Am I Crossing A Border?

For the first few years of my research, I worked on my very rural families who were generally of low-German or US Southern origin. I became fairly adept at researching them.

Then I started work on my urban families, my New England families, and my families from the south of Germany. Rules that I thought were “always true,” weren’t. Naming patterns that I were familiar with didn’t apply any more. There were new records that I was able to utilize. There were problems that I did not encounter before.

Whenever your research crosses a border, be it

  • geographic
  • cultural
  • policital
  • chronological
  • religious
  • social

keep in mind that some of how you research may change. What works in Chicago in 1880 might not work in frontier Ohio in 1817 or in rural Illinois in 1870.

And it certainly won’t work that way in the north of England in 1650.

Read those Scribbled Notations

Read all notations on case files, reverse sides of documents, etc. Sometimes what is penciled on the bottom or reverse side of a document can be significant and may explain aspects of the record that are confusing.

And sometimes scribblings can simply be filing notes or doodles.

This notation on this case file packet likely indicated that on 1 June 1900 the case was dismissed. That may explain why no judgement was located in the record.

Any Wrecord Can Be Rong

Any type of record can contain errors. This 1890-era court case refers to the plaintiff as Christopher Troutfetter. Details in the file confirm that the man referenced was actually a Christian Troutfetter of Colby County, Kansas. There are  few other minor errors in the file as well.

Always confirm. Always check with other records. Because

Any Wrecord Can be Rong

Burial Clues in the Probate

Probate records may mention funeral and burial expenses paid out of money from the estate. Sometimes these expenses may include the name of the cemetery. Sometimes they may not. Even a small annotation on a receipt for funeral expenses may be a clue as to the location of the burial.

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Finding the Butlers’ Butter and that Special Feller

Depending on the handwriting, the letter groups “tt,” “ll, “tl, and “lt”can be confused, interchanged, and misinterpreted. When reading handwriting manually, it’s easy to see what the “intent” was, especially if the name is in a record where you expect it to be.

Not so easy using indexes.

Butter, Buller, and Butler can easily be seen in the same word–along with some other renderings as well.

The same is true for Trautvetter, Trautvelter, and Trautveller.

Appropriately constructed wildcard searches (usually for Bu*er or Trautve*er) will locate them all. Searches based upon the sounds in the name may not since “t” and “l” do not sound the same.

Something to think about when looking for that special feller.

All the Evidence: Not Just What Agrees With You

It can be tempting to go with that first source or reference to an ancestor. It can be even more tempting to go with that conclusion if a second source agrees. An online tree (or recent book) agrees with what you find printed in an 1895 genealogy that has been digitized.

That’s two sources that agree.

Oh boy.

While they are “sources” since they contain information, they are derivative sources since they have been derived from something else. Derived sources are only as accurate as the information from which they were derived and the thoroughness of the person reaching the conclusion. There’s room for error there.

They may not even be two sources–the online tree (or that recent book) could have been derived from the 1895 genealogy. It could even have been copied directly from that 1895 genealogy. There may just be one “source.” And…that source, as we’ve seen, could be wrong.

Finding another source that says the same thing doesn’t mean the information is correct either. It could be another reproduction of the same information.

Use what’s in that 1895 genealogy to set a research plan to look for original records, contemporary materials, or more recent publications that were created from those records.

And if you don’t know how to do that: ask.

That’s the best way to learn and to grow with your research.


Signatures in Mortgage Books

County record books usually do not have actual signatures on deeds and other items. Their copies are record copies and most of them are transcriptions of the original records–especially in the days before photoreproduction was developed.

One exception in some locations are in mortgage records. The record copy of this 1878 mortgage contains transcriptions of the mortgagors. The holder of the note, John Ufkes in this case, signed a release of the mortgage right in the spine of the book.

A neat place to get a signature.

And before you think John Ufkes was a banker or some type of well-to-do…he loaned money to his sister and her husband. They paid him back a year later, likely shortly before he signed the release on 29 October 1879.

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Not Kidding: Not in the Will Does Not Mean Not a Child

Your relative may not mention all his children in his will for several reasons:

  • the child may have already have received his inheritance
  • the child may have been disowned by the parent
  • the child may automatically receive a portion of the family estate due to the law at the time

Often parents will name children in their will who have already received an inheritance or who are being disowned so that they cannot say they were accidentally left out. In some locations in some time periods, the oldest son would automatically receive a portion of the estate–whether it was in the will or not. You’ll need to know what the custom was at the time to know whether or not this could have been the case.

You also need to read the will to see if the word “child,” “son,” or “daughter” is used when referring to the individual in the document. The relationship is usually stated, but not necessarily.

But just because Thomas Smith does not list Jonas Smith in his will does not mean that Jonas is not his son. You’ll just have to do some more work to determine if he actually was.

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Try That for Starters…

A relative’s name first name is Christian. Sometimes he’s listed in records as Chris–which makes perfect sense. Other times he is clearly listed as Christopher, although that’s not his name. Is it possible your ancestor whose name is John occasionally gets listed as Jonathan? Did Michael become Micah in some record?

Stay open to the possibility that some clerk, official, or enumerator took the first few letters of your relative’s actual name and used another name starting with those same few letters.

That’s how Geske becomes Gertrude and that’s how we can easily overlook potential references to our ancestors.

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