Not every will brought to court gets approved. Wills that are denied should be included in the probate file along with a notation that they were not admitted to probate. There may be testimony regarding the will and why it was considered to be invalid. Or there may only be a statement regarding the denial.  Sometimes reading the denied will makes it clear why certain heirs might have had a problem with it. Join me for my upcoming online AncestryDNA class.
There is a very real chance that your DNA test results will result in portions of your tree being “removed.” You will have to remove that part of the tree yourself, but there is always a chance that a DNA test may result in: unexpected relatives close relatives not sharing any DNA There’s always the chance that relatives who are really related share no DNA. That is a reasonable possibility once the relationship gets more distant than third cousins. Your siblings and first and second cousins should share some DNA. Be prepared for the possibility that your test results may help you find some new ancestors…and they may cause you to lose a few as well.   We will be discussing analyzing and interpreting your DNA test results […]
Names can easily get truncated and, when first working on a family, it can be difficult to know whether a name has been truncated or not. A family who went by Noon occasionally had their name spelled “Noone.” That was easy to discover as “extra” es on the end of a name are not too uncommon. The family’s name was might have actually been Noonan–it gets that way in a few records as well. Or someone could just have thought their last name was (or should have been) Noonan. Sometimes variants are created because a clerk or enumerator thinks that’s what the name should be. If a name is relatively short, always consider the possibility that the name you have was actually part of a longer name.
When using any index, determine what that index covers and what it does not. Most census indexes are every name indexes, but many other indexes are not indexes to every name contained in the record. Death certificates contain many names, but indexes may only index the name of the person who died. Probate indexes often only index the name of the person whose estate is being settled. Names of beneficiaries, witnesses, debtors, lenders, etc. are often not indexed. Deed indexes frequently index only the name of the first grantor and the first grantee. Other grantors and grantees are not included and names of neighbors listed in metes and bounds descriptions to property are not included. When using any index to any record, determine what names got in the […]
The use of the “in-law” did not always just indicate the relationship that it does today. In most modern uses of “in-law” a “father-in-law” is the father of someone’s spouse. In the same way a “mother-in-law” is currently generally interpreted as the mother of one’s spouse. In earlier uses, particularly the early 19th century and before, a “father-in-law” could be indicating that the “father-in-law” was actually a subsequent husband of the person’s mother.  Today that person is generally referred to as a step-father. Similarly a “mother-in-law” reference could mean that the “mother-in-law” was a subsequent wife of the individual’s father. Today that person is generally referred to as a step-mother. The “in-law” portion of the term stems from the marriage contract signed between the two individuals marrying.
Locations can create all kinds of problems for genealogists. For this reason it is necessary to be as precise as possible. Some locations are logical. For example, Knoxville, Illinois, is in Knox County, Illinois. But this is not always the case. Des Moines, Iowa, is in Polk County, not in Des Moines County, Iowa. Keokuk, Iowa, is not located in Keokuk County, Iowa. And remember there are townships as well which may or may not add to the confusion. Hancock County, Illinois, has a Webster Cemetery and a village of Webster. Webster Cemetery is not located near the village of Webster. Provide as much detail as possible when listing locations in your genealogical database. Personally I always use the word “county” in a location. It reduces confusion.
I posted this a while back to the “group” page for Tip of the Day in response to a question about step-parents  and their relationships with children by their spouse’s previous marriages and thought it made for a good tip: Explain the biological and “relationship by marriage” relationships clearly. It’s fine to indicate if a subsequent spouse of an ancestor served as the parent of the children in ways that are crucial, life-lasting, and important to that child’s development and relationships. Just make sure that the biological and non-biological aspects are clear so that later DNA tests are not needlessly confusing. If that subsequent spouse was influential in the life of the child, document it and record it. Those are things that tend to get lost as time […]
Determining  landowning neighbors of your landowning ancestor in federal land states (where property is generally described in townships and sections) requires knowledge of the legal description of the property. You have to know where the property is located. This can be obtained on the deed of acquisition or sale, a will where the property was bequeathed, an estate inventory, etc. Deeds in federal land states infrequently mention adjacent landowners. Here are some places to determine who those nearby property owners are: county atlases of landowners–frequently called platbooks property tax records–often organized geographically tract or parcel indexes that index land transactions geographically  
Before you donate your papers to an archives or library: make certain they are able to receive the donation organize the material you have remove duplicate items remember that archives and libraries prefer to collect unique material–usually unpublished items (letters, diaries, etc. ) and not photocopies of papers It is essential that you communicate with the facility before you make the donation and while you are still alive. Don’t just “put a clause in your will” donating your papers and think that’s enough–it’s not. Communicate with the facility Communicate with your family Organize what you have The facility may not want or be able to take your materials. Find out while you are still alive and kicking or your heirs may be forced to kick your materials to […]
Don’t forget if you have found that will in the packet of probate papers for your ancestor that there might be a “will record” contained with the probate records as well. Not all jurisdictions kept these records, but many did. Perhaps if the will has a difficult to read portion, is partially missing, or open to interpretation, the transcription in the “will record,” done at the time the will was admitted to probate, will answer your questions. Check out our land records class starting this weekend!
If there is a period of time where you are not certain where your ancestor was living or what he was doing, then you have an opportunity. Short gaps where a person is “missing” could mean military service, an out-of-state job, a short-lived marriage, a trip in search of gold, etc. Or it could simply mean they never moved and simply didn’t leave any records for a three year time period. But if you never look one thing is certain–you’ll never know.
Spouses, siblings, and others can be hiding in the et al. that is used in some indexes–particularly recorder’s indexes to land and court records. That’s why it’s important to search indexes for the whole family. A deed where all the heirs are grantors is indexed only under the first name. The other grantors are hiding in the etal reference in the index-they should be named on the deed. The same thing goes for clerk’s indexes to county court records.
A derivative citizenship is one that is derived from the citizenship of the parent, usually the father. In the easiest of cases, foreign born children under the age of majority when their father naturalized would be considered naturalized themselves and would not have to go through the process themselves. If your ancestor immigrated as a child, indicates he is naturalized but you cannot find any papers in his name, then consider the possibility that he had derivative citizenship through a father’s naturalization.
We are excited to again offer our 5-week session on United States land records in May 2018. Land records can shed a fair amount of light on your genealogical research–as long as they are understood and thoroughly researched.  Learn more about these records, how to research them, and how to analyze and interpret them. Michael has researched his own family extensively in land records for over thirty years, both in federal and state land states. Content: Week 1–discussion of different types of deeds, terms and definitions, record keeping practices and procedures, types of land ownership, and women’s property ownership changes over time. Week 2–discussion of metes and bounds legal descriptions, property descriptions in metes and bounds states, pre-Federal land records, and general research strategies in those states. Week […]
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