Monthly Archives: March 2011

Heard It When a Child?

Is that story your aunt Gertrude told you one she heard when she was a small child? Sometimes children only hear parts of things and make up other details to complete the story. Is it possible that’s what aunt Gertrude did when she first heard the story sixty years ago?

Not to mention the fact that sixty years have taken place since she first heard it.

Power of the Widow?

This phrase generally means that a widow had more legal powers if she stayed single than if she married after her husband’s death. Back when a husband controlled his wife’s property, a second husband could have done whatever he wanted with his wife’s real estate–including selling it.

But as long as the widow remained single–she dictated what happened with the farm. Often her deceased husband would give her a life estate in that property and that she lost it if she married. One purpose this served was that any “new” husband’s would not get control of the wife’s real estate.

Changed Denomination Late in Life?

Does your ancestor “evaporate” from church records late in their life? Don’t assume it is because they died–perhaps they changed denominations. Grandpa might not always have been a Methodist and Grandma might not have always been a Catholic. Change does happen.

When they retired, a set of ancestors changed churches and switched from Lutheran to Presbyterian. The reason? The town they retired to had two churches: Roman Catholic and Presbyterian.

Search Ledgers and Not Just Packets

In courthouses that have them, genealogists often focus on the packet of papers–court papers, probate papers, etc. Don’t forget that some information may be recorded in court ledgers, registers, etc. The packet of loose papers is great, but don’t forget that some details may only be in the record books.

Surplus Consonants?

Is your ancestor enumerated in a census or other record with an extra consonant at the end of their name? Emma Sargent is enumerated as Emor, Emmar, and several other spellings ending with an “r,” likely because of how she pronounced her name.

Could a name for which you are looking have a consonant added at the end?

Consider Something You Don’t Need

Sometimes it might be worth it to order a record you “don’t” need. My grandmother’s brother died in the 1930s with little estate to settle up (except for a car and a small amount of cash). On a whim, I ordered a copy of his estate record. There was a paper in the file signed by all his siblings and his mother, waiving their inheritance. It didn’t provide me any “new” information, but it was neat to have the signature of my grandmother, her five siblings, and her mother all on one document.

And if I had not already known he was divorced, the fact that he had “no surviving spouse” would have been a big clue too!

Abbreviations Can Change

There was a time when “Ia” stood for Indiana, not Iowa. While today the letters “Ia” usually refer to the state of Iowa, there was a time when it did not. One can find census references, particularly some 1860 and 1850 where “Ia” refers to Indiana.

Abbreviations can change over time .

Search for Locations-Not Just Names

Are you searching a digital version of that county history, biography book, etc.? Try searching for locations as well as names. It can be a great way to see what other biographies and similar material in the book mentions locations where your ancestor was from. A search of an Illinois county history for “coshocton ohio” located several references to people from that county–besides my ancestor. A great way to get names of potential former neighbors, associates, and possible relatives.

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