Leave Out the Last Name

When searching an online database, leave out the last name and enter in other search parameters. Is it possible that the last name was so difficult to read on the original record that it was simply omitted when the information was transcribed? If you enter a last name as a search term it will have to be in the database in order for the entry to be returned as a “hit.”

Thanks to DH for this tip!

Reading the Whole Page or Two

Indexes have made the searching of many records easier. Search, find, click and there’s the image on our screen. It still though is wise to view all the names on the census page and a page or two before and after. There could be close relatives living nearby, hiding under a name that’s indexed incorrectly or mispelled.

Read the whole page your ancestor’s census or other record entry appears on. Read a page or two before and after. You might be surprised at what you find.

Searching in Circles?

I usually tell researchers if they spend more than 5 minutes searching for a person in an online database, it’s time to get off the computer and organize your search procedure. The first step is to determine if it would be more efficient to search the database manually, especially if certain details about the family are known that would make manual searching easier.

If manual searching isn’t going to work, make a chart and organize your searches by how you will be entering the search terms. Think about:

  • first name
  • middle names
  • last name
  • spelling variants
  • place of birth
  • date of birth
  • other search parameters

Chart up how you will perform your searches and do them systematically. You might be surprised at the results.

Put Everything in Context

Put every event in context. If your ancesor sells property, ask yourself:

  • how old was he?
  • was he getting ready to leave the area?
  • was he having financial problems?
  • was he selling to a child or other relative?
  • did he buy other property about the same time?

Don’t look at a record all by itself. Put it in the context of other things that were taking place in your ancestor’s life.

Contact the Locals

If onsite research at the local courthouse is not an option, consider contacting the local genealogical/historical society or the local library. They may be able to give you names of researchers, suggestions for doing research remotely, or may do some limited research for you via mail. Some courthouses will respond to mail inquiries and some will not.

Day After Thanksgiving Sale-1 Year of Casefile Clues for $14

We’re not using other term for post-Thanksgiving discounts, partially because I think the Thanksgiving holiday has been playing second fiddle to the pre-Christmas craze for too long.

In honor of Michael’s 7 newly discovered Mayflower ancestors, we’re offering Casefile Clues Thursday and Friday for $14 for a year of 52 issues. Here’s a little about Casefile Clues and here’s a little more.

Want a sample? Send an email to samples@casefileclues.com to receive two sample copies.

The Thanksgiving Discount is good through Friday. This post will be pulled after Friday! The discount rate will be called the “Thanksgiving” discount on both days.

Choose the appropriate course of action:

Merging A Saint

Is your ancestor’s last name “St. Clair”  or some other phrase starting with the word “Saint?” Is it possible that the “saint” was merged into the rest of the name resulting in Sinclair? Or is it possible your ancestor’s middle and last names “merged” into one? Sometimes when I tell people my name is “Michael Neill,” they think I am saying “Mike O’Neill.” Did something similar happen with your ancestor’s name?

Drop the H?

I’m searching for a man named Harm Habbus for an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues. One suggestion in searching for him was to search for the last name of Abbus. An initial “H” is one of those letters that can get left off a name, depending upon how it is pronounced. Most sites that support Soundex searches do ignore the letter “h,” but usually only if it is NOT the first letter. Could your “H” people be hiding without their “H?”

Widowed or Not?

Marital status as stated in some records needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Back in the day when divorce was scandalous, a person enumerated in a census as “widowed” might actually have been divorced. I never searched for a divorce record for a relative as the husband left the area and the marital status of the wife simply was widowed from that time on. And other times I’ve seen husbnd and wife listed in the same census year in separate households, both with a “w” in the marital status column.