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28 February 2015

What Obituaries Leave Out

Family written obituaries provided to newspapers can leave out as much as they include. Previous spouses may not be included, children can be left out, which spouse was the parent of which surviving children may not be clear, individuals listed as children may not be biological children. One relative of mine had an obituary that did not list his three children by a first marriage  and only listed three of his four living children with his second wife.

And that survivor, Fluffy--it may be a cat even if it is not stated as such.

27 February 2015

Spelling Irregularities are a Necessary Evil

Variations in how your ancestor's name was spelled can be endlessly frustrating. However, it's worth remembering that a variation of how your ancestor's name appears in an index can arise from a variety of situations:

  • Your ancestor did not know how to spell his name
  • Your ancestor could not read
  • Your ancestor did not speak clearly
  • Your ancestor had an accent with which the writer of his name was unfamiliar
  • The clerk didn't care
  • The clerk had bad writing
  • The transcriber could not read the name
  • The transcriber did not care
  • The transcriber made a typographical error
  • The document has faded over time and is difficult to read
  • Or something else
Keep in mind that one of more of these could explain why James Rampley ends up indexed as Jarvis Pample.

26 February 2015

A Lost Mockingbird

Shopkeepers or businessmen were not the only people who appeared in the classified ad section of a newspaper.

John Tucking lost his mockingbird in 1866 and advertised for its return in the Daily Illinois State Journal.

Don't gloss over those search results from the classifieds. They may contain a little plumage you can add to your ancestor.


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Do Statewide Reports Mention Your Ancestor?

Is your relative mentioned in a statewide report of any kind? This 1940 reference comes from the Proceedings of the Teacher College Board of the State of Illinois... and mentions the 1940 degree graduates, including my great aunt.

Graduates of state-sponsored schools may be mentioned in reports of this type. State schools for the deaf, blind, etc. also may have submitted reports.

Items such as these are increasingly being put online on sites such as Google Books, Archive.org, etc.

Genealogical Seminar in Birmingham, Alabama-28 March 2015

I will be the speaker at the Alabama Genealogical Society's Spring Seminar on Saturday, March 28 at Samford University in Birmingham. Topics will include 'Tried and Tested Tidbits', 'Researching the Entire Family', 'Organizing Online Research', and 'I Found It – Now What?'. Registration flyer is posted the Society's website at http://algensoc.org/main/seminars.html

Tip of the Day fans are welcome to attend!

25 February 2015

Was the Pulley on the Fritz When Fritz Used It?

Among the items that newspapers may include are accounts of accidents or injuries.

An accident could have been significant for your family. If the breadwinner of the household was seriously or permanently injured, it could have put the family's life in disarray and could have been the cause of unavoidable family separation.

Fritz in the illustration was a teenager and fortunately recovered as he's the great-grandfather of this writer.

Our Sponsor's February Offer!

Genealogy Tip of the Day is sponsored by GenealogyBank. Their February offer includes a "Getting Started" book and the annual rate is currently $4.67 a month. Give it a try!

Were Those UFO Babies StepChildren?

For twenty years, it seemed as if my ancestor Ira Sargent was dropped off by a UFO in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1880.

Turns out he wasn't.

He was in the 1850 and 1860 United States Census listed under the last name of his step-father--whom his mother had married in 1849. Until I discovered the last name of the step-father, I was unable to find Ira.

Is it possible that your UFO ancestor wasn't dropped off by aliens but was instead listed in records as a child under his (or her) stepfather's last name? And that the first time they used their "birth name" in a record was when they married?

24 February 2015

Did Your Relative Take a Teacher Test?

If your relative took a state examination to receive a teaching certificate, there's a chance that it was mentioned in a local newspaper. Have you looked?

This newspaper item from 1918 mentions my aunt, Luella Trautvetter. She would have been 17 at the time she took the test.

Now I've got to look and see if she passed--this newspaper reference only indicated those who took the exam in March of 1918 in Adams County, Illinois.

FamilySearch Webinar Released

I've released a new recording of my popular FamilySearch Tips and Tricks webinar--details are here.

23 February 2015

Married Daughter Lurking A Few Households Away?

If you've got a daughter for an ancestral couple that you can't find and you suspect that she lived to adulthood and married, look closely at the neighboring families in the census.

That married daughter could be "hiding" as the wife a few households away from her parents. Living under her husband's last name it could be that the "missing" daughter is closer than you think.

22 February 2015

Genealogy Proof and Female Webinars Released

We've released downloads of updated versions of my webinars on Genealogy Proof for the Non-Professional and Female Ancestors. Our presentation style is informative, but laid back and easy to follow--and our prices are very reasonable.

Did Widowed Aunts Make Pension Claims?

Researching the "entire family" can get expensive, particularly if a family is relatively large. However, do you have any female siblings of an ancestor who were military widows and who applied for a pension benefit based upon their husband's service?

While the information about the husband may not always be directly related to your research on the wife's family, the paperwork the widow filed may mention her date and place of marriage and even include testimony from those who knew her before her marriage or who were at her marriage. Frequently these people are biological relatives of the wife. And those are people in whom you are interested. 

It's even possible that your ancestor provided a statement in his or her sister's widow's pension application.

So look at those aunts of your ancestor--did any of them apply for a widow's pension?

21 February 2015

Remember the Purpose

When reading and analyzing affidavits made in pension applications, remember that the application is going to make the pensioner look as "bad off" as possible. While there may not be outright lies, it is possible that their situation was slightly exaggerated in order to increase the chance their application was approved.

20 February 2015

What Have You Preserved Lately?

We've mentioned this before...

What was the last item you preserved? Is there something you have that is the only copy known to exist, perhaps a picture or family document?

Have you created a digital copy of that item to share?

If not, it's at risk if something happens to your copy.

19 February 2015

The "Three Source Rule"

There is no "three source" rule in genealogy. Just because three sources agree does not mean that they are necessarily correct. They could actually have the same informant giving the same information at different points in time for different records.

The key is to try and obtain the most reliable accurate sources you can and augment that with additional sources and information--ideally with other informants providing the information.

Two independent sources that agree can easily be correct. But there's always the chance that a new source provides conflicting information.

There are eight or more sources that indicate my great-great-grandmother's maiden name was Haase.

Problem is that those sources are all incorrect. Contemporary sources to her birth provide her actual maiden name of Bieger.

18 February 2015

An Ancestral Activity: When Could They Vote?

If your genealogy work has you stymied, but you want to so "something," consider creating a chart of this type---when each of your ancestors could vote.

At the very least you'll learn some history.

It's always possible you may break down a brick wall in the process.

Note: the voting chart is here for those who can't see links in their email:

Webinars: FamilySearch, Females and Genealogical Proof

I'm offering webinars later this week on FamilySearch, female ancestors, and genealogical proof. Details are here.

Some Civil War Compiled Military Service Records are on Fold3.com

A reader reminded me that some compiled military service records from the US Civil War are available on Fold3.com--which can be accessed at no charge at a FamilySearch branch library. Those with an interest in these materials may wish to view our longer posting about this on Rootdig.

17 February 2015

A Sample Civil War Compiled Service Record

If you've never seen a complete compiled military service record from the Civil War, I've posted a complete one on my Rootdig blog.

Compiled military service records from the Civil War era in the United States can be obtained from the National Archives. They won't usually provide "smoking genealogy guns," but can provide some insight into your ancestor's military career.

16 February 2015

Newspaper Search Associates?

If a record on an ancestor turns up a "new" associate, consider searching for that name in contemporary newspapers. The associate may not appear in the census with an occupation or only appear in census records that list heads of households without occupations. Newspaper accounts--even advertisements--may give you some insight into that acquaintance's occupation. 

15 February 2015

Cross Off One Assumption

If you're stuck on a problem person, make a list of all the assumptions you have made about that person. Don't forget things like where you think they were born, married, and died; what types of job they had; how many times they were married; their educational level; their socioeconomic status; how many places they lived; when they moved; etc.

Then cross one of those assumptions off.

How would your research change if that assumption were not true?

Our Other 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.


Do You Know the Typicals?

For every location in which you are actively researching, do you know when civil vital records start?Do you know what information is likely contained in those records during various time periods? Do you know how to locate court, land, probate, and other local records during the period of interest? Do you know when directories, county histories, and local histories were published? And if you are aware of the typical records and what they typically contain do you always look outside the box for sources that are easy to overlook or difficult to research or understand.

Don't limit yourself to the typical. There may be more.

14 February 2015

Clues From Probate Inventories

Your ancestor's estate inventory can tell you more than simply how much his cow was worth. You can get occupational clues from the items he owned as his death, knowledge of whether he owned real property or not, and references to other items that could be a springboard to further research. I've found references to land warrants and out of state property that were significant pieces of infomation.

Don't look at your ancestor's inventory as just a list of items. Look at it as a list of clues.


Thanks to all who emailed me in response to yesterday's "test post." I was unable to respond to all who wrote, but your responses are greatly appreciated--please know that. Writing Genealogy Tip of the Day is typically done in isolation and it was nice to know many of you look forward to receiving the tips every morning--which is when they go out if you live in the United States.

If you'd like more indepth discussion of topics, research ideas, etc. you can subscribe to my Rootdig blog. There I discuss a variety of personal research topics--lately we've been featuring compiled military service records from the United States Civil War. Other topics are coming. We don't post any sort of press releases on that blog and all content is generated by me and I rarely write in response to memes, contests, news items, etc. It's about the research.

Genealogy Tip of the Day is sponsored by GenealogyBank,  and we greatly appreciate their support. If you've been thinking of subscribing to GenealogyBank, consider doing so through our link. Those clicks help keep Genealogy Tip of the Day coming to you.

And if you know anyone who might be interested in Genealogy Tip of the Day, feel free to forward them to our blog at http://genealogytipoftheday.blogspot.com.

Writing Genealogy Tip of the Day is great fun. Readers keep me on my toes and there's always something all of us can learn to help our research. One very gracious reader brings typos to my attention on a regular basis--and it turns out he's a very distant cousin as well.

Happy Researching!

13 February 2015

When Was the Last Update?

Have you looked recently at the websites for the state or provincial archives in the area where you are researching? Have you looked recently at local genealogical and historical websites as well? Some of these sites release new databases with no fanfare or press releases. They simply add the database and update the website. Sometimes this is because of a lack of money or staff to create promotional materials and sometimes it is to keep the site from being overwhelmed with traffic.

When was the last time you checked out what was "new?" You may be surprised.

12 February 2015

A Test Post-Did You Get This?

I really hate to post an entry of this type, but I'm not certain if the emails with the tips are going out or not. If you see this tip in your email, please let me know at michael.john.neill@gmail.com.

If you see it in your blog reader or some sort, I don't need to know that. It's the emails that I'm trying to get a handle on.


And we'll work really hard not to send out any more test messages. 

Chart Those Variants and Soundex Codes

Make a chart with all your variant spellings for a surname and their corresponding Soundex codes. You don't need the Soundex code to search, but the chart can be sorted by Soundex when preforming Soundex based searches so that you will know which searches locate what names so that you don't needlessly perform the same search.

After all, Trantvetter and Trontvetter have the same Soundex code. A Soundex search for Trantvetter will find Trontvetter.

11 February 2015

Newspaper Accounts After Death

Newspapers occasionally published columns of old news headlines from 10, 20, or 50 years into the past.

When searching newspapers be open to the possibility that your ancestor may be mentioned in a newspaper article decades after his death.

The obituary may not be the last time your ancestor was mentioned in a newspaper.

10 February 2015

The Identity of the Identifier

Don't forget to identify (if possible) the person who identified the photos by trying to determine whose writing it is.

It's always good to know (if you can) the identifier of the people in the photos.

Fortunately I know who wrote on the back of this picture. Sometimes we can't determine that.

09 February 2015

Legibility of Papers Versus Record Books

Some of the "loose papers" packets of probate records were recorded in record books, particularly the will, bonds, and inventories. Not all United States jurisdictions have record books and loose papers, but make certain you've checked for them. The actual will or bond may be difficult to read and the transcription in the record book may be more legible.

Or vice versa.

The handwriting in one may also be easier to read than in the other.

Webinars: 18th Century US Probates and FamilySearch Tips and Tricks

Rescheduled Webinars

I've finally gotten time to re-present two of my webinars from November. Join us!

Reading and Interpreting 18th Century Probate Records (Thursday 12 February 2015 at 8 pm. central time)-This webinar will discuss reading, interpreting and analyzing 18th century probate records through several specific examples from Massachusetts and Virginia. Transcription techniques will also be included. Complete handout will be sent as a PDF file to all registered attendees. Aimed at advanced beginners and intermediate level researchers. If you registered for this presentation in November and were not able to attend live, email Michael for a complimentary link to attend.

Registrations ($6) for the reading and interpreting 18th century probate records can be processed here. Seating is limited.

Tips and Tricks for FamilySearch  (Wednesday 19 February 2015 at 8: pm. central time)-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. If you registered for this presentation in November and were not able to attend live, email Michael for a complimentary link to attend.

Registrations ($6) for the Tips and Tricks for FamilySearch can be processed here. Seating is limited.

08 February 2015

Not Everyone Communicates Electronically

Several years ago, I posted a picture of my great-aunt with her high school graduating class of 1929. A week ago, another person who has the same picture wrote an actual letter (on paper!) including the names of all the graduates taken from the back of a picture she had. She indicated that she doesn't really do email and doesn't get on the internet that often.

In your genealogical research, don't ignore those people who aren't "really online." Sometimes they have the best, most elusive, information of all.

07 February 2015

Consent to Marry?

If one of your relatives was under the legal age to marry, see what consent documents are with their marriage license or record. The parent may have signed somewhere on the record, given verbal consent form only, or signed an actual letter granting permission.

06 February 2015

Starting Over?

If there's a family on which you are really stuck, have you considered starting over from scratch? Put way what you've already located and analyze and "start new." This would allow you to re-evaluate all your sources, your procedure, and your analysis. If nothing else, put aside any conclusions that were taken from published genealogies and "online trees." It could be that using someone else's conclusions is part of what it getting you confused.

05 February 2015

The Possibility of Two

Don't conclude that two individuals with the same or similar names are the same person--even if some of the details match. There were two Ira Sargents living in Iowa in the latter half of the 19th century. Both were born in Canada in the 1840s with a father who was born in New England and spent some time in New York.

Turns out that they were two completely different people and so distantly related that it did not matter.

Complicating the matter further is that there was another Canadian born Ira Sargent who lived a few counties into Illinois. Again---unrelated.

Open yourself up to the possibility that there were two men with very similar names and similar origins who migrated to the same place--and not just one man showing up in multiple records.

04 February 2015

Do You Need A Minister?

Sometimes knowing what church your ancestor likely attended can be determined by the name of the minister. Finding the name of the minister can be a challenge. Have you looked at marriage licenses, funeral announcements in the newspaper, baptismal records of children, and similar records that could contain the minister's name? Of course, check these records not only for your ancestor of interest, but also their siblings as well.

Having the minister's name could lead you to the church and its records.

03 February 2015

Faded Letters

Name variants occur for a variety of reasons.

This compiled military service record card for John Rampley was written as Joh Kampleys--the "K" likely was a misreading of an incomplete or faded "R."

Always keep yourself open to a wide variety of spelling variants--even ones you don't see very often.

Having researched this family for decades, this spelling is pretty rare--wrong, but rare.

02 February 2015

Our Sponsor's February Offer!

Genealogy Tip of the Day is sponsored by GenealogyBank. Their February offer includes a "Getting Started" book and the annual rate is currently $4.67 a month. Give it a try!

Should You Be Looking for Religious Guidance?

A member of the Tip of the Day group on Facebook posted about her struggle to find her Irish ancestors in the 1850 census a large New England town. A variety of search approaches was not successful. I suggested she search for the priest of her ancestor's church and perform a manual search for her relatives using the priest's residence as a starting point. It's likely the local priest lived in the same neighborhood as his parishioners.

01 February 2015

Join Michael at the Family History Library this May

There is still time to join me in Salt Lake City on my annual group research trip this May. Dates and registration information are in our blog post.

A First Marriage?

If a relative appears to have gotten married for the first time at a slightly older than normal age, look again. That first marriage might not have been the actual first marriage.