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?
Long before online research, I started doing genealogy in 1976 at age fourteen. I'd ride my bike to churches and cemeteries all summer long.

I began hand writing pages of information for each family that belonged to the churches my own ancestors belonged to.  I soon started working on all of the families in Polk township.  By the time I was in college (with a part time job at the State Historical Society), I was interested in all of Washington county, and since then have expanded into 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 pouring through the Catholic church records of Washington county.

What do you receive for your money?
I have a sample group sheet to show the format.  What you see listed on my website for each family 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, the Latter Day Saints research center and to the State Historical Society in Madison.

What original sources are used?
Each group sheet is based on combinations of the following:

Courthouse records - Birth, marriage and death certificates (sometimes land and/or probate records).
Church records.   Some are online now and some are not yet. The Latter Day Saints have a wonderful research center in Hales Corners near my home.
German, French and Luxembourg civil records online and at the Latter Day Saints research center.
Tombstones - Prior to online photos being available, I transcribed numerous cemeteries in a five county area.   I do use some online cemetery sources, and then when possible (if the cemetery in Wisconsin), I use the dates/years to look up death certificates at a courthouse.
Obituaries - I check out and index microfilms of small town (at least in those early days) Wisconsin newspapers from the Wisconsin State Historical Society.

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 Luxembourg which I have already seen or know are available, the price is a little higher than purely Wisconsin research.

What counties in Wisconsin do I cover?
Weekly courthouse trips... Washington, Ozaukee, Dodge, Waukesha and Fond du Lac counties.
At other times... Sheboygan, Manitowoc, Calumet, Winnebago, Outagamie, Jefferson, Walworth, Milwaukee, Kenosha, Racine
Once a year trip... Counties in the northern half and west/central part of the state. Unfortunately, I don't make it to the southwestern part of the state, but I can to obituary searches for that area.

Any other states?
I make a once a year trip (usually in February when I also participate in a barbershop singing event) to the State Historical Society in St. Paul, Minnesota.

What about Germany, France and Luxembourg?
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.   So I can read and translate records like the example below (click to enlarge).
1852 baptism from Bechtheim, Hessen Darmstadt

How do I find the elusive ancestral city?
I would have the same difficulty as anyone starting from scratch on a family to find out exactly where they came from.  My approach to research is different.  When I find that a family came from a certain village and the records are on film, I'll do research in that film.  While viewing the records, I almost always recognize other surnames and find other families who also came to Wisconsin.  From the 250 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.  If you are interested, I'd be delighted to give a similar presentation at your local genealogical society meeting.

In my family group sheet listings, 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.  But for each order, I retrace my steps and 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.  By researching an entire group of people, instead of just one line, I have frequently stumbled on to specific elusive records... while I was looking for something else