Contemporary Marriage Laws

When your ancestor got married:

  • What was the legal age to get married?
  • At what age could someone get married with permission?
  • What was the waiting period between getting the license and actually getting married?
  • How long was the license valid?
  • Were any blood tests required?


Confusing Where Born, Where From, and Where Living

If your relative’s “place of birth” is incorrect in a document, consider if anyone in the record creation process (either your relative or the clerk) confused:

  • where born;
  • where from;
  • and where living.

It’s possible that your relative giving the information confused some of these pieces of information. It is possible the clerk got confused with the information your relative provided. Always transcribe a document exactly as written, but if things don’t make sense or are inconsistent, consider that inadvertent confusion could have taken place.

And…that information that’s wrong, could be a clue as the incorrect location could have significance in your ancestor’s life, even if it is “wrong” for the question it answered.


Is the DNA Consistent With Your Belief?

When a genealogical DNA site uses your DNA to project a relationship based upon shared DNA, do you look to see how much DNA you actually share? If a “known cousin” does a test, do you see if the amount of DNA you share is typical for the relationship? It’s a good idea to do so for at least two reasons:

  • It familiarizes you with the elements of the DNA cousin prediction process
  • It allows you to see if the amount of shared DNA is typical (or not) for the biological relationship you think you have with that relative.

The data summaries from Blaine Bettinger’s “Shared CM Project” indicate the typical ranges of shared DNA for specific relationships based upon submissions to his study. We also analyzed some of my closest matches and compared them with the typical ranges from Bettinger’s study on my Rootdig blog. Fortunately my shared DNA with my closest relatives was typical.

Is yours?

What the Record Says Versus What You Want

It’s always advised to determine what the record is actually saying–without inferring statements that are not supported directly by what is in the document, consistent record-keeping practices, state or federal law, etc.  Don’t put statements in records that are not there and ask yourself “does the document really say” that or am I just wanting it to? Pre-1880 US Census records don’t provide proof (at least not by themselves) of parent-child relationships, heirs to an estate are not necessarily children, paying property taxes in a location does not imply residence there, etc.

Be dogged in your approach to understanding what records say–as Riley suggests.

While he never says he wants a treat, that’s usually a safe bet.

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Craving Information about Carvings

This is a picture of the tombstone of John H. Ufkes from Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery near Basco, Hancock County, Illinois. Discerning readers may notice that the inscription on this stone is pretty “crisp.” There is a reason for that.

The inscription on the stone has partially been “redone.”

It is a little easier to see in this photo of John’s wife, Noentje. The picture of her stone shows the “original” inscription a little better.

I don’t doubt the accuracy of the inscriptions, but I should make a note in my records that the inscription on this stone (at least the name and dates) appears to have been “redone.”

In this case, I don’t know when the inscription was remade. What I do remember is one of Johann and Noentje’s grandchildren (perhaps my grandfather told me–I can’t remember who) telling me that approximately 15-20 years ago, the grandchildren “chipped in” and had the names and dates on the stones re-etched. That should be in my notes as well–I just wish I remember who had told me.

Before Those DNA Test Results Come Back

We’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Instead of checking every thirty seconds to see if the results of that DNA test have been posted, consider doing the following while waiting for your DNA test results:

  • check for “weak links” in your family tree–can any be fixed with paper records?
  • work on documenting additional descendants of your ancestors through your third and fourth great-grandparents–descendants of earlier ancestors may easily connect in your DNA results as well, but that’s probably enough work for anyone during your DNA results wait. That will help you in analyzing your results when they do come back.
  • study up on the basics of DNA analysis;
  • remember that sorting your “known families you didn’t really test to learn about” will help you on your “real problems;”
  • revise your expectations–you won’t solve all problems immediately;
  • think about how you would respond to surprises–“close” relatives who are completely unexpected

If you’re considering purchasing a DNA kit, purchasing through these links helps support Genealogy Tip of the Day and does not increase the amount you pay:

Before You Give that DNA Test for the Holidays

A DNA test is not a pair of socks.

A DNA test is not some coffee table book that will sit unopened gathering dust until your children clean out your house and donate it or throw it away.

Once taken and submitted for analysis, a DNA test has the potential to unlock some details about your family’s past and start a lifelong trek of wonderful discovery. For those with little interest, it may be a fifteen minute diversion.

Then there are other situations.

A DNA test also has the potential to create extreme family distress and discord if it turns out that “close” family members are not “family” after all or that there are some “close” family members that no one ever knew about. DNA test results can sometimes bring out details that living family members thought would never be discovered or that no one ever knew about. It’s possible you may have new family members for the next holiday season or awkward conversations with others.

Just something to think about.


Are You Looking at All the Church Records?

Church records can consist of more than vital events. Anything that mentions a person’s name and point in time can be helpful–depending upon your situation. Of course, not all these records (such as the donations shown in this image) are extant or even preserved. But if they are and you’re stuck, they may provide an additional clue.

Another reminder–don’t crop the image too closely. The year got cut off in this list of donations on 20 September 1908 that includes my great-great-grandpa Trautvetter.

Memories that Fade Into Obituaries

I always read the obituaries on the website of the only funeral home in the town where I grew up. A recent posting contained names I recognized as being a relative, but a few things didn’t jive with my memory. It wasn’t just my memory that was wrong–the obituary was as well. And the obituary, like my memory, left a few details out. And, for me, the days of calling my Mother for potential clarification (although she wasn’t always an “original” source) are long gone.

The maiden name of the mother was incorrect. His grandmother’s maiden name (or possibly the grandmother’s middle name) was used instead–at this point I’m not certain as my connection to the deceased was on the other side of the family. Other recent online obituaries were used to compare with the newest one, but it’s important to remember that obituaries are not always the best of sources and that relationships as stated in an obituary can change from one obituary to another–especially when individuals have been married more than once and divorce and other family dynamics come into play. And there was a niece who appeared in only one obituary–and not others where individuals with the same relationship she had were listed.

Never rely on one source. Even when multiple sources can be accessed, they may be incorrect. Always keep in mind the probable informant for any information and the probability that the information they gave was accurate.