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31 December 2011

More Than Just the Big Wars

Do not forget that your ancestor might have had military service outside the major conflicts. He could have easily been a volunteer soldier before the Civil War, after the War of 1812, etc. Don't assume that military records only revolve around the major conflicts.

30 December 2011

One Expert is Just One Expert

If you ask another genealogist for their advice, remember that they are one person and they can make a mistake. However, if four independent experienced researchers tell you the same thing about a record or a source, it might be time to admit they are correct--even if they disagree with you.

29 December 2011

2 Free Copies of Casefile Clues

You can get two free samples of my genealogy subscription newsletter Casefile Clues, by "ordering" them here. Click "checkout." You will NOT be asked for anything other than your email for the download link. The two copies are free. You can put your real name or call yourself Bugs Bunny if you're more comfortable with that. The download is free, does not require a PayPal account, or a credit card.

There is more about Casefile Clues at http://www.casefileclues.com

Scan the Whole Thing First

I first worked on my children's Belgian ancestors years ago. When using the vital records from the 19th century, I used them the way I had other European records from the same time span. I looked in the "book" for and read through the entries for the years I thought included the person's birth date. Then, if I had the correct person and had the names of the parents, I scanned the years before and after the birth to locate siblings.

Imagine my surprise when I found indexes interspersed in the records. I had never encountered those before. While indexes are not perfect, they would have saved me a great deal of time. 

Moral-the first time you use any "new" record, familiarize yourself with the whole thing first, don't assume that it is like every other one you have ever used. 

28 December 2011

August 2012 Ft. Wayne Indiana Library Research Trip

We have released details of our August 2012 group research trip to the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, 1-5 August. Join us! Details are here http://www.casefileclues.com/acpl2012.htm

Service Versus Benefit Records

Records related to an ancestor's involvement in the military may take the form of service records or benefit records. Service records were those records created during the person's actual service and relate to their service, when they were mustered in, their physical description, when they were mustered out, where they were assigned, and other information from records created during their service.

Benefit records are records typically created after service related to benefits that were given to or were dur to the serviceperson as the result of their service. Those records, in the United States at least, are typically pension records and sometimes records of bounty lands that were awarded to the serviceman.

27 December 2011

Checking In--Just a Test

This is just a test tip to see if things are fixed after Facebook messed up on me yesterday--there's not really a tip here.

Did It All Burn and Is It All Gone?


Don't take "the courthouse burned" to mean that every record before that point in time was destroyed.

It might be that in reality, records from some offices survived, some offices' records were not completely destroyed, etc. In some cases, records might have been "re-recorded" after the fire. There may also be state or federal records that provide similar information. Ask around.

26 December 2011

Facebook Bans Me From Posting for a Few Days

For the next few days, I have been banned from posting to Facebook. I tried to enter in the "security capture" code and it kept telling me I was wrong. I guess I messed it up too many times--even though those things are occasionally impossible to read. Feel free to complain to Facebook about the Security Capture code.

The Date of the Census

Every census has an official census "date." This is the date, as of which, all questions are to be answered. The problem is that sometimes the census is not taken on that date and people confuse the "real" date with the "census" date. And some genealogists forget that the date the census information was gathered, which is sometimes listed on the page, is not necessarily the census date.

25 December 2011

Data Mining From Your Software

Do you know how to make your genealogical software give you a list or report of all people in your database born in a certain location in a certain time period? If you have not learned how to "mine" your own database, find out.  Lists of this type can be helpful when searching for additional information.

24 December 2011

Research A Distant Cousin

Is there a distant cousin you have not researched? Consider spending some time researching them in various records. You may learn some new research skills in the process and even get a few leads on your more closely related family members.

Happy Holidays from Genealogy Tip of the Day

Season's Greetings from Genealogy Tip of the Day!


23 December 2011

Laws are Different From One State to Another

Remember that as your research moves from one state to another, laws governing estate settlements, property rights, ages of consent, etc. may be different.

22 December 2011

January 2012 Genealogy Webinars

Our series of January 2012 genealogy webinars have been announced:

  • Illinois Research
  • Using Archive.org
  • Newspaper Research
  • Tips and Tricks for FamilySearch.org
Sessions are an hour long and registrants who are unable to attend will receive complimentary download links. 
Details and registrations can be processed on our website at http://www.casefileclues.com/webinars_neill.htm. Registration is limited.

Lessor versus Lessee

If a document refers to your ancestor as the lessor on lease--he owns the property that is the subject of the lease. If your ancestor is referred to as the lessee, he is the person being given temporary use of the property. The lessor owns it, the lessee borrows it--generally speaking.

21 December 2011

Has That Place Name Changed?

Ever consider the possibility that the place name simply changed instead of something moving?

20 December 2011

Census Provides Clues as to Property Ownership

Remember there are several United States censuses that provide evidence of ownership of real property. Some ask for values of real property, others ask if the home was owned or rented. Documenting that land ownership through local land records may lead to additional information on your ancestor. Are you getting all the clues from the census?

19 December 2011

Did You Stop After Just One Site

Remember--no site has every record, every file, and every index.

Don't do all your research via one website, one repository, or one library.

You wouldn't just use the census only for your research would you?
Expand your research horizons and your family tree--use a resource or a facility today that you've not used in a while. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you find.

18 December 2011

Died in 1900 at the age of 30

Remember that if someone truly died at the age of 30 in 1900, they could have been born in 1869 or 1870 depending upon when their date of birth was in relationship to the date they died.  If they were born in 4 March 1869, they would be 30 on any document in 1900 dated before 4 March and 31 on any document dated on 4 March or after.

So if a tombstone says the person died in 1900 at the age of 30, they could have been born in 1869 or 1870, if only the years are given on the stone.

Whether or not the age is correct in the first place is another matter.

17 December 2011

Not Just the Words are Different

Remember when reading any foreign language material that is handwritten, that not only are the words in a different language--the script may not be what you are used to either. What appears to be an English "L" could be a different letter entirely.

16 December 2011

Court Records Are Not Always Correct

Keep in mind that information contained in court records is only as accurate as the individuals providing the information. This can be true in any type of court action.

A deceased individual had two daughters who had children with the same man. Instead of listing the children separately in the estate settlement (as was done with children of others), the children were all listed together as if they had the same mother and father. No mention was made of the one sister.

Another estate settlement from the 1980s completely ignored a half-sibling who should have been listed in the intestate settlement.

Court records are usually accurate. But, if information they contain seems to conflict with other information, obtained independently from other sources, consider the possibility that the court record could be incorrect.

It happens.


15 December 2011

Sounds the Same

Keep in mind that the spelling of last names was not standard for a long time. The main concern when trying to determine if a last name could be the same is whether the two spellings would likely be pronounced in the same way. It is worth remembering that concern about spelling consistency of names is a fairly recent one. Your ancestor, even if he was literate, might not have worried if the record spelled his last name with one "l" or two. He still knew he owned the land, his neighbors did as well, and the tax collector knew he had paid taxes on it for the past thirty years--that was what likely mattered.

14 December 2011

Court Records Index Few Names

Local court cases usually only index the name of one defendant and one plaintiff, regardless of how many people are involved in the case as defendants and plaintiffs. Witnesses and others who may be mentioned in testimony and other court cases will not appear in indexes either.

For this reason it is important to search for names of relatives of your direct line ancestor in defendants' and plaintiffs' index to court cases. Otherwise you may easily overlook something involving your ancestor, especially if he and his siblings were sued and the name of his sibling is the one under which the case is indexed.

13 December 2011

Derivative Citizenship

A derivative citizenship is one that is derived from the citizenship of the parent, usually the father. In the easiest of cases, foreign born children under the age of majority when their father naturalized would be considered naturalized themselves and would not have to go through the process themselves.

If your ancestor immigrated as a child, indicates he is naturalized but you cannot find any papers in his name, then consider the possibility that he had derivative citizenship through a father's naturalization.

12 December 2011

Owner Doesn't Necessarily Mean Resident

Remember that just because your ancestor appears on a 1830 real property tax list for Coshocton County, Ohio, it doesn't mean he lived there. A person could have owned property in a place without living there. People on personal property tax lists are more likely to have lived in the location.

But as for the real property lists, your ancestor might have speculated on property, inherited it, acquired it through military service, etc. and never lived on it. Most property owners lived on or near the property, but don't use your ancestor's name on a real property tax list as your sole proof that he lived there.

11 December 2011

Using that Tall Tale of a Tradition

That family story may clearly be incorrect or greatly exaggerated. Before you throw the story out completely, think about what sources or records might have been created if it were true. Consider breaking the story into the parts you could prove and the parts you could not prove.

And then go from there.

10 December 2011

Is Each Record the Same Person?

You may have several different records on your ancestor, various census enumerations, city directory references, an obituary, a mention in a county history, a marriage register entry, a death certificate, a mention as a witness on a document, etc.?

How certain are you that each of these references are to the same person? Could there have been two people with the same or similar names? Have you possibly confused two first cousins, a father and a son, or two unrelated people.

It is always possible and something to keep in mind.

09 December 2011

Will the Local Library Search By Mail?

Some smaller libraries will search specific items for specific people for a nominal charge or just the cost of copies. It can be a good way to get access to material you may not be able to access otherwise. Many genealogical publications (especially out of print books that are still in copyright) can be difficult to get online or via interlibrary loan. If you find that a library has a copy of that unusual book, see if they will search it, copy the index, etc.

It is worth a try.

08 December 2011

Connect With Non-Relatives from Same Area

If you cannot locate relatives who are interested in your ancestor, have you at least tried and contacted other genealogists who are researching in the same location?

While they might not be related, they might have ideas for sources or repositories where you should conduct your research. Others might know what records have been microfilmed or digitized, etc.

Don't just limit yourself to trying to find relatives--others with similar areas of research may be able to help you even more.

07 December 2011

Is the Latest Always the Best?

In some cases the latest transcription of something might not be the best. If you've seen a published book of tombstone inscriptions from the 1990s, you still might want to look at that book of transcriptions done in the 1940s. Stones might have been more legible in 1940, some might not have been readable at all in 1990.

That book of transcribed marriage records in the 1930s might contain handwriting interpretations with different renderings of certain words. The ink might not have been as faded in 1930 as it was when a later transcription was done. And the transcriptionist from 1930 might have been more familiar with local names than was the 1980 era transcriptionist.

Do not always assume the latest publication is the best. Sometimes it is not.

06 December 2011

Palatines Indianapolis Genealogy Conference June 2012

I will be one of two featured speakers at the annual National Societies of Palatines to America conference in Indianapolis from 14-16 June 2012. I'm looking forward to making my presentations there and hope blog readers will join me if they live in the area and have an interest. You don't have to be a society member to attend the conference.

My topics are:

  • Crossing the Pond
  • Online Search Techniques
  • Germanic Research with Ancestry.com
  • German Genealogy Websites
  • Creating Your Own Blog
  • What's New for German Researchers on FamilySearch
  • Determining Your Own Migration Chain
Warren Bittner will also be presenting additional German topics. 

Mark your calendar now. I'm looking forward to meeting attendees and blog readers as well. 

Conclusions Can Be Revised

Way back in 2003, I thought I had "figured out" an 1860 census entry with a few irregular entries. I even had a list of reasons why my conclusion was correct.

Flash forward to 2012. In attempting to "redo" the research, I reached a different conclusion about the 1860 census entry--one that meant I had more work to do.

Genealogical conclusions are always subject to new information, new procedures, and the potential that a misinterpretation was made along the way. Don't be afraid to revise.

05 December 2011

Got All Those Tombstones?

Are there tombstones you have not seen, photographed, or tried to get photographs of? Tombstones are one of the most fragile genealogical sources around.

While not as fragile aunt Myrtle's mind or the paper in the family bible, stones are subject to deterioration, decay, and the ravages of time. And sometimes vandals.

04 December 2011

Let Others Know About Our Free Blogs-Thanks!


If you've found any of our websites/blogs helpful in your searches, please let your genealogy friends know about them. You can sign up for them in Google reader, get them in your email, or join the fan page on Facebook.

Genealogy Tip of the Day

Daily Genealogy Transcriber
Search Tip of the Day
Rootdig
  • Where I post whatever comes to mind--sometimes with opinion and attitude mixed in-we try to leave opinion and attitude out of the other blogs ;-).
  • http://rootdig.blogspot.com -- to read older ones or sign up for emails.
Thanks to everyone who has spread the word about our blogs. The ones above are all free (unless you choose the kindle version). Thanks!

Uncommon Names Are Relative

One of my wife's ancestral surnames is Schollmeyer. Not the most common last name in Davenport, Iowa. In the village in Germany where they were from, the parish register of births contained numerous entries for that last name. In fact, in some years 1/3 of the entries had the father with the last name of Schollmeyer or the mother with that maiden name.

03 December 2011

Missing the Obvious?

Are there some "obvious" clues you are overlooking in a document, record, or artifact? If your ancestors had their picture taken on their 50th anniversary with all their children, then it means those children were living on that date. It might be a small clue or a big one depending up the situation. Survivors listed in an obituary can obviously be viewed the same way--just like people listed as attending a reunion in a newspaper notice.

Are there "obivous" clues you have overlooked?

02 December 2011

More Brick Walls from A to Z-Buy the Recorded Version

Digital version of our latest webinar released--introductory rate.


More Brick Walls from A to Z -(NEW!)-This presentation is a continuation on the popular "Brick Walls from A to Z" that was released earlier. The alphabet has been reused for additional ideas and quick suggestions for getting past those brick walls--aimed at all levels--with the intent of jumpstarting people's research. Introductory recording price of $6 won't last long. Includes recording and PDF of handout. 

Read the Entire Manifest

If you are fortunate enough to find an ancestor on a ship manifest, read the entire thing--especially pay attention to families listed immediately before and after your ancestor, but you still never know.

I've found the family of a niece and her husband listed right after my ancestor and I've also found "grandma" who immigrated with her child and grandchildren listed separately on the manifest.

Sometimes names get overlooked and have to be inserted at the end of the list. The creator of the manifest could not "insert a row" in the list if he realized he'd overlooked someone.

01 December 2011

Grandma Was Right

Just because Grandma's story sounds "off," don't conclude it is wrong. My grandmother told me that she could remember getting baptized with her younger sister. I never argued with her about it, but I doubted it--Lutherans were baptized as babies.

Sure enough, for some reason (not the lack of a minister in case someone suggests it), Grandma was baptized at the age 5 or so, with her sister and baby brother. Turns out she was right after all.

However, she was wrong about her brother's middle name, but that's another story--and another tip.