A List of the “Not Mines”

There is my Benjamin Butler and then there are the other ones.

Mine was born about 1819 in New York State and is known to have lived in Michigan, Ontario, Iowa, and Missouri (and possibly a few other locations as well). There are other men of that same name who were of about the same age. I’m always encountering them when I’m looking through records on my Benjamin.

So I made a list of these other Benjamin Butlers and what I have about them–focusing on those who lived reasonably close to my Benjamin and were of about the same age.

I also made a note that there was a Benjamin Butler born in 1818 in New Hampshire who was eventually a governor of Massachusetts. His name comes up in a variety of newspaper searches due to his mention of his political activities.

All of that is done so that when I go back to work on my Benjamin after a break, I do not have to start from scratch.

Don’t Say It Is More than It Is

In 1858 a patron of my relative’s bar was killed in an altercation with a tenant who lived in an apartment next door. For years, I referred to the incident as a “murder.” The reference to the incident was inaccurate.  I should have referred to it as a “killing,” a “shooting,” or something similar.

Are you using the right word when referring to something?

Are you using a word that may be conveying a message that’s not entirely accurate?

And I actually need to review what charges were brought up against the shooter. Just because a newspaper called it murder does not mean that a court did.

13 Children in 1850

Your ancestral couple are enumerated in the 1850 US census with 13 children. Be careful drawing immediate conclusions–particularly because 1850 US census enumerations do not list the relationship of the individuals listed as living in the same household. Here are a few thoughts.

Do not jump the conclusion that the children all have to be the biological children of the apparent husband and wife.

Children living with a step-father during this time period may be enumerated with the step-father’s last name even if it that child never used that last name in other records.

The oldest man and woman enumerated are likely husband and wife. One or both of them may have had other spouses before 1850. An age gap may suggest the probable wife was his second, but age gaps between spouses should not cause you to conclude there was an earlier marriage.

Age gaps in the children may suggest a second marriage. They can also be because children died as well. A few older children could be younger siblings of the husband–it is possible that the “husband” was the oldest child in his family and that his parents are deceased or unable to care for their children who are much younger than their oldest child?

Are the ages of several children too close together? While children can be close together, six children in a five-year time span may suggest multiple marriages–or a set of twins (depending on the ages listed).

The key is to use such an enumeration to search for other records to flesh out details not given in the census–not to jump to an immediate conclusion and refuse to contemplate other reasonable scenarios.

Reminders from a DNA Match

One of my new DNA matches turned out to be the great-grandson of a distant relative who died recently. Since many of the individuals involved are living, I won’t go into the details of the search or the specifics of the family, but there are some reminders about DNA match analysis with this match.

Obituaries do not necessarily list all descendants. The great-grandmother (on the maternal side) of the match died in 2019. Her obituary indicated she had grandchildren (they are named) but does not reference great-grandchildren. It it possible that certain family members do not acknowledge the great-grandchild. To confuse the issue the paternal grandfather of the match was apparently adopted or raised by his step-father and uses that name. Until I reached that conclusion, the tree analysis was confusing.

Just don’t take everything at face value and do not jump to conclusions.

Is It Really a Brick Wall at All?

From 2018–still good reminders.

Depending upon which genealogist you ask there are either brick walls or there are not.

Sometimes you get to a “stuck place” in your research and what it’s called doesn’t really matter. There are several ways to try and get around those places, including:

  • making certain you have looked at all records
  • making certain you are aware of all records created in the location of interest
  • looking at how someone solved a similar problem
  • thinking about whether your assumptions are valid
  • writing up your problem for someone else to read
  • making certain you are not relying on someone else’s conclusions
  • making certain that what you think you know is actually correct.
  • etc.

There are other approaches, but starting with this list is a good place to begin. And…it doesn’t always matter what you call it–when you are stuck, you are stuck.

That DNA Match with an Unlinked Tree

AncestryDNA allows users to have trees that are unlinked to their DNA results. That tree may be for someone who is not biologically related to the testee or the tree may be for grandparent, grandchild or someone else. Be careful devoting too much time looking for the genealogical connection when you do not know how the principle person in the tree is related to the DNA testee.

Never too Late to Revise

Way back in 2003, I thought I had “figured out” an 1860 census entry with a few irregular entries. I even had a list of reasons why my conclusion was correct.

Flash forward to 2012. In attempting to “redo” the research, I reached a different conclusion about the 1860 census entry–one that meant I had more work to do.

Genealogical conclusions are always subject to new information, new procedures, and the potential that a misinterpretation was made along the way. Don’t be afraid to revise.