Inventory Groupings

Transcribing some estate inventories can be difficult. The handwriting can appear to be a scrawl. The names used for items may be archaic. The transcriber may be unfamiliar with the life and lifestyle of the ancestor who owned the property. Items in inventory generally appear in broad groups, household goods, farm equipment, animals, etc.–depending on the time period and your ancestor’s occupation. Use “context clues” to help transcribe items that are hard to figure out.

And there is no such animal as a Ditto.

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Read the Fine Print

When searching any new-to-you database, read about what it contains. Read the Frequently Asked Questions (if available). Do not just look for the search box and being searching until you know what you are searching.

Get the Genealogy Tip of the Day book. Great for reading cover to cover, browsing, taking notes in, or reading at random to get your research started.

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Shillings to My Kids

Token gifts to children in a will could be because the writer had already given the children money or because the writer and the child had a falling out. It can be difficult to determine which is the case if the only evidence of a falling out is a token bequest in a will. Sarah Turberville fortunately is believed to have listed all her sons in her will: John Willis, William Willis, Henry Wood, David Hudson, and Joshua Hudson. Some of the children had likely received money from their respective father’s estates (Sarah was married four times, outliving four husbands, and had children with the first three).

In this case her mention of the sons, particularly the Willis and Husdon ones who received one or ten shillings, was probably to prevent them from claiming omission. The key word is “probably.”

Just don’t draw conclusions that are not supported by the evidence–and be glad that children are mentioned at all. Sometimes they are not.

Get the Genealogy Tip of the Day book. Great for reading cover to cover, browsing, taking notes in, or reading at random to get your research started.

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Land Records well after Death

The bulk of local land records in the United States document land transfers between individuals or groups of individuals. Generally speaking, the only land documents that may be recorded after a landowner dies are deeds that never were recorded originally, quitclaim deeds to sell property or clean up title after their death, or court orders resulting from court action involving the property.

It’s possible however that there may be affidavits or other documents related to the title to property and its transfer that are recorded and yet are not actually deeds themselves and are not transferring any property. A 1940-era affidavit by a relative, filed with the local land records, documented the property ownership back to the 1870s–including owner’s names and transaction dates. In the affidavit parent-child relationships were stated–items not included on the deed.

The difficulty in finding these affidavits is in how they are indexed. The “grantor” is the person making out the affidavit. There usually is not a second party’s name to index. Finding these items in grantor indexes requires the name of the affiant–typically a later landowner or occasionally a descendant of an earlier landowner. If a local records office has a tract or parcel index (which indexes transactions geographically), the affidavit should appear in the index for whichever parcels of property are referenced in it.

That’s how the 1940-era document was found. I knew where the farm was at and that my uncle had owned it from the 1870s until his death around the turn of the 20th century. A search of the tract/parcel index located the affidavit from the 1940s.

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USGS GNIS

The United States Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System is a database of more than 2,000,000 place names within the United States. It is one place to search for a location when online interfaces to modern maps fail.

There is more about this database on their site. There is a link to the search page there as well.

If you have a place name you cannot find on the USGS n and you have an idea of where it might be, try searching digital images of old newspapers for the place name. It may be mentioned in old newspaper articles even though it’s not an “official” place.

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US Court and Probate Records Webinars: Live & Downloads

We are excited to offer new and updated sessions of these two popular presentations.

Introduction to US Probate Records

17 September 2020 at noon central

This session will provide attendees with an overview the US probate process and how records created fit into that entire process and the basic terminology required to understand and interpret the records correctly. Included will be a discussion of ways to interpret and understand the records, determining what additional records should be searched, and ways to access probate records—including search approaches and use of indexes. Handout included.

Introduction to Local US Court Records

17 September at 1:30 pm central

This session will provide an overview of local courts in the United States and ways to locate and find information about applicable local court records for personal research. While all court cases can provide genealogically relevant information, this session will focus on those most likely to provide that information and provide examples of “non-typical cases” that were genealogically relevant. Included will be a discussion of ways to interpret and understand the records, determining what additional records should be searched, and ways to access probate records—including search approaches and use of indexes. Handout included.

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Maybe There was no Close Kin

An excellent suggestion when the genealogist is stuck is to check the associates of your ancestor for clues as to where the actual ancestor was from. The theory is that often these associates are relatives, extended family by marriage, or former neighbors of your ancestor. Many times it works.

But sometimes it does not. Because there are people who simply settle near where they have no relatives and where they know no one. My great-great-grandparents shortly before 1880 moved to a county where they had no relatives (their families of origin are fairly well-documented). When the mother died, the two children were farmed out to strangers to raise them.

Many times people “ended up where they knew someone” and the extended family/kin network approach can help to determine family origin information. But also keep in mind that some families, for one reason or another, moved where they had no connection.

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That Typed Marriage Register from 1779

When viewing the image of any record, one should ask “is this an image of the original image or is it something else?” In the case of this 1779/1780 set of marriages, the typed nature of the document indicates it was created sometime after the fact, probably from transcribing original records. Clues that what you are looking at was created later or copied later, includes: handwriting/ink that is too consistent from entry to entry, signatures that are all the same, typed materials from the early 19th century, etc.

Transcriptions are not bad and not necessarily incorrect. Any of them that were created manually were created by humans and can contain the occasional error.

Get the Genealogy Tip of the Day book. Great for reading cover to cover, browsing, taking notes in, or reading at random to get your research started.

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Just One Place in a State?

If you are looking for Blahtown in a state don’t assume that the first place with that name is the actual one you want. There could have been more than one place originally named Blahtown–perhaps a place whose name was changed when it was realized that there was another one in the same state.

There could also be places named “Blah,” “Blahsville,” etc. to which the “Blahtown” reference was actually referring. Blah could also be the name of a political jurisdiction other than a town (perhaps a township) and could even have been an informal area that never warranted an official name.

If you have an idea where “Blahtown” was at but cannot find it, search old newspapers in the area for that name. If it was an informal, but named area, chances are there are some newspaper references to it–if it nothing other than “gossip” columns.

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