When analyzing information contained in any record, ask yourself “who was the likely informant on this record and how likely were they to know the information they gave?”
There is little more to information analysis than this, but this is a good start.
Death certificates are notorious for having incorrect information. Given the circumstances under which the information is given that’s not surprising. Just remember that those “wrong” places of birth may be clues as to where the family lived for a time and someone got where Grandma was born mixed up with where she grew up or where her parents were from.
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Documents can surprise you and that’s one reason why locating as many things as possible is good for your research. I thought this would be a typical mortgage when I saw it in the land records index for Hancock County, Illinois. Instead of a fixed series of payments, the 1869 document stated that the son was to pay the parents a fixed annual amount until they died and to take care of them until their death as well. Not quite your typical mortgage.
A colleague told me that if I needed some quick research pointers on a certain geographic area that I should feel free to ask him. I thought I had a question for him. When typing it in a message, I realized there were two approaches I had not yet tried and that I should do that before asking for his input.
Putting your research question together so that someone can make sense of it may make you realize that you know what to do next. And, even if it doesn’t, organizing your thoughts before asking will make it easier for someone to help you.
I’m working on a man named Andrew Trask who had a sons Edward and George and a daughter Harriet. There is a man named George living near where he did in the 1840s who can’t be his father, but that George had a daughter Harriet. That George had a brother Edward and a sister Harriet. There’s enough name “connection” to make me think that my Andrew probably has a connection to this family, but that name connection is not proof.
Just a clue that I need to follow.
Try and avoid researching in isolation. I’ve decided to work on a problem this week that I’ve not looked at in fifteen years. Before doing any actual research, I summarized what I had and asked someone who is familiar with the location what their approach would be.
Sometimes all we need is a little guidance or a suggestion which sometimes is best given by someone totally unrelated to the people being researched. And organizing what you know and what you’ve already done sometimes helps you see where to go as well.
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US Census records are supposed to give relationships to the head of household. Remember that if the head of household is married, the nephew listed with a couple could be the wife’s nephew as well as the husbands.
Relatives may be mentioned on the same document, perhaps even transferring property to each other, with no obvious mention of their relationship given. Most documents that genealogists use were created for purposes other than establishing family relationships.
When viewing images of records, do you make certain that pages have not been omitted or left out? Occasionally it happens. Make certain there are not missing page numbers. Sometimes records that do not have page numbers assign sequential numbers to each entry. Make certain that there are no gaps in sequence. And for those records that have neither, make certain there are not significant gaps in time.