Are You Operating Under Assumptions?

One thing that creating the various pedigree charts has reminded me of is that I think I know more than I actually do. The drafts of the charts have been created from memory and there is usually at least one factual error in each rough draft.

It makes me wonder, “are there other times when I’m searching that I’m operating under premises that are not true? Do I have something in my head wrong that is making it more difficult for me to find someone?”

Try creating one of the charts of your own based on memory. Then check it with your records. You may be surprised at the results.

April Webinars

We are excited to announce our April webinars—with several new topics, including:

  • Using
  • Creating those Pedigree Charts and Sourcing Digital Images
  • Using
  • Using American
  • Using Land Patents and Tract Books
  • Determining Your Own Migration Trail

For details and registration information, visit our announcement page.

Separating a Family Tradition

IMG_20160330_164014When encountering a family tradition, take each statement suggested by the tradition and put it in one of two categories:

  • probably generated a record
  • most likely didn’t generate a record

“Grandma sold sandwiches to support herself after her first husband accidentally drowned in the 1850s. Then she married Grandpa Haase and they moved to the farm.”

Probably generated a record:

  • The drowning may be mentioned in a local paper
  • There may be estate or probate records related to the first husband’s death
  • There may be a death record of the drowning–although in some US states this is too early for a death record
  • There should be a marriage record to Grandpa Haase

The place to start looking for these records is where Grandma was believed to have been living in the 1850s.

Probably did not generate a record:

  • sandwich selling

We’ve simplified the analysis to keep this tip short, but this should get the general idea across.

Don’t forget that family traditions may be entirely true, entirely false, or somewhere in between.

Is Adolph a Cue to a Clue?

I have blanks in the pedigree of my great-grandfather, George Adolph Trautvetter born in 1869 near Tioga, Hancock County, Illinois.

I’ve never really thought much about his middle name. His first name was passed around the generations for generations. A review of his siblings indicated that his sister, commonly known as “Pheenie,” was actually named Adolphena. That’s the feminine form of Adolph.

Is there a family connection to someone named Adolph? The use of this name does not guarantee that George and his sister Adolphena will have an ancestor named Adolph or Aolphena. What it does mean is that if there is a potential relative named Adolphena or Adolph, that person has a slightly higher likelihood of being a relative.

The name is suggestive of a connection. It is not evidence.


Organizing Genealogical Information-April 2016

By popular demand, we’re bringing this course back….

(if you enrolled in a previous section and had later difficulties, email me to be put in this section of the course at no charge)


With Michael John Neill

(scroll down for specific schedule)

Organizing information is an important part of genealogical research-perhaps more important than the actual research. This short course (only 3 sessions) is intended to provide the students with exposure to a variety of ways to organize information with an emphasis on problem-solving. The course will consist of four lectures (topics and schedule below), problem assignments, virtual follow-up discussions, group discussion board interaction, and student submission of work (optional). There is no assigned grade-you get from this what you put into it. Students will also be able to share their work and ideas with other students.

Citation of sources is important, but presentations will not focus on citation theory.

This time the course will be presented a little bit differently. Students will be able to download the lecture and view it at their convenience-ideally all on the same day that the download link is sent to registered students.

Students will have a week to view the presentation, discuss or ask questions on the bulletin board and submit optional homework before the class discussion via GotoWebinar.

Course registration is only $30 for this run of the course. Class size is limited to 30 to encourage group interaction.

  • Assignment/Study 1Charts, Charts, and More Charts (we will discuss a variety of charts and table to organize your information and your searches-all students work on same problem
  • Assignment/Study 24 Step Research Process (we will discuss a four-step process to research organization)-pick your own problem
  • Assignment/Study 3– Constructing Families from pre-1850 Census (discuss of how to ascertain family structure from pre-1850 US census records)-all work on same problem

Register here

Lecture downloads:

  • 4 April (or until day before class starts)
  • 11 April
  • 18 April

Discussions are at:

  • 10 April 7:00-7:30 pm.Central Time
  • 17 April 7:00-7:30 pm. Central Time
  • 24 April 7:00-7:30 pm.Central Time


A Reminder From the Depths of the Cloud

Cloud servers fail.poof

Remote servers fail.

Your own computer will fail.

Every computer will eventually fail.

Back up your data.

In more than one place.


No-Name References

Being the “hired staff” of well-known individuals is one way to get listed in the paper without being named. Women could also be listed as Mrs. George Jones or simply Mrs. Jones. And men could also be referenced in a newspaper as simply “Mr. Jones.” First names may not have always been published. no-namew

Multiple Relationships?

Never assume that once you’ve figured out one relationship between two individuals that there could not be another.

A man named Rolf married the sister of my ancestor and that was the first relationship I learned about. Later I discovered that years before he married the ancestor’s sister, he had been married to the ancestor’s aunt.

Sometimes there is more than one connection.

Is that Transcription Complete?

Viewing the original record whenever possible is always a good idea. A 1922 baptismal record includes the parents’ marriage date and information on the father that was not included in the transcription of the record obtained when research began.

Sometimes there is more information written in the “comments” than there is in the actual record.see-original

Limitations of a Chart


A look at my chart of ancestral places of birth makes it appear that my parents and grandparents lived in Iowa, at least for a short time. That’s not true.

Charts can sometimes be misleading.

The reason my parents were born in Iowa is because that’s where the nearest hospital was located when they were born. No one ever lived in Iowa. But that is where they were born and that is where their birth certificates are recorded.

When using or creating any chart, be aware that it can have limitations.