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31 July 2014

Court Fights Over Estates

Quite a few genealogists overlook court records. Doing so can limit your research and create artificial brick walls. Testimony and depositions can contain a variety of information, sometimes unexpected and sometimes with indirect clues. Don't overlook these records when searching for your ancestor.

And look for cases involving siblings and other relatives of your ancestor--he could be mentioned in a case even if he was not an active participant.

30 July 2014

Ephemera on Ebay

Even if you don't purchase anything, Ebay can be a virtual treasure trove of images for your genealogical research. While finding a picture of your ancestor doesn't happen too often, you may find postcards with pictures of where your ancestor used to live, attended church, went to court, etc. And there can be a wide variety of other ephemera for sale on the site. A sampling of items I've purchased recently can be found here

Even if you aren't able to purchase the item, images can be saved. 

29 July 2014

GenealogyBank's Offer for Tip Readers Ending!

Our sponsor, GenealogyBank, has a special offer for our fans/readers that ends on 31 July. Don't wait! We appreciate their continued support of Genealogy Tip of the Day.

Do You Have To Be Alive For That?

A patent for a federal land purchase was issued to Clark Sargent of Winnebago County, Illinois on 1 March 1848.

This is not evidence that he was alive on this date--it's the date the patent was issued by the Bureau of Land Management. He could have died while the paperwork was being processed. He was alive on the date he made the land purchase. But one cannot assume just based on this piece of paper that Clark was alive on 1 March 1848.

28 July 2014

The Longer You Wait...

The longer you wait to type up or organize your onsite research, the colder it gets and the more likely you are to not completely remember what you wrote down.

It has been two weeks since I did some onsite research in Rockford, Illinois, and my notes while written neatly, are not as clear now as they were the day I took them.

Don't wait to write up that research.

Cold notes are not as good as fresh ones.

27 July 2014

What's Old Hat to You May Be New to Someone Else

Our daily tips come to me as I'm doing actual research. That's why sometimes it may appear there are certain geographic or other themes. Old tips are not copied and often they are things I've known for a while but simply forgotten.

That said every tip won't be new information to everyone. For those who have more research years under their belt, we hope to at least remind them of something they may have forgotten. Failing to remember something or making an incorrect assumption can happen to all of us.

Thanks for your support of Genealogy Tip of the Day over the years. It is appreciated.


Tax Sale?

If you can't find a deed of sale for your ancestor's real property, consider the fact that he didn't sell it. If your ancestors taxes became sufficiently delinquent, his property would be sold to pay those taxes. In the United States these sales are usually indexed under "Sheriff" and not the name of your ancestor.

Unless your ancestor was the sheriff.

26 July 2014

Handle With Care

photo of Michael John Neill, (c) 2014
Do you handle original documents and photographs carefully while scanning, photographing, or copying them?

Oil in your skin can potentially damage items and "manhandling" them or removing them aggressively from their backgrounds can do permanent damage as well.

Take care when reproducing your family's ephemera.

25 July 2014

Cleaned Your Genealogy Work Space?

When was the last time you cleaned your genealogy "space?" Are there items buried at the bottom of a pile that you found a long time ago and never had time to look at further? Cleaning your stacks can be a great way to rediscover records, clues, and pieces of paper (or digital files) that somehow got lost in the shuffle.

When did you last go through your stacks of genealogy stuff?

24 July 2014

What State Am I In?

Laws and statutes differ from one state to another. State and local taxing procedures, intestate probate practices, local record requirements, and other legal processes may vary slightly from one location to another. 

Don't assume that what was true in Indiana in 1850 is true in Virginia in 1800, Massachusetts in 1750, etc. 

While this seems obvious, it is easy to forget it we aren't careful.

23 July 2014

Meyers Orts and 18th Century Estate Inventory Transcription Webinars

We are offering two new webinars at the end of August:

  • Meyers Orts--rescheduled for 26 September
  • Transcribing an 18th Century Estate Inventory--rescheduled for 26 September

Meyers Orts--Gazetteer of the German Empire. Published in the early 20th century, this print geographic reference in traditional Gothic print contains information on thousands of German place names. If you've ever struggled with this reference, or never used it because it seemed overwhelming, then this presentation is for you. We'll assume that you know no German and are unfamiliar with the script. See how the entries are organized, how to interpret them, and how to use the information from the entries to further your research. Geared to those who have not used the gazetteer extensively before. Session will run approximately one hour. 26 September 2014 at 1:00 pm central time.

Transcribing an 18th Century Estate Inventory. In this presentation we will go step-by-step through the transcription of estate inventories from Massachusetts, Maryland, and Virginia that were recorded in the 1700s. We can't make you an expert at reading handwriting in one session, but we will systematically go through the listing of items, showing ways to assist in "guessing" when the handwriting is difficult to interpret, determining what the items are, and using the inventory to further your research. Geared towards advanced beginner or intermediate researchers. Session will run approximately one hour. 26 September 2014--3:00 pm central time.

Registration is limited.

Register now:

This page is:

Paying Property Taxes Doesn't Equate to Living

People don't always live on the real estate they own (or on which they pay taxes). Try and use other clues to make certain your ancestor lived where you think he did. This item on Rootdig makes a this point with an 1804 example.

GenealogyBank's Offer for Our Fans

Our sponsor, GenealogyBank, has a special offer for our fans/readers that ends on 31 July. Don't wait! We appreciate their continued support of Genealogy Tip of the Day.

22 July 2014

Estate Inventories Listing Debtors

If your ancestor's estate had enough value to require a probate, the inventory of that estate may list more than household goods. Are there any debts listed that are due to the estate? The names of people who owed your ancestor money can be clues as to their associates, neighbors, or additional family members. 

And your ancestor didn't have to be rich to have died with people owing him money.

21 July 2014

Out of Order Recordings

Record offices usually record items in the order in which they are brought into the office, not the order in which they took place. For this reason a variety of records may be recorded out of chronological order. When manually searching birth, marriage, deed, death, and other records, look a little after the time when you expect to find it.

It may have been recorded several months (or longer) after it happened.

20 July 2014

They Are Not As Interested As You Are

Not everyone who submits DNA to the "determine your ethnicity" type of sites or databases is really interested in the details of their heritage beyond generalities. You may find that "matches" on those websites simply do not contact requests.

Just like some submitters to trees do not respond either. For some people, work or obligations involving living family members, have to take priority.

And for others the interest in their history is fleeting.

19 July 2014

Would Those Wrong Names Be Right in Another Place?

Those "wrong" names may simply be in the wrong place. One branch of one of my families has mixed up the maiden name of the mother with the married surname of the daughter. The confused branch descends from one of the mother's later marriages and had little contact with this daughter. They remembered the last name but put it in the wrong place.

18 July 2014

Residential Clues in Deeds

When reading that deed where your relative sold real property, pay close attention to where they acknowledged the deed to be their own true, lawful act. The text of the deed may (or may not) list where the resided when the deed was drawn up, but the acknowledgement will indicate where that acknowledgement was made.

And that can be a clue.

17 July 2014

Census Dates Matter

While any census can contain incorrect information, keep in mind that census questions were to be answered as of the date of the census, commonly referred to as the "census date."

The 1910 census for your ancestor's residence may have been taken on 11 May 1910, but the questions were to have been answered as of 15 April 1910.

Some censustakers were more concerned about accuracy than others and some informants may have understood the "census date" versus "actual date" better than others.

16 July 2014

About Where Did You Get That?

If you enter in your genealogical database that a relative died in "about 1847," put down something in your sources or notes as to how you arrived at that approximate date.

There's a place for random dates and it's not genealogy (grin!).

15 July 2014

Appraised in Old Ten

Clerks love to abbreviate. Sometimes those abbreviations are common and sometimes they are not. The phrase "Appraised in Old Ten" appears in the 1756 estate inventory of Ephraim Puffer from Stowe, Massachusetts. The reference likely is to "old tender," referring to the money used to value the property.

It does not mean that all the property was in an "old tin" shed (grin!).

14 July 2014

Security at the Courthouse

If possible, find out what level of screening is required before entering a courthouse to search local records. You may save yourself some time and frustration if you prepare for any screenings before you leave your car.

And while you are at it, find out what hours the facility is open, and whether cameras and personal scanners can be used to copy documents.

13 July 2014

Without that Umlaut

German words sometimes contain letters ä, ö, or ü. Sometimes when the umlauts are not used an additional "e" is used, resulting in "ae," "oe," or "ue." Because of this Müller can be styled as Mueller.

Keep this in mind when researching those German last names.

12 July 2014

An Estate for Life

If your relative's ownership in a piece of real property is referred to as a life estate, then typically that means they could use the property during their lifetime but could not sell, mortgage or bequeath the property. Usually someone who holds a life estate estate in property cannot transfer that ownership to anyone else.

11 July 2014

Grandma's Funny Words...

When writing your "notes" about relatives that you remember, write down those words they said that "weren't quite proper," like "et" for "ate" and "het" for "heated." If Grandma had an unusual way of pronouncing a certain word, make a note of that--but do so in a kind way without being judgemental.

Grandma always said "bullnozer" for "bull dozer" and "manure" was always "bnure."

And even more importantly, record or note the way Grandma said certain family names. That can be a direct help to your research.

10 July 2014

Ask When You Know the Answer

Sometimes genealogists want to get as much new information as possible when interviewing relatives. That's fine, but asking questions when you "know the answer" is a good idea as well. You may trigger memories that might not have been triggered in any other way.

And it may turn out that you really don't "know" what you think you "know."

09 July 2014

Some Context?

Before asking some one to help you figure out what something means or says, ask if you are giving them enough to help you. That usually means a copy of the entire document (not just the one little word you can't understand), what the document is from, and where you located it.

I had an individual in a seminar quote 3 words from a 18th century deed and ask me what it meant. I nicely responded that without some more information ("context") that it was difficult to interpret or easy to give the wrong answer.

Help people who can help you by providing them with adequate detail.

08 July 2014

What Have You Written Lately?

If you have been accumulating information and records, when was the last time you stopped gathering and wrote about what you have located? Don't forget to include where you obtained the information, a transcription or detailed summary of it, and a discussion of what you think it means.

You may be surprised what discoveries you make when you really get into writing up what you already have.

07 July 2014

Don't Just Download

You found an image of a document on a website--it looks like a copy of an original document and it very well may be. But....ask yourself:

  • just what is this document?
  • is it a county, state, federal, or other type of record?
  • could I find it again if I needed to?
There are a variety of other questions as well, but these will get you started.

And make certain you save it with a file name that makes sense. 

06 July 2014

Looking At Page Numbers

Microfilmers and digitizers are human. When "reading" books or other printed material online or on microfilm, I always look at the page numbers to make certain they are sequential. I discovered a certain website that missed one image out of a thousand page book--of course it was the page I needed. When reading from one image to the next, it did not make sense.

Sure enough a gander at the pages indicated one was missing.

It happens.

05 July 2014

Could a Modern Directory Give You an Old Clue?

If the last name on which you are working is not all that common and you can't find where the family was from, have you considered searching a modern directory to see where that name is clustered today?

That's not evidence that your ancestor was from that area, but it may give you a place to look for your missing ancestor.

04 July 2014

Jump Your Research With Newspapers

Our sponsor, GenealogyBank,  is offering a discount for new subscribers. Take a look and see what newspaper discoveries await.

The Purpose of the Record

The first time you use any "new" record, ask yourself:

  • what was the purpose of this record?
  • who was the intended audience?
  • how necessary was it for the information to be accurate?
Maps, directories, newspapers, and other items are all materials that genealogists use and ones that we sometimes think were created only for us.

They weren't.

03 July 2014

Is the Time Period Correct?

I recently purchased a post card on Ebay of a church my family attended. When it arrived, I realized that my family probably wasn't attending at the time the picture was taken. The building has not changed much and it's still a great picture.

The point is that when researching always ask yourself if the time period is right and if you are correctly aware of the historical events taking place. Sometimes being a few years off doesn't make a difference, but sometimes it does. Churches merge and split apart, county lines change, streets get renamed, etc. 

And if you never stop to think "is this right for the time period," you'll never know.

02 July 2014

Is That a Modern Translation of a Not-So-Modern Word

Online translators serve a purpose, but remember that the documents genealogists usually use are not modern documents. There may be terms in the document that are no longer used or no longer mean what they used to mean. If a translation doesn't make sense, or even if it does, consider having a human who is familiar with older terms translate the document as well.

01 July 2014

Success in the Margins

Even if you've read the transcription, the original image may contain more clues as this 1940 census enumeration shows.

Some clerks and enumerators love the margins.