Contextual Clues Mean It’s Not a Part of a Name

The middle entry on this page of 1838 baptisms from Aurich, Germany contains the entry for my ancestor.

The fourth column contains the names of the sponsors. When I was trying to analyze the entry for my relative I thought the symbol in the middle red circle on the image were a part of the entry.

Then I looked at the other two entries on the image I made and realized that the items in the circle were partially used to number each entry and were not a part of the names of the sponsors.

If I had only copied the entry for my ancestor and not other entries on the same page, I might have missed that.

Don’t copy only the entry of interest on a page like this. Copy other entries on the same page.

You can’t made comparisons if you don’t.

Note: This tip originally ran on 22 May 2015.

Babies Not Always Named Right Away

Children were not always named immediately. While modern practice is to name children at birth (if not before), this was not always the case for one reason or another. It is not uncommon to see “unnamed” or “baby” as the first name on a birth certificate. A couple may have waited until they could arrange for a christening to name the baby, because they could not decide, or other reasons.

This post on our sister site looks at possible unnamed children in the 1880 United States census.

His Date of Death May Be Buried on His Tombstone–If He Has One

Sometimes you simply won’t find the record you want. Clark Sargent died in the late 1840s, probably in Winnebago County, Illinois. A genealogy of his family written approximately fifty years later gives a year of death, but it is unsourced. I have no reason to doubt what that book says as it is consistent with county records, census records, etc. But just because it fits doesn’t necessarily mean it is correct either.

It is too early for a death record in Illinois. There is no probate (I looked). He owned real estate, but there is no guardianship for his children (I looked). The land records for his real estate mention nothing of his death–but that’s typical. There is no apparent tombstone, but one could be buried somewhere. It does not appear that the family were regular church attenders, so church records have not been helpful. I keep my eyes peeled for something new that I have not seen, but I likely will have no document that provides a specific date of death. And that is ok. The records I do have provide a roughly two-year time frame for when he died. That’s better than nothing.

I am lucky that there are other slightly later records that document all his children and materials that also document his wife and his parents.

Townships: Congressional Versus Civil

Congressional townships were used in Federal land states for surveying purposes. Civil townships are used for governmental purposes. In some places their borders will be the same. Congressional townships are numbered using base lines and meridians within each state that was a Federal land state. Civil townships have names depending on the whims of early settlers.

Introduction to the American Courthouse Webinar Released

This session will provide an overview of the records to expect at the typical United States county courthouse–focusing on local vital, court, probate, and property records. It includes:

  • a general overview of the general types of records to expect,
  • use of indexes and finding aids;
  • how to organize your searches and set a search strategy,
  • preparing for an onsite visit.

Geared towards advanced beginner and beginning intermediate researchers. Michael has been researching his own genealogy in American courthouses since the 1980s (since he was thirteen) and is an experienced courthouse researcher.

The presentation and handout can be ordered for immediate download via the following link:

Include Your Reasoning–Right There!

There is no date listed for the estate sale of Thomas J. Rampley in Coshocton County, Ohio. However, a review of other materials recorded with that estate sale suggested the date of the sale was August or September of 1823. The precise date was not crucial to my personal research, but if it had contained the last reference to Christianna Rampley, Thomas’ wife, then it would have been.

Because I inferred the date of the sale from other records, I need to include that reasoning somewhere when I use it. That’s what was done on the image that is a part of this post. My citation is not perfect (it’s missing the date I downloaded the image), but other key elements are there even if the format and ordering isn’t technically perfect.

But it’s there and my reasoning for how the date of the sale is there. That’s what matters.


The word “moiety” generally means half of something. The word is often used in real estate documents to indicate a half-interest in a piece of property.

How Long and Where?

Affidavits and other witness-type statements can indicate how long a witness has known the person they are vouching for. This can be a clue as to residences, moves, etc. Charles Hartsell in this 1907 statement suggests that he has lived in the following places:

  • until 1875 in Mercer County, Illinois;
  • from 1875-1901 in Union County, Iowa;
  • 1901-1902 (approximately) in Stafford County, Kansas;
  • 1902 (approximately)-1907 Pratt County, Kansas.

Hartsell has known the Goin witness for 15 years and the McMillan witness for 3 years. Both indicate that in 1907 they were living in Stafford County, Kansas. Based on the time frame, McMillan became aquainted with Hartsell when they both lived in Stafford [corrected to Pratt] County. Goin apparently knew Hartsell when Hartsell lived in Union County, Iowa.

In this case, the knowledge of the time frame of the relationship may not yield genealogical fruit. But you don’t know until you map it out. Sometimes it does.


Property can escheat to the state when there are no qualified heirs to someone who has died and that person has left no will. State statute defines who qualified heirs are.

A man died in Bedford County, Virginia, in the late 1700s with only natural children and no will that was admitted to probate. His two hundred acre farm was going to escheat to the state until the natural children petitioned the Virginia legislature to prevent it from happening. State statute did not allow natural children (those born outside of marriage) to automatically inherit from their father.