Justice of the Peace “Records” in the Newspaper?

In some jurisdictions county courts may not have heard all lawsuits. Justices of the Peace may have had jurisdiction over smaller matters that took place in their local area–frequently a town, village or township (but it depends on applicable state/local law). One of the problems is that these Justice of the Peace records are often not extant–or as detailed as county or higher level court records. Newspapers can be one place to learn about some of these smaller and less significant cases.

This one from 1886 was for $15 for trespass and damage to stock–probably because someone’s cattle got out or someone crossed a property line. No other details are given, but it helps put people in a location at a certain point in time.


Newspaper Tax Lists

Newspapers occasionally publish complete tax lists like the one from 1907 shown in the illustration. Sometimes newspapers only publish lists of delinquent taxpayers–make certain you know whether you are looking at a complete list, a list of late taxpayers, or a list of assessments that have been recently changed. Property owners may not be actual neighbors if they were absentee owners. For urban dwellers, a map showing the relative positions of lots within a subdivision and relative positions of subdivisions to each other may be helpful–they’ll give you geographic perspective.



WayBack Machine

If that website comes up “not found,” consider searching for that address/page at the Internet Archive‘s “WayBack Machine” at https://archive.org/web/


DNA Problem-Solving with DNAPainter and GedMatch Webinar Released

Based upon suggestions from readers, we’ve put together this session on DNAPainter and GedMatch combined. Using just one tool is not an effective way to analyze your DNA matches.

Date: This session has been held and recorded.

  • order for immediate download for $17.99–presentation and PDF handout included
  • if you ordered early and did not receive download-email me (tell me the email used for payment) and I’ll send the download link.

From GedMatch, we’ll use:

  • one-to-many matches
  • one-to-one compare
  • matching segment search

DNAPainter’s mapping tool will be also be utilized. DNAPainter tells you when a new painted match has shared DNA with other matches you’ve already painted. We’ll be using that feature of the site.

We will look at:

  • organizing your analysis and process
  • documenting your thought process and conclusions for later review
  • tracking shared matches
  • assigning segments to ancestors and couples
  • specific examples–including one where the grandfather of the testee was unknown

What you should already know or have done:

  • Basics of DNA analysis–accuracy of predicted relationships, centimorgans and segments, why you don’t have DNA from every one of your ancestors, why third cousins may not share DNA, why siblings don’t have the same DNA, why predicted cousin relationships are estimates, etc.
  • Experimented with DNAPainter–at least painted a few matches.
  • Also recommended that you’ve already uploaded you DNA data to GedMatch–we won’t be discussing how to do that in this presentation.
  • Have already looked at your GedMatch results
  • Our previous webinars may be of help.



You Are Responsible for Wagging Your Genealogy Tail

No one cares about your research the way you do. Professionals are limited by time–and your budget. Much of what will get done to discover and preserve your family history rests on your shoulders.

Learn all you can about the records where you ancestors lived and the places and time period in which they lived—and:

  • research methodically;
  • report accurately;
  • track what you use;
  • cite what you use.

That’s a good start and hopefully some discoveries will have you wagging your genealogy tail–just like Riley in the illustration.


When Real Life Makes You Forget Discoveries

Life has a way of pulling you from genealogical research right when you have made a big discovery. When you return, the excitement of the new find is gone.

  • What have you forgotten you had?
  • What’s sitting in your files without being analyzed?

There could be big clues waiting in what you’ve forgotten to actually read. That’s what happend to me with nearly seventy pages of letters written by members of my family in the 1880s.


Undocumented Difficulties

Tales of family mental illnesses, substance abuse issues, and other challenges to normal daily functioning are not often passed down from one generation to another. And yet, they can explain why people disappear, certain relatives are never discussed, some relatives “won’t allow booze on the place,” etc.

Newspapers, death certificates, court records, state hospital records (or committals) can be some places to potentially find some information about these conditions–for some individuals if the records are not sealed. Not all people who suffered from these conditions will leave behind records documenting what was taking place in their life. The records that are left behind may be incomplete and inaccurate.

And remember that diagnosing these conditions was different in 1900 than it is today. The treatment, as well as the diagnosis, was different.


Those Ethnicity Results…

For the most part are entertainment. Mine are never as precise as the ones in the advertisements–and I really don’t care.

Concentrate more on your first, second, third, and fourth cousins and how they connect to you. That’s where the more immediate, more relevant, and (hopefully) more discoverable stories await.

I’m not going to be able to document my relatives back to the first century A.D. It’s simply not going to happen.

I’ll focus on the stories that I might be able to prove–and those are usually quite a bit more recent.



Did They Just Flit in and then Flit Out?

A female ancestor married her husband in Kentucky probably in the 1810s. By 1820, they are enumerated apparently as husband and wife, with some small children. They can be traced for the rest of their lives until they died in Shelby County, Indiana, in the later part of the 19th century.

It’s her that I cannot find–as if she was dropped off by a UFO at the county courthouse where she saw Enoch and they decided to get married right there, right then as the UFO was leaving Earth’s atmosphere.

Of course that’s really not what happened.

One possibility is that her family (property renters and not owners) moved into the county from somewhere when my female ancestor Nancy is in her late teens. Within short order she meets a young single neighbor man–Enoch. After the shortest engagement her parents will tolerate, Enoch and Nancy marry. Enoch’s family owns a farm and he likely helps his father on that farm. Nancy’s family moves further west. Maybe his father dies and her mother marries. Maybe both her parents die.

The possible problem is that her parents only lived in the area for a few years and then they head further west and take their other children with them. This leaves no families with the last name to be listed in the 1820 census and no one to be listed in property tax records either.