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30 April 2014

A Special Collection in Your Future

Is there a "special collection" hidden in a local, regional, or academic library that could help your research? Was your ancestor a member of any organization that may have generated records that may have been kept and donated to a library or archives (particularly a religion or social clue)? Did a distant relative donate family letters, pictures, or a bible to a library or archives? Sometimes it can be difficult to find these materials, but it can be worth it.

29 April 2014

When is a Close Name Close Enough?

There is no hard and fast answer to when a name is "close enough" to be your ancestor. The variant spelling should sound like your actual ancestor's last name and differences in vowels usually are not as significant as one might think, depending upon how your ancestor pronounced his name.

Use other clues to determine if the "close enough" person is your ancestor. Is he:

  • in the right location?
  • acting in a way that is consistent with your ancestor?
  • of a close enough age to be your ancestor?
  • interacting with known associates of your ancestors?
Even answering all these questions with a "yes" is no guarantee, but it is a good start towards making certain that "close enough" name is really "close enough."

28 April 2014

Can Ebay Get What Your Library Cannot?

If there's a copy of a genealogy magazine or journal that you need, consider searching for it on Ebay. I recently purchased copies on Ebay of magazines that had articles I needed. Sometimes things can be difficult to get on interlibrary loan and in some cases Ebay prices are not much more than a photocopy.

27 April 2014

Read the Fine Print

Is there fine print on a document or a record? It may be written in script by the clerk or preprinted on the form. Take the time to actually read and understand it.

There may be a clue in there.

26 April 2014

Trying to Keep It Simple

We try very hard to keep our tips here at "Genealogy Tip of the Day" as simple as possible. There are genealogical concepts and research methods that are somewhat intricate and involved. We don't try in this forum to address those issues.

Simple is our goal--so that those on the "newer" side of research get suggestions that can help them, intermediate researchers get some details they may not have come across, and more experienced researchers are reminded of things that any human can occasionally forget.

And...we thank everyone for their support!

Not A Straight Line Approach

Sometimes one has to research in circles.

If the parent-child connection between Ira and Clark is weak, some would say to research Ira and Clark more aggressively, leaving no stone or record unturned. And sometimes we need to do that. But if Clark's parents are known and Clark's siblings are known, going through their information may give me a clue to strengthen the Ira-Clark relationship.

Or there could be a will or probate for a grandparent, an aunt or an uncle that makes everything clear. Something I might miss if I only focus on Clark and Ira.

Webinars on Court Records, Land Records and Illinois

We've added presentations on very popular topics to our list of sessions beginning on 27 April 2014--including land records, court records, and Illinois. Check out the details and times on our announcement.

25 April 2014

Census of the Dead

The US federal census from 1850-1880 included a mortality census of those individuals who died in the twelve calendar months preceding the date of the census. Some states that took an 1885 special census also have this same schedule. Extant copies of these schedules have been microfilmed and some are available in digital form. Many have also been transcribed and published in book format.

24 April 2014

Look Even If They Should Not Be There

Sometimes we avoid looking in a certain location or type of record because our ancestor "shouldn't be there" or simply "can't be there." We can be wrong, creators of records can be wrong, and our ancestors can be wrong. Sometimes it pays off to search even there "won't be anything there."

Because once in a while, there is.

23 April 2014

Are Locations Approximate?

Just because a record indicated great-grandfather was born in Quincy, Illinois, that doesn't mean he was actually born there. It may be that "in" needs to be replaced with "near." And there is always the chance that the person gave the county seat as the place of birth instead of the village or rural farm where the event actually took place.

22 April 2014

Named for a Long-Forgotten Famous Person?

If your ancestor has an unusual first name or a middle name that's generally used for a last name, don't jump to the conclusion that those names have been used by other family members. It is also possible that the names were used in reference to some "pop culture" person whose popularity waned while your ancestor still had the name. People can be named for presidents and historical figures---not just relatives.

21 April 2014

Search for the Neighbors

Years ago, I had a terrible finding an ancestor in the 1830 US census. After nearly giving up, I decided to locate his 1840 neighbors in 1830 and search on that same page for the missing ancestor. I started with the name before his, then searched for the name after his, then I searched for the name before the name before his, and the name after the name after his, and so on. Ten names later, I had found my ancestor in 1830 by using his 1840 neighbors.

His name was written so sloppily that I never would have found it in the index.

Group Page on Facebook for Tip of the Day

If you participate in any "groups" on Facebook, we've added a group page there for Genealogy Tip of the Day. The tips will still be posted here, just like always.

20 April 2014

Informal Places

Do you know any place names that probably are not written down in any book or entered into any database? My grandmother was born on what was known as the "Habben Corner" west of Carthage. It was called that because three brothers lived on three of the four corners of the intersection.

Today few know the spot by that name. And I bet it's not written anywhere and probably only comes up in a Google search because of this blog post. Have you shared place names that you know that no one else might?

19 April 2014

More Than Federal Population Censuses

Don't forget that in many United States census "years," there were other non-population schedules taken as well. Agricultural, industrial, and other schedules were taken in some years and may contain clues about your ancestor.

Organizing Genealogical Information Class

We've added a session of this 4 week class with meetings in the evenings for those who cannot work daytime into their schedule. Check it out here.

18 April 2014

Those Blasted Abbreviations and Scribbles

Don't neglect to copy or scan those "marks," "wiggles, and "annotations" that appear to be doodles on a document or a church record. They could be an abbreviation or annotation that has significance. Try and get the entire page from the book or other records that have the same or similar markings.

Then see if you can find someone to help you interpret those markings. They may be scribbles or they may have some meaning. Doodles aren't always doodles.

17 April 2014

Is Your Only Source An Online Tree?

If your only source for a statement is an online genealogy "tree," it's best to consider that statement as tentative and determine what original records are suggested by that statement.

Searching FamilySearch Webinar Released

My recent webinar on FamilySearch focused on using and interpreting databases versus image sets, navigating images, and search techniques. It's geared towards advanced beginners and intermediate researchers, or anyone who has used FamilySearch some, but is uncertain that they're searching correctly or wondered if there were other ways of doing things. The download of the presentation is only $6 (there is no handout).

Note: If you were in this presentation or registered for it and missed it, please let me know (mjnrootdig@gmail.com)  if you did not receive a complimentary download link. That's something registrants for the "live" session get at no additional charge.

16 April 2014

Dating Deeds and Deed Dates

There may be several dates associated with the land record for your ancestor. Make certain you understand which is which and how they fit together:

  • Date of execution--the date the deed is signed.
  • Date of acknowledgement--the date the deed is acknowledged--usually in open court.
  • Date of recording--the date the deed is recorded.
Significant gaps may indicate something--or may just indicate your ancestor took a while to get things done. In some cases, there may not be a date of acknowledgement. 

15 April 2014

All Those Marriage Dates

There may be several dates associated with a "marriage." There may be a date of the license, the date of a bond, the date the license was returned, the date the license was recorded, and the date of the marriage.

Not all locations have all these records, but make the distinction between them so that you are clear. Getting the bond or getting the license does not guarantee that there was a marriage---just that there was an impending marriage. Things can happen to cause a marriage not to take place.

Twenty Percent Off Webinar Sale

From now until 9 PM on 16 April, we're offering 20% off all my webinar offerings.

Our prices are already the lowest around, but we're cutting the price even lower through the 16th. I have over thirty presentations on a variety of topics....make your choice here:


Use coupon code twenty to get your discount at checkout.


Good luck with your research

14 April 2014

If There Was a Mortgage, Do You Look for a Release?

If you find a record that your ancestor mortgaged property, do you look for a release indicating that it was paid off? Sometimes these releases are recorded in a separate series of books just for this purpose, sometimes they are recorded along with the deeds, and sometimes an annotation is made on the original record of the mortgage that it has been paid off.

13 April 2014

Lookers Have More Luck

Sometimes finding things isn't so much luck as it is the fact that some people just keep looking. A relative died in 1902 and I thought I had finished researching her years ago. In working on other families, I discovered an online newspaper index for a town twenty-five miles from where she died.

Sure enough, there was an obituary for my ancestor who died in 1902 which I did not expect. Interestingly enough, searches for twenty-five other relatives turned up nothing.

Sometimes the fact that we keep looking makes it seem like luck when it's actually just perseverance.

12 April 2014

Is There More Than Just a Will?

Early in my research, I quit when I found an ancestor's will. That was a big mistake. There can be accountings, inventories, petitions, and a variety of records that were created in the settlement of an ancestor's estate.

Don't stop when you've found the will. That may be just the tip of the iceberg.

11 April 2014

Get Beyond Your Little Circle

It is difficult when your research moves into a new area and a new time period. But when it does, realize that laws, sources, culture, and other things may change. If you're up to speed on Illinois research in 1850, it's a different world researching in Virginia in 1750.

Don't be afraid to learn about new areas but find out what is similar and different between the areas instead of assuming it.

10 April 2014

Men In the Paper Long After They Are Dead

A widow can be listed as Mrs. Thomas Smith in a newspaper or other published reference, even after his death. Don't stop searching for a man's name in published newspaper accounts after his obituary, death and probate notices have been published. His wife could very easily be referred to as Mrs. Thomas Smith fifteen years after his death.

09 April 2014

Down a Rabbit Hole?

It is easy to get sidetracked when searching for information on an elusive relative. And while it is important to locate information on the extended family, if you are really stuck on great-great-grandma spending two days on her fifth cousin twice removed probably is not going to help you on her. There's extended family and then there's extended family.

Concentrating on her relatives that are a little more closely related may help.

08 April 2014

Are Your Wheels Spinning?

All of at some point in our genealogical lives have "gathered everything" we could on a last name or a person. But at a certain point, one has to stop gathering and start asking:

  • do I have the same person?
  • are these materials consistent?
  • what other records do these items suggest?
  • what are my research goals?
Sometimes when it feels like you are spinning your wheels, it's time to stop gunning the motor, get out of the vehicle, and see if there's some way to dig yourself out.

Hitting the gas again may just get you deeper in that spot. You may not have a brick wall...you may have  mud hole. 

07 April 2014

Our Sponsor-GenealogyBank

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

Imperfect Citations are Not the End of the World

It is easier for you to analyze information and determine how reliable it probably is if you know from where you got it. All data comes from somewhere. Your citation should get you back to the specific item from where you obtained the information. It is not the end of the world if you don't have the form "correct" or if you include too much in your citation. 

As long as you can easily get back to that page in the census from what you have written down, not having the enumeration district is not the end of the world. 

And if you need help with citations, try asking a more experienced genealogist for help or posting to a message board or genealogy page on Facebook.

06 April 2014

No One Else May Have Solved It Either

You can search compiled trees all you want. You can Google search until your fingers bleed. You can search Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, GenealogyBank, Archives.com, and every other site and not find the answer to your problem.

It maybe that no one else has solved your problem and that the answer rests in an unpublished courthouse record someplace.

Sometimes no one else has solved it because the answers not easy to find. And sometimes no one has solved it because the answer is offline.

05 April 2014

New Webinars-Illinois, FamilySearch, Migration Trails

We are offering three new webinars over the next two weeks: Illinois, FamilySearch, and Migration Trails.Details are on my Rootdig.com site.

List Your Assumptions

Assumptions serve purposes in research, but if not careful they can cross the line from being an assumption to becoming a fact. If you are stuck on an ancestor, write down everything you know about him from memory (place of birth, place of marriage, place of death, occupation, educational level, social class, religion, etc. etc.) without any references to anything.

Then go back and see what you have some documentation for. Statements for which you have no documentation may very well be assumptions about the ancestor that are incorrect.

04 April 2014

Moving Away for a Short Time?

My wife's family came to Rock Island, Illinois from Belgium just in time to be listed there in the 1880 census. The family is enumerated in that county in every extant federal census taken before their deaths.

For some time I assumed they always lived in Illinois. It turns out they lived on a farm across the river in Scott County, Iowa, for a few years in the 1880s.

Never assume that people didn't move just because they are listed in the same location in two consecutive census records.

03 April 2014

Where Did Grandma Get Her Information?

Grandma "knew" where and when she was born because she was told by someone, not because she remembered.

That's something you should remember every time you see a place of birth given for someone that's provided by someone who was not there at the birth.

And it can be even worse if the person providing the information on Grandma's place of birth wasn't even born until Grandma was near middle aged.

02 April 2014

Guardianship for Child Does Not Mean Parents are Dead

Your relative leaves his grandchildren $200 each in his 1824 will, naming an apparent neighbor as their guardian, pending approval of the court. You cannot assume that the parents of the grandchildren are deceased. It could very well be that the grandfather did not trust the father of the children to "do right" in regards to the children's inheritance and naming the guardian served as an "end run" around the son-in-law.

01 April 2014

Picture Provenance

Before posting those digital images to your website, blog, or online tree, consider including some source information as an actual part of the image. Metadata can be ignored. Filenames can get changed. Including the source as a part of the image makes it easy for those who want to be conscientious about their sources to do so.

There's an example here.