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29 February 2012

Can't Find That Estate Fight?

If there was a court case after a relative died, make certain you have looked up every name of every heir in the court indexes. The estate being settled might be the estate of John Smith, but it could easily be that son-in-law Gideon Johnson is the lead plaintiff in the court case and grandson  Barton Hanson is the lead defendant. Because of this Smith's estate fight will probably be in the plaintiffs' index under Gideon Johnson and in the defendants' index under Barton Hanson.

28 February 2012

Don't Assume That It Is Wrong

Do not assume something that looks incorrect is. It may be right. The image that is a part of this post comes from a marriage record in Union County, Iowa, that indicates the bride Emma Pollard was getting married for the fifth time. The temptation might be that somehow this is incorrect--it does seem high.

Turns out it was correct and this marriage from 1883 was her fifth. Don't assume what looks wrong is. Sometimes it is correct.

27 February 2012

Don't Write Off Those Short-Lived Marriages

Did your ancestor have a spouse to whom they were married for only a short time (perhaps because the spouse died young) and had no children? Have you completely researched the family of this spouse? Often the temptation is to perform little research on this "short-term" spouses, particularly when there was no issue of the marriage.

There could still be clues in the choice of this marriage partner. They could have known each other overseas, "back East," or had mutual acquaintances--all of which could be clues to tracing your actual ancestor. Just because no one descends from the "short-lived" spouse does not mean they should not be researched just as thoroughly as the spouse from which you descend.

26 February 2012

25 Genealogy Webinars-25% Discount

We've just uploaded our 25th webinar to our site with recorded copies for download. Today use coupon code twenty5 and save 25% on your order. Code expires at midnight central time (10 PM Pacific)

The list is here: http://www.casefileclues.com/webinars.htm

Deeds in Metes and Bounds Can Give Neighbors

Deeds in states that used metes and bounds description of property (generally the US colonies and those states that bordered them) often include the names of neighbors in the property lines. These descriptions describe the property lines using angles and measurements and frequently indicate whose property shares that line. While researchers may not necessarily want to plat out the properties, those names of neighbors can be helpful.

25 February 2012

Was There Reliance on Memory?

While preparing for an upcoming conference, I fired off a response to an email--answering the question the way it "usually" was answered for most conferences. The problem was that this conference was difference and my mistake was in reliance upon my memory.

Is there a piece of information an ancestor provided on a document that might have been solely from his memory, given "off the cuff?" And perhaps his or her error was a very honest one, not given to deceive or confuse, but merely done so quickly "off the top of his head."

And 100 years later, his descendant analyzes it do death when it was originally a very simple error.

24 February 2012

Fold3 Search Techniques Webinar

We've added one new webinar to our March 2012 series--and we're really excited about it.

Our new session is "Searching on Fold3.com." This website (fee-based) offers a variety of military records from the United States. Fold3 has a large amount of material from the Revolutionary War and also includes digital images of National Archives microfilmed material from later United States conflicts as well. You can check out the information on Fold3 by browsing their website.

Our Fold3 webinar is on 6 March 2012 at 1:30 PM central time. Visit our webinar registration page for more details and registration links.

From Whence The Names?

If your ancestor was an early settler in an area, do you know where the names of the county, township and nearby villages were obtained? Those names could be clues as to your ancestor's origins.

23 February 2012

Read It Again

Have you read through something more than once? Did you jump to any conclusions that were incorrect? Did you overlook anything?

This is a tip that is worth occasionally repeating--for all of us.

22 February 2012

Is Mom Really Grandma?

Always consider the possibility that that child born when a female ancestor was 55 years of age might not have been the ancestor's child. While some women did have children "late in life," it may be that the last child was actually the first grandchild--the child of one of the "mother's" older children.

21 February 2012

Those Handwritten Ledger Book Copies

Those handwritten copies of the deeds in big ledger books at the records office are not original copies. Chances are your ancestor got back his original. The copy at the courthouse is a derivative copy--meaning it was a copy made from the original. Courthouse copies are usually considered the legal equivalent of the original and are often called recorded copies, but they are not the original. Just something to keep in mind.

20 February 2012

My Blogs

For our new fans and as a reminder to ones who have been around a little bit longer, I have the following blogs--all are free. Posting frequency varies

Were the Parents Really the Parents?

Is there a chance that one of the people you think are your ancestor's parents is not actually their parent? Is it possible that the woman you think is your ancestor's mother actually his step-mother? Or that the man you think is your ancestor's father is actually her step-father?

19 February 2012

March 2012 Genealogy Webinar Schedule Posted

Our March 2012 Genealogy Webinar schedule has been posted. Topics are:

  • Probate Process
  • Proving Benjamin
  • Genealogy Proof Standard  (rescheduled)
  • Researching Female Ancestors
Details are on our webinar page at http://www.casefileclues.com/webinars_neill.htm

Not Before 1820

The US federal government did not begin keeping passenger lists of arrivals until 1820. Any surviving lists in the United States were either kept by state or other government agencies or have been created using other sorts of records.  Other records may be located, but there are no comprehensive lists of immigrants in the United States before 1820.

18 February 2012

Read the Whole Page

When you find someone on a census or any other digital image of a record, make certain you read the entire thing---not just what shows up in the "viewer" on your web browser. Have you scrolled through the entire image? Is the next image part of the record as well.

17 February 2012

Find Their Shoes and Put Them On

If you have "lost" your ancestor at a certain point in time, put yourself in their shoes and see if it generates any ideas or leads. Think about:

  • their age when you've "lost" them.
  • what "stage" were they at in their life-newly married, lots of children, "empty nester," etc.?
  • what economic advantages did they have?
  • what economic limitations did they have?
  • who were they responsible for?
  • how "easy" was it to just "pick up and move?"
  • could "family problems" have impacted their decisions?
  • did they move or associate with members of their extended family--either relatives by blood or marriage?
And so on. No one operates in a vacuum. 

16 February 2012

Was Great-Grandpa Married More Than Once?

If great-grandpa's first marriage was in his late twenties or early thirties or even later, keep yourself open to the possibility that he was married more than once.

People did wait to get married for the first time and someone might have married the first time in their forties.

But keep in mind that what you think was the "one and only marriage" might not be--especially if information starts coming to light indicating that there might have been a marriage before the "first" one.

15 February 2012

Did They Really Divorce?

Your ancestor who supposedly "divorced" may never have bothered to go through the legal process. It was not as difficult as one might think for a couple to "separate" and eventually marry again. 

Civil War pensions contain numerous examples and it cannot only be war veterans and their wives who were a part of this occasional practice. 

Your ancestor may have separated and divorced. Or there may have been no divorce. 

14 February 2012

Ever Go Back?

Recently I was reviewing some estate records I viewed several years ago at the Family History Library. A second look at the handwritten index indicated I had missed a reference to the estate. That second reference contained several names that may be crucial in my research. All because I went back and looked a second time. Is there something you can look at again on the off chance something was overlooked?

If you are curious about what I located, there's a blog post about it on the Casefile Clues blog.

13 February 2012

Pick Another Year

If you're weary of the 1940 census hype, pick another year--say 1925. For that year, think about where each ancestor or relative would be living at that point in time. Do you know where that would be? Do you have a city directory listing for them if they were city dwellers?

And if 1925 is too recent for you, try 1825.

12 February 2012

Preserve the Order

When names are listed in an estate settlement or any similar record, don't change the order in which the names are listed as there may be some method to the ordering of the names. I used one estate record where the heirs were listed by family group, even though that was not stated in the record. Of course, the ordering of names is not even close to solid proof, but it can be a clue.

And sometimes the order of the names can be fairly random. That's why the order of names isn't solid proof!

11 February 2012

Did They Switch Middle Initials?

Did your married female ancestor use her middle name for her middle initial in one record and her maiden name for her middle initial in another? It happens. My children's great-grandmother is Grace A. Johnson in some records and Grace M. Johnson in others. The A. is for her middle name Alice. The M is for her maiden name of Mortier.

10 February 2012

New Webinars-Making My Case and Blogging

  • Making and Proving Your Case. Geared towards advanced beginners and intermediate researchers, this presentation discusses things to think about before writing up "your case." Talks about statements, primary, secondary, ways to prove yourself, considering all the options, disproving, citation, etc. Provides the viewer with ideas on how to "make their case" and see gaps or omissions in their research.  The digital media for this presentation can be downloaded for $8.50.

French Revolutionary Calendar

French records dated from 22 September 1792 and 1 January 1806 follow the French Revolutionary Calendar.

There is more about the calendar at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Republican_Calendar
and at FamilySearch https://www.familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/French_Republican_Calendar

Feel free to post comments to this post on the blog or on Facebook's fan page.

09 February 2012

Deepest Webinar Discount Ever

Use ssdi as the coupon code on our webinar page and get a 60% discount on orders. Offer expires at 9 AM 10 February 2012

A list of webinars is available at--your order can be processed there as well:

Do You Have Backups?

We've run this tip before, but it is a good one to repeat.

Do you have backups of all your data in separate places? Are there documents or pictures you have not scanned? Do you have paper copies that are the "only one?"

Think about that. Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.com, etc. will be around tomorrow. Will your only paper copy?

08 February 2012

The Dead Sometimes Move

Occasionally bodies are exhumed and moved to other cemeteries, perhaps where a spouse or children are later buried. Whole cemeteries are sometimes moved to make way for roads, construction projects, lakes, etc. 

There is always the possibility that your ancestor's final resting place really wasn't final.

07 February 2012

It Is All About Context

Years ago a fellow researcher located a baptismal entry for a family who had their child while living a distance from other family members. The researcher only copied the entry for the one child, not looking at any other entries. The couple only had one child baptized in that specific church. 

Because of the way the baptismal record was written, the researcher concluded that the child was born out of wedlock.

When I viewed the microfilmed records myself years later to get a better copy, I noticed that the relative's entry was not unusual at all--in fact it followed the same format used by the pastor in all the baptismal entries. There was nothing irregular about the child's birth or baptism.

Always look at entries in context. Picking out just one may cause you to see things that simply are not there. 

06 February 2012

If the date is approximate indicate that

If you have estimated a year of birth for someone, include "estimated" or "about" to let others know that you are uncertain of the date. Otherwise what was originally a guess on your part may be interpreted as a "fact" by someone else. Your notes should indicate how you arrived at that estimate or approximation, including a specific source if one was used.

05 February 2012

Who Signed Their Naturalization?

Who vouched for your ancestor when he naturalized? Not all naturalization records mention someone who vouched for your ancestor's residency and character, but some do. Keep in mind that this person could have been an associate of your ancestor or even a relative by birth or marriage.

And the person vouching for your ancestor could have been an immigrant himself--but would have had to have been a citizen in order to vouch for your ancestor.

All clues.

04 February 2012

Is That A Multiple Birth or a Multiple Baptism

Did your ancestors have three children christened at once? Don't immediately assume that it was a multiple birth. Even in denominations that practiced infant baptism, for one reason or another, children of different ages might be baptized on the same date. Look for other records to confirm that the children were in fact baptized on the same date. They may have been twins or triplets, but confirm with other records when possible.

My grandmother and two of her siblings were all baptized in 1915 in a church which practiced infant baptism. They were all single births and why they were baptized on the same date I am not certain. It could easily have been a new minister, a realization that "it needed to be done" or some other reason.

03 February 2012

Yet More Brick Walls and Virginia Patents in DeedMapper Webinars

We have just released recordings (and handouts) of my two latest webinars, "Yet More Brick Walls from A to Z" and Using DeedMapper to Plat Virginia Land Patents."

The session on DeedMapper discusses how patents for John Rucker and several of his neighbors were located using the Library of Virginia website. The presentation discusses the downloading of the patents, reading them, inputting the descriptions into DeedMapper and attempting to fit them together using the plats created by DeedMapper. The digital media for this presentation can be purchased for $8.50.

The session on "Yet More Brick Walls from A to Z" continues our popular series on this topic--with yet another list of brick wall breakers--with discussion--from A to Z. The digital media for this presentation (handout and presentation) can be downloaded for $6.

When Your Dude Is Lost

My children's great-great-grandfather apparently disappeared around 1920. In a renewed attempt to find him, I  have decided to look for him in areas where he had siblings, aunts, uncles or cousins. Some of his immediate family was in the Chicago, Illinois, area, but research on his parents indicates he had uncles and aunts in Texas and Canada--two places he could easily have settled.

So when someone "disappears" don't go "nationwide" until you have to. Keep in mind that they might have settled, even temporarily, near a member of their extended family.

02 February 2012

Threats to the Social Security Death Index

We rarely get "newsy" on Tip of the Day, but we're making an exception for this issue. If you use the Social Security Death Index and are a US resident--please consider contacting your representatives in Congress and make it clear that the Social Security Master Death Index does more to prevent fraud than cause it. Learn more here:


How Long Did the Witness Know Your Ancestor?

Someone testifies for your ancestor in a rather boring court case that apparently contains no real earth shattering information. The witness indicates he has known your ancestor for twenty-five years. That may be the biggest clue in the file if your ancestor has only lived in the country for ten.

01 February 2012

Some Won't Like What They Hear

Some relatives (close or distant) might not like what you tell them about their relative or ancestor. The husband of one of my aunts killed himself in the 19th century, most likely because he suffered from a debilitating disease for which there was no real treatment. A relative of this man was very communicative with me until I mentioned how the relative died and the fact that my aunt divorced him.

That was the last time I heard from the correspondent.

Some people do not want to hear anything unfavorable. Remember it is our duty to report accurately what we find, not to judge or lay blame. We don't have to necessarily tell every negative story  we discover, but somethings are hard to leave out without really altering the person's life story. The reason why someone spends thirty years in jail and stories that are published in newspaper after newspaper are sometimes hard to "sweep under the rug." If a death certificate mentions a relative committed suicide by disemboweling herself because she was suffering from stomach cancer, I might leave that detail out of my notes and mention that cancer was a contributing cause of her death. I will include an image of her actual death certificate with my records, but will let others discover that if they care to dig that far.

If we are factual, not mean or spiteful, and others are unhappy with our discoveries, that may just be the way it has to be. Our job is to report our ancestor's stories and judge documents for accuracy in order to determine the story as best we can. I'll leave judgments regarding my ancestors' behavior to someone else.