Friday, February 8, 2013

Follow-Up Friday - Helpful and Interesting Reader Comments

It's Friday, so time to follow-up on posts from the last week that have received helpful or interesting reader comments and questions.

1)  On Finding Plat Maps for the James Vaux Land Holdings (5 February 2013):

*  Taversoe commented:  "One way to download an image when Ancestry's interface doesn't provide for that is to click on Print instead. Ancestry will give you another simplified webpage, with just the image and a title on it. Instead of printing, use your browser to save that webpage to your computer (use the "complete" option). In the folder it saves the page in, there should be a jpg of the image."

My comment:  I hadn't thought of that.  I tried it, and it saved the "Complete Web Page" as an .htm file on my Windows 7, Chrome browser computer.  I can snip the image then, but the resolution is only 72 dpi.  It's better than nothing...

*  Anonymous offered:  "Real estate sites such as zillow and redfin often have info about real estate including when a building was built, which in some cases might help you find an ancestors house (if it still exists). Of course, the date those sites give could be wrong, I suppose.

"As an example, check out: for instance see:"

My comment:  I keep forgetting about Zillow!  Thanks for the lead.  And the photo of a snow-covered house!

*  Anonymous also offered:  "Or this one (from 1845?) -"

My comment:  That may be one of the other homes on the same "block" - there were several owners on the 1866 plat map.  Thanks for the leads!

* said:  "Wilhem Willink was the owner of the original Holland Land Purchase in Erie County so Mr. Vaux was one of the original settlers in Erie County."

and:  " you already know about the Holland Land Purchase History, there is an interesting museum called the Holland Land Office Museum in Batavia, NY . Aurora is still there but part of East Aurora now and quite a picturesque thriving village. If Vaux died in England, then I assume you do not need graveyard pictures?"

My comment:  Thanks for the information about the museum, that sounds like a place to visit when/if I get to East Aurora.  From what I read on Wikipedia about the Holland Land Company, Mr. Willink was one of the Dutch principals that got very rich by buying the land in western New York and then selling lots.  Apparently, they never came to America.  James Vaux first bought land in 1832 after immigrating, so he wasn't one of the "original settlers" of Erie county, but was the first to settle on that particular parcel.   

James Vaux died in England on a visit to his family after one of his siblings died there, and he is buried in Somerset according to my Vaux cousin.  His wife, Mary, died in Aurora in about 1844, but I doubt that there is a stone.  There are 3 Vaux memorials and 4 Underhill memorials in East Aurora Cemetery on Find A Grave.  I don't know if there are more there.

*  Chris Staats said:  "I have mixed feelings about this, and a much simpler request - that they just digitize and put the deed indexes online. If they do create an "index to the index" - I still want to be able to see images of the compiled index. While a searchable index would obviously be wonderful, I wonder if it doesn't introduce yet another level of potential error in searching for records. "Error" is not really the right word, but I don't know what else to call it. So you create an database, based on a compiled index, which itself was created from individual volume indexes. If the compiled indexes themselves aren't viewable, and the indexes to individual books (where they exist) aren't also digitized, how can a researcher really be sure that a particular record "doesn't exist", or a transaction they are looking for "must not have been recorded"? I like the convenience of records being searchable, but I also think that researchers need to recognize that just because something isn't in the index database doesn't necessarily mean that it doesn't exist."

My comment:  I agree with you about wanting to see the images of the index, but I know from experience, and watching/listening to many society colleagues, that they cannot figure out how to search the Browse Only collections.  It is just too hard for 80% of the genealogists out there.  Without at least a searchable index, they won't even try to search the database.  Concerning the errors, we can't control what the scribes wrote or typed, nor what the indexers see.  So we need to be able to see the images of the index to find all of the possible entries.

*  Debbie Blanton McCoy noted:  "I would also love to see the deed and probate records online. I don't care if they are indexed or not; however, they are going to have to list them by county and date, or some title that makes sense. Today I tried to browse the Texas County Marriage Records and they are listed by digital file numbers like 004820654. These numbers don't even match the FHL film numbers. There is no way to find a specific county or time period without opening each digital folder to see what is in it and there are approximately 155 folders. In other records, the files were in alpha and/or chronological order, but I could not determine any order to these records."

My comment:  This is exactly why we need the searchable index, isn't it?  If you look at the probate and land records they've already put in the collections, they are organized by County and then by the different types of books (e.g., deed index, deed book volume, etc.).  It sounds like a Texas society needs to index those Texas marriages.

*  GeneJ commented:   " I work mostly on historical personalities/families that predate modern census and vital records. It is just not possible for me to approach a "reasonably exhaustive search" working with the low lying fruit (census and vital records) of that era. Access to the probate and real property records from this era are going to change the family historians perspective about genealogical research. For these materials, in particular, the "indexing" work itself would be a lower priority for me. I've been using the FamilySearch historical record collection "browse images" feature for some time. More and more, I actually prefer to work the collections this way."

My comment:  Some of us are able to work with these browse only records effectively, but many cannot and will not even try.  There's an educational challenge for the genealogical societies and bloggers to expose these records to the masses, and teach them how to use them.

*  Jason said:  "I wasn't aware they had these records online. Last night I found a land record for a GGG grandfather that led me to the will of his wife's father, breaking a brick wall that I've had for a while.  Also, just learning how to use the indexing systems in these records takes some research as well!"

My comment:  Way to go, Jason!  FamilySearch is adding probate and land records occasionally - usually stater-by-state.  So you have to keep checking the collection page.  The indexing systems can be a challenge - usually the front pages of a specific index book will describe the system (we.g., the Russell indexing system).  This is also why I like to explore these databases myself and blog about them - it may lead a reader to find new information and help solve their research problem.

*  Sven-Ove Westberg commented:  "Land records are interesting. But an index of the index is overkill. Just add some pointers to where the different parts of the index are and the same for the records. 

"But you also have the half indexed records on Ellis Island. The only name that is searchable is the immigrant. You also have the relatives in the homeland and the most important information the name and address of the person that they are going to."

My comment:  The land records are quite extensive - over 8 million images for New York State alone, including indexes and deeds.  They can be negotiated, but records are not easily found, especially for persons who may have resided in several counties, or states.  Indexes of the indexes would really help.

It sounds like the Ellis Island records need to have the indexing enhanced to include all of the important fields.

*  Mariann Regan offered:  "This is a super idea, indexing the indexes. There were so many volunteers to index the 1940 census, surely some local genealogy societies could step up! I'm getting 'sworn into' the DAR this weekend. I'll ask them what they think about this project. If only the deed and probate records could go online, that would help tremendously."

My comment:  The more encouragement we give, the sooner it will get done.  It's an especially good project for local societies who could do their county and break the task up into manageable pieces.  Erie County, New York has a BIG collection to index.

*  Wonderland Girl said:  "Thanks for the reminder. With so many newspapers charging and arm & a leg to print obituaries in their paper, most funeral homes do that at no extra charge."

*  bgwiehle noted:  "In my obituary searches, I also use Google News Archives and Find-a-Grave. I might check the Obituary Daily Times ( for date and newspaper name. I often check and compare the funeral home obit, especially if the newspaper version is only a death notice.  Google will also find obituaries archived at GenWeb and other personal websites.  I tend to ignore Unless they've changed recently, their entries are SSDI names, dates and locations presented in sentence form."

My comment:  We all need reminders like this one, don't we?  Thank you, bgwiehle, for reminding me about the other sites too.  

5)  That's it for the week - land records and obituaries were my hot topics.  My thanks to all of my readers who commented and managed to defeat the obnoxious, but effectively span-controlling, Captcha feature.

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

1 comment:

Finn said...

Randy, FYI, seven digit numbers from FHL starting with a "4" are digital images most likely from FHL films or possibly from current "fast track" filming now underway.

Also for grave information, BillionGraves now has 3 million images online. Indexes can be found at either or or of course,