Wills can get things wrong. This 1903 will from Hancock County, Illinois, refers to a granddaughter as a daughter and another relative as Lanne Ensmer when her name was Lena Ensminger. Other information in the probate file may contain the correct relationships and other details. Testators may say names in ways that make it hard for the actual writer of the will to get it correct. Genealogy Tip of the Day book is here. Learn more about it. If you’d like to get our genealogy tip daily in your email for free, add your address here.
Always read those “aside” comments that occasionally get made in records. Clerks and records officials don’t add them because they are bored. There is usually a reason and working to determine that reason could lead to additional discoveries.
Before interviewing that relative, see if you can determine the names of any near neighbors. Names of those neighbors may generate memories of events you never would have asked about otherwise. Census records that are public (if the person is old enough) are one place to get these names. City directories are another (particularly if they are searchable by address). Telephone directories may also help, particularly for those ancestors who were rural. Ask about your interviewee’s neighbors. You may get more than you bargained for.
Local court cases usually only index the name of one defendant and one plaintiff, regardless of how many people are involved in the case as defendants and plaintiffs. Witnesses and others who may be mentioned in testimony and other court cases will not appear in indexes either. For this reason it is important to search for names of relatives of your direct line ancestor in defendants’ and plaintiffs’ index to court cases. Otherwise you may easily overlook something involving your ancestor, especially if he and his siblings were sued and the name of his sibling is the one under which the case is indexed. Genealogy Tip of the Day is sponsored by GenealogyBank. Search NewsBank’s GenealogyBank for your ancestors.
When using a record set with which you are not familiar, think about how someone gets into the record, how the  information in the record is obtained, how the record is organized, and how the original  record got from its original state to you. All of these issues get to how we use and analyze the information contained in the record. Genealogy Tip of the Day is sponsored by GenealogyBank. Search NewsBank’s GenealogyBank for your ancestors. What to do while waiting for your DNA test and results. 
If you are unable to physically visit an archives that holds the only copy of something you need, consider other ways to potentially access that information: call them, email them, write them a letter. Many archives will communicate with patrons who are unable to visit onsite. Recently I’ve obtained digital copies of materials by email communication with archival staff in Colorado and Nebraska. A few reminders: Be polite. Try and be specific in your request. Do not send rambling emails with extraneous information–the archivist is there to help you find a document not a solution to your personal problems. View online inventories and finding aids, if available. Use online indexes and databases, if available. Be patient–you are not the only patron. Images or copies of records may not […]
Some documents clearly state who was the informant. Many though do not provide this information. When considering the accuracy of information on any document, consider the probable informant and how likely they were to know the information being provided. Genealogy Tip of the Day is sponsored by GenealogyBank. Search NewsBank’s GenealogyBank for your ancestors. What to do while waiting for your DNA test and results. 
Just because a record is “official” does not mean that every detail it contains is correct. A death certificate probably has the date of death and burial correct, but the date and place of birth could easily be incorrect. And there is always the chance that a death record has the wrong date of death or place of burial. An official record does not guarantee the information is accurate. Remember that in most records, the information is only as accurate as the informant and that in most records information submitted came from someone’s mind and was not verified with another source or official record. Genealogy Tip of the Day is sponsored by GenealogyBank. Search NewsBank’s GenealogyBank for your ancestors.
If you had relatives who were college graduates, have you contacted the school’s archives to see if they have information on your relative? You might not find a textbook like I did, but you never know until you try. Genealogy Tip of the Day is sponsored by GenealogyBank. Search NewsBank’s GenealogyBank for your ancestors.
Recent research reminded me of the importance of recognizing assumptions and validating what you “think you know.” I knew cousin William Ehmen was a Lutheran minister in Nebraska in the 1880s. I just assumed that he attended seminary as “a young men” before he was married.  Wrong. He did not go to seminary until he was in his late twenties, had been married for seven years, and was already a father. He worked for the railroad for a time in Illinois and I learned he had lived in Mendota for a while–I assumed it was because he was working there for the railroad. No. He was attending seminary at what is now Wartburg College in Iowa. In the 1870s it was located in Mendota, Illinois. I didn’t know […]
Name spellings that interchange vowels with consonants (or the other way around), usually create spellings that have a different soundex code. A Soundex search for Chaney will not catch the Chaney spelling. The exceptions are for names that have more than three separate consonant sounds after the initial letter. Letters after the third consonant sound (after the first letter) are ignored in Soundex searches.
Review your conclusions. Take a second look at material you compiled early in your research. Be willing to question research your “finished” years ago. Admit mistakes when you make them. It’s not the end of the world. You should want your research to be correct. Genealogy is not a crusade to show your first conclusion was right no matter what. We all learn as we research and sometimes we learn that our first conclusion was not right.
Bondsmen should know the person for whom they are signing a bond. They probably trust them as well–or at least they should. The residences of bondsmen are potential clues as to the general area where the person for whom they signed the bond lived. Depending upon what you know–that could be helpful. In 1903, Herman Haase had two men serve as his bondsmen on his bond. Herman lived nearly twenty miles from where the estate’s property was located. His bondsmen lived near him–not near where the property was located–because they knew him.
County borders are important, but they are not the only ones that can change. Borders for smaller political jurisdictions, such as cities and townships, can change as well.  My “Pennsylvania problem” required a knowledge of when the townships changed. In my case it was those borders that was the problem, not the county ones. 
It’s rare to get pictures in newspaper clipping from this era, but there’s one for Philip Troutfetter in this 1902 account of his exploits. The newspaper also includes a few statements that have never been located in other records. It also somewhat incorrectly characterizes how he got the money from his mother-in-law and he was never completely prosecuted on the charges. To date, we have not located information on his supposed correspondent’s columns from Cuba either. This newspaper item was located on GenealogyBank. Search NewsBank’s GenealogyBank for your ancestors.
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