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Tips and Other Useful Information


     Copyright Basics     Grave Dowsing     Naming Patterns    Occupations    Tombstone Carvings    


Copyright Basics   [Note: You should contact a copyright attorney to fully determine the copyright status of any material that was created by another that you wish to publish.]

With the use of the internet, and so much material available online, copyright rules can be confusing, to say the least. Genealogists and historians, in their zeal to gather information, sometimes forget the work they are quoting may be copyrighted and protected under laws.  Here are a few guidelines to help you determine whether or not the material you are using is protected:

  • If the work was PUBLISHED January 1, 1978 or after, it is protected for the life of the author +50 years

  • If the work was PUBLISHED more than 75 years ago, it is in public domain.

  • If the work was PUBLISHED between 1963 and 75 years ago, it is protected for 28 years, and can be renewed for 47 years. If not renewed, it went into public domain.

  • If the work was PUBLISHED between 1964 and 1977, it is protected for 28 years and automatically extended for 47 years for the second term.

  • If the work was CREATED before January 1, 1978, but NOT published, it is protected for the life of the author + 50 years, or 12/31/2002, whichever is greater.

  • If the work was CREATED before January 1, 1978, but published between then and December 31, 2002, it is protection and passes into public domain December 31, 2027.

What is Copyrightable??  In short, anything that was put together and created by someone. It must be original, exhibit minimal creativity, and is fixed in a tangible form of expression that can be read back or heard, either directly or with the aid of a machine. This DOES include websites and emails!


What is  NOT Copyrightable??  Works that are not in a fixed form of expression, or works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship (such as calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures, etc.) are not copyrightable.  Works created by the U. S. Government are not copyrightable.


For genealogists and historians, here are a few guidelines:

  • Yes, newspapers are copyrighted, including the obituary section. Newspaper articles and obituaries prior to 1934 are in public domain.

  • Yes, cemetery lists/booklets are copyrighted, but the information contained within is not.  If a cemetery listing has been published on "Cemetery A", you may visit that cemetery, transcribed and publish the tombstone listings in your own book and publish them.

  • Yes, photos are copyrightable. If they were published more than 75 years ago, they are in public domain.

  • Works created by the Government  are NOT copyrightable.  If the government published a book of deaths, marriages, census, etc., the information contained within is not copyrighted. You cannot simply photocopy it and publish it again under your name, but you may transcribe the information and publish it in your own book/booklet form.

  • Inclusion of preexisting material in a new work does not change the copyright status of the preexisting material.

  • If the use of original material created by someone else diminishes the market value of that work, then their copyright may have been violated.

  • Materials published before 1923 are absolutely safe.

To read more on this important issue, see this website:

Need to check to see if a book is out of copyright?  See this website:

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Grave Dowsing

Grave dowsing is used when we have an idea where an ancestor is buried, but no markings or proof can be found. It cannot give you the name of the person buried in a certain location, but it can identify the location of a grave. Dowsing is an age-old art that has been used to locate water and graves.

  • First, make a dowsing rod. There are several ways to make the rod, but this way is the easiest:  Start with 2 metal coat hangers. Cut them at the neck just before the point where they join to form the hook of the hanger. Straighten each hanger, trying to get out all bends. Make a 90 degree bend for the handles (handles should be 3-4 inches long).

  • Hold the rods lightly in your hands, with elbows at your waist and forearms parallel to the ground. The rods should be held straight out, also parallel to the ground and parallel with each other. Do not place your thumbs over the bend of the handle, this will restrict movement. Do not grip too tightly, only enough to keep the rods parallel.

  • Approach the suspected gravesite, walking very slowly.

  • If a body is present, the rods will cross in front of you when you are over the grave. Once you step off of the grave, they will uncross.

It is important to visited a cemetery with marked graves and PRACTICE. The above method works for 90% of people, but you may have variations you prefer. Most cemeteries bury their dead in a Christian manner, with bodies laid with the head pointing west and the feet pointing east. When trying to locate a lost cemetery, it is best to walk in a north/south direction in order to pick up a pattern. Usually you will find the graves to be separated by 2-3 feet. As you cross each grave, the rods will cross and then uncross as you step off of them. If you find a pattern develops (cross, 3 steps, cross, 3 steps, etc.), you have most likely found a cemetery. To determine the perimeter of the cemetery, walk north and south then east and west to determine where the burials begin and end. You will find Christian burials are well laid out, side by side and head to toe in straight lines. To determine the approximate age of the person buried in an unmarked grave, begin at the foot/head of the grave and walk the length. The rods will cross at the feet/head and uncross when you step off the body. One to two steps indicate an infant; two - three steps a toddler; three - four steps a child; five an adolescent or short adult, 6 steps an adult and seven steps a tall adult. 


To determine the gender of a person buried:  (use both methods to determine to gender)

  • (Overhead) Standing over the center of a grave, hold one rod over your head. The rod will swing around and point to the feet of a male or the head of a female. You may get a false reading. It is uncommon, but a person may be buried backwards.

  • (One-finger) Standing over the center of the grave, balance the handle of one rod on your index finger, holding the rod straight down. The rod will begin making a circular motion. It will rotate clockwise for a male and counterclockwise for a female. No matter how the body is laid in the grave, this method will give the correct gender. This method can also be used when more than two people are buried in one coffin or one grave. In this case, you will need to go over the entire grave using the one-finger method. If there is a break between the bodies or a difference in gender, the rods will swing in a pendulum motion and then resume a circular motion. This is good to use when an infant is buried with their mother, etc.

I have not tried grave dowsing, but have listed it for those who may be interested. Some claim the rods pick up a disturbance in the earth's magnetic field, others claim they are picking up gases from decaying bodies. Other still claim the rods detect the magnetic field given off from the body. In any case, many make claim that dowsing does work. Water dowsing is similar, the rods pulling in the direction of underground water, including water pipes. I make no claim on its scientific value. Try it just for fun!

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Naming Patterns:  Children were often (but not always) name in the following manner:

First son after the father's father.

Second son after the mother's father.

Third son after the father.

Fourth son after the father's oldest brother.

Fifth son after the mother's oldest brother.

Sixth son after the father's second oldest brother.


First daughter after the mother's mother.

Second daughter after the father's mother.

Third daughter after the mother.

Fourth daughter after the mother's oldest sister.

Fifth daughter after the father's oldest sister.


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Accomptant - accountant

Accoucheur/Accoucheus - one who assisted women in childbirth

Accoutrement maker/Accoutre - supplier of military accessories

Ackerman/Acreman - ploughman, an oxherder

Actuary - keeper of public accounts of business

Aeronaut - balloonist or trapeze artist in the circus

Affeeror - tax assessor

Alblastere - crossbow archer

Alderman - city official

Alewife - woman tavernkeeper

Almoner - giver of charity to the needy

Amanuensis - stenographer

Apiarian - beekeeper

Apothecary - prepared and sold medicines; pharmacist

Apprentice - worker bound to skilled worker to learn the trade

Archiator - physician

Artificer - soldier mechanic; does repairs

Assayer - determined the proportions of metal to ore

Aurifaber - goldsmith

Badgy Fiddler - boy trumpeter in the military

Bagman - traveling salesman

Bailie - bailiff

Bard - poet

Barker - tanner

Barrister - lawyer

Batman - officer's servant in the military

Baxter - baker

Besom Maker - broom maker

Bladesmith - sword or knife maker

Blentonist - water diviner

Bluestocking - female writer

Boarding officer - inspected ships before they entered port

Boardwright - carpenter

Boatman - worked on boats, primarily on rivers or canals

Boatswain - ship's officer in charge of rigging and sails

Bobby - policeman

Boniface - a keeper of an inn

Boonmaster - surveyor of roads

Botcher - tailor or cobbler

Brazier - one who works with brass

Brewster - beer brewer

Brightsmith - metal worker

Bullwhacker - oxen driver

Bummer - army deserter

Burgonmeister/Burgomaster - mayor

Busker - hair dresser

Butner - button maker

Cafender - carpenter

Cambist - banker

Cartographer - map maker

Cartwright - maker of carts and wagons

Catechista - teacher of religion

Chaisemaker - carriage maker

Charwoman - cleaning woman

Chiffonnier - wig maker

Clacker - magician; astrologer

Clark - clerk

Clod Hopper - plowman

Clogger - maker of wooden shoes

Coalier - maker of charcoal

Cobbler - shoe maker

Cohen - priest

Collier - coal miner

Confectioner - owner of bakery

Cooper - makers of barrels, tubs, casks

Cordwainier - shoemaker

Costermonger - peddler of fruits & vegetables

Coxwain - ship or boat helmsman

Crocker - potter

Crofter - tenant of a small piece of land

Cropper - tenant who is paid with a share of the crop

Crowner - coroner

Currier - horse groomer

Delver - ditch digger

Dowser - one who finds water

Dragoon - mounted infantryman

Draper - dealer in dry goods

Dresser - surgeon's assistant in a hospital

Drover - cowboy; cattle dealer

Drummer - traveling salesman

Duffer - peddler

Factor - commission merchant

Farrier - blacksmith

Faulkner - falconer

Fell Monger - one who removes hair or wool from hides

Feller - woodcutter

Fletcher - one who made bows and arrows

Fuller - one who cleans and finishes cloth

Gaoler - jailer

Glazier - window glassman

Granger - farmer

Haberdasher - seller of men's clothing

Hacker - maker of hoes

Hatcheler - one who combed out or carded flax

Haymonger - dealer in hay

Hayward - keeper of fences

Higler - peddler

Hillier - roof tiler

Hind - farm laborer

Hobbler - boat tower on a river or canal

Hodsman - mason's assistant

Hooper - one who makes hoops for casks and barrels

Hosier - retailer of stockings, socks, gloves & nightcaps

Hosteller - innkeeper

Hostler - groom who takes care of horses at an inn

Huckster - seller of small wares

Husbandman - tenant farmer

Iceman - seller of ice

Interfactor - murderer

Jagger - fish peddler

Jobber - buyer in quantity to see to others

Joiner/Joyner - carpenter

Kedger - fisherman

Keeler - bargeman

Kempster - wool comber

Knocknobbler - dog catcher

Knoller - church bell ringer

Lagger - sailor

Lardner - keeper of the cupboard

Laster - shoe maker

Lavender - washerwoman

Lederer - leather maker

Leech - physician

Lormer - maker of horse gear

Lum Swooper - chimney sweep


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Malendar - farmer

Maltster - brewer

Manciple - steward

Mango - slave dealer

Mantua maker - dressmaker

Mason - bricklayer

Millner - maker of women's hats

Mintmaster - one who issued local currency

Monger - seller of goods

Muleskinner - teamster

Muleteer - mule driver

Neatherder - herder of cows

Nedeller - needle maker

Noterer - notary

Out Crier - auctioneer

Pantler - butler

Pasteler - pastry chef

Pastor - shepherd

Pedascule - schoolmaster

Perambulator - surveyor

Peregrinator - itinerant wanderer

Peruker - wig maker

Pettifogger - a shyster lawyer

Pigman - crockery dealer

Piker - tramp

Piller - thief

Plumber - worker who applied sheet lead for roofing

Poleman - surveyor's assistant

Ponderator - inspector of weights & measures

Porter - door keeper

Potato Badger - seller of potatoes

Preceptress - school mistress

Proctor - official of a university

Prothonary - law clerk

Publican - innkeeper

Puddler - wrought iron worker

Puggard - thief

Punky - chimney sweep

Purser - ship's officer in charge of provision

Rag Man - collector of rags

Ratoner - rat catcher

Reeve - church warden

Registrar - official who records births, deaths, & marriages

Rigger - hoist tackle worker

Ripper - fish seller

Roper - rope maker

Rockgetter - rocksalt miner

Rodman - surveyor's assistant

Runner - smuggler

Rustler - cattle thief

Saddler - saddle maker

Sawbones - physician

Sawyer - carpenter

Schumacker - shoemaker

Scribe - clerk

Scrimer - fencing master

Scrivener - professional or public copyist or writer

Scrutiner - election judge

Searcher - customs official

Sempster - seamstress

Sexton - employee of church in charge of maintenance, ringing bells, digging graves

Sharecropper - tenant farmer paid with part of crop

Shearer - removed fleece from sheep

Ship Husband - repairer of ships

Ship Master - owner or captain of ships

Shrieve - sheriff

Sickleman - harvested crops with sickle

Skinner - mule driver; dealer in hides

Slater - roofer

Snobscat - one who repairs shoes

Solicitor - lawyer

Sorter - tailor

Spinster - unmarried woman

Spurrer - spur maker

Squire - country gentleman; farm owner, J.P.

Stationer - bookseller

Statist - politician

Steeple Jack - cleaned flag poles, church steeples

Sutler - peddler in an army camp

Tanner - one who cures animal hides

Tailor - one who made or repaired clothes

Tapley - one who puts the tap in an ale cask

Tasker - reaper

Teamster - drives a horse team

Thatcher - roofer

Thresher - one who separated the grain from husks

Tide waiter - customs inspector

Tinker - repairman/seller of tin pots & pans

Tipstaff - policeman

Tobacco spinner - cigar maker

Town Crier - one who made public announcements in the streets

Tranter - peddler

Travers - toll bridge collector

Tucker - cleaner of cloth goods

Turner - one who turns wood on a lathe into spindles

Turnkey - jail keeper

Valet - male servant

Victualler - keeper of restaurant or tavern

Vintner - wine merchant

Vulcan - blacksmith

Wagoner - teamster not for hire

Wainwright - wagon maker or repairer

Waiter - customs officer

Wakeman - night watchman

Warder - prison guard

Waterman - boatman for hire

Wayman - road surveyor

Weatherspy - astrologer

Webster - operator of looms

Wharfinger - owner of a wharf

Wheelwright - made or repaired wheels for carriages

Whipperin - managed hounds in a hunt

Whitesmith - tinsmith

Whitewing - street sweeper

Whitster - cloth bleacher

Wright - workman

Wyrth - laborer

Yeoman - farmer who owns his own land



Tombstone Carvings:

The term "relict" on a tombstone means the woman was a widow at the time of her death.

The term "consort" on a tombstone means her husband survived. her.

The term "cenotaph" on a tombstone indicates an empty grave, with the stone erected in    honor of a person buried elsewhere.

Anchor/ships - hope or seafaring profession

Arches - victory in death.

Arrows - mortality

Beehive - domestic virtue, education, faith

Bell - mourning

Bouquets, flowers - condolences, grief, sorrow

Broken column - loss of head of family

Broken ring - family circle severed

Bugles - resurrection and the military

Butterfly - short-lived, early death

Candle being snuffed - time, mortality

Cherub - angelic

Conch shell - wisdom/reincarnation

Corn - ripe old age

Crossed swords - high-ranking military person

Crown upon a skull - triumph of death

Dove - innocence, gentleness, affection, purity

Drapery or pall - mourning

Finger pointing down - calling the earth to witness

Finger pointing up - Heavenly reward/path to Heaven

Flying birds - flight of the soul

Fruit - eternal plenty

Garlands - victory in death

Grim Reaper - inevitability of death

Hand of God chopping - sudden death

Handshakes - farewell

Hearts - soul in bliss/love of Christ

Horns - the resurrection

Horseshoe - protection against evil

Hourglass - swiftness of time

Imps - mortality

Ivy - friendship and immortality

Lamb - innocence (usually used for children)

Laurel - fame or victory

Lily - innocence/purity



Moon - death/rebirth/victory

Morning Glory - beginning of life

Mother & child - charity, love

Myrtle - undying love, peace

Oak leaves & acorn - maturity, ripe old age

Olive branch - peace, forgiveness

Open book/Bible - deceased teacher/minister

Orb - faith

Portals - passageway to eternal journey

Pyramid - resurrection, eternal life

Rod and staff - comfort to the bereaved

Roses - brevity of earthly existence

Skeleton - brevity of life/death

Snail - laziness/sin

Star - divine guidance

Sun rising - renewed life

Sun setting - death

Sun shining - everlasting life

Thistles - remembrance

Torch inverted - life extinct

Trees - life

Tree stump with ivy - Head of family

Trumpeters - heralds of the resurrection

Urn with blaze - undying friendship

Violet - humility

Willows - earthly sorrow

Winged effigies - flight of the soul


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Copyright Bev Bauser.   All Rights Reserved.