Picking Out the Pieces

The online trees I tend to use the most for research “suggestions” are ones that contain sources–that cuts down on the number quite a bit if you also eliminate those that only cite other online trees. Sourced trees may reference items that I have overlooked in my research or that I simply have not yet had the time to look for.

Online trees can be full of errors–sometimes. There are times where the compiler has merged people with similar names into one person or has taken several people with similar names and melded them into two individuals.

Other times the compiler has pulled one record from beyond left field to be included in a person’s file when the rest of it is spot on. And occasionally the compilation is entirely correct. Don’t just copy the information from the trees into your own–even if it appears to be correct most of the time. Use the tree for clues.

If you decide to use an online tree for clues, pick apart each specific statement it makes (about a birth, a death, a residence in a location, a marriage, etc.). Look at each record entry individually and ask yourself, is this for the same person? Could this one entry be for someone else?

Also make certain that the record has been transcribed correctly and that there are not clues in it that have been overlooked.

Relatives With No Descendants Could Help You from Beyond the Grave

Determining relationships of your DNA matches can be problematic if you don’t have all the relatives of your great, great-great, and great-great-great-grandparents traced down. One place to get some help with that are intestate probate records for relatives who died without children of their own. Siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, etc. may be mentioned–usually by married name. If recent enough, addresses may also be included.

This case from 1972 documented all the living descendants of a couple who were married in 1881 and died in 1913 and 1932 respectively. A great help tracking down long lost relatives.

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.

Do Some Searching Yourself

The second you do not understand something in your genealogy research is not the moment to fire off a question to several Facebook groups about it. Take some time to think, reflect, and do some of your own research to see if you can discover more about the subject. You may learn more in the process of doing that than you thought you would.

And, if asking a silly question concerns you, there is less chance of you doing that if you’ve tried to get the answer yourself first.

It also gives you some time to ask a better question or get all the details of your own situation in order before you ask a question.

Remember as well that not everyone who responds to your question will really know what they are talking about. Don’t assume the first person to respond is correct.

A List of Relatives by First Name

In working on organizing some family materials, I noticed that I was constantly mixing up various family members and needed a list to keep them straight.

But for me the best list was not one sorted by last name. Instead I made a list where they were sorted by first name. That was because partially some items I had in my possession only had their first name listed and partially because I found myself having an easier time remembering their first name.

The list was for my personal use only and included the first name, middle names or nicknames, last name (maiden and married [if they had one] for women–in that order), names of parents, and years of birth and death. The sorting by first name reminded me of how many Ruths, Freds, etc. there were and how they fit into the family.

Beginning Irish Research Webinar

We’re offering our first ever Beginning Irish Research webinar on 23 October. Register to attend live online or pre-order a downloadable copy of the presentation.

30 October 2020 at 2:00 pm central time–note date change

This session will focus on starting your Irish genealogical research. This session will begin with an overview of the importance of completely researching the Irish immigrant in the United States.
Ireland-specific topics will include:

  • Irish civil records–overview and search strategies
  • Irish religious records–overview and search strategies
  • Irish political jurisdictions, their relationships with each other, and what you need to know
  • Overview of record destruction–sorry, it’s a reality
  • Overview of Irish names
  • Overview of Irish migrations
  • Reaching out to others who may be able to help and networking strategies

Intended for those who have not done extensive Irish research.

Attendance is via GotoWebinar. The session will be recorded for those who have connection issues or schedule changes. Attendees receive a free download of the presentation after it has been processed. Handout included.

Grantor versus Grantee on Deed

The grantor on a deed is the seller, the one who is transferring their interest in real property to someone else. The grantor may be getting money, other property, or nothing at all. It just depends on the type of transaction.

The grantee on a deed is the one to whom the interest in real property is being transferred. The grantee may be paying for the interest in the property or may not be. Again–depends on the situation.

Get Out of Your Experience Bubble

If your ancestral background is pretty homogeneous, like mine is, it can be easy to get in a research zone and think all research is like yours. When I first began working on my children’s ancestry years ago (and now that of my sons-in-law), the first challenge I had was working with urban individuals and immigrants from countries with which I was not familiar.

But that stretched my research skills.

Who knew cemeteries had phone numbers you could call? And city directories published virtually year after year? The ability to “search the whole town” for my person of interest was no longer as practical as it was in my rural ancestral areas. I had to learn other skills and develop other techniques.

That helped me when I went back to my rural ancestors or when I worked on the parts of sons-in-law’s trees that were rural.

And if you’ve only done research in New England in the 1700s, Virginia and the rest of the southern United States is a whole ‘nuther kettle of fish.

Researching in new areas and time periods stretches your skills and will help you when you get back to the people you started researching in the first place.

Moving Clues in Deeds

If your ancestors were movers who frequently owned property, make certain you have obtained copies of all their local land records. Deeds where they are grantors (sellers) may provide some details about where they moved.

Transactions on their property in the area they left from may not have been finalized until after their move. The deed of sale may indicate their new county or area of residence or acknowledgements of the deed in front of a local official may indicate where that official was permitted to act. Either way it could help you determine where they went.