Sponsored By GenealogyBank

30 September 2012

Join Michael in Salt Lake City-May 2013

We've set the dates for our 2013 Family History Research Trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City in May. Join us for a week of genealogical research in the world's largest genealogical library between 29 May and 5 June. Don't wait pre-register today for only $50. Balance of registration is due 1 April 2013. It is not too early to start planning for 2013. 

The complete registration price is only $150--that's a bargain compared to other trips. This fee includes pre-trip planning assistance, morning presentations at 8:00 every day the library is open during our trip, onsite consultations, assistance in learning to use the equipment at the library, quick on the fly questions, and follow-up assistance as needed. 

Travel arrangements are on your own. We stay at the Salt Lake Plaza where we have  pre-tax rate of $90 a night. The Plaza is next door to the library--very convenient. 

Our research trip dates for 2013 are a starting on the 29th of May at 6:30 PM with a hotel check out date of 5 June 2013. Our registration price is $175---with a deposit of $50. Deadline for registration is 15 April 2013 (refund if you cancel by 15 March 2013). We'll be posting additional details later this summer but that's pretty much the essence of the trip. Travel arrangements are not included.  Our group size has traditionally been small and we plan on keeping it that way.

Get a Free Genealogy Webinar

Get a free genealogy webinar...

Buy 5 webinars at our 60% discount rate and we'll send you a coupon code for a free webinar! 

Our discount makes downloads less than $3.50 each. Our presentations are informal, down-to-earth, and practical. The only agenda we have is helping you with your research.

Coupon code "sixty" at check out will reduce your order by 60%. Downloads are immediate. The buy 5 get one free offer ends at 11:59 PM (Central time)  1 October 2012. Don't wait--your ancestors are not getting any younger. The coupon code for a free webinar does not expire and does not need to be used immediately

Check out our list of over 30 presentations here:

Topics include:

Brick Walls
Court Records
Land Records
and more!


Hope to see some of you virtually in the near future. Suggestions for additional topics are always welcomed. 


Get Redundant While You Can

Regularly saving files and documents in backup locations is always advised. Have you been redundant today?

The time you spend today may be the time you don't waste tomorrow recreating or refinding material.

And are there back up copies of those pictures and other materials in a remote location?

29 September 2012

Are You the Only One?

Chances are, you are not the only descendant of your great-great-great-grandparents (or any other set of distantly removed ancestors). Have you located other descendants who may have pictures or information? Remember...it's not just about you. Other relatives may have ephemera or other material that could be helpful in your quest.

28 September 2012

No Method to the Madness

In our quest to find "proof" and "reasons" behind all those things our ancestors did (or did not do), remember that while there often are reasons why people move to new location or choose a specific name for a child, there are often times where those things are done completely on a whim.

Once in a while decisions are made--for no reason at all.

27 September 2012

One State, Many Places

There are states that have more than one location with the same name or with locations that have similar names. Illinois has more than one Prairie Township within its borders and probably has other locations (towns, cemeteries, etc.) that also have the word "prairie" as part of the name. Illinois also has the village of Henderson, the village of North Henderson, Henderson County, etc.

And Illinois is not the only state (or territory) with similarly named features.

26 September 2012

It Will Put You to Sleep, But...

Have you ever read the probate section of state statute for the state in which you are researching? At the very least it may put you to sleep. On the other hand, you may learn something.

25 September 2012

College Yearbooks for Non-Graduates

Don't neglect searching college yearbooks even for those people you think might never have attended. A relative may easily have only attended for a year or two, never graduated, and yet appear in a yearbook their freshman or sophomore years.

Those non-graduates may even have their picture in the yearbook as well.

24 September 2012

Do You Wait Before You Search?

When you locate a new piece of information, particularly a detailed document, do you analyze it, think about what it says (and does not) before you mindlessly start searching on the internet?

A little reflection and analysis before those internet searches may save you some time. Think about what a document means before you start throwing terms in search boxes.

Old Tips Going In Email

For some reason, old tips are going out in the email version of "Genealogy Tip of the Day." We're working on getting it fixed. Thanks!

23 September 2012

You Can't Always Call the Cemetery

Those who have never researched rural ancestors are sometimes in for a treat when they try and locate someone who has a map of the cemetery or a listing of who owns which plots, etc.

For some rural cemeteries, particularly ones that are no longer used, no such list exists. Township or other local officials may oversee the cemetery, maybe. Or no one at all may look after the cemetery and the records, if there ever were any, may be long gone.

And rural cemeteries rarely have phone numbers you can call to get information. Local historical or genealogical societies and libraries may have information or they may not. Local funeral homes may know who to contact as well. And local government officials, even if they are not responsible for the cemetery's upkeep, may be aware of someone who knows about who is in the cemetery.

Adjacent landowners may know who knows something about the cemetery, but get permission before walking on someone's property.

22 September 2012

There May Not Be Records

Occasionally I get emails from readers telling me that there simply "have to be records" and comments indicating that "someone, somewhere has 'them.'"

While a church might have kept records sometimes pastors keep the records of their church and they eventually end up lost or destroyed. The records of some cemeteries, particularly smaller ones, end up in private hands and sometimes those too end up being accidentally destroyed.

This does not mean that one should not look for records. What it does mean is that one cannot always insist that they "have to be around somewhere." Sometimes they are--but sometimes they are not.

21 September 2012

Non-Verbal Information

Years ago, I discovered that my grandmother had a step-grandmother who had never been mentioned. For a long list of reasons, I never mentioned the step-grandmother to my own grandmother.

However, I did learn where the step-grandmother was buried. A few months later, my Dad and I had cause to go close to the cemetery on a trip somewhere else and I asked if we could stop for a few minutes to see if I could find the stone.

There was no stone.

Dad mentioned to Grandma the next morning that we had stopped at said cemetery. Grandma later very directly asked me WHO I was looking for in THAT cemetery. Grandma probably knew who I was looking for as there are NO other family members buried there.

Her pointed question and the look on her face told me that she knew darned well who was buried there and whose stone I was looking for.

Sometimes clues aren't always written, spoken, or photographed.

What Genealogy Tip of the Day Is Not

In the interest of clarification, Genealogy Tip of the Day's blog site and Facebook Fan page are generally not:

  • places to promote genealogical events--there are places to do this and our intent is not to become a clearinghouse for this type of material. 
  • places to promote personal research services. We do not endorse any company or person that performs personal genealogical research.
  • places to review books, websites, other materials. Michael does not include any reviews of genealogical materials on the Tip blog or Facebook page. 
Genealogy Tip of the Day is provided as a free service to the genealogy community and we encourage fans/followers to interact on our blog site and Facebook page. Genealogy Tip of the Day is graciously sponsored by Genealogybank.com. My webinars and newsletter will occasionally be mentioned as well. These are things help bring you Genealogy Tip of the Day at no charge.

Those who find the Facebook experience a little too intense can visit our blog page and get the tips in your email by entering your email address in the box and following the instructions. You can also follow our blog using the links on the right hand side of the page. Being a follower means that you'll only get the blog posts.

We occasionally post items of a general genealogical nature to our Facebook Fan Page--usually when significant records closures are threatened or announced. We generally do not post "news" type items other than releases/updates to material on FamilySearch.

Thanks to everyone for their support of Genealogy Tip of the Day---it is appreciated!

20 September 2012

There Might Have Been No Stone

It's always possible that a grave marker was never erected for your relative. Sometimes financial difficulties or no family living in the area was the cause. The end result, no stone, is still the same.

19 September 2012

124 Back Issues of Casefile Clues for $30

Are you in need of how-to information written clearly, concisely, with an emphasis on instruction and explanation? That's exactly what you get with Casefile Clues--Michael John Neill's how-to genealogy newsletter. Take advantage of our special offer to get all 124 back issues for only $30! That's quite a genealogical bargain. All issues are delivered as PDF files. 

Written in an accurate, detailed, and yet easy-to-follow format, Casefile Clues is geared towards the intermediate level research, but we have many beginners and advanced researchers (including some professionals) who subscribe to Casefile CluesCasefile Clues focuses on genealogical case studies, problem-solving, and the occasional in-depth analysis of one specific document. 

And we always include complete, accurate citations and ideas of where to go next. We also focus on setting goals and keeping on task.

You can download samples following the link on this page:

A complete list of all topics (and order links) can be found here:

A complete list would make this blog post entirely too long. Check it out and see what you're missing. It has been a long time since we've had a back issue special. Don't wait. Jump start your research today.

How Far For a Spouse?

In the time period in which your ancestor married, how far were they likely to travel to find a spouse? It might not be as far as you think. Travelling 5 miles in 1830 was not as easy as it is today--your ancestor's "pool of potential mates" is geographically pretty small.

18 September 2012

Checked Those Miscellaneous Records?

County Recorder's offices usually records deeds and other legal instruments. They frequently have a "miscellaneous" record where a wide variety of documents might have been brought in to be recorded so that an official copy existed if the original was lost. Have you searched through these records in the local County Recorder's office?

In one Illinois county, the miscellaneous record contained out-of-state death certificates, a divorce decree from a divorce granted in Florida, my great-uncle's medical license, military discharge papers, and more.

Give them a look over. 

17 September 2012

60% Genealogy Webinar Sale

Save 60% on my recorded genealogy webinars--now through 19 September 2012. Don't wait!

List and information here:

Check Every Court

At the county level, in some places and time periods, there might have been several different "courts" housed in the same physical location--probate court, court of equity, chancery court, guardianship court, etc. Make certain you've searched all the records when using the indexes. If a "court" housed several different "courts," each court would have had a separate series of records, including indexes.

16 September 2012

Read Your Ancestor's Paper

When you locate that obituary or death notice for your ancestor, consider reading the entire thing--the newspaper that is.

Reading an entire issue (or two) of a newspaper may give you some insight into the time in which your ancestor lived. At the very least you might learn about the weather and who knows what real details are waiting for you in those other pages.

You might even get a historical clue that explains something else in your research.

Don't just copy the obituary and head back to your searching. See what other news is waiting for you in the paper.

15 September 2012

Our Sponsor-GenealogyBank

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

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

Where Is Your Audit Trail?

Are you tracking your online searches as you perform them?

Genealogists are not going to track every search they conduct online. People conduct simply too many to chart every search they perform.

However, if you spend more than 5 minutes searching a census index for someone, it may be time to make a chart of the search terms and track the ways in which they are used.

Otherwise you may be going in circles looking for someone and never even realize it.

14 September 2012

Back Issues of Casefile Clues

We have completed an updated listing of all back issues of my newsletter, Casefile Clues. Those lists can be viewed using the links below--they're too long to post here:

Do You Hear It Yourself?

Sometimes "seeing" a clue is not about seeing at all. Do you ever read a document or record "out loud?" There are times when just saying something or hearing yourself say something makes a clue or piece of information "click."

Talking to yourself a little bit never hurts and it may cause you to realize things that were not so clear when you simply read them silently.

13 September 2012

Where Did It Have To Be Done?

Vital records are usually recorded where the event took place. A child might not have been born where the couple "lived," they might have been born somewhere a slight distance away, perhaps while the mother was staying with relatives in a neighboring town. A couple might have traveled fifty miles to elope and marry in a different state. A person may die in a hospital in a neighboring town or while a thousand miles away on a trip. That death will be recorded where the death took place, not the person's residence.

Where were they when it happened?

12 September 2012

Comments in Brackets

When transcribing handwritten documents, make certain that any comments, interpretations, etc. that you make are clearly indicated in brackets. It is preferable that these comments be placed after the actual transcription itself. 

You don't want to compound any potential errors by creating the chance that someone thinks your comment was a part of the original document. 

Words that you cannot read, or are partially readable can be indicated as such by [---] or [Gra---]. 

And always go back and re-read things you transcribed twenty years ago. Any chance you made a mistake?

11 September 2012

How Will You Handle Scandal?

Have you thought about how you will handle those family skeletons that you will eventually uncover? Give some thought to it before simply posting the entire story as a blog post or putting it in a public tree. Of course how you handle something from 1960 is different from something that took place in 1760.

10 September 2012

Genealogy Webinar Link Problems?

If you ordered genealogy webinars from me and your download link expired:

  • email me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com
  • forward me the receipt for the product you were unable to download in time.
Links to download do expire in 24 hours--that's to balance traffic on the server and to prevent fraudulent downloads. It's no problem to reactivate your download links--at no charge, you just have to let me know.

And if you'd like to purchase webinars, there's a complete list here:

I Have No Idea What On Earth This Is

If you locate a record or a relative sends you a copy of a record, do you:

  • know what the record actually is?
  • know why it was created?
  • know whether you have the "whole thing?"
  • have a citation for it?
Determining those things may create new opportunities and reduce "brick walls."

09 September 2012

If There's Not a Reason, There Better Be a Reason

I have a relative,  born in Canada in the 1820s who for some reason moved to southern Missouri in the 1850s. It seems a little unusual to me and, at this point, I do not know the reason why he moved. What I do have a reason for is why I know it is the same man (his name, year and place of birth and the names of his children all match).

If you don't have the reason for why your ancestor did something a little unusual, try and make certain you have good reason for believing it is the same person. Maybe the reason it seems like you have the "wrong person" is because you do.

08 September 2012

Thanks to Our Sponsor

A big thanks to GenealogyBank, who sponsors Genealogy Tip of the Day.

You can view a few interesting tidbits I've found here:


Need a List of Churches?

If you need a list of churches, try a city directory. They often have lists of churches grouped by type of denomination. Addresses and names of ministers may also be listed which may help in determining which church your ancestor attended.

07 September 2012

Maybe They Weren't Smoking When They Answered

For years, Ellen Sargent was one of my "brick wall" ancestors. Her 1880 census enumeration indicated she was born in Missouri with parents who were born in Michigan. 

After a while, I simply concluded that her 1880 enumeration was wrong and that instead of Michigan the place of birth had to have been somewhere else. I decided to completely ignore her 1880 enumeration and work from scratch.

Funny thing is--her 1880 enumeration was just about right. Her parents were probably not born in Michigan, but spent at least ten or fifteen years there, shortly before Ellen was born in Missouri. 

Those enumerations may be wrong or they may be closer to correct than you think. 

06 September 2012

No Kids, Never Had Siblings, and Died With Some Cash

Is there a relative who never had any children of their own, had no siblings and died owning enough property to require a probate or an estate settlement?

If so, the records of that settlement may be particularly interesting. The deceased person's heirs-at-law typically would have been their first cousins or their first cousin's descendants. Even if there was a will, these heirs-at-law typically would have had to have been notified of the probate. Those records could help determine relationships and indicate where people were living at the time the relative died.

These estate or probate records would typically be filed at the local court level.

05 September 2012

Beyond What You Say

When a person has never heard a last name said aloud, it can be difficult to get that "first way of saying it" out of your head, even if it is not right. This can be problematic if the way you "hear it" is not really close to how people with the last name actually said it.

I've been working on the Liddell family lately--which often gets said and written as "Little."

Of course the "L" gets read as an "S" sometimes as well, but that's a discussion for another tip.

04 September 2012

Are You Trying Too Hard?

Are you trying too hard to make things fit when they actually don't? Are people that you think are the same really two different people? Is one entry in a record a mistake which is the reason why it is inconsistent with other records?

Are you insisting that every document you discover be completely accurate agree with everything else?

And are you willing to admit when you are incorrect? It may rarely happen, but occasionally....

03 September 2012

Reminder--60% Sale Ending...

It's rare for us to offer our 60% sale, but we're doing it in honor of Labor Day.  There's never been a better time to order one of our how-to genealogy webinars. 

Now is a great time rev up your research skills as we swing into fall. 

Our download rates are the best in the business. Our presentations are informal, down-to-earth, and practical. The only agenda we have is helping you with your research.

Coupon code "sixty" at check out will reduce your order by 60%. Downloads are immediate. Sale ends at 11:59 PM (Central time) 4 September 2012. Don't wait--your ancestors are not getting any younger. 

Check out our list of over 30 presentations here:

Topics include:

Brick Walls 
Court Records
Land Records
Search Techniques
Genealogical Proof
and much, much more!


Hope to see some of you virtually in the near future. Suggestions for additional topics are always welcomed. 

Michael John Neill
Genealogy Tip of the Day

Turn the Page

When a document is located on a relative, look at the pages before and after the document for additional references to your relative. Deeds sometimes get recorded in "batches," when it is realized that they were forgotten. Children sometimes get baptized in groups when a minister finally arrives or someone decides it is time.

And occasionally there is a supplemental death certificate when a correction needs to be made.

Indexes will take you to a direct, exact page. It's up to you to turn a few pages before and after that page to see if there's an additional find.

02 September 2012

Genealogy Webinars-60% off

It's rare for us to offer our 60% sale, but we're doing it in honor of Labor Day.  There's never been a better time to order one of our how-to genealogy webinars. 

Now is a great time rev up your research skills as we swing into fall. 

Our download rates are the best in the business. Our presentations are informal, down-to-earth, and practical. The only agenda we have is helping you with your research.

Coupon code "sixty" at check out will reduce your order by 60%. Downloads are immediate. Sale ends at 11:59 PM (Central time) 3 September 2012. Don't wait--your ancestors are not getting any younger. 

Check out our list of over 30 presentations here:

Topics include:

Brick Walls 
Court Records
Land Records
Search Techniques
Genealogical Proof
and much, much more!


Hope to see some of you virtually in the near future. Suggestions for additional topics are always welcomed. 

Michael John Neill
Genealogy Tip of the Day

Genealogy Fundamental Webinars

Our genealogy fundamental webinars are ready for download or purchase. These are geared towards the beginners with some research experience or those who are unfamiliar with the topic. Topics include:

Land Deed Basics
Federal Cash Land Sale File
Typical Union Civil War Pension file
19th Century Will
20th Century Death Certificate
1850 census
1880 census
1930 census


Short, to the point and they include media file and handout.

If you pre-ordered these and did NOT receive your download links, please let me know so that they can be sent to you again.


Michael John Neill
Genealogy Tip of the Day

Are Your References Clear?

When you read through your research notes, summaries, commentaries, etc. is it always clear to whom you are referring when you use the word "she," "he," "they," etc.? Pronouns are great, but if you are writing about several people and then starting using "she" or "he" are the references clear from the context? If not, consider re-writing or re-phrasing.

Thomas Smith and Henry Johnson arrived in Colusa County, California, in 1856. Then he married one of the daughters of Jackson Brown and they moved to Oregon.

Who got married to the daughter of Jackson Brown?

It's not clear, is it?

01 September 2012

Can't Transcribe that Word?

When transcribing a document that has one word that is difficult to read, try typing in the mystery word and two words before it and two words after it.

You may get some suggestions in your search results.

Of course search results may not indicate what the mystery word is in your document, but they may give you some ideas.