More to the picture…

There’s more to a picture than just the names of the individuals are are shown in it.

Where was it taken?

Who took it?

Why was it taken?

Does it look posed?

If someone has written on it–who was that? Did they know the people in the picture or where they probably identifying them based on something they were told by someone else?

How do I end up having it?

Please Copy

If 19th or 20th century newspaper to your relative includes the phrase “please copy,” pay close attention to that location. A death notice for Charles Waterman of New Orleans, Louisiana, indicated that the Detroit and Rochester should copy the death notice. The death notice mentions that Waterman was a native of Rochester, but the reference to Detroit in the “please copy” reference indicates that Waterman had potential ties to that area as well.

Will They Tell More As They Get Older?

While some relatives take their family history stories to their grave, others become more willing to tell stories as they age.

The reasons do not matter, but remain open to the possibility that Aunt Martha may eventually decide that the world will not end if she tells you that “family secret.”

Or course some people are not going to tell you things no matter what.

But some do become more open with age. It may be worth a try.

My Ancestor Never…

“Never say never,” may sound like a tired and oft-used saying, but sometimes there is a bit of truth to it. Applying it to your genealogical research can be helpful as well.

If in your head you ever think to yourself, “my ancestor never did x,” ask yourself “how would my research change if my ancestor did do x.?” Don’t carry this to the extreme and decide that your ancestor flew around the sun and returned, but other things such as “my ancestor would never have moved away for a few years, my ancestor never would have gotten divorced, my ancestor would never have had an “early” baby, and my ancestor never would have been arrested” may not be as true as you think.

The word “never,” and the unwritten assumptions that flow from it, can leave us with research hangups.

Genealogy Tip of the Day Book is Coming!

We’re been working it for a while now–a book of some of our earliest genealogy tips. I’m excited about the upcoming release of a list of tips in print form.

We’ve pulled out announcements and items that were timely and have not included those. Tips that were repeated have been deleted as well. We’ve updated a few tips that needed to be refined. And hopefully we’ve caught the minor grammar errors that occasionally sneak in.

If you’d like to get an email when the book runs live, add yourself to our email list.

Signature Analysis

The man is referred to as John Sears in a variety of court records from Bourbon County, Kentucky, in the 1806/1807 era.The handwriting of the court clerks and staff is fairly clear: John Sears. Like most documents, there is more. Sears signed two documents as a part of the original papers in the case file.

It does not look like he signed John Sears. The first name in both references clearly looks like Johann. Sometimes in records of this age, signatures may sometimes look like scribbles or just be viewed as “sloppy and written by someone who is not too literate.” That viewpoint can be a mistake. The temptation may be to just assume the signature is exactly what is written elsewhere in the document by someone whose handwriting is easier to read. That can also me a mistake.

Could that be a clue to his ancestral origins or perhaps where he was born?

Digital Records at FamilySearch?

Access to many digital images at FamilySearch is through the catalog. The images have not been separately indexed and are essentially “online microfilm.”

Search the catalog for your counties and other geographic areas of interest and the browse the subject headings to see what materials may be available. Everything in the catalog is not online, but looking at specific catalog entries will indicate how the materials can be accessed.

The catalog can be searched online at

Did They Really Sign It?

A signature can be a way of identifying a relative when other details are scant or inclusive. The difficulty comes when the researcher does not really know if the executor of a document actually signed it or not. Some records genealogists use are original documents containing actual signatures and other times those records are transcriptions or record copies of the original documents. Record copies made in the day when transcriptions were made by hand don’t contain the actual signature–they contain a transcription of it.

Once in a while original records may not contain the actual signature of the “signer,” even when they appear to. This 1827 bond from Fleming County, Kentucky, contains the “signatures” of James and Enoch Tinsley. Their signatures look very similar. The “signatures” of their names look similar also to how their names are written in the body of the bond. Their signatures also look less “labored” than do the signatures of the other three individuals and of the witnesses.

All of which makes me wonder if James and Enoch actually signed the document.

The Demise of James Tinsley

“Demise” does not always mean death. This court record from early 19th century Bourbon County, Kentucky, states:

in the year 1811 John Goodlittle on demise of James Tinsley exhibited…

It does not, does not, mean that James Tinsley met his demise in 1811. It means that John Goodlittle had a lease to real estate owned by James Tinsley.

Always make certain you are interpreting words in legal documents in their legal context.