Searching for Places

Searching digital county histories, newspapers, and other items for ancestral names is usually on a genealogist’s to-do list.

Another item to search for in these items are place names from your family’s past–before they lived in the area on which the publications focus.

One of my Hancock County, Illinois, families originated in Coshocton County, Ohio. Searching for “coshocton” was a way to learn of other individuals who had that word mentioned in their biography, obituary, etc. A similar approach was done to locate references to Rush County, Indiana, for digital publications that focused on Macon County, Missouri.

Searches of this type can also be a way to find references to your ancestor (that also mention the location) when the digital rendering of the name is one that cannot be found by database query techniques.

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Do You Read the Whole Thing?

It happens on the internet all the time. People read a headline or the first few sentences of an article or post and then “respond” to it without reading the entire thing. The headline may not give the entire story and the first few sentences may simply be written to generate a response.

It’s not quite the same with looking at genealogical records, but there’s a good point to be made: look at the entire document or record before drawing a conclusion. A death certificate may give “new and exciting” information only to have an informant that you suspect really didn’t know anything about the family.

One legal document–especially in a court case–may be slanted towards one person’s perspective.

And anyone document in a person’s life may give so few details about that person that the information can realistically be interpreted in more than one way.

Don’t jump to conclusions and wait to react until you’ve read the whole thing. And even then–be careful reacting. There could be more to the story.

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Did they Marry Within the Family?

If your ancestor had more than one spouse, consider the possibility that the spouses were siblings.

It was not unheard of for a widower to marry a sister of his deceased wife as his next wife. Sometimes the different wives can be merged into one individual–after all the maiden name of each wife is the same. This can easily happen if the first names of the wives are similar.

Occasionally a widow may marry a brother of her deceased husband as well. In this case the subsequent marriage may not be noticed as the last name of the newly married former widow does not change.

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Genealogy Tip of the Day Book

If Amazon’s too slow, we still have copies of the Genealogy Tip of the Daybook that can be sent directly to you via USPS. It can be a great way to refresh yourself on things you forgot, learn new things, or view research from a different perspective.

It can be read in one setting, browsed at random, or used to generate ideas for your own research. It’s easy to read, informative, and geared towards helping you with your research and not seeing how much labored prose and ten-syllable words can be used in one sentence.

If you’re “stuck at home” (or even if you are not), get your copy today!

There’s more information on the book on our website.

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The Power of the Nearest Three

For that missing (or not missing) ancestor, do you know where the nearest three of these buildings, geographic features, organizations, social groups, etc. were when your ancestor lived in the area. It could help you through those research road blocks. Things to think about include the nearest three:

  • churches,
  • schools,
  • newspapers,
  • cemeteries,
  • county seats,
  • rivers,
  • mountains,
  • county lines,
  • federal land offices (if applicable),
  • train stops,
  • towns where people could trade and get supplies,
  • employers who employed more than a few people,
  • etc.

There are others besides these. In some cases. three may not be enough. In some cases it may be more than you need for effective research.

Get your copy of Genealogy Tip of the Day–the book.

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Was there a Lifetime Estrangement?

Sometimes the fight between two family members lasts for the rest of their lives. It can impact how much children or grandchildren know about certain family members. It can impact how family ephemera gets passed down from one generation to another. It can impact how individuals do not know they have first cousins living fifteen miles away.

It can be difficult to say how an estrangement can impact those left behind, but the genealogical impact can last for generations.

Family may need to be found to settle up an estate but their only communication could be through their lawyers.

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The Story of the Plant

Some of us are fortunate to have flowers and other plants that have ties to relatives. Those items can be a living reminder of a long or not-so-long deceased relative and a connection to that person we may never have met.

If you have an ancestral plant, take a picture.

Include the picture and a story of the plant as a part of your genealogical record.

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Reminder: Indexes Are…

Indexes are finding aids to take the researcher to the actual record. They are not mean to replace the actual record. Indexers can make mistakes by transcribing names incorrectly or leaving names out.

Do not rely entirely on an index to a record to find what is in it. Search manually if you have reason to believe that a person who does not appear in the index should be in the actual record.

Do not rely on the index’s transcription of the record to be either complete or accurate. Look at the record yourself.

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What It Is Not

When you have reached a genealogical conclusion, it’s always good to include the records, their citations, and the reasoning you used to reach that conclusion.

It’s also good to track what something is “not” along with the reasons why.

A relative sent me a 1917 picture of my Newman ancestor that included her two living siblings at the time–taken when the brother was celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary. There was writing on the back and she included a scan of that writing as well.

She then included what I felt was an important comment which essentially said “I don’t know whose writing this is on the back but it’s not Mom’s and it’s not Grandma’s.” That was a good thing for me to know. The cousin would have recognized her mother’s handwriting and knew her grandmother well enough to recognize her handwriting. Knowing whose writing it was not was helpful to me.

Of course I would love to know whose handwriting it actually was–but that may never be known.

But sometimes just knowing what is “not” is better than knowing nothing. And when you know what you don’t know you should track how it is that you don’t know it.

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Same Last Name a Relative?

Don’t assume two individuals are related because they lived in the same proximity and had the same last name. In certain regions, some last names are extremely common and may have originated in ways that have nothing to do with shared ancestry.

Or the relationship may be so distant that it will require tracing the ancestry further back than is possible and was so far removed that the individuals were unaware of the relationship.

The last name of Janssen is common in my maternal families. It literally means child of Jann/Jans. There were many men named Jann and during the time period when surnames were derived from first name, many unrelated families ended up with the surname of Janssen.

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