If your ancestor’s last name has a “t” in it, did the “cross” on the “t” over another letter and “change” the name? My Butlers became Butters for that very reason.
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Always make certain you know what you are searching. I recently wasted nearly fifteen minutes searching for someone in the 1900 census before I realized the database I was actually querying was the 1930 census.
Most of us use chronologies in our ancestral research–consider making a resume for your ancestor. List what years he worked what jobs. Census and city directories are great ways to start getting this information, but death certifiates, obituaries, estate inventories, etc. all may give occupational clues.
Don’t pad your ancestral resume like you might your own. Stick to documentable facts (grin!).
Don’t forget today is the last day to vote for “Genealogy Tip of the Day” as one of the top 40 genealogy blogs. http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ft40-2011voting
They are encouraging multiple voting–I think someone on staff is a Chicago native.
Some database search interfaces allow users to search on other fields besides names. If the site you are using allows this, consider searching on ages, places of birth, father’s place of birth, etc. I’ve made some interesting discoveries without entering in any nanes on a set of search boxes.
Before you spend hours searching an online database, determine how complete the database is. Some sets of data include all records in a specific series. Others may be in progress, only including part of the time span the title covers. The webpage title may say the materials are from 1850 to 1950, with 1850-1855, 1870-1880, and 1940-1950 being included. Always read the details.
Take a look at a perpetual calendar and see what day of the week your ancestor was married, died, etc. People might have avoided getting married on a certain day of the week or having a funeral on a certain day, but being born and dying are different.
While state statute usually defines these terms, it is generally true that an heir of a deceased person is someone who inherits from the deceased based upon their biological relationship to the deceased. A legatee is typically someone whom the deceased has mentioned in their will. Heirs are related. Legatees may be related.
Don’t forget if you have found that will in the packet of probate papers for your ancestor that there might be a “will record” contained with the probate records as well. Not all jurisdictions kept these records, but many did. Perhaps if the will has a difficult to read portion, is partially missing, or open to interpretation, the transcription in the “will record,” done at the time the will was proved, will answer your questions.