Carol Sanderson, Editor
Charles Hansen, Technical Advisor
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What is the first place any genealogist looks when they open a book? The index. Why, because they hope their ancestor is in the index. Genealogists love indexes and so they have created census indexes, marriage indexes, birth indexes, death indexes, obituary indexes, tax indexes, land indexes and book indexes.
Today a lot of these indexes and even the scanned images have appeared online. Has that made it easier to find your ancestor? Probably it has because most names in these indexes were indexed correctly. So having the index online makes it easy to find your ancestor at midnight, where before you would find them five minutes before the library closed.
What happens if you cannot find your ancestor in the index? It is possible that your ancestor was missed in the index. A while back there was a request on the Spokane County mail list for a look up for someone in the Washington State Death Index from 1940 to 1997 Ancestry has this in their pay for view area. Someone answered that this person was not in the index, but when I checked the microfilm I found the person quickly. I wonder how many others are not in the online index? I was asked why the earlier years of the Washington Death Index have not been put online and I answered that the printing is half the size of the 1940 and later indexes, and on a lot of pages it is very hard to read so I guess converting it to an online index will require a lot of work.
I was always a fan of the Soundex, because it would put names that sounded similar close together and so hopefully cancel out the poor spelling of the census takers. Soundex has a major problem in that the first letter can be wrong and you may never find your ancestor. Carr and Karr both sound the same, but the Soundex is C700 for Carr and K700 for Karr. The other problem with the Soundex is it does not work well for Eastern European names.
Before most of the censuses were indexed people would use addresses and enumeration districts to find their ancestors. When the 1930 census came out, I had already mapped all the enumeration districts in Spokane, so the first day the film arrived in the Spokane library I was checking for my mother and grandparents. I found them on the first page of that enumeration district. I also checked for my dad and his parents in Idaho and since they lived on a farm they were pretty easy to find. I also found my uncle, aunt and two first cousins living on a farm in Douglas County, Washington.
A little later I bought the every name index for the 1930 Washington census. While I was trying it, I tried my grandparents and my mother. They showed up quickly. My fatherÔs grandparents were in Idaho so they were not on that CD. I then tried to find my Uncle and Aunt, but they did not appear under Hansen. I found that odd as I had the copies of the census where I had previously found them so I knew they were not missed. A friend suggested I search by first name and county so I did, and up popped my Uncle Ralph Hensen and his family. I was thinking that the indexers must have had trouble reading the census, so I checked the copies I had and sure enough it was Hensen on the copies.
Just a couple of weeks ago on the Spokane Message Board there was a query looking for Dollie M. Huls b. Iowa and died December 8, 1940 and had lived in Spokane for at least 30 years. So I tried my 1930 census index and found her age 61 born in Iowa. I had purchased a 1920 Washington Census CD also, so I tried that and no Dollie M. Huls. I tried Dollie M. and birthplace Iowa, no hits. Then I just tried Dollie and Iowa, and up popped a Dollie Mayhugh age 51 born in Iowa and when I checked the actual census I could barely read her surname, but it is Mayhu__. Does Dollie M. Huls sound like Dolly Mayhugh? This is from a person born in Iowa so probably without an accent. A similar query was for a son of a Czech immigrant named Charles F. Jinderlee. He appeared in the 1920 census index as Choi F. Jindrich, but checking the actual census it is pretty easy to read Chas. F. Jinderlle. The second "l" looks like it was written over an "e", but how the indexer got Choi for Chas. and Jindrich for Jinderlee is beyond me. I will say it is a lot easier to recognize your own family in the census than an indexer can unless the copies are very easy to read..
Remember, though, if you are pretty sure your ancestor should be in the index and you cannot find him, keep trying even if you have to check the pre-index way by using an address or location and then go page by page.
While some of us are living in the area where we grew up, there are many of us who are not. Our society has grown very mobile. I used to think that our ancestors stayed put pretty much until I started doing research on them. They moved and sometimes for the same reasons we do...the grass looks greener elsewhere. Some of my Dad's line stayed where they were while others pulled up stakes and moved...one branch of the family moved away from the more inhabited part of Maine to settlements up on the Maine coast. They moved back to the inhabited areas, it seems every time the Native Americans got restless. When things settled down they moved back to where they had been. Where I grew up, I could sit in my yard and see houses that belonged to my grandfather and his brothers. Up the road, a short distance was a house that three earlier generations had built and lived in.
Given this mobility, how do we find the paper trails that these migrating peoples left when all we know is that they were from place A and then we find them in Place B hundreds of miles away? How do we know the route they took?.
Depending on where in this country they were, we can assume certain migration routes as along the great rivers and waterways. But what if those were not an option and they still were going to move either north or south or to the west. Routes were sometimes old Indian trails or other types of paths. As they became used more frequently they were widened and smoothed out.
One of the first roads that connected the colonies was on the Atlantic coast. In the mid to late 1700s King Charles II of England asked the governors of the colonies to establish communications between the colonies. This, in fact, became known as the King's Highway. Later the king made it official by designating it as a route for mail. This "road" ran from Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony to Charleston in South Carolina. It was also known as the Boston Post Road, particularly between Boston and New York. Today there is a road that travels much of the some route only now it goes from the northernmost part of Maine to Key West in Florida. This is US Highway 1 still known, in some parts, as the Boston Post Road. William Dollarhide, in an article, breaks this (Kings Highway) down into other names used in other locations and tells us of the modern-day roads that travel along on or near them.
From the early 1700s until the time of our Revolution, Scots-Irish (people who had left Scotland for various reasons and settled in noryhern Ireland, particularly Ulster County much earlier) started arriving here. They moved westward into and over the Appalachians. The Philadelphia Road went west to Lancaster. The Great Valley Road made connections with others but went north and south through the Shenandoah Valley. Further south, a road found it's way westward through the mountains and passes. This was the Cumberland Road. Later there was a tunnel through the mountains near the Cumberland Gap. In the past few decades that tunnel was closed and a new highway put through the gap so that road follows the trail quite closely.
Dollarhide says that one can take a modern-day atlas and lay out a line between two points and the roads will either be on or very near old wagon roads. Using this as a guide you can find the modern-day counties where you could look to see if your ancestors had passed that way. Land to them was money and wealth and they left paper trails in courthouses and places where they may have stayed for a year or so before moving on. This is one method that he used in his research and says that he found evidence of his ancestors in counties he would never have thought to look.
He lists some of the repositories that hold specialized collections of records about people traveling on some of these wagon roads. They are:
Locating Colonial Wagon Roads On A Modern Map by William Dollarhide, HERITAGE QUEST MAGAZINE,February 2004, Volume 20, No. 1, Issue 109; 425 North, 400 West, Suite 1A, North Salt Lake, Utah 84064.
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