Old Abbreviations are on the Trunk

Abbreviations have changed over time. Make certain you are understanding them correctly. This immigrant trunk from the 1870s has the US state of Illinois abbreviated as “Ills.” It’s not “III5” as was suggested by the antique dealer from whom I purchased the trunk.

Only As Precise As It Says

The modern use of GPS sometimes makes researchers think that every location can or should be known with exact precision. That’s not always possible nor is it always necessary. Only include in your database locations as precise as the actual record indicates. Don’t assume any more precision than the record provides.

A marriage record for an ancestral couple indicated they married in Coshocton County, Ohio, in 1830. Based upon other records for their families it’s probable that the couple married in or near Jackson Township. But the marriage record does not state that–either directly or indirectly. My suspicion regarding the location could be put in my notes for that couple along with the evidence that supports that conclusion.

Sometimes our knowledge of the location will only be as specific as the county–and that’s okay.

Buried With No Kin?

For years, I assumed that my aunt Elizabeth (Trautvetter) Herzog, was buried in one of two cemeteries where she had relatives. It seemed reasonable that she was in a grave that was never marked or where the stone had worn away. Dying in her early thirties, she was not buried with her husband who had remarried after her death.

Turned out she was buried in a cemetery where no other relatives are located. Most likely it was near where she and her husband were living at the time of her death.

Not everyone’s buried in the same cemetery as their local kin.

And…it also helps to have the name of a female relative’s last husband.

Warm Body Witnesses


A witness to a document is simply testifying that they saw a person sign (or execute) a document and that they know who that person is. Witnesses do not have to have any relationship to the person executing the document although they have to be old enough to legally sign a document themselves. Do not assume that witnesses are related to the person signing the document. The witnesses could simply be other people who happened to be nearby when the document was signed.


Sources are Not Primary or Secondary

Saying something is primary or secondary is talking about how we came to know that information. Professional genealogists don’t use primary or secondary to refer to sources because one source can contain information that is primary and information that is secondary.

I was the informant for my mother’s obituary. I provided the information. I knew first hand the date and place of her death, where she would be buried, who here husband was, who her children and grandchildren were, and where she had worked. That information I provided was primary information.

The information that I provided about her date and place of birth, when she graduated from college, and when she started work was secondary information. I was not there when those things happened. My knowledge of that information is not first hand–it was something I was told or read on a document or record.

Calling information primary or secondary is not saying it is correct or incorrect. It is simply stating how we came to know the information. Those things in Mom’s life that happened after I was able to remember are things about which I have primary knowledge. Those things in her life that happened before I was born I do not have primary knowledge of.

For more about information analysis and source citation, see Evidence Explained: Third Edition Revised .

Are You in the Correct Century?

Someone asked me if it were true that I had researched a family back to the 17th century. I responded that I only had the family back to the mid-1700s. The 1700s are not the 17th century, they are the 18th century. In a similar fashion, the 1800s are the 19th century, the 1900s are the 20th century, etc.

The problem?

The 1st century was those years from year 1 through year 100.

Genealogy Tip of the Day is proudly sponsored by GenealogyBank. Try their “GenealogyBank Search” and see what discoveries you make.

Pallbearers Bear Caskets and Clues

I had been looking for my great-grandfather’s one sister for some time and finding people with unknown death dates or places in the 1950-1960 era can be a challenge.

Until I located a reference to my grandfather, his brother, and four of their first cousins in a 1960 obituary. Their relationship to the deceased is not stated, but armed with a date I was able to locate other records.

There may be clues in the names of the pallbearers.

Website Reminder: One-Step WebPages

Stephen G. Morse has a number of search forms on his website for a variety of genealogy databases, often giving options not allowed on the sites themselves. There are also a variety of other search aids on his site.

Some of his search links do search fee-based sites, but that’s made clear on his site.

Genealogy Tip of the Day is proudly sponsored by GenealogyBank. Try their “GenealogyBank Search” and see what discoveries you make.