It’s Just An Index Card–There’s More

butler-index-cardFamiliarity with records is crucial to genealogical research. One can’t just take what they’ve found online and leave it at that.

Researchers should always be asking if there is “more” to the record than what they have found or if the record they have found means that other separate records may have been created.

This is the General Index Card to compiled military service records for Leander Butler who served in Companies I and B of the 10th Kansas Infantry in the Civil War.

I’ve already got a copy of his pension (that’s a separate record), but his compiled military service record (which this card is just a part of an index to) may tell me more about his military career and may provide clues about his enlistment.

And since I’m stuck on what his family was doing in the 1850s and 1860s that information may be helpful.

Many records we use are actually indexes to other records. One should never stop at the index–even if you didn’t know it was just an index when you were searching it.


There’s Still Time…

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Temporarily Reverted to Maiden Name?

My uncle was married to his wife for ten days when he died of the flu in 1918. His widow never remarried and lived the rest of her life with her parents. In at least one federal census, she was enumerated with her maiden name. The listing is probably an error as later record use her married name.

Everyone else in the household had the same name, except my aunt. It is very possible that the census taker simply got confused.

Do you have a female relative who is inadvertently listed under their maiden name in a record created after their marriage?


Let It Sit

Recently I was reviewing information in a pension application. There were two records in the application that felt like they were extra and not really needed. I read them over and kept trying to “figure them out” as if there was some arbitrary deadline for me to figure it out.

There was not a deadline.

I put the file away and worked on something totally unrelated.

When I went back to the file a few days later, the reason became clear.

Sometimes one simply needs to put it away and come back to it later.


My Blogs and Newsletters

To reduce confusion, we are posting a summary of my blogs and newsletters.

The blogs are published on the following websites. Any of these blogs can be received daily in your email for free by subscribing using the links on the individual blogs.

My two fee-based newsletters (because we have to pay the bills):

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Pension Files Document Military Injuries

Civil War service and other contemporary military records may not document your ancestor’s gunshotsinjuries as completely as you would like. After all, war time is focused on war. The military pension file may contain more documentation of your ancestor’s battle injuries. This 1905 medical report indicates where the veteran’s battle scars were.

Military pension files for Union veterans of the Civil War are housed at the National Archives.


Neighbors’ Names to Jog Memories

If you are having difficulty jumpstarting your relative’s memory, try using the names of neighbors from a census or city directory. The 1940 census is recent enough that names of neighbors may be familiar to someone even if they were not alive in 1940.

Memories about a neighbor may help fill in a few blanks or it may even cause your relative to remember more about their relative.


Casefile Clues is Back!

After a hiatus, Casefile Cluesmy easy-to-follow how-to genealogy newsletter focusing on the research process and analysis is back.1914906_133301877226_3680450_n

To celebrate our return, we’re offering new subscribers a rate of $17 for 52 issues. Your subscription will begin with issue 3-51 and run through issue 4-52. That’s 54 issues. Our normal subscription rate is $20.

This offer ends at 3:00 pm central time on 26 August 2017. Don’t wait.

You can learn more about Casefile Clues on our blog and order free back issues (download immediate) here.

Process your new subscription securely here.

If you’re already a subscriber–we’ll let you download a webinar at no charge. Visit our webinar page and email me at with the name of the presentation you want.




A Scrapbook to Write In

A reader on our Facebook page had an excellent idea for helping to jog the memories of older family members. She made a scrapbook of old pictures with room for the person to write down what they remembered about the people in the picture, the location, etc. Generally the pictures were used as memory prompts.

The relative could then write in the book at their leisure as things came to mind.

Sometimes an interview simply isn’t long enough or memories come flooding back after it’s over.


Using Google To Help Transcribe

Google won’t read sloppy cursive script (at least not yet), but searching for other key words near the mystery word can assist in transcribing that word.

Use Google to give you suggestions, but don’t forget to use your common sense and contextual clues.