Those First Associates and the “Home” Folks

When records on an ancestor fail to provide information as to his origin, look closely at those records in which he appears shortly after his arrival in the area. Who else is mentioned in those records? When an ancestor is still “new to the area,” he’s the most likely to interact with people he might have known before he moved or with whom he had a connection before he settled in that new area. Research those people he interacted with during his early years in the location.

The longer an ancestor lives in an area the more likely he is to know and interact with people he did not know “back home.” It’s those people from back home who could help you find your ancestor’s origins.

World War II Draft Cards May Document Parental Information

Whether a record is helpful depends upon what is known about the family. This World War II draft card (taken from’s U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947”), but available from the National Archives, provides evidence of the father’s name and residence as of the time of the registration. It also provides evidence that the father was alive at the time of the registration. In some cases that could be a really big clue.

World War II Draft Registration Card for Truman Lester Sparks

Join Michael in Ft. Wayne for 3 Days of Research This August!

The Allen County Public Library is one of the largest genealogical libraries in the United States. This August, I’ll be leading a group trip there for three days of research and learning. The days of our trip are 6-9 August. The first Sunday we have an evening meeting/introductory session–research starts on 7 August when the library opens. 

Trip attendees get help with questions, research suggestions and guidance, along with morning lectures. Our group atmosphere is relaxed–we do not herd you like cattle along throughout the day and activities are entirely optional.

For more information or to register, visit our webpage.

Look After They Left

Deeds are not the only record that can be recorded in an area after your ancestor left. An estate was opened for a relative in Harford County, Maryland, ten years after he died in Ohio, and fifteen years after he left Maryland. He received a settlement in a court case that had taken years to settle–long after his immediate family in Ohio had closed his estate there.

Your relative may have had financial ties to an area long after he left it.

Does the US Courthouse Have that Discharge Record?

Veterans returning home from the war (particularly World War II and after) were encouraged to take their discharge papers to the local recorder’s office to have a record copy made. That record copy (sometimes filed in “Records of Soldier’s Discharge” or something similarly titled) was the legal equivalent and could serve as a replacement if the soldier lost the original.

These records can be a great way to get military information on that relative whose complete military record is difficult to get.


Several years ago, this was part of a tip that I wrote:

Don’t demand greater accuracy from records than you are capable of yourself.

It’s still true and I forgot I had written it until it appeared in Tips & Quips for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills.

It’s easy to get frustrated with incorrect information in records. It’s understandable.

But remember that your ancestors were just as human as you are and were inclined to make the occasional mistake as well.

Are Wills Replacing the Deeds?

My relative purchased a farm in the late 1860s. It still owned by a descendant today. The last deed to the property recorded in the local recorder’s office is that deed of purchase in the 1860s. There are no other deeds.

That’s because every transfer after that time has been through a bequest in a will when the current owner died–in 1877, 1939, and 1969. The wills served to transfer title. There’s no missing deeds, it’s just that at the time the will served as the “deed” because it transferred title.

(This tip is partially due to a reader’s comment on an earlier tip. Thanks!).

Deeds May Not Be Recorded Promptly

Land records do not always get recorded promptly and are usually recorded in the record books in the order in which they are brought to the courthouse. Generally most land deeds are recorded relatively promptly. There are always exceptions and the oversight is usually noticed when the property is eventually sold.

As a result a deed from the 1820s could be recorded in the 1850s, perhaps when the purchaser died. Sometimes the buyer forgets to record the deed initially only to find it stuck in a safe place decades later.