Never let someone tell you there is no index or there is just one index to something. Determine if there is another index or if an index was created and published privately. There were a series of land records I was searching for in a county in Illinois while at the Family History Library. They only had indexes to each volume, compiled separately in the front of each one. What they did not have was another index to the land records that was created and maintained at the courthouse. That index had not been filmed and consequently was not at the Family History Library. Using that index took 5 minutes to find the deeds I needed. Going through the volumes’ indexes one-by-one would have taken me at least […]
Consider asking someone unrelated to your family to look at a document or a record that confuses you. Going to your local genealogical society meeting can be one way to do this. Another is to scan the document and post it to a blog and mention it on an appropriate mailing list. This can be a good way to get short documents translated or at least to have someone look at a word or a phrase that is difficult to read. To see an example of how I did this on my website visit here: ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
Always make certain you read the description of a data set before searching. This allows you to see whether or not it includes the information you need. The Family Search site includes some Ohio Tax records. I was excited as both my wife and I have early Ohio ancestors. Unfortunately at the time I visited the site, only a few counties were included. They will add more, but READING what areas are included before I search a database saves me time if the locations I need are not yet included. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
Stuck on a certain problem or document? If your computer is always “online,” consider temporarily turning off your internet connection while concentrating. Maybe even turn off the cell phone. Recently I was working on a christening record from the 1870s. It was written in German and mentioned two families. The temptation was to start surfing for information on the families before I really completed my attempt to translate the document. Sometimes it is good to brainstorm and jot down ideas one after the other when you cannot immediately do some of them. Being able to search immediately can easily get you distracted and cause you to lose focus on what you were originally trying to figure out. Without constant interruption or the temptation to be distracted I was […]
Are you subtracting correct when taking an age and calculating a year of birth? It might pay to doublecheck your computations so you do not create errors in your own records. It seems like a simple thing, but a subtraction error, especially if done in your head late at night while on the computer, can easily happen. And a year of birth calculated as 1802, when it should be 1812, might make all the difference in interpreting other records correctly. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
There are many reasons a genealogist should create a free blog. One is that it can be used to post images of documents you cannot read. I am a member of several mailing lists, one of which has several members who are good at reading German script. Occasionally when I have something where I cannot read a word or two, I put the image on my blog and then post a message to the mailing list about the document I cannot read and then tell them where I have posted the image. This makes it easier for them to try and help me figure out the document. One recent posting can be viewed here: I usually only post small things where I have a word or a phrase […]
Sometimes errors in genealogical records are unintentional. Census and christening records indicate my grandmother was born in Wythe Township, Hancock County, Illinois. Grandma always thought she was born in Tioga, Hancock County, Illinois-in nearby Walker Township. On every record from her marriage through her death, Grandma’s place of birth was put down as Tioga–because that is what she thought it was. The error wasn’t intentional, but rather was based upon her belief as to where she was born. I have noted the discrepancy in all the records and made a note about what Grandma thought in her file so that someone else will know why there are the differences in her records. Errors happen for a variety of reasons. I was lucky in this case because I knew […]
Genealogy information does not always agree. Several years ago I wrote an article for on discrepancy charts that can be used to organize inconsistent information. That article can be viewed here: Too long for a “short tip,” but it’s worth taking a look at. I have linked to the printer friendly version. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
In some cases, there may be several sites that index the same set of records. Consider using other indexes when available and when one index does not help you to find the desired person. Another person making their own index may read something differently than did the first person. Don’t assume someone is not in a record because one index fails to include him. And remember that a manual search of the records may be necessary. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
If you have an original copy of a document or photograph, do not do anything do that paper or photograph that cannot be undone. Putting it in a frame or an envelope (usually) is one thing. Taping it in a book is another. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
Make certain you have maps of all the areas where you are doing your family research and that those maps are contemporary to the time when your family lived in the area. County lines change as do other political jurisdictions. Modern maps are a good idea too, particularly when trying to determine where the farm is today or where that cemetery is located. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
Remember that there is more to reading records in a foreign language than simply learing the vocabulary. Foreign language records are often written in a different script and that letter that looks like an “L” may actually be a “B.” There are script guides on a variety of how-to websites. The Family Search Site ( has online images to scripts from several countries in their section of research helps. Checking out the appropriate country’s page on Cyndislist ( or her page on handwriting may also locate links to pages to help you read the handwriting. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
Here’s an off-the-wall idea–but some days I find writing tips a little difficult. Make a calendar with your ancestor’s dates of birth on it. Then on the ancestor’s birthday, review the information you have about that person. This might help you find something in your files that you had forgotten. Today would have been my great-grandmother Ufkes’ birthday–she would have been 114. She was born Trientje Marie Janssen on her parents’ farm near Basco, Hancock County, Illinois. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
Did your ancestor make a return trip home to visit family? It was not unheard of for 19th and 20th century immigrants to the United States to make one or two return trips home to visit. Records of their arrivals on these subsequent ocean crossings may provide more details on them than their original entry records do. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
When you locate that ancestor in a cemetery, look at the neighboring stones. There is a reasonable chance they are relatives. At least copy down the names and information (or take pictures) while you have the chance. Five years later (when you have discovered their names in other records) it may be too late to get information from their stone. ———————————— Check out GenealogyBank’s Offer for Tip of the Day Fans!
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