Are You Too Reliant on Indexes?

Indexes make locating records easier, but there are limitations to them. Handwriting can be difficult to read and indexers make mistakes. Indexers may only index key names in a document, leaving out the names of others who are mentioned in ways that can provide significant information on them.

If you have reason to believe a person should be in a record and they are not in the index, search the records manually. Learn how the records are organized to create more effective manual search strategies.

If there is a person you have not found in a record and you have tried alternate spellings and names, review ways in which the records can be manually searched. Sometimes a manual search is more practical than others and not all records can be manually searched.

Where Oh Where Was the Estate Notice Posted?

Some probate records will indicate where notices of final estate settlement were posted. Usually one of those is in the county seat, often the courthouse. The other places probably are near to that part of the county where the deceased did business or lived. In some cases that can be a residential clue which can be helpful if other information about residence is not available. The example suggests that the deceased lived fairly near to the county seat–based upon where the notices were posted.

Genealogy Tip of the Day is proudly sponsored by GenealogyBank. Try their “GenealogyBank Search” and see what discoveries you make.

One Last Name Two Typos

Name irregularities is one reason why manual searching of records is sometimes necessary. An early 20th century probate document give the last names of the heirs to an estate as “Tooker” when it should be “Fooken.” One typographical error is bad enough, but two just makes it worse.

Any transcription of this record should transcribe the document as it and include a notation about the error.

Genealogy Tip of the Day is proudly sponsored by GenealogyBank. Try their “GenealogyBank Search” and see what discoveries you make.

No Person’s Records are Entirely Consistent

There will always be some inconsistency in the records on any individual. Ages from all records may not match exactly. But the years of birth they suggest should be relatively close. The spelling of names will not always match, but sound similar.

Keep in mind that records should paint a relatively consistent portrait of your ancestor. There may be a little fuzz around the edges.

Genealogy Tip of the Day is proudly sponsored by GenealogyBank. Try their “GenealogyBank Search” and see what discoveries you make.

Read the Back and not Just for Jack

Always read the back of everything. There may be clues there–sometimes ones that are difficult to discern.
The back flap of this service record envelope for John Ehmen (CO. I 119th Illinois Infantry, US Civil War) indicated a headstone had been issued. on 9 July 1937. The QMG stands for Quarter Master General. The OMH?

Genealogy Tip of the Day is proudly sponsored by GenealogyBank. Try their “GenealogyBank Search” and see what discoveries you make.

Free Trial Suggestions

Many genealogy pay-for sites offer free trials. Here are a few pieces of advice:

  • Get the free trial when you will actually have time to use it
  • Keep track of the credit card used to “hold” the free trial
  • They will bill you if you do not contact them and have them cancel
  • Mark your calendar for 2 days before it expires. That is the day you decide.
  • If the expire date falls on a Sunday or Saturday, always plan to call on at least the Friday before that date, preferably on Thursday.

Of course, if you aren’t going to cancel, then it is not a problem.

Some current free trials:

  • Revolutionary War materials are currently available on a free trial (through 15 July 2017) on

Do You Know What Sort of Index You Are Using?

All indexes are not created equally. There can be differences. It is up to the user of an online database to determine what sort of index they are using. It could be:

  • a complete everyname index–most online census indexes are compiled this way.
  • it could be just an index to the “main person” on the record–some indexes to probate records are compiled this way, only containing the name of the deceased.
  • it could be an index to selected names on the record–death certificate indexes that only index decedent and parents’ names (if given). Doctors, informants, undertakers (if mentioned) not always indexed
  • selected pieces of data–sometimes they just extract whatever they want
  • etc.

Manually created indexes by record clerks may be different as well.

Find out. Informed users are better users. The Frequently Asked Questions page is a good place to start, but find out. Do not assume.


The Power of Browsing

Browsing takes time, but can lead to discoveries. Try and avoid just reading the specific item of interest. Indexes are wonderful, but sometimes being taken “right to the record” causes us to miss other potential items of interest. In handwritten court documents many names may not be indexed.

Benjamin Hawkins witnessed a will recorded on the same page as his wife’s step-father’s estate inventory. It is a coincidence, but knowing additional associates of Benjamin is helpful, no matter how they were discovered.

Genealogy Tip of the Day is proudly sponsored by GenealogyBank. Try their “GenealogyBank Search” and see what discoveries you make.

24.1% Discount for the 241st Year of American Independence

I don’t have any pictures of Revolutionary War ancestors, but this cousin was a “Rough Rider” with Teddy Roosevelt.

To celebrate the 4th of July as the 241st year of American independence, we are running a special discount.

Through 11:59 PM Central Time on 4 July, we’re offering a 24.1% discount on any of our recorded webinars.  Obviously a 241% discount wasn’t an option.

The coupon code is: JULY42017

The code is not on the webinar page–don’t lose it.

Enjoy! And have a happy 4th!




Not All Relationships Generate Records

Your ancestor had relationships that did not generate records. It’s obvious when one thinks about it, but often something that we forget.

A relative of mine had a short-term boyfriend in the state of Iowa in the late 1870s that resulted in a pregnancy. She never married the father of the child. I only know his name because her subsequent marriage to  Civil War veteran resulted in her applying for a widow’s pension where she mentioned the previous relationship.

Another relative was “married” in the 1850s for less than a few months to a man who was temporarily guardian for her minor children. I suspect she was married to him (or acted like she was) because she signs his last name to some documents involving her first husband’s estate.

I just got lucky I was able to locate information on these relationships and it makes me wonder how many relationships leave no record at all.