Is There More?

Online indexes can lead you to an image of a record with a quick search–if you are lucky enough that names are spelled and indexed correctly. Make certain the “next image” isn’t part of the item you located. Census records may be split over two pages, draft cards are often images of the front and back of the card, death certificates sometimes contain “supplements” directly after the original document.

Always look at the next image or two in any online set of images to make certain you’ve got it all–and look forward too as well.

You’ll never know until you look.

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When You Can Read Part of It

If a name is partially legible in a document or record, it can be difficult to find a list of names that “it could be.” One way to potentially get a list is to search a database for those known letters using a wildcard search. If a maiden name in a church marriage register looks like Tr[letters]t[letters]n, search for Tr*t*n in databases that contain name from the same general area where the name you are unable to read comes from.

Using databases on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, etc. are great ones because if the record set is a large one, you are pulling from a large group of names. When performing searches of this type, search specific databases. If the name is of German origin, focus on databases from that area. If it’s English, use indexes to English parish records or other English materials.

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Are there Multiple Digital Images?

If you have a digital image of a record that has portions that are difficult to read and cannot be enhanced, have you looked to see if there are other sites that have digital images of the same record? Some records are available digitally on more than one site and those digital images may not have been created in the same way.

That other site may have a better image.

Get the Genealogy Tip of the Day book. Great for reading cover to cover, browsing, taking notes in, or reading at random to get your research started.

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Give that New Information Some Time

If a document provides you with new information, a new conclusion, or a piece of information that “excites” you, read it again. It can be very easy to think a phrase or word means something that it does not. The temptation to jump to conclusions can be especially great if we have struggled with a family or a research problem for some time.

There are times where it is best to wait, do something else, and then come back to the item after some time has passed so that it can be looked at “cold.” One of the easiest ways to make your own genealogy brick wall is to jump to a conclusion based on a too quick reading of a document.

Get the Genealogy Tip of the Day book. Great for reading cover to cover, browsing, taking notes in, or reading at random to get your research started.

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Middle Name Clue or Red Herring?

For relatives who had middle names, try and determine (if possible) where the middle name originated. It could be a maiden name of the person’s mother or grandmother. A middle name could be the first or last name of a contemporary well-known person (nationally or locally) such as a politician, minister, etc. That middle name could have come from a neighbor, family friend, godparent, etc.

Or that middle name could simply be one that the parent liked for no other reason than that.

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Surveys and Plats

Did your relative have to have their farm or home lot surveyed either to establish boundaries with a neighbor or to have the property split up among several heirs? Those surveys and plats should be recorded in the same local records office that records deeds, mortgages, etc. (often the County Recorder in the United States). The surveys themselves may not provide major genealogical clues, but you may learn what caused seemingly arbitrary property lines (an old railroad in this case) or that a row of hedge was used by two brothers to mark their property line.

When accessing these records, make certain and determine how they are indexed–it is geographically or based on the landowners mentioned in the survey?

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Abbreviations and Notations

Compiled genealogies and other reference materials used in family history research (particularly directories and abstracts from records) often contain abbreviations, special symbols, formatting styles, etc. that can be confusing. These short hand approaches to writing are often done to save space on the printed page and make the compilation easier for the compiler.

They may be confusing to the person using the book if they don’t take the time to figure out what abbreviations, annotations, etc. mean. These are often explained in the introductory material in the publication. Copy or make digital images of these pages when you have the item. It will save time and frustration. This is a particularly good idea with city directories that often abbreviate words distinguishing between home owner, renter, boarder, etc.

Get the Genealogy Tip of the Day book. Great for reading cover to cover, browsing, taking notes in, or reading at random to get your research started.

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Terms of Court

How often was court held during the time when your relative was involved in a court case, was settling their parent’s estate, etc. In early American history, court in most jurisdictions was held infrequently–perhaps as often as four times a year. This is another reason that your relative’s court case or estate settlement could drug out for longer than it might have today.

Get the Genealogy Tip of the Day book. Great for reading cover to cover, browsing, taking notes in, or reading at random to get your research started.

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Non-Federal Population Censuses

There are other censuses that were taken in all (or parts) of the United States besides those between 1790 and 1940 in the years ending in “0.” There were some states that took censuses of their population in off census years–some of those records are available online at FamilySearch, state archives or historical society websites, or fee-based websites. There were a few states that took federal census in 1885 as well.

Do you know what state census records were taken for those places where your ancestor lived?

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Multiple Probates?

If your ancestor owned property in more than one county in the same state, there probably was just one probate case. That case was likely in the county where the bulk of the property was located. If your ancestor’s farm was split in two counties, the same is probably true–where the bulk of the real estate was situated.

If your ancestor owned real property in two states, there probate was likely done where he lived or most of his property was owned.

It is possible that the estate was probated in both states, perhaps at different points in time. This can happen if property in another state is discovered after the estate in the original state has been closed.

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