Incorrect spellings, incorrect transcriptions, and difficult-to-read handwriting create index entries for names that can be difficult to find. One of the more difficult variants to find is one where the first letter has been read incorrectly as an entirely different letter that does not even sound like the original letter. A family with the last name of Demarah in the 1900 census in upstate New York State is indexed as “Lemarah.” The “D” does look like an “L.” It originally took me forever to find it in the index.  
The household in Ausable, Clinton County, New York, is atypical to say the least. It is headed by Sarah Demarah, aged sixteen and living with her three younger sisters, Margaret (aged 11), Essie (actually Elsie, aged 8) and Mary (aged 6). No occupation is listed for Sarah, but her three sisters are all listed as attending school. A few households away is their brother, Levi. He’s apparently a servant working in the household in which he is living (based upon his occupation): The “Demarah” children are all children of Louis DeMar(e), a Clinton County native who was born there in the 1850s and originally went by the last name of Desmarais. By 1900, his wife Mary (Drollette) DeMare was deceased. Louis would not die until 1935 in Clinton […]
Always label dates of events precisely in your genealogical database.Call them what they are.  If the date is a birth date, then list it as a birth date. If the date is a baptismal date, then list is as a baptismal date–don’t use it as a birth date. The date of a marriage license is the date of the license, not the date of the marriage. The date of a marriage bond is the date of the bond, not the date of the marriage. The issuances of licenses and bonds does not mean the marriage necessarily happened. Most of the time it did, but there are always exceptions. Being careful can reduce confusion later on. Unlike one distant relative of mine who, in families that practiced infant baptism, […]
Never search a “new to you” database without first determining what it covers. Some databases are “works in progress.” Others may be complete, but the original records from which they were compiled may have gaps. Blindly searching without knowing what you are searching can create brick walls where none exist. I was tempted to search the 1865 New York State Census at FamilySearch (New York State Census, 1865) until I realized that the census was not extant for the Clinton County–which was the county I need. The original records are missing. FamilySearch  has digitized what is available in this case. Always look first to see what the database includes.
Often when two men born about the same time are living in the same area, the temptation is to hypothesize that they are cousins. That’s not the only possible scenario. They could be uncle and nephew or related in a different way. If the last name is common, always be open to the possibility that they are not related. However, if they are appearing on each other’s documents (as witnesses, near neighbors, etc.), then there’s probably a connection. Don’t just assume that they are cousins.
  Newspaper Research–13 March 2017–11 am central time. This hour-long session will focus on finding newspapers (including online [free and fee-based], microfilm, and paper copies), search techniques for digital and microfilm copies, what to search for, interpretive pitfalls, creating citations, published abstracts, and more. Handout included Register here. Library of Virginia Land Patents–13 March 2017-2 pm central time This hour-long presentation will provide an overview of what land patents are on the Library of Virginia Website; how to search, download, and interact with the images; using the images in further research; transcription issues; and more as time allows. Handout included. Register here. “Brick Wall Busters” 2017–14 March 2017–8 pm central time This hour-long presentation (aimed at advanced beginner and intermediate researchers) will focus on research approaches to get […]
When searching for birth announcements in a newspaper, remember that  writers who are trying to be “clever” can end up creating an announcement that might not contain helpful search terms. This one from Clinton County, New York, mentions the name of the father, but does not mention any birth-related words and refers to the daughter as “a boarder–a beautiful girl.” Genealogy Tip of the Day is proudly sponsored by GenealogyBank. Try their “GenealogyBank Search” and see what discoveries you make.
Some sites do not allow wildcard searches or searches based upon the sounds in the name. Stephens and Stevens sound alike and can easily refer to the same person. A wildcard search for Ste*ens will locate them both and a Soundex search for Stephens will locate Stevens (and vice versa). But some sites (particularly those that perform OCR-based searches of digitized newspapers) may not allow the wildcard and may not allow the Soundex. Know your options. The site won’t always do all your work for you. This site on Rootsweb will determine the Soundex code for your name of interest. It will also give you a partial list of names that are Soundex equivalents to the name that was searched.
There are no “boring” ancestors. Everyone has a story to tell and one person’s “boring” is someone else’s “not-so-boring.” For those who leave behind fewer records and stories that on the surface seem more mundane, have you learned about: the times in which they lived? what likely employment they had? the tools or their job or household (estate inventories are great for this)? what life was like for someone in their situation? what historical events actually impacted their life? etc.? The answers to those questions may not reveal a great Greek tragedy, but the result can be the development of more insight into your ancestor’s life.  It may also increase the chance that you actually learn more specific details about your ancestor’s existence. Not every relative lived a […]
Periodically search GoogleBooks for all your ancestors. If my British convict ancestor from 1764 can appear in a book discussing the penal system in 18th century England, then there’s a chance that others will as well as the site includes digital images of a variety of items, including county histories, regional directories, occupational directories, occupational publications, religious periodicals, etc. GoogleBooks does periodically update so consider adding it to your list of materials to take an occasional look at. Genealogy Tip of the Day is proudly sponsored by GenealogyBank. Try their “GenealogyBank Search” and see what discoveries you make. 
There are several free websites that periodically update their available items. Make a list of these sites and what content you are looking for so that you can periodically check for updates. For me those sites include the Virginia Memory Collection‘s Chancery Court Records (Amherst County, where are you?) and the newspapers at the American Memory Collection at the Library of Congress. Consider including locations and people of interest so you don’t overlook anyone when the content does come online. Many of the free sites don’t put out press releases–they just update when they update. Genealogy Tip of the Day is proudly sponsored by GenealogyBank. Try their “GenealogyBank Search” and see what discoveries you make. 
There is still time to join me on my annual trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, this coming May. More details are in our blog post. Join us for a fun week of research and learning.
Information in some online databases can change. The “name” of a memorial on FindaGrave can be one thing today and another tomorrow if a correction is made. The “original” name for the memorial may never appear anywhere after it has been changed. A blog post may change between the time it is downloaded to use as a reference and the time it is actually sourced in a piece of writing. Original records should not change, but enhanced or missing images may be uploaded after they were originally accessed.
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