Why the Date?

My paternal grandmother’s holiday cards from 1946 somehow got saved when other ones did not. The only reason I know this is because most of them are still in their original envelopes.

Except for the card on which my grandma’s sister wrote her a fairly long letter. My digital image of the card includes the name of the sender and the recipient along with what I believe to be the year the card was sent and my reasoning why.

The discussion of the year in the citation is brief and only focuses on information not in the card itself. The other time clues in the card are not mentioned in the citation because they are in the card:

  • The reference my aunt’s birthday suggests the card was written in the month of her birth–December.
  • The reference to my aunt’s girls coming back home for a visit suggests it was written after they moved to Chicago in the early 1940s.
  • The reference to Frank is likely a reference to Frank Micklin, my aunt’s son-in-law. It’s not clear here whether her was yet her son-in-law when this was written.
  • The reference to boys raising bantams suggests this letter was written when my Grandma’s sons would have been old enough to help raise them. Her youngest child was born in 1941.

If you estimate the date of something you’ve made a digital image of, consider including some of that reasoning on the image–particularly any date information not evident in the item itself.

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Can You Just Pick a Location?

Towns come and go. Names of places change. Different people identify a place with a different name. Catalogers unfamiliar with an area sometimes have a mind of their own.

I know exactly where the Immanuel Lutheran Church is south of Carthage in Hancock County, Illinois. I’ve been there many times. The church could be seen from where my grandparents and great-grandparents lived–in fact it’s in the background of the occasional picture. It is not located in any town. It’s been a country church since it’s founding in the late 1800s.

It really is closer to Bentley or Basco, Illinois, than it is to Carthage. Bentley is what the pastor wrote for the location of one of the early church books in the 1880s. Others (myself included) refer to it as being in Basco. Ancestry.com in it’s database of Lutheran church books refers to it as being in Carthage.

It’s sometimes referred to as the German church as that language was spoken there longer than it was spoken at the Lutheran church in Carthage. Occasionally it’s referred to as the “south church” due to it’s proximity to Carthage.

This church is not the only one whose “location” may change depending upon the time and who is describing it. Current genealogists who wish to avoid confusion, may wish to clarify the location of such places by using either GPS coordinates or indicating the township and section number.

Just remember that what you think may be two different things with the same name may just be one with different locations connected to it for one reason or another. And always take care when using any catalog or database of record images as a cataloger may have tagged a church or a cemetery to a location with which you do not necessarily associate it.

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Holiday Memory Reminder

No matter what you celebrate or do between now and the first part of 2023, remember that there is never a better time to record and preserve family memories than the present.

Asking about holiday traditions, typical foods, weather-related challenges, etc. are all good ways to get memories stirred. Consider asking:

  • Did anyone attend church during the holidays?
  • What food did a certain relative always bring?
  • What relative always arrived late?
  • What was a favorite gift you received?
  • Was there a year weather changed your holiday plans?
  • Was there a gift you wanted but never got?
  • Was there one person who always cooked the meal?
  • Was there one person who always insisted on performing a certain task?
  • etc.

The holidays can also be a good time to work on identifying photographs–even of ones not taken during the holidays.

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What Page Number are You Using?

Some records, particularly United States census records in the earlier part of the 19th century, have more than one set of page numbers. When creating citations, clearly indicate which set of page numbers you are using, for example:

  • stamped page number upper right
  • printed page number lower left

Because the page numbers can confuse some researchers, it is always advised to include additional citation information to assist in locating the record. For US census records, this would be the geographic information (state, county, township/village/enumeration district, etc.) and the household/dwelling number. The geographic information is necessary information anyway (since it tells you where the person was living), but it could also help someone else to locate the record again if the page number is “off” or confusing.

Some church records, particularly those kept in ledgers that were originally blank, have no page numbers. In these instances, other details are necessary to create the citation:

  • name of village/church
  • type of entry (baptism, marriage, funeral, etc.) as some records are sorted by the type of act
  • year of entry as some entries are sorted by year
  • anything else that helped you “get to it”

Digital image numbers and the like are helpful–to a point. They work as long as the other person has the same database access and the website hasn’t “reorganized” their materials. Some microfilm has image numbers as well. Always indicate where the number appears to come from–don’t just randomly include it. Random numbers without context are not helpful.

You can learn more about citation in:

Genealogy Tip of the Day book is here. Learn more about it.

$50 to Move Two Bodies in 1920

May be an image of text that says 'Oct. 23, 1920, By cash paid Charles A. Long, in full of expense for moving body of decedent and her husband, from Barnes Cemetery to Mo Sន Ridge Cemetery, incl ud ing digging graves at Moss Ridge Cemetery, 50.00 list of disbursements from-estate of Metha M.-Fecht, Final Report and Settlement, dated and filed October 1921; Hancock County, Illinois, Probate case file packets; Box 447.'

Periodic accountings and disbursements of estate administrators may tell you a great deal about your ancestor. The illustration from 1920 indicated that the deceased whose estate was being settled was moved (along with husband) to a nearby cemetery. The “move” was shortly after she had been buried in the original cemetery.

These accountings can clarify relationships (by documenting the actual amounts they received), provide details about how the family actually lived, give insight into the family’s financial status, and occasionally help to document when other individuals were alive.

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Not Everything Works for Everyone

Periodically I get emails from readers indicating “that didn’t work for me,” “that doesn’t work in England,” or “that doesn’t apply to my family.”

I understand that. Different locations are different. Different time periods are different. Different families are different. While there can be similarities from one location to another, one time period to another, and one family to another, details do matter. It’s hard for any suggestion to apply to ever situation.

Our suggestions are meant to get you thinking, to remind you of something, or to make you aware of something you did not already know. If it “doesn’t seem to apply to you,” ask yourself:

  • Is there something similar (a record or a legal process) for the time and place of my problem?
  • Is there something I may be overlooking?
  • Does this idea or approach not apply to my family at all and why does it not?
  • Have I reached out to others with similar problems to see if thy have suggestions that may be helpful?

Try a Genealogy Search on GenealogyBank.

Reunion Writeups Can Clarify and Confuse

1962 was the 25th year members of the Trautvetter and Schildman clans gathered in Warsaw, Illinois, for a day of food and festivities.

The writeup of the reunion in the local newspaper serves to remind of several things about reunions and the writeups that sometimes resulted.

Reunions can easily encompass more than one family. The Trautvetter and Schildman families had a joint reunion because two Trautvetter brothers married Schildman sisters and a joint reunion made sense. Most of the Trautvetter attendees descended from the brothers who married the Schildman sisters or siblings of those two brothers. A few other Trautvetters who attended were descendants of first cousins of those brothers.

Not everyone in attendance is named. The reference to my grandfather, Cecil Neill, says that “Cecil Neil and family” attended. It is not certain exactly who “and family” referred to, but based on the rest of the writeup, it at least included his wife and oldest grandson.

Not everyone who attended is necessarily a relative. The Mrs. Ola Hawes (actually “Howes”) was neither a Trautvetter or a Schildman either by birth or marriage. Her mother’s oldest sister married a Trautvetter nearly 100 years before the reunion and many of her cousins would have been in attendance.

Did a Second Cousin Twice Removed Do Some Work for You?

Your relative may have worked on their genealogy in a way entirely different from you. They may never have completed what they set out to either.

A maternal relative worked on compiling the descendants of her grandmother–my great-great-grandfather’s sister. The relative never completed her work. There is not compiled genealogy. But her notes and letters are extant and those items were a great help in actually completing her work. Her notes outlined all the children and grandchildren of her grandmother. The letters and envelopes helped me to track down additional members of her family–although the work was never finished.

Make certain you’ve reached out to all the extended members of your family to see if they have similar materials.

Before It Fades

If you’ve been at genealogy for several decades, what non-digital reproductions of records are sitting in your files that need to be preserved in another way?

When I started my research back in the 1980s, copies from microfilm were often not considered permanent and researchers were told to use them as a temporary means of capturing the text and that the item should be transcribed before the image faded from the paper.

Not all images fade. The image used to illustrate this post was made in the early 1980s and is still legible enough to read, but it was stored in a safe environment in terms of humidity, temperature, and minimal exposure to light.

What do you have that needs to be converted to another format?