Treasury 3227

Reader Tom Phelps reported that he had “old copies of what appear to be applications for a Social Security Number, but they are a US Treasury Department Form 3227 (Application for Account Number).”

Daily_Independent_Journal_Sat__Dec_29__1962_And, he said, “I gather this used to be an alternative way to apply for an SSN, but I am unable to trace the history. Can you help?”


The Legal Genealogist sure can.

Here’s the story.

As amazing as it may seem today for those of us accustomed to seeing Social Security numbers assigned to babies shortly after birth and used for everything from school enrollment to medical records, it wasn’t always the case that Americans had to have a Social Security number at all.

The whole system began with the passage of the Social Security Act in 1935. That statute provided, in part, that there would be a tax collected from employees and employers to fund a variety of benefits, principally old age pensions for workers. It created a Social Security Board, later the Social Security Administration, and then gave rulemaking power to the agencies charged with enforcement:

The Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Labor, and the Social Security Board respectively, shall make and publish such rules and regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, as may be necessary to the efficient administration of the functions with which each is charged under this Act.1

Obviously one of the key things that had to be done was keep track of people who were paying in. As a result:

Social security numbers were first issued in late November 1936 to workers in industry and commerce covered by the Social Security Act. …

The original and still the primary reason for issuing numbers was to ensure that earnings in covered employment would be properly posted on an individual’s earnings record. In recent years, however, social security numbers have been used for a variety of nonprogram uses, the most important of which is to identify taxpayers for Federal income-tax purposes.

More than 37 million social security numbers had been issued by the end of 1937. In the next dozen years, the number varied with the number of new entrants into covered employment. It reached a peak of 7.6 million in the war year 1942 but dropped to an average of 2.7 million in the postwar period 1946-50. Coverage of additional workers in 1951 and of still more in 1955 resulted in substantial growth in applications for numbers in 1951 and 1952 and in 1955 and 1956. During 1957-61, the average number issued annually was about 3.3 million.2

When people applied for a Social Security number in those early years — and most people who worked filled it out on the job — the form they used was the one we’re most familiar with: the SS-5. It was a Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service, form with the heading “U.S. Social Security Act, Application for Account Number.”3

But read the last sentence of that middle paragraph again. The part that talks about non-program uses: “the most important of which is to identify taxpayers for Federal income-tax purposes.”

Along came the Revenue Act of 1962.4 And one of its purposes was to ensure that tax dollars were collected — and withheld — from a lot of taxpayers who weren’t necessarily wage-earners in the Social Security system. That meant more automation, more keeping track of people. And, well, it just seemed to make the most sense, to be the easiest, to join forces with the Social Security numbering system.

Enter Form 3227:

In 1962 the Internal Revenue Service began its taxpayer registration program with the use of special IRS Form 3227, which was, in effect, an application for a social security number (though it did not expressly state that the number applied for was the social security number). In the 3-year period 1962-64, the average annual rate of issuances was 6.3 million, including those based on Form 3227. The 1963 total (8.6 million) was the largest for any year from 1938 to 1971, and 2.0 million of that total represented Form 3227 applications.5

There were all kinds of reports and articles in newspapers when the requirement came in, like the one illustrating this post, but the bottom line was this: you had to file your taxes, and you couldn’t do it without an identifying number, so… people in droves filed and ended up with Social Security numbers.

The form was only used for three years — it was phased out on 1 May 1964 (“Form SS-5, Application for Social Security Account Number, used in lieu of Form 3227 on and after May 1, 1964”).6

But during that three-year period you may find either a Form 3227 or a Form SS-5 for a family member.

Not because of the Social Security Act requirements.

But because it was a taxing form.


Image: San Rafael (Cal.) Daily Independent Journal, p. 29, col. 5-6 (29 Dec 1962);

  1. §1102, Social Security Act, 49 Stat. 620 (14 August 1935).
  2. Herbert R. Tacker, “Notes and Brief Reports: Social Security Numbers Issued, 1937-1971,” Social Security Bulletin, July 1972, at 1; PDF version online ( : accessed 8 Dec 2014).
  3. I know that because I’m looking at one, filled out by my grandfather on 22 June 1937. C.R. Cottrell, SS no. (withheld), 22 June 1937, Application for Account Number (Form SS-5), Social Security Administration, Baltimore.
  4. Revenue Act of 1962, 76 Stat. 982 (16 Oct 1962).
  5. Tacker, “Notes and Brief Reports: Social Security Numbers Issued, 1937-1971,” Social Security Bulletin, July 1972, at 1.
  6. 1964 Annual Report, Commissioner of Internal Revenue for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1964 (Washington, D.C.: Govt. Printing Office, 1964), 3; PDF version online ( : accessed 8 Dec 2014).
Posted in Resources, Statutes | 8 Comments

Every one you can!

There are always a lot of reader questions about what DNA test to take and who to test for the best results for genealogy.

The Legal Genealogist‘s standard answer is: test everyone you can afford to test, with every test that might provide the answer you’re for.

But in case that by itself isn’t helpful, let’s look at specific reader questions and why specific tests might provide solutions to their problems.

Genetic QuestionsQ. Test the older generation?

Reader Walker Hall had a question many people ask: “Since my parents are still around and interested in genealogy, should I skip straight to testing them if they are receptive, rather than waste money on myself? I would assume that as long as they are truly my parents (haha), then my dna results would be of little genealogical value compared to the combination of my parents’ individual results.”

The same question, with a twist, came from reader Diana Bowen: “is it better to go with the older generations in the family when testing? I can get my mom, mother in law, paternal aunt and then my husband’s paternal aunt. Does it make more sense to do this or just to test my husband and me?”

A. Oh, yeah.

This is an easy one. One of the most useful tests for genealogy is the autosomal DNA test — the test for the kind of DNA we all inherit from both of our parents1 in a mix that changes, in a random pattern, from generation to generation in a process called recombination.2 It’s really useful for finding cousins who share some portion of DNA with us with whom we can then share research efforts.3

Because of that recombination in every generation, some DNA that our parents might have inherited isn’t going to be passed on to us. Of necessity, when each parent passes that DNA to us, 50% of what that parent has gets dropped out of the mix. So for autosomal DNA testing, we always want to test any available representative of an older generation: a parent is better than our generation, a grandparent better than a parent.

So Walker should definitely test his parents, and testing both of them will give him all of the possible cousins he might match on either his maternal or paternal side. There isn’t anything Walker can get from testing himself that he won’t get by testing both of his parents.

For Diana, she definitely wants to get testing done by all four of the older generation relatives — but in her case, there is a benefit in testing herself and her husband as well. That’s because, in each of their cases, the older generation candidate on the paternal side is the father’s sister, rather than the father.

Remember that recombination is purely random and it happens not just in every generation but every single time a child is conceived. In Diana’s situation, each father could well have inherited some fairly substantial chunks of DNA that his sister — the aunt — did not inherit. And each father could have passed some or all of those chunks down to his child — Diana or her husband.

As a result, Diana could have cousin matches in the DNA testing databases that her aunt won’t have and her husband may have some that his aunt won’t have. And, of course, the reverse is also true: each of the aunts will match some cousins that their niece and nephew won’t match.

You remember that part about testing “everyone you can afford to test, with every test that might provide the answer”? Yup. I really mean it.

Q. On beyond autosomal?

Diana had another part to her question: “is there any reason to also consider a ydna test anymore (as an extra)?” And reader MC, who’s thinking of getting her whole family tested (including her parents and her brother), was wondering too: “Should I get any of my family members to take the paternal or maternal line tests? What additional data could I expect from those?”

A. Oh, yeah.

This is also an easy one, and again: my answer is yes, do it, and you may learn a lot. Because as wonderful, as exciting, as innovative as autosomal DNA testing is and can be, it often can’t give us a clear-cut answer to the one question we most want to have a clear-cut answer to:

Am I descended from — or at least related to — that one man or that one woman?

For the first question, the answer can come from a YDNA test. YDNA is the kind of DNA found in the male gender-determinative Y chromosome that only men have.4 It gets passed from a man only to his sons and from his sons only to his grandsons and from his grandsons only to his great grandsons, with few changes down the generations.5

For the second question, the answer can come from testing mitochondrial DNA — mtDNA — the kind of DNA we all have that serve as energy producers for the cells in our bodies.6 It gets passed from a mother to all of her children — male and female — but only her daughters can pass it on to her grandchildren.7

I wrote about this back in August in a post called The value of the tests that emphasizes one key fact: those “old tests” are not so “old hat”!8 Being able to nail down a male line or surname or a specific female line of descent can be a powerful addition to genealogical testing, and you can only get this by doing these additional tests.

Bottom line: test everyone you can afford to test, with every test that might provide the answer you’re for.


  1. ISOGG Wiki (, “Autosomal DNA,” rev. 14 Nov 2014.
  2. ISOGG Wiki (, “Recombination,” rev. 1 Sep 2014.
  3. See Judy G. Russell, “Autosomal DNA testing,” National Genealogical Society Magazine, October-December 2011, 38-43.
  4. ISOGG Wiki (, “Y chromosome,” rev. 23 Apr 2014.
  5. Ibid., “Y chromosome DNA tests,” rev. 27 Nov 2014.
  6. What is mitochondrial DNA?,” Genetics Home Reference Handbook, National Library of Medicine, US Department of Health ( : accessed 29 Nov 2014).
  7. ISOGG Wiki (, “Mitochondrial DNA tests,” rev. 9 July 2014.
  8. Judy G. Russell, “The value of the tests,” The Legal Genealogist, posted date ( : accessed 6 Dec 2014).
Posted in DNA | 10 Comments

I’ll drink to that!

This year has been a tough year of transitions.

Shifting from a regular work schedule to a contract basis.

Teaching genealogy more than law.

Traveling. Oh yes traveling. Almost everywhere this year.

Classic margarita cocktail with lime slice and salty rim. IsolatEven today The Legal Genealogist is off again — to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, this time, to talk about widows and orphans and the law and genealogical records.

It’s getting close to the time when I can total up the won-or-lost columns and put this year into my personal record books.

It’s been fun.

It’s been exhilarating.

It’s been exhausting.

And at some point, maybe even after I get home tonight, I’m going to sit down, put my feet up, and indulge in a little something celebratory.

Something more than slightly alcoholic in nature.

Something that wouldn’t have been possible… well, wouldn’t have been legal… but for Utah.

Because exactly 81 years ago yesterday Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st amendment to the United States Constitution. The amendment that ended Prohibition.1

Prohibition began on 17 January 1920, one year after the 18th amendment calling for the ban on “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States” was ratified by the states.2

That amendment had passed Congress in December 1917, and was ratified when, on a single day — 16 January 1919, it was approved by North Carolina, Nebraska, Missouri, Wyoming, and — fittingly — Utah. Utah was only the 35th state to vote to enact the amendment; the state that put it over the top was Nebraska.3

From a genealogist’s standpoint, the 18th amendment was a marvel. An absolute explosion of criminal cases flooded the courts, 1500 new enforcement agents were hired by the federal government, and records were created everywhere. In my own family, I’ve found prison records of at least four cousins in Alabama for bootlegging4 and I’m sure I haven’t even scratched the surface.

Just as one example, the National Archives has a set of records called Identification Card Files of Prohibition Agents, compiled 1920 – 1925, documenting the period 1919 – 1925.5 If you need more, NARA also has a whole set of records about official corruption — payoffs from bootleggers to police and local officials — in the Seattle Washington area.6

And if that’s not enough, think of the possible local records you might find. The Denver Public Library has a scrapbook on the career of James W. Melrose, a Colorado State Prohibition Agent, kept by his daughter.7 The Western Reserve Historical Society in Ohio has records of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of Lake County, Ohio.8 The Library of Virginia has an entire set of records from the Virginia Prohibition Commission, set up by statute in 1916 to control “the sale and use of ardent spirits.” 9

So there’s a lot to be grateful for, as a genealogist, when thinking about Prohibition.

And maybe tonight, one very grateful Legal Genealogist will raise a glass to Utah, and its vote 81 years ago yesterday, on 5 December 1933, to ratify the 21st amendment: “The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.”

I’ll drink to that.

Note: This post is a reprise of an earlier blog posted 6 December 2012.

  1. Amendment 21, United States Constitution.
  2. Amendment 18, United States Constitution.
  3. Wikipedia (, “Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” rev. 3 Dec 2014.
  4. See generally Judy G. Russell, “Consequences of crime,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 30 Mar 2012 ( : accessed 5 Dec 2014). In addition to Quitman and Ross Battles, Jeff and McKinley Battles also spent time in the same prison system for the same offenses.
  5. Identification Card Files of Prohibition Agents, compiled 1920 – 1925, documenting the period 1919 – 1925; Records of the Internal Revenue Service, 1791-2006; Record Group 58; National Archives II, Washington, D.C.
  6. Seattle Conspiracy (Olmstead) Investigation, 1931 – 1935; Investigative Case Files, compiled 1924 – 1933; General Records of the Department of the Treasury, 1775 – 2005; Record Group 56; National Archives, Seattle.
  7. A. Brown, “Prohibition in Colorado,” Western History & Genealogy Blog ( : accessed 5 Dec 2012).
  8. Woman’s Christian Temperance Union records, 1916-1924; Western Reserve Historical Society; Cleveland, Ohio.
  9. Virginia Prohibition Commission Records, 1916-1934, Accession No. 42740; State Records Collection; Library of Virginia, Richmond.
Posted in General | 8 Comments

Did the lawyer appear before the High Court?

Reader Jane Irish Nelson posed a great question to The Legal Genealogist: “My great-grandfather, James Tipton Cutler (1869-1933), a lawyer in Evansville, Indiana, supposedly argued a case before the Supreme Court. How can I find out if this is true?”

For most families who have a lawyer lurking somewhere in the past, this question is a little bit like the story of the Native American princess so many families have passed down: so few attorneys in the past were admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court — and of those so few ever actually argued a case before the High Court.

SCOTUS2In general, historically, lawyers were admitted to practice only in the courts where they were going to appear. Lawyers from places far distant to Washington, D.C., normally didn’t bother seeking admission to the Court’s bar.

And, historically, far fewer cases actually were ever heard by the Supreme Court than the many lower federal courts and, of course, the many many state courts — so you’re a whole lot more likely to find records of your family lawyer in other courts than in the Supreme Court of the United States.

Even today, when it’s much easier to get admitted, and many lawyers go for it, for the most part, getting admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court is something done because it looks good on a resume, not because the lawyer is actually going to argue a case.1

Because only about 100 cases are heard each year, and because experience really counts in these high-stakes cases, most cases that get to the High Court go to experts in Supreme Court practice. It’s estimated that, in a third of the cases, only former employees of the Solicitor General’s Office who used to represent the United States in appellate cases actually end up arguing before the Court.2

There isn’t any readily available published list of attorneys who, over the decades and now centuries, have been admitted to practice before the Supreme Court. Most publications that deal with the topic at all focus on some narrow slice or issue. The 11 articles published in the Journal of Supreme Court History between 1976 and 2013, for example, deal with subjects like female attorneys and the first African-American to be admitted.3

The Supreme Court itself does publish lists on its website of attorneys admitted to its bar who participated in a particular case argued before the Court. But the lists only cover the period from 2009 through 2012 — and as each volume of the official United States Reports is published with the Court’s opinions the list for that volume is deleted from the website.4

So… how do you find out whether — in your family’s case — the lawyer ever really did argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court?

There’s an easy way… and a harder way.

We’ll talk about the harder way first. Harder only because it’s not accessible when you’re sitting at home in your bunny slippers staring at a computer screen and wanting the answer now.

The National Archives hold the Records of the Supreme Court of the United States in Record Group 267, and with very few exceptions the records are at the main Archives building in downtown Washington, D.C. Among those records: the Records of the Office of the Clerk. And among those records: Indexes to names of attorneys admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court, 1790-1955; and Attorney rolls, 1790-1961.5

So a road trip to Washington and using the index and rolls will get you an answer as to whether your guy (and it was a guy until modern times…) was ever admitted to the Supreme Court bar.

You can also check out NARA’s microfilm publication M-217, Attorney Rolls of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1790-1951, available at a variety of regional archives as well as at Archives I downtown.6 The microfilm is well worth going for: the records contain not just the names but even the signatures of attorneys admitted to the court from 5 February 1790 through 4 June 1951.

And once you find out if your guy was ever admitted, you can then check to see whether he ever actually argued a case before the Court. That mostly likely will require reviewing the dockets of the Court, available also on microfilm,7 for the years when he was admitted.

The easier way is to check and see whether he was ever listed as one of the attorneys in a published opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court. Start by using any of the free online services that republish those opinions. Places like’s U.S. Supreme Court collection or’s Supreme Court Opinions collection or Google Scholar (that hyperlink is limited to U.S. Supreme Court decisions).

You’ll need to be careful not to miss the result you want. Searching for the full name of the attorney in this case — James Tipton Cutler — turns up no results at all. Searching for Cutler alone turns up so many results, it’s easy to get discouraged and give up. And on at least one of the free services,, it turns out that some of the republished materials leave out the names of the lawyers completely, so you might be misled by using that database alone.

But with persistence (and smart use of search limiters), in Jane’s case, those databases turned up James T. Cutler as one of the attorneys for the appellees in a case called Evansville & Bowling Green Packet Co. v. Chero Cola Bottling Co., decided in 1926. You can read the opinion anywhere online: it’s an interesting little case involving a wharfboat that sank in the Ohio River at Evansville, Indiana, in 1922, causing damage to the cargo.

And once you have the name of the case, it’s well worth it to go back and see what you might be able to find in a search using the case name as a search term. In many cases, you’ll only find other cases that refer to the opinion for some legal point it discusses or decides.

But when it comes to the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s possible there may be more. And in this case?

Oh my.

Turns out there is an entire volume — 220 pages of materials — published by the legal publisher Gale in its U.S. Supreme Court Records series — on this particular case.8 And the book includes the transcript of the record in the courts below, the petitioner’s brief, the appellee’s (responding party’s) brief and the reply brief of the petitioner.

The volume, with the title Evansville & Bowling Green Packet Co v. Chero Cola Bottling Co U.S. Supreme Court Transcript of Record with Supporting Pleadings, appears to be available as a paperback through Barnes & Noble.

So Jane now has the Supreme satisfaction of knowing that she really does have a Supreme Court argument in her family’s history … a case her great grandfather helped win.


Image: Carol M. Highsmith, Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C. (1976-2006), Carol M. Highsmith Collection, Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

  1. See Jessica Gresko, “For lawyers, the Supreme Court bar is vanity trip,” Yahoo! News, posted 21 March 2013 ( : accessed 4 Dec 2014).
  2. FreeAdviceNews, “Can any lawyer argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court?,” FreeAdvice Law ( : accessed 4 Dec 2014).
  3. See Joel Fishman, Index to the Journal of Supreme Court History (Washington: The Supreme Court Historical Society, 2014), 142; PDF online, Supreme Court Historical Society ( : accessed 4 Dec 2014).
  4. See “Counsel Listings,” Supreme Court of the United States ( : accessed 4 Dec 2014).
  5. See National Archives, “Guide to Federal Records: Records of the Supreme Court of the United States,” ( : accessed 4 Dec 2014).
  6. U.S. National Archives, Attorney Rolls of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1790-1951, microfilm publication M-217 (Washington, D.C: NARS, 1955).
  7. U.S. National Archives, Dockets of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1790-1950, microfilm publication M-216 (Washington, D.C: NARS, 1955).
  8. Chauncey I. Clark, editor, Evansville & Bowling Green Packet Co v. Chero Cola Bottling Co U.S. Supreme Court Transcript of Record with Supporting Pleadings, U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs series (n.p. : Gale Ecco, 2011).
Posted in Resources | 13 Comments

Do yourself a favor

Drop everything.

Put all your other projects on hold.

Clear your decks.

Make sure you have a lot of time and a good strong internet connection.

Have something to drink and snacks at hand.

Then click over to Hoosier Daddy?, a blog by Indiana genealogist Michael D. Lacopo.

HoosierNow that link takes you to a rather unprepossessing initial posting that may have you wondering if The Legal Genealogist has lost her cotton-pickin’ mind.1

Read on.

Scroll down on the right hand side, where the links are to the posts in reverse date order. Then read each and every post in this blog, in chronological order, starting with “In the beginning…,” posted back in February, all the way through to “Hoosier Daddy? … Revisited,” posted yesterday.

Hoosier Daddy? is the story of the search for Michael’s grandparents. His mother, Carol, was adopted, and when Michael became interested in genealogy he wanted to find out more about her biological family. How he started in 1982 with just a few clues… how he ended up, in 2014, still putting together the pieces of the puzzle.

It is a masterful tour de force in genealogical storytelling.

And it has everything you might want: suspense, pathos, tears, laughter. A lot on how to do genealogical research. A lot on how not to do it. A skillful interweaving of historical information and the modern hot-on-the-trail research. Detailed and clear explanations of how to actually use DNA in solving family mysteries.

And it has the cliffhanger ending.

The cliffhanger ending to Every. Blasted. Post.

The cliffhanger ending to Every. Blasted. Post. That’s. Driving. Me. Bonkers. Waiting. For. The. Next. Installment.

And the story’s not over yet.

So when you finish reading yesterday’s installment, do me a favor, okay?

Friend Michael D. Lacopo on Facebook.

And join me in threatening to duct tape him to his chair until he finishes telling the story.

It really is that good.

Go read this.


  1. Most people have no doubt about the answer to that question, but hey…
Posted in General | 19 Comments

The winter of our discontent

It was nearly two years ago, in February 2013, that genetic genealogists and history buffs everywhere — The Legal Genealogist among them — held their collective breath.

Would it be…? Could it be…? Was it true that the skeletal remains found underneath a car parking lot in Leicester, England, could be those of Richard III?

The remains were found in an excavation of what is believed to have been Grey Friars friary, a small Franciscan church where Richard’s body was taken after the battle where he died.1 Though some reports were that Richard was buried there, the official British history of the monarchy reports even today: “Buried without a monument in Leicester, Richard’s bones were scattered during the English Reformation.”2

An examination of the remains was consistent with what’s known of Richard: the person buried, like Richard, had a deformation of the spine; the person buried had wounds consistent with battle wounds; and a barbed metal arrowhead was found where it would have been embedded in the person’s back.3

The scientists who had studied the remains and who had analyzed DNA taken from the bones stood before the microphones that day in February 2013 and told us the conclusion they’d come to.

“Beyond reasonable doubt the individual exhumed at Grey Friars on September 12th is indeed Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England.”4

At the time, we thought it couldn’t get much cooler than that.

I mean, seriously, think about it. Richard III is such a fascinating historical figure. He ruled for only two years, yet his decision to set aside the sons of his brother Edward IV and take the throne himself is one of the most hotly debated issues of history.

Was he, as he is often described, an ambitious hunchback with a withered arm who would stop at nothing to secure his own power? Or was there really reason to believe the boys illegitimate? Did Richard murder them, the princes in the tower? Did that justify the overthrow of that King by his successor, Henry VII, whose Tudor family came to power when Richard died in that last battle at Bosworth Field?

And one of the most enduring mysteries was — what had happened to Richard after that last battle?

It’s that question that the scientists answered in that February 2013 press conference.

But it did get cooler than that.

Because, when the scientists answered that question almost two years ago, they promised they’d ultimately publish all their findings for others to study.

That publication occurred yesterday, in an article entitled “Identification of the remains of King Richard III” and published online by the journal Nature Communications.5 It surely closes the case on the remains as Richard III. And it also opens the door wide on another mystery.

Let’s close the case first. Again, the historical evidence was all consistent with the remains being Richard. But it’s the mitochondrial DNA evidence that nails this door shut.

Remember that mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA, is the kind of DNA that passes from a mother to all of her children but that only her daughters can pass on.6 Richard would have had the mtDNA of his mother, Cecile Neville, and mtDNA was extracted from the skeletal remains.

Richard’s sister, Anne of York, would also have had the mtDNA of their mother, and she would have been able to pass it down to her children, and her daughters to her grandchildren, and her granddaughters to her great grandchildren and so on down the generations.

Two descendants of Anne of York, whose common ancestor is Anne’s early-16th century granddaughter Catherine Manners Constable, were both tested — and their mtDNA matched that of the skeletal remains. The two modern individuals are 14th cousins twice removed from each other, and in the case of one of these very distant cousins, full mtDNA sequencing produced an exact match; in the case of the other, full sequencing produced a single difference in a single position in the mtDNA — a result, the study says, is “consistent with these individuals being matrilinear relatives over the time period considered.”7

Moreover, the study checked existing databases of European and British mtDNA samples and didn’t find a single other person whose mtDNA matches — suggesting that the match was extremely unlikely to have occurred simply as a matter of chance.8

Now let’s open the new case. Because the scientists were also able to get enough YDNA from the skeletal remains to test them. YDNA, remember, is the kind of DNA passed from father to son to son in the direct male line with very few changes over the generations.9

The most recent common male ancestor of Richard III and anybody alive today to test was Edward III of England, who lived from 1312 to 1377. The scientists had to work down the line from Edward III to John of Gaunt and forward some 13 generations to Henry Somerset, the 5th Duke of Beaufort, and then many more generations forward to today to find candidates to test.

And the YDNA doesn’t match.10

Now this mismatch isn’t really all that surprising. While there isn’t any definitive study on the topic, the generally accepted odds of misattributed paternity in any given generation are between one and five percent.11 Even among the five modern descendants of Henry Somerset who were tested, one was found to have a fundamentally different YDNA from the other four, “indicating that a false-paternity event had occurred within the last four generations.”12

So… where did the particular paternity problem arise in Richard’s case?

Well, just about anywhere in a whole lot of generations, really. The study reports that: “a false-paternity event could have happened in any of the 19 generations separating Richard III and the 5th Duke of Beaufort, on either branch of the genealogy descending from Edward III. Indeed, even with a conservative false-paternity rate … the chance of a false-paternity occuring in this number of generations is 16%.”13

It could have been on Richard’s side — between that most recent common ancestor Edward III and Richard were four generations and four paternity events: Edward’s own fathering (or not) of Edmund of York, Edmund’s fathering (or not) of Richard of Cambridge, Richard’s fathering (or not) of Richard of York, and that Richard’s fathering (or not) of Richard III.

It could have been somewhere down the line on the Beaufort side — although the evidence is pretty compelling that four of the five tested Beaufort descendants all share a common male ancestor, it might not be any further back than that 18th century Duke. There are 13 generations between John of Gaunt and that Duke, and the study itself notes that “Two illegitimacy events where sons born out of wedlock were later legitimized are known to have occurred in the period between John of Gaunt and Henry Somerset, 5th Duke of Beaufort.”14

So why does anybody care?

Well, England still has royalty. Hereditary monarchy and all that, y’know. And — depending on where the particular paternity problem occurred — those hereditary monarchs may not have been hereditary monarchs at all.

If the paternity event occurred in the single generation from Edward III to John of Gaunt, then none of the English monarchs from Henry IV on to today — the current British Royal family among them — had any hereditary claim to the throne.15 If it occurred on Richard III’s side, then there’s no impact on subsequent monarchs at all. And if it happened anywhere else, it’d depend on when, where … and who.

One case closed.

Another case opened.

Ah, it is “the winter of our discontent”…16


  1. See generally “Human remains found in search for King Richard III at Leicester car park,” This is Leicester, online, posted 12 Sep 2012 ( : accessed 2 Feb 2013).
  2. Richard III,” The British Monarchy, History of the Monarchy ( : accessed 2 Dec 2014).
  3. Skeleton with ‘battle injuries’ found by Richard III dig team in Leicester,” This is Leicester, online, posted 12 Sep 2012 ( : accessed 2 Feb 2013).
  4. See Judy G. Russell, “And the answer is…,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 4 Feb 2013 ( : accessed 2 Dec 2014).
  5. King, Turi E. et al., “Identification of the remains of King Richard III,” Nature Communications, posted 2 Dec 2014 ( : accessed 2 Dec 2014).
  6. See ISOGG Wiki (, “Mitochondrial DNA,” rev. 4 Sep 2014.
  7. King, Turi E. et al., “Identification of the remains of King Richard III,” Nature Communications, posted 2 Dec 2014 ( : accessed 2 Dec 2014).
  8. Ibid.
  9. ISOGG Wiki (, “Y chromosome DNA tests,” rev. 27 Nov 2014.
  10. King, Turi E. et al., “Identification of the remains of King Richard III,” Nature Communications, posted 2 Dec 2014 ( : accessed 2 Dec 2014).
  11. See generally ISOGG Wiki (, “Non-paternity event,” rev. 25 Aug 2014.
  12. King, Turi E. et al., “Identification of the remains of King Richard III,” Nature Communications, posted 2 Dec 2014 ( : accessed 2 Dec 2014).
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid., Figure 1.
  15. See “The DNA trail: How scientists searched for a genetic match,” chart illustrating Sarah Knapton, “Richard III DNA shows British Royal family may not have royal bloodline,” The Telegraph, posted 2 Dec 2014 ( : accessed 2 Dec 2014).
  16. See William Shakespeare, Richard III, Act I, scene I; Project Gutenberg HTML version ( : accessed 2 Dec 2014).
Posted in DNA, General | 15 Comments

Giving back by chipping in

There’s a website out there offering an opportunity The Legal Genealogist can’t pass up.


“We have a day,” the website begins, “for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals.”

And clearly there was a need for something else.

So now, the website goes on:

we have #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

It’s a simple idea. Just find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to come together to give something more. Then tell everyone you can about how you are giving. Join us and be a part of a global celebration of a new tradition of generosity.1

I love it. A day where we are asked only to give, indeed to give back. A day when we focus outward, on what we can do to help, and not inward, on what we want. A day where we’re asked to take, not a selfie, but an #unselfie — to post and tag a photo that celebrates whatever cause we’re choosing for this day of giving back.

You see my #unselfie above. For the cause I choose for this day of giving back.

The document that’s part of my #unselfie is part of the War of 1812 pension file of my third great grandfather, Jesse Fore, who served with Captain Michael Gaffney’s Company of South Carolina militia, entering as a private and ending up as a fifer.2

So many of us have wonderful stories to be found in these pension files. And it’s up to us to ensure that these stories are saved.

So my #unselfie is in support of the campaign to this link — to help pay for the effort to digitize millions of pages of fragile documents in grave danger of deterioration: records of War of 1812 pension records held by the National Archives.

The records documenting more than 180,000 pension records for War of 1812 soldiers and their families are among the most heavily requested documents at the National Archives and, because of their use, their age and their fragile nature, they really need to be digitized to protect them forever.

The effort to get these wonderful records digitized is being led by the Federation of Genealogical Societies, with matching funds support from Ancestry. Every image digitized becomes available, free, to the public.

This campaign needs to raise millions to finish the job, and raising millions is a huge job. But you know how huge jobs get done, right? Right! The same way you eat an elephant: one bite at a time.

So… each page costs 45 cents to digitize. A donation of $4.50 would usually digitize 10 pages. But because of the matching funds from Ancestry, that same donation will digitize 20 pages. For a flat $10, I can ensure that nearly 45 pages are protected. Go to $20 and it’s nearly 90 pages. And for $45, I can preserve 200 pages of these genealogical treasures.

I’m in.

How ’bout you? Just click on the #unselfie image above or this link and head over to the Preserve the Pensions website, then hit the Donate Now button.

And post your own #unselfie today.

It’s the least we can do to give back.


  1. “What is #GivingTuesday?,” ( : accessed 1 Dec 2014).
  2. Jesse Fore (Musician, Capt. Michael Gaffney’s Co., 1 Regiment South Carolina Militia, War of 1812), pension no. S.O. 4,553, S.C. 7,041; Case Files of Pension and Bounty-Land Applications Based on Service in the War of 1812, 1871-1900; Pension and Bounty Land Applications Based on Service between 1812 and 1855; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
Posted in General | 2 Comments

Warning: very bad joke ahead

There is a really terrible, really old joke about an argument that takes place in Heaven between the forces of Light and the forces of Darkness about who is the better computer programmer, Jesus or the Devil.

(Now don’t go telling The Legal Genealogist you weren’t warned: Really terrible. Really old.)

Finally tired of all the bickering, God decides to put an end to the argument and sets up a test. Jesus at one computer terminal, the Devil at another computer terminal, a single problem they both have to solve… and a time limit.

Ding! The bell goes off and both begin furiously pecking at their keyboards.

Multiple Wired To BackupA few minutes later, just to make things interesting, there’s a crash of thunder!

But both programmers are focusing on the problem and neither is distracted.

A few minutes after that, there’s a flash of lightning!

But even that can’t distract the programmers from their task.

And a few minute later, with only a little bit of time left on the timer, the power goes out. Both computer hard drives spin down to a stop. Both computer monitors go black.

The air around the Devil’s terminal grows positively sulphurous. Even Jesus looks a little startled.

But then the power comes back on and both of them return to the task, furiously pecking away at their keyboards.

And just as the bell goes off to announce that time is up, Jesus proclaims: “Done!”

The Devil can’t believe it. Nobody, but nobody, could have finished that problem in the time that was left when the power came back on, not after losing everything when the power went out. You wouldn’t have wanted to hear what the forces of Darkness were saying that turned the air even more sulphurous.

And what were the forces of Light saying?

(Remember, you were warned: Really terrible. Really old.)

“Jesus saves.”

So what does that really terrible, really old joke have to do with genealogy?

Think about it for a minute.

Think about all the things you’ve acquired or done in your genealogical research that exist only in the form of a computer file.

Think about all the photographs you took of original documents at that repository you went to last week. Think about the birth and death certificates you bought at no small cost to your pocketbook that were sent to you as digital files by some vital registrar’s office. Think about the pension file the National Archives sent out as a PDF file. Think about that proof argument you researched and wrote and rewrote and rewrote again and again and finally saved as a word processing file.

If your power went out… if your hard drive crashed… how sulphurous would the air be around your computer terminal?

I raise the question now because you wouldn’t have wanted to hear what was being said around my computer terminal last night after an iPad operating system update required the entry of a passcode that I had never set in the first place, locking me out of access to some documents I really really needed to finish a project with a due date of — you guessed it — 1 December.

It wouldn’t have been an issue on my desktop or laptop. I have multiple backup systems in place on my computers. Automatic offsite backups. Periodic onsite backups to external hard drives, and periodic onsite backups to other external hard drives kept offsite. Belt, suspenders, then belt on the suspenders.

But, I thought, I hadn’t quite done the same thing with the iPad. The iPad I took with me to Virginia and North Carolina and the National Archives at College Park recently. The iPad with photographs of those original documents…

Now the story turns out to have a happy ending. Thanks to a combination of an older backup on iTunes, current photos in iCloud, and some technical advice from computer gurus in the Technology for Genealogy group on Facebook, everything I needed was recovered and the iPad is now humming along nicely with the new operating system installed and everything once again fully backed up. And I have a new system in place for automatic backups of everything on the iPad too.

But for a few minutes last night that air was positively sulphurous.

And I was reminded why genealogists more than most computer and tech users need to keep remembering:

Backup. Backup. Backup.

Yes, indeedy: Jesus saves.

Do you?

Posted in General | 6 Comments

What test to take

It’s a question that packs an emotional punch, no matter how many times The Legal Genealogist hears it.

And it came up again yesterday from reader Katie.

“Which DNA test do you recommend,” she asked, “if I’m trying to find out who my father is?”

Few of us who grew up in nominally intact homes can honestly say our relationships with our fathers were unconflicted. Some of us who grew up in dysfunctional or broken homes may actually dislike the man who fathered us.

But nobody who grew up knowing something about the person whose name gets entered in the first box on the paternal side of a family tree chart can really understand the power of Katie’s question.

It’s so much more than “who is he?” It’s also “who am I?”

And in Katie’s case, as a single woman wanting to know about her father, there’s only one possible answer: Katie needs to do autosomal testing — and to test as widely and spread her results as broadly as she can.

First off, why autosomal testing?

That’s because of the way the different types of DNA that we use for genetic genealogy — YDNA, mitochondrial DNA and autosomal DNA — are inherited.

YDNA is the kind of DNA found in the male gender-determinative Y chromosome that only men have.1 It gets passed from a man only to his sons and from his sons only to his grandsons and from his grandsons only to his great grandsons, with few changes down the generations.2 So the line of descent looks like this:


You can see the problem, right? For Katie — a female — the line of descent isn’t going to work. For her, the picture looks like this:


So YDNA testing won’t help when a single woman tries to find her father’s line. It works if she has a known paternal brother or uncle or male cousin. But not when the only person she knows who’s related to her father is herself.

Mitochondrial DNA — mtDNA — is a kind of DNA we all have that serve as energy producers for the cells in our bodies.3 It gets passed from a mother to all of her children — male and female — but only her daughters can pass it on to her grandchildren.4 So the line of descent for Katie looks like this:


And you can see the problem there, too, right? Katie’s not looking for information about those women in red. She’s looking for this guy:


So mtDNA testing isn’t going to help either.

This all leads to autosomal testing. All human beings have 23 pairs of chromosomes — 22 numbered pairs and one gender-determinative pair. The autosomes are those 22 numbered pairs.5 And we get exactly half of our autosomal DNA from our fathers and half from our mothers6 in a pattern that looks like this:


So which test Katie take is a no-brainer. The autosomal DNA test.

The best part about autosomal DNA testing is that almost all of our cousins, out to the fourth or fifth cousin level and sometimes even beyond, are going to share some part of that DNA with us. So anyone who matches us in an autosomal DNA test might be able to provide clues to a missing parent (or grandparent or great grandparent) once we do the hard traditional-genealogy-paper-trail work of figuring out where our common ancestral line is with that match. Even when we don’t know anything about part of our own ancestry, as in Katie’s case, finding matches can help us narrow it down.

If Katie’s mother, or a close relative on her mother’s side, will test at the same time, that will help Katie narrow down her results to her father’s side — anyone who matches her and her mother’s-side relative can pretty much be excluded as a link to her missing father. But those who match her most closely and do not match her mother’s side… oh yeah… those are the matches to focus on. Those are the folks most likely to be her relatives on her father’s side.

So… who to test with? Right now, there are three major companies that offer autosomal DNA testing for genetic genealogy: 23andMe; AncestryDNA; and Family Tree DNA. And Katie needs to test with all three. And use every third party tool available to get her results out there, like

Why? Because most people who do DNA testing will test with only one of those companies. And Katie has no way of knowing who might have tested already and who might test in the future who might be the key to finding her father’s identity — and no way of knowing which company that key match might choose.

My advice on how to do that for the least amount of money stays the same as it’s been:7 test with AncestryDNA first (the usual price is $99; a sale is on right now that drops the price to $79); then when you get the results, take that raw data from AncestryDNA and upload it to Family Tree DNA (the transfer price is $39 (corrected!); free if you can get four others to transfer their results); and then test with 23andMe ($99 for the test there).

That gets you into all of the company databases for the lowest possible price — and you can take the raw data and upload it to GedMatch and any other future third-party tools website that allows you to compare your data to the data of others.

Bottom line: finding fathers means autosomal testing for females (add in YDNA testing for males), and spreading the results out as far and wide as you can.


  1. ISOGG Wiki (, “Y chromosome,” rev. 23 Apr 2014.
  2. Ibid., “Y chromosome DNA tests,” rev. 27 Nov 2014.
  3. What is mitochondrial DNA?,” Genetics Home Reference Handbook, National Library of Medicine, US Department of Health ( : accessed 29 Nov 2014).
  4. ISOGG Wiki (, “Mitochondrial DNA tests,” rev. 9 July 2014.
  5. Definitions: Autosome,” Human Genome Project Information ( : accessed 29 Nov 2014).
  6. See Judy G. Russell, “Autosomal DNA testing,” National Genealogical Society Magazine, October-December 2011, 38-43.
  7. See Judy G. Russell, “2014: Most bang for DNA bucks,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 6 Apr 2014 ( : accessed 29 Nov 2014).
Posted in DNA | 19 Comments

A cousin!

Occasionally, The Legal Genealogist simply feels snakebit.

Part of it comes from having southern ancestors.

My entire maternal side comes from south of the Mason-Dixon line.

snakebitYou know, that part of the country where people lived far enough away from courthouses that much of what they did in their lives never got recorded in the first place…

Or where — it seems at times — every courthouse burned on a regular basis…

Or where the few records that ever were created and did name our people were in that courthouse when it burned.

The part of the country where, as Elizabeth Shown Mills puts it, any record that appears to directly name your ancestor turns out in the end to prove that there was another man of the same name in the same county at the same time.1

Ah yes the joys of southern ancestors.


So every so often I will do what we all do as genealogists — turn my attention to a branch that’s just a little less challenging, at least for a time.

Like my father’s side of the family.

Yeah, right.

My German-born father’s side.

Where the records, assuming you can find them, aren’t in English and aren’t even in a script that resembles any script you’ve ever learned to read, assuming you could read German in the first place.

Now my grandmother’s side isn’t too terribly bad. She was born in Bremen, and not only are there some neat records available from Bremen (like the civil registration records starting as far back as 1811,2 and church records as far back as the late 16th century3) but there is also a terrific website for Bremen research called Die Maus — the website of the Bremen Genealogical Society.4

But my grandfather’s side?

That’s a whole ‘nother story.

He was born in Bad Köstritz, in an area of Germany called Reuss jüngere Linie, a principality in what is today the modern German state of Thüringen and I spent a thoroughly depressing few minutes yesterday reading the FamilySearch Wiki page on Reuss j.L.5

A few minutes because — sigh — there is essentially nothing available on Reuss j.L.

Under “Featured Content,” the Wiki page reads: “(Add text and/or an image here).”

Under “Jurisdictions,” the Wiki page reads: “(Add text and/or an image here).”

And under “Did you know?,” the only entry is for research problems and strategies, the first of which is for finding the fathers of children born out of wedlock. Like my great grandfather who lived in Reuss.6 And we’ve already tried all of those… without success.

Even in the catalog there is — let’s see here — one book on emigrants before the first of my family members emigrated,7 and some reference works on the nobility,8 and not much else.


See what I mean? You have to feel just a little snakebit.

So why is the snake you see here smiling so broadly?

Because, every so often, you wake up and you find a comment posted on your blog:

Mein Name ist Moni und mein Urgroßvater war Paul Franke aus Gera *18.05.1884, seine Eltern waren Friedrich Gustav Franke und Emma Ida Graumüller *18.07.1853 in Bad Köstritz.

Deine Webseite hat mir sehr viel Freude bereitet. Ich wusste nicht das ein Teil der Familie Graumüller nach Amerika ausgewandert ist. Ja wie Du schon schreibst ist es nicht leicht an Daten aus dem Ostteil Deutschlands zu kommen.

Ich wünsche Dir weiterhin viel Erfolg.9

And for those of you who don’t read German:

My name is Moni and my great grandfather was Paul Franke born in Gera 18.05.1884, his parents were Friedrich Gustav Franke and Emma Ida Graumüller born 18.07.1853 in Bad Köstritz.

Your website has given me a lot of joy. I didn’t know that a part of the Graumüller family emigrated to America. Yes, as you write, it is not easy to get data from the eastern part of Germany.

I wish you much continued success.

Hot damn!

I have a new cousin!

Moni’s 2nd great grandmother, baptized Ida Emma Graumüller on 31 July 1853, is the oldest child of my second great grandparents, Johann Christoph Graumüller and Augusta Wilhelmina Zimmerman.10

And she is the older sister of my great grandmother Emma Louisa Graumüller, born 27 October 1855.11

Which makes Moni, if my analysis is right, my third cousin once removed!

Hot damn.

I wonder if she wants to do a DNA test…


  1. Elizabeth Shown Mills, comment on Facebook status of the author, some time in the last few weeks, even though I can’t find the darned post right now… Note: My cousin Paula found it, so let’s correct the citation: Elizabeth Shown Mills, comment on Facebook status of the author, 15 November 2014.
  2. See FamilySearch, catalog search, Germany, Bremen, Bremen – Civil registration, ( : accessed 28 Nov 2014).
  3. See FamilySearch, catalog search, Germany, Bremen, Bremen – Church records, ( : accessed 28 Nov 2014).
  4. See Judy G. Russell, “Bremen’s Maus,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 14 July 2012 ( : accessed 28 Nov 2014).
  5. FamilySearch Research Wiki (, “Thuringia – Reuss jüngere Linie – Fürstentum (principality),” rev. 25 Jan 2014.
  6. See Judy G. Russell, “Friedrike, how COULD you?,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 7 January 2012 ( : accessed 28 Nov 2014).
  7. Frank Reinhold, Auswanderer aus Reuß jüngerer Linie (Reuß-Gera) von 1849-1882 (Kleve : Arbeitsgemeinschaft für mitteldeutsche Familienforschung, 2006).
  8. My family name translates as “goatherd.” Nobility, we are not.
  9. Moni S., comment posted 29 Nov 2014 to “Losing a child,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 14 December 2013 ( : accessed 28 Nov 2014).
  10. Ida’s baptism was the first of the family events recorded in the Bad Köstritz church records after the May 1852 marriage of her parents. For the marriage, see Kirchenbuch Bad Köstritz, Trauregister Seite 434 Nr. 11 aus 1852, Marriage Record of Johann Christoph Graumüller and Auguste Wilhemina Zimmermann (digital image of record in possession of JG Russell). For the baptism, see Kirchenbuch Bad Köstritz, Taufregister Seite 57 Nr. 35 aus 1853, Baptismal Record of Ida Emma Graumüller (digital image of entry in the possession of JG Russell).
  11. See Kirchenbuch Bad Köstritz, Taufregister Seite 110 Nr. 52 aus 1855, Baptismal Record of Emma Louise Graumüller (digital image of entry in the possession of JG Russell).
Posted in My family | 29 Comments