She’s My Vague Cousin–Once Removed

Genealogists try to be specific when stating relationships between individuals. Your relative from Omaha might not be as specific when discussing family members. Grandma may have written “Cousin Myrtle” on the back of a photograph.

If the person referring to their cousin is still alive, try and get them to be more specific about the relationship, if possible. Don’t suggest what the relationship is. Sometimes “cousins” were were actually cousins (just further down the line than you thought), were related by marriage, or were just neighbors with whom the family was close.

Transcribe As Written

Always transcribe documents as written, making comments about accuracy outside the transcription. This 1921 court document indicated that a brother-in-law of the deceased was a sister of the deceased.

It should be transcribed as “…brothers, and Minka Hobben[sic], Heipke Schone, …”

The record should not be corrected when the transcription is made. After the transcription is complete a notation that “‘Minka Hobben’ is likely meant to refer to Tjode Habben, who was Mrs. Mimka Habben–oldest sister…”

Avoid the temptation to correct the document when making your transcription.


Power of the Widow

It was not uncommon a husband to bequeath his wife a life estate in his real property upon his death contingent upon her remaining a widow. This life estate in the real property allowed the widow use the property however she saw fit and receive income from the property. She just would be unable to perform any acts that impacted the title to the property–she could not sell, mortgage, or bequeath it in a will.

As long as she remained a widow in this case, she “had the power” over the property–and perhaps in a sense over anyone the husband had indicated would inherit it upon her death.

Does the Recorder’s Office Have a Miscellaneous Record?

County recorder’s offices in the United States make official record copies of a variety of documents, most have to do with real and personal property. In some locations other agreements between individuals, powers-of-attorney, or other documents may be recorded in what is often termed a “miscellaneous record.”

Don’t overlook it. There can be a variety of material in this record–including marriage contracts, personal property liens, contracts and more.

Website Reminder: United States Public Records, 1970-2009

This database on FamilySearch, United States Public Records, 1970-2009, is purported to contain over 800 million entries compiled from a variety of public records. While it can be difficult to tell what original record was used to create a specific entry, this database may help you narrow down where the person lived. Addresses and dates of birth are included.

Keep in mind this information may have been obtained from a variety of sources, may be inaccurate, and in some cases may result from different individuals’ files being merged together. us-public-records

Newspaper References to a Dropped Court Case

A newspaper may contain the only reference to a court case that was dismissed. This packet of divorce papers cannot be found, likely because the case with withdrawn. Initial newspaper references to the divorce provide additional details, including year place of marriage. Newspapers can easily supplement what is in an actual court records–but what’s in the newspaper may be incorrect, so take care using this information.later-papers

Vowels are Decorative Options

It’s not actually true, but it’s worth remembering when searching for names in various records that vowels (a, e, i, o, u) can easily be interchanged, depending upon how the name is pronounced by the speaker and heard by the person writing the name in the record.

Extra vowels can be added as well, so Dirks becomes Dierks and Smith become Smithe.

Spellings can vary–very easily.

Where Does that Document Fit in the Chain?

IMG_20160920_102351Every record fits in a larger chain of events and records.

When you locate a document always ask yourself:

  • was this document created as the result of some life event that might have created other records?
  • were other documents created that might have caused this document to have been created?
  • would this document have caused other records to have been created?
  • what would have happened to my relative for this record to have been created?

No record was created in a vacuum. Don’t analyze it in one either.

Website Reminder: BLM Land Patents

The General Land Office Bureau of Land Records website has digital images of federal land blm-site-coverpatents granted in the United States. The index generally includes the names of patentees and warrantees for these initial transfers of land from the federal government to private ownership.

Users unfamiliar with these records are encouraged to read the pages in the reference center of the website.