Are You Getting Past Your Biases?

My ancestors are pretty much from rural locations. When they moved, they settled where they had kin or kin arrived a few years after they did. My English speaking ancestors in the States moved across the country with some of the relatives and my 19th century European immigrants to rural America did the same thing–settling where they knew people or where they later brought relatives from “home.”

My children have ancestors in Chicago, Philadelphia, and other large towns.For some reason, I decided that urban people didn’t “move with neighbors” like my rural family did. I was wrong. The more I researched the families in urban areas, I learned that they too stuck with family or had relatives nearby.

The point this time isn’t about “chain migration,” (although that is a factor to always be considered). The point with today’s tip is never to assume people from a different place and way of life are that different and to try and eliminate as many of your own misconceptions from your research methods as possible.

Put It Aside

If there is a family or person you are “stuck” on, consider putting them aside for a day or a week and working on an entirely different person or family. Perhaps getting away from the “rut,” or at least into a different “rut,” will cause you to come back at that person or family with fresh eyes.

Is there someone you’ve not worked on in ages that would be person to focus on while you’re taking time off from that “stuck” person?

Is Genealogy Their Job?

Remember that when dealing with some record agencies, government offices, churches and private businesses, helping you with your genealogy might not really be their job. County record offices maintain records,  but if you don’t know what you are looking for it makes it difficult for them to help you. Some offices may maintain old records, but their “real job” focuses on current day-to-day activities. Churches and private business maintain their records “privately,” and really don’t have to share information with you, even if great-grandma was a lifetime member or great-grandpa spend a “huge” amount there on his funeral.

Just a few thoughts. It doesn’t mean that clerks have to be rude or impolite though!

Are You Certain About the Order of the Children?

If you have a listing of the children of an ancestor, how certain are you that they are actually listed in order of birth? The ordering may have been mere speculation on someone’s part years ago, particularly if they were born in an era before birth records.

If any conclusions are based upon a birth order and there’s no evidence for that birth order, those conclusions may need to be revisited.

Take A Cheat Sheet

Before going to the library, courthouse, or other research facility, considering creating a short “cheat sheet” of key terms you will use while there that confuse you. It may not be practical to constantly “google on the go,” and sometimes time can be saved by making a quick referral to doublecheck the meaning of a word or term. Grantor and grantee are two terms that people often get confused–and that confusion can easily cause the researcher to waste valuable time.

Squeezing in Those Clues

This 1790 era deed from Harford County, Maryland, contains a clue in the “fine print” at the very top of the record copy of the deed. The item, underlined here in red indicates that the original was delivered to Wm. Rampley per order. The deed was from an Elisha Garrett to a William Gibson. The “delivery” notice is a clue that needs to be investigated. Don’t ignore those items at the very top, bottom, or side of a transcription.

Guardians Are Usually of the Estate

If a guardian was appointed for your minor ancestor, the guardian usually was just to oversee the child’s inheritance or estate. The minor’s mother may very well have been alive and would probably have had physical custody of the child. Don’t immediately conclude that the guardian of a child’s estate was the person with whom the child lived. And do not assume because a child had a guardian appointed that their mother was deceased.

Codec for Webinars and Expired Downloads

Some who have ordered webinars for download have had issues playing them. The “codec” that is needed can be downloaded here:
Let me know if that does not solve the problem by emailing me at 
Download links expire after 24 hours. If your link expired before you were able to download, forward me your receipt and I’ll resend. Thanks.

Write It Down

I had a really good tip for today, but I didn’t write it down and now it’s lost.

So that’s today’s tip–don’t rely on your memory. Write it down or record it when you think of it. Not later.

And make certain that what you write makes sense. Handwritten “chicken scratches” are confusing and jumbled thoughts are as well.