Category Archives: Uncategorized

Who Administrated the Estate?

Estate settlements of relatives who died without children often provide the names of their heirs and can be used to confirm family relationships that may not be evidenced in other records. Pay close attention to the individual appointed to administrate the estate–if there is no will. That individual may also be a relative. Sometimes the last name is a dead give away that there is a connection, but that’s not always the case.

Michael Trautvetter died in Illinois in 1869 with no children and no spouse. His siblings and some nephews and nieces were his heirs. The name of the administrator meant nothing to me, but it turned out that the administrator’s wife was a niece of Michael. The maiden name of the administrator’s wife was not an immediate clue either because she was the daughter of Michael’s sister with her first husband–another name I did not have.

Don’t ignore the names of estate administrators. Sometimes they are not related–but sometimes they are.


But I Thought I Knew That

Genealogists are usually good about knowing that they should figure out the meanings of words they don’t know.

That same thing applies to words that they think they know–in fact, that’s when knowing the meaning is even more important so that meanings are not misunderstood. There are two main situations where this can be a problem:

  • legal references. Certain words when used in a legal document have a specific meaning and that meaning can be different from what is meant when a layman uses that same word.
  • cultural, pop, political and historical references. The meanings of words have changed over time. A newspaper may use a slang term to refer to your ancestor that may tell you something about the ancestor (and perhaps the newspaper as well). Depending upon what you know about the ancestor, the reference could be a clue. A late-1850 reference to your ancestor as a know-nothing would be a statement that may require a review of that term.

Did Your Ancestors Get Federal Land?

The Bureau of Land Management website allows users to search their patent database of individuals who obtained federal land. The database contains an image of the actual patent and should describe the federal act under which the individual obtained the land. The BLM site does not contain any of supporting documentation used to obtain that land. Those files are in the National Archives in Washington, DC. Generally speaking federal land could be obtained via:

  • cash purchase
  • military warrant (issued based upon military service in specific wars)
  • homestead
  • pre-emption and various other claims

The amount of paperwork in the application file varies dependent upon the type of acquisition process.

Learn more about searching the Bureau of Land Management website and the unindexed BLM Tract books in Michael’s webinar.


What Was the Last Social History You Read?

While it can be infinitely fun for a genealogist to pore over a list of names or a series of transcriptions of genealogical records, sometimes it’s good to broaden one’s horizons and learn some social history of your ancestral family. Discovering something about the common practices, beliefs, and mores of your ancestors can help you to better put them in perspective and to interpret the records they left behind in a way that reflects them as accurately as possible.

Probably one of my favorite social histories is a study of farming practices in Illinois in the mid-19th and very early 20th centuries. Like most books of this type, what’s best for us is reflective of our ethnic and geographic past. The book studies farming practices of several immigrant groups in Illinois in addition to “native” Americans.

There are numerous other studies of ethnic groups, occupations, social classes, etc. that have been published by scholars in a variety of fields. One may concentrate on your ancestral group.

Just don’t expect them to mention your ancestor by name. Reading social history is to give you ancestral perspective, not ancestral details.


Pheeny Flip-Flops on the First and Middle Names

Depending upon which record one views, my aunt was either named Sophia Adolphena Trautvetter or Adolphena Sophia Trautvetter. In some families for a variety of reasons, first and middle names can be interchanged. Sometimes it is because one of the names is a baptismal name that is never really used. Sometimes it is because the person simply does not really care for one of their names and, when they can, use the name that they prefer.

Or in the case of Aunt Adolphena, they simply use a diminutive. She was usually called Pheenie/Pheeny.


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