Kinsearching February 19, 2012




Marleta Childs
P. O. Box 6825
LUBBOCK, TX 79493-6825

     Prominent genealogist Elizabeth Shown Mills continues to share her expertise with the publication of The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Finding People in Databases & Indexes, another addition to her QuickSheet series of reference aids. Although databases and indexes are valuable tools for locating information about one’s ancestors, they can become obstacles. Because historical records involve many vagaries that still defy technical formulas (like wildcard and phonetic indexing) used by search engines, Mills presents several strategies to help overcome these problems.

     She identifies seven major weaknesses that researchers should keep in mind in the course of their research: Erratic spelling, family names and surnames, usage of female names, penmanship (different styles of handwriting, for instance), regional dialects, translations and adaptations of immigrant names, and the composition of finding aids, such as the arrangement of entries and arbitrary selection criteria (the intentional omission of certain names, for example). Mills also points out that some of these may even change over the course of time. Along with these considerations, her suggestions include searching in clusters of associates (see her explanation of the FAN Principle in Kinsearching column dated 12 February 2012) for given names if a surname is unknown, searching for “personal identifiers” like birthplace or occupation, and spot-checking names on random pages to discover the completeness of an index.

     Three of the four laminated pages of this QuickSheet furnish tables of common anomalies and errors. Among these are abbreviations, cultural factors (like the usage of gender suffixes), erratic spelling, generational prefixes, language and handwriting issues, effect of regional dialects, surname alternatives, and typographical mistakes. For each kind of anomaly, Mills provides in columnar form a list and several examples of typical problems.

     By being aware of possible vagaries in resources, genealogists will be more likely to find solutions to obstacles that stall their progress. QuickSheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Finding People in Databases & Indexes serves as a map to overcome many research roadblocks.

     To the guide's price of $8.95, buyers should add the cost for postage and handling charges. For U. S. postal mail, the cost is $4.50 for one item and $2.50 for each additional copy; for FedEx ground service, the cost is $6.00 for one copy and $2.50 for each additional item. The guide (item order 3869) may be purchased by check, money order, MasterCard, or Visa from Genealogical Publishing Company, 3600 Clipper Mill Rd., Suite 260, Baltimore, Maryland 21211-1953. For phone orders, call toll free 1-800-296-6687; fax 1-410-752-8492; website

     Since 2012 is the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the War of 1812, many genealogists are delving into records to see if their ancestors participated in the second major conflict between the United States and Great Britain. The article, “Leaving the Army during Mr. Madison’s War: Certificates of Discharge for the War of 1812” by John P. Deeben and Claire Prechtel-Kluskens, sheds some light on documents pertaining to the war. It appears on pages 54-61 of the Fall 2011 (Vol. 43, No. 3) issue of Prologue, a periodical published by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, D. C., and available in many local public libraries. The authors discuss discharge certificates, most of which remained in private hands; some, however, are available in papers of the Adjutant General’s Office. The authors also inform readers about related military records accessible in other NARA record groups. These records are available at most regional NARA archives, as well as in Washington, DC.

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