Some city directories have reverse directories that list residents by their address, not their names. This portion of the directory can be a great way to find names of neighbors, especially in off census years. This portion of a city directory is best used along with a contemporary map to assist in visualization.
There’s a potential gray area here. Information is considered to be primary is the informant reasonably had first hand knowledge of the information.  It is worth noting that all memory can be fallible.  I know my precise date of birth not because I remember the actual day. I remember my birthday because I’ve been told it numerous times and it’s on my birth certificate. I cannot provide primary information regarding my date of birth because I do not have personal memory of being born on that day. This does not mean the date is wrong–just that I cannot provide that primary information myself. Can I provide primary information on my approximate age? Sure. If I stop and think, I can remember being in the third grade during the US presidential […]
Genealogy Tip of the Day is proudly sponsored by GenealogyBank. They are currently offering a special for Tip of the Day fans, followers, etc.  GenealogyBank‘s collection focuses on newspapers, but there are additional materials in their collection as well. Their April offer equates to an annual rate of $4.67 a month–and a free “Getting Started” guide. We appreciate the support of GenealogyBank.
Have you sketched out the migration of your ancestor on a map? To help sift out two men with a similar name, I put all their pre-1850 census enumerations on a map of New York, marking the locations. Sometimes a picture helps. I was recently helping a friend with a genealogy problem and all our discussion appeared in a chat window in Facebook. I kept thinking to myself that I would have been less confused if I could have had the information in some sort of chart or chronology and another sheet with locations mapped out. Unorganized text can make it difficult to notice things.
Do you have data in your files that you obtained early in your research when perhaps you really weren’t aware of what you were doing? Sometimes that data gets “grandfathered” in our files and databases after we’ve refined our research approach.  I discovered such a date in my files that probably got grandfathered in from research nearly thirty years ago.
For years, I had been unable to track down what happened to a first cousin of my great-grandmother. This was a man born in the 1870s in Illinois. While I had not extensively researched his siblings, I had located their obituaries and places of burial. I wanted the same thing for the missing man–or at least to know where he died.. When I finally began researching the family more extensively in local records, the answer (such as it was) was in the probate file of the missing cousin’s brother. That brother had died without children and his probate provided details on when the missing brother was last seen and what searches were conducted. The missing brother had an ex-wife and children who had tried to find him. The missing […]
Before searching that “new” database, make certain you know: how complete the database is if it indexes just “main names” if it indexes every name how searches actually work Practice searching the database for names you know are there–this is always a good technique when first performing searches or if you can’t find a “Frequently Asked Page” or “More About” page that actually tells you something.
Court case files stored in a courthouse’s metal boxes may be in no particular order within a box and have likely been rummaged through repeatedly over the decades. There may be separate sets of boxes for different courts within the same office or records vault. Make certain you are looking in the right set of boxes for the records you need.   And always make certain you ask the courthouse staff what methods of “records reproduction” are permissible. I prefer to make digital images with a camera or phone, but not all facilities allow researchers to do that. Find out first. 
While it’s always fun to make a genealogical research trip to a courthouse and search through old records, remember that the most fragile genealogical source available is someone’s mind. If, as the saying goes “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise,” the courthouse will still be around in a week. Great aunt Myrtle might not. The human mind can be extremely fragile and is a repository that often can’t be replicated elsewhere. Don’t neglect it.
There is still a significant amount of genealogical material (particularly local records) that are not available online. These materials must either be accessed onsite or via microfilm. In discussing a problem with a colleague, I was told that the records most likely to help me with my problem were only available onsite or on microfilm. It was a good reminder for me as I was hoping to access “just the right database or website” and solve my problem. It is not possible to mouse click your way to every record, at least not yet. And that day may not come until many of us have ceased to exist among the living. 
There is a link to unsubscribe/subscribe on every page if you need to change your subscription to this list. If that does not work, please email me at
The purpose of a pension application is to get the applicant the pension. For that reason, certain details of the applicant’s condition, may occasionally be exaggerated. Relationship facts and dates are usually supported by other documentation, but the physical condition of the claimant may be written in a way to make the condition seem worse than it actually is. The veteran in this case didn’t have long to live, but did not actually die for nine years. He may have made a recovery or the letter writer may have made his claim sound more dire than it actually was.
Some place names can be difficult to read in old documents. Sometimes so difficult that using online databases to search for the place name is virtually impossible. If possible, find contemporary (or reasonably contemporary) maps of the area where the person might have lived at the time of the event. It may be easier to find the location on an actual map that trying to search an online atlas. And modern atlases and finding aids may be of little help in determining the name of a location from 1860. Can
Last names are not the only thing that can get written in a way on a record that makes the person difficult to find. First names can be abbreviated or shortened to just initials. If those initials are hard to read, the “first name” may be really off from what you think it is. Sometimes it pays to search only based on last name if practical. ————————— Don’t forget about our 50000 fan celebration–50% off any sized webinar download order.
Land records are not recorded in the order in which they were executed. They are recorded in the order in which they were brought to the courthouse for recording. Your ancestor may have waited a few years to record his deed. He may have forgotten and when the heirs went to settle up they discovered that Pa had never recorded his deed. They’d have to record it before they could record any deeds of sale or transfer after his death. If your landowning ancestor lived in a county from 1830-1852, don’t stop looking for land deeds in 1852. There could be records recorded much later. It was the purchaser who recorded the deed. If your relative sold his property to an unorganized purchaser, that deed may not have […]
Get the Genealogy Tip of the Day Book
Get the More Genealogy Tip of the Day Book