Check Yourself

Years ago, I made an extract from a document and incorrectly typed the year as 1850. I’ve repeated that year numerous times. For an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues, I retrieved the original document and in reading it realized that the year of the record was actually 1852. As the document is the first one that places the person in his “new location,” the year is crucial.

Because I corrected myself, I have to go back and re-evaluate some conclusions that hinged upon the 1850 year.

It pays to periodically review your own extracts and transcriptions.

Is the Title Misleading?

The first time you use a database or website, make certain you know what you are using and understand where the data is from.  Titles can be misleading.

I thought a reference to a relative in Canadian border crossings was wrong because it was from the St. Alban’s, Vermont district. The person I was looking for landed in Vancouver. Turns out the St. Alban’s district extended from Vermont all that way.

You May Have to Let It Go

Consider how much time you have spent trying to locate that one record. It might be time to work on something else. I have a relative for whom their life from 1847-1855 is documented in several records, marriage, land purchase, declaration of intent, 1855 state census, probate, and guardianship for children. Yet, I cannot find him in the 1850 census.

In this case, it might not be worth it to spend days searching for him in the 1850 census. Just a thought.

If the Sources Don’t Match

If the sources don’t match, don’t assume that the information they provide is incorrect. If you have two different dates of birth, is it possible there were actually two different people? There are many reasons records can give differing information, but keep yourself open to the possibility that records you think are for the same person are actually for two different people.

Don’t force everything to match. There may be two individuals hanging out in the same location at about the same time who are about the same age.

This is a topic we occasionally visit in Casefile Clues in more depth than we can here in a tip.

Are Three Sources Enough?

There is an old adage in genealogical research that “three sources are proof.” Not so. Remember that three “sources” of the same information may actually come from the same source–think about who likely provided information for the death certificate, the obituary, and the tombstone. They probably were the same person.

Try (where possible) to get information from sources that likely had different informants. While that’s not always possible, three sources agreeing is not magic.

Reading the Name Again

Years ago a distant relative interpreted the name of a child of an ancestor as “Pine.” Decades later another relative viewed the original record and determined that the old script did not read “Pine,” it actually read “Jane.”

Needless to say, there are still databases today that insist the child was named Pine. Sometimes it pays to go back and doublecheck–even someone who you think knows what they are doing.

Naturalization Through the Father

Generally speaking, in the United States before 1934, when a father naturalized his minor children automatically became citizens as well. Children who were over 21 did not become citizens through their father’s naturalization and would typically have to naturalize on their own.

This might explain why some individuals have no naturalization records and yet appear as “naturalized” on census and other records.

This is a topic we occasionally visit in Casefile Clues in more depth than we can here in a tip.

Image Copy, Transcription, Extract?

When you are obtaining a “copy” of a document or record, are you getting an “image copy” which usually means a digital copy or a photocopy, a transcription which usually means someone handcopied or typed up the whole document, or an extract which copies relevant parts of the document?

The three obviously are not the same and if you have an extract or a transcription and things are not clear you might want to obtain an image copy if at all possible.

This is a topic we occasionally visit in Casefile Clues in more depth than we can here in a tip.