Towns get renamed. Street names change. Some roads are moved. Some roads are closed entirely. Occasionally even rivers change their course. County lines get moved. Some geographic or physical political features that we think have always been a certain way have not. Use contemporary maps where possible. Determine if features or “landmarks” were always where they are now. Some location names may fade away over time–particularly if a location was known for a family that has moved from the area. My Grandma was born on what was known locally as the “Habben Corner” in 1924. I’ve even seen an occasional newspaper reference to the area by that name. Today that name has faded from use.
At first the location on this military discharge stymied me. Then I looked at the date and it made perfect sense. A US military discharge in 1847 could easily have been done in Mexico. A little geographic searching determined the town was Comargo. Always transcribe a document in context–it helps.
Don’t just grab the first record that seems to match the names of the individuals for whom you are looking and assume that it’s the “right people.” It may or may not be them. There can be husband and wife couples with the same or similar names living in the same country, state, county, parish, etc.–particularly if the names are relatively common. Those couples can be unrelated to each other, particularly if the geographic distance is significant. They couple be cousins of the couple of interest–which still means that you’ve got the “wrong people” just wrong people who are related. Records in the United States all indicate that my Irish immigrant forebears were in Canada by the mid-1860s and that they started having children by the late 1860s. […]
Determining exactly where a property is located in a state land state in the United States can be difficult–metes and bounds descriptions may not give adequate landmarks or they ones they give are no longer in existence. This 1878 farm sale add names properties owned by my actual ancestor in 1805. The mention of the creek and the road (in particular) will assist in determining where the property is approximately located today. 7
No matter where you have the DNA test performed (AncestryDNA ,FamilyTreeDNA, etc.) remember that the tests will not immediately answer all your genealogy questions. Fast answers rarely happen despite what the advertisements say. The ethnicity results are best viewed as entertainment or something you can use to irritate living relatives if absolutely necessary. Not all submitters will have trees. Not all submitters will respond to communication. Some submitters will be impossible to “figure out” because they have no trees and do not respond. Some submitters have mistakes in their tree that they are unaware of. Some submitters will refuse to admit when their trees are wrong. You may tear a little of your hair out during the process.  Speaking of hair… Don’t spend the money to find out […]
AncestryDNA Class Lecture Downloads We’ve converted my online AncestryDNA class into a self-contained series of lectures and handouts that you can view at your leisure. There is no “attendance.” Download and view at your convenience. Presentations can be viewed as many times as you want. View complete details on our announcement page–50% off until 11:59 pm central time 26 November 2018.
Part of genealogical research is evaluating what you have and altering conclusions when new and more reliable information warrants. Early in our research when we are inexperienced, it can be tempting to rely too much on family information. It can also be easy to rely on incomplete information–especially before we learn that “official” records can be incorrect or inconsistent. And sometimes DNA and other information will cause us to re-evaluate what we thought was true even when we had a number of records and completely analyzed them. My children’s great-great-grandfather (father of their great-grandmother) has morphed through many iterations over the nearly thirty years that I have researched him–always because I have located new information: a Greek immigrant to Chicago, Illinois, born in the 1880s–turned out he was […]
One never knows when life will change in an instant. Have you preserved or shared pictures and images of items you have that cannot be replaced? Don’t wait. A sudden illness, natural disaster, or other event can alter your plans for “doing it later.” Make certain others have digital copies of items you have. Initially focus on those items that are unique–letters, pictures, etc. You can wait to make copies of census records and other items that are probably elsewhere. But that wedding book that has signatures of relatives? That scrapbook that has one-of-a-kind pictures? Those are the things you need to focus on initially. Life has a way of happening and those left behind may not have the interest in the things that you do.
Before US naturalization reform in the early 20th century, any court of record could record a declaration of intention to become a United States citizen or naturalize an individual. The court that recorded the declaration of intent may not have been the same as the court that finally approved the naturalization. The declaration was a preliminary step in the naturalization process and not all who declared finally naturalized although many did. You should always look for a declaration of intention to become a citizen as it may provide information beyond what is on the naturalization–or it may not. The amount of detail can vary from one location to another and from one court to another, especially before the process was standardized in the early 20th century. But don’t […]
Don’t just focus on the line in the newspaper or article that includes your relative’s name. Additional items in the paper may give you more insight into your relative’s life. Consider reading the entire issue of the paper, particularly if the event was significant in your relative’s life. You will discover what was happening nationally and locally and may even get the newspaper’s perspective on current events in the opinion pages.  
Sometimes people just get confused. The obituary for a relative listed her mother’s maiden name. The name in parenthesis was not the name the mother was born with. It was the name of the mother’s second husband-after the relative’s parents were divorced. Wrong names are still wrong. They just may be relevant in ways that we don’t expect. When you discover that a name is “wrong,” keep it in your notes. It may turn out to mean something later.
If your relative died sine prole, it means they did without descendants or issue. Sometimes genealogical publications abbreviate this as d.s.p. The person should still be researched. Note if it is indicated that your direct line ancestor d. s. p., then you’ve got some more research to do. If they actually had no descendants that means they are not your direct line ancestor.
Just because an envelope indicates the letter was returned because the person was not at that address does not mean that they never lived there. They just could not be could not be found there on that date. Use the address to look for the person in local records before the date of the postmark. They could have lived there for years before the letter was mailed. And, in the case of large cities with specific addresses, they simply could have moved a short distance away and left no forwarding address. Even “errors” are clues.  
A review of our stats indicated that some tips are more popular than others. Here’s the list: Five Year Gap Many Conclusions are Temporary Every Step in that Provenance Mapping it out in Pencil Would a Chart Help? What Is a Maiden Name? No Kids, Never Had Siblings, and Died With Some Cash How Easy Was It For Your Ancestor to Move? Is Your DAR Patriot Still a DAR Patriot? The Paper Genealogy Tree Versus the Genetic Family Tree What’s your favorite tip?
Any document or record can be incomplete, including obituaries. Death notices and obituaries can leave out significant details for one of several reasons: editing or proofreading error; limit on the length of the obituary; cost of the obituary; compiler doesn’t know certain things about the person; compiler doesn’t want to mention certain events or people; etc. An obituary may indicate the deceased was married twice without mentioning what “happened” to the first spouse. They may have died while they were married or they may have divorced. Transcribe the obituary as written and use it for clues to further research. Obituaries can contain information that is completely true or partially true. Outright lies are less common–what’s more likely is a “lie of omission” than a blatant untrue statement. But […]
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