Do You Look for What Could Not Be Found?

How often do you ask the clerk to look for you again for a document? I have lost count of the number of times a clerk or someone could not find a record in a courthouse or other facility only to have someone find it several years later.

There are things that are lost or were never recorded. But if it’s been a while since you looked or had someone look, it might be time to have another person to look for the item.

Especially if there is new clerk or office staff.

Do I Cite it All? Webinar Released

Do I Cite it All?

Making “your case” is more than simply citing every document that mentions a date of birth, a date of death, a marriage, a parent-child relationship, etc. It is determining what to cite, and if no one document states the fact clearly, including all the relevant documents. Depending upon the situation, making your case may involve deciding what documents to use if you have fifteen sources that all provide a date of birth. We will see how to pick and choose sources when there are many of them and how to make your case when it takes multiple sources to reach a conclusion. We will look at three different examples (at least) from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Purchase media file and handouts. Download is immediate. If you registered and did not receive the download, please let me know.

Where was the Deed Acknowledged?

When heirs are selling property after a death, always look to see where the deed was acknowledged. The deed will have to be recorded in the county in which the property was located, but heirs may acknowledge the deed before a local official where they live. That local official will indicate the location in which he was authorized to act as a notary, justice of the peace, etc.

That location can help you to determine where the person was living at the time the deed was acknowledged, even if the deed itself does provide any residential information on the grantors.

Do You Create School Chronologies?

A chronology of school attendance can be good for you to develop for yourself or as something to ask someone you are interviewing. People who moved around a lot as children may remember names of schools they attended better than specific addresses.

I’ve posted mine as an example. My residence never changed, but the school district moved us around a little bit:

  • kindergarten-second grade–Ferris Elementary School, Ferris, Illinois [where my parents both went to grade school for time]


    Photograph of postcard showing former Carthage High School. Subsequently it was the junior high school.

  • third grade–Lincoln Elementary School, Carthage, Illinois [where my mother taught elementary school for over thirty years]
  • fourth-fifth grade–Union-Douglas School, east of Basco, Illinois
  • sixth grade–Ferris Elementary School
  • seventh-eighth grade–Scofield Junior High, Carthage, Illinois [it was the high school when my maternal grandmother attended it]
  • ninth-twelfth grade–Carthage High School, Carthage, Illinois [where my parents went to high school]
  • freshmen year college–Culver-Stockton College, Canton, Missouri
  • remainder of college (BS and MS)–Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois [where my mother and several great-aunts and great-uncles attended]

It’s ok to have blanks, especially as you work back in time with earlier family members.

Delayed Birth Records?

Do you always search for delayed vital records? I recently discovered a 1913 Chicago, Illinois, birth that was registered in 1963. These are usually recorded in the jurisdiction where the event took place, but occasionally they may be recorded where the person lived. They are usually filed as a separate series of records–not with the ones that were recorded contemporary to the birth.


Genealogy Tip of the Day book is here. Learn more about it.

Are There Clues In the Index?

When local records clerks create and maintain indexes to their records, they sometimes add extra details about the record in the index. It may be an alternate spelling of the name, a married name for a female birth, or additional detail. The clerk really is not supposed to alter anything on the original record, but they may have made a notation with an extra detail in the index.

It does not happen often, but it does happen.

Assuming There was Always Paperwork

In certain locations and in certain time periods, your ancestor can do things without having generated any paperwork.

Do not assume that there will always be a birth record, a death record, an obituary, a probate, etc. There were times where people of certain social standing, economic classes, ethnic groups, distance from the records office, etc. were not recorded in certain records. Not everyone has an obituary.

Document your search for these items. If you cannot find one, try and see if you can determine the reason.

But–not everyone always generates a record for every vital event in their life.

Evidence of Age Buried in Probate File

This 1882 release of a guardian provided evidence that Elizabeth Cawiezell was “of age” as of 30 March 1882. It does not mean that was her birthday, but it could help estimate a date of birth if other records are not extant. Guardianships may mention more than names of guardians and deceased parents. of-age-cawiezell