Posted in Genealogy Toolkit

Dayna’s Genealogy Toolkit

Dayna Jacobs, AG®   https://ongrannystrail.com/

toolkit piktochart

This toolkit is full of my go-to links that are (mostly) 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 – What do they mean?

Animated Atlas – U.S. History Timeline

Archive Grid – Enter a zip code to identify nearby archives

BLM-GLO Records – Find U.S. federal land patents and locate parcels on a map

Cheat Sheet – Boolean Genealogy Searches – Online searches made easy from OGT

Cheat Sheets – Family Tree Magazine – A variety of helps

Cheat Sheet – Table of Wars and Ages of Servicemen –  Determine which war your ancestor might have been involved with

Citation Creator – EasyBib – Help for source citations

Cloud Convert – Convert files from one format to another

David Rumsey Digital Map Collection – Excellent map resource

Earth Point township and range tools – Locate land in the public domain

Easy Google Genealogy Searcher – Google search templates for genealogists

Encyclopedia of Genealogy – by Dick Eastman

Evernote – Organize your research

Free Forms and Charts – Family Tree Magazine

Free Forms and Charts – Rootsweb

Genealogy Gophers – Searches in genealogy books digitized by FamilySearch

Geographic Names Info System (GNIS) – Supercharged online gazetteer

Historical Map Archive – A look back in time

Internet Archive – For digitized county and family histories

Learning Center – Free online courses at FamilySearch

Linkpendium – Links to genealogy resources organized by locality

Map of US – Interactive map of the U.S. and county boundaries by year

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) – Order land entry files and pension files

Newspapers – Library of Congress: Chronicling America

Research Report Template – Download this editable template from OGT

Research Wiki – FamilySearch – Huge knowledge base for researchers

Surname Distribution Maps – See where surnames are clustered geographically

The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy – Online version of a classic

Timeline Template – Download this editable template from OGT

Topoview – Download historical or current topographical maps from the USGS

Town and County Database (Rootsweb) – Enter the name of a town to find the county

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.

Posted in American State Papers, Archives and Libraries, Books, Family History Library, National Archives, Research tips, Territorial records, U.S. Serial Set

On the Trail of Territorial Records

The early U.S. Territorial Period was 1821-1845, but the eventual Territorial Period lasted until 1912, when Arizona and New Mexico were admitted as states.

Where can you find territorial records?

I would suggest searching the online catalogs for these types of repositories, using the search term “territorial papers.”

  1. State archives and libraries 
  2. National Archives Regional Branches
  3. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  Do a “keyword” search for “territorial papers” in the FamilySearch online catalog.
  4. State level genealogical and historical societies
  5. University Special Collections in the state you are researching
  6. Territorial records can also be found on the county level sometimes

Here is a quick guide and links to the territorial papers available at the Family History Library:

  • State Department territorial papers, Arizona, 1864-1872, FHL film 1580035
  • State Department territorial papers: Colorado series, FHL film 1464017
  • Territorial papers, Idaho, 1863-1872 FHL film 1580038
  • Territorial papers of Montana, 1864-1872, FHL films 1602228 -9
  • State department territorial papers, Nevada, 1861-1864 FHL film 1491200
  • State department territorial papers: New Mexico, 1851-1972, FHL films 1580030-33
  • State Department territorial papers, Utah series, FHL film 491567
  • Interior Department territorial papers, Utah, 1850-1902, FHL films 1602234 -9
  • Territorial papers of Wyoming, 1868-1873, FHL film 1602230

Here are some published finding aids for territorial records:

Kvasnicka, Robert M. The Trans-Mississippi West, 1804-1912: A Guide to Federal Records for the Territorial Period, pts. I-IV (Washington, District of Columbia : National Archives and Records Administration, c1993-1996).

Chiorazzi, Michael.  Pre-Statehood Legal Materials: A Fifty-State Research Guide, including New York City and the District of Columbia,  2 volumes (New York : The Haworth Information Press, 2005).

Some other good resources are:

United States, The public statutes at large of the United States of America / by authority of Congress (Boston : Little, Brown, n.d.)

United States. Congress. House and Senate Documents and Reports, United States Congressional Serial Set  (Washington : U.S. G.P.O., n.d.).

United States. Congress, American State Papers, 38 vol (Buffalo, N. Y. : W.S. Hein, 1998)

Posted in Research tips

Fools, Jokers, and Dimwits…and their records

Today, the day we honor the venerable prankster named April Fool, the Fairy Tale Genealogist decided to find out a little bit more about this farceur. First off, have you ever heard the word farceur before?  Neither had I before today.  Thank you Thesaurus.com for this clever way to describe a a jokester.



I found April Fool easily enough in the U.S. Public Records Index, with a birthdate of April 1, 1950.  Not one to be casually taken in by the first record I find, I astutely noted that April Fool’s Day predates 1950. This poor child was merely born to farceur parents, and was not the original April Fool. You can hardly blame the Fool family for what must have seemed like an imperative when their daughter was born on April 1st. Nevertheless, I must pass on this outstanding record and dig deeper.

After several shovels-full I was rewarded with a tantalizing array of records for Fools, along with some impressive Joker, Dimwit, and Simpleton options. Some of my favorites were Talking Fool, Fool Hearty, Big Fool, Fool Goon, Rich Joker, and Ernest Fool. I even found Tom Fool in the Findagrave cemetery index. But then I discovered it was a record from an equine (horse!) cemetery.  I give high marks to Crazy-Heart/Fool-Head, a Native American who appeared in the Index to Indian Wars, and am left to muse over the story behind that name. Likewise, I am considering the circumstances that led to this entry in the 1901 Canada Census, where someone’s 15 year-old nephew was merely listed as “The Fool.”

When I came across April Fool Harris in “Florida Births and Christenings, 1880-1935” on FamilySearch, I mused over the Harris family’s good intentions. Born April 1, 1908 in Pensacola, Escambia County, Florida, I sensed that April had parents who wanted her to feel special.  After all, I was born on a holiday–Thanksgiving–and that has always made me feel special.  No, the holiday was not named after April Fool Harris, but it was the other way around. “April Fool Too,” another awesome name by the way, was also likely named after the holdiay, or perhaps was just named by unwary  Asian immigrant parents.

Historical facts about the 18th century origins of April Fools Day aside, I kept digging.  I was rewarded with two highly credible options, and think I am really on to something.  First, we cannot overlook Little Joker Ford, born in 1894  in Mississippi, and I must ask myself if that was her birth name or did she just show an unusual talent for pranking by age six?  She may have had what it took to really start something Big.

But then again, I am rather inclined to credit the whole “April Fool’s Day” tradition (and I think you’ll agree) to a certain Chinese-Canadian, who has a name that says it all…”Fool You.” And seeing how his occupation is listed as “Trader,” can I just add, “Let the buyer beware.”

Fool You
Enter a caption

Year: 1891; Census Place: Vancouver City, New Westminster, British Columbia; Roll:T-6291; Family No: 244. Ancestry.com.

Posted in National Archives, Research tips

  How to File a FOIA request with the National Archives

File clerk at the FBI
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was passed in 1966, and allows anyone to request records from U.S. federal government agencies.  To obtain information from local or state governments a request must be made according to state public records laws.

What does this mean for a genealogist?  Well, think about the ways your ancestors might have interacted with federal government agencies throughout their lives as employees, citizens, or aliens, and then go for it. Did they work for a railroad or the WPA? Were they part of the CCC? Were they an alien living on U.S. soil during WWII? Did they have an FBI file? You’d be surprised where a file on your ancestor might show up.  Not all requests for federal records require an FOIA form.  Some you can simply order through the National Archives, so look into it before you make the effort.

NARA’s website has a research guide explaining how to use FOIA for genealogy records, but it is only the tip of the iceberg as far as the kinds of agencies your ancestor might have interacted with.  You might find that the Guide to Federal Records, an online list of official federal Record Groups, triggers some ideas for you.  Also, here is the link to a 2010 article in Family Tree Magazine titled, “Under Surveillance”  which explores ways a genealogist might use FOIA.

To get you started, the National Archives recently posted a handy video on FOIA, so I am sharing it here:

Posted in Research tips

Family and local histories digitized on FamilySearch

It seems like only yesterday I checked the count for digitized books on FamilySearch.org and there were only 35,000. Time flies! Obviously, someone has been busy. If you’ve never looked at this collection, or it’s been awhile, I suggest you take a few minutes to see what they’ve got. I can almost guarantee you success if you search for a surname or locality in your family tree. 

This collection is easily overlooked. We tend to rush right by and plug names into the records or tree search boxes. You can access the books by clicking on “search” from the home page, and then clicking on “books”. Easy-Peasy! Unlike other book digitization sites like Google Books, HathiTrust, or Internet Archive, FamilySearch’s book collection focuses on family histories and local histories. These books come from the following repositories:

  • Allen County Public Library
  • Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records
  • Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library
  • Brigham Young University Hawaii Joseph F. Smith Library
  • Brigham Young University Idaho David O. McKay Library
  • Church History Library
  • Family History Library
  • Historical Society of Pennsylvania
  • Houston Public Library – Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research
  • Mid-Continent Public Library – Midwest Genealogy Center
  • Onondaga County Public Library
  • University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries