Johns Family Research Group - Frequently Asked Questions

Johns Family Research Group - Frequently Asked Questions


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Frequently Asked Questions

The below frequently asked questions, along with their respective answers were compiled from the numerous inquiries we have received regarding general ancestry research. These questions are outlined with the intent that our experiences may be shared with you. Although we are unable to do your research, we will help you to help yourself with your research by providing suggestions on where to begin.

Please spend a few minutes to review RootsWeb's HelpDesk, as you may find your answers from these wonderful resources.

If you have a question that is not listed here, please send an eMail message to the Webmaster.

  1. Do I have to be a Research Member to use these resources ?
  2. Where do I start ?
  3. What do I do next ?
  4. What records do I select to search ?
  5. What is an "Ahnentafel" ?
  6. How do I find my female ancestor ?
  7. What is a Census ?
  8. What are Mortality Schedules ?
  9. What is a Census Index ?
  10. What information does a Census Index contain ?
  11. How can the actual Census Records help me in my family history research ?
  12. Why am I unable to a find person in the Census Schedules or in their Indexes ?
  13. What can I learn about my family from a Census Record ?
  14. What about Census information after 1920 ?
  15. What is the JOHN-L, JOHN-D mailing list ?
  16. How do I Subscribe to/Unsubscribe from the JOHN-L, JOHN-D mailing list ?
  17. What are the JOHN Message Boards ?
  18. How do I write a successful query ?
  19. What queries can I post? Where can I post my queries ?
  20. What is RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project ?
  21. What is a GEDCOM file ?
  22. Can I add, change or delete my GEDCOM entries ?
  23. Must I delete my existing GEDCOM file before uploading a new/updated file ?
  24. May I download my existing GEDCOM file from WorldConnect and make changes ?
  25. If I delete my GEDCOM file from WorldConnect, is it permanently deleted from RootsWeb's database ?
  26. What searches can I do? What's being searched ?
  27. Where are other web sites I might search ?
  28. May I download information from the JFRG® web site ?
  29. Is genealogy help available? Where do I go to get support ?
  30. How can I give feedback ?

1. Do I have to be a Research Member to use these resources?

You don't necessarily need to be a Research Member of the Johns Family Research Group's national genealogy network hosted by RootsWeb to enjoy the use of our plentiful resources. Visit our JOHN Message Boards or JOHN-L, JOHN-D Mailing List links for information on how to begin or further your research.


2. Where do I start?

Identify what you know about your family. Write what you know on a pedigree or four generation chart (available from your local Family History Center). If you don't know exact dates or places, estimate them. Gather more information from family members and relatives. Interview older relatives; look in family Bibles, letters, obits, etc. When you find new information, write it on your pedigree chart.


3. What do I do next?

You have filled out what you know about your family on a pedigree chart. The next step is to decide what you want to learn about your family. Choose an ancestor from your existing pedigree chart about whom you would like to know more. As a suggestion, select an ancestor who was born before 1900. Select one question, such as "When and where did h/she die?", as the objective. In general, find out about this ancestor's death before the marriage (of the next generation), and the birth after the marriage (of the previous generation).


4. What records do I select to search?

There are two types of genealogical records. Compiled records are records of previous research by others, such as a biography, family history, or genealogy. Original records are records created at or near the time of an event, such as birth, marriage, death, census records, etc. In general, search compiled records first, as much of the work may already be done (HINT: Ancestral File is a family search computer file that contains genealogies from families around the world. The information is mostly about deceased people who are linked into pedigrees. This file contains over 35 million names and is available free at The IGI File [International Genealogical Index] is also available with over 600 million individual names of people who lived from the 1500s to the early 1900s.)


5. What is an "Ahnentafel"?

This is a German word meaning "Ancestor Table". It is an efficient way to organize a pedigree, for it creates a continuous list of ancestors instead of chart. It is particularly useful when corresponding with another genealogist because it allows h/her to see immediately where your genealogical research ends and, where your family and h/hers might have common ancestry. Many genealogy programs will create an Ahnentafel-style genealogy report for you.


6. How do I find my female ancestor?

Begin a time line with her birth and end it with her death. Fill it in with the various events (e.g., occasion, time and place), which make up her life. This line will begin to tell a story all her own and stimulate your curiousity. More questions will be raised. Then establish a broad foundation of solid fact (in the US), by reviewing, checking and verifying Federal and State Census records, Civil Death certificates, Marriage records, Deeds and Land related records, Probate and Guardianship papers, Naturalization documents, to name a few.

This information should be interwoven and supportive of other family facts. Be sure to have at least three sources which confirm specific information (e.g., birth dates, birth years, places). Check Census and Civil vital records on the woman, her husband and her children first. This often provides the most information with the least time outlay. Once females became US citizens in 1921, Declarations of Intent and naturalizations became commonplace. Prior to this period, a female was naturalized if she owned land in her own right. Declarations of Intent normally include much more biographical detail than do naturalization documents. Dates and places of birth, and dates of immigration are usually noted.


7. What is a Census?

A census is defined as an official enumeration of the people of a nation, state, district, or city, together with the collecting of statistics concerning their property, nativity, age, sex, occupation, etc. Since 1790, the US has recorded the national population. Early censuses were essentially basic counts of inhabitants. By 1920, census enumerators asked twenty-nine questions of every head of household and almost as many questions of everyone else in the residence.


8. What are Mortality Schedules?

Included in the 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses were a separate set of questions regarding those who died in the twelve months prior to the census. They list people who died between June 1 through May 31 of the year prior to the census. Even though these mortality lists are widely believed to underreport the actual numbers of deceased, they are still a valuable source of information. In many states where vital records were not kept during these periods, they provide a nationwide death register for each of the five years between 1849 and 1880. The schedule lists the deceased's name, sex, age, race, whether widowed or not, place of birth, month of death, occupation, and cause of death. In 1870 the parents' birthplace was added.


9. What is a Census Index?

Census indexes serve as the gateway to original and compiled records by identifying where people lived. Few sources are as comprehensive or easy to use. They are the first place most US genealogists begin their research. Census indexes save time and can lead to much more information.


10. What information does a Census Index contain?

Like other indexes, the AIS Census Index database contains only a portion of what is found in the records to which it refers. In this case, the census indexes contain name, state and county (and often township) of residence, census year and type, and page number where the person is found in the census record. It is important that researchers continue on in their research to locate a person in the census records themselves, as they will contain more information and verify that the index entry was correct. Even if an entry is not located in an index, researchers should still check the census records for the appropriate locality in the event indexers missed the person.


11. How can the actual Census Records help me in my family history research?

Few records reveal as many details about people and families as do the federal censuses. The census is often the best starting point for further genealogical research. If nothing else, census records are important sources for placing people in specific places at specific times. When you can't find any family, vital, or religious records, census records may be the only means to find any details of a person's life.


12. Why am I unable to a find person in the Census Schedules or their Indexes?

From the first census in 1790 to the most recent in 1990, the US has experienced difficulties in gathering the precise information it desired for several reasons. At least one of the problems experienced in extracting information from people for the first census continues to vex officials today - there were and still are many people who simply doubt the content of the questionnaire. Many citizens have worried that their answers to these questions may be used unfavorably. Despite the wealth of information available in census indexes, there are limitations. These included incomplete, poorly transcribed or recorded statistics and simply, incorrect information.


13. What can I learn about my family from a Census Record?

A census record provides information including the age, sex, race, occupation, and birthplace of each person in a household. You can also find information about whether or not members of the household attended school, are literate, or married within the year. You might also find answers to these questions - What is the name of the slave owner? What were the places of birth of the person's parents? In what year did this person immigrate to the US; and if naturalized - What was the year of naturalization?


14. What about Census information after 1920?

To protect the privacy of a living person, access to population schedules is restricted for seventy-two years after the census is taken, so they are not available to researchers during that time. The Personal Service Branch, Bureau of the Census, P O Box 1545, Jeffersonville, IN 47131, will provide, for a fee, official transcripts of census records from 1930 to 1990. Access is restricted to whomever the information is about, their authorized representatives, or, in the case of deceased people, their heirs or administrators. Use Form BC-600 to request information.


15. What is the JOHN-L, JOHN-D mailing list?

The JOHN-L, JOHN-D mail list is to be used for genealogical purposes relating to the research of the surnames Johnes, Johne, Johns, John and variations. To view our mailing list archives click the JOHN-L, JOHN-D Mail List link.


16. How do I Subscribe to/Unsubscribe from the JOHN-L, JOHN-D mailing list?

Please visit our JOHN-L, JOHN-D Mail List link and read the topics on "How To Subscribe To or Unsubscribe From" and follow the instructions regarding our mailing list procedures.


17. What are the JOHN Message Boards?

These bulletin boards are to be used for viewing and posting brief pieces of family genealogy Queries, Bible Records, Biographies, Deeds, Obituaries, Pension Records, Wills and Testaments. To view our bulletin boards please click the JOHN Message Boards link.


18. How do I write a successful query?

Before you write a message to our lists, please spend a few minutes searching a list's archived posts for your answers. By doing this, you will be able to compose a brief and concise message that should be read, as well as generate responses.


19. What queries can I post? Where can I post my queries?

You may not post material that is secured with a "copyright" without the author's permission. You may post your query in several ways. By sending a message to our JOHN Message Query Board, your message will be viewed by a general audience with the possibility of receiving a response. By sending a message to our JOHN-L JOHN-D mailing list, your message will be viewed by an active research membership immediately.


20. What is RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project?

RootsWeb is an active partner, along with other organizations to provide a means of collecting Surname related data, giving access and control of this data to you the owner of your Surname ancestry. RootsWeb provides a single repository storage space for your Surname related data, while allowing the world wide web to view this data. For more information about this topic, click the above WorldConnect Surname Databases link.


21. What is a GEDCOM file?

It is a file format, developed by the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) to provide a flexible and uniform format for exchanging computerized genealogical data. GEDCOM is an acronym for GEnealogical Data COMmunication. A GEDCOM filename ends with the extension of *.ged (e.g., smith.ged). It is necessary to convert your genealogical database to a GEDCOM file format in order to upload it to RootsWeb's WorldConnect databases.


22. Can I add, change or delete my GEDCOM entries?

RootsWeb does not have the ability to allow you to directly update your GEDCOM entries. You will update your file in your genealogy program (Family Tree Maker for example), and then reload a new GEDCOM file into their WorldConnect database. By doing this action, the new version will overwrite the last version.


23. Must I delete my existing GEDCOM file before uploading a new/updated file?

You simply make the corrections to your file using your genealogy program, and then reload a corrected GEDCOM file to RootsWeb's WorldConnect database. RootsWeb does not offer online editing of their WorldConnect database, but may do so in the future.


24. May I download my existing GEDCOM file from WorldConnect and make changes?

You may download your GEDCOM file at any time from the Setup/Edit screen, and then reload it when you have completed your changes.


25. If I delete my GEDCOM file from WorldConnect, is it permanently deleted from RootsWeb's database?

When you delete your GEDCOM file it is completely deleted. The file is yours and RootsWeb makes no claim to it.


26. What searches can I do? What's being searched?

Our search engine will perform a keyword search using the entire contents of our JFRG® web site. This means that the search engine will find any word within our site, including this text. To become familiar with the search syntax please click the Search Help, Tips link.


27. Where are other sites that I might search?

There are several web sites that are designed for information collection. Some of the popular sites are AltaVista, Excite, Infoseek,, Google, and Yahoo!. Although we cannot recommend a particular site, you may wish to visit AltaVista and do the following:

1. Type "" into your web browser.
2. In the search window, enter the keyword "johns" in lower case. The search engine will attempt to search for "johns", "Johns", and "JOHNS".
3. Leave a single blank space.
4. Enter a plus sign and the keyword "genealogy" (e.g., "+genealogy").
5. Click the "Search" tab.
6. Enter again exactly the same, except space after the keyword "genealogy" and omit the plus sign (e.g., "johns genealogy ").
7. Enter a minus sign and the keyword "St. Johns" (or any words you wish to exclude, such as "Johns Hopkins").
8. Click the "Search" tab.

Play around with it and see what you find. You might enter "marriage" or any other word you desire. Also, try this type of search at the other mentioned web sites.


28. May I download information from the JFRG® web site?

Material at this web site, herein, may be freely linked but may not be reproduced for distribution at other sites without obtaining our permission.


29. Is genealogy help available? Where do I go to get support?

There are many, if not numerous agencies and genealogists at your fingertips through the use of the Internet's global search engines like Yahoo!®, Google®, etc. Although we cannot recommend anyone or anything in specific, we suggest that you begin by visiting your local Family History center. You may also wish to review our above Useful Links page; visit RootsWeb; search Microsoft's Encarta and Bookshelf CD's.


30. How can I give feedback?

Please send your general comments or suggestions to the Webmaster. Please click here for questions about a specific area within the JFRG® web site.



Released 12.16.1999
Revised 01.02.2007 09:30 PDT Version 3.3.
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