An Ideal Entry

Often when looking through search results researchers quickly eye each returned entry and determine if it’s “close enough” match to warrant looking at or not. That analysis sometimes is done quickly and is based on what we “have in our head” about the person for whom we are searching.

Other times it is easy to get the details of the person I am searching for mixed up with details of other people. To help keep me on track, I quickly jot down what the search results should look like if I were to find the person.

If I’m looking for a person in the 1850 US census, I have written down their name, what their approximate age should be in 1850, where they were roughly born, and whatever else I know. (or think I know) about them and their desired census entry that I can’t find. This serves two purposes: I can look at my guess of the entry to see if the person on my search results is relatively close and it gets me thinking about how to search for them. If the search is of manifest entries, I tweak my cheat sheet to match what’s on those records.

If look at search results and compare using only what’s in my head sometimes I overlook something. And that’s something I don’t want to do.

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What’s Relevant? And Is There Really a Story?

I made up a silly little story about the dog, the cricket, and the rubber band and posted it to my personal Facebook page. The story was pure fiction and the rubber band had nothing to do with anything–it was just there.

Are you trying make all the details fit into one genealogy story that is consistent? Maybe the problem is that one detail really doesn’t fit–because it is incorrect.

Does someone appear on a document simply because they were in “the right place at the right time?” Witnesses aren’t always relatives–sometimes they are “warm bodies” who are legally able to witness a document or an event.

Is there another way to interpret the document that you have? It can be easy to get stuck in our “first interpretation” of something and not realize that there’s another story, just as reasonable, that could be told.

Creative fiction is best left for stories involving dogs, crickets, and rubber bands–not your genealogy research.

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Is There Someone Closer for a DNA Test?

There is a limit to how far back Autosomal DNA testing can be used to determine genealogical relationships simply because a person gets half their DNA from each parent and the further back you go the smaller the potential share you get from each ancestor. That’s why it’s advised that people have parents and grandparents or other relatives of that generation tested.

But are there some cousins who are not quite as distant from your ancestors as you are? My great-grandmother Ufkes has several descendants. Two of them are in their late twenties. One of those twenty-somethings is also her great-granddaughter. The other twenty-something is her great-great-granddaughter. Which would be preferable for testing if you could only afford one test? The great-granddaughter would be preferred as she’s “closer” generationally speaking.

Do you have any living relatives who are one generation “earlier” than you? In other words, are you a great-great-great-grandchild while they are a great-great-grandchild of the common ancestor? They would be an ideal person to test as there’s one less generation to split the DNA.

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Gaps in Children

Census records suggest that there are “gaps” in the dates of birth for the children of an ancestral couple. Don’t just conclude that they didn’t have any more or that they died young at birth. While those situations are indeed possible, it is also possible that some children were apprenticed out or lived with other family members who needed extra help in one way or another.

It’s also possible your ancestor had more than one spouse and that those “gaps” are when the ancestor was not married.

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Death Dates for Military Pensioners

Military pension files may contain dates of death for veterans and can be good places to find this information if death records are not extant in the time and place where the veteran died.

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How Many Henry and Barbara Trautvetters Can There Be?

My Henry and Barbara Trautvetter are living together as husband and wife in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1860, with their children. Their immigration date is unknown, but it likely was in the 1845-1855 time frame. There apparently is another Henry and Barbara Trautvetter living in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1850. Based upon the ages of Henry and Barbara and the children in the enumerations, they appear to be separate couples. All of them are German immigrants.

Never assume that there couldn’t be more than one couple with what you think is an unusual name combination. Do some research.

The sites that do “automatic matching” make it easier than it already is to merge people like this together.

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A Little Genealogy Contemplation?

Riley’s thinking…or wanting me to think he’s thinking.

Sometimes you just need to think about what you have found, what you don’t know, and what you want to know.

It can be easy to jump online and immediately search the minute we find something new or have a flash of insight. But sometimes it’s best to get away from the constant availability of “searching,” the constant rush to “find something new,” and the seemingly endless online barrage of messages and communications that demand our attention.

And just to think. And not to react.

Think about what we know and realize there are things that we don’t.

Think about how accurate what we know really is and make a plan to learn more about those things that we don’t and, perhaps most importantly, to also learn more about those things that we think we know.

When was the last time you worked on a genealogy problem for at least an hour without spending part of that time “searching” the internet or accessing “new information” on your computer?


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How Was Your Ancestor Different…

…from you. If you can’t immediately think of several ways a specific ancestor was different from you, it could be creating problems for your research. Some ways are relatively easy to potentially see:

  • occupation,
  • educational level,
  • religious practice,
  • probable political belief,
  • general lifestyle,
  • health practices,
  • etc.

Think about it.

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How Did Intestate Inheritance Work at the Time?

State statute dictates how the estate of a deceased person who dies without a will is to be disbursed among the heirs. That process can be complicated if the deceased person dies without leaving any descendants of their own. That process can change slightly over time. It is important to know what laws were in effect at the time an estate was being settled.

John Trautvetter died in 1937 in Illinois leaving no children and his mother and six siblings as his heirs. Contemporary statute gave his mother a double share compared to his siblings. For that reason the estate was divided into eighths, with his mother to receive two of those shares and his six siblings to each receive one share. The estate was to be divided into eight parts even though he had six siblings.

The mother and five of the siblings all agreed to let one brother have the balance of the small estate to compensate for his time and effort in settling it up and in handling his deceased brother’s affairs. As long as all the heirs agree, they can set aside what statute dictates.

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Laying Claim

Laying claim to the dog isn’t quite the same as making legal claim.

If your relative laid “claim” to a piece of property, what documents might have been generated as a result?

Did he pay taxes on it before the title was actually clear? Did he have to find a land claim or some sort to obtain title to the property? If so, before the American Revolution the place to look for land claim records are at the appropriate state archives. Land claims after the Revolution are at the National Archives. It’s possible that your relative filed a pre-emption claim if he settled on property in the federal domain. That’s a federal land record and the completed claim would have generated a patent. The process for completing a pre-emption claim is different from that of filing a homestead claim.

If your relative signed a quit-claim deed he was giving up his claim to the property and may have had legal title to the property in question or he may not. A quit-claim deed merely indicated that his claim was being given up and transferred to another person.

And if you ancestor had a different type of claim, perhaps to other property, there may be a court record documenting his attempts to clarify that claim.

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