Calculated Dates of Birth

If you have an age at death, keep in mind that the resulting birthdate (calculated from the age), may be slightly off. First it required the informant to know the exact date of birth and also required them to make the calculation of age correctly. Without knowing the birth date they used to determine the age, there is no way of knowing if the birth date is correct or not.

Always put the qualifier “calculated” in front of these dates of birth. If the person was “older” at the death, the age is a secondary source for the date of birth and should be treated as such.

Check out the County Seat

Before making a trip to that out of the way county courthouse, find out a few things about the county seat:

  • Is there someplace to get lunch?
  • Should I stay at the motels?
  • Can I use a digital camera?

We were in a very rural county seat several years ago and the town only had a post office. There was no restaurant, no motel, etc. Consider posting a query to the appropriate Rootsweb mailing list/message board about your trip to find out these things before your arrival.

Get the Real Deal

Remember when requesting copies of vital records to get an actual copy of the document, not just a “proof.” Genealogists usually need all the information on the original document in the original handwriting. When I got a copy of my daughter’s birth certificate, they brought out a typed copy that basically just gave her name, date and place of birth. While it worked for non-genealogy purposes, I want the “real deal” for my records.

My original birth certificate has my mother’s signature on it. A transcription won’t.

Avoid Court Day

If your summer genealogy travel plans include a trip to that local county courthouse, consider avoiding court offices on “court day” if possible. Some county courts don’t meet every day and if you are trying to use records on the one day a week court is in session, you may get less help than usual.

Try and find out from the local office if some days are “better” than others to come in and do research.

Are You Really Working the Chain of Migration?

I’m a big believer in chains of migration, but while working on my wife’s Frame family I completely ignored it. My theory was that since the 1869 era immigrant went to Chicago and was a painter that he simply settled there because he thought he could find work.

When searching for all his family’s US census entries, I noted that one child was born in Pennsylvania. When searching UK census records on his in-laws, I noted that his wife had nephews in the UK who indicated they were born in Pennsylvania. Hmmm.

Maybe there was a chain of migration after all and I need to remind myself to look at the in-laws too!

Updating Your Email?

Have you updated your email address to those old posts you have made to message boards? Is it possible that there are old messages you have sitting out there with your old email attached?

While you can’t change the old posts, you can post new messages to the same board or list, restating your problem and including your new email. That way someone who finds the old post and your old email address can then search and find your new one.

I searched for one of my old email addresses and got over 1,000 hits. Some are for articles I wrote years ago, but a few probably are for posts to message boards on family members. Try searching for your old email address and see how many times it comes up. Have you posted updates to those boards?

Clues in the Inventory?

Does your ancestor’s estate inventory give an idea of his occupation? Many of us researching ancestors before the 1850 census don’t have a record that spells out an ancestor’s job. However, the record of your ancestor’s personal estate might give an idea as to his occupation. Keep in mind that there are some items that most households in 1830 had, so be careful drawing conclusions and compare your ancestor’s inventory to a few others just to see what items distinguish one from another.

What Have You Ignored?

For a long time, I never really used the International Genealogical Index (IGI) on the FamilySearch site very much. Most of my ancestors were German, Irish, or Early American and I just never found anything that I didn’t already know and filtering through all the erroneous entries diverted me from more productive pursuits, in my opinion.

However, when I started working on my wife’s English immigrants I’ve had to change my tune. The IGI includes significant extractions from English parish records and they have helped me refine my searches. Keep in mind that the IGI is a secondary source and that in the cases where I was working they usually didn’t extract deaths, mainly births and marriages. And one should not assume they have every parish. And they don’t extract father’s occupation and specific residence which may also be on the original record. The IGI is not an end in and of itself and information it contains should be verified with actual sources.

Is there some source you’ve been in the habit of ignoring that perhaps you should start checking?

Is Your Name on Your Flash Drive?

Many of us use flash drives in our genealogy work, particularly as we travel and take pictures, scan documents, share files, etc.

Your name may be on your flash drive and it may have a key chain or lanyard with your name on it. Another approach is to have a file in the main directory (preferably a plain text one) with your phone number and email address. That way if the finder is inclined, they have a way to reach you.

Are You Logging Off?

Genealogists occasionally use someone else’s computer to log into one of their various email or database accounts. Some genealogists use their own personal accounts when at a library or Family History Center (it makes it easier to put things in your own “shoebox.”).

Are you logging off when you get done? If you don’t the next person could be accessing things you don’t want them to.