A will refers to the wife of Thomas Smith as his “now wife.” It does not mean that Thomas had been married before. It does not mean that he was planning on divorcing his current wife and marrying someone else. It was an inheritance device. It was estate planning. It is done legally…just in case the situation changes before Thomas gets a chance to have his will rewritten.It was done to make the inheritance clear and to confuse genealogists who didn’t bother to learn what it really meant. Thomas and Mary Smith had several children together. Thomas wants to write his will to make his intentions clear. He wants his wife Mary to have use of the farm for the duration of her life and then to go […]
It is often necessary to approximate the date of a birth, marriage, or death. This is more likely to be the case in those areas that do not have vital records of these events. If you have to approximate the year something took place, have a reason. Include that reason in your database–preferably with some type of source or note included. That could be: The marriage date is estimated to be between 1820 and 1821 for Johann and Antje because their first child was born in 1822. The birth year for Thomas is estimated to be 1800 or before because he was married in 1821 and probably was at least twenty-one when he was married. The death year for Susannah is estimated to be between 1853 and 1860 […]
How much of your research methodology is based upon social constructs in your family and how your family of origin interacts with other family members? Have you considered that in families you are researching that family members may relationships entirely different from the ones with which you are personally familiar? Some families are very apt to separate geographically once the children are adults. In others, the geographic distance is never great. Just because it’s how your family always interacted with each other does not mean that it’s the way all the families you may be researching interact with each other.
Try and talk to as many family members as you can–even about the same people and the same events. Different family members will have different recollections of the same individuals and events. Relatives who lived through the same event will remember different details and may tell versions that are not entirely consistent. And for stories about long-dead ancestors, not all members of your family may have heard the same stories.
In December of 1905, my great-grandparents mortgaged a 1/10 interest in a piece of property, signing a five-year note. They paid it off in June of 1907. They may have paid it off early to save on the interest or they may have paid it off because in the summer of 1907 their mother wanted to sell the property and could not sell it with the mortgage unpaid. Sometimes there’s a reason why things happen when they do.
I almost overlooked a real property mortgage my great-grandparents executed in 1905. I didn’t think they owned any real estate so saw no reason to look in the mortgage records. However, they did use my great-grandmother’s 1/10 interest in her father’s farm as collateral for a mortgage. There never were any land deeds for the property in her name as the property was involved in an unrelated court action after the mortgage was paid off.
We’ve moved our webinar on DNAPainter and GedMatch to 28 July 2019 at 8 PM central time. There are additional details on our announcement page. There is still time to register or pre-order a recording.
I really think my daughter bears a strong resemblance to my paternal grandmother, Ida (Trautvetter) Neill (1910-1994). Others may not agree and I’m not the only person who has a picture of an ancestor that they thinks look like another relative or one of their children. You may not see the similarities that a relative sees between two pictures. Sometimes if we have a strong emotional connection to the people in the two pictures, seeing a resemblance between them may partially be due to our connection to the individuals and our desire to connect them. That’s ok and, because of the similarities that I see between these two pictures, I completely understand it. That does not mean that we rely on “that old picture of that woman kinda […]
Never just google a word or abbreviation you don’t know and assume the first definition applies to the document or record that you are trying to understand. Words, abbreviations, and phrases are used in context. What was the time period? What type of record are you looking at? Why was the record created? There’s always the possibility that a records clerk created their own abbreviations as well and sometimes google searches just do not work on those words at all. There are many words and abbreviations that one can encounter–we’re not going to even try and list them all in this post. We’ll mention my favorite as a reminder: infant When used in common conversation, it means someone small enough to wear diapers. When used in a legal […]
A newspaper account indicated that a relative may have been involved in a 1880-era labor squabble at the Lyon Mountain mine in upstate New York. I’ve got some work to do in order to determine if the person named in the incident is actually the relative of interest. The name is not super common, but he lived about thirty miles from the mine at the time. I can’t assume it’s the same guy. Part of my learning process is to find out more about the mine, the miners, and the labor issues that arose. I found two books on the mine from the North Country Store in Utica, New York. Even if they don’t answer my specific questions, the background will no doubt be helpful. It never hurts […]
Some will bemoan the fact that people don’t cite their sources, research too quickly, and give nary a thought as to accurate and sound methodology. I understand that, but I also understand that many people just don’t want to read lengthy diatribes of that nature. I am a firm believer in all that I and I don’t want to read those diatribes either. Examples make it easier to see why one has to be careful when researching. Hancock County, Illinois brothers Riley Rampley (1835-1893) and James Rampley (1844-1913) married first cousins who were both named Nancy Newman.  Scott County, Iowa, first cousins George A. Freund (1858-1928) and George K. Freund (1854-1941) married women named Katharine Cawiezell and Catherine Schilling, respectively. Can you imagine how easy it is to […]
It can be difficult to truly “start over” in a genealogical search. It’s often impractical to re-obtain copies of records one has already taken time and money to acquire. What can be a better approach to is to make certain that one has adequate citations for all the records and sources one has used on an ancestor or ancestral family. Then one can “start over” the way many math students are told to start over on math problems. They are not told to relearn and re-discover every mathematical fact they’ve encountered. Putting away the old analysis, the old “work,” and the old attempts and starting that over is a good approach–students who can’t find their mistake by reviewing their work often are stuck because they can’t see the […]
An earlier tip was about determining how your relative fit into a larger path of migration and how the group they were a part of could have moved repeatedly over time. It’s important to determine that group as there may be other clues discovered during that process. James Beidler, author of Family Tree Historical Atlas of Germany,made a light-hearted comment that his family all migrated from Germany in the 1700s and stayed put in one Pennsylvania County–so he didn’t need to worry about such things. He was kidding, but his comment reminded me that we often need to get outside our research comfort zone and learn skills and become aware of behaviors that we think might not help our research. Working on a totally different family or helping […]
It can be tempting to rely on one website for all our genealogical information. That is a mistake. While it’s not financially expedient to subscribe to all the various fee-based sites, there are a variety of free sites that can be used for genealogical information. Don’t focus on just one site. There are others. And don’t believe any fee-based site that tells you the information it has isn’t available elsewhere. It usually is. You may need to ask around and get advice from others in order to find where the information is located, but your research will benefit from you having made the effort.
Chances are that I’m not going to patent what I jokingly referred to as a “grass height detector” on my Facebook page. But there is a chance that your relative developed an actual invention and received a patent for it. If the product didn’t make your relative’s life, there may have been no mention of it to later family members. US patent applications can be searched on Google Patents. Older applications may give your ancestor’s state and county of residence and indicate whether or not the applicant was a United States citizen. There may be grass height detectors listed, but none of them are mine.
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