Transcribe As It Is Written

trautvetter-transcribe-it-rightSometimes genealogists are tempted to “fix” documents when transcribing them. Don’t. Make comments about the accuracy of the document in your notes accompanying the transcription. Do not indicate the document says something that it does not.

Documents can be wrong.

But sometimes they are right when we think they are wrong and if we “correct” them, we won’t know what they originally said.

This draft card should be transcribed as a birth in Hancock, [State of] Tioga. My notation indicates that the reference is to Tioga, Hancock County, Illinois.



Don’t Make it a Maiden Name if You Are Not Certain

elkatammenThe 1895 will of Tamme Tammen in Pike County, Illinois, refers to his wife as “Elka B. Franklen Tammen.”

Franklen (actually most likely Franken given where the Tammens were from) could have been Elka’s maiden name, middle name, or married name with a previous husband.

I should include in my notes on Elka that she is referred to as “Elka B. Franklen Tammen” in her husband’s 1895 will. I should not enter that as her maiden name.

Using it for a clue to other relatives when searching is advised. But there’s not really good evidence in this will that it’s her maiden name. There are other possibilities.

This will is analyzed in detail in Issue 3-51 of Casefile Clues.

Bible Records In the Pension?


United States military pensions may mention information contained in a family Bible as evidence in a pension claim. Often family register entries are used to document births or marriages. In some Revolutionary War pensions, the actual pages from the Bible may have been submitted. The illustration in this post is from 1915 and is typical of Union Civil War pensions where affidavits about the Bible’s content were used instead of having veterans submit the actual Bible pages.

This affidavit was analyzed in issue 3-50 of Casefile Clues.


It’s Just An Index Card–There’s More

butler-index-cardFamiliarity with records is crucial to genealogical research. One can’t just take what they’ve found online and leave it at that.

Researchers should always be asking if there is “more” to the record than what they have found or if the record they have found means that other separate records may have been created.

This is the General Index Card to compiled military service records for Leander Butler who served in Companies I and B of the 10th Kansas Infantry in the Civil War.

I’ve already got a copy of his pension (that’s a separate record), but his compiled military service record (which this card is just a part of an index to) may tell me more about his military career and may provide clues about his enlistment.

And since I’m stuck on what his family was doing in the 1850s and 1860s that information may be helpful.

Many records we use are actually indexes to other records. One should never stop at the index–even if you didn’t know it was just an index when you were searching it.

Temporarily Reverted to Maiden Name?

My uncle was married to his wife for ten days when he died of the flu in 1918. His widow never remarried and lived the rest of her life with her parents. In at least one federal census, she was enumerated with her maiden name. The listing is probably an error as later record use her married name.

Everyone else in the household had the same name, except my aunt. It is very possible that the census taker simply got confused.

Do you have a female relative who is inadvertently listed under their maiden name in a record created after their marriage?

Let It Sit

Recently I was reviewing information in a pension application. There were two records in the application that felt like they were extra and not really needed. I read them over and kept trying to “figure them out” as if there was some arbitrary deadline for me to figure it out.

There was not a deadline.

I put the file away and worked on something totally unrelated.

When I went back to the file a few days later, the reason became clear.

Sometimes one simply needs to put it away and come back to it later.

My Blogs and Newsletters

To reduce confusion, we are posting a summary of my blogs and newsletters.

The blogs are published on the following websites. Any of these blogs can be received daily in your email for free by subscribing using the links on the individual blogs.

My two fee-based newsletters (because we have to pay the bills):

  • Michael’s Genealogy Blog Update–published weekly and delivered as an email–see a copy on our hosting service. This is a fee-based newsletter ($5 a year), and includes a summary of new blog postings along with some premium content. Take a look.
  • Casefile Clues–a how-to newsletter delivered as a PDF file. This newsletter focuses on research, methodology, and analysis. We are accurate and pedagogically correct, but we concentrate on articles that are easy to understand and follow without watering down content–grow your research skills from the comfort of your own hoe. Visit the webpage for more details including subscriptions.