If your ancestor states that he is aged 60 on 2 April 1900, that doesn’t mean he was born in 1840. Someone who says he was 60 on 2 April could have: just turned 60 on 2 April, making his date of birth 2 April 1840 getting ready to turn 61 on 3 April, making his date of birth 3 April 1839. Or anywhere in between. That is assuming an age of 60 on 2 April 1900 was correct. The accuracy of his age is another story altogether.
A relative tells you the same story virtually every time you see them. You can almost quote them word for word. You will never forget that story they have told you what seems like a thousand times. Then they die. The story is forgotten. If you are lucky there are snippets that you remember. Usually there’s not enough to even write down. So record it while they are telling it. Don’t wait. Because later you will wish you had.    
I first worked on my children’s Belgian ancestors years ago. When using the vital records from the 19th century, I used them the way I had other European records from the same time span. I looked in the “book” for and read through the entries for the years I thought included the person’s birth date. Then, if I had the correct person and had the names of the parents, I scanned the years before and after the birth to locate siblings. Imagine my surprise when I found indexes interspersed in the records. I had never encountered those before. While indexes are not perfect, they would have saved me a great deal of time. Moral-the first time you use any “new” record, familiarize yourself with the whole thing first, […]
If you ask another genealogist for their advice, remember that they are one person and they can make a mistake. However, if four independent experienced researchers tell you the same thing about a record or a source, it might be time to admit they are correct–even if they disagree with you.
During some time periods in some locations, the publication of a death notice may be cost prohibitive for the family. For that reason, some individual’s deaths may not be mentioned in their locale paper. If they do not have an estate with enough value to warrant a probate, a probate notice will not appear in the paper as well. Some newspapers publish obituaries for free and others do not. Researchers should not assume that every newspaper has the same obituary publication policies.
If you have found someone in the newly released 1940 census, have you looked at the very far left hand side of the page? Some enumerators made notes about their enumerees there–some of which can be good clues for further research. One enumerator in Warsaw, Illinois, made notes about which homes were owned by an estate that had not yet been settled. Scanning down the name column to find your person is good, but after you have found them, look at the entire page
If your ancestor’s last name has a “t” in it, did the “cross” on the “t” over another letter and “change” the name? My Butlers became Butters for that very reason.
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. $55 introductory rate ends 7 January 2019. See how to get more from your AncestryDNA results.
After nearly twenty-five years, I learned that the singer I always “thought” was Eric Harmon was actually Eric Carmen. Is it possible that a census taker or record clerk “heard” your ancestor’s last name incorrectly? A “silent” “h” is the cause here, but there are other letter combinations that can cause names to be heard incorrectly as well.
Have you determined if there are materials that a local library or genealogical/historical society has that may be helpful to your search? Frequently individuals in charge of these collections are uniquely positioned to be aware of research nuances in the area and their facilities may have specialized materials not available elsewhere. A Google search for “yourcounty yourstate historical/genealogical society” may get you on the path to more information.
Even if a doctor is the only one who actually signed a birth certificate, there were other informants. The doctor (or midwife) did not provide all the information from their first hand, direct knowledge. The doctor or midwife would have probably known the details of the birth (date, time, place, mother, etc.) The parents likely provided their names and any other information about themselves listed on the certificate. The difficulty is that in records with probable multiple informants, it’s impossible to know exactly who provided which pieces of information. That doesn’t mean the information is correct or incorrect–it’s just that we need to think about who most likely provided it. And some of those pieces of information we won’t be able to know 100% who provided it–we weren’t […]
O, Mc, Mac, Van, Vander, De, and similar prefixes can easily be removed from a name when it is being entered into a record. O’Neill can become Neil, Vandeberg can become Berg. Names that are compound names can only appear partially in a record: Greenberry becomes Green or Berry. Any name can have part of it cut off before it gets recorded.
If time allows, share what information you have already discovered with others while you are able. Share images of photographs, letters, and other family materials that you may have. Don’t assume that your family will do it for you because you asked them to. Try and find someone who is interested in the family history if you can, but sometimes that simply is not possible. Organize the information you have–start small if that makes it easier. Write a biography of one ancestor–citing information you’ve located as completely as possible. It is “okay” if your research is not complete–just indicate what sources you have used and stick to details that come from actual records and not conjecture. A total lack of planning and organization on your part increases the […]
I was working on a family that I thought was closely related to mine–they were from the same little Irish village, but settled several hundred miles away. Both families used many of the same first names–Samuel, Edward, Joseph, Thomas, Charles. That was a clue to continue working on locating information on the second family to see if something more strongly connected them to mine. It was a clue that there could be a connection–it was not proof in and of itself that the families were connected.
If the time period is right, one place to potentially obtain copies of marriage and vital records is in military pension or other military benefit records. Widows would have to prove their marriage to the soldier in order to receive their pension and birth records for children of deceased soldiers would also have to be submitted–if those children were under a certain age. In some cases, the original record may no longer be extant and the copy in the pension may be the only copy. If you received a copy of a vital record from a pension file, indicate that the copy you have was made from a copy in the pension file. That doesn’t mean it’s not a valid copy–it’s simply indicating where you obtained the copy. […]
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