If a document gives a clear informant, ask yourself: what information did the informant know first hand; what information did the informant know because someone told him; would there have been motivation to lie; what information might she have guessed the answer to. If a document does not give an informant, ask yourself: was there more than one probable informant; who was the most likely informant; how likely was the informant to know the information. Always ask yourself: were there any penalties for lying on the document; how likely was it that the informant be caught in a lie; was there a motivation for the informant to lie. Inform yourself and think about the informant.
Perhaps one of the best ways to easily catch errors in your tree is to look at the dates of vital events for the people involved. Do they make sense? Is the timeline plausible? Genealogists should know, as they say, where babies come from. Aside from modern interventions, parents have to in the same place roughly nine months before the birth. They also have to be alive at that same time. Triple check before you add someone to your tree and don’t just take someone else’s online tree as gospel. Sometimes a simple dose of “genealogy commonsense bleach” does an excellent job of cleaning. There are more advanced tools that can be used to “clean your tree,” but “genealogy commonsense bleach” will remove the majority of the grime […]
This is not a sentimental post about marriage. An estate document from the early 20th century apparently omitted one daughter of Adam Trautvetter from an an estate notice. Further analysis suggested that daughters Lena Salzer and Louise Buckert had been “merged” into one: Lena Bucklew. It is not known whether poor handwriting, bad hearing, or some other miscommunication resulted in the error. What is known is that the other children’s names are consistent with other records and this is the only document that replaces Lena Salzer and Louise Buckert with Lena Bucklew. But it always pays to remember that any one document can be incorrect and that utilizing multiple documents will increase the chance that errors of this type are caught.
Years ago, I discovered a lengthy article in a genealogical publication about an ancestor and his family. It was full of  complete references  to a variety of records: land, court, census, probate, etc. The citations were complete and made it easy to locate the original for comparison purposes. The author indicated that the ancestor could not be found in the 1830 census. The other enumerations were included and discussed. The thorough nature of the research initially caused me not to try and find the ancestor in 1830, but I went ahead and tried anyway. There he was–name spelled correctly and found where he was supposed to be with a household structure that was just a little “off.” I’m not certain if the author simply overlooked the entry or […]
Family researchers usually research events long after they have happened. That makes genealogy research different, particularly when all the participants in an event are deceased. When researching information about the birth of an ancestor in 1823, the parents cannot be talked to, the child cannot be talked to, contemporaries of the person cannot be talked to. We are left with whatever records were created that reference the event and that survived to the present day. The evidence that makes its way to us is not necessarily the most accurate and not the most complete. It’s what had the best preservation or was fortunate enough not to be destroyed. That’s why it’s important obtain as many sources as possible and determine their reliability as best we can. And…genealogy research […]
Some secrets are difficult to uncover, especially if you have no inkling that they ever happened in the first place. If you do not ask, no one will volunteer the information. Sometimes if you ask, they still will not provide any information or say that the event never took place. And sometimes you do not even know specifically what to ask and the only “clue” you have is an inkling that there’s something you are not being told about a certain family member (and…your “gut” could be wrong). And it could be that there’s a “secret” about a family member that only a few other family members are even aware of and they have an unwritten pact among themselves not to tell anyone else. If a great-uncle lived […]
In addition to writing about the dead, write about yourself: your own life, your own experiences, your own philosophy. Because one day you’ll among the dead yourself and don’t we all wish more of our relatives had written something about their life?
Pieces of paper can get lost, spilled on, and destroyed in several ways. But for some of us, paper is still where we take notes, make comments, etc. Always save digital images of those paper notes that you make. The notes on the page in this illustration are for my own personal use–there are no citations or any of the other niceties that genealogists need. I was simply trying to sketch out the family relationships for my own personal, internal use. Yet I don’t want to have to repeat that process and I may want access to those notes later when my files are “not handy.” A digital image is a great way to do that. Just make certain you get the whole page when taking the picture.
When locating a record, determine who else “did the same thing” on that same day? This is easier to do with records filed in chronological order. Who naturalized on the same day as your ancestor? Who filed a declaration of intention on the same day as your ancestor? Who had a deed recorded on the same day as your ancestor? Those other people could be associates of your ancestor. That chance is increased the further your ancestor lived from the courthouse.
Sharing genealogical information with others allows you to: preserve information, catch mistakes, have a backup, collaborate with others. Keeping all your genealogical information to yourself may seem like a good idea, but researching in total isolation increases the chance you don’t find what you are looking for. Riley (the dog in the illustration) may be more “in-your-face” about sharing than genealogists are, but it’s still a good reminder.
If a guardian was appointed for a minor relative who had a mother still living, that guardian usually oversaw the estate of the child (usually their “inheritance” from a deceased relative) and did not necessarily have physical custody of the child. When women had fewer legal rights, it was not uncommon for a guardian to be appointed for children whose father had died and whose mother still survived. The guardian oversaw the inheritance and generally did not “take in” the children and raise them. A mother could be appointed guardian for her own children, but in many cases it was a male relative.
Note: This tip is not to say that the five individuals mentioned were not siblings–it’s intended to provide some food for thought. My great-aunt was born in 1931, the youngest of five siblings. She was thirty-seven years of age when I was born. The first sibling died when I was a junior in high school. The others died over a period of thirty years. Am I a reliable source for their sibling relationship? Obviously I was not around when they were born or when they were growing up. I saw and interacted with my great-aunt and her siblings, including her oldest brother who was my grandfather. I saw them together at family functions. I saw them acknowledge each other as siblings on numerous occasions. I saw four of them […]
A release of a mortgage can seem like a mundane document. It essentially indicates that a mortgage has been paid off in full and that the holder of the note is releasing their interest in the property and that they no longer have a claim to the real estate that was used to secure the loan. Because of that, I almost didn’t obtain a copy of a release for a relative from 1948. All it would do is list the property description, the name of the borrower, and that the loan was paid. But there was a little clue. The release was structured as a quit claim deed–the holder of the note was relinquishing their claim to the property. Still pretty typical. But something had happened between the […]
Join Michael on one of these research trips in 2019: Salt Lake City’s Family History Library Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
Your Germanic ancestor’s “first name” may have technically been Johann, but he might have had a middle name that was actually his “call name,” or the name he was called. Johann George Trautvetter as given on church record in 1798 may have actually been called George Trautvetter–only using Johann George in church records. Keep in mind that different areas of Germany may have had different naming traditions and that what may be true in one area may not be true in another. Research and find out. Don’t assume that what “worked” in one place necessarily worked in another.
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