Sunday, January 30, 2011

US Federal Penitentiary Case Files

Inmate Case Files 1895-1952
Prologue Magazine, Summer 2010, Vol. 42
It’s not often that we find an ancestor in the Federal Penitentiary, but for the lucky family historian that has one, the records and documents kept during their stay in the “federal home” are plentiful.  These records are genealogically rich and can be used not just to uncover their history, but they may connect the researcher to other family members. 

As the expert speaker at the Kansas City NARA, Steve Spence, says “A warning comes with this information.  This is raw unedited information, so be sure you want to uncover the truth.” There are 69, 937 plus case files for the US Penitentiary Leavenworth Inmate records from 1895-1952.  These are primarily textural records. From these files you can learn about your ancestor’s lot in life, and get enlightened in US history.  In addition to Leavenworth, records were preserved for Alcatraz, Atlanta and McNeil Island.  These textural records are held at the Regional Archives. For information on the NARA holdings reference Research On Prison at the National Archives.

During the Feb. 28th workshop at the Kansas City NARA, I had an internal battle on which record I would delve into first.  So, I’ve opted to just present the various records to you, as the speaker gave them to the captivated audience. 

Records in the Collection:
1)      Mug Shot - These pics are not blurred, and the person in them are definitely identified.  What genealogists wouldn’t want to say that for the stack of unmarked photos on the desk?
2)      Record Sheet -To include name, crime, violation (some surprisingly minor) and dates.  Really? Uncle WhatsHisFace killed someone even in prison?
3)      Personal Data Sheet - Birth, education and religion.  But the best part, that coveted genealogical information of spouse and parent’s name.  For this reason alone, I wish most of my ancestors to be hard Federal criminals.
4)      Fingerprints - These records include marks and scars.  Of course Ft. Leavenworth was pivotal in promoting the use of fingerprints for identification.  So this one I expected.  What I didn’t expect was the detail of cranial measurements

At this point I must give a bit more of a historical lesson.  Prior to fingerprinting a precise measurement of forehead, nose, etc. was used to identify prisoners (Bertillon Measurements).  But then along came the West twins in 1903: Will and William West.  (I know not creative but it is true according to various sources.  Check out news article Rare Twin Murder Case Echoes Bizarre Fingerprint Origins.  Their measurements were almost identical, but the only differentiating characteristic was their fingerprints.  This led to abandoning the Bertillon measurement systems in 1904; replacing it with fingerprinting. These are the kind of stories that keep me up at night. Thanks NARA Steve for sharing.

5)      Daily Work Record -Wouldn’t we all want to know what our ancestors’ daily life consisted of.  This record gives us a glimpse of how they spent their time on a daily basis. 
6)      Hospital Record - Medical records are often difficult to obtain for ancestors, but here you can get the information without a fuss (up to 1952.).  An interesting point is that the masses would believe that during the 1920’s prohibition violations would have populated the prison system.  However, in reality it was drug offenders: morphine and cocaine.  The KC NARA webpage states Leavenworth had so many drug violators that they formed their own baseball teams. The "Morphines" and the "Cocaines" squared off in an annual contest to determine the best baseball-playing dope violators in the institution.” 
7)      Correspondence Log -These records may hold the post office and state of correspondence.  This kind of information may assist a researcher to a family’s whereabouts. 
8)      Personal Correspondence - Although letters were considered private property of inmates, they may have been confiscated and preserved due to a violation.  Imagine what could be gleaned from these letters!
9)      Trusty Prisoner’s Agreement - Perhaps your ancestor was remorseful and on the mends.  He may have been allowed to work outside the walls or in a low level job inside.  That might give a happy closure to those sleepless nights.
10)  Sentence of Court Case -We all have used court cases to further our research and you definitely wouldn’t want to disregard this one.

Although we don’t think of Leavenworth Penitentiary as being co-ed, it was for a short period. I don't think it took a Rocket Scientist to quickly figure out that was a bad a idea. 

Happy Cell Searching!

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Who Do You Think You Are

Season 2 Premier Feb 4 2011

Hopefully by now you have seen previews for the NBC production of Who Do You Think You Are? This season will feature eight celebrities beginning with Vanessa Williams on Feb. 4, 2011. Other celebrities this season are Tim McGraw, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rosie O’Donnell, Steve Buscemi, Kim Cattrall, Lionel Richie, and Ashley Judd.

a3Genealogy is pleased to have had the opportunity of researching for both the Tim McGraw and Ashley Judd episodes. As a guest genealogist, I will be appearing in the second episode, Feb 11, with Tim McGraw.

If you miss the shows, be sure to visit the Who Do You Think You Are? website for viewing of full episodes, starting with Season 1.

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers

Friday, January 28, 2011

US Patent Database and Genealogy

Hidden Places to Find Hints

If you find an advertisement of your ancestor's enterprise, be sure to check the small lettering for a Trademark or Patent number.  It's amazing where we can find our next clue, historical information, or answer to a burning question. Heather Wilkinson Rojo, at Nutfield Genealogy, reminds us of a great blog posts that trademarks and patents can lead the researcher to more genealogical relevant data. The US Patent and Trademark Office allows for Patent searches as well as Trademark searches on pending and registered marks (TESS database).

In her blog post Peter Hoogerzeil’s House in Beverly, Massachusetts, Rojo "used the patent number on the advertisement to search on the US Patent and Trademark Office website." The result: information on her inventor ancestor. Now that kind of find nets bragging rights!  This blog was a short practical case study of how to use the US Patent database to further your genealogy research.

But not to be outdone, along comes Google Patents. - another great tool to search Patents and Trademarks while doing family research.  And who's a better tester of this product than Heather Wilkinson Rojo? Rojo experimented and shared her experience with us in her article Perusing Google Patent.

The Nutfield posts Perusing Google Patent, dated 14 Jan 2011, is a coup de gras of patent research and genealogy efforts combined. It appears that "Deb Ruth’s blog “Adventures in Genealogy” gave Google Patents' website link in her article Google Patents. Both of these blog post lets us know that Google Patents is a definite resource for the family researcher to learn more of their "tinkering" ancestors. turn!

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers

Thursday, January 27, 2011

~~ ~Media Release~~~

a3Genealogy is pleased to announce our involvement in genealogy and historical research for the NBC series "Who Do You Think You Are?" which premiers Friday, February 4, at 8/7c.

We were able to assist in tracing the families of a couple of this season's celebrities. In fact, the owner of a3Genealogy, Kathleen Brandt, of Kansas City, Mo., appears in the second episode with Tim McGraw, airing Friday, Feb 11, 2011 as a guest genealogist!

Here's a preview from NBC Action News in Kansas City:

Accurate, Accessible Answers
Kansas City, MO. 64110

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Win a $20,000 Sweepstake From

a3Genealogy is pleased to announce our involvement in genealogy and historical research for the NBC series "Who Do You Think You Are?" which premiers Friday, February 4, at 8/7c.

We were able to assist in tracing the families of a couple of this season's celebrities. In fact, the owner of a3Genealogy, Kathleen Brandt, of Kansas City, Mo., appears in the second episode with Tim McGraw, airing Friday, Feb 11, 2011 as a guest genealogist!

Here's a preview from NBC Action News in Kansas City:

Accurate, Accessible Answers
Kansas City, MO. 64110

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Looking For Your Civil War Ancestor?

Forgotten Provost Marshal General’s Records
Many family researchers have given up on finding information on their civil war era ancestor.  Perhaps, they can’t find any record verifying that they ever served in the Civil.  Or maybe they can’t understand why their perfectly aged ancestor didn’t serve in the war.  Or were your ancestors in one of the five Confederate dominate states – the Carolinas, Virginia, Mississippi, and Alabama – where many records were lost? You may wish to extend your search to the Provost Marshal Records.

On 21 Jan the NARA at Kansas City gave a well attended workshop on these records encouraging researchers to further their Civil War search.   And, I thought since this is one of my favorite Record Groups (RG110) why not recap?

What are Provost Marshal Records
In 1863, right before the war blossomed, with Lincoln at the helm, it was decided to assign a Provost Marshal to systematically locate, register, enroll and enlist all eligible men to serve.  This national effort was implemented and enforced by each state, 27 in all excluding the 5 Confederate dominate states.  At the time there were 35 states and 7 territories, and even some territories, like that of Nebraska participated in the enrollment process. The key functions of this War Department’s role was to arrest deserters, enroll men for the draft, enlist volunteers, and compile statistics on the physical condition of recruits and on army casualties.
Description List of Deserters
What to Expect?
The Provost Marshal Records are very well documented and analyzed.  Remember, every man of age, eligible to serve was at least named or noted.  If your ancestor did not serve, agan there may be note stating the reason he was not required to do so or if he hired or negotiated for a substitute (suggesting he was a man of means).

Don’t pass these records off as Union documentation only. If your ancestor was serving in the Confederate Army, he too may be listed in the records.  The records of the politically divided southern states, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas, usually noted the status of men from both the Union and Confederate side. This was the only way to account for every eligible man (think census taker).

It is also possible that your ancestor lived in North Carolina, but listed in the Tennessee records (as did many of my free-colored ancestors).  So, be sure to keep an open mind when searching.

Primer of Record Types to be Found
Consolidated Lists
list all men eligible for draft.  Name, residence, description, occupation, marital states, birth are provided.  Keep a close watch for notes in the margin.
Registers of  Men
to include drafted men, recruits and substitutes including African Americans.  Dates of when entered army and regiment selected/assigned provided and where mustered.
Medical Registers
examinations of recruits and substitutes and descriptions.  Remarks of the examination, or recommendation to be rejected may be included.
Register of Rejections and Exemptions
based on medical examinations this register gives reasons for rejection, full description of the recruit and residence.
Descriptive books of Arrested Deserters
deserters were listed by name, rank, company.  A full physical description and residence is provided and place where deserted.

Where to Find Records?
Since these are state generated records, researching in your regional NARA is your best bet.  For more information reference: Access to Some Records in RG 110

Are African American Civil War Era Ancestors Listed?
Simply stated…YES!  African Americans served with both the Union and Confederate armies - some by choice, some as a substitute for a slave master, or as part of an emancipation agreement.  And as all eligible men were listed in these records, your ancestor may not only be listed, but you may find just one more coveted clue to an ex-slave. 

A good example of African American records in tact are the Provost Marshal records documenting African American recruitment from Missouri for the years 1863-1865, part of the NARA Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s-1917 (Record Group 94)..

Beginning in 1863, these records document the recruitment of African Americans for the United States Colored Troops (USCT). The provost marshals throughout Missouri was granted permission to recruit slaves and free blacks and to compensate loyal slave owners up to $300 for each slave they allowed to enlist.  These records provide names of recruits, and of the master (if applicable).  It also gives the county of residence, a physical description of the recruit, state and county of birth, occupation, and details of the enlistment, including when, where, by whom and the period.

Other Places To Search
The Provost Marshal department was abolished August 28, 1866 by the War Department.  But the records of successor agencies - Enrollment and Disbursing Divisions, Adjutant General's Office, and the Surgeon General's Office -should also be researched. Direct line of communication was set in place between the state Provost Marshal’s Office and the state Adjutant General’s Office. So, both agencies are worth researching.

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

OPA- The New NARA Access Tool

Accessing Family Treasures in the National Archives

The Learning center has recently posted the article Accessing Family Treasures in the National Archives. This overview of the new search tool Online Public Access (OPA) - fondly pronounced as "oh-pah"  introduces OPA to the genealogical community.  However,  other researchers will also benefit from this streamlined approach to searching for resources within the NARA using the inquiry tool provided on the OPA interface.  The primer gives an OPA overview and provides some helpful links for ordering documents and files that are of interest to the family researcher: microfilm, textual records, cartographic and architectural records.

As you reference Accessing Family Treasures in the National Archives you may find that some of your old NARA website bookmarks need to be updated, but all of the previous information from ARC is still available. And there will be a transitional period where ARC and OPA are running concurrently.

Regional NARA Facilities
Keep in mind that this article is just an overview of what is possible when using OPA.  But, the regional NARA facilities offer classes and assistance with research.  Each facility is equipped with various subscription databases and other tools free to the public.  A good example is the NARA in Kansas City, which will be offering the following courses in January:
January 21 - 1:00 p.m. - Provost Marshal Records, presented by Archivist Jake Ersland - The Provost Marshal General's Bureau was created in 1863 to streamline the process of filling the ranks of the Union Army. This entailed enrolling men for the draft, enlisting volunteers, conducting physical examinations for enlisted men, and arresting deserters. In the process of carrying out these tasks, the Provost Marshal recorded a wealth of information on men eligible for military service during the Civil War. The result is a gold mine for genealogists, who can use the records of Provost Marshal General's Bureau to learn fascinating details about their ancestors and what their lives were like during this crucial time in American history.

January 28 - 1:00 p.m. - 68,937 and Counting: Inmate Case Files at U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, KS, presented by Archives Specialist Steve Spence - A treasure of information awaits researchers and genealogists inside the prison records of Leavenworth Penitentiary. More than almost any other federal record, inmate case files offer unsurpassed biographical details on the life of an inmate. This presentation will cover what is available inside inmate case files and how to go about using them for genealogical research.
To ensure your seat for these KC workshops, call 816-268-8010 or register by emailing

Looking forward to receiving feedback on the Accessing Family Treasures in the National Archives article. 

Accurate, Accessible Answers

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tim McGraw Episode of Who Do You Think You Are?

Kathleen Brandt's research can be seen on NBC TV series Who Do You Think You Are?.
She was a featured genealogist on the Tim McGraw episode (Season 2)
and worked on episodes for Reba McEntire and Ashley Judd.
She has also researched for PBS - Finding Your Roots
Tim McGraw Episode aired Jan 2011, NBC

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Article in KC Star, 23 Nov 2010

Researching your ancestors easier with new technology, resources

James A. Fussell
Nov. 23, 2010 (McClatchy-Tribune Regional News delivered by Newstex)

Professional genealogist Kathleen Brandt of Kansas City knows all about using DNA analysis to fill out family trees for paying customers. But she also helps people with more basic searches for free as a volunteer at the Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence.

"Through DNA we can find a person's migratory path," Brandt said. "Did they come from Spain or a tribe in Africa? Are they Jewish or American Indian?" The process is simple -- a swab of the cheek is all it takes -- but it's not free. For less than $150 you can send your DNA to a lab.

"From those results we do an analysis that gives us a genealogical fingerprint," Brandt said. "We can connect family trees to lineage societies, such as the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) and the Mayflower Society."


"Much of (the information) is open and published," she said. "There's one service called Family Tree DNA. Most every test they've done is there for me, and I can tell whether you match anyone else who has done their DNA. It's become very popular in the last five years."

Brandt should know. She has paying clients from all over the world. And recently NBC hired her to help celebrities research their ancestors for an episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?..." [One show will air February 11, 2011]

But family historians can do numerous things for free. The first step, she said, is to take advantage of a researcher's dream built right here in our own backyard. With 52,000 square feet of resources, the Midwest Genealogy Center, part of the Mid-Continent Public Library system, is the largest free-standing public genealogy library in the country. The center has library staff and volunteers trained in genealogical research to help searchers navigate through the maze of information. They can access data from around the world, even order records from other countries. Library patrons also can get free access to subscription-based databases such as and

More people every year are doing just that, said Midwest Genealogy Center manager Janice Schultz. In 2008, the library helped 87,000 users. In 2009, that number jumped to 106,000. This year Schultz expects the number to rise again.

"The word is getting out," she said. "We can provide one-on-one assistance, help people when they hit a brick wall or if they don't know how to start. We also offer writing classes so people can learn to take those records they have been compiling and put them into a shareable format."

It has never been easier to research your ancestors, thanks to another trend in genealogical research: the digitization of paper records. You used to have to rummage through land deeds and birth records in dusty old county courthouses if you wanted to unearth documents to unlock your family history.

Not anymore. In fact, in August, one major database out of Utah -- -- digitized more than 200 million new records, bringing its free database of searchable records to more than 700 million.
While family historians can search for their ancestors from their home computers, Brandt said, that's not the best place to begin.

"Don't start with the computer," she said. "Start with what you know and come to the library. The first step is to get a beginner's package from the Midwest Genealogy Center and write down what you know about your family. It guides you through it like you're filling out a form."

One caution, Brandt said: Write down only what you can prove. "That's the biggest mistake," she said. "Everything must be verified and cited." What you think you know could just be folklore or historical fiction.
"That happens all the time," Brandt said. "I had one woman who wanted to prove that she was related to Johnny Mercer, who co-founded Capitol Records. She had been told that her whole life. But there was no proof, and she was very depressed. But I did give her a consolation prize. I found that she was a descendant of Irish royalty. That made her happy because she still had something to brag about to her husband."
And there's a warning for bigots: Don't be too sure what color your ancestors were.

"Mixed marriages were very well allowed in Virginia and North Carolina up until 1810," Brandt said. "So very few people are Â'pure.' Some are depressed when they find that out. And sometimes it's absolutely hilarious."
Brandt, who makes a "comfortable living" after making herself into an expert through workshops, seminars and experience, gets clients mostly through word of mouth. Some also find her through her website at When she's not researching other people's families, she likes to discover things about her own.

"I am an African-American, and on my father's side I was able to find slave-master information through Civil War records, because my father's side fought for their freedom," she said. Her mother's side?
"They were never slaves, and owned land as early as 1817," she said. "One interesting thing about her side is that they were Irish."

And how's this for interesting? "My father's great-great-grandfather was married twice, once with a slave wife and once after the Civil War with a legal wife," she said. "And when he died, his two wives fought over his pension."

There's just no telling where genealogical research will take you.Henry Tharp, another Kansas Citian who volunteers at the Midwest Genealogy Center, even used genealogy to meet one of his favorite actresses, Jane Russell.

"I was on a cruise (to London) with Jane last year, and prior to going, I read her autobiography," Tharp said. "She told a lot of stories in the book, and I thought there was no way it could all be true. So I did some research, and every bit of it was true." Tharp then compiled a binder of even more Russell family history and gave it to the former raven-haired bombshell, now 89.

She was so delighted she gave him an autographed picture and even had lunch with him a couple of times.
"You don't just walk up to a celebrity and say, 'Oh, I just love all your movies‚' " he said. "That gets you nowhere. I knew this was a more substantive approach and that she might enjoy it. And it turns out she did!"

The Midwest Genealogy Center
3440 S. Lee's Summit Road, Independence, 816-252-7228
Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays;
9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays; and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. genealogy

To reach James A. Fussell call 816-234-4460 or send e-mail to
Newstex ID: KRTB-0102-51040210