Category Archives: Online Records

Indiana Probate Records

Beginning genealogists often stop searching for their ancestors’ estate records when they find a will or assume their are no records if there is no will. But estates left far more records than just wills.

Four types of records are typically found for probate records in Indiana: will books, probate order books, probate complete record books, and probate packets.

Will Books contain transcribed wills.

Probate Order Books contain the daily actions of the Probate Court. Actions include letters of administration (no will) or testamentary (will found), administrator and executor’s bonds, guardianships for minor heirs, partitions of land, estate sales, widow’s dowers, disputes between heirs, lawsuits brought by creditors, and more.

Complete Record Books compile every action made by the court pertaining to a certain estate. Since the estates were recorded only after the estate was closed, each book cover a variety of years. Not every estate is included.

Probate Packets contain the loose papers pertaining to the estate. Packets may include original wills, estate inventories, sales, petitions, bonds, receipts and more. They are rarely microfilmed or digitized and are usually at the county courthouse.

You may even find more details about your ancestor’s estate by searching the court records and land records. Estates would appear in the court records when the deceased owned someone money, someone refused to pay their debt to the estate, or when the heirs couldn’t come to an agreement. Land records hold the deeds for real estate sales after our ancestor died and partitions of their land as it was divided between the heirs.

Probate Order Books in Indiana also hold some of the county’s naturalization records and information about heirs seeking military pensions.

Many Indiana probate records are now online at in their collection “Indiana, Wills and Probate Records, 1798-1999.” The records are minimally indexed and their descriptions can be difficult sometimes to browse. I have created finding aids for the probate records on Ancestry for the following counties:

You never know what you will learn about your ancestors until you search for all of their probate records.

Finding Federal Land Patents in Indiana’s Gore

Indiana’s Gore is a triangle of land in southeastern Indiana. It is bordered by the Indiana-Ohio state border to the east, the Ohio River to the south, and the Greenville Treaty line to the west. The Gore is a unique area with more ties to Ohio than Indiana which makes finding its records a challenge.

Land in the Gore was surveyed by the federal government. The principal meridian (PM) used for the Gore was the first PM drawn. It was a line north from the mouth of Great Miami River (the present-day Ohio-Indiana state border). The baseline was a line west from the mouth of the Great Miami River. The survey created townships running north to south and ranges running east to west. Read more about federal land states on the FamilySearch Wiki.

Land sales in the Gore occurred at the Land Office at Cincinnati which opened on 10 May 1800. Land was originally sold in quarter sections or larger at no less than $2 per acre. Land could be sold on credit. Later land could be sold in smaller pieces for less, but it had to be paid for in cash at the time of the purchase.

Land in the Gore has various descriptions, including:

  • “West of the Meridian line, drawn from the mouth of the Great Miami river”
  • “West of the Meridian line”
  • “In the District of Lands subject to sale at Cincinnati, Ohio (lying in Indiana).”

Land Patents

After an individual finished paying for his land, he received a land patent. Federal land patents are available for free on the Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records website.

The top search box allows the user to choose a state to search within. But because the land in the Gore was sold at Cincinnati, the indexers sometimes marked the land as being in Ohio instead of Indiana. The user can run two searches, one within Indiana and one within Ohio. Alternatively, the user can search using the following steps:

  • Location: For state, choose “Any State” at the bottom of the drop-down menu. Leave county blank.
  • Land Description: Choose “1st PM” for Meridian. Leave township, range and section blank, unless you are searching for a known piece of land.
  • Miscellaneous: Under Land Office, choose “Cincinnati.” Leave other boxes blank.
  • Names: It is recommend to only fill in the surname field. the BLM website does not do fuzzy searches, so make sure to search for alternative spellings. also has a database with images of the land patents called “U.S. General Land Office Records, 1796-1907.” It can be easier to pull up alternative spellings of names using this database.

Once you have found your ancestor’s land patent, you can learn more about the land purchase with the BLM Tract Books.

Preparing to Wait for the 1940 Census Index

I just finished watching the 1940 Census Opening Ceremony and now I am ready to find my ancestors…after its indexed.

My friend, Marge, will tell you that I want all records online, indexed and free. Don’t we all? Of course I want access to all records, but they don’t have to be online. If I can view them at the Allen County Public Library, I would be happy. Plus if they were all online, I’d stay home and never see any of my geneafriends. I’d love to have everything indexed, but I’m willing to make my own index. And I might wish everything to be free, but I know that it costs money to host all the images I want, so I’m willing to pay (a reasonable price).

I’m looking forward to finding my ancestors in the 1940 census. My paternal grandfather wasn’t in the 1930 census with his parents, probably due to a miscommunication. And my maternal grandfather’s family has left Kalamazoo, Michigan by 1934 and they don’t show up in Cincinnati, Ohio until 1940. So I’m looking forward to finding out where they said they were in 1935. Plus I can’t wait to find all the great aunts and uncles that I’ve lost in my research.

Since I know that the 1940 census index should be done by the end of the year, I’m not in a hurry find my ancestors. I know they will still be there waiting for me and I’ll have spent my time more wisely by working on other projects.

Although I’m in no hurry to search the census, I have prepared for the 1940 census. I spent some time in the last month searching the city directories to find the addresses for my ancestors in 1940. But then I asked myself, “Why stop at 1940?” So now I am ready for the 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010 censuses.

I will be helping to index the 1940 census as part of the 1940 Census Community Project. Watch the online videos and find out how you can help to index as well. Then make sure you choose the Indiana Genealogical Society as your group (because I’m group administrator for IGS).

So while everyone else is finding enumeration districts and searching the 1940 census page by page, I’ll be working on my other 2012 goals and indexing as part of the Indiana Genealogical Society’s group.

Do I Really Need to Index the Officiant?

I have finally gotten back to indexing records for FamilySearch while watching television (instead of playing games on my phone). I’ve been working on the Elkhart County, Indiana Marriages and I am wondering if my indexing is discouraging people from finding the original records.

Indexing is supposed to make it easier for researchers to find the original documents. But when you index everything on a record, do people still want to view it? I know that great researchers want to see everything, but what about everyone else? If the image is attached to the index, then people will be more likely to view it. But what if they have to go searching for the document in microfilm or through a courthouse? If “everything” is in the index will they spend the time?

I love being about to search by parents’ names and find my ancestors’ siblings. I love finding their birth dates and places in the indexes to verify that I have the right person. But how much is too much in an index?

From the Indiana Marriage project: Does the index really need to include the name of the wedding officiant? It’s great info to try to find a marriage record within church records, but does it need to be in the index? Should the index contain the number of previous marriages of each participant? Or should researchers use other information and the original record to find out about other marriages?

I know that some people will always only look at the index. But should FamilySearch be helping them out? Or should they limit the number of fields indexed? Another reason to limit the amount of information that needs indexing is that it would take less time to index and increase the number of records completed.

What do you think? Is this just me adding to the age old debate about indexing and original records or am I on to something?

Footnote Images – Part Two – Massachusetts Printed Vital Records

On Monday, I wrote about some of the issues I have had using the city directories on Footnote. Today I’m going to share my thoughts about the images for the Massachusetts printed vital records.

I have not really dived into my New England roots yet. Others have done lots of research on these lines and I haven’t felt up to the challenge of digging through early New England records. But when I have consulted the Massachusetts printed vital records to find my ancestors with varying success.

Footnote has scanned images of many of these books. Most of these books are sorted by births, marriages and deaths and then in alphabetical order. These books work well for Footnote’s image naming system. They divide the book into sections by birth, marriage or death. Then they label the image with the page number and the first name on the page. This is very similar to the way they name the imaged for the city directories. It’s easy to find all the pages that list all the marriages of a certain surname.

But not all of the books were published in this format. Some were published listing all events by date. For example, the Boston vital records are in this order (or at least partly). Here is a page that is labeled Moore in the births category (you will need a subscription to view it on Footnote, but see the screen capture below). The problem with this page is that although it is labeled “Births and Baptisms” at the top of the page, it actually is a listing of marriages in chronological order.

This labeling system also gets the book’s pages all out of order. The Moore page above is on page 57. When I click the next arrow, I find page 71, then 73, then 82. This makes it impossible to browse the page. If you were to search for the name Moore in this book you would find a page for baptisms, not marriages in the search results. It gives you no clue that it’s actually a marriage page. Adding to that that the OCR is not perfect on any site and the labeling system that Footnote has created makes it very hard to use many of its images.

There is no good reason to label these books and put them online in a random page order. I wish that Footnote would take more time to look at the images they are labeling and make sure that their system makes sense for ALL images and sources.

Disclosure: I have not been paid by anyone for this review. I have an annual subscription to Footnote that I purchased myself.

Footnote Images – Part One – City Directories

This summer I have been working on my husband’s family tree. His family has roots in Toledo, Ohio and I have been spending lots of time finding them in the Toledo city directories on I wanted to share some of my impressions about the directories on this site.

First, it is great to have digital images from city directories. I have been able to push his generations further by analyzing who lived with who. I also like how Footnote labels their images by page number and then by the first person listed on the page (ie. Musch, Aug H (p. 813)). This makes it fairly easy to find which page a certain surname will appear.

But there is also a problem with this system. Apparently publishers of city directories don’t know how to count. Or at least how to number their pages. Often times I have found the same page number used for different pages. This becomes an issue when Footnote organizes their images by the name they have given it and not the order the pages appeared in the book. If the surname I am seeking, continues onto the next page, I have to go forward 2 pages to get to the next page in the printed directory.

Another problem that I have seen is that Footnote’s OCR software mislabels the first name on the page. This can confuse people trying to find a certain name. But then again the publishers of the city directories had some issues with alphabetical order too. I have  found given names out of order as well as surnames in the completely wrong order.

Also, Footnote tries to label all pages in the same format – first person on the page and page number. This does not work on other sections of the book. The street listings and business listings are not in alphabetical order by everyone’s name. They are in order of the street name or type of business. Footnote’s labeling systems makes these pages impossible to find when browsing.

You are able to use Footnote’s search engine to find names in the directories. But I have found that the OCR misses many of the names and that browsing is a more complete way of searching. Also the search tells you what page it is found with Footnote’s labels that can be somewhat hard to figure out if it is not on an alphabetical page.

I know that I have found a lot of faults with Footnote’s image names. I have been able to find what I am looking for most of the time and just wish their system was a little better.

This discussion leads me into another complaint with the way Footnote labels its images of the Massachusetts printed vital records. I’ll write about that later this week.

My Experience with Google News Archive

Yesterday I was happy to a post by Taneya on NCGenWeb (via her Twitter account @Taneya), that Google had added newspaper image browsing to its News Archive. I looked down the list of newspaper offerings and didn’t find any newspapers from where my ancestors lived (which is usually the case). But I did find that The Toledo Blade was available from 1874-2006. Since my husband has lots of ancestors from Toledo (and he didn’t go through the microfilm when we were in Toledo last weekend), I decided to search for some obituaries to add to his family tree.

Here are some of my observations after using Google News Archives’ newspaper browsing:

  • The image quality is very low. It depends on the issue, but I found the images to be scanned at a much lower quality than other newspaper sites. It made them hard to read and I couldn’t get very good images from them to add to my files.
  • You can’t save the images. I used the “Snipping Tool” in Windows 7 that allows me to get a snapshot of any part of my screen that I want.
  • I was unable to search the images. The OCR scans seemed to be lacking, possibly due to the poor image quality. So you pretty much have to browse these newspapers.
  • The newspaper editions are not properly sorted. I found that Google said that issues were missing that were actually included in the previous date’s images. Make sure you browse the editions before and after a missing date and you might find what you are seeking.

Google does lots of things great. But I was not impressed with this new feature. Although I obtained many obituaries, I found the process to be lacking. I am used to much higher quality images and the ability to search within them. I hope to see Google improve the News Archive experience and add more newspapers in the future.

How I Influenced Ancesty – The Tale of Unenhanced Images Part 2

Over the weekend, I listened the the Genealogy Guy‘s 200th episode. While listening I heard my name mentioned (again) and wondered what they would say.

Here is a little background information:

As you know I spent the summer, fall, and winter resourcing my database. I also organized my digital files so that I could actually find them. During this time, Ancestry had been adding “enhanced images” to their website, meaning that they were attempting to improve on the old census images. Since they said they had better images, I decided to download the new images to replace my old images while organizing and resourcing my files.

Then in January, I discovered that I could no longer read the images of the 1860 census for some of my ancestors. The “enhanced images” were in fact “unenhanced”. I wrote about it on my blog and asked if anyone else had see the same problem. No one left any comments that they had similar problems.

On February 2nd, I emailed the Genealogy Guys (George and Drew) about what I had discovered. I had two reasons for this. Ancestry is one of their sponsors and they kept running an ad about the “enhanced images.” I was tired of hearing an ad that I had proven to be untrue and truthfully I was just tired of hearing the same ad every podcast.

In episode #196 on Feburary 7th, George read my letter. His advice was to use the “Report an Image Problem” link on Ancestry. This wasn’t really the advice I was seeking. What I really wanted to do was stop the ad from playing over and over again and get Ancestry to understand that there was a larger problem than just one census image. I had found the problem in a few counties and throughout all the images for those counties.

Then this weekend I listened to episode #200. Finally I got what I wanted. (Well the same ad still played, but …) Gary Gibb and Chad Milner from Ancestry contacted George about the issue. According to George, they looked at my blog post and then looked at the images on Ancestry. There was indeed a problem and they have reverted to the old images until new ones can be scanned and uploaded. I am glad that Ancestry saw this as a problem and that they have addressed the issue.

I am amazed that my email and blog posting had an effect over Ancestry. I am glad that George and Drew helped get this issue into the open and get resolved. (And I’ll just get over the fact that the same ad keeps playing!)

When I first started this blog, this is what I wanted to see happen. I wanted to put problems that I had doing my genealogy into the open so that companies would fix them. I wanted to show the genealogy companies what I need to do better research so that they will know how to help me and everyone else. I just can’t believe that it actually worked!

Finding Meaningful Ancestry Hints

One of the things I like about having my tree on Ancestry is the shaky leaf (Ancestry’s way to tell you that it found something that may be of interest to you). I love when a hint pops up to let me know that Ancestry thinks it has found a record for one of my ancestors.

That said I also find the hints annoying. I hate receiving hints for English birth registrations when the person was born in Indiana. I hate getting all excited that there is a new hint only to find the hint about the wrong time and place.

Of course when I get a hint that a family moved west and it matches everything I know about the family and they disappeared from the town they were born, I love them. Without these hints I would never have tracked down a number of my ancestor’s siblings who went to the frontier.

In the process of cleaning up my database, I also wanted to clean up my Ancestry hints. I had been putting these off for a long time. The main reason was that as of January 30th I had 522 hints. Way too many for me to process easily.

What I found was that most of these hints were for matches to other trees on Ancestry. Although I find these trees to be helpful in giving me a direction to take when I get stuck, I never add them to my tree. I needed these family tree hints out of my shaky leaves so that I could find the records hidden within those 522 hints.

Ancestry started Member Connect at the end of July in 2009. Member Connect gives another place on each person’s individual page to make connections to others researching the same person. You can see what sources they have used and what information they have that you don’t.

So why does Ancestry continue to add family trees to their hints? I wish that they would discontinue this duplication. Plus I hate that it makes it seem that you should just add unsourced information to your tree in order to get more people added.

I went through my Ancestry hints and got them down from 522 to 18 by manually ignoring each family tree hint. 18 actual records that I need to analyze and add to my tree if they are a match. 18 records that might break down a brick wall. 18 records that are useful to my research and my time.

How did I get the number so far down? I told Ancestry to ignore all of the family tree hints. That information is still readily available to me through the Member Connect section. I don’t need it in two places.

I wish that I hadn’t had to waste my time to find the good stuff when there seems to be an easy fix.

Disclosure: I was not paid by anyone for this review. These are my own thoughts and desires to see some changes.

Ancestry Unenhanced Images

I love that Ancestry has been adding enhanced images for the US censuses. As I am resourcing my family tree and organizing my digital files, I have been redownloading the images that I need.

But I’m having a problem. The 1860 census is now washed out in the counties that I am viewing. These counties include Gallia county, Ohio, Jackson county, Ohio and Hancock county, Illinois.

Here’s an example:

1860 Census – The town of Jackson, Jackson county, Ohio

Old image (downloaded spring 2009)

New image (downloaded Jan 17 2010)

If you click the images, you can see a larger image.

What a difference a few months makes! I am glad that I had previously downloaded these images, but how can Ancestry say that they are “enhanced images.”

Is anyone else having this same problem? I have only seen the degraded images for the 1860 census. Leave a comment or send me an email to