The man is referred to as John Sears in a variety of court records from Bourbon County, Kentucky, in the 1806/1807 era.The handwriting of the court clerks and staff is fairly clear: John Sears. Like most documents, there is more. Sears signed two documents as a part of the original papers in the case file. It does not look like he signed John Sears. The first name in both references clearly looks like Johann. Sometimes in records of this age, signatures may sometimes look like scribbles or just be viewed as “sloppy and written by someone who is not too literate.” That viewpoint can be a mistake. The temptation may be to just assume the signature is exactly what is written elsewhere in the document by someone whose […]
Access to many digital images at FamilySearch is through the catalog. The images have not been separately indexed and are essentially “online microfilm.” Search the catalog for your counties and other geographic areas of interest and the browse the subject headings to see what materials may be available. Everything in the catalog is not online, but looking at specific catalog entries will indicate how the materials can be accessed. The catalog can be searched online at
Through 9 am Pacific time on 17 November 2019, we’re giving away free copies of my 2018 “Brick Wall” genealogy webinar. No credit card needed.
A signature can be a way of identifying a relative when other details are scant or inclusive. The difficulty comes when the researcher does not really know if the executor of a document actually signed it or not. Some records genealogists use are original documents containing actual signatures and other times those records are transcriptions or record copies of the original documents. Record copies made in the day when transcriptions were made by hand don’t contain the actual signature–they contain a transcription of it. Once in a while original records may not contain the actual signature of the “signer,” even when they appear to. This 1827 bond from Fleming County, Kentucky, contains the “signatures” of James and Enoch Tinsley. Their signatures look very similar. The “signatures” of their […]
“Demise” does not always mean death. This court record from early 19th century Bourbon County, Kentucky, states: in the year 1811 John Goodlittle on demise of James Tinsley exhibited… It does not, does not, mean that James Tinsley met his demise in 1811. It means that John Goodlittle had a lease to real estate owned by James Tinsley. Always make certain you are interpreting words in legal documents in their legal context.
A dowry is property a female brings to the marriage. Dower is a right a woman had to a share of her deceased husband’s real property as his widow. The widow’s dower was generally a one-third interest in her deceased’s husband’s property and it was held as a life estate (meaning she could transfer it, encumber the title to the property, etc.). Actual title to the real property would transfer to the husband’s heirs at his death.
Geography matters in genealogical research. No one lives on a flat piece of white paper. It never really clicked that my Rampley family all lived along Bear Creek in Hancock County, Illinois, until I was tracing where the creek emptied into the Mississippi River. When I traced the creek through Walker Township using an 1874 plat map, there they were: every member of my Rampley family. James and his sons all owned at least one piece of property through which Bear Creek flowed at least in part. Based upon the map, they also tended to favor land that contained a fair amount of timber. I need to look at the locations in Ohio (where the family lived before they moved to Illinois) and Maryland (were the father, James […]
Always make certain you have gone through every accounting in a set of estate papers. An intermediate accounting or a final accounting may give surnames of female heirs who were not married when the probate began, names of “new heirs” whose parents died during probate (original heirs themselves), or other clues not listed elsewhere. It’s always about the money. Follow the money.
Do your notes look like this? Scribbles on what looks to be an index card? Little things written down while you are madly clicking away on one genealogy website after another? While it is great to make discoveries, try and include enough information so you know where you found the information and what your thought process was. The notes in the illustration are a little unclear and where the information was obtained isn’t indicated either. It’s fun to be “hot on the trail” of a connection, but include enough detail so that you can go back and locate the information again. In the illustration it would have been helpful to know where Ida was located in the 1940 and 1920 census even if a complete citation couldn’t be […]
Working with records in a foreign language presents difficulties–handwriting, terminology, and translation variations can challenge the researcher. Knowing the usual gender with which a name is associated can be difficult in some cases? As you discover what gender a certain name is typically paired with, keep a list. Sometimes it can be easy to get confused. I know that Volke is typically female, Focke is usually male, Tjode is female, and Mimke is male, but for other areas I need to keep track–especially when it’s a new area with names that are unfamiliar to me.
Before you search for someone in a database, index, or set of original records, think about what that record will probably say about them, including: name(s) nicknames or diminutives age or year of birth place of birth (may not be very precise) and what “wrong locations” they may have given location of the event approximate date of the event approximate location of the event others who may be mentioned in the record (and similar details about them) It may see like “if you know all that,” you wouldn’t need the record you are looking for. I understand that, but the process is more than just that. Part of this “what would the record look like” analysis is to help you formulate a search strategy for those who are […]
The legal description of your relative’s property won’t tell you everything about it. Locating it on a map (contemporary if possible, but those are not always available) may provide you with more details about the location. This map indicated that the timber claim filed by a relative was located along a channel of the Platte River in Dawson County, Nebraska. The Union Pacific Railway also ran through the property. The legal description is helpful and important to have. It’s just not the only thing.
Ancestral estate planning can create challenges for the genealogist. At one point in the late 1860s James and Elizabeth Rampley owned several hundred acres in Hancock County, Illinois. One would think that by the time they passed away in the 1880s, there would be an estate settlement for one of them. It was not to be. James and Elizabeth sold all their real estate to their sons before they died. The deeds were of the “$1 and love and consideration” variety. No money really changed hands. On one deed, James and Elizabeth retained a life estate in a ten acre portion of the property they sold to one son and they were to remain “undisturbed” on that property for the duration. The deeds partially explained why James and […]
I located two property deeds where Samuel Sargent purchased property in Addison County, Vermont, in the 1830s. I thought I had looked in all the appropriate indexes and initially could not find where he sold the property. It’s worth noting that there might not necessarily have been any deed where he sold the property in a land deed. It may have been sold for back taxes (in which case he’s not the seller). It may have been foreclosed upon if he had a mortgage (in which case he’s not the seller). It may have been transferred in a will and not mentioned in a land deed specifically. It was also possible that I overlooked it in the grantor index. That’s apparently what I did because two property deeds […]
While this is not an actual denomination, the concept could easily apply to your ancestor’s worship practices and church attendance. Individuals who felt called to attend church may have attended whichever church was closest and whose practices and beliefs were relatively aligned with their own. This is more likely to be true for those who lived in rural areas or on the frontier. The nearest congregation of the “right” denomination may have been in the next county and too far away for regular attendance. Your relative may have attended the Baptist church as a child and a Methodist church as an adult–maybe for reasons of geography as much as anything else. Don’t assume that members of your “long time” Presbyterian family would never have attended a church of […]
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