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30 June 2011

They Won't Give It If You Don't Ask

Years ago, I wrote a county in Virginia and asked for the marriage register entry for my ancestors. The county office sent me a copy of their 1798 entry in the marriage register. I didn't ask for anything else and they didn't send anything else.

Imagine my surprise when a relative sent me copies of the corresponding marriage bonds. I asked her where she got them and the reply was the same courthouse where the marriage register copy had been obtained. The difference was that she knew to also ask for the marriage bonds and at that time, I didn't.

Are you asking for everything?

29 June 2011

Not Just That One Little Entry

When copying or scanning an entry from a record, particularly one that is handwritten "free-form" in some type of journal, copy at least the entire page on which the entry appears. Copy a page before and after if possible. It makes it easier to interpret handwriting and the entry later, particularly if the person who wrote the record abbreviated, had difficult to read handwriting, etc.

28 June 2011

No Page Numbers?

Remember that some records, particularly church records, may have no page numbers. Creating a citation for these records can be difficult. Often the best way is to include the name of the village, the type of record (christenings, marriages, funerals, etc.) and the year. Do something--so you or someone else can find the record again if you need to.

27 June 2011

Leave An Audit Trail

I know not everyone uses a research log, but at least try and leave yourself an audit trail or enough breadcrumbs to retrack your research steps. It can be exciting to be finding new information, but to go back later and remember "why" something was obtained or "how" this "new" person fit can be difficult. Type notes, send yourself emails,, but do something to record why you were doing what you were doing as you were doing it. Sometimes the reasons are obvious, but other times they are not.

26 June 2011

Did You Skip the Introduction?

Skipping the introduction to a book, microfilm, or any record can create research problems and make brick walls even worse. Declarations of intent were destroyed in a 19th century fire in Hamilton County, Ohio. They were copied from the damaged originals and those copied records were kept and eventually microfilmed. A cover sheet indicated potential difficulties with the records.

If I had just skipped to the entry I needed, I never would have learned that it was believed that a significant number (never specifically stated) had errors.

And that was something I need to know.

Don't just jump to the index or the page you need. Authors don't just create introductions and prefaces to fill space.

25 June 2011

You Better Browse

Search boxes that allow us to quickly find census and other records have changed the way genealogists locate many records and save time.

However, there is still an advantage to browsing through that census record when one family has been located using an index. Read other names on the same page and adjacent pages. There may be other family members you did not think to look for, or whose names are so mangled they were not located using indexes. Also pay attention to the places of birth for these near neighbors-they may have followed the same path of migration as your ancestor as well.

24 June 2011

What Did It Require?

So you've found your ancestor in a personal property tax list? What was required to be in the tax list? Did the person have to be a certain age, have a certain amount of personal property, etc.? If you don't know the criteria for appearing on the list, you may be interpreting something incorrectly.

23 June 2011

How Are They Filed?

Not every location organizes records in the same way. A marriage index indicated my wife's great-grandparents were married in Burlington, Iowa. I had the date, the location, and their names. I figured with the date it would not be difficult to find their actual marriage record.

When viewing the records on microfilm, I assumed they were filmed in order of license number, or perhaps by date. I looked and they seemed to be in random order.

Then I realized that the records had been sorted by the name of the groom!

22 June 2011

They Really Did Not Know How Old They Were

In reading through Civil War pension applications, the one thing that amazes me is the number of people who really didn't know when they were born. Some people did know their date of birth and gave their age consistently. Others apparently only knew their approximate age.

Is that why Grandpa's age varies from one census record to another?

21 June 2011

Read Something Unrelated to Your Research

Every so often, read an article, blog post, etc. about a family or location completely unrelated to your personal research.

You likely won't find information on your own family. But sometimes reading about something with which you are unfamiliar gets you thinking "outside the box" on your own family and causes inspiration to strike. And sometimes it just gets you out of that rut.

20 June 2011

Look at Family Search Every Few Weeks

Every few weeks take a look at what is on FamilySearch http://www.familysearch.org. New information is being added on a regular basis. We are talking about indexes to actual records and images of actual records here, not compiled genealogies and submitted "trees."

19 June 2011

Were Kids Farmed Out?

Is it possible that some of your ancestor's children were sent to live with neighbors or strangers? That may explain why you cannot find them as children in a census. Your ancestors might not have been able to take care of all fifteen children, or an older relative without children of their own may have needed some extra help around the house or the farm.

18 June 2011

Those Deed Acknowledgements

Make certain when you get a copy of a deed or transcribe a land record that you look at where the deed was acknowledged. Those acknowledgements  might have been done a distance from where the property was located (and where the deed was recorded). If the sellers have moved or are heirs who never lived in the area, those acknowledgements may give a clue as to where they were living at the time the deed was executed.

17 June 2011

Don't Just Show Up

If you are travelling a distance to do research, , do more than just make certain the records office will be open when you are planning to arrive. Find out if there are any days to "avoid" using the facility. Some small courthouses have court on certain days of the week only--these are days to avoid. If you arrive when offices are being remodeled, accessing things may be difficult.

And you may be told to wait to come until "Gertrude comes back from vacation. She knows where everything is."

It's not always possible to schedule a visit perfectly, but sometimes you can maximize the chances you have the best research experience possible.

16 June 2011

Freebies We Have

In answer to several questions, here is a summary of our freebies:

  • Michael's article "Brick Walls from A to Z"--email your request to brickwallsa2z@gmail.com
  • 2 Free issues of Casefile Clues--,my weekly newsletter--email your request to samples@casefileclues.com
  • 1 Free Issue of Casefile Clues for Beginners---our bi-monthly newsletter--email your request to beginner@casefileclues.com

Feel free to spread word of this offer--the direct link is:

Did They Move Constantly?

Don't assume your ancestor moved infrequently. Some people did move rarely and others moved every few years. It might have just been your ancestor's wanderlust that kept him or her moving constantly. Or it could have been the local law, too.

Seriously--a relative of mine whose Civil War pension file I have appears to have moved at least a dozen times between 1850 and 1890. And she very well could have moved a few more that simply were not documented in the file.

15 June 2011

Sample Copy of Casefile Clues-Beginner Version

If you'd like to receive a sample copy of Casefile Clues for Beginners--email me at beginner@casefileclues.com.

Double Check--It May Make a Difference

I just assumed that a genealogist I had known for ages had correctly transcribed a date from a Virginia land record correctly. When I reviewed the record myself the date had been transcribed 10 years incorrectly. In this case, the year made a difference as it was used in part of an estimate of someone's year of death.

We can all easily make mistakes. It pays to check--your own work as well as someone else's. Sometimes mistakes are minor and sometimes they are not.

14 June 2011

Just the Mother

Remember that the only parent who has to be present at the birth of a child is the mother. The dad had to be around earlier, but could easily have been dead or moved on by the time the child was born.

13 June 2011

Did History Move Your Ancestor?

Never assume that your relative was too insignificant to have been effected by historical events. A step-ancestor who was a native of Canada, decided that the American Civil War was the prime time to leave the state of Missouri and return to his native country.

He just went "poof" and the Civil War was the reason why.

12 June 2011

From a Lawyer to a Sawyer in Two Seconds

Is that "S" an "L" or is that "L" an "S?" These two uppercase letters are easy to confuse. And that's why when looking for Sargents I always remember to look for Largents as well.

There are others as well. Could your Feather family be hiding with some Leathers?

11 June 2011

Age of Majority

If your ancestor had a guardian appointed, look at when the guardian was released. It should be a clue as to approximately when the person for whom the guardian was appointed had reached the age of majority--typically 18 for females and 21 for males. A clue as to approximate year of birth.

10 June 2011

The Dead Don't Proof Their Obituaries

Think about who might have written the obituary of Grandma that appeared in the newspaper. Was it a family member with "issues?" Was it someone who wanted certain people left out? Was it someone concerned with being entirely accurate? Unless you were involved first hand in the planning, you might not really know who wrote the obit. And who wrote it makes all the difference.

09 June 2011

Individual Volumes Indexed

I was using an index to land records that covered  the first fifty or so years of the county's land records. One entry was difficult to read. The volume was legible--the page wasn't. Afraid I'd have to go page by page, I viewed the volume and there in the front was an index to just that volume, giving me the actual page number.

The clerk compiled indexes to each volume as they were recorded and years later, a more comprehensive index was created.

08 June 2011

Ask A Local

You can obtain a lot of information via libraries, microfilm, published books, etc. You can get help from people who have never stepped foot near where your ancestor lived.

And sometimes it is extremely helpful to ask a local. They may know about unpublished, local sources that are difficult to access or have other "tricks" up their sleeve based upon years of experience with local families.

07 June 2011

End of Casefile Clues Beginners $7.50 Rate

Effective 8 June 2011, we'll be ending the $7.50 6 month rate for Casefile Clues Beginners. To facilitate bookkeeping, we'll be accepting year-long subscriptions for $17.00.

If you'd like to try Casefile Clues Beginners, subscribe before the change goes into effect.


Delayed Certificates

Make certain the county or record agency does not also have copies of delayed certificates. Sometimes if a certificate was not filed when the event took place, one will be filed later. This is is most commonly done with birth certificates and generally when the person "needed" their birth certificate and realized that they did not have one.

There may be copies of affidavits or statements as a part of the delayed record and these records may be filed separately from the originals. These are usually filed where the birth took place, but there are always exceptions.

06 June 2011

Join Michael at the Allen County Public Library in Ft Wayne

There is still time and room to join me on my annual research trip to the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. We have a great time and work on problem-solving and research while the library is open. 

For more information visit our original blog post at http://blog.casefileclues.com/2010/06/ft-wayne-library-research-trip-11-15.html

Which Part Is Correct?

Even if an entry in a death certificate or other record appears to be incorrect, keep in mind that, on the surface, it can be hard to determine what's right and what's not.

A relative's death certificate listed her "mother's maiden name" as "Mrs. Little." Confusing--and I originally thought that maybe the "mother" had married after the father's death and that "Mrs. Little" was her name at death instead of her maiden name.

Turns out Liddell WAS her maiden name.

And the "Mrs." reference? Who knows. It easily could just have been an error.

05 June 2011

1890 Veterans and Widows Schedule

Don't forget that there was a special 1890 US census enumeration that included Civil War veterans and Civil War veteran's widows. Unfortunately returns for states whose name begins with the letters A-K were mostly destroyed. These have been microfilmed by the National Archives, NARA microfilm M123 and are online at Family Search.

04 June 2011

Coloring the Truth

Remember when reading those widow's pensions, that it was in the widow's interest to make herself, "poor, destitute, and without support."

Statements should always be interpreted with the thought that the claimant might have "shaded" comments to make things go in their favor.

Same thing applies to statements made in divorce records.

03 June 2011

Execution Date, Acknowledgement Date, and Recording Date

A deed may have the date it was signed, the date it was acknowledged, and the date it was recorded. Make certain you indicate which is which. They can be clues in some cases. A husband and wife executed a deed in 1814 in Kentucky and by the time it was acknowledged a month later, the wife is listed as a widow. This allowed me to approximate the date of death for the husband.

02 June 2011

Notary Statements on Deeds

If a family sold a deceased parent's land after the parent died, not all of the children might have lived near where the property was located. They might have been sent copies of deed, told to acknowledge it in front of a local official, and mail back the information. That acknowledgement would have been recorded with the actual deed.

That's how a deed for my ancestor's White County, Indiana, farm in the 1860s told me the counties in Iowa, Illinois, and Louisiana where his children were living.

Don't neglect to read the acknowledgements on a deed--they may hold clues as to where heirs are living.

01 June 2011

Did It Leave the Family?

My aunt was the third wife of her fifth husband. In her Civil War pension application, she mentions having his family bible which included death dates of his wife and others.

I'm wondering what happened to the Bible upon her death. It's very possible it actually went to her family and left her husband's family altogether.

Could this have happened to one of your family items? It might be worth contacting descendants of an ancestor's step-child to see if they have any knowledge of materials of this type.