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31 May 2012

Avoid Scraps of Paper

Some regular readers know that I spend a week in Salt Lake City at the Family History Library every year. The one thing to avoid are the small pieces of paper for research notes.

Don't take notes on small scaps of paper--they will get lost.

A research log is best, or some notes on a printout from the catalog listing the material that you are searching. If you must get a small notebook and keep notes. At least that way you've got your notes, unless you lose your notebook.

30 May 2012

Just Set A Deadline

If you are writing a family history (even a brief one), set yourself a deadline. While there are frequently new sources or items that can be discovered, if you wait until you are totally "finished" you may never get any writing done.

That doesn't mean you do shoddy work or create compilations that are incomplete. But sometimes a person has to write what they have. And any compilation can acknowledge that there are still stones left to turn over.

29 May 2012

Webinar Half-Off Problem?

Apparently a Tip fan had difficulty using the code "half" to purchase webinars at 1/2 off. If you had issues with the coupon, email me or try it again at:


We're wrapping a great 7 days in Salt Lake and hoping to have new research experiences to generate tips.

How Do You Know It?

Are you stuck on a problem? Get off the computer. Write down everything you think you know about an ancestor. Don't refer to your records or materials---write from memory.

Why? Because that's often how people research--from what they think they know, not what they actually know.

Now go and look at the records you have on this ancestor. How much of what you thought you knew did you really know?

28 May 2012

Find All Your Ancestor's Siblings in Every Census?

I'll admit it. The man that I'm 99% certain is my ancestor's brother had not been located in every census in which he should be enumerated. When going back and finding him in every census, I discovered that in 1870 he had a nephew living with him. A nephew with the same last name--meaning that this nephew is either a son of my ancestor or another brother.

A good clue obtained from going through the every census for the brother of my ancestor.

27 May 2012

Join Me in Ft. Wayne--August 1-5

In August, I'll be leading a small research group at the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Our trip runs from 1-5 August. The Allen County Public Library has one of the largest genealogical research collections in the United States.

We stay at the Ft. Wayne Hilton at a negotiated special rate. For additional details about the trip see this earlier blog post

Token Value On That Deed

If the amount of "consideration," or what was given for the real estate (often cash) is a token amount, determine if there was a relationship among the people involved.

Transfers of significant pieces of real estate for token amounts are often done to clear up title among relatives. Not always, but frequently.

Check out the relationships among those who transfer land for little to no cash.

26 May 2012

Scan Or Copy When You Can

I was working with some deeds at the Family History Library in Salt Lake and for some reason instead of taking notes with the deed volumes and page numbers as indicated in the index, I made scans of the index entries.

It was a good thing I did. What I thought was volume "C" was actually volume "E." When I didn't find the desired entry, I quickly went back to my scan and realized what I thought was a "C" was really an "E." If I had to go back to the index it would have wasted time.

25 May 2012

Always Include the Citation

When transcribing a document--even in your software program--consider including a quick citation in brackets at the beginning of the transcription. The brackets will tell readers that the information is not part of the transcription. It will also tell your readers where you obtained the material in case the citation in your database doesn't get printed out with the transcription. Something like [Coshocton County, Ohio, Will Book C, page 212] is better than nothing.

Speaking from personal experience.

Have You Done All Your Homework?

Before you work across the pond with your ancestor or even across the country, make certain you have done all your research in the area of settlement first. Don't neglect basic sources in that area--they may contain unexpected clues.

Get your groundwork all done before you start working further back.

24 May 2012

Don't Assume They Were Not In the Newspaper

I spent a some time experimenting with a Chicago newspaper database recently, hoping to find a death notice for a relative there. The man worked for the Pullman Car Company in the paint shops and I knew I'd be lucky to get a death notice at all.

No death notice. But he was mentioned in the society pages when his daughter came to visit and apparently he was actively involved in several local social clubs where he held offices.

Don't assume your ancestor won't be in the paper. I didn't get the death notice, but I did get a few clues.

Get "Using US Census at Ancestry.com" Webinar Free Today

We offered this to our Facebook fans yesterday and are repeating it here. You can get my webinar "Using the US Census at Ancestry.com" free by using code uscensus at http://www.casefileclues.com/webinars.htm 

Simply put "Using US Census at Ancestry.com" in your cart and use "uscensus" as your coupon code.


23 May 2012

The Widow Might Not Be The Mother

Henry Smith leaves a widow and eight children when he dies in 1820. It is possible that she is the mother of all his children, some of his children, or none of his children.

Simply surviving him does not make her the mother of all his children.

22 May 2012

Plan Before Your Courthouse Trip

Avoid making unplanned genealogy trips a distance from where you live--particularly if you are unfamiliar with the hours and the facility. Make certain the facility will be open. If visiting the office that holds court records, find out what day(s) of the week are court days and try to avoid those days.

Consider not making your last day of research Friday--that way you've got an extra day if you make a last minute discovery.

21 May 2012

New Webinars-Crossing Pond Pt 2 & Revolutionary Material at Fold3

I have put two new webinars on the docket for later this month, based upon requests of attendees. 

"Crossing the Pond (part 2)" will concentrate on using, interpreting, and understanding passenger lists between 1820 and 1920.

"American Revolutionary War Material on Fold3" will discuss what revolutionary material is on Fold3 and effective search strategies. Material from this era is not just for veterans of that conflict.

Details are located at the site below (where you can also register). Join us by visiting:




Guardian of the Estate Not the Body

If your ancestor died with a widow surviving with minor children, a guardian might have been appointed by the local court. This guardian frequently was not the widow. The widow was the natural guardian who had physical custody of the child. The guardian appointed by the court was a guardian to oversee the estate the child inherited. The guardian of the child's estate did not necessarily take custody of the child.

20 May 2012

Celebrating My Trip to Sale Lake City with a Webinar Sale

To celebrate my annual trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake, we are running our $5 special from now until I depart for Salt Lake on Monday afternoon at 4:00 PM CST. Our $5 sale concentrates on a variety of methodology items, including:

  • Creating Research Plans
  • The Genealogical Proof Standard
  • Female Ancestors
  • Making and Proving Your Case
  • Court Records
  • Seeing the Patterns
  • and more.
To see the entire list and get the linking to the discount prices, visit this page:

We're hoping to get new tip of the day ideas and blog post material in Salt Lake. Stay tuned.

Were the Rules Skirted?

Keep in mind that before 1906, naturalization procedures were not consistent throughout the United States and it is always possible that your ancestor had not quite met the residency requirements before he naturalized. Use dates of naturalization as estimates for when an ancestor immigrated--keeping in mind he might have lived in the United States longer than the minimum time or he might have shaved a year or two off for whatever reason.

19 May 2012

Learn One New Thing

When was the last time you read up on a source or type of record that you know little about? When was the last time you read a how-to article or a research guide? Did you either read it online, without surfing on three other sites at the same time? Or did you print it out and read it and take notes on it while NOT looking at online databases and your email at the same time? Learning something new may help your research. Trying to learn it while not multi-tasking is a good idea as well.

Upcoming Seminars in Burbank, Kansas City, and Indianapolis

I will be making presentations at the following conferences over the next month.

Check out the blog posts for more information. And if you are in attendance--please introduce yourself as a blog reader. Thanks!

18 May 2012

Intestate Means No Will Admitted to Probate

If the estate records of your ancestor indicate she died "intestate" that means there was no valid will that was admitted to probate. There might have been a will, but that will was denied probate by the judge. That will should be filed with the court.

Read it if you can. Sometimes it's clear why the will was denied and sometimes it is not.

17 May 2012

Have You Written What You Remember?

Have you written down those stories your grandparent or older record used to tell you? Have you written down those stories of things you did as a kid?

If not, hop to it. Your dead relatives can wait another day or so. Your memory might not!

$5 sale on Brick Wall Webinars-Til 7 PM CST 18 May

I have given four Brick Wall from A to Z webinars--and I'm not doing any more. These are titled:

  • Brick Walls from A to Z
  • More Brick Walls from A to Z
  • Yet More Brick Walls from A to Z
  • Brick Walls from A to Z--the Final One

The recording and handout normally sell for $8.50. From now until 7 PM CST on 18 May 2012, we're offering these at $5 each. That's a savings of 40%. Don't wait...

Brick Walls from A to Z--first in the series
 Add to Cart
Brick walls from A to Z--second in the series--More Brick Walls
 Add to Cart
Brick walls from A to Z--third in the series--Yet More Brick Walls
 Add to Cart
Brick walls from A to Z--fourth in the series--The Final One
 Add to Cart

16 May 2012

Crossing the Pond Webinar Recorded and Released

My "Crossing the Pond" webinar was recorded today and has been uploaded for immediate download. This presentation discusses problem-solving strategies for tracing 18th and 19th century ancestors back across the Atlantic. It is geared towards advanced beginning and intermediate researchers. This presentation does not merely list a list of sources, but focuses on research methods. 

Our introductory price on this webinar (media file and handout) is $6. Orders can be processed here:



Adjacent Names on the Manifest?

Always pay close attention to names of passengers that appear next to your ancestors on a passenger manifest. They may be names you encounter when researching your ancestors in the area where they settled. Neighbors sometimes immigrated together and occasionally those "nearby names" are relatives in some way shape or form.

15 May 2012

Have You Searched Nearby Universities?

Some universities have local or regional historical materials in what frequently is termed a "special collection,"usually in the library or an archives. There might even be historians who have done research in the local area. Not necessarily genealogical research, but historical research that still may give some insight into local families.

14 May 2012

Was Necessity the Mother of that Spelling?

Is it possible that your ancestor's name was spelled in a different way on a document, record, or tombstone because there wasn't room for the "right" spelling?

That's a potential problem and might be the reason "Rebeca" appears on this stone instead of "Rebecca."

13 May 2012

Does It Sound Like the Same Name?

Whether a name matches depends on more than the exact same spelling. It is only in recent times when consistent spelling has become important. When trying to determine if a name could be the "same," consider spelling and pronunciation alternates and variations. Your ancestor's name probably will not be spelled the exact same way in every document. You should look at other identifiers in the record (if they are given), such as age, ethnicity, social status, marital status, occupation, etc.

Never look at just the name if you can avoid it and never "throw out" a potential match without good reason.

12 May 2012

How Old Was the Child's Mother?

If it appears that the "mother" of a child is in her mid-fifties or older and there's a gap of quite a few years between the last child and the child prior to the last one, consider that the last child might be the "mother's" grandchild and not her actual child. If there's an unmarried daughter in the household in her late teens, she could be the mother.

Of course the "mother" actually could be the mother--assuming her age at the birth of the child isn't stretching the plausibility of childbirth too much.

And it's possible the youngest child was actually adopted.

11 May 2012

Any Kin Naturalize in the US after 1906?

Naturalizations before the reform of 1906 typically provide little in the way of genealogical details. Records after the reform tend to contain more information about the applicant's nativity, immigration, and family. If your ancestor had a cousin or other relative who naturalized after 1906, consider searching for their naturalization materials. It may provide you with significant detail.

10 May 2012

Are the Names Backwards?

If you can't find a person in a census index, try reversing their first and last names. It is possible the census taker (or other record keeper) made a simple goof. Foreign language names can easily get recorded in this way.

This could easily explain why Panagiotis Verikios was enumerated in 1930 as Verikios Panagiotis.

Think about it--it's possible with English language as well.

09 May 2012

Was Grandma A Native Born Alien?

In the United States, during the time before the Cable Act, a native born American woman would lose her citizenship status if she married a man who was an alien. This explains why the 1920 census for my children's great-great-grandmother indicated she was an alien even though she was born in New York State. Her husband was an unnaturalized Greek immigrant.

Did your female ancestor lose her citizenship because her husband was an alien?

08 May 2012

Is Your First Conclusion Incorrect?

In 1912, Miriam Pierce had a Presbyterian minister write a letter on his office letterhead to the US pension office inquiring about a military benefit. I assumed that she had the letter written by the minister solely because he was a minister and might lend more credence to her claim. 

While that might have been part of it, it turns out that the minister was her son-in-law as evidenced by a census enumeration from 1920. My initial conclusion didn't include that possibility.

Is there a chance that your initial conclusion is incorrect? 

07 May 2012

Need to Try Again?

Has it been some time since you conducted that unsuccessful search for an ancestor in a specific record? Perhaps a second look is in order. It is always possible that you overlooked something the first time around, especially if that first time around was several years ago.

06 May 2012

Crossing Pond and Comparison Shopping Webinars

We have just announced the remainder of our May 2012 genealogy webinars:

Crossing the Pond--10 May 2012--for help with those immigrant ancestors in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Comparison Shopping-8 May 2012--determining if you have the "right" person.

Registration and additional details are here:

Check Before You Make That Trip

. Do not assume that the local records offices will be open just because you have made an unannounced thousand mile trip. Contact the local offices before your scheduled arrival just to be certain there will not be any unexpected closures. Also ask if there are days that the office is less busy (perhaps days when court is not in session). The short amount of time spent preparing may be well worth it. Local staff may even give you suggestions on where to stay.

I know of several counties where the best motel may be in the next county. Never hurts to ask.

Charts, Google Docs, Proving Ellen, and What Is Not Written

We have just released our latest series of webinars:

  • Charts, Charts and More Charts
  • Google Docs
  • Proving Ellen
  • What Is Unwritten
You can order all four for $20.00--just put "florence" as the coupon code at checkout.
That's a savings of $11.00!

 Charts, Charts, and More Charts

Charts, Charts, and More Charts discusses a variety of charts that can be used to organize your research. No family group or pedigree charts here--I discuss a variety of customized charts that I've used for years in my own research. Whenever I'm confused or something doesn't make sense, I make a chart as readers of Casefile Clues already know. This webinar is geared towards advanced beginners or intermediate researchers. $8.50.
 Add to Cart
 Google Docs

This webinar discussed using Google Docs, particularly sharing, collaborating, and publishing your content on your blog, website, etc. We discussed the various types of documents that can be created and how to use those documents for genealogy and interact with others using those documents. The handout and presentation can be downloaded here for $8.50. 
 Add to Cart
 Proving Florence

This short--25 minutes--webinar was a part of our fundamental genealogy series and concentrated on how "proof" of a father was constructed for a women born in the 1850s in either Iowa or Missouri. Methodology and process were discussed--clearly and concisely with a detailed handout.  The handout and presentation can be downloaded here for $2.50.
 Add to Cart
 What is Not Written

This hour-long presentation discusses why what "is not written" is just as important as what is written in a document. Geared towards intermediate level researchers, it discusses ways to see what might have "really been going" on in a document or series of records. The importance of state statute, culture, local customs, and more are discussed through specific examples. This presentation sells for $8.50.
 Add to Cart

05 May 2012

A Genealogist Needs to Act Like They Are Three Years Old

At least in one sense. Toddlers are often asking "why?" and are very inquisitive. Genealogists need to be asking the same thing.

Why did my ancestors move from point A to point B?
Why did they wait five years to settle up the estate?
Why did Grandma say she was born in Iowa when she was actually born in Ohio?
Why did they attend the "wrong" church?

Sometimes there is no way to find out why, but often just thinking about it can move your research along.

04 May 2012

Where Did Those Lines Come From?

It is not always possible to tell, but consider finding out where the boundaries of your ancestor's property came from. A survey plat of my ancestor's farm in 1940 indicated that the boundaries of his 100+ acre farm came from:

  • the section line
  • the railroad
  • a hedge row
The railroad is no longer there, but that "line" still exists as the property north of the line is not owned by the person who owns my ancestor's farm today. 

Learning a little about the "lines" of your ancestor's property may give you a quick history lesson.  It may even give you a few genealogical clues in the process.

And if your ancestors were city dwellers, consider learning the origin of the name of the street on which they lived. 

03 May 2012

Did The Letters Get Shoved Together?

Seeing this image from an 1874 county atlas made me think of a possible transcription or indexing error that can be particularly frustrating. The owner of part of the northern part of this section of property is "B. Urton." It certain would be easy for the name to be indexed (particularly if OCR is being used) as "Burton."

Just a thought!

02 May 2012

Are You Avoiding Things That Don't Have an Everyname Index?

Not every record contains an index to every name in the record. Some materials, court records and land records in particular, only have indexes to the main parties involved. Are you avoiding these records simply because every name is not indexed and the materials take more time to navigate? Doing so may cause you to overlook key information.

If the only sources you use are those that have online "point and click" indexes, chances are there is a wealth of material waiting for you to find it.

01 May 2012

It's What My Aunt Said--So It's True

A seminar attendee came up to me after a session several months ago and asked about her problem ancestor. When I asked where she got her details, she said that most of the "story" came from her aunt who did some genealogy research several years ago. While possibly true, the story the aunt told her seemed slightly far-fetched. I asked the attendee what documents she had on the problem ancestor--very few. In trying to prove the "story" the attendee had overlooked some other scenarios that fit the records she did have. Of course, these stories were less dramatic.

I gave her a couple of suggestions that fit what she had already obtained. I also suggested, that for the time being, she put the aunt's story aside and focus on what information was stated in the records. Sometimes stories are true. Sometimes they are just stories. The truth often lies somewhere in between. But it's best to  focus on what the records actually say instead of trying to make them say something else.