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31 August 2010

They Aren't All on Facebook and the Internet

Remember that not every relative or genealogist who might be able to help you is on Facebook or even the Internet. If the only people you interact with are on Facebook or the blogs, you are really selling your research short and probably are overlooking possible connections.

30 August 2010

Join a Local Genealogical Society

Interacting with other online genealogists is great, but face to face interaction can be good as well. Consider joining and becoming involved in your local genealogical society, even if you have no ancestors where you live.

29 August 2010

Did They Change Churches?

Don't assume that your ancestor always was a member of the same denomination or that they were the same denomination as their parents. People do change churches and denominations.

28 August 2010

Your Own Biography

Have you considered writing your own biography? It would be deeply ironic to have all that genealogy information on all those dead people with little about yourself.

Non-Tip Postings

Users, viewers, and fans of "Genealogy Tip of the Day" can email me if they see inappropriate postings to our Facebook page. Solicitations for research clients are not allowed on any Tip of the Day page and will be removed.

27 August 2010

Recorded Their Discharge?

Many soldiers recorded a copy of their discharge papers in the county in which they were living when they enlisted or where they lived right after their discharge.

If you can't find military information on your ancestor, see if they recorded a copy of their discharge papers at their local county recorder's office.

26 August 2010

Be Careful Inputting Relationships From Obituaries

Be careful using relationships from obituaries as your sole source of information for your database.

Modern obituaries especially may:
  • not mention all children
  • may not distinguish children from step-children
  • may not indicate which spouse was the parents of which children
Any of these things can confuse later genealogists if you assume an obituary was entirely correct.

Best bet is to transcribe it (or scan it) and look for other materials to back it up.

25 August 2010

Occupational Clues

Are you looking in other records besides census records for occupational clues on your ancestor?

Estate inventories are good places to get an idea of what occupation your ancestor might have had. Those with city-dwellers in their family tree should use city directories for clues of this type. And don't forget some European church records use occupations to distinguish men of the same names from each other.

24 August 2010

Living Relatives?

Are there any living relatives you haven't talked to yet with your family history questions? Remember that cousins, near and distant, may have family items or memories that you don't.

23 August 2010

State Archives?

Have you tried to determine if the state archives where your ancestor lived might hold records that could be helpful in your search? Remember that state archives could hold records created at the state level or county records that have been transferred to their control.

22 August 2010

Maybe You Have Exhausted All Sources

Sometimes all of us need to admit that we've reached the end of our research on a particular person or a particular lineage. Maybe records have been destroyed or were not even created during the time period we need. Maybe your ancestor changed his name and the original simply will never be known.

There are situations where, unless new records are discovered or finding aids are created, research will reach a standstill.

Sometimes it's good to know when there's just no more you can do. The problem is that sometimes we reach that conclusion before we should.

21 August 2010

Try All Newspaper Locations

When looking for that relative's obituary, look in more than one location. Try where they were living where they died, where they were born, where they lived the bulk of their life, where their children were living at the time of their death. You might be surprised where an obituary pops up.

Of course, there may be no obituary at all.

20 August 2010


[the earlier version of this that went out was a "draft" that accidentally went live instead of this version]

Remember that the month of Xber is actually October. Tip of the day readers familiar with their calendar history will know that X is the Roman number for ten and that the prefix "oct" means 8. That's because before the calendar change of 1752, March was the first month of the year, making October the eighth month and not the tenth month. Chances are after the calendar change of 1752, Xber refers to December and that before the calendar change of 1752 it referred to October.

Best advice: Record the month EXACTLY as written. If your software program doesn't "like "Xber" then personally, I would leave the date blank and record an EXACT transcription in my notes as to the date, but that's just my preference. And if the records being used are chronological, look at later entries in the year. It might also be good to look at earlier entries as well.


This post has been deleted in favor of the corrected one here.

19 August 2010

Think Where?

If you are looking for a specific piece of information--ask yourself "where could that be written?"

Don't focus initially on locating a birth record, instead think where could information about the birth be written? This might be a birth certificate, newspaper announcement, family bible, etc.

Then try to access those sources. It might be that when you locate one of the items it provides a clue to help you actually locate the birth certificate.

18 August 2010

Looking for Ancestral Signatures?

There are several places where you could locate signatures of your ancestor. Two good places are packets of estate papers (for receipts, etc.) and actual pension or bounty land applications. Estate papers would be (usually) a county level record and pension/bounty land applications are typically a federal record (except for Confederate pensions given by states).

17 August 2010

Multiple Transcriptions

There's several counties in Kentucky where different individuals have transcribed the marriage records. Different people read things differently. I went through both sets of transcriptions. Good thing I did. The name of a husband of a relative was transcribed in two significantly different ways. One was so far off that I never would have found them in later records. Fortunately the second transcription was more accurate and helped me find more materials.

If there are duplicate sets of transcriptions for a record use both--partiularly if the originals are not at your disposal.

16 August 2010

Index Missed It?

Have you considered the possibility that the indexer missed something when creating the index? It might be that the only way to be certain the name is not in the record is to look page by page.

15 August 2010

1840 Census

Don't forget on 1840 census enumerations to look at both the left hand page and the right hand page. The left hand page includes slave numbers, information on individuals engaged in various types of employment (categories only, no names), and names of Revolutionary War pensioners. There might be a big clue hiding on the right hand page of that census--don't forget to look, grandpa might be living with the family.

14 August 2010

Cause of death on death certificate

Remember that what "killed" your ancestor might not be what actually "killed" him. Look for the secondary cause of death--that might have been the lingering illness that really was the culprit. Kidney failure might have been the result of something else.

Don't ignore those other illnesses listed on the death certificate.

13 August 2010

Look at the dower releases

Does your ancestor have a series of deeds where he sells land over time?

Have you looked closely at the place where the widow releases her dower? Is it the same wife every time?

Might be a clue to multiple spouses.

12 August 2010

Where Did You Get Each Fact?

Find your source for each fact on your ancestor, determine:
  • do you have a source?
  • is the fact an "assumption?"

For each source:

  • is it primary or secondary
  • how reliable is it?

For some questions there's not a "right" or "wrong" answer, but thinking about where you obtained each piece of information may cause you to break that brick wall.

11 August 2010

Search Manually

Remember that virtually every record can be searched manually, particularly census and other online records.

Indexes aren't perfect and sometimes manual page by page searches are faster than formulating seemingly endless search queries. And you may make a few accidental discoveries in the process.

10 August 2010

Wrong Places May Be Clues

The 1900 census for a relative indicated his mother was born in Ohio. This was completely incorrect. What I learned later was that the mother's parents were married in Ohio a year before the mother was born in Illinois. While the place of birth was wrong, it was a clue as to the migration trail of the parents.

09 August 2010

Is the time and place right?

Do you have the right place for the right time in your genealogy database? An online tree for a relative indicates one of their ancestors was born in Plymouth, Mass in 1600. Seems a little bit odd to me.

Double check that your locations and dates are correct within the historical time frame.

08 August 2010

A Patronym

A patronym is a last name derived from the first name of the father.

For instance, Anders Swanson has sons with the last name of Anderson. Anderson would be a patronym.

If Gerd Hinrichs' children use the last name of Gerdes, Gerdes would be a patronym.

07 August 2010

Electronic Version of Evidence Explained

This has been discussed on the Fan Page on face book.

An electronic copy of Evidence Explained is available here for $24.95.

A Feme Covert

A married woman whose legal rights have been combined into those with her husband, with the husband assuming control of those rights.

06 August 2010

Marriage Bann?

A marriage bann is an announcement of an upcoming marriage. Usually made for three consecutive weeks in church, banns may also be publicly published announcements of an upcoming marriage.

Usually done so that anyone with knowledge of why the couple should not be married could come forth with the reason.

The publication (or announcement) of the banns does not necessarily mean that the marriage actually took place.

05 August 2010

They Might Have Used That Name Twice

In some locations in some time periods, it was not unusual for couples to reuse names of deceased children. While today the practice would be frowned upon, many of my low-German ancestors had several children with the exact same name, the first ones all dying at a young age. And it wasn't just this ethnic group that engaged in this practice.

So consider that those church records indicating three children born with the same name could be correct and look for a death entry for the first ones.

Don't just assume they were different children who had the same christening name and took different names later.

All of which makes the point that it is important to learn about cultural practices for your ancestor's ethnic group.

04 August 2010

Did They Even Know Their Age?

It's possible that your ancestor did not even really know how old she was. A deposition in a Civil War pension file I'm using for an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues begins with the individual stating that they aren't really certain how old they are.

Did your ancestor know when they were born? Are you assuming that they did?

A partial copy of the deposition can be seen on the Casefile Clues blog.

03 August 2010

Change in Mindset

While there are aspects of genealogical research that are the same across time periods, certain things are different. Different time periods and locations require different approaches despite what some "experts" may think.

Researching a European immigrant ancestor to an urban area in the late 1800s is different from researching an immigrant to upstate New York in the early 1700s. If you are approaching both problems the same way, that might be adding to the confusion.

02 August 2010

Discuss it

Discuss your genealogical problem with someone else with an interest in genealogy. They might have a different idea, see a hole in your research, or know of someone else who might be able to help.

And sometimes just discussing something makes new ideas and errors easier to see than they were before.

01 August 2010

How Late Can You Go?

If you don't know when someone died, have you gone through every document on them in order to determine the last date they were listed as alive?

It might be when they witnessed a document, appeared in a biography, wrote their will, signed a bond, etc. Any one of a number of records might tell you "how late you can go?"