What Location Did They Use?

Locations can cause all sorts of research difficulty, especially when an indexer or database creator uses a location that’s not quite the “correct” one or at least not the one the locals know.

Several of my ancestors attended a Lutheran church a mile from where my grandparents lived in Hancock County, Illinois. It was near the town of Basco and locals referred to it as the “Basco church” to distinguish it from the Lutheran church in the county seat of Carthage a few miles away.

When Ancestry.com included the records of this church in their “U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940,” they used Carthage as the location, not Basco. I never thought of the church as being in Carthage–largely because it is not.

When looking for any place rural, consider that an indexer or database creator may have used a different larger town as the location.


Refused the Census Man?

If your ancestor refused to answer the door for the census taker, neighbors may have answered questions for him. Their knowledge may have been sketchy. If your ancestor was in a boarding house, the landlady may have answered questions for him. And it’s possible that your relative was missed by the census taker entirely. It’s unusual to be missed if a person was “stable” and not moving frequently. Movers and people avoiding the law tended to sometimes avoid the census taker.

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An Overview of the Cemetery

West Point Cemetery, West Point, Hancock County, Illinois, taken 28 May 2017 by Michael John Neill

Take a picture of the entire cemetery, getting panoramic views that show more than just the stone. In addition to helping you remember which stones were near each other, it will give you perspective on the area’s geography.

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Did They Just Get Mixed Up?

Sometimes people just get mixed up.

An earlier tip mentioned that Astoria, Ohio, might not refer to a village–it could be a township, “spot in the road” or other place in Ohio. It could be an incorrect spelling.

It could also be that the informant, who never lived in Illinois or Ohio, was mixed up. The deceased was born in Fulton County, Illinois–which has town named Astoria in it. The informant was a child of the deceased and may have been mixing up where their mother and grandmother was born.

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Pick A Name

When transcribing documents, it is best to transcribe names in the document as they are written. Do not correct them in the transcription. However to reduce confusion it is best to pick one way to spell a relative’s name when writing about them. The last name of my Neill ancestors gets spelled as Neill, Neal, Neil, Neall, O’Neill, etc. When writing about them, I use “Neill.” When transcribing documents I use the spelling in the document.

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

That Seemingly Random Number on Grandma’s Death Certificate

Death certificates from the 20th century often have numbers associated with the cause of death. Added to the certificates for statistical purposes, these codes can make it easier to read the causes of death on some certificates when the handwriting presents a challenge. And…some of us just wonder what those numbers are doing on the certificate.

For more on these death certificate codes, visit our “Search Tip of the Day” page or visit the list of codes directly

Don’t Overlook Local Libraries

The small-town library where your family used to live may have resources larger libraries in the area do not have or are not aware of. The local librarian may be able to put you in contact with others who have extensive research experience with families in that area. In one of my families, the local library had digitized that town’s newspapers and put them online at no charge.

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

Is There a Story Behind Astoria?

On the surface the place of birth looks incorrect for the mother on this death certificate. Astoria, Ohio, is relatively near to Cincinnati–a significant distance from Coshocton County where the Rampley family lived.

Elizabeth (Rampley) Pierce was born around 1820 and this death certificate for her daughter Lida provides secondary information on Elizabeth’s birth.

That does not mean it is incorrect. The reference could be to a place named Astoria that is no longer named Astoria, a township or other political unit other than a “town” that is named Astoria, a place name that sounded like “Astoria” to the informant or the person completing the certificate.

I should not just ignore the reference because a quick initial search suggests it is wrong. That may not be the case.