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31 July 2013

Thank Those Who Help

When the clerk or librarian helps you with your search, thank them and let them know that you appreciate their help. And be polite when asking others to help you with your search. You will have more success when you do so.

30 July 2013

Is Your Memory the Problem?

Is your reliance on memory the problem? Recently in writing a blog post involving the 1910 census, I nearly stated the census date was 1 April 1910 and that my great-aunt, born on 8 April 1910 should not have been listed. In reviewing before the item was published, I was reminded that the census date in 1910 was 15 April, not 1 April. In this case, it was me who was wrong, not the census. Memories are not always perfect.

29 July 2013

Does the Internet Feed Your Distractions?

Is a constant sense of "connection" disrupting your genealogical research? When you are trying to tackle that genealogical problem, try turning off the computer (or at least the internet), putting the cell phone on vibrate, and maybe even just using pencil and paper. The constant barrage of "messages" and the ability to immediately try a new search idea may be negatively impacting your ability to concentrate. 

Sometimes I make the most headway on research problems with pencil and paper copies (digital or paper) of various records--with no internet and no phone.

28 July 2013

Do the In-Laws Have It?

When thinking about who might have pictures of family members, think about the various pictures in which that person may have appeared. Is it possible that your grandmother attended reunions of her husband's family? Does she appear in any pictures taken at those reunions?

27 July 2013

Where Did YOU Get That?

If you are fortunate enough to obtain family photographs from a relative, indicate somewhere who gave that photograph to you. In going through pictures I have--even ones identified--there are quite a few that I simply cannot remember who gave them to me. And I'd like to know. It sounds a little strange to say "I know who this dead person is, but I can't remember who gave me the picture or how I got it."

26 July 2013

Repeated Names?

While not a common practice today, in times when more children died as infants or as small children, parents would sometimes "reuse" names of deceased children when a later child of the same gender was born. It was not uncommon for some families to have two or three children with the same name. Do not assume that there is a mistake if a church records indicates your ancestor had a son William born in 1802 and another William born 1805. In that case, checking for a death record for a William between 1802 and 1805 may be in order.

25 July 2013

Where They Got Their Social Security Number

When searching the Social Security Death Index, avoid searching based on where the person was living when they applied for their number. While these locations usually are not wrong, it requires you to know where the person resided at the time the number was requested. Many who applied for numbers may have moved somewhere temporarily for work, only to live there for a few years and return "home" or move to a residence that became their permanent home.

And if you insist they lived in Iowa when they applied for their number and they obtained it while living a few months in Oklahoma, you aren't going to find the person for whom you are looking.

24 July 2013

Deaths Recorded Where They Died, Not Where They Lived

The civil record of your ancestor's death will be filed where he died, not necessarily where he lived or where he is buried. If your ancestor was travelling at the time of his death, had moved in her later years to live near a child, or was simply getting groceries in the nearest store across the county or state line, that is where the event will be recorded.

If you can't find a death record where they lived, are you certain that is the location where they died as well?

23 July 2013

Publications Beyond The Newspaper

Have you gotten beyond newspapers as the only periodical that may mention your ancestor or relative? Trade, union, or occupational journals may mention your long-long relative. Church, religious, denominational, or fraternal publications may hold the key to your research. GoogleBooks includes some of these materials in digital format. Obituaries or even tombstones may give clues as to memberships your ancestor might have held in certain organizations.

22 July 2013

Is Your Email Address Up To Date?

If your email address has changed since you posted to a message board, have you posted a followup with your new email address? If there's no way to "update" your email on those old postings, consider making creating a simple blog of your own at www.blogger.com or www.wordpress.com with your old queries as postings and your current email. 

And before you make any postings, consider getting a free web-based email to use for genealogy such as one at yahoo.com, hotmail, or gmail. 

21 July 2013

Notations on Paper Copies

In some courthouses and records repositories, paper copies of records are still the norm. When making paper copies (or having them made), make note in pencil on the edge of the copy the name of the book, volume number and page number where the material was obtained.

You are not going to remember and at some point, you will want to know where the page was obtained. If you would rather not write on the front of the copy, then do it on the back.

But do it. You will be glad you did.

20 July 2013

Have Grandma Read It

After you've talked with that relative about the family history, have them read your transcription of the interview and see if you interpreted things the way they intended.

They may even remember more upon reading what they had to say.

19 July 2013

The Ins and the Outs

When working with landowning ancestors, make certain you can document how they acquired all the real estate they owned. When looking at a settlement deed for an ancestor's estate in 1913, I realized I could not account for how 40 acres had been obtained. The rest of the 320 acres I had deeds of acquisition for. Finding "how he got" that other 40 acres may answer some questions.

18 July 2013

Great-Grandma's Worthless House

Everything needs to be viewed in context.

In the settlement of my great-grandfather's estate in 1948, there were two pieces of real estate he and his wife owned. There was a small mortgaged farm of less than 100 acres and there was a small house on a lot in the nearby village. The was not enough cash to pay the debt so something had to be sold, but in authorizing the sale, the judge deemed the home to be of no value.

The reason was simple: a worthless house did not need to be sold. The farm was sold to pay the debt on it, but the home remained the widow's residence.

17 July 2013

What is Squeezed in the Edge?

Are you always looking on the edge of every page and in the crook of the binding of any book in which you find a record? One never knows what clue may be lurking in that crevice or along the border of a document.

16 July 2013

What Have You Preserved Today?

We've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating for new and seasoned genealogists alike:

Do you have some photograph, original document, or other piece of family history ephemera that you have not somehow preserved or shared? What happens if that one copy is destroyed?

The 1870 census will be there to search next week. There may be items in your closet that for one reason or another may not.

Preserve today so that all may use it tomorrow.

15 July 2013

Your Commentary Should Be Set Off

Often when transcribing documents or records, the researcher thinks of "explaining" that needs to be done. That's fine--but just make it perfectly crystal clear where the actual document ends and the explanation or comments begin. One way to do this is to use brackets [] and enclose your comments in those.


"I hereby leave until my son Johanna, my back forty acres after his mother dies [note: the document clearly says Johanna, but the reference is probably to son Johann.]"

You don't want people thinking your commentary is an actual part of the document, but you should always transcribe a document exactly as it is written--don't edit it while you type. That could lead to even more confusion.

14 July 2013

Summer Class-Researching Female Ancestors

Summer Class-Researching Female Ancestors

Female ancestors present special challenges for the American researcher. Consider taking our homework-optional class! To keep this post short, we've linked to the more detailed post here. 

Draft Registration Cards are Not Just For Those Who Served

Remember that draft registrations were meant to include all men who were eligible to be drafted. These registrations do not include only men who were drafted, but all those who usually were within a specific range of ages at the time of the registration.In the United States there were the largest registrations during the Civil War and World Wars I and II.

13 July 2013

Grantors May Not Be People

The grantor (seller) on a deed may not be a "person" but rather someone acting in an official legal or capacity. I could not find one ancestor's deed "selling" his farm because it was transferred on a deed executed by the local judge after a court action involving his estate. The judge was the grantor, not the ancestor and not his children. If your ancestor went through a a foreclosure or a sale of property for back taxes, the court or the local sheriff may have been the grantor on the deed transferring property from your relative's ownership.

If you cannot find a deed of sale, look for a court action involving your ancestor or his estate.

12 July 2013

Church Records Are Not Just Vitals

There may be more to the records of the church your ancestor attended than records of baptisms, marriages, and funerals. Church membership rolls, confirmation records, communion records, and other materials may help put your ancestor in a location, provide evidence of an age, or attach him to others in his extended kin and social network.

11 July 2013

Who Is That Woman Guardian?

If your relative died with minor children and a female is appointed the guardian of their estate, look carefully at her and determine who she is. If she has the same last name as the children, the likely scenario is that she is their mother. If the female guardian has a different last name than the children, she could still be the mother--except that she has married again.

It is unusual for females other than the mother to be appointed guardians of the children's estate if the father dies young. Possible, but likely.

10 July 2013

Who Shared Borders?

If your ancestor owned a farm or any other piece of real estate, do you know the names of the adjacent property owners? They may or may not be relatives, but if you do not know their names there is no way to find out if they are or not.

09 July 2013

Was It Always The Same House Number?

Your ancestor might have always lived in the house that is presently at 1234 North Apple Street, but 1234 North Apple Street might not always have been 1234 North Apple Street. It might have 345 North Apple Street or 1234 Broad Street. In some cities homes have been renumbered and street names have changed. Local libraries, courthouses or other organizations in the area may be able to assist you in determining if there have been changes over time. 

Because you need to have the contemporary address when using certain records. 

08 July 2013

Our Commitment to Our Fans and Readers

This went out to our Facebook page, but thought our readers who read Genealogy Tip of the Day in email, the web, etc. should be aware of this as well.  Our "content-creation" philosophy--warts and all.

The Three Source Rule and "Magic"

"I put something in my tree if three sources agree." I see that kind of statement on a regular basis--implying that "three" is somehow a magic number. Analysis of information is not quite that simple. Might does not make right. Three sources can easily agree if the information was provided by the same person, regardless of whether they were correct or not. John Trautvetter's church record of his marriage says his wife's maiden name was Franciska Haase. The county courthouse record of the marriage indicates his wife's maiden name was Franciska Haase. And his wife is living the the Haase family shortly before her marriage as their child.

Problem is that Franciska was not the child of Mr. Haase. He was her step-father.

There is no "magic" number of sources to make something "right."

07 July 2013

Do You Know The Geography?

What was the nearest river to where your ancestor lived? What was the local terrain and climate like? All three of these things impact transportation and how easily your ancestor could "up and move." And, if you have no idea where the nearest river is to where your ancestor lived, what other things about the area do you not know that could have a direct and immediate impact on your research?

06 July 2013

Insurance Maps

If you have urban ancestors in the mid-19th century or later, have you located your ancestor's home on fire insurance maps? The Sanborn Company published these maps for thousands of United States cities, towns, and villages. Details include number of stories for the building, relative size compared to neighboring homes, names of some nearby businesses and churches, and more.

05 July 2013

You Will Make an Error or a Typo--Yes Even You

No matter how good you are or how perfect you may be, it will happen eventually. You will make a mistake.  Realize that you are human and know that even if you look something over multiple times, errors will creep in.

Reviewing material compiled years ago may cause you to notice errors as well.

And a big "thank you" to a regular reader who very graciously lets me know when a typo has crept into a blog post here. The notice and the way they go about it is greatly appreciated!

You Can't Barge Into a Funeral Home and Make Demands

The records maintained by a funeral home are private business records--not public records. Funeral homes do not "have" to allow you to see their old records. Some do as a public service and because it generates goodwill in the community. A few even charge. But a funeral home is under no obligation to let you have access to any materials they retained after your relative's funeral--no matter what it cost.

04 July 2013

Genealogy Freebies

Here is a summary of freebies we have:

  • 2 free copies of Casefile Clues--simply enter in your email address and "submit" order. There is no credit card or other personal information required.
  • My Brick Walls A to Z Webinar (and handout)--click here to process order. Coupon code is "brickwall" no credit card or personal information except email address is required. 
  • You can subscribe to Genealogy Tip of the Day (free) by entering in your email address in the box on the right hand side of the blog page at http://genealogytipoftheday.blogspot.com/
  • You can subscribe to Genealogy Transcriber (free) and play along with others reading the handwriting at  http://genealogytranscriber.blogspot.com/. There is a subscription box on the right hand side of the page.
  • You can subscribe to Genealogy Search Tip (free) by entering in your email address in the box on the right hand side of the blog page at http://genealogysearchtip.blogspot.com/
Feel free to share with your friends, blog readers, etc. etc. 


Widows Who Had to Prove

Did any sisters of your ancestors survive their husband who had military service? Would those ladies have qualified for a military pension based upon the service of their husband? If so, the "proof" of their marriage and relationship to the soldier may have included testimony from some of their relatives documenting the relationship.

It is always good to check out the siblings in any records, but pension records may contain unexpected family details.

03 July 2013

The Neighbors of Every Sibling

The "trick" to locating one ancestral sibling was to look at each sibling in every census and "say out loud" the names of the neighbors. That was when we realized that the married sister was "right under our noses" with a rendering of her last name that was difficult to transcribe and impossible to find with creative soundex and wildcard searches.

Sometimes you just have to look at the other names one by one and think "could this sound like" the name for which I'm looking?

02 July 2013

Did They Go Back?

A couple of Ohio natives move with their two children to Illinois in the 1860s. By 1877, the wife and husband are dead. The grandmother who moved from Ohio with them is apparently dead by this time as well. 

The children apparently went back to Ohio to live with paternal relatives instead of going west with maternal ones. The maternal line was the "connection" and until I considered the "in-laws" and the reality of "going back" I failed to locate the children.

01 July 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.

Did They Add New Material and Not Tell You?

Websites, both commercial and non-commercial, add new databases and enhance existing ones on a regular basis. When was the last time you "went back" to see if that "old site" had something new or changed?

Doing it every day is extreme, every few months is not a bad idea.