You Wanted to Know

Jeff Chapman answers questions posed by Family Chronicle readers.

Q This summer I planned to conduct some oral interviews with some of the elder members of our family so that we could preserve family history for posterity. At the minimum, I thought I would try to use a high-quality cassette recorder that records in stereo with two microphones so that each of our voices (interviewer and interviewee) can be distinguished. However, then it occurred to me that even when it is stored reasonably well, 1/8" audio cassette tape may not be the best long-term storage medium.
          I could record it and pay to have it put on compact discs, but I hear that these go kaput after something on the order of 25 years.
          Another thought would be to use a sound card in a computer to convert the audio to a digital file (*.wav or *.au, etc.) that could be kept with other archived digital files that are periodically refreshed. So, before I go any further, I thought I'd ask: Has anyone thought through any of these issues? What are some good ways to go that don't cost an arm and a leg?

Frank O'Donnell, Internet

A If stored correctly, cassettes can last for decades, but digital storage of any type is superior. A digital recording loses no quality in the process of re-recording, so a digital original can be used to create flawless copies. Audio material stored in digital form, such as digital recording on a compact disc, can be transferred to new media as they arise. Storing the entire interview in computer- usable form (ie. WAV files, AU files) is slightly less practical, as such files require tens of megabytes to store a few minutes of high-quality sound. Perhaps you can sample highlights from your interviews in those formats for use in other computer applications.
          Professionals will now store up to 80 minutes (or 750 megabytes) of dialogue on a compact disc for you for a reasonable price of around $20. Furthermore, scientific tests have demonstrated through artificial aging processes that compact discs have a lifespan of 600 years.

Q Did everyone who immigrated to the USA have to be 'naturalized'? Is this different from becoming a US citizen?

Eleanor McIntosh, Internet

A The term "naturalization" refers to the process of becoming a citizen. Since 1790, all emigrants to the United States have had to be naturalized in order to become citizens. Until 1906, there was no uniform rule of naturalization and both Federal and State courts determined the fate of immigrants in accordance with local customs. Unfortunately for family historians, a similar lack of uniformity existed with regard to record-keeping and storage.
          In Canada prior to 1947, British emigrants were considered automatic citizens ('subjects' was the term used at the time), whereas emigrants from other countries were required to complete naturalization papers.

Q I am trying to find the link between my great great great great grandfather and another relative. I know that they are "second cousins," but what does that mean? And what does the term "removed" have to do with all this?

Gillian Copeland, Guelph, Ontario

A In its broadest sense, "cousin" covers all relatives linked by blood or marriage. The rankings of non-removed cousins are actually quite straight forward: first cousins share a set of grandparents, second cousins share a set of great-grandparents, and so on. For example, Rick and Janet have the same set of grandparents, and are therefore first cousins. Rick's children and Janet's children are then second cousins, and so on.
          Cousins are described as "removed" when the relationship becomes slightly less even. One becomes "a first cousin once removed" when one is one generation away from being a true first cousin. For example, Rick's children are Janet's first cousins once removed, and they would describe Janet in the same way. The number of times a relationship is "removed" is equal to the number of generations which stand between two relatives sharing the exact same set of grandparents, great grandparents, etc. Whereas Rick's children are Janet's first cousins once removed, Rick's grandchildren are Janet's first cousins twice removed.
          When you start getting beyond first and second cousins once or twice removed, this quickly becomes very confusing. Using a relationship chart, or a software program, may be your best bet in determining complex relationships.

Q The will of Andrew Davis, written in 1824 leaves legacies to "my niece, Ruth Pence, daughter of Rebecca Kelly" and "my grandson, Aaron Pence." Elsewhere in the will, he also leaves a legacy to "my daughter Rebecca Kelly." Ruth is called a niece when she is actually a granddaughter, but Aaron is called a grandson rather than a nephew.
          Were the meanings of the terms "niece", "granddaughter", "nephew", and "grandson" once the opposite of what they are now - or were the terms interchangeable?

(author unknown)

A If we discard the possibility that more than one Rebecca Kelly is mentioned in the will, it becomes obvious that the terms "niece", "granddaughter", "nephew", and "grandson" are being used in a different sense than they are used today.
          These terms were not used interchangeably, nor as opposites, in the past, but they were used much more flexibly than they are today. As well as the standard use of "niece" and "nephew" for the children of one's siblings, any of the terms could be used to identify a descendant to the second degree. Perhaps "niece" signified a greater closeness than "granddaughter".

Q How does one get a hold of a copy of a relative's will? Are they public record? I've noticed that many people seem to find a great deal of information from wills, and I might be interested in tracking down wills of some members of my family.

Anne Scott, Internet

A Wills become public record after having been properly processed by the probate court. Even in cases where no will has been left, claims made upon the estate of the deceased are public record. In the United States, wills are obtained through the probate court of the county in which the will was executed. Generally, the office will request a mailed check for around $5 to cover photocopying costs. Some older records may be held by historical societies or other archivists; the county probate court should be able to direct you to any such holdings.

Q Is the IGI available on CD-ROM to members of the public? If so where can I get it from?

Richard Klein, Internet

A The IGI (International Genealogical Index produced by the Mormon Church) itself is not available for loan or purchase by members of the public. Use of the IGI is widely available through Family History Centers around the world; contact your local Family History Center through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Some libraries also provide access to this service in association with the LDS Church.

Q A close relative of mine lived with a man for six years. Though they were unmarried and had no children, it seems like I would be excluding important information if I failed to record this relationship in my family tree.

D. Charlwood, Nashville, Tennessee

A Traditionally, family trees are concerned primarily with births, marriages and deaths. Common-law unions are rarely mentioned, but of course common-law marriages have only recently acquired legal status.
          Obviously the decision is yours; you won't be breaking any rules of genealogy by recording a common- law spouse in your family tree. Of course, this then raises the question of exactly how close a relationship must be in order to be recorded. Should we record all serious romantic relationships? What about best friends? Perhaps it is best to reserve space on the family tree chart itself for "official" relationships, and to mention important "unofficial" relationships in accompanying notes or profiles. This does not diminish their importance; on the contrary, it allows you to comment on the significance of the relationship in greater detail than is possible on a family tree chart.

Q I would like to know how common it is for siblings to have the same given name. In my case I have a John clearly a son and a Jonathan probably a son also. Can they be brothers? Would Jonathan have been an orphan?

Steve Knoblock, Internet

A John is not a short form of Jonathan; the two names are distinct, though they share a common root (stemming from "Yahweh," the Hebrew form of "God").
          Normally, parents would only use the same name twice in a case where the older child had died, but there are several exceptions to this practice in various times and places. Ancient Romans used to bestow the family name (ie. Julia) upon every daughter in a family, and then call them each by different diminuitives (ie. Julia, Juliana, Juliania). In parts of Germany, it was once custom to bestow the father's given name upon all the sons in a family, but then to call the sons by their middle names. In Scotland, it was fairly common to name each child after one of its grandparents, so if two grandmothers or two grandfathers had the same name, two children would wind up with the same name.
          Of course, there isn't always a logical explanation for more than one sibling having the same name. Sometimes people just really like a name, or feel they're on a roll. A California family drew attention for naming each of its eight children "Frank J." Other cases, perhaps, are motivated by conceit. Heavyweight boxer George Foreman has named each of his four sons George. It's hard to say what motivates people to recycle given names in this fashion; perhaps it is done out of cruelty to future genealogists.

Q I am trying to decipher someone else's research on a Welsh family and keep coming across references to an "ap" (e.g.: Llewellyn ap David, or Einion ap Seyeylls). What does the 'ap' stand for? Appreciate any help you can offer.

Anne Liardet, Internet

A "Ap" is the Welsh equivalent of the Irish Mc or Mac, and simply means "son of". In the pre-industrial age, the Welsh used patronymic names with great enthusiasm. The Welsh use ap not only in recounting their genealogies, but also when giving extended versions of their names. For example, a Welshman might refer to himself as David ap John ap Owen ap Thomas. A Welsh lady might introduce herself as Mary verch (daughter) Thomas ap Jenkins ap William... and so on.

Q I'm very interested in preserving my family photos for future generations, but I don't think Kodak Photo CDs are the way to go. Why should I pay hundreds of dollars each time I want to store my photos on a CD, when I can buy a decent desktop scanner for $1000 and scan the pictures myself? I have no way of knowing if CD technology will still be popular in 40 years. I don't want to spend all that time and energy only to find that my children and grandchildren can't look at the pictures I preserved for them.

Wayne Baxter, Saginaw, Michigan

A It seems quite likely that CDs in their current form will not be the primary information storage medium 40 years from now, though it will probably be as easy to access the information on a CD then as it is to access the information on a record today. In any case, floppy and hard drives constructed of magnetic tape are even less likely to still be in use 40 years from now, so you offer yourself no extra security by storing your files on disk. Indeed, data stored on magnetic tape is much more likely to be damaged or lost than data on CD.
          A final point is that you may be overestimating the cost, and underestimating the quality, of Photo CDs. The CD itself costs around $15 and holds approximately 100 scanned pictures, depending on the resolution desired. The scans themselves cost around $2.50 per slide or negative. For the $1000 you are willing to spend on a scanner, you could have around 400 high-resolution images stored on durable CDs. The scan resolution is of professional quality, and probably far exceeds anything you could manage with a low-end scanner at home. The time saved is a further bonus.

Q Why do families move from a county in one state to a county with the same name in another state? This happens to the families that I am researching all the time. What is the answer, is it just coincidence or is there a reason?

Ora N. Coons, Internet

A The simplest explanation is that the migrating family just traveled to the county with a familiar name so they wouldn't feel quite as homesick, but there may be something more to it.
          In some cases, this phenomenon may have been related to the settling of the American west. Often, when families headed west, they took along many of their relatives, their neighbors, their neighbors' relatives, and so on, so that often a large band of pioneers originated from the same county. When they arrived at their new home, nothing would be so natural as for the founders to name the new territory after the county they'd left behind. Naturally, links would persist between friends and families in the original county and the new county. Newlyweds would leave Jackson, Georgia to stay with friends of the family in Jackson, Oklahoma; or people down on their luck in Franklin, Indiana would head back to work for prosperous cousins in Franklin, Massachusetts. One link would lead to another, and such a connection could explain migrations between the two counties of the same name for a number of generations.

Q I am constantly reading about people trading GEDCOM files through the Internet. I know these GEDCOM files have lists of names and families, but how do I use one? Do they work for any type of computer?

Meredith Hemley, Merritt, British Columbia

A The GEDCOM format was developed by the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to assist genealogists who use computers. GEDCOM, which is an abbreviation for GEnealogical Data COMmunications, is the standard file format for exchanging information between genealogy programs. It is also the most common format of family databases on the Internet, and software exists to automatically convert GEDCOM files into HTML documents (World Wide Web pages).
          To use GEDCOM files you find online, you'll need to get a genealogy program which supports GEDCOM files (all major packages have this capability) and then import the file using the package's "Import GEDCOM file" command. GEDCOM files typically have a ".GED" extension. Your software will then guide you through the process of converting the file from the GEDCOM format to the format it prefers, which may involve telling the software how to label particular data fields, or how to truncate, sort or otherwise reformat certain data types.
          GEDCOM files work on any platform because the files themselves are plain ASCII text with text tags which are interpreted by your genealogy software. For example, if the plain ASCII GEDCOM file contains the text "MARR=03/14/1969; SEX=M; ADDR=12 Rensburg Dr.", the genealogy software knows that the individual described by this record was a man who married on March 14, 1969, and who at some point lived at 12 Rensburg Drive. The software then fills in the appropriate fields for you, with a little assistance. Exporting your family tree into a GEDCOM file is the same simple process in reverse; you instruct the program to label information from your software's "Death date" field with a "DEAT" tag, and so on. Some GEDCOM codes can be a little obscure (i.e. BASM for bas mitzvah or FCOM for first communion), so it is useful to have software which recognizes all the codes for you. Relatives who share reliable GEDCOM files effectively can drastically speed up the construction of their family trees.

Q In several old Austrian marriage acts (around 1820) concerning my family, and written in German, some last names are followed by "vulgo" and then another name. For instance, "Valentin Tonitz vulgo Premdish". Is it a kind of nickname for that person? In this case, was the nickname replacing the first name of the person, or the last name?

Dimitri Komatitsch, Internet

A You are essentially correct in guessing that 'vulgo' names are nicknames. Vulgo is a Latin adverb which means "commonly," and shares the same root as the English word vulgar. Generally, one's vulgo name was the name of the farm one owned. In your case, Valentin Toniz vulgo Premdish's "real" name was 'Valentin Toniz', but he will have most commonly been called 'Valentin Premdish' because he was the owner of the Premdish farm. Records might also refer to him as 'der Premdish-Bauer' (Premdish farmer) or 'der Bauer vom Premdishhof' (farmer of the Premdish homestead).
          In your search, you will probably find that the vulgo name is more useful than the real name. Some eastern European villages and small towns were limited to an extremely small group of surnames, making it difficult to distinguish between persons except through the use of nicknames. (Thanks to Peter Gritsch for much of this information.)

Q I am an American citizen of Irish descent. I've been told that it is possible for me to obtain a dual American-Irish citizenship, but so far I haven't heard any good reasons why I should other than out of patriotism. How do I go about obtaining a dual citizenship? And is it of any real use or is it just a novelty item?

Linda Doyle, Arlington, Virginia

A As laid out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act of 1956, there are four ways to become an Irish citizen: being born in Ireland, marrying an Irish citizen, going through the legal process of naturalization, or by having at least one Irish citizen among your parents or grandparents. In some cases, great-grandchildren of Irish citizens may also be eligible. Ireland is considerably more generous with its citizenships than most countries - most require that one of the applicant's parents be a citizen. Fees are usually involved in obtaining additional citizenships; in the case of Ireland the fee is several hundred dollars.
          There are both benefits and drawbacks to dual citizenship. The benefits include having multiple passports, having the protection of both governments (including the ability to appeal to the embassy of either nation), and the ability to work in either nation. As Ireland is a member of the European Union, by obtaining your Irish citizenship you would also obtain the right to live, work, and travel freely in any EC member nation. You could also obtain emergency medical care at reduced rates in Ireland.
          There are several drawbacks, aside from the hassle and expense involved. Along with the new rights of dual citizenship come new obligations. In some countries, these could include taxation, military service and travel restrictions - though none of these is a significant factor in the case of Ireland. Another drawback is that neither government is completely certain of your loyalty. For example, persons with dual citizenships are essentially barred from employment in the American defense industry, or any other high security industry. They may also have slightly more trouble at airports and border crossings if they identify themselves as dual citizens. Dual citizens are not legally required to mention their second citizenship unless asked - all customs officials need to know is whether or not US citizenship is held.
          For further information on how to obtain an Irish citizenship, contact your Irish embassy. Though it is not strictly necessary, it is also a good idea to speak to the US State Department. They have traditionally been rather uncooperative towards dual citizenship, but over the last decade or so the department has become more or less indifferent.

Q What is the difference between a farm and a plantation? And what is the difference between a farmer, a planter and a yeoman?

Silver F. Smith, Internet

A A farm is a piece of property on which crops and animals are raised. Traditionally, farms exist to produce food crops. "Farmer" is the occupational name for either the person who works on this land (strictly speaking, a "farm hand" rather than a farmer) or the person who manages it.
          A plantation is an estate, usually in a warm climate, cultivated by workers living on it. Plantations are associated with cash crops such as sugar cane, tobacco and cotton. The term "planter" refers to the owner of the plantation, but not to its workers.
          In theory, the term "Yeoman" designates a social class as opposed to an occupation; yeomen were independent land owners, one social rank below the British gentry. However, because most yeomen were farmers, the term yeoman became synonymous with "farm manager".

Q I've heard that roughly one in one hundred people is related to nobility. Is there any truth to this?

Doug Barker, Lethbridge, Alberta

A Not really. Since everyone on earth is related, it should go without saying that everyone on earth is related to nobility. The real question is how much chance is there of being the direct descendant of a noble? Nobles tended to have a lot of children, including a lot of illegitimate children.

Q Can you tell me the meaning of the word "Protestation"? I have ancestors listed in a Protestation, or as Protestations, and I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

Vicky Thomas, Halifax, Nova Scotia

A Through history, there have been a number of events known as Protestations, usually issued by persons of the Protestant faith. The term first appears in 1529, when members of a church assembly in Spires, Germany issued a 'Protestation', which said that "in matters which concern God's honor and salvation and the eternal life of our souls, everyone must stand and give account before God for himself." The term "protest" originally meant "stand for something," as opposed to its current meaning which is synonymous with "complain".
          The most common use of the term in genealogical records is with regards to the Britain's 1641-2 Protestation Returns. Following a massacre of Irish Protestants in 1641, Charles I demanded that every male in Britain declare his loyalty to the Protestant faith. The records were called the Protestation Returns, and contained the names of most of the male population of Great Britain. The Protestation Returns are like an early census and are extremely valuable records.

Q Family Tree Maker's kinship report includes two fields I don't quite understand. After listing the names and relationships between one family member and the rest of the family, it ranks the "degree" of their relationship, by placing numbers under columns marked "Civil" and "Canon". Under Civil coding my parents are ranked 1 and my brother is ranked 2, but under Canon coding all three are ranked 1. What is the system behind these figures?

Warren Sinclair, Internet

A The best way to keep the meaning of kinship degree numbers straight is to think of them as the number of "steps" in the family tree between an individual and his or her relatives. The two types of coding represent the degree of kinship under Civil Law (as used in most of Europe) and Canon Law (as used in the United States).
          Under Civil law, an individual is only separated from his or her parents by one degree (one step up), but siblings are separated by two steps (one step up, one step down). An individual is separated from his or her grandparents by two degrees (two steps up), but cousins are separated by four degrees (two steps up, two steps down), and so on.
          Canon law, on the other hand, measures the degree of kinship based on the maximum number of steps between two individuals and their common ancestor. Accordingly, cousins are separated by two degrees, since it is two steps back to their common grandparents. A niece and uncle are also separated by two degrees - though the uncle is only one step away from his parents, the niece is two steps away from her grandparents.

Q I'm thinking of staging a casual family reunion. How much should I budget for the reunion? Is it typical to charge admission?

Mrs. D. Cook, Cedar Rapids, Ohio

A A reunion can be next to free if your tastes are simple. All some families will require is a potluck dinner, a park with a few picnic tables, and some nice weather. Someone brings a guitar, someone else brings a soccer ball and everyone brings their cameras. This sort of informal gathering is especially well suited to gatherings where a lot of children will be in attendance, since they will be able to run around and make as much noise as they want. A simple outdoors reunion does not derail if too many or too few people show up, and may very well be good practice for a future reunion requiring more money and organization.
          As a general rule, the more elaborate the gathering, the more committed the organizers and the attendees must be. Do not print programs, rent a hall and hire a caterer unless you know that the requisite number of people will show. As for where to obtain the funds, there is nothing unusual about expecting attendees to contribute to the cost of the gathering. Some people try to get more money in the reunion budget by selling raffle tickets, books of the family history, family tree t-shirts, or videos or other souvenirs of the gathering. It really is not hard to fund a small gathering if everyone is enthusiastic about the idea.

Q Documents dating as far back as 1544 list my family as having land "in the Feet of Fines". It seems to refer to a geographical area, but I have never heard of a piece of land called a "feet", and I can't find anywhere called "Fines" on old maps of the area.

Murray Cameron, Teignmouth, Devon

A "Fines" is not a place name, and "feet" is not a geographic unit. The term "Fines" has its origin in the middle ages. After the Norman conquest, William the Conqueror took possession of all English property and all landowners became his tenants. If a knight wished to sell or transfer property to someone outside his family, he was required to pay a fine to the king, and later to the royal county court. So the term "fines" came to mean a registered deed of property.
          The parchment on which the Fines were recorded was split into three separate sections, as illustrated, and the details of the property ownership were inscribed on each section. The three sections were cut apart with a wavy cut, to discourage forgers. The upper two thirds were divided between the old owner and the new owner, while the bottom third ("foot") was kept by the court. All that was meant by your ancestors' possession of land "in the Feet of Fines" was that they owned property for which a registered deed existed. Many county record societies have published their Feet of Fines; try checking your reference library for more information. Thanks to David Blackwell for this information.

Q I've heard that maps can be very useful tools to a family historian but I don't see how. I looked up some of the places mentioned in the Tate family history, and actually managed to find some of them, but I don't see how this helps me understand how my ancestors moved around England or how they came to the States. Is there something I'm missing?

Jennifer Farrell (née Tate), Rapid City, South Dakota

A If your only goal is to determine how your branch of the Tate family came to be where it is today, maps probably will not help you much beyond suggesting which port your ancestors may have embarked from. If your goal is constructing a family history, however, maps contain a wealth of useful information. First of all, you should be able to locate all the place names mentioned in your family history, not just some. Keep in mind that some of the names mentioned may refer to specific estates rather than to a village or town. Use the most detailed historical maps you can find as well as modern sources. The British Ordinance Survey Maps cover all of Britain in extremely high detail. They not only show every village and field in an area, but even the wings of houses.They are updated frequently but older versions, including the originals from the early part of the last century, are still available.
          Locating the homesteads of your ancestors is an accomplishment in itself, but this information is useful in many other ways. The most obvious use is that this data will offer clues as to where public and private records about an ancestor are most likely located. Mapping can clear up confusion related to place names which have changed over time. Plotting your ancestors on a map may help you determine to what extent different branches intermingled, or at one point one branch became completely separated from the rest of the family. If used well, maps can be one of the family historian's most valuable aids.

Q I would like you to give me all the info about the Downey family, including the family crest, please.

Chris Wilcox, Internet

A All the information about all people with the Downey surname could undoubtedly fill volumes. Luckily for you, not all Downeys are your relatives. The name has multiple origins, sometimes from an Old English first name meaning "dark", and often from one of many places named after the Celtic word for "hill". If you'd like information about a particular family which happens to be one of dozens of families who independently adopted the name Downey, it's recommended that you begin asking your relatives.
          Since in Britain family crests are only granted to a specific individual and his direct male descendants, a crest which belonged to one person with the Downey surname would not be applicable to all other Downeys; it wouldn't even necessarily apply to all members of his immediate family. In almost all cases, the following rule of thumb applies: If you were entitled to a coat of arms, you would know your coat of arms. This letter is not to single Mr. Wilcox out - Family Chronicle gets dozens of requests just like this every week.

Q Material on the World Wide Web is not a valid source... I don't trust family histories that list "the Internet" or the "the World Wide Web" as a source. How can such a broad source possibly be verified?

Steven Antares, Buffalo, NY

A Listing "the Internet" as a source is definitely insufficient - offering such a source is akin to saying one discovered vital and controversial family data "at the library." The solution in both cases is to be more specific. By citing Internet sources with the same thoroughness one would cite any book, newspaper or journal, one allows others to judge the authority of the source for themselves. The suggested form for citing a website is 'Doe, John. "Doe Genealogy" at http://, 3 March 1996.' Similarly, a newsgroup article should be cited as 'Doe, John. "Re: Amsterdam Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages" in soc.genealogy.benelux, 23 May 1996.'

Q I'm wondering about the registration of cattle brands in Texas and Oklahoma. Was registration required? When? With whom? Would there exist any records from the last century? Thanks.

Martin Smith, Internet

A If you're in the neighborhood of Texas and Oklahoma, there's a few local resources you can check. The state libraries or state museums in Texas and Oklahoma may have a master brand registration book. Alternately, if there are any specific counties that you are interested in, phone the land records office and ask if they allow access to their brand registration book - note that not all counties allow this. If you happen to know the breed of cattle your ancestors herded, you might try The Cattle Pages website ( This site has listings for 45 different breeds, with links from each breed to listings of ranches that stock that particular breed.

Q I have just recently started entering some of my information onto my genealogy program and have noticed something that might turn into a problem later. Should you enter females with their maiden surname or their married surname? When I link a female to two different spouses it looks kind of weird to have their current spouse's surname, but equally weird to have their maiden name. I'm sure you are not supposed to enter them twice either. Another question I have is, if you did enter them with the maiden name how can you remember who they are? I know most of my female family members (and I'm sure everyone is this way) only by their married name, so it makes it really hard when you go to search for them.

Carolyn Caplinger, Internet

A To put it simply, always record a woman by her maiden name if at all possible. As many genealogists frustrated by the practice of the wife assuming the husband's name on marriage will tell you, the maiden name is the name needed if anyone ever wishes to research the wife's ancestry. Since the software records the marriage for the user in an obvious manner, one doesn't need to adjust the surname in order to demonstrate a marriage relationship. Though it is often easier to remember a relative's married name, on the whole, married names are not very useful to genealogists except in tracking records the woman left after her marriage.
          The advice contained in the Silicon Valley PAF Users Group's Proposed GENWEB Standard for PAF Individual and Marriage Data Entry applies to virtually any system of tracing one's ancestors: "Enter maiden surname for females, or leave blank if unknown. Avoid entry of present or previous husband's surname, except when both the wife's given names and maiden surname are unknown. In this case only, enter the husband's surname, enter Mrs in the Given 1 name field, followed by the husband's given name and middle name(s) in Given name in the Given 1, Given 2 and Given 3 name fields, respectively. Be sure to enter the husband's full name in this case."

Q I have a WWI question. My ggfather was wounded in WWI and received the Purple Heart. Is there a list of wounded in action and/or Purple Heart Recipients that I can write for information on him? What info I have: Howard Henry Mott, died: Oct.17,1954, buried at the Long Island National Cemetery. In the Army, Co.K, 106 Infantry, 27 Div.; Enlisted: 9/10/1917, Discharged: 6/4/1919. Any suggestions greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance for what help you can give., Internet

A The Purple Heart is the world's oldest military medal still in use. It was created, under the original name 'The Badge of Military Merit', in 1782 by General George Washington. Washington declared that a recipient of the medal "shall be permitted to wear on his facings, over his left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth or silk edged with narrow lace or binding," and wrote to Congress, "not only instances of unusual gallantry but also of extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way shall meet with due reward..." The medal fell into disuse after the Revolutionary War, but in 1932 Congress restored the medal under the name The Order of the Purple Heart for Military Merit. The medal was now reserved for soldiers who received wounds in combat. The medal could also be awarded posthumously to the next of kin, in the soldier's name.
          In spite of the fact that Purple Hearts did not exist until 1933, many WWI soldiers were awarded Purple Hearts as the order was made retroactive to 1917. If you do not already have your ggfather's medal, send a request to Commander, USARPC, Attn.: ARPC-VSE-B, 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri, stating "As the legal next-of-kin, I request that I be issued all award emblems that (full name of veteran) was entitled to. A copy of the Separation document (DD 214 or equivalent) is enclosed," and list your ggfather's social security number, service number, date of death, date and place of birth, as well as your full name, address and phone number. You may also wish to contact the Military Order of the Purple Heart by writing 5413-B Backlick Road, Springfield, Virginia 22151, or phoning (703) 642-5360, or via their webpage.

Q On our family tree software, it talks about Ahnentafel numbers, but we don't have a clue what that's all about. Can you help?

Paul and Sharon Eccles, Manchester, England

A In several popular software packages, individuals are indexed by number as well as by name. Numbers are easier for the computer to use than names, and may well be easier for the user as well if the tree contains many unknown or only vaguely-known names. Since numbering the records in the order they were entered could eventually get very confusing, assuming all records were not entered in order, some packages use a system called Ahnentafel numbers (sometimes called Standard numbers).
          The term Ahnentafel is of German origin, derived from the words ahnen (ancestor) and tafel (table), as Ahnentafel numbers are designed to help genealogists construct basic numbered ancestral tables. Ahnentafel numbers are calculated according to the following formula: an individual's father's number is twice that individual's number, and an individual's mother is twice that individual's number plus one. Accordingly, if an individual's number is 12, his father's number is 24, his mother's number is 25, his father's father is number 48, and so on. Everyone's Ahnentafel number is based on their relationship to the starting individual (1), who is considered to be the first generation in the chart. Individuals 2-3 (the individual's parents) are in the second generation, 4-7 (the individual's grandparents) are in the third generation, 8192-16363 (the individual's very great grandparents) are in the fourteenth generation, and so on. We instantly know that individual 64 is individual 2's third great grandfather on his father's side. Ahnentafel numbers make genealogy much easier for computers to deal with.

Q The Christening or baptisms of German ancestors in the 1700s and before were designated as Civil, Evangelical, or Catholic. What does each term represent?

Mitzi Smetters, Internet

A Baptism is a religious ceremony which involves immersion in water as a way of washing away sin. For all Christian faiths that practice baptism, it is the initiating rite by which one becomes a member of the church. Some faiths refer to this ceremony as christening, though the term "christen" can also refer to the process of giving a name (Namensgebung) and need not be related to baptism. And to make things just a little more confusing for genealogists, the records of the LDS Church generally refer to the baptismal ceremonies of other faiths as christenings to avoid confusion with LDS Baptisms.
          The categorization of baptisms into Catholic or Evangelical (Katholisch or Evangelisch) designations is fairly straightforward. In the Catholic faith, baptism is one of seven sacraments, or holy acts, along with confirmation, holy communion, penance, marriage, ordination and extreme unction. "Evangelical" is simply an early term for Protestant. Following Luther's protest against certain excesses of the Catholic church, his followers began to call themselves Evangelicals, or bearers of good news. Eventually, most others began to refer to the Evangelicals as Lutherans or simply as Protestants. Most Protestant churches include baptism as one of two remaining sacraments, the other being the Lord's supper.
          The baptisms which have been designated as "Civil" are the real problem, since baptisms are not civil events. One possibility is that the information recorded may actually be birth information which has been incorrectly recorded as christening. Another possibility is that the ceremony in question may not have been a religious baptism, but simply a naming ceremony. While it is difficult to imagine that many 16th-century Germans were not associated with a church, it is quite possible that they were not associated with the official church of their bishopric, duchy, principality or other variety of state. (Thanks to Ernest Thode of the Washington County (Ohio) Public Library for much of this information.)

Q While entering data into my family tree software, I realized for the first time that I have two conflicting birthdates for my great uncle. According to the census he was 23 in 1930, but according to the Social Security Death Benefits Index he was born in 1905. Is one of the records wrong, or did he just get his age wrong?

Stuart Marshal, Schenectady, NY

A Censuses are conducted by government officials and are a long-established institution. For these reasons, people tend to place a lot more faith in census records than they deserve. Census officials are temporary government employees with very little concern over the results of the census. In fact, census enumerators are trained to accept whatever answers they are given, and to neither question nor demand proof of any answers. The enumerator might even have accepted a guess at your great uncle's age from a relative, friend or neighbor. Furthermore, since most censuses were conducted in the middle of the year, and list ages instead of birth dates, one cannot accurately determine an individual's year of birth based on their age.
          As you mention, there is a possibility that your great uncle was actually the party responsible for the error. In the past, particularly before the introduction of official birth certificates around 1910, it was fairly common for people to be uncertain about their date of birth. Others might know their age but wish to seem younger or older for some reason.
          Though not exactly flawless, the Social Security records are far more accurate than census records. The officials responsible for Social Security are much more careful, since their entire record keeping system is based on payments based upon age. If the people responsible for Social Security death benefits just accepted people's word, they would be plagued with masses of people claiming to be senior citizens prematurely. Consequently, Social Security officials always require official proof of one's birthdate.

Q How can I get information on an ancestor who worked for the Hudson's Bay Company?

Shane Nelson, Thunder Bay, ON

A The Hudson's Bay Company Archives, based in Winnipeg and maintained by the provincial government of Manitoba, are an excellent resource. The 327-year-old Hudson's Bay Company has a history of meticulous record-keeping, and has kept most of its extraordinary collection of books, letters, ledgers, ships' logs, pictures, photographs, maps and reports in its possession. The HBCA offers genealogical information on many families who inhabited western and northern Canada and the western USA from the 17th century to the modern day. The Hudson's Bay Company owned and administered the vast territory of Rupert's Land from its founding in 1670 until its incorporation into the Dominion of Canada in 1870. For this reason, the archives contain the only known documents for numerous 18th century settlements in Canada, including Churchill, Manitoba; Moose Factory, Ontario; Rupert House, Québec and Edmonton, Alberta.
          The HBCA should have no trouble helping locate information on a former employee. Send them your ancestor's full name, type of work (e.g. fur trader or retail employee), geographical area of employment and dates of employment. The HBCA will attempt to send you a one-page biographical sheet on the individual, suggestions for continuing the research through inter-library loan of microfilm and copies of original documents (if these documents will not be harmed by photocopying) within two weeks of the day your request is received, all free of charge. The HBCA asks that genealogists do not send a long list of names or a copy of their pedigree chart, and cautions that Canada's Department of Indian Affairs does not recognize their documentation as proof of Indian status. For more information, write the Hudson's Bay Company Archives, Provincial Archives of Manitoba, 200 Vaughan Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3C 1T5, Canada, or telephone (204) 945-4949. Some information is also available on the HBCA's website.

Q In reading some listings of Scottish Border Clans, I see the title "of that Ilk" occasionally.
          Of that Ilk always meant "of that sort" to me, but here it's actually used as a title. How is this title used?

Bryan Little, Richmond, VA

A The term "ilk" is derived from the Old English word ilca, meaning "same." The term was adopted in both Scotland and England, but developed to mean something different in each country. In England, the term "ilk" became synonymous with "kind" or "class." In Scotland, the term has more to do with kinship. According to Mairi Robinson's The Concise Scots Dictionary (Aberdeen University Press), "[name] of that ilk" designates the head of a landed family. For example, the head of the MacDonald from the MacDonald estate would be referred to as MacDonald of that ilk.

Q I'm trying to research my husband's grandfather, Oskar Bodell, who emigrated from Goteborg, Sweden around 1911. He told no one, including his daughter, anything about himself or his parents and all I have is a document titled "flyttningsbetyg", also dated 1911. What is it? It has his birthdate on it - did it somehow help him emigrate? Would it list his parents? The writing is almost impossible for me to make out.

Leslie Beachwood, Internet

A A flyttningsbetyg is an excellent resource to those tracing their Swedish ancestry and it would be well worth your while to have it deciphered. According to the booklet, "Tracing Your Swedish Ancestry," written by Nils Olsson and available from the Swedish embassy in Washington, D.C., a flyttningsbetyg is "the official exit permit, issued by the pastor of the parish in Sweden from which the emigrant came. It is an important document, since technically no Swede could leave his home parish without this permit. It gives the full name of the person, his date of birth, his place of birth, character reference, his knowledge of the Catechism and the Bible, probably the name of the parish to which he moved, or if he came directly to America, the destination is given merely as Norra Amerika. This type of document is extremely useful in providing the pertinent information from which to proceed directly to Sweden."

Q For many years I've been looking for a family tree program that will print a tree with boxes listing ancestors that looks like a real tree. I work mainly with Family Tree Maker which I really like a lot, and have purchased at least eight other family programs not including several shareware programs that I never used, but I still have no real tree program. They all say they make a tree chart, but they mean a 8-to-4-to-2-to-1 box chart or some other box shape with no graphics. I'd like to be able to do a fancier "Direct Descendant Tree" for framing with the shape of a real tree with perhaps branches outlined in green and trunk in brown.
          I know this could be done by using tree-shaped clip art and adding my own boxes, but that is so much more complicated that having a ready-made program that has a standard shape, and all you need to do is fill in the boxes. Do you know of anyone who makes a program that will do real tree shapes?

Linda G. Pauwels, Tilton, NH

A While there may be others, probably the most popular program with this capability is Parsons Technology's Family Origins 5.0. With Family Origins, the user simply opens a database and selects Reports - Photo Charts - Tree. One is presented with a print preview of an attractive, full-color chart consisting of family names superimposed on a realistic-looking tree.
          One possible drawback is that this tree chart is clearly designed for use with photographs. This is unfortunate, since it is highly unlikely that a genealogist will have photos available for every person listed in their family tree. Though one can customize the output in several different ways, including changing the box color and style, this photo tree chart will always look distinctly awkward without photos. Related to this is the further problem that it is difficult to include any more than three generations on the tree.

Q In your Jan/Feb 1997 issue, you answered a question about "Protestation". In it you referred to the "Protestation Returns" as an early census. Is this available to the public in book form, web site, public records, etc.?

Peter J. Foote, Kings County, NS

A As mentioned, the Protestation Returns were oaths of loyalty to Parliament and the King. As every adult male in England was legally required to make a Protestation, the Protestation Returns were indeed a sort of early census. Jeremy Gibson and Alan Dell have compiled a very thorough index of the surviving Protestation returns in their book The Protestation Returns of 1641-2 and other contemporary listings (Federation of Family History Societies, 1995, ISBN 1-86006-006-4). This book does not actually reprint the Protestation returns but acts as a guide to other published sources. The records associated with the Collection in Aid of Distressed Protestants in Ireland and various taxation records are also included in the book.

Q Reading through the parish register for Martock, Somerset (on an LDS microfilm) I find that for about three decades, 1720s through 1740s, the date March 25 was conspicuously marked in the register's pages with lines both above and below, much more conspicuously than the beginning of a year. I know this is the Feast of the Annunciation, but is there a special reason why the register should make such a show of it?

Richard M. Straw, Internet

A Until 1752, most people in England and British North America people celebrated the New Year on March 25. This is why in genealogical records one often see dates between January 1 and March 25 referred to with a split year, i.e. March 14, 1683/4. The first year given is the year as contemporaries saw it, the second year given is the year according to modern dating conventions.
          Unfortunately, this law of dates is not quite clear cut. Even prior to 1752, the celebration of the New Year on January 1st was becoming increasingly popular. As a further complication, some records created before 1752 were afterwards rewritten in the new style.
          (Incidentally, the title of Gibson and Dell's book is slightly misleading - the title "The Protestation Returns of 1641-2" implies that the returns were taken over a two-year span, when in fact they were taken during the two months of February and March 1641/2.)

Q Why is it that the Chapman code for Cheshire is "CHS" and the Chapman code for Switzerland is "CHE"? How were these codes decided? Is there any sort of system to understanding them, or do I just have to go to the library and look them up every time I come across one?

Terry McKinley, Edmonton, AB

AChapman County Codes (CCCs for short) are unique three-letter codes used to identify British counties. They are the British equivalent of the two-letter postal abbreviations for provinces and states used in Canada and the US. ISO country codes, conversely, are the three-letter codes used to identify countries. Both systems of coding are used extensively by family historians when recording and exchanging place information, and are frequently used together. That is, the Chapman code for a British county is often followed by the appropriate country code (ENG, IRL, NIR, SCT, WLS; or CHI for the Channel Islands).
          In some cases, ISO country codes are based on a country's name for itself in one of its official languages, as opposed to the English name for the country. For example, DEU is short for "Deutschland" instead of Germany and ESP is short for "Espana" instead of Spain. CHE is short for the Latin name "Confederatio HElvetica." Switzerland uses Latin on its stamps, currency and official correspondence to avoid the problem of choosing between its four official languages or repeating each piece of information four times. (Thanks to Charles R. Hohenstein and Carsten Läkamp for this information.)
          One of the main reasons why counties and countries identified with three-letter codes often have bizarre codes or very similar codes is that three letters really aren't enough. The three-letter system cannot provide sufficiently easy-to-distinguish abbreviations for Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali and Malta (MWI, MYS, MDV, MLI and MLT, respectively), and this leads to errors.
          A set of four-letter abbreviations for both counties and countries has been developed by the LDS Family History Library, and the church recommends these be used as an alternative. The addition of a fourth letter means the genealogist is required to do a lot lot less memorization and translation of codes. The safest route, of course, will always be to write place names in full.

Q I've noticed that in old English words that are today spelled with a double "s" are instead spelled with "fs". For example, "dissolve" is spelt "difsolve", "Clarissa" is spelt "Clarifsa", etc. Where did this strange custom come from? Did our ancestors pronounce this "f" as an "s"?

Eileen Cassidy, Ann Arbor, MI

A Referring to that character as an "f" is a common mistake; it is properly referred to as a "leading s" or "long s", and it is often used in words which are today spelled with a single "s". If you examine the character closely, you will see that the cross stroke appears only on the left side of the upright, instead of on both sides as with a regular "f". Our ancestors were accustomed to this character and thus had little difficulty telling it apart from a regular "f". It is difficult to determine how people spoke before recording technology was developed, but there is no reason to think this character was pronounced any differently from a regular "s".
          Incidentally, the "leading s" is not an element of Old English. You would have to trace your ancestry quite far back indeed before you'd ever need to use records written in Old English. Old English was spoken from about 450 to 1100 AD, gradually becoming extinct after the Norman Conquest in 1066. Norman-influenced Middle English was spoken from about 1100 to 1450. Modern English began to develop in the 15th and 16th centuries, though 16th-century English hardly seems modern to us today. The "leading s" was in common use until the middle of the 19th century.

Q I have heard that Soundex records are useful for families like mine which have several different spellings of what is essentially the same name. I am interested in Weizmanns, Wiezmanns, Weissmans and similar names, but not in the English name Wiseman. What I don't understand is how do the strings of numbers tell the computer which names are similar and related and which names are similar but un-related?

Michelle Weizmann, Oakland, CA

AThe Soundex system, as patented by Margaret Odell and Robert Russell in 1918, has no awareness of any familial, ethnic or geographic relationships between the various names in the index. The only way it can tell the names apart is by sorting them alphanumerically. The numbers in a Soundex listing aren't a relationship code, but placeholders for other letters.
          As you mentioned, each Soundex code represents a particular surname or group of similarly-pronounced but differently-spelled surnames. The basic composition of a Soundex code is one letter followed by three numbers. The first character of the code is identical to the first letter of the surname. The second, third and fourth characters each consist of a number representing a broad type of sound: 1 represents the sound made by b, f, p or v; 2 represents c, g, j, k, q, s, x, z or g; 3 represents d or t; 4 represents l; 5 represents m or n; 6 represents r. The letters a, e, h, i, o, u, w and y have no numerical equivalents and are omitted from the code. Double letters and side-by-side letters with the same numerical equivalent are only recorded once. If this process results in a code with less than four characters, zeros are added until the code is four characters. If the entire name cannot be defined by four characters, only the first four characters are used. By this formula, the code for the name Weizmann is W255.
          As you can see, the Soundex process is entirely ignorant of the names it sorts. Soundex indexes group all similar-sounding names in the same category and leave it up to the researcher to determine which names are tied into their branch of the family tree and which are not. You will have to decide for yourself if you want to make the dangerous assumption that anyone who spells their name "Wiseman" is of English heritage.
          A Soundex converter is included in the DOS utility GenKit; online Soundex converters are also available at several different locations on the World Wide Web, including the Rand Genealogy Club (

Q Do you have a current address for the Board of Certification? I sent a letter requesting information to the address you showed in the magazine, but the letter came back indicating that the "change of address" had expired. If you know the new address, I'd really appreciate it, since my goal is to become a certified genealogist and I'd like to know what the requirements are.

Kathy Atwood, Internet

A The present address for the Board For Certification of Genealogists is PO Box 14291, Washington, DC, 20044; when you write you should request a copy of their Applications Guide. Certified Genealogist (CG), is one of six certification categories offered, the others being Certified Genealogical Record Specialist (CGRS), Certified American Indian Lineage Specialist (CAILS), Certified American Lineage Specialist (CALS), Certified Genealogical Instructor (CGI) and Certified Genealogical Lecturer (CGL). All applications are reviewed by at least three judges; successful candidates are entitled to employ the postnominals of their categories for the duration of the five-year certification period.
          According to BCG literature, to become a Certified Genealogist one must be proficient in all areas of genealogical research and analysis, qualified to resolve pedigree problems of sundry types, and experienced in the compilation of well-crafted family histories. To obtain certification, applicants must demonstrate excellence in research and communication - including the ability to express thoughts clearly and grammatically, to follow instructions, to abstract and transcribe materials properly, to read the handwriting of earlier eras, and to interpret terms and information found in historical documents. Certified Genealogist candidates must submit a compiled genealogy tracing all lines of descent from a historical couple to the fourth generation, and must provide a case study in which they have resolved a difficult problem on the basis of the preponderance of the evidence. Good luck!

Q I've always wondered about these one-name societies. It seems they aren't really doing genealogy, since they won't research a family line unless the people have a particular surname.

M. Lawrence, Mesa, AZ

A One-name studies are genealogy, they're just targeted differently than conventional genealogical searches. Whereas most genealogists trace either a pedigree (ancestors of one person) or descendancy (descendants of one person or couple), one-name studies research all occurrences of a surname. Some one-namers may restrict their research geographically, perhaps to one country, but purist one-namers collect all occurrences world-wide.
          According to An Introduction to One-Name Studies by Mike Sapathky, "there is much scope for co-operation between one-namers and other genealogists and family historians - they are not a breed apart, and many are also engaged in more conventional pedigree hunting of their other ancestors. Many drift into a one-name study as a way of eliminating alternatives when researching a particular ancestral name. There is some use for example in having a complete listing of all occurrences of a surname from the IGI or from Civil Registration lists of births, marriages and deaths. A co-operative effort between people studying the same surname bears much fruit and they have a good chance of discovering new relatives, depending of course on how common the name is."
          Sapathky's Guild of One-Name Studies is an organization devoted to assisting and co-ordinating the pursuits of those performing worldwide one-name studies. The Guild publishes the quarterly Journal of One-Name Studies, the publications Sources for One-Name Studies and Organising a One-Name Gathering, and the Register of One-Name Studies listing the surnames registered by members together with their names and addresses. The Guild also holds meetings in the UK. New members are welcome, providing they agree to collect all references to their registered surname on a world-wide basis and to deal with all reply-paid inquiries relating to their registered surname. A registration fee covers the expense of registering one new surname and up to five additional spelling variants.
          To receive copies of the surname register, membership applications, or to obtain further information about the Guild of One-Name Studies, send a request and two International Reply Coupons to: The Secretary, Box G, 14 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, London, EC1M 7BA, England. Some information is also available at the Guild of One-Name Studies Website.

Q Is there a listing of persons who came into the country as prisoners from Britain into Georgia? I am frustrated in my search for the surname "Shows" who we do not have a location for nor an entrance into the country date. The Shows name is from Alabama and Mississippi. We are not even sure of the country of origin. We have a birth date of 1800? and that is about it. I sure would like to pursue my options starting with an entry into the country through Georgia., Internet

A Unfortunately, Magna Carta Book Company's Original Lists of Emigrants in Bondage From London to the American Colonies only covers the years from 1719-1744. For later periods, you might try books such as the Genealogical Publishing Company's Passenger Arrivals 1819-1820. This book is a transcript of the list of passengers who arrived in the US between 1 October 1819 and 30 September 1820, and includes an index. (The index for 1819-20 doesn't list a Shows.)

Q How does one compact a Family Tree Maker database? I've heard others say that huge amounts of hard drive space can be recovered by simply compacting the database, but I can't find instructions on how to do this anywhere in the manual.

Dolores Petrou, Des Plaines, IL

A The way that most database files are created, including your Family Tree Maker data file, any type of data you add to the file becomes an integral part of that database's structure. Deleting a piece of information doesn't really delete the information, just the link to it. What is needed is a way to "pack" the database which rebuilds the file and eliminates the space in use by unwanted information.
          Unfortunately, Family Tree Maker's packing process isn't very well-automated or well-documented, but it is quite simple to do. The steps listed here come straight from Paul Burchfield of Broderbund, and apply to all versions beyond 2.0.

1. Create a Report. 2. Go to Format and choose Report Format and make sure that Custom Report is selected. 3. Choose Individuals to Include from the Contents menu and make sure that All Individuals is chosen. 4. Go to the File menu and select Copy/Export Individuals in Custom Report. This is the command to take all individuals and all of their information and create a new file. You will need to give this file a new name. 5. Once this new file has been created you will be returned to your existing file. To see the difference in size, go to Help and choose Family File Status. Here, note the size (in KB) of your current file. Then, Open your newly created file and check its size. 6. You can then delete the original Family Tree Maker file as well as its backup.

Q Why are the Mormons so interested in genealogy? If I make my tree available on the web, will they "mormonise" my ancestors?

Mike Brown, England

A Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) are interested in genealogy because of their strong beliefs in the family. They believe that life does not end at death, and that when people die their eternal spirits go to a spirit world, where they continue to learn while they await the Resurrection and Final Judgment. Church members also believe that in order for families to be together after death that parents and their children must make special promises, called covenants, in sacred temples. These covenants, when made with the authority of God and faithfully kept, are thought to unite families for eternity. Members of the church believe that their deceased ancestors can also receive the blessings of being eternally united with their families. For this purpose, church members make covenants in temples in behalf of their ancestors, who have the option of either accepting or refusing these covenants in the spirit world.
          The Mountain of Names by Alex Shoumatoff explains: "Each Mormon is required by his religion to 'seek after your dead' and to perform certain sacraments for them which will assure that they all meet again in the Celestial Kingdom. The sacraments are performed not only for known ancestors of living church members but for anybody whose records are obtainable. The Mormons have done enough genealogy to realize that everybody, in the end, is kin." The LDS church maintains that a deceased person can never be compelled to accept baptism against their will, and that this baptism will never be performed without the permission of living relatives.
          Of course, even those of different faiths should be glad the LDS Church believes in posthumous baptism, for it was this belief that gave birth to the invaluable International Genealogical Index.

Q My great great great grandfather from Germany with the last name Von Josef Kobeler (I don't know his first name) was a count. I wanted to know if, since he was royalty, I am too, and if I had a title such as Lady or Countess since I am his great great great granddaughter. I didn't know who else to ask... and I figured that since you study genealogy you would know.

Crystal Malarsky, Lindenhurst, NY

A Although you haven't mentioned what German state your ancestor was a count in, I'm afraid it is extremely unlikely that we'll be calling you Gräfin (Countess) Malarsky anytime soon. In most of the hundreds of principalities, duchies, bishoprics and free cities of the Holy Roman Empire, the inheritance of titles of nobility was governed by the law of primogeniture (first born). According to the law of primogeniture, when the head of a noble house dies, his title and all his property are inherited by his eldest son. If the departing noble lacks a son, the title goes instead to the next nearest male relative. Under this rather discriminatory system, the only way a woman can acquire the title countess is by marrying a count.
          (Incidentally, did you realize that although England is full of counties, it is the only European country which has never been ruled by any counts? The English equivalent for the title count is earl, a title left over from before the Norman invasion in 1066. The wife of an earl is called a countess, however.)
          A further impediment to your quest for nobility comes in the fact that you are, presumably, an American citizen. According to the Constitution of the United States (Art. I, Sec. 9), persons who wish to become naturalized citizens of the US are required to drop all titles that they may have held in their native lands. The Constitution further declares that persons in government service are prohibited from accepting honors from foreign countries without having received the consent of Congress, so it's probably best that you drop the entire matter if you happen to work for the post office, the library or some other government-sponsored institution.

Q I am very much interested in genealogy and have recently returned to college. Are there any specific courses that I could take that would assist with genealogy?

Karen Garrett, Internet

A There are hundreds of courses you could take that would help you with genealogy, including half the courses in the history, geography and linguistics departments.
          If you want specialized genealogical learning, there are several possibilities. Brigham Young University is a large, LDS-sponsored university of more than 27,000 students located in Provo, Utah. Due to its close connection to Mormonism, BYU offers several courses related to family history and genealogy. The Certificate in Family History/ Genealogy (British or North American Option) course is designed for those not wishing to complete all the requirements of a degree or who can't return to campus to do so. The program description states that the program "provides a solid background in fundamental family history research principles coupled with specialized genealogical training in a particular geographical area." Some courses in this program include local histories, Writing Family Histories, Oral History Interviewing and Processing, Germanic Sources: An Introduction, and Latin for Genealogists. The university also offers certification and accreditation, and while the certificate program should not be confused with certification and accreditation, the university does recommend that applicants take the certificate program. Also available is a course in the religion department called Introduction to LDS Family History, which focuses on the religious aspects of genealogy for the Mormons, such as temple ordinances. Students not interested in credit or the certificate may audit all courses. The courses are the same in content, but no credit is awarded and no final examination is given. You can reach BYU on the web at or by phone at 1-800-914-8931 or 801-378-6053.
          Other universities and community colleges may also offer specific courses closely related to genealogy or family history. For example, Monterey County, California offers library science associate degrees in genealogy at both Monterey Peninsula College (Monterey) and Hartnell College (Salinas). It is recommended that you get in contact with schools in your area to obtain course calendars and more information.
          If you're more concerned with knowledge than accreditation, you may also be interested in some of the courses available online. Spectrum Virtual University offers ongoing courses on general genealogical subjects, all of which are free to the general public. Current offerings include Introduction to Online Genealogy, Writing Family and Personal History and Designing a Genealogy Web Page. For a fee, the Vanished History Mall offers a course on how to write your family history, and Ideaschool offers several further courses, including Beginning Genealogy, English Genealogy, African-American Genealogy and Irish Genealogy.

Q In your first magazine, which I only recently received as I had all but that one, you refer to a genealogy radio program called Climbing the Family Tree from California and another in Ottawa. I had not heard of any program of that type even though I often listen to talk radio and wondered if you could sometime give more details about them.

Linda Pauwels, Internet

ABrad York's Climbing the Family Tree is still off the air due to a lack of financial support. Another program called The Family History Show is broadcast at 10 p.m. each Sunday by KRLD-AM 1080 in Dallas, Texas.

Q I'm looking for pointers on how to conduct genealogical research on my family name in India. Any beginning tips would be appreciated. So far, it seems like it is impossible to do non-European genealogy!

D. Chandra, Internet

A First of all, you'll have to narrow your search somewhat. Announcing that you're looking for your roots in India is rather like announcing you're looking for your roots in the US, except with over three times as many people. Basically, you should begin your search just like anyone else - ask questions of your parents and older relatives, and begin tracking down relevant documents and photographs. Hope that some of the documents give names and places. Other starting points include the India WorldGenWeb page and the Consulate General of India, which is located at 3 East 64th Street, New York, NY, 10021.

Q Can someone tell me what is or was "First Fruits" (sometimes referred to as "First Fruits Office")? I've come across two references recently but neither is clear as to what it is. The references are c1795, Leicestershire and c1835, Co Tyrone in Ireland.

Victor Paul, Internet

A Churches were sometimes built with a loan or funds from the Board of First Fruits. The Board helped build many churches in Ireland. According to The Family Historian's Enquire Within, by Pauline Saul and F.C. Markwell, First Fruits "were the profits of an ecclesiastical benefice for the first year after a vacancy." The authors report that records are held in classes E.331 to 344 PRO Chancery Lane, and span the period from the mid 16th century to the early 19th century. The concept of First Fruits finds its origin in Proverbs 3:9, which states: "Honor the Lord with your substance, and with the first fruits of all your produce, then your barns will be filled with plenty."

Q In your article on dating old photographs (January/ February 1997), the author wrote that knowing the studio and photographer helps to identify the place and time the photographs are taken. How do I look up the names of photography studios in 19th-century England and match them with my family photos?

Angela Davis, Harrisburg, PA

A There are many directories you can try; some directories focus on a particular region, method or time period. Among other guides, Gary Edwards' International Guide to Nineteenth-Century Photographers and Their Works (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1988) may help you identify the who, where and when of those portraits. For every photographer listed, it gives the full name (if known), the period he/she was active, the photographic processes he/she used, the typical subjects and locations, and location(s) of the studio. It then lists prices paid at auction for the photographer's work. It seems unlikely that a single book could possibly list every portrait photographer worldwide, but this is a good place to start.
          Other possible titles of interest include O. Henry Mace's Collector's Guide to Early Photographs (Radnor, PA: Wallace-Homestead Books, 1990), Robert A. Weinstein's Collection, Use, and Care of Historical Photographs (Nashville, TN: American Association for State & Local History, 1977), and William B. Welling's Collectors' Guide to 19th Century Photographs (New York: Macmillan, 1976). Thanks to Cynthia Van Ness for this information.

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