Spragueville, Iowa, USA, founded by Lauren Sprague in 1841
-The Sprague Project-

-- A Genealogical Database of Over 483,000 Individuals --
- Celebrating our twenty-fourth year on the Internet -

FAQ / Frequently Asked Questions

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The links in this box pertain to FAQ web page only.

How to submit additions,
changes, corrections, and photos
to the website



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The links in the box below pertain to the full website.

Search for deceased individuals in the Sprague Database

Last Name:
First Name:

If the search feature above provides too many hits, please click on Advanced Search to expand or narrow your search results.

Please come here first as many of your questions may well be answered.

FAQ / Frequently Asked Questions

How to Get Maximum
Benefit from the Sprague

Using the Redesigned Website and Glossary of Terms

Project Notes

Project Update Reports

The American Sprague Beginnings

Military Participants

Unconnected Lines


Auxiliary Sources of Information:

Known Sprague References

Contacting the Project Developer

Entities named Sprague

Unresolved Issues:

Genealogical Conflicts:
Unsolved Sprague Mysteries

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Q. How do I submit pictures for inclusion in the Sprague Project and what pictures are acceptable?
We encourage all of you to send pictures of individuals and headstones to The Sprague Project developer. Here are some ground rules that we ask you to follow:

  • Please advise if you took the picture or the name of the party who did. If someone else took the photo, please obtain permission for us to use it.
  • Pictures of cemeteries: if the cemetery is large enough to have a front entrance or a sign, we require a picture of that.
  • pictures in jpg format
  • files must be less than 500KB each and limit file attachments to three per e-mail
  • all individuals in the picture are deceased
  • all individuals in the picture are recorded in the Sprague Database
  • if the picture shows more than one person, all must be deceased, all must be in the Sprague Database, and a legend must be provided identifying each individual by position (left to right by row) in the picture.
  • pictures should be of a quality to displayed adequately (inscriptions from grave stones hopefully readable.)
  • limit photos for any individual to those that represent significant phases of their life such as (1) childhood, (2) young adulthood and (3) maturity (as most people will remember them.)

Q. How do I make corrections to or provide additions for the Sprague website?
A. Use the following link to review instructions for contacting the Project Developer.


Q: Why are there so few Spragues in such a large database? It seems counter-intuitive for lots of reasons. If half of the Sprague children are male, then half of the database ought to be Sprague. Am I missing something obvious?
It does seem counter-intuitive, doesn't it? However, it is mathematically logical. Let me see if I can explain it. In the following example, each couple has two children, one male and one female.
      A male Sprague marries and has two children. At this point the four people in the database are 75 percent Sprague and 25 percent other.
      Each of the two children marries and has two children. There are now five Spragues and five named other. So only 50 percent of the people are named Sprague.
      Now if these four grandchildren (2 Sprague + 2 others) marry and have two children each (one son, one daughter) there are 22 people in the database. Seven are named Sprague and 15 named other, so only 32 percent are named Sprague. I think you can see where I'm going.
      This is the result of including female descendant lines. Mathematics is always logical, not always intuitive. I only took the above example to the great grandchildren. Most of the major lines are in their 14th or so line of descent. Most family historians would expect to find a much higher number of Spragues in the 239,000+ person Sprague database. It just ain't so!!

Q: I submitted changes to your website and have not seen them appear. How long does it take?
We have received complaints that we do not update our website frequently enough. Some contributors who send us new information want their submissions to appear within days or weeks. This is just not possible. The Sprague Project is a work of love, done by volunteers who are not getting any younger, who have family responsibilities, and who even have lives outside of genealogy. Please understand that while we truly want and need your input, it takes its toll on those who make this website work. Our goals are to update The Sprague Project once a month or so, to provide an error-free database, and to enjoy what we are doing.

Q: How can I find a person using information about the individual and the spouse's surname?
There is a new, very useful search field in the Advanced Search function of our Website. You may now include the spouse’s last name as a search argument. So, for example, if you see an obituary for a Barbara (Jones) Sprague but her husband is not listed, you can search for Barbara Jones with a spouse with the last name of Sprague.

A more common need is a slight variation of the above. If you find a census record for Hiram Sprague as head of household and his wife, Abigail Sprague, you might want to search for all Abigails who married a Sprague. The resultant list will be small enough so that you can look for any Hiram Sprague. This search should be structured as follows: “first name contains Abigail” along with “spouse's last name equals Sprague."

This is a complex search that requires a large amount of computer resource. This fact, when coupled with the very large size of the Sprague Website, provides the potential to initiate searches that run for very long periods and do not return results to you because browser time-outs may intervene.

With that said, it should be understood that the search is one in which one person (hereafter called Person1) is defined and matched to any spouse (hereafter called Person2) with a specified last name. For example, if in looking through U. S. Census records you find a Judith Sprague who is head of household or perhaps the wife of Peter Sprague, you may want to know if Judith is on the Sprague Website. A simple search of the form "First name equals Judith AND spouse's last name equals Sprague" can be initiated to give you a list of all Judiths who married a Sprague. This is decidedly easier than searching for all Judiths and manually reviewing every resultant record.

If you look at the Advanced Search window on the Sprague Website, you'll see that Person1 (Judith in our above example) can be defined with a wide range of defining parameters such as first name, last name, birth date, death date and others. Person2 can only be defined by last name. After extensive study of this search capability, I have concluded that the search (as provided by TNG) can sometimes be defined in a manner so that it fails to conclude. Such failures happen when the list of individuals matching the parameters defined for Person1 is large. For example, the search "first name equals Mary and spouse's last name equals Sprague" WILL FAIL because there are about 5,140 Marys on the Sprague Website. The search "first name equals Mary and spouse's last name equals Weber" will also fail. There are nearly 16,900 Spragues and only 92 Webers but THOSE COUNTS ARE NOT IMPORTANT. It is the number found to meet the criteria for Person1 that determines success or failure (in this case approximately 5,140 Marys.) A search for "first name equals Mary Amelia and last name equals Sprague" succeeds because there are only a small number of Mary Amelias on the website.

Thus, the secret to success with this very useful search is to find a way to narrow down the list of individuals meeting the criteria specified for Person1. In the case of the Judith Sprague found in the census record, let's assume that in the 1850 census Judith listed her age as 39. In that case we are interested in finding those Judiths born about 1811. The search can be constructed as "first name equals Judith and birth date is 1811 with a range of +/- ten years and spouse's last name equals Sprague." This search will succeed.

The Judiths who were recorded in the Sprague Database without a birth date but who married a Sprague will not be found with the above search, but a second search will check for those. A blank date is treated by TNG as though the person was born in year 0, so a search of the form "first name equals Judith and birth date before 100 and spouse's last name equals Sprague" will find that set of possible candidates.

Another way to limit the list of persons found matching the criteria for Person1 is to use known geographic information. For example, if Mary is reported as born in Maine, the search could be defined as "first name equals Mary and birthplace contains ME, USA and spouse's last name equals Sprague." This will provide, fairly quickly, a list of eight Marys who were born in Maine and married a Sprague.

This is a very powerful research tool and well worth the effort to learn how to write search parameters that minimize the size of the list of individuals meeting the criteria for Person1. We have hopes that in time TNG will find a way to resolve the issue of searches not completing and/or that technology improvements in both hardware and database design will help eliminate the restriction.

Now that you know how to write search definitions that minimize the number of individuals found meeting the criteria for Person1, there are other ways to get greater benefit from this search. Perhaps you are researching the part of your ancestry where the last name recorded was sometimes Spragg and sometimes Sprague. You know that your great great great grandmother Lucretia, born about 1788, married into this family. A search of the form "first name equals Lucretia and birth year equals 1788 within a range of 10 years and spouse's last name contains Sprag" will find Lucretia, whether she married a Sprague or a Spragg. Note that the search was defined using "contains Sprag" instead of "equals Sprag." "Contains" can also be used to define the first name parameter for Person1 so that Mary, Maryanne and Mary Alice will all be found if the argument is "first name contains Mary." However, remember that this makes an even longer list of Person1 matches, so it is more critical that other restrictive clauses be found to keep the Person1 list short.


Q: I notice that you often use links to a website as the source for facts in the Sprague database. These websites tend to disappear and are often short on citations. This leads to the questions "How do you handle non-primary genealogical sources?" and "Should the project be using non-primary sources in documenting the Sprague family history?
A: Yes, I do include non-primary genealogical sources in the Composite Sprague Database. There are, of course, many genealogists who may disagree with this approach. I have evaluated this situation and feel that more good than harm comes from this approach.
      Websites are one of the non-primary sources that I use to attempt to fill in links. I certainly do not use all the websites I learn about because, upon examination, some contain obvious errors. That does not mean, however, that those I use are error free. In fact, using such information often results in correspondence debating facts as recorded and often results in an update to the website to correct erroneous information based on more convincing evidence.
      Citing websites has two negatives: (1) frequent lack of primary source information and (2) likelihood of future obsolescence. The first negative is just as true of other material I use on this website, namely the use of material provided by correspondents. Sometimes correspondents cite primary sources, but often they do not. Sometimes they cite such non-primary sources as family Bibles, family knowledge, etc. In fact, published genealogies themselves are non-primary sources, and I have marks all over the many in my library where erroneous information obviously exists. I got beyond this concern early in the project when I contacted an officer and respected researcher at the Sons of the American Revolution organization headquarters and posed this problem. He responded that he was not bothered by my "non-primary evidence" approach because what I am doing is creating a paper trail of what has been written about the Spragues' history. I have come to believe that publishing such information has significant value because it often brings contradictory evidence to light. I have also come to believe that including errors and then documenting why I believe them to be in error has value in helping others further their research of a line. Thus, I don't believe websites are any more or any less error-prone than many other sources of data, though I'd be the first to agree that such information must always be reviewed carefully.
      As to the second negative, the obsolescence of source, websites are a volatile source. I am not sure, however, that they are any more volatile than the "Jane Smith, correspondent" source type that I have thousands of in the Sprague database. I have frequent contacts from correspondents who say, "Can you tell me how to contact Jane Smith, who is listed as the source for such and such a piece of information?" Since I lose, on average, a dozen correspondents a month through change of e-mail addresses, I unfortunately must respond that "I no longer have a valid contact address." I hate to reply in this manner, but I have little other option. Again, I could list only facts provided with a primary source, but I would lose a large percentage of what starts new family segments and often grows into a more complete family history. I could include facts derived from non-primary sources, but list a source only for those facts supported with a primary source. If I did that, I'd be constantly answering the question of "Where did you find such and such a piece of information?" with the very bad response of "I haven't the faintest idea."
      My ultimate conclusion was to record as much Sprague family history as appeared plausible after study of the details. Doing so exposes the information to the review of many other Sprague researchers, allows the history to be regularly modified and improved, and certainly furthers the search of the Sprague family history by giving new Sprague researchers a starting point from which to build.

Q. Where did the facts come from which do not have a source indicated for them?
A. The Sprague project started simply as an effort on my part to put all of Sprague Families in America (SFA) into database form using a genealogy database to facilitate research. It was erroneoulsy assumed that W. V. Sprague had recorded almost every Sprague. That was soon proven to be untrue and the project was converted into a legitimate Sprague genealogy project. However, the original facts, all recorded person by person, family by family, from SFA, have no sources listed except in those cases where they have since been added. Thus, all the people in SFA are in the Sprague project but without sources to indicate that the data came from SFA.

Q. How do I get in contact with the people listed as sources?
A. Please contact The Sprague Project developer directly by using the "Contacting the Project Developer" link to the left. The developer will then see if the source is willing to be contacted. Not all are.

Q. How can I get a copy of the publication listed as a source?
A. High quality reprints of most of the references used in developing the Sprague project are available from Higginson Book Company. The Sprague Project developer has many of these volumes in his library. All volumes are available from Higginson on archival quality paper (hardcover buckram bindings are an additional $10) that are an excellent investment. To determine if Higginson can provide the source in which you are interested, check the Higginson link above.
      You may also contact local libraries and genealogical societies.

Q. What is the meaning of "Ibid" that I see in the list of sources?
A. Ibid is a Latin term meaning "referring again to the book, page, etc. cited just before." Therefore, "Ibid, page 34" means "page 34 of the same source mentioned just before." Using "Ibid" is more convenient than writing out the source again.
      For instance, if a writer says that a fact is from page 17 of Sprague Families in America by W. V. Sprague, and the next fact is from page 23 of that source, the writer can use "Ibid, page 23" instead of writing out Sprague Families in America by W. V. Sprague, page 23."
      Reiterating, "Ibid" simply instructs the visitor to go backward in the source listing until a source is found that is fully written out.

Q. Did John Doe listed in the source below die in 1884? How could he be a correspondent if he died in 1884? John Doe, correspondent, "d. 23 Aug 1884."
A. In the sample above, John Doe did not die in 1884. What happened is that John Doe, the correspondent, reported to the project developer that the individual associated with the source died on 23 Aug 1884.
      Similarly, some visitors are confused by a notation like "Sprague Families in America by W. V. Sprague, page 49, b. Bloomington, Monroe Co., IN." In this case, W. V. Sprague in Sprague Families in America reported that the birth occurred in Bloomington, Monroe Co., Indiana. Reports of deaths, marriages, and other events are treated the same way.  

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Copyright © 2021; Richard E. (Dick) Weber / The Sprague Project
This page was created on Monday, July 10, 2000
Most recent revision 29 July 2010