It’s gonna cost, but how much?

This consumer-affairs column about a family researcher socked by high fees in the course of cemetery research leaves me with mixed feelings.

On the one hand, the fees  in this case did sound steep. (For a grave location lookup, the administrators wanted $70 for the first name and $45 for each additional name, according to the article. Yikes.)

On the other hand, the overall tone– the surprise that anyone charges for this information – struck me as a bit naïve.

In fairness, the reporter did note that this is not the only cemetery that charges lookup fees, which certainly has been my experience.
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Hitting the bricks: Part II

I do hate that genealogy cliche, “brick wall”, but only because it’s a sad reality for so many of us. So it is satisfying to be able describe how a tiny opening developed in one of mine.

My great-grandfather refused to be located in the 1900 census. After various census and city directory searches (and increasingly bad moods), I ended up taking a mental-health break from this search, for which my living family thanked me.

Then a little while back, Ancestry.com was talking up a webinar: “Best Strategies for Searching Ancestry.com.” I took it, largely because I hadn’t ever done a webinar and was curious about the process. As ever, I learned a thing or two:

• The best place to start an Ancestry search is not the Search box on the Home page. Better to click the “Search” button in the menu bar, and use the “Search All Records” option.
• In old records, sloppy dates are a feature, not a bug. Search with broad date ranges, even if you’re sure you know the specifics. Start at plus/minus 10 years, and adjust downward.
• When you locate an interesting record, do NOT forget to save it somehow –your Ancestry shoebox or family tree, your hard disk, wherever. (Amazingly, many of us forget this in our excitement.)

The biggest discovery of all? I was doing crummy wild card searches.

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Hitting The Bricks (Part I)

“Brick wall” is one of the more painful clichés of family research. And there are days I think that I should become a mason.

My great-grandfather Joseph F. Haigney has long irritated me by his refusal to be found in the 1900 census. Or in the 1900 anything, despite my diligent efforts. Talk about ingratitude.

I’ve found all his other census appearances from 1860 to 1930. I’ve journeyed to his birthplace, pored over vital records, and photographed his tombstone from a variety of angles, good, bad and ugly.
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