Questions and Answers,
QUESTION: I recently
went to my local LDS Family History Library full
of excitement about finding information about my
family. Towards the end of my first session
I met with some success. Through the Social
Security Index, I found 16 people listed with my
family name. . . . I went to the
Ancestral File Index which would provide me with
spousal and child information. My spirits
were dashed when "no matching files"
appeared . . . The ladies who were working
the library thought that this was the greatest
thing, that I could now be the one to input
all of my family history.
Riddle me this, Batman: How am I supposed to
chart my family heritage when I don't have much
to work with? If the Mormon Church doesn't have
my family, who does?
ANSWER: You want your pedigree? Fine. Get your
birth certificate. Get your parents' marriage
license application. Get their birth
certificates. Get similar info as far back as you
can on every one of your direct line ancestors.
When you get back far enough that you are back to
1920, start looking at the U.S. census. Check
1920, 1910, 1900, 1880, 1870. 1860, and 1850.
Learn to use the soundex system. Get copies of
wills for all of your direct line ancestors.
Check out the cemeteries where they were buried.
Read the headstones. Make contact with the
genealogy societies in the various counties where
your ancestors lived. Check out religious
records. Check for military records. Check for
land transfer records; they are always a barrel
That's only a start. At some point, your
ancestors were on the other side of the ocean.
Learn a bit of the language so you can read
simple phrases. Go back to the LDS to see if they
have microfilms of various records from the towns
and provinces where your ancestors originated.
Take a basic course in genealogy. Go to
your public library and check out a book about
how to do basic genealogy. Learn to do genealogy.
It's considerably more than sitting in front of a
computer and telling it to search its data bases
for a particular name.
Do you think Alex Haley went to his local LDS
library and said, "Where do you have my
How can I find a man's birth record
from Wayne Co., IN, for 1829 or 1839?
ANSWER: That's too early for a county or state
birth record in Indiana. County birth records
didn't begin in Indiana until about 1880. You
might find a baptism record at a local church,
but no government birth record.
The real question is what piece of info are you
hunting for? His exact date of birth? The names
of his parents? His place of birth? There
are other possible sources for all of that
data. Check for his death certificate, the
census back to 1850, his tombstone, the will of
his father (presumably a man with the same
surname), a marriage license application in case
he married after 1880, land transfer
records, military records, pension records.
You might want to contact the genealogy society
in Wayne Co., IN, for further tips.
I have a widow listed in the 1850 census of GA.
All of her children were born in GA. The
oldest is 23 at census time. I have tried
to locate her husband. He is not in the
mortality tables. I can't find a name for
him. I have looked at the children's names
and at their children's names for clues.
John, William, Thomas all seem to be repeated
I have her name. I can't seem to find a will or
any Bible records either. Any suggestions?
ANSWER: Find her death certificate. Her late
husband may have been named on it. Find the
marriage license applications for her children;
parents may have been named on them if they
married late enough. Find the death certificates
for the children; parents likely were named on
them. Those records can be ordered from the
county courthouse. It's always better to deal
with the county courthouse than the state records
This is the kind of basic "how to" info
that new family genealogists can use. Some of us
who have been doing this forever forget sometimes
what we didn't know when we started. I had a
recent contact by a 4th cousin. She was
researching Orlando LANE of Vermilion Co., IL. I
descend from Orlando's sister Cilinda. The
woman's aunt had found a William Lane of the same
county and same township who seemed like the
likely father -- even buried in the same small
grave yard. She was trying to "prove
down." In other words, prove that William
had a son Orlando. My suggestions were simple and
obvious: get death certificates and marriage
license applications on known siblings to find a
parent named. And, if you want to look from the
other way, get a will or estate settlement on
that William. She had hunted for years, and in a
matter of days was able to learn that Orlando's
parents were named as Allen LANE & Hannah
COOK, and that William Lane had no son Orlando.
No apparent relationship even!
Is there any law that you have to wait so many
years before getting a death certificate of a
ANSWER: Generally, no, but it would be a
matter of state law.
What can be used -- without harming the
original -- to bring up faded ink penmanship on
ANSWER: Photo copy the original. Then, on the
photo copy, use a yellow "magic marker"
over the area you want to read. Alternatively,
and less conveniently, purchase a yellow
transparent film that you can lay on top of
the original and read thru. Obviously, not
everything will "appear," but it will
make what's there easier to read.
Where might I find a copy of Mary TODD
LINCOLN's genealogy. According to my
grandparents, a relative of ours married a PARKER
and a TODD who were relatives of Abe LINCOLN's
ANSWER: Ah, yes, the TODDs, as in, "One 'd'
was good enough for God, but the Todds needed
two." That's from honest Abe. :-)
There is a manuscript available on microfilm that
can be ordered thru interlibrary loan. Just go to
your nearest public library and request an
interlibrary loan from the Kentucky Historical
Society in Frankfort, KY. You'll be requesting
the "Helm Papers," manuscript 425,
microfilm reels 12, 13, and 14.
The manuscript was written by Mary Todd's
paternal half-sister Emily (who became Mrs. Helm)
and Dr. Simeon Seymor Todd (1826-1899). It begins
with Mary Todd's Todd great-grandparents and
traces as many of his descendants as could be
Mary's parents were of course Senator Robert
Smith Todd (1791-1849) and Eliza Ann Parker
(1795-1825). The Senator's father was Levi Todd
(1756-1807), and Levi's father was David Todd
(1723-1785). David Todd is a DAR-established
What does one do when you come to a dead end root
of the family tree? Even great-aunts and great-
uncles who are still living don't
"remember," or you get two conflicting
stories. I've been searching the "web,"
but where does one search? Seems like when I get
to where I think I'm going, it's another deadend.
Sorry to sound so "duh!?" here, but
right now I am. Any ideas would be appreciated.
ANSWER: Well, then you start doing genealogy! Not
meaning to be flip, but talking with your
relatives and surfing the 'net is not exactly
genealogical research. Begin with the known, and
move back into the unknown.
Obtain birth certificates, marriage license
applications, death certificates, funeral home
info, cemetery info, gravestone info, wills,
estate settlements, land records, military
records, church records, and bastardy bonds. Look
at local histories of the areas where your people
were. Check the U.S. census with ease back to
1850; with some greater difficulty before then.
Find ship's passengers lists. Seek naturalization
On the other side of the ocean, it's the same
basic idea there.
Go to your local LDS Family History Center --
open free of charge to the public -- to see what
records LDS has filmed for the areas that you are
working. Order films, microfiche.
Check to see if genealogies have been published
on the lines you are working. Check PERSIS, a
listing out of Fort Wayne of the major genealogy
In 1997, an 85-year-old Miss
Bentley wrote the following:
I am searching for my daughter named
Betty Lou born Sept. 30, 1928, in University of
Michigan hospital, at Ann Arbor, MI. My
father Elton Bentley made me give her up for
adoption and told me she had been
adopted through the Job's Daughters of the
Masons. I have tried contacting
them, but they don't respond.
ANSWER: All that is known is that a female child
was born on 30-Sep-1928, at a specific hospital
in Ann Arbor, MI. It is believed -- but not known
-- that the child was placed for adoption with a
Masonic organization called "Job's
Daughters." I'm assuming that's something
like "Catholic Charities."
Almost certainly the child's name was changed,
and all records of the child were kept under the
new name. Also, since the child was born in 1928,
the child (now a grown woman) most likely changed
her surname at least once with a marriage. All
that's known for certain is the date of birth,
and I've seen birth dates altered with adoptions.
The real puzzle in Miss Bentley's case is whether
she signed for the adoption. I would think that
in 1928 a 16-year-old mother would have had to
sign away her parental rights in some way. The
fact that Miss Bentley said only that her father
told her the adoption was handled thru some
organization seems suspect. WHY didn't the mother
have to sign something? I wrote privately to Miss
Bentley suggesting that she engage an attorney in
the Ann Arbor area and try to get a judge to
order that the records be turned over. The ideal
situation would be to get copies of the hospital
records and to get a copy of the original,
unaltered birth certificate. Since the child was
born in a hospital, there had to have been an
original birth certificate.
I also suggested phoning the local Masonic
organization and asking them about the
"Job's Daughters" group.
If you are looking for a Confederate soldier,
would research at the National Archives be the
way to proceed?
ANSWER: My understanding is that the National
Archives does not have
information on Confederate soldiers. The obvious
reason being that the soldiers of the Confederate
States of America were not in the military
service of the United States of America.
The U.S. government did not pay pensions to
Confederate soldiers (obviously) so there would
be no pension records for them. The U.S.
government did not have military records for them
(obviously) because they were not in the military
service of the USA. Some former CSA states did
pay pensions, and there are libraries/archives in
the former CSA that have military records.
However, I've never worked those records so I
could not tell you where to look.
The only ways I can imagine that a records for a
CSA solder would be at the National Archives
might be if he had been captured as a POW and
held in a POW camp; if he had signed a
"re-loyalty" oath to the U.S.
government; if he had been captured wounded and
ended up in a hospital under the control of the
U.S. government; or if he actually served at one
point in the U.S. Army and defected.
Regarding publishing genealogies, how do you
deal with the hurt feelings of those who thought
their step-grandchildren's nieces and nephews
would be included? Some say to include
stepchildren as part of the family; others say
ANSWER: Include the stepchild in the notes, and
mention who the child's actual father or mother
was. HOWEVER, do not attempt to attach a stepchild to a
person as if the child were the actual child of a
stepparent. That is not genealogy; it's
after-the-fact sire and dame selection.
Pardon my farm talk, but once your cow's bred,
the father of that calf has been selected.
Let's not get into the social issues here about
how Sally barely knew the father of her first
child, and that she regrets her involvement
anyway, and how her current husband is "such
a good daddy." And on, and on. Let's
just get our genealogy straight. The reason to
note stepchildren is because the information can
help to place the individual or individuals on
whom you are doing genealogy.
Stick with the facts in genealogy. Not the
fantasy. And, getting back to the exact question,
don't include anyone's "step-grandchildren's
nieces and nephews." That's rather far
afield, but your phrasing the question that way
gets across the point that these people are not
Recently I found that a family cemetery of my
ancestors was destroyed by the man who now
lives there. Are there any laws to prevent
this? This particular property is in
Pennsylvania. Does a person have the right
to pull up gravestones for any purpose?
ANSWER: It depends on the state. Check with a
genealogy society in that area, and you can learn
both the state law and the local practice. In
reality, stones don't last forever, and the earth
moves them around. You know, to get my sympathy,
it depends on how many stones were there, the
condition of the site, how often any descendant
visited to tend them, and how old the burials
were. Life goes on. However, in Indiana at least,
cemeteries may not be disturbed, and access must
always be allowed. If you officially
"own" a grave site in Indiana, you may
never do anything with that land other than
improve it as a cemetery; you must allow access
-- even if across your property -- to the graves;
and you are not taxed on the land.
Cemeteries aren't exactly an "asset"
anyone would want. ;-)
However, in Indiana at least, the practice is
always to politely look up the official
"owner" and politely "ask"
whether he'll allow you to cross his property to
visit the grave site. It's also proper to put in
some "jaw jacking" time with the owner
to show him that the folks he's got buried on his
land lived lives such that the graves that he
puts up with are worth his inconvenience. If
you're really good at it, you can get him
interested enough to tend the site and keep it
"lookin' real purty."
At this point, deal with what you've got. Maybe
you can get someone to talk him into telling
where he dumped the stones so you can at least
try to get info off the stones. Other than that,
comfort yourself with the knowledge that your
ancestors have returned to the earth.
How do you read inscriptions on old grave stones?
ANSWER: There's an ongoing debate among
genealogists about using shaving cream on grave
stones to read the engravings. I just returned
from a week in Vermilion Co., IL, and Carroll
& Clinton Co., IN. Arm-chair theorists and
defenders of rocks can say what they want, but
nothing beats shaving cream and a squeegee for
being able to read old & often inaccessable
stones. Some of these stones were so
"cruded" with lichen that the lichen
filled all the crevices and had to be brushed off
These stones were inaccessable and would not have
been read by anyone except for an old kook doing
genealogy. And this old kook doesn't have the
physical stamina to lug much more than
a small bag over hills, dales, creeks,
rocks, five-foot weeds, and fresh cow patties in
a quest to get info from the old stones. In my
small plastic bag from the grocery store, I kept
a natural bristle scrub brush; a can of shaving
cream; a rubber dust pan to use as a squeegee;
small clippers to cut away brush; rubber gloves;
a small pad of paper & a pen; and an extra
roll of film. My camera hung from my neck.
Use the brush to clear off the crude. Spray with
shaving cream. Use the rubber dust pan to wipe
off the excess shaving cream. Take a photo, and
write down what you are able to read.
Many of us who do genealogy are old, fat, &
arthritic, with bad feet and breathing problems,
and we've traveled a long way with only a very
short time in any one location.
The info on any stone eventually will be lost.
Stones don't last forever. Acid rain, bird
droppings, lichen, and nature will eventually
take them all. It's the information
that we should want to preserve. Many stones on
which I've used shaving cream over the years had
information which had been lost to all for
decades before me & my shaving cream wandered
thru the woods to find them.
The object is the information, not the stone. A
rock that no one can read serves no purpose. What
a shame if the information had been there for the
taking, but some "preservationist"
preventing the taking of the knowledge when it
How do you record children born to
ANSWER: I'm not a priest. I'm a journalist and a
genealogist (genealogy is a form of journalism),
and I record facts.
Please, to all folks even dabbling in genealogy,
"Just the facts, ma'am." Except for the
rarest cases, if a child comes out of a woman's
body, the woman is the natural, legal, and
genealogical mother. Generally speaking, we take
her word on who the father is. Without proof to
the contrary, her word (regardless of in what
fashion) is accepted as proof. There are
exceptions, but they are exceptions.
If your genealogy software will not allow you to
enter a child without "marrying off"
the parents, either change software, or tell
yourself in your own mind that "spouse"
means "conjugal companion for at least one
brief moment, even if with the assistance of a
turkey baster." If you're creating a chart,
the standard symbol for a child-producing union
that was not recorded in the county clerk's
office is an equal sign (=) with a slash thru it.
(The mathematical symbol for "is not equal
to," which in genealogy means "was not
What if you're using someone else's transcription
ANSWER: If I'm using someone else's
transcription/translation, I'm not really sure
WHAT the records say. Let someone else be
credited or blamed for his own accomplishment or
error. If the translator/transcriber goofed, the
error can be tracked to him. At the same time,
naming the translator/transcriber can add
validity to the genealogy report. If the
translator/transcriber is known as a good one,
the report has more credibility.
How accurate is the information on the microfiche
at LDS? Could it be that the date
should have been 1863 and not 1873? I
am looking at the microfilm from
Meurthe-et-Mozelle, France now.
ANSWER: I assume you mean you are looking at an
LDS-made microfilm of some original record from
France. If that is the case, you must judge the
original record. All LDS does is go in with a
camera and photograph what is found in all sorts
of places. Look at everything in the record and
attempt to determine what it is you are looking
at: An original record? A hand-copy of the
original record? Someone else's compilation of
When you say "accuracy of the LDS," you
need to be specific about what records you are
talking about. At an LDS Family History Center
(genealogy library), you will find all sorts of
stuff. Two sets of "stuff" have been
created/compiled by LDS: the International
Genealogical Index [IGI] and the Ancestral File.
The IGI is an index of folks on whom LDS members
have done "temple work." The question
to ask always is "what's the source for the
info?" If the source is a submission by an
LDS member, the info is only as accurate as the
person who submitted the request for "temple
work." If the source is "an
extraction," the chances for accuracy are
better, and you can go to the original record
yourself to check.
The Ancestral File is the ultimate of
"garbage in/garbage out." ANYONE can
create a gedcom file with ANY info, submit it to
a specific LDS address in Salt Lake City, and the
info will end up as part of the Ancestral File.
The info is checked in only one way: Folks born
within the last 90 years who have no date of
death noted are assumed to be alive, and their
info is deleted for privacy. When you prepare the
file, if you make the goof of noting the death as
"after June 1993" as a way of telling
yourself the person was alive at least as late as
that, the person will show up in the Ancestral
File -- even if he's alive. THAT can be
The rest of the records you will find at LDS were
created by someone other than LDS. They are
microfiche and microfilm of all sorts of records
-- primary, secondary, tertiary, and so on. Some
good, some garbage. And of course, there are
books at any LDS library; again, the accuracy
depends on the source and the researcher/writer.
Folks seem to understand automatically that the
LDS is not responsible for the accuracy of any
books. The confusion seems to come in film and
fiche since the LDS usually created the film or
Is the term "Collateral
accepted genealogical term? I have a
problem understanding the use of this term.
ANSWER: Collateral descendant is a perfectly
valid genealogy term. It means a person
"came down the same line as another."
It specifically does not mean
direct descendant. Basically what it means is
that you share ancestors with someone at some
direct point. More often it is used to mean that
one descends from a sibling of someone. So, when
folks talk about being "collateral
descendants" of George Washington, they mean
they descend from a sibling of George.
Because it is so well known that G.W. had no
direct descendants, some collateral descendants
of G.W. sometimes refer among each other to being
G.W. descendants. I'm sure none is trying to
"fool" anyone; it's just a verbal
A friend of mine claims his family roots have
been traced to "Biblical times." Is
this realistically possible? What sources
would be used?
ANSWER: The quick answer is that your friend is
either being silly or is easily fooled. Take your
pick. There are no genealogies considered
"proven" before about 600 A.D.
However, most long time genealogists have seen
silly genealogies tracing clear back to Adam and
Eve. When someone mentions something like that, I
make a quick judgment: Is the person who is
saying this a simple fool who is not worth my
time explaining why he/she is wrong? Or, is the
person educable? If I judge the person to be a
fool, I smile and say, "That's nice."
At the same time, some folks will do what could
loosely be called "Bible genealogy":
They follow the "begats" in the Bible
to create a "Bible genealogy." However,
none of those genealogies can be connected with
known, provable genealogies of folks beyond times
of the Bible.
I have been finding information on relatives that
lists the place of birth as German-Poland. I
don't understand the meaning of this. The
years of these dates are 1865-1881. Why is it two
names instead of one?
ANSWER: History. Poland was "off the
map" and under foreign rule from 1795 until
1919. By 1921, Poland had acquired all of its
land back from Russia. In 1939, Russia invaded
eastern Poland while Germany invaded from the
west, and the Polish government went into exile.
At the end of WWII, Roosevelt & Churchill
graciously gave away part of Poland to Russia at
Yalta -- because of the "help" that
Russia had offered to the Allied forces. In
reality, all Russia had wanted out of WWII was
that eastern strip of Poland. The only reason the
Russians fought the Germans is because the
Germans almost took the strip. (Ya. Try
explaining to Poles that Russia was an ally
during WWII! LOL!)
And, at the Potsdam Conference after Germany
surrendered in '45, Poland was given a strip of
what had been eastern Germany. Long story.
Pull out any basic encyclopedia.
Now, what does this all mean for your genealogy
while you're finding birth dates from 1865-1881
noted as "German-Poland"? Well, first
thing it means is that you are not dealing with a
primary source. Second thing it means is that
someone who wrote it that way was likely trying
to convey that the event happened in an area that
would likely have been part of the Polish
territory before WWII. But, to tell you the
truth, it's anyone's guess what was meant by the
phrase. You're dealing with a non-primary record
and a phrase made up by you-know- not-whom to
Best advise: Pull out some basic stuff on the
history of Poland and make your own best guess.
Is there a proper way to ask someone whether his
family is Caucasian or Afro-American? I do
a lot of telephoning to hopeful family
connections that I get from phone books. A lot of
my family names are popular to both races.
It would save me money and them time if I could
ask this question at the beginning without
meaning any disrespect. I would like to ask
the question the same way you might ask if your
family has red hair or black hair.
ANSWER: Unless you know and have met your 2nd,
3rd, 4th cousin (whatever), you really can't
begin to guess if he/she's white or black. Better
to begin your call by saying, "I'm doing
genealogy research on the descendants of [fill in
the name] who lived in [fill in the place] and
who died in [fill in the year]."
The reason a lot of names are popular to people
of a variety of shades is sometimes because some
of those people are related.
For example, I work the CRIPE line. The immigrant
ancestor was white, a German who arrived in the
1700s. While most of his descendants are white,
one male descendant before 1950 married a black
woman. Another line I work is the TODD line. As
in Mary Todd, Mrs. Abe Lincoln. The immigrant
TODD was a white Irishman. However, one TODD man
sired a child with a black slave, claimed the
child, and gave the child his name. The TODDs
were outraged -- not because he'd fathered a
child with a black woman, but because he claimed
My point is, if you are white, you could easily
have very close blood relatives who are black.
And, if you are black, the same is true. The line
between "white" and "black"
is artificial, most especially in the USA.
The correct way to use the maiden name
is to put it in parentheses between the first
name and the married name; for example, Mary
(Jones) Smith. Check out some obits and
marriage announcements from the 1950s and
earlier, and you'll see the maiden name listed
this way. Besides, the maiden name came
before the married name.
RESPONSE: Actually, you are wrong. Or at least
not 100% right. There are many ways to state a
person's name. The traditional and formal way
that is found from days of yore -- and even among
the formal folks today -- is a bit different from
what you've described.
There's a little French word that has come to be
accepted in English. The word is
"née." It means "born."
Thus, if Mary as a married woman served as
someone's matron of honor, her name would be
written as follows: Mary Smith, née Jones.
Also, you will find in some documents that Mary's
name would be written as follows: Mary Smith,
I've seen the "born Jones" example on
old wills and tombstones. Particularly among
Germans. I guess they figured that they'd moved
from German to English, but that French would be
one move too many.
In Catherine Coulter's "The Wild
Baron," the hero's brother is married in an
illegal union where the brother deliberately
hires a non-preacher to marry him to a girl so
that she would be under the impression she was
married. My genealogy question is this: If
you had that illegal license and a christening of
the resultant child, would that be enough to
prove descent from the people mentioned in the
license for one of the linage societies? If not,
how much more would be needed?
ANSWER (1997): We have a man sitting in the White
House who has a similar genealogy problem:
William Blythe, Jr., now known as William
Jefferson Clinton. Mr. Clinton's mother -- a gal
whom even the far right media had no desire to
tarnish -- was a young nurse when she met a
smooth talker. He swept her off her feet and
asked her to marry him. She said yes, and went
thru what she had every reasonable reason to
believe was a valid marriage. She met his family;
his family never breathed a word.
HOWEVER, the senior Mr. Blythe already was
married, and the family knew it. Since a man may
not legally have two wives in the USA, the
"marriage" to the unsuspecting nurse
Eventually the senior Mr. Blythe did divorce the
wife, but since he did not again
"re-marry" the nurse or actually marry
her for the first time, the marriage to the nurse
was never legal. In such a situation, the man
could be charged not only with bigamy, but also
with rape-by-deception. He used the bogus
marriage for obvious purposes.
These things happen not just in books, but in
real life. Now, would a lineage society accept
it? Ummmm, I would guess it would depend on who
was asking! Certainly if Chelsea Clinton were
asking, she'd pass the test. If Betty Bumpkin
were asking (or if the request were coming from
one of those many half-siblings that turn up for
the poor President), I don't know what the answer
would be. Despite how any may disagree with
politics on one side or the other, as
genealogists I suspect we can all appreciate the
awkwardness that Mr. Clinton has been forced to
endure for reasons not of his making. This is one
area he's handled with simple honesty as the
story has unfolded for him. It's been a case of,
"These are the facts; they're beyond my
control; I won't try to hide them."
What is the meaning of "Member
Post 629 GAR," found on a grave stone?
This inscription is on my gggrandfather's
head stone. He was born 1844 and died 1921.
Any info would help. .
ANSWER: It means the man served in the Union Army
during the Civil War and was honorably
discharged. He then joined an organization for
Union Army veterans of the Civil War called
"Grand Army of the Republic." To join,
he had to have been honorably discharged from the
Union Army and voted into the GAR by the existing
It also means you can find from the National
Archives military papers on him, and [almost
certainly] pension papers. You may find pension
papers for both him and his widow if she survived
You also can likely find him on the various
veterans censuses that were taken around 1890.
They are usually in the state archives.
And, it means you could join the Sons of Union
Veterans of the Civil War.
Should I share my info with a 4th cousin who is
becoming interested in genealogy, or would the
sharing would "spoil his fun."
ANSWER: My advice is share the info. Let
him spend his time verifying your data or finding
new info. You and he share only one line; you
won't have "given him everything." And,
by giving him the info, you may learn more
yourself. In the information game, two plus two
generally equals more than four.
When a person has two spouses, are the
grandchildren of the first marriage, half-cousins
of the grandchildren of the second marriage?
ANSWER: Yes, you are correct. They would be
Also, what is the relationship of a
great-grandchild of the first marriage to a
grandchild of the second marriage?
ANSWER: They would be "half first-cousins,
When a woman was granted a divorce, did
she automatically get her maiden name
back. I know that in 1861, this was
the case for one woman, but this may have been
requested by her.
ANSWER: Give her back her name? Who took it? The
fact that a woman legally marries -- now or in
1861 -- does NOT mean she loses the name she used
prior to marriage, and it does not mean she must
use in any way any part of her legal husband's
name. That's a fallacy believed by . .
. well, fill in the blank!
The last I researched this was in 1974. At the
time, there was only one state -- Hawaii as I
recall -- that REQUIRED a woman to use her
husband's surname as her own after a legal
marriage. One other state required that it be
used on her driver's license. I would not,
however, be surprised if those laws have been
overturned by now. My point is that no other
states had at any time ANY laws about what name a
woman would use after marriage. Also, there is no
law against a person having TWO names (or more)
so long as no name is used to defraud. Look at
the Hollywood folks.
Whether a woman who married, used her husband's
surname as her own, and then divorced would
choose to continue using her "married
name" or revert to her "maiden
name" would be a matter of choice. The
choice might depend on many things. The amount of
bile felt at the mention of her ex-husband's name
might be one of the biggest factors.
"Etiquette" is one thing; there's your
version, my version, and the version of the man
behind the tree. Law is another thing.
So, the woman may have gone back to using her
"maiden name," or she may have
continued to use her "married name."
I'm looking for any information on a
little one-room school located in the SE corner
of Saugatuck Township (Michigan). I want to know
when it was built, and all about it.
ANSWER: The best place to find any info about
that school is in that county. Check with the
historical and/or genealogy society specific for
that county. If there is none for that county,
hunt for the closest.
Check with the school system for that area. Find
out exactly what piece of land the school was on,
and start checking for land records.
What is the correct tombstone
inscription when: Married couple Mr. & Mrs.
A; the wife dies. Married couple Mr. and
Mrs. B; the husband dies. Surviving Mr. A
marries surviving Mrs. B. The plan is
that when the new couple dies, each will be
buried with his/her ORIGINAL spouse in different
However, they want their respective tombstones to
acknowledge their SECOND marriages to each other.
Is there a traditional way of inscribing this?
ANSWER: Well, how much $$$ do you want to spend
on the inscription? The traditional way would be
for the tombstone of the original "Mrs.
B" who then became "Mrs. A" to be
buried under the name "Mary B A."
Generally, there would be no mention of her
second husband except in the fact that she would
have had his last name at death. The really sad
thing about this is that "Mary" was
born neither "B" nor "A." She
was born "Z," and that name will be
lost until some genealogist digs it from the old
The husband from couple A would be buried under
his name: the same name he always had. No mention
of any second wife.
This is "traditionally," but if you're
paying for the engraving, you can do whatever you
have the $$$ to do.