Reminder about Pronunciations

A student asked me if I knew where “Mr. Lowrey” was. At least it sounded it like he was asking for Mr. Lowrey.

It turns out his instructor’s first name was Larry. And the last name was not Lowrey.

Could your ancestor (or the census taker) have confused first and last names or at the very least completely altered a name because of the way the speaker said it?

Check Around Before Buying a Copy of Any Record

It always pays to check around before buying a copy of any record. Generally speaking, try sources in the following order:

  • Family History Library
  • State or Regional Archives
  • Local, County, or State Record Office directly–start by looking here
  • Post a query to the appropriate message board at or and inquire about records access and prices
  • Never pay for immediate, overnight, or any speedy service.
  • Considering hiring a local professional if you need a large number and can’t get them via mail.
This is mean to be general guidance only, but avoid paying exorbitant fees for “extra” services if at all possible. This is why if you are unfamiliar, post to various mailing lists and message boards and wait for an answer.

Write it Down Now!

“Great-grandma Neill wouldn’t let Nellie date the Humke boy because they were related. “
I know someone told me that. I am not dreaming it. I had already known the “Humke boy was related,” but the dating (or potential dating) was news to me. I remembered the tidbit while doing something completely unrelated. The problem is that I cannot for the life of me remember who told me. I will write it down now and have to use myself as the source, even though I have no first hand knowledge of it myself.

It is even more frustrating because I was told this little nugget years after I had started genealogy and knew the importance of writing things down as soon as possible.

Underlined on a Deed?

Is a word underlined on that deed you copied at the courthouse? Remember underlining was often the clerk’s way of indicating that the underlined item looked odd and incorrect, but that’s what the document actually said. The clerk’s job was to transcribe, not to fix.

Get A Second Opinion

Interpreting documents is never easy. If you have a complicated document or record, consider having more than one person interpret it. Different people can easily interpret the same thing in slightly different ways and those differences can make all the difference.

And make certain you know something of the background of who gives you advice. Not everyone’s skill levels are the same and a response from an anonymous poster on an email list or a message board may not be all that reliable.

The Ins and Outs

Remember that for every ancestor who owned a piece of property, there should be an “in” when the property was obtained, or went into his possession and an “out” when the property left his possession.

Make certain you have each one.

And don’t assume your city dwelling ancestors never owned any property. Even records on a small plot may be helpful.

Look at Every Level

We often get focused on records at one level of jurisdiction.

Keep in mind that there might be town or city records, county records, state records, and federal records of your ancestor.

Any could give you the break you need. Never assume that state or federal records are not going to help you on your ancestor. Military records and pensions are often state or federal records and these can be especially informative. Military veterans or their spouses often applied for benefits as they aged and the restrictions were loosened up.

Take a Free Trial–Some Advice

Many genealogy pay-for sites offer free trials. Here are a few pieces of advice:

  • Get the free trial when you will actually have time to use it
  • Keep track of the credit card used to “hold” the free trial
  • They will bill you if you do not contact them and have them cancel
  • Mark your calendar for 2 days before it expires. That is the day you decide.
  • If the expire date falls on a Sunday or Saturday, always plan to call on at least the Friday before that date, preferably on Thursday.

Of course, if you aren’t going to cancel, then it is not a problem.