When Using that Courthouse Index

Courthouse indexes were created before computers, databases, and digitization of records. As a result those indexes may be different from more modern ones that a person used to. A few things worth remembering when using courthouse indexes to records:

  • Indexes to courthouse records are not always strictly alphabetical. Sometimes they are indexed only the first letter of the last name.
  • Some indexes are partially by last name and then by first name.
  • Some clerks created their own indexing system.
  • The Mc and Mac names can be at the front or the end of the “M” section.
  • Not every party in a lawsuit appears in the defendant or plaintiff index.
  • Not every grantor or grantee on a deed will appear in the index.
  • Indexes are not every name indexes.
  • Indexes can be incorrect or missing.
  • Courthouses may have indexes to records that were not filmed by the Family History Library.

A good idea is to ask a local person from the area who is familiar with the records. These people can be an excellent resource.


Was It a Workaround?

In his early 19th century will, a Maryland ancestor appears to disinherit a daughter when he leaves everything to her two children and appoints a guardian for them.

The man writing the will might have not so much been disinheriting the daughter as he was avoiding a son-in-law. In the very early 1800s, when this will was written, a man would be able to exercise control over real property that his wife inherited. By leaving the real estate to his daughter’s children, and appointing a guardian, the testator was providing for the children while circumventing the son-in-law.
And you thought that only people today who had to use creative ways to get around things.

That Tip Wasn’t News to Me

Quite a few people read Genealogy Tip of the Day in one way, shape, or form. It’s impossible for every tip to be new to everyone every day as readers come from a variety of backgrounds and levels of research experience.

However, we at least hope to:

  • remind you of something you forgot;
  • make you think of something slightly different that impacts your own research;
  • remind you of the importance of being as accurate as humanly possible;
  • remind you to think and analyze as you research;
  • give you a tip you can share with your genealogy friends (just be certain to tell them you saw it on Genealogy Tip of the Day). 

Thanks for reading! We appreciate all those who support Genealogy Tip of the Day in one way or another.


Finding Street Changes and Renumberings

Information on street changes and renumberings can be found in a variety of places and is often needed for census and other research work. Contacting locals familiar with the area is a good place to start, including local libraries, genealogical societies, historical societies, etc. This list of street changes came from maps of Davenport, Iowa, included in a plat book for Scott County, Iowa.


Start Slow with Initial DNA Match Contact

Seeing a new DNA match appear in your results list can be exciting. That excitement is only magnified when the match is a relatively close one on a family on which you are stuck. Start slow and don’t overwhelm the individual with details. They may be new to genealogy research completely. They may have taken the test because they got it as a gift. They may have taken the test to find out information about their biological parents. They may have discovered in their test results things about their parents or grandparents they didn’t know (like that a grandparent wasn’t a grandparent or that the testee had more siblings than they thought) and may be overwhelmed by emotion and not just confusing results.

Start slow. Here’s one idea:

Hello. I am the administrator for my wife’s uncle’s test results that shows you as a close match–1st to 2nd cousin. Based on the shared matches, I’m guessing that there is a connection to his mother, who was Lizzie BioparentswerefromaUFO, who was born in the Pullman area of Chicago in 1913. I’d be happy to discuss the relationship further if you are interested.


How Much of an Index is It?

Print books may have an index, but not all indexes are created equally. I recently purchased a reprint of several landowner atlases for one Iowa county. The back contains an index which is very helpful. However that index only indexes the names of the landowners as shown on the property maps. It does not index the names in the biographies, photographs, or other lists that the book published.

When using any print index, determine just what the index is indexing. Looking for your name in the index without knowing that key detail may cause you to overlook information.



Newspaper Searches for Old Phone Numbers

When searching old newspapers after phones were popular, consider searching for a relative’s phone number. It can be a way to find references to the individual when their name is totally spelled incorrectly or omitted entirely. You may discover that your relative advertised something for sale in the classified ads without ever including their name–after all more words in an advertisement cost more money.

That’s how I discovered a few ads my Grandmother placed selling farm fresh eggs in the early 1970s.


In What Capacity Does Their Name Appear?

When I recently had to have a statement notarized, I remembered that my local bank had a notary public who could perform the task for me. When I called to see if she was available, she reminded me that she wasn’t testifying to the veracity of the facts in the statement I was signing. She was indicating that she knew who I was and that she saw me sign the statement that I had typed out.

When you see someone’s name on a document in some sort of official capacity, determine what responsibilities go along with that title and what the person’s actual purpose is on the document.

That will help you to correctly analyze what is in the document and reduce the chance you make incorrect inferences about the people involved in the document’s creation.


The Easiest Explanation

Generally speaking, the easiest explanation is usually correct. The more logical hoops one has to jump through, the more times one has to “put away common sense,” and the like, the more likely the explanation isn’t correct. Unusual things do happen, but there is a reason that they are unusual. That “oops” baby great-grandma had at the age of 55, twelve years after her last child was born, most likely is a child of one of her daughters in their late teens. The more creative you have to get to explain something, the more likely something simply is not correct.

Now…if you find first hand evidence of those unusual events, that is a different story. Just make certain the informants are reliable.

And sober…it helps if they were sober when they told their story.