Ancestry.com Inc. is a private company owned by Permira and co-investors. Saskatchewan’s Wapiti Regional Library subscribes to the Ancestry Library Edition.
Ancestry Library Edition does NOT let you create a personal family tree like you can when you personally subscribe to the website. It only lets you search and view the records in its databases but you can take the records home by download them to a flashdrive or emailing them to yourselves.
Ancestry has over 32,000+ databases online and billions of records. There are some access limits depending on your subscription type. For example, a Canada subscription lets you view Canadian records only and a World subscription lets you view world-wide records.
We’re going to explore Ancestry Library Edition with a case study that begins with a single piece of data from the Wild Rose North Cemetery. The cemetery is in the Wild Rose District of the RM of Shellbrook and in the cemetery is this tombstone that only reads: “Mrs Risedorf.”
Who is Mrs. Risedorf? From the tombstone we can infer only three things…
- her gender,
- that she was married,
- and that her surname at one time was Risedorf.
So, to find answers to our questions we begin with…
A research log. Research logs are used to record your research. This is an example and you can find many more online by searching “genealogy research logs.”
A research log records WHERE you looked. So the name of the online database or library, archive, or museum you visited.
It records WHY you looked. That is, what question are you trying to answer? For example, where is my great-granduncle buried?
It records HOW to find what you looked at again. This is your source citation. Attaching a record in an online genealogy program generates the source citation for you, but when you enter the event in your desktop genealogical program you will need to write the source citation yourself.
And your research log records the results of your search. Did you find an answer to your question? Even if you find nothing, write that down so you don’t repeat that same search in that same database or book later on. It’s a good idea to also record the date your were searching too. Databases can be updated and years that might not have been available before, may become available to search.
The best practice of genealogical research is to start with yourself and then ask other family members. The Footprints of Our Pioneers community history book is going to play the role of another family member and we’re going to go ask Aunt Dot about the Risedorfs.
In summary, this is what Aunt Dot said. Orson Risedorf was born about 1850 in Wisconsin.
- He married Evelyn Tritton and they had 6 children: son Frank, son Wayne, daughter Leona, daughter Maime, daughter Florence, and son Robert.
- Evelyn died about 1896 in the United States.
- Orson remarried to a 2nd Wife in the United States.
- Orson filed homestead in Canada in 1907 on section 30 township 50 range 2 and West of the 3rd meridian.
- Orson’s 2nd Wife died in 1907 in the United States while he was in Canada.
- Orson remarried to a 3rd Wife, a “Mrs. Twigg,” in Canada
- Orson died in the 1920s in Holbein.
Now, Aunt Dot seems to have some memory problems and told us mostly about Mr Risedorf but her interview does give us some information to help us identify Orson out of the many possible Orsons—and importantly, the idea to interview a Twigge relative who may know more.
So we’re going to go ask Cousin Freda about the Twigges.
In summary, this is what Cousin Freda has to say about her husband Harold Cecil Twigge who was born 6 Feb 1897 in Ontario, the youngest of 11 children.
- He had a brother named Russell, and a sister name Ena.
- Harold’s family moved to Redvers, SK when he was young.
- Harold’s father died in Redvers.
- Harold did two important things in 1926:
- He visited his mother, “Mrs. Risedorf,” in Holbein
- And he married Reda Wason and they had 3 childrenAnd lastly, Harold died on 25 Feb 1972 in Whitehorse, Yukon.
Well, Cousin Freda had quite a bit to say about her husband Harold and nothing really about his parents. Not even their names. So now we turn to questioning the records that people create throughout their lives. We know that Mrs. Risedorf, formerly Twigge, was alive in 1926, so we are going to try and locate her, or Orson Risedorf, in the 1921 Canada census and then work our way back though the censuses.
To Ancestry Library Ancestry Edition We Go
Here are some wildcard tips before we dive in. These tips apply not just to Ancestry Library Edition, but most search engines.
- A question mark is equal to one character, either vowel or constantan. So replacing the vowel in “Smith” will return the results for Smith spelled with either an I or Y.
- An asterisk is equal to multiple characters. A search for John* might return, John, Johnson, Johnsen, Johnathon, Johns, and more.
Caution, we are approaching the “transcription zone” when dealing with indices.
Interpreting handwriting can be tricky and when people are unfamiliar with person’s handwriting, or simply unfamiliar with the handwritten form of a letter, transcription errors occur when making indices. This example is taken from the 1916 prairie census and is the same name for the same municipality.
The various indexers transcribed the handwriting variously as “Royile, Rogiles, Rayilee, Rouiler, and Royilce.” Can you guess the real name of the municipality in question? Here’s a hint, it’s the historical name of the RM of Shellbrook. Rozilee!
Now we log in on the library computer. On the Wapiti Regional Library website, the log-in button is in the top right-hand corner. We’re going to navigate to the “e-Resources” menu option. Click on “Genealogy” from the list of topics. And a little pop-down menu will appear under the word Genealogy and you now click on the blue “Ancestry Library Edition” link.
This is the homepage of Ancestry Library Edition. To begin our research on Mrs. Risedorf we’re going to use the homepage quick link to the 1921 Canada census.
When visiting a record set for the first time, always remember to scroll down and…
Visit the record set description! It will tell you important information about what information is in the record set or if bits are missing. Like in a record set for births, the year 1876 is missing. It is very frustrating when querying a record set and not getting any results when you KNOW your ancestor should be in it, so save yourself some frustration and always check the description first.
We have some basic information from Aunt Dot about Orson Risedorf. So we’re going to make an assumption that he’s alive in 1921, and search for him. We’re going to search using his given name, surname, his approximate year of birth, his birth country, and the province where he was living. One reason I chose to enter just his country of birth, is that all the census asked for is the country if the person is born outside Canada.
We only get two results, for a Daniel and Sarah Risedorf. The man’s name isn’t right, but they are both living in the correct place. So we’re going to check it out.
This page is Ancestry’s index to the record. You could send this index home by clicking on the “Send Document” home button.
It will load a “Send record to email” window where you fill out you email and then confirm it. Don’t worry, Ancestry does not then add the email you just provided to an email list. Click on “Send email.”
By the time you get home from the library, in your inbox you should find this message. Click on “View your discoveries.”
And you’ll be taken to a generated list of your finds and you can download the record images directly onto your computer. As you can see, the last thing I was researching before taking this screencap was “Jack” Haney, the first man to drive across Canada in 1912.
Now, never stop at just looking at the index when you have an image of the original document to view.
Here is the 1921 Canada Census. We’re going to zoom in a bit.
So we have Daniel and Sarah Risedorf living in the right area as boarders with another man, but the immigration date does not match Orson’s known immigration so who knows if this is the correct person even though it is the correct location. Now, if you wanted to save this image you would click on “Save” in the top right hand corner.
It gives you the option to email the image home to yourself or save to this computer, which will let you save it the image to a flashdrive. Down at the bottom of the screen, you can page through the census to see the neighbours of the Risedorf and get a feel for the community and clicking on the filmstrip icon loads a flimstrip.
The filmstrip viewer is useful for giving you thumbnail previews. And in most census, Ancestry provides the index on the page. Very useful when you’re way to the right side of the page looking at the education columns and don’t know your line numbers anymore. Now, to return to the homepage at any time, just click on the Ancestry logo in the top left hand corner.
And it will take us back home. The quick links on the homepage to the Canadian censuses are only for the Federal censuses that cover the entire country. The next census for the province of Saskatchewan is actually the 1916 prairie census. Because the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta were experiencing such rapid agricultural development and population growth in the early 1900s the country wanted to track that growth, so it commissioned a special prairies census that occurred every 10 years in between the 10 year cycle of the Federal census. This means, that if you have ancestors living in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, or Alberta in the early 1900s, we’re the lucky ones to have census records for them for every 5 years.
We could search all the Canadian census from here, but we’re going to scroll down.
To the list of all the Canadian censuses on Ancestry. Third one from the bottom, is the 1916 census of the prairie provinces.
Here we are, the 1916 Canada Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.
We’re going to look for Orson Risedof with the exact same information we did before. His given name, surname, approximate birth year, country of birth, and the province he was living in.
No results. So, we’re going to edit our search.
And we’re going to take out Orson’s last name. Last names tend to be the most mangled in indices so searching with the given name of a husband and wife pair, can often give you more accurate search results.
60 results is really not bad, but you may notice that the top results are for individuals living in Alberta. We know they were in Saskatchewan, so we’re going to edit that search option.
Taking it from “broad” to “exact.” And update the search results.
We now have 41 results and they’re all living in Saskatchewan. We cruise down the page looking at the names.
Get to the bottom and click on the next page of results.
Cruise down the second page looking at the names.
Get to the bottom, and go to the last page.
Last page and nothing that matched or could be a match. So, we’re going to page through the census enumeration for the RM where they were living.
Back on the 1916 prairie census home page we’re going to “Browse this collection” to page through the images.
Set the province to Saskatchewan.
Set the enumeration district to North Battleford. Enumeration districts change from census to census so you may need to research that.
We’re going to scroll through the enumeration sub-districts and locate the area where Orson Risedorf homestead which was NE 30-50-2 W3. That is sub-district number 19. The description reads “Township, 48, 49, and 50, whole of fractional, ranges 1,2, and 3 W. 3. M., north and west of the North Saskatchewan River, including the Village of Shellbrook.”
There are 38 images to view in sub-district 19. And paging through them I find… nothing. Zilch. Not a very satisfying results for the research log for the effort put into it. But we’ve only looked at 2 censuses so far, and we have more to check.
The 1911 Federal census of Canada.
We’re going to search Orson’s given name, his surname, his approximate birth year, birth country, and province of residence. FIX!
29 results is very good if you have to search them individual, but most of the top results for non-Saskatchewan residents. So we’re going to edit the precision of the “Living in” search field.
From “Broad” to “Exact.”
Only 10 results, but no close matches so we’re going to edit our search.
And take out Orson’s surname from the search fields.
Well, that is an interesting first result. Especially the “dorf” ending of the “Mardorf.” Especially as I know the 1911 census images were microfilmed in poor condition and even resulted in times in truncated surnames. Some pages were so badly faded they are completely illegible. So remember, at times the indexers do the best they can with at times impossible to read records!
So, to see if the indexer correctly transcribed the entry or had trouble reading something we, as always, check the original image.
The original microfilmed image from the 1911 census.
Zooming in we see that in this case for “Risedorf”, it was letter interpretation error on the indexer’s part. Particularly when we compare the enumerator’s R in Risedorf against the R in Rachel on the same page. Often, reading the other entries on the page will help you figure out how a writer forms their letters.
So, we’ve found Orson Risedorf in the 1911 census and his wife’s name is Margaret, and she was born in 1854 in England. Unfortunately, we don’t know who provided the information so it’s just guiding information for right now. Onto the next census.
The 1906 census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. Now, we know that Orson Risedorf did not file homestead in Saskatchewan until 1907 so he’s unlikely to be in this census. So I’m going to make some assumptions for my next search.
My assumption is that Orson’s wife Margaret in 1911, is the given name of Mrs Twigge. I am going to search for Margaret Twigge, born about 1854 in England and living in Saskatchewan.
I get one result for a Sophia Oatwag living in Manitoba. Not who we’re looking for so let’s edit our search.
And remove again, Margaret’s surname.
377 results but the second result on the page is very interesting keeping in mind that some handwritten letters are often confused by indexers for other letters. L and S are really bad for that. So, who is this Margaret Swiggue?
She does have a son named Harold so let us view the original record.
The 1906 prairie census.
Zooming in we find that Swiggue is indeed Twiggue. And this Twiggue family is living in Redvers! This family also has a son named Harold C. and a daughter likely named Ena. So far, the bits of information we have are matching very well.
To the 1901 census of Canada.
We’re going to look for Margaret Twigge again, born about 1854 in England but we’re not sure where the family is living. Margaret’s last known residence was in Ontario for the 1897 birth of her son Harold but the family was in Redver Saskatchewan in the 1906 census, so who knows where they are now.
Three results, and none are close. So we edit our search.
We take out that limiting surname, and add two more pieces of information. The name of her husband Fred from the 1906 census and the name of her son Harold.
782 results, but the fourth result is for a Margaret Lingg with husband Fredrick living in Ontario. Hum. Lingg. Twigge. My transcription error sense is tingling.
To the index we go. Scrolling down to quickly view the family we see…
Margaret Lingg has three children named Russell, Eva, and Harold. Viewing the original record shows us…
That Lingg is again, Twigg with a most unhelpful dot-of-an-I placement, and Eva is actually Ena. So we have Fredrick and Margaret, both from England and 7 children all born in Ontario. Speaking of Ena, she was apparently born in Ontario in 1891 which is the next census enumeration so that’s were we’re going to look next.
The 1891 census of Canada.
Searching for Margaret Twigge, born about 1854 in England, and living in Ontario.
7 results with no Margaret married to a Fred, so we’re going to edit our search.
We’re going to remove the surname field, add Fred as the name of a spouse, and add Russell as a child in the family group. Ena’s birth year was given as 1891 in the previous census, but we don’t know when in the year she was born or if the information was precise or rounded off so that is why Russell is the search choice.
We have 11,749 results! And not a single one of them on the first page is born in England! So, we’re going to adjust the precision of Margaret’s birth country and province of residence.
From “Broad” to “Exact.”
372 results is still a bit much to browse through, so I’m going to adjust the precision of her birth year.
From broad, to within plus or minus 2 years of 1854.
We have now 155 results, which is much more manageable to browse through. Clicking on the next page.
There is a result that catches my eye. Margaret Larigge with husband Fredrick. Can’t hurt to check.
Margaret does have a son named Russell, so let’s view the original record and check that surname.
Move the image around a bit and…
We find them and find that we have our second instance of a T being transcribed as an L. And Russell is 5/12 months old and look at this, he’s a twin of Fredrick.
We found Orson and wife Margaret in the 1911 federal census. And from the 1906, 1901, and 1891 census we can reconstruct a general guide to the Twigge family. All 11 recorded children were born in Ontario so Ontario birth records is where we can look next, starting with Harold who we were told by Cousin Freda was born 6 Feb 1897.
From the homepage click on “Search” of the menu option, not any of it’s drop down options.
Click on the “Canada” tab over the map of the United States.
And then on the map of Canada, chose Ontario on the map or the text link for Ontario.
Ancestry will show us the record sets that are specific to Ontario vs. the census which are country wide. Click on “Ontario, Canada Births, 1868-1913.”
The search page for the Ontario, Canada Births, 1869-1913 records. And they cover the time span that Margaret’s children were all born, which is excellent.
Our first search is going to be for Harold, searching with his given name, surname, and year of birth.
No results. So we edit our search.
We take out the Twigge surname and as we know Harold’s precise birth date of 6 Feb from his wife, we’re going to add that.
Again no results. Time to try a new search.
Russell Twigge born about 1891.
A result! For a Russel Lee Twiggs.
We view the original images to see if there is any more information besides what’s provided on the index.
And we find the record of Russell’s birth for 8 Jan 1891. Father is F. B. Twigge, mother is Magaret S. (that is an S, not a J as indexed) Mon…something. And, right next to Russell’s entry is the birth entry of his twin, Fredrick Albers. And with Fredrick’s entry, we can see his mother’s birth name in full. Margaret was born Margaret Monson. So we now knowing the Twigge family parent’s full names we can…
Search the Ontario birth records with just the parent’s names. Fred Twigge and Margaret Monson.
And we have 2 results, with the first one being for Allen.
Allen Twigge was born on 4 Feb 1882 to Fred. (shorthand for Fredrick) Bosworth Twigge and Margaret S. Monson.
Unfortunately, searching the Ontario birth records turns up no other Twigge children born to Fred and Margaret. Something important to know about Ontario vital statistic registrations is that people had to pay for registration. So if it a vital event like a birth or death is not recorded at the provincial level, it generally means that the family did not pay for the registration, not that the vital event did not occur.
So of our research questions, what have we answered? We discovered that Mrs. Risedorf, formerly Mrs. Twigge, was born Margaret Monson in about 1854 in England. We also identified her husbands and her children. So, for fun, I think it’s time for a new tombstone.
We didn’t answer all our research questions with examining just census and Ontario birth records, but we did answer enough to give Mrs. Risedorf a name. And, to reassure you that too many great leaps of logical assumption were NOT made, further research in other areas and in other databases provided more evidence that Mrs. Risedorf, was Mrs. Twigge, was born Margaret Susanna Monson. For example, direct evidence was provided for Margaret and family by her late husband Fred Twigg’s probate file.
If you don’t have access to something free like Ancestry Library Edition, here are four online database tips if you are paying for a subscription.
- Know your subscription terms. – If you are signing on for a month, does the website bill you automatically for the next month which means you have to cancel after you are done you month?
- Before you pay, check their coverage. – Do they cover the location you are researching? Do they have the record set you want to look in? Do they have the newspaper you want
- Choose your subscription time wisely. – Don’t subscribe when you THINK you have time, subscribe when you have MADE time.
- Leverage your research log. – Use your research log and make your subscription worth while by having a lot of questions to solve for purposeful research.