When you find records of your ancestor that indicate he or she “made out a statement” before an official, try and determine where your ancestor lived at the time and where that official was authorized to act and where the statement was witnessed or acknowledged. An 1868 statement signed by my ancestor who was living in Hancock County, Illinois, was acknowledged before a Justice of the Peace in Linn County, Iowa. In this case, it was not a huge clue but it did document his travel there to assist in the settling up his mother’s estate. Some times knowing that a person traveled from one place to another is a big clue. Other times it is not. But looking at details in document for all the little things […]
Maximizing 1850 and Later US Census Records Available for purchase ($45) We are excited to offer this new class on using US census records as a download set. Virtually every US genealogist uses census records, but not everyone is aware of how those records can be maximized for what they do contain. There are limitations to these records, but there are advantages to them as well. If you’ve wondered if you are getting the most out of US census records, this class is for you. Order today for $45. Content: This set of three lectures (handouts included) will look at US census records from 1850 through 1940. Topics discussed will include: enumerator instructions and how information “got in the census” organization of original records working with family structure in […]
When someone does not come up in an index, here are some things to think about: have you considered all alternate spellings? have you double checked what you put in the search boxes (right names in right boxes, no boxes with information from “old searches,” etc.)? could the person be in the record under a different last name (step-father, new husband, etc.)? have you used wildcards to expand your searches? do you know the index is complete or is it in “process?” are you certain the person really should be in the record? do you know how the original records were organized and preserved? have you performed a manual search of the records? have you asked someone else for a suggestion?
In most US census records when an individual is indicated as working on their “own account,” it generally means that they are not an employee and that they do not employ others as well. Learn more about US census instructions on the US Census Bureau website.
I do it myself and I see it countless times on the internet in postings and responses to postings: failure to completely read something and every little word of it Before you react to a document, interpret it, analyze it, and decide “where to go next,” make certain you have read every line of the document. Don’t just react to the “big” obvious things as it often is the details that seem trivial that can be the most important. Better yet…don’t react immediately at all. That’s when some of the biggest mistakes are made and the biggest clues overlooked.
Local newspapers are not the only place to look for ancestral tidbits. In December of 1916, Albert Cawiezell of Davenport, Iowa, advertised that he was willing to exchange one 22 caliber rifle for skunks or ferrets. Aside from the colorful reference, it indicated where Cawiezell was living at the time the advertisement was placed. In some situations that could be a big clue. Cawiezell didn’t want just any skunks. He wanted scentless skunks.
There’s an online anonymous list of four generations of descendants of an ancestor of mine who died in Kentucky in the 1840s. I’ve used it as a clue to names and relationships. It does have errors–there are death dates that I can’t validate, locations of events that are completely incorrect, incomplete lists of children, and marriages that were not discovered. The names of the beginning ancestor’s parents cannot be validated with any record whatsoever, but the relationships in the succeeding generations were pretty much on the mark-aside from a few children who apparently were overlooked. It was not perfect. But it gave me an outline to use as a starting point. It did not give me a tree to copy without questioning any of it.
When searching old newspapers for obituaries, consider searching for the woman’s maiden name. The 1931 obituary of Sarah Graves in a Macon, Missouri, newspaper refers to her twice: once as Mrs. Thomas M. Graves and once as Sarah Ellen Newman (her maiden name). About every other reference to her is “she.” Not all obituaries will list a woman the way Sarah is in this obituary, but it was a common practice during this time period. Searching for parents’ names as well may be a good idea–even if they had been dead for fifty years and had never lived in the area.
Always search for people in newspapers where they never lived–especially if you think they had relatives who lived there. References to them visiting may provide significant relationship clues. Remember that papers in towns where they were visiting may get details incorrect, particularly about the person from out of town. Nancy was actually a Mrs. (widowed to be precise) and technically in 1901 had not moved to the big town of West Point, Illinois, yet and was still living closer to Breckenridge.
  Including the website where you obtained a digital image of a record is a key part of the citation process. Usually including the title of the database and the “main name” of the website (www.familysearch.com, www.ancestry.com, www.fold3.com, etc.) is sufficient. Web addresses that are 24,000 characters long as a part of a citation are not practical and they often change anyway. Different websites may have images of varying quality and using more than one site may be advised. Not including the site you used may end up confusing you later if you need to go back and look at more images. You want to know where you got the best image.   Join me on one of my two research trips in the summer of 2019: Allen […]
I never really did much work on the siblings of great-great-grandma Nancy Jane (Newman) Rampley (1846-1923) and recently decided to focus on her sister, Sarah. Sarah was born in about 1851 in Rush County, Indiana. Obituaries for several of her siblings in the early 20th century indicated she lived in Macon County, Missouri, and was Sarah Graves. Online compilations contained little detail and, without any sources, was somewhat suspect. While it is suggested to research from the present to the past, I opted to research from the past to the present–starting with Sarah in the 1860 census with her parents and moving forward. The short version is that this approach was the successful one. Marriage and census records quickly painted a tentative picture of Sarah’s life: Married in […]
Join me on one of my two research trips in the summer of 2019: Allen County, Indiana, Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Our price is reasonable, our approach laid-back and hands-on.  
When you find a relative in a census, do at least the following: make certain you are looking at the actual enumeration and not a transcription or an index; make certain you know what all the headings stand for; make certain you have the entire entry–some are split over multiple pages; know whether the census was taken on one or multiple pages for each entry–some are both on the left and right hand page; look at adjacent households for a few pages before and afterwards; compare the handwriting of other entries to make certain you transcribe as accurately as possible; make certain you know the census year, state, county, and other political/address information contained in the enumeration; make certain you have the page number and indicate where the […]
When a child gives information on their parent, it comes from second hand knowledge. It also could be given decades after the event took place. This information can be incorrect, but keep in mind the child did not witness parental birth information first hand. Even erroneous places should not be ignored however as there may be a reason for the wrong place of birth. Children of one ancestor always said she was born in Illinois, which was correct. Except for one record which said she was born in Ohio. Years later, I learned the parents met in Ohio, married there and immediately moved. Ohio was wrong, but it was a clue.
Records of military draft registrations are not the same as military service records. Draft registration requirements have varied over time and usually required males of a certain age to register. There may also have been citizenship requirements (or not) and the upper end of the registration age may not be what a person expects. Draft registrations serve as a quasi-census of those who were required to register. The appearance of a name on a registration does not imply that the person actually saw military service. They should be searched whenever a “person of interest” fit the registration qualifications.
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