Author Archives: michaeljohnneill

About michaeljohnneill

Genealogy author and speaker.

Don’t Be Chicken–Look in the Back of the Directory

Residential or business directories may contain sub-directories of specific occupations after the “main directory.” These directories may contain additional clues about your ancestor. Don’t just find your ancestor once and quit.

There may be smaller directories in the back.

The illustration shows a list of Silver-Laced Wyan-Dotte chicken breeders in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1918.

Look in the back. Don’t be chicken <grin>.

Using the Internet to Transcribe

There are a variety of ways that one can use the internet to help transcribe a document that has a difficult to read term or phrase:

  • Google-search the internet for what the word or item “looks like” and see if someone else has encountered it or something similar. Google does find reasonably close spellings. Search engines will not always help though–particularly if your document is extremely difficult to read.
  • Online gazetteers for the area of interest–the United States Geological Survey’s Geographic Names Information System  for areas in the United States. Other locations have similar finding aids. Some place names are colloquial, so abstract, or so old that they will not be located in an index or finding aid.
  • Online groups--Facebook and other sites have genealogical groups where others may be able to assist or offer suggestions. Try and concentrate first on groups dedicated to the area where the record was located. Not everyone online knows what they are talking about so take some suggestions with a grain of salt.

Use Names Not Relationships

When referring to family members in your writing, on pictures, etc. make certain you refer to them by name, not just by their relationship to you.

Aunt Helen on the back of a picture could refer to more than one person.

Uncle John in some families could refer to a multitude of people.

And “Mom,” while a term of endearment for many, is about as vague as it gets.

Use the person’s complete name at least once so that it is clear. In the same piece of writing they can later be referred to as “Aunt,” “Uncle,” “Dad,” etc. but the first reference should make it clear that you are talking about Fannie (Rampley) Neill, not just Aunt Fannie.

And a range of their life span might also be a good idea.

GedMatch Tier 1 Webinar Regstrations Ending on 17 November

GedMatch is a great site to get more from your DNA test results. Registrations and pre-orders of downloads are ending on 17 November for our upcoming GedMatch Tier webinar on 19 November. Our announcement page has more details on this upcoming presentation and our already recorded GedMatch webinar which can be ordered for immediate download.

What Sort of Error Is That?

The 1883 death certificate for my ancestor has the printed county name crossed out and the correct county written in its place. One might be tempted to jump to the incorrect conclusion as to why the county name was changed.

While I was not around in 1883, my suspicion is that the doctor observed deaths in both counties and only had a stack of Adams County death certificates. The Rampley farm was a few miles from the Hancock-Adams County line and he likely had patients in both counties. That’s probably the reason for the write over on the certificate’s location.

Elizabeth’s husband, James, died a year later. His certificate has the same write over. Sometimes an “error” isn’t really an error at all–and not that big of a deal.

Chronologies for Groups

A chronology for an ancestor can be a great way to see if there are time gaps for which no records have been obtained.

Keep in mind that at certain times during a person’s life they may leave fewer records.

And consider including multiple people in a chronology or focusing on something other than a specific person. One chronology I found particularly helpful was a large one that included several families after they had arrived in Chicago from New York State over several years. Including more than one person in the same chronology helped me to notice things that might not have been noticed had I concentrated on just one person.

More Than One Courthouse?

Some counties have more than one courthouse with each one having specific duties or perhaps responsibilities for a certain portion of the county. Does this apply to the county where you are researching?

It may seem unusual to have more than one courthouse in a county, but it does happen. I once assumed there were no deeds for a certain relative until I discovered that the county had two courthouses and I was looking in the records of the wrong one.

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