Did Grandma Sign a Yearbook?

If you are fortunate enough to have Grandma’s high school or college yearbook, it still may be to your advantage to look at digital images of that same yearbook. It could be that Grandma wrote in her friend’s yearbook and that friend’s yearbook was the one that was digitized and put online. When digital images of yearbooks are posted online, those signatures and notes of “best wishes” are usually not indexed. You will have to search for them by hand–if you are lucky enough to find a digital copy with personalized notes.

Checked Your Citations?

When was the last time you went back through your “early research” and checked your citations and determined where the information was actually located? Sometimes early in our research, the rush to discover, and possibly because our experience and skill level still needs to be developed, conclusions are made that are not quite correct and sources are used that are not as reliable as others.

Cleaning up old citations for me has been a great brick wall breaker and “leads I never followed up on” finder. Sometimes that’s all it takes to get my research started again.

How Did Your Ancestor Work?

Knowing that your ancestor was a farmer, a cooper, a blacksmith, etc. is good for an initial point of reference, but sometimes knowing more about the daily work of your ancestor can be to your advantage. If he was involved in a lawsuit that resulted from his job, a working knowledge of “how” he worked can be helpful in interpreting records and testimony. Just knowing something about his daily work can give you more insight into his life, social history, etc.

Those who did not have a paying job still worked, especially mothers who were at home with their children. Knowing what their typical day consisted of can also help provide insight into your family’s life one hundred years ago.

All of this can also help in the analysis of estate inventories which often contain work items and “around the house” items.

Want to get tips in print form? Check out the Genealogy of the Tip of the Day book.

The Affiant Made an Affidavit about the Affianced

An affidavit is a written statement, typically used as evidence in court, that is made out by oath or affirmation. Occasionally affidavits may appear in local records office with land records or miscellaneous records depending upon the content of the affidavit.

An affiant is one who makes out an affidavit.

Someone who is said to be affianced is engaged to be married.

Those Mundane Court Cases

There’s always value in reviewing court cases in which your ancestor was involved. That’s true even if the cases involve mundane, seemingly trivial matters, and contain no direct genealogical information. Remember that every court case can not involve an inheritance and contain significant documentation of family relationships.

Those mundane cases can help as well and it’s worth remembering that the mundane must have been important to your ancestor (or someone else) for it to have gotten to court.

Who provided testimony? Their relationships may not be stated, but those individuals could have been related by blood or marriage to your ancestor. The fact that your ancestor was involved in a lawsuit means that he was of legal age and (probably) a citizen at the time of the action. Those are clues.

And you may get a little insight into your ancestor’s life. Or learn about horse diseases in Virginia in the early 19th century as I did.

Draw a Little Schematic

James died and left his wife Sarah half his farm and the rest was to be split between his two sons, William and Riley. Wanting to move west, Riley shares his portion to his mother and his brother. I wanted to know how much of the farm Sarah and William had at that point.

A little chart was helpful–although not entirely necessary.

Sarah owned the half she originally had and she had one-half of Riley’s one-fourth (an additional one-eighth). This gave Sarah 5/8 interest in the property.

William owned the original one-fourth he had and one-half of Riley’s one-fourth (an additional one-eighth). This gave William 3/8 interest in the property.

Appraised Value Versus Actual

When viewing estate records that include inventories appraisals and sale values, always compare them.

In certain times and places, law dictated that the property of the deceased had to be sold–even if there was a surviving and children. If the widow purchased property, compare the appraised value with the amount she paid. It could be pennies on the dollar or a token amount. The law may have dictated that there had to be an auction, but the neighbors may have shot dirty looks (or perhaps shot something else) at anyone who tried to outbid the widow.

Other items purchased by individuals outside the immediate family may have gone for prices closer to their appraised value. Appraisals are only estimates and were used by the administrators to estimate ability to pay bills and by the court to determine the amount of bond required by those settling the estate. But if one person consistently pays an amount significantly different from the appraised value, that’s a clue.

And, if you are inclined to get sentimental, it’s sort of nice to think of all the neighbors helping the widow out.

Who Else is Buried There?

Tracking down twentieth and twenty-first century relatives can be problematic, but it is sometimes necessary in order to determine DNA matches or see if living family members may have family information, ephemera, or pictures.

Sometimes a person can find one relative when others seem to go missing. The difficulties are magnified when the relative is a female who may have had “one more” husband than the researcher was aware of. While FindAGrave has its issues (not all cemeteries entries are complete), consider searching for those missing relatives in the cemetery where you’ve found one of them.

On a side note, I’ve sometimes spent just a little time trying to figure out why a relative was buried in an unexpected cemetery. Sometimes that can be a clue that the relative’s spouse had a connection to others buried in the same location. Sometimes.

“Land Records” Not Just Deeds

Local land records are not just deeds involving property transfer between grantors and grantees. They may contain court orders that impact property title (such as partitions), affidavits (from heirs or others testifying to certain aspects of property title), contracts (to purchase a piece of property or between two individuals with their own property preparing to marry), etc.

Occasionally someone who never bought or sold property can appear in a document recorded with the land records. An uncle of mine filed an affidavit in the 1890s after his father died stating that there was no debt on the property and that all his father’s last bills had been paid). The son did not sell the property, but filed the affidavit because the family had not gone through a probate and wanted to state the the property was free and clear because the father’s debts had been paid.