Clean Your Slate

If you are really stuck, consider starting over and documenting every piece of information from scratch. Don’t throw away what you already have, but put it aside and start with the “most recent” facts and re-work your way through the research starting with your raw material from scratch.

It might even be advised to wait a few days before working on the family again to allow yourself time to forget some of the information.

Ask yourself along the way questions, including:

  • How do I know these two records refer to the same person?
  • Am I recording assumptions as facts?
  • Could I explain the research process to someone unfamiliar with the family?

It may seem like a lot of work, but sometimes it is what it takes.

Avoiding the Trees

Sometimes I avoid using online trees, GedCom files, etc. for as long as possible–avoiding them completely if I can.

I’m working on a family of my wife’s in Missouri and there are online files about this family, but most have the same gaps that I do and others repeat undocumented claims made by researchers decades ago. In this family, I’m finding that a better use of my time is to review original materials (or digital copies of them) and really research the family from scratch. Going through the compilations of others was not getting me anywhere and seemed to be an ineffective use  of time.

There are times where I have used online trees to get good suggestions or leads. This family (which I won’t name), just isn’t one of those times. When tree after tree repeats the exact same information without sources, it may be time to go back to the drawing board.

New Webinars for Download and Discount Code

Webinars on the Bureau of Land Management Site and DeedMapper were released today on our website. Thanks to our low overhead, copies of webinars are moderately priced at around $8.50 per download, a third of what others charge.

We also released recently webinars on Using’s Census, Seeing Patterns, and other topics.
There is more information and ordering details at:
Save $1 per webinar by using the coupon code tipoff

Don’t Forget Draft Cards

Remember that even if your ancestor did not enlist or was not drafted, there still should be a World War I or World War II draft card for him if he was in the US during this time. World War I Draft Registration cards are on microfilm and available through several subscription services. World War II Draft Registrations for the “old men” are on microfilm and online at FamilySearch. World War II registrations for traditional age registrants are available via mail from the National Archives for those men who are deceased.

Have You Looked at All Those Boarders?

If your ancestor has a boarder, hired man, or anyone else living in the household who is not a member of the immediate family, have you researched that person thoroughly? They may be related to the family even if the relationship is not specifically stated.

My ancestor Barbara Haase and her husband Conrad have a fellow German living with them in the 1860 census. I discovered this years ago and really had not thought about it since. I now know Barbara’s maiden name which is somewhat close to the last name of this unknown individual living with them in 1860.

Researching this man further may be worth my time. He may be totally unrelated to Barbara and Conrad or there may be a connection.

How Alphabetical Is It?

When using indexes to county or local records, remember that they are likely NOT strictly alphabetical. The “B” section of the index may (should) include all the last names that start with the letter “B,” but they are likely entered in chronological order, not purely alphabetical.

Remember also that “Mc” and “Mac” names may have their own section of the index.

What Was a Mantamaker?

The 1880 census in Clark County, Missouri, indicated that two relatives were “mantamakers.” The term was foreign to me.A google search indicated that, generally speaking, a mantua is type of dress. This was discovered by just googling what the word looked like and going from there. Wikipedia has a short reference on this type of women’s apparel at

Even if you think you are reading something incorrectly, consider googling the term. If nothing else, someone else might have posted a blog entry about it!

Was There Ever a Stone?

If you think, based on family tradition, an obituary, a death certificate, etc. that a person is buried in a certain cemetery, keep in mind that there might not be a stone for them. Some families, for whatever reason do not erect a stone after the burial. It can be difficult to find what was never there. 

It is always possible that the marker was a wooden one that did not pass the test of time. 
And some stones fall down and are buried themselves.