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31 March 2013

Church Holidays Used As Dates

Occasionally in some church records, the name of the church holiday will be used instead of the year. Make certain you have translated it correctly and then, using a perpetual calendar, determine the actual date. Don't guess and make certain you have transcribed that name correctly--particularly if it is a saint name with which you are not familiar.

30 March 2013

This Cannot Wait

Identify people on pictures--now! Don't wait, don't linger, and don't delay. In cleaning out my office at work, I discovered two pictures--each with a great-grandparent and their siblings. The great-grandparent I can identify, the siblings I cannot. In one case, everyone who would have known the siblings is gone. In the other case, I need to get my "rear in gear."

Don't wait. If you have people that can help you identify those people in those pictures, do it. All the websites will be around tomorrow. Those people might not.

29 March 2013

In the Early Days

When states and counties began maintaining vital records, it was relatively common for many births and deaths to not be recorded. As time moved forward, the percentage of births and deaths that were actually entered in the records increased. But don't be surprised if the number of births and deaths recorded in those first few years seems "too low." It probably is.

Webinar Sale Today

We're running our 60% sale on webinars today--29  March 2013.

 Coupon code "sixty" at check out will reduce your order by 60% through midnight central time tonight. Downloads are immediate. Our rates are the best in the business.

Check out our list of over 30 presentations here:


You can view the presentations at your convenience after they have been downloaded. It is not necessary to view them immediately and you can view them as many times as you want.


28 March 2013

Who Doesn't Use Page Numbers?

Plenty of original records are in bound volumes without page numbers. Frustrating as it is, researchers whose work extends before 1900 will encounter volumes with pages that have no numbering to them at all.

The citation to this record needs to include enough detail so that you or someone else can easily find the record again. Don't just make a copy without thinking about how you located the record. How did you find the record in the first place--were you in the births for 1850, the deaths from 1823, etc.? Were the entries within a specific year numbered?  Your citation does not have to be in "perfect" form, but include enough detail so the record can be found again.

27 March 2013

Does One Day Off Really Matter?

In most cases of births, deaths, and marriages, a discrepancy of one or two days is frequently not crucial. Dates that differ by years, names that do not even sound alike are more of a concern--as are relationships that do not make sense. Transcribe documents as they are written, but try and avoid creating genealogical drama out of a date that varies by one or two days in later records. Oftentimes, it simply is due to someone's faulty memory--particularly when the date of birth in question is in the 1820s and the person was born in a location where there are no contemporary vital records.

26 March 2013

Thanks to Our Sponsor-GenealogyBank

A big thanks to our sponsor GenealogyBank. We appreciate their continued support of Genealogy Tip of the Day! Be certain to check out their current offer.

All Inmates are Not In Jail

Inmate can mean resident or patient. This reference from the 1890s refers to the widow of the veteran as an inmate of St. Mary's Infirmary in St. Louis. Do not conclude that inmate means prisoner--that's not always how it was intended.

25 March 2013

Don't Forget Your Own Story

When you've reached a stumbling block in the research of your long-dead ancestors, consider writing some of your own story--childhood experiences, school experiences, etc. Record that information that rarely gets recorded and that we all wish our long-dead ancestors had left behind for us.

24 March 2013

What Was Legal?

Be wary of drawing conclusions that are not necessarily supported by the evidence. Witnesses to a will only had to be "of age" and able to testify that they saw the testator sign the will. Witnesses to a marriage had to be of age and also be present at the ceremony. While these individuals can be clues, always keep in mind that they only thing you know for certain (or reasonably certain) is that the witness met the legal requirements of being a witness.

Don't ignore the names of witnesses on a document, but don't assume they have to be a relative either.

23 March 2013

Is There a Hidden Wife?

If all records indicate the wife of your ancestor is "Mary," keep yourself open to the possibility that the ancestor could have been married twice to women with the same first name. If other details about the Marys are very inconsistent, it could be that there were two Marys instead of one.

22 March 2013

Was There an Unknown First Name?

My German born ancestor was George Trautvetter--born in the 1790s. He had brothers Adam, Michael. and Henry. I was years into researching the family before I learned that at least two of them really had the first name of John or Johann--using that first name combined with the middle name made finding them easier. They dropped the "first name" after a while in the United States, but used it on passenger lists and records early in their settlement.

Is your ancestor hiding under an "unknown" first name?

21 March 2013

The Problem With Data Entry

Genealogical databases sometimes want us to know more than we do and encourage us to conclude more than may be actually implied in the record. An estate settlement from the 1870s indicated that the deceased was survivied by the children of his sister--and then it goes to name her two sons and one daughter.

The sons have the same last name and the daughter is listed being married.

Nowhere in the records is it stated that the daughter is the full sister of the two sons. They easily could have been half siblings and the court would not have cared.

Be careful when doing data entry that you do not enter more than the record states.

20 March 2013

What's Hiding In Your Relative's Pension File?

If your ancestor, widow, or minor children, received a military pension, those records could contain a wide variety of information. This could include details of their vital statistics, migration, associations, economic status, family relationships, and business associations. If your ancestor was in a war that later resulted in pension benefits for veterans and you've not checked out those records, you could really be missing out.

19 March 2013

Tip of the Day Mugs

We've brought back our "Tip of the Day" mugs with our logo--along with a tote bag.

Our store on Cafepress handles our merchandise.

New Genealogy Fundamental Webinars

We are adding six new webinars to our popular "fundamentals" series. These sessions cannot be attended live, but downloads will be available (along with handouts) by 27 March 2013.

These sessions can be pre-ordered using the links below.  Price will be higher after the pre-order cutoff of 25 March 2013. We've found that for these shorter sessions, live attendance is a little more difficult and we've just decided to handle these sessions as downloads only.

Pre-order all 6 for $10.00 through this link.

If the above links do not work, this webpage has links that will process:


Questions, email Michael at mjnrootdig@gmail.com.

Nancy is Lizzie is Nancie

My uncle married a woman in the 1870s--she used the name Nancy E. on the marriage record. When she obtained a widow's pension in the early 1900s, she insisted (under oath) that she went by Lizzie. In the 1920s, when she wrote her will, she was going by Nancie.

People did change their name of preference.

18 March 2013


If you are stuck, brainstorm for ideas that may help to solve your problem. Just write down ideas as they come to you. Don't worry about how practical they are, whether the records are accessible, how you will perform the search, etc. Just make lists of ideas. Don't research. Stay off the internet. Do not open a book. Just work on your list.

Then when you've exhausted yourself, start working on determining which ideas are practical and how those are best carried out.  That's when you get back to researching, looking at sources, etc.

Brainstorming is best done when you don't distract yourself by doing research in the middle of it.

17 March 2013

My Genealogy Blogs

aFor those of you who did not know, this is not my only genealogy blog. Here's  list with the links. Enjoy!

How Close Is That Post Office?

If your ancestor lived near the county line, his "post office address" might have been in the neighboring county. Members of my Rampley family lived in Hancock County, Illinois' Walker Township, yet for a time in the late 1800s and early 1900s, their post office address was "Loraine, Illinois" in neighboring Adams County. 

Always keep your ancestor's proximity to county and township lines in mind. My relatives didn't move--their post office was changed.

16 March 2013

Do You Have Goals?

Have you listed your specific research goals? "Searching for Grandma" might be a little too broad. "Finding Grandma's date of birth" might be better as it is more specific. Then, think of all the records that might provide some evidence of Grandma's date of birth. Overly broad goals, or no goals at all, may cause you to feel overwhelmed.

15 March 2013

Every Date or Age...

If you are having difficulty analyzing a document that has several dates of events and ages of people contained within it, consider making a chronology of all those events and ages. Use the ages to estimate years of birth.

You may notice there's more in the document than you originally thought.

14 March 2013

Write It However You Want

Be careful making conclusions solely on handwriting. Sometimes even in one document a person writes letters differently. This image from a Civil War pension shows two ways the "final" "e" is written in the word "were."

Ever think they do these things just to confuse us?

13 March 2013

Did They Just Dump in A Few Letters?

Recently while searching through a handwritten index to probate records, I noticed that the clerk "stuck" approximately 10 entries for last names beginning with the letter "S" in with those last names beginning with the letter "R."

When you run out of room, you run out of room.

Sometimes these entries will be mentioned at the end of the section that needed more space. But there's always that change.

Pay Attention-Chat Later

I occasionally make return trips to the county where I grew up to pick up copies of various records. The last time I got to chatting with the lady making copies while she was making my copies. 

When I returned home, I realized that I needed to deeds copied from the same book. I had forgotten to request the second one because we were talking.

Fortunately I had a list of what I needed from each book, so getting the record won't be difficult. It's always best to write everything down and to chat when you've got all the information you came there to get. 

St. Patrick's Day Special on GenealogyBank

Our sponsor, GenealogyBank, is offering a special St. Patrick's Day offer on an annual subscription--25% off!

Save some of the green this St. Patrick's Day and make some ancestral discoveries in the process.

12 March 2013

Did They Change The Numbers?

Have the houses been renumbered in the city where your ancestor lived between the time they lived there and today? Have any streets been renamed? If so, are you aware of the changes and do you really know where that residence was located and is located now? The determination of which church or cemetery was "closest" to your ancestral family may depend upon it.

11 March 2013

Reading and Not Skimming

Before you make a conclusion or research decision based on a lengthy document or record, consider reading it completely instead of skimming it over.

That detail you overlook or that subtle implication you miss may cause you to go down the wrong research path.

10 March 2013

What Do Siblings Share?

If a document indicates that three individuals are siblings and are all children of one person, remember that they might not share the same set of parents. A record indicating that Tom, Susannah, and George are children of Johann Schmidt does not necessarily mean that they share the same mother.

09 March 2013

Genealogy Fundamental Webinars

Learn the basics or review--these presentations are short and inexpensive. Genealogy Fundamental webinar series was popular with new and experienced genealogists--each is approximately 20 minutes in length. These short sessions are geared for beginner or somewhat experienced beginners who would like to learn more about the following topics. Each presentation includes the 20 minute or so presentation and the handouts.
·                     1850 Census -$2.00 to order immediate download
·                     1880 Census-$2.00 to order immediate download 
·                     1930 Census-$2,00 to order immediate download
·                     Union Civil War Pension file-$2.00 to order immediate download
·                     Early 20th Century Death Certificate--$2.00 to order immediate download
·                     Federal Cash Land Sale File-- -$2.00 to order immediate download
·                     Fundamentals of a 19th Century Will - -$2.00 to order immediate download
·                     Fundamentals of a Deed in Federal Land State- -$2.00 to order immediate download

Visit this webpage for web-based links:

Infant Does Not Mean Baby

If you encounter the word "infant" in a legal document, remember that usually in the legal sense of the word it means someone under the age of legal majority. That age can vary from one state to another and over time.

But never assume that someone listed as an "infant heir" of their parent in 1817 was a young child too young to have married in 1818. They could easily have been "almost of age" in 1817 when they were referred to as an "infant," only to become of age the next year.

08 March 2013

Was There a Contemporary Transcription?

If you are fortunate enough to obtain a copy of your ancestor's will, it may be that parts of it are difficult to read. Was there a contemporary transcription of the will made by the court that approved the probate of the will? Often the will was ordered to be "filed" for record and that transcription may be easier to read than the original.

There's always the chance that the record copy contains an error and it won't contain the actual copy of your ancestor's signature, but it may be easier to read than the original.

07 March 2013

Initials Matter

Sometimes middle initials are correct and sometimes they are not, but they should always be transcribed and analyzed for potential clues. If your ancestor consistently used his middle initial, it might have been to distinguish himself from someone else of the similar name as in this document from 1913.

There was James E. and James--two different individuals.

06 March 2013

Webinar-Sale-60% off today

We're running our 60% sale on webinars today--6 March 2013.

 Coupon code "sixty" at check out will reduce your order by 60% through midnight central time tonight. Downloads are immediate. Our rates are the best in the business.

Check out our list of over 30 presentations here:


You can view the presentations at your convenience after they have been downloaded. It is not necessary to view them immediately and you can view them as many times as you want.


Any In-Law Get a Widow's Pension?

If any sibling or sibling-in-law of your ancestor received a military pension, especially a widow's pension, consider obtaining the records. Widows needed to prove their marriage to the serviceman in addition to his service and need. Family members were frequently the ones who provided testimony, particularly to the marriage.

05 March 2013

One Piece of Paper Is Not Proof

One record may provide evidence that an event took place or that a person had a certain maiden name.  Proof is usually mean to our analysis of various records that contain information about an event and our conclusion about what those records say. One record can easily be wrong so try and avoid saying one piece of paper proves something.

04 March 2013

Talk About It To Someone Else

Have you briefly discussed your genealogy problem with someone who is not researching the family or a family member who is not really interested in genealogy? Someone unfamiliar with the problem, but familiar with research, may be able to give you some research insight. And someone unfamiliar with research, but familiar with human behavior, may be able to give you some insight into people's actions and motivations. All of which could help you in your research.

Just don't bore people with too many details of your problem. If you do, you may not have too many friends.

03 March 2013

Allegiance Changed Even If They Never Moved

As borders changed, your ancestor may have found himself in a new country even if his actual location of residence did not change. And the reason his country of birth changes is becaue the boundaries keep moving.

02 March 2013

Are You Avoiding the Difficult?

Do not limit your seach to only those records that are availble online or have indexes. Many valuable materials have not been digitized in any way and require manual searches. They may also be a learning   curve to learn how to use, access, and interpret them.

It may be worth it. That answer to your "brick wall" may be resting in an offline book with no index.

01 March 2013

Did Grandpa Really Sell the Farm?

If your land-owning ancestor's name does not appear in the grantor (seller) index to land records, consider that he might not have been the actual seller when the property changed hands. It could have been his widow or his heirs (after his death), the sheriff (if he didn't pay his taxes), or the judge (if there was some type of legal action). In all of these cases, the deed will not be indexed in your ancestor's name since he was not the grantor.