Are You Familiar With the Records You Are Using?

When using a record set with which you are not familiar, think about how someone gets into the record, how the  information in the record is obtained, how the record is organized, and how the original  record got from its original state to you.

All of these issues get to how we use and analyze the information contained in the record.

Genealogy Tip of the Day is sponsored by GenealogyBank.

Search NewsBank’s GenealogyBank for your ancestors.

What to do while waiting for your DNA test and results. 

Share

Remote Access to the Archives?

If you are unable to physically visit an archives that holds the only copy of something you need, consider other ways to potentially access that information: call them, email them, write them a letter. Many archives will communicate with patrons who are unable to visit onsite. Recently I’ve obtained digital copies of materials by email communication with archival staff in Colorado and Nebraska.

A few reminders:

  • Be polite.
  • Try and be specific in your request.
  • Do not send rambling emails with extraneous information–the archivist is there to help you find a document not a solution to your personal problems.
  • View online inventories and finding aids, if available.
  • Use online indexes and databases, if available.
  • Be patient–you are not the only patron.
  • Images or copies of records may not be free.
  • Ask if there is something on the record you do not understand. The archivist may be able to give you a quick answer or refer you to someone else.
  • The archivist is also under directive to preserve the records.

 

Share

The Probable Informant Probably Knew

Some documents clearly state who was the informant. Many though do not provide this information. When considering the accuracy of information on any document, consider the probable informant and how likely they were to know the information being provided.

Genealogy Tip of the Day is sponsored by GenealogyBank.

Search NewsBank’s GenealogyBank for your ancestors.

What to do while waiting for your DNA test and results. 

Share

Official Does not mean Accurate

Just because a record is “official” does not mean that every detail it contains is correct. A death certificate probably has the date of death and burial correct, but the date and place of birth could easily be incorrect. And there is always the chance that a death record has the wrong date of death or place of burial. An official record does not guarantee the information is accurate. Remember that in most records, the information is only as accurate as the informant and that in most records information submitted came from someone’s mind and was not verified with another source or official record.

Genealogy Tip of the Day is sponsored by GenealogyBank.

Search NewsBank’s GenealogyBank for your ancestors.

Share

Assumptions and What You Don’t Know

Recent research reminded me of the importance of recognizing assumptions and validating what you “think you know.”

I knew cousin William Ehmen was a Lutheran minister in Nebraska in the 1880s. I just assumed that he attended seminary as “a young men” before he was married.  Wrong. He did not go to seminary until he was in his late twenties, had been married for seven years, and was already a father. 

He worked for the railroad for a time in Illinois and I learned he had lived in Mendota for a while–I assumed it was because he was working there for the railroad. No. He was attending seminary at what is now Wartburg College in Iowa. In the 1870s it was located in Mendota, Illinois.

I didn’t know that either.

I knew a few things about William and assumed the chronology. That was a mistake.

Genealogy Tip of the Day is sponsored by GenealogyBank.

Search NewsBank’s GenealogyBank for your ancestors.

Share

Vowel Changes Change Soundex

Name spellings that interchange vowels with consonants (or the other way around), usually create spellings that have a different soundex code. A Soundex search for Chaney will not catch the Chaney spelling.

The exceptions are for names that have more than three separate consonant sounds after the initial letter. Letters after the third consonant sound (after the first letter) are ignored in Soundex searches.

Share

Be Willing to Erase

Review your conclusions. Take a second look at material you compiled early in your research. Be willing to question research your “finished” years ago. Admit mistakes when you make them. It’s not the end of the world. You should want your research to be correct. Genealogy is not a crusade to show your first conclusion was right no matter what. We all learn as we research and sometimes we learn that our first conclusion was not right.

Genealogy Tip of the Day is sponsored by GenealogyBank.

Search NewsBank’s GenealogyBank for your ancestors. 

Share

Residential Clues from Bondsmen

Bondsmen should know the person for whom they are signing a bond. They probably trust them as well–or at least they should.

The residences of bondsmen are potential clues as to the general area where the person for whom they signed the bond lived. Depending upon what you know–that could be helpful. In 1903, Herman Haase had two men serve as his bondsmen on his bond. Herman lived nearly twenty miles from where the estate’s property was located. His bondsmen lived near him–not near where the property was located–because they knew him.

Share