Category Archives: Genealogy

Genealogy Misinformation!!!!

Genealogy Misinformation!!!!

I’ve found that records can be wrong. It doesn’t matter what kind of record…it can be wrong. Whenever people are involved, mistakes can happen or they can be intentionally incorrect.  So you have to really evaluate documents and come to the best conclusion.

Some errors are pretty obvious, others not so much. I thought I would share some examples of misinformation…some we know are wrong, others we have to evaluate and come to a conclusion.  Maybe never knowing the true answer.

DoerrLuke-b1920-BirthCertificate-croppedThe one ancestor that I was sure was the most accurate of all my records was my dad. I knew my dad. I knew when we celebrated his birthday. I knew his name. I had evidence, such as military records, census records, death records, and marriage records. When I received a copy of his Birth Certificate, I was surprised to find his official birthdate was off by a day.

When my kids were born, I had to sign their birth certificates. I assume I reviewed the information to make sure it was correct (I actually don’t remember, but my signature is on them). Back in the early 20th century, I don’t think they had any standards for collecting information (if they did, they weren’t always enforced). States were all required to collect vital records starting at different times and it took years for standards to be put in place.

My dad was born in Iowa. Their vital record system originated in July 1880. Early birth records contain only minimal data– name, date, place, and names of parents. He was born in 1920. From the looks of the Standard Certificate of Birth, it doesn’t look like they came very far since 1880.  The form for my dad is missing a lot of information.

The big surprise was his birth date. His certificate of birth shows 22 Jan 1920. We always thought it was 21 Jan 1920.  ALL of his records I’ve obtained up to this point show the 21st. Unfortunately, we’ll never really know his real birth date. I’m inclined to believe his mother and father knew when he was born. So I’m going to keep the 21st as his birth date. It appears to be signed and filled out by the doctor.  Could he have done it after the fact and therefore gotten the date wrong?  Here’s the rest of what’s wrong:

  • Name: Luke Irwin Doer – should have been Luke Erwin Doerr
  • Father: Theodore P. Doer – should be Theodore P. Doerr
  • Mother: Anna M. Kappa – should be Anna M Kappes

My parents marriage certificate also has errors, however, I believe my mother lied about many items on the document so my father would not know her true age.

DoerrLukeEleanor-1942-MarriageRecordHere is what is wrong:

  • My mothers name shows as Eleanor Alberta Rodgers. Nobody knows where the name Rodgers came from. My dad thought she had been living with a Rodgers at some point and took his name. She was in process of a divorce from her current husband Vincent Morris at the time. (Yes she married my dad before the divorce was final)
  • My mothers age was wrong by 8 years. She was 34, not 26.
  • My mothers birthplace showed she was born in Richmond, Virginia. She was actually born in Omaha, Nebraska.  Who knows why she lied about this item.

In looking at the document by itself, you would assume it is not her. However, this document was in my dads posession and his information is all correct. When doing your research, don’t automatically assume a record is not the person you’re researching because some of the information is wrong. Take a bit more time to ensure that it’s not just more misinformation.

Pat Burns. Copyright © 2018. All Rights Reserved.



Find A Grave ( – Adding or Changing Information

Find A Grave ( – Adding or Changing Information

Johann Karl Bodensteiner Grave Marker (1831-1911) my 2nd great grandfather
Johann Karl Bodensteiner
Grave Marker (1831-1911)
my 2nd great grandfather

In doing ancestry research, I always check to see  if my ancestor has a memorial set up on I have frequently found valuable information and obituaries on these memorials.

Find a Grave links to my parents:

Many people go through cemeteries and take pictures of grave stones and submit them to This is a wonderful service and I’ve found many of my ancestors memorials are already established.

However, in many cases the individual who so kindly took the picture and set up the memorial only knows the information that is on the tombstone and the location of the cemetery. So, many of these memorials need to be enhanced with additional information.

Here is my process for helping to improve my ancestors (FAG) memorials. Note: to make many of these changes, you will need to set up a FAG account, which is free and easy to do.

  • Go to (FAG) and search for the ancestor I’m researching to see if they already have a FAG memorial set up. (I check my ancestors page at to see if they have a FAG source listed and link from there, which is sometimes quicker than doing the search through
  • If no memorial for them is found, I add a burial record by clicking on the “Add Burial Records” link on the left navigation bar.
  • Verify and improve Names (like adding maiden names and nicknames). If there is information missing and someone else maintains the record, you can do one of two things:
    1. You can request the memorial be turned over to you to maintain by providing your relationship to the person and your FAG number. (You can do this by clicking on the name of the person that maintains the memorial and will see their contact information (email address). If no contact information is available, you can submit the request using the “edit” tab at the top of the page and use the “Suggest any other correction or addition” link to request the transfer to you. Once it’s transferred to you, you can make these changes through the individuals Memorial Page as long as you’re logged in.
    2. OR You can use the “Edit” tab at the top of the page to submit your changes to the person who maintains the memorial.
  • Connecting Family Members. allows you to add parents and spouse. First you need to find or add the parents and/or spouses to obtain their FAG Memorial Number. Then go back to the memorial of the child and/or spouse and click on the “Edit” tab at the top of their FAG memorial page, then click on the “Relationship (parent and spouse links)” link. You can then add the FAG Memorial Number for the Father, Mother and/or Spouse and Year married. You can also add more spouses. This will then be sent to the person maintaining that memorial for approval. My experience has been they are added fairly quickly in most cases.
  • Adding a biography. I highly encourage you to add a “story” about the person if there is not one and you have enough information to do so. Submitting an obituary is also a good idea if you have one. This, in my opinion, makes the person more real when you can read a story about them. To add a biography, I click on the ‘Edit” tab at the top of the page and use the “Suggest a correction or addition” link. If you maintain the memorial, there will be a link on the memorial page to add and/or edit Bio.
  • Uploading photos. If I have a picture of the person or their grave stone, I will upload it to the memorial. It’s always nice to see a picture of the person. Keep in mind, that although these pictures are marked as copyrighted by yourself, some folks believe they can take the picture and use it without permission, so don’t upload any pictures you don’t want copied (this is the www after all). Also, you can further protect it by making sure the Meta data on the photo shows you as the copyright owner.
  • Add Flowers. Adding flowers is easy peasy….just click on the “Leave Flowers and a note” box at the bottom right of the memorial page. A list of flowers to select from will show up.  You can also edit the default selection of flowers by clicking on the “Contributor Tools” link in the left toolbar. On your Contributor page, on the bottom left is a section called Customize. You can edit the Default Flower Category.

Pat Burns. Copyright © 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Genealogy – Citing Sources Correctly

One of the most difficult things to do when researching and tracking your ancestry, is correctly citing your sources.  I admit, that I frequently skipped this step in my early days and then stepped up and cited my sources, but incorrectly.

When I decided to write my family history book last year, I knew I needed correctly sourced material.  I did some research and found that the ‘bible’ of citing resources by genealogists is Evidence Explained:Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace 2nd Edition by Elizabeth Shown Mills. I ordered the book and can honestly say I am happy I did. This is a reference book. Although I took the time to read the first two chapters (recommended), I refer to examples as needed.

There are several different Citation Style Choices.  I’ve listed the styles below if you’d like more information on styles.  Evidence Explained is rooted in the The Chicago Manual of Style.

Why Correctly Citing Sources is Important?

Why Correctly Citing Sources is Important?

The purpose of correctly citing your ‘evidence’ is so that you and/or someone else can know exactly what and where the source is. Keeping in mind that not all sources are created equal.  Some are more reliable than others. Knowing the source allows anyone reviewing your work to know exactly where the information came from and the strength or weakness of that source.

Some of the information provided on family trees is incorrect.  Mostly newbies, but even more experienced users, will frequently copy information from other trees assuming it’s correct or planning to verify it later. I myself am guilty of this transgression in my early days of genealogy research. Consequently, this propagates errors and it goes on and on and on… By correctly citing your sources, your work becomes credible. By all means look at those other trees, they may have really valuable information and leads, but hold back on copying the information until you have ‘proven’ it’s correct.


I want to again mention Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Research Log that he provides for FREE. It is in spreadsheet format and one of the ‘sheets’ is titled Citation Formats.  He provides over 40 common source templates. The templates are correctly formatted and all you have to do is replace the bracketed information with the information from your document.  An easy to use cut and paste process. He also encourages you to add your own templates.  Nobody is expected to memorize these formats. Using a simple ‘cheat sheet’ like this makes total sense and will save you a lot of time.  Thank You, Thomas!

Although Thomas MacEntee includes many frequently used templates in his Genealogy Research Log, I still refer to Evidence Explained frequently, like when I need to ‘source’ an obscure document (like a post card or telegram).

Another great resource is the Evidence Explained Web Site!  This site has a world of great information.

These are just a few apps that can assist you in creating your source citations.

Citation Style Choices (Evidence Explained is rooted in Chicago Style):

  • Associated Press Stylebook
  • The Bluebook
  • The Chicago Manual of Style
  • MLA Handbook
  • Turabian’s Manual

Note: I have included some of my referral links in this post. If you click through them and make a purchase. I will make a small commission. This is at no extra cost to you. I really appreciate your support in this way.

Pat Burns. Copyright © 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Genealogy Research Logs – Organize and Track your work

A Research log is an important tool to help organize and track your research work. I worked many years without using a research log.  I found myself repeating my research, finding information that I have no idea where I got it and repeating negative searches over and over. And failing to correctly document my sources. How many times have you found a resource, but didn’t remember where you got it?

The Value of Research Logs:

  • Reduce duplication of effort.
  • Cite your sources.  This helps improve the quality of your research.
  • Determine what has and has not been found.
  • Helps organize your documents and your research.
  • Evaluate the evidence to make better conclusions.
  • Show your search strategies and questions. You can more easily repeat the process for the next ancestor.
  • Shows negative evidence (what you did not find).

Does using a Research Log take more time?  Yes, in the short term, you will spend more time documenting and evaluating your sources.  What you’ll get in return will be higher quality research and your work will be more credible. Long term, you will save time by not repeating research you’ve already done. Adding structure to your work will also allow you to know what your goals are and keep you on track.  If you have an hour here and there, you will know what exactly it is you need to do, instead of  ‘running in circles’.

If you plan to publish your work, your research log will be invaluable in pulling together source citations.

For the Genealogy Do-Over, I have downloaded and will be using Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Research log.  It is in a spreadsheet format and FREE.

Thomas’ research spreadsheet also includes the following helpful sheets to assist you in documenting your resources within genealogy standards:

  • Research Log
  • Sample Log
  • To Do List
  • Search Attempts
  • Citation Formats (Awesome)
  • Evidence Evaluation – Provides Type Definitions for Source, Evidence, Result, Clarity and Information. (Awesome too)

It’s obvious that Thomas has put a lot of thought and time into creating this spreadsheet. Thank You, Thomas!

Research Log Templates and Forms

If you prefer using pen and paper, there are literally hundreds of free Research Logs available online.  Just search ‘Genealogy Research Log’ on your favorite search engine.  Here are just a few I found in a quick search:

Pat Burns. Copyright © 2018. All Rights Reserved.


Census Records – Tips for looking deeper into the story

The United States federal census has been taken every ten years since 1790. Federal population schedules through the 1940 census exist and are available to the general public online. Only fragments of the 1890 schedules remain since they were badly damaged by fire in 1921.

Each census offers slightly different information, depending on what Congress was interested in enumerating for that decade. Earlier census schedules name only the head of household and number of males and females in different age categories. In 1850, they started listing the names of all members of the Household.

Except for the earliest census that were sometimes alphabetical, the order of households listed is usually the result of door-to-door visits by the census takers. This allows us to look at neighbors.

This post will provide you with information for the various United States Federal Census years and specific differences for many of them. I have also included below a list of Other Federal Schedules that you may want to add to your search.

The Factfinder for the Nation: Availability of Census Records About Individuals lists what can be found on each census from 1790-2000. Only 1940 and earlier are public at this time. Scroll down below to find some of the information for each census that you’ll want to make sure you don’t miss. Keep in mind some of the censuses had more than one page, so check for that. Also check the bottom of each page for the codes. There is a lot of information you can miss if you just scan the page and move on.

As an example, let’s look at the 1930 census index for Theodore P Doerr, my paternal grandfather:

1930CensusIndes-TheodoreDoerrIn the Index to the right, you can see his approximate birth year, birthplace, home in 1930, town, county, state, that he’s married to Anna M and that his father and mother were born in Iowa. You can also see listed the household members and their ages. In this case, Theodore P, Anna M  and their five children. Also note the spelling errors (in looking at the original, it’s very clearly spelled Doerr but looked like Doler to whomever transcribed it).


What additional information I found looking at the actual record?  (Click on the graphic to get an enlarged view):

  • The street name and number are not listed. (This census taker did not list the address, but they were supposed to, so be sure to check)
  • Relationship of household members and their sex.
  • They are renting for $15 / mo.
  • They did not own a radio.
    They did not live on a farm.
  • He was 29 and grandmother was 19 for age of first marriage. (validates neither had been married before and marriage date)
  • They could all speak English.
  • He is a Carpenter in the Building Industry.
  • Class of worker was “Working on Own Account”.
  • He was working previous work day.
  • He was not a veteran.
  • It was Enumerated on April 7, 1930.
  • District 41-9
  • Township: Britt Township (see my article on Township Plat Maps.

So how can you use this information?

  • 91003Census data can help you narrow your search for other records. Steve Morse’s Unified Census ED Finder is a tool I frequently use when I know where they were, but can’t find the census by searching their names (frequently spelled incorrectly on the census or by the person transcribing).  Using his site I was able find this map which shows ED 11-9 in the Township they lived,
  • It may give clues that will help you better understand your ancestors. At the time of this census, my grandparents were raising 5 children. Later that year, their daughter Helen passed away, but was alive when they took the census.
  • Put the records in the context of their lives, what is their story? Grandfather had his own construction business and Grandmother was home raising the five children, from 6 months to 12 years old.
  • Translate dates into ages and ages into dates, and dates into history. This was the year after the stock market crash and the beginning of the recession. Grandfather was working the previous work day, so maybe they hadn’t been impacted yet.
  • Check for males (immigrants and native born) who were born between around 1872 and 1900 and living in the United States in 1917-1918. They may be included in the WWI draft registration cards. My grandfather fit into this range and I indeed did find his draft registration, although he never served, he did have to fill out the draft registration.
  • Dates and locations from censuses can help us track the family’s moves. They lived in Wesley, Iowa in the 1920 census, so moved to Britt between 1920 and 1930. Although I was also able to use their children’s birth dates and locations to narrow this down further, the census helps validate what we are learning.
  • Review the names and see if they match up with the family as you know it. I found it interesting to find my father listed as L. Erwin but all his adult life he went by Luke and was nicknamed “Duke”. Apparently, his family called him Erwin when he was growing up. This was a fun bit of information for me to learn and helped in future research.

Can you tell who answered the questions?

  • The 1940 census marked the person who answered the questions with a circled X. Who is the person who gave the information? It could have been a neighbor. Depending on who answered the questions can help you to evaluate the accuracy. How much did they know about the family? Could they communicate with the enumerator (could they speak English?).

Look at the neighbors

  • Sometimes you can find relatives among the neighbors. Families were often close knit in those days.

Marriage information on census records

  • 1900 and 1910 censuses asked for the number of years of present marriage.
  • 1930 asked for the “age at first marriage”. Do the math for both husband and wife for clues to prior marriages.
  • The 1870 and 1880 Federal Censuses asked whether “married within the year” and if so, what month.

Death Clues

  • For women of child bearing age in 1900 and 1910, look for number of children living in those census years to see if there are any unaccounted children.


  • Look for historical websites that will include more background information.
  • Search for records on institutions on and
  • Check local histories and historical newspapers for more information.

Collect Addresses

  • Beginning in 1880 censuses recorded house numbers and street names. Use these addresses along with addresses found in other records.
  • What churches were in that area?
  • What cemeteries?

Immigration Clues

  • 1900-1930 Federal Censuses all asked for year of immigration (this was one of the clues that helped me find the immigration information on my maternal grandmother).
  • 1900-1930 Federal Censuses all asked for naturalization status and 1920 also asked for the year of naturalization.

The 1840, 1910 and 1930 Federal Censuses included questions about Military Service (May be codes at bottom of page).

  • 1840 lists names and ages of military pensioners or their widows.
  • 1910 asked whether a survivor of the Union or Confederate Army or Navy.
  • 1930 asked whether a veteran of the United States Military or Naval forces mobilized for any war or expedition.

Some State censuses included military information and other valuable information. Many were done in between Federal Censuses. Not all states did state censuses, but it’s important to check what may be available.

Pre-1870 Censuses

  • Just knowing where they are is a big deal
  • Don’t discount families with extra people in the Household. These could be children who died young or extended family living in the Household. (e.g. in-laws, nieces, nephews, etc.)

The 1840 census had two pages. be sure to check the second page.

Other federal schedules usually taken at the same time as the population schedules include 1:

  • Mortality – Persons who died during the 12 months prior to the census, from 1850 to 1885.
  • Veterans – Mostly Union veterans and their widows in 1840 and 1890. However, some confederate veterans were included and posibly lined out (may still be readable). 1890 lists the residence, unit and years of service of Civil War soldiers or their surviving widows.
  • Slaves -Salve owners and the number of slaves they owned, in 1850 and 1860.
  • Agricultural – Data on farms and the names of the farmers, from 1850 and 1860.
  • Manufacturing – Data on businesses and industries, 1810 (fragments only), 1820 and 1850 to 1880.
  • Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent – handicapped, paupers, or criminals in 1880
  • Indian Schedules – Special questions after the 1910 county population schedules.
  • Institutions – jail, hospital, poor house, or asylum usually after county population schedules.
  • Merchant seamen – on U.S. flag merchant vessels in 1930.
  • Military and Naval Forces – forts, bases, and Navy ships after population schedules, or from 1900 to 1930 on separate films for overseas.
  • Social Statistics – real estate, annual taxes, cemeteries, school statistics, libraries, newspapers, churches.

Note: I have included some of my referral links in this post. If you click through them and make a purchase. I will make a small commission. This is at no extra cost to you. I really appreciate your support in this way.

1 – United States Federal Census

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Pat Burns. Copyright © 2018. All Rights Reserved.

When was the Julian calendar changed to the Gregorian calendar?

Happy New Year to everyone! Hoping you all have a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous new year.

Bringing in a new year reminds me that in genealogy, the years have not always been what they seem. The Julian calendar that was in use several hundred years ago, used March 25th as the beginning of a new year. Because the Julian calendar appeared to be ‘out of sync’ with the seasons, a new Gregorian calendar was put in place. I’ve provided links below that will take you to sites with more history about the various calendars in use over time as I am only addressing the change from Julian to Gregorian Calendar in this post.

This change took place in 1582 by order of Pope Gregory XIII, but wasn’t adopted by England and British North American until 1752. China didn’t conform to the Gregorian calendar until 1949. Alaska did not change from the Julian calendar to the New Style Gregorian calendar until 1867 because up to that point, it was part of Russia.

Prior to 1752 the ecclesiastical calendar recognized March 25 as the first day of the year. After 1752, the present calendar was adopted and the new historical calendar recognized January 1 as the first day. Consequently, dates between January 1st and March 25th of 1752/1753 were often written with both year numbers (i.e. 5 January 1752/53). This is referred to as double dating. Also, if a record says “The 4th day of the 2nd month it could be referring to February or April, depending upon the calendar in use at the time.

England and British North America changed their calendar in September 1752. Although people went to sleep the evening of September 4th, they woke up on September 15th and lost 11 days.. Some people added 11 days to their birth dates, which was not reflected on their birth record. For example, George Washington was born on February 11th, and changed his birth date to February 22nd.

This becomes even more complex as you add in French Republican and other calendars. Here are some links for more in depth information on calendars.
The USGenWeb Project
Connecticut State Library

Again, Happy New Year!!!!

Pat Burns. Copyright © 2018. All Rights Reserved.