Don’t Ignore Siblings Without Descendants

Have you fully researched those siblings of your ancestors without descendants? Their pension applications, marriage records, census materials could be just as helpful on your direct ancestors in answering questions about your family’s origins. And, if they had an estate requiring probate, those records could help document additional family relationships. Sometimes there’s a big story in the aunt or uncle who never has children.

When You Find That Relative in 1940

After you have transcribed and analyzed the information, take the names of neighbors from the census and ask family members if they remember people with those names. Names of neighbors can often jog people’s memories and cause them to remember stories you never thought to ask. That’s one thing I wish I had done with my grandfather’s 1930 census entry for the rural township in Illinois where he grew up. I’m certain asking about those names from the nearby census entries would have generated a lot of memories. 

When the 1940 census comes out and you finally find your people, don’t just file the information away. Use it.  

Read It Carefully–Two or More Times

When reading a 1790s era deed, a quick reading seemed to indicate that the seller was selling all of a piece of property he had acquired a few years earlier. The acreages were inconsistent with the whole property being sold. A more detailed reading indicated that the part being sold was actually a part of the original. What was originally confusing was just me being not careful.

With Names Spelling’s Not Crucial

It never hurts to be reminded of the importance of spelling: ignoring it for names (within reason). The last name of a person can easily be spelled more than one way, even within the same document. The key for the researcher to remember is that the different spellings should indicate the same name. Bigger, Bieger, Berger, Picker, Pickert, Bickert, Burger, etc. could all easily be the same person. However, a last name of Haase would be considerably different. In modern times we want our names spelled the right way consistently for a variety of reasons. Our ancestors didn’t live in modern times.

Can’t Find the “Mc” Entries?

In some handwritten indexes to local county records, the entries for those names beginning with “Mc” or “Mac” may be filed in a separate section after all the “M” entries. So if it looks like the whole county didn’t have one Mc or Mac family, look at the “end” of the “M” names to see if they are there. Sometimes they get put at the front too. It can vary but just remember that in some indexes those names may have their own separate section.

As of This Date

Remember that information on a census is to be given as of “the census date.” Sometimes censuses were not taken until days, weeks, or occasionally a month later. Respondents might have been confused when giving information as of a certain date that had happened in the past. As a result, children might be listed who were born “after the census date.”

Did They Know Each Other Back Home

Immigrant ancestors who married in their new country might very well have known each other back in their homeland. If you have located one of them in the “old country” and cannot find the other, consider looking for them in the same area.

It was not uncommon for men to immigrate, get settled and write back that they were looking for a bride.