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31 December 2012

Those Old Employers

To learn more about your ancestor's employer as given in a city directory, search the rest of the city directory as it may include advertisements or list the employer in a list of area businesses. Consider performing a Google search for the name of the business and search local and regional histories as well, many of which have been digitized at Google Books (http://books.google.com) or Archive.org (http://www.archive.org).

30 December 2012

Get It Even If You Think You Know What It Says

Sometimes researchers don't get specific records because they "know what the record will say." Sometimes the record may say exactly what you think it will. And other times it will say something completely different. While it may not always be inexpensive, if you have a "brick wall" ancestor, make certain you have not avoided getting records because "you know what they will say."

Something unexpected in those records may answer your question.

29 December 2012

Don't Rely On Memory

We've mentioned it before, but another reminder does not hurt:

"Don't rely on memory when sending emails about ancestral problems, writing blog posts, or creating entries in your genealogical database."

You may end up creating more problems by inadvertantly saying something that is incorrect and having that something get passed on, and on, and on.

28 December 2012

Do You Have the Wrong Name? And Proofread!

Did you relative get the wrong name in their head? I wrote a complete blog post about a man named Joseph Watson, only to refer to him as James Watson almost every time I used his name. Is it possible that your ancestor simply referred to the wrong person when giving information?

And proofread what you write--more than once. It's possible that you made a mistake as well--and those accidental, "got it in my head wrong" mistakes sometimes come back to haunt you.

27 December 2012

Look After You Think You Should

Stopping because you have located one record is never a good idea. By keeping on going, I discovered that an ancestor was divorced from the same man not once, but twice. By keeping on going, I also discovered that another relative's first marriage "didn't happen" and they were actually married two years later. Combine these unusual circumstances with the occasional record that gets entered or indexed late and you have even more reason to look for entries or documents "after you think you should."

Will They Tell More As They Get Older?

While some relatives take their family history stories to their grave, others become more willing to tell stories as they age.

The reasons do not matter, but remain open to the possibility that Aunt Martha may eventually decide that the world will not end if she tells you that "family secret."

Or course some people are not going to tell you things no matter what.

But some do become more open with age. It may be worth a try.

26 December 2012

Did They Ever Use Their "Real" Name?

My great-grandmother was born Frances Iona Rampley. There is only one record on her that uses that name: her birth certificate. Her marriage record, mortgages she signed, her social security death index entry, 1900-1940 census enumerations, court documents, estate papers, tombstone, etc. all list her as Fannie.

Your ancestor may never have used their "real" name. And if they never used their "real name" was that their real name? In the case of my great-grandmother, I list her as Fannie and in my notes indicate what her record of birth says.

25 December 2012

Stories of the Mementos

Before you put away those holiday decorations, consider taking pictures of the ones with sentimental value and recording the stories along with the pictures.

Record the stories during the holiday season while the stories are fresh in your mind. Putting the decorations away can wait a little while.

24 December 2012

Do the Math

This was a comment posted by one of our Facebook fans, but it makes for an excellent tip of the day.

Do the dates "fit?" Can the parent be having children at that age? Are they too old? Are they too young?

Are the parents dying before the children are born? A father can die 6 months before the child is born, but a mother dying 6 years before the child is born is not possible.

Genealogy isn't connecting the dots (well, most of the time), but often it is about the numbers. 

23 December 2012

Happy Holidays from Genealogy Tip of the Day

Merry Christmas, Season's Greetings, and Happy Holidays from Genealogy Tip of the Day.

We'll be running around doing typical holiday stuff, but daily tips will still come your way like always courtesy of the scheduling feature. We may be delayed in approving comments and answering emails, but we will get to them.

Thanks for all the support, suggestions, and interaction we've had this year. It's been fun.


From the Angle of the Clerk

If you are stuck trying to find a document or a record or are having difficulty in interpreting something a clerk has written in a document or in a record, remember the perspective of the clerk. The clerk may not have understood what your ancestor said, may have been poorly educated himself and cared little about the accuracy of the records he left behind.

Or the clerk may have been very concerned about the accuracy and reliability of his records and your ancestor may have been vague in his answers, less than honest, or generally grumpy and unwilling to provide information.

22 December 2012

Get Beyond the Index

Whether you have looked in the index or performed full-text searches, consider actually reading the county history for the location where your ancestor lived. If the entire book is too much, consider at least reading those parts discussing the area of the county where your ancestor lived. There might be clues--indirect ones, but clues.

21 December 2012

Perhaps They Did Not Really Know

It is possible that a relative knew nothing about their grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. Depending upon how closely they lived to where those relatives lived and how emotionally connected their parent was to their own family, a person may have little knowledge of their relatives.

And no matter how often you ask, it won't change that.

It doesn't mean you don't look for clues, but remember that sometimes people really do know nothing about their mother or father's family. This is particularly true if their mother or father had some reason for not wanting them to know.

There may be little clues--so keep looking.

20 December 2012

Our Sponsor--Genealogy Bank

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!

Did They Really Meet On the Boat?

The story makes for a romantic one but, like many family legends, the reality may be somewhat different.

A couple may not really have met for the first time on the boat. They may never have met on the boat at all. The future husband may have immigrated as a single man and then sent word back home that he had settled and was ready to marry.

Story was my great-great-grandparents met "on the boat," having been from different villages. They were born in different villages, but there's more to it than that. The future bride's family had moved to the small village where the groom was living about ten years before the couple married.

They knew of each other before they ever crossed the pond.

19 December 2012

I've Got Three--It Must Be

Some researchers will "believe" something when they have three sources that provide the same piece of information. One has to be careful using this approach. Sources may all contain information from the same person or "original source," which does not really mean that three "sources" agree. It could only mean that the same person gave the information three times.

And there is always the chance that the second two "sources" got their information from the first.

Think about who provided the information, why it is in the record, and how reasonably the informant would have known the information. That's a good way to get started with information analysis.

18 December 2012

They May Know

Your relative may know more about deceased family members than they are willing to tell you. And they may never tell you everything you know, no matter how much you wish they would or how many times you ask. For reasons that are entirely too long for a "short tip," I know my own grandmother knew more about her grandfather than she ever told me, including the fact that he had a second wife. Yet my queries about him always received a "don't know anything response."

Sometimes that is all you are going to get and sometimes you have to let it go to preserve relationships with your living relatives.

17 December 2012

December-January Webinar Schedule

We have announced our December-January webinar schedule. Intro rate for early enrollees. Details and schedule can be viewed here.

Was It A Workaround?

In his early 19th century will, a Maryland ancestor appears to disinherit a daughter when he leaves everything to her two children and appoints a guardian for them.

The man writing the will might have not so much been disinheriting the daughter as he was avoiding a son-in-law. In the very early 1800s, when this will was written, a man would be able to exercise control over real property that his wife inherited. By leaving the real estate to his daughter's children, and appointing a guardian, the testator was providing for the children while circumventing the son-in-law.

And you thought that only people today who had to use creative ways to get around things. 

16 December 2012

Can't Find Your 1850 Ancestor in 1840?

If you cannot find your 1850 ancestor in the 1840 census--and you are certain he's heading his own household--consider searching for his 1850 neighbors in 1840. Then look at their neighbors in 1840. There is a chance your ancestor is near at least one of his 1850 neighbors in 1840. A chance--not a guarantee.

15 December 2012

One Word Makes A Difference

The omission of one word can mildly confuse or significantly alter the meaning of a document, record, or statement.

We discovered this in the original version of today's actual "tip," where the word "States" was left out in the phrase "United States census."

Make certain you are not leaving out words that matter and consider that a confusing document might be confusing because a word was left out of it.

"Pa" Might Not Mean Pennsylvania or Dad

In a United States census enumerations, the abbreviation "Pa" on citizenship status means that "first papers" have been filed. Those first papers usually include the declaration of intent and if recent enough may reference actual passenger list information. And filing first papers does not guarantee the person actually completed the process and became naturalized.

Was That a Contemporary Stone?

Take a look at that stone for your ancestors who died in the 1840s. Does it look like it is made of the same material as other stones from that time, or does it have the look of stones from the early 1900s or even the look of stones from the late 20th century?

The stone may not be the original. A picture would obviously be a great to provide evidence of this. but if that is not possible make a note in your files that you do not think the stone is the original.

Stones made near the time of death can have errors. Ones carved a hundred later can as well.

14 December 2012

Those Three Letters

Make certain you've looked at every part of a marriage record. In some locations there are registers, licenses, applications, etc. Any of these could refer to the bride as "Mrs."

And that's a clue.

13 December 2012

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Where Did You Get That Guess?

It is recommended that you not "guess" about information you put in your genealogical files, especially in terms of where/when someone was born, died, or married.

However, people will still do it.

If you must guess, at least indicate in your "source" for that guess why you guessed what you did. It's one thing to put in guesses and leave a reason. It is another to enter in guesses with absolutely no reason at all. The first may be reasonable speculation, the second is myth.  There is enough myth floating around already without creating more.

12 December 2012

Our Sponsor

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!

Did They Change the Spelling?

It's always possible that your ancestor altered the spelling of his name. Name spellings, especially before the twentieth century, were not always consistent, and your ancestor might not have even been literate. Don't get too tied to the "correct" spelling because chances are your ancestor did not care about spelling as much as you do.

11 December 2012

The Month of Messidor

The month of Messidor was one of the months in the French Republican calendar which was used in France and areas controlled by France from  from 24 October 1793 to 31 December 1805. The year consisted of twelve months of thirty days each. To learn more about the calendar visit this page on the Family History website

10 December 2012

The Common Nature of the Name

Do not always assume that individuals with the same last name "have" to be related. It could simply be that the last name is more common in that local area than you know.

09 December 2012

Take A Number--And Use It

When reviewing a document, have you used every number in the document as a clue? Specific dates and ages can be used to help determine a chronology or calculate approximately when an event happened. Acreages can be helpful in using land records, house numbers can be useful in determining addresses. Make certain you've analyzed every number for any clue it may contain.

08 December 2012

What is Germane

Remember that in any court case, the court is only interested in details that are necessary to render a fair and just verdict in the case being heard. There might be details that a genealogist would like to know, but the court is not concerned with leaving behind detailed genealogical information.

That said, court cases where genealogical information is important, those involving inheritances and property rights of heirs, are of paramount use to the family history researcher.

07 December 2012

List all Those Variants

An effective tool for searching online databases and indexes is to have a list of all the spelling variants for your name of interest. If the list is only "in your head," it is easy to occasionally overlook an alternate spelling.

06 December 2012

Unwritten Place Names

Are you using place names to describe where an ancestor was born, died, or was buried, that are not listed in any gazetteer? Make certain that you also include a more reference (eg. GPS coordinates) to assist others in finding the location.

On a recent trip to visit my parents, I had to take my brother lunch where he was discing--"on the McNally place, you know past his forty, which is past McGaughey's and turn south." Of course those names would be on local plat books and other records, but often those descriptions are only in people's gray matter.

Don't make that mistake. Clearly identify locations.

05 December 2012

The Importance of Where

Citations are not stressed in genealogy because some retired English teacher needed something to do. There's a reason. Not all versions of a record are created equally and knowing the site you used to find something, even a digital image, can help you (or someone else) analyze it later. One website may have only posted selected images (as HeritageQuest Online did for Revolutionary War pensions) or accidentally "cut off" parts of images that were posted.

Some books of extracts and abstracts may have only included "selected documents."

Clearly indicating from where something was obtained lets you (or someone else) know the version that was used. Then later it's easier to decide if more work needs to be done.

And it is ok if your citation does not fit the "form" perfectly, just have all the key ingredients. There's always time to put the citation in proper form later, but you can't do that if you don't track where things come from.

Anyone Can Appear in a Newspaper

Don't assume your ancestor would not be in a paper, because "our family didn't warrant any mention." You never know when your ancestor might have been in an organization that caused him to get mentioned, got into legal trouble, received a pension, or any of a number of things that might have caused his name to appear in print.

He might have even written a letter encouraging his fellow farmers to grow more winter wheat as the United States approached the first World War.

04 December 2012

Obituaries Providing Half the Story

Obituaries and death notices, particularly more recent ones, may not mention previous spouses or the factthat children of the deceased are not full siblings. Be careful before concluding that the children listed in an obituary share the same set of both parents.

03 December 2012

Are They Really Your People?

Review all the materials you have on "your" ancestor. Are you certain all those references to "your" ancestor are actually "your" ancestor? How would your conclusions change if one of those references actually was not  to your ancestor?

02 December 2012

Search Google Books for Them All

Search Google Books (http://books.google.com) for every ancestor or relative. You never know who might appear in a printed reference. Sometimes the most unexpected names appear in print.

01 December 2012

Our Sponsor--Genealogy Bank

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!

Anyone Know Where He Condensed?

Your great-grandfather disappeared in the 1920s. Descendants "know nothing" and searches in the area are unsuccessful. Consider tracing the great-grandfather's sibling and his aunts and uncles and their descendants to see if any of those individuals know where your great-grandfather "condensed." Sometimes more distant family members know more than a person thinks.