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Welcome to the Kaufman County, TX
page for "newbies"!

Written by Abby Balderama
Copyright © 1999-2012 by Abby Balderama

Page Index:

New information on this page is enclosed in a box just like this message is.

Introduction to the internet and e-mail

The internet can be a puzzling place.  Trying to research your family's history can also be puzzling, not to mention frustrating.  Trying to learn how to do genealogy on the internet can be over-whelming!

If using e-mail, doing genealogy, or both, are new to you, this page was written with you in mind!  While not all of your questions will be answered here, this page is meant to help clarify how to succeed in your attempt at genealogy on the internet and possibly make the road less frustrating.

We'll start with e-mail . . .

Why not type in ALL CAPITALS?

This is considered to be SHOUTING! although many people, using it sparingly, intend it to be used for emphasis.  The proper way to specify emphasis in e-mail is by surrounding the word or phrase you want to emphasize with asterisks (*).  Here is an example:

Genealogy on the internet can be fun, *but* there are a few things you need to learn first.

Common E-mail terms (or ACRONYMS)
(that may be puzzling)

LOL = Laughing Out Loud
TIA = Thanks In Advance
TTYL = Talk To You Later
ROTFL = Rolling On The Floor Laughing
ROFL = Rolling On Floor Laughing
ROTFLOL = Rolling On The Floor Laughing Out Loud
BTW = By The Way
IMHO = In My Humble Opinion
IMO = In My Opinion
FWIW = For What It's Worth
FYI = For Your Information

Some examples of "e-mail smiles"

:) nose-less smile
:-) smile with nose
(-: left-handed smile
:-D laughing
:-O Oh, no!
;-) Winking
:-/ Skeptical
:-p Sticking tongue out
<:-I Dunce
:-I Hmm
:'-) So happy you're crying
<g> grin

Links with more information on e-mail

EFF's (Extended) Guide to the Internet


Copy and Paste

This is one of the most powerful computer tools!  Instead of retyping text, you can use this option to save you a lot of time and effort.  To copy text, highlight it by placing the cursor to the left of the text you want to copy.  Left-click and drag the cursor to the end of the text you want to copy.  Use the "edit" pull-down menu to select "copy" or simply hit the ctrl key and the "c" key at the same time.  Move the cursor to the place you want to put the copy (for example, this can be another program or an e-mail window) and then either select "paste" from the pull-down menu or hit the ctrl key and the "v" key at the same time.

(Remember, words that are underlined on web pages or in e-mail messages are usually active links to other sites.  Clicking on them will take you to the new page.)

How to Change the Font size of your Browser

Don't like the size of the fonts you see on webpages?  Is the text too small or too large?

Usually you can change them by adjusting your browser.  In Netscape, select "Edit" and then "Preferences", "Appearances" and then "Fonts".
In Internet Explorer, select "View" then "text size".
(For other browsers, try using the "help" file for your browser.)

Hints on Dealing with spam

Spam is unwanted bulk e-mail which is often, but not always, of a commercial nature.  Here are some guidelines to minimize the annoyance of spam:
  1. Utilize "spam-killing" software to cut down on the number of spam you have to sort through.  You can often set this software to automatically discard the messages so you don't have to bother looking at or deleting them.
  2. Set up e-mail filters for messages you often receive from legitimate senders.  For example, if you subscribe to a mailing list, set up a filter for all of the messages that come from the mailing list, another for messages from your friends and family and another for messages from your service provider.  If most of the messages that end up in your inbox are spam, it will be much easier to sort through and delete them.  You may alternately filter out all messages that don't fall into these catagories into a folder you mark as possible spam.
  3. Don't respond to the message.  If one is provided, don't click on the link to "opt out" of receiving the message; doing so will often result in you receiving even more unwanted e-mail as this confirms to the spammer that the address they have for you is a valid one.
  4. Use separate e-mail addresses for "public" and private messages.  If your service provider does not provide more than one e-mail address, consider signing up for a free e-mail account such as can be found at Yahoo!, Juno, Hotmail or other places on the internet.
  5. Don't give out your e-mail address more than is necessary.  However, trying to hide your e-mail address is not only inconvenient (as people you *want* to get in touch with you won't be able to) but it is not foolproof.  Spammers collect addresses from legitimate mailing lists, web pages, Usenet newsgroups, chat rooms and ISP member directories; they can also "guess" your e-mail address.
  6. If the e-mail address given appears to be a legitimate one from a company you are familiar with, you may want to consider reporting the abuse to the spammer's service provider; however, since spammers often use bogus e-mail addresses, this may not be a viable alternative.
  1. Stopping Spam: Stamping Out Unwanted Email & News Postings by Alan Schwartz and Simson Garfinkel, published by O'Reilly & Associates, Inc., Sebastopol, CA, 1998
  2. e-mail essentials: how to make the most of e-communication by Matt Haig, published by Kogan Page, Milford, CT, 2001

Now, on to genealogy! . . .

Did you know that spelling was not standardized until modern times?  When looking at old records, oftentimes you find the same person's name spelled differently on the same document.  Don't let changes in spelling fool you!  Sound out the surname (last name) you are researching and write down any variations you can think of for how the name might have been spelled.  An example is the surname "Graham" which might have also been spelled "Gram" or "Grayham".  When searching for information on that family, keep the variant spellings in mind and check for them also.

This is especially true for names that start with silent letters.  An example is the surname "Knowles" which might have been written "Noles" in some records — if you fail to look up the "Noles" spelling, you may miss some important information on the family.  You should apply this to soundex searches (often used for searching census records and by some search engines) — check the soundex for both variations and you might find some elusive ancestors!

Also keep in mind that the early records were hand-written and must be deciphered before being typed up.  Often the person who transcribed the old records mis-read and "o" for an "a" or vice versa.  The hand-writing may have been sloppy, smudged or otherwise illegible.  Other errors may have been made when the record was transcribed as well.  This is why it is advisable to check the original document.

Where can old documents be found?

Many sources may now be found on the internet can be found: census records are widely available through HeritageQuest which many local libraries subscribe to.  FamilySearch.org has many records available as well.  Most of these records are searchable which makes them easy to find.

Nevertheless, more information can be found "out in the real world".   There are many places where you can find old books and other records telling about your ancestors!  These can be found in archives, libraries, genealogy sections of public libraries, Historical and Genealogical Societies and even used-book stores.  Many out-of-print rare books have been filmed and are available on microfilm or microfiche.

There are genealogy libraries scattered throughout the world.  Here is a list of a few in the U. S. (this is not a complete list):

Library of Congress
National Archives (NARA) -- check their site for branch libraries throughout the U. S.  Many American Military records are also available.
LDS Library in Salt Lake City -- check their site for branch libraries throughout the U. S.  The holdings of the Library are now on-line!  See the catalog at the Family Search site.

East Coast
Free Library of Philadelphia
New York Public Library

Dallas Public Library
Fort Worth Public Library
Texas State Library (Austin)
TX State Library Genealogy Collection
Clayton Library (Houston)
Daughters of the Republic of Texas Lib. (San Antonio)
TN State Library
Allen County (Fort Wayne), IN Public Library
Illinois State Archives
IL State Historical Library
IL Regional Archives Depository (IRAD)

West Coast
Los Angeles Public Library
California State Library (Sacramento) -- the Melvyl database also contains the holdings of the Sutro Library in San Francisco.

The Importance of Your Own Research

     It may be tempting to search the internet to see what you can find on your family and use it, and no other source, to construct a "family tree".  Caution must be used when obtaining information in this way!  Unfortunately, many times information posted on the internet is undocumented and/or uproven and may have been collected by a person unskilled in genealogy and may merely be family "rumors" that have been passed down but are yet to be proven.  The same holds true with genealogy collected by a more "old fashioned way" — that is in books that have been written — mistakes made in an original published source have a tendency to be repeated in later published sources).  The only way to be sure the information you have gathered is true is to consult primary (otherwise known as original) records.  Original records are often found in court houses and archives.  Records that have never been published and are not found anywhere else may be found at courthouses and other depositories.

     It is also important, once you have gathered the data on your family, to organize and analyze what you have found.  Oftentimes there is conflicting information and you will need to determine which is the most correct information.  For instance, which date should you consider to be the most-likely date: one found on a gravestone, that found on a death certificate, or the one found in an old family Bible?  Consider where and when each date was recorded.  The death certificate was recorded at the time of death, the gravestone may or may not have been inscribed at the time of death (stones were sometimes placed to mark a person's grave years later).  Was the date recorded in the Bible at the time or years later?  Look at the copyright date for when the Bible was published as well as other dates recorded.  Were the dates recorded in the same hand-writing?  Were they written with the same ink?

"Pitfalls" of Genealogical Research

There are several "pitfalls" of Genealogical Research which you should try to avoid.   The first pitfall is to accept what you find in print without checking it out first.  Just because something was printed before does not mean it was proven to be correct and many errors found in one printed source have been repeated in other printed sources.  The only way to be sure that the original source was copied correctly when put into print is to consult the original source.

Another pitfall is confusing people living in the same locality with the same or a similar name.  Don't assume because you find a "Jr." and "Sr." living in an area that they were father and son.  In addition, just because a name appears to have English origins doesn't mean the name originated in England; many surnames have been "Anglicized".  The same thing goes for Germanic surnames; having a German name does not mean that the family actually lived in Germany just prior to emigrating to America.

Be careful not to assume that a term used in an old 17th or 18th century document had the same meaning that the word has today.  A few common examples are the words "gentleman", "Mr." and "Mrs." which were used to denote social position.   An unmarried woman of high social status may have been refered to as "Mrs." so-and-so; for example, don't assume because you see a reference to a "Mrs." Jones who lived in the 17th or 18th century that she was married to a Mr. Jones.

Caution should be used when it comes to family traditions; never assume that because a tradition was passed down in your family, it is "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth."  While a family tradition may lead you to finding more information on your ancestors, be aware that there have been instances where family traditions have been proven to be partly true while others have been proven to be completely unfounded.

Another problem genealogists encounter is with dates. Sometimes different primary sources give dates that are contradictory.  It is always best to keep track of the various dates you find and the source for each one but it is especially important to do so when contradictory dates have been found.  Always check to make sure the dates make sense, too.  Another problem with dates occurs in older documents because there was a change in the English and American calendar in 1752 from the Julian (named for Julius Caesar) or Old Style to the Gregorian (named in honor of Pope Gregory XIII in 1582) or New Style.  For more information on the change in calendar, see "The 1752 Calendar Change", by Paul Prindle, The American Genealogist (TAG), 40:246-48 (Oct. 1964).


Pitfalls in Genealogical Research by Milton Rubincam, Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry Publishing, 1987.
"The 1752 Calendar Change", by Paul Prindle, The American Genealogist (TAG), 40:246-48 (Oct. 1964).

     Primary records are the actual records of birth, marriage, death, obituaries, census records, gravestones, military records, pensions, wills, deeds, land records, court records, etc.  They were taken "at the time" and not written by someone years later.  This is not to say that primary records don't contain errors, but consulting primary records not only greatly decreases the chance of an error being made (after an analysis is made using several primary records if necessary), but this is what makes genealogy so much fun!  For a genealogist at heart, there is nothing quite as thrilling as finding a record of your ancestor after spending hours (and sometimes years) searching through records!  Especially when this information turns up a bit of information on your fore bears that you had never seen before.  Fortunately, the internet has made collecting primary records easier as information on where you might obtain the records as well as actual images or typed copies of the records can be found.
     In addition to referring to primary records, consulting history books to learn about the time and place your ancestors lived in can also be very revealing and rewarding and can bring the names and dates you've collected "to life".
     So, remember, what you collect on the internet and through relatives is only the beginning!  Don't miss out on the thrill of consulting not only the books that may have been written on your ancestors, but the primary records, too!  A name, date and place, though essential, is only the beginning . . .

Some Research Tips

(Be sure to also visit the Kaufman County Research Tips for more tips on researching your ancestors.)

I asked for, "Everything you have on my grandfather" and I got no response back.
This is an unanswerable request.  In the first place, you should remember that you are writing to a living person and not to an all-knowing <grin> computer.  You need to be very specific about what you are looking for.  Even if this request had included your grandfather's name, it would not be enough.  This is even more true when your grandfather had a common surname, such as Jones, Smith, Johnson, etc.

Some questions you should ask yourself before asking someone else for information, posting a query, or posting a message to a mailing list are:

When was he born and where did he live?
What were his parents' names and when and where did they live?
Did he have any siblings?  If so, what were their names and where and when were they born?
What were his wife's (or wives') name(s)?  When and where did they marry?
What were the names of their children?
When and where were the children born?
When or where did he die? Where is he buried?  How about his wife and their children?
Did he ever serve in the military?

These questions may lead you to realize you have more information than you thought!  Now, how can you go about finding more information on your grandfather and his family?

Have you checked with other relatives to see if someone in the family has an old Bible with family information written in it?  Bibles can be wonderful sources of genealogical information.

If you know when and where your grandfather (or whatever ancestor you are looking for) died, you may be able to find an obituary and/or death certificate on him.  What will this tell you?  The information varies and one never knows until they look!  Don't expect to find everything about him in one source and you need to realize that there are often errors in any source (even those "written in stone" such as a grave marker!)  Which brings us to cemetery records — what can they tell us about our ancestors?  Again, the information varies, but you may find a date of birth for him and you may find graves of other family members who were buried nearby.  Be sure to also check with the cemetery office and the funeral home to see if they have any records; sometimes they have information not found elsewhere.

Other sources of information on your ancestors may be:
Vital records which are usually kept at the County Clerk's office.  These include marriage, birth and death records.  Not all events have been recorded and this is especially true of those during and previous to the 19th Century.

Census records, deeds, wills, probate records and military records are all other souces you should look for in your search.  Many of the census records have been indexed by state and you should begin looking in these indices for your ancestors, starting with the most recent census that is available to the public (this is the 1930 census).  Work your way backwards to the 1930, 1920, 1910, then 1900, 1880 (the 1890 census was mostly destroyed), 1870, 1860 and 1850 censuses.  These census records contain the name of every person who was living in the household at the time the census was taken.  (For earlier census records from 1840 on back to 1790, the first census taken in the U. S., there is only the name of the head of household listed but everyone else who was living in the household is represented by a tally according to their age and sex.  Not all of the census records previous to 1820 have survived.)  For the Southern States, there are also slave schedules available for 1860 on back and mortality Schedules are available for 1850-1800.

Keep in mind that when the records were written, they were NOT necessarily written with the thought that someone who comes along years later will be using them to search for their family history!  Even books written on your family can contain errors and the best way to be sure you're not "climbing up the wrong tree" or running into a "brick wall" due to incorrect data is to verify the information by comparing it to a copy (or microfilm) of the original document.

Putting it all Together

Once you have gathered information on your family, you may notice some of the information differs from other information.  This happens very often with dates.  For example, you may have birth years gathered from census records (and these may vary), an exact birth date from a Bible record and another exact birth date given on a death certificate.  When you try to enter these dates in a genealogy software program or on a family group sheet, you will notice that they don't all match up.  You should always keep track of all of the dates and where they were found as well.  Which date is the "correct" date?  You may never know for sure, but you can try to decide which is the date that is most-likely correct when you look at all of the information you have gathered as a whole.  You should think about where each of the dates came from and how an error may have been made along the way.  Continuing with the example of finding various dates for a birth, you should keep several things in mind: if the date came from the census, you should consider it to be approximate, not exact, as these years are often off by a few years and sometimes the census taker estimated the age he thought the person looked; if the date was found in a Bible, it may either have been written at the time or years later and the person may have made a mistake when they wrote it down but the chance that it is correct is higher than if it was found in the census as it was probably written by someone who knew the person (like their mother or their sister).  The year the Bible was published may help decide when it was written; if the Bible was published years after the date, you can be sure the entry was not made at the time of the event.  If you got the date from a death certificate, the person who submitted the birth date to the clerk may have made an error in their time of grief but my experience is these are usually pretty accurate.  The date may be confirmed by comparing it to the date found in an obituary or on a gravestone.  This example could be applied to death dates as well.  These are examples so, keep in mind that other mistakes may have been made as well.

Remember that record-keeping has not always been what it is now and errors were quite common.  Even in the 1920s, it was common to have a birth certificate with an incorrectly spelled first and/or last name (or have the first name filled out as "Baby Girl" or "Baby Boy".  Please keep in mind that when you find such an error, it does not necessarily mean you have not found the record for the person you are looking for.  This type of discrepancy is to be expected when you are researching your family's history.

This is not meant to be an all-inclusive guide to genealogy, but I hope it has helped you have a better understanding about how to research your family history as well as on how to use e-mail.  Good luck with your search for your ancestors!

If you think you're ready to ask for a look-up, visit this site next:
Examples of unacceptable and acceptable look-up requests

Be sure to visit the Kaufman County Searchable Databases page to look for information that may already be posted on your Kaufman County family members.

Links to Pages Helpful to "Newbies" on the Kaufman County, TXGenWeb Site

Links to other sites

Other useful sites

The Kaufman County "Newbies" page was written for the
Kaufman County, TXGenWeb Project site
by Abby Balderama
This page was created on April 28, 1999.
Copyright © 1999-2012 by Abby Balderama
Coordinator of the Kaufman County, TXGenWeb Project site

(Notice to Webmasters:  Please DO NOT POST the information found on this page onto another web page without asking permission first and without including the copyright notice.  You may not copy and paste the information on this site onto another web page without first obtaining explicit permission to do so.)

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