Sometimes we have to conjecture about a relative in order to move our research forward or at least get ideas of what other records could help us. Be careful with whom you share that conjecture as sometimes speculation suddenly becomes a “fact” for which you become the source. If you include speculation in your research notes, clearly  label that speculation as speculation. Otherwise you may inadvertently convert your own speculation to fact.
Newspapers can also contain pictures of your relative–if you are lucky. This picture of Heye Albers was in an 1898 issue of The Rocky Mountain News. Fortunately it was an ink sketch which comes across better than photographs which were more common somewhat later. Fortunately his name was in the text of the article as at the time this picture was located the OCR did not “read” the name under his portrait.   Date: Sunday, June 26, 1898 Paper: Denver Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO)  
Is it possible that relative you can’t find “returned home” in their old age? A relative of mine left Illinois in the 1870s with his family in his thirties, living in Colorado and New Mexico. Sometime after the 1910 census, he returned to Illinois where he had some relatives (mostly cousins) and eventually died. Why he returned I don’t know, but his children were scattered throughout New Mexico and the western United States.
At the risk of oversimplifying, a “life estate” in property (generally given to a widow in her husband’s will, but there are other situations where this happens as well) is the right to use the property and receive income from the property during the person’s lifetime. They do not have the right to bequeath the property to someone or to sell it. Oftentimes a widow is given a “life estate” in a piece of property from her husband and in so doing, he specifies to whom it is to pass after her death.
Don’t neglect land records if your city-dwelling ancestor was a property owner. Deeds to settle up an estate or transactions completed after your ancestor moved to a new location can be particularly helpful, but any deed can contain “new to you” information. Deeds for my children’s early 19th century Boston ancestors contained the occupation of the grantor and grantee.
When first communicating with a newly discovered cousin, try not to overwhelm them with information, particularly all the details of family scandals. For someone whose interest in family history is just developing, too much information may intimidate them and too many scandalous details may push some people away. I’m not suggesting keeping secrets, just take it slowly. And you may be surprised–sometimes those new cousins already know all the family skeletons.
If your ancestor was a landowning farmer and migrated from Point A to Point B, see from whom he purchased that first piece of property when he arrived in Point B. It might have been a relative or former associate, neighbor, etc. The owner of that property in Point B might have been looking to sell it and heard that his relative or former neighbor was thinking of moving. Or he might have thought someone from “back home” would be willing to pay a higher price than the property was worth <grin>.
It is important somewhere to keep track of your research logic as you progress. Otherwise you might not remember “why” you are researching a certain person. Several years ago I focused on a certain Benjamin Butler in an 1850 census enumeration as being “mine.” Using that enumeration as the starting point, I searched other records and made progress. I located a fair amount of information. One problem–I didn’t track WHY I thought this 1850 census entry was for the correct person. What I found later all tied to the 1850 guy, but not to the one who was really “mine.” It took me hours to reconstruct my reason and that was time wasted. Fifteen minutes to write up my reason to begin with would have saved me time […]
Most of us use chronologies in our ancestral research–consider making a resume for your ancestor. List what years he worked what jobs. Census and city directories are great ways to start getting this information, but death certificates, obituaries, estate inventories, etc. all may give occupational clues. Don’t pad your ancestral resume like you might your own. Stick to documentable facts (grin!).
When analyzing a record or set of materials that does not make sense, get away from what you “want to prove” and try to think “what do these documents really say?” You may find that they do not say what you think they do. And not every record says what we want or expect it to say. Sometimes our preconceived notions are what is getting in the way.
Was it easy for your ancestor to simply “pick up and move?” While it is possible for anyone who really wants to move to do so, some occupations and lifestyles make it more difficult? How portable was your ancestor’s occupation? Some could easily transfer themselves to the unsettled frontier and some could not.
Sometimes researchers avoid getting a record because “I already know what it will say so there’s no need to bother with it.” And there are times where a record confirms what you already had or doesn’t tell you anything new. But there are also those times when the record contains unexpected information. You never know what a record says until you see the record. And it’s always possible that what you “think you know” is not correct in the first place. Genealogy Tip of the Day is sponsored by GenealogyBank.  They are currently offering Tip of the Day readers a subscription (annual) that works out to less than $5 a month!
Try and determine when your relative learned that story they are telling you. Would they have been a small child when they heard it? Memories that come from when the person was a child can be impacted by their immaturity and inexperience with life. Sometimes children draw interesting conclusions about family events only to pass them on as facts years later.
Three slightly different dates of birth for an ancestor is not the end of the world as long as the dates are consistent. One of my relatives born in the early 19th century has three different dates of birth from three different records. The dates are only two years apart. The place of her birth is consistent as are other details about her life. While I would like to know which record is “right,” it’s not the end of the world since the other details in her life (her name, her place of birth, her parents’ names, her husband’s name, and her children’s names) are all consistent. If there were three women born in her village with the exact same name within two years, then I would have […]
Always be on the lookout for references to more than one person in the same record. This was a coincidence, but one never knows–and sometimes indexes will not always indicate when a name appears more than once on the same page. This 1968 issue of my “hometown paper” had advertisements involving both my grandfathers in the same column. I searched for one and found them both. It never hurts to keep your eyes open.
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