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09 November 2009

Search idea at Google Books

There are many ways to search for things at http://books.google.com in an attempt to locate genealogical information.
One approach is to try the names of an ancestral couple, either complete names or first and last names, using the maiden name for the wife.

For example:

Ufkes Grass
Johann Ufkes Noentje Grass


Tinsley Dunaway
Enoch Tinsley Nancy Dunaway

Might be worth a shot.

08 November 2009

View all those matches at Google Books

When viewing matches at http://books.google.com make certain to scroll down the hits and few a few pages as well. I found two different scans of a 1907 county book of biographies. One only had snippet views and the other had the complete book. Remember that it is always possible that Google has multiple scans of the same thing.

07 November 2009

Searches at Google Books

Try a search for the name of your ancestor and their spouse on Google Books http://books.google.com. You might be surprised at what you find.

06 November 2009

Search on the Land Warrants Name Fields at BLM

Don't forget when at the Bureau of Land Management site http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/PatentSearch/ to search for land warrants issued in your ancestor's name as well. Keep in mind that these warrants may have been issued as patents in state where you ancestor never lived, if he assigned them to someone else.

Don't search for warrants in the state where your ancestor lived. I just located two "new" War of 1812 ancestors who had warrants issued in states where they never lived.

And if you don't know what warrants and patents are, read the FAQ section of the BLM site.

05 November 2009

A Life Estate

At the risk of oversimplifying, a "life estate" in property (generally a widow) is the right to use the property and receive income from the property during the person's lifetime. They do not have the right to bequeath the property to someone or to sell it. Oftentimes a widow is given a "life estate" in a piece of property from her husband and in so doing, he specifies to whom it is to pass after her death.

04 November 2009

From Whom was the First Purchase Made?

If your ancestor was a landowning farmer and migrated from Point A to Point B, see from whom he purchased that first piece of property when he arrived in Point B. It might have been a relative or former associate, neighbor, etc. The owner of that property in Point B might have been looking to sell it and heard that his relative or former neighbor was thinking of moving. Worth a shot when you are stuck.

03 November 2009

Change Jurisdictions

If records at the county level have not brought about success, consider town/village level records or township or federal records.

02 November 2009

Cite As You Go

As you make copies of records, either on paper or in digital form, track the source. If you don't do it as you go, the chance you do it goes down......

01 November 2009

All Names Spelled the Same?

Are all the records you have for your ancestor showing him with his name spelled the exact same way? I have very few ancestors where their name is spelled the same way on each document or source. Chances are if your ancestor's names are spelled the same way on everything you have that you have not researched as many documents as you should have.

31 October 2009

Fill Out as You Go

Fill out as much of your research log as you can while you are preparing to do you research. Doing this will help you to prepare and a partially completed research log (with titles, etc. already filled in) will increase the chance you work on your log as you research.

30 October 2009

25% Discount on May 2010 Family History Library Research Trip

As a special to the readers of Genealogy Tip of the Day (website and newsletter), I am offering a special discount on my May 2010 research trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. The trip runs 27 May-3 June 2010. We spend one week at the Family History Library, with morning presentations by me, research assistance in the library (both consultations and "drop by" help), and help with pre-trip planning via a password-protected website. For more information on the trip, visit http://www.rootdig.com/slctrip.htmlFor a limited time (until Sunday 1 November at 10:00 p.m. central), you can register for a total of $150 (this is a $50 discount from the regular price). You must use one of these links below in order to get the discount page (Paypal processes the credit card payments, but a Paypal account is NOT necessary):

Registrants are responsible for travel to Salt Lake and accomodations while in Salt Lake. We have a discounted rate with the Salt Lake Plaza hotel--RIGHT NEXT DOOR to the Family History Libary. Very convenient for when you've forgotten something or you need a little rest.

Switch first and last names

If you can't find your relative in a database, consider switching the first and last names. These kinds of errors are not all that unusual, particularly with individuals with non-English names.

29 October 2009

Trip to Salt Lake City's Family History Library

Every May I take a group to Salt Lake City's Family History Library on a week-long research trip. We research, learn, and have a little fun in the process. Information on the trip is available at www.rootdig.com/slctrip.html. Questions can be sent to me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com.

Back Up Back Up

One question: Is all your data backed up?

or "Have you backed up all your data?" for those of you who don't like to end things with a preposition.

Either way, make sure you "git 'er done," if you haven't.

28 October 2009

Check the Middle Name

Is your ancestor listed in a record with his (or her) middle name listed as his last name?

27 October 2009

Trace the StepChildren

In an upcoming column for Casefile Clues, one of the key methods to locating certain people was to trace the stepchildren of their father. Finding them lead me to information on the people for whom I was actually looking.

Make a Chart

Is there anyway that information you are trying to analyze can be put into chart format? Think about how you could make headings and what items you should extract from each record or source to create a table.

Sometimes just organizing things in a different way makes things stand out that you didn't notice before.

26 October 2009

Spelling Names of Places Incorrectly

I may be a little bit too picky, but when reviewing a GEDCOM file if I see names of places spelled incorrectly (especially names of counties in the United States when the database is compiled by an American researcher), I get a little skeptical of the rest of the file.



Of course, the occasional typo is one thing (which can easily be avoided in most programs by the way), but if the database I find has some of these spellings:


  • Hartford County, Maryland

  • Amhurst County, Virginia

  • Schuler County, Illinois

then I am a little worried about the rest of the data. Call me persnickity, but genealogy is about details. If place names that are established and standard (as these are) are not spelled correctly, how certain can I be that names, dates, and relationships are entered in the way they should be?


I'm not talking about someone trying to read the name of a German town on a nearly illegible death certificate--that's something different altogether.


25 October 2009

Google Searches FamilySearch

Occasionally when I search on Google for an ancestor's name one of my hits is the search results page for that name on www.familysearch.org, the website of the LDS Family History Library. Very interesting.

24 October 2009

There are few absolutes in genealogy

Normally an ancestor has to be dead to have an estate settlement, has to be born to have a birth certificate, etc.

Think about what really HAS to be when you research your ancestor. He didn't have to get married to reproduce. He didn't have to name his oldest son after his father. He didn't have to get married near where his first child was born. He didn't have to have a relative witness every document wrote. There are few "have tos" in genealogy. Make certain you aren't using "have tos" to make brick walls for yourself.

23 October 2009

Does it Sound the Same?

If the name as written on a document sounds like the name you are looking for, consider it the same name.

Your real work is to make certain you have the same person. That's the problem.

Removed the formatting

For the longest time, there have been html tags surrounding posts made to Tip of the Day. Hopefully I have removed them. I guess I'll know when this post runs live.

22 October 2009

Look it Up

If there is a word in a document that you do not know the meaning of, look it up. And even if you think you know what the word means, you still might want to look it up.

Just in case. Misinterpretations can create brick walls where none existed.

21 October 2009

Land Patents at the Bureau of Land Management Site

The website with land patents from the Bureau of Land Management site is wonderful, but there are a few suggestions and warnings:

  • the site is incomplete for several western states
  • patents represent federal land records only--the local courthouse has subsequent transactions which likely contain more information
  • cash file entries contain minimal information unless there is something unusual about the transaction--the claimant died during the process, was actually filing a pre-emption claim etc.

And if you don't know your township from your section, read their FAQ first. The website is at http://www.glorecords.blm.gov

20 October 2009

Online Databases Should be Used as Clues

What you find in someone's online genealogy compilation should be used as a clue. There's one tree on Ancestry.com (with over 20,000 names) that shows my great-grandparents with a child they never had.

Some days I even wonder if it's worth my time to contact someone whose database contains more than several thousand names.

I've gotten some clues from the online trees, but do not use what you see there as anything other than a hint of a suggestion.

19 October 2009

Learn About the Records

Have you really learned about the records in that "new" area in which you are researching? Don't assume that records in one location are the same as in another. When I started my late 1700 research in Virginia in never dawned on me to ask for a marriage bond. I had never used them in the upper Midwest, so I never thought to ask for them.

Had I read a basic Virginia guidebook or research outline, I would have been aware of them. Now familiarizing myself with the basic sources in a new area is one of the first things that I do.

18 October 2009

Are You Missing the Obvious?

Is it possible that the answer is staring you right in the face? Sometimes re-analyzing a document will bring the "obvious" out of the dark. Sometimes typing it will. Sometimes reading something outloud will. Sometimes having someone else look at it will make a difference. It just depends. Sometimes we jump to the wrong conclusion and never really get that out of our heads.

17 October 2009

Civil versus church record of a marriage

Remember that if the civil record of a marriage indicates your ancestor was married by a minister, there may be a church record of the marriage as well. That record may provide additional information besides what is on the civil (government) record of the marriage.

16 October 2009

is that "p" really a double s?

In older documents, many times a double "s" would be written in a way that looked like a "p" or perhaps and "f" to the unsuspecting eye.

Consequently my DeMoss ancestors occasionally appear in records as "Demop.

15 October 2009

Casefile Clues Back Issues and Subscribing

Starting today, we are offering back issues of Casefile Clues in sets. First set will be issues 1-10 and we will continue in that fashion so that subscribers can get the ones they missed easily. Those who want set 1-10 can purchase it through https://www.paypal.com/cg...i-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=8934803 or can email me directly for information.Those who wish to subscribe to Casefile Clues can do so here.

Tomorrow we'll be back offering one tip a day--so stay tuned or become a fan on Facebook.

Need Township/Range Maps of Kansas?

If you need nice, fairly recent maps of Kansas counties with the civil and congressional townships shown (including sections), consider using these from the Kansas Department of Transportation.

http://www.ksdot.org/burtransplan/maps/HistoricCountyTWP.asp

Really neat stuff here.

14 October 2009

Sample Copies of Casefile Clues

If any tip of the day readers would like a copy of my weekly how-to newsletter, Casefile Clues, please send an email to samples@casefileclues.com and one will be sent to you as a PDF file.

Counties on BLM site

Remember when performing a land patent search on the BLM Site (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov) that the county names might have changed between the time of the patent and today.

At the time relative filed his homestead/preemption claim in 1887 his land was in Elbert County, Colorado. Today it is in Kit Carson County, which is what it was when his claim was finally approved.

Just remember that those county lines might have changed.

13 October 2009

Would a Chart or Table Help?

When transcribing data, you want to remain as true to the original as possible. However, when anlyaing data, some creavitity may come in handy.

Consider organizing census information in a chart or a table, using a spreadsheet or a table in a word processing document.

Take the twenty names before and after your ancestor in the 1800-1830 census and put all of them in a table? How many names (besides your ancestor) do you see repeated? Are these names possible clues?

12 October 2009

Get Obits of Aunts and Uncles by Marriage

I was looking for information on a lady I thought was a sister of my ancestor. I requested her obituary, hoping it would provide information on her family and her origins. It listed the names of two children, but no details of where they lived or anything. The obituary was full of nice lovey-dovey sentiments, but nothing I could use to further my research.

Her husband's obituary was a different story. It was full of information on his children (some of whom were by a different wife) and other details about him that might help me locate more information about the wife.

Don't neglect those spouses of ancestral siblings. Their records may contain just the clue you need.

11 October 2009

Look when you do not expect it

When working on my brick wall ancestor, I searched probate records. I actually never searched them at all for him because I was always told he was "dirt poor."

And there he was in the estate records two times. How can you die twice and have two estates?

Turns out for the time period in question, insanity cases were filed with the probate and estate records. It was two insanity cases I had located for him, not probate cases. If I had never looked in estate files, I never would have found out information about his insanity hearings.

10 October 2009

Name and Location at Google Books

When searching http://books.google.com try a search for your ancestor and the county where he lived.

A search for John Rucker Orange Virginia located several like references to my ancestor, including one in The Colonial Churches of St. Thomas' Parish, Orange County, Virginia. I might have eventually found the reference, but Google Books made it faster.

09 October 2009

Do You Have it All?

A cousin graciously shared with me a copy of a casefile a relative had shared with her. I was very glad to get it.

The relative of the cousin received the file from the National Archives years ago. I wondered if the National Archives had sent her the entire file as it looked like the original copies were made in the days when mail in requests were for "selected documents."

Turns out there was at least one page the relative was not sent. In this case, the missing document was not a "huge" discovery, but sometimes it can be.

Casefile Clues-Sample Copies and Free Back Issues to Subscribers

Tip of the Day Readers who want a sample copy of my newsletter "Casefile Clues" can do so by sending me an email at mjnrootdig@gmail.com.

Those who subscribe by Saturday midnight (10 October 2009) will get back issues 1-10 and have their subscription to the weekly how-to newsletter start with issue 11. More information on Casefile Clues is on the website and subscription information is as well. A Paypal account is not necessary (you just need a credit card). Those who wish to use other payment options can email me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com for that information.

08 October 2009

Looking at things you have not really looked at in years

I recently wrote about my brick wall ancestor, Ira Sargent, in a recent column for Casefile Clues.

One of the records mentioned was his 1900 census enumeration. I had originally looked at it years ago, probably when I was 14 or 15 years of age. I had seen it several times in the interim and really hadn't given it a lot of thought.

A reader pointed out that part of his census entry looked like it was in a different hand and perhaps had an item written in it after the census taker had made his enumeration. I'm not certain what was going on with the entry, but it makes a good point that perhaps something you've seen several times over several years may contain an anomaly that you may never have noticed.

Is there something you first looked at years ago that perhaps warrants a second look?

07 October 2009

Scan it and post about it

Is there something you cannot read on a document? Instead of trying to transcribe it and post your transcription to a mailing list, consider scanning the image and asking list members of an appropriate genealogy mailing list or message board if anyone is willing to read it for you. Remember that many mailing lists do not allow attachments to be sent and that messages must be text only.

Of course, if you have a blog, you can always post images there as well. Then let members of an appropriate mailing list or message board know where your post is located.

Someone reading the actual image can do a better job of interpreting that than trying guess what really was on that paper you have.

06 October 2009

Stop Multitasking

Ok, so it's not just a genealogy tip.

Our laptop is on the fritz and my daughter wanted to use the desktop. I was forced to read some homestead case files without the internet and email as a distraction.

And guess what?

I noticed three things I had not noticed the first time I read through the papers. The first time I had read them while I was "waiting" on webpages or search results to load.

Is multitasking your problem? Would you notice more details in a record or a file if it had your complete attention?

05 October 2009

Could you be wrong?

I realize it would never happen to any "Tip of the Day" readers, but could you possibly have made a mistake at some point in your research? Sometimes the misake isn't consequential, but in some cases it could be.

While citing my sources for an issue of "Casefile Clues," I reviewed an illustration for an article I wrote years ago and which I have used in countless lectures. When footnoting one of the items used to compile the chart, I realized that I had a marriage year listed two years off. It was clearly just a typo and did not impact my conclusion, but it was still wrong.

Could you have made a mistake or typed something incorrectly? Is it possible that the mistake has an impact on a conclusion?

Just a thought. It could happen to anyone. After all, we are human (grin!).

04 October 2009

Who was the Informant?

Think about that marriage record for your great-grandparents that gives the names of their parents. Think about that 1900 census form that provides the place of birth for the parents.

Do you really know who provided that information? Did the bride give some of the groom's information? Did the groom provide some of the groom's information? Did the wife in a 1900 census enumeration simply guess at where her in-laws were born? Very possible.

And since most of us were not there when our great-grandparents' wedding or when the 1900 census was taken, the only thing we can do is conjecture about who answered those questions.

Is the informant the problem?

03 October 2009

How Secondary is it?

This post includes thoughts...without necessarily answers.

If my daughter tells someone her date of birth, she is a secondary source of that date. She has no first hand knowledge of her date of birth.

If I tell someone that today is my daughter's 21st birthday (which it isn't, but pretend that it is), is that secondary? I was present at the birth, but if I say it or write it down 21 years later is that record primary or secondary? If I write it down with a month of her birth, that probably would be considered primary. But what about 21 years after the fact, even if I had first hand knowledge of the event?

02 October 2009

The Importance of Citing as You Go

As I continue to integrate complete citation of sources into Casefile Clues, the importance of citing sources as research is done and compiled becomes increasingly important to me.

It takes less time to create the citation and documentation as the research is done instead of months or years later. And saving time allows for more research time.

01 October 2009

It is not all in Salt Lake

I know I have mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating. The Family History Library in Salt Lake has a wonderful collection of material.

But they do not have everything.

There are millions of documents and records that have never been microfilmed or digitized. These documents are in many locations, but most of these are in local county courthouses. You might be surpised what court records are there in addition to other local records that have not been microfilmed.

This is true even for counties that have been heavily "filmed."

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Get a year of Casefile Clues for $13.50, 10% off the regular price.

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30 September 2009

How portable was your ancestor?

Think about your ancestor's career or occupation. How portable was it? A landowning ancestor who farmed might have moved, but it likely wasn't every two years and moving took a little bit of time and planning. If your ancestor had a small business, he might not have moved around too much, especially after he got himself established.

However, if you ancestor had a skilled trade, he might have been able to move more quickly, assuming he could find work.

And your day laborer ancestor (like a few of mine), might have moved all the time.

Think about your ancestor's job, career, or employment and how easily it might have been for him to be portable.

29 September 2009

Agreement doesn't mean they are right

Just because two (or even more) records agree on a fact or a date, it does not mean they are correct. It just means they contain the same information. It could still be incorrect, especially if it has been years since the event which the documents talk about took place.

A death certificate, a tombstone, and an obituary may all provide the same date of birth. The reason most likely is because the informant was the same person.

And doctors even give wrong dates of birth. It does happen.

28 September 2009

Is your first guess wrong?

The subject line to the mailing list was "old Danish."

Since I've been gluten free for two years, a good ol' pastry was the first thing that popped in my mind. What the poster meant was the older style of the Danish language and handwriting.

In this case, the first guess just might have been because I have an odd sense of humor.

But have you guessed at something and has your first guess been wrong?

27 September 2009

Pre-1850 Census Analysis at Casefile Clues

Casefile Clues just sent out our 9th edition since we began distribution on our own website. This week's article focuses on the analysis of several pre-1850 census entries for a family in rural Kentucky. Interpreting these census records correctly is not terribly difficult, but one does have to be careful so that mistakes are minimized.

There's more information on Casefile Clues on our sister website.

And we'll be getting back to more tips!

Is that middle name a last name?

Is your ancestor's "middle" name one that could be construed as a "last" name? If so, have you searched for him (or her) in all records where he is "missing" with that middle name as his last name?

Might be the trick to finding him.

26 September 2009

Write down every assumption

Have you gone through your information on a family and written down every assumption you made about them? This basically covers every thing you don't have a document for.

Assumptions are not necessarily wrong. You just need to remember that you made them and determine what your reason was for making them.

25 September 2009

Write it.

I've mentioned it before, but repeating it might not be a bad idea.

Consider writing up one of your ancestors or families you've "finished" or think you are reasonably close to finishing. Write it and explain your reasoning and methodology. I virtually guarantee you that in the writing you will notice something you neglected to do, an assumption that you think now might not be correct, or an error in your reasoning.

And if you don't, then get it published!

Since I've been writing Casefile Clues I have really noticed a few things of this kind in my own research and it's forced me to pick up the loose ends, organize, etc. Even if you have no intention of publishing, putting it together as if you are can be a very good thing.

24 September 2009

Jumping the Pond too Fast

Are you trying to cross the pond too fast? Sometimes frustration with a "I don't know where to reseach my German/English/Irish, etc." ancestor is because the homework has not been completely done.

Have you looked at EVERYTHING in the area where your immigrant ancestor settled? Everything means everything, even things you think might not help. You never know what a document will say until you look at it. Clues can be in the most unexpected of sources sometimes.

Then research his or her children completely as they might have left clues as to their parents' origins.

Don't start your German/English/Ireland research the minute you learn your ancestor was German/English/Irish. Do your complete homework first.

23 September 2009

Look at all those page numbers

When downloading a census page or viewing census on microfilm, look at the page numbers that are written on the page. There might be more than one. View the previous image on the website or the microfilm roll. View the one before that.

How many different page numbers are written on the census page/image?

An 1810 census entry from Bourbon County, Kentucky indicated three sets of page numbers. One was stamped, one was written in ink (apparently) and another looked like it was written in pencil. And sometimes the page numbers are one every other "page."

22 September 2009

Is it alphabetical?

Look at that census or tax list? Do the names on the page for your ancestor all begin with the same letter? If so, the collector or census taker tried to sort the names. Good for him.


Bad for us as it strips all sense of neighborhood.

21 September 2009

Track their Literacy

Various census records indicate if your ancestor can read or write. Have you thought about tracking the literacy of various members of your family? There might be some interesting trends and patterns there.

20 September 2009

Not Everything has page numbers

Old documents usually have pages (except for tombstones), but they might not have page numbers.

Church records are especially notorious for this, especially in the days when records were kept in ledgers without printed forms. To keep track of where you got it, at least indicate the year of the record and what type of record it was (christenings, funerals, marriages, etc.). The name of the church and the location should also be included as a part of your source, but the year and type of record are essential to know where you got the information.

Genealogy Tip of the Day On Facebook


I have added a "fan" page for Genealogy Tip of the Day on Facebook.

Actually I added it twice and am trying to figure out how to get rid of the other one.

If you are on Facebook, do a search for "genealogy tip of the day" and choose the the Fan page that has the lovely image you see on this post.
I am working (again) getting caught up on "tip of the day." Stay tuned and feel free to interact with us on Facebook via our Fan Page.

19 September 2009

Evidence Explained not just about citations

Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills is not just about citing sources. The first two chapters are wonderful genealogical lessons on methodology and sources in and of themselves.

Before discussing how to cite a specific type of record, Mills briefly discusses that record, providing a wonderful overview. While Mills' book is not for the new genealogist, this not-so-new genealogist finds its discussion of sources an excellent quick review and primer when I need reminding.

And then there is the other 80% of the book, which is about citati

18 September 2009

Subscribe to Casefile Clues now and get issues 1-7 free!

Our 8th issue of Casefile Clues goes out on Sunday. To anyone who subscribes before 8 goes out, I'll start your subscription with issue 8 and send you issues 1-7. Anyone who started subscribing after issue 1 and would like the issues they missed should email me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com.

Not digital, not filmed, not transcribed

When was the last time you accessed a record that was not on microfilm, not in digital form, not published and not indexed?

Remember that there are millions of documents in courthouses, archives, etc. that only exist on paper. Is the answer to your question written on a piece of paper that you or someone else will have to actually see face to face to get a copy of it?

Not everything is on film or on computer.

17 September 2009

Is it time to hire someone?

Recently I needed 8 land entry files from the National Archives. I knew some of these files would not contain very much information at all, perhaps just a few sheets. There were three that had the potential to contain valuable information as they were homestead and preemption claims.

To order the files direct from the National Archives would have cost me $320. I hired a researcher to go to the Archives and copy the files for me. Her fee was approximately 1/4 of what the archives would have charged me.

Is it possible that hiring someone at the remote record site is the way to go?

16 September 2009

The Names the Same

Just to confuse genealogists, some states have towns that are not located in the county with the same name.

Des Moines, Iowa, is not located in Des Moines County, Iowa.

Keokuk, Iowa, is not located in Keokuk County, Iowa.

It's not just an Iowa thing. This can happen anywhere. Make certain your place descriptions are complete and not misleading. I always use the word "county" just to keep things clear.

15 September 2009

State versus Federal Land States

State land states are those states where the original "seller" on the first deed was the state--actually the colony. This is generally the 13 colonies and a few states that border those states.

Federal land states are those where the original "seller" on the first deed was the federal government. Usually areas settled after the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, but not always.

State land states usually describe their land in metes and bounds. Federal land states usually use base lines and meridians.

14 September 2009

Were they really from the same village?

My wife and I both have a set of ancestors who were immigrants and I think the groom wrote back and said "I need a bride." One might be tempted to think that the bride and groom were born in the same village.

In both cases, that's not what happened.

In the case of my ancestor, her father was a "windmill mechanic" and moved occasionally for his work. In the other case, the bride was working as a hired girl in the village where the groom was born and raised.

Sometimes romantic visions of our ancestors need to discarded. It makes for good fiction, but not necessarily good genealogy. And oftentimes the real story is more interesting anyway.

13 September 2009

Now Wife

If your ancestor uses the phrase "now wife" in his will, it does not mean that he was married before.



If Johann gives his farm to "his now wife and after her death to my children," it means his wife at the time the will was written. This was done to see to it that if this wife died and the testator remarried that the children and not the current wife inherited the property. Without the word "now," "wife" is vague. "Now wife" was done to clear things up, but it has confused many genealogists.

12 September 2009

Naming Patterns are Guidelines, not Law

The first son was named for this, the second son was named for that, etc.

Keep in mind that these patterns are trends and social customs that your ancestor might have followed. They are not law.

Your ancestor does not have to follow any of these "social mores." What your ancestor does have to do is:

  • Figure out how to get born.
  • Figure out how to get married (or at least reproduce)
  • Leave behind at least one record

Dying usually happens whether your ancestor planned for it or not.

11 September 2009

Does the answer to the past lie in the present?

My wife's great-grandfather William Frame Apgar was born William Frame in Chicago around 1888. Around 1918, he disappears, estranged from his wife---my wife's great-grandmother. Perhaps he enlisted in the war, perhaps not. None of my wife's immediate family knows what happened to him.

It is possible that his siblings might have known what happened to him and passed that information down. My answer to where William Frame Apgar went might rest in the descendants of his siblings.

10 September 2009

Work out the entire family

Look at that brick wall ancestor. Have you completely documented all of his or her children and grandchildren? Doing so may solve your own specific problem. Or it may help you locate a relative who knows the answer.

09 September 2009

Learn about your ancestor's occupation

What do you really know about your ancestor's occupation and how he or she probably lived their life? Learning about the tools of their trade or what life was like for the typical cotton warper, mill worker, tailor, etc. may give you some additional insight into your ancestor's life.

Even if you think you know, you might not.

I grew up on a farm, but farm life when I grew up was different from when my father did (we never had horses for one), and it was certainly different from when my great-great-grandparents were farming. The first time I read of a "stationary baler" in a pension file, I did not know what it was. Hay balers, as far as I were concerned, were never stationary. Then it dawned on me, in 1900, they would have taken the hay to the baler. Hence the term, stationary baler.

If you read the term "stationary baler" as an item in a 1900 era probate file would you even have known what it was? Sometimes google helps with these things and sometimes it doesn't.

08 September 2009

Help someone you aren't related to

Has someone posted a question to an email list that you can answer? Has someone requested pictures at a cemetery near where you live?

Give back just a little and help someone else out. You never know when you may be in a position to need help.

And sometimes when thinking about someone else's problem, you have an idea about your own. That may be a selfish reason to help, but sometimes it really happens.

07 September 2009

Write down everything

You will forget.
You will not remember it. And you will wonder where you put it or where you found it. Write it down.

Do not use little pieces of paper. They get lost and you will lose your mind looking for them.

06 September 2009

Did Great Grandma Really Say That?

On my great-grandmother's 1935 marriage application, her place of birth is given. The problem is that it is different from places listed on other records. Why did she list that location?

I'm not certain why and I'm not even certain she actually gave the information.

Remember, her husband was there too and it is possible that he gave information on his wife. I wasn't there when great-grandma got married to witness the giving of the information. The form doesn't really say WHO provided WHAT.

Keep that in mind.

Things Get Filed Incorrectly

Keep in mind that records do get misfiled. Packets of court papers do not get put back in the correct numerical order. Case numbers get written incorrectly in indexes. Page numbers get transcribed as they are typed or entered into an index.

It will happen. Think about how something could get misfiled when you cannot find it in the place where it is "supposed" to be.

05 September 2009

Transcribe it as it is

Do not correct documents when transcribing them. Copy them verbatim.
If you must make comments, do so within brackets [] or use an asterisk and include your comment at the end. Don't correct an 18th century document when transcribing it.

04 September 2009

Disbanded Churches?

If your ancestor's church disbanded, there are several places the records might have gone:
  • the local dump
  • the family of the last minister
  • a local church of the same denomination
  • a regional or national church organization, synod, assembly, diocese, etc.
Contact local historical or genealogical societies, local churches of the same denomination, and regional and national archives (or governing bodies) of the denomination and see if they know what might have happened to the records.

03 September 2009

Did they change churches?

My ancestors on my mother's side of the family have been members of the same denomination since the Reformation. I was floored when I read the obituary for two of my great-great-grandparents and it said the funeral was at the local Presbyterian church.

The small town they were in only had two churches. Neither was of the desired denomination. The Presbyterian church was "closest," so that was it.

It is possible that necessity caused your ancestor to attend (and leave records at) a church other than the one you think he always attended?

02 September 2009

They weren't asked how to spell it

When I got married, one of the questions on the license was mother's maiden name. I knew I was going to have to spell it, after all, I wasn't getting married in the small town where I grew up.

I had to spell it three times before he understood--and it was only five letters--Ufkes.

Chances are your ancestor was not asked to spell the information he provided on a record. And if you think he did spell it to the clerk, how can you really be certain? After all, you weren't there when the clerk ask great-great-grandfather for the information on his marriage.

And if you were there---there were a lot of questions that I bet you wish you asked ;-)

01 September 2009

Grandma Gave the Wrong Date Because She Thought it was Right

Did Grandma give the "wrong" date or place of birth for herself? Did she possibly do it because she actually thought that is where or when she was born?

Keep in mind that on many records where our ancestors provided information on themselves that they were not actually asked for proof. The clerk just wrote down what they gave.

My own Grandma, who would have been 99 today, always gave the same place as her place of birth. Problem is, her birth certificate and other contemporary records give a different location. Grandma just had a misconception about where she was born.

Sometimes errors are actually mistakes, not intentional lies.

31 August 2009

Where did you get that date?

We are not talking about the high school prom.

If you have a date of birth, death, or marriage for an ancestor, you had to get it from somewhere. Sources should be cited. If the date is an approximation from an age at death, state so.

If birth date is an approximation based on the marriage date, indicate that.

Just don't drop dates in willy-nilly without a source.

And if you don't know where you got your prom date, well that's another story entirely.

30 August 2009

Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions

I will admit it. Even after 25 years of research, occasionally a microfilm machine will confuse me. Sometimes I hesitate to ask for help. After all, I should know how to use one. And then I remember, waiting only wastes time.

If there is something at a library or archives that confuses you or you do not understand, ask. Staff can usually help you operate the equipment.

If it is a record or document they cannot help you with, it might be because it is unusual and something with which they are unfamiliar. In that case, consider asking the question on a genealogy mailing list or at your local genealogical society meeting. Someone there probably can help you or point you to someone who can.

29 August 2009

Getting it all?

Make certain you are getting the entire record. I was using marriage records for Champaign County, Illinois, recently. They were on microfilm at the Champaign County Archives in the Urbana Free Library. For the time period I was looking for there were actually two series of marriage information. One was the marriage applications and the other was the actual license. If I had been in too much of a hurry, I might have easily overlooked one of the records.

28 August 2009

Do You Have Contemporary Maps of Every Location?

Do you have maps of all your ancestral locations at a time contemporary to your ancestors? It might not be possible to get maps for every ancestor you have, but review what maps you have and ask yourself," is it possible there are more maps" or" is not having a map hindering my research?"

27 August 2009

Non-Genealogy Databases in Your Local Library

Does your local library have access to databases not specifically genealogy that might help you in your research? Libraries that have Proquest may have access to digitized newspapers, fire insurance maps and more. Ask your local librarian what databases they subscribe to.

If you have any academic libraries nearby, ask them the same thing.

Or check out their webpages. You may have access to more information than you think.

26 August 2009

Google those wrong names

A death certificate for a potential relative indicated he died in "tumway, Iowa." I had no idea where that was. I didn't try the United States Geological Survey Geographic Names Information Site it, but it wouldn't have made any difference anyway.

Googling "tumway iowa" told me that it wasn't probably "tumway" at all. A search for "tumway iowa" resulted in references to Ottumwa, Iowa. I should have thought of that. If the gazeteers don't bring the desired results, try Google.

25 August 2009

1880 Census at Ancestry and Family Search

Remember that using the 1880 census is free at Ancestry.com and at Family Search.

The images are not free, but the data is.

Ancestry.com's data came from FamilySearch with corrections, etc. entered by users--there is a difference, but not a "complete" difference.

And the search interfaces are not the same either. If you cannot find them in one, try the other.

24 August 2009

Track the wrong ones

Keep track of the individuals that you have eliminated as being your ancestor, his parents, his brother, etc.

That way you do not research them again.

And that way you have the information if it turns out your initial conclusion was wrong.

23 August 2009

Widow for a day or longer?

I almost overlooked the death certificate of her husband.

The lady I was researching died in 1914 and was listed as a widow. I didn't look at the death certificate for a man with the same last name who also died in 1914, thinking it could not be her husband.

Turns out is was. They died 4 days apart. Don't assume anything. Being listed as a widow only means her husband died before her. It could have been 2 days or 20 years.

22 August 2009

Don't Rush

I wanted to locate children of a relative in census records after her death. The names were somewhat common and I didn't have too many details about them.

Maybe I had better wait until I get the obituaries and estate records of the parents. Those may provide me with enough clues to find the children in census records and make certain I have the correct ones.

21 August 2009

1925 Iowa State Census?

For those who did not know, the 1925 Iowa State Census asked for names of father and mother. Ancestry has included those as search terms.
Might be worth a try if you had extended family in Iowa in 1925.

They asked where the parents were married too!

20 August 2009

The Census we use is not the original

Remember that the census we use today was not the one on which the census taker took his "original" enumeration.

The census copy that was microfilmed, and eventually digitized, was the "clean" copy that was written by the census taker after he finished taking the census. He used his field notes to make the good copy that we use today.

Any chance there was something in his field notes he couldn't read? And what was the chance that he went down and asked for clarification on an age or place of birth?

19 August 2009

Did they move back and forth?

Keep in mind that your ancestor may have moved back and forth. Not everyone followed a general path in just one direction.

I'm working on a person now who was in Iowa in 1856, Missouri in 1860, Iowa in 1870-1895, Missouri in 1900, Wyoming in 1910 and in Missouri in 1912.

Oh, and she was born in either New York state or Canada.

18 August 2009

Casefile Clues Column posted--Preemption Claim

My latest "Casefile Clues" column was posted Sunday. It discussed a preemption claim in Missouri in the 1850s. Readers who aren't subscribers can subscribe and get this issue sent to them upon subscription even though their subscription will start on 23 August. Just mention when you subscribe that you are a Genealogy Tip of the Day reader.

More tips are coming.

Missouri Newspaper Index

This free online index is just to some Missouri newspapers, but it might help those with ancestors in the "Show-Me" state.
http://shs.umsystem.edu/newspaperindex/

Copies can be ordered for $1.50 a page.

Use Their Birthdays

Put the birthdays of your ancestors on a calendar. Use those days (or a day nearby) as time to review your information on that individual and see if there is anything you overlooked or any new resources that have become available.

Occasionally reviewing information is always an excellent idea and a birthday calendar may be just the way to do it.

17 August 2009

Got them all from the SSDI?

Have you searched for EVERY appropriate person in the SSDI? Are there people in your database who might be in there and for whom you have not searched? Might be worth your while to check it out.

16 August 2009

Check out USGenWeb Pages

When was the last time you visited the USGenWeb pages for your counties of interest? It has been at least several years since I visited the page for Chariton County, Missouri, where my wife has ancestors. Upon visiting it today, I realized they had quite a bit of new information from the last time I looked.

Point your browser to http://www.usgenweb.org

and take a look at your states and counties today. There may be something new there.

15 August 2009

Do You Know the Soundex Codes for your Surnames?

Do you know the Soundex codes for your last names?
Visit

http://resources.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/soundexconverter

to get the codes. Knowing which variant spellings are soundex equivalents will save you search time.

14 August 2009

Undocumented Name Changes

Sometimes the brick wall is created when an ancestor's mother marries after the death of her husband. The problem is that if you do not know the names of the parents, it can be difficult to locate a marriage record. If you do know the names and a family disappears, consider the possibility that the father died and the mother remarried and the family is "hidden" under this new last name--whether or not the father adopted the children officially. Many didn't.

I have several families in my own research where the remarriage of the mother complicated the research. Some will be featured in upcoming columns of "Casefile Clues."

13 August 2009

Is It Really a Name Change?

A poster to a list indicated that her European ancestor's first name was changed from Andreas to Andrew when he immigrated to the United States.

Two things come to mind. His name really wasn't "changed." It was translated. Andreas is Latin and Andrew is English.

The second is that if his name changed, it likely was when he naturalized, not when he landed. Changings at landings were rare--your paperwork had to match or there could be issues, especially in the mid-19th century and after.

12 August 2009

Second Casefile Clues Column Published-Passport Records

My second "Casefile Clues" column went out to subscribers this weekend. It discusses a passport application that was located on Ancestry.com (Footnote also has it as does the National Archives).

The images can be seen on our site.

If "Tip of the Day Readers" subscribe in the next 24 hours, I'll send this past weekend's article to them. Simply mention that you are a "tip of the day reader" when you subscribe or mention it in an email to me.

American Memory Collection at the Library of Congress

We don't normally include websites at "Genealogy tip of the Day," but this one is free and really too good for the genealogist to pass up.

The American Memory Collection at the Library of Congress (http://memory.loc.gov) has scans of maps, religious petitions, early eighteenth century books on immigration, and much much more. Take a look for yourself.

And if you didn't see any railroad maps on the site, there are here: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/gmdhtml/rrhtml/rrhome.html

11 August 2009

Don't Assume Grandma Was Wrong

My grandma Neill told me she remembered her baptism. I was skeptical as the denomination of which her parents were members practiced infant baptism. Grandma had to be wrong.

Actually she was correct. For reasons that are not clear, Grandma was baptized at the age of five along with several of her siblings. Sure enough she was right. I'll think twice before assuming (without evidence) that she was wrong.

10 August 2009

Does the Signature Match the Document?

Does that ancestral signature on a document match the handwriting of the document itself? Don't conclude your ancestor wrote the record. Most likely what you are looking at is a transcription of the record made by the clerk. The clerk likely copied your ancestor's signature as well.

09 August 2009

Take A Day Off (or two!)

Are you working on the same family day after day after day? Consider taking a few days off and avoid making genealogy "your job." Coming back later with a fresh perspective might be just what you need to get going again.

08 August 2009

Multiple Guardians

Keep in mind that a minor could have had several guardians in their life if one of more of their parents were deceased.

Guardian of the person--watched over the child and the child typically lived with them.
Guardian of the estate--watched over the child's inheritance.

Guardian ad litem--a guardian appointed who was usually a lawyer to represent a child who was somehow involved in court action. A guardian ad litem was actually serving as the child's "lawyer" and was not a guardian of the child's person or estate.

The first two could be the persons or maybe not. Much depends upon the situation.

07 August 2009

Get Those Multiple Records When You Can

I've been working on my wife's English ancestors the last few times I have been at the Family History Library. One frustration has been that the civil records have not been microfilmed--and yet the index of Civil Registrations is online at http://freebmd.rootsweb.com. Before I get too irritated, I have to remember that the church records generally have been microfilmed. I use the online index to give me an idea of dates of death and probable parishes where the information should be recorded.

Of course, I should still search the parish records page by page for all family members but sometimes there just simply is not time.

Remember there may be more than one way to get at the information you need. Keep your eyes and ears open and ask questions.

In this case, if I decide I need the civil record, I can still order it once I've seen the church record to know I have the right person. In many cases, I don't bother to order to the civil record as those copy charges add up.

06 August 2009

Double Listed in the Census

I've been playing around with the free access to the 1930 census on Footnote.com and in experimenting with their interface, I remembered something:

anyone can easily be listed twice in the census.

My Grandma is listed twice in 1930--once with her parents and once in the household where she was "working out."

Her married brother is listed twice as well. Once with his wife in the town where he grew up and once in the town 30 miles away where he and his wife had moved for his job.

Never hurts to look more than once.

And if you think "working out" means exercise, well....it doesn't.

Note: the free access to the 1930 census on Footnote.com is only for the month of August 2009.

05 August 2009

Michael is on Facebook and Twitter

You can follow me on Twitter at:
http://twitter.com/mjnrootdig

I am on Facebook at:
http://www.facebook.com/rootdig

Michael

Was it just popular and has nothing to do with family?

My grandmother Neill had a brother named Cecil. Her sister's husband was named Cecil and her husband (my grandfather) was named Cecil. While I don't know about the brother-in-law's family, I do know that the name of Cecil had not previously appeared in either my grandmother or grandfather's family.

Apparently at the time of these births, between 1900 and 1915, the name was fairly popular. It wasn't all that popular say fifty years earlier and fifty years later, its popularity was waning.

There may be a reason a name "appears out of thin air" in one of your families. Just remember that the name may have no genealogical connection to any other family member. It just might have been in fashion.

04 August 2009

First Casefile Clues Column Published

My first Casefile Clues has gone out to the subscriber list. For those who are unaware my "Casefile Clues" column is no longer available to paid members of Eastman's site and is available by subscription through my other site http://www.casefileclues.com. This column focused on an estate from the 1870s and included suggestions for using digital images and microfilm. We will be sending a new article every weekend to subscribers, including ones on a variety of genealogy how-to topics.

Subscriptions can be made on an annual or quarterly basis. There are no advertisements and email addresses are not sold, shared, rented, etc. On of our goals is to include image illustrations with as many columns as possible. I am working to improve the newsletter and welcome any "Tip of the Day" readers who would like to subscribe. "Tip of the Day" will remain free, but "Casefile Clues" help to offset some of our costs.

The Unindexed Nature of Court Records

Until they are all digitized and indexed (which is years away from happening, if ever), court records are one of richest body of records that are difficult to access.

A court case may contain the names of several individuals, and yet is only indexed twice--once under the name of the first plaintiff and once under the name of the first defendant.

Because of this, it is imperative to search court indexes for all family members and read those cases that may involve and uncle or aunt. There is a chance that something is in there about your ancestor as well.

03 August 2009

Are you Sharing or Preserving?

Have you thought about how your information will be shared with others after you leave this Earth? How will your information be preserved? Think abut this today rather than putting it off. Tomorrow may be too late. Remember that few relatives, libraries, or archives are going to want an unorganized box of papers. And digital media with thousands of randomly named files aren’t too much better.

02 August 2009

Print One Page

Before going to a library to research, print out one page that contains a bibliographic citation for each source or reference you wish to use. Then you can either take research notes on that page or attach that page to research notes or copies. This effectively serves as an “in the field” research log that can be written up more formally upon returning home.

01 August 2009

Learn from the Inventory

If you have an estate inventory for your ancestor, have you made an attempt to learn what every item is? Doing so may teach you more about your ancestor’s life and may potentially even give you a clue as to his occupation.

31 July 2009

Problem-solving in a nutshell

If you are stuck, you should decide what the problem is, what the sources are, how those sources are organized, and how those sources are searched. Search those records, track your search, and evaluate the results. A broad overview, but this will get you started. Don’t forget to learn about your ancestor’s social group and about the history of the area where he lived as well.

30 July 2009

Do you have the correct location?

Is it possible that the town name is right, but the name of the state is incorrect? Is it possible that part of the name is right, but the remaining portion has been spelled or pronounced incorrectly? Did your ancestor give the name of the closest “big town” instead of saying where he was actually from?

Tips are coming

I am working on adding tips to the site and am currently just about done with June. Updates will be posted as they are completed. Genealogy Tip of the Day will continue as it has in the past.

Readers are encouraged to subscribe to my weekly newsletter "Casefile Clues" which is available via subscription at $15 per year. That turns out to approximately 29 cents a week.

Genealogy Tip of the Day will continue to be free and hosted at http://genealogytipoftheday.blogspot.com. Suggestions for tips can be sent to me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com.

Thanks for all the encouragement.

29 July 2009

Why do early naturalization records contain little information?

Because the law did not require it. In 1907 there was reform of immigration and the naturalization process, which resulted in more paperwork and more detail. Consequently the records after that reform are more detailed. If your ancestors naturalized shortly before 1907, determine if there were relatives who might have naturalized after the reform that might have left more detailed records.

28 July 2009

It will conflict

Sooner or later you will encounter conflicting information in your research. Record the information as it is provided on each source and put any analysis in your notes. Do not change, correct, or modify the information from an actual record. Your job is not to edit. If there are obvious errors, indicate that in a comment, but do not “fix” the record.

Casefile Clues Moving

It is not a tip of the day, but this partially explains why the tips have been on the short side for the past month. I invite regular tip readers to subscribe to Casefile Clues on my other website. Tips will continue to be posted here as well.

For over ten years, I have written regular columns about my research experience, first for Ancestry and most recently for Dick Eastman. Starting this week, my weekly "how-to" column "Casefile Clues" will be available exclusively through subscription through my website http://www.casefileclues.com/. I am very excited about the move.

Subscribers can expect the same quality and content they have come to expect over the 400 how-to columns I have written. Content focuses on families from many areas and time periods in the United States and several foreign countries. The emphasis is not on the latest "whizbang" technology, but rather on locating, analyzing and interpreting records. Technology is used but it does not overpower the genealogy. We will continue researching the exploits of the various members of the Trautvetter clan, including Philip's world travels, arrest in Boston and his trial in Colorado. Our work on English families will continue, as will our work in land records in metes and bounds in Kentucky and Tennessee, Bureau of Land Management records, and my search for the mental health records of my nineteenth century ancestor. We will also continue our discussion of research strategies both in actual records repositories and via the Family History Library. My children have ancestors in fifteen states and seven European countries and I will continue to explore that ancestry weekly via my column. Readers are welcome to submit suggestions for research ideas to me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com.

"Casefile Clues" will be published at least weekly, with distribution taking place over the weekend. There may occasionally be additional columns published midweek as well, particularly if some followup is just begging to be written about. "Casefile Clues" readers can expect analysis of documents and research suggestions based upon that document. "Casefile Clues" is not a genealogy "news" ezine. You can find that elsewhere on the internet and I would rather devote my time to research and sharing that research experience with readers. Readers can continue to find Michael's analysis and insight that they have come to expect from his columns. Movement to our own website gives Michael the complete freedom to write about whatever topic he wants when he wants.

"Casefile Clues" is not just about the one record I've found. It is about what the record means and how it was used in order to help researchers get motivated to continue their own research. Annual subscriptions are $15. Subscriptions can also be obtained on a three month basis for $6. Payment can be made through PayPal with major credit cards or check (PayPal account not needed). These methods of payment are preferred, but other arrangements can be made by contacting Michael at mjnrootdig@gmail.com.

27 July 2009

Checked all Jurisdictions

Have you checked for potential records at the town or village, township, county, state and federal level? Focusing on just one level of records may cause you to miss vital sources. This is true for the United States and Europe as well. The names of the jurisdictions may be different, but remember that any one physical location may be a part of several levels of government.

26 July 2009

Early Conclusions?

When was the last time you reviewed records and conclusions made early in your research? Is it possible that mistakes made early in your research are giving you problems today?

25 July 2009

Proof Yourself

Are you reviewing and re-reading what you transcribe or what you put into your genealogy database? Is there the chance you might have made a mistake? It might happen rarely (grin) but sooner or later, we all make a mistake.

And if I had a dollar for every time I posted a blog entry without a title.....

24 July 2009

Sort the tradition

Family traditions can run the gamut from comical to depressing, from reasonable to completely outrageous. Wherever they fit on the scale, they likely are not entirely correct. After all, nothing is. What I like to do with family traditions is to sort the facts they contain into facts that might have generated records and facts that probably did not generate records.
And then get to the research.

23 July 2009

Get Religion?

If your ancestors were a member of a denomination over any significant length of time, learn something of their history. A broad understanding of the history of your ancestor’s denomination may provide you with insight into their life, what might have motivated and why the church kept the type of records that it did.

22 July 2009

Get out of your vacuum

Are you in isolation in your research? If there are not relatives (close or distant) working on your same line, consider joining a mailing list at Rootsweb (http://lists.rootswebcom). Roots-l and Gen-Newbie are two good lists to join that are worldwide in their scope, but there are other regional lists devoted to countries, ethnic regions, counties, etc. Even if you don’t find a relative, someone working in the same location as you can be an excellent resource.

21 July 2009

Laws change over time

We all know this, but forget that sometimes it impacts our genealogical research as well. Early in my research, I was surprised that when my uncle died in 1907, without any children that his wife did not automatically inherit his entire estate. She inherited a part of it as his wife, but the balance went to his heirs. In this case, his siblings and some nieces and nephews were also heirs to his estate besides his wife. It made for an interesting court case.

20 July 2009

You can still go page by page

Back in the “old days” of research, page by page was often the only way to find someone in a census record. With the advent of every name indexes, “point and click” research is a real option. However, there are times when it just not the successful approach. And there are times, where if you know where your ancestor lived, that “traditional” approaches may be faster. And reading the census page by page for where your ancestor lived, may give you a broader understanding of his neighborhood.

19 July 2009

Census should be a bridge to something else

For every census listing you have for an ancestor, think of other sources and materials that it suggests. A value of real property in an 1860 census indicates land and property tax records, a personal property valuation in an 1850 census suggests personal property tax records. An occupation may suggest local county records or occupational records. And children with different last names in the household suggest multiple marriages or extended family who may have been living in the household at least temporarily.

18 July 2009

Get every census

Do you have your ancestor in every extant census in which she would be enumerated? Skipping one because “it won’t tell you anything” is never a good idea. One ever knows what surprising information may be lurking in a “routine” census enumeration.

17 July 2009

What makes a source citation?

I’m not going to summarize Elizabeth Shown Mills’ “Evidence Explained” in one tip, but generally speaking a source citation should provide enough information to allow you or someone else to get back to the actual record you used to cite a date or an event. That citation should also information in regards to the provenance of the source, its perceived reliability, and whether it is an original or some type of derivation from the original.

16 July 2009

If you can’t go up, go down

If you have gotten stuck in extending your family back to earlier generations, consider tracking the descendants of that earliest “unknown” ancestor. Perhaps one of his other descendants has information, sources, or family mementos that you are unaware of.

15 July 2009

Get a research plan

Don’t just research mindlessly. It is bad in more ways than one. Decide what you want to know, determine what you already know and learn about ways to get there. Research plans need to be more detailed than this obviously, but don’ t do your research in a haphazard fashion.

14 July 2009

Know the Terrain

Learn about the geography of where your ancestor lived. It might explain where they later settled, how they travelled, or where they went to church, got married, etc.

13 July 2009

Learn how to text

There are days when I’m out of town that I am in a library all day, largely because I don’t live near a large genealogical library and I have to make the best possible use of my time. Consequently I do not want to be running to another area to have phone conversations when not necessary. Instead of using the cellphone for the occasional “emergency” back home, we text instead. Texting allows us to communicate with each other as necessary without me disturbing others in the library. And if a phone call is needed while I’m in the library, I get a text indicating that. This allows me to communicate with home with as few phone disturbances as possible.

Behaving at the research facility?

Remember that at the library there are other researchers. Be considerate of them. I’m fairly patient, but here are a few things that have given me cause for frustration lately:


A gentleman having a cell phone conversation in the library about going fishing. He was yelling into his phone. It was all I could do to concentrate.


Two researchers lamenting the destruction of tombstones in an Alabama town. While I understood his frustration, his twenty minute diatribe about the injustice of it all was highly distracting. I was at the library to actually do research. They could have easily taken their conversation to another area.


Be considerate of your fellow researchers. You may one day be at the library trying to read illegible script when someone sitting next to you is carrying on very loudly about the latest injustice your son-in-law has inflicted on your daughter. While it does sound like he’s a lout, the discussion can be had elsewhere.

12 July 2009

Do you know when civil registration starts in your areas of research?

If you do not know when civil registration starts in the jurisdictions in which you are researching, find out. And if you don’t know what civil registration is, then there’s even more work for you to do.

11 July 2009

Does paying property tax means grandpa lived there?

Keep in mind that paying property tax only indicates an individual owned property in a location. It does not mean that he necessarily lived there. Paying a personal property tax usually indicates residence in the area in which the tax was paid.

10 July 2009

Why does great-great-grandma have no naturalization?

Before 1922, most women derived citizenship from their husband or their father. Before women had the right to vote, citizenship was not as critical as one may think. Women in many states could own property whether or not they were a citizen. Few women before 1922 bothered to naturalize.

09 July 2009

Those records can’t help me

Never assume a record set won’t hold the answer to any of your genealogical problems unless you have learned about those records, know what information they contain, and know what types of individuals are likely to be in those records. And then you still may want to search them anyway.

08 July 2009

The importance of endogamy

Many genealogists are not familiar with the word, but they should be familiar with the concept. Endogamy is the practice of marrying within the social group. Greek immigrants to Chicago tend to marry other Greek immigrants (or children of Greek immigrants). Missouri settlers from Tennessee tend to have children who marry into other nearby families of settlers from Tennessee. While individuals can easily marry “outside” the group, a shared heritage (be it from across the “big pond” or across the creek) can be big factor in the eventual choice of a marriage partner. It explains why half my own ancestors are Ostfriesen even though my families had all lived in the United States for nearly 100 years before I was born.

07 July 2009

Are you only using one source for every event?

Different records for the same event may provide different information. While it is not always possible to “doublecheck” everything try and obtain multiple sources for events and “proofs” whenever you can. One record can easily be incorrect.

06 July 2009

Using “blank” as a surname?

If you do not know a maiden name or a first name of an individual, leave it blank. In your notes and or sources, indicate how you know the individual exists and any relevant explanations. When in doubt, leave it out.

05 July 2009

Should you ever use a nickname as your ancestor’s given name?

Purists would tell you that you should use whatever is on a birth certificate as an individuals “given name” in your genealogy database. Sometimes I think some discretion should be used. My great-grandmother’s birth certificate lists her as Francis Rampley. However, every document she signed from her marriage document through records settling her husband’s estate lists her as Fannie Neill (her married name). Her tombstone even has Fannie Neill listed. Consequently in my database her name is listed as Fannie as apparently that is what she wanted to be called. In my notes there is information about her birth certificate and the name it actually lists.

04 July 2009

Check Before and After

If you find an ancestor's deed in a land record book, check the pages before and after. It was not uncommon for individuals to record documents in "groups" and more than one record may have been filed at the same time.

03 July 2009

Stop and Organize

I've been working on my wife's English lines lately. Some have been fairly easy to research and I have been accumulating quite a bit of information, digital copies, etc.

There comes a time when one has to stop and really put together and organize what one has. I have many copies and notes, but I have not put the information into my database where I can see what families I have information on, etc. Not to mention it is all starting to run together.

The research is fun, but every so often you need to stop gathering and start organizing. If for no other reason than to not completely confuse yourself.

02 July 2009

How did they say it?

Do you really know how your ancestors pronounced their last name?

Taliaferro and variants are often pronounced to sound like "toliver"

Beauchamp may have been pronounced to sound like "beecham"

Have you considered pronunciation variants on your last name?

01 July 2009

Census Search Trick

If you can't find your ancestor in the 1840 census and you think he really should be there, look for his 1830 neighbors in 1840 or try looking for his 1850 neighbors in 1840. No guarantees, but worth a shot.

30 June 2009

It goes both ways

It is relatively easy to find the names of those who were godparents for your ancestor's children. Those names are big clues.

However, when the records are unindexed, finding the names of children for whom your ancestor was a godparent is not as easy. It requires manual searching of each entry. But it may be worth it, because the parents of that child could be relatives of your ancestor and provide significant clues to your research.

29 June 2009

Reprinting Tips from this site

Users of Genealogy Tip of the Day are welcome to reprint tips from the site. I just ask that:

That's it! Questions can be directed to me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com.

Family History Library Card Catalog

Ok, so this is a little bit of trivia, but I found it interesting.
According to David Rencher of the Family History Library, the online version of the Family History Library Card Catalog is updated every half hour.

I'm not suggesting you search the catalog constantly.......and I'm not really certain I should refer to it as a card catalog either.

28 June 2009

Get Out of that Rut

Are you checking the same sites almost too regularly, hoping for an update? Are you posting queries to message boards and other sites, hoping to find something or get a helpful reply? Consider changing your approach or spending less time on the Internet or more time on different sites.

My Ancestry.com subscription lapsed and eventually I will renew it. But now that I don't have 24/7 access to it, I am getting back into records I had ignored for too long and even reviewing my files. And when I do have access to Ancestry.com I make better use of it and am more efficient because I know I don't have it constantly. And frankly some days I spent too much time "randomly" searching on Ancestry and not enough time really researching.

27 June 2009

Get Out of the 21st Century

Remember that we do not live in the same times as our ancestors. If you are working on families from two hundred years ago, consider reading contempory material from that era. Transcribed diaries, newspapers and other materials are a great way to get a better "feel" for the times, in addition to reading non-fiction history covering the same time period.

Reading someone else's diary from the time, even if a complete non-relative, may give you a fresh perspective on your ancestor life and times.

26 June 2009

Is the "unindexed" record "indexed?"

Are you using an 1820 census enumeration where the names appear to be listed in roughly alphabetical order?

Census takers and some tax collectors, in an attempt to be helpful, roughly sorted names by the first letter of the last name. The problem for genealogists is that this strips the record of all sense of neighborhood. Keep this in mind when you think all the "B"s in an area lived together. No group of people are that organized.

25 June 2009

Name Changes in Probate Records

Make certain to read through all those papers in a probate file or an estate settlement. The widow may be listed under a new married name in later records, providing a clue to her marriage.

This can be a great help in states that do not have marriage records for the time period being researched.

24 June 2009

Why Did They Move?

Keep in mind that there are several factors that might have caused your ancestor to move from point A to point B.

They include:
  • Economic concerns--land opportunities, jobs, etc.
  • Politics and political unrest
  • Family--others in their family had already moved.
  • Acquaintances/friends--people in this group had already moved.
  • Religion--your ancestor was a part of a religious group that migrated.

There are other reasons, but consider these and ask yourself if you have really looked into these causes. Doing so may provide the answer to your family history puzzle.

23 June 2009

Go Back and Revisit

Periodically revisit sites that contain data you have used in your family history research. It is not necessary to revisit them every day, but monthly or even quarterly visits may result in undiscovered finds. No matter how many genealogy ezines and blogs you read something can easily slip past your radar.

New information is always being made available. Take the time to look. Make a list of sites and visit them regularly. Not obsessively, however (grin!)

22 June 2009

Does Size Matter?

Keep in mind it is not the number of generations in your family tree that is important. What is important is that each generation be documented accurately. Bigger is not always better.

Extra Early Discount on our 2010 Salt Lake Research Trip

We are offering a $25 discount on the complete price on our 2010 Salt Lake Research Trip for those who make their deposit by 30 June 2009. The complete registration price for those registering by this date will be $175. The balance of the fee is due in December, just the deposit is necessary by 30 June.

There is more information about the trip on our site at http://www.rootdig.com/slctrip.html

This discount won't be posted on those pages, email Michael at mjnrootdig@gmail.com for a registration brochure with the discounted price or questions.

Thanks!

21 June 2009

Actually Transcribe Something

Scanning documents is great and an excellent way to preserve them. But transcribing serves a purpose too. It forces you to actually READ the document. That is a great way to notice phrases or words that sometimes get overlooked. And there are times when that one word or phrase can make all the difference. Transcribe something today.

20 June 2009

Do You Really Know It?

How many pieces of information are in your family tree or genealogy database from "memory" or some unidentified source? Check them out. They could be the real reason you have a brick wall.

19 June 2009

Search them all at Google Books

Try searching Google books for every ancestor, even the ones you think will never be in there. I located my paternal grandfather in an Angus breeders' directory from the 1950s and a 4th great-grandfather in an 1830s era directory from Germany.

http://books.google.com

18 June 2009

Before You Buy that CD on Ebay

Just a little piece of advice. Before you buy a CD with a PDF or a scan of that out of print book, make certain it's not available on www.archive.org or the BYU website for free.

Then you could download it and search it for free and make your own CD.

17 June 2009

Read a Blog or Newsletter

Keeping up with the genealogy news can be overwhelming at times. Two great ways to keep up can be to read Dick Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter or Leland Meitzler's Genealogyblog.
Of course, I'd be appreciative if readers signed up for the paid version of Eastman's as that includes my weekly "Casefile Clues" column.

16 June 2009

Gmail Tips

I love to use Gmail for my genealogy mail. Those who use Gmail might want to check out the Gmail blog post about being a Gmail Ninja.

There are a lot of good tips there for making the most of gmail and saving time and hassle in the process.

15 June 2009

Another Reason for Getting Everything

Variant names can create havoc for genealogists. This is another reason I like to obtain as many documents for my ancestors as possible. For ancestors with name variants, Anglicizations, and the like, deed, court, or land records may provide alternate names for your ancestor of which you were not aware. Often these documents will have to explain the name difference, thus providing you with proof of the connection.

14 June 2009

Could it be years after?

Have you thought about how long after your ancestor's death he or she may be mentioned in a record?

My ancestor Peter Bieger died in 1855. He is mentioned by name in a 1906 deed when his grandchildren are signing a quitclaim deed for the property. Fifty-one years after he died.

13 June 2009

Research the Families You "Know"

Researching "completely" a family you know may do one of several things for you or your research. You may learn something about research or something about the family you did not know before.

Recently I obtained deeds showing how a house and a farm were sold after the owner's died. In both cases, I knew all the vitals on the family. In both cases I understood the records better because I "knew" the family. That helps me understand records later when I don't know the family. Sometimes it is easier to learn about records when the family isn't as foreign to you as the records.

And in one case I learned a few things about the family that were new to me. Another reason to search for everything.

12 June 2009

Filename make sense?

I wasted an hour today looking for a set of documents I scanned. I scanned and saved them when I was in a hurry and the file name was very helpful, "ufkes."

When a last name is your mother's maiden name, MANY files contain that word. I eventually searched the entire hard drive for files with "ufkes" in the title, but there were MANY that I had to go through. I renamed the file with a more descriptive name "john_ufkes_cancelled_homestead_file"

Are your file names helpful?

11 June 2009

Learn About a New Record

Is there some record type of source you have never utilized because you thought it was too difficult to use, too difficult to understand, or was hard to access? Consider expanding your research horizons and make today (or this week) the time you use that new (to you) source.

You may make some wonderful discoveries.

10 June 2009

Be Specific

When writing genealogy information for anyone to read, avoid using terms like "Grandma" or "Uncle" without fully identifying the person. Vague references will only confuse the reader.

The same is true when asking people questions in an interview. It took me forever to get my grandma Neill to understand that I was asking questions about HER Grandfather Trautvetter, not her dad (who was my dad's Grandpa Trautvetter).

Once you've had children, it does get a little confusing who you mean when you say "Grandma." Don't leave someone in a hundred years confused about who you meant. Be specific.

09 June 2009

Filter Your Email Messages

I am on entirely too many email lists for genealogy. Finally at long last I sat down in my gmail (which I use for my genealogy email) and made a separate filter for each one. Messages to these mailing lists then never go to my main inbox and I don't see them unless I visit the folder individually.

Now my inbox is not overflowing with these messages and I my inbox can stay clear for the "important" ones. This is particularly helpful as I get my genealogy email on my blackberry and before the filter I was ALWAYS getting email on my phone. A little annoying.

Email lists are great for genealogy, but now I can read them when I want--not have them flying at me 24/7.

08 June 2009

Naming Patterns are Not Aboslute

In some families and ethnic groups, there are tendencies to pass on certain names. Sometimes this is done in a certain fashion, perhaps the oldest son for the father's father, the oldest daughter for the father's mother, and then on down the line.

Remember that this practice was a tendency in some families and is not proof of anyone's name at all. Names can be used as clues, but they are "extremely circumstantial" ones at best. And if both grandfathers are named John and both grandmothers are named Anna, then you really have a mess!

07 June 2009

Pension Records Can Show Migration Trails

An excellent place to learn your ancestor's unique (or not so unique) migration path across the country is from his or her pension record.

Nancy Rampley's pension record documents her parents' migration from Kentucky into Indiana into Illinois into Missouri. And it was her husband who was actually in the Civil War.

Revolutionary War era pensions for two of my wife's ancestors shows their migration across several states from the time of the Revolution until the 1830s.

Remember that a pension on a sibling or a cousin of an ancestor might provide clues about that ancestor's migrations as well.

06 June 2009

A license doesn't mean they got married

Remember that just because your ancestor took out a marriage license does not necessarily mean that he got married. Make certain there is a return as well with the date of the ceremony given by the officiant. Most people who take out a license get married, but once in a while something happens between the courthouse and the ceremony.

05 June 2009

Need a Legal Dictionary?

Many genealogists would benefit from having a legal dictionary. It doesn't have to be a current one. I picked up an old edition of Black's Law Dictionary on Ebay several years ago for $8--shipping was nearly that much as well. Current editions are much more expensive.

04 June 2009

Remember Laws Change

It is important to remember that the laws governing inheritance are determined by state statute and can change over time and vary from one state to another. If you are familiar with Kansas in the 1890s, that does not mean you are familiar with how inheritance works in Virginia in 1750. This is particularly true for those individuals who die without a will and sometimes even for those who do. State statutes may provide the answer to your question. Just make certain they are contemporary to your problem.

03 June 2009

Relationships are not always absolute

Just because someone is listed as someone's child in a census doesn't mean they actually were their child. Could they have been a step-child or a neighbor child who was taken in? And if person A is person B's "cousin" the exact biological relationship may not be as simple as one thinks. Their parents could have been siblings or half-siblings or the relationship could have even more distant.

02 June 2009

Do You Have it at Home?

Keeping track of what you research is important so that you don't spend time looking at the same materials. While at the Family History Library in Salt Lake last month, I had a few spare moments before the library closed. I decided to copy references from a Mercer County, Kentucky marriage book. Problem was I already had the actual book at home. So much for "dreaming" up what to do when my to do list runs short.

01 June 2009

What Rare Here is Common There

Keep in mind that a last name that may be unusual in one area may be very common in another. The name Schulmeyer is not too common in Iowa where my wife's relatives settled in the 1850s. Yet when I looked at the church records for Beberstedt, where the family was from, there were several of them.

It seemed like when looking at the church christenings like half the births were either to a Schulmeyer mother or a Schulmeyer father. A slight exgaggeration perhaps, but close enough to the truth to keep me on my research toes.

31 May 2009

Start A Blog

You may think that the world doesn't need any more genealogy blogs, but here's a reason to start one:

A relative might contact you.

My recent postings on www.rootdig.com about my findings at the Family History Library in Salt Lake brought about a reply from a researcher in Scotland who descends from my wife's 4th great-grandparents. I searched for these ancestors in several online databases, all to no avail. Despite this lack of any luck, within two weeks of my posting about the family, there was an email in my inbox.

I'm not saying you have to blog every day, or even every week. Personally I'd rather do actual research and analyze what I have. But an occasional entry about what you have found might bring another relative out of the woodwork.

I use www.blogger.com for mine, but there are other sites /software that one can use.

30 May 2009

Don't Judge, Instead think Why?

Upon occasion, one hears fellow genealogists being slightly judgemental about a specific ancestor. Instead of getting bogged down in that line of thinking (which doesn't help your research any), think "why?"

Putting yourself in your ancestor's shoes gives you a different perspective. If you were twenty-six years old, widowed, the mother of two small children, unable to speak English and living where you had no relatives, what might you do? You might marry the first German speaking single male around--one who would not have been your choice if you were twenty years old and still living at home with no children to support.

If your great-grandfather "disappeared" consider where he might have gone and what he might have done in an attempt to find him. Was there a war he might have enlisted in? Did he have some type of psychological problems? Maybe it was even better that he left, despite the disruption it caused in the family.

If you never personally knew the ancestor, leave the judging to someone else. Focus instead on your research.

On the flip side of this, I know one researcher who thought it was "romantic" that her great-great-grandmother found the "love of her life" and left her husband and headed out West on some grand adventure. The researcher was completely enamored with the story. Now if HER mother had done the same thing, I'm certain her response would have been somewhat different.

29 May 2009

More than Birth and Death Dates

Are you working to get more than just birth and death dates for your ancestors? After a