Monday, January 31, 2011

Four Elements Before a Census Search

One of the things discussed in the next issue of Casefile Clues are the key elements to determine before census records are searched. Simply starting a search without thinking first is not the way to find what you are looking for

We focus on Peter Bieger, a German immigrant who was living in either Ohio or Illinois in 1850. The search and our analysis really has little to do with his ethnic background and a lot to do with how little is known about him and the fact that he died while still fairly young. I'll be honest--we still have not found him, but our search has been organized, both in our search approach and our analysis of the results.

Subscribe now and discover the key elements of a census search and how they applied to Peter Bieger. In doing the analysis, I was able to estimate his age more closely than I had before--unfortunately it did not ultimately help with the census--but sometimes we don't find the answers we want.

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Finding Peter Bieger in 1850

Wrapping up the article on finding Peter Bieger in 1850. This is not just a German article as the analysis and suggestions are larger than that.

In it, I discuss the four things you need to know before census searching. Answering those four questions is what really took up a great deal of my time.

Organizing my negative results was important as well. This is an absolute necessity when searches are not immediately successful and when multiple databases and image sites are used  in attempt to locate the desired people. You can't essentially do the same research twice--it takes too much time.

When the article runs, I welcome comments. Much of this is a learning process for all of us--myself included.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Importance of Going Back

I've been reviewing information on Peter Bieger for the article on locating him in the 1850 census. In reviewing actual copies of the land records, I realized that I had made a typographical error in a transcription of a deed at least fifteen years ago when I first transcribed it.

I typed it as if Peter had purchased his first Illinois property in 1850. He actually purchased it in 1852. The two year difference is significant. The deed styles Peter as being of Hancock County, Illinois, and it means that the first documented record of his being in Illinois is 1852, not 1850. This also has some impact on where his first daughter was born--which really wasn't the point of the article.

There is no question Franciska Bieger, born in 1851 was his daughter. The question now has become: "was she born in Illinois or Ohio?" Part of me thinks that it's not crucial to know. After all, all evidence indicates he was her father and the precise location of her birth  will not change that. I know when and where Peter was married, so that doesn't change anything either. Not being certain of where Franciska was born does not change any relationships.  And sometimes it is okay to be uncertain.

Subscribe to Casefile Clues now and see our attempts to locate Peter in 1850.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Problems Processing Renewals

A reader indicated they were having difficulty with PayPal processing a renewal. If the link in your email doesn't work, this one is also a secure link that will process as a renewal. If that does not work, you can just subscribe again and indicate renewal in the box for instructions---or just email me.

Charting Peter Bieger in 1850

This is a screen shot of part of a chart that is in progress for an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues--hopefully before issue 25.

I've had an awful time locating him in 1850 and this chart of results (which I had to compile manually) is part of my work. The chart shown here is only part of the one I'm actually using (and this is a DRAFT). The completed chart (along with the discussion, analysis, and sources) will appear in an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues.  I'll be honest, so far, Peter has not been located in 1850, but the discussion of how the search was conducted is still valid--and sometimes people simply are not located. We've focused in several earlier issues of Casefile Clues about organizing census searches focusing on what to put in the search boxes. The Peter Bieger article concentrates on sifting through and sorting the results.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Families I Write About

A couple of readers commented about this to me privately, so I thought I'd answer here in a slightly more public forum.

The only families that are the subject of Casefile Clues articles are ones that are related to my children. With a few minor exceptions, they are usually ancestors, aunts/uncles, or first cousins of ancestors. It is extremely rare for me to write about someone that is not related to one of my children. This is largely because there is a great amount of variety in my children's ancestry already.

1845-1883 era immigrants
  • Ostfriesland, Germany--1/4 of my children's ancestors came from this area between 1850 and 1883. Main settlements were in western Illinois.
  • Ireland--1/16 of my children's ancestors came from Ireland to Canada in the1850s and 1860s. They were post-famine immigrants
  • Belgium-1/16 of my children's ancestors came from East Flanders to Rock Island County, Illinois, in 1880.
  • Sweden-1/16 of my children's ancestors were from Ostergotland, Sweden, immigrating to Knox County, Illinois in the 1880s.
  • England-1/16 of my children's ancestors were from the Carlisle area, immigrating to Chicago in the 1860s.
  • French-Canada-1/16 of my children's ancestors were from Quebec, migrating into Clinton County, New York in the 1840-1850 era and eventually migrating to Chicago in the very early 20th century. 
  • Switzerland- 1/32 of my children's ancestors were from Graubunden, Switzerland, immigrating to Scott County, Iowa, in the 1850s.
  • Germany-3/32 of my children's ancestors were from Germany, immigrating from Thuringen to Illinois in 1853; parts unknown to Cincannati in the 1840s; and Bavaria to Scott County, Iowa in the 1850s.

I'll work up a summary of the pre-1845 families later, but there are families in every state from New England to North Carolina, including Mayflower immigrants and a few mid-17th century Virginia immigrants.

And there's always the stray aunt, uncle, or cousin who ended up just about anywhere.

Court Martial in Mesilla, Arizona, 1860s

The image shown with this blog post is a National Archives ARC search result for Joshua Sledd who appears to have been court-martialed (or something) in Mesilla, Arizona, in the 1860s.

I'm not precisely certain who this Joshua Sledd is, but a preliminary bit of sleuthing indicates he was born about 1810 in Virginia. The last name of Sledd is not all that common and I do have Sledd ancestors in Amherst County, Virginia, until about 1820 or so. There's a good chance he's reasonably closely related to my Thomas Sledd who married Sally/Sarah Tinsley in Amherst County in the 1790s.

I've sent an inquiry to the National Archives for a price quote for the file. We'll have updates here as the records are located and we'll feature them in a issue of Casefile Clues as soon as possible.

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Comments, etc.

I am getting some really nice comments about the newsletter from people submitting their renewals. Thanks. The encouragement is greatly appreciated--even though I don't always get to respond to each comment personally. I am getting a few suggestions as well and appreciate those too.

If you are a subscriber, feel free to mention Casefile Clues to others who are also interested in genealogy research. At $17 a year, it's one of the best genealogy bargains around. If it sparked a research idea, let your blog readers/site visitors know about it. Spreading the word really helps Casefile Clues keep our costs down and helps me produce the newsletter without advertising on the site or in the newsletter itself. I feel really strongly about that.

To keep fresh content coming to you every week, I'm going to have to spend less time on marketing--so feel free to spread the word about Casefile Clues.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Merging and Separating People

I've been thinking about the concept of "merging" people from records--in other words, determining that a person in one record in one location is the same as another person in another location. Some researchers want a "hard and fast" procedure to tell them when they have a match, but while sometimes it is obvious, other times it is not.

The flip side of this is "separating" people. Two individuals with the same (or very similar) name are contemporaries of each other, both in time and place. How does one "separate" them into their unique identities? Again there are some guidelines, but not any "hard and fast" rules.

It's difficult to make a flow chart on these two concepts, although it is possible to discuss some general ways it can be done.

I'm looking into various "problems" in my own work, both solved and unsolved, to determine if there are any that fit this general scheme.

Search results from websites tend to "lump" people together because they match certain broad parameters. It's up to genealogists to determine if the individuals actually are a match or not.

Stay tuned--or subscribe now if you are not already on our distribution list.

Missing Issues, etc.

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Email has it's faults, but I think that for most readers the PDF version works better than some other options and it gives me control over layout and formatting.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Issue 21 Has Left My Keyboard-Last December 2010 Issue-Need to Renew?

Issue 21 has been sent. Email me at if you did not receive.

It is the last December 2010 issue. If you subscribed in December of 2009, it is your last issue of Casefile Clues. Renew or extend your subscription using the link in the cover email that comes with your newsletter. Email me with questions.


Clark Sargent's Sister Lucinda Fairman

This death certificate for Lucinda Sargent Fairman was discovered on FamilySearch by searching for the names of Clark Sargent's parents. I knew about this sister, but did not know what happened to her and the last name I had for her was not Fairman.

We've discussed Clark somewhat before in Casefile Clues--he was the father of Ira Sargent. Part of my work on Clark involves documenting what happened to his siblings. Some of that information has been preliminarily obtained from submissions of others to online sites--but needs to be validated. Clark was apparently the only one of his family to migrate to northern Illinois and I'm wondering if any other family members were there. I'm also documenting Clark's siblings completely as there's not too much information on Clark's parents in the latter years of their lives and I'm working on firming up Clark's connection to his parents--hopefully via a probate, quitclaim deeds, etc.

Hopefully there'll be an update on the Sargent clan in records from New England, where it appears most of them stayed--except, unfortunately for Clark.
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Next Issue is Last December 2010 Issue-Renew Before Your Forget

The next issue of Casefile Clues will be the last December 2010 issue--so if you subscription expired in December of 2010, it will be your last issue of Casefile Clues. Renewals can be processed securely via this link.

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Spread the News About Casefile Clues

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Remember that Casefile Clues is always original, fresh content. We don't copy and paste material from other sites or articles. And some of this stuff we just can't make up!

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Primary, Secondary, Original, Derivative and Does Kentucky Equal New York?

This is the 1885 Iowa State Census enumeration for Fred and Lucretia Price in Davis County, Iowa. We've seen this family before, but just where does it appear that Lucretia was born?

A realization I made in looking at this enumeration likely explained a "discrepancy" in a 1930 census that had baffled me for years.

And it all ties in with primary versus secondary information and original versus derivative sources.

We'll discuss this in issue 20 of Casefile Clues--going out in the next day or so. Subscribe now and get in on the fun.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Who May Devise Property--Antje Fecht 1889 Will

I'm still wrapping up loose ends on the 1889 will that was denied in 1900 for unspecified reasons. The image in this post is part of the will section of the Illinois Revised Code, which was passed in the early 1870s and was still in effect at the time Antje's will was written. Based upon what I know about Antje, she met the qualifications to write and leave a valid will, so this section didn't include anything that would have invalidated her will.

However, I'm about 99% certain of the reason--which isn't specifically mentioned in state code. Despite that, reading the code in effect at the time certainly helps undertand things.

I'm working on an illustration for the article that makes the relationships a little more clear as well. It can be confusing to those not familiar with the family when the widow's second husband, son-in-law, and daughter-in-law all have the same last name are are VERY distantly related.

This one's probably going to be issue 22 as there are a few non-writing loose ends that need to be wrapped up before it goes out.

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Merging Personalities and Records

Part of the problem with Mary/May Cintura Drollette from issue 20 was the fact that her name varied occasionally over time and that she "got younger" as the years progressed. The changing of the age was not a huge concern, but combined with the name, it did make me wonder if there were two wives for the same person.

Merging individuals from different records into the same "person" needs to be done with care.

Mary/May's ethnic background is not precisely known. It could very well be that in her ethnic background, Mary and May are entirely different. One has to be careful assuming just because names are "pretty close" that they are indeed referring to the same person. I have encountered families with daughters (both growing to adulthood) named Lucinda and Lucina.

We'll be looking at other cases of similar names and separating out identities in future issues of Casefile Clues. Subscribe now and get in on the discovery.

And as usual, we'll be discussing our method and citing our sources along the way.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Don't Want to Make a Year-long Committment to Casefile Clues?

If a year seems like too long to start your subscription to Casefile Clues, consider the quarterly subscription. It is only $6.50 for 4 months of the weekly Casefile Clues.

Alberta Homestead Files Ordered

There were two references to homesteads for William H. Sartorius in the index on the Alberta Genealogical Society's website. The request has been made and we'll be discussing the records in a future issue of Casefile Clues. Stay tuned!

SARTORIUS, William Henry
Section 20Township 42Range 8Meridian 4
Film # 2759 in Accession # 1970.313 at Provincial Archives of Alberta
File # 1260856

SARTORIUS, William Henry
Section 4Township 51Range 4Meridian 4
Film # 2759 in Accession # 1970.313 at Provincial Archives of Alberta
File # 1259817

Update on Documenting May Drollette's 1934 Arrival

Readers of Casefile Clues who get into the citations will notice that there's one passenger list citation from issue 20 that does not provide NARA numbers. The citation for the 1934 manifest entry indicates that I used, but the NARA publication information (which should be included in the citation and which is included in the other citations) was missing. It was not an oversight. 

The NARA film information was not on the site. It wasn't just my in ability to find it. 

That information is from microfilm serial # is M1465, Roll #9.

My contact at tells me the "powers that be" (my phrase, not my contacts) are aware of the problem. 

I was just glad that it wasn't me and I'm glad that is working on the problem. 

Speaking from personal experience the more you cite, the easier it becomes and the more little things you notice. 

Now, do you have to cite your own materials exactly the way we do in Casefile Clues? I may get kicked out of the genealogy club here, but I'm going to say no. The important thing is that you clearly indicate:

  • what you used
  • what format it was in
  • how you accessed it-original, microfilm of original, digital version of microfilm, etc. 
On all the manifest entries in issue 20, we didn't just say "passenger manifest" and give the date and name of the ship. That might imply I saw the actual manifest, which I didn't. I didn't just say I used the microfilm, because I didn't. The indication was that I used the digital version of the NARA microfilm that has on their site. That way someone else who sees my citation can decide if they want to access a different version that may be more legible, show markings in color, etc. etc. 

Remember--Casefile Clues is about more than citations--request a sample by emailing or subscribe today!

My Uncle in Alberta, Canada

This 1926 order probating the will of Trientje Sartorius indicates one of her heirs (a son), was living in Alberta, Canada. I've not done too much on Uncle William and thought now might be a good time. The Alberta Genealogical Society has indexed Alberta homesteads and William Henry Sartorius appears there in two homestead entries. I've never seen or used Alberta homestead records and am thinking about getting his homestead papers for an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues.

As a note: This petition does not indicate the relationship of any of the "notifiees" to the deceased of the probate of the will. These individuals were named in Trientje's will and not necessarily related to her. In this case they were. The last three listed were grandchildren of Trientje, children of a daughter who pre-deceased her. Others listed were her children.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Documenting May Drollette's 1934 Arrival

The is the "record" screen from the search for May Cintura Drolette in "Border Crossings: From Canada to U. S. 1895-1956" that was used in locating the 1934 entry in issue 20 of Casefile Clues.
The problem was that it was difficult (actually impossible for me) to determine the National Archives microfilm publication number from this screen and from the image to which it linked.
One of the things we use in the creation of citations at Casefile Clues is the NARA microfilm publication number. The citation indicates we used the digital image, but the citation still should refer to the actual NARA microfilm publication number.
Because deadlines always loom large, I went ahead and crafted a citation that did not include the publication number even though I didn't want to.
The citation we used provided enough of a trail so that someone else could find the same manifest image I did on Still I would have liked to have included the number in the citation.

Citations should always make it clear precisely where we located the information. Sometimes it may seem like a little too much detail, but it's important nevertheless.
We always write Casefile Clues so that it's not necessary to read the citations. Speaking from personal experience, creating them has greatly helped my research and caused me to catch some oversights and realize some leads that I had never followed up.
We'll post an update when I get the actual NARA publication number.
It is important for me to know precisely where got the information. Knowing it was from the National Archives is not specific enough. After all, it's a big place and they have a lot of microfilm (that's an attempt to be funny...)
 Hopefully I simply overlooked something in my haste to meet deadlines.
We'll post an update when I've got one. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Denying the Will for Unstated Reasons

This is the "back side" of the order refusing to probate the will of "Antie" Fecht, from the June 1900 term of the Hancock County, Illinois Court.

The judge makes no mention of any reason for refusal to probate the Fecht will, but I think I know why. There are several legal concepts involved here, but none are really all that complicated. It is just a matter of thinking about what things mean, locating all the records, and putting things in a chronology.

Stay tuned and we'll have the full story in Casefile Clues. Subscribe now and get in on the discovery.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Next Issue is Last December 2010 Issue-Renew!

Issue 21 from Volume 2 will be our last December 2010 issue and should be out this week sometime.

Subscribers whose subscriptions expire in December can renew  or extend their subscriptions securely here and not miss an issue of Casefile Clues.

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Will of Belle Shaw May Shed Light on May Drollette

An item in "Courthouse Happenings" from the Zanesville [Ohio] Times Recorder, 2 November 1945, indicates that the will of Belle Shaw left a bequest for her sister Mrs. George Drollette.

We've discussed the Drollette and their globetrotting ways in issues 18, 19, and 20 from Casefile Clues. While the details of the will are not really germane to the problem at hand, the records of the probate may shed light on "Mrs. G. W. Drollette," particularly where she was in 1945 when the will was admitted to probate.

We're looking into having someone research the will and estate records of Belle Shaw to see what is said about Mrs. G. W. Drollette.

As mentioned in Casefile Clues, she's our real focus.

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Issue 20 out...

Issue 20 from Volume 2 "Just One Wife Who Shaves Her Age" has been mailed. Subscribe now and I'll start your new subscription off with issue 20.

First 20 Issues of Year 2 and a 1 Year Subscription

Topics from the first 17 issues of year 2 are:
  • Volume 2-Number 1--Problem-Solving--a variety of techniques for breaking through those brick walls.
  • Volume 2-Number 2--A 1907 Committal--An insanity record.
  • Volume 2-Number 3--A 1921 Divorce--looking at a 1921 era divorce from Chicago
  • Volume 2-Number 4--Leaving John's Hands: Documenting Post-Death Land Transfers
  • Volume 2-Number 5--The Acquisition of John Michael Trautvetter's 228 Acres
  • Volume 2-Number 6--The Original Versus the Record Copy
  • Volume 2-Number 7--Multiple Marriage Mayhem:
    Starting the Search for Emma (Sargent) Pollard Ross Oades Pollard Snavly Olenbaugh
  • Volume 2-Number 8--A Handful of Problem-Solving Strategies
  • Volume 2-Number 9--Two-Thirds of an Acre from Uncle John: A Partition Suit Proves a Sibling Relationship
  • Volume 2-Number 10--A Minimal Estate Gives Some Direction: The 1886-1888 Probate of Benjamin Butler
  • Volume 2-Number 11--Signing What We Could Not Read--immigrants unable to read English sign a 1870 era document that is incorrect and a lawsuit results.
  • Volume 2-Number 12--Dad Raised my Daughter--A newspaper account of a court case in the 1880s discusses an early 1870 out-of-wedlock birth.
  • Volume 2-Number 13--Using the 1860 Census to Formulate a Passenger List Search Strategy
  • Volume 2-Number 14--Search Strategy for Benjmamin Butler in pre-1870 Census Records--this looks at ways to find the missing 1850 and 1860 census enumerations for man who "appears" in Iowa in 1870.
  • Volume 2-Number 15--Pre-1850 Census--analyzing 1810-1840 census entries for Thomas Chaney in Bedford County, Pennsylvania.
  • Volume 2-Number 16--Names in the Probate--analyzing various names in a probate settlement from 1903. Nicknames and diminutives were part of the problem.
  • Volume 2-Number 17--Bridging a Twenty-Year Census Gap-1870 to 1860. Showing that an 1870 Iowa, 1880 Missouri, and an 1850 Michigan enumeration are for the same man.
  • Volume 2-Number 18--Four Passports and a Foreign Death: George Washington Drollette. Analyzes four early 20th century passports and a US State Department death report from 1933.
  • Volume 2-Number 19--Diplomatic Employment Applications. Analyzes and summaries letters of support for employment with the US State Department between 1901-1906.
  • Volume 2-Number 20--Just One Wife Who Shaves Her Age. Records hinted that a man might have had more than one wife. Despite age discrepancies and first name variations, we've likely proven that there was just one wife.
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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Documenting the Research Process

Focusing on "good research" is an important part of Casefile Clues. One of the ways I've tried to do that is the incorporation of citations throughout the newsletter. Citations are not fun, but they do allow us to clearly indicate which record we used and how it was accessed--always good.

I'm thinking that in addition to the citation of sources, we need to include more of the "how" of how things are found and how searches are conducted. We've done some of that in issues devoted to formulating census searches for hard to find individuals. I'm talking about a more comprehensive approach. The specifics of how databases were searched are not included in issue 20. There is broad discussion of how searches were done, but not in great detail. I'm thinking that more of that needs to be included. Perhaps not in every issue as it does tend to increase the length of the article.

Perhaps every few articles would include more focus on how databases were searched, what terms were used, and how the research results, both successful and unsuccessful, were tracked.

Any thoughts?

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Lying About the Age, Secondary Information Can Be Wrong, and Globetrotters

Issue 20 wraps up most of what I have currently located on George Drollette and his wife-Marie, Mary, May, Mae (take your pick as to what to call her).

For reasons discussed in the article, I believe the statement on George's 1933 death report of his Saigon death that indicates his son was "by a previous marriage" was incorrect. Sometimes secondary information is.

It also seems clear that his wife got younger as she got older. Her date of birth on one passenger manifest indicates she was born after the ship arrived in the United States.

Because of the 1933 death record statement, May's use of Mary/Marie/May as a name, and her changing age, I wanted to be certain George Drollette wasn't actually married twice. Issue 20 makes the case that he wasn't.

We will also see how newspapers from the mid-20th century were really key to part of this research. The society pages write-ups of bridge parties actually were helpful for more than just adding a little "fluff" to our research.

And researching May at the end of her life still is not complete. She apparently was married again in the early 1940s and I am wondering how she was impacted by the second World War while living in Hong Kong during that era.

And there's a few other details I'll leave for the column. As usual, this one didn't go quite as planned.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

May Drollette's Picture and Sticking to My Goals

May Drollette from her passport application
We've discussed May Drollette before in Casefile Clues, but this is the first picture of her that we have.

Taken from her passport application, it shows her at the age of 37 in 1921.

Much of the follow up work based upon our earlier article on George Drollette has been finished. Some questions have been answered and some have not.
The challenge is to decide when the research fits into our research goals and when it does not.

If one is not careful, one can mindlessly search and locate new information. The goal, particularly who is being researched and why, must always be kept in mind.

Casefile Clues is a little different as sometimes records are accessed so that their use and interpretation can explained. However, not all of us are researching simply to write articles. We'll see how the new material fits into the overall research goals and where we should proceed from there. Extensive research on May's family may not be a good use of my research time, based upon my goals.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Starting to Get Ready for Salt Lake

Readers know that I lead an annual research trip to Salt Lake's Family History Library each May.

I'm working on my list and we'll be updating/improving it here as time goes on. As I get closer to the trip, I'll create a chart with film numbers, titles, and the specific items I'm going to look for on the film. This is a start, and at this point, not very detailed and definitely a rough draft as I'm pretty much brainstorming at this point. Some of these are individuals we've seen in earlier issues of Casefile Clues where entries from databases were used in our analysis but where actual records should be located.
  • Copies of actual marriage record for Emma Sargent Pollard in Iowa and Nebraska.
  • Copy of actual marriage record for Benjamin Butler and Nancy Wolfe in Richardson County, Nebraska.
  • Determine if Family History Library has divorce records from counties where Emma Sargent Pollard likely was divorced.
  • Copy of Thomas Frame naturalization record from Chicago in 1873.
I'm going to be reviewing earlier issues of Casefile Clues to determine what research suggestions I would like to work on while at the library. We'll be posting updates. Suggestions for things you'd like to see in Casefile Clues or items you'd personally like me to follow up on are appreciated.

May 2011 Trip to Family History Library--Take the Trip from Points East

(reposted from
Readers know that every May I have a group trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. More information about the trip is located here.

What I'm wondering about is if anyone who lives east of Salt Lake and lives close enough to an Amtrak station would be interested in taking the train (California Zephyr) to Salt Lake. I've taken it to Utah from Galesburg, Illinois, and the ride through the mountains is beautiful. If those of us who could, took the train, we could meet on the train, do some preparing on the train, review your materials, etc. etc. all before we got to Salt Lake.

Let me know if you're interested. It's about a 30 hour ride for me to Salt Lake and I usually get a fair amount of work done on the train. If this sounds interesting to you, check out the website and email me at

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Refusal to Probate Will in 1900

I'm still working on the will in 1900 that was refused probate by the judge with no stated reason.
I'm thinking at this point there there were two likely reasons:
  • She had no title to the property
  • She could not  leave husband out of will
In reviewing statute, a woman in Illinois in 1891 could own her own separate property and transfer that property, etc. I'm still looking to see if a married woman could simply leave everything to one child and completely leave the husband out.
The image comes from Google Books' version of the statute. Any statutes mentioned in Casefile Clues will be cited appropriately--making the distinction that the Google Books' version was used if necessary. Hopefully I'll have the groundwork on this article done in the near future--I'm squeezing in review of statutes when I can.
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Monday, January 10, 2011

Additional Followup Items from George Drollette's NARA Materials from Issue 19

As mentioned at the end of article 19, one needs to keep the goals of the research in mind when devoting time and money to researching a certain person or family.

It might not be really effective to research details of Drollette's career in China if I'm trying to locate descendants. Drollette is a brother of one of my wife's ancestors. He has certainly been interesting to research. I am really doubtful that additional records of his time with the State Department in China will actually further my research goals.

Time might be better spend determining the connection between Drollette and the man from Zanesville, Ohio, who vouched for Drollette's citizenship in 1922. As discussed in issue 18, there likely is something there.

It also might be a better use of time to search for information on Drollette's time after the state department and determine what happened to his wife after his death. Perhaps if there are consular records closer to 1933 (when Drollette died), those materials might mention other members of his family.

It might also be advised to determine what happened to his wife after he died in Saigon.

In some cases one can think of several possible areas to continue the research. In this case, the goals and the costs must be weighed with each choice.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Do You Have an Article on My Family or My Topic?

I get variations on this question all the time.

The answer to the first question is easy: "not unless you are related to my children." The only families I write about are those connected to my children. What that essentially means is that you likely won't see Jewish ancestors, Eastern European ancestors, or Hispanic ancestors in Casefile Clues. I'll never say never, because one just never knows. Otherwise the locations and time periods can vary. I only write about these families as they are the only ones I know enough about so that articles can be as complete and thorough as possible. We don't like to skim the surface in Casefile Clues.

As for your specific topic...

That really depends. I try and make titles include the record being analyzed or the time period and family situation being dicussed. The problem is that it is difficult in a title to cover all the varying concepts and problems one article might cover. And it is difficult for an article NOT on your family to give you detailed, specific, step-by-step help on YOUR family. One of the goals of Casefile Clues is to give you enough details of the process and procedure to give you ideas on your own family.

And sometimes brief descriptions aren't the best either. An excellent series on late nineteenth and early twentieth century land records in the Midwest had lots of German names, but the article itself really had nothing to do with German research at all.

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Reader Comment

In requesting a missing back issue, a reader wrote:

"Thank you again for such a wonderful publication.  I love the structure of your research process."

Thanks for the comment. If you'd like to subscribe to Casefile Clues, you can do so here.

Issue 19 is out

Should be in your inboxes. Let me know if it is not. Those who would like to renew or extend their subscription can do so via the link in the email that comes with your copy of Casefile Clues.

Geroge Drollette Picture from State Department Files

Issue 19 of Casefile Clues Volume 2 will discuss letters of recommendation in the State Department file for George Drollette who served in China between 1901 and ca. 1905.

This is a picture of Drollette that his wife sent to the Secretary of State in hopes of obtaining a promotion for Drollette.  Issue 19 discusses the goals of the research, the materials in the file, and where research should progress.

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Friday, January 7, 2011

George Drollette's Attempts to be Promoted at the Chinese Legation

I'm in the final throes of putting together the article on George Drollette's attempts to get promoted at the Chinese Legation between 1901 and 1905. There is too much material to transcribe every letter and frankly the recommendations are repetitive. As a result, only salient points are being extracted. Key elements describing Drollette, other than the adjectives extolling his virtues, are included, such as:
  • anything hinting at a time frame
  • specifics of abilities Drollette has (language, typing, etc.)
  • anything mentioning a specific relationship the writer has with Drollette
The material was not in chronological order and apparently the backs of some letters were not copied. In most cases the back sides that were not copied only contained describers of the letter. Citing the letters is also proving to be a slight challenge as well.

The letters from his wife Marie are especially poignant. The reactions of one State Deparement official to her notes of support are interesting.

The picture of Drollette is nice as well. He is described as "handsome," but I'm not exactly certain what that has to do with being a stenographer.

We will see how the mateial was analyzed and used for future research.

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You Don't Have to be "Citation Crazy" to Read and Use Casefile Clues

We mention citations in the Casefile Clues blog and the fan page on Facebook, but readers can get a lot out of Casefile Clues without reading the citations. The text of the newsletter is meant to be read without citations, if that is what the reader prefers.

All the analysis, methodology, and discussion is in the text of the newsletter--and I try and be as readable as possible while still explaining things adequately. The tone of Casefile Clues is not academic and stuffy.

Citations are included because they are important to genealogical research. However, I read articles and don't often refer to the footnotes. Tracking where we got information is important, but I realize that most of our readers are reading the text of the newsletter for ideas on how to continue their own research. And that's great.

Citation is only discussed in the text of the newsletter when it is crucial to the discussion of the material being analyzed. Sometimes the way a source is analyzed hinges upon the form in which it was accessed. Citations allow the reader whose concerned about how something was located to find it.

And while we cite everything we use, Casefile Clues is not the citation police. However, I do know from personal experience that when you start citing the materials you use adequately, you start noticing things that before might have "slipped past." And that's important too.

Subscribe to Casefile Clues, and when the spirit moves--read the footnotes. And when the spirit doesn't move you in that direction, that's ok as well. And if you were moved to read them and wonder why something was cited the way it was--just ask. That's how we all learn, myself included.

Citing Letters in an Application that are Almost Duplicates

A page by page read of the letters of application in George Drollette's application file to work for the Minister to China revealed that there are nearly duplicate copies of letters of recommendation in the file. The actual letters (in most cases) are not in the file. They are typed copies. The letters are slightly different.

Citing each one is a challenge as a citation needs to indicate which copy is being referenced. Letters are signed by the same person and have the same location and date. Fortunately the typed word "copy" appears on each transcribed letter in a slightly different fashion. This gives me a way to cite the letters separately and makes me realize that the transcriber used the word "copy" to differentiate one letter from the same person from the other letter from that person.

The devil is, as they say, in the details.

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Writing the Secretary of State

This is one of the letters I'm transcribing for the next issue of Casefile Clues. This is a copy of a letter written by W. L. Penfield to Secretary of State Hay in 1904 on George Drollette's behalf. George's wife Marie had written Penfield requesting employment for her husband. Referring to her as a "dear creature" is an interesting turn of phrase.
These materials are housed in the National Archives, File Unit from Record Group 59: General Records of the Department of State, 1763 - 2002. We'll have a complete citation in the issue of Casefile Clues that uses these records. There are copies of numerous letters from residents of Evansville, Indian, in support of Drollette's position. There is also a handwritten letter by a low-level diplomat on Drollette's behalf as well. John Gardner Coolidge (great-great-grandson of President Jefferson) worked with Drollette for two year's after Coolidge's appointment to a post in China.

We'll have more details in a future issue of Casefile Clues. Subscribe now and get in on the fun.

Reading the Flip Side of the Page

This is part of a letter that was in the application file for George Drollette when he was applying for a job in China with the consulate at the turn of the 20th century. We've discussed Drollette before in Casefile Clues. These records are from when he was employed by the US government in China in the 1900s. The problem was that the National Archives did not copy the back of this letter. Fortunately with a scanner it was easy to alter a scan of the image in order to see what it said.With a litle work one can read between the typed letters.

We'll have a transcription of the relevant parts in an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues. Subscribe now and get in on the fun.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Back Issues, Missing Issues, Issues Lost in Cyberspace

All requests for back issues, missing issues, accidentally deleted issues, etc. have been filled as of 11:00 A.M. CST. If you request has not had a response, please accept my apologies and send it to If you'd like to order back issues, send issue numbers to and send a payment link. Thanks.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Some Additional Thoughts on George Drollette--Issue 18

It always seems that after something has been finished, omissions come to mind. That is the case with issue 18 on the four passports of George Drollette.

Locating the various places George lived in China and Vietman might have been a good idea.
Place Names
While documents need to be transcribed as they are written, it would be good to learn the modern spelling of the locations mentioned in Drollette's passports.

I already have information for at least one follow up piece on George Drollette. I know why he went to Ohio in the 1920s and am somewhat convinced that the reference to a "previous" marriage in the record of his 1933 death is an error. That argument needs some writing up.

George's "application" to work for the American Minister to China has been obtained from the National Archives and will be featured in an upcoming issue. Work continues on consulate records from Hong Kong and other places where Drollette lived.

Minimal work has been done on his wife's family, largely because it was not seen as critical to the research on George as his interaction with his in-laws seems minimal after his 1901 departure from Indiana.

Subscribe now and get in on the discovery. Remember that we focus on process and method--I don't expect subscribers to all have a relative like George.

Suqsequent Short Notes

Some of you might have noticed that issue 18 was the first where I have started using subsequent or short notes in Casefile Clues. In previous issues, I have always used the full reference note throughout. Using the full note throughout is not the preferred style and I will be graduating to the short notes in the future.

Part of this is writing the full citations is sometimes time consuming enough without adding the creation of short citations. The other problem is that my personal editing and writing process means things get moved around, added at the last minute, etc. etc. and that means that what was once first might not be first anymore and what was once subsequent is no longer subsequent.

However, the use of short citations takes less space and that's always a good thing. Not all subscribers print out their newsletters, but I know that quite a few do and I am trying to be cognizant of the number of sheets each issue takes. As a result, I'll be striving to use short citations as much as possible. I'm also looking at ways to reduce the number of citations where possible. It is a fine line and citation is definitely an art and some days I am better at it than others.

As always, Casefile Clues, strives for the spirit of Evidence Explained, if not to the precise letter. Among the competing demands, crunching out a weekly newsletter occasionally means that a citation has to be hastily compiled and sometimes decisions have to be made to save time if nothing else.

Comments or suggestions about citations are always welcome as we continue to strive towards exhibiting sound genealogy methodology in Casefile Clues.

Issue 18 is out

Issue 18 is out. Subscribers who need to renew can do so via the link in the email. Those who have missing issues should email me at Anyone who would like to purchase back issues can send me a message indicating which issues they need.

What Year Was That Oath of Allegiance?

This is the oath of allegiance from one of the passport applications of George Drollette which are discussed in the next issue of Casefile Clues (V2N18). The year of the oath is difficult to read--is it 1918 or 1919? That's one of the smallest issues with the passport applications.

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Elmore Drollette Crosses Pacific Alone at Age of 10

While working one of two followups to issue 18 (not yet emailed yet), I ran across this newspaper account of Elmore Drollette in the Reno [Nevada] Evening Gazette in August of 1909. We'll have a complete citation to the clipping in our followup article--but this means that passenger lists need to be checked for Elmore in 1909 to see if he is listed on the maniest as this article indicates he should be.

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Monday, January 3, 2011

Research with Michael in 2011

I've got two group research trips planned in 2011--considering joining me for onsite, hands-on research. Space is limited and the sooner pre-trip planning starts, the better. I'm going to:
Consider joining me for an exciting and fun research time. Email with questions.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

George Drollette Passport and Overseas Death Article

In reviewing a few things, I discovered a fourth passport application for George Drollette whose passports and death overseas will be the focus of the next issue of Casefile Clues. I want to incorporate that into the article I'm working on instead of waiting for a separate article.

I've already got the material for a followup on Drollette as it is because completing other research for the passport/overseas death article allowed me to discover:
  • the relationship between Drollette who lived in Asia from about 1901 until his death in 1933 and a man (who never left the US until 1920) who claimed in 1920 that he had known Drollette for five years
  • just how young children could be and travel by themselves overseas to China in the early 1900s
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And before you think the relatives of my chidlren must all be jet-setters and world travellers, keep in mind that George Drollette was very atypical for his family. His siblings all pretty much stayed in the upstate New York area and were not world travellers.