Author Archives: michaeljohnneill

About michaeljohnneill

Genealogy author and speaker.

Anything Can Be Wrong

This 1920 census enumeration contains significant errors. The husband and wife were not married and he was not the father of her children. The “wife” was not divorced from the father of these children until 1921 and she did not marry the man shown here until 1922.

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Do You Need to Metaphorically Walk the Dog?

Walking me for a little while may be the best brick wall breaker there is. And….it will be less time cleaning up messes.

The best way to get new insight into a problem is to get away from it. Put that “brick wall” away and do something totally unrelated to your genealogy for a while. Sometimes the mind simply needs to let things stew for a while. If you just can’t put your brick wall away, then work on another problem.

Personally I have the best breakthroughs when I walk the dog and discuss my problem with him. He never interrupts or criticizes and it gives me time to really think. Sometimes criticism is good, but one needs time to organize your thoughts and put them in order.

Constantly researching non-stop does not allow that to happen.

Riley is one of the best brick wall breakers I have.

Don’t Say 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.

 

His First Wife Died…Or Did She?

A relative is married in 1843 in St. Louis, Missouri. He is married again in Illinois in 1848. The most likely scenario is that she died. It is possible that the couple actually divorced or separated and never bothered to divorce. The divorce would have generated a court record. A separation that never resulted in divorce may not have generated any records at all.

But I should not assume the first wife died unless there is some additional evidence other than simply the subsequent marriage.

Attended College But Never Finished?

Do you only look for relatives in college yearbooks when you know they graduated? Is it possible they attended but were unable to graduate?  Finances or “real life” may have prevented your relative from graduating college, but they may still appear in college yearbooks as my aunt does in the 1934 yearbook for what is now known as Western Illinois University.

 

This image was taken from the “U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012” collection at Ancestry.com

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Don’t Overlook the Weakest Link

I’ve been working on the ancestry of a Mary Dingman, born in Canada (probably Ontario) in the early 1810s. There are online trees taking her family back generations. The only problem is that there’s not really anything solid on her connection to her parents. That needs to be solved before I put all those earlier ancestors in my file.

Since information on Mary herself is coming up short (she died in the 1850s in Illinois), I could trace her purported parents and siblings (and maybe even purported grandparents and cousins) in hopes of something turning up on her, but I need to wait to put them in her actual tree until I have a more solid connection.

Mary in 1850 in Winnebago, County, Illinois—who are her parents?

Genealogy Tip of the Day is proudly sponsored by GenealogyBank. Try their “GenealogyBank Search” and see what discoveries you make.

Our Goals at Genealogy Tip of the Day

Our goals here at Genealogy Tip of the Day  are simple for the most part. They are generally to get readers thinking about:

  • the research process
  • what they find
  • analyzing what they find
  • their assumptions about research and their ancestors
  • terminology and language used in records
  • the history, culture, and environment in which their ancestors lived

And we try to be short—that’s sometimes the difficult part. Tips are not meant to be verbose or lengthy discussions. The intent is to make people aware or to remind them of a topic, concept, term, etc. Longer discussions are posted on my Rootdig blog.

We also appreciate those who purchase a webinar, one of the recommended how-to books on my virtual shelf, or a GenealogyBank subscription through our affiliate link. Those things help support our endeavors here.

But we are thankful for all who participate in Genealogy Tip of the Day in any way, shape, or form and whether they make any purchases or not.

And thanks to all who have helped make our page what it is.

 

Transcription or Original?

Transcriptions are not necessarily unreliable, but one needs to be aware if one is using the original record or a transcription of it. These town records from Marlborough, New Hampshire are actually transcriptions of the original records. The “first page” of the book indicates that it is a copy and the handwriting is too consistent throughout the volume to have been done contemporaneously. Transcriptions can always contain errors–after all, transcriptionists are human.

It may not be possible to get the original and it’s not always necessary. But it’s always worth knowing what you are using.

Genealogy Tip of the Day is proudly sponsored by GenealogyBank. Try their “GenealogyBank Search” and see what discoveries you make.