Just because the spot for the months on his age is blank does not mean that Henry Dorges was 18 years and 0 months old when this declaration was signed. He could have not provided his age with more precision than 18. He might have simply guessed at his age. It’s hard to say, but saying that this declaration was made on his birthday is a bit of a stretch. What is safe to say is that Henry indicated he was 18 when he signed the declaration. Whether that age was correct, accidentally wrong, or an outright lie is another matter. The year of the declaration is not included in the portion of it used to illustrate this post. There’s the second tip–screenshots and clipped versions of record […]
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Some researchers will “believe” something when they have three sources that provide the same piece of information. One has to be careful using this approach. Sources may all contain information from the same person or “original source,” which does not really mean that three “sources” agree. It could only mean that the same person gave the information three times. And there is always the chance that the second two “sources” got their information from the first. Think about who provided the information, why it is in the record, and how reasonably the informant would have known the information. That’s a good way to get started with information analysis.
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Stopping because you have located one record is never a good idea. By keeping on going, I discovered that an ancestor was divorced from the same man not once, but twice. By keeping on going, I also discovered that another relative’s first marriage “didn’t happen” and they were actually married two years later. Combine these unusual circumstances with the occasional record that gets entered or indexed late and you have even more reason to look for entries or documents “after you think you should.”
Years ago, I was working on a family of Swiss immigrants to Davenport, Iowa. Most of the family were farmers and the vast majority stayed in the area. Except for one daughter who in the 1890s moved to New York City to become an actress. When she could not be located in Iowa records with her siblings, I assumed she’d either died young and, for one reason or another, left no local records. Well she had left no local records because she had moved–and quite a distance. I wasn’t expecting to find her in New York.
If you think you are at a brick wall on a certain ancestor or relative, ask yourself: is it possible this person had a short-term marriage that I don’t know about? That marriage could have ended with the death of a spouse shortly after the marriage or a divorce not long after the wedding ceremony. If the short marriage did not result in offspring and it’s ending was highly dramatic, it’s very possible that no one in the family later mentioned it. And it can make records confusing. Relatives don’t always tell you everything–sometimes because they don’t want you to know it and sometimes because they don’t know it.
When using a record series, do you think about how the originals were recorded and organized? It’s usually worth a thought: Vital records are usually recorded by file date, not necessarily the date of the event. Land records are organized by date the document was brought for recording, not the date the document was executed. Baptism records are organized by date of baptism, not birth date. Census records are organized geographically–with the amount of precision varying over time and from one place to another. Names may be organized in order of visit or roughly alphabetized. Loose probate papers are organized by probate case and those case files are generally organized by a case number–which may have been assigned based upon when the probate process was begun. And there […]
You make a discovery. A relative sends you a cache of record copies. You finally get a copy of that elusive relative’s pension file. And then it happens: life. When you return to your genealogy research, do you go back to those things you were working on when life interrupted? Or do you start on new projects? What un-utilized discoveries are sitting in your files? I received copies of the entire military pension file for an uncle who served in the Civil War from Missouri. It contained several good nuggets of information that I started to organize. Then life happened several times and apparently when I returned to my research, I had forgotten all about the pension file. I picked up my research with another family and only […]
We all have gaps in our knowledge of genealogical records. Those gaps are exposed when the records we typically use to “answer our questions” either are not available or don’t provide enough information upon which to make a reasonable conclusion. The United States Revolutionary War Pension Payment Ledgers, 1818-1872 (available on FamilySearch and on microfilm from the US National Archives) were one set of records that I initially did not use when researching individuals who received these pensions. That was a mistake. The ledger can provide additional details on the pensioner that may not be available elsewhere–particularly their date of death. What sources are out there that you might not have used? When was the last time you asked this yourself this question and really tried to find […]
Civil and parish boundaries are helpful to the genealogist because those lines determine where records are located. While those boundaries can and do change, there are often maps and other finding aids to assist in understanding where those boundaries generally were. It’s community in the sociological sense that’s important to the genealogist as well, but that community’s boundaries are often fluid, not clearly defined, and often cross political and ecclesiastical boundaries. My Ostfriesen ancestors settled in three geographic areas in Hancock and Adams Counties in Illinois in the 1860s and 1870s. But because they shared a language, a heritage, and a religious affiliation, they were essentially a community. They interacted with other immigrants from the nearby but separate areas, particularly when it came to choosing marriage partners and […]
Umpteenth great-grandma just disappears after her husband died and apparently just “can’t be found.” While it is true that women in general leave fewer records than do men and that the widow could simply be living where she always did, there are other possibilities. She could have remarried after her husband died (don’t assume that just because she was “older” that she didn’t marry again) or she could moved in with children who had already moved away from where she was living. She didn’t get abducted by aliens, although it may seem like it.
A guardian ad litem was appointed for some of the children of James Parker who died in Bedford County, Virginia, in 1833. This indicated that those children were under the age of majority at the time of the appointment. The guardianship appointment, since it was only as a guardian ad litem, was only to represent the children’s interest in a court case regarding the estate of James Parker. This guardian was not a guardian of the children’s estate or a guardian who took physical custody of them. In many locations, guardians of a child’s estate may have to make periodic reportings to the court and file other documents regarding the child’s financial interests. The guardian ad litem was only appointed for one specific purpose and usually there are […]
A relative made out an affidavit in Bedford County, Virginia, in the 1820s. In it he mentioned the older half-siblings of his wife. Those half-siblings were the result of his mother-in-law’s first relationship. While court documents are “supposed” to be correct, they sometimes are not. Based upon other contemporary records, it appears that the son-in-law knew the first names of his wife’s older half-siblings, but referred to all of them by their maiden names throughout the affidavit, even though they were married. It’s very possible that the family of someone’s second marriage did not have overly detailed knowledge of the family of the first marriage. That’s especially true if second family lived a distance from the first or if there was a falling out between the two families.
“The courthouse was burned” is one of those phrases that causes a significant amount of genealogical swearing. When you hear this phrase, remember to ask: Did the entire courthouse burn? Were all offices in the same location? Were any records salvaged? Were some documents “restored?” Were residents asked to bring any originals in to be recorded again? Would newspapers hold some of the missing information? Are there federal records that would provide the same information? Have I asked locals knowledgeable about the local records what materials might be available? etc.
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