Do Some Searching Yourself

The second you do not understand something in your genealogy research is not the moment to fire off a question to several Facebook groups about it. Take some time to think, reflect, and do some of your own research to see if you can discover more about the subject. You may learn more in the process of doing that than you thought you would.

And, if asking a silly question concerns you, there is less chance of you doing that if you’ve tried to get the answer yourself first.

It also gives you some time to ask a better question or get all the details of your own situation in order before you ask a question.

Remember as well that not everyone who responds to your question will really know what they are talking about. Don’t assume the first person to respond is correct.

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A List of Relatives by First Name

In working on organizing some family materials, I noticed that I was constantly mixing up various family members and needed a list to keep them straight.

But for me the best list was not one sorted by last name. Instead I made a list where they were sorted by first name. That was because partially some items I had in my possession only had their first name listed and partially because I found myself having an easier time remembering their first name.

The list was for my personal use only and included the first name, middle names or nicknames, last name (maiden and married [if they had one] for women–in that order), names of parents, and years of birth and death. The sorting by first name reminded me of how many Ruths, Freds, etc. there were and how they fit into the family.

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Beginning Irish Research Webinar

We’re offering our first ever Beginning Irish Research webinar on 23 October. Register to attend live online or pre-order a downloadable copy of the presentation.

30 October 2020 at 2:00 pm central time–note date change


This session will focus on starting your Irish genealogical research. This session will begin with an overview of the importance of completely researching the Irish immigrant in the United States.
Ireland-specific topics will include:

  • Irish civil records–overview and search strategies
  • Irish religious records–overview and search strategies
  • Irish political jurisdictions, their relationships with each other, and what you need to know
  • Overview of record destruction–sorry, it’s a reality
  • Overview of Irish names
  • Overview of Irish migrations
  • Reaching out to others who may be able to help and networking strategies

Intended for those who have not done extensive Irish research.


Attendance is via GotoWebinar. The session will be recorded for those who have connection issues or schedule changes. Attendees receive a free download of the presentation after it has been processed. Handout included.

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Grantor versus Grantee on Deed

The grantor on a deed is the seller, the one who is transferring their interest in real property to someone else. The grantor may be getting money, other property, or nothing at all. It just depends on the type of transaction.

The grantee on a deed is the one to whom the interest in real property is being transferred. The grantee may be paying for the interest in the property or may not be. Again–depends on the situation.

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Get Out of Your Experience Bubble

If your ancestral background is pretty homogeneous, like mine is, it can be easy to get in a research zone and think all research is like yours. When I first began working on my children’s ancestry years ago (and now that of my sons-in-law), the first challenge I had was working with urban individuals and immigrants from countries with which I was not familiar.

But that stretched my research skills.

Who knew cemeteries had phone numbers you could call? And city directories published virtually year after year? The ability to “search the whole town” for my person of interest was no longer as practical as it was in my rural ancestral areas. I had to learn other skills and develop other techniques.

That helped me when I went back to my rural ancestors or when I worked on the parts of sons-in-law’s trees that were rural.

And if you’ve only done research in New England in the 1700s, Virginia and the rest of the southern United States is a whole ‘nuther kettle of fish.

Researching in new areas and time periods stretches your skills and will help you when you get back to the people you started researching in the first place.

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Moving Clues in Deeds

If your ancestors were movers who frequently owned property, make certain you have obtained copies of all their local land records. Deeds where they are grantors (sellers) may provide some details about where they moved.

Transactions on their property in the area they left from may not have been finalized until after their move. The deed of sale may indicate their new county or area of residence or acknowledgements of the deed in front of a local official may indicate where that official was permitted to act. Either way it could help you determine where they went.

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The Act Under Which They Applied

United States military pension applications (both veterans and their spouses) are usually made “under” a specific pension act. The name of that act and date of its passing is usually referenced in their initial paperwork.

See if you can find the text of that act by searching for it online. Read the act. Your ancestor believed the met the qualifications. For the veteran that meant in terms of their service. For the spouse, it meant that the veteran met the service terms of the act and that the spouse met the marriage requirements of the act.

That information could be helpful in your research–particularly if the amount of information known on the ancestor is minimal.

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Do You Really Know What You Have?

There are times where it is helpful to have multiple copies of the same record. Those times fall into two categories.

The first is when you need a better image of the record than the one that you have. Getting another image or copy make it easier to read that name or word that is giving you difficulty.

The second time is when it’s not really the same record. A birth certificate may have additional details that were not put in the birth register. A birth reference in a church record (usually mentioned in a baptism) may include details not on the actual civil copy of the birth record.

But getting another copy of something you already have because you did not know you had it is not the way to go. That was money that could have been spent on getting something you did not already have and time you could have been using to locate something else.

Get the Genealogy Tip of the Day book.

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Landowner Maps When You Have No Landowners

Not all of us with rural families in our background have ancestors who owned real property. Maps of property owners can still be helpful in our research–particularly if we don’t know where in the county or region our ancestor actually lived.

See if you can locate neighbors of your non-land owning rural ancestor on a property-owner map. If you find them on a map, your relative is likely living nearby. This can give you an idea of where the county where the family lived and help you determine possible cemeteries and churches to check for additional records.

Tenant farmers and farm laborers do not leave behind as many records as landowners do. But the neighboring landowners (in census and other records) can help you narrow down where in the county your actual person of interest lived.

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