Any Document Can Help

Genealogy theorists tout the value of an exhaustive search and there’s a reason–things can get overlooked. There’s also a reason why some of us just look for anything and everything.

This 1900 deed contains more family clues that most deeds created during this time period. It has the former name and maiden name of the first seller and the “legal” and commonly used names of several other sellers listed. Not every document will provide such clues, but you do not know if you do not look.

One needs to evaluate this information for perceived reliability, but in the case of this deed where the grantor is providing information about herself, it would likely be considered to be accurate as she likely provided it herself.

Information on her death certificate likely would have been provided by someone else.

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Were They Really Born on the Ocean?

There is no doubt that pregnant women got on ships that were headed to the United States.

There is no doubt that some of them had their babies on the ship.

I tend to doubt the story unless I can find some relatively contemporary evidence of it. The infant listed on the manifest as a newborn is a prime example. Stories of the baby being born on the ship make for nice dramatic stories and, when it actually happened, there is no doubt that it would have been a dramatic birth and the baby was fortunate to have survived.

But try and find something that back up that story.

Just like you would anything else.

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Work On Some New People

Getting away from the families you have worked on for years can be change of pace that helps you to later take a fresh look at your own research.

I’ve been working my grandson’s ancestry through his 4th great-grandparents. Half of his tree was pretty complete, but his paternal side is new to me. The families are in the same state as my own, rural like mine, and farmers like mine. But the family structure is different and some of the idiosyncrasies are not quite the same. Working on 20th century families is also not something I regularly do so that’s presenting some challenges as well.

I’m making a short list of “revelations” for my own research while I’m working on these other families.

The good thing is that I’m not related to my grandson more than once. The bad thing is that means more families to research.

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How Did They Say It?

Do you really know how someone actually pronounced the last name you are researching? One place to find out is from someone who actually has the last name. But there’s no guarantee that someone with the last name today is pronouncing it the way their ancestor did in 1800.

If the name is not in English, find someone who speaks the language and ask them what it sounds like–online genealogy groups may be one place to find these people. For names that are in English are there online genealogy groups from the area where the person or family lived who may be familiar with how the name is pronounced? It is not always necessary to find someone with the last name in order to see how it was pronounced.

The way a name was said matters as it impacts how it gets spelled in records and occasionally those renderings are significantly different from what we would expect.

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The “Three Plumbers” Rule

All I need is one good plumber, not three mediocre ones.

According to some in the land of genealogy, if I have three sources that say the same thing, then I have “proof.”

No. You have three sources that say the same thing and there’s a little more to information analysis than reaching some magic number.

One has to consider how “independent” the sources really are. Is the same person the informant on all three sources and providing the same information? If so that’s not three independent sources. It’s really one informant. The same thing applies if two published genealogies copy a statement from the same reference. That is a case of one source–not three.

And also: how reliable are those sources? Did the informant know what they were talking about? Who was the informant?

One reliable source is better than three sources that are not. The difficulty rests in determining how independent and reliable individual sources are.

Three unreliable plumbers will not fix my problem. I have a much better chance with one who knows what they are doing.

Too many bad sources in your research and you’ll have a stopped-up genealogical sink.

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Where There Is A Will…

Handing the disposition of your genealogical materials is not just as simple as “putting a clause in your will.”

Here are a few things to keep in mind when “donating your genealogical materials via a will.”

Make certain the recipient knows about the gift and is not simply going to put the materials on the curb when garbage day arrives. Just because they give you something does not mean they have to keep it. People can refuse a bequest and gifts in a will that are not easily convertible to cash have a higher chance of being refused.

If your papers are going to a library or other facility, contact them beforehand to make certain they are able to receive and maintain the materials. They could refuse all or part of your gift. Having boxes of unorganized materials (particularly copies of records that are already available elsewhere) increase the chance the gift is refused. Not all facilities have the financial capabilities to maintain collections that are given to them. What happens to the materials if the facility has financial challenges and has to close?

The court or your executor may not be as concerned with boxes of papers in your attic or basement as they are with your financial affairs–even if those boxes are mentioned in the will.

Preservation of your genealogical materials is not as simple as “making a clause” in your will and nothing more. Preservation is a task that needs to be attended to while you are living and able to engage in that task. Seek out those who you know would be interested in what you have acquired over the years. Find archives, libraries, etc. that would be willing to receive part or all of your collection. Consider leaving a financial gift to those organizations along with your materials.

Be more engaged in preservation than simply putting a paragraph in your will.

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No Precise Date?

It is not always possible to get the precise date of an event. There are places and time periods where just determining the year of birth can be a challenge and researchers may only be able to get a range of years for a birth, marriage, or death.

During these times, having a year or a short range of events may be sufficient to help you research the person’s children, spouse, and parents. The key is to make certain that you have looked at all available records and that you have not inadvertently merged two distinct people into one individual.

Always make certain you have exhausted all extant records, but realize that in Virginia in the 1600s, the chance you find a precise date of birth is relatively slim. In Massachusetts in 1600 the chance is significantly higher.

Don’t fret too much if you cannot get a precise date for an event. Remember the key is to narrow the date as best you can, work to establish relationships, document your reasoning, and make certain you have used all available records.

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Did Evaporators Inherit Anything?

A first cousin of my great-grandmother disappeared in the 1920s and was last seen in California and Colorado by various members of his family. he was approximately fifty years old at the time of his disappearance.

He was never found.

The last record he was mentioned in was the estate settlement of his brother. That brother died in the 1940s and his only heirs were his siblings and their children–including the missing brother. The judge overseeing the settlement of the brother’s estate declared the missing man dead in order to complete the settlement of the estate and disburse the balance to his children.

The estate settlement contained testimony from the missing man’s children regarding their father’s disappearance and what attempts were made to find him. The court record was the only documentation I could find regarding the man’s disappearance.

If your “missing” relative cannot be found by you and could not be found by his living family during his lifetime, was there an estate to which he would have been an heir? The settlement of that estate may mention what happened to the relative, confirm that he was missing, or provide information to assist you in your search.

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Early Interactions

Determining where immigrants came from or where any migrant lived previously can sometimes be difficult. The problem is more difficult to solve when these “movers” die young, leave few records, don’t share information with other family members, etc.

While looking at the expanded family/kin network is always advised, for these “movers,” determine all the individuals with whom they interacted when they were new to their new area. Sometimes this can be difficult and requires a tedious search of records.

Who witnessed any of their naturalization documents? Who married them and did that person have any religious affiliation? Who were they living with in early census records? If their children were baptized, who were the sponsors? If they purchased land, who witnessed those land sales? If there was a mortgage, who held the note? Who are their near neighbors in directories or census records?

Sometimes it can be difficult to find the names of these early associates. But think of the possible connections your ancestor had and if any record may specifically state or suggest that relationship.

Those early interactions were frequently with people your ancestor had a connection with or to before he or she moved into the area and tracing your ancestor to an “old residence” might be best done by tracking those people with whom there was an “early interaction.”

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What Have You Organized Today?

It is fun to collect items, obtain new information, and make genealogical discoveries. I understand that.

But if your goal is for some of your discoveries to remain found and for the connections you have made between family members to stay connected, then it is important for your to organize some of what you have found and to share it with others.

Consider how permanent your method of sharing it. Online and digital publishing are great ways to share information but not necessarily great ways to preserve it long term. Archival paper is still a great way to go. Will digital files be around in one hundred years? Will they be readable?

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