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31 May 2013

$4 webinar specials

We are excited to offer three of our most popular webinars at a $4 rate--don't wait as the sale ends at 11:59 on 31 May 2013.

All presentations include the media presentation and handout. These are geared towards experienced beginner and intermediate researchers.

Seeing Patterns 

Genealogical research is all about patterns. In this presentation, see ways to see more patterns in the materials you have located and in how your ancestor lived in order to make the most out of the material you have.

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Organizing information is key to genealogical research. This session is not about making family trees, fan charts, etc. It discusses a variety of charts to help you in your research and makes it clear that there may be a lot of ways you can chart your research that you never even thought about. This lecture is not about how to make "pretty trees with names." It's about helping you with your research

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Creating Research Plans

Organizing your research process is key to finding more information and researching as efficiently as possible. In this session, we will see through example how to create effective research plans and organizing research as it progresses forward.

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Ask Before You Donate

Do not simply "leave" your unorganized to a library, archives, or other facility without first asking them if they would like to have them; if they have the ability to store, maintain, and preserve them; and if they will allow access to your materials.  That will help you to make a better informed decision.

And, if at all possible, when you are still able you should organize your materials. No library is going to want unorganized, unsourced, photocopies from unknown books.

30 May 2013

Indexes Will Fail

Sometimes the only way to locate a record is to search manually. I recently located a marriage record from 1851 that was not in the local index probably because the entry I needed was "squeezed" in at the very top of the page.

Indexes are not 100%. Ever.

29 May 2013

Who Does It Say They Are An Heir Of?

An estate settlement for Michael indicated that his deceased sister Mrs. Ernestine Hess had three children, Wilhelmina Smith (her husband's last name), Valentine Hess and William Hess. Just because Wilhelmina, Valentine Hess, and William Hess were children of Ernestine does mean they shared the same father. Valentine and William probably did, but it is very possible that Wilhelmina had a different father. Saying they are Wilhelmina's Ernestine's children does not mean they all share the same father.

Don't read into documents what is not there.

28 May 2013

Date, Date, Everywhere A Date

Some documents have several dates on them. Vital records will contain the date of the event, Deeds will contain the date the deed was executed. Wills include the date the will was signed. Some documents contain the date the document was recorded. Wills should contain the date the will was admitted to probate. Deeds may include the date the deed was acknowledged. Each of these dates are a clue in the chronology of the document. Always determine the reason for any date listed on a document--all of them.

27 May 2013

Waiting After A Divorce

In some states during some time periods, a person could marry immediately after a divorce. State statute may have dictated a specific amount of time as a waiting period before a divorced person could marry again. There also may be residency requirements before a divorce is filed, so a your ancestor could not have moved to a new state and immediately filed for a divorce.

26 May 2013

Memorial Day Genealogy Sale

We're offering two sales this Memorial Day Weekend on our genealogical offerings--Webinars and Newsletters.

60 Percent Webinar Sale

We have over 30 presentations to help you grow your genealogy research skills:
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.

There are a wide variety of research topics. Presentations are clear and easy to understand with the goal of helping you find more ancestors and do better research.

124 Issues of Casefile Clues--Save and Grow Your Skills

Give yourself some reading and increase your genealogical skills in the process--we're offering Casefile Clues 124 back issues of for only $30. This is a 25% savings.

Written in an accurate, detailed, and yet easy-to-follow format, Casefile Clues is geared towards the intermediate level research, but we have many beginners and advanced researchers (including some professionals) who subscribe toCasefile CluesCasefile Clues focuses on genealogical case studies, problem-solving, and the occasional in-depth analysis of one specific document. 

And we always include complete, accurate citations and ideas of where to go next. We also focus on setting goals and keeping on task.

You can download samples following the link on this page:

A complete list of all topics (and order links) can be found here:

Enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend and don't forget your living relatives!

Sale ends on 27 May 2013 at 11:59 PM Central Time


Don't Neglect the Ag Schedules

In the 19th century, some of the United States census enumeration included more than population schedules. There were also agricultural, industrial and other schedules. Have you looked at these non-population schedules for information about your ancestor?

25 May 2013

What Type of Index?

If you do not know what type of index you are using, you cannot use it effectively. A defendants' index to court records typically only indexes the name of one defendant per court case. The same is usually true for a plaintiffs' index. Grantors indexes to deeds usually indexes the name of just one grantor. All of these records contain the names of other people in a variety of capacities. Most of the indexes to local records are not everyname indexes.

If you do not know what you are using, then how do you know how to use it?

24 May 2013

Seeing What You Expect

When eating out recently with my parents, my dad thought he recognized a cousin of his and so he asked the lady if she was so-and-so and introduced himself. She acknowledged who she was and then, much to my surprise, said to him "I thought you looked like a Neill." I have never thought of my Dad as bearing much resemblance to his father's family as he bears a much stronger resemblance to his mother's family. Part of that for me is that my Dad's father passed away before I was old enough to even remember him.

The point of this tip is that it is easy to see in a document, a family relationship, or a research problem that which we are familiar or that which we expect to see. If my grandfather had lived as long as my grandmother, I might see him more in my father than I do and that reminds me that I always need to remember that there may be sometimes be clues in records that I'm not seeing because I am too busy looking for what I know to be there.

23 May 2013

Frame Numbers

When using microfilmed copies of loose papers or un-numbered bound pages, look beyond the actual image and determine if frame numbers were inserted apart from the image. These frame numbers can serve as a "page" number so that the specific item can be referred to when creating a citation. Digital images made from microfilm may also include these frame numbers--assuming the original microfilming process included them in the first place.

Of course, if the documents have page numbers then use those in creating your citation.

22 May 2013

Old Enough or Maybe Not

Don't assume your ancestor did not have military service because he was too young or too old. Young men lied about their age to enlist and some older men volunteered. And there's always the chance that the year of birth you have for your ancestor is incorrect.

21 May 2013

Free E-Book From Our Sponsor

Our sponsor, GenealogyBank, is offering new subscribers a free e-bookHow To Search Obituaries To Find Ancestors & Trace Your Family Tree through 24 May 2013. Check out the offer on their website.

It May Be Common There

That last name that appears to be so uncommon in rural Iowa where your family settled may be extremely common in the little German village where the family originated.It may be common enough that one-third of the baptismal entries on every page contains a reference to that surname--either as the father's last name or the mother's maiden name.

What is rare in one place may be extremely common in another.

20 May 2013

At What Stage?

When working on your "brick wall" ancestor, have you given serious thought to what stage of life they were in when they become your "brick wall?" Were they young and striking out on their own with no responsibilities? Had all their children grown up and left home moving several states away? Or did all their adult children live nearby? Were they a newlywed? Were they the only child living near aging parents?

Your relative did not live in a vacuum and, while people do occasionally "run off and never come back," most people behave relatively reasonably. Your disappearing ancestor may simply have left no records behind of certain periods in his life.

19 May 2013

Help Someone

A coworker stopped me the other day and asked for suggestions on her early 19th century German immigrant ancestor. I began listing suggestions and asking her questions about what she knew. As soon as I got back to my office, I had three ideas for my own "brick wall" person I had put aside some time ago.

Sometimes just talking to someone else about their research problem or giving them some help gets you to thinking about your own problem. And, you've helped someone else with their research along the way as well.

18 May 2013

Reader Webinar Discount

We're running our 60% sale on webinars today--18 May 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.


Write It!

As one of our tips aimed as "preserving your information" past you, we start with suggesting that you write up your research notes and conclusion on an ancestor or family and consider submitting that written "report" to the local historical or genealogical society where your ancestor lived. Some societies will consider publishing such items in their newsletter or quarterly publication or add them to their files. And always include citations for your sources.

17 May 2013

Full or Half?

Many records make no distinctions between full and half-siblings. Is it possible that siblings you think are full siblings are half-siblings and someone was married before or had a previous relationship?

And there's always the chance that people referred to as siblings are actually step-siblings.

Our Sponsor-GenealogyBank

A big thanks to our sponsor GenealogyBank. We appreciate their continued support of Genealogy Tip of the Day!

16 May 2013

Buyers at That Sale

If you are fortunate enough to have a list of people who purchased property at your ancestor's estate sale, consider locating those people in the decennial census before and after the sale. Where they were from or where they moved to may help you on your ancestor.

Purchasers at estate sales were usually neighbors or relatives of the deceased.

15 May 2013

Have You Looked at a Map Recently?

For every location where you are researching, when was the last time you looked at a contemporary map?  Are you making assumptions based upon what you think is true about the local geography and political lines or what you know is true about the local geography and political lines.

Sometimes there is a difference between what you think and what is the reality of the situation.

14 May 2013

New Area Means New Rules--Sometimes

When your research migrates to a new geographic area, remember that laws and cultural practices may be different even if the language is the same. As I begin working on my New England ancestry, I realize a little more each day that there are differences that, while minor, are significant enough that I need to learn more about the records of the region to avoid making incorrect interpretations.

13 May 2013


Is your handwriting a scribble that even you cannot read a few days or hours later? If so, then print when identifying pictures, taking research notes, writing down your conclusions and reasoning, etc. Why waste time trying to decipher your own handwriting when their original records you could be transcribing?

Not to mention that if you can't read your own writing, you may never realize what that brilliant idea was that you scribbled down!

12 May 2013

What Other Records?

Whenever reviewing any document, think about what other records or materials that document might have caused to be created. A death certificate may mean a burial permit, a tombstone, an obituary, or a cemetery record. A court case involving an inheritance may be mentioned in the newspaper or have caused a deed to be recorded when the case was finalized.

Rarely is one document recorded in complete isolation.  

11 May 2013

Don't Rely On Your Will

Occasionally I hear genealogists say "my will indicates that my papers are to go to..." and think that they've solved the problem of preservation.

There is a chance they haven't. Libraries and historical societies are not necessarily fond of boxes of unorganized papers and even organized materials that are unwanted and unsolicited may not be utilized or preserved in the way the donor intended. Even if they are wanted, the facility may not have the ability to store and maintain them. And probate judges, executors, and estate administrators are probably more concerned about paying bills, dealing with finances, and settling up property titles.

Consider ways to preserve your materials while you are still alive. We will be mentioning some ways in future tips, but don't think you've done your duty simply because you had a clause about "your genealogy papers" inserted in your will. That might not be enough.

10 May 2013

Brand Records

Back in the days when livestock roamed free and ear tags were not in style for livestock, farmers would often register their brands (or ear notch) at the local courthouse. Frequently these brands would be recorded in the recorder's office, but it is possible that another office maintained the records. Each farmer would have a unique brand (or ear notch) which would be drawn in the book along with the ancestor's name. This was a way to identify the animal.

This would at least allow you to locate a person in a certain place at a certain point in time--if the records are still extant.

09 May 2013

Hanging With the Group

The story was that Maryland native James Rampley and family moved to western Illinois in 1847 from Ohio and were the "only ones in their family to move west." Turns out that was woefully incorrect. James' aunt and his sister settled two counties over. Three of his first cousins settled within ten miles of him, he purchased his first Illinois property from another first cousin, and his grandchild married the grandchild of another first cousin. And his wife's nephew settled within a few miles of James' family.

If you're stuck look at those neighbors, there may be relatives "openly hiding" right next door.

08 May 2013

Every Item in the Estate Inventory

Do you have an estate inventory for an ancestor with items you "have no clue" what they are? There may be clues to your ancestor's occupation or social status in those clues. And if there are not, you'll at least get an interesting history lesson in the process.

07 May 2013

My Genealogy Blogs

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

You can subscribe to any of the above blogs for free.

My how-to newsletter Casefile Clues is also available by subscription, but there is a charge.

Do You Quit Too Soon?

The entry at the top of this index page is for Thomas J. Rampley's estate settlement from Coshocton County, Ohio probate records from the 1820s-1830s. Thomas was the person of interest and I thought when I found him I was done with the index. There weren't supposed to be any other Rampley entries in the file as no one else died there.
At the bottom of the "R" section was an entry for James Rampley--son of Thomas. James had not died, but nearly ten years after his father Thomas died he was appointed guardian for two of his siblings. The entry was indexed in his name.

If I had quit looking at the entries after I found what I wanted, I would have missed this entry.

06 May 2013

Know What the Index Covers

Before using any online, microfilmed, printed, digitized or handwritten index, determine what records were used to create the index and how complete that index is. If you don't know or cannot find out, ask.

Indexes are great and they do contain errors since they were compiled by humans, but if you don't know what records it includes, or more importantly, what records it does not include, how can you use it effectively?

Is there an index you use regularly but have never questioned? Might be a good idea.

05 May 2013

Churches Where They Were Not Members

My great-grandmother was a sponsor of her aunt's baby in 1905. The baptism took place in a church where my great-grandmother was not a member and in a town where she never lived. Had I not been working on the "entire family," I would not have located the reference. Was it crucial to my search? No. But someone's name appearing in a record means that they are alive on a certain date and there are times where that is a big clue all by itself.

04 May 2013

Don't Force the Household

In pre-1880 United States census records, the relationship of household members to the head of household is not given. The individuals living in a household may be husband, wife, and their children. Or it may be husband, wife, some of his children, some of her children, and some of theirs. Or it one of the youngsters in the household may be a nephew or niece.

Or it may be something else. Just do not always make the assumption that every pre-1880 household is a husband, wife, and their children. It may not be.

03 May 2013

What Burials Are in the Same Spot?

Years ago, I called a cemetery to ask about the burial of my wife's aunt. After the lady who answered the phone gave me the information, she asked me if I wanted the details on the 5 other burials in the family plot. The others were all children or children-in-law of the aunt. I thanked her profusely for helping me.

Try and avoid asking about just one person when you contact the cemetery. Those buried in the same plot or set of lots frequently are relatives.

02 May 2013

Church Records Are More than Baptized, Married, and Buried

Some churches keep records besides the "big three." There may be communion rosters, confirmation lists, registers that summarize information on families that attend the church, lists of members received into the church, lists of members removed from the church, etc. The amount of detail varies among denominations, but make certain you have seen as much as you can.

There may be a situation where the appearance of a name on a roster is just a big of a clue as what is in the church's marriage register.

01 May 2013

Was There a Court Battle After the Death?

Even if you find a probate file in the records of the probate court for your ancestor, a search of other court records should still be conducted for any other court action involving the estate. It is possible that even if there was a probate case, heirs had a disagreement that was handled in a civil court or court of equity outside of the probate court. That case could contain an entirely separate series of records.