Is there a First Name You Know Nothing Of?

Those “missing” relatives could be hiding under a first name of which you are not aware. I have two great-aunts (one by birth and one by marriage) had actual first names that they never used past their childhood. They used their middle names as their “legal” name. That middle name is on all their documents, their tombstone, etc.

Except in records before they were married–those all list them by their “real” first name.

Is someone hiding in records because they have another name of which you are not aware?

Is It Unique?

My ancestor’s 1883 death register entry indicated there was no undertaker. Looking at other entries on the same page, it was clear that others in the county did not have undertakers either. It’s impossible to notice if something is unusual if you don’t look at other records on the same page.

Always view a record in the context of other records. Look at entries before and after the one of interest to see if what you think is unique about your record is really unique after all.


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The Front and the Back, Please

Always look at the front and back of every document. This document from a military service file was folded into thirds and the “cover” contained a comment made by the clerk–that wasn’t really supposed to be there. That’s why it’s always advised to make certain you see both sides of a document. frontandback

Transcribe As It Is Written

trautvetter-transcribe-it-rightSometimes genealogists are tempted to “fix” documents when transcribing them. Don’t. Make comments about the accuracy of the document in your notes accompanying the transcription. Do not indicate the document says something that it does not.

Documents can be wrong.

But sometimes they are right when we think they are wrong and if we “correct” them, we won’t know what they originally said.

This draft card should be transcribed as a birth in Hancock, [State of] Tioga. My notation indicates that the reference is to Tioga, Hancock County, Illinois.


Guardianships May Give Dates of Birth…Maybe

Guardianship records in some cases may give a precise date of birth, usually stated as the day the child turned a certain age. Not all guardianships give such precise information, but many do at least give an age or an approximate age. These records can be helpful in location where there are not good vital records. guardianages

Don’t Make it a Maiden Name if You Are Not Certain

elkatammenThe 1895 will of Tamme Tammen in Pike County, Illinois, refers to his wife as “Elka B. Franklen Tammen.”

Franklen (actually most likely Franken given where the Tammens were from) could have been Elka’s maiden name, middle name, or married name with a previous husband.

I should include in my notes on Elka that she is referred to as “Elka B. Franklen Tammen” in her husband’s 1895 will. I should not enter that as her maiden name.

Using it for a clue to other relatives when searching is advised. But there’s not really good evidence in this will that it’s her maiden name. There are other possibilities.

Bible Records In the Pension?


United States military pensions may mention information contained in a family Bible as evidence in a pension claim. Often family register entries are used to document births or marriages. In some Revolutionary War pensions, the actual pages from the Bible may have been submitted. The illustration in this post is from 1915 and is typical of Union Civil War pensions where affidavits about the Bible’s content were used instead of having veterans submit the actual Bible pages.

This affidavit was analyzed in issue 3-50 of Casefile Clues.


It’s Just An Index Card–There’s More

butler-index-cardFamiliarity with records is crucial to genealogical research. One can’t just take what they’ve found online and leave it at that.

Researchers should always be asking if there is “more” to the record than what they have found or if the record they have found means that other separate records may have been created.

This is the General Index Card to compiled military service records for Leander Butler who served in Companies I and B of the 10th Kansas Infantry in the Civil War.

I’ve already got a copy of his pension (that’s a separate record), but his compiled military service record (which this card is just a part of an index to) may tell me more about his military career and may provide clues about his enlistment.

And since I’m stuck on what his family was doing in the 1850s and 1860s that information may be helpful.

Many records we use are actually indexes to other records. One should never stop at the index–even if you didn’t know it was just an index when you were searching it.