Category Archives: Uncategorized

Before You Enter Relationship Data

Some families are a little bit complicated. And if one is not careful it can be easy to enter the incorrect relationships in our genealogical database. What I do in these situations is to map out the relationships on paper first in an attempt to get a broader view of the family and in an attempt to understand the relationships correctly.

Once I think I have the relationships down, I begin my data entry. Wasting time “fixing” relationship mistakes is time I could spend doing actual research.


Is the “unindexed” record “indexed?”

Are you using an 1820 census enumeration where the names appear to be listed in roughly alphabetical order?

Census takers and some tax collectors, in an attempt to be helpful, roughly sorted names by the first letter of the last name. The problem for genealogists is that this strips the record of all sense of neighborhood. Keep this in mind when you think all the “B”s in an area lived together. No group of people are that organized.


Be Specific

Whenever you are writing or talking about a person be specific. First names are rarely specific enough, particularly in some families. First and last names are best, perhaps combined with a date of birth or date of death.

My mother has three Aunt Ruths. It usually took more than just “Aunt Ruth” to know to whom someone was referring. Sometimes it was clear from context, but not always. Don’t create additional confusion in the records you leave behind. Be specific.


Did the Courthouse Already Transcribe Your Document?

Don’t forget if you have found that will in the packet of probate papers for your ancestor that there might be a “will record” contained with the probate records as well. Not all jurisdictions kept these records, but many did. If the handwritten original will has a difficult to read portion, is partially missing, or is open to interpretation, the transcription in the “will record,” done at the time the will was proved, may answer your questions.

These record copies were the legal equivalent of the original document and were made, theoretically, in an attempt to render the original as closely as possible.


Doggedly Pursuing Your Research

Walking me for a little while may be the best brick wall breaker there is. And….it will be less time cleaning up messes.

Sometimes I talk to the dog and occasionally I’ll ask Riley for a “genealogy tip.” Of course his answers come from my head and not his no matter how I change my voice.

Sometimes it’s really good to get the opinion of someone “outside your own head,” from someone who doesn’t have all the assumptions about the family that you do and may have a fresh perspective. There are times where that’s helpful.

Just be careful from whom you take genealogical advice–especially when money or significant amounts of time are involved. Riley’s a sweet little dog, but if he could talk I’m not certain how helpful he’d be on 17th century Virginia court records.

But…taking him for a walk and distracting myself from what I’m working on is another good problem-solving technique in its own right.


Casefile Clues

Casefile Clues is my how-to newsletter that focuses on records analysis, research methods, and process.

Casefile Clues  brings you one or more of the following:

  • Sources–Some weeks Casefile Clues focuses on a specific source or type of record, discussing how that source can be accessed, researched, and interpreted.
  • Methodology–Some weeks Casefile Clues works on one of Michael’s problems. Many times these problems are “in progress,” and Casefile Clues reflects that by explaining what was researched, why it was researched, and where to go next (and why).
  • Case Studies–Some weeks Casefile Clues focuses on a specific record on a specific person and analyzes that record, discusses what it says (and what it does not) and where to go next based upon that person and the specific record.
  • Citations–Casefile Clues includes citations of sources and records. Articles can easily be read without them, but we include citations for those who prefer to have them and we do try and model citations in the style of Evidence Explained.
  • ReasonsCasefile Clues tries to give you insight into why certain research avenues were pursued over others. Often the genealogist simply does not have time or money to locate every piece of paper available. Sometimes it is necessary to go with what likely will give us the “most bang for the buck.”
  • Readable–We work very hard to make Casefile Clues readable. Columns are not “fluff” or generic “how-to” pieces.

Find out more on our blog.


Organize And File As You Go

This is your monthly reminder pulled from the well of current experience. Last spring I finally located the marriage record for an aunt in 1852. It’s a long story, but locating the marriage probably took longer than the couple’s courtship. Apparently life intervened shortly after I located the item and I did not save it anywhere. Today I remembered locating the item and wasted another hour locating it again. Fortunately I remembered the county (unindexed) where the marriage took place.

Find some way for to save things as you find them–even if in some temporary way. The time spent will be time saved later.

Now I’m going to file the Campbell County, Kentucky, marriage record of George P. Craft and Wilhelmina Zenf before Iose it again.


Flip it over, Know What it Is, Know Where It Fits, & Know What Else There May Be

It took me forever to locate this 1852 marriage bond from Kentucky. Recorded in book form, I almost missed the fact that there were notations on the reverse side of nearly every entry–many with significant details. The notation on the reverse was the only place where the bride was listed as a widow. This was also the bond–made out before the marriage–and not the actual marriage record. That still needs to be located. The bond indicated that a marriage was impending, but….things happen. The marriage record will give the date of the marriage, the name of the officiant, and maybe more.

Look at the reverse side. Know how the materials are organized. Know how the record you’ve found fits in the “process.” And make certain you have everything there is.