Category Archives: Uncategorized

Why They Are My People

It is important somewhere to keep track of your research logic as you progress. Otherwise you might not remember “why” you are researching a certain person.

While on a recent research trip, I focused on a certain Benjamin Butler in the 1850 census as being “mine.” Using that enumeration as the starting point, I searched other records and made research progress. A stack of papers, a file full of digital images, and records located were the end result. One problem–I didn’t track WHY I thought this 1850 census entry was for the correct person. It took me hours to reconstruct my reason. That was time wasted.

When I decided the 1850 guy was “mine,” I should have written down my reasons. They were valid reasons. Resurrecting them took time–time that could have been spent in a better way.

The Donuts Caused Me to Miss the Cocoa

Always read the entire document or record.

The search results found the first reference to Luella Barnett in this 1923 newspaper item.

It didn’t highlight the second one. My research won’t be hindered because I overlooked the cocoa reference, but sometimes the missed reference is significant.

An astute reader noticed it because they read the whole thing–I should have too.

Details Can Quickly Change…

With every telling of a story or a family tradition, details can change. Sometimes those details are not all that significant. Sometimes they are and change the entire meaning or implication of the story. When someone tells you a family tradition, remember that the original incident could vary quite a bit from what you are told generations later. Record it as you are told it. Indicate who told you it and when.

But remember that any detail in the tradition may not be true.

Consider them clues.

Don’t Let Your Memories Become a 1960s Color Photo

The colors have been slightly enhanced in this color picture from the late 1960s. Don’t let your memories fade like these colors often do.

Do not let your efforts to analyze, understand, and preserve the distant past prevent you from recording and sharing current events and traditions in your own family as well. Preservation is more than taking pictures. Record traditions, family recipes, favorite activities, memories of recent events, etc. before memories fade.

Because, like color photograph from the 1960s, memories will fade.

The Laws to Get Married

When your relatives married, do you know:

  • what the legal age was to get married?
  • how far in advance you needed the license before the ceremony?
  • what information the records usually contain?
  • what records were usually kept?
  • where the records are located?
  • if the records are available in alternate formats/

The Letters on this List are Close to Dead

Newspapers often published lists of unclaimed letters in the local post office. Think about what appearing on that list means about your ancestor:

  • someone thought your ancestor lived in that location when they mailed the letter
  • the person lived near enough that post office so that sending a letter there made sense

Your ancestor could also have been dead by the time his name was published in the paper on the list of unclaimed letters. Appearing on the list is not hard evidence that he was alive on the publication date

Your ancestor probably did live in that location when the letter was sent. But, if their name on that list is inconsistent with other known information, there could be a very plausible explanation.

Those Fun Newspaper Items

Aunt Luella could eat doughnuts and Aunt Sarah could peel apples. Both of them placed in contests held at a 1923 church picnic in Breckenridge, Illinois. These anecdotal items can be interesting asides to learn about your relative or significant clues–depending upon what you don’t already know about your ancestor.

And…don’t forget to read the entire item. This item was located by searching for Luella Barnett, but a thorough reading located a reference to my Aunt Sarah Rampley and my Uncle Herschel Neill (not shown–he won for tying shoes).

Check It Out Before You Shout It Out

Just because you read something posted anonymously in an online genealogy forum does not mean that is is correct. Just because it always happened that way in your family does not mean it happened that way for everyone else.

In the last few days, I’ve seen the following pieces of helpful information “shared” by someone:

  • “information can be copyrighted.” No it cannot. Written prose can be copyrighted. Statement of fact cannot be copyrighted. If they could, I would copyright “2+2=4,” charge people every time it was used, and retire.
  • Every family used Bible names only. Nope–ask the parents of Erasmus Trautvetter.
  • Every woman named Susannah used Sukey. Nope–Susannah (Rucker) Tinsley did not.
  • You have to publish an obituary today when someone dies. Nope–my grandmother who died in 2008 did not have one. There was not even an estate notice in the newspaper–unless I overlooked it–because her estate did not go through probate.

Check information out before you share.

Just because something is true in your family does not mean it is true in every family.

Be careful making generalizations involving the words “all,” “every,” and “always.” Exceptions abound.

Check it out before you shout it out. You may learn something in the process. I know that when I double check and verify I often learn things in the process.

And that’s good for your genealogy.