From Whence the “Say”

Certain genealogical publications, when a date of an event is not supported by any direct or indirect evidence, will use the word “say” when giving the date

James Rampley was born say 1750 and went on to reproduce so many times that his descendants number in the millions.

The part about reproducing all those times isn’t usually included, but many times there is something missing after the “say.”

What makes you say it?

It is allowable to not have a document that gives the date, but if some record causes you to arrive at that “say date,” then say so. Perhaps it was because:

  • the person married in 1771
  • the person bought land in 1771
  • the person’s age was estimated using census records
  • his tombstone indicated he died in his 85th year

But give some reason when you guess or when you say.

If you say a “say” date, say a reason.

Don’t just sashay around.


Whope Eye Spel Thair Gnames Rite

Spellings in the census should not be taken too seriously–don’t change how you spell your own name because of how your paternal great-great-grandfather’s name was spelled in the census. If it “sounds like” his name, consider the person possibly yours (look at location, age, place of birth, other household members, occupation, etc.) and go from there.

Buried Separately

One of my ancestral families and all their children and their children’s spouses are buried in the same rural cemetery. The only exception is their daughter who died in her teens and is buried in a separate cemetery. The parents died in the 1880s and the other children died between 1895 and 1920. The daughter died in the 1860s before the cemetery where the others are buried was established.

Never assume just because it looks like all of a family is buried in one cemetery that that they all are buried in one cemetery. There could be another child or sibling permanently lurking nearby.

Dying to Find a Death Record

The civil record of your ancestor’s death will be filed where he died, not necessarily where he lived or where he is buried. If your ancestor was travelling at the time of his death, had moved in her later years to live near a child, or was simply getting groceries in the nearest store across the county or state line, that is where the event will be recorded.

If you can’t find a death record where they lived, are you certain that is the location where they died as well?

Links for Tazewell County, Illinois Group

On 10 July, I gave an evening presentation for the Tazewell County Genealogical Society in Pekin, Illinois. There were some links that were discussed in the presentation that were not in the handout. Those links are:

They may seem random here, but they had a purpose in the presentation. And one can spend lots of time on them.

Thanks to the group in Pekin, Illinois, for asking me to speak tonight.


Hathitrust allows researchers to perform full-text searches of millions of pages of scanned texts. Users can view full images of out-of-copyright books and perform searches of some books still within copyright. There are a variety of ways to interact with and save the images. Some of this material is on other sites, but it is possible that a key word or phrase has been read differently or that a book was available for digitization here that is not on other sites.

From their website–they currently have digitized:

  • 16,431,171 total volumes
  • 8,003,093 book titles
  • 441,256 serial titles
  • 5,750,909,850 pages
  • 736 terabytes
  • 194 miles
  • 13,350 tons

One example from–a 1918 copy of “Railway Maintenance Engineer”

Write Your Research and Analysis

We’ve mentioned it before, but one of the best ways to catch errors, notice things that were overlooked, and see errors in your logic is to write up your research.

It’s not the end of the world if your grammar is not perfect–just make certain that what you write is understandable and clear.

It’s not the end of the world if your citations are not quite perfect–just make certain that you clearly indicated what source you used and how you accessed it.

Michael writes up one document or problem in every issue of Casefile Clues-check it out.

What Can Wait?

No one can do it all. There will be genealogical work “left undone” when you are no longer able to actively be involved in genealogical research. Try and prioritize:

  • preserve and share things you have access to that no one else does–pictures, family memorabilia, etc. 
  • identify any photographs you’ve not already
  • share and preserve any compilations you’ve already made
  • write up and share any discoveries you’ve made
  • research those records most at risk for being lost forever
  • realize that you can’t do it all


Casefile Clues is Back!

After a hiatus, Casefile Clues is back!

We’ve put out four issues since resuming publication. Casefile Clues focuses on being readable, understandable, and practical. Articles exhibit sound research methods and analysis–but are not tedious or difficult to follow. Sample issues can be downloaded on our website.

Learn more about Casefile Clues

If you’ve not been getting your issues and you are a subscriber, email me at

And if you’re not a subscriber, consider subscribing today!

Casefile Clues content is separate from our blog content.