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31 December 2012

Those Old Employers

To learn more about your ancestor's employer as given in a city directory, search the rest of the city directory as it may include advertisements or list the employer in a list of area businesses. Consider performing a Google search for the name of the business and search local and regional histories as well, many of which have been digitized at Google Books (http://books.google.com) or Archive.org (http://www.archive.org).

30 December 2012

Get It Even If You Think You Know What It Says

Sometimes researchers don't get specific records because they "know what the record will say." Sometimes the record may say exactly what you think it will. And other times it will say something completely different. While it may not always be inexpensive, if you have a "brick wall" ancestor, make certain you have not avoided getting records because "you know what they will say."

Something unexpected in those records may answer your question.

29 December 2012

Don't Rely On Memory

We've mentioned it before, but another reminder does not hurt:

"Don't rely on memory when sending emails about ancestral problems, writing blog posts, or creating entries in your genealogical database."

You may end up creating more problems by inadvertantly saying something that is incorrect and having that something get passed on, and on, and on.

28 December 2012

Do You Have the Wrong Name? And Proofread!

Did you relative get the wrong name in their head? I wrote a complete blog post about a man named Joseph Watson, only to refer to him as James Watson almost every time I used his name. Is it possible that your ancestor simply referred to the wrong person when giving information?

And proofread what you write--more than once. It's possible that you made a mistake as well--and those accidental, "got it in my head wrong" mistakes sometimes come back to haunt you.

27 December 2012

Look After You Think You Should

Stopping because you have located one record is never a good idea. By keeping on going, I discovered that an ancestor was divorced from the same man not once, but twice. By keeping on going, I also discovered that another relative's first marriage "didn't happen" and they were actually married two years later. Combine these unusual circumstances with the occasional record that gets entered or indexed late and you have even more reason to look for entries or documents "after you think you should."

Will They Tell More As They Get Older?

While some relatives take their family history stories to their grave, others become more willing to tell stories as they age.

The reasons do not matter, but remain open to the possibility that Aunt Martha may eventually decide that the world will not end if she tells you that "family secret."

Or course some people are not going to tell you things no matter what.

But some do become more open with age. It may be worth a try.

26 December 2012

Did They Ever Use Their "Real" Name?

My great-grandmother was born Frances Iona Rampley. There is only one record on her that uses that name: her birth certificate. Her marriage record, mortgages she signed, her social security death index entry, 1900-1940 census enumerations, court documents, estate papers, tombstone, etc. all list her as Fannie.

Your ancestor may never have used their "real" name. And if they never used their "real name" was that their real name? In the case of my great-grandmother, I list her as Fannie and in my notes indicate what her record of birth says.

25 December 2012

Stories of the Mementos

Before you put away those holiday decorations, consider taking pictures of the ones with sentimental value and recording the stories along with the pictures.

Record the stories during the holiday season while the stories are fresh in your mind. Putting the decorations away can wait a little while.

24 December 2012

Do the Math

This was a comment posted by one of our Facebook fans, but it makes for an excellent tip of the day.

Do the dates "fit?" Can the parent be having children at that age? Are they too old? Are they too young?

Are the parents dying before the children are born? A father can die 6 months before the child is born, but a mother dying 6 years before the child is born is not possible.

Genealogy isn't connecting the dots (well, most of the time), but often it is about the numbers. 

23 December 2012

Happy Holidays from Genealogy Tip of the Day

Merry Christmas, Season's Greetings, and Happy Holidays from Genealogy Tip of the Day.

We'll be running around doing typical holiday stuff, but daily tips will still come your way like always courtesy of the scheduling feature. We may be delayed in approving comments and answering emails, but we will get to them.

Thanks for all the support, suggestions, and interaction we've had this year. It's been fun.


From the Angle of the Clerk

If you are stuck trying to find a document or a record or are having difficulty in interpreting something a clerk has written in a document or in a record, remember the perspective of the clerk. The clerk may not have understood what your ancestor said, may have been poorly educated himself and cared little about the accuracy of the records he left behind.

Or the clerk may have been very concerned about the accuracy and reliability of his records and your ancestor may have been vague in his answers, less than honest, or generally grumpy and unwilling to provide information.

22 December 2012

Get Beyond the Index

Whether you have looked in the index or performed full-text searches, consider actually reading the county history for the location where your ancestor lived. If the entire book is too much, consider at least reading those parts discussing the area of the county where your ancestor lived. There might be clues--indirect ones, but clues.

21 December 2012

Perhaps They Did Not Really Know

It is possible that a relative knew nothing about their grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. Depending upon how closely they lived to where those relatives lived and how emotionally connected their parent was to their own family, a person may have little knowledge of their relatives.

And no matter how often you ask, it won't change that.

It doesn't mean you don't look for clues, but remember that sometimes people really do know nothing about their mother or father's family. This is particularly true if their mother or father had some reason for not wanting them to know.

There may be little clues--so keep looking.

20 December 2012

Our Sponsor--Genealogy Bank

Genealogy Tip of the Day is sponsored by GenealogyBank. GenealogyBank offers a variety of digital images and databases by subscription, including the following:

Consider giving GenealogyBank a try and thanks to them for sponsoring us!

Did They Really Meet On the Boat?

The story makes for a romantic one but, like many family legends, the reality may be somewhat different.

A couple may not really have met for the first time on the boat. They may never have met on the boat at all. The future husband may have immigrated as a single man and then sent word back home that he had settled and was ready to marry.

Story was my great-great-grandparents met "on the boat," having been from different villages. They were born in different villages, but there's more to it than that. The future bride's family had moved to the small village where the groom was living about ten years before the couple married.

They knew of each other before they ever crossed the pond.

19 December 2012

I've Got Three--It Must Be

Some researchers will "believe" something when they have three sources that provide the same piece of information. One has to be careful using this approach. Sources may all contain information from the same person or "original source," which does not really mean that three "sources" agree. It could only mean that the same person gave the information three times.

And there is always the chance that the second two "sources" got their information from the first.

Think about who provided the information, why it is in the record, and how reasonably the informant would have known the information. That's a good way to get started with information analysis.

18 December 2012

They May Know

Your relative may know more about deceased family members than they are willing to tell you. And they may never tell you everything you know, no matter how much you wish they would or how many times you ask. For reasons that are entirely too long for a "short tip," I know my own grandmother knew more about her grandfather than she ever told me, including the fact that he had a second wife. Yet my queries about him always received a "don't know anything response."

Sometimes that is all you are going to get and sometimes you have to let it go to preserve relationships with your living relatives.

17 December 2012

December-January Webinar Schedule

We have announced our December-January webinar schedule. Intro rate for early enrollees. Details and schedule can be viewed here.

Was It A Workaround?

In his early 19th century will, a Maryland ancestor appears to disinherit a daughter when he leaves everything to her two children and appoints a guardian for them.

The man writing the will might have not so much been disinheriting the daughter as he was avoiding a son-in-law. In the very early 1800s, when this will was written, a man would be able to exercise control over real property that his wife inherited. By leaving the real estate to his daughter's children, and appointing a guardian, the testator was providing for the children while circumventing the son-in-law.

And you thought that only people today who had to use creative ways to get around things. 

16 December 2012

Can't Find Your 1850 Ancestor in 1840?

If you cannot find your 1850 ancestor in the 1840 census--and you are certain he's heading his own household--consider searching for his 1850 neighbors in 1840. Then look at their neighbors in 1840. There is a chance your ancestor is near at least one of his 1850 neighbors in 1840. A chance--not a guarantee.

15 December 2012

One Word Makes A Difference

The omission of one word can mildly confuse or significantly alter the meaning of a document, record, or statement.

We discovered this in the original version of today's actual "tip," where the word "States" was left out in the phrase "United States census."

Make certain you are not leaving out words that matter and consider that a confusing document might be confusing because a word was left out of it.

"Pa" Might Not Mean Pennsylvania or Dad

In a United States census enumerations, the abbreviation "Pa" on citizenship status means that "first papers" have been filed. Those first papers usually include the declaration of intent and if recent enough may reference actual passenger list information. And filing first papers does not guarantee the person actually completed the process and became naturalized.

Was That a Contemporary Stone?

Take a look at that stone for your ancestors who died in the 1840s. Does it look like it is made of the same material as other stones from that time, or does it have the look of stones from the early 1900s or even the look of stones from the late 20th century?

The stone may not be the original. A picture would obviously be a great to provide evidence of this. but if that is not possible make a note in your files that you do not think the stone is the original.

Stones made near the time of death can have errors. Ones carved a hundred later can as well.

14 December 2012

Those Three Letters

Make certain you've looked at every part of a marriage record. In some locations there are registers, licenses, applications, etc. Any of these could refer to the bride as "Mrs."

And that's a clue.

13 December 2012

60% Off Webinar Sale

Give yourself the gift of genealogical education this holiday season!

Grow your genealogy research skills with one of our over 30 genealogy webinars--immediately downloadable. 

 Coupon code "sixty" at check out will reduce your order by 60%. Downloads are immediate. Our rates are the best in the business. 

Check out our list of over 30 presentations here:
You can view the presentations at your convenience after they have been downloaded. It is not necessary to view them immediately and you can view them as many times as you want.

Where Did You Get That Guess?

It is recommended that you not "guess" about information you put in your genealogical files, especially in terms of where/when someone was born, died, or married.

However, people will still do it.

If you must guess, at least indicate in your "source" for that guess why you guessed what you did. It's one thing to put in guesses and leave a reason. It is another to enter in guesses with absolutely no reason at all. The first may be reasonable speculation, the second is myth.  There is enough myth floating around already without creating more.

12 December 2012

Our Sponsor

The Genealogy Tip of the Day is sponsored by GenealogyBank. GenealogyBank offers a variety of digital images and databases by subscription, including the following:

Consider giving GenealogyBank a try and thanks to them for sponsoring us!

Did They Change the Spelling?

It's always possible that your ancestor altered the spelling of his name. Name spellings, especially before the twentieth century, were not always consistent, and your ancestor might not have even been literate. Don't get too tied to the "correct" spelling because chances are your ancestor did not care about spelling as much as you do.

11 December 2012

The Month of Messidor

The month of Messidor was one of the months in the French Republican calendar which was used in France and areas controlled by France from  from 24 October 1793 to 31 December 1805. The year consisted of twelve months of thirty days each. To learn more about the calendar visit this page on the Family History website

10 December 2012

The Common Nature of the Name

Do not always assume that individuals with the same last name "have" to be related. It could simply be that the last name is more common in that local area than you know.

09 December 2012

Take A Number--And Use It

When reviewing a document, have you used every number in the document as a clue? Specific dates and ages can be used to help determine a chronology or calculate approximately when an event happened. Acreages can be helpful in using land records, house numbers can be useful in determining addresses. Make certain you've analyzed every number for any clue it may contain.

08 December 2012

What is Germane

Remember that in any court case, the court is only interested in details that are necessary to render a fair and just verdict in the case being heard. There might be details that a genealogist would like to know, but the court is not concerned with leaving behind detailed genealogical information.

That said, court cases where genealogical information is important, those involving inheritances and property rights of heirs, are of paramount use to the family history researcher.

07 December 2012

List all Those Variants

An effective tool for searching online databases and indexes is to have a list of all the spelling variants for your name of interest. If the list is only "in your head," it is easy to occasionally overlook an alternate spelling.

06 December 2012

Unwritten Place Names

Are you using place names to describe where an ancestor was born, died, or was buried, that are not listed in any gazetteer? Make certain that you also include a more reference (eg. GPS coordinates) to assist others in finding the location.

On a recent trip to visit my parents, I had to take my brother lunch where he was discing--"on the McNally place, you know past his forty, which is past McGaughey's and turn south." Of course those names would be on local plat books and other records, but often those descriptions are only in people's gray matter.

Don't make that mistake. Clearly identify locations.

05 December 2012

The Importance of Where

Citations are not stressed in genealogy because some retired English teacher needed something to do. There's a reason. Not all versions of a record are created equally and knowing the site you used to find something, even a digital image, can help you (or someone else) analyze it later. One website may have only posted selected images (as HeritageQuest Online did for Revolutionary War pensions) or accidentally "cut off" parts of images that were posted.

Some books of extracts and abstracts may have only included "selected documents."

Clearly indicating from where something was obtained lets you (or someone else) know the version that was used. Then later it's easier to decide if more work needs to be done.

And it is ok if your citation does not fit the "form" perfectly, just have all the key ingredients. There's always time to put the citation in proper form later, but you can't do that if you don't track where things come from.

Anyone Can Appear in a Newspaper

Don't assume your ancestor would not be in a paper, because "our family didn't warrant any mention." You never know when your ancestor might have been in an organization that caused him to get mentioned, got into legal trouble, received a pension, or any of a number of things that might have caused his name to appear in print.

He might have even written a letter encouraging his fellow farmers to grow more winter wheat as the United States approached the first World War.

04 December 2012

Obituaries Providing Half the Story

Obituaries and death notices, particularly more recent ones, may not mention previous spouses or the factthat children of the deceased are not full siblings. Be careful before concluding that the children listed in an obituary share the same set of both parents.

03 December 2012

Are They Really Your People?

Review all the materials you have on "your" ancestor. Are you certain all those references to "your" ancestor are actually "your" ancestor? How would your conclusions change if one of those references actually was not  to your ancestor?

02 December 2012

Search Google Books for Them All

Search Google Books (http://books.google.com) for every ancestor or relative. You never know who might appear in a printed reference. Sometimes the most unexpected names appear in print.

01 December 2012

Our Sponsor--Genealogy Bank

The Genealogy Tip of the Day is sponsored by GenealogyBank. GenealogyBank offers a variety of digital images and databases by subscription, including the following:

Consider giving GenealogyBank a try and thanks to them for sponsoring us!

Anyone Know Where He Condensed?

Your great-grandfather disappeared in the 1920s. Descendants "know nothing" and searches in the area are unsuccessful. Consider tracing the great-grandfather's sibling and his aunts and uncles and their descendants to see if any of those individuals know where your great-grandfather "condensed." Sometimes more distant family members know more than a person thinks.

30 November 2012

Does It Exist?

It is easy to search without looking to see if the record even exists.

Ancestry.com "let" me search the 1810 census for a man who should have been living in Ohio. Problem is that most of the 1810 census for Ohio was destroyed in the War of 1812. If I never get past the search box, I don't realize that.

Are you making certain it really exists before you click "search?"

29 November 2012

US County Boundary Changes and Animations

If you need maps of county boundary changes, complete with animations, try this site hosted by Chicago's Newberry Library.


Can't Find Grandpa Before 1850 In the US?

If you can't find an ancestor who should be a head of household in a pre-1850 United States census, consider that he could be living with someone else and not listed by name.

I was looking for an older ancestor in 1840. Then it dawned on me that, given his age in 1840, he might have been living with one of his children. The ancestor would not have been head of household and would be "hidden" in one of those tally marks.

28 November 2012

Organizing Genealogy Information-January 2013

I was asked to give people a little advance notice about our next offering of "Organizing Your Genealogical Information."

Our next series of classes and follow up sessions will begin in January 2013. More details are here.

Different Relatives--Different Versions?

Don't stop with asking one relative about the family. Ask as many as possible. Even siblings close in age may remember different aspects of Grandpa's life or have a different perspective. Exhaustive searches should apply to people as well as paper materials.

27 November 2012

The Descendants of Your Brick

Chances are you are not the only descendant of your "brick wall" ancestor. Have you attempted to locate as many descendants of your "brick wall" ancestor as possible? Others may have researched him, have additional information, or even have apparently meaningless clues that, when combined with your apparently meaningless clues actually mean something.

26 November 2012

First Cousins?

Have you done Google and other searches to see if others are researching first (and more distantly related) cousins of some of your "lost" family members? This may be a good way to connect with others and researchers of these families may not "know enough" to have names that they can post on earlier generations.

25 November 2012

Was the Person Just Confused?

A relative giving information for a record could easily get similar (or not so similar) names confused.

Any chance a relative got the names John and Tom confused? These are not the same names, are not derived from the same name, but a mixup could easily take place.

This is more likely the case if a minority of documents give a name that does not appear anywhere else.

Female Ancestor Webinar--$4 Special

Half of our ancestors are female and yet researching them adequately (or even not so adequately) often takes more than half of our time.

 This webinar presents some suggestions for tracking the ladies in your family tree along with pitfalls and a discussion of why researching females is different. Presentation is made through examples and specific situations which explain methodology clearly and succinctly. Researching female ancestors is not difficult, but does require the researcher to get outside of techniques that may emphasize male ancestors.

This presentation is geared towards advanced beginners or intermediate researchers. True beginners might find it valuable as well--if only to make them aware that there is hope.

You can order the download of "Female Ancestors" today for $4--using the link below. Download links will be sent as separate emails.

If the link does not work, email me directly at mjnrootdig@gmail.com for order processing.

24 November 2012

Share Genealogy Tip of the Day With Your Friends

Please let your genealogy friends know about "Genealogy Tip of the Day."

Old tips are on our blog at: http://genealogytipoftheday.blogspot.com.

Tips can be received in your email daily by subscribing on the link on the right hand side of our blog.

Our Fan Page on Facebook usually has additional conversation and tips: https://www.facebook.com/genealogytip


Do You Estimate Dates?

Estimate dates of events when possible, and include your reason for the estimation. When researching a family in Michigan in the 1860 census, looking at the ages of the children told me that the couple was probably married after 1850--meaning they were probably not in their own household at that point in time.

Is it evidence that they were not married in 1850? No, but it gives me some guidance when researching.

It's not proof either, but that's another tip (grin!).

23 November 2012

Not Directly Connected

The individuals that may help you track your ancestor may not always be direct ones. In trying to research on relative who moved from Canada to Michigan in the 1840s, the easiest person in the group to track (because  of his name) was the father-in-law of the ancestor's brother who also moved with the brothers. 

The best way sometimes to extend your direct line is to get away from your direct line.

22 November 2012

Make Your List

When you are including information about yourself in your genealogical information, consider including a list of things for which you are thankful. Remember that one day, you too will be a deceased relative, and leaving behind something about yourself is just as important as leaving behind information about other dead people. Someone in a hundred years may treasure your list of things that mattered most to you.

Think about it.

And then think about a way to preserve it beyond your lifetime.

21 November 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Here is wishing a "Happy Thanksgiving" to our readers regardless of their location. Don't neglect your living relatives while searching for the deceased ones.

When you need a break from your holiday activities, check out some of the blogs and posts:

Funeral Home Records

Have you considered contacting the funeral home who handled your ancestor's funeral to see if they have information that could aid you in your search?

Remember that these records are private business records with the funeral home does not have to share with you--be extra polite and considerate.

There may be additional information that was not in the obituary, details about who paid the funeral bill, who else was buried in the set of graves as your ancestor, etc.

Or there may be no records at all.

20 November 2012

Who Hitched Them?

If you know the siblings of your ancestor, have you looked at who performed the marriages for all of those siblings? There may be clues in those names to the church affiliation or denomination of your ancestor.

Unless they were all married by a justice of the peace.

19 November 2012

Are Minor Historical Events Necessary?

One never knows when a date may crucial to your research. In analyzing a claim for a personal horse that was requisitioned by the United States military in the War of 1812, I noticed that the date of the requisition was the same date on which the commanding officer of the unit was dismissed and the day after the unit was involved in a controversial burning of a village.


Maybe or maybe not. But if I had never researched the unit and looked carefully at the dates, I never would have noticed.

18 November 2012

Non-Population Census Records

The United States took federal census records other than those counting the population. These non-population census schedules that mention individual names include the following schedules for the following years:

  • Agricultural: 1850-1880
  • Defective,Dependent, and Delinquent: 1880
  • Industrial: 1850-1870
  • Manufactures: 1820, 1850-1880
  • Mortality: 1850-1880
Most were not retained by the federal government and were given to state agencies willing to maintain them. Some have been microfilmed, some are available online, and some are only available in their original paper format. Your search should begin with the state archives for the state where the person of interest lived.

17 November 2012

Search for Everyone On That Document?

If you have an 1856 marriage record for an ancestor, have you searched for everyone listed on the document in the 1850 and 1860 census, including the minister, any witnesses, etc.? Learning a little more about those individuals could help you with the actual ancestor.

16 November 2012

Using Color

When you create charts and forms for your own personal use, do you use color as a means to organize the information? In their informal notes or reports, some people color their assumptions, references to a certain ancestor, or other key details. Use of color helps to make certain things stand out.

And noticing things is what information analysis is all about.

15 November 2012

Pre-Black Friday Holiday Specials

We're a little bit ahead this year to get you ahead in your genealogy research.
We're going to be doing other things over the next few weeks, so our "Black Friday" specials are coming early.
Purchase any one(1) of the following starred (*) items by 6 p.m. Central Time on 16 November and we'll give you a free code to download two of our genealogy webinars.
*124 Issues of Casefile Clues for $30
Grow your genealogy research skills over the holiday season.
Not only do we include complete, accurate citations we also discuss ideas of where to go next. We also focus on setting goals and keeping on task.
You can download samples following the link on this page:
A complete list of all topics (and order links) can be found here:
*Subscribe to Casefile Clues for $11
You can subscribe to 52 issues of Casefile Clues for only $11--use this link to process your order.
*Short Course--Constructing Database Searches
Increase your genealogy database searching skills with our short course this December--homework is optional
When you order is processed, we'll contact you about free webinars. You'll need a special code for those downloads.
If these links are not working in your email, visit this webpage:
Happy Thanksgiving a little early from us!

Clues on the Wrapper?

Do you always read the outside and inside of those "packet wrappers" used to enclose loose court papers, estate papers, etc.? Sometimes there may be a phrase or annotation on the wrapper itself that is a clue.

And of course, whether it is an important clue, depends on the situation.

But, have you looked?

14 November 2012

Our Sponsor GenealogyBank

The Daily Genealogy Transcriber is sponsored by GenealogyBank. GenealogyBank offers a variety of digital images and databases by subscription, including the following:

Consider giving GenealogyBank a try and thanks to them for sponsoring us!

Old Versions Might Be Different

Sometimes we tend to favor the most recent set of transcriptions of a set of documents, tombstones, etc.

Be aware that an earlier transcription of original records could have been done when the documents were easier to read or by someone more familiar with the local names and families. A transcription of tombstones done in the 1930s might have included stones that today are totally gone.

Those "old" transcriptions may be just what you need.

13 November 2012

Extra Pages at "The End?"

In looking at print material, do you make certain there is not some sort of addendum stuck at the end of the book? A book of marriage bond transcriptions I recently used had two pages of "missed" entries that were added after the book was typed. These pages were not included in the index either.

And microfilmed church and other records may have extraneous material filmed after the book or actual records were filmed. And sometimes the pastor might insert something extra at the end just because he felt like it.

12 November 2012

Are Alumni Newsletters Holding Clues?

If your missing ancestor went to or attended college are there clues about their life hiding in college alumni newsletters? Alumni offices, university archives, or other facilities may have these periodicals which may provide clues about your relative after they left the college or university.

11 November 2012

End of Free Brick Wall Webinar Give-A-Way

Off and on for the past year, we've offered free downloads of the first and second installments in my "Brick Walls from A to Z" series. We're turning those coupons off as of 9:00 AM on 12 November. You don't have to play them immediately, but the download does need to take place by that time.

So if you've been waiting or have missed the offer before--now is your chance!


I Already Knew That

Share your discoveries with relatives as the discoveries are made. While it can be frustrating for someone to tell you "yeah, I already knew that," sometimes just the mentioning of the discovery can trigger other memories.

10 November 2012

In One Place Only

There are still records that exist only in their original form. They have not been transcribed. They have not been microfilmed. They have not been digitized.

Local records frequently fall into this category of being available "only in the original location," but there are others as well. While it is realized that not everyone can travel to remote places to perform research, at least be aware that there may be more material out there.

09 November 2012

Might Does Not Make Right

Just because duplicate sources agree does not mean that they are correct. My great-aunt has two tombstones--both indicate a year of birth of 1920.

Local records in the area where she was born indicate a year of birth of 1910, which is also consistent with her military and all census records.

08 November 2012

Names Switched?

My great-aunt is buried in Idaho. She has two tombstones--one a military one and other a joint stone with her husband.

The dates of birth and death are the same--born in 1910 and died in 1990.

One has her name as Anna M. Hutchison and the other has her name as Margaret M. Hutchison.

Never hurts to change those first and middle names around when performing searches.

And the stones should be transcribed they way they are inscribed. Commentary about what is "correct" can be made elsewhere.

It's All Homemade Here

[I'm posting this notice on all my blogs--please forgive the cross posting as I rarely duplicate in this fashion.]

All the content on this blog has been created by me.  Errors, typos, and all.

I don't copy other people's content--it's illegal,  it's immoral, and it's against the law. Copying content from others devalues their work and  limits the ability of the creator of  a work to earn what they can from that work. Typically those who blatantly violate the copyright of others are simply too lazy or too incompetent to create their own work. Of course people of that ilk usually don't care about the person from whom they are copying.

Using the material of others as your own is not flattery-it's theft. If you want to flatter the author, write them a nice note.

I work diligently to create my own content and honor the copyright of others because it is the right thing to do. I know that there are many others out there in "genealogyland" who also work hard to create their own unique content.

They deserve our respect and consideration. Creating original content is not always easy. Some of us might not always agree with each other, but we realize that if someone violates one of us in this fashion, they could just as easily violate all of us.

This blog is all homemade, warts and all. And we like it that way--and we thank you for your support!

07 November 2012

Constructing Database Searches: A Short Course

Constructing Database Searches: A Short Course

This three-session course will meet on three Saturdays in December of 2012. For more details visit our announcement page.

Die Near the Cemetery?

A burial location is a burial location, not a death location. In most cases, people do die near to where they are buried, but not always. The more recent the death, the easier it could have been to transport the body. In 1850 most people were buried near to where they died. In 2012, they could easily have not been. 

Don't assume a person died in the state in which they are buried.

06 November 2012

Provenance versus Providence

You may think divine providence caused you to obtain that picture of great-grandma or that family bible, but provenance is what we usually call the "chain of ownership" for a family relic or document.

The provenance of a family heirloom shows how it came to us. It's important to track as much of the provenance of an item as we can in order to know what we have is really what we think it is. The provenance for item indicates we know who the previous owners were and how we came to acquire the item ourselves.

After all, is that great-grandpa's hayhook, or did you just pick it up a farm sale?

05 November 2012

Incorrect Initials Only

When searching for those elusive ancestors in databases, indexes, and other finding aids, remember that the person may be only listed with their initials. If the initials are difficult to read, the letters in the index may not even be "close" to the correct ones.

04 November 2012

What Happened During the Gap?

I have a twenty year gap when I "lose" an ancestor. The only things I am certain of are that I cannot find him and that he moved during the period between 1850 and 1870. One approach that might be helpful is to learn about historical events that were going on during this time period and what have cause him to move. Were new territories opening up during this time? Did the Civil War impact his life?

Think about those "gaps" you have in your ancestor's life? Then get beyond your ancestor and ask yourself "what was going on outside my ancestor's life during this time period that might have caused him to move?"

03 November 2012

Crossing Pond Part 2 Webinar Released

I just finished giving and recording my "Crossing the Pond Part 2" webinar. 

This presentation discusses several United States passenger list entries from 1850-1910 with an interpretation and analysis of them, discussion of how to maneuver through the manifest images at Ancestry.com, using and finding the National Archives finding aids for these materials, searching for them on Archive.org (when available), and more.

Presented in a down-to-earth fashion, this presentation provides ideas and suggestions for using United States passenger lists during this time period. This presentation does not focus on how to search the indexes, but assumes that those searches have already been conducted. 

This presentation can be ordered at our introductory rate of $4 via this link.

A complete list of genealogical webinars is here:

If you registered for this presentation and did not receive the link for a recording, please email me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com


How Did It Get To You?

Do you think about how a picture or other item came into your possession? Did the person who gave you the image really know who it was? How was the picture or other item identified? Just because someone on the internet said it was a picture of your great-great-grandpa does not necessarily mean that it was.

Most of the time things things are right, but occasionally errors are made. At least give a moment's thought to the possibility that the picture might be labelled incorrectly.

02 November 2012

Are You Looking At Their Luggage?

In passenger manifests into the United States during the 19th century, there are often notations about the luggage of those listed on the manifest. There are not always details about luggage, but some lists will indicate how many cases or bags a person has. Sometimes if one looks carefully, ditto marks may indicate a "group" of people having the same number of items. That could be a potential clue that people are travelling together and may have some connection.

It could be a clue.

01 November 2012

Organizing Genealogical Information-A Short Course

In early November, we're offering a short course on organizing genealogical information--virtually. For more details, visit our complete post here.

Are Your Gaps Filled?

When you organize the information you have on an ancestor are there gaps in the timeline where you have no records? Make certain there's not something you have overlooked. Something in those intervening years could answer other questions or open up entire research avenues.

Are there significant gaps in the years of birth for the children of an ancestor? It could be that children died at birth or there were miscarriages. It could also be that the ancestor did not have just one spouse and was unmarried for a time.

It's not possible to fill in or explain every gap, but acknowledging you have them is a start. And we all have them--at least a few.

31 October 2012

Leases Typically Are Not Recorded

If your farming ancestor leased property instead of owning it, there likely are no records of those leases. These documents are not like deeds that are typically recorded. County directories may indicate that your ancestor rented property and may indicate the actual owner. Census records (if they are recent enough) may indicate the property was rented as well.

30 October 2012

Try and Do It Right

We don't try and "do" genealogy accurately because it is a game to see who is the most accurate and to see who can "judge" another's work. We try our best to be as accurate as we can be in order to reach the most accurate picture of our ancestors as possible.  Often as we learn new information our picture of our ancestor changes--at least slightly. When we do shoddy work and research by grabbing whatever we can without analyzing it, we can indicate great-great-grandpa had wives he did not have, lived in places he did not live, and lived a lifestyle he never would have lived.

Sure, it takes longer to be as accurate as we can be. And all of us will make mistakes--beginners and experienced researchers alike.  But do you want your descendant to merge your life with that of your cousin of the same name whom you cannot stand? Do you want your descendant to create a picture of you that is completely and totally inaccurate?

Our ancestors deserve that option as well.

29 October 2012

City Directories May Be More Than Names

City directories usually contain alphabetical list of residents. They may also contain "reverse directories" (where names are sorted by address), directories based upon occupation, lists of churches, and other information. Don't just search the directory and, having found one reference to your ancestor, stop looking. There may be more information than just that one listing.

28 October 2012

Do Your Descendants Have Ancestors?

Of course your descendants have ancestors--you are one of them.

These are two words that frequently are used incorrectly, at least in the technical sense. Your ancestors are those people from whom you actually descend. These include your parents, grandparents, and their parents, grandparents, etc. Uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. aren't technically considered your ancestors. Uncles and aunts, are your relatives, but there's a distinction between an ancestor and a relative.

Descendants are your children, grandchildren, etc.

Everyone has ancestors.Not everyone has descendants (and that's just fine if people don't).

Sometimes writers use ancestors more generically to refer to all those who have come before. That's ok for them, but usually genealogists prefer to be more precise. There's enough confusion in records as    it is.

27 October 2012

Did They Cross a Threshold?

Age is an important thing. If your ancestor was not of legal age, he or she could not sign legal documents in his own name. Did a family wait until the youngest child was "of age" to settle up an estate?

Is the reason an ancestor waited to apply for military or widow's pension because they were not old enough or because the law changed, finally making them eligible?

There are age restrictions and other "qualifications" for a variety of things today. It's possible your ancestor had to "wait" until he or she qualified for something as well.

26 October 2012

Read the Whole Census Page

Do your eyes only scroll to the "name you're really looking for" on a census page? Do you not really think about the names of the neighbors? It's always a good idea to read the page your relative is on and at least a few pages before and a few pages afterwards-in case there are relatives nearby.

A relative married his second wife in the early 1860s. I didn't know much about her--until I reviewed her 1910 census entry when she had moved with her second husband to another state. There, next door, were two widowed brothers with a last name that was her maiden name.

Research is in progress, but if they are not related to her it is a huge coincidence!

25 October 2012

Jasper Newton's Not One Person

Have you encountered an ancestor named Jasper Newton Smith, Jasper Newton Lake, Jasper Newton Jones in your research? Chances are that ancestor was named for not one, but two, American Revolutionary War heroes. This link has more information for those who have encountered Jasper Newton in their own research.

Never assume that an "unusual" name means your ancestor was actually related to the person with that name.

24 October 2012

Voter's Records?

Have you searched for voter's registration records on your ancestor? They may not provide extensive family details, but they may give residence and will indicate citizenship status.

23 October 2012

Sixty Percent Webinar Sale On Today-Wednesday

Our 60% genealogy webinar sale is back on--save 60% off on our already low-price of $8.50 per presentation.
Our topics include:
Sections, Townships, Base Lines, and More--Legal Property Descriptions
Charts, Charts, and More Charts
Creating Research Plans
Female Ancestors
Probate Process
Did Your Ancestor Get A Civil War Pension?
What Is Not Written
Crossing The Pond
Preparing for Mother's Death
The Genealogical Proof Standard

and much, much more.

This 60% discount makes our presentations the most affordable in the industry. 

Our presentations are informal, down-to-earth, and practical. The only agenda we have is helping you with your research. 

Coupon code "sixty" at check out will reduce your order by 60%. Downloads are immediate. Sale ends at 11:59 PM (Central time)  24 October 2012. Don't wait--your ancestors are not getting any younger. 

Orders can be processed here:



A Witness is..

A witness to a document typically is only indicating that they know who signed the document in question. A witness has to be of legal age and sound mind, but does not have to have any relationship to the person actually making out the document.

Don't draw too many conclusions about a person who only witnesses one of your ancestor's documents. The witness just might have been another warm body in the office the same time as your ancestor.

22 October 2012

Do You Have Contemporary Maps?

Is there a region (county, state, etc.) where you are researching and you don't have any contemporary map of the area? Even a modern map is better than nothing.

Researching in an area without understanding the geography is asking to be confused.

21 October 2012

Not Everyone Naturalized

Most immigrants to the United States did naturalize after they had been in the United States for some time. Some never naturalized, which would explain the lack of a naturalization record. Some naturalized before 1906 when any court of record could naturalize and if you don't know where your ancestor resided for every moment of his life, you might not locate the record. And others may have thought they were naturalized by their father's naturalization and that they did not need to naturalize themselves.

Keep in mind that especially before the 1920s, naturalization laws were confusing to many. One of those confused might have been your ancestor.

20 October 2012

Estates May Take Time

It may take years for the estate of your ancestor to have been completely settled. As a result, the probate file for your ancestor who died in 1840 may be filed with those cases settled in the 1860s.

19 October 2012

Do You Research Willy-Nilly?

Do you plan your research and decide what to do and how to do it before you it? Or do you just start typing things in search boxes and hoping? Do you randomly look for families in various records, hoping something comes up as the result?

While there is nothing wrong with hope, a little organization of your search can save you from frustration later and allow you to better trouble-shoot unsuccessful searches.

And do you have any research goals?

What Are You Searching on FamilySearch? Webinar

We've just released the media file for my latest webinar which focuses on knowing what you are searching on FamilySearch.

If you are confused by states that have multiple indexes to the "same" set of vital records, why a marriage entry appears multiple times in an index, or how to see what was used to create the index, then this webinar is for you.

We focus on American sources, but the methods will apply to other locations as well. This presentation is not for complete beginners--some research experience is necessary.

You can download the media for only $4 during our introductory price offer. A PayPal account is not necessary, you can "click through" and when time for payment comes, click as a "guest" and use your non-PayPal credit card.

18 October 2012

Start Local

When trying to obtain a copy of a vital record, begin searching at the local level first (town, county, etc.), then try the state records office. Avoiding search firms that advertise for "immediate" delivery will be easier on your pocketbook. Determine if any records are available online or on microfilm via FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org).

Chances are you do not need the death certificate tomorrow, via overnight mail. Don't pay for services you do not need.

17 October 2012

Checked Out Family Search Lately?

When was the last time you visited the FamilySearch site to see if there were scanned images of local records in areas where you have family?

Even if you ignore the "compiled trees," (which isn't a bad idea), there are still many, many actual images of records on the site--all free.

16 October 2012

Ignoring the Rules?

Sometimes ancestors might appear in records where they are "not supposed to."

Recently while using draft registration cards for men in Georgia born between 1 July 1924 and 31 December 1924, I ran across a card for a man born on 13 September 1925. It was marked "cancelled," but still appeared with the other cards.

Sometimes things that are not supposed to be, are.

15 October 2012

Who Was Actually There?

Remember that for a person to be born in a location, their mother has to be in that location. The same is not true of the father. The father and mother have to be in the same location nine or so months before the birth.

Basic biology, but make certain your conclusions, assumptions, and premises don't violate it.

14 October 2012

Are You Assuming Actions?

Try and stick to information or evidence you have found in original records or sources. Avoid putting speculation into your family files, particularly regarding details of your ancestor's life that are not even remotely suggested in the records. It is difficult for someone over a hundred years later to really understand everything about what motivated their ancestor. A woman being left as a widow in 1855 with small children may have remarried out of necessity to support herself and her children, but whether that marriage was unhappy or not is not suggested merely because it took place early in 1856.

In a similar fashion, your inability to find a marriage record does not mean the couple was not married and the failure to record the birth of a child does not necessarily mean the child was born out of wedlock.

I have wondered if a relative of mine who came home from military service in the early 1900s was somehow impacted mentally by that service. However, I leave that "wonder" out of my records. There's no mention of it in any documents on him, including veteran's hospital records. He seemed to fall away from his family after his mother's death, but I have no proof of actual mental issues at all. It is also possible that he was a little eccentric and didn't get along with his siblings. Or there may be something else entirely.

Genealogy Tip of the Day Mug

At the request of one of our fans, I'm reminding readers about our Genealogy Tip of the Day mug. Mugs are available from CafePress.

13 October 2012

Unindexed, Offline, and Full of Details

I wrapped up a beginning genealogy class last week. One of the records sources we discussed were local court records. These materials are full of genealogical information. Yet many genealogists do not use them because they are frequently only available in their original paper form and have minimal indexes. Do not limit yourself.

Local court records (divorce, estate fights, bastardry, etc.)  involving your family could provide more information than you ever dreamed of.

12 October 2012

Is that "s" an "f"?

Remember when using digital versions of old newspapers and relying on optical character recnognition that an "s" may appear to be an "f."

That's how I found Absalom in the index as Abfalom.

Human eyes might not have read it that way. But computers, reading millions of letters will do that.

The option, for those that find this irritating, is to read the newspapers one at a time.

11 October 2012

Not Just an Obituary

When reading newspapers for information on someone's death and funeral, be certain to check out the "gossip" columns even after the funeral for mention of relatives who came back for the funeral. Sometimes their visit will be mentioned in a "gossip" column a week or two after the obituary.

10 October 2012

Get Beyond Yourself

A few gentle reminders:

  • When at the library, be considerate of other researchers who may need materials besides you.
  • When at any research facility, don't have phone conversations where other researchers can hear you. They really do not care about your personal life.
  • Leave research facilities as you found them.
  • Don't remove records from a research facility.
  • Don't tear pages from books.
  • Be respectful of staff.
  • If you must "vent," do away from the facility. You may need to go back later and they will remember that you had a little "fit" the last time you visited.

09 October 2012

It Is About You

Are you leaving behind information on yourself as well as your ancestors? On those days when you are stuck on your dead ancestor, consider taking a break and writing down some information about yourself. Getting away from your long-lost relatives may give you some new perspective and leaving details about your own life behind is never a bad idea either.

08 October 2012

Context Is Everything

If you make a copy from a published history or any reference, do you also copy enough of the material so that the item is in context?

A relative copied one page from a county history that is  only a list of names. No idea why the list was created, what year it was created, or any other detail as to how the people's names got on the list. Without any idea at all, the list is merely a list of names. They could have been gathered arbitrarily for all I know.

Always include a complete citation and enough information from the original so that you know what you really copied.

A name by any other name is just a name.

07 October 2012

A Date is a Date is a Date

Some documents have several dates associated with them. Make certain that you clearly indicate what each date is.

A deed may have a date of signing, a date of acknowledgement, and a date of recording.

A will may have a date of signing and a date that it was proven in court.

There is the official census date and the date on which the actual census was taken.

Record the dates as specifically as you can. This can reduce confusion.

06 October 2012

What Is A Vendue?

A vendue is another word for a public sale or auction. So if you see the reference in estate or probate papers, it simply means there was a public sale or auction of some or all of the estate's assets.

This was discussed on the Facebook Fan page yesterday.

Celebrating a Twenty Year Find

After twenty years, I've finally discovered contemporary evidence that a relative was killed by Bushwackers in Missouri in 1864. Sometimes it just takes patience. We recently posted that information on this blog.

Those with an interest can learn more about the discovery here:

In celebration, we're offering a Buy-One, Get-One discount on our webinars through 11:59 PM Central time on 6 October. There is a complete listing of our webinars at:

Discount code is discovery at checkout.

Topics include:

Seeing Patterns
Court Records
Genealogical Proof
Organizing Information
Land Records
Brick Walls
and much, much, more

Enjoy and good luck with your own research!

05 October 2012

Named for a Neighbor?

Keep in mind that an "unusual" first name could easily have resulted from a child being named for a neighbor and not necessarily a relative. And that neighbor may (or may not) necessarily be a relative. The name could still be a good clue, just not quite in the way you think.

04 October 2012

You Are Not Your Ancestor's Judge...

To technically be your ancestor's judge would violate the laws of space and time. Remember that.

Report the facts on your ancestor as clearly and as accurately as you possibly can. Let the information you locate determine the conclusions you reach about your ancestor. There are many reasons to leave the judgments to someone else, but the biggest one is that we, as genealogists, rarely know the whole story.

The only information we have is what got recorded and we only have that recorded information which was preserved. And that often is a fragment of the reality.

03 October 2012

Are You Crossing A Fence?

If a cemetery visit is to a cemetery on private property or requires access through private property, contact the landowner and get permission prior to making your visit. If the land owner knows what you are doing, it probably won't be a problem. Most landowners frown on people they don't know traipsing on their property.

One Office--Many Courts

One location may be the local "court" office, but keep in  mind that there may be several different courts in the same physical location, each with a separate series of records. Just because you've been through one series of indexes, does not mean you've been through all the records. There may have been a probate court, a criminal court, and a court of equity in the same physical location.

And they may have had the same judge.

02 October 2012

Unidentified Pictures?

This is your periodic reminder--do you have photographs with unidentified people in them? When was the last time you asked around as to who they might be?

And do you have pictures with people you know, but where you have not noted the identities on the photo? Don't let these pictures become future unknowns.

01 October 2012

October 2012 webinar schedule

October 2012 webinars--Intro rate of $4 through 2 Oct
Registrants who are unable to attend will receive a download media file of the presentation at no extra charge. But don't wait to register as spaces are limited.

7:00 PM 16 October 2013
Crossing the Pond—Part II
This webinar will discuss reading, interpreting, and using passenger lists between 1820 and 1920. This session will not discuss search techniques of online databases, but will cover where to go once the manifest has been located, making certain you have the correct family and getting the most from what the manifest says.

Attendees may wish to purchase our US Passenger Lists at Ancestry.com ($8.50) webinar which discusses searching these lists or our Crossing the Pond ($8.50) webinar which focuses the methodology of tracing immigrant origins in the 18th and 19th centuries.
7:00 PM Central 17 October 2012
Understanding What’s On FamilySearch: Do Multiple Databases with Similar Titles Confuse You?
This presentation will focus on American databases on FamilySearch.org. Do you know what you are really searching when you search a FamilySearch database? Do you understand the difference between three databases with similar titles that cover “the same thing?” We will look at several examples during this presentation and provide a general framework for determining (when you can) what a database really is.
1:00 PM Central 19 October 2012
Connecting with Online Researchers
We will discuss ways to connect and interact with other researchers online and offline—including how to dig people out of the woodwork. We’ll discuss social networking, message boards, mailing lists, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
2:30 PM Central 19 October 2012
Your 19th Century Immigrant
This presentation will discuss search strategies for breaking down brick walls on those 19th century immigrants to the United States. We will look at US records that may provide the answer as well as Immigration records from Europe. If time allows, we’ll see a short case study or two.
7:00 PM Central 25 October 2012
Problem-Solving for Genealogists
This presentation will look at a variety of approaches and mindsets designed to get genealogists to think “outside the box,” or perhaps even get rid of the “box” altogether.

Questions? Email Michael at mjnrootdig@gmail.com
You need to make certain you have the system requirements to view and participate in the webinars for which you are registered. Having adequate equipment is your responsibility.
On a PC
·         Internet Explorer® 7.0 or newer, Mozilla® Firefox® 3.0 or newer or Google Chrome 5.0 or newer (JavaScript and Java enabled)
·         Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
·         Cable modem, DSL or better Internet connection
·         Minimum of Pentium® class 1GHz CPU with 512 MB of RAM (recommended) (2 GB of RAM for Windows® Vista)
Participants wishing to connect to audio using VoIP will need a fast Internet connection, a microphone and speakers. (A USB headset is recommended.)
On a Mac®
·         Safari 3.0 or newer, Firefox® 3.0 or newer or Google Chrome 5.0 or newer (JavaScript and Java enabled)
·         Mac OS® X 10.5 – Leopard® or newer
·         Intel processor (512 MB of RAM or better recommended)
·         Cable modem, DSL, or better Internet connection
Participants wishing to connect to audio using VoIP will need a fast Internet connection, a microphone and speakers (A USB headset is recommended).