Is There More?

Online indexes can lead you to an image of a record with a quick search–if you are lucky enough that names are spelled and indexed correctly. Make certain the “next image” isn’t part of the item you located. Census records may be split over two pages, draft cards are often images of the front and back of the card, death certificates sometimes contain “supplements” directly after the original document.

Always look at the next image or two in any online set of images to make certain you’ve got it all–and look forward too as well.

You’ll never know until you look.


Is That Estate Squabble in the Newspaper?

If probate records suggest there was some fighting over your relative’s estate, consider looking for mention of it in the local newspaper. What’s in the newspaper may simply be printed gossip (sometimes they do that), but it could provide a little more personal insight into your relatives’ lives.

If full text searches of newspapers are not available and manual searching of newspapers is the only option, consider searching newspapers for times when the case was being heard in court. Filing dates, motion dates, decree dates, and other dates of legal activity will be noted in the probate papers or journals and may help pin down a search time frame.


Transcription Versus Translation

Working with handwritten records in a foreign language is difficult. Do not compound the difficulty by confusing transcription and translation.

Transcription is converting the foreign-language script into the equivalent foreign-language text. Translation is converting the foreign language into another language.

If you’re asking someone to do one or the other, just make certain you ask for the correct thing.


Start Slowly and Practice

Reading handwriting that is centuries old can be difficult whether it is in your native language and script or not. Handwriting has changed over time, old records can contain archaic terms (legal and otherwise), and foreign-language records and script can result in even more challenges.

Don’t start your foray into transcription with a 17th century document if you have not transcribed ones from the 18th and 19th centuries first. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t need those documents for your research. Building your skills is important first and older documents will be easier to transcribe if you are familiar with more recent ones.

You may really “need” that land patent from Virginia in 1670 for your research, but if it appears to be in a foreign language, try your hand at handwritten record copies of deeds from the 1850s first, then work yourself back earlier and earlier in the records. Start slowly.

The same is true for records in a foreign language or a foreign script. Build up your skills on more recent records–even if you don’t need them for your research.

Practice makes perfect.


Is that “Last Name” Really Right?

There are several reasons why someone might not have the last name you think that they do or why they may be listed in a record with a last name of which you are unaware.

A female relative could have had one more husband than you think she did—resulting in a reference to her with a name you don’t know.

A child may be listed under the name of an unknown step-father. Without a last name it can be difficult to find someone.

The man you think is someone’s father may actually have been the step-father, adopted father, etc. This again can cause the same person to be listed in different records with different names.

And you just may simply have the last name wrong.


Monthly Reminder

When was the last time you backed up your files, checked for photos that you don’t at least have saved in digital format, and made certain that there are no relatives that need to be interviewed?

This is your first of the month reminder.


No Matter How Much Is Online At FamilySearch, Ancestry, etc.

We are not in that era where every record of possible genealogical use can be accessed via the internet. No matter what your cousin in Oregon tells you and no matter what the ads say, genealogical research simply cannot be done with the click of a mouse.

One of my favorite records often found in the county recorder’s offices of federal land states are tract indexes to local land records. These indexes, created by the local records’ office staff, index land records by where the property is located–not by any name on the land record. They are a great finding aid, but rarely were they micofilmed (or later digitized) by the Genealogical Society of Utah (the Family History Library). They have to be accessed onsite.

There are many records that exist only in paper form. Local researchers, local libraries, local societies, well-written and comprehensive research guides, are ways to find out about these records. They may not be mentioned in online sources, blog posts, wikis, etc. Sometimes you have to dig for yourself. Networking with others researching in the same geographic area is essential to locate these sources.

The Genealogy Tip of the Day book can be yours through a variety of ordering options: directly from Amazon or from the author (credit card or check payment). Details are on our website.


Your Last Visit to GoogleBooks?

You never know who will appear in a search at GoogleBooks. The site contains images of millions of pages of books–some out of copyright and others not.

An entry was even located for my uncle, a career marine during the approximate 1920-1950 time frame. I never expected to find a reference to him, but there it was. One never knows what references could be located with a search of GoogleBooks at


Her Name Is On the Stone

Anne Rampley’s name and date of birth are on a tombstone in the Buckeye Cemetery in Hancock County, Illinois. Her husband’s date of birth and death are included. While I do indicate what the tombstone says in my records, I do not indicate that Anne is buried here just based on the stone.

I realize it is possible that Anne was buried there and the date of death was never inscribed. It is also possible that the date of death is not on the tombstone because she was not buried there. What is known is that Anne survived her husband at his death in 1907 and they had no children. It is entirely possible that no one bothered to have the date inscribed there after her death–if she was buried there.


Death in the Directory

Working with city directories can be tedious, especially if someone lived in an area for some time. Occasionally surprising discoveries await those who take the time to view an ancestor’s entry for every year they lived in the location covered by the directory. This 1894 directory for the City of Davenport, Iowa, indicated that Mrs. Mary Cawiezell was the widow of Anthony Cawiezell and that shed died on 12 February of 1893.

This information should be supplanted by other records if possible, but in some locations a record of this type may be the only one available. The date could be incorrect (this is not a typical death record) and a citation to the directory as the source should be attached to the date in your genealogical database. Directories can contain unexpected annotations to the occasional entry that could result in a genealogical breakthrough.

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How Messed Up Was It?

In reviewing a twentieth-century family I have not worked on in some time, an obituary had me completely confused. The names of the children were consistent with other records, but the grandchildren and great-grandchildren made no sense to me–at least not using the information I had already located.

I put the obituary aside and looked at other records–including earlier obituaries of the family and what vital records could be found online. Going back to the obituary with more details allowed me to develop a hypothesis. It appeared that the obituary writer or editor referred to grandchildren as grandchildren and to step-grandchildren as great-grandchildren. It’s an easy mistake to make, particularly when the person reviewing the information is not personally familiar with the family.

The obituary actually referred to the deceased individual’s step-children as children. Given the fact that they were raised by the deceased it made perfect sense. But earlier records made the relationship clear.

Obituaries are great clues, but they should be used along with other records where possible. Over-reliance on these items (and not locating all of them for a family) may make your DNA results look more confusing than they actually are.