My name is Maggie Champion, and I am the sole proprietor of Maggie’s Genealogy Service.  I am a professional genealogist, and a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists.

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You have reached my Blog page.  My blog had its first post on Tuesday, 31 January 2012!

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Maggie Champion

When researching on the Internet, one can find an index for many types of records. Do you read the description of the index so that you know what is contained in the index?

As an example, has an index titled, “U. S., Naturalization Records Indexes, 1794-1995”. One could think that this index is for ALL naturalization records in the United States. However, if one looks at the description about what is included in the database, one will find that this is an index for naturalizations in Alaska, California, District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. And, the index is for some of the records from these states.

So, if you are researching someone who was naturalized in Indiana, you will not find the person listed in this index.

Recently, I was researching probate records by looking on microfilm that was at the library. I had looked in the index for the person’s record, and gone to the page. I wasn’t sure how to email a copy to my email address, so I asked the librarian for assistance. She was very helpful! Along with showing me how to email the document, she explained that the “print guides” on the “screen” of the microfilm machine were not really what would be printed or sent by email. She explained that even though the guides showed all of the document within the “print” area, not all of the document would be captured.

Make sure that you understand exactly what will be captured when printing/emailing from the microfilm machine. You may think you are capturing the entire document because it is shown within the “guides”. But, you may not be getting all of it!


You have sorted through the family papers that were in your grandparents’ home. You have found precious documents – birth, marriage, and death certificates, diaries, letters. What do you do with them all?

First of all, make a copy of them. A photocopy will work. Then, what about scanning the item (could this be done at the same time a photocopy is made?). Saving a copy on your external hard drive and “in the cloud” will assure that you always have a copy.

If something does happen to the original, you will at the minimum have a copy. Your descendants will thank you!


When using FamilySearch or Ancestry, make sure you read the description of the database that has the records that are being displayed.

The title of the database may be, “Ohio Birth Records, 1800-1920”. However, do you know what counties are included in the database? Don’t assume the county of your ancestor’s birth is included – it may or it may not be included.


Have you ever found a “marriage” record and assumed that the couple did in fact marry?

Towards the later part of the 1800s, marriage records may have included the license to marry. The couple applied for the license, and were most likely granted the license. But, did they actually marry?

In my experience, there have been times when the license portion of the record is the primary portion – it may take up ¾ of the page. At the very bottom of the page, one will find the actual marriage record.

Make sure that you look at the very bottom of that page to make sure that the couple actually married. They may have gotten a license but never married!

Not too long ago, my computer began to have problems. Even though I have software on my computer to find viruses, my computer still got a virus. This virus was causing various background programs to run, and the background programs caused my image software to have errors. So, at various times, my screen would go blank.

So, the computer had to go to the store to be repaired.

I was so glad that I back up my files to three places – Dropbox, Carbonite, and an external hard drive. So, when the repair made it necessary to reinstall some programs and some files were no longer on the hard drive, I still had the files!

Make sure your files are in three places as well. You never know when your computer may contract a virus or malware.


You have found that all important estate record of your ancestor! Hooray for you! And then you try to read it!

Records from the 1800’s, and earlier, can be quite difficult to read – the handwriting, the “language” used – many things can make it difficult for us to decipher the record.

Have you tried transcribing it? Transcribing is something that can be very helpful. Look at the pen strokes in the word – write down what you think it is, and then compare with other similar pen strokes. Also, try enlarging the original – sometimes making the writing “bigger” can aid in the transcribing.

Don’t look at transcribing as a chore. Look at it as an opportunity to learn more about your ancestor!