Buried By My Assumptions

The church’s funeral register indicated the first funeral at the church was in 1880. For a brief moment, I assumed that would be the first burial in the church’s cemetery as well. Not so. A physical search of the cemetery’s tombstones indicated a burial there in the mid-1870s. It could be that the cemetery was not originally associated with the church, that the church’s earlier records are missing, that the burials were conducted by a pastor from another church before the church in question was formed, or something else.

But my assumption that I had the first records of the church and that there could be nothing before that was wrong.

Check your assumptions before your own research gets buried by them.

Learn more about research methods and analysis in Michael’s newsletter Casefile Clues.


Copy the Index

When using published sources and materials, copy  (or take a picture of) the index in the back of the book. It is a great way to make certain you didn’t overlook any names. A paper copy is a good place to keep track of which pages you copied. That reduces the chance a page gets overlooked. Sometimes I will take a few notes on that “index page” and make a digital image of that page to put with any digital images I actually made from the book.

That way I have digital images of the pages I want and a digital image of my notes–all in the same place.

Grow Your Research With Casefile Clues

Genealogy Tip of the Day by it’s intent is short and to the point.  The brief nature of our tips means that we don’t cover everything in great depth. The intent of the tip is to make you aware of something or to remind you of something you forgot. For some tips following up elsewhere is necessary.

My how-to newsletter Casefile Clues is different–it’s more detailed, more in-depth, and covers topics or records more fully.

Casefile Clues brings you one or more of the following:

  • Sources–Some weeks Casefile Clues focuses on a specific source or type of record, discussing how that source can be accessed, researched, and interpreted.
  • Methodology–Some weeks Casefile Clues works on one of Michael’s problems. Many times these problems are “in progress,” and Casefile Clues reflects that by explaining what was researched, why it was researched, and where to go next (and why).
  • Case Studies–Some weeks Casefile Clues focuses on a specific record on a specific person and analyzes that record, discusses what it says (and what it does not) and where to go next based upon that person and the specific record.
  • Citations–Casefile Clues includes citations of sources and records. Articles can easily be read without them, but we include citations for those who prefer to have them and we do try and model citations in the style of Evidence Explained.
  • ReasonsCasefile Clues tries to give you insight into why certain research avenues were pursued over others. Often the genealogist simply does not have time or money to locate every piece of paper available. Sometimes it is necessary to go with what likely will give us the “most bang for the buck.”
  • Readable–We work very hard to make Casefile Clues readable. Columns are not “fluff” or generic “how-to” pieces.
  • CoverageCasefile Clues covers all American time periods and records. All families discussed come from the ancestry of Michael’s children who lived in a variety of states and countries. All examples are from actual families on which Michael has worked or is working.

View a list of previous topics from volumes 1-3 or volume 4 to see what we cover.

Subscribe today ($20 for 52 issues) and we’ll start your subscription with issue 4-14. It’s one of the best genealogical bargains around.

Every Side of the Stone

Always look at all sides of a tombstone–there may be additional details on the “back,” the “side,” or the “top” of the stone. Most stones won’t contain a reminder the way this one does.

There usually isn’t anything on the bottom of a stone and digging them up to look is frowned on and occasionally dangerous.

And the back of the stone does give more information about Franzen:


The Franzens are buried in what’s known locally as the “South Cemetery.” It’s actually the Evangelical Lutheran Cemetery southeast of Golden, Adams County, Illinois.

Learn more about research methods and analysis in Michael’s newsletter Casefile Clues.

US Seamen’s Protection Certificates

Under a US Congressional act of 1796 (the Act For The Relief and Protection of American Seamen (1 Stat. 477) signed into law on May 28, 1796), American seamen were periodically issued certificates to hopefully prevent them from being illegally impressed by ships from other nations. . These documents can appear in one of three formats:

  • registers–listing certificates that were issued–not all are extant, some are held by the National Archives and others by local historical societies
  • applications–proof and evidence–generally held by the National Archives, available on microfilm or digitally and usually arranged by port
  • certificates–usually kept by the sailor himself

The Mystic Seaport Museum has a database of entries from  the Custom Houses of Fall River, Gloucester, New Haven, New London, Newport, Marblehead, and Salem.

FamilySearch includes these databases:

Selected Ancestry.com databases:

National Archives research guide on the “Seamen’s Protection Certificates.” (PDF file)

Read the Ads

What genealogy clues are waiting for you in the advertisements?
This one from Maryland in 1907 gives a college graduation date.

Certificates Versus Registers

In locations that have birth certificates and birth registers, it is necessary to look at both. Determine what the “chain of creation” was. Usually the certificates were the “original document” and information in the register contains a transcription of what was on the original certificate. There’s always the possibility that the register contains a transcription error. But there’s also the possibility that the register’s entry is easier to read than the certificate or contains an additional comment made by the clerk and is not on the certificate.

It’s important to read both and to know how they were created.

The Witness Knows I’m Sane But Should Not Be Interested

Witnesses to a will cannot be beneficiaries named in that will and are generally not heirs. Witnesses should be disinterested individuals. And, as a reminder, beneficiaries and heirs are not necessarily the same group of people. Heirs have legal rights of inheritance under statute. Beneficiaries are named as the recipient of real or personal estate, usually upon the death of the owner of that property.

“Delay” in Settling the Estate?

Your relative died in 1850, but records indicate that his estate was not settled up and the farm sold or transferred to someone else until 1869.

Don’t conclude that there had to be “drama” or some court action that you cannot find.

It could be as simple as the family waiting until the widow had died or the youngest child reached the age of majority. Mother may have put her foot down and issued an edict that she was living on the farm until she died. The children could have decided to let mother have control and the money from the farm until she died. The heirs could have decided it was easier (and cheaper) to wait to “settle up” until all the heirs were of age and a guardian would not need to be appointed.