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?


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.


From Whom Was the First Land 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.


Chrome Extension for AncestryDNA Users–Color Code Your Matches

An extension for AncestryDNA users who use the Google Chrome browser has been released. It allows users to “tag” matches with up to eight colors and identify what these colors stand for.

We’ve written two blog posts on downloading the extension (it’s free) and deciding what labels to use:


Short Landings

The intervening ten years in between census records can seem like a genealogical eternity. Some families can move several times in the intervening gap from one enumeration to another. A family I’m creating a chronology for was in southern Illinois in the late 1840s, northern Illinois during roughly 1851-1855, Kansas in the late 1850s, and likely back in northern Illinois in 1860. A lot can happen during the ten years between enumerations. It can be helpful to look at:

  • property records
  • tax records
  • military pension/benefit records
  • etc.

to try and document the moves. Always consider the possibility that all or some family members may move “home” for a short time, only to leave again.