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28 February 2013

Moved In With the Children?

If late in their lives, you can't trace one of your older relatives, consider the possibility that Grandma moved in with one of her children or grandchildren. This could easily have been a distance from where she lived most of her life and where her husband is buried. It is also possible that a "disappearing" grandparent moved near one of their own siblings instead of one of their own chidlren.

It's also possible that your "disappearing" older relatives moved away and did not live near any of their children as a pair of mine did in the 1870s.

27 February 2013

Did the Widow Remarry?

Even if no one mentions it, even if people insist it did not happen, consider the fact that a widow married again after her husband's death. A marriage, and consequential change in last name, could be the reason why you are unable to find her after her husband's death.

26 February 2013

What Kind of Brother Is He?

The document refers to John as Tom's brother? Keep in mind that the actual meaning may be full brothers, half-brothers, step-brothers, or brothers-in-law. One record may not necessarily tell the whole story.

25 February 2013

How Did War Impact Your Ancestor?

If your relative lived through a war, try and determine how that war might have impacted their life. Did they serve? Were they drafted? Did any of their children serve? Did any relatives later receive a pension or bounty land? Did they contribute materially to the cause? Was their violence in the area where they lived?

There's more to war than service records.

24 February 2013

Were They Fostering Something More?

Family members may have taken in the child of a relative to raise as their own. That child, in various records, may be listed as "adopted" or the "foster child" of the parents who raised them--with no indication of the biological relationship. Never assume that an adopted or foster child has no biological relationship to the one of the adoptive parents.

23 February 2013

If the Heirs Sell, Is Grandma Dead?

If you locate a deed in the United States where a number of related individuals (and their spouses) are selling real property, it is reasonable to conclude that one of the owners has probably recently passed away. The likely recently deceased owner may have been the husband or may have been the wife, depending upon the situation--and it may be that the wife survives and is one of the unmarried heirs. If you use the existence of this deed as proof someone was dead, clearly explain that reasoning in your notes. Don't just drop dates in your database with no explanation.

Upcoming Webinars-March 2013

Topics for my March 2013 webinars are:

  • No Will. No Problem!
  • GenealogyBank (rescheduled)
  • Using Internal Revenue Assessment Lists 1862-1874
Details are at:

22 February 2013

Thanks to Our Sponsor

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!

Away From the Fire

Researched in "burned" counties can be difficult. Try and think of what sources were not present "at the burning." Federal records, state records, church records, newspapers, private papers, books, etc. all would have hopefully been in a separate location from the facility that had the fire.

21 February 2013


If your handwriting looks like a scribble, print clearly when identifying people in photographs, making handwritten notes, etc. Any part of your research that is written in your own hand should be legible. Writing is meant to be read. Save the scribbles and doodles for the staff meetings and leave the hieroglyphics to the caves.

20 February 2013

Google That Incorrect Spelling

If you are having difficulty reading an old document, consider typing the word the way it looks into Google. You might be surprised to find that the "incorrect" word is actually right and it, even more, that it actually means something relevant to the document or to your research.

19 February 2013

Aiming for Amos

A relative had the middle name "Amos." I could not determine where the family had gotten this name as it was not a name used in the low-German family into which this individual was born. Then I looked at the grandfather's name: Ehme. As soon as I said the name "in my head," I knew where they had gotten "Amos." Ehme is pronounced like the English word "aim."

And that's probably where Amos got his name.

18 February 2013

Constructing Database Searches: A Short Course

Constructing Database Searches:
A Short Course
With Michael John Neill
February-March 2013
(scroll down for specific schedule)
Typing names into search boxes does not solve all your genealogical problems. We will see how to construct searches, organize searches, and problem-solve and troubleshoot when individuals are not located easily. Our discussion will concentrate on those instances when people are difficult to find. We will not be concerned with "easy" searches. We will use FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, and other databases. The only fee-based database that will be used will be Ancestry.com and attendees must have their own access to Ancestry.com as it is NOT provided in your course registration. The course will consist of three lectures (topics and schedule below), problem assignments, virtual follow-up discussions, group discussion board interaction, and student submission of work (optional). There is no assigned grade—you get from this what you put into it. Students will also be able to share their work and ideas with other students.

If you were registered for a previous session and did not get to attend, please email me to be added to the course at no charge. Do not re-register.

Our lectures will be somewhat different--we will go through specific examples and situations and explain the different types of searches, wildcard, Boolean, string-based, etc. within the context of an example. That may seem like "diving in," but people tend to learn best by just doing. There will be reference information provided and time for discussion and commentary in the followup sessions and bulletin board interaction.

Citation of sources is important, but lectures will not focus on citation theory.

Students will need to choose someone they cannot find in a US Federal census and two other online databases (free ones).

Course registration is only $30. Class size is limited to 30 to encourage group interaction. Attendees will need to register by 8 PM Central Time on 20 February 2013. Class starts on 21 February 2013. Registration is limited and is on a first-come, first-served basis only. Register here.

  • Assignment/Study 1Organizing Your Searches--The basics of any search strategy is search-tracking and organization. We'll see why when you are stuck most of your work is done away from the website. Students will then create search strategies based upon their own problems. 
  • Assignment/Study 2Troubleshooting & Determining Best Options--We will discuss ways to tweak your search based upon unsuccessful results, ways to get around incomplete or missing "help," pages, and determining what other databases contain the same information. We will also discuss when a manual search of the records may be necessary.
  • Assignment/Study 3Discussion and Analysis of Student Problems--We will look at all (or most) student problems that were submitted, concentrating on those that highlight problem areas or situations not already discussed in detail.

Lectures will be recorded for those who are unable to attend or have audio/video issues.

Lectures and discussions will be via GotoMeeting.

Want to register—Registration is only $30 and can be done using your PayPal account or a major credit card (just process your order as a PayPal “guest.”).Register here. Email Michael at mjnrootdig@gmail.com with questions.

«February 2013»
LECTURE-2:30-3:30 PM CST
Short virtual discussion 2:30-3:00 PM CST 
LECTURE-2:30-3:30 PM CST

«March 2013»
Short virtual discussion 2:30-3:00 PM CST
LECTURE-2:30-3:30 PM CST
Short virtual discussion 2:30-3:00 PM CST
Wrap-up  2:30 PM CST

Who is My Brother-in-Law?

A "brother-in-law" could easily be the husband of your sister, your wife's brother, or your wife's sister's husband. In certain times, a "brother-in-law" could also be what today we would consider a "step-brother."

Don't assume the specifics of the relationship until you've got evidence indicating the specifics of the relationship. At its most generic, a "brother-in-law" relationship is a "brother" relationship created by someone's marriage.

17 February 2013

Short Courses-Organizing Information and Database Searches

We are again offering our "short" courses this February and March:

Where Was That Justice of the Peace?

If your ancestors were married by a Justice of the Peace and the only location on the marriage record is the county, try and determine where in the county the Justice of the Peace lived. It is not proof your ancestors lived there, but chances are that your ancestors lived somewhat close to the Justice of the Peace and that he was familiar with at least one of them.

Could be place within the county to start looking if you have no idea and the names are common. A place to start looking--not proof of anything else.

16 February 2013

Owning Land Does Not Equate Residence

Owning property in Coshocton County, Ohio, does not mean your ancestor lived in Coshocton County, Ohio. Your ancestor may have been a speculator who purchased and sold property in several locations. Or he may have been like mine, who purchased property in a county where several of his neighbors were settling, only to have his son farm it. The father never left Bedford County, Pennsylvania and all the deeds in Ohio refer to him as being "of Bedford County, Pennsylvania."

15 February 2013

Drop the Prefix

When searching for names with  prefix like McNeill, MacNeal, O'Neill, DeMoss, Van Der Hinderman, etc. consider searching without the "Mc," "Mac," "O," "DeMoss," "VanDer," etc. Your Vanderlindens may be hinding under "Linden."

14 February 2013


Why was that document created? Why was the informant the informant and not someone else? Why did they get married where they did? Why was the deed recorded when it was?

Ask "why" about as many things on a record as you can. Even if you are unable to answer "why," sometimes just asking is helpful and gets you thinking.

13 February 2013

Read the Stuff You Know

When having difficulty transcribing or reading a specific word on a document or record, focus initially on words and phrases you know. Many records contain boilerplate text with words that you can reasonably "guess" without initially being able to read. This can help you see how the writer makes certain letters, helping you interpret those words with which you are not so familiar.

12 February 2013

Relationships That Are Not Stated

I recently found an affidavit witnessed by an ancestor in Nebraska in the 1880s. In looking at the names of the other four witnesses on the document, they included the uncle of the ancestor, a first cousin of the ancestor and the wife of the first cousin. And the person who made out the affidavit was another cousin of the ancestor.

If you are really stuck, have you really looked at the names of other people on every document in which your ancestor appears?

11 February 2013

Work Independently--Then Compare

If you are fortunate enough to have another genealogist to work with on one of your families, try to initially analyze information separately until you have exhausted the information or gotten "stuck" and then compare your conclusions. It can be a good way to catch overlooked clues.

Just try not to argue with your distant relative in the process (grin!).

10 February 2013

Those Artifacts Could Be A Distance Away

It's possible that a family bible, set of letters, or other artifact from your family is housed a significant distance from where your ancestors actually lived. An aunt of mine lived her life in western Illinois. A quilt she made in the late 19th century is in a museum in Michigan. The reference came up on a Google search and I almost ignored it because the location "wasn't right."

It is hard to tell where ephemera from your ancestors ended up.

Tombstones are usually in the "right place." Other items can be up for grabs.

09 February 2013

Thanks to Our Sponsor

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!

Get to Know a Local

Even if you need to do your research remotely, try and make some sort of contact with a "local." In many areas, particularly rural and out-of-the-way ones, there may a local person or two who are very familiar with local families and local records. They may be able to give you specific guidance that someone unfamiliar with the specific area (even a professional) may not. And, as a local person, they may have an easier time accessing records.

08 February 2013

Join Michael in Salt Lake 29 May-5 June 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.

Fold3 Webinar Released

We've just released our Fold3.com webinar recording which was completed yesterday afternoon.

This presentation discusses the basics of searching on Fold3, navigating images, navigating databases, knowing what you are searching, and interacting with the data. It is not meant for power users of Fold3, but if you've not used Fold3 and want an idea of what is on it and how it is organized or if you  have a subscription and feel like you are "missing something" then this presentation should be a good fit.

We are currently offering an immediate download of the presentation for $4.75.

This link will also process your order.

Email me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com with any questions or if you were an original registrant and did not receive your complimentary download.

Read a Totally Unrelated Genealogy

If you are stuck on your own family, read a genealogical study of a family in a similar time period and location as yours--even if they are not related to you. The National Genealogical Society Quarterly and other national and state publications contain well-written articles explaining how records were searched, used and analyzed to solve a problem. Reading through someone else's process may give you insight into your own problem.

07 February 2013

Was the Original Typed?

If the "version" of a document or record you are looking at is typed, ask yourself if the original was probably typed as well. If it was, then you are not looking at the original record and what you are looking at could contain errors. If you don't know was typed or handwritten, then learning more about the records will help you in your analysis. 

And even if the original was typed, you could still be looking at a transcription that could contain errors.

06 February 2013

Do They Have a Month to Month Option?

Many fee-based genealogy websites have annual and monthly subscription plans. While usually an annual plan is most economical in the long run, it may be that if you do your research in "fits" and "starts" that a monthly plan, activated when you know you will use it, may be the best bargain for you.

No matter which plan you choose, know when your renewal is up and when your card is going to be automatically charged. Set a reminder for yourself at least three days before that date so you can decide if you are renewing or not. That should give you time to contact customer service if you wish to change your plan.

05 February 2013

Are Any Missing?

If you are searching digital vesions of newspapers, you my want to browse the images for the time period of interest. If the paper was a weekly, do they have an issue for every week? If it was daily, do they have an issue for every day? Missing issues may not be clearly indicated on the website, but that is something you need to know. That's especially true if your relative died on 18 May 1902 and there are no issues from the last half of May of that year.

It may be that there are issues in libraries or other facilities.

04 February 2013

Put It In Chronology

Events are rarely listed on documents in the order in which they took place. Chronologies have been discussed in "Tip of the Day" before, but the suggestion bears repeating. When I was reviewing settlement dates on Bureau of Land Management tract books, I didn't notice settlement trends as easily as when I started putting the dates in chronological order. 

The books are organized geographically for understandable reasons. Chronological order makes it easier to notice trends that geographical organization tends to hide.

03 February 2013

Create Your Own Map

Have you made your own map of the neighborhood or area where your ancestor lived, putting names of key locations (churches, places of employment, cemeteries, farms, etc.) and key family members or associates on the map? Such a map may help you get a better perspective on your ancestor and any stumbling blocks you have to researching him.

02 February 2013

Is That Really Their First Marriage?

Don't assume that a bride or a groom was only married one time. That marriage when great-grandpa was 24 might not have been his first. And the maiden name for great-graandma on her marriage when she was 26 might not have been her real maiden name. She easily could have been married for the first time when she was 23.

01 February 2013

Bureau of Land Management Tract Book Webinar Released

Tract book entry from Ohio--1821
The Bureau of Land Management Office tract books are a good source for additional information on your homesteading or federal land acquiring ancestors. This material supplements what is in the homestead file, allows you to see names of neighboring claims, even if those claims were not completed. If you've ever wondered who might have started a claim near your ancestor, but never completed it--these books are the way to find out. 

Our webinar on using the books (most of which are available for free on FamilySearch) is only $6 and goes through several examples, in Ohio, Illinois, and Nebraska for a variety of purchase types. If you've never used the tract books because you found them too confusing, let this webinar cut through the confusion.

You can order the recording and handout for $6 via this link:

If you registered for the webinar, but were unable to attend, please let me know and I'll send a complimentary link. 

Was Your War fo 1812 Veteran Living in the 1850s?

There was legislation passed by the United States Congress in the 1850s that allowed a signficant number of War of 1812 veterans to apply for military bounty land. If the veteran was deceased his widow could apply. Many of these warrants are part of the Bureau of Land Management's database of federal land records at http://www.glorecords.blm.gov