Sponsored By GenealogyBank

31 August 2009

Where did you get that date?

We are not talking about the high school prom.

If you have a date of birth, death, or marriage for an ancestor, you had to get it from somewhere. Sources should be cited. If the date is an approximation from an age at death, state so.

If birth date is an approximation based on the marriage date, indicate that.

Just don't drop dates in willy-nilly without a source.

And if you don't know where you got your prom date, well that's another story entirely.

30 August 2009

Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions

I will admit it. Even after 25 years of research, occasionally a microfilm machine will confuse me. Sometimes I hesitate to ask for help. After all, I should know how to use one. And then I remember, waiting only wastes time.

If there is something at a library or archives that confuses you or you do not understand, ask. Staff can usually help you operate the equipment.

If it is a record or document they cannot help you with, it might be because it is unusual and something with which they are unfamiliar. In that case, consider asking the question on a genealogy mailing list or at your local genealogical society meeting. Someone there probably can help you or point you to someone who can.

29 August 2009

Getting it all?

Make certain you are getting the entire record. I was using marriage records for Champaign County, Illinois, recently. They were on microfilm at the Champaign County Archives in the Urbana Free Library. For the time period I was looking for there were actually two series of marriage information. One was the marriage applications and the other was the actual license. If I had been in too much of a hurry, I might have easily overlooked one of the records.

28 August 2009

Do You Have Contemporary Maps of Every Location?

Do you have maps of all your ancestral locations at a time contemporary to your ancestors? It might not be possible to get maps for every ancestor you have, but review what maps you have and ask yourself," is it possible there are more maps" or" is not having a map hindering my research?"

27 August 2009

Non-Genealogy Databases in Your Local Library

Does your local library have access to databases not specifically genealogy that might help you in your research? Libraries that have Proquest may have access to digitized newspapers, fire insurance maps and more. Ask your local librarian what databases they subscribe to.

If you have any academic libraries nearby, ask them the same thing.

Or check out their webpages. You may have access to more information than you think.

26 August 2009

Google those wrong names

A death certificate for a potential relative indicated he died in "tumway, Iowa." I had no idea where that was. I didn't try the United States Geological Survey Geographic Names Information Site it, but it wouldn't have made any difference anyway.

Googling "tumway iowa" told me that it wasn't probably "tumway" at all. A search for "tumway iowa" resulted in references to Ottumwa, Iowa. I should have thought of that. If the gazeteers don't bring the desired results, try Google.

25 August 2009

1880 Census at Ancestry and Family Search

Remember that using the 1880 census is free at Ancestry.com and at Family Search.

The images are not free, but the data is.

Ancestry.com's data came from FamilySearch with corrections, etc. entered by users--there is a difference, but not a "complete" difference.

And the search interfaces are not the same either. If you cannot find them in one, try the other.

24 August 2009

Track the wrong ones

Keep track of the individuals that you have eliminated as being your ancestor, his parents, his brother, etc.

That way you do not research them again.

And that way you have the information if it turns out your initial conclusion was wrong.

23 August 2009

Widow for a day or longer?

I almost overlooked the death certificate of her husband.

The lady I was researching died in 1914 and was listed as a widow. I didn't look at the death certificate for a man with the same last name who also died in 1914, thinking it could not be her husband.

Turns out is was. They died 4 days apart. Don't assume anything. Being listed as a widow only means her husband died before her. It could have been 2 days or 20 years.

22 August 2009

Don't Rush

I wanted to locate children of a relative in census records after her death. The names were somewhat common and I didn't have too many details about them.

Maybe I had better wait until I get the obituaries and estate records of the parents. Those may provide me with enough clues to find the children in census records and make certain I have the correct ones.

21 August 2009

1925 Iowa State Census?

For those who did not know, the 1925 Iowa State Census asked for names of father and mother. Ancestry has included those as search terms.
Might be worth a try if you had extended family in Iowa in 1925.

They asked where the parents were married too!

20 August 2009

The Census we use is not the original

Remember that the census we use today was not the one on which the census taker took his "original" enumeration.

The census copy that was microfilmed, and eventually digitized, was the "clean" copy that was written by the census taker after he finished taking the census. He used his field notes to make the good copy that we use today.

Any chance there was something in his field notes he couldn't read? And what was the chance that he went down and asked for clarification on an age or place of birth?

19 August 2009

Did they move back and forth?

Keep in mind that your ancestor may have moved back and forth. Not everyone followed a general path in just one direction.

I'm working on a person now who was in Iowa in 1856, Missouri in 1860, Iowa in 1870-1895, Missouri in 1900, Wyoming in 1910 and in Missouri in 1912.

Oh, and she was born in either New York state or Canada.

18 August 2009

Casefile Clues Column posted--Preemption Claim

My latest "Casefile Clues" column was posted Sunday. It discussed a preemption claim in Missouri in the 1850s. Readers who aren't subscribers can subscribe and get this issue sent to them upon subscription even though their subscription will start on 23 August. Just mention when you subscribe that you are a Genealogy Tip of the Day reader.

More tips are coming.

Missouri Newspaper Index

This free online index is just to some Missouri newspapers, but it might help those with ancestors in the "Show-Me" state.

Copies can be ordered for $1.50 a page.

Use Their Birthdays

Put the birthdays of your ancestors on a calendar. Use those days (or a day nearby) as time to review your information on that individual and see if there is anything you overlooked or any new resources that have become available.

Occasionally reviewing information is always an excellent idea and a birthday calendar may be just the way to do it.

17 August 2009

Got them all from the SSDI?

Have you searched for EVERY appropriate person in the SSDI? Are there people in your database who might be in there and for whom you have not searched? Might be worth your while to check it out.

16 August 2009

Check out USGenWeb Pages

When was the last time you visited the USGenWeb pages for your counties of interest? It has been at least several years since I visited the page for Chariton County, Missouri, where my wife has ancestors. Upon visiting it today, I realized they had quite a bit of new information from the last time I looked.

Point your browser to http://www.usgenweb.org

and take a look at your states and counties today. There may be something new there.

15 August 2009

Do You Know the Soundex Codes for your Surnames?

Do you know the Soundex codes for your last names?


to get the codes. Knowing which variant spellings are soundex equivalents will save you search time.

14 August 2009

Undocumented Name Changes

Sometimes the brick wall is created when an ancestor's mother marries after the death of her husband. The problem is that if you do not know the names of the parents, it can be difficult to locate a marriage record. If you do know the names and a family disappears, consider the possibility that the father died and the mother remarried and the family is "hidden" under this new last name--whether or not the father adopted the children officially. Many didn't.

I have several families in my own research where the remarriage of the mother complicated the research. Some will be featured in upcoming columns of "Casefile Clues."

13 August 2009

Is It Really a Name Change?

A poster to a list indicated that her European ancestor's first name was changed from Andreas to Andrew when he immigrated to the United States.

Two things come to mind. His name really wasn't "changed." It was translated. Andreas is Latin and Andrew is English.

The second is that if his name changed, it likely was when he naturalized, not when he landed. Changings at landings were rare--your paperwork had to match or there could be issues, especially in the mid-19th century and after.

12 August 2009

Second Casefile Clues Column Published-Passport Records

My second "Casefile Clues" column went out to subscribers this weekend. It discusses a passport application that was located on Ancestry.com (Footnote also has it as does the National Archives).

The images can be seen on our site.

If "Tip of the Day Readers" subscribe in the next 24 hours, I'll send this past weekend's article to them. Simply mention that you are a "tip of the day reader" when you subscribe or mention it in an email to me.

American Memory Collection at the Library of Congress

We don't normally include websites at "Genealogy tip of the Day," but this one is free and really too good for the genealogist to pass up.

The American Memory Collection at the Library of Congress (http://memory.loc.gov) has scans of maps, religious petitions, early eighteenth century books on immigration, and much much more. Take a look for yourself.

And if you didn't see any railroad maps on the site, there are here: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/gmdhtml/rrhtml/rrhome.html

11 August 2009

Don't Assume Grandma Was Wrong

My grandma Neill told me she remembered her baptism. I was skeptical as the denomination of which her parents were members practiced infant baptism. Grandma had to be wrong.

Actually she was correct. For reasons that are not clear, Grandma was baptized at the age of five along with several of her siblings. Sure enough she was right. I'll think twice before assuming (without evidence) that she was wrong.

10 August 2009

Does the Signature Match the Document?

Does that ancestral signature on a document match the handwriting of the document itself? Don't conclude your ancestor wrote the record. Most likely what you are looking at is a transcription of the record made by the clerk. The clerk likely copied your ancestor's signature as well.

09 August 2009

Take A Day Off (or two!)

Are you working on the same family day after day after day? Consider taking a few days off and avoid making genealogy "your job." Coming back later with a fresh perspective might be just what you need to get going again.

08 August 2009

Multiple Guardians

Keep in mind that a minor could have had several guardians in their life if one of more of their parents were deceased.

Guardian of the person--watched over the child and the child typically lived with them.
Guardian of the estate--watched over the child's inheritance.

Guardian ad litem--a guardian appointed who was usually a lawyer to represent a child who was somehow involved in court action. A guardian ad litem was actually serving as the child's "lawyer" and was not a guardian of the child's person or estate.

The first two could be the persons or maybe not. Much depends upon the situation.

07 August 2009

Get Those Multiple Records When You Can

I've been working on my wife's English ancestors the last few times I have been at the Family History Library. One frustration has been that the civil records have not been microfilmed--and yet the index of Civil Registrations is online at http://freebmd.rootsweb.com. Before I get too irritated, I have to remember that the church records generally have been microfilmed. I use the online index to give me an idea of dates of death and probable parishes where the information should be recorded.

Of course, I should still search the parish records page by page for all family members but sometimes there just simply is not time.

Remember there may be more than one way to get at the information you need. Keep your eyes and ears open and ask questions.

In this case, if I decide I need the civil record, I can still order it once I've seen the church record to know I have the right person. In many cases, I don't bother to order to the civil record as those copy charges add up.

06 August 2009

Double Listed in the Census

I've been playing around with the free access to the 1930 census on Footnote.com and in experimenting with their interface, I remembered something:

anyone can easily be listed twice in the census.

My Grandma is listed twice in 1930--once with her parents and once in the household where she was "working out."

Her married brother is listed twice as well. Once with his wife in the town where he grew up and once in the town 30 miles away where he and his wife had moved for his job.

Never hurts to look more than once.

And if you think "working out" means exercise, well....it doesn't.

Note: the free access to the 1930 census on Footnote.com is only for the month of August 2009.

05 August 2009

Michael is on Facebook and Twitter

You can follow me on Twitter at:

I am on Facebook at:


Was it just popular and has nothing to do with family?

My grandmother Neill had a brother named Cecil. Her sister's husband was named Cecil and her husband (my grandfather) was named Cecil. While I don't know about the brother-in-law's family, I do know that the name of Cecil had not previously appeared in either my grandmother or grandfather's family.

Apparently at the time of these births, between 1900 and 1915, the name was fairly popular. It wasn't all that popular say fifty years earlier and fifty years later, its popularity was waning.

There may be a reason a name "appears out of thin air" in one of your families. Just remember that the name may have no genealogical connection to any other family member. It just might have been in fashion.

04 August 2009

First Casefile Clues Column Published

My first Casefile Clues has gone out to the subscriber list. For those who are unaware my "Casefile Clues" column is no longer available to paid members of Eastman's site and is available by subscription through my other site http://www.casefileclues.com. This column focused on an estate from the 1870s and included suggestions for using digital images and microfilm. We will be sending a new article every weekend to subscribers, including ones on a variety of genealogy how-to topics.

Subscriptions can be made on an annual or quarterly basis. There are no advertisements and email addresses are not sold, shared, rented, etc. On of our goals is to include image illustrations with as many columns as possible. I am working to improve the newsletter and welcome any "Tip of the Day" readers who would like to subscribe. "Tip of the Day" will remain free, but "Casefile Clues" help to offset some of our costs.

The Unindexed Nature of Court Records

Until they are all digitized and indexed (which is years away from happening, if ever), court records are one of richest body of records that are difficult to access.

A court case may contain the names of several individuals, and yet is only indexed twice--once under the name of the first plaintiff and once under the name of the first defendant.

Because of this, it is imperative to search court indexes for all family members and read those cases that may involve and uncle or aunt. There is a chance that something is in there about your ancestor as well.

03 August 2009

Are you Sharing or Preserving?

Have you thought about how your information will be shared with others after you leave this Earth? How will your information be preserved? Think abut this today rather than putting it off. Tomorrow may be too late. Remember that few relatives, libraries, or archives are going to want an unorganized box of papers. And digital media with thousands of randomly named files aren’t too much better.

02 August 2009

Print One Page

Before going to a library to research, print out one page that contains a bibliographic citation for each source or reference you wish to use. Then you can either take research notes on that page or attach that page to research notes or copies. This effectively serves as an “in the field” research log that can be written up more formally upon returning home.

01 August 2009

Learn from the Inventory

If you have an estate inventory for your ancestor, have you made an attempt to learn what every item is? Doing so may teach you more about your ancestor’s life and may potentially even give you a clue as to his occupation.