Monthly Archives: January 2016

Not Really Widowed

Many divorced women in the 19th and early 20th century found it easier to say they were widowed instead of saying they were divorced. This individual’s 1900 census enumeration indicated she was a widow when in fact she was divorced and her ex-husband was very much alive. Sometimes divorcees would refer to themselves as “grass widows,” but that term was not approved by the census department. wisad


Advertisements As Genealogical Clues

If your ancestor was a local businessman, an advertisement in a newspaper or other publication can confirm where the business was located, dates on which the business was operated, business partners, etc.

Advertisements may even include biographical information on the business owners (check out the comments on this Rootdig post to see a reference to an advertisement in Kansas that generated quite a bit of information).



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Sharing the Beer Box to Generate Interest

beer-boxThere are a variety of ways one can interest “non-genealogists” in family history.

I recently posted this image from an 1889 estate settlement that mentions cash received from the return of a “beer box.” I shared it with a few of my second cousins on Facebook who got a kick out of it. We even had a brief discussion about the purchase/storage of beer in the late 19th century. Sometimes sharing something “non-genealogical” can help to either generate interest in the past or spur a discussion of it.

Is there something outside of the births, marriages, deaths, and “begats” that you could share?


Going Back and Forth and Mushroom Huntin’

Whenever I locate a record, I look at adjacent records to see if there are other records that may be on the same family or may mention ancestral associates. It’s not just one type of record where this may help as:

  • families may record several deeds at the courthouse on the same day causing the records to appear page after page;
  • the census may include other relatives on the same pages or on pages in close proximity to the desired entry;
  • tax records may include other family members living nearby on an adjacent page;
  • siblings may marry on the same day and appear consecutively in the marriage records;
  • family members may die a few days apart (either due to illness or a mother and child who do not survive) and appear adjacent to each other in the death records.

And so it goes. An incomplete index may only direct you to one of these entries. Sometimes It’s up to us to find the other one. Remember:

If you are lucky enough to find a mushroom in the woods in the springtime, there may be more nearby. Don’t stop at just one.


One Dead Parent Could Still Mean A Guardian

If a man dies leaving behind a wife and children, don’t assume that there won’t be a guardianship because one parent is still living. While a mother typically has physical custody of the children if the father dies, for much of US history someone would have been appointed guardian to oversee their interest in their father’s estate. That guardian may not have been the mother. This “financial” guardian would not typically have gotten custody of the child–that would remain with the mother.

These guardianship records can provide more details about the father and the children, depending upon the time period. In the United States guardianship records are typically local court records.