Pick A Name

When transcribing documents, it is best to transcribe names in the document as they are written. Do not correct them in the transcription. However to reduce confusion it is best to pick one way to spell a relative’s name when writing about them. The last name of my Neill ancestors gets spelled as Neill, Neal, Neil, Neall, O’Neill, etc. When writing about them, I use “Neill.” When transcribing documents I use the spelling in the document.

That Seemingly Random Number on Grandma’s Death Certificate

Death certificates from the 20th century often have numbers associated with the cause of death. Added to the certificates for statistical purposes, these codes can make it easier to read the causes of death on some certificates when the handwriting presents a challenge. And…some of us just wonder what those numbers are doing on the certificate.

For more on these death certificate codes, visit our “Search Tip of the Day” page or visit the list of codes directly

Don’t Overlook Local Libraries

The small-town library where your family used to live may have resources larger libraries in the area do not have or are not aware of. The local librarian may be able to put you in contact with others who have extensive research experience with families in that area. In one of my families, the local library had digitized that town’s newspapers and put them online at no charge.

Genealogy Tip of the Day is proudly sponsored by GenealogyBank. Try their “GenealogyBank Search” and see what discoveries you make.

Is There a Story Behind Astoria?

On the surface the place of birth looks incorrect for the mother on this death certificate. Astoria, Ohio, is relatively near to Cincinnati–a significant distance from Coshocton County where the Rampley family lived.

Elizabeth (Rampley) Pierce was born around 1820 and this death certificate for her daughter Lida provides secondary information on Elizabeth’s birth.

That does not mean it is incorrect. The reference could be to a place named Astoria that is no longer named Astoria, a township or other political unit other than a “town” that is named Astoria, a place name that sounded like “Astoria” to the informant or the person completing the certificate.

I should not just ignore the reference because a quick initial search suggests it is wrong. That may not be the case.


Only As Precise As It Says

The modern use of GPS sometimes makes researchers think that every location can or should be known with exact precision. That’s not always possible nor is it always necessary. Only include in your database locations as precise as the actual record indicates. Don’t assume any more precision than the record provides.

A marriage record for an ancestral couple indicated they married in Coshocton County, Ohio, in 1830. Based upon other records for their families it’s probable that the couple married in or near Jackson Township. But the marriage record does not state that–either directly or indirectly. My suspicion regarding the location could be put in my notes for that couple along with the evidence that supports that conclusion.

Sometimes our knowledge of the location will only be as specific as the county–and that’s okay.

Buried With No Kin?

For years, I assumed that my aunt Elizabeth (Trautvetter) Herzog, was buried in one of two cemeteries where she had relatives. It seemed reasonable that she was in a grave that was never marked or where the stone had worn away. Dying in her early thirties, she was not buried with her husband who had remarried after her death.

Turned out she was buried in a cemetery where no other relatives are located. Most likely it was near where she and her husband were living at the time of her death.

Not everyone’s buried in the same cemetery as their local kin.

And…it also helps to have the name of a female relative’s last husband.

Machine Created Indexes that Find Mortar Mixers

The reasons why some databases have unusual names is because the indexes are created by an automated process, not by humans. Ancestry.com’s “California, Voter Registrations, 1900-1968” contains quite a few of these auto-generated names based upon algorithms that were used to create the indexes by automatically “reading” the original typed records.

Warm Body Witnesses


A witness to a document is simply testifying that they saw a person sign (or execute) a document and that they know who that person is. Witnesses do not have to have any relationship to the person executing the document although they have to be old enough to legally sign a document themselves. Do not assume that witnesses are related to the person signing the document. The witnesses could simply be other people who happened to be nearby when the document was signed.