Reunion Notices Contain More than Blood Relatives

Rampley Family Gathering, Warsaw, Illinois, 2 Sept 1932.

That reunion listing in the newspaper may contain more than blood relatives.

This 1932 reunion was for descendants of James and Elizabeth (Chaney) Rampley who died in Hancock County, Illinois, in the 1880s. Most of the individuals listed are descendants of that couple or are spouses of descendants. There are a few non-Rampleys in the mix, including a girlfriend of a descendant, the sister of James and Elizabeth’s daughter-in-law (who was the aunt of over half the attendees), another girlfriend of a descendant who is listed as “Mrs.” when she should be “Miss,” and a handful of people I can’t quite figure out, but who are not descendants or their spouses.

Reunions might not contain only “blood” relatives.

Don’t assume everyone in the listing is related to the main family. The connection may be a little less formal than that.

Those US Census Questions About Immigration

Years of immigration as given in early 20th century United States census records can be incorrect. The immigrant may have misunderstood or misheard the question and thought it meant when did you arrive in this state instead of the United States. The immigrant may have immigrated as a child and not really remembered when he immigrated. Or another member of the household may have answered the questions and have been unfamiliar with the immigration of the person in question

Names are Clues–Not Proof by Themselves

German immigrant Herman Eberhard Harms’ tombstone in Franklin County, Nebraska, indicated he was born in August of 1835. His parents names were unknown, but he was known to have born in Ostfriesland, Germany, where his wife was also from. Herman and his wife had several children, including one named Wubke Catherine–not the most common name and not one that was used in his wife’s family.

There is a birth for an Hermann Eberhard Harms in the church records of Eggelingen, Ostfriesland, Germany, in 1835–with a mother named Wubcke Catharina.

That’s not concrete proof it’s him, but it certainly suggests a connection. If it is the “reason” you think it is him, then that needs to be put in your notes on Hermann along with other reasons why you think it is him (like the fact that the date is consistent with his known age, tombstone date of birth, etc.).

Having the same first or middle names is suggestive of a relationship, sometimes highly suggestive. But look for additional records or clues to solidify that connection.

Births from Eggelingen, Ostfriesland, Germany (Evangelical church records), 1835; digital image from, 18 April 2017. Thanks to my Ufkes cousin Terri K. for locating this record and sending me a link.

This image appears in  “Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1519-1969” at

Get Out of Your Head

I was chatting on Facebook with a fellow genealogist about one of our common families. Our discussion got me to thinking about a relative I’ve not researched in a while and I decided to start searching passenger lists for this person using what I could remember about the deceased ancestor off the top of my head.


Big mistake.

Changing gears and working on a person or a family you have not researched in a while is a great way to make headway–a fresh start works wonders. But go back and review the information that has been located already. Don’t research based on details you remember “off the top of your head.”

Chances are there are details that are remembered incorrectly and searching based on those details can waste time and increase frustration.

Are You Laymanizing Legal Terms?

When used in legal documents, certain words have specific legal meanings that are frequently very specific. These words may also be used in common conversation to have slightly different or less narrowly defined meanings. A legal dictionary or contemporary state statute should help to clarify the definition.

A legal infant is typically someone under the age of majority. That’s not what is meant when your relative says their granddaughter is still an infant.

Genealogy Tip of the Day is proudly sponsored by GenealogyBank. Try their “GenealogyBank Search” and see what discoveries you make.

Get Thee to the Right Century

The bulk of my work in Swedish records has been in the early to mid-19th century. During this time period in the area where the families I worked on lived, women were listed with their maiden names whether they were married or not. My attempts to find a certain relative were stymied until I realized that she had lived until the early 20th century and was listed with her married name and not her maiden name. 

Times change. Common practices change. Make certain you are using the approach best suited for the time period and location in which you are working. What worked in one century may not work in another.


Lessons from a Newly Discovered Abraham Lincoln Letter

We’ve included part of a recently discovered letter signed by Abraham Lincoln as fodder for today’s tip which was discovered while searching unindexed records at the National Archives. The discovery reminds us:

  • Not all records have been digitized.
  • Many records are unindexed.
  • You never know what’s waiting to be discovered.

Thanks to Jonathan Deiss of for making the discovery and letting us share it with readers.

Genealogy Tip of the Day is proudly sponsored by GenealogyBank. Try their “GenealogyBank Search” and see what discoveries you make.

Sometimes Heirs Die Along the Way

Make certain to review all estate accountings showing how inheritances from an estate were disbursed. Do not only look at one list.  Intermediate or final accountings may indicate that there were heirs who originally survived the deceased died before the estate could be settled. Their heirs would then be listed in more recent lists of disbursements.

This can be a good way to estimate dates of deaths and learn more names of heirs, particularly for estates that took a while to settle.