Have You Really Searched the Associates of Your Ancestor?

When genealogists are challenged by their ancestors, they are often told to research the associates of the ancestors–including ancestral friends and neighbors. If you are stuck on a person and have tried this approach, how thoroughly have you researched these associates.

An hour or two online probably isn’t sufficient.

If your problem ancestor is in a place and time that’s difficult to research in general, it may take some time to really research those associates thoroughly enough to locate all potential clues.

Spreading Hunches

Always indicate when a date, name, or a relationship is conjecture. Make it crystal clear to anyone reading the information later that the information was a hunch.

Be careful making hunches. Be careful sharing hunches. Have a reason for your hunch. Include that reason with your hunch. Cite your reason if you have a document.

Think one more time about the reasonableness of your hunch.

Once someone spreads them as fact it can be impossible to prevent the spread.


Chart Out Those Estate Buyers

Who attends an estate sale? Generally speaking (with some exceptions), it tends to be relatives and neighbors. Looking at the list of buyers can provide some insight into your deceased relative’s family, social connections, and neighbors.

This is an incomplete chart of the purchasers of property from the estate of Thomas Rampley in Coshocton County, Ohio, in 1823. There’s no guarantee that a chart will answer your specific questions about an ancestor, but doing some initial work on the purchasers may make something stick out that was not noticeable before.

Purchaser Known Relationship 1820 Census 1830 Census comments
Randles, Abraham
Miller, John H.
Gilliam, Samuel
Huffman, James Tuscarawas, Coshocton Jackson, Coshocton Thomas’s son John married a Huffman
Rampley, James Son
Courtright, Jacob Son-in-law Jackson, Coshocton
Barkhurst, William
Markley, Abraham Bethlehem, Coshocton There were Markleys in Hancock County, IL where Thomas’ son James settled
Bingerly, John
Carr, Henry Tuscarawas, Coshocton
Darling, Robert Jefferson, Coshocton
Treadway, Crispan Tuscarawas, Coshocton Harford Co. MD native (like Thomas) who travelled with Thomas to Ohio.
Foster, David Jackson, Coshocton
Markley, Martin Tuscarawas, Coshocton See other Markley comment
Demoss, John Brother-in-law of Thomas
Bradford, Joseph Newcastle, Coshocton
Rampley, Christianna Widow of Thomas
Randles, Isaac Jackson, Coshocton
Kimberly, William Jefferson, Coshocton
Brouner, James
Brouner, William
Courtright, Abraham
Kilbourne, Benjamin
Cain, Abel
Courtright, Isaac
Markley, Amos
Methaiu, Orinne
Shores, James Son-in-law

A New Husband Buried in the Probate File

Mary Puffer, widow of Ephraim Puffer is referred to as Mary Puffer many times in the estate record of her husband from the 1700s. However there is one signed document where she is referred to as the widow and signed as Mary Brown.

Subsequent marriages of the widow can be indirectly mentioned in an estate file. Make certain to look through all the documents–even the boring ones.


Some Tips from a School Picture

A few quick reminders from this recent Ebay purchase:

  • Sometimes things are not titled based upon the name you have for something. This was “Lincoln School” to me. It was Grade School on the postcard.
  • Have you tried to locate pictures of places of employment for your relatives?
  • Pictures of schools, work sites, etc. can be great ways to get someone’s memories to start flowing.

Genealogy Tip of the Day is sponsored by GenealogyBank –give them a try today.



Anything Can Be Wrong

This 1920 census enumeration contains significant errors. The husband and wife were not married and he was not the father of her children. The “wife” was not divorced from the father of these children until 1921 and she did not marry the man shown here until 1922.

Do You Need to Metaphorically Walk the Dog?

Walking me for a little while may be the best brick wall breaker there is. And….it will be less time cleaning up messes.

The best way to get new insight into a problem is to get away from it. Put that “brick wall” away and do something totally unrelated to your genealogy for a while. Sometimes the mind simply needs to let things stew for a while. If you just can’t put your brick wall away, then work on another problem.

Personally I have the best breakthroughs when I walk the dog and discuss my problem with him. He never interrupts or criticizes and it gives me time to really think. Sometimes criticism is good, but one needs time to organize your thoughts and put them in order.

Constantly researching non-stop does not allow that to happen.

Riley is one of the best brick wall breakers I have.

Don’t Say More than It Is

In 1858 a patron of my relative’s bar was killed in an altercation with a tenant who lived in an apartment next door. For years, I referred to the incident as a “murder.” The reference to the incident was inaccurate.  I should have referred to it as a “killing,” a “shooting,” or something similar.

Are you using the right word when referring to something?

Are you using a word that may be conveying a message that’s not entirely accurate?

And I actually need to review what charges were brought up against the shooter. Just because a newspaper called it murder does not mean that a court did.


His First Wife Died…Or Did She?

A relative is married in 1843 in St. Louis, Missouri. He is married again in Illinois in 1848. The most likely scenario is that she died. It is possible that the couple actually divorced or separated and never bothered to divorce. The divorce would have generated a court record. A separation that never resulted in divorce may not have generated any records at all.

But I should not assume the first wife died unless there is some additional evidence other than simply the subsequent marriage.