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!

Ancestor Searching Newsletter, Volume 1, # 7

BREAKING NEWS and Cemetery Researching

Many of you have been anxiously awaiting another chance for a special night of researching along the lines of our ‘Sitting Up with the Dead’ night that we hosted back on June 2nd. Well....

Your wait is over !

Our ‘Sitting Up with the Dead II: The Night of the Missing Dead’ program is set to take place Friday, October 27th and will run from 6 PM to Midnight. Snacks and drinks ONLY will be provided this time. The cost per person is $20 and a deadline for registration is Wednesday, October 25th. Proceeds will go to benefit the Heritage Room Collection. Once again, the number of participants is limited. If you have any other questions concerning the evening, call us at 532-5969 and we’ll be glad to provide answers.

You don’t want to miss it !



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Cemetery Research


Have you ever noticed when visiting a cemetery how peaceful and serene the surroundings can be? Not only does it allow time spent remembering a loved one, or just reflecting on life in general, but to genealogists it can also mean a wonderful opportunity to track down more answers to unsolved and vital family history clues.


One thing to remember going in when locating places of internment for ancestors is that in terms of research, tombstone information is always going to be considered secondary source information. ’Why?’ you may ask. There are several reasons that such a conclusion can be reached.


First of all is the matter of incorrect names and dates. Depending on the information (or lack of) and who the informant was, can result in erroneous information being created on markers. What’s even more interesting is that many deceased individuals who have withheld their true age during their lifetime, have tombstones with these same wrong dates engraved on them!


Another issue is when the marker was actually placed. In many instances, it may have been many months or years later. Again, this would lead to incorrect information being given, particularly dates, when memory could have become more uncertain with the passage of time. A prime example is during the Great Depression. With little or no money, many families could not place markers until their financial situation was adequately improved and they could afford to spend the necessary amount for a tombstone.


Thirdly, in some cases the place of actual interment may be found to be elsewhere other than where the tombstone is located. If an obituary is available, it’s always wise to make a note of the interment location when given.


And finally, with the increased interest in transcribing tombstone information, it is very possible that there will be errors made either performing the transcription or in printing the results in a published work.


Bottom line… other sources will need to be utilized to confirm, if possible, the information found on cemetery markers.


A final comment to tombstone markers is that they CAN give us new directions to move in for researching family members. Church, military and organization membership records are just some of the other sources that markers can point to for yet more clues and answers.


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Genealogy Workshop


Fact: The term Sexton refers to the maintenance staff person (caretaker) who oversees the burials and serves as groundskeeper for a cemetery.


Tip: Since tombstones, in some cases and locations, may not always be permanently viewable due to natural, accidental or malicious occurrences, it’s always an excellent idea to not only photograph the markers but to write out a complete and full record of every detail on them!


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Join Us !


This Sunday, October 8th at 2 P. M. will be the official opening of the Jane Knight Lowe Gallery on 3rd floor of the Main Library. Included in the exhibit will be samples of Indian artifacts of Madison County found on the shores of the Tennessee River along with a display of Civil War artifacts and memorabilia. Also, photographs relating to the Huntsville Female College for the years 1851 through 1895 as well as a collection of local period scenes drawn from the library’s vast archives depicting what we’re calling ‘Squatters and Squires Come to Big Spring’. The event is FREE and refreshments will be available.


Ancestor Searching Newsletter, Volume 1, # 6

Land and Property

According to E. Wade Hone in his book Land & Property Research, there are 3 important reasons for land records.

First, land records are available much further back in time than any other record. This allows researchers the ability to place individuals and families as residents of a particular area in a specific time period.

Secondly, more people have had ties to land and property records. By the middle of the 19th century indications are that almost 90% of adult white males owned property in the country. This fact makes county deed indexes an extremely valuable source for locating residency in a county, even more so than census records where individuals or families may not have been enumerated.


Third, land and property records have suffered the least number of losses than any other type record. Sale records of public lands by the U.S. government are almost 100% intact from 1787 through the present. Even in counties where records have been burned, land records have been re-constructed either in part or in whole. In many cases, deeds have been re-recorded after courthouse damage from water, fires or other random acts of nature such as lightning, tornados and hurricanes.



A prime example of the importance of land records can be seen in the earliest English tax records (circa 1066 to 1096 A.D.) which are contained in a volume known as the ‘Domesday Book’. These date back to the time period of the Norman Conquest and are a valuable resource when tracing ancestors who lived during that time period in England. For more information, there are several web sites that give excellent historical background on the subject. If you would like to search a listing of close to 200 of the landowners, go to...


This is by no means a complete list of all of the property owners. More information on the book and property owners for those who are interested can be found at


The Dower Rights system was an English common law practice which made its appearance during the time of William the Conqueror. It provided for widows to receive 1/3 of the deceased husband’s estate. The same practice was used by the colonists and on into the 19th century. Often, the widow’s given name is recorded in deeds making them potentially an important source of information for maiden names. Even though wives weren’t allowed to own land in their own name, they were allowed "veto power" over land sales due to the dower and/or community property rights. Along a similar line of interest, land records may also hold the key to finding out a wife’s maiden name when she’s inherited property from her deceased father. However, any land bequeathed through family estate settlements was awarded to the husband as owner. In the way of a side note, under Spanish law, the wife was entitled to ½ of the estate.


Public land records under the jurisdiction of the federal government will usually contain such information as cash and credit sales, land donations and homesteads. An excellent resource online for these federal records is the Bureau of Land Management at


Another valuable source of information is the National Archives page at


And be sure to check out these sites concerning legal land descriptions…


It’s interesting to note that even with the abundance of land and property records available, they are the least utilized. The biggest reasons are 1) many researchers don’t understand the various records and how they’re organized and 2) not having taken time to really learn about all of the types of records available.


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Genealogy Workshop


Fact: Following land records, the next most recorded available records are the marriage records.


Tip: When researching deeds in courthouse records, be sure to utilize both the Grantor as well as the Grantee indexes. Many researchers may surmise that since there is no record of land being bought that there will be no record of land being sold by an individual. Not so. The original ownership of a tract of land could initially be due to its being a grant or patent from a state or the federal government. It could also have been inherited from a family member, overlooked during indexing of the records, or simply never recorded as an acquisition. Look in BOTH indexes to be sure!


Ancestor Searching Newsletter, Volume 1, # 5

Researching Military Service Records

As we are all aware, genealogy research takes us into a world of literally volumes and volumes of written records. Our hope is that each and every person we research will have left some kind of records behind that will aid us in learning more about the person and lead us in the right direction in tracing that particular family surname.

Of these seemingly endless amounts of paper, are the records kept on those individuals who were involved in some form of military service. Not only can be found records of actual military service but supporting records. Supporting records may be categorized as…


Bounty-Land Grants




Military Census Records


(First census taken in 1840 and the second in 1890).


Muster Rolls


Pension Records


Prisoners of War


Unit Rosters


An excellent resource now available on the Internet is located on Heritage Quest. Selected Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Applications may now be located and printed for service personnel. In the way of a side note, ‘Selected’ refers to only certain documents in the folders relating to military service. However, by personally visiting the National Archives or one of its Branches, the COMPLETE folder, which would include ALL documents, may be copied.


Should an ancestor have served during the so-called ‘Colonial Wars’ from 1607 – 1774, these records usually listed just the name and unit in which they served. The phrase ‘Colonial Wars’ refers to the following involvements…


King Philip’s War ~ 1675 – 1676


King William’s War ~ 1689 – 1697


Queen Anne’s War ~ 1702 – 1713


King George’s War ~ 1744 – 1748


French and Indian War ~ 1754 – 1763


The National Archives maintains service records for the years from 1775 – 1912. War records after 1912 are under the jurisdiction of the Veteran’s Administration.


As one can conclude, there are many, many records from a military standpoint to consider and to research. Hopefully, these records will give even more insight into the lives of those who fought for their beliefs and values, and, for their families and friends.


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Genealogy Workshop


FACT: In 1798, Congress passed the first direct tax on homes, land and slaves to pay for the resurrected navy and a new, larger army.


TIP: While a direct ancestor may not have military service or pension records, in many instances it pays to look for service and pension records of family members. Important genealogical leads or answers may be found in their records that would otherwise be missed!


Ancestor Searching Newsletter, Volume 1, # 4

Genealogy Courses

There’s an old adage that’s been around for years that goes ‘You learn something new everyday’. No matter where we are in life, this can be a truth each day.

It may be you’re a novice at genealogy and haven’t really gotten that far in your research or you’ve been at the hobby like I have for many years. Whatever stage you’re at, it always helps to have knowledge of the different aspects of genealogy that one may find themselves involved with in their search for ancestors.


Most of us are aware of the many volumes that have already been published on ‘How to’ for genealogy studies. However, did you know there are courses available online that can help you with a trove of information?


You’ll find that some of the offerings are FREE and others require a fee.


Several such courses are offered by Brigham Young University ( and fall in the NO CHARGE category. Their class lists includes ‘Finding Your Ancestors’, ‘Introduction to Family History Research’, ‘Helping Children Love Your Family History’, ‘Family Records’, ‘Vital Records’, ‘Military Records’; even a course on ‘Huguenot Research’.


Another excellent site for studies is the National Genealogical Society ( which offers an intensive home study course. Be prepared for fees from $85 (course ONLY) up to $565 (Full 16 lesson series - graded for the VERY serious researcher).


There’s also the National Institute for Genealogical Studies ( , ( , DearMYRTLE’s Joy of Genealogy ( and Rootsweb’s Guide to Tracing Family Trees ( to learn in-depth.


There are several reasons why such classes are useful. You can learn from the comfort of your own home, meet other researchers who are working in the same area of genealogy (or even family) as you are, refine your genealogical abilities, for certification or just simply to increase your proficiency in family history study.


Something to think about.


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Genealogy Workshop


FACT: 400 years ago a middle name was NOT allowed in England. It was illegal!


TIP: Don’t forget to check church minutes for ‘Banns of Marriage’. This would have been a public announcement in church, usually over a three-week period of a couple’s intent to marry. Since the Clerk of the Court charged a fee for a marriage bond, this practice made for an excellent alternative.

Ancestor Searching Newsletter, Volume 1, # 3

Library Genealogy Databases and New Books

If you couldn’t make it this past Friday evening, June 2nd, you missed a GREAT experience with our ‘Sitting Up with the Dead’ night in the Heritage Room. We had a VERY enjoyable evening of researching, eating and conversation with an ANXIOUS group of people wanting to do genealogy with even some from out-of-state, namely Tennessee and even one from Georgia! The night was a HUGE success and, yes, we WILL be doing it again!

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Many researchers are not aware of the online databases being offered by the library. Currently, there are three (3) that may be utilized FREE OF CHARGE (except for copies which are 15 cents per page).


The first service is By far, the largest collection of databases on the Internet, genealogists can search over 4 billion names for genealogy information ranging in scope from census, vital records and family histories to court, land, probate and military records, to name just a few.


Secondly, is Heritage Quest Online. An online source of Revolutionary War records, Bounty-Land warrants, PERSI, family and local histories, as well as Federal census records from 1790 to 1930 for clues and answers to family history puzzles. An added bonus to this service is that any card-carrying patron of the Huntsville Library can access the wealth of information on Heritage Quest from their home computer. All you need to have is your 4-digit PIN number. PIN numbers may be obtained from the main service desk at any of our locations.


And, finally, the newest addition is The New England Historic Genealogical Society. If you have ancestors who were from the area, you need to visit the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s online collection of over 2,200 family research databases which currently contain access to over 110 million names.


Also, we’ve added more to our collection of new titles that can now be found in the Heritage Room.


Alabama Obituaries and Death Notices from the Gadsden Times, 1900 - 1905 by Brenda Headrick and Julie Martin


(H 976.167 Hea)


Bible, Family and Marriage Records: Gleaned from Pension Applications by Deidre Burridge Dagner (H 355.1 Lu, Vol. # 22)


The Diary of Johann Gottfried Arends by Jo White Linn


(H 284.1756 Are)


Index to the Twenty-Four Volumes of Cemetery and Bible Records Published by the Mississippi Genealogical Society


(H 976.2 Mis)


Kanawha County (WV) Images: A Bicentennial History, 1788 - 1988 by Stan Cohen


(H 975.437 Coh)


Musgrave to Mosgrove 1066 - 1979: Allied Families - Squire, Keller, Shaffer, Truby, Graff, Brown, Gillespie and Ross by Glenna James Mosgrove (H 929.2 Mos)


South by Southwest: The Saga of Isaac Brinker and His Descendants by Carrol D. Cagle


(H 929.2 Cag)


Unionists and the Civil War Experience in the Shenandoah Valley, Vol. 1 by David S. Rodes and Norman R. Wenger


(H 973.7097 Uni, Vol. 1)


1765 Chester County, Pennsylvania Archives by Katharine F. Dix (H 974.813 Dix)


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… and from the ‘Genealogy Workshop’…


FACT: Many early bounty land application files were destroyed in War Department fires in 1800 and 1814. Remaining papers have been combined with the Revolutionary pensions and are available on microfilm.


TIP: When working with deeds, they will be indexed under both seller and buyer. Depending on the county, there might be separate indexes: one for the Grantor (or seller), sometimes called a Direct Index, and one for the Grantee (or buyer), sometimes called an Indirect Index. And, in some cases, the Grantors and Grantees may be listed together in one volume called a General Index.


Ancestor Searching Newsletter, Volume 1, # 2

Big Plans and New Addition!

This month I’ve got not ONE but TWO REALLY BIG ANNOUNCEMENTS that should be of interest to everyone!!

You may have heard someone else comment in the Heritage Room, “ If ya’ll will just make sure the doors are locked, I would LOVE to spend the night up here working on my research.”


The Huntsville Heritage Room is VERY pleased to announce the FIRST annual genealogy night to fulfill all of those wishes of working on genealogy well into the night.


On Friday, June 2nd, the Heritage Room will be hosting “Sitting Up With The Dead: Genealogy For Night Owls” starting at 6 PM and going to Midnight. Doors will open at 5:45 PM for registration and packet information. The program will include supper, refreshments, gifts and door prizes. Seating WILL be limited so sign up EARLY!


Also included will be the availability of research help in the form of volunteers with experience in lineage research, county records, vital statistics and computer genealogy who will assist you with any questions you may have during the evening.


Genealogical and historical books will be offered for sale (GREAT PRICES) … AND… even though library computers will be available, bring your laptops! You can key-in your research right away to your ancestor software program or computer notepad.


All of this for a cost of $20.00/person. Checks and registration forms MUST be received NO LATER than May 26th. For further information, you can contact the Heritage Room staff at 532-5969. All proceeds will benefit the Heritage Room collection.




The second BIG NEWS for those who may still be unaware… the Tennessee Valley Genealogical Society will be hosting their annual genealogical seminar THIS Saturday, May 6th from 9 AM to 4 PM in the auditorium of the Huntsville Public Library. The speaker will be Teresa Farris, author of ’From England - To Barbados - To Carolina, 1670 - 1700: The Founding of Charles Town’, who will be presenting programs on South Carolina research and will try to assist with ‘those cases you’ve been struggling with’ (to quote the TVGS flyer). ‘One on one discussions with the guest speaker’ will be from 3:30 - 4:00 PM!


Lunch, coffee and refreshments will be included as well as book displays and door prizes. The registration fee for this all day seminar is $ 35.00.


So there you have it! Two WONDERFUL genealogical opportunities to experience!!


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A new feature in the newsletter this time is what I am calling ’The Genealogy Workbook’. In future editions of the ’Workbook’ , I will be offering those facts and tips I mentioned in the last newsletter. To start off in this issue…


FACT: If your research goes back ten (10) generations (approx. 300 - 350 years), you have 1,024 ancestors.


TIP: Watch out for the terms “Sr.” and “Jr.” in documents. It may not necessarily indicate a father and son relationship. Many times, it was used to distinguish between two people in an area with the same name. They could be related as uncle and nephew or other manner, or not even related at all. When they were related, when “Sr.” died, “Jr.” often became “Sr.” and if the later died and also had a son by the same name, that son would become “Jr.”


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