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30 April 2013

Did They Leave One Behind?

If your ancestors moved or immigrated with their children, is it possible that an older child stayed behind without making the journey with his or her parents? The oldest child in a family may have been married or gainfully employed when his or her parents decided to move. Sometimes these children would eventually settle where their parents did, but often they did not.

One relative and his three youngest children moved from upstate New York to Chicago in the very early 1900s. His two oldest daughters remained in New York. Don't assume the entire family moved together.

29 April 2013

Libraries In Your Area

When was the last time you asked to see what sources your local library may have that could assist you with your research? Do they have subscriptions to any genealogical or academic databases that you have not used? Is there a public university or community college nearby that may subscribe to "academic journals" that  may provide background information for your research?

Libraries near you may be able to help even if all your ancestors lived hundreds of miles away.

28 April 2013

Not In the Newspaper?

If you are relying on a search of newspapers to find a marriage announcement, be careful. Even if it appears that "every" marriage from the county was published in the county seat newspaper, not all were. It is not unheard of to see "do not publish" written on an entry in the marriage register, an apparent indication that news of the ceremony was not to be put in print.

27 April 2013

Did They Need Permission?

A bride or groom who was under the age of consent would need the permission of their parent or guardian to get married, particularly if they married where everyone knew their approximate age. A notation of parental consent will indicate the person was under age. That consent may take the form of a letter or simply a notation "mother's consent." Notations may make no mention as to the name of the parent giving consent. The clerk is concerned that the parent gave consent and was not necessarily concerned with leaving a record of their name for posterity.

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26 April 2013

It's Not Just the Words That Are In a Foreign Language

Remember when reading documents in a foreign language that the words are not the only thing that may be "foreign." The script may be as well. Interpreting and reading foreign language documents requires a knowledge of the language and the handwriting. It can be done, but there is a learning curve.

Did They Even Bother?

If you cannot locate a record of your ancestor's marriage, consider the possibility that they might never have gotten married or might never have been married by someone who filed a copy of the record. It happened--not often, but it did happen. Marriages on the frontier were not always recorded and there are couples who for one reason or another never officially marry.

25 April 2013

It Came Right Out of Their Heads

The information provided in some records used by genealogists came right out of the informant's head. Grandma did not "prove" who were parents were when she married in 1912. Uncle Herman did not have to "show" that he immigrated in 1885 when answering 1910 census questions. Aunt Martha simply said her parents were born in Connecticut in 1880--they easily could have been born in Vermont for all she knew.

Remember that in many records the informant gave answers right off the top of their head, no "proof," no doublechecking, no verification.

And then 100 years later, their descendant encounters the information and assumes is all correct.

24 April 2013

Don't Just Use the Local Newspaper

Think about all the newspapers that could have printed something about your ancestor. There are more possibilities than just the nearest one. For my ancestors in southern Hancock County, Illinois, there were newspapers in nearby towns such as Warsaw and Mendon. There were several newspapers in the county seat of Carthage and newspapers in Quincy, Ilinois--a good thirty-five miles away and in a different county--also published news and gossip from those areas.

Don't just research one or two really close papers and ignore others--find out whether they published "gossip" from outlying towns or not.

23 April 2013

Burials in the Church Cemetery are Not Necessarily Church Funerals

I was reviewing the list of funerals for the church 1/4 mile from the farm where four generations of my family lived. Half the people buried in the church cemetery are related to me. In looking through the funeral book for the church, I was confused as to why I could not locate two funerals for family members in the 1940s and 1950s.

And then it dawned on me.

The family continued to use the church cemetery, but had switched their membership to the town church twenty years earlier. I was looking at the funerals given by the minister--not the book containing burials in the cemetery.

Make certain you know what you are looking at and whether your ancestors were really going to church where their relatives were buried.

22 April 2013

I Don't Need To Document Those I Already Know About

Research the complete family and always look for neighbors. The Abraham Chaney on this 1830 census was an uncle who I had located in later records in Illinois and for a long time I neglected to find him in the 1830 census because "I didn't need that." 

Locating him in 1830 caused me to discover Sarah Crow living nearby--his one sister I had never been able to find. Researching the siblings "you know about" fully in records "you don't need," may give you clues on the ones you cannot find.

21 April 2013

Don't Slack off When You Are Excited

I recently discovered a probable sister of an ancestor for whom I have been looking for over twenty-five years. Once I located her, I made some discoveries of her children and other family members. When I went back to organize my notes, I realized that my handwritten notes were difficult to read, I had abbreviated both "baptism" and "born" with a letter "b," and I had neglected to indicate where I had obtained the names of two of the children.

I was able to straighten out the mess and the confusion, but it took almost as much time to do that as it did to do the research in the first place.

Don't let your excitement over a new discovery cause you to be hasty in taking notes and making citations. When you are trying to figure out where to go next, you will be glad that you don't have to "redo" your original research.

Your ancestors are dead-they are not going anywhere.

20 April 2013

Who is the Guardian?

If any minor children of your ancestor had guardians appointed for them, determine what other relationship they had to the children or the deceased parents. While guardians of the children's estate were not necessarily guardians of their person, they could be a step-father, uncle, grandparent, etc.

Guardians of any sibling of your ancestor are just as important to your research as your ancestor--after all, they share the same parents.

19 April 2013

Look When You Do Not Expect It

Siblings Abraham and Elizabeth Chaney moved to Coshocton County, Ohio, as young adults in the mid-1820s from Pennsylania. They left for Illinois in the 1840s where they eventually died. While paging through the estate index for another family member, I noticed an index entry for Abraham Chaney. He was listed in the index because he had been appointed guardian for a child--a child that ended up being an unknown nephew of Abraham and Elizabeth.

Lesson: Even if you know your relative did not die in the area, consider looking up their name in the estate index--on the off chance that the names of guardians are indexed along with the deceased people whose estates are being settled.

18 April 2013

Only Children With No Descendants

Only children with no descendants can leave interest estate settlements, especially if they die with enough property to require probate and neglect to leave a valid will. Their property typically will be distributed to their first cousins, or depending upon the family structure, even more distant relatives. The records of that estate settlement could be a gold mine. Do you have a cousin who died in this situation? It may be worth your time to search for their estate records

17 April 2013

Top 40 Genealogy Blog Discount

Genealogy Tip of the Day made the list of Top 40 genealogy blogs and we are celebrating! Through 11:59 PM Central on 18 April 2013, purchase genealogy webinars and only pay 40% of the original price! Coupon code is forty.  Grow your genealogy skills today.

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Get Away From Those Search Boxes

Genealogists expect to type names in boxes and have the desired results appear, especially with census records. If you have a good idea where the ancestor lived and cannot find him in the index, read the census manually. For rural areas and small towns, it is not all that difficult and, if you have an address in urban areas it is possible there as well. This can be a great way to find people whose names are jumbled and, in the process, find nearby relatives for whom you never thought to look.

Don't become a search box addict!

16 April 2013

Were They Waiting For Grandpa To Die?

One of my ancestral families "switched" churches. I knew a rough time period of when it happened, but did not have any way to narrow the time frame until I viewed the children's christening entries. The church where they were baptized helped me to pin down when they switched.

Interestingly enough, the "switch" was within a year or two after "Grandpa" died. Grandpa was a member of the church they left. It has left me wondering if the family waited until his death to leave the church. There's no "proof," but the time line makes me wonder.

Did your family wait until someone died to move, change jobs, change churches, etc.? I have one family where I'm pretty certain they waited until "grandma" died to get divorced--or at least it really looks that way.

15 April 2013

Homesteading Veterans Proved Discharge

If your Civil War veteran applied for a homestead under the United States Homestead Act, he would have to have proved his service. A copy of his discharge would in with the homestead application. If you're having trouble locating his military or pension records, see what is in his homestead application first.

Obtaining and Letting Go

For every piece of real property your ancestor owned, there should be some record of how it was acquired and some record of how it "left" his possession. Most of the time these records are deeds that provide direct information regarding the transaction. In other cases, evidence of the transaction may be found in wills, estate, and court records.

14 April 2013

Four New Genealogy Fundamental Webinars Released

These presentations are short--approximately 20 minutes in length. The intent is to cover a narrow topic quickly for those who benefit best from presentations that are not an hour long. Presentations are clear and to the point--handouts included.
If you pre-reordered these, you should have received links for download. Please email me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com if you have not. There are two more in this series that are scheduled for release early this week. 

Perspective Makes An Impact

I looked at a recent picture of my father and realized how much he looks like his mother. As I got to thinking about it, I realized that it's easier to "see Grandma in Dad" because I have memories of Grandma having seen  her numerous times over twentysome years. My grandfather died when I was an infant and my knowledge of what he looks like is only from pictures.  Sometimes it is easier for us to see what we have actually experienced first hand. 

Are you always keeping your ancestor's perspective in mind when reading information they gave for a document or something that they told you when you asked them questions? Perspective matters and some perspectives are significantly more complicated than my memory of what my paternal grandfather looked like. 

13 April 2013

Did They Give That Away?

Most pre-1900 real estate transactions in the United States include the "payment" for the property, typically referred to as the "consideration." If the consideration appears to be a token amount, the parties involved may be related to each other or the transaction may have been drawn up to clarify title. Keep in mind that what may appear to be a token amount in 2013 might not have been  token amount in 1820, but $1 is usually a safe bet as a token amount. If the "consideration" is "love and affection," there frequently is a relationship among the parties involved. 

12 April 2013

Church Records Are More than Baptisms, Weddings, and Funerals

Church records may contain other acts besides "the big three." One rural Nebraska church where several of my families attended had records of confirmation that listed places of birth for the confirmands. In some families this provided places of birth in Germany or "back East" in the United States where some families had originally settled. Later confirmation records were not as detailed, but those for the first twenty or so years contained places of birth that helped document numerous places of prior residence for the families that were having children while migrating.

11 April 2013

Mixing Up the Script

Sometimes pastors in immigrant churches who were often immigrants themselves would write in the records both in English script and in non-English script. For some reason that's what the pastor did when a cousin was baptized in 1918. The first name was written in the German script and the middle and last names were not. And another pastor from Coatsburg, Illinois, used English for most entries and, for some reason, decided that my ancestor's entry needed to be entirely in German. Don't misread it, there might be two languages in one record.

10 April 2013

Miscellaneous Things in the Recorder's Office

In most United States counties, the county recorder is charged with recording deeds and other documents, usually vital records. Most recorders though have a miscellaneous record where anything can be recorded  a variety of documents may be recorded--not just deeds and vital records. My uncle had his medical license recorded at the recorder's office in the 1950s and another relative had a copy of his divorce decree from Florida filed in the Illinois county where he married twenty years previously. You ever know what's in that miscellaneous record--take a look.

Note: we've slightly modified this from the "unedited" version that ran originally. Thanks to a reader for catching that. "Anything" is too strong of a word, but readers need to be aware that there are a variety of materials that can be in the "miscellaneous" volume and that recording laws vary from one state to another and over time.

09 April 2013

Did They Write It In Later?

My grandfather's official birth record at the local county courthouse from 1903 appears to have been written on by at least three different people. The majority of the record appears to be in the same hand as other records on the same page--what's in a different ink is his last name and his first and middle names. It almost appears as though someone wrote in his last name later, when it was noticed that the name of the child had been left completely blank. The last name matches his father's last name--that's not the issue and a later clerk most likely realized the last name was missing from the record. His first and middle names are in a different ink as well. That makes me wonder if he didn't come in for a copy of his birth record, and upon seeing his first and middle names had been left off, the clerk simply wrote them in. After all, there weren't too many children born to Charles and Fannie Neill in 1903.

And when I transcribe it, I need to make a notation about the apparent differences in the handwriting.

08 April 2013

Delayed Birth Records

If there is not a "regular" civil record of your ancestor's birth, determine if the office has a record of "delayed" births. These records were those created years after the actual event when it was realized the person had no birth record made at the time of their birth and they needed a copy of their birth record. Delayed birth records were usually made based upon the testimony of those alive at the time of the birth or documentation submitted from other records (ie. church records, government census records, etc.)

07 April 2013

Under What Act

Applications for US military pensions often mention the act under which the veteran (or his widow) applied. The details of that act may explain why the veteran waited until then--and that reason could be a clue. Men or women who applied for federal property usually did so under a certain act. If you have records of your ancestor having "applied" for anything, look to see if the act under which the application was made is referenced. Learning about that act may tell you something about your ancestor that is not stated in the application.

06 April 2013

Do You Know What You Are Searching?

A genealogy friend forwards you a link to a new database or website and you begin searching. Do you know what you are searching? Who created the materials? What records are included? Don't get so excited about a new set of materials that you neglect to think about what they are, what time periods are included, and what ones might be missing.

05 April 2013

If the Story Were True...

When trying to "prove" that family tradition, ask yourself what records would have been generated if it were true. And, when you are looking for those records and analyzing the information that they contain, keep yourself open to the possibility that the story may not even be true at all.

04 April 2013

Who Else Did That Day?

If your ancestor naturalized, see what other people naturalized on the same day. If you found your ancestor's declaration of intent, see who else made out declarations on that day. Look at the names of other people who got married on the same day as your ancestor. Are there clues in the other people who did certain things on the same day as your ancestor?

03 April 2013

Hiding in pre-1850 Census Records?

While the head of household in pre-1850 US census records is usually the oldest male, there are exceptions. The head of household could be an adult male in his forties or fifties and "grandpa" could be living in the household as well, but not named as the head of household. Older parents, or even grandparents, could be "hiding" in a pre-1850 census as a "tick mark" in one of those older age categories.

If you need help with pre-1850 census records, order and download my hour-long webinar about creating family structure from these records here.

02 April 2013

Straw Man

My ancestor in Ohio had not completed paying for his federal land sale when he died in the early 1820s. The administrator of the estate was his son-in-law. The son-in-law wanted to buy the property from the estate (for a value agreed to by the court). However, it looked "strange" for the son-in-law, as administrator, to deed the property to himself as a private person. So he sold the balance of the claim to a neighbor who then sold the claim to the son-in-law. The neighbor only served as an intermediary and never really wanted the property. His role in the sale is what is sometimes is referred to as a "straw man."

01 April 2013

A Land Patent is Just the Beginning

If your US ancestor obtained a federal land patent, remember that there is documentation of how and why he obtained that patent--probably at the National Archives. If your ancestor purchased the land on some type of cash or credit sale, the file probably won't contain a great deal of information. But if he obtained it via a military warrant, homestead, or pre-emption claim (among others), there will be more information in that application file.