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30 June 2010

It Won't Be 100%

Rarely are two separate documents 100% consistent. While it does happen, the more likely situation is that documents are fairly consistent, with minor differences.

It is up to the thorough researcher to determine if the inconsistencies are inconsequential and to find reasonable, plausible explanations for them.

Usually violations of the laws of biology and physics are not necessary to explain things

29 June 2010

Google them all

Never hurts and never hurts to do it every so often.

I "googled" the name (including maiden name) of a first cousin of my great-grandfather. The first cousin had to have died at least forty years ago. However, the searched turned up an obituary for a daughter who died in 2007!

28 June 2010

Why One Dollar?

Why would an ancestor give a child $1 (or another token amount) in a will? Basically to show that they had not been left out.

The child could have had a falling out with their parent, or perhaps the parent had already given them their inheritance, perhaps when they got married, started some type of business, bought their first farm ground, etc.

27 June 2010

Go Back and Ask Again

So you interviewed your relative twenty years ago when you first started genealogy. Have you thought about interviewing them again?

Maybe they remember something now they didn't remember before or are willing to discuss something they didn't want to discuss twenty years ago.

It is worth a shot.

26 June 2010

Don't Forget State Census Records

Many states took censuses in "off-census" years. These records can be a great way to track people in between federal census enumerations. Many have been microfilmed and Ancestry.com includes some in their databases.

25 June 2010

Leave a calling card at the cemetery

It is an oft-repeated suggestion, but we've not used it before here.

When visiting that cemetery, consider putting a waterproof calling card on the stone or near to it. A business card in a plastic bag, or a laminated one will work just fine. Use a stone, rock, or some other object to secure it in place, without harming the stone.

You never know when another relative, who doesn't use the internet at all, might stop by that same cemetery and find your card with contact information.

24 June 2010

Death of Second One

Records of the settlement of estates are important to genealogists for many reasons, particularly the documentation of relationships.

The settlement of an estate may take place through probate court, or through a simple deed after the surviving spouse dies. It really depends upon the location, the time period, and the complexity of the estate.

If the widow survived, there might not have been an estate settlement, but there might have been an heirship or settlement deed transferring ownership after her death. That might be all the estate settlement that was needed.

Or there could be actual court records, depending upon the size of the estate and the ability of the heirs to get along.

23 June 2010

Tax Lists just aren't for real property

Remember that tax lists are not just for those who had real property. In some areas during some time periods, certain items of personal property were also taxed. So your non-landowner relatives might be listed.

22 June 2010

One Census Can Easily Be Wrong

It can be difficult when you only have one census enumeration to tell you anything about an ancestor.

I was working on a Benjamin Butler who was enumerated in Iowa in 1870. The problem was that his place of birth in 1870 (Canada) was shown as New York in the 1880 census where I eventually found him. And his 1880 enumeration had him listed as William.

Fortunately the wife and all the other details matched. When using just one enumeration to search for others, considering that any one piece of information could easily be incorrect.

My search for Benjamin will be mentioned in an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues. Subscribe now and get in on the fun.

21 June 2010

Write down your thought process

Do not always assume you will remember why you reached a certain conclusion. In analyzing an 1870 census entry for an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues, I made some preliminary conclusions about the oldest female in the household. In reviewing the material later, it took me another ten minutes to "re-reach" those conclusions. It would have been easier if I had taken the time to write down my thought the first time.

20 June 2010

Double Check

When entering dates into any database, check them twice. There is always the possibility that you copy something incorrectly and you may make an inconsistency where there really is not one.

19 June 2010

Minor Naturalization

A minor naturalization was a naturalization of someone who immigrated as a minor and wanted to naturalize once they had reached the age of majority. These individuals didn't have to wait quite as long to naturalize as did those who immigrated as adults.

18 June 2010

In What Capacity?

We use the names of people on documents as clues. Sometimes the reason why a person is listed on a document is fairly obvious, parents on a birth certificate for example.

But a witness on a deed or a will. The witness may be a relative, friend, or another warm body.

But the witness had to be of legal age and that may be a clue.

And always learn why names are on records and in what capacity they are acting. What requirements were there to act in that capacity?

17 June 2010

Get off the Main Migration Routes

Some of our ancestors migrated along paths that thousands of Americans took, but they didn't settle along these national roads. They went where they knew people, or had a "connection" to a job, a farm, etc. The fact that your ancestor might have travelled part of the way on a common pathway might help solve some problems, but the larger problems will be solved by determining who else travelled with him from point A to point B.

16 June 2010

Ask Why?

For any document, ask yourself "why was this document created?" Some will be fairly obvious:

  • death certificate because someone died
  • birth certificate because someone was born

Others not so much, particularly some records in court and other cases. Asking why a document was created will help you to know why some things were included in the document and some things were not. Records we use were created for purposes other than genealogy--keep that in mind.

15 June 2010

Practice at Home

If you are going to use a digital camera to take pictures of tombstones, documents, etc. on a research trip, practice using the camera at home.

Try different kinds of books, different lighting, different times of day, etc. and see what works for you and what doesn't.

The place to learn is at home when you have time, not a thousand miles away when rain is threatening, it's late in the evening, and the last day of your trip.

14 June 2010

Using the same approach for every problem or family?

Do you try the same approach on every family? Are you always using the records that are "easiest" to research or the ones with which you are most familiar? Are you always using county records and never state records? Have you never used church records?

Get outside of that same approach. Your ancestors all didn't approach life the same way, you shouldn't approach them the same way either.

13 June 2010

Read that County History

Even if you can't read the entire thing, at least read the history of the town or township where your ancestor settled. Don't just look in the index or do a text search for the names of interest. Actually read part of it. You may actually learn something that helps your research.

12 June 2010

Apply "Other Life" Skills to Genealogy

Most of us had a life before genealogy that required specific skills and attributes. Is it possible to use those skills and approaches to problems to your own genealogy? Adapt your "other life" skills to genealogy--it might save you time and break down that brick wall.

11 June 2010

Use Color

I've been analyzing some census records for an upcoming Casefile Clues column. Doing the analysis on paper and pencil was necessary because I was travelling.

What I needed was colored pencils. Then I could use the colors to mark each person and help me to keep them straight in my head. I'm going to have to get a set of colored pencils.

10 June 2010

Just read the places

In rural areas, if you can't find someone in the index, a manual search of the census may be necessary. If that doesn't help you locate your person, try looking only the places of birth. Then when you find someone with the "right" place of birth, look very closely at their name.

That's how years ago I found Ulfert Behrens in Adams County, Illinois listed as Woolpert Barcus.

09 June 2010

It is quit claim, not quick claim

A quit claim deed is one where someone (the grantor) gives up whatever claim they have to a piece of property. They aren't guaranteeing they have title--they are just giving up their claim. A quit claim deed may have been drawn up quickly, but there's not such thing as a quick claim deed. It is just a mispronunciation of "quit claim."

08 June 2010

One Link at a Time

Since my recent breakthrough at the Family History Library, I discovered an online posting about my newfound ancestor that lists dozens of his ancestor, including one on the Mayflower.

It is important not to get too excited about these huge discoveries and take the to prove every link in the chain.

Online materials, especially those that are unsourced or that only have filenames like "jones.tftw" as sources, should be used as guides, not gospel.

07 June 2010

The Importance of Writing

This has been a tip of the day before, but I believe it is important enough to occasionally be repeated.

Writing up your genealogy research is important. It will make you look more closely at what you have, your assumptions and your conclusions. Remember to write for someone who does not know anything about your family.

You might be surprised at the things you learn. And consider submitting your finished product to a local genealogical or historical society quarterly in the area where your ancestor lived. It is a great way to preserve your research.

And don't forget to cite your sources.

06 June 2010

Do it on Paper First

Genealogy software programs are great at helping us to manage data. But don't rush to enter information when you are uncertain about the relationships.

I'm working on a "new" family. The only information I have on them is one 1870 census enumeration. The household is headed by a man, but based upon the ages, the oldest female can't be the mother of all those who appear to be children.

Before I start putting any relationship information on this family in my genealogy software program, I need to work on obtaining more details about their relationships.

Haste in data entry leads to mistakes.

05 June 2010

Is the Preface Correct?

Genealogists with experience tell newer researchers to always read the preface of a book to determine what records were used, etc. This is an excellent idea. Remember though that the preface itself can contain errors. I spent hours trying to locate the original record used to compile a print book based upon incorrect information in the preface.

04 June 2010

How was the record organized?

Were the records you are using recorded based upon when an event took place, where a person was living, whether they owned property, etc.? Think about how the original was organized and it may help you to search when indexes are not helpful.

03 June 2010

It Pays to Go Back

Always go back and take a look at something you first saw when you "didn't know too much." When putting together the footnotes for an upcoming Casefile Clues article, I reviewed a website that listed items in a special collection that I had used for the article. When reviewing the item I used, I saw an item listed below it that meant nothing originally. After having read the item I had been sent, the second item ended up being relevant to my family.

If I hadn't gone back, I might have missed it.

02 June 2010

An Undivided 1/4 interest...

A participant on my Salt Lake City research trip found a deed that indicated the grantor was selling an undivided 1/4 interest in a piece of property. This warranted further research in land and probate records. An undivided interest of this type frequently indicates some type of inheritance was involved. Not always, but often.

01 June 2010

Just need to try it again

Even if you think you've tried it, try it again. I can't remember the number of times that someone has told me they had "searched for that," "tried that," etc. with no luck. And when we did it together, the result was found.

No guarantees, but maybe you need to try researching something again. It is always possible to overlook something the first time or not to search in the way you thought you did.

Join Michael in Ft. Wayne

We have set the dates for our August 2010 trip to Ft. Wayne...if you can make our "last minute" trip, we'd love to have you join us: