Leaving Out the Obvious

Genealogists often lament the fact that documents fail to include “extra” details that they would like to know.

The deed between two men with the same last name that does not state their relationship.

The newspaper item that mentions someone from out of town visiting a local resident without stating their relationship.

Frustrating, but it is worth remember that, in the case of the deed, legal documents are created for a specific purpose–not for leaving behind details of the relationship between the individuals signing the document. If the relationship is germane to the transaction (they were both heirs to the property, for example) then it may be stated–but not always. The newspaper is about “news” and the “news” is that someone visited–not what their relationship was.

Ask yourself “Is there a reason this record would mention the relationship? Is there a reason the document would have to mention the relationship?” It may be frustrating, but many times the answer is simply “no.”

And have you signed a legal document involving a relative where your relationship is not stated? What would the lawyer have said if you had insisted that the relationship be given? I think my lawyer would have rolled his eyes if I had insisted it be included in recent documents I signed involving my brother.