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31 March 2014

Were Those Adopted Children Related?

Don't always assume that "adopted" children were unrelated to the family. There could have been some relationship between the adopted child and the parents. The child could have been the grandchild of the couple or a child of a sibling or other family member. But there's also nothing saying that the adopted child was related either. It's just something to think about.

30 March 2014

Genealogy Lessons From the Dog

Sometimes we need to be persistent in our research--like the dog that just won't let go of a bone.

However there is a flip side to that--when the dog refuses to let me trim off those little mats of hair she gets. Sometimes there my be an idea or an assumption that is near and dear to us, but is in the best interest of our research to let go.

It's fine to go at your research like a dog goes after a bone. Just don't hold on tightly to things that you really need to slough off.

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29 March 2014

Estate Inventories As Clues...

Inventories of your ancestor's estate can not only give you an idea of his worth at the time of his death, but they can (among other things) tell you who his associates were (look at who owed him money or whom he owed money) and what his probable occupation was.

Inventories are more than simply lists of items.

28 March 2014

Iceberg Genealogy

View every document or record that you find as an iceberg where the item you have located is only that portion which is viewable.

Underlying every document is a series of events that lead up to its creation. Think about all the events that had to happen to cause that record to have been created. Did those events create records or suggest details about your ancestor's life?

You've got the tip of the iceberg. Just don't forget that portion of it underneath the surface.

Online Search Strategies Webinar Released

We are very excited about the release of our webinar that had the largest online attendance ever: "Online Search Strategies." The presentation focuses on organizing your search process to avoid repetitive searching and for more effective troubleshooting. Visit this blog post for additional details.

27 March 2014

Get All Your Soundex Codes At Once

This site is one of the few that will allow you to enter in a list of surnames and generate a table of codes for those names. Neat little page.

Heirs and Assigns Forever...

"I give this property to John Smith and his heirs and assigns forever."

The phrase "heirs and assigns forever" means that John can "assign" (sell by deed or give by will) the property or, if he has not done that by his death, then John's heirs will have title to the property (depending upon state statute and common legal practice at the time). 

That's a rather simplified version of "heirs and assigns" forever, but "heirs" and "assigns" mean different things.

And the genealogist who doesn't concern themself with the definitions runs the risk of drawing conclusions that are not necessarily true.

26 March 2014

Not Just the Same Last Name

When looking for possible relatives of your ancestor who appears to have simply been dropped off of a UFO into Ohio in 1814, keep yourself open to the possibility that he may have traveled to that location with:

  • his mother's relatives
  • his wife's brothers
  • his sister's husband and their family
All of these individuals would have had a logical connection to your ancestor and different last names. The problem is that these last names are often ones that we do not know.

What's Primary or Secondary?

In current genealogy terminology, we say that information is primary or secondary. Generally speaking primary information is provided by someone who has firsthand knowledge of the "item" and is in a condition to accurately remember the information.

Otherwise it's secondary.

Classifying information as primary or secondary is no guarantee of whether it is accurate or not accurate. That's why we analyze and interpret what we find.

25 March 2014

Ignoring Informants?

Do you pay close attention to the informants listed on death certificates and other records that include this information? Many times the informant is a relative whose relationship is clearly know. Other times it may be a neighbor, long time friend, or someone else.

If your relative died in a place "all alone," take a close look at the name of the informant if you have not already done so. Research that person. They may be someone totally unconnected to your family.

Or there could be a connection of which you are not yet aware.

24 March 2014

Crossing the Line From Assumption to Fact

On your "brick wall" problem, have you written down things which you have assumed and those things for which you at least have one source? 

One source doesn't mean something is correct, but when we don't realize that assumptions are assumptions and start to believe them, then we've got the makings for a "brick wall."

23 March 2014

Have You Considered the Geography?

Two dimensional maps have the limitation of being two dimensional. Would your ancestor have gone to do business in the town that was closest on the map or that other town five miles further away that did not require a trip over the mountain, across the river, etc.

You live in a three dimensional world. Your ancestor did, too--in more ways than one.

22 March 2014

Double Check that Spelling

When working in locations with which you are unfamiliar, make certain you have the names of places spelled correctly. In some states, particularly in "frontier" times, there may be two distinct locations that have very similar names.

Make certain your spelling refers to the correct one.

21 March 2014

License Does Not Equal Marriage

Not everyone who took out a marriage license got married. It is possible that the couple had a change of heart and didn't follow through with a ceremony. The license may never have been returned or there could be a notice on the application or record that it was cancelled. People do change their minds.

20 March 2014

Learn Before You Search

Do you learn about the records that were used to create a database or finding aid before you use that database or finding aid? If you don't know anything about the records or make incorrect assumptions about those records, there's a good chance you simply won't use that database very effectively at all.

Webinars: Ancestry.com's "New" Search and Structuring Online Searching

We've added two new webinars to our schedule for next week:

  • Using the "New" Search at Ancestry.com--26 March 2014
  • Structuring Your Online Searching--27 March 2014
Both are at 7 PM Central time. Complete information is here

First Letter Get Dropped Off?

Have you considered the possibility that the first letter was dropped off that last name for which you are looking? Sometimes this is more likely than others. Habben could be Abben, Wachtman could be Achtman, etc.

GenealogyBank--Our Sponsor

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

18 March 2014

Fifteen Minutes for Genealogy?

Only have 15 minutes to work on your genealogy? Transcribing a census or other short document or filing materials are good tasks that can be done in bursts of time. Online searching often extends into hours. Transcribing or filing can be short jobs where you can see that you've accomplished something.

People usually don't get so "into" filing that they spend half a day doing it. 

17 March 2014

Brick Wall Webinar Problems?

If you had difficulties with downloading the free brick wall A to Z webinars that we gave away, please email me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com and we'll try and troubleshoot.

Get It While You Can

Try to download personal use copies of all data you can. What was free may suddenly not be or you may choose not to renew a subscription to a database or website.

Even sites that always stay free may move things around to where it is difficult to find them again. When it's on your screen, save it in a way that you can find it.

That way you have it. Even if you're not online or if your let your membership lapse.

16 March 2014

Are You Using a Transcription?

If you are using a transcribed copy of a document, it is possible that the transcription contains errors or omissions?

All it takes is one little thing "off" to create a "brick wall."

St. Patrick's Day Brick Wall A to Z Webinar Giveaway

Through midnight (11:59 PM Central) on 17 March 2014, I am giving away copies of my "Brick Walls A to Z" presentations. Details here.

15 March 2014

Similar Names May Not Be the Same People

Be careful assuming who is who when children have similar names. Just because the names "sound close" does not mean that they are the same child. It took me a while in one family to straighten out Lucinda, Lucena, and Lucy. It turns out that Lucy was the diminutive used by Lucinda and that there were only two daughters Lucinda (Lucy) and Lucena.

Sometimes I think people do these things on purpose.

14 March 2014

Waiting for the Snow to Melt?

Some genealogical discoveries aren't being made because something is in the way. Sometimes it is an assumption you've made that is incorrect and you've not even realized it. Sometimes it is that where you see one person there are actually two. Sometimes it is because you're looking at too much information and need to pare it down.

Some things remain hidden until the snow melts--just like tombstones in the cemetery.

How Many Grandchildren and Great-grandchildren?

Do you know how many grandchildren and great-grandchildren your great-grandparents have? Do you know what happened to each of them? Is there any chance they have information or materials that could help you with your family history search?

13 March 2014

Are You Ignoring Those Other Names?

Research before 1850 in the United States presents special challenges--particularly in those areas that were a part of the frontier.

If your "brick wall" ancestor appears on a list of early settlers, consider searching for the origins of his "early neighbors." It may be that they were neighbors before they settled in that new area as well.

12 March 2014

Organizing Genealogical Information Class-Sunday Discussion Series

Due to popular demand, we've added a second section of this class--which will meet for discussions on Sundays beginning on 16 March. Details are here.

Search for the Commanding Officer

If you are searching for newspapers to learn more about your ancestor's military unit, try searching for the name of his commanding officer. There may be references to the unit under the officer's name. If your ancestor was a private, as mine usually were, they generally don't merit mention and searching based on unit numbers and letters can be problematic.

This search for Commander Stone for a War of 1812 relative resulted in more than I expected.

11 March 2014

When You Are Stuck, Make It About You

If you are stuck and at a complete brick wall on your problem ancestor, walk away and work on leaving something for your descendants. Take your next "genealogy time" and write about yourself, your childhood, your early adulthood, when you first voted for president (or why you didn't vote if you didn't), your favorite meal, etc. Your future relatives will thank you for it and you may come back to your problem with a fresh perspective.

And if you don't...at least you've left something for those who come after you.

10 March 2014

More Than Pensions for War of 1812 and Revolutionary War Vets

If your Revolutionary War or War of 1812 ancestor received a pension, there still may be a separate application for bounty land based upon his service. That separate application may contain details not in his pension application. There may be even more details if his widow applied for the bounty land, particularly marriage information.

09 March 2014

Every Assumption and Letterwriter Bias

This has been a tip before...but since I just had to be painfully reminded of this myself: think about every assumption you've made. What would happen if you dropped one?

I was looking for a man written about in an 1887 letter--with an apparent German name. The letter writer was actually writing about a man with a very English name. She just "translated" his name into German. When I quit looking for a "German," I found him. 

08 March 2014

Track the Eliminated People?

Do you keep track of those people who are "close" to being your ancestor, but someone you've eliminated as being your actual ancestor? Maybe it's someone whose name is slightly different, whose age is slightly off, or who has one detail about their life that doesn't fit?

Keep a file or record of those "close but not quite" people. It's always possible that if one detail about your ancestor is off, one of those "close but not quite" people could actually be your person of interest.

07 March 2014

Comments, Emails, and Spreading the Word

Please feel free to post comments about any of the tips that we suggest.

For those who get these messages in their email, please make certain that mjnrootdig@gmail.com and michael.john.neill@gmail.com are both an "allowed" address in your address book.

And please let others know about Genealogy Tip of the Day. Our advertising budget is small, err...nonexistent.

And thanks to everyone for all their support.

Nicknames versus Diminutives

It may be a technicality, but diminutives are usually names for a person that are based upon their actual name; Mike or Mick for Michael, Betts, Liz, or Beth for Elizabeth, etc.

Nicknames usually aren't based upon the person's actual name and may be based on a physical characteristic, an embarassing event, or something totally random. Red, Bud, Half Pint, etc. are nicknames.

The difference usually isn't the end of the world but keep in mind that some names usually have an associated "pool" of diminutives. Nicknames can be more arbitrary and come from anywhere.

06 March 2014

Do You Only Use One Site?

Do you access most of your indexes and finding aids by using just one website? Consider branching out and using other sites. No site has everything and no site has perfect indexes. Most researchers who have the best "luck" aren't "lucky" at all. They are using everything they can get their hands on.

Other websites may have different approaches and may have transcribed records differently.

It may be just the shift in approach that you need.

05 March 2014

College Catalog as a Yearbook--of Sorts

In modern times college catalogs usually list courses taught, names of faculty, college procedures and other administrative details. It is possible that in earlier times, the "college catalog" listed names of students and other "roster type" information that occasionally appears in a yearbook or a student directory.

It might be worth seeing if that college your ancestor attended has catalogs for the time period they were in attendance.

04 March 2014

Age Variations?

An aunt was born in the late 1780s. It never dawned on me that she could have married someone old enough to have served in American Revolution and would qualify to get a pension under his service. They actually married in the 1820s-1830s and had several children. The veteran was approximately twenty-five years older than she.

And the pension is full of great information.

03 March 2014

Penciling It In?

When I am having serious difficulty analyzing a document or a record, I print out a "spare copy" and mark it up in pencil. I mark things I don't understand, terms that I may be misinterpreting, phrases that suggest additional records, etc.

Sometimes by the time I'm done I have long list of things to work on or to figure out.

02 March 2014

They Can Tell The Census Man Anything

Keep in mind that your relative may have told the census taker anything. This was easier to do if the person was enumerated in a place they had not lived long and where they really had no connections.

It was more difficult to do in an area where they had lived for their entire life and everyone knew them fairly well. Difficult, but not impossible.

Organizing Genealogical Information March 2014

We are offering our 4 session "Organizing Genealogical Information" class this March. For additional details visit our more detailed blog post here.

01 March 2014

Age Appropriate?

Is your ancestor behaving in ways that are age appropriate? If you know approximately when your ancestor was born is he getting married at the "right time?" Is she having children between the "right years?" Is he doing something odd like moving to a new state and purchasing a new farm in his 80s While there alway exceptions, putting your ancestor's events in the context of her approximate age may help eliminate some situations that simply aren't possible.