31 March 2009
On the deed where the judge is selling the estate, William Rampley is listed as Wilbur Rampley. William's middle name was not Wilbur and he never used that name as a nickname. What happened? Most likely a simple transcription error. When every other reference to him in the records is William and one out of thirty lists him as Wilbur, it's easy to realize that sometimes an error is just that, an error.
The problem is that when we have just one reference to an individual it can be difficult to know if a name is simply an error or something more.
Just a little something to think about.
30 March 2009
Before you spend hours searching that database, determine how complete it actually is.
29 March 2009
28 March 2009
Once I think I have the relationships down, I begin my data entry. Wasting time "fixing" relationship mistakes is time I could spend doing actual research.
27 March 2009
There were no instant messages, no emails, no phone calls. Admittedly the plane was a little cramped, but not having constant distractions helped me to organize my research and decide where I could progress next.
Sometimes when we get an idea about a family history problem, it is tempting to go to a website right away, do some research and get sidetracked. The next thing you know, it is several hours later and you barely spent five minutes on what you really wanted to research.
26 March 2009
In a banquet speech that must have been at least ten years ago, I made the following comment (which is fiction, by the way):
"After Smithton County had their county marriage records digitized, the county board contemplated what to do with the originals. In an effort to conserve space, save money, and express concern for the environment, they decided to submit them to the local paper recycling center. Board President Wannabee Paula Tician commented 'this allows us to reduce county expenses and even lets dead people help with recycling.' The next time you get to 'choose' between 'paper' and 'plastic,' your great-grandparents' marriage license might literally be 'in the bag.'"
25 March 2009
The omission of one letter changes "Orange" to "range." Quite a difference.
How would the omission of one letter from the surname for which you are searching change it? Would the soundex code be the same? Would the name even be pronounced the same? Would the error be easy to find in an index.
Think about one letter being dropped. You might be surprised at the variants you come up with.
24 March 2009
If you locate a deed, view the ones recorded before and after as well. Sometimes deeds were recorded in groups and several might have been filed successively.
This may be helpful in court and other records as well.
Usually not helpful with birth records unless there were twins!
And deaths are another story.
23 March 2009
One key is that the maps be contemporary to when your ancestor lived in the area. Modern maps can be helpful in finding current locations of cemeteries, but many other times our research requires contemporary maps.
If you are stuck on a forebear, get a contemporary map of his or her area. Perhaps that map is just the one you need to get your around or over that brick wall.
22 March 2009
Never use the word "Grandma."
My daughter set up "accounts" for the family to use on her laptop. One evening I needed to use it and it asked me for a password. My "generic" password did not work and upon the submission of an incorrect entry it gave me a hint:
"Grandma's maiden name."
I immediately entered in each of my grandmother's maiden names. Once in lower case and once in upper case. I was just about to get irritated when I realized that my daughter had meant HER grandmother, not mine.
Two seconds later, the password let me in.
Avoid using words such as "grandma," "uncle," or "aunt" without more information. Even Grandma Neill can be confusing. After all, whose Grandma Neill is it? Records are confusing enough sometimes without us making things more confusing in our comments, notes and transcriptions.
21 March 2009
John Michael Trautvetter could have been enumerated as John Michael.
My ancestor Henry Jacobs Fecht is listed as Henry Jacobs in the 1870 census. Took me a while to find him listed like that.
Just something to consider if the usual search attempts do not pan out.
20 March 2009
It could mean a "homestead" claim that was filed under the Homestead Act of 1862 (and which was amended). These claims usually were 160 acres and the in Great Plains and points west, but the amounts can vary depending upon the location and time period. Claimants would be deeded the entire homestead if they lived on the farm for a given number of years and improved it.
A "homestead" also could be referring to that portion of a family's farm containing their actual home and surrounding buildings that often was allowed to the widow if her husband died. This homestead was usually protected from creditors in the event of her husband's death. Sometimes the residence and her actual "dower" would be lumped together as her right of "homestead and dower." The technical definition can vary from state to state--refer to applicable state statutes for a precise definition.
19 March 2009
Witnesses to a document may have known your ancestor.
Witnesses to a document may have been related to your ancestor.
Witnesses may have been just another warm body in the Justice of the Peace's office at the same time as your ancestor.
Witnesses do not have to be related to your ancestor and they don't have to be "friends" with your ancestor. They could be, but they do not have to be. Keep that in mind.
18 March 2009
What gives is that an "infant" in the legal sense is someone who is under the age of majority. While that can vary from state to state and has changed over time, it typically is 18 for females and 21 for males.
So your ancestor could be 15 years old and be an infant.
Just something to keep in mind.
17 March 2009
Remember that there is a word outside of genealogy. I will still look for Troutfitter (and Trautfitter) references, but won't assume they all have to do with with the last name.
And my google searches will be constructed to not include webpages that have references to "trout" or "fish."
16 March 2009
15 March 2009
There are message boards at Ancestry-- http://boards.ancestry.com
There are more at Genforum-- http://genforum.genealogy.com
A researcher in a workshop was stuck on a family and one of my suggestions was that she post her question about the confusing deed extract to that county's message board. My hope was that a "local" could help her. She got two responses. One was from a researcher of the same name and another offered to help with the extract. All within 24 hours.
No guarantees, but might be worth a try.
14 March 2009
Nearby university libraries may be a gold mine as well. Even if they don't have a genealogy collection.
13 March 2009
For this reason it is good to know the soundex codes for your last names and their variants. Not because you need them to search, but so you know what names you need to perform soundex searches for in order to not miss any results.
The last name Demoss occasionally gets written as Demop (because the "ss" is made like a "p" sometimes. A soundex search for Demoss will not bring up Demop because the two are not Soundex equivalent.
Demoss has a soundex code of D520
Demop has a soundex code of D510
Of course, Demos is a variant too, but since a double letter is omitted, there is no difference. Searching for "Demoss" with soundex turned on will not bring up any Demop refererences.
Rootsweb has a feature that will find the soundex code for your last names.
12 March 2009
The list goes on. Consider what might have happened if someone dropped the first syllable or two of your ancestor's last name.
Then try the same for the last syllable or two.
You might be surprised at what you find.
11 March 2009
You may be surprised what you find there. I located the divorce for my globetrotting relative Philip Troutfetter at the Colorado State Archives and am waiting for a copy. Never hurts to try.
10 March 2009
Go through and clean up your genealogy work area. At the very least you may be more efficient. At the very most you may find something you completely forgot you ever had.
09 March 2009
- Offering to take pictures of stones in a nearby cemetery? This offer could be posted to a Rootsweb mailing list. Best to start with a small cemetery.
- Performing lookups in a book you have at home?
- Answering a query on a mailing list that does not relate to one of your families?
Sometimes it feels good to just help someone else with their research. Sometimes it generates good "genealogy karma." And sometimes when you help someone else, you learn something that later helps you with your own research.
08 March 2009
I did this recently and it was exactly what I needed. Also I really just needed another set of eyes to look over what I had and make certain that I had not overlooked something.
One warning. Organize your information first. Any professional receiving unorganized information will need to organize it. That takes time and increases the number of their billable hours.
A plumber will charge me for his time if he spends fifteen minutes cleaning out the cabinet under the sink before he can actually do any work. It is the same when a professional genealogist has to begin work with your unorganized information. She needs to clean first. That's usually something you can do yourself and save a little money in the process.
07 March 2009
Wills are recorded because someone died and the estate needed to be settled.
Guardianships are recorded because a parent died and left an estate and minor children.
Deeds are recorded because land was sold. Sometimes deeds are recorded because the surviving spouse died and the property needed to be transferred. Sometimes this fact will not even be indicated on the deed.
Anything that falls "outside normal parameters" should really cause you to ask "why?" My wife's Roman Catholic ancestor waited until two of her children were in elementary school to have them baptised. This is unusual. The likely reason? She had divorced her first husband and was "getting things in order" to marry her second and baptizing her children was one of those "loose ends" the church needed tied up.
Don't be overly cynical and dream up things for which there is no reason, but keep thinking about what was the reason and what was the motivation behind an event or a document.
06 March 2009
Also consider foreign language or ethnic newspapers if your ancestor was an immigrant or the child of immigrants.
Different newspapers do not alway give the exact same information.
05 March 2009
The problem is that my responses are apparently not getting back to them. I have had three messages from different relatives in response to one of my trees. I sent return e-mails almost immediately. No response. Two replied to my tree again a few months later. Again I immediately replied. No response to my reply.
The likely problem? My replies are getting caught in their junk-mail filter. Messages sent in response to trees and messages sent in reply to these responses are not sent directly from the user's email. They are instead sent a Connection Service at Ancestry.com. If you have public trees posted or have responded to any trees you can't just sit and wait for a response and assume that it will automatically get to you. These messages are "automatic" and could get caught in many junk-mail filters.
Messages in response to trees typically come from firstname.lastname@example.org and replies to a connection request would come from the domain cbreply.myfamily.com. Make certain you have allowed these addresses in any filters you have. If not, you may miss replies to your trees or replies to your inquiries--and we wouldn't want that to happen!
Note: this is reprinted from a tip I wrote for Ancestry.com in December 2008. I'm using it again because I recently had the same person post a message to me and apparently not get my reply.
04 March 2009
I learned something when I did it. The book I grabbed was Echo King's Finding Answers in British Isles Census Records. King mentioned that in the 1841 UK Census enumerators were not requried to give full Christian names. I probably knew this at one point in time, but the remembering did not hurt me.
While I'm not going to spend all day picking out pages at random to read, the exercise did remind me that every so often it is a good idea to pull out one of those references we have not read in a while and review a chapter or two.
We may learn something. I know I did.
03 March 2009
Once I almost neglected locating a 1930 census entry for a family because "I didn't need it." Turns out I was wrong. It listed the "birth" name for a daughter, which ended up being a clue as to the name of the father's mother.
You just never know. And don't assume that you do not need a record just because you "know everything."
02 March 2009
The only problem was that the newspaper clipping was a photocopy of the original. There was no reverse side I could look at for clues. There was just the clipping. I was concerned I would have a difficult time locating the person with just a clue that he died in Indiana.
Then I remembered the deceased had an interest in an estate in the county where he lived. Researching court and probate records located a file settling up his estate. Included in those court records was a transcription of the coroner's report from the Indiana county where he died. Problem solved without looking in one Indiana county after another.
You can't solve every problem this way, but exhausting all sources where you know the person had been may give you clues to help you pinpoint those other areas.
01 March 2009
However for some reason I originally overlooked 1 March 2009 and it brought something to mind:
Are there gaps in a series of records you are using? Besides looking for a certain name, are you paying enough attention to make certain that there are entries for every year the records supposedly cover, every region, etc.?