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September 2009: Making Connections
11/24/2009
State Debates
Just wanted you to know that after four years of futile searching for information on my great-grandfather’s death in
Missouri, your article “States of Mind” in the May 2009 issue led me to the Missouri State Archives.
 
I typed in my great-grandfather’s name, and in seconds, the actual death certificate was on my screen. If it hadn’t been for the article, I’d still be searching. Thanks so much for the information you give us that helps us break down those brick walls.
Shirley Baker, Cocoa, Fla.

I am writing in response to the article that rates West Virginia as one of the “10 worst places for your ancestors to have lived.” I would like to clarify some of the inaccurate and misleading statements.
  • County records: The records of West Virginia counties are found in West Virginia. Virginia has copies of only a few West Virginia county records from roughly 1852 to 1862. West Virginia statehood in no way affects the availability of county records either before or after statehood. All records were kept at the county level both before and after statehood with no break in continuity for the great majority of counties.
  • Censuses: It’s true that West Virginia didn’t get its own census until 1870, but only because it didn’t become a state until 1863. Before then, the populace is easily found in Virginia census records—the 50 counties formerly in Virginia retained their county names and boundaries after West Virginia statehood.
  • Statewide vital records: The West Virginia State Capitol burned in 1921, but no Department of Health Vital Registration records were lost. Even if they had been, county birth and death records would still be available, because West Virginia began with and has continued with a dual county/state system. West Virginia counties have been keeping birth and death records pretty consistently since 1853.

  • Family History Library microfilm: Extensive West Virginia county records are available, including wills, estate settlements, deeds, immigration records, discharge records, minute and order books, chancery records and more. Births, deaths and marriages in county records were filmed up through 1967 to 1970.
Arguably, West Virginia counties have had far fewer courthouse fires, wartime disruptions or natural disasters resulting in loss of records than most other states, particularly compared to other states in which the Civil War was physically conducted. Additionally, though vital registration enforcement may have been poor in some counties during certain time periods, West Virginia counties never uniformly stopped vital registration at any time, as occurred in other states.
 
The misleading and incorrect statements in this article are damaging to the West Virginia Archives and History Library, as well as other West Virginia institutions that rely on genealogists to support their budgets. By perpetuating myths and misinformation, you have done a disservice to the very people you intended to assist.
 
If your judgments were heavily or solely influenced by the availability of online records, the article should have stated so. Even using that criteria, the West Virginia Vital Research Records database, which is <www.wvculture.org/vrr> offered free on the West Virginia Archives and History Web site—one that has appeared on your own “best” lists in the past—should have carried more weight in these admittedly subjective declarations of best and worst.
Joseph N. Geiger Jr., Director, West Virginia Archives and History
 
PAF Problems
The Toolkit article “Family Trees to Go” in the May 2009 issue was excellent. I even downloaded Personal Ancestral File (PAF), then exported my Family Tree Maker 2009 files to GEDCOM. Alas, PAF reads only PAF files, and Family Tree Maker exports only GEDCOM. I then searched Google for a converter without luck. Is there a simple solution?
Bob Karsteter, via e-mail

I tried to install PAF to a flash drive, but if you already have it installed on your desktop computer, some of the questions in your instructions aren’t asked, such as where to install the program. Can you clarify the process?
Andrew Moehnke, via e-mail
 
Contributing editor Rick Crume responds: To import a GEDCOM file in PAF, select Import from the File menu. Then locate the folder containing the GEDCOM file, highlight the file name and click the Import button.
If PAF is already installed on your PC, you’ll need to uninstall it before you can install it on your flash drive. Select Remove from the installation window and, after it’s complete, click Finish. Double-click on the PAF
installation program again. After installing PAF on your flash drive, you’ll need to reinstall the program on your computer’s hard drive.
 
Answering the ‘Call’
I’m a longtime subscriber and always wished you included more Canadian content, so I was excited to see “Canada Calling” (May 2009). The article was quite good, but there was little mention of Canada’s east coast, where most of the Scottish and Irish immigrants settled in the late 1700s. And there were few sources for researching in Quebec, where Canada’s earliest settlers were located. Many of these eastern immigrants migrated to New England in search of work. One excellent Web site for anyone wishing to research ancestors settled on Prince Edward Island is <www.islandregister.com>.
Bonnie Bertelsen, North York, Ontario
 
Editor’s note: You can learn more about early arrivals to Canada in our June 2006 and May 2008 issues, available at ShopFamilyTree.com.
 
Maker Matches
Editor’s note: In the May 2009 Making Connections column, reader Emily Dahlstrom asked how to add siblings in Family Tree Maker when the parents are unknown. These were among the many solutions readers sent:
 
I give the parents a first name of Unknown. I also use this as a surname for unknown maiden names. For example: If I have a Rose who married Austin Jones, I call her Rose Unknown. This tells me I don’t know her maiden name and should work on finding that information. Whenever I have extra time, I search my index for the given name or surname of Unknown and try to think of a new place to hunt or post a query for information on that person.
Bev Epstein, via e-mail

I’ve used Family Tree Maker for years, and I developed a solution to this problem. I have several families of known siblings with unidentified parents, for example, my great-grandmother Mary Smith and her brothers John and Joseph Smith. In the Family View for Mary Smith, I click on the Add Parents bar and enter the father of Mary Smith as UNKNOWN Smith.

At that point, Family Tree Maker should allow you to enter Mary’s brothers. See if this solves your problem. Hopefully, you’ll eventually discover the parents and complete the file.
Scott Shuster, Houston
 
From the September 2009 Family Tree Magazine 
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