Variant Spellings Provide Pronunciation Clues

In this census enumeration John DeMoss is listed as “John Daymdaymossoss.” Chances are this spelling variant is making a comment about how the name was said. Are you looking for pronunciation clues in spelling “errors?”

It’s Only a Clue, What Do I Do?

Even if you use an online tree for a “clue” and never intend on publishitree-ggmang that fact unless you can find separate documentation, you should still cite that clue–at least so that you personally know from where the clue was obtained.

It’s hard to know how much time should be devoted to following up on a clue if one does not know from where the clue was obtained.

Clues from thin air are difficult to use.

Find What You Can–Not What You Want

Your genealogical goals should be to discover as much as you can about your ancestor using all records at your disposal (not just those that agree with you) and trying to represent those records and what they say as accurately as possible.

And sometimes that might not be what we actually want to find out.


Don’t Get Bored With the Boarders

Never assume that those “boarders” in a census entry are merely strangers taken in for extra income. Those boarders could be relatives as well. Sometimes the census focuses on the “financial” relationship and not the biological one. Always do a little snooping on those boarders living with your ancestor.

He Didn’t Know When He Was Born

Your ancestor may have not known exactly when he was born. I recently read through a Civil War pension application where the veteran was not certain of his year of birth. He made that same statement repeatedly throughout his pension paperwork. He knew that he was born in the very late 1830s, but that was ever as specific as he could get.

It is possible that your relative really did not know his precise date of birth, especially if he was born on the frontier and family effects were somehow lost or destroyed at some point in time.

Are You Saving the Little Things?

Genealogists spend a great deal of time documenting the long-since deceased that we sometimes forget those who are living. Are you collecting “modern” information that will help to provide future generations with a picture of those who lived in the past.

This brief conversation was from September of 2013 and ended with a comment that is so typical of my mother that I could almost hear her say it when I read it. Make certain you aren’t just documenting the “ancient past.” The recent past can be just as interesting even if your conversations are not animals that cannot behave.


Do You Mention Cropping? recently released an update of their US yearbook collection. To have a smaller image that I could more easily use, I cropped the portion of the page that included my mother–removing the other pictures and “sliding” Mom’s picture closer to the names. No wording was changed and nothing about Mom’s picture was changed.  My “source citation” for the image includes the fact that the image has been cropped from the original. Do you indicate that you have made alterations to an image? connie-ufkes1963

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The Dead in Directories

Don’t assume that dead people can’t be listed in city directories. Widowed women are often listed in directories along with their deceased husband’s name. And don’t forget that widows were not always widows either–sometimes they were actually divorced. That’s not the case with Julia VanHoorebeke–she was an actual widow. dead-in-directories

Knowing the Procedures

While it’s always advised to research extended family, the reality is that there simply is only so much time one can devote to certain problems. That said, why would one look at the US passport of an ancestral sister-in-law in the 1920s?

Because during that time period some women still derived their citizenship through their husband and knowing something about the passports issued during that time as well, I know that there’s a good chance the ancestral sister-in-law’s passport mentioned her husband.

And he’s the brother of the ancestor.

And that may help me on my actual problem.

Sometimes records on the in-laws are more likely to be of immediate assistance than others. And while an exhaustive search is always good…we all have limitations.