Monthly Archives: September 2009

How portable was your ancestor?

Think about your ancestor’s career or occupation. How portable was it? A landowning ancestor who farmed might have moved, but it likely wasn’t every two years and moving took a little bit of time and planning. If your ancestor had a small business, he might not have moved around too much, especially after he got himself established.

However, if you ancestor had a skilled trade, he might have been able to move more quickly, assuming he could find work.

And your day laborer ancestor (like a few of mine), might have moved all the time.

Think about your ancestor’s job, career, or employment and how easily it might have been for him to be portable.

Agreement doesn’t mean they are right

Just because two (or even more) records agree on a fact or a date, it does not mean they are correct. It just means they contain the same information. It could still be incorrect, especially if it has been years since the event which the documents talk about took place.

A death certificate, a tombstone, and an obituary may all provide the same date of birth. The reason most likely is because the informant was the same person.

And doctors even give wrong dates of birth. It does happen.

Is your first guess wrong?

The subject line to the mailing list was “old Danish.”

Since I’ve been gluten free for two years, a good ol’ pastry was the first thing that popped in my mind. What the poster meant was the older style of the Danish language and handwriting.

In this case, the first guess just might have been because I have an odd sense of humor.

But have you guessed at something and has your first guess been wrong?

Pre-1850 Census Analysis at Casefile Clues

Casefile Clues just sent out our 9th edition since we began distribution on our own website. This week’s article focuses on the analysis of several pre-1850 census entries for a family in rural Kentucky. Interpreting these census records correctly is not terribly difficult, but one does have to be careful so that mistakes are minimized.

There’s more information on Casefile Clues on our sister website.

And we’ll be getting back to more tips!

Write it.

I’ve mentioned it before, but repeating it might not be a bad idea.

Consider writing up one of your ancestors or families you’ve “finished” or think you are reasonably close to finishing. Write it and explain your reasoning and methodology. I virtually guarantee you that in the writing you will notice something you neglected to do, an assumption that you think now might not be correct, or an error in your reasoning.

And if you don’t, then get it published!

Since I’ve been writing Casefile Clues I have really noticed a few things of this kind in my own research and it’s forced me to pick up the loose ends, organize, etc. Even if you have no intention of publishing, putting it together as if you are can be a very good thing.

Jumping the Pond too Fast

Are you trying to cross the pond too fast? Sometimes frustration with a “I don’t know where to reseach my German/English/Irish, etc.” ancestor is because the homework has not been completely done.

Have you looked at EVERYTHING in the area where your immigrant ancestor settled? Everything means everything, even things you think might not help. You never know what a document will say until you look at it. Clues can be in the most unexpected of sources sometimes.

Then research his or her children completely as they might have left clues as to their parents’ origins.

Don’t start your German/English/Ireland research the minute you learn your ancestor was German/English/Irish. Do your complete homework first.

Look at all those page numbers

When downloading a census page or viewing census on microfilm, look at the page numbers that are written on the page. There might be more than one. View the previous image on the website or the microfilm roll. View the one before that.

How many different page numbers are written on the census page/image?

An 1810 census entry from Bourbon County, Kentucky indicated three sets of page numbers. One was stamped, one was written in ink (apparently) and another looked like it was written in pencil. And sometimes the page numbers are one every other “page.”

Not Everything has page numbers

Old documents usually have pages (except for tombstones), but they might not have page numbers.

Church records are especially notorious for this, especially in the days when records were kept in ledgers without printed forms. To keep track of where you got it, at least indicate the year of the record and what type of record it was (christenings, funerals, marriages, etc.). The name of the church and the location should also be included as a part of your source, but the year and type of record are essential to know where you got the information.