Read the Preface

When using printed transcriptions of records, it can be tempting to immediately turn to the index to look for those names that we hope to find. That can be a mistake.

Published transcriptions may have only included selected records or were created from records that were incomplete to begin with. Those are details someone using the book needs to know and details that are not discovered if the preface is not read.



Search Newspapers for Military Units

This 1865 newspaper item indicated my relative’s Civil War unit was on its way home after the war. The 78th Illinois was expected to arrive in Chicago, be paid, and then presumably be sent home in June of 1865. References to your relative may not mention his name at all. Don’t forget to search for military units and other groups and organizations in which your relative was involved.


What Have You Preserved Today?

Do you have pictures or other ephemera that you’ve not tried to save in some way? Don’t wait until it is too late.

For pictures, make certain to include identification if you have it, who made the digital image, where they got it, and who made identification. Those pieces of information are good ones to have for someone who may come across your image years later.

Note: Christena Ufkes Habben is a sister to my great-great-grandfather, Johann Ufkes (1838-1924).


Google What You Can’t Read

A pension application contained an actual copy of a baptismal certificate with a church name that was difficult to read. A Google search for the few words I could read and the name of the probable town located the likely church. The partially legible name of the pastor was discerned by looking at a list of former pastors the church had posted to their website.


Counting the Cattle

When I was a kid, my dad and I would count the cattle as they crossed the road from one pasture to another. It was important to arrive at the same number and to get it correct. The only problem was that my father tended to count out loud and his counting always got me off no matter how much I tried to concentrate

Is part of the reason for your research difficulty that you are listening  to what someone else has already concluded? Are you letting their interpretations influence yours–perhaps a little too much? Sometimes it’s helpful to put away the conclusions of others and start your analysis from scratch.

Then, when you’re done counting your cows separately, you can compare your conclusions with others.


DNAPainter Webinar Released

This session will focuses on the free aspects of DNA Painter at

We will discuss downloading matching data from DNA sites, painting your DNA matches, finding match data, labeling, grouping, overlapping segments, and more as time allows. Our concentration is on getting you started with DNAPainter in a way that will help you make effective use of it as your research progresses. If you’ve wondered what DNAPainter is, how to use, and what it can do for you, this presentation will help you to do that. Ordering the presentation includes the recorded presentation (that can be viewed more than once) and a detailed handout as a PDF file.

You cannot upload your raw data to DNA Painter. You need the segment data that you can get from 23andme, FamilytreeDNA, Gedmatch, and MyHeritage.

Order the presentation and handout ($16.99) for immediate download.


Do the In-Laws Have It?

When thinking about who might have pictures of family members, think about the various pictures in which that person may have appeared. Is it possible that your grandmother attended reunions of her husband’s family? Does she appear in any pictures taken at those reunions?


Confusing Step-Children with UFO Arrivals

For twenty years, it seemed as if my ancestor Ira Sargent was dropped off by a UFO in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1880.

Turns out he wasn’t.

He was in the 1850 and 1860 United States Census listed under the last name of his step-father–whom his mother had married in 1849. Until I discovered the last name of the step-father, I was unable to find Ira.

Is it possible that your UFO ancestor wasn’t dropped off by aliens but was instead listed in records as a child under his (or her) stepfather’s last name? And that the first time they used their “birth name” in a record was when they married?