31 January 2009
My wife and I have over twenty ancestral families who came from Europe in the mid-19th century. All of them (save one) came where they knew someone or else had someone come over from Europe after they did. And even those families moving across the US moved as part of a group of other families. Studying these "chains" has been very informative for my research.
What or who brought your ancestor from Point A to Point B? Take the time to find out. You might learn more about history and your ancestor than you think.
30 January 2009
And remember that you could later realize you were wrong. It is hard to see an error in your line of thought if it was never written down anywhere.
29 January 2009
When doing your research, consider turing "off" the email and some of the other "constantly on" computer applications that demand attention. Consider even getting away from the computer, unless you are searching online sites. Sometimes the constant distraction can negatively impact your concentration. Researching with several other tasks going on in the background can cause us to overlook the obvious. Sometimes multitasking is not as efficient as we think it is.
Some research tasks require concentration, whether it be reading a foreign language or analyzing 1840 census returns. Do your research a favor the next time you are working and give it your full attention. You might surprise yourself at how much you accomplish.
28 January 2009
I write up families all the time for various articles or columns I am working on. It is one of the best ways to really get you looking more closely at your research.
Writing for someone else to understand makes you think about things on a different level. It may help you notice gaps or errors in your own research. And if the finished product looks good to you, consider submitting it for publication in a society journal or newsletter. That's a great way to share and preserve that you have located.
27 January 2009
Deeds may be recorded years after they are written. This is more likely to happen if a family goes to sell a piece of property and realizes the deceased owner never had his or her original deed recorded.
26 January 2009
What was your ancestor's educational level? What was his or her economic status at that point in time? What were their family obligations at that point in time? Was the ancestor isolated or did she have family support? Was your ancestor widowed with three children and no means of support? Did your ancestor have psychological or emotional problems? Was there a subtance abuse problem? Was your ancestor hiding something? How much do you know about your ancestor's "context?"
Keep in mind that you descend from your ancestor, but you are not your ancestor. Put yourself in their shoes. Take off your socks if necessary!
25 January 2009
In some online databases, this information may appear in a "more about," or "frequently asked questions" page.
Not knowing what a book or database does not contain may cause you to think you searched something when you did not.
The preface of a book of marriage records from 1829-1900 may indicate that records from 1850-1860 are missing. That is something you need to know when using that publication. If you do not read the preface, you may never know.
24 January 2009
I found five scanned books from Hancock County, Illinois, on the site. These books can be viewed as text files (there will be some OCR errors), PDF, DjVu, or FlipBook files. The amount of material on here is amazing. The fact that I can download entire county histories is just amazing.
The viewer options here put Ancestry.com to shame. For more information view www.archive.org
23 January 2009
A pencil and paper gets the job done faster and I can get to actual research.
There are other times where actually just "scratching" things out on paper is faster.
Do you need a computer for every task? Is there something you could do on paper and pencil in five minutes that would take you 5 hours on the computer? Remember that you are not always creating layout for a magazine or publication. Sometimes you are just making a working chart for yourself and your own use.
And it saves time for research. And isn't that what it is about?
22 January 2009
While most of us are not searching for celebrities in the census, it still pays to have the correct name. If grandfather was an immigrant, are we searching for both his birth name and his Anglicized name? Was there another name he took after he immigrated, perhaps one that was easier to spell or pronounce?
And is the name we have for Grandma actually her middle name? Is she enumerated under her first name in 1900, a name that perhaps we do not know?
And there is always the chance that our ancestor changed his name a little bit to escape the law, a creditor, or a former wife.
21 January 2009
Voting members were told to write "yes" or "no" on the blank side of the paper. Despite repeating the instructions several times, several members put marks by the names of the previous year's officer candidates. It was clear they were confused.
Was your ancestor confused when the census taker came to his door? Was she confused when she was asked questions for her husband's death certificate?
We sometimes assume our ancestor completely understood the questions he was asked. Perhaps he was completely confused and in his confusion his answers have left us completely confused as well.
20 January 2009
18 January 2009
17 January 2009
Doing this may cause us to overlook information. Researching all our ancestor's spouses may provide more information about the ancestor.
Archibald Kile was married three times. The first was in the 1830s in Ohio to the woman with whom he had all his children. He married twice in Illinois, both times when he was in his 70s. Searching the records of these marriages located marriage applications which provided the names of Archibald's parents. If I had not located the second and third marriages of this ancestor, I would have missed a great place to learn about his parents.
16 January 2009
I had used a deed as a sample in my early years of teaching genealogy classes. After a few years, I switched it out in place of a different example. Several years later, I switched back to the earlier example, not really reading it but just putting it in.
I read again as I lectured about it and then I stopped. The purchaser of the land in question was an ancestor--the reason I had copied it. Now years later, I stopped and looked at the name of the seller. It was my ancestor's first cousin who had "evaporated" in Ohio. Here he was in Illinois selling land to my ancestor.
Now I know to look closely at all the names on any deed where an ancestor buys or sells property. I didn't know that when I was starting my research.
How many things did you find early in your research that have not been re-analyzed?
15 January 2009
14 January 2009
Find all the children of your ancestor. Look for them in census records. In pre-1850 censuses, Grandma or Grandpa may appear as a "tickmark" in one of the older columns. Grandma or Grandma or Grandpa may also appear in the cemetery next to one of those children. If they moved several states away to live with a child, they might not have been taken "home" for burial.
13 January 2009
And I've been known to read a chapter from one of them when I was in need of an article idea and behind on a deadline.
12 January 2009
In another family, the birth date of the oldest child and the marriage date of the parents were modified to make the first child born a year after the marriage.
It is important to be accurate and not to judge. Great-aunt Myrtle might not like to hear that her parents "had" to get married, but she likely will get over it. It is important to remember that our ancestors were human. After all, if they weren't...what's that make us?
11 January 2009
Did your ancestor have a title? Is it making him difficult or impossible to find?
10 January 2009
09 January 2009
A daughter-in-law who is the informant on a death certificate probably does not have first hand knowledge of the deceased individual's parents. And yet, she may be the only person who is available to give the desired information.
Remember that even you are not a truly primary source for your date and place of birth. Your knowledge of that event is because you were told it or you read it on a document. It is not because you were aware of the event at the time it took place. Not being a primary source does not mean you are wrong, just that your knowledge of the information is not direct.
On most death certificates for someone who died and the end of a typical lifespan the informant is not someone who was around at the beginning of the person's life. That can make a difference in how accurate that information is, especially if the informant only knew the person during the last few years (or months) of their life.
08 January 2009
An ancestor's grand story of military service may really be that he was a private.
A relative living on the castle grounds may turn out to be one who lived within sight of the castle.
Include family traditions in your genealogy, but clearly label them as tradition. Even the tall tales tell something about your family. And look at the tradition closely. Could there be a nugget of truth hiding under tons of dirt?
07 January 2009
If you have a copy of great-great-grandfather's deed, is it:
- the original which passed down through the family
- a copy of the official record at the courthouse (which is a transcription of the original)
- a copy of a copy a relative made
- a copy from a microfilmed copy of the original
Perhaps the copy in the courthouse had some notation in the margin in an ink which did not show up on the microfilm. Perhaps the courthouse transcription contains an error. The courthouse transcription does not contain the actual signature of the individuals, which the original should. And on it goes.
We could pontificate on citation for a long time, but I won't (at least not here). Suffice it to say that not all copies of a record are created equally. And that a complete citation should get you back to the material you copied or transcribed. Then you know what you used and if a more complete copy becomes available you might want to obtain it.
06 January 2009
I always check the county seat newspapers. They might have published death notices or longer obituaries for residents throughout the county, not just the county seat proper. And even larger towns in nearby counties might have published notices of your ancestor's death.
Samuel Neill died in West Point, Hancock County, Illinois in 1912. The newspaper in Carthage, the county seat, published an obituary. A newspaper in Quincy, Adams County, Illinois, to the south published a slightly different obituary. And there could be additional ones in the smaller papers between the two towns. Guess I have even more work to do!
05 January 2009
A witness to a document usually needs to be of sound mind and of legal age. They also should have no direct interest in the document. For example, an heir to a will should not be a witness. And the grantor or grantee on a deed should not be a witness either.
Sometimes one will hear that one witness was from the wife's side and one was from the husband's side, etc. There may be times where that happens, but it is not a hard and fast rule. A witness is saying that "I saw you sign that document and I know who you are." That's it.
Of course, witnesses to wedding may be relatives and one may be a relative of the groom and one may be a relative of the bride. And of course, the brother of a man may witness his will, as long as the brother is not a legatee or an heir. And if the man writing the will has children, the brother is not an heir. If the brother is not mentioned in the will he is not a legatee either.
A witness is only saying "I saw you make your mark." It is worth remembering.
04 January 2009
the phase "John DeMoss, late of Harford County, Maryland" means that John DeMoss used to live in Harford County, Maryland and now lives elsewhere. Of course, he could be dead, but not necessarily.
03 January 2009
An attendee at a computer workshop wanted me to help them locate an ancestor in the 1880 census. They gave me her name, date of birth, and family information in an attempt to help locate her. We spent about 10 unsuccessful minutes when I asked him if he had any other information. The gentleman told me he had the ancestor's obituary. Reading it, I knew why we had not found her in the 1880 census. The ancestor had died in 1873.
Make certain the date span of the record fits your ancestor's lifespan or chronology. Otherwise you may be wasting your time.
02 January 2009
She sent my transcriptions to the appropriate county GenWeb sites. These transcriptions are mine because they include my unintentional errors. I know she didn't get the originals herself and retranscribe them making my exact same mistakes. I'm all for copyright protection, but don't claim copyright to something someone else sends you.
I am all for sharing and do it regularly. But if you take what I share with you, claim it is all yours, and claim copyright to it, we are done sharing.
01 January 2009
The spouse might not be the parent of all the children listed. Sometimes children and step-children are intermingled. The same thing with grandchildren.
Marriages may be omitted--especially if they produced no children or if there were "issues."
An uncle of mine died a few years ago. He and his first wife divorced. She was not mentioned in the obituary. Nor were their three children. His second wife was mentioned as were their three daughters. Their son was not included in the obituary because he and his mother were on the "outs" at the time of the father's death.
Obituaries are clues. Treat them as such. If you are looking for gospel truth, try the bible. You might even find a few old obituaries tucked in there as well.