Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Federal Dead List - FOIA Request

Let's be honest.  If you are a professional genealogist or a serious family researcher how many Freedom of Information Act requests have you generated? The a3Genealogy teams average about 25 (or more) a month from one agency or another. Every a3Gen Team uses FOIA requests - the Military, the Lineage, Dual Citizenship, DNA (Ingenes), Forensic / Private Investigator, and the Special Brickwall teams. Researchers are usually quite familiar with the FBI files from 1908 (more effective beginning around 1920) to present. Many have even uncovered FBI files from or other subscription databases.

You people don't know about the 
FBI RIDs Dead Lists?  

But, when I mentioned the FBI Record Information Dissemination Section (RIDS) Dead Lists the group confessed they were not familiar with it. Then it came to my attention that many did not understand how FOIA requests work. What research tools are generated from our FOIA requests?

FOIA Request FlowChart
Do you have an interesting ancestor who may have caught the eye of the F.B.I.? One Norweigen client had an interesting "public figure" ancestor living in Minnesota. It was interesting to compare her obituary to that in her FBI file.  Be sure to read the NPR piece: Finding FBI Files of the Dead.  Note: My ancestors were clearly under-achievers.

The FBI Record Information Dissemination Section (RIDS) Dead Lists is comprised of a list of people the FBI "understands" are deceased. Basically, the FBI (and other government agencies) creates records while processing day to day operations. So, investigative files and personnel files create a chain of records and indices on the "subject."  Early records can be located at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA, Archives II) in College Park, MD. Researchers may find more recent indices published online by year. For example, the 2015 Dead List may be found on

Researchers may also request information on an individual on the List by making a FOIA request to:
FBI RIDSAttn: Freedom of Information Act
170 Marcel Dr
Winchester, VA. 22602
Of course as with all FOIA Requests, proof of death (i.e. obituary) is needed. Remember these are the FBI RID's Dead List files.  So your subject has already been proven dead. Also, remember these files can be voluminous. One of our Philippine War Soldiers request, originally created by a military and Veteran's Administration FOIA, produced a file of over 600 pages. An issue carried on by his descendants had drawn the spying eye of the FBI. Keep in mind that just because the subject is deceased, his file may continue. In this case, the file was created and continued for decades.Yet, much was learned (or supposed) of his life. The NPR piece above notes the issue of "accuracy" in some of the files and reports, but for genealogists, we use this resource to guide us to primary sources and further research.

What Might You Find?
Often I will do a location search (i.e. Kansas City), or code search  ("LCN" or "Pearl Harbor," or Civil Rights") for group topics.  Those who warrant an FBI file are most often infamous, or famous, or possibly or suspected to have engaged in activities that may have be against the state. (Did I use enough caveats there?) However, researchers will find compiled data on the subject. It may include newspaper clippings, interviews, or other source cited background information. It also may include speculation. In many cases, there are associated court cases that can be pulled for additional information.

1. Name Changes

Several years back, the Dual Citizenship team was working on not one, but two, unrelated Italian Dual Citizenship applications. One was from the mid-west the second was east-coast. Both were seemingly dead-ends. Where was grandpa?  It was through entries in the FBI RIDs Dead Lists Index that began the brickwalls to tumble. Not one, but both of our clients, with no known relation or association with each other, were descendants of members of La Costa Nostra (LCN) which is commonly tied to the Sicilian Mafia.

The clients' La Cosa Nostra ancestors not only were noted on the Dead Lists, but aliases names were proffered. Voila! Although eliminated from dual citizenship eligibility, at least family history was learned.

2. In Depth Topical Research

All the time in the world can't replace the research conducted and compiled by the FBI Records held in The Vault. Two years ago while researching for a Civil Rights documentary for one of the History Channel's pieces, we needed more information on our subject. There was not a direct file on the subject that we could locate, but we learned much about him via Claudia Jones' FBI file held in The Vault. Through The Vault, which many records are scanned and online, we were able to use the compiled (yes partially redacted) files that gave us both leads and hints to primary sources on our subject.

3. Association Research
We were successful again when working for the media with "Gangster Era" files  from the 1940's. Our subject was not indexed, but we tied our research to one who was more prominent, yet working and residing in the same circles, to find historical details on an actor's ancestors.

Other Access to FBI Deceased Identification Files
The U. S., F.B.I. Deceased Criminal Identification Files, 1971-1994 is also on  Again researchers can extract birthplace, death date, and perhaps a note on crime. This information offers researchers where to look next. At a3Genealogy we use this database mostly for our forensic research projects when needed.

Additional Resources
The Black Vault, FBI RIDs Dead List (2016, partial 2019)

Have fun during this time of "stay-at-home" to enjoy learning new repositories and resources.
Stay healthy and safe!

Kathleen Brandt

Monday, April 6, 2020

What Wasn't In The Obituary?

Courtesy of Crown Realty
Share your Local House Histories
(Even Contemporary House Histories are Fascinating)

In a time when the world seems to be at a standstill, historical research has boomed. And since I research historical topics as a family and forensic genealogist and contemporary subjects as a Private Investigator the chance to delve into some quirky Kansas happenings was a breath of fresh air. Especially when that fresh air housed man-made scuba diving tunnels.

In the month of March, the a3Gen team has unearthed house and land histories in Johnson County Kansas, Dodge County Kansas, and Jackson County Missouri for clients but most aren't this picturesque. So below I put eight tips to ferreting out house histories:

8 Tips to Start House History Research
  1. Obituaries
  2. Newspapers
  3. Who were the architecture and the builders
  4. Trade Magazines
  5. Land Deeds / Court Recorder Office be sure to pull contractor permits
  6. Zoning Records
  7. County and National Historical Record Applications (if applicable)
  8. Present and Past owners (if applicable)
The Spirit of Avalon
Yes, one of the houses we researched, was noted for its scuba diving tunnels. Yes, in Kansas! Thanks to Dennis Langley, the founder and CEO of the Kansas Pipeline Operating Company, a 17,755 square foot castle-of-a-house, that I believe is still on the market, was built. Langley's life story is well known in the Washington, DC and Kansas circles. His rise from Hutchinson Kansas Community College (the same community college my mother attended) to Senator Joe Biden's "Chief Speechwriter," to his political influence especially in the state of Kansas to his CEO position is all outlined in his 2017 obituary. Read his obituary here.

Actually, as a Kansas know-it-all, I knew quite a lot about Langley so the only real surprising bit was the family's suggestion of memorial donations to be made to the United Aid Foundation to help orphaned children in Romania. This tie needs to be researched a bit more. But what was most surprising was what was not in the obituary.

What Wasn't In The Obituary
When you are researching the man who built the most lavish and unique castle-like home in your home state, you really don't know what you will find. (Yes, I live in Kansas City, MO now, but my family roots since 1880's is in central/western Kansas). But it's what I didn't find in Langley's obituary that was a bit surprising.

"The Spirit of Avalon," (think King Arthur) the name given to his home, was mentioned only once in his obituary. This legendary home built in 1993 and completed with tunnels in 2000 is estimated to have cost about $30 million. Yet, it was slightly mentioned in the obituary as the future location of "a celebration of his life and friendships." Langley's estate was also mentioned when referring to his favorite past-time which was apparently "pruning his [own] trees." Unfortunately, Langley succumbed to complications from a fatal fall while pruning.

The issue is, we know, or maybe just suspected, that this man had an even bigger passion. The one not mentioned in his obituary. Scuba diving! At minimum he was a well known scuba diving enthusiast.

Sure, you can overlook the size of the house, the requisite tower as every respectable castle should have, or the 15 bronze statues. You can even downplay the hand carved dragon doors, where the dragons have different colored eyes. But the scuba diving tunnels? That's how I learned of Langley years back. Why wasn't his dedication to scuba mentioned?

Scuba-diving grotto
The main residence and guesthouse were originally built in 1993 by Dennis Langley, who worked in the natural gas business and was a scuba enthusiast. Over a three-year period, he added a series of water-filled tunnels that extended below the house, into the mountain, and around the property, accessed by a series of pop-up holes and grottoes so that divers could enter and exit at various points. (Article: New Haven Register)

Visit this Kansas home here: Dive Into This $11.8M Kansas Megamansion With Subterranean Scuba Tunnels. Note: Be sure to ignore the reference of a mountain. We do not have mountains in Kansas. Well, it may meet a layman's (or Kansan's) use of the word mountain, but falls short of the geologists' classification as a "landform that rises 1000 ft." But I digress...

While we have a bit of a slow period, why not share a special part of your home state? I was honored to be commissioned to do a special project on Langley and the Spirit of Avalon. House histories, even contemporary house histories, are fascinating and fun.

Kathleen Brandt

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

From 1940 to Present Day Research Resources

8 Resources for Descendant / Forensic Genealogy

Genealogy vs Descendant Research Your project may have the objective to locate living descendants. Thirty percent of a3Genealogy research projects are classified as "descendant research." Some like to call it "forensic genealogical research." 

Genealogical research typically requires us to start with ourselves or present day and work backwards. But, what if we have an ancestor (subject) from the past and we want to uncover present day descendants? This is Descendant Research.  Also called forensic genealogical research, descendant research may be tied to the legal system to prove kinship or requires the research proof argument to include scientific support - like a DNA test result analysis. If the legal system is not involved, or DNA test analysis is not required, a3Genealogy researchers call it descendant research. We all can do this!

What needs to be done?

Your project may have the objective to locate living descendants. A well thought out research plan will be the key to your success. For our Sebastian Glos descendant research project the plan had the objective to identify addresses, emails and phone numbers of living descendants. 

Tips to Uncover 
In the Sebastian Glos descendant research project we began with a living Glos client in California. His genealogical research was traced back to Klingenm├╝ster, Germany - a normal genealogy project - start with present day and work backwards. It was proven that the Glos children came to America between 1867- 1883. 

Now we turn to Descendant Research. To uncover the descendants we put in two practices: 
1) use wildcards for names because in the Glos case, six of them changed their names early. Most were simple changes (i.e. Fanciscus became Frank); but then there was Magdelena who became Helen. HELEN???  
2) never be attached to the spelling of the surname. At least two of the Glos sons adopted the surname "Gloss." (This had to be to purposeful in order to make it more difficult for the researcher!)
8 Resources: From 1940 to Present Day Research 
The plan gets complicated between the 1940 census to present day. What resources are available to meet our objective: "identify addresses, emails and phone numbers of living descendants." Here are a few suggestions: 
1) land deeds at the county court recorders offices.  Many of these may be online.
2) city directory research and analysis
3) state voter registration cards
4) social media ferreting to include Instagram, Linkedin, Facebook, etc.
5) newspaper research for obituaries and community social news that may name parents or descendants.
6) public record research. Start with Google search. At a3Genealogy we use several databases to include our subscribed Private Investigator (PI) database.
7) vital records: available birth, death and marriage records may connect ancestors to descendants living in current day.
8) recorded wills and probates 

At a3Genealogy we often ask for Y-DNA tests results from familytreeDNA, and autosomal DNA tests results (i.e. ancestryDNA, myheritageDNA, 23&Me, etc) when applicable. These test can assist in identifying surnames and family units as we uncover "new" cousins. We were easily able to connect the Bernzott family connection - Frank Bernzott married Barbara Glos . But, to connect the Quist, Lang, Patz, & Eliason descendants of Barbara (Glos) Bernzott we turned to all eight of the suggestion resources above. These same key 8 resources apply to all Descendant Research projects.

Stay healthy and safe as you use this social distancing time for discovering ancestors and identifying cousins.  We will all want a family reunion after this is over!

Kathleen Brandt
Be sure to follow us at our a3genealogy online sites and social media (below) for updated information. 

Shelter in Place Order
Extended Deadlines
Know that many job deadlines will be extended as we work with repositories (courthouses, state archives, national archives, etc) that may be in a mandatory shutdown mode or under-staffed.

Note: a3Genealogy researchers are now scheduling for April and May projects. We are also still conducting our Do-It-Yourself Genealogy Consultation client and tutoring sessions which are in high demand. Let us know, if you wish to be added to our wait list. Contact us at 816-729-5995 Monday -Friday 10:00am - 3:00pm or by appointment:

Monday, March 16, 2020

Amidst Coronavirus Pandemic

Image result for coronavirus image
Get to Know Your Ancestors!

No Social Distancing Required to Get to Know Your Ancestors
Amidst the corona-virus pandemic, a3genealogy researchers will continue scheduling and working on client projects. 

Existing Clients 
To include retainer clients and media clients: 
Client questions and discussions may be conducted by via the internet - zoom, skype, facetime, or by phone. 

Onsite Research
We have halted all onsite and travel required research until April 20th.  At that time we will be able to give you an update or reschedule our travel schedule based on CDC recommendations and repository availability. 

New Clients
We are now booking new clients for a start date of April 1st.  

We have been receiving a lot more requests for our "Genealogy Consultation Package." This is our "do-it-yourself" package.  Keep in mind that it too is a 10 session package, that must be used within twelve months. Each session can be up to 45 minutes of phone / internet time, or it can include us reviewing your work and sending you a Next Step Research Plan.  Actually YOU decide how you wish to use the Consultation Package. (In the last two weeks you all have been pretty creative)!  But this do it yourself package will help you as a beginning family researcher, or working through a brickwall, or expanding your opportunities as a professional genealogist.  True to the mission statement for the a3Genealogy blog, the purpose of this package will help you with your ongoing research projects, and learning the steps and resources along the way. This is the only package that will allow you to jump around between projects (DNA analysis, Adoption, Grandma 1 and Great-Granpa 4).  Who knows? You may have that brickwall solved before this "slow-down" ends. 

Extended Deadlines
Know that many job deadlines will be extended as we work with repositories (courthouses, state archives, national archives, etc) that may be in a mandatory shutdown mode or under-staffed.

Please visit our a3genealogy online sites and social media for updated information. 

Kathleen Brandt

Friday, February 14, 2020

Resources for Military History Research

Tips for Everyone
America's History Part 2

I was interviewed by the Mid-Continent Public Library of  the Kansas City area. This of course is the home of the Midwest Genealogy Center.  I will be posting questions and answers from the interview here. As you already know, Military Research is basically the same for all veterans, however this series of questions was posed as a precursor to the presentation Military Service by African Americans. So although the class points out nuances caused by segregated troops, the sources, tips, hints and documents apply to all. Three sessions of this title are being offered by Mid-Continent Pubic Library beginning 11 Feb 2020.  Check the link for the different branches. One session at the Daniel Boone Regional Library of Columbia, MO. on Feb 18;  and one at the Leavenworth Kansas Public Library, 23 Feb 2020.

What are your top three tips for military history research?

1.       Don’t forget the National Archives Records in Washington DC, Archives I for the early wars: Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War and Philippine War. 
For early war research, remember you must also exhaust the militia, which includes State Historical Societies and repositories,.  You will also wish to visit the Civil War records held at the associated Regional Branches of the National Archives.  They hold all the Provost Marshal Records
The Philippine War service records are quite challenging to uncover. They should be in the collections held at the Archives I, NARA -Washington, DC, but photos were found in Archives II, College Park Maryland.  Also we most often had to do a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request for assistance in locating the Personnel files for these veterans.  Many of them also served in the WWI. If that is the case, you will want to retrieve that full record, if available to get a more complete account of your veterans full military service. 
Read here for additional articles. 
2.      Remember the modern war records (WWI to present day ) are in both National Archives Records in College Park Maryland and in National Personnel Resource Center (NPRC) in St. Louis.  Yes, there was a fire in 1973, but many troop records, and other types of records can be used to reconstruct your ancestor’smilitary service story and provides a working timeline.
The National Personnel Resource Center (NPRC) requires the proper forms for research. Be sure to contact them in advance if you wish to research onsite: microfilms of troop rosters, morning reports, and personnel records, etc. 
Read here to get more ideas on how to reconstruct your WWI veteran. 
3.      Don’t forget the value of the Veteran Administration records.  This may take an additional step of sending out FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests, but the time is well worth the effort. Plus, it is possible that the VA holds the original records or duplicates thought to be lost in the fire. A recent FOIA case produced over 400 pages of military records that had been presumed to have been lost in the 1973 fire. Be sure to complete the SF180 form for FOIA requests as well as Modern War records. 
      Where are Veteran Pension Files?
 Be sure to join me at one of the five presentations in February on the topic! Check out the monthly calendar here.

Kathleen Brandt

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Military Service by African Americans

America's History Part 1
I was interviewed by the MidContinent Public Library of  the Kansas City area. This of course is the home of the Midwest Genealogy Center.  I will be posting questions and answers from the interview here. This is a precursor to the presentation Military Service by African Americans. Three sessions of this title are being offered by Mid-Continent Pubic Library beginning 11 Feb 2020.  Check the link for the different branches. One session at the Daniel Boone Regional Library of Columbia, MO. on Feb 18;  and one at the Leavenworth Kansas Public Library, 23 Feb 2020.

I'm Not African-American
Remember this is America's History.  Your non-African-American Ancestor may have been an officer of these troops and the research tips provided might uncover your hidden veteran regardless of troop affiliation. Here is the course description. 
African American military service history began with Colonial America. Researchers must locate veteran records while also uncovering under-utilized holdings of military service collections. In addition to the Civil War, WWI and WWII, your African American ancestors may have served in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, the Spanish American War, Philippine-America Insurrection, or the Indian Wars. Plus, women contributed in large numbers to the modern wars also.
Kathleen Brandt

In researching the military service of African Americans, what are unique factors that researchers must consider?

Through the different eras of America, the status and challenges have changed for African Americans in the military.  This forces the researcher to follow tailored strategies for ferreting out their African American veteran ancestor.   To determine if your African American ancestor served in the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812, we must take into account that free-coloreds, black indentured servants, and slaves served in the war.  Research may include following researching seamen records, slaveholder records to include deeds and minutes and  as other court records.  Court records may uncover manumission records due to military service or detailed court cases that hold freedom records.  African Americans who served as a substitute in these wars may have had a manumission clause in a court recorded agreement with their slaveholder.  Of course, the research to uncover your African American early war ancestor may include England and Canadian records also. 

Researching African Americans who served in the Civil War must include, federal and state records.  This research must not be restricted to your ancestor’s state of residency but also include neighboring states.  Researchers must understand and follow the role of the Underground Railroad and Freedmen’s colonies.  Often overlooked are the over 100 contraband Union camps for runaway slaves that existed in the South. Many of these slaves became veterans of the Civil War.  The records at the Provost Marshal Records at the regional National Archives are a treasure trove, as well as local newspaper clippings. 

Tracing your early war African American soldiers may be complicated by name changes, especially post Civil War. Reconstructing your veteran’s family unit to ensure tracing common names can also be challenging.  In genealogical research we always state “follow the money.”  For African American research this may begin scouring the Freedmen Bureau’s records, and including exhaustive research in county deeds and minutes. 

The biggest myth is to assume your present family name was that of a slaveholder.  The truth is many of our African American soldiers served under a name not associated with a slaveholder and after the war maintained that name or assumed an alias.  Of course DNA results, and strong genealogical research may assist in uncovering your military veteran.

America was not a safe place or a place of equality for African Americans whereas other countries or communities welcomed their contributions.  We find many of our Philippine War veterans, as well as WWI and WWII African American veterans settled in foreign countries where they served. Uncovering these ancestors may require expanding our research to include overseas documents, passports, ship and passenger records, and American consulate records.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Researching in the Lost State of Franklin, 1785 - 1788

8FranklinCounties.png (1340×1029)
Western North Carolina, Eastern Tennessee
We tease in the a3Genealogy researchers world, that dealing with records between 1785 - 1791, those four - five dreadful years of indecision, independence and defeat, in the "lost state of Franklin" will lead you down a never-ending rabbit hole.  It was not until recently that I realized that we have never posted about this research conundrum that has few answers, but with a bit of digging, you may ferret out your State of Franklin ensconced ancestors. (In Spanish the word is literally "escondido" - hidden).

But, regardless of how you describe it, many researches just caste out this western North Carolina & eastern Tennessee regional area's research challenges as the "Appalachian" puzzlement." (Say that fast five times - "Appalachian puzzlement)." What researchers fail to realize is that due to the independence of what now would be considered an eight county region in northeastern Tennessee historically 1) was part of North Carolina 2) operated independently for four years, 1785 - 1788 as its own "quasi-state" which was presented but denied statehood by the Continental Congress.

If all would have gone well, our 14th state "would have been" the State of Franklin.

Yes, this denied state, the state of Franklin, never made it to realization, but operated independently for about 4 years.  And, its citizens, our ancestors, left a papertrail.  An unorganized, uncompiled, incomplete, illogically placed papertrail, but somewhat of a papertrail nonetheless.  So let's go hunting for our ancestors in the state of Franklin - let's say between 1785 - 1791 (see the First Family Papers below).

Where to Begin
1)  History.  The not-quite -formed State of Franklin must be understood.   Be sure to understand the issues, formations, and fall of what would have been the state of Franklin. Even though it was never ratified, it surely left our proud ancestors' paperwork.
2) Land Grants. Partial Census of 1787 to 1791 of Tennessee as taken from the North Carolina Land Grants is a great source for reconstructing a census, and the inhabitants.
  • Family Search digitized film #1728882, item 4, or 
    Family search digitized film #1683130 item 3.
3) Proven First Families.
Add caption
Sometimes, we just want to see our ancestors in the right place at the right time.  Just a glimpse of their whereabouts. If you are wishing to get an alphabetically compiled list of surnames for First Families of Franklin Ancestors (updated 1993) visit the a3Genealogy First Families of Franklin Ancestors page.  This list was provided by Tipton - Haynes State Historic Site.

4) County Records & Archives. Of course records were created in North Carolina, especially land records. The counties of Sullivan, and Washington  Tennessee, (originally in North Carolina) have scattered records, some digitized. Marriages, deeds, wills and other court records can still be located within the counties of Washington County and Sullivan County, now Tennessee. Be sure to scour the records of the eight counties as well as both states.

Tennessee Historical Society, TN. State Library & Archives
Well, we are currently straddling the New Year. We wanted to start with something old, yet new for many.  Keep digging and if you uncover your own State of Franklin lost ancestor, be sure to let us know (with proven docs of course).

Happy New Year 2020
Kathleen Brandt