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30 April 2012

Pick the Easiest or Most Unusual Name

When searching for a family in an everyname census, search for the family member whose name is the least likely to be spelled or enumerated incorrectly. It is no guarantee you will find the right people, but sometimes it's easier to find John than it is to find Fredericka. The problem with some names is that they have quite a few diminutives that may make them harder to find. Of course, unusual names spelled correctly are easier to find also--as long as they spelled correctly.

29 April 2012

Did Your Ancestor Rush Somewhere?

If your ancestor goes "poof" and comes back 5-10 or so years later, have you consider they headed west for the Gold Rush or any other event that caused people to pack up and leave in a hurry? Some families found life wasn't all what they thought it would be in their new location and returned to where they were from.

And of course, the direction might not have been west at all. It's just worth remembering that your anecstor might have moved somewhere in hopes of better opportunities and, when finding those opportunities weren't what they thought they would be, eventually headed "back home."

28 April 2012

Research Them Where They Stayed

Was your family one of those that kept heading west every few years, leaving family behind in numerous locations? Have you searched for other relatives in those "left behind location?" If your ancestor left Amherst County, Virginia, in 1801 your research in Amherst County should not stop in 1801. There might be other family members left behind whose records provide clues about your direct line ancestors. There might even be descendants in the area today who could provide research help.

27 April 2012

I Used My Sight to Cite the Site

There are words that some genealogists get confused. Cite and site are two of them--we've just thrown sight in for fun.

To cite means to indicate the source of some material and to indicate that source in a way that others can locate the material that was used.

The site is a location where something is or where something took place.

And of course, sight means to see something.

So if you use a cemetery as your source and you visit it yourself, you have used your sight to cite the site.

26 April 2012

Webinars: Charts Galore and What Is Not Written

We have announced a reduced schedule of genealogy webinars for May 2012.

New presentations include:
  • What is Not Written
  • Charts, Charts, and More Charts
We've also rescheduled two presentations that had to be postponed earlier this year, including Google Docs. If you already signed up, you do not need to do so again.
We're looking forward to some great sessions.
You can learn more about the sessions or register at:

Do Your Transcriptions Need a Little "sic?"

Document transcriptions should always be made as close to the original document--errors and all. Sometimes it is clear that the original document is in error. It is not the job of the transcriptionist to correct the error. Instead put the word sic in brackets after the error, like so "I John give to my daughter William[sic] the farm on which I now live." Sic indicates that the word was copied from the original and the error was not done on the part of the transcriptionist. Use sic whenever it appears that the original is incorrect.

If you feel the need to comment on the error do so in a commentary that clearly is separate from the transcription

25 April 2012

Did You Contact the Church Archives?

For years, I was unable to access the records of one church my ancestors attended because when I went to try and see them I was told that the pastor was gone and no one else had a key to the safe in which the records were kept. Later on a whim I contacted the denominational archives and learned that the records I needed had actually been microfilmed and were in their collection.

Have you contacted the archives of the denomination with which the congregation was affiliated to see if they have a copy or the records or any additional information on the church in question? It may be worth a try.

Just last week I learned that the records of another church I need have been microfilmed and using that microfilm is easier than making a trip to actually view the records.

Last Set of $5 Webinars

Our last set of $5 webinars are on the following topics:

  • Illinois Research
  • The Probate Process
  • US Naturalization Records pre-1920
  • Local Land Records in Public Domain Land States
  • Newspaper Research
The link for more details and ordering is here:

Sale on these is over in 36 hours--don't wait.

24 April 2012

Pete and Repeat Were Walking Down the Street

Remember that just because several documents give the exact same information it does not mean that information is correct. The same person can give the same incorrect information for several documents or records. What it means is that they were consistent. It is possible that information listed on only one record is correct when what is listed on multiple records is not. Sometimes.

23 April 2012

Did Your Ancestor Get a Passport?

Have you checked passport records for ancestors who might have traveled overseas? Before the 1910s many Americans traveled abroad without a passport, but after that time a higher proportion of travelers obtained passports. One relative traveled to Mexico in the 1920s for his work and obtained a passport to do so. Another relative was a Red Cross nurse who went to Europe shortly before the first World War and completed a passport application with significant information.

22 April 2012

Are You Looking At the Far Left in 1940?

If you have found someone in the newly released 1940 census, have you looked at the very far left hand side of the page? Some enumerators made notes about their enumerees there--some of which can be good clues for further research. One enumerator in Warsaw, Illinois, made notes about which homes were owned by an estate that had not yet been settled.

Scanning down the name column to find your person is good, but after you have found them, look at the entire page.

21 April 2012

Repeating Names

In some cultures and time periods, if a child died the parents might use that same name for the next child of the same gender. I have one 18th century German couple who named three children Reenste. After the first Reenste died, the next daughter was given the same name. After the second Reenste died, the next daughter was named Reenste. Fortunately the third Reenste lived to adulthood.

Did your family use the same name more than once?

20 April 2012

Methodology Webinars on Sale

Due to popular demand (and because our Google followers never got the notice), we're offering again our discount price ($5 each--save 40%--regularly $8.50) on our most popular genealogy methods lectures through 11:59 Sunday 22 April 2012

If this email and links don't display property, try this link

Creating Research Plans. This presentation discusses how to create your research plans, how to set goals, how to not set goals, when you are proving and when you are not, and other key concepts. Of course, we have a few charts as well. Our attempt is to be down-to-earth and practical. I realize that most genealogists are not going to write journal articles, however our research needs to be as thorough as possible and our analysis and method well-thought out or we're not going to get the best possible story on great-great-grandma that there is. This presentation is geared towards intermediate researchers, but advanced beginners might get some benefit from it as well.

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The Genealogical Proof Standard for the Non-Professional. One of our most popular webinars, this presentation provides an overview of the “Genealogical Proof Standard,” including a discussion on the “exhaustive search.” The Proof Standard is not just for professionals, any genealogist who wants to improve their research and get past those stumbling blocks would be well served by implementing it in their research. Our discussion is practical, down-to-earth, and hands-on.

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Female Ancestors. This presentation discusses approaches and techniques for determining an ancestor's maiden name and locating "missing" females. Geared towards the advanced beginner or intermediate researcher, it focuses on American records and sources. The content is not specific to any one time period and many of the approaches can be refined for different locations or types of records. If you are stymied on your female ancestors--and half your ancestors are female.
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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.
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Creating Families from Pre-1850 Census Records --This presentation discusses how to analyze pre-1850 census records in order to determine the family structure that is suggested by those records. Enumerations for one household between 1810 and 1840 are analyzed in order to determine the number of children, ranges on their years of birth, and ranges on years of birth for the oldest male and oldest female in the household.
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Court Records-Pig Blood in the Snow. This lecture discusses American court records at the county level where cases were typically originally heard. Discusses cases of main genealogical relevance along with searching techniques.

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Seeing the Patterns-Organizing Your Information. This lecture discusses the problem-solving process and a variety of ways to organize your information with the intent of getting the research to notice overlooked clues, patterns, trends, and information. $8.50 includes handout and hour-long lecture
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More Than One

Never assume that a county or a city will only have one place, cemetery, etc. with the same name. I learned that lesson the hard way years ago. The county where most of my family lived since 1850 had two Webster Cemeteries--located in different parts of the county. Who would have thought Webster was that common of a name. Always doublecheck that you have the right cemetery, street, church, school, etc.

Researchers in urban areas are used to problems of "the names the same," but rural researchers need to keep it in mind as well.

There's a blog post here on the Webster Cemetery for those who are interested.

19 April 2012

After You Find that Document

After the excitement of locating a document wanes, look at all the information it contains. Consider the reliability of the person providing the information and then compare and contrast it to information you already have? Are there consistencies? Are there inconsistencies? What new records or sources are suggested? Always compare what you have just located to what you already know, keeping in mind that any document can   be totally accurate, totally inaccurate, or somewhere in between.

18 April 2012

Before You Hire A Professional

There are actually many things you should do before hiring a professional researcher to take on your problem. However, to keep the tip short, we'll say for today that you should 1) organize what you already have; 2) write down what it is you really want to know; and 3) admit that not every problem will have a solution. That's a good start.

17 April 2012

What Residency is Required?

Remember that vital events are to be recorded in the place where the event took place, which may not be where the persons were actually living at the time. People die in hospitals in counties or states where they did not live and occasionally cross state lines to get married.

Deeds need to be recorded where the property was located. Estates need to be probated in the county or jurisdiction where the bulk of the property is located.

16 April 2012

No Court Required

If your ancestor changed his name in the United States before 1900, chances are it was unofficial and done "without paperwork." Proof of the name change may be indicated on a deed or in an estate settlement where the individual is referenced by a former and the current name.

In some situations there may be no direct document linking the two individuals. Some name changes were done in a court of record, but many were not.

My children's ancestor was born William Frame in Chicago in 1888. For reasons that are currently unknown, he took the name William Apgar by the time he married. There's a chance he was adopted, but even if he was in that era the adoption likely would not have left any records either.

15 April 2012

Final Brick Wall from A to Z webinar released

I just finished the final installment in my Brick Walls from A to Z webinars. Twenty-six new genealogy stumbling block breakers in alphabetical order. This session is geared towards advanced beginners and intermediate researchers and is not geared towards any specific geographic location. The Brick Wall series has been fun, but I'm looking forward to creating new material.

And besides, I'm running out of things I can use for "X."

The recording and handout can be ordered for $8.50.

Administrator's Bondsmen

A bondsman on an executor's or administrator's bond is guaranteeing that if the executor or administrator of the estate runs off with the estate's property without paying the bills of the estate that the court can come after the individuals who signed the executor's or administrator's bond. So generally speaking, if someone signed the bond your ancestor posted as an estate administrator, that bondsman trusted your ancestor enough to know that he wouldn't run off leaving unpaid bills of the estate.

And the judge knew that the bondsmen were "worth enough" to cover the value of the estate if the administrator defrauded the estate.

14 April 2012

The Final Brick Wall from A to Z webinar

Of all the webinars, the "Brick Walls from A to Z" series has been the most popular. Recorded copies are available in my webinar archives but we're going to put on one last A2Z webinar. 

Tomorrow, 15 April 2012 we will offer our FINAL "Brick Walls from A to Z" webinar. This will be the last new one. Previous attendees have been requesting one more installment in this series, but tomorrow's session at 1:30 PM Central Standard Time will be the final live run. 

Geared for beginning and intermediate researchers, this session will include a PDF copy of the handout and registration for the live version is limited.  There will be time for questions and answers afterwards. 

Sign up for this last session in the series is only $5--less than our normal rate. Registrants who miss the live session can get a free copy of the webinar recording--as long as they were registered before 1:00 PM CST 15 April 2012. Copies after the webinar is over will be sold at $8.50. 

You can process your registration here:


Hope to "see" some of you tomorrow!

Is Every Statement the Same?

When you've got a document where your ancestor made several statements, consider how likely it was that he knew each statement. Chances are there are some facts he was more likely to know than others. In some cases, your ancestor might not have been entirely right or entirely wrong and the reality might have been somewhere in between. This is potentially the case with a census record or death certificate where the informant may be answering several questions at the same time.

13 April 2012

Creating Research Plans and Mother's Death Webinar

Creating Research Plans Webinar

My webinar on "Creating Research Plans" has just been processed and is ready for download. I discuss how to create your research plans, how to set goals, how to not set goals, when you are proving and when you are not, and other key concepts. Of course, we have a few charts as well. Our attempt is to be down-to-earth and practical. I realize that most genealogists are not going to write journal articles, however our research needs to be as thorough as possible and our analysis and method well-thought out or we're not going to get the best possible story on great-great-grandma that there is. This presentation is geared towards intermediate researchers, but advanced beginners might get some benefit from it as well.

The presentation and handout can be downloaded from our vendor for $8.50. The download link is live for 24 hours after your purchase, but the presentation can be viewed as many times as you want after the download.

All our older webinars can be ordered here.

Preparing for Mother's Death Webinar

We've just released the recorded webinar and handout for my latest presentation, "Preparing For Mother's Death."

It's not quite what you might think.

This presentation discusses an 1889 will that was denied in 1900 with no stated reasons. An exhaustive search of records resulted in the likely reason and made the machinations of one son a little easier to see and made the reasons behind some documents a little more clear.

Along the way we discuss a few key terms and also see why chronology and context are always important--especially so when things are confusing.

You can purchase the handout and presentation for $8.50. You'll be sent a download link that has to be used in 24 hours. The file can be viewed as many times as you want---it's just that you have to download it within 24 hours.

It's About Relationships More Than Dating

Genealogical research many times is more about establishing a relationship between two people than it is determining a date precisely. Connecting a parent to a child is usually more important than proving someone was born on the 15th or the 16th of January of 1823. Knowing a date of birth to the month is usually sufficient. It's connecting a husband to a wife or a mother to a daughter that is usually key and where we don't have wiggle room like we do with dates. 

In genealogy, it's often about the relationship more than it is the date.

12 April 2012

Did You Assume They Were Close?

An affidavit in a Civil War pension file was made by two men with the same last name. No relationship was stated, but I concluded two things immediately:

  • the two men were somehow related
  • the men lived near each other
After all, it was a joint affidavit signed by both of them. They even lived in the same state.

Turns out that they lived 300 miles from each other. Thanks to my Casefile Clues proofreader for catching my rather glaring error.

11 April 2012

Genealogy Fundamental Webinars

Our fundamental webinars are each approximately 20 minutes in length. These short session are geared for beginner or somewhat experienced beginners who would like to learn more about the following topics. Each presentation includes the 20 minute or so presentation and the handouts. Downloads of previous fundamental webinars can be ordered here.
  •   Quick Google Ideas—this is geared towards the advanced beginner to intermediate genealogist as all the fundamental webinars. Our focus will be on searching, what to search for and how to search for it. Runs on 20 April 2012 at 2:30 PM CentralRegister for $2.
    ·         Comparison Shopping (Part 1)—We will see some elementary ways to determine whether the person/family you have found on a passenger manifest or census is the same family you’ve located on a census elsewhere. Runs on 20 April 2012 at 10:30 AM CentralRegister for $2.
    ·         Proving Florence—how I found the father of an 1870 Iowa bride when there’s no direct proof. Not a really difficult to understand problem, but one that many researchers encounter. The solution is not too difficult but we’ll see how the search and the “proof” was organized. Runs on 20 April 2012 at 11:30 AM CentralRegister for $2.

    If you have ALREADY REGISTERED--you are still registered and will get a download link if you were not able to attend the new time. 

Might Makes Right

If I've got three sources that say the same thing then the statement they make is correct. Not necessarily. If source A, source B, and source C agree--do you know where source B and source C got their information? Did they get it from source A? If so, then you really don't have three sources--you've got two sources that copied from another.

It can't always be done, but you want sources that were created independently of each other.

An obituary, death certificate and tombstone agreeing about the date of birth doesn't mean the information they provide about the date of birth is correct--it could mean they have the same informant.

10 April 2012

New Samples of Casefile Clues

If it's been a while since you've looked at Casefile Clues, we've changed out our free samples for two new ones just tonight--10 April 2012

We've initiated new download procedures for free samples of Casefile Clues.

Visit this page, click "checkout" and enter your email  You do NOT need Paypal, you do NOT need a credit card, (name is actually optional). Do need an email address.

You will not be asked for a credit card or any other information.

Your email will not be shared.

Do You Explain Your Estimations?

If you estimate someone's year of birth, in your notes/sources/documentation, include how you arrived at that estimation. Some time later you may want to recall why you thought that estimated date was correct. No one's memory is 100% and including your reason may help you to re-evaluate that date if necessary.

09 April 2012

Heirs Versus Descendants

There is a difference between being someone's heir and being their descendant. A descendant "descends" from the person--is their child, grandchild, great-grandchild, etc.

An heir is someone who (usually according to state statute) is entitled to a share in a deceased person's estate. If the deceased person had living children, they are usually heirs. The children of a deceased child would also be heirs.If the deceased had no children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc. (and left no surviving spouse) then their heirs could be their siblings, or their first cousins, depending upon the family structure.

And of course, the definition of heir is dependent on statute--so check that out for the time period of interest as well.

Is There Another Finding Aid for that Information?

Before long, there will be several indexes online to the 1940 census. Same data--just different indexes. Which brings us to a good reminder. Is there another index or finding aid to a set of records you have been using? Keep in mind that for some records, particularly vital records, local offices may have created their own indexes in addition to those that might have been created by historical/genealogical societies or interested individuals. Maybe another finding aid will help you with that missing reference.

08 April 2012

New Webinars-Creating Research Plans & Google Docs

We have added two new webinars in our April 2012 series:

  • Creating Research Plans--12 April 2012
  • Google Docs for Genealogists-13 April 2012

Learned About a New Source?

When was the last time you learned about a new genealogical resource, method, or term? Sometimes learning about something new, even if it doesn't directly relate to our research, is the best way to get our own genealogical research back on track.

07 April 2012

Are You Really Reading When You Transcribe?

If you can type quickly make certain that at some point in time you actually read the document that you've transcribed. Fast typists sometimes don't always comprehend what they are typing--at least I don't. A recent document indicated at the end how the person signing the document was related to another individual.

When I re-read the original document again that phrase had been used twice in the document. My transcription was correct and I had typed the relationship twice. But I certainly did not remember that first reference although I obviously read it.

Think about it after you type it and make certain something didn't just pass through your mind without being retained.

06 April 2012

Did You Rely On Memory

I've been working on finding people from the 1940 census and I'll admit that I relied on memory for one thing and now I wish I had not because I was wrong. For some reason, when I was making my 1940 list, I got it in my head that my wife's great-grandfather had died and his wife had married her second husband by 1940. In doublechecking the spelling of the second husband's last name (Fluegel), I realized that husband number one died in 1941, which means I should be looking for her with him (and his last name) in 1940.

Don't rely on memory. Even when you think you're right.

05 April 2012

How Much Time?

The release of the 1940 census without an index has me thinking about which people I will search for manually and which ones I will wait for until the index comes out. There are some people that I am certain enough of their residence that I can look for them. There are others who are in rural areas where searching will not take an inordinate amount of time.

There are others that I do not have good addresses for and are living in urban areas. Looking for them may take hours, if not days. In those cases, I'm going to wait for the index. Sometimes one has to decide if the time spent is worth it. In those cases there's likely nothing "earth-shattering" in the enumeration and my time can be better used re-evaluating information I already have or looking in other records.

It's fun to find people in the 1940 census, but I'm waiting to search for Mary Williams in Chicago (with no address) until the index comes out.

04 April 2012

Those Ages Could Be Correct

Don't always assume that census ages are incorrect. I found the entry for my children's grandmother in 1940 and I thought there had to be a mistake--as I knew there were no twins in the family and their children were listed with ages:

  • Two 7 year olds
  • One 5 year old
  • One 4 year old
  • One 2 year old
  • One 1 year old
  • One under a year--7/12
The ages were correct--just a lot of children close together and the census date combined with the birthdates didn't help either.You can see the image here

1940 Census Webinar

Last minute registrants can sign up for $4!

Everyone's crazy about the 1940 census...including me--I've found 11 of my ancestors and a few others in the first few days since it's release. We're going to help those who need it see how to navigate the free 1940 census sites. Our focus is on how to search and use the sites. I'm not an employee of any of the sites and don't have any agenda other than helping you to use them.

On 5 April 2012 at 7:30 PM Central time (Thursday--rescheduled ), I'll be presenting a webinar on using the free 1940 census sites. Not all have everything uploaded (NARA does), but we'll see how to navigate, download, and work with the free 1940 census images that are available.

Last minute registrants can sign up for $4!

Or you can get the webinar free if your order  at least $20 of recorded webinars from my recorded webinar page--and to top if off, you can use the coupon code of 1940 to reduce your order price in HALF and still get a complimentary registration for the 4 April 2012 1940 census webinar (for as little as $10--the $20 order minimum applies BEFORE you use the coupon). So that means your recorded webinars will cost you half the normal price and you'll get the 1940 Census webinar on the free sites at no charge--as long as your order totals $20 before you use the coupon.

All webinar registrants can request a complimentary webinar download after it's been uploaded.

03 April 2012

Have You Looked at Every Little Item?

I've been looking at 1940 census and was reminded that one should always make certain to analyze every tick mark and notation on the census (or any record for that matter). Some abbreviations on the census are statistical and have nothing to really do with the family's entry specifically. Other items can be clues. Marriage and other records can contain small clues as well. The marriage register may list your ancestor as Sally Jones and the marriage license may list her as "Mrs. Sally Jones."

And that's a big difference.

02 April 2012

Take Your Time

Hasty research leads to brick walls, lineages that make no sense, and pedigrees that say things about an ancestor that never actually happened.

There is no rush to the vast majority of genealogical research. Take your time. Make certain you really do have the same person in place A that you think you have in place B. Ask yourself if that family connection is logical and does that "far-fetched" tale really make sense. You can also reduce the chance of this sort of mistake by using online trees as clues, not grabbing the first match that appears "close," and giving yourself some "soak time" between making a conclusion and using it to begin more research.

01 April 2012

1940 Census Webinar Released

The 1940 census images will be released on 2 April 2012 and those used to indexed census records are in for a challenge.

My 1940 census webinar discusses ways to find addresses to help with 1940 census work, finding the correct enumeration district, using the enumeration district maps, and more.

The webinar (including handout) can be downloaded for $4.00. Get ready for your 1940 census search.

Taking the 1940 Census

Here are a few links to articles from Modern Mechanix on the 1940-1960 census enumerations. Not a complete discussion to be certain, but an interesting one nonetheless.

No One Source Has Everything

Despite what some may think, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City does not have "everything." Despite what the ads may imply, Ancestry.com does not have "everything." Despite what we may think, the internet does not have "everything."

Nothing has "everything."