Category: Genealogy

The “72-Year Rule”, or, Why You Have to Wait Seventy-Two Years to See Census Records

The “72-Year Rule”, or, Why You Have to Wait Seventy-Two Years to See Census Records

After seventy-two years, the 1950 census has legally been released for public viewing. That’s a big YAY for genealogists, most of whom probably know the “72-Year-Rule” regarding public access to federal census records. Many researchers used to think, erroneously, that this “rule” stemmed from the average lifespan of Americans at the time – seventy-two years. First, the “rule” did not originate from the average lifespan, and second, the average lifespan wasn’t even seventy-two years. In 1952, the U.S. surgeon general informed the public that average life expectancy was 68 years. During a congressional hearing on April 2, 1973, Archivist James B. Rhoads told lawmakers that the National Archives did not “find any evidence in the files specifically as to why 72 years was picked” for the 1952 agreement. You can see specifically the highlighted portion of Dr. Rhodes’s briefing before Congress here on page 5. This blog will focus on...

Link Old Maps and Land Records to Your Genealogy with HistoryGeo

Link Old Maps and Land Records to Your Genealogy with HistoryGeo

Do you have ancestors who purchased land straight from the federal government? If so, our HistoryGeo database is a must-use! Brought to you by Arphax Publishing Co., HistoryGeo.com is a family history software service for linking old maps and land records to your genealogy research. It contains three collections – First Landowners Project, Antique Maps Collection, and Place-Finder + Topographical Maps. In this blog, we’ll examine the First Landowners Project, but first, to get the most out of HistoryGeo, a brief explanation of federal/public land history is in order. After the Revolutionary War, the new national government had no money but lots of land. To encourage orderly westward settlement and to raise revenue, Congress developed the Public Land Survey System (PLSS), or Rectangular Survey System (RSS), to precisely divide lands beyond the original thirteen colonies (as well as Tennessee, Kentucky, and Texas), and offer them for sale through federal land...

Genealogy: Lineage Societies

People do genealogical research for many reasons. In the course of researching, they may decide to join a lineage society, or wanting to join may be the reason they want to do the research. Joining a lineage society can provide many benefits; the web site  AncestralFindings.com has a wonderful article on these societies and why you should consider becoming a member. Many of these groups organized in the late 19th century, but a few are much older. For example, The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, organized in March 1638, is the oldest chartered military organization in North America and the third oldest chartered military organization in the world. The Society of the Cincinnati organized in 1783 to preserve the ideals and fellowship of officers of the Continental Army who served in the Revolutionary War. The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) is the largest and most popular lineage...

Genealogy for Kids

Introducing kids to genealogy is a great way for them to learn more about history as well their family history. Genealogy is even being incorporated into some school curricula as way to connect kids to history. Children and teens who develop an interest in family history are more likely to participate in family history throughout their lives. And there’s also the element of FUN. Genealogy didn’t become the second most popular hobby in the U.S. by not being enjoyable! Kids, parents, grandparents, and other relatives getting involved can make this a fun and rewarding learning experience. Following are some ideas for activities that can help kids learn more about their family history. Talk to living relatives, especially older ones. The stories older relatives have to tell about what life was like for them is a great way for kids to connect to the past. This activity can help bring generations...

Genealogy: Civil War Ancestors

The American Civil War has been referred to the Civil War, War of the Rebellion, and the War Between the States. Whatever it’s called, many genealogists want to know if they had ancestors who fought in it. Today’s post will discuss ways to learn whether any of your ancestors wore the blue or the gray (or both!) between 1861 and 1865. To identify a potential Civil War soldier, determine his birthdate. Most soldiers and sailors were between 18 and 30 years old, and would have been born between 1831 and 1846. However, some of them could have been as young as 10 or as old as 70, so that widens the span to between 1791 and 1854. If your potential soldier died between April 1861 and June 1865 in a Southern state, or he was from a Southern state and died in a different Southern state, this may indicate that...

Genealogy: Revolutionary War Research

Many people doing genealogical research wonder if, or have been told that, their ancestors participated in the Revolutionary War, or the American War for Independence. Military action began with the confrontation between British troops and local militia at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, on 19 April 1775, and ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on 3 September 1783. This post will discuss a few ways for you to find out if one or more of your ancestors took part in the great event that started with “the shot heard ‘round the world.” During the course of your research, you may discover a clue that your ancestor might have participated in the war. Depending on what information that clue provides, you can use it to search for additional information that may confirm your findings. Even if you don’t find clues, there are other criteria you can use to determine...

Genealogy: Government Documents

Government documents are a little-known genealogical resource that can yield great benefits to genealogists. If your ancestors interacted with the federal government in some way, there may be records that document those transactions. Some kinds of these are well-known, such as federal census records, military records, passenger lists, and immigration and naturalization records. Today we’ll discuss a few of those records, along with a few that aren’t well-known, and show how you can access them. “A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation” Home page: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/ This free collection consists of a linked set of published congressional records (primary source documents) of the U. S. from the Continental Congress through the 43rd Congress, 1774-1875. All these materials may be viewed on-line as digital facsimile page images; some also have fully or partially searchable transcribed text. Two sets of documents on this site have great genealogical value – The U. S....

Genealogy: Black Sheep Ancestors

One kind of ancestor that genealogists may or not look forward to finding is a “black sheep” or “skeleton in the closet.” Researchers often chuckle about the so-called “horse thief” in the family. In some instances, there’s “that relative” that everyone knows about but nobody talks about. Black sheep ancestors are people who made bad or questionable choices, committed some kind of crime, or did something considered scandalous or roguish in their day. Several factors can determine how much researchers choose to reveal about such ancestors, depending on the type of misdeed, how long ago it occurred, and the presence and feelings of living relatives. There is no “blanket” answer to this question; each instance should involve looking at the ramifications of sharing. Probably the most important consideration involves living descendants and how discoveries might affect them. Some descendants may be fine with public knowledge of what happened, while others...

Genealogy: Court Records

Court records are important resources for genealogists for many reasons. They can establish family relationships, places of residence, and provide various kinds of family history information. Unfortunately, they tend to be difficult to use because they’re not usually well-indexed, there are many different kinds of records, and court names and jurisdictions changed over time. Also, researchers will need to learn lots of legal terms and abbreviations in order to understand the legalities in these documents. Fortunately, you can get a good basic understanding of court records and legal terminology by using some resources included later in this post. In the U. S. several types of courts exist. They include federal, state, and local courts, each designed to handle certain types of legal cases. The federal court system was established in  1789, and district courts were established in each state. Some states were divided into two or more districts as the...

Genealogy: Church Records

Church records can be a valuable asset to genealogical research in several ways. They began in the U. S. in the early 1600s, but civil registration or recording of births, marriages, and deaths was not generally required until after 1900. Sometimes church records are the only records containing vital record information. Therefore, they are a valuable substitute when vital records do not exist. Many churches of different denominations kept such records as births, baptisms or christenings, marriages, deaths, and burials. Unfortunately, many of these records have not survived, but it’s usually worthwhile to check with the church about availability. The types of records kept by churches depends on what mattered most to them in terms of their belief systems. These may include births, baptisms, christenings, communions, confirmations, admissions, removals, lists of Sunday school attendees, church censuses,  financial records, and even newsletters. The kind of information kept by a specific church...