister to a neighbor, Tonjes Goldenstein. By learning the dates of these events, I was able to narrow the date of this letter to 1887 or 1888. One letter remains undated.

Who Is Mentioned?
Lina mentions several people in her letters. I already suspected who several of them were, but in order to reduce the chance of incorrect conclusions, I referred to information already known about Lina and John's family. In the letter mentioning the birth of her son, Lina actually mentions all her children. Son Johann (age eleven or twelve) is helping his father on the farm; Trientje, Lina, and Hinrich are going to school. Gerhard is too young for that, but does attend Sunday School and son Eilt has been sick for the past month.

In the apparent second paragraph of this letter, Lina asks the Harmses to send greetings to “Uncle Rolf” and to “Eilt and Trientje and Hinrich Habben.” The last three individuals mentioned are nephews and a niece of John Ufkes, children of his sister Christena Ufkes Habben. They were easy to figure out. Her husband was named Rolf and is apparently the “Uncle Rolf” mentioned in the letter.

I was confused. Why did Lina refer to Rolf as “uncle” when he was clearly John's brother-in-law? Did she make a mistake? Was the translation done? It turns out both Lina and the translator were right. It was I who very nearly jumped to the wrong. Rolf Habben did marry John's sister, Christina; but she was his second wife. His first wife was the sister of John Ufkes’s mother. This was why Lina referred to Rolf Habben as an “uncle” instead of a "brother-in-law." This is a good reminder to never attempt to “fix” a document by correcting it while transcribing.

In a future column, we’ll discuss a few other items Lina mentions and indicate how those items were researched. In the meantime, getting the letters was a real treat for me and analyzing them caused me to revisit some research that I had not looked at in quite some time.

General Suggestions

Here are some tips regarding family correspondence:

~ Review the family structure of the letter writer, including extended family and family by marriage. Some individuals may only be mentioned by first name.
~ If the letter is in a foreign language, consider getting more than one translation, particularly if the handwriting is difficult to read.
~ Try and place every person in the letter--even those that are not relatives.
~ Do not “correct” the document. Comments about potential errors can be added separately where they clearly do not appear to be part of the document itself.
~ Never give up hope. I had been researching Lina for more than twenty-five years before I learned of the existence of these letters.
~ Try and track down your own extended family for such materials. These letters were sent to me by a relative who descends from one of my great-great-grandfather’s sisters.

Pullman Collection

Records from the Pullman Collection are being "pulled" for three of my wife's ancestors and one uncle. I'm hoping to hit "paydirt" on at least one of them. Two of the files contain precise dates of birth, so maybe those will provide some additional information. We'll have a brief update on the blog and a detailed update in Casefile Clues when the papers have been received.

Working with a Professional Update

One of the ongoing series in Casefile Clues is the series on working with a professional. We've ironed out the details of the search with the researcher and will be including future articles in this series outlining the process and the results. In this case, the research was hired out because it was cheaper to hire the research by a local person familiar with local facilities than to travel to the area and do it myself. Given the nature of Cook County records, there would have been ordering and waiting for records that would have necessitated being in the area for at least three or four days.

The following items from the Cook County, Illinois, area (highly summarized here) are a part of the research contract:
  • William Frame name change petition
  • Real estate documents for three Chicago area addresses
  • Pullman Collection research on several family members
The family being researched was not wealthy, but did own a small home on Chicago's south side. The reasons why these specific sources were targeted have been discussed in an earlier issue of Casefile Clues. Future installments will discuss the contract and the terms.

Two items have been partially researched with some success. Updated details will be published in future issues of Casefile Clues.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Issue 27 is out

Issue 27 "Analyzing Andrew Trask" is out. Check your inbox and email me if you do not have it.
Subscribe today and I'll start your subscription with this issue.