Friday, December 23, 2016

Page Counts and Inconsistent Matches in AncestryDNA Helper

All technical content can now be found on a new blog named SQLite for AncestryDNA Helper. I'm returning this blog to its original purpose.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

What is AncestryDNA Helper

Those of you who have read this blog for a while and have done a DNA test at AncestryDNA are probably wondering what AncestryDNA Helper is and if you should be using it.

Maybe. It's not for the faint of heart.

If you are comfortable working with spreadsheets, do look into it. If you have more than one DNA test that you manage at Ancestry, it definitely holds potential for you. If you are willing and able to dig deep into the data and follow advice from the online group and from me, then go for it.

The AncestryDNA Helper is an extension for the Chrome browser. When I first installed it, it had fairly major problems, so I uninstalled it. It came up on a blog I follow earlier in 2016 and so I tried it again. It still has problems, but with nine DNA tests in my account, I decided to work with it since I have the technical ability to deal with the data.

The Helper will scan all your matches and all the ancestors that you can are able to view in their trees. It puts all that information into a database on your computer. The data holds a lot of power and potential, but getting to it and using it is where you may become frustrated.

Assuming you want to check it out, install the Chrome browser if you have not done so. Then add the AncestryDNA Helper extension from the Chrome Store.

Once installed, when you bring up the DNA test results, you will see new buttons. Your main page will add the following section near the top. Before you can do anything with the data, it has to be scanned into the database. Expect to spend about an hour for every 20 pages of matches.

There is documentation at Before you do anything, do go read that page and download and read the PDF that is linked near the bottom of that page.

If you decide to explore this tool, be sure to join the Yahoo Group where the discussion of issues and solutions takes place. It's a moderated list and many of my messages seem to get dropped, probably due to ending up in the moderator's spam folder. If it happens to you, don't feel alone.

Let me know if you join the journey and have questions. I'll do my best to help.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Download Matches for AncestryDNA Helper

All technical content can now be found on a new blog named SQLite for AncestryDNA Helper. I'm returning this blog to its original purpose.

Download Ancestors of Matches for AncestryDNA Helper Database

All technical content can now be found on a new blog named SQLite for AncestryDNA Helper. I'm returning this blog to its original purpose.

How Many AncestryDNA Matches do I Have?

All technical content can now be found on a new blog named SQLite for AncestryDNA Helper. I'm returning this blog to its original purpose.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

SQLite Queries for AncestryDNA Helper

All technical content can now be found on a new blog named SQLite for AncestryDNA Helper.

The previous post showed how to install and use the SQLite Manager plug-in for Firefox to access the AncestryDNA Helper database. Now that you've installed the plug-in, here are a couple of queries to use.

The first step is to look at the table named tests. Use the Browse & Search tab to look at the information. You need to know the exact spelling of each of your tests. I have four test kits in this particular database and for this post, I'll use only my kit as an example.

Now that I have the exact spelling for the kit name, let's do some data mining.

Click into the Execute SQL tab. There will be a starter SQL statement in the SQL box. Just clear it out.

Counting Surnames

In this first example, I'm counting all the A surnames in the ancestors of my matches, sorting them with the largest number at the top and exporting them to a CSV that can be opened in Excel.

Paste the SQL into the box. It doesn't need to all be showing. Click on Run SQL and wait for the result.

Using the Actions button you can then view the result (as shown) in a table format or in the raw CSV format. When you are happy with the result, you can save the result in CSV format to a file so that you can work with it further in Excel or your favorite spreadsheet program.

All other queries are run in the exact same way.

Here is the SQL query:

-- Match ancestor count by surname, one letter of the alphabet
-- Column headings: "Kit","Match Surname","Number of Ancestors"
SELECT as "Kit",
    UPPER(surname) as "Match Surname",
    count(*) as "Number of Ancestors"
FROM ancestors
    join tests on ancestors.testid =
where "Elizabeth L Richards"
   and surname like "A%"
  and matchid not in
    (select id from tests)
group by,
order by    count(*) desc,
    UPPER(surname) asc

Notice the colored and bolded text. Replace my test name (in red) with your test name. The letter A can be any letter of the alphabet. If you remove the entire black bolded line, every surname will be counted instead of just one letter. The brown section prevents my other three tests from being included in the counts. That section can be removed if you want to count ancestors from other kits you have in your database.

Mining One Surname

Having chosen the Alexander surname to research further, I want to dig into those ancestors of matches. This query will return all the ancestors except those of my immediate family.

Here is the SQL query:

-- Match ancestors for one kit and one surname
--Column headings: "Kit","Match Surname","Match Full Name", "Born","Died","Metaphone","Predicted Relationship","Confidence","Hint","Private","cM","Segments","Match Admin","Match Name","Note","Ethnic Regions","Ethnic Trace Regions"

SELECT as "Kit",
    UPPER(surname) as "Match Surname",
    fullname "Match Full Name",
    IFNULL(born,"") as "Born",
    IFNULL(died,"") as "Died",
    metaphone as "Metaphone",
    range as "Predicted Relationship",
    confidence as "Confidence",
    case hint when 1 then "Yes" else "" end as "Hint",
    case private when 1 then "Yes" else "" end as "Private",
    IFNULL(centimorgans,"") as "cM",
    IFNULL(segments,"") as "Segments",
    matches.admin as "Match Admin", as "Match Name",
    note as "Note",
    ethnicregions as "Ethnic Regions",
    ethnictraceregions as "Ethnic Trace Regions"
FROM ancestors
    join tests on ancestors.testid =
    join matches on ancestors.testid = matches.testid and ancestors.matchid = matches.matchid
where "Elizabeth L Richards"
   and UPPER(surname) = UPPER("Alexander")
   and range not like "%mmediate family%"
order by     UPPER(surname),

Notice the red and bolded text. Replace my name with your test name. Replace the surname Alexander with any surname. The bolded line causes ancestors of immediate and close family to be ignored. If you remove the entire bolded line, the ancestors of those immediate family members will be included in the list.

There are many more queries that can (and should) be constructed. These two are intended as a beginning to assist with the current problems with downloading ancestors.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

SQLite Manager for Firefox for AncestryDNA Helper

All technical content can now be found on a new blog named SQLite for AncestryDNA Helper.

This is a special post that is off my usual ramblings. It is directed specifically to users of the Chrome extension called AncestryDNA Helper. If you don't use it, just ignore this post and any others on this topic.

The database that is built by the AncestryDNA Helper is a SQLite database. One of the group members has suggested a tool to help dig into the data that is in that database. The tool is a plug-in for Firefox and is named SQLite Manager. If you don't have Firefox, you'll need to install it first.

To add the plug-in to Firefox, use your favorite search engine to locate it on the Mozilla website. Once you find it, click on the green bar that says Add to Firefox. You'll then need to close Firefox and start it again.

After SQLite Manager is loaded, you'll want to add it to your menu. Click the menu icon on the far right and choose Customize at the bottom of the panel.

You can add SQLite Manager to the menu in two ways. You can drag the icon to the menu bar. For example, I dragged  it next to the fox in my menu bar. You can also choose to show the menu toolbar, which will already have the plug-in listed.

Here is the result of choosing both options. I can now start SQLite Manager from either place.

When SQLite Manager starts, it needs a database to work with. You will want to protect the original AncestryDNA Helper database, so step carefully through making a working copy. You'll want to do this each time your database changes.

Choose from the menu Database then Connect Database.

You will need to navigate very deeply into the Chrome structure to find the database. The AncestryDNA Helper documentation has a good description of how to find it. My username on my PC is Beth so my path to the database is this:
C:\Users\Beth\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default\databases\chrome-extension_hjflmfphflaeehhpdiggobllgffelfee_0

The database does not have any file type associated with it. At the bottom right of the selection window, change the file type to All Files.

The file name will just be a number. It will be the number 1 unless you have uninstalled and reinstalled the Helper. The number bumps up by 1 each time you do so. My number is 12, so I choose the file 12 and click Open.

When the database opens, the filename (12) is at the top of the screen on the left side and the path in use is at the top of the window. When working with this tool, you'll be able to see at a glance if you are using the original or a copy.

 First thing: make that copy. Choose from the menu Database then Copy Database.

Give the copy a name you will recognize.

Choose a folder that is comfortable for you. I chose My Documents. Click on Select Folder and the copy will be saved.

Notice how the path at the top and the file name on the left now show the location of the copy that I'll be working with.

In another post, I'll share some SQL queries that you can use. You can use Browse & Search to look at data, though I am finding one million ancestors for the matches of four tests rather a lot of data. Queries are a far better option.

When you're done and ready to close, choose the menu option Database and then Close Database.

Exit the plug-in either from the X in the right hand corner or use the menu choices Database and Exit.

Next time: some SQL queries.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Getting Wild with Mary and Her FAN Club

When last searching for Mary, we considered that facts such as a birth date could be misstated or misinterpreted. But what about her name? By limiting a search to exact spellings, it is possible that the creative spellings used in various records can be missed. It's important to use every trick in your toolbox to find those hidden records.

One extremely useful tool is the wildcard search. Both Ancestry and Family Search allow wildcard searches and many other sites do also. Be sure to read the help pages for wildcard searching and also review them every once in a while, as the rules change over time.

There are two wildcards you can use and there is one big "gotcha".

First the "gotcha". Both sites require three letters in addition to one or more wildcards. If you are searching for a short name such as Lou Day, then wildcards are not going to be of any help at all. There are a few other rules that you'll want to know, so do read the help pages.

For an example of the two wildcards, let's look at Mary Maddox Neff and her sister-in-law, a member of Mary's FAN club. The wildcard that is used makes a huge difference in these searches.
  • Mar? Madd?x
  • Mar* Ta*m*g*


The Question Mark

I'm not a fan of the question mark (?). It represents exactly one letter. So the first search will find Mary Maddox or Marg. Maddux, but not Maria Madox. There are so many creative spellings for names that limiting the matching to one exact letter seems wasteful to me, though you may find it useful in some situations.


The Asterisk

The second search is far more powerful, as the asterisk (*) represents zero, one or several letters. Searching for Mary's sister-in-law is tricky, as the surname is spelled several different ways, as is her first name, which is Mary on her tombstone and Maria on the marriage record. The family name is spelled as:
  • Tammage on the tombstones
  • Tallmadge in the 1850 census
  • Talmadge in 1860
  • Talmage in 1870
  • Tammadge on the 1853 marriage record of Maria and David Maddox
You can see how all these variations would match to a search of Mar* Ta*m*g*.

Here are examples of the many varied results from Ancestry and Family Search. You'll notice that some results, such as the first one, match the wildcards, but don't match the name you want. That's expected and you'll have to just ignore them. It's a case of seeing too many results rather than too few.

Ancestry Results

Family Search Results

Be sure to try out wildcards for yourself to look for those elusive ancestors.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Did My Grandparents Cheer for the Chicago Cubs?

One of my co-workers asked how an Arizona native living in the American South had become a fan of the Chicago Cubs. Of course, it's all tied to family.

Thinking about my family's Chicago roots led me to the realization that sports affiliations are not a part of my family history knowledge. I failed to ask about sports when I interviewed an elderly cousin some 16 years ago. Now he's gone -- the last of a generation who knew my grandparents and great-grandparents through the eyes of a teenager.

It's hard to think of all the questions we should ask of our family, so this is just a little reminder to ask about sports if it's something you'd like to know.

Reminiscing about our Chicago history, I realized that the 1907 and 1908 World Series wins by the Cubs would have been a part of the fabric of the lives of my grandparents and their families. They lived in neighborhoods on the north side of Chicago, a few miles north of Wrigley Field. In their championship seasons, the Cubs played at the West Side Grounds, which was further south, but they were still the hometown team.

My grandmother, Ruth McFarlane, was a girl of nine in 1907. Her father had been badly hurt in a work accident on the Chicago street car system and the family struggled through financial difficulties. Her schoolmates and church friends would no doubt have been excited about the accomplishments of the home team and perhaps she and her younger sister were also. Did her parents have the luxury of enjoying the wins for a brief moment? By 1910, Ruth had dropped out of school and gone to work to contribute to the family income. I imagine that baseball was, for her, a background thought of no consequence.

My grandfather, Oliver Ekstrom, was four years old in 1907, and lived a life of financial comfort in the Andersonville Swedish-American community. He was the youngest of five living siblings and would have shared the excitement of his siblings and friends when the team brought home the championships. Were his immigrant parents also caught up in the excitement? Did they rejoice at the wins?

Nine years later the Cubs moved to what is now Wrigley Field. I'd like to think that Oliver was able to attend some of the games with his brothers or with his brother-in-law, a Chicago policeman. After Oliver and Ruth married, they went to Central America as missionaries, weakening the strong Chicago ties. With their early deaths, their children grew up in boarding schools in other places.

By the time the Cubs suffered the Curse of the Billy Goat and lost the World Series in 1945, Ruth and her parents were dead, as were Oliver, his father and two siblings. Only Ruth's sister and Oliver's mother and two siblings remained in Chicago, along with three of Oliver's nieces and nephews. That extended family still has members who live in the Chicago area; however, Oliver's children scattered, with three brothers eventually landing in Arizona.

Regardless of Oliver's connection to the Cubs, many of his descendants have embraced the Cubs and have enjoyed visits to the historic ballpark. I've been to Wrigley Field only once, though I've seen the Cubs play at other ballparks. I celebrate their 2016 World Series win as I reflect on the history of my family and our Chicago roots.

Quick drop page and elements from Digital Scrapper's Liberty (2009) and  Sports Mad (2012) kits

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Mary's Misleading Obituary

Printed and online obituaries can be full of wonderful family information. Unfortunately, they often contain errors, also.

Mary Maddox Neff's 1907 obituary is a good example of the types of mistakes that you might see. Taking the information in the obituary as entirely true could lead to bad assumptions and missed records.

Deconstructing the obituary, there were 19 facts.
  • Two were incorrect. 
  • One was unknown. 
  • Five were unknown, but probably true. 
  • One other key fact was missing. 
The overall analysis is 80 percent true and probably true. That's not too bad -- unless you were depending on the 20 percent of information that isn't true.

Always take obituaries as clues, rather than absolute truth.

For anyone researching this family, the analysis and obituary follow.

Fact Content Truth
Marriage Date 1851 * False
Number Children Four ** False
Child Name James ** Unknown
Child Name Christina ** MISSING
Birth County Pickaway County Probable
Burial Acasto, MO Probable
Church Member of Methodist Church Probable
Funeral M.E. Church in Mt Sterling, IA Probable
Spouse Birth 1831 Probable
Birth State Ohio True
Birth Year 1834 True
Child Location Ft Madison, IA (Cantril) True
Child Location Pueblo, CO (Schafer) True
Child Name Absolom True
Child Name Mrs George Schafer True
Child Name Mrs T N Cantril True
Name Mrs Mary Neff True
Spouse George Neff True
Spouse Death October 6, 1897 True
Survivors 2 children and 2 grandchildren True

*The Neff marriage was celebrated in Pickaway County, Ohio, on February 1, 1852. Reference book 4-255.
**The 1900 census showed that Mary had 5 children, 2 of whom were living. James was never on the census, but most likely would have been born between 1860 and 1863. Child Christina was the eldest in the census and was entirely omitted in the obituary in both child count and list of names.

Fort Madison (Iowa) Weekly Democrat, 11 September 1907, Page 2, Column 3

Friday, September 9, 2016

Filtering Mary, Part 3

(Not) Just the Facts

You've selected a type of record, carefully reviewed the indexed content and then set your filters appropriately. But you just cannot find that elusive person. You begin to think they just aren't in the record set.

Are the facts getting in the way? The facts as we perceive them today may not match the information at the time. Maybe there is missing or incorrect information and your filters are hiding the record. Maybe the indexer made a mistake when transcribing the record. Or maybe that elusive person gave an incorrect answer.

Age and date of birth are "facts" that are often inconsistent across the lifetime of those who were born before the age of birth certificates and drivers licenses. It's useful for filtering, but don't depend on it. If you are using a narrow range for a birth year, try increasing the range. It's easier to control the range on Family Search than on Ancestry.

Looking at Mary Maddox Neff, I found that she was very consistent in stating her own age and birth year. Her age was always within a one-year range which can be explained by the date of the census. However, her husband, George M Neff, seems to have taken an anti-aging tonic. He grew two years younger by the end of his life. Their daughter's age was so inconsistent that I'm still not positive whether Elizabeth Ann Neff Shafer had a sister Ann or just changed her name around.

Take a moment to think about that elusive person. Might they have made themselves older to marry, to join the military, to avoid a head tax or to draw a pension? Might they have shaved off some years to avoid the draft, to be younger than a husband or to participate in a program such as Social Security or Medicare?

One of my female ancestors married a man who was ten years younger. Yes indeed, she tried very hard to hide her age!

Do consider opening up the date of birth filter if you're not finding the record you are seeking.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Filtering Mary, Part 2

Pick Your Poison

My mother used to tell me to pick my poison when I had to choose between two things I didn't care for. No, we're not talking politics!

The search filters at both Ancestry and Family Search can hide records from you -- picking correctly is critical so your results are not poisoned. As we search, we grow our knowledge about an ancestor, but each record has only a tiny bit of the knowledge that we may have acquired. If we filter our search with everything we know, key records may be hidden. We're searching for the records, not the whole person.

Today we'll look at a search about Mary Maddox Neff's father done on Ancestry. I was astounded by how using very logical filters resulted in poor results.

Mary's father, Lazarus Maddox, was a single man of about 25 at the time of the War of 1812. He would have been a member of the Ohio Militia and I knew from a list that he had served in the war. What more could I learn from Ancestry?

Following past concepts, I started with his name, but not too exact, as it was spelled in various ways. The search was limited to the United States and, from the first result list, I clicked into the Military category.

From this focused category, I then refined the search. I selected people living in Ohio who served in the military starting 5 years before and ending 5 years after 1812. That would certainly cover the period of the War of 1812.

No matches! What do you mean no matches?!

Taking away the year filter and keeping the Ohio filter gives a result.

Are you as puzzled as I am? Why doesn't the Roster of Ohio soldiers in the War of 1812 meet the limits of both the year (1812) and the state (Ohio)? Clicking into the record, we see it's an image with a list of soldier names.

When the book was indexed by Ancestry, the dates of service were not included in the index even though they are included in the image. Because Ancestry didn't capture the dates, I can't search on them!

Returning to search filters, what else can I find? Removing the Ohio filter and adding the date filter, we get a different result.

Clicking into one of the records, I am now able to see what was indexed by Ancestry. Interestingly, the date of service was not indexed, but apparently the date of the entire record set was included. The Ohio company name was indexed, but there is no correlation that Lazarus lived in Ohio, which was the filter that I set.

Editing the search, I can set Ohio as a Keyword -- a word to be searched that might appear anywhere within the index. Requiring an Exact match on a Keyword is dangerous. I don't do that often, but within this record set, I wanted to see only the two Ohio records.

Now I see only the two records in which I am interested.

Frustrating? Definitely! Two entirely different record sets had information, but the filtering was not compatible with both.

Imagine facing this sort of a problem with a common name such as John Smith! What strategy can you use?

Start by picking the record set you want to search. Click into any record in the record set. Don't worry whether or not it is for your family member. Look through the text items -- not the image -- and see what information is indexed. Pick your search filters based only on what is indexed.

This strategy works on both Ancestry and Family Search. Searching on the indexed information within a single record set will reveal more and hide less.

A note for Maddox researchers: Captain Robert Bradshaw's company (first record set) was part of the Ohio 2nd Regiment. Both Colonel Robert Safford and Colonel James Renick were commanders in the 2nd Regiment.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Filtering Mary, Part 1

Search filters on Ancestry and Family Search could inspire a book. They can help you find a record, but can also hide records from you. I'll present thoughts in small bites. Today I just want to write about the Country filter.

Mary Maddox Neff was the wife of a farmer and laborer. It was very unlikely that she ever left the United States, so I can safely restrict my searches to this country and so avoid looking at record collections that just clutter my screen.

Think about the person you are searching. Were they an immigrant? Were they affluent enough to travel? Did their occupation require international travel? What countries might they have traveled to or through?

For example, my Swedish ancestors traveled through England on the way to New York. I need to search records from Sweden, England and the United States. Did they stop off in Barbados on the voyage? I'll want to search each country separately.

Setting the country filter is easy on Ancestry. Either on the main search screen or on the edit search screen, just use the little drop down arrow for Collection Focus. Pick the country or region of interest before clicking on Search.

On the first search page at Family Search, start typing in the country and it will try to match the name. Click on the country name that's right before you click on Search. The X at the top right of the location does not clear it out. You'll have to use your space bar if you want to clear it.

If you are already looking at search results on Family Search, it's a little harder to find this filter. You'll have to roll down to find the word Location on the left side.

Click on the word Location and the country box will appear. Start typing in the country and it will try to match the name. Click on the country name that's right before you click on Update. The X at the top right of the location does not clear it out. You'll have to use your space bar if you want to clear it.

Recapping, use the country filter to remove large numbers of irrelevant collections from your search results.

Friday, July 22, 2016

How Many Marys Can You Put On A Page?

Here's another quick tip about searching on Ancestry, Family Search and other sites. I'm putting on my technical hat for this idea.

Each time you advance a page or back up a page while reviewing search results, the records have to be looked up and the page has to be displayed. There is a delay as you go to each new page. The smaller the page, the more delays to get through the results that you are looking at.

On Ancestry, you can choose to see 10, 20 or 50 results on a page. The choice is made at the bottom of the page. Once you choose a number, that number is saved by Ancestry as your selection until you change it.

On Family Search, the choice is made at the top. You can choose to see 20, 50 or 75 results on each page.

I like more results on a page and fewer pages. You may prefer the opposite. You need to experiment and see what works best for you to speed through your search.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mary's FAN Club

In the last post, I was debating whether I was following the right family in my search for Mary Maddox Neff. However, Mary's FAN club was reinforcing my theory. Did you know that all of our ancestors have FAN clubs that may help us advance our research?

Elizabeth Shown Mills pioneered the acronym FAN club to stand for Friends, Associates and Neighbors. I prefer F to stand for Family.

Mary isn't my ancestor, but is actually in the FAN club of her brother, my ancestor. Researching all of the siblings is part of my research efforts. I've found that the more I learn about a family, the more I can learn about my ancestor. With today's DNA matching, broad family trees are even more important to facilitate connections.

Because I know a lot about the Maddox family, I noticed a very important clue in the 1860 census. The farmhand that was living in Mary's household was related to Mary through the marriage of yet another brother. It could have been coincidence, but it turned out that this clue helped keep me focused on the right family.

Learn about your ancestor's Family, Friends, Associates and Neighbors. Sometimes you can't find your ancestor, but you might find a member of their FAN club to lead you to the poorly written or badly indexed record of your ancestor.

Specific to researchers of the Maddox and Neff families of Pickaway County, Ohio, here's another look at the 1860 census for George M and Mary Maddox Neff.

Notice the farmhand, James A Talmadge. Mary's brother David married Mary Mariah Tammadge, the older sister of James. The spelling of the name varied between Tammadge and Talmadge, depending on the record. Based on the 1850 census, the two were siblings, children of Henry Talmadge.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mary's Husband Served His Country

Continuing with search strategies, let's learn more about Mary. Today's tip is to collect every military record (and every record of any type) you can find on your subject and their immediate family. Each record provides different clues.

I was still looking for what happened to Mary Maddox Neff of Pickaway County, Ohio, after the 1860 census. I'd been looking for Mary for over 10 years, so knew more than names, but not enough. Some of the questions I pondered were:
  • Had I located the right family in the 1860 census? The names George and Mary Neff were not a unique combination.
  • Was she married to the George M Neff who served in Company G, 113th Infantry Regiment, Ohio, during the Civil War?
  • Did her George possibly die during or after the War?
  • If George died, did Mary remarry?
  • Did George or Mary collect a Civil War pension?
My next step was to research George M. Neff, the Civil War soldier.

Military records can be a gold mine of information and should always be collected when available. Pension files are frequently rich in genealogical information. By learning the available records, you'll know what to look for. I wanted to find any Civil War pensions for this couple.

Remember to use Ancestry Categories and Family Search Collections to go straight to military records. Fold 3, which is another Ancestry-owned site, has some military records that are not available elsewhere.

Searching on George M Neff who served from Ohio gives a reasonable number of Civil War records to review, but there were no pension files.

One of the problems with filters is that not every record set is tied to dates and locations. You can miss a record by setting the wrong filter. Experiment with filters to see what is returned with different settings.

In this case, limiting the Military service location to exactly Ohio was the wrong strategy. I had to change that filter to be broad, rather than exact. That basically removed the filter, but would prioritize Ohio records, if the location had been used.

By removing the Ohio limitation, there are 59 pension files of possible interest. These images are only index cards, but they are good clues. Clicking into the pensions, then adding a spouse with the name Mary prioritizes the search results.

The very first result happens to be the Ohio soldier I'm looking for, but the pension was filed from Iowa, an unexpected location. Here are some new clues. Now I know that the soldier George M Neff was indeed married to a woman named Mary. I still have to determine if it is the right Mary. Did my couple move to Iowa?

The card from Ancestry is hard to read. What could I learn at Fold 3? Is the complete pension file available? Remember to use every site you can to collect records. Fold 3 had a different view, but not the complete file.

What do these cards reveal? 

George M Neff applied for a pension from Iowa on May 22, 1890, and he was approved. He died on October 6, 1897. His widow, Mary M Neff applied in October, 1897, for a widow's pension and she was approved. Her death date is not recorded in the index, but would be in her pension file.

The Civil War pension index cards were the breakthrough in my search for Mary.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Correcting Mary's Family

Yesterday my friend Elizabeth shared her tale of search woe in the comments. She found the elusive census record after trying every trick she had. And I found my Mary Maddox Neff after trying a number of tricks, too. Having found those difficult records, we really need to leave breadcrumbs for the next searcher.

Ancestry and some other sites give us the ability to add corrections or additional information for some, but not all, of the information in a record. When we finish our happy dance, we need to take a few minutes to provide that correction. Our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins will appreciate the help when they are searching.

Today I'll show you how to view Ancestry corrections and how to make them yourself. I hope you already do that and can just ignore this post.

Let's return to Absalom Neff, born in Ohio, indexed in the 1870 census. Here are the two results.

Notice the pencil after Absolam Loff who is living in Van Buren County, Iowa. That shows that there is a correction or edit to the record that was indexed by Ancestry. Otherwise I'd be wondering how Loff related to Neff. I have to click into View Record (not the image) to see the correction and who made it.

The record was indexed by an Ancestry transcriber as Absolam Loff. Under that name the brackets show the correction (or additional information) is the name Absolam Neff. Click that name to see information about the correction.

I contributed this correction to the name, stating it was a transcription error. I see the trash can only because this is my correction and I can choose to delete it.

Truth be told, the record is nearly impossible to read. Thank goodness for Absalom!

When adding a correction, we can go beyond errors and add some clarifications. I had already added the surname correction, but I could certainly add clarity on the first names. These initials are not at all helpful. Let's fix up his older sister. Still in the text view for Absalom, I clicked on C J Loff, which is one line up.

From this page, I clicked on View/Add alternate info. It brought up a corrections window just like the one for Absalom, above.

I then clicked on the button "ADD YOUR OWN". Now I can add information for Christina.

In this case, I want to add a variation of her name. I use the drop down arrows to see my choices and variation was the best fit. I have to type in the name as it should be. The explanation is optional, but as this is not a transcription error, adding a brief explanation helps the Ancestry reviewer as well as future researchers.

After clicking on "SUBMIT ALTERNATE", one more window comes up because I changed her surname.

I am asked whether to apply the surname change to everyone in the household. You'll want to choose wisely between APPLY and Close when making such a change. When I first submitted the Neff surname last year as a transcription error, I used APPLY, as that specific transcription error does apply to everyone in the household.

In this case, I did not need to repeat the surname change and the information I added is specific to Christina. I clicked on Close.

I can see the corrections that I just made, but no one else can see them until they have been reviewed and accepted by someone at Ancestry. Here's a final look at how Christina's corrections appear.

Today I added a first name for each person in the household, except Absalom. I added brief additional information from the 1880 census and from George's military records to explain the variations for George M, Ann Elizabeth and Laura.

Mary and her family are now all corrected and augmented in the 1870 census index. I'll share more search strategy the next time.