Monthly Archives: October 2016

Get Away from What You Want to Prove

When analyzing a record or set of materials that does not make sense, get away from what you “want to prove” and try to think “what do these documents really say?” You may find that they do not say what you think they do. And not every record says what we want or expect it to say.

Sometimes our preconceived notions are what is getting in the way.


Could Your Ancestor Just Pick Up?

Was it easy for your ancestor to simply “pick up and move?” While it is possible for anyone who really wants to move to do so, some occupations and lifestyles make it more difficult?

How portable was your ancestor’s occupation? Some could easily transfer themselves to the unsettled frontier and some could not.


It Won’t Help Me

Sometimes researchers avoid getting a record because “I already know what it will say so there’s no need to bother with it.”

And there are times where a record confirms what you already had or doesn’t tell you anything new. But there are also those times when the record contains unexpected information.

You never know what a record says until you see the record. And it’s always possible that what you “think you know” is not correct in the first place.

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A Child Remembers

Try and determine when your relative learned that story they are telling you. Would they have been a small child when they heard it? Memories that come from when the person was a child can be impacted by their immaturity and inexperience with life. Sometimes children draw interesting conclusions about family events only to pass them on as facts years later.


100% Accuracy Is Not Always Necessary

Three slightly different dates of birth for an ancestor is not the end of the world as long as the dates are consistent. One of my relatives born in the early 19th century has three different dates of birth from three different records. The dates are only two years apart. The place of her birth is consistent as are other details about her life. While I would like to know which record is “right,” it’s not the end of the world since the other details in her life (her name, her place of birth, her parents’ names, her husband’s name, and her children’s names) are all consistent.

If there were three women born in her village with the exact same name within two years, then I would have a problem.


Always Look for More

journal-both-grandfathersAlways be on the lookout for references to more than one person in the same record. This was a coincidence, but one never knows–and sometimes indexes will not always indicate when a name appears more than once on the same page.

This 1968 issue of my “hometown paper” had advertisements involving both my grandfathers in the same column. I searched for one and found them both. It never hurts to keep your eyes open.


Flip Over that Surrendered Warrant

Many individuals who received military land warrants for pre-Civil war service in the United States did not actually settle the property. Instead they sold the warrant to someone else. If that’s the case, the back of the original warrant (housed at the National Archives) may have their signature as a part of the assignment of the warrant.

Of course, they also could have just made their mark.



Calculated or Stated?

If a tombstone gives a date of death and an age of death, the date of birth can be calculated for entry into a database. It should clearly be indicated when entering in and sourcing the date of birth that a calculated date of birth was used.

That way it has been made clear that the stone did not give the actual date of birth.

Of course if the birth date is on the stone it should be entered in your database–citing the stone, but not indicating that the date was calculated.


My Blogs–A Reminder

I maintain the following genealogy blogs (unsubscribe links at top of each page):

  • Rootdig.comMichael’s thoughts, research problems, suggestions, and whatever else crosses his desk. Daily posts are free.
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  • Genealogy Tip of the Dayone genealogy research tip every day–short and to the point. Daily posts are free.
  • Genealogy Search Tipwebsites I’ve discovered and the occasional online research tip–short and to the point. Daily posts are free.
  • Genealogy Transcribercan you read the handwriting? Daily posts are free.

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