Those Handwritten Ledger Book Copies

Those handwritten copies of the deeds in big ledger books at the records office are not original copies. Chances are your ancestor got back his original. The copy at the courthouse is a derivative copy–meaning it was a copy made from the original. Courthouse copies are usually considered the legal equivalent of the original and are often called recorded copies, but they are not the original. Just something to keep in mind.

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For our new fans and as a reminder to ones who have been around a little bit longer, I have the following blogs–all are free. Posting frequency varies


Not Before 1820

The US federal government did not begin keeping passenger lists of arrivals until 1820. Any surviving lists in the United States were either kept by state or other government agencies or have been created using other sorts of records.  Other records may be located, but there are no comprehensive lists of immigrants in the United States before 1820.

Read the Whole Page

When you find someone on a census or any other digital image of a record, make certain you read the entire thing—not just what shows up in the “viewer” on your web browser. Have you scrolled through the entire image? Is the next image part of the record as well.

Find Their Shoes and Put Them On

If you have “lost” your ancestor at a certain point in time, put yourself in their shoes and see if it generates any ideas or leads. Think about:

  • their age when you’ve “lost” them.
  • what “stage” were they at in their life-newly married, lots of children, “empty nester,” etc.?
  • what economic advantages did they have?
  • what economic limitations did they have?
  • who were they responsible for?
  • how “easy” was it to just “pick up and move?”
  • could “family problems” have impacted their decisions?
  • did they move or associate with members of their extended family–either relatives by blood or marriage?
And so on. No one operates in a vacuum. 

Was Great-Grandpa Married More Than Once?

If great-grandpa’s first marriage was in his late twenties or early thirties or even later, keep yourself open to the possibility that he was married more than once.

People did wait to get married for the first time and someone might have married the first time in their forties.

But keep in mind that what you think was the “one and only marriage” might not be–especially if information starts coming to light indicating that there might have been a marriage before the “first” one.

Did They Really Divorce?

Your ancestor who supposedly “divorced” may never have bothered to go through the legal process. It was not as difficult as one might think for a couple to “separate” and eventually marry again. 

Civil War pensions contain numerous examples and it cannot only be war veterans and their wives who were a part of this occasional practice. 
Your ancestor may have separated and divorced. Or there may have been no divorce. 

Ever Go Back?

Recently I was reviewing some estate records I viewed several years ago at the Family History Library. A second look at the handwritten index indicated I had missed a reference to the estate. That second reference contained several names that may be crucial in my research. All because I went back and looked a second time. Is there something you can look at again on the off chance something was overlooked?

If you are curious about what I located, there’s a blog post about it on the Casefile Clues blog.