First Land Purchase in a New Area?

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.

Or he might have thought someone from “back home” would be willing to pay a higher price than the property was worth <grin>.


Why Track “Why?”

It is important somewhere to keep track of your research logic as you progress. Otherwise you might not remember “why” you are researching a certain person.

Several years ago I focused on a certain Benjamin Butler in an 1850 census enumeration as being “mine.” Using that enumeration as the starting point, I searched other records and made progress. I located a fair amount of information. One problem–I didn’t track WHY I thought this 1850 census entry was for the correct person. What I found later all tied to the 1850 guy, but not to the one who was really “mine.” It took me hours to reconstruct my reason and that was time wasted.

Fifteen minutes to write up my reason to begin with would have saved me time later.

Create an Ancestral Resume

Most of us use chronologies in our ancestral research–consider making a resume for your ancestor. List what years he worked what jobs. Census and city directories are great ways to start getting this information, but death certificates, obituaries, estate inventories, etc. all may give occupational clues.

Don’t pad your ancestral resume like you might your own. Stick to documentable facts (grin!).

Get Away from What You Want to Prove

When analyzing a record or set of materials that does not make sense, get away from what you “want to prove” and try to think “what do these documents really say?” You may find that they do not say what you think they do. And not every record says what we want or expect it to say.

Sometimes our preconceived notions are what is getting in the way.

It Won’t Help Me

Sometimes researchers avoid getting a record because “I already know what it will say so there’s no need to bother with it.”

And there are times where a record confirms what you already had or doesn’t tell you anything new. But there are also those times when the record contains unexpected information.

You never know what a record says until you see the record. And it’s always possible that what you “think you know” is not correct in the first place.

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A Child Remembers

Try and determine when your relative learned that story they are telling you. Would they have been a small child when they heard it? Memories that come from when the person was a child can be impacted by their immaturity and inexperience with life. Sometimes children draw interesting conclusions about family events only to pass them on as facts years later.

100% Accuracy Is Not Always Necessary

Three slightly different dates of birth for an ancestor is not the end of the world as long as the dates are consistent. One of my relatives born in the early 19th century has three different dates of birth from three different records. The dates are only two years apart. The place of her birth is consistent as are other details about her life. While I would like to know which record is “right,” it’s not the end of the world since the other details in her life (her name, her place of birth, her parents’ names, her husband’s name, and her children’s names) are all consistent.

If there were three women born in her village with the exact same name within two years, then I would have a problem.

Always Look for More

journal-both-grandfathersAlways be on the lookout for references to more than one person in the same record. This was a coincidence, but one never knows–and sometimes indexes will not always indicate when a name appears more than once on the same page.

This 1968 issue of my “hometown paper” had advertisements involving both my grandfathers in the same column. I searched for one and found them both. It never hurts to keep your eyes open.

Flip Over that Surrendered Warrant

Many individuals who received military land warrants for pre-Civil war service in the United States did not actually settle the property. Instead they sold the warrant to someone else. If that’s the case, the back of the original warrant (housed at the National Archives) may have their signature as a part of the assignment of the warrant.

Of course, they also could have just made their mark.