A Few Generalizations About Naturalizations

Some general things to remember about naturalizations in the United States:

  • Before 1906 reform, any US court of record could naturalize.
  • Declarations of Intention may give more personal detail.
  • Minor naturalizations may be filed separately.
  • Homesteaders had to document their naturalization.
  • People give incorrect dates of naturalization in census records.

These are generalizations and broad reminders. The naturalization process changed over time, but should be relatively consistent from state to state as it stems from federal law. The amount of detail can vary from one location to another and over time. This short tip is not meant to replace learning more detailed information about naturalizations and the naturalization process.

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What Hamp?

When I was a small and fell and got hurt or there was something that I needed to tell my mother, she would often ask me “what hamp?”

That’s a good question to ask about our ancestors as well–although we may end up knowing less about the situation than my mother did after she heard my explanation.

My great-grandfather lost two farms to foreclosures between 1898 and 1910. For the next fifteen or so years he and the family moved from one rental farm to another. Then in the mid-1920s he “settled” and purchased a farm that remains in the family until this day. I did not give it much thought until I looked through the estate settlement for his father who died in 1916. It took over ten years for the farm to sell, but there was a substantial settlement for each child. That’s where great-grandfather got his 1920 era down payment.

Another ancestor remained in Indiana (long after all her children moved further west) until the mid-1860s. That corresponded with her husband’s death in 1864.

Another set of great-grandparents attended the nearby German speaking church and abruptly went to the English-speaking church in town around 1925–the year after my great-grandfather’s father died.

I can’t be entirely certain the events are tied to each other–after all I was not there and there’s no written documentation left behind.

Remember that virtually no event happens in complete isolation of other events. You may never figure out exactly “why” a family purchased a farm when they did, moved when they did, or left the church when they did and you should not state that you know when you don’t.

But looking to see…that may get you new information.

And that’s often what research is about.

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Do You Double Check Before You Post?

I was writing a blog post about a relative and was certain he was never listed with his actual given name of James in any record.

I was wrong.

He was listed as James in a handful of early records–just not ones after he became an adult.

It’s not just memory that can be wrong. Double check those assumptions you have about history before you post or share them as well–ask yourself “how do I know that? “Do some research and find out.

Sometimes when I do that I realize that I am right. Sometimes I realize I am wrong.

But I usually learn something and my research is better for it.

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Is It Really A Brick Wall at All?

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

Depending upon which genealogist you ask there are either brick walls or there are not.

Sometimes you get to a “stuck place” in your research and what it’s called doesn’t really matter. There are several ways to try and get around those places, including:

  • making certain you have looked at all records
  • making certain you are aware of all records created in the location of interest
  • looking at how someone solved a similar problem
  • thinking about whether your assumptions are valid
  • writing up your problem for someone else to read
  • making certain you are not relying on someone else’s conclusions
  • making certain that what you think you know is actually correct.
  • etc.

There are other approaches, but starting with this list is a good place to begin. And…it doesn’t always matter what you call it–when you are stuck, you are stuck.


Brick Wall Busters 2017 Version

This hour-long presentation (aimed at advanced beginner and intermediate researchers) focuses on research approaches to get you past “brick walls”. We will look at reasons why we have “brick walls” and how we may be making our own “brick walls.” Focus will be on problem-solving, getting past assumptions, realizing what we know versus what we think we know, and completely analyzing and understanding what we already have.

Order here for immediate download. Recorded presentation and handout included.

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Those Bondsmen Don’t Pay Up Unless Necessary

Bondsmen (sometimes called securities) on an administrator’s bond are not saying they are paying the bills of the estate. They are saying that they are vouching for the administrator and that if the administrator runs off, doesn’t pay the bills, etc. that they are “good for it” and have the funds to pay the bills–and the court will enforce the bond if necessary. If the administrator does his job, the bondsmen have no need to worry. Consequently the bondsmen are people who knew the administrator and trusted him to “do right” by the estate. 

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Join Us in Salt Lake this May/June

There’s still time to join us for a week of research at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, this upcoming May/June. Our registration rate is one of the lowest around, our trip is informal and focused on research (not on social or “group” activities), and you can stay next door at the Plaza for $91 a night plus tax. More details are on our site. Registration deadline is approaching.

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Elizabeth and Her Husband Sell Property in 1894

The 1894 deed is phrased “Elizabeth Stiefel and husband to Ferdinand Stiefel.” The phrasing for the time period is slightly unusual–typically the husband is listed first and the wife is second (and may not even be named in a reference such as this).

This transfer suggests some additional research. The two most likely scenarios are that the husband was having some financial difficulties or the property was under the control of the wife (perhaps through acquisition before marriage or through an inheritance).

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Who Administrated the Estate?

Estate settlements of relatives who died without children often provide the names of their heirs and can be used to confirm family relationships that may not be evidenced in other records. Pay close attention to the individual appointed to administrate the estate–if there is no will. That individual may also be a relative. Sometimes the last name is a dead give away that there is a connection, but that’s not always the case.

Michael Trautvetter died in Illinois in 1869 with no children and no spouse. His siblings and some nephews and nieces were his heirs. The name of the administrator meant nothing to me, but it turned out that the administrator’s wife was a niece of Michael. The maiden name of the administrator’s wife was not an immediate clue either because she was the daughter of Michael’s sister with her first husband–another name I did not have.

Don’t ignore the names of estate administrators. Sometimes they are not related–but sometimes they are.

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