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.

Educational Levels

For those with US ancestors…

Have you looked at the amount of schooling your relatives indicated they had in the 1940 census? Just to see if my thoughts were correct, I looked up the claimed educational level of all my living ancestors at the time of the 1940 census. Anna Habben’s 4th grade education coincides closely with the family’s immigration to the United States from Germany. The others were about where I thought they would be based upon family tradition. All of mine were living in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1940.

  • Charles Neill (great-grandfather-St. Albans Twp.)–8th grade.
  • Fannie Neill  (great-grandmother-St. Albans Twp.)–8th grade.
  • Fred Ufkes (great-grandfather-Bear Creek Twp.)-8th grade.
  • Tena Ufkes (great-grandmother-Bear Creek Twp.)-6th grade.
  • John Ufkes (grandfather-Bear Creek Twp.)-4 years of high school.
  • Mimka Habben (great-grandfather, Prairie Twp.)-8th grade.
  • Tjode Habben (great-grandmother, Prairie Twp.)-8th grade.
  • Dorothy Habben (grandmother, Prairie Twp.) 3 years of high school (she graduated the 4th year the next year).
  • Cecil Neill (grandfather, Prairie Twp.)-8th grade.
  • Ida Neill (grandmother, Prairie Twp.)-8th grade.
  • Anna Habben (great-great-grandmother, village of Elvaston, Prairie Twp)-4th grade

Should You Overwhelm that New Cousin with Information?

It can be tempting to share everything you have with a newly discovered cousin. Sharing is not bad, but try and avoid overwhelming your recently discovered relative. Their level of interest may not be as high as yours and telling them that:

  • your uncle got drunk, threatened his mother, and ended up in jail for thirty days
  • another aunt went insane
  • a cousin was killed after he passed out on the railroad tracks and a train ran over him
  • your uncle’s body was exhumed three times to be autopsied

may be a bit overwhelming. I’m not saying to keep stories from your cousin or to paint them a reality that did not happen. Just don’t overwhelm them. You might even want to wait to share ten generations of ancestry and all the names you have.

Even if your shared past is not quite as colorful, your kinfolk may not be ready to read through forty pages of deed abstracts in an attempt to determine who the father was for your 18th century Virginia ancestor.

Your goal with the new genealogist is to not scare them off. Take it slowly, focus on helping them with the people they are currently stuck on, and go from there. They may even have information on recent relatives that you do not.


No Hint of a Previous Marriage

Many marriage records give no hint that one of the parties had been married before. This 1852 marriage certification gives nary a clue that the bride was a widow, over forty, and the mother of several children.

Assume nothing. Lack of a “Mrs.” or “Miss” before the bride’s name usually means nothing.