They Moved to the Slough from the Habben Corner

The names of some locations may be informal and only exist in the minds of local residents. Official location names may be used in legal and other documents, but newspapers (particularly “gossip columns”), family letters and less formal materials may refer to places by names used by the locals.

I know where the Habben Corner was and where the Meadow Slough south of Carthage, Illinois, approximately is, but these location names won’t appear in any gazetteer or geographic directory. Local libraries, historical/genealogical societies, or “old timers” may know the places to which these unofficial names refer.



Where Do the Leaves Come From?

Where do the “hint leaves” on your  tree come from? Generally speaking, most leaves result from:

  • links other people have made in their own trees. That is, you link an 1880 census for Hinrich ReallylongnameIcannotspell. Another person who has linked that 1880 census entry to their tree’s entry for their Hinrich links that Hinrich to an 1870 census record for Hinrich ReallylongnameIcanspell. You may get a “hint leaf” suggesting the 1870 census record for Hinrich ReallylongnameIcanspell when you find the 1880 census record for Hinrich ReallylongnameIcannotspell.
  • search results based upon broad searches for information in your database.
  • larger databases. “Hint leaves” do not include every database on


My “practice” online tree is online at

Ignoring the First Wife?

I’m not exactly certain what brought Andrew Trask to St. Louis in the 1840s, but shortly after his arrival he married Ellen Weld. She died shortly after the marriage and he married again and had all his children with his second wife. Research has focused on the second wife, because that’s the one with whom he had children.

Clues as to Andrew’s origins could like in learning more about his first wife and his first marriage, particularly as it took place shortly after he arrived in St. Louis. Don’t ignore ancestral spouses that left no children behind. no-kids

Winning Over the Record Clerk

While there are no guarantees, there are some things a researcher can do when at the courthouse or records office to maximize the chance you are successful locating the desired records:riley-book

  • be polite
  • know the hours of operation
  • know what records they have (or at least a general idea)
  • have your information organized and handy so you aren’t rummaging through papers or your phone to gets dates, names, and places)
  • find out their cell phone use policy
  • look relatively professional (flip flops, belly shirts, and the like should be avoided)
  • thank them for their help–even if you think they weren’t that helpful

Brainstorm the Sources

When you are stuck, sometimes it can be helpful to get off the internet, think about what you are wanting to know and what sources could provide that information.brainstorm-sources One approach is to brainstorm, making a list of what could help, who to search for, why to search, and how to get it. When brainstorming, don’t search the internet and don’t worry about how to access the records. That can come later. Brainstorming should be just about making as long of a list as possible.

This chart is a part of my “Creating Effective Research Plans” webinar.


Every Paper Has A Purpose…

This 1915 document gives the mailing addresses of heirs in a probate case without stating any relationships to the deceased. That is intentional. The purpose of this document was to verify that heirs had been mailed a notice regarding the estate. Other documents explained the relationships. Every document in a court record has a specific purpose and it is probably not to leave behind information for genealogists. Make certain to look at every record in a file. Papers that “look boring” may contain the most information. nancy-harper-heirs

Near and Dear to Me Can Confuse You

“Near” relatives.
That could be near in the geographic sense or near in the biological sense. Boston, Mass. and West Point, Illinois, are not geographically close. The obituary meant the sisters in Boston and the local niece were the only biologically close relatives the deceased had–not that they were the ones who lived nearby.

Some words can have more than one meaning. Sometimes that is easy to forget.

Essentially True But Slightly Inaccurate

We often use obituaries and biographies to create rough chronologies of our ancestors lives. This can help us search records. Keep in mind that obituaries and biographies may get details slightly out of order–enough to create confusion in the chronology. The father in a family may have died young before they moved out of state instead of after. The mother may have been the parent that died first instead of the father and the surviving spouse may have actually been the children’s step-mother instead of their mother.

Keep yourself open to the possibility that there may be just one or two key statements in a biography or obituary that are slightly off. That can be all it takes to create a really different story from what actually took place.