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30 June 2009

It goes both ways

It is relatively easy to find the names of those who were godparents for your ancestor's children. Those names are big clues.

However, when the records are unindexed, finding the names of children for whom your ancestor was a godparent is not as easy. It requires manual searching of each entry. But it may be worth it, because the parents of that child could be relatives of your ancestor and provide significant clues to your research.

29 June 2009

Reprinting Tips from this site

Users of Genealogy Tip of the Day are welcome to reprint tips from the site. I just ask that:

That's it! Questions can be directed to me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com.

Family History Library Card Catalog

Ok, so this is a little bit of trivia, but I found it interesting.
According to David Rencher of the Family History Library, the online version of the Family History Library Card Catalog is updated every half hour.

I'm not suggesting you search the catalog constantly.......and I'm not really certain I should refer to it as a card catalog either.

28 June 2009

Get Out of that Rut

Are you checking the same sites almost too regularly, hoping for an update? Are you posting queries to message boards and other sites, hoping to find something or get a helpful reply? Consider changing your approach or spending less time on the Internet or more time on different sites.

My Ancestry.com subscription lapsed and eventually I will renew it. But now that I don't have 24/7 access to it, I am getting back into records I had ignored for too long and even reviewing my files. And when I do have access to Ancestry.com I make better use of it and am more efficient because I know I don't have it constantly. And frankly some days I spent too much time "randomly" searching on Ancestry and not enough time really researching.

27 June 2009

Get Out of the 21st Century

Remember that we do not live in the same times as our ancestors. If you are working on families from two hundred years ago, consider reading contempory material from that era. Transcribed diaries, newspapers and other materials are a great way to get a better "feel" for the times, in addition to reading non-fiction history covering the same time period.

Reading someone else's diary from the time, even if a complete non-relative, may give you a fresh perspective on your ancestor life and times.

26 June 2009

Is the "unindexed" record "indexed?"

Are you using an 1820 census enumeration where the names appear to be listed in roughly alphabetical order?

Census takers and some tax collectors, in an attempt to be helpful, roughly sorted names by the first letter of the last name. The problem for genealogists is that this strips the record of all sense of neighborhood. Keep this in mind when you think all the "B"s in an area lived together. No group of people are that organized.

25 June 2009

Name Changes in Probate Records

Make certain to read through all those papers in a probate file or an estate settlement. The widow may be listed under a new married name in later records, providing a clue to her marriage.

This can be a great help in states that do not have marriage records for the time period being researched.

24 June 2009

Why Did They Move?

Keep in mind that there are several factors that might have caused your ancestor to move from point A to point B.

They include:
  • Economic concerns--land opportunities, jobs, etc.
  • Politics and political unrest
  • Family--others in their family had already moved.
  • Acquaintances/friends--people in this group had already moved.
  • Religion--your ancestor was a part of a religious group that migrated.

There are other reasons, but consider these and ask yourself if you have really looked into these causes. Doing so may provide the answer to your family history puzzle.

23 June 2009

Go Back and Revisit

Periodically revisit sites that contain data you have used in your family history research. It is not necessary to revisit them every day, but monthly or even quarterly visits may result in undiscovered finds. No matter how many genealogy ezines and blogs you read something can easily slip past your radar.

New information is always being made available. Take the time to look. Make a list of sites and visit them regularly. Not obsessively, however (grin!)

22 June 2009

Does Size Matter?

Keep in mind it is not the number of generations in your family tree that is important. What is important is that each generation be documented accurately. Bigger is not always better.

Extra Early Discount on our 2010 Salt Lake Research Trip

We are offering a $25 discount on the complete price on our 2010 Salt Lake Research Trip for those who make their deposit by 30 June 2009. The complete registration price for those registering by this date will be $175. The balance of the fee is due in December, just the deposit is necessary by 30 June.

There is more information about the trip on our site at http://www.rootdig.com/slctrip.html

This discount won't be posted on those pages, email Michael at mjnrootdig@gmail.com for a registration brochure with the discounted price or questions.


21 June 2009

Actually Transcribe Something

Scanning documents is great and an excellent way to preserve them. But transcribing serves a purpose too. It forces you to actually READ the document. That is a great way to notice phrases or words that sometimes get overlooked. And there are times when that one word or phrase can make all the difference. Transcribe something today.

20 June 2009

Do You Really Know It?

How many pieces of information are in your family tree or genealogy database from "memory" or some unidentified source? Check them out. They could be the real reason you have a brick wall.

19 June 2009

Search them all at Google Books

Try searching Google books for every ancestor, even the ones you think will never be in there. I located my paternal grandfather in an Angus breeders' directory from the 1950s and a 4th great-grandfather in an 1830s era directory from Germany.


18 June 2009

Before You Buy that CD on Ebay

Just a little piece of advice. Before you buy a CD with a PDF or a scan of that out of print book, make certain it's not available on www.archive.org or the BYU website for free.

Then you could download it and search it for free and make your own CD.

17 June 2009

Read a Blog or Newsletter

Keeping up with the genealogy news can be overwhelming at times. Two great ways to keep up can be to read Dick Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter or Leland Meitzler's Genealogyblog.
Of course, I'd be appreciative if readers signed up for the paid version of Eastman's as that includes my weekly "Casefile Clues" column.

16 June 2009

Gmail Tips

I love to use Gmail for my genealogy mail. Those who use Gmail might want to check out the Gmail blog post about being a Gmail Ninja.

There are a lot of good tips there for making the most of gmail and saving time and hassle in the process.

15 June 2009

Another Reason for Getting Everything

Variant names can create havoc for genealogists. This is another reason I like to obtain as many documents for my ancestors as possible. For ancestors with name variants, Anglicizations, and the like, deed, court, or land records may provide alternate names for your ancestor of which you were not aware. Often these documents will have to explain the name difference, thus providing you with proof of the connection.

14 June 2009

Could it be years after?

Have you thought about how long after your ancestor's death he or she may be mentioned in a record?

My ancestor Peter Bieger died in 1855. He is mentioned by name in a 1906 deed when his grandchildren are signing a quitclaim deed for the property. Fifty-one years after he died.

13 June 2009

Research the Families You "Know"

Researching "completely" a family you know may do one of several things for you or your research. You may learn something about research or something about the family you did not know before.

Recently I obtained deeds showing how a house and a farm were sold after the owner's died. In both cases, I knew all the vitals on the family. In both cases I understood the records better because I "knew" the family. That helps me understand records later when I don't know the family. Sometimes it is easier to learn about records when the family isn't as foreign to you as the records.

And in one case I learned a few things about the family that were new to me. Another reason to search for everything.

12 June 2009

Filename make sense?

I wasted an hour today looking for a set of documents I scanned. I scanned and saved them when I was in a hurry and the file name was very helpful, "ufkes."

When a last name is your mother's maiden name, MANY files contain that word. I eventually searched the entire hard drive for files with "ufkes" in the title, but there were MANY that I had to go through. I renamed the file with a more descriptive name "john_ufkes_cancelled_homestead_file"

Are your file names helpful?

11 June 2009

Learn About a New Record

Is there some record type of source you have never utilized because you thought it was too difficult to use, too difficult to understand, or was hard to access? Consider expanding your research horizons and make today (or this week) the time you use that new (to you) source.

You may make some wonderful discoveries.

10 June 2009

Be Specific

When writing genealogy information for anyone to read, avoid using terms like "Grandma" or "Uncle" without fully identifying the person. Vague references will only confuse the reader.

The same is true when asking people questions in an interview. It took me forever to get my grandma Neill to understand that I was asking questions about HER Grandfather Trautvetter, not her dad (who was my dad's Grandpa Trautvetter).

Once you've had children, it does get a little confusing who you mean when you say "Grandma." Don't leave someone in a hundred years confused about who you meant. Be specific.

09 June 2009

Filter Your Email Messages

I am on entirely too many email lists for genealogy. Finally at long last I sat down in my gmail (which I use for my genealogy email) and made a separate filter for each one. Messages to these mailing lists then never go to my main inbox and I don't see them unless I visit the folder individually.

Now my inbox is not overflowing with these messages and I my inbox can stay clear for the "important" ones. This is particularly helpful as I get my genealogy email on my blackberry and before the filter I was ALWAYS getting email on my phone. A little annoying.

Email lists are great for genealogy, but now I can read them when I want--not have them flying at me 24/7.

08 June 2009

Naming Patterns are Not Aboslute

In some families and ethnic groups, there are tendencies to pass on certain names. Sometimes this is done in a certain fashion, perhaps the oldest son for the father's father, the oldest daughter for the father's mother, and then on down the line.

Remember that this practice was a tendency in some families and is not proof of anyone's name at all. Names can be used as clues, but they are "extremely circumstantial" ones at best. And if both grandfathers are named John and both grandmothers are named Anna, then you really have a mess!

07 June 2009

Pension Records Can Show Migration Trails

An excellent place to learn your ancestor's unique (or not so unique) migration path across the country is from his or her pension record.

Nancy Rampley's pension record documents her parents' migration from Kentucky into Indiana into Illinois into Missouri. And it was her husband who was actually in the Civil War.

Revolutionary War era pensions for two of my wife's ancestors shows their migration across several states from the time of the Revolution until the 1830s.

Remember that a pension on a sibling or a cousin of an ancestor might provide clues about that ancestor's migrations as well.

06 June 2009

A license doesn't mean they got married

Remember that just because your ancestor took out a marriage license does not necessarily mean that he got married. Make certain there is a return as well with the date of the ceremony given by the officiant. Most people who take out a license get married, but once in a while something happens between the courthouse and the ceremony.

05 June 2009

Need a Legal Dictionary?

Many genealogists would benefit from having a legal dictionary. It doesn't have to be a current one. I picked up an old edition of Black's Law Dictionary on Ebay several years ago for $8--shipping was nearly that much as well. Current editions are much more expensive.

04 June 2009

Remember Laws Change

It is important to remember that the laws governing inheritance are determined by state statute and can change over time and vary from one state to another. If you are familiar with Kansas in the 1890s, that does not mean you are familiar with how inheritance works in Virginia in 1750. This is particularly true for those individuals who die without a will and sometimes even for those who do. State statutes may provide the answer to your question. Just make certain they are contemporary to your problem.

03 June 2009

Relationships are not always absolute

Just because someone is listed as someone's child in a census doesn't mean they actually were their child. Could they have been a step-child or a neighbor child who was taken in? And if person A is person B's "cousin" the exact biological relationship may not be as simple as one thinks. Their parents could have been siblings or half-siblings or the relationship could have even more distant.

02 June 2009

Do You Have it at Home?

Keeping track of what you research is important so that you don't spend time looking at the same materials. While at the Family History Library in Salt Lake last month, I had a few spare moments before the library closed. I decided to copy references from a Mercer County, Kentucky marriage book. Problem was I already had the actual book at home. So much for "dreaming" up what to do when my to do list runs short.

01 June 2009

What Rare Here is Common There

Keep in mind that a last name that may be unusual in one area may be very common in another. The name Schulmeyer is not too common in Iowa where my wife's relatives settled in the 1850s. Yet when I looked at the church records for Beberstedt, where the family was from, there were several of them.

It seemed like when looking at the church christenings like half the births were either to a Schulmeyer mother or a Schulmeyer father. A slight exgaggeration perhaps, but close enough to the truth to keep me on my research toes.