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31 October 2009

Fill Out as You Go

Fill out as much of your research log as you can while you are preparing to do you research. Doing this will help you to prepare and a partially completed research log (with titles, etc. already filled in) will increase the chance you work on your log as you research.

30 October 2009

25% Discount on May 2010 Family History Library Research Trip

As a special to the readers of Genealogy Tip of the Day (website and newsletter), I am offering a special discount on my May 2010 research trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. The trip runs 27 May-3 June 2010. We spend one week at the Family History Library, with morning presentations by me, research assistance in the library (both consultations and "drop by" help), and help with pre-trip planning via a password-protected website. For more information on the trip, visit http://www.rootdig.com/slctrip.htmlFor a limited time (until Sunday 1 November at 10:00 p.m. central), you can register for a total of $150 (this is a $50 discount from the regular price). You must use one of these links below in order to get the discount page (Paypal processes the credit card payments, but a Paypal account is NOT necessary):

Registrants are responsible for travel to Salt Lake and accomodations while in Salt Lake. We have a discounted rate with the Salt Lake Plaza hotel--RIGHT NEXT DOOR to the Family History Libary. Very convenient for when you've forgotten something or you need a little rest.

Switch first and last names

If you can't find your relative in a database, consider switching the first and last names. These kinds of errors are not all that unusual, particularly with individuals with non-English names.

29 October 2009

Trip to Salt Lake City's Family History Library

Every May I take a group to Salt Lake City's Family History Library on a week-long research trip. We research, learn, and have a little fun in the process. Information on the trip is available at www.rootdig.com/slctrip.html. Questions can be sent to me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com.

Back Up Back Up

One question: Is all your data backed up?

or "Have you backed up all your data?" for those of you who don't like to end things with a preposition.

Either way, make sure you "git 'er done," if you haven't.

28 October 2009

Check the Middle Name

Is your ancestor listed in a record with his (or her) middle name listed as his last name?

27 October 2009

Trace the StepChildren

In an upcoming column for Casefile Clues, one of the key methods to locating certain people was to trace the stepchildren of their father. Finding them lead me to information on the people for whom I was actually looking.

Make a Chart

Is there anyway that information you are trying to analyze can be put into chart format? Think about how you could make headings and what items you should extract from each record or source to create a table.

Sometimes just organizing things in a different way makes things stand out that you didn't notice before.

26 October 2009

Spelling Names of Places Incorrectly

I may be a little bit too picky, but when reviewing a GEDCOM file if I see names of places spelled incorrectly (especially names of counties in the United States when the database is compiled by an American researcher), I get a little skeptical of the rest of the file.

Of course, the occasional typo is one thing (which can easily be avoided in most programs by the way), but if the database I find has some of these spellings:

  • Hartford County, Maryland

  • Amhurst County, Virginia

  • Schuler County, Illinois

then I am a little worried about the rest of the data. Call me persnickity, but genealogy is about details. If place names that are established and standard (as these are) are not spelled correctly, how certain can I be that names, dates, and relationships are entered in the way they should be?

I'm not talking about someone trying to read the name of a German town on a nearly illegible death certificate--that's something different altogether.

25 October 2009

Google Searches FamilySearch

Occasionally when I search on Google for an ancestor's name one of my hits is the search results page for that name on www.familysearch.org, the website of the LDS Family History Library. Very interesting.

24 October 2009

There are few absolutes in genealogy

Normally an ancestor has to be dead to have an estate settlement, has to be born to have a birth certificate, etc.

Think about what really HAS to be when you research your ancestor. He didn't have to get married to reproduce. He didn't have to name his oldest son after his father. He didn't have to get married near where his first child was born. He didn't have to have a relative witness every document wrote. There are few "have tos" in genealogy. Make certain you aren't using "have tos" to make brick walls for yourself.

23 October 2009

Does it Sound the Same?

If the name as written on a document sounds like the name you are looking for, consider it the same name.

Your real work is to make certain you have the same person. That's the problem.

Removed the formatting

For the longest time, there have been html tags surrounding posts made to Tip of the Day. Hopefully I have removed them. I guess I'll know when this post runs live.

22 October 2009

Look it Up

If there is a word in a document that you do not know the meaning of, look it up. And even if you think you know what the word means, you still might want to look it up.

Just in case. Misinterpretations can create brick walls where none existed.

21 October 2009

Land Patents at the Bureau of Land Management Site

The website with land patents from the Bureau of Land Management site is wonderful, but there are a few suggestions and warnings:

  • the site is incomplete for several western states
  • patents represent federal land records only--the local courthouse has subsequent transactions which likely contain more information
  • cash file entries contain minimal information unless there is something unusual about the transaction--the claimant died during the process, was actually filing a pre-emption claim etc.

And if you don't know your township from your section, read their FAQ first. The website is at http://www.glorecords.blm.gov

20 October 2009

Online Databases Should be Used as Clues

What you find in someone's online genealogy compilation should be used as a clue. There's one tree on Ancestry.com (with over 20,000 names) that shows my great-grandparents with a child they never had.

Some days I even wonder if it's worth my time to contact someone whose database contains more than several thousand names.

I've gotten some clues from the online trees, but do not use what you see there as anything other than a hint of a suggestion.

19 October 2009

Learn About the Records

Have you really learned about the records in that "new" area in which you are researching? Don't assume that records in one location are the same as in another. When I started my late 1700 research in Virginia in never dawned on me to ask for a marriage bond. I had never used them in the upper Midwest, so I never thought to ask for them.

Had I read a basic Virginia guidebook or research outline, I would have been aware of them. Now familiarizing myself with the basic sources in a new area is one of the first things that I do.

18 October 2009

Are You Missing the Obvious?

Is it possible that the answer is staring you right in the face? Sometimes re-analyzing a document will bring the "obvious" out of the dark. Sometimes typing it will. Sometimes reading something outloud will. Sometimes having someone else look at it will make a difference. It just depends. Sometimes we jump to the wrong conclusion and never really get that out of our heads.

17 October 2009

Civil versus church record of a marriage

Remember that if the civil record of a marriage indicates your ancestor was married by a minister, there may be a church record of the marriage as well. That record may provide additional information besides what is on the civil (government) record of the marriage.

16 October 2009

is that "p" really a double s?

In older documents, many times a double "s" would be written in a way that looked like a "p" or perhaps and "f" to the unsuspecting eye.

Consequently my DeMoss ancestors occasionally appear in records as "Demop.

15 October 2009

Casefile Clues Back Issues and Subscribing

Starting today, we are offering back issues of Casefile Clues in sets. First set will be issues 1-10 and we will continue in that fashion so that subscribers can get the ones they missed easily. Those who want set 1-10 can purchase it through https://www.paypal.com/cg...i-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=8934803 or can email me directly for information.Those who wish to subscribe to Casefile Clues can do so here.

Tomorrow we'll be back offering one tip a day--so stay tuned or become a fan on Facebook.

Need Township/Range Maps of Kansas?

If you need nice, fairly recent maps of Kansas counties with the civil and congressional townships shown (including sections), consider using these from the Kansas Department of Transportation.


Really neat stuff here.

14 October 2009

Sample Copies of Casefile Clues

If any tip of the day readers would like a copy of my weekly how-to newsletter, Casefile Clues, please send an email to samples@casefileclues.com and one will be sent to you as a PDF file.

Counties on BLM site

Remember when performing a land patent search on the BLM Site (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov) that the county names might have changed between the time of the patent and today.

At the time relative filed his homestead/preemption claim in 1887 his land was in Elbert County, Colorado. Today it is in Kit Carson County, which is what it was when his claim was finally approved.

Just remember that those county lines might have changed.

13 October 2009

Would a Chart or Table Help?

When transcribing data, you want to remain as true to the original as possible. However, when anlyaing data, some creavitity may come in handy.

Consider organizing census information in a chart or a table, using a spreadsheet or a table in a word processing document.

Take the twenty names before and after your ancestor in the 1800-1830 census and put all of them in a table? How many names (besides your ancestor) do you see repeated? Are these names possible clues?

12 October 2009

Get Obits of Aunts and Uncles by Marriage

I was looking for information on a lady I thought was a sister of my ancestor. I requested her obituary, hoping it would provide information on her family and her origins. It listed the names of two children, but no details of where they lived or anything. The obituary was full of nice lovey-dovey sentiments, but nothing I could use to further my research.

Her husband's obituary was a different story. It was full of information on his children (some of whom were by a different wife) and other details about him that might help me locate more information about the wife.

Don't neglect those spouses of ancestral siblings. Their records may contain just the clue you need.

11 October 2009

Look when you do not expect it

When working on my brick wall ancestor, I searched probate records. I actually never searched them at all for him because I was always told he was "dirt poor."

And there he was in the estate records two times. How can you die twice and have two estates?

Turns out for the time period in question, insanity cases were filed with the probate and estate records. It was two insanity cases I had located for him, not probate cases. If I had never looked in estate files, I never would have found out information about his insanity hearings.

10 October 2009

Name and Location at Google Books

When searching http://books.google.com try a search for your ancestor and the county where he lived.

A search for John Rucker Orange Virginia located several like references to my ancestor, including one in The Colonial Churches of St. Thomas' Parish, Orange County, Virginia. I might have eventually found the reference, but Google Books made it faster.

09 October 2009

Do You Have it All?

A cousin graciously shared with me a copy of a casefile a relative had shared with her. I was very glad to get it.

The relative of the cousin received the file from the National Archives years ago. I wondered if the National Archives had sent her the entire file as it looked like the original copies were made in the days when mail in requests were for "selected documents."

Turns out there was at least one page the relative was not sent. In this case, the missing document was not a "huge" discovery, but sometimes it can be.

Casefile Clues-Sample Copies and Free Back Issues to Subscribers

Tip of the Day Readers who want a sample copy of my newsletter "Casefile Clues" can do so by sending me an email at mjnrootdig@gmail.com.

Those who subscribe by Saturday midnight (10 October 2009) will get back issues 1-10 and have their subscription to the weekly how-to newsletter start with issue 11. More information on Casefile Clues is on the website and subscription information is as well. A Paypal account is not necessary (you just need a credit card). Those who wish to use other payment options can email me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com for that information.

08 October 2009

Looking at things you have not really looked at in years

I recently wrote about my brick wall ancestor, Ira Sargent, in a recent column for Casefile Clues.

One of the records mentioned was his 1900 census enumeration. I had originally looked at it years ago, probably when I was 14 or 15 years of age. I had seen it several times in the interim and really hadn't given it a lot of thought.

A reader pointed out that part of his census entry looked like it was in a different hand and perhaps had an item written in it after the census taker had made his enumeration. I'm not certain what was going on with the entry, but it makes a good point that perhaps something you've seen several times over several years may contain an anomaly that you may never have noticed.

Is there something you first looked at years ago that perhaps warrants a second look?

07 October 2009

Scan it and post about it

Is there something you cannot read on a document? Instead of trying to transcribe it and post your transcription to a mailing list, consider scanning the image and asking list members of an appropriate genealogy mailing list or message board if anyone is willing to read it for you. Remember that many mailing lists do not allow attachments to be sent and that messages must be text only.

Of course, if you have a blog, you can always post images there as well. Then let members of an appropriate mailing list or message board know where your post is located.

Someone reading the actual image can do a better job of interpreting that than trying guess what really was on that paper you have.

06 October 2009

Stop Multitasking

Ok, so it's not just a genealogy tip.

Our laptop is on the fritz and my daughter wanted to use the desktop. I was forced to read some homestead case files without the internet and email as a distraction.

And guess what?

I noticed three things I had not noticed the first time I read through the papers. The first time I had read them while I was "waiting" on webpages or search results to load.

Is multitasking your problem? Would you notice more details in a record or a file if it had your complete attention?

05 October 2009

Could you be wrong?

I realize it would never happen to any "Tip of the Day" readers, but could you possibly have made a mistake at some point in your research? Sometimes the misake isn't consequential, but in some cases it could be.

While citing my sources for an issue of "Casefile Clues," I reviewed an illustration for an article I wrote years ago and which I have used in countless lectures. When footnoting one of the items used to compile the chart, I realized that I had a marriage year listed two years off. It was clearly just a typo and did not impact my conclusion, but it was still wrong.

Could you have made a mistake or typed something incorrectly? Is it possible that the mistake has an impact on a conclusion?

Just a thought. It could happen to anyone. After all, we are human (grin!).

04 October 2009

Who was the Informant?

Think about that marriage record for your great-grandparents that gives the names of their parents. Think about that 1900 census form that provides the place of birth for the parents.

Do you really know who provided that information? Did the bride give some of the groom's information? Did the groom provide some of the groom's information? Did the wife in a 1900 census enumeration simply guess at where her in-laws were born? Very possible.

And since most of us were not there when our great-grandparents' wedding or when the 1900 census was taken, the only thing we can do is conjecture about who answered those questions.

Is the informant the problem?

03 October 2009

How Secondary is it?

This post includes thoughts...without necessarily answers.

If my daughter tells someone her date of birth, she is a secondary source of that date. She has no first hand knowledge of her date of birth.

If I tell someone that today is my daughter's 21st birthday (which it isn't, but pretend that it is), is that secondary? I was present at the birth, but if I say it or write it down 21 years later is that record primary or secondary? If I write it down with a month of her birth, that probably would be considered primary. But what about 21 years after the fact, even if I had first hand knowledge of the event?

02 October 2009

The Importance of Citing as You Go

As I continue to integrate complete citation of sources into Casefile Clues, the importance of citing sources as research is done and compiled becomes increasingly important to me.

It takes less time to create the citation and documentation as the research is done instead of months or years later. And saving time allows for more research time.

01 October 2009

It is not all in Salt Lake

I know I have mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating. The Family History Library in Salt Lake has a wonderful collection of material.

But they do not have everything.

There are millions of documents and records that have never been microfilmed or digitized. These documents are in many locations, but most of these are in local county courthouses. You might be surpised what court records are there in addition to other local records that have not been microfilmed.

This is true even for counties that have been heavily "filmed."

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