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30 June 2013

Do You Use Google Reader?

If you use Google Reader to view your Genealogy Tip of the Day, be aware that Google Reader goes away on 1 July.

Only Google Reader users will be impacted.

There's information on converting to another reader here.

If you would simply like to get these blog posts in an email, there is a subscription box on the right hand side of every page on our blog.

There's another article on the shutdown here.

Five Year Gap?

If you have a chronology for an ancestor and, during their adult lifetime, you have five year gaps where you are not certain where the ancestor lived or what they were doing, try and locate a record to provide that information. Answering those questions may help you determine more about where the ancestor was from and what her origins were.

Did they head west?
Were they in an institution?
Did they have a financial setback?
Did they have a "short-term" marriage that did not last?

29 June 2013

Many Conclusions are Temporary

When research in the United States gets back beyond a certain point, records are fewer and less likely to make direct statements. It is important to remember that any conclusion reached when the records are not clear may need to be revised if new information comes to light.

Keep your mind open to the chance that you may be incorrect or may have not looked at all the records. Never assume that your initial "hunch" is Gospel Truth.

28 June 2013

Was There An Earlier Spouse?

Keep your mind open to the possibility that an ancestor was married before what you think was the "first marriage." The reason details do not quite "fit" may be because there was a previous marriage that ended because some died in childbirth, got ill, or simply left.

Always worth remembering as well that sometimes things seem confusing because there are details we have yet to discover.


Through the month of June our sponsor, GenealogyBank, is offering a discounted rate on a subscription and a free book on using newspapers to locate marriage information for new subscribers. Check out their offer here.

27 June 2013

A List of All Those Variants

Any last name can be spelled more than one way. Some alternate spellings are "obvious." Some are not. Have you made a list of the variant spellings you've encountered for each last name so that when searching you do not leave any out of your search?

If you omit one, that will be the way it gets spelled. 

26 June 2013

Was Her Final Husband a Union Veteran?

If your elusive female ancestor had a "late in life" marriage to a Union veteran, determine if she qualified for a widow's pension under his service. Details about the husband may not be immediately relevant to your search, but the widow's application may contain details about the widow and her first marriage--and those would be relevant to your search.

25 June 2013

Do You Have It All?

Years ago, when I began my research I obtained a copy of the 1867 marriage license of my relative. I thought that was the entire record. Last month while at the Family History Library in Salt Lake, I decided to make a digital copy of that record from their microfilm.

Turns out the marriage record was not just the license. There was an affidavit signed by my ancestor applying for the marriage license.

Had I not gone back I might never have obtained it.

Do you have the entire thing?

24 June 2013

University, Public, and other Nearby Libraries?

Have you visited all nearby university, public, and other libraries to determine if they have access to databases that could be helpful in your research? A library may pay for a subscription database such as CenGage, ProQuest, etc. that is usually for "academic" work, but that may also have digital images of newspapers as a small part of it.

Worth a try...

23 June 2013

Is That File Gone?

Despite numerous searches, the 1912 packet of estate papers for my ancestor Samuel Neill cannot be located. Occasionally files are taken and never returned. Some of what is in the packet of papers was recorded in various probate journals and ledgers allowing me to obtain most of the information. Occasionally when I return to research, I look in the "right" file box, hoping that it was filed incorrectly and someone will eventually put it in the right box.

Some things though will never be found and we have to research around them the best we can.

22 June 2013

June Offer from Our Sponsor

Through the month of June our sponsor, GenealogyBank, is offering a discounted rate on a subscription and a free book on using newspapers to locate marriage information for new subscribers. Check out their offer here.

Dropped Prefixes?

Is it possible that your ancestor John Van Der Hagen became John Hagen? Prefixes attached to surnames can easily be omitted, either accidentally or intentionally.

21 June 2013

Not Named But Mentioned

Everyname indexes to records are wonderful finding tools, but they occasionally have their limitations. An 1826 deed in Kentucky mentions a deceased landowner by name and states that his widow is alive at the time of the deed, but does not mention her by name. The 1826 reference means that she's alive as of that date even though she's not specifically identified.

Do you have ancestors hiding in documents where there name is not used?

20 June 2013

Have You Made a Chart Lately?

Whenever I'm stuck on virtually any genealogical problem, I make a chart or a table. It forces me to sort out the key pieces of information that are confusing me and allows me to sort the information in a variety of ways. Here's an example of a chart I used while trying to find a guy in the 1850 census and one of when my ancestors were eligible to vote.

19 June 2013

That Last Baby?

Is that last child your great-great-grandparents had really a "surprise child" or was it a "surprise grandchild?" It may be difficult to prove, but if there were daughters in their teens in the household, it's possible that last "child" was actually a "grandchild."

18 June 2013

Those Little Slips of Paper

Do you read through the subpoenas and notices to appear that are in a packet of court case papers? Those notices are usually directed to the sheriff of the county where the person is believed to have lived at the time the case was being heard by the court.

Those locations are clues as to where those people lived. Don't ignore them.

17 June 2013

Communication Considerations

Years ago while reading a mid-19th century christening record, the name of one village was nearly impossible to discern. In reviewing the record, I realized that someone from that illegible village had attended the christening which took place the day after the birth. Analyzing a map of the area allowed me to determine the "unreadable" village. After all, if the person learned of the birth and attended the next-day christening, they could not have lived very far from where the child was born.

16 June 2013

Disbursements Make a Difference

Have you paid close attention to those accountings in the estate records of your ancestor that may list to whom payments were made from the estate? Payments made well after the person's death may indicate that some initial heirs have died and that their heirs have split the shares. These subsequent payments could be clues as to when heirs of the deceased died and who their heirs were.

15 June 2013

Even Record Books Can Have a Preface

Printed books are not the only ones that can have prefatory material. Handwritten record books in the courthouse may also have prefatory material indicating whether a separate index exists or if the record book is really a copy of an original record book that was falling apart. And a handwritten copy of the original book can always contain the occasional error.

Offer From Our Sponsor GenealogyBank

Through the month of June our sponsor, GenealogyBank, is offering a discounted rate on a subscription and a free book on using newspapers to locate marriage information for new subscribers. Check out their offer here.

14 June 2013

Those Will Witnesses Are Not Heirs

Witnesses to a will can be related to the person signing the will, but they usually are not to be heirs of the estate. Witnesses can be related to your ancestor signing the will. They can be associates of your ancestor. Or the witness could be a person of legal age who happened to be around when your ancestor signed the will and simply knew who your ancestor was.

13 June 2013

Remember Not To Trust Your Memory

Never assume that "you'll remember it." Write it down, record it. You will not remember it. The recording of any information needs to be done in some organized format--preferably not on scraps of paper. Time you save by not writing something down will be wasted when you realize you've forgotten it.

12 June 2013

Enumerated Twice?

Is there any chance that your relative was enumerated more than once in a census? People who moved around census time, were working a distance from home, were in school, etc. might have been listed on more than once census page? My grandmother was listed with her parents and the household where she was a "hired girl" in 1930. Her brother had moved sometime close to the census date and he and his wife are enumerated in their hometown and the town where he had moved to work.

11 June 2013

Record Copies Reflect the Original

Copies of materials that genealogists use in local courthouses are considered record copies of the original document. All of those deeds in the deed book from the 1830s are not originals, they are handwritten transcriptions of the original. The original normally was given to the person who obtained the property via the deed. The clerk's job was to transcribe the document as accurately as possible, making no changes--even when errors were obvious.

So that's why in some of those old books the signatures match the rest of the handwriting. It's not really the signature, it's the clerk's handwriting from start to finish.

10 June 2013

If It Is Reasonably the Same

Spelling variants are the bane of the genealogist. Research does not progress very far for the family historian who insists that the only way a record can be "for their ancestor" is if the name is spelled the "right way." Usually if the spelling is pronounced in a way that sounds the same way the "right spelling" is pronounced, the difference in spelling is not enough to consider the people being referred to as different. My ancestor may be Samuel Neill to me, but I had better realize that he could easily be Samuel Neal, Samuel Neil, or even Samuel O'Neill.

09 June 2013

Ask Before You Donate

If you are contemplating donating your "genealogical papers" to a library, historical society, or other facility, discuss this with them before you make the decision. Some organizations do not take donations of this type, may not have the facilities to maintain and preserve your collection, or may place serious restrictions upon its use. 

And others may not be able to take your material if you are simply looking for a free way to "have someone organize your stuff after you die." 

Organizing Genealogical Information Summer 2013

There is information on our Summer 2013 "Organizing Genealogical Information" on our sister website. Check it out.

08 June 2013

$5 Brick Webinar Discount Extended Through 9 June

Several have expressed regret at missing our "Brick Walls from A to Z" $5 discount--so we've extended it through noon 9 June 2013.

The recording and handout normally sell for $8.50. We're offering these at $5 each. That's a savings of 40%. Don't wait...and the first one is free!

If these links do not work, direct your browser to: http://genealogytipoftheday.blogspot.com/p/webinar-discounts.html

Brick Walls from A to Z--first in the series
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Brick walls from A to Z--second in the series--More Brick Walls
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Brick walls from A to Z--third in the series--Yet More Brick Walls
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Brick walls from A to Z--fourth in the series--The Final One
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You Will Have to get Off the Computer

Querying databases and search engines and using other digital media  are an integral part of genealogical research. However, there are answers to some questions that are resting on a piece of paper that has not been microfilmed, digitized, or indexed. No amount of Googling or creative searching will locate that record if it only exists on paper in a case file in a courthouse or archives. Offline searches are still important.

07 June 2013

Is the City Separate From the County?

In some areas of the United States, there are independent cities that have a separate set of records from the outlying county. The City of St. Louis is separate from the County of St. Louis and Virginia has several independent cities as well.

06 June 2013

Check Out Our Sponsor: GenealogyBank

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

The Estray Book

If you come across an "estray book" at a courthouse, it is a book where residents could register lost property they had located, usually animals. Before the Civil War, slave may also be listed. There will not be an overly large amount of detail in these books, but a reference to your ancestor in an "estray book" can indicate residence in a certain place at a certain point in time.

05 June 2013

Documents Will Not Always Indicate Relationships

A land transaction may be between father and son, sister and brother, or group of siblings and a remaining sibling. The document itself may not indicate any relationship among the individuals. The purpose of most legal documents is not to provide evidence of relationships. And in the case of a deed, it is to transfer title to property.

Everyone at the time the deed is drawn up knows how all those people are related. They never dreamed in one hundred and fifty years someone would be trying to figure that out!

04 June 2013

Have You Cleaned Our Your Assumption Closet?

When was the last time you cleaned out your assumptions? For years I never really researched a widowed ancestor who went to Iowa in the 1860s to live with her children because "what could there be?"

Turns out she purchased three small parcels of property and had a nice estate settlement full of information. Did I get "new" relatives? No. Did I learn more about the ancestor? Yes.

Are there assumptions keeping you from finding information?

03 June 2013

Descriptions May Be Incomplete

When using microfilm at the Family History Library (or actually any library) remeber that occasionally catalog descriptions of an item may be incomplete or slightly inaccurate. There may have been an additional item or two included on the microfilm that was of a slightly different record. Occasionally items that are sequential (like marriage licenses that have numbers) may have been filmed out of order. Or out of a three hundred licenses, one is missing.

02 June 2013

That Hidden Uncle or Aunt

Do you have an aunt or uncle who was "sent away" because they were developmentally disabled? There was a time when individuals with these challenges were "not spoken of" or were institutionalized and never heard from again. Maybe you are unable to locate a death record because the person died in an institution a distance from "home" in a place you are not thinking to look.

01 June 2013

My Blogs and Newsletter

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.

Your Cousin May Not Have Done It All

A distant relative researched the probate file of an ancestor who died in the 1860s. She even transcribed the inventory of the ancestor from the estate packet and placed her transcription online. I assumed that she'd been through the entire file and had shared or at least mentioned in passing everything she had located. Turns out she didn't.

Making digital images of the ancestor's estate packet was on my list "to do" when I was in Salt Lake so I would have them instead of the transcription. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the ancestor owned real estate that the cousin never mentioned. It may not yield any big clues, but it's just as interesting as the list household goods my cousin transcribed.

And it reminded me that I while I am thankful when people place things online, I shouldn't assume that their research is complete.