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Saint Fool
02-20-2008, 11:54 PM
Fictional, not factual:

In 2007. A woman is researching her family history. There is a marked out name in the family bible for someone born between 1879 and 1882. Through birth records, she discovers John Irving Tinkersly was born in 1880. She talks to older relatives and learns that he was definately the family black sheep who went up north around the turn of the century.

If this is all the information she has, does she have a bat's chance in hell of finding anything more about that person and what sources could she use?

To throw in a little bit of fate, among the family papers that she has gathered, there is an envelope addressed to the woman who would have been his mother. It has a postmark from a small town in upstate New York. Inside there is a short note saying that he is alive and well, but giving no information as to his occupation or current address.

Can her nephew, who lives in NY, find out any more information about the mysterious Mr. Tinkersly, and again ... what sources might he use?

PS - through my author's mojo, I can tell you that he was murdered in 1901 and his body was buried in an unmarked grave.

C.bronco
02-21-2008, 12:00 AM
I sent my Aunt your question, and she would know the answer to be sure.
I'll pm you when I get her response.
:)

Saint Fool
02-21-2008, 12:02 AM
Thanks!

PattiTheWicked
02-21-2008, 12:05 AM
I've done extensive genealogy research and have over 9,000 names in my database.

Some folks ya find, some ya don't.

However, by the late 1800s, recordkeeping had gotten pretty good, particuarly in the northeast. If John Tinkersly married, fathered a child, bought or sold property, got arrested, or was counted in a census before his death in 1901 (obviously, he'd have lived with his parents in 1890, but in the 1900 census he could be in NY), he should show up on paper. Heck, if someone paid for his burial, unmarked grave or no, it might even appear in a record somewhere (I have a receipt from my great great great grandfather's undertaker -- his daughter was charged $12 for a "fine oak cofin for mr. jack"). Work records might even show him somewhere, depending on what he did for a living.

You can make the records appear and be believable.

Robert Toy
02-21-2008, 12:12 AM
Here is a start with some useful links.

http://ourfamilyancestors.com/Articles/dummiesguide.htm

Tsu Dho Nimh
02-21-2008, 01:48 AM
In 2007. A woman is researching her family history. There is a marked out name in the family bible for someone born between 1879 and 1882. Through birth records, she discovers John Irving Tinkersly was born in 1880. She talks to older relatives and learns that he was definately the family black sheep who went up north around the turn of the century.

If this is all the information she has, does she have a bat's chance in hell of finding anything more about that person and what sources could she use?

When is this taking place? Present Day? There are various web sites where you can search by census records and other public records, birth and death certs, etc. With a name like Tinkersley, it's fairly easy.


To throw in a little bit of fate, among the family papers that she has gathered, there is an envelope addressed to the woman who would have been his mother. It has a postmark from a small town in upstate New York. Inside there is a short note saying that he is alive and well, but giving no information as to his occupation or current address.


Can her nephew, who lives in NY, find out any more information about the mysterious Mr. Tinkersly, and again ... what sources might he use?

Easy: town phone books from the era in the state or local history libraries, local historical societies, local newspapers. Local court cases?


PS - through my author's mojo, I can tell you that he was murdered in 1901 and his body was buried in an unmarked grave.

Maybe police records to find the murder info, if he was identified. But he'd be in the 1900 census and not in the 1910 one, so then you start looking for death certificates beginning with the last known place of residence.

johnnysannie
02-21-2008, 02:56 AM
If your character has a name, date of birth, names of parents, and a place, it would be very likely that she could find the ancestor with various records. I've traced family history since I was a teenager; like somebody else said, some people are easier to find than others but with the basic details I listed above, your character shoudl easily find out what she wants to know.

Census records, the Latter Day Saints Family Search, and other databases are just a start. If you really want to know, you can find books with all kinds of details printed by historical societys (like in a genealogy room at a library) and even sift through old newspapers for information.

I've also done this for characters who are based on a real person.

Very doable.

One addition too - some states (like mine) now have death certificates online and even in those that don't you can send for a copy and/or look up cemetery records.

Marlys
02-21-2008, 06:58 AM
Yup--lots available online. Your character would start with something like Ancestry.com (he could either subscribe at home, or go to a local library that does), which has all of the censuses. The guy he's researching would show up in census records, which would list his entire household, his job, whether or not he was literate, etc. Info varied depending on year, but in the 1900 and 1910 Censuses it would also list how many years he'd been married.

Since your fictional guy was born in 1880, he would also be in the WWI Draft Registration of 1917-18, which includes something like 98% of the men under the age of 46. That's also available on Ancestry, and gives birth date, address, next of kin, occupation, and a general physical description.

Once he's found what she can on Ancestry, he would hit the county GenWeb or RootsWeb sites and look for online local records (cemetery transcriptions, land records, vital records, tax lists, court records, wills), and possibly the Genforum message boards, to see if anyone else is researching this guy. Also local libraries, county web pages, historical societies, online newspapers (since you say he goes to upstate New York, there is a goldmine of northern NY newspapers here (http://news.nnyln.net/)).

Do you have a particular upstate New York town in mind? You might try going to that county's GenWeb site and seeing what is available, plus hitting a library that subscribes to Ancestry (or signing up for their free trial, but make sure you cancel if you don't want to continue) to familiarize yourself with what they have.

Best of luck with it!