It’s Not My Job to Fix It

Clerks making record copies of documents often encounter errors or inconsistencies in the original record they are recording. In the days when transcriptions were made by hand (or by using a typewriter), clerks would often annotate such things. In the illustration, the typist has underlined known errors or inconsistencies in the original document. These notations used by clerks can vary–lines may have been written above questionable text as well.

The clerk’s job was to transcribe the document exactly as it was written–errors and all.

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Deeds May Not Be Recorded Promptly

Records are recorded in the order in which they are brought to the courthouse to be recorded, not in order of the date in which they were signed and executed. This index to land records indicated that a deed from 1875 was recorded in 1884. The nine-year delay is not unheard of and it’s not unusual for recordings to take even longer.

It is very possible that a deed your ancestor signed selling property to someone was recorded decades after he signed it.

The Whole Thing…Not Just the Page

When making requests of copies of local records, make certain to ask for the entire record. Some indexes will provide the first page number of the location where the item is recorded, but may make no mention of how many pages the record actually entails. Some records are only one page, but best to ask for the entire record–just in case.

Otherwise a clerk may take you literally and give you the page you ask for which may not always be the complete record.

No Return Does Not Guarantee No Marriage

In some jurisdictions during some time periods a couple gets a marriage license, takes it to an officiant, the ceremony is performed, and the officiant returns the license with the details of the actual marriage ceremony to the office that issued the license. It’s all filed and recorded and all is good.

The vast majority of the time, the license is returned and filed. But there may be that rare situation when a couple gets married and the license is not returned. Keep in mind that this is unusual. Typically when the license is not returned it is because the couple did not get married. In those cases, destruction of the license at some point in the process is a distinct possibility.

Remember that the details of what constituted a civil marriage record can vary from one time to another and one place to another. What your parents did in 1967 may be different from what your great-great-great-grandparents did in 1867 even if the location did not change.

Out of State Land

Always read estate inventories carefully for potential references to real estate or other property that could suggest the deceased had lived in areas other than where they died. This 1904 estate inventory in Illinois indicated that Conrad Haase owned real property in Nebraska.

There may have been separate court action in Nebraska to handle the title to the property after Conrad’s death as his estate was probated in Illinois where he died. It is possible that the court action did not happen until years later, so records should not just be checked for the immediate time period around his death. Land records should also be referenced in Nebraska as well.

But do not just skip over those inventories of real estate. There could be clues buried in the verbiage.

Who Would Know that and Where Would they Tell It?

Genealogy “tricks” are a dime a dozen on the internet and there’s really no “trick” at all. It’s just being diligent and searching for every piece of paper or record that you can find. If we could get every shred of paper, digital image, stone, book, etc. with our ancestor’s name on it, research would be much easier.

But that’s not the way it works.

One approach is to think about what piece of information you would like to know and make a list of individuals who may have known that information (or may know it today) or records on which that information may have been written down.

Given the time period and location, a marriage date could be in the family Bible, a civil record of the marriage, a church record of the marriage, an obituary, a pension application, etc. Individuals who may have known about the date and place of the marriage would have included the couple, their parents, friends and close family, a records clerk, the officiant, etc. Some of these individuals are more likely than others to have passed the information on to other individuals. The records clerk simply writes the information in the record. The officiant may have kept a separate journal of ceremonies performed–the difficulty would be in locating that record.

Brainstorm (sans internet) on where a certain fact could have been written and then think about how those items could possibly be obtained today–assuming they are still extant.

Webinars: Migration, Virginia Chancery, & Land at FamilySearch

Registration for all live attendance closed on 27 September 2022. Presentations (handout included) can be pre-ordered before 29 September for less than the normal download price.

Determining Your Ancestor’s Personal Migration Trail

Discovering your ancestors “migration trail” is more than determining the physical route they took to get from one point from another. It is about determining others who might have had the same point of origin and destination as your ancestor and what those individuals had in common with your ancestor (biology, relationships by marriage, shared denominational membership, same point of origin, etc.). Determining others who might have had the same point of origin as your ancestor may help you to locate more information on your ancestor. Our focus will be on ways to determine who else in the area of settlement might have been from the same place as your ancestor—and took the same “path” your ancestor did.

Chancery Court Records at the Library of Virginia

This presentation will begin with a broad overview of the chancery court system in Virginia and how to determine what courts might have heard cases in which you ancestor might have been involved. The presentation will discuss search strategies for querying the chancery court records database on the Library of Virginia website, how to organize and track those searches, and how to organize and download images of actual records housed on the site.

Using Local Land Records at FamilySearch

This presentation will discuss how to determine what local land records are available on FamilySearch—including ones that are essentially digital versions of microfilm with no new indexes. The presentation will begin with a quick overview of local land records and how they typically area organized. We will discuss how to navigate land records on FamilySearch, how to use the original indexes that were created by the holders of the record (different indexing systems will be discussed and demonstrated), and how to navigate the actual record images. Image organization and downloading will also be discussed.

  • Offered live on 29 September at 10:30 am central daylight time.
    Registration closed as of 27 September 2022.

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An Address

An address given for your ancestor could be the name of the town where he lived, the town where he received his mail, or perhaps the name of the township or county in which he or she lived with the word “township” or “county” omitted. It’s also possible that the location listed does not even exist any more.

Searching on contemporary maps, in local gazetteers, in county histories (see if they have maps included as well), in local newspapers, or in other sources may help you to determine exactly what the reference meant.

The man in the illustration lived in Appanoose Township at the time the document in the illustration was completed. Other contemporary addresses given for him–presumably also where mail could be addressed–were consistently listed as Niota, Illinois. It’s possible this reference of Appanoose is simply a one-off. It is not a reference to Appanoose County, Iowa, as the man in the illustration did not live in Iowa.

Flipping Over Clippings in Books

A recent book of poems written by a cousin that I purchased on Ebay recently reminded me of a tip that we’ve mentioned before. Go through old books completely page by page to see what might be stuck in between pages. Clippings can be smaller than this one and might not be noticed with a casual, quick, flip through–especially if they are tucked in the spine.

Also don’t forget to turn them over! This one was photographed this way intentionally, but looking at both sides can be helpful and may help you date or locate the clipping as well.

Who Took the Picture?

When you are looking at old pictures that were likely not taken by a professional photographer, do you think of who the likely photographer was?