Be Specific

When writing genealogy information for anyone to read, avoid using terms like “Grandma” or “Uncle” without fully identifying the person. Vague references will only confuse the reader.

The same is true when asking people questions in an interview. It took me forever to get my grandma Neill to understand that I was asking questions about HER Grandfather Trautvetter, not her dad (who was my dad’s Grandpa Trautvetter).

Once you’ve had children, it does get a little confusing who you mean when you say “Grandma.” Don’t leave someone in a hundred years confused about who you meant. Be specific.

Filter Your Email Messages

I am on entirely too many email lists for genealogy. Finally at long last I sat down in my gmail (which I use for my genealogy email) and made a separate filter for each one. Messages to these mailing lists then never go to my main inbox and I don’t see them unless I visit the folder individually.

Now my inbox is not overflowing with these messages and I my inbox can stay clear for the “important” ones. This is particularly helpful as I get my genealogy email on my blackberry and before the filter I was ALWAYS getting email on my phone. A little annoying.

Email lists are great for genealogy, but now I can read them when I want–not have them flying at me 24/7.

Naming Patterns are Not Aboslute

In some families and ethnic groups, there are tendencies to pass on certain names. Sometimes this is done in a certain fashion, perhaps the oldest son for the father’s father, the oldest daughter for the father’s mother, and then on down the line.

Remember that this practice was a tendency in some families and is not proof of anyone’s name at all. Names can be used as clues, but they are “extremely circumstantial” ones at best. And if both grandfathers are named John and both grandmothers are named Anna, then you really have a mess!

A license doesn’t mean they got married

Remember that just because your ancestor took out a marriage license does not necessarily mean that he got married. Make certain there is a return as well with the date of the ceremony given by the officiant. Most people who take out a license get married, but once in a while something happens between the courthouse and the ceremony.

Relationships are not always absolute

Just because someone is listed as someone’s child in a census doesn’t mean they actually were their child. Could they have been a step-child or a neighbor child who was taken in? And if person A is person B’s “cousin” the exact biological relationship may not be as simple as one thinks. Their parents could have been siblings or half-siblings or the relationship could have even more distant.

Do You Have it at Home?

Keeping track of what you research is important so that you don’t spend time looking at the same materials. While at the Family History Library in Salt Lake last month, I had a few spare moments before the library closed. I decided to copy references from a Mercer County, Kentucky marriage book. Problem was I already had the actual book at home. So much for “dreaming” up what to do when my to do list runs short.

What Rare Here is Common There

Keep in mind that a last name that may be unusual in one area may be very common in another. The name Schulmeyer is not too common in Iowa where my wife’s relatives settled in the 1850s. Yet when I looked at the church records for Beberstedt, where the family was from, there were several of them.

It seemed like when looking at the church christenings like half the births were either to a Schulmeyer mother or a Schulmeyer father. A slight exgaggeration perhaps, but close enough to the truth to keep me on my research toes.