The will of Peter Rucker from the Orange County, Virginia, record book appears to contain his mark–an apparent “R” instead of an “X.” The “R” serves to remind us that all marks are not the letter “x” and that what is in a record copy is usually the clerk’s transcription and not the actual record or signature. Rucker’s will is dated January 1742/3. This was during that time when the start of the new year was somewhat in flux and generally still considered to be in March. January of 1742 would have been the old style and January of 1743 would have been the new style–which we use today. Under the old style, December of 1742 would have been followed by January of 1742, February of 1742 and […]
A court case I located from Virginia in the 1820s contained numerous depositions and statements made by witnesses. This was common in some cases since it did not require witnesses to attend court on those few times a year when court was in session. The statements were taken at various locations–which was always stated in the initial portion of the document. Those locations are clues and are helpful clues in a time period and place where one does not always know where within a county an individual lived. Individuals who made out statements at the same time in the same place were probably relatively close neighbors to each other. Probably. One should always keep the likely method of transportation in mind as well. Check out our Genealogy Tip […]
I will be appearing on “Genealogy QuickStart” on 2 July 2020 (Thursday) at 3:00 pm Eastern Time. Attendance is free and the show can be viewed live on Facebook or YouTube. The announcement page contains links to viewing options. Check out our Genealogy Tip of the Day book!
One of the best ways to become aware of alternate spellings of places is to know how a local would say the place name. There is a San Jose in Illinois and California and they are not pronounced in the same way. Any location named after a member of the Taliaferro family is more likely to rhyme with “fur” that with “arrow.” And we won’t even get started with how Keokuk, Iowa, is pronounced by locals and non-locals alike. But if you don’t know how they probably said it, you don’t know all the potential ways it could have been spelled.
I had eaten canned tuna for decades before I saw actual tuna in a fish market while visiting my daughter in Virginia. I grew up on a beef farm so I was well aware of where meat comes from–it was my experience with seafood that was lacking. That can be true in our research as well. We do not always know what we don’t know, but need to be aware that there can be gaps in our experience or knowledge that could hinder our research in one way or another. Even when we are partially familiar with a process, concept, lifestyle, historical era, etc. there can be differences of which we are not aware. The possibility of drawing incorrect conclusions can be even greater when we think we […]
If you find a deed involving your ancestor have you determined if the price is relatively consistent with contemporary market prices? Keep in mind that “contemporary prices” need to be during the same time period for property that is roughly equivalent in terms of its worth. If the price is lower than typical, then there could be a family relationship, there could be some “behind the scenes” (undocumented) financial activity taking place, or both. But there’s usually a reason why someone would buy or sell something at less than the market value. You may not be able to determine what that reason is, but knowing the relative value matters. One way to determine the price of other properties is to look at other deeds recorded during the same […]
Are you maximizing all the clues in a record or item you have discovered? The dog in the picture rarely lets one drop remain in her “pup cup” of ice cream she gets. Analyzing a document as quickly as Winnie eats her treat is not advised–it’s best to let information set and give yourself some time to contemplate it completely. She moves the cup around, changes her own position, shoves her head in to get a different angle on things, etc. in her attempt to clean out the cup. That’s good advice for our research. Look at the document in different contexts–historical time frame, other records in the same series, purpose of the individual record, who gets included in the records, etc. Rotating the image isn’t necessary but […]
When searching the Family History Library card catalog for materials in their collection, make certain to search all geographic and political levels. Do not just search for county level records. There may be town/village records for the areas in which you have an interest. There may be state level records for those areas as well. In some situations there may be national or federal records as well.
If your ancestor states that he is aged 60 on 2 April 1900, that doesn’t mean he was born in 1840. Someone who says he was 60 on 2 April could have: just turned 60 on 2 April, making his date of birth 2 April 1840 getting ready to turn 61 on 3 April, making his date of birth 3 April 1839. Or anywhere in between.That is assuming an age of 60 on 2 April 1900 was correct.The accuracy of his age is another story altogether.
When taking notes, writing reports, and communicating with other researchers, avoid abbreviations wherever possible–especially “homemade” ones that you have dreamed up for your own convenience. That shortened version may make perfect sense to you, but it may not make sense to someone else. And even you, when reviewing your own notes years later, may have no idea what “HCDB” stands for.  Sometimes abbreviations can be figured out from context, but not always. You don’t want to be guessing and don’t to make research more confusing than it already sometimes can be.
I recently discovered that an ancestor of mine died when he had barely been married five years, leaving behind a wife and three small children. In 1837 this caused a large change in his widow’s life. Did she move back to the nearby village where she was from? Did she move in with parents or a family member? How did she support herself and her children? Did she marry again and have more children? All are things I need to think about in my research strategy to locate the ancestor after her husband’s death. Check out Genealogy Tip of the Day the book!
Online message boards and genealogy groups are great places to interact with other genealogists, get helpful suggestions, and find out about new sources, etc. They are also places where all sorts of inaccurate information and theories get passed around. Double check what some random person told you a genealogy word means, what a certain legal process really entailed, etc. They may be correct–but they may be wrong as well.
If your relative owned real estate and there is no deed that can be located, consider the following options: The relative inherited the property and the deed of acquisition is the will where it was bequeathed or the intestate probate of the deceased owner they were an heir to. The deed of purchase was not recorded. While it’s not too common, it is possible. Consider that your relative never actually owned real property.
If you’re trying to get a different grasp on your ancestor and her life, see how many things you can use to describe them that do not involve numbers. While numbers are important, it’s also important to think about those other characteristics of our relatives that are non-numeric in nature. Often these qualitative characteristics can help us get a broader picture of our ancestor and perhaps think of some sources or research methods that we have overlooked.
When using any sort of record for genealogical research, ask yourself–who gets in this record? Is it just landowners? Is it everyone who was alive in a certain place on a certain date? Is it just men of a certain age? Is it anyone who dies in a certain location? Is it just people who can vote? Is it people who have sufficient assets? Is it members in good-standing of a certain denomination? How people get into a record matters when you are interpreting the information you find in that record and how you go forward when someone is not located in that record.
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