It is possible that that newspaper you need for your research is only available on microfilm? Not every old newspaper is available online –free or not–and your research should not only utilize those items that are online. WorldCat ( and the Library of Congress Newspaper Directory ( ) are good places to start looking for newspapers in your area of interest. Reaching out to others with research interests in the same area to inquire about newspapers and their availability is also a good idea as well.
Putting all your relative’s life events into a chronology can be a good way to organize information. Listing out events in sequential order can be a great way to outline a biography. Gaps are opportunities. What took place during those periods? It might have been absolutely nothing or it could have been significant? Did the person temporarily leave the area? Have records during the gap time been adequately checked? Was the ancestor ill? Or are records simply not available during the time period?
This is your periodic reminder: make backup copies of important files on separate media and preferably in a separate physical location; work to identify any pictures you’ve not already identified; create digital images of pictures and other ephemera that no one else has; download personal use copies of images and other digital media from websites for the possible time when you do not have online access to those materials; record your own stories as well as those of the dead.
Sometimes it can seem as if a couple or family simply disappeared into thin air. I have a couple who are last mentioned in a record in Harford County, Maryland, around 1805 or so. They approximately would have been in their fifties at that point in time. Then they are gone. Did they simply die with no children and not enough money to warrant an estate settlement? Did they even have children? Did they move west only to die in an epidemic as an entire family on the way out or shortly after their arrival and not leave behind any records in the new location? I can’t assume they moved away and I can’t assume they stayed. I’m inclined to believe they moved away but I have no […]
It sound pretty obvious, but sometimes researchers forget: if a deceased person has no money or property, they are not likely to have an estate settlement. The reality is that individuals who have money or property tend to leave more records, both when they are alive and when they are dead. If your relative died penniless, there generally will not be a need to settle his or her estate. While there are always exceptions, it’s usually true. For years I tried and tried to find an estate settlement, probate or any record of how things were finalized after a certain relative died. In reviewing court records for him about fifteen years before he died, a reference to him indicated he was nearly bankrupt and was unable to pay […]
When searching digital images of newspapers, consider searching those newspapers in the area where the ancestor died for the town/county your ancestor was born in. It can be a great way to locate others who were born in the same place as your ancestor and who died or later lived in the same general place as your ancestor. If your ancestor was born in Milroy, Indiana, and died in Macon County, Missouri, and you find other references to Milroy, Indiana, in Macon County newspapers–that could be a clue.
For years I tried to find the connection between my great-grandparents and a woman to whom they mortgaged their farm in the early 1900s. There was seemingly no connection. The woman was not related by birth or marriage to the great-grandfather’s relatively well-documented family and the great-grandmother did not really have any relatives in the area. Several years after I had put the problem aside, I came across an advertisement that likely explained the connection. The ad was for a local lawyer who was also working as a mortgage broker for individuals with “money to invest.” The lawyer/broker’s advertisement indicated he could connect investors with individuals who needed money and could secure it with real estate. Sometimes the connection is not what you think.
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