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30 November 2010

Leave Out the Last Name

When searching an online database, leave out the last name and enter in other search parameters. Is it possible that the last name was so difficult to read on the original record that it was simply omitted when the information was transcribed? If you enter a last name as a search term it will have to be in the database in order for the entry to be returned as a "hit."

Thanks to DH for this tip!

29 November 2010

Cyber Monday Discount on Casefile Clues

Cyber Monday discount on my weekly genealogy how-to newsletter Casefile Clues. Our website has more information. Just a little time left. More tips tomorrow!

Reading the Whole Page or Two

Indexes have made the searching of many records easier. Search, find, click and there's the image on our screen. It still though is wise to view all the names on the census page and a page or two before and after. There could be close relatives living nearby, hiding under a name that's indexed incorrectly or mispelled.

Read the whole page your ancestor's census or other record entry appears on. Read a page or two before and after. You might be surprised at what you find.

28 November 2010

Searching in Circles?

I usually tell researchers if they spend more than 5 minutes searching for a person in an online database, it's time to get off the computer and organize your search procedure. The first step is to determine if it would be more efficient to search the database manually, especially if certain details about the family are known that would make manual searching easier.

If manual searching isn't going to work, make a chart and organize your searches by how you will be entering the search terms. Think about:
  • first name
  • middle names
  • last name
  • spelling variants
  • place of birth
  • date of birth
  • other search parameters
Chart up how you will perform your searches and do them systematically. You might be surprised at the results.

27 November 2010

Put Everything in Context

Put every event in context. If your ancesor sells property, ask yourself:
  • how old was he?
  • was he getting ready to leave the area?
  • was he having financial problems?
  • was he selling to a child or other relative?
  • did he buy other property about the same time?
Don't look at a record all by itself. Put it in the context of other things that were taking place in your ancestor's life.

26 November 2010

Contact the Locals

If onsite research at the local courthouse is not an option, consider contacting the local genealogical/historical society or the local library. They may be able to give you names of researchers, suggestions for doing research remotely, or may do some limited research for you via mail. Some courthouses will respond to mail inquiries and some will not.

25 November 2010

Day After Thanksgiving Sale-1 Year of Casefile Clues for $14

We're not using other term for post-Thanksgiving discounts, partially because I think the Thanksgiving holiday has been playing second fiddle to the pre-Christmas craze for too long.

In honor of Michael's 7 newly discovered Mayflower ancestors, we're offering Casefile Clues Thursday and Friday for $14 for a year of 52 issues. Here's a little about Casefile Clues and here's a little more.

Want a sample? Send an email to samples@casefileclues.com to receive two sample copies.

The Thanksgiving Discount is good through Friday. This post will be pulled after Friday! The discount rate will be called the "Thanksgiving" discount on both days.

Choose the appropriate course of action:

Merging A Saint

Is your ancestor's last name "St. Clair"  or some other phrase starting with the word "Saint?" Is it possible that the "saint" was merged into the rest of the name resulting in Sinclair? Or is it possible your ancestor's middle and last names "merged" into one? Sometimes when I tell people my name is "Michael Neill," they think I am saying "Mike O'Neill." Did something similar happen with your ancestor's name?

24 November 2010

Drop the H?

I'm searching for a man named Harm Habbus for an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues. One suggestion in searching for him was to search for the last name of Abbus. An initial "H" is one of those letters that can get left off a name, depending upon how it is pronounced. Most sites that support Soundex searches do ignore the letter "h," but usually only if it is NOT the first letter. Could your "H" people be hiding without their "H?"

23 November 2010

Widowed or Not?

Marital status as stated in some records needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Back in the day when divorce was scandalous, a person enumerated in a census as "widowed" might actually have been divorced. I never searched for a divorce record for a relative as the husband left the area and the marital status of the wife simply was widowed from that time on. And other times I've seen husbnd and wife listed in the same census year in separate households, both with a "w" in the marital status column.

22 November 2010

Enumerated Twice?

It is always possible that your ancestor is enumerated more than once in a census year. Employment away from home or travel could have resulted in an ancestor showing up in more than one census household. Husbands who were separated from their wives might be listed with their family and again living in an apartment or boarding house nearby.

21 November 2010

What Is a Life Estate?

If a legal document indicates your ancestor has a "life estate" in real estate it means they own it for their life only. They can't sell it and they can't bequeath it either. They have it as long as they have "life."

20 November 2010

Could It Have Triggered a Newspaper Writeup?

Think about the various events in your ancestor's life. People often look for births, marriages, and deaths in the newspaper. Are there other events in their life that might have warranted attention? One ancestor had a special examiner from the VA come to her rural town to interview her and five relatives in 1902. Any chance that might have been mentioned in the "gossip column" that week? Possibly. Think about other non-vital events that might have been written up in the local newspaper.

19 November 2010

A Child's Memory of Partial Details

Is Grandma telling you information about events that took place when she was a child? Sometimes children get things correct and sometimes they don't. This situation can be aggravated if the adults don't really tell the child anything and the child only hears a few details. Sometimes they, without any ill intent, create details to fit what they hear, or they interpret things through a child's eyes, which may not entirely be correct.

If you have children of your own, think about how they misunderstood something once in a while. Then remember: Grandma was a child once, too!

18 November 2010

Getting Confused?

Remember that family members can easily individuals from previous generations confused creating additional confusion for the researcher.

An ancestor's wife's name was Ellen. His sister was Emma. The more I learn about Emma, the more I realize that some of the stories that were told about Ellen were actually about Emma. It is easy to see how one could get the names mixed up, particularly if one had never met either person.

Sometimes the mix up happens when the names are not similar at all. Is it possible what grandma told you about relative A was actually about relative B?

17 November 2010

etal and etux

These Latin abbreviations are found in many courthouse documents, particularly land records and court cases When time is limited and you are looking through indexes to land or court records, pay close attention to cases where these abbreviations are used.

"Etal" means "and others" indicating that your ancestor and other people are selling property, buying property, suing someone, or being sued. "Etux" means "and spouse" and that your ancestor and their spouse are selling, buying, suing, or being sued. Whenever a group of people are involved in a court case or a land record, it has higher potential to provide genealogically relevant information.

Particularly when it is Friday at 3:30 and the courthouse closes at 4:00!

16 November 2010

Fire Insurance Maps

Fire insurance maps may provide you with a different view of where your ancestor lived. Insurance maps are generally available between the late 19th and early 20th century centuries. They may tell you what type of home your ancestor lived in, what it was made how, how many stories it was, etc. The maps showing neighboring homes also gives an idea of the "feel" of the neighborhood. Maps are available for urban areas and small towns as well. The Library of Congress website has more information at http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/trr016.html and searches at Worldcat http://www.worldcat.org/ for "sanborn map yourtown" may locate some references as well.

15 November 2010

Kindle Version of Tip of the Day

Just as a note--Tip of the Day is FREE. The only time it is not is if you choose to get it on your kindle. The free versions will continue to remain free. Thanks and thanks for spreading the news about Genealogy Tip of the Day.

Cousins With the Same Name

In some areas, it's important to remember that the reason there may be several men with the same name of about the same age is that they are all named for their paternal grandfather. If Henry Puffer has four sons and they all name a son Henry and they remain in the area, that's four Henry Puffers to sort out.

14 November 2010

Genealogy Tip of the Day on Kindle

Genealogy Tip of the Day can now come right to you on your kindle.Tip of the Day can be as close as your purse or briefcase. I've been posting a daily genealogy how-to tip for nearly two years. Tips are "created" while I'm doing actual research. They aren't copied and pasted from other sites. Usually they come to mind after a seminar or writing an issue of Casefile Clues.

The link is to the Kindle version is here:

If you want to interact with other Tip of the Day followers/readers/fans, the place for that is still Facebook. If you just want the tips, the Kindle version will just have those. The blog feeds that we're posting to kindle from now on will have no ads, just the tip every day. The good news is that you can see the OLD tips on your Kindle as well. How cool is that?

There may be an occasional extra tip or two thrown in, but what is sent to Kindle (by me) for Tip of the Day will be just the tip.

No ads.
No affiliate links.
No agenda.

Of course, I'd love for Tip of the Day readers to subscribe to Casefile Clues, but there will not be postings about the newsletter in the Kindle feed for Tip of the Day.

This link does take you to Genealogy Tip of the Day on Kindle. Get Tip of the Day where ever your Kindle happens to be.


Is That Adminstrator Really Unrelated?

Your ancestor's estate is being administrated by a man whose name you have never heard of. Any chance he is the son-in-law?

13 November 2010

Switched First and Last Names

When last names can be first names and first names can be last names confusion can result if records and the people providing information are not clear. An aquaintance of my daughter has the last name "Summer." She refers to him as "Summer." It was only after I referred to Summer as "she" that she told me Summer was his last name.

Could mixing up the names be why you cannot find your ancestor in an index or a record?

12 November 2010

Multiple Transcriptions

If the tombstone of great-great-grandpa is difficult to read today, have you searched to see if the cemtery's stones were transcribed 20, 30, or more years ago? Perhaps the stone was much easier to read in 1960 than it is today and perhaps someone transcribed it.

11 November 2010

Draft Registrations for World War 2

USA Only Tip: Records of Selective Service records for men born before 1 January 1960 are available through the National Archives. For more information visit http://www.sss.gov/RECORDS2.HTM. World War II registration for the "Old Men's Draft" are on the FamilySearch site.

10 November 2010

Are The Records Public or Not?

It is important to remember that some records we use in our genealogy research are not public records and may only be available to us through the courtesy of the record holder. Funeral homes, businesses, and churches do not really have to allow genealogists to use their records. Many do, but these groups are different from local or state governments who maintain records. Government records are open, subject to a variety of restrictions.

09 November 2010

You Can't Break Every Brick Wall Online

Some genealogists think if they post their question to enough message boards, websites, mailing lists, etc. someone will discover that magic missing piece. Remember that not every problem can be solved by getting help online. The answer to your problem might lie in a document or record in a courthouse that has never been digitized. Asking for online help is always a good idea, especially when you are unfamiliar with the time period, location, records, etc. But not every problem can be solved by posting online.

08 November 2010

You Are Not Your Great-Grandma

Sometimes we might have an idea of what great-grandma or great-grandpa did in response to a certain event in their lives. Be careful assuming that you know exactly what great-grandma or great-grandpa would have done. Sometimes you may very well be right. Other times you could be wrong and could be creating a brand new brick wall in the process.

07 November 2010

Did the Middle Initial Get Merged?

Is your ancestor's name David P. Able? Is it possible in a record somewhere that he is listed as David Pable?

Depending upon the handwriting, the letters, other factors, a middle initial can sometimes be read as part of the last or even the first name.

Just something to think about.

06 November 2010

Are You Their Only Descendant?

If you are looking for information or ephemera related to your great-great-grandparents, ask yourself: "Am I their ONLY descendant?"

Chances are you are not and any other descendant could have information or materials.

05 November 2010

Is it just a little typo that's confusing you?

Sometimes one letter can make a big difference and move a location across the country. I was typing an address and I intended to type "CA" for California. Instead I typed "VA" and implied Virginia. I corrected the error, but in this case it would have been easy to create confusion.

I could easily see what I meant. Are all "quick errors" this obvious, especially when the error was made 100 years ago?

04 November 2010

Directories Can Fill in Missing Years

If you have urban ancestors (or even not so urban ones), consider using city directories to fill in those off-census years. Directories may list others in the household (particularly if they are old enough to be on their own, but still living at home) and can document moves in off census years. Directories can also help you to find people in the census when the indexes fail.

Always copy the page with the abbreviations too. Otherwise they may really confuse you.

03 November 2010

Read the LIttle Handwriting

Are there two lines squeezed in the bottom of Grandma's marriage record? Is there something written in the margin of the deed book? If the clerk or officer of the court took the time and effort to "squeeze it in," then there's probably a reason for it. It may be a "boring legal reason" or it may be a smoking gun. Even "boring legal reasons" may have significant genealogical consequences. Find out what it says and what it means.

02 November 2010

Is the line down the middle?

My brother lives in a rural area a mile or so from my parents on the same state highway. He lives on the east side of the road. They are on the west. The township line runs right on the road--consequently they live in different townships. Is it possible that your "near neighbor" ancestors live in different townships or counties, etc.? That would impact where certain records are kept and stored. Think about where the lines are located and where your family lived. 

01 November 2010

Secondary Isn't All Bad

Just remember a secondary source isn't necessarily wrong. In 1907 a widow testified as to who the siblings of her husband were. Did she know they were her husband's siblings because she had first hand knowledge of their parentage? No. She had been told who her husband's siblings were. Did she have reason to doubt it? Probably not. Was she wrong. In this case that's not likely. She was suing her husband's family over her inheritance and the chance that one of her husband's siblings was left out is fairly slim.

It's not 100% proof she was right, but any source needs to be kept in context. She's a secondary source of the relationship because she was not present at the births of her husband's siblings. That doesn't mean she's incorrect.