Moved in With the Children?

If late in their lives, you can’t trace one of your older relatives, consider the possibility that Grandma moved in with one of her children or grandchildren. This could easily have been a distance from where she lived most of her life and where her husband is buried. It is also possible that a “disappearing” grandparent moved near one of their own siblings instead of one of their own chidlren.

It’s also possible that your “disappearing” older relatives moved away and did not live near any of their children as a pair of mine did in the 1870s.

And if the census was taken before 1850 in the United States, that older relative may be hiding in one of those tic marks in the census enumeration of their son or son-in-law.


Who Else May Have It?

There may be more than one repository that has the exact same record. Some vital records were recorded at the local and state level. Some records may have been microfilmed or digitized and available in repositories other than the one that holds the original record. Those duplicated items may occasionally omit a record or have a blurry image. That’s a time to go back and view the original if possible, but many times the duplicate images are completely readable and usable. Those duplicates may be cheaper or easier to access than the original.

Your source citation should always indicate if you used an image copy or the original–that way you don’t “go back to find the ‘original’ when that was what you used in the first place.

Finding all the different repositories that may have the same record was one of the “tightwad genealogy” skills I discussed recently in that presentation–but it certainly was not the only one.


Regularly Learn Something New

One of the best ways to become more efficient at genealogical research is to learn something new on a regular basis. Learn about sources you were not aware of. Learn about inheritance law in the state where your ancestor lived. Read the act under which your relative applied for a pension. Learn something about your ancestor’s ethnic group. There is a lot to learn.

Regularly learning was one of the “tightwad genealogy” skills I discussed recently in that presentation–but it certainly was not the only one. I even suggested keeping a “learning diary” of what genealogical items you’d learned. That would help you remember them and remind you of when the last time was your grew your genealogy brain.


Make Genealogy Cupcakes

Yesterday’s tip was about “baking the genealogy cake.” If that seems like too large of a task, try making genealogy cupcakes instead:

  • write about one ancestor or one family–not all their descendants
  • organize what you have on one relative
  • go through one family’s pictures
  • etc.

It’s not necessary to do it all at once, and something is better than nothing. A great way to get started is to put the documents of one ancestor in chronological order and summarize what they say about that one ancestor. It’s not the most literary approach, but it is better than nothing.


Just Bake the Genealogy Cake

In some cases your family history research may never be finished. It’s a fact of research. The best bet is to write up and organize what you have now, before it is too late.

Even if your research is incomplete, leaving behind a written up discussion of your research process (with citations–even if not perfect–the world will not end) and your conclusions is better than leaving a pile (or a hard drive) full of unorganized and un-analyzed material. Later researchers can build upon what you have done.

Just start putting things together. Genealogy is the cake batter that’s never “quite ready for the oven.” Sometimes you just have to bake it.

This metaphor may be half-baked, but hopefully readers get the point.

If you find more information, just add it to the frosting (grin!).


Were they Flitters?

I spent a considerable amount of time working on the origins of a female relative in the county where she married in Illinois the 1840s. I searched the 1840 and 1850 census manually to see if there were potential relatives there. Not a one. It turned out that her family was only in the county for a few years–long enough for her to meet a man and marry. Shortly after her marriage, her parents and siblings took off for a new location. While looking in the area for her family was the right thing to do, sometimes you have to realize that they may have only been there for just long enough “to leave one record” and then move on.

Some people do “flit” from one location to another. If there’s flirting going on, they may leave a marriage record behind and move on.


Airing out the Heirs

“Heir-at-law” is usually a specific term defined in state statute. Who qualifies as an “heir-at-law” depends upon the family structure of the individual who has died. In this illustration the father is listed as an heir-at-law. Reference to state statute would be needed to be 100% certain, but parents are not heirs if the deceased left descendants. This reference to the father as an heir would indicate that Andrew Ramsey had no descendants.

Andrew could have had siblings.


The Census We Use Is Not the Original–Usually

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?