Just A Deed?

If you think there should be an estate for an ancestor, make certain to look for a deed even if court records are not located. In some cases, if there was just the widow’s inheritance to settle up after her death the only record might be a quitclaim deed where the heirs transfer property to one of their siblings. There might not have been any need for an estate settlement.

Those With No Descendants Might Not Be Listed

Keep in mind that in the cases of intestate estates, a court might not be concerned about relatives who die young, never marry, and do not leave any issue.

If John dies without children and had six siblings, the court might only list those four who left heirs of their own.

The court is concerned with determining heirship–not with compiling a complete genealogy.

Start Small

Does that research project seem too large? Maybe it is. Pick a smaller task or research goal to start on and go from there. 

Don’t think about building the whole house in one day. Worry about the first brick, digging that first bit for the basement, etc. 
Then maybe you will at least get SOMETHING done–even if it isn’t EVERYTHING. Your descendants will appreciate something small that got completed versus some grand plan you never got started. 

Baselines and Meridians

If you need a map of baselines and meridians within the United States, there’s a good one here: http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/Visitors/PrincipleMeridiansAndBaselines.html
and if you don’t know what base lines and meridians are for, take a look at the Bureau of Land Management website. Baselines and meridians are used to describe ruralproperty in those states where land was initially transferrred to private ownership by the federal government insetad of the individual colonies.

Those of you who only have urban ancestors or east coast ancestors might not need these links….

They just might not remember

When interviewing that relative, keep in mind that there just might be some things they either do not know, never knew, or just cannot remember. It happens to all of us occasionally.

Sometimes it is easier to just say “don’t know” when asked for a name or a piece of information. And sometimes it’s the truth.

What Name Did They Prefer?

I record every name exactly as it was written on the document. Sometimes though I struggle with what name to “use” for an ancestor when they had more than one name.

I try and use what they used for the majority of their life. My great-grandmother I have listed as Fannie Rampley. Her name on her birth certificate was Frances. But from her marriage on, every record lists her as Fannie. She signs “Fannie Neill” or “Fannie I. Neill” (Iona was her middle name) on legal documents. She (or likely her children) had Fannie put on her tombstone. I transcribe the records using whatever name they say.

But I have her listed as Fannie in my database as it really appears that’s what she preferred.

In Book Form?

Don’t assume no one has ever published part of your family history. A little searching located a genealogy published in 1987 on the family of my great-grandfather’s sister’s husband. It contained pictures and a great deal of information I did not have.

Search out the in-laws!