Bones Collector

Thank you for visiting our latest innovative genealogy tool that will keep you up-to-date on all the happenings in the genealogy world both locally and elsewhere. As your guide and 'Head Bones Collector' for this blog, the primary goal is to provide information that can be referred to over and over again. We're very glad you stopped by! Visit us in person on 3rd floor of the Main Library in the Heritage Room!

General Record Office - English Database

The General Register Office (GRO) in England has announced that a contract has been signed to digitize the birth, marriage, and death certificates that start in July 1837. For more information see

These are crucial records for finding and documenting families. Indexes are available on film or fiche in select libraries. Searching is tedious because each year has four A-Z indexes, one for each quarter of the year. A recent online project, FreeBMD, is a quicker way to search an index but is not complete.

Certificates are not available to the public and have to be purchased through the General Register Office. A "green paper" - requesting that certificates be released to the public - was submitted to Parliament more than 15 years ago. It is good news to hear that the GRO will make them available.

NEHGS Journal on CD

The New England Historic Genealogical Society published its 150+ years of its journal in CD form, and has also added it to its website.

Marie E. Daly
Director of Research Library
New England Historic Genealogical Society
101 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02116-3007
mdaly [at] nehgs [dot] org

Georgia's Virtual Vault

This is GREAT for Georgia records!


Here's a listing of the collections the archives is working on right now...

  • Virtual Vault Collections
  • Chatham County Deed Books
  • Colonial Will Books
  • Colonial Wills
  • Confederate Enlistment Oaths and Discharges
  • Confederate Pension Applications
  • County Records from Microfilm
  • Georgia Power Photograph Collection
  • Headright and Bounty Plats
  • Historic Postcard Collection
  • Leo Frank Clemency Application

This is a work in progress for the state of Georgia, so check periodically to see what's new on the site.

Ancestor Searching Newsletter, Volume 1, # 10

Townships and Ranges

With the expansion of the country westward after the Louisiana Purchase, exploration began of the frontier to learn more about the recent land acquisition. As the federal government became more organized, it was decided to open these lands to the general population. The plan was two-fold. First, offer plots to soldiers for their military service and secondly, to sell off as much of the remaining land as possible to raise money for the young republic. To provide for the fairest distribution of the still mostly unmapped and very diverse two and a quarter million square miles, the government divided up the land into squares.



When surveying began in the new land area, the responsibility fell under the jurisdiction of The General Land Office (which we know today as the Bureau of Land Management). They established 34 sets of what became known as survey meridians and base lines which were the starting points for each region of Meridian.


Just to touch very briefly on the system, a township is both a square six miles long on each side as well as the method to locate the north-south (horizontal) row from the base line where the township lies. Ranges are rows of townships east or west of the meridian (vertical).


Each 36 square mile township is divided up into 36 single-square-mile "sections." These sections are numbered sequentially from the northeast corner to the southeast corner. The 640 acre sections can be divided even further. When you have even smaller portions of a section it becomes a bit more complicated. For instance, the statement "The southeast quarter of the northwest quarter of section 22, etc." this quarter of a quarter section is a 40 acre parcel. Furthermore, one could identify a ten-acre parcel by adding another quarter to the description (a quarter of a quarter of a quarter of a section).


The United States Public Lands Survey is what is termed a cadastral survey. Cadastral surveys are those which establish boundaries for land ownership. Since the primary purpose of the USPLS was to sell land, it was important for defining land boundaries.


It’s also interesting to note that all townships aren’t exactly square in shape. This can be attributed to the curve of the earth, so, every few rows of townships there is a slight shift in the meridians to compensate. There are also portions of the survey where land was already owned and surveyed by different methods. California's Spanish land grants are an excellent example. The grants were based on naturally occurring features such as streams so they are irregularly shaped islands among the squares of the survey.


Today in much of the South and West, it’s not uncommon at all to find roads one mile apart and running in straight lines for dozens of miles. We can thank the USPLS for the "checkerboard" pattern which stands out on maps of the U.S. today.


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Genealogy Workshop


Fact: Terms used in the Township and Range System




Basic unit of the system, a square tract of line one mile by one mile containing 640 acres.




36 sections arranged in a 6 by 6 array, measuring 6 miles by 6 miles. Sections are numbered beginning with the northeast-most section, proceeding west to 6, then south along the west edge of the township and to the east.




Assigned to a township by measuring east or west of a Principal Meridian


Range Lines


North to south lines which mark township boundaries


Township Lines


East to west lines which mark township boundaries


Principal Meridian


Reference or beginning point for measuring east or west ranges.


Map of meridians & base lines from the BLM web server.


Base line


Reference or beginning point for measuring north or south townships.


Map of meridians & base lines from the BLM web server .


Tip: An excellent governmental resource for detailed information on townships and ranges can be found at…


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Genealogy News


This month’s news involves a ‘double dose’ of happenings that are being offered by the staff of the Heritage Room.


The first major announcement is that we now have our genealogy blog up and running! Just point your browser to …


The blog will not only now house ALL issues of the ‘Ancestor Searching’ email newsletters but will also be a source of NEW genealogical material not covered in the newsletter. You’ll want to make sure to bookmark the blog and check back frequently for updates!!


Our second big announcement is that on January 19th, the Heritage Room will be hosting the third in a series of our Sitting Up with the Dead programs. The theme for this upcoming evening is HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LITTLE RICKY!! *


* (“I Love Lucy Show”, January 19, 1953)


The cost is still only $20 and birthday cake and other refreshments will be available. For further information, to sign up or questions, please feel free to call us at 532-5969.


Ancestor Searching Newsletter, Volume 1, # 9

Getting Past 'Brick Walls'

A 'Brick Wall' in genealogy is a dead-end that you have reached in your research. It may be a small problem or a much larger one. You may have exhausted every avenue of research and are totally frustrated and at a loss.



Before starting with the steps and suggestions that follow, create a timeline for the ancestor where your brick wall begins. List on this timeline every known fact from birth to death. Then decide what you want to find out that's missing from the timeline.



The first piece of advice in dealing with a 'brick wall' is to go back and double-check what you have already found in your research. If you are truly stuck, this first approach could yield amazing results. It's a great way of refreshing your memory on research and sources you've already worked with in the past. You may just discover other unexplored avenues of research from this procedure.


Make certain you have checked every available record source for the information you require. As you work through these resources, keep a detailed record of the source you used and what results you had so as not to waste time and effort re-checking the same material several times.


Be very FLEXIBLE with dates. Always search for several years either side of a supposed date. Ages and dates are not always reported accurately. Go back and make sure that you have allowed some flexibility in your research - perhaps you haven't searched far enough back, or too far back.


Another approach to solving these dead-ends is to work with collateral branches. If you know other sibling names, check for their records as if they were ancestors in your direct line. No siblings... cousins can offer the next-best clues. The paper trail could still lead back to the answers you seek. Many even follow what Emily Croom, author of Unpuzzling Your Past, calls "cluster genealogy". It's not just immediate or extended family.


In-laws and neighbors pursued the same paths. Look into those family records.


An excellent resource on 'brick walls' can be found in the Heritage Room Collection. 500 Brickwall Solutions to Genealogy Problems contains a multitude of true cases where the application of sound research techniques was applied to solve seemingly dead-end situations.


Whenever you have the opportunity, show your research to another person - even a person not skilled in genealogy. That person may see something in your research that you have missed or overlooked.


Are there others researching the same line? Tap into this resource - contact others researching your line whether it's by phone, regular mail or email.


Find out if they have already done this particular area of research. BEWARE, however, of possible errors by others. Ask what sources they checked to try to be sure that they have done a thorough job in their research.


Above all, maintain an open mind and NEVER GIVE UP!


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Genealogy Workshop


Fact: Most brick walls usually occur around the mid/late 1700's period of time where everything record -wise sometimes becomes more vague and online/hardcopy data is minimal.


Tip: Sometimes it is useful to help work on the brick wall puzzles of others and see what we can learn to make us sharper genealogical detectives. Also, place online NEW well written, short, but sufficiently detailed queries specifying exactly what you seek on several sites. Repeat this procedure every few weeks to the same message boards and also try posting to new and different boards to reach a wider audience.


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Genealogy News


Do you have an ancestor who was in the group of original Englishmen to settle Jamestown Virginia? Archaeologists in 2004 have unearthed human remains on the bank of the James River. You'll definitely want to read Part I of a series of online articles about the effort that has gone into the handling of the dig at the original fort site. The link to begin reading is at...


<> and Part II can be reached by clicking on the link at the bottom of the first article. Just in case Part II is at...


<> and Part III at...




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Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season as this is the last issue to come out before year's end.


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EDITOR'S NOTE: The November issue of this newsletter was erroneously labeled as #7 when in fact it was #8 in this volume.


Changing email addresses? Don't forget to let us know.


Ancestor Searching Newsletter, Volume 1, # 8

Census Research

The most basic of research tools that genealogists use are the Federal and state census records that have been taken since 1790.

George Washington signed the original legislative act that was responsible for creating the Federal census. A major purpose for the young republic was to ascertain just how many men were eligible for military service should it be necessary. Since then, the census has become an important tool for measuring and tracking many more aspects of the population. An excellent source of information can be found on the National Archives site at…


…, also, US Census Records, 1790—1930 at…


… the USGenWeb’s Census Project at…


… and, an excellent detailed narrative at…


Even though much of the 1790 census was burned by the British during the War of 1812, there are, in many cases, ’substitute’ census records that have been created from tax records. Don’t lose hope just because you discover no Federal census is available for the state you need. Look for a re-created work! Along a similar line of thought, most of the 1890 census was also destroyed by a fire in the Commerce Building.


There are, as in many aspects of genealogy research, problems that will arise with trying to work with census records. One such problem could be the census takers themselves. While all were able to read and write, the level of enthusiasm varied. There were those who made a diligent effort to record accurate information and others who were simply working for the money and exerted little effort for exactness.


Remember, too, more recent census returns may be more likely to have recorded family names under a standard spelling format. The further back one does research in census records the more likely will be the chances of finding ancestors under variation spellings. Even though the census takers were literate, many times names were written based on how they sounded to the writer than how we as researchers will expect to find them enumerated.


Another issue is the fact that if a family was not a home for some reason, they probably weren’t counted unless perhaps a nearby neighbor offered information on the family to the census taker.


Erroneous information would be another factor. If there was a misunderstanding of the question(s) asked or poor memory recollection, then faulty reported answers will result in misleading and conflicting research leads.


Even the number of questions asked in each particular census year can cause frustration. There were only 7 questions asked in the first census and ALL given names for everyone in the household were not enumerated until the 1850 census.


NEVER overlook the state censuses that are available. They were taking between Federal census years mainly for tax purposes but can provide valuable clues.


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Genealogy Workshop


Fact: The Soundex system was begun while Franklin Roosevelt was President. The work fell under the jurisdiction of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). For more details, go to…


Tip: Be sure to check at least the previous ten households before your ancestor listing as well as the following ten (or more) households when viewing census records. In many cases, your efforts will be rewarded with information on other related family members.


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Starting with this issue will now be a new section in the newsletter entitled Genealogy News that will contain information on current happenings in the genealogy world.


From Dick Eastman’s Online Genealogy...


A new web site has appeared: I suspect this is going to become one of the major sources of information about ancestors who traveled from UK ports to various cities around the world. The site will eventually list 30 million passengers who sailed on ships that departed from Southampton, Glasgow, Queenstown (Cobh of Cork), and other ports.


This site greatly complements the Ellis Island web site and even exceeds it in many ways. The new will list detailed information about travelers to many North American cities, not just New York. Yes, it even includes information about many who went to Canada. In fact, this new online resource includes passenger lists for many voyages to Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA. You will also find some passenger lists for voyages to South America, the Caribbean, West Africa, and all parts of Asia. Many of these passengers were never documented upon arrival in their newly-adopted countries.


For more on the subject, click thru to...


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