Maybe You Have Exhausted All Sources

Sometimes all of us need to admit that we’ve reached the end of our research on a particular person or a particular lineage. Maybe records have been destroyed or were not even created during the time period we need. Maybe your ancestor changed his name and the original simply will never be known.

There are situations where, unless new records are discovered or finding aids are created, research will reach a standstill.

Sometimes it’s good to know when there’s just no more you can do. The problem is that sometimes we reach that conclusion before we should.

Try All Newspaper Locations

When looking for that relative’s obituary, look in more than one location. Try where they were living where they died, where they were born, where they lived the bulk of their life, where their children were living at the time of their death. You might be surprised where an obituary pops up.

Of course, there may be no obituary at all.


[the earlier version of this that went out was a “draft” that accidentally went live instead of this version]

Remember that the month of Xber is actually October. Tip of the day readers familiar with their calendar history will know that X is the Roman number for ten and that the prefix “oct” means 8. That’s because before the calendar change of 1752, March was the first month of the year, making October the eighth month and not the tenth month. Chances are after the calendar change of 1752, Xber refers to December and that before the calendar change of 1752 it referred to October.

Best advice: Record the month EXACTLY as written. If your software program doesn’t “like “Xber” then personally, I would leave the date blank and record an EXACT transcription in my notes as to the date, but that’s just my preference. And if the records being used are chronological, look at later entries in the year. It might also be good to look at earlier entries as well.

Think Where?

If you are looking for a specific piece of information–ask yourself “where could that be written?”

Don’t focus initially on locating a birth record, instead think where could information about the birth be written? This might be a birth certificate, newspaper announcement, family bible, etc.

Then try to access those sources. It might be that when you locate one of the items it provides a clue to help you actually locate the birth certificate.

Looking for Ancestral Signatures?

There are several places where you could locate signatures of your ancestor. Two good places are packets of estate papers (for receipts, etc.) and actual pension or bounty land applications. Estate papers would be (usually) a county level record and pension/bounty land applications are typically a federal record (except for Confederate pensions given by states).

Multiple Transcriptions

There’s several counties in Kentucky where different individuals have transcribed the marriage records. Different people read things differently. I went through both sets of transcriptions. Good thing I did. The name of a husband of a relative was transcribed in two significantly different ways. One was so far off that I never would have found them in later records. Fortunately the second transcription was more accurate and helped me find more materials.

If there are duplicate sets of transcriptions for a record use both–partiularly if the originals are not at your disposal.

1840 Census

Don’t forget on 1840 census enumerations to look at both the left hand page and the right hand page. The left hand page includes slave numbers, information on individuals engaged in various types of employment (categories only, no names), and names of Revolutionary War pensioners. There might be a big clue hiding on the right hand page of that census–don’t forget to look, grandpa might be living with the family.

Cause of death on death certificate

Remember that what “killed” your ancestor might not be what actually “killed” him. Look for the secondary cause of death–that might have been the lingering illness that really was the culprit. Kidney failure might have been the result of something else.

Don’t ignore those other illnesses listed on the death certificate.