Female Ancestor Webinar Released

This presentation discusses approaches and techniques for determining an ancestor’s maiden name and locating “missing” females. Geared towards the advanced beginner or intermediate researcher, it focuses on American records and sources before World War I. The content is not specific to any one time period and many of the approaches can be refined for different locations or types of records. Concepts discussed will include:

  • overview of women’s legal rights;
  • property ownership;
  • inheritance;
  • citizenship;
  • and strategies for making the most from what you can find.

If you are stymied on your female ancestors–and half your ancestors are female–this presentation may give you the insight you need.

The Consideration

Always look to see what the “consideration” is on a land transaction. It’s what is given up in order for the grantee to obtain the property. If there’s not an amount of money listed, try and determine what the relationship was between the grantor and the grantee. Whenever property is transferred without cash being transferred, that’s something the genealogist needs to look into.

Is It the Right Person Period?

I’m working on man named Rufus D. Stephens.

As I work on Rufus, I become aware of the need to remember that I may not have the same person just because the name matches. The other details matter to. My problem is made slightly easier because the Rufus in which I am interested usually uses the middle initial “D.” But he could easily appear in a record without that initial. I have absolutely no idea what the initial “D” stands for.

My first knowledge of Rufus is a 1850 census enumeration in Michigan where he is living near a married woman who is believed to be his daughter. As I find Rufus in other records in other states (he’s believed to have lived in Michigan, Illinois, and New York, as well as the province of Ontario), I have to constantly ask myself: is this the same person?

And if I think it is not the same person, I have to ask myself if the records that I think are all from one Rufus really are from one Rufus. That evaluation needs to be constant.

Because maybe the “new” record is my Rufus and maybe some of the records that I already have in my Rufus profile are not really all for my Rufus. I shouldn’t throw out that new record too quickly.

Because maybe what I think is my Rufus really isn’t my Rufus.

X X X Marks the Spot

At the time her will was signed, Barbara Haase made “her mark.”

Readers should note that simply making a “mark” does not mean the person was illiterate. They might have been unable to sign or perhaps were told to “make their mark.” That’s one reason why documents such as this have witnesses. Barbara could sign her name–she did so on documents in the 1850s and 1860s in a lovely German script. Not certain why she made three marks–although she did have three husbands (or two or four, depends upon how you count).

Surrendered Land Warrants that were Assigned

If your relative obtained a land warrant (usually veterans or their widows for US pre-Civil War military service) and assigned that warrant to someone else, the reverse of the warrant could contain valuable information: the signature of the warrant’s recipient and residential information at the time the warrant was assigned. The National Archives has these surrendered warrants.

Membership has Privileges

Read through the list of receipts from your relative’s estate carefully. Are there any benefit amounts paid from a society of some sort? That membership could be a clue as sometimes membership was limited to a certain ethnic group or denomination.

Before You Pay for a Copy…

think through a few things:

  • Can I get it somewhere for free?
  • Can I get it somewhere cheaper?
  • Do I really need it?
  • Do I already have it?

You might also want to see if a relative or fellow researcher is willing to help you split the cost.

Multiple Courthouses?

Does the county where your ancestor live have more than one courthouse? Some counties do.

Is your ancestor living in an independent city that has its own set of records?

Find out where the records are kept and if your research has moved into a new county, state/province, or country, make certain you’ve learned where records are kept.

Is there Another Digital Image?

Genealogists use digital scans of out of copyright books and records all the time. If the scan you have located online has pages or areas that are difficult to read, consider that another site may have scanned a different copy or the book or used a different scanning process.

It may also be necessary to see if a library can make a photocopy of that “bad page” or if a better scan is available through the original holder of the record.

An Index is a Finding Aid

Indexes are generally only used to get the researcher to the record that was used to create the index.

There is always the chance that the indexer made a mistake or that there is more on the record than is in the index. If the originals are gone as sometimes is the case, then the index is all we have. And occasionally an indexer will add information to the index that’s not in the original record. 
But no matter the situation, you should at least ask yourself:

how do I find the record that this index indexes?

Failing to ask that question could be your problem.