Thursday, February 20, 2014

From Mouth to Ear to Brain to Notes to Paper -- HOW MISTAKES ARE MADE

When using census records -- both searching and interpreting -- think about how that word got to your screen.

Your ancestor said it.
The census enumerator heard it.
The enumerator thought about it.
The enumerator wrote it down in his notes.
The enumerator put it in his actual census report.
It was microfilmed.
It was digitized.

And maybe somewhere in there it was transcribed or indexed, in which case it was read. 

At any (or every) point in the process there could have been a misunderstanding. Multiple misunderstandings compound errors which easily resulted in entries that are a far cry from what was said by your ancestor. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

GENEALOGY TIP OF THE DAY: Land Patents Versus Land Warrants

Usually a land patent is that legal document that transfers ownership in real property from a governmental agency to an individual. A warrant is a document that indicates a person has qualified for (or purchased) a specific amount of land. The warrant does not always indicate the precise location of the land and the warrant does not usually give title to any specific piece of real estate. 

The patent does that.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

SHARING OUR WORK. . .Obituary Database Spotlighted

I wanted to share a letter I received recently.  Yes, I'm bragging  because I'm very proud of this database which has records from the 1800s to current.   However, I would never take full credit for this project because there were so many staff and volunteers who's efforts made the completion of this project possible.  Sylvia Moore, Reference/IT Assistant Manager, worked very hard on this project in every aspect.  There were staff from the branch libraries who entered data.  We hired college students who gleaned names from microfilm.  We are also very grateful for the help from volunteers like Margaret and Johnny Whitehead.  This project would never have gotten completed without everyone's efforts. 

This is an ongoing project and the Library's reference staff adding obituaries from the current Pine Bluff Commercial daily.  

Check out our database by following the link below and typing in a name:  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Civil War Military Terms Explained

Sometimes you need an explanation of military terms.

A company was a Civil War military unit that was supposed to have 100 men, but usually had only about 50.  A company was commanded by a captain and some lieutenants.  Several companies together made up a battalion, and several battalions made up a regiment, commanded by a colonel.  A Civil War Regiment was supposed to have about 1,000 men, but usually had less than half that.

Larger units were divisions, corps (pronounced "core"), and armies.  In the Civil War, the soldiers elected their officers from lieutenants through colonel.

Ordnance is any material of war, usually ammunition.  The ordnance train was most often a wagon train of supplies.

Claude Etienne MiniƩ (1804-1879)
A minie ball was the bullet used in muzzle-loading rifles.  Named for its French inventor "Claude Etienne MiniĆ©", it had a conical base that made the lead bullet expand when it was fired.  It was often 58 caliber -- or about 1/2" wide. (It is pronounced like "Minnie" Mouse.) 

A flank is the side of a line of soldiers, where the soldiers' firepower is the weakest.  To "outflank" is to attack on the side.

Monday, February 10, 2014


Most Adoptions are Unofficial

Genealogists love records. But adoptions are one of those situations that present problems. Throughout much of American history adoptions were "informal" with couples simply taking the child in with no "paperwork." And when there was legal paperwork, those records are often closed.

But don't be surprised if there's no "documentation" to provide evidence of an adoption. Many before the World War I era fall into the category of "unofficial."