Read the Introduction

The introductions to some books are full of acknowledgements and thanks to those played a key role in the books. Introductions to genealogical publications, particularly transcriptions of original documents, may mention how the records were accessed, the condition of those records, what records were missing, etc.

Those are details someone using the book needs to know. When using any published transcriptions of original records, read the introduction, preface, etc. There may things in there a researcher needs to know to use the publication effectively.

I’ve been reading Fields, Fens and Felonies: Crime and Justice in Eighteenth-Century East Anglia–the author discusses his process in the introduction. That was an education in itself.

Beginning German Genealogy Webinar Released

This session focuses on starting your German research. The session will include an overview of German genealogical sources (both online and offline), naming patterns and concerns, maps and other geographic finding aids, basics of terminology and handwriting, and more. Intended for those who have not really started researching their German ancestors in Germany.

Download is immediate. Presentation can be viewed more than once. Handout included.

Order today–introductory price expires 18 July.

Age Perspective

Genealogists can easily develop tunnel vision. Sometimes it serves a good purpose and at other times it can cause us to lose our perspective.

For some reason I always imagine my ancestors as being older than me and if I’m not careful I tend to see them as having always lived their life as an older person. That’s a mistaken assumption and one that can at times cause me to make incorrect assumptions about behavior and motivations.

A 25-year old is at a different stage in their life than a 75-year old. It seems obvious, but like many obvious things sometimes we need a reminder. I was reminded myself when looking at a deposition made by my great-grandfather, Charles Neill. I always mentally picture him as older with gray hair–like he appears in the picture with several of his grandchildren.

I was reading the affidavit a short time after seeing my daughter’s fiance–who is about the age now that Charles was then.  I remembered Charles was not always in his late sixties. There was a day when he was a young man.

We all need to remember that sometimes.

Before You Hire a Researcher

There are several things to think of or do yourself before even seriously contemplating hiring a researcher to assist you with your research.

  • organize what you already have–completely. A professional researcher will need to know what you have an organize if for you if you have not already done that–so they can see what you’ve already done and what you know. They will charge you for that time. You may even realize when organizing your information that you still have things you can do yourself.
  • ask others for help. It may be that someone on a message board, Facebook group, etc. can give you the suggestions you need to jump start your work. Keep in mind that some problems require serious study, in depth work, or access to records that are only located in one place–that may require some professional help.
  • write up your problem–that makes it easy to see gaps in your work. This is another approach that may indicate there are still things you can do yourself to solve your problem.

In some cases your research may still benefit from a professional researcher. But they will be better able to utilize their time (and your money) if you’ve worked out as much as you can on your first.


Did Pastor Slip in a Little Foreign Script?

The pastor of an immigrant church may have written most of the church records in English, but sometimes he would slip and write in the script of his native language. The pastor a rural Illinois church in the late 1800s wrote most of every entry in English script, but occasionally he would render something in a somewhat Germanic style.

This made it difficult to transcribe some names and easy to interpret them incorrectly.

Don’t always assume the entire entry is in the same script–especially if the church has many immigrants and the pastor is one of them.

An Affidavit in Place of a Probate

In some United States jurisdictions in some time periods the estate of a person owning real estate may not have gone to probate. When Riley Rampley died in Illinois in 1893, he owned real property. Instead of probating his estate, his oldest son filed an affidavit (recorded with the deed records) swearing that there was no indebtedness on the property and that Rampley’s final bills had been paid.

It would be fifteen years later before any action was taking involving title to the property.

If the estate of your land-owning ancestor was not probated after his death, see if an affidavit or similar document was filed in with the land records.

Crossing the Pond Webinar Released

We’ve just released the recording and handout for my recent “Pond Crossing” webinar.

Sophia Derle Trautvetter crossed the pond in 1853.

This presentation discusses way to determine the “across the pond” origins for 18th and 19th century immigrants to the United States. The focus of this presentation is on sources and methods and are not specific to any country of origin. The bulk of the presentation discusses situations where the place of birth is not as easy as simply locating the immigrant’s death record, obituary, etc. Our discussion concentrates on situations where multiple records need to be used and where the establishment of the extended kin network is necessary.

Orders are processed immediately and presentation can be viewed as often as needed and is for personal use only.

Order here for immediate download.


Off the Beaten Path

The best discoveries are sometimes made off the beaten path–without a map. That’s true with genealogical records as well.

Indexes, inventories, and finding aids can be incomplete. This “family entry” from an Illinois Lutheran church was found by browsing images of the church’s records. The names were not index and the inventory did not indicate these items were included. Sometimes one simply has to browse things in order to make certain that everything was seen.

Still Time to Join Michael In Ft. Wayne!

There is still time to join me in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, at the Allen County Public Library this August!

Our group is informal, relaxed and focused on helping you when you need or want it. We don’t schedule other “non-genealogy” activities and other than our morning session and an “optional” evening meal, your time is your own to research, ask questions of me when you need to, etc.

There are more details on our website.