Are You Checking Every Court?

Remember that in some jurisdictions there may be separate courts for different functions. There may be a criminal court, a probate court, an orphan’s court, a court of equity, etc.

Make certain you have searched all the records–not just one court. It can be easy to overlook one court and not find what you are looking for.

Affidavit Filed With the Deeds

Once in a while, non-deeds may be discovered with the actual land records. An ancestor died in 1893 in Illinois–no will and no probate. There apparently were no bills from the estate, other than funeral expenses. The oldest son filed an affidavit with the land records indicating that the farm was owned free and clear at the time of his father’s death. The affidavit partially explained why there was no estate settlement for the father either.

One Document–Many Statements

Remember that one document, a death certificate for example, may contain many statements. Those statements (about the birth, the parents, the date of death, the place of death, burial, cause of death, etc.) are not necessarily made by the same people. Each statement must be evaluated separately as the informant might not have been equally “informed” about every statement which they gave.

One Piece of Paper Isn’t Proof

There is more to “proving” a date of birth, a place of marriage, or a maiden name than finding it written on one piece of paper. At the risk of oversimplifying, the researcher should be at the very least be considering:

  • how accurate that “piece of paper” probably is
  • the likely informant of that “piece of paper”
  • what other “pieces of paper” have to say
  • how reasonable the information on that “piece of paper” is
There’s more to making a case than this, but these are elements of analysis that should be considered on a regular basis. And if at all possible, try and find other “pieces of paper” that mention the same date, location, or relationship. Ideally those pieces of paper will have different informants-preferably ones who had first hand knowledge of the information. 

Census Taker Assumed Entire Household Had Same Last Name?

If the members of a household were not all the children of the same father, keep in mind that the census taker might have simply assumed everyone in the household had the same last name, whether they did or not. 

Step-children might be listed with the step-father’s last name, even though he never adopted them at all and they never used his last name themselves. Grandchildren enumerated with grandparents might be listed with the grandparent’s last name, even though they never actually used that name. 

Do You Need A Separate Genealogy Email Address?

Consider getting a separate email address for your genealogy research and correspondence. There are several places to get free email addresses, Yahoo, Hotmail, Google, to name a few. You shouldn’t have to change it if your service provider changes, space is usually fairly generous, and web-based interfaces make it easy to check anywhere.

And for some of us, it helps to keep genealogy emails separate from those in our “other life.”

Is There Something No One Ever Told You?

As you use family sources, interviews with Grandma, and stories that were passed down in your family to begin your research, keep in mind that there might be key details that relatives either forgot or intentionally neglected to tell you.

They can be as innocent as forgetting that great-grandpa lived in Idado for ten years and “came back home.”

Or they can be intentional, as in forgetting that Grandpa had a wife before he married Grandma and that he had five children with the previous wife.

Omissions can be inconsequential or serious roadblocks to your research. They can also be things Aunt Myrtle simply forgot or something cousin Harold never wanted you to find out.