FamHist Blog

Family History Research Hints and Tips

Trouble in Birmingham

Getting drunk and disorderly in Birmingham, England often generated tough penalties.


31 March 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Not Armed


With the price of ammunition going so high, sometimes home defense is relegated to your neighbor.

27 March 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Saving Death Certificates

If any of your family members died in Missouri between 1910 and 1959, their death certificate should now be online.  The state sent notification out this week that they have added the range of available certificates up to 1959 … an increase of ten years coverage. 

Several other states also offer death certificates online as well.  At least four of them are:

There is no cost to print them on your home printer.  They have put the images online as a kindness to genealogists and to avoid as much of the copying and associated labor expense as possible.

I use the free Irfanview editor to massage the image.  I recommend downloading and installing the Plugin’s too.  (Yes, there are many other excellent image editors available …  I use them too, but Ifranview works the best for me in this application.)

Simply point at the death certificate on your screen, right mouse click and choose "Copy".

Then click on Irfanview to make it the active program, then on ‘Edit’ at the top of the screen and choose ‘Paste’ from the drop down list.

You now have a copy of the image in the temporary memory of your computer.

Straighten the image if needed by using the Image > Custom Fine Rotation tool.  This tool is in degrees and there are 360 degrees in a circle.  Entering 358.3 will tilt the image 1.7 degrees to the left, etc.

When it is straight, point to the top left corner of the image, hold your left mouse button down and drag your pointer to the bottom right corner (just the opposite if you are left handed).  You can now see the crop line around the image.  If it needs to be moved a little, slowly move your mouse pointer over the line where it needs to be adjusted and when the pointer symbol changes to two parallel lines, hold the mouse button down again and drag the crop line to the position you want.

Click on Edit > Crop selection and all the edges are cropped.

Next resize the image to something that will print on 8 1/2 x 11" paper.   I always print in portrait orientation so the certificates stand upright in the protective sleeves in my storage binders, but you may want to do something different.  

In my case, I change the width to 8"     Image > Resize/Resample > Set New Size > Units = Inches > change the width to 8".  Be sure that the "Preserve aspect ratio" has a check in it.

While on this page, I typically change the resolution to 72 dpi rather than the 300 dpi used in the original image.   There is little to no readability lost and for these images, that is ok.  This saves drive space.  Try it both ways and see how it works best for you.   You’ll quickly develop a rule of thumb for images of this nature and it will usually be very different from the one you use for photo images, etc.

You may need to tweak the image for readability now too.   Tools > Color Corrections.

I save a copy of the image now.   File > Save As  (surname firstname deathcertificate) in my genealogy documents folder.   I always use the surname first when file naming so the images are automatically sorted by family making a future look up easy.

Print a hard copy   File > Print

Don’t forget to transcribe the data from the death certificate as a source in your database …  Primary source for the Death and Burial and Secondary source for the Birth…

Also tie the image you just saved to the source record for the person.  If you are using Legacy for example, it will show up as a thumbnail image by the source text in reports.


From now on, you can look at the image from within your genealogy application …. typically by clicking on it and then on the ‘Open; or ‘View’ button  ..  or by double clicking on it.

The image in this example just filled my 4th 3" binder of Death Certificates.   I’ll teach you how to number and index them for easy retrieval in another post.

25 March 2010 Posted by | Certificates | , | Leave a comment

It Must Be Spring


The ‘Tell’ ? Kids in bunny costumes.

21 March 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Blindly Following a Ghost Trail

In 1991, I received a large wall pedigree chart from a man who asked for help in his ancestral quest.  He hoped I’d be able to help him topple a brick wall in his ancestry because of the extent of my research into my surname.

In subsequent visits to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, I poured through vital and town records hoping to find ‘the’ source that would extend his lineage back in time.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything in any of the records that helped.

Flash forward nineteen years.  I opened the chart in the semi-annual ritual established in the first year I’d had it in my possession.  As usual, no new information has surfaced other than a photo of his tombstone that has been posted on Find-a-grave and on a family tree in Ancestry.com

There was never any doubt of his existence.  The problem was the claims of his lineage.

The review of the current 113 family trees posted for him on Ancestry run true to form.  All but a couple of them are wrong.  Half boldly claim that his parents were one couple and the other half claim that they were another couple.  The six that are correct are in that category because they don’t list his parents.

The trail of ants who have posted the wrong information need to be stopped in their tracks.  None have sources.  Apparently, none have done any original research.  If they had, they would know that their claims were wrong.  The town vital records prove that their claims are garbage.  The four generations of Mayflower passenger books would puncture the rafts of baloney that they have cast on the waters.  Even family history and less documented books would tell them to stop, backup and get their head in the correct orientation.

But alas, the team from Bug’s Life continues to pack their ‘nuggets’ while blindly following the south end of the ant in front of them.  Because the nugget makes it an easy load to bear, others following them embrace it with gusto, spreading its false scent in ever widening circles.

A research note with today’s date is entered in my records (yet again), stating that regardless of the ‘new’ family trees being posted about this man, his lineage is still unknown.  It will say where to find the photos of his headstone and where to find the records of his Revolutionary War service, but as much as I’d like it to, it won’t say who his parents were, where they lived or paint a lineage tree back to Adam and Eve.

Maybe the information will surface in six months during the next review of this record.  I think I want to find his lineage as much as his descendants.  I’ve been in the hunt for almost a score of years.  Opening or closing the door in this quest would be a welcome event.   Maybe, just maybe luck will be with us next time.

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14 March 2010 Posted by | Genealogy | , | Leave a comment

Sharing The Pain


When the little missy got in trouble, so did her dolls.

13 March 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bandits Seize Kansas Town


12 March 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

F-15 Pilot in Training


With all of the budget cuts, even the trainer aircraft have been scaled back.

11 March 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Marines Landing on Rendova Island – 30 Jun 1943


Marines landing on Rendova Island in the Solomon’s on 30 Jun 1943 – World War II

4 March 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Battle of Antietam


The Battle of Antietam was fought on the property of my ancestor.

1 March 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment