Sources: Original Versus Derivative

Generally speaking, sources are considered to be original or derivative. The words mean what they say, but sometimes there can be confusion. The original is the first one–the actual letter your relative wrote (the physical piece of paper they touched and used their writing utensil on). Any picture, transcription, scan, photocopy, etc. is a derivative.

Some derivatives are the legal equivalent of the original–the record copy of a deed or a will that is recorded in a records office. Some derivatives are mechanical reproductions that reproduce the document faithfully (unaltered color photographs for instance).

Calling something original or derivative is simply referencing its creation. Whether that something is accurate is another story.


Monthly Genealogy Reminders-Download, Identify, Preserve

A few quick reminders:

  • download files/images from websites when you find them–websites change, licensing agreements change, you may have to cancel a membership
  • identify any pictures you have–before it’s too late
  • preserve pictures and other ephemera–especially if your copy is the “only” one.

Join me for my upcoming online AncestryDNA class.


The Chance We Share No DNA

The further you get back in your tree, the higher the chance that you and a relative share no DNA. It does not mean that you are not related, just that DNA from the common pair of ancestors has not been passed down to both of you. For example:

The probability that 5th cousins have no detectable DNA relationship is 69.8%

For more details visit this longer post.

Join me for my upcoming online AncestryDNA class.


Hunting for Your Ancestor’s Employer

To learn more about your ancestor’s employer as given in a city directory, search the rest of the city directory as it may include advertisements or list the employer in a list of area businesses. Perform a Google search for the name of the business, search old newspapers, and search local and regional histories as well, many of which have been digitized at GoogleBooks ( or (

Join me for my upcoming online AncestryDNA class.


Where’s There Is a Will, There May Not Be a Way

Not every will brought to court gets approved. Wills that are denied should be included in the probate file along with a notation that they were not admitted to probate. There may be testimony regarding the will and why it was considered to be invalid. Or there may only be a statement regarding the denial. 

Sometimes reading the denied will makes it clear why certain heirs might have had a problem with it.

Join me for my upcoming online AncestryDNA class.


DNA May Make You Trim the Tree

The test results made me change the tree.

There is a very real chance that your DNA test results will result in portions of your tree being “removed.”

You will have to remove that part of the tree yourself, but there is always a chance that a DNA test may result in:

  • unexpected relatives
  • close relatives not sharing any DNA

There’s always the chance that relatives who are really related share no DNA. That is a reasonable possibility once the relationship gets more distant than third cousins. Your siblings and first and second cousins should share some DNA. Be prepared for the possibility that your test results may help you find some new ancestors…and they may cause you to lose a few as well.


We will be discussing analyzing and interpreting your DNA test results in my upcoming online AncestryDNA class.



Do the Noonans Wait for Noone at Noon?

Names can easily get truncated and, when first working on a family, it can be difficult to know whether a name has been truncated or not.

A family who went by Noon occasionally had their name spelled “Noone.” That was easy to discover as “extra” es on the end of a name are not too uncommon. The family’s name was might have actually been Noonan–it gets that way in a few records as well.

Or someone could just have thought their last name was (or should have been) Noonan. Sometimes variants are created because a clerk or enumerator thinks that’s what the name should be.

If a name is relatively short, always consider the possibility that the name you have was actually part of a longer name.


What Does the Index Cover?

When using any index, determine what that index covers and what it does not. Most census indexes are every name indexes, but many other indexes are not indexes to every name contained in the record.

Death certificates contain many names, but indexes may only index the name of the person who died.

Probate indexes often only index the name of the person whose estate is being settled. Names of beneficiaries, witnesses, debtors, lenders, etc. are often not indexed.

Deed indexes frequently index only the name of the first grantor and the first grantee. Other grantors and grantees are not included and names of neighbors listed in metes and bounds descriptions to property are not included.

When using any index to any record, determine what names got in the index and what names did not.

And…understand who potentially could be mentioned in a record of the type you are using–that helps you to search as well.