Frequently Asked Questions
People have wondered how I prepare family group sheets... how an individual such as myself can collect so much information, how I do my research and what they would get for their money. Below are some answers to frequently asked questions.
How is all of this data collected?
I started doing genealogy in 1976 at age 14 and began doing group sheets for all of the families in Polk township, Washington county. Twenty years later, I decided to tackle the whole county, and since then have expanded to neighboring counties. From 1996 to 2001, I transcribed every (non-private land) cemetery in Washington county and many in Ozaukee county. During the same time, I spent many hours at LDS transcribing the Catholic church records of Washington county. I also look up death and marriage certificates and check obituaries for persons listed on tombstones, in order to get enough information to put together a family group sheet.
After publishing the Catholic church books, the feedback I received is that people love the books, but the books are too expensive. However, they are so much work to produce, so in January, 2002 I decided to take the information from all of them and instead list them familiy by family as group sheets for sale.
I continue to transcribe cemeteries, index newspapers and look up death certificates. After the kids go to bed, I spend hours each evening sorting through the data I collected that day. I make frequent trips to the courthouses in the counties of Washington, Dodge, Ozaukee, Milwaukee and Waukesha, and less frequently to Calumet, Fond du Lac and Sheboygan counties. My wife has even allowed me to up to Chippewa county (where I gave a presentation to their genealogical society in September 2003), and also Marathon, Wood, Waupaca, Outagamie and Manitowoc counties in past years.
What do you get for your money?
I have a sample group sheet to show the format. The particulars listed for the family on my website is what I currently know about them. However, after receiving each order, I do additional research focused specifically on that family to make it as complete and accurate as I possibly can before sending it to you. In most cases, I make trips to courthouses, LDS in Hales Corners and to the State Historical Society in Madison. While there, I do the research to complete your family group sheet and at the same time collect lots of other information while I am there about other southeastern Wisconsin families so it is always worth the trip and the effort.
What original sources are used?
Each group sheet is based on combinations of all of the following.
|Courthouse records - Marriage and Death certificates (sometimes probate records) primarily from the counties of Washington, Ozaukee, Milwaukee, Waukesha, Dodge, and I have also made trips to Kenosha, Racine, Jefferson, Sheboygan, Manitowoc, Calumet, Outagamie, Waupaca, Wood, Marathon, Monroe and Chippewa counties.|
|Church records on microfilm. Fifteen miles from my house, the Latter Day Saints have an extensive set of church records from a seven county area. Also, this past year, some churches in Hartford, Richfield and Granville have requested that I do books for them and have provided photocopies of their records for me to work on at home after the kids have gone to bed.|
|German and French church and civil records on microfilm - This is my specialty.|
|Tombstones - I have continued to do my own transcriptions of cemeteries in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Fond du Lac and Dodge counties. I also rely on transcriptions by others in the WSGS newsletters and at the State Historical Society, not as original sources but in order to get dates that I can then use at the courthouse to look up death certificates.|
|Obituaries - I worked in the microforms room at the State Historical Society in Madison for three years during college and go there to lookup specific obituaries from newspapers throughout the state. I check out microfilms of Wisconsin newspapers from the Wisconsin State Historical Society in Madison and index them after the kids go to bed. New information from the obituaries is constantly being merged into my group sheets.|
How are the family group sheets priced?
The price of a family group sheet is basically a combination of (1) how many children are in the family? and (2) how many and what kind of sources have I already found? There is base price for a family plus a second amount "per child"... thus larger families cost more because it takes more time to track down the children. If the information comes from original records from Germany, France or Luxembug which I have read myself from microfilm, the price is a little higher than purely Wisconsin research.
How do I do research in Germany, France and Luxemburg?
When I was 14, I'd ride my bike out to St. Lawrence (I didn't have a driver's license yet) and sit in the priest's office where I learned to read the old German script the hard way. My high school German teacher, Mr. Schultheis, also taught us to read and write script. Since then it has been completely through years of experience to be able to decipher and translate old German records, and also French records in the past two years. With that skill, it has been just a matter of renting microfilms at my local Latter Day Saints research center. I have rented over 250 church and civil records films from Germany, France and Luxemburg since 1996.
How do I find the elusive ancestral city?
I would have the same difficulty as anyone if they are starting from scratch on a family to find out exactly where they came from. My approach to research is completely different though. When I find that a family came from a certain village and the records are on film, I order the film. While viewing the records, I almost always recognize other surnames and find other families who also came to Wisconsin. From the 200 films I have rented since 1996, I have been able to find ancestral cities for hundreds of southeastern Wisconsin pioneer surnames. Based on my findings, I did a presentation on Catholic Emmigration patterns from the Rheinland at the National Genealogical Society conference last year. If you are interested, I'd be delighted to give the presentation at your local genealogical society meeting.
Why are there fewer children listed than expected?
The family group sheets are listed and priced based on what I currently know about the family. So even though they may have had ten children, I might have only seen records for and be aware seven of the children. If this happens, I still do my best to find ALL of the children using original source information for them prior to sending the results to you.
Can I find records that others cannot?
This is a trick question of my own. My approach to genealogy the past seven years has to research an entire group of people (i.e. everyone in a particular cemetery) at a time, instead of just one family. As a result, I have frequently stumbled on to specific elusive records that others are looking for... while I was looking for something else.
I have helped a number long-time genealogists find their ancestral cities in Germany, after they had been looking for several years, again not because I sought it out, but because I had already seen it before while delving into German records for a different family, who came from the same town.
A friend of mine delved into microfilms of church records for three different towns all called "Bittingen", until we compared notes and I pointed out the spelling I had seen of "Büdingen", which was also on film and it was exactly what she was looking for.