A State of Enlistment

Your relative who served in the United States military may have enlisted in a state other than the one in which he lived. This was common for wars through the 19th century. Do not assume that your Ohio ancestor had to enlist in an Ohio unit. He may not have.

I have several Illinois relatives who served in the US Civil War. Most of them enlisted in units from Illinois, but not all. One enlisted in an Iowa unit and another enlisted in a Missouri unit. And an Iowa relative enlisted in a unit from Wisconsin. This was sometimes done to help those state meet quotas in terms of volunteers.


Genealogy Tip of the Day can help fill in those gaps in your genealogical skill set without being overly academic or tedious. This book contains tips from 2009-2011 edited. Genealogy news, information on websites, marketing announcements, and items that were “dated,” have been removed.

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From Michael options (orders outside US? email me mjnrootdig@gmail for postage charge):

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Where Are the Surveys?

If you have searched local land records (usually kept at the county or town level in the United States), have you determined where later surveys or plats are kept? These items may be filed in with the deed books or filed in a separate series of volumes, ledgers, or other format.

After John Habben died in 1939, his sons had a survey conducted to clearly establish who had what pieces of property. The survey is filed in the recorder’s office in the same location as the land records, but in a separate series of documents. The survey simply establishes the boundaries, acreages, and ownership of each piece of property. It does not document how the men acquired the property.

One would have to search land and other local records for that.

Not every parcel would have a survey recorded, but if there was any question over property boundaries it likely happened. Do not assume that surveys were the result of a family disagreement. Sometimes families knew where the lines were but wanted them clearly established to reduce difficulties after their death or if properties were sold.

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Backwards Genealogy

Whenever there is an index that I am uncertain how to use, I perform a backwards search.

I manually search the records and pick a couple of records or items at random. I note where they are in the records, who they mention, etc. Then I go back to the index and see if I can find the index entry for that record.

If I can, then I’m likely using the index correctly and I understand how it works.

If I cannot, then there is something I need to figure out before I use the index further.

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Newspaper Searching After Death

Fifty years after they came to America and decades after they died, Mr. and Mrs. John George Trautvetter were mentioned in the local newspaper in 1903 when their descendants gathered on their former arm.

People can often be mentioned shortly after their death in their obituary, notices involving their probate, etc. The most likely mention of someone decades after their death is in the obituaries of their children.

But as we can see there are other possibilities when someone can be mentioned well after their death. Don’t discount the possibility that great-grandma is mentioned in the newspaper fifty years after her death.

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Any Document Can Help

Genealogy theorists tout the value of an exhaustive search and there’s a reason–things can get overlooked. There’s also a reason why some of us just look for anything and everything.

This 1900 deed contains more family clues that most deeds created during this time period. It has the former name and maiden name of the first seller and the “legal” and commonly used names of several other sellers listed. Not every document will provide such clues, but you do not know if you do not look.

One needs to evaluate this information for perceived reliability, but in the case of this deed where the grantor is providing information about herself, it would likely be considered to be accurate as she likely provided it herself.

Information on her death certificate likely would have been provided by someone else.

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Were They Really Born on the Ocean?

There is no doubt that pregnant women got on ships that were headed to the United States.

There is no doubt that some of them had their babies on the ship.

I tend to doubt the story unless I can find some relatively contemporary evidence of it. The infant listed on the manifest as a newborn is a prime example. Stories of the baby being born on the ship make for nice dramatic stories and, when it actually happened, there is no doubt that it would have been a dramatic birth and the baby was fortunate to have survived.

But try and find something that back up that story.

Just like you would anything else.

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Work On Some New People

Getting away from the families you have worked on for years can be change of pace that helps you to later take a fresh look at your own research.

I’ve been working my grandson’s ancestry through his 4th great-grandparents. Half of his tree was pretty complete, but his paternal side is new to me. The families are in the same state as my own, rural like mine, and farmers like mine. But the family structure is different and some of the idiosyncrasies are not quite the same. Working on 20th century families is also not something I regularly do so that’s presenting some challenges as well.

I’m making a short list of “revelations” for my own research while I’m working on these other families.

The good thing is that I’m not related to my grandson more than once. The bad thing is that means more families to research.

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How Did They Say It?

Do you really know how someone actually pronounced the last name you are researching? One place to find out is from someone who actually has the last name. But there’s no guarantee that someone with the last name today is pronouncing it the way their ancestor did in 1800.

If the name is not in English, find someone who speaks the language and ask them what it sounds like–online genealogy groups may be one place to find these people. For names that are in English are there online genealogy groups from the area where the person or family lived who may be familiar with how the name is pronounced? It is not always necessary to find someone with the last name in order to see how it was pronounced.

The way a name was said matters as it impacts how it gets spelled in records and occasionally those renderings are significantly different from what we would expect.

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The “Three Plumbers” Rule

All I need is one good plumber, not three mediocre ones.

According to some in the land of genealogy, if I have three sources that say the same thing, then I have “proof.”

No. You have three sources that say the same thing and there’s a little more to information analysis than reaching some magic number.

One has to consider how “independent” the sources really are. Is the same person the informant on all three sources and providing the same information? If so that’s not three independent sources. It’s really one informant. The same thing applies if two published genealogies copy a statement from the same reference. That is a case of one source–not three.

And also: how reliable are those sources? Did the informant know what they were talking about? Who was the informant?

One reliable source is better than three sources that are not. The difficulty rests in determining how independent and reliable individual sources are.

Three unreliable plumbers will not fix my problem. I have a much better chance with one who knows what they are doing.

Too many bad sources in your research and you’ll have a stopped-up genealogical sink.

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Where There Is A Will…

Handing the disposition of your genealogical materials is not just as simple as “putting a clause in your will.”

Here are a few things to keep in mind when “donating your genealogical materials via a will.”

Make certain the recipient knows about the gift and is not simply going to put the materials on the curb when garbage day arrives. Just because they give you something does not mean they have to keep it. People can refuse a bequest and gifts in a will that are not easily convertible to cash have a higher chance of being refused.

If your papers are going to a library or other facility, contact them beforehand to make certain they are able to receive and maintain the materials. They could refuse all or part of your gift. Having boxes of unorganized materials (particularly copies of records that are already available elsewhere) increase the chance the gift is refused. Not all facilities have the financial capabilities to maintain collections that are given to them. What happens to the materials if the facility has financial challenges and has to close?

The court or your executor may not be as concerned with boxes of papers in your attic or basement as they are with your financial affairs–even if those boxes are mentioned in the will.

Preservation of your genealogical materials is not as simple as “making a clause” in your will and nothing more. Preservation is a task that needs to be attended to while you are living and able to engage in that task. Seek out those who you know would be interested in what you have acquired over the years. Find archives, libraries, etc. that would be willing to receive part or all of your collection. Consider leaving a financial gift to those organizations along with your materials.

Be more engaged in preservation than simply putting a paragraph in your will.

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