Find out the security policy of the courthouse before you make a trip there. I am in the habit of sometimes making notes about what to research in the notepad feature of my phone. Some courthouses will not let you bring your cell phone into the building. Find out any security issues before you leave. It is also a good idea to find out what kinds of electronic equipment generally are allowed. Best not to find out restrictions at the last minute. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
Make certain you really research from the most recent and work your way to earlier events. For years, I assumed (incorrectly) that an uncle by marriage was only married one time–to my ancestor’s sister. Turns out she died young and he remarried shortly after her death and had the children with her instead of my aunt. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that the first marriage took place after the 1880 census and no vital records were kept and both wives were dead by the 1900 census. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
Virtually any pre-1920 deed or will written in a book at the courthouse is not the original. The grantee got the original deed and the courthouse made a handwritten copy. As technology developed, microfilm copies, photostatic and other kinds of copies were made. But that deed from 1850 that you found in a book with all the others, it was a handwritten copy and could contain an error or two. Wills recorded in a will record book are the same way. Of course, the original will may be in the packet of estate papers, but anything “recorded” before photocopies and the like was a handwritten transcription. Just a little something to keep in mind the next time you make a copy of a will from 1820. ———————————— Check […]
It has been about ten years, but there used to be a local band named “DOS GUYS.” There were three ways one could take this: DOS Guys meaning 2 guys from “dos,” Spanish for two. DOS Guys as a way of saying “those” guys, “dos” as a slang way of saying “those.” DOS Guys, meaning guys who were still using the DOS operating system on their computer. Is there something that could be interpreted more than one way? Have you “jumped” on one interpretation that may be the wrong one? It may be that you are creating your own brick wall by doing so. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
With more and more records being indexed, it is tempting for some to quit searching when the index fails. Keep in mind that there are times where manual searching of a record is necessary. Indexes are not perfect and sometimes writing is extremely difficult to read. The census is a good example. If you know where your ancestor lived and the index does not quickly locate him, search manually. If the relative was in a rural area, it may not take very long to page through a township or two in an attempt to find him. And in searching page by page, you may find other relatives in the process. In urban areas, you may be able to pinpoint your relative’s location down to a handful of enumeration […]
Sometimes I am behind the times. I will admit it. I finally set up google alerts for some of my more unusual surnames and for some names of ancestors. These can easily be done using your account at google (or signing up for one if you do not have one). This way instead of you searching for things, google lets you know when it has found them. To be certain, Google is not the only search engine out there, but this is a nice tool to add to your list. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
Think for just a minute before making that post to a mailing list or asking that question to a friend. Is there a chance you are overlooking something obvious? It is also good to give yourself sometime to let a conclusion “sit” in your mind before publishing it or posting it. Sometimes our first, “off the cuff” reactions are correct and sometimes they aren’t. Haste may cause you to create a brick wall where none existed. I almost assumed a relative had military service based upon his WW2 era classification record. Turns out that the classification he received meant something different during war time than during peace time and the chart of classifications I was using were peace time classifications. When I looked at the appropriate set of […]
A complete discussion of copyright law is beyond our purpose here at “Tip of the Day,” but suffice it to say that a genealogical fact cannot be copyrighted. Your cousin in Arizona cannot copyright the fact that “John Smith was born in Maryland in 1783.” What he can copyright is a report he compiled showing why that year of birth is correct. The report he would be within his rights to lay copyright claim to. Of course, if he spent years uncovering a fact and you use that fact in a compilation, it might be nice to give him credit for “finding” that fact. If you don’t, he might not share anything with you again! ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
Sometimes a researcher is tempted to “ignore” the “in-laws” or “step” relatives because they are not “really relatives.” However, this can be a big mistake. Your relatives interacted quite a bit with these individuals and there is a chance a record on them could provide information on your ancestor. It is always possible that these indivduals have known your ancestor long before they became related by marriage. Your ancestors did not live in complete isolation. Researching their close acquaintances may provide information on your direct line ancestors. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
Official or unofficial copies of documents may be located in places where you might not think to look. My ancestor’s declaration of intention from Illinois is contained in his Nebraska homestead application. Another ancestor’s naturalization is contained in his homestead file as well. Chicago voter’s registrations give years and places of naturalization for those who were not native born citizens. Widow’s applications for pension may contain certified copies of their marriage records. A cousin who got married in Illinois and divorced in Florida filed a copy of his Florida divorce decree in the Illinois county where he was married. And the list goes on. Where might your ancestor have had to record a copy of a document? It might not be in a place where you think. ———————————— […]
In a word, no. Salt Lake City’s Family History Library ( is a wonderful library in which to research. Their collection of genealogy materials is the largest in the world. But remember that they do not have everything. For many Illinois counties, the Family History Library does not have personal property tax records from the mid-nineteenth century and later. While most genealogical problems do not require the use of these records, there are times when these records are helpful in placing a specific person in a specific location at a specific point in time. There are other counties where court case packets have not been filmed and where tract indexes to land records are still accessible only at the courthouse. The Family History Library is an excellent place […]
A few things worth remembering: Indexes to courthouse records are not always strictly alphabetical. Sometimes they are indexed only the first letter of the last name. Some indexes are partially by last name and then by first name. The Mc and Mac names can be at the front or the end of the “M” section. Not every party in a lawsuit appears in the defendant or plaintiff index. Indexes can be incorrect or missing. Courthouses may have indexes to records that were not filmed by the Family History Library. A good idea is to ask a local person from the area who is familiar with the records. These people can be an excellent resource. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
Before I say this, let me say that copying someone else’s data into your database is not advised at all. But at least make certain it makes sense before entering it into your database. I saw an online family tree where the mother and father died before their children were born and another couple who had their children before they (the parents) were born. Woah! And if your database indicates someone died in 1742 and served in the American Revolution something is decidedly amiss. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
Are there time periods in your ancestor’s life that are not accounted for? What was he or she doing during those periods? Where was he or she living? The first five years of my ancestor’s life in the United States were a complete mystery to me. John Ufkes came to the United States in the spring of 1869, settling in Illinois. He cannot be found in the 1870 census and there is no record of him until his marriage in 1874. His life is well documented after then until his death in 1924. There are a variety of land, court, census, church and other records fairly clearly documenting his life in Adams and Hancock County, Illinois. I realize five years is not a long time in the life […]
Do you know what the difference between a grantor and a grantee is? A grantor is someone who is selling or transferring their ownership in property to someone else. A grantee is someone who is purchasing property or is having property transferred to. One joke I make during many lectures is about the genealogist who spent hours looking for a deed when her ancestor purchased land. Her time was spent looking in the grantor indexes. Of course, looking for when her ancestor purchased land should be done in the grantee indexes. It can be easy to get the two terms mixed up. Make certain you are looking in the right index. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
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