Monthly Archives: March 2009

Sometimes an Error is an Error

A 1907 era court case involves the children of my ancestor as defendants. They are all listed correctly with the right first names in virtually every court document.

Except one.

On the deed where the judge is selling the estate, William Rampley is listed as Wilbur Rampley. William’s middle name was not Wilbur and he never used that name as a nickname. What happened? Most likely a simple transcription error. When every other reference to him in the records is William and one out of thirty lists him as Wilbur, it’s easy to realize that sometimes an error is just that, an error.

The problem is that when we have just one reference to an individual it can be difficult to know if a name is simply an error or something more.

Just a little something to think about.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestLinkedInShare

Is it Complete?

Before using any online database, determine whether or not it is complete. Many times, vendors will release “part” of a database, hoping to generate publicity and new sales. The problem is that many times users do not read the details of the database enough to find out.

Before you spend hours searching that database, determine how complete it actually is.

Spell Check Doesn’t Always Work and Computers don’t think.

Don’t rely on spell check when typing anything. Read it for yourself.

Remember your genealogy software doesn’t correct your logic or fix your conclusions, that is up to you.

If you can’t find the typo on this brochure…well I’ll just say that it’s the very top line and spell check obviously did not catch it.

Before You Do Data Entry

Some families are a little bit complicated. And if one is not careful it can be easy to enter the incorrect relationships in our genealogical database. What I do in these situations is to map out the relationships on paper first in an attempt to get a broader view of the family and in an attempt to understand the relationships correctly.

Once I think I have the relationships down, I begin my data entry. Wasting time “fixing” relationship mistakes is time I could spend doing actual research.

Can You Concentrate?

Having difficulty staying focused on your research? Perhaps working on your computer is part of the problem. Recently on a four-hour flight, I realized I got more work done in those four hours than I had in the previous four days.

There were no instant messages, no emails, no phone calls. Admittedly the plane was a little cramped, but not having constant distractions helped me to organize my research and decide where I could progress next.

Sometimes when we get an idea about a family history problem, it is tempting to go to a website right away, do some research and get sidetracked. The next thing you know, it is several hours later and you barely spent five minutes on what you really wanted to research.

“Paper or Plastic”

It is not really a “tip,” but I thought it interesting nevertheless:

In a banquet speech that must have been at least ten years ago, I made the following comment (which is fiction, by the way):

“After Smithton County had their county marriage records digitized, the county board contemplated what to do with the originals. In an effort to conserve space, save money, and express concern for the environment, they decided to submit them to the local paper recycling center. Board President Wannabee Paula Tician commented ‘this allows us to reduce county expenses and even lets dead people help with recycling.’ The next time you get to ‘choose’ between ‘paper’ and ‘plastic,’ your great-grandparents’ marriage license might literally be ‘in the bag.'”

Does One Letter Make a Difference?

How would one letter change that name?
The omission of one letter changes “Orange” to “range.” Quite a difference.

How would the omission of one letter from the surname for which you are searching change it? Would the soundex code be the same? Would the name even be pronounced the same? Would the error be easy to find in an index.

Think about one letter being dropped. You might be surprised at the variants you come up with.

Read the Page Before and After

This is always an excellent idea when an ancestor has been located in a census record as relatives could always appear on the page before or after your ancestor. At the very least you may see names you recognize from other documents on your relative, perhaps as witnesses or bondsmen.

If you locate a deed, view the ones recorded before and after as well. Sometimes deeds were recorded in groups and several might have been filed successively.

This may be helpful in court and other records as well.

Usually not helpful with birth records unless there were twins!

And deaths are another story.

Are Your Maps Contemporary?

Genealogists need maps to oragnize information geographically, know where to look for records, and have an idea of how their ancestor’s residences fit into the larger area as a whole.

One key is that the maps be contemporary to when your ancestor lived in the area. Modern maps can be helpful in finding current locations of cemeteries, but many other times our research requires contemporary maps.

If you are stuck on a forebear, get a contemporary map of his or her area. Perhaps that map is just the one you need to get your around or over that brick wall.

It Is Relative

Never use the word “Grandma.”

My daughter set up “accounts” for the family to use on her laptop. One evening I needed to use it and it asked me for a password. My “generic” password did not work and upon the submission of an incorrect entry it gave me a hint:

“Grandma’s maiden name.”

I immediately entered in each of my grandmother’s maiden names. Once in lower case and once in upper case. I was just about to get irritated when I realized that my daughter had meant HER grandmother, not mine.

Two seconds later, the password let me in.

Avoid using words such as “grandma,” “uncle,” or “aunt” without more information. Even Grandma Neill can be confusing. After all, whose Grandma Neill is it? Records are confusing enough sometimes without us making things more confusing in our comments, notes and transcriptions.