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31 December 2010

Sale on complete set of Casefile Clues Back Issues

We are currently running a sale on the first 68 issues of my weekly how-to newsletter, Casefile Clues, which sponsors Genealogy Tip of the Day. Click here for more information.

We'll be back with a new tip tomorrow, ready to start off 2012!

Read a Book

I have been reading First Generations: Women in Colonial America for the past several days. It has given me some insight into the Colonial experience of women and cause to think about a few things in ways I never have. Is there a history text or sociological study that might expand your knowledge even if it doesn't directly expand your family tree?

30 December 2010

Resolutions for 2011

Think about your genealogy resolutions for 2011. Pick one small one that you can reasonably obtain. Write it down on a post-it note and put it on your computer. If it won't fit on a post-it note, it's probably too long!

29 December 2010

Is Each Piece of Paper for the Same Person?

When locating records and putting them in your files, make certain that just because the "name's the same," that you actually have the same person. Make certain age, location, implied social status and other information "match." Sometimes records that you think are on the same person, are actually referring to two separate people with the same or similar names.

28 December 2010

Genealogy Tip of the Day's Sponsor: Casefile Clues

Don't forget that Genealogy Tip of the Day is sponsored by my newsletter Casefile Clues. Casefile Clues discusses genealogy sources, methods, and practices, and cites it sources. There is more information on our blog http://blog.casefileclues.com/ or our website http://www.casefileclues.com/. Casefile Clues is not your typical how-to newsletter. Samples are free by sending an email to samples@casefileclues.com.

What Do the Kids Think Is Mother's Maiden Name?

Remember that the children may not know their mother's maiden name and what they do know is not first-hand information. They may think their mother's step-father was her actual father. They may never have met her father and may have a totally "mixed" up version of the name in their head as a result. Or they may be entirely correct about their mother's maiden name. It depends upon a lot of factors, but keep in mind that information children provide about their mother's maiden name is not first hand information.

27 December 2010

My "Now" Wife

Just because your ancestor uses the phrase "my now wife" in his will, it does not mean he had to have been married twice. A man might use the phrase to make it clear to whom a bequest was being made. If his will said "to my now wife I leave my farm for her life and at her demise it to go to my children" that meant his wife at the time he wrote his will. He might have been concerned that if he remarried and his "then wife" married again that his real property might fall out of his family's hands.

26 December 2010

One Wrong Letter Makes a Difference

A relative claimed he was born in Fort Huron. The actual location was Port Huron. One letter makes a difference, even more noticeable at the beginning of a word.

25 December 2010

Track the "Whys" of Your Research

It is important somewhere to keep track of your research logic as you progress. Otherwise you might not remember "why" you are researching a certain person.

While at the Allen County Public Library last August, I focused on a certain Benjamin Butler in 1850 as being "mine." Using that enumeration as the starting point, I searched other records and made research progress. A stack of papers and records. One problem--I didn't track WHY I thought this 1850 census entry was for the correct person. It took me hours to reconstruct my reason. Time wasted when I started writing up the 1850 Benjamin for an issue of Casefile Clues.

When I decided the 1850 guy was "mine," I should have written down my reasons. That would have saved time.

24 December 2010

Name Split in the Wrong Place?

The man's name was Mel Verslius. His World War 2 draft card accidentally listed him as Melver Sluis before they made the correction. Any chance your ancestor's name "got split" in the wrong place?

Merry Christmas from Tip of the Day

Season's Greetings from Genealogy Tip of the Day. Enjoy your time with the living relatives this holiday season. Your ancestors will still be waiting....(grin!).

23 December 2010

Did They Cross the Wrong Letter?

If your ancestor's last name has a "t" in it, did the "cross" on the "t" over another letter and "change" the name? My Butlers became Butters for that very reason.

22 December 2010

6 Hour Holiday Offer on Casefile Clues-$14.50!

Offer expired! Thanks. You can subscribe at our regular annual rate of $17.00 at http://www.casefileclues.com/subscribe.html

Do You Have the Correct Database?

Always make certain you know what you are searching.  I recently wasted nearly fifteen minutes searching for someone in the 1900 census before I realized the database I was actually querying was the 1930 census.

21 December 2010

Create an Ancestral Resume

Most of us use chronologies in our ancestral research--consider making a resume for your ancestor. List what years he worked what jobs. Census and city directories are great ways to start getting this information, but death certifiates, obituaries, estate inventories, etc. all may give occupational clues.

Don't pad your ancestral resume like you might your own. Stick to documentable facts (grin!).

20 December 2010

Vote for Genealogy Tip of the Day for Top 40

Don't forget today is the last day to vote for "Genealogy Tip of the Day" as one of the top 40 genealogy blogs. http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ft40-2011voting

They are encouraging multiple voting--I think someone on staff is a Chicago native.

Try Searching Without Names

Some database search interfaces allow users to search on other fields besides names. If the site you are using allows this, consider searching on ages, places of birth, father's place of birth, etc. I've made some interesting discoveries without entering in any nanes on a set of search boxes.

19 December 2010

How Complete is that Database?

Before you spend hours searching an online database, determine how complete the database is. Some sets of data include all records in a specific series. Others may be in progress, only including part of the time span the title covers. The webpage title may say the materials are from 1850 to 1950, with 1850-1855, 1870-1880, and 1940-1950 being included. Always read the details.

18 December 2010

What Day of the Week Was It?

Take a look at a perpetual calendar and see what day of the week your ancestor was married, died, etc. People might have avoided getting married on a certain day of the week or having a funeral on a certain day, but being born and dying are different.

17 December 2010

Heir Versus Legatee

While state statute usually defines these terms, it is generally true that an heir of a deceased person is someone who inherits from the deceased based upon their biological relationship to the deceased. A legatee is typically someone whom the deceased has mentioned in their will. Heirs are related. Legatees may be related.

16 December 2010

Did the Courthouse Already Transcribe Your Document?

Don't forget if you have found that will in the packet of probate papers for your ancestor that there might be a "will record" contained with the probate records as well. Not all jurisdictions kept these records, but many did. Perhaps if the will has a difficult to read portion, is partially missing, or open to interpretation, the transcription in the "will record," done at the time the will was proved, will answer your questions.

15 December 2010

Names of All the Grandchildren

Repeated names can be clues to names of earlier family members. Repeated names are not guaranteed to mean that any given ancestor had a particular name, but names used over and over may mean something.

I was looking over a list of heirs of Barbara Haase who died in 1903 and realized that out of her twentysome grandchildren, two were named Kate. I had never noticed that before. Does it mean anything? At this point, I'm not certain. However, if I eventually get "candidates" parents of  Barbara, I'll work first on any couple where the wife is named Katherine or the name Katherine appears frequently.

Don't just look in your direct line of descent for name clues.

14 December 2010

Nominated for the Family Tree 40

Genealogy Tip of the Day has been nominated for one of the Family Tree Top 40 blogs. Remember that Tip of the Day is not about being long-winded, selling stuff, or dreaming up things we've never done or used. Just quick tips.

Give us a vote--and pretend you're from Chicago--vote often.

That's it for the plug--now back to the tips!

Thanks for the nomination.

Same Name Does Not Mean Same Person

It does not matter how "odd" the name is, even if one detail fits. A very distant relative of mine claimed online that my aunt died in Chicago in 1935, because he found someone with her same name dying there.

Problem is that the Chicago person isn't the relative he thinks it is. If he had done research in the local records where the family actually lived (a distance from Chicago), he would have located the person's probate file which indicated she died in the 1950s.

The same's the same doesn't mean the person is. When in doubt, check it out. And if you aren't in doubt, get that way.

13 December 2010

Did They Run Back Home?

While tracking a relative through census records, it appears that she left Missouri shortly before her first marriage. Forty years later, after a divorce, she appears in that county in one census record. If I had not known where her family was from, her residence there would have seemed pretty random. Now I'm reminded that occasionally when a residence seems "random" that there might just be something I don't know.

12 December 2010

First Name Translations

Keep in mind that if your ancestor "translated" his or her name they might have used conventional translations others from their ethnic area used or they might have made up their own. Some non-English names had common translations (Jans and Johann for John, for example) and others did not (the Greek Panagiotis, for example). Some individuals just might take an English name that had the first letter as their original name. I have relatives whose names were actually Trientje. Some used Tena because it had part of the same sound. Others used Katherine as the names have the same original root. It just depends.

People had options of what name they could use if they chose to translate.

11 December 2010

Grandma's Not Primary for Her Birth Information

Remember that Grandma is not considered someone who can provide primary information about her own date and place of birth. It's not that she is necessarily wrong, but that most people are not typically considered to be firsthand witnesses of their own birth.

10 December 2010

Where They Knew No One

We often suggest to researchers that people move in groups and settle where they know someone. And most of the time people do. Keep in mind that once in a while people move where they know absolutely no one. One ancestral couple could not be located. They simply evaporated. They were not near any of their chidlren, any of his siblings, or any of her siblings. They migrated to an area of Missouri where no one they knew lived. Sometimes it does happen.

09 December 2010

Local Library

Have you contacted the local library in the town/county where your ancestors lived? Is it possible they have access to resources that aren't available elsewhere or aren't online? Or do they know of any unique suggestions for research in their local area?

08 December 2010

Unusual Combinations May Just Be A Fluke

Don't assume that just because the names are "close" that they have to be a match. I was looking for information on a William Bell who married a Martha Sargent in Iowa. Turns out there was another William Bell in the same part of Iowa who married a Lorinda Sargent. Totally two separate couples from two separate families. How many William Bells can marry a Sargent and live a few counties away from each other? Apparently two. Two distinct ones.Remember that sometimes there is a relationship and sometimes there is not.

07 December 2010

Don't Get Too Hung Up On Ages In Indexes

Don't get too hung up on using ages or years of birth in online indexes. A 8 can look like a 5, or vice versa. That can easily age someone thirty years or shave thirty years off their age.

06 December 2010

Are You Reading and Paying Attention?

Are you really reading, thinking about, and interpreting the information you have found? Or are your eyes merely passing over the words, looking for that obvious clue? Sometimes the biggest clues are not "obvious." Go back and re-read and think about what a document says. Are there clues you bypassed the first time you "sped read" that record?

05 December 2010

Kids Say the Darndest Things

When a child gives information on their parent, it comes from second hand knowledge. It also could be given decades after the event took place. This information can be incorrect, but keep in mind the child did not witness parental birth information first hand. Even erroneous places should not be ignored however as there may be a reason for the wrong place of birth. Children of one ancestor always said she was born in Illinois, which was correct. Except for one record which said she was born in Ohio. Years later, I learned the parents met in Ohio, married there and immediately moved. Ohio was wrong, but it was a clue.

04 December 2010

Do You Know What All Those Search Options Do?

When using a search option at an online database, do you know how that site implements wildcard searches, Soundex searches, and other search options? Getting creative with search terms is often necessary, but if you don't know how they are really working, you are not being effective. Experiment and look at your results and see if you are getting what you think you should. A Soundex search for the last name Smut on a site with English language last names should result in a large number of hits. And if you don't know why, then review what Soundex really is.

03 December 2010

Is It Worth the Time to Find It?

Are you spending too much time looking for a specific record that might not really even help your research all that much? There's a couple for whom I cannot find their mid-1800 passenger list entry. After some thought, I'm not really certain I need it. I have a good idea of where the family is from in Europe as I know where the husband's brother was born. I know what children the couple had and where they settled. The mid-1800 passenger list probably isn't going to tell me where they were from. And after having spent several hours trying to find them, it may be best to work on locating other records. Sometimes it is necessary to realize that it may be time to work on other things.

02 December 2010

Vowel and Consonant Interchanged?

It's easy for most researchers to realize that vowels can easily get interchanged in a name resulting in variant spellings. Soundex searches ignore vowels in an attempt to get around this problem. Remember that consonants and vowels can get interchanged as well, particularly if the handwriting is not all that great. These variations can be particularly troublesome until the researcher realizes it. Trautvetter often gets transcribed as "Trantvetter" when the "u" is read as an "n." Are vowel and consonant interchanges causing your problems when doing searches?

01 December 2010

Abbreviated the First Names

Is it possible that in the census or other record your relatives' names have been abbreviated or that just initials have been used. One family is enumerated in the 1880 census with only their initials and another has their first names abbreviated on their 1853 passenger manifest.

30 November 2010

Leave Out the Last Name

When searching an online database, leave out the last name and enter in other search parameters. Is it possible that the last name was so difficult to read on the original record that it was simply omitted when the information was transcribed? If you enter a last name as a search term it will have to be in the database in order for the entry to be returned as a "hit."

Thanks to DH for this tip!

29 November 2010

Cyber Monday Discount on Casefile Clues

Cyber Monday discount on my weekly genealogy how-to newsletter Casefile Clues. Our website has more information. Just a little time left. More tips tomorrow!

Reading the Whole Page or Two

Indexes have made the searching of many records easier. Search, find, click and there's the image on our screen. It still though is wise to view all the names on the census page and a page or two before and after. There could be close relatives living nearby, hiding under a name that's indexed incorrectly or mispelled.

Read the whole page your ancestor's census or other record entry appears on. Read a page or two before and after. You might be surprised at what you find.

28 November 2010

Searching in Circles?

I usually tell researchers if they spend more than 5 minutes searching for a person in an online database, it's time to get off the computer and organize your search procedure. The first step is to determine if it would be more efficient to search the database manually, especially if certain details about the family are known that would make manual searching easier.

If manual searching isn't going to work, make a chart and organize your searches by how you will be entering the search terms. Think about:
  • first name
  • middle names
  • last name
  • spelling variants
  • place of birth
  • date of birth
  • other search parameters
Chart up how you will perform your searches and do them systematically. You might be surprised at the results.

27 November 2010

Put Everything in Context

Put every event in context. If your ancesor sells property, ask yourself:
  • how old was he?
  • was he getting ready to leave the area?
  • was he having financial problems?
  • was he selling to a child or other relative?
  • did he buy other property about the same time?
Don't look at a record all by itself. Put it in the context of other things that were taking place in your ancestor's life.

26 November 2010

Contact the Locals

If onsite research at the local courthouse is not an option, consider contacting the local genealogical/historical society or the local library. They may be able to give you names of researchers, suggestions for doing research remotely, or may do some limited research for you via mail. Some courthouses will respond to mail inquiries and some will not.

25 November 2010

Day After Thanksgiving Sale-1 Year of Casefile Clues for $14

We're not using other term for post-Thanksgiving discounts, partially because I think the Thanksgiving holiday has been playing second fiddle to the pre-Christmas craze for too long.

In honor of Michael's 7 newly discovered Mayflower ancestors, we're offering Casefile Clues Thursday and Friday for $14 for a year of 52 issues. Here's a little about Casefile Clues and here's a little more.

Want a sample? Send an email to samples@casefileclues.com to receive two sample copies.

The Thanksgiving Discount is good through Friday. This post will be pulled after Friday! The discount rate will be called the "Thanksgiving" discount on both days.

Choose the appropriate course of action:

Merging A Saint

Is your ancestor's last name "St. Clair"  or some other phrase starting with the word "Saint?" Is it possible that the "saint" was merged into the rest of the name resulting in Sinclair? Or is it possible your ancestor's middle and last names "merged" into one? Sometimes when I tell people my name is "Michael Neill," they think I am saying "Mike O'Neill." Did something similar happen with your ancestor's name?

24 November 2010

Drop the H?

I'm searching for a man named Harm Habbus for an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues. One suggestion in searching for him was to search for the last name of Abbus. An initial "H" is one of those letters that can get left off a name, depending upon how it is pronounced. Most sites that support Soundex searches do ignore the letter "h," but usually only if it is NOT the first letter. Could your "H" people be hiding without their "H?"

23 November 2010

Widowed or Not?

Marital status as stated in some records needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Back in the day when divorce was scandalous, a person enumerated in a census as "widowed" might actually have been divorced. I never searched for a divorce record for a relative as the husband left the area and the marital status of the wife simply was widowed from that time on. And other times I've seen husbnd and wife listed in the same census year in separate households, both with a "w" in the marital status column.

22 November 2010

Enumerated Twice?

It is always possible that your ancestor is enumerated more than once in a census year. Employment away from home or travel could have resulted in an ancestor showing up in more than one census household. Husbands who were separated from their wives might be listed with their family and again living in an apartment or boarding house nearby.

21 November 2010

What Is a Life Estate?

If a legal document indicates your ancestor has a "life estate" in real estate it means they own it for their life only. They can't sell it and they can't bequeath it either. They have it as long as they have "life."

20 November 2010

Could It Have Triggered a Newspaper Writeup?

Think about the various events in your ancestor's life. People often look for births, marriages, and deaths in the newspaper. Are there other events in their life that might have warranted attention? One ancestor had a special examiner from the VA come to her rural town to interview her and five relatives in 1902. Any chance that might have been mentioned in the "gossip column" that week? Possibly. Think about other non-vital events that might have been written up in the local newspaper.

19 November 2010

A Child's Memory of Partial Details

Is Grandma telling you information about events that took place when she was a child? Sometimes children get things correct and sometimes they don't. This situation can be aggravated if the adults don't really tell the child anything and the child only hears a few details. Sometimes they, without any ill intent, create details to fit what they hear, or they interpret things through a child's eyes, which may not entirely be correct.

If you have children of your own, think about how they misunderstood something once in a while. Then remember: Grandma was a child once, too!

18 November 2010

Getting Confused?

Remember that family members can easily individuals from previous generations confused creating additional confusion for the researcher.

An ancestor's wife's name was Ellen. His sister was Emma. The more I learn about Emma, the more I realize that some of the stories that were told about Ellen were actually about Emma. It is easy to see how one could get the names mixed up, particularly if one had never met either person.

Sometimes the mix up happens when the names are not similar at all. Is it possible what grandma told you about relative A was actually about relative B?

17 November 2010

etal and etux

These Latin abbreviations are found in many courthouse documents, particularly land records and court cases When time is limited and you are looking through indexes to land or court records, pay close attention to cases where these abbreviations are used.

"Etal" means "and others" indicating that your ancestor and other people are selling property, buying property, suing someone, or being sued. "Etux" means "and spouse" and that your ancestor and their spouse are selling, buying, suing, or being sued. Whenever a group of people are involved in a court case or a land record, it has higher potential to provide genealogically relevant information.

Particularly when it is Friday at 3:30 and the courthouse closes at 4:00!

16 November 2010

Fire Insurance Maps

Fire insurance maps may provide you with a different view of where your ancestor lived. Insurance maps are generally available between the late 19th and early 20th century centuries. They may tell you what type of home your ancestor lived in, what it was made how, how many stories it was, etc. The maps showing neighboring homes also gives an idea of the "feel" of the neighborhood. Maps are available for urban areas and small towns as well. The Library of Congress website has more information at http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/trr016.html and searches at Worldcat http://www.worldcat.org/ for "sanborn map yourtown" may locate some references as well.

15 November 2010

Kindle Version of Tip of the Day

Just as a note--Tip of the Day is FREE. The only time it is not is if you choose to get it on your kindle. The free versions will continue to remain free. Thanks and thanks for spreading the news about Genealogy Tip of the Day.

Cousins With the Same Name

In some areas, it's important to remember that the reason there may be several men with the same name of about the same age is that they are all named for their paternal grandfather. If Henry Puffer has four sons and they all name a son Henry and they remain in the area, that's four Henry Puffers to sort out.

14 November 2010

Genealogy Tip of the Day on Kindle

Genealogy Tip of the Day can now come right to you on your kindle.Tip of the Day can be as close as your purse or briefcase. I've been posting a daily genealogy how-to tip for nearly two years. Tips are "created" while I'm doing actual research. They aren't copied and pasted from other sites. Usually they come to mind after a seminar or writing an issue of Casefile Clues.

The link is to the Kindle version is here:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004C44H1S

If you want to interact with other Tip of the Day followers/readers/fans, the place for that is still Facebook. If you just want the tips, the Kindle version will just have those. The blog feeds that we're posting to kindle from now on will have no ads, just the tip every day. The good news is that you can see the OLD tips on your Kindle as well. How cool is that?

There may be an occasional extra tip or two thrown in, but what is sent to Kindle (by me) for Tip of the Day will be just the tip.

No ads.
No affiliate links.
No agenda.

Of course, I'd love for Tip of the Day readers to subscribe to Casefile Clues, but there will not be postings about the newsletter in the Kindle feed for Tip of the Day.

This link does take you to Genealogy Tip of the Day on Kindle. Get Tip of the Day where ever your Kindle happens to be.

Thanks!

Is That Adminstrator Really Unrelated?

Your ancestor's estate is being administrated by a man whose name you have never heard of. Any chance he is the son-in-law?

13 November 2010

Switched First and Last Names

When last names can be first names and first names can be last names confusion can result if records and the people providing information are not clear. An aquaintance of my daughter has the last name "Summer." She refers to him as "Summer." It was only after I referred to Summer as "she" that she told me Summer was his last name.

Could mixing up the names be why you cannot find your ancestor in an index or a record?

12 November 2010

Multiple Transcriptions

If the tombstone of great-great-grandpa is difficult to read today, have you searched to see if the cemtery's stones were transcribed 20, 30, or more years ago? Perhaps the stone was much easier to read in 1960 than it is today and perhaps someone transcribed it.

11 November 2010

Draft Registrations for World War 2

USA Only Tip: Records of Selective Service records for men born before 1 January 1960 are available through the National Archives. For more information visit http://www.sss.gov/RECORDS2.HTM. World War II registration for the "Old Men's Draft" are on the FamilySearch site.

10 November 2010

Are The Records Public or Not?

It is important to remember that some records we use in our genealogy research are not public records and may only be available to us through the courtesy of the record holder. Funeral homes, businesses, and churches do not really have to allow genealogists to use their records. Many do, but these groups are different from local or state governments who maintain records. Government records are open, subject to a variety of restrictions.

09 November 2010

You Can't Break Every Brick Wall Online

Some genealogists think if they post their question to enough message boards, websites, mailing lists, etc. someone will discover that magic missing piece. Remember that not every problem can be solved by getting help online. The answer to your problem might lie in a document or record in a courthouse that has never been digitized. Asking for online help is always a good idea, especially when you are unfamiliar with the time period, location, records, etc. But not every problem can be solved by posting online.

08 November 2010

You Are Not Your Great-Grandma

Sometimes we might have an idea of what great-grandma or great-grandpa did in response to a certain event in their lives. Be careful assuming that you know exactly what great-grandma or great-grandpa would have done. Sometimes you may very well be right. Other times you could be wrong and could be creating a brand new brick wall in the process.

07 November 2010

Did the Middle Initial Get Merged?

Is your ancestor's name David P. Able? Is it possible in a record somewhere that he is listed as David Pable?

Depending upon the handwriting, the letters, other factors, a middle initial can sometimes be read as part of the last or even the first name.

Just something to think about.

06 November 2010

Are You Their Only Descendant?

If you are looking for information or ephemera related to your great-great-grandparents, ask yourself: "Am I their ONLY descendant?"

Chances are you are not and any other descendant could have information or materials.

05 November 2010

Is it just a little typo that's confusing you?

Sometimes one letter can make a big difference and move a location across the country. I was typing an address and I intended to type "CA" for California. Instead I typed "VA" and implied Virginia. I corrected the error, but in this case it would have been easy to create confusion.

I could easily see what I meant. Are all "quick errors" this obvious, especially when the error was made 100 years ago?

04 November 2010

Directories Can Fill in Missing Years

If you have urban ancestors (or even not so urban ones), consider using city directories to fill in those off-census years. Directories may list others in the household (particularly if they are old enough to be on their own, but still living at home) and can document moves in off census years. Directories can also help you to find people in the census when the indexes fail.

Always copy the page with the abbreviations too. Otherwise they may really confuse you.

03 November 2010

Read the LIttle Handwriting

Are there two lines squeezed in the bottom of Grandma's marriage record? Is there something written in the margin of the deed book? If the clerk or officer of the court took the time and effort to "squeeze it in," then there's probably a reason for it. It may be a "boring legal reason" or it may be a smoking gun. Even "boring legal reasons" may have significant genealogical consequences. Find out what it says and what it means.

02 November 2010

Is the line down the middle?

My brother lives in a rural area a mile or so from my parents on the same state highway. He lives on the east side of the road. They are on the west. The township line runs right on the road--consequently they live in different townships. Is it possible that your "near neighbor" ancestors live in different townships or counties, etc.? That would impact where certain records are kept and stored. Think about where the lines are located and where your family lived. 

01 November 2010

Secondary Isn't All Bad

Just remember a secondary source isn't necessarily wrong. In 1907 a widow testified as to who the siblings of her husband were. Did she know they were her husband's siblings because she had first hand knowledge of their parentage? No. She had been told who her husband's siblings were. Did she have reason to doubt it? Probably not. Was she wrong. In this case that's not likely. She was suing her husband's family over her inheritance and the chance that one of her husband's siblings was left out is fairly slim.

It's not 100% proof she was right, but any source needs to be kept in context. She's a secondary source of the relationship because she was not present at the births of her husband's siblings. That doesn't mean she's incorrect.

31 October 2010

Know the Naming Tendencies

Some families name children for ancestors. Some do not. In some ethnic groups, names of chidlren can give ideas as to what the names of grandparents MIGHT be. Naming tendencies are CLUES, NOT PROOF.

30 October 2010

Miscellaneous Book at the County Recorder's Office?

Have you taken a look for your ancestors in the miscellaneous record books at the County Recorder's Office? Just about anything can be in these books. I've found divorce decrees from out of state divorces, copies of medical licenses, and a few other non-typical items in these books. Anyone can pay to have anything recorded--which just means that a "legal" copy has or was made. Soldiers might have recorded their discharge at the local recorder's office as well.

29 October 2010

Start from Scratch

Stuck? Put aside everything you have on an ancestor and "recollect" your information on him. Think carefully about every assumption you have made and every step in your logic and reasoning. Perhaps starting over is what you need to do to get over that brick wall.

28 October 2010

Name Not Changed at Marriage

A relative whose maiden name was Mattie Huls married in the 1890s to a man named George Huls. Consequently her last name never changed. Mattie had no descendants and I nearly overlooked her marriage as her last name never changed.

Sometimes it happens.

27 October 2010

Deaths from Just Over Two Weeks Ago in the Social Security Death Index

I had forgotten how current the Social Security Death Index  is at GenealogyBank.com. My wife's brother passed away on 10 Oct 2010 and his entry is already in the index. Others are not updated quite so quickly. So if there's a death you know happened fairly recently, you might want to check Genealogybank's version of the SSDI. Others are not updated quite as quickly.

The Social Security Death Index can be searched for free at GenealogyBank.com.

The reason the Index is updated so quickly is that banks and other institutions use it as a means to catch people using Social Security numbers of recently deceased people.

Is It a Coincidence?

When I was stuck on my Ira Sargent, there were two families I focused on. I was "certain" he fit into one of them. Both families had several members named Ira--there had to be one that was "missing." They had the same general migration pattern, the age was consistent, etc. etc.

Turns out my Ira didn't belong to either one. And that his family really didn't live where he settled at all. The "other" families may be related, but it is so distant as to not really be relevant.

Sometimes similar names and places are coincidences. Just keep that in mind.

26 October 2010

Leave the Kids Behind?

If your ancestors moved several times, did they leave some children behind, either because the children married or because they died? One ancestor who moved from Michign to Iowa to Missouri left grown children in Michigan and Iowa, not to mention the children who were with him in Missouri.

Remember that the entire family might not have moved with the ancestor. Children who were "of age" might very well have stayed behind.

25 October 2010

Have You Overlooked an Alternate Spelling?

Is it possible you've overlooked an alternate spelling of a last name? A relative's mother's name was listed in all documents as Morris. Her Social Security Application listed the last name as Morse. Just one that for some strange reason had not crossed my mind. It happens to all of us.

24 October 2010

Was it Really Their Name?

My great-great-grandmother was Nancy Jane Newman. She was born in 1846 in Indiana to Baptist parents, so there's no birth or christening record. Her life is well-documented (there's no missing years, etc.) and every document shows her as Nancy or Nancy Jane. A lady told me that Nancy was ALWAYS the nickname for Ann and that her REAL name WAS Ann and not Nancy. There's two tips today in this: (1) sometimes "nicknames" are not nicknames, and (2) don't listen to anyone who insists that something ALWAYS means something. There are exceptions to everything.

23 October 2010

Would an SS5 Form Help?

Death certificates are a wonderful source, but usually the decedent does not provide the information. Is there another form or record where the deceased would have provided the information? One such source in the United States (for recent enough individuals) is the SS5 form--Application for a Social Security Number. The current charge is $27, but in some situations, knowing who the person actually listed as their parents may be helpful. A copy of an SS5 form from 1943 is here.

22 October 2010

Get Someone Else To Read It

Sometimes another set of eyes will see something differently. Over at the Daily Genealogy Transcriber, we recently had a posting that some thought was "Hon Aaron Sargent" when in fact it was "Wm. Aaron Sargent."

That posting can be viewed here:
http://genealogytranscriber.blogspot.com/2010/10/signing-my-genealogy.html

If you are stuck on how to read or interpret something, consider having someone else look at it. Your interpretation just might not be correct.

21 October 2010

Scratch it out on Paper

I'm not a big fan of rushing to the computer to enter everything into a database the minute I discover it. Without getting on that soapbox, consider sketching out family relationships on paper before entering them into your genealogical database. Think about the information before you just start mindlessly entering it into a database. Thinking and analyzing are always good. Your initial conclusion may not be the correct one.

20 October 2010

Check for Completeness

In any index, be it printed or online, determine how complete it actually is. Are there counties missing, either because the index or database is in progress or records have been destroyed?

19 October 2010

Don't Just Click, Look Quick,and Go Back

If you've used an online index to take you directly to a record, don't just look at the desired entry and immediately go back to do more searching. Look at the entries before and after the one for your ancestor. How are they the same? How are they different? This is very helpful for records you've never look at before. And for census records, look at the names of the neighbors and where they are from. There may be clues in those names and locations as well.

18 October 2010

Is that First Name Really a Middle Name?

Is what you think your ancestor's "first name" really his or her "middle name?" It could be that your ancestor is simply hiding under a first name that you do not know is his.

My Ira Sargent was actually William Ira Sargent and it's as William Sargent that he marries in 1870.

17 October 2010

Watch those Abbreviations

Remember that an abbreviation might not stand for what you think it does. There was a time when "Ia" stood for the state of Indiana, not the state of Iowa as it does today. So make certain you really know what something stands for.

Readers of Casefile Clues will see this "in action" in issue 7. Attendees at the recent Germantown, TN workshop saw it as well. But there are other examples besides the "Ia" one.

16 October 2010

Alternate Indexes

Are you using just one index or finding aid to a set of records? Is there another index or another database or website that indexes the same records? If so, that other site or source might have read names differently or offer different search options. Do not limit yourself to just one site.

15 October 2010

Chart Everything

I've been working on a relative who was married at least 6 times. To help keep myself organized, I made charts for:
  • her marriages
  • where she was in each census year
  • what each census enumeration said about her
  • what years she had what last names
  • who was the father of what children
Just organizing the information about her helped me keep everything straight in my own mind.
The relative will be featured in an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues.

14 October 2010

Copyrighting A Fact

As a reminder, facts cannot be copyrighted.

The paragraph you write about how you proved a date of birth is something you can copyright and typically copyrighted the minute you write it.

The fact that Johann was born on 18 June 1832 is not something you can copyright.

Otherwise if facts could be copyrighted, I'd be taking claim to "2 plus 2 equals 4." (Grin!).

13 October 2010

Spelling a Clue to Pronunciation?

Is the spelling of your ancestor's name in a census or other record a clue as to how your relatives said your ancestor's name?

Elecksander was probably Alexander, said so as to be spelled another way.

Cathren in a census was probably Catherine, but probably pronounced "cath rin" as opposed to "Cath er in."

Spelling might hide more clues than you think.

12 October 2010

Don't Forget Half-Siblings

If your ancestor has half siblings, don't forget to search for them as well. In some families half-siblings barely speak and never interact. In others, they are as close as full siblings. Just because in one family those relationships were strained doesn't mean they were in others.

And your ancestor may have half-siblings and you may not even know it.

11 October 2010

About Tip of the Day

For our new fans/followers:

Genealogy Tip of the Day is one genealogy tip published every day to our blog (http://genealogytipoftheday.blogspot.com/ and the Genealogy Tip of the Day Fan Page on Facebook. You can also follow us by clicking on the links on the blog page at http://genealogytipoftheday.blogspot.com/.

Tip of the Day is free--but is sponsored by my weekly newsletter Casefile Clues (http://blog.casefileclues.com/).

Tips usually come from my own research and writing. Content and topics are pretty random--just whatever comes across my desk in the process of doing my own research and writing. You don't have to subscribe to the newsletter to get the tips. The tips are, by the nature of tips, short and to the point.

Once in a while I may mention a website, but we try and avoid being "website of the day."

Suggestions and comments are always welcomed. Posts to the Fan Page are welcome, but posts that are pretty much all "self-promotion" will be removed. Suggestions based upon the tips or additional tips or clarifications are always welcomed.

Census Questions?

Need to know what questions were asked in what census? Here's a page that has links to all census questions asked in every census from1850 and onwards.

http://usa.ipums.org/usa/voliii/tEnumForm.shtml

10 October 2010

1910 Census Asks Length of Marriage

Don't forget that the 1910 Census asks for the length of the current marriage. This can be helpful in estimating a marriage date. And in some cases, there will be a notation as to how many times the person has been married.

09 October 2010

How was that first name said?

I've been working on Aunt Emma for the next issue of Casefile Clues. In searching for her in various census records, I have become convinced she pronounced her first name as "Emmer." At least that's how almost every census taker spelled it, Emmar, Emmer, Emer, etc.

Think about how the first name was said. Sometime English language names were said in ways that resulted in a wide variety of spellings.

08 October 2010

Those "Other" Spouses

Remember that if your ancestor was married more than once, records on those "other" spouses may be helpful to your direct line research. A second spouse may provide clues about the ancestor's other spouses, the ancestor's family, etc. And if the "other" spouse got a military pension, those records may be helpful as well.

07 October 2010

Chronological Maps

Chronologies are a good problem-solving tool. So are maps. I've got one extended family I'm stuck on and I think that maps of each person's location in certain years (say 1850, 1860, 1870) might be another helpful tool. Seeing what is "pulling" and "pushing" people to certain locations might be easier if I organize the information in this fashion. Hopefully we'll have some illustrations in a future issue of Casefile Clues.

06 October 2010

Think "What Might Have Been Created"

It is always advisable to think of all the records that might have been created when one is missing. Perhaps the records of your ancestor's estate settlement cannot be found. Are there other court records (perhaps a partition suit?)? Were there guardianship records for the children? Were there deeds that might have settled up property? Would tax records provide any clues?

It can be frustrating when a record is missing, but ask yourself "what else could there be?"

05 October 2010

Do they Know their STUFF?

Many of us posts genealogical questions on message boards, mailing lists, facebook groups, etc. Keep in mind that the person who answers may not really "know their stuff," even if they throw around key phrases and sound really smart.

Give a second thought before taking free advice or suggestions from someone whose skill level and expertise are not really known to you.

04 October 2010

Do You Know What It Meant THEN?

Today is 10-4. In CB lingo that means "OK" or something pretty close to that. Is there a phrase or word in a document, letter, or record that meant something different when it was written? Is there a chance you are interpreting something with a 21st century mind when it was written with a 17th century one?

03 October 2010

Compare to the Census Neighbors

In 1850 and after census records, have you compared your ancestor to his neighbors? Were they from the same place, about the same age, similar occupations, etc.? Or was your ancestor significantly different from his or her neighbors? It might be a clue.

02 October 2010

Adoption or Guardianship?

Adoption records are usually closed. Is there a chance there was a guardianship instead? Records of guardianships are open and may answer your question. The difficulty is that guardianships are usually for children who have inherited some type of estate. If your "adopted" ancestor was poor, there's less chance of a guardianship.

01 October 2010

Read Carefully

In going back through material for a Casefile Clues article, I looked again at some pension papers on a relative. Her children were listed, including my great-grandmother. There great-grandma was listed with a middle name I had never seen anywhere else. For some reason, it had never "clicked" before that the name was different. Great-grandma was always "Fannie" on every document, except for Francis on her birth record. And the only middle name ever used was Iona. And there on the pension application for her mother was "Fannie May"

Or so I thought.

It actually said "Fannie May 16 1880" and was referring to her DATE of birth.

Be careful before jumping to a conclusion and getting a little too excited about locating something "new."

30 September 2010

Just A Deed?

If you think there should be an estate for an ancestor, make certain to look for a deed even if court records are not located. In some cases, if there was just the widow's inheritance to settle up after her death the only record might be a quitclaim deed where the heirs transfer property to one of their siblings. There might not have been any need for an estate settlement.

29 September 2010

Those With No Descendants Might Not Be Listed

Keep in mind that in the cases of intestate estates, a court might not be concerned about relatives who die young, never marry, and do not leave any issue.

If John dies without children and had six siblings, the court might only list those four who left heirs of their own.

The court is concerned with determining heirship--not with compiling a complete genealogy.

28 September 2010

Start Small

Does that research project seem too large? Maybe it is. Pick a smaller task or research goal to start on and go from there. 

Don't think about building the whole house in one day. Worry about the first brick, digging that first bit for the basement, etc. 

Then maybe you will at least get SOMETHING done--even if it isn't EVERYTHING. Your descendants will appreciate something small that got completed versus some grand plan you never got started. 

27 September 2010

Re-evaluate

When was the last time you took a hard look at some conclusions and research you did in the early days of your family history adventure?

Any chance you made a mistake?

26 September 2010

Baselines and Meridians

If you need a map of baselines and meridians within the United States, there's a good one here: http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/Visitors/PrincipleMeridiansAndBaselines.html
and if you don't know what base lines and meridians are for, take a look at the Bureau of Land Management website. Baselines and meridians are used to describe ruralproperty in those states where land was initially transferrred to private ownership by the federal government insetad of the individual colonies.

Those of you who only have urban ancestors or east coast ancestors might not need these links....

25 September 2010

They just might not remember

When interviewing that relative, keep in mind that there just might be some things they either do not know, never knew, or just cannot remember. It happens to all of us occasionally.

Sometimes it is easier to just say "don't know" when asked for a name or a piece of information. And sometimes it's the truth.

24 September 2010

What Name Did They Prefer?

I record every name exactly as it was written on the document. Sometimes though I struggle with what name to "use" for an ancestor when they had more than one name.

I try and use what they used for the majority of their life. My great-grandmother I have listed as Fannie Rampley. Her name on her birth certificate was Frances. But from her marriage on, every record lists her as Fannie. She signs "Fannie Neill" or "Fannie I. Neill" (Iona was her middle name) on legal documents. She (or likely her children) had Fannie put on her tombstone. I transcribe the records using whatever name they say.

But I have her listed as Fannie in my database as it really appears that's what she preferred.

23 September 2010

Read the Newspaper on that Day

Need some perspective on your ancestor? Try reading a local and national newspaper on the day he was born, died, married, etc. While not every national or world event impacted your ancestor, reading the newspaper might bring some additional thoughts to your research.

And that's never a bad thing.

22 September 2010

In Book Form?

Don't assume no one has ever published part of your family history. A little searching located a genealogy published in 1987 on the family of my great-grandfather's sister's husband. It contained pictures and a great deal of information I did not have.

Search out the in-laws!

21 September 2010

Validate--Don't Just Copy!

Use compilations of others as clues, not as proven facts to be copied down with nary a thought. Make certain you reduce the chance you perpetuate the mistakes of others by trying to validate their conclusions and information.

20 September 2010

Do Your Interview Questions Suggest Answers?

When asking relatives questions, try and avoid planting ideas in the mind of the person who is answering your questions. You want the interviewee to remember as much as THEY can. Suggesting answers might cause them to "agree" with you when they shouldn't.

Of course, ask for clarification if necessary. Asking if you heard correctly is different that suggesting an answer in the first place.

19 September 2010

How Was Life the Same?

Yesterday's tip was "how was life different" for your ancestor? Today think about what aspects of your ancestor's life were the same. There has to be something. Think about what motivates you, what tasks you have to perform every day, every week, etc.

Which ones did your ancestor have to perform as well?

Any clues in those tasks? Any clues in those motivations? In some ways we aren't all that different from our ancestors.

18 September 2010

How Was Life Different?

If you're stuck on an ancestor, make a list of ten ways your ancestor's life was different from yours. These ways can include lifestyle, educational level, ethnic background, native language, physical environment, what they ate for supper, etc.

It just might get you thinking.

17 September 2010

In and Out

If your ancestor owned property (whether it was a small lot or a large acreage), determine how it came into and left his possession. Either document could provide vital clues. But both ends of the transaction are important.

16 September 2010

Learn Something New Everyday

Try a new genealogy website, read a how-to article from a journal, work on a family you've never worked on before.

Keep your genealogy mind engaged. Get off the cycle of searching for the same names in the same places in the very same ways.

Getting outside your comfort zone may help you break that brick wall.

15 September 2010

Double Check

Catalogers make mistakes when going through materials. Consequently what appears as the description in the card catalog for an item can be incomplete or wrong. Items get missed when being microfilmed or digitized. Look at page numbers and dates of entries, could some be missing?

It may be necessary to go back and view the original.

14 September 2010

Read the Whole File

Make certain you read the entire set of court, probate, divorce papers, etc. There may be incomplete or incorrect information in one part of the file that may be corrected or discussed in more detail in a later section.

13 September 2010

A Hidden Spouse?

I'm not talking about one hiding in the basement.

Instead does a man have a first and a second wife both named Mary? Does a woman marry a man who has the same last name as her maiden name (that's happened more than you think)? Was there a first, short-lived, marriage because a spouse died young?

Just something to think about.

12 September 2010

Never Moved but Changed Addresses?

Is it possible that your ancestor never moved, but where he lived changed? In early days of settlement county boundaries were sometimes in flux. And in urban areas, street names or numbers sometimes changed as occasionally did city boundaries. Was your ancestor annexed?

Just something to think about.

11 September 2010

Analyze the Witnesses

If your ancestor divorced, determine any relationships with those who provided testimony. Siblings and relatives may provide testimony in a divorce case without specifically stating their relationship.

10 September 2010

How Accurate Did It Need to Be?

Think about the record you are using and the pieces of information it contains. Are there facts that don't really need to be accurate? Yesterday's tip mentioned a marriage date in a divorce record. Think about it for a minute.

In most divorce cases, is it material if the date of marriage is slightly incorrect? Probably not. The key fact is that the couple is married. Uusally a date being sightly off is not going to impact the divorce case in any significant way.

Always keep the intent of the document in mind when analyzing the information is contains. It doesn't mean things have to be wrong, but there may be certain facts that don't have to be 100% precise.

09 September 2010

Might Does not Make Right

A 1921 divorce case I'm looking at for an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues indicates several times that the couple was married in 1908. Just because this year is repeated in several places does not make it more likely to be correct. Frequency does not mean accuracy. Errors can easily be repeated and a divorce record ten years after the marriage is not a primary source.

Just because you see something repeated numerous places does not mean it's right. That's true even if legal documents are being used.

08 September 2010

Check All Levels

When searching for materials in the Family History Library Card Catalog, make certain you have searched for materials cataloged at all jurisdictional levels, not just the town. In some areas, this may include township, county, state, province, nation, etc.

Don't just look at the town or village level records. There may be other available materials.

07 September 2010

After the Widow Died

I'm working on a case where the husband's probate in the 1880s doesn't tell me very much. The widow survived. What I need to do is:
  • search for a probate/will for the wife
  • see if there are settlement deeds for any real estate after her death
  • check for court action of non-probate courts in case there was an estate squabble after her death.
The problem may be that there just wasn't anything left to settle after her death.

06 September 2010

Go Back?

Revisit repositories, libraries, websites, etc. that you've not visited in a while. They may have cataloged new materials, created new indexes, or acquired new materials since your last visit.

05 September 2010

Older Immigrants

Don't assume that your sixty something ancestor would never have immigrated. If all their chidlren had left the old country, it's very possible that Grandma or Grandpa (or both) got on the boat with the last child instead of being left in the homeland all by themselves.

04 September 2010

Ethnic Based Genealogy Mailing Lists

If you are unfamiliar with researching members of your ancestor's ethnic group, considering joining a mailing list specifically for individuals researching people from that region. Networking with others who have ancestors from the same area can be extremely helpful.

03 September 2010

Moved Back?

Did you ancestors "head west" only to "head back east?"

Not everyone who went west stayed. Is it possible that the ten years you can't find your ancestor is because he was in California, Oregon, etc. only to return "home" in time for the next census?

02 September 2010

Coming of Age?

In one family that I've worked on for sometime, I realized that the step-children separated from the step-father about the time some of them reached the age of majority. I'm not certain exactly what went on, but I'm starting to think that when some of them reach "age," they struck out on their own, taking their younger siblings with them.

01 September 2010

There Might Be a Reason for the Error

Your ancestor might really have believed they were born somewhere they were not. As a result, every record where they provided their place of birth might be incorrect.

My grandmother insisted she was born in Tioga, Hancock County, Illinois. She actually was born in nearby Wythe Township according to several contemporary records (discussed at length in an issue of Casefile Clues).

Grandma insisted she was born in Tioga and listed that on every document where she provided the place of birth.

This tip was well timed---Grandma would be 100 years old today!

31 August 2010

They Aren't All on Facebook and the Internet

Remember that not every relative or genealogist who might be able to help you is on Facebook or even the Internet. If the only people you interact with are on Facebook or the blogs, you are really selling your research short and probably are overlooking possible connections.

30 August 2010

Join a Local Genealogical Society

Interacting with other online genealogists is great, but face to face interaction can be good as well. Consider joining and becoming involved in your local genealogical society, even if you have no ancestors where you live.

29 August 2010

Did They Change Churches?

Don't assume that your ancestor always was a member of the same denomination or that they were the same denomination as their parents. People do change churches and denominations.

28 August 2010

Your Own Biography

Have you considered writing your own biography? It would be deeply ironic to have all that genealogy information on all those dead people with little about yourself.

Non-Tip Postings

Users, viewers, and fans of "Genealogy Tip of the Day" can email me if they see inappropriate postings to our Facebook page. Solicitations for research clients are not allowed on any Tip of the Day page and will be removed.

27 August 2010

Recorded Their Discharge?

Many soldiers recorded a copy of their discharge papers in the county in which they were living when they enlisted or where they lived right after their discharge.

If you can't find military information on your ancestor, see if they recorded a copy of their discharge papers at their local county recorder's office.

26 August 2010

Be Careful Inputting Relationships From Obituaries

Be careful using relationships from obituaries as your sole source of information for your database.

Modern obituaries especially may:
  • not mention all children
  • may not distinguish children from step-children
  • may not indicate which spouse was the parents of which children
Any of these things can confuse later genealogists if you assume an obituary was entirely correct.

Best bet is to transcribe it (or scan it) and look for other materials to back it up.


25 August 2010

Occupational Clues

Are you looking in other records besides census records for occupational clues on your ancestor?

Estate inventories are good places to get an idea of what occupation your ancestor might have had. Those with city-dwellers in their family tree should use city directories for clues of this type. And don't forget some European church records use occupations to distinguish men of the same names from each other.

24 August 2010

Living Relatives?

Are there any living relatives you haven't talked to yet with your family history questions? Remember that cousins, near and distant, may have family items or memories that you don't.

23 August 2010

State Archives?

Have you tried to determine if the state archives where your ancestor lived might hold records that could be helpful in your search? Remember that state archives could hold records created at the state level or county records that have been transferred to their control.

22 August 2010

Maybe You Have Exhausted All Sources

Sometimes all of us need to admit that we've reached the end of our research on a particular person or a particular lineage. Maybe records have been destroyed or were not even created during the time period we need. Maybe your ancestor changed his name and the original simply will never be known.

There are situations where, unless new records are discovered or finding aids are created, research will reach a standstill.

Sometimes it's good to know when there's just no more you can do. The problem is that sometimes we reach that conclusion before we should.

21 August 2010

Try All Newspaper Locations

When looking for that relative's obituary, look in more than one location. Try where they were living where they died, where they were born, where they lived the bulk of their life, where their children were living at the time of their death. You might be surprised where an obituary pops up.

Of course, there may be no obituary at all.

20 August 2010

Xber-updated

[the earlier version of this that went out was a "draft" that accidentally went live instead of this version]

Remember that the month of Xber is actually October. Tip of the day readers familiar with their calendar history will know that X is the Roman number for ten and that the prefix "oct" means 8. That's because before the calendar change of 1752, March was the first month of the year, making October the eighth month and not the tenth month. Chances are after the calendar change of 1752, Xber refers to December and that before the calendar change of 1752 it referred to October.

Best advice: Record the month EXACTLY as written. If your software program doesn't "like "Xber" then personally, I would leave the date blank and record an EXACT transcription in my notes as to the date, but that's just my preference. And if the records being used are chronological, look at later entries in the year. It might also be good to look at earlier entries as well.

Xber-

This post has been deleted in favor of the corrected one here.

19 August 2010

Think Where?

If you are looking for a specific piece of information--ask yourself "where could that be written?"

Don't focus initially on locating a birth record, instead think where could information about the birth be written? This might be a birth certificate, newspaper announcement, family bible, etc.

Then try to access those sources. It might be that when you locate one of the items it provides a clue to help you actually locate the birth certificate.

18 August 2010

Looking for Ancestral Signatures?

There are several places where you could locate signatures of your ancestor. Two good places are packets of estate papers (for receipts, etc.) and actual pension or bounty land applications. Estate papers would be (usually) a county level record and pension/bounty land applications are typically a federal record (except for Confederate pensions given by states).

17 August 2010

Multiple Transcriptions

There's several counties in Kentucky where different individuals have transcribed the marriage records. Different people read things differently. I went through both sets of transcriptions. Good thing I did. The name of a husband of a relative was transcribed in two significantly different ways. One was so far off that I never would have found them in later records. Fortunately the second transcription was more accurate and helped me find more materials.

If there are duplicate sets of transcriptions for a record use both--partiularly if the originals are not at your disposal.

16 August 2010

Index Missed It?

Have you considered the possibility that the indexer missed something when creating the index? It might be that the only way to be certain the name is not in the record is to look page by page.

15 August 2010

1840 Census

Don't forget on 1840 census enumerations to look at both the left hand page and the right hand page. The left hand page includes slave numbers, information on individuals engaged in various types of employment (categories only, no names), and names of Revolutionary War pensioners. There might be a big clue hiding on the right hand page of that census--don't forget to look, grandpa might be living with the family.

14 August 2010

Cause of death on death certificate

Remember that what "killed" your ancestor might not be what actually "killed" him. Look for the secondary cause of death--that might have been the lingering illness that really was the culprit. Kidney failure might have been the result of something else.

Don't ignore those other illnesses listed on the death certificate.

13 August 2010

Look at the dower releases

Does your ancestor have a series of deeds where he sells land over time?

Have you looked closely at the place where the widow releases her dower? Is it the same wife every time?

Might be a clue to multiple spouses.

12 August 2010

Where Did You Get Each Fact?

Find your source for each fact on your ancestor, determine:
  • do you have a source?
  • is the fact an "assumption?"

For each source:

  • is it primary or secondary
  • how reliable is it?

For some questions there's not a "right" or "wrong" answer, but thinking about where you obtained each piece of information may cause you to break that brick wall.

11 August 2010

Search Manually

Remember that virtually every record can be searched manually, particularly census and other online records.

Indexes aren't perfect and sometimes manual page by page searches are faster than formulating seemingly endless search queries. And you may make a few accidental discoveries in the process.

10 August 2010

Wrong Places May Be Clues

The 1900 census for a relative indicated his mother was born in Ohio. This was completely incorrect. What I learned later was that the mother's parents were married in Ohio a year before the mother was born in Illinois. While the place of birth was wrong, it was a clue as to the migration trail of the parents.

09 August 2010

Is the time and place right?

Do you have the right place for the right time in your genealogy database? An online tree for a relative indicates one of their ancestors was born in Plymouth, Mass in 1600. Seems a little bit odd to me.

Double check that your locations and dates are correct within the historical time frame.

08 August 2010

A Patronym

A patronym is a last name derived from the first name of the father.

For instance, Anders Swanson has sons with the last name of Anderson. Anderson would be a patronym.

If Gerd Hinrichs' children use the last name of Gerdes, Gerdes would be a patronym.

07 August 2010

Electronic Version of Evidence Explained

This has been discussed on the Fan Page on face book.

An electronic copy of Evidence Explained is available here for $24.95.

A Feme Covert

A married woman whose legal rights have been combined into those with her husband, with the husband assuming control of those rights.

06 August 2010

Marriage Bann?

A marriage bann is an announcement of an upcoming marriage. Usually made for three consecutive weeks in church, banns may also be publicly published announcements of an upcoming marriage.

Usually done so that anyone with knowledge of why the couple should not be married could come forth with the reason.

The publication (or announcement) of the banns does not necessarily mean that the marriage actually took place.

05 August 2010

They Might Have Used That Name Twice

In some locations in some time periods, it was not unusual for couples to reuse names of deceased children. While today the practice would be frowned upon, many of my low-German ancestors had several children with the exact same name, the first ones all dying at a young age. And it wasn't just this ethnic group that engaged in this practice.

So consider that those church records indicating three children born with the same name could be correct and look for a death entry for the first ones.

Don't just assume they were different children who had the same christening name and took different names later.

All of which makes the point that it is important to learn about cultural practices for your ancestor's ethnic group.

04 August 2010

Did They Even Know Their Age?

It's possible that your ancestor did not even really know how old she was. A deposition in a Civil War pension file I'm using for an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues begins with the individual stating that they aren't really certain how old they are.

Did your ancestor know when they were born? Are you assuming that they did?

A partial copy of the deposition can be seen on the Casefile Clues blog.

03 August 2010

Change in Mindset

While there are aspects of genealogical research that are the same across time periods, certain things are different. Different time periods and locations require different approaches despite what some "experts" may think.

Researching a European immigrant ancestor to an urban area in the late 1800s is different from researching an immigrant to upstate New York in the early 1700s. If you are approaching both problems the same way, that might be adding to the confusion.

02 August 2010

Discuss it

Discuss your genealogical problem with someone else with an interest in genealogy. They might have a different idea, see a hole in your research, or know of someone else who might be able to help.

And sometimes just discussing something makes new ideas and errors easier to see than they were before.

01 August 2010

How Late Can You Go?

If you don't know when someone died, have you gone through every document on them in order to determine the last date they were listed as alive?

It might be when they witnessed a document, appeared in a biography, wrote their will, signed a bond, etc. Any one of a number of records might tell you "how late you can go?"

31 July 2010

Does it Apply Everywhere?

When someone gives you advice, make certain it is applicable to where you are actually researching and the time period in which you need.

Recently a poster to a mailing list made generalizations about a certain type of record. What he said is true about New England, but it's not true about points west of the Northwest Territory. Consequently if I were researching in Kansas and used his approach, I would be confused.

The problem is that some people don't know their knowledge only applies in certain places or are unwilling to admit that they don't know everything.

30 July 2010

Widows versus Veterans

Widows of the War of 1812 were allowed to apply for bounty land in the 1850s, but not a pension until much later. If your veteran survived until the 1870s, he might have applied for a pension. Two bounty land acts in the 1850s gave most veterans a total of 160 acres and their widows during that era, if they were married long enough.

I've been working on a bounty land application for a Kentucky widow in the 1850s whose husband served. The actual property was patented in Iowa and Illinois by men who purchased the warrant from the widow after it had been issued.

Casefile Clues subscribers will see the bounty application in issue 51.

29 July 2010

Spell it Right

Remember when entering your place names to spell the names of standard locations correctly. Names of towns may change and may have occasionally an alternate spelling, but for counties, try and get them correct as there often are not multiple versions. There are plenty of online atlases and maps that can help you out with this...remember:

It is Culpeper, not Culpepper; Fauquier, not Fauquire; and Harford (MD), not Hartford.

If your spellings of standard locations are incorrect, some may wonder about other details you have in your records.

28 July 2010

Where Spouses Come From

The majority of times (especially when transportation was limited), marriage partners came from
  • church
  • neighbors
  • others in same social class
  • same ethnic/cultural group
While there are always exceptions, the majority of times husbands and wives shared some of these characteristics. Keep this in mind when trying to locate spouses and marriage records of family members.

27 July 2010

Don't Correct

Never correct a document when transcribing it.

If you must, make an annotation separately, clearly indicating it is your annotation and not a part of the original. Don't add to the confusion. What you think is wrong may be right.

If you have the urge to correct errors there are better places to do it.

26 July 2010

Is State Law Playing a Role?

Remember that state statutes dictate how inheritances work, particularly when a person dies without descendants of their own. What happened in 1920 might not be what happened in 1820 even if your family lived in the exact same location.

Reading up on state statute, or asking someone with more experience with the records may be in order.

25 July 2010

Frontier Research is Different

Research in the early days of settlement of any area is difficult. Mainly this is because
  • fewer records were kept
  • people were more mobile
  • people were concerned with SURVIVING, not leaving a record behind of their existence

As a result, frontier research requires more analysis than later research, more patience, and that the researcher locate just about everything they can get their hands on.

Nothing is 100% complete

Just remember, no series of documents is perfect. People die without death certificates, individuals are omitted from the census, records get filed incorrectly.

And some records have more problems with accuracy than others. Keep this in mind when using any series of records.

23 July 2010

Before Hiring A Professional

Before hiring anyone to do any research for you, make certain you have thoroughly reviewed and organized what information you have.

You may find you already have the answer or realize where you need to go without hiring someone. And if you do hire someone, they'll want your material organized anyway.

22 July 2010

Have You Reviewed Your Proof?

Is there a family or a problem you "solved" a while ago? Have you looked at it since? Is it possible that you were wrong, your research was incomplete, or you were just in "la-la-land" when you reached your conclusion?

Keep in mind that everyone is wrong once in a while. A distant relative made me go back and re-visit some research I did years ago and while I'm not 100% certain what's "right" yet, there are some holes in what I did.

It doesn't hurt to occasionally go back and review what you thought was "done."

My review of my problem will appear in an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues. Bits and pieces of the research may appear as a tip, but the whole thing is far too long for a tip .

21 July 2010

24 July (Saturday) Norman Oklahoma Seminar

There's still time to attend the Cleveland County (OK) Genealogical Seminar that I will be presenting in Norman this weekend on Saturday the 24th.

I'll be talking on:
  • Court Records
  • Using Probate Manuals and Guides to enhance your research
  • Organizing Your Research
  • and more
There is more information on the society's website.
http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~okccogs/workshops-seminars/summerseminar.htm

Feel free to forward information to other lists and those in the area who may be interested.

There is no such thing as Completely Consistent

Records will not be entirely 100% consistent. This is particularly true for records that provide "extremely secondary information" (eg. places of birth for parents on their child's death certificate when the child dies at the age of 80).

One must aim for relative consistency and when there are discrepancies, try and find an explanation for them. In the case of birthplaces, it often is because the family lived there for a time, the boundaries were changing, etc.

Or the informant was clueless and just made it up.

20 July 2010

Abbreviated Names

Don't forget when searching indexes to enter Wm. for William, Jno. for John, Th. for Thomas, etc.

Once in a while you will encounter these abbreviations in addition to the census enumerator (and others) who also liked to use initials.

19 July 2010

Get Multiple Versions

Verifying family stories can often be difficult and the best advice is to record them as "stories" and indicate who said them. Remember though to get as many different perspectives as you can. Even in one family, different children had different experiences and may remember things differently. And their mother (or father) might have shared stories with one child and not with another.

18 July 2010

Study the Church

We're not trying to convert readers with this tip, but what do you know about your ancestor's religious affiliation? For some of our ancestors, the church was extremely important and influenced many decisions in their lives--who they married, where they settled, etc.

Is your ancestor migrating with members of a specific denomination? Are all of your ancestors associates members of that denomination? There could be clues there....

17 July 2010

Look for the hidden clues

Does a person providing testimony in a court case indicate that he has known your ancestor for fifteen years? Have you thought about where your ancestor was fifteen years before that date? Do you know where he was? If you can't find him, look for the person providing testimony.

Always think about the implications of any statement you read. There may be more there than just what it says "on the surface."

16 July 2010

Transcription or Extract?

Do you know the difference between an transcript and an extract? A transcript copies information or a record verbatim. An extract takes out what the extractor sees as key points.

If you are using published records, do you know if you have an extract or an abstract? It does make a difference.

15 July 2010

Tracking How You Search

Don't forget to keep track of how you formulate you searches of online databases. It's impossible to tweak your searches if you don't.

I've become increasingly aware of the importance of this while tracking Benjamin Butler from Michigan to Missouri between 1820 and 1870 for a series of articles in Casefile Clues.

14 July 2010

Just Initials?

If you can't find your ancestor in the census with names, have you tried just initials? That's how my ancestors are listed in 1880...

13 July 2010

Did you Proofread?

Always double check those transcriptions you create of handwritten records. There's always the chance you could make a mistake.

This tip came about after reading tips for the past two weeks--I found two typos!

Note: the proofreader for Casefile Clues does not proofread Tip of the Day...errors here are completely my fault.

12 July 2010

Try a Different Site

I've spent some time trying to find a "new" ancestor in any census before 1870. After a while of using Ancestry.com, I searched for him on the FamilySearch site. An 1850 census reference was located.

It still may not be my person, but it was a "hit" that for some reason did not turn on up on Ancestry. Different sites have their own indexes. If someone cannot be located in one index, determine if other indexes have been created.

11 July 2010

Whose Side?

Whose version of a story are you getting? Grandma most likely is telling you the version of events through her eyes. If she was personally involved in the events, could she possibly be tweaking a few details?

If your great-grandfather is suing his wife for divorce his story is obviously being told from his vantage point.

Keep that in mind for any record you use.

10 July 2010

Does the Site Have an Agenda?

Keep in mind the purpose behind any website or source you use for your family history research. Is it possible that the accuracy of the site and the information is influenced by something other than accuracy?

Is the site's as much information as possible, just to generate traffic and ad sales?
Is the site's goal simply to make information more accessible?

Sometimes it can be hard to tell. But any site's information should be compared with other records (particularly if the site's information is transcribed).

I have seen County GenWeb sites where names of cemeteries were wrong, locations were incorrect, and transcriptions were incomplete. And I've seen ones that were highly accurate as well.

09 July 2010

Warrantee Search on Bureau of Land Management Web Site

Remember when searching the warrants at the Bureau of Land Management site that locations are not all that important. The individual who received the warrant might never have set foot in the state where the warrant was issued. This is especially true for those who received warrants for War of 1812 service and sold them to others who actually received the patent.

Your ancestor's widow may have received a warrant for his Virginia service while she was living in Kentucky. The patent may have been issued in Nebraska.

08 July 2010

Relationships

Remember that in census records, relationships are given in regards to the head of the household--typically the husband. His children may not all be children of his wife.

And individuals listed as children may actually be step-children.

So relationships in one census may be tenuous and not entirely clear.

07 July 2010

Sometimes Different Names are Different People

Years ago, I had a researcher search for the marriage of William Newman and Rebecca Tinsley in Rush County, Indiana. The couple married there in the 1830s. The researcher sent me the marriage record of Thomas Newman and Polly Tinsley who also married there in the 1830s, telling me that often times people used nicknames and that since the last names matched it was the same couple.

Being young and inexperienced (I was probably 14 at the time), I believed her.

Later I found out that Thomas and Polly were a separate couple, but the researcher was close. Thomas was William's brother and Polly was Rebecca's sister.

Remember in genealogy sometimes "close" isn't close enough.