Precision Limits

The address of my maternal great-aunt in a 1970s era probate is “Rural Route 3, Carthage, Illinois.” That’s as specific as it gets. This was in an era before 911 addresses gave more precise locations. I know roughly where route 3 was since that was my address also at the same point in time. While the house is no longer standing, I know exactly where my great-aunt lived because her farm shared a property line with my paternal grandparents.


If my great-aunt and her husband’s residence had not been known to me and if they had not owned their own farm, determining where they lived precisely could have been more difficult. A rural directory or phone book may have provided a more specific address and there may have been a way to learn the approximate geographic area covered by “rural route 3” had that not already been known.

Always try and pinpoint a location as precisely as possible. But remember that, depending on the location, the time period, and the extant records that such determination may not be possible.

Check out Genealogy Tip of the Day book version for other tips and questions you should ask yourself about your research.