Counties on BLM site

Remember when performing a land patent search on the BLM Site ( that the county names might have changed between the time of the patent and today.

At the time relative filed his homestead/preemption claim in 1887 his land was in Elbert County, Colorado. Today it is in Kit Carson County, which is what it was when his claim was finally approved.

Just remember that those county lines might have changed.

Would a Chart or Table Help?

When transcribing data, you want to remain as true to the original as possible. However, when anlyaing data, some creavitity may come in handy.

Consider organizing census information in a chart or a table, using a spreadsheet or a table in a word processing document.

Take the twenty names before and after your ancestor in the 1800-1830 census and put all of them in a table? How many names (besides your ancestor) do you see repeated? Are these names possible clues?

Get Obits of Aunts and Uncles by Marriage

I was looking for information on a lady I thought was a sister of my ancestor. I requested her obituary, hoping it would provide information on her family and her origins. It listed the names of two children, but no details of where they lived or anything. The obituary was full of nice lovey-dovey sentiments, but nothing I could use to further my research.

Her husband’s obituary was a different story. It was full of information on his children (some of whom were by a different wife) and other details about him that might help me locate more information about the wife.

Don’t neglect those spouses of ancestral siblings. Their records may contain just the clue you need.

Look when you do not expect it

When working on my brick wall ancestor, I searched probate records. I actually never searched them at all for him because I was always told he was “dirt poor.”

And there he was in the estate records two times. How can you die twice and have two estates?

Turns out for the time period in question, insanity cases were filed with the probate and estate records. It was two insanity cases I had located for him, not probate cases. If I had never looked in estate files, I never would have found out information about his insanity hearings.

Name and Location at Google Books

When searching try a search for your ancestor and the county where he lived.

A search for John Rucker Orange Virginia located several like references to my ancestor, including one in The Colonial Churches of St. Thomas’ Parish, Orange County, Virginia. I might have eventually found the reference, but Google Books made it faster.

Do You Have it All?

A cousin graciously shared with me a copy of a casefile a relative had shared with her. I was very glad to get it.

The relative of the cousin received the file from the National Archives years ago. I wondered if the National Archives had sent her the entire file as it looked like the original copies were made in the days when mail in requests were for “selected documents.”

Turns out there was at least one page the relative was not sent. In this case, the missing document was not a “huge” discovery, but sometimes it can be.

Casefile Clues-Sample Copies and Free Back Issues to Subscribers

Tip of the Day Readers who want a sample copy of my newsletter “Casefile Clues” can do so by sending me an email at

Those who subscribe by Saturday midnight (10 October 2009) will get back issues 1-10 and have their subscription to the weekly how-to newsletter start with issue 11. More information on Casefile Clues is on the website and subscription information is as well. A Paypal account is not necessary (you just need a credit card). Those who wish to use other payment options can email me at for that information.

Looking at things you have not really looked at in years

I recently wrote about my brick wall ancestor, Ira Sargent, in a recent column for Casefile Clues.

One of the records mentioned was his 1900 census enumeration. I had originally looked at it years ago, probably when I was 14 or 15 years of age. I had seen it several times in the interim and really hadn’t given it a lot of thought.

A reader pointed out that part of his census entry looked like it was in a different hand and perhaps had an item written in it after the census taker had made his enumeration. I’m not certain what was going on with the entry, but it makes a good point that perhaps something you’ve seen several times over several years may contain an anomaly that you may never have noticed.

Is there something you first looked at years ago that perhaps warrants a second look?

Scan it and post about it

Is there something you cannot read on a document? Instead of trying to transcribe it and post your transcription to a mailing list, consider scanning the image and asking list members of an appropriate genealogy mailing list or message board if anyone is willing to read it for you. Remember that many mailing lists do not allow attachments to be sent and that messages must be text only.

Of course, if you have a blog, you can always post images there as well. Then let members of an appropriate mailing list or message board know where your post is located.

Someone reading the actual image can do a better job of interpreting that than trying guess what really was on that paper you have.