Wednesday, May 15, 2013

#NGS2013 – Stump the Genealogist

Crista CowanFriday I attended a presentation in the booth titled “Stump the Genealogist.” Crista Cowan fielded questions from the audience about their genealogy or about The following should not be taken as quotes. I’ve taken some liberties in rewording questions and answers.

Q. Blah, blah, … can’t determine when he might have died… blah, blah… appeared in this census and was gone the next.

A. Have you checked city directories to see when he stopped appearing? The census was taken every 10 years. City directories fill in the gap in between. When they disappear, that’s a clue that they died or moved out of the area. Sometimes the city directory will even give a death date, or list a wife as a widow.

We now have more than 1 billion records in the U.S. city directories database.

To find it, use the card catalog. Point to Search and click on Card Catalog. Filter by “Schools, Directories & Church Histories.” The U.S. City Directories database then appears at the top of the list of databases.

Q. Some directories are not complete. Are you planning on fixing them?

A. We digitized these from microfilm so all we have is what is on the microfilm.

Q. Are you going to get the 1890 census?

A. It was destroyed in a fire.

Q. I can not find my great grandfather. Blah, blah. In 1860 he was 9. Blah, blah.

A. Did he serve in the Civil War? That is where I would focus. Point at Search and click on Military. Down the right-hand column in the More Help section click on Civil War. This will search all our Civil War collections.

Q. I’m looking for the death record of my blah-blah. He blah, blah in New Jersey between 1905 and 1909. And blah blah.

A. Where have you looked for her death record? Here’s one of the things I want you to think about. Every time you do a global search, that’s great. But if I’m looking for something really specific I’ll look to see what records has. Use the card catalog. Point at Search and click on Card Catalog.

For your blah-blah, you can click on the Birth, Marriage & Death filter to show just vital records. Then click on Death…. Filter by USA and then New Jersey. You could even filter down to the 1910s. You can see we have a database of New Jersey Deaths. I would search just that collection.

Think about what you’re looking for and then see if we have a database that might contain it.


  1. Answer about looking in the Civil War records for grandfather who was 9 years of age in the 1860 census seems a bit way off base.

  2. Norm, I've seen records of boys as young as 13 and 14 years old lie about their age to serve in the Civil War.

  3. Are there a lot people attending conferences who've been doing genealogy less than a month? An 1890 census question to "stump the genealogist"? Seriously?


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