That “Wrong” Maiden Name

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.

Sine Prole

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.

Returned Envelopes in Pension Files

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.


Our Ten Most Popular Tips

A review of our stats indicated that some tips are more popular than others.

Here’s the list:

What’s your favorite tip?

What the Obituary Leaves Out

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 that’s always possible.

Tracking Your DNA Process

Reviewing DNA matches is like reviewing any piece of genealogical information: keep track of any conclusions from the information you make that are not specifically stated in the information. If you figure out how a match is related to you, briefly summarize (in the notes) what caused you to reach that conclusion.

DNA conclusions are often tentative as more information (results from additional tests) are obtained. It’s often helpful to be able to go back and review why you thought what you did. That’s what I did with a recent DNA match of my own.


Create an image of the front and back of a photograph

If you have an ancestral picture of an ancestor with significant writing or identification on the back, consider creating an image that includes the front and back in one image. That way it’s all “in one place” and the front and the back stay paired together correctly. This image of my aunt, Lucinda (Sargent) Fairman, was created that way–and includes some citation information.


Read the Preface

When using printed transcriptions of records, it can be tempting to immediately turn to the index to look for those names that we hope to find. That can be a mistake.

Published transcriptions may have only included selected records or were created from records that were incomplete to begin with. Those are details someone using the book needs to know and details that are not discovered if the preface is not read.


Search Newspapers for Military Units

This 1865 newspaper item indicated my relative’s Civil War unit was on its way home after the war. The 78th Illinois was expected to arrive in Chicago, be paid, and then presumably be sent home in June of 1865. References to your relative may not mention his name at all. Don’t forget to search for military units and other groups and organizations in which your relative was involved.