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Ask the Patch Pro: Researching Your Family Tree

Patch is teaming up with genealogy experts to answer questions about finding your roots on Wednesday.

Patch File Photo.
Patch File Photo.
It's time for another edition of Ask the Patch Pro, where each week readers get to interact with professionals by asking questions on a wide variety of topics. Our team of experts stop in to help you out and answer your questions.

This week, we've teamed up with librarians Jim Rhodes and Cynthia Millar to get all of your questions about genealogy research answered. 

Rhodes and Millar will answer reader questions in the comment section of this article on 
Wednesday, Sept. 18.

Have a question about about researching your genealogy or the tools available to do so at local libraries? Ask below!

Jim Rhodes has been the Information Resource Manager for Local History and Genealogy for the St. Charles City-County Library District since 2004.  Prior to that, he was the Manuscript Curator at the St. Louis Mercantile Library.
He is a graduate of Northeast Missouri State University (B.A. History 1990) University of Missouri--St. Louis (M.A. History 1995) and the University of Missouri—Columbia (M.L.S. 2002)He lives near Cottleville with his wife and two children. In his spare time he works on his own genealogy.

Cynthia Millar the genealogy librarian at the St. Louis City Public Library Headquarters. Millar has been with the library district since 1976. 
Mary Smith September 16, 2013 at 12:12 PM
I am interested in researching my Mother's side of our family. She was born in Czukas, Romania. Thanks to the Ellis Island web site I have the ship's manifest & the ship that brought her and her mother to this country. But I cannot get any info from Romania. I believe that the village has changed names. Where do I start to get more info? Any help you can give me will be greatly appreciated. Mary Smith Affton, MO mamie46@charter.net
Craig A Bandy September 16, 2013 at 03:18 PM
With the help of Ancestry.com and other online resources, I have been able to trace my family back to 1500 in England. My six times great grandfather was the one to make the trip over the Atlantic. I haven't been able to locate any information as to when or why he came to the colonies. He was born in Liverpool in 1722 and died in Virginia in 1795. Where else could I search to find out more information?
Charles September 17, 2013 at 10:02 AM
Most of that info is available for free from https://familysearch.org/. The Mormons have one of the largest genealogical databases in the world.
Joe Scott September 17, 2013 at 04:07 PM
My great-grandfather John Scott was killed in a race car crash during the 1904 World's Fair (he worked at Fairgrounds Race Track). All we know about him is that he was a Protestant and was from Ireland. We've been unsuccessful in locating his grave site although a newspaper account of the crash said he was to be buried in Calvary Cemetery (his wife was Catholic). We've been through Census data. Any idea of how to find more information on tracking him back to Ireland?
Jim Rhodes September 18, 2013 at 10:11 AM
Ms. Smith, First you'll need to find out where the village was. My advice would be attempt to locate maps of Romania that might show the village. Once you had the region you might be able to track down the what the current name of the city is and begin looking for civil records. Church records may also be helpful but unless you know the religious denomination that might be difficult. Of course you can always just start with the biggest.
Jim Rhodes September 18, 2013 at 10:17 AM
Mr. Bandy, Birth, Marriage and Death record weren't nationalize in UK until 1837. Records prior to that are held locally in the "parish records" you can find more information via the UK nationals archives. at. http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/looking-for-person/birthmarriagedeathenglandwales.htm#dummy-link
Jim Rhodes September 18, 2013 at 10:28 AM
Mr. Scott have you checked the burial search form for St. Louis Archdiocese Cemeteries? http://archstl.org/app/cemeteries/burial_search
Kalen Ponche September 18, 2013 at 10:29 AM
My uncle has done a lot of research on our family history and he wants to pass it on to me, but it's all in one of those ancestry programs. Should I just pony up and buy it so I can have access to the data? Is there a free program that I could transfer the information to? I don't have the time to continue his research now but I don't want to lose it either. Just curious about the different programs or ways of formatting information. Anytime I try to do a family tree in a word document it looks crazy and no one can follow it.
Jim Rhodes September 18, 2013 at 10:32 AM
Charles, While there is much good information available through the family search website the real value of the Family History Library and their family history centers are that genealogists can order and view many original records on microfilm. I've discovered many errors in my ancestral line using their family tree features. As with anything information you discover on the internet you will want to verify with copies of the original documents whenever possible.
Jim Rhodes September 18, 2013 at 10:39 AM
Kalen, Data migration is a huge problem in the digital age. The LDS church has developed an open source file structure to hold that information. It is called a gedcom file. See if your uncle can download that information as that type of file. It should remain your best shot to open it in another program sometimes in the future. I'd also want to keep a paper form of the information, for all you hear about the rise of a paperless society, you can't beat dead tree for longevity. Most of those programs have a "report" feature, print it out, stick it in notebook. Sure in 30 years you may have to re enter it, but at least you'll still have the info.
Jim Rhodes September 18, 2013 at 10:41 AM
As a matter of course, I don't recommend one program over another. I haven't used enough of them to form an opinion.
Kalen Ponche September 18, 2013 at 10:49 AM
Thanks Jim!
CreveCoeurDad September 18, 2013 at 11:32 AM
I've found that obituaries are often invaluable sources of info, but if they're from outside the St. Louis area, they can be difficult or expensive to obtain. Which local libraries, including the university libraries, has the best source of online or microfilm newspaper records from outside St. Louis? And are the university libraries accessible by the public? Thanks.
Bonnie Krueger September 18, 2013 at 11:56 AM
My mom's dad abandoned her at age 5 and knew almost nothing about ihim Through a stroke of luck and fate, I was able to track down her half siblings, who all live in Sweden (my mom and her father were Yugoslavian born). Confirming he was the same man (who also abandoned his second family), I got a good birth date and place. They even checked with the Swedish Archives to see if he could be traced. They wrote that he no longer existed on Swedish records as of March 1964. Ancestry.com and familysearch.org show no records (death or otherwise) for him either. Is there anywhere for me to go from here? What brought me and my mom's half siblings together is that we were both searching for the man who abandoned both sets of kids. Honestly, we wonder if he was offed and sent off a cliff and that is why there is no official records of him. He was a very bad man.
Jim Rhodes September 18, 2013 at 11:57 AM
Most university libraries will allow you come in and use their microfilm. Access to digital resource are dependent on the contract with the vendor and therefore policies can differ, but I would expect to NOT be able to use them for free. For recent obituaries and death notices you might find NewsBanks America's Obituaries and Death Notices helpful. For older newspapers the St. Charles City--County Library District subscribes to a product called "Access Newspaper Archive" this has some local newspaper digitized and is full text searchable, although it is far from comprehensive. As for out of town newspapers on microfilm, I don't believe you are likely to find much other than major dailies like the Washington Post, New York Times or Wall Street Journal, both cost and space are issues when storing newspapers on microfilm and out of town newspapers simply aren't collected in that way. If you know the exact date of the death you might try contacting the library in the area and see if they will do a quick look up for you. Many libraries will do this if the dates are known. We do. However the less information you have the more likely a library won't. Few libraries have the time or staff to do that type of research, especially for patrons from outside their service area. My advice in that case would be to look for a local historical or genealogical society in the area you are looking. They often do that type of work for a fairly minimal cost. That being do not expect that it will be free. If you have a lot of searching to do in that area consider joining the society, they usually to do look ups for the members as a reduced rate.
Jim Rhodes September 18, 2013 at 12:05 PM
Ms. Krueger, Classy guy. I'm a little confused by you post, assuming he at some point came to the United States. You will likely have a difficult time for a number a reasons, the biggest one being that this gentleman probably did not want to be found and took precautions to hide his identity. Furthermore I assume nobody knows where he went after he abandoned the family, which means you don't have a place to begin your search. Given what you do know I'd imagine your best shot at records would be court records. I'd start with the immediate area where you last knew he lived. But other than that I'm not much help.

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