Sunday, May 22, 2016

I Have My Tree Back to Adam--do you really?

“I Have My Family Tree Back to Adam and Eve”

This is another bit of fiction that needs to be wiped out. I have often heard people (I won’t call them “genealogists”) at various times make the claim they have traced their family tree back to Adam and Eve. Of course, the “documentation” is always sketchy.

Robert C. Gunderson was a Senior Royalty Research Specialist, of the Church Genealogical Department, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). He was an expert in medieval genealogy and started the Royalty Identification Unit in 1972. He passed away in 2003. However, before his death, Gunderson once was asked if such research was possible. He replied:

“The simplest answer is No. Let me explain. In thirty-five years of genealogical research, I have yet to see a pedigree back to Adam that can be documented. By assignment, I have reviewed hundreds of pedigrees over the years. I have not found one where each connection on the pedigree can be justified by evidence from contemporary documents. In my opinion it is not even possible to verify historically a connected European pedigree earlier than the time of the Merovingian Kings (c. a.d. 450–a.d. 752).
“Every pedigree I have seen which attempts to bridge the gap between that time and the biblical pedigree appears to be based on questionable tradition, or at worst, plain fabrication. Generally these pedigrees offer no evidence as to the origin of the information, or they cite a vague source.”

Fran├žois Weil, a director of studies (professor) at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en sciences sociales (EHESS) in Paris and currently the chancellor of the universities of Paris, is another expert in medieval pedigrees who agrees. Weil provides authoritative answers to these questions in his book Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America (2013) published by Harvard University Press.

Both Gunderson and Weil agreed: European royal pedigrees cannot be verified before the 500s A.D.

To learn more, read:
Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America. By Fran├žois Weil. Published by Harvard University Press, Online bookstore; 2013. ISBN 9780674045835. 320 pp. Indexes. Hardcover. $27.95 • £20.95 • €25.20. or available on Amazon as a Kindle ebook or as in a hardcover book at

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is Still Available! by Dick Eastman

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is Still Available! 

For the entire article and comments, please visit

  · May 12, 2016 · 6 Comments

ssdiThe Social Security Death Index (often called the SSDI) is a valuable tool for genealogists. It lists deceased people within the United States. When first created, the SSDI only listed those people who were receiving Social Security benefit payments at the time of death. However, as the years went by, the database was expanded to include ALMOST ALL DEATHS, whether receiving benefits or not.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) Death Master File (DMF) contains more than 80 million records of deaths that have been reported to SSA. This file includes the following information on each deceased person, as applicable: name, date of birth, date of death, state or country of residence (prior to Mar 1988), and ZIP code of last residence.
Due to false concerns over identity theft, the Social Security Administration stopped releasing updates to the SSDI a few years ago. A few web sites that previously had made the SSDI available online have since deleted the records from their web sites. Now many genealogists believe the SSDI is no longer available.
Not true! The SSDI hasn’t been “lost.” It is still available in several places today, and you can search it online.

In fact, the Social Security Administration has stopped issuing UPDATES to the Death Master File. However, the original database, current through January 2011, remains in the public domain and is still available online from a number of web sites. Later deaths are not publicly listed, however.
NOTE #1: Genealogists have always referred to this database of deceased persons as the “SSDI.” However, employees of the Social Security Administration and many others call it the Death Master File, or DMF. The reason for the discrepancy in names appears to be confusion with another service of the Social Security Administration.
If you mention “the SSDI” to an employee of the Social Security Administration, he or she will probably think you are referring to Social Security Disability Insurance, something that is unrelated to the Death Master File except that both are available from the Social Security Administration. When talking with non-genealogists, you probably should always refer to this database as the “Death Master File.”
NOTE #2: In most cases, only the first ten letters of each individual’s first name are shown in the SSDI. For instance, the name “Christopher” is abbreviated as “Christophe”. Also, middle initials are shown, but complete middle names are not recorded in the database. The search rules will vary from one web site to another. I find it best to only enter the first ten letters of longer names. That seems to always work. Entering all the letters of first names with more than ten letters sometimes results in a “not found” error on some web sites although not on others. When in doubt, use only ten letters.
NOTE #3: Not all the online databases will display all the available information about the person listed in the SSDI. You may have to try several online services in order to find what you seek.
NOTE #4: Information about geographic allocation of Social Security numbers can be found at Keep in mind that Social Security Numbers used to be assigned by the location where the Number was ISSUED, not by the place of birth of the individual.
I suggest you access the Social Security Death Index (Death Master File) at any of the following:
Steve Morse’s One Step Genealogy:
Ancestry: (Ancestry allows anyone to view a short version of the record, but viewing all the details requires a subscription to
GenealogyBank: (You must be a paid subscriber of GenealogyBank to view the details of each record.)
American Ancestors operated by the New England Historic Genealogical Society: (That page states, “Access to the SSDI is FREE to all who visit” However, you must either register for a FREE guest account or pay for a subscription to view your SSDI search results. (Requires an account with However, a FREE 7-day trial account is available.)
NOTE: Also included in the version of the SSDI is See Neighbors which is a list of those persons who died during the same year and in the same zip code as the deceased who is being searched. Finally, when a residence at death is included in a listing, a geo-coded Google Map is included with the place where the person died and their nearest cemeteries.
… and probably some other places as well.
You also can download the entire SSDI record set yourself at although that is the 30 November 2011 edition. No later records are available.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

75 Best Websites for US State Genealogy Research in 2015

75 Best Websites for US State Genealogy Research in 2015 

(Family Tree magazine Online)
Any way you slice it, these 75 top state-focused websites are must-visits for tracing your ancestors across the United States.

 Click here to see these 75 top websites for all 50 states!

South Dakota

South Dakota Birth Records
This index holds information from more than 275,000 records of South Dakota births that occurred at least 100 years ago, including many delayed birth certificates that were issued for people born before statewide registration began in 1905.

South Dakota State Historical Society
Find your ancestors in the Mount Rushmore State with the help of these indexes to naturalizations, cemetery records, the 1905 state census and biographies, plus a transcript of the 1885 census of Civil War veterans.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

U.S. National Archives Launches History Hub

U.S. National Archives has Recently Launched a History Hub

The National Archives and Records Administration has recently launched a FREE History Hub, an online research support community, where members of the public can ask questions about research at NARA. The new site is a pilot for the next 6 months, and hopefully will be fully funded after that time. However, there is no guarantee of that.
There’s a dedicated Genealogy section in the History Hub. To access it, go to and register for an account, and then you can contribute in any way that you’d like!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Treasures in Your Own Back....Post Office 2600 Letters from 17th Century Unopened

Rediscovered Leather Trunk Contains Thousands of Letters From the 17th Century

Talk about the Dead Letter Office! A 300-year-old linen-lined trunk filled with over 2,600 letters that were mailed out—but never received—between the years 1680 and 1706 has recently been discovered in The Hague, Netherlands. The extraordinary collection contains letters from all manner of society, including aristocrats, merchants, lovers, actors, musicians, and even spies. At least 600 of the 2,600 letters have never even been opened. Historians are now taking a closer look.
An international team from Leiden, Oxford, MIT, and Yale are taking part in this project. You can read more about the historians’ study of the letters in a web site called Signed, Sealed, & Undelivered at and especially at

Sunday, October 4, 2015

What IS the Internet Archive and how NOT to search it?

From the previous post, you now know that Internet Archive aka THE WAYBACK MACHINE is the place to go for a LOT of raw data, digital archives, digitized films, etc, but how to search it--here's an article on how NOT to search it with specific instructions on what to do--it's lengthy but worth it.

Courtesy of Ancestry Insider at

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How to Navigate Around the Internet Archive Search Bug

There is a bug in Internet Archive’s “Search Inside” a book feature. Don’t trust it. Let me tell you what to do instead.
Let’s say you found your way to a book on Internet Archive (IA). It is A Complete History of Fairfield County, Ohio (at by Hervey Scott. You want to see if Jonas Messerly is mentioned in it. You select the search magnifying glass up in the upper-right corner.
Internet Archive's title search icon
You search for “Messerly” and, oops, you just searched IA for titles rather than searching inside that single title.
Internet Archive's title search results
Wait, don’t cuss me out yet; that’s not the bug. That’s just user error and a user interface annoyance.
You find another search magnifying glass icon on the right-hand side about half way down the page. The context help popup says “search inside.” You select the icon.
Internet Archive's search inside icon
The page changes a bit and the search icon disappears.
The search inside icon is in a different place in the Internet Archive's full screen view.
Instead of instigating a search, what you’ve just done is switched from one book viewer to another. People  in the know tell me that this failure to search is not a bug. Because the design is supposed to do this, it is a WAD, “working as designed.” Fine. Let’s compromise and call it a user interface flaw. But this is still not the bug of which I speak.
The search inside icon has disappeared. The search-all-of-IA box is still up in the upper-right corner of the screen. You fell for that one once before. “Fool me once…” After looking in vain for another search icon, you notice that the search box you previously dismissed, the one that searched for book titles, is now labeled “Search inside”.
The search inside box is at the top in the Internet Archive's full screen view.
Also not the bug of which I speak. It’s another user error and user interface annoyance.
Now comes the bug. You search for “Messerly” and IA erroneously states “No matches were found.”
The Internet Archive's full screen view with no matches found message
Rather than depend on just the “Search Inside” results, check the raw text. To do this, select the italic I—the “About this book” icon. In the popup, select Plain Text. That brings you to a page containing the raw text from the book. Now use your browser search (^F) to search for Messerly.
Some raw text from an Internet Archive book
There he is on page 73. Now back up to the book viewer and advance to page 73.
Mention of Jonas Messerly in a history of Fairfield County, Ohio
One of the distinct advantages of Internet Archive over Google Books is that downloaded PDF files are searchable. I tested the above book and found that Adobe Reader is not affected by the search bug. You can download from IA with the confidence that your offline study will not be affected.
Mention of Jonas Messerly in a history of Fairfield County, Ohio
Be aware that OCR errors are unaffected by any of this. If a word was not recognized when scanned, then all of these methods will fail to find it.
Finally, the Internet Archive is a non-profit organization that accomplishes amazing things with very little money. No one should be surprised that there are flaws in their software. We are all in their debt. They accept contributions at

Microfilm at Your Fingertips (Not just at FamilySearch)

 Courtesty of OliveTree Genealogy by Lorine McGinnis Schulz 

September 30, 2015

Microfilm at Your Fingertips!

Microfilm at Your Fingertips!
How many of you remember "the good old days" pre-Internet when we spent hours in libraries and archives scrolling through microfilm in a dark room? I sure do! 

Now, thanks to The Internet Archive, (part of the WayBack Machine) microfilm is coming right to your computer! Here is their description of the focus of this project:

As books become old and begin to fall apart, librarians depend on microform to preserve their content for the future. Tiny photographs on long strips of film (microfilm) or small cards of film (microfiche) are all that remain of hundreds of thousands of documents that have disintegrated over the last century. While microfilm is perfect for storing and protecting this material, it is a does not allow for much access. In following its mission to provide universal access to all human knowledge, the Internet Archive is teaming up with libraries all over the world to begin digitizing microfilm and microfiche. The goal is to get as much content off the shelves and online.
The books in this collection are from a variety of libraries including the University of Chicago Libraries, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Alberta, Allen County Public Library, and the National Technical Information Service.
You may also want to view the newspapers that have been digitized from microfiche.

So don't wait, click over to and let your fingers do the walking!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Roots n Branches 2015 Workshop Set for Satruday Sept 19, 2015

PRELIMINARY SYLLABUS NOW Available--click here


CLICK here to complete



Digging up Treasures in Your Own Back Yard
Local area Historical Societies and Museums

Virginia Hanson, State Historical Society--Keynote Speaker

Saturday, Sept 19, 2015, 8:30 am - 4 pm


 Click here

sponsored by

Brookings SD FHC

See map below

Brookings Ward
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 
200 22nd Ave, (south of Hospital)
Northeast door

Registration and Check In     8:00 am to 8:30 am
          Welcome     8:30 am

8:45 am – Keynote Speaker: Virginia Hanson, 
Archivist with State Historical Society
“Early Dakota Territorial Records at the State Archives”

Where do you find records of your family when there are no census records?  Or your family fell between the census?  The Early Territory records of Dakota are full of wonderful bits of family information.  This presentation will give you an idea of what to look for and where the records can be found. Documents and samples shown include records from pre-statehood circa 1700-1900 era. Showing resources including; Military Post Returns, Muster rolls, Marriages, Early School Census, Land records, Newspapers, Indian Census, just to start.

Depending on the time allowed, we will include a case file of a young soldier killed in 1862, while stationed at Ft Sully, DT.
Session 1 – 10:10 am – 11:10 am

1. Smith-Zimmerman Museum (Lake County) – Cindy Mallery, Curator
 Treasures of the Past: How the Dead Still Speak
Many unique holdings including a comprehensive Obituary project

2. Treasures in Your Own Computer or Device – Family History Apps for Fun for All Ages
Especially for the Youth by Youth of Brookings Ward 


Session 2 – 11:20 – 12:20 pm

1. Moody County Museum (Flandreau) – Dale Johnson, former Curator
 Mystery at the Library: Which is the Real Granny Weston is in the Painting?
a Model in Native American research (based on Dianne Ammann’s research) An 1896 painting of a Native American Woman in the Moody County Public Library has puzzled patrons for years as to who she was and why the painting was done.  Dale Johnson, Moody County Genealogical Society, will trace story of Flandreau Santee Sioux from 1862 Minnesota Uprising until their settlement in Moody County area and why at least 5 Granny Westons could be the subject of the paining.

2. Rootstech 2015 Video--more Online treasures

30 Pieces of Tech I Can't Live Without

12: 30-1:20 LUNCH

 (Brown Bag—Bring your own or Reserve one of ours—see registration)


Session 3 – 1:30 – 2:30 pm

1. Brookings County Museum (Volga) – Kristin Heismeyer, Historical Advisor 

Walking Through Our Past 
a look at treasures and resources of the Brookings Historical Society and Museum 
including local family history, research resources and outreach programs

2. Faded History –Anisah David, Rural Sociologist, of Bushnell

Hidden Treasures: Ghost Towns/Abandoned Cemeteries (in your own back yard?) 

Substitute Class: ROOTSTECH 2015 VIDEO

30 Pieces of Tech I Can't Live Without

Session 4 – 2:40 – 3:40 pm

1.      SD Agricultural Heritage Museum (Brookings) – Carrie Van Buren, Collections Curator 
Found in Collections: Resources for Family History Researchers 
Maps, Atlases, County/Town Histories, Artifacts, Staff Research Specialties and much more

2.      SD Agricultural Heritage Museum--Gwen McCausland, Director
Preserving Your Family Heirlooms, Photos
 Professional Advice on caring for Family Treasures, Q and A


Other Local Museums and Societies

Displays Related to Class presentations

Free Premium Websites at the FHC


CLICK here to complete

CommunityWalk Map - Brookings SD FHC