Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Have you thought of school annuals as a source for genealogy research? They are great because they include both posed photos and random shots of people participating in life. They give information on what sports or clubs your ancestors participated in during that time in their lives. We buy the yearbooks for the McKinney High Schools, both past and present, as often as possible. In addtion our collection includes some annuals from various Texas colleges. Another great source for these is UNTs digitized Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ They have scanned many college yearbooks from across Texas, including all of the years of the various incarnations of the higher learning institution now known as The University of North Texas. This "portal" is a wealth of information if you have Texas ancestors, or are just interested in Texas history. Take a look soon.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


A new source in our collection is this book fully titled: Wanted! U.S. Criminal Records Sources and Research Methodology by Ron Arons (2009 2nd ed). This book "lists thousands of sets of records concerning incarcerations, criminal court activities, paroles, pardons, executions and police and other organizations' investigations, state by state, across the nation." The author learned his research methodology by the researching his own criminal ancestor and then helping others research their own ancestors with a checkered past. Each state has a separate chapter. Within each state is a list of sources to consult. Each record type is described in the front of the book along with a list of "considerations" such as "criminals frequently commit multiple crimes". He also offers advice on "what to look for first?" Be sure to review these areas along with the section "How to Use this Book" before proceeding to the record information. You can find this source at R Gen 929.1072 ARO

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

He's not in the index

If you pick up a book and look for your ancestor's name in the index and don't find it you naturally assume there's no information in that book which can help you with your genealogy research. But as we say in Texas "hold on thar pardner". Keep in mind these tips provided by James Hansen, a reference librarian of the State Hisorical Society of Wisconsin.
1. An index is only an index. It is not a substitute for the record being indexed.
2. The larger the sizes of the index, the more easily pertinent listings are overlooked.
3. In a given record, any vowel may at any point be substituted for any other vowel.
4. Virtually every pre-WWII record, in whatever form we see it today, originated as an attempt by an individual to put on paper what he or she thought was heard.
5. There is no perfect indexing system.
6. It doesn't matter how you spell your name; it only matters how the indexer spelled it.
7. Just because an index is described as complete or comprehensive, doesn't mean it is complete or comprehensive.
8. It you haven't found it in an index, you can only conclude that you haven't found it in an index. You cannot conclude that it's not in the record.
9. The index isn't always at the back of the book.
10. Sometimes it is best to ignore the index all together.

Happy researching.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Your surname and an update on Genealogy 101 classes

If you're not sure where your ancestors may have originated try looking at the origin of the surname. While there are a number of books in our collection that are specific to surnames such as A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: with special American instances (by Charles Wareing Endell Bardsley, 1901, Genealogical Publishing Co), the most complete source we own is Dictionary of American Family Names, Patrick Hanks, Editor (Oxford University Press 2003). This 3-volume set "attempt(s) to explain the history and origin of the 70,000 most frequent family names in the United States, together with some rarer names that are of historical or etymological importance." They state that "over 85% of Americans will find an entry for their surname" in this source. Each entry provides the frequency of the surname, the source language and origin of the surname, language of origin, original spelling, region if the name is strongly associated with a particular region of the mother country, a classification of the surname's orgin, and the linguistic history of the surname. Here's an example: Buckman (2179) English: (1) occupational name for a goatherd, Middle English bukkeman (from Old English bucca 'hegoat' + mann 'man'). (2) occupational name for a scholar or scribe. Middle English bocman (from Old English boc 'book' + mann 'man') (3) possibly also a habitational name, a reduced form of Buckingham or metathesized form of Bucknam. You can find this source at R Gen 929.40973

Update on Genealogy 101: I still have room in the June 19 class, but June 26 is full. I have a wait list for June 26. If you're still interested and aren't registered contact me right away. If you're registered and find you won't be able to make it please contact me so someone on the wait list can take your place.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What was an arab?

Today if you call someone an Arab you generally mean someone of that ethnicity. However, there was a time when calling someone an arab (lower case first letter) you were referring to "an orphan or outcast". A cod placer was a "pottery worker". A gallows maker was a "manufacturer of braces or suspenders for holding up a man's trousers." These, and many other helpful definitions, come from the source A Dictionary of old trades, titles and occupations by Colin Waters (Countryside Books, Newbury, Berkshire, 2002). As today, in days of old, people were often identified socially by their occupation. "What do you do?" is an acceptable phrase in polite conversation when you first meet someone. The words used for occupations often varied from one area of the country to another, and certainly from one nationality to another, so the book's definition should be used with caution in defining the work of your ancestors. Further research may need to be done on the time period and location where you find the title used. However, in reverse, the title can also be used to help you determine where your ancestor may have lived if they stated in a census that a particular occupation was their trade. Often the trade to which they had been apprenticed is the answer to the question of occupation even if that is not the trade the person is currently practicing to earn a living. You can find this book to help with your research at R Gen 331.03 WAT.