Maryland State Archives Website – How Frustrating

Maryland State Archives Website – How Frustrating
Some websites can be confusing and difficult to use, but I don’t expect state archive sites to be that way.  Maryland is the exception to that rule.  It was the most frustrating state archive site I’ve used, so far.  
My task was simple, find out death information on an ancestor of my wife.  The Social Security Death Index indicated that he died in December 1964. No specific date and no location other than Maryland.  Looking up the specifics should be easy, peasy. 
In my list of websites for Maryland I had first, http://www.aomol.net/html/index.html,  I thought when I went there, “how odd, a dot net address.”  Nothing about death records in their menu. Maybe under other records….  No such luck.
In my list of websites for Maryland I had another URL, http://msa.maryland.gov/ — much better. A bit more modern looking site. “How to order copies” provided a link to a pdf order form. The form wanted month, day and year.  Humm.  I didn’t have the day. I figured, maybe they have an index. A look at “What We Have” brought me to page that included a link to “Maryland Vital Records.” Again, I thought it odd that the writeup for “Vital Records” only spoke of death records. I was only interested in death records so I was good with that, for now.  That link which brought me to “Vital Records Indexing Project”  The writeup talked about the indexing project but nowhere in the text of the page was a link to the index.  Then I saw it in the menu on the left, “Search MD Vital Records”  The page that it brought me to was only death records also.  Select County Deaths in two indexes to 1944 and Select Baltimore City deaths 1875 to 1972 in two indexes also.  I’m always scared when someone says, “Select” because I always figure that that means it is just some data we put out there, we know it isn’t complete, but it is what we can provide easily.  Well, maybe he died in Baltimore and all will be well. A click on “MSA CE 42” brought me to a long death record index. Down the list to 1963-1964. A look at the naming pattern at the three files associated with ’63-64 led me to the second file, G000-M663. Then select a letter – I picked “H”.
OMG – The records are PDFs, each page is an individual file, and it is by soundex.  Aarrgh.  
I don’t use soundex and I am often frustrated by it.  However, some time ago I found Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. On his website he has a soundex converter. http://www.eogn.com/soundex/  Totally awesome.  Just enter the Surname and it provides the Soundex. Entered the name and received back, H-400. Thank you Dick Eastman for the utility!
Back to the website, I’m on page 1 of who knows how many, I click on Page 10, only H200 – sigh, click on page 19, the 28.  Almost there, pages 29 & 30 were the right pages for my search.  Nope, the ancestor wasn’t there. He must not have died in Baltimore – although I really didn’t know.  I hate the word “select.”
Not looking good for the home team.  I found the Special Collections site, http://speccol.mdarchives.state.md.us/ – another totally different URL scheme.  It indicates photos, newspapers, maps, biographies, and church records.  Oh cool, maybe a search for “Archives Building” will yield a photo of the archives for this blog.  No such luck.  The search yielded 90 photos of people in and around the building, but none of the building itself. Anyway, despite my  inability to find a good photo of the building on the site, there was a fuzzy image in the banner of the Photos search page that is usable. 

I continued searching for sites and finally found another site. http://guide.mdsa.net/. Maryland State Archives Guide to Government Records. Choose your Display type by Series gave me a very confusing search box. Clearly designed for someone who has intimate knowledge of the agency names and other particulars of Maryland’s government. 
Then I clicked on a Reference and Research tab. There was a section on “How to Find Specific Records” and a section of “Indices Found at MSA.”  The link for Death Record Indices had the link showing that I had visited it before, however, there was a link for Death Records. That page had a section on “County Death Records 1898-1972.”  Maybe…. Most of the records listed had paper or microfilm listings but there were a couple that indicated “Electronic”.  There was an Index Series and a Record Series.  I tried the Index series SE8. Getting closer.  Fairly well organized. In the date range I was looking for and the name letter, I clicked on “Detail” and found nothing that wasn’t on the preceding page. Click “back” and then on “Link.”  A PDF file that consisted of thousands of names, one name on a card and a photo copy of it. A search of the document found nothing, it wasn’t a text enable PDF. Scrolling down I finally found the ancestor on page 11,000 something and it had the information I was looking for.  The date of his death. 
The Maryland State Archives sites were exasperating and inconsistent. Sites don’t link to each other in a simple meaningful way.  It is like several different departments put their materials wherever (dot net, dot gov, dot us) they wanted without coordinating with other departments.  They also don’t appear to have single style or single content management points.
The bottom line for genealogists is that I believe I have found two pages that I found useful.
REFERENCE & RESEARCH AT THE MARYLAND STATE ARCHIVES  http://guide.mdsa.net/viewer.cfm?page=topviewed
and 
Maryland State Archives Guide to Special Collections  
I recommend putting them in your browser’s bookmarks for the Maryland State Archives.  I’d skip the other ones.
By the way, they have a feedback page at: http://census.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/homepage/feedback/cfm/dsp_feedback.cfm. I spent quite a while providing feedback that I thought would be meaningful.  A click of “submit” yielded an error.  
Again, I found the Maryland State Archives site to be the most frustrating State Archive site I’ve ever encountered. 
          Begins with          Equals          Contains          Ends with    Sounds like     

Georgia Virtual Vault & Edward Lamb McAllister

Georgia Virtual Vault 

I’m taking a genealogy course with the Cobb County Genealogical Society, with whom I am a member. Although I’ve done many webinars, but I’ve never taken an official class in genealogy.  I have been asked on a couple of occasions to give classes. I suppose I’ve been reluctant because I’ve not seen classes of this type put on by regular folks, only videos of professionals.  So, I thought I’d take the class mostly because I never had taken one before and because I thought I would pick up a few tidbits.  I am also new to the CCGC, so I thought I’d be a great opportunity to meet some of the people there. This class would be my first activity with the CCGC folks.
The first of two classes yesterday was on Census Records. It was an excellent class.  The instructor reminded me of the mortality schedules and the agriculture schedules.  I never look at them and I was reminded that I really should.  She did a short bit on Soundex codes and how they work. It was helpful and put it together more clearly for me. (See my frustration in a previous posting.) Really helpful was one of her Internet Resources Links that she suggested was the Soundex Calculator on the Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter site. I bookmarked the calculator and put the bookmark in my Genealogy Tools folder.  I feel bookmarks are so much easier than trying to remember where I put the paper instructions.  
During the class, I was reminded of the Georgia Virtual Vault and due to funding cuts the Georgia Archives is only open two days a week, the least of any state archive facility.  (Note: Contact your state legislators and ask they improve funding for the State Archives
None of my ancestors are from Georgia nor are my wife’s, so I’ve never done a lot with the Georgia Virtual Vault. I was reminded of it so I thought I’d refresh my memory of some of the things that the site has.  My wife’s great-grand uncle, Ted McAllister died in Georgia.  Family oral history said he had “bedded a married woman and was killed by a jealous husband.”  I wondered if the story was true. A quick search and there was his death certificate.  Cause of Death: Murder.  Wow.  Maybe the story is true. Another part of the story is that Harold, the husband of my wife’s Great-Grand Aunt, went down to take care of business and have his body returned to Pennsylvania for burial.  The death certificate shows who the informant was, not Ted’s brother-in-law as oral tradition would indicate but Ted’s youngest brother.  The death certificate also says he was widowed.  Interesting, I had no information on a wife or other family.  It also indicated he was buried in Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah.  I guess they didn’t ship the body back. 
He also worked as a car inspector for the “A. C. L. Ry”.  Not being from Georgia, I didn’t know what that was.  Over to Wikipedia – Oh, of Course, the Atlantic Coast Line Railway (Railroad).  
I did a search of McAllister in Laurel Grove Cemetery on Find-A-Grave (FAG) (one of my favorite sites) and quickly located a memorial for him.  The memorial spoke of his first wife, three children, and a second wife who died and was also buried in the cemetery.
Sadly, the memorial indicated that, “A findagrave volunteer reports that he is buried in an unmarked grave in Strangers Ground…- this is where county-paid burials are located.“  His wife is likewise in Strangers Ground so they must have been extremely poor. 
The FAG memorial It also mentioned his immigrating in 1886 and even mentioned the ship, “British King.”  In genealogy, one bit of information found leads to another and to another. 
British King
I knew he came across with his mother and three siblings in 1886, but I didn’t know the date, port, or ship. I’d give a quick look at Ancestry and see if they had the record.  Sure enough, there he was with his mother “Marg t” (instead of Margaret) and siblings. Arriving 23 June 1886 aboard the steamship “British King” from Liverpool to Philadelphia. Surprisingly, Ancestry didn’t have a photo of the British King but I found several elsewhere.
So hours pass, as I thoroughly document all these findings.  But,  so much more to research.  Can I confirm his two marriages?  What happened to his first wife, divorce or death?  Can I find the names of his three children? Did he have other children?  Can I find a newspaper article that speaks of his murder?  Was he really shot by a jealous husband?  

UPDATE

I did confirm, his wife Violet died in 1910. They had three children, Edward L., Albert W., and Paul Y. McAllister.  The Savannah Press, 13 January 1925 has a multipage article regarding his murder.  The article uses four headlines to really grab your attention.

Headlines:

Edward L. McAllister is Found Murdered in Home

Railroad man had been dead since Saturday

Beaten in head with hatchet; body on kitchen floor

Lived Alone since wife died last year

Edward L. McAllister, employed at the Atlantic Coast Line Railway shops, was discovered murdered at this home, on Thirty-ninth street near Ash by H. B. Brown…..

Now the question is who did it?  Was it a jealous husband as oral history indicated.  Oral history was wrong in that he hadn’t been shot, rather a hatchet to the head.  Much more personal than a shooting.  The article also mentions that his wife, who died the previous November, was under the care of the physician at the jail.  Why???  Always more questions.