Still trying to find that perfect way to keep track of the family tree’s twigs and branches as I try to extend them. I want to avoid over-emphasis on any one section, but tracking a particular line of descendants gets so fascinating I tend to ignore the others for long periods of time. I guess you could call this going out on a limb...
One thing I have learned from doing this is that finding a family in the 1930 census may seem like the end of the line (until 2012, when the 1940 census is released), but it really is not. Remember, the Social Security Death Index (free on Rootsweb) gives clues to many people who died after Social Security was instituted. Of course, some were excluded in the early days (housewives, farmers, railroad workers among others), and the birth names of married women did not necessarily show up. But, still, it is a resource worth checking.
Post-1930 obituaries are easier to find than earlier ones, too. I have good luck tracking people with moderately unusual names (Clayton Luscombe and Oakland Shoemaker, for instance), in Mocavo, the genealogical search engine. But Mocavo is good for more than obits and with its focus on family history, its hits are easier to sift through than Google’s (but do try both).
As I mentioned last time, findagrave.com has been a great help. Besides relatives’ dates and burial places, I have found photos of tombstones, and even family pictures, on this website. It used to emphasize the rich and famous, but increasingly it covers more and more everyday folk in large and small cemeteries across the US.
One last tip: the database of World War I draft registration records, available on Ancestry, is a great source for finding out more about men born between 1872 and 1901. It is handy for finding their marital status, occupations, and, sometimes, those elusive middle names. A look at the original image will also give you the individual’s physical description, and his home address. Given the 29-year period it is not unusual to find a father and son registering at the same time. And here is a sub-tip: use your genealogy program’s “find” or “sort” feature to create a list of males born between the years of 1872 and 1900, and you have your likely candidates.
Bittersweet story in the San Francisco Chronicle recently (July 14, 2011). Edward L. O’Toole was an infantry soldier from San Francisco, just 23 years old, when he died in a battle in Germany in late 1944. His remains have just recently been recovered and identified.
Although he was one of seven children, there are no longer any close surviving relatives. When he was reported missing and presumed dead, his mother and sister, now long gone, erected a memorial stone at the Golden Gate National Cemetery, and it is there his remains have now been interred.
A local paralegal, Bernadette Hooper, was intrigued by the story, and has managed find out more details about his life and family history. (Don’t you bet she’s a genealogist?) It is all detailed in the Chronicle story, written by Carl Nolte. You can read it here.