Attended College But Never Finished?

Do you only look for relatives in college yearbooks when you know they graduated? Is it possible they attended but were unable to graduate?  Finances or “real life” may have prevented your relative from graduating college, but they may still appear in college yearbooks as my aunt does in the 1934 yearbook for what is now known as Western Illinois University.

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Don’t Overlook the Weakest Link

I’ve been working on the ancestry of a Mary Dingman, born in Canada (probably Ontario) in the early 1810s. There are online trees taking her family back generations. The only problem is that there’s not really anything solid on her connection to her parents. That needs to be solved before I put all those earlier ancestors in my file.

Since information on Mary herself is coming up short (she died in the 1850s in Illinois), I could trace her purported parents and siblings (and maybe even purported grandparents and cousins) in hopes of something turning up on her, but I need to wait to put them in her actual tree until I have a more solid connection.

Mary in 1850 in Winnebago, County, Illinois—who are her parents?

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Our Goals at Genealogy Tip of the Day

Our goals here at Genealogy Tip of the Day  are simple for the most part. They are generally to get readers thinking about:

  • the research process
  • what they find
  • analyzing what they find
  • their assumptions about research and their ancestors
  • terminology and language used in records
  • the history, culture, and environment in which their ancestors lived

And we try to be short—that’s sometimes the difficult part. Tips are not meant to be verbose or lengthy discussions. The intent is to make people aware or to remind them of a topic, concept, term, etc. Longer discussions are posted on my Rootdig blog.

We also appreciate those who purchase a webinar, one of the recommended how-to books on my virtual shelf, or a GenealogyBank subscription through our affiliate link. Those things help support our endeavors here.

But we are thankful for all who participate in Genealogy Tip of the Day in any way, shape, or form and whether they make any purchases or not.

And thanks to all who have helped make our page what it is.


Transcription or Original?

Transcriptions are not necessarily unreliable, but one needs to be aware if one is using the original record or a transcription of it. These town records from Marlborough, New Hampshire are actually transcriptions of the original records. The “first page” of the book indicates that it is a copy and the handwriting is too consistent throughout the volume to have been done contemporaneously. Transcriptions can always contain errors–after all, transcriptionists are human.

It may not be possible to get the original and it’s not always necessary. But it’s always worth knowing what you are using.

Classified Ads May Address Your Person

Your ancestor’s name may not appear in the city directory or directories may not be available. Classified ads in the newspaper may tell you where the person lived or had a business establishment. They may also help you confirm addresses for people who moved around quite a bit–sometimes one step ahead of the rent collector.

DNA Won’t Solve Every Question

DNA testing will not solve all your genealogy problems. It is only one tool. It can confirm that a relationship exists between two people, but it needs to be used together with other genealogical sources to establish the precise nature of the relationship. DNA testing won’t tell many of the biographical details about your relative that will be in other records.

One can’t simply send their DNA to one of the sites and expect to have a completed pedigree chart returned to them. It’s more complicated than that.

I’ve finally taken the plunge and ordered a DNA test–which will be discussed in more detail on my Rootdig blog. I’m hoping to get some clues, but not a completed pedigree chart.

Problem-Solving–A Tip from the Past

There are several ways one can approach “problem-solving” and it’s been mentioned as a tip of the day before.  One way is not necessarily any more correct than another. The important thing is to think about your research as you do it. I’m a fan of the problem-solving process attributed to George Polya, which I’ve slightly modified.

There are essentially four steps in the problem-solving process:

  • Understand the problem–this involves learning the history of the area, learning the applicable laws of the time, all the records available (and their issues), knowing key terms in any documents already located, assumptions you have made, your ancestor’s background, etc. Understanding takes time.
  • Plan–pick a record to access or an approach to use to answer your question
  • Execute-search the record or apply the approach
  • Evaluate-did you answer your question?

That’s a broad generalization.  We discuss some of these items in slightly more detail in occasional tips and the Rootdig blog mentions them in more detail–sometimes a lot more detail.

My webinar on “Genealogical Problem-Solving” can be purchased for immediate download–handout and media file included.

Why Wasn’t the Son the Administrator?

I originally wondered why the oldest son was not the administrator of this 1823 estate. One reason was the son was only twenty when his father died and not old enough to legally administrate the estate. He would have needed to be twenty-one. 

County Histories Can Mention Non-Residents

County histories may mention people who never lived there. This Marlborough, NH history mentions a native of Ontario never set foot in New Hampshire. She married into a family who spent time in New Hampshire–but the family member she married left as a young man and never returned.  The clue to your puzzle may have been published several states away.


Not All Children May Be Listed

It seems obvious, but a will only lists those children to whom property is being given in the will. A testator (the person signing the will) may have had other children to whom property had already been given. These children may not be named in the will. Sometimes they are named if only to state that they have already received their inheritance and are not intentionally being left out.

Do not assume every child is named in the will.

Do not assume there have to be other children either.