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31 October 2012

Leases Typically Are Not Recorded

If your farming ancestor leased property instead of owning it, there likely are no records of those leases. These documents are not like deeds that are typically recorded. County directories may indicate that your ancestor rented property and may indicate the actual owner. Census records (if they are recent enough) may indicate the property was rented as well.

30 October 2012

Try and Do It Right

We don't try and "do" genealogy accurately because it is a game to see who is the most accurate and to see who can "judge" another's work. We try our best to be as accurate as we can be in order to reach the most accurate picture of our ancestors as possible.  Often as we learn new information our picture of our ancestor changes--at least slightly. When we do shoddy work and research by grabbing whatever we can without analyzing it, we can indicate great-great-grandpa had wives he did not have, lived in places he did not live, and lived a lifestyle he never would have lived.

Sure, it takes longer to be as accurate as we can be. And all of us will make mistakes--beginners and experienced researchers alike.  But do you want your descendant to merge your life with that of your cousin of the same name whom you cannot stand? Do you want your descendant to create a picture of you that is completely and totally inaccurate?

Our ancestors deserve that option as well.

29 October 2012

City Directories May Be More Than Names

City directories usually contain alphabetical list of residents. They may also contain "reverse directories" (where names are sorted by address), directories based upon occupation, lists of churches, and other information. Don't just search the directory and, having found one reference to your ancestor, stop looking. There may be more information than just that one listing.

28 October 2012

Do Your Descendants Have Ancestors?

Of course your descendants have ancestors--you are one of them.

These are two words that frequently are used incorrectly, at least in the technical sense. Your ancestors are those people from whom you actually descend. These include your parents, grandparents, and their parents, grandparents, etc. Uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. aren't technically considered your ancestors. Uncles and aunts, are your relatives, but there's a distinction between an ancestor and a relative.

Descendants are your children, grandchildren, etc.

Everyone has ancestors.Not everyone has descendants (and that's just fine if people don't).

Sometimes writers use ancestors more generically to refer to all those who have come before. That's ok for them, but usually genealogists prefer to be more precise. There's enough confusion in records as    it is.

27 October 2012

Did They Cross a Threshold?

Age is an important thing. If your ancestor was not of legal age, he or she could not sign legal documents in his own name. Did a family wait until the youngest child was "of age" to settle up an estate?

Is the reason an ancestor waited to apply for military or widow's pension because they were not old enough or because the law changed, finally making them eligible?

There are age restrictions and other "qualifications" for a variety of things today. It's possible your ancestor had to "wait" until he or she qualified for something as well.

26 October 2012

Read the Whole Census Page

Do your eyes only scroll to the "name you're really looking for" on a census page? Do you not really think about the names of the neighbors? It's always a good idea to read the page your relative is on and at least a few pages before and a few pages afterwards-in case there are relatives nearby.

A relative married his second wife in the early 1860s. I didn't know much about her--until I reviewed her 1910 census entry when she had moved with her second husband to another state. There, next door, were two widowed brothers with a last name that was her maiden name.

Research is in progress, but if they are not related to her it is a huge coincidence!

25 October 2012

Jasper Newton's Not One Person

Have you encountered an ancestor named Jasper Newton Smith, Jasper Newton Lake, Jasper Newton Jones in your research? Chances are that ancestor was named for not one, but two, American Revolutionary War heroes. This link has more information for those who have encountered Jasper Newton in their own research.

Never assume that an "unusual" name means your ancestor was actually related to the person with that name.

24 October 2012

Voter's Records?

Have you searched for voter's registration records on your ancestor? They may not provide extensive family details, but they may give residence and will indicate citizenship status.

23 October 2012

Sixty Percent Webinar Sale On Today-Wednesday

Our 60% genealogy webinar sale is back on--save 60% off on our already low-price of $8.50 per presentation.
Our topics include:
Sections, Townships, Base Lines, and More--Legal Property Descriptions
Charts, Charts, and More Charts
Creating Research Plans
Female Ancestors
Probate Process
Did Your Ancestor Get A Civil War Pension?
What Is Not Written
Crossing The Pond
Preparing for Mother's Death
The Genealogical Proof Standard

and much, much more.

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A Witness is..

A witness to a document typically is only indicating that they know who signed the document in question. A witness has to be of legal age and sound mind, but does not have to have any relationship to the person actually making out the document.

Don't draw too many conclusions about a person who only witnesses one of your ancestor's documents. The witness just might have been another warm body in the office the same time as your ancestor.

22 October 2012

Do You Have Contemporary Maps?

Is there a region (county, state, etc.) where you are researching and you don't have any contemporary map of the area? Even a modern map is better than nothing.

Researching in an area without understanding the geography is asking to be confused.

21 October 2012

Not Everyone Naturalized

Most immigrants to the United States did naturalize after they had been in the United States for some time. Some never naturalized, which would explain the lack of a naturalization record. Some naturalized before 1906 when any court of record could naturalize and if you don't know where your ancestor resided for every moment of his life, you might not locate the record. And others may have thought they were naturalized by their father's naturalization and that they did not need to naturalize themselves.

Keep in mind that especially before the 1920s, naturalization laws were confusing to many. One of those confused might have been your ancestor.

20 October 2012

Estates May Take Time

It may take years for the estate of your ancestor to have been completely settled. As a result, the probate file for your ancestor who died in 1840 may be filed with those cases settled in the 1860s.

19 October 2012

Do You Research Willy-Nilly?

Do you plan your research and decide what to do and how to do it before you it? Or do you just start typing things in search boxes and hoping? Do you randomly look for families in various records, hoping something comes up as the result?

While there is nothing wrong with hope, a little organization of your search can save you from frustration later and allow you to better trouble-shoot unsuccessful searches.

And do you have any research goals?

What Are You Searching on FamilySearch? Webinar

We've just released the media file for my latest webinar which focuses on knowing what you are searching on FamilySearch.

If you are confused by states that have multiple indexes to the "same" set of vital records, why a marriage entry appears multiple times in an index, or how to see what was used to create the index, then this webinar is for you.

We focus on American sources, but the methods will apply to other locations as well. This presentation is not for complete beginners--some research experience is necessary.

You can download the media for only $4 during our introductory price offer. A PayPal account is not necessary, you can "click through" and when time for payment comes, click as a "guest" and use your non-PayPal credit card.

18 October 2012

Start Local

When trying to obtain a copy of a vital record, begin searching at the local level first (town, county, etc.), then try the state records office. Avoiding search firms that advertise for "immediate" delivery will be easier on your pocketbook. Determine if any records are available online or on microfilm via FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org).

Chances are you do not need the death certificate tomorrow, via overnight mail. Don't pay for services you do not need.

17 October 2012

Checked Out Family Search Lately?

When was the last time you visited the FamilySearch site to see if there were scanned images of local records in areas where you have family?

Even if you ignore the "compiled trees," (which isn't a bad idea), there are still many, many actual images of records on the site--all free.

16 October 2012

Ignoring the Rules?

Sometimes ancestors might appear in records where they are "not supposed to."

Recently while using draft registration cards for men in Georgia born between 1 July 1924 and 31 December 1924, I ran across a card for a man born on 13 September 1925. It was marked "cancelled," but still appeared with the other cards.

Sometimes things that are not supposed to be, are.

15 October 2012

Who Was Actually There?

Remember that for a person to be born in a location, their mother has to be in that location. The same is not true of the father. The father and mother have to be in the same location nine or so months before the birth.

Basic biology, but make certain your conclusions, assumptions, and premises don't violate it.

14 October 2012

Are You Assuming Actions?

Try and stick to information or evidence you have found in original records or sources. Avoid putting speculation into your family files, particularly regarding details of your ancestor's life that are not even remotely suggested in the records. It is difficult for someone over a hundred years later to really understand everything about what motivated their ancestor. A woman being left as a widow in 1855 with small children may have remarried out of necessity to support herself and her children, but whether that marriage was unhappy or not is not suggested merely because it took place early in 1856.

In a similar fashion, your inability to find a marriage record does not mean the couple was not married and the failure to record the birth of a child does not necessarily mean the child was born out of wedlock.

I have wondered if a relative of mine who came home from military service in the early 1900s was somehow impacted mentally by that service. However, I leave that "wonder" out of my records. There's no mention of it in any documents on him, including veteran's hospital records. He seemed to fall away from his family after his mother's death, but I have no proof of actual mental issues at all. It is also possible that he was a little eccentric and didn't get along with his siblings. Or there may be something else entirely.

Genealogy Tip of the Day Mug

At the request of one of our fans, I'm reminding readers about our Genealogy Tip of the Day mug. Mugs are available from CafePress.

13 October 2012

Unindexed, Offline, and Full of Details

I wrapped up a beginning genealogy class last week. One of the records sources we discussed were local court records. These materials are full of genealogical information. Yet many genealogists do not use them because they are frequently only available in their original paper form and have minimal indexes. Do not limit yourself.

Local court records (divorce, estate fights, bastardry, etc.)  involving your family could provide more information than you ever dreamed of.

12 October 2012

Is that "s" an "f"?

Remember when using digital versions of old newspapers and relying on optical character recnognition that an "s" may appear to be an "f."

That's how I found Absalom in the index as Abfalom.

Human eyes might not have read it that way. But computers, reading millions of letters will do that.

The option, for those that find this irritating, is to read the newspapers one at a time.

11 October 2012

Not Just an Obituary

When reading newspapers for information on someone's death and funeral, be certain to check out the "gossip" columns even after the funeral for mention of relatives who came back for the funeral. Sometimes their visit will be mentioned in a "gossip" column a week or two after the obituary.

10 October 2012

Get Beyond Yourself

A few gentle reminders:

  • When at the library, be considerate of other researchers who may need materials besides you.
  • When at any research facility, don't have phone conversations where other researchers can hear you. They really do not care about your personal life.
  • Leave research facilities as you found them.
  • Don't remove records from a research facility.
  • Don't tear pages from books.
  • Be respectful of staff.
  • If you must "vent," do away from the facility. You may need to go back later and they will remember that you had a little "fit" the last time you visited.

09 October 2012

It Is About You

Are you leaving behind information on yourself as well as your ancestors? On those days when you are stuck on your dead ancestor, consider taking a break and writing down some information about yourself. Getting away from your long-lost relatives may give you some new perspective and leaving details about your own life behind is never a bad idea either.

08 October 2012

Context Is Everything

If you make a copy from a published history or any reference, do you also copy enough of the material so that the item is in context?

A relative copied one page from a county history that is  only a list of names. No idea why the list was created, what year it was created, or any other detail as to how the people's names got on the list. Without any idea at all, the list is merely a list of names. They could have been gathered arbitrarily for all I know.

Always include a complete citation and enough information from the original so that you know what you really copied.

A name by any other name is just a name.

07 October 2012

A Date is a Date is a Date

Some documents have several dates associated with them. Make certain that you clearly indicate what each date is.

A deed may have a date of signing, a date of acknowledgement, and a date of recording.

A will may have a date of signing and a date that it was proven in court.

There is the official census date and the date on which the actual census was taken.

Record the dates as specifically as you can. This can reduce confusion.

06 October 2012

What Is A Vendue?

A vendue is another word for a public sale or auction. So if you see the reference in estate or probate papers, it simply means there was a public sale or auction of some or all of the estate's assets.

This was discussed on the Facebook Fan page yesterday.

Celebrating a Twenty Year Find

After twenty years, I've finally discovered contemporary evidence that a relative was killed by Bushwackers in Missouri in 1864. Sometimes it just takes patience. We recently posted that information on this blog.

Those with an interest can learn more about the discovery here:

In celebration, we're offering a Buy-One, Get-One discount on our webinars through 11:59 PM Central time on 6 October. There is a complete listing of our webinars at:

Discount code is discovery at checkout.

Topics include:

Seeing Patterns
Court Records
Genealogical Proof
Organizing Information
Land Records
Brick Walls
and much, much, more

Enjoy and good luck with your own research!

05 October 2012

Named for a Neighbor?

Keep in mind that an "unusual" first name could easily have resulted from a child being named for a neighbor and not necessarily a relative. And that neighbor may (or may not) necessarily be a relative. The name could still be a good clue, just not quite in the way you think.

04 October 2012

You Are Not Your Ancestor's Judge...

To technically be your ancestor's judge would violate the laws of space and time. Remember that.

Report the facts on your ancestor as clearly and as accurately as you possibly can. Let the information you locate determine the conclusions you reach about your ancestor. There are many reasons to leave the judgments to someone else, but the biggest one is that we, as genealogists, rarely know the whole story.

The only information we have is what got recorded and we only have that recorded information which was preserved. And that often is a fragment of the reality.

03 October 2012

Are You Crossing A Fence?

If a cemetery visit is to a cemetery on private property or requires access through private property, contact the landowner and get permission prior to making your visit. If the land owner knows what you are doing, it probably won't be a problem. Most landowners frown on people they don't know traipsing on their property.

One Office--Many Courts

One location may be the local "court" office, but keep in  mind that there may be several different courts in the same physical location, each with a separate series of records. Just because you've been through one series of indexes, does not mean you've been through all the records. There may have been a probate court, a criminal court, and a court of equity in the same physical location.

And they may have had the same judge.

02 October 2012

Unidentified Pictures?

This is your periodic reminder--do you have photographs with unidentified people in them? When was the last time you asked around as to who they might be?

And do you have pictures with people you know, but where you have not noted the identities on the photo? Don't let these pictures become future unknowns.

01 October 2012

October 2012 webinar schedule

October 2012 webinars--Intro rate of $4 through 2 Oct
Registrants who are unable to attend will receive a download media file of the presentation at no extra charge. But don't wait to register as spaces are limited.

7:00 PM 16 October 2013
Crossing the Pond—Part II
This webinar will discuss reading, interpreting, and using passenger lists between 1820 and 1920. This session will not discuss search techniques of online databases, but will cover where to go once the manifest has been located, making certain you have the correct family and getting the most from what the manifest says.

Attendees may wish to purchase our US Passenger Lists at Ancestry.com ($8.50) webinar which discusses searching these lists or our Crossing the Pond ($8.50) webinar which focuses the methodology of tracing immigrant origins in the 18th and 19th centuries.
7:00 PM Central 17 October 2012
Understanding What’s On FamilySearch: Do Multiple Databases with Similar Titles Confuse You?
This presentation will focus on American databases on FamilySearch.org. Do you know what you are really searching when you search a FamilySearch database? Do you understand the difference between three databases with similar titles that cover “the same thing?” We will look at several examples during this presentation and provide a general framework for determining (when you can) what a database really is.
1:00 PM Central 19 October 2012
Connecting with Online Researchers
We will discuss ways to connect and interact with other researchers online and offline—including how to dig people out of the woodwork. We’ll discuss social networking, message boards, mailing lists, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
2:30 PM Central 19 October 2012
Your 19th Century Immigrant
This presentation will discuss search strategies for breaking down brick walls on those 19th century immigrants to the United States. We will look at US records that may provide the answer as well as Immigration records from Europe. If time allows, we’ll see a short case study or two.
7:00 PM Central 25 October 2012
Problem-Solving for Genealogists
This presentation will look at a variety of approaches and mindsets designed to get genealogists to think “outside the box,” or perhaps even get rid of the “box” altogether.

Questions? Email Michael at mjnrootdig@gmail.com
You need to make certain you have the system requirements to view and participate in the webinars for which you are registered. Having adequate equipment is your responsibility.
On a PC
·         Internet Explorer® 7.0 or newer, Mozilla® Firefox® 3.0 or newer or Google Chrome 5.0 or newer (JavaScript and Java enabled)
·         Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
·         Cable modem, DSL or better Internet connection
·         Minimum of Pentium® class 1GHz CPU with 512 MB of RAM (recommended) (2 GB of RAM for Windows® Vista)
Participants wishing to connect to audio using VoIP will need a fast Internet connection, a microphone and speakers. (A USB headset is recommended.)
On a Mac®
·         Safari 3.0 or newer, Firefox® 3.0 or newer or Google Chrome 5.0 or newer (JavaScript and Java enabled)
·         Mac OS® X 10.5 – Leopard® or newer
·         Intel processor (512 MB of RAM or better recommended)
·         Cable modem, DSL, or better Internet connection
Participants wishing to connect to audio using VoIP will need a fast Internet connection, a microphone and speakers (A USB headset is recommended).

Who Knew?

Think about "who knew" that information you are trying to locate. Is there any record on them that could provide that information? As one quick example, the place of birth for a cousin could be helpful in locating where your immediate family lived--at least for a time.