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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."

From GenealogyBank--Our Sponsor

Genealogy Tip of the Day is proudly sponsored by GenealogyBank. Explore what newspapers they have here. Or explore their obituary collection here!

20 March 2015

Check the Inventory Before You Search

Some online databases like to "tease" users with titles that indicate the database is more encompassing than it actually is. Make certain you know what a database contains before searching it. The title may indicate that the marriage records are from 1800-1920, but there may be a twenty year gap of missing records in the mid-1800s.

Of course, that will be the twenty year time span you actually need.

19 March 2015

Did They Go Back Across the Pond?

Immigrants did not always stay in their new country. Some were not happy and ended up returning to their homeland. If you can't find where your immigrant ancestor died in their "new country," consider the possibility that they went home and never returned.

Using Bureau of Land Management and Fold3.com Presentations

Using the Bureau of Land Management Site

This presentation discusses search strategies for the Bureau of Land Management website--which hosts a database of federal land patent extracts and images. It will include a brief discussion of legal land descriptions in federal land states before discussing the several ways the site can be searched and queried. The presentation will conclude with several specific examples and how the site was queried for additional information. $7 includes presentation and handout.

Navigating Fold3.com-Wednesday 

Frustrated with finding databases and people on Fold3.com? This presentation discusses search techniques for determining what Fold3.com has, what it doesn't and how to search the entire site and specific databases for individuals of interest. Download complete presentation for $7.

18 March 2015

A Chicken in Every Picture

When was the last time you went back and took a look at documents and photographs you've not really analyzed in years?

Are there clues sitting there? Clues that you never noticed because your research skills were not as developed? Clues that you didn't realize were clues because you didn't know much about the family? Clues that you didn't notice because you simply overlooked them?

The chicken is this picture wasn't crucial to my research, but it reminded me that it never hurts to take another look.

17 March 2015

Tombstone Tales

Just about anything can appear on a tombstone--not just the dates of birth and death. Some immigrants had their place of birth inscribed on their tombstone and others may have included military service information. Any information on a stone should be compared to other sources, but never assume that the "stone won't tell me anything I don't already know."

15 March 2015

Are They the Same Person?

It's hard to write a "quick tip" or set of rules for making certain that two records refer to the same person. There are many variables to consider when deciding that two people in different records are the same person. That said, here are some things to think about when trying to determine if two records actually refer to the same person:

  • are the names reasonably similar?
  • are the ages consistent?
  • is the occupation and lifestyle consistent?
  • are you not violating the laws of physics or biology?
  • are the locations reasonably consistent?
Think before you conclude that two people in different sources are the same person. Don't just assume that they are.

14 March 2015

Duplicate Record Copies?

Were duplicate copies of vital records being kept when that vital record was recorded? In some locations during some time periods, vital records may have been recorded at the local and state level. While they are supposed to be "the same thing," one may be more legible than another (especially if carbons were used), easier to access, cheaper to obtain, etc.

13 March 2015

Did Someone Come Over Later?

If you are having difficulty tracing your 18th century immigrant "back across the pond," determine if he or she had cousins, nephews, nieces, or other relatives who immigrated later. Relatives who immigrated later may have left behind better documentation of their origins across the pond.

12 March 2015

Anyone Can Forget Their Age

When analyzing an age for a relative given in a document, remember that a person can easily be "off" on their age by several years, especially if they are providing the information "off the cuff" or are not thinking clearly when providing it.

And they may never have dreamed that a century later, their descendant would analyzing that age and wondering why it's a few years "off."

11 March 2015

1925 Iowa State Census

If any relative lived in Iowa in 1925, make certain you have found them in the state census taken that year. It asked a variety of personal questions, including names of parents.

10 March 2015

Do You Work Without Maps?

When you get all "into" researching a person or family in an area that is unfamiliar to you, do you stop and take the time to find maps of the areas where the people of interest live? It is important to know county, state, and other boundaries and the relative proximity of the places where you think people live. It's even more imperative in a "new" area where the geography may be unknown to you.

Don't assume you "know" the geography "good enough" or that the states are small enough that it doesn't matter. Look at maps. Analyze locations. Determine how far apart different residences for your ancestor are.

Don't get so caught up in the search that you lose sight of the geography in the process.

09 March 2015

Pursuing the Purpose and Process

When you are using a record with which you are unfamiliar, make certain you learn something about the "purpose and process" of the record. Failing to do so, make result in you interpreting the information incorrectly. Marriage bonds, marriage banns, and warnings out are three good examples of things that sometimes are not quite understood.

And finding one obscure blog post via a Google search isn't always adequate.

Webinars 10 March-Bureau of Land Management and Brick Walls

My BLM and Brick Wall Strategies webinars are tomorrow-10 March. Still time to join us.

08 March 2015

Where Are You Dating?

An 1890 era family genealogy indicated an ancestor died after 10 April 1811. No source or reason for the date is given. Apparently one genealogist, also without giving a source, decided to use that as the death date. So now an unsourced "dead by date" has become an unsourced death date.

Indicate where you obtained material and make certain you don't indicate something says more than it does.

Or you could be correcting the error forever.

07 March 2015

Who Is the Connection?

A relative moved from central Massachusetts to central Vermont around the turn of the 18th century to a location where he had no relatives and where none of his relatives settled. When I discovered the maiden name of his wife, I realized that the family he moved with from Massachusetts to Vermont with were not his biological relatives but biological relatives of his wife.

Are you looking for the connection on the wrong side of the family?

06 March 2015

Repeated Names?

In some time periods and cultural groups, using names of deceased children for later children was not uncommon. Families could easily have three children with the same name. A Geske born in 1746 who died in 1748 could have been the first of that name. Another Geske born in 1749 who died in 1749 could have been followed by a third child with that name born in 1751.

Our Sister Site: Genealogy Search Tip of the Day

Genealogy Search Tip of the Day is different from Genealogy Tip of the Day. The Search Tip of the Day site briefly mentions websites, online databases, and online search techniques and reminders. Genealogy Tip of the Day (this site and blog) focuses on research methods, terminology, interpretation, and pitfalls but doesn't often mention websites. To get the Search Tip of the Day in your email, visit http://genealogysearchtip.blogspot.com/.

Search Tip of the Day does not always come out daily.

Exploring Our Sponsor's Offerings

Genealogy Tip of the Day is proudly sponsored by GenealogyBank. Explore what newspapers they have here. Or explore their obituary collection here!

05 March 2015

No Middle Name

In some locations and some time periods, it was not common to use middle names. Do not assume that your ancestor had a middle name. It is possible that he or she did not.

Historical USGS Maps

Historical USGS maps are available online. For those who have not seen them, a recent post on Rootdig has a sample image and a brief discussion.

The maps can be viewed here: http://historicalmaps.arcgis.com/usgs/

What Genealogy Tip of the Day Is and Is Not

For those who are new, Genealogy Tip of the Day is usually one daily genealogy research tip. To help pay the bills, we do occasionally mention our sponsor, GenealogyBank, or activities in which I am involved. That's it.

We don't post general genealogy event announcements here, don't announce products or publications, and don't distribute press releases via the Tip of the Day mailing list. There are other venues for those publications and announcements. This is not one of them.

All tips are "self-generated," usually as I'm doing actual research. For that reason, we will have similar tips from time to time and sometimes topics will seem to be mentioned in "spurts" if I'm working on a certain project. Also for that reason tips probably won't mention locations or records with which I'm not familiar (my incomplete ancestor table is here). I rarely write tips on whatever is "trending" just to get more traffic. That's just how we roll.

Suggestions are always welcome!

And, as always, thanks for your support of Genealogy Tip of the Day. It is appreciated--please let your genealogy friends know about us! Thanks.

04 March 2015

We Are Leaving Instantly!

The notice regarding the returning home of the 78th Illinois indicated that they were leaving on the 10th "instant."

That means "this month" and is sometimes abbreviated "inst."

03 March 2015

Are You Doing Unit Searches?

Searching old newspapers for your ancestor's military regiment probably won't locate references to him specifically, but you may gain some background information.

The Quincy Whig-Republican posted this item in June of 1865 that the 78th Illinois was headed back to Illinois to be paid off.

Of course muster out dates and pay dates are part of an ancestor's military record, but this reference (which was likely copied on other papers) may have been how family members knew their loved one's unit was headed home.

You can search for your ancestor's unit on GenealogyBank among other sites.

02 March 2015

Was He Mixed Up With His Brother or His Son?

Census enumerators make mistakes. In 1900 Henry/Hinrich Sartorius was enumerated as Herman Sartorius.

The census enumerator may have confused Henry with his son of the same name--or perhaps his late brother. Both men were named Herman.

Henry's middle name was Ameling, so that doesn't explain the error.

Sometimes people just get one or two things mixed up. It happens.

Situations like this are one time when a manual search of the record itself or a last name only search of the database may be necessary.

01 March 2015

Webinars: Brick Walls, BLM, Fold3, and Research Process

The week of 9 March, we're offering webinars on the following topics:

  • Using Fold3.com
  • Using the Bureau of Land Management website
  • Brick Wall Strategies for 2015
  • Is Your Strategy the Problem?
Want to join us? More details are here. 

Did the Missing "Heir?"

If there is a relative who went "poof," have you determined if at any point in time they were an heir to an estate? That relative you cannot locate after 1900 may have an interest in a 1920 estate that mentions their whereabouts.