Ancestral Signatures

I don’t have pictures of too many ancestors. Signatures can be a good replacement. Trying to find them can be an “outside the box” problem-solving approach. Remember that record copies of deeds, wills, and some other records do not contain the actual signature. You need the original document or a reproduction of it–not a transcription.

Neighborly Clues

Don’t let the angles and measurements intimidate you. The metes and bounds description of your ancestor’s property lines may mention neighbors and geographic features that can help you determine ancestral associates and approximately where your ancestor lived.

All Dogs Bark…

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

All dogs bark. Things that bark grow on trees. Therefore, dogs grow on trees.

Always read over your logic and reasoning used to reach a conclusion.

Also make certain you understand definitions of words and the context in which they are used.

Genealogical records are full of legal and esoteric words more nuanced than “bark” and it can be easy to confuse them.

Avoid barking up the wrong genealogical tree–check your reasoning and your definitions.

How Title Passed For Every Piece of Property

If your ancestor owned real estate, make certain you have a record for how each piece of property left his ownership.

Was it deeded in her will, sold for back taxes, sold before his death, quitclaimed by the heirs after her death?

Each of these transactions has the potential to reveal significant information–particularly if the property was still owned by the ancestor at their demise.

My Blogs and Subscribing

I maintain the following genealogy blogs:

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

Subscription/Unsubscription links are on the top of each page. Unsubscription links are also in each email sent.

A List of Pronunciations

Keep a document that has a listing of the various ways your various ancestral names can actually be pronounced. A list of spellings is not a bad idea either but knowing various ways a name could have been said can be helpful as well.

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Dead Kin with Cash and no Kids

The 1870-era estate settlement for Michael Trautvetter mentioned all his siblings and some nieces and nephews.

Estate settlements of relatives (particularly siblings of ancestors) who died with no living descendants can contain significant genealogical clues. The distribution of assets may mention siblings of the deceased, nieces, nephews, and other relatives–depending upon the family structure. The records may provide relationship details and information on where the heirs lived.

Estate settlements of relatives who were only children and who died with no descendants can be even more informative as the relationships of the heirs will be more distant.

Review your files–do you have a relative whose estate settlement could name missing family members? People who “leave” tend to “reappear” when money is involved.

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A Broad Tip

[this was posted to our Facebook Fan Page a few days ago, but I thought it was worth posting here as well for those who might not have seen it.]

Some tips are location or time period specific. We’ve got people from all across the globe who are fans here. A tip unrelated to your place/time of interest may generate a question about a different time/period–go ahead and ask.

Keep in mind that different places/time periods have different records–and different research challenges. But sometimes working in one place/time can help us in other time periods, just in broader ways.

Researching my low-German immigrants in the 1860s is different from my Virginia families in the late 1600s and they are both different from my New England families in the 1700s. But there are some things that are similar:

  • families migrate together
  • people tend to marry and interact with their social group
  • names get spelled all kinds of ways
  • you have to understand the local laws and practices
  • poor people leave fewer records
  • widows with children and no money have few options
  • there are exceptions to everything

That’s are broad generalizations, but usually they are true. We won’t say “always,” because there are always exceptions.


I Think Grandma Was…

Beliefs about the ethnic origins of non-immigrant ancestors are easy to come by.

They are more difficult to prove.

The best way to determine if a person has a certain heritage in their background is to research that person as completely as you can. Then do the same thing for their parents, grandparents, etc. Stories about where a person’s family came from are a dime a dozen. They are also difficult to prove the ethnicity is what you start with instead of the specific person.

I may think my relative was Native American and it may turn out that they are. But the best approach is to research that relative in as many records as I can find and see what those records say.

And go from there.

Asking help as needed and not being surprised if the information I locate is different from the story I’ve been told.

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