Sunday, December 16, 2012

Fun with Find A Grave

John A Ruth
The Find A Grave website was developed in 1995 to address the lack of any existing site that visits the graves of celebrities. The site has morphed into catering to everyone's needs. Anyone can upload burial and cemetery information following the guidelines for submitting information and creating memorials. New submission cannot duplicate existing ones. If you have information that can enhance an existing memorial, you can submit it to the memorial's manager.

John A Ruth
It has gained in popularity so much that there are already 91 million memorials as of this writing with about one million added each month. There are many members that "adopt" a particular cemetery and document as much of it as possible. It was not intended to be a genealogy site. However, many aspects of it make it useful for family history research.

In the case of Babe Ruth, he was one of the first celebrities added (Find A Grave Memorial #919). The online link is at: Find A Grave - Babe Ruth. The site allows a biographical sketch and a visitor can leave flowers with a note. The full birth / death date is present but may be missing on people that you may want to research. When doing your family's research, it is good to cite the FindAGrave website as your source. Make sure to include the Web page title / Find A Grave / and the date of access. For this example it is: George Herman "Babe" Ruth, Find A Grave, 16 DEC 2012. We like to include the submitter, date of submission and the memorial number.

You will notice that there are links to family members on Find A Grave. If you click on the link for Catherine Schamburger Ruth, it will take you to George's mother's memorial. It was posted on Feb 6, 2008 but did not have a photo of the monument.  In our 11AUG2008 post A Monument for Kate we posted a picture of her monument months after it was erected. Since then, photos of the monument have appeared.

Mary Ruth
The link for George H Ruth's father has a biography for him along with links to his wife and son. There is not an entry for Babe Ruth's father's parents. Let us create one for them.

Using newspaper records we were able to find the death notice for John A Ruth (1844-1897) and his wife Mary (Strodtman) Ruth (1845-1894). Some public libraries have online newspapers available through ProQuest. Another site is The sites have a search engine for easy look-ups.

Mary Ruth
The search engines allow for a specific date range and wild cards. Many times the pages are in poor condition and a name is not found. You can enter the first couple of characters in a name and the use the wildcard "*". This will return anything with the prefix to the left of the wildcard. In the case of Schamberger, you could search with SCHAMB* and it would return everything with the first 6 characters -- Schamburg, Schamberg, Schamberger, etc.

If you search with more than one word, you would get results for every page that has those words together. However they could be anywhere on that page. If we used the example of finding Ruth's grandfather's death notice and entered the search terms PIUS SCHAMB*, we would get 28 "Hits". We can use the advanced search feature and limit the dates for the search for fewer results. Or, we can use the NEAR operator to find pages with the two words in proximity. For example, if we enter the search terms PIUS NEAR/6 SCHAMB*, we get 7 results. The fifth on dated 24 July 1904, returns the death notice we wanted. We used the operator "NEAR/6" to get within 6 words of the two values. Death notices have the format "SCHAMBERGER - On July 21, 1904 PIUS...". 
Pius Schamberger

Sometimes you want to search for a full name and you are unsure about one or more characters in that name. For example, If you want to search for Schamburg or Schamberg you could enter SCHAMB?RG as the search value and it will return results with any possible character between the "B" and the "R". One common use for this is any word that has the letter "i". The poor condition of the scanned newspaper may return this value as an "I', "L" or "1".  There are other characters that may be confused such as "a" - "o" - "u".  Practice and experience will overcome these problems.

Once the dates were found, the death certificate could be researched at the Maryland Archives Death Records. First, the index must be searched to get the certificate number. If you are at the archives, you can look up the appropriate microfilm reel and examine it. If you are not at the archives, you will have to order a copy with the online request form. In addition to vital information, all Baltimore City death certificates had the name of the cemetery.

Before adding a memorial, you have to create a free user account with Find A Grave. Then, on your personal page you click the link "Add Burial Records". Fill in the appropriate fields and follow the steps and you have a memorial.

We did the same for John and his wife. On John's memorial page we made note of his Find A Grave memorial number. On Mary's memorial page we clicked on the "Link Family Members". The next page allows you to enter the Find A Grave number for Mary's parents and spouse. We entered John's number into spouse, the year of their marriage and clicked save.

We went back to the memorial page for Mary and added photos of her death notice and certificate. We also clicked on the "Leave Flowers and a Note" link. Find A Grave lets you choose from a selection of pictures of flowers or you may select one of your own choosing from your computer.

Next Post: Marriage and Church Records

Find A Grave - Babe Ruth
Maryland Archives Death 
Maryland Archives Death Index
Maryland Archives microfilm reels 

Copyright 2012-2013, Stephen A Conner