31 December 2008
For example, Knoxville, Illinois, is in Knox County, Illinois.
But this is not always the case.
Des Moines, Iowa, is in Polk County, not in Des Moines County, Iowa.
Keokuk, Iowa, is not located in Keokuk County, Iowa.
And remember there are townships as well which may or may not add to the confusion. Hancock County, Illinois, has a Webster Cemetery and a village of Webster. Webster cemetery is not located near the village of Webster.
Provide as much detail as possible when listing locations in your genealogical database. Personally I always use the word "county" in a location. It reduces confusion.
30 December 2008
Another ancestor was John Michael Trautvetter. He went by one of several different names:
- Jahn (a German version of his first name)
- J. M.
Some nicknames are not quite as obvious. Sally was a common nickname for Sarah. If you can't find your ancestor, learn nicknames that were derived from the original name. The ancestor might simply be hiding under a nickname.
29 December 2008
- wanting to get married
- wanting to enlist in the service
- wanting to avoid the service
- trying to escape their past (parents, spouse, children, debts, etc.)
An outright lie can be difficult to research around, but people did lie about their age, place of birth, name, marital status, etc.
28 December 2008
27 December 2008
26 December 2008
25 December 2008
Take a break from that family or problem that really has you stonewalled. Work on another family for a while, putting the brick wall group aside for a week or a month. It may be that when you come back to your problem, you notice something you did not notice before. Perhaps when working on another problem, something will dawn on you regarding the original problem.
In the back of your mind the original problem is there and something totally unrelated to your research problem may cause you to have the breakthrough idea you need. Sometimes what we need most is a little "away time."
24 December 2008
23 December 2008
This is helpful even if the person was not alive in 1930. Neighbors might have been neighbors for decades and even if the person did not know the former neighbors personally they might remember hearing their name mentioned.
Anything that might help jog a memory is good.
22 December 2008
21 December 2008
Not knowing what you are searching may explain why you are not finding the information you seek.
20 December 2008
Actual complete copies may contain details that did not make the transcription or you may interpret something differently than the transcriber did. And one should never assume any transcription is complete. I assumed a book of Revolutionary War pension abstracts was complete and nearly missed a huge clue because of it.
19 December 2008
After you have exhausted all the variations on your ancestor's first and middle names, consider that they might have been enumerated with just their initials. Or perhaps their first initial and their middle name spelled out. I have seen entire townships where no one apparently had a first name and everyone was named with their initials. I have seen locations where census takers used initials for non-English names instead of trying to spell them correctly.
Maybe your ancestor was enumerated as J. Smith in the 1860 census. Now there's a real problem.
18 December 2008
If you are guessing that the parents were married near where the first child was born, that is a good start. But somewhere in your notes, indicate why you believe where they were married and that you have no proof. If research does not validate your assumption, it may be that your assumption was incorrect. And if you enter your assumption in your genealogical database as fact, it can be very difficult for that information to go back to being an assumption.
Francis Beiger was born in Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois, in 1851, the oldest child of her parents. My initial assumption was that her parents were married in Illinois. Turns out that assumption was incorrect. Peter Bieger and Barbara Siefert were married in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1850, a few months before heading west to Illinois.
My assumption was a good place to begin, but in this case it was a little far afield.
17 December 2008
I almost wrote off "Ohio" as a census taker's goof.
It wasn't quite that.
Further research located information that the parents of the ancestor had immigrated from Germany, but actually met and married in Ohio before settling in Illinois. The daughter was born in Illinois, but her parents had lived in Ohio for approximately six months after their marriage and the ancestor was their firstborn child. Perhaps this is why some accidentally thought she was born in Ohio.
Sometimes our ancestors lie, but sometimes incorrect information answers questions we have not even gotten around to asking.
16 December 2008
Most of us weren't there when the censustaker came to our ancestor's door. As a result, we just don't know who really gave the answers to specific questions. If the answers vary from census year to census year, it may be because the individual answering the questions varied from census year to census year.
15 December 2008
One good data organizational technique is to list every event in your ancestor's life from their birth through their death. Viewing the chronology gives the researcher a nice overview of an individual's life. This also makes it possible to see unaccounted time gaps and possible oversights in your research.
A chronology is also an excellent framework from which to write an ancestral biography. This is especially true for those who would like to create a biography, but don't think they are really "writers."
A chronology puts everything in sequence and sometimes can make inconsistencies a little easier to spot.
Be certain to put the source for every item in your chronology.
14 December 2008
Find out how your ancestor likely said his name--you may get variant spellings that you never thought to look for.