The Whole Family in the Directory

Don’t forget to look for the entire family in a city directory. In this small town the others were easy to see, but in an urban area it wouldn’t have been so obvious that the wife and children were living in a separate location. Geo. Trask (listed at 110 E. North Street) is the husband of the Jennie Trask living on Beecher Avenue. There’s not other individuals with these first names living in the area and both of them died well after 1930.

In this example, everyone with a dot by their name in the illustration were members of the same family, but for some reason the husband (George) was living at a separate address. The householder is listed as “Mrs. Jennie Trask” and the others living at the Beecher Avenue address are all listed as residing there–suggesting that Jennie is the homeowner or the actual renter of the property.

The 1930 census may shed some light on the family situation.

Analyzing Each Statement

Records contain many statements and each of those statements can either be true or false. Analyze each statement separately, thinking about who likely gave the information, how likely they were to actually know the information, and the circumstances under which they were giving the information. It’s also helpful to think about whether the person might have any motivation to give incorrect information and whether there would have been any penalties for giving false information.

It’s also worth considering if more than one person could have been involved in giving the information and how publicly that information was given.

A recent blog most on Rootdig discusses some of these concepts in regards to a 1907 court case.

Would Phone Images be Better than “Never Getting Around to Scanning?”

Sometimes doing something is better than doing nothing at all.

I have a significant amount of family pictures, papers, and other items that I may never get property scanned. Some of the items will be difficult to scan given their age, original paper, how long they’ve been folded, their condition. etc.

Taking pictures of items with my phone is significantly faster than manually scanning each item. It is also less potentially damaging for those items that will not lay flat or are fragile. Pictures are also great for artifacts that are not “naturally two-dimensional.”

I have quite a few photograph albums. In some of these the photos can be easily removed. Other albums have the photographs affixed in a way that makes removing them difficult if not impossible. Taking pictures of the album’s photographs is faster than removing them and does not do any damage. Then I can take my time to slowly deconstruct the albums if necessary. If I never get that task accomplished, at least I have made digital copies of the pages and the photographs.

Only as Specific as it Says

A death certificate indicates that a relative was born Rush County, Indiana, on 23 December 1846.

The tombstone indicates that the relative was born on 25 December 1846.

The 1850 census indicates that the same relative was a native of Indiana and was three years of old at the time of the enumeration. That means that the person was born in either sometime in 1846 or 1847. It’s not additional evidence that the person was born specifically on 23 December 1846. It is consistent with that date of birth (which is good), but the census does not indicate that precise date of birth.

Use the death certificate as the source for the 23 December 1846 birth in Indiana.

Use the tombstone as  the source for the 25 December 1846 birth. Don’t use the tombstone for as a source of the Indiana place of birth since the stone does not provide a place of birth.

Use the census as the source for a 1846-1847 birth in Indiana.

Choose which date you believe to be more reliable and make that your “preferred” date of birth for the person in question. In your notes indicate why you believe that date/place to be the most accurate.

Avoid indicating sources say things that they do not. It will reduce confusion later–especially if other records disagree.

Reminder: What Have You Digitized Lately?

Do you have family history items that only exist in their original physical form and have never been photographed or digitized? A picture of an item can be a way to preserve it in a fashion and create a means by which the story of the item can also be shared.

What have you not digitized?

Census Pages with Multiple Page Numbers

When citing a census page that has several page numbers written on it, make certain you indicate which page number you are using in your citation. Common ways to indicate include using the type of writing and the location of the page number, such as:

  • page 55 (typed, upper right)
  • page 44 (handwritten, lower right)

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Finding the Butlers’ Butter and that Special Feller

Depending on the handwriting, the letter groups “tt,” “ll, “tl, and “lt”can be confused, interchanged, and misinterpreted. When reading handwriting manually, it’s easy to see what the “intent” was, especially if the name is in a record where you expect it to be.

Not so easy using indexes.

Butter, Buller, and Butler can easily be seen in the same word–along with some other renderings as well.

The same is true for Trautvetter, Trautvelter, and Trautveller.

Appropriately constructed wildcard searches (usually for Bu*er or Trautve*er) will locate them all. Searches based upon the sounds in the name may not since “t” and “l” do not sound the same.

Something to think about when looking for that special feller.

Ask Yourself “Why?”

Upon occasion, one hears fellow genealogists being slightly judgmental about a specific ancestor. Instead of getting bogged down in that line of thinking (which doesn’t help your research any), think “why?”

Putting yourself in your ancestor’s shoes gives you a different perspective. If you were twenty-six years old, widowed, the mother of two small children, unable to speak English and living where you had no relatives, what might you do? You might marry the first German speaking single male around–one who would not have been your choice if you were twenty years old and still living at home with no children to support.

If your great-grandfather “disappeared” consider where he might have gone and what he might have done in an attempt to find him. Was there a war he might have enlisted in? Did he have some type of psychological problems? Maybe it was even better that he left, despite the disruption it caused in the family.

If you never personally knew the ancestor, leave the judging to someone else. Focus instead on your research.

On the flip side of this, I know one researcher who thought it was “romantic” that her great-great-grandmother found the “love of her life” and left her husband and headed out West on some grand adventure. The researcher was completely enamored with the story. Now if HER mother had done the same thing, I’m certain her response would have been somewhat different.

Stories of Your Items

Photos are not the only thing you should identify for those who may come after you. Personal effects that you have collected or have inherited also need identification. Sometimes it’s possible to put labels on these items and sometimes it is not.

Consider making an electronic picture book of your items, artifacts, etc. with a description of what you know about the item, where you got it, its original purpose, etc. The illustration is a “rooster cookie jar,” but jewelry, furniture, and other items can be included in such a compilation. The “picture book” could be a great place to include longer stories than one can put on a notecard, the back of an item, etc. Electronic copies of the book can be shared with those who may have a need for it.

And if nothing else, at least you have a picture of each item. Making a picture book of your family history effects can be a great genealogy-related activity for those times when you need a change of pace.

Identification of family history items is always a good idea.

A DNA Map of Sorts

Custom create your own maps to help you visualize how close (or not) your ancestral villages are. This one was helpful for me in analyzing my DNA results. Each name is an ancestor with ancestry from the village listed before their name. Having all the places on the same map made visualization easier.

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