If they are “Divorced”

If your relative indicated they were divorced, make certain that you have searched for:

  • Records of all local courts that may have heard a divorce case.
  • Look for a separate maintenance case as well–there might have been no legal divorce, just a separation.
  • Look for land records on the couple for any property they owned.
  • Look for any property settlements (even of personal or chattel property) in the local land records.
  • Consider the fact that the couple was not legally divorced.

Written In Later?

From a while back:

This Albemarle County, Virginia, deed appears to have had a “correction” written in the deed book after the deed was transcribed and before the microfilming was done. It would be less consequential if it were not the name of the grantor. The “correction” appears to have been written in a different hand by a different writing utensil.

My transcription of this document should indicate that:

“…Between [illegible word with the word “Peter” written over it in an apparently different handwriting] Rucker (Son…”

The Estate Disbursements

The estate of Edward Tinsley in Amherst County, Virginia, was settled up amongst the heirs in 1783. The only daughter mentioned by name was Elizabeth Pendleton. The others were not mentioned outright–but their husbands were. It is frustrating to not have the other daughters named specifically. This was common for the time period.

The advantage in this case is that I know who the spouses of the daughters were by name. Other records provide the first names of the daughters. Marriage records are not always available during the time period so the husbands’ names are helpful.

Always look through the disbursements of the final money in an estate. The list can suggest relationships, tell you who was alive at the time the money was paid out, and potentially mention first names that are not listed anywhere else.

Dead or Ran Off?

Don’t assume because that ancestor disappears from the records that he was dead. It’s also possible that he simply pulled up stakes and left the area and his family.

It is possible that there may be a reference to his disappearance in the local newspaper. It’s also possible that the family knew the person willingly left their family and did not want to draw attention to it. The person may be mentioned in court records or potentially a probate file for a deceased relative of whom they were an heir-at-law. If the disappearing ancestor had real property find out how that title was transferred to the subsequent owners.

Depending upon the time period and the location there may be no record of what happened to the person.

Sometimes a disappearance from the records means a person is dead. Sometimes it means they had moved on to a new location and a new life.

How Many Moves?

If you’re wanting to do something genealogical, determine how many times each of your ancestors probably moved. For each move, include the following information–if known–which as much precision as possible:

  • Point of origin.
  • Destination point.
  • Date of move.
  • Possible, probable, or known reason for moving.
  • Distance travelled.
  • Citation.

Is that DNA Match Buried in Your Files?

I thought I recognized a name that popped up on my Ancestry’s DNA match list recently. The first name was the same as my grandmother’s and the last name was a Swedish name that is atypical to find in my family.

I have not heard back from the new match, but the shared matches we have and her projected relationship to me are consistent with the person I think that she is.

And then it dawned on me: do I have other DNA matches whose identities may be hiding in my paper files, my digital images, and my old email messages? Searching some of these items manually may be difficult as not every name will “pop into my head,” but I can search my email fairly easily for a name or a username to see if that’s a person I communicated with or about years ago.

Of course not everyone researched for decades before they took a DNA test for their genealogy, but for those who have there may be an answer to that match buried in your own files.


A reminder that chronologies can be useful in your family history research. Always make certain dates are accurate, doublecheck where you obtained the dates, make certain dates are in order if creating chronology yourself, don’t include events that had no reasonably logical impact on your relative’s life.

Also consider creating a geographic chronology of where your ancestor lived and during what time periods.

Newspaper Clues to Place Names

Finding the exact location of places whose names were short-lived can be difficult. Sometimes it can be impossible to pinpoint precisely where a location was located–particularly if’s a place name that was never used in any official sense but was a nickname of sorts used for a neighborhood or an area.

One place to get an idea of when the name was used and generally where it was located is to search for it in old newspapers. Dating the references can give an idea of when it was used and there may be clues as to the geographic location of the area in those newspaper references.

When There Shouldn’t Be a Record

For years, early in my research when I did not know better, I failed to look for a probate file for an ancestor because he was “dirt poor.” I knew you needed to have money (at least most of the time) in order to have a probate settlement.

However several years into my research, I became a firm believer in the “look for anything and everything” camp. That’s why I looked for a probate file for my “dirt poor” ancestor.

And there he was in the probate records two times. How can you die twice and have two probate settlements?

Turns out for the time period in question, insanity cases were filed with the probate and estate records. It was two insanity cases I had located for him, not probate cases. If I had never looked in estate files, I never would have found out information about his insanity hearings.

Periodic Back Up Reminder

One question: Is all your data backed up?

or “Have you backed up all your data?” for those of you who don’t like to end things with a preposition.

Either way, make sure you “git ‘er done,” if you haven’t.