Author Archives: michaeljohnneill

About michaeljohnneill

Genealogy author and speaker.

Derivative Citizenship

A derivative citizenship is one that is derived from the citizenship of the someone else, usually the father of the husband. In the United States, foreign born children under the age of majority when their father naturalized would generally be considered naturalized themselves and would not have to go through the process themselves.

If your ancestor immigrated as a child, indicates he is naturalized but you cannot find any naturalization papers in his name, then consider the possibility that he had derivative citizenship through a father’s naturalization.

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


Age on a Date

Remember that if someone truly died at the age of 30 in 1900, they could have been born in 1869 or 1870 depending upon when their date of birth was in relationship to the date they died.  If they were born on 4 March 1869, they would be 30 on any document in 1900 dated before 4 March and 31 on any document in 1900 dated on 4 March or after.

So if a tombstone says the person died in 1900 at the age of 30, they could have been born in 1869 or 1870, if only the years are given on the stone.

Whether or not the age is correct in the first place is another matter.

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

Search for the Employer

To learn more about your ancestor’s employer as given in a city directory, search the rest of the city directory for information on that employer as it may include advertisements or list the employer in a list of area businesses. Consider performing a Google search for the name of the business and search local and regional histories as well, many of which have been digitized at Google Books ( or (

Webinar “Using Indexes at FamilySearch” Released

Using Indexes at FamilySearch

Making the best use of indexed materials at FamilySearch requires a knowledge and understanding of how the indexes at FamilySearch work and how they do not. After providing an overview of search strategies to use at FamilySearch we will look at several examples where locating the person of interest was more involved than simply typing their name the search box and finding it the first time. This presentation will also briefly address organizing your online search strategy. Handout included.

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Tear Down Your Assumptions

We’ve mentioned this before, but some problems can be worked around or solved by thinking about every assumption we have made about an ancestor and “their situation.”

Every assumption.

Especially those that are near and dear to our heart. Those are the ones that can create the biggest stumbling blocks.  If you don’t have documentation for a “fact” about your ancestor, then that fact could be incorrect. Even if you do have documentation for a fact, that documentation could be incorrect.

Always consider the possibility that what you think you know could be wrong–and then ask yourself:

what would I do differently if this “fact” weren’t true?

And then do it.

Negative Evidence

Negative evidence generally is a conclusion that one draws from the absence of information that one would suspect. Not finding an ancestor’s name on a real estate tax list would be negative evidence indicating he did not own property in that area–because if he did own property, his name would be on the real property tax list

Put Tombstones in Context

When taking pictures of gravestones, always take at least one picture showing the relative positions of all stones you’ve photographed. The positioning may not hold clues, but it’s a good piece of information to get while you are in the cemetery. Pictures showing the relative position of the stones in the entire cemetery–or at least near landmarks within the cemetery–is a good idea as well.

With digital images, “wasting film” isn’t a concern. The best time to take the pictures is while you are right there at the source. behrens-south-prairie

Download and Search While You Can

Two years ago one of the fee-based websites that has digital images of newspapers had images of my hometown newspaper for the year in which I was born. I am absolutely certain of it. I downloaded a copy of my birth announcement, my grandfather’s obituary, and my great-grandfather’s obituary.

Two days ago, I went back to search for another item from that same time period. The newspapers were not there.

Always search and download when you can. You never know when that website may no longer have the database you need.

Or that you simply can’t find that item that it took you hours to locate.