One thing that creating the various pedigree charts has reminded me of is that I think I know more than I actually do. The drafts of the charts have been created from memory and there is usually at least one factual error in each rough draft. It makes me wonder, “are there other times when I’m searching that I’m operating under premises that are not true? Do I have something in my head wrong that is making it more difficult for me to find someone?” Try creating one of the charts of your own based on memory. Then check it with your records. You may be surprised at the results.
We are excited to announce our April webinars—with several new topics, including: Using Creating those Pedigree Charts and Sourcing Digital Images Using Using American Using Land Patents and Tract Books Determining Your Own Migration Trail For details and registration information, visit our announcement page.
When encountering a family tradition, take each statement suggested by the tradition and put it in one of two categories: probably generated a record most likely didn’t generate a record “Grandma sold sandwiches to support herself after her first husband accidentally drowned in the 1850s. Then she married Grandpa Haase and they moved to the farm.” Probably generated a record: The drowning may be mentioned in a local paper There may be estate or probate records related to the first husband’s death There may be a death record of the drowning–although in some US states this is too early for a death record There should be a marriage record to Grandpa Haase The place to start looking for these records is where Grandma was believed to have been living in […]
I have blanks in the pedigree of my great-grandfather, George Adolph Trautvetter born in 1869 near Tioga, Hancock County, Illinois. I’ve never really thought much about his middle name. His first name was passed around the generations for generations. A review of his siblings indicated that his sister, commonly known as “Pheenie,” was actually named Adolphena. That’s the feminine form of Adolph. Is there a family connection to someone named Adolph? The use of this name does not guarantee that George and his sister Adolphena will have an ancestor named Adolph or Aolphena. What it does mean is that if there is a potential relative named Adolphena or Adolph, that person has a slightly higher likelihood of being a relative. The name is suggestive of a connection. It […]
By popular demand, we’re bringing this course back…. (if you enrolled in a previous section and had later difficulties, email me to be put in this section of the course at no charge) With Michael John Neill (scroll down for specific schedule) Organizing information is an important part of genealogical research-perhaps more important than the actual research. This short course (only 3 sessions) is intended to provide the students with exposure to a variety of ways to organize information with an emphasis on problem-solving. The course will consist of four lectures (topics and schedule below), problem assignments, virtual follow-up discussions, group discussion board interaction, and student submission of work (optional). There is no assigned grade-you get from this what you put into it. Students will also be able to share their […]
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Being the “hired staff” of well-known individuals is one way to get listed in the paper without being named. Women could also be listed as Mrs. George Jones or simply Mrs. Jones. And men could also be referenced in a newspaper as simply “Mr. Jones.” First names may not have always been published.
Never assume that once you’ve figured out one relationship between two individuals that there could not be another. A man named Rolf married the sister of my ancestor and that was the first relationship I learned about. Later I discovered that years before he married the ancestor’s sister, he had been married to the ancestor’s aunt. Sometimes there is more than one connection.
Viewing the original record whenever possible is always a good idea. A 1922 baptismal record includes the parents’ marriage date and information on the father that was not included in the transcription of the record obtained when research began. Sometimes there is more information written in the “comments” than there is in the actual record.
A look at my chart of ancestral places of birth makes it appear that my parents and grandparents lived in Iowa, at least for a short time. That’s not true. Charts can sometimes be misleading. The reason my parents were born in Iowa is because that’s where the nearest hospital was located when they were born. No one ever lived in Iowa. But that is where they were born and that is where their birth certificates are recorded. When using or creating any chart, be aware that it can have limitations.
When analyzing a record or source, do you thoughtfully consider how much information in that source comes from someone’s memory and was probably included in the record without question? The record may not give the name of the informant, but it’s probable that quite a bit of the detail it provides were simply obtained from what someone remembered.
Legal documents frequently contain the abbreviation “ss” after the court location. There is a reason the abbreviation is used in that part of the document. The letters are said to be a contraction for scilicet which is frequently translated as “in particular” or “to wit” and is usually used to state the venue of the court. 
You may be better able to answer your genealogical questions and improve your research skills by getting outside of your “genealogical comfort zone.” This can be done by: Using a source you have never used before–or have refused to use. Learning about a new source. Helping someone research a family in an area different from yours. Researching one of your ancestral neighbors–just to work on a different family and perhaps gain insight into your own family. It can be easy to get stuck in a rut if we only use the same sources and our family is pretty homogeneous. Sometimes it helps to broaden our perspective.  
Typing names in search boxes willy-nilly works if you find people relatively quickly. When you don’t, it’s time to stop. Think about what you know about the person, how his name could be spelled, how he could have answered the questions, etc. Make a chart of all the ways that you could search for that person in whatever database it is. Don’t rely on your memory. You will forget. The chart will keep you organized and if you can’t find the person, it will make it easier to trouble shoot. —————————– For more about organizing your online research, check out my webinar on this very topic.
Grantor and grantee indexes to land records typically only include the name of the first grantor in and the first grantee. Deeds involving inheritances, estate disputes, and partnerships may list multiple grantors or grantees. Searching for all members of your ancestor’s extended family (relatives by blood, relatives by marriage, etc.) may locate references not found if you only look for that “one person of interest.” And if your ancestors were farmers and you’ve never looked for a deed…you could be missing out.
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