The First Native Migrant?

Those of us with immigrant ancestors who crossed the pond often try and figure out where our actual ancestors fit into the larger migration cluster. This is often done by trying to determine who or what brought our immigrant to the area where they settled. What relatives or former neighbors already lived there? What relatives or former neighbors came after them? Who else was in the migration cluster?

We can sometimes forget to do this for our ancestors who were simply migrating from one part of the United States to another. I was working on a couple who migrated from Coshocton County, Ohio, into Adams and Hancock Counties in Illinois in the late 1840s. The husband had several first cousins who settled in the area. The wife had a sister and brother-in-law who also settled in the area. I’m assuming they all knew of each other’s existence and did not randomly end up in the same general area.

It is important to also remember that others besides our biological family may have been a part of this migration cluster. In my case, the brother-in-law’s family also made the move to the area as well suggesting that the migration was larger than just my one pair of ancestors and some of their biological family members. The cluster might have been larger than you think.

Uncommon Names Aren’t Always

One of my wife’s ancestral surnames is Schollmeyer. Not the most common last name in Davenport, Iowa. In the village in Germany where they were from, the parish register of births contained numerous entries for that last name. In fact, in some years 1/3 of the entries had the father with the last name of Schollmeyer or the mother with that maiden name.

All the Grandchildren’s Names

Repeated names can be clues to names of earlier family members. Repeated names are not guaranteed to mean that any given ancestor had a particular name, but names used over and over may mean something and have some connection to an earlier biological relative.

I was looking over a list of heirs of Barbara Haase who died in 1903 and realized that out of her twentysome grandchildren, two were named Kate. I had never noticed that before. Does it mean anything? At this point, I’m not certain. However, if I eventually get “candidates” parents of  Barbara, I’ll work first on any couple where the wife is named Katherine or the name Katherine appears frequently.

Don’t just look in your direct line of descent for name clues.

Did Your Ancestor Own Books?

Estate inventories can be suggestive of a family’s general level of literacy. This 1823 estate inventory from Coshocton County, Ohio, lists several books that he owned upon his death–including a Bible, a prayer book, “Pilgrim’s Progress,” a “Pocket Book and History,” and four “small Book[s].”

It’s not conclusive proof that every member of the Rampley family was literate, but the fact the family owned book is suggestive that some family members could ready. Thomas’ widow, Christianna, purchased these books (not just the apparent family Bible) from the estate sale of her husband’s estate in the fall of 1823. Several of Christianna’s children would have been of an age to attend school in 1823 and it’s possible the small books were school primers of some sort.

Estate inventories can provide a uniquely detailed insight into our ancestors’ lives. Make certain you’ve looked at every clue they contain.

Adult Kids Say the Darndest Things

When a child gives information on their parent, it comes from second hand knowledge. It also could be given decades after the event took place. This information can be incorrect, but keep in mind the child did not witness parental birth information first hand. Even erroneous places should not be ignored however as there may be a reason for the wrong place of birth. Children of one ancestor always said she was born in Illinois, which was correct. Except for one record which said she was born in Ohio. Years later, I learned the parents met in Ohio, married there and immediately moved. Ohio was wrong, but it was a clue.

You Cannot Copyright a Fact

A complete discussion of copyright law is beyond our purpose here at “Genealogy Tip of the Day,” but suffice it to say that a genealogical fact cannot be copyrighted. Your cousin in Arizona cannot copyright the fact that “John Smith was born in Maryland in 1783.”

What he can copyright is a report he compiled showing why that year of birth is correct. The report he would be within his rights to lay copyright claim to.

Of course, if he spent years uncovering a fact and you use that fact in a compilation, it might be nice to give him credit for “finding” that fact. If you don’t, he might not share anything with you again!

And remember, it’s copyright, not “copywrite.”

Buyers at the Estate Sale?

If you are fortunate enough to have a list of people who purchased property at your ancestor’s estate sale, consider locating those people in the decennial census before and after the sale–at least as a place to start finding out more about them if census records are available for the time period. Where the purchasers were from or where they moved to may help you on your ancestor.

Purchasers at an estate sale can be one way to find out names of ancestral associates. Sometimes one finds the same names (or at least last names) as neighbors of ancestors when they lived in other locations.

Full or Half?

Many records make no distinctions between full and half-siblings. Is it possible that siblings you think are full siblings are half-siblings and someone was married before or had a previous relationship?

And there’s always the chance that people referred to as siblings are actually step-siblings.

Revising those Conclusions?

When research in the United States gets back beyond a certain point, records are fewer and less likely to make direct statements-particularly in certain colonies and geographic areas. It is important to remember that any conclusion reached when the records are not clear may need to be revised if new information comes to light.

Keep your mind open to the chance that you may be incorrect or may have not looked at all the records. Never assume that your initial “hunch” is Gospel Truth.