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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


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My Blogs

I currently maintain the following genealogy blogs:

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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.

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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.