Sponsored By GenealogyBank

21 November 2015

Reminder That We've Moved!

Our blog is now hosted at
Check us out there!

08 June 2015

Reminder That We Have Moved!

Future tips will be posted on Genealogy Tip of the Day at http://www.genealogytipoftheday.com. WordPress gives me more flexibility as a blogger and allows for easier interaction with readers, fans, and followers on the blog. To continue receiving the tips, you'll need to subscribe on that web address.

Thanks for your support!

02 June 2015

Genealogy Tip of the Day Has Moved!

Today's tip was the last one that we're posting on the Blogger site. Future tips will be posted on Genealogy Tip of the Day at http://www.genealogytipoftheday.com. WordPress gives me more flexibility as a blogger and allows for easier interaction with readers, fans, and followers on the blog. To continue receiving the tips, you'll need to subscribe on that web address. 

Thanks for your support!

How Easy Was It For Your Ancestor to Move?

Some ancestors are more "portable" than others. Their lifestyle, economic status, and occupation can make it easier for them to pick up and move. Stop and think about how easy or difficult it would have been for your relative to simply move.

And if they did move, what records might they have left behind as a part of the moving process? Would there be records documenting the move? Land records may reference a new residence for an ancestor, especially if the sale of property was finalized after the move had taken place.

Rootdig.com Has Moved

My genealogy blog, Rootdig.com, has moved to http://rootdig.genealogytipoftheday.com.

Future postings will be made at that site. If you were subscribed to get emails with Rootdig.com postings, please visit the new site and follow the subscription links.

01 June 2015

Are You Filling In the Holes?

One of the reasons for creating ancestral chronologies is so that gaps in time can be noticed more easily. Are there fifteen years in your ancestor's life for which you cannot account? Are you certain the ancestor is where you think they are during that time?
Or were they somewhere else?
Don't forget that Genealogy Tip of the Day is moving from the blogspot server tohttp://www.genealogytipoftheday.com. Visit there and follow the "subscribe" link to continue getting tips. 

A Reminder: We've Moved

In case you missed the first announcement:

Genealogy Tip of the Day will no longer be posted to our site on Blogger.com.

Effective today our postings will be posted on


You will need to subscribe using the "subscribe" link on that site. Your email address will not be shared, sold, or traded.

Thanks for your support of Genealogy Tip of the Day.

Classes, Webinars, and Back Issues

We are excited about the following events. Join us virtually and grow your genealogy skills this summer.
Join us!

Don't forget that Genealogy Tip of the Day is moving from the blogspot server to http://www.genealogytipoftheday.com. Visit there and follow the "subscribe" link to continue getting tips. 

31 May 2015

Genealogy Tip of the Day Is Moving!

Genealogy Tip of the Day will no longer be posted to our site on Blogger.com.

Effective today our postings will be posted on


You will need to subscribe using the "subscribe" link on that site. Your email address will not be shared, sold, or traded.

Thanks for your support of Genealogy Tip of the Day.

My Blogs

I currently maintain the following genealogy blogs:

Check them out--each can be subscribed to for free using the email box on the right hand side of the page.

Was the License Returned?

If you've located an entry in local marriage records that a license was issued for your ancestor, have you determined if the license was returned? The issuance of a license means only that a license was issued and that a couple was intending to get married.
Usually cancelled licenses are returned and "cancelled" is written somewhere on or near the entry in the record indicating the license was issued. But not always. Sometimes they are just not returned.
Sometimes licenses that are used are not returned by the officiant, even if the marriage took place.

Don't forget to visit our new site http://www.genealogytipoftheday.com and subscribe to the new email list there. The old list on the blogspot.com site will be discontinued on 3 June.

30 May 2015

The Probable Informant

Some documents clearly state who was the informant. Many though do not provide this information. When considering the accuracy of information on any document, consider the probable informant and how likely they were to know the information being provided.

29 May 2015

Lines over Letters

If you see a straight line over a letter in an original document, consider the possibility that it could be shorthand to indicate that the letter was doubled--see this post for an example.

June Webinars

We still have openings in our webinars next week. Topics are:

War of 1812 Pensions at Fold3.com-these are free on their site.

Using Colonial Land Patents at the Library of Virginia website-these images are free on the website.

Library of Congress online digital newspapers--free on their site.

Using local land records online at FamilySearch. Not all of these are online, but we will discuss how to use the ones that are.

There are more details in our original blog post.

28 May 2015

Are You Familiar With the Records You Are Using?

When using a record set with which you are not familiar, think about how someone gets into the record, how the  information in the record is obtained, how the record is organized, and how the original  record got from its original state to you.

All if these issues get to how we use and analyze the information contained in the record.

27 May 2015

Bothering With a Brother's Baptism

Reading the German language records was difficult and I almost didn't bother obtaining copies of the baptismal entries for the siblings of John George Trautvetter who was born in 1798.

And there in the entry for one of John George's brother was the indication that their father's brother was the sponsor.

A helpful hint in this case where knowing as many relationships as possible is necessary because every family had a George and a Michael and every son's first name was Johann.

Don't neglect those ancestral siblings.

26 May 2015

Have Your Own Personal Copy

I'm a member of subscription sites that allow me to create links to images on their sites that requires me to have a subscription to access.

I don't link to the images that are behind the "pay wall." I download images of records that I need to my own media so that I always a copy of the image for personal use.

That way, if something ever happens or I don't have access to the site any longer--I still have digital copies of the images I used. 

25 May 2015

Served From a Nearby State

Many men who served in the United States Civil War did not enlist in the state where they resided. For a variety of reasons a man may have enlisted in a unit from a neighboring state. Usually it was to help the state where he enlisted meet it's quota.

But don't dismiss a potential reference to your soldier ancestor simply because he's from the "wrong" state.

20% off webinar sale ends today!

Memorial Day 20% Sale

If you missed our 20% off sale, it's back on for Memorial Day and before the old inventory is physically removed from the host site at the end of the month. Download now and view the presentation as many times as you want.

Over thirty topics--easy to follow and easy to understand.

View the complete list and order here.

24 May 2015

What's Your Favorite Genealogy Tip?

While there are many tips that are helpful, I think that "looking at your assumptions" is the best one. Genealogists have to assume about many things when they research-and that's normal. But when we forget that those assumptions are assumptions, we can create difficulties for ourselves.

What's your favorite genealogy tip?

20% off webinar sale back on for Memorial Day

Memorial Day 20% Sale

If you missed our 20% off sale, it's back on for Memorial Day and before the old inventory is physically removed from the host site at the end of the month. Download now and view the presentation as many times as you want.

Over thirty topics--easy to follow and easy to understand.

View the complete list and order here.

Review What You Think

Years ago, I used a series of records. I didn't find my relatives in them and made some incorrect conclusions about how the records were organized and what time period they covered.

Twenty years later, on a whim I searched them again.

Knowing more about records and research, I found some of my relatives in the records.

Did you make assumptions about records early in your research...and would it be worth your while to revisit those records and assumptions?

23 May 2015

How Did That Impact Your Family?

I discovered today that an ancestor of mine died when he had barely been married five years, leaving behind a wife and three children. This obviously caused a big change in her life in 1837. Did she move back to the nearby village where she was from? Did she marry again and have more children?

All are things I need to think about in my research strategy to locate the ancestor after her husband's death.

22 May 2015

Contextual Clues Mean It's Not a Part of a Name

The middle entry on this page of 1838 baptisms from Aurich, Germany contains the entry for my ancestor.

The fourth column contains the names of the sponsors. When I was trying to analyze the entry for my relative I thought the symbol in the middle red circle on the image were a part of the entry.

Then I looked at the other two entries on the image I made and realized that the items in the circle were partially used to number each entry and were not a part of the names of the sponsors.

If I had only copied the entry for my ancestor and not other entries on the same page, I might have missed that.

Don't copy only the entry of interest on a page like this. Copy other entries on the same page.

You can't made comparisons if you don't.

Check Hours Before Your Trip

If you are planning a research trip to any facility, confirm their hours of operation during your time in the locality. Genealogical and historical society libraries are often run by volunteers and hours may vary with the time of the year.

And while you're preparing, make certain what the facility's policy is regarding the use of digital cameras.

21 May 2015

It's a Baby Not My Daddy

Years ago researchers were told that there was an 1862 burial for a John H. Johnson in a cemetery near where their ancestor with that name lived. They assumed it was the ancestor buried there. When contacting the sexton for additional information, a later researcher was told that the John H. Johnson burial was actually an infant burial for someone with that name. The earlier researchers had just asked if John H. Johnson was buried in the cemetery and were told that he was along with the date of burial. They assumed it was their ancestor.

Sometimes people only answer what you ask.

Sometimes people assume what's not clearly stated on the record.

And it never hurts to ask for additional clarification.

Webinars: Local Land Records, War of 1812, Virginia Land Patents, LOC Newspapers

We are excited to offer a series of new webinars in June 2015. Registration is limited and early registration is encouraged to save your spot. Topics are:

  • Local Land Records Online at FamilySearch
  • War of 1812 Pensions at Fold3.com
  • Virginia Land Patents at the Library of Virginia
  • Library of Congress Newspapers

20 May 2015

For Tomorrow May Never Come: Newspaper Items from a Distance

Newspaper items mentioning your ancestor may appear a distance from where he lived, particularly if the event is somehow newsworthy.

This 1937 clipping came from a Hammond, Indiana, newspaper and referenced the death in Quincy, Illinois, of John Trautvetter.

Trautvetter's toast "for tomorrow may never come" was apparently a headline generated some newspapers just could not resist.

19 May 2015

Names Out of Order?

If your ancestor had a first, middle, and last name, keep in mind that it is possible that those names could be in the wrong order in a record. If the names are in the wrong order on the record, then the ancestor will appear in the index under the wrong "last name."

If the index does not include the last name of interest, consider searching for that relative with their first or middle name as their last name.

An Offer From Our Sponsor

Genealogy Tip of the Day is proudly sponsored by GenealogyBank. Take a look at their special subscription offer for Genealogy Tip of the Day fans and followers.

18 May 2015

No Relationships before 1880

In pre-1880 United States census records, the relationship of each person to the head of household is not given. Do not assume that the census entry is husband, wife, and their joint biological children. The family structure may not be that straightforward.

17 May 2015

Reasonably Doubting Genealogical Proof

A Facebook fan of Genealogy Tip of the Day asked whether beyond reasonable doubt is the level genealogists want to reach. Here's my short response:

Beyond reasonable doubt is usually too high a bar for genealogical researchers to cross. Preponderance of the evidence and reasonable suspicion are usually a little too low of a threshold--genealogists need to be a little more certain than that. The closest usual level suggested for genealogical proof is "clear and convincing" which would be a stronger  case than a preponderance of the evidence but not as strong as beyond reasonable doubt.

In actuality, genealogists usually don't use these legal terms to describe genealogical proof. At its simplest, genealogical proof is searching all extant relevant records, extracting relevant information from those records, and organizing that information in a way that makes the researcher's conclusion clear. The organization and writing is the proof. The information obtained from records and used in the proof is the evidence.

16 May 2015

One Record Is Not Proof

It's hard to boil down genealogical "proof" into one short tip of the day, but one document by itself is usually not considered "proof" of anything. One document may contain evidence in support of a conclusion, but it's important to remember that any one document can easily be incorrect.

Proof, in the genealogical sense, is usually considered to be the written summary of the conclusion that is reached when a body of evidence (statements taken from individual documents) have been analyzed.

20% Webinar Sale

The site that hosts my webinars has told me that I need to remove some because I have maxed out my space. Increasing my space means increasing my monthly fee which I don't want to do. I need to remove some in order to make room for new presentations.

So....before I remove any from the list of available presentations....

We're offering readers a chance to order and download whatever webinars they want at 20% off (with a purchase over $20). Downloads are immediate and can be viewed as many times as you want.

Deadline to order is 17 May at 11:50 pm. central.

The order page (and coupon code) is here.

Don't wait!

15 May 2015

Indexes Are Usually Finding Aids

Indexes are generally only used to get the researcher to the record that was used to create the index. A recent posting to Rootdig.com makes it clear why indexes should not be used as records when the originals are easily available. 

There is always the chance that the indexer made a mistake or that there is more on the record than is in the index. If the originals are gone as sometimes is the case, then the index is all we have. And occasionally an indexer will add information to the index that's not in the original record. 

But no matter the situation, you should at least ask yourself:

how do I find the record that this index indexes?

Failing to ask that question could be your problem.

14 May 2015

Is There Another Digital Scan?

Genealogists use digital scans of out of copyright books all the time. If the scan you have located online has pages or areas that are difficult to read, consider that another site may have scanned a different copy or the book or used a different scanning process.

It may also be necessary to see if a library can make a photocopy of that "bad page."

Webinars: FamilySearch, Court Records, Blogging and ELCA Records

We've put four webinars on our upcoming schedule:

  • Using the ELCA records at Ancestry.com
  • FamilySearch search techniques
  • Court Records
  • Genealogy Blogging

13 May 2015

Charting Out the Children

This is a bare-bones chart I have made in my attempt to learn as much as I can about my Benjamin Butler who was born about 1819 in New York State and who lived in Michigan in 1860, Iowa in 1870, and Missouri in 1880. It lists his "children" from the 1850, 1870, and 1880 census records. Sources are not included (other than census years) to make the chart less cluttered. I do have sources.

Approximate year of birth (source)
Location (source)
Know death location?
1842 (1850)
Canada (1850)
yes-with Benjamin

St. Joseph Co. Michigan
1844 (1850)
Canada (1850)
yes-with Benjamin

1846 (1850)
Michigan (1850)
yes-with Benjamin

1848 (1850)
Michigan (1850)
yes-with Benjamin

Wapello County, Iowa
1854 (1870)
Iowa (1870) Missouri (1880)
Yes-with Benjamin
Yes (with her own family)

1856 (1870)
Michigan (1870)
Yes-with Benjamin

1861 (1870)
Kansas (1870)
Yes-with Benjamin

Benjamin F.
1865 (1870)
1864 (1880)
Illinois (1870, 1880)
Yes-with Benjamin
Yes-with Benjamin

1868 (1870)
Michigan (1880)
Yes-with Benjamin

1872 (1880)
Iowa (1880)
Yes-with Benjamin

1875 (1880)
Iowa (1880)
Yes-with Benjamin
1879 (1880)
Nebraska (1880)
Yes-with Benjamin

1882 (1900)
Nodaway County, Missouri

Here's my suggestions to myself:

  • Add columns for census after 1880
  • Add a column for death date and place
  • Try and locate children in as many census records as possible
  • Try and locate death information for as many children as possible

Establish Parameters

Hasty research increases the chance that incorrect conclusions are made and that we include records for our "person of interest" who is not really our person of interest.

To reduce the chance mistakes are made, take the records that you "know" are for your person of interest and estimate whichever items you do not have specifically:

  • a time frame for when they were born
  • an approximate location for where they were born
  • a time frame for their marriage
  • an approximate location for their marriage
  • a time frame for their death
  • an approximate location for their death
For all of these approximations, include your reason why you think the time frames and locations are reasonable--you should have at least one source document. These reasons combined with the records are key.

Then look at the "new" records you think are for your ancestor. How closely do they match your expectations? Is the difference reasonable? Is it possible your conjectures were wrong? 

It may also cause you to question whether the records that you were "sure" were for your ancestor are really your ancestor at all.

We've simplified the analysis process here--but this general framework, armed with analysis and contemplation, is a good start.

12 May 2015

Do Your Digital Photos Include Analysis?

click on photo to see larger image
Do you include some of your analysis as a part of the digital image you make from pictures? We've mentioned provenance before, but sometimes other clues may be used to date or identify the picture. While these things can be put in the "metadata" in some graphics programs, the reality is that some people don't save the file and the metadata, they just "screenshot" the image as it appears online.

One can't stop people from only using the image and not your analysis, but it makes it easier for those inclined to use it to use it.

Free Download of Brick Walls From A to Z--the Final One

For the next 24 hours, I'm giving away my "Final" Brick Wall from A to Z webinar for free--just hit "check out with PayPal." You don't need an account or a credit card, just your email to send you the download link.http://bit.ly/1PFLsMZ

This was the 4th in my "Brick Wall" series.

Does A License Mean They Married?

Not all couples who took out a marriage license were actually married? Make certain the marriage license was returned or that there is some notation or certification that the marriage actually took place. Most couples who took out licenses married, but sometimes couples changed their mind at the last minute.

Blog Updates and Event Email List

Periodically I send out updates on old blog posts, upcoming genealogical events, and a summary of what's been going on with my other blogs. If you'd like to get on that list--which is separate from this one--visit this page. Emails are not shared and you can unsubscribe at any time.

11 May 2015

When In Doubt...

check it out.

I almost had an image ready to go on a blog post when I realized that I am always mixing up the name of the county and county seat where my Troutfetter relatives lived in rural Kansas.

Years ago, I apparently got it in my head that Thomas, Kansas is in Colby County. It is not. Colby, Kansas is in Thomas County.

Thomas is the county. Colby is the town.

When in doubt, check it out. It can be easy to get confused and create additional confusion in the process.

My Other Blogs

Tip of the Day is meant to be fairly short and to the point. My Rootdig blog contains longer, more detailed posts and it can be viewed here--where you can sign up as well.  My roughly weekly genealogy blog and event update email subscription page has been moved here.

10 May 2015

Unfinished Stones

When encountering stones with incomplete inscriptions, don't automatically assume that the person with the incomplete inscription is actually buried there. It could be that they were buried somewhere else after the stone was set. They may even have remarried. Or they could be buried underneath the incomplete tombstone and the inscription was simply never completed.

09 May 2015

Died Where They Were Buried?

Never assume that someone died in the city or county where they are buried. It's always possible that the person died in another city, county, or perhaps even another state.

And sometimes they are not even buried with their tombstone. Sometimes.

07 May 2015

August 2015 Allen County Library Research Trip

Those with an interest in a group trip in August of 2015 to the Allen County Public Library may wish to check out our announcement. Join me in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, for three days of research.

Don't Err When There is an Heir in the Air

In the United States, heirs are usually defined by state statute. The following scenario is usually true, but readers are referred to contemporary effective state statute for specific problems.

If Henry dies with three living children, Abraham, Barbara, and Charlotte, then they are his heirs. However, if Abraham had died before Henry and if Abraham had children of his own (Yolanda and Zebulon), then Henry's daughters Barbara and Charlotte and Henry's grandchildren Yolanda and Zebulon would be Henry's heirs.

Barbara and Charlotte's children are not heirs of Henry at this point in time as Barbara and Charlotte are still living.

Let's say that Henry only had one sibling, George, who never married and never had children.

George dies the day after Henry. Barbara, Charlotte, Yolanda, and Zebulon are Henry's George's heirs as well. And they are not George's children.

Heirs do not have to be children. They could be nephews, nieces, cousins, parents, etc.

Of course, Henry or George could write a will leaving their property to someone else entirely. That person would be their beneficiary or legatee--not their heir. Heirs can be disinherited, but they are usually referred to as heirs or heirs-at-law.

Don't assume heirs are children or descendants. What heirs are depends upon the family structure.

06 May 2015

Greeting Cards as Clues

When my parents were married in 1967, they received a congratulatory card from Ola Howes. The name did not ring a bell to me and I concluded it was a former neighbor or a fellow teacher of my mother.

Upon asking Mom who Ola Howes was, I was told that "I don't know."

Years later in my research, I discovered that my paternal great-grandfather had a first cousin Ola (Baker) Howes (their mothers were half-sisters). She had apparently seen my parents' announcement in the paper and sent a card.

Are there genealogical clues hiding in old greeting cards?

05 May 2015

Your Ancestor May Have Been Unaware...

Your ancestor may have had no idea of the "right" way to spell his last name. Correct spellings are a somewhat recent affectation for a variety of modern reasons. Even your literate ancestor may have been inconsistent in spelling his name--if the name "sounded" like his name it was his.

As a relative of mine once said (paraphrasing) "If doesn't matter if my wife calls me Janssen or Johnson. When it's time for supper ,I'll come in to eat no matter which name she uses."

04 May 2015

Did the Cousins Change the Spelling?

For whatever reason, one branch of your family may choose to change the spelling of their name. Sometimes changes were done to hide ethnic background, to distinguish from connections with "unsavory" family members, or simply to avoid confusion.

One of my families immigrated to the United States in the 1850s and eventually used three different spellings in different branches of the family: Trautvetter, Troutvetter, and Troutfetter.

03 May 2015

Do Communion Records Hold Clues for You?

Researchers often utilize records of baptisms, marriages, and funerals when accessing church records. Some churches may keep records of which members took communion. Appearing on that list can tell you dates when a person was alive and attending church-even if sporadically.

Your relative may even appear on a list of sick individuals who received communion, giving you another clue as well.

02 May 2015

An Associate List

When interviewing a relative, consider asking them for names of people they remember and how they knew those people--neighbors, relatives, coworkers, people from church, etc.

Asking a person who they remember from work may help to jog their memory about other things and keeping a list (or a chart) of people your relative knew and "how they knew them" may come in handy later.

When interviewing, don't be too concerned about precisely how two people are related if the interviewee can't remember. You don't want to frustrate them and armed with a name you may be able to determine the relationship later.

01 May 2015

Did Any Relative Apply for a Passport?

American passports in the early twentieth century provide significant genealogical detail, including in many cases information about the father of the applicant. Did your relative of interest have a sibling, aunt/uncle, or first cousin who applied for a passport? If so, there could be valuable clues hiding in their passport application.

30 April 2015

There's More than War of 1812 Pensions

Fold3.com has added to their War of 1812 pension files--which can be searched for free on their site and which include images. But many servicemen did not live long enough to qualify for a War of 1812 pension. Researchers should also check if the servicemen have a completed bounty land claim application at the BLM site (by searching for warrants that were issued in the serviceman's name).

The BLM site does not contain images of the application--only the patent. The National Archives holds copies of the applications.

28 April 2015

Why Can't It Be Found?

Many troubleshooting approaches to database usage focuses on the spelling of the relative's name and other details about the relative in the database.

Another approach is to look at the database itself--browse the images if possible. Does the database actually include the time period you need? Do certain dates or records appear to be missing? Does the "Frequently Asked Questions" page or "More About" page discuss how complete the records used to create the database actually are?  Is the database incomplete or "in progress." These are all reasons why the person of interest may not be located in the database no matter how many ways you spell the name.

Are you using search parameters correctly? Do you know how to use wildcard operators for the site?

Do You Know One Pitfall?

Every database, index, finding aid, etc. has one "pitfall." There may be a small portion of records that are missing. There may be a location whose name is spelled wrong in the database. The search screen may not work quite like other search screens you use. Every name listed on every record may not be in the index.

Being aware of pitfalls does not mean you are focusing on the negative. It means you are aware of the limitations of the finding aid.

And that makes you better able to use it appropriately.

26 April 2015

Consider the Travel

A relative died in Illinois in February of 1888 and a newspaper account indicated that relatives from out of town attended the funeral a few days later. My search for those relatives started in relatively close proximity to where the relative died and was buried. After all, in February of 1888, those relatives from out of town probably didn't travel all that far if they were able to travel relatively easily to the funeral.

25 April 2015

What Does It Index?

When using any "index" or finding aid, determine exactly what it indexes and what it does not. Ancestry.com recently released an index of records of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The index includes records of vital events. The actual digital images for some churches include confirmation records, communion records, family records and more.

Only using the index in this case is limiting.

24 April 2015

If You Have...

We'll be starting my Mother's funeral as this blog post runs live. The timing is intentional. We all have relatives of whom we neglected to ask questions or otherwise probe for family genealogical information. 

If you have relatives who have pictures you've not identified, try and identify them now.
If you have relatives who have pictures or other ephemera you've not digitized, do that now. 
If you have relatives to whom you've not talked about the past, do that now.
If you have relatives who would consent to DNA testing, do that now.

That should be enough of a laundry list and probably is actually more than one tip. 

23 April 2015

Recorded Late?

Documents are not necessarily recorded immediately after they are created. Deeds may be recorded decades after they were signed when it was realized they had not been recorded. Births may be filed in a series of "delayed" records. Wills are admitted to probate after the testator dies, not after the will is signed.

From Our Sponsor: GenealogyBank Offer

Special Offer Ends on 30 April!
Genealogy Tip of the Day is proudly sponsored by GenealogyBank. Explore what newspapers they have here. Or explore their obituary collection here!

22 April 2015

Recorded Where it Happened

Vital records are recorded in the location where the event took place, not where the person was living. If the nearest hospital was in an adjacent county or state, that's where the birth will be recorded. If a parent was visiting a child out of state and passed away while travelling, that location is where the death certificate will be recorded. 

If you can't find a certificate for an even where the person was living at the time, consider that the event might have taken place elsewhere-at a hospital, nursing home, care facility, etc. 

21 April 2015

Have You Tapped the Nursing Home

When my Mom was in the nursing home, my father met a 93-year old man whose memory was excellent. He knew details about just about everyone in the southern part of the county where I grew up.

If you can't find relatives to tell you stories or provide you with some information on your relatives, have you considered other older individuals--former neighbors, etc. who may know something that could help you?

Are Your Assumptions Coincidences?

I know two brothers who will buried next to each other--with their wives on the "outside." One may be tempted to conclude that the brothers purchased their cemetery plots the same day, but they did not. Be careful not to infer information that is not stated in the records. Adjacent burials mean that the burials are adjacent. The brothers could have purchased their plots the same day or one different ones.

The dates in this example aren't really key to any research conclusions, but sometimes we assume facts that are not in evidence. And sometimes assuming those facts hinders further research efforts--in addition to being plain wrong.

20 April 2015

Do You Compare It?

In looking at my relative's 1924 funeral entry from the church register, I noticed that there was no funeral text listed. That was strange because every other funeral on the page had a funeral text listed--and the page before did as well. The only exception was the funeral of an infant.

Whether or not the absence is significant is another matter entirely.

Do you compare entries from original records to other entries to try and determine if anything is unusual about the record which you are using?

If you don't compare you entry to others, you have no way of knowing what's unusual and what is not.

And that's a clue.

19 April 2015

Just Because You Think It's Trivia Does Not Mean It Is

Recently I requested a translation of a funeral entry for a relative. I really wanted the cause of death part translated and included the "occupation" part only to provide additional handwriting as a sample.

Turns out the "occupation" portion of the entry contained genealogically relevant information about the relative's daughters and their residence at the time of the father's death.

All from a part of the entry that I thought would not provide me with any information.

We'll Be Back

I have some other obligations at the moment, so I've not been as interactive with Tip of the Day as I usually am. Tips of the day are still going out because they are prescheduled and queued up. Comments are approved, but I'm not posting followup comments myself.

We'll be back.

18 April 2015

Event Date Versus Record Date

When using record copies of documents, make certain to distinguish between the date the document was drawn up and the date it was filed and recorded. The dates are usually different. The person signing the document would have been alive on the date it was signed but not necessarily on the date is was recorded.

17 April 2015

Quit Claim Deeds

A quit claim deed is one where the grantor is giving up their claim to a specific piece of property. The grantor may not have clear title and that doesn't matter as a quit claim deed is technically only transferring the grantor's claim to the grantee.

The grantor signs the deed and the grantee is the person to whom the claim is assigned.

16 April 2015

How Easy Is It to Twist Them Up?

I have a work colleague whose last name is McNeil. My mother has a good friend whose last name is Macdonald. Today several times I referred to my work colleague by using the last name Macdonald until someone asked me to whom I was referring.

Is it possible that an informant on a record simply gave a similar sounding name or mixed up two names from the same language or ethnic group?

15 April 2015

Are You Only Using Indexed Records?

Indexes and finding aids to records are great, but there are still many records of genealogical value that are unindexed and have to be searched manually. Some of these records available in digital format and others are not. If you're only using records that are already indexed, you are probably missing out on a great deal of information.

14 April 2015

Who Is Grandma?

When writing up any family history information (or identifying people on a photograph), avoid use of nouns like "Grandma," "Grandpa," and other nameless references that could refer to more than one person. If Grandma's name was Ida (Trautvetter) Neill, then use Ida (Trautvetter) Neill--Grandma Neill may make sense to you , but will it make sense to someone in 100 years?

13 April 2015



This Low-German greeting was used by my Ostfriesen ancestors to mean "Hello." When was the last time you learned a word from your ancestor's native language? And if you don't have any foreign language speaking forebears, have you learned any of their slang or colloquialisms?

Even if it doesn't directly help your research, it may help you to connect with them on a different level.

From Our Sponsor: GenealogyBank Offer

Special Offer Ends on 30 April!
Genealogy Tip of the Day is proudly sponsored by GenealogyBank. Explore what newspapers they have here. Or explore their obituary collection here!

12 April 2015

Keep Your Time Lines Relative

Making an ancestral chronology or timeline is a good way to organize what you know about your ancestor and his or her life.

But try and keep the historical events included relevant to your ancestor's life instead of giving into temptation and adding every event you can think of. My 1865-era German immigrant to the United States, never lived west of the Mississippi River and died in 1912. I don't need the San Francisco Earthquake in his chronology. It's not really relevant to his life.

Adding too much to a chronology that's not related to your ancestor makes it more difficult to use the chronology as an analytical tool.

11 April 2015

Before You Visit That Courthouse

Before you leave for a remote courthouse or research facility, determine their hours, copy policies, digital camera policy, etc. Better to know before you leave than after you get there.

10 April 2015

Is It Time to Quit?

There comes a time when continuing to search for a specific document may not be in your best interest--sometimes one has to admit that a record may never be found. It even happens to me.

09 April 2015

Turn Off the Internet

When trying to problem-solve and work through a tough genealogical problem, consider brainstorming ideas while offline.

Yes...with no internet access.

Sometimes it can be tempting to immediately pursue an idea that we don't allow time to consider all options and possibilities. Consider spending a portion of your "genealogy time" offline--even if you use the computer for many genealogical tasks. You may find that it helps your focus.

Did You Get the Front and the Back?

When you look at a record or document, do you always look at the back for additional notations or comments? Some records are blank on the back--other times those scribbles have meaning. The difficulty can be in determining who wrote them and why.

08 April 2015

Do You Have the Legal?

If your ancestor owned real property, do you have the legal description of that piece of property? In states where property is described in metes and bounds, the description can mention neighbors or adjacent physical features. In states where property is described using base lines and meridians (and townships and sections) the legal description can help in determining where the property is located and in using some indexes.

07 April 2015

Do You Look to See What Precipitated That Pension Filing?

Every document is created in response to something and pension records are no different. If a widow "suddenly" applies for a widow's military pension, is it because:

  • her husband just died?
  • there was a change in the law?
  • her financial status changed?
All of these events could have created records, especially the first one. In the second case, reading the act under which she applied may give details about her husband's military service, length of their marriage, etc. And in third situation may be referenced in the widow's testimony.

At any rate, try and determine why the widow applied when she did. There may be a genealogical story behind that reason.

06 April 2015

More Detail Than Tip of the Day?

Genealogy Tip of the Day readers often email me privately or post comments in response to a tip of the day--asking for either additional suggestions or clarification. If the response is short, it's often used for a later tip. If the response is necessarily a little more detailed, it usually appears on my Rootdig blog as a post.

We try and keep the tips relatively short because that's what people tend to expect here and I want to keep the blog in that style of writing and format. If you'd like to see the longer posts, you can visit the Rootdig blog. Sometimes I'll link to those posts from here, but many times I forget to do it.

It's the Sound Not the Spelling

The chance that your ancestor's last name is spelled consistently throughout his entire life is slim. The sooner this fact is acknowledged, the better. 

What the genealogist should generally look for are spellings that "sound the same" as the intended last name. 

It's important to get beyond "this can't be my person because the name is not spelled right." Sometimes there is no "right" way to spell a name, especially if your ancestor was unable to read. Even literate ancestors had their names spelled in a variety of ways. And on top of spelling variations are transcription errors and handwriting difficulties.

So I'm not too concerned if Peter Bieger is:
  • Peter Biegers
  • Peter Berger
  • Peter Beger
  • Peter Biegert
As those are reasonable variations. Peter Haase is not.

05 April 2015

Look at All Levels

For the location where your ancestor lived, have you looked for records at all governmental jurisdictional levels, including town/village, township, county, state, and nation? If your ancestors were members of a church, there may be records at the village or parish level and sometimes duplicate copies of church records were kept in a larger administrative office--sometimes.

Only focusing on one level may cause you to overlook something.

04 April 2015

Online Trees Are Clues--Clues--Not Gospel

I will be honest. When I'm stuck on a person or family and am seeming to make no headway, I will look and see if their name appears in any of the online trees on the various sites. Submitted trees are only as accurate as the compiler, the information they used, and their research methodology. Some compilers are careful about their research and others are not.

However, when using these trees, I:

  • never copy the information into my tree-ever;
  • search the tree for sources (besides other trees);
  • use the dates/places/relationships given to suggest sources that might confirm that information;
  • remember the conclusions could be invalid and only spend so much time trying to confirm them;
  • try and contact the submitter;
  • never copy the information into my tree-ever (that's worth including twice).
Compiled trees can be inaccurate, just like published books. I continue to use books carefully and treat the trees the same way.

My Event and Announcement List

I am moving blog summary updates, webinar announcements, and similar content to a separate email list at Constant Contact. There is no charge to be on the list and it is completely separate from this blog. To be added to the announcement list, visit our sign in page here.

03 April 2015

Talk to the Living Now

Resources are fragile. But no genealogical resource is more fragile than the human mind. Ask those questions now before it is too late. The courthouse, cemetery, library, and website will be there tomorrow. Aunt Martha might not.

02 April 2015

Please Copy

It is not unusual in pre-1900 newspaper articles to see the phrase "please copy" at the end of the article along with a name of a newspaper or city. That was a notation that the story would hold some interest for the readers of that paper as well.

That phrase "please copy Warsaw Signal" could be a clue the person mentioned in the article would be known to readers of that paper.

And that could be a clue.

01 April 2015

Cast a Wide Net For Pictures

Are you only concentrating on family members when trying to identify who is pictured in photographs? Depending on the age of the photo, there may be "non-relatives" still living who may be able to tell you who is in the picture.

15% Webinar Discount

From now until 9:00 a.m. central time 2 April, we're offering a 15% discount on any sized purchase of webinars from our list of over twenty presentations.

Visit our list of presentations on our site.

Use coupon aprilfool (all one word) at checkout to get your discount.

That's it!


31 March 2015

I'm Primarily Looking for Primary Information

Genealogy terminology can be frustrating for beginning and experienced family researchers. However a certain amount of understanding is helpful so that one can understand what others mean and because that understanding can make your research stronger.

Primary information is one of those terms. "Information" isn't often defined in the genealogical literature and we'll save a discussion of that for another day on the Rootdig blog. However, primary information is information obtained from someone who had first hand knowledge of the information they are conveying. Ideally, they are sharing that information while their memory is accurate. Any other information is said to be secondary.

Whether a given piece of primary information is correct is another story. 

30 March 2015

Granddad Is Not in that Basketball Team Picture

For years, I had assumed that my grandfather was one of the basketball players in this picture of the 1930-1931 Basco, Illinois, team. My mother and I weren't certain which one he was, but thought that because he had it, he must have been in it.

It turns out he was not in the picture, but just happened to have been given a copy of it by someone else. When the individuals in the picture were identified, he was not one of them.

Which explains why we couldn't figure out who he was in the picture.

What are you assuming?

1,000 Documents Do Not Mean Proof!

Just because you see a "fact" written in 1,000 places does not mean that it is true. Genealogical analysis can't be covered in a short tip and we're not going to try, but remember:

  • Different records that say the same thing may have had the same original "source" if Grandma Barbara was the one who always gave the information. Just because she repeated it over and over does not make it true.
  • 1,000 online trees that agree does not mean they are correct. It just means that they probably have the same original "source," right or wrong.
Whether a written reference to a "fact" is "wrong or right," depends upon our perceived reliability of the record and the informant.

Not how many times it's been repeated.

29 March 2015

Newspaper and Ancestry.com Census Searching Presentations

We've released digital copies of my newspaper and Ancestry.com census searching webinars. For more information and to grow your research skills today, visit our page.

Did They Really Move?

If your American ancestor disappears in the census before 1850, consider the possibility that the county borders changed. It is also possible that the ancestor never moved but is hiding as a "tick mark" in the household of their child.

28 March 2015

We Don't Want People Knowing That

Obituaries and family members can easily hide a key detail in a person's life. According to family members, my great-grandfather died at home. His obituary in the paper indicated he died at home. He did not. After suffering from a series of strokes, the family could no longer take care of him and he was put in a state hospital several counties away where he died a few weeks later. They cared for him at home for years, but were no longer able to towards the end of his life.

That's why it took me forever to locate his death certificate--I was looking in the wrong place.

27 March 2015

Vetting the Venter...

Do you know what is meant if you encounter the word "venter?" That's the word used in this 1824 will from Tennessee. In this case the word is referring to a wife or mother as the "source of offspring." The intent here is to make it clear which children are to receive this specific inheritance.

It's not a mistaken reference to a vintner. That's something else entirely.

Genealogy Webinars

I have released genealogy webinars on a wide variety of topics. Presentations are clear, down-to-earth, and practical and easy on the wallet--and they help keep Genealogy Tip of the Day free. You can see a topic list here. Thanks to those who have ordered one of our presentations and thanks to everyone for their continued support of Genealogy Tip of the Day.  It is appreciated!

26 March 2015

Is the Maiden Name the Same as the Married Name?

Is it possible that your female relative married someone with the same last name as her maiden name? If so, she may never have actually "changed" her last name upon marriage.

25 March 2015

Who Took My Ancestor's Warrant?

Augusta Newman received a warrant for military service in the War of 1812.

Yet another man "gets his land." Why?

The reason is that Augusta Newman assigned his warrant over to that man--Thomas J. Stone. Stone likely paid Newman for the warrant.

It was sometimes easier for veterans to simply sell their warrant than to move into new federal lands and "start over."

The image with this post is from the Bureau of Land management. The surrendered warrant (which has Augusta's signature on the back where he assigns it to Stone) is at the National Archives.

24 March 2015

What Was "Good Enough?"

When analyzing the accuracy of any piece of information in a record, ask yourself what the consequences were for providing incorrect information. It's one thing to provide a wrong place of birth for the parent of someone who just died. It's another matter entirely to lie when giving court testimony (but it happens).

And is it possible that the clerk told the informant to "guess" when providing a non-essential piece of information?

23 March 2015

Mapping it out in Pencil

Sometimes it is simply faster to mark up a map with what you know--especially when people of the same name are moving around and appearing in a variety of records.

Failing to acknowledge geography can cause problems.

And sometimes it is simply faster to notate in pencil as you are thinking. There will always be time later to make a neat copy if necessary.

Sometimes making a neat copy slows me down and I lose my train of thought.

I always have blank copies of maps on paper so I can start taking notes "geographically" when necessary.

22 March 2015

Archive.org, WorldCat, Newspapers, and Census Searching Webinars

I am excited to offer four new webinars this week (25 and 27 March):

  • Archive.org--do you know how much free genealogy material is there?
  • Worldcat--search thousands of library card catalogs at once
  • Census Searching at Ancestry.com
  • Newspaper Research

Before Visiting Cemeteries on Private Property

Smaller rural cemeteries present a variety of research challenges, particularly in terms of access. Not all of these small cemeteries are publicly accessible--some may be located on private property. Access will require the permission of the landowner and that person should be contacted some time before any planned visit.  Local historical or genealogical societies may also have copies of earlier transcriptions which may have been done when stones were more legible and may be able to help determine the current owner of the property on which the cemetery is located.

21 March 2015

Other Blog Update List

Periodically I send out email updates about genealogical events, summaries of popular blog posts, announcements, webinars, and other items--separate from the postings to this blog and with email addresses kept in a separate list and not sold, shared, traded, etc.-just like the emails on this blog.

If you'd like to receive these updates--subscribe via this link. You can easily unsubscribe to this update and announcement email without giving up your subscription to this blog. That's why the emails are kept on a separate list.

Using this separate list allows us to focus this list on it's genealogical content. If you want to receive the announcements, subscribe. If you want to just keep getting the posts to this blog, do nothing.


Pittsburg, PA is Plattsburgh, NY

Locations in records can easily be off more than one might expect. A relative born near Plattsburgh, New York is listed on a passenger manifest as being born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

It's easy to see how Pittsburgh and Plattsburgh could be confused if the writing is messy. And, if the clerk is in a hurry he may have paid no attention to the "NY" and the "PA."