Do You Double Check Before You Post?

I was writing a blog post about a relative and was certain he was never listed with his actual given name of James in any record.

I was wrong.

He was listed as James in a handful of early records–just not ones after he became an adult.

It’s not just memory that can be wrong. Double check those assumptions you have about history before you post or share them as well–ask yourself “how do I know that? “Do some research and find out.

Sometimes when I do that I realize that I am right. Sometimes I realize I am wrong.

But I usually learn something and my research is better for it.


Is It Really A Brick Wall at All?

Walking me for a little while may be the best brick wall breaker there is. And….it will be less time cleaning up messes.

Depending upon which genealogist you ask there are either brick walls or there are not.

Sometimes you get to a “stuck place” in your research and what it’s called doesn’t really matter. There are several ways to try and get around those places, including:

  • making certain you have looked at all records
  • making certain you are aware of all records created in the location of interest
  • looking at how someone solved a similar problem
  • thinking about whether your assumptions are valid
  • writing up your problem for someone else to read
  • making certain you are not relying on someone else’s conclusions
  • making certain that what you think you know is actually correct.
  • etc.

There are other approaches, but starting with this list is a good place to begin. And…it doesn’t always matter what you call it–when you are stuck, you are stuck.

Brick Wall Busters 2017 Version

This hour-long presentation (aimed at advanced beginner and intermediate researchers) focuses on research approaches to get you past “brick walls”. We will look at reasons why we have “brick walls” and how we may be making our own “brick walls.” Focus will be on problem-solving, getting past assumptions, realizing what we know versus what we think we know, and completely analyzing and understanding what we already have.

Order here for immediate download. Recorded presentation and handout included.


Those Bondsmen Don’t Pay Up Unless Necessary

Bondsmen (sometimes called securities) on an administrator’s bond are not saying they are paying the bills of the estate. They are saying that they are vouching for the administrator and that if the administrator runs off, doesn’t pay the bills, etc. that they are “good for it” and have the funds to pay the bills–and the court will enforce the bond if necessary. If the administrator does his job, the bondsmen have no need to worry. Consequently the bondsmen are people who knew the administrator and trusted him to “do right” by the estate. 


Join Us in Salt Lake this May/June

There’s still time to join us for a week of research at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, this upcoming May/June. Our registration rate is one of the lowest around, our trip is informal and focused on research (not on social or “group” activities), and you can stay next door at the Plaza for $91 a night plus tax. More details are on our site. Registration deadline is approaching.


Clues Sponsored by a Baptism

Names of sponsors can tell you more than just who might have been related to the baby. This 1874 sponsorship provided evidence of Wilhelmina Kraft’s immigration to the United States and that she was still alive in 1874.


Our sponsor, GenealogyBank, has a special offer for tip readers, fans, and followers for February–an annual subscription at less than $5 a month (billed annually).


Elizabeth and Her Husband Sell Property in 1894

The 1894 deed is phrased “Elizabeth Stiefel and husband to Ferdinand Stiefel.” The phrasing for the time period is slightly unusual–typically the husband is listed first and the wife is second (and may not even be named in a reference such as this).

This transfer suggests some additional research. The two most likely scenarios are that the husband was having some financial difficulties or the property was under the control of the wife (perhaps through acquisition before marriage or through an inheritance).


Who Administrated the Estate?

Estate settlements of relatives who died without children often provide the names of their heirs and can be used to confirm family relationships that may not be evidenced in other records. Pay close attention to the individual appointed to administrate the estate–if there is no will. That individual may also be a relative. Sometimes the last name is a dead give away that there is a connection, but that’s not always the case.

Michael Trautvetter died in Illinois in 1869 with no children and no spouse. His siblings and some nephews and nieces were his heirs. The name of the administrator meant nothing to me, but it turned out that the administrator’s wife was a niece of Michael. The maiden name of the administrator’s wife was not an immediate clue either because she was the daughter of Michael’s sister with her first husband–another name I did not have.

Don’t ignore the names of estate administrators. Sometimes they are not related–but sometimes they are.


But I Thought I Knew That

Genealogists are usually good about knowing that they should figure out the meanings of words they don’t know.

That same thing applies to words that they think they know–in fact, that’s when knowing the meaning is even more important so that meanings are not misunderstood. There are two main situations where this can be a problem:

  • legal references. Certain words when used in a legal document have a specific meaning and that meaning can be different from what is meant when a layman uses that same word.
  • cultural, pop, political and historical references. The meanings of words have changed over time. A newspaper may use a slang term to refer to your ancestor that may tell you something about the ancestor (and perhaps the newspaper as well). Depending upon what you know about the ancestor, the reference could be a clue. A late-1850 reference to your ancestor as a know-nothing would be a statement that may require a review of that term.