Changed Their Name?

Relatives who changed their name can create research challenges. Your ancestor might have changed their name without going through the legal process of making an “official” name change. There are some ways to document the change.

Military service or pension records may document name changes. Land records may document a name change if the seller was using a different name than when he acquired the property. Probate records may refer to a previously used name by the deceased individual. A divorce record may mention previous names used by one of the parties. Criminal court records may also reference aliases or other names used by the defendant. If you are biologically related to the person who changed their name, your DNA matches may help you determine their true identity.

The problem with name changes is connecting the person to their earlier name. Some records make that connection easier than others.

Start with Something

Your first draft of a family story or memory can be incomplete. Get down what you remember initially without worrying about grammar, getting all the political jurisdictions for a location, and the like. Those details matter, but clarification can take place later. Just write the darn draft in the first place. There are ways to improve this (complete names are another good idea), but it can’t be improved upon if it is not written.

Any One Source

Relying on just one source for a fact can be problematic. Any one source can be incorrect. One has to consider how reliable that source probably is and know knowledgeable the likely informant was. Sometimes those two things can be difficult to determine.

While more that one source for the same fact is ideal, it’s not always possible to get multiple sources–particularly independent ones. But don’t find one source and immediately think you’ve answered the question. You might have.

But you might not have either.

Fifteen Years!

December 2023 marks the 15th year since we started posting to Genealogy Tip of the Day! It’s almost here. Thanks to all who have followed and supported is since that time. It is appreciated.

Do You Check the Courthouse?

This reminder is something we need to have written on a post-it note attached to our genealogical computer.

In any location, always make certain you have reached out to the local records offices to see what materials they have. Always.

Despite what the fee-based sites may tell you and despite what some may think about FamilySearch, they do not have everything.

Even if you think you know what the courthouse or local office has, still check–and don’t neglect local historical societies, genealogical societies, and libraries.

New Names? New Memories?

Sometimes all it takes is a “new” name to open the door to an entire set of memories. My grandmother-in-law remembered a fair amount about her family originally. After a little research, I located the maiden name of her grandmother, which she had not originally remembered.

As soon as I mentioned that last name, more memories came to her mind. Sometimes all it takes it a word or a name to unlock an entire set of memories.

Always go back and re-interview that person when you have located new information.

Records from Time Served

A stint in prison can explain why your ancestor is not enumerated with his family in the census. Court records or newspapers may contain additional details about why your ancestor landed in prison. State prisons (or the state archives) may have additional records. And, it is also possible your relative ended up divorced over his incarceration–resulting in more records.

Give Genealogy Tip of the Day–the book–to your friends for the holidays!

Researching those Farmers

Sometimes one would like to know a little more about their farming ancestor other than that “they were a farmer.” There are several sources that could tell you more about your ancestors farm, including:

  • agricultural censuses–generally taken in the mid-to-late 19th century in the United States.
  • probate records–inventories may list agricultural implements owned by your ancestor, what crops were “in the field” or in storage at the time of their death.
  • newspapers–may (if you are lucky) refer to your farming ancestor or at least tell you what crops were grown in the area during the time period–but you will have to actually read the newspaper to get this information.

GoogleBooks contains digital images of hundreds of books related to farming practices in earlier times, including George Edward Waring’s 1870 version of The Handy-book of Husbandry: A Guide for Farmers, Young and Old.

Purchase my “Rooting Around for Farmers” webinar–immediate download.