Who Oversaw the Estate of the Young Widow’s Dead Husband?

Always pay close attention to the person who was appointed to be the administrator of the estate of a man who died with a wife and young children. If the person is not clearly a relative of the deceased individual, it very likely is a biological relative of the wife–or perhaps her second husband.

And if there is a will and the wife is appointed executor, look carefully at who signed her bond. Those bondsmen were often relatives of the widow.

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Edging Your Way to a Clue

From August of 2018:

The edges of a document can often contain clues just as significant as those in the main body of a document. Clerks may squeeze in additional text for legal reasons, pastors may squeeze in parenthetical comments about a parishioner, etc.

Sometimes the edges themselves can be a clue.  Many times when documents are digitized or microfilmed, it may not be crystal clear which “front” goes with which “back.” That determination can be difficult when the documents are a variety of sizes, blank sides aren’t digitized, etc. And there are times when knowing which “front” goes with which “back” is essential to completely analyzing and interpreting the document.

This relinquishment from a homestead application in Nebraska was one of those documents. Comparing the edges made it clear that I had the front and the back of the same thing.  It may require a little creativity with a graphics package to place the edges to where you can compare them, but it may be worth the effort.
There are more details about this image in our “detailed edges” post.

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Was Your Ancestor Stressed Out?

It’s unlikely your forebears considered themselves “stressed out.” That phrase is a relatively modern one. But what might be a good idea to get some perspective on your ancestor is to pick a year and think about what events might have happened in their life.

Did a parent also die the year they married and had their first child? Did their husband, sister, and father both die within a few months of each other (from separate illnesses–which happened to my great-great-grandmother in 1913). Did their mother die from cancer three weeks before they lost their last child in childbirth (as happened to my grandmother)?

Think about what else might have been going on in your ancestor’s life or what events might have happened in close proximity to each other. It might give you some perspective.

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What’s the Last Thing You Double Checked?

Is there a word or a phrase that you think you know the meaning of but which you have not actually looked at a definition for in ages? Is it possible that the word does not mean exactly what you think it does?

Having an incorrect definition in your head could be why there is a brick wall in your tree?


Sites that allow for “soundex searches” will return results that “sound like” the name that has been entered in the search box. A search for the last name of Neill with the soundex option included will return not only Neill, but also Neal, Neil, Nowell, Newell, and similar names. It will not return O’Neill, MacNeill, Netil or other names that “sound” different.

The coding for how soundex works basically looks at the initial letter of the name, omits the letters a, e, i, o, u, y, w, and h, ignores double letters, and only is concerned with the three sounds past the first letter (if the name has three sounds past the first three letters). Those sounds are given codes based on 6 letter groups as shown:

NumberUsed in place of a
1B, F, P, V
2C, G, J, K, Q, S, X, Z
3D, T
5M, N

That’s how it gets at the “sound” of the name and why a search for Neill returns the names listed (in addition to others). Neill, when the required letters are removed and the double “l” is considered once, only has one sound past the “N.” Just like Nowell and just like Newell.

Trautvetter is soundex equivalent to Troutfetter but it is not soundex equivalent to Trantvetter. A soundex search for Trautvetter will find Troutfetter but will not Trantvetter. That’s because the Trantvetter spelling has an “n” where the “u” was.

You can learn more about soundex here.

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Making the Match “Fit”

A “hint” on a relative indicated they were potentially included in a 1940s era high school yearbook from New York State. The name was relatively uncommon, but I had no evidence to indicate my actual relative (who was born in Illinois in the 1920s and moved to California after the second World War) ever was in New York State.

Instead of trying to see if my relative went to New York, I tried to see if I could find the New York match in other records. Sure enough, there was an entirely other person living in New York State with the same name as my relative and who was born about the same time as my relative.

Instead of trying to see if that “hint” or “match” could fit into your person’s life, see if that “hint” or “match” is actually a separate person by utilizing other records concentrated in that geographic area.