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31 January 2014

Sometimes You Have to Check for Yourself

It never hurts to look at a record yourself. A cousin years ago told me they had read a church record of a baptism and that it indicated the first child of a couple was born out of wedlock. There was not a mystery "first father." The cousin had misread the name.

Or else they liked to add a little drama. I'm not certain.

But viewing the record myself took care of the "first father" and got to the bottom of the matter.

30 January 2014

From Mouth to Ear to Brain to Notes to Paper--For Starters

When using census records--both searching and interpreting--think about that word got to your screen.

Your ancestor said it.
The census enumerator heard it.
The enumerator thought about it.
The enumerator wrote it down in his notes.
The enumerator put it in his actual census report.
It was microfilmed.
It was digitized.

And maybe somewhere in there is was transcribed or indexed, in which case it was read.

At any (or every) point in the process there could have been a misunderstanding. Multiple misunderstandings compound errors and result in entries that are a far cry from what was said by your ancestor.

29 January 2014

The Inside of Grandma's House

If Grandma's house is still standing (or even if it isn't), have you considered drawing a map showing the rooms in the house, the relative location of any outbuildings, etc.? Even if your scale isn't perfect, a drawing is better than no drawing.

Those with urban ancestors may have fire insurance maps to provide some of those details. Others with rural forebears are not so fortunate.

28 January 2014

Double Check

Double and triple check your transcriptions and conclusions. This is always true, but especially a concern if you are publishing something online. Once it's online, taking it back can be extremely difficult and you may be finding "copies" of your incorrect information forever.

27 January 2014

A Really Short Marriage?

Never discount the possibility that your ancestor was married more times than you think he was. An unknown (to you) spouse could have died very shortly after the marriage and, for any of a number of reasons, never have been mentioned. 

For women this usually means their last name changed or may not be what you think it should be. For men the marriage may be a little more difficult to locate. 

But never assume that there was "only one."

26 January 2014

What Kind of Mixup?

There are several ways an informant on a record can get confused. If a name on a document is totally incorrect, be open to the possibilty that the informant confused two people who shared a similar characteristic. If Grandpa sold his farm to a local auctioneer, your Dad, in remembering it, may accidentally provide the name of another auctioneer.

He had the occupation of the buyer right, just not his name.

Sometimes what's wrong may be partially right--just in a way you haven't thought of yet.

25 January 2014

Was Their Last Name Fixed?

There are regions of Europe where last names were not passed from father to child. In some regions, particularly Scandanavia and parts of northern Germany, children were given a last name (a patronym) that was based upon their father's name. Some men who went in the Swedish miltary had "military" last names. And in some regions, the family's last name "went" with the farm on which they lived.

Usually in the United States, last names passed from father to child. But that's not always true when one crosses the pond.

24 January 2014

Was It Really Great-Grandma's Maiden Name?

That last name you've located for your grandmother, was it really her maiden name? Is it possibly the last name of her step-father or of someone who might have adopted her, even unofficially? Always be open to the possibility that what you think is someone's last name might not be, especially if you have few sources or second-hand or ever third-hand information.

23 January 2014

Seamen's Protection Certificates

The 1796, "An Act for the Relief and Protection of Seaman" was signed into law. This act authorized the issuance of certificates commonly known as seamen's protection certificates. The certificate was issued based upon a declaration made by someone who knew the seaman was a citizen. Extant declarations have been microfilmed by the National Archives and some are available in digital form on FamilySearch. Certificates were issued until 1875 and then again during the first World War.

22 January 2014

Minor Children of Union Soldiers Killed in Civil War

Did your relative die in the Civil War and leave minor children behind? If so, the child (via his or her guardian) may have received a pension. That pension may provide solid evidence of the child's date of birth and some information about the widow.

The pension records would be federal records. If a guardian was appointed, those records would have been created by a local court.

21 January 2014

Did Aunt Myrtle Clean It Up?

Double check everything Aunt Myrtle wrote in the family history in 1952. While most of it may be correct, it is possible that the renegade relative was left out to make the family "look better" and that a date of birth or marriage was altered slightly to be more socially acceptable.

Don't throw out the entire book just because of a few errors. Aunt Myrtle had access to people who are now dead, tombstones that are now gone, and records that may no longer exist.

Like any published material, use Aunt Myrtle's publication with a careful eye.

And be glad she wrote it. Most of us are not that fortunate.

20 January 2014

Offer for New GenealogyBank Subscribers

Our sponsor, GenealogyBank, will give new subscribers a free e-book: Getting Started: Easy Steps for Climbing Your Family Tree.

We appreciate GenealogyBank's continued support of "Genealogy Tip of the Day." If you've been considering subscribing, using the link in this post let's them know you found them through us.

How Old Does It Look?

When visiting a cemetery, always compare the "stone of interest" to other nearby stones? If the dates are within the same era, does the stone appear to be the same age as the other stones? Or does it appear to be quite a bit newer and made from a different type of stone?

That may be a clue it was either not the original stone or that the stone was put in years or decades after the death.

And that's something you need to know when the transcription does not agree with contemporary records.

19 January 2014

There Never Was a Stone

If you cannot find a tombstone for your ancestor in that cemetery where you know they are buried, ask yourself how certain you are of their burial in that cemetery. Then if you are absolutely positive the ancestor was buried there, consider:
  • there may never have been a stone for financial or other reasons
  • there may have only been a wooden marker which has since deteriorated.
Not everyone has a tombstone.

18 January 2014

Always Have Your Eyes Open?

In 1873 a man named Habbe Agena immigrated to the United States with my ancestor Fokke Goldenstein. The two 16 year olds are listed adjacent to each other on the manifest and I assumed they knew each other before immigration. Easy searches didn't locate Habbe and I went on to other things.

When manually searching church records in Hancock County, Illinois, in the 1890s for Fokke's children, there he was Habbe Agena. I don't know it's him, but the name combination is fairly unusual.

It always pays to keep your eyes "open" for those lost people. Twenty years after their immigration together, the men are neighbors attending the same church.

17 January 2014

Get Beyond the Big Wars

The United States has been in wars besides the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War and the two World Wars.

Is it possible that your ancestor served in one of the Indian wars, the Spanish-American War, or the Philippine-American War?

Involvement in any of those actions would have generated service and possibly pension records.

16 January 2014

My 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.

One Letter, Two Ways

Malissa McCormick signed her name in 1891. She made the upper-case "M" in two ways.

It is always possible that a writer made the exact same letter in different ways. The problem is compounded if the writer is mixing up scripts from two different languages.

15 January 2014

A Change in the Law?

Laws change. What was true about intestate probate inheritance in a state in 1870 may not have been true in 1950. Make certain your conclusions are based on contemporary statute--not on what you think was in effect.

Your memory may not be perfect.

14 January 2014

Every Sentence

The next time you read an old obituary that you think is not helpful, stop at the end of every sentence. Ask yourself:

  • would this fact have generated a record?
  • have I looked for those records generated by the facts in this obituary?
  • how would the informant have known this detail?
  • is there a chance this statement is correct?
  • are the details in chronological order?
  • would one person have had first hand knowledge of all this information?
  • are there any details in this obituary that are inconsistent?

13 January 2014

Read Some Historical Fiction

Are there any works of historical fiction written about the area or time period in which your ancestors lived? Fiction is fiction admittedly, but if well-written and historically accurate, it may give you some insight into your ancestor's life and experiences.

And that's never a bad thing.

Just don't cite the fictional work as a fact (grin!).

12 January 2014

A Thousand Miles Away

When searching online newspaper content, don't ignore content from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. For a variety of reasons, your ancestor may have been mentioned in a distant newspaper, especially if he did something slightly unusual or noteworthy.

And sometimes those unusual items don't always get pased down to future generations, especially if the actions are some what scandalous in nature.

11 January 2014

Did They Follow the Kids?

I'm trying to connect a couple to a woman that I think is their daughter. The potential daughter has actually been tacked down most of her married life. The potential parents and their children (whose names I have) I lose completely about the time the potential daughter marries.

Then it dawned on me. The best place to look for these parents is near where the potential married daughter lived. There's a good chance they were nearby. Looking harder where the daughter was born won't help connet them. Looking harder for her parents where she lived may help me find those parents late in their life when land, court, or probate records may help me make the connection.

10 January 2014

Getting the Tips in Your Email

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Do You Know Their Habits?

If your ancestor was a member of a denomination with which you are not familiar, have you learned something about their beliefs and what records congregations of that denomination commonly generated? And if you are a member of the same denomination, have practices changed since your ancestor was an active member?

And...for those relatives who may have been members of a religious order, are you aware of any particular "habits" that order may have had? Sometimes those "habits" impact the relative's life and the records they leave behind.

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09 January 2014

Pick A Year

I've been doing this on my Rootdig blog, but I think it can be a good exercise for anyone to pick a year in their research and try and answer the following questions:

  • which ancestors were living?
  • where were they living?
  • how do you know they were living there?
  • what historical events were taking place locally, regionally, and nationally?
By the time you're done, you may have either broken down some brick walls or learned something--either of which is good (grin!). 

08 January 2014

Local Railroads?

If your genealogy "problem" is during a period when railroads were in operation, do you know where the nearest train station was for your ancestor? Do you know nearby stops along the way? People could hop a train to elope, look for work, or simply leave home and never come back.

07 January 2014

Have You Reviewed What You "Know?"

Are there conclusions that you reached quite some time ago that you've not looked at in a while? Is it possible that the conclusion was tentative and that over time the conclusion has progressed to being a "fact?" 

It's possible that new information conflicts the conclusion or that sources that were difficult to access before may provide additional information.

And the reason why you're stuck on this person's parents is because you've working with conclusions about the person themselves that are not correct.

06 January 2014

Did Grandma Emigrate With Another Child?

I almost failed to locate the immigration to the United States of a widowed ancestor. Nanke Albers Bruns "hopped on the boat" when her last child immigrated to the United States in the 1860s. I had not thought to even look for her and there she was, listed on the same manifest with her son (my uncle).

If I hadn't bothered to look for the son, I might not have found her.

One more reason to look for those siblings, even when you think you don't need to.

05 January 2014

Lines Over a Letter?

If you see a single line over one letter in a name in a document, it usually means that the letter was actually used twice in the name and not just once. This notation was not used everywhere, but this illustration shows a "Fanny" written as "Fany" with a line over the "n."

04 January 2014

Jump Start Genealogy 2014

Genealogy Jump Start 2014!

Need to jump start your genealogy in 2014?? Note date change.

To help get your genealogy new year off to a great start, we are offering a series of three webinars on 10 January 2014, my "Genealogy Jump Start 2014."

All presentations are made using Gotomeeting--no software required. Handouts will be sent via PDF at least one day before the presentations. Join us and get your research jump started for 2014!

Day Time
Title and Description
24 Jan 2014 at 11:00 am Central
This presentation will discuss the elements of sourcing genealogical documents. Included will be a variety of example, starting with online census records and including a variety of original, microfilmed and digital material. The first fifteen registrants can submit one item to be used as one of the in-class illustrations. Geared towards advanced beginners and anyone who wants to learn more about the importance and elements of citation.
24 Jan 2014 at 1:00 pm Central
Correlation and Analysis of Information
This presentation will discuss methods for putting together what you have already located, ways to analyze that information to maximize the clues it does contain, and the several different angles from which the researcher should look at every document and record. Geared towards intermediate level researchers--or beginners with some experience who are tired of getting stuck. 
24 Jan 2014 at 3:00 pm Central
There is No Preponderance of Evidence
Professional genealogists suggest we longer use this term in our research for some good reasons. We’ll discuss those reasons briefly. But more importantly we will see ways to handle those situations when information is not clear and convincing and how to best “make our case” when the answers we seek are not explicitly stated in records. This presentation will discuss two in-depth examples (from 18th and 19th century situations). Intermediate researchers.

Questions? Email Michael at mjnrootdig@gmail.com

The presenter:

Michael John Neill has actively researched his genealogy for thirty years in over twenty states and five foreign countries. He is an experienced online and onsite researcher, a college professor and has written on a wide variety of topics. Michael has given day-long genealogy how-to seminars across the  United States and has led a group trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake for eight years. He maintains the Genealogy Tip of the Day and Rootdig.com blogs. Michael's style is clear, down-to-earth, and informative. 

Do You Have Double Crossers?

In working on my list of immigrants with dates, I discovered a potential reference to an ancestor on a passenger list that I had never located before a few years after he immigrated. The name combination is very rare and the age is close enough to have been my ancestor. The earlier immigration matched his year of birth and the "family story" of his age at immigration so I never thought to look for him in other passenger lists.

Immigrants did go back home only to immigrate again. It might be worth your while to see if your ancestor was a double-crosser of the pond.

03 January 2014

How Many Courts?

In some local jurisdictions, during some time periods, there may have been multiple courts that each heard specific types of cases. Make certain you have searched the records of all courts in the location--not just one.

02 January 2014

Was Great-Grandma's Second Husband A Civil War Veteran?

If your female ancestor married again after her husband's death and that second husband was a Civil War veteran, your female ancestor may have qualified for a pension based upon that husband's service.

And even if you don't descend from the second husband, there may be good information in that pension application. Great-grandma may indicate where and when the first marriage took place and how that marriage ended. 

01 January 2014

There Could Be Another

I've been working on a man named Charles Butler who was born in the early 1860s in Kansas, to a man named Benjamin Butler who was born in New York State. Just because I've found a Charles Butler in Washington in 1920 who was born in the early 1860s in Kansas to a father from New York State does not mean I have the "right" person.

There's more I need to do.

After all, there could have been Butler brothers living in Kansas in the early 1860s who both had children named Charles.