Dayna’s Genealogy Toolkit

Dayna Jacobs, AG®

This toolkit is full of my go-to links that are not record repositories, but rather are tools to help me find, interpret, and organize my research and records. I think you’ll want to keep them handy, too.

Abbreviations & Acronyms for Genealogy

Animated Atlas – U.S. History Timeline

ArchiveGrid – Enter a zipcode and locate nearby archives

Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

Cheat Sheets – Family Tree Magazine

Citation Creator – EasyBib

Earth Point township and range tools

Encyclopedia of Genealogy on EOGN – Terminology defined

Evernote – Organize your research

Free Forms and Charts – Family Tree Magazine

Free Forms and Charts – Rootsweb

Geographic Names Info System (GNIS)

Google Custom Search – AncestorSearch

Historical Map Archive

Internet Archive – For digitized county and family histories

Learning Center – Free online courses at FamilySearch

Linkpendium – Links to genealogy resources organized by locality

Newspapers – Library of Congress: Chronicling America

Railroad Employee Records

Research Wiki – FamilySearch – Huge knowledge base for researchers

Town and County Database (Rootsweb)

United States Digital Map Library

USGS Historical Topographical Map Explorer

Vital Records – Where to write

Worldcat – Find libraries and Items for interlibrary loan

The ICAPGen ℠ service mark and the Accredited Genealogist® and AG® registered marks are the sole property of the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists.  All Rights Reserved.

New class handouts added to ‘On Granny’s Trail’

The latest additions to the “Class Handout” section of On Granny’s Trail are:

  1. Archives and Libraries: Successful Research Onsite and Online
  2. Free Genealogy Classes, Webinars, and Online Learning

You are welcome to print out these handouts for personal use.  For the sparkling commentary that accompanies these and other presentations, you will need to attend the January 2016 Ancestor Roundup on California’s central coast. We hope to see you there!

Clark Kent and Lois Lane: Not-so-secret identities uncovered by The Fairy Tale Genealogist

SupermanJLBColorWebMild-mannered reporter Clark Kent has been found out! That’s right. The Man of Steel’s “secret” identity is right there in the 1930 U.S. federal census records for all to see, thanks to some sleuthing by the Fairy Tale Genealogist.

Clark Kent in the 1930 U.S. census in Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio

Clark Kent in the 1930 U.S. census in Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio

The census enumerator was told Clark was born in West Virginia in 1907, but I was always led to believe his origins were the planet Krypton. [Entry in research log:  Note #1. Write to vital records office on Krypton and obtain birth certificate to resolve this conflict. Note #2.  Records are unavailable due to the destruction of the planet. Note #3.  Obtain adoption file from county where Smallville, Kansas is located for the year he was found in adoptive parents’ corn field.]

There were quite a few Clark Kents in the census records, so how do we know this particular one is our Man of Steel? Well, the “occupation” category on censuses can help us to differentiate between individuals of the same name.  Check this out:

Clark Kent: Man of Steel

Clark Kent: Man of Steel

And you thought “Man of Steel” meant he could bounce bullets off his chest!  I wonder if there was a phone booth handy? And when did the steel mill worker make a career change to journalism? [Note #4. Check Metropolis city directories every year after 1930 for mention of occupation.]

And speaking of journalism, another key record group for genealogists is newspaper records. What can we find about Clark Kent/Superman in newspapers?

Newspaper research Lana Lang

Newspaper records can help us fill in life details for individuals that other records can’t. Sometimes they even give us access to their actual thoughts (see Lois Lane’s thought bubbles above). Here we learn that Lois Lane was changed into an infant by “youthening rays”,  that Superman’s former flame was Lana Lang, and that he spent his boyhood in Smallville. I’ll admit that comic strips are an unconventional newspaper source, and register fairly low on the reliability-o-meter, but they are the record of choice when researching the lives of super heroes.


Superman’s love interest, Lois Lane, was also a newspaper reporter, so naturally the Fairy Tale Genealogist wanted to find evidence of her work.  And here it is:

Lois Lane, Delta Democrat TImes, Greenville, Mississippi

Lois Lane, Delta Democrat Times, Greenville, Mississippi

Looks like Lois Lane spent some time at the Delta Democrat Times in Greenville, Mississippi before moving to the Daily Planet in Metropolis.

More and more newspapers are digitized every day, making this record group accessible and searchable. You can also contact local libraries for access to microfilmed newspapers from their area, and either borrow the film through inter-library loan, find a local volunteer, or hire a researcher to look up obits and articles for you. Don’t forget to check out the Library of Congress Chronicling America website to find out when newspapers were published in a given locality, and to see where they can be found in microfilm or digital form. [Research log: Note #5.  Look up Metropolis on the Chronicling America website and find microfilm copies of the Daily Planet.]

Free Genealogy Classes, Tutorials, Webinars, and Online Learning

Everyone likes “free”, right? And genealogists love to keep learning.  Here are a few resources I have come across that provide both.  They range from short videos to full multi-class college courses.

I especially recommend the genealogy “wikis”. Wikis are an under-utilized resource for genealogists, with detailed instruction on record groups, methodology, and the use of specific record collections. The content is created by experts who have extensive experience in a given locality or record group.

Only free, online offerings are included here, and some of them are free or available for limited windows, but if you stay on top of it you can build quite a curriculum for yourself! If you are aware of other resources, please let me know so I can add them to the list.

FamilySearch Online Courses

FamilySearch Learning Center – 100s of video courses

 Courses and tutorials


 Other Online Learning

Youtube search for "Genealogy Research"

Youtube search for “Genealogy Research”

US Geological Survey adds a New Online Map Viewer and It is a Good One!

The Fairy Tale Genealogist:

I have always found the USGS maps to be invaluable in solving research puzzles. I’m happy to hear the National Map Viewer has been upgraded. I love the download feature – you can make custom maps for your research localities. Try searching on your ancestor’s surname to find geographical features named after them.

Originally posted on Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter:

The US Geological Survey has an online collection of more than 178,000 maps, dating back to 1880. They cover the entire country. Best of all, they’re free to download. However, the digital images were not always of the highest quality and the search software for finding maps was confusing, at best. All that has now changed with the introduction of a new online map viewer.

View original 111 more words

Captain Hook: Misunderstood gardener? It’s all in the records…

Captain Hook

Captain Hook

They say a newborn baby’s name can influence the course of his life for good or for bad. Well you certainly can’t blame Mr. and Mrs. Hook for trying.  After all, they probably were hoping for a distinguished maritime or football career from little “Captain Percy Hook”, and weren’t quite banking on him going the pirate ship route.

But kids will be kids, and what kid, when given the option, would not choose to be a pirate, right?

Little Captain Hook you’ve got a choice to make:  Would you rather be the captain of the Tunbridge Footballers or the Jolly Roger?


I know you think I am making this up, right? But I have proof.  The Fairy Tale Genealogist always has “proof”.  Yes, I know J.M. Barrie’s character was named James, but this is a minor detail when the Fairy Tale Genealogist is presented with such a tantalizing set of records for a fictional character. Who ever dreamed a British birth record, census record, and army enlistment papers for Peter Pan’s archenemy could be produced? Little Captain Percy Hook first appears in the Free BMD Birth Index for England and Wales, for the March quarter of 1899 in Tunbridge district.

Captain Percy Hook, England and Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837-1915,

Captain Percy Hook, England and Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837-1915,

Information from the FreeBMD Birth Index (district, volume, and page) can be used to order a birth certificate from the General Register Office or view one online, and from there we could obtain his mother’s maiden name and father’s name.  We can also see both his parents’ names on the 1911 England census, where twelve year-old Captain Percy Hook, the future pirate, has an occupation of “school boy” and a birthplace of Brenchley, Kent, England.

Captain Hook 1911 England Census Brenchley-Kent-England - Copy

Captain Hook 1911 England Census Brenchley-Kent-England pt2 - Copy

Five short years later he has “received notice” to enlist in the British army for World War I. One can only imagine the navy would have been his first choice had he been given one. Wisely, Captain Percy Hook has elected to start giving his name as Percy Captain Hook, thereby avoiding the confusion and redundancy a promotion to the rank of Captain would have caused. (Captain Captain Hook reporting for duty, sir!) Interestingly, he gives his occupation as gardener, giving us a glimpse into his early, gentler side and leaving us to wonder where it all unraveled for him. As a bonus, we get his signature on this document!

Percy Captain Hook, British Army Records, 1914-1920,

Percy Captain Hook, British Army Records, 1914-1920,

Two years later the war has ended and Captain Hook has been awarded the British War Medal and/or the Victory Medal.

Captain Hook WWI Medals

Captain Hook WWI Medals

Further ideas for research would be looking in the FreeBMD index for marriage and death records, as well as the 1921 census. The 1931 census was destroyed in WWII, and the 1941 census was not taken due to the war.

By all accounts Captain Hook was an upstanding citizen, and I am wondering if he was just a misunderstood character with a gardening implement for a prosthetic device. Sure, he was a pirate and forced Peter Pan to walk the plank, but like Jack Ripper and Attila Hun he faced long odds at birth when he was named.

We must look at him through the long lens of literary license and know J.M. Barrie had a story to tell, and perhaps the actual records hint at a more gentle, noble man behind the mustache. OR perhaps the Fairy Tale Genealogist has had some fun again ;)  Sorting out the fairy tales from the facts is what a good genealogist does.  Arrrrgh!

Peter Pan’s mid-life crisis

Peter-pan (1)

Spoiler alert:  Peter Pan DID grow up!  In fact, The Fairy Tale Genealogist has uncovered evidence of a mid-life crisis for ol’ Pete. Yes, vital records can be valuable in piecing together the untold stories of fictional characters.

Certain characteristics of childhood that may have served him well as the leader of the Lost Boys might have caught up with Peter Pan in later years, after immigrating from Neverland to Texas, as we see from divorce and marriage and divorce-again records. Being “the boy who wouldn’t grow up” has certain disadvantages in matrimony!

Peter Pan Divorce 1

Image from

Vital records indexes show us that Wendy Darling may have dodged a bullet.  At age 58 Peter divorced his wife of 33 years (whose name I have redacted to protect her privacy), but a little over two years later eloped to Las Vegas with a 27 year-old woman.

Of course, vital records indexes can give a lot of information in and of themselves, but always try to obtain the original document using the details provided in the index. You will be rewarded with much more–possibly the names of their parents, birthplaces, signatures, and names of witnesses if you are lucky.

Peter Pan marriage 2

Image from

The marriage index does not give his new bride’s age, but the divorce index  three years later does (and whose name I again have redacted)…

Peter Pan Divorce 2

Image from

I don’t know what these divorces cost Peter Pan, but I’m thinking it might have saved him a lot of trouble and money to just buy the red sportscar in the first place.


Stay tuned for a look at Captain Hook’s birth record, and an update on Wendy.  The Fairy Tale Genealogist can hardly wait to share!