Remember that the children may not know their mother’s maiden name and what they do know is not first-hand information. They may think their mother’s step-father was her actual father. They may never have met her father and may have a totally “mixed” up version of the name in their head as a result. Or they may be entirely correct about their mother’s maiden name. It depends upon a lot of factors, but keep in mind that information children provide about their mother’s maiden name is not first hand information.
A name change after a marriage may be why a female relative goes “missing.” Your widowed or divorced relative may have had a subsequent marriage of which you are unaware. That could be why they can’t be located. Make certain to check for marriage records after the person becomes widowed or divorced.
There are times when it is necessary to search censuses or other records manually. Consider keeping a research log that uses a map to show where you have searched instead of a table or grid. Mark off the areas you search. The map also helps you to search those areas that are closest to the ones you have already searched. This is particularly helpful if the area you are searching in is not one with which you are familiar.
I was using “unindexed” tax records from Virginia in the 1790 era. They appeared to be in rough alphabetical order by first letter of the last name. Except they weren’t.
Several pages would be alphabetical. Then several pages would be unordered. Then several pages would be alphabetical. It seemed as if there were several assessors or collectors for the county and that some sorted their parts of the list and others did not.
Had I stopped when my people were not in the first list, I would have missed them.
If a handwritten list appears to be alphabetical, make certain the entire thing is.
Quickly review your digital pictures of records before you leave the facility. While it can be tempting to make as many copies as you can, the key to solving your problem will be on that page that was blurry.
And you’ll never know because you can’t read it.
In census records where relationships to head of household are stated, “boarders” may be boarders, but they could be related as well. This 1880 enumeration includes a boarder with the household who is actually the wife’s nephew.
Genealogy Tip of the Day is proudly sponsored by GenealogyBank.
Their current offer is an annual rate that figures out to $4.67 a month (billed annually). See what discoveries you can make. Newspapers are a great way to “build your tree” to help with tracking some of those DNA matches.
If you are working on a more recent relative and you’ve got a copy of their “funeral book,” look and see if the names of those who came to pay their respects are in the book.
It is a good way to get ideas of who might have been your ancestor’s associates and who was alive when your ancestor died. They may have even written in their city of residence.
And there’s always their signatures…hopefully they are readable.
This post includes thoughts…without necessarily answers. If my daughter tells someone her date of birth, she is a secondary source of that date. She has no first hand knowledge of her date of birth. If I tell someone that today is my daughter’s 21st birthday (which it isn’t, but pretend that it is), is that secondary? I was present at the birth, but if I say it or write it down 21 years later is that record primary or secondary? If I write it down with a month of her birth, that probably would be considered primary. But what about 21 years after the fact, even if I had first hand knowledge of the event?
The first son was named for this, the second son was named for that, etc.
Keep in mind that these patterns are trends and social customs that your ancestor might have followed. They are not law.
Your ancestor does not have to follow any of these “social mores.” They might, but they might not. What your ancestor does have to do is:
- Figure out how to get born.
- Figure out how to get married (or at least reproduce)–this means living that long
- Leave behind at least one record–although this seems optional sometimes
We are defining “ancestor” as someone from whom you descend–that’s why we say they have to reproduce even if they don’t get married.
Dying usually happens whether your ancestor planned for it or not.