IN THIS EDITION -- February 21. 2002


Some Dept. of Interior Sites Back Online

The Web sites of the National Park Service at have returned to the Web after a 10-week court-ordered shutdown of all US Department of Interior computer communications. The Bureau of Land Management site, however, will be remain offline indefinitely, according to the New York Times. This site contains a large database of land patent records which has been a big boon for genealogists. The DOI shut down its computer system, including internal e-mail communication and public Web sites, because a federal judge pointed out its vulnerability to hackers. This vulnerability endangered some $500 million in annual Indian trust funds, which the department manages. Officials have determined that 40 percent of DOI Web sites are safe enough from hackers to re-open.

Burke's Peerage Launches Site


Seeking noble and royal ancestors from the British Isles doesn't have to be a royal pain anymore. Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, one of the major sources for aristocratic lineages, just launched its Web site at, putting 5,000 family records at your fingertips. The new database includes Burke's Peerage & Baronetage (106th Edition), Burke's Landed Gentry Scotland (19th Edition) and Burke's Landed Gentry England & Wales (18th Edition), which will all be updated throughout the year. The site also contains interviews, color illustrations, a readers' forum and articles. To search the records, you'll pay $25 for 24 hours of access or $99 for an annual subscription.

For six steps to trace your royal roots, check out this article in the April issue of Family Tree Magazine.


National Archives Recovers Stolen Documents

The National Archives and Records Administration recently found 59 historical documents that were stolen by a former employee and sold to manuscript dealers and collectors. Still, hundreds of items remain on the market, including presidential pardons, documents relating to land grants and the slave trade, and photographs taken by astronauts in space and on the moon. Former NARA Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives employee Shawn Aubitz is accused of stealing the records while he worked at the Philadelphia facility, then offering them up for auction on eBay. NARA officials are attempting to locate the remaining records, and formed a task force to review internal security measures. So far, Aubitz faces one count of theft of government property.

Patience Pays Off


This week's tip comes from Shannon Cooper of Fair Play, Mo.:

"Patience may just pay off for you one of these days! For about five years I have waited patiently (and sometimes not so much so) for a church in Indiana to respond to my repeated requests (and reminders) for information regarding a German family line. This church holds the keys to my research locked within its decaying record books. When I would call them periodically to remind them that I was still waiting, I heard things like "We have a new pastor," "There is only one here who can read the old German writing," "We can't photocopy them because the books are falling apart," and "What is your address?". Each time their answers sounded very valid, so I would wait another six months to a year before calling or contacting them again.

"My patience has paid off! They finally answered this past August! I learned middle names, birth, baptism, marriage and death dates. They even included the entire listing of children and grandchildren when recorded within their records! This is my ONLY source so far for some of these family members. Of course, their answers only opened more questions to be answered and I promptly sent them another letter requesting even more detailed information on my great-great-grandfather.

"I may need to wait another five years, but it will be worth it. I only pray that fire or flood do not destroy the precious links to my heritage. I am grateful that there is even one person there who CAN read those old records, and thankful for their willingness to help a stranger."


Census Highlights


Census enumerations vary in length and content. With each succeeding census, the government added questions to predict the nation's needs in education, retirement, housing, and health care. Even the 1790 census, with the least amount of information, provided statistics on future military capabilities.

* From 1790 through 1840 only the heads of household were named, and all other family members and slaves were listed statistically. Some early Spanish and British colonial censuses do name every member of the household-even slaves.
* Beginning in 1850 each household member was named with accompanying data.
* The place of birth (state or country) of each person was first reported in 1850, and this continued through 1930.
* The post-Civil War 1870 census is especially important if you are researching black ancestors. Prior to 1870, free blacks were named individually; slaves were reported only by age and sex.
* Reporting the place of birth of the parents of each person named in the census began in 1880 and continued through 1930.
* The 1880 census is the first to identify the relationship of each person to the head of household.
* Only the 1900 and 1920 census schedules have a Soundex index for all families in all states.
* The year of immigration to the United States is reported only in the 1900 through 1930 census schedules.

Excerpted from Your Guide to the Federal Census by Kathleen W. Hinckley, $19.99. Reprinted here with permission from the publisher Betterway Books. Available in bookstores or online.