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31 January 2012

Nearly 11,000 Facebook Fans Offer on Casefile Clues--$11

To celebrate getting really close to 11000 fans of Genealogy Tip of the Day on Facebook, we're offering a special on my genealogy newsletter, Casefile Clues.

Get 52 issue subscription to my Casefile Clues for only $11! Process your subscription securely here. Don't wait--it's been a while since we offered a subscription rate this low...around 20 cents an issue--Casefile Clues has no advertising either.

Want two free samples of Casefile Clues? You can download them via this link-only your email (name can be made up if you want) is needed for the free samples--no credit card or anything and no obligation.

Got a Ten Year Gap?

If you've made a chronology for that ancestor and have a ten year gap in their life where you know absolutely nothing, consider researching it in more detail and consider the possibility that you have overlooked something.

30 January 2012

Are You Getting Past Your Biases?

My ancestors are pretty much from rural locations. When they moved, they settled where they had kin or kin arrived a few years after they did. My English speaking ancestors in the States moved across the country with some of the relatives and my 19th century European immigrants to rural America did the same thing--settling where they knew people or where they later brought relatives from "home."

My children have ancestors in Chicago, Philadelphia, and other large towns.For some reason, I decided that urban people didn't "move with neighbors" like my rural family did. I was wrong. The more I researched the families in urban areas, I learned that they too stuck with family or had relatives nearby.

The point this time isn't about "chain migration," (although that is a factor to always be considered). The point with today's tip is never to assume people from a different place and way of life are that different and to try and eliminate as many of your own misconceptions from your research methods as possible.

29 January 2012

Put It Aside

If there is a family or person you are "stuck" on, consider putting them aside for a day or a week and working on an entirely different person or family. Perhaps getting away from the "rut," or at least into a different "rut," will cause you to come back at that person or family with fresh eyes.

Is there someone you've not worked on in ages that would be person to focus on while you're taking time off from that "stuck" person?

28 January 2012

Is Genealogy Their Job?

Remember that when dealing with some record agencies, government offices, churches and private businesses, helping you with your genealogy might not really be their job. County record offices maintain records,  but if you don't know what you are looking for it makes it difficult for them to help you. Some offices may maintain old records, but their "real job" focuses on current day-to-day activities. Churches and private business maintain their records "privately," and really don't have to share information with you, even if great-grandma was a lifetime member or great-grandpa spend a "huge" amount there on his funeral.

Just a few thoughts. It doesn't mean that clerks have to be rude or impolite though!

27 January 2012

Are You Certain About the Order of the Children?

If you have a listing of the children of an ancestor, how certain are you that they are actually listed in order of birth? The ordering may have been mere speculation on someone's part years ago, particularly if they were born in an era before birth records.

If any conclusions are based upon a birth order and there's no evidence for that birth order, those conclusions may need to be revisited.

26 January 2012

Take A Cheat Sheet

Before going to the library, courthouse, or other research facility, considering creating a short "cheat sheet" of key terms you will use while there that confuse you. It may not be practical to constantly "google on the go," and sometimes time can be saved by making a quick referral to doublecheck the meaning of a word or term. Grantor and grantee are two terms that people often get confused--and that confusion can easily cause the researcher to waste valuable time.

25 January 2012

Squeezing in Those Clues

This 1790 era deed from Harford County, Maryland, contains a clue in the "fine print" at the very top of the record copy of the deed. The item, underlined here in red indicates that the original was delivered to Wm. Rampley per order. The deed was from an Elisha Garrett to a William Gibson. The "delivery" notice is a clue that needs to be investigated. Don't ignore those items at the very top, bottom, or side of a transcription.

24 January 2012

Guardians Are Usually of the Estate

If a guardian was appointed for your minor ancestor, the guardian usually was just to oversee the child's inheritance or estate. The minor's mother may very well have been alive and would probably have had physical custody of the child. Don't immediately conclude that the guardian of a child's estate was the person with whom the child lived. And do not assume because a child had a guardian appointed that their mother was deceased.

23 January 2012

Codec for Webinars and Expired Downloads

Some who have ordered webinars for download have had issues playing them. The "codec" that is needed can be downloaded here:


Let me know if that does not solve the problem by emailing me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com. 

Download links expire after 24 hours. If your link expired before you were able to download, forward me your receipt and I'll resend. Thanks.

Write It Down

I had a really good tip for today, but I didn't write it down and now it's lost.

So that's today's tip--don't rely on your memory. Write it down or record it when you think of it. Not later.

And make certain that what you write makes sense. Handwritten "chicken scratches" are confusing and jumbled thoughts are as well.

22 January 2012

Connections May Last Longer Than You Think

In some families relatives may have remained in contact decades after they last lived in close proximity to each other. I'm researching a family where some individuals immigrated from England to the United States in the 1820s, settling eventually in Philadelphia. Fortysome years later, a niece and her family immigrated from England as well and likely settled near (or with little logistical assistance from) the family who was already in Philadelphia.

Some families kept in touch over the years and some did not---just like today. In some ways it was more difficult, but it was not impossible.

21 January 2012

University Libraries

Have you looked at university libraries near where your ancestor lived and those a slight distance or a few counties away? Some may have special collections of historical material that may be useful in your research.

20 January 2012

Webinars Released: FamilySearch and Newspaper Research

We are proud to announce the release of the recorded version of my two latest webinars:

  • Tips and Tricks for FamilySearch  -(NEW!)-This webinar discusses ins and outs of using the "new" family search, searching by family structure, global searches, interpreting searches and troubleshooting. Also discussed are strategies when approaching an unindexed set of images, a new type of record series, or incomplete records. Aimed at advanced beginners and intermediate level researchers. The digital version of the presentation and handout can be ordered for $8.50.
  • Newspaper Research  -(NEW!)-Aimed at advanced beginners and intermediate level researchers, this webinar discusses research techniques for searching newspapers in digital, microfilm, and original formats. Pitfalls of using digital newspapers are discussed, along with manual search techniques and what types of materials to look for besides obituaries and death notices.  This presentation is not merely a list of online sites or an attempt to get subscribers to any specific database. The digital version of the presentation and handout can be ordered for $8.50
If you were originally signed up for these and missed them, you should have received a complimentary download. Please let me know if you need the download.

Have You Interacted with a Live Human on That Problem?

You have a genealogical problem. It does not really matter what it is. Have you interacted with another human being on that problem? Either asked a relative if they knew something; asked a question about the problem on a message board, mailing list etc. Have you discussed your problem with someone who knows something about the area and time period in which you are researching?

If the only person you've interacted with is the "person" inside your head---discuss the problem with someone else. You may be surprised at the result.

19 January 2012

Have You Converted?

Remember in some cities, street names have changed in the last 150 years, houses have been renumbered, interstates have been built, etc. Make certain when using contemporary maps that you know what that 1860 address for your ancestor would be in modern times. Get it converted if you are unable to do it yourself. You may even discover that your ancestor's former residence is now part of an interstate.

Even those with rural ancestors need to remember that county lines, township lines, may change--especially in the early days of settlement.

18 January 2012

The Bordering Locations?

For every political jurisdiction in which your ancestor's residence is located, do you know the bordering places? Do you know the township in which your ancestor lived and the bordering townships, the bordering states, provinces, etc.?

Do you know the names of the bordering parishes, etc. for use in church records?

Might be helpful to know these things.

17 January 2012

Amended Certificates

Amended certificates, typically ones for birth, are typical "corrections" filed where the original was incorrect or incomplete. Birth certificates are more likely to be amended than any other record. Death records from fifty years ago have no need to be amended usually--wrong names do not typically matter.

Birth certificates are most likely to be amended because incorrect dates of birth, names of parents, etc. can create problems for the person still living.

16 January 2012

February 2012 Genealogy Webinar Schedule Announced

We are excited about our webinar offerings for February of 2012.

Our topics are:

  • Creating Your Own Genealogy Blog
  • Yet More Brick Walls from A to Z
  • Writing and Making Your Case
  • The Genealogical Proof Standard "for the rest of us"
Registration is $5 per session until 20 January 2012--$8 after that. Those who cannot attend will be able to download the webinar at no additional charge. To view system requirements and offering dates and times, visit http://www.casefileclues.com/webinars_neill.htm

Early Registration for my Salt Lake Trip Ends 17 January

Early registration for my Family History Library research trip ends tomorrow (17 January 2012). More details are here: http://rootdig.blogspot.com/2011/08/reserve-your-space-in-my-may-2012.html

Could They Get By Without a Record?

In the 21st century in many countries, it is difficult to function without a birth certificate. Settling up an estate may be difficult without a death certificate. This was not necessarily the case in 1912 or 1812. Your ancestor very easily might not have a record of his birth or death, particularly for events that took place two hundred years ago.

It would have been a little more difficult for your 1812 ancestor to function without deeds to his property, paying his taxes, or settling up his father's estate. That's why those records are more likely to exist. Records of property are often one of the earliest records--much earlier than who was born or who died.

15 January 2012

Usually Relatively Consistent

Different records on your ancestor will provide different information. Sometimes the differences are slight, like an age off by a few years. Usually there is other information on the record that leads the researcher to conclude the record is on the same person--same name, right location, other details on the document match.

Remember that it is uncommon for every record on your ancestor to be entirely consistent. Usually different records should be fairly consistent. Try and explain the reasons for inconsistencies, if you know them, in your research notes. If two records appear to be the same person and the inconsistencies are great, you may wish to consider whether the two records are even for the same person.

14 January 2012

Don't Ignore the Late In Life Spouses

Some genealogists fail to completely research spouses of their ancestor from whom they do not descend, particularly spouses the ancestor might have married later in life. Keep in mind that the ancestor might have "known" this spouse when they were children, perhaps living in another area. The second (or third) spouse might even have been related by marriage to your ancestor or one of your ancestor's other spouses.

And in the case of females, it is possible that an ancestor qualified for a widow's pension even though the husband from whom you descend was not a veteran.

13 January 2012

Recorded Brick Walls from A to Z for $1 offer...

If you missed it last night...we've just extended it for the next 24 hours (until 9 PM Central on 14 January 2012) Get the "MORE" Brick Walls Webinar and handout for only $1---next 2 hours only! Don't wait. No codes, no coupons, just click below and order.


The original post was messed up and we just decided to extend for those who missed, overlooked, or had issues with it.

Is There a Duplicate Elsewhere?

If the records you are trying to find can't be located in their original location or were destroyed, is it possible that duplicate copies were recorded or filed elsewhere? For some local vital records, copies were filed at larger political levels, perhaps at the state or provincial level. Some local pastors submitted annual returns to a higher level church office.

Are there duplicates out there that you have not thought to research?

12 January 2012

Relationships May Not Be Clear

Keep in mind that relationships stated in letters, diaries, and other "unofficial" records may not be crystal clear or as specific as we would like. "Cousin" can cover a variety of relationships and a niece or nephew may be a niece or nephew by birth or by marriage. A newspaper account may refer to someone as "Grandma" simply because of her age.

Legal documents are usually more specific,but even they can be in error. Estate and inheritance papers are more likely to state relationships correctly and specifically.

11 January 2012

Did They Change Names When They Moved?

Keep in mind that in some parts of Europe, when a family moved to a new farm they got the last name that was associated with the farm. That might explain why their last name changed or a family had two last names.

10 January 2012

Age of Discretion

If you see that your ancestor is listed in a document as "choosing" their own guardian, it typically means that they have arrived at the age of discretion. This age is typically 14. Your ancestor may still be listed in that document as an infant. An infant is usually someone under the age of consent, which is often 18 for females and 21 for males, but there are exceptions.

09 January 2012

Webinar on Archive.org for Purchase

Last week I had my first webinar on Using Archive.org. We talked about the basics of file types and formats, but I'm not the sort of presenter who goes on and on about that sort of thing. We looked at ways to search for what is on Archive.org--both digital books and digital images of microfilm. The cataloging on Archive.org is not all that easy to use and various ways to find things were discussed.

The Allen County Public Library has allowed many of their out of copyright books to be digitized as well as their NARA microfilm. There is a wealth of material on Archive.org--all free. Digital images of books can be downloaded as PDF, text, EPUB, and a variety of other formats or readable online. Digital copies of microfilm can be downloaded as a PDF file or viewed online as a "book." The names on the microfilm are not indexed, but if you "know" where the person should be or already have that location, searching is not difficult. It is also nice to be able to download a whole roll of microfilm to your computer as well.

We've had good feedback about the webinar on Archive.org and I learned a few things myself while putting it together.

You can order the Archive.org webinar and handout here--for $8.50.Download is immediate.

All Those Dates

Keep in mind that some documents may have several dates, each of which serve a separate purpose. A land record may have a date of execution, when it was signed; a date of acknowledgement, where it was "acknowledged in front of an official;" and a date of recording, when it was filed for record.

Those dates may all be the same--or they may be stretched out over several years. It just depends. But there is a difference between the dates.

08 January 2012

Check the End of the Year

In some church registrations of vital records, christenings of children born out of wedlock may be recorded at the end of the year of entries instead of their "correct" chronological spot. So if an ancestor was born in February of 1832 with parents who were not married, the entry of the child's christening might be recorded after the December of 1832 entries and before the 1833 entries.

Or sometimes these entries may be written upside down or in the margin in an attempt to indicate they were "different."

07 January 2012

Did Grandpa Baptize the Baby?

In some denominations, if it was believed an infant was in immediate danger of dying, a family member could baptize the child in place of a minister or a priest. There may be a notation regarding this emergency baptism in the church records. Obviously not all children who are baptized under emergency situations die.

While these types of baptisms are not common, they are not unheard of either and the church record may make a note regarding the unusual nature of the baptism.

My wife's great-great-grandfather baptized his granddaughter in the early 1900s when it was believed she was near death and would not survive until the pastor could be summoned.

06 January 2012

Recording of Illinois Research Webinar Released

We've just released the recorded version of my Illinois Research webinar which discusses research in local records in the state of Illinois. Geared towards advanced beginners and intermediate researchers, it focuses on local records, what makes Illinois different, and larger statewide facilities. The media file and handout can be ordered for $8.50 here.

You Cannot Copyright A Fact

A complete discussion of copyright is beyond Tip of the Day. However, you cannot copyright the fact that James Rampley was born in Harford County, Maryland, in 1803. Facts cannot be copyrighted. However, if there is no record of birth for James and you analyze fifty records that provide indirect evidence of his birth and you write up a several paragraph argument showing why he was born in 1803, then that argument and that phrasing of words and ideas you have copyright to.

But if you were the first person to "prove" James was born in 1803, you cannot copyright  that fact and get paid every time someone uses it.

Otherwise, yours truly would copyright the fact that two plus two is four.

05 January 2012

A Dollar Does Not Mean They Were Mad

Don't immediately conclude that just because your ancestor left his daughter a dollar in his will that he was "on the outs" with her right before he died. It may very well have been that he had provided for the daughter earlier, perhaps at her marriage, and the dollar bequest was to simply include her so that it could not been said she was "left out" or omitted from the will.

Sometimes the $1 bequest means there was some sort of falling out. And other times, it simply means that everyone was being included.

DeedMapper Webinar on Using Virginia Land Patents

Our last new January webinar will be on January 28th at 11: 00 am Central time (noon Eastern and 9 Pacific). 

This webinar is being RESCHEDULED for 3 February 2012 at 11:30 AM--Central--9:30 AM Pacific. Registrants who cannot attend will be sent a download link for the presentation-questions can be sent to me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com

It will be a demonstration on how I searched for Virginia Land Patents (on the Library of Virginia website) on a specific ancestor and then how those patent were platted in Deedmapper and fit together to establish a partial neighborhood for this ancestor. The property involved is in what is now Orange County, Virginia.

The webinar will discuss (through live demonstration) how the site searches were conducted for the specific ancestor and his neighbor, the downloading of the images, the transcription of the patents, the entry of the information into DeedMapper and the manipulation of the plats in order to determine their approximate relative locations.

This webinar is for those with some experience in online searches and land records. DeedMapper experience is not necessary, but this webinar is intended to provide assistance for those who use DeedMapper.

Early registration  ($8) is suggested to help us gauge interest. Those who cannot attend the presentation live will be given an complimentary link to download the recording and handout once the recording has been processed.

The session will last about an hour with time afterwards for questions and discussion. Please view requirements below if you have not participated in a webinar before.

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.
Requirements to view/participate:
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).

04 January 2012

What Is Stored in the Bible?

If great-aunt Martha says she has no pictures, clippings, etc., has she looked in her bible? People often stick paper mementos in their bible and, depending upon how often they use it, they may forget those things are even in there.

03 January 2012

Every Name On A Document

If you are stuck on a record, learn something about every person named on it, particularly those who you do not think are related. Witnesses and other people mentioned in the document may provide clues to your ancestor and his life. It is not always necessary to learn complete life histories about everyone name on a document, but some research on others named cannot hurt.

If your ancestor signed a deed, who were the witnesses, who was the notary or Justice of the Peace in front of whom your ancestor acknowledged the record?

Finding out a little about the others named in the record may help you learn more about the record and your ancestor.

02 January 2012

When There Is No Index

Many local records are unindexed. Often these materials are organized chronologically, by the date of the event. There may be indexes, but they may cover a small time frame, perhaps one index per year or an index for every ten years. In these cases, it will be necessary to estimate the date of the event--birth, marriage, death, etc.

Before searching these records, use other materials to estimate the date of the event. It may be possible to narrow down the range of years before a manual search is conducted. And remember, that not every set of records has an index...and even though new indexes are being created to some records, it may not be for the ones you need.

01 January 2012

Happy 2012 and 1 Resolution

Happy New Year to Genealogy Tip of the Day fans and followers.

I don't really make New Year's resolutions--but this might be a good general suggestion:

For any brick wall ancestor, problem family or research challenge, make a list of your assumptions about the ancestor, their family, their lifestyle, etc.

Writing down all your assumptions may be just the trick to get around your problem.

And it's an easy resolution to keep!

January 1 Was Not Always the Start of the New Year

January 1 was not always the start of the new year. If you are unfamiliar with Old Style and New Style dates and the calendar change of 1752, take a visit here  http://www.cree.name/genuki/dates.htm.