Different areas can easily have different sources, especially if the “new area” is in a different state, an area with a different population density, an area with a different ethnic background. Never assume what’s available in one area will be available in another. Thinking you know is different from actually knowing.
Some census takers were plain lazy, some couldn’t spell, and some didn’t care. After you have exhausted all the variations on your ancestor’s first and middle names, consider that they might have been enumerated with just their initials. Or perhaps their first initial and their middle name spelled out. I have seen entire townships where no one apparently had a first name and everyone was named with their initials. I have seen locations where census takers used initials for non-English names instead of trying to spell them correctly. Maybe your ancestor was enumerated as J. Smith in the 1860 census. Now there’s a real problem.
Do you know where all the lines are on the map of your ancestor’s neighborhood? Property lines, county lines, state lines, they all play a role in your family history research. These lines change over time as new territories are created, county lines are debated and finalized, and as your ancestor buys and sells property. Getting your ancestor’s maps all “lined” up may help solve your problem. And keep in mind that contemporary maps are always an excellent idea. Your ancestor probably did not live in the twenty-first century. Don’t rely completely on maps created a century after he died.
A reference to “John Smith, late of Bedford County, Pennsylvania,” probably means that Smith used to reside in Bedford County but no longer does. It does not necessarily mean that Smith was deceased. “John Smith, formerly of Bedford County, Pennsylvania,” means that Smith used to live in Bedford County, but that he no longer does. Deceased usually means dead. “Late” does not have to mean dead. Sometimes contextually clues will make that obvious and other times they will not.  
Registration ends on 29 June for our AncestryDNA–5 week class.  
I maintain the following genealogy blogs. The blogs are all free to subscribe to: Rootdig.com—Michael’s thoughts, research problems, suggestions, and whatever else crosses his desk Genealogy Tip of the Day—one genealogy research tip every day–short and to the point Genealogy Search Tip—websites I’ve discovered and the occasional online research tip–short and to the point Casefile Clues Blog–the blog that accompanies my PDF how-to newsletter. The blog has newsletter updates, content discussion, and more–but is separate from the actual PDF newsletter. The blog is free to subscribe to and is a great way for subscribers of the newsletter to know what’s going on and when things were sent out.
A great way to get a perspective on your ancestor’s time and place is to read an issue or two of their hometown paper while you are searching for that obituary. In addition to the national news, there will be local news. Reading the paper will give you a history lesson in microcosm and may make you aware of things you never learned in history class. It might give you an entirely different viewpoint on your ancestor as well. And being familiar with the newspaper’s layout and general style never hurt either.
  Write down your own life story and ask those interview questions you have been putting off. The human mind is the most fragile repository we use. Don’t waste it and don’t miss an opportunity.
Remember that just because your ancestor appears on a 1830 real property tax list for Coshocton County, Ohio, it doesn’t mean he lived there. A person could have owned property in a place without living there. People on personal property tax lists are more likely to have lived in the location. But as for the real property lists, your ancestor might have speculated on property, inherited it, acquired it through military service, etc. and never lived on it. Most property owners lived on or near the property, but don’t use your ancestor’s name on a real property tax list as your sole proof that he lived there.
Some database search interfaces allow users to search on other fields besides names. If the site you are using allows this, consider searching on ages, places of birth, father’s place of birth, etc. I’ve made some interesting discoveries without entering in any names on a set of search boxes.
Based on many requests, we’ve added this class to our schedule for July: AncestryDNA–5 weeks Activities/Content: Understanding what can and cannot be learned from the AncestryDNA test Strategies for “figuring out” people who do not return communication Probability of relationship based on shared DNA and relationship scenarios not presented Downloading AncestryDNA matches into an Excel spreadsheet and working with those matches and that spreadsheet Determining what matches you want to try and figure out Tracking results and findings Problem-solving Looking at the results when the grandfather was an adoptee who wasn’t the birth father of one of his children Analyzing tree for ethnic/geographic pools Sorting matches that can’t be determined specifically Keeping your list of matches up to date More details are on our announcement page.
Do you know when you opened your gmail account? Many genealogists use gmail for their genealogy. Some of us use Google accounts to save and share images. Losing access to your account could create a real problem. I recently really messed up entering the password to my gmail account and had to go through the process of verifying my account and who I was. When I originally opened my gmail account was one of the things I was asked. I had no idea. Fortunately my “welcome” message to my gmail account was in my old messages in my non-gmail account and I had never deleted it.
Hasty research increases the chance that incorrect conclusions are made and that we include records for our “person of interest” who is not really our person of interest. To reduce the chance mistakes are made, take the records that you “know” are for your person of interest and estimate whichever items you do not have specifically: a time frame for when they were born an approximate location for where they were born a time frame for their marriage an approximate location for their marriage a time frame for their death an approximate location for their death For all of these approximations, include your reason why you think the time frames and locations are reasonable–you should have at least one source document. These reasons combined with the records are […]
The “provenance” of a family heirloom, picture, etc. is “how you know it is what it is and how you came to have it.” Think about the provenance of every item you have. A relative pointed out to me that I have quite a few pictures from my Ufkes family. They came from my maternal grandparents. Then it dawned on me. The family home burned in 1924 and most of the pictures are from before that year. Did the family get the pictures out? Did other relatives share pictures with them or give them pictures? I’ll never know, but just thinking about who else might have had the pictures in 1924 got me to thinking about various family members who might have had pictures. And thinking about provenance […]
Sometimes researchers don’t get specific records because they “know what the record will say.” Sometimes the record may say exactly what you think it will. And other times it will say something completely different. While it may not always be inexpensive, if you have a “brick wall” ancestor, make certain you have not avoided getting records because “you know what they will say.” Something unexpected in those records may answer your question.
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