Monthly Archives: March 2018

As A Young Girl…

Be open to different interpretations of phrases.

Barbara Haase’s 1903 obituary indicated she came to the United States as “a young girl.” Does this mean she was a toddler, a pre-teen, or nearly twenty? The newspaper could also be wrong about the “time” of her arrival as well. I shouldn’t use this phrase to make my searches of passenger lists overly narrow.

And the failure to mention her parents doesn’t tell me anything about whether they immigrated or not.


Sort Court Papers First

Court and probate papers often are not in chronological order when the genealogist gets them. Before analyzing the materials, put them in chronological order first. Use the dates the documents were executed for this sorting, not the dates they were filed or recorded.

Sorting them will make it easier to see the flow of activity.

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Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide

Jim Beidler’s  The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide: How to Find Your Ancestors in Archived Newspapers arrived in my mail yesterday.

While I have not had time to completely read it yet, there’s a great deal of good advice in the book, including a quote from Genealogy Tip of the Day about “near” relatives. The book contains search techniques for several sites, including:

There are lots of great anecdotes and research stories in the book as well. Hopefully it will give me some motivation to revisit some incomplete newspaper work on some of my own families.



Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses From 1790 to 2000

This 3-part PDF document from the US Census Bureau contains blanks census forms and enumerator instructions from the 1790 through the 2000 census.


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Administrators with the Will Annexed

Administrators are usually appointed when the person whose estate is being settled left no valid will.
Sometimes the executor appointed will choose not to act or be unable to act. Sometimes the will will not name an executor. In those cases, the court may appoint an administrator “with the will annexed” indicating the person technically is an administrator, but that they will settle the estate according to the terms of the will.

Normal administrators (without a will annexed) will settle the estate and make disbursements according to contemporary state statute.


How Long Did That Probate Drag Out?

When using probate records, make certain you have the entire file–especially final accountings and disbursements. Probates that took decades to settle may list “new heirs” if original heirs died before the estate was closed. This may include some grandchildren and other more distant heirs besides children who may have originally been listed.

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Old Transcriptions

West Point Cemetery, West Point, Hancock County, Illinois, taken 28 May 2017 by Michael John Neill

The newest and latest is not always the best. It also may not be the most accurate. A set of tombstone transcriptions done in the 1930s may be more reliable in some cases than those done more recently. More stones may have been extant and inscriptions may have been more legible. Even a set of transcriptions done in the 1980s may be preferable to ones done more recently.

And if the first transcriber was more attentive to detail that helps as well. A more modern transcription may have been done using pictures of tombstones that were enhanced digitally. It’s hard to make a snap decision and immediately say which transcription is best or most accurate.

The same is true for handwritten records as well. A transcription done in the early 1900s may have been done when the handwriting was less faded and easier to read. That transcriber may have been more familiar with local families and their names.

The key is not to ignore older transcriptions of records simply because they are older and may look less polished than modern renderings. There may be things visible 100 years ago that are not visible today.


Download Those Images

Download images of genealogical records as you find them. Do not assume that they will always be there or that you will always have access.

  • you may decide to cancel your subscription to that site
  • the site may use the ability to host the images
  • the image may get moved to where you can’t find it
  • you may forget how you got it in the first place

Once you download it, you have it. Back it up. File it in a way that you can find it again. Make certain the file name describes the image.


Don’t Take Grantors and Grantees Forgranted

The grantor on a deed is the person who has title to the property and is transferring that title to someone else. There may be more than one grantor on a deed–often it is the spouse, but not always. The grantee is the person to whom the title is being transferred. There may be more than one grantee.

Land records are local records and usually have indexes created for them. There usually are separate grantor and grantee indexes and those indexes usually only include the name of the first grantor and first grantee.

Indexes can differ slightly (or not so slightly) from one location to another. Familiarize yourself with an index when beginning work in a new location.