Tom Kemp, Director of Genealogy Products

Genealogist Q&A

Whether you're a seasoned genealogy pro or just getting started, our Q&A answers the most commonly-asked family history research questions.

Have a question about or hit a brick wall in your family history research? Tom Kemp, Director of Genealogy Products, internationally known librarian, archivist and published author with over 50 years of genealogy experience, provides expert answers to the most commonly-asked genealogy questions in our informative Genealogist Q&A and our complimentary guide "Getting Started Climbing Your Family Tree."

To begin, click on the genealogy question links below to view the answers. Also, download our free Search Tips Guide.

How can I find more information on my grandfather?

A: First I need more background information on the family.


Hi Tom,Thanks for getting back with me. I know this is a tough one because we are talking civil war days and OK Indian Territory. My grandfather Frank Elijah Jackson was born in Sherman TX in 1865 to a Chickasaw women by the name of Lydia Love (maiden name) or Jackson (married name). He died in 1953 or 4 in Los Angeles, CA this I'm sure of.I spoke with archives in Austin TX no birth record of him. He worked for the Santa Fe railroad in Topeka Kansas how long I don't know. He had to have a ssn# to work I would guess and if so he had to have a birth certificate. I'm trying to establish our Indian heritage, and to find out his father's background who was Calvin Jackson believed to be an Irishman. Another name that is tied in is Calvin Jackson Grant born 1861 in Sherman, TX. They both resided in Berwyn, OK when it was a territory which is prior to 1906. Any suggestions would surely be appreciated. Thanks,Frank

Several quick points Frank.1. California records show a Frank Elijah Jackson - born 23 Feb 1866 in Texas who died in Los Angeles, CA on 9 Jun 1953. I'd suggest that you write to the California Office of Vital Statistics for a copy of his death certificate to confirm that this is your grandfather. That should give you more details on his father.

2. Social Security Number. Today when you register for a Social Security number you need proof of your identity and your birth certificate. When the Social Security program was organized in the 1930s the process was much more informal. People simply registered. The requirement for people to show a birth certificate and other documentation when they got a job is also a recent requirement. Nothing like that was required in the 1800s when he was working for the railroad. Railroad workers also came under a separate "social" program to protect them in their retirement years - the Railroad Retirement Benefits program was actually created the year before the Social Security Administration. An index to the deaths of individuals in the Railroad benefits program is also included in the Social Security Death Index. While the SSDI has death records back to 1937 - the coverage in the Department's index becomes increasingly more comprehensive after 1962 - because that is when the Department began to computerize its index.

3. It's not uncommon for State vital records offices to not have 19th Century birth certificates. So - you need to build your family history from multiple sources. For example - the 1925 Kansas State Census shows his family living in Shawnee, Kansas - and according to that census he was born in Texas and had moved to Kansas from Oklahoma.

4. A search of the 1870 census does show Calvin Jackson Grant born 1861 living in Sherman TX - but no mention of Frank Elijah Jackson.

5. Jackson is a common name. I'd suggest that you continue to look through the state and Federal census records. In the later census years it gives the place of birth of the parents. That should give you a good clue if his father - Calvin Jackson - was born in Ireland.

Frank - I will continue to look into this for you and let you know what else I find for you.


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