The First Child and the Last Child–or Actually Any

If things “don’t quite make sense,” consider that a couple’s first child might not have been both of theirs or might have been born less than the “necessary” time after their marriage. Their last child, particularly if born significantly after the couple’s other children, might have actually been their grandchild.

Most of the time a couple’s children are theirs, but there are times where other possibilities could be the reality:

  • the husband or wife had a previous marriage or relationship;
  • the couple adopted the child of a sibling or other family member;
  • the couple raised their grandchild;
  • the couple took in the orphaned child of a neighbor couple;
  • etc.

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Counting the Cattle

When I was a kid, my dad and I would count the cattle as they crossed the road from one pasture to another. It was important to arrive at the same correct number. The only problem was that my father tended to count out loud and his counting always got me off.

Is part of the reason for your research difficulty that you are listening  to what someone else has already concluded? Are you letting their interpretations influence yours–perhaps a little too much? Sometimes it’s helpful to put away the conclusions of others and start your analysis from scratch.

Then, when you’re done counting your cows separately, you can compare your conclusions with others.

Genealogy Tip of the Day book is here. Learn more about it.

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Formerly Known as in Accountings

Final receipts and accountings in court and probate records may mention last names that married females did not have when the case was initiated.

Daughters get married and widows find new husbands. Court accountings may mention these new names and explain why someone “disappears.”

These references can be especially helpful in time periods and locations where marriage records are not extant.

Genealogy Tip of the Day book is here. Learn more about it.

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Are Notes on an Individual DNA Match Enough?

I’m working on shared DNA matches I have with DNA matches who are known descendants of my Irish ancestor John Neill (born around 1810 or so). I’m starting that work by looking at those matches that have trees. AncestryDNA, like the other sites, allows me to have notes attached for each match.

For me that’s not an efficient way to keep track of my thoughts, analysis, speculation, etc. since the notes are tied to each match individually. Instead of putting my process in each match’s notes, I’ve created one Word document with the name of each DNA match in this group and what I’ve noticed about the matches, why I’ve decided certain parts of their trees are the best places to start really looking for a match, etc.

That keeps the analysis of this group of matches in one place, allows me to review it easier (printing it out if desired for note taking), make additional notes easier, etc.

Sometimes individual notes are great and sometimes they are not. Don’t always force your process to fit the system.


Check out the “Tip of the Day” book! Edited, practical, and easy-to-follow.

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Cheat Sheet of Same Named People

As a slight diversion, I decided to revisit some work I had done on my children’s Swiss immigrants to Davenport, Iowa. The only problem was that in one family there were several people in the family whose first and middle names were Christian Anton and Anton Christian. There were several different last names as the various men with the first and middle name combinations of Christian Antons and Anton Christians were sons of two men named Christian Anton and Anton Christian and their sisters. The men were all first cousins (or the two brothers) and I was constantly confusing them.

So I made a quick chart with each man’s complete name, year of birth, place of birth, names of parents (if known), and other identifying information. The list helped to keep me straight and was faster to refer to than a database or a chart of the entire family.

Genealogy Tip of the Day book is here. Learn more about it.

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Together for a Visit

A 1906 newspaper reference to my uncle and his wife provides several tips or reminders in one quick note:


“Joe Neal and daughter Jennie and Mrs. Harper and daughter Anna returned home last Friday after a two weeks visit with relatives in Polo, Mo.”

I located the entry by manually searching for the alternate spelling of my last name. The site that hosted this image, at least at the time I used it, did not support soundex-based searches and wildcard searches required at least two letters to be used initially before a wildcard operator was used.

The connection between the individuals named in the newspaper is not stated. Frustrating for the genealogist. It’s worth remembering that the individuals reading the newspaper at the time already knew those relationships. Newspapers were not always concerned about stating things clearly for someone reading the item 110 years or more later.

Don’t assume what the relationships are. You may be incorrect.

“Mrs. Harper” is not identified any further–although she does have a daughter Anna. Women are not always identified as completely as we would like. That’s reflective of the time and also because “everyone knew who was meant by ‘Mrs. Harper.'”

Lastly: do not forget to follow up on items you locate. I just realized that my goal of doing more work on this item fell by the wayside.

The post I originally wrote “Headed to Polo in 1906” was published on my other website.

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Did Some of the Kids Go Back?

Migrations can work in a variety of ways. There was a family where the parents and the children moved from Illinois to California in the 1930s during the Great Depression. I had difficulty finding one of the daughters after I had located the death information on the parents and most of their children in California. The west coast of the United States is where I kept looking for them.

When I broadened my searches, I discovered that one daughter had moved back to the exact location in Illinois where the parents were from and where they were living before they moved to California in the 1930s. At this point, I’m not certain exactly why she moved back, but it’s always something to consider. Sometimes children who are “pretty much grown” and move somewhere with their parents end up moving “back home” even if their parents do not.


Genealogy Tip of the Day book is here. Learn more about it.

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A Source or a Reason for Everything

When you enter a date, place, or relationship into your genealogical database have a reason or a source for that date, place, or relationship. If you are working on individuals you knew personally, you can indicate personal knowledge as your reason. For other individuals use the record that made the statement, or if there is no record, indicate why you entered in the date, place or relationship that you did. As you move forward in your research you may realize that you may need a better reason that your personal knowledge or the record that was originally used. You may also reason that your reasoning was not entirely valid.

It is impossible to evaluate if you don’t indicate how or where you got a piece of information.

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One More?

When you think you are done with your research, ask yourself:

  • Could this person have had one more spouse?
  • Could this person have had one more child?
  • Could this person have moved one more time?
  • Could this person have had one more step-parent?
  • and so on…

Sometimes when we think we are done we are. Many times we are not.


Genealogy Tip of the Day book is here. Learn more about it.

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The Mortgagor

Legal terms can be confusing, but genealogists need to understand them correctly or incorrect conclusions can be made. “Mortgagor” is one of those terms. It is the borrower on a mortgage, typically the homeowner. They are the one who is actually mortgaging their title and the person signing the mortgage–hence the “or” on the word.

It’s similar to a grantor on a deed–that’s the person who is signing the deed and is granting their title to someone else. The mortgagor is mortgaging their title to the mortgagee–that’s the bank, lending institution, or person loaning the money.

In the early 20th century, it was not uncommon for individuals to loan money to others and the borrower would mortgage their real estate as security for the loan. There were loan brokers who worked to connect people with money with individuals who had title to real estate and wanted to borrow against it (See “Money to Loan” for more information).

Genealogy Tip of the Day book is here. Learn more about it.

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