A “neighbor” filed a complaint about a relative’s homestead claim in Nebraska. While he was a geographic neighbor, he also was related by marriage to the person whose homestead he contested. A man wrote the US pension office in the early 20th century providing information that a widow wasn’t legally married to the soldier. While he was not directly related, his sister-in-law was a daughter of the veteran by a previous marriage. If someone is “complaining” about your relative in some way, shape, or form, find out what the connection is. Even if you can’t find the connection, your search will likely lead to more information. People don’t complain out of boredom–at least most of the time.
When using any record or database, ask yourself: how does someone get in this material? Do they have to live in a certain place? Do they have to own property? Do they have to have a job? Do they have to be dead? Do they have to be a member of a specific religion? Do they have to be a certain gender? Do they have to be a certain age? Do they have to have a certain marital status? Do they have to  be a veteran? If you don’t know how someone gets into a record, database, or finding aid, it is difficult to use it effectively.  
It never hurts to read over your conclusions more than once. Anyone can make typographical errors and those errors can run from ones that are irritating in a minor way (spelling “Burbon” when you mean “Bourbon”) to ones that restate facts (mixing up a father and a son).  Even if the typographical errors have been removed and the facts are straight, have someone else look at your writing. They may catch errors you don’t–particularly conclusions that may not be clear or phrases that don’t convey quite the message you think they do.
Now available for immediate download! We’re excited to offer an hour-long presentation on the new ThruLines(TM) functionality at AncestryDNA. This functionality makes it easier to organize and sort some of your DNA matches at AncestryDNA. The session was held on 17 March 2018 and includes: understanding  where the information in the tree comes from–what’s yours and what’s someone else’s; basics of evaluating the information in the tree; responsibly using ThruLines(TM) information; limitations of ThruLines(TM) basics of how much DNA you typically share with certain cousins and relationship prediction; do you really have the right genealogical connection with that DNA match; using ThruLines(TM) to sort your matches with linked trees; problem-solving and trouble shooting with ThruLines(TM). Our focus is on: being practical, hands-on, and easy-to-understand; not getting overly excited […]
For your ancestor’s residence, do you know all the political borders near their property? There may be borders at a variety of political levels and that impacts what records were created, where they are held, and even if they are extant. Were they members of a religious denomination that had ecclesiastical borders that impacted where they went to church and where those records are kept? Borders between cultures and languages are fluid, but those are good ones to know about as well–particularly how far did your ancestor have to travel before the common language(s) changed?
Military pension files may contain transcribed record copies of documents that you cannot find elsewhere–perhaps because the courthouse burned, the records are unindexed or you simply do not know were to look. Pension files for widows should contain proof of marriage. If the soldier was survived by minor children (usually for pension purposes under the age of 16), information about their birth may be in the file. And you just never know what may be in a pension file–you may even find an 1860 census record.
I recently obtained digital images of a Union Civil War pension file of a relative by marriage. It took over 200 images to digitize all the records. My interest in the file was to see if there was information on the claim of the widow and what information she had provided on herself. Having seen quite a few pension files, I knew where to look for the “good stuff.” There should be documents with “WIdow’s Declaration” or similar phrases at the top in large black letters. I zipped through the files and didn’t see any such statements. I nearly concluded there wasn’t anything on the widow in the file. A slower, page by page, reading located information on the widow and her claim in letters that at first […]
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