Is great-grandpa’s will confusing? Are the relationships unclear? If so, make certain you have accessed all accountings of the estate that indicate what relatives received what amounts of money. If these records exist, the disbursements may mention relatives not listed elsewhere (people tend to “appear” when money is involve). These documents may also help to clarify relationships that may be ambigious in wills and other records.
Have you looked for a relative’s probate only to not find it? Are you certain that he or she owned land when he died? If you are, look for a quit claim type of deed where the heirs either sell to one other heir or to another party. It may be that your ancestor’s estate “avoided” probate by use of one of these deeds. Sometimes these records will say the name of the deceased owner and sometimes they do not. Consequently to find these records, look in land indexes for the names of all known heirs of the relative whose probate you cannot find.
Most of us have at least one ancestor who was married more than once. Normally we do not descend from each of their spouses and we tend to focus on the spouse from which we descend.
Doing this may cause us to overlook information. Researching all our ancestor’s spouses may provide more information about the ancestor.
Archibald Kile was married three times. The first was in the 1830s in Ohio to the woman with whom he had all his children. He married twice in Illinois, both times when he was in his 70s. Searching the records of these marriages located marriage applications which provided the names of Archibald’s parents. If I had not located the second and third marriages of this ancestor, I would have missed a great place to learn about his parents.
Sometimes a clue is not a clue the first time you see it.
I had used a deed as a sample in my early years of teaching genealogy classes. After a few years, I switched it out in place of a different example. Several years later, I switched back to the earlier example, not really reading it but just putting it in.
I read again as I lectured about it and then I stopped. The purchaser of the land in question was an ancestor–the reason I had copied it. Now years later, I stopped and looked at the name of the seller. It was my ancestor’s first cousin who had “evaporated” in Ohio. Here he was in Illinois selling land to my ancestor.
Now I know to look closely at all the names on any deed where an ancestor buys or sells property. I didn’t know that when I was starting my research.
How many things did you find early in your research that have not been re-analyzed?
Do you have pictures with individuals who are not identified? Work on locating someone who might be able to help you name those people. The courthouse and library will still be around in a month (hopefully). Great aunt Myrtle might be the only one who knows who “those old people” are and her memory (or even yours) could be taken away in a moment.
If Grandma or Grandpa “evaporates” after the death of their spouse, make certain you have searched for all their children, not just the one who is your direct line. Your ancestor could easily have moved in with one of their adult children after the death of their spouse.
Find all the children of your ancestor. Look for them in census records. In pre-1850 censuses, Grandma or Grandpa may appear as a “tickmark” in one of the older columns. Grandma or Grandma or Grandpa may also appear in the cemetery next to one of those children. If they moved several states away to live with a child, they might not have been taken “home” for burial.
When was the last time you read a research guide or how-to book about genealogy or an area where you are researching? It is easy for even the most experienced researcher to occasionally overlook a record type or not be aware of a record that has recently become more accessible. Periodically review a chapter in a guide book-The Source: A Guidebook Of American Genealogy (Third Edition) and Val Greenwood’sThe Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy are two of my favorites. And for specific areas, the Family History Library’s Research Guides are excellent. We all need a refresher every so often.
And I’ve been known to read a chapter from one of them when I was in need of an article idea and behind on a deadline.
Always prove dates given to you by family members, especially early generations of the family. They may not be correct, for several reasons. One common reason for fudging dates is to make the first child arrive at least nine months after the marriage. One family history had my great-grandparents married a year earlier than they were to better “fit” the birth of their first child.
In another family, the birth date of the oldest child and the marriage date of the parents were modified to make the first child born a year after the marriage.
It is important to be accurate and not to judge. Great-aunt Myrtle might not like to hear that her parents “had” to get married, but she likely will get over it. It is important to remember that our ancestors were human. After all, if they weren’t…what’s that make us?
An ancestor of mine was John Rucker. In some records he is listed as “Captain John Rucker.” In some cases “captain” ends up being his first name. Of course, this makes a difference in how his name appears in an index or an online database.
Did your ancestor have a title? Is it making him difficult or impossible to find?
If you are looking for someone in the census and cannot find them, try reversing the first and last name. Perhaps the census taker did not know which name was the first name and which name was the last name. This problem can be compounded if the names are in a foreign language.