The Hidden Widow

Female relatives can often be in plain sight, hiding under a title instead of their actual name. It’s not unusual for a woman to simply be listed as “Mrs. Jones” or, as in the illustration “Widow” Goldenstein. That may be why they aren’t located in indexes when their first name is used. In the illustration all the children are listed with their first name–just not the mother.

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Are You Seeing the Shadows?

That one record you’ve found, a deed, a death certificate, a will, an estate settlement, probably was created because something else happened. For some documents it may be obvious what caused the document to have been created. But a deed? Why was the property being sold? Was the couple planning to move? Had they fallen on hard times? If a guardianship was filed and the parents were still alive, what was the reason? Was there an inheritance that someone didn’t want a parent frittering away?

Always ask if what you are seeing or have located is just the shadow of a larger event. Records weren’t created in isolation. And even if you know what caused a document to have been created ask yourself what other documents might also have been created.

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Census Pages with Multiple Page Numbers

When citing a census page that has several page numbers written on it, make certain you indicate which page number you are using in your citation. Common ways to indicate include using the type of writing and the location of the page number, such as:

  • page 55 (typed, upper right)
  • page 44 (handwritten, lower right)
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Are You Having a Knee-Jerk Reaction?

Are you actually thinking about the new information you locate? Or are you on auto-pilot as new details come across your path, responding to them without really thinking about them?

Responding in a knee-jerk fashion to information you think “is the same” when it’s actually different could be the cause of your research problem.

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Did Your Ancestor Just Lie?

If some piece of information given by your ancestor in a record does not make sense, consider the possibility that he lied. People lied for many reasons, including

  • wanting to get married
  • wanting to enlist in the service
  • wanting to avoid the service
  • trying to escape their past (parents, spouse, children, debts, etc.)

An outright lie can be difficult to research around, but people did lie about their age, place of birth, name, marital status, etc.

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Pittsburgh and Plattsburgh–What’s the Difference?

Locations in records can easily be off more than one might expect. A relative born near Plattsburgh, New York is listed on a passenger manifest as being born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

It’s easy to see how Pittsburgh and Plattsburgh could be confused if the writing is messy. And, if the clerk is in a hurry he may have paid no attention to the “NY” and the “PA.”

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Make A Chronology from that Biography or Statement

If you are fortunate enough to find a biography of an ancestor or a statement they made in court, consider creating a chronology from the events and dates it contains. This can be an excellent organizational tool as biographies do not always list events in chronological order and thinking about how every event in the biography fits into a larger timeline can be helpful.

Be certain to include all events–ones stated directly and ones stated indirectly
The same approach can be used with obituaries.

Eliza’s statement was discussed in a recent issue of Casefile Clues.

 

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