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30 November 2014

Every Step in that Provenance

I wish I knew more of how this trunk came to my possession.

All I know is that it has my aunt's name on it (Ahltje Goldenstein) and her destination (Keokuk Junction, Ills.). I purchased it from an antique dealer about 10 years ago in Keokuk, Iowa. She would only say that she purchased it an estate sale and that it was wrapped in burlap when she got it.

That was all.

If you have ancestral ephemera or artifacts, have you documented their ownership from the first person to the present? It can help you and others determine if the story is true and it helps to preserve that ownership story for future generations

29 November 2014

Scribble It Down and Save the Scribbles

Write down the name you are looking for in several different ways, both in a neat and messy fashion. Think about how it could be read or interpreted. Consider asking someone else to write the name down for your and read their handwriting.  

Keep copies of how a name appears in various records. Ask your genealogy friends how they would read it. 

You may be surprised at the variants you get.

28 November 2014

My Blogs and Newsletters

The following are links to my blogs and newsletters:

  • Genealogy Tip of the Day--one short daily genealogy-related research tip. This usually focuses on offline sources, methods, analysis, terms, and organization. Free.
  • Casefile Clues--my PDF genealogy newsletter concentrating on genealogical sources, methodology and research. Subscription required.
  • Genealogy Transcriber--not always every day, but a signature or piece of writing where readers are encouraged to try their hand at interpreting. Free.
  • Genealogy Search Tip--periodic short tips for online searching or an occasional mention about a "new to me" website. Free.
  • Michael's Blog Updates-sent roughly every week with a summary of the my more recent blog posts, updates to popular topics, news of research trips/seminars and more. Free.
  • Rootdig.com-updates about research I'm doing, research frustrations, pitfalls, etc. Free.

Survey Plats

If your ancestor owned real property and you've already seen all the deeds, have you searched the recorder's office for surveys and plats? Surveys and plats may be done when roads or railroads are built through or adjacent to your ancestor's property. They may also be completed when a parcel is broken up into smaller pieces to settle an estate or if there is some sort of boundary dispute. The recorder's office may have land records besides deeds.


Thanks to those who have recently subscribed to Genealogy Tip of the Day. We are glad that you've joined us. Our tips go out daily--usually early in the morning central US time, but occasionally that varies.

Tips are usually short and come from actual research I'm working on. Occasionally we mention my subscription newsletter, Casefile Clues, or our sponsor GenealogyBank, because those things to help to pay the bills. I also blog at Rootdig.com as well.

We are thankful for those who offer Genealogy Tip of the Day  their continued support--thanks again and feel free to let others know about Genealogy Tip of the Day!

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And thanks to GenealogyBank  for continuing to sponsor Genealogy Tip of the Day.

27 November 2014

From Whom are They Borrowing?

If your landowning ancestor signs a mortgage for their farm to someone that's clearly not a bank or lending institution, determine if they had any relationship to that individual who held the mortgage. It could be they borrowed money from an in-law, step-parent, cousin or other family member. Not all loans that involve individual people (and not banks or lending companies) are between relatives, but it's worth checking out the possibility of a relationship.

And the mortgage won't indicate if the mortgagor and the mortgagee are related.

26 November 2014

Do You Know All the Borders?

Where the lines are can impact your research? County and township lines can change. Lines for enumeration districts in the census may or may not run contiguous to election districts, ward boundaries, and other political lines. Make certain you know all the borders in which your ancestors lived and when (or if) they ever changed.

25 November 2014

Is that Brother Full, Half, or Step?

If a document refers to two men as brothers is it possible that they are not full brothers? Could they be:

  • half-brothers?
  • step-brothers?
  • brothers-in-law?
Sometimes things might not mean exactly what we think they mean.

24 November 2014

Neighboring Stones

Tombstones in Bethany United Church of Christ Cemetery,
Tioga, Hancock County, Illinois; photo taken 2004 by
Michael John Neill
When visiting a cemetery, do you note the stones that are adjacent to the one for your "ancestor of interest?" Married daughters and other relatives with different last names may have a permanent resting place next to your actual "ancestor of interest." Transcribe those nearby stones, or at least get good pictures of them and make a diagram showing the relative positions of the neighboring stones.

Or better yet, just take plenty of pictures.

23 November 2014

The Cat On the Counter

The cat didn't mean to, but he was the "thought prompt" for today's tip.

Are you breaking your research down into smaller tasks? Achieving your goal in one step may simply not be possible. And if researching a family seems like a project which you will never finish, consider focusing on one person or one problem at a time and not be concerned with getting "it all done" right away. Ask yourself what one little thing can I do today to help me solve my genealogy problem?

After all, Sammie got on the kitchen counter one step at a time.

And your ancestor migrated from one place to another one step at a time as well. What was the most logical route to travel, where might he have stayed for a short time, and where might he have left records?

Your ancestor may have ended up on the counter, but he may have left a trail in several other places.

Who Took the Picture?

After you have identified as many people in a picture as you can, have you thought about who took the picture? Some family pictures may have been taken by professional photographers, but others may have been taken by a family member. 

If someone is conspicuously absent from a picture, they may have been the photographer.

22 November 2014

Get Beyond Basic Church Records?

Are the only records you use from a local church the records of pastoral acts? If your ancestor was a member of an immigrant church do you know where most of those immigrants came from? If your ancestor was a member of a "frontier" church, what do you know about the other members and what they had in common besides their religious affiliation?

Often times church or synagogue attendees have more in common than a denomination.

21 November 2014

Do Documents Suggest Child Order?

In some families, it can be difficult to determine the order in which children are born. The problem is exacerbated in places where there are no vital records. Children may be listed in wills in order or age (or they may not). Children all signing off on a quit claim deed after the surviving parent dies may be listed in order (or they may not).

And always ask yourself "how crucial is it that I know the birth order." Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't--it really depends on the family and what records are available and how detailed they are in terms of relationships.

If you've assigned children to a family in an order that you are not certain is the birth order, make a note that effect in your genealogy database.

Revised Dates for My 2015 Family History Library Research Trip

Due to a scheduling conflict, I've had to change the dates for the 2015 Family History Library Research Trip to:

  • arrive and check in on 19 May 2015
  • check out and leave on 26 May

20 November 2014

From Our Sponsor-GenealogyBank Discount

Our sponsor GenealogyBank is offering Genealogy Tip of the Day readers, fans, followers, etc. an annual membership rate that equates to $4.67 per month. Check it out.

And thanks to GenealogyBank  for continuing to sponsor Genealogy Tip of the Day.

19 November 2014

Use A Chronology as a Biographical Starting Point

If you are needing something to provide you with some framework for writing a biography of your ancestor, consider using her chronology of personal life events. It may not be the most "literary" approach, but it will get you started.

And sometimes getting started is half the battle.

And writing a biography of an ancestor (with citations included) may be a more manageable task than a complete five generation genealogy.

Re-Using Tips for Newsletters, Etc.

Editors of print genealogical publications are welcome to use tips from Genealogical Tip of the Day in their newsletters, quarterlies, etc. as long as the following notice is attached.

Reprinted from Genealogy Tip of the Day (c) by Michael John Neill, http://genealogytipoftheday.blogspot.com. This tip originally ran on [insert date].


We appreciate those who wish to share tips with readers, but please remember to cite the source.

18 November 2014

Googling Your Ancestor's Attorney

Sometimes it can be insightful to perform Google searches on attorneys named in your ancestor's documents. This attorney appointment looked odd until it was discovered that he lived near the nearest land office and would handle the final paperwork in a 19th century bounty land claim.

17 November 2014

Record Copies are Copies Not Originals

Copies in record books are transcriptions made by the clerk of the original document. Consequently they do not contain any actual signatures and could possibly contain the occasional error or two. Clerks are human.

16 November 2014

Short Course-Organizing Genealogical Information

By popular demand, we're offering a new section of my "organizing genealogical information" class. Details are here. Don't wait, registration is limited.

Pencil and Paper Sometimes Will Do

Sometimes it is simply faster to use pencil and paper instead of "computerizing" everything. There are times where a quickly drawn out chart indicating relationships and names is what I need to keep me organized and to remind me of why I'm searching for a specific person.

15 November 2014

Recorded Military Discharges?

The county recorder's office where your ancestor lived after his military discharge may have a registered copy of his discharge papers. Military men were encouraged--especially during the American Civil War era and after, to have a copy of their military discharge recorded at their local county recorder's office.

Could be a good place to get a copy of the record. Records for discharges during World War II and after are probably some type of photoreproduction of the document. Earlier ones are most likely handwritten transcriptions.

14 November 2014

Is There a Method to the Order

Pay attention to the order in which children are listed in wills and other legal documents. That order may suggest the birth order for the children. The key word being suggest. If the names appear in a certain order in only one document that might not be proof of much. If the names appear in the same order in different legal documents over time, it might be a little more suggestive of child order.

But try and back that assumption up with data from other records.

13 November 2014

Openings in FamilySearch, Probate, and Court Records Webinars on 14 November

We still have openings in webinars on the following topics tomorrow, 14 November 2014:

  • Tips and Tricks for FamilySearch
  • Probate
  • Court Records
Register here---we'd love to have you join us.

Can Your Write On Your Brick Wall?

An excellent problem-solving technique is to write up your "problem" as if you were explaining it to someone totally unfamiliar with the time period, the family, and the location. Organizing your thoughts and your current research for someone else to read and to follow may be give you additional insight into where you appear to be stumbling.

Gaps are easier to notice when we try and clearly explain our problem completely to someone else.

You may be able to "write over" your brick wall!

12 November 2014

Here a W, There a W, Everywhere a W

Initials can frustrate genealogists, but at least four of these heirs of James Kile had "W" as a middle initial. That seems more than a coincidence. This would be a good thing to investigate. It turns out in this case the "W" in all cases stood for Wiggins, their mother's maiden name.

Things that seem coincidental may not be. And middle names can always be clues.

11 November 2014

Genealogy Queries: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

We've finished our series on genealogical queries--with some specific suggestions. We broke it down into three parts:

Sometimes the Seat is Moved

In reading an affidavit from the early 1850s, I realized that the county seat of Mercer County, Illinois, was not where it is today. Has the county seat in your county of interest moved?

10 November 2014

Warranting the Patenting and Patenting the Warrant

Bounty land warrants indicate the number of acres in the federal domain to which a person (usually a veteran) is entitled. Holders of the warrant could use them to obtain specific property themselves or sell the warrant to someone else who would then obtain the property. The warrant was surrendered as a part of the land acquisition process to obtain the actual patent. The patent is what gave real estate title to a specific piece of property and is sometimes called the "first deed." (generally speaking, this is a US specific tip).

09 November 2014

The Whole Page Gives a Bigger Picture

I wasn't really certain the census entry in Union County, Ohio, was for the right James Kile. The index entry and transcription didn't indicate the names of the others on the census page. As soon as I saw the image, I knew I had the right person as three of his sons were listed on the same page. Sometimes you need to see the entire document to make certain it's the correct person.

Not to mention the occasional additional clue that pops up.

Openings in November Webinars

We still have openings in our November webinars, topics include:

  • Court Records
  • Probate Records
  • Female Ancestors
  • Charts, Charts, and More Charts

08 November 2014

In the Beginning There was an Ending

When transcribing a document keep in mind that there are some letters that are made in different ways depending up on their placement within a word, what the preceding letter is, etc. In the image that accompanies this post, the letter "s" is made one way when it is the first letter in a word and another way when it is the last letter in the word.

Writing Genealogical Queries

Before you post a genealogy query online, think about how easy you are making it for someone else to help you. Ideal queries provide a summary of what you know. Potential helpers may be less likely to help if they have to post a series of follow up questions to really know what you know and what you don't.

For a list of query writing suggestions, check out this post on Rootdig.

07 November 2014

Revisit Loose Ends?

When was the last time you looked over your old research materials for loose ends that never received any followup?

It's possible that there are leads just waiting to be used in your research.

Personally I have a stack of research questions that are only completely worked on. If you don't make a list of things that you've never completed, you may be surprised how many incomplete research projects you have.

06 November 2014

Eleven Sons Means Too Many First Cousins With the Same Name

War of 1812 veteran James Kile and his wife had eleven sons. Keeping the grandsons straight is difficult, considering that several were named after an uncle or other relative. I'm making a chart with the sons and grandchildren listed by their approximate year and state of birth.

In some cases that may not be helpful because given the twenty-plus year span in the births of James' sons, there could be sons of James and grandsons of James with the same name who were not very far apart in age. There could be an uncle and two (or more first cousins) with the same name who were close enough in age to be confused with each other.

05 November 2014

Do You Look at All the Notations?

Are there marks on a document that you've not analyzed or tried to interpret? Some stray marks are just stray marks, but other times those notations have a meaning. Sometimes that meaning has a genealogical significance and sometimes it does not. A recent posting to Rootdig mentioned notations on an estate inventory.

You don't know if something is relevant or not if you don't try to find out.

04 November 2014

Have You Tracked All Your Addresses?

Among the pieces of information to leave behind for your descendants, have you left a list of the addresses/locations where you have lived and when you lived there? That is something some of us wish our ancestors did and it might not be bad for us to do it ourselves.

03 November 2014

The 1950 Census and Beyond...

The 1950 United States census will not be released to the public until 2022 and the 1960 United States census is not scheduled for release until 2032. That's a while.

But have you thought about where your family was living in those census years? What makes you think your family was living in those locations?

Just because it will be awhile before these records are released doesn't mean you shouldn't think about what your ancestors and relatives were doing in the mid to later part of the 20th century.

02 November 2014

November Webinars!

We are re-recording some of my more popular webinars in November. Now is a great time to register and attend live where you can interact and ask questions during the presentation. Seating in these live online sessions is limited. Don't delay.  Registration includes PDF handout and complimentary download after session has been recorded. No special software is needed to participate. Email Michael at mjnrootdig@gmail.com with questions.

Most sessions are only $6 each!

Title and Description
5 spots left
Reading and Interpreting Probate Inventories from the 18th Century—rescheduled from earlier. If you signed up before and did not get invite, email Michael at mjnrootdig@gmail.com
7 November 1:00 pm  Central Time
Creating Families from Pre-1850 Census Records --This presentation discusses how to analyze pre-1850 census records in order to determine the family structure that is suggested by those records. Enumerations for one household between 1810 and 1840 are analyzed in order to determine the number of children, ranges on their years of birth, and ranges on years of birth for the oldest male and oldest female in the household.
7 November 3:00 pm  Central Time
Court Records-Pig Blood in the Snow. This lecture discusses American court records at the county level where cases were typically originally heard. Discusses cases of main genealogical relevance along with searching techniques.
14 November 10:00 am Central Time
The Probate Process—An Overview. Geared towards the advanced beginner or intermediate researcher, it covered an overview of the process and looked at selected documents from two probate settlements with a discussion of the pitfalls to watch out for along the way. Probate records are an excellent genealogical source--regardless of the time period in which you are researching and may contain clues about your ancestor, where he lived, his occupation, etc. 
14 November 12 Noon Central Time
Tips and Tricks for FamilySearch  -This webinar discusses ins and outs of using the "new" family search,   searching by family structure, global searches, interpreting searches and troubleshooting. Also discussed are strategies when approaching an unindexed set of images, a new type of record series, or incomplete records. Aimed at advanced beginners and intermediate level researchers
14 November 2:00 pm Central Time
Female Ancestors. This presentation discusses approaches and techniques for determining an ancestor's maiden name and locating "missing" females. Geared towards the advanced beginner or intermediate researcher, it focuses on American records and sources. The content is not specific to any one time period and many of the approaches can be refined for different locations or types of records. If you are stymied on your female ancestors--and half your ancestors are female.
10 November 7 pm Central Time
Sections, Townships, Base Lines, etc--Land Descriptions in Federal Land States. The presentation focused on interpreting these descriptions, determining acreages and becoming familiar with the terminology. This presentation is geared towards those who have had difficulty using land descriptions or who have avoided using land records because of the use of legal descriptions. The use of land records for genealogy and searching those records are not a part of this presentation. This presentation concentrates on how land is described
10 November 8:30 pm Central Time
Charts, Charts and More Charts. Readers of the newsletter know that I love charts--and I'm not talking about pedigree and family group charts. Instead I'm talking about charts that organize information you have in order to see what's missing, notice patterns, and organize your research. In this webinar, I talk about key elements to include in any chart, troubleshooting before you get started, brainstorming, and ways to get creative with your data. Geared towards advanced beginners and intermediate researchers
12 November at 7:00 pm Central Time
Seeing the Patterns-Organizing Your Information. This lecture discusses the problem-solving process and a variety of ways to   organize your information with the intent of getting the research to notice overlooked clues, patterns, trends, and information.
12 November at 8:30 pm Central Time
Determining Your Own Migration Trail/Chain. This lecture discusses ways to find the names of your ancestor's associates and ways to determine how your ancestor fit into a larger chain of migration. Geared towards advanced beginners and intermediate researchers
6 November 2013 at 6:30 pm Central Time
Registration Closed
American Revolutionary War Materials on Fold3.com.  Our discussion concentrated on what items from the Revolutionary War era were on Fold3.com and how to search those materials. The presentation was approximately 45 minutes in length. A short handout was also included. The presentation is geared toward those who have not utilized these materials on Fold3.com and aren't all that familiar with how to interact with the search and navigational system of Fold3--both are discussed in addition to the records. 
6 November 2013 at 8 pm Central Time
Registration Closed

Assuming It Is a Place It Is Not

It is possible that the name you think is a variant spelling for a location may be an entirely different location? Some countries or regions have place names that sound very similar or have nearly identical spellings. Don't just grab the first "match" and assume that it is the correct place.

01 November 2014

What Record Are You Avoiding?

Is there a record type or source you avoid using because you have difficulty using it or understanding it? Doing so can easily sell your research short and cause you to overlook solutions to those brick walls.Sometimes the reasons brick walls exist is because everyone else has stuck with the "easy" approach too.

Join Michael at Salt Lake's Family History Library in 2015

We've set the dates for our 2015 research trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Visit our informational page and reserve your spot!