Places Not On the Map

Some locations do not exist on a map and may only have existed as a reference used by locals to a “generally known” area without precise borders. Newspapers can be one place to at least determine if such a place name actually existed–even if the precise location cannot be determined from the newspaper reference.

That’s case with this 1922 reference from the “Tioga” section of a newspaper from Quincy, Illinois. It mentions “Green Grove” and “Georgetown.” They obviously were relatively close to Tioga and everyone in 1922 knew where they were. The problem is that I don’t live in 1922.

The Green Grove reference was one I heard from my grandmother as a reference to where she attended school. A daughter of the George Trautvetter mentioned in the article, she would have been eleven at the time of the reference and was still attending school at that time.

The United States Geological Survey’s Geographic Information System contained a reference to Green Grove–indicating it was historical reference to a school in Hancock County, Illinois. That made perfect sense given the 1922 newspaper reference. There was no reference to Georgetown in either Hancock or Adams County in that database.

Newspaper references to a location can help you get an idea of where an unmapped place was located.


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Sandwich Those Tombstone Photos

If you plan on visiting several cemeteries in one research trip, make certain you organize your photos as you take them. Consider a “title page” as one of your photographs as well as photographs of the entrance of the cemetery. There are other ways to reduce confusion later, but this approach may be helpful:

  • photograph of title page–handwritten is fine if you are “in the field”
  • photograph of entrance
  • photographs of individual stones
  • photograph of entrance

It’s not necessary to be fancy. Then when sorting your photographs by the time they were taken, you know the cemetery each stone was located at. You can add more details to the location when you return home.

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Genealogy Tricks or Not?

I’m inclined to think that there are not any “tricks” to genealogical research. To be certain occasionally we stumble upon something, but that’s usually because we are looking for something and we have the names in our head and we notice something.

Often what are called “tricks” are really just good ideas. They are not “magic.” Those ideas include:

  • Organizing materials as you find them.
  • Transcribing documents as you find them.
  • Using online trees as clues, not facts.
  • Identifying people on pictures when you can and as soon as possible.
  • Writing down your process so you can re-analyze it later.
  • Learning about multiple sources so you have more options.
  • Not jumping to conclusions.

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Call Me Michael

He was christened Johann Michael Trautvetter in Bad Salzungen, Germany, in 1796, but his call name was Michael. He’s never referred to as Johann or John in any records in the Untied States after his immigration–it’s always Michael. The “call name” is the name that a person is called. For many Germans during the time period Johann Michael Trautvetter was alive, their first name was not their call name.

Those who immigrated may never have even used their first name in the United States or wherever they settled. Instead they opted to just use their call name as their actual name.

The 1796 christening entry for Michael (which is what I call him) reminds us not to assume. The underlined name in this christening entry is the father’s name, not the name of the child. Other locations and other pastors or priests may use a different form for their entries. Always pays to not assume that records in point A are just like those in point B.


The Genealogy Tip of the Day book is just about ready! Add your name to be notified when it is ready for distribution. Call names are one of the many things that Jim Beidler discusses in The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Germanic Ancestry in Europe.

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That “Can’t Find them” List

We all have those people we can’t find in certain records for one reason or another and there comes a time when it’s time to move on and search for another record or another person.

But I’ve thought about creating a master list of those people and the records in which I can’t find them (along with where I’ve searched before and how). That “Can’t Find them List” is something that periodically I could refer to and try again. Not every week or every month, but maybe a few times a year when I’m in need of a break from whatever I’m working on.

Databases do get updated. New records are discovered. Researchers realize they have made mistakes. Instead of scouring my files for things I’ve not found, a list would let me spend a little more time on them when I wanted to.


And writing up that list and the things I have tried and how I tried it just might help me to see something I have overlooked.

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That 1890 Census Substitute

Not having an 1890 census as a source is a hindrance for those of us with American ancestors during that time period. While there is a fragment of the census available (and a very small fragment at that), the fact remains that most will never see their relative in the 1890 census.

That can create a research gap which creates challenges. Sometimes writers, advertisers, and the fee-based websites will mention a substitute of sorts. It’s more accurate to refer to anything else (that “substitute”) as a 1890 era source that should be utilized.

City directories, tax lists, voter lists, newspapers are all touted as substitutes. The reality is they are sources that should be utilized anyway, even during those time periods when the census is available. They aren’t necessarily substitutes for the census as they are different records that serve different purposes. The census was intended to count every US resident in 1890–and list them all by name given the time period.

City directories don’t list everyone–generally heads of households and sometimes other adults living in the household who work outside the home. Tax lists in the 1890 era list individuals who had to pay a property or personal tax (for those areas that had them). Voter lists only list those who were registered to vote (and in 1890 that was adult male citizens over the age of twenty-one). The goal of a newspaper is not to name or list every citizen either, although in some rural areas they occasionally mention more people that one thinks.

There is no 1890 census substitute. There are just other records, with different purposes, that may help to fill in some of the gaps.

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Multiple Relationships

Relationships are not always about biology.

It’s important in genealogical research to be aware of the biological relationships between two individuals as those relationships are the ones that may leave genetic evidence behind. That genetic evidence is strongest the closer the relationship is. The further the connection, the lower the chance that an autosomal DNA test finds genetic evidence of the connection.

Biological relationships are not the only ones that matter in genealogical research.

There are relationships established through marriage. There are relationships established through a shared heritage, growing up in geographic proximity, being members of a shared religious tradition, etc. Anyone who has that relationship to your ancestor or relative may interact with him in ways that leave additional records behind and may help you to learn more details about your ancestor’s life.

And there can easily be multiple relationships between two individuals. They may be biologically related to each other in more than one way (double cousins, for instance). They may be related to each other by marriage and by biology (where a husband and wife are third cousins).

Relationships cause people to interact with each other and that interaction can result in items of genealogical interest: either generating more humans, more records, or both.


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They Were Human

If we have not experienced some of the things our family members in the past did, it is difficult to say how it might have really impacted them. It’s hard to say how you would react to something that has never happened to you. One can empathize, but sometimes it’s hard to understand when you’ve not really experienced it yourself.

The last two of my grandmother’s three children did not survive birth. I’m not certain how I would have reacted had I been in that same situation and the “babies” (as they were called) were not discussed or asked about. I have other family members (distant and not-so-distant) who had similar experiences, including a great-great-grandma whose son was murdered in Kansas City in 1921. I’m certain that impacted her as well.

Sometimes life events such as these can impact a family for some time. Are there any events that may have made a lasting impact on your ancestral family and how they interacted with each other?


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How Did It Get Passed Down?

A first cousin of my great-grandfather and his wife had only one daughter. She was a child that they adopted when she was fairly young. Years after she died, a son of that daughter contacted me and asked me if I wanted pictures he had of my great-great-grandfather’s brother and other family members. I said yes after making certain he really did not want to keep them.

He was concerned that no one in his family would want the pictures when he died and, since they weren’t biologically related to the family, he was also afraid that would increase the chance someone just threw them out when he passed away.

There are several lessons here: think about what may happen to your pictures and other ephemera when you pass away and consider how someone may end up with things in a way that is potentially unexpected. The pictures could easily have ended up in an antique mall, flea market, or dump if I had not been given them.

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