There’s Not Just One Index to Court Records–Usually

Local (county) court records usually have indexes that are seemingly limited in their scope.  Usually there is a plaintiffs’ index and a defendants’ index and those indexes usually only index the first named plaintiff in each case and the first name defendant in each case.

That’s why it is important to search for all family members in these indexes.

Another key factor for the genealogist to be aware of is how many courts the county had during the time period of interest. Counties may have had more than one court–typically one court that heard equity or chancery cases and one that heard “law” cases. At the risk of oversimplifying, equity or chancery cases were those where parties could not agree amongst themselves and they were asking the court to reach an equitable decision for them. “Law” cases involved a violation of the “law.”



Local Indexes to Wills

Indexes to wills held and created by local agencies typically only index the names of testators. Beneficiaries and others mentioned in the will are not typically included in these local record indexes. For this reason, it’s advised to search these indexes for all known family members to increase the chance of finding information.


Died On or About

Probate documents often indicate that someone died “on or about” a certain date. That phrasing is intentional. Usually the precise date of death is not germane to the settling of the estate and if later it turns out the actual date was a day earlier or later, the documents in the probate file are not in error.

The important thing to the establishment of the probate process is that the deceased is actually deceased. 


Paid the Doctor with Two Pigs and a…

Reading through a relative’s entire probate file, page by page and word by word, can provide you more than just the occasional relationship clue–it can also provide insight into their life.

This 1862 reference indicated that the family paid the doctor bill of the deceased with two pigs and a rifle.


Join Michael on a 2018 Research Trip

Sometimes there’s nothing better than getting away for nothing but research. Join me on one of two research trips in the summer of 2018. We have a great time, are focused on research, don’t have a list of “group” activities, etc. More details are on our announcement pages:


Those Clues in the Picture

Pictures may contain clues as to when they are taken. Sometimes they are relatively easy to see–like the birthday cake candles in this image from 1946. Other times the clues may not be so obvious. That’s why it’s also a good idea not to crop any of the actual image from your digitized version of it. There may be a clue in the background that’s not immediately obvious to you.

Check out GenealogyBank’s latest offer for our readers!


Two First Cousins of My Mother

My Mom and Grandma taken 1950s.

Two first cousins of my mother had autosomal DNA tests done. One was the child of a full sibling of her mother. The other was the child of a full sibling of her father. While I can use them to help sort out my maternal matches, I cannot assume that all of my maternal DNA matches will match one or the other of them. It’s very possible that I have DNA from one of my maternal ancestors that the two first cousins of my mother do not.

And someone else could match me on that DNA.

The two first cousins of my mother should help me filter out a significant number of my maternal matches, but they will not help me sort out all of them.

Michael’s DNA webinars.


Don’t Only Use One “Legal” Reference to a Name

That name in a “legal” document may not quite be the “right” one and may not be the “legal” one either. An 1880-era probate from Illinois refers to a daughter “Usina.”  “Usina” was actually Lucena–or something close to that. The initial “L” was omitted in this probate reference. Had  I looked only for “Usina” I might never have found the correct person.



Give the Deed Some Consideration

When using land records, always note the consideration listed on the document in addition to the real property being transferred. The “consideration” was what was given in exchange for real property. Token amounts may suggest a relationship between the parties. Small consideration amounts compared to other deeds for similar properties may also suggest a connection between the parties involved.