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31 May 2011

Avoiding Abbreviations

Use abbreviations sparingly. Does "w/o James Rampley" mean "wife of James Rampley" or "without James Rampley?" Of course on a cemetery transcription site, what it means is obvious. But remember, what is one person's "obvious" is someone else's "huh?"

Abbreviations can easily confuse--use them with care. Avoid them if at all possible.

30 May 2011

Cemetery Calling Card

If visiting a cemetery where your ancestor lived, consider leaving your name and address on an index card at the stone you've been to visit. Put the card in a plastic baggie and use something (such as a rock, etc.) to keep it from blowing away. Don't harm the stone in the process, but perhaps someone visiting the cemetery another day will find your baggie and contact you.

Not everyone with genealogy information goes trolling the internet, but they may go cemetery visiting.

29 May 2011

Casefile Clues Memorial Day Offer

Over the Memorial Day Holiday, you can take advantage of our Casefile Clues subscription offer--$25.50 for the first 35 issues of Year 2--plus another year of issues. A list of topics from year 2 can be viewed here.

Orders can be processed here with a credit card (PayPal account not necessary although PayPal processes our payments).

Subscribe now before you forget--this post will be pulled when the offer is over.

You can request samples by emailing samples@casefileclues.com.

Who Is Alive?

Think about who is listed on a document and who that document implies is alive at the time the document is written. A will mentioning children usually means that the children are alive at the time the will is written.


There's no guarantee the children are still alive when the will is admitted to probate.

28 May 2011

Ledgers versus certificates

Keep in mind some counties may have ledgers with birth records and separate birth certificates. I looked in the birth certificates for two of my grandparents and did not find them. But when I looked in the birth register--there they were.

It pays to make certain you have searched everything.

27 May 2011

Widow's Probate? Or Not.

In locations and time periods where women had few property and legal rights, there are not often estate settlements if the wife dies first. However, if the wife dies last always look for an estate settlement, quit claim, or some type of settlement deed to tidy up the estate.

People assume that because women who die first don't often have estate or probate records that they won't when they die last either. That's not necessarily true.

26 May 2011

Are Their 1850 Neighbors the Same as the 1750 Neighbors

I have a family that moved from Virginia into Kentucky around 1800. The interesting thing is that the names of neighboring families to my ancestors in 1750 Virginia are the same names I see as their 1850 Kentucky neighbors in 1850.

I've got another set of German families that essentially "transplanted" a village from northern Germany to Illinois in the mid to late 1800s.

Some people tend to stick together even when they move. Use this to your advantage in your research.

25 May 2011

Grandchildren's Biographies?

If the time period and locations are appropriate, have you looked for biographies of all the grandchildren of your "problem" ancestor? It is always possible one of them mentioned a detail about their grandfather in their own biography--and that could be a big clue.

24 May 2011

2012 Salt Lake Library Trip with Michael

We've set the dates for my 2012 group trip to Salt Lake. Never too early to get started http://rootdig.blogspot.com/2011/05/2012-family-history-library-trip.html

He Was Formerly Late or Was He Late Formerly?

Remember that "late" does not necessarily mean dead. "Late of Harford County" can simply mean that the person used to live there. In some legal and other documents, "late" means formerly.

Deceased usually means dead however!

23 May 2011

Did You Copy Selected Materials the First Time?

Some of my research was done back in the day when making a paper copy of every record was cost prohibitive. Some of those records have been microfilmed by the Family History Library. I've been going back and in some cases, scanning the entire record off the microfilm and getting lots of really interesting information.

Is there something you only partially looked at before that perhaps now you could copy more extensively?

22 May 2011

Do You Know What You Are Looking At?

A relative was great about sending me stuff while she was actively researching and I really appreciated it. She always indicated the volume number of the courthouse book and the page number of the information. The problem is that she sometimes made up book titles and occasionally they aren't accurate. She extracted accurately but, sometimes left out key details. If you are using Family History microfilm of original records, look at the "title sheet" that starts each record and use that for your title if you don't know what the book is.

You never know, you might want to go back some day and review it yourself.

21 May 2011

Did Someone Convert a Joseph?

I was using a transcription of vital records that indicated a relative was named Jas. I assumed he was James and was searching for that name. Turns out the record that was transcribed had used "Jos." for Joseph and the transcriber made the "o" an "a."

So copy down what the transcriber wrote, but keep in mind that they might have incorrectly copied the record--or that the record was difficult to read and that the transcriber did the best they could.

20 May 2011

Two Books in One Volume

To save money, libraries may bind more that one softcover book in a hardcover binding, particularly when the softcover books are part of a series. Make certain you aren't just looking in the index of the "last book" in the bound book. It can be easy to overlook the index of the "first" book when two are bound together.

19 May 2011

Cite the Cemetery Site

Site is a location. Cite means to indicate where a piece of information was obtained. You should cite the cemetery site when referencing a tombstone. The tombstone site is where the tombstone was located and your citation for the tombstone site should be specific enough that someone else could get to the site using your citation.

18 May 2011

Marriage Bann

A marriage band is an ecclesiastical or civil announcement of an upcoming marriage. Ecclesiastical announcements are typically made on three Sundays before the wedding. Civil announcements may be done in a variety of places. They are more often found in church records than they are in civil records.

Publication of the banns does not mean the marriage necessarily took place. They were to give those "opposed" to the wedding time to know about it.

17 May 2011

Are You Stereotyping Your Ancestors?

Are you assuming your ancestor acted like the "typical Irishman," the "typical German," etc.? Doing so may cause you to believe things about your ancestors that were not true and make brick walls for yourself.

As a simple example, drinking beer is considered by many to be a typical German behavior. Yet in the households of two of my great-grandparents, beer was NOT present and not a part of the daily routine as it might have been in some households. There are a variety of reasons why your ancestor may not follow typical ethnic customs--don't assume behaviors for which you have no evidence.

Most of us don't like it when others stereotype us--let's not stereotype our ancestors either.

16 May 2011

Visit State and Provincial Archives Websites

When was the last time you visited the state or provincial archives website for the locations where your ancestor lived? There could easily be new material there since your last visit or merely something you notice now that you did not see the last time.

Made some interesting discoveries myself on the Alberta Provincial Archives website which prompted this post.

15 May 2011

Did Your Ancestor Get a Federal Stimulus?

Don't assume your ancestor didn't get a "federal stimulus." Is it possible he (or his widow) got bounty land for military service or a widow's pension? As time went on and there were fewer veterans or individuals who could qualify, the rules for eligibility were relaxed. And stories of war service are not always passed down from one generation to another. One War of 1812 widow in my family had a wonderful bounty land application documenting her marriage and her deceased husband's military career.

14 May 2011

Google that Old Occupation

Can't find anything on an occupation? Consider typing it into Google Books-http://books.google.com. You may discover more than you realized. Also consider typing it into Google Images http://images.google.com

13 May 2011

Private Records are Private

Don't forget that business records (funeral homes come to mind) are private records. They don't have to show you what they happen to have kept from the 1930s or before--or any time for that matter. Private business records are just that.

12 May 2011

Casefile Clues--Beginner Edition

Starting in June, we'll be offering a twice monthly version of Casefile Clues for beginners. Check it out. We are offering trial subscriptions and more details on the site below.

http://blog.casefileclues.com/2011/05/casefile-clues-for-beginners.html

Visit the Casefile Clues blog for further updates.

Review Your Previous Work?

When was the last time you reviewed a conclusion you reached a year ago? Two years ago? Is it possible you made a mistake? Were you using limited references? Is it possible that new records or indexes have come online that might give you more information and cause you to re-evaluate your conclusions from years ago?

A correspondent a few months ago asked me about a person I had researched five years ago. She questioned the person I thought was the father of the common ancestor. In looking over her research, I ended up agreeing with her conclusion, but for different reasons than she gave.

Review what you've done before--the perspective of time may give you cause to change your conclusions. Or not. But it never hurts.

11 May 2011

Are They Not Close Relatives?

Remember that witnesses to a will usually cannot benefit from the will or from the estate. The same is true of appraisers. A brother usually could witness a will--if the testator had a wife and children, the brother wouldn't have an interest in the estate.

10 May 2011

What It Says--Not What It "Should" Say

Remember that transcribers of records are supposed to copy a record or a source the way it is written--not what the record "should" say. If grandma's name is Susannah and her marriage record lists her as "Susan," transcribe it as "Susan." If grandma gave the wrong place of birth on her marriage record don't "fix it" when you make the transcription, copy it as it is on the record.

You can (and should) make a notation somewhere that the information is incorrect, and state how you know it is wrong. But don't edit and correct what was on an original record.

09 May 2011

Avoid That 21st Century Mind

It may be difficult, but remember when reading or analyzing any document that unless it was created during your lifetime, there might be some cultural, historical, economic, or legal events impacting that document or causing it to be created. Don't interpret a 19th century document with a 21st century mind.

08 May 2011

Be Patient With Newer Genealogists

Remember that everyone was a beginning genealogist at one point or another. You may have to be patient with someone who is just learning. An extra dose of patience may be necessary if you are both researching a family where people married more than once, had spouses with similar names, etc.

07 May 2011

Land Warrant versus Land Patents

A land warrant usually means that someone is entitled to a certain acreage of property, without giving any real specifics about where that property is. Warrants are issued for several reasons, with the most common reason being a reward for previous military service. A land patent transfers title to a specific piece of property to an individual.

06 May 2011

A Year of Casefile Clues for $12

10 is the lucky number.

The first ten responders to this offer can get a year of Casefile Clues for $12. After 10 have been sold, we'll stop taking orders. Follow this link to process your order and see if there is still time.
There is more information on my weekly newsletter at http://www.casefileclues.com.
Good Luck!

One Letter Is All It Takes

Sometimes it can be difficult to get the wrong name out of your head--especially when you have only one spelling or rendering of the name to go on.

I was stuck on Emma Olenbaugh. She was only found in one census record. Turns out Olenbaugh was not her last name--Osenbaugh was.

Could a change in one letter make all the difference?

05 May 2011

How That Information Got On The Stone

I'm not talking about a chisel.

Think about how great-grandpa's information got on his tombstone. Someone thought they knew when he was born and so they told the guy who made the stone. Probably that same person provided the death information. If the stone was put up years after great-grandpa died, it is possible the stone has the wrong date of death. And the date of birth could be wrong as well.

Tombstones are usually primary sources for the date of death, unless you can clearly tell it was erected years after the person died. The main thing is to transcribe it exactly as it is written. Your discussion of why you think it is wrong, right, etc. should be done in your notes.

04 May 2011

Don't Neglect the Online Trees

Ancestry.com, WorldConnect, FamilySearch, and a variety of other sites have submitted family trees. Virtually all of them contain errors. Some of them contain many errors. But don't ignore them completely. Sometimes even a very careless researcher stumbles upon something that we have overlooked. Don't take anything in the online trees without documenting it elsewhere, but consider the fact that one of them may have the clue that you need.

And some of them may raise your blood pressure when you see the errors.

03 May 2011

Estate Receipts May Have Signatures

Looking for an ancestor's signature? Is there an estate they would have been an heir to? Perhaps there is a signed receipt in the packet of estate papers. Receipts won't be in the order books and journals, but some locations have the actual packets of papers. That's one place to get a signature.

Get to Those Stones Now!

Are there any pre-1900 tombstones you have not transcribed, photographed, etc.? Look through your records, your database, etc.

Put getting the transcription from the stone on your priority list. Old stones do not last forever and the information  may literally fade away before you get to it.

And be careful relying totally on published transcriptions. Sometimes in an attempt to be helpful, people added information to the "transcription" that really was not on the stone.

But those stones may not be as legible in five years as they are today.

02 May 2011

Catalog Descriptions Might Not Be What You Think

Years ago I remember reading Family History Library Card Catalog description of the Bethany Church records for Tioga, Illinois. The film notes that the earliest records start in 1805. This confused me as I believed the church was founded in the 1850s. It turns out that one of the death entries in the register referred to someone who was born in 1805 and that's why the records gave that year as the earliest year.

Catalogers have a difficult job, especially with handwritten records in basically what appear to be notebooks. I always look through the material, especially if the time period is relatively close to what I need. Sometimes things get overlooked when being cataloged.

01 May 2011

Copy of Brick Walls from A to Z (no charge)

This hasn't been posted to the blog in a while (if ever), so for those who haven't requested it--you can request a free copy of my article "Brick Walls from A to Z" at no charge in PDF format by sending an email to brickwallsa2z@gmail.com. Thanks.

The Rules Change When You Cross A Line

When you cross a poltiical line, county, state, province, territory, nation, etc. the laws and recordkeeping system may chance, in some cases significantly.

Even when crossing states/provincial lines, the laws regarding what is recorded and how it is recorded may change. Learn about the new area's records before you assume that Virginia in 1760 is just like Nebraska in 1860.

That's something of an extreme example, but it hopefully makes the point.