Read Your Ancestor’s Paper

When you locate that obituary or death notice for your ancestor, consider reading the entire thing–the newspaper that is.

Reading an entire issue (or two) of a newspaper may give you some insight into the time in which your ancestor lived. At the very least you might learn about the weather and who knows what real details are waiting for you in those other pages.

You might even get a historical clue that explains something else in your research.

Don’t just copy the obituary and head back to your searching. See what other news is waiting for you in the paper.


Where Is Your Audit Trail?

Are you tracking your online searches as you perform them?

Genealogists are not going to track every search they conduct online. People conduct simply too many to chart every search they perform.

However, if you spend more than 5 minutes searching a census index for someone, it may be time to make a chart of the search terms and track the ways in which they are used.

Otherwise you may be going in circles looking for someone and never even realize it.


Do You Hear It Yourself?

Sometimes “seeing” a clue is not about seeing at all. Do you ever read a document or record “out loud?” There are times when just saying something or hearing yourself say something makes a clue or piece of information “click.”

Talking to yourself a little bit never hurts and it may cause you to realize things that were not so clear when you simply read them silently.


Where Did It Have To Be Done?

Vital records are usually recorded where the event took place. A child might not have been born where the couple “lived,” they might have been born somewhere a slight distance away, perhaps while the mother was staying with relatives in a neighboring town. A couple might have traveled fifty miles to elope and marry in a different state. A person may die in a hospital in a neighboring town or while a thousand miles away on a trip. That death will be recorded where the death took place, not the person’s residence.

Where were they when it happened?

Comments in Brackets

When transcribing handwritten documents, make certain that any comments, interpretations, etc. that you make are clearly indicated in brackets. It is preferable that these comments be placed after the actual transcription itself. 

You don’t want to compound any potential errors by creating the chance that someone thinks your comment was a part of the original document. 
Words that you cannot read, or are partially readable can be indicated as such by [—] or [Gra—]. 
And always go back and re-read things you transcribed twenty years ago. Any chance you made a mistake?

Genealogy Webinar Link Problems?

If you ordered genealogy webinars from me and your download link expired:

  • email me at
  • forward me the receipt for the product you were unable to download in time.
Links to download do expire in 24 hours–that’s to balance traffic on the server and to prevent fraudulent downloads. It’s no problem to reactivate your download links–at no charge, you just have to let me know.
And if you’d like to purchase webinars, there’s a complete list here:

If There’s Not a Reason, There Better Be a Reason

I have a relative,  born in Canada in the 1820s who for some reason moved to southern Missouri in the 1850s. It seems a little unusual to me and, at this point, I do not know the reason why he moved. What I do have a reason for is why I know it is the same man (his name, year and place of birth and the names of his children all match).

If you don’t have the reason for why your ancestor did something a little unusual, try and make certain you have good reason for believing it is the same person. Maybe the reason it seems like you have the “wrong person” is because you do.