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31 October 2010

Know the Naming Tendencies

Some families name children for ancestors. Some do not. In some ethnic groups, names of chidlren can give ideas as to what the names of grandparents MIGHT be. Naming tendencies are CLUES, NOT PROOF.

30 October 2010

Miscellaneous Book at the County Recorder's Office?

Have you taken a look for your ancestors in the miscellaneous record books at the County Recorder's Office? Just about anything can be in these books. I've found divorce decrees from out of state divorces, copies of medical licenses, and a few other non-typical items in these books. Anyone can pay to have anything recorded--which just means that a "legal" copy has or was made. Soldiers might have recorded their discharge at the local recorder's office as well.

29 October 2010

Start from Scratch

Stuck? Put aside everything you have on an ancestor and "recollect" your information on him. Think carefully about every assumption you have made and every step in your logic and reasoning. Perhaps starting over is what you need to do to get over that brick wall.

28 October 2010

Name Not Changed at Marriage

A relative whose maiden name was Mattie Huls married in the 1890s to a man named George Huls. Consequently her last name never changed. Mattie had no descendants and I nearly overlooked her marriage as her last name never changed.

Sometimes it happens.

27 October 2010

Deaths from Just Over Two Weeks Ago in the Social Security Death Index

I had forgotten how current the Social Security Death Index  is at GenealogyBank.com. My wife's brother passed away on 10 Oct 2010 and his entry is already in the index. Others are not updated quite so quickly. So if there's a death you know happened fairly recently, you might want to check Genealogybank's version of the SSDI. Others are not updated quite as quickly.

The Social Security Death Index can be searched for free at GenealogyBank.com.

The reason the Index is updated so quickly is that banks and other institutions use it as a means to catch people using Social Security numbers of recently deceased people.

Is It a Coincidence?

When I was stuck on my Ira Sargent, there were two families I focused on. I was "certain" he fit into one of them. Both families had several members named Ira--there had to be one that was "missing." They had the same general migration pattern, the age was consistent, etc. etc.

Turns out my Ira didn't belong to either one. And that his family really didn't live where he settled at all. The "other" families may be related, but it is so distant as to not really be relevant.

Sometimes similar names and places are coincidences. Just keep that in mind.

26 October 2010

Leave the Kids Behind?

If your ancestors moved several times, did they leave some children behind, either because the children married or because they died? One ancestor who moved from Michign to Iowa to Missouri left grown children in Michigan and Iowa, not to mention the children who were with him in Missouri.

Remember that the entire family might not have moved with the ancestor. Children who were "of age" might very well have stayed behind.

25 October 2010

Have You Overlooked an Alternate Spelling?

Is it possible you've overlooked an alternate spelling of a last name? A relative's mother's name was listed in all documents as Morris. Her Social Security Application listed the last name as Morse. Just one that for some strange reason had not crossed my mind. It happens to all of us.

24 October 2010

Was it Really Their Name?

My great-great-grandmother was Nancy Jane Newman. She was born in 1846 in Indiana to Baptist parents, so there's no birth or christening record. Her life is well-documented (there's no missing years, etc.) and every document shows her as Nancy or Nancy Jane. A lady told me that Nancy was ALWAYS the nickname for Ann and that her REAL name WAS Ann and not Nancy. There's two tips today in this: (1) sometimes "nicknames" are not nicknames, and (2) don't listen to anyone who insists that something ALWAYS means something. There are exceptions to everything.

23 October 2010

Would an SS5 Form Help?

Death certificates are a wonderful source, but usually the decedent does not provide the information. Is there another form or record where the deceased would have provided the information? One such source in the United States (for recent enough individuals) is the SS5 form--Application for a Social Security Number. The current charge is $27, but in some situations, knowing who the person actually listed as their parents may be helpful. A copy of an SS5 form from 1943 is here.

22 October 2010

Get Someone Else To Read It

Sometimes another set of eyes will see something differently. Over at the Daily Genealogy Transcriber, we recently had a posting that some thought was "Hon Aaron Sargent" when in fact it was "Wm. Aaron Sargent."

That posting can be viewed here:

If you are stuck on how to read or interpret something, consider having someone else look at it. Your interpretation just might not be correct.

21 October 2010

Scratch it out on Paper

I'm not a big fan of rushing to the computer to enter everything into a database the minute I discover it. Without getting on that soapbox, consider sketching out family relationships on paper before entering them into your genealogical database. Think about the information before you just start mindlessly entering it into a database. Thinking and analyzing are always good. Your initial conclusion may not be the correct one.

20 October 2010

Check for Completeness

In any index, be it printed or online, determine how complete it actually is. Are there counties missing, either because the index or database is in progress or records have been destroyed?

19 October 2010

Don't Just Click, Look Quick,and Go Back

If you've used an online index to take you directly to a record, don't just look at the desired entry and immediately go back to do more searching. Look at the entries before and after the one for your ancestor. How are they the same? How are they different? This is very helpful for records you've never look at before. And for census records, look at the names of the neighbors and where they are from. There may be clues in those names and locations as well.

18 October 2010

Is that First Name Really a Middle Name?

Is what you think your ancestor's "first name" really his or her "middle name?" It could be that your ancestor is simply hiding under a first name that you do not know is his.

My Ira Sargent was actually William Ira Sargent and it's as William Sargent that he marries in 1870.

17 October 2010

Watch those Abbreviations

Remember that an abbreviation might not stand for what you think it does. There was a time when "Ia" stood for the state of Indiana, not the state of Iowa as it does today. So make certain you really know what something stands for.

Readers of Casefile Clues will see this "in action" in issue 7. Attendees at the recent Germantown, TN workshop saw it as well. But there are other examples besides the "Ia" one.

16 October 2010

Alternate Indexes

Are you using just one index or finding aid to a set of records? Is there another index or another database or website that indexes the same records? If so, that other site or source might have read names differently or offer different search options. Do not limit yourself to just one site.

15 October 2010

Chart Everything

I've been working on a relative who was married at least 6 times. To help keep myself organized, I made charts for:
  • her marriages
  • where she was in each census year
  • what each census enumeration said about her
  • what years she had what last names
  • who was the father of what children
Just organizing the information about her helped me keep everything straight in my own mind.
The relative will be featured in an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues.

14 October 2010

Copyrighting A Fact

As a reminder, facts cannot be copyrighted.

The paragraph you write about how you proved a date of birth is something you can copyright and typically copyrighted the minute you write it.

The fact that Johann was born on 18 June 1832 is not something you can copyright.

Otherwise if facts could be copyrighted, I'd be taking claim to "2 plus 2 equals 4." (Grin!).

13 October 2010

Spelling a Clue to Pronunciation?

Is the spelling of your ancestor's name in a census or other record a clue as to how your relatives said your ancestor's name?

Elecksander was probably Alexander, said so as to be spelled another way.

Cathren in a census was probably Catherine, but probably pronounced "cath rin" as opposed to "Cath er in."

Spelling might hide more clues than you think.

12 October 2010

Don't Forget Half-Siblings

If your ancestor has half siblings, don't forget to search for them as well. In some families half-siblings barely speak and never interact. In others, they are as close as full siblings. Just because in one family those relationships were strained doesn't mean they were in others.

And your ancestor may have half-siblings and you may not even know it.

11 October 2010

About Tip of the Day

For our new fans/followers:

Genealogy Tip of the Day is one genealogy tip published every day to our blog (http://genealogytipoftheday.blogspot.com/ and the Genealogy Tip of the Day Fan Page on Facebook. You can also follow us by clicking on the links on the blog page at http://genealogytipoftheday.blogspot.com/.

Tip of the Day is free--but is sponsored by my weekly newsletter Casefile Clues (http://blog.casefileclues.com/).

Tips usually come from my own research and writing. Content and topics are pretty random--just whatever comes across my desk in the process of doing my own research and writing. You don't have to subscribe to the newsletter to get the tips. The tips are, by the nature of tips, short and to the point.

Once in a while I may mention a website, but we try and avoid being "website of the day."

Suggestions and comments are always welcomed. Posts to the Fan Page are welcome, but posts that are pretty much all "self-promotion" will be removed. Suggestions based upon the tips or additional tips or clarifications are always welcomed.

Census Questions?

Need to know what questions were asked in what census? Here's a page that has links to all census questions asked in every census from1850 and onwards.


10 October 2010

1910 Census Asks Length of Marriage

Don't forget that the 1910 Census asks for the length of the current marriage. This can be helpful in estimating a marriage date. And in some cases, there will be a notation as to how many times the person has been married.

09 October 2010

How was that first name said?

I've been working on Aunt Emma for the next issue of Casefile Clues. In searching for her in various census records, I have become convinced she pronounced her first name as "Emmer." At least that's how almost every census taker spelled it, Emmar, Emmer, Emer, etc.

Think about how the first name was said. Sometime English language names were said in ways that resulted in a wide variety of spellings.

08 October 2010

Those "Other" Spouses

Remember that if your ancestor was married more than once, records on those "other" spouses may be helpful to your direct line research. A second spouse may provide clues about the ancestor's other spouses, the ancestor's family, etc. And if the "other" spouse got a military pension, those records may be helpful as well.

07 October 2010

Chronological Maps

Chronologies are a good problem-solving tool. So are maps. I've got one extended family I'm stuck on and I think that maps of each person's location in certain years (say 1850, 1860, 1870) might be another helpful tool. Seeing what is "pulling" and "pushing" people to certain locations might be easier if I organize the information in this fashion. Hopefully we'll have some illustrations in a future issue of Casefile Clues.

06 October 2010

Think "What Might Have Been Created"

It is always advisable to think of all the records that might have been created when one is missing. Perhaps the records of your ancestor's estate settlement cannot be found. Are there other court records (perhaps a partition suit?)? Were there guardianship records for the children? Were there deeds that might have settled up property? Would tax records provide any clues?

It can be frustrating when a record is missing, but ask yourself "what else could there be?"

05 October 2010

Do they Know their STUFF?

Many of us posts genealogical questions on message boards, mailing lists, facebook groups, etc. Keep in mind that the person who answers may not really "know their stuff," even if they throw around key phrases and sound really smart.

Give a second thought before taking free advice or suggestions from someone whose skill level and expertise are not really known to you.

04 October 2010

Do You Know What It Meant THEN?

Today is 10-4. In CB lingo that means "OK" or something pretty close to that. Is there a phrase or word in a document, letter, or record that meant something different when it was written? Is there a chance you are interpreting something with a 21st century mind when it was written with a 17th century one?

03 October 2010

Compare to the Census Neighbors

In 1850 and after census records, have you compared your ancestor to his neighbors? Were they from the same place, about the same age, similar occupations, etc.? Or was your ancestor significantly different from his or her neighbors? It might be a clue.

02 October 2010

Adoption or Guardianship?

Adoption records are usually closed. Is there a chance there was a guardianship instead? Records of guardianships are open and may answer your question. The difficulty is that guardianships are usually for children who have inherited some type of estate. If your "adopted" ancestor was poor, there's less chance of a guardianship.

01 October 2010

Read Carefully

In going back through material for a Casefile Clues article, I looked again at some pension papers on a relative. Her children were listed, including my great-grandmother. There great-grandma was listed with a middle name I had never seen anywhere else. For some reason, it had never "clicked" before that the name was different. Great-grandma was always "Fannie" on every document, except for Francis on her birth record. And the only middle name ever used was Iona. And there on the pension application for her mother was "Fannie May"

Or so I thought.

It actually said "Fannie May 16 1880" and was referring to her DATE of birth.

Be careful before jumping to a conclusion and getting a little too excited about locating something "new."