Going to the Remote Courthouse

Of the things to do when visiting that distant courthouse-remember that the purpose of the office is to do the daily business, which often is not to assist you with your research. Be polite, be patient, know what you are looking for and don’t come across as the “tourist genealogist” who thinks they “know everything.”

Your goal is to get records–remember you most likely don’t know anyone there, aren’t a local taxpayer, aren’t a local voter, etc.

You’ll have more luck with a softshoe approach than a brash one.

Have You Considered More than One Relationship?

Is it possible that two individuals who were first cousins were actually cousins on another side of the family as well? It happens.

Keep in mind that individuals may be related in more than one way. Or that individuals who are related by blood may have additional relationships too, either by marriage, employment, etc.

Sometimes the connections are not entirely crystal clear and may be multi-layered.

How did they say it?

Do you really know how your ancestors said their last name? I always thought I knew how my grandmother’s maiden name was said, until I saw it in an 1870 census with a “new” spelling. I asked on an German research list how the last name was likely said by a low-German speaker and was given a pronunciation slightly different from what I had always used. Then the alternate spelling made perfect sense.

Do you know your ancestor’s name was said?

It can make all the difference.

Subscribe to Casefile Clues and see how it helped with the family I was researching for issue 42.

How is it Similar–How is it Different?

When a record is located, try and compare it to other records of the same type or in the same series. How is the record for your relative different from other records? How is it similar? Some differences, such as name, date, etc. identify the record as being for your ancestor as opposed to someone else.

But make certain the “boilerplate” of the document is the same as others in the series. Differences, such as a phrase or word that does not appear in other documents may indicate a clue.

Analyzing a record in comparison to others is especially helpful when looking at church records which often are kept in loose paragraph format before standard forms were used.

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Don’t Rush to Enter Family Structure

Filing quickly is good–things get misplaced. However rushing to do you data entry may not be a good idea. Some records do not clearly indicate relationships precisely. Most genealogical database programs require specific type of relationship–you can’t just say “related.”

Analyze what you find. Draw conclusions and determine the family structure. Then put the relationships in your database. You can enter individuals in a database program without indicating the relationship.