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31 March 2010

Head of Household Might not be Oldest pre-1850

Just remember that in pre-1850 United States census records the oldest person might not necessarily be the head of the household. If a grandparent or parent is living with someone, they might be the oldest person enumerated while the person named as the head of the household is actually someone younger.

I think that's the case with a family in Ohio that I'm working on for an issue of Casefile Clues.

30 March 2010

Getting Past 1850

One of the biggest hangups for genealogists just getting started is working before the 1850 census. Try taking those pre-1850 enumerations and "practicing" on a family where you have already discovered the children's names and ages with other records. See if the enumerations "fit." Then expand your work to individuals where you don't have as much information on the children. It helps to practice first.

29 March 2010

Get Past Different Spellings

For those new to research, it is imperative to remember that last names are rarely spelled the same from someone's birth until their death. Sometimes the variants are obvious and sometimes they are not, but I'd never find the Demar family if I didn't look under Demarrah and Desmarais.

28 March 2010

Are You In Isolation?

Are you researching in complete isolation? Even if you cannot find relatives to bounce ideas off of, there are genealogy societies, mailing lists, message boards, online groups, and a variety of other ways you can interact with other genealogists. Don't research in complete isolation. Discussing problems with other and sharing concerns is a great way to learn and expand your research.

27 March 2010

Analyze Before you search

Are you analyzing that information you have before you start performing searches of online databases? If you have found a census enumeration for a family, have you estimated the year of birth for everyone in the household? Have you estimated the date of marriage for the suspected parents? These are good things to do before you start searching as it allows you to compare information.

26 March 2010

Make a List

Before you start doing wildcard and other searches at an online database, make a complete list of all spelling variants. Use this list to decide what wildcard searches need to be conducted in order to not overlook any variants. Keep a written list of search options so that searches are not missed either.

25 March 2010

Are you paying attention to the dates on those records?

Have you looked at the date the document was drawn up and the date it was recorded? Was there a delay? Is there any significance to the date a document was executed? Fit the record into the context of the family? Had a child just become of age? Had someone recently died? There might be a reason even if it is not clearly stated.

24 March 2010

Have it re-researched?

Is it possible that the person who said they would do a quick "lookup" for you in a certain record didn't really know what they were doing? Did they overlook it? Did they not consider all the spellings? Anyone can make a mistake. Might it be worth a second try?

Please don't get me wrong, those who volunteer to do lookups do us a GREAT service, but since they are human, every once in a while they can overlook something.

23 March 2010

Why did your ancestor "break" the rules?

If possible, learn why your ancestor "broke the rules" or went against tradition. I'm not certain why my wife's Roman Catholic great-grandmother didn't have her last two children christened as infants. She waited until they were nearly 7 and 8 which is unusual.

The baptisms were likely done then as she got married in a church ceremony a few weeks after her children were christened.

She could easily have had them christened at birth. They were born in Chicago in the 1910s---there would have been plenty of opportunities.

22 March 2010

If you could ask 1,000 genealogists...

If you could ask 1,000 genealogists a question, what would it be? Casefile Clues, Genealogy Tip of the Day Sponsor, is going to survey up to 1,000 genealogists and is looking for question ideas.

More information about the survey can be found here:


Results will be posted publicly on the site.

Get Specific About the Occupation

If your ancestor was a farmer, was he a farm owner, a tenant farmer, or farm laborer? The differences are significant and knowing which helps indicate how mobile your ancestor likely was, what types of records he left behind, etc.

Farming isn't the only occupation where these distinctions are important? Did your ancestor work in a blacksmith shop, or own his own shop? Again, the difference is important.

Sometimes all we have are vague ideas of what our ancestor did--but sometimes we do have more. Use that information to your advantage.

21 March 2010

Where it Could Not Possibly Be

Once in a while try looking for information in a source or record where it "couldn't be." The information you seek may just be there. I found an 1893 estate settlement that provided the place and date of birth for the deceased--in a foreign country to boot. Not something I expected at all!

20 March 2010

Experts don't always know Everything

Remember no expert is perfect. And no one knows everything. A well-known lecturer indicated in a handout that all land records contain metes and bounds description that mention lines and many times mention neighbors. Federal land states infrequently mention metes and bounds and when they do, names of neighbors aren't always mentioned. Metes and bounds are used in state land states. Turns out the "expert" had only done East Coast research and assumed all land records were the same.

19 March 2010

Remember the Original Purpose

It is easy for some genealogists to get lost in the research and forget the original purpose of the records we use. Deeds were to transfer real property, probates were to settle estates, courts were to settle disputes, etc. Most records were not created for genealogists. Remember that.

18 March 2010

Sometimes there is no answer

Once in a while the genealogist needs to remind themselves that there might not be an answer to a question. This does not mean that one does not keep looking, but that sometimes there just are not the records available to answer the question, determine the parentage, connection etc. Sometimes knowing when you have exhausted all avenues is a good thing to know. Of course, it also might be advised to ask an expert if you really are at the end of your genealogy rope.

A certain publication made me take similarly worded paragraph out of an article because it was "too negative." I think it's realistic and honest which is a much better way to be.

17 March 2010

St. Patrick's Day Discount on Casefile Clues

I am offering a St. Patrick's Day discount on a subscription to my weekly genealogy how-to newsletter Casefile Clues along with all the back issues. More information is on the Casefile Clues website.

You Never Know Until You Ask

A Google search turned up online scans of old land patents. I clicked on the link and I was told that I needed a username and password. My budget for memberships was exhausted and I got distracted and forgot about it. A few days later I came upon the page again and decided to ask if there was anyway to get temporary or "pay-per-view" access for the few documents I wanted immediately.

Turns out there was no fee and I was given the generic access codes.

You never know until you ask.....so ASK!

16 March 2010

Sample of Casefile Clues?

If any "Tip of the Day" readers, fans, or followers, would like sample copy of Casefile Clues, email me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com and I'll fire one off to you.


Google searches are great, but sometimes it is nice to browse the virtual stacks.

Cyndi at Cyndislist.com has been linking and categorizing websites for a decade. If you're stuck, needing a break, or needing to jumpstart your research, take a look at the links she has for your state or country of interest.

There is certain to be something on Cyndislist you haven't seen before. It is just about like browsing the library stacks and making random finds.


15 March 2010

Copyright and Copy Wrong

This is not meant for readers as readers of my site were not the problem. It was not a "fan" or a "follower" who used my whole body of tips on their site under the guise of it "helped me get more attention." When you put a big fat ad between the tip and my name, that doesn't make it clear. When you include the website name, but do not include an active link, it makes the chance that someone actually visits my site very small. I was raised in the sticks, but I'm not stupid.

Just because it is not on paper, does not that copyright does not apply.
Just because you can copy and past it in two seconds does not mean that you should.
Just because you can "incorporate an entire RSS feed" into your website does not mean that you should.

The tips at Genealogy Tip of the Day are copyrighted material. Are the ideas copyrighted? No, of course not. I can't copyright an idea anymore than I can copyright the fact that "2+2=4." But the whole body of the website is copyrighted and the individual tips are as well.

I'm very grateful for those who share "Tip of the Day" with others who may be interested. There are several ways they can be shared with others, without violating copyright. I am MOST APPRECIATIVE of those who have shared this website with others.

Genealogy Tip of the Day is free to all to use. I make a little (emphasis on little) bit of revenue from the ads hosted here. That is ok with me, I'm not planning on getting rich from genealogy. But don't put your stuff on my site, plaster your own ads all over it, and tell me it was good for me.

If you want to use A tip in a publication, simply indicate the day it was published, quote it exactly, indicate it came from Genealogy Tip of the Day at http://genealogytipoftheday.blogspot.com/ by Michael John Neill. Contact me personally at mjnrootdig@gmail.com if you want to use more than one.

There's a wonderful Yiddish saying that goes: “You can't piss on my back and tell me it's rain.” This is the one time, I'll use one of those words on this website, but I'm really irritated and the saying is appropriate. We will maintain our G rating with future postings.


Have you re-interviewed relatives recently?

Sometimes this can be particularly helpful if you have made new discoveries about things your relative might have had first or second hand knowledge of.

  • Do you locate a family living next to the interviewee's parents in 1920 that had the same last name as the mother and whom the interviewee never mentioned?
  • Does an estate settlement mention a family member living in a location that was "news" to you? Your relative may know something.

New details may jog the respondent's mind about things you never even knew to ask the first time around.

Ancestry.org Using Tips without Permission

Ancestry.org is using tips from Genealogy Tip of the Day without permission.

If anyone knows how to contact them, please let me know. I'm getting stuck behind privacy protection.
UPDATE Ancestry.org has removed my tips from their website as of approximately noon central time today. My thanks to several fellow genealogists who provided some useful tips in dealing with this problem. Your help is appreciated.

14 March 2010

Recorded Twice? or Duplicates?

Is it possible that a record was recorded in two places? Civil records may be recorded at both the state and local level?

Or multiple copies of a record may exist if the originals have been microfilmed or digitized.

13 March 2010

Boundary Changes

Have you considered whether changes in county, township, or other boundaries are creating research headaches?

12 March 2010

Account for Every Acre

Can you account for how your ancestor obtained every acre of property he owned at his death?

In reviewing records on one ancestor, I realized I had deeds for all of his acquisitions except for 34 acres. Not a large amount of property, but in this case several deeds were within the family and tracking that 34 acres might be the key to discovering new family relationships.

And if it doesn't, then I've honed my research skills for a time when it does help!

11 March 2010

No Probate Doesn't Mean No Records

Remember that if your ancestor died and left no probate, it does not mean that there are not records settling up his affairs. There may be deed or non-probate court records that effectively settled the ancestor's estate without a "probate" settlement. It pays to look.

This very topic was the focus of an entire Casefile Clues issue--1 Number 32.

10 March 2010

Etal. Deeds

Finding too many deeds for too little time when researching your ancestor at the county courthouse? When time is limited, the "etal" deeds should be high on your priority list. "Etal" means "and others," meaning that at least one person besides your ancestor is listed on the deed. These deeds have a better than average chance of involving a spouse or an inheritance.

And if you only get time to look at the "etal" deeds, make a note to that effect in your research log. That way you will know what you have (and have not) done.

09 March 2010

Finding Tip of the Day Helpful?

Help spread the word about "Genealogy Tip of the Day." Let others know about our daily "shot in the arm" for your genealogical research at http://genealogytipoftheday.blogspot.com.

It Is Not Just Me

Years ago, I had several people in a beginning genealogy class tell me that my ancestors were unique--not everyone had ancestors who left the kinds of records mine did and that my ancestors must have been different.

I don't think so. Part of it is just in how hard you look. None of my ancestors were particularly wealthy. A few lived hand to mouth and several barely hung on during the Depression. Yes, most were farmers, but not all were landowners and those that were owned typical farms for their era (agricultural census records are a great way to make these comparisons).

My in-laws left records too and they were not all farmers. Even the city dwellers who didn't own their homes left records.

The key is learning about all the records that might be available and being diligent. Leave no stone unturned---you might be surprised at what is out there.

Most importantly, ask for help or suggestions. Genealogists are a friendly bunch and you are bound to get advice and ideas---keep asking.

08 March 2010

Evoking Memories Through Music

If great-aunt Myrtle is having difficulty remembering things from her past, consider downloading or getting copies of music that was popular during the time period you are trying to get her to remember. Music may be the impetus to get her memories flowing.

07 March 2010

Are employment records the answer?

Do you have ancestors for whom employment records might answer some questions, or at least provide you with some information you were not already aware of?

Rural ancestors rarely have these records but those with urban ancestors might want to see if records of their ancestor's former employers have been archived or stored somewhere.

Personally I haven't used employment records too much, but am working on a set of records for an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues.

06 March 2010

Never Stop Learning

The day you decide your genealogical skills do not need tweaking is the day you probably should take up a new hobby. All of us involved in genealogy should be learning something every day. Becoming a better genealogist is a daily process of growth.

05 March 2010

County Recorder's Miscellaneous Record Books

County Recorder's offices typically have a series of miscellaneous record books where they will record copies of things that do not fall into the typical record categories. I have seen copies in these books of:
  • out of state divorce decrees
  • out of area death certificates
  • medical licenses
  • legal agreements not related to property or real estate
One never knows what one will encounter in these records. Give them a try!

04 March 2010

Turn off the Communication

I've mentioned this before on "Tip of the Day" but think that every so often it needs to be repeated.

There are times when the best research and analysis is done when you can really concentrate.
  • turn off the email
  • turn off any online "alerts"
  • turn off instant messaging
  • put the cell phone away
There are times when multitasking does not really allow you to think about something and really understand it. Read that record or series of documents closely. Transcribe them--and do it without numerous distractions.

You may be surprised at the results.

03 March 2010

Discount on Casefile Clues for Facebook Fans

Some of you know that Casefile Clues sponsors "Genealogy Tip of the Day."

We are having a sale at Casefile Clues--get in on the discount.

From now until noon central on 4 March 2010:

Get an annual subscription and or back issues at these discounted rates:

A year for $15 (52 issues--normally $17)
Back issues 1-30 for $13.50 (individually $16.50)
Questions can be sent to me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com

1855 Bounty Land Application Instructions

We don't normally point to webpages here on Tip of the Day, but among the thousands of neat things on www.archive.org is the following:

Instructions and forms to be observed by persons applying to the Pension Office for bounty land under the act of March 3, 1855 : entitled "an act in addition to certain acts granting bounty land to certain officers and soldiers who have been engaged in the military service of the United States."

Click here to give it a read.

02 March 2010

Every Record was Created by Humans

Remember that every record was created by a human. Consequently any one piece could be incorrect. Could that be what's causing your brick wall?

01 March 2010

Casefile Clues--my weekly how-to newsletter

Genealogy Tip of the Day Readers are encouraged to consider subscribing to my weekly genealogy how-to newsletter, Casefile Clues.

Casefile Clues is not your typical genealogy newsletter. We do not rehash or rephrase generic information that is available in numerous how-to books and websites. Casefile Clues is applied genealogy at its best. Our focus is on record and document analysis, "where to go next," "where did I go wrong," how to use records, etc. All case studies are drawn from my own research in a variety of locations.

Readers like Casefile Clues because it is not just fluff and we really get down and explain what the thought process was behind the research. And we cite our citations. And sometimes we discuss how we tried things that did not work and where I think I should go next.

Will we discuss your ancestor? No (unless you are a relative of mine). But hopefully we'll give you ideas to jump start your own research. That's our goal.

More information is available on our website at http://www.casefileclues.com/.

Casefile Clues is delivered weekly as a PDF file and comes directly to your email. No ads either!

A minor naturalization

A minor naturalization is a naturalization in which the person naturalized immigrated while they were a minor. It does not mean they were a minor when they naturalized. Minors cannot naturalize themselves. A minor whose father naturalizes usually becomes a citizen.